“Remembrance”, the premiere episode of Star Trek: Picard, brings us – finally – into Star Trek‘s future by reflecting on the past. It’s an ambitious yet pensive beginning to a long-awaited series.
This recap of Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Episode 1, “Remembrance”, contains spoilers.
It’s been nearly two decades since Sir Patrick Stewart last donned his Starfleet uniform, then hung it up for good. Since then, Star Trek has continually looked back at disparate corners of its past or created alternate timelines (still of its past). It’s remained in a rut, albeit an entertaining, thrilling one – but the franchise has continued looking back, determinedly not moving forward. That’s all changed, and done in a way that seems to respond to that question on many levels. Star Trek: Picard, helmed by Pulitzer-Prize winner Michael Chabon and a hefty team of Star Trek alumni (executive produced by Stewart, Akiva Goldsman, Kirsten Beyer, and a host of others) seems ready to propel us into a new, future chapter of the Star Trek franchise.
Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Episode 1, appropriately titled “Remembrance,” bears the daunting duty of ushering one of the most beloved Star Trek characters back onscreen in two decades, catching us up on what’s happened since we last saw him, and setting a course for the rest of the season. To be clear: Picard does not reboot Star Trek: The Next Generation; it continues one man’s story after his starring role has ended. “Remembrance,” spends a good deal looking back on what came before, for the past defines us all – not once, but continually. I foresee this season will spend a great deal of time ruminating on Picard’s legacy and his halcyon days, while also brooding on choices and their consequences. All this is a clear recipe for a show I’m all in on.
First of all, Captain Picard (Sir Patrick Stewart) is my captain. I was born in 1986, and a year later The Next Generation launched – I was weaned on the Enterprise-D, learned its corridors, spoke its language, knew the bridge like the back of my hand. While Captain Kirk is the adventurous, romantic hero, Picard is the stalwart guiding force. He thinks before he shoots, provides counsel, considers all options, and like my second favorite captain, “he views resorting to force as an admission of failure” (Short Treks: “Q & A”). Yet we’ve only ever seen this man in his prime, leading a starship with hundreds of people on myriad missions across the galaxy. We’ve not really seen him in retirement before, pondering the meaning of life and legacy. While there will certainly be battles and phaser fights (and what looks like at least one sword duel), we’ll focus closely on one thoughtful, pensive captain. This will be an entirely different show than we’ve seen in the past – and I cannot wait.
Now, to the recap – I’ll try to withhold my exuberance in future recaps, but I just couldn’t help it here. I’ll try not to be too spoilery here, holding some major plot points back so that you watch Star Trek: Picard Episode 1 along with me.
“Remembrance” opens to the tune of “Blue Skies” by Bing Crosby as we pan through various shots of the cosmos, all eventually leading us to the Enterprise-D and a dreamlike Ten Forward, where Picard is playing poker – as he is wont to do – with Data (an unsettlingly de-aged Brent Spiner). But something is off, Picard is putting cream in his tea and Data is wearing the wrong uniform, and he’s also got five queens of hearts. Picard sees a vision of Mars and then wakes up, gazing out on Château Picard, his vineyard where he lives with his two Romulan assistants Zhaban (Jamie McShane) and Laris (Orla Brady) and his dog, Number One.
We then cut to a futuristic Boston and meet Dahj (Isa Briones), kicking back and drinking a celebratory glass of wine (probably not one of Picard’s vintages) after she’s won a fellowship at the prestigious Daystrom Institute. But before their celebration can go too far, a bunch of masked goons transport in, kill her boyfriend and prepare to kidnap her, putting a bag over her head and asking whether or not she’s been activated. If she hadn’t been before, she is now: taking out each and every one of them blindfolded and with tactical precision. She then gets the flash of an image: Picard’s face. She needs to find him, knowing that she’ll somehow be safe with him.
This brings us to the new credits sequence, which is beautiful – a fissure in reality opens and a piece of it falls away, linking various (probably deeply meaningful) images. In many ways, it’s visually arresting, reminiscent of Star Trek: Discovery‘s credits. But where Discovery’s credits are minimalistic, Picard‘s are lush. The music features a flute – possibly alluding to Picard’s Ressikan experience, also a bending of reality – but then some hauntingly beautiful orchestral motifs.
