Should Picard have died in “Best of Both Worlds”?

I have a local station, WADL, that on Saturday and Sunday nights airs Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes. In order. And I’ve come to really enjoy watching both series on those nights. I know there are ways to watch these shows at my convenience, but there’s just something more fun about knowing that while I’m watching “City on the Edge of Forever”, there are other fans watching it at the same time as me.

A few weeks back, the station aired the two-parter “The Best of Both Worlds”, which got me to thinking about rumors I had heard about the episode. According to some sources, Patrick Stewart was in contract negotiations between seasons, and it was possible he might not have come back, and Part II would have been his last episode, and Captain Picard would have been killed off or otherwise written out of the series. And that got me to thinking.

Would the Star Trek franchise have been better off without him?

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Before you go gathering together torches and an effigy with my face on it, hear me out. While I’ll admit I’m a guy who thinks Kirk was the better captain, I do like Picard, and I think Patrick Stewart is one of the greatest actors I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch. What I’m suggesting, however, is that if Picard had been written out of the show, maybe it would have been healthier for the movies that followed and the franchise as a whole. I’ll explain, but first let me say this: I understand why Stewart was kept on. Picard was and is a popular character, and producers tend to be pretty conservative when it comes to making major changes to a show; the philosophy generally followed is that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

With that said, let me take you back to “Best of Both Worlds, Pts. I and II”. Picard has been assimilated by the Borg, and has been used to cut a swathe of destruction through forty Starfleet vessels at Wolf 359. In Sector 001, local defenses are likewise disposed of, and it’s only through the efforts of Captain Riker and the Enterprise crew that Picard is rescued and the Borg vessel destroyed. Earth is saved, Picard is cured, and by episode’s end, Jean-Luc is once more in command and Riker resumes his position as first officer. And despite her playing a pivotal role in this groundbreaking two-parter, Lt. Commander Shelby’s fate is unknown, as she’s never, ever mentioned in the series again.

Wait… What?

Let’s look at those facts again (and I mean the facts we knew of at the time of the episode, not anything revealed later in the Deep Space Nine pilot): Picard was essentially used as a weapon to kill thousands of his fellow Starfleet personnel. From the way things are presented, there appear to be no survivors, just a graveyard of shattered vessels containing numerous corpses. Worse, it’s entirely possible the Borg scooped up any survivors along the way for assimilation, their very souls raped by the Collective before experiencing the sweet release of death when the Enterprise eventually destroys the Borg cube.

Should Picard have died in "Best of Both Worlds"?

And yet, there’s not even the slightest doubt that Jean-Luc Picard is fit for command after an ordeal like this? A man plugged into an alien hive mind, whose intellect was probed and mined for key military data, who was indirectly responsible for weakening the Federation and killing thousands, is both legally and medically cleared to return to duty right away?

Setting aside the questionable wisdom of putting this man back in command, let’s look at what’s more likely to have happened in this scenario. Debriefing would take months, if not years. He was a member of the Borg Collective, so what might he know? Furthermore, Picard is to anyone’s knowledge the first person to be rescued from the Collective; medically, they might be able to better understand how to free others. There’s no way he’s immediately leaving Earth, not when he’s such a valuable intelligence asset.

Caption contributed by Thomas

What’s the worst that could happen?

And now let’s turn our attention to Riker. The man was promoted; he got to sit in the Big Chair. He spearheaded the salvation of planet Earth. In the wake of forty ships destroyed at Wolf 359 and Starfleet’s subsequent buildup, would his superiors simply let him slip back into the XO position? Would Picard? Would Shelby, who proved herself an excellent first officer?

Caption contributed by Thomas

“You’ll have to pry me out of the XO’s seat.”

We saw in “Best of Both Worlds” that Riker is more than ready to be captain. Why is he still an XO by the end of the episode? There’s no logical reason for him to stay in the position. Oh sure, you could argue he wants the Enterprise or no ship at all, but he doesn’t really get to make that call. If he doesn’t want a command, then Starfleet should ground him and put Shelby in the Enterprise’s XO position. I don’t get to pull that sort of bullshit on my boss, why does Riker? His defiance is ridiculous. Starfleet allowing him to get away with it is more so.

Caption contributed by Thomas

Then again, who can say “no” to those eyes?

So Picard shouldn’t be captain, and Riker shouldn’t be first officer, and Shelby shouldn’t be walking off into the sunset deprived of the position she’s rightfully due. While the ending of “Best of Both Worlds” gives you warm, fuzzy feelings, it’s full of so many plot holes that the second part drags down the first. We go from a buildup where the status quo might be changed Forever! to one where ultimately there are no consequences whatsoever. I’m serious. In the follow up episode “Family”, Picard goes home, has a good cry, and then he’s just… fine.

And in the long run, this cripples the franchise.

“Best of Both Worlds” establishes the precedent that nothing ever changes. Well, okay, Wesley finally leaves, but was anyone sorry to see him go? And they had already hinted as early as season one that young Crusher was on his way out to join Starfleet eventually. Other than Wes’ departure, the main cast stays the same, and stays in their respective positions, never talking about things like career advancement or promotions. Starfleet never seems to pressure anyone to take on new assignments; everyone is quite comfortable where they are. The only person who gets promoted is Deanna Troi, who then somehow outranks Data, the super-intelligent android who himself actually commanded a vessel in combat!

Caption contributed by Thomas

Even in the Federation, some people are more equal than others.

These problems plague the show throughout the rest of its run, and continue on through the movies. And yes, I’m well aware of Worf’s transfer to Deep Space Nine. But remember what I said about producers being hesitant to change the status quo, doing so only when absolutely necessary? Michael Dorn never would have joined the cast of DS9 had the show been doing well in the ratings. He was there to rope in all the TNG fans.

“Best of Both Worlds” set the tone of the show’s cast remaining static to a point that would eventually stretch credulity. In an environment where the Borg are an omnipresent threat, logic would suggest Starfleet would want senior personnel to take on new assignments, so as to spread that knowledge around in positions of responsibility. Still later, in the time of Insurrection, the Dominion war is raging, and rather than Starfleet attempting to transfer experienced officers to ships crewed with undoubtedly green recruits, everyone is (once again) still together on the Enterprise. And what is this vessel, one of Starfleet’s most powerful starships, being used for?

Should Picard have died in "Best of Both Worlds"?

Hosting parties. There’s a war on, and men and women are dying, dammit! This is no time for idle pursuits.

Should Picard have died in "Best of Both Worlds"?

Um… yeah…

Where was I? Oh, right, Insurrection. Worf shows up, because rather than spend leave with his parents or his son Alexander, he would much rather hang out with his old shipmates. What a dick.

Caption contributed by Thomas

But to be fair, no one liked hanging out with Alexander.

Hey, remember that touching DS9 finale, “What You Leave Behind”, where Worf is set to move on to bigger and better things? He’s named Federation ambassador to the Klingons, a post of great importance. But screw that. In Nemesis, he’s right back to answering Picard’s phone calls. How many DS9 fans do you think that pissed off? Between this and no DS9 characters showing up at all in First Contact, it was like they were relegated to second-class fan status.

And Riker’s situation is even worse; the ambitious young officer from season one has become a yes man content to play second banana for fifteen years [!] until finally getting command of the Titan. If Starfleet wasn’t willing to put this guy in command of a starship during a war, why would they give him the Big Chair during the peace? That’s yet another reason why Nemesis sucks more than Star Trek V.

Caption contributed by Thomas

Well, maybe not. But it’s close!

Seasons one and two of TNG get a lot of flak, and most of it is deserved. But in the episode “The Arsenal of Freedom”, we had a young Lt. La Forge take command of the Enterprise and pretty much save the day. What happened to that guy, that young officer so full of promise?

Should Picard have died in "Best of Both Worlds"?

When The Next Generation was conceived, one of the biggest fears of the producers were comparisons between the new characters and the TOS characters. Just look at how many Kirk vs. Picard arguments have raged over the decades. And so there was a concerted effort to make sure there were virtually no overlaps between old roles and new. Communications officer? Nope, now the tactical officer handles calls. Science officer? Naw, now we’ve got a thing called “Ops”. Captain? We’ve got one of those, and an XO besides. There was so much effort to eliminate any possibility of side-by-side comparisons that I was shocked Starfleet hadn’t abolished the role of captain altogether and just had ships run by committee.

Caption contributed by Thomas

Then again, a scene like this did happen in almost every episode…

But then a problem occurred when everyone realized how stupid it was that the Chief Engineer wasn’t a member of the regular cast. There were no less than four chiefs of Engineering on the Enterprise during season one, raising the question of just why this position had such high turnover.

