Star Trek Guide

Picard Hates Sci-Fi, Proving How Much Star Trek Has Changed

It's official, Jean-Luc Picard isn't a fan of science fiction, and this admission perhaps highlights the changing emphasis of the Star Trek franchise. Star Trek currently finds itself in a fascinating but precarious position, as the brand undergoes its most significant expansion in history. At least one Star Trek movie is being produced under Noah Hawley, with a potential Tarantino effort also on the cards. On television, Star Trek: Discoveryand Star Trek: Picard are running concurrently - the first time this has happened since the 1990s - and there are 5 other confirmed projects also in the works, including 2 animations and a Section 31-based spinoff.

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At present, however, it's Patrick Stewart's retired Enterprise captain taking center stage, with Jean-Luc returning to Star Trek for the first time in almost 20 years. Star Trek: Picard revisits the iconic character in his twilight, making one last foray into the world of adventure to right a few wrongs and put a few bad guys in their place. The latest entry in the Star Trek canon has been largely applauded thus far, acting as a follow-up to both the J. J. Abrams movies and The Next Generation.

Star Trek: Picard episode 2 sees Picard once again meet with Dr. Jurati of the Daystrom Institute to discuss the status of Data's twin daughters. In a hilariously self-referential line, Picard tells the young scientist he "never really cared for science fiction," going on to admit, "I guess I just didn't get it." On the surface, this is a fun, meta Easter egg that'll undoubtedly have fans smirking at the irony, and it also fits Picard's character, since the captain always showed a preference for Moby Dick and Shakespeare.

Looking deeper, however, Picard's take on science fiction is perhaps indicative of how far Star Trek has developed since its early years and the thematic changes the Discovery era has made to the traditional format. There's a stereotypical view of science fiction stories being campy romps with cheaply designed aliens and an emphasis on outer space exploration and, once upon a time, Star Trek might've fallen under this description. Even as late as Star Trek Beyondin 2016, the costumes and effects had improved, but the 'brave crew venturing into unknown alien territory' premise remained steadfast.

The tone shifted considerably with the introduction of Star Trek: Discovery. Premiering in 2017, the adventures of Michael Burnham and co. have leaned into noticeably darker territory and delved headfirst into more relatable real-life themes. The politics and emotional drama always present in Star Trek was brought to the fore and the stories became more mature in terms of language and sexuality. Star Trek: Picard continues this precedent. Rather than the space battles and strange aliens of yore, Jean-Luc's swansong is more about sentience, mortality, ethics and and modern societal issues than ever before. These ideas have always been part of Star Trek's makeup, and the Picard spinoff is unquestionably still science fiction, but it doesn't conform to the stereotypes of the genre in the way previous TV shows might have.

And this perhaps explains why Star Trek: Picard gets away with its lead character expressing a distaste for the very genre Trek is famous for. Jean-Luc doesn't "get" science fiction, but the franchise has long since moved away from the familiar tropes that term is commonly associated with. Star Trek: Picard peddles a brand of sci-fi where the emphasis is less on the unknowns of space and the battle between man and alien (although all of that is very much still present) and operates in more of a gray area where the dramatic now presides over the scientific and the fantastical. Star Trek is no longer the type of sci-fi Picard seems so skeptical of and, who knows, perhaps even Jean-Luc himself would be more appreciative of this style of storytelling?

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


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