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Star Trek Pic - Season 1 - Episode 01

Star Trek Pic - 1x01 - Remembrance

Originally Aired: 2020-1-23

Synopsis:
At the end of the 24th Century, and 14 years after his retirement from Starfleet, Jean-Luc Picard is living a quiet life on his vineyard, Chateau Picard. When he is sought out by a mysterious young woman, Dahj, in need of his help, he soon realizes she may have personal connections to his own past.

My Rating - 9

Fan Rating Average - 6.27

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Problems
None

Factoids
- The opening song is Bing Crosby's cover of Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies." Bing Crosby is TNG actress Denise Crosby's grandfather. Denise Crosby played Tasha Yar.
- We see the Daystrom Institute for the first time, which is established to be located in Okinawa, Japan.
- Based on information presented in the story, it appears Data painted "Daughter" in 2369, during TNG's 6th season.

Remarkable Scenes
- Seeing the Enterprise-D again in Picard's dream about Data.
- Picard: "The dreams are lovely. It's the waking up that I'm beginning to resent."
- Picard having a more hostile interview than he expected, then going off on a rant about how Starfleet has lost its way after the attack on Mars and the destruction of Romulus.
- Picard finding Dahj's image in one of Data's old paintings; painted before she was born.
- Dahj sacrificing herself to save Picard just as Data did.
- Picard: "I haven't been living. I've been waiting to die."
- The Romulans taking up residence inside the wreckage of a Borg cube.

My Review
In TNG: All Good Things, the closing line is from Picard saying, "Five card stud, nothing wild, and the sky's the limit." In Star Trek: Picard, we pick up where he left off with the opening lines from Picard: "See. And raise." And Data: "Hmm. Call." The opening song is "Blue Skies," mirroring the same song closing Star Trek X: Nemesis. Data performed it in Nemesis and his brother B4 began to sing it at the end of the film as a clue that Data's attempt to transfer something of himself to B4 might have succeeded.

Now decades have passed. Picard isn't as sharp as he once was. Or as nimble. He is sometimes loopy and meandering. His once signature drink has transitioned from "Tea, Earl Gray, Hot," to "Tea, Earl Gray, Decaf." He's a sleepy figure both figuratively and literally. He drifts in and out of consciousness and his engagement with the present moment similarly wavers. His mind wanders to days gone by and it free associates between dangling thoughts, feelings, memories, and regrets.

Like the laundry list of dangling threads of Picard's life that his mind drifts to, the 24th century itself was never buttoned up as cleanly as Star Trek fans might've preferred. Star Trek: Picard sets out to course correct that on many levels by working a series of loose ends from previous stories into a new story that adds yet more depth to the already rich character of Picard and resumes the truly stellar world building of 24th century Star Trek that wound down with a whimper leaving so many questions unanswered at the conclusion of Voyager along with the airing of Star Trek X: Nemesis and Star Trek XI (2009).

Geopolitical disaster and national tragedy have now led the Federation to become fearful, tribal, and nationalist. Decades of these politics apparently consuming the Federation to some degree have caused Picard to become disillusioned with Starfleet itself, which he believes has lost its way. While it would've been nice if the story spent more time unpacking the political situation (that interview went by way too fast!), what appears to be going on is a decision was made at the highest levels to abandon a project to rescue hundreds of millions of Romulans from Romulus on the eve of its destruction from the supernova Spock told us about in Star Trek XI (2009). This errand of mercy was called off after an attack on Mars carried out by a group of androids destroyed a large chunk of the planned rescue fleet and killed tens of thousands of Federation citizens, including presumably the parents of the children seen in the previous episode Children of Mars.

It isn't terribly clear why the sentiment that the Federation shouldn't try to redouble its efforts to save as many lives as possible became so popular, but this retrenchment disgusted Picard, who resigned from Starfleet in protest. He then became a public symbol of dissent from what is presumably a relatively popular anti-foreign aid political attitude among a broad swath of Federation citizens, thus the confrontational tone during the interview. Plus Picard's long friendship with Data further smeared his public image in the minds of Federation nationalists committed to Othering androids, who pushed for a ban on their entire existence and succeeded in getting it enacted by the Federation legislature.

