Star Trek: Picard will likely have some thematic overlap with one of the most polarizing movies of all time - Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Picard begins with the former captain of the Enterprise retired from Starfleet, due to some personal tragedy tied to the dissolution of the Romulan Empire. Ever the empathetic, intellectual explorer, this older Picard seems to be a haunted man, abandoning the organization that so completely defined his adult life.
Plot details for Star Trek: Picard are still scarce; at this point we know the series will take place roughly 20 years after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis, and, as of now, the rest of Patrick Stewart's Star Trek: The Next Generation cast mates will not be on hand in any meaningful way - though former Commander Riker actor Jonathan Frakes is returning to direct a pair of episodes.
The scenario of a legendary hero who goes into exile after a massive personal failure seems to be in the DNA of both Star Trek: Picard and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. In the latter case, of course, that resulted in a movie where opinions are generally either "masterpiece" or "heresy," with very little in between; with the possible exception of Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, no recent movie has been so polarizing on such a gigantic scale. Does Star Trek: Picard risk alienating its rabid audience in the same ways?
Similarities Already Exist Between Star Wars The Last Jedi And Star Trek: Picard
Beyond the shared scenario of presenting the characters as fallen heroes, there are some fundamental similarities between the characters that could result in thematic overlap between Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Trek: Picard. Both Picard and Luke were considered moral arbiters in their primes; Captain Picard was the greatest embodiment of Gene Roddenberry's vision of a hopeful, optimistic future, while Luke's purity of heart turned petty smugglers like Han Solo into freedom fighters. They were both inspirational figures, which is part of what made Luke's descent into anger and self-pity so hard for many fans to swallow.
There's also a bit of overlap with the actors themselves. Both Patrick Stewart and Mark Hamill are multitalented performers who happened to stumble into science fiction immortality. They also both found second careers as voice actors. Stewart has become one of Seth MacFarlane's most frequent collaborators, having voiced CIA director Avery Bullock on American Dad since the show debuted in 2005, while Hamill is almost as well known for his portrayal of the Joker as he is for Luke Skywalker; he's voiced the clown prince of crime in countless projects over the last 25 years. Both men have also been humble and respectful of the roles that made them stars and the fans that have supported them for so many years.
Picard & Luke Are Very Different Characters - And Will Be Deconstructed Differently
However, despite their similar altruistic, heroic natures, Jean-Luc Picard and Luke Skywalker are very different characters. For one, audiences first met Luke as a teenager experiencing the most important, defining days of his young life, before The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi rocketed the timeline forward 30 years and introduced the broken, cynical older Luke.
Captain Picard was already a middle aged man by the time Star Trek: The Next Generation began; his formative experiences happened decades before the character's introduction. Picard was a skilled diplomat, a respected intellectual, and a man of great wisdom. He also endured the sorts of traumas that could lead a different sort of man to a self-imposed exile; he was assimilated by the Borg, which stripped him of all he was and forced him to help destroy a Starfleet armada that claimed hundreds of lives. In Star Trek Generations, the first film to feature The Next Generation cast, Picard receives the devastating news that his brother and nephew had been killed in a fire, which meant he not only lost his closest living family members, but it also meant he would likely be the end of his family line, a rich heritage that meant a great deal to him.
We've also simply seen more of Picard's life in Star Trek, and therefore understand him in more nuanced ways than we do Luke Skywalker. Between the TV series and the films, Picard's life was exhaustively chronicled for 15 years. For comparison's sake, there were 178 episodes of TNG and four feature films starring Jean-Luc Picard; before The Last Jedi, all we really knew of Luke canonically was from the original trilogy. In many ways, the younger Luke was more of a literary archetype than he was a fully fleshed out character, while Picard has always been a much more sharply defined man, and one more prone to human failings.
Star Trek: Picard Following Star Wars: The Last Jedi Would Not Be A Bad Thing
While we're still in the midst of the unprecedented backlash toward Rian Johnson's film, Star Wars: The Last Jedi will likely outlast the vitriol and eventually be regarded as one of the better Star Wars films as time goes on and tempers either cool or get redirected at other supposedly blasphemous films. Reaction to The Last Jedi was so strong in part because it was a film that took chances with both story and structure, which allowed the series to delve into more ambiguous emotional spaces than are usually explored in Star Wars.
Picard losing faith in his mission is just as shocking and tragic as Luke's failings in The Last Jedi, but the former is likely to be far less controversial than the latter. For one thing, Jean-Luc Picard was never portrayed as a mythical chosen one who was destined to bring balance to the universe; Picard was simply a Starfleet officer - perhaps the best Starfleet officer, but still just a man doing a job.
And, quite frankly, Star Trek fans are much more accustomed to massive change than Star Wars fans. Before the Disney era, the only canonical, mainstream Star Wars content was the six films that made up the original and prequel trilogies, all directly overseen by George Lucas. In many ways, Star Wars was a franchise encased in amber, shackled to the same tropes and character arcs. Star Trek has been regularly changing its casts and the kind of stories it tells for the past 40 years. Star Trek characters - even the good guys - occasionally lose their way, and finding their way back to redemption has become an important part of the franchise.
There's no guarantee that Star Trek: Picard will be successful. The franchise has been on fairly shaky ground in recent years - the J.J. Abrams-produced reboot films have seemingly flamed out after the box office disappointment of Star Trek Beyond, and while it's become very popular worldwide in its much improved second season, Star Trek: Discovery got off to an unquestionably rough start. But Picard feels like something different, something special. Patrick Stewart is the most famous actor involved with CBS All Access by a significant margin, and the story would almost have to be something truly amazing to bring him back to the character he swore off forever after Star Trek: Nemesis. If that story happens to be a bit darker and a bit more somber than The Next Generation, most Star Trek fans will likely be able to handle it - as long as it's good.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi shouldn't serve as any kind of cautionary tale for the producers of Star Trek: Picard, but rather as an example of the sort of fresh, creative heights that can be still achieved in these decades-old science fiction institutions. Jean-Luc Picard can handle tough times, and so should his audience.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019