“Blue skies, smiling at me.” And after that premiere of Star Trek: Picard, I’m smiling right back at them.
In case you didn’t binge watch a ton of old episodes and movies to prepare, that song is a nod to the final movie, Star Trek: Nemesis, where Data sang it as his wedding gift to Will and Deanna. At the end of the movie, B4 was humming lines from the song to himself, letting Picard know that some essence of Data still lived on inside his brother. The first scene goes on to also acknowledge the final episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, which ended with the principle cast members playing poker aboard the Enterprise-D and Picard joining them. The last line spoken on ST:TNG was his, saying “So, five card stud, nothing wild, and the sky’s the limit.”
Speaking of limits, let’s establish some ground rules for these reviews. I’m a theories and analysis guy at heart, so I’m all about watching the trailers, reading the social media groups, and theorizing about where the show is going and what lies ahead. If it’s publicly available, we’re apt to be talking about it here. I won’t go into deep spoiler territory though—reveals from people who’ve seen future episodes or have inside knowledge from the production, that kind of thing. It’s all about having fun and that’s what I won’t spoil here.
So, all that said and done, it’s time to…engage.
“I haven’t been living. I’ve been waiting to die.”
If we were to describe Jean-Luc Picard in one word at the beginning of the episode, it would have to be “melancholy.” Laris even uses that exact word to chastise him as they prepare for his big day. This is a man who has suffered a lot of loses. The loss of friends. The loss of career. The loss of faith. But most importantly, the loss of purpose. However, he’s still passionate about raising awareness of the lingering impacts of the Romulan supernova, and that last spark is used against him by the unscrupulous HNN reporter.
Picard’s involvement with the Romulans piggybacks off where we left him at the end of Star Trek: Nemesis. At the end of the movie, he had “earned a friend in the Romulan Empire” after the defeat of his clone Shinzon, and Riker was headed to the Neutral Zone aboard the Titan, because the Romulans had expressed an interest in peace talks with the Federation.
In the interview, we get the official on-screen exposition dump on what happened to Picard since we last saw him on the silver screen. Much of this was established in the pre-show comic, “Picard: Countdown,” and the final Short Trek Season 2 episode, “Children of Mars.” (See my pre-series article, “Prepping for Picard,” for more details about those.) The CBS All Access official after show, The Ready Room, included an extra titled “Producing Picard” that also fills in a few details, and is definitely worth checking out this week.
The Romulan sun was going to go supernova, with 900 million of their citizens across multiple planets as risk. They asked the Federation for help and, despite some political opposition, Picard “persuaded” the Federation to support the rescue effort and was put in charge. A rescue armada was cobbled together from 10,000 warp capable ships, old and new, pieced together at the Utopia Planitia Shipyards in orbit around Mars. Then Mars was attacked, from inside, by their own synthetic workers. In the wake of the tragedy, many member worlds of the Federation used this as an excuse to pull out. Picard threatened to resign as kind of a bluff to force the Federation to stick with the plan, but they called his bluff and accepted his resignation. The rescue was abandoned, many Romulans were left displaced, and he has spent the next 10 years or so nursing his wounded dignity.
He misses Starfleet, there can be no doubt about that. The fact that he named his dog “Number One” shows how he’s trying to recapture a bit of that glory in this mundane life he’s sentenced himself to. But Starfleet left him well before he left Starfleet.
“This Painting Is Called ‘Daughter’”
Enter Dahj into the story. And exit just as quick. Now that was an amazing surprise. When she died, I was stunned. Look at this Star Trek show pulling off a Westworld or Watchmen level plot twist. Nice job writers.
Dahj has been hired as a research fellow in artificial intelligence and quantum consciousness. Pretty impressive sounding. Her twin sister, Suji, is a doctor who spends all day “fixing broken people.” Sounds like she’s more into the humanities, but nonetheless working at a doctorate level. A pair of smart girls.
Her would-be kidnappers talk about her “activating,” and when she does, she just “knows” how to fight off multiple armed attackers, hack high-security computer systems and hear conversations a block away. She also knows Jean-Luc Picard. Knows on a deep level that she is safe with him. Picard also has an inkling that he knows her as well, and it takes a dream of Data painting out in the vineyard to remind him. He goes to his personal Starfleet “quantum archive” to check, and sure enough, it is her face on Data’s painting. A painting titled “Daughter.”
Dahj finds Picard outside the archives and they talk. He explains that she may be Data’s daughter and a synthetic like him (only much better, obviously). In a touching moment, he tells her that she may be dear to him in ways that she cannot understand, and that he will never leave her. After all, if Data was like a son to him, she would be his granddaughter.
