Star Trek: Picard premiere recap: The past, reborn
Star Trek has always been a series about family, and that remains true in Star Trek: Picard, CBS All Access’ new streaming series that picks up with one of the franchise’s greatest leaders (and paterfamiliases), The Next Generation’s Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), for an adventure set approximately 20 years after the events of his final film appearance in 2002’s Star Trek Nemesis. Decades may have passed since Picard last saw action, but as proven by this new 10-episode affair from creator Alex Kurtzman (and executive producers Michael Chabon and Akiva Goldsman), he’s still ready for heroic duty — no matter that he’s long since broken ties with Starfleet.
Picard’s premiere, “Remembrance,” opens to the sound of “Blue Skies” — the song that Picard’s beloved synthetic sidekick Data (Brent Spiner) sang at William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Deanna Troi’s (Marina Sirtis) wedding in Nemesis, and was heard at the close of that film as well after Data had sacrificed himself to save Picard and the Enterprise crew, and then seemingly downloaded his consciousness into an android dubbed B-4 (which looked just like Data). That tune sets the mournful tone for the ensuing scene of Data and Picard playing a game of cards, during which Picard deduces that Data has a “tell” — namely, that he’s playing straight when he tries to fake a “tell” (via an ostentatious pupil dilation), and that he’s bluffing when his eyes are neutral.
Picard pours them both tea, and Data asks why the Captain is stalling. “Because I don’t want the game to end,” he replies. After Picard bets everything on the current hand, Data wins with an impossible collection of five queens. This confuses Picard, and when he looks out his starship window at Mars, everything starts shaking, Data disappears and an explosion rocks him out of this reverie and causes him to wake up in his bedroom at his French vineyard Château Picard, his trusty dog Number One by his side.
In Greater Boston, a young woman named Dahj (Isa Briones) is having a romantic drink in her apartment with her alien boyfriend. After Dahj announces that she’s been accepted into Okinawa’s Daystrom Institute as a fellow in artificial intelligence and quantum consciousness, the two are rudely visited by a trio of helmeted assassins who kill Dahj’s boyfriend and put a hood over her head, saying, “She hasn’t activated yet.” Unfortunately for them, she promptly does activate, turning into a killing machine and felling them with ease. Freaked out by her heretofore-unknown abilities, Dahj then has a vision of Picard.
Back at Château Picard, Picard is told by his Romulan staffers Laris (Orla Brady) and Zhaban (Jamie McShane) that he was muttering in his sleep. “The dreams are lovely. It’s the waking up that I’m beginning to resent,” sighs Picard. But waking up is what “Remembrance” is all about, and that process continues when a TV crew arrives to interview Picard — the first he’s given post-retirement. He doesn’t want to talk about his departure from Starfleet, and Laris tells him to “be the captain they remember.”
The topic of conversation is the supernova that destroyed Romulus — an event first referenced in J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek reboot. Even though the Romulans were Starfleet’s sworn enemies, Picard felt a “profound responsibility” to help relocate 900 million survivors to worlds outside the supernova’s blast — something the antagonistic reporter says was “a logistical feat more ambitious than the pyramids.” Ever the historian, Picard corrects her by saying it was more akin to Dunkirk (an event about which she knows nothing) and defends his actions by making clear that he was saving refugee lives.
Their chat veers toward a subsequent calamity in which a group of rogue synthetics hacked Mars’ defense net, wiped out a rescue armada and destroyed a shipyard, resulting in explosions that have left Mars uninhabitable to this day. As a result, synthetics were banned throughout the galaxy. Picard confesses he doesn’t know why the synthetics acted as they did, but he states that he never lost faith in his own synthetic mate, Data. Moreover, he angrily admits that he left Starfleet because the organization’s decision to call off Romulan rescue efforts was “downright criminal.” At that, he storms off set.
