So recently we watched the new series Picard, a long-after sequel series to Star Trek: The Next Generation. ST:TNG was my favorite of the Star Treks, and it was probably the only one of those series I watched in its entirety. My college roommates, who thought me kind of an odd duck in the best of circumstances, didn’t mind watching the show with me on television every week, but they were perhaps less sure how to explain to their non-sci-fi-loving friends about the poster I had of Jean-Luc Picard on our dorm room wall.
Picard was a decent sort of man, and a much better captain for a modern woman to look up to and feel safe around than that James T. Kirk ever could be, that was for sure. But mostly I just really liked the show and really appreciate Patrick Stewart as an actor. (His version of A Christmas Carol remains to this day the only movie version of that novel I enjoy watching and have made an annual tradition.)
So when Picard was announced, I was understandably enthusiastic.
In preparation, I did not go back and rewatch old episodes of ST:TNG, nor did I rewatch any of the movies from that series, although I liked some of those as well. (For what it’s worth, the newer movies, with Zachary Quinto and Zoe Saldana and Chris Pine and a host of other excellent casting choices, are hands-down my favorites. Even the middle one with Benedict Cumberbatch was pretty good, though the weakest, I think, of the so-far trilogy.) My point is, I came to Picard with my memories of the original character of Jean-Luc, and I was satisfied with that.
This made, perhaps, the elder statesman of Picard a little more interesting to watch. I’ll try not to get too spoilery, but here’s the gist of it, for me: Picard is a character who, in his retirement, must grapple with the same thing that a lot of men in the 21st Century must grapple with. He no longer has carte blanche to act any damn way he damn well pleases. He faces pushback for his actions, for his attitude, and for his way of thinking.
This is not to say that there was anything particularly wrong or untoward about the way he was. But he is a person whose ego has been reduced. One could argue, I suppose, whether it really needed to be reduced in the first place, but the new series definitely makes the point that something had to give.
Now, is Picard someone whose past actions have caught up to him in a way that makes people feel gross about liking him before? No, not at all. This show is not reflective of the #MeToo or #TimesUp movements, nor does it make explicit commentary on the more disgusting and disheartening aspects of the sci-fi (and other) literary community today. In short, I’m not trying to imply that allegations of Picard being an asshole to women have suddenly come to light and he now must fight through disgrace for his past actions.
No, this new storyline maintains the character of Jean-Luc Picard as someone worth looking up to and admiring, but someone who still has room for growth. I respect and appreciate that. (And from a narrative craft standpoint, what other point would there have been in making a new series, if he didn’t have an arc to ascend?)
So, Picard gets to be taken down a peg and then allowed to climb his way back up, at least in a sense. He does so in a thoughtful way. Great!
The other elements of a good sci-fi series one might eagerly expect are there, too: compelling characters, both new and familiar; exciting technology; cinematography that at least borders on lush; worthwhile commentary on the human condition; just a good storyline.
While I won’t say that Picard was something I was desperate to watch and is a show I would have utterly lamented not seeing, I’m quite glad we gave it a chance. It became more engaging and more compelling with each episode, and if another season comes up, I’m pretty sure we’ll watch that one, too.
By all means, wear a mask and wash your hands if you really have to go out, but––
If you can, please just stay home and watch some good content. Picard fits the bill.