Halo MCC – Top 10 ‘Additional Skulls’ That We Want To See Added to MCC

In the most recent update to Halo: The Master Chief Collection, 343 industries did something unexpected, exciting and ridiculous – they added new skulls to Halo: Combat Evolved, supplementing the game with several skulls that expanded its already impressive array of skulls from Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary that was released in 2011. Halo: CE now features several skulls that, until now, had only been present in Halo 2, like Anger and Ghost, and several more that are staples of the modern incarnations of Halo, such as Thunderstorm and Tough Luck. However, in the blog post accompanying this update, 343 industries suggested that not only will the other Halo titles in the MCC be receiving new Skulls in the future, but also that there will be brand new skulls added to the game that have never been seen before. Since then, fans have been speculating as to what these skulls might do, so here is a list of the Top 5 ‘Additional Skulls’ that fans want to see in Halo: MCC.

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#10 – Invincible Allies Skull

This one is fairly low on the list because, if it ever exists, it will more than likely be a 0x scoring skull, and rightly so – having invincible allies would make the game very easy, in a similar fashion to infinite ammo, but it cannot be denied that having invincible allies would also be hilarious and would open up opportunities for weird and wacky glitches as it would be possible to blast or whack allies into areas that they would usually not enter. This skull has been brought up several times in relation to Halo: CE, as Marine snipers would often teamkill their allies when firing a rapid sequence of shots at eye-level , if marines walked into their line of fire. This Skull might even open up entire new ways of playing levels – if your Marine allies could survive 343 Guilty Spark on Halo: CE, or your Grunt allies could survive Sacred Icon (the level this blog is named for) on Halo 2.

#9 – Halo 2 Grunt Birthday Party Skull

This one is slightly less likely, but many now forget that in the original Halo 2, the Grunt Birthday Party Skull had a totally different effect to what it became in later Halo games. Originally, activating the skull caused all headshots to turn into plasma grenade explosions, so any time a projectile heads a character’s head – even if they are dead – it creates a plasma explosion. This skull’s effect was likely altered as it did make the game easy, as you could wipe out entire squadrons of Grunts or Flood with a single headshot, but the skull was still fun to use and, like the Grunt Funeral Skull that has somewhat continued its legacy, it can sometimes create lethal deathtraps for the player. If the Grunt Birthday Party Skull in its original form did ever return to MCC, it would likely be implemented under the name ‘Grunt Birthday Party (Classic)’, or perhaps even be given a completely new name. Either way, that feature is sitting dormant in the code of Halo 2: Anniversary and it needs to be released.

#8 – Universal Bandana

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This isn’t an idea for an original or returning Skull, but it is one of the most commonly requested ideas on Halo forums when fans are asked what Skulls they want to see implemented into Halo: MCC, and it is easy to see why. The Bandana Skull allows for exploration and exploitation opportunities in Halo: CE and Halo 2, but is not a feature for Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST or Halo: 4. As far as the hints that 343 industries have dropped in their blog posts are concerned, Universal Bandana will be implemented into Halo: MCC in due course, as it is likely that each game will be updated in separate updates.

#7 – Angry (SPV3)

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Those who haven’t played the excellent SPV3 mod for Halo: CE on the PC will likely not be aware of the Angry Skull, but it is an excellent idea that was implemented to SPV3 but would likely work on any and all Halo games. The Angry Skull turns all previously allied AI against you from the start of the level, meaning you not only have no allies at any time but also have vastly more enemies, and some sections of levels that would usually be a breeze become vicious gauntlets. If this Skull was ever implemented to Halo: MCC, parts like the first section of Crow’s Nest on Halo 3, that features almost 50 Marines, will add to the challenge, particularly if playing on Legendary with other Skulls on. This Skull would likely score around 1.3x, as it would drastically increase the difficulty of many levels.

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#6 – Combat Evolved Vehicle Armour

This Skull would essentially make all vehicles invincible, like they were in Halo: Combat Evolved. As in Halo: CE, this would not apply to certain vehicles like Banshees, Ghosts, Wraiths and likely other enemy vehicles, but would exist to give UNSC vehicles more versatility, especially on Legendary difficulty. This Skull would be non-scoring, likely having a 1x score, although a 0x score is possible. In other Halo titles this Skull would affect the Warthog, Scorpion, Mongoose and Mantis, and perhaps in Halo 2 Arbiter levels it would affect certain Ghosts, Spectres and Wraiths depending on which vehicles are intended for the player in each mission.

