You know, I had a column planned this week. Took some notes. Had it mapped out in my brain. And then I went and watched the finale of Star Trek: Picard, the magnificent, joyous finale that was honestly everything I wanted it to be, and suddenly what I was going to write about has gone completely out of my head. Instead, this week, I’m going to look ahead to the future of Star Trek – specifically about Picard showrunner Terry Matalas’s proposed Star Trek: Legacy series, and why it needs to happen. So here’s your warning, friends: after this point there WILL be spoilers for Picard, all the way to the final credits. If you haven’t watched it yet, continue reading at your own risk.
After two seasons of Picard that were disjointed and felt forced, the third and final season gave fans what we wanted all along: a suitable ending for the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The last time we saw these characters together in canon was in the film Star Trek: Nemesis, which left us on a bittersweet note that was never resolved. Data was destroyed, Will Riker and Deanna Troi went off to the Titan, and the heroes we’d come to love were scattered to the cosmic winds. In this final season of Picard, Terry Matalas brought back Data and reunited the seven core cast members of The Next Generation (well…EIGHT core members, actually, since he even resurrected the Enterprise-D) so that their story could end the way they deserved. Now, rather than leaving behind our friends in a state of mourning, we say farewell to them as they are together, happy, and in the wake of their greatest triumph. This is something that cannot be said for the characters in any other Star Trek series, and if this is in fact the last time we see these heroes (and I suspect it is at least the last time we see them all together), it is a fitting goodbye.
But Matalas did not JUST reunite the TNG crew. He also built a new crew, combining a few of the characters from the first two seasons of Picard with others created for this season, and we leave them on the bridge of the Titan, newly rechristened as the USS Enterprise-G. It is at this point that Matalas is staring Paramount executives in the eye and challenging them to greenlight a series about this new crew, a series he has been calling Star Trek: Legacy to anybody who’ll listen, even though it hasn’t actually been approved by Paramount.
Let’s talk about the reasons that a Terry Matalas-led Star Trek: Legacy is not only possible, but exactly what long term Trek fans are hungry for.
CONTINUING THE SAGA
After Nemesis, every Trek series or movie for nearly two decades went backwards in time. Star Trek: Enterprise was about the ship that led to the creation of the Federation, the J.J. Abrams movies showed us the crew of the original series in an alternate timeline, and Discovery started its first season about a decade or so before the original series. Without debating the relative quality of any of these projects, none of them moved forward in the time period that fans had come to love through three series and four movies. That didn’t happen until Picard. And with that series finished, we are once again left without a continuation of that period in live action. Strange New Worlds and the upcoming Starfleet Academy series are in different points in the timeline, and while the animated Prodigy series seems to be in that time period (it’s honestly a little nebulous exactly where it falls), I think most fans probably join me in wanting a flagship series set in the 25th century.
This is the most well-developed era in the Trek timeline, with elements from TNG, Deep Space Nine and Voyager all in play, and so far the only show that’s playing with all these toys is the animated comedy Lower Decks. And while it’s true that eras that have not been explored as much have room for development, that doesn’t quench the thirst for exploration of the storylines, cultures, alien races, and characters we already know. A show set in this time period would allow us to check in with those elements and see where they go in the future – something that would be inevitable with Voyager alumni Seven of Nine as captain of the Enterprise-G and two members of the bridge crew whose parents are members of the TNG crew. (Not to mention the fact that Riker and Troi have a daughter who is currently enrolled in Starfleet Academy, and could easily join the show later if we really wanted to ramp up the fan service).
It would also allow the show to address the one glaring absence from Picard: the characters from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. For the first eight episodes of the season the major threat were the Changelings, the main antagonists from DS9, but except for Worf nobody from DS9 ever made an appearance. I suspect we probably would have seen them if not for the passing of Rene Auberjonois, who played the Changeling Odo on that series – but alas, it was not to be. Regardless of why we didn’t see them, DS9 remains my favorite Trek series, and a Legacy show could (and should) check in on the station, what’s been going on with Bajor since the Dominion War…maybe even finally provide some resolution to the final fate of Captain Benjamin Sisko.
