The cliffhanger of Star Trek: Picard’s Season 2 premiere, “The Star Gazer,” brought back an “old friend,” Admiral Jean-Luc Picard’s (Patrick Stewart) great frenemy, Q. He seemed less playful this time around, with John de Lancie playing his introduction lines with more malevolent glee, with just a touch of somberness. As soon as de Lancie uttered Q’s famous line, “Mon Capitaine,” we knew this Picard season was going to be completely different.
And all the better for it. Star Trek: Picard S2 is a much-improved version of the first season for two main reasons, which has a lot to do with the re-introduction of our favorite trickster, the omniscient Q. The other concerns the events he unleashes, centering around the concept of time itself.
"“The true final frontier is time. Time can turn even our most impulsive, our most ill-considered actions into history,” Jean-Luc Picard said during the S2 trailer. “What we do in a crisis often weighs upon us less heavily than what we wish we had done. What could have been.”"
After Picard initiated the self-destruct while the shrouded Borg queen seemed to be assimilating the Star Gazer—and the surrounding Starfleet ships aiding Picard and his crew—he is magically transported back to his vineyard chateau, albeit in an altered timeline. We gage this from the more militant portrait of the captain in his study, which has transformed into a gallery of weapons and war. The fascist reality only turns out worse as the nonagenarian hears a familiar voice. “No, no, no, no, no…” Picard cries.
But this is a different Q, a more grounded, angrier Q, with some of the juvenile behavior stripped for this go-around. The actor discussed his transformation in a much darker timeline for the new Star Trek series in a Newsweek interview.
“One of the problems with reprising a role is that you do not want them to make the mistake of recreating, trying to go back. There were times that I thought, “oh, gee, it might need a little bit of whimsy. That’s certainly something that audiences will have remembered.” But it wasn’t there [in the script.]”
The introduction of Q was also handled with particular aplomb, unveiling him as we last remembered, aided with CG magic, saying, “oh dear, you’re a bit older than I imagined, let me catch up.” And with a simple transformational snap of his fingers, we get comparably aged Q. No extra-long explanation, no sci-fi mumbo-jumbo. In terms of impact, it was brilliant and is the perfect kickstart to inspired storytelling in Picard’s second season.
The dark leather look is also far from the tights and goofy ensembles Q donned on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
We got black leather Q, aged and deadly serious. The improved wardrobe tells us how high the stakes are this season, with Picard and his crew thrust into a new fascist universe that the captain himself may have had a hand in creating. The Picard sneak preview conversation between the two great opponents makes this crystal clear.
The time-travel exploration harkens back to some of Star Trek’s best storytelling devices, with a nod to the exceptional TNG episode, “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” which featured Tasha Yarr’s (Denise Crosby) alternate storyline, including those pivotal scenes between Guinan (Whoopee Goldberg) and Yarr. At one point in the teaser, Q says, “How quaint, how provincial, how yesterday’s enterprise.”
Guinan, a fellow immortal, of the El-Aurian race, is also back this season and expects that she and Q will eventually come to a showdown of some sort. They both have a lot of personal baggage, with Q warning Picard in the past that there is more to her than meets the eye, and Quinan harboring resentment over previous dealings with Q.
As an El-Aurian, Guinan may prove key in helping determine the secrets to the alternate timelines that Q has set in motion. Or perhaps Guinan and Q could end up working together, with a bigger enemy, the Borg, rearing its head again (and far from the displaced version we saw in the first season of Picard), at least in the first timeline.
"“It was about how you tell a story about Q that’s unexpected, and not the same Loki-esque shenanigans that we are used to,” showrunner Terry Matalas told SFX, according to space.com. “How does it have real dramatic weight? And that was our jumping-off point. You will definitely see a side of Q you’ve never seen before. There’s some things going on with Q that are definitely surprising, considering the kind of being he is. And how that would reflect on Jean-Luc Picard and what’s going on with his life at the moment. The first two episodes are a pretty wild ride.”"
Color us intrigued.
Another being that will factor into the time exploration is the emergence of the Borg queen this season.
“I’m a very big fan of the Borg, and there was a time travel element to the season,” added Matalas in the SFX interview. “One of the components was that the Borg have quite a bit of experience with time travel… This particular Borg Queen is unlike one we’ve seen in canon before. So a lot is going on with this Borg Queen that is very different. There’s lots of interesting Borg storytelling coming up. She’s definitely not Alice Krige’s Borg Queen. This Borg Queen has a very different history to her.”
There also seemed to be nods to time from the past. Picard’s flashbacks with his mother almost had the 1940s feel to it, with the style of dress and manner. I’m thinking this was done on purpose as well to demonstrate the cyclical nature of time. There’s also an important detail when his mother suggests, “Look up,” in the flashback, a line that is repeated by the Borg queen when Picard is completing the self-destruct sequence.
It seems that Q has set up temporal stressors and parameters for Picard because he wants to solve his problem with time. Why would an immortal being with almost infinite power need to test the effects of temporal manipulation on a mortal? He needs information that he can’t gain from his perspective and it’s necessary to plumb the perspective of Picard. John de Lancie hinted at something like that.
"“The writers are using the fact that time has passed here as a temporal thing for real, between two actors, as a motivator,” de Lancie said in a Polygon interview. “Season 2 is about an old Picard who does not have much time to come to grips with certain personal issues that he has not dealt with — and the clock is ticking.“The hidden part of this, which I think you’re getting a little taste of in those opening episodes: is that there’s a clock ticking for me as well.”"
And this is why Star Trek: Picard’s second season is so utterly fascinating.
You can read a thorough breakdown of the upcoming season highlights here.
Star Trek: Picard season 2 premiered March 3 on Paramount + with episodes streaming on Thursdays.