Every week in 2018, the plan is that my friend Rod is going to ask me some geeky question that will answer in a post. This week is Week #37, and this week, Rod’s question is very topical from a Geeky perspective:
What’s my suggestion for a new Star Trek project featuring Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard?
This references, of course, one of the big pieces of geeky news from a little while ago. The word is that Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard will be returning to Star Trek in some shape or size. No one is exactly sure in what form this will take place, and rumors and speculations abound as there seem to be an endless supply of ideas of where Star Trek as a franchise could go from here.
Stewart, who is now 78, was quoted as saying that the producers of the new show, whatever it is, will “endeavour to bring a fresh, unexpected and pertinent story to life once more.” What this means is anybody’s guess, but here are some observations:
• Next year it will 25 years since Star Trek: The Next Generation went off the air. The last episode of that show flashed forward to a potential future that was actually set about twenty-five years in the future. In that future, Picard suffers from a neurodegenerative condition, and he struggles with thinking and communicating clearly.
• Recently, Star Trek has shown signs of expanding into more “adult” territory. There are reports that Quentin Tarantino, of all people, is working on a Star Trek movie that would be fully R-rated. And on in the recent Star Trek Discovery TV series, the show dropped a few “f-bombs” in an effort to make itself appear to be hip, modern, and cool. (Naturally, as swearing almost always does, it actually made the show look juvenile and immature, but whatever).
• Recently, Patrick Stewart co-starred in Logan, in which he played his second most famous role, Professor Xavier of the X-Men, 25 years after mutants stopped being born. In it, Xavier is an old man debilitated by a neurodegenerative condition who, and struggles with thinking and communicating clearly. Regardless, he does manage to swear a bunch.
So with all of that, I’m fully expecting this new Star Trek series, whatever it is, to portray Picard as a broken old man who swears a lot, or at least some. The show will feel bleak and everyone will complain that it doesn’t have the hope and optimism that Trek is supposed to have. People will begin to find it after about half a dozen episodes, but only if they squint.
But…this post isn’t supposed to be about what I think will happen, but about what I’d like to happen.
So, my idea is that Patrick Stewart isn’t playing Picard at all, but rather an older version of Shinzon, his Romulan clone from Star Trek Nemesis, who has secretly killed and replaced his doppelgänger and is working to destroy the Federation from within by violating the Warp Speed limit as much as possible and disrupting space….
OK, no, I’m kidding. I’d hate that. As would, I suspect, everyone.
No, the real story is this:
Star Trek: Vanguard
Retired Starfleet captain Jean-Luc Picard is travelling from his home on earth to a remote medical facility on the fringe of Federation space. He still suffers from advanced Irumodic Syndrome, with great impact upon his ability to think, remember and communicate. He laments that he has not been able to avoid this, even with decades of warning (thanks to the incident with Q and the “anti-time” future).
He is traveling aboard the USS Pike, an exploration and science vessel that has been tasked to study a new area of space that has recently opened up relations with the Federation. Some of these people are known as the Llorn, and they are highly medically advanced. It’s thought that they may have the key to curing Picard’s condition.
He is accompanied on this trip by his wife, Beverly Crusher (some things have changed from that alternate reality that he witnessed), played by Gates McFadden, and former crew member and retired officer Geordi La Forge, played by LeVar Burton. The commander of the Pike is a Captain Katya Itrescu, and the First Officer is Commander Eriq Satie, the grandson (or great grandson, not sure of the chronology) of Admiral Norah Satie, who once had an adversarial relationship with Picard (The Drumhead). Satie is meant to be on his last mission before he takes over as the Captain of a prestigious new vessel, the Vanguard. He harbors some resentment toward Picard for what he feels like is his role in the inglorious conclusion of the admiral’s career.
On board the Llorn’s mighty medical vessel, which is in orbit above their planet, Picard meets with local doctors and submits to this experimental procedure. This medical vessel has no name–it never occurred the Llorn to give it one. They refer to it simply as the Medical Ship.
Meanwhile, the Pike and the local Llorn crew are both confused by sensor readings that indicate a disruption to the fabric of spacetime in the region, and investigate.
To the great regret of everyone, the medical procedure is deemed a failure, and Picard experiences dramatic and scene-stealing regret over the loss of the mental faculties he once had as one of the most celebrated commanding officers in the history of Starfleet. He prepares to return home and live out his remaining days in his vineyard on earth.
