Star Trek: Picard S2.1: “The Star Gazer” is proof that not ‘all good things’ must end…

*****STARSHIP-SIZED SPOILERS AHEAD!!*****

As some longtime readers of this site may have noticed, I am no longer reviewing new episodes of Star Trek: Discovery‘s 4th season, and there are reasons for that. First, it’s exhausting to keep up with all of the new Star Trek content of late, since there are currently four new Trek series (Discovery, Picard, Lower Decks & Prodigy), and I would prefer to cover other TV series, movies and occasional conventions, not just Star Trek. Secondly, I’ve received a lot of negative feedback for reviewing Star Trek: Discovery, mainly in a few private emails along with some downright vulgar public comments (namely sexist, homophobic and racist slurs) that I chose to delete in the comments threads (not today, trolls…). Frankly, I don’t have the desire or will to deal with that kind of thing every week. I still watch and enjoy Star Trek, but unless there is an exceptional installment that absolutely demands my attention, I’m no longer doing episode-by-episode recaps/reviews. The negativity incurred versus the effort put forth simply isn’t worth it. Now, excuse me, while I eat my words…

Admiral Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) takes a look down “the road not taken” in this season of Star Trek: Picard.”

Star Trek: Picard (PIC) returned this week like a rocket blasting off into the blue (after a two year hiatus), with a season opener that plays more like a feature film than an episode of television. “The Star Gazer” feels like the long-lost theatrical sequel to the final Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) episode, “All Good Things…”. It has action, charm, character development, Easter eggs galore, and a few terrific reunions. Threads from last season are quickly picked up again, as we gain valuable new insight into the beloved title character (Patrick Stewart) we’ve known for the past 35 years. The first season of PIC dealt with two focuses of Picard’s career; his advocacy for artificial life forms (see: TNG’s “Measure of a Man,” “The Offspring”), and his disillusionment with Starfleet over their handling of the Romulan refugee crisis, following the destruction of their home planet in “Star Trek” (2009). That first season included some scathing commentary on current reactionary politics as well (much of it inspired by star/producer Stewart’s own political advocacy), as Picard’s bitterness forced him to resign from Starfleet in protest.

Season two sees Picard–now the recipient of a Soong-type artificial body–returning to a reformed Starfleet Command as an admiral, in addition to his day job at the Chateau Picard vineyard in La Barre, France. This season also promises the return of the Borg Queen, as well as Picard’s own personal devil–a certain mischievous demigod named “Q” (John de Lancie)…

Picard Season 2.1: “The Star Gazer.”

Writers Akiva Goldsman, Terry Matalas and director Doug Aarniokoski have turned this premiere episode of the season into something that feels more like the first act of an ambitious new Star Trek movie. Even the revised theme music by Jeff Russo loses some of the wistful woodwinds heard in last season’s version; adopting a tenser, brassier mix for this new season. As with Paramount+’s other Star Trek series, there are clues to this season’s arc throughout the main titles, of course (Star Trek is one of the rare TV shows these days to still use a dedicated main title sequence).

Red Alert!
Picard (Patrick Stewart) on the bridge of a new USS Stargazer, back in harm’s way.

The opening scene is a deliberately disorienting, feature-quality action sequence aboard an unknown starship on red alert. As klaxons blare, a group of armed Starfleet officers, including a green-bleeding Vulcan, are en route to the bridge as reinforcements to an intruder alert call. The damaged turbolift showers them with sparks as the doors part, placing them into an active fire fight, with green energy beams darting across the bridge. We see some faces, including Admiral Jean-Luc Picard (Sir Patrick Stewart), ducking fire from the unseen intruder aboard this apparently doomed starship…

Note: The blaring klaxon uses the distinctive monotoned noises from the original theatrical cut of “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” (1979), as well as the red alert monitor images seen in that film as well. The widescreen aspect framing (2.39:1) as well as the gorgeous starship interior sets, give this sequence a truly theatrical feel–perhaps aided by the fact that I watched it digitally projected onto a 7 ft./2 meter screen.

