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‘Picard’ slowly goes into its second season aboard a starship filled with nostalgia

<i>Trae Patton/PARAMOUNT+/CBS</i><br/>

Review by Brian Lowry, CNN

Although “Star Wars'” current TV standard-bearers have been accused of what’s sometimes derisively known as “fan service,” it’s hard to imagine a more brazen practitioner than “Star Trek: Picard,” a show that exists primarily to rekindle nostalgia for “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” That’s not all bad, but season two once again finds the Paramount+ series moving at a warp factor of slow speed ahead.

The first season of the series closed with the title character receiving a new lease on life, which felt more than a little manipulative, but never mind. Patrick Stewart remains grand company in the title role even in his altered state, after a finale that essentially traded in one major death for another.

Season two again finds Jean-Luc Picard reconnecting with familiar faces, including Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan and John de Lancie as Q (before the letter denoted something else entirely), with the latter setting the plot in motion. They’re joined by holdover Jeri Ryan, among others, in adding to the “Next Generation” roots.

Still, the narrative unfolds at a too-leisurely pace through the first three episodes, and involves Picard and his unlikely crew traveling back in time to the 21st century to thwart an existential threat. While there’s a long history of that, including past sojourns in “Trek” mythology, messing around with timelines “Terminator” style is one of those science-fiction wrinkles that runs the risk of lapsing into head-exploding territory.

“Picard” nevertheless remains perhaps the most marketable title under a “Star Trek” banner that Paramount, in its eagerness to provide must-have content for its streaming service, has essentially overfished. The roster piloted by producer Alex Kurtzman (joined on most by Akiva Goldsman) already includes the “Star Trek”-branded “Discovery,” “Short Treks” and the animated series “Prodigy” and “Lower Decks.” Another live-action entry rooted in the original series, “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds,” is due in May.

That’s a lot of boldly going for an AARP-eligible franchise, even before Paramount’s recently announced plans to try reviving the theatrical movies with Chris Pine and company manning the bridge.

“Picard’s” latest mission — returning to the past in an effort to build a brighter future — is thus inadvertently representative of the place where the “Trek” franchise currently finds itself. And while seeing Stewart at the helm is in some respects reward enough, the producers rely a bit too heavily on that goodwill with a season that, three hours in, feels as if it’s barely gotten out of drydock.

“Star Trek: Picard” season 2 begins March 3 on Paramount+.

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