Spoiler Warning: This is a review which will contain spoilers for Remembrance, the first episode of Star Trek: Picard. I don’t usually do non-spoiler reviews, so if you haven’t seen the episode yet and don’t want to know what happened, now’s your chance to jump ship. There may be spoilers for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise too, including Star Trek: Discovery.
I don’t wear t-shirts very often. I prefer shirts with collars, usually polos. That’s just a personal style preference, I guess. But as I waited for Amazon Prime Video to make Star Trek: Picard’s premiere episode available here in the UK, I was wearing my Star Trek: Picard t-shirt which I’d managed to get a few days ago. As I watched the clock tick awfully slowly to the moment I expected the episode to go live, both of the promotional posters for Picard – the vineyard Starfleet logo and the one with Picard and his dog – were hanging framed on my wall. And my Jean-Luc Picard action figure stood proudly in my glass display cabinet. Suffice to say, I’m a fan.
I was a little concerned going into Remembrance, and I haven’t really discussed this on the blog before. The director of Picard’s premiere, Hanelle M. Culpepper, had directed what I considered to be Star Trek: Discovery’s worst episode by far – Season 2’s The Red Angel. That episode failed hard, with incredibly cringeworthy attempts at humour, complete mischaracterisations, and the kind of stupid, paradoxical time travel storyline that really just encapsulated why I don’t like time travel as a concept – and was a great example of how it’s hard to get right.
Some – perhaps even most – iterations of Star Trek have started with premiere episodes that weren’t especially great. In fact the only real exception to this is Deep Space Nine, whose first episode, Emissary, was fantastic. So in addition to my concerns about the director, there was precedent for Star Trek shows to have underwhelming starts. As excited as I was for Picard, there were those two factors gnawing away in the background making me nervous!
Finally, after hitting “refresh” for what must’ve been the hundredth time, Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Episode 1 was there! I was one click of the mouse away from Remembrance, and finally being back with Jean-Luc Picard for the first time in eighteen years – since I saw Star Trek: Nemesis at the cinema with my dad. I was still a teenager then. A lot has happened in my life since, and as Sir Patrick Stewart has told us in many interviews over the last couple of years, a lot has happened to Picard in that time too. I clicked “play”.
I’ve never been particularly impressed with Amazon Prime Video. When I watch something on Netflix, it’s always in 1080p high definition with no problems. On YouTube, for certain channels I’m able to watch videos in even higher quality – 1440p, a half-step between HD and full 4K. But Amazon Prime Video, at least in my experience, has tended to suffer from dips in quality where a high definition stream will suddenly and unexpectedly drop down to a much lower quality for a time. Obviously this is annoying, but luckily that didn’t happen on this occasion. I am disappointed, however, that Amazon Prime Video didn’t get the Short Treks episode Children of Mars. While I was able to watch it by “other means” – I even reviewed it – I think that it should have been made available to viewers outside the United States, preferably a few days ago prior to the start of the series. But we’re getting off topic again.
Remembrance begins with a dream sequence. We saw clips from this in the trailers – indeed, a significant portion of the content from the trailers was taken from this episode. Set to a forties- or fifties-inspired song, the camera pans over a nebula, and then we see the Enterprise-D, beautifully rendered in CGI. And sat in what I believe is Ten-Forward (though it may have been another observation lounge) are Picard and Data, playing cards. Data is wearing his First Contact-era uniform, which confirms this is a dream and not a flashback as that uniform was never used while the Enterprise-D was in service.
In the first trailer for Picard, I’d been a little concerned that Brent Spiner looked, to put it bluntly, too old to convincingly play Data. Indeed, Spiner himself said he felt he’d aged out of the role by the mid-2000s – which is why he opted not to appear in Enterprise’s finale These Are The Voyages along with Marina Sirtis and Jonathan Frakes. Whatever makeup and/or digital effects have been applied to him, however, definitely looked better in the finished episode than they did in the trailers, and if we also remember that Data’s scenes are all taking place in Picard’s head, I think the way he looks is fine. It arguably wasn’t on the same level of digital de-ageing that we’ve seen in films like The Irishman or Captain Marvel, but it was good enough here not to be immersion-breaking.
