Paramount’s cack-handed marketing strikes again…

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for unreleased Star Trek episodes, including casting information for Strange New Worlds Season 2 and Picard Season 3. Spoilers are also present for Picard Seasons 1-2.

Today has been First Contact Day – the 5th of April is the date in 2063 when the Vulcans will arrive on Earth, as depicted in the film First Contact. First Contact Day has become somewhat of an “event” in the Star Trek fan community, with an entire digital broadcast being dedicated to it last year. This year there was nothing quite so big on the schedule, but there were still teases and hints from Paramount Global that the corporation would do something to mark the occasion.

I’ve given up on hearing anything about an international broadcast for Strange New Worlds, so that never seemed like a realistic prospect – though it’s probably the biggest request from non-American Trekkies at the moment. But I admit that I was curious about the prospect of some kind of announcement. There are other Star Trek projects being worked on behind-the-scenes, after all… could we be set for an announcement of something like the Starfleet Academy series, perhaps?

No, as it turned out.

No news about a Starfleet Academy series today.

Instead, what we got was the second announcement in a row from Paramount Global’s marketing department that just feels exceptionally poorly-timed. A couple of weeks ago, Paramount Global had clumsily dropped the news that Strange New Worlds Season 2 would feature the character of James T. Kirk in an unspecified capacity; an unnecessary overreaction to a single leaked photograph from the show’s ongoing production.

That announcement sent fans into overdrive, and Star Trek’s social media channels were overwhelmed with toxicity for a few days, as the threadbare announcement left many things unclear about Strange New Worlds – a series which hasn’t even aired a single episode yet. Announcing Kirk’s return to Star Trek was premature to say the least, and the way in which Paramount Global handled it left much to be desired.

A promotional photo of James T. Kirk in Strange New Worlds Season 2.

The corporation had a solid couple of weeks to learn lessons from the fiasco surrounding Kirk’s role in Strange New Worlds… but, as evidenced by another announcement put out today, their inept marketing team has learned absolutely nothing. To commemorate First Contact Day, Paramount Global released a teaser for Star Trek: Picard Season 3, announcing the reunion of most of the main cast members of The Next Generation.

The teaser trailer was smooth and well-composed. Unlike the first tease for Season 2 (which was shown off at last year’s First Contact Day digital event) it showed off a couple of clips of what at least appears to be actual footage from the new season. And the announcement that closed it out was clearly designed to get a lot of fans excited. But here’s the thing: we’re only halfway through Picard Season 2 right now, so the new teaser for Season 3 not only feels wholly unnecessary at this moment, but it opens up a lot of questions about the series that Paramount Global isn’t interested in addressing.

Picard holding a familiar combadge in the teaser.

I confess that I’m intrigued by the prospect of a reunion. The Next Generation was my own “first contact” with the Star Trek franchise and my way into becoming a Trekkie in the early 1990s. I’ve been a fan for more than three decades off the back of that series, and I always felt that there was scope for Picard to show us at least a glimpse of what other members of the crew of the Enterprise-D were up to. We’ve had some of that already across Seasons 1 and 2.

But I was also keen that Picard shouldn’t try to be “The Next Generation Season 8.” There are new characters, new storylines, and other new elements in play, and for the series to do justice to all of that – and to do right by the new characters – it had to keep its focus there and avoid the gratuitous overuse of classic characters. Season 1 generally struck the right balance in that regard; Season 2 has already sidelined two major new characters and, thus far at least, has underdeveloped and regressed a third.

The main cast of Star Trek: Picard.

The Season 3 announcement made no mention of the current Star Trek: Picard cast. While we now know that Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, and Marina Sirtis are joining the crew, we don’t know what that means for Evan Evagora, Alison Pill, Michelle Hurd, Santiago Cabrera, Isa Briones, or even Jeri Ryan. Part of the fun of Picard has been seeing the Admiral working with a new crew, and I feel like we don’t know some of the new characters as well as we ought to at what is now the halfway point of the series’ three-season run.

Those new characters should be given the chance to become the next generation of fan-favourites. In thirty-five years’ time, it’s my firm hope that a new group of Trekkies will be talking as excitedly about the return of Elnor and Dr Jurati as we are about Worf and Dr Crusher. In a series that already has a limited number of episodes remaining, it’s hard to see how there will be enough time to deal with some pretty heavy stories and make sure each of the new characters gets enough screen time, especially if the entire crew of the Enterprise-D is reuniting.

What will become of characters like Elnor in Season 3?

There’s also the issue of spoilers. Now I know that it always seemed like a reasonable assumption that Picard would survive and that, somehow, he and the crew would make it back to the prime timeline! But we’re literally halfway through Season 2’s story right now, and there are a lot of different directions it could go and different ways that it could pan out. To drop a massive Season 3 announcement at this time was categorically the wrong thing to do, and it risks blunting the dramatic edge of the rest of Season 2.

We now know that Picard will make it back to the 25th Century, for example, which wasn’t necessarily a given in a franchise that loves season-ending cliffhangers. We also know that Picard will successfully restore the prime timeline as of the beginning of Season 3, which again was not guaranteed as of where we are in terms of the story of Season 2. And finally, it now seems that we can safely assume that Season 3 will be the beginning of a new story, not the continuation of an ongoing one.

Jonathan Frakes as Captain Riker in the Season 3 teaser.

All of these things colour how we’ll watch the second half of Season 2 over the next five weeks. And I can’t help but feel that a significant chunk of the show’s tension and drama has been stolen by this ill-timed announcement. There will undoubtedly be twists and turns along the way as Picard and the crew of La Sirena rumble with Q and Dr Adam Soong, but one way or another everything will work out – Picard will make it home, the crew of the Enterprise-D will reunite for one last mission, and then… who knows.

If this announcement had come at the end of Season 2, I’d still have some of the same concerns about the current Picard cast (well, unless they’re all killed off, stranded in the past, or otherwise clearly written out of the series) but at least it would feel like the right time to make it. The halfway point of Season 2 was not the right time for this announcement, just like the timing of the James T. Kirk announcement wasn’t right prior to Season 1 of Strange New Worlds.

The Next Generation main cast will be returning.

It seems to me that Paramount Global knew that they didn’t have anything major to announce at First Contact Day this time around. Discovery Season 5 hasn’t entered production yet, Strange New Worlds has already released teasers and trailers over the past few weeks, and while there was perhaps scope to do something with Lower Decks Season 3 or the second half of Prodigy, it was evidently decided by someone higher up that a major announcement was necessary. I don’t see any reason why that should be the case; First Contact Day this year could’ve been dedicated to the upcoming Strange New Worlds and the second half of Picard Season 2, but there we are.

Maybe I’m still sour off the back of the Strange New Worlds situation, but I’m not as excited by this announcement as I feel I should be. The timing of it just seems incredibly wrong, hot on the heels of another self-inflicted wound with the Kirk debacle. And it opens some uncomfortable questions about the fates of the current main cast members of Picard.