Should Picard have died in "Best of Both Worlds"?

So eventually, someone decided to take a character off the overcrowded bridge, and all of La Forge’s character development was flushed.

Caption contributed by Thomas

Think about it: this guy could have been Chief of Engineering.

Sure, Geordi received two promotions in two years, which is a pretty impressive feat. But season one’s La Forge is nothing at all like season three’s; there’s no ambition beyond being Chief Engineer. And sure, it’s an awesome job with considerable prestige. But what happened to that guy who sat so proudly in the captain’s chair in an early episode? We never saw him again. Except in an imaginary future.

Caption contributed by Thomas

Pictured here: the Geordi that never was.

I realize this seems like a bit of a tangent, but it goes to the mindset of the show’s producers. There was no long term planning, not when the series started, and not between seasons three and four when Stewart was going through contract negotiations (there are conflicting stories about this. Stewart said he had signed a six-year deal, while Jonathan Frakes says otherwise. Or it could be Stewart had an option to opt out after three years, or he was renegotiating in light of the show’s unexpected success). It seems they were content to plan things out a handful of episodes at a time and hope for the best, and you should just be grateful you’re getting a new Star Trek show at all. Don’t take risks, don’t make waves, don’t generate any controversy. And long-term storytelling? That’s risky.

I lay a lot of the blame on Gene Roddenberry, of course. He’s to Star Trek fans what Lucas is to Star Wars fans, in that he’s the architect of this great creation, and at the same time, he was the guy holding the can of gasoline and a box of matches and threatening to burn it all down. In the old days, Roddenberry had producers like Gene L. Coon and Fred Freiberger around to make sure things didn’t get out of hand (and I know Freiberger is much maligned for producing the original series’ “turd season”, but without Fred, there probably wouldn’t have been a third season at all, since Gene was phoning it in).

But beyond that, I think you can trace this problem to Rodenberry firing Gates McFadden at the end of season one. No, not because I’m a huge Dr. Crusher fan; no offense intended towards Ms. McFadden, but I found her character to be boring. What happened was Dr. Pulaski didn’t catch on with the fans (why, I don’t know. The show had no conflict before she showed up, and her being on hand to provide it was refreshing), and Gene didn’t take well to the criticism. I attended a Star Trek convention during that time, and according to the host, Roddenberry said in response to people’s dissatisfaction with Pulaski, “I don’t make Star Trek for the fans; I make it for me.” Few men have a larger ego.

Caption contributed by Thomas

At least this guy has the bank account to back it up.

Fan backlash was pretty ugly, and Rodenberry caved to pressure and brought Dr. Crusher back. This entire incident only bolstered the studio’s desire to play things safe; to them, it bore out the value of the policy of fan appeasement. Trust me; Gates McFadden’s presence or absence on the show during subsequent seasons would not have swayed ratings one way or another. Pulaski was sadly (in my opinion, anyway) booted and Crusher was returned, and the dozen or so Dr. Crusher fans rejoiced.

Would Patrick Stewart leaving the show have had that dramatic of an impact? Good question. TNG had much more of an ensemble cast than its predecessor; Worf, Data, and Riker all had strong followings. Without Stewart there, perhaps we would have seen a greater push to give the other characters more to do?

One thing TNG did right was to spread the love a little bit, and give various cast members opportunities to shine. Worf had “Heart of Glory”, Geordi had “Booby Trap”, Troi had “Face of the Enemy”, and Crusher had “Remember Me”, all of them quality episodes showing how the “lesser” cast members could more than hold their own in the spotlight. Without Stewart present, perhaps there would have been a greater push to give these characters more than just one or two episodes per season. And with Elizabeth Dennehy on board as Commander Shelby, we would have gotten some stories for her as well.

And let’s not forget that TNG had done quite a bit to expand its supporting cast, with recurring characters like Miles O’Brien, Ensign Ro, and Lt. Barclay. All of them had wonderful episodes devoted to them, and actor Colm Meaney was so impressive he was promoted to major character status on Deep Space Nine. So while Stewart was an important component of the Star Trek franchise, he was by no means the keystone whose loss would have resulted in the franchise’s collapse.

But Tom, you might be asking. How would Stewart leaving help the franchise in terms of your complaints about the characters being static? Wouldn’t everyone still be stuck where they were? I’ll touch on that in my next article, where I’ll speculate on what a Picard-less Star Trek universe would have looked like, and what that would have meant to the rest of TNG, as well as the movies and the series that came after.

Tag: Should Picard have died?

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  • CaptainCalvinCat

    Oh but Eppy (Elizabeth Paula Shelby) plays a great, important role in the Peter David Series “Star Trek: New Frontier”.

    I like her in this one more, than in “Best of Both Worlds”. ^^

    • Thomas Stockel

      I love Peter David’s books and I like Shelby in them, too.

  • Zorha

    I agree with you. That’s a bit of a tangent. A well versed tangent, though.

    I would have personally loved to have seen William Riker as Captain of a salvaged and restored USS Pegasus, with Thomas Riker as XO. Hilarity ensues.

    • CaptainCalvinCat

      Or – as they initially planned – let William Riker die on that Planet and Thomas Riker be the new Character on the Show.

  • Clu Gulager Alert!

    Thomas, you said exactly what I’ve thought about TNG for years. Best of Both Worlds, while great, kept the franchise locked in neutral for the next decade or so. I’d go so far as to say that the “take no risks” attitude was the reason for many of the flaws when they photocopied TNG to make Voyager and Enterprise, Even DS9 didn’t really risk its core cast. DS9 took them to extremes more often, but much of the sacrifice and gritty character development came from their guest characters.

    I do have my doubts that Jonathan Frakes could’ve carried TNG, though. I like the guy, don’t get me wrong, but Riker never had the character development he really deserved. He would’ve been derided as “Kirk light” or something. If they had really taken BoBW all the way, either Picard or Riker would’ve had to go, and I bet they would’ve sacrificed Riker (i.e. transferred him away to another ship).

    • Thomas Stockel

      Yeah, that’s why I felt the show’s biggest strength was it’s ensemble nature. Data and Worf had strong back stories and with episodes like Remember Me (one of the few times Gates McFadden got to lead) and Deanna’s Face of The Enemy it showed that when the writers had the inclination to they could shine the spotlight on other characters. Just as long as it wasn’t with drek like that shitfest Sub Rosa. I mean, wow, that was some embarrassing stuff.

    • The reason Frakes feels like he couldn’t have carried the show is because there are not a lot of the really good episodes focusing on him. He could have done “Inner Light” or some version of “Tapestry”, but he did not get the opportunity because much like in the show itself, Picard was there to do it.

  • Thomas Cookson

    If Picard had died here, I don’t think we would have gotten stories like The Inner Light, Chain of Command or All Good Things, or they wouldn’t have worked as well with other characters.

    • Thomas Stockel

      Absolutely, and I was going to address that in my follow up post, how there would have been some definite cons to Stewart’s leaving. The episode Sarek, for example, simply could not have worked with anyone other than Stewart interacting with Mark Leonard like that.

    • E.Buzz Miller

      or my favorite Q episode ‘Tapestry’, but surely there’s a way they could have reconfigured those Picard led stories to work with others.

  • Hal_10000

    While I agree with your thesis, I disagree with the specifics. For most of its run, Patrick Stewart was the main reason, if not the only reason, to watch the show. Some of its best episodes — Inner Light most obviously — were simply carried by him. Without Stewart at the helm, I think the show doesn’t last as long as it does. However, I do agree with the idea that some turnover in the rest of the cast would have been good (and made more sense). To my mind, it was Riker, not Picard, who should have been written out of the show (to his own command) with periodic cameos. Some of the best aspects of the show involved turnover — the death of Yar, the addition of Rho. I think a more aggressive turnover of cast through promotions, deaths and transfers would have made it a more dynamic show and staved off the stagnation you talk about.

    • Thomas Stockel

      I hear what you’re saying, but it still doesn’t address the corner the writers had written themselves into where Picard is concerned. Yeah, it would have been nice to have seen Riker written out, but how does Picard stay on? Unless they used the Picard Project scenario I pitched above, with Shelby as his XO, watching his every move from the XO’s seat…

      • Muthsarah

        You mean, turn Shelby into an pre-Eddington? That woulda been mighty welcome, but Gene still had some sway at the time (EDIT: by which I mean his optimistic view on the series’ characters and universe), and TNG was as conflict-averse as Trek ever got. Having a character whose raison d’etre is to watch the captain for signs of treachery….eesh. She mighta come off more like Commander MacDuff. (EDIT: Or a Soviet commissar. How would that fit into Starfleet?)