#5 – Bottomless Clip

As this feature exists as an option for Halo: Reach and Halo 4 in Forge and other modes, Bottomless Clip would surely not be a difficult feature to program into the campaign. After all, Bandana already gives players infinite ammo, and whilst this Skull would surely have a 0x score, it would make levels like The Storm and Tsavo Highway on Halo 3 a blast (literally). There would be other, practical uses of Bottomless Clip too in several of the Halo campaigns for the purposes of map exploration, boundary breaking, exploits and other shenanigans that Skulls are commonly associated with.

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#4 – Bang Bang

This Skull was from Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, but modders have since been able to access it and discover that the effect turns all weapon sounds into a voice recording of a man saying ‘Pew’. Whilst the idea is funny, the execution requires improvement, and if this Skull is to be added it should be on the condition that all weapons get their own individual voice clips that associate with that weapon, of people trying to imitate the weapon sounds of Halo, that would be pretty funny. Grenades would definitely just be someone going ‘Bang!’ though. Since the gameplay change is entirely aesthetic, this Skull would probably just have a 1x score.

#3 – Wuv Woo (Halo Wars)

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This Skull, which until now has only featured in Halo Wars, turns certain weapon projectiles into rainbow lasers with love hearts spewing from them, a sickening display which strikes fear into the hearts of all who see it. In Halo Wars, the Skull only works on Scarab beams, but for Halo: MCC, each type of weapon should have its own comical design – rainbows for Covenant weapons and confetti for UNSC weapons, perhaps? And in Halo 4 the Promethean weapons can fire multi-coloured blasts instead of their usual standard orange. Again, this Skull is aesthetic, so would likely score 1x.

#2 – Third Person

Based on a cut Skull for Halo 3: ODST, Halo: MCC should include a Skull that switches players to a third person perspective, like in Theater mode or when in a vehicle, at all times – meaning players will have to rely on the HUD more in a fashion similar to the original Star Wars: Battlefront. When combined with the Blind Skull, this Skull would open up great opportunities for making Machinimas, and would allow players to player the Halo games again in a whole new way.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Big Head Mode Skull (All enemies and allies have engorged craniums)
  • Halo 2 Black Eye Skull (Meleeing enemies gives you Overshields like in Halo 2)
  • Gamble Skull (You do more damage, but take more damage)
  • Reverse Assassins Skull (All allied NPCs are permanently cloaked)
  • Brawl Skull (Enemies favour charging melee attacks over ranged weapons)
  • Permanent Cloak (Halo CE/Halo 2) – The player is permanently cloaked
  • Overshields (Halo CE/Halo 2) – The player has recharging overshields

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#1 – VISR Skull

This simple but interesting idea for a Skull would essentially combine the ideas implemented into Halo 3: ODST and Halo: SPV3 by giving the player a night-vision mode instead of a flashlight for levels that are bathed in near-total darkness. Although this Skull would be fairly difficult to program, as it would require coding the VISR mode into all 4 mainline Halo games featured on the Master Chief Collection, but the end results would definitely be worth it. After all, the VISR mode was one of the best things about Halo 3: ODST, and bringing that over to the other Halo games would open up new styles of combat for each title, particularly in the Anniversary modes with their dynamic lighting.

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Doctor Who – Top 5 things Big Finish need to fix in the New Series Canon

Now that Big Finish has the licence to use material from the New Series of Doctor Who, and also permission from the BBC to expand on the New Series mythology of the show, the audio company has already began to expand on New Series characters like Kate Stewart, River Song and even the adventures of the Tenth Doctor. However, as Big Finish has been known in the past to ‘fix’ elements of the Classic Series canon that irritated fans (such as Peri’s aborted death from The Trial of a Time Lord and the premature ending of the Seventh Doctor’s tenure) it is only a matter of time before they get to work fixing elements of the New Series canon as well.

