Picard Showrunner Rejects Fan Complaints About New Star Trek Series

What is "real Trek"? Star Trek: Picard showrunner Terry Matalas argues there's always been pushback from the fandom.

Star Trek: Picard Season 2
Photo: Paramount

Some people have truly strange responses when it comes to different types of Star Trek. Time and time again, some new Star Trek movie or series will come out and, time and time again, some Star Trek fan will say it’s not real Trek.

That ol’ chestnut came up again when Twitter user @jacoby09 expressed excitement for Star Trek: Picard season 3, but also noted “rumblings from within a portion of the fandom about ‘real Trek‘ being back.” Picard showrunner Terry Matalas picked up on that observation and added some needed context. “I remember when [The Next Generation] wasn’t real Trek,” Matalas wrote, recalling the fan backlash to every 90s and early 2000s series. “It’s fantastic to be excited for a return to the old tone here, but there can and should be many different kinds of Treks.”

Surely, Matalas knows what he’s talking about. Despite putting the beloved Jean-Luc Picard in the center, many people took exception to the show’s darker tone, including cursing and gore. But rather than discuss whether or not those choices worked on an aesthetic level for them, too many simply dismissed the show as “not real Trek.”

As Matalas points out, Picard finds itself in good company when people complain that it isn’t real Trek. Not only does it join several current Trek series, especially Discovery (like @jacoby09 rightly contends), but it sits alongside basically every entry since the original series ended its run in 1969. Is Wrath of Khan, with its naval combat and military apparatus, “real Trek“? Gene Roddenberry certainly didn’t think so, and he created the series.

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Indeed, people have always questioned the validity of new Star Trek series. How can TNG, with its bald Captain and beige Enterprise be the successor to a show marked by its technicolor sets and virile Captain with a surely very real head of hair? How could the more cynical Deep Space Nine, which doesn’t even focus on exploration and has a morally compromised Captain, follow the high-minded idealism of TNG? How could you replace the grand themes of Trek past with a song from Patch Adams? How could you call an action-packed Star Wars-esque movie Star Trek? How could you make a Star Trek series about a mutineer who isn’t even the Captain?

And so it goes.

Matalas’s point gets at something that has been true all Trek, real or unreal alike. The more we expand our understanding, the more we see variety and difference. Do we have to like it all? Of course not. If Picard or Discovery or TNG doesn’t work for you, then it doesn’t work for you. But to say that something isn’t Trek because you don’t like it is to put yourself above many of the people who made and loved Trek.

“I’ll know it when I see it” may be a fine definition for pornography, but it’s a nonsense argument for Star Trek, precisely because it refuses the concept of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.