Star Trek: Picard and Millennial Disenchantment

The first episode of Star Trek: Picard hit Paramount+ just after midnight, and this elder millennial feels wistful.

The most-aged cohort of millennials, born in 1983, is just old enough to remember and have fleeting memories of the early episodes of TNG. For them, Picard is the elder statesman captain they were raised on.

If the first two seasons of Picard were an attempt at a coda to the singular story of Jean Luc Picard, then its third outing marks a significant departure.

It is an active exercise in revisiting the past and re-engaging with the people, places, and things which provided solace in a simpler time.

The redesign of the refitted USS Titan explicitly calls back to the Constitution-class design of Kirk’s Enterprise, providing fanservice to be sure but also hinting toward the direction this series will take. Kirk’s crew spent more than a decade exploring the trope of old comrades reuniting for one last mission.

Reuniting the old crew, Trek’s evergreen take on “getting the band back together” plays on solemn heartstrings. There is talk of missed opportunities, letting friends slip away, and potentially missing a vital last chance. Prominent throughout is the theme of legacy.

Suppose Star Trek: The Next Generation represented the culmination of Boomer belief in infinite exponential economic growth. In that case, Picard critiques the failures of late-stage capitalism and the military-industrial complex.

The sour-faced sitting Captain Shaw of the Titan comes off not much different than the brand of diffident fan who derives enjoyment from critiquing the minutiae of decisions the characters make throughout the original seven-season run. He characterizes Picard and Riker’s adventures on the Enterprise as “irresponsible.” But as snide as Shaw’s delivery may be, there is an element of underlying truth in what he says. There are a great many occasions where the Enterprise under the command of Jean Luc Picard either stumbled into or allowed its crew to be tricked into encounters that can only be described as shenanigans.

(This is the Senior Staff of the Federation’s flagship. There are official Starfleet logs about this incident.)

Since the return of Patrick Stewart to the role of Jean Luc Picard in the show’s first season, one persistent theme is the systemic decay of the Federation. Viewers encounter far more of the Federation’s failures than successes throughout the show’s run.

If the new season’s first episode is any indication, the show proposes that the answer to those failures is to trust in a network of close friends. The strength of this season will undoubtedly rest in the comfort of the performers with one another, and their reverence for their own real-world relationships as reflected by their characters.

Perhaps that is the answer for millennials. The going will continue to get tough. Gather your friends and meet the challenge together.

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