May 23, 1994 saw the end of the second, and arguably best, era of Star Trek. In the final scene of the final episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, titled "All Good Things}, Picard sits down with the best crew in Starfleet and remarks, "I should have done this a long time ago" to which Deanna replied, "you were always welcome."
Throughout the crew's tenure under Picard, we saw the greatest acts of loyalty as one would feel in a military-esque hierarchy for their commanding officer as it moved through the years. Hell, the most glaring example was the risking of their lives in what could have been viewed as a vain attempt to rescue their beloved Captain from the Borg collective. And that was only a few years into their partnership.
But over the years, it always felt that their loyalty was based on respect for their Commanding Officer, rather than friendship and love. Perhaps, it was Picard's fault, he was often aloof to the greater emotions that we need to truly build relationships. He was married to Starfleet and rarely made any apologies about that although perhaps showed signs of regret to that stance in Star Trek: Generations.
The rest of the crew was quite different. Few can argue that the relationships between Geordi and Data or Deanna and Will were anything but friendship and love. Indeed, these developed over time through shared experiences and emotions that they rarely had with their Captain. Additionally, Deanna's foray into the Klingon world with her relationship with Worf, as well as the years of experiences, both in the line of duty and outside, likely brought these individuals together into a camaraderie and closeness that went far beyond duty and loyalty. And truly, how much relationship can be garnered by weekly poker games over a decade...quite a bit I would wager.
Although Jean-Luc missed many years of building relationships with his crew, there are indications that this may have changed after All Good Things and clearly, they served for many more years before Riker took command of the USS Titan and our beloved Android sadly met his end. We know that the timeline Q showed Picard is now changed due to Picard solving the anti-time phenomenon in the Devron system, and likely relationships slowly became more established as Picard shared more of himself to his friends.
The new era of Nostalgia in Hollywood
A theme that is beginning to emerge within both the movie and streaming programs is the importance of nostalgia when we look at franchises and IP's that are decades removed from their original success. Today, Hollywood executives are starting to realize both the power and importance of revisiting beloved characters from our memories. Our memories, powerfully triggered by our past, awaken feelings and emotions that drive us forward to these visual displays we loved so long ago.
Today, series like Cobra Kai and movies like Halloween are pumping up the nostalgia for us in a major way and to be frank, it's one of the main reasons we come back to these with such excitement and why, in the end, the eventual arcs to these iconic projects may have the endings and emotional impact we want these escapes to be for us. A truly satisfying ending is what we are always looking for and we have been let down so many times...do Dexter, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad or Lost ring a bell?
Although Picard received a solid 87% ranking by critics on Rotten Tomatoes, the audience score, a far more important measure of a programs worth, came in at a dismal 55%. It's true that Trekkies may be as brutal as Star Wars fans when it comes to abnormally high expectations, and are frequently hard to please, but to be honest, if a studio is going to cast their net into one of these large and murky ponds, they better know what they're getting themselves into and they better produce for the fans. And although we as fans can appreciate as one reviewer put it, "...Picard departs from a standard Starfleet protocol with a slower, serialized story, but like all great Star Trek, it tackles timely themes with grace and makes for an exciting push further into the final frontier." For sure, that's what we love about Trek, it was always relevant and tackled timeless themes such as bias, displacement at the expense of the powerful (Star Trek: Insurrection) and even ontology (The Measure of a Man, I-Borg). But it suffered from a poor budget and was boring and slow. Let's be honest, we really got excited when Riker and Deanna showed up, we became further intrigued because we thought we may see the Borg, and we pushed through because in our heart of hearts, we had hoped that B-4 would have been able to receive some form of quantum memories from Data and bring our positronic hero back. We really weren't sure until the end. Sad, but realistic stakes are OK these days too. Life reflects art after all...or is it the opposite?
So, back to my original argument. As much as the originators of Picard want this to be about Picard, and it is, believing him to be the sole figurehead of the Star Trek: The Next Generation franchise simply isn't the case. No doubt, as the prestigious Captain, both literally and figuratively, a series with Captain Picard as the main protagonist makes perfect sense. Having said that, to believe that he is the most iconic or even most important character of this iteration of Star Trek also is untrue. This is a family and family go together. As I indicated earlier, the excitement around Picard largely turned at moments when Data was involved, the Troi's reared their heads and the hopes of the Borg crept into our mind. From a character standpoint, we see voids in the narrative and the void are our missing family members.
Q and Guinan are back!
To be sure, having the entire crew appear in Season 1 was not realistic. However, showrunners are taking lessons form the other franchises discussed earlier with the inclusion of the great Whoopi Goldberg set to reprise her role as the listening El-Aurian Guinan and the perfect John de Lance as the enigmatic 'Q' has also been announced to return in Picard to wreak more mischief on our aging Captain. This is a step in the right direction and no doubt purposefully done. I could wax philosophical here and push back against another 'time heist' series following Endgame and Loki (not to mention a few Star Trek movies to boot) but I won't. I will allow Q to work his magic and perhaps it is in this soon-to-be time warping adventure, we may again see the rest of the family, perhaps not in Season 2 but Season 3.
It's difficult to conclude what Paramount has in store for the future of Star Trek. The motion picture renditions of Star Trek over the last many years, although somewhat entertaining, have wrecked the Star Trek timeline and have still underwhelmed at the box office. Further, fans are tired of going backwards. We only want to go forward. That, at the minimum, is something that the current Paramount folks have finally figured out.
Arguably, we can conclude that the Picard series may be the last chance we have to see epilogues of our favorite characters; Geordi, Worf and Beverly equally deserve their time in the sun. To me, this is as much their swan song as it is for Picard. A conclusion to these characters would be like a warm blanket to fans and provide the bookend to Picard's story that we all need and want.
And a message to the studios, we really want a space battle from time to time. Sorry if it doesn't fit into the 'non-Starfleet...let's do something different mindset...but it's a necessity! We also hope Guinan stabs Q with a fork again.