From everything we’ve heard, the hotly-anticipated Star Trek: Picardseries will happen in the aftermath of Jean-Luc (Patrick Stewart) having made some questionable choices. Based on that new poster, he’s doing OK (getting a cute dog is never a bad decision), but, if you think about it, Picard has never been great at making decisions on his own. In fact, most of Picard’s best decisions happen when he’s got his brain trust sitting around in the conference room, hashing things out.
However, when Jean-Luc is left to his own devices, sometimes he makes a split decision that isn’t so hot. Remember when Guinan said that from the Nexus he could exist at any point in time and any place? If this was strictly true, why didn’t Picard just say “Cool, let’s go back to when Soren came on the Enterprise and I’ll punch him in the face?” But no, he went back to the mountain top on Veridian III to have Kirk help him punch Soren in the face.
The point is, we love Picard, but part of what makes the character so great and enduring is the mistakes he’s made. Every time Picard messes up, he’s deeply changed, and like the great guy that he is, seemingly learns from the error of his ways.
Here are seven of Picard’s biggest fails and why he’s a more interesting character because of these mistakes.
7. Calling Worf a “coward” (Star Trek: First Contact)
The greatest scene in Star Trek: First Contact is easily when, in full Ahab-mode, Picard insults Worf by saying “You want to get off the ship and run away? You coward!” Literally everything Picard is doing at this point is a mistake and motivated by burning desire to avenge himself upon the Borg.
But, what’s great about his Worf insult is that deep-down Picard doesn’t mean it. His mistake is so big that he’s actually just making shit up to justify everything he’s doing wrong. Most of us don’t learn from mistakes this quickly, but when Picard realizes he’s wrong about everything and apologies to Worf, saying “In fact, I think you’re the bravest man I’ve ever known,” it’s a moment that would make any rational fan cry.
6. Trusting his evil clone not to screw everyone over (Star Trek Nemesis)
It actually makes a lot of sense to want to trust your clone. But, the faith that Picard put into Shinzon (his younger clone) was a little misplaced. Shinzon had a scary battlecruiser and really, really questionable fashion choices. All of these things should have been huge tip-offs that he wasn’t serious about trying to create peace with the Federation.
In fairness, Picard did a better job with dealing with his Nabokovian doppelganger than most other Star Trek characters with evil twins. (See: Evil Kirk in The Original Series) But, still, you gotta wonder why he went to dinner with Shinzon.
5. Yelling at Wesley (“Datalore,” “The First Duty,” “Journey’s End,” et al.)
Picard saying “shut up, Wesley!” is the insult that will live in Star Trek infamy forever. But, in general, it seems like Picard was a little too hard on Wesley. When Wesley pulled a spaceship stunt at Starfleet Academy in “The First Duty” Picard — the guy who got into bar fights in his academy days — acted like Wesley was like the biggest idiot since that guy who was somehow Captain of the USS Grisom in The Search For Spock.
And, again, in “Journey’s End” when Wesley correctly sided with the displaced Native Americans, Picard acted kind of like a mean dad who feels like no one is listening to him. In Picard’s defense, because Wesley goes to live with the Traveler and turns into a kind of Trek version of a Time Lord, it seems reasonable that Jean-Luc eventually realized that maybe Wesley was born for greater things beyond putting on a uniform. (And that maybe, just maybe Picard’s impatience with Wesley was just misplaced guilt because Picard sent Wesley’s dad to his death.)
4. Getting stabbed in a bar fight in this twenties (“Tapestry”)
I know! How is this not the first one on the list? Picard’s diving into a bar fight with knife-wielding Nausicaans seems like easily the biggest mistake he ever made in his life. But, as the episode “Legacy” demonstrates, this can’t be the biggest mistake of his life, simply because had it not ever happened, Picard might not have ever learned what mattered the most in life. As mistakes go, getting into a fight that requires you to have a robot heart seems pretty big, but this is one our dear sweet Captain clearly learned from.
3. His fucked-up relationship with his brother (“Family,” Star Trek Generations)
In “Family,” we learn that Picard and his brother Robert basically don’t speak because of… reasons? The exact nature of Jean-Luc’s beef with his brother seems to come down to snobbiness. For Picard, staying on Earth and growing wine grapes was just not enough for him. (Recall: He told Shinzon he was the first Picard to leave the solar system.)
So, Picard is kind of a snob about land-loving people like his brother, encourages his nephew René to join Starfleet. Robert doesn’t want René to go to Starfleet and thinks Picard is a snob and calls him on it. After they roll around in the mud and fight, they seemingly form a kind of emotional truce. But, this shit doesn’t have a happy ending. And that’s because, a few years later, in Star Trek Generations, Picard finds out his whole family gets killed in a fire.
Picard didn’t start that fire. It’s not his fault his brother hated that he was a space traveler. But, he probably didn’t’ stay in touch enough.
2. Dating Neela Darren (“Lessons”)
In a truly underrated episode of The Next Generation called “Lessons” Picard starts dating a member of the crew of the USS Enterprise: Neela Darren. This is such a novel concept because Picard acts like a total weirdo about the entire situation the second it starts.
It’s a great episode because it demonstrates that, despite being an awesome leader, and brilliantly moral human being, Picard is awkward as hell when it comes to love. When he’s forced to send Neela on a super dangerous mission involving firestorms (yeah, fire again!), she barely makes it back alive. But, their relationship is over. She suggests that he could give up Starfleet while she continues her career, and he kind of laughs at her. Now that Picard is retired in the new show, it will be interesting to see if he’s reconsidered this slightly egocentric attitude.
Picard gives the air in lessons of never being subordinate, even in his own romantic relationship; which, of course, means that he’s not really able to open up completely.
1. His entire relationship with Beverly Crusher (“Attached,” “All Good Things,” et al.)
Picard’s love of Beverly Crusher is pretty obvious from the beginning of The Next Generation, but it’s complicated by the fact that his best friend, Jack Crusher, was married to her. The past tense is important here, because, when TNG begins, Jack is long-dead: He served with Picard on the USS Stargazer, but Picard was tragically forced to send Jack to his death on a dangerous mission.
(People dying because of an order Picard gives as captain happens a lot, which in fairness is more of an occupational hazard rather than a pattern of mistakes. Space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence. Remember?) But, the dysfunction of Jean-Luc and Beverly’s relationship goes way beyond just his guilt about Jack.
On numerous occasions, Picard sort of flaunts his new relationships in front of Beverly (including Neela Daren) without a real regard for her feelings. Also, in “Attached,” you find out that the only reason he didn’t act on his feelings with Beverly more overtly is because of Jack’s death, which, while understandable, was a huge mistake that only put more tension between them than needed.
In one alternate future glimpsed in “All Good Things…” you find out that Jean-Luc and Beverly did, briefly get married, and then got divorced. Hopefully, in Star Trek: Picard, there’s a different fate for these characters. But, we’re not holding our breath!
Star Trek: Picard is out sometime in the fall of 2019.