Star Trek Guide

Star Trek TNG: The Episodes That Inspired Picard Memes

Most people have seen at least one Star Trek: The Next Generation Picard meme, but where do they come from? When Star Trek: The Next Generation began in 1987, fans surely hoped that the new series would prove Star Trek could transcend eras and live on indefinitely. With more Star Trek TV projects in the pipeline now than ever before, The Next Generation certainly delivered in that respect. What Star Trek fans might not have anticipated is that Patrick Stewart's Jean-Luc Picard would gain online notoriety for his wonderful array of facial expressions.

The fascinating thing about memes is how they can completely change the cultural relevance of movie and TV moments from decades past. The "Condescending Wonka" meme and "It's over 9000!" both originate from times long before the internet was in widespread use, but have since taken on a life of their own. Even by those standards, Picard is somewhat of a special case, as the Starfleet captain boasts an entire selection of popular memes to his name.

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Even those completely unfamiliar with Star Trek might recognize the following images, but they won't necessarily know the episode the image derives from, nor the circumstances that caused Picard to make such an everlasting expression. Here are the best Jean-Luc Picard memes and where they come from.

Picard Facepalm - "Déjà Q"

Undoubtedly the most famous of the Picard memes comes from season 3's "Déjà Q." This episode sees the welcome return of John de Lancie as the omnipotent, titular Q who had previously troubled Picard and the Enterprise crew on several occasions. Tasked with stopping a moon falling out of orbit and devastating a nearby planet, Jean-Luc already has a tough job on his hands in "Déjà Q" when Q himself suddenly appears on his bridge. Q explains that his incessant meddling has been punished by the Continuum, stripping his God-like powers and making him mortal. The iconic facepalm comes while Q is explaining his plight, and Picard only looks up when his unwelcome guest describes the captain as "the closest thing I have to a friend."

The Picard facepalm has spawned infinite memes and now even a commemorative statuette, but wasn't the only head-in-hands moment in The Next Generation. Picard cracks out the rare 'double facepalm' maneuver also in season 3 while trying to explain the finer details of parenting to Data in "The Offspring."

Annoyed Picard - "Ménage à Troi"

While it might be lagging in popularity behind the facepalm, the 'Annoyed Picard' meme is the more versatile of the two, with several different screen-grabs from the same scene going viral alongside a variety of captions, all to the effect of "what the hell are you doing." Unlike the arrival of Q, the context behind this image is very different to its usage as a meme. In season 3's "Ménage à Troi," Deanna Troi's mother causes an incident when she's romantically pursued by a randy Ferengi and kidnapped. Picard and the remaining Enterprise crew learn of this and, naturally, they seek out to rescue Lwaxana Troi. Unfortunately for Picard, that plan involves pretending to be desperately in love with Troi's mother.

In an attempt to convince Daimon Tog of the Ferengi to let Lwaxana go, Picard is forced to start reciting Tennyson and Shakespeare, acting like the jealous murderous ex who would do anything to get his lover back. Suitably scared, Tog quickly gives up Troi's mother and sends her back to the Enterprise to avoid Picard's Casanova wrath. The memes come straight from Picard's dramatic speech.

Full Of Win Picard - Season 5 Outtake

Those unversed in the ways of Star Trek: The Next Generation might see Picard's more outlandish meme faces and wonder how such an expression could possibly make sense in the context of any science fiction episode. In some cases, that's because the shot doesn't come from an episode itself, but from footage that was left on the cutting room floor. The "Full of Win" Picard meme shows the Star Trek captain celebrating, jubilant over some unknown success, and found added fame when someone managed to get Patrick Stewart himself to sign the image.

The "Full of Win" image is taken from a The Next Generation season 5 outtake that was intentionally filmed as a gag tribute to Gene Roddenberry. Patrick Stewart begins his scene in character before addressing the camera and "Gene" directly. He then promptly breaks out into a song and dance number on board the Enterprise set. The gleeful "Full of Win" face is taken from near the start of the routine, which also features a dashing boater hat.

Awkward Waving Picard - "The Naked Now"

The image of Jean-Luc Picard waving awkwardly could've been intentionally designed to generate memes, had the phenomenon been around in the late 1980s. A bold and decidedly strange episode, especially considering it was only the third offering in The Next Generation's debut season, "The Naked Now" sees almost the entire crew become infected with a strange condition that appears to lower inhibitions and increase libido. After Picard himself becomes afflicted, he has an up-close encounter with an also-infected Dr. Beverly Crusher. As the pair finally separate, a smitten crusher waves to her captain from the doorway before leaving. Trying to resist his unwelcome urges, Picard awkwardly and reluctantly waves back.

It was an odd scene in a largely unpopular episode, but one that at least birthed a classic meme. The awkwardly waving Picard is usually deployed when saying hi to someone you really don't want to talk to.

"Shut Up, Wesley" - "Datalore"

The Next Generation's Wesley Crusher character has been oft-maligned over the years. Played by a young Wil Wheaton, Wesley became a focal point for fan anger in the same way as Scrappy Doo or Jar Jar Binks and is often unfairly singled out. Nevertheless, it was still a little satisfying to hear Jean-Luc tell the boy genius to shut up in season 1's "Datalore." The episode's plot involves Data's brother, Lore, impersonating his Starfleet sibling. Wesley Crusher is the only one to see through the deception and repeatedly tries to voice his concerns with the rest of the crew, who become increasingly annoyed with his interjections. Eventually, this leads to Picard's famous "shut up, Wesley" line, and while Beverly begins to defend her son, she then repeats it for good measure.

When meme culture took hold, "shut up, Wesley" became one of the quotes that started going viral, so much so that Wil Wheaton has lost patience with people who barrage him with the meme. Although it's fun to laugh about now, hindsight might also suggest that treating Wesley as The Next Generation's verbal punching bag did little to help the character's popularity.

Giggly Picard - Season 2/3 Blooper

One of the lesser-used memes in Picard's repertoire, 'Giggling Picard' is another image derived from outtakes rather than actual The Next Generation footage. The visual of a maniacal Picard looking like he just hid a dozen Tribbles under Riker's bedsheets is taken from the blooper reel of season 2. Jonathan Frakes fluffed his lines during a scene with Patrick Stewart and walked off-screen, prompting Stewart to pull the meme-worthy face of a man possessed with unbridled mischief. Interestingly, another shot of Picard laughing has also been used for meme fodder, and this too comes from a blooper where Frakes forgot his lines and Stewart corpses, albeit this time from season 3.

Engage!/Make It So - "The Hunted" & Others

Sometimes the simplest memes are the best, and Jean-Luc Picard's two main catchphrases have both made the online rounds for their meme-ability. The Starfleet captain uses both "make it so" and "engage!" liberally throughout The Next Generation, but although the image of Picard preparing to give his trademark finger point is often accompanied with a "make it so" tagline, this isn't what Jean-Luc utters in the scene itself. While the base image can vary, most of the "make it so" memes come from the final moments of season 3's "The Hunted" where Picard is actually saying "engage" to send the Enterprise on its next adventure. Both of Picard's famous catchphrases have been used alongside the image in memes. The episode is a mediocre one, and its legacy as part of Picard's meme canon is arguably the biggest contribution "The Hunted" makes to Star Trek.