“The Star Gazer”
Star Trek: Picard Season 2, Episode 1 – Debuted Thursday, March 3, 2022
Written by Akiva Goldsman & Terry Matalas
Directed by Doug Aarniokoski
Tightly packed with action, character, humor, and lore, the second season premiere of Star Trek: Picard resets this series into a welcome new trajectory.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“The problem isn’t time, it’s you.”
Season two teases in medias res and intruder alert chaos on a Starfleet ship suffering a cascading series of system failures. We follow a security team struggling to the bridge to find a distressed Captain Rios. What? Seven is there, as is Jurati and Picard too, all dealing with some Doc Ock masked lady taking over the ship, who addresses the Admiral directly before he orders self-destruct. Okay Picard, you came to play. 48 hours earlier it’s all blue skies, ripe grapes, and big smiles at Chateau Picard, Jean-Luc leading the harvest with new pep in his synthetic step. Later, Laris drops some exposition on us that it’s been almost two years since season one, her husband Zhabon is dead, and she is ready for love. Alas, she gets denied by Jean-Luc, distracted by mommy-and-daddy-issues flashbacks. Awkward.
Winemaking is now Picard’s side hustle as he has returned to Admiraling and heads up Starfleet Academy, where he gives a speech, sharing his (almost) centenarian wisdom with the cadets that “the true final frontier is time.” He also foreshadows “second chances” and returns to the subject of mom, who inspired him to “look up” to the stars. Raffi is there as a teacher and Elnor as a cadet, and both are heading off on assignment after some fun banter. With Raffi’s jabs about his commitment issues ringing in his ears, Picard takes a trip back in time–sort of–to the Los Angeles Historical District and a certain bar at 10 Forward Ave. After greeting his old friend Guinan–you got that from the address, right?–Picard seeks love life advice, believing “that particular ship has sailed,” but Guinan has hope, telling her friend he has “one final frontier.” Best. Bartender. Ever.
“Help us, Picard”
Meanwhile, Jean-Luc’s other season one pals are off having their own little adventures. Seven has returned to her angry Fenris Rangers ways, in command of La Sirena with hologram Emmet as sole crew. The pair quickly dispatches some name-calling space pirates only to find a giant rift opening up in space. Again with the anomalies. As for Soji and Jurati, they are way off in the Beta Quadrant wining and dining some Deltans on a Synths-actually-aren’t-all-soulless-killing-machines goodwill tour. Things are going pretty well: Soji impresses the crowd with deft diplomacy, and Agnes gets hammered but seems happy to be exonerated for murdering her ex last season. Dr. Jurati is summoned away by Rios, also her ex BTW, and leaves the android behind before we can see what Deltans get up to after dinner.
Agnes beams to that Starfleet ship from the teaser, with a cigar-chomping Captain Cristóbal Rios confidently barking orders. He has brought her to the ship for “her brain” and with a “make it so” (which he makes his own) they head to that pesky anomaly. Oh, and his ship is a brand-spanking-new USS Stargazer, or as she points out, “a command with baggage.” Once at the glowy green anomaly (isn’t that a hint?) they rendezvous with La Sirena, and Seven has to explain all the new dents on Rios’ old ship. Dr. Jurati sciences out that the signal coming from the anomaly is many languages… all “pleading”… pleading for Jean-Luc Picard. Make it Oh!
“God damn, Q”
Back at Chateau Picard, Admiral Whitley has the sheer f—ing hubr… actually she was quite nice, briefing Admiral Picard on the request from the anomaly signal along with news that the unknown (but clearly powerful, and that green glow is not ominous at all) sender has indicated they want to join the Federation. Picard immediately sets off, ghosting poor Laris. On the Stargazer he is treated like a returning conquering hero, while Seven is treated like… well, like a Borg—ironic because this ship is apparently built using tech from the season one cube. Picard has a happy reunion with Rios and Jurati on the bridge and more banter that includes a quip from Agnes that he looks “positively positronic.” Too soon? In response to Jean-Luc’s hail, and to what shouldn’t have been much of a surprise to anyone, a ginormous diamond-shaped Borg ship comes through the rift.
Now with a (nicely diverse) fleet of ships for backup—including one with Raffi and Elnor—Seven strongly suggests it’s time to start firing. Agnes thinks this could be a chance for peace and Picard is caught in between, with Rios at the ready awaiting his order. The Collective makes the first move by forcing an “emissary” onto the Stargazer bridge to begin “negotiations,” and all hell breaks loose, catching us up to that teaser. Agnes assumes this uninvited guest is a Borg Queen but admits the outfit with the mask is a new look, as are the giant tendrils snaking out to take control of the ship… and the fleet. Unable to stop her with their phasers, Picard does what we already saw him do: blow up the ship, but not before hearing the Queen tell him to “look up.” Oh, mommy.