“I really, really wish you’d come here on my day off.”
Picard had wanted to take Dahj to the Daystrom Institute, but now he has to go it alone. He owes it to her to find out who killed her and why. Enter Dr. Agnes Jurati and what’s left of the Institute after the ban on synthetics. It’s a ghost town and they are completely handicapped from doing any actual work.
As she and Picard talk, we find out that Bruce Maddox recruited her to the Institute, but disappeared himself after the ban went into effect. He had a theory, fractal neuronic cloning (what a wonderful technobabble term), that would have allowed Data’s code and even memories to be reconstituted from a single positronic neuron. Dahj’s necklace, given to her by her father, was a symbol for this process. Added bonus: the process would create a pair of synthetics. Twins.
“So there’s another one.”
So now we have a “find the girl” setup for the rest of the season. We already know where she is though, living aboard a Romulan “reclamation site,” aka a Borg cube. That’s gonna be a tough place for Picard to visit. She is not only living aboard the Borg cube, but apparently also working there, perhaps as a kind of ship’s counsellor for the crew, if I may be so bold.
She meets a Romulan, Narek, who is new to the site. In the course of their conversation, he reveals that he had a brother that was lost, very unexpectedly, a year ago. Hmm. Just the kind of thing that could radicalize a young man. Or maybe that’s just a cover story to get him closer to Suji, since it apparently appeals enough to make her want to listen to his story on her time off. The actor, Harry Treadaway, played the title bad guy in the Stephen King series Mr. Mercedes, so I can’t help but be instantly suspicious of him. We’ll see how it plays out.
The real question is, what is the connection between the synthetics and the Romulans? Dahj is attacked by Romulans intent on kidnapping her. The rogue synths attacked Mars to destroy the Romulan rescue armada. Dahj’s would-be kidnappers are Romulan, and they wanted to know “where are the rest of you” and “where are you from?” It seems like the Federation is possibly finding itself in the middle of a secret war between the two factions.
Despite the Federation’s withdraw from the rescue, it appears that Romulans and humans have gotten much tighter in the last few decades. There are Romulans living on Earth at Chateau Picard. Suji is living and working at a Romulan “reclamation site.” The anniversary of the Romulan supernova is a solemn day in the Federation.
Along with synthetics and Romulans, we also have the Borg to deal with. The other big surprise this episode was the Borg cube reveal at the end. There’s a Borg cube shown in the opening credits, and there was a Borg drone seen in the preview clips. And of course we have ex-Borgs Seven and Hugh in the cast. Sure seems like the Borg are going to play a role in this season.
- The new Star Trek reboot movies, though set in the separate “Kelvin” timeline, established the Romulan sun going supernova in 2387 here in the “prime” timeline.
- We actually do get to see Worf in the opening montage to the HNN interview, as the still image for “skilled diplomat.”
- Not exactly an Easter egg, but Laris and Zhaban, the Romulans who work at Chateau Picard, are the same characters featured in the Picard: Countdown
- The “Captain Picard Day” banner is from ST:TNG S7E12 “The Pegasus,” and this has been established in fandom circles as June 16th. On CBS All Access’ official after show, The Ready Room, host Wil Wheaton (aka Wesley Crusher on ST:TNG) interviews Executive Producer Michael Chabon and Director Hanelle Culpepper, and they go into that particular choice and explore what it shows us about Picard’s post-TNG
- Dahj’s boyfriend is a Xahean, an alien race introduced in Star Trek: Discovery.
- In Boston, there was a building with the Ferengi Alliance insignia on it.
- Also in Boston, look for the “Kasidy Yates Interstellar Freights” digital billboard ad. Kasidy is the wife of Captain Sisko from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. (Source: Reddit)
- There was a little hint of the ST:TNG theme when Picard entered the Starfleet Archives.
- There was also a musical cue lifted from Star Trek: The Original Series during the Borg cube scene.
- The game Star Trek Online has a whole story arc about the Romulans (Tal Shiar) working with Borg tech. It appears this secondary source plot may now become primary source canon.
- Picard now takes his tea, Earl Grey, decaf! He really was just waiting to die.
- The quote “No legacy is so rich as honesty” comes from Shakespeare (of course).
- Number One (the dog) liked Dahj so much he slept in her room the night she stayed.
- I wonder why there is the enormous discrepancy in the Mars attack death toll between “Remembrance” (92,143) and “Children of Mars” (3,000)? Granted, the HNN ticker in the Short Trek episode could have just been showing an early estimate, possibly before the ignition of the entire Martian atmosphere. Mostly though, I would count that as more evidence that “Children of Mars” was intended to establish the Mars attack as the Federation’s 9/11-type event—now shown to have led to the same consequences of isolationism and an abandonment of humanist ideals.
