Star Trek: Picard – Season 2

Title: Star Trek: Picard – Season 2 (2022)
Creators: Kirsten Beyer, Michael Chabon, Akiva Goldsman
Stars: Patrick Steward, Alison Pill, Michelle Hurd, Santiago Cabrera, John de Lancie, Jeri Ryan, Whoopi Goldberg

Rating

After a somewhat shaky beginning in the first season of Star Trek: Picard, old man Jean-Luc (Patrick Steward) is back with his crew for new adventures. And in the grand tradition of other Star Trek series, there are time travel shenanigans this time around.

The first season of Star Trek: Picard has a decidedly more mature and often violent story than what we’re used to seeing in the Star Trek universe. But in doing so, it also lost much of what Star Trek is. In addition, the show often felt like “cameo of the week”, with somewhat forced callbacks to the original Star Trek: The Next Generation and its various spin-offs. Other times the show blatantly disregarded what had come before, even when it came to the principles and the cultures of the utopian United Federation of Planets.

For instance, why would someone in a post-scarcity society live in poverty? Why are there people addicted to drugs? And didn’t they in several instances in the older series say that hunting living creatures was a barbaric practice of the past, now frowned upon in the Federation? An episode of Star Trek: Enterprise (titled “Rogue Planet”) even had that question as one of its main themes.

Fun Fact: A post-scarcity society is one where goods can be produced with very little energy and resources, making them abundant and freely available to everyone. The Federation in Star Trek is meant to be a traditional post-scarcity society.

So is the second season of Star Trek: Picard an improvement over the somewhat uneven first? In many ways, yes. There are callbacks and cameos to be sure. Old characters return and story threads and ideas from the more episodic Star Trek: The Next Generation are picked up and expanded upon. Long before the show premiered, we were promised both the return of the godlike entity Q (John de Lancie) and his nemesis Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg). And even though it still feels very “reboot-y” at times, the focus in the second season is to tell a good story in a setting that feels like Star Trek.

Guinan and Picard in Star Trek: Picard season 2
Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) and Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Steward).

When we again met Captain… excuse me.. Admiral Picard one and a half years after the events of season 1, he is the chancellor of Starfleet Academy in San Francisco. When not holding speeches and inspiring new cadets, he is happily spending lazy days on his vineyard in France. His crew from the first season have gone their separate ways: Captain Rios (Santiago Cabrera) is commanding a new ship based on Picard’s first command, the Stargazer, with Dr. Jurati (Alison Pill) as science officer. Meanwhile, the Liberated Borg Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) one of Rios’ many holograms (also played by Santiago Cabrera) works with the law enforcement (or vigilante, depending on who you ask) group, the Fenris Rangers.

When a mysterious rift appears in space with a message for Picard coming through it in every language at once, the soon to be retired Picard is swept up into another mystery where the fate of the Federation again hangs in the balance. And in true Star Trek tradition, time shifts and values are challenged.

Watching the first three episodes I had access to, I quickly felt that this second season had found a kind of balance between story and nostalgia that seemed lacking in the first. It is a more traditional Star Trek story without too many high concept ideas and changes. We’ve seen it before, and that’s all alright. In other words, the mystery itself feels very much like what you could expect from traditional Star Trek without going completely into the episodic storytelling from the older TV shows.

And I shouldn’t have to mention it, but I’ll do so anyway: Patrick Steward is the powerhouse of character acting here as he always is. Time and aging are central themes in Star Trek: Picard, and this aging British actor makes us feel it. Even near retirement, Picard feels that history, responsibility and, well, time, lie squarely on his shoulders. It is a brilliant performance, but it always is with Patrick Steward.

As for the other members of the primary cast, they each get more time in the spotlight this time around, allowing them to stretch their legs. Of particular note is Alison Pill as Dr. Jurati, successfully balancing her role as comic relief with real character depth in this season, and Santiago Cabrera, playing the disheveled, cigar-smoking Starfleet captain with both soul and humor.

John de Lancie as Q
“Au contraire, Mon Capitan! He’s back!”

And then there is Q. We don’t talk about Q. No, no. We don’t talk about Q. But, the godlike being that has plagued Picard since the first episode of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation is back. He put the whole of humanity on trial then, and as he reminds us now, the last thing he said to Picard the last they met was that “the trial never ends”. But we don’t talk about Q.

This second season of Star Trek: Picard is a marked improvement over the first. The stakes are higher, both on a personal and galactic level – at least at the beginning of the season. It gets personal quite quickly, and at times it loses some of its focus in the depths of Picard’s past and psyche. Old ideas and characters are recycled, but not to a degree that makes the show lose focus on the story at hand. Like the first season, this season of Star Trek: Picard is also more harsh, violent and cynical. But unlike the first season, here it is more suited to the narrative.

Star Trek: Picard continues to be a somewhat weird, un-Star Trek-like exploration of the beloved character. It works – most of the time.

Editor-in-chief

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