All things considered, I wish that Paramount Global could’ve at least waited until the end of Picard Season 2 before making this announcement. Doing so now doesn’t seem right, for the reasons outlined above. While I’m intrigued by what has been teased, right now I can muster curious interest, tinged with more than a little concern, rather than the outright excitement that this announcement was trying to generate.

Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and around the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard, Strange New Worlds, and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Picard – Six USS Stargazer theories

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1, the teaser for Season 2, and for the following: Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Voyager.

Star Trek’s First Contact Day event a few days ago provided a lot of information and teases for upcoming projects in the franchise! Yesterday I took a look at one element from the Discovery Season 4 teaser, and today it’s Picard’s turn to go under the microscope! I wrote up my thoughts on the entire First Contact Day event, by the way, and if you missed that article you can find it by clicking or tapping here.

Both Discovery Season 4 and Lower Decks Season 2 are well into production – in fact, we now know that Lower Decks will be broadcast beginning on the 12th of August! Both shows were able to compile teaser trailers that incorporated a number of different scenes, probably from multiple episodes, and thus we had quite a lot to pick through for each! Picard Season 2, however, only entered production at the end of February, so naturally there wasn’t much to show.

There was a lot more to see from Discovery’s upcoming fourth season!

Instead what we saw was a stylised teaser, which I assume was deliberately filmed for First Contact Day. It seemed to include a shot of Château Picard – the Picard family vineyard – that was part of Season 1; a recycled shot to set up the rest of the teaser. The rest of the teaser comprised a shot of Picard’s study/office at the vineyard, with the camera lingering over a handful of items in the empty room.

The item most confusing to me at the moment is the book Paradise Lost! It’s an epic poem that I once had to read at school, written in the 1600s. And it’s all about Satan and God. Given what Picard is heard to say in voiceover about travelling through time and not knowing what might have been had different actions been taken, perhaps the meaning of Paradise Lost is less to do with the content of the poem than a literal reading of the title – something Picard did or didn’t do in the past changed the present, making things worse. That could be his “paradise lost.” This is frustrating!

How does Paradise Lost connect to the story of Season 2?

But Paradise Lost is not what we’re talking about today. In the teaser, Picard spoke of time as “the true final frontier,” and combined with the teaser focusing both on clocks and a backwards-running hourglass, time travel seems to be on the agenda! That’s before we get to Q, who is returning to tangle with Picard once more. Q is quite capable of time travel, as we’ve seen numerous times. Sir Patrick Stewart seemed to at least hint that Q isn’t responsible for whatever happens to Picard, but he’s clearly involved to some degree.

In addition to all of the time-related imagery, one thing from the trailer really leapt out at me: a model of the USS Stargazer. It’s the Stargazer that we’re going to talk about today, as the teaser seemed to at least hint at the possibility of revisiting this chapter of Picard’s life – something I predicted Season 2 might do a few weeks ago!

The USS Stargazer model as seen in the Season 2 teaser.

So let’s consider a few possibilities for how the USS Stargazer could be included in Season 2 of Picard. We’ve already heard the ship mentioned in Season 1; Dr Benayoun referenced Picard’s time aboard the ship in the episode Maps and Legends. Perhaps that was a hint at things to come in Season 2, and perhaps Dr Benayoun himself will make a return. We’ll have to wait and see what happens when the season airs next year!

My usual caveat applies: I have no “insider information.” I’m not claiming any of the things on this list will definitely happen in Season 2. This is just speculation and guesswork; a bit of fun and a chance to spend a bit more time talking and theorising about Star Trek. That’s all! So with that out of the way, let’s take a look at my six USS Stargazer theories.

Number 1: Picard’s “death” and a redux of The Next Generation Season 6 episode Tapestry.

Picard was given the option to make changes in his life in the episode Tapestry.

When I think of Q, Picard, and time travel, one of the first episodes that comes to mind is Tapestry. Given that Picard has faced death in Season 1, perhaps the stage is set for some kind of redux of this episode, or at least a story which uses a similar premise. In Tapestry, Picard was given a chance by Q to go back to his past and make changes in his life, choosing to use the wisdom of age to be more cautious and less impulsive. At first it seemed to save his life, but the changes made his life far worse and unliveable.

What wasn’t clear in Tapestry is whether Q and Picard were truly travelling through time or whether it was an elaborate illusion. I choose to think it was the former; Q had the power to do all of those things, after all! So maybe he will give Picard a chance to do so again.

Q in Tapestry.

At this stage we don’t know why Picard wants or needs to travel through time. It may be connected to the Zhat Vash, Coppelius, the super-synths from the season finale, or something else that happened last season. It may be connected to something from The Next Generation. Or it may simply be a new storyline written for the show as happened in Season 1. But if he did want to go back in time to change the past, perhaps he would enlist the help of Q, setting up a story similar to Tapestry.

If Picard were to go back in time to his Stargazer days, there are a lot of things he could potentially do differently, and thus a lot of different ways that the story could go. You’d think that, after what happened in Tapestry, Picard would have learned his lesson about changing the past. But if Q showed him a very different, far better future, perhaps he could be convinced to make such a change.

This might connect to the “paradise lost” concept that I touched on at the beginning. Perhaps Q is able to convince Picard that his best option, or the only option, to get a particular outcome in the future is to change the past?

Number 2: The Cardassian Border Wars.

Picard has had run-ins with the Cardassians before.

Though only mentioned briefly in The Next Generation, Picard was in command of the USS Stargazer during the Cardassian Border Wars. Not to be confused with Deep Space Nine’s Dominion War, this conflict took place in the mid-24th Century, prior to the events of The Next Generation. Picard made reference to one encounter in which a Cardassian ship fired on the Stargazer while the shields were down, causing him to have to flee!

One of the interesting things about choosing the Stargazer for part of Season 2’s setting as opposed to the Enterprise-D is that we know relatively little of Picard’s exploits while in command of the ship. Picard was in command of the Stargazer for around twenty years (from the 2330s to the 2350s) yet we only got brief hints at what he did in all that time. That makes it a relatively blank slate as far as the writers and producers of Season 2 are concerned.

A Cardassian Galor-class ship attacks the Enterprise-D in the episode The Wounded.

We do know, however, that Picard and the Stargazer saw action during the Cardassian Border Wars, and perhaps this could be a way for Star Trek to revisit the faction we got to know so well in Deep Space Nine. As one of the few known events during Picard’s time in command of that vessel, it’s at least possible that we’ll see it mentioned!

The Next Generation Season 4 episode The Wounded saw Picard work with the Cardassians, so it doesn’t seem as though he harbours any lingering feelings toward them; certainly not like the trauma he carries after his experiences with the Borg. So I don’t think that revisiting the Cardassian Border Wars would lead to the kind of powerful moment that we saw when Picard visited the Artifact in Season 1. But there could be something from those days that Picard has to confront, or perhaps he’s been hiding or repressing his feelings about the Cardassians since then?

