On Saturday, at the 2018 Las Vegas Star Trek Convention, Sir Patrick Stewart revealed that he will star in a new Star Trek series centered on the life of Captain Picard, set 20 years after the events of Star Trek Nemesis. For Trek aficionados, this series represents the first time since 2002’s Nemesis that a new Trek will actually move forward in time, which itself is a cause for celebration.
The news brings with it a conundrum most lovely. What will the show be about? Stewart’s own announcement expresses that he’s looking to explore new dimensions of Picard.
It is an unexpected but delightful surprise to find myself excited and invigorated to be returning to Jean-Luc Picard and to explore new dimensions within him. Read my full statement in the photo. #StarTrek @cbsallaccess Photo: @shervinfoto pic.twitter.com/8Ynuj3RBNm
— Patrick Stewart (@SirPatStew) August 4, 2018
And his explanation during the announcement in Las Vegas has some ominous notes to it. To paraphrase: Stewart is interested in a Picard who may not be a Captain, who may not feel as empowered and true as he did. It’s going to feel like you’re watching Picard, but it may not be otherwise familiar…
In a sense, there are basically two camps of fan hopes with the forthcoming Picard series: One side wants to see him back on a starship, captaining a new crew and exploring the galaxy while upholding Federation ideals, while the other side wants him planetbound or, at least, not tied to the usual Trek starship formula.
Either way, Picard’s coming back to television and it’s hard to imagine that not being awesome. But it seems like there are more pros than cons to be found if the show chooses a non-starship approach.
Picard as a character is interesting outside of his crew, and the proof of that is just how many stand-out episodes of The Next Generation totally isolate Picard from the other characters. (“The Inner Light” and “Tapestry” spring to mind.) The point is, putting Picard in a kind of spaceship ensemble isn’t the right direction for a new Trek series at all, meaning, keeping Picard literally grounded for the new show is not only the most interesting potential choice for the new series, but it also plays to the strengths of the character. If he’s the captain of a starship again, with a new crew, the whole thing could run the risk of seeming too similar to other Star Treks.
Maybe the new show can be a true kitchen-sink drama. After all, it seems very possible that after everything he’s been through, Picard could be a very depressed person, just trying to figure out what his life means after all those years in space. In fact, if the new show was like the X-men film Logan, it could be pretty awesome. Instead of the focus being on the science fiction, it could be on the man himself. Maybe Picard is tending to that wine vineyard like in “All Good Things…” Or maybe he’s a teacher at Starfleet Academy and feeling like his life is meaningless. Maybe Picard is fighting political corruption on Earth or the planet Vulcan. In any of these cases, there’s way more potential to tell interesting stories by keeping Picard off the bridge of a starship. As much as fans may want him to say “engage” again, or even “red alert,” the character of Jean-Luc Picard is not a collection of catchphrases. If the people behind the new show are smart (and many of them have proven they are) they’ll make this Trek series the most different and daring show ever, by never letting a space hero actually go into space.
Ryan Britt is the author of Luke Skywalker Can’t Read (Penguin Random House 2015). His other writing has been published in The New York Times, VICE, Den of Geek!, CNN Style and elsewhere. He is an editor at Fatherly, a former editor at Inverse, and a longtime contributor to Tor.com.