Anthony explores the long-awaited return of Jean-Luc Picard
Star Trek: Picard is beaming onto streaming services across the globe NOW. Unable to contain our excitement, Future of the Force launched a probe to gather some vital intel about the intrepid captain. Here’s what we discovered. Engage!
With a booming Shakespearean voice and an air of absolute authority, Jean-Luc Picard is one of Starfleet’s greatest captains.
Like James T. Kirk before him, Picard is a beloved pop culture icon. As commander of the Enterprise-D, he’s the beating heart of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ (TNG). His appeal is helped in no small part by the superb acting skills of Patrick Stewart. The captain is a peerless philosopher, more comfortable debating the finer nuances of morality and diplomacy than the brash and boisterous Kirk. Somehow Picard made TNG work, and we never got bored of following his continuing mission.
His Greatest Voyage
When we first meet Picard taking command of the Enterprise, he’s a rather aloof figure. Owing to a single-minded drive for a career in Starfleet, he admits to Riker that he is not a family man – the captain bemoans Starfleet’s decision to give him a Galaxy-class starship with children on board. His reaction to family is also informed by the friction he has with his late father and brother.
So herein lies Picard’s greatest voyage: his evolution from austere officer into someone willing to stake his career for the people he grows to love. During TNG’s seven-year run, we saw Picard embrace the surrogate family thrust upon him. Not only did he nurture and encourage his shipmates, but he also advised and disciplined them when necessary. With the strength and wisdom of a benign patriarch, he inspired and protected those under his command.
Then the Borg Came
Jean-Luc Picard’s life was turned upside down when the Borg invaded the Federation. Assimilated and transformed into Locutus, he was responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. Many others were assimilated by the cybernetic invaders because of him.
The massacre at Wolf 359 took a huge emotional toll on Picard. To recover, and to try and heal the rift with his brother Robert, he returned to his childhood home in La Barre (France) after 20 years away. He was also thinking about leaving Starfleet for a job on Earth. The conservative Robert was jealous of his high-achieving brother, whom he viewed as getting away with spurning family traditions and responsibilities on the vineyard. The older man also feared that his son René would leave home to join Starfleet, just like Jean-Luc did.
In a cathartic moment for the captain, the two men fight among the grapevines.
Lying in the mud, the shattered and emotionally broken Jean-Luc admits to feelings of guilt and powerlessness because of what the Borg did to him. Robert stoically tells him he would have to learn to live with what he did, regardless of where he goes. Hearing this sage advice, Picard decides to return to his career at Starfleet. The brothers then spend the night getting drunk resolving their differences. It is among the vineyards of home that Jean-Luc begins his journey towards self-forgiveness. It started with the love of his family.
Years later he is devastated to learn that Robert and René died in a fire. Worse still, the loss makes Jean-Luc the last Picard. In a poignant scene aboard the Enterprise, he tells the ship’s counsellor Deanna Troi about his proud family heritage. The bereaved Jean-Luc confesses he never intended to have children because his brother had a child who would carry on the Picard name. Robert and René’s deaths would change and define him as he began to question his own mortality.
A Ressikan Flute
In one of Star Trek’s most beloved episodes (‘The Inner Light’), Picard finally got the loving family he always wanted. Tragically, none of it was real. In the episode, an alien probe controls and disables Picard, who wakes up as Kamin; a resident of the planet Kataan. Kamin (in the form of an interactive simulation) lives through the final, dying decades of his homeworld in a compressed span of 25 minutes.
During this lifetime he made friends, married and had children; he even had a grandchild. He also learned to play the Ressikan flute. Just before the probe breaks contact, Kamin is told he has been chosen to be a vessel containing the memories of his race. He is asked to remember and tell others about their culture.
Regaining consciousness on the bridge, Picard discovered that in a brief time, he had lived for decades as Kamin. When the now inactive probe is brought aboard the Enterprise a small box is found inside. Riker gives it to Picard who finds a Ressikan flute inside. Remembering how to play the instrument from his life as Kamin, the emotional Jean-Luc plays the tune from his son’s naming ceremony.
The flute represents a different life from the one Picard experiences aboard the Enterprise. For a brief but blissful time, the captain had the family life he had never known. It profoundly and irrevocably changes who he is.
A Game of Poker
Picard’s evolution is beautifully reflected in the final episode of TNG. In the last scene, he asks if he could join the poker game with the senior officers. Up to this point, the captain always thought he needed to keep a professional distance from his crew. He discovered he was wrong. Expressing regret that he had not done so before, he realises that Riker, Data, Worf, Troi, Crusher and La Forge were more than shipmates – they were his family.
It’s this family that defines the indomitable spirit of Jean-Luc Picard as he journeys among the stars.
So… Let’s toast the captain’s return with a glass of Chateau Picard wine (yes, you can buy it!). A hot cup of earl grey tea will also suffice! It’s brilliant having you back Jean-Luc Picard – your family of fans can’t wait to join you on your next adventure. Make it so… and engage!
The Future of the Force. The future of pop culture writing.
Anthony Murphy is a new addition to the Future of the Force roster. A child of the 80s, Anthony is a Lucasfilm fanboy. A weekend watching Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Willow is considered bliss. When off duty being a dad and hubby, you’ll find him watching football, searching for the perfect Kuwahara BMX online and writing his Star Wars website, Rebel Briefing. Find him on Twitter @Anthony08042015 trying to make sense of the world, both real and imagined.