Star Trek: Picard sees Sir Patrick Stewart return as the beloved Starfleet officer Jean-Luc Picard after 18 years of being off the screen. His last appearance was in 2002's final Next Generation era film Star Trek: Nemesis. After the disappointing quality of Nemesis, Picard is a welcome addition to the Star Trek mythos. Absolute care was taken with the character development and the resulting first season is one of the most emotional and heartfelt seasons of Star Trek ever made. Stewart leads a stunning cast which includes Isa Briones as Dahj and Soji Asha, Alison Pill as Agnes Jurati, Michelle Hurd as Rafaella "Raffi" Musiker, Santiago Cabrera as Cristobal "Chris" Rios, Evan Evagora as Elnor, and Harry Treadaway as Narek. Veteran Star Trek actors make an appearance including Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine, Jonathan Del Arco as Hugh, Brent Spiner as Data, and of course, Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis as William Riker and Deanna Troi.
Jeff Russo returns to score Picard after successfully writing the music for Star Trek: Discovery, CBS's current show revolving around the Kirk era. When dealing with a franchise that, at this point, spans across a half century, reflecting and recognizing where we've been is an essential element of keeping the emotional relevance alive. At the same time, why continue the franchise if not to push forward into new territory. Russo met these expectations and went beyond them with Picard. He deftly balances both the familiar and the new in this score and it quickly becomes clear that Russo's music for Picard quickly surpasses his work for Discovery. Although the music isn't as personal or as grand as Michael Giacchino's contributions to the new Star Trek film series 11 years ago, there is a real intimate and beautiful quality to it, obviously informed by the unbelievably emotional acting, the superb quality of the writing and the poignant story.
To begin with, Russo's main title music for Picard is the most intimate and emotional opening titles in any Star Trek show ever. It begins with a tentative and wistful solo piccolo melody, which establishes Picard's roots — specifically a callback to the "Inner Light" flute. Next, a new theme, Picard's theme, in the solo cello is boldly stated. It's warm and satisfying and represents everything we could dream for the character of Picard. A return to the flute melody questions the resolve of the new Picard theme, perhaps signifying that his journey isn't over yet. Finally, Russo brings back Jerry Goldsmith's old "Star Trek March" tune as a nice remembrance of where we all came from. It is stunning musical storytelling and one of the best main titles I've heard in recent television. The music has a new sound from what we've heard before, but at the same time carries with it the same DNA that stretches back to the Ron Jones' Next Generation scores, even further to Alexander Courage's 1960's scores.
After the "Main Titles", the first episode opens with "Walking with Number One" which firmly establishes the orchestral treatment of Picard's music. A solo piano ostinato blossoms into an expansive statement of the initially wistful piccolo melody of the main title, subtly backed by sinewy electronic drones. This opening contrasts delightfully with the thoroughly electronic opening of the next cue "Dahj Activates". Pounding percussion and frenetic 32nd note pulses score Dahj's android "awakening" after she and her boyfriend are attacked by what turns out to be Romulan assassins. This contrast in orchestration, between acoustic and electroacoustic forces, becomes a dynamic storytelling feature of the entire score. Acoustic material comes to represent the human characters, especially with Picard's warm cello melody. A more soft and delicate electronic aura engulfs Soji's character as she learns and eventually accepts her identity as an android. A wonderful example of Soji's orchestration can be heard in "Soji and Narek Waltz". Conversely, harsh and particularly more violent electronics feature prominently in the music for the cold, ruthless and dominating Romulans. Russo also brings back Fred Steiner's "Romulan theme" from The Original Series episode "Balance of Terror" and uses it quite liberally throughout the 10 episodes. It is heard for the first time towards the end of the cue "Twins". For the most part, these orchestrations remain separate, but a more hybrid style soon emerges in the back half of the season as all the characters converge and Soji embraces her human side instead of her robotic side in the finale.
In another example of orchestration, Russo opts to use chamber ensembles to illustrate more intimate and personal scenes. In "Dahj and Picard Speak", harp, low marimba, and piano create an airy and introspective atmosphere. Soon, solo cello is introduced with a bed of string drones. Even with the increase of orchestral forces, the music remains light in texture because of Russo's thin counterpoint. Other highlights of intimate orchestration occur in the cues "Jurati and Rios Get Close", "Raffi Opens Up", "Picard Bids Farewell" and "Rios Feels Lost".
"The Painting" features the first of Russo's quotations and allusions to the "Star Trek March", Goldsmith's main theme for the 1979 film Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which was subsequently adopted as the main title music for The Next Generation TV show. It has since become acutely associated with the character of Jean-Luc Picard himself and everything that he represents and stands for. Quotations of the "March" as well as Alexander Courage's original "Star Trek Fanfare" permeate across the score but are never overused. In "Picard Requests Help" the two iconic themes are combined one after the other in a cathartically nostalgic statement. The use of the "March" theme in particular becomes extra special when Picard seeks out his old friends and shipmates William Riker and Deanna Troi. In "Picard Bids Farewell", which is one of the most emotional cues of entire score, a floaty piano melody rides gently above a stately marimba line, before strings rise up to carry the music forward, all underscoring Jean-Luc and Will's farewell conversation. A horn statement of the "March" makes an appearance at the end of their conversation, effectively putting a musical coda to their relationship. Other quotations include Goldsmith's Voyager main title theme that here represents the return of Seven of Nine. That theme is heard first in the cue "Mystery Ship" and reappears in "Leaving with Maddox", and "Leaving the La Sirena".
The soundtrack ends with a very lush and romantic setting of Irving Berlin's tune "Blue Skies". The tune first made an appearance in the Star Trek franchise in the film Star Trek: Nemesis. Data sings it during Riker and Troi's wedding. Its reappearance at the end of the film whistled by Data's brother "B-4" firmly established the tune's melancholic but hopeful sentiment to the character of Data. In Picard, it's sung by Soji actor Isa Briones over the scene depicting the final death of Data and is a fitting, highly emotional musical ending to the character.
Star Trek: Picard is a magnificent contribution to the vast musical universe of Star Trek, at least as far as the TV music goes in the franchise. Jeff Russo builds a wealth of really tender and passionate cues that perfectly serve the show's focus on character. Yes, it has action and big set pieces, but these all revolve around the character driven plot. There is such a strong sense of identity displayed in this music that it is simply a joy to listen to — that coupled with strong acting and great production design makes for an unforgettable viewing experience.
Note that the track order is different on different download sites.