        • CaptainCalvinCat

          I don’t think, that one should try to bring more and more conflict. In the audio-version of “Code of Honour” – which I still have on tape – they made Riker look like a guy, who is just waiting for his Captain to make a mistake, that he can file in a report, so that he can become the next captain.

          Yeah, I hated that.
          I have no problem with conflict as an outside force (attacking aliens and whatnot) but I HAVE a problem with internal conflict as something to bring the characters forward.

          take SG-1 and SG:A and then compare it to SG: U.

          The mother-show and the first spin-off used characters, who sometimes bickered BUT never openly hated each other. In SG:U you suddenly have the Nicholas Rush character make it look, as if the Colonel killed a crewman.

          Yeah, I hated that, too. ^^

    • E.Buzz Miller

      Yeah, and I mean no offense to the rest of the TNG cast, but he was leagues ahead of the rest as an actor who could handle dramatic parts.

  • postmanblues

    At the time and for some years after, there was no better TV cliffhanger than Part I. So let down by Part II and Family. I really thought Picard would die, Riker would be captain, and Shelby would join the crew. Sadly no. It was here my interest in TNG drifted away. Now, almost 25 years later, my brother and I still mourn Part II and the TNG that could have been.

    Yar, Pulaski, Shelby, and Selar. Far more interesting characters. Even Ensign Gomez showed potential. Don’t mention Laren.

    Having rewatched the series at least once in the last ten years, I realized how much better the show was in seasons 1 and 2 when Roddenberry, Paramount, and producers fought each other over the direction of the show. Tracy Torme should have been in charge.

    • Thomas Stockel

      Well, I wouldn’t say seasons one and two were necessarily good. There was a lot of smug going around that crew, looking down at the likes of the Ferengi for their silly greed, for example. You can see Gene’s ham-fisted style there. I think season three showed true growth. Watch SF Debris’ recent reviews and you see how the writers were doing long term story telling with the Romulans. I never noticed how Sins of The Father tied into the Romulan arc so subtly before SF explained it. Once he did, it was obvious. The Romulans planted evidence of a Klingon traitor, hoping to 1) start a Klingon civil war or 2) Screwing over Worf, the guy who let a Romulan die on the operating table.

  • Eliot Littlejohn

    hi tom i disagree except for the episode outcast. Riker never really stood out i know how close we came to not having picard in the rest of tng. Having a lame captain can hurt a series like voyager and even though i strongly disagree enterprise. I cant imagine tng without picard besides bill cosby patric stewart was my other father figure. while your pondering about a same sex marriage between bill cosby and patric stewart. Family is my favorite episode of tng. Riker never had a emotional break down like that. Forget tng what do you think the orginal series would be like if captain pike never got disabled and in season two the klingons killed kirk and spock or captain pike took over the enterprise. If you think about it along those lines i think you will realize how weird that would be.

    • Thomas Stockel

      I don’t deny that Frakes is not as good or as versatile an actor as Stewart. But with TNG being an ensemble cast show I think it could have survived Stewart’s loss. Still, yeah, in retrospect it would have probably felt a little weird. Bear in mind, though, the show had seen cast changes before. Denise Crosby had left, Diane Muldar had shown up and McFadden left, then Muldar left and Gates returned. That early in the series I think people would have been able to handle Stewart leaving, especially if the story had been powerful enough.

      • Muthsarah

        Yeah, it’s almost not fair to the rest of the cast to have to be in Stewart’s shadow. It’s always been hard for me to tell if any of them are especially good actors, or if they’re purely dependent on the dialogue given. Stewart, except in Season One, of course, could make even lame dialogue sound pretty good. Which makes me wonder if they saved all the good lines for him, or if I only think they were good, because he was the one saying them….

        Outta curiosity, though: What do you think is Frakes’ (and/or Riker’s, if you recognize any difference) best episode in the show’s run? I think I can name the others’, but I’m less certain with him. I dunno if it’s BoBW, though I guess that’s where most would start.

        Picard – Split. For Picard, The Inner Light. For Stewart, Sarek.
        Troi – Face of the Enemy, her best episode by FAR
        Data – Split. For Data, The Most Toys. For Spiner, Brothers.
        Worf – Reunion. Got to run the gamut from brute force to shocked father to conflicted emo to romantic fool
        Geordi – Probably Mind’s Eye by a little bit over Transfigurations, though Galaxy’s Child is really fun in a cringe-worthy way. Hard to pin down, since Burton’s fun when he’s given something to do, though Geordi episodes tend to have him sharing the spotlight
        Crusher – Yeah, Remember Me is her character’s most prominent episode, but I’m casting my vote for the so-controversial The High Ground
        Wesley – First Duty, duh
        Pulaski – Probably Unnatural Selection

        • CaptainCalvinCat

          “Man of the people” was a great episode, too, which you can put in the “Troi”-Cloumn. Same goes for “Night Terrors” , “The Loss”, and “Dark Page”.

          • Muthsarah

            “Dark Page” gets a bad rap, I think. It’s a decent episode, from TNG’s weirdest season. Majel does a great job in it, and does what no other episode that season, barring “Pegasus”, managed to do, actually expand on a recurring character in a meaningful way*. (On that note, Pegasus’s the best Riker-centric story, certainly, but I wonder if it’s Frakes’ best). One of the better “mind screw”/symbolic dream episodes, which are a style I think got abused and rarely worked. As for the others….eh. Can’t say they in any way compare with Troi finally getting to scream AT the person screwing with her mind (rather than just scream period, as she tends to do), and even threatening to launch him into space. God, that moment almost redeemed her whole character.

            * – EDIT: OK, I guess “Attached” did that as well, but only for Picard, who needed the character expansion the least.

        • Thomas Stockel

          Best Riker episode? The Pegasus was damn good, although Enterprise’ finale sours it for me. Frame of Mind might be his best because Frakes shows Riker’s sanity getting frayed around the edges.

  • Münchner Kindl

    It makes a lot of sense that Starfleet wouldn’t pressure Riker to take command of a different ship, or why Geordi stays chief engineer instead of becoming captain. It’s called the Peter Principle: if you reward good performance with promotion, and bad performance with no promotion, in the long run, everybody will have been promoted to a position of incompetence. Geordi is good as Chief Engineer, doing both Engineer things and managing the rest of the engineers. Being captain of a whole ship is something very different, which he might have neither the aptitude nor the interest for.
    Similar for Riker, being XO and running the daily business is different from being captain and making long-term decisions.
    That Riker (and others) held more or less successfully the captains chair during a crisis doesn’t mean that they would be good doing that every day – not as good as they are in their current positions, or compared to good Captains like Picard. They also might not love the job as much as their current (real) one.
    Starfleet had help learning the lesson of putting the best person in their spot and rewarding them different from promoting them away again during the movie Voyage Home, where Kirk had been promoted to fly a desk as Admiral and was demoted back again to ships captain, because that was where he was best at and most happy, whereas at Admiral he was mediocre (bored and likely to cause trouble).
    And in the episode with the frozen people from Earth, Picard explains that people don’t work for money, but for self-improvement. So Geordi being full of drive early on, but content to stay Chief Engineer later, is not a contradiction. It can simply mean that Geordi strives to be the best chief Engineer possible (a second scotty?) instead of being a mediocre captain out of his depth.
    As for no consequences, Best of Both Worlds was a two-partner end/start of season. The very next episode shows Picard at home in France with his brother, trying to deal with the guilt that his knowledge contributed to the deaths of thousands of Starfleet crew at the hands of the Borg. That the twoparter ended with Picard on the bridge was thus more like a glimpse to what was going to happen after de-brief and therapy.

    • Thomas Stockel

      Ah, but Geordi had both the aptitude and interest in commanding a ship, as was seen in The Arsenal of Freedom, and teased in the episode Angel One. As I said, in the first season there was character development that was suggesting Geordi was an up and coming officer slated for command track, but it was flushed for the sake of convenience. I felt it was obvious he had it in him to be an excellent captain; he was confident enough to face down a superior officer, was able to inspire subordinates in a desperate situation, and come up with a solution to save the day. He also showed common sense to send the saucer section away before engaging in combat, thus insuring civilians were not in harm’s way. All in all it showed a flare for command that went beyond mediocre.

      And as for Riker, we saw in BOBW he was well qualified to command a ship. And if you remember the episode Parallels we do see Riker in command of Enterprise when it was revealed Picard had died in that timeline. Riker is well suited to command.

