The new Star Trek show launches very soon, and JOE chatted to Jean-Luc himself.
Star Trek, like most good science fiction, has never really been about the future.
It was a fun/intelligent/scary (delete as necessary) way of looking at the modern world through a futuristic lens, and through the different iterations of the show, we have seen it tackle the big issues of those times head on.
With the original series, Captain Kirk was joined on his bridge by a Russian officer (right at the height of the Cold War), and it had an African-American woman as one of the highest ranking crew members on board the Enterprise. In fact, in 1968, Star Trek featured the first interracial kiss ever broadcast on American TV, between Kirk and his communications officer, Uhura.
Jump forward to The Next Generation, and the new Enterprise crew tackled everything from transgenderism to ageism to out-and-out political activism, in a smart but subtle way.
With the return of the now retired Jean-Luc (Patrick Stewart) on Amazon's new show Star Trek: Picard, JOE was lucky enough to sit down with some of the cast and crew of the series in the run-up to the premiere.
One of the things that came up again and again is how this version of Star Trek is very pointedly addressing the current state of the world we're living in, and as Jonathan Del Arco (returning as Hugh The Borg) succinctly tells us:
"[The 1960's show] had a view that the future would be all progressive and rosy. Surprise, it’s not! I mean, we all have iPhones and flip-phones and all the things that Star Trek brought forth, but I think, in a way, the show is much more in keeping with the kinds of genres that exist now in television, that are an exploration – in a fictitious way – what we’re living through."
It was an aspect that clearly meant a lot to Patrick Stewart too, as the conversation turns towards the storytelling universe of Star Trek itself.
"It was a different world, which appealed to me," Stewart tells JOE. "Because the world is different, in the last 19 years, for both of our countries," Stewart tells of his co-star Jeri Ryan, returning to her role as Star Trek Voyager's Seven Of Nine.
"I thought that they were addressing not only a science fiction story, but they were addressing the condition of the world that we’re in at the moment. Because it is bad! It is really bad! And I’m all for that, I’ve always been very [politically] active. So if we can give little nudges towards what we believe is going on."
"It is subtly, gently [about the present]. We're not hammering on anything home. But the Federation is not the Federation that it was in our day. And Star Fleet is certainly not the Star Fleet of old. And its not good, either."
When asked if Star Trek: Picard has become a show about learning who to trust, Stewart once again references his own life lessons about who he trusts in real life:
"There are individuals who I believe in. For instance, I believe in David Milliband, who is now running the International Rescue Committee from New York and aught, really, to be running the UK. But you know what happened there. There are some of the contenders for the American presidency who I have great respect for, though I have profound anxiety that it is not going to turn out the way I would like it to turn out."
This view is also shared by his co-star Michelle Hurd (playing new character Riffi), who also tells JOE: "We are absolutely tackling the discord and divisiveness and discomfort that we all feel in our different countries right now. It is incredible that it is ever-present, that it is happening to all of us.
"And I think that what I love about our writers is that we’re not preaching it. It is not like you’re going to be sitting down and getting a lesson, but you absolutely are going to feel a mirror as to what is happening. What is great about our story is that we are seeking a solution. We are trying to inject hope and optimism."
When asked if she thinks that, considering it is about optimism and opening your mind to other cultures, that maybe President Donald Trump should watch the show, Hurd takes no time in quickly replying:
"I don't really care what Trump watches. And even if he did watch it, he'd be like "I’m Picard!" No, you're not!"
Star Trek: Picard launches on Prime Video on Friday 24 January.
Clip via Prime Video UK