‘Star Trek: Picard’ may leave diehard fans disappointed

There’s no doubt “Star Trek: Picard” wants to go in a different direction.

Streaming its fourth installment today on CBS All Access, the new show boasts a sedate, violin-heavy theme song; lots of CGI; a couple of F-bombs; a largely earth-bound setting for its first three episodes; and modern cliffhanger plotting, where each entry leads to the next — rather than the tidy, self-contained episodes of “Star Trek’s” earlier incarnations.

All this takes some getting used to for an old-style Trekker like me. Perhaps I’m not the only fan of “The Original Series” (1966-69) and “The Next Generation” (1987-1994) who had trouble getting on board.

After too much internet hype, this latest of the many “Star Trek” series (eight and counting) debuted Jan. 23, reintroducing “TNG’s” Jean-Luc Picard as he tries to enjoy retirement at his chateau in France.

The legendary captain — now an admiral — remains haunted by events that occurred between TNG and this new storyline: When Starfleet’s long-time nemesis, the Romulans, were threatened by a supernova, Picard championed evacuation efforts; but the project backfired when androids wrecked the Federation’s ship-building base on Mars. Rescue was abandoned, and all synthetic life-forms banned — creating a quandary for Picard when he is visited by Dahj, a mysterious young woman who seems to be not only an android but also somehow connected to the the admiral’s late friend Data.

As of Episode 3, the complex storyline remains unresolved — though the writers (including novelist Michael Chabon and veteran screenwriter Akiva Goldsman) manage to incorporate appearances from Data, the Romulans and TNG’s notorious Borg. Future installments promise similarly nostalgic visits from franchise stars Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis and Jeri Ryan.

The problem with all these tributes to the past: They’ve lured in aging fan-boys like me, who may be disappointed at how very un-Star-Trek-like this series can be.

For many who grew up in the sixties, the first series came as a revelation, showing that TV could be fresh, provocative, thoughtful, original — in an era of low-brow hits like “I Dream of Jeannie” and “Gilligan’s Island.” Following about 20 years later, “The Next Generation” was likewise so fresh and smart that it became one of the very TV few shows I watched with almost fanatical regularity.

So I kept looking for some of that radical idealism in “Picard” — and not really finding it; though I will say Patrick Stewart is solid, with able support from Allison Pill, Michelle Hurd and especially Isa Briones as Dahj. Among other things, I can hardly believe it took them till last week to finally give Picard a craft and get him off the ground!

Yet those closing starship moments in Episode 3, invoking theme music from the first two shows, were so effective and nostalgic that I decided to pay for at least another month of CBS, hoping this fairly engaging show would go where the others had gone before.

So to those at the helm of “Picard,” my Trekkie plea is simple and familiar:

Make it so.


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