After an almost two-year wait, Star Trek: Picard Season 2 is finally here. The premiere episode, “The Star Gazer”, featured the return of Patrick Stewart in his signature role and the new friends and allies Picard made in Season 1, as well as the long-awaited return of some old acquaintances from Star Trek: The Next Generation. The verdict? The short version is “The Star Gazer” is a promising start to the new season, but as opposed to the song that’s now so closely associated with the series, if I said I saw “nothing but blue skies” for the rest of the season, it would not be an example of absolute candor.
As opposed to the series premiere, Picard Season 2 opens like an Indiana Jones film — jumping right into the action. The first thing we see is the iconic red alert flashing on a ship’s console, and we hear that unforgettable alarm in the distance along with the occasional explosion. We follow a trio of Starfleet officers to a turbolift on an unidentified ship, which we later learn in a new version of Picard’s USS Stargazer. When the officers get to the bridge, we see most of the show’s principal cast — along with the other Starfleet officers who are being cut down at a Saving Private Ryan rate — who are either fighting or hiding from an unseen enemy.
The opening ends on a cliffhanger and after a new intro sequence, we turn back the clocks 48 hours to Picard’s expansive vineyard where a new love story is brewing between the old Enterprise captain and his housekeeper Laris (Orla Brady). The Romulan’s husband Zhaban (Jame McShane) has conveniently died between seasons, allowing for the budding romance to not appear scandalous. Something holds Picard back from sealing the deal, however, which seems to be the emotional core of Picard Season 2. The titular hero will be looking inward to see exactly what it is that even now — in a time that is well past his twilight years — he still would rather look to the stars than put down roots.
Perhaps the biggest question lingering at the end of Season 1 was exactly how this cast of characters would stay together for Picard Season 2. After all, Picard is the first Trek series whose principal cast isn’t chiefly a bunch of Starfleet officers. So there was no obvious reason for the heroes to stick together. But a lot has changed and the show does an admirable job updating us without bogging us down with exposition. Rios (Santiago Cabrera) and Raffi (Michelle Hurd) have returned to Starfleet, and Rios is the captain of the new Stargazer. Elnor has become the first “fully” Romulan cadet at Starfleet Academy, where Picard is now Chancellor. Seven (Jeri Ryan) is still fighting the good fight in La Sirena with no one but Rios’ holographic doubles for company, Soji (Isa Briones) is a diplomat, and Agnes (Alison Pill), she apparently likes drinking a lot more now.
There is a lot going on in the first episode of Picard Season 2. While I enjoyed “The Star Gazer”, that is part of why I have concerns. Before the end of the episode, we get the promised returns of both Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) and Q (John de Lancie). As the trailers have revealed, The Borg become major players in the story, which will feature not only a trip to a dystopian version of Picard‘s present but a time travel story to the near-present day. And it will apparently have something to do with a repressed memory from Picard’s past about the fate of his mother. That’s a lot of moving parts. “The Star Gazer” handles them well and keeps things coherent and intriguing, but that could fall apart, as it more or less did in Season 1.
The other concern is for this looming reveal about Picard’s mother. We only see flashes of this supposedly repressed memory in “The Star Gazer”, but it looks like something dramatic and perhaps even otherworldly happened to her. To get this information this late in the game is a big risk. Taking a character who’s been around for decades and telling the fans, “here’s this huge, dramatic thing from this hero’s history that you totally should’ve known about forever ago” isn’t always a crowd-pleaser.
But while predicting nothing but blue skies would be a lie, I can’t swear to stormy ones either. “The Star Gazer” is a fun, engaging premiere that should tickle any old-school fans’ nostalgia like the best parts of Season 1. If you were disappointed by the show’s beginning, this might be the time to give it a second chance.
However, there’s at least one teeny, tiny thing that was bothersome about “The Star Gazer”. Captain Rios is smoking on the bridge of a Starfleet ship? Really? Does the new Stargazer not have a doctor? Bones would’ve slapped him silly.