Then It Comes, and Are You Ready

Because of some real-life stuff happening, ie real life is happening all the time right now and I’m doing my best with it, I can’t commit to weekly threads about this show but YOU SHOULD ALL BE WATCHING PICARD: 

What I loved about Picard’s immediate embrace of Dahj was that it speaks to everything Picard was in the television show: a generous soul with a sixth sense for when someone is telling the truth, no matter how outlandish. And after his trip to Starfleet archives, he very tenderly tells Dahj the truth: She isn’t human. Picard’s archival materials are a treasure trove for Trekkies: the Captain Picard Day sign and the model of the Stargazer, for starters.

To Picard, Dahj is every bit as deserving of empathy as Data was.

“If you are who I think you are, you are dear to me in ways that you can’t understand,” Picard tells her. “I will never leave you.”

I grew up on Next Gen but even before that I had an Authority Thing and an Older Man Thing and a Mentor/Student Thing and so Captain Picard pushed all the buttons. Teenage me would have thrown myself at him while he chivalrously drove me home and told me to concentrate on my homework. (Part of the appeal of crushes like that is that you know they would never.)

And you have to remember there was nothing GOOD on TV back then. Watch the Drumhead episode, the Borg storyline, the “Family” ep I still can’t re-watch without being completely destroyed, and yes, right now AMC and HBO give us that kind of depth and character development and goddamn Shakespearean glory every single week but back then? Imagine seeing this when all you’d seen was Growing Pains:

There was nothing like that, holy shit. The language blew my tiny baby-writer mind. My body was ready for Star Trek: Picard, is what I’m saying, and I still wasn’t ready.

HERE BE SPOILERS FOR EVERYTHING UP TO TOMORROW.

What do you do when you’re done being a hero?

Ha ha ha ha trick question, very funny joke. Got you there.

You’re never done.

Idiot.

Don’t take it personally. We’re all idiots about this, which is what this show is about.

Jean-Luc Picard saved the whole goddamn world about sixteen times, if I’m counting right. The universe a couple more, and along the way he saved a crew of misfits and weirdos with varyingly deployed backstories who all put up with his noble loyal shit because they believed, as he did, that what they were doing was right.

There was a badge on his chest and a slogan in his mouth and they meant something to him.

And then the thing to which he’d given his life, for which he broke his own heart over and over and over for years, betrayed him, and he went home to make wine and walk his dog and never speak to anyone about any of it ever again.

How many times do we have to hear this story before we understand? You can almost trick yourself, sometimes, into thinking who and what you are will never find you.

He went home and made wine and walked his dog. It went on for years. That’s what you have to get, here: He wasn’t even all that unhappy. He had a life that made sense. He had a fire to keep him warm and a roof that hid the stars from his sight. And at his age (I am closer now, to his age, than I am to the age he was when we first met, and oh), I mean, can you blame him.

The parades died down and the awards gathered dust and he didn’t look too hard in the mirror, and he felt his bones ache and his tendons tighten. It was always there, like a ringing, like an aftershock. Like the humming of the rails miles before the train comes roaring down the tracks in all its clatter-black smoking fury.

He did what he did in that interview on purpose, and you knew that from the second his feet hit the floor.

Subsequent episodes, secondary characters of varying degrees of interesting/believable, spiral out; he’s forced to retrace his life, to untangle the thread as he follows it, unspooling: All the good you thought you did, all the hope you had, everything you left behind in the certainty that you were finished with it, that someone else would pick up the mantle? It’s all there, unfinished.

He went for Raffi, who he hurt. He went for Elnor, who he abandoned. For Dr. Jurati, who knows she isn’t what she thinks she is, for Santiago, who hides behind his own face half the time. He told them what he’d learned, what he’d seen. They all had reasons to say no to him and they all said yes.

ROMULANS ONLY, said the sign on the outdoor café, heavy-handed as only Star Trek knows how to be. You’re not one of us, those inside told him, no matter what you think you did for us. The operative word in there is for. The savagery of empires, yes, but also the limits of allyship and the cruelty of charity, the arrogant sin of benevolence. The war is never over. You can’t just drop some baskets of food on it and leave it in the dust.

That’s the lesson he’s learning, that he’s leaning into, even as it batters and baffles him, throughout this show. That’s the thread that twists through the tapestry of the whodunit. One of the things I had entirely forgotten is how much he and Data both loved a mystery. They both loved a holodeck Sherlock Holmes romp, but there’s something running underneath this one, and I trust TV enough these days to think they’ll eventually catch it.

What do you do when you’re done being a hero? You get up the next day and you do it again.

Again. Yes, again. Yes, even though you’re hurt. Yes, even though you did it already. Yes, even though you’re old. Even though they sent you away. Even though they didn’t appreciate you. Even though they screwed with you. Even though you never ever ever even once got what you deserved.

Even though.

Again, and again, and again. Over and over until you are dead and the reason you do it is the way he straightened up, with the emblem on his chest and the stars in his eyes. I don’t care who you think you are, and you can kid yourself all you want. There is a thing that makes you alive. You come to an understanding with it, you answer the reckoning call when it comes, or you die in pieces every day after. By the fire, with your wine, with your dog.

There are four lights.

Let’s go.

A.

2 thoughts on “Then It Comes, and Are You Ready

  1. Spocko says:

    Great PIECE Athena OF all the things I like about this show, the character of Picard is what I want to see most. Doing the right thing, beliving in ideals even when you can’t alway reach them. THE ACTION scenes are good, but I like people talking about ideas and ideals. SPOCK’S mirror in the other universe was challenged by Kirk to make a difference. Picard is being that man in our current one. One where we are discouraged because the evil empire keeps winning.
    We can tell people to use their BRAIN, but we also need to appeal to their heart. To let them know the fight for good things is important. That saying, “Let me go back to sleeping is not who we are.” and when we get our Captain we have to keep fighting. Because the Captain needs US to. He can’t do it alone. He needs out skills. We need his imperfect quest to be better
    He needs us engaged. .

    PS Did you decode the message in my POST?
    DRINK YOUR OVALTINE!

  2. Oh, brava, Athenae.

    You see, Picard was never going to be my Starfleet Captain. (Nor Sisko, nor Janeway.) I grew up on James Tiberius Kirk (and Jim West), and … I got my fill of talk way before the writers did.

    In the real world this was the end of Reagan II/Bush Sr.

    I so wanted somebody to come along and knock the snot out of the bad guys, unequivocally
    Didn’t get it with Sisko or Janeway. Got it part of the time with Archer/Trip Tucker. Part of the time would do … until now.

    Here we are nearly four decades on, and a Jean-Luc Picard who doesn’t have to worry about Starfleet, or the Federation, or Q, is back, and he’s knocking the not out of the bad guys, and I love it.

    Seven of Nine rocks, and his young Romulan samurai is awesome, and Rios … well damme if there’s not a Han Solo in Star Trek now.

    But Picard is not Obi-Wan, to die for no purpose except inspiration. This is gonna be good….

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