Picard's 'middle' years

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by arch101, Aug 31, 2008.

  1. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Possibly. I'll confess, I was sure there was an onscreen reference or two to the Sgz being Picard's previous command, but in composing my prior post, I searched for "Stargazer" in the twiz.com TNG script website and found no such explicit references, only one to it being his "old ship" in "Coming of Age."

    However, the fact that we learned nothing about Picard's missing 9 years in the show was itself one of the main reasons I chose to avoid giving him more ship commands. Since those 9 years never came up even once in the ensuing 7 years of TNG, it seemed to me that whatever Picard was doing for those 9 years had to be as far removed as possible from the sort of things he was doing in TNG. Whatever he'd been involved with during that time, it couldn't be something that directly involved interactions with the Klingons, Cardassians, Talarians, or any of the other UFP neighbors encountered in TNG, nor could it have directly involved any of the Federation member planets, Starfleet vessels, and the like that we saw in TNG. If it had, then logically the events of those 9 years would've occasionally come up in the show. So I figured it made the most sense for Picard to be as far removed as possible from starship command and Federation politics.
     
  2. captcalhoun

    captcalhoun Admiral Admiral

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    i thought it was established in Tapestry he commanded the ship for like 22 years or something...
     
  3. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    I was always under the impression that Picard's command of the Stargazer was a big deal. I thought I remembered several times where people seemed to really be in awe of Picard because he was the captain of the Stargazer.
     
  4. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    That was from the writers' bible, but it was never made explicit onscreen. All "Tapestry" said was that Picard "[took] charge of the Stargazer's bridge when its captain was killed."

    In fact, what the writers' bible said was that he "served on an incredible 22 year voyage as mission commander and ship captain on the legendary deep space charting vessel U.S.S. Stargazer." Which, to me, doesn't explicitly say he was the captain for the entire 22 years, because "mission commander" sounds like a different job title. Although of course the Stargazer novels interpreted it to mean that he was the captain for the full time.

    That seems to be another case where something from offscreen backstory is misremembered as onscreen material. It was only referred to as his "old ship" a couple of times, and occasional reference was made to specific missions aboard her (for instance in "Chain of Command") and to Jack Crusher's tenure aboard her (for instance in "Family" and "Menage a Troi").

    At least, that's what I can find in my Google search of the script site. But I think that search is incomplete, because when I told it to search that domain for the word "Stargazer," it didn't turn up any hits from "The Battle"! So it may be overlooking a few references.
     
  5. diankra

    diankra Commodore Commodore

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    You can also factor in historical revisionism to cover any inconsistencies in how the Stargazer mission is viewed over time, in the same way that a President or PM can be little regarded on leaving office, but become much better appreciated as the long-term consequences of their decisions become apparent.
    So, in the case of something like Picard's time on the Stargazer, there might be first contacts that seemd routine at the time, but 20 years on led to the entry into the Federation of one of its most appreciated members; little border incidents that Picard defused that, it turns out once the classified papers are released, Starfleet intelligence had feared would turn into all-out war, etc etc etc.
    "A captain's reputation may go up as well as down."
     
  6. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Indeed, and I completely respect your choices for the book. It's just that I like to argue that in general, we shouldn't shy away from giving a starship captain starships to command, and Picard need not absolutely be an exception to that.

    Apparently, losing ships and being court-martialed for it is "standard procedure" for Starfleet, so Picard's career as starship skipper shouldn't have come to a grinding halt with the Battle of Maxia. And it still strikes me as somewhat unbelievable that the Federation Flagship would be given to a guy who for the past nine years has not been part of the core world political intrigue or, alternately or in addition, shown consistent or improving skill in commanding starships.

    Not having to deal with Cardassians would probably not be that unusual, considering how much O'Brien's "border wars" sounded like a distant and largely forgotten conflict in "The Wounded". What may have looked like a major war to the Cardassian side probably didn't involve all that many starships on the Federation side... Talarians would probably be similar bit players. And everybody everywhere seemed ignorant of the Ferengi, fearful of the Klingons or confused and wary about the Romulans during the early TNG years; experience, quite clearly, was a rare commodity in Starfleet.

    I admit, though, that it was a bit jarring when this old, balding and greying guy did not launch into a reverie of "I remember back when I commanded the Pathfinder, or was it the Stargazer, well, never mind, but my first, wait, my second officer said..." whenever they ran into an opponent, event or location that was new to the audience.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  7. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I did give him one starship to command, and then I gave him command of a whole fleet. But the thing about Picard commanding a starship is -- we've seen that. We've seen plenty of that. I thought it would be more interesting to see him doing something else for a while. And I thought it was worth establishing just why the heck it was that the archaeological community thought highly enough of a starship captain that they'd invite him to speak at their symposia or to accompany them on digs.

