There was much rejoicing among sci-fi fans this weekend, with Patrick Stewart’s announcement that he will be reprising his role as Captain Jean Luc Picard in a forthcoming new Star Trek series. Being an unashamed Trekkie, a proud nerd, I was delighted to hear this announcement. While no details have been revealed yet as to the nature of the role – will he be part of the main cast, or will it be a guest, recurring role – I am looking forward with excitement to the next series, whatever it may be.
I grew up on The Next Generation iteration of Star Trek. In my view, only Deep Space Nine really comes close to it in quality. The show boasted an array of fascinating characters, but towering above all of them was Stewart in the role of Picard. His dignified, considered, and diplomatic approach to all the challenges placed in front of him throughout the show’s run are, sadly, generally only found in the realm of fiction. How the real world could do with such leadership.
But Star Trek is a fantasy world. The society depicted in it is far from that in which we live today. Money doesn’t exist, and the characters are motivated by a desire for discovery, coupled with insatiable intellectual curiosity. This lies in stark contrast to our society, where accumulation of wealth (and property, in Ireland) is largely considered to be the indicator of success. Much of the appeal of the show is the departure from our money- and power-hungry world, to an idealistic society where nobody starves, nor dies on hospital trolleys for not being able to afford private health care. The challenges posed to the characters are in the dealings they have with other beings are they, boldly, traverse the galaxy seeking out, but never interfering with, new civilisations. Themes explored in The Next Generation were often philosophical, sociological, and spiritual in nature. At the helm, a central character of great cerebral heft was required.
Picard is a fictional character in a fictional universe. It is difficult, however, to imagine anyone bar Patrick Stewart in the role, such was the gravitas he brings to the screen. It would be remiss of me not to praise the real-life Picard, a man of great wit, humanity, and sophistication. It is unsurprising that he has such a devoted following among Trekkies and normal* humans alike. Picard the character and Stewart the man remain inseparable for many of us. I look forward greatly to what his role will be in the next series, and what challenges, shocks, and cliffhangers lie ahead.
Make it so.