Star Trek: Picard is still taking its time.
For a series that’s more or less a direct sequel to Star Trek: The Next Generation, we’ve had plenty of “where no one has gone before.” Not so much with the boldly going, at least not for the titular Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart).
Two episodes in, and Picard still hasn’t warped off into the final frontier. In any other series, that might be a bad thing. For Star Trek: Picard, it’s just right.
But the stars are just within reach entering “The End Is The Beginning.”
The series continues to ratchet up the intrigue with Soji (Isa Brionnes) and her ties to Data, as well as Narek’s (Harry Treadaway) role in a massive Romulan conspiracy.
But it doesn’t lose sight of its goal: Picard re-evaluating his place in an ever-changing Star Trek universe.
As with “Maps And Legends,” we open Star Trek: Picard with a flashback.
This time, Picard revisits the aftermath of the attack on Mars. He tells his aide, Lt. Commander Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd) that he offered Starfleet an ultimatum: Adopt Picard’s plan to evacuate the Romulans from their impending supernova or accept the admiral’s resignation.
Starfleet opted for the latter. Musiker, angry that Picard won’t follow up her suspicions that the Romulans sabotaged their own evacuation plan, is left on her own. Picard retreats to his vineyard, and Raffi is left without a career.
Back in the present, with a decade-plus of resentment, Raffi isn’t exactly wild about helping Picard. And she could care less about the captain needing a ship and a pilot to track down Bruce Maddox – the cyberneticist who likely created Dahj and Soji. Nevertheless, she points him toward Captain Cristobal Rios (Santiago Cabrera) and his ship, the La Sirena.
Meanwhile, back at the Artifact – the Borg cube repurposed by the Romulans – Soji meets Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco) the former Borg now entrusted as the director of the Borg Reclamation Project.
For reasons not made entirely clear, Hugh introduces Soji to Ramdha (Rebecca Wiscocky). Ramdha is another reclaimed Borg, and a Romulan mystic/fortune-teller type. She immediately recognizes Soji as one of the cybernetic “twins” created by Maddox (“Are you the dead one?” she asks). Soji, scared by this turn events, retreats to Narek for comfort.
Back at Chateau Picard, the good captain and his caretakers are attacked by Romulans. Luckily they get an assist from a visiting Dr. Jurati (Alison Pill). Picard and Jurati beam aboard the La Sirena to find Raffi already there. Picard has his crew, and the search for Dr. Maddox can finally begin.
This is where performances, writing, and editing in Star Trek: Picard start to shape one another, with some mixed results.
Stewart delivers the as-expected brilliance as Picard, but the writing does a disservice to Brionnes as Soji and the editing gives us a pretty inconsistent view of Hurd’s performance as Raffi.
In the case of Soji, it’s the nature of the character to not understand what she is – for all intents and purposes, she’s a Blade Runner replicant. But the writing nonetheless paints her as naiive, unable to stick to a line of questioning or a challenge without retreating to Narek.
When it comes to Raffi, the opening scene establishes why she has beef with Picard. But the editing between their conversation in the present and the flashback to their Starfleet days is haphazard and doesn’t make for the best first impression.
The introduction of Captain Rios is as cool as it gets. And Cabrera’s performance is equal parts Han Solo, Mal Reynolds, and Star-Lord. Cabrera chews the scenery with coolness but also delivers in such a way to suggest there’s more than bravado beneath the surface.
Writing And Presentation
Hanelle Culpepper directs this episode of Star Trek: Picard, as she did the previous two. And she continues to do a fine job in terms of establishing the mood, tone, and aesthetic of the series.
The visual effects, costumes, and sets remain feature quality. And in spite of some editing snafus, the episode maintains the show’s deliberate pace while moving the action forward.
When it comes to the writing, Michael Chabon and his team have inherited a sickness from Star Trek: Discovery.
Star Trek: Picard has developed a strong narrative to this point. And it has a clear direction for the overarching story. But some of the details tend to get muddled. And some of them come across as borderline nonsensical.
Del Arco’s return as Hugh is well-intentioned enough. And it isn’t as distracting is some other elements of fan service. But does it serve any purpose beyond a Star Trek series trying to build Star Trek cred?
This third episode is thankfully less exposition-heavy than its predecessors. But the dots that connect to form a cohesive plot out of an ambitious story are scattered. The integrity of the story isn’t lost, but the road to get there is sometimes rough.
It ultimately works, and the episode achieves its ultimate goal: assemble Picard’s new crew and further the intrigue with Soji. Picard has a defined maguffin; there’s an actual quest at play here. The overarching threat is still in the weeds, but there’s time to sort that out.
The first three episodes of Star Trek: Picard have served as a three-part pilot of sorts. It’s been slow to (literally) get off the ground, but each step towards lift-off has paid off. And it’s been worth it.
With that last “Engage” from Picard, Star Trek: Picard is finally heading to the stars.
After the breakneck pace of Star Trek: Discovery and the heightened emotions of that show, Star Trek: Picard remains a breath of fresh air. It isn’t perfect, by any means. And I wouldn’t exactly say I can yet call it a “worthy” successor to The Next Generation.
But it continues to be interesting. And it tells its story well.
All images courtesy of CBS.
'Star Trek: Picard' - The End Is The Beginning
- A complete backstory for Picard's "between" years is appreciated
- The sets, visuals, and costumes are all still feature quality
- Captain Rios is pretty cool
- More like the "FINALLY!" frontier
- Weird editing choices dampen performance impact
- The mystery plot isn't terribly "engaging" so far