From the action-packed opening, we must move into the exposition that will bring us all up to speed on the last twenty or so years. Picard’s staff – who gel so well with him, their relationships feel lived in and real – are prepping him for the interview with the brilliant and criminally underworked Merrin Dungey, a reporter from the Federation News Network. It’s the anniversary of the destruction of Romulus (mentioned in JJ Abrams’ Star Trek 2009), and Picard controversially orchestrated the Romulan evacuation. He confirms that she won’t ask him about his separation from Starfleet, which is exactly what happens, and he angrily reveals that he left “[b]ecause it was no longer Starfleet. We withdrew. The galaxy was mourning, burying its dead and Starfleet slunk from its duties. The decision to call off the rescue and to abandon those people that we had sworn to save was not just dishonorable, it was downright criminal. And I was not prepared to just stand by and be a spectator.” Like it or not, Picard will always stand up for his beliefs, for what he believes that Starfleet represents, even if Starfleet won’t.
From this point on, Star Trek: Picard Episode 1 kicks into high gear. Dahj finds Picard, and they both seem to recognize one another but they can’t say why. He goes to San Francisco, to Starfleet Archives, to investigate, and he begins speculating about who she might be: an astonishingly lifelike android built on some of Data’s recovered positronic memory engrams. But androids have been banned since they attacked and destroyed Mars 14 years before. However, he and Dahj are attacked by more hooded goons, and she shows off impressive abilities (things we wish we’d seen more of with Data) fighting them off. The attackers are Romulan, and she successfully defends Picard – who shows his age as they try to run away from their pursuers.
So Picard investigates, talking with Dr. Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill) who’s a leading researcher into banned synthetics (a new term for Androids). He’s convinced that Dahj is a synthetic and that there must be more. This shifts us over to a Romulan Reclamation site (whatever that means), where there’s a surprisingly Dahj-like woman talking with a skeevy Romulan who’s not-so-subtly trying to pick her up (and probably kidnap her like those goons). Shockingly, this Reclamation site seems to be some sort of Romulan-Borg amalgamation. It was only a matter of time until Borg tech got involved – and they got right to it here. I am a fan of this decision.
As for analysis, there’s much to be had in Star Trek: Picard Episode 1, of course, but we’re also just at the beginning of this series. I don’t have major conclusions to draw yet that I haven’t said already. There’s some xenophobia to be seen in the attitude toward synthetics, as well as some commentary on helping other races as they’re facing humanitarian crises. This is about a man who’s aged, who’s seen more than his fair share of conflict and destruction and deserves a quiet retirement. But men like Jean-Luc Picard aren’t built for such things. He’ll answer when called, for his duty is to Starfleet and to the universe. This series will spend a great deal of time on reflection.
We also have a lot of dreams of great significance, possibly even questioning reality – is Picard dealing with some kind of neurological condition? With Dahj not realizing she’s a Synthetic, issues of identity and self-knowledge will arise, certainly mirroring Picard’s own questions. Some hints of Discovery‘s Control are here, which is likely intentional – either in the hinting or in actuality. And of course, there’s the Big Mystery that’s only just rearing its head now that we really can’t know about yet.
Picard is beautifully, lovingly shot, and Sir Patrick Stewart acts the heck out of every scene. The writing is good at times and clunky at others. There are some leaps in logic that make me feel as though a few scenes were cut, making me renew my long-made assertion that streaming content creators should realize that episodes can not be 44 minutes long. It’s OK. Go long, especially in a pilot. “Remembrance” needs some breathing room, some time to let us sit in the pensiveness that they’re trying to evoke. Let it be slow, let it be thoughtful. This isn’t Discovery.
Those last nitpicks aside, I greatly enjoyed Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Episode 1. It’s a series we never knew we needed, but it’s here, and I can’t wait to talk about it every week!
You can also follow my reviews and thoughts on Picard (and a good number of other geeky topics) on my podcast, The Geek Card Check.