New Trek, Part Three: Picard

I finally finished the two seasons of Picard this weekend. I have thoughts. They might be surprising. I want to take a wander down memory lane first. I’ll try to keep it brief.

When ST:TNG premiered in 1987, I was a 12 year old who loved the classic series. I… hated… TNG. It was stiff, weird, didn’t seem to understand the original series at all, and you know, had that annoying kid on the show. I gave up on TNG and never finished watching it.

Then came the movie, Generations. I went to see it with some friends and I saw a crew that was nothing like I remembered. They were fun, and loved each other, and… I liked them. So I went back and eventually watched all of TNG. It had its issues – every regular Trek series does – because a TV production schedule is hard.

But you could see how the show evolved. You could see how the crew found their way and became more than echoes of the previous show. They were great. And leading them all through it was Capt. Picard.

Okay, enough of that – I’m not here to talk about TNG. I’m here to talk about Picard, the show. The two seasons are very different so I want to approach them one at a time.

First season was a very strange animal. It was a tale of a Picard who shrank. He felt betrayed by the institution he served and gave his all. He retreated into retirement and the life of a private citizen. In many ways, it paralleled the TNG episode Tapestry which finds Picard diminished. I’ll come back to this theme but I don’t want to drop too many spoilers.

The plot and story of the first season were interesting. Again, they proposed events in the ST universe that were unexpected and cool. I’m always a fan of getting to see the Romulans in action. And seeing the aftereffects of the Borg through a new lens was also great. Picard Season One handled the nostalgia elements – the, “these are only powerful if you understand the context” elements really well.

A great example is the episode with Riker and Troy. This could have gone many ways. But instead of focusing solely on Picard, Riker, and Troy… the episode spent a suprising amount of time on Riker and Troy’s daughter. And she was great. Such an interesting young character. And the elements of tragedy in the life of these characters were handled with a deft touch that really made me feel them.

As someone who, in my own life, I suffer from loving people too deeply and yet never being able to show it. As someone who retreats too often from my friends and never feels in step with the lives of those around me… I felt the man Picard had become in Season One. Even great men like Picard have massive failures that haunt them. To me, that was the essence of the first season… Picard realizing that he had something left to give in a world that he chose to let move on without him. Because this time around, the show was clearly meant to have a “main character” and it was designed in such a way that such a set up worked.

(You have no idea how much I want to take shots at Book of Boba Fett here because Picard actually got the show about him to, you know, actually be about him.)

Season Two of the show became something different. I know a lot of people did not like this season. If my Fb friends list is any indication, then they hated it. I can’t say that I feel the same. Don’t get me wrong… it was not as strong as the first season. It had its problems. It involved Q and time travel. These are two of my least favorite things. It involved again, examining Picard as a flawed character by trapping him at one moment of his past (something Q has done many times but – in this instance – was said to be indicative of the man across his entire life). And yet…

I deeply enjoyed it. Sure, it was goofy as hell and sometimes a little clunky in execution but I feel like that didn’t even matter. It was more about taking the characters out for one more victory lap; letting them go out on a high note. It was about letting Picard be the man he was always meant to be – a leader, a hero, a man of convictions, but one who always struggled with being alone. And it paralleled that story in the cast of characters built around him as his new “crew.” They were all partial reflections of Picard and gave depth to the story he was experiencing. But they didn’t feel superfluous. They were vital to telling the story of the season.

And I loved the crew around him. Especially Allison Pill as Dr. Jurati. I loved her in first season and I loved her in second season. I can’t talk too much about her without massive spoilers but suffice it to say she was awesome. But I loved them all. I came to care about them – something that you really want out of a ST show. And in Season Two, the crew definitely had “player character energy” enough times that I laughed about it with my wife.

Yes, the plot and storylines of second season could border (or just fucking red rover right over) into being goofy at times. But I think the very intentional callbacks to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home should also remind us that ST is okay when it’s goofy sometimes. That movie also involved a deeply stupid plotline that required saving the entire universe from a life-ending threat.

It also hearkened – to me – to another show that Jonathan Frakes was heavily involved in… Leverage. I had a similar feeling about the final season of that show as I did about Picard. It was just a chance to live with those characters one last time. To let them go out on a win. To just let fans enjoy them again before they were gone. And to do it in a way that felt fun, not just “because we can.”

So, sure, Picard was not a perfect show. But it was a good show. And it was a good ST show. It gave me the feels, and kept me engaged, and even made me enjoy some of the aspects of sci-fi and Trek that I normally don’t enjoy at all. And I did enjoy it. If you haven’t watched it and you are a fan – at all – of TNG, I highly recommend giving it a watch.

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