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‘Picard’ begins again by balancing classic with new

"The Star Gazer" opens with an action-packed crisis involving an unknown Starfleet vessel, with many of the characters we know aboard it, a furious alien assault, and a countdown to disaster — before then flashing back to "48 hours earlier" and using the entire hour to set everything in place for that big climax. It’s a cliche that’s pervasive in the current era of streaming, as if the producers are so afraid we won’t be patient enough to go along for a ride that builds to that conclusion without first teasing it.

It’s the move of a desperate pilot trying to grab the attention of impatient executives — not an established show with a built-in audience and an already-shooting subsequent season. The opening flash-forward seems all the more unnecessary because "The Star Gazer" does an almost unfathomably good job of setting all the pieces in motion to get us to that moment, allowing us to marinate in the comforting and well-realized atmosphere that is the Federation in what is now the very early 25th century, while also taking its time and exploring the central theme du jour surrounding Picard — his steadfast reluctance toward romantic commitment because of … reasons.

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