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Star Trek: Picard episode 1 recap: A thrilling comeback for the greatest captain

(Image credit: CBS / Amazon)
About this episode

- Episode 1 (of 10), 'Remembrance'
- Written by Akiva Goldsman, James Duff
- Story by Alex Kurtzman, Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, Kirsten Beyer
- Directed by Hanelle M. Culpepper
★★★★

Spoilers follow

Bing Crosby croons his 1946 hit Blue Skies as we swoop towards The Next Generation's Enterprise-D, looking every bit as majestic as it did back in the '90s. Jean-Luc Picard is playing poker with Lieutenant Commander Data – his old android friend, who sacrificed himself at the end of Star Trek: Nemesis. Data vanishes and Picard looks through a window, realizing the ship is orbiting Mars. Then, an explosion. A big one. Picard wakes up, climbs out of bed, and looks over the idyllic vineyard he's retired to. Just a bad dream. Or was it?

In Boston, a woman called Dahj and her boyfriend celebrate. She says she's just been accepted into the Daystrom Institute as a research fellow in Artificial Intelligence and Quantum Consciousness. But the celebration is rudely interrupted by black-clad assassins. Dahj's boyfriend is killed, but before they can finish the job, something stirs within her. One of the assassins yells "She's activating!" Suddenly, Dahj is a martial arts expert, killing the assassins like she's done it a thousand times before. Then she has a vision: it's Picard, staring back at her.

Back at the vineyard, Picard is being interviewed live on TV. It's the anniversary of the destruction of the planet Romulus; a tragedy that saw Picard leaving the Enterprise to command a rescue armada. Picard says it was the right thing to do, despite the fact that the Romulans are the Federation's oldest enemy. Then the reporter throws a curveball that makes him visibly uncomfortable. Rogue synthetics attacked Mars, destroyed the Federation's Utopia Planitia shipyards, and wiped out the rescue armada—leading to a ban on androids. "Did you ever lose faith in him?" the reporter asks, referring to Data. "Never," says Picard.

Picard's dog, Number One, is a good boy. 

Picard's dog, Number One, is a good boy.  (Image credit: CBS/Amazon Prime Video)

Dahj wanders the rain-soaked streets of Boston, scared and confused, when she sees Picard's interview on a TV screen. Recognizing him from her vision, she makes her way to the vineyard and confronts him. "Do you know me?" She tells Picard about the assassins; about her newfound abilities. She says she knows Picard, not from his reputation as a legendary Starfleet captain, but in a way that is "older, deeper." That night, Picard has another dream about Data. The android is painting a picture: a hooded woman in white by a stormy sea. Picard wakes up in his study, turns around, and sees the very same painting hanging above his desk.

Picard travels to the Starfleet Archives in San Francisco. In a room filled with artifacts from the past, including a model of the Enterprise, a Klingon bat'leth, and a banner celebrating 'Captain Picard Day', he unfurls an old painting. It's the woman in white again, but in this painting, which is titled Daughter, her head is turned towards us—and she looks exactly like Dahj. Later, Picard suggests that Dahj is artificial; that she could be Data's daughter. She insists that she's human and says that if she is a synthetic, then her life is meaningless. "You are the daughter of a man who was all meaning," Picard reassures her. "All courage. Be like him."

Their conversation is interrupted by the return of the assassins—who are revealed to be Romulans. Dahj fights them off valiantly, but one of their phasers self-destructs, causing a massive explosion that engulfs her in flames. Picard wakes up in the vineyard and swears to find out who killed her and why. "I haven't been living," he says, in the episode's most stirring moment. "I've been waiting to die." Knowing that Dahj was accepted into the Daystrom Institute in Okinawa, he travels there and meets with a Dr. Agnes Jurati, an expert in synthetics.

(Image credit: CBS/Amazon Prime Video)

Picard asks Jurati if it's possible to create an android from flesh and blood. She says it's impossible, but that a scientist, Bruce Maddox, was close to creating an android with the same depth and nuance of personality as Data using the part of his neural net – which he uploaded to a prototype Noonian Soong android called B-4 before he died. Maddox has since gone missing, but Picard seems to think Dahj may be the result of these experiments – that Data's essence was in her, that she was created by Maddox in the image of Data's painting. Jurati also reveals that these androids were created in pairs. "So there's another one." says Picard.

At a Romulan reclamation site – an immense structure with warbird starships coming and going – a man approaches a woman, Dr. Asher. She turns around and we see that she's the exact double of Dahj. The man says his name is Narek, that he has questions for her. There's something sinister about him, but she doesn't seem to notice. He tells her about losing his brother last year, but stops himself, saying a doctor must be sick of hearing people's sob stories. "Guess again," she says with a smile. Then the camera pulls back out of the structure, revealing what it really is: a Borg cube, seemingly being reconstructed by the Romulans.

Verdict: This is a strong first episode, and we're relieved Picard isn't just a series of nostalgic moments aimed at Next Generation fans. It uses the original series as the basis for a fresh, exciting new story, and we love how the destruction of Romulus—a major event in the 2009 JJ Abrams film—has been woven into the plot. 

Patrick Stewart is, predictably, superb. Picard is wiser and wearier, but still has that old fire in him—the urge to rise above and do the right thing. His relationship with Data was a highlight of the old show and we're delighted it's being explored more here. We're also intrigued by the appearance of that derelict Borg cube, and whether Picard's assimilation by the Borg in The Next Generation will return to haunt him once again.

Extra data

  • The Daystrom Institute is named after Dr. Richard Daystrom, an influential human scientist who appeared in The Ultimate Computer, a 1968 episode of the original Star Trek TV show. The Daystrom Institute is also mentioned many times in The Next Generation, Voyager, and Deep Space Nine.
  • Spock attempted to prevent the destruction of Romulus, but ended up being transported to the alternate timeline established in the 2009 Star Trek reboot. In Picard we see the fallout from the disaster, and how it affected the so-called Prime timeline – which this new series takes place in.
  • Bruce Maddox was a Starfleet cyberneticist who appeared in the classic Next Generation episode, The Measure of a Man. He was seeking to reverse-engineer Data's brain; a train of thought that seems to have, in a roundabout way, led to the creation of Dahj. Will we see him in future episodes?

Star Trek: Picard is available to watch on CBS All Access every Thursday in the US, and every Friday on Amazon Prime Video internationally.