Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the following Star Trek productions: The Original Series Season 2, The Voyage Home, The Next Generation Season 6, Deep Space Nine Season 6, Voyager Season 4, Enterprise Season 2, Short Treks, Picard Season 1, Lower Decks Season 2, and Prodigy Season 1. Phew. That was a lot!
The world can be a crappy place, and not just because of wars and pandemics. Sometimes we all need to switch off from current events and seek out some escapism. For me, films and TV shows with very heavy themes, lots of violence, or dark narratives don’t always provide the best escape, and on days when my mental health suffers I find myself reaching for something lighter and comforting. On this occasion, I thought we could pick out a few Star Trek stories that I believe fit that description.
The Star Trek franchise has long been an escape from reality for me. In both its older and modern incarnations, I find that jumping head-first into a future that looks safer and better than anything we could imagine today feels pretty great! Star Trek has always had an underlying setting that feels optimistic and hopeful for a better tomorrow – and that’s something we all need to hear sometimes.
So with that in mind, let’s consider a few Star Trek stories that I believe make for lighter, comforting viewing. As always, this isn’t a ranked list; the episodes are listed below in the order they were first broadcast.
Number 1: A Piece of the Action The Original Series Season 2
The Original Series made very creative use of some of the limitations of its time! It wasn’t always possible to visit a brand-new planet every week that looked and felt very “alien,” so The Original Series used sets intended for other films and TV shows in different – and occasionally silly – ways. A Piece of the Action sees Captain Kirk and the crew encounter a planet whose entire population have based their society around the Chicago mob!
When A Piece of the Action was written, the 1920s were only forty years in the past – the equivalent today of the eighties! So perhaps to viewers at the time it was more relevant and less… camp. But I’ve always found A Piece of the Action to have a light, almost comedic flair simply because of its setting; the ’20s-inspired dialogue, the old fashioned suits, and the general tone of a “Golden Age of Hollywood” gangster flick all contribute to that.
The notion of going to a faraway planet in space and finding a society based on the Chicago mob is silly, but A Piece of the Action sells it in the best way it can, making the very odd juxtaposition of scenes aboard the Enterprise and scenes on Sigma Iotia II flow surprisingly well. But above all, it’s a fun story that imitates, in a very Star Trek way, classic mobster films from a generation earlier.
Apparently A Piece of the Action was going to be the basis for a Quentin Tarantino-directed Star Trek film that ultimately didn’t enter production. It seems as though I’m in a minority, based on the reactions to this news from Trekkies I’ve spoken with, but I’d have been interested to see what a director as undeniably talented as Tarantino would’ve brought to Star Trek. A new film from such a big name would surely have been a box office draw, at the very least! But maybe that should be the topic of a longer article sometime.
Number 2: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Also known as “the one with the whales,” The Voyage Home is arguably the most lighthearted and fun of all the Star Trek films to date! After the very heavy stories of loss and death in The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock, the third and final act of this trilogy came along like a breath of fresh air. I feel that The Voyage Home is the most dated of the Star Trek films thanks to being set in what was, at the time, the modern day. But that doesn’t detract from it; the kitschy eighties flavour is all part of the appeal!
There are some fantastic moments of pure comedy in The Voyage Home. I won’t spoil them if it’s been a while since you’ve seen it, but suffice to say that bringing a 23rd Century crew to the modern day and forcing them to interact with basic things like cash and computers led to some absolutely hilarious, iconic moments.
There’s an ecological message at the heart of The Voyage Home, and the threat posed by the alien “whale probe” is definitely serious. But that theme doesn’t present as excessively weighty, and by the time Kirk and the gang are running around San Fransisco in 1986, the focus is more on the fun side of that premise.
With Star Trek: Picard Season 2 fast approaching, it could be fun to go back to The Voyage Home to see the most recent use of the “slingshot method” of travelling through time – something that may be making a return to Star Trek very soon!
Number 3: Relics The Next Generation Season 6
I wanted to put at least one crossover episode on this list, and this time it’s Relics that makes the cut! Bringing Scotty into The Next Generation was a lot of fun, and having him overcome his “fish out of water” status to eventually work alongside Geordi La Forge was absolutely fantastic, and made for a wonderful, heartwarming story.
With no evil villain to defeat nor a war to fight, Relics posed a scientific puzzle for Star Trek’s first two engineers to overcome – and in the process they were able to save the Enterprise-D from being trapped inside of a Dyson Sphere! There’s definitely a message in Relics: that older people have a lot to contribute if younger people are willing to take the time to listen.
When I first saw Relics back in the ’90s, I wasn’t prepared for Scotty’s arrival. This was before the days of spoilers on social media, so I went into the episode completely unaware of what I was about to see. When Scotty materialised on the transporter pad for the first time I was absolutely blown away! The Next Generation had been my first port of call in the early ’90s, but by the time Relics came around I’d seen all of The Original Series films and quite a few episodes, so I was really excited when it turned out to be a crossover episode.
Relics is, in a lot of ways, a very fan-servicey episode. But it’s also a comforting one, and more than that it feels almost like a slice of pure Star Trek. There’s a scientific mystery that’s both interesting and exciting, there are some wonderful character moments between Scotty and Picard and Scotty and La Forge in particular, there’s more than a dash of humour, and there’s an underlying message that may just strike a chord with some folks in the real world. It’s an all-around Star Trek episode!
Number 4: The Magnificent Ferengi Deep Space Nine Season 6
The Magnificent Ferengi takes what should be a dark and upsetting premise but manages to put a lighthearted, comedic spin on it thanks to the inclusion of the titular Ferengi. After a less than spectacular introduction in the first season of The Next Generation, in which they were originally supposed to replace the newly-pacified Klingons and become a major antagonist, the Ferengi carved themselves a new niche in Deep Space Nine thanks in no small part to a wonderful performance by Armin Shimerman as Quark.
We came to see the Ferengi as comic relief on a number of occasions, as in The Magnificent Ferengi, but they were also a people with depth. Issues within Ferengi society surrounding the pursuit of wealth at all costs, the second-class status of women, and so on were topics that Deep Space Nine tackled, and the fact that the Ferengi can be funny didn’t detract from those attempts to use them to examine some more serious subjects. But that’s not why we’re here today!
At the height of the Dominion War, Quark and Rom’s mother is captured by the Dominion, and Quark leads an all-Ferengi rescue operation. With the exception of Grand Nagus Zek, this episode brings together practically every Deep Space Nine Ferengi character, and musician Iggy Pop has a guest-starring role.
The plot descends into a comedic farce – naturally, given Quark’s leadership – and if you’ve ever seen Weekend at Bernie’s… well, you know what to expect! The Magnificent Ferengi is a ton of fun, and a great episode for showcasing some of Deep Space Nine’s recurring characters.
Number 5: Message in a Bottle Voyager Season 4
Once again we have an episode with a potentially dark premise that goes in a very different and fun direction! The Doctor is the star here, as he’s sent to the Alpha Quadrant to attempt to make contact with Starfleet for the first time since Captain Janeway and the crew became stranded 75,000 light-years from home… but he finds himself aboard a ship that has been captured by the Romulans!
Comedian Andy Dick guest-stars as a newer version of the Emergency Medical Hologram, and forms an astonishingly funny pair with the Doctor, who was often used for moments of comic relief during Voyager’s run. Seeing the two holograms working together to outsmart the Romulans in a comic story that could verge into slapstick is absolutely hilarious, and there are some real laugh-out-loud moments.
I also find Message in a Bottle to be a very uplifting episode. It marks the halfway point of Voyager’s seven-season run, and the first moment that the crew are able to contact the Federation. After four years of being alone, the crew finally get to inform Starfleet that they’re okay and working their way home, and there’s something incredible about the episode’s closing moments as a result.
The Prometheus-class ship is a pretty cool inclusion, too – a brand-new class of ship which has features that even the USS Voyager or Enterprise-E couldn’t match. I always wanted to see more from this ship, but aside from a couple of background appearances, we haven’t yet!
Number 6: Carbon Creek Enterprise Season 2
Carbon Creek uses a frame narrative to tell the story of the first time Vulcans came to Earth… and it wasn’t in the mid-21st Century, as Captain Archer (and us as the audience) had been led to believe! Instead, T’Pol tells the tale of her great-grandmother, and how she and a small crew came to be stranded on Earth in the 1950s during a survey mission.
Carbon Creek is fun for its fifties atmosphere, and Enterprise really manages to nail that feel through some wonderful sets, costumes, and dialogue. It’s also an episode that shows off how Vulcans can be unintentionally funny in Star Trek, particularly when confronted with different or unusual situations. In this case, T’Mir and her crew have to blend in with a town of very emotional humans.
There are definitely some lighthearted moments scattered through the entire episode, and the frame of T’Pol recounting the story to a stunned Archer and Tucker adds to that as well. It’s also a great example of how a prequel story doesn’t have to tread on the toes of anything established previously; nothing in Carbon Creek fundamentally changes what we already know about first contact between humans and Vulcans. In many ways it expands it – knowing that Vulcan had humanity under observation decades ahead of official first contact gives them a reason to be surveying the area during the events of First Contact!
All in all, a fun episode that steps away from many of Star Trek’s familiar elements like starships to tell a story with some interesting characters in a fun setting.
Number 7: Ephraim and DOT Short Treks Season 2
It’s a shame that we haven’t seen more Short Treks lately; the most recent batch of episodes ended with Children of Mars shortly before Picard Season 1 kicked off in early 2020. The idea of telling one-shot short stories in the Star Trek galaxy may have been a fairly blunt and obvious way for CBS All Access (since rebranded as Paramount+) to convince Trekkies to remain subscribed in between seasons of the main Star Trek shows, but several episodes ended up being fantastic in their own right.
Ephraim and DOT was one of two animated Short Treks episodes that were broadcast in December 2019, and it’s something that we hadn’t really seen the Star Trek franchise do before. Thirty-five years after The Animated Series went off the air, this was Star Trek’s first return to animation, and where The Girl Who Made The Stars was more of a conventional story, Ephraim and DOT was framed very differently!
Telling the story of a tardigrade named Ephraim and a DOT-type robot aboard the USS Enterprise, this Disney-inspired tale sees the unlikely duo team up to save Ephraim’s eggs. With an enthusiastic narrator who sounds like they’ve come from a National Geographic documentary, the short story is a lot of fun – and packs a surprisingly emotional punch at its climax!
Ephraim and DOT also shows off a handful of fun clips from The Original Series that have been reimagined for animation, and this “greatest hits” montage was absolutely fantastic; a blast from the past that elevated the episode.
Number 8: Nepenthe Picard Season 1
If you don’t have the same connection to the characters from The Next Generation that I do, maybe Nepenthe won’t be one of your “comfort episodes.” But for me, seeing Picard reunited with Riker and Troi was one of the highlights of Picard Season 1 – and Nepenthe is one of the best Star Trek episodes that I’ve seen in a long time!
After several tense and dramatic episodes in which Picard and the crew of La Sirena had to unpick the mystery of Bruce Maddox, the synths, the Zhat Vash plot, and so on, Picard was able to rescue Soji and use a spatial trajector to escape to the planet of Nepenthe – home to Riker, Troi, and their daughter Kestra.
There are some very sweet moments between Soji and Kestra as they bond, and while the story has some very bittersweet moments as we learn that Riker and Troi’s elder child had passed away, there are some absolutely incredible and heartwarming character moments as well. After more than eighteen years away from the 24th Century, Nepenthe felt like the homecoming I had been waiting for.
Seeing Riker and Troi enjoying a peaceful life away from Starfleet was something that I needed to see, even if I didn’t realise it beforehand! Although there were issues with the Picard Season 1 finale that meant that, realistically, taking an entire episode away from the main plot to slow down and hang out with Picard, Riker, Troi, and Soji was arguably a mistake, I just can’t find it in my heart to fault Nepenthe for the way it comes across on screen. It’s a beautiful, emotional episode, and sitting down to eat pizza with the characters after everything they’ve been through just feels right.
Number 9: First First Contact Lower Decks Season 2
First First Contact might be my favourite episode of Lower Decks so far. It isn’t as hilarious as some of the show’s other offerings, but as an uplifting story with a real “Star Trek” feel, I don’t think it can be bettered! The episode sees the crew of the Cerritos teamed up with the fancier and more powerful USS Archimedes – under the command of one Captain Sonya Gomez, no less – to undertake their first ever mission of first contact!
But naturally, things don’t go to plan. The Cerritos is called into action to save the stricken Archimedes, and the entire crew pulls together to perform the very difficult and dangerous task of literally stripping off the ship’s outer hull! Lower Decks ditched its usual two (or three) storylines format here, and put all four ensigns and all of the ship’s senior staff in the same story – and the result was absolutely fantastic.
Lower Decks goes out of its way to recreate the look of The Next Generation era, and I’ve always appreciated that. But it doesn’t hesitate to bring new things to the table, and we get our first look at Cetacean Ops in this episode – an aquatic department that had been mentioned in background dialogue in The Next Generation but never seen on screen.
All four ensigns have roles to play in the story, and after the Cerritos had to be saved at the climax of the Season 1 finale, the poetic symmetry of being the one to save a disabled Starfleet ship was absolutely beautiful, and a great way to bring the show’s successful second season to a close.
Number 10: Kobayashi Prodigy Season 1
The Kobayashi Maru test seems like an odd choice for a “comfort” pick, doesn’t it? But the way Prodigy pulls it off feels like a love letter to Star Trek, bringing in classic characters from The Original Series, The Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine in holographic form.
There’s more going on in the episode than just the Kobayashi Maru test on the holodeck, and Prodigy’s ongoing story arcs come into play in a big way throughout. But for me, the moments on the holodeck with Dal and the holographic versions of some wonderful characters from Star Trek’s past are what elevates Kobayashi and what makes it so enjoyable.
It’s such a shame that Prodigy remains (officially) unavailable in most of the world, because it’s been one of the most surprisingly fun Star Trek projects, and despite its kid-friendly atmosphere and intended audience, there’s so much to love for Trekkies. I hope that the rollout of Paramount+ internationally will see Prodigy grow in popularity and bring in hordes of new fans – and with episodes as strong as Kobayashi to ease them into the world of Star Trek, there’s a good chance that’ll happen!
The character choices may seem like an odd mix at first – and seeing Odo on the bridge of a Galaxy-class ship definitely felt strange! But each of them is given a moment to showcase their strengths, and what they brought to Star Trek in their original appearances. It makes the entire holodeck sequence feel so very special – and with such an eclectic mix of characters, there really isn’t anything quite like it in Star Trek’s entire official canon!
So that’s it!
Those are my picks for ten “comfort episodes” – or rather, nine comfort episodes and a comfort film – from the Star Trek franchise. We don’t need to repeat why the world feels so messed up right now, because we can all see what’s going on. Certain news stories have become omnipresent, completely taking over social media and other apps. If you find yourself doomscrolling, take a break. Do anything other than wallow in the mess of the real world.
The Star Trek franchise has been my comfort place for decades, and I find myself drawn to it when the world feels too much or when my mental health suffers. A future where humanity has succeeded at conquering not only the problems of today but also many of the baser, more primitive aspects of our own nature holds an appeal that can be difficult to put into words, and I find that practically every Star Trek story – even those darker in tone – have a lot to offer.
So I hope this was a bit of fun and maybe gave you some viewing inspiration! I had a great time going back to these episodes to put this list together, and with everything going on in the world I thought it could be a good time to share something like this.
The Star Trek franchise – including all episodes and films discussed 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.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1, in particular the two-part episode Et in Arcadia Ego.
With Star Trek: Picard Season 2 approaching, I wanted to take a moment to step back to the Season 1 finale. Et in Arcadia Ego was the two-part ending to the show’s first season, and after the preceding eight episodes had masterfully and slowly built up an engaging story, it unfortunately ended in a way that was, at best, underwhelming. On this occasion I want to look back at Et in Arcadia Ego and ask “what went wrong?”
I think we can summarise the finale’s issues in a single word: rushed. The two parts of Et in Arcadia Ego were overstuffed with plot, partly as a result of the deliberately slow pace of the rest of the season, but also in part because of the decision to introduce new characters, a new faction, and whole new storylines at the last minute. As a result, Et in Arcadia Ego had to rush through far too much narrative in far too little time, leaving significant chunks of it on the table by the time the credits rolled on Part 2.
In my view, most of the damage was done in Part 1 and the first half of Part 2. By the time we got into Picard’s speech over Coppelius and his stint with Data in the digital afterlife, Et in Arcadia Ego picked up, and the issues with pacing and the editing of certain scenes abated. Those latter emotional sequences went a long way to salvaging the finale, and Picard’s time with Data – giving the character the proper send-off that he hadn’t got in Nemesis – meant that the story found a second purpose, one which I think many Trekkies appreciated.
There was also some fantastic acting in the second part of Part 2, with Evan Evagora, Michelle Hurd, Santiago Cabrera, and Jeri Ryan all putting in exceptional, deeply emotional performances as their characters dealt with the apparent death of Admiral Picard in different ways. The way Elnor broke down crying at the loss of his surrogate father figure is one of the most emotional moments in the entire season, and both Evagora and Hurd excelled in that moment.
But as the credits rolled on Part 2, after Picard had laid Data to rest and been reborn in a new synthetic body of his own, I was left feeling that, despite the emotional high points as the finale drew to a close, the nicest thing I’d be able to say about Et in Arcadia Ego is that it was a mixed bag; an underwhelming end to what had been an otherwise excellent first season. At worst, I might even call the entire finale disappointing because of its underdeveloped characters and storylines that seemed to go nowhere.
The basic premise of Et in Arcadia Ego was interesting on the surface. After discovering that there are more synths than just Soji, we as the audience had been led to assume that they’re a peaceful civilisation who are being unfairly targetted by fanatical Romulan zealots. But instead we learn that the Zhat Vash were, in a sense, right. The beacon they discovered on Aia did warn of a powerful civilisation of super-synths who would murder organics, and not only that, but Soji’s evil twin Sutra planned to contact them. The synths turned from damsels in distress needing to be saved into a civilisation acting out of self-preservation, but nevertheless needing to be stopped from inflicting mass murder – or possibly even mass genocide – on the galaxy.
It fell to Picard to try to dissuade the synths, to show them that not every organic is hostile to them, and that if they would trust him – and trust the Federation to do the right thing – they would be safe. After a season in which the Federation was not painted in the best possible light this was a cathartic moment, and I understand what Et in Arcadia Ego was trying to do here.
Particularly in Part 2, Et in Arcadia Ego successfully hit some of those story beats, and the emotional high points surrounding Picard’s death, Data’s second death, and the desperate last stand over Coppelius felt great. In fact, I’d argue that the second half of Part 2 came close to rivalling the rest of the season in terms of the emotional side of its storytelling, and if we were looking at that part of the finale in isolation – or if the rest of the two-part story had been up to that level – we wouldn’t be having this conversation today!
On the technical side of things, before we get into story complaints, Et in Arcadia Ego was a very rushed, poorly paced episode. As a result of trying to cram several episodes’ worth of story into not enough runtime, there were some utterly ridiculous editing choices. At one point, Commodore Oh was stood on the bridge of her Romulan vessel, and appeared to speak a line to absolutely no one.
This line was very generic, too, and the entire scene – if we can be so generous as to call a clip that lasted a few seconds a “scene” – just came across as laughable, not intimidating or concerning. There were also a couple of places where two scenes were very poorly spliced together – at the beginning of Part 2, for example, a speech Picard made to Soji was heard only in voiceover, with Dr Jurati on screen silently watching the synths building their beacon.
The gold makeup used for the Coppelius synths – Sutra in particular, as she was featured most prominently – was just awful. It looked like something out of The Original Series, and I don’t mean that in any way as a compliment. If I’d seen characters on The Original Series so poorly made-up I’d have written it off as a limitation of the medium at the time, and tried to get on with the story. Characters like Bele and Lokai from Let That Be Your Last Battlefield look similarly ridiculous by today’s standards, but with all of the improvements made over the last fifty years… I can’t excuse how poor practically all of the synths looked.
The problem of a lack of diversity in outdoor filming locations plagued Picard Season 1, but it came to a head in Et in Arcadia Ego because it was the finale. In short, the ten-episode season attempted to depict locations on Earth, including France and Japan, as well as the planets of Vashti, Nepenthe, Aia, and Coppelius using outdoor filming locations within a few miles of Los Angeles. And this was painfully obvious as the season wore on, leading Picard Season 1 to feel smaller and less visually interesting as a result. If Coppelius needed an expansive outdoor filming shoot, then other worlds could – and should – have been created on indoor sound stages if long-distance location shoots were out of the question.
Both parts of Et in Arcadia Ego ruined the surprise appearance of a returning actor from The Next Generation. Brent Spiner’s role in Part 1 was telegraphed in the opening credits before his character had appeared on screen, but most egregiously the mistake was repeated in Part 2, where the return of Jonathan Frakes’ Acting Captain Riker was spoiled in the opening credits. The scene where Riker arrived at the head of a massive Starfleet armada to defend Coppelius was treated on screen like a huge surprise, but the fact that he was coming had been telegraphed in advance by the opening credits.
How difficult would it have been to credit special guest stars at the end instead of at the beginning? This also happened with Jeri Ryan’s Seven of Nine in the episode Absolute Candor earlier in the season – a character who appeared right at the end of the episode, in that case, and whose arrival was also treated as a surprise. For fans who don’t follow all of the ins and outs of Star Trek, the fact that any of these characters were coming back was supposed to be a total surprise, and both halves of Et in Arcadia Ego treated their returning guest stars in this way. But their unnecessary inclusions in the opening titles detracted from it. Riker’s arrival in particular felt far less impactful than it should’ve been; by the time the story reached the point of Picard standing alone against the Romulan armada, it was obvious that Riker was coming to save the day.
Speaking of the two fleets, the fact that both the Romulan and Starfleet armadas were comprised of a single starship design each seriously detracted from the way they looked. The copy-and-paste fleets were big, which was visually impressive at first glance, but the longer they remained on screen the more obvious it was that the CGI animators had literally copied and pasted each ship dozens of times.
Fleets seen in past iterations of Star Trek were almost always comprised of a variety of different starship types, and there was the potential to use this moment as fun fan-service, perhaps bringing back Romulan warbirds and scout ships from The Next Generation era, as well as Federation starship types like the Defiant-class, Sovereign-class, and Galaxy-class. Heck, Picard Season 1 had already made a brand-new CGI Galaxy-class model for the premiere, so it couldn’t have been too much extra work to include it here.
As a final point on the technical side of things, I’m sorry to say that, despite a great performance as Soji across the rest of the season (and as Dahj in the premiere), Isa Briones was not convincing as Sutra, the central synth villain. Her performance was incredibly hammy, and while the character was written sufficiently well that her basic motivation – to protect the Coppelius synths from an outside attack – should have been understandable and even potentially sympathetic, the “I’m evil for no reason and I love it” performance was so bad that it detracted from the character.
Although Sutra being so easily shut down in Part 2 meant that the character as a whole felt like a waste, and was not the angle I would’ve wanted the show to take, in a way I was glad that we were spared too much more of what has to be the entire season’s single worst acting performance.
In terms of story, let’s talk about the big picture first of all before we get into smaller narrative complaints. The super-synths that Sutra and Soji planned to contact were so barebones as a faction that they don’t even have a proper name. Their “admonition” – i.e. the vision that the Zhat Vash encountered from their beacon – was superficially intimidating, and the mechanical tentacles that we saw approaching the beacon at the climax of the story likewise looked frightening… but without knowing more about this faction, it was difficult to remain invested in this story.
We didn’t know what the super-synths would’ve done had they arrived. Would they have sought to exterminate all organic life everywhere, or just in the vicinity of Coppelius? Having exterminated, would they have taken the super-synths to live with them in “dark space?” Was their offer to help even genuine or was it an elaborate trap to conquer the Coppelius synths and steal their technology? We have so many open questions, and because it seems that Star Trek won’t be returning to the super-synths any time soon, they’ll be left open and this aspect of the story will remain less than it could have been.
In monster movies – which Et in Arcadia Ego’s super-synths were, to an extent, trying to emulate – we don’t always know everything about the monster. We might not know where Godzilla came from or why the Xenomorph in Alien is going on the rampage, but we at least have some perspective or frame of reference to understand why they should frighten or unnerve us – we’ve seen for ourselves how destructive and deadly the monster can be. The super-synths were barely glimpsed, and while their beacon was interpreted by the Zhat Vash as being dangerous, what we as the audience saw of it on screen was ambiguous at best. Because of that, the super-synths are more mysterious than frightening, and with no frame of reference to go on to showcase their level of technology, weapons, or danger, they’re less interesting and less frightening than they should’ve been.
During my first watch of Et in Arcadia Ego, I referred to the super-synths as the “Mass Effect Reapers” because of their similarities to a faction from the Mass Effect video game series. On re-watching the episodes, those similarities are really hammered home, even to the point where the vision contained in the Zhat Vash’s beacon and the beacon encountered by Commander Shepard in the first Mass Effect game contain striking visual similarities. I can’t believe that this is entirely a coincidence, and while I don’t want to accuse anyone of “ripping off” anyone else… it’s at the very least noteworthy that this aspect of the storyline of Et in Arcadia Ego – and thus of Picard Season 1 as a whole – is not original.
In the episode The Impossible Box, Narek walked Soji through a complicated series of steps to help her understand a dream she’d been having. His motive was to find out the location of her homeworld – Ghoulion IV or Coppelius. At the end of Soji’s dream, she looked up to the sky and saw two red moons and a lightning storm, leading Narek and Rizzo to conclude that they had enough information to locate Soji’s homeworld.
We subsequently learned that the Romulans had a fairly narrow search area and only needed to look within a few different star systems, so it seems reasonable that only a couple of pieces of information might be enough to go on if there aren’t that many possibilities. But when we finally reached Coppelius a couple of episodes later, the red moons were present – but where were the thunderstorms? This had been an absolutely essential part of the plot of The Impossible Box, yet the weather on Coppelius was sunlit and beautiful – some might say almost California-like. There were literally only two bits of information conveyed in The Impossible Box that Narek and Rizzo used to pinpoint Soji’s home planet… and one of them was completely disregarded in Et in Arcadia Ego.
Speaking of being completely disregarded… what happened to poor Narek? I know Narek wasn’t everybody’s favourite character in Season 1, but I felt he was interesting as a character who didn’t fall into the obvious trap of being a clichéd “spy with a heart of gold” who falls in love with his target. Narek remained loyal to the Zhat Vash cause, even though his relationship with Rizzo was complicated and despite his feelings for Soji.
For Narek to simply be abandoned by the story of Et in Arcadia Ego is disrespectful – not only to actor Harry Treadaway, who had put in a great performance – but to us as the audience. We’d been following Narek’s story since the second episode of the season, and as he approached what should’ve been his moment of triumph, and then his moment of defeat, he just vanished from the story altogether.
At the very least it would’ve been worth following Narek’s story to some kind of conclusion. I’d have liked to see how he reacted to Soji shutting down the beacon – would seeing that have finally broken his Zhat Vash brainwashing? Would he have tried to apologise to her and the rest of the synths? Or would he have stayed true to his mission even while being taken into custody by Starfleet or the synths?
We don’t know the answer to any of these questions, and while there is supposedly a scripted but unfilmed scene in which Narek was handed over to the Federation, that hardly seems like rock-solid “canon,” does it? Picard Season 1 didn’t actually feature that many characters in a big way, so for one of the principals to simply be dropped with no explanation midway through the finale is indicative of the fact that this two-parter had far too much narrative to cram into its runtime. It was poor, and whatever viewers might’ve thought of Narek and the earlier scenes and sequences in which he starred, getting some closure on one of the season’s most important characters was necessary.
In an overstuffed story with some very serious themes, there were some very odd choices. Dr Jurati and Picard making jokes while launching La Sirena into orbit felt out-of-place, but thankfully that didn’t last very long. What did last a long time, though, in the context of the story, was the very odd campfire scene with Narek, Raffi, and Rios.
This scene was a complete waste of time. As the audience, we already knew what the Zhat Vash prophecy and philosophy was by this point, so re-telling it in a “ghost stories by the campfire” cliché was unnecessary fluff in an episode that simply didn’t have so much as a second to spare. Secondly, this scene messes with the timing of the entire episode. Narek seemed to be in a mad rush to attack the synths’ compound and stop their beacon, and if we’re to believe that Raffi and Rios had been persuaded too – which appears to have happened in a very short scene aboard La Sirena that really needed to be extended – then the characters themselves shouldn’t be wasting time camping out. It’s also the only scene in the entire episode to take place after dark, which was obviously done to make the campfire more visually dramatic… but the rest of the story seems to have taken place over the course of less than one day, so when did this night occur and why didn’t anyone else on Coppelius experience it? In short, it wasn’t just an unnecessary scene, but one that breaks the continuity of the whole story.
After the campfire scene we came to the poorly-scripted bomb plot. Using grenades donated by Narek and a football that Rios had aboard La Sirena, the trio planned to smuggle a bomb into the synths’ compound and blow up the beacon. I didn’t understand why the synths’ compound was suddenly being guarded as the group approached – except, of course, to ramp up the drama. From the synths’ point of view Raffi and Rios were no threat; they’d been on friendly terms when they parted, so why hassle them?
