One of the longest-running and most celebrated sci-fi franchises of all time, Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek is showing no signs of slowing down as it turns 55 years old. With three different series currently running and a further three in production, the seemingly infinite wealth of content is rather staggering and certainly quite intimidating for a relative newbie to the franchise…someone like, regrettably, this reviewer. Thankfully, CBS’ Picard – out now on DVD & Blu-ray – offers just enough exposition to assure fresh-faced fans aren’t left lost in space, while never feeling patronising for long-time followers of the series.
The series begins 20 years after the last adventure of Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) as he enjoys a quiet existence at Château Picard, France. When a mysterious young woman arrives at his door in dire need of his help, he realises he may just have another quest in him. With more of a focus on character than action, Picard is at its core a slow-burning meditation on ageing and regret. Gone are the standalone adventures of yore; this serialised drama tells one long tale over ten episodes which does mean some less patient viewers may be left pleading “less talky, more shooty” at the screen. But what the series may lack in action, it more than makes up for in complex themes, deeply layered characterisation and remarkable world-building, or rather, over 50 years into the franchise, world-enhancing. The story is engrossing and makes for an addictively bingeable ten episodes, while performances across the board are perfect – Stewart especially is, unsurprisingly, endlessly compelling.
While developing Picard, the creative team behind the series had initially planned to not bring back any other characters other than the titular hero to allow the show to stand alone and not become reliant on nostalgia – a criticism prevalent in most reboots today. But similarly, the writers wanted to be respectful of long-time fans, so split the difference with a few returning faces that never feel crowbarred in or jarring.
Visually, Picard is stunning. As television furthers its reputation as a rival to Hollywood filmmaking, the series looks and feels like a blockbuster movie. Stunningly polished special effects alongside the thrilling sets, costumes and make-up mean Picard shines, especially on Blu-ray – although fans may be disappointed in the lack of a 4K release. Regardless, over two hours of special features, including behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes, gag reel and an insightful commentary on the premiere episode, make the discs an essential part of any sci-fi fan’s collection.
Picard is a richly layered sci-fi drama that will delight long-time Trekkies and newcomers alike thanks to its strong performances, lavish visuals, and compelling narrative.