The advantage to bringing the Cardassian Border Wars into play, at least from my point of view, would be that it would allow the series to revisit some of the events seen in Deep Space Nine and Voyager. Picard may not have much connection to those events, but other characters do. Seven of Nine, for example, served with and was once in a relationship with Chakotay, and his Maquis friends were killed by the Cardassians. Perhaps some kind of story related to Cardassia and the Cardassian Border Wars is on the cards.

Number 3: Assuming command in the 2330s.

Picard served in Starfleet for decades.

One of the things that Picard inadvertently changed during the events of Tapestry was that he never assumed command of the USS Stargazer. All we know of this event is that, following the death of the ship’s captain, Picard boldly assumed command. Doing so was a risk, one that the less cautious young Picard was willing and able to take. Following this event, he was appointed as the ship’s permanent commander and (presumably) promoted to the rank of captain.

The death of a ship’s captain is a significant moment, one that we haven’t seen often within Star Trek. Presumably the Stargazer’s captain was killed violently or during some kind of disaster or emergency; if he’d simply died of natural causes Picard’s tale of assuming command would be far less grand! So whatever happened, I think it’s fair to say it came at a difficult moment for the ship and crew.

Picard hallucinates the Stargazer crew in the episode The Battle.

This event may turn out to have some connection to Q or to something from Season 1 of the show. We could learn, for example, that the Zhat Vash or the super-synths were responsible for the attack on the Stargazer, and thus for Picard’s ascent to the captain’s chair. It may then be the Zhat Vash who want to go back in time to undo something, changing events so that Picard wouldn’t be in a position to help Soji and the Coppelius synths.

Maybe that’s a stretch and a reach, but the idea of undoing a mistake and trying to alter the future seems to be a theme of the season, according to the teaser. Picard himself was heard in voiceover saying that time never offers second chances – so perhaps the person or faction hoping to change the past is not Picard and his new crew, but some other nefarious faction. Picard and the crew of La Sirena may even be travelling back in time to preserve the timeline, not change it.

When it comes to factions we know of within Picard that could be interested in changing the past, the Zhat Vash have to be right up at the top. They’re fanatics, and after their recent defeat both at Coppelius and with the repeal of the ban on synthetic life they may try to travel back in time to exact their revenge. Going back to prevent Picard ever becoming a captain, changing his career and stopping him interfering in their plans, may be what they have in mind. One of the neat things about revisiting this era would potentially be a return of the red Starfleet uniforms!

Number 4: The Battle of Maxia.

The “Picard Manoeuvre” – Picard’s tactic at the Battle of Maxia.

At the opposite end of Picard’s time in command was the Battle of Maxia. At this battle, in which Picard faced a Ferengi ship, he devised the “Picard Manoeuvre” – a tactic that allowed his ship to appear to be in two places at once, and which was later taught at Starfleet Academy. In the aftermath of this battle, however, the Stargazer was lost. Presumed to have been destroyed, the ship was actually salvaged by the Ferengi.

The “Picard Manoeuvre” was referenced in Season 1, during the episode Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2. As with the earlier reference to the USS Stargazer, perhaps this was setting up something that will become important in Season 2, or at least reminding us of its existence! These little crumbs could form a trail for us to follow, perhaps informing us of planned events in Season 2. Or I could be reading too much into individual lines, as I always seem to be!

Picard on the bridge of the Stargazer.

The Battle, the ninth episode of The Next Generation, explored the Battle of Maxia in more detail. It’s probably the one event involving the USS Stargazer that has been most closely examined on screen. That could mean it’s a good place for Season 2 to go, as it’s something we’re at least a little familiar with. Or it could mean that, as Picard has already confronted his actions at the battle and their consequences, there isn’t much left to explore.

In any case, it remains a possibility. Returning to the Battle of Maxia could see the return of the Ferengi in some capacity, though their involvement was not known at the time. As above, it could be a chance either for Picard to correct a mistake, or for someone nefarious to attempt to change the past – his past – by changing the outcome of the battle.

Number 5: The death of Jack Crusher.

Jack Crusher died while serving on the Stargazer.

Jack Crusher – husband to Beverly and father to Wesley – died while serving under Picard’s command aboard the USS Stargazer. It was at least implied that Picard bears a degree of responsibility for his death, or at least feels responsible for what happened. Perhaps that’s simply because of how he is as a commanding officer – but could there be more to it than that?

Of the main cast of The Next Generation, only Dr Crusher’s fate was left unconfirmed in Season 1. We saw Riker and Troi of course, and Data we know has died. Zhaban also confirmed that Geordi La Forge and Worf are still alive, so that only leaves Dr Crusher. In at least one future timeline, she and Picard had married – we saw no evidence for or against this idea in Season 1, so perhaps it could be explored in Season 2.

Jack Crusher in hologram form.

In the teaser, Picard spoke about how we often wish we’d acted differently during a crisis, and perhaps one thing he wishes he had been able to change was whatever led to Jack Crusher’s death. We could also learn that the Zhat Vash, super-synths, or some other faction or entity from Season 1 is involved in the events that led to him being killed, forming a kind of circular story going back to Picard’s past.

If Dr Crusher were to be involved in Season 2, she would undoubtedly have something to say about the possibility of revisiting the moment of Jack’s death! Maybe she would try to talk Picard out of it, saying that changing an event more than fifty years in the past would have huge ramifications for them both. Or maybe she’d be in favour of going back in time to prevent it from happening if his death set in motion a series of events that led to horrible consequences at the dawn of the 25th Century.

It’s also possible that Jack Crusher’s death may simply be the backdrop for the story – an event connected to something else in the series, but not something Picard hopes to undo.

Number 6: Anti-time and All Good Things…

Q and Picard in All Good Things…

In the finale of The Next Generation, Q set Picard a puzzle to solve that required him to think outside the box. In short, events in the future were – somehow – having a causal effect on events in the past. Figuring that out, and learning for the first time that time is not necessarily linear and moving only in one direction was what Picard learned.

As above with Tapestry, when I think of Q and time travel, I also think of All Good Things. The teaser made reference to “the trial,” and I believe even used a line spoken by Q in All Good Things as it drew to a close. Q told Picard in that episode that his and humanity’s trial in the eyes of the Q was ongoing, so perhaps the return of Q will mean revisiting some of these concepts.

Q in his “judge” guise in All Good Things…

Something that will be potentially interesting to explore are Q’s views on mortality. In the Voyager Season 2 episode Death Wish, Q helped a fellow member of the Q Continuum to die, but has never had to confront mortality himself. In many ways, Q seemed to regard Picard as something akin to a friend, and watching him age and confront death might be something that would interest and bemuse him.

In the panel that immediately followed the teaser, Sir Patrick Stewart appeared to refer to Q appearing in only a single episode, so perhaps his influence over the season won’t be as significant as we’re assuming. It was also implied that Q is not the cause of whatever the main event of the season is. However, if Picard needed to travel back in time for some reason – such as to prevent something catastrophic from happening in the present – he may voluntarily call upon Q. After all, how many other methods of time travel is Picard aware of?