Bottle fatigue.
Picard on his chateau vineyard, bottling the fruits of himself and his Romulan vignerons, including Laris (Orla Brady).

We then cut to “48 Hours Earlier” on a sunny day in La Barre, France (nee: California), where we see a more relaxed Jean-Luc tending his vineyards at Chateau Picard, as his Romulan groundskeepers, including a recently widowed Laris (Orla Brady), bottle the literal fruits of their labors for export.

Note: In one of several bits of temporal foreshadowing, we hear “Time Is On My Side”, as originally sung by Irma Thomas (later made famous by The Rolling Stones), playing on an old phonograph. To those who’d complain that Picard prefers classical music? Remember that by the early 25th century (the time of this episode), this 1964 song will be 436 years old–I’d call that very classical music.

The right wine, the right music…
Following the death of her husband Zhaban a year and a half ago, Laris makes a heartfelt overture to Picard.

After the days successful harvest, Picard and Laris enjoy a nice night under the stars by a warm fire pit. As they toast in various languages, including Laris’ native Romulan, we learn that her husband Zhaban has been dead for over a year and a half now. Laris tells Picard that Romulans honor their dead loved ones by continuing their love with someone new; and she’s clearly feeling something more than friendship for her employer. Picard doesn’t fully rebuff Laris’ romantic overture, but he doesn’t exactly connect with it, either. The moment is broken, as she asks what’s holding him back, only to hear Picard use that same old excuse he’s used his entire life … duty. A humiliated Laris and a contrite Picard part company for the night, as she reminds him he needs to rest for his speech at Starfleet Academy in San Francisco the following morning…

Note: The scene is pure awkward perfection, with Patrick Stewart and Orla Brady hitting exactly the right notes of weirdness that occur whenever old friends unwittingly cross a line with each other. Even when Laris was married to Zhaban in season one, Orla Brady and Patrick Stewart had palpable chemistry in their scenes together.

“Look up.”
The broken glass of the cupola stirs painful memories for Picard, specifically of his mother, Yvette (Madeline Wise).

After she leaves, Picard wanders into Chateau Picard’s cupola, which is in an entropic state of disrepair, with now-glassless windows and decaying vegetation. The place triggers many memories, as it used to be a special place for young Jean-Luc (Dylan Von Halle) and his mother, Yvette (Madeline Wise). While the Picard household was very traditional (too much so, at times), Yvette would take her young son to the cupola and they’d stare off into the stars together. She called Jean-Luc her “star gazer.” In this flashback sequence, we also see painful, violent glimpses of abuse that Yvette endured at the hands of her husband, Maurice. It’s implied that this miserable domestic life helped spur young Jean-Luc Picard to seek a future career in Starfleet–both to reify his dreams of adventure, and as a means of escape.

Note: The cause of domestic violence is one that is very personal to Patrick Stewart, as he’s recently revealed in interviews that he was raised with an abusive father as well. This personal revelation also fits with what we already know of Picard’s distant relationship with his disapproving father Maurice (TNG’s “Tapestry”) and his bullying brother, Robert, as played by the late Jeremy Kemp (TNG “Family”). It’s not a stretch to imagine there might have been physical abuse in the Picard home as well, yes, even in the ‘perfect’ 24th century. Young Jean-Luc loved gazing out at the stars much in the same way as his late nephew Rene, who was killed in a fire, along with Picard’s brother Robert, in “Star Trek: Generations” (1994).

“Extra extra, read all about it…”
The young Jean-Luc (Dylan Von Halle) looks like he wandered off the set of Disney’s “Newsies.”

