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[S2E1] The Star Gazer

Jean-Luc: Will you fight less here?Maman: Of course, we will. But if we should shout at each other now and then, I want you to look up and imagine how tiny our voices are out there. So tiny you can't even hear them. Look up at the stars, Jean-Luc. Look up.

[S2E1] The Star Gazer

An earlier Constellation class Starfleet ship called the USS Stargazer was Jean-Luc Picard's very first command and features prominently in his history and throughout "The Next Generation." Thankfully, this new 25th century vessel does not have the same registry number with a letter added (you know, like what happened to the USS Discovery) no, this is the NCC 82893. We can see in the observation lounge models of three ships: the Radiant-class Stargazer, Picard's Constellation-class Stargazer and Rios' Sagan-class ship.

Back at Starfleet, we get a chance to catch up with Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd) as Elnor heads out to his assigned starship, the USS Excelsior. She and Picard talk and he casually drops in a not-even-subtle-throwback that he's considering an update to the Kobayashi Maru scenario, now he's been appointed chancellor of Starfleet Academy. However, there is a touching moment where Picard talks a little about Ambassador Spock as he gives Elnor a leaving present and some precious words of advice as he departs.

Picard returns to the vineyard to find Fleet Admiral Sally Whitley (April Grace) already there. She briefs on the situation and he leaves via shuttlecraft to rendezvous with the Stargazer, much to the disappointment of Laris. Once all the pleasantries are out of the way and the band is almost all back together, they attempt to open communications with whatever is on the other side of the rift in space. Suddenly a ship emerges and it's clear it is Borg in origin.

An impressive fleet of Federation starships now surround the anomaly and so much more care has gone into this, sending spaceship nerds, like me, into a frenzy. Especially when you think of the fleet of hundreds of identical starships that gathered at the planet Coppelius in the first season finale. The Queen beams aboard and starts to take control of the Stargazer and Picard once again, orders the self-destruct.

Picard oversees a harvest back at his family vineyard at the end of the season, with the vineyard's Romulan caretaker Laris providing valuable support. Toasting a successful season that evening, Laris reveals she is beginning to move on from the death of her husband Zhaban, with Picard and Laris contemplating a possible romance themselves before they ultimately defer. Reflecting over his choice to live without a partner into his twilight years, Picard recalls an incident from his childhood as his mother tells him to look up to the stars and dream about them while she and his father argue and fight intensely.

While Picard delivers an address at Starfleet Academy, congratulating Elnor on becoming the first full-blooded Starfleet recruit, Seven of Nine repels an attack by raiders on her ship for its medical supplies. Successfully defending her ship, Seven stumbles across a subspace anomaly, running into Captain Chris Rios to pick up his ex-girlfriend, Doctor Agnes Jurati, on the USS Stargazer to investigate further. Jurati, who had been touring the cosmos with Soji and a group of synthetics to instill goodwill and dispel prejudices about them, is not thrilled to be reunited with Rios. Intercepting a transmission from the anomaly, Jurati deciphers it as a distress signal addressed to Picard and asking to be inducted into the Federation.

Picard reconnects with his old friend Guinan, who runs her own bar in Los Angeles since leaving the Enterprise, confiding about his recalcitrance in pursuing a serious romantic relationship for much of his life. Back at his home, Picard is approached by Starfleet Command regarding the anomaly and its message and travels to the Stargazer where he reunites with his old friends, including Seven. After Picard messages the anomaly, a new type of Borg vessel emerges from it, prompting the entire Starfleet armada to arrive on the scene and make a stand lest the Borg Collective's surprise return prove hostile once again.

Despite the Stargazer putting up its shields, the Borg Queen is able to easily teleport herself onto the starship's bridge and begins accessing the command codes to the armada by hacking into the Stargazer's systems. With no one able to stop the Borg Queen, Picard activates the Stargazer's self-destruct sequence to prevent the Queen from gaining further control.

Crew members in Starfleet uniforms race down familiar-looking corridors. They grab phasers and rifles to combat the Borg intrusion into their ship. They hurry to the bridge, to find Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) facing down the Borg Queen (Annie Wersching). With no other options, Picard sets the self-destruct on the vessel. It cannot help but recall Star Trek: First Contact, the best-received of the Star Trek movies starring Stewart, down to the production design and the canted angles.