All we can say for sure at this stage is that Q is involved somehow. But given the teaser’s focus on time travel, maybe his involvement will be in sending Picard and his new crew back in time, perhaps to the time he served aboard the Stargazer.

So that’s it. Six theories about Picard Season 2 and the USS Stargazer!

At this stage, with the second season perhaps as much as a year away from being broadcast, we have very little to go on. As mentioned, the teaser didn’t include a single character or completed scene or sequence, so I’m reading an awful lot into a few lines of voiceover and the imagery presented! We don’t even know for sure that the USS Stargazer will be included in any form, let alone visited through time travel!

The USS Stargazer being towed by the Enterprise-D.

Despite that, however, it’s great fun to speculate and theorise about what might be happening. The series is currently in production, with filming ongoing at time of writing, and while we’re unlikely to see another teaser or trailer any time soon, I’ll be keeping an eye out for any tiny tidbits of news that may come our way!

Discovery has shot forward into the 32nd Century; the far future. As such, it’s less easy for that show to bring back characters, themes, and storylines from Star Trek’s past – though that didn’t stop me making a few guesses about what may be going on in Season 4! But Picard is only set twenty years on from the events of the 24th Century Star Trek shows, and as such we could potentially see the inclusion of all manner of characters and other story elements – as indeed we saw happen in Season 1.

Regardless, I’m excited to see where Picard Season 2 takes the story next. The return of Q promises to be great fun, and while the season is a way off yet, I think it’s okay to make a few tentative guesses about what may be going on!

Star Trek: Picard Season 1 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and other regions where the platform is available. It may be streamed on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and other countries and territories. Star Trek: Picard Season 2 is scheduled to premiere on Paramount+ and/or Amazon Prime Video next year. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Picard Season 1 – one year later

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1. There are also minor spoilers for Star Trek: Lower Decks and Star Trek: Discovery.

Time certainly flies, doesn’t it? It was one year ago today that Star Trek: Picard Season 1 debuted in the United States (and a day later in the rest of the world). It’s not unfair to say that I was incredibly excited about this series, which would take the Star Trek timeline forward in a significant way for the first time in eighteen years. Though I tried hard to keep my hype and expectations in check, there was no getting around how much I was looking forward to Star Trek: Picard.

As we hit the first anniversary, I thought it could be a good moment to look back on my remembrances (ha! get it?) of the show as well as what the first season achieved, what it did well, and where it came up short.

The opening title card.

If you were a regular reader a year ago, you’ll recall from my reviews that the season started very strongly. In fact, I named Remembrance (the season premiere) the best Star Trek episode of 2020 – a year which, for all its problems, saw 33 episodes across three shows. I rank Remembrance very highly among modern Star Trek episodes, and I’d even compare it favourably to Deep Space Nine’s Emissary, perhaps placing them joint-first as the best Star Trek premieres.

The finale, on the other hand, let the season down somewhat. Carefully-established mysteries that the show had slowly build up over the preceding eight episodes felt rushed through in a two-part conclusion that dumped new characters, a new location, a new faction, and whole new storylines into play right at the very end. The season also ended with a plot hole unexplained – why Dr Maddox travelled to Freecloud – and the disappearance of main character Narek, whose storyline was dropped halfway through the second part of the finale.

So despite enjoying Picard overall, as I look back a year later at Season 1, I’m afraid I have to say that it was a mixed bag.

Jean-Luc Picard.

From the moment Star Trek: Picard was announced it shot to the top of my list of shows I was excited for. I may have talked about this in the run-up to the season, but I remember feeling distinctly underwhelmed when Enterprise was announced in 1999. I wasn’t particularly interested in a Star Trek prequel, and while the show had heart and told some exciting stories, there was a sense really since Voyager ended and Nemesis had been in cinemas that Star Trek wasn’t moving forward.

Enterprise, the Kelvin reboot films, Discovery, and even Short Treks all told stories in the 22nd or 23rd Centuries, and though those stories were enjoyable and fun, there was a lot left behind in the 24th Century that was never explored. What would become of the characters we knew, of the Federation, of Starfleet, and all the other factions, races, and planets? The 24th Century had been Star Trek’s biggest era – with 517 episodes of television and four films starring three crews and a huge supporting cast of secondary and recurring characters.

Moving the timeline forward beyond Nemesis was something I really wanted to see from Star Trek.

The 24th Century was also “my” Star Trek era. The Next Generation was the first Star Trek series I watched, and it was literally my way into being a Trekkie. I have a great fondness for the shows of that era, and I consider it to be not only the time when Star Trek was at its most successful in terms of viewership (and finances) but also the closest the franchise has to a “Golden Age.” So to see that era abandoned for prequels and mid-quels wasn’t exactly disappointing, but it wasn’t something I was wild about.

So for eighteen years (Nemesis was released in 2002) Star Trek hadn’t moved forward in terms of the timeline. And even when Discovery launched and established itself with Short Treks and a spin-off, there was still no plan to revisit the 24th Century. Picard came along like a breath of fresh air, and I was incredibly excited, hyped up, and interested in what the series would bring. That was my mindset going into the premiere and each of the subsequent nine episodes.

The opening shot of the season.

Picard was not Season 8 of The Next Generation – and I didn’t want it to be. I was very keen that the new cast be given an opportunity to establish themselves within the franchise and become fan favourites for a new generation of Trekkies. What I hoped for was that, in thirty years’ time, people would be clamouring for a Dr Jurati series or Star Trek: Elnor with the same vigour I have for Picard. And I think, in that sense, we’ve begun to see at least the beginnings of that.

A lot of television shows don’t really settle in until Season 2, which is where the overused term “growing the beard” comes from. I’ve used that expression myself a few times, but in the aftermath of Discovery’s recent outing it seems to be the only phrase that critics are using to describe the show and it’s honestly put me off! But we’re off topic. There was perhaps a degree of leniency on my part going into Season 1 of Picard; a willingness to let some minor issues slide in order to see the show continue to build and grow. And as underwhelming as the Season 1 finale was, I’m hopeful that Season 2 can build on the foundation that has been laid.

The crew of La Sirena at the end of Season 1.

Though there was the mystery of Dr Maddox’s location, the Romulans’ scheme, and later the beacon to contact the super-synths, what Season 1 really was, when you boil it down, was a team-up story. Picard, over the course of ten episodes, put together a new crew and gave them a reason to work together. Establishing each member of the crew, giving them a side-quest of their own, and binding them together to follow Picard was the primary accomplishment of the season.

I’ve used the analogy of the Mass Effect video game series once in relation to Star Trek: Picard already – when it comes to the basic existence of the super-synths and their beacon. But there is a second point of comparison that is interesting to me, and may be to you if you’ve played those games. In Mass Effect 2, much of the game is comprised of Commander Shepard recruiting a crew. Each member of the crew needs to be brought on board, then later a side-mission is given in which players can earn their loyalty. Picard Season 1 played out similarly.

Elnor in Season 1. Recruiting him for the mission took up one episode.