As the elderly Picard gazes out the broken windows of the cupola, we cut to deep space, where the starship USS Avalon has detected a sudden, bright green rupture in the fabric of spacetime…

Note: I have to admit–I was a bit nervous at the sudden appearance of a subspace anomaly, as PIC’s sister series, Discovery, is currently doing a whole season on another series of ‘deadly spatial anomalies’ generated by the unknown extra-galactic species temporarily named 10-C. Fortunately, the dangerous subspace anomaly in this episode has a much more familiar source, as we later see…

“It got weird, didn’t it?”
Things aren’t quite the same between Jean-Luc and Laris, following the previous night’s admission…

The next morning, Picard is running late (even in the age of transporters), as Laris gives him his now-cold cup of Earl Grey tea. He is frantically searching his library for a green-covered, gold-leaf first edition of “The Many and the Few” by Spock himself (!). As Picard frantically searches the same shelves in vain, Laris calmly and coolly hands it to him. Picard, sensing her continued embarrassment over her earlier admission to him, assures her their working relationship can continue unchanged. Laris regretfully tells them that it can’t, at least not for her. Before they can get into it further, he has to leave–he’s late for his speech.

Note: It got weird, didn’t it?

“Let’s see what’s out there.”
Admiral Picard addresses a new class of Starfleet cadets, including the first Romulan in Starfleet, Elnor (Evan Evagora).

At Starfleet Academy in San Francisco, the admiral addresses a crowd of fresh Starfleet cadets, and in a bit of foreshadowing, notes that perhaps time, not space, is the true ‘final frontier’… as well as those rare opportunities for second chances. The admiral then tells the cadets to break free of the shackles and prejudices of the past, as they welcome their new classmate; the first Romulan to enter Starfleet Academy, Elnor (Evan Evagora). Picard then speaks of his famed ancestors who sailed the oceans with Jacques Cartier, and who explored the early solar system. However, the words Picard chooses to end the address on are from own mother, Yvette, who was decidedly not an explorer. She simply said, “Let’s see what’s out there.”

Note: Picard first used the phrase “Let’s see what’s out there” at the conclusion of TNG’s 1987 pilot episode, “Encounter at Farpoint.” It didn’t quite catch on as much as the single word he said afterward, “Engage,” which was also the catchphrase of Captain Christopher Pike in Star Trek’s original 1964 pilot, “The Cage.”

“Assimilate this!”
Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), in command of the La Sirena, kicks ass and takes names.

The story then jumps from Picard’s inspirational speech to an action sequence of space pirates boarding the cargo ship La Sirena–the former vessel of Captain Cristobal Rios (Santiago Cabrera)–now under the command of Fenris Ranger, Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan). Rios gave Seven his old ship, along with his own crew of self-patterned holograms, when he resumed his former career with Starfleet. Seven uses her cunning and combat skills, as well as Spanish-speaking hologram Emmett (Cabrera), to outwit the pirates. Seven turns off Emmett’s safety protocols, and the now tactile-capable hologram helps her knock the pirates out, tie them up, and beam them off of the ship. Unfortunately, Emmett also has an annoying habit of psychoanalyzing Seven–asking her about her apparent inability to commit to relationships (her recent breakup with Raffi, for example). Before Seven can find a way to squelch the hologram’s psychiatric subroutines, they detect a large spatial anomaly in their flight path… the same anomaly encountered earlier by the USS Avalon.

Amicable Android.
Dahj (Isa Briones) charms a colony of Deltans as part of her Android Goodwill Tour.

Meanwhile, on a colony of Deltans in the Beta quadrant, android Dr. Dahj Asha (Isa Briones) continues her year-long ‘android goodwill tour’ through the galaxy, reassuring various Federation planets that androids are good people, too. At an outdoor reception, Dahj toasts her hairless hosts in their own language as an expression of friendship, preferring in-person communication over a universal translator. Her message is warmly received, and the Deltans are charmed by the cybernetic-cyberneticist.

