‘Star Trek: Picard’: Season 1 Blu-Ray Review – Sequel Series Has Moments Of Greatness

There are just some franchises that you cannot keep down. Star Trek has inspired one of the most passionate fandoms since its debut in the 1960s. The adventures of Captain Kirk, Spock and crew are ingrained into the DNA of Trek fans, but it is arguably Star Trek: The Next Generation that solidified its place in popular culture. Sir Patrick Stewart had huge shoes to fill as Captain Jean-Luc Picard when it came time to succeed William Shatner’s iconic captain. Captain Kirk will always be THE captain, but Captain Picard is one of the most beloved characters amongst all iterations of the franchise. In the age of popular IP being entertainment’s most valuable commodity, it should come as no surprise that CBS All Access would capitalize on the love for this character to complement their own Star Trek: Discovery. Sir Patrick Stewart takes up the role for the first time since 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis and builds upon those events to deliver a season of television that more closely resembles the Star Trek content of the past decade more so than anything in Star Trek: The Next Generation

In this series, we catch up with Picard as he attempts to let himself enjoy his retirement at his family’s French vineyard. This version of Picard is one that is markedly different since the last time we were with him. Nowadays, Picard is a bit quicker to anger and more haunted than he has ever been. Not only does he still dwell on the sacrifice of his dear friend Data (Brent Spiner), but he is likewise plagued by a catastrophic attack on Mars that led to a ban on synthetic lifeforms. The ever-compassionate Picard has also parted ways with Starfleet after they failed to support Romulan refugees to the level that he felt was necessary. Picard has become disillusioned by everything he once stood for, and his relationship with Starfleet is something that keeps popping up throughout the season. Picard’s retirement is upended when he is approached by a young lady, Dahj (Isa Briones), who has just discovered her android origins, and who he eventually believes to be Data’s daughter. He is forced to go on a search for her twin Soji, who he believes holds answers to their origins and possibly the key to resurrecting Data. Throughout this journey, the show will tackle questions of what it means to be human and the nature of legacy. 

Perhaps by design, Picard is a show steeped in legacy. It has been nearly twenty years since we have spent time with this character, and the show is dead set on wringing every ounce of nostalgia out of him now that we have him back. Sometimes this is done beautifully, such as the opening scenes where Picard is playing chess with Data in his dreams. Witnessing the pair back together again brings back the warm and fuzzy feelings in just the right way, When you hear Picard utter “I don’t want this to end,” your heart truly breaks. There are various other members from The Next Generation that pop up throughout the season to varying degrees of success. I will not name everyone to maintain some semblance of a surprise, but the return of William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) is a definite highlight of the season. This is not just due to greeting the character like a long-lost friend, but because the episode forces the series to take a beat from the unnecessary action sequences and establish some real character stakes. The fan service is not always effective, though, as you sometimes feel like the writers are leaning too much on what came before to establish anything new. Plus, even when they do rely on older characters, you cannot shake the feeling that something feels slightly off with how they are written. 

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Where Picard truly shines is with the new blood that is on board for the journey. Over the first several episodes, Picard recruits a ragtag group that you only grow more fond of throughout the season; his old colleague Raffi (Michelle Hurd), whose life has somewhat been mired in substance abuse issues; Dr. Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill), a bright personality being weighed down by secrets; Cristobal “Chris” Rios (Santiago Cabrera), the Han Solo-esque pilot who is holding on to a great deal of pain from his past; and Elnor (Evan Evagora), a Romulan sporting a complicated past with Picard. These characters are somewhat underdeveloped at the beginning of the season, but as the story blossoms the writers seem to get a better handle on what makes them a cohesive, interesting group. The fact that the show is not saddling these characters with being connected to the previous series helps a great deal. Although the crew gets more nuanced, the writers seem to let off the throttle in regards to our titular hero, resulting in Picard becoming the least interesting character on the show. Patrick Stewart is always giving his best, but the character seems to be coasting for several episodes leading up to the finale. It does not ruin the show, but it is definitely something that the creative team should keep a closer eye on in the future. 

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Star Trek: Picard is a good show, but it is not always clear if it is a good Star Trek show. The season arc is structured well with some interesting twists and turns, and the production quality is unimpeachable with the sweeping cinematography and wonderful production design. The action sequences can be quite thrilling, but they start to give you pause somewhat when you think back to what Star Trek was supposed to be. Much like the JJ Abrams Star Trek universe, this series plays more like a big budget space adventure than the nuanced approach of yore. Maybe that style of Star Trek is too hard to maintain in the age of peak TV excess? I cannot honestly say that I hate it, as I mostly had fun with this series, but Roddenberry diehards may find this a tougher sale. Some of the best moments of this season are when the series slows down and allows things to breathe. It may have been over the top, but having Picard go undercover with an eyepatch and a ridiculous accent was the perfect thing I needed to snap me back into place with this series. Star Trek should always be character and idea driven, and Picard struggles with staying in one particular lane. The season as a whole is an entertaining season of television, but I feel true greatness is right around the corner if the writers approach the next chapter with a more measured perspective. 

For further explorations on the connections to Star Trek: The Next Generation, please see these informative articles from my colleague Martin here and here.