Dahj sees Picard on TV and, recognizing him from her vision, visits him at Château Picard. She explains that her knowledge of him comes from someplace deep within and that the power that overtook her was like “lightning seeking the ground.” The same sort of inherent instinct led her to Picard’s vineyard. Over Earl Grey tea, she shows him a necklace of two intertwined circles, which she says she received from her father.
At night, Picard dreams of Data painting in the vineyard. He offers Picard the brush and asks him if he’d like to finish it. When he awakens, Picard realizes that the painting — of a faceless woman in white, standing at the edge of rocky waves — is the one hanging over his mantle. Laris informs Picard that Dahj is gone, and he races off to Starfleet Archives. There, he gazes upon a painting similar to the prior one (they’re a set, made by Data in 2369), except that in this version, the woman’s face is clearly visible — and it’s Dahj. The title of the painting is “Daughter.”
In the rainy streets of Paris, Dahj phones her mother (Sumalee Montano), who mysteriously knows that Dahj has already visited Picard — and tells her to return to him. A bewildered Dahj hacks security systems to locate his whereabouts at Starfleet Archives and meets him there. He tells her of Data and the painting, and suggests that though she has lovely memories of her childhood and family, she’s actually a synthetic related to Data — thereby making her “dear to me in ways you can never understand. I will never leave you.” He says they should go to the Daystrom Institute to investigate further. But before they can depart, more black-clad assassins materialize.
On a rooftop, Dahj fends off these attackers while Picard takes cover. At the moment of her triumph, a fallen adversary spits acid on Dahj, causing her to explode and knock out Picard. When he awakens, he’s back at Château Picard. Having spent years nursing his wounded dignity, writing books about history no one wants to remember, and hiding out “waiting to die,” Picard is now galvanized, and ready to uncover the truth about — and avenge — Dahj’s death.
Picard travels to Daystrom, where he questions synthetics expert Dr. Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill) about the possibility of sentient synthetics. She says humanity was unable to create them even before the ban — a development about which she’s clearly bitter since it effectively neutered her research. She shows Picard B-4, informing him that Data attempted to download the contents of his neural net into the replica before his death, but almost all of it was lost. B-4 turned out to be a pale imitation of Data, as have all subsequent synthetics.
Furthermore, she tells Picard that, per her mentor Dr. Maddox, any new synthetics would have to be made from the neurons of Data. Jurati says Dahj’s necklace is a symbol for fractural neuronic cloning — a Maddox theory which posited that Data’s entire code could be reconstituted from just one of his positronic neurons. Consequently, if a synesthetic was out there, it would have to contain some “essence” of Data. Picard tells Jurati that Maddox must have created Dahj in this way, modeling the girl after one of Data’s old paintings.
In response, Jurati explains that fractural neuronic clones are created in pairs — meaning Dahj has a twin.
Following this bombshell, we’re transported to a Romulan Reclamation Site floating in space. Out of the mist, a Romulan named Narek (Harry Treadaway) appears and greets a woman named Dr. Soji Asher — who’s clearly Dahj’s twin. He praises her work and admires her intertwined-circle necklace. Upon hearing that she has a twin sister, he confesses that he was close with his own brother, but lost him last year in an unexpected manner.
As the two hit it off, the camera pulls back to give us an idea of the enormous scale of this Romulan site. More chilling still, we realize the exact nature of this outpost — it’s a fully operational Borg Cube.
- Picard may be motivated to resume his old ways, but as indicated by his huffing and puffing while running up stairs with Dahj, he’s far less spry than he was in his younger days.
- Maddox is a character from Star Trek: The Next Generation’s second season episode “The Measure of a Man.” In it, Maddox argued that Data wasn’t a sentient life form — although the two found some common ground on the subject by story’s end.
- The Romulans and Borg have had little contact throughout the history of Star Trek, so the revelation that the former have somehow taken control of a Borg vessel suggests a new villainous partnership with which Picard will have to contend.
- Number One’s name is a shout-out to the handle Picard used for his second-in-command comrades – most famously, Riker.