Raffi wanted to go to Freecloud to reunite with her son. Dr Jurati had a secret plot to kill Dr Maddox. Elnor had to resolve his lingering emotional issues with Picard. Rios had to put together the pieces of what happened aboard the USS Ibn Majid. Seven of Nine wanted revenge for Icheb. Each of the main characters – at least those on the mission to save Soji – had to be recruited and then have their side-quest resolved before the story could reach its conclusion. This isn’t just a story from Mass Effect 2, it’s something many team-up stories do.

As I mentioned when considering some preliminary ideas for Season 2, finding a way to keep this crew together will be something that the next chapter of this story needs to address. Because they came together to do a single task – rescue Soji – and then continued to help the synths on Coppelius and prevent the arrival of the super-synths, they’re done. Their mission is complete, and Season 2 will have to find a believable reason for keeping them together. But that is a challenge for next time!

The super-synths were called off at the last moment.

Each character we met was interesting, and none felt unoriginal or bland in the way some secondary characters can in a story which primarily focuses on one person. We’ll deal with Picard himself in a moment, but for now: Elnor was a lonely member of an all-female sect, and also had abandonment issues after Picard’s disappearance. Rios pretended to be the roguish “Han Solo” type, but had serious post-traumatic stress following his former captain’s murder-suicide while aboard the USS Ibn Majid. Raffi was a flawed genius whose drug problem had dominated her life and cost her her most important relationships. Dr Jurati had been brainwashed into murdering someone she loved. Narek was the spy with a heart of gold – but instead of being a cliché he turned that trope on its head by sticking to his mission to the end. Dahj and Soji were different from one another – androids unaware of their synthetic nature. One was drawn to Picard, the other deeply suspicious of him.

Then we had the reintroduction of several legacy characters. Dr Maddox, who we met in The Next Generation, had continued his research after his meeting with Data, and eventually was able to develop his own line of androids. Seven of Nine had helped Icheb become a Starfleet officer, but lost him when she was betrayed by Bjayzl. Riker and Troi, who had married in Nemesis, had a family – but their son had died. Hugh was perhaps the most successful of all the legacy characters, the ex-Borg who had taken full advantage of his own liberation to assist hundreds or possibly thousands of other ex-Borg on the Artifact.

Hugh the Borg returned.

There was tragedy and drama aplenty in each of the characters we met, but none of it felt forced or contrived in the way some drama shows can. This wasn’t a soap opera, it was hard-hitting. Picard Season 1 may not have followed the traditional episodic Star Trek formula, but it had a distinctly Star Trek tone – it used its sci-fi setting to examine real world issues. It did so in a tense, dramatic, and exciting way, and expanded on themes from The Next Generation and elsewhere in the franchise, looking at basic rights such as the right to life.

The attack on Mars can be analogous to many different recent and historical events, but the reaction to it is certainly reminiscent of the western world’s post-9/11 outlook. The aftermath of a tragedy allowed a nefarious faction to push through a prohibition on certain groups of people. Islam was not “banned” after 9/11, but as recently as 2016 Donald Trump talked of a “ban on people from Muslim countries” – these restrictions were in place for much of his term as President.

The attack on Mars was a significant event in the years before Season 1 of Picard is set.

The theme of the season was in realising that we mustn’t judge whole groups of people by the actions of a few. This could apply just as much to the supporters and voters of Donald Trump in 2021 as it did to Muslims and others. The fanatics who attacked the United States Capitol a couple of weeks ago are no more representative of the 70+ million Trump voters as ISIS or al-Qaeda are of Islam. That is the message of this synthetic ban storyline: not to be so quick to judgement, and not to allow those with a pre-existing agenda to force the issue.

The Zhat Vash quietly infiltrated Starfleet, and slowly began poisoning the minds of Starfleet officers and Federation civilians. We have the literal expression of this metaphor via the mind-meld – this represents how those with an agenda are using propaganda and “fake news” to unduly influence the discourse. These themes are buried in the narrative, but they are there – and open to interpretation. This is how I see some of these storylines having real-world comparisons, but it may not be how you or someone else sees it. Fiction is always subjective, and that’s okay. If you disagree, that’s great!

Commodore Oh.

As I’ve said before, a story doesn’t just have merit because it can be seen through a real-world lens. In some cases, pushing too far in that direction can lead to a narrative being less enjoyable. So Picard balanced out some of these contemporary metaphors with a truly engaging and mysterious Star Trek story.

We saw these events from Picard’s point of view, and he’s such a great character for telling this story because he didn’t know exactly what happened and why, just as much as we as the audience didn’t know. So when the synths attacked Mars, his life, his career, and his whole world fell apart. We meet him at the beginning of the season premiere as someone who’s fallen into a major depression. Dahj would be the catalyst for bringing him out of that – but it wasn’t until the mysteries and conspiracies had been unravelled and brought to light that he could truly move on.

Picard in the Season 1 premiere.

We went on that journey with Picard. We began together, not knowing what had happened on Mars, not understanding why, and then along comes Dahj. She was equally mysterious: who was she, why was she seeking out Picard, who were the assassins that were trying to hurt her? And as we learned more about both of these elements of the story, this chapter of Picard’s life – and the lives of those around him – came into focus.

My criticisms of the season finale generally don’t stem from the fact that any of the narrative decisions were bad, but rather that I wanted to see more. We rushed through Sutra’s story, Dr Soong’s story, and the end of Narek’s story. We don’t know anything about the super-synths, and precious little about the civilisation on Coppelius. There was scope to know more if the season had been structured differently and perhaps extended by an episode or two, and that’s really where I felt things came unstuck.

Coppelius Station was the setting for the two-part finale.

From an aesthetic point of view, Picard blended The Next Generation-era elements with a style firmly centred in modern-day sci-fi. The design of La Sirena reflects this – it was clearly not a Starfleet ship. Inside and out, La Sirena has touches of Star Trek, but stands apart and very much does its own thing. Beginning with the redesign of the USS Enterprise in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and carrying all the way through to Discovery, we’ve seen starship interiors with certain visual elements – angled corridors and hallways, grey or blue pastel carpeting, panels with distinctive lines, the warp core as a glowing column, and so forth. La Sirena has some hints at some of these, but is much closer to ships seen in The Expanse, for example, and other modern sci-fi properties in other ways.

Within the Star Trek fandom, starship designs and uniforms are both subjective things with a range of opinions on which are best. And before anyone rushes to judgement to say La Sirena looks bad or they dislike the mermaid-combadges, I’d say that we need to give the show time for its aesthetic to grow on us. There have only been ten episodes of Picard compared with 176 of The Next Generation, and those episodes are only a year old. Obviously nothing in Picard will feel as “iconic” yet – but as time goes by and we spend more time in this era that may happen.

La Sirena.

I adored the design of La Sirena. It felt like a runabout mixed with a hot-rod, and I think that shows to some extent the personality of Captain Rios. This is his ship, and he’s put his personal stamp on it – as we saw in a very funny (and incredibly well-acted and well-filmed) sequence with five different Rios-holograms. After the blue boiler suits of Enterprise were followed up with another all-blue look in Discovery I was also glad to see more colour back in the two new Starfleet uniform designs which debuted in Picard. The one in the “current” time (that we saw people like Riker and Commodore Oh wearing) was my favourite of the two when compared to the design seen in flashbacks, but both were neat.

