I wrote for Star Trek: The Next Generation. It's a good thing to establish that fact right off the bat. Fans can offer their passionate opinion on all things Trek, but as writer of a TNG episode, I helped to shape one of Star Trek's most beloved incarnations.
Naturally I regard Trek with a longtime fan's eye tempered by the practical reality of contributing to the expansive universe. Created by Star Trek founder Gene Roddenberry in 1987, The Next Generation was a big gamble for everyone involved—a gambit still paying out dividends for Paramount Pictures and CBS.
As a freelance screenwriter, I wasn't privy to the behind the scenes of being on staff, but freelancers received writer's guidelines, a Treknobabble technical manual, and an ever-evolving show bible to ground writers in the kinds of stories producers wanted.
After TNG came Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise. Most recently, Star Trek: Discovery became the second prequel show to warp along.
Now, get ready, Trekkers. Here comes Star Trek: Picard. This sequel series to TNG is already making enormous waves in Trek fandom. Available exclusively on the CBS All Access streaming platform starting in 2020, the show promises to give fans the lowdown on just what Jean-Luc Picard has been up to since we last saw him fight his embittered clone (Tom Hardy) in the feature film, Star Trek: Nemesis.
Oh, Jean-Luc! What a long and winding space-based road you've traveled.
'Star Trek: The Syndicated Generation'
Up until TNG, shows in syndication came under the banner of talk, news, or game shows. Dramatic or fictional offerings running in syndication weren't very expensively produced. So when TNG came along, it distinguished itself as one of the most lavishly produced syndicated choices.
By the time I wrote for Trek, six seasons had passed, and there was early talk about bringing the TNG cast to the big screen. Most of Picard's crew's backstories had already been explored, however, there was still room for Worf's human foster brother—played by veteran actor Paul Sorvino, probably best known from director Martin Scorcese's crime drama, Goodfellas.
Going 'Homeward' Bound
Now, with Star Trek: Picard, it appears there's going to be more than a few chances at great reunions and homecomings. Jeri Ryan, the popular Borg drone Seven of Nine herself, will be seen in a recurring role on the show, and both Marina Sirtis and Jonathan Frakes will reprise Counselor Deanna Troi and Will Riker respectively. Actor Levar Burton who played Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge has been quoted as saying he feels most TNG cast will reappear at some point in the new show.
It's a good bet fans are probably most jazzed and curious on android Data (Brent Spiner) returning. But wait a digital calculated second... Didn't Data sacrifice himself in Nemesis? Indeed. Of course, his less sophisticated brother received Data's neural net download, and although it's yet to be seen, it appears Data will be restored—albeit residing alongside his A.I. sibling's positronic brain.
Talk about intense brotherly love.
Let's see what's out there...
We've only gotten two trailers so far to give us a sense of what ST: Picard will be like. We know much of the TNG cast will be in recurring roles or at least in guest star appearances. Voyager cast members such as Jeri Ryan and Robert Picardo, who played the holographic Doctor on Captain Janeway's Starship, will join in on the fun. It appears the Borg will play a pretty central role—at least in the first season.
So, what's not to like?
Perhaps the greatest stumbling block—if there can be such a thing with such a beloved cast of characters returning—is that as of this writing, Starfleet doesn't appear an important element. It remains to be seen how many of Picard's old crew mates are still serving in the exploratory arm of the United Federation of Planets, but Picard himself will no longer be an active Starfleet member. He won't be commanding a starship—one that fans are accustomed to seeing anyway. This may be the most jarring revelation to old fans, yet new fans beaming on board may welcome the change of not having Starfleet calling all the shots.
In the words of our fabled Captain Jean-Luc Picard, which echoes any space explorer worth his or her salt, Let's see what's out there... That above all is where Star Trek: Picard will most likely brilliantly shine—charting the great Human Adventure, which all of us universally undertake.