HERE THERE BE SPOILERS
Season two of Star Trek: Picard has opened with a bang, in this case literally. The season premiere pits Picard against himself, time, and possibly the Borg without really getting into the meat of what we should expect. “The Star Gazer” is a strangely slow episode, despite an initial combat sequence, but it ramps up toward an interesting conclusion that certainly left me wanting more.
“Star Gazer” opens with a Federation ship seeming to take fire and having been boarded by a strange entity, prompting Admiral Picard activates the self-destruct sequence. Then, the scene flashes back to 48 hours earlier at the Picard vineyard, where Picard and Laris work to finish harvesting grapes and bottling the grand vin de Bordeaux. We quickly learn that Zhaban has passed away, leaving Laris to admit to having feelings for Picard. Slightly shocked, Picard retreats to memories of standing with his mother in an atrium as a child. She tells him to look up to the stars when the tension between his parents becomes too much. Flashes of something traumatic involving his mother interrupts Picard’s more tranquil memories, and the scene reveals that the atrium in question is now in ruins.
The following morning, Laris finds Picard and though he promises nothing will come of her admission, she tells him that she’s far too old for awkward. Then, she sends him off to Starfleet Academy where he’s giving an address to the cadets about to depart on their training missions. He calls attention to Elnor as the first fully Romulan cadet in the Academy and later presents him with a first edition copy of Spock’s memoir. Raffi, as it happens, will be aboard the same vessel because she believes Elnor’s Absolute Candor will get him in trouble. After a brief reunion with Raffi, Picard sees them off to their ship before beaming to a location outside a bar labeled “10.”
Inside, he finds Guinan who then asks him to tell him about what’s bothering him. He finds himself unable to do so, despite spending time with both Guinan and a bottle of hooch. Later, he returns to the manor for a quiet evening that gets interrupted by a Starfleet admiral come to ask him to help them investigate a new spatial anomaly. That spatial anomaly happens to be the one that Agnes Jurati and Captain Christopher Rios are investigating aboard the Stargazer. They detected a signal that appeared to be a plea for Captain Picard to help an undetermined “us.” Seven also finds herself investigating the same anomaly, after defeating some would-be thieves who wanted the medical supplies she had aboard the Sirena.
The Admiral plays the recording that Jurati deciphered for Picard, and he agrees to negotiate with whatever entity has opened the anomaly and requested his presence. He joins Rios, Jurati, and Seven aboard the Stargazer. They open a channel to the anomaly, and Picard identifies himself. Seven has already identified the technology as Borg in origin, so the only surprise is that the Borg Queen intends to join them aboard the Stargazer. Concerned, Rios takes steps to prevent her arrival, but he ultimately fails. She explains that there is no more time remaining, and she interfaces with the ship, using the Stargazer as a bridge to the rest of the fleet that has arrived in the meantime.
A shoot-out ensues, but though the Queen has only stunned any of her victims, they conclude that they cannot allow her to take over the fleet. Picard activates the self-destruct, but just before the ship explodes, the Queen tells him to “Look up.” Picard then awakens in his manor, but he cannot find Laris. Instead, a synthetic majordomo greets him. Confused, Picard wanders the hallways until Q appears before him, reminding him that the trial never ended.
From the episode’s focus on Picard’s emotional life, specifically his lack of romantic relationships, I suspect the season plans to plumb the depths of Picard’s slightly battered heart. With the addition of the first real view we get of his parents, the episode implies that part of Picard’s very real fear of intimacy stems from something that happened with his mother. We know from the brief flashback that her relationship with Picard’s father is not entirely a happy one. Young Picard asks her directly at one point whether moving to the countryside vineyard will mean that his mother and father will fight less frequently. Notably, this moment is the one in which she counsels him to turn to the stars because the farther into the night sky he goes, the smaller and farther away their family troubles will be. Picard apparently took her advice to heart because he’s been running to space to avoid his emotions ever since.
The episode also sets up time as being a second theme. Picard mentions time as a true final frontier in the context of making choices during his speech at the Academy. There’s a hint of the “road not taken” in his discourse, which Laris and Guinan affirm in their own conversations with the man. Q even introduces Picard to the “end of the road not taken” when Picard awakens in his own manor after theoretically having perished with the Stargazer.
We’ve seen Q alter Picard’s personal timeline in order to teach him something about himself before; that’s literally the entire premise of “Tapestry,” which is a fantastic episode. What’s markedly different here is that the Borg appear to be involved. “Stargazer” apparently involves not just Picard but also the entirety of Picard’s current universe. The writers room clearly wants to be sure that the stakes for this season open higher than they did last season. While normally, I’d be skeptical of that as a plotting decision, I think “Star Gazer” works because it embraces history we’ve seen before and expands on it.
My only real question going forward then is whether we’ll see Soji. Of all of the cast from last season, she’s the only one missing from the fleet gathering at the anomaly. Dr. Jurati left her excellently performing her diplomatic duties in order to join Rios aboard the Stargazer. The existence of the synthetic majordomo would imply that in this universe, the events that destroyed Mars and drove the synthetics to Coppelius did not occur. It may therefore be that Soji does not exist here, and I’ll be interested to see whether that’s true.
I will confess that I am reserving judgment as to the heavily Gothic-inspired flashback sequences in Picard’s memory. On the one hand, I really am excited to see some development of this aspect of Picard’s history, but on the other, it feels a touch like a flashy hook to bring me back. I would also dearly like to know why a 24th century youth runs around in clothes heavily inspired by the forties. I’d think it was a question of personal fashion except that his mother’s coat feels very retro as well.
I am very excited about this season, and I cannot express how happy I was to see both Whoopi Goldberg and John de Lancie appear. Are the writers tugging the threads of my nostalgia? Absolutely. Am I here for it? Also absolutely.
Three cups of Earl Grey Tea and a saucer.
Stray Thoughts From the Couch
- Of note, Q actually introduced us to the Borg.
- The Queen’s knowledge of Picard’s mother’s advice doesn’t particularly surprise me because the Borg had access to all of Picard when he was assimilated.
- Also regarding the Queen, I really, really, really love her new look.