This is a much better approach to critically examining the rise of nationalist tribalism in the real world's early 21st century through allegory on Star Trek than Discovery's clunky first season was with the Klingons desiring to "remain Klingon." Aside from the fact that it leverages canon directly in smart ways unlike Discovery which stumbled through canon making a mess as though it were in a drunken stupor, the idea of portraying the Federation itself as flirting with reactionary politics is both chilling and an eerily familiar extension of hints the story had already given us in previous series. It was established already that the Federation previously banned genetic engineering in the same reactionary manner that creating android life has now been banned. The wisdom of this ban too has been questioned in the story, though not nearly as forcefully as it ought to have been. DS9 examined it a bit through the lens of illegally genetically enhanced Dr. Bashir, but the best exploration of it arguably came from Enterprise's 4th season's "augments" arc.

Recall the following conversation between Dr. Arik Soong—an ancestor of Data's inventor Dr. Noonian Soong—and Dr. Phlox in Ent: Borderland. Soong: "I didn't realize you shared humanity's reactionary attitude toward this field of medicine." Phlox: "On the contrary, we've used genetic engineering on Denobula for over two centuries, to generally positive effect." This line implicitly admits that genetic engineering—if properly regulated like most technologies—can be a net positive to society. Later in Ent: Cold Station 12, Archer laments that the ban on genetic engineering was the ultimate cause of his father's death, who died of a disease that genetic engineering could've cured. Archer and Phlox muse that maybe Dr. Soong had a point, but conclude that the ban was sensible because humanity's instincts hadn't caught up with its intellect.

But it turns out Dr. Soong did have a point. Now this reactionary attitude towards technology or perhaps towards change itself has come for Arik Soong's progeny's life's work as well: androids. And it of course remains to be seen whether or not sentient holograms will be caught up in the reactionary anti-artificial life fervor too. Whither Voyager's doctor? And for that matter, were the other EMH Mark I holograms we saw in Voy: Author, Author ever granted humanoid rights like Data too? While it's certainly true that humanity's instincts haven't caught up with its intellect if reactionary politics are winning the day, the right answer isn't Archer's and Phlox's resignation to the status quo. The right answer is Picard's staunch resolve to defeat the reactionaries. To reclaim the Federation and Starfleet for the cause of exploration, scientific inquiry, and cosmopolitanism. As Picard once said in TNG: The Measure of a Man, defending Data's right to self-determination: "Starfleet was founded to seek out new life. Well, there it sits. Waiting. You wanted a chance to make law. Well, here it is. Make a good one."

It is truly gratifying that a new Star Trek show is kicking off by tackling deep questions raised by some of Star Trek's best episodes, like TNG: The Measure of a Man. But rather than such questions being resolved in a bottle show in a single episode, we're dealing with an epic sweep of history here. Things turned dark decades before this episode, and the plot wasn't at all be resolved by this pilot of course. Nationalist tribalism will remain the central theme running through this entire serialized drama, not unlike how DS9 masterfully explored how a prolonged war would tear at the fabric of the otherwise utopian Federation society. Rather than the story centering on a forgettable war in a prequel that Star Trek's history barely or never recorded which ultimately turned out to be a shallow, pointless diversion with nothing of substance to say like Enterprise season 3 and Discovery season 1, the Picard show is focusing on the most profound existential questions that Star Trek has raised before and digging into them even deeper. The contrast is quite striking.

Even the scoring takes care to establish Star Trek: Picard as thoughtful and reflective about its place in the vast Star Trek universe. From the calm, pleasant opening theme relying heavily on flutes, evoking TNG: The Inner Light, to the final scene's score majestically echoing TOS: Balance of Terror in its closing melodies, this series is showing us it's putting serious effort into playing well in the sandbox of Star Trek's epic canon in a way that too much prior material by now has not measured up to. All things considered, this is without a doubt Star Trek's finest pilot episode for a series so far.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Mike C on 2020-02-02 at 2:12am:
    It's not horrible, but the writing and script is not great so far. It's better than Discovery, but all I want is a return to the classic episodic, alien-of-the-week format that Star Trek is known for. I also want less dramatic fluff/filler.

    I suppose streaming has killed that format, though. The media corporations are addicted to producing binge-watching material now. If everything in an episode is tidily wrapped up in 45-60 minutes, there's less incentive for the viewer to immediately watch the next episode.

    It would also be nice for there to be a more overall hopeful feeling to it, rather than constant conflict. That's why I loved Star Trek while growing up. There was always some kind of conflict, but it also always wrapped up in a way that filled me with optimism and faith. That doesn't seem to exist in modern Trek. It's all bad, all the time.

    Oh, and there's way too much verbal exposition so far. That's one of the hallmarks of lazy/inept writers.

    Rating: Meh/10

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