Dr Soong joined in after they arrived at Coppelius Station, but even he couldn’t salvage what was an illogical and stupid “plan.” Dr Soong had two aces up his sleeve: the video evidence that proved Sutra, not Narek, was responsible for murdering Saga, and his “magic wand” weapon that could apparently disable synths at the push of a button. He used the latter once, on Sutra, and then disappeared entirely from the plot until after Picard’s “rebirth.”
After the remaining trio made a stupid full-frontal attack against the much larger group of synths, it fell to Rios to try to throw the bomb-ball into position… but, naturally, Soji was able to clear it with seconds to spare.
This entire operation was so stupid, and was clearly written to ensure that the heroes’ plan would fail, meaning it would be up to Soji and Picard to save the day. And I won’t dismiss Picard’s speech and the emotional impact of Soji’s decision to stand down – both of those aspects felt great. But they were, unfortunately, sabotaged by this awfully-scripted bomb plot which made no sense, and the immediate disappearance of everyone involved in its aftermath.
Here are just a few of the questions this sequence raised: why didn’t Dr Soong show the footage of Sutra to the other synths? Why didn’t Dr Soong use his “magic wand” on Soji? Why didn’t Rios and Raffi try to talk to Soji and explain the dangers of the super-synths? There was so much wrong in this one sequence, and it was contrived in such a way as to skip over any and all of these points to get to the standoff between Soji and Picard, and Picard’s convincing speech. Unfortunately the route to that otherwise powerful moment felt so unnatural that it detracted from it.
After the bomb plot and the speech, things took a turn for the better, and much of the remainder of Et in Arcadia Ego hit those emotional high points, and as the rushed, almost panicked pacing and editing gave way to a slower-paced story of laying Data to rest and restoring Picard to life, things did improve.
Unfortunately, though, Et in Arcadia Ego ended with many questions left on the table. Having arrived just in time to save the day, is the Federation now committed to leaving an entire fleet in the Ghoulion system to defend Coppelius? If not, it seems like there’s nothing to prevent the Romulans from returning next week and obliterating the synths from orbit. Or perhaps the synths will need to be evacuated and taken to a new, safer location. If so, we saw no indication that Starfleet plans to help with that.
There was also no attempt made to explain Bruce Maddox’s visit to Freecloud, which had been a huge story point in the first half of the season. Maddox’s lab on Coppelius clearly hadn’t been “raided by the Tal Shiar,” and if we’re to understand he set up a second lab somewhere else for some unknown reason, why didn’t he return to Coppelius if it was destroyed; why go to Freecloud instead? This opens up a pretty big plot hole in the entire season, as Maddox now has no reason to go to Bjayzl – a dangerous woman to whom he owed money – other than “because plot.” Maddox was there simply to allow the rest of the story to unfold, and that just isn’t satisfying at all.
And this is just one way in which Et in Arcadia Ego damages the entire first season of the show. With so much rushing around in the final two episodes, with brand-new characters, new civilisations, new factions, new antagonists, and whole new storylines being dumped into the show with two episodes remaining, it makes going back and reflecting on the rest of the season somewhat difficult. Was the deliberately slow pace of episodes like Maps and Legends too much? Should the side-stories on Vashti and Nepenthe have been cut down… or skipped altogether?
Nepenthe was, for me, one of the most enjoyable episodes of Star Trek that I’ve seen in a very long time, and spending time with Picard, Riker, and Troi after so long felt absolutely magical. We caught a glimpse of their retirement, the family life that they deserved to have after their rollercoaster relationship and the tragedy of the loss of their first child. And it was wonderful. But in retrospect, all of that time with Kestra and Soji bonding and Picard catching up with his old friends, cooking pizza in an outdoor oven and hanging out in a cabin in the woods just feels wasted. There was too much plot left for Picard Season 1 to get through, so either stories like Nepenthe needed to be cut down or, realistically, the season needed to be extended. One of the advantages of streaming over traditional broadcast television is that things like schedules don’t mean much – it’s far easier to add an extra episode or a few minutes here and there if necessary. Discovery did exactly that in its first season… why couldn’t Picard?
That’s the real tragedy of Et in Arcadia Ego: the way it makes eight genuinely wonderful episodes feel worse in retrospect. We aren’t quite at the level of something like Game of Thrones, where a truly awful ending has made going back to re-watch earlier seasons feel downright unpleasant, but we’re in the same ballpark.
The sad thing is that the synths’ storyline wasn’t bad. Dr Soong wasn’t a bad character, and if he’d had more time on screen I think we could have got more of a nuanced portrayal that showed us a man doing his best to work around the synth ban and keep his people safe. We could’ve learned why he wanted to build a golem for himself – was he dying? Was he trying to become immortal? What drove him to pick up his father’s work? All questions that Et in Arcadia Ego left on the table.
Likewise with Sutra. Despite the crappy makeup and the poor, hammy performance, there was the kernel of an interesting character at Sutra’s core. Her presence turned the synths from a group in need of rescue into a potential danger, and that concept – had it been executed better over a longer span of episodes – could have been interesting.
The super-synths, despite their similarities to the Reapers from Mass Effect and their blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearances on screen, had been the driving force for the entire season’s plot, and learning more about who they were and what drove them, whether their offer to help was genuine, and whether they had any connection to other Star Trek factions were all points that could’ve been explored. The super-synths, while hardly an original faction in a broader sci-fi environment, were something new to Star Trek, and as Trekkies I think we have a great curiosity about the Star Trek galaxy and the races present within it. Finding out more about the super-synths would have been fun.
There was also the standoff over Coppelius itself. We’ve already covered how the copy-and-paste ships didn’t look great, but as a story beat this entire sequence was rushed. After Picard and Dr Jurati made their “last stand,” Acting Captain Riker showed up at the last second, positioning his fleet in between the Romulans and Coppelius. And then he opened hailing frequencies to talk to Commodore Oh.
Within moments, the zealous Zhat Vash commander had been convinced to withdraw rather than fight it out… and I think that fails as a convincing narrative beat. The Zhat Vash had been portrayed for the entire season as having an almost-religious zeal; a crusade against synthetic life born out of fear of total annihilation. And in mere seconds, Commodore Oh appeared to abandon that crusade. When faced with opposition, she chose not to fight but to withdraw.
The two fleets looked surprisingly well-matched, and I would have thought that Commodore Oh would have had a chance, at least, of going toe-to-toe with Acting Captain Riker. It wasn’t like the Federation armada had the Romulans horribly outnumbered. And all it would have taken, from her point of view, was for one ship to break through the blockade and fire on Coppelius Station – a single quantum torpedo would probably have done the job.
Commodore Oh and the Zhat Vash simply don’t seem like the types who would come this close to achieving their life’s ambitions – and remember that Oh had been embedded in Starfleet for literally decades – only to be scared away by a few Starfleet ships or convinced to change their lifelong aims by one speech and the beacon being shut down. At the very least, this was yet another sequence which needed much more time to unfold. Heck, I could have happily spent an entire episode on the standoff, with negotiations taking place between Federation and Zhat Vash representatives. The Zhat Vash needed to be talked into withdrawing; I don’t believe that seeing Picard’s speech and Riker’s fleet was anywhere near enough motivation for Oh to take her entire fleet and withdraw, and if it was, we needed to spend a lot longer getting to that point, seeing her agonise over the decision, perhaps facing down mutinous members of her own organisation, and so on.
So we come back to the crux of why Et in Arcadia Ego didn’t succeed as a finale: it contained plenty of interesting characters and storylines, but didn’t have enough time to pay off most of them in anywhere close to a meaningful way. And as a result, it doesn’t feel like most of Picard Season 1’s storylines came to an end at all. Some, like Narek’s, were just completely abandoned; unceremoniously dumped with no explanation given. Others, like Dr Soong’s, were completely undeveloped, leaving him along with Sutra and several other characters feeling like one-dimensional plot devices instead of real people.
The disappointing thing, at the end of the day, isn’t that the ideas and storylines here were bad, it’s that none of them were allowed to play out in sufficient depth. With the possible exception of laying Data to rest, every single storyline that Et in Arcadia Ego brought into play or introduced for the first time were underdeveloped, cut short, and/or not sufficiently detailed. Some individual scenes and elements were less successful in their own right – like the performance of Sutra or the campfire sequence – but taken as a whole, what I wanted from Et in Arcadia Ego was more – more time for these characters, ideas, and narrative elements to play out. It feels like practically nothing in Et in Arcadia Ego saw justice done, and when I had been invested in the story, the characters, and this return to the 24th Century after such a long wait, that was disappointing.
As we approach Season 2 of Picard, which kicks off in just one week from today, I hope that the show’s writers and producers have taken on board the feedback that they surely received about Et in Arcadia Ego. The show’s second season can’t afford to repeat the mistakes made by the ending of its first, and if Picard is to end with Season 3, as some news outlets have been reporting, then it’s going to be even more important for the creative team to consider the problems of Et in Arcadia Ego and make sure that the series as a whole won’t end in such disappointing fashion.
There were successes along the way – great moments of characterisation with Admiral Picard, the “heroic last stand” story that always gets me no matter how it’s told, and of course saying a proper goodbye to Data after eighteen years. The emotional moments present in the latter half of Part 2 went some way to making up for earlier disappointments.
I can’t call Et in Arcadia Ego a failure. It brought together storylines that, even two years later, I find fascinating. The disappointment stems from the fact that those stories weren’t able to play out properly due to unnecessary time constraints, a rushed pace, and, in retrospect, eight preceding episodes that spent too long reaching this point. With Season 2 now upon us, I’m hoping for much better things from Star Trek: Picard!
Star Trek: Picard Season 1 is 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 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.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1 and the trailers and teasers for Season 2. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Original Series Season 1, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine Season 3, Voyager Seasons 2, 3, and 7, and First Contact.
It seems an age ago that we were eagerly anticipating Season 1 of Star Trek: Picard. In those sunlit, rosy days before the pandemic hit, this website was brand-new, and I spent a lot of time in December 2019 and January 2020 looking ahead and wondering what we’d see when the Star Trek franchise finally returned to the 24th Century – after an eighteen-year wait!
With Season 2 of Picard now only days away, I thought it could be fun to revisit a concept from the early days of the website: a list of episodes that I think could make for interesting background viewing, potentially informing story points and characterisations in the new season of Picard. In the run-up to Season 1 I focused on episodes of The Next Generation that strongly featured Captain Picard himself, as well as a few stories about the Romulans, and a few more stories which could’ve potentially led to big changes in the two decades following the events of Endgame and Nemesis.
This time, we have a little bit more information to go on! Season 2 will tell a story that involves (to a greater or lesser degree) the following elements: the Borg Queen, Guinan, Q, time travel, and, of course, Admiral Picard himself. On this occasion, then, I thought it could be fun to pull out twelve stories from Star Trek’s past that might just be useful background viewing for Season 2 of Picard. It goes without saying that Season 1 is mandatory viewing, so I’m not putting any of those episodes on this list! You should really watch, or re-watch, all ten before the season kicks off!
My usual caveats apply, as they always do! Firstly, everything listed below is entirely subjective. If I miss out an episode that you think is incredibly important, or you hate all of my picks, that’s okay! We all have different opinions about Star Trek, and there’s no need to fight about it. Secondly, I don’t claim to have any “insider information.” I’m basing my theories and guesses about Season 2 on publicly released material, such as trailers and interviews. And finally, the episodes are not ranked; they’re merely listed below in the order in which they were originally broadcast.
With all of that out of the way, let’s jump into the list!
Number 1: Tomorrow is Yesterday The Original Series Season 1 (1967)
Though The City on the Edge of Forever is perhaps the best-known of The Original Series’ time travel stories, Tomorrow is Yesterday preceded it by several months. It was the first episode of the Star Trek franchise where time travel played a major role in the story, and it was also the first in which the crew paid a visit to the modern day. Tomorrow is Yesterday established what went on to become a mainstay in terms of the franchise’s time travel story tropes: being sent back in time by accident!
Aside from being a fun episode in its own right and well worth a watch, Tomorrow is Yesterday is also the episode which introduced the Star Trek franchise to something that appears to be making a return in Picard Season 2: the slingshot method of travelling through time, referred to in this episode as the “light-speed breakaway factor.”
Almost every Star Trek series has included the occasional time travel story, and we can look to episodes like Tomorrow is Yesterday for creating that premise. Visiting the modern world would go on to be significant later in The Original Series, in Star Trek IV, and on several other significant occasions in the franchise. For me, some of these stories can feel rather dated, but I think Tomorrow is Yesterday largely avoids that trap!
As we get ready for Picard Season 2 and the franchise’s latest foray into time travel, stepping back to see where it all began during the first season of The Original Series is no bad thing. Tomorrow is Yesterday has a fairly straightforward premise that should be easy enough to follow even for fans who aren’t as familiar with The Original Series, and is well worth a watch on its own merits.
Number 2: Encounter at Farpoint The Next Generation Season 1 (1987)
In the first teaser trailer for Picard Season 2, we heard Q’s voice proclaiming that “the trial never ends.” Encounter at Farpoint is the episode in which Captain Picard first encountered Q, and the episode in which the referenced “trial” began. Q accused humanity (and by extension, the Federation) of being a “dangerous, savage, child-race” who are unfit to travel the stars. Picard and his crew defended themselves against the accusation.
The task Q set for Picard was to unravel the mystery of Farpoint Station, which he and the crew of the Enterprise-D were en route to. However, figuring out the puzzle wasn’t the end of the trial, and even after bringing the Farpoint saga to a successful conclusion, Q departed in ambiguous fashion, hinting that he would return. He did, of course, on a number of occasions!
Encounter at Farpoint was the premiere of The Next Generation and established the characters of Picard and Q (as well as many other familiar faces). As we approach Picard Season 2, it’s worth going back to see where it all began. This was the first big puzzle that Q tasked Picard with solving, and seeing how Q operates and what the point of it all is, from his perspective, is well worth taking into consideration.
This is also the beginning of “the trial.” We don’t know to what extent the idea of Picard – and humanity – being on trial will feature in Picard Season 2, but if Q has returned to set up a new mystery there could be a connection – and there could be consequences if Picard and the crew of La Sirena can’t figure it out. Q has toyed with Picard on a number of occasions; Encounter at Farpoint was the first.
Number 3: Q Who The Next Generation Season 2 (1989)
Q Who is the episode that introduced us to the Borg – and it’s a pretty scary one by Star Trek’s standards! Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D have never faced a villain like this, and the Borg represent an existential threat. Q made good on his promise to show Picard that there are dangers in the galaxy that he couldn’t even imagine… and eighteen members of the Enterprise-D’s crew paid the ultimate price.
In a way, Q Who shows Q at his most aggressive, devious, and villainous. By throwing the Enterprise-D into the path of the Borg, he proved his point to Picard about the Federation’s unpreparedness in the most painful way possible. But I don’t believe that’s all there is to the story.
I have a theory about Q Who that you can find by clicking or tapping here. To briefly summarise: Star Trek has made a mess of the history of Borg-Federation contact, and it seems likely that the Borg were already aware of humanity and Earth long before the events of this episode. They may have already been preparing for an attack or assimilation attempt, and Q hoped to prevent that by giving the Federation advance warning.
My theory goes into much more detail! But suffice to say the complicated history of contact between humanity and the Borg makes it seem plausible, at least to me, and shows off an aspect to Q’s character that I think could come into play in Picard Season 2. Q Who also establishes the existence of history between Q and Guinan – something that may come up in Picard Season 2 given that both characters are returning.
Number 4: Yesterday’s Enterprise The Next Generation Season 3 (1990)
Though it’s a fantastic episode in its own right, Yesterday’s Enterprise is on this list for one reason: Guinan. When a rift in the space-time continuum sends the Enterprise-C forward through time, decades’ worth of history are changed, leaving the Federation in a very bleak timeline in which it’s fighting a losing war against the Klingons.
Aboard the warship Enterprise-D, Captain Picard and the rest of the crew are completely oblivious to the change; this version of the characters have only ever known the war timeline. But Guinan alone realises that something has gone wrong, and argues with Captain Picard about how to set things right.
Despite a recent controversy, Whoopi Goldberg will be reprising the role of Guinan in Picard Season 2, bringing the character back for the first time since Generations in 1994. Given that we know Season 2 also features a radically changed timeline, not dissimilar to the one seen in Yesterday’s Enterprise, perhaps Guinan will be aware of the change.
Guinan could be the one to talk to Picard about the possible point of divergence, as we know she’d visited Earth in the 19th Century. She may also be one of the only people other than the crew of La Sirena to be aware that something has changed. Guinan also has a history with Q, as we saw in the episode Q Who – so that could also come into play!
Number 5: Time’s Arrow Parts I-II The Next Generation Seasons 5-6 (1992)
Guinan also plays a key role in the two-part episode Time’s Arrow. Thanks to time travel, this is the episode where she and Captain Picard actually have their first meeting, and although the nature of their relationship is still shrouded in mystery, we get a little bit more information about how they came to meet in the first place.
Guinan’s fascination with Earth appears to date back to at least the 19th Century, as she visited undercover during that time period. We know from the most recent Picard Season 2 trailer that Guinan appears to be running a bar on Earth at the dawn of the 25th Century, giving her an association with Earth and humanity that stretches back over five hundred years.
Time’s Arrow is an interesting story that mostly focuses on Data, who was of course a huge part of the story of Picard Season 1. It seems as though Brent Spiner will be playing a new role in Season 2 – perhaps another ancestor of the Soong family – so getting a bit of extra data on Data could be worthwhile, too!
One thing I’m personally curious about in Picard Season 2 is if we’ll get any further backstory on the Picard-Guinan relationship. Although Time’s Arrow depicts their first meeting from Guinan’s perspective, we’ve still never learned how they came to meet in the 24th Century from Picard’s point of view. All we know is that it likely happened prior to his assuming command of the Enterprise-D. I don’t know if Picard Season 2 will expand on that in any way… but it would be interesting!
Number 6: Tapestry The Next Generation Season 6 (1993)
Tapestry is a really interesting episode that deals with the dynamic between Q and Picard, and specifically looks at the nuances present in their relationship. Picard has always viewed Q as an adversary, but I’ve argued in the past that Q doesn’t see himself that way. He views Picard as a friend, and himself as a guide or even an ally – and the way Tapestry unfolds kind of shows why that is.
When Picard is injured on an away mission, he finds himself close to death. At that moment, he encounters Q – who claims he’s already dead. Q gives Picard a chance to avert his death by changing a key event in his past – getting stabbed shortly after graduating from Starfleet Academy – but doing so sets Picard’s life and career on a completely different path.
The important thing here is how Q views the whole affair. We can entertain debates on whether or not Q actually sent Picard back in time or whether it was all an elaborate illusion, but that’s entirely beside the point. Q genuinely believed that he was helping – that by showing Picard an alternate life, he gave him an appreciation for the life he had actually led, even if that meant it was about to end.
I firmly believe that there’s more going on with Q in Season 2 than meets the eye. It’s possible that he didn’t change the timeline at all, and is merely responsible for shielding Picard and the crew of La Sirena from it. It’s also possible that he did change it as part of an elaborate puzzle, one which he hopes and expects that Picard will be able to solve. Speaking of which…
Number 7: All Good Things… The Next Generation Season 7 (1994)
All Good Things is the best example of this aspect of the dynamic between Picard and Q, and could – in theory – be a template for the events of Picard Season 2. In All Good Things, the Q Continuum sets a puzzle for Picard – an eruption of “anti-time.” Thanks to the time-travelling interventions of Q, Picard is able to hop between three different periods of his own past to solve the mystery.
The solution to the anti-time eruption required Picard to challenge his own way of thinking, specifically his linear perception of cause-and-effect. Being able to recognise that events in the future had a causal link to events in the past greatly impressed Q, who seemed to suggest that it was the first step on a path that could one day see humanity evolve into beings comparable to the Q themselves.
All Good Things was also Picard’s last dalliance with Q prior to the events of Picard Season 2. As far as we know at this stage, Q hasn’t been to see Picard in the approximately twenty-five years since the events of All Good Things – but that could change as we get into the new season. It’s possible, at least in my opinion, that Q might’ve been interested to see Picard at his lowest ebb, possibly showing up to see if he could provoke him into action. But we’ll save a detailed explanation of that for my next theory post!
It’s possible that the trailers and teasers for Season 2 have already revealed the nature of Q’s involvement in the story: that he is directly responsible for changing the timeline, he did so on purpose, and he will be the main villain of the season. But I would argue that the “villain” monicker does not fit with Q’s past characterisation, and thus I suspect that there’s much more going on than meets the eye. All Good Things is both a piece of evidence in favour of that argument, as well as a potential blueprint for how a time travel puzzle set by Q could unfold.
Number 8: Past Tense, Parts I-II Deep Space Nine Season 3 (1995)
We know, thanks to a voiceover in the most recent trailer, that at least some of the events of Picard Season 2 take place in the year 2024. But Picard Season 2 isn’t the first Star Trek production to visit that specific year! In Deep Space Nine’s third season, Commander Sisko and the crew of the USS Defiant found themselves accidentally sent back in time to the exact same year.
Past Tense is an interesting story, as it will mark the first time that any episode of Star Trek set in “the future” at the time it was broadcast will be reached, and I’m sure I won’t be alone in doing a full write-up of its story when we hit the end of August 2024! We could talk for hours about how its depressing presentation of the 2020s seemed a long way from reality once upon a time, but with the growth of homelessness and other economic issues, today’s society feels far too close for comfort to the world of the Bell Riots.
I’m not sure how much of Deep Space Nine’s presentation of a fictionalised 2024 will make it into Picard Season 2. It’s possible that the new series will entirely ignore this two-part episode… but I think we should keep an eye open for references or callbacks to some of the characters, events, or even things like brands and products.
Regardless, this will be the first time that two very different Star Trek productions have travelled back in time to the same year, and it might be interesting and informative to take a look at Past Tense to see how Deep Space Nine told us that the year would unfold. It seems as though Picard Season 2 will be set, in part, in California – which is also where Past Tense was set, so that’s another point of connection. I’m not expecting a huge crossover with this one single Deep Space Nine story, but there could easily be references made to it.
Number 9: Death Wish Voyager Season 2 (1996)
Captain Picard wasn’t the only Starfleet officer to tangle with Q. After making a sole appearance in Deep Space Nine, Q hopped over to the Delta Quadrant, where he had several run-ins with Captain Janeway during Voyager’s journey home. Q presented a bit of a puzzle for Voyager; his abilities mean that he could have sent the ship and crew back to Earth with a snap of his fingers. But if we can look beyond that narrative hurdle, Q’s appearances in Voyager added a lot to his characterisation.
In Death Wish, we got our best look to date at the Q Continuum itself. Depicted in a manner that humans could comprehend, the Continuum resembled a rather dilapidated roadside house in the middle of the desert. For the first time, we got to see more members of the Q Continuum as well, and got a glimpse of how Q himself is a bit of a radical by the standards of his people.
The idea that the Q Continuum is not an entirely stable, homogeneous place is an interesting one, and was explored in more detail in the episode The Q and the Grey. But Death Wish also presented a very complex moral question – in the longstanding tradition of Star Trek! This episode can be a difficult watch for some folks because of its discussion of suicide, and it’s absolutely fine to skip it if that subject hits too close to home. If the debate around suicide and end-of-life care is something you’re interested in, though, this is a uniquely “Star Trek” attempt to tackle it.
Q emerges from this story as a reformer – or even a radical – by the standards of his people. We also know, thanks to a line in All Good Things, that he was responsible for assisting Picard when the Continuum set the anti-time puzzle. It’s stories like this that make me think that there’s a goodness in Q; that he isn’t just a trickster or a pure villain.
Number 10: Future’s End, Parts I-II Voyager Season 3 (1996)
The two-part time travel story Future’s End sees Captain Janeway and the crew of the USS Voyager sent back in time to Earth, circa 1996. It’s another story set in the California area, and I think it’s an interesting episode – albeit one that I feel has become very dated by Star Trek standards!
If Picard Season 2 sticks with things like the Borg and the slingshot method, it seems that the kind of time travel depicted in Future’s End won’t be a factor. But there are still interesting points to consider, such as the Temporal Prime Directive and how Starfleet in the future would come to police the timeline, watching out for changes.
There aren’t a great many Star Trek episodes that visit the modern day, and as I’ve already explained I feel that a modern setting can make such stories feel very out-of-date very quickly. Future’s End definitely falls into this trap; its depiction of Southern California has a very ’90s flavour. But it’s a bit of fun, and dare I say almost a guilty pleasure!
I’m including Future’s End here for its modern day time travel story and its focus on California, both of which are elements that we know will be part of Picard Season 2. As with Past Tense, I don’t expect to see a huge tie-in between the new season and the events of this episode, but there may be smaller callbacks and references to some of the characters and events it depicted.
Number 11: Star Trek: First Contact Film (1996)
First Contact introduced us to the Borg Queen for the first time, and went into a lot more detail about Picard’s assimilation experience. The Borg Queen was presented as the embodiment of the Borg rather than their leader, and she became a fearsome adversary for Picard and Data over the course of the story.
Season 1 of Picard saw the retired Admiral face his lingering Borg assimilation trauma when he beamed aboard the Artifact in the episode The Impossible Box, but Season 2 will see him come face to face with a Borg Queen for the first time in twenty-five years. For someone who’s clearly suffering from some form of post-traumatic stress, we don’t know what effect that could have.
Picard was violently anti-Borg in First Contact, and we saw hints of that in Picard Season 1 as well. His conversation with Dr Jurati and Elnor in The Impossible Box, as well as the way he responded to some of the xB’s in later episodes, was in line with his attitude to the Borg in First Contact – and I wonder how encountering a Borg Queen will make him feel!
Many Trekkies hold up First Contact as one of the absolute best Star Trek films, and it’s hard to disagree. As an action-packed work of sci-fi with some truly scary elements thanks to the way the Borg are depicted, it’s an exciting ride from start to finish. It also goes into a little more detail about World War III – an event in the history of the Star Trek timeline that could play a role in Picard Season 2. Check out my full World War III theory by clicking or tapping here!
Number 12: Endgame Voyager Season 7 (2001)
Almost five years after First Contact depicted the Borg’s biggest attack on Earth to date, Endgame brought back the Borg Queen in a significant way. The interventions of a time-travelling Admiral Janeway from the future saw the USS Voyager make it home to Earth, and in the process dealt a significant blow to the Borg Collective.
Even though it’s been more than twenty years since Endgame, we don’t actually know what became of the Borg in the aftermath of Admiral Janeway’s attack. I’ve always assumed that the Borg Collective was large enough, clever enough, and adaptable enough to survive the neurolytic pathogen that she introduced into the Borg Queen… but because the Star Trek franchise has yet to return to the Borg post-Endgame, we can’t be certain of that.
Even Season 1 of Picard, which depicted the disabled Borg Cube known as the Artifact, didn’t settle the issue. So it’s an open question at this juncture whether the Collective survived, whether it was significantly damaged by Admiral Janeway’s pathogen, or whether it was able to easily shake off the attack. It seems as though no major Borg activity occurred in Federation space in the twenty-plus years after Endgame, though.
Endgame makes this list because of the Borg Queen’s role in Picard Season 2, and I think it could be very useful background viewing, possibly even setting up a story about the Queen herself or the state of the Borg Collective at the dawn of the 25th Century. On a vaguely related note, I took a deeper look at Admiral Janway’s actions in Endgame, and you can find that article by clicking or tapping here.
So that’s it!
Those are twelve episodes (alright, eleven episodes and a film) that I think might make for useful or interesting viewing prior to Picard Season 2! I think we’ve hit most of the key subjects – at least, those that we’re aware of at this early stage – and got a good mix of stories focusing on Captain Picard, Q, Guinan, time travel, and the Borg Queen.
At the end of the day, though, Star Trek’s past didn’t prove all that important to unravelling the events of Picard Season 1 – nor to recent storylines in Discovery, either. So it’s quite likely, in my view, that Picard Season 2 will bring plenty of brand-new characters and story elements into play. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth going back to these stories and others, but my suspicion at this stage is that the new story won’t rely excessively on what came before.
When Picard Season 2 arrives at the end of next week, I hope you’ll stay tuned for individual episode reviews, theories, and more. Despite the somewhat underwhelming end to Season 1, Picard Season 2 has been one of my most-anticipated shows for almost two years, and I can’t wait to jump in and have another adventure with Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of La Sirena.
Star Trek: Picard Season 2 will premiere on Paramount+ in the United States on the 3rd of March 2022, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and elsewhere 24 hours later. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard 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.
This article deals with the subjects of the Holocaust and racism and may be uncomfortable for some readers.
It goes without saying that the Holocaust is an incredibly sensitive and delicate subject. Even titling this article Whoopi’s “whoopsie” might be enough to seem flippant or even offensive to some folks – but I just couldn’t resist the pun. If you haven’t heard about this controversy, I’ll briefly recap what happened before we get into some analysis and a consideration of what – if anything – it could mean for Star Trek: Picard Season 2.