    That's the thing about Picard -- unlike Kirk, he's not just a starship captain. He has a life beyond starships. And if I was going to fill in a missing portion of his life, it made sense to explore that other half of who he is.

    Well, a hearing is standard procedure; unfortunately Melinda Snodgrass got that confused with a court-martial, so I was left with something rather difficult to explain away. But all that aside, Picard's interaction with Philippa in "Measure of a Man" gave the strong impression that it was a particularly ugly and damaging court-martial, and a cut passage from the script (on which I based my depiction of the trial) made that more explicit, stating that Louvois's vicious interrogation almost cost Picard his career.

    True, he was exonerated, but there was plenty of doubt in Picard's own mind, as we saw in Mike Friedman's story "Darkness" in Tales from the Captain's Table. Now, Mike had Picard get over that doubt in the story, but I had a whole novel about Picard's personal journey to write, and Marco specifically asked me for a tale about Picard losing faith and needing to go on a quest to get his groove back. So I interpreted "Darkness" as just the first step on Picard's journey out of self-doubt, and I decided that Picard would've chosen to get away from Starfleet for a while. His Starfleet career came to a halt because he chose to pursue something else for a while, not because he was blacklisted or anything. As we saw in The Buried Age, people within Starfleet (exemplified by Janeway) remembered Picard for his successes, even counting Maxia Zeta among his successes because he saved his crew against all odds.

    Which is exactly why Part IV of the novel establishes that Picard spent 2360-63 on the vanguard of Starfleet's advance threat-assessment division and built a solid reputation as a diplomat, tactician, and troubleshooter, culminating in (as I said) the command of an entire fleet. (True, I skipped over most of those three years, but I did so with the conscious awareness that some future author might want to explore them in more depth.) Indeed, it was TrekBBS conversations on this very point that made me realize it would be necessary to establish his qualifications for the post. It's quite possible, Timo, that you were one of the people whose comments informed my approach to the issue.

    Actually Mosaic and Pathways establish a major burst of conflict with the Cardassians around 2357, and Terok Nor also has things pretty hot between Cardassia and the UFP in the late 2350s. As for the Talarians, we know that the Galen border conflicts were fought in the late '50s as well. That's why I mentioned them here in the first place.

    "Fearful of the Klingons?" How so? They were shown throughout early TNG to be stalwart allies.

    Well, I dispute "old." Picard was only 59 at the start of TNG, and that isn't even midlife by 24th-century standards. And Patrick Stewart was only 47 when TNG began, and that's not even close to "old."
     
  8. BryanSorensen

    BryanSorensen Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    i agree Chris. With Admiral McCoy being as old as he was in Encounter at Farpoint, it is a reasonable assumption to say that Picard was still fairly young when he was in command of the Stargazer. Hell, Elias Vaughn is Kiras first officer on DS9 and hes over 100!
     
  9. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Just watch "Heart of Glory" or "A Matter of Honor". Essentially, Klingons are more alien to our heroes than the potential joint offspring of Crystalline Entity and Nagilum, and their friendliest form of cooperation is "We're not going to fire at you today... If all goes well". "Aquiel" establishes that these "allies" kept raiding Federation installations right until the beginning of TNG. And apparently no Starfleet officer has served on a Klingon vessel or installation before "A Matter of Honor", even though TNG shows many Klingons working for the Federation in various roles. Essentially, everybody but Riker is trembling in their pants or skants during the early seasons, and Riker probably only gets through "A Matter of Honor" by grinding his teeth - against a Diapam pill.

    It would have been near-impossible for Picard to form a close rapport with these "allies" before TNG, IMHO.

    Me, too. Retroactively insert a smiley if needed...

    Still, perhaps Picard was consciously trying to avoid the stereotype of a babbling old man when he failed to bring up his past experiences at every turn? And it's not as if Kirk ever explicitly mentioned his previous dealings with the Klingons in "Errand of Mercy", or returned to those in any later episode, either. Being familiar with a recurring villain species would be a bit different from being familiar with the alien planet of the week, and wouldn't necessarily warrant a mention.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  10. William Leisner

    William Leisner Scribbler Rear Admiral

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    Just out of curiosity... how many "old" men or women do you actually personally know? Because this stereotype you describe I think is more a creation of television and film than an actual characteristic of real life people.
     
  11. BrotherBenny

    BrotherBenny Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    With all due respect, Bill, that is not a stereotype, it is a fact of life. I have worked in an old folks home and regularly deal with elderly people and I often have to cut them off mid-stream. The sad fact is that many are lonely and do babble whenever a convenient ear arrives and stays for more than thirty seconds.
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^^Yeah, but that sounds more like a function of loneliness than a function of age.

