At this point, you’ve surely seen them:
- “Upcoming Picard Series Still Has No Title”
- “Picard Series Production Delayed”
- “Netflix, Disappointed in Discovery, Passes on Picard”
- “Next Generation Cast Not Approached for Picard Series”
The rumours surrounding the “Picard” series are flying fast and furious, and with the internet operating at full tilt, even reputable sites are giving a degree of voice to these rumours with one degree or another of credence. Living as we do in a digital age, this is inevitable. People, after all, have to put out content to keep people coming back to their sites. But as interesting and intriguing as some of the rumours may seem, none of them really have the kind of bearing on the forthcoming series as, on the surface, it might seem.
With recent streaming partner announcements and today’s network upfront presentations, CBS Studios has given us strong indications that the series is on track to be delivered, as promised.
With the upfront presentation earlier today, we have learned that the series is, at least provisionally, titled Star Trek: Picard. This represents a significant departure from Star Trek series nomenclature. Instead of focusing on the quality of the series (The Next Generation) or the locale (Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, and Discovery), we have been handed a title that demonstrates the commitment of CBS and the creative crew to Jean-Luc Picard as the focal point of the entire series. We have not been lied to when we have been told that the series tells the ‘next chapter’ of his storied life.
With production slated to begin in mid-April, fans latched onto the production delay that appeared to push back work on the series by about a week. As recently as yesterday, internet pundits were fishing claims that no footage has been shot for the series. Once again, in the upfronts, we have seen this is not the case.
At this point, we know very little about the setting of Star Trek: Picard. Given the location for filming, we may be dealing with a planet-side series with occasional forays into space. Or, we could be dealing with a lot of space-based action. We simply don’t know enough to make an educated guess, which means there are a lot of factors we cannot assume. Questions seem to be abounding about special effects timelines, editing, composing, and so forth. “If they don’t get footage in the can soon, how can they move forward?” As we have seen from Star Trek: Discovery, things can be in the planning and production phases for a long time before actors step in front of a camera. If early episodes of the series are Planet-based, for example, the number of SFX sequences may be comparatively low. At the same time, while modern filming methods and post-production practices give us the idea that it takes more time to produce less programming, we really don’t know what pace CBS intends to follow in production and post.
In short, with no committed date released (beyond late 2019), we have some variance in our expectations. Let’s worry about production delays in August when Sir Patrick tweets that he’s suddenly working on some other film and is relocating to Bosnia for two years.
REJECTED BY NETFLIX
Another ‘business side’ rumour surrounds the lengthy delay in announcing international distribution partners, and the ultimate choice of Amazon Prime Video as the worldwide rights holder for the series.
One of the rumoured reasons that production was delayed surrounded Netflix’s ‘displeasure’ with Star Trek: Discovery, and their frustration that the series seemed to have a very different look and feel than TNG, leading to demands from license and distribution holders to rework the series before committing. Ultimately, it is claimed, Netflix, underwhelmed by the performance of Discovery, walked.
It’s no secret that CBS is looking to expand its All Access model beyond the United States. Certainly, this may have played into the decision-making process for Netflix, but the second season of Discovery was well received, both domestically and internationally. Star Trek has become a hot commodity, and with the recent news from Alex Kurtzman and his production company that there are potentially ‘unannounced’ programs simmering in development, it seems highly unlikely that either CBS or a potential streaming sponsor is worried about picking up a series. CBS would not have the budget to produce two animated series and a minimum of three live-action series in the coming years if Discovery had not been a substantial hit.
Enter Amazon. Let’s face it, Jeff Bezos and Amazon didn’t become rich by being stupid. While a flop investment in Star Trek wouldn’t end Bezos’ financial freedom or hurt Amazon in any meaningful way, they are not interested in bankrolling a flop. You can bank on their Prime Video leadership doing their homework and making some really good evaluations of their potential return on investment before laying out a substantial chunk of change for the massive international rights boon that Star Trek: Picard represents for them. While fans may be annoyed that they have to pick up a second streaming service to watch the series, Amazon is banking that they will get over it… just as they got over the fact that Discovery was going to be an exclusively streaming series, not available via terrestrial stations.
The fact that the next day, Bell announced that Space would air the series in Canada – a continuation of the Discovery pattern – confirms that one well-established partner in modern Trek distribution is more than willing to pony up to keep fresh material coming; and that’s impressive considering CBS All Access launched in Canada last month.
TNG CAST NOT GUESTING ON “PICARD”
This is the one that really seems to stand out, touching on emotional chords and conspiracy theorists alike: none of the TNG cast has been approached to guest on Picard.
This one is tough to swallow, but it makes significant sense. The series has been touted as the next chapter in the story of Picard. We are being led to believe he is no longer in Starfleet and has perhaps been out of the service for some time. We don’t know if he’s going to be an ambassador, an archaeologist, or a peace activist. For all we know, he could be dealing in kivas and trillium on some deep space station (okay, that’s probably not possible). We know that Riker and Troi left nearly two decades ago to head out on the Titan, Worf could be just about anywhere. Data could be dead or alive. Geordi could be a captain by now. We simply don’t know what is going on (and, while the novels are amazing, we can’t even begin to assume that the continuity they have established since “Nemesis” will be followed). What they are up to is, quite frankly, irrelevant to what Picard is doing as we enter into this phase of his life.
If it is true that the Picard series has not invited back the likes of Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, and LeVar Burton, then let me boldly say that it’s for the best… and, frankly, that said situation will probably only last for the first season. “Picard” is not a TNG sequel, at least not in the sense of it being a sequel for the ensemble. Picard has its own ensemble that is being built up specifically to surround Picard as he journeys through this phase of his life. While many fans appreciated the cameo of DeForest Kelley in TNG’s “Encounter at Farpoint”, the successor series never depended on guest spots. TNG’s source of strength was mature, intelligent storytelling that engaged the target audience. Later, once the series was firmly established on its own bona fides, effective use was made of Leonard Nimoy and James Doohan. Star Trek: Picard would be wise to follow the same trend.
Recently in an interview with the LA Times, Star Trek series head honcho described the mandate for the new Picard series as:
“The mandate was to make it a more psychological show, a character study about this man in his emeritus years,” he says. “There are so few shows that allow a significantly older protagonist to be the driver.”
Not that it would be “Matlock in Space.” “What happens when circumstances have conspired to not give him the happiest of endings? Hopefully, it’s a reinforcement of [‘Trek’ creator Gene] Roddenberry’s vision of optimism. He’s going to have to go through deep valleys to get back to the light.”
“It’ll be very different than ‘Discovery.’ It’ll be slower, more meditative. It speaks to the rainbow of colors we’re playing with in all these different shows. ”Read the full LA Times article here
The series started production in April for an expected 10-episode season with Stewart himself describing the season as a 10-hour movie and will be binge-worthy. Although there’s no set release date yet for the show, the series is slated to arrive by the end of 2019.
About The Author
Robert Lyons is a life-long Star Trek fan who was quickly drawn into novels, comics, and models when his appetite for more couldn’t be met by the television alone. By day a hospital chaplain, parish priest, and Mind-Body Medicine practitioner, he lives in Greenwood, Indiana with his wife, Kristen, and their three children – who have also caught the Star Trek bug.
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