Picard and Data continue their card game, and suddenly the Enterprise is in orbit of Mars. And just as in the Short Treks episode Children of Mars from a couple of weeks ago, the planet comes under violent attack, which finally jolts Picard awake. He opens the curtains and we see Château Picard – the Picard family vineyard in La Barre, France. The action then cuts to Dahj – the new character played by Isa Briones. She’s in her apartment in Boston when she and her boyfriend come under attack by unknown assailants. He is quickly killed, but the attackers place a device on her head and check to see whether or not she has been “activated”. She hasn’t, so they attempt to abduct her, but the violent nature of the attack causes whatever activation they were checking for to occur – and she quickly kills all three of them. For a military-esque team who knew what they were looking for, they went down remarkably easily against their target! But that’s very much a nitpick and not something that in any way hampers the story.
As Dahj mourns her boyfriend, she sees Picard’s face in her mind, and then the title sequence kicks in. The Next Generation had a memorable theme, taken from The Motion Picture a few years earlier, and aside from The Original Series’ theme, that piece of music is arguably the most iconic in the franchise. Picard’s theme is hard to explain in words, as music often is, but the best way I think I can describe it is that it’s somewhere between Discovery’s theme and the themes used on Deep Space Nine and Voyager. It’s slower in tempo and less adventurous in tone than The Next Generation’s theme, perhaps even reminiscent of something from The Lord of the Rings. The title sequence, as Discovery’s also does, runs through a few artistic designs of elements from the series – we see the vineyard, the damaged Borg cube, a planet breaking apart that I assume is Romulus, and what looks like DNA, before the sequence ends with Picard himself facing the camera. Obviously because I haven’t heard the theme more than a handful of times it doesn’t give me the same feelings as I might get from other Star Trek themes, but it is instantly recognisable as part of the show and it’s a perfectly creditable piece of music. The whole opening sequence is great, actually, and I wonder if they’ll do what we’ve seen in Discovery where they occasionally change up elements of the opening sequence to reflect what’s happening in that episode.
As the titles end we’re back at the vineyard, and Picard is with Number One – his pet dog. We briefly meet two Romulans who seem to be Picard’s assistants, and learn that he’s preparing for an interview to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Romulan supernova. In the 2009 film Star Trek it’s left unclear which star destroyed Romulus – Spock simply describes it as “nearby”. In this episode we learn that it was in fact the main star in the Romulan system. This closes what has been, for some people anyway, an annoying “plot hole”, as a supernova in one system shouldn’t have been able to travel far enough and fast enough to destroy a planet in another system based on our current understanding of supernovae in science. Hopefully that clears things up for those folks!
The interview Picard agreed to, however, turns into an ambush, as the interviewer aggressively pushes him on why he wasted resources to help “the Federation’s oldest enemy”, how he feels about “synthetics” like Data, and finally, why he quit Starfleet.
It turns out that the rogue synths, seen attacking Mars in Children of Mars, were in fact androids of Federation origin, though why they went rogue and attacked Mars is still unclear more than a decade later. We also learn more about Picard’s rescue armada – it was planned to be 10,000 ships capable of evacuating 900 million Romulans from their homeworld. Not only was the entire fleet destroyed by the rogue synths, but Mars even more than ten years later remains “on fire” – and presumably uninhabitable.
Sir Patrick Stewart had warned us heading into the new series that Picard may not be the same man we remember, but here in the interview he definitely was. He defiantly states that he left Starfleet because Starfleet tried to call off the rescue after the attack on Mars, something he felt was dishonourable and criminal, and that the lives at stake were simply “lives” – not “Romulan lives” as the interviewer coldly puts it. This reminded me so much of Picard’s staunch defence of Data in The Measure of a Man from The Next Generation’s second season. Picard has always argued in favour of the rights of life forms, and here he defends not only the Romulans but synthetic life too. Though he may have retired, he did so because he felt Starfleet no longer upheld its own ideals. He didn’t run away, and I’d argue that his decision to leave 100% re-emphasises that he is the character we remember. His morality and his code of ethics, at the very least, remain absolutely intact.
Picard ends the interview, clearly enraged by what he’s heard from the interviewer, and the action then cuts back to Dahj, who sees Picard’s interview on a screen and travels to find him. She’s clearly shaken, and despite the intrusion Picard welcomes her to his home. His Romulan assistants patch up her wound, and she’s invited to spend the night, but not before Picard is able to examine a necklace that she’s wearing. It’s a fairly plain silver necklace with two interlocking rings – I hadn’t actually noticed it until Picard asked for a closer look. Because the necklace was so plain I think this moment, of all the moments in Remembrance, felt forced. I understand it’s important to the plot, but I’m sure with a modicum of effort they could’ve made the necklace a little more visually interesting – as it is it looks like a piece of cheap costume jewellery from Claire’s Accessories! Again, however, this is really just a nitpick, and the necklace is only seen a handful of times across the episode so its appearance doesn’t really matter.
