Why Picard Works

We’ve come to the end of the Why Star Trek Works series, and it seems appropriate that we’d end with the latest of the shows, Picard. 

I’m not going to lie, I was worried about this show. When I heard they were getting Patrick Stewart to reprise his role, I worried this was going to be cringy. I worried it was going to be the science fiction equivalent of The Mule with that ridiculous threesome scene with Clint Eastwood. 

I should have known better, of course. Picard was great. It works exactly as it needs to. 

Picard is a direct follow-up to Next Generation. It begins with Captain Picard, retired on his family’s vineyard. Because of course, his family has a vineyard. He seems content, at first. We find out soon enough that he’s haunted by his past decisions. And when some of them come back, he finds that he must put a crew together and set things right.

If you’re expecting to see Captain Picard, the stuffy in charge man who always has a diplomatic answer for everything, you’re wrong. He’s older, and he’s grown. That’s one of the reasons this show works. Sometimes we need a reminder that even adults have things to learn. There’s always another stage in our lives to grow towards. And Picard has grown past his former bigotry, his coldness. He’s starting to see how always focusing on the mission has hurt people he’s loved. 

But he also sees the good he did, despite that. Which I appreciated. 

One thing Picard had going for it that a lot of other shows don’t was the age of the main character. We don’t often see heroes this age. And frankly, that’s a sad thing. I feel like we always get the same sort of story, and few of them have anything to do with people in the later parts of their lives. It’s no wonder we’ve got a whole society of people terrified of getting older. If fiction is to be believed, you stop being the main character of your life and take on a supporting role. Which deprives us of a whole collection of stories.

Another thing Picard did well was the fan service. No, I’m not talking about nudity. I’m talking about moments that only mean anything to the long term Star Trek fans. I like that it had these fan service moments, while still being its own story. We see old characters and old stories coming to their eventual conclusion. But we also see new characters, new lives. We see old battles from different perspectives. What this does is simple. If you’re a Star Trek fan, you’re going to understand and value this show on every level. Moments that might be meh to a new viewer will break your freaking heart. But if you’ve never seen an episode of Star Trek before, you’re still going to like it.

There’s a problem with that, too. At least, if you as a writer hope to learn from it. Only a show with this foundation could have pulled this off.

As I said, there are moments in this show that made me bawl. Mostly dealing with the Borg. These moments weigh years of storytelling behind them. Decades. Two or three shows had to be successful, have beloved characters and set up long-term storylines for this to work. And that’s something that, if you’re just starting, you can’t do yet.

What you can do, though, is prepare for it. If you’re writing a series in a world you think you want to explore more, maybe prepare for this sort of thing. Write worlds that can be seen from multiple points of view. The best way to do this? Remember that no story is black and white. Everyone sees things from their perspective. And if you do things right, you can get your fans to see that too.

That’s really what makes Picard, and Star Trek in general, work.

Well, we’ve come to the end of our series. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed revisiting some old, and new, favorite shows. Let me know in the comments which one is your favorite Star Trek show. 

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