The series premiere of Star Trek: Picard is less than three weeks away. It feels as though many of us Trek fans have been waiting longer than the year and a half since this was announced. I suppose there’s a degree of truth to that. There seems to be a clamoring online for years now for a Trek that is “not a prequel”. 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis, the sendoff to The Next Generation crew, was the last established events in the universe. Since then we’ve gotten prequels (Enterprise and Discovery) and alternate universe stories that still happen to be set in the past (the Kelvin universe launched by J.J. Abrams). On top of that, it seemed only like a fantasy that we would ever see characters from the 1990s Star Treks that are beloved by so many.
So when Patrick Stewart announced that “Jean-Luc Picard is back”, it was a dream coming into reality.
This set off mass excitement that has carried us to this point. The first trailer was met with overwhelming positive response (at least that I saw). Picard is back! But also Data! Seven of Nine?!?! The Borg! It was amazing to experience this in real time via Twitter and Reddit.
Yet those platforms have shifted in response lately. There’s been little revealed about the overarching story via the trailers. And much of the new short clips are reused from the previously released full trailers. But it is a lot of action. And that has some concerned, and some wondering if Picard will feel familiar. (Note: Take a look at my Picard series that I’ve started. I’m releasing a series of short reflections on the character of Picard by looking at various episodes and films. This will go on until the premiere on January 23. Here’s a link to the intro)
We are living in a time of nostalgia. A lot of shows that this generation grew up with have had revivals, either in the form of a re-imaging or revival and continuation of the story with the same cast and characters. Studios are banking on viewers’ love for the material and their return based on what came before. In my experience, a story based predominantly on nostalgia is bound to disappoint. Either the hopes and expectations of viewers aren’t met, or the show itself simply is not good.
Star Trek: Picard seems to be trying to tiptoe the nostalgia line. Brining back Patrick Stewart and his iconic character is surely a way to build interest and excitement for numbers, but it has been clear since the very moment that Stewart announced the show in 2018 that this would not be The Next Generation 2.0. It does not feature The Next Generation cast in leading roles. Picard is no longer captain of the Enterprise. He’s retired, and from the looks of it, so are Riker and Troi. Thus far, Worf, LaForge, and Crusher are no where to be found in the promotional materials released. Picard is different.
I’ve been seeing increased concern on Twitter and Reddit that Picard doesn’t feel like The Next Generation. I think that is intentional, and at this point should not surprise anyone. I think this decision is ultimately wise. To try and recapture the magic of The Next Generation would be ill-advised and likely fail. The continuation of this particular character, keeping his essence, and weaving parts of the past in ways that make sense for this story seem to be a wise course of action.
So with that said, here are some tips that I’ve followed for myself to remind myself how to enjoy Picard as it rolls out. Perhaps it may help others.
- Hopes & Expectations: Any Trek fan has expectations or hopes for Picard. Some are clamoring to see Dr. Crusher. Others simply want it to feel like Star Trek. To that last point, Star Trek can mean different things to different people. There are series and plots that resonate with others that do not with me. And that is okay! While it is a bummer that some may not enjoy something, it is bound to happen. I surely have my own hopes. I would love (LOVE) to see the Enterprise-E in action. Nothing would please me more. But I’m doubting that will be the case. I’m not going to let my own expectations or hopes not being met distract from the story itself. It just may be that my wants do not fit in with the story’s needs.
- Expect action: Space battles and character fighting seems to be pretty divisive on Twitter or Reddit threads. Yes, action has never been the dominating force behind Star Trek. The J.J. Abrams interpretations (and to a certain extent, Discovery) have left a sour taste in a lot of mouths as action and spectacle have taken priority over story. Star Trek has and should always be a reflection of the human condition and the events of our time. The writers of Picard, particularly Michael Chabon, have stated that the series will have a more contemplative nature (particularly in comparison to Discovery) and be a statement of some current socio-political issues. Very little of that has been revealed in the trailers, which have highlighted action sequences. But to this I argue that Star Trek has always contained action. It’s simply that the technology and budget to produce these shows have risen in the couple decades since The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager have been on air. This is purely speculation, but I’d imagine that if the producers of those shows had the budget and technological resources back in the 90s, we’d have a different looking Trek. Imagine the Dominion War or Battle of Wolf 359 with today’s CGI standards. It would be cool. So expect action. And even expect more action than what we may be used to. But it’s nothing new to Trek.
- Don’t expect The Next Generation: I already outlined this above, but it needs a little reinforcement. This will not be The Next Generation. While I fully expect all the characters to make an appearance at some point in the series, I would not be too surprised if that does not occur. It’s been 20 years in Picard’s life since we left that crew in Nemesis. People change, Picard and company included. I’m all for them moving this character forward in whatever way stays true to his character.
- If you don’t like it, that doesn’t meant it’s bad or that others cannot enjoy it!: And the converse, if you do love it, that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily good or that all others should enjoy it. We seem to be living in a time where if others don’t like the same entertainment choices as us, it’s an issue. If you don’t love Picard, don’t watch. Don’t give it your energy. Find something you love and adore. Put energy there. And for the love of God don’t try and ruin it for others. Discovery is not exactly my cup of (earl grey, hot) tea, but I don’t want to shit on the good experience of others. I simply do not find it to be a good show, or a show that I love despite its issues. I watch it, it keeps me interested, but it’s not something I spend a lot of time thinking about. Some Star Trek fans love that show. I let them love it. I wish I did enjoy it as much as them. I’m jealous.
Conversely, if you love it and others don’t, it’s okay to let them move on. Spend energy discussing the show with others that do. That’s a positive approach. Trying to convince someone to enjoy the same things you do is an exhausting and futile exercise. Some people have different tastes.
This brings me to quality. I hope Picard is great. I’m hoping for a captivating story, one that advances this character and the universe itself. Yet it could be bad. There’s a certain degree of suspending my objectivity regarding Picard that I will admit to. Unless it is a complete departure from all things about this character, I will be glad to spend more time with him. I’ll take that over not having this experience with a character that has meant so much to me. I enjoy Generations despite the fact that it is not a quality film. My focus is on character and where it goes, not my hopes of it being a continuation of a prior series.
Whatever may come, let’s be kind. Let’s make it so.