Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1 and all of the trailers and teasers for Season 2. Spoilers are also present for Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: First Contact.
As the dust settled on Star Trek Day, the Picard Season 2 trailer stuck in my mind. As exciting as it was to see the crew back in action, and to get a real tease of some of the upcoming season’s story elements, I was left with an unfamiliar and somewhat upsetting feeling. It took me 24 hours to really think it through, but I’m finally able to put it into words: I’m less excited for Season 2 of Star Trek: Picard than I had been before the Star Trek Day trailer.
This isn’t something I expected nor wanted from Star Trek Day. Picard Season 2 had been right at the top of my list when it came to the shows I’m most excited about – as I’ve said on more than one occasion. But the trailer showed off what are really two of my least-favourite Star Trek story tropes, and in its aftermath I’m finding it hard to remain as excited for the season as I was. None of this is to disparage the hard work all of the actors, directors, producers, and behind-the-scenes crew have put into the upcoming season of the show. I’m capable of separating my thoughts about individual story threads from the folks tasked with bringing them to the screen!
More than once I’ve talked about how time travel – and in particular, time travel to the modern day – as well as Mirror Universe stories are among my least favourites in Star Trek. With a big disclaimer that what we saw in the trailer doesn’t seem to be the actual Mirror Universe, it borrowed from that setting both thematically and in terms of aesthetic, and combined with a time travel plot that will see Picard and the crew of La Sirena head to the modern day… suffice to say I was underwhelmed.
Star Trek is a franchise about the future, but more than that, it feels like it’s at least a semi-realistic future; that humanity could one day achieve many of the social and technological advancements that we see in the various shows and films. Stepping out of that to do a story set in the modern world has never sat right with me primarily for that reason, but I’d also add that any return to contemporary times naturally dates a story very quickly. Episodes like Enterprise’s Carpenter Street, the two-part Voyager episode Future’s End, and even Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home are stories which feel significantly more out-of-date than others made around the same time simply because they took Star Trek to what was, at the time, the modern day.
When it comes to the Mirror Universe – which, again, I’m not saying the “totalitarian state” shown in the trailer actually will be – the setting has long lent itself to over-the-top pantomime. Even recent Discovery episodes set in the Mirror Universe – like Season 3’s two-part story Terra Firma – fell victim to this, as actors seem almost encouraged or emboldened to over-act every scene and play up all of the villain tropes they remember from middle school drama classes.
Characters in the Mirror Universe have no nuance. The entire setting seems to be populated largely by violent sociopaths, with the occasional submissive alien thrown in for contrast. Though I believe that what we saw in the trailer isn’t the Mirror Universe, the “totalitarian state” borrows a great deal in terms of its aesthetic from that setting, and my fear is that Star Trek: Picard is going to fall into the familiar Mirror Universe trap of pantomime-level over-acting.
In a nutshell, then, those are my concerns based on the latest Season 2 trailer. The season feels as though it may lurch from the excess of a Mirror Universe-inspired setting to the drab reality of the modern world – and unfortunately I’m finding it hard to get excited about either side of the story as things stand. I want to give Picard Season 2 a chance, and when it premieres in February I certainly will, but at the moment I can’t escape the sinking feeling of losing at least some of the excitement that I had for the project.
Though we were treated to a glimpse of the Borg Queen in the trailer, an alternate timeline (Mirror Universe or not) and a jaunt to the past don’t seem like settings where we’ll get to explore much of the 25th Century. I had hoped that the show might spend a little more time with Starfleet in Season 2, or perhaps take a look at one or more of the factions we remember from past iterations of Star Trek. Picard made many first contacts with alien races on The Next Generation, and has deep connections with the Klingons, for example, as well as the likes of the Bajorans.
There was even the hope that an as-yet unannounced character might reprise their role in Season 2. Though Gates McFadden had ruled out Dr Crusher’s return a few weeks ago, there were characters like Riker, Troi, Wesley Crusher, Worf, or someone else who could yet make a welcome return to the franchise. That’s still possible, but the presence of an alternate timeline and a story involving time travel cuts into the potential screen time that any returning character could have.