Whoopi Goldberg, who plays the role of Guinan in the Star Trek franchise, is the co-host of The View, an American daytime television talk show. She’s known in that context for being bold and outspoken, particularly on issues of race in the United States. On a recent episode of The View, Goldberg made controversial remarks about the Holocaust, claiming that the event “isn’t about race” because it concerned “two white groups of people.” I encourage you to view the full exchange in context (you can find it on YouTube) but suffice to say that controversy soon ensued – and the condemnation of Goldberg’s comments even reached mainstream news outlets on this side of the Atlantic.
Goldberg has offered her apology for the remarks she made, and it’s worth pointing that out before we go any further. She apologised for “the hurt [she] caused” and reiterated her support for Jewish people and Jewish communities around the world. It’s not for me to decide whether her apology is up to code, and again I encourage you to read it in full. I felt it important to point out that she has issued an apology before proceeding any further.
The Holocaust is such a unique event in the history of our world that it almost beggars belief that a 66-year-old woman, who otherwise seems to be well-informed and whose job it is to discuss current events, could be so profoundly ignorant or misinformed about what it is. Holocaust education, at least here in the UK, has been a big part of the history curriculum in schools for at least fifty years – if not longer – and there are many institutions around the world dedicated to preserving the memory of Holocaust victims and promoting education about the Holocaust. Less than a week ago, on the 27th of January, we marked Holocaust Memorial Day, a worldwide event held on the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
On a school trip to Germany almost thirty years ago I visited Sachsenhausen concentration camp and saw firsthand the kind of facilities that the Nazis used to keep political prisoners, Romani, Jews, and everyone else that they deemed “sub-human” or “undesirable.” Seeing the camp is something that has stuck with me for decades, and the sombre lessons that my class had about the Holocaust and the extermination of Jews are likewise seared in my memory.
British-made documentary series The World At War has one of the best educational pieces about the Holocaust that I’ve ever seen in its episode Genocide, and if you can find a copy I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a harrowing watch, but for anyone who wants to learn more about this defining moment in history, and the events that led to it, The World At War presents the history of the Holocaust about as well as possible, and includes interviews with survivors.
Outside of conversations and discussions about Nazi Germany and the Holocaust itself, it’s almost never a good idea to bring up the Holocaust. Politicians, commentators, directors, and even journalists have all found themselves in trouble for saying something stupid or ill-informed, or for using the Holocaust as an unfair comparison to something else happening in the world. And when making unprepared, unscripted remarks – as Whoopi Goldberg appears to have been – misspeaking is all the easier.
I can’t defend what Whoopi Goldberg said. It was so ignorant and stupid that she deserves all of the backlash she receives. It’s also indicative, at least to me as a non-American, of America’s continuing obsession with black-and-white race issues that completely ignore every other marginalised group. Almost sixty years after Martin Luther King dreamed of a country where everyone would be judged by the “content of their character,” America seems more race-obsessed than ever – and that obsession with black-versus-white racism comes at the cost of marginalising or completely ignoring practically every other group.
Part of Whoopi Goldberg’s defence of her original remarks, made during an appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, drew on her own understanding of race and racism as an African-American, and appear to me to reinforce the idea that too many Americans have a strange, warped misunderstanding of what race even is – as well as who can and can’t be racist and how racism itself works. To me, that’s indicative of a fundamental failure of the American education system and of the way racial issues in America are discussed and debated.
So that’s my read on what happened. Given the outrage that Whoopi Goldberg’s comments understandably generated, I wanted to step back and consider what impact, if any, the controversy now engulfing her may have on Star Trek: Picard Season 2, which is scheduled to premiere in just over four weeks from today. Goldberg is set to reprise her role of Guinan, bringing the character back to our screens for the first time since 1994’s Star Trek: Generations, and she was recently featured in a big way in the latest trailer.
At time of writing, no one involved with Star Trek: Picard Season 2 has made a public statement on the Whoopi Goldberg controversy, but I don’t see how that can be sustainable, especially when the cast and crew get on the publicity circuit and start giving interviews in the run-up to the season premiere. Whoopi Goldberg, having just made her first big appearance in the new season’s marketing, may have been slated to make appearances or give interviews about the show – but I’m not sure whether that will happen at all now, or whether her role may be scaled back.
Sometimes they say that “there’s no such thing as bad publicity,” but take it from someone who used to work in marketing: this is about as bad as it gets in terms of publicity! The last thing anyone involved in Star Trek: Picard needs is for Whoopi Goldberg’s comments to overshadow the show’s return, so in my opinion the producers and actors need to get together and put out a statement relatively quickly, and certainly before they get out on the publicity circuit. That way they’ll be able to refer to their statement when the inevitable questions are asked.
I’ve heard from several people who say that they’re either not going to watch Picard Season 2, or that they’re far less enthusiastic about supporting the upcoming season in light of Whoopi Goldberg’s comments. There’s a danger for ViacomCBS that this will snowball if they don’t handle it well, perhaps leading to an unofficial boycott or significantly fewer viewers tuning in, so the corporation and its marketing team really need to get out in front of this as quickly as possible.
There’s a theory from the world of literary criticism that I think is worth discussing: “death of the author.” Originally proposed in 1967 by French critic Roland Barthes, death of the author basically argues that we should consider a work of literature on its own merits, separating the writing from the writer. Death of the author has since been applied to other forms of media, including television and film, and in this context we’re looking at whether it might be possible to separate the performance from the actor – to enjoy Guinan without celebrating Whoopi Goldberg.
The two sides to this never-ending discussion are as follows: either it’s possible and desirable to separate the art from the artist, considering the merits of a piece without any consideration for who the author or artist was, or it isn’t possible or desirable to do so, and that the context of who the creator was matters in a fundamental way to the work in question. With actors this is, perhaps, more readily apparent because we can see and hear them; it’s far more difficult to put an actor out of our mind while watching and listening to them in real-time.
My take on death of the author varies somewhat. If an artist, author, or performer is long-dead, it’s much easier in my view to analyse their work, and even enjoy their work, without paying too much attention to who they were. The performance has outlived the performer, so to speak. But when dealing with living people, I find this far more difficult to do. I understand Barthes’ arguments about objectivity and judging a work on its own merits, but when people hold outspoken or particularly harmful points of view, I find it much more difficult to set that aside for the sake of art or entertainment.
J.K. Rowling is perhaps the best example of this, in my opinion. Her blatantly transphobic statements and support for “gender critical” groups and causes has made it significantly harder for me to enjoy the Harry Potter series for which she’s best-known. I find it difficult to separate Harry Potter, either in book or film form, from J.K. Rowling in light of her offensive statements and the positions that she’s known to hold.
So when I hear Trekkies say that they can no longer support Star Trek: Picard in light of Whoopi Goldberg’s comments, I fully understand. I can empathise with that position because it’s very similar to how I see the Harry Potter series, and I wouldn’t want to tell anyone that they should feel differently. It can be difficult to set aside the artist and just focus on the art, especially when dealing with an actor who we have to see and listen to.
I would say, though, that Whoopi Goldberg is nowhere near as important to Star Trek: Picard as someone like J.K. Rowling is to Harry Potter. She may only appear in one or two episodes, and as recently as last month it wasn’t even certain that she’d be appearing at all; her appearance in the trailer confirmed it. Had remarks like these been made by someone like Sir Patrick Stewart or one of the show’s senior producers, Star Trek: Picard would be in a lot more trouble. In my view, it’s probable that the show will be able to weather this storm, even if it loses some viewers in the process.
Whoopi Goldberg has offered an apology, and in the coming days I would expect to hear something from the Picard Season 2 cast and crew, disavowing her comments and perhaps dropping her from the publicity circuit or reducing her importance to the show’s marketing campaign. That will most likely allow Picard Season 2 to get through the next few weeks in the run-up to the show’s broadcast.
In a way, this couldn’t have come at a worse time. With the new season premiering in just over four weeks from now, this is the moment for the marketing campaign to truly gear up and start promoting the show’s return. It’s been two years since Picard Season 1 went off the air, so for casual viewers and for fans who aren’t keeping up-to-date with the ins and outs of Star Trek, simply getting the message out about Picard’s return has to be top priority. There’s no doubt in my mind that this controversy will be a distraction, one that the show absolutely does not need.
But I don’t believe it will be a fatal distraction, at least not as things stand. Whoopi Goldberg isn’t likely to be cut or edited out of Picard Season 2, and even seems likely to retain her job on The View, despite her remarks. There’s enough time over the next month for the marketing team to move past this controversy, which, like so many others, will have a relatively short shelf-life on social media before fading away.
I’m disappointed with Whoopi Goldberg. Her character of Guinan is so calm, ethereal, and wise that it can be jarring, as a Trekkie, to see Whoopi Goldberg talking up a storm on The View at the best of times, and this controversy is an even more extreme example. However, I note that she has at least made an attempt to apologise – and seems to be sincere. And on the positive side, her initial ignorance of the Holocaust may have shone a light on a far broader lack of understanding and proper education about the event in the United States, potentially exposing more people to the reality of what happened, thereby preventing this kind of blinkered, ignorant point of view from being espoused in future. Better education and a better understanding of the Holocaust are badly needed, it seems, and Whoopi Goldberg may have inadvertently aided that cause.
Star Trek: Picard Season 2 will premiere on the 3rd of March 2022 on Paramount+ in the United States, and on the 4th of March on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and around the world. 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.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1 and the trailers and teasers for Season 2. Spoilers are also present for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Star Trek: The Next Generation.
What’s the one thing that we know for certain right now about the plot of Star Trek: Picard Season 2? We know that Q interfered with the timeline, “breaking reality” in the process, and causing Admiral Picard and the crew of La Sirena to have to undertake a dangerous new mission to the past. But what if everything isn’t as it seems – what if Q isn’t the one responsible for the damage to the timeline? Or if he is responsible, what if he has an understandable – and possibly even altruistic – motive? Those are the two parts of the theory that we’re going to consider today!
First up, let’s acknowledge some production-side reasons why this theory may pan out in some form, then we’ll jump into in-universe explanations after. Ever since Star Trek returned to the small screen in 2017 – and also during the Kelvin films and even, to an extent, in the latter part of Enterprise’s run – the writers of the franchise have been very keen to bring mysterious elements into Star Trek. The whole reason I got into writing up lists of theories was because there’s been just so much to speculate about in practically all of the franchise’s modern incarnations!
In Discovery Season 1, there was the hidden identity of Captain Lorca. In Season 2, the Red Angel’s identity (and Spock’s connection to it) formed a huge part of the narrative. In Season 3, there was the Burn. In Season 4 we have the ongoing mysteries of the Dark Matter Anomaly, Unknown Species 10-C, and more. And in Picard Season 1 we had the mystery of Dahj and Soji, Bruce Maddox going missing, Coppelius, the Zhat Vash’s admonition and crusade, and the super-synths.
In all of these cases, everything was not as it seemed. In the run-up to Picard Season 1, Soji’s very existence was kept secret, with Isa Briones claiming to only play the character of Dahj. The show played its cards close to its chest for practically the entire season, keeping secrets about the nature of the Artifact, the Romulans’ plans, the super-synths, and more. The show has precedent when it comes to telling stories that go to unexpected places – and I see no reason at all to think that Season 2 will be any different in that regard.
The trailers and teasers that we’ve seen so far have been careful not to telegraph too much of the story. I suspect we’ve seen glimpses of scenes from the first two or three episodes at the very most, so the true nature of the story – and Q’s role in it – is still very much in play right now. No trailer or marketing campaign should spoil the finished product, and in some cases trailers can be cut and edited in very specific ways to conceal or outright lie about certain elements of a story. It wouldn’t be the first time that this has happened, not by a long shot!
There was also a remark from Sir Patrick Stewart almost a year ago, when Q’s return to the franchise was first announced. At last year’s First Contact Day digital event, Admiral Picard himself seemed to suggest that, while Q was certainly involved with whatever was going on, he wasn’t necessarily wholly responsible for it. That distinction may be key to this theory!
So let’s leave the real world behind and jump into the Star Trek galaxy. There is, in my view, evidence to suggest that Q wouldn’t do something that so drastically damaged the entire timeline. Ever since his first appearance in Encounter at Farpoint, Q has been viewed by Picard as an adversary – but I would argue very strongly that that isn’t how Q sees himself. By pushing and provoking Picard, Q has arguably sought to expand Picard’s understanding of the universe far beyond what he might’ve otherwise been capable of. In Q’s mind, the ends justify the means – so all of the meddling and provocation was worth it to get Picard (and humanity) ready for whatever the Q Continuum has in store next.
It’s even possible to read some of Q’s more belligerent actions – like placing the Enterprise-D in the vicinity of a Borg vessel – with the benefit of this additional context. In my earlier theory titled Q the saviour, this is exactly the point I tried to make. Q deliberately chose to introduce Starfleet to the Borg because he knew that the Borg were already planning to target the Federation, and he hoped that his intervention would show the Federation how dangerous the Borg threat really was.
In light of the mess that the Star Trek franchise has made of Borg-Federation contact, I think that theory absolutely holds water, but check out the full article because I get into it in way more detail!
Whether you buy into my theory in full or not, I think we can agree at the very least that this is how Q sees himself. He doesn’t see himself as an enemy, provoking Picard out of boredom or malice. He sees himself as a friend, and may even feel that Picard is ungrateful for not reciprocating those feelings of friendship.
Q accused humanity of being a “dangerous, savage, child-race,” and it’s on these charges that Picard and all of humankind are on trial, and have been since Encounter at Farpoint. But at every stage, Q has seemed smugly satisfied when the puzzles he lays out for Picard (and others) are solved. He seems to see potential in humanity – perhaps even the potential to one day know as much about the universe as the Q Continuum themselves.
In episodes like All Good Things, Q even claims to have helped Picard solve a particularly difficult puzzle. By learning to see time itself not as totally linear, but in a new and different way, Picard was able to solve the anti-time puzzle. Likewise in Tapestry, Q gave Picard a chance to see what his life might’ve been like had it taken a different path. That definitely sounds familiar to his line in the Season 2 trailers about “the road not taken!”
In Tapestry, though, Q wasn’t some nefarious villain. He was making a point to Picard – in his own tricksterish way – about the course of his life, and how being a risk-taker was an inherent part of his personality. He didn’t abandon Picard to the new timeline that he’d created, instead giving him an opportunity to fix his mistake.
Q has, on occasion, seemed impressed with Picard and his ability to solve the puzzles he created for him. Even when Picard had to grovel to Q in Q Who and admit that the Federation wasn’t ready to encounter the Borg, and that the encounter was frightening, Q seemed satisfied that he’d made his point. In Encounter at Farpoint and in All Good Things in particular, Q even seemed pleased that Picard had been able to think through a complex situation and find a solution. He helped – but in a limited way – and in an almost-parental way seemed kind of proud of Picard.
Those feelings, of course, are not reciprocated, and Q has definitely caused death and destruction. Eighteen members of the Enterprise-D’s crew were lost in that first encounter with the Borg, for example, and Q didn’t restore them to life afterwards. However, on other occasions he did undo harm, and even death, caused to humans – such as by un-freezing Tasha Yar in Encounter at Farpoint.
Q being the out-and-out villain of Picard Season 2 would, I would argue, represent a fundamental shift in his characterisation. It would take Q from being a trickster and an annoyance into something much more sinister, and while it’s certainly possible that he could have a darker side that we aren’t familiar with, it would be a major change that would require a good deal of explanation. Why, after having seemingly sensed potential in Picard and humankind, would Q try to do something so extreme?
Furthermore, from a narrative perspective Q doesn’t make a good villain. His god-like powers basically mean that Picard and his crew could never win, and Q’s amorality and lack of fair play mean that he would always be in a position to dominate and frustrate Picard if he ever came close to defeating him. This is a problem all overpowered characters in fiction can have, and it applies to Q in Star Trek just as much as it does elsewhere. Given what we know of Q and his abilities, it doesn’t even seem plausible that the Federation could find a technobabble explanation for limiting his powers, either.
So there are two questions remaining: did Q meddle with the timeline at all? And if not, who did?
There’s a case to be made that Q did still interfere with the timeline, and that all of this is another one of his puzzles for Picard to solve. That’s certainly one possibility, and it wouldn’t be completely out-of-character for Q to behave in this way. Perhaps he saw Picard getting back on his feet after years in seclusion and decided the time was right for another phase of the “trial.” Maybe we’ll learn that Q has visited Picard during his self-imposed isolation, too.
But there’s also another case we can make: Q didn’t have anything whatsoever to do with the event that disrupted the timeline. The extent of his involvement may be shielding Picard and the crew of La Sirena from its effects, allowing them to travel back in time to undo whatever happened. There are many culprits we could point to if Q isn’t to blame: the super-synths from Season 1, the Borg, the Terran Empire, a faction from Discovery’s Temporal War, etc.
Q may thus have an altruistic motive for reappearing in Picard’s life. If some external force or faction is responsible for the damage to the timeline, Q might believe that it’s up to him to “save” Picard and humanity. By returning to his old friend, he might do what we know he’s done on multiple occasions already: give him the tools to understand and fix the problem, but without giving him all of the answers right away.
To me, that is Q’s modus operandi. He sets up a problem – or allows Picard to encounter a problem independently – and provides minimal help. In Encounter at Farpoint, Q could’ve just been up front about the nature of Farpoint Station, but instead he forced Picard to solve the puzzle himself. In Q Who he could’ve simply told Picard about the Borg and their destructive power, but instead he made sure Picard encountered them first-hand. In All Good Things he could’ve explained the nature of the anti-time eruption, but instead he watched as Picard figured it out for himself. On each of these occasions (and more) Q provided minimal help and assistance – but the help and assistance he did provide ultimately proved key to resolving the situation favourably.
If Q wanted to, he could wipe humanity out of existence with a mere thought. If he wanted to kill or seriously harm Picard, he has infinite ways of doing so and unlimited opportunities to do so. He could go back in time and prevent Picard’s birth or turn him into Murf from Star Trek: Prodigy, or a million other ridiculous and sinister things. Sending Picard on a mission back in time, thus giving him a chance to undo whatever damage has been done, is not the way for Q to “win” in any sense of the word.
So it’s safe to say that I believe there’s more going on with Q than meets the eye! His involvement with the event that damages the timeline, and his reasons for getting involved in the first place, may seem suspicious right now – but we’re seeing small glimpses through the eyes of Picard, and thus with Picard’s own biases attached. Considering all of the other things that Q has done, and the many other ways he’s challenged and provoked Picard over the years, my suspicion right now is that there’s something else going on that the trailers and teasers have been careful not to reveal.
To summarise this theory, then: Q either isn’t responsible for damaging the timeline at all, or he’s doing so for the purposes of testing or challenging Picard. What we’ve seen so far doesn’t depict a serious attempt on Q’s part to harm Picard or even permanently disrupt the Federation or the prime timeline; there’s something more going on that we haven’t yet seen – something that will, perhaps, unfold slowly over ten episodes!
I’m genuinely excited to see Q make a return to Star Trek. His appearance in Lower Decks Season 1 was relatively minor, so it will be neat to have him back in a substantial way – whatever form that ultimately takes and whatever his impact on the season’s narrative. He’s a more complex character than some viewers give him credit for, and as I’ve said before I don’t think it’s fair to call Q a “villain” – at least not in any of his appearances thus far. Perhaps Picard Season 2 will change that, showing us a darker and more sinister presentation of the character. But maybe we’ll get a continuation of this complex presentation, and the return of a truly interesting dynamic between Q and Picard.
Stay tuned when Picard Season 2 kicks off in March, because if there’s any development of this theory I’m sure I’ll have something to say about it!
Star Trek: Picard Season 2 will stream on Paramount+ in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and around the world beginning on the 3rd of March 2022. The Star Trek franchise – including all characters and 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.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1 and all of the trailers and teasers for Season 2. Minor spoilers are also present for Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Generations, and Star Trek Into Darkness.
Hot on the heels of a slew of announcements and updates about current and upcoming Star Trek shows a few days ago, a new trailer for Season 2 of Star Trek: Picard debuted on social media! The show’s release date has been pushed back slightly from February to early March, something that seemed inevitable when it was hastily announced that Discovery Season 4 was taking a six-week hiatus. Even with the delay, Picard Season 2 is now less than six weeks away, though, so it’s time for ViacomCBS to start the marketing push and, for us as Trekkies, it’s time to start getting hyped for the return of Admiral Picard and the crew of La Sirena!
If you’re a regular reader, you might remember that I was less than impressed with the last trailer for Picard Season 2 when it was shown off at the Star Trek Day live broadcast back in September. The upcoming season of Picard seems to be combining two of my least-favourite Star Trek story tropes: time travel to the modern day and a setting that’s at least superficially reminiscent of the Mirror Universe. Those elements were still front-and-centre in the new trailer, but I felt that this time they were presented in a more mysterious and exciting way.
Sir Patrick Stewart had invited Whoopi Goldberg to reprise her role of Guinan during an appearance on The View a couple of years ago, but we’d seen and heard nothing of Guinan since. I wasn’t alone in speculating that perhaps the story of Season 2 may have gone in a different direction, or that Guinan might’ve been included in Season 3 instead of in Season 2. That was an incorrect assumption, though! Guinan made an appearance in the new trailer, working in her familiar role as a bartender – this time at a bar called “10” on Forward Avenue.
It was truly wonderful to welcome back Whoopi Goldberg to the role of Guinan. We haven’t seen her since Star Trek: Generations was in cinemas in 1994, and I’m hopeful that she’ll make a significant impact on the story this season. “Significant” doesn’t mean she has to appear in a lot of episodes or scenes, but rather that the scenes she does have with Admiral Picard will be meaningful. She was a dominant presence in the trailer, but the shots we saw of her all seemed to be taken from one sequence.
So let’s briefly step back and consider what we learned in the past couple of trailers. Something – possibly Q, but possibly not Q – has changed or damaged the timeline, leading to the rise of a “totalitarian state” which has replaced the Federation. Picard and the crew of La Sirena seem to be the only ones aware of the change – but I reckon this is where Guinan will come in. If you remember The Next Generation Season 3 episode Yesterday’s Enterprise, Guinan was the only member of the crew of the Enterprise-D who realised that the timeline had been changed. As an El-Aurian, her perceptiveness of such things was heightened compared to humans, so she may be one of the few people that Picard can turn to for help (other than Q and the crew of La Sirena) after the timelines shift.
I could be wrong about that, of course! There was just something about Guinan’s presence on Earth and the way Picard seemed to be seeking her out that makes me think we’re looking at something happening after the event that damaged the timeline. Guinan also repeated the words spoken by Picard in the first Season 2 teaser, referring to a “final frontier” that could mean time travel. Picard referred to time as “the true final frontier” in that teaser, and I wonder if he says that line after meeting with Guinan.
Speaking of time travel, it very much looks like La Sirena will be using the “slingshot method” to travel through time, as several shots in the trailer seemed to show the ship travelling very close to a star. Though this is a known method of time travel within the Star Trek universe, it’s one we haven’t seen used since Star Trek IV – all of the shows set in the 24th Century seemed to ignore this method, and time travel technology seemed to have not been developed until later on. This has always been a bit of a discrepancy within Star Trek’s internal canon, because The Original Series showed time travel several times, and depicted it as being something relatively easy to do with 23rd Century technology, yet by the 24th Century something seemed to have changed, making time travel far more difficult.
This could also have potential consequences for Discovery – a ban on time travel was introduced sometime prior to the 32nd Century following an event called the Temporal Wars. I don’t expect Picard Season 2 to tie into this in any major way, but it will certainly be interesting to see how the process of traveling through time is depicted in the show, considering the potential ramifications it could have elsewhere in the franchise. As I’ve already suggested, the Borg Queen may be connected to time travel technology as well, and may somehow facilitate La Sirena’s trip back in time.
I caught a very brief glimpse of a couple of guards or soldiers – possibly from the alternate timeline 25th Century – who seemed to be in the early stages of Borg assimilation. There could be more of a Borg aspect to the story of the season than has been teased thus far, and we could see, for example, the Borg Queen escape her confinement and go on an assimilation spree. If she isn’t the one responsible for assimilating the individuals shown, it raises the question of who is! Could other Borg be part of the story of the season? Is the trip back in time an attempt to prevent a Borg attack on the Federation at the dawn of the 25th Century? It’s also possible that the individuals shown are inhabitants of 21st Century Earth, and that they were assimilated in that time period. Or, of course, I’m wrong about the whole assimilation thing and these are just soldiers/guards!
Sticking with the Borg, we also got a slightly extended look at Elnor bathed in an eerie green light – something we associate with the Borg. I speculated last time that this scene could be taking place after Elnor has been attacked by the Borg Queen, and may be in the very early stages of assimilation. We didn’t see the consequences of his injury, but he appears to be in a great deal of pain.
The Borg Queen appears to be on the loose at least once, in a shot of her with Dr Jurati. The two of them were crawling on the ground, and Dr Jurati appeared to be wielding some kind of blunt object to defend herself. This looked like it was taking place aboard La Sirena, as the ship’s engine could be seen in the background.
Dr Jurati’s love of all things synthetic may come into play with the Borg Queen – something I theorised about last time. Could she be tricked, manipulated, or just talked into setting the Borg Queen free – or even helping her? After Dr Jurati’s brainwashing in Season 1 led her to commit murder, it would be quite the follow-up if in Season 2 she unleashed the Borg Queen on La Sirena’s crew! But this could account for the Borg Queen escaping, the potentially-assimilated humans on Earth, and even Elnor’s injury.
Season 2 has certainly teased us with a Borg connection! I had some half-formed Borg theories that I planned to write up, but when we learned more about time travel in one of the earlier trailers I put them on the back burner because the main thrust of the story seemed to be going in a different direction. While it doesn’t seem like the entire season will be all about the Borg, their influence – and that of the Borg Queen in particular – may be significant. Using Dr Jurati’s connection and love for synthetics to tee up this story could be interesting – but it will certainly need to be handled delicately! Dr Jurati is already a character we as the audience may mistrust based on what happened in Season 1; having her be the driving force behind unleashing the Borg, even accidentally, could take her to a familiar thematic place, one that could prove to be very difficult to write her out of in future stories.
Brent Spiner made an appearance in the trailer – and seemed to receive a strange glowing blue vial of something from Q. I’m going to posit that this character is not Altan Inigo Soong, the son of Data’s creator who we met in Season 1. Instead, I believe that this could be a brand-new character, perhaps another Soong ancestor who’s native to the 21st Century. We also glimpsed this character very briefly while Picard’s voiceover was talking about “moments upon which history turns” at the beginning of the trailer, and in that scene he might’ve had a facial scar.
If it’s true that this character is a 21st Century native, it seems that he may be involved – somehow – in the event that changes the timeline. Past iterations of Star Trek, most notably Enterprise, told us a little more about the history of human augmentation and the Soong family’s involvement with it. If Picard is going to stick closely to past canon, perhaps this member of the Soong family is working on augments, and Q has provided him with something to assist in that work – perhaps even something derived from Borg technology.
This could explain the “totalitarian state” that seems to have replaced the Federation by the 25th Century. If a dictatorship of human augments – like Khan – rose to power instead of United Earth, perhaps that government later evolved into the Mirror Universe-inspired fascistic replacement for the Federation that we saw in more detail in the previous trailer. We know from past iterations of Star Trek – including Star Trek Into Darkness a mere decade ago – that Khan would have established this kind of dictatorship had he remained in the 20th Century; perhaps this is the “single change” that the Borg Queen says is “vastly more dangerous than you realise!”
At one point we caught a glimpse of a human boy, seemingly wearing modern clothing, encountering a Vulcan or Romulan. As far as we know, there shouldn’t be Vulcans on Earth in 2024 – so this could also, somehow, be connected to the changed timeline. Season 1 used mind-melds to spread brainwashing and visions of the Zhat Vash prophecy, most notably to Dr Jurati and Sutra, so there could be a connection there – somehow. This sequence, showing the boy walking alone through a wooded area in the dark, gave me Flight of the Navigator vibes for a moment!
A new character who seems to have glowing white or silver eyes was seen very briefly with Admiral Picard. As far as I can tell, this character is brand-new and doesn’t belong to any known Star Trek race or faction. This scene seemed to be taking place in the 21st Century (based on what’s in the background), but that doesn’t exactly provide us with much of a clue! I would say that Picard seemed not to be bothered by his presence; had he simply not noticed him, or is this a newfound friend?
There was a shot of what looked like the interior of a 24th Century Starfleet ship suffering major damage. This could be one of the ships that La Sirena was seen engaging, but it could also be something from the past – perhaps even the USS Stargazer, as a model of that ship was shown off in the very first Season 2 teaser. Silly as it may sound, it was really neat to see the familiar Starfleet design of a hallway or room with angled walls. This design, which debuted with The Motion Picture, became synonymous with Starfleet ships throughout The Next Generation era, and it’s one of those little touches within Star Trek that makes the franchise feel like “home!”