    It's not "babbling," but my father seems to be more fond of reminiscing about the past than he used to be. One of the virtues of age is experience, and in the past, the elderly were respected, even revered, as a source of experience, insight, and living history. It's our society's loss that we dismiss that vast font of experience as mere "babbling."
     
  13. Dayton Ward

    Dayton Ward Word Pusher Rear Admiral

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    ^ I agree. Loneliness would seem to be a better explanation, particularly in the environment Xeris describes.

    I know plenty of young people who can't shut up until I hold up a roll of duct tape in a threatening manner.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2008
  14. ainmneacha_Nollag

    ainmneacha_Nollag Living the Irish dream. Admiral

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    note to self. If I ever meet Dayton, will keep silent and have the air of piss of I don't want to talk which many people have accused me of having :rommie:
     
  15. William Leisner

    William Leisner Scribbler Rear Admiral

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    Loneliness is is probably a key factor, though I'd suggest the level of activity is another one. A man like Picard, who is still busy living his life, I hardly think needs to make a conscious effort to avoid rambling about the old days.
     
  16. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    OTOH, there's another bunch of people who have a compulsive need to speak about the past: heroes.

    Typically, this means "small heroes", people who fear that their feats will be forgotten, or people who doubt the significance of their feats and try to boast on them. To my experience, it's particularly prevalent in certain elements of the military...

    In that sense, it wouldn't have been out of place for Picard to keep on dragging up irrelevant connections between the week's adventure and one of his old Stargazer or Pathfinder or Prince Charles ones. That we never quite got this does tell us something specific about Picard's character... The closest he comes to "irrelevant connection" is in "The Wounded" where, while operating close to Cardassian territory, Picard takes the time to bad-mouth the species. Usually, he gives even his worst enemies the benefit of the doubt, but here he jumps at the chance to hatemonger.

    Are we perhaps to think that Picard and the Cardassians have more history than that? That Picard's "last time" was preceded by several even nastier encounters? Perhaps Picard in fact played a major role in at least one segment of the UFP-Cardassian war? He'd then be downplaying, understating, being downright civil about the hated enemy - in essence, being more Picard.

    (Excluding his attitude towards the Borg, of course. But probably everybody in the 2th century can excuse that.)

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  17. Marco Palmieri

    Marco Palmieri Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    In my experience, that's a false stereotype.
     
  18. William Leisner

    William Leisner Scribbler Rear Admiral

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    Okay, I'm calling shenanigans on you here.

    I challenge you to pull up the exact quote from the episode, and explain how you possibly could characterize it as "hatemongering."
     
  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    All it tells me is that the scriptwriters had only 42 minutes to tell each story and thus chose to concentrate on what was happening now, only bringing in reminiscences when there was story relevance.

    (And Prince Charles? I've never heard that proposed as a name for a prior command of Picard's. What's that from?)

    "Hatemonger?" That's a little strong. What he actually said was:
    And I don't recall him saying it with any kind of hostile emotions. He was simply replying to Riker's statement that the Cardassians were "skittish about protecting their borders." It was merely a cautionary tale to his crew, in order to underline the next thing Picard said: "It's not a good idea to stay too long on a Cardassian border without making your intentions known." Reasonable caution is not hate. I could tell you about how the family cat Shadow bit my father pretty badly when he made the mistake of trying to pull a scared and angry Shadow out of his cat carrier after a very stressful time at the vet, but that doesn't mean I "hate" Shadow -- just that, as much as I love him, I'm aware he's not always safe to be around and needs to be treated with caution and respect.

    There's no evidence that Picard had any major involvement in the Cardassian wars. If he had, it would've presumably come up in "Chain of Command."

    And early TNG made a point of portraying Picard as an explorer first and foremost, a man who used force only with great reluctance and regret. They were going for Jacques Cousteau, not Charles De Gaulle. I can't buy the idea that he was a veteran of a major war.
     
  20. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Oh, out of thin air. That is, from my head. And Pathfinder probably is but an extended typo, a brief lapse in Diane Duane's writing process for Intellivore.

    However, it is a uniquely negative statement coming from Picard. Typically, it would be Riker's role to condemn the Ferengi or the Talarians, or Worf's role to remind us that the only good Romulan is a dead one, and Picard's role to let such racist statements pass without dignifying them with a response, or even throw a disapproving glance at his colleagues.

    Yes, Picard's voice and demeanor indicate some sort of amusement rather than anger. And he wouldn't speak like that of the Borg. But he would not speak like that of the Ferengi, either.

    Fair enough. Then again, his stellar record with thwarting Romulan plots didn't come up in Nemesis... Although to TNG fans, it was more or less implicit there, in the decision to send him in ("closest ship", my ass!").

    I'm not sure the two portrayals would be exclusive. We know little of Picard's past nature, save for the implication that he was something of a hellraiser originally. Perhaps he only started mellowing after seeing too much blood of all possible colors?

    Timo Saloniemi