12:30 pm EST, January 23, 2020

‘Star Trek: Picard’ season 1, episode 1 recap: A positronic alarm bell

Star Trek: Picard is not Next Generation. The premiere toys with nostalgia, but ultimately sets a new course for the former Captain.

The premiere episode of Star Trek: Picard seems to be following the Alex Kurtzman (formally the Bryan Fuller) style of new Trek. Set insurmountable expectations, sprinkle in some nostalgia, add a dash of “look what we can do with special effects,” and then take your time getting on with it.

Just as Star Trek: Discovery set up several red dots to chart a course for bringing in the past with the present in season 2, Picard has done the same in the premiere. Charting a new course with some of the old guard in tow can seem clunky at first, but the mysteries of what awaits at each meeting point is enough to keep me invested.

Clocking in at roughly 45 minutes, the Star Trek: Picard debut leans heavily on some of the elements teased in the trailer and gives into one big fan theory surrounding the appearance of a girl arriving at the red wine estate playing host to Jean-Luc Picard’s self-inflicted banishment.

“Be the Captain they remember.” A not-so-subtle line delivered early in the episode reminds us that this is not going to be the person we left in the final film in 2002. But if we want him to grin and bear it and put on a show, just don’t be disappointed when you see the cracks in the façade.

These opening moments of the series underscores the problem with bringing back someone — or something — that has been so idealized by memory. We forget the flaws, polish the rough edges, and wave the “Picard Day” banner as an emblem of the series we want to see return in the purest form. But that form has been shaped by our nostalgia. Picard is never going to achieve that bar because every person’s memory and what they choose to remember, more importantly how they choose to remember, is fluid.

Save for the neurons of an android.

Hypable has only seen the premiere episode for this review and will only focus on Picard season 1, episode 1, “Remembrance,” in this post. Spoilers ahead.

‘Star Trek: Picard’ season 1, episode 1 recap

Data not found

star trek picard 1x01

“Why are you stalling?” Data asks Picard as he waits for him to take his turn. This game that they are playing has been played many times before, but it’s not about the movements made on the board, the cards in your hand, or a winner determined at the end. Picard loses every single time.

Sitting with his dearest friend, enjoying the simplicity of that life outside of the uniform, reality comes crashing down with their proximity to Mars and the explosion that shakes Picard awake in France. “The dreams are lovely, it’s the waking up that I am beginning to resent.”

As Picard goes about his day, preparations begin for an interview — a public appearance, one that requires him to invite people into his home so that he may in turn be invited into theirs. It’s an easy way for the audience to get caught up on the past 20 years and see the reactions flash across Picard at the mention of a few items on the list.

The occasion that sets the backstory in motion is something picked from the Abrams’ films — the Romulus supernova. While this is a day of remembrance, it is also one of mixed emotions for people across the galaxy. The displacement of 900 million Romulans was no small matter and finding new outposts, homes, and communities to relocate them fell upon Starfleet. Members of the Federation, of course, had mixed feelings about the missions watching fleet after fleet join together to aid an enemy in crisis.

When asked about the Federations decision to support the efforts, Picard comments on the decision adding that initially the choice was made thanks to his influence. The decision was Picard encapsulated. It’s driven home in the midst of this exposition by a give and take that results in his assertion that they were not saving Romulan lives, they were simply saving lives.

We know Picard is a man of history both those long forgotten and immediately recalled. He refutes connecting this effort to the creation of the pyramids — a wonder that someone would want to take credit for — to that of Dunkirk, a battle that the reporter cannot recall from her textbooks or experience. With a city left completely obliterated, evacuation efforts to move tens of thousands of soldiers over a day were not enough to erase the destruction left by the enemy’s attack and seize of the territory.

Although we are getting a ton of filler information in these moments, it is far better than a few alternatives I could think of to fill in the blanks. We need to know what is driving Picard as he sets his feet on the floor each morning and what plagues his mind as he lays his down each night.

Swiftly moving into what comes next, after Picard gives us the moment that has driven him to France, away from prying eyes, and the title of Admiral in Starfleet, Patrick Stewart has slowly been boiling and it’s about to spill over.

As the armada was navigating past Mars, synthetics went rogue hacking the planet’s defense nets, wiping out the armada and destroying the Utopia Planitia Shipyard. 92,143 lives lost. A number that might as well be carved into Picard’s forehead given the look on his face at the mention of this incident.

The aftermath led to a ban on synthetic life. As we see later in the episode, labs are no longer able to build, only to theorize. And, it ultimately led to Picard’s departure from Starfleet.

“We withdrew, the galaxy was mourning and burying the dead and Starfleet slunk from its duties.”

This line, though said in one go, draws that line between Picard and Starfleet. We withdrew. Starfleet slunk from its duties. Picard did not forget his duty, but the people he worked for no longer supported his direction. It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen Stewart deliver a couple lines that are purely Picard in nature, and maybe the effect will wear off in a few episodes. But this moment was my favorite of the premiere.

Before storming off from the interview, Picard adds, “It was not just dishonorable; it was criminal. I was not going to be a spectator. And you my dear, have no idea what Dunkirk is. You’re a stranger to history, you’re a stranger to war, you just wave your hand, it goes away. It’s not that easy for those who died and those who were left behind.”

Written completely out of a desire to elicit chills. Yes. Am I mad about it? No.

A painting only Picard can complete

Picard’s isolation has left him a servant of history. Instead of looking towards the future, he has been riddled with grappling with the past for two decades. That is until one the dreams start to connect to reality.

