REVIEWED: SEASON 1 (EPISODES 1 - 3) | WHERE TO WATCH: AMAZON PRIME UK
On the face of it, bringing back Sir Patrick Stewart to headline a new Star Trek show could have been a terrible misstep for the franchise. Fans do like their lore and nostalgia, and getting a 78-year-old actor to play a 94-year-old Starfleet Admiral could have been a recipe for a snooze-fest, something only of interest to the hardcore fans. Nothing could be further from the truth - Star Trek: Picard is up there with the best Star Trek we’ve ever seen.
Picard is certainly Sir Patrick’s finest hour, as he wrings out every ounce of his talent, pouring himself into the role. The show sees the famous, much celebrated Starfleet Admiral be something of an outsider. Twenty years have passed since Picard rallied the Federation to lend aid to its enemies. Disaster and horror followed, events that lead the Federation to turn inwards and take a more conservative approach. Jean Luc’s humanity and passion lead him away from Starfleet and the people he dedicated his life too. As Star Trek: Picard begins, he’s running a vineyard in France with two close friends. This does not last.
Of the three episodes we’ve seen so far, what happens next is essentially a Star Trek version of a spy-fi thriller, with Jean Luc as the old hero out for one last crucial mission, cut off from his usual resources. Picard is more of a diplomat than a spy, of course, but he’s still every inch a captain. The show flirts briefly with obvious clichés before dipping us straight into the intrigue and action. The plot is one that draws from key themes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but with a harder edge. Issues such as Artificial Intelligence and cultural integration are dealt with in a harder, colder way, and it’s all the better for it.
Star Trek has always been a progressive show, though at times its format has struggled to catch up with modern trends. Star Trek: Picard is not the gentle show that Star Trek: The Next Generation was, and early on the new series makes it clear that if you’re expecting a story about ‘Picard Day’ or weird space ghosts, then you’re going to be disappointed. Instead, we have one clear and coherent narrative. Its heart and warmth are still as strong as it was with the Original Series, but it treats modern audiences as grown-ups, ones who have come to be entertained with sci-fi tales relevant to the modern-day. The parallels with the real world are obvious, but then that has always been the case with all things Star Trek.
Though Sir Patrick Stewart sparkles every time he’s on screen, the rest of the cast are also clearly giving it their all; when one is in the presence of a legend one acts accordingly, after all. Of particular note is Harry Treadaway, who is mesmerising as the Romulan Narek. Isa Briones, who plays Dahj, is the break-out star of this show, playing a difficult role brilliantly.
The future of Star Trek has come from its past, and has transformed into something that will be relevant for generations to come, just as it should be.