Comic-ConStar Trek: Picard Shows Where the Franchise Is Boldly Going
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The MonitorNew Picard Star Trek Series Is Coming to Amazon. SortaThe trailers for Picard look good. Sci-fi TV has gotten better and better-looking since TNG ended in 1994. Stewart’s an ace. And nerds and the nerd-adjacent are going to be watercoolering about this thing. But judging by advance press, the show is gonna be allusive. So the question is, can a person who hasn’t engaged with Trek’s five decades of TV and movies still climb aboard? As someone who is the other kind of person—which is to say, a person who has watched all the Star Trek—I’m here to help. Yes. The answer is yes.
At one level, it's not that complicated. Three decades ago, Picard led a close-knit crew on a spaceship. They had problem-solving, intellectualized adventures with laser guns, go-fast rockets, and aliens. That’s all you really need. Don’t worry about the silly names. (“Phasers” are ray guns, “warp drive” is rockets, “communicators” are phones.)At another level … whoooo. OK. See, when Next Generation premiered in 1987, fans had only known one kind of captain—James T. Kirk, a swaggering cowboy, something of a Cold Space Warrior in a two-front fight against the aggressive Klingons and the inscrutable Romulans, and a pansexual adventurer who never didn’t have time to chase alien orifice. (This is all canon!) Picard was a change. Older and more measured, he was a stalwart defender of the non-violent, inclusive ideals of the United Federation of Planets and Starfleet, the organizations he worked for, even when his bosses weren’t. Kirk never met a spaceship he didn’t want to shoot at; Picard fretted about the pronunciation of diplomatic greetings. The actor who played Kirk, William Shatner, was a journeyman TV professional with two of the best episodes of Twilight Zone on his resume; Stewart was a trained Shakespearean with a typical Brit actor’s filmography—high art interspersed with an occasional Excalibur or Dune.
Like a lot of actors who get pulled into Trek’s orbit, Stewart came to see beyond the obsessive fandom and silly techno-babble. Somewhere around the third season, which is when Trek shows generally find their footing (if they ever do), he turned avuncular gravitas into a philosophical conscience. Partially that’s because Stewart can deliver one hell of a monologue, a skill on which the writers leaned hard, but whether through self-examination or just plain good acting, Stewart managed to transcend dopey sci-fi TV convention and convey—sometimes with just a gesture or a glance—lessons about leadership, family, and integrity. Here are a dozen hours of video, all gettable on various streaming services, that prove it.