At the bar, where Enterprise-D souvenirs remain unpopular, Riker, now a white-bearded captain — “the handsome elder statesmen of Starfleet” — is immediately confronted with a world that has passed him by. Even a casual viewer who’s not an expert on obscure names like Rigel VI, Picard’s backstory as the assimilated Borg leader Locutus, and all the other ins and outs of “Star Trek” lore can get a sense of their history, as they knock back drinks and Riker talks about “the good old days.”
On the well-lit bridge of the Enterprise-D in “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Riker served as Picard’s righthand man, but in “Picard,” they now sit side-by-side, as peers, while their low-lit shuttle approaches the USS Titan. As they enact a ruse to commandeer Riker’s old ship, it’s as if they’re two space cops, bending the rules in a system where no one can be trusted (per Crusher’s warning) and other Starfleet officers might be dirty. The current insulting captain, Liam Shaw (Todd Stashwick), almost comes off like the stock “disapproving police chief,” since he ultimately holds the power aboard his own ship. He doesn’t even wait for Picard and Riker to show up to dinner before he starts eating. Who does that?
Though it’s happening in space, Picard and Riker’s season 3 journey is likened to a road trip, and the premiere does a good job of showing their new, more casual rapport, with Riker’s little digs at Picard’s usual sour-faced demeanor helping to reset their dynamic as buddies rather than just a captain and his commander. Other “Next Generation” cast members may come and go from “Picard” season 3, but maybe there’s a reason Picard still calls Riker his “Number One.”
New episodes of “Star Trek: Picard” stream every Wednesday on Paramount+.