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Star Trek: Picard - The Stargazer - Review: Let's See What's Out There

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It has been almost two full years since Jean-Luc Picard and his compatriots of Star Trek: Picard have graced television screens. Covid production issues have likely played a big role in their absence, but now they are back, and it has been well worth the wait. From production values to story, everything about the season 2 premiere, "The Stargazer" comes across as one of the best Star Trek episodes of all the shows of the franchise. A bold statement, true, but one justified because the writers and producers have taken the care to expertly weave some of the most iconic Star Trek: Next Generation elements into a new and intriguing story. This is how you tell a Star Trek story.

Star Trek: Picard's "The Stargazer" has a combination of elements that set the franchise apart in sci-fi storytelling. The balance between quiet character growth and moments, with high-quality production values and action, and compelling storytelling is nearly perfect. Combine those things with all the nods and qualities that made Star Trek and Star Trek: Next Generation and this becomes an episode destined to become a franchise classic. How could it be anything but with an episode that includes appearances from some of Next: Generation's most famous/infamous characters, like Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg), the Borg and Borg Queen, and of course, Q (John de Lancie)! It is obvious and should be applauded that the writers/producers of the series know their audience well, with the respect they pay to Star Trek history and appearance that those elements will be the foundation for a new adventure for Picard (Sir Patrick Stewart).
As Q so eloquently reminds Picard (in a beautifully crafted throwback to the show's pilot, "Encounter at Far Point"), "The trial never ends." The show's new season opens 18 months following the events of last season and everyone has grown or moved on. Soji (Isa Briones) is some sort of ambassador embarked on a galaxy tour accompanied by an apparently often intoxicated Dr. Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill). Raffi (Michelle Hurd) has been reinstated to the rank of Commander by the Federation and now serves aboard the U.S.S Excelsior along with new Starfleet Command Academy graduate, Elnor (Evan Evagora). Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan, who continues to be a series standout) now commands Rios' (Santiago Cabrera)'s old ship, La Sirena, as she is once again a member of the Fenris Rangers. Meanwhile, Rios continues to smoke his cigars, but this time from the captain's chair of the Federation Starship, The Stargazer, which is a refurbished replica of Jean Luc-Picard's first command.
On Earth, Admiral Jean-Luc Picard seems to be enjoying the simple life, living quietly and making superior wine at Chateau-Picard while fulfilling the occasional Star Fleet duty as Chancellor of the Star Fleet Academy. Although, his life may not be as quiet and simple as he presumes. He may be in control of his affairs of business, but his personal affairs are not in order. His longtime companion and Romulan housekeeper Laris (Orla Brady) challenges him on his affairs of the heart, why couldn't he ever commit to a relationship, what about that made him so afraid, could it be because he is now a synthetic being? Their discussion on the matter is a beautifully written and performed scene between Brady and Stewart who share a wonderful on-screen chemistry. The producers would be wise to continue exploring where a relationship between the two might lead.
Picard's ponderings take him to Los Angeles, following a quick trip to San Francisco to preside over the latest Starfleet Academy graduation. He seeks out counsel from his old friend Guinan. Stewart and Goldberg easily slip back into the unique friendship between the enigmatic alien and the aging Starfleet Admiral. It may seem bizarre to hear them talk about Picard's love life, but, as always, Guinan has a purpose behind her message. Her charge to him that his true final frontier is time proves to be prophetic.
The original cast, save Soji, is ultimately reunited at the edge of space by a glowing anomaly causing a tear in the space-time continuum that broadcasts a strange distress call, "Help us, Picard." When Picard arrives, an unwelcome visitor emerges from the anomaly in the form of a Borg ship. When they offer to send their Queen as an emissary, Seven of Nine fervently warns Rios and Picard to destroy the Borg ship. Next time, gentlemen, listen to her. Ryan's performance during these moments proves that her interpretation of her character is making Seven of Nine the most human of them all. Unfortunately, they don't heed Seven's warning, the Borg Queen arrives and immediately betrays the promise of peace by seizing the ship, leading Picard, and Rios to make the only decision they can, destroy the ship before the Borg can take control.
The self-destruct of the Stargazer is not the end but just the beginning of this season's adventure. Picard awakens back at his chateau, but things are not the same. He's greeted by the return of his greatest nemesis, Q, who reminds Picard that "the trial never ends." Like Goldberg, de Lancie easily slips back into the personality and attitude of this iconic Star Trek: Next Generation character. Watching Q and Picard match wits and battle were some of the best episodes of that series. Now it appears, those battles will continue as Q informs Picard that he's in a new timeline, one filled with all the decisions Picard never made. Where that puts Picard and the remainder of his Star Trek: Picard cast, how they react to this new timeline, and whether they want to stay in the new timeline or repair time, is going to make for an exciting season 2 journey. To quote Picard and his mother from whom he learned the phrase, "Look up, let's see what's out there."
For fans of the original Star Trek: Next Generation, the second season of Star Trek: Picard looks to continue evoking memories of the past while boldly following Admiral Jean-Luc Picard on the road not taken.

What were your thoughts about the season 2 premiere of Star Trek: Picard? Which iconic character's return were you most excited about seeing? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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