As a teenager in high school, my nights typically were a toss-up of video games, band practice or some RPG action within the Star Wars Universe. One night, I turned to our local Fox channel, hoping for something like Tales from the Darkside or some wrestling program to wind down. That night, I did not find spooks, specters or ghosts. Nor did I find guys in spandex pulling off choreographed stunts to advance fictional battles between the competitors. What I found was a balding English man giving orders to a blended crew of beings. Some looked human, while others had slight differences making their appearance slightly alien. Their ship was amazing, and from the moment the balding guy said, “Engage,” I was hooked.
Star Trek: The Next Generation was my first experience with the Roddenberry Universe. Prior to this, I knew the basic premise of Star Trek, but deep in my heart I was a Star Wars fan. I was one of those people who didn’t even bother to see what I was missing. But once I started watching, I questioned my very nerd foundation.
How could this show be so good? The special effects were miles beyond even that of Return of the Jedi. The story spanned seasons, not just three movies. There were so many interesting characters, both in the Enterprise and in the different systems to which they traveled. The first antagonist that I remember from the show was Q, played by John De Lancie. Comparing him to Darth Vader or Emperor Palpatine was not even possible. Where the two Sith seemed kinda one dimensional, Q was whimsical and almost childlike most of the time. However, when crossed, he could become a tactful and vicious enemy.
As time went on and no new Star Wars movies came out, I took solace in not only Star Trek: The Next Generation, but also the original Star Trek series and even Deep Space Nine. My fandom changed completely.
Of all the characters, I felt like I like Capt. Jean-Luc Picard was the best. He was cunning. He knew when force was the only option to stop a threat but believed in diplomacy first. He was tough under pressure, being captured and tortured in one episode I remember vividly; however, his will could not be broken. Physically, he seemed to be at a disadvantage when it came to women, only to find out he was quite the lady’s man. He just exuded all the traits an impressionable teenage nerd wanted. I could even say Picard was my role model.
Thus, you would think that a TV series in current time about this fictional man I admired would have me instantly in the fanboy column. I was excited to see Star Trek: Picard, which has been airing on the Paramount+ streaming service, but after just a few episodes, I lost interest.
Season 1 takes place in 2399 (20 years after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis). For those who don’t recall, one of the most beloved Star Trek heroes, Data (Brent Spiner), sacrifices himself to save others. His death greatly affected Jean-Luc (Patrick Stewart), who laments not being able to save his dear friend. There are not many androids left due to attacks by “synths” on Starfleet, leading to a ban of their creation.
When the planet Romulus is destroyed by a supernova and Starfleet would not launch a rescue mission, Picard resigns his commission in protest. He soon encounters a synth female named Dahj (Isa Briones), who Picard believes might be a descendant of Data in some way. Before Picard and Dahj can explore her creation further, she is killed by assassins. This leads Picard on a personal quest to attain the answer.
Along the way, he meets new friends and new enemies, even encountering his old crew members, like Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) and Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes). Sadly, at the end of Season 1, Picard dies of an illness, having his essence placed into a device where he is able to speak to Data one last time. Moments later, Jean-Luc awakens, having been restored into a synth body.
Season 2 finds Picard dealing with life inside a new body. Unlike other synths, which can live an extended period of time, Picard’s synth is set to expire when his natural life would have ended. This season begins as the USS Stargazer is attacked by the Borg, led by their Queen (Alison Pill). Believing he has no choice, Picard activates the ship’s self-destruct mode, creating a huge explosion. Rather than dying, Picard finds himself in a dream version of his home, having been saved by Q.
From there, the season progresses into a sometimes-confusing route with alternate timelines, losing steam as it ends with Picard taking advice from his old friend, Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg).
And now, with the third season premiere titled “The Next Generation,” the episode almost feels like it’s from the series that shares this name. We find Jean-Luc trying to save Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) and her son, Jack (Ed Speleers), after their ship is attacked. Deciding not to involve Starfleet, Picard and his former “Number One,” Riker, attempt to commandeer a ship, only to be denied by the captain. Lucky for them, the former Borg, Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), is the first mate on the ship, rerouting its course to rescue the Crushers. Time will tell where we go from here.
With Season 3 concluding Star Trek: Picard, I expect the writers to pull no punches, giving us everything we want to see from the TNG world. However, if it follows the flow of the first two seasons, it may not even come close to meeting expectations. Both started with a bang, but every new episode muddled the story. Season 1 felt like it was basically a 10-hour pilot episode, as it wrapped with the deaths of both Data’s programming and Jean-Luc Picard’s human form.
Did I want to see Capt. Picard become a synthetic golem? Absolutely not. It felt like his essence was just a computer program that could be downloaded anytime it was needed to further a plot. This was a huge letdown, as I feel the character is gone, replaced with a clone. And Season 2 picked up strong with tons of cameos. Maybe the writers figured out their mistakes and were on a mission to fix them. However, after a couple of episodes, the steam driving this train stops. While not as much of a chore to get through as its predecessor, it ended with a slight pop, feeling very much like Picard’s new love life was the ultimate goal of the creators.
These ups and downs force a Star Trek fan to develop a love-hate relationship. I love seeing the old characters being brought back to aid their former captain. I love seeing William Riker still kicking ass throughout the galaxy. And then we have Q, whose mere appearance in Season 2 made the hairs on my arm stand up in delight. Then the hate comes in.
The story fails to feel epic as befitting an iconic character at the level of Capt. Jean-Luc Picard. It shouldn’t be boring through multiple episodes. There had to be something that would have been way more interesting than what we got. And putting Picard’s soul into a synthetic body just felt wrong. The character died for me, in a way. And even with the highs we get in later episodes, that shadow still loomed.
Here’s to hoping we get the ending we deserve — the ending Capt. Picard deserves. Maybe the people behind the scenes of Star Trek: Picard have learned from the previous season’s issues and have worked out all the kinks. I have my doubts based on past performances, but I am willing to give them nine more episodes to prove me wrong. Who knows? Maybe they will reunite Capt. Picard with the Starship Enterprise to continue exploring strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, and to boldly go where no one has gone before.
Goosebumps better be had when the final episode airs, or we Trekkies riot.