I have always had a special relationship with Star Trek. From the time I was eight – and maybe even before that – I would go to all the Star Trek movies with my dad and grandpa. One of my earliest memories is watching Insurrection in the theaters and laughing as Data asked Riker if he could feel his face after the first officer’s having, once again, shaved his infamous beard. I don’t know why this stuck out to me as a kid. Perhaps it was because it emphasized the camaraderie and familial aspects of the Picard crew; it always brought the latter to the forefront of my life whenever Star Trek was involved. After the movies my dad and I would inevitably end up watching episodes of the original series and, of course, The Next Generation, while waiting for new episodes of Deep Space Nine and Enterprise. It appeared Star Trek would never end.
Then, Nemesis happened. To me, it felt like a visit with old friends. To most other people, it was a played-out mess that is now often cited as one of the first examples (at least in the modern era) of franchise fatigue. When Captain Jean-Luc Picard walked down the hallway in the final shot, it was widely considered to be the last time we would see the legendary Starfleet captain on screen. Sure, we got to see some of the Next Generation crew in the final episode of Enterprise (which many fans thought was a detriment to the Scott Bakula series), and there was even talk of a fifth movie with the Next Generation cast, but these prospects never bore any fruit.
It wasn’t until JJ Abrams’ Star Trek reboot that people began to take the franchise seriously again. One of the cool things about the reboot was how it connected chronologically to Spock’s last appearance in the original timeline – the two-part story “Unification” – with the reboot in some ways serving as a sequel. As a bonus, fans were even treated to an appearance from Picard, albeit in the form of a tie-in comic. Despite the franchise’s newfound success, fans still longed for Trek to return to television. It wasn’t until 2017 when our wishes were granted.
Like so many other companies in today’s television landscape, CBS was looking to establish their own streaming service to compete with Netflix. CBS’s answer to the streaming juggernaut: CBS All Access. But it wasn’t just enough to simply have the service; they needed a marquee title to draw in would-be subscribers. According to then CBS head honcho Les Moonves, the answer to that was Star Trek. Unfortunately, complications ensued due to a complex arrangement thanks to the film and TV rights being shared between Viacom and CBS. CBS was not allowed to air a new Star Trek series in the same year as a new movie, one of which was set to be released in July of 2016. Thus, we were forced to wait until January for Star Trek: Discovery to premiere.
With the first episode being previewed on CBS proper, I went to my dad’s house and prepared for a new iteration of Star Trek to take me back to the final frontier. Of course, my dad and I loved it. Some pundits even suggested it was worth paying for CBS All Access for the show alone. To have the Kelvin Timeline’s Alex Kurtzman at the helm of not just Discovery but all the upcoming Trek television projects gave me hope for the franchise’s future. Little did I realize the biggest surprise of them all was just around the corner.
In the years after Nemesis came out, our beloved Picard, Patrick Stewart, became very busy, continuing his role in the X-Men franchise and playing Avery Bullock on the Seth MacFarlane animated series American Dad. He even starred in MacFarlane series Blunt Talk for Starz, thus furthering his comedic repertoire. After completing his final turn as Professor Xavier in the acclaimed Logan, I thought he was going to be done with both of his franchises. After all, in many interviews throughout the years, he always said he had no intention of ever returning to the role of Picard. That is, until August 4, 2018.
I should’ve known something was up when Alex Kurtzman walked out to introduce the captain of the Enterprise. Hearing Stewart speak, fans like myself were once again reminded of how much he appreciated all of us and how, after much deliberation, Patrick Stewart was ready to return to the iconic role of Jean-Luc Picard. I watched the video a few times. I read every article I could on the subject. I watched as Scott Mantz freaked out over the news, which only made me even more excited for the series. Throughout all of this, I have to admit that I kept thinking I was about to wake up. While it could be argued things like this could be expected in the age of TV revivals, I don’t think anyone expected Patrick Stewart to return, especially after the series was rebooted nearly a decade ago. Even Stewart himself admitted that he was skeptical about returning to the franchise, but after talking to the team and understanding the importance Picard had in peoples lives, he agreed to return.
Admits the cheers, Stewart told fans this was going to be a very different Picard. Most fans got very nervous at these words, misgivings about Abrams films coloring their perception. For me, this was a selling point. If there was even the slightest chance that the Picard show would give Stewart a chance to do with Picard what he did with Xavier, this time over the course of what’s probably going to be 50-60 hours, I was all for it. We saw an Xavier without control and, to a degree, the use of his intellect. Now, we may get a Picard who’s not a part of Starfleet. Granted, we got to see a little of that in “The Inner Light” and the season 4 premiere, but what could be more different from the character we know than a Picard without Starfleet?
Will they go to this route? Probably not, but I can’t deny it is fun to think about it. The Picard series is a cache of unlimited narrative potential. With Stewart returning and Alex Kurtzman at the helm, I have no doubt we’re in for a treat. I never thought we’d get the opportunity to see Stewart return to the Trek universe, so I’m excited CBS All Access has decided to make it so.