- In their poker game, Data plays five queens. Five Q’s, hmm. A hint that we are going to get an appearance by Q in Episode 5?
- Dunkirk, in case you also have no idea what it is, was the site of a massive evacuation of an over 330,000 Belgian, French and British forces as France fell to Nazi forces in WWII, using a hodgepodge armada of every military and civilian vessel available.
- Picard mentions that Data always wanted a daughter, and that’s as close as we get to naming Lal, the daughter he built himself in ST:TNG S3E16 “The Offspring.”
- Bruce Maddox, mentioned by Dr. Jurati as having recruited her to the Federation’s Division of Advanced Synthetic Research, was the antagonist in the ST:TNG episode, “The Measure of a Man,” wanting to disassemble Data to study him and develop an army of Starfleet androids. Data never held a grudge though, and even continued to correspond with Maddox, as established in ST:TNG S4E11 “Data’s Day.”
- That opens the possibility that Data may have even voluntarily contributed his “single positronic neuron” for Maddox to use in his fractal neuronic cloning experiments, potentially leading to the creation of Dahj and Suji. If so, this would necessarily have to have been prior to his sacrifice in Nemesis. The knowledge that you have passed on something of yourself and are making a better world for your children is often a key ingredient he just such a self-sacrifice.
- The Index identifies Data’s painting as “circa 2369.” Picard later tells Dahj that he painted it 30 years ago. So there you have it, the show is set in 2399, as we were told it would be. (Source: Phantastic Geek Podcast)
- When Dr. Jurati pulls B4 out of the drawer, Picard asks, “It’s a B4, isn’t it?” As if apparently sometime between the end of Nemesis and now, B4 was replicated into many androids, and “B4” is now considered a model of android. (Source: Phantastic Geek Podcast)
- If so, and seeing this particular B4 in a disassembled state, it would seem that he did not warrant the protections afforded to Data as an independent sentient being (from ST:TNG S2E9 “The Measure of a Man).
- It seems that the twins were hidden in plain sight, but then Dahj’s appointment to the Daystrom Institute brought her to the attention of her would-be kidnappers.
- We never found out why the Picard clone program was scrapped (prior to the events in Star Trek: Nemesis). Given their work on B4 in the movie, the Romulans obviously have experience working with synthetics. It seems very likely that this is where Maddox went when he disappeared after the ban was put in place.
- What’s up with Dahj’s mom? There’s a glitch when she changes gears and tries to cover her tracks after revealing that she knew Dahj had been to see Picard. Perhaps this is a fellow synth who intercepted the call and was using some sort of pre-programmed mask to imitate her? She also knows Dahj’s true nature and coaches her through activating her abilities to find Picard again.
- Maddox is definitely the father. I mean, come on, right?
- “I don’t want the game to end.”
- “Be the captain they remember.”
- “The dreams are lovely. It’s the waking up I’m beginning to resent.”
- “Romulan lives.” “No, lives.”
- “Unless you prefer we sell tickets.”
- “Sitting here, all these years, nursing my offended dignity.”
In The News
With the big premiere this week, there’s plenty of news.
- Back in December, Deadline reported that Star Trek: Picard had already been renewed for a second season. That apparently was “unofficial,” but last week CBS All Access made an official announcement that confirmed Season 2, and the Hollywood Reporter even reports that there’s an informal green light for Season 3.
- Speaking of Season 2, on Wednesday, Patrick Stewart went on The View and brought with him a formal invitation from the executive production staff (including Alex Kurtzman and himself) for Whoopi Goldberg to join the cast for Season 2, presumably reprising her role as Guinan.
- Trek Core had a lovely interview with Brent Spiner and Marina Sirtis about their experience returning to the world of Star Trek.
- If you’re a Picard title theme hater (which I count myself among those ranks—well, maybe not so much hate as just completely underwhelmed by), The Ready Room interview of composer Jeff Russo might help you appreciate it a bit more.
- Star Trek: Section 31 will begin filming in May 2020. (Source: Reddit)
Before we take our leave, remember that the final Issue #3 of Picard: Countdown (comic) comes out next week on January 29, just one day before Episode 2. We’ll talk about it along with the new episode next week, so be sure to support your local comic book shop and go buy a physical copy before then.
That’s all for this week. Please let me know your thoughts and feelings about this week’s episode, and any theories you have on what’s to come, in the comments below, or catch me on the r/Picard sub on Reddit as u/catnapspirit. Remember that 25YL will provide continuing coverage of Star Trek: Picard throughout Season 1 and beyond, as well as covering Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek in general.