The only aesthetic problem I felt Season 1 had was its outdoor filming locations and their lack of variety. We visited locations on Earth which were supposedly in France, Japan, and North America, as well as half a dozen planets, and each looked exactly like southern California. Because Picard had ten episodes and almost all of them had some outdoor filming this was amplified far more than it had been in the likes of The Next Generation, which would see fewer outdoor shoots with more episodes in between them. But as the season progressed, the fact that each planet Picard visited was a barely-disguised location within a few miles of Los Angeles detracted from the look.

The surface of California… I mean Aia.

Some locations, like the planet of Aia, were beautifully created in CGI, but then ruined when scenes on the surface not only didn’t match the CGI creation of the planet (the colour and tone are way different). What made no sense to me about the Aia scenes in particular is with so little time spent there, why not use a sound stage? Rig up a planet that looks genuinely different instead of using an outdoor filming location. We only saw two or three scenes set on Aia, all around the beacon, and I honestly just thought it was a wasted opportunity. Vashti, Nepenthe, and Coppelius all felt very samey because of the decision to shoot outdoors in the same area, and that’s just a shame to me. I would love to see some more variety in Season 2 – either by travelling to shoot on location further afield, or by using indoor sound stages that can be made to look different each time.

So we come to the man himself: Jean-Luc Picard. I mentioned earlier that he was depressed, and the way this part of his story was conveyed was heartbreaking and wonderful. I recently wrote an article looking at the characterisation of Luke Skywalker in the 2017 film The Last Jedi, because he was also depressed in that story. It was one that some Star Wars fans hated, but it resonated with me. Picard’s story in Season 1 resonated with me too, for many of the same or similar reasons as I explained in that essay.

Jean-Luc Picard.

Depression and mental health are not easy subjects to convey in fiction, and Picard itself had a scene in the episode The End Is The Beginning which unfortunately painted a pretty stereotypical picture of mental health. But Picard’s story was much better, and very well done overall. It showed that anyone – no matter how heroic they have been in the past – can fall victim to depression. Picard lost his fleet, he lost his role in Starfleet, and instead of saying “no, the right thing to do is to help so I’m going to fight on,” he collapsed. He hit a problem that he couldn’t solve, suffered a humiliating defeat, and gave up. He spent years in quiet retirement – which was more like a self-imposed exile – because of how he felt.

That is powerful in itself, as it shows how anyone – even heroes that we want to put on a pedestal – can fall victim to depression. The same was true of Luke Skywalker. But what came next is equally important – Dahj gave Picard a reason to believe in something again. Not only was there a mystery to figure out, which can be tantalising in itself, but Picard was the only one capable and willing to help Soji – so he stepped up. Where he had fallen into the lowest point of his life, he found a reason to believe and that set him on the path to recovery. I find that a powerful and inspiring story.

Dahj inspired Picard and gave him a cause to believe in.

There were two cathartic moments for me in Season 1 that I didn’t know I needed to see. The first was with Seven of Nine. During the latter part of Voyager’s run, Seven was my least-favourite character. She was annoying, arrogant, and worst of all, after learning some “lesson in how to be human” from Captain Janeway or the Doctor, she’d seemingly reset and forget it ever happened by the next episode, requiring her to “learn” the same lesson in being human many times over. She was repetitive and boring. But in Picard she had finally moved past her Borg years and embraced her humanity and emotions – even though she lost Icheb, seeing her get so genuinely angry and react in such a human way was something wonderful to see – and was performed beautifully by Jeri Ryan.

The second cathartic moment came from Data. His death in Nemesis wasn’t something I was happy about, but within the story of that film I remember feeling at the time that it worked. However, looking back I can see how, for example, seeing Picard and the rest of the crew laughing and moving on at the end of the film was perhaps not the right way to end the story. Data didn’t get to say goodbye to anyone – his sacrifice happened in a brief moment, and after saving Picard he was just gone.

Data’s consciousness remained in the digital afterlife until Picard shut it down.

Picard carried that regret with him in a far more significant way than the closing moments of Nemesis hinted at. Riker and Troi did too, and we got to see both of them express that. Picard poured his heart out to Data when he was in the digital afterlife, and the scene between the two of them was something incredible. It was something I as a fan needed to see, to put Data to rest properly after all these years.

In a sense, Picard and Data’s story is an inversion of the story Kirk and Spock went through in The Search For Spock and The Voyage Home. After Spock’s death, Kirk would stop at nothing to find a way to bring his friend back to life – even stealing the Enterprise. While Picard set out on his journey to save Data’s “daughter” from harm, what he ended up doing was bringing a final end to Data’s life. There was no way to save Data, nor to transfer whatever remained of him into a new body. The only thing Picard could to for his friend was finally allow him his mortality, and permit him to die. As Kirk might’ve said, that sounds like a “no-win scenario.” But as Kirk never really had to learn – at least until the moment of his own death – those scenarios exist every day. It might sound cool to say “I don’t believe in no-win scenarios” and push to save everyone all the time, but that isn’t possible. It’s a fantasy – and Picard confronted the genuine reality of death in a way Kirk never had to.

Picard shut down the remaining part of Data permanently.

Data had desperately yearned to be more human. From his first appearance in Encounter at Farpoint when he struggled with whistling through to the introduction of his emotion chip in Generations and beyond, all Data wanted was to feel less like an android and more like a human. Mortality is one of humanity’s defining characteristics – especially when compared to machines and synthetic life. By shutting down Data’s remaining neurons and consciousness, Picard gave him perhaps the greatest gift he could give – and Data achieved his goal of getting as close to humanity as possible.

As I look back on Season 1 of Picard, I can see that it had some flaws and some issues. But none of them were catastrophic, and even though there was one episode that I described at the time as a “misfire and a dud,” the season as a whole was great. It started off with what is perhaps the best premiere of any Star Trek series, and though the ending was imperfect we got some amazing story-driven dramatic Star Trek.

Dr Jurati beams the crew of La Sirena aboard.

Perhaps Season 1’s legacy will be defined by what comes next. Not only by future seasons of Picard, but by other shows and films set in or around this time period, expanding the Star Trek franchise and pushing it to new places. The Next Generation served as a launchpad for two other series and four films, and perhaps Picard has similarly laid a foundation upon which more Star Trek will be built. That’s my hope, at any rate.

Even if that doesn’t happen, though, Season 1 was an entertaining ride – with a few bumps in the road as mentioned. We got to learn a lot more about some of Star Trek’s factions – the Romulans in particular, but also the Borg – and meet some genuinely interesting new characters. Despite some leftover story threads from Season 1, Season 2 is potentially wide open to tell some new and interesting stories when it’s finally ready to be broadcast. I can’t wait for that!

