The Star Trek franchise is perhaps best known for its optimistic depiction of a diverse, harmonious and utopian socialist human society in the future, and the series was founded on creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a peaceful and enlightened future. However, in recent decades the long-lived series has seen a dramatic shift in the tone and feel of its releases to the point where modern interpretations of the iconic brand have lost many of the fundamental themes and morals that defined Star Trek for the first thirty years of its existence.
Fans of the show need not despair, as there is a shining beacon of hope on the horizon – the Picard TV show, set to release in late 2019, has many Trekkies hoping that Star Trek may finally return to the more philosophical and plot-driven stories of The Next Generation as opposed to the action-orientated nature of the newer Star Trek films and TV shows. The fact that Patrick Stewart is returning to the role of Captain Jean-Luc Picard after so long suggests that there has been some serious decision-making going on behind the scenes as to what the direction of the newer Star Treks should be, and the kind of messages that the franchise should send to younger audiences.
First seen as the captain of the USS Enterprise-D in the first episode of The Next Generation, Picard soon became a dynamic figurehead of responsibility, reason and ethics in the Star Trek community, even rivalling fan-favourite Spock for best character in the history of the series. Played masterfully by Patrick Stewart for all seven seasons of TNG’s run, Picard embodied the most honest and desirable traits in mankind – passion, mercy, intellect and willpower. Often acting as a mediator and always able to see the bigger picture, Picard became legendary for his ability to uphold his values and principles in the face of adversity and always seemed to take the moral high ground.
In the current political and social climate, it seems there is no better character to return to the front and centre of the Star Trek brand than Jean-Luc Picard. Whilst TNG will always be the keystone Star Trek series and perhaps even the essential Star Trek experience, bringing Picard back for a new show aimed at modern audiences certainly seems like the logical thing to do – provided it is done right. Many fans have criticised newer Star Trek for changing not only the feel but the look of the show, suggesting that the producers have little respect for the show’s history, which has many more fans worried that the new Picard show will be mishandled. It is no secret that the character of Jean-Luc Picard has been mishandled before – the infamous TNG movies from the late 90s and early 2000s depicted Picard as more like an action hero than a morally upstanding life coach, and the state of the Star Trek universe catapulted the once peaceful Federation into several bloody wars before the ‘post-TNG’ plotlines were unceremoniously abandoned by the end of the 2000s in favour of prequels like Star Trek: Enterprise and Star Trek: Discovery.
Hopefully with a renewed sense of purpose and with some proper science fiction stories to tell, the new Picard show will stay true to the roots of the character and the franchise to deliver less action thrillers and more thought-provoking stories. Ideally the show will find the effective middle-ground between the two and will deliver something more akin to TNG and less like Star Trek: Discovery. Whatever the direction the producers choose to take it in, there is no doubt that the Picard show will change how we look at Star Trek.