TV series fans have waited 18 years for

 

SIR Patrick Stewart last donned the Star Fleet uniform 18 years ago, in the fourth and final film that followed seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

So for Trekkies who had been hoping for another space adventure with Jean-Luc Picard, it's been a long time coming.

There's always been something so calming and reassuring about Picard, a character who wasn't only an upstanding military officer, but one who prioritised humanity and compassion over rigid rules.

So it's no surprise that when a character in the new Star Trek: Picard series says to Picard, "Everything inside of me says I'm safe with you", it's a message to the audience too.

It's been 18 years in between Star Treks for Patrick Stewart.
It's been 18 years in between Star Treks for Patrick Stewart.

 

It's OK, the show seems to tell us, Picard and Stewart are here to make sure you're looked after. But life isn't that simple - the Picard we meet years down the line from his The Next Generation days isn't the man we knew.

He hasn't changed fundamentally, but life has dealt him some cruel blows, and he's scarred by regret and angered by what he sees as a great failing on the part of Star Fleet and of the Federation, a calamitous event revealed in the first episode.

Star Trek: Picard is the second of two new series from the long-running franchise, but it's quite different from Star Trek: Discovery, a prequel series that debuted two years ago (on Netflix in Australia).

Discovery, as a prequel series, was primarily filled out by characters new to the franchise, which meant a lower barrier to entry for newbies to the Star Trek universe. It also helped that Discovery's two-part opener was an action-packed instalment that set up a new premise that let viewers take the plunge with it.

Picard is not as accessible because it trades so heavily on its past.

Stewart is joined by new cast members including Isa Briones.
Stewart is joined by new cast members including Isa Briones.

 

While the first three episodes made available for review dole out some moments designed to help make sense of things for those unfamiliar with the 178 episodes and four films that preceded this series, it will leave newcomers untethered and constantly wondering, "What am I missing here?"

Picard finds the title character retired with early references to a schism between himself and Star Fleet some years back. Now he's pottering around his sun-blessed French chateau, a tactile, rustic environment with its wood, stone and vineyards light-years away from the cold, hard surfaces of USS Enterprise.

Retirement, though, is more like exile, and Picard himself admits that, "I haven't been living, I've been waiting to die."

Picard is a more ruminative series that is intrinsically linked to memories and a present informed by the regrets of the past, which, while thematically rich, means long-time fans will find more to love than those who aren't.

Just like Picard the character, Stewart is a comforting screen presence, so you know that if he's asking you to go along with him, then you're probably right to follow.

Jeri Ryan returns as Seven of Nine.
Jeri Ryan returns as Seven of Nine.

 

So when a mysterious young woman turns up at his vineyards asking for his help, he springs into action, even if that action now means he gets puffed climbing stairs. They're strangers to each other but there's a bond between them that predates that first on-screen meeting.

The past is no longer in the past, not that it ever was.

The first three episodes are patchy, not quite sure of their footing yet in terms of pacing or tone, but the series becomes more assured as it goes on. There are definitely the seeds of a stronger series, even if it hasn't broken through the surface yet.

But for fans, none of that will matter all that much because just seeing Picard, a character that represented goodness, will be enough for them.

And if it's not, the series has also promised returning favourites including Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) and more.

Like we said, the past is no longer the past.

Star Trek: Picard will stream weekly on Fridays on Amazon Prime Video from January 24

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