Picard dreams again about Data, this time painting a picture – another scene from the trailers. Picard looks at the picture Data is painting – a portrait of a woman – and jolts awake to learn Dahj left in the night. Clearly inspired by the dream, he heads to San Francisco – but not to Starfleet Headquarters. Instead he heads to an archive, which holds (among dozens of TNG-era artifacts) a copy of the painting. In the dream it was incomplete, but the copy at the archive is fully complete and the woman Data painted thirty years ago is revealed to be Dahj.
Meanwhile Dahj is on the run, seemingly in Paris. She contacts her mother, who tells her to go back to Picard – even though Dahj never mentioned him. She then experiences another “activation” and hacks into Starfleet to track Picard down, and the two meet up outside the archive.
Picard thinks that Dahj is a synthetic – an android – and may be Data’s daughter. Data did attempt to create a “child” – Lal – in The Next Generation episode The Offspring. But Dahj is clearly not Lal – and believes herself to be human, perhaps suffering from a mental illness. The two are interrupted when Dahj believes they’re about to come under attack – and she’s proven correct. Another group of masked assailants appears – clearly the same faction as earlier – and they’re revealed to be Romulan. Shortly after the reveal, Dahj is killed. One of the attacking Romulans appears to spit something acidic at her, and his weapon overloads in a huge explosion which renders Picard unconcious. RIP Dahj!
Picard awakens back at the vineyard, and his Romulan assistants tell him that in the footage of the explosion there was no indication of anyone else being present – no masked Romulans, and no Dahj. Picard thinks she may have had some kind of cloaking device, and travels to the Daystrom Institute, which had been conducting research into androids – before such research was outlawed seemingly galaxy-wide.
He meets Dr Jurati, played by Alison Pill, and she explains that Bruce Maddox – presumably the same character from The Next Generation episode The Measure Of A Man – had been working on developing sentient androids which appeared to be human. Picard describes Dahj as a “flesh-and-blood” android. Here it’s also disclosed that B4 (from Star Trek: Nemesis) lacked the capability to take on Data’s memories and that despite Data’s attempts to copy his programming to B4, that information has been lost.
The necklace comes back into play – it’s a symbol used by Dr Maddox, which Dr Jurati recognises. And she reveals that, for some reason, part of the creation process for androids like Dahj means they’re made in pairs – so there may be another Dahj, another “daughter” of Data, somewhere out there.
The action then cuts to a Romulan base where we immediately meet Dahj’s twin, wearing the same necklace. She meets a Romulan – Harry Treadaway’s character – and they have a short conversation, before the camera pans out revealing that the Romulan base is aboard the Borg cube we’ve seen in the trailers, and the episode ends.
I feel that the trailers kind of spoilt that moment, because it would’ve been apparent from the decor of the Romulan base that it was inside the Borg cube to anyone who’d seen the trailers, yet the episode itself treated the reveal that the Romulans were on this Borg cube as a pretty big deal. In that sense I think the creative team and the marketing team may have not been working in tandem as well as they should’ve!
Overall I was incredibly impressed with Remembrance. It was a very strong start for the series – setting up enough mystery to drive the plot forward. There were some looks back, and some “easter eggs” for long-time fans, but these complemented the plot rather than interrupting or overwhelming it. The emblem of the Ferengi Alliance pictured for a couple of seconds, the LCARS computer displays at Picard’s home, a TNG-era Batleth in Picard’s archive, the First Contact and TNG uniforms worn briefly in dream sequences, and many others that I’m sure I’m forgetting seasoned the episode with just enough nostalgia to say “hey, you’re definitely watching Star Trek”, but without drowning out the plot or any of the new characters.
Picard always had to find a way to get that balance right, and I think that if the season continues in a similar way to Remembrance, they’ve managed to pull it off.
The Romulans are clearly in a very bad situation. Picard initially intended to save 900 million lives – but after Mars was attacked and his fleet destroyed, it isn’t clear how many he was ultimately able to rescue before the supernova hit. Whether the Borg cube is their headquarters isn’t clear, but it just might be. If that is the case, it raises the question of why they didn’t settle on one of their colonies – the Romulan Star Empire was known to control other worlds and a significant amount of territory.
