Jean-Luc Picard has been absent from screens since his last appearance in Star Trek: Nemesis back in 2002. But now CBS and Amazon Prime Video are bringing him back for a brand-new 10-part series sure to excite fans and newcomers alike.
The story goes that Sir Patrick Stewart only agreed to return to his role of the indomitable Starfleet captain on two conditions: no Enterprise and no uniform.
This is a choice which may seem like blasphemy to devoted fans of the franchise who have watched Picard through seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation and four films.
But after watching the first episode of the new CBS series, it is almost certainly the right choice.
What the decision to break from the confines of the convention allows the new series is an outing full of the nostalgia without feeling repetitive.
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This is something series creator Alex Kurtzman has pedigree in, having previously been part of the team that remade the original series into the 2009 film Star Trek.
Along with fellow creators Kirsten Beyer, Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, he reunites viewers with the character 18 years after viewers last saw him.
Star Trek: Picard begins with the retired Admiral far away from the world of interplanetary politics, tending to his vineyard in the French countryside.
He’s living a relatively quiet life with his dog – named Number One as a tongue-in-cheek nod – as viewers soon learn he is desperate for a reprieve from his memories.
But as you might imagine for someone as integral to the Trek universe as Picard, these memories haunt him everywhere he turns.
And it seems in the time since viewers last saw him, the galaxy has experienced some traumatic changes as planets have fallen and a familiar race of aliens have lost most of their population.
As a result, Sir Patrick Stewart’s Picard is not the man viewers once knew.
Yes, Earl Grey tea is still his beverage of choice but there is something haunted in the way Stewart plays the character viewers thought they knew so well.
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He’s helped by a number of new cast members including Isa Briones as a mysterious young woman desperate for Picard’s help and Alison Pill as a scientist brought in to help the retired Admiral.
The characters are already interesting enough to get viewers excited despite the fact barely half the announced cast have made an entrance yet.
Of course this is just the series opener and the action is relatively slow as the rules of the new world are only just being set up.
There is also surprisingly little of Outer Space teased for what you might expect for an opening episode of the Star Trek show.
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But what the creators manage is to create a compelling and fresh enough prospect to watch develop over the series’ 10-episode run.
The mantra of the franchise has always required its stories to go boldly where no man has gone before.
While this series doesn’t commit to an extreme a transformation as this, what Star Trek: Picard allows is space for new stories and new characters in a world viewers know so well.
Star Trek: Picard is released on Amazon’s Prime Video today.
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