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‘Star Trek: Picard’ Drops Out Of Warp But Remains Solid

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Star Trek: Picard is playing the long game.

After the premiere episode, “Remembrance,” Picard (Patrick Stewart) sets out to piece together a mystery. The emergence and sudden death of Dahj (Isa Briones), one of Data’s twin “daughters,” awakened Picard’s sense of duty and loyalty.

In the second episode, “Maps and Legends,” the story continues to peel one layer at a time.

The emphasis on character – the titular Picard in particular – continues to take center stage. But Star Trek: Picard presses forward with world building/expansion and dives deeper into the arc that seems primed to carry the series.

The captain recruits Raffi on 'Star Trek: Picard'

The Plot

“Maps and Legends,” the second episode of Star Trek: Picard, opens with a flashback to events 14 years before the series. The fateful First Contact Day that saw a group of rogue androids (called Synthetics or Synths in the future of Picard) attack  and destroy Starfleet’s Utopia Planetia Fleetyards on Mars.

Back in the present, Picard investigates the death of Dahj and discovers that she and Soji may have contacted one another. But all clues lead him to an ancient, super-secret division of Romulan intelligence responsible for the attack on Dahj and her subsequent death.

At the repurposed Borg Cube, Soji continues her relationship with the Romulan Narek (Harry Treadaway). But there seems to be more to Narek than Soji’s boy-toy, and we establish Narek is secretive, even by Romulan standards. Of course, secrecy would be essential at an installation where Romulans are recruiting scientists to dissect and repurpose parts from dead Borg drones.

Picard heads to Starfleet Command looking to get his commission reinstated for one last mission. After the reveals from Dr. Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill) in Star Trek: Picard‘s premiere, Picard needs to find Dr. Bruce Maddox, the cyberneticist from the classic Next Generation episode, “The Measure of a Man.” Maddox challenged Data’s status as a sentient being but later regarded Data as a legitimate lifeform. So much so that he pioneered the technology that created Dahj and her twin, Soji.

Jean-Luc’s first order of business is to find Maddox, and he seeks out Starfleet for help.

After the verbal smackdown Picard delivered to Starfleet in the premiere, though, the Admiralty is less-than-accommodating.

Soji and Narek in the Romulan Reclamation Center on 'Star Trek: Picard'

The Performances

It’s going to be a recurring statement that Patrick Stewart’s acting chops are enough to carry Star Trek: Picard.

There’s a scene early on when Picard sees his old doctor from the Stargazer and learns that – as predicted in the Next Generation finale “All Good Things …” – Picard might have a neurogenic disorder. Space Alzheimer’s, basically. And in the very next scene, when Picard gets shot down by Starfleet, we see his emotions boil over, just as the doctor predicted in the previous scene.

Patrick Stewart’s realization that he lost it, combined with his understanding why, concludes a pair of scenes that amount to a master class.

And Stewart handles all of it without making a spectacle of himself.

Treadaway is charming and owns all of his scenes, but he never lets us forget that there’s clearly something else going on with him. And, like Stewart, he isn’t overt about it.

Pill is serviceable in her role as an exposition-machine, but she’s energetic and has a good rapport with Stewart.

Then there’s Isa Briones, who is going to be the big star to come out of Star Trek: Picard. Soji is a very different character than Dahj, and Briones makes sure to keep her distinguishable. But also with recognizable similarities to the girl we met and lost in “Remembrance.”

Picard and Dr. Jurati

Writing And Presentation

First off, the decision to slowly, bit-by-bit, dole out the inciting incidents for Star Trek: Picard‘s story is a smart choice. It’s one I wish Star Trek: Discovery had employed in their first season as pertains to protagonist Michael Burnham.

But the early portions of Picard’s investigation into the Romulan secret police is somewhat hackneyed. It’s better exposition than we got in “Remembrances” in terms of showing and not telling. But it’s heavy on technobabble and excessive back-and-forth cuts. And ultimately, it doesn’t lead them to anything but pondering whether Dahj and Soji ever had contact.

Plus I’ve had my fill of clandestine groups in Star Trek. It fit well in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine with the reveal of Section 31. But it’s been overdone, and it’s unnecessary.

The added element of Starfleet going after Picard is a little unnecessary, too. Star Trek: Picard offered potential for simplicity. And this seems like a layer added just to pad the story out a few more episodes.

The roundup of Picard’s rag-tag crew is a bit cliched, but it’s handled well. And we learn enough about those we meet of Picard’s new crew to keep things interesting. Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd) is introduced as an officer that served under Picard during the Romulan relocation. Hurd makes a strong impression as a disillusioned in the short time we spend with her.

It’s a little over-the-top, but it’s early enough in the series for me to keep an open mind.

Director Hanelle Culpepper (who also directed “Remembrance”) juggles the various stories and tones well and unifies them into a coherent presentation. The visuals are feature quality, but the editing could use some polishing.

 

The Breakdown

Slow and steady is going to win the race when it comes to Star Trek: Picard.

Alex Kurtzman, Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, and their producer team are in it for the long haul. The story looks poised to reveal itself in its own time. We’re in an era of science fiction devoted to moving so fast the audience can’t keep up. So it’s a refreshing change of pace.

But the sophomore effort definitely came up short to some degree after the heights reached by the premiere. And the leisurely pace worries me that they’ll end up sprinting toward the season finale by episode 7 or 8.

Star Trek: Picard streams Thursdays on CBS All Access in the United States. It streams elsewhere in the world the next day on Amazon Prime Video.

All images courtesy of CBS.

'Star Trek: Picard' - Maps And Legends

7.6

Acting

8.5/10

Writing

6.0/10

Direction

7.8/10

Entertainment Value

8.0/10

Pros

  • The story is unfolding slowly, with room to grow
  • Direction and visuals are feature-quality
  • Stewart keeps it subtle
  • Plenty of callbacks but no cringey fan service

Cons

  • Still too exposition-heavy
  • Super secret clandestine villains? Been there, had enough
  • A few too many unnecessary story elements
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