David Mack on Star Trek: Picard
I recently enjoyed interviewing expert Star Trek consultant and author David Mack about Star Trek: Picard. Mack wasn’t involved in the TV series but has written a Picard novel due for release next month: Firewall. When asked what one thing he’d most like to change about Picard, he humorously comments, “I would have put myself in the writers room.”
Mack hesitates to choose his favourite from all the characters created specifically for Star Trek: Picard, then says, “Probably Laris, because Orla Brady is just a terrific actress. Elnor vaguely amuses me, but he’s clearly a space elf. I kind of liked Rios, but he just never really made a big impression on me. I always liked Laris.”
The series, in Mack’s opinion, showed signs of potential ever since the first season. “There’s some interesting visuals. There’s some interesting ideas going on in Season 1,” he says. “There’s lots of fun stuff that’s dropped in and then just never revisited. For instance, Fenris Rangers.”
Although Raffi is in three of the seasons and Rios is in two of them, Mack thinks Picard’s three seasons are quite disconnected from each other. “I feel like, in a lot of ways, they are three miniseries about Jean-Luc Picard and they don’t necessarily feel related to one another. They’re telling three very different stories about this man, Jean-Luc Picard, and the people around him. So, in that respect, it feels like it’s not really all that concerned whether each season connects perfectly to any other season.”
The show’s varied depictions of the Borg are, Mack believes, a consequence of the disconnect between the second and third seasons. “After what happened in Season 2, we’ve made this connection with the Jurati Borg Collective and there’s this hope that the Borg could become a friendly entity and whatever. And then suddenly, we come to the end of Season 3 and the Borg are the secret villain hiding in Jupiter and somehow working with the Changelings. In Season 3, they’re following up on ‘Endgame’ and so there’s that sense that they’re following up Voyager to connect it better with Seven of Nine. But there’s not even a mention of the Jurati Borg. What happened? It just feels like there was probably a discussion at some point where someone probably raised it and they said, ‘You know what? That’s behind us. Don’t look back, just look forward. We’ll tell this story. Don’t worry about how it connects to the last season’s story. That’s not important anymore. Go forward.’”
A follow-up to Star Trek: The Next Generation, the third season could be regarded as essentially the eighth season of that seven-season show. It was enjoyable for Mack. “There were fun moments in Season 3. I felt like it was a big nostalgia hit, clearly a big hit with the fans. It was what they were jonesing for. They wanted it and Terry Matalas delivered it.”
Mack observes that the third season generally contradicted Sir Patrick Stewart’s list of elements he didn’t want included in the show. “It was interesting in that there were a lot of things that I look at in terms of what constituted Season 3, and it’s all the stuff that Patrick Stewart said, before Season 1, that he didn’t ever want to do again, and yet that’s exactly what they ended up doing. All the stuff he said he was done with is what Season 3 became, with the exception of getting him back into uniform. He was adamant about that. He wasn’t wearing the damn uniform! They catch in the crotch, and he wasn’t putting on a damn uniform again. He was going to wear comfortable clothes. He’s the star; he gets what he wants.”
The third season’s depiction of Worf was a particular highlight for Mack. “I liked Zen Worf. I found him very amusing and droll. I loved his joke about, ‘Beheadings are on Wednesdays.’ You know, he had clearly undergone some sort of evolution as a character in his viewpoint, his worldview, his experiences, his temperament. He’s not the hothead who pulled a phaser on the viewscreen in Season 1 of TNG. This is a guy who’s willing to sit quietly and wait for the optimum moment and then just strike, be done, and not even raise his blood pressure. That’s a very different guy.”
Mack has noticed an obviously coincidental story point from Season 3 and one of the books he’s written: the recovery of Data. “I resurrected Data in a novel called The Persistence of Memory, released back in 2012, about ten years before Picard,” he recalls.
An element of the third season that Mack is about to establish in his upcoming novel Firewall is Seven of Nine being deadnamed by Humans insisting on calling her “Annika Hansen”, like Captain Shaw does in the third season. Regarding Seven and Shaw, Mack adds, “They get over it real fast.”
Mack has unresolved questions about some aspects of the storytelling in Star Trek: Picard. They include: the dynamics of the Picard family, particularly compared to how they’re portrayed in TNG, and the condition of Picard’s mother in the second season; the Borg-Changeling alliance and the use of fleet formation mode in the third season.
A direct follow-up to Picard is unlikely, according to Mack. “At this time, as far as we know from what’s being said by the folks at Secret Hideout, Star Trek: Picard is done. And although Patrick Stewart is now making noises like he’d like to maybe do a movie or a three-episode miniseries one-off or something, effectively Star Trek: Picard is done.”
On the whole, Mack believes Picard has had a positive impact on the broader Star Trek franchise and its fan community. “You had Discovery, which did its own thing in the 23rd century as a prequel and then jumped forward to the 32nd century bleeding edge. But I think there were a lot of people who had a great love for The Next Generation and that era and those characters. Picard, I think, gave them an opportunity to come back to the Star Trek they loved, to the characters they recognized, and reinvest. I think now that they’ve seen — based on Picard — the new, higher standard of cinematography, effects, music, props, costumes, everything… I think that it’s going to just generally increase the level of excitement and make people again hungrier for more premium Star Trek.”
David Mack’s Star Trek: Picard novel, Firewall, is due for release on 27 February 2024.
Editor of WarpFactorTrek, Dan is an avid Star Trek fan who lives in Aberdeen, Scotland. Dan has loved Star Trek ever since discovering it in his childhood. He worked as an administrator, for six years, on the encyclopedic Star Trek website Memory Alpha, which involved studying the making of the various series and films. He has been mentioned in the official Star Trek Magazine, has qualified from a Star Trek course taught at Glasgow Clyde College, and coordinates the SubSpace Chatter (formerly The Scotch Trekker) YouTube channel, which regularly features live interviews with the cast and crew of Star Trek.