Note: Deltans are, of course, the same hairless natives of Delta IV seen in “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” (1979) in the character of Lt. Ilia, played by the late actress Persis Khambatta (1948-1998), a former Miss India who shaved her head for the role. We haven’t seen a Deltan since the TOS-era Star Trek movies, and it’s a nice callback to that species, whose only defining traits from that film were deep empathy and unusually high libidos. To Deltans, sex is seen as both a powerful bond and an everyday means of communication, at least according to Roddenberry’s novelization of the movie. In a deleted scene from ST: TMP, Ilia makes a half-joking reference about how she would never “take advantage of a sexually immature species” (we poor human slobs). Also of note, the Deltan Ilia was turned into an android herself in ST:TMP.

Trainwreck-Trek.
Dr. Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill) is a bit blotto as she rebuffs Deltan advances.

Meanwhile, at the bar, a sauced Dr. Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill) is about to polish off yet another drink when she is approached by a handsome Deltan male, who seeks her company. Jurati tries to explain that she is not exactly flirt-worthy material, as she was only recently found not guilty of killing her ex-lover Dr. Bruce Maddox by reason of alien-induced insanity, and is just coming off of a fresh breakup with Captain Rios, who apparently left her when he rejoined Starfleet. Ouch! This painful ‘flirtation’ is interrupted when Agnes receives a call on her communicator badge. Leaving Dahj in the capable hands of their charming hosts, Agnes beams up to the ship…

Note: Alison Pill’s Agnes Jurati makes for great drunken comic relief; right up there with Marina Sirtis’ drunken Deanna Troi in “Star Trek: First Contact” (1996). Agnes’s besotted explanation to her would-be Deltan paramour as to why she’s a bad risk is like a scene out of Amy Schumer’s “Trainwreck” (2015). To those who might say Jurati’s dialogue in the scene sounds like sloppy exposition, I’d point out that her character is also drunk off her ass, so yeah, it fits.

A command with baggage.
A back-in-Starfleet Captain Cristobal Rios takes command of an all-new USS Stargazer.

The ship to which Agnes returns is the new command of her ex-beau Rios; a ship whose unlucky name carries a lot of baggage–the newly commissioned USS Stargazer, NCC-82893. This sleek, four-nacelle vessel has been fitted with the latest technology gleaned from the Borg Cube artifact last seen in season one of PIC.

Note: The Stargazer was, of course, the name of Picard’s first command, a ship that was presumed destroyed in a surprise Ferengi attack and was recovered years later, by the USS Enterprise-D (TNG’s “The Battle”). Picard spoke fondly of his time aboard that “overworked, underpowered vessel” (TNG’s “Relics”). The interiors of the new ship appear to be redresses of bridge and corridor interiors from “Star Trek: Discovery” and the upcoming “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds”, debuting in May. It seems an unlikely coincidence that Picard would come to command a ship named after his own mother’s nickname for him, but hey–it’s Star Trek.

Intersecting exes.
Capt. Rios (Santiago Cabrera) needs Agnes’ brain, however tipsy, to investigate a curious plea from a spatial anomaly.

Aboard the Stargazer, the cigar-chomping Rios brusquely welcomes his ex-lover aboard, and asks her assistance in deciphering a strange call coming from an unusual spatial anomaly detected by the USS Avalon, as well as the La Sirena, which has rendezvoused with the Stargazer, giving Rios a start when he sees the battered condition of his old ship. Seven coolly dismisses Rios’ alarm, saying “She looks good with a few dents.” Rios then gives the somewhat-tipsy Agnes access to the comms, where she deduces the signal is a distress call in multiple languages. The message simply reads, “Help us, Picard.”

Note: The exchange between former and current La Sirena skippers as to the condition of their ship reminds me of Han Solo and Lando Calrissian’s busting each others’ chops over their beloved Millennium Falcon in the Star Wars movies (“Solo,” “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Return of the Jedi”).

“So…some kinda weather we’re having, ain’t it?”
Commander Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd) and Admiral Picard breach the uncomfortable subject of heartbreak.

