Star Trek Picard reveals formative pain from Picard’s past.
Storytelling is one of the qualities that sets human beings apart from other animals. Stories are how we make meaning out of the world and make sense of ourselves. The most recent episode of Star Trek Picard, “Monsters,” puts storytelling’s importance front and center.
“Tell me about your mother” is a psychological cliché, but that’s exactly what Picard is doing for a Starfleet psychologist in his mind. The psychologist is played by James Callis—a talented actor, inarguably best known to science fiction fans as Dr. Gaius Baltar in the Ronald D. Moore-helmed version of Battlestar Galactica. Callis is fine in this role, but I found the casting a distraction—and, given Baltar’s penchant for experiencing visions in his head, a bit on-the-nose. Your mileage may vary.
Agreeing with the psychologist’s assertion that telling stories isn’t his strong suit, Picard nevertheless spins a tale about his childhood in which his mother is a queen and he is a prince, hiding from a monster in a dungeon. In truth—as we learn when Tallinn carries out her “jury-rigged mind meld” with Picard—Picard’s mother suffered a psychological disorder. During one of her psychotic episodes, she urged young Jean-Luc to come with her to the tunnels beneath the family chateau. Picard got his foot stuck in a dilapidated floorboard and could not follow her. Hours later, Picard’s father found him and her. “I couldn’t save her from her own mind,” he says. The psychologist in Picard’s mind turns out to be his father, whom Jean-Luc has misremembered as a monster in order to preserve his memories of his mother.
“Monsters” resonates with Patrick Stewart’s advocacy work
While in Picard’s mind, Tallinn tells the young Jean-Luc, “You do so much with this pain. You save worlds with it.” The idea that our past pain shapes us and is an essential part of who we are is not new in Star Trek. (It’s a major theme in the much and unfairly maligned Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.)
Yes, we are all more than our past and more than our pain—as Picard himself knows full well, thanks in no small part to Q, as seen in “Tapestry.” But “Monsters” shows how important it is to tell the true, full stories about our past so healing can occur.
In real life, as you can see in the video above, Patrick Stewart is an advocate for raising awareness about domestic violence and mental health. I can only imagine how powerfully this season’s storyline resonates for him. I have no doubt he is a major reason Star Trek Picard is actively providing a model of how we can tell ourselves new stories about the past in order to create the possibility of a brighter future.