Enter Dahj. Since her appearance in the first trailers, there has been speculation that she is Data’s daughter. But the creation of a synthetic, especially one as close to human form as possible — bleeding and breathless — seems improbable.

People are after Dahj, who until this point was living a relatively “normal” life. She was just accepted to Daystrom to study synthetics, likely by design of her programming, and the future full of purpose was laid at her feet. Until a group of people clad in black and masks break into her apartment, kill her boyfriend, and note, quite loudly that she has not been activated yet. That activation takes over when faced with a fight or flight response, allowing Dahj to swiftly take down her assailants, but then succumb to the weight of her fear and panic shortly after.

When she settles her mind for a moment she sees a flash of Picard and just like the instinct that took over to kill the enemy, she says the same thing when she describes the feeling at the vineyard: “Something inside of me knew how to move and fight somehow. It was like lightning seeking the ground.”

Picard has no idea who this person is, but he recognizes her fear and desire for help, something that even after all this time he cannot turn away from. Setting him in unknown territory, especially against this woman who is at the start of a life of exploration, is an opportunity to set the plot of the series in motion.

So, naturally, I thought I had this all figured out. We are going to find out about her connection to Data – we do. We are going to see Picard look for answers that she cannot access – we do. And we are going to jump in a ship and find the person responsible for her creation – we are. And these two will be a great surrogate father-daughter relationship – not a chance.

“Everything inside of me says I’m safe with you.” A line that will linger in Picard’s ears just as the number of lives lost will be imprinted in his mind. Dahj is safe with Picard, the enemy looking for her just happens to be stronger.

Dahj leaves shortly after arriving at the vineyard, crossing paths with Picard later on for another exposition unloading. But in their first meeting, she tasks him with digging deep inside to see that they are connected in a way that she does not understand. And in his dream, Data tasks him with the same mission — you know how to pick up the paintbrush and finish this story, Picard. You just need to take that first step off the property.

Picard is human and as a human he has baggage he would rather keep tucked away. He has a storage unit! How relatable. Here he finds the painting Data created — one of a set. This depicts Dahj’s face, 30 years before their meeting. Item 227.67, painted in 2369 by Data. Title: Daughter.

Dahj finds Picard in San Francisco where the pair build a bridge between synthetic and human. It’s a touching conversation, delivered in a way that only Jean-Luc Picard could execute. As the wave of being “not real” washes over her, Picard throws her a life jacket. She is real, her memories are real, the life she has is full of meaning. “If I am right that means you are the daughter of a man who was all meaning, all courage. Be like him.”

This dash of hope does not last more than two minutes. Assailants arrive, an action sequence ensues. Dahj is killed by a Romulan operative.

The future contains multitudes

Star Trek Picard Allison Pill

To say I was shocked that Dahj died 30 minutes into the premiere would be understating my feelings. When Picard wakes up back home, he is enraged and fueled by an ignited desire for answers. The final 15 minutes of the episode expand the world beyond Picard and Dahj, giving us the ancillary characters who will make or break the series.

“Measure of a Man” is more important to the story than I initially realized it would be. Focusing too narrowly on Jean-Luc was an error of my own making. It was through the conversations Picard has with Dr. Agnes Jurati, played by Alison Pill, at the Daystrom Institute in Okinawa that I realized it is time for a refresher! Go watch it. You will not be disappointed.

Here is where we learn the fate of the synthetic development programs, the legacy of Bruce Maddox, and the tucked away pieces of B-4. Maddox’s work brought Dr. Jurati out of Starfleet, but the closing of the lab left him defeated. That, coupled with Data’s death and resulting in the loss of his neurons, left the work all but finished. There was no path forward to create another synthetic, let alone one close to the man Data once was.

But a key was left by Dahj before her death. A necklace featuring two interlocked circles. Jurati points out that it is not just a symbol for decoration, if all the pieces of Picard’s story led him to her then they represent the fractal for neuronic cloning — meaning one single positronic neuron could multiply and the essence of Data would be alive.

Further, they are formed in pairs.

Dahj may be dead, but her twin survives and is likely in danger. Thankfully, the series chose to keep Isa Briones instead of leaning into having a male and female twin pairing. We find her again, as Dr. Soji Asha, working alongside the Romulans. The outpost is not identified as hostile or an enemy of the Federation, and so on first glance, this could be a research facility employing a brilliant mind to help rebuild a future.

We meet another player here, Narek, played by Harry Treadway who SCREAMS bad guy without actually uttering the words. And instinct here proves correct as the final moments of the premiere pull back to reveal a damaged, yet occupied Borg cube.

Hugh and Seven of Nine are only the tip of the iceberg now that the Romulans have control of a cube. What a great final shot to serve as the catalyst into next week!

Final thoughts

  • The opening credits are gorgeous and such a great reflection of how this series is going to tackle the events that come together to make Picard the man and Picard the series.
  • Picard may haved saved this pair of Romulans, but Laris and Zhaban are the true MVPs of the decade.
  • Seeing B-4 was… yikes.
  • We never need to hear about Earl Grey tea again. We get it. It’s his signature drink.
  • Once more for the people in the back who say they can’t feel anything with this series: “Everything inside of me says I’m safe with you.”
  • And on a funnier note, Picard’s interaction with Index is fantastic.
    • Star Trek: Picard will release new episodes on CBS All Access in the US on Thursdays, on CTV Sci-Fi channel in Canada on Thursdays, and on Amazon Prime elsewhere on Fridays.

      Our Score

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