Back at Starfleet Command, Picard takes a stroll with his former First Officer, Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd) as they discuss both his uncomfortable romantic feelings for Laris, with Raffi attempting to offer her former captain romantic advice, before he cuts her off by asking her about her relationship with Seven. “Touché,” she relents. Raffi then points out how similar Picard and Seven are in their self-sufficiency–a damned annoying trait sometimes. The subject is turned back to her career choice when the intercom calls for all officers to report to their ships, hers being the old USS Excelsior, NCC-2000, where she will keep an eye on Romulan cadet Elnor, whose old habit of “absolute candor” doesn’t always make him the popular guy sometimes…

Note: Yes, Raffi and Elnor’s ride is the very same USS Excelsior we first saw in “Star Trek III: The Search For Spock” and “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country”, which would make the ship just over 115 years old at the time of “Star Gazer.” That turned out to be one helluva durable ship design, didn’t it? That would be like seeing the cruise ship RMS Olympic (a contemporary of Titanic) still ferrying passengers across the Atlantic today…

Spock Speaks!
Admiral Picard gifts Romulan Starfleet cadet Elnor with a first edition book by Spock himself.

Speak of the devil, Picard runs into young Elnor before he and Raffi report to the Excelsior, where Picard gifts Elnor with his first edition copy of “The Many and the Few.” Picard then offers Elnor a bit of wisdom from the book; “Live a little.” Elnor vows to cherish the gift, and reports to the Excelsior.

Note: Once again, I stand by my conviction that Mr. Spock truly is the center of the Star Trek universe. Even when he’s not mentioned or seen, Spock’s influence is felt throughout the Star Trek universe(s). Picard even put his career on the line to help the old half-Vulcan/half-human achieve his lifelong dream of unifying the Vulcan and Romulan peoples, something we see as concrete reality in Star Trek: Discovery, S3.7: “Unification III”.

“Tea, Earl Grey, piping hot!”
Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) is back at a new “Ten Forward.”

Seeking solace in an old friend, Picard finds himself in downtown Los Angeles, entering a back-alley bar at the curious address of “10, Forward Ave” (yes, Ten-Forward). There, without even looking his way, the bartender Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) immediately requests a cup of piping hot Earl Grey tea. After a warm hug from her old captain (“admiral,” he mockingly corrects her), Guinan senses he’s got worries, and immediately gets something a bit stronger–her Saurian brandy “hooch.” Picard notes that unlike himself, Guinan’s El-Aurian species ages considerably slower, but, as she reminds him, El-Aurians age as rapidly or slowly as they choose. Due to her largely human clientele’s sensitivity toward mortality, Guinan has chosen to add a few more years to herself, out of respect.

Since they’re both near too old to beat around the bush, Guinan quickly identifies Picard’s problem; after nearly a century, he’s still terrified to commit to a relationship with all his heart, whether in his formerly biological or currently synthetic body. Picard rejects the notion of romance at his age, lamenting “that ship has long sailed.” Guinan says time isn’t the problem (more time foreshadowing)–he is. Not wanting to disagree, they simply toast each other to “the final frontier” yet to come…

L.A. Story.
An android admiral and an El Aurian walk into a bar…

Note: I honestly didn’t believe in magic until I saw Sir Patrick Stewart and Whoopi Goldberg slipping back into their characters’ grooves again so easily after nearly 30 years. I just adored their scene together in the new “Ten-Forward” bar. I appreciated how easily the 300-plus year-old Guinan explains away her suddenly aged appearance, which also fits with her fellow El-Aurian Soran (Malcolm McDowell) choosing not to change his own appearance from the 23rd to 24th centuries in “Star Trek: Generations” (1994). I also loved seeing an early 25th century version of Los Angeles–a city that’s never gotten enough love from Star Trek, as far as I’m concerned. We often see future versions of San Francisco, Paris, and London in Star Trek, but never Los Angeles; the very city where Star Trek was first put before cameras back in 1964, and for which most (admittedly not all) Star Trek series and movies (including PIC) have been filmed since 1966.

For Your Eyes Only.
Picard receives a late visit from Admiral Sally Whitley (April Grace), concerning a very personal distress call.

