October 5, 2020
Street Date 10/6/20;
$39.99 DVD, $47.99 Blu-ray;
Stars Patrick Stewart, Alison Pill, Isa Briones, Evan Evagora, Michelle Hurd, Santiago Cabrera, Harry Treadway, Peyton List, Tamlyn Tomita, Jonathan Del Arco, Jeri Ryan, Brent Spiner.
Fans of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” eagerly anticipated this sequel series featuring Patrick Stewart’s return to the role of Capt. Jean-Luc Picard nearly two decades after the last time we saw him in action.
That would have been the disappointing 2002 film Star Trek: Nemesis, which ended with the android Data (Brent Spiner) sacrificing himself to save Picard from a deadly superweapon.
The new series picks up 20 years later, in the year 2399, with Picard settling into retirement at age 94 running his family’s winery in France. However, he remains haunted by Data’s death, as well as the Federation’s abandonment of a mission to ferry Romulan refugees to safety when their planet’s home star exploded 10 years prior (an event alluded to in J.J. Abrams’ 2009 movie).
His ennui is interrupted by a request for help from a young girl (Isa Briones) who turns out to be an android made of flesh and blood, fashioned by remnants of Data’s old programming. She’s being hunted by Romulan agents who consider her the portent of an invasion of artificial life forms that will lead to a galactic apocalypse.
For answers, Picard must find the girl’s twin sister, who happens to be working with a task force studying a ship abandoned by the Federation’s deadly enemy, the Borg, in Romulan space. So he assembles a crew of mercenaries to take him there.
The creators of the show stress that this is very much not a retread of “TNG.” But that doesn’t rule out the occasional reunion here and there. The best episode of the first season’s batch of 10, for instance, involves Picard seeking temporary sanctuary with his old crewmates Riker and Troi (Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis), who now live on a distant planet with their daughter (Lulu Wilson).
In fact, the show is filled with references to the “TNG” era of “Star Trek” in the 1990s, and the Borg subplot provides a nice excuse to bring in Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), the former Borg from “Star Trek: Voyager.”
Less fortunate are characters who were just guest stars on previous “Trek” shows, as this new series has a nasty habit of having them gruesomely murdered to move the story along.
In addition to the gore, longtime fans might also be surprised by the frequent use of foul language, with Starfleet admirals dropping “F” bombs to a degree never seen on a “Star Trek” show. Remember when “Star Trek” was a family show?
The A.I. storyline ends up going off the rails by the end of the season, which turns out to be a convoluted excuse for eliminating a hanging plot point from “TNG” that didn’t even need to be addressed.
The kinds of fans that “Star Trek” usually attracts will likely fine the show ends up inadvertently raising two questions for every one it thinks it’s answering. The nostalgia is fun for a while, but a few clever references will hardly compensate for other aspects of the franchise the show glaringly ignores. (For specific deviations from established Trek lore, check out the Major Grin YouTube channel.)
The show isn’t covering much new ground in its treatment of androids and A.I., as many of the ideas relating to the nature of artificial existence were previously and better explored in Blade Runner and “Battlestar Galactica.”
In fact, given how the season ends, it almost feels as if the producers were trying to set up a “Star Trek” version of “Firefly.”
Still, the cast is great, and the season manages to squeeze some poignant moments from the legacy characters that fans won’t want to miss.
The Blu-ray edition of the series offers a nice suite of extras to differentiate it from its streaming presentation on CBS All Access.
Every episode includes a brief behind-the-scenes featurette that runs three to seven minutes. A few episodes also include deleted scenes, though most of these are pretty inconsequential.
The first of three discs includes the “Children of Mars” short that serves as something of a prologue to the series. The disc also includes a 10-minute “Make It So” featurette about the creation of the show.
In addition, the first episode includes a quarantine-recorded picture-in-picture Zoom commentary with producers Alex Kurtzman, Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, Kirsten Beyer and Hanelle M. Culpepper (who also directed the episode).
The third disc includes more making-of featurettes, including the 12-and-a-half-minute “Aliens Alive: The xBs,” about putting the actors into Borg makeup, with a particular focus on Jeri Ryan’s return to her famous role.
“Picard Props” is a 13-minute featurette about the creation of various knick-knacks and weapons used on the show.
“Set Me Up” is a 14-and-a-half-minute featurette about the production design of some of the starship interiors and Picard’s home, showing off a lot of great details.
“The Motley Crew” is a 19-minute featurette about the cast, including some of Briones’ audition footage.
Finally, there’s an eight-minute gag reel, which is pretty great if only for the amount of playful bickering we get to see between longtime friends Stewart and Frakes, who directed a number of the episodes.