Central Park probably isn’t the show you want to be central to your family.
It’s been a while since Admiral Jean-Luc Picard has gone where no one’s gone before. For the last several years, in fact, he’s been where his ancestors had gone repeatedly: the family’s French vineyard.
But that all changes when a mysterious young woman named Dahj shows up on his picturesque front porch. Why is she there? She doesn’t know exactly. But she is concerned that, out of nowhere, a trio of assassins barged into her apartment, killed her boyfriend and tried to drag her off, too. Almost (but not quite) as concerning: She went all Jason Bourne on her assailants and promptly slaughtered them. And just as she suddenly knew five quintillion forms of hand-to-hand combat, she also knew that Picard—the legendary Starfleet commander, the multi-time savior of the galaxy, the longtime afficianado of Earl Gray tea—is the only one who can protect her.
Spoiler warning: She was wrong. But in his brief interaction with the woman, Picard realizes that Dahj may be a piece in a much more complicated puzzle—a puzzle as big as the galaxy itself, and yet one as intimate as an old friend. You see, Dahj isn’t “human” at all, technically speaking, but rather the complicated offspring of his good (and dead) android pal, Data. Now, Picard has to figure out what was up with Dahj, who was trying to kill her (and why) and, if possible, to save any other stray Data-bytes that his old friend might’ve left hanging around. For indeed, there is a second synth sister out there, a twin named Soji. And she could well be the key to an ancient warning of galactic destruction
It won’t be easy, naturally. For one thing, Picard and Starfleet had a bit of a falling out. For another, Picard is … well, really old. Even in his Enterprise days, he kept his dash-about-and-shoot-things duties down to a bare minimum. And now his dashing days are clearly behind him.
But dashing is still required, so his top-secret mission will involve the help of a motley band of younger newcomers: Christobal Rios, a one-time Starfleet pilot turned thief; Agnes Jurati, a doctor with who’s studied synthetic life; and afew old friends from The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager will help where they can, too.
But will it be enough? After all, the intrepid band of adventurers must deal with Romulans (the Space Federation’s most enduring enemy); the Borg (a terrifying collective of cybernetic organisms that likes traipsing around the galaxy in gigantic space cubes); and a whole bunch of complicated backstory predicated on 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis, 2009’s Star Trek movie reboot and who knows what else.
But Picard seems up to the challenge. Retirement was never his thing, anyway.
Forget the Federation of Planets: The Star Trek franchise practically envelops a galaxy of its own, encompassing 13 movies and, now, nine television series—all of which interlock narratively.
As one might expect, Star Trek: Picard isn’t necessarily built to welcome in Star Trek novices. It presumes that most of its viewers have more than just a passing knowledge of this shared universe, and there are so many Easter eggs to see here that it’s hard to move without stepping on a shell.
That’s likely music to many a Trekker’s pointy ears. But the show still comes with a caution or two.
First, we must make note of Picard’s worldview. Star Trek was created by Gene Roddenberry, a man who believed that the future would be largely faith-free (believing, as he did, that religion was the cause of so many societal ills). And the central premise of the show—sentient synthetic life—can be a ticklish one to navigate for those who believe that the creation of life is the province of God alone.
The show can be quite violent at times, too, what with hard-thumping deadly battles and synthetic eyeball plucking and the like.
And unfortunately, as the series has progressed, the problems have as well. The language in the first few episodes was bad, but not terrible. But lately, the scripts have burgeoned with blue language (including f-words)–a sad departure from Roddenberry’s original vision of a brighter, kinder and honestly more decorous future.
Picard, in short, has departed from its roots–the hope and optimism that drew viewers to the Star Trek franchise in the first place. And that’s far more troubling than tribbling.
A lot has transpired from the first episode to the last in this inaugural season. Picard and crew have discovered that there’s an unnamed planet housing a whole community of peaceful synthetic beings, all derived from Data’s manmade neurons. But Picard isn’t the only one in the know. Second synth sister Soji accidently revealed the planet’s whereabouts to a former lover who turned out to be a Romulan spy. So now an Armada of hundreds of Romulan warbirds are bearing down on the planet to destroy it and save all organic life from a predicted synthetic doomsday. But this vision of destruction is more complicated than it first appears, and it’s up to Picard and Starfleet to make peace … if possible.
This season finale includes some hand-to-hand brawls and some space-blasting in the mix. But the real galaxy crush (between heavily armed ships and nasty-looking gigantic doomsday synths peeking through a space portal) is all diffused before everybody dies. There are bittersweet goodbyes in the tale, however. And a very key character does die … until he doesn’t. (Hey, the advanced tech in the future is amazing.) Some nice thoughts about peace, friendship, love and the meaning that the finality of life gives to human existence are shared.
On the less family-friendly side, we hear some strikingly foul crudities and blasphemes, and we see inebriated drinking and betrayal; some stabbing and ; stabbed and yanked-out eyeballs; a few winks at both same-gender and opposite-gender canoodling; a scientific nod toward the seemingly empty trappings of religion; and several screaming, but bloodless, deaths.
In a media interview, retired Adm. Jean-Luc Picard recounts why he moved on from Starfleet: The organization would not support the evacuation of Romulan citizens to safe havens after Romulus was destroyed (in the wake of an apparent revolt by synthetic life forms). But that’s just a setup for the real crux of the story—the arrival of a mysterious young woman with abilities far beyond the scope of organic life. Picard suspects she may be something of a holy grail in the world of android and AI development: a synthetic life form made of flesh and blood that is indistinguishable from natural life—even by the synthetic person herself.
The mysterious woman, Dahj, is attacked by unknown assailants. They chuck a knife into her boyfriend’s chest (killing him) and slam her face into a table (leaving a bloody wound) before some sort of self-defense mechanism clicks in. She eventually kills all three of the would-be assassins. Dahj later says how appalled she was by “all the blood,” even though the violent scene itself is largely bloodless. Later, far more assailants attack. She beats several of them into submission, snapping at least one arm (we hear it break), throwing a few off stairways (they vanish before they hit the ground) and shooting some with their own weapons. One of her attackers spits green goo at her, causing nasty-looking burns on her skin.
A weapon blows up, presumably vaporizing several folks and throwing Picard backward. We hear about a tragedy that took the lives of more than 90,000 people; it’s suggested that a failed rescue operation might’ve cost the lives of hundreds of thousands more. A disassembled android is viewed in a scientific facility. In a dream sequence, a planet explodes and takes out a spaceship (along with a couple of people sitting inside).
Dahj and her boyfriend talk intimately in her apartment as they both drink wine. Picard loiters about his family’s winery, and he and others literally drink the fruits of his labor.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.
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