In his last episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, “All Good Things,” Captain Picard’s final words were “the sky’s the limit.” Now, 24 years after that episode aired, and 16 years after Picard’s last appearance in the film Star Trek: Nemesis, those words are looking like a prophecy.
On Saturday, at the Las Vegas Star Trek convention, Discovery showrunner producer Alex Kurtzman and Patrick Stewart revealed that Jean-Luc Picard will return in a new TV series for CBS All Access, set to air at an unspecified time in the very near future. The series will be produced by Kurtzman, Stewart, Discovery writer Kirsten Beyer, James Duff, Akiva Goldsman, and, surprisingly, Michael Chabon, who is also penning a new Discovery standalone short film. But. What will this new Jean-Luc Picard series actually be about? Back when all of this was just a rumor, it was fun to speculate wildly on how Sir Patrick Stewart would make it so again, but now that it’s actually happening it’s time to get real.
Based on what’s been said about the new Picard Trek series, and what we know about Picard from Trek canon, here are three big ways the new Trek Picard-centric series could take shape. These aren’t wild theories, but, instead, outcomes and themes that seem likely based on real information. Just the way Picard would like it.
The time period means Picard could be very depressed
Patrick Stewart confirmed the canonical time period of the new TV series when he said: “Twenty years will have past, which is more or less exactly the time between the very last movie – Nemesis – and today.” Now, Nemesis is set in 2379, which, means the new show will be set around 2399.
This is interesting for a lot of reasons. For one thing, this establishes the new show will be the first new Trek series or film since Nemesis to actually be set in the future of what we’ve seen in Star Trek so far. (The three Trek films released since 2009, and Star Trek: Discovery are all, even if occasionally in different dimensions, technically set in Trek’s past.)
Specifically, though, 2399 is interesting because it could put the show at the turn of a century: the 24th century could become the 25th during this series. And 2399 could be emotionally relevant for Picard because it happens after the planet Romulus was destroyed by a supernova and also after Spock went missing at the same time. Though these catastrophic events were just background for the 2009 Trek reboot movie, the destruction of the planet Romulus in 2387 (or 2397, depending on the source) is a big deal. In The Next Generation, Picard was deeply invested in making peace with the Romulans, including Spock’s mission of reunification between the Vulcans and the Romulans. So, the fact that all of that was ruined (basically off-screen) could be getting him down, big time.
Picard will not be a captain, but could be an ambassador
The notion that this new Picard series will be a space adventure in the same vein as The Next Generation seems very unlikely because Stewart said at the convention that “He may not, and I stress may not, be a captain anymore.”
So, if Picard isn’t a captain in Starfleet anymore, what could he be doing? Interestingly, back in 2009, Alex Kurtzman had an answer to that question. As part of a lead-up to the 2009 Trek film, IDW released a comic book mini-series called Star Trek: Countdown. In it, the background future time-travel events in the 24th century are fleshed-out in great detail, which, for the casual viewer, helps to explain why Spock’s little ship was so badass and why Nero’s giant mining ship was seemingly indestructible.
But for hardcore fans, it also gave a glimpse to what The Next Generation crew was doing around the 2380s or 90s. And guess what? In this comic series, Picard was serving as the Federation ambassador to the planet Vulcan. Normally, it would make sense to dismiss this kind of thing because it happened in a comic book almost a decade old. However, Alex Kurtzman – the guy who brought Patrick Stewart out on stage this weekend — was given writing credits on that comic, probably because he and Roberto Orci wrote the screenplays for the Trek 2009 film and Star Trek Into Darkness in 2013. So, now, Kurtzman is doing a story about Picard again. It seems insane that there’s no way he hasn’t even thought about the last time he wrote about this character.
The show will likely be very political and possibly never go into space
At the convention, Stewart said “It will be, I promise you, I guarantee it, something very, very different.” This could mean a lot of things, but one way a Star Trek series could be different is that if didn’t feature any space travel at all. This doesn’t mean the entire Picard show has to take place on Earth necessarily. After all, the riskiest and most critically acclaimed Trek series of all — Deep Space Nine — happened on a space station. If Picard is an ambassador on Vulcan, it’s conceivable the show could take place entirely on that planet. There was a just a Superman show that didn’t feature Superman all set on the planet Krypton, and people loved it. The idea that a Picard Star Trek show has to be set in space isn’t a foregone conclusion.
Patrick Stewart probably didn’t need the money to come back to Trek, meaning the reason he decided to do this series was that he felt like he could say something interesting with the character again. This idea is evident in the statement he made just after the official announcement in which he mentioned that he was interested in the light Picard could shine “on these very often dark times.” He also referred to the direction of the story as “pertinent.” It’s tough to say for sure what these statements mean, but it’s very clear what they don’t mean. Stewart isn’t returning to do Jean-Luc Picard because it’s cool and nifty. He’s doing it because there will be some kind of larger philosophical concept behind the show which appeals to him. Some of that will likely be politcal. Stewart is a political guy and hates oppression and unfairness. Ditto Picard.
Above all, Picard is a huge character for not just Star Trek fans, but people who like TV and cool, confident characters on TV. The reason why Picard is so important to people is that he felt like a real, flawed person despite being an inspiring leader and space hero. Picard was the guy who had a robot heart because he got into a stupid bar fight when he was younger. He was sometimes too rude and too weird around people he was in charge of, and then, felt bad about it. He had a screwed up love life. And then, of course, there’s that time he got drunk and rolled around in the mud with his brother in a vineyard.
The point is, if the new Picard show is just about Jean-Luc leaving Starfleet because the United Federation of Planets was super corrupt, and getting depressed because of it, no one should be surprised. Similarly, if the show is about Picard living on his family vineyard, tending to the vines, trying to get some peace and forget all the terrible stuff about planets blowing up, that could be interesting, (It’s also possible because A. that wine vineyard future happened in “All Good Things” and B. Michael Chabon wrote a great novella about Sherlock Holmes in retirement tending to bees and he’s a producer on this Picard show.)
Bottom line: Stewart is a serious actor, and he’s not going to do Star Trek for the sake of doing it. If the Picard show is as different as he and Kurtzman have hinted, fans might need to get ready for sci-fi show that has almost no sci-fi in it whatsoever. After all, if you’ve got a character with a history as rich as Picard’s, you probably don’t need new stuff to happen to him. A story about him dealing with all the things he’s gone through would probably be compelling enough. And guess what? No matter what anyone says,