I could be wrong with this, but a shot of what I think might be a Starfleet officer being blown up at a console might’ve been filmed on one of the Discovery sets; it just looks like that from the set decoration on the left. The console looks 24th Century in its design, and in the background we could very briefly see an Okudagram that looked like it could represent a Miranda-class or possibly a Nebula-class vessel.
Something important was again reiterated in voiceover: whatever is happening to the timeline is connected in some way to a significant event in Picard’s own past. “A moment on which history turns” is how the trailer described this event – and my inclination at this stage is to say that it’s probably something brand-new to Star Trek rather than something we’ve seen or heard about before.
There are moments in Picard’s past that we could look at as major historical events: assuming command of the USS Stargazer, defeating the Ferengi, encountering Q, his assimilation by the Borg, solving the anti-time puzzle, defeating the Borg in First Contact, defeating Shinzon, and preventing the super-synths’ arrival last season. But none of these moments, if changed, could lead to anything like what we see in the trailer. That’s why I think we must be dealing with something new.
Sticking with this, Picard’s voiceover also said that this moment was something that “haunted” him for all of his life. It could be an event we’re familiar with from The Next Generation – like his assimilation – but it’s an odd choice of words if that’s the case. Maybe I’m overreaching, but I think the way that this was phrased implies that it’s something from deep in his past, perhaps his childhood but certainly long before he assumed command of the Enterprise-D.
It can be tricky, when dealing with a long-established character, to add brand-new backstory, particularly if it’s some hugely significant revelation about their past. If Picard Season 2 is going to go down this route, it’s definitely something that will have to be handled with care so it doesn’t come across as being too convenient or contrived for the sake of the new story.
It was certainly neat to see several Federation (or “totalitarian state,” perhaps) starships in the trailer – but why were they firing at La Sirena? I couldn’t be absolutely sure, but one of the three ships in pursuit looked like a Nova-class ship, a design most famous for its inclusion in the Voyager two-parter Equinox. Described as a short-range science vessel in that story, this Nova-class (if indeed that’s what it is) seems to be more of a warship – or has at least been significantly upgraded!
La Sirena has also been changed – perhaps by the shift in the timeline. Gone is the red “hot rod” livery that we saw in Season 1, replaced with a silver-grey metallic colour similar to other starships. We saw La Sirena engaged in at least one dogfight and pulling off some very acrobatic moves!
There was a briefly-seen green light that illuminated La Sirena’s engine – I wonder if this could indicate that the ship has been fitted out with Borg technology, perhaps to facilitate the journey back in time. Green is, as mentioned, a colour strongly associated with the Borg, and green light in particular is a hallmark of Borg vessels and Borg technology.
After the timeline shifts, Picard seemed to find a painting of a different starship in his study, replacing the familiar Enterprise-D painting that we’d seen in his ready-room in The Next Generation – and in the first teaser for Season 2. This ship could be an alternate-timeline Enterprise, but it’s clearly a different design to the Galaxy-class, with a cut-out in its saucer section, different nacelles, and seemingly a lot more phaser banks!
It looked like this ship was engaged in a major battle, and this could be related to the interior shots of a ship under fire mentioned earlier. I think that the painting depicts the ship destroying one or more Borg vessels based on the size and colour of the debris seen around it, so perhaps this is the new timeline’s version of an event like the Battle of Wolf 359 or the Battle of Sector 001.
We caught a glimpse of what seems to be 25th Century Earth in the trailer, protected by a shield grid that was not unlike the one seen in Discovery’s 32nd Century. Moments of symmetry between Picard and its sister show were rare in Season 1, and while I don’t think this really counts in a big way, it was still interesting to see the same basic idea being used in both shows – albeit in different contexts.
We didn’t see much from Soji in the new trailer at all, and the clips we got of Raffi, Rios, and Elnor didn’t really seem to tell us much about the direction of any of these characters in the upcoming season. A few of the shots we got with each of them seemed to be extended or different angles of things we’d already seen in prior trailers: Seven of Nine at the wheel of a police car and waking up without her implants, Raffi and Elnor dealing with Elnor’s injury and again escaping through a marketplace while being fired upon, Dr Jurati interacting with the Borg Queen, and so on.
Keeping a tight lid on some of the season’s characters and mysteries is no bad thing, of course! This trailer was really here to showcase Guinan’s return, and thus it focused more on Guinan and Picard, with teases of the Borg Queen, Q, and Brent Spiner’s character. These clips perhaps came at the expense of seeing more from the new characters; Picard Season 2 will have to get that balance right and not give too much weight to returning characters from The Next Generation when it premieres in a few weeks’ time. As I said in 2020 in the run-up to Season 1: I’m not here for The Next Generation Season 8, and I want to give all of the new characters lots to do and a chance for each of them to become fan-favourites that we’re all excited to see return to the franchise thirty years down the line!
So we caught a glimpse of some of the upcoming season’s interesting moments – but we’re still a long way from figuring out what’s going on! Season 1 kept us guessing all the way to the finale, and I expect that Season 2 will follow a similar pattern, not showing us all of the story elements right away.
I have a few half-baked theories about the role Q might play in the upcoming season, the Borg Queen, and perhaps about Picard’s possible connection to all of this, so stay tuned. Between now and the season premiere some of them may get the full write-up treatment! For now, I think we’ve spent more than enough time talking about a trailer that was less than two minutes long! I enjoyed this trailer a lot more than the last one, and while I’m still not wild about a story where visiting the modern world is an important element, there’s nevertheless a lot to look forward to.
Right now I’m curious to see what roles the crew of La Sirena will have to play in all of this. Whatever changed the timeline left them untouched – and we don’t know why that may be. Are they the only ones who are aware of what happened? I have a lot of questions – but very few answers right now!
After the debacle around Discovery’s fourth season, it was good to see that (at this stage, anyway) an international broadcast on Amazon Prime Video is confirmed for Picard Season 2. Amazon’s social media channels have picked up the new trailer internationally, which is a good sign – but I’ll be at least a little worried until the premiere has officially arrived on Prime Video.
So I think that’s all I have to say about this one. It was an exciting, action-packed trailer that showed us just enough of the new season to jump-start the hype train. I hope that Picard Season 2 will deliver an engaging story when it debuts in a few weeks’ time.
Star Trek: Picard Season 2 will premiere on the 3rd of March 2022 on Paramount+ in the United States, and on the 4th of March on Amazon Prime Video in the rest of the world. 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.
Spoiler Warning: There may be minor spoilers ahead for the Star Trek franchise.
Yesterday we got some fantastic news about the direction of the Star Trek franchise over the next couple of years. I’m sure you’re already aware of all of it, but just in case, here are the key announcements in brief:
Star Trek: Discovery has finally been renewed for a fifth season.
Star Trek: Picard Season 2 will premiere on the 3rd of March.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will premiere on the 5th of May.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has been officially renewed for Season 2.
Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3 will premiere this summer.
Star Trek: Lower Decks has been renewed for Season 4.
Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 will take a break when Discovery returns, before broadcasting the second half of the season later in the year.
Star Trek: Prodigy has been officially renewed for Season 2.
All of these announcements take the Star Trek franchise well into 2023, and when you add into the mix the as-yet-untitled 2023 film as well, there’s a massive amount of content to come over the next couple of years. It seems as though scarcely a week will go by without at least one new Star Trek episode premiering throughout all of 2022!
This is all unequivocally good news. Star Trek has made an absolutely triumphant return to the small screen since Discovery premiered in 2017, and the franchise has grown beyond my wildest hopes and most optimistic expectations in a scant five years. I hope that this is just the first phase of a new Golden Age, with more Star Trek on our screens taking us to the franchise’s sixtieth anniversary in 2026 – and beyond.
But it hasn’t been a smooth ride for Trekkies in recent weeks, especially for those of us who live outside of the United States. Star Trek: Prodigy is well into its first season for American viewers, but the rest of the fanbase hasn’t been able to see so much as a single episode – at least not via “conventional” means. This is despite Prodigy being a co-production between CBS Studios and Nickelodeon; the latter being a kids’ television channel that is available in more than 70 countries and territories around the world and is wholly owned by ViacomCBS. Surely a Prodigy international broadcast should have been possible – yet the corporation running Star Trek has consistently chosen to prioritise its American audience ahead of fans in the rest of the world, even when doing so makes no sense.
The same situation initially befell Discovery’s fourth season, when an insultingly-worded, awfully-timed announcement saw the series pulled from Netflix with 48 hours to spare. It was only thanks to the huge backlash that ViacomCBS received, leading to a significant fall in the corporation’s share price, that Discovery was shopped out to Pluto TV, Amazon, YouTube, and other platforms. Fans won in the end – but it was a battle that we should’ve never needed to fight.
At the time of the Discovery disaster, I wrote a piece here on the website in which I asked a difficult question: what might the situation and the precedent it had set mean for future Star Trek productions, including those shows that have just been renewed or had premiere dates announced? You can check out the full article by clicking or tapping here, but to briefly summarise: I am not optimistic that the painfully slow rollout of Paramount+ can be sped up, nor that shows like Strange New Worlds will be granted an international broadcast at all.
ViacomCBS is a poorly-managed corporation with leaders and executives who seem utterly incompetent – or who are dusty old relics, ill-suited to a 21st Century media landscape. The lack of care and preparation with which the Star Trek franchise is being handled is indicative of this, and the franchise lags far behind old rival Star Wars in many areas. Where are, for example, 4K HDR episodes? This is something Star Wars has been doing since 2019 with The Mandalorian, and many other television shows on Amazon, Netflix, and Disney+ are now streaming in 4K HDR. Where are the toys that should have been available in time for Prodigy’s debut? And, come to that, where’s the rest of the Star Trek merchandise for other shows?
These are just a couple of examples of how the Star Trek brand is being mismanaged by ViacomCBS, and unfortunately the breach of trust between the corporation and a sizeable chunk of its fanbase means that the plethora of announcements made yesterday are, at the very least, seen through a new lens. At worst they’re completely tainted, with excitement and hype replaced with either apathy or anxiety as fans ask whether we’ll be able to watch any of these new shows and new seasons – and if we can’t, why should we care?
Since I created this website in 2019, I’ve reviewed every Star Trek episode that has been broadcast – except for Prodigy. Why? Because ViacomCBS deliberately chose not to make Prodigy available here in the UK (by lawful means, at least) despite owning and operating the UK version of the Nickelodeon channel and thus having the ability to do so with ease. When a corporation behaves in such an insulting manner, I feel it’s difficult to support practically any announcement or project that they have going on.
It will take time – and most importantly, a significant amount of effort from ViacomCBS – to repair the breach of trust between the corporation and Trekkies. And while these announcements are exciting, I can’t bring myself to fully board the hype train, not until we have more information about how and when these shows are going to be made available.
Here are several key questions that ViacomCBS needs to address in pretty short order:
When will Paramount+ be available here in the UK?
Are there any plans to make Paramount+ available in Asia, Africa, and other regions?
If there are no plans to roll out Paramount+ in a particular country or territory, will these new Star Trek shows be available via some other broadcaster?
Will new episodes of Star Trek be available on Paramount+ outside of the United States, or will the international version of Paramount+ delay the broadcast of some or all of these episodes (as initially happened with Discovery Season 4 in Australia, Latin America, and Scandinavia)?
Can you offer fans a guarantee that Picard Season 2 and Lower Decks Season 3 will be broadcast on Amazon Prime Video this year?
Will Paramount+ be available internationally in time for Strange New Worlds Season 1?
If not, will Strange New Worlds be available on another broadcaster or platform outside of the United States?
I love Star Trek. Heck, I run a Star Trek fan website – and in my small way I offer ViacomCBS free publicity and advertising by talking and writing about the franchise in my free time. But I can’t blindly support a corporation that has continually taken decisions that harm Star Trek’s international fans, and until ViacomCBS is willing to answer some of the questions fans are rightly asking about the availability of upcoming productions, it’s going to remain difficult for any of us to fully get on board and be as excited as we want to be.
ViacomCBS needs to get a grip and put real effort into accelerating the international rollout of Paramount+. If Paramount+ isn’t going to be available in time, then the corporation needs to make plans to ensure international Trekkies can watch the likes of Strange New Worlds at the same time as fans in the United States. Star Trek is not an American entity, solely the preserve of American fans. ViacomCBS and its predecessors encouraged the creation of a global fanbase because they saw profit overseas – but that fanbase has been bruised by a slew of poor corporate decisions that have damaged the reputation of Star Trek and Paramount+, and which have unfortunately seen shows like Lower Decks underperform.
As Star Trek gears up for an exciting couple of years, the team in charge has a lot of work to do to rebuild trust between ViacomCBS and Trekkies. Star Trek’s long-term success depends on fixing the problems of the past couple of years and getting things right going forward. I’m interested to see how ViacomCBS will respond – and willing and able to hold their feet to the fire if they continue to get it wrong.
The Star Trek franchise – including all 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.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1.
After a short pandemic-enforced break, Star Trek: Picard Season 3 resumed filming a few days ago. Production on the show’s third season has been underway for a while, and was officially announced back in September during the franchise’s Star Trek Day digital event. The interesting thing about Picard Season 3 being so far along in its production is, of course, that Season 2 has yet to be broadcast. This got me thinking about some of the benefits and potential pitfalls of filming back-to-back in this fashion, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today.
There are some great examples of productions that were filmed back-to-back. The Lord of the Rings trilogy of films has to be one of the best examples of this: all three films were shot together in New Zealand, though post-production work and editing continued after the first and second films had premiered. The Lord of the Rings is held in very high esteem even twenty years after it premiered, and is rightly credited with bringing the high fantasy genre to mainstream audiences, paving the way for titles like Game of Thrones.
Being shot back-to-back worked well for The Lord of the Rings then, clearly! The Return of the King – the third and final part of the trilogy – swept the board at the Academy Awards in 2004, picking up a record-equalling eleven Oscars.
In the case of The Lord of the Rings, the practicalities of production meant that shooting all three films together made sense. New Line Cinema had greenlit the entire trilogy and was expecting it to be a success, and the difficulties of setting up production in New Zealand – as well as having the actors travel there – all came together to make filming the entire project at once a practical and sensible approach to production. From the earliest days of pre-production, New Line Cinema intended to do things this way.
Whether in cinema or on television, there are advantages to filming back-to-back. There’s far less of a chance that characters will look noticeably different from one part of the story to the next, for example, as everything from costuming to makeup and even haircuts or simply ageing will not be factors that impact production. Keeping the same behind-the-camera crew will also allow for a consistent production that keeps the same cinematographic style. It makes it easier to go back and re-work parts of the story, if necessary – for example, if a writer or director felt the need to add a scene foreshadowing the ending, or even to change the entire end of the story to better fit what had come before.
But there can be drawbacks to this approach, pitfalls that can be very difficult to avoid even with good preparation and the best of intentions. And there’s one reason in particular why Star Trek: Picard kicked off this discussion for me.
Star Trek: Picard started with an episode that’s probably the best series premiere in the history of the franchise, surpassing even Deep Space Nine’s Emissary – the previous high-water mark. Over the course of the next few episodes, its story unfolded slowly and seemed to be building up to an exciting climax. Unfortunately, though, the season stumbled as it approached the finish line, with the first half of its two-part finale in particular being a real disappointment. The way the season eventually ended left several storylines unresolved and at least one gaping plot hole. To be blunt, the finale was weak – and it’s important that the writers and producers receive that feedback and take it on board.
I’m not the only person to have criticised the way that Star Trek: Picard Season 1 ended; the two parts of the season finale are the worst-rated episodes of the show according to review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
So what’s the point of bringing this up? Well, it’s simple: filming back-to-back, as is now happening with Seasons 2 and 3 of Picard, means that the show’s writers and producers will have far less of a margin for error; they’re much more constrained and less able to make changes based on critiques and audience reactions.
Set aside any thoughts you might have about “artistic integrity” or the “vision” of a production’s writers, producers, and directors. In the real world, with very few exceptions films and television shows are adapted – and in some cases changed entirely – based on the way audiences respond to them. This is why practically every film and television series is shown to test audiences before they premiere. Doing so can give production companies the chance to make last-minute adjustments, make cuts, or even rework entire sequences.
ViacomCBS will not have ignored the reviews and discussion surrounding Picard Season 1 and its finale. Those criticisms will have been absorbed by the corporation, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they mandated changes to the story of Season 2 as a result, even if such changes may be relatively minor. Just to pick on one example, the story of main character Narek, which was dropped without a resolution part-way through the finale, might be something that the team in charge of the show insist that Season 2 clarifies.
But if there are issues with Season 2 – whether they’re to do with story, art style, visual effects, etc. – it will be much harder, and much more expensive, to make any changes to Season 3. In all likelihood, Season 3 will wrap up its main phase of production before Season 2 even premieres, and while post-production work and pick-up shoots offer some opportunities to make changes, those opportunities are limited. If a film or series has been ready to go for a year or more, going back to film extra scenes can be tricky; it can be very easy to tell which scenes and shots were filmed and added in later, even in productions with high budgets.
In short, because Picard Season 1 had some very particular and noteworthy issues with its finale, I’m at least a little concerned about the direction of the series heading into Seasons 2 and 3, and the fact that the seasons are being shot back-to-back heightens that. Had Season 1 ended with a stronger finale, perhaps I’d be less concerned. But unfortunately it didn’t – and that leaves the show in a strange place for me. I’m genuinely excited to spend more time with Admiral Picard and the crew of La Sirena, but I’m at least a little anxious about the way the show’s production is being handled.
In a way, this is something we may have to get used to as the pandemic rumbles on. Had it not been for covid and its associated lockdowns in California, it would’ve been possible for production on Picard Season 2 to get underway far sooner, potentially meaning that there’d have been no need to film the second and third seasons back-to-back. But the pandemic continues to be a disruptive force across the world, so productions may have to get used to working when they can and taking breaks when they must – at least in the short-to-medium term.
In some cases it won’t matter. In others, filming back-to-back can provide significant advantages. But there are potential drawbacks to this way of approaching a major production, not least the difficulty in going back and making changes based on audience and critical feedback. It’s the latter point that concerns me when it comes to Star Trek: Picard, and that’s due to the weak ending to an otherwise excellent first season. Perhaps in the days ahead we should go back to the two parts of Et in Arcadia Ego and re-examine what went wrong – as well as looking at what the season finale got right. If I forget, remind me! For now, you can check out the reviews of both episodes on my dedicated Star Trek: Picard page.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy is the copyright of New Line Cinema and/or Warner Bros. The Star Trek franchise – including Star Trek: Picard – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
The fallout from the atrocious and unfair Star Trek: Discovery decision rumbles on. The ViacomCBS share price continues to tumble in the wake of their truly awful decision to piss off most of the fans of their biggest franchise, the rollout of Paramount+ continues at a snail’s pace with no specific launch dates even entering the conversation, and unfortunately we’re now seeing some divisions in the fandom itself, with North American Trekkies pitted against those of us in the rest of the world as arguments break out over the series. What a stinking mess.
At time of writing, both Star Trek: Prodigy and Star Trek: Discovery are “Paramount+ exclusives” all across the world – meaning the shows are locked behind a paywall that fans can’t actually pay for because the incompetently-managed streaming service hasn’t launched in the vast majority of countries and territories. I feel even worse for Trekkies in Australia, Latin America, and Scandinavia in some ways, though, because although Paramount+ has already arrived there, Discovery Season 4 still hasn’t been made available. If you needed any more evidence that ViacomCBS is one of the worst-run corporations in the entire entertainment industry, look no further than that arbitrary nonsense.
But Prodigy and Discovery aren’t the only Star Trek shows in production at the moment. In 2022 Trekkies have been promised Star Trek: Picard Season 2, Strange New Worlds Season 1, and Lower Decks Season 3 at a minimum. In the wake of the truly selfish and awful Discovery decision, however, I can’t help but feel very nervous about each of those shows. Will Trekkies around the world be able to enjoy any new Star Trek in the months ahead? Or will we see repeat after repeat of the Discovery mess?
Strange New Worlds seems all but certain to be denied any kind of international streaming deal. If you’re hoping to see the series hit Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, you might as well forget it – it’ll be a Paramount+ exclusive for sure. What that means in effect is that anywhere in the world without Paramount+ will miss out on Strange New Worlds. That feels like such a sure thing right now that I’d put money on it.
Currently, Picard Season 2 is scheduled for a February premiere. If the season runs for ten episodes, as Season 1 did in 2020, it’ll conclude sometime in late April or early May, meaning that Strange New Worlds could debut anytime around then – and certainly well before the middle of the year. At present, the UK and parts of Europe are promised Paramount+ in “early 2022” – which could be before the Strange New Worlds premiere, but it could also be long after the show has kicked off in the United States. And unfortunately, many countries and territories in Asia, Africa, and the rest of the world have no planned launch for Paramount+ at all, which means it could be 2023 or later before the service launches there. If it survives that long.
I simply don’t believe the promises ViacomCBS has made of an “early 2022” launch. Paramount+ has been so poorly managed and so incompetently handled by the corporation that a delay to these plans feels inevitable, so I’m not betting on the service launching here before the end of 2022. But even if, by some miracle, ViacomCBS actually manages to launch Paramount+ on time in Europe, that could still mean Strange New Worlds and Picard Season 2 won’t be broadcast simultaneously with North America.
As mentioned, Paramount+ has already arrived in Australia, Latin America, and Scandinavia – and it isn’t exactly brand-new, they’ve had it since March. But despite that, Discovery Season 4 isn’t being shown there at the same time as it’s being shown in North America… so even being very generous to ViacomCBS and assuming that the incompetent morons manage to get Paramount+ to the UK and Europe in “early 2022,” that still doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll be able to watch any of the new shows on the damn thing.
As I discussed the other day, ViacomCBS paid Netflix a large sum of money to ensure that Discovery Season 4 wouldn’t be available around the world. If they had done nothing, the show would’ve come to Netflix under existing contracts and licenses – but the corporation chose to intervene, hoping to boost sign-ups to Paramount+ (though the backlash may have actually cost the platform subscribers thanks to a fan-led boycott campaign). What’s to stop ViacomCBS from doing the same thing with Amazon Prime Video, the current home of Lower Decks and Picard?
One of the stupidest and most offensive things about the Discovery decision is that Paramount+ is unavailable across most of the world. If ViacomCBS had pulled Discovery from Netflix because Paramount+ had already launched and they wanted to keep their own shows on their own platform, it would still be frustrating, and the timing would still be awful, but at least there’d be a vague logic to it. But because Paramount+ isn’t even available, the decision has locked the show behind a paywall that no one is able to pay for. Which, as I’ve argued on more than one occasion, means you have the absolute moral justification to pirate the series.
But this kind of decision could well be repeated. I doubt very much that Paramount+ will be available here in the UK by February, in time for Season 2 of Picard. And on current form, there’s nothing to stop ViacomCBS from doing to Amazon Prime Video what they’ve just done to Netflix – pulling the series from broadcast with days to spare. I don’t think it’s safe to assume we’ll be watching Picard Season 2 on Amazon Prime Video… let alone Lower Decks Season 3, which likely won’t be broadcast until later in the year.
Rather than the Discovery mess being a one-time thing, I think as international fans we need to get used to the idea that, at least for the next year or so, watching Star Trek along with our North American friends may not be possible – or at least may not be possible via conventional methods. Picard Season 2 and Strange New Worlds Season 1 feel the most vulnerable, but realistically we’ll soon see the entire franchise disappear behind Paramount+’s paywall – regardless of whether Paramount+ is actually available.
I’d like to be proven wrong, of course, but I fear that this is the direction of travel for Star Trek as we move into 2022. This will not be a move free of long-term consequences for ViacomCBS. The corporation’s share price continues its fall, many Trekkies have pledged never to subscribe to Paramount+, and one of the biggest single pushes toward piracy since the advent of streaming will lead many fans and viewers to realise just how easy it is to pirate the latest episodes – making it even harder for Paramount+ to tempt them back in future.
As self-defeating as these plans may be, don’t expect to see ViacomCBS move away from them. And if you’re especially unlucky, living in a region of the world that ViacomCBS has apparently forgotten even exists, it may be the case that Paramount+ never arrives – or if it does it won’t be till 2023, 2024, or beyond. Star Trek has always told stories of people coming together – of a United Earth free from borders and division. But the ViacomCBS board haven’t even watched their own shows, or if they did the message went far over their shrivelled little profiteering heads.
I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but as I see it, the Discovery decision is just the first of many. Strange New Worlds, which has never had an international broadcaster announced, will certainly be a Paramount+ exclusive. Picard Season 2 and Lower Decks Season 3 could very easily follow the Discovery model and be pulled from Amazon Prime Video. And the rest of the Star Trek franchise? Currently the older shows are on Netflix, but the films aren’t. However, I wouldn’t bet on being able to watch any Star Trek series next year unless you have the DVD or are prepared to sign up for Paramount+.
The Star Trek franchise is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the trailers and teasers for Star Trek: Picard Season 2. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Next Generation, First Contact, Voyager, and Enterprise.
Today we’re going to take a look at Q, the immortal trickster who has tangled with Captains Picard, Sisko, and Janeway – and who will soon be returning to the Star Trek franchise! Q is an unusual character in many ways. He seems to have practically unlimited knowledge of the galaxy, and may have been alive for billions of years. Yet he has an impish, almost childish sense of humour that sees him tease and mess with Starfleet – and many other people too.
I wouldn’t call Q a “villain” in any of his appearances to date. In fact, I would argue very strongly that Q sees himself as a friend, an ally, and a guide to Captains Picard and Janeway in particular, having offered his services more than once. He’s certainly selfish – forcing Starfleet officers to undergo tests and trials of his own devising – but there’s usually more to his games than meets the eye.
On several occasions – going all the way back to his first appearance – Q has presented Starfleet with puzzles to solve. These puzzles can be dangerous, and more than once Q has gotten people killed. But even so, I wouldn’t characterise him as a typical “villain” for Captain Picard or Captain Janeway to “defeat.”
The puzzles Q has presented – especially to Captain Picard – have actually proven to be deeply satisfying, and arguably helped Picard and Starfleet grow. Recognising that life can take very different forms – as Q helped Picard to see in Encounter at Farpoint – is one such puzzle he presented. He also taught Picard how to view time in a non-linear fashion – understanding that events in the future could have a causal link to events in the past in All Good Things.
Even the teasers and trailers for the upcoming second season of Star Trek: Picard may not be all they seem. Picard says he blames Q for disrupting or changing the timeline, but I think we’ll have to see that story play out before we can assign all the blame to Q. Even if Q is responsible, the question of motivation comes up. Is it really just a game; a trick to mess with Picard? Or is there something bigger going on?
That’s one of my big Picard Season 2 theories! But I’ll save the full write-up for another day. Today we’re not looking ahead to future Star Trek, we’re going to look back at past iterations of the franchise and try to answer a deceptively simple question: did Q save the Federation?
Star Trek has made a mess of the early history of Borg-Federation contact. The Raven, from Voyager’s fourth season, told us that the Borg assimilated humans and a Federation vessel in the 2350s. Regeneration, from Enterprise Season 2, showed the Borg battling against Captain Archer and his crew – and sending a message to the Delta Quadrant that would be received in the 24th Century. So the question of how the Borg first became aware of the Federation is an open one. Did they receive a message from across the galaxy? Did they first discover humanity when they assimilated Seven of Nine and her family?
Either of these explanations could account for the Borg’s interest in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants in the mid-late 24th Century. Season 1 of The Next Generation first teased the Borg’s appearance with the episode The Neutral Zone, in which both Federation and Romulan colonies had gone missing – “carried off” the surface of their planets, as Romulan commander Tebok put it. The Borg’s responsibility for these attacks would be confirmed in The Best Of Both Worlds – though the connection is easily missed, in my opinion, as it doesn’t take up much screen time.
Regardless, one thing is certain: the Borg knew of the Federation’s existence well before the Federation knew of theirs. They had even begun to send scouting vessels relatively close to Federation space; system J-25, where the Enterprise-D first encountered a Borg Cube, was a mere two-and-a-half years away from Federation space at high warp, placing the Borg tens of thousands of light-years away from their Delta Quadrant home.
Were the Borg actively scouting for the Federation, or was it just a coincidence that one of their vessels was operating so far away from their own space? We may never know the answer to that, but someone almost certainly does: Q.
In brief, here’s my theory: the Borg and the Federation were already on a collision course, but the Federation didn’t know it. Whether it was because of the First Contact–Regeneration time travel loop, the assimilation of the USS Raven, the attacks along the Neutral Zone, or simply the Borg’s continued exploration of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, they had humanity and the Federation firmly in their sights long before Starfleet was aware that there was a problem.
Recognising this, and seeing potential in humanity thanks to his earlier run-ins with Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D, Q chose to intervene. He knew that if the Federation became aware of the threat the Borg posed, their ingenuity would lead to better defences and they’d be able to protect themselves, so he chose to deliberately introduce them to the Borg for that reason.
The events of The Next Generation Season 2 episode Q Who can be reinterpreted through this new lens. Rather than Q trying to frighten Picard for the sake of it or to prove his own superiority, he was – in his own twisted way – helping Picard and the Federation. The events of Q Who led the Federation to begin serious preparations for a Borg incursion, and without that tactical readiness it seems likely that the Borg would have been able to cruise to victory during the events of The Best of Both Worlds.
