Star Trek has always been a little political, but lately the long-running science-fiction franchise has suffered from social justice wokeness and Trump derangement syndrome. Unfortunately, it seems like the latest series Star Trek: Picard will take the same route as it questions the “moral authority” of once iconic institutions. Not even Patrick Stewart’s return as Picard can save the political spiral.
The CBS All-Access series, which premiered January 23 with “Remembrance”, takes place about eighteen years after the film Star Trek: Nemesis where Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) lost his loyal Lieutenant Commander Data (Brent Spiner). Since then, he’s been critical of the United Federation of Planets and even his beloved Starfleet. He also retired from his position and lives away from the action in a villa in France.
However, he agrees to give an interview with the Federation News Network to discuss his position. More specifically, he discusses his controversial position in attempting to relocate refugee Romulans after their planet came into the path of a devastating supernova. Even though Romulans were frequent enemies of the Federation as well as Picard, he maintains that it was the Federation’s job to save their lives, much to the interviewer’s skepticism.
Richter: When you first learned that the Romulan sun was going to explode and the terrible consequences that would bring, what feelings came up for you?
Picard: Oh, well, there are no words to describe the calamitous scale of that change. Which is one of the reasons-
Richter: You can’t tell us how you felt, but your initial actions were to call for a massive relocation of Romulans?
Picard: Well, the Romulans asked for our help, and I believed we had a profound obligation to give it.
Richter: Many felt there were better uses for our resources than aiding the Federation’s oldest enemy.
Picard: Well, fortunately, the Federation chose to support the rescue effort.
Richter: Yes. Initially.
Picard: I have been known to be persuasive. But the Federation understood there millions of lives at stake.
Richter: Romulan lives.
Picard. No. Lives.
Richter: You left the Enterprise to command the rescue armada. 10,000 warp-capable ferries. A mission to relocate 900 million Romulan citizens to worlds outside the blast of the supernova. A logistical feat more ambitious than the pyramids.
Picard: The pyramids were a symbol of colossal vanity. If you want to look for a historical analogy: Dunkirk.
This is where Picard starts showing that annoying moral authority. Salon remarks that the act of not wanting to save sworn enemies is “cementing attitudes that reflect some of the bitterest poisoning Western culture in our version of 2020.” Much like the liberals in real life, the liberals of Star Trek and Salon presume that it’s our job to take care of everyone regardless of what they think of us. Saving lives is a noble cause but wanting to protect one’s own values is hardly a sign of “xenophobia, nationalism, exclusion, and retreat” as Salon says.
The scene continues as the interview shifts to a connected android (“synthetics”) uprising around Mars that devastated the Romulan relocation mission and killed thousands. Following that, all synthetics were banned, a decision Picard vehemently abhors. In fact, it leads him to finally disparage Starfleet for having “slunk from its duties.”
Richter: 92,143 lives were lost, which led to a ban on synthetics.
Picard: Yes. We still don’t know why those synthetics went rogue and did what they did that day, but I believe the subsequent decision to ban synthetic life-forms was a mistake.
Richter: Lieutenant Commander Data, operations officer on the Enterprise, was synthetic. Did you ever lose faith in him?
Richter: What was it that you lost faith in, Admiral? You’ve never spoken about your departure from Starfleet. Didn’t you, in fact, resign your commission in protest? Tell us, Admiral. Why did you really quit Starfleet?
Picard: Because it was no longer Starfleet.
Richter: I’m sorry?
Picard: Because it was no longer Starfleet! We withdrew. The galaxy was mourning, burying its dead, and Starfleet had slunk from its duties! The decision to call off the rescue and to abandon those people we has sworn to save was not just dishonorable. It was downright criminal. And I was not prepared to stand by and be a spectator.
It’s clear what this ban is supposed to represent, and once again, it misrepresents the whole argument in favor of claiming moral superiority. In this case, the “synthetic ban” comes across as a broad, hasty decision brought about by terrified nationalists rather than any act to protect lives. Coming from the mouth of Captain Picard, it’s clear what side we’re supposed to be on by the end.
Fortunately for us, we were warned about the direction this series would go in from Patrick Stewart himself. All we can hope to expect is more subtle jabs against Brexit and Trump as the series continues. For the franchise that used to “boldly go where no man has gone before,” it seems to repeat a lot of the same politics.