Star Trek Guide

How Star Trek: Picard Learned From Discovery’s Mistakes

Star Trek: Picard has noted some of the criticisms faced by Star Trek: Discovery during its debut season, and made a deliberate effort to avoid them. Currently gearing up for its third season, Star Trek: Discovery aired its maiden voyage in 2017 and was the first in the current influx of Star Trek projects to populate CBS All Access. Set shortly before The Original Series starring Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner, Discovery chronicles the adventures of the titular Starfleet science ship and features Sonequa Martin-Green's Michael Burnham in the lead role.

Moving away from the traditional space-faring crew format, Star Trek: Picard is a sequel series starring the returning Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard, reprising his role from The Next Generation. The spinoff takes place 20 years after Picard's last appearance in Star Trek: Nemesis and sees the legendary former Enterprise captain pulled out of retirement (rather willingly, it must be said) to investigate the appearance of a mysterious young girl, all upon a backdrop of political and social distrust.

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Both Star Trek: Picard and Star Trek: Discovery have their own strengths and merits, and serve different functions within the franchise. But Discovery did encounter some teething problems during its first season that fans were quick to seize upon. Many of these have now been addressed, but it's clear that Star Trek: Picard has taken those earlier mistakes on board and moved to ensure they aren't repeated. Here's how Picard learned from Star Trek: Discovery's mistakes.

Not Meddling With Star Trek Canon

Undoubtedly the most common problem fans had with Star Trek: Discovery was how the new series slotted into (or didn't slot into) established franchise canon. Set so close to the original 1960s story, Discovery had to work within a restricted time frame, and fans quickly noticed how much the new show altered the fictional universe they already knew. The addition of a historic war between the Federation and Klingons only a few years prior to Kirk taking over the Enterprise created an inconsistency in the timeline, as did the introduction of Burnham as Starfleet's first mutineer. The advanced technology aboard the good ship Discovery herself also created a wrinkle in Star Trek's fabric, as it far exceeded what was available in The Original Series, not just in terms of aesthetic design, but in terms of introducing instant teleportation of a Starfleet vessel.

Whether as a direct response to fan criticism or as part of a larger plan, Star Trek: Discovery has since found ways to account for these plot holes and write themselves more or less back into canon consistency. For example, Burnham's Starfleet indiscretion was scrubbed from the records and the organization was forced into denying the Discovery ever existed. Meanwhile, the series has now warped centuries into the future, ensuring Star Trek: Discovery season 3 has a fresh slate to work with.

Star Trek: Picard does not succumb to the same problem. Set several decades after Nemesis, Picard's solo series is a straight sequel with a relatively untouched future ahead of it. Unlike Star Trek: Discovery, the new series isn't forced to adhere to a strict timeline where the audience already knows what the future looks like. Similarly, Star Trek: Picard is largely faithful in carrying forward plot points and characters from the franchise's past. The series follows directly on from both the 2009 Star Trek movie and the past outings of the Next Generation cast, continuing the theme of Data's sentience, the impact of the android's death and the mistrust between the Federation and Romulans. Star Trek: Picard makes use of the building blocks already in place, rather than rearranging or rewriting history in order to fit around a brand new story, as Star Trek: Discovery was accused of doing.

Familiar Star Trek Characters

Understandably, Star Trek: Discovery's first season was keen to establish its own crew, with a cast of vibrant characters that included Burnham, Saru, Philippa Georgiou and Paul Stamets. The desire to introduce fresh blood is commendable, and the newbies certainly resonated with viewers, but there remained an undeniable hunger from fans to see some familiar faces. Sarek and Harry Mudd, unfortunately, didn't quite scratch the itch, and Star Trek: Discovery season 2 introduced Ethan Peck as Spock and Anson Mount as Christopher Pike, both of whom were incredibly well-received.

The plan to introduce the Enterprise crew in season 2 was perhaps always part of the Star Trek: Discovery plan, but the overwhelmingly positive reaction the new (old) characters were afforded perhaps drove home the point that fans were looking for their familiar favorites. Accordingly, rumors are now suggesting that Peck and Mount will front their own Enterprise-based spinoff in the near future, proving the strong demand for nostalgia. But as Star Trek: Discoverymoves into unknown territory with season 3, the show's opportunity to draft in legacy characters diminishes.

Enter Star Trek: Picard. If the rise of Pike and Spock in Discovery's second season highlighted the potential value in bringing back familiar characters, engineering the return of Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard was a masterstroke. And, of course, with The Next Generation's captain comes Brent Spiner's Data, Jonathan Frakes' Riker, Jeri Ryan's Seven of Nine and various other figures Star Trek fans have been clamoring to reunite with over the years. That isn't to say Star Trek: Picard is a mere nostalgia fest, or that the show isn't progressive in its own way, but in terms of satisfying audience desire to see classic characters, Star Trek: Picard delivers where Discovery dragged its heels.

Keeping Up The Pace

Star Trek: Discovery very much represented a storytelling departure for the franchise when it first launched. Previously, Star Trek TV shows had been largely episodic in nature; long term character arcs and running stories were certainly present, but the meat of any given story would be wrapped up inside a single episode or, occasionally, a two-parter. Star Trek: Discovery came more in-line with modern tastes by shifting to a serialized approach, with one central storyline running through an entire season. Star Trek: Discovery has shown no sign of changing its structure and this serialization has been a key factor in marketing the series to a contemporary audience, but not all fans have been as welcoming to the change. Some have criticized Star Trek: Discovery for keeping a relatively slow pace compared to previous series, with the Red Angel and Ash Tyler/Voq storylines spread out over entire seasons.

Star Trek: Picard does adhere to the same serialized format, but it also moves at a far brisker pace, sprinkling answers throughout rather than holding back until the season finale. Already in just 2 episodes, Star Trek: Picard has revealed the identity of Dahj and her twin, explained the Romulan connection to the Borg, unveiled the show's true enemies as the Zhat Vash, explained why Picard quit Starfleet, and much more. By moving at warp speed, Star Trek: Picard finds a middle ground between the episodic nature of The Next Generation and the slow burn large-scale mysteries of Star Trek: Discovery

Picard Takes What Works From Star Trek: Discovery

Star Trek: Picard doesn't just learn from the mistakes of Discovery, but also makes sure to recapture what the show does right. For example, both productions utilize a distinctly more mature, solemn tone compared to the Star Trek series of old. Star Trek: Discovery is not only a darker snapshot of Gene Roddenberry's universe, but breaks ground in terms of swearing and violence, and Picard's solo series has taken these same cues, dropping F-bombs and featuring some semi-grisly special effects (bloody naked Borg eye, anyone?) that fans wouldn't have seen in The Next Generation.

Another key feature of Star Trek: Discovery has been a strong political undercurrent. Despite William Shatner's suggestions otherwise, Star Trek has always harbored a political subtext, but that element has come to the fore with Star Trek: Discovery, in storylines such as the inner conflict between Klingon houses, the moral division within Starfleet, and the treatment of the Kelpians. Discovery's producers have admitted that Donald Trump and North Korea have both played a part in shaping various storylines, and that influence tells.

If anything, Star Trek: Picard is even more politically charged. The issue of Starfleet ignoring a refugee crisis is a clear real-world parallel, but the Romulan discrimination against synthetic beings, the Starfleet discrimination against Romulans, the ravaging of the Borg Cube and the decaying morals of Starfleet are also reflections of genuine issues, and Star Trek: Discovery forged that path.

Star Trek: Picard continues with "The End Is The Beginning" February 6th on CBS All Access and Amazon Prime.

Star Trek: Discovery season 3 premieres later in 2020.


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