This week's episode of Star Trek: Picard on CBS All Access takes a little too much time getting itself off the ground – primarily serving as an expositional piece for the new ship's pilot Cristobal "Chris" Rios (Santiago Cabrera) and engineer Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd).
While no hard-n-fast spoilers are in play moving ahead, here's a MAJOR SPOILERS WARNING! just to be on the safe side…
Separating "Star Trek: The Next Generation" from "Picard"
The show primarily focuses its narrative on Jean-Luc's (Patrick Stewart) life outside of the U.S.S. Enterprise. It goes out of its way establishing anything from The Next Generation acts as some forbidden fruit picked at the bare minimum. At the same time, stay within an arm's reach from its influential bubble. We see that when Picard opts to see his medical doctor from his days on the U.S.S. Stargazer – Dr. Moritz Benayoun (David Paymer) – instead of those who served on the Enterprise. TNG well-established how close Jean-Luc (I refuse to call him JL like Raffi does) was to Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden).
From Picard's point-of-view established in the previous episode "Maps and Legends", he grew too attached to his Enterprise crew. The thought of risking those he cared about as much as he did with Data (Brent Spiner) proved too much. There was a scene that explains the effect of Picard's self-imposed isolation on his loved ones and colleagues like Raffi. Seeing the long-term effects on her from her perspective puts context into the former admiral's motivation for absolution.
Perhaps to the series' benefit – but to the episode's detriment – writers Michael Chabon and James Duff spent most of the episode making sure the rest of Picard's crew all had the proper motivation to go on the unorthodox mission. Star Trek fans grew accustomed to seeing crew members serving onboard starships because of their Starfleet assignment. A series like Picard needed to establish everyone else's reason to be on the ship from the ground, up.
Picking Up Where It Left Off
Hanelle M. Culpepper directs the episode as the third act of a pilot. She kept the series' ebb and flow, but the need to establish Chris and Raffi affected pacing. On the other side, the series reintroduced to Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco) who personally takes Soji (Isa Briones) under his wing. What drew her aside from being a quick study is her empathic abilities, which factor late as she discovers more of her true nature.
Del Arco makes his triumphant return as the beloved TNG character. Given how he changed definitely warrants expanding. Since it's too early into Picard's first season, perhaps we'll find out what he's gone through in the near 30 years since he's last encountered Jean-Luc while he was still captain of the Enterprise.
The first of two standout performances in the episode is Rebecca Wisocky, who played the formerly assimilated Romulan woman Ramdha. She made the most with her brief screen time as a seer evoking intense emotions and visions. Wisocky's chemistry with Briones was one of the stronger aspects of the episode. The other is Cabrera who managed to create two distinct personalities as the cynic mercenary Rios and as his more charismatic, inquisitive and outgoing Emergency Medical Hologram counterpart.
"The End is the Beginning" is a weaker episode compared to its predecessors, but it does what it needed to move the story along.