Picard isn't the first Enterprise captain to use the "engage" catchphrase in the world of Star Trek. As the star of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Patrick Stewart's Jean-Luc Picard rapidly became an iconic character, not just within Gene Roddenberry's universe, but also in the wider consciousness of pop culture. Part of Picard's enduring appeal has been a series of memorable catchphrases such as "make it so" and "engage" which have endured over the years, despite the character not appearing on-screen since Star Trek: Nemesis in 2002.
Stewart is now set to return in the upcoming CBS All Access series, Star Trek: Picard. The new show will see the former Enterprise-D captain leave behind a quiet retirement on the family vineyard to head back into space with a brand new, non-Starfleet crew. Star Trek: Picard's first trailer set nostalgia to kill, giving fans the long-awaited returns of Seven of Nine, Data and the Borg. The trailer also made full use of Picard's most famous catchphrase, ending on a shot of him giving the "engage" command with a wry, knowing smile.
While this famous line has only ever been associated with Jean-Luc Picard, another Starfleet captain actually used it long before him. In the pilot episode to the original series, "The Cage" (and later in "The Menagerie" which uses the same footage), Captain Pike is in command of the U.S.S. Enterprise and, following the events on Talos IV, instructs his helmsman to take off by giving the "engage" order with the same calm assertiveness that Picard would later use.
This piece of Star Trek history reframes one of Picard's best known catchphrases. Although the Next Generation character certainly made the line his own, popularizing a saying that would become a staple among the Star Trek faithful for decades to come, the "engage" command is also paying homage to the franchise's origins - quite literally, since it references the very first episode. This link between Star Trek's pilot episode and The Next Generation also alters the meaning of the word in-narrative. Since "engage" is largely attributed to Picard, many viewers might assume that this term is just his preferred way of instructing his helmsman to hit the gas. Since both Pike and Picard use it, however, this could potentially be official Starfleet terminology.
Interestingly, the connection between Pike and Picard has one more link in the chain - Captain James T. Kirk. While Kirk could usually be heard saying "take us out, Mr. Sulu" or a similarly cool line, he did use "engage" on one occasion during "The Carbomite Maneuver," proving that this catchphrase, known even to those unfamiliar with Star Trek in 2019, has roots all the way back into the 1960s, at the very genesis of Star Trek.
Star Trek: Picard premieres in early 2020 on CBS All Access.