This fits with how Q operates. In stories like Encounter at Farpoint, Tapestry, and All Good Things, as well as Voyager’s The Q and the Grey, Q never explains everything he knows. Instead he obfuscates, talks around the issue, and forces Starfleet figure out what’s going on for themselves. Sometimes he pushes Picard or Janeway in a certain direction to get things moving, or even devises a puzzle or test of his own, like he did in Hide and Q. But what he never does is simply communicate – he doesn’t just sit down with Picard and tell him about Farpoint Station or the anti-time problem. He pushes Picard to figure those things out for himself.
And so it is with the Borg – according to this theory. Rather than contacting Picard and explaining what he knows about the Borg and their intention of targetting Earth, he sends the Enterprise-D to a location where he knows a Borg vessel will be and allows the crew to discover the threat for themselves. He does so knowing that the consequences will be Starfleet ramping up their defences in preparation of a Borg attack.
In All Good Things, Q told Picard that the Q Continuum saw potential in humanity – the potential to one day understand more about the universe than they ever thought possible. From Q’s point of view, perhaps he believed that seeing the Federation attacked and humanity assimilated would be a net loss to the galaxy because that potential would never be realised.
Q’s motivation for putting Picard and humanity “on trial” seems to be connected to this. In Encounter at Farpoint he accused humanity of being “a dangerous, savage, child race.” Yet even by the end of the episode, Q appeared to be impressed rather than disappointed that Picard and the crew could solve his puzzle. Rather than believing humanity to be dangerous and savage, as he asserted, Q almost certainly sees humanity as something more than that – and thus would feel humanity’s assimilation by the Borg would be a loss. His desire to avoid that fate could have motivated him in Q Who.
All of this could tie into Picard Season 2. Q may feel that Picard and the Federation are ungrateful for his “assistance” over the years, and he could cite the events of Q Who as one example of how his intervention saved the Federation from assimilation. While the latter part is up for debate, I definitely believe that Q feels underappreciated by Picard in particular, and sees his interactions with the former captain of the Enterprise-D as helpful rather than antagonistic.
So let’s recap! The Borg became aware of the existence of the Federation by the mid-24th Century. The Federation had technology and resources that the Borg considered valuable, and they began targetting outlying Federation colonies, including those near to the Romulan Neutral Zone. All the while, the Federation remained ignorant of the Borg’s existence – considering them to be little more than rumour.
Foreseeing disaster and either the total assimilation of humanity or the devastation of the Federation such that humanity could not achieve its full potential, either the Q Continuum or Q independently decided to intervene. Instead of simply contacting the Federation to share his knowledge, Q transported the Enterprise-D to the star system J-25, where they encountered the Borg. This encounter led to the Federation developing anti-Borg strategies and defences that would ultimately save them from assimilation.
Unusually, Q has never taken credit for this. However, it’s at least possible that he considered Picard and the Federation as a whole to be ungrateful for his help, and this could tie in somehow to the events of Picard Season 2 where Q will be making a return to the Star Trek franchise.
What I like about this theory is that everything feels like it fits together. This theory connects the message sent in Regeneration and the early assimilation of Seven of Nine’s family to the events of The Neutral Zone, giving the Borg a reason to be operating so far outside of their territory. It also fits in perfectly with the way Q behaves – never sharing everything he knows and presenting dangerous and often deadly puzzles to Picard and Starfleet.
Whether it’s true or not is open to interpretation! I would say that Q Who wasn’t written with any of this in mind, and a straight watch of the episode strongly suggests that Q’s motivation is simply to frighten Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D after his offer to join the crew was rejected. Q felt that Picard was arrogant in assuming that Starfleet could handle any threat the galaxy contained, and wanted to prove him wrong. While that explanation works in the context of the episode, it doesn’t preclude anything included in this theory from also being true; Q could still have been annoyed at Picard’s assertion that the Federation was prepared for anything while also intending to provide them with advance warning of the Borg.
So that’s it for this one! As with all fan theories, anything we see on screen in a future episode or film could render the whole thing invalid. But for now, I think it’s at least plausible that the events of Q Who represent Q trying – in his own unique and twisted way – to help Picard and the Federation. Q has always seen himself as a friend of Picard’s, and based on what we know of both Q and the history of Borg-Federation contact, it seems to me that everything arguably fits together!
The Star Trek franchise – including all episodes and 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.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2, and Star Trek: Voyager.
There have been a number of interesting-sounding pitches and concepts over the years for potential Star Trek series and feature films, and we recently looked at the possibility of a Starfleet Academy series. That sounds like something with potential, and you can check out my thoughts by clicking or tapping here.
But not all Star Trek pitches are created equal, and another potential series has been touted in the last few months by former Star Trek: Voyager actor and director Robert Duncan McNeill. He recently confirmed on social media that he’s pitched a Captain Proton show to ViacomCBS, though details about what the potential project would entail are light. Having touched on this idea on a couple of occasions in other contexts, I wanted to give the pitch more of an airing and put my thoughts in order.
You’ve probably already figured out from the title of this piece where I come down on a Captain Proton show: I’m not in favour of it and I can’t really see a way to bring it to screen successfully. I’d even go so far as to say that I highly doubt ViacomCBS will consider this pitch for very long, despite the known name attached to it, and though there are a few reasons why – which we’ll go into detail about – it boils down to one simple question for Trekkies. And here it is:
Out of everything in Star Trek, is Captain Proton the one thing you want more of?
There are many characters, locations, starships, and themes that the franchise could return to one day. Off the top of my head here are five: a visit to the Enterprise era to see more of the Federation’s early years, the return of Benjamin Sisko from the realm of the Prophets, Neelix’s adventures at the Talaxian colony, Pavel Chekov’s days as an admiral or elder statesman, and John Harriman’s missions as captain of the Enterprise-B.
You can probably think of dozens more; characters and concepts that the Star Trek franchise could happily revisit. I would bet actual money that, for 99% of Trekkies, Captain Proton wouldn’t even enter the top fifty on their lists of things that they’d be interested in returning to. And I’m in that same boat. The ten Voyager episodes which either featured or made reference to Captain Proton were fun – but the concept is simply not strong enough nor memorable enough to carry an entire series on its own.
I like retro sci-fi – the likes of Flash Gordon, Forbidden Planet, and other older shows and films from long before Star Trek: The Original Series was even conceived are what Captain Proton paid homage to and gently parodied so well in Voyager. As one element of a larger series, a series with a much bigger picture and broader scope, Captain Proton worked. It slotted in well and gave the cast something different to do – and a chance to really ham it up and over-act.
But that’s the nicest thing I can say about the Captain Proton stories and sequences that we saw in Voyager. Out of that show’s 170 episodes, Captain Proton is far from being the most memorable aspect even among stories set on the holodeck; I’d go so far as to suggest that the Irish village featured in Fair Haven and Spirit Folk left more of a lasting impression. Those episodes certainly had far more depth than any Captain Proton story.
There’s a lot that we aren’t privy to when it comes to the recent Captain Proton pitch. Is it intended to be a 1930s-inspired black-and-white series, featuring the cardboard sets and overacting we’d expect from such a sci-fi serial? If the show wants to be purely about Captain Proton, either treating him as if he were real or showing us as the audience a kind of “show-within-a-show” look at Captain Proton through the eyes of a holodeck audience, then it has to be considered dead on arrival. A retro-inspired sci-fi aesthetic might be cool, but every other aspect of such a show would feel so terribly out-of-date that it would become a laughing stock.
On the other hand, if the Captain Proton series is actually intended to be a look at Tom Paris as he writes new Captain Proton holo-novels years after the USS Voyager returned to Earth, then perhaps there’s a bit more meat there; more of an actual concept with the potential for characterisation and drama.
I’m still not sure that it would work, but at least the latter concept has a bit more going for it. Firstly, it could be developed as a tie-in or crossover with Star Trek: Picard – or any other show or film set in that era. With Seven of Nine now a regular member of the Picard cast, the potential for a reunion with Tom Paris and perhaps B’Elanna Torres as well would be of some interest. Paris and Seven didn’t have a lot to do together during Voyager’s run, but Seven clashed frequently with B’Elanna, especially during her first year or so aboard the ship. There’s potential, perhaps, to revisit that relationship and see how things have evolved over the years – we know from Picard Season 1 that Seven of Nine has changed and become far more human in that time.
But I think that’s about as far as a Captain Proton show could go, and I don’t think we necessarily need a standalone project in order to bring back characters like Tom and B’Elanna. Perhaps they wouldn’t be the best fit for Picard, but they could certainly make an appearance in a future episode or film. Tom Paris has already had a cameo in Lower Decks, and while that was a bit of a nothing-burger from my perspective, I’m not totally against the idea of the character making future appearances in Lower Decks or any other Star Trek project.
When Michael Dorn revealed he’d pitched a Captain Worf series a while ago, I felt that the character might not be strong and well-rounded enough to carry an entire series on his own. And unfortunately Tom Paris is in that same category. Paris was an excellent character, don’t get me wrong, and I enjoyed what he brought to Voyager. But he was frequently used as comic relief – making a joke to lighten the mood in a tense situation. The spotlight episodes he got showed off the altruistic side of his personality, his love of retro things, and his piloting skills. And we also got to see his relationship with B’Elanna develop over the show’s run.
Tom Paris is far from one-dimensional. But he’s also not the kind of character who could easily play the main role – and if the intention behind this pitch is to create a Tom Paris series I fear it would end up meeting the same fate as Joey, the short-lived spin-off from popular sitcom Friends.
Tom Paris has a satisfying character arc already. Voyager began with him at rock bottom – a prisoner and an abject failure. He failed as a Starfleet officer, then failed on his first mission as a member of the Maquis. Out of everyone on Captain Janeway’s crew, Paris had the least to lose and the most to gain after getting stranded in the Delta Quadrant, but even so he rose to the occasion to become a dependable and honourable member of the crew, quite literally guiding the ship home.
So we’ve already seen Tom Paris’ character arc. By getting lost in the Delta Quadrant he found meaning and purpose in his life, he found the love of his life, and he gained redemption for his past misdeeds against Starfleet, against the Maquis, and even against his father. If his career path glimpsed in Endgame is any guide, his future is one of artistry and leisure, putting his adventures behind him to focus on doing the things he loves.
In short, we know Tom Paris quite well, and any addendum to the story that we’ve already seen play out would risk feeling tacked-on. At worst it could upset and even undermine aspects of his character arc across Voyager’s run depending on what direction the story was taken. Having spent seven years with Tom Paris – albeit in a supporting role – I’m quite content to say that his time in Starfleet ended with Voyager’s return to Earth and he’ll spend the rest of his days happily married, working on holo-novels and playing with classic cars. I don’t think we need to see any of that to believe that it happened – and it’s deeply satisfying after the long and arduous journey that the USS Voyager took to know that at least some of the characters we came to know and love did in fact get their “happily ever after.”
Unlike Seven of Nine, who had so much to gain personality-wise as she spent more time away from the Borg Collective, Tom Paris’ characterisation feels settled. As we saw in scenes set in the future in Endgame, he didn’t change much in the years after his return from the Delta Quadrant – and we wouldn’t have expected him to.
All of this assumes that Tom Paris was supposed to play a role in this pitched series at all, and that may not be the case. But regardless I think it’s worth considering that what makes for an enjoyable and lovable character – which Tom Paris certainly was – doesn’t necessarily translate to a character being suited to take a lead role. This is true of Worf and it’s true of Tom Paris – both played outstanding supporting roles, but neither should be tapped to lead their own spin-off.
After having spent years playing the same characters, I can fully understand why Robert Duncan McNeill and the rest of the Voyager cast enjoyed their sojourns to the world of Captain Proton. It was a chance to take on a different acting challenge, and to revel in a style of cinematography, acting, and storytelling that just doesn’t get produced anymore.
But there’s a reason why the likes of Forbidden Planet and Flash Gordon were superseded: technology, acting skills, and storytelling improved. Some of those improvements in the world of sci-fi actually came from Star Trek: The Original Series blended different genres and styles together, kept a tight focus on its main characters, told stories with real-world parallels and morals that audiences could relate and respond to, and depicted a vision of the future and outer space that was far more positive and hopeful than negative and fearful.
Retro can be fun. But to make a straight-laced Captain Proton television series wouldn’t just feel retro – it would feel regressive. Such a show would be a massive backwards step, trying to ignore multiple generations’ worth of improvements in everything from narrative and world-building to acting skills and cinematography.
More than that, a Captain Proton series would have incredibly limited appeal. Many fans of Voyager would be hard-pushed to remember Captain Proton, and even those that do and have fond memories of the episodes would be surprised at the very least to hear talk of a Captain Proton spin-off show. Beyond that minuscule niche, a Captain Proton series might appeal to fans of classic, retro sci-fi. But such folks are few and far between, and when Captain Proton already felt incredibly dated in the 1990s, the number of viewers who would genuinely appreciate the parodies and references is positively microscopic.
Even if Captain Proton were less about the retro sci-fi and more about Tom Paris, I don’t think that would work well either. There must be a queue of characters from past iterations of Star Trek lining up for their prospective returns to the franchise, and while Paris was a fun character during Voyager’s run, he simply isn’t strong enough or deep enough to carry a whole series. His recent cameo in Lower Decks kind of embodies that – the character could have been swapped out for any other, or a generic stand-in, and the episode would have been functionally the same.
At the end of the day, this concept comes down to the simple question I posed at the beginning of this article: out of everything in Star Trek, is Captain Proton the one thing you want more of? Or to put it another way: if you could choose only one thing from a past iteration of Star Trek to bring back, is Captain Proton what you’d choose? For the vast, vast majority of Trekkies, the answer would be a resounding “no.”
I don’t believe ViacomCBS will do more than give this pitch a cursory glance out of respect to its creator. Both possible formulations have major drawbacks, and from a corporate point of view neither seems to hold much appeal even to Star Trek’s fanbase – let alone a wider television audience. At the end of the day that’s what sells companies on making a new film or television series: how much money would it make? An incredibly niche project focusing on either a single character or one tiny aspect of a show from the 1990s (that ViacomCBS hasn’t even been bothered to upscale to full HD) doesn’t fit the bill. Captain Proton is dead on arrival – and I’m sorry to say that it’s for the best.
The Star Trek franchise – including Star Trek: Voyager and all other titles and 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.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1 and all of the trailers and teasers for Season 2. Spoilers are also present for Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: First Contact.
As the dust settled on Star Trek Day, the Picard Season 2 trailer stuck in my mind. As exciting as it was to see the crew back in action, and to get a real tease of some of the upcoming season’s story elements, I was left with an unfamiliar and somewhat upsetting feeling. It took me 24 hours to really think it through, but I’m finally able to put it into words: I’m less excited for Season 2 of Star Trek: Picard than I had been before the Star Trek Day trailer.
This isn’t something I expected nor wanted from Star Trek Day. Picard Season 2 had been right at the top of my list when it came to the shows I’m most excited about – as I’ve said on more than one occasion. But the trailer showed off what are really two of my least-favourite Star Trek story tropes, and in its aftermath I’m finding it hard to remain as excited for the season as I was. None of this is to disparage the hard work all of the actors, directors, producers, and behind-the-scenes crew have put into the upcoming season of the show. I’m capable of separating my thoughts about individual story threads from the folks tasked with bringing them to the screen!
More than once I’ve talked about how time travel – and in particular, time travel to the modern day – as well as Mirror Universe stories are among my least favourites in Star Trek. With a big disclaimer that what we saw in the trailer doesn’t seem to be the actual Mirror Universe, it borrowed from that setting both thematically and in terms of aesthetic, and combined with a time travel plot that will see Picard and the crew of La Sirena head to the modern day… suffice to say I was underwhelmed.
Star Trek is a franchise about the future, but more than that, it feels like it’s at least a semi-realistic future; that humanity could one day achieve many of the social and technological advancements that we see in the various shows and films. Stepping out of that to do a story set in the modern world has never sat right with me primarily for that reason, but I’d also add that any return to contemporary times naturally dates a story very quickly. Episodes like Enterprise’s Carpenter Street, the two-part Voyager episode Future’s End, and even Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home are stories which feel significantly more out-of-date than others made around the same time simply because they took Star Trek to what was, at the time, the modern day.
When it comes to the Mirror Universe – which, again, I’m not saying the “totalitarian state” shown in the trailer actually will be – the setting has long lent itself to over-the-top pantomime. Even recent Discovery episodes set in the Mirror Universe – like Season 3’s two-part story Terra Firma – fell victim to this, as actors seem almost encouraged or emboldened to over-act every scene and play up all of the villain tropes they remember from middle school drama classes.
Characters in the Mirror Universe have no nuance. The entire setting seems to be populated largely by violent sociopaths, with the occasional submissive alien thrown in for contrast. Though I believe that what we saw in the trailer isn’t the Mirror Universe, the “totalitarian state” borrows a great deal in terms of its aesthetic from that setting, and my fear is that Star Trek: Picard is going to fall into the familiar Mirror Universe trap of pantomime-level over-acting.
In a nutshell, then, those are my concerns based on the latest Season 2 trailer. The season feels as though it may lurch from the excess of a Mirror Universe-inspired setting to the drab reality of the modern world – and unfortunately I’m finding it hard to get excited about either side of the story as things stand. I want to give Picard Season 2 a chance, and when it premieres in February I certainly will, but at the moment I can’t escape the sinking feeling of losing at least some of the excitement that I had for the project.
Though we were treated to a glimpse of the Borg Queen in the trailer, an alternate timeline (Mirror Universe or not) and a jaunt to the past don’t seem like settings where we’ll get to explore much of the 25th Century. I had hoped that the show might spend a little more time with Starfleet in Season 2, or perhaps take a look at one or more of the factions we remember from past iterations of Star Trek. Picard made many first contacts with alien races on The Next Generation, and has deep connections with the Klingons, for example, as well as the likes of the Bajorans.
There was even the hope that an as-yet unannounced character might reprise their role in Season 2. Though Gates McFadden had ruled out Dr Crusher’s return a few weeks ago, there were characters like Riker, Troi, Wesley Crusher, Worf, or someone else who could yet make a welcome return to the franchise. That’s still possible, but the presence of an alternate timeline and a story involving time travel cuts into the potential screen time that any returning character could have.
Past iterations of Star Trek, which were primarily episodic, could do Mirror Universe or time travel stories relatively inoffensively from my point of view. The odd episode here or there that used one of those settings was gone within a week or two, even if I really didn’t enjoy it, so I wasn’t as upset to see such a story as one small part of a season with twenty-plus episodes to enjoy. But Picard isn’t an episodic series, and not only that it’s a shorter one (Season 1 clocked in at a mere ten episodes) so a time travel-meets-Mirror Universe story could run for practically the whole season. As the foundation for an entire season-long story arc… as I said above it’s just one that I personally don’t find particularly appealing.
I recognise that, so far, all of this must seem like whining. “Star Trek: Picard isn’t doing exactly what I want!” screams the petulant crybaby! But as an independent critic, I always say that I reserve the right to express my honest feelings on any of the shows, games, and films that I talk about; despite being an avid Trekkie and a fan of modern and classic Star Trek I’m not going to blindly sing the franchise’s praises when there are points of criticism or things that I don’t like. None of this means that Picard Season 2 is somehow invalid in my mind; despite my initial impressions from the trailer I will give it a chance to impress me. But I also want to share my honest thoughts, and right now I feel that the trailer seems to show a season-long story that rolls two of my least-favourite Star Trek tropes into one.
Having got all of that out of the way, let’s look at some of the points from the trailer that are more positive – or at the very least potentially interesting!
First up, the Borg Queen herself. I had half-written a bunch of Borg theories for Picard Season 2 following the announcement that the Borg Queen would be returning – almost all of which now feel extremely unlikely! The Borg Queen that we saw in the trailer appears to be a captive – my first thought was that it could be the reactivated remains of the Queen killed by Picard in First Contact. Episodes of Voyager and also Season 1 of Picard suggested that there may be more than one Borg Queen, or that she is capable of changing bodies with ease, so it could be a different Borg Queen altogether. Regardless, she seems to be a captive – how Picard came to capture her or know about her captive status is a story I’d quite like to follow!
If the Borg Queen shown on screen is from after the timeline has been changed, perhaps we’ll see Picard and the crew of La Sirena lead a mission to capture her in order to facilitate their passage back in time. It seemed as though the Borg Queen is going to be used by Picard as a kind of time machine – though exactly how this would work isn’t clear. Perhaps the Borg Queen possesses unique knowledge of time travel, as we know she was personally present during the mission to Earth in First Contact. Maybe her presence is required for the Borg to travel through time?
As mentioned, the “totalitarian state” seems to me like it isn’t the Mirror Universe’s Terran Empire, but rather a fascistic state that emerged – somehow – in place of the United Federation of Planets in the Prime Timeline. Picard ascribes its rise by the 25th Century as being caused by something Q did to change the past, so in my opinion we’re looking at an alternate version of the Prime Timeline and not the Mirror Universe. This is backed up by something Q said in the previous trailer – that Picard and his crew had come to “the very end of the road not taken.”
So that brings us to Q’s role in the season. During First Contact Day back in April, Sir Patrick Stewart hinted that Q may not be the cause of the event that shattered the timeline – but this seems to be contradicted by what we saw and heard in this new trailer. Q made reference to “the trial” – he put Picard and all of humanity on trial in Encounter at Farpoint and has periodically returned to provoke and tease him ever since. Though episodes like Q Who saw Q deliberately interfering and putting Picard and the Enterprise-D in danger, I would very much argue that other episodes like All Good Things saw Q assume a less antagonistic role. He didn’t cause the anti-time eruption, but he did give Picard just enough clues and a little bit of a push toward finding a solution.
Q is a trickster – and not someone to be trusted. But I’ve often got the impression that, in his own twisted way, he sees himself as a friend, ally, and mentor to Picard. He didn’t introduce Picard to the Borg in Q Who with a view to getting him killed or assimilated; he wanted to demonstrate that Picard and the Federation were unprepared for the dangers lying in wait out in the galaxy. He was pleasantly surprised to see Picard solve the Farpoint mystery in Encounter at Farpoint and the anti-time puzzle in All Good Things. In short, though Q’s methods may be extreme, and while he does have an impish sense of humour, he’s never been an out-and-out villain. For him to go back in time and break the timeline so severely is, perhaps, somewhat out of character.
So my inclination at this stage is still to say that there’s more to Q’s role than meets the eye. Picard may blame him for the changes to the timeline initially, but part of the mystery of the season’s storyline may be figuring out that Q isn’t to blame – someone or something else is. I’d argue this better fits with Q’s characterisation – but it wouldn’t be completely strange to see him as the season’s antagonist as well. So I guess we’ll find out!
Notable by her absence was Guinan. Guinan has knowledge of and history with both the Borg and Q, so bringing her back could have made a lot of sense for the story of the season. Guinan could have taken on an advisory role, as we see her do in episodes like Q Who, Time’s Arrow and in Star Trek: Generations. It’s possible she will still appear and that her role will be revealed at a later date. It’s also possible that she will make an appearance in Season 3 – which we now know is officially confirmed and in production – or that her role was ultimately cut and she won’t be coming back.
We didn’t get a good sense of what any of the crew of La Sirena are up to in the trailer, really. All we can say is that there don’t appear to have been any legal consequences for Dr Jurati for murdering Bruce Maddox in Season 1 – perhaps the fact that she had been essentially brainwashed has meant that she won’t face prosecution for that act. We did see Jurati and the Borg Queen seemingly sharing a “moment” – could Dr Jurati’s love for all things synthetic give her a reason to feel sympathy for the captive Borg?
We saw very little of Soji, though she was present, and likewise not much from Elnor – though at one point he seemed to be in a medical facility possibly injured or sick. The green light of this scene could imply that the Borg are involved – perhaps the Borg Queen breaks out of her confinement, or perhaps Elnor was injured by the Borg somehow.
The trailer seems to suggest an expanded role for Laris – one of Picard’s Romulan friends who stayed behind to look after the vineyard in Season 1. She spoke in voiceover at the beginning of the trailer and later appeared alongside Picard and Rios in what could be the past. It’s at least possible, then, that Laris will join Picard’s mission back in time.
At first I thought that an explosion and the collapse of a skyscraper was taking place in the future, but looking at that moment more carefully I think it’s actually something taking place in the 21st Century. Could that explosion mark the moment that everything changed? It could be that Picard and the crew have to prevent that from happening – or ensure that it does happen, which could lead to a dark, morally difficult storyline.
Seven of Nine appeared – without her trademark Borg implants – along with Raffi. There wasn’t much of a hint at their relationship, but this is something that seems like it will be explored across the season, and I’m really quite excited to see how that comes across. They seemed to be having a disagreement when it came to driving a modern-day car, but that was played more as a comic moment than as a kind of dramatic fight between the pair.
And I think that’s all I have to say – at least for now. My head is already swimming with proto-theories, some of which may get the full write-up treatment in the weeks ahead. Despite feeling underwhelmed by the season’s premise, I’m still hopeful that Picard Season 2 will deliver enjoyment, entertainment, and drama. The underlying mystery of what happened to the timeline, what 21st Century event changed things for the worse, and what role Q played in all of that is interesting, and I’m curious to learn exactly what happened and why.
If I ultimately find Season 2 to be less enjoyable on the whole because of some of the things we’ve talked about today, at least I can look forward to Season 3! If Picard follows a similar path to Discovery then Season 3 will set aside much of what happened in Season 2 and tell a new self-contained story, so even in the worst case scenario there’s still much to be hopeful for when it comes to Star Trek: Picard.
Star Trek: Picard Season 2 will be broadcast on Paramount+ in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and around the world beginning in February 2022. Season 1 is available to stream now. 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.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the Star Trek franchise, including the following upcoming series: Strange New Worlds Season 1, Picard Season 2, Lower Decks Season 2, Discovery Season 4, and Prodigy Season 1.
Yesterday was Star Trek Day! And in case you missed it, ViacomCBS held a live event that was streamed online and via Paramount+ showcasing and celebrating all things Star Trek! We’ll break down the big news in a moment, but first I wanted to give you my thoughts on the event as a whole.
This was the first big in-person event that many of the folks involved had been able to attend since 2019, and there was talk of the pandemic and its enforced disruption on the various shows that have been in production over the last couple of years. There was also a lot of positivity from presenters and interviewees not only about Star Trek – which was to be expected, naturally – but also about being back together and simply being able to hold a major event of this nature. The positivity of hosts Wil Wheaton and Mica Burton was infectious, and the event was much better for the role the duo played in hosting the panels and introducing guests.
That isn’t to say that Star Trek Day was entirely without problems, though. To be blunt, the event dragged on a bit too long (it ran to over three hours) and several of the panels and interviews were the worse for being conducted live instead of the pre-recorded, edited, and curated segments and panels we’ve had to get used to in the coronavirus era. Several of the guests seemed unprepared for what should’ve been obvious questions, and there were too many awkward silences and pauses while people gathered their thoughts and responded to the hosts. Such is the nature of live broadcasting – and it sounds rather misanthropic to criticise it!
During what I assume was an intermission on the main stage we were treated(!) to a separate pair of presenters on the red carpet reading out twitter messages and posts from the audience. This was perhaps the segment that dragged the most; one of the presenters even admitted to not being a regular Star Trek viewer (she hadn’t seen Discovery at all) so unfortunately this part of the show was less interesting as the pair were a little less knowledgeable about the franchise. If it had been made clear that this section of the broadcast was going to last as long as it did I might’ve taken a break as well!
Overall, though, despite running a bit too long and the ending feeling a little rushed (something we’ll talk about later), Star Trek Day was a success. It didn’t only look forward to upcoming projects like Strange New Worlds and Picard Season 2, but it looked back at every past Star Trek series, inviting members of the casts of those shows to talk about what made them – and the franchise – so great.
As a true celebration of all things Star Trek, the broadcast has to be considered a success. And although a pre-recorded event could’ve been edited and streamlined to cut to the more interesting parts and to give interviewees a chance to gather their thoughts, it was nice to see many of the folks we know and love from Star Trek back together and able to spend time in person with one another. Hosts Wil Wheaton and Mica Burton did a great job at making us as the audience feel included, as if we were there at Star Trek Day right along with them. For those few hours – even through awkward moments and segments that seemed to run a little too long – it felt like being a member of the Star Trek family. As someone with few friends, I appreciated that immensely. For those few hours last night – and yes, even though Star Trek Day didn’t start until 1:30am UK time I did stay up to watch it – I felt like I, too, was an honorary member of the Star Trek family, and that’s a feeling I would never have been able to get anywhere else.
Now then! Let’s talk about the various panels, trailers, and interviews. Over the coming days I’ll be taking a closer look at some of the announcements and trailers in more detail (as well as perhaps crafting a few of my patented and often-wrong theories), but for now I want to try to include an overview of everything that was included in Star Trek Day.
