The majority of Star Trek fans I have spoken to have been suitably impressed so far by the first three episodes of Picard. Honestly, right now for me, Picard is shaping up to be one of the best Trek shows ever made. There is one little aspect that has been gnawing at some fans. It’s one of the most important plotlines of the show and some fans have been unhappy with this aspect. So, what’s new? Fans are always unhappy with any changes to franchises, and Star Trek is no different.
Picard sets up a mystery involving the Romulan Empire. In the show, the Romulans are said to have a deep loathing of all synthetic life. This was something never brought up in the previous shows. For the most part, the canon is not affected since there were no real situations where synthetic life came up with regards to Romulans. However, there is one episode some fans have turned to, to prove this is a major retcon of the canon. Fans have pointed to a classic episode of TNG called “The Defector.” In “The Defector,” a Romulan, Admiral Alidar Jarok, tells a captured Data, “I know a host of Romulan cyberneticists who would love to be this close to you.”
However, in an Instagram Q&A Picard showrunner Michael Chabon explained this away. Clearly, (though some fans won’t admit it) the writers looked into all this some time ago. The writers then made the decision to take the story in this way, knowing this epsiode would be brought up. Chabon said of the scene.
“Being a ‘Romulan cyberneticist’ is kind of like being a ‘Nazi doctor.’ ‘I do not find that concept particularly appealing,’ Data sagely replies to his Romulan companion. ‘Nor should you,’ is the telling reply.”
Check it out below.
I guess what Chabon is saying is that the scene could be read a number of different ways. The writers simply chose to angle that meaning towards their own much later interpretation. The fact is, that this does not break the canon and is not in fact evidence that the Picard writers do not know what they are doing. Something that a certain portion of the fan base have accused the writers of.
Does that stop some fans complaining? Hell no! On the same Instagram post, there are fans still complaining. One fan even says that although they do not see themselves as a Star Trek expert, they clearly know more about the show than the writers of Picard. I suppose I have been on the other end of this debate with Star Wars. I still maintain that the likes of J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson just didn’t get what Star Wars is, or understand some of the context of the original trilogy they copied so hard.
The difference is that the Star Wars sequel trilogy by its very nature is designed to make us look at the OT differently. Picard is very far from this. For a start, the fan service moments in Picard seem less frequent and also more earned than we saw with Star Wars. It’s also not trying to finish a story that already had an ending. This is a brand new story that will likely be the end of the story for one character alone and that’s Picard himself.
Whether there was any hint of Romulan attitudes towards synthetic life in the old shows or not, it doesn’t matter. The point is, that the show is well written, well-acted, intriguing and mysterious. Most importantly, I agree with Chabon’s way of interpreting that classic episode. I did not at the time when I watched ‘The Defector’, but it does work. No way do I see this as strong enough to be considered a retcon. I actually think the writers have done a really good job or making sure this new concept does NOT alter the canon in any meaningful ways.
The truth is that a lot of fans seemingly wanted Picard just carry on with his role as Captain of the Enterprise. Possibly bringing back his old crew for The Next Generation reboot. The problem is that this was never on the cards. Patrick Stewart had zero interest in rebooting that show, and without Stewart, you have no Picard. Right now, based on only three episodes, I think Picard is shaping up to be one of the best Trek TV shows ever made. For that reason, I can only find praise for the entire production team.
Any Trekkies out there, where do you stand on Picard? Feel free to come at me if you have issues with the way Picard has been written. You can leave your thoughts below in the usual place.
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SOURCE: Michael Chabon (via Instagram)