With Star Trek: Picard coming up later this year, interest in the show is building.
For some it’s a welcome return to Star Trek’s The Next Generation timeline, getting away from JJ Abrams’s films alternate “Kelvin” timeline – although those films’ destruction of Romulus will be a key factor in it; for others, it’s hoped to be a more “classic” Star Trek adventure-style antidote to the adults-only Star Trek: Discovery.
However, little is still known about it other than how it’ll be something… different. A trailer focusing on Jean-Luc Picard’s family vineyard was vague, and while TNG regular Jonathan Frakes will be directing episodes there’s nothing mentioned about any of the former cast returning other than Patrick Stewart.
There’s obviously a lot that we’d like to see: a complete return of the TNG cast, a visit to the USS Enterprise and Deep Space Nine (although probably not Voyager), better effects, better writing and technobabble than Discovery, and a whole lot more. But for now, we’d like to narrow it down to a few unresolved storylines that we’d really like to see make a return…
Picard isn’t going to be the first time that Star Trek fans have seen an older Jean-Luc. We got to see glimpses of potential future and alternate reality Picards several times, and so far things are most closely resembling the future vineyard-owning Picard from the TNG finale All Good Things. That isn’t a bad thing at all, and it may give us some interesting hints as to the direction of the new show. While we’re not expecting him to get Geordi to help him tie grape vines before they recruit Data and go into space to seal an anti-time rupture, it should be remembered that he was diagnosed with Irumodic Syndrome – a potentially severe neurological disorder – even in the regular timeline.
After Patrick Stewart played Professor X suffering from a neurological disorder in the critically-acclaimed Logan, it’s unlikely that we may see something similar here (although it may have inspired the more serious approach for the Star Trek: Picard show). However, given that Picard was diagnosed with Irumodic Syndrome even in the TNG’s present timeline, it’s also a distinct possibility. Personally, we’re not looking forward to seeing an incapacitated Picard in any way, but it would be good if they covered it in some way – even if it’s just a reminder that he’s still taking his meds or that a cure has been found for his condition.
The Return of the Emissary
While Jean-Luc Picard may have obviously had a soft spot for Earth (and France in particular), and had a personal interest in the planet Romulus given the events of Nemesis and the work of Spock (who he mind-melded with… possibly one of the reasons for him being so emotionally affected by its destruction in this series), there was one other planet that he had a connection to: Bajor. Oppressed by the Cardassians over the years, which led to some of the population becoming militaristic freedom fighters/terrorists (including Picard’s trusted ensign, Ro Laren), it became part of a political struggle that encompassed many worlds. Deep Space Nine’s captain, Benjamin Sisko, became the Emissary of the Prophets – a religious figure to Bajorans – and was ultimately joined them in the Celestial Temple.
But what does the Emissary have to do with Picard? Given Picard’s interest in Bajor’s political fate, the abilities of Prophets and his personal history with Ben Sisko (Picard’s actions while he was a member of the Borg led to Sisko’s wife’s death), quite a bit. While his history with Sisko amounts to another element of Picard’s history that he has regrets about, the Prophets exist beyond time and could be a powerful ally. If he’s out to correct his mistakes or make amends for his actions over the years, they could come in to play. The finale of DS9 stated that Ben Sisko would return to his friends and loved ones at some point in time in the future, when the time was right. This could be that right time, and if Picard helps to bring Sisko back in the process then we wouldn’t complain.
The state of the Federation
There’s no doubt that we’ll likely be seeing a very different Federation from the one we last saw in the TNG timeline. As was pointed out in Star Trek: Insurrection, the Federation wasn’t doing as well as it once was given all its recent wars. The Borg managed to cripple Starfleet, and the Dominion War (covered in Deep Space Nine) made it even weaker. Struggling to get new members to join was tough enough, but then with the on-again/off-again alliance with the Klingons, Shinzon’s attack in Nemesis (albeit one that led to potential peace between the Federation and the Romulans) and old foes like the Cardassians on the sidelines, it wasn’t looking rosy.