THE ENTERPRISE IS THE HEART OF STAR TREK
When the original Star Trek series debuted in 1966, there wasn’t necessarily a conceit that there was anything special about the ship among the other ships in the fleet except that it was the one we were following. Throughout the show and the original movies, though, we got the impression that the Enterprise crew stood out, and by the time TNG launched in 1987, it was declared that the Enterprise was the name given to the flagship of Starfleet. This was codified with the Star Trek: Enterprise series, which retroactively applied that name to the first ship capable of Warp 5, and the adventures of that particular crew led to the birth of the United Federation of Planets. The point is, while the Star Trek universe is vast and diverse with room for many, many stories, the Enterprise is the core of that universe.
True, we have Strange New Worlds, which is set on the Enterprise NCC-1701 in the pre-Kirk years, but that’s kind of the problem. Don’t get me wrong, I love SNW, but the inherent difficulty with any prequel series is that certain elements are closed off as storytelling avenues. At no point in SNW are you ever going to fear that the ship will be destroyed or that any of the characters who show up in the original series, such as Spock or Dr. M’Benga, are in mortal danger. There can be great adventures told with Pike’s Enterprise, but it will inevitably be trapped in the “past” of Star Trek. The 25th century, for many fans, is the “present,” and we haven’t had canonical, ongoing stories of an Enterprise in that time period since TNG went off the air in 1994. The look of the ship can change, the crew can change, the letter at the end of the registry number can change, but the fact of the matter is that without an Enterprise, Star Trek simply isn’t complete. As Jack Crusher observed when the Enterprise-G was unveiled, “Names mean almost everything.”
A CHANCE FOR NEW DANGERS
In addition to bringing back the TNG crew one last time, Picard also gave a definitive, final conclusion to the story of that era’s greatest threat: the Borg. When this malevolent race was introduced in TNG it was a terrifying idea: an artificial intelligence that propagated by taking the technology of conquered worlds and transforming the biological inhabitants of the destroyed civilizations into mindless drones, kind of like when Disney buys a new IP. But like many popular villains, the Borg got a little overused over the years (even as recently as season two of Picard). What the finale gave us was one last face-off between the Borg Queen and Jean-Luc Picard, one that was eminently satisfying, but also done in a way that should take the Borg off the table for good.
(I say “should” here because I’m realistic. With any long-running franchise, eventually new hands will take over, and when that happens they often will bring back the elements they loved from the past. Someday somebody WILL sit down in a Paramount boardroom and say, “Okay, here’s how we’re gonna bring the Borg back.” It’s inevitable. But I don’t think it will happen soon and I don’t think that person will be Terry Matalas.)
With the Borg gone, it’s time to bring in new threats, new enemies, new villains. This is a chance to have a fresh start in a familiar setting, which from a creative standpoint can be a hell of a lot of fun.
A NEW GENERATION
Like I said, the way Matalas stacked the crew of the Enterprise-G was a straight-up challenge to Paramount, loading the bridge with characters that matter to us. We already knew Seven of Nine from Voyager of course, but the crew also includes Picard’s former aide Rafi, who after two years finally spent this season blossoming into a compelling character through her partnership and friendship with Worf. We have Jack Crusher, son of Beverly Crusher and Jean-Luc Picard, who seems to have embraced his parents’ philosophy after struggling with it for some time. We have Sidney “Crash” LaForge at the helm, piloting the ship and determined to get out of the shadow of her legendary father. Over the course of this season we grew to care about these characters. Beyond the previous relationship between Seven and Rafi, we also saw Seven and Jack build a rapport which paid off when she named him a special counselor to the Captain. There was also a clear chemistry between Jack and Sidney, and the idea of Geordi LaForge showing up periodically to bristle at his daughter flirting with Jean-Luc Picard’s son is absolutely delicious.
Matalas crafted these characters in such a way that the potential is obvious, and showcased them to make us want more. And just in case that wasn’t enough, he closed the series with a mid-credit stinger in which Jack Crusher meets his dad’s best frenemy, Q, who tells Jack that his own trials are just beginning. Translating this scene into Klingon and back again reveals that what he REALLY means is, “Come on, Paramount+, I double dog dare you to greenlight this spinoff.”
