If you randomly stumbled upon the series premiere of Star Trek: Picard and didn’t know anything about the Trek universe, you might not even realize it was science fiction.
The new CBS All Access series — which brings back Patrick Stewart as Next Generation captain Jean-Luc Picard and debuts this Thursday, Jan. 23 — embraces a more deliberate pace that matches its 79-year-old star, finding Jean-Luc on his French vineyard at first as he spends time with his loyal dog Number One. That means fewer space shootouts and more quiet introspection… and that’s just how the team behind Picard intended it.
“I don’t think people look at Picard and go, ‘I can’t wait to watch that action show,'” executive producer Alex Kurtzman tells TVLine. “I think they look at Picard and they want a deep character study.” Jean-Luc does eventually get back into the thick of the action, spurred by the arrival of a desperate young girl named Dahj (Isa Briones), but “getting Picard through all the phases of what it’s going to take him to actually leave that vineyard and decide to go to the stars is not something we wanted to rush. We wanted to just let it sit and let each moment be believable and let that outcome become inevitable.”
And just because there aren’t phasers zapping every five minutes doesn’t mean Picard isn’t science fiction, as EP Akiva Goldsman notes. “[Star Trek:] Discovery, for example, is science fiction action-adventure. Picard is science fiction drama. Science fiction is a way of telling all sorts of stories, and yes, the kinds of stories we’re telling in Picard are probably more emotion-based. They’re slower, and they’re about this particular cusp of life, which is a story that is not typically told these days, certainly not in television.”
That more leisurely pace allows Picard to show us a world we’ve rarely seen on a Trek series: the planet Earth. “We’re Earth-bound for [the first] three episodes, really,” executive producer Heather Kadin reveals. “You’ll see things that are happening in space, but you’re going to primarily be on Earth.” In fact, “we see more of Earth, I think, in the first episode of this,” Stewart notes, “than we saw in the whole series of Next Generation.” As Kurtzman points out, “you haven’t really spent that much time on Earth as it exists in that timeline,” so “just to see what it looks like is really interesting.”
But don’t worry, Trekkies: There’s plenty of sci-fi action to come on Picard as well. “We do have spaceships,” EP Michael Chabon assures us. “We do have battles. We have planets and aliens and all the things that people are going to expect.”
Stay tuned to TVLine all week long for more sneak peeks at Star Trek: Picard, ahead of Thursday’s series premiere.