So, I wanted to share my thoughts, as a lifelong Trekkie, on the news of Sir Patrick Stewart returning to Star Trek. As has been reported by a million and a half news outlets now (here it is on The Verge, just for your edification), Sir Patrick has signed on to a new Star Trek series in the works that will explore ““the next chapter of Picard’s life.” As someone who practically grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, my initial reaction, of course, was giddy excitement, a lot of jumping up and down and indecipherable whooping noise, but once the initial excitement settled down, I pondered, and became a little more perturbed on the issue. At the moment, my opinions on the return of Jean-Luc Picard are somewhat mixed.
I say this for a number of reasons. On the one hand, as I mentioned before, this is very exciting news for a fan of TNG. Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard was the face of the show, the moral and ethical centre that held together a crew of scientists, engineers, and occasional philosophers. While Picard was not a perfect captain by any stretch of the imagination (there are lengthy debates among Trekkies over how selective Picard was in his adherance to the Prime Directive), Stewart delivered his lines with such gravitas that it was impossible not to pay attention to him– I recall one commentator saying that Stewart could read a grocery list and make it sound compelling. A plethora of endlessly quotable (“Engage,” “Make it so,” and any time he called Commander Riker “Number One”) and admittedly quite powerful speeches simply cemented Picard’s status as, arguably, the pillar upon which the show rested.
However, as far as anyone knows, Picard’s return will be a solo one, without any of his old crew there with him. As of this time, there has been no confirmation of any of the other old TNG cast returning for this show. On the one hand, I am fine with this, as I don’t want to see them try to make “TNG: Part 2.” However, the fact that Picard’s return is a solitary one, happening in a storyline that (presumably) takes place years after the events of TNG, feels strangely jarring to me. In my opinion, the season finale of TNG and the movies rounded off TNG and gave it….maybe not a satisfactory ending (Star Trek: Nemesis was anything but that), but a sense of closure all the same. To suddenly bring Picard back after years of TNG being off the air, after I had long accepted that his story was done, feels strange to me and disrupts this feeling of closure. I had always worked under the assumption that if I ever wanted to look at Picard’s post-TNG years, that I should turn to the various novels, comics, etc that the franchise has churned out. Now that they are actually answering this question with an actual show, I’m wondering if those said books and comics will be nullified from canon, much as the expanded universe of Star Wars was when the newer batch of movies came out.
Then there’s the nagging feeling that pulling Picard back into Star Trek is in and of itself an act of desperation. The last time an old character was brought on as major character on a Star Trek show, it was when they brought Worf onto Deep Space Nine…and that was a transparent attempt to bring back viewers. This feels like the exact same thing: “Hey, we know you have all have mixed feelings on Discovery, but hey, Picard is coming back! Exciting, huh?” Some may argue, though, that adding Worf to the show did in fact boost its ratings, and his presence did a lot to bolster the storyline by bringing in an entire Klingon subplot and cast of side characters (including Martok, the greatest Klingon to ever grace the screen), and I will admit that Deep Space Nine, especially in its later seasons, competes fiercely with The Next Generation as my favourite Star Trek show. Even so, Worf’s presence on the show, lengthy as it was, never felt any less forced or artificial for me. Perhaps the new Picard series may be just what Star Trek needs as an alternative to Discovery.
Speaking of Discovery, the current writing and directorial team in charge of the franchise leaves me feeling uneasy (despite the fact that Michael Chabon apparently is on the writing team for the new Picard series). I won’t hesitate to say that my enthusiasm for Discovery went cold pretty quickly, and while it is not a terrible show by any stretch of the imagination, it is not one that managed to sustain my interest either. Between horribly transparent plot twists, a protagonist I fell out of love with fairly quickly, a central plot that wasn’t sure what it wanted to do and a cast I really didn’t care too much about (barring one or two characters), Discovery brought nothing new to the table while at the same time doing nothing to give me a reason to stay. Of course, maybe the show just needed a season to find its feet, and will improve with time. Maybe they will apply the lessons they learned to the new Picard show. Maybe.
I’ll keep my fingers crossed, of course, and hopefully, whoever will be writing the new show will know what to do with the bestest captain ever (I will fight anyone who says otherwise). But until then, I can’t even be cautiously optimistic. Just cautious.