Picard Vs. Xavier: Which Patrick Stewart Hero Had the Most Depressing Life?
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 1 of Star Trek: Picard, now streaming on CBS All Access.
Patrick Stewart has graced the big and small screen by portraying two of science fiction's greatest heroes: Captain Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Picard and the X-Men films' Professor Charles Xavier.
Despite the stature of these two iconic heroes, neither of them seem to get particularly happy endings, even though they both had lives that were filled with more than their fair share of tragedy. Now, we're taking a closer look at where these two characters are in their twilight years, and which one of the two had it the worst.Click the button below to start this article in quick view. Start now
Even for the mostly optimistic look at the future that Star Trek typically brings, Jean-Luc Picard is no stranger to tragic life events. Most notably, he was assimilated into the Borg collective, where his personality was suppressed and his knowledge of Starfleet used to turn him into the ultimate killing machine. Even after being restored, the event ravaged Picard's psyche, leading him to return to his ancestral home for recuperate.
Picard's return to his family's chateau brought up years of resentment between Jean-Luc and his brother Robert. The two had always feuded as children, and Robert particularly hates Jean-Luc for both leaving behind their simplistic ways to join Starfleet, as well as inspiring similar desires in Robert's son Rene. The two were eventually able to patch up their relationship, but the reconciliation is short-lived. As revealed in Star Trek: Generations, a fire breaks out on the Chateau, killing both Jean-Luc's brother and his nephew. This is the last that the Chateau is seen until Picard's self-imposed exile there in Star Trek: Picard.
As horrifying as all of this was, another loss haunted Picard for years. This harrowing event occurred in the climax of Star Trek: Nemesis. To save his captain's life, Commander Data sacrificed his own. It was suggested at the end of the movie that Data had possibly supplanted his consciousness into another android's body, but Picard proved this effort to be ultimately unsuccessful. Worst of all, the recent ban on synthetics means that any efforts to rebuild his friend would be illegal at this point. Then there's the moral disappointment that has become Starfleet, which Picard resigned from years before his new series due to their abandoning their mission, dooming Romulans after an attack on Mars tears the Federation apart from within.
To add insult to injury, Picard also finds out that he's developed a parietal lobe defect, which will drastically impact his health on his final cosmic voyage. Even when he tries to do the right thing one last time, the universe seems to be throwing Picard a curveball.
In the case of X-Men's Charles Xavier, tragedy is built into his very nature. As in the comic book Marvel Universe, mutants are a feared and hated species, who are scorned and ostracized on the best of days by human society. For Xavier, this meant seeing his X-Men and other mutants like them being abandoned or mistreated by friends, family, and others before he comes to essentially rescue them.
In the original timeline of the movies, Xavier is forced to see Jean Grey, one of his brightest former students, seemingly sacrifice herself to save the team. When she's revealed to be alive, it is also revealed that he suppressed her innate power, which she subsequently taps into to kill her former professor. While he is able to come back himself by supplanting his consciousness into another body, he was unable to save his students or prevent a particularly dark future from befalling mutants in X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Even in the new timeline that film established, Xavier met an utterly depressing end in Logan.
In that film, mutantkind falls in a silent genocide that sees the X-Gene essentially erased from the gene pool, with the X-Men disbanded and a geriatric Xavier clinging to cognizance near the U.S./Mexico border. In his old age, his vast psychic powers have the uncontrollable side effect of causing debilitating mental seizures, disabling most of those around him.
Worst of all, in a dark twist on the plot of Old Man Logan, Charles' seizures inadvertently killed most of the X-Men prior to the film's events. Charles eventually dies himself after being stabbed by a clone of Wolverine. His burial is completely unbecoming of the hero that he was, which makes his end an utterly gut-wrenching send-off.
And the Loser Is...
As sad as Picard's life was and still continues to be in Picard, Xavier's cinematic lives took tragedy to another level. Seeing countless allies fall in multiple realities, along with having something to do with one student's turn to evil, give the Marvel hero's fight for tolerance a doomed sense of melancholy. And that still doesn't account for the mental toll of having to live with the knowledge that he may he killed most of his closest friends.
Meanwhile, Picard's story is still being told, and there's still a path for the Starfleet icon's redemption and warm reunions with faces from the past. Hopefully for that character, Xavier's twilight years boldly went where Picard's golden years won't.