Past iterations of Star Trek, which were primarily episodic, could do Mirror Universe or time travel stories relatively inoffensively from my point of view. The odd episode here or there that used one of those settings was gone within a week or two, even if I really didn’t enjoy it, so I wasn’t as upset to see such a story as one small part of a season with twenty-plus episodes to enjoy. But Picard isn’t an episodic series, and not only that it’s a shorter one (Season 1 clocked in at a mere ten episodes) so a time travel-meets-Mirror Universe story could run for practically the whole season. As the foundation for an entire season-long story arc… as I said above it’s just one that I personally don’t find particularly appealing.
I recognise that, so far, all of this must seem like whining. “Star Trek: Picard isn’t doing exactly what I want!” screams the petulant crybaby! But as an independent critic, I always say that I reserve the right to express my honest feelings on any of the shows, games, and films that I talk about; despite being an avid Trekkie and a fan of modern and classic Star Trek I’m not going to blindly sing the franchise’s praises when there are points of criticism or things that I don’t like. None of this means that Picard Season 2 is somehow invalid in my mind; despite my initial impressions from the trailer I will give it a chance to impress me. But I also want to share my honest thoughts, and right now I feel that the trailer seems to show a season-long story that rolls two of my least-favourite Star Trek tropes into one.
Having got all of that out of the way, let’s look at some of the points from the trailer that are more positive – or at the very least potentially interesting!
First up, the Borg Queen herself. I had half-written a bunch of Borg theories for Picard Season 2 following the announcement that the Borg Queen would be returning – almost all of which now feel extremely unlikely! The Borg Queen that we saw in the trailer appears to be a captive – my first thought was that it could be the reactivated remains of the Queen killed by Picard in First Contact. Episodes of Voyager and also Season 1 of Picard suggested that there may be more than one Borg Queen, or that she is capable of changing bodies with ease, so it could be a different Borg Queen altogether. Regardless, she seems to be a captive – how Picard came to capture her or know about her captive status is a story I’d quite like to follow!
If the Borg Queen shown on screen is from after the timeline has been changed, perhaps we’ll see Picard and the crew of La Sirena lead a mission to capture her in order to facilitate their passage back in time. It seemed as though the Borg Queen is going to be used by Picard as a kind of time machine – though exactly how this would work isn’t clear. Perhaps the Borg Queen possesses unique knowledge of time travel, as we know she was personally present during the mission to Earth in First Contact. Maybe her presence is required for the Borg to travel through time?
As mentioned, the “totalitarian state” seems to me like it isn’t the Mirror Universe’s Terran Empire, but rather a fascistic state that emerged – somehow – in place of the United Federation of Planets in the Prime Timeline. Picard ascribes its rise by the 25th Century as being caused by something Q did to change the past, so in my opinion we’re looking at an alternate version of the Prime Timeline and not the Mirror Universe. This is backed up by something Q said in the previous trailer – that Picard and his crew had come to “the very end of the road not taken.”
So that brings us to Q’s role in the season. During First Contact Day back in April, Sir Patrick Stewart hinted that Q may not be the cause of the event that shattered the timeline – but this seems to be contradicted by what we saw and heard in this new trailer. Q made reference to “the trial” – he put Picard and all of humanity on trial in Encounter at Farpoint and has periodically returned to provoke and tease him ever since. Though episodes like Q Who saw Q deliberately interfering and putting Picard and the Enterprise-D in danger, I would very much argue that other episodes like All Good Things saw Q assume a less antagonistic role. He didn’t cause the anti-time eruption, but he did give Picard just enough clues and a little bit of a push toward finding a solution.