However, their trip is delayed when the local disruptions in spacetime turn into a full blown explosion that severely damages space in the area. Thanks to the help of the Pike and the quick thinking of Geordi, Beverly and even Picard in his debilitated state, the Medical Ship survives the cataclysm. From the explosion seems to come a variety of energy signatures which spread out into this region of space, landing on various inhabited planets, including Llorn. Communications and transporters are disrupted, so it’s difficult to determine what is going on. The Pike‘s security chief, Lt. Commander Harper, leads an away team via shuttle to Llorn to track the energy signature that landed there. He is accompanied by a Vulcan operations officer named Sotan, and Geordi (the engineering situation on the Medical Ship and the Pike appearing stable for the moment).
One physical object remains floating in the midst of the space that was impacted by the explosion. Detecting a faint life sign, Commander Satie performs a daring and risky maneuver in another of the Pike’s advanced shuttles to recover it and bring it to the Medical Ship. Everyone is shocked when it turns out not to be a vessel or escape pod, but a humanoid life form. Indeed, it is none other than Q, who is unconscious and seems to be barely holding onto life.
Back on Llorn, Harper, Sotan and Geordi finds that the energy signature carried a small ship, within which half a dozen humanoid life forms are unconscious. One awoke prior to the team’s arrivals and has already left and made contact with Llorn officials. These officials show up with a larger transport and quickly collects the small ship and everyone in it. The team from the Pike is sidelined.
At the same time, limited communications are re-established with some of the neighboring worlds. What they hear is confusing–the messages from the various systems are cryptic and incomplete, indicating strange and unusual behaviour.
Picard faces his old frenemy, who still looks like he did back on Next Generation thanks to expensive computer de-aging effects. But when Q stirs and sees Picard’s current condition, he “ages” himself to what John de Lancie currently looks like (helping the special effects budget to not get out of control). It is clear that Q is also just a shade of his former self, having gone through terrible trauma. He is constantly guarded by Lt. Taron, a female Llorn security officer.
Q claims to be the the last of his race, with the others all having been killed by an ancient enemy. This enemy have come through into Picard’s universe and somehow responsible for the confusion that is overtaking the neighbouring systems. Q is typically not completely forthcoming about who this is and what they are doing.
On the surface, Geordi and Sotan are made to wait while Harper is being briefed by the Llorn officials at the Llorn High Command. They can see that there is a heightened flurry of activity amongst all the government and scientific officials, which makes Geordi suspicions. Finally, Harper rejoins them and says that everything is all right, but there isn’t time to lose. Their team is joining is the Llorn on an urgent new mission to capture a dangerous alien intruder on board the Pike. However, Geordi’s ocular implants detect something strange about Harper’s body chemistry, and when he and Sotan try to resist Harper, Harper turns violent. Geordi and Sotan escape and hide somewhere in the Llorn command centre.
Just then, the Pike detects a number of ships approaching them from the planet’s surface. Communications are limited to a simple warning for the medical ship to prepare to be boarded. Picard and the Captain Itrescu advise caution, but just then, the commander of the Medical Ship, Dr. Vex, on his bridge, is finally able to communicate with his world. When the screen activates he starts to talking to the Llorn High Commander, who is sitting with the alien who first awoke on the strange transport. The Llorn High Commander insists that Vex listen to this man.
When Q–still in a medical bay on the Medical Ship with Picard, Satie, Crusher and Taron–discovers that they are about to be boarded, he begins to panic. He warns Picard and the others that if they let these people on board, they will almost certainly die. Lt. Taron agrees, but Dr. Vex insists that this is the proper course of action, and the ship’s are welcomed on board.
They turn out to be armed with Llorn soldiers who begin to systematically wipe out everyone on board, including the Llorn doctors and staff. Even the Dr. Vex seems to willingly go to his own death to allow the soldiers to do what they want to do At the same time, the other ships fire on the Medical Ship. The Pike comes to their rescue and takes severe damage, with many crewmen killed. In a dramatic and nail-biting sequence, Picard, Satie, and the others must work together to defeat the intruders and eventually move both the Pike and the medical ship away from planet and find a temporary place to hide by a rogue planetoid.
Lt. Taron desperately establishes contact with her home world to find out what’s going on. She is surprised when the Llorn High Command responds, and she sees him with the same alien from before. The high commander defers to the alien, who introduces himself as Garryn Baaz, and asks Taron for her help. It is imperative that their forces retake the medical ship. All the carnage that they’ve witnessed–the gunning down of their own medical staff and officers–has been in service to the greater good. Taron is asked by Baaz if they can rely on her? She is persuaded, and answers yes. She sends their location to the High Command.
