Warning: This article contains Star Trek: Picard spoilers.
Star Trek: Picard Season 2 Episode 1
The Star Trek: Picard season 2 premiere has a lot of ground to cover, getting Picard’s new emotional arc underway, checking in on the rest of the cast, and catapulting a new storyline forward. For all the bombast that the season 2 trailers promised, this episode is relatively low-key until that big twist at the end.
We spend a lot of time with Picard struggling to come to terms with not having any romantic love in his life. His interactions with the rest of the cast reflect this, especially in his conversations with Raffi and how his lack of love contrasts with her newfound (but apparently rocky) relationship with Seven.
But it isn’t all down to Earth conversations and speeches. Seven’s fighting out on the fringes, Chris is the captain of a refurbished Stargazer (!!!), Elnor joins Starfleet, and Jurati’s still a mess after her actions in season 1. There are even some intriguing Easter eggs and nods to longtime Trek characters and lore.
At the center of it all though is Jean-Luc being pushed into new places by examining an unseen past, something series star and executive producer Patrick Stewart found fascinating. “We haven’t just been looking forward,” he tells us. “We’ve also been looking back.”
Let’s take a look at the many developments for Picard and the rest of the cast and what we have in store for the rest of the season.
Picard’s (Lack of) Love
While Picard certainly never romanced as many people as Kirk, we know he was capable of love. He had years of romantic tension with Beverly Crusher, several flings, and even had a family in a probe-induced simulation. At the end of the day though, despite his many close relationships, he’s still alone. This idea intrigued executive producer Akiva Goldsman, who was looking for aspects of Picard’s character the audience wasn’t familiar with.
“What the fuck happened with Beverly? Why doesn’t he ever stick with anybody?” Goldsman says. “Those questions can lead you down a road about connectedness and intimacy.”
This direction pleased Stewart, who strove to make the way Picard related to others realistic.
“At times, our writers were having fun. And fun was inappropriate, right at this moment. I don’t have a sense of humor. I like things that are serious and intellectual.” He then cracks a smile, walking those last two sentences back a bit, “That’s not true. Jonathan Frakes will tell you that I became the most misbehaving, ill-behaved person on (TNG) as time went by.”
The Return of Guinan
Picard has often been defined by how he keeps himself separated from those under his command. That leaves very few people in his life that he’s close to and is totally open with. One of those is Guinan, the former bartender and confidant to Picard, who he goes to for some much needed advice on relationships. Whoopi Goldberg’s return as the fan favorite character is full of warmth and she’s the only one who can stand up to Picard, easily calling him out on his crap.
Goldsman agrees that Guinan is the one person Jean-Luc can go to in this situation but she has a bigger purpose this season. As the trailers (and end of this episode!) have shown, time is being screwed with and Guinan has a unique relationship with time. Goldsman points to the classic “Yesterday’s Enterprise” where Guinan was the only one on the crew who knew time had been altered.
“That (aspect of her) was really helpful for this season’s storytelling,” Goldsman says. “She has a sort of trans-temporal awareness. She’s able to hold two contradictory timelines in her head.”
Seven Working with Holograms
Arguably Picard’s second biggest star, Seven starts the season off in the understandable emotional state of being pissed off and worn down. Not only is she dealing with the galaxy’s unsavory types but she’s also still struggling with prejudice based on her past assimilation by the Borg. This has gotten to be so much that she intentionally only works with holograms.
Does this have anything to do with Seven’s longtime friendship with the holographic Doctor character from Voyager? After all, he more than anyone else could relate to Seven and helped her through her early years after being liberated from the Borg Collective. Actress Jeri Ryan hadn’t considered that but agrees it could have something to do with why Seven avoids flesh and blood crewmembers. She instead chalks it up to Seven always feeling like an outsider. A feeling that only got worse when Voyager returned to the Alpha Quadrant.
“It was not a great reception for her because people’s first reaction when they see her is they go right to the Borg implant on her face,” Ryan says. “She’s dealing with fear, anger, distrust, and disgust. She would rather be by herself. She feels safer like that because she doesn’t feel like she fits anywhere. She’s never felt like she’s got a place where she’s accepted and she’s still struggling to figure out who she is and reconcile her Borg half and human half.”
While Seven keeps to herself she’s still in a complicated relationship with Raffi. We spoke to Jeri Ryan and Raffi actress Michelle Hurd more about that here.
Working with Synthetics
Picard’s first season heavily dealt with the struggles of synthetics in the Federation, as they operate under severe restrictions. Things have changed since then, with Dahj taking on the role of synthetic diplomat. The first episode sees her on the job, visiting different planets to broaden the perception of her people. Synthetics aren’t the enemies. They can be friends.