Star Trek: Picard Season 1 is available to stream now on CBS All Access in the United States, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

My favourite adaptation of A Christmas Carol

The earliest filmed version of Charles Dickens’ classic novel A Christmas Carol was in 1901. Since then there have been at least sixty-five filmed adaptations – not including the many times where productions borrowed one or more themes or elements from the story. Some adaptations are good, some were even great, but for the last two decades there has been – in my opinion – one that stands out from the others.

Because A Christmas Carol has been adapted so many times, newer versions have a tendency to try to bring new creative elements to the story, or to have some gimmick that will make it feel different from all the others. The 1999 adaptation doesn’t do this, to its credit, and generally plays it straight. Though there is much to love in the likes of A Flintstones Christmas Carol or Scrooged, when I’m in the mood for a faithful adaptation of Dickens’ book, I reach for this version.

Sir Patrick Stewart as Ebenezer Scrooge.

Sir Patrick Stewart, who takes on the role of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, had previously adapted A Christmas Carol to be a one-man play which he starred in on the stage beginning in 1988. Though I’ve never been fortunate enough to see this version, in it Sir Patrick takes on most of the roles in the book; over thirty characters. During the play’s run, Sir Patrick began working with director David Jones, who was a versatile director of stage and screen. They adapted the novel into a made-for-television film and it was broadcast on American cable network TNT in the run-up to Christmas 1999.

This adaptation of A Christmas Carol is the first to make use of CGI and digital special effects. Though some of these have aged – the production is over twenty years old at this point – most hold up remarkably well even compared to higher-budget films and television shows of the era. The 1990s was an interesting time for special effects. CGI meant that many productions were able to make use of effects that would have been prohibitively expensive to do physically, yet even at the time many could be underwhelming. The Star Wars prequels suffered greatly from an overuse of CGI that wasn’t quite ready for prime-time, but in this adaptation of A Christmas Carol, the effects are kept to a minimum and aren’t intrusive.

As a big Star Trek fan, the main draw of this adaptation was, of course, the presence of Sir Patrick Stewart. I don’t believe it was broadcast here in the UK before the millennium, but I certainly would have seen it for the first time in the early 2000s. After being initially interested simply because of who was in it, what I found when I sat down to watch A Christmas Carol was a largely-faithful adaptation of Dickens’ novel, one that retained all of the heart and sweetness at the core of this story of Christmas and redemption. Sir Patrick’s performance is outstanding, but it’s hardly the only great work of acting. Richard E. Grant co-stars as Scrooge’s hard-done-by employee Bob Cratchit, and there were great performances from lesser-known actors taking on the roles of the three spirits, the Cratchit family, and the people Scrooge encounters in his visions.

Scrooge walks the streets of London.

As an historical piece, A Christmas Carol nails the Victorian feel. It even succeeds at showing different periods of the 19th Century – when Scrooge is taken back to his past, the setting and costumes change to reflect the passage of time. Though things like set design and costuming can be subtle, if something isn’t right – especially in a film set in a distinct time period – it can really be offputting. This is one aspect that the film gets spot on.

Making Dickensian language understandable to contemporary audiences can be a challenge. Not quite so much as with Shakespeare or Chaucer, but many 19th Century texts can sound odd to our ears today. Though I’d argue 19th Century writing is often beautiful, when adapted for the screen in particular it can sound ostentatious and stilted. This adaptation of A Christmas Carol manages to avoid that – for the most part – and the dialogue works well, especially when you get stuck into it!

As humans we have an innate fear of death, and it’s from this fear that the first legends of ghosts and hauntings were created. The idea of spirits unable to leave this world nor enter the afterlife is frightening; a fate worse than death, you could say. And A Christmas Carol doesn’t shy away from the frightening side of the spirits who visit Scrooge. I’d even go so far as to say that there are several jump-scares in this adaptation. A great soundtrack accompanies these moments in particular, escalating the tension. It may not be the best version to watch if you have very young children.

Ghosts shown to Scrooge.

Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol at a time when folks in Britain were rediscovering many Christmas traditions that had fallen by the wayside. Though it’s not fair to credit the novel with saving or inventing Christmas, many of the traditions we associate with the holiday today are included in the novel – and in this adaptation.

So that’s it, really. I just wanted to highlight this great and underappreciated adaptation of Dickens’ novel as we’re now in the grip of the holiday season! It made my list last year of twelve things to watch during the festive season, but I wanted to expand a little on what I said and give A Christmas Carol its own moment in the spotlight!

As a big fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Sir Patrick Stewart, I was incredibly excited when I first heard of this adaptation. I wasn’t disappointed when I saw it for the first time around twenty years ago, and it’s become a permanent fixture on my holiday watchlist. I wouldn’t say I watch it without fail every Christmas season, but certainly most years I’ll fire up the DVD and spend an hour-and-a-half with this festive favourite. I highly recommend it, both to Trekkies and non-Trekkies alike.

A Christmas Carol (1999) is out now on DVD and may be streamed on Amazon Prime in the United Kingdom. Access to the film on streaming platforms may vary by location. A Christmas Carol may be the copyright of TNT and/or Sonar Entertainment, Inc. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Could Voyager’s Doctor appear in Star Trek: Discovery?

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, Star Trek: Voyager, and other iterations of the franchise.

Star Trek: Discovery’s premiere brought back Sarek, Spock’s father who had been first introduced in The Original Series. Season 2 saw Spock himself as well as Captain Pike and Number One make appearances, so Discovery is a series that has no qualms about reintroducing legacy characters. But its 23rd Century, pre-The Original Series setting precluded the use of most of Star Trek’s characters, as the bulk of the franchise’s 780+ episodes and films take place later in the timeline.

Discovery’s move forward in time should also mean that no legacy characters could have significant roles. After all, who could possibly still be alive more than eight centuries after the events of Star Trek: Picard? I can think of one character, but not in the way you might expect!

Voyager’s Doctor – or at least a version of him – could be alive in the 32nd Century.

As a hologram who doesn’t age, we could definitely argue that The Doctor – played by Robert Picardo for all seven seasons of Star Trek: Voyager – might have survived this long. But that isn’t the angle I’m taking.

The 23rd episode of Season 4 of Star Trek: Voyager, Living Witness, takes place in the 31st Century. After the USS Voyager had an encounter with a species called the Kyrians in the 24th Century, some pieces of technology were left behind, including a backup copy of The Doctor. Reawakened in the 31st Century, he stayed with the Kyrians for a number of years, righting the wrongs in their historical records about Voyager and its crew.

The episode is interesting in itself, and well worth a watch, but from our point of view today what I want to consider is the episode’s ending. After living with the Kyrians for years – perhaps decades – The Doctor took one of their ships and left the planet, hoping to retrace Voyager’s path and return to the Alpha Quadrant.

A photo of The Doctor in a museum at the end of Living Witness.

We know from later seasons of Voyager that it only took them another three years or so after leaving Kyrian space to make it home – though that did involve the use of the Borg transwarp network, among other helping hands – so the journey is definitely achievable. The Doctor, unlike us mere humans, doesn’t need food or any other supplies personally, so as long as his ship was functional, even if it took him decades he would have been able to make it back to Federation space – and if it took him several decades, the timeline starts to line up for a crossover with Discovery.