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#5 – The New Dalek Paradigm

As previously mentioned in several other articles related to the New Dalek Paradigm, the inconsistencies and gaps in Dalek chronology in the past few seasons of New Who is something that Big Finish could definitely get to work on. Steven Moffat introduced some interesting concepts to Dalek lore, such as the New Dalek Paradigm, the Dalek Parliament, Rusty’s Story, The Alliance and several other concepts that could be expanded upon further in preexisting audio series, such as the Ironsides in Big Finish’s Churchill audios. Overall, however, Big Finish should definitely expand on the modern history of the Daleks in some way, particularly focusing on what happened to the Paradigm. The Main Range audio We Are The Daleks has already hinted at being the origin story for the Dalek Prime Minister, though this is unconfirmed.

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#4 – Martha and Mickey

As it has been recently announced that Rose Tyler is getting her own spinoff audio, and other Tenth Doctor companions like Rose, Donna and Captain Jack have already had several appearances in various New Series audios, it seems only fair that Martha and Mickey should return too. Whilst it would be great to have Martha appear in the Tenth Doctor Adventures, one of the ‘canon-fixing’ duties that Big Finish could fulfil is the strange pairing of Martha and Mickey at the end of The End of Time. Whether it’s through their own spinoff, an appearance in The Tenth Doctor Adventures or even added as an addition to the audio Torchwood team, Martha and Mickey are long overdue a return.

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#3 – Cybus Cybermen

Another strange inconsistency in the Moffat era of Doctor Who was the unification of the two Cyber-races – the Cybermen from the Classic Series (that originated from Mondas) and the Cybermen from the Russell T. Davies era (that originated from a parallel Earth). When the Cybermen appeared in the Moffat era, they were allegedly Mondasian Cybermen that had encountered and assimilated Cybus models, and then later adapted into the more streamlined version seen in later Moffat Cyberman stories. However, the circumstances behind this unification and how it came to happen is unknown. With the recent re-appearance of Classic Cybermen voice actors David Banks and Mark Hardy in the main range release Hour of the Cybermen, there is a very real possibility of seeing an audio in the future that depicts the first contact between the Classic Series Cybermen and the Cybus variants, and whatever antics might entail from that encounter.

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#2 – Rory’s Story

Another interesting yet unexplored avenue of Doctor Who lore is the story of the 2000 years that the Nestene duplicate version of Rory spent guarding the Pandorica – a stasis prison that housed the lifeless body of Amy Pond. During the events of the episode The Big Bang, Amy awakens from the Pandorica and reads about its history – including the legend of the Roman Centurion that guarded it. When he reappears, we see that Rory has learned how to use his Auton weaponry, implying that he has had to use it on others who have attempted to steal the Pandorica in the past – yet we are given little information into what Rory actually experienced during this 2000 years of vigilance. Considering this entire story takes place in what is essentially an alternate universe, this opens up various creative avenues for storytelling, including some ‘mirror-universe’ appearances of existing Doctor Who characters. The possibilities are literally endless.

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#1 – The Simm Master

As Big Finish have already expanded on the mythology of the Time War Master, played by Derek Jacobi, it must be only a matter of time until they expand on the timeline of his successor. The Simm incarnation is an interesting interpretation of the character of the Master – being defined by his instability and tangible insanity a lot more than his predecessors – his most recent appearance in Series 10 depicted him as a lot more stable and ‘Master-like’, and also opened up a gap in his timeline – he could theoretically have been on many adventures in the time between being ‘kicked out’ of Gallifrey and ending up on the Mondasian colony ship. This definitely opens up the possibility for a return in the future, and is definitely something that Big Finish should make use of.

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Halo MCC – Top 5 Features that Need to be Added to the Master Chief Collection

With 343 accelerating their efforts to fix Halo: The Master Chief Collection through regular updates, the team are listening to what fans want to see added in the near future. As such, this list ranks the top 5 features that need to be added to the Master Chief Collection:

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#5 – Classic Halo: CE Sound Effects

One of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary’s greatest shortcomings when it came to recreating the classic Halo experience was the lack of an option to restore the classic sound effects. Although this feature was present in Halo 2: Anniversary when MCC was released, the same was not true for the ported Halo: CE Anniversary. However, with 343 industries recently proving that making changes to the base game of Halo: CE Anniversary is possible, fans have asked for the classic Halo: CE sound effects to return when playing in classic mode on MCC, for posterity and nostalgia purposes.

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#4 – Customisable Campaign Playlists

When the playlists feature for MCC was announced back before the game launched, the idea was praised as a novel one – having the ability to play various thematically linked levels from across various Halo games in one long uninterrupted playlist was a great idea, but due to the lack of customisation options with the playlists, nowadays they sit abandoned. However, if 343 industries introduced the ability for players to create their own playlists, customise scoring, timer, skulls and other settings, and perhaps even share their playlists with other fans through the soon-to-be released custom games browser, undoubtedly the feature would become far more popular.

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#3 – Halo 3 ODST: Firefight

As Halo 3: ODST was added to the game when it was still in its disorganised and uncompleted state, at the time fans were simply grateful that something was being done to try and improve the game in some way. However, a lot of time has passed since then and, now that MCC is in a much better state, fans are now asking – where is Halo 3 ODST’s Firefight mode? After all, Halo 4’s Spartan Ops was included in the MCC, so there is no reason why Firefight couldn’t be implemented, and fans are eager to relive the Firefight matchmaking days on the MCC.

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#2 – More Maps for Halo 2: Anniversary

Another piece of extra content that was added to the MCC alongside Halo 3: ODST was the remastered version of Halo 2’s map Relic, now called ‘Remnant’, which became the seventh map in the Halo 2: Anniversary rota, not counting Forge maps. Many fans have pointed out, however, that seven maps is a pitifully small amount for what is essentially a standalone multiplayer system, and this leads to the multiplayer eventually getting repetitive – if Halo 4 maps were playable in the Halo 2: Anniversary engine then that would alleviate this, but what fans really want is more remastered Halo 2 maps. Classics that should definitely be remastered are Headlong, Gemini, Containment, Turf and Waterworks, just to give Halo 2: Anniversary multiplayer a bit more of a kick.

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#1 – Increased Customisation Options

Arguably the thing fans want most out of Halo: MCC is customisation, be it armour sets and visual cosmetics to customise the player’s multiplayer character, or skulls to customise the campaign experience, or even a main menu music selector (a feature that definitely needs to be added). 343 should take the opportunity to make Halo MCC as varied and customisable as possible, in order to give players the Halo experience that they’ve always wanted on Xbox One. While fans are of course eager for new content, there are several aspects of Halo: MCC’s customisation system that can be improved using previously existing material from past Halo games – for example, adding in the ability to modify separate armour pieces like in Halo 3, or add in the skins and armour sets from Halo 4’s DLC that was omitted from MCC. However 343 industries decides to go about implementing it, increased customisation is definitely top of the list for many fans when it comes to potential new features for MCC.

At the end of the day, no matter how many features fans want to be added to MCC, the greatest wish of many Halo fans has already been granted – 343 industries is working to fix MCC, and even if none of the potential features listed here end up making it to MCC, the fact that the company is making progress on fixing MCC, but also expanding it to add new features never seen before in a Halo game, is great for Halo fans and might just be the critical show of good faith from 343 industries that will draw former Halo fans back to the franchise as it moves into a new era with Halo: Infinite.

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This is Sacred Icon, a blog posting Top Ten lists, opinion pieces, reviews and other content related to many different sci-fi franchises, including Doctor Who, Halo, Star Wars and Star Trek. This blog also features reviews and Top Ten lists of the Big Finish Doctor Who audio plays, and also occasionally hosts showcases for my own custom Dalek collection. Feel free to browse the category list, or click the categories in the menu above, to browse posts on the site, and don’t forget to follow the blog for updates on new posts and leave a like on any posts you enjoy.

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Have Microtransactions ruined Star Wars: Battlefront?

After the controversial release of EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II in late 2017, the game has recently seen a revival thanks to the release of several free expansions. However, with EA being mired with complaints about the microtransaction system, the short campaign and the poorly designed level progression system, there are clearly still fans out there that are not happy with the newest installment in the Battlefront series. In fact, there is a significant portion of the Star Wars fan community that staunchly prefers the original Star Wars: Battlefront II that released in 2005 over the EA-branded remake. But are the two games in any way comparable?