Dahj being killed off was a shock, and it was a story point put in purely for that reason – shock value. Though by the end of the episode it’s revealed she has a “twin”, the character we met who set in motion the events of the series is gone, and – barring any technobabble explanation for how she survived being disintegrated – isn’t coming back. That’s a new one for Star Trek, and it’s something you’d expect to see in a show like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead. Dahj’s twin looks much more settled than Dahj did, but whether she too is going to be “activated” is unclear.
Indeed, it’s unclear what exactly was “activated” in Dahj. It’s apparently some part of her synthetic programming, something designed to keep her safe, but why it would direct her to the retired Admiral Picard instead of, say, sending her back to Dr Maddox if she got into trouble or came under attack is unclear.
I wonder if we’re going to see Dr Maddox in the flesh later in the series. Brian Brophy – the actor who portrayed Maddox in The Measure Of A Man way back in 1989 – wasn’t mentioned as being in the cast, and according to his IMDB page doesn’t seem to have had many film or television roles since the turn of the millennium. It’s possible, of course, that the character has been recast.
Remembrance played out like a the beginning of a classic adventure story. The protagonist – Picard, in this case – is living a quiet, rural life. His life is disrupted by a mysterious newcomer – Dahj – and he becomes embroiled in the mystery, setting the stage for the adventure to unfold as he chases down the solution.
It also had a very “Star Trek” feel, and moreover, it did feel like a continuation of the Star Trek story as a whole. For all of the high points of Enterprise, Discovery, and the Kelvin-timeline films, what was missing from those stories is a sense that things were moving forward, that the overarching narrative of the entire franchise was progressing. Prequels and mid-quels (or however we’re to describe Discovery) can be great, but pressing forward into the future is what Star Trek has always been about – at least, when it was at its best. Picard feels like a return to that, and a significant part of that is Sir Patrick Stewart’s performance.
I mentioned that he spoke passionately and angrily about helping the Romulans and about the ban on synthetic life, and that was absolutely pure Picard. The man we met in 1987’s Encounter At Farpoint was on full display in that moment, and his willingness to help Dahj, even before he knew who she was, shows he’s the same compassionate person we knew, even despite what happened with Starfleet and the Romulans.
There are parallels to Luke Skywalker’s characterisation in The Last Jedi in the sense that both men have left the institutions to which they belonged and from which they seemed inseparable. Both sought solitude and a quiet life – as Picard says, he felt he wasn’t living, merely “waiting to die”. And ultimately, both found a reason to come out of isolation, finding an inspiring cause once again.
So what are the mysteries Picard aims to solve over the rest of Season 1? Part of it surely has to be the reason that the synthetics went rogue and attacked Mars. A cause has never been identified, yet surely we’re on course to learn they were hacked, attacked, reprogrammed, etc. by some nefarious villain. Next is Dr Maddox – is he out there, somewhere? Is he going to feature in later episodes, or will we only know him through Dahj’s twin? What are the Romulans doing on the Borg cube? And how do the ex-Borg Seven of Nine and Hugh fit in to all of this? At this point we have absolutely no idea – and that’s compelling me to come back next time and find out more.
When Discovery premiered, I felt that The Vulcan Hello and Battle At The Binary Stars were not a very strong start, and that’s for a variety of reasons. Remembrance stands in absolute contrast to that, and ranks up there with Deep Space Nine’s Emissary as one of the best premieres in all of Star Trek. It crammed a lot into its 44 minutes without any of it feeling rushed, without any of it feeling overwhelming.
The introduction of the series’ main characters has felt deliberate, and we’ve only met three out of six so far – one only very briefly at the end of the episode. This is incredibly positive – a show that throws a huge cast of characters at you in episode one can be difficult to follow. Picard has clearly had a lot of thought put into every aspect, including the pacing.
Hanelle M. Culpepper, whose work on The Red Angel had me feeling a little nervous as I mentioned, really excelled. Each shot, each camera angle, and the way each scene unfolded all felt meticulously organised and planned. A lot of care was taken with Remembrance to get the look and feel just right, and it shows.
It’s hard to pick out a significant point to criticise, really. I was thoroughly enjoying myself from start to finish, and while I can (and did) find a few very minor nitpicks, taken as a whole, Remembrance was incredible. A worthy successor to The Next Generation, and a fantastic way to rejoin Picard and the Federation in the late 24th Century.
Remembrance, the first episode of Star Trek: Picard, is available to stream now on CBS All Access in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and a number of other countries and territories. The Star Trek franchise – including Star Trek: Picard – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.