Star Trek Guide

Star Trek Picard: How The New Series Can Avoid Voyager’s Mistakes

Star Trek: Picard is on the way, and the series needs to avoid making the same mistakes as Star Trek: Voyager did when it shared the air with another Star Trek series. With Star Trek: Picard coming soon and the third season of Star Trek: Discovery in production, Star Trek will have two concurrent series for the first time since the late 1990s, when Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager aired at the same time. Voyager, in particular, was plagued by behind the scenes missteps that Picard would be wise to acknowledge and avoid.

Launched in 1995 - arguably the height of Star Trek's popularity - Star Trek: Voyager was to be the new flagship series for the final frontier. Lead by Kate Mulgrew's steely, determined Captain Kathryn Janeway, it was the first series to finally star a female lead. It also featured an intriguing, promising premise, with Voyager stuck in the Delta Quadrant, ostensibly decades away from home and with no help from the rest of Starfleet.

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That dire premise never really cut through, however, with Voyager and its crew largely living comfortably and having traditional Star Trek adventures far from home. Whereas Deep Space Nine was notably darker and more serialized than any prior series in the franchise, Voyager's storytelling style was extremely similar to Star Trek: The Next Generation. And while it may seem like a no-brainer to copy the formula from one of the most popular science fiction series of all time, TNG was still in regular syndication rotation for years after it ended in 1994, not to mention the continuing adventures of that crew on the big screen. What Picard needs to do in order to not fall into the same situation is stay true to its story and not copy Discovery.

While Voyager copied TNG's style, it couldn't copy its cultural impact or onscreen talent. With the exceptions of Janeway, the acerbic holographic Doctor, and later the former Borg drone Seven of Nine, Voyager struggled to make its characters unique or interesting. Its stories too often felt like warmed over TNG plots, only paying lip service to the peril Voyager was supposed to be in at all times. Star Trek veteran writer Ronald D. Moore - notably absent from most of Voyager's production - would even spin a much more interesting version of a starship in distress story with his Battlestar Galactica revival a few years later. Voyager could never commit to its harsher convictions like that show, and often felt bland because of it.

For what it's worth, Picard seems poised to sidestep most of the issues that plagued Voyager. Whereas Voyager felt like an inferior copy of TNG, Picard and Discovery would seem to have almost nothing in common. They take place over a hundred years apart, Picard will not feature the good captain in command of a Federation starship, and stylistically Picard seems much more meditative and deliberatively paced than the action-packed Discovery.

The real question for both Voyager and Picard is the effect of franchise fatigue. There was a lot of Star Trek being produced in the mid-1990s, and the less consistent stuff like Voyager unquestionably suffered because of it. CBS All Access is gearing up to create an entire universe of Star Trek series, with a Section 31 spinoff and Lower Decks waiting in the wings. Franchise fatigue could certainly do in Star Trek again - especially if the output is similar to Discovery's bumpy first season - but Picard is in a unique position that's likely impervious to such common wisdom. Patrick Stewart returning to the role that made him a household name feels like an event, the biggest one since J.J. Abrams announced he'd be rebooting the movies a decade ago. CBS All Access will have to roll out their big Star Trek plans carefully, but Star Trek: Picard will be just fine as long as it sticks to its creative vision and avoids the homogeny that plagued Voyager.