We’ll come to the biggest announcements and trailers at the end, but first I wanted to talk for a moment about the music. Star Trek Day had a live orchestra on its main stage, and we were treated to live renditions of Star Trek theme music past and present – as well as a medley that kicked off the event. I was listening to Star Trek Day on my headphones, and the music sounded beautiful. Composer Jeff Ruso (who composed the theme music to Discovery and Picard) picked up the conductor’s baton, and the medley he arranged was really an outstanding celebration of all things Star Trek.
Star Trek Day both began and ended with music, as Isa Briones (Star Trek: Picard’s Soji) sang her rendition of Irving Berlin’s 1926 song Blue Skies to close out the broadcast.
There were five “legacy moments” spread throughout Star Trek Day, and these celebrations of past Star Trek series were genuinely moving. Actors George Takei, LeVar Burton, Cirroc Lofton, Garrett Wang, and Anthony Montgomery spoke about their respective series with enthusiasm and emotion. Cirroc Lofton paid tribute to his on-screen dad Avery Brooks, talking about how Deep Space Nine showed a single dad balancing his work and family commitments. He also spoke about Deep Space Nine’s legacy as the first Star Trek show to step away from a starship and take a different look at the Star Trek galaxy.
The themes of diversity and inclusion were omnipresent in these legacy moments, and all five actors spoke about how Star Trek and Gene Roddenberry have promoted diversity since the very beginning. George Takei spoke about Gene Roddenberry’s vision for Star Trek, how sci-fi had previously been something often seen as just for kids, and how putting a very diverse cast of characters together was groundbreaking in the 1960s. It’s always amazing to hear George Takei speak, and even fifty-five years later he still has a grace and eloquence when speaking on these topics. As someone who has himself been at the forefront of campaigning for diversity and equality, he does so with a gravitas that few can match.
Garrett Wang spoke about how Voyager could be a “refuge” for fans; a place to go where everyone could feel included and like they were part of the family. The way the show combined two crews was, I would argue, one of its weaker elements, but Wang looked at it through a different lens, and I can see the point about how Voyager put those folks in a difficult situation and brought them together to work in common cause. He also spoke in very flattering terms about Captain Janeway and Kate Mulgrew – who is returning to Star Trek very soon.
Anthony Montgomery was incredibly positive about Enterprise, and how the series embodied the pioneering spirit of exploration. I loved his line about how Enterprise, although it was a prequel recorded later than many other shows, laid the groundwork and filled in much of Star Trek’s previously unvisited stories and unexplained lore. Above all, he said, Enterprise was a “fun” show – and it’s hard to disagree! The orchestra concluded this speech with Archer’s Theme – the music heard over the end credits for Enterprise – which is a beautiful piece of music. If I were to remaster Enterprise I’d drop Faith of the Heart (which is a nice enough song, don’t get me wrong) and replace it on the opening titles with Archer’s Theme. The orchestra played it perfectly.
LeVar Burton talked about The Next Generation, and how Star Trek was reinvigorated for a new era. The Next Generation was the first spin-off, and it came at a time when spin-offs didn’t really exist in the sci-fi or drama spaces, so it was an unknown and a risk. Burton also spoke about The Next Generation’s sense of family, and how Star Trek can be a unifying force in the world.
Far from being mere padding, the five legacy moments saw stars of Star Trek’s past pay tribute to the franchise and the shows they were part of. There were consistent themes running through all five speeches, particularly the theme of inclusion. Star Trek has always been a franchise that strives to include people who are “different” – people like myself. For many fans, that’s one of the things that makes Star Trek so great. To see some of the biggest stars acknowledge and celebrate that aspect of Star Trek was wonderful, emotional, and rather cathartic.
Each of the five actors spoke with love, positivity, and enthusiasm for the franchise that made them household names. Anthony Montgomery’s incredibly positive attitude in particular shone through – he was beaming the whole time and seemed genuinely thrilled to have been invited to speak and to celebrate Enterprise.
If Star Trek Day aimed to celebrate all things Star Trek, then the legacy moments went a long way to making that ambition a reality on the night. The speeches were pitch-perfect, as were the orchestral renditions of all five Star Trek themes, and I had an unexpectedly good time with these moments. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the programme listed on the website; I didn’t really have any expectations of what the legacy moments would include. They surprised me by being one of the most enjoyable, down-to-earth parts of a hugely entertaining evening.
Let’s talk about news and announcements. That’s what you’re here for, right?! That was certainly what I was most interested in and excited for when I sat down to watch the Star Trek Day broadcast – though, as mentioned, I was taken aback by some of the other elements present that I wouldn’t have expected!
First, a non-announcement! Wil Wheaton interviewed the head of production on Star Trek, Alex Kurtzman, early on in the evening. Kurtzman didn’t have anything to say about the Section 31 series, nor about the upcoming Star Trek film due for release in 2023. However, he mentioned something that I found really interesting: a Starfleet Academy series or project. This isn’t anything close to an official announcement, of course, and he and Wil Wheaton talked about it in abstract terms. But a Starfleet Academy series has been something Star Trek has considered in the past; Gene Roddenberry was quite keen on a Starfleet Academy spin-off prior to developing The Next Generation. Watch this space, because it’s at least possible that a project centred around Starfleet Academy will get off the ground under Kurtzman’s leadership.
There were no brand-new shows or films formally announced at Star Trek Day. While I wasn’t necessarily expecting such an announcement, and Kurtzman’s earlier statement that no new show will be worked on until the current crop have run their course would seem to exclude it, there are multiple pitches and projects that have been rumoured or talked about over the last few years. The Section 31 series was absent again, as mentioned, and that’s more bad news for a series that feels like it isn’t going to happen. There were also no mentions of the likes of Ceti Alpha V, Captain Proton, or Captain Worf – just some of the heavily-speculated or rumoured pitches believed to be floating around over at ViacomCBS.
We did get release dates or release windows for several upcoming seasons, though! After Lower Decks Season 2 draws to a close in mid-October there’ll be a couple of weeks with no Star Trek, but then Prodigy will be available (in the United States at least) from the 28th of October. Shortly thereafter, Discovery Season 4 will kick off – it will premiere on the 18th of November in the United States and on the 19th internationally. Finally, Picard Season 2 is scheduled to arrive on our screens in February next year – presumably shortly after the season finale of Discovery.
All of this is great news! There was no release date for Strange New Worlds, but I think we can assume it will follow within a few weeks at most of Picard Season 2, which would put it perhaps in May or June 2022 at the very latest. But there will be a whole lot of Star Trek on our screens this autumn and winter, well into the first half of next year. Wil Wheaton said it best: with so many new Star Trek projects in production, we’re living through a new golden age of Star Trek right now!
I was a little surprised when the Discovery panel ended without revealing a new trailer or teaser for Season 4. Michelle Paradise, Wilson Cruz, Blu del Barrio, and Ian Alexander talked about how the show is fostering a sense of family in the 32nd Century – and that we will see Gray get a “corporeal” body in Season 4 somehow, which is great! But I have to say I’d been expecting a new trailer; the show is only a couple of months away after all. Perhaps we’ll get that nearer to the time. There wasn’t any mention of Season 5 either, but it’s possible that announcement will come as the marketing campaign for Season 4 ramps up.
Wilson Cruz seems like such a positive person in every interview I’ve ever seen him participate in, and he brought a lot of positive energy to the stage in Star Trek Day as well. There was talk of the Stamets-Culber relationship being revisited in Season 4, which is great – Stamets and Culber really form the emotional core of the show. He also spoke about how Dr Culber is embracing new roles in Season 4 – the role of counsellor to others aboard the ship as well as a parental role for Adira and Gray.
Gray’s storyline has the potential to be one of the most powerful in Discovery as the show moves into its fourth season. Being trans or gender-nonconforming can make one feel invisible – something I can speak to myself – and this is literally shown on screen by Gray’s invisibility. The powerful story of discovering how to be seen, and to do so with the help, encouragement, and support of one’s closest friends and family has the potential to be an exceptionally powerful story, one which I can already feel resonating with me. Blu del Barrio and Ian Alexander spoke very positively about their on- and off-screen relationships, and they seem like they work exceptionally well together as a duo. I can’t wait to see what Season 4 will bring for them both.
I’ve already got a Prodigy theory! The show’s co-creators talked about how Prodigy Season 1 begins with the kids on a never-before-seen planet described as being “far removed and mysterious.” It sounds like we aren’t seeing a planet that the USS Voyager visited in the Delta Quadrant – something backed up by scenes seemingly set on that world in the trailer – and the USS Protostar appears to have crashed “inside” the planet. Did it crash during the final leg of Voyager’s journey home through the Borg transwarp network? Or perhaps during one of Voyager’s other flights – the space catapult from The Voyager Conspiracy or Kes’ telepathic launch in The Gift, for example. More to come on this, so stay tuned!
So we got a release date for Prodigy in the United States, but as I’ve said on a couple of occasions now it seems as though Prodigy isn’t going to be broadcast anywhere that doesn’t already have Paramount+. Considering that the series is a collaborative project between Star Trek and Nickelodeon (itself a ViacomCBS subsidiary), it should surely have been possible to secure an international broadcast on the Nickelodeon channel – a satellite/cable channel here in the UK and in many other countries. It’s a disappointment that, once again, ViacomCBS does not care about its international fans. It’s not as egregious a failing as it was with Lower Decks, because as a kids’ show Prodigy’s primary audience won’t really notice the delay. But for Trekkies around the world, to see Prodigy teased then find out we have no way to watch it is disappointing, and there’s no way around that.
Despite that, the Prodigy panel was interesting. Dee Bradley Baker, who voices Murf – the cute blob-alien – seems like he’s a real Trekkie and spoke about the franchise with passion. It was so much fun to see him perform Murf’s voice live, as well! Brett Gray, who will take on the role of young leader Dal, seemed overjoyed to have joined a franchise – and a family – with such a legacy, and I liked the way he spoke about how the young crew of the USS Protostar will grow as the season progresses.
The show’s co-creators – brothers Dan and Kevin Hageman – spoke about how Prodigy won’t be a series that talks down to children, but rather aims to be a series with plenty to offer for adults as well. The best kids’ shows manage this – and the Hagemans have received critical acclaim and awards for their work on Trollhunters and Ninjago, so there’s a lot of room for optimism. They both seemed to have a good grasp of the legacy and role Star Trek plays and has played for young people, and I think the show is in safe hands.
The Prodigy trailer was action-packed and exciting! We got a glimpse of the villainous character played by John Noble – and heard his distinctive voice – as well as got a much closer look at the USS Protostar than we had before. Perhaps the most exciting moment, though, was seeing the Janeway hologram for the first time! Janeway’s role in the show seems like it will be that of a mentor; the kids will make their own calls and decisions, but Janeway will be on hand to offer advice – at least that’s my take at this stage.
There were some funny moments in the trailer, too, which will surely produce a lot of giggles from Prodigy’s young audience. “Just hit all the buttons” until the phasers fire was a great laugh line, and the ship losing artificial gravity was likewise hilarious. There was also a crash-landing that reminded me very much of a scene in the Voyager episode Timeless. I’m really looking forward to Prodigy and to spending time with the young crew of the USS Protostar.
The Lower Decks panel was perhaps the funniest of the night. It was also the one where the interviewees felt the most comfortable and did their best at participating and answering questions; there were none of the awkward silences or long pauses that made me cringe during other panels. Noël Wells, Eugene Cordero, and creator Mike McMahan initially took to the stage before being joined in truly spectacular fashion by Ransom voice actor Jerry O’Connell. The cast members clearly get on very well together, and this came across as the four talked with host Mica Burton about the first four episodes of the season as well as what’s to come in the remaining six episodes.
Wells and Cordero talked about how they see their characters of Tendi and Rutherford becoming friends and bonding over “nerd” things – geeking out together over things like new tricorders, engineering, or how best to do their work was a hallmark for both in Season 1. I’m not so sure how I feel about Mike McMahan saying that the rest of the season plans to go “even bigger” with some of its stories. Lower Decks can be overly ambitious, at times, with the number of characters and story threads it tries to cram into a twenty- or twenty-five-minute episode, and this can be to the detriment of some or all of the stories it wants to tell.
However, McMahan spoke about the episode Crisis Point from Season 1 as a kind of baseline for how big and bold the show wants to go in the second half of Season 2. That episode was one of the best, not just for its wacky over-the-top action, but for its quieter character moments. If the rest of Season 2 keeps in mind the successful elements from episodes like Crisis Point, then I think we’re in for a good time!
The mid-season trailer was interesting! Here are just some of the things I spotted: the Pakleds are returning, Rutherford seems to get a “Wrath of Khan-inspired” moment in a radiation chamber, Tendi was transformed into a monster that seemed reminiscent of those in Genesis from Season 7 of The Next Generation, Boimler and Mariner are involved in a shuttle crash, Mariner rejoins Captain Freeman on the bridge, there was a scene in which Boimler easily defeated some Borg that I assume must be a dream or holodeck programme, a Crystalline Entity was seen, the creepy bartender with the New England accent was back, and Boimler and Mariner shared a joke about the utility of phaser rifles. I’m sure there was more – but those were the key things I spotted! The rest of Season 2 will hopefully continue to hit the highs of the past few weeks – and there’s another episode coming out very soon here in the UK that I can’t wait to watch!
It was very sweet for Star Trek Day to take time to discuss Gene Roddenberry’s legacy, coming in the centenary year of his birth. His son Rod, and former Star Trek stars LeVar Burton, George Takei, and Gates McFadden joined Wil Wheaton to talk about Gene Roddenberry, and this was one of the most touching moments in the entire event. There were some laughs as George Takei told us about his first meeting with Gene Roddenberry and how he came to land the role of Sulu – including how both he and Gene mispronounced each others’ names! Gates McFadden seemed to have been talked into joining the cast of The Next Generation by Roddenberry, having initially wanted to return to the stage and join a play. Rod Roddenberry’s reminiscence of the design process for the Enterprise-D was hilarious – apparently his mother thought the ship looked like “a pregnant duck!”
LeVar Burton, who had been a Star Trek fan prior to joining The Next Generation, spoke about how he was overwhelmed at first when meeting “the Great Bird of the Galaxy,” and how a small role on a made-for-television film introduced him to producer Bob Justman, who later arranged for him to meet with Gene Roddenberry during pre-production on The Next Generation. All of these anecdotes went a long way to humanising Gene Roddenberry the man – we can often get lost in the legacy and philosophy he left behind, and how Star Trek and the world he created has influenced and impacted us, but this was a rare opportunity to hear small, personal stories about the man himself. I greatly appreciated that.
George Takei got one of the biggest applause lines of the evening when he spoke about the importance of Star Trek’s fans, in particular Bjo Trimble, on popularising The Original Series and getting a nationwide fan community started. Decades before the internet came along to make fandoms and fan communities a part of many peoples’ lives, Star Trek was already developing its very own devoted fan community thanks to people like Bjo Trimble, and for George Takei to take time to acknowledge the role fans have played in Star Trek’s ongoing success was wonderful to hear.
As I’ve said before, The Motion Picture was the culmination of this fan-led journey for Star Trek, but the film also laid the groundwork for much of what we’d come to know as Star Trek in the eighties and nineties. Many sets and design elements were in continuous use in some form from The Motion Picture’s premiere in 1979 right the way through to the cancellation of Enterprise in 2005, and much of the aesthetic and feel of Star Trek is owed to what The Motion Picture pioneered. George Takei acknowledged that, and that was a pretty cool moment. The Motion Picture is one of my favourite Star Trek films, and a 4K remaster was briefly shown off as well – the 4K blu-ray set of the first four Star Trek films is out now, so Star Trek Day took a moment to plug it!
The panel that seemed to get the most online attention was, I felt, one of the worst and most cringeworthy to watch! The Strange New Worlds panel was followed up by a pre-recorded video that introduced new members of its main cast, who joined Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, and Rebecca Romijn. Among the newly-revealed characters were an Aenar (an Andorian race introduced in Enterprise) a possible descendant or relation of iconic villain Khan, and three characters from The Original Series who are returning to Star Trek: Dr M’Benga, who appeared in a couple of episodes, Nurse Chapel, and the one who got the most attention: Cadet Nyota Uhura!
Uhura blew up online after the announcement, and it’s fair to say that I was not expecting this! There was scope, I felt, for Strange New Worlds to bring back classic characters, but the choices they made seem to be pitch-perfect. I’m especially excited to see more from Dr M’Benga – he was a minor character who feels ripe for a deeper look. The same could also be said of Captain Pike and Number One!
As I predicted a few months ago, the uniforms for Strange New Worlds have been slightly redesigned from their Discovery style. I was never wild about the asymmetrical collars; they worked okay on Discovery’s all-blue uniforms but looked perhaps a little clumsy on the recoloured uniforms worn by Pike and the Enterprise crew. So to see the teaser show off a redesigned style that keeps the bold primary colours but ditches the Discovery style was pretty great! As with any new uniform I think we need time to see them in action and get used to them, but there’s already a lot to like. In addition to the V-neck style worn by Pike and Spock, we saw a white medical variant worn by Nurse Chapel, another medical variant with a broad crew collar worn by Dr M’Benga, and a zipper style worn by Number One. Starfleet uniforms – like any aesthetic or design element – are of course subject to personal taste, but from what we’ve seen so far I like the Strange New Worlds uniforms.
The Strange New Worlds live panel was not the best, though. Anson Mount, who is usually so full of life and happy to talk about all things Trek, sat in silence for large parts of it, deferring to the rest of the panel to answer questions. He may have been trying to avoid jumping in too fast or dominating proceedings, but it led to several very awkward silences that weren’t fun to watch. I got the sense that perhaps he wasn’t feeling well.
The producers – Akiva Goldsman, who has previously worked on Picard, and Henry Alonso Myers – gave us a few tidbits of information about the series. I was very pleased to hear so much positive talk about returning Star Trek to a more episodic format. Goldsman, who had been instrumental in crafting Picard’s serialised story during Season 1, seems quite happy to return to episodic television. There are a lot of advantages in a show like Strange New Worlds – i.e. one about exploration – to using a more episodic format. Episodic television can still see wonderful character growth – I’d point to Ensign Mariner in Lower Decks as a recent Star Trek example – so it was great to see how positively the cast and crew talked about that aspect of Strange New Worlds.
The producers and cast seemed very keen to embrace the legacy of The Original Series in more ways than one. Without looking to overwrite anything, they want to bring their own take on classic characters, and I think that’s great. Spock benefitted greatly from the expanded look we got at him in Discovery’s second season, and there’s no reason to think characters like Nurse Chapel or Cadet Uhura won’t likewise get significant character development that plays into the characters we know and love from their roles in The Original Series.
In terms of aesthetic, Strange New Worlds is trying to walk a line between embracing the 1960s style of The Original Series and also updating the show to a more modern look. There was talk about the design of sets, in particular Captain Pike’s quarters, and how the designers had been keen to return to the 1960s for inspiration. Likewise hair and nail styles were mentioned by Rebecca Romijn for Number One – a ’60s-inspired, “retro” look seems to be on the cards for the character, but not to such an extent that it becomes distracting. Walking that line is a challenge – but one I’m glad to see the show tackling!
We didn’t get a full trailer for Strange New Worlds, and the character introductions were cut in such a way as to minimise what we could see of the USS Enterprise. However, we did get a decent look at the transporter room set, which looks really cool, and when we met Dr M’Benga we got a glimpse of what I assume to be sickbay – and it looks like the colour scheme from The Original Series is still present in some form. We also got to see the logo and typeface for Strange New Worlds.
So an underwhelming panel in some respects led to one of the biggest reveals of the night! Uhura, Chapel, and Dr M’Benga make welcome returns to Star Trek, that’s for sure. And there’s a particular genius to choosing these three characters in particular: they’re all ripe for more development and exploration. Uhura was a mainstay on The Original Series, but compared with the likes of Kirk and Spock there’s still plenty of room to explore her characterisation, background, and learn more about who she is in a way that will inform the original character and portrayal. Likewise for Nurse Chapel and Dr M’Benga – in many ways these two characters are near-blank slates for the new writers and producers to mould into their own creations.
I’m more excited today for Strange New Worlds than I was 24 hours ago, and that’s really saying something! I loved how Mount and the producers spoke about how his portrayal of Pike and Pike’s leadership style led them to redesign parts of his quarters so he could accommodate more of his crew around the table. Cooking was a big part of Captain Sisko’s character in Deep Space Nine, and I picked up at least a hint of that in some of the things said about Pike.
The panel also discussed how the USS Enterprise is a “star of the show” in many respects, and how episodic storytelling will allow the series to return to Star Trek’s roots in terms of producing entertaining stories with morals. As I’ve said before, Star Trek has always used its sci-fi lens to shine a light on real-world issues, and to learn that Strange New Worlds is embracing that is fantastic news.
Spock’s characterisation was mentioned by Ethan Peck and the producers, and there was talk of how we’d see different facets of his personality. The Cage was mentioned as showing us “smiley Spock,” and I liked how the producers have a keen knowledge of how Spock and other Vulcans perceive and experience emotions – Spock is an emotional person, even if he suppresses those emotions much of the time. An exploration of that aspect of his character – informed by his experiences in Discovery Season 2, perhaps – will be truly interesting to see play out.
Finally we come to Star Trek: Picard. This was the final event of the evening, and unfortunately the way it was teed up felt incredibly rushed. Jeri Ryan – who will reprise her role as Seven of Nine in Season 2 – raced onto the stage to introduce the new trailer, and it just seemed very obvious that the people running the event were acutely aware of time constraints and wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. There was no Picard panel, no appearance from Sir Patrick Stewart (even by video-link or in a pre-recorded message), and though the trailer was very interesting the way Picard Season 2 was handled felt rushed right at the end of Star Trek Day – ironic, perhaps, considering the rushed way Season 1 also ended!
We’ll get to the trailer in a moment, but it was great to see that Picard Season 3 has been officially confirmed. We knew this was coming – Season 3 is already in production, and filming has already begun. But to get an official confirmation was good, and it drew a huge cheer from the audience. There’s clearly a big appetite for more Picard!
Onward, then, to the trailer. This is one that I’ll have to return to for a more detailed breakdown in the days ahead, but for now here are my summarised thoughts.
A return to the 21st Century is not what I would have chosen. Time travel isn’t my favourite Star Trek storyline, and in particular time travel stories which return to the modern day can feel awfully dated very quickly. Look, for example, at Voyager’s two-parter Future’s End, or Star Trek IV as examples of that. Star Trek feels like the future – one of the reasons I love it so much – and when it comes back to the modern day I think it risks losing something significant. It’s possible that only a small part of the story will be set in the modern day, but even so I wasn’t exactly wild about this story element, unfortunately.
We knew from the earlier trailer that there has been some kind of change or damage to the timeline. It now seems as though Q may be more directly involved, as Picard blamed him for breaking the timeline. Whatever the change was, it seems to be centred in our own 21st Century (though it could be anywhere from 2020-2040, I guess) and resulted not in the creation of the Federation but a “totalitarian state” by the 24th Century. I don’t believe that this is the Mirror Universe that we’re familiar with, but rather a change to the Prime Timeline itself – perhaps caused by Q, but earlier comments seemed to suggest that Q wasn’t to blame, so watch this space.
In voiceover we heard Laris questioning Picard’s motivation for wanting to join Starfleet or leave Earth, something we’d seen him talk about in episodes like Family and again in Generations. She seemed to question whether he’s “running” from something in his past – could it be some darker impulse or perhaps a family secret that’s connected in some way to the creation of the totalitarian state? Could it be, as I suggested recenly, tied into World War III?
One of the things I was most curious about was the role of the Borg Queen, whose return had been signalled a few days ago via a casting announcement. It seems as though Picard has access to the incarcerated remains of a Borg Queen – somehow – and that she may be vital to allowing the crew of La Sirena to travel through time. Rather than the Borg themselves playing a role in the story, then, this may be a battle involving Picard and Seven – victims of assimilation – and a captured, damaged Borg Queen.
There’s a lot more to break down from the Picard trailer, and in the days ahead I’ll put together my thoughts in more detail – as well as perhaps fleshing out a theory or two. For now, I think what I want to say is that I have mixed feelings. The big drawback I can see is the modern-day setting for part of the show. I hope I’m proven wrong, but to me Star Trek has never been at its best with these kinds of stories, and I’m concerned that it’ll stray from being a Star Trek show into something… else.
On the other hand, there are many positives. The return of Laris, who seems to have an expanded role compared to where she was in Season 1. Q’s mysterious time-bending role, too. Is he the villain of the piece, or is his latest “trial” something that he believes will help Picard and humanity? What role will he play – ally, adversary, or something in between? The “totalitarian state” definitely channelled some elements of the Mirror Universe, but also seems to have put its own spin on this concept, taking it to different thematic places. I’d be curious to see what role the Picard of this timeline has in the government of the totalitarian state.
So that’s all I have to say for now. In the days ahead I’ll take a closer look at the Picard trailer, as well as talk about other things we learned at Star Trek Day.
Although it was a late night and a long broadcast, I had a good time with Star Trek Day overall. There were some moments that didn’t work well, some unprepared interviewees and some segments that dragged on too long, but on the whole it was a fun and incredibly positive celebration of Star Trek. I came to the broadcast hoping to see more from upcoming shows, but I was blown away just as much by the celebration of Star Trek’s past as I was by the look ahead.
The hosts, presenters, and most of the speakers and guests showed off their passion and love for Star Trek in a very positive way. There was a lot of talk about returning the franchise to its roots, celebrating the legacy of Gene Roddenberry and his original vision for Star Trek and what made it so appealing to people of all ages across multiple generations. As we look ahead to Star Trek’s future in 2021, 2022, and beyond, taking these moments to look back at what got Star Trek to where it is today was fantastic, and well worth taking the time to see. Above all, Star Trek Day shone with passion and positivity, and that’s just what the franchise needed as it marked its fifty-fifth birthday. Here’s to the next fifty-five years of Star Trek!
Star Trek Day was broadcast online and on Paramount+ on the 8th of September 2021 (9th of September 2021 in the UK). At time of writing the event can be re-watched on the official Star Trek website; panels and trailers are supposed to be available via Star Trek and Paramount+ official YouTube channels. Clips may also be available via official social media pages and channels. The Star Trek franchise – including all properties and series 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.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for upcoming Star Trek productions, including: Star Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Prodigy, and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.
Just a short one today! Star Trek Day is coming up in a couple of days’ time, and we’re promised news and discussion of all things Trek straight from the horse’s mouth! Why is September the 8th designated as “Star Trek Day?” Good question, and here’s the answer: it was on that day in 1966 that The Man Trap premiered, kicking off Star Trek: The Original Series Season 1 and laying the groundwork for a franchise that’s still going strong today.
As an aside, last year I wrote a piece looking at the villainous creature at the heart of The Man Trap’s story, and you can find that article by clicking or tapping here. Worth a read at this time of year – if I do say so myself!
As much as Star Trek Day is an opportunity to look back at the franchise’s fifty-five years of history, this digital event hosted by Wil Wheaton and Mica Burton is also an excuse to look ahead to some of the Star Trek projects that are coming up over the next few months and years. There will undoubtedly be some news – and keep your fingers crossed because it’s even possible that we could get a big, unexpected announcement!
I’ve got a few ideas for what might be coming our way when Star Trek Day kicks off. Please keep in mind, as always, that I don’t have any “sources” nor any “insider information.” This is just a little educated guesswork – and a reminder, in case you’d forgotten, that Star Trek Day is imminent! All of the panels will be available to watch online on the official Star Trek website, so be sure to check in on the 8th to see what they have to say. Or just come back here a day or so later because I daresay I’ll summarise what I consider to be the most important points!
Let’s jump into the list!
Number 1: Official confirmation of Star Trek: Picard Season 3.
This one is a bit of a cheat, as we’ve already heard from a number of reliable sources that Season 3 was in development alongside Season 2, and the two seasons are being filmed back-to-back. In fact, it seems as though some Season 3 scenes may have already been filmed – but that’s not confirmed at this stage.
What’s also unconfirmed, at least from ViacomCBS and Star Trek officially, is the existence of Season 3 at all. Though in the past we’ve seen the company wait until a season is almost being broadcast to confirm that the next one is in development, on this occasion it would make sense to announce Picard Season 3 way ahead of time. It’s already an open secret, so why not? It seems like a great way to drum up even more excitement!
Number 2: A trailer for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.
Since Strange New Worlds introduced us to five members of its main cast in mid-March, there really hasn’t been a lot of news about the series. We heard last month that production was drawing down on Season 1, only to later learn that some scenes outside of Toronto (where the show is based) were still being worked on. If it’s true that the season is finished, though, the time could be right for a trailer!
Along with Picard Season 2, Strange New Worlds has to be the series that I’m most curious about. Not only will it be fantastic to welcome back Anson Mount as Captain Pike, but the semi-episodic format that has been suggested feels like it could really be the best of both worlds – a return to Star Trek’s past without entirely stepping away from the modern feel of recent productions.
There is a Strange New Worlds panel that will be taking place during Star Trek Day, and a trailer would be a great way to wrap it up!
Number 3: A premiere date for Star Trek: Discovery Season 4.
At time of writing, all we know about Discovery’s impending fourth season is that it’s due before the end of the year. Maybe that’ll change and we’ll see the show fall back to early 2022, or maybe Discovery is still on track for a broadcast kicking off in mid-October after Lower Decks Season 2 has concluded. (That was what happened last year.)
Either way, I think Star Trek Day would be a great opportunity for ViacomCBS to drop the date of the new season’s premiere with a lot of attention on the franchise.
Number 4: A teaser trailer for Star Trek: Picard Season 2 featuring the Borg.
Soon we’re going to talk and theorise about the Borg in Picard Season 2. If you missed this, there’s been a casting announcement for the upcoming second season that caught me off-guard: the Borg Queen is returning! Not only that, but she may appear in as many as six of the season’s ten episodes, indicating that the Borg may play a significant role in the story.
It’s been more than eighteen years since the last Star Trek story featuring the Borg: Enterprise’s second-season episode Regeneration. After such a long time it’ll be fantastic to bring the faction back into play in a big way – assuming that’s even the plan! For all we know the Borg Queen may play an altogether different role in flashbacks or in an alternate timeline!
Regardless, following this casting announcement I’d think ViacomCBS would want to tease something about the Borg – without giving away too many potential spoilers.
Number 5: A second trailer for Star Trek: Discovery Season 4.
We got our first look at Season 4 of Discovery back in April, where a trailer showed Captain Burnham and the crew facing down a “gravitational anomaly” – whatever that could be! With the season coming up before the end of the year – all being well, that is – it would be a good time for a second trailer to get fans excited.
It can be hard to get the balance right when it comes to producing a trailer for a brand-new season, especially when a series has a mystery at its core like Discovery does. Show too little and it’ll be hard for fans and prospective viewers to get excited, but show too much and you risk spoiling major plotlines. Cutting the perfect trailer under such circumstances is a real skill!
Number 6: A release date for Star Trek: Prodigy.
I’ve all but given up on Prodigy getting an international broadcast when it premieres this autumn – at least outside of countries and territories where Paramount+ already exists. Though the series has been co-developed alongside Nickelodeon, it seems as though ViacomCBS is intent on keeping the show exclusively on its streaming service, so it seems unlikely to arrive here in the UK until Paramount+ does some time next year.
For everyone who’s lucky enough to live somewhere with Paramount+ already, though, keep an eye out for a release date for Prodigy. Earlier in the year the series was officially announced for “Fall 2021” – and the beginning of September basically marks the start of autumn, as I recently noted! So we could see Prodigy literally any time from now until the end of November, and I think the Prodigy panel at Star Trek Day would be a great place to announce the specific date.
Number 7: A big, surprising announcement!
What could it be? Is the untitled Section 31 series finally on the verge of entering production? Has ViacomCBS backed down after years of being pestered by Michael Dorn and decided to greenlight a Captain Worf series after all? What about the live-action series that Alex Kurtzman had previously said was in development – could we finally learn more about that?
Though I don’t think we should get too excited about this one, there’s always the possibility for a surprise announcement of some kind. One thing we know for certain is that more Star Trek is in development – so it’s not impossible to think we could see something announced this week.
So that’s it!
Star Trek Day will be upon us before you know it, so stay tuned here on the website for coverage and analysis of any major announcements, as well as for a review/roundup of the event itself. I’m looking forward to Star Trek Day very much; it’ll be a great excuse to geek out for hours on end!
I hope this list of predictions has got you suitably excited for the main event!
Star Trek Day panels will be available to watch on Paramount+ and on the official Star Trek website on the 8th of September 2021. The Star Trek franchise – including all properties and titles 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.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.
The Star Trek franchise has an aesthetic all its own, and a big part of that is the way starships are designed. Many Trekkies have said over the years that a ship is like an extra member of the cast; a vital part of any Star Trek series or film. While there have been some visual misses, of course, for the most part Star Trek’s ships have been fantastic to look at.
Aesthetics are always going to be a matter of personal taste, and there are many factors at play in considering what makes for a “good-looking” starship. Because the ships and most of their technologies are wholly fictional, designers and artists have a fair amount of leeway when it comes to designing a new starship. Technobabble can always be employed to explain away inconsistencies – like how the USS Defiant’s warp nacelles work, for example.
Over more than half a century, Star Trek has featured many different designs of starship. Many of these, even the newest ones, take inspiration from the original USS Enterprise, which was designed by Matt Jeffries (with some input from others, including Gene Roddenberry) for The Cage in 1964. The basic saucer section, drive section, plus two nacelles on pylons style has been present in most Federation ships – and, in some form, all of the “hero” ships – ever since.
On this list I’m going to pull out ten of my favourite designs of both Federation and non-Federation starships. The list is by no means exhaustive, and it may be a topic I revisit in future as I can already think of several more I could have easily included! As indicated, this whole thing is entirely subjective. So without further ado, let’s jump into the list – which is in no particular order.
Number 1: The Klingon Bird-of-Prey
The Bird-of-Prey is absolutely iconic as a Klingon vessel, at least on par with the D-7 battlecruiser from The Original Series. The vessel debuted in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, before going on to appear in four more films, all of the 24th Century shows, and even recently in Lower Decks. Few non-Starfleet ships are as iconic or recognisable, and even many non-fans would easily identify the design.
In cinema, the Bird-of-Prey has had starring roles in five films, making it one of the most well-known enemy or villainous ships. Iconic adversaries like General Chang and Dr Soran used Klingon Birds-of-Prey in their nefarious schemes. But as Klingon-Federation relations improved in The Next Generation, we began to see the iconic vessel as an ally; a workhorse of the Klingon fleet. By the time of the Dominion War in Deep Space Nine we were rooting for the Klingon-Federation alliance, and some of the ships most often seen on the front lines were these wonderful Klingon ships.
Based loosely on the earlier Romulan Bird-of-Prey, the winged design captures the warrior philosophy of the Klingons perfectly. The small ship is incredibly powerful, armed to the teeth with disruptor cannons and photon torpedoes. The way the wings change position for combat or while at warp is clever, too, and the green colour scheme makes the craft stand out when compared to Federation ships.
Number 2: The Excelsior Class
Another starship that would be a workhorse for decades, the Excelsior is a really neat, futuristic design. It manages to look smarter and newer than the Constitution class that it would eventually replace, yet at the same time is clearly manufactured by the same organisation. It retains the saucer, drive section, and nacelles on pylons of older Federation ships, but switches up the design too. The ship is flatter, with a shorter “neck,” and has nacelle pylons that are shorter and have a ninety-degree bend instead of coming out of the drive section on a diagonal.
The Excelsior class also debuted in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock – the film succeeded at introducing us to two of the most iconic designs in the franchise! Though we’ve never seen a show or film set entirely aboard an Excelsior class starship, Excelsiors have been featured in five films and all three of the 24th Century shows.
By the 24th Century the Excelsior class was still in use, and while it had taken a back seat to the likes of the Galaxy class and other newer ships, many Excelsior class vessels were still in service in a variety of roles. Some would even see action in the Dominion War, meaning that the Excelsior class was still being deployed almost a century after its inception. That must be one solid ship!
Number 3: The Runabout
I adore the Runabouts that debuted in Deep Space Nine. They remind me of camper vans (or RVs) in terms of size and design, incorporating most of the mod-cons a 24th Century Starfleet officer might expect – just in a much more compact vessel. If I could pick any starship for myself (and the cats) to have for cruising around the galaxy, I’d definitely pick a Runabout.
When Deep Space Nine was being developed, there was a sense that setting a series on a static space station might be too far removed from Star Trek’s past, and thus there was a need to give Commander Sisko and the crew something to keep them mobile. From an in-universe perspective, too, the station needed to have some way for the crew to leave in an emergency – or just to make routine visits to nearby planets. Hence the Runabout was born – larger than a shuttlecraft but smaller than any starship we’d seen before.
These cute mini-starships each have their own name and registration, but from what’s shown on screen they seem to be assigned to bases and starships as auxiliary craft rather than being fully-independent vessels in their own right. Despite that, Runabouts are depicted as highly capable, versatile vessels. Early exploration missions into the Gamma Quadrant often utilised Runabouts based at DS9, and the ships were more than capable of surveying planets and charting star systems.
Number 4: The Constitution Class (original configuration)
The original Constitution class has to make any Trekkie’s list of great starship designs, right? Though it may feel dated in some respects, this is the source from which basically all of the other designs on this list were created. Federation starships are pretty much all designed with the Constitution in mind – the saucer, drive section, and nacelles design is emblematic of Starfleet, and thus of Star Trek. Even non-Federation ships are designed to stand in opposition to the Constitution (and the ships derived from it) so it’s undeniably the most significant and important starship design in the franchise.
The original design was simple, mid-60s futurism at its finest. The saucer is a design that had been synonymous with spaceships for decades thanks to myths of UFOs and flying saucers, so the decision to incorporate that kind of design was genius. The ship’s engines with their glowing tips became inseparable from warp speed and faster-than-light travel. And of course the deflector dish was reminiscent of satellite dishes – a new technology at the time.
Most importantly, this is where Star Trek began. The Constitution class USS Enterprise kicked off the franchise and became one of the most iconic sights in all of science fiction. Even today it’s instantly recognisable, even to folks who don’t watch Star Trek or know anything about the franchise.
Number 5: The Constitution Class (refit configuration)
As much as I love the original Constitution class, I think I like the refit even more. The refit Constitution class is the subject of one of my favourite sequences in all of Star Trek – where Admiral Kirk and Scotty approach the newly-refitted Enterprise when it’s still in drydock in The Motion Picture. That sequence is so beautiful (and with an amazing musical score to boot), showing off the starship in all its glory.
If the original configuration of the Constitution class had design features emblematic of its 1960s space race origins, the refit is much more “up-to-date,” replacing the satellite dish-style deflector with a glowing light, toning down the grey colour, and generally adding more lights and more features that make it an icon of the ’80s. In fact, I’d argue that many ’80s and ’80s-inspired sci-fi ships can trace some part of their design back to the refit Constitution class.
At the same time, though, the refit doesn’t completely abandon what made the original starship so iconic. The saucer section, drive section, nacelles, and pylons are all still present. The domed bridge is still there at the top of the ship, and even though a lot as been changed, it’s still clear that this is supposed to be an updated design, not a wholly new one.
Number 6: The Galor Class Warship
The Cardassians – and their Galor class warships – debuted in The Wounded, a fourth-season episode of The Next Generation which, in many ways, began to lay the groundwork for Deep Space Nine. And it was in the latter show that the Galor class would be seen most often; a vehicle for the villainous Cardassians.
Its design is, in some respects, a blend of Starfleet and non-Federation ships. The semi-circular “mini saucer” that juts out at the front, as well as the deflector array it sits atop, kind of resemble Starfleet designs, but the wings and elongated “tail” – as well as the yellow colour scheme – make it clear that this is definitely not a Federation starship!
The Galor class would be seen as the mainstay of the Cardassian fleet, serving in combat roles before and during the Dominion War. Some engagements during the Dominion War would see dozens – perhaps hundreds – of Galor class vessels deployed alongside their Dominion and Breen allies, and they could look incredibly intimidating en masse. Seeing Galor class ships open fire on the Breen and Dominion indicated that the Cardassians had switched sides during the war’s closing hours, and that sequence is absolutely outstanding; one of the best space battles in the entire franchise.
Number 7: The USS Pasteur
Unlike the ships mentioned above, the USS Pasteur was only seen in one episode – All Good Things, the season finale of The Next Generation. Despite its limited screen time, however, I like the design. Its spherical “saucer” section is distinctive, and gives it a look all its own. The spherical design was based on an unused concept Matt Jeffries had for the original USS Enterprise during early development on The Original Series, which is a cool little fact!
As I’ve said before, I really like the concept of a hospital ship in Star Trek. I’d be quite happy to see a “Star Trek-meets-ER” series one day, and such a series would surely make use of a ship like the USS Pasteur. Modern navies have hospital ships, so it stands to reason that Starfleet would too, and the USS Pasteur was our first up-close look at such a support vessel.
A Pasteur-type ship was seen in Season 1 of Lower Decks (albeit in a flashback) so the design isn’t dead. Perhaps one day we’ll see more of these ships and get to know a little more about them. Regardless, I love the design.
Number 8: The Borg Cube
Few adversaries in Star Trek are as genuinely frightening as the Borg – for reasons that I discussed in my essay on the faction. An intimidating villain needs an intimidating starship, and the Borg cube delivers. There’s something frighteningly mechanical about a plain cube. There are no engines, no obvious bridge or command centre… everything about the vessel from all sides looks the same.
The Borg’s hive mind sees them operate as one entity, and their ships are part of that. The “philosophy” of the Borg – for want of a better term – is perfectly expressed in the design of their most commonly-seen starship. Every part of the ship is the same, just as every Borg drone is the same.
When we first see a Borg cube in Q Who, the sheer scale of the ship is impressive, too. The Borg vessel dwarfs the Enterprise-D, and then its powerful weapons and tractor beam overcome the Galaxy class ship’s defences with ease. Even though we’ve seen Borg cubes defeated in subsequent stories, remembering that a single vessel was able to destroy 39 Federation ships and almost succeed at assimilating Earth reminds us that these ships are incredibly powerful. Even by the time of First Contact, defeating a single Borg cube was a tall order for Starfleet.
Number 9: La Sirena
Captained by Chris Rios and chartered by Admiral Picard, La Sirena made its debut in Star Trek: Picard Season 1. Everything I said about the Runabout feeling like a fun-sized ship could also apply to La Sirena, but the visual style makes it distinctive. La Sirena is basically a Runabout mixed with a hot rod!
The red and white colour scheme suits the ship perfectly, and there are even echoes of Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon in La Sirena’s design and concept. It’s the perfect vessel for Picard; small enough to be run by a skeleton crew (plus holograms!) but large enough not to feel cramped. It’s definitely not Starfleet, but there are Federation design elements present throughout.
Star Trek hasn’t really had many opportunities to showcase civilian starships, so La Sirena represents a look at a completely different side of the Star Trek galaxy, one we haven’t seen before. Though the franchise keeps these things deliberately vague, there must be a great deal of interstellar traffic, including transporting passengers and cargo. People like Captain Rios – and also others like Kassidy Yates – show us a glimpse of that world.
Number 10: The Sovereign Class
Perhaps it’s because Nemesis was the furthest forward the Star Trek timeline had got for almost twenty years, but to me the Soverign class has always seemed like one of Star Trek’s most modern and futuristic starships. The design represents a complete overhaul from the previous Galaxy class, flattening the “neck” of the ship again so the elongated saucer is almost contiguous with the drive section.
It’s a shame that the Sovereign class Enterprise-E only had the opportunity to make three appearances, as I would have dearly liked to see more of it in action. In some ways it has more of a militarised feel than the Galaxy, especially in terms of its interior, and perhaps we can say that’s a response to Starfleet taking on board threats from the Borg and Dominion during the design process.
The most iconic Sovereign class moment for me is the Enterprise-E’s arrival at the Battle of Sector 001. Swooping in to take on the Borg cube when the Starfleet armada was falling apart – accompanied by another beautiful piece of music – is one of the best moments in First Contact!
So that’s it! Ten great Star Trek starship designs.
There were many other ships I could’ve picked for this list, so stay tuned for “part two” in future! The Star Trek franchise has some great starships, and by keeping a relatively consistent aesthetic – generally speaking – has carved out a niche within sci-fi. Star Trek’s starships are almost always distinctive, and seldom feel like they could easily be part of some other film or franchise.
Everybody has their own favourites, though! There are some starships that we see often, either because they’re a “hero” ship or because they’re a frequently-used secondary design, and some of these have become iconic and emblematic of the whole Star Trek franchise. Other ships only make a handful of appearances, yet still manage to leave a lasting impression.
The Star Trek franchise – including all 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.
I don’t really see my website as a news source for everything going on in the Star Trek galaxy! From time to time I have jumped in to comment on a big news story – the announcements of Strange New Worlds and Star Trek 2023, for example. But when small pieces of news crop up I’m usually content to let other sites and social media outlets pick them up; there’s not a lot to be gained by me repeating a one-line news item that’s already floating around the Star Trek fan community!
In the last few weeks, however, there have been several of these smaller news stories, so I decided to compile the ones I think are most interesting into a short list – just in case any of these managed to pass you by. We’ll be talking about upcoming Star Trek productions, so if you want to avoid any chance of spoilers, now’s your chance to jump ship!
This might be an occasional series that I run here on the website, but there are definitely better places to go if you want to get the latest Star Trek news right when it’s breaking!
So without further ado, let’s take a look at a selection of news items that have come up over the last few weeks.
Number 1:Strange New Worlds is practically finished with filming on Season 1.
We have Anson Mount to thank for this one! Mount – who plays Captain Pike in Discovery Season 2 and the upcoming Strange New Worlds – posted on social media that filming is underway on the Season 1 finale. Assuming that the season was filmed in order, and that there aren’t many re-shoots or secondary shoots still to come – this means that the filming stage of production is almost over.
There will be a lot of post-production work to do between now and the series premiere next year, and the fact we haven’t seen anything official yet – no still images, no teaser, no trailer – suggests to me that very little post-production work has been done yet. With Discovery Season 4 coming up before the end of this year, I think the post-production team must be prioritising that series. However, with filming almost over that means Strange New Worlds has completed a big part of its production! The show looks set to be on track for a broadcast in the first half of next year.
Number 2:Star Trek 2023 gains a director and writer – and it’s not who you might’ve been expecting!
Shortly before the announcement of Star Trek 2023 back in April, we got the news that Kalinda Vazquez – who had written the Short Treks episode Ask Not and the Discovery Season 3 episode Terra Firma, Part II, as well as having been a producer during Discovery’s third season – had been tapped by Paramount Pictures to write a brand-new Star Trek film. Barely a month later came the announcement of Star Trek 2023, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who put two and two together!
However, along with the announcement that Star Trek 2023 will be directed by WandaVision’s Matt Shakman, we also learned that the script has been written by Geneva Robertson-Dworet, who previously wrote Tomb Raider and Captain Marvel, along with Lindsey Beer, who doesn’t have many credits to her name thus far.
Does this mean that the Kalinda Vazquez project isn’t happening? Or is it now significantly less likely? Some outlets are staying positive, assuming that “no news is good news,” and that with no announcement that the Vazquez film isn’t happening that it must still be going ahead. Does that mean two Star Trek films are potentially in the works?
I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Number 3: There was a very small teaser for Lower Decks Season 2.
To mark one month to go until Lower Decks Season 2 premieres, we got a new very short teaser that Star Trek put out on social media. Unlike the trailer which we got for First Contact Day in April, this second teaser was far shorter and only showed off one part of one scene.
However, there are two points of note. The first is that this is the first time we’ve seen Boimler and Mariner together since Boimler’s reassignment in the Season 1 finale. It was cute to see them back together, as they came to work quite well as a duo across the show’s first season. But perhaps the most significant point is that Boimler appears to be wearing an ensign’s rank on his uniform.
I have several theories regarding Boimler’s possible route back to the USS Cerritos, and you can check them out by clicking or tapping here. Though it does seem inevitable that Boimler will be back with the other ensigns, this is the first confirmation we’ve had that it will be through some kind of demotion – assuming that this isn’t a dream or a flashback or something!
Number 4: Whoopi Goldberg made an appearance on the official Roddenberry Facebook page.
Sir Patrick Stewart made headlines in 2020 when he invited Whoopi Goldberg to reprise her role of Guinan in Season 2 of Star Trek: Picard. But since that moment on The View – the daytime television show Goldberg co-hosts – there hasn’t been any mention of Guinan in Picard. Two teaser trailers have come and gone without her, too.
So it was interesting to see Whoopi Goldberg appear reading one of the “Roddenberry daily quotes” – a series that I believe is being run by the official Roddenberry Facebook page. At least this confirms she has some involvement with Star Trek!
Goldberg recently appeared in The Stand – a miniseries which premiered last December on CBS All Access. I have no reason to doubt that she would do Picard Season 2 if she could – but the lack of information about her return to the role of Guinan could mean the story of the season has moved in a different direction since Sir Patrick Stewart’s invitation.
Number 5:Star Trek 2023 is rumoured to bring back the Kelvin timeline.
The official announcement from Star Trek and Paramount did not confirm this, but some outlets have been picking up on a rumour that Star Trek 2023 is going to bring back Chris Pine and the rest of the Kelvin timeline cast. I’ve debated the pros and cons of a Kelvin sequel in the past, and with Star Trek’s return to the Prime Timeline I’m not convinced that another Kelvin project is the right way to go.
This is just a rumour, though, and there are myriad possibilities for Star Trek 2023 and what it could be. Star Trek Beyond did clearly tease a sequel back in 2016, and there have been several proposals in the last few years that never got off the ground. Is now the right moment to bring back the Kelvin timeline?
Number 6: 4K versions of The Motion Picture, The Wrath of Khan, The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home are in the works!
A new 4K Blu-ray box set has been announced, and the first four films starring The Original Series’ cast are being remastered. Why not all six, including The Final Frontier and The Undiscovered Country? Because that’s ViacomCBS logic, I guess. Perhaps they plan to sell the final two later as a two-part set, and then make another six-film set, pushing collectors to buy more and more versions of these films!
Considering the significant investment ViacomCBS has made in its streaming platform, I’m surprised to see them putting together a 4K Blu-ray box set. I can count on one hand the number of folks I know with a 4K Blu-ray player, and with streaming continuing to grow as a significant force in home entertainment, there’s something decidedly antiquated about any optical media in 2021.
Hopefully the remastered versions of the films will make it to Paramount+ after their launch on 4K Blu-ray! And maybe this means ViacomCBS will be willing to take another look at some other Star Trek projects in dire need of a trip to the remastering suite?
Number 7: ViacomCBS corporate news.
As Trekkies we need to pay attention to the business side of Star Trek on occasion. There are two stories out of the corporate side of ViacomCBS that I think could be potentially important to Star Trek’s future, and both have come up in the last few weeks.
Julie McNamara had been the head of programming for CBS All Access during the development of Star Trek: Discovery, as well as briefly the head of programming for Paramount+ when the service was re-launched. She’d been involved with CBS for a number of years, and was a strong behind-the-scenes force in bringing Star Trek back to the small screen.
The departure of an executive who was seemingly pro-Star Trek should not be taken lightly, and the franchise has suffered in the past due to corporate leaders who weren’t on board with the kind of stories Star Trek aims to tell. Hopefully her replacement will be as keen on continuing Star Trek as she was, but I’m at least a little concerned about this change in leadership.
Secondly, there’s a rumour flitting around the business world that ViacomCBS and Comcast are seeking a merger. Comcast owns – among many others – American network NBC, the SyFy channel, the Peacock streaming service, DreamWorks Animation, and Universal Pictures. Comcast is reportedly the third-largest media company on the planet.
Whether such a merger would survive government oversight is a legitimate question, but one better-suited to corporate lawyers! From my point of view as a Trekkie, the concern I have with this kind of merger is that Star Trek’s importance would be reduced. Paramount+ expanded the streaming lineup already, yet the Star Trek franchise remains a significant part of Paramount+’s new content. However, if Comcast and ViacomCBS were to merge, the new company would have access to hundreds of new brands, shows, and films. The Star Trek franchise would suddenly find itself in a position of being far less important, and that could have consequences for future productions.
I don’t believe either of these news stories are reason to hit the panic button. But as a Trekkie, I’m invested in Star Trek’s ongoing success. Star Trek continuing to be a successful franchise means its parent company – whoever that ultimately ends up being – will continue to invest in the brand and produce more films and shows.
Number 8:To The Journey – the Star Trek: Voyager documentary – has officially entered production.
Following a successful crowdfunding campaign, To The Journey has entered production with filming kicking off in Los Angeles. What We Left Behind, the Deep Space Nine documentary produced by the same team in 2018, was truly interesting, and I have no doubt that To The Journey will be a riveting watch as well.
Production is going to be slow, according to director David Zappone, with filming expected to continue well into the new year. When To The Journey is ready, I plan to write a full review, so be sure to check back!
Number 9: Playmates is going to produce a new line of Star Trek toys!
I have a rather modest Star Trek collection, but some of my favourite pieces are toys from the ’90s by Playmates. The brand became synonymous with Star Trek for much of the decade, producing action figures, dolls, vehicles, playsets, and prop replicas, and the company recently announced that they’ll be stepping back into the Star Trek franchise.
The teaser image shown off along with the announcement looks like it includes action figures or dolls of the following characters: Data, Michael Burnham, Admiral Picard, Captain Pike, Saru, and Discovery-era Spock. That’s unlikely to be the extent of it, though!
The Star Trek franchise has been very poor in recent years when it comes to merchandise. Not only has there been a lack of things like action figures and prop replicas, but some of the products that have been created under the Star Trek license are just plain weird. I mean, does anyone want a Star Trek faction flag made by a company that usually makes flags for sailing ships? Which moron came up with that idea?
Regardless, it’s great to see ViacomCBS signing a contract with a proper toy manufacturer. I have some amazing Playmates figures in my collection – including Dr Pulaski and Morn! Hopefully this is the first step to many more Star Trek collectibles hitting the market.
So that’s it!
This has been your (very unofficial) Star Trek news roundup! As mentioned above, I wouldn’t have necessarily written a full article about any of these, but the fact that several potentially interesting pieces of news came along in a relatively short span of time meant that I was quite happy to cobble them together into a nice list.
If this kind of situation occurs in future I may do the same thing. Otherwise, I hope you’ll stay tuned for much more Star Trek content to come! We’re less than a month away from the premiere of Lower Decks Season 2, and I’ll be aiming to review each new episode as they’re broadcast.
Until next time!
The Star Trek franchise – including all titles and 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.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1 and the trailers for Season 2. Spoilers are also present for the following: Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Discovery Season 2.
Star Trek’s internal timeline gets a little inconsistent when it comes to the late 20th and early 21st Centuries. If we take a “canon purist” approach, we have to say that the Star Trek timeline diverged from our own around the 1960s, with events like Khan ruling a large portion of the world taking place in the ’80s or early ’90s, before the Eugenics Wars saw him defeated. Obviously that doesn’t line up with stories like Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, the Voyager two-part episode Future’s End, or even Enterprise’s Carpenter Street, all of which depicted the modern world unchanged by those events.
The Third World War is a part of Star Trek’s internal timeline that was first introduced in The Next Generation’s premiere episode, Encounter at Farpoint. Episodes of The Original Series had talked about the Eugenics Wars and other conflicts on Earth, but Gene Roddenberry had been keen to avoid mention of World War III during the show’s run in the 1960s. Some episodes, such as Season 2’s The Doomsday Machine, actively went out of their way to say that such a conflict had never happened on Earth – an apparent contradiction to what would come later.
It was the film First Contact that elaborated on some of the ideas first posited in Encounter at Farpoint and thus gave us a better look at Earth in this era. Though we knew that nuclear attacks were part of the conflict, it was First Contact that first showed that some of these attacks had impacted North America, and that the conflict was fought between the United States and her allies on one side and the so-called “Eastern Coalition” on the other. Some of these moments would be shown or explored further in Enterprise’s fourth season, and most recently World War III has appeared in Discovery’s second season.
Although the Third World War has been an integral part of Star Trek’s fictional history for more than thirty years, that’s about the extent of what we know. There was a major conflict which occurred in the first half of the 21st Century, it killed hundreds of millions, there was a limited exchange of nuclear weapons (i.e. the planet wasn’t completely destroyed), and it took Earth a generation to recover – with more than a little help from the Vulcans. But this article isn’t just a history of the conflict within Star Trek’s timeline – because something in the promotional material for Star Trek: Picard Season 2 could suggest a return to this era.
When I took a look at the second Star Trek: Picard Season 2 trailer a couple of weeks ago I also looked at a newly-released poster which appears to show a modern-day city – probably Los Angeles in the United States. If the poster is supposed to represent Los Angeles circa 2021, well the timeline starts to line up for a possible World War III story.
In the real world, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of technological advancements made in wartime. The First World War saw the invention of tanks and the further development of aircraft. The Second World War gave us computers, rockets, and splitting the atom. Even recent conflicts like the Iraq and Afghanistan wars saw incredible developments in medical technology. Taking inspiration from the real world, Star Trek’s World War III is similarly an incredibly important event. The Third World War led directly to the development of warp drive in the 2060s, and thus to first contact with the Vulcans and to humanity becoming an interstellar species. The Federation would not exist without it – at least, not in a form we would recognise.
And that’s at the heart of this theory. In order for everything we know of in Star Trek’s internal history to have come to pass, World War III needed to happen. It was a devastating conflict that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of millions of people, but what emerged from the wreckage was United Earth and ultimately the Federation.
In the first teaser trailer, we heard Picard say in voiceover that “time can turn even our most impulsive, ill-considered actions into history.” He also spoke in a regretful way about “what could have been” and tells us that time does not offer “second chances.” In the second trailer, Q told Picard that he had come to “the very end of the road not taken.” We also saw what appeared to be significant changes to the timeline for Picard, Raffi, Rios, and Seven of Nine, as well as possible changes for Soji as well.
