PSA: Yes Picard is Coming Back, But This Photo is Not It

Over the course of the past week or so, a lot of excitement has been generated by a poster showing Sir Patrick Stewart in costume reprising his role as John-Luc Picard in the announced spinoff of the 1987-94 TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation.

A speculative fan-made poster for the upcoming Picard-centered spinoff.

However, the image being shared is not from the publicity arm of CBS All Access, it’s a well-made fan photomontage from this site. As stated by the artist, “I have done Star Trek photo manipulations by request for folks over at Star Trek Photo Manipulations and the TrekBBS for their fan fiction and RPGs. The image on his site (about halfway down the page) does not have the show title nor other information, suggesting that someone borrowed this image, cropped it and added to it.

In the immortal words of Romulan Senator Vreenak:

He should know.

What is Real

In August of last year, it was announced that Stewart would be returning to the Star Trek universe as Picard in an as-yet unnamed spinoff to air on the CBS All Access streaming service. In addition to the formal announcement, the actor also posted his excitement to Twitter.

Screen shot of Sir Patrick Stewart’s August 4, 2018 announcement regarding his return to the role of Jean-Luc Picard.

Alex Kurtzman, the showrunner for Star Trek: Discovery had just recently been given control of all things Star Trek following the ouster of Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts in June over budget woes and allegations of mistreatment of staff. Kurtzman who took over Discovery just as the first five episodes of season two were nearing completion will continue to helm that show as well as executive produce the new one.

That same month, it was revealed that two new Star Trek titles had been registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The first title was Star Trek: Reliant which long-time fans would immediately associate with the Federation ship commandeered by Khan Noonien Singh to get his revenge on Captain Kirk some 100 years before TNG.

It was the second name, Star Trek: Destiny which was referenced in the fan picture. Perhaps coincidentally, “Destiny” is the name of a 2008 trilogy of novels set post-Star Trek: Nemesis written by David Mack. That trilogy featured Picard, Riker and Deep Space 9’s Dax taking on the Borg and discovering a long-lost Federation Starship in a plot with similar elements seen in the Kelvin-verse movie Star Trek: Beyond. This trilogy is NOT the subject of the new series. Both showrunner Kurtzman and actor/director Jonathan Frakes (Will Riker on TNG) revealed earlier this month that Picard is no longer commanding a starship. “he’s done with [that phase of his career in] Starfleet.” Frakes went on to add that even though Stewart is pushing 80, he “is so excited about this show he’s like a little kid. It’s fabulous! He’s thrilled and excited to be invited into the writers’ room and he’s a producer on the show, and he’s part of the development of the story arc. It’s terrific. I mean, he is a guy who is fully engaged.” (We see what you did there, Mr. Frakes.)

Kurtzman, who also worked as a writer-producer on the J.J. Abram’s Star Trek reboot films, describes the new show as having a very different tone from previous shows. “It’s an extremely different rhythm than Discovery, “he said in a December interview with Entertainment Weekly. “Discovery is a bullet. Picard is a very contemplative show. It will find a balance between the speed of Discovery and the nature of what Next Gen was, but I believe it will have its own rhythm.” He went on to give a little more insight, “Without revealing too much about it, people have so many questions about Picard and what happened to him, and the idea we get to take time to answer those questions in the wake of the many, many things he’s had to deal with in Next Gen is really exciting. ‘More grounded’ is not the right way to put it, because season 2 of Discovery is also grounded. It will feel more… real-world? If that’s the right way to put it.”

In the bigger scheme of things, CBS heads have recognized the importance and success of the Star Trek franchise in building up their subscriber base. The best analysis have shown that Discovery perhaps doubled the number of subscribers to CBS All Access when it launched last year. It is implied that those numbers tapered off when the season wrapped as subscribers waited to rejoin when new episodes aired. CBS Chief Creative Officer David Nivens stated that the goal was to premier new Star Trek content year-round. In addition to season two of Discovery being aired in two parts over the space of a few months, there is also the animated comedy series Star Trek: Lower Decks.

Sir Patrick Stewart himself offered some hints at what was to come when he spoke at the Star Trek Las Vegas Convention. “He may not, and I stress may not, be a captain anymore. He may not be the Jean-Luc that you recognize and know so well. Twenty years will have passed, which is more or less exactly the time between the very last movie – Nemesis – and today.” The untiled Picard series will be in around the year 2399 or about stardate 76000.

What Might Be Right

The fan poster promises Picard will debut “Fall 2019”. There’s enough wiggle room that it might possibly be correct as CBS has announced that it will arrive at the “end of the year” according to Nevins. And, as has been announced, the show is already at least as far along as being scripted.

Uh, Yeah. We Don’t Think So.

When the poster popped up, a lot of the more hard-core fans tried to ascertain what rank Picard would be holding. The “boxed pips” insignia were shown during the various appearances of Star Fleet flag officers in TNG episodes.

Fleet Admiral Nechayev, as played by Natalia Noculich in TNG Episode “Chain of Command”

According to the Memory Alpha fan site, two-, three- and four-pip insignia represent Rear Admiral, Vice Admiral and (full) Admiral respectively. The ones seen on the picture aren’t entirely clear and don’t appear to the be the gold color and one of the three may or may not be hollow to represent an intermediate rank. But, given that the creators of the series, including Stewart, have said that this is a different kind of show and the consideration that after 20 years, Picard might only be a Vice Admiral this seems to be way off base.

Diving into deep nerd territory, Picard was offered the rank of Admiral and the position of Commandant of Start Fleet Academy mere months after taking command of the Enterprise (TNG: “Coming of Age”) which he refused because he did not want a desk job. Given the fan backlash over the disregard to canon during season one of Discovery, Star Trek the writing staff tried to hew closer to already established “history” so such a “low” rank after two decades is unlikely.

From a production standpoint, given the Federation’s in-universe habit of changing uniforms and rank badges fairly often, it is also highly illogical (you heard that in Spock’s voice, didn’t you) that the uniform and insignia are going to remain identical to those shown in TNG some twenty years later.

A retired Picard some 25 years after stardate 47988

We also doubt that Picard will closely resemble his appearance in All Good Things, the last broadcast episode of The Next Generation.

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