Picard: Star Trek re-enters the Next Generation with bold new series
REVIEW: One of the most beloved characters in the Star Trek universe is back.
After 178 episodes and four feature films, Sir Patrick Stewart was seemingly done playing Admiral Jean-Luc Picard after 2002's less-than-memorable Star Trek: Nemesis. That was the tale where the Next Generation crew of the USS Enterprise saved the Romulan Empire, lost Lieutenant Data and nearly killed the franchise.
Eighteen years on though and Amazon Prime Video's Picard (streaming from January 24) arrives, accompanied by high expectations. Set more than two decades after the events of Nemesis, the 10-part series opens in 2399 – on the 12th anniversary of the Romulan sun going supernova.
That's something that still haunts the skilled diplomat, humanitarian, intrepid explorer and military strategist – even in his dotage.
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Having urged Starfleet to assist their oldest enemies, he was dismayed when they slunk from their duties after rogue synthetics rebelled and attacked Mars.
"It was dishonourable and downright criminal," he rages during a rare interview to mark the anniversary. Coupled with a resulting ban on synthetics, it all persuaded Picard to resign his position and retreat to his vineyard where he "writes books of history people prefer to forget".
However, still plagued by dreams of his long dearly departed friend Data (Brent Spiner), Picard finds himself more than just intrigued when a young woman tracks him down and asks for his assistance. Having narrowly escaped a Romulan assassination attempt thanks to fighting skills she didn't realise she possessed, Dahj (Isa Briones) has felt compelled to find him.
At first, Picard can't quite work out his connection to this daughter of Seattle botanist. But it only takes a trip to the Quantum Archives to discover that she is "dear" to him "in ways you cannot understand".
Unlike its Original Series predecessor, the Next Generation was always more about wrestling with philosophical issues, rather than grappling with the monster of the week, and that ethos continues in showrunner Alex Kurtzmann's (in charge of the Star Trek ship since 2009's cinematic reboot) latest space opera.
This is a Picard trying to reconcile his past, while giving himself a future. As in the X-Men "western" Logan, this affords Sir Patrick Stewart an opportunity to showcase his emotive skills and to boldly take this beloved character where he hasn't gone before.
Directed with flair and sensitivity by veteran episodic TV director Hanelle Culpepper, the opening episode packs a lot in without giving away too much, creating plenty of intrigue and setting the stage for the return of more fan favourites.
A sci-fi series that both rewards devotees and compels newbies to go further and dig deeper, Picard might just have given Star Trek a new lease of life.