The trailer for Star Trek Picard season 2 promises light in the darkness.
My initial reaction to the trailer for season 2 of Star Trek Picard released on Star Trek Day wasn’t ecstatic joy. Even after several viewings, I remained oddly unmoved. And I was surprised to feel this way. The teaser trailer from April’s First Contact Day, with its reveal of John de Lancie’s return as Q, had left me feeling excited. But the new trailer made me feel uneasy, and I wondered why (to steal from Admiral Kirk’s opening log entry in Star Trek III).
(Proximity alert: Spoilers from season 1 of Picard detected. If you haven’t seen it, proceed with caution!)
For starters, the Star Trek Picard season 2 trailer puts Picard back in the pensive. melancholy place he was when the first season started, and from which I thought he’d moved on after his death and resurrection at season’s end.
Even de Lancie’s Q seems unusually subdued. I suppose his dour decorum is connected to the fact that, as Picard states, Q has gone back in time to turn Earth into a “totalitarian nightmare.” While the shot of Picard and Seven (or alternate timeline versions) in a new version of the post-apocalyptic courtroom seen in both “Encounter at Farpoint” and “All Good Things…” is intriguing, I wasn’t sure I wanted another Star Trek dystopia. Great Bird knows it took me long enough to make my peace with Star Trek Discovery’s take on the Terran (Mirror) Universe!
Then came the biggest reveal: time travel. Powered by Borg technology, no less. Suddenly, the trailer seemed to be a retread of Star Trek: First Contact. More stylish and nuanced, no doubt, given Picard will have much more than two hours to tell its tale, but a retread all the same.
“Time has been broken.” “The only way to heal our future is to go back and repair the past.” Both of these lines from the trailer could just as easily have come from the TNG crew’s first solo movie outing.
Watching the trailer left me wondering: Will Star Trek Picard season 2 offer us anything new? Especially when our time travelers’ destination is—our time?
Star Trek Picard season 2 will help us engage our “strange old world” in hope
Season 2 of Picard won’t be the first time a Trek series has visited its audience’s present. Kirk and crew did so in “Tomorrow Is Yesterday,” “Assignment: Earth,” and Star Trek IV. The Voyager gang dropped in on 1990s Southern California in the two-parter, “Future’s End.” And while Deep Space Nine’s time travel two-parter, “Past Tense,” was technically set in our almost-present more than its original audience’s, the 2024 of the Gabriel Bell riots was recognizable even in 1995 as a thinly disguised “present day.”
But then I read Ryan Britt’s thoughts on the second season trailer for Den of Geek. Turns out the trailer made him think of “Past Tense,” too. And in his essay, “Star Trek: Picard Season 2 is an ‘Encounter at Farpoint’ Sequel,” he concludes:
Not since Deep Space Nine’s “Past Tense,” has the Star Trek franchise attempted a hardcore commentary on the way the world is now. We don’t need Jean-Luc Picard to say anything new about the future. He’s done that. But, if, in this new season, Jean-Luc can say something about our own time, that might be even better . . . . We might not need Picard in space in the 24th century. Maybe we need him right here, right now.
Britt’s comments made me remember Star Trek’s origins as a morality play for 1960s television. Gene Roddenberry was convinced audiences would come to the show for its flashy sci-fi trappings and stay for the serious, thought-provoking stories. He hoped and expected audiences would wrestle with what they watched.
Granted, beyond a glimpse of Starfleet HQ in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Roddenberry resisted showing Earth directly. He wanted the “strange new worlds” the Enterprise visited to mirror the strange old one of his and his audience.
But, in my more pessimistic moments (even good Star Trek fans have them!), I think our society is increasingly incapable of subtlety, in stories or in much else. So maybe we do indeed need Jean-Luc Picard in our world, and Seven and Raffi driving cars down the streets of our cities, and the crew of La Sirena fighting the good fight in places and around issues we recognize.
If the trailer’s any indication, some viewers will accuse Picard season 2 of being “heavy-handed.” But trailers are only two-minute windows into a much longer and larger work of art. And Star Trek has been “heavy-handed” before—looking at you,”Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”—yet some of those moments are now hailed as the franchise’s finest.
Sometimes, we all need a clarion call back to the values Star Trek spotlights and celebrates. Optimism. Integrity. Justice. Equality. Openness. Friendship. Love.
Sometimes we need to hear, as Picard says, “Even in the darkest of circumstances, there is a light.”
If Star Trek Picard season 2 can help us want to rekindle and shine that light within us, I’ll be excited and thrilled all over again.