      It isn’t just about what a person wants for their career; it’s what is best for the military organization that that person serves in. If you are in the middle of a war, like, say, the Dominion War, then Starfleet is going to by necessity spread out their experienced officers. Picard should have gotten a new XO, who in turn would have been groomed for his own command. That is the nature of things. The XO slot is not a career in itself, it is the stepping stone towards advancement.

      • Muthsarah

        Geordi was a huge missed opportunity.

        Personally, I think the decision to move him from the helm to engineering was a good thing overall, and not just because you need a recurring engineer and they didn’t have one. For one thing, the command path was already clogged by Season 1. How many times can you have Picard, Riker, and Data all absent from the bridge at a critical moment, requiring Geordi, the young ensign/default Third Officer take over? He was a glorified Sulu where he was, and while that coulda been a good thing in some ways (as a comparison to how little Sulu got to do on TOS), I feel it was ultimately too restrictive.

        But the best thing about him being chief engineer is that he coulda been the show’s REAL audience surrogate. Screw Wesley!….If I could do that hyperlink think to the Doctor’s…action figure video, I would totally do that here…..He woulda been the show’s full-time shy, awkward, but super nice tech geek. Who knows the ship inside and out. Perhaps a little too passionately sometimes…that coulda kinda struck a chord with the audience, methinks.

        Also, it opened up the fun bromance-before-the-word-was-coined possibilities with Data, two geeks who geek out over geeky things. I won’t bring up Holmes and Watson, because I’m betting in the three seconds it took you to get that far in this paragraph, that already entered your mind. ‘Course, there’s Elementary, Dear Data….They coulda done something with that.

        And you know Burton coulda pulled that off. It’s the Reading Rainbow guy. Even without visible guys, he comes off like the nicest, most open, most friendly guy ever. TNG had plenty of “cold” characters – Picard, Data, Crusher by default (cold being a relative term, and her character being boring…you know). Even Deanna, the “emotional” one was usually written to be calm to the point of being annoying…at least until some alien invades her mind. The show needed heart, and that’s something the show usually only provided through making Data seem childlike. Which…was always weird, since he was also the show’s token genius. Another reason Wesley sucked!

        But the show rarely did anything with him. At least in engineering, he had a role they COULDA done something with. I just don’t think he woulda done as well as Sulu Mark II. And you can still put him in command if you wanna. Scotty was Second Officer, after all.

      • JD

        Riker was good in a fight but Picard was the diplomat and scientist so for an exploration ship we was the much better choice for captain.
        And with a 5 season “mission” who’s to say how long starfleet would have kept a promising candidate in the same position to learn from one of the best?
        after the events BOBW i would think it would have been years before the replacement ships were ready for service and to be crewed up

        • Thomas Stockel

          Ah, but in the opening of BOBW Riker was offered a command, so there was at least one ship out there ready for him.

          (Consults Memory Alpha)

          Oh. The USS Melbourne…which was destroyed at Wolf 359…

          Hmmm. Well, The Melbourne was the third offer made to Riker for a command (he was offered one before he chose the take the XO’s slot on Enterprise, and he was offered a ship in season one), so there was no sort of plan in regards to how long a body stays an XO; it’s a case-by-case basis.

          I do think you are selling Riker short; he was more than just a good fighter. In the third season episode The Price he proves to be a shrewd deal broker when it came to negotiations for the Barzan Wormhole in the episode The Price.

  • Münchner Kindl

    Oh, and the trouble with lack of planning was not specific to TNG, it was right at the start for TOS, too. Do you think they would have broken up the great trio of Kirk, Spock and McCoy? Never, even if TOS had run for as long as TNG.

    • Thomas Stockel

      It’s a valid point. But at least with the movies there was an effort to show people had moved on. In The Motion Picture McCoy and Spock had quit and Kirk had been promoted. In Wrath of Khan Spock was a captain and Chekov a first officer. In ST VI Sulu was a captain. The TNG movies? Everyone stayed where they were for fifteen years straight, or if they went away like Worf they came right back to where they started.

  • maarvarq

    The lack of planning is what always held Star Trek as a franchise from true greatness. Instead of a fully-worked out, believable universe, it wound up a bunch of things that seemed like a good idea at the time.

    • Clu Gulager Alert!

      I blame a lot of Star Trek’s lack of planning on the fact that fully fleshed out sci-fi universes didn’t really come into vogue until about 10 years after TNG.

      • Really? Lots of fantasy universes had been made long before that, like Conan and Middle Earth. And “Dune”.

  • Muthsarah

    I hope this follow-up article isn’t too long in coming. I’ll hold my comments until then.

    Except for one: In all my reading of history, it’s astonishing to me how common it is for the “eventual” cause of a nation’s/empire’s decline or collapse to be intrinsically built into their earlier days, with decisions made that seemed to work out pretty well. Their glory years sow the seeds of their collapse. Perhaps for no other reason than that they were a product of their time. It made sense for China and Japan to reject contact with the outside world in the 15th-17th centuries, but not in the 18th. It made sense for Rome to rely on foreign mercenaries prior to the 3rd century, so why not the 4th? It made sense for the Soviet Union to push top-down heavy industrialization programs to the exclusion of private industry in the 1930s, so why not in the 1950s? Worked before, so why change? Short answer: because the world changes. Because your own circumstances can change.

    As it is with Trek. For a show to survive in the short-term, you have to make some short-term decisions; it’s irresponsible to put so much time and inspiration into ideas you’re not planning to pay off for years down the line, as you probably won’t get that chance. Most shows don’t. You lead with the best ideas you have. But, that comes at its own cost, especially if you don’t know when it’s time to move on. And, even then, there’s a risk in upsetting a formula that’s in the process of working, if you know when to make a change, but you make the wrong one. Conservatism works…for a while. Innovation works…sometimes.

    Given that TNG’s third season was still a bit uncertain (though my favorite season overall), why would the showrunners, at that time, want to see their best character walk, JUST as the show was finally coming together? And remember, most people think Seasons 4-6 are the show’s golden years. Keeping Picard directly lead to that. Choosing to keep a more fluid cast mighta upset that. The decision they all made worked out spectacularly in the short term. That is clear. All we can do is speculate about what would have happened had they chosen to kill Picard. And we’ll never know, just as they couldn’t have known the result of their decisions at the time.

    Yes, BoBW, aside from being one of the series’ most popular episodes, is probably the first major turning point in the franchise’s history, unless you wanna count “The Cage” and ensuing revamp (EDIT: Oh crap, I completely forgot about the first two movies…). Unlike most of them, however, this one did lead to some clear benefits. Most of the others – the debut of DS9 and the reaction to its earlier struggles (serialization and re-introduction of Worf, increasingly war-based stories), the debut of VOY and the reaction to ITS earlier struggles (reject continuity in any form, add Seven), the production of Generations (and possibly of Insurrection), debut of ENT and the rea…. – had much, much more spotty, if not outright disastrous, results.

    • Thomas Stockel

      I don’t deny that keeping Stewart seemed like a good idea. But my problem with the decision is creatively it made no sense. I think if Riker was to stay on board, if Shelby was to walk off without complaint, then the writers should have worked harder at explaining how/why the status quo was maintained.

      What if Starfleet suspected Picard was still part of the collective? What if Riker was kept on hand specifically to keep an eye on Picard in case he relapsed? And what if in the episode I, Borg, when Hugh calls Picard Locutus, Picard reverts? Starfleet’s fears were realized.

      See? Simple explanation why the status quo was maintained. Shelby was made head of the Picard project to monitor him, possibly they were using Picard as a conduit to monitor Borg activity. And I just came up with all of that just now off the top of my head.

      • CaptainCalvinCat

        I think this “what if they thought he’d still be a part of the
        collective”-way of thinking would’ve hurt the characters more, than it
        would’ve helped them – at least to me.

        And I can prove that.

        Compare and contrast Star Trek: Voyager/Battlestar Galactica (reimagined) and
        Stargate – SG 1.

        All three shows have a version of the same concept – the person from “the
        other species” – more reluctant (Seven), more very helpful (Teal’C) and
        more a middlething (Boomer/Athena).

        On Voyager and on Stargate, the alien was allowed to run around, to make
        friends, to learn something about the world, they are on. More reluctant (Seven
        wanted to stay Borg), more freegiving (Teal’C wanted to save his people and did
        this via the help of the SGC).

        And Iiked on both shows how the alien characters peut a peut were viewed as
        colleagues, friends, you name it.

        Even if Seven did a thing like – dunno – trying to escape, Janeway would still
        be standing there, holding out her hand in friendship. And even if Teal’C would
        do something, O’Neill would be standing up for him, would be saying
        “General, I trust this man with my LIFE!”

