When the sun of their careers is low, aging rock bands like to put out another “greatest hits” album, with two new tracks and a cover version, and then go on a farewell tour with it. “The Next Generation” with the second season “Star Trek Picard” is currently on one of these. That’s certainly smart from an economic point of view, probably superfluous artistically, but is it at least entertaining? An approach from a distance.
The second season makes it even clearer than the first: Here everything is really listed again, everyone, everyone and everything can be there: The Borg. Guinan. Q. The Château Picard. 10 Forwards. Wesley Crusher. Someone who looks like Commander Data. “The true final frontier is time,” Picard says on the show. That sounds like the unconditional surrender of the production team, which can’t think of anything beyond time travel.
Escalation of fan fiction
So this time it’s going through time, to the earth of the year 2024. What at first glance looks like the complete escalation of fan fiction turns out to be a logical continuation at second glance. Pure tradition, a celebration for fans who have never taken themselves or Star Trek seriously.
“The Next Generation” as a series was characterized by optimism, belief in progress and wishful thinking: traveling faster than light, beams, replicators, androids, overcoming personal possessions (apart from little things like the Château Picard), prosperity everywhere. Humanity leaves all conflicts behind. Evil is purifying, diplomacy is the solution (apart from little things like photon torpedoes and charged phaser banks). And of course the series not only breathes the style of the late 80s and early 90s through the cognac-colored leather armchairs and the carpeting on the bridge of the Enterprise. The end of the East-West conflict also determines attitude and tone.
In this respect, Star Trek Picard fits well into our time: Everything isn’t that cool anymore. No brown leather on the bridge and no carpet either. The Borg are weak, the universe is in disarray, Picard is an android with an expiration date—even Q is dying. Amazon warns audiences against “smoking, sexual content, alcohol consumption, violence, swear words”. The paint is off, but you can see all the better that underneath everything is the same. This also applies to Picard: a boomer as he is in the book – authoritarian, self-centered and stubborn. It’s actually a miracle that he’s still alive. Like the frontman of an aging rock band.
All traditions served
Every band faces the challenge of always having to do the same thing after the first big success, just different every time. Maybe that’s why late sequels to series or movies are so rare. In El Camino, the Breaking Bad spin-off, Walter White’s brief appearance was a low point. And often, old stories don’t work anymore when the premise changes – which is why many eventually lose interest in shows with multiple seasons.
Letting Picard go into space again and getting this whole universe moving again with him is a tour de force and takes courage. But for all the things that can rightly be found odd about the series, it’s a worthy continuation of the great Next Generation story through and through. All traditions are served here, the good as well as the less good.
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