Star Trek: Picard is playing the nostalgia card in its marketing campaign, but is that necessarily a bad thing in the wider context of the franchise? Jean-Luc Picard's solo series is set to premiere in January and a pair of trailers have succeeded in building anticipation and excitement among fans. However, most of the discussion is centered around returning big names from previous Star Trek shows. Confirmed so far are Data, Riker, Troi, Seven of Nine and Hugh Borg, in addition to Picard himself, of course, and that's just the alumni revealed so far. Evidently, Star Trek: Picard is playing on fan nostalgia for the Next Generation and Voyager eras.
Under normal circumstances, an upcoming TV show from a major franchise might attract criticism for relying so heavily on the lure of familiar faces from decades ago but, in the case of Star Trek: Picard, it's merely part of a wider strategy for the Star Trek franchise. Firstly, even though popular characters have been prominent in Star Trek: Picard's marketing, their actual role in the series doesn't seem to be as significant as the trailers suggest. Brent Spiner has confirmed that Data won't be a main character in the series, and Seven of Nine, Riker and Troi are currently only listed for one episode each. Despite what the promotional material might imply, Star Trek: Picard looks to be a fresh story with a a predominantly new cast of characters. Star Trek: The Last Generation this is not.
Perhaps more importantly, however, Star Trek: Picard should be allowed to revel in a little nostalgia because Star Trek: Discovery already gives the franchise an outlet for its progressive, forward-thinking material. Although past seasons have featured recast versions of famous characters such as Spock, Harry Mudd and Captain Pike, Star Trek: Discovery season 3 is set in the far future, and will be entirely removed from previous Trek TV shows and movies. In terms of breathing fresh material and new ideas into the world of Star Trek, season 3 of Discovery is set to be a very new and modern adventure that pushes the property into new territory.
Over the past year, CBS has set its Star Trek stall out very clearly - as one of their biggest (or indeed one of their only) brand names, the network want Star Trek to court a wider appeal, and this can be seen in the range of projects currently in development. Star Trek: Discovery is the flagship series, taking the franchise into new worlds and new civilizations and built for a contemporary audience. Star Trek: Lower Decks is the comedy series aimed at a more casual viewership, while the joint production with Nickelodeon will undoubtedly cater for a younger demographic. The proposed Section 31 spinoff, on the other hand, will surely take a darker, more mature slant due to the nature of Starfleet's clandestine unit.
Where does that leave Star Trek: Picard? Perhaps as the legacy series - something that appeals to long-term fans who aren't particularly enamored with the current product. For many long-time Star Trek fans, Discovery is a departure from the foundations first laid by Gene Roddenberry and doesn't carry on the true Trek spirit. Potentially, Star Trek: Picard is designed for that very audience. With recognizable characters taken from previous shows, the Picard solo series looks very much like a celebration of Star Trek's past, and as long as Star Trek: Discovery handles the franchise's present and future, there's nothing necessarily wrong in dipping into nostalgia.
Star Trek: Picard premieres January 23rd on CBS All Access.