My hopes for Star Trek: Picard
As most everyone is aware by now, the next Star Trek series, Star Trek: Picard, is set to begin on CBS All Access next year. Like Star Trek: Discovery, it will only be available for viewing on the CBS site and is produced by the same behind-the-scenes team as that series, including Alex Kurtzman and Rod Roddenberry (Gene’s son).
The title, naturally, implies that it will focus on Sir Patrick Stewart’s famous character, who was last seen 17 years earlier in Star Trek: Nemesis. The trailers for the series show us a Picard who’s become somewhat saddened in the years since Nemesis—though not because of the movie itself, although that would be understandable. Data’s death in that film is referenced, and Brent Spiner is even seen reprising his role. Other Trek alumni who are confirmed to make appearances on the show are Jeri Ryan’s Seven of Nine, as well as Jonathan Frakes’s Riker and Marina Sirtis’s Troi. Frakes is even set to direct some episodes.
All this certainly sounds promising. But as experience has more or less taught me, promise should be tempered with concern. I suppose that concern is brought on by the fact that the current Trek series, Discovery, isn’t exactly endearing itself to Trek fans the way the network hoped it would. The fact that there were reported changes in the behind-the-scenes staff on that show is just the tip of the iceberg. But the show is currently viewed by many as just treading the same ground the original Star Trek series and Star Trek: The Next Generation already did. Yes, things could potentially turn around for Discovery in its upcoming third season, but I’m concerned that Picard could fall into this same trap.
This brings me to what I hope this new show will bring to the table.
One of my major complaints with the four Next Generation movies was that they failed to take advantage of the rich tapestry of stories that the show itself provided. Yes, we did get some bones thrown to us in that regard, most famously the Borg in First Contact (which is why Voyager would then take that ball and run with it, straight into the ground). But these were, in the end, solely used to get to the next action scene in the film they were in. Contrast this with the original series films, which brought back a memorable antagonist for its second installment with a story that nicely segued into three of the four movies that came after it.
My hope is that this new show will do something similar when it comes to recalling the events of TNG. I’m given hope for this with the news that Jonathan Del Arco will reprise his role as the Borg drone the TNG crew christened Hugh in “I, Borg” and who was last seen in the “Descent” two-parter. As I stated before, we already have three other TNG regulars confirmed to make appearances. It would be nice if the rest did as well, although hopefully not in a rushed or contrived manner.
One thing I find interesting in the trailer now available is that Seven has a different (more human?) tone of voice than she did on Voyager. That alone makes me wonder how things could play out.
Picard himself is shown as a different person. Having become disenchanted with Starfleet in the years since Nemesis, he now lives out his days in his family’s vineyards in France. That is, until circumstances call upon him to return to Starfleet. In this series, Picard is allied with new characters, played by actors such as Santiago Cabrera, Michelle Hurd, and Alison Pill. I haven’t seen enough footage from the show to make any judgment (positive or otherwise) about these characters yet, but here’s hoping they’re each given a chance to shine, unlike in Discovery, where basically the entire supporting cast has been overshadowed by Sonequa-Martin Green’s Michael Burnham.
This also brings up something else I hope the show will give us: a different dynamic between the regulars. As all the main TNG characters were in Starfleet, it became a matter of getting used to Picard’s command style when they met in the premiere episode “Encounter at Farpoint”. This show, however, is not one in which a ship is assigned to explore the vastness of the galaxy. As a result, any new supporting players, and even Picard himself, should have different outlooks and even different agendas.
From what the trailer shows, Picard himself does go back into space, although the Enterprise herself isn’t mentioned. I have no problem with him being on another ship, but it would be nice if his years on the ship whose name has done Starfleet proud for two centuries would at least be mentioned in passing.
In his review of the third TNG movie Insurrection, SFDebris suggested that the TNG regulars could have potentially locked horns with each other over the life-giving energy that surrounded the planet where the annoying space Amish people lived. That could have really given that film dramatic fireworks, and like Wrath of Khan, it could’ve taken Star Trek into a new direction. As we’re expecting to see Riker, Troi, and even Data in Picard, it would be dramatically fascinating if these characters, who fought side by side with Picard for years, were now finding themselves with interests which conflict with his own.
A continuous storyline would also benefit the series. One aspect of TNG I always thought made that show special was that it had story arcs (perhaps the most famous of these being the Klingon and Borg arcs) alongside standalone tales. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine took the serialization aspect even further, while Voyager, Enterprise, and Discovery all ended up telling it to piss off. But such continuity would serve this new show greatly as it deals with a different Picard than the one we saw in TNG. It could show him slowly but surely returning to the profession he was made for with renewed vigor.
My only hope is that his potential return to the captain’s chair doesn’t simply redo TNG with new supporting players. I’ve heard some criticize the ending of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, which shows our heroes back in their old positions on a new Enterprise, complete with Kirk being demoted to captain. But the good vibes the film itself generated made this ending pleasing for me. An added bonus was how Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country showed us what transpired during the five years in between the two films. Sulu becomes a captain himself while both the Federation and the Klingons are now being led by individuals who are open to building potential bridges in order to begin a new chapter of peace when circumstances dictate that doing so would be beneficial. The great storyline for that film is set into motion by those on both sides who dread what such diplomatic acts could lead to. In other words, while Kirk and his crew still did some exploring in the years between Voyage Home and Undiscovered Country, there were dynamics that made this period different than the one during the series. Hence, something such as this could work for Picard as well.
As I stated, the new show, like Discovery, is also headed by Kurtzman, who wrote the first two entries of the Trek reboot films. He has stated that the new show will follow the prime universe timeline established by the first movie in the reboot trilogy (the destruction of Romulus, the death of Spock, etc.), for good and for bad as far as I’m concerned. I put it that way because that trilogy, with all its promise of bringing something new to Trek, ended up just being generic action movies that pissed all over the original series. The four TNG films ended up doing the same with that series.
The new show has potential; here’s hoping it doesn’t flush it away.