And then there’s the elephant in the room.
LET’S TALK ABOUT SHAW
Liam Shaw, played by Todd Stashwick, was introduced in the first episode of this season as captain of the Titan, and he initially came across as an antagonist. He didn’t like Seven of Nine, even though she was his first officer. He had no respect for Picard and Riker when they came on to his ship and tried to divert his mission. He even insulted Picard’s wine, setting up what would turn out to be one of the season’s best running gags. But by the end of the first episode you knew who Liam Shaw was: an asshole that you couldn’t stand and couldn’t wait to see get what was coming to him.
Then something magic happened.
We realized that nothing Shaw was doing was out of line. These two relics, neither of whom had any official standing with Starfleet at the moment, showed up on his ship and tried to send him off on a very spurious mission with no orders and a half-assed explanation, almost destroying the ship and killing everybody in the process. We, the audience, trust Picard and Riker because we’ve known them since jelly bracelets were in fashion, but Shaw has no such luxury. As for his relationship with Seven, as it turns out he was a survivor of Wolf 359, the most infamous Borg attack of all time (before this one), which happened to be led by Picard himself during the time he was assimilated. The man probably had to deal with PTSD every time he looked at Seven.
Shaw’s abrasive qualities became part of his charm, especially as he continued to show himself to be highly qualified and competent, not only as Captain, but also as an engineer later on in the season. His voluminous ego doesn’t go away, but it also doesn’t stop him from doing the right thing, as we see when he gets injured a few episodes later and immediately transfers command of the Titan to Riker, a man he clearly doesn’t like, because he knows it’s the best chance for survival. Over nine episodes Shaw goes from an unlikable asshole to a tremendously likable asshole.
And then he dies.
Not a pointless, meaningless death, not a Tasha Yar death. Liam Shaw dies to buy Picard and the others time to escape the Borg as they’re taking over the Titan, and with his last breath passes his ship over to Seven of Nine (using her chosen name for the first time). Then, just to rub a little salt in the wound, we later found out that he had already recommended Seven’s promotion to captain even before the events of the season had begun.
But he’s dead, right? So why does it even matter?
Come on, guys. Since when has being dead ever stopped a great character? The entire season was filmed before it premiered, so there was no way of knowing just how much the fans would grow to embrace Liam Shaw when the decision was made to kill him off, but Matalas says he has an idea for how to bring him back if and when the opportunity presents itself. As for the question of what to do with him afterwards…honestly, I’m not sure. They won’t (and shouldn’t) take Seven out of the Captain’s chair to make room for him, and I certainly don’t want to see another series with a painfully dubious chain of command such as has plagued Discovery since the end of season one, but I want more stories with Liam Shaw. And I know I’m not alone.
Hell, maybe he’d be happy to step out of the command chair and become chief engineer.
There’s an adage in the entertainment business that giving the audience what they want isn’t necessarily the best way to tell a story. But sometimes you go so far in the opposite direction that you wind up with a stupid, chaotic, and utterly insulting mess that seems more like they actively hate the audience that made them successful in the first place, and here I am specifically thinking of what Marvel Comics insists on doing with The Amazing Spider-Man. Season three of Picard has proven there’s nothing wrong with giving people what they want, you just need to find a good story in which to do it. Terry Matalas did that this season, and he knocked it out of the park. He’s earned the right to do it again.
Star Trek: Legacy, Paramount.
Make it so.
Blake M. Petit is a writer, teacher, and dad from Ama, Louisiana. His current writing project is the superhero adventure series Other People’s Heroes: Little Stars, a new episode of which is available every Wednesday on Amazon’s Kindle Vella platform. He also wants to push his idea for a Star Trek: Fleet Museum animated anthology series, where in each episode a holographic tour guide based on Geordi LaForge tells a story about one of the legendary ships in his museum to a pack of tourists. He’s not kidding about this. Call him, Paramount, you all should talk.
One thought on “Geek Punditry #16: The Case For Star Trek: Legacy”
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