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‘Star Trek Picard’ sets the stage for an incredible new season

It would be an understatement to say that the first season of Paramount+’s “Star Trek Picard” was divisive. Although fans were thrilled to return to the TNG era of the “Star Trek” universe, many found the conclusion of the season-long arc to be disappointing and—

I’m sorry, I need to address the elephant in the room.

It’s the Borg! The Borg! A proper representative of the Borg Collective, or a splinter of it that is seemingly just as powerful, on our television screens in the year 2022! The Borg are my favorite “Star Trek” villains. I’ve been suspicious of anything mysterious and green over on “Star Trek Discovery” for the last two years, so the second a green anomaly appeared on the show that currently stars two of the Borg’s three worst enemies, I had my hopes up. Then we heard their voice, and I was almost certain. And then, finally, their massive ship emerged from the rift they apparently tore in the fabric of space/time and Seven (Jeri Ryan) confirmed my dream and all the characters’ worst nightmares.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The first two episodes of season two of “Star Trek Picard” focus on establishing where the main characters are after the events of the first season. Thankfully, everyone seems to be in a much better position. Jean-Luc Picard, played by, as always, Patrick Stewart, is the head of Starfleet Academy, with Raffi (Michelle Hurd) serving as an instructor and Elnor (Evan Evagora) in place as the Academy’s first Romulan cadet. Captain Rios (Santiago Cabrera) has rejoined Starfleet and is the commanding officer of the new USS Stargazer, named for Picard’s original command, which features one of the best new ship designs found in this recent batch of “Star Trek” shows. Seven has taken command of Rios’s old ship and is using it to fight the good fight with the Fenris Rangers, while Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill) and Soji Asha (Isa Briones) seem to be in the middle of a diplomacy tour for Soji’s android home planet. Both burgeoning relationships that were set up last season, between Rios and Jurati, and between Raffi and Seven, seem to have fallen apart or become strained in the time between seasons. After each character is reintroduced, the premiere episode “The Stargazer” reunites everyone, oddly except for Soji, on the titular starship to investigate the aforementioned Borg-induced anomaly. There they are faced with a complication that feels directly out of an old school “Star Trek” episode. The Borg are requesting to join the Federation.

Obviously, this announcement is met with a wide array of reactions. Seven, unsurprisingly, advocates for destroying the Borg ship before they have the chance to assimilate the gathering Federation fleet. What is surprising is that Picard actually seems willing to entertain the possibility that the Collective is telling the truth. Making new allies out of old enemies is one of the most important morals that “Star Trek” has consistently preached, and although the idea of the Borg being brought into the fold initially leaves a weird taste, it is intriguing. Of course, then the Borg get impatient, announce that they’re “out of time” and start assimilating the Stargazer. Left with no other choice, Picard activates the self-destruct system, thus ending the shortest season of “Star Trek” to ever be put on air.

Not really. The world fades to white, and then suddenly Picard is in his house. But things are different. The sky and ground are brown, and his Romulan staff have been replaced by androids and alien slaves. Then Q, still played to perfection by John de Lancie, shows up. The second episode, “Penance,” opens with an extended conversation between Q and Picard. Q is in rare form here, at times acting like this is simply another test for Picard and humanity, and at others acting genuinely disturbed. In terms of immortal, omniscient beings, Q has never been the most stable one around the block, but he usually means well. As Picard later tells the group, now he seems “unstable, not quite sane.” As they figure out later in the episode, thanks to a captured Borg Queen (Annie Wersching), Q has made a single change to the timeline, turning the Federation into a xenephobic, facist state known as the Confederation, and Earth into a dying world. In this new timeline, Raffi is a security chief, Elnor is a freedom fighter, Jurati is seemingly running experiments on prisoners, Rios is leading a war against the Vulcans, Seven is the completely human President of the Confederation, Annika Hansen, and Picard is the warmongering General Picard. Once the group gets back together and discovers that they are all aware of the shift in the timeline, they decide to set out to fix Q’s damage by traveling back to 2024 and undoing his alteration. The episode ends as they face a new challenge in their journey, but trailers assure fans that they will be successful in their attempt to reach the past.

At only two episodes in, the second season of “Star Trek Picard” seems primed to be one of the best seasons of “Star Trek” that has been released during this new period of “Star Trek” television. Both episodes practically ooze with love for the franchise, and there is a trail of easter eggs constant enough to make long term fans happy. The fleet from the first episode is built from ship models originating from “Star Trek Online,” fixing one of the biggest problems fans had with last season’s finale, the fleet of identical ships. “Penance” features callouts to fan favorites like Sisko and Martok and many more. There are even some surprises in the episodes that I haven’t mentioned, but will definitely make any cautious fan feel optimistic. Of course, there is a chance that later episodes of this season might disappoint, but for now, it feels really good to be unreservedly excited for new episodes of “Star Trek.”

 

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