Paramount+ series "Star Trek: Picard" is finally back, and it's off to an explosive start. When last we left the famed captain and his newfound crew, they had encountered ancient prophecies, said goodbye to a beloved "Next Generation" character, and more in a truly epic season finale. Now, two years later, Season 2 is back and begins by catching us up on the crew's whereabouts in the debut episode, "The Star Gazer."

Season 1 was a redemption arc for its characters, and now they're each living the life of their dreams. Admiral Picard (Patrick Stewart) is now the Chancellor of Starfleet Academy, Raffi (Michelle Hurd) is a Commander on the USS Excelsior, and Elnor (Evan Evagora) is a cadet assigned to her ship. Meanwhile, Rios (Santiago Cabrera) captains his own ship, the USS Stargazer. He's had an off-screen romance with Jurati (Alison Pill) in the interim between seasons, and she returns as his Number One when the Stargazer receives a strange distress call.

Picard, wary but excited at the prospect of welcoming a new species into the Federation, travels to the Stargazer, but what he finds is terrifying. A ship emerges through the anomaly. Although it looks nothing like a traditional cube, every scan indicates it to be Borg. The Excelsior, captained by Raffi, warps to their location, as do dozens of additional Starfleet ships, and all are prepared to deal with the possibility of a confrontation.

The Borg ask for permission to board, and the Stargazer raises shields in response while Picard and company meet to strategize. It is worth noting that Picard has already lost a Stargazer under his command. The original Stargazer was, in fact, the first vessel he commanded, and, after its destruction, he was court-martialed. Losing another would be an unfathomable blow to him.

Picard makes the call not to allow the Borg to send an emissary aboard. But, since the new Stargazer is the first of a new class of ship made with materials from the abandoned Borg cube we spent so much time with in Season 1, they are able to break through the shields and beam their queen directly onto the bridge.

The Borg queen who beams on board is, visually speaking, unlike any Borg "Star Trek" fans have seen before. She is encased in a metal exoskeleton-like suit. After beaming aboard despite the Stargazer's raised shields, she says, "We wish for peace, but first we require power." Before Picard and company can respond to her terrifying presence, she jacks into the ship's computers with long, snaking tendrils and begins taking control. The crew warns Picard that if she gets total control of the Stargazer, she can instantly command the entire fleet of Federation starships. The crew opens fire, but she deflects their phaser beams effortlessly and returns volleys of energy from her armor that non-lethally incapacitates everyone on the Stargazer.

Now, facing down the same choice, Picard initiates the Stargazer's self-destruct sequence, ready to destroy the entire fleet rather than allow it to fall into Borg hands. In the last seconds of the countdown, the Queen says, "Picard, look up," repeating his mother's words from earlier in the episode, and in his mother's voice, too. Before he can figure out this bizarre echo of his past, the ship explodes, obliterating the Stargazer and every other ship in the armada.

Whether that was the right choice this time around is unclear since the Borg queen's true identity and motives have yet to be revealed. But as the Stargazer explodes, taking the Borg ship and the Federation fleet with it, it's too late.

"What is happening here?" Picard asks, and a familiar voice responds, "An excellent question, Jean-Luc." Picard turns to find none other than the dastardly trickster Q (John de Lancie). He appears as he does in "The Next Generation" but offers to match Picard in years, aging three decades with a snap of his fingers. Now, a white-haired version of Q stands before Picard (no doubt a better choice than de-aging de Lancie down with CGI or putting him under a load of prosthetics and makeup), asking, "Do you recall what I said to you when last we parted ways? The trial never ends."

In terms of plot, we know that this season will involve time travel, with Picard going to 21st century Earth to avert the totalitarian timeline created by Q. Compared to the first season, it's a well-trod path for "Star Trek" since plenty of classic storylines have involved fascist societies or sent characters back in time. According to the fictional history of Earth established by "Trek" canon, the early 2020s are a time of massive social upheaval with record homeless populations and political unrest, eventually leading to World War III in 2026. Since we're headed to San Francisco, it's more than likely the crew will arrive during the Bell Riots, which took place in 2024 and marked the start of this tumultuous period.

After two years, Star Trek: Picard returns for a second of three seasons, delving deeper into the life of Captain (now Admiral) Jean-Luc Picard. And what a two years it has been, not only in the real world, but in the fictional future of the early 25th century. Season One ended a few weeks after the start of the lockdowns from COVID-19 in the U.S. and was a welcome distraction for me and other Trekkies. While I was a little disappointed by the ending, if only from a visual effects perspective due to the crew being in lockdown, Season Two kicks off with a new adventure and sense of purpose. 041b061a72

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