March 24th brings the finale of Star Trek: Picard, the series in which Sir Patrick Stewart returns to the famous, titular character. The world in which we now inhabit is starkly different than the on in which Picard premiered a mere ten weeks ago. For the premiere, I hosted a watch party. For the finale, I will sit alone due to the current global pandemic and the extreme measures of physical distancing we are currently undertaking.
We haven’t been at this quarantining for very long – only a few short weeks. Yet these weeks have felt like a lifetime. I miss my friends. I miss my family. I miss the closeness, the proximity. I miss the sound of beer glasses clanking together. I miss the embrace of a hug. I miss the smiles that would radiate a room when we are all together. I long for these things, and I’m certain they will return on one uncertain day. It was this thought that led me back to Picard and the journey we’ve taken over the past few weeks.
As a series, Picard has been uncharted territory. Picard as a man has changed fundamentally due to his experiences since the last time we saw him. When we meet him, he’s withdrawn. The solitude has aged him more than the years. When he finally reaches space for his mission, he is not surrounded by his crew. He is not in command of a starship. He is rather alone. We as viewers likewise feel unsettled. Is this the Picard we knew and trusted?
As the series progressed into the latter half of the season, Picard fled from danger into the safety. Suddenly, two familiar faces met Picard, Will & Deanna Troi-Riker.
Friendship was an interesting concept on Star Trek: The Next Generation. While Picard developed a closeness and intimacy with his crew, there was always a barrier, even until the last shot of the series, between him and his crew. They were his subordinates. He needed to keep a certain distance. Through seven years, we saw his crew know Picard deeply, but Picard only allowed himself to get so close to them.
Here in Picard, all these years later, the ranks are long retired and the formalities forgotten. Riker and Troi do not address Picard by “captain”, but instead “Jean-Luc”. And given the time and space that has existed, the Riker-Trois are able to call Picard on his mistakes, and for the first time, they are the mentor to him. Their journey since The Next Generation has given them the perspective and experiences to guide Picard, to help him see what he is unable to see, and the advice to move forward. And it’s all done in love, embrace, and connection. The physical space between Picard and the Riker-Trois did not diminish or hinder their relationship. It enhanced it. It provided the space where each person looked inward and became better selves. On the other side, the rekindled connection brought them closer together.
I haven’t the slightest clue how long we will need to practice this “social distancing” due to the cornavirus. But if we use the time well, we too can look inward, learn about ourselves, what we want and desire. And when that day comes when things return to normal, it’s my desire that our friendships are that much deeper as a result of all this. We’re not alone. Our friendships still persist. And on the other end of this horrible experience, I hope our friendships strive and find deeper levels of connection.