It seemed from the first teaser as though Picard was talking about events in his own past – that teaser also featured prominently a model of the USS Stargazer, from which I derived a few other theories! Picard is someone who we know cares about history a great deal and has studied it in depth, but nothing from the first teaser gave me the impression that he was talking about anything outside of his own personal experience. Whatever he was lamenting or regretting seemed to be within his own past – not an event from centuries earlier to which he had no significant emotional connection.
Although Picard did spend several days in the 21st Century, shortly after the end of World War III, he doesn’t exactly have a strong tie to the war or even to that time period, certainly not enough to have any motivation to change or undo events in that era. Picard is as far removed from the events of World War III in the 24th Century as we are from the events of the early 1700s – and I can’t imagine anyone nowadays would feel strongly about the Jacobite Rising or the War of the Spanish Succession. Those events – and many others – are just too far in the past to be something we care about, even if the impact is still felt today in some respects.
So I’m not suggesting that Picard would deliberately seek to prevent World War III – even if he found himself able to do so, somehow. But the second trailer showed off some pretty significant changes to the timeline, and combined with a poster that appears to be teasing a contemporary setting, the possibility of a World War III storyline has come up.
It seems like the story of Picard Season 2 will deal with some kind of alternate timeline – that’s what I infer from Q’s “road not taken” line, as well as the changes to characters like Seven of Nine and Rios. Picard was also heard in voiceover promising his new crew that they can “save the future,” which seems to add to this idea of something going wrong in the past causing things to change.
When we deal with alternate history and alternate timelines, practically every story hinges on a so-called “point of divergence.” This is the moment at which the real timeline and the alternate one separated. In alternate history novels, popular points of divergence include the American Civil War, with a Confederate victory being a common one, as well as World War II, with an Axis victory being similarly used. In Star Trek, a point of divergence between the Prime Timeline – the one which runs from Enterprise to Picard and beyond – could be World War III. What would the timeline look like if it didn’t happen, or happened in a different way?
It could be that the poster is teeing this up. In the background, behind the skyscrapers in the centre of the city, is a glow. That glow could be a sunrise or sunset – it looks like the right colour. But it could also be something far more sinister – the afterglow of a nuclear bomb, perhaps? Maybe that’s a stretch! But it would definitely tie into this World War III theme.
There are still two big questions, even if we assume that this theory is true and that the point of divergence has something to do with World War III. Firstly, what happened to cause the divergence in the first place? In Star Trek, these things don’t just happen naturally! Every change in the timeline that we know of had a cause – the intervention of some nefarious time-traveller. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, why are Picard and the crew of La Sirena seemingly immune to these changes in the timeline? Q’s intervention is a possible explanation for the second point, perhaps, presenting Picard with another time-mystery to solve. But I’m not convinced that’s how the story will go.
All of this leads to an interesting moral conundrum for Picard. If we’re right and, somehow, World War III was prevented and that’s the reason for changes to the timeline, it could fall to Picard and the crew of La Sirena to trigger the worst war in history in order to restore the timeline. How’s that for a horrible decision?! Imagine being told that you had the power to prevent the First World War, and all of the misery and death that resulted from it, but that doing so would make the world worse. Instead, you have to actively choose to cause this horrible conflict in order to preserve the timeline and “save” the future. That could be Picard’s choice in Season 2 if this theory is correct.
Aside from the poster with its seemingly-modern city and some dialogue about time and changing the past, there’s no real evidence for this theory yet! Much of what we saw in the second trailer – which is the only time we’ve seen Picard and the others – may very well suggest that any changes to the timeline take place closer to the 24th Century than the 21st. But it’s interesting to consider the possibilities, especially in light of the Season 2 poster.
To summarise, then, here’s the theory in a couple of sentences: for an as-yet unknown reason, the timeline was changed to prevent World War III. This had major consequences for humanity and the Federation, and the only way to restore the timeline and save the future is to ensure World War III happens – and this is what Picard and the crew of La Sirena will have to do.
It would be quite a dark story if Season 2 goes down this road – or anywhere close to it. But it would be very interesting to see the crew wrangling with these big moral questions and issues. It could lead to quite a lot of drama! Q’s inclusion in the season would make sense, not as the cause of changes to the timeline, but as the figure who steps in to guide Picard in his understanding of those changes. It would also explain the poster, which came completely out of left-field!
Having had two teasers already, with the latest dropping only a couple of weeks ago, it may be some time before we hear anything more out of Star Trek: Picard Season 2. So all we have to go on right now is the poster and the first couple of teaser trailers! It’s not a lot, and there are certainly many different ways to interpret things. In this theory I’ve focused on how the poster could be depicting the 21st Century, but that may not be the case. Changes to the timeline could have caused the 24th Century to become less technological, and the poster could instead depict Los Angeles in the year 2399!
I’m very much looking forward to Picard Season 2, and I’m still hopeful that we’ll eventually see spin-offs and other Star Trek projects set in the same era. If and when we get any more news or another poster or trailer, check back as I’m sure I’ll have more to say!
Star Trek: Picard Season 2 will be broadcast on Paramount+ in the United States (and on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and elsewhere) in 2022. 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.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the Star Trek: Picard Season 2 trailer, as well as for Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager.
Following Q’s appearance in the second Star Trek: Picard Season 2 trailer, I’ve seen some discussion online about Q’s age and appearance. I don’t think this is necessarily a huge topic worth dedicating a lot of time to, but it’s also one that’s potentially interesting, and it gives us an excuse to talk about Picard Season 2, the Q Continuum, and jump into a bit of Star Trek lore, so I thought I’d chime in.
Star Trek: Picard Season 2 is being produced in 2021. John de Lancie first appeared as Q right at the beginning of Season 1 of The Next Generation in the episode Encounter at Farpoint, which was filmed in mid-1987. Over the span of 34 years… he’s got older. Mystery solved!
Obviously there’s more to say than that. From an in-universe point of view, Q “shouldn’t” age – or to put it more accurately, Q doesn’t need to age. The Q as a species are noncorporeal and immortal, meaning that Q doesn’t age in any manner that humans can comprehend. The Q do, however, experience the flow of time, as we learned in the Voyager Season 2 episode Death Wish. That story centred around a member of the Q Continuum who was bored of living having effectively experienced everything in existence. But we’re off-topic.
Though the Q Continuum have a different understanding of time, they do experience the passage of time and thus can, in some way, age, or at least accumulate new memories and gain more knowledge. Part of the reason Q liked to tangle with humans like Picard and Janeway was because he wanted something to do, and presumably hadn’t been able to have those experiences already. Thus the Q don’t exist outside of time or in a non-linear way like the Bajoran Prophets.
All of this isn’t really relevant, though. What matters for this discussion is that Q can assume any form he chooses. He could presumably turn himself into Picard’s doppelganger, a big fat housecat, or a cloud of hot pink gas – he isn’t limited to a single form. He appears “older” in Picard Season 2 because he has chosen to appear older, either to mock Picard, empathise with him, or perhaps even to experience what it’s like to be an older humanoid if that’s an experience he hasn’t yet had.
So case closed, right? From an in-universe point of view, yes. There’s no plot hole nor problem with Q’s story simply because of John de Lancie’s appearance, and anyone trying to make that claim needs a refresher course in how the Q Continuum works! But that isn’t necessarily the end of the affair. There is one point to consider from the production side, and I find it to be an interesting one as it’s something we’re going to see more of in future as technology continues to improve. I’m talking about digital de-ageing and CGI.
The 2019 Netflix film The Irishman won praise (and numerous awards) for the way it made use of digital de-ageing techniques on Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Robert De Niro, transforming them into younger versions of their characters. The use of this technology is not limited to cinema, as it was recently used in Season 2 of The Mandalorian – and no, I won’t spoil it and tell you why if you haven’t seen it yet! This technology, along with other photorealistic CGI technologies that are continually being improved, has the potential to really transform film and television productions, and it’s already possible to see a brand-new film featuring the likeness of a long-dead actor brought back with CGI – like happened with Peter Cushing’s character of Grand Moff Tarkin in the film Rogue One. It’s only a matter of time before the leading role in a new film is a CGI recreation of someone who’s passed away.
It isn’t beyond the realm of technical possibility to de-age John de Lancie for Picard Season 2. It would be an expensive investment, certainly, and one which ViacomCBS may not want to make or may not have the budget for, but technically it would have been possible. And I think this is why we’re seeing this conversation. Fans look to shows like The Mandalorian, which while not a direct competitor certainly exists in a similar space to Picard, and wonder why Star Wars gets to use fancy new technologies while Star Trek doesn’t!
Star Trek has, in the past, pioneered some interesting technologies and filmmaking techniques. The Deep Space Nine Season 5 episode Trials and Tribble-ations brought to television the complicated technique of inserting actors into existing footage – something which had been seen in Forrest Gump only a couple of years earlier. I even noted in my look at Discovery’s Season 1 premiere the way the CGI artists seemed to have incorporated elements from the film Interstellar – which premiered a couple of years earlier – in their portrayal of the binary star system. So Star Trek has a track record at taking cutting-edge filmmaking techniques and bringing them to the franchise.
Perhaps digital de-ageing is still too new and thus too expensive to incorporate into the Star Trek franchise right now, and that’s absolutely fair enough. I don’t want Picard Season 2 to blow its whole special effects budget on a few scenes with Q, not if doing so comes at the expense of other set-pieces later in the story. The Irishman had a budget of over $150 million. Rogue One had a budget of around $200 million – and the CGI Grand Moff Tarkin still wasn’t quite perfect! The Mandalorian was reportedly working with a budget of around $15 million per episode, or $120 million for the second season’s eight episodes. In short, digital de-ageing is expensive and can inflate the budget of any production.
While The Irishman won a lot of praise, and so did The Mandalorian Season 2, in both cases critical opinion wasn’t unanimous on the de-ageing technology, with some arguing that it was a waste of money. Under those circumstances, I can understand why ViacomCBS wouldn’t want to go down the route of blowing literally millions of dollars on this technique for a secondary character. The return on investment simply may not be present.
How many people aren’t going to watch Picard Season 2 because of the way Q looks? I reckon close to zero. And how many additional viewers would the season pick up if it used the de-ageing technology and that became a talking point? That’s also got to be close to zero! People who are excited for Picard Season 2 are going to watch regardless, and those who don’t want to watch, or who dislike modern Star Trek, were always going to stay away. In that sense, these kinds of technologies are expensive luxuries for any production.
Some of the people who’ve been discussing this online are firmly in the anti-Trek camp, and they were never going to watch Picard Season 2 anyway. It’s sad, but some anti-Trek folks will pick up on any small detail and use it to justify their continuous criticism of the franchise. And that’s up to them, I guess. For my two cents, though, I don’t think there was much to be gained by spending a ton of money on de-ageing Q. It would’ve been interesting to see, and it could’ve become a minor talking point for the second season of the show. But other than that, there was a lot of expense for not much reward, and while it may work in other productions with higher budgets, I’d rather ViacomCBS spent their money cautiously so that we can continue to enjoy more Star Trek, rather than less Star Trek laced with expensive trappings.
There’s no in-universe reason why Q shouldn’t appear differently more than twenty years after he was last seen. He can change his appearance at will, and whether it was to make a joke of Picard having gotten older or to, in Q’s twisted way, express empathy with his old friend, the way he looks even makes sense. It could even be a minor story point in the episode in which he first appears. I don’t have a problem with it at all, and I suspect that some of those claiming it’s a “big deal” would have found other things to criticise and other reasons to dislike Picard Season 2 and modern Star Trek. As far as I’m concerned it’s case closed!
Star Trek: Picard Season 2 will be broadcast on Paramount+ in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video internationally in 2022. Season 1 is available to stream now. 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.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1, and both of the trailers for Season 2.
As I logged on to social media yesterday evening, I was surprised to see a new trailer for the upcoming second season of Star Trek: Picard! Season 2 entered production back in February following months of pandemic-enforced delays, and when it came to Star Trek’s big digital event for First Contact Day in April, there wasn’t much to show from the series except for a stylised teaser and a voiceover. Despite that, however, I managed to pull out a handful of theories!
I wasn’t expecting to see anything much from Picard Season 2 for a while. With production rumbling on for the next few months, I had perhaps thought we might get to see something later in the year when either Lower Decks Season 2 or Discovery Season 4 are being broadcast, so it was a nice surprise to get a trailer this early! Season 2 is still probably ten to twelve months away from being broadcast, but this was a nice little tease to get fans in the mood.
In addition to the trailer a new poster was also revealed, and both are interesting and worth talking about. We’ll start with the poster, then move on to the trailer.
Using a similar basic concept to the first teaser poster for Season 1, the new poster uses the environment to form a Starfleet delta emblem. In this case, as you can see above, several roads or highways cross over to form the familiar logo. The city depicted in the poster appears to be Los Angeles – based on the straight concrete-sided river, the mountains in the background, and the downtown skyscrapers surrounded by a sprawl of shorter buildings. I could be wrong, but I’m going to say it’s Los Angeles.
The obvious thing to say is that there are cars on the roads. Though we have seen wheeled vehicles in Star Trek’s 24th Century – Picard drove a dune buggy in Nemesis, for example – Earth in the 24th Century has never been depicted in this manner. The cars look modern, the city looks modern, and I think everything we can see in the poster connects to themes from both the earlier teaser and the new trailer: time travel and changing the past.
The first teaser trailer, the one from First Contact Day, had Picard telling us in a voiceover that “the true final frontier is time.” That trailer had a lot of different imagery connected to Picard’s past, including the USS Stargazer, but one thing I couldn’t quite figure out was the book Paradise Lost. I speculated that the series might be connected in some way to a literal reading of the title – something Picard did or didn’t do in the past caused the future to be worse. That theme seems to be present in the new trailer.
We’re reintroduced to Q in the new trailer, and he uses a very interesting phrase – arguably the most prominent in the whole thing: “welcome to the end of the road not taken.” Combined with what Picard said in the first teaser about wishing to have done things differently in the past, I think we can start to see the building blocks of the Season 2 narrative.
Q’s arrival seems to happen after whatever event damages the timeline. In the trailer, Picard was already in a different outfit with a different Starfleet badge, and it seems as though Laris is missing – could she be a casualty of shifting timelines? Regardless, it was only at this point that Q appeared, seemingly for the first time, and this ties into comments from both Sir Patrick Stewart and John de Lancie that Q will play a role in the storyline of the season but isn’t the cause of these events.
So this isn’t going to be an All Good Things redux, where Q sets Picard a puzzle. If anything, I interpreted Q’s arrival as a friend or even an ally showing up to help – perhaps we’ll see more of a Q-Picard alliance develop over the course of the season. Q certainly seemed happy to see Picard again – though the feeling was clearly not mutual. So maybe, at the very least, that’s how Q sees himself: a friend, a helper, and an ally.
We saw Seven of Nine toward the end of the trailer, and she was featured more prominently than any of the main cast from Season 1. In Seven’s scene, I think we get even more evidence of this shifting or changed timeline, as Seven seems to wake up in an unfamiliar place – without her Borg implant. It’s possible, of course, that her implants had been removed, but as we saw with poor Icheb in Season 1, that’s a painful and often fatal process.
So the logical conclusion for Seven missing her implants is because she was never assimilated by the Borg in this timeline. But why? And what else has been changed? When we talk about alternate history – which is a fascinating genre in itself – almost every story hinges on a so-called “point of divergence.” This is the moment at which the fictional or alternate timeline separated from our own. Star Trek contains examples of this: the Kelvin timeline being the most prominent example, with a point of divergence on the day of Captain Kirk’s birth.
If all we saw was Seven missing her implants, we could say that the point of divergence might be in the 2350s – either she didn’t travel to the Delta Quadrant aboard the USS Raven with her family, or that whole voyage never happened. But there’s so much imagery in the trailer and poster that seems to hint at something more than that.
The 21st Century vehicles on the poster could suggest that Picard and the crew will visit our time period during the course of the series – which may or may not be a good thing, but that’s a whole other article! But their presence could also suggest that whatever event or series of events changed the timeline began in the modern day, with ripples flitting along the timeline, changing all manner of things in their wake.
Picard and Raffi were seen in uniform in the trailer, albeit very briefly. Picard appeared to be giving a speech or making a statement to Starfleet Command, and I wonder in what context he was making that address. I initially thought Picard was wearing his Season 1 flashback uniform in that scene – the one we saw prominently at the start of the episode The End Is The Beginning. But on closer inspection, both he and Raffi are in different uniforms – not the flashback ones, nor the 2399 ones that Riker and Commodore Oh wore. Also, Picard was wearing a 2399-style combadge, not the First Contact–Voyager one that he wore with his Admiral’s uniform in Season 1. So the plot thickens!
It’s possible that this scene is taking place at modern Starfleet, and that there has simply been a tweak to the uniforms since the events of Season 1. Starfleet does love arbitrary uniform changes, after all, and what we saw Picard and others wearing wasn’t so radically different that it couldn’t have been a dress variant, for example. But given everything else going on with Q, Seven of Nine, and potential changes or damage to the timeline, I can’t help but think that this is connected to that.
Perhaps what we’re seeing is an alternate timeline in which Picard and Raffi didn’t resign from Starfleet, and thus in which the Coppelius synths were not saved? That would tie in with Season 1. But at the same time, I’m not sure that’s the route the show is going to follow. There are questions about the Starfleet delta – the silver badges we see Picard and Rios wear are oversized and have a cross or sword shaped indent, which reminds me more than a little of the Mirror Universe. I don’t think we’re going to see a Mirror Universe story, but the symbolism is interesting. What does it mean?
In voiceover, we hear Picard speaking – presumably to the crew of La Sirena – telling them that “we can save the future” and promising to get them home safely. Whatever is going on, the crew of La Sirena are seemingly immune to changes in the timeline – we see Rios react with shock upon discovering his new badge, and Seven similarly stunned by her missing implant. Picard’s voiceover could imply that La Sirena and the crew are themselves stuck in the past – otherwise why use the word “future?”
To me, the big question is this: is Picard the one responsible for disrupting the timeline? If Q isn’t to blame, and Picard and La Sirena appear to be unaffected and right in the middle of this mysterious event, could we learn that Picard is to blame? The first teaser trailer saw him express almost regret at being unable to change the past – desperately wishing that he’d done something differently. Perhaps he found a way to do it, and thus he triggered the changes to the timeline that we see in the new trailer.
That would be an interesting way for the story to go, and it would play on themes we saw early in Season 1 of Picard being a flawed hero; someone who’s only human and who has limits. The return of Q is interesting – perhaps Q will facilitate Picard’s changes to the timeline, but I suspect he’s going to be helpful in fixing things. The use of the phrase “the road not taken” suggests that this is a timeline that could have come to pass had Picard taken different actions at some point in his past. Combined with the previous teaser, I wonder again if this is referring to his time in command of the USS Stargazer?
Though we didn’t see the rest of the cast prominently in the trailer, some of what we glimpsed was interesting. Soji appeared to be all dressed up in a fancy outfit, and the expression on her face reminded me of Sutra. Perhaps she’s putting on an act or trying to deceive someone – something akin to the “heist” in Season 1’s Stardust City Rag, for example. But it could also indicate a darker direction for Soji’s character – or even the return of Sutra.
Raffi and Elnor were glimpsed briefly, seemingly running away from someone or something. The neon lights in the background of their scene could suggest they’re on the planet Freecloud, but I wouldn’t bank on that. I have no idea what Dr Jurati was doing as we only saw a close-up of her face, but something about her outfit suggested to me that she could be in prison. She did murder Dr Maddox in Season 1, after all! We also got a glimpse of Laris, who appeared to be staring in surprise or alarm at something behind the camera. Given that Picard was looking for her unsuccessfully at the beginning of the trailer, I wonder if she’s been killed off, or perhaps even removed from the timeline.
The scene at Starfleet Command, where Picard appeared to be giving a speech, featured the flags of several known factions: the Klingons, Vulcans, Bajorans, and Ferengi were the ones I recognised, along with flags representing the Federation, Starfleet Command, and Starfleet Academy. I don’t think we can infer too much from that – the flags may mean these factions are Federation members or allies, but it could simply mean that they’re present at this event, which could be a diplomatic meeting akin to something we’d see at the G7 or United Nations.
I’m unsure about the other voice heard only in voiceover, the feminine voice saying that “time has been broken.” It sounded a little like Commodore Oh, but I don’t think she would be working with Picard in any timeline! The voice sounds familiar, though… but I can’t place it, nor figure out if it’s someone connected with a past iteration of Star Trek or not. It’s likely that this is a new character, in my opinion.
The absence of Guinan was noteworthy, as we know she will be making an appearance at some point in Season 2. In The Next Generation episode Yesterday’s Enterprise, Guinan showed a unique awareness of changes to the timeline, and considering Season 2 seems to be all about that kind of thing, bringing her back makes a lot of sense. She also has a history with Q that could be explored in more detail given his return.
And with that, I think we’ve come to the end of my analysis and guesswork! It was great fun to see a glimpse of Season 2, which now has a good three months’ worth of filming and production work under its belt. Despite events out here in the real world, production seems to be moving along well, and I have no doubt at the moment that Picard Season 2 will hit its scheduled release next year. I would guesstimate that it will premiere sometime after Discovery’s fourth season and before Strange New Worlds’ first season, so I think within ten to twelve months we’ll be sitting down to watch the first episode of Season 2.
It was wonderful to see John de Lancie back as Q, and to see him tangle with Picard once again. A trailer can only do so much with a runtime of around one minute, but there seemed to be a heavy emphasis on classic characters: Picard obviously, but also Q and Seven of Nine. This came at the expense of the new characters we met in Season 1 who we only got to see very briefly. Hopefully future marketing material can show off those characters a little more.
The mysteries of Season 2 deepen. What’s the connection to the present day? If the city from the poster is Los Angeles, what connection does that have to Picard and Starfleet? As far as I know he’s never been to the city, and no major Starfleet or Federation organisation is based there. The only Star Trek story to have spent any time in Los Angeles was the Voyager two-parter Future’s End, which was before Seven of Nine came aboard the ship. In that episode, the city of Los Angeles was said to have been destroyed by an earthquake in the mid-21st Century.
If time itself has been “broken,” who is responsible? Is it a natural phenomenon? And why are the crew of La Sirena immune? Did Q or Guinan have something to do with the changes to the timeline? And what did Q mean by “the road not taken?” I have a lot of questions… but can only guess as to the answers right now!
Star Trek: Picard Season 2 will be broadcast on Paramount+ in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video internationally in 2022. Season 1 is available to stream now. 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.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3 and the teaser for Season 4, Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 and the teaser for Season 2, and Star Trek: Picard Season 1. Minor spoilers are also present for other iterations of the franchise.
This is going to be a controversial list! Practically every Trekkie I know has their own take on which Starfleet uniforms are the best – and why! Even if we can agree on some of our favourite episodes and films, the aesthetic of Star Trek has always been a world unto itself. Some of the best uniform designs may not feature in the best stories, and likewise some of the best individual episodes and films may not have their casts in the best uniforms, so the two aren’t necessarily connected – though a truly bad costume can, in some cases, detract from an otherwise-decent story.
There have been a wide variety of uniforms used across Star Trek’s 55-year history. Most designs incorporate at least some elements of the original – the costumes designed for The Original Series by William Ware Theiss in the mid-1960s. Gene Roddenberry’s brief for the uniforms was that they were to be “simple, utilitarian, and naval” in style, reflecting his vision of the future and of Starfleet. The very first uniforms, seen in The Cage, Charlie X, and a couple of other early Season 1 episodes, arguably best fit the “naval” aspect of the brief, with toned-down colours and a slightly thicker rolled collar. It was only partway through Season 1 that the typical uniform in its three bright primary colours was rolled out.
Colour is a hugely important factor when discussing Starfleet uniforms. Since The Next Generation went off the air, most Star Trek projects have tried to move away from big bold blocks of colour, opting for smaller coloured patches or other ways to express differences in division and rank. Partly this is an attempt to make the uniforms look “modern,” but also I think there’s a feeling among at least some folks that the brightly-coloured shirts and tops of The Original Series in particular, but also The Next Generation, look rather childish or even camp, detracting from the serious messages present in many Star Trek stories.
That said, even the attempts to design sleeker, “cooler” Star Trek uniforms have almost universally resulted in garments that aren’t exactly serious by today’s standards! Recent attempts like the Discovery uniforms are still very sci-fi; hardly the kind of thing you’d see someone wear out on the street – unless they were on their way to a Star Trek convention. I guess what I’m trying to say is that trying to design a “cool Star Trek uniform” may simply be an impossible task!
So I’m all in favour of embracing the campiness – at least to a degree. Once you get lost in Star Trek, things like uniform colours don’t take you out of it, or at least they don’t for me. I’m not really a fan of attempts to make uniforms that look too much like things that we already have in the real world. There obviously has to be a line between something plausible and something completely outlandish, but in sci-fi that line can be further away than some folks seem to think!
Several generations of Starfleet uniform have become truly iconic; instantly recognisable emblems of the franchise that hardly anyone with even a passing knowledge of popular culture could fail to identify. This has been helped by internet memes, with Captain Picard, Commander Riker, Captain Kirk, Captain Janeway, and even Voyager’s Doctor all re-entering popular culture years after their respective series went off the air.
We also need to give some of the new variants time. A uniform – or any aesthetic element of a series or film – doesn’t become an icon overnight, so the 32nd Century uniforms we saw in the Discovery Season 4 teaser, the uniforms in Picard Season 1, and whatever the Strange New Worlds crew end up wearing need time to grow on us! Some Trekkies have already taken to some of the new styles, which is great, but for a lot of folks it takes time to even get used to a whole new look – let alone learn to love it!
As I always say, this whole list is entirely subjective! If you hate all of these uniforms and love others, that’s 100% okay. As with practically every aspect of Star Trek, it’s a big galaxy and there’s room for fans with different tastes and preferences. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s take a look at five of my favourite Starfleet uniforms!
Number 1:The Motion Picture – Admiral’s variant
I can understand why fans were unimpressed with The Motion Picture uniforms on the whole. They represent an attempt – the first real attempt – for Star Trek to try something new and step away from the bold primary colours of The Original Series, but ended up being understated at best, bland and forgettable at worst. The dull colours, t-shirt design, and lack of any distinctive features all meant that these uniforms only ever saw one outing.
But there was an exception! Kirk’s uniform as an Admiral, which he wore for the first part of the film prior to taking command of the Enterprise, is undoubtedly one of my favourites. It’s understated, for sure, but I love the smooth lines between its grey and white sections, the high angled collar, and how the gold Starfleet insignia stands out without being too flashy or over-the-top.
A lot of the criticism of The Motion Picture’s uniforms is absolutely fair. But there’s something about Kirk’s variant that I absolutely adore. I’d suggest that it’s the most “uniform-looking” costume in the whole film, and with its shoulder epaulets and wrist braiding, it’s a unique blend of The Original Series and future, more military-inspired uniforms – some of which we’ll look at further down the list.
Number 2:The Next Generation – Season 3-7 variant
I’m not calling today’s list my “all-time” top uniforms, but if I were putting Starfleet uniforms in a ranked list these uniforms would have to be near the top. Excluding variants like the acting ensign uniform Wesley Crusher wore, Troi’s “casual” outfits, and Picard’s jacket, the standard uniforms that were introduced beginning in Season 3 of The Next Generation hit all the right notes for me.
These uniforms have a high collar, which gives them a more “serious” feel than the previous crew-neck style. They retain the large blocks of colour across most of the top, yet the colours are ever so slightly toned down when compared to the bright colours of The Original Series, which I’d argue makes them appear a bit more serious and less camp. With the collars and pants being black, the coloured blocks on the top are striking and draw the most attention, and it’s easy to tell at a bare glance which officer represents which division.
It was a surprise when The Next Generation swapped the red and gold colours over – The Original Series had used gold for command and red for security/engineering. But there’s no denying it works well, and Picard and his crew honestly look fantastic in these uniforms.
Number 3:First Contact and Deep Space Nine Seasons 5-7
Though reportedly “uncomfortable” for some of the actors, I really like these uniforms. Until Star Trek: Picard premiered last January, they were also the most up-to-date uniforms in Star Trek’s internal timeline – at least if you exclude far future variants! These uniforms shrank the division colours down, retaining only a coloured undershirt poking up through the collar, with the rest being black and grey.
To me, this design says “new Star Trek” – even though the uniforms haven’t been new for almost 25 years! When the franchise was off the air, and even after it returned with prequels, these uniforms still represented the furthest forward Star Trek’s timeline had got, and I guess it’s for that reason I have more of an affinity to them. They’re modern-looking, swapping out big blocks of colour for greys and blacks that are more toned-down, and I guess the intention was to give them a more military style.
First Contact and Insurrection are two of my favourite films, and the latter seasons of Deep Space Nine – where these uniforms were also worn – saw the Dominion War story arc play out, which happens to be my favourite part of that series. I have very positive associations, then, between these uniforms and the narratives they were present in!
Number 4:The Wrath of Khan uniforms – a.k.a. the “monster maroon”