“We just want what any person wants. To be accepted and to be seen as an equal. To be safe,” explains actress Isa Briones about Soji’s mission.
Soji has taken charge of trying to fight back against the fear the Federation created around synthetics.
“She’s taking that responsibility on and trying to change the world. It says a lot about who she is as a person.”
Soji is only briefly seen in the first episode but with the Borg making a new play against the Federation it wouldn’t be a surprise if Synthetics come under fire once again.
The Stargazer, Excelsior… and Sulu?!
Hardcore Star Trek fans that pay very close attention to the first episode will notice a surprising reference to a beloved original series character. As the Starfleet Academy graduates are being assigned to various ships you can hear over an intercom that one of them is assigned to “Hikaru Sulu.” Not too long after you can spot Sulu’s ship, the NCC-2000 Excelsior, on a screen. Is this implying that Sulu and the Excelsior are still around? In Voyager we learned that Sulu had sponsored Chakotay’s entrance into Starfleet Academy and humans are much longer lived at this point in history so it’s not impossible. When we asked Goldsman if Sulu was alive he would only cryptically answer, “maybe.”
As for the Excelsior, it’s quite possible the ship was simply refitted in much the same way the Stargazer has been (that and the Excelsior class is really the workhorse of the fleet). The Stargazer itself also brings its own questions. The ship was practically a burnt out husk the last time we saw it in the TNG episode ‘The Battle,’ so why would Starfleet go to the trouble of refitting it? Why not just build a whole new Stargazer-A? One possible theory is that after the devastating Dominion War, Starfleet had to scrounge up anything it could and possibly used the bare essentials that were left of the Stargazer to construct a new ship.
A Possible Prodigy Connection
After Picard’s acceptance speech he makes small talk with Raffi, mentioning off hand that he’s considering an update of the Kobayashi Maru test. This seemed to be a connection to Star Trek: Prodigy, which featured an update of the famous “no win scenario” test.
Goldsman admits this wasn’t intentional on either show’s part, especially with Prodigy being written so far in advance because of the demands of animation production. As much as fans would like to make that connection the chronology wouldn’t quite match up anyway, with Prodigy taking place in 2383 before the events of Picard season 1 in 2399. (We have more on the timeline of Prodigy and the other Trek shows here.) Although with the time travel shenanigans in both shows maybe there’s still a connection to be had.
Goldsman does promise that there will be a “very specific” tie-in to one of the other Trek shows on air this season, but didn’t elaborate on which one it’d be. Read more on that here!
The Borg… in Starfleet?
An alliance with the Borg? In what goes down as one of the most surprising moments of the first episode, the Borg claim they wish to join the Federation. Seven is immediately distrustful but Picard and the others are more open to the idea. It could be a huge tipping point in history. Still, why would the Federation ever consider allowing the Borg to join them?
Goldsman defends the idea as one that’s deeply rooted in Star Trek’s history.
“Everyone (the Federation) has ever hated turns out to be an ally,” he says. “The same questions (Picard and the others are asking) could be asked for the Klingons in the ‘60s. And the Romulans now. The Star Trek ideology suggests that our current enemies can be our friends.”
Seven is proven right in the end, with the Borg double-crossing Picard… or did they? There are still many mysteries to solve about what the Borg’s true aims are and why they sought out Picard yet again.
Q’s First Appearance on Screen
With Picard season 2 ultimately focusing on Picard’s relationship to intimacy and connection, there were only two characters that have that deep of a relationship with him. Guinan… and Q.
“(Those two) are sort of like bookends to the season,” Goldsman teases.
Q makes his return after Picard finds himself in a changed world, though if it’s an alternate timeline or another universe isn’t clear. John de Lancie returns as the god-like character and he makes it clear that the Q in Picard is very different from how he was portrayed when he cameoed in Lower Decks.
“(Lower Decks) essentially wanted what had been done before,” he tells us. “(On Picard) they wanted something new. We’re moving forward.”
In a clever nod to the reality that John de Lancie has visibly aged, yet Q is supposed to be an immortal being, we initially see Q as he was in TNG. When he takes notice that Picard has gotten older he snaps his fingers to “catch up” with him. In the blink of an eye Q now resembles modern day de Lancie, which the actor encouraged. He remembers suggesting that they add a voiceover line, “you’re a lot older than I expected. Let me fix that.”
de Lancie envisioned that this would be done off screen so he was surprised to discover that they digitally de-aged him. He hadn’t seen the effect at the time of our interview but he thought it was a great touch. How the older Picard faces off against Q with his own mysterious agenda looks to be a focal point of the next episode.
We’ll have more from the cast and crew of Star Trek: Picard as the season continues!