Video Quality

Star Trek: Picard – The Complete First Season arrives on Blu-Ray with a mostly gorgeous AVC encoded 1080p transfer in its original aspect ratio. The impeccable cinematography imbues the show with a cinematic quality that gives the new Star Trek series a leg up in one regard. You really feel like you are watching something on par with the feature films during the course of the season. The levels of detail this presentation is able to eek out is quite striking, as all of the subtle details in the production design are easily identifiable. The color palette runs the gamut with some magical instances of beautiful colors popping off the screen including the golden hues and green foliage at the chateau to the green lights in the Borg cube. Black levels are appropriately deep and give way to an excellent amount of detail in shadows. Skin tones appear very natural across the entire cast throughout the season. The special effects employed throughout are first rate and perfectly rendered here. There are some instances of banding and compression artifacts detectable at points in this transfer, but it is not a pervasive issue. The Blu-Ray is quite stunning as it brings a meticulously crafted series to life in a gorgeous manner. This presentation is a visual treat. 

Audio Quality

This Blu-Ray comes with an incredibly active DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track that creates a truly enveloping world. Dialogue always comes through crisp and clear without being stepped on by the powerful score or any sound effects. Action sequences and more kinetic moments are given the appropriate power in the mix with a forceful showing in the low end. Ambient sounds are also precisely placed in the rear channels. The spatial awareness of the track is pretty insane at times, and the panning techniques  are used to great effect. Special consideration should be paid to the soaring series music from Jeff Russo. His work perfectly sets the tone for the story, and it creates a nicely enveloping sound that draws you further into the show. The audio presentation here is fantastic on all levels.

Special Features

  • Star Trek: Short Treks – Children of Mars: An eight-minute mostly dialogue free short that tells the story of two girls whose lives were impacted by the attack on Mars that is central to the series. This is a lovely place to start before jumping into the series properly. There is also an optional commentary track provided in which Alex Kurtzman, Jenny Lumet, and Kirsten Beyer discuss developing the story, how the Peter Gabriel cover used in the story tied everything together and more. 
  • Video Commentary: A video commentary recorded during quarantine featuring Alex Kurtzman, Akiva Goldmsan, Michael Chabon, Hanelle M. Culpepper, and Kirsten Beyer discussing the opening episode “Remembrance.” They discuss what it took to convince Stewart to return to the role, the fun of watching the classic crew reuniting on set, how the story evolved from the initial pitch and more. As each participant speaks, their box typically expands to take up a larger portion of the screen. The participants offer up some engaging stories and do a good job of prompting one another with meaningful questions. 
  • Story Log: Each episode is given a 3-8 minute behind-the-scenes featurette in which the cast and crew discuss elements from the episode including plot and character developments. There are a lot of interesting insights revealed here, and each one is worth watching for fans of the series. 
  • Deleted Scenes: Six minutes of unused footage from four episodes are provided here sporting some unfinished special effects. Most of these moments are inconsequential, but worth seeking out overall. 
  • Make It So: A ten-minute featurette that discusses developing the series, how there was a mandate to establish a style that set itself apart from other series, what each writer brought to the series, how Stewart participated in the writer’s room and more. 
  • Aliens Alive -The xBs: A 13-minute look at the revived version of the Borg with the crew in which they discuss how they updated the look to suit the new story, how the prosthetics were sculpted to be as comfortable as possible for the actors, how they brought back characters from the original series and more. You also get a look at Jeri Ryan getting completely into makeup. 
  • Picard Props: A 13-minute look at the props on the series with Prop Master Jeff Lombardi. This piece explores the props they used as a template for new weapons in the series, the attempt to honor the spirit of what came before and more. 
  • Set Me Up: A nearly 15-minute look at the production design of the new series. The crew discusses all of the varied settings that are explored throughout the season, what each space contributes to the story, the fun of developing the chateau and more. 
  • The Motley Crew: A nineteen-minute look at the cast of characters that join Picard on his journey and how they were developed for this story. The creative team discusses balancing new, exciting characters to the universe with fan-favorites from previous iterations. It is fascinating to hear from the actors to learn their experiences with creating their characters or stepping back into roles for the first time in a while. Each character gets a nice overview that is worthwhile. 
  • Gag Reel: An eight-minute collection of flubbed and forgotten lines, uncontrollable laughter, horsing around and more. It is really fun to see the established friendship between Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes in real life. This is one of the most enjoyable features on the set. 
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'Outer Range' Season 2 Review - New Season Challenges Audience's Expectations

 

 

Final Thoughts

Star Trek: Picard is very much a show of the “peak tv” era, as it offers up a steady supply of thrilling action and an overarching storyline that spans the entire first season. The tone does not always seem to sync up to classic Star Trek, but it proves to be very enjoyable when judged on its own merits. Nothing quite compares to witnessing Sir Patrick Stewart inhabiting this character, so getting this extended time with him is a true treat. CBS Home Entertainment has brought the first season to Blu-Ray with a wonderful A/V presentation and a vast array of compelling special features. Those who are more open to the updated takes on the franchise should consider this one a solid addition to your collection. Recommended 

Star Trek: Picard – The Complete First Season is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray and DVD. 

Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.

Disclaimer: CBS Home Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.

 

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