Star Trek: Picard has already aired two episodes of its first season and fans, myself included, are quite happy with what we’ve gotten thus far. The Nerd Stash team has already reviewed the first couple of episodes, so that’s not why I’m here. Star Trek means a lot to me. I grew up with The Next Generation in the 80s and eventually fell in love with DS9 and Voyager. There’s even a soft spot in my heart for Enterprise. Even before the crew of the Enterprise D took to the stars, I was watching Kirk and the gang on their many adventures. Even my dog is named after a Star Trek Character.
With that said, the Star Trek I grew up with is gone. The idealism that Gene Roddenberry envisioned in this world no longer exists. Some fans are saying they don’t like the new star trek show(s) because the utopia that is the Federation has disappeared. The thing is, no matter how hard you try, everything changes. Nothing lasts forever. If things don’t evolve, then what’s the point of existence. The Federation and by extension Starfleet had to morph into something different and that’s what makes Picard so fascinating. The show isn’t just about an old man seeking a new adventure, it’s about change.
First a little background on the history of Star Trek: Picard. When it was first announced, fans around the world were full of excitement. Our captain was coming back, and the possibilities were limitless. We didn’t know what the show would be about or who else was joining Jean Luc, but we were on board from day one. Plot points would leak here and there, which only served to ramp up the excitement.
The first teaser trailer aired, and it didn’t give us much. It was so good to see our old friend back. Patrick Stewart hasn’t played the role that made him a household name since 2004’s Star Trek: Nemesis. Watching that teaser made it feel like he never left. It may have been short, but I felt a tingle down my spine like something great was coming.
When the first full trailer was released, I will admit to getting a bit emotional. Captain Picard was back, but he wasn’t alone. Brent Spiner was there as Data and Jeri Ryan looked to be reprising her role as Seven of Nine. Soon word was getting out that Riker, Troy, and more of the Next Generation crew would be making appearances throughout the first season. I must have watched that extended trailer a dozen times as a smile remained permanently affixed to my face. The one thing I knew almost immediately, however, was that this was not going to be the same old Star Trek.
*Slight spoilers ahead*
The show starts in space as the camera pans over to the Enterprise D and then in through the windows of Ten Forward. Already I’m grinning ear to ear and that’s not the most incredible part of that scene. Two people are playing poker as we see cards shuffling and money being thrown about. The camera pans out to reveal an aged Picard playing with Data. Brent Spiner is 71, but he’s still data. For the most part, he looked great. The scene was simple but effective. Seeing the two beloved characters interacting once again after 16 years was nothing short of emotional.
The whole sequence turns out to be a dream which turns into a nightmare. One of the last things Picard says to Data before waking up is that he doesn’t want the game to end. Neither did I. I was instantly reminded of sitting on my childhood bed watching episodes of TNG. If this was all I saw that day, I would have been happy.
The very last scene of TNG was Picard joining the bridge crew for a game of poker. It’s a game we’ve seen them play in several episodes, but Picard was never there. The captain missed out on joining his friends over their 7-year adventure and admitted so after he sat down. They were all the best of friends, and by extension, we were friends as well. It was a perfect ending to Star Trek: The Next Generation, and so, this was a perfect start to Star Trek: Picard. The card game symmetry between what was and what is, had me loving this new show from the first frame.
Here is where we start to see the theme of change. Let’s examine the interview between Picard and the reporter on the anniversary of the Romulan disaster. We learn that Picard was leading the evacuation effort, the largest in history. After a terrorist attack on Mars killed over ninety-thousand people, Starfleet pulled out of the evacuation effort, forcing Picard to resign his post in protest.
Admiral Jean Luc Picard left Starfleet to retire to his vineyard but never said why publicly. When prodded by the reporter, Picard finally barks out “Because it wasn’t Starfleet anymore.” This one-line encompasses everything that defines the character of Picard and the world he now inhabits. Doing what’s right and defying orders. Not seeing an enemy but a people in need. Of course, Admiral Picard left Starfleet over this, he had no choice.
In the TNG episode I, Borg Picard and crew discover a way of introducing a virus into the Borg Collective via a rescued drone they named Hugh. As Hugh disconnects from the Borg hive mind and starts to develop individuality, the morality of the plan comes into question. It’s not until Picard has a one on one meeting with Hugh that he realizes the virus plan simply can’t happen. The Borg may be the Federations’ biggest threat, but Hugh was an individual who deserved life. That is who Picard is.
When the Romulans needed help, he didn’t see the Federations’ oldest enemy, he saw people who were running out of time. To abandon the Romulan people would be to abandon everything that Starfleet represented. Jean Luc Picard had to resign because it went against everything he believed in. It was at this point I truly realized he may be older, but this is still the same Captain Picard we last saw so many years ago.
This is where fans of the show are divided. This one scene show’s how the utopia is shattered. Life is hard. The Future is not all sunshine and rainbows that Gene Roddenberry promised us it would be. Think about what the Federation went through in and around that time period. Within the thirty years before the Start of Picard, the federation lost more than half it’s fleet with the invasion of the Borg and became embroiled in a massive war with the Dominion in which they almost lost. The Romulan homeworld was destroyed and a terrorist attack on Mars saw the deaths of over ninety-thousand people. This doesn’t sound like a utopia to me.
War and loss change everything. Even the most optimistic of us all will start to doubt our convictions. The very idealism in which Star Trek is based was turning into isolationism and fear. Gene Roddenberry had a vision, but nothing lasts forever.
When Picard visited his archives we see that he’s kept the Picard Day banner. The Captain hated Picard day and the fuss that went with it. Commander Riker always loved poking fun at him for this, but the Captain went along with it regardless. So, if he hated it so much, why did Picard keep the banner?
Just like the All Good Things ending poker scene mentioned above, the Picard Day banner represents time lost. This Picard is aware of the things he once had, the people and places that mattered to him most. Picard Day was during a time that means something to the retired Jean Luc and this banner is a reminder. Perhaps it’s a symbol of what Starfleet used to be and a time when what they did mattered. It was a touching reveal that I feel goes far beyond a fan Easter egg and gives the viewer a poignant look into who this man has become.
The Star Trek universe was always going to change. Starfleet built its ships with highly destructive and powerful weapons. For a future that was supposed to be this grand utopia, they sure needed a lot of firepower. I don’t think the vision of humanity’s future was so bright as we were led to initially believe. Wars with the Klingons and the Romulans helped forge the federation. Sure, technology made it so that people on Earth no longer starved and Humans could now go out and explore the galaxy, but the brutalities of life still exist. Death stalks us all.
If the Federation and Starfleet didn’t change, it wouldn’t be believable. Had Admiral Picard not lost faith, it wouldn’t be right. To anyone who says they don’t like Star Trek: Picard because it isn’t the Star Trek you’ve grown to love, I must counter by saying you never understood what Star Trek was supposed to be.
Star Trek: Picard is everything Trek fans have been waiting for. It’s a return to form and a reintroduction to everything and everyone that meant something to us. The show isn’t perfect by any means, but it’s hitting all the right notes for me. When I watch this new show, I feel like I am back in the 80s and early 90s. It’s more than nostalgia. I’m not just looking back, but rather, I’m reconnecting with the feelings I thought lost years ago.
What are your feelings towards Star Trek: Picard? Let us know in the comments below.