When it was originally on: 2020-present
Original network: CBS All Access
Where you can stream it now: CBS All Access. And only CBS All Access. Yeah, I’m not happy about it either.
What IMDb says: Plot kept under wraps. Described as a follow-up series to Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987), and centers on Jean-Luc Picard (Sir Patrick Stewart) in the next chapter of his life.
*** SPOILERS FOR EPISODE 1 BELOW***
Had I seen it before: No. And I actually haven’t seen that much Star Trek in general. I’ve seen that one TNG episode that everyone tells you to start with (“The Inner Light”) and I have a vague understanding of the universe and its characters from podcasts/my father/living in today’s culture. But for the most part, I’m going in blind.
Why I picked it: As I was putting together The List*, I tried to see if any noteworthy premieres would be happening during my 100 Days. Lo and behold, there was, and it’s this one (and probably some others, but mostly this one). We also live in an era that is continuously rebooting popular properties of yesteryear, so including at least one representation of this trend on The List felt like a good idea. (We’ll also be looking at Disney+’s The Mandalorian later).
Now, one might wonder why someone who’s so unfamiliar with Star Trek would even bother. For one thing, Star Trek always seemed like something I could get into if only I invested the time in it, and for another thing, mind your damn business. I blog about TV and this is a big TV thing to write about. I also like to think my outsiders’ perspective is useful to the discourse.
I’ve also never watched a CBS All Access Original before, and I suppose if I can throw Apple TV+ a bone, CBS All Access should get one. What’s fair is fair.
What I liked: I feel like they do an especially good job of making sure that even if you aren’t a Trekkie, you can keep up with the story and get invested in it. Picard goes on some news program and talks about this disastrous thing that happened on the Enterprise. Maybe those events were depicted in TNG, maybe they weren’t, but either way this newbie had all the exposition she needed.
What’s more, that interview isn’t a simple case of “here’s how we got here,” it also provides priceless insight into Picard’s character and Starfleet. He is a man of morals. He will stand up for what’s right even when it’s difficult. He has compassion for beings unlike him. He left Starfleet when it was no longer governed by these values. We learn what Starfleet was supposed to stand for; what Picard stands for.
I also love the themes they’ve set up. Using robots to explore what makes humanity human is a sci-fi river that will never run dry, and based on the pilot, I trust Picard to do it justice. An android spending their whole life not knowing they’re an android is a fresh spin on this theme, and I think that’s where they’re going.
Speaking of that character, I love Dahj. It would’ve been easy for this pilot to coast along on the charisma/familiarity of Picard, but instead it’s both interested and competent in developing new characters as well. However, they kill Dahj in the pilot, only to reveal at the very end that she has a twin. Plus, she’s also an android, so maybe there’s technology that can bring her back anyway? I love this move. It’s the kind of Jaime-pushing-Bran-off-the-tower kind of move that establishes anything can happen in this show. And I love how they take enough time to develop this character that her death actually means something.
Often Sci-Fi and Star Trek in particular gets written off as escapism for antisocial nerds, but that’s not fair. Good Sci-Fi gives us insight into our own world, and Picard does that, 110%. There’s a law against synthetics (robots) and anti-synthetic sentiment is every where. It was a refugee crisis that initially lead to Picard leaving Starfleet. There’s so much potential here to explore the real-world issues still plaguing us in 2020, moreso than many of the more realistic tv shows I’ve written about for this project. And in a world that keeps trying to find new spins on the antihero, centering a show a noble dude who I trust to do the right thing is refreshing.
What I didn’t like: Since it seems like the series is going to primarily be about Dahj’s sister rather than Dahj, it would’ve been nice to get to know her as well. I admire the sheer courage of setting Dahj up to be a main character and then killing her. But this comes at the expense of properly introducing us to characters that will help define what this series could be. Again, I really liked the idea of an android not knowing they’re an android, and I have no clue if that’s actually going to be a thing throughout the rest of the series, or if they introduced an awesome idea just so they could refuse to do anything with it.
This is made even MORE irksome by the fact that CBS chose to make this show streaming-only, yet aren’t embracing the perks that come along with that. They could’ve made this 3-5 minutes longer so they could properly tease this new sister character. Instead we get a half-ass flirtation session with some basic white boy who might be a major character in the rest of the show?
Do I want to watch Ep. 2: Yes. I mean, not enough to keep paying for CBS All Access, but I think the series has a lot of potential. I could maybe see myself coming back for one month when the whole season is up and binge-able.
*The full list of pilots to be reviewed for 100 pilots in 100 days.