While Star Trek: Picard certainly wasn’t perfect, I appreciated that the heart of the show was a thorny ethical quandary. At its most basic level, Picard was about Romulans totally convinced that synthetics would bring about the destruction of all organic life versus the victimized synths struggling to find a place to call their own. Picard was stuck in the middle, trying to resolve the situation without unnecessary conflict. Something like this could feasibly have happened in The Original Series of Star Trek, which seems to be what executive producer Alex Kurtzman was hoping for.
Kurtzman is the current brains behind all of Star Trek at CBS. He began his involvement in J.J. Abrams’ Kelvinverse movies, before co-creating Star Trek: Discovery and is now responsible for the rapidly expanding collection of shows on CBS All Access. He reflected on the weight of the expectations that come with being in charge of Star Trek in the new book Star Trek: Picard – Official Collector’s Edition. Here, he opened up on what it’s like to run one of the biggest science fiction franchises in the world, saying:
“I very much enjoy it. My involvement, it’s not just in the writing of it. I post all the shows, so that means I cut them, and I’m involved all the way down to the color timing and mixing. That’s a lot of work. But… I’ll show you how I enjoy it. My wife and son actually deliberately like to stay out of any knowledge of what I’m doing until it airs. So, when it airs, we all sit down and watch together, and I see it fresh through their eyes, which is really fun, because it’s the culmination of all the work, and now we get to sit together as a family and enjoy it. And, in a funny way, isn’t that what Star Trek has always been about? People sitting together as a family and loving it?
I’m now at the point where I’m eating, breathing, dreaming Star Trek. And I love it! I love it for one reason. The work itself is very challenging, but it’s also some of the most satisfying work I’ve ever done, and I think that the reason why is because I’m recognizing and seeing in so many people that I meet how critically important it is to their lives. I see that Star Trek has influenced people’s lives in a real way. It’s not just a form of entertainment. It’s an inspiration for the kind of people they want to be, or the kinds of things they choose to pursue in their careers or the principles they want to live by. That’s put such a tremendous responsibility on our shoulders to deliver and to maintain that message.”
He went on to specifically talk about what he thought Gene Roddenberry would think of modern Star Trek if he were alive to see it, stating:
“It’s funny. I think about that, actually, probably more frequently than I should [laughs]. I hope that he recognizes that, well… First of all, he’d probably take issue with me for the amount of conflict the characters have. I know that was a big thing he struggled with on Next Gen. But my hope would be that he would recognize now, from his grand perspective in the sky, how much that opened the door for Star Trek’s endurance, and how much it’s iterated and changed and yet has remained, I believe, very true to his vision. There isn’t really a day that goes by where we don’t think very consciously about how he would want the messaging of Star Trek to go, and is what we’re doing consistent with the messaging of Star Trek, as he envisioned it? It’s really important to all of us. I hope he would appreciate it. I hope he would be proud.”
It’s true that Roddenberry was very strict about his ‘rules’ for Star Trek, which he wanted to remain as a Utopia. Some of the more difficult ones to work around were that there be no unresolved interpersonal conflict between members of a Star Trek crew, that crew members aren’t permitted to mistreat one another and that even the show’s villains can’t be extremely cruel. Slightly stranger is his insistence that both male and female officers be called ‘Sir’ and that, under no circumstances, can you have ‘space pirates.’
Based on that, I suspect he’d have major issues with the way Picard shows a corrupt Federation that has abandoned many of its principles and the onboard drama of Discovery. But perhaps he’d eventually recognize that the spirit of Star Trek is still present. And, after all, the franchise has to adapt to the times to survive.