Make it So! Engage! Earl Grey! The Galaxy’s most famous Frenchman who talks like a Brit is back in style..
Full disclosure: I was never a big Jean Luc Picard fan. Sorry, but I preferred Kirk. Kirk was just as literate, witty and cultured but more fun and less pompous /officious. I particularly loathed Jean Luc trying to play a muscled toight vest action man in his movie outings.
As for Sir Pat Stewart? Well, there is no doubting his Shakespearean credentials. But I also felt that became a kind of calling card trope, trading on his poise / vocals and thereby an association with being ‘distinguished’. And he never shuts up about Brexit; shame, as he spends a lot of time in America, anyway..rather than a French vineyard like Picard.
And then there is the ‘new’ Trek: Abrams’ flashy films that merge mythologies, clumsily..and the recent Netflix Discovery (fine but dark and rough and loud). In short? I did not have high hopes for PICARD. I presumed it would be preachy, plotless, joyless and unoriginal. I was surprised, pleasantly.
This is EXCELLENT! This is what we SHOULD have had as a post First Contact Trek movie. This is what we should have had on television beyond Enterprise. This IS trek, past, future and present. A real triumph!
So what worked here? Why am I so wowed? Here we go..
- The fact that this is NOT a binge watch? Does it massive favours. I am hooked by the mystery, the waiting. Clever move, Amazon!
- The pace is perfectly pitched; taking its time to move around and explore the universe it sets up, but without lulls in speed; minimal filler.
- NOT a soft reboot; this IS very much a flesh and blood sequel to the original series and films. At the same time, things have moved on and there is backstory to be unravelled.
- Visually rich but not over-designed. This feels less futuristic than the original series, despite access to better special effects. And weirdly, that feels perfectly fine. You believe in the reality of this future, without losing a sense of glossy escapist sheen amidst the uncharacteristic (for this franchise) grit.
- There is a self contained sense of story here, delivered through substantial science fiction and timeless tropes given new and fascinating life.
- Tonally, they have pulled off the impossible; reconciling the rich philosophical threads of the original series to the kind of balls to wall action and editing we now expect today.
- There is nostalgia, yes and an embrace rather than rejection of what made Trek lore so appealing. But it’s never overdone, either and one could watch without any prior knowledge of the show, as surely as the devoted fan can tune in and feel ‘serviced’, so to speak.
- This is Stewart’s best work since Conspiracy Theory. He sometimes overdoes the old man gait / voice (he’s far more vital in real life and surely, in the future, we would age differently?). But this is a subtle, measured, unselfish performance, anchoring the piece without sacrificing an ensemble spirit. All those previously overpraised theatrical techniques now, finally, feel ‘right’. Beneath the gruff exterior, too, Picard here is a character who has changed in circumstance yet not in essence or in powerful potential to shape their universe. Bodes well for returning other older characters onscreen (paging Harrison Ford /Indiana Jones..hurry up..).
I cannot wait for the next episodes. BEAM ME UP!