Why Star Trek: Picard's adorable dog is WAY more important than you might think
So you've saved the galaxy a thousand times, but you're no longer happy with your job or the people who command you. What do you do? If you're anything like Jean-Luc in Star Trek: Picard, you go chill out in a vineyard with a very good boy by your side.
That's the surprisingly serene set up for Patrick Stewart's return to the Star Trek franchise, but as you might expect, Jean-Luc's retirement doesn't last for long. By the end of Picard's first episode, the man with no crew or starship sets out to reclaim both in a bid to solve dangerous mysteries from yesteryear.
Along the way, Picard assembles a new team of allies to join him, along with some old friends too. While they're all helpful to varying degrees of success, it's Jean Luc's dog who makes the biggest impact — and not just because he's the cutest thing in this galaxy or any other.
When we're first reintroduced to Picard, twenty years after we last saw him in Star Trek: Nemesis, the former Starfleet captain isn't quite the same man we once knew. He's 92 years old and now has far too much time on his hands, sipping some Chateau Picard-exclusive wine while ruminating on his past mistakes.
During a recent interview with TV Line, executive producer Alex Kurtzman described Picard as "broken," and that's what separates this show from all of the other Star Trek stories that have been told before.
Previous instalments have introduced us to these heroes in their heyday, but this version of Picard is essentially an old man obsessing over past failures.
Even before Jean-Luc voices his frustration with the Federation during an all-too-public interview, viewers can already see the pain that Picard lives with.
However, while that nightmare opening scene reveals he hasn't full recovered from the loss of Data, it's the name of his new best friend which hints that Picard also misses his former life too.
As Next Generation fans might recall, the former captain used to call William Riker "Number One" to signify his role as the Enterprise's First Officer.
Early on, we learn that Picard has also called his pit bull Number One, showing that he never really let go of his glory days, even though he's the one who chose to quit Starfleet following the attack on Mars.
By their very nature, action-based stories like this rarely show the long-term impact of constant fighting and peril. Some recent films like Logan and The Last Jedi have started to address this, but Picard has a far longer run time, enabling it to explore the lasting nuances of trauma and regret in ways that a movie could never quite manage.
Speaking to Digital Spy and other press, Kurtzman explained why this focus on an older hero sets Picard apart from previous generations of Star Trek:
"If we set out to say, like, “Let’s tell the story of a 94-year-old man” absent of the context of this amazing franchise, people probably would have been less interested or inclined to spend the money on it... But to us, the age was the draw, because you never get to do anything like that."
More than just an adorable sidekick, Number One also symbolises the baggage that Picard carries with him throughout this new show. Torn between painful regret and a wistful yearning for past glories, this is a man who has receded into the background for so long that he no longer knows his place in the universe.
Thankfully, Picard itself balances the old and new much better than Jean-Luc does at first, staying faithful to the Star Trek of yesteryear while also moving the franchise boldly forward to places its never gone before.
Sure, Jean-Luc doesn't throw himself into fights with the same aplomb he once did, but that's not going to stop Patrick Stewart himself from living long and prospering on the show.
Speaking to Digital Spy and other press, the Star Trek legend told us that the very notion of retirement is "inconceivable" to him, and on the day after Picard's London premiere, Stewart even admitted that he was a "trifle hungover" from celebrating "rather forcefully" the night before.
Trust us when we say you'll be celebrating "rather forcefully" after watching Picard spend time with his new 'Number One', too. Not only does he physically represent our beloved hero's trauma, but he's also a very good boy.
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