The return of Jean-Luc Picard is a big deal. An event most of us never saw coming. Since Patrick Stewart left the Star Trek franchise, his audience has only grown through his work with the X-Men films and his delightful dominance of Twitter. Folks who never considered venturing into the final frontier were bowled over by the first trailer of Star Trek: Picard and are now working their way through the massive Star Trek: The Next Generation rewatch. (Hey, real quick, you don’t need to devour every episode. We’ve got a handy guide to the essential Jean-Luc episodes RIGHT HERE.)
Last weekend, at New York Comic-Con, Stewart and his new crew unveiled a second look at their series. What you’ll see below reveals a radically different universe than what we last saw in Star Trek: Nemesis when Data (Brent Spiner) died defending his captain from Picard’s evil Romulan clone (Tom Hardy). The harmony dreamed up by show creator Gene Roddenberry more than 50 years ago is in short supply with constant threats from outside forces. Picard must get back in the saddle. The dream’s defender is needed.
Whoa. There is a lot going on there. Romulans, both good and bad. Borg, seemingly only good. An army of android slaves. Picard ditching Starfleet and recruiting his own band of space misfits. The Federation looks to be in a rough place. Let’s dig in shot-by-shot to figure this all out.
The trailer opens on a familiar shot of Chateau Picard, the vineyard the good captain returned to after his service aboard the USS Enterprise was over. As we learned in Star Trek: Generations, his brother and family burned to death in a tragic fire, leaving Jean-Luc alone to tend to the grapes. Ah, but maybe he’s not so solitary. A familiar face scribbles a brush against a canvas under the shade of a tree.
Picard steps toward the figure wearing his old uniform. One that is no longer worn by Starfleet officers, as seen later in the trailer. Something is amiss in this encounter.
Lt. Commander Data (Spiner) fills in the background of a painting that depicts a lone figure standing atop a cliff face. Sensing the encroaching Picard, the android turns.
“Would you like to finish it, Captain?” asks Data with an echoing, dreamlike voice.
A deeper look at Data’s painting reveals a faceless, cloaked figure turning away from a raging ocean. In the distance, a cyclone touches down upon the water, and a tiny rowboat desperately attempts to crest a wave. They appear doomed to their fate. The faceless figure cannot bear to watch; gazing out at their artist for sympathy or rescue. “I don’t know how,” says a haunted Picard.
“That is not true, sir,” responds Data and hands his captain the brush.
Picard looks downward at the brush and is struck by a vision of phaser fire. Four unknown vessels reduce a planetary surface to fire and ash. Is this a flashback of some recent tragedy, or a dark future yet to be? We do know that Star Trek: Picard will incorporate the unseen events of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek and the destruction of Romulus that causes Nero (Eric Bana) to travel back in time. These ships do twinkle with green lights, a color that is often used to indicate the presence of Romulans on the show…as well as the Borg. There may actually be an unlikely alliance between those two antagonistic races, as the Star Trek: Countdown prequel comic stated that Nero’s starship was retrofitted with Borg technology. More on that in a bit.
Picard reaches out for the brush. Only he can complete the painting. Only he can offer solace to those poor sailors adrift at sea.