Once the communication is ended, Baaz turns to the High Commander and Commander Harper, who is with him. He says the other two Starfleet personnel (Geordi and Sotan) must be found and brought to him. They must be persuaded of his good intentions. Harper agrees. However, in the meantime, he himself will accompany the next wave of ships that attempt to take the Medical Ship, in order to better ensure their mission’s success. Harper will go as well, since he knows the Pike‘s systems. Baaz insists that while he is gone, the rest of his crew is to remain sedated, except for Norah, his second in command, who is currently being brought back to consciousness. None of them know, however, that Geordi is secretly observing them.
Not knowing any of this, Commander Satie and Picard demand that Q tell them the whole story. It turns out that the same enemy that destroyed the Q Continuum are an ancient race that the Q had held prisoner for millennia. Even though they are few in number, they were predicted in ancient times by the Continuum to eventually become the dominant species in the universe, and so were locked away in another dimension to prevent this happening.
The reason why they are such a danger is that they have a special ability–they generate a psychic field which causes every sentient being they meet to want to trust and believe them. Consequently, this race–dubbed “Persuaders”–can be as malevolent as they want–as openly destructive even–and people, races and worlds will still want to listen to them, help them, and promote their causes. Q theorizes that they encountered other powerful beings in their prison dimension and were able to persuade them to fight back against the Q. They succeeded, nearly wiping out the species, with only our familiar Q making his way into our dimension in order to warn his old friend, Jean-Luc Picard.
Back on Llorn, Geordi tells Sotan what he observed. He says he could tell there was some sort of hypnosis or mind control that had taken place with this Garryn Baaz, and he think he wasn’t affected only because Baaz wasn’t talking directly to him. Geordi and Sotan determine to sneak aboard one of the fighters that are going to attack the Medical Ship in order to help.
Captain Itrescu has put security measures in place to limit any outside communication, but she doesn’t know that Taron has already given away their location. They are able to glean some information from the limited subspace chatter that they can pick up, and realise that on the different worlds where groups of Persuaders have landed are all acting strangely. Some seem to be on the verge of destroying themselves, or launching into previously unthinkable wars. None of it comes from a place of reason or free thought, but an uncontrollable desire to please. Picard finds the whole idea horrifying, with it reminding him both of his time assimilated by the Borg, and his current degradation of mental facilities. Q, for his part, is disappointed to find Picard so feeble.
The crew prepare to abandon the Medical Ship and to escape this damaged region of space in the Pike. Just then, Geordi and Sotan are able to secretly signal the Medical Ship of their approach, but the signal is picked up by the “persuaded” Lt. Taron. At the same time, Satie becomes aware of secret communication going on, and is able to subdue Taron before she is able to alert the Llorn that they have stowaways on board their convoy.
Conferring together, Satie, Itrescu, Picard, Q and Geordi concoct a scheme to capture Garryn Baaz and to escape the impending Llorn attack. The plan involves on Q coming into contact with Baaz, since he is the only one immune to his abilities. The plan involves temporarily disabling all the attacking ships with a technobabble pulse except for the one that Baaz is on, and bringing that one alone to the Pike to be captured. It all goes well at first, but in its final stages it falls apart due to the interference of Harper, who is on board the ship with Baaz. He makes manages to crash their ship onto the Medical Ship instead, allowing Baaz to escape into it. Baaz is able to even “turn” some more of the local personnel. Picard, in a moment of lucidity, is able to stun these persuaded crewmen and tackle Baaz to the ground. Baaz attempts to draw Picard to his side, but is shocked when his abilities fail to work on Picard. Picard is able to get the guy locked up and isolated.
Later, Beverly and Q investigate why Picard was immune from the Persuader’s ability, and come to conclusion that it is a side effect of the Irumodic syndrome. Together, Picard and Q interrogate Baaz and realise that the reason that he is attacking the Medical Ship is because he can sense the presence of Q himself, and wanted to destroy the last of his ancient imprisoners. Picard and Q also come to the conclusion that the best hope for the galaxy is the fact that the Persuaders aren’t a unified species. They are in a variety of factions which each have their own goals and agendas…and so the worlds that they are starting to influence are not all working to exactly the same purpose. Indeed, that is the reason that Baaz has not yet woken up all of the fellow members of his faction on Llorn.
Nonetheless, the threat of these aliens will soon spread beyond the immediate area, and the whole galaxy could be impacted. For his part, Baaz is unrepentant–he plans to use his small group to establish control of Llorn and from their expand their power base over as many species as they can. He and Q trade verbal assaults, and Q misses the days when he was powerful enough to change reality with a thought. The initial attack from the Persuaders has left him as vulnerable as the humans are.
