Democracy Dies in Darkness

PostEverything | Perspective

Why we need Jean-Luc Picard in 2018

Make it so.

By Daniel W. Drezner

August 9, 2018 at 8:15 AM

Patrick Stewart attends a news conference for the film “Logan” at the 2017 Berlinale Film Festival in Berlin. (AP)

Longtime readers of Spoiler Alerts should be aware that the staff here are big Star Trek fans. In particular, “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” which has produced some of the best hours of sci-fi on television.

In a media universe saturated with reboots and revivals, the Star Trek franchise has not been shy in getting in on the action. It has rebooted the original series on film and created the new and very uneven “Star Trek: Discovery” for television. Now, however, this tweet reveals that the greatest captain in the entire Star Trek franchise is back:

IO9’s Julie Muncy reports on some further details:

CBS announced today that Sir Patrick Stewart, who played Captain Jean Luc-Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation, will be reprising his role in a new series that will explore “the new chapter in Picard’s life.” The series will be coming to CBS All Access, though not many more details about it are known at this time. . . .

At the live panel for the announcement at Star Trek Las Vegas, Stewart was also quoted as saying that “it may not be the Jean-Luc you know and love,” citing experience and time as changing factors in the development of the character. . . .

According to the panel discussion, no scripts have been written as of yet, though the series is planned to take place 20 years after the events of “Star Trek: Nemesis.”

A Jean-Luc Picard reflecting on his past? Yes, please, and then some. As I noted a few years ago, “if I have to pick a captain, it’s Jean-Luc Picard and it’s not close.”

Why Picard? The obvious reason is that it means Sir Patrick Stewart, the greatest actor ever to don a Federation uniform, will be back on-screen. This man is such a good actor that he convinced viewers that in the 24th century a French vintner would have the most British accent ever.

More significantly, Picard, as portrayed by Stewart, represents the best set of leadership traits in all of Starfleet. Unlike some other captains, Picard never went off half-cocked in reaction to a setback. Although he did violate the Prime Directive from time to time, his instinct was always to avoid interventions if at all possible. He was a skilled negotiator when negotiation was called for, but also willing to take the initiative when encountering great power instability. He knew how to lean on allies and adversaries alike.

The episode that best captures Picard’s exceptional levelheadedness is “The Wounded,” which also introduced the Cardassians as a player in the Alpha Quadrant. The episode takes place soon after the Borg incursion that devastated Starfleet. The Federation has an uneasy peace with Cardassia after a long war, a peace that a hawkish Federation captain, Benjamin Maxwell, threatens to end with an unauthorized incursion into Cardassian space. Given its weakened state, the Federation cannot risk a war with the Cardassians. Picard is ordered to apprehend Maxwell and get his ship back into Federation space.

In the first pivotal scene, Picard deals with a decorated war hero who wants to restart the war on his own:

The best part of this scene is Picard’s refusal to respond to any of Maxwell’s taunts and jabs. He has his orders, he knows the stakes and he forces Maxwell to acknowledge his authority. Over the course of the show, an underrated element of Picard’s leadership is his patience.

After Maxwell attempts to restart the war again, Picard has one last encounter with his Cardassian counterpart:

Given Picard’s very limited room to maneuver, he makes the best of a bad situation and sends the appropriate signal to another great power.

In 2018, it has been somewhat painful to observe what passes for great power diplomacy. Even if a Picard revival takes on a more somber cast, I have no doubt that Patrick Stewart will evoke the viewer’s confidence that Jean-Luc Picard always has a Plan B. Unlike some leaders in the real world.

Make it so.


Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and a regular contributor to PostEverything.

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PostEverything | Perspective

Why we need Jean-Luc Picard in 2018

Make it so.

By Daniel W. Drezner

August 9, 2018 at 8:15 AM

Patrick Stewart attends a news conference for the film “Logan” at the 2017 Berlinale Film Festival in Berlin. (AP)

Longtime readers of Spoiler Alerts should be aware that the staff here are big Star Trek fans. In particular, “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” which has produced some of the best hours of sci-fi on television.

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