        And Hammond (the General) would say “Okay then. If you believe him, I’ll
        believe him.”

        On BSG on the other hand – both versions of Sharon were viewed as “the enemy”
        which, from their point of view is very logical – however: I like the
        “let’s trust her/him first. You can only gain trust, if you trust
        people”-approach, that even Janeway (yes, the crazy captain) had.

        Keeping an eye out for Picard, just in case he would become “the
        borg” again, might be wise, strategically – but this is TNG, where the
        main thing is “trust”.

        Later on in “First Contact”, the crew of the Enterprise-E shows the
        same trust in Picard.

        And yes, there is no way, shape or form, in which this is
        “strategically” safe, BUT I have to say: I like that. I like that
        they trust each other, that the idea of an evil shapeshifter caused so much
        uprising in the federation, because they were so trustful (or naive), that they
        never thought that something like that could happen.

        And you know why I like this – and would hate the idea, that Riker would have to
        keep an eye out for Picard? Because this is not the reality. In reality people
        are mistrustful of each other, because they don’t know, what those other people
        might do to them. But that is Starfleet – and you might think about Gene
        Roddenberry the way you want, but to me, the vision itself, a peace-loving
        society, not conflicted by war, stereotypes, capitalism, you name it, a
        society, in which everyone does what he does, because he LIKES to do that –
        that’s a great vision.

        And I can understand, why people would think, that later on, Genes vision was betrayed –
        people started to mistrust each other etc.

        Your version of the scenery – Picard being watched, just in case, he would become
        Borg again – would be fitting for DS09. But in TNG – if you ask me – it would’ve hurt the characters.

  • The_Stig

    I couldn’t possibly disagree more. While I do agree that Lt. Commander Shelby got completely screwed, had she became a regular her character would have become grating after a while.

    Also A: If Patrick Stewart walked, not only would the show have lost the greatest actor the entire franchise has EVER had, but it would have lost half of its heart and soul. Picard and Data ARE TNG. Riker was a great character, but he’s no Picard. We would have also been denied so many classic episodes that were classics because of the chocolate of excellent writing combined with the peanut butter of Patrick Stewart’s acting. I’m sure the show would have been fine without Stewart, Ron Moore would have seen to that, but it wouldn’t have become what it did.

    and B: Star Trek under Roddenberry and later Rick Berman was all about the status quo, although to be fair, Roddenberry never abused the reset button like Berman would become notorious for doing.

    • Clu Gulager Alert!

      I would agree that losing Picard after only three years would’ve been a big blow in terms of what we would’ve missed, but I also think the show missed a great opportunity to do…something…to keep things fresh. Keeping Picard but having Riker leave to take another command would’ve been a possibility, I suppose. I just think hitting the reset button as hard as they did cost the show big in terms of lost potential.

      As for Shelby, yeah I don’t see how she could’ve stayed on without a big personality overhaul. Too grating. That said, they could’ve at least given her some resolution. Her arrogance and overeagerness in Part 1 deserved a resolution of some sort, (not even a sequel episode, just completion of her character arc in Part 2) and it never came.

      • Muthsarah

        Please forgive the fannish speculation (I prolly give the writers too much credit, but everything I know of the show is filtered through rose-colored nostalgia goggles.)

        1. (For this part I do not ask forgiveness), Shelby woulda provided a strong, confident female character, the type TNG never saw until Ro Laren joined in Season Five (and even then, her confidence needed a second). Sure, having Shelby woulda rendered Ro moot, but having her as an everyday would been great. I like the idea of maybe keeping her around, just not if her only job is to monitor Picard on behalf of Starfleet security. Plus, it woulda bumped Troi off of the second bridge seat (she never fit there) as the second officer, and so freed Data to join Geordi in the “tech whiz” department. Dunno what “losing” Troi woulda done to the show (seriously, I’ve gone on record here as calling her “not a main cast member”, so ill was she used), but defaulting her back to Christine Chapel level (occasional guest appearance, even then in minor role) wouldn’t have hurt the show, if it woulda replaced her with someone better. As long as we still get “Face of the Enemy”, is what I’m saying.

        2. (For this part, I do ask some forgiveness). C’mon. The tension between Riker and Shelby in BoBW. Compare that with the Dead-on-Arrival and never-once-developed-until-Insurrection romance (“Second Chances” was Thomas, doesn’t count!) of Riker and Troi. You can see it. You know you can see it. Looooooooooove triangle. Does Riker want an equal, or to run back to the past, to the girl-he-left-behind? Does Shelby even care for Riker, or were the sparks between them purely based on rivalry? He’s supposed to be charming (and he is quite handsome, with one of the best beards EVER!), so SHOW THAT. If he flirts (as he is wont to do), does she reciprocate, or even want to? She comes off entirely career-orientated. But, seriously, is that the only thing on her mind? All the other TNG characters (even Data and Beverly, and even Wesley!) have romantic interests on the side. How does Troi react? Yeah, this isn’t exactly 80s/early 90s television, aside from maybe 90210 stuff (maybe….or maybe Saved By the Bell? I seriously don’t know that much about either). I guess “space [soap] opera” is asking a bit much? Just tossing this out there. It’s something you technically COULD play with. Other than have Riker and Troi do nothing for four more years and have Shelby disappear altogether. Better use of money than putting Worf, Troi, and Alexander into an expensive Old West Holodeck episode.

    • Thomas Stockel

      First of all, I hate Reese’s peanut butter cups, so you entire argument is automatically invalid.

      So there.

      Seriously you have a valid point in that Picard and Data are the two most important characters to TNG. And frankly I think that hurts the franchise. Focusing too much on those characters is part of why I think most of those movies suck, especially when they turned Picard into an action hero where Riker would have been a better fit for that role.

      Very true about Berman’s reset button mashing. I give him credit for helping to sustain TNG in the face of Rodenberry’s self-destructive tendencies, but I won’t give him a micron more due beyond that.

  • Muthsarah

    Something else just occurred to me: If Picard had died in BoBW, the best “Picard episode” (meaning one that only follows him and not any other regular character) woulda been…

    Captain’s Holiday.

    Yeah. Think about THAT.

    • Thomas Stockel

      Nonsense! There was…

      (consults The Daystrom Institute…and then Ex Astris Scientia).

      You’ve got a point there. Sarek could be argued as being a Picard-centric episode…but honestly it’s not. It’s a guest star vehicle. Some of Stewart’s finest moments don’t come until later.

      • Muthsarah

        EDIT: Ummm…never mind this comment. I was already getting into things I said I was gonna hold off on. Nevermind. For now.

    • Measure of a Man
      It was about Data, but the main character is Picard, and he gives the speech that wins the episode.

  • Eliot Littlejohn

    well the reason i dont think riker would have been a good captain. Is because as a character hes a basic he man type. Now he did have some great episodes. I think he got robed on a emmy nomination for the outcast. That was a funny episode were he went undercover as a alien and he had have sex with that alien lady dr for her to help him escape. I had no idea roddenberry fired dr crusher. Even though dr crusher and picard are close to the same age. Did roddenberry think that a slow building romance between picard and dr pulaski was a better fit. You cant imagine my suprise when i realized she did a coupel of episodes of the orginal series. Diane muldar was a hot lady back in the day.

    • Muthsarah

      “Even though dr crusher and picard are close to the same age.”

      Actually, they’re about 20 years apart. Picard’s in his 60s through most of the show, but thanks to future science, he can still rock a mean lavender speedo.

      [/nerd]

      And Gates McFadden wanted to leave the show after the first year. She had a really hard time with one of the showrunners.

      • trlkly

        Yeah, but if Picard is in his 60s while looking like he’s in his 40s, how do we know Crusher isn’t in her late 50s while looking like she’s in her late 30s? Was her age actually stated in any episode?

        • Muthsarah

          In an episode? Dunno. Might hafta check those who freeze-frame every shot of a padd or monitor, perhaps in “Conundrum”, where they flashed everybody’s record briefly.

          It’s been established in the franchise that Beverly was significantly younger than either Jack Crusher (her husband, Wesley’s father, Picard’s friend and subordinate…all until he died years before “Encounter at Farpoint”) and especially Picard himself (who was fairly old in general given his rise to captaincy, certainly older than most other officers we see), and some of the books I’ve read (they’re pulpy, I don’t necessarily recommend them) seem to concur: she met Jack when she was very young and he was already an established, experienced officer, and Wesley came soon thereafter. She’s more or less exactly as young as she looks, whereas Picard, because of future medicine, is older than he looks.

      • Brian Shanahan

        “And Gates McFadden wanted to leave the show after the first year. She had a really hard time with one of the showrunners.”

        There was some very bad blood between herself and Maurice Hurley (there are a lot of uncomfirmed reports that Hurley was harassing McFadden sexually), and the higher ups backed Hurley, so McFadden essentially quit before she was sacked.

        It was no coincidence that when Hurley himself was pushed out of Trek, Dr. Crusher returned from Star Fleet Medical to take up her ship job.

        • Thomas Stockel

          Thanks for letting me know that. I was ignorant of that terrible incident.

          • Brian Shanahan

            So was I too until recently, when SFDebris went on an extended rant about Dr. Pulaski (he’s right too the character as written was an awful person), in his review of the first episode of Season 2.

          • Thomas Stockel

            Oh, I have to disagree where Pulaski is concerned. I loved Pulaski. On a show where Roddenberry did his level best to remove conflict I thought it amazing that an abrasive character like her was even allowed. I especially loved how she did not think Data was a sentient being and I hated how by the end of the season for no reason whatsoever she’s his friend.

          • Sardu

            Pulaski was too obviously Bones 2.0 too work for me, (Crusty humanist! Suspicious of technology! Spars verbally with the logical Data!)

          • Thomas Stockel

            Mebbe so, but at least she had more personality than Crusher, who was one of ‘Trek’s most boring characters. The most she could aspire to was to be Wesley’s mother and Picard’s on again, off again love interest.

  • Eliot Littlejohn

    are you sure that would make patric stewart in his 80s. I think there close to the same age patric stewart just looked older because he lost all his hair in his 20s. I had no idea gates mcfadden left the show you say one thing tom says another. Yes picard totally rocked that lavender speedo. A funny tid bit when me and my brother saw that episode we said how cool would it be if he had a snake plisken tatoo.

    • Muthsarah

      “Are you sure that would make patric stewart in his 80s”

      Not Patrick Stewart. Picard.

      I know. It took me years before I realized they were different people. Supposedly….

      “I had no idea gates mcfadden left the show you say one thing tom says another.”

      Well, maybe not all the facts were made public, but Chuck says she left because of problems with Maurice Hurley, so….

      Whatever. Her character DIDN’T work out, and the show WAS terrible under Hurley’s direction. So everyone sucked.

  • Eliot Littlejohn

    well now we know they both are the same guy age wise. Yeah i think everybody’s rite season one was the worst of tng. Everyone was underused even dr crusher.

  • Gallen Dugall

    Nice to see a little love for TOS. The knee-jerk meme-based TOS bashing Trekies engage in has become a popular and intolerable celebration of ignorance. People need to remember that for all its low points the worst Trek episode was a TNG episode. An episode so bad everyone involved voiced concerns and discomfort before during and after filming, and now the episode doesn’t even get aired… and I’m not even talking about the horrible Dr Crusher falls in love with a ghost Anne Rice plagiarizing episode. I’m speaking of that which must not be named “Planet of the African Stereotypes” episode.
    but I digress
    I get what you’re saying here, and yes, it would have made it a more interesting show. I don’t think Roddenberry gets blame for this since it was Berman who stubbornly kept TNG and as much of the franchise as he could to the episodic format, with its end of episode reset, in spite of ongoing story arcs becoming so prevalent at that time.
    I hadn’t thought about how dramatically they changed the character of Geordi, but then again that first season was very uneven and a lot of changes were so welcome that everything else was overlooked.
    Even before reading your take on the “What If” I can tell you I approve. The show needed to be brought away from the TOS episodic structure far more than it needed to rename watchstander positions.
    Still, for all its problems. at least for a few seasons TNG managed to put an optimistic vision of the future on the air… before DS9 came along and made its name by taking huge craps on the established optimistic canon.

    • Thomas Stockel

      Yeah, TOS has it’s skeevy moments (i.e. Who Mourns for Adonais comes to mind) but by the eighties crap like TNG’s Code of Honor should simply not exist. SF Debris’ breakdown of that ep. is justifiably scathing.

      I too was not a fan of DS9 for a lot of reasons, but I don’t think the show’s tone bothered me so much as it’s boring first two seasons, Gul Dukat being a botched villain, Worf suddenly showing up (and I know that was a crass ratings grab), and Ben Sisko being just too perfect. He’s a badass martial artist super strategist who in his spare time co-designs Borg killing super ships. Does anyone but me remember in the pilot he was serving on board a tiny little Miranda class vessel? How does someone that super competent wind up on a ship that small? Oh, and he can cook, and he’s a great single Dad, and he’s the space Messiah, being half Prophet. Some people celebrate his bad-assedness. Me, from a RPG GM’s perspective he’s a shameless Mary Sue.

      • Gallen Dugall

        True. A lot of that comes from the episodic format which tends to assign skills as needed for scripts. I didn’t much enjoy DS9 but I’ll be the first to admit it had probably had the best cast. Everyone in DS9 was consistently good to great, the characters may not have been always well written but the cast was always impressive. Plus when Avery Brooks felt the muse he could chew scenery to rival Shatner.

        • Nate

          The interview miniseries “The Captains” is a phenomenal example of this. Put Avery Brooks in the same room as William Shatner, and there isn’t a piece of scenery left undevoured by the end of the episode. They’re not even doing dramatic acting!

          • Gallen Dugall

            okay – gonna have to watch that

          • Avery Brooks lost his mind apparently. Kate Mulgrew also comes off as deeply disturbed.

      • Sisko was also about to quit Starfleet when they shipped him to DS-9. He is manipulative, prone to overkill, and has a lot of pride that gets bruised very easily, I imagine Starfleet was more concerned with not giving him too much authority or advancing him considering how he seems to be a hothead. He is competent, but only his luck to be placed at the wormhole kept him in Starfleet and the subsequent war put his skill set of heavy strike military commander to the forefront.

        He is not a Mary Sue.

  • nejiblue

    I can see where you going with this and agree to a extent. However, lets say picard had died/left and riker and shelby had taken over. Who’s to say the show wouldn’t have been canceled a year later? I’m not saying that would have been the end of the franchise or something, after all TOS was technically canceled. However, there’s really no way to know what the franchise would have been like if picard had left at the end of Best of both worlds part II. It’s a what if, and like any other what if, there’s really no way to objectively judge it or compare it to what actually happened. While I did think(before first contact was released) that ending picard’s character with the borg in some form or another might have been interesting(and yeah, I did hate first contact for what it was), I don’t think it’s fair to say they were wrong to keep picard on because it “didn’t make sense”. TNG was a episodic show, just like TOS. It never made any serious attempts at arc-based writing, and it’s bascially judging it for something it wasn’t meant to be. And I love a lot of the picard episodes later on, including the borg ones. Hell, I thought “all good things” was probably one of the best TV finales of all time. And a lot of that was thanks to picard.

    Finally, I would also say you could say Star trek II, III, and IV were guilty of not “rocking the boat”, so to speak. spock dies in II. the enterprise is destroyed in III. and by the end of IV, there all back like it never happened. But I still love all 3 of those movies. Point is, I don’t think it was TNG’s problem alone. And it became something you could blame the show more for by the time you got to the dominon war in DS9,

    • Muthsarah

      “(and yeah, I did hate first contact for what it was)”

      I don’t hear this often enough online. 🙂

      “Hell, I thought “all good things” was probably one of the best TV finales of all time.”

      Ehhhh…..

      “And a lot of that was thanks to picard.”

      Well…yeah. And Q. Picard + Q was the show’s best running relationship. Of any sort. And not just as far as fun banter went, it cut to the core of the show’s message about humanity’s place in the universe.

      What would Q be without Picard? He didn’t have much of a rapport with Riker (they’re both fun-loving extroverts, even though Riker knew when to be serious), and the only other character he had interacted with by Season Three was Data. Q was a provocateur, and Data can’t really be provoked that way. But Picard was Mr. Serious, dignified, principled, restrained, and easily irritated. He was the perfect foil for Q’s antics. Same with DS9’s best relationships: Bashir and Garak, Bashir and O’Brien, Odo and Quark. You need strong contrasts that complement each other comedically or thematically. Q and Picard were already strong opposites by this point, and…well…it would have been very strange having Q be more or less directly responsible for killing off Picard. He brought the Federation to the Borg’s attention in their first appearance, after all, sped up the time of contact for…decades or something. And if Picard is his primary human contact, why then have the Borg, in only their second appearance, either kill off Picard, or cripple him and knock him out of the show? If Q cared even one whit for Picard, even as a test subject, why would he allow this to happen?

      Without Picard to specifically tease and challenge, Q would revert back to being a general malevolence. It would require de-evolving the character from what he was in Deja Q, Q Who, and even Hide and Q (Riker had already rejected Q’s temptations, so….). In other words, Q would revert all the way back to what he was in Farpoint. Any future interactions between him and the TNG crew would be as a general menace, as someone pitching the Enterprise into danger, for no reason other than plot, to test humanity by….I dunno….whatever flimsy reasons fit Season One.

      “Finally, I would also say you could say Star trek II, III, and IV were guilty of not “rocking the boat”, so to speak. spock dies in II. the enterprise is destroyed in III. and by the end of IV, there all back like it never happened. But I still love all 3 of those movies. Point is, I don’t think it was TNG’s problem alone. And it became something you could blame the show more for by the time you got to the dominon warin DS9,”

      Absolutely.

      Not that I don’t I think this is a fun exercise Tom’s doin’ here. But that’s a bit contingent on his follow-up post.

      No pressure.

  • I was talking about this the other week for no real reason.
    I have always been a fan of an evolving status quo and the tension that comes with a cast that can and will be pruned or revealed to have deeper and more complex personal interests.
    I really liked “Battlestar Gallactica”, I think that Voyager would have greatly benefited from a cast that had characters die off and be replaced by more and more refugee and loner aliens as the trip went on, until most of the main cast had never before been to the Alpha Quadrant, but went there because they were told and believed in the idea of the Federation… A personal voyage if you will.

    • Thomas Stockel

      I think Voyager would have benefited a bit more from that as well. Not necessarily eliminate the core group, but see more new faces on the ship. Sure, we got 7 of 9 and the Borg kids, but the former was little more than eye candy to me and the latter just felt like a pack of Wesleys.

    • Cyvaris

      Ironically some of the main writers for BSG were from Voyager and annoyed with the same issues you raised. Great to see people learn and improve.

    • trlkly

      Yeah, but BSG was also depressing as all get out (at least, in the beginning), and I don’t think that was the direction Star Trek wanted to go. Even in DS9, it’s about an optimistic future.

      I’m not saying that there aren’t some elements in BSG that might have improved Voyager (like character conflict). But even the originally proposed version of Voyager was very different from BSG. It was two groups learning to work together without the all-guiding hand of the Federation. It wasn’t a fight against an enemy that had infiltrated them.

  • Eliot Littlejohn

    i always thought voyager became crappy when they wouldnt stick with the villains they created in their own series. They had to leach the borg from tng. Species 8472 and the hirogen were awesome bad guys. One of the worst episodes was that one where they ripped off dark city and neutered species 8472. Takeing away the idea that they were a race that had mass insanity and just wanted to destroy everything. But they just explain that away and suddenly their friendly . 7 was a good character jeri ryan just acted badly sometimes. Which is weird because she was good in dark skies. The borg kids are like the delta flyer that was hyped up in every other episode in that season it was in who gives a crap. But it was nice naomi had someone else to play with

    • Muthsarah

      Voyager had plenty of problems before they got to the Borg.

      1. They abandoned their original premise of having a crew made up of straight-laced Starfleet officers and former renegades and had them start acting like a typical Starfleet crew almost right away. Janeway and Chakotay should have been vying and disagreeing and plotting against each other constantly (or thinking that’s what the other one was doing…), or at least giving them equal time as each one sides with their half of the crew over how to solve the weekly dilemma. Instead. Janeway was always right and Chakotay was always grumpy.
      2. The Kazon were terrible enemies. They were basically the Klingons, minus any dignity or nuance. They woulda been fine for an episode or two, but they dominated the first two seasons. What could VOY do with them that TNG and DS9 hadn’t done/were doing better with the much more popular Klingons?
      3. They relied on the Holodeck more than any other series (makes sense within the show’s premise, but it makes for very little dramatic tension when so many episodes are dealing with something fundamentally fake). And that had a bad rap even in TNG.
      4. Even though it was completely contrary to the point of the show, they would regularly feature “are the Voyager crew gonna find that one big shortcut home this time?” as episode-long plot setups.
      5. Neelix was supposed to be the fan-favorite character.
      6. Harry Kim was a nothing character even the writers admitted they hated, and would deliberately NOT write anything for.
      7. Robert Beltran didn’t like the show at all, and it showed.
      8. Neither did most of the writing staff.

      So that’s three characters, plus the one they booted off the show (Kes) of the original cast who had some sort of major problem that was never fixed. Almost half the cast. And the writers too!

      9. As was (famously?) mentioned on this very site in Dr. O’Boogie’s review of “Alliances”, the show admitted its lack of dramatic integrity, open-mindedness, or even vision, by hinting that the premise might actually change to what it had been logically building towards – the creation of a New Federation, centered on Voyager itself, and a loose alliance of other ships and crews and aliens traveling around with them. Then, in the very same episode, they threw that away too and basically gave the whole plan away by stating that they’re gonna stick with the old ways. In general. Always.

      So by the time it got to the end of Season Three, the show had very little that was actually working for it, and a mandate from the top to keep every episode as self-contained as possible. The biggest problem was that the show itself had no arc, no point. Just a premise that was abandoned, and a stubborn determination to not ever change what was never really working that well to begin with. Might as well sell out and give the audience what they seem to want: Borg and boobs!

      As for Species 8472 and the Hirogen, well, even if you liked them, the show’s premise required that they not stick around for too long. Gotta make room for new aliens with ever-sillier makeup. And more contrived Alpha Quadrant cameos.

      • trlkly

        And that’s why it made sense to shake things up with adding Seven. And a lot of people do think the show was better for her presence. (The Borg stuff didn’t get bad until Voyager was regularly beating them.) She was the second most liked character, after The Doctor.

        • Muthsarah

          Well, yeah…the show finally had a new character the writers actually wanted to write for, to make up for all the parts that clearly weren’t working. The new iceberg was far more compelling than the previous one (Tuvok), had a classical Trek motivation (learn to be human….like Data!), and due to her arbitrary Borg talents, could be shoehorned into just about any situation. She was the literal new face/other body parts of a show that, by Season Four, had abused the reset button so much than they needed nothing so much as a BIGGER reset button, for the show in general. And so it became the Seven show…featuring her plucky sidekicks Kathy and Tom, and the cuh-razy wiseass Doctor. And everyone else was there….somewhere.

          • CaptainCalvinCat

            That’s not entirely true.
            While I admit, they had Seven of Nine, the human swiss-army-knife, they had episodes, that showed, that even if she was clever, she had her moments of idioty.
            Take “The killing game”.
            She has this holo-grenade (hey, it’s voyager, just run with it) and gets up to throw it – and gets shot.
            And somewhere in heaven, hell or the celestial temple Sam Carter is facepalming.

            But we had great episodes for other characters as well.
            We had great B’elanna Episodes, one or two great Chakotay-Episodes, even Tuvok and Neelix had their chances to shine.
            Good, granted, when you’re Harry Kim, you’re screwed. ^^

          • Muthsarah

            I literally remember zero Tuvok, Chakotay, or Torres episodes from Season Four onwards.

            Harry goes without saying.

          • CaptainCalvinCat

            Okay, there was “The Fight” (which people see as a bad Voyager-Episode, but I happen to like it), “Shattered” (where Chakotay goes through all the different time-streams of the ship), Timeless (the 100th Voyager-Episode in which Chakotay and Harry are the saviours of the ship), One small step (which was supposed to be a chakotay-centric episode, so I’ll treat it as such), In the flesh (viewed as the episode that pussified Species 8472 – but on the other hand, again, I have no problems with it, in especially, because I happen to like the idea, that after a conflict you might have gotten a new friend and ally or at least not lost a friend), and of course “Waking moments” and “Nemesis”

            For Tuvok we have “Riddles”, “Repression”, “Nemesis”, “Retrospect”, “Gravity”,

            Torres had “Day of Honor”; “Revulsion”, “Random thoughts”, “Muse”, “Extreme Risk”, “Barge of Dead”, “Flesh and Blood”, “Prophecy”, “Lineage”, “Nothing Human”.

  • trlkly

    I don’t get the idea that what would make a good movie should have any bearing on how they resolved a TV show. Nor do I think the mere existence of Picard in the movies had anything to do with their lower quality.

    TNG, like TOS, was about an optimistic future. Killing off Picard would make it rather dark. Yes, they killed off Tasha Yar, but she wasn’t that important. Killing off Picard would completely change the show, and I don’t think it would be for the better. While Season 3 is often considered the best of TNG, people really like at least Seasons 4 and 5 because they are more of the same.

