With season 2 ofnow airing and production on the final season wrapping up, the final days of the most beloved Starfleet Captain will soon be upon us. So far we’ve seen a fantastic combination of trips down memory lane with Riker or Seven, and glimpses at what Earth and beyond look like in the aftermath of stories we’ve consumed over the last 35 years, but what comes next? Adm. Jean-Luc Picard has touched a great deal of Starfleet history, and many of those actors are still around to help tell those stories, but there’s one particular point in the timeline I want him to pay respect to more than anything else. Picard needs to pay his respects to Ben Sisko in a much better way than we saw in this week’s episode.
When Cmdr. Benjamin Sisko was introduced to the world as the main character for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, several seemingly massive (at the time) risks were taken. Sisko was being played by the inimitable Avery Brooks, making him the first Black lead in a Star Trek series at a time where Black leads happened infrequently, especially in science fiction.
But more than this, Ben Sisko hated Jean-Luc Picard. Viewers are treated to an angry conversation between these two incredible characters in the very first episode, followed a few episodes later with a rebuke of the way Jean-Luc conducts himself as Ben Sisko punches the godlike alien Q right in his face. Q’s reaction of “You hit me! Picard never hit me,” followed by Sisko’s half-angry, half-excited “I’m not Picard!” has stuck with me ever since. It couldn’t have been more clear that this new show was not like the other Star Trek shows you’d seen before, and that split audiences in a fairly significant way at the time.
It’s understandable Picard’s first season would focus on two of the most significant ongoing stories in Jean-Luc’s life and career, the persistent fight to have his best friend and all other synthetic life respected as sentient lives the same as ours and the endless struggle with the Borg’s desire to have all life exist as a single forced consciousness. Episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Data’s personhood was called into question are some of the most profound in the series, a notion Star Trek: Voyager continued beautifully with Seven of Nine.
Jean-Luc’s legacy is defined by recognition of the individual, regardless of race or origin, and what we’ve seen in Picard so far pays great respect to that legacy while enjoyably furthering it. But before this story is over, I really hope the struggles of Deep Space Nine and its long departed captain are recognized with greater respect than this most recent episode.
Spoiler ahead, obviously.
Season 2, episode 2 of Picard gets dark fast as Q takes our main characters and moves them to a timeline where Earth was not part of a huge Federation of planets — where instead, humanity had taken over the galaxy in the most brutal ways possible. A stroll through this dark Picard’s trophy room revealed the skulls of Gul Dukat and General Martok, both made infamous in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Later in the episode, Confederation President Annika is asked if she wants to consult with General Sisko. It’s assumed in this one, like that in this alternate timeline, Ben Sisko is both alive and attacking Vulcans. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine did have Mirror Universe episodes in which Sisko was an evil overlord of sorts, but that world and this are unrelated.) Either way, Ben Sisko and the characters of Deep Space Nine deserve so much more than this casual reference in a broken timeline.
As intense as Borg conflicts can be at times, the Dominion War told throughout Deep Space Nine had to have lasting effects on the Alpha Quadrant and Starfleet. In many ways the Dominion was held up as a dark reflection of the Federation: a collection of races aiming toward a common survival goal. Where the Federation demanded all planets and cultures had a say in how the whole would conduct itself, the Dominion led by fear and power and only existed for conquest. Its very existence would have challenged the way the Federation acted, especially after the Dominion successfully infiltrated Starfleet Headquarters. That conflict should have permanently changed the Federation and Starfleet in a way that would be obvious in this future world we see in Picard, and not in the bizarrely xenophobic way outlined early in the first season of this new series.
But more than some reference to the Dominion War, I think some kind of resolution between Picard and Sisko is in order. I don’t mean that I want to see Avery Brooks walk up to Sir Patrick Stewart and have a conversation. Sisko is gone — and more than that, Avery Brooks appears to be happily retired. Instead, I would love to see some monologue where Picard reckons with that chapter of his life and how he was unable to help Sisko. In Deep Space Nine, Sisko regularly felt limited by Starfleet. With his passing, someone high-ranking like Picard would have had access to his personal logs.
Seeing a Picard who felt like he still owed Ben Sisko something would be incredibly powerful, both to fans of the series and to establish a lasting connection between these incredible characters. This could even present itself in the form of a conversation with Ben Sisko’s son Jake, especially with how engaged actor Cirroc Lofton is in the Star Trek fandom though his podcast recaps of every Star Trek episode.
Or maybe, just maybe, Jean-Luc should take a swing at Q the next time he sees him and tell him it was advice he got from someone he respected a great deal more than the godlike alien in front of him.