Somehow Jean-Luc survives the explosion, and he is back at his chateau… but is it? Something is off with the sky, he is wearing a sharp new black uniform, Laris is nowhere to be found, and someone has swapped out all the art in his house. Who would do that? Maybe it’s his A500 valet named Harvey. What, what? Not sure what’s up with that, but it’s not him. Wait, did someone just say “mon capitan”? Oh right… Q did it. Of course it’s Q, who politely snaps up to Picard’s age. Because “the trial never ends,” all that talk about “second chances” summoned the superbeing to hit the big universe reset button, but this new one definitely isn’t home. Merde.
“The Star Gazer” was a delight from start to finish. With tight pacing and a focused story, the premiere redefines the series after a mixed bag of a first season. While still centered around its titular character, the stage has been set for a grand and mysterious arc, driven by the return of John de Lancie’s Q, who remains as captivating as ever, even in the short time he had. Picard’s longtime foil is perfect for a season that is clearly telegraphed to be all about time, second chances, and an examination of Picard’s past. The introduction of his young mother (Madeline Wise) allows for the kind of darker, psychological character exploration promised in season one, but this time without getting bogged down.
And while Q is driving the plot, Whoopi Goldberg effectively drove home Picard’s character arc for the season, with a surprising exploration of his solitude and reluctance to form long romantic partnerships, as demonstrated by the forlorn Laris, enhanced by Orla Brady’s strong performance. This theme of connection was also woven into the quick and fun updates from our other returning characters: Seven is keeping her distance from a frustrated Raffi, and Rios and Jurati trade barbs over their failed romance between seasons. Jumping the show forward a couple of years was a smart way to allow for these and other character resets, giving each a nice new arc starting point.
Welcome to the 25th century
The jump forward in time into the early 25th century has also allowed the show to move into the more familiar world of Starfleet but with an updated aesthetic. And everything from Starfleet Academy, the updated uniforms, and the USS Stargazer feels just about right. It’s obvious the people working on this show have a deep love for the franchise, adding in plenty of nods to the lore without over-indulging into fan service… for the most part, at least. There are some curiosities, like the way the new Stargazer’s registry was both described as being entirely new and a refit, but beyond that, the episode offered little to nitpick.
Putting Picard comfortably back into a peaceful, sleek Starfleet without a badmiral in sight was also a good way to set up the calm before the storm and emphasize the stakes. The new Borg element is quite intriguing, and with the masked Queen quoting Picard’s mother, things could get very weird. The debate about whether the Borg were sincere for peace was pure Star Trek: Kirk made peace with the Klingons, so Picard can do the same with the Borg. Even though there was a lot of shooting and exploding, there may still be something important there—Seven did point out the Queen was only shooting to stun, so perhaps running through Q’s test this season will give them a second chance at that peace.
As for that test, there isn’t a lot to go on yet, but there was certainly an added level of menace to Q after the “mon capitan” pleasantries. It seems clear Q has pulled some kind of “Tapestry” or “All Good Things” type thing, but exactly what, and more importantly, why, remains a very intriguing mystery.
Star Trek: Picard is back and better than ever. Sir Patrick is back in form, supported by a strong supporting cast and outstanding guest cast. It was a long wait and it looks like the people behind the show took the time to fine-tune the recipe by reinforcing what was working, throwing out what wasn’t, and then grabbing some new ingredients to spice up the mix. While standing entirely on its own as an episode, this season opener did the job of setting up a series of intriguing plot and character arcs, with the promise that this time they will pay off in the end.
- The title “The Star Gazer” has a double meaning, referring to the USS Stargazer (or USS Stargazers), as well as Jean-Luc Picard’s childhood habit of looking up at the stars.
- This is the third Picard writing credit for co-creator and co-showrunner Akiva Goldsman, who also co-wrote the 2-part season one finale.
- This is the first Picard writing credit for Terry Matalas, who joins the show as executive producer and co-showrunner for season two. However, this isn’t his first connection to Star Trek—Matalas worked for Brannon Braga starting with season six of Voyager and continued on to Enterprise where he has two “story by” credits.
- This is the second time directing Picard for Doug Aarniokoski, who has also directed four episodes of Discovery and one Short Treks.
- The show has new versions of the main title sequence and main theme by composer Jeff Russo.
- The song playing during the harvest was “Time is on My Side” by Irma Thomas.
- The music Picard hears at the end when the Borg Queen speaks to him is “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” by Édith Piaf. The song title translates as “No, I regret nothing.”
- Laris toasts Picard in Romulan, translated as “Seize today, for we know nothing of tomorrow,” which is similar to the famous Latin aphorism “carpe diem” popularized by the Roman poet Horace, yet another inexplicable connection between ancient Rome and this alien race.
