Since its Cold War beginnings, the Star Trek franchise has invited us to visit a fantastical world in which human beings were not the most evil and destructive organisms in the galaxy. It’d be hard to argue that we’ve gotten significantly worse as a species in the half-century since the show first hit TV in the middle of the civil rights movement and Vietnam War, but it’d be just as hard to argue we’ve gotten much better, and it seems completely inarguable that our political leaders have gotten much, much more embarrassing. When Patrick Stewart announced last year that he was going to reprise his role as Jean-Luc Picard—the most civilized and rational Starfleet officer of them all—it was clearly not lost on him that the character’s return would be a tonic to people recoiling from the abrasive irrationality of the current moment; he wrote on Facebook that the role gave him a chance “to research and experience what comforting and reforming light [Picard] might shed on these often very dark times.” At Comic-Con, CBS gave us the first glimmers of that light, and although it seems unlikely to reform much, it’s definitely comforting:
Orderly vineyards! Precise enunciation! Existential questions about one’s place in the world that seem to have answers! Even the dismembered corpse of a broken-down robot is neatly stowed in a dismembered broken-down robot corpse Pelican case with perfectly-sized cutout trays to hold each dismembered robot limb. There also appears to be some space-related drama, Borgs and phasers and Jeri Ryan and so on, but even that is set in a world in which interstellar exploration invokes a sense of wonder and excitement rather than dread and shame. (Imagine meeting an alien race—or even a Canadian—without being afraid you’d have to answer for Donald Trump!) In short, Star Trek: Picard looks like exactly the kind of thing you’d program into the holodeck if you wanted a vacation from America in 2020. The ten-episode series should drive a lot of people to subscribe to CBS All Access, but if it doesn’t get the numbers the network is expecting, let me suggest an even more comforting and reforming concept for the second season: Star Trek: Picard Hangs Out at His Vineyard and Refuses to Discuss Anything With the Star Trek Characters Who Visit Him Except Shakespeare and Viticulture. Make it so, CBS.