In an era of sci-fi that relies more than ever before on portraying the future as a depressing place, the return of Captain Jean-Luc Picard may be just what we need to spark a little fresh sci-fi optimism.
That’s the takeaway from a CNET interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon, one of the writers and executive producers of the revived Star Trek: The Next Generation series headed to CBS All Access. Patrick Stewart’s Picard, said Chabon, “is the hero we need right now” to exemplify the core values that creator Gene Roddenberry brought to the series in the first place.
“Now that I'm working on the show and now that I'm part of Star Trek, I feel like it's my responsibility to make sure that the current model is true to the ideals of the original show, the ideas of tolerance and egalitarianism,” he explained. “…I think we have this responsibility to continue to articulate a hopeful, positive vision of the future.”
While careful to avoid choosing sides in the long-raging Kirk-versus-Picard debate (“I'm not gonna get into the Kirk vs Picard argument because I love Captain Kirk, he was my first captain,” he said), Chabon argued that Picard exemplifies Roddenberry’s equal-opportunity spirit as well as any leader the franchise has seen.
“Picard is even more of an exemplar of everything that is best about Star Trek's vision for the future... And he wasn't such a hound dog as Captain Kirk," he joked.
But why now? What is it about the times we live in that makes Chabon believe Picard’s firm but even temperament will strike a chord with present-day viewers?
“To me, dystopia has lost its bite,” he explained. “A, we're living in it, and B, it's such a complete crushing series of cliches at this point…There was a period where a positive, optimistic, techno-future where mankind learns to live in harmony and goes out into the stars just to discover and not to conquer, that was an overworked trope. But that is no longer the case. A positive vision of the future articulated through principles of tolerance and egalitarianism and optimism and the quest for scientific knowledge, to me that's feels fresh nowadays.”
We still don’t know the details on when we’ll finally see Picard take the bridge of the Enterprise once again. For now, you can get a first look at Chabon’s Star Trek writing work when "Calypso," a new mini-episode set aboard the Discovery, premieres on Nov. 8 at CBS All Access.