Star Trek Picard season 2 starts with a plea from the stars.
The first episode of Star Trek Picard season 2, “The Star Gazer,” wastes little time reuniting the characters, old and new, that we came to know in season one, reintroducing several of the philosophical themes that have long defined Jean-Luc Picard and launching what looks to be an adventure on a far grander scale than the first season gave us.
As Star Trek Picard season 2 opens, Admiral Jean-Luc Picard is Chancellor of Starfleet Academy. He’s seeing the fruits of both his vineyard and his life ripen, as Chateau Picard produces abundant wine and Elnor, whom he has long befriended, becomes the first fully Romulan Starfleet cadet.
But Jean-Luc is sad. He’s unable to allow himself to love Laris, his Romulan housekeeper who all but declares her love to him. He’s remembering his parents’ troubled marriage. And he’s musing on his mortality (you’ll remember the synthetic body he received last season was not designed to last forever). “Time offers many opportunities,” he says in a speech at the Academy, “but it rarely offers second chances.”
As it turns out, another chance to go to the stars, where he has always felt he truly belongs, presents itself. A sickly green anomaly emerges in deep space. The Stargazer—namesake of Picard’s own first command, this version is commanded by Chris Rios, now back in uniform but still smoking a cigar—arrives to investigate. So does La Sirena, which Seven has been using, with the help of an amalgamated Hologram Rios, to carry out missions for the Fenris Rangers.
The anomaly emits a signal. Dr. Agnes Jurati analyzes it and, back on Earth, Admiral Sally Whitley plays it for Picard. A thundering chorus of overlapping voices is reciting Article 15 of the Federation’s charter—a request to join the interplanetary union—prefaced by the plea, “Help us, Picard.”
Picard takes a shuttle to the Stargazer to answer the call. When he does, a huge Borg vessel emerges. An armada from Starfleet—including the Excelsior, aboard which Elnor and Raffi Musiker are serving—arrives as Picard convenes a classic, Star Trek: The Next Generation-style conference room discussion about whether to trust the Borg’s request.
The Borg take events into their own hands and transport a Borg Queen aboard. She begins assimilating the Stargazer and, through it, taking control of the armada. Picard activates the Stargazer’s self-destruct sequence…
…and awakens back on Earth, in Chateau Picard. There he finds an armor-plated Earth, a synthetic servant named Harvey—and his “old friend” Q. The enigmatic and capricious entity tells Picard, “You’ve been talking a lot about second chances. Well, my friend, welcome to the very end of the road not taken.”
“The Star Gazer” is a satisfying overture to Star Trek Picard season 2
“The Star Gazer” both reacquaints us with and reframes several facets of the Jean-Luc Picard we came to know during TNG’s run.
We see his life-long fascination with space, but learn his mother, Yvette, nurtured it in him so he could find solace from his parents’ conflicted marriage. We see his devotion to duty but learn from Guinan (unfortunately, Whoopi Goldberg fails to recapture the mystery and mischievousness that she once brought to the role) it is, in large part, a consequence of Picard’s constant decision to run away from love. And we sense these two emotional realities are connected.
Fans can and doubtless will argue whether the introduction of childhood trauma as a building block of Picard’s character is a wise move, but it does add even more depth to a man we’ve been following for more than three decades.
It’s only right Picard is the focus of the episode, but it does leave us with precious little time for the other characters. Of the returning characters, Seven fares best, as Jeri Ryan delivers yet another electric performance. Her impassioned pleas against trusting the Borg’s request to join the Federation are utterly riveting—and utterly correct.
The Borg are back in full force as an unstoppable enemy in “The Star Gazer.” The fully cowled and caped Borg Queen is a new and menacing look (as Dr. Jurati notes), and—at least in the closed captioning—the Borg’s collective voice is named “Legion,” a name with demonic connotations in the New Testament (Mark 5:9 and parallels). While I don’t expect the Borg will emerge victorious at the season’s end, I hope Picard may restore some of their original dread.
“The Star Gazer” is little more than a prologue, an overture to Star Trek Picard season 2. But, like an overture in opera or musical theater, it introduces important themes we will hear later, sets a tone, and draws us in to the world of the story, eager to see what happens next.