Later that evening, back at his home in La Barre, Picard receives an urgent visit from Fleet Admiral Sally Whitley (April Grace), concerning the distress call beamed out from the anomaly first identified by the USS Avalon. The message reads “Help us Picard,” as well as an application for Federation membership, despite a lack of caller identification. Admiral Whitley offers Picard a chance to return to active duty, with a new combadge. Picard, never one to shirk responsibility, accepts Whitley’s offer, and heads out the front door with her … just in time for Laris to walk after them, seeing their shuttle depart into the nighttime sky.

Note: Actress April Grace, who plays Admiral Whitley, once appeared as transporter chief “Maggie Hubbell” in several TNG episodes, including “Data’s Day,” “Future Imperfect,” and “Galaxy’s Child,” as well as the Deep Space Nine pilot, “Emissary.” Would’ve been nice if she’d been allowed to play her old TNG character; a non-commissioned officer who eventually rose to the rank of a fleet admiral in 30 years.

Admiral on the bridge!
Under the command of Captain Rios, Admiral Picard is back aboard another USS Stargazer–one fitted with Borg tech.

Picard’s shuttle docks with his old command’s new namesake, the USS Stargazer, where Picard is welcomed by Seven, and together they report to the bridge. Once on the command deck, the admiral is greeted by Captain Rios, who shouts “Admiral on the bridge!” Dr. Jurati then jokingly tells Picard that he looks “positively positronic.” In a moment of awe, Picard is struck by the sleekness of this new, top-of-the-line vessel; a far cry from his old, rundown Constellation-class ship. Seven reminds the admiral that some of the new Stargazer’s systems were augmented with technology recovered from the Borg cube, which saps a bit of his enthusiasm. Soon, they warp towards the anomaly.

Note: The redressed Discovery set of the corridors and main bridge also bear a resemblance to the shiny-gray, multi-tiered bridge seen aboard the NCS Protector in the 1999 Star Trek spoof, “Galaxy Quest.”

Borg to be Wild.

Arriving at the coordinates of the spatial distortion, a large but unmistakable vessel emerges from the center of of the spacetime fracture–it is Borg, as confirmed by a visibly apprehensive Seven, who spent half of her life assimilated as an involuntary member of the Borg collective.

Note: Despite not being cubed or global in shape, there is a greenish cast to Borg vessels that unmistakably marks their technology–a hue that conveys an unnatural, almost sickly appearance. We also saw this in 1996’s “Star Trek: First Contact,” when the USS Enterprise-E’s engine room was assimilated and drained of color; its warp core pulsing in a darkened greenish hue…

The USS Excelsior rides again.
Commander Muskier with cadet Elnor, now serving aboard what’s got to be the oldest starship in the fleet!

Soon a fleet of 70-plus Starfleet ships arrive as reinforcements, including the USS Excelsior, with Raffi and Elnor standing by to assist. A triggered Seven urgently tells Captain Rios to fire upon the Borg ship without hesitation, but Rios rebuffs her suggestion, opting instead to warn the Borg ship that any hostile action will be met with return fire. In the Stargazer’s ready room, Picard, who was also assimilated by the Borg during his time as captain of the Enterprise-D (“The Best of Both Worlds,” Parts 1, 2), is asked for his advice. Picard simply says “I don’t know,” noting that this could be a historic turning point (see: “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country”). With Seven pleading for the officers and observers to defend themselves by firing first, Agnes points point that they would be throwing away a chance for peaceful contact with the most valuable potential ally the Federation could ever have. Picard agrees with Agnes, much to Seven’s ire. Before they can continue their discussion, Capt. Rios and the others are summoned back to the bridge…

Note: Once again, a classic Star Trek dilemma is strongly presented, as the arguments for and against the Federation’s Borg outreach have considerable merit.

Coming soon to an Eaglemoss dealer near you.
An impressive Starfleet armada, including some of the oldest and latest models.

