Star Trek: Picard finally makes its global debut this week. The return of Jean-Luc Picard begins on CBS All Access in North America tomorrow, with the series hitting international shores on Friday via Amazon Prime.
To celebrate we’re taking a look back at the illustrious career of the former Admiral Picard and today our own Captain, Neil, is choosing his favourite moments from Trek history.
Back in 1987 Star Trek was that classic show with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy which you probably watched on re-runs. The show had run for three seasons and had become something of a cult hit when news broke that CBS was bringing the show back to life, not with Shatner but a whole new crew and a whole new Enterprise.
“Encounter At Farpoint” was our first introduction to Patrick Stewart as the then cold and commanding Jean-Luc Picard. For us here in the UK we would have to wait until September 1992 to see Star Trek: The Next Generation for the first time. In a world before the internet can you imagine waiting five years to see a show?
“Farpoint” placed Picard squarely on the bridge of the Enterprise, in the captains chair. He was no Captain Kirk clone and the show was quick to tell us such a fact. But succeeding where its predecessor did not TNG – as it became affectionately known – set up a huge mystery and rivalry by also introducing us to Q (John DeLancie) who would taunt Picard for the next seven years.
Picard was instantly an intriguing character to audiences. He represented a strong male lead but his relationships with the bridge crew and history with ship’s doctor Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) positioned him for some heavy character development in the future.
Finding Picard’s Inner Light…
In 1992 (or 1995 if you – like us – were in the UK), TNG premiered one of its most poignant and successful episodes.
“The Inner Light” would go on to become one of the series most decorated episodes when it won the 1993 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. The episode was also nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Makeup for a Series.
The episode saw Picard take over by an alien probe and reliving the lives of one of its people, Kamin. Living on the planet Kataan, Kamin is an iron weaver who also studies nature. Through the course of the episode he lives almost an entire lifetime, Kamin has children, grandchildren and grows to understand that his world is doomed.
It’s a poignant tale of love and loss as Kamin, now an old man, watches his grandchildren as a rocket is launched from Kataan, containing the memories of its people, in the hope someone will eventually learn their story.
Picard wakes up on the bridge of the Enterprise with a lifetime of memories learned in only 25 minutes. Meanwhile the Enterprise crew learns of the planet Kataan and its destruction almost 1,000 years prior.
The episode was voted one of the top three Star Trek episodes of all time at a Las Vegas Trek convention in 2016.
In 2015, The Hollywood Reporter noted the episode’s presentation of Picard remembering his probe-life and quietly playing the Ressikan flute in his cabin, as one of the top ten “most stunning” moments of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
In 2016, Empire ranked this the tenth best out of the top 50 episodes of all the 700+ Star Trek television episodes.
In 2019, Screen Rant ranked “The Inner Light” as one of the top ten important episodes to watch in preparation for the series Star Trek: Picard.
“Jean-Luc, blow up the damn ship!”
By 1996 Star Trek: The Next Generation had wrapped up a seven year run on network TV, the UK had finally caught up too, and it made the leap to the silver screen.
’96 saw the release of the second TNG film, First Contact, which pitted Picard against on old foe… the Borg!
The alien race, first seen in season 2’s “Q Who” were given a massive overhaul for the big screen, making them even more formidable than in any previous appearance.
Their return brought plenty of challenges for Picard, with his PTSD following the events of “Best of Both Worlds” resurfacing. Losing control of the newly christened Enterprise-E, Picard is forced to face up to the fact he may be trapped in 2063 after being caught in the temporal wake of a Borg sphere.
Much of First Contact pairs Picard with the brilliantly written Lily Sloane played by Alfre Woodard. In a particularly poignant scene Picard, locked in the observation lounge looking for a weapon to defeat the Borg, is confronted by Lily. As she tries to persuade Picard to set the self-destruct mode and destroy the Borg for good he loses his temper, shattering the display of model Enterprise ships on the back wall.
It’s a moment which will forever be burned in to the minds of Star Trek fans, showing that the franchise had moved far beyond its purely science fiction past and in to an emotionally complex future.
1994 saw the first big screen outing for the TNG crew, luckily for them a few old friends came along to pass the torch. The film featured a prologue set heavily in the world of The Original Series with William Shatner (James T. Kirk), Walter Koenig (Chekov) and James Doohan (Scotty) making an appearance.
Those scenes saw the apparent demise of James Kirk, but he would appear later in the film to team up with Captain Picard to take down the villainous Tolien Soran (Malcolm McDowell). An anomaly in space folding time enough to let the two captains share the screen was inspired writing.
Patrick Stewart and William Shatner had great on-screen chemistry and the well written dialogue allowed the metaphorical torch to be expertly passed between the two.
Though the film was ultimately a vehicle to propel the TNG cast in to cinematic history, it succeeded in giving James T. Kirk a heroic end to his story and cemented Jean-Luc Picard’s place in Star Trek history.
“No, no… something Latin!”
In 1998, Star Trek: Insurrection marked a turning point in the TNG history. Less warmly received than its predecessor, many saw Insurrection as the beginning of the end of the franchise.
But diminishing box office returns didn’t mean the series was done surprising fans…
The film, based on a story by Rick Berman and written by Michael Miller, pitted the crew of the Enterprise against their own when a group of Federation officials go rogue. Their plan? To harness the life extending energies of the planet Ba’Ku.
As the crew of the Enterprise spend time on the planet they begin to revert to more energetic, youthful versions of themselves and it makes for plenty of laughs. But for Picard it offers the opportunity to challenge the path before him.
He falls in love with Ba’Ku elder Anij (Donna Murphy) and learns to slow the path of time and literally live in the moment. It revitalises his character ahead of the fourth and final TNG film, Nemesis.
But my favourite Picard moment (and one of the most meme’d Trek moments in history) also happens in this film. Presenting to you: Picard does Mambo!
Star Trek: Picard is set to star Patrick Stewart, Santiago Cabrera, Michelle Hurd, Isa Briones, Harry Treadaway, Alison Pill, Jeri Ryan, Jonathan Del Arco and Evan Evagora. The series debuts on CBS All Access on January 23, 2020 followed by a release on Amazon Prime in the UK and internationally on January 24.