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The original Battlefront II

When it was released in 2005, the sequel to 2003’s Star Wars: Battlefront aimed to improve on just about everything that had featured in the original by adding in space combat, more classes, a better rewards system and countless other gameplay, aesthetic and layout changes that helped to firmly establish Star Wars: Battlefront II as one of the most popular Star Wars video games out there. In the eyes of many fans, the game takes its place alongside other Star Wars classics like Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic as one of the best video games of its era, and thanks to a dedicated community that has seemingly only strengthened in the wake of the release of the EA Battlefront series the game continues to be one of the most popular Star Wars releases to date.

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EA’s new Battlefront II

Following the decision by EA to use the name ‘Battlefront’ for their new series of Star Wars first-person shooters, EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II had a lot to live up to. Fans were cautious of the game when it was first announced due to the disappointment many had felt following the release of EA’s first Star Wars Battlefront, which promised much and yet delivered little in terms of maps and content. Early signs for Battlefront II seemed more promising, with the inclusion of the prequel and sequel eras as well as more customization, heroes, space battles and the single player campaign mode. In many ways, EA’s Battlefront II did deliver on what was promised, at least in terms of content – but the controversy surrounding microtransactions coupled with the vast amounts of playtime needed to progress through the levelling system led to many players writing off the new Battlefront game early on, particularly since EA had already failed once.

One of the most glaring weaknesses in the new Battlefront games compared to the Battlefronts of the 2000s is the significant reduction in the number of maps and modes, and the lack of customization options compared to older releases. For many players these features helped define the Battlefront games and for some the use of the Battlefront name on EA’s new games is little more than brand association.

However, the biggest and most controversial issue surrounding EA’s Battlefront II was the inclusion of its microtransaction system. Having started as a means for free mobile games to generate revenue through in-app purchases, microtransactions have gradually seeped into the mainstream console gaming market and the increasing numbers of publishers that have turned to this system has been criticized by children and parents alike. Those against the system argue that it comes across as an attempt by publishers to squeeze as much money out of the consumer as possible, and when the system is paired with randomized loot-boxes that have also become popular in the first-person shooter genre of games the result is something akin to child gambling, as children can spend real money on a random selection of in-game content without knowing what content they will actually receive.

This was particularly controversial in the case of EA’s Battlefront II as it was proven that, without using real money to purchase randomized loot-boxes, it would take hours and hours of playtime to earn enough in-game currency to unlock heroes like Darth Vader despite the inclusion of the heroes being one of the game’s main selling points. Ultimately, the controversy surrounding microtransactions in EA’s Battlefront II contributed to a growing movement against the system led by activists and politicians that particularly target the randomized loot-box system. Progress has already been made in some parts of the world, most notably the Belgium Gambling Commission that has made the inclusion of randomized loot-boxes that can be bought with real money illegal.

Despite the assertion from many Star Wars fans that microtransactions ruined the new EA Battlefront, the game has seen a small rise in popularity following the suspension of the loot-box system and the release of several free sets of downloadable content. Whilst there is no way to know for certain exactly how many active players there are in the game, the release of content related to Disney’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi and the Clone Wars era has been met with positive response from what players the game has, so it could be that with the removal of the microtransaction system the game stands a chance of turning over a new leaf and winning back the disappointed fans that are flocking to Star Wars’ rival brands in their droves.

Comic Fans Split Over the Future of Comics after Death of Stan Lee

marvel vs dcIn light of the recent death of comic book legend Stan Lee, many comic fans are wondering what the future will bring for the industry in light of the loss of a major figurehead in the industry and changing times with the rise of the internet.

Stan Lee is best known for his work as creative leader of Marvel Comics, as he transformed the business from a small publisher to a multi-million-dollar corporation that created some of the most iconic comic book characters in history.

Although it is certain that sales figures for physical comics have fallen significantly in recent decades, what is less clear is the exact reason why this is the case.

Many long-time comic fans, like Rob who was interviewed at Worlds Apart, have blamed the internet for the decline in sales – particularly since online comics are proving far more popular with millennials than the physical copies.

However, others argue that the online section of the comic book market is an excellent way of getting young people into comics, particularly since physical comics are more expensive and intangible online versions of comics are better suited for younger readers. In the video Jon discusses the plethora of comics he’s bought online.

As local comic shops begin to evolve with the times, focusing as on merchandise and collectables as much as actual comics themselves, the clear shift in climate in the comic industry presents a worrying change for stalwart fans – but also a promising development for younger readers.

How the 2019 Picard TV Show could change how we look at Star Trek

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.