- Jean-Luc revealed he had an ancestor that sailed with 15th-century French explorer Jacques Cartier, and an ancestor who mapped the solar system named René Picard, presumably a namesake of his nephew René.
- Picard’s mother called him her “little Magellan,” referring to the 15th-century Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who was first to circumnavigate the Earth.
- Flags on display during Picard’s speech at the Academy include United Earth, The Romulan Free State, Klingon, Telarite, United Federation of Planets, Starfleet Command, Starfleet Academy, Vulcan, Bajor, and The Ferengi Alliance, along with four others that were not easily identifiable.
- Picard gives Elnor a memoir by Spock titled “The Many and the One,” which is also the title of a book on the philosophical study of plural logic by Salvatore Florio and Øystein Linnebo. However, that book was published in late 2021, after production on season one was complete.
- Picard noted that Elnor was the first “fully Romulan” cadet at Starfleet Academy, possibly a nod to Saavik, who was revealed to be half-Romulan in a deleted scene from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
- Picard told Raffi he is considering updating the Academy’s infamous Kobayashi Maru no-win scenario, first revealed in Star Trek II. The most recent seasons of Prodigy and Discovery had episodes titled for this scenario.
- The planet where Soji was hanging with Deltans was identified as Raritan IV, not their homeworld of Delta IV.
- Soji mentioned she was worried she might have to break into a medley of Deltan folk songs to keep the diplomatic party entertained. Actress Isa Briones is an accomplished Broadway singer, who sang “Blue Skies” for the season one finale.
- Emmet tells Seven the anomaly was giving off Hawking Radiation, which is theorized to be created by black holes.
- Article 15 of the Federation Charter covers entry into the Federation.
- While very long-lived, Guinan reveals El-Aurians can choose to look like they’re aging at a natural rate, which she has done while on Earth to “keep up.”
- Guinan’s “10 Forward” bar includes wall panels matching those on the original Ten Forward on the USS Enterprise-D.
- There was also a sign for Aranis Lager like the one from the McCoy bar scene in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.
- Before saying “make it so,” Rios said “dale,” which is “go ahead” in Spanish.
- Among the items in Picard’s chateau were the remains of the Bajoran tablet of Reckoning, which Benjamin Sisko broke in the Deep Space Nine episode “Reckoning”
More ship stuff
- In Picard’s office, he had a gold model of the USS Enterprise-C, presumably one of the display ships from the USS Enterprise-E observation lounge.
- The first Starfleet ship to spot the anomaly was the USS Avalon, an Akira-class ship.
- Ship commemorative plaques on display at the Academy included those for Picard’s original USS Stargazer, the USS Enterprise-D, and the USS Excelsior.
- Elnor and Raffi were assigned to the USS Excelsior, which appeared to be that same 23rd-century ship.
- One cadet was assigned to the USS Hikaru Sulu, named for Hikaru Sulu, formerly of the USS Enterprise and Excelsior.
- Another cadet was assigned to the USS Grissom, which would have to be a new ship as the 23rd century Grissom was destroyed.
- In addition to the Stargazer and Excelsior, other ship classes in the armada arrayed against the Borg ship included Sovereign, Akira, Galaxy, Luna, and Inquiry. And there were four ships from Star Trek Online making their live-action debut: Ross, Sutherland, Reliant, and Gagarin.
- This would be the first live-action appearance of a Luna-class starship, first created for the USS Titan book series, and first seen onscreen in the animated series Star Trek: Lower Decks.
- The Stargazer’s registry was NCC-82893, which adds an 8 to the original’s NCC-2893 instead of the more traditional letter (ala NCC-1701-A).
- As he is headed to the Stargazer, Admiral Whitley gives Picard a new Starfleet badge, possibly symbolic, but possibly practical as his more retro-style Academy badge may not function onboard a Starship.
- Admiral Picard’s destruct code was zero, zero, zero, destruct, zero,” which was the same code Admiral Kirk used to blow up the first USS Enterprise in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.
More to come
Our review of Star Trek: Discovery episode 411 (“Rosetta”) will be up later Thursday morning.
And every Friday, the TrekMovie.com All Access Star Trek Podcast covers the latest news in the Star Trek Universe and discusses the latest episode. The podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Stitcher and is part of the TrekMovie Podcast Network.
New episodes of Star Trek: Picard premiere on Thursdays on Paramount+ in the U.S. and on Fridays where Paramount+ is available around the world. In Canada, it airs on CTV Sci-Fi Channel on streams on Crave on Thursdays. Picard is also available on Fridays on Amazon Prime Video around the world.
Keep up with all the Star Trek: Picard news and analysis.