    Furthermore, pretty much everyone I know HATED Shelby with a passion. They set her up to be a jerk who happened to be right. She was not set up like Ro Lauren, who was a rebel fighting against the man. She was set up as a by-the-book officer who thought she was superior to everyone else. Plus Ro was only minimally in the show to avoid wearing out her welcome. A new XO would have to be in the show all the time.

    Killing off Picard and introducing a new character with a completely different dynamic would have broke the status quo right when the show had found it’s footing. It took 2 seasons to get it right. Shaking everything up again is nonsensical.

    Yeah, it doesn’t quite make sense why Picard was trusted so quickly again. But that’s the same with every alien takeover. At least this one had an episode where he resolved his issues. It’s not as if Picard just goes back to full duty. He gets pretty much ordered to shore leave to recuperate.

    And, yes, there’s a lot more they could have learned from Picard and his assimilation. But there’s a lot of stuff they could learn from a lot of episodes that they don’t. TNG was not a show with heavy continuity. It’s a primarily episodic show. (TOS is even more episodic.)

    I just do not agree with you at all. If you believe the problems in the movies was how they tried to make Picard an action hero, that’s fine. But I don’t see why that means he needed to be killed off in the third season. Riker existed to be more action oriented in place of Picard’s more cerebral actions. The movies needed to use Riker a whole lot more.

    I think the movies were as successful as they were because of Patrick Stewart. There’s a reason he still has a career in Hollywood movies. I think the movies would have failed completely without him. That is, if they were even made. Radical changes in shows often make them fail.

    • Muthsarah

      “While Season 3 is often considered the best of TNG”

      Would love to hear your source on this. You’re only the second person I know of to express this opinion. And I’m the first.

      • CaptainCalvinCat

        I’m the third. ^^ Well, Season 3 and Season 4. ^^

        • Muthsarah

          Are you with us….or against us?

          *eyes narrow*

          • CaptainCalvinCat

            ^^ Season 3 was awesome – the cliffhanger was really classic and I liked even the conclusion, so… yeah, I’m with you. ^^

      • Chewbacca

        The new uniforms made it. Whenever I caught a rerun on TV, the uniforms told me right away, if I might have tuned in to a good episode.

    • Thomas Stockel

      It’s true; Star Trek was supposed to be a more optimistic form of science fiction, and killing Picard would have been a risky move. But I am part way through watching season four on WADL and they just showed Reunion, the episode where K’Ehleyr is murdered by Durass, then in turn Worf kills Durass and quite possibly ruins any chance he has of clearing his father’s good name. Don’t kid yourself; the show could get pretty darn dark at times. And sometimes artistic integrity takes risk. If they wanted to go this route regarding Picard then perhaps they should have found another way to handle his

      I have to disagree with you regarding season three, though; so far season four’s Romulan/Klingon subplot has elevated the show to new levels of awesomeness. Three established the show was capable of good writing and characterization, like you said it found it’s footing. But season four’s writers and editors showed even more confidence. It is a stronger season…despite the botched beginning regarding Picard being allowed to live. 🙂

      No one you knew liked Shelby? Well, a lot of people I knew at the time had the opposite reaction to her. I guess before the internet opinions were relegated largely to localized phenomena.

      Finally, I have to disagree with you in regards to the success or failure of the Star Trek movies. They sold because of the Star Trek brand named slapped on them. Trust me, if Insurrection or Nemesis had been original motion pictures they would have bombed horrifically at the box office. I will concede the best part of First Contact was Stewart’s Ahab-ing up but I still have a lot of issues with the film.

  • Moppet

    I was always more of a Deep Space Nine fan, than the Next Generation. Still, i do remember catching this portion on T.V. when I was younger, and wondering what might have played out if this plotline had played. If we’d had Riker as Captain long term, personally, I’d have been interested to see that. I don’t know how other people would have reacted, but I liked Riker’s path through the show, despite not being the biggest fan of the show. Perhaps the fact that I’m more of a Deep Space Nine fan makes it easy to say these things though. I don’t know.

    I thought this article was an interesting read regardless of my opinions or preference of show, and I look forward to the next.

    • Thomas Stockel

      Thanks!

  • Chewbacca

    In my memory, Star Trek was one of the first shows which occasionaly supported an overall arc.
    I was used to 80ties TV Shows which have sometimes a character that shows up once in a while, but basically it was all back to ‘normal’ with each episode. The klingon civil war was pretty neat. They at least tried. I cannot deny that in hindsight it might be an interesting concept to change the captain of a star trek show… but I am sure I owuld have hated it, back then. Especially having Shelby become the new first officer. We didn’t know her and she came out of nowhere to screw around. Yes, now I know: because conflict!
    Well, me explaining why I might not be the greatest fan of creating every possible way of conflict, just to delay the plot a little further might take an article by myself…
    Well okay, a short example: Having ‘the master of lake-town’ knock out ‘Bard, the good guy’ by himself, is something I might not appreciate in a book adaption. (Read – Peter Jacksons forced conflicts)
    It just gets old. Very old. I have seen this conflicts already, again and again.
    One great moment of ‘Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy’: The vogons just fired 2 torpedos at the Heart of gold and death was almost inevitable… then suddenly the improbable drive turned the torpedos into a whale and a plant and also served the characters with a refreshing drink in their hands. I loved that. It was a cop out.. but I never saw that before, and probably will never again. Also, Indy just shooting the big sword guy…
    Oh well… as I predicted I got carried far away. So what was my point?
    I would have welcomed a greater overall-arc. A huge change in the show that will remain throughout the series. I know people planned something. Geordi was supposed to mutate because he had some alien blood in him… okay… might be have been interesting? Is it like this Bashir was genetically enhanced thingy? Well, at least DS9 took the risk.And don’t even get me started on voyager. They teased and teased with permanent changes, but they just played it save. To wrap this up, getting rid of Steward would have been an enormous risk. I think, in the end, the show might have lost something of its lightheartedness and I am glad that they didn’t do it.

    But, Nemesis is, in a way, much much worse than Star Trek V. And that is said by someone who can’t watch much of TOS and is a huge sucker for TNG.

    • Muthsarah

      “Well okay, a short example: Having ‘the master of lake-town’ knock out
      ‘Bard, the good guy’ by himself, is something I might not appreciate in a
      book adaption. (Read – Peter Jacksons forced conflicts)
      It just gets old. Very old.”

      Whatever gripes I have with the Hobbit films, I am totally behind turning Stephen Fry into a kung-fu badass. Did I miss that, or is that in the next one?

      • Chewbacca

        Okay, granted, Stephen Fry is great. But is he supposed to be the villain?

        I really can’t tell, because this MOVIE IS SOOOO SUBTLE!!!!

        • Muthsarah

          I remember being confused and disappointed at seeing Fry in such a role in this movie. But he was prolly having fun. Can’t hate him.

          But, yeah. Why have a new villain for Bard to face? Instead of that big horking DRAGON, he kills, y’know?

          No, you don’t get it. This isn’t your grandparents’ Bard. This one’s a rebel…and a civic leader. The MAN doesn’t like him, and his principled ways. He colors outside the lines. And…is rather low-key and vaguely emo-ish. He’s a loose cannon…and a sensitive single father. He’s standing up to the system. Cleaning up the streets (or canals).

          He’s all hero stereotypes to all people. ‘Cuz you need that. The book, as we all know, had this HUGE gap in it, where, like, nothing happened after Mirkwood. Nothing at all. You have to throw SOMETHING in there. Can’t just…establish Bard as a decent guy, an everyman, maybe helps out the heroes in some small way, just as any regular person would. And who then slays the dragon, all Galahad-like, simply because he was a good guy, humble, pure. The sort of person that fairy tale birds regularly dispense critical advice to.

          • Chewbacca

            I think we should also rastafy him by ten percent or put him in some sort of ‘hip hop’ context.

            But thanks for sharing my pain (you really nailed it).

            I was looking forward to these movies….
            Oh well, if only they had made 4 of them WITH MORE ORC ATTACKS.

  • Brian Shanahan

    Actually, Ro Laren was meant to be a DS9 main character too. She was meant to be the first officer to The Sisko, but Michelle Forbes turned down the part, for fear of being typecast. Her promotion to Lt. JG was due to the fact that at that time they were looking to set her up for DS9 (http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Ro_Laren#Star_Trek:_Deep_Space_Nine)

  • dosmastr

    I appreciate the article but according the the encyclopedia and other sources Picard DID undergo months of debriefing and psych evals.