Star Trek Guide

Star Trek Picard: Is the TNG Cast Too Old Now?

The latest entry in the Star Trek franchise,Star Trek: Picardpremieres on CBS All Access on January 23 and picks up after the last film featuring the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast, Star Trek: Nemesis. The trailer for Star Trek: Picard excited fans of the NCC-1707-D Enterprise's crew as they spotted the returns of old favorites like William Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), and Data (Brent Spiner), joined by a cross-over character, Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) from Star Trek: Voyager.

However, it’s been 18 years since Nemesis and over 25 years since the last episode of The Next Generation. The long period of time that has passed since the series ended begs the question: is the cast too old to deliver an action-heavy TV series?

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In the context of Star Trek’s history, Star Trek: The Motion Picture premiered in 1979, ten years after the original series went off the air, and it was criticized for its lack of action: aping 2001: A Space Odyssey, there is an over-long sequence of the Enterprise docking in a space station and dialogue-heavy scenes that didn’t satisfy the “space western” motif that inspired weekly fans of the series. The sequel, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which tops many “best of Star Trek” lists, was more action-heavy than its predecessor and changed the direction of the franchise. The more recent Star Trek movies featured action set pieces; the last film entry was directed by Justin Lin of Fast & Furious fame, and action sequences populate Star Trek: Discovery.

As viewers of The Irishman know all too well, seeing older actors — even if they are digitally de-aged — struggle through action sequences (Robert De Niro beating up a guy looked stiff and almost comically awkward) takes the viewer out of the story and casts the film in a cloud of distracting unreality. If Star Trek: Picard takes the action route, making 79-year-old Patrick Stewart run around, fire phasers, and engage in fisticuffs, it is setting up the series for residence in the uncanny valley, and fans will be left disappointed.

But such a creative turn — toward an action-focused plot — would also misunderstand the character. Jean-Luc Picard fundamentally differed from the original series' captain of the Enterprise, James T. Kirk. Picard was a diplomat; Kirk was a cowboy. Picard stayed on the ship; Kirk went on away missions. Picard talked and thought his way out of problems; Kirk, while not dumb, was quicker to use photon torpedoes. An action version of Picard would be a betrayal of who fans know him to be, and Stewart is not too old to reason through the series' conflict.

The trailer of Star Trek: Picard offers few plot details, and what we see of the action sequences feature supporting characters and ship battles, which don’t require much stunt work from the older cast members. And in interviews Stewart has discussed how much this series understands who Jean-Luc is. All this is heartening for fans of Picard’s ethos and creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a positive, hopeful, and diplomatic future.

Star Trek: Picard premieres on January 23, 2020.