Meanwhile, Sotam (who along with Geordi is now reunited with the rest of the Starfleet crew) attempts to mind-meld with Taron in order to see if she and the others can be “set free” of the Persuaders influence, but he is unable to help her.
Fearing that the Llorn ships will have recovered and resume their attack, the plan to abandon the Medical Ship is put into practice. Captain Itrescu considers the captured Persuader too dangerous to be brought aboard, and he is to be abandoned on the ship. However, the “turned” personnel who are currently held prisoner, including Harper and Taron, are brought along. All the survivors–Llorn and Starfleet alike–board the Pike and begin to make their way out of the region.
However, soon they are attacked by a whole variety of vessels, from the Llorn but also from other worlds. It seems all the Persuaders can sense Q and are determined to destroy him. The Pike takes heavy damage, and the Captain orders all hands to abandon ship. She instructs Satie to lead everyone back to the Medical Ship and attempt to establish themselves there. Satie of course objects but orders are orders.
Everyone splits up amongst the Pike’s six shuttles. However, Sotam is forced to leave Harper behind when the imprisoned officer escapes. And just before he boards a shuttle to escape with Picard, Q comes to a decision. As long as he is with the survivors, they will be in direct danger from the Persuaders. He uses the last of his powers, and the last of his life, to effect a permanent change in Picard–he cures him of his Irumodic Syndrome, while allowing him to retain the quality that makes him immune to the Persuaders. In doing so, Q dies, and a newly invigorated Picard leads his particular shuttle full of survivors to escape the attack on the Pike.
Picard and Commander Satie (aboard different shuttles) coordinate their efforts to outwit and ultimately destroy the attacking the ships, which allows for Captain Itrescu, who is now alone on the Pike, to make a last desperate lunge out of the disrupted space area. Invaluable to this effort is a young hotshot Llorn pilot, Greel, who is given control of Picard’s shuttle due to a lack of surviving Pike officers.
Itrescu manages to take the Pike into regular Federation space, but the ship is dying. She is confronted by the still-persuaded Lt. Commander Harper, who attempts to stop her from sending out an emergency warning message to Starfleet command. The two have a dramatic hand-to-hand fight, and in the end Harper fails to stop Itrescu from sending the message. Both officers are killed when the Pike finally succumbs to its damage and explodes.
As a result, Starfleet erects a quarantine around the entire area, with no ships allowed to enter or leave, leaving Picard and his group on their own.
Rendezvouzing aboard the medical ship, the survivors set about making it defensible, while Picard and Satie come to terms with who will be in command. It is decided that Satie will be the Captain, as he was about to be promoted anyway, and that the Medical Ship will be renamed the Vanguard, after the ship Satie was meant to have as his own. Picard, meanwhile, will map out their overall strategy in the region, functioning essentially as Starfleet Command.
Beverly figures out how to extract some of Picard’s brain fluid to create a formula which replicates his immunity to the Persuaders. This is successfully tested on Lt. Taron to set her free–but it’s a painful process for Picard and cannot be done widely. There is enough to set the other two officers who were persuaded free, and to permanently inoculate one other person. Beverly intends to give this to Satie, but he has Beverly immunised instead, reasoning that she is more valuable to the overall effort of finding a way for everyone to be free of the Persuaders’ influence. He also decides that it is critical that Picard can trust his wife, if he is going to be able to help lead them to victory in this present crisis.
The new crew of the Vanguard take their positions. This includes Geordi as the Chief Engineer, Beverly as the Chief Medical Officer, Sotam as the First Officer, Taron as the Security Officer, and young Greel as the Conn officer. Garryn Baaz remains a prisoner on board the ship–a constant threat to everyone should he ever escape, but a potential source of information as well. Everyone has their work cut out for them as they attempt to figure out how to mount a resistance to the Persuaders and ultimately protect the Federation from aggressive activities.
And that, as they say, is that. The show would have a few classic faces, but also a lot of new ones. It’d be fun to work in a bunch more Star Trek cameos–in particular I considered working Jeri Ryan’s Seven of Nine into my premise, but didn’t think of that until I was too far along. And besides, the other dark place that this show could go (aside from the one I joked about up top) is that it just turns into a tour of Star Trek‘s greatest hits, and even though it’d be fun to see all those people again, I think it’d probably be to the detriment of whatever story they are telling.