The Borg are urgently hailing, calling for Picard to begin the negotiations at once. The Borg then tell them they will send an emissary to negotiate on their behalf–the Borg queen herself. Rios vows not to allow her aboard his ship, and immediately raises shields. Before long, the Borg transporter beam pierces through the Stargazer’s defenses, and a single shape materializes on the bridge; a Borg queen, covered head-to-toe, her face and body indistinguishable from her all-enveloping, shroud-like wardrobe. Faced with no choice but to engage with the Queen, Rios demands to know what she wants. She requires power, she says, as tentacles emerge from her covered body and immediately smash into bridge consoles, hooking into the ship’s defensive systems.

Agnes soon realizes the Queen is not only decrypting the Stargazer’s access codes, but the codes to the entire fleet as well. Seven is horrified, telling Picard and Rios that they can’t let the Queen gain control of the entire Starfleet. From here, the action cuts to what he saw in the original teaser of the episode as security reinforcements futilely try to repel the Queen’s green energy beams, which are curious set to stun, not kill. With the Queen’s access to the ship and the fleet nearly finalized, Picard orders what little computer control remains to initiate self-destruct. Giving the final command, a quick countdown begins. Picard then hears the words of his mother from the Borg queen, as she tells him to “look up.” The Stargazer is then destroyed in a white-hot nova of energy from its self-collapsed warp core…

Note: Shades of TNG’s “Cause and Effect,” which saw the Enterprise-D destroyed in the opening teaser, and repeatedly destroyed throughout the episode, as the ship was later revealed to have been stuck in a recurring temporal loop for 17 days.

Q e tu.
A disoriented Picard finds himself in an alternate Chateau Picard, with an all-too familiar pest–er, guest.

A disoriented Picard then inexplicably finds himself back at Chateau Picard in the old, decaying cupola. Looking up, he sees what appears to be a large, grid-like forcefield in the sky overhead. Looking around, Picard notices that his familiar house is now decorated with unfamiliar items, such as swords, war spoils, and a painting of himself in an unfamiliar dark gray Starfleet uniform. Glancing downward, he notices that his own combadge is of a larger, unfamiliar design. Calling out for Laris, he is instead met by a Soong-class servant android named “Harvey” (Alex Diehl) who wonders if his master is feeling alright. A confused Picard lays his head in his hands, and wonders aloud “What is happening?” He then hears an all-too familiar, taunting voice from his past, “An excellent question, Jean-Luc. Oh, how I’ve missed you, mon capitane…”

Note: Actor Alex Diehl also played the service android F-8 (fate, get it?) seen on Mars right before the deadly android revolt, in Star Trek: Picard S1.2: “Maps and Legends.”

“God damn Q all to hell…”
John de Lancie triumphantly returns as “Goddamn Q!”

Picard, having not heard this voice for over a quarter century, repeats, “No, no, no, no…” before slowly turning in the direction of the voice: “Goddamn Q!” At first, Q (John de Lancie) looks exactly as he appeared all those years ago. Realizing Picard has aged since their last encounter, Q snaps his fingers to match. His black hair now white, and with matching facial hair, Q reminds Picard what he told them after their last encounter, “The trial never ends.” Demanding to know what has happened, Q retorts, “Welcome to the end of the road not taken.”

The End.

Note: Like Whoopi Goldberg’s Guinan, the omnipotent “Q” presents actor John de Lancie with a quick and clever means of explaining away the actor’s own natural aging. Only in Star Trek can this work so effortlessly well. In the recent Disney Star Wars’ series “The Book of Boba Fett”, actor Mark Hamill had to use body doubles, a computer-altered voice and a younger, CGI-altered face to convincingly play young Luke Skywalker once again. Q’s own computer-assisted youthful appearance is much briefer, thank goodness.

Summing It Up.