Of course, it’s worse than that. Conflict may have brought the Federation down, but even basic politics is never that clear-cut. As seen in (*cough*) The Orville’s second season, establishing common ground and equally-applicable laws between different planets in a united Federation is just like a bigger version of any government or the U.N. Not everybody has the same standards and goals, and there’s bound to be disputes over even minor things. Star Trek has mostly played it safe with politics over the years, presenting Roddenberry’s vision of everyone living in harmony… but we know that’s not realistic. While we don’t want to see Picard become a political show, some explanation of how the Federation is struggling (or is outright failing) would be good to know and create a bigger picture.
Whether fans did or didn’t enjoy the final TNG film, Nemesis, it has to be noted that the film ended with everyone’s favourite android Data sacrificing his own life to save Picard’s. Data’s sacrifice was one of the biggest down-notes to end the series, but there was also a glimmer of hope: B-4, an earlier Soong-type android prototype. Although inferior to Data’s high standards, and with an almost child-like mind, Data had earlier uploaded his memories and experiences into B-4. However, it would take him a long time to process all the information – the only real sign we saw of any progress was his awkward attempt to sing the song “Blue Skies”, a song Data performed at Riker and Troi’s wedding.
Given the more serious approach to Picard that this series seems to be taking, along with Patrick Stewart’s desire for the show to be something different, the return of B-4 could be particularly emotional. Disregarding the nostalgia factor of having Data actor Brent Spiner return, character-wise it would be fascinating (but tragic) for Picard to encounter the still-underdeveloped B-4 and look after him as his guardian. Not only would it be a sharp reminder to Picard of Data’s sacrifice, but it would be almost a role-reversal of Stewart’s performance in Logan and have real-world parallels too.
When it comes to unresolved plotlines, one, in particular, stands out from TNG’s TV series all the way back in season one, namely Conspiracy. While not a great episode, it was an interesting attempt to combine elements of classic Star Trek with an episodic storytelling format… years before it became a popular format for most shows. Picard and the Enterprise become aware of alien parasites which have taken control of Starfleet’s top brass, and which will conquer the Federation unless stopped. Literally anyone could be the enemy, increasing the paranoia level of the storyline. The problem was that it simply wasn’t a well-executed storyline, and came across as a less scary version of John Carpenter’s The Thing.
However, the episode ended on quite the cliffhanger and it’s one which never got resolved: the alien parasites turned out to only be the first wave of the invading force, and sent out a homing beacon to alert the rest of their species to join them. Let that sink in… somewhere out there, people are being possessed by alien parasites which can infiltrate the Federation at any time. It’s a scary thought, and while the episode may have tanked it’s also been repeatedly mentioned as a potential plotline for everything from the JJ Abrams movies to other Star Trek shows. We’d love to see that story finally be resolved after all these years, and while we’re not expecting Picard to be a creepy show about paranoia it could certainly be that “something different” that’s been mentioned about the show.
For all the memes and all the mockery of the character of TNG’s Wesley Crusher, there’s no doubt that the character had one of the most interesting character arcs in all of Star Trek. From his early days as an annoying know-it-all who seemed to save the Enterprise every second week, he became a respected crew member… and a whole lot more. His “golden boy” image looked increasingly tarnished as he struggled to be a child in an adults’ world, and became increasingly dissatisfied with Starfleet and the Federation’s political policies. Ultimately he would join the cosmic being known as The Traveler, evolving into something potentially beyond human – before reappearing briefly at Riker and Troi’s wedding, although his status was never made clear.
While we don’t want Picard to ask his old frenemy and cosmic being Q to re-align reality, reset the Kelvin timeline back to one he’d prefer and save Romulus – like some deus ex machina or magic wand – there’s always Wesley. Wesley has been like a surrogate son to Jean-Luc Picard over the years, and it would be interesting to see them share some emotional one-on-ones about their feelings of disappointment in each other over the years as Wesley attempts to make things better. For someone like Picard, who deeply regretted never having had a family of his own (as seen in Star Trek: Generations) this could be his one last chance to experience some form of parenthood. Plus… it may help reunite Picard with Wesley’s mother, Doctor Beverly Crusher.