Ricky Church revisits the essential Jean-Luc Picard episodes as we count down to the premiere of Star Trek: Picard…
As we inch closer to the premiere of Star Trek: Picard, the next installment in The Essential Picard is another early episode from the series. ‘The Battle’, episode nine of the first season, delves into Picard’s past and the outcome of the first ship he captained, the Stargazer.
In a meeting with the Ferengi, the aliens bring the Enterprise, and Picard personally, a gift: the derelict and damaged USS Stargazer, Picard’s first command ship which had been lost after a battle with a Ferengi vessel. All is not as it seems though as evidence emerges Picard’s story of the battle may not be accurate and verges on a war crime. Picard, though, is not quite acting himself as he suffers from increasingly worse headaches and deals with the trauma of that battle in a revenge plot by the Ferengi captain.
Though ‘The Battle’ may not be as significant in Picard’s character development as many others, it is the first time in The Next Generation we get a hint at Picard’s career before the Enterprise. We also get more insight into how he confronts life-threatening situations as well as his ingenuity in battle. In his confrontation with the Ferengi, Picard exhausted every possible form of diplomacy and restraint, even as the Ferengi attacked his ship, before it became clear he had to fire back. And his solution to save himself and the crew, if not his ship, not only earned the ire of the Ferengi but quickly spread throughout Starfleet and became known as The Picard Maneuver for its riskiness and brilliance.
Picard doesn’t just take a nostalgic trip down memory lane with the reappearance of his old ship, but is forced to relive the battle through a device the Ferengi captain, DaiMon Bok, leaves behind in a bid to break Picard psychologically and have him destroy the Enterprise. This is Picard as we rarely see him throughout The Next Generation as he’s vulnerable, questioning his reality and irritable to several members of the crew due to Bok’s device increasing his headaches and stress. And though it is still early on that the crew have been together at this point in time, no one doubts Picard’s version of events between the story he tells and the one Bok creates to frame him. Instead, everyone from Riker, Data to Crusher remains loyal to Picard and know something else is going on. It is again to Patrick Stewart’s credit that he is able to convey how much trust the crew has in Picard even though he can seem like a bit of a jerk with his out of character behaviour. What is more is Stewart sells the pain and confusion Picard feels throughout the story quite well, making an otherwise mediocre episode interesting with his performance.
‘The Battle’ may not be the most exciting Star Trek: The Next Generation episode or the deepest of dives into Picard’s character, but it is a nice starting point in peeling back the layers of the series’ stoic captain. From learning about his previous ship, his ingenuity in battle and the loyalty he cultivates from his officers, its a good chapter to Picard’s beginnings.
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