Q is a trickster – and not someone to be trusted. But I’ve often got the impression that, in his own twisted way, he sees himself as a friend, ally, and mentor to Picard. He didn’t introduce Picard to the Borg in Q Who with a view to getting him killed or assimilated; he wanted to demonstrate that Picard and the Federation were unprepared for the dangers lying in wait out in the galaxy. He was pleasantly surprised to see Picard solve the Farpoint mystery in Encounter at Farpoint and the anti-time puzzle in All Good Things. In short, though Q’s methods may be extreme, and while he does have an impish sense of humour, he’s never been an out-and-out villain. For him to go back in time and break the timeline so severely is, perhaps, somewhat out of character.
So my inclination at this stage is still to say that there’s more to Q’s role than meets the eye. Picard may blame him for the changes to the timeline initially, but part of the mystery of the season’s storyline may be figuring out that Q isn’t to blame – someone or something else is. I’d argue this better fits with Q’s characterisation – but it wouldn’t be completely strange to see him as the season’s antagonist as well. So I guess we’ll find out!
Notable by her absence was Guinan. Guinan has knowledge of and history with both the Borg and Q, so bringing her back could have made a lot of sense for the story of the season. Guinan could have taken on an advisory role, as we see her do in episodes like Q Who, Time’s Arrow and in Star Trek: Generations. It’s possible she will still appear and that her role will be revealed at a later date. It’s also possible that she will make an appearance in Season 3 – which we now know is officially confirmed and in production – or that her role was ultimately cut and she won’t be coming back.
We didn’t get a good sense of what any of the crew of La Sirena are up to in the trailer, really. All we can say is that there don’t appear to have been any legal consequences for Dr Jurati for murdering Bruce Maddox in Season 1 – perhaps the fact that she had been essentially brainwashed has meant that she won’t face prosecution for that act. We did see Jurati and the Borg Queen seemingly sharing a “moment” – could Dr Jurati’s love for all things synthetic give her a reason to feel sympathy for the captive Borg?
We saw very little of Soji, though she was present, and likewise not much from Elnor – though at one point he seemed to be in a medical facility possibly injured or sick. The green light of this scene could imply that the Borg are involved – perhaps the Borg Queen breaks out of her confinement, or perhaps Elnor was injured by the Borg somehow.
The trailer seems to suggest an expanded role for Laris – one of Picard’s Romulan friends who stayed behind to look after the vineyard in Season 1. She spoke in voiceover at the beginning of the trailer and later appeared alongside Picard and Rios in what could be the past. It’s at least possible, then, that Laris will join Picard’s mission back in time.
At first I thought that an explosion and the collapse of a skyscraper was taking place in the future, but looking at that moment more carefully I think it’s actually something taking place in the 21st Century. Could that explosion mark the moment that everything changed? It could be that Picard and the crew have to prevent that from happening – or ensure that it does happen, which could lead to a dark, morally difficult storyline.
Seven of Nine appeared – without her trademark Borg implants – along with Raffi. There wasn’t much of a hint at their relationship, but this is something that seems like it will be explored across the season, and I’m really quite excited to see how that comes across. They seemed to be having a disagreement when it came to driving a modern-day car, but that was played more as a comic moment than as a kind of dramatic fight between the pair.
And I think that’s all I have to say – at least for now. My head is already swimming with proto-theories, some of which may get the full write-up treatment in the weeks ahead. Despite feeling underwhelmed by the season’s premise, I’m still hopeful that Picard Season 2 will deliver enjoyment, entertainment, and drama. The underlying mystery of what happened to the timeline, what 21st Century event changed things for the worse, and what role Q played in all of that is interesting, and I’m curious to learn exactly what happened and why.
If I ultimately find Season 2 to be less enjoyable on the whole because of some of the things we’ve talked about today, at least I can look forward to Season 3! If Picard follows a similar path to Discovery then Season 3 will set aside much of what happened in Season 2 and tell a new self-contained story, so even in the worst case scenario there’s still much to be hopeful for when it comes to Star Trek: Picard.
Star Trek: Picard Season 2 will be broadcast on Paramount+ in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and around the world beginning in February 2022. Season 1 is available to stream now. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.