One thing that I’m cautiously interested in when it comes to Discovery’s third season is the potential to learn more about what happened to some of the characters we knew in other Star Trek shows. Perhaps we won’t learn the specifics of what happened to individuals, but we may learn broad strokes about what happened to their planets and cultures, and we could infer from that what may have happened to them. The series looks – if we take its trailer at face value – as if part of the story will be about restoring a declining or defeated Federation. Characters who originated in an era where the Federation was strong and just would be well-suited to that task, and they may find an unlikely ally in this version of The Doctor.

Restoring the Federation may be part of Discovery’s third season storyline.

On the production side of things, Star Trek has recently had great success bringing back Brent Spiner as Data and Sir Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard. Spiner’s role as Data is a great comparison, because both Data and The Doctor are artificial, and thus not susceptible to ageing. Brent Spiner had said as early as the mid-2000s that he felt he’d “aged out” of the role of Data, yet the makeup and visual effects used in Star Trek: Picard worked very well. Obviously if you try to compare the way he looked earlier this year to the way he looked in 1987’s Encounter at Farpoint there’s a difference, but it’s not immersion-breaking. All this is to say that there’s no reason why Robert Picardo couldn’t reprise his role too.

Digital de-ageing effects have been used more and more often in recent years, even on television, and while the technology isn’t cheap, it shouldn’t be prohibitively expensive either. So that option would be viable for the team behind Star Trek as well.

But the big question is what kind of role The Doctor could play in a 32nd Century Discovery story.

Robert Picardo in a 2017 episode of Lucifer.

If I were writing it, the way I’d see him involved would be working alongside Burnham, Saru, and the crew of Discovery to restore the Federation. They’re looking at things from a 23rd Century viewpoint, but The Doctor could fill in more than a century’s worth of gaps in their knowledge. The Federation in the 24th Century is very similar to how it was in the 23rd in terms of morals and outlook, so I could absolutely see them working in common cause.

Rebuilding or reinvigorating the Federation is a noble task, and while I’ve documented my misgivings about Star Trek taking on a kind of post-apocalyptic setting previously, one way I think it could be made to work is if at the end of the season the Federation was back up and running. The Doctor could be invaluable to Discovery’s crew in accomplishing such a task, and with Data now permanently gone from the Star Trek universe, there aren’t many others who could still be around in this era.

The Doctor could help the crew of Discovery in the 32nd Century.

Perhaps after Season 2, which brought back several legacy characters for major roles, Discovery wants to stand on its own two feet again. Indeed, part of the reason for shifting the show’s timeline so far into the future is specifically because the producers and showrunners wanted to get away from the constraints of the 23rd Century – and the fan criticisms that came as a result of using that setting. So perhaps bringing back a legacy character in Season 3 isn’t on the agenda.

But The Doctor could still appear in Season 4 – and reports suggest that pre-production is underway on Discovery’s next adventure. While I think that The Doctor could be a good fit for a “rebuilding” type of storyline for the reasons already mentioned, if Season 4 takes the show in a different direction, perhaps that would be something more suited to his medical expertise, such as curing a disease. For all we know at this stage, a disease could be involved in damaging the Federation in this time period!

If not The Doctor, there are a few other characters who could – in theory – still be active in the 32nd Century. Let’s look at them briefly:

Number 1: Soji

Spoiler warning for Star Trek: Picard Season 1, but Soji is synthetic; an android. At the end of the season, Picard was told that his new synthetic body wouldn’t keep him alive for centuries, but there’s no reason Soji should have the same limitation. In many ways, Soji would make for a better crossover character than almost anyone else, as she’s a main character in an ongoing series. The crossover would thus be between two Star Trek shows that are currently in production, providing a link between them.

We could also add into the mix the other synths from Coppelius, including Sutra (aka Evil Soji) and even Dr Soong, if he was successful in creating himself a new synthetic body (and there’s no reason why he wouldn’t have been).

Number 2: Lore

Lore was said to have been disassembled after his final appearance in The Next Generation, but we learned nothing of his fate after that. I speculated during Star Trek: Picard’s first season that Dr Maddox may have had access to Lore’s components while working on Soji and the other synths, but this was never confirmed on screen. It’s at least possible that Lore survived in disassembled form until the 32nd Century.

However, with Star Trek having gone out of its way to write Data out of the franchise, and to give Brent Spiner a new character in Dr Soong, I think any re-emergence of Lore is highly unlikely.

Number 3: Benjamin Sisko

I’ve mentioned Captain Sisko so often in relation to characters who could re-appear that you may think he’s become an obsession of mine! However, his story as of the end of Deep Space Nine was deliberately written in such a way that he could come back at literally any point in the Star Trek timeline. After being saved by the Bajoran Prophets, Sisko went to stay with them for a while – and they exist outside of linear time, meaning he could essentially travel to any point in time, including the 32nd Century.

Avery Brooks, who played Sisko, hasn’t always seemed willing to reprise the role, and recently declined to appear in the documentary What We Left Behind. However, there’s no reason why the character couldn’t be recast for future appearances.

Number 4: The Dax symbiont

While still arguably unlikely, this seems perhaps the least-unlikely of all the characters we’ve looked at so far. The trailer for Discovery’s third season showed Trill characters as well as what looked like a scene set on the Trill homeworld. We know, thanks to Deep Space Nine, that Trill symbionts can live for centuries; how many centuries exactly has never been stated as far as I’m aware. That leaves an opening for Discovery to bring back Dax – as well as an excuse to recast the character.

With centuries of knowledge, Dax could be a huge help to the crew of Discovery for the same reasons we’ve already talked about. Rebuilding the Federation will be a huge task, and it will take people who knew how it worked to help out.

So that’s it. A handful of other characters to go along with The Doctor who could – but probably won’t – appear in Star Trek: Discovery’s 32nd Century setting. As the show gets nearer to being broadcast (mid-October, in case you missed that announcement) my optimism is growing. Season 2 was decent, and despite my misgivings about taking the series away from its setting and into the far future, I think it has potential to tell interesting stories. I’m cautiously optimistic!

It seems unlikely that The Doctor, or any of the other characters mentioned, will make an appearance, but from an in-universe perspective it’s not entirely impossible. We’ve seen with Star Trek: Picard that bringing back legacy characters and referencing events that took place in a past episode or story are both things that the people in charge of Star Trek are willing to consider, so it’s at least possible to think we could see someone from the past reappear in Discovery.

Most of all, this was a bit of fun. We got to look back at Living Witness, which was a unique entry in Star Trek: Voyager, as well as speculate on the fates of The Doctor and some other well-known characters from past and present iterations of Star Trek. I’ll take any excuse to spend more time in the Star Trek galaxy!

Star Trek: Voyager is available to watch now on CBS All Access in the United States, and on Netflix in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 will be available to stream beginning on the 15th of October 2020. The Star Trek franchise – including all properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS.