Gene Roddenberry had one rule for the Star Trek franchise. The future had to be a perfect utopia. In his vision, man had evolved to a point where it had no character flaws: no malice, no greed, no secrets. There wasn’t supposed to be a Section 31, the dark NSA-like secret group. War was to be avoided at all costs. Even conflicts between Starfleet personnel had to be manufactured to pass muster; someone had to be mind-controlled for there to be fight between officers.
After his death, it didn’t take long for his rule to get broken again and again.
Perhaps this was a good thing, at least from the perspective of a modern audience that prefers to see internal conflict over pure humans operating in an impure galaxy. After all, his vision may have launched the series, but the franchise hit its stride after his death. Or did it?
The Star Trek franchise has never been a true blockbuster, at least not in a world with Star Wars and the MCU. It has a strong following and its winning people over from generations who were born after Captain Jean Luc Picard’s The Next Generation wrapped up on television to start making movies. But its ability to stay relevant has relied heavily on shifting storylines and new perspectives that are a far cry from Roddenberry’s original ideas.
None of this is necessarily a bad thing, but the upcoming CBS show, Star Trek: Picard, threatens to not only take the franchise into unexplored territory but also fundamentally change the character many of us have grown to love. And if my hunch is right, they’re going to do it by turning arguably the most beloved character in the franchise (sorry Kirk and Spock) into a social justice warrior.
Hints of a different type of Picard story have been swirling around the show since its inception. Patrick Stewart said he wanted this 20-year-older version of the Picard to be very different from the warrior-explorer-diplomat that we’ve admired for decades. Considering the direction he and CBS have both gone in recent years, that gave me the feeling they were going to have a betrayed Picard get drawn back in to right wrongs and fight for the little guy, as any good social justice warrior should. Now that they’ve released a teaser, my hunch has only been reinforced.
I hope I like it. but I have a very nasty feeling that I won’t. I have a horrible sense that they’re going to ruin a great character and tear down Roddenberry’s legacy for the sake of being socially conscious and progressively preachy. We’ll see.