Star Trek: The Next Generation was an ensemble show. But make no mistake – the star was Captain Picard, and it was a show full of classic Captain Picard moments.
With Patrick Stewart set to make it so again with this week’s premiere of Star Trek: Picard on CBS All Access, we look back on the lesser-known moments that made Picard such a compelling character.
There are the obvious ones. Picard’s assimilation by the Borg. His stretching of the timeline in the TNG finale. All of the episodes that spawned a universe of memes.
But there are more subtle moments. Ones that don’t get talked about as much from TNG that make for some genuinely classic Captain Picard moments.
5. Fake It Till You Make It – Attached
Star Trek: The Next Generation had a hard time deciding if they would pursue a “will they/won’t they’ romantic story between Picard and Dr. Crusher.
The sixth-season episode, “Attached,” was about as real as it ever got.
Picard and Crusher find themselves not only stranded on an alien world, but forced to share a telepathic link. They can’t move more than a few feet from one another without risking death. But staying in close proximity allows them a window into one anothers’ thoughts.
There’s plenty of good back-and-forth between the two. Crusher reads from Picard’s mind that he always thought about pursuing a relationship with her. But she also reads he didn’t act on it because if his guilt, as Crusher’s husband was killed under his command.
The most fun revelation, though, and what makes for one of the classic Captain Picard moments, is when – without any instruments to guide them – Picard basically says, “Let’s go this way.”
Crusher instantly picks up that Picard has no idea where he’s going. When she calls him on it and asks if he does this all the time, Picard tells her that part of a captain’s job is to project confidence whether you have it or not.
It’s an episode full of insight into Picard’s feelings and regrets. And it’s full of classic Captain Picard moments.
4. I Got You, Bro – Sins Of The Father
The third-season TNG episode “Sins Of The Father” is ostensibly a Worf episode.
But when the Enterprise‘s resident curmudgeonly Klingon runs into some family issues, his captain swoops in for the save. And comes up with some classic Captain Picard moments.
Worf is informed by his long-lost brother, Kurn, that their dead father is being framed for treason by an old political rival, Duras. Kurn pledges to stand at Worf’s side as he faces trial for his father’s supposed crimes. But when Kurn is taken out by Duras’s assassins, Worf will need someone else to stand by his side.
Enter Captain Picard.
Up to this point, Picard was mainly a stern, stick-in-the-mud. There were flashes here and there that he regarded his crew as family. Standing beside his blood-thirsty security chief while surrounded by the maniacal kill-happy Klingons? That’s another level of loyalty.
In the course of the adventure, Picard survives an assassination attempt by fighting off three guys at once. And he risks the alliance between the Klingons and the Federation to clear Worf’s name.
Picard’s as a “let’s talk” kind of guy is well-earned. But the classic Captain Picard moments in “Sins Of The Father” show that he’s also a nerves-of-steel kind of guy.
3. Knock-Knock-Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door – Tapestry
All things considered, Picard would probably rather go to hell than discover that Q runs the afterlife. And though the good captain found it hard to stomach, it did make for some classic Captain Picard moments.
The sixth-season episode “Tapestry” sees the Enterprise crew rushing Picard to sickbay after the captain is shot in his artificial heart.
After a flash of light, Picard is face-to-face with the omnipotent Q, who tells Picard his artificial heart ultimately led to his death.
Picard found himself given an artificial heart when he got into a barfight as a young man. But Q offers him a chance to live that moment over again. Knowing how his story ends, Picard – back in his young body – decides to turn the other cheek and not act so impulsively.
This leads to a chain of events that takes Picard down a very different path. One in which he never made Captain. He never even made full Lieutenant. In a very It’s A Wonderful Life turn, Picard realizes that it was the brasher elements of his personality that made him who he was.
Episodes that put Picard face-to-face with his own faults always made for great television. And some classic Captain Picard moments.
2. A Link To The Past – Sarek
The third-season episode “Sarek” brought TNG face-to-face with elements from Star Trek: The Original Series for the first time.
And it made for some classic Captain Picard moments.
The Enterprise hosts the legendary Ambassador Sarek – father of TOS‘s Mr. Spock – for his final diplomatic mission with the touchy Legarans. Of course, the Legarans refuse to negotiate with anyone but Sarek.
But everything is on the up-and-up, right? Well, before long, the Enterprise crew starts losing their cool with one another. Fights are breaking out in the bar, Picard and Riker are yelling at each other on the bridge, dogs and cats living together.
But the classic Captain Picard moments come after he discovers the root of the emotional outbursts. Sarek is suffering the Vulcan equivalent of Alzheimer’s disease and is losing control of his highly-guarded emotions. To contain them, Sarek’s aides are telepathically projecting Sarek’s volatile emotions outward.
They can’t contain it for long, though, and Sarek begins to crack, threatening the negotiations. Picard agrees to a dangerous mind-meld with Sarek – Sarek’s emotional instability is transferred to Picard, and the Ambassador enjoys a temporary measure of peace.
Monitored by Dr. Crusher in his quarters, Picard is forced to run the gauntlet of centuries’ worth of Sarek’s repressed emotions.
It’s an acting tour de force from Patrick Stewart. And one of the true classic Captain Picard moments from an era where even the mention of the word “Spock” was a touchy subject. As opposed to today when Spock emerged on Star Trek: Discovery to appeal to a divided fan base.
1. Resistance Isn’t Futile – Chain Of Command, Part II
This is the episode known for the “There are four lights!” conflict between Picard and the sadistic Cardassian Gul Madred.
It’s chock full, from start-to-finish, with classic Captain Picard moments.
The episode reaches a fevered pitch, though, after Picard – stripped naked and of his very identity (again) – has suffered extreme agony at Madred’s hand. Madred, feeling he’s on the verge of breaking the captain, shares a story the Cardassian’s troubled upbringing.
Picard – always resourceful, always listening – picks up on Madred’s insecurities and prods back at his tormentor. Finally, Madred breaks down and shouts “Be quiet, Picard!”
It’s at that moment we see the light come on (pun intended) over Picard’s head, and he seizes on it, laughing, “You called me Picard!”
Madred turns up the tortures, but Picard remains defiant all the way to the end.
The truly classic Captain Picard moments were the ones where we were reminded that our brave hero was also human. An unshakable will, an incorruptible moral compass, but always human.
Here’s hoping that Star Trek: Picard makes way for more classic Captain Picard moments.
Star Trek: Picard will stream every Thursday on CBS All Access beginning Thursday, January 23.
All images courtesy of startrek.com.