“The Star Gazer” feels like the long-lost theatrical sequel to TNG that its four movie spinoffs never quite achieved. A deft blend of character, humor, charm, action and nostalgia, but with no single element outshining the rest. Subtly, but no less importantly, we learned that Picard is a domestic abuse survivor–a subject very personal to Patrick Stewart. This revelation from the Picard family history fits well with the character’s personal canon, as evidenced by Picard’s abusive brother Robert and rarely mentioned father Maurice (for good reason, it turns out). The re-introductions of Raffi, Rios, Agnes, Dahj and Elnor are handled briskly, but with just enough information to tell us how they’ve rebuilt their lives following the events of season one. Also nice to see Seven of Nine kicking ass and taking names aboard the La Sirena as a member of the Fenris Rangers, with only her crew of Rios’ holograms for company and defense (what happened exactly between she and Raffi will be revealed later, I presume). The more enigmatic reveal of the Borg Queen herself was as dramatic as it was cryptic–enough to tantalize, and to make the Borg a little scary again.

After the world-shaking events in Ukraine this past week, the warm reunion between Guinan and Picard felt like a hug from home.

I also appreciated how older TNG characters were reintroduced as well. Guinan now running yet another “Ten-Forward” bar in downtown Los Angeles is a nostalgic stroke of genius. Guinan and Picard’s reunion feels like a hug from home. Just as effective as Guinan’s return is the reintroduction of Q, with John de Lancie effortlessly slipping right back into the role. Both characters are blasts from TNG’s past that resonate well in this new phase of the series. If the rest of this season continues along this energetic trajectory, it might finally serve to silence that too-vocal minority of Star Trek ‘fans’ who seem to think everything made in the 21st century isn’t ‘real’ Star Trek.

The heady mix of action, character, humor and nostalgia sets a very high bar for the remainder of the season. In the words of Yvette Picard, “Let’s see what’s out there…”

Where to Watch/Stay Safe.

So much for that “No Smoking” sign we saw on the bridge in “The Wrath of Khan”…

“Star Trek: Picard” can be streamed in the US on Paramount+, in Canada on Crave, and in many overseas markets on Amazon Prime Video (with a VPN). With the recent invasion of Ukraine, here’s hoping the courageous Ukrainian people will see daylight from this nightmare. Wishing the people of Ukraine perseverence, and that this hideous aggression ends sooner than later. Meanwhile, the current number of COVID-19 related deaths in the United States is over 950,000 (over 5.8 million worldwide) as of this writing, so use caution and good judgment when it comes to masking and safe distancing, as many states are now easing prior COVID restrictions due to decreasing numbers of infections.

In these challenging times, be safe and stay strong!

All Images: CBS/Paramount+, Trekcore.com

9 Comments Add yours

  1. GHD says:

    Good review. 🙂 Only pointing out a typo:

    Meanwhile, at the bar, a sauced Dr. Agnes Jurati (Agnes Pill)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. David Cheng says:

    Another great review filled with detailed references to past episode and movies from classic Trek’s rich past. It helped me appreciate the work that went into reference even more.

    Like

  3. Mrs. GG and I did not like like Season One but you may have just convinced me to give Season Two try. Nicely written mate!

    Like

  4. barano says:

    I’m extremely sorry to hear that you’ve received harrassment over your Discovery reviews. The hysteria around this show in certain reactionary circles is out of control, and it’s really sad to see people who speak positively about the show getting bullied into not talking about it anymore. I enjoyed your Disco reviews a lot, and I’ll miss them.

    I’m not watching Picard (no time, and as you said, there’s just so much content out there) but when I get around doing it eventually I’ll be sure to check back to see what you had to say about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Barano. It’s not so much personal harassment to me, as it is grotesque remarks about the ‘gay agenda’ or ‘woke s#!t’ that I’m just tired of facing every week, whenever I used to write them. Nice to hear that they were appreciated by a few, at least.

      Maybe I can do a season-end recap, like I did with “The Book of Boba Fett” recently. We’ll see.

      As for Picard? You’ll love it. The season opener just blew me away. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it whenever you get around to seeing it. No rush.

      Like

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