Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Other Captain's Prerogative

Here's what I said about TV's Star Trek: The Next Generation back in '09 while analyzing the first of the four 24th century-era feature films in the Trek catalog:
If Star Trek (the original show) was ahead of its time (to its detriment, as it turned out), then The Next Generation was perfectly of its time. Whether it was the egalitarian nature of the ensemble, with the captain as first among equals, or the chair on the ship's bridge reserved for the captain's shrink, the telegraphed intent was to stand apart from the original, demonstrating on a weekly basis just how much things had improved since the franchise's '60s origins.
For the most part, I still think that observation holds true (though I may have been overstating it earlier in the review when I said the show just "didn't work"). While I've gone on to question how well Gene Roddenberry's back-to-formula take on his creation has withstood time's ravages -- for a variety of reasons -- I fully acknowledge that any issues with the show itself don't stem from the man in the center chair, Jean-Luc Picard, or the man who embodied him, Patrick Stewart. In this instance, both actor and character have earned at least as much iconic significance as their respective predecessors. I mean, how can they not, after acting the hell out of scenes like this:


I've always felt that the eternal fanboy struggle over whether Kirk or Picard is the superior Trek captain (which I also discussed at length here) is as artificial as a red herring from the Enterprise's replicators. The necessities of episodic fiction mean neither was ever going to be less than heroic and noble, so the stereotypes each side deployed ("Kirk is a loose cannon!" "Picard is a stuffed shirt!") were just sketchy caricatures. The initial governing principle was clearly to make Picard as non-Kirkish as possible, but that gradually fell away. By the time the series ended its seven-year mission, both characters were more similar -- in both style and disposition -- than not.

The reason I bring all this up is because of my blog entry from last Sunday, wherein I linked to Alex Knapp's Forbes piece about leadership lessons from Captain Kirk. I jokingly ended that post by wondering whether a similar piece about The Next Generation's Captain Picard would also be forthcoming. As it happens, it was, and Alex was kind enough to provide a link. It's another very solid rundown of the many admirable traits embodied by the Enterprise-D's paterfamilias, offering a very thorough snapshot of what we can all learn from Jean-Luc at his best.

1 comment:

Abdul-Halim V. said...

bald Sisko is the best captain.