NOTE: This post contains spoilers for the Star Trek: Picard series finale.
As the teaser trailer for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2 reminded us, starship captains in the franchise these days need to have a catchphrase. “Everyone who sits in the chair has ‘their thing,’” Ortegas tells Spock. Presumably, Spock is in command only temporarily. Even so, Ortegas expects him to “have his thing” because she thinks it’s some sort of Starfleet tradition. Who knows? Maybe it’s even an item on the “Enterprise bingo” card.
In the real world, this “tradition” of a mandatory captain’s catchphrase reaches only as far back as Star Trek (2009), when Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) gave the order to go to warp speed as “punch it.” Two occurrences may not a catchphrase make, but Greenwood played the moment as though it were. And the captain’s catchphrase Anson Mount’s Pike uses—“Hit it”—in Star Trek: Discovery season 2 and in Strange New Worlds is all but identical, confirming Alex Kurtzman’s job description for Starfleet COs includes coming up with a signature saying.
No doubt the captain’s catchphrase came about as a tip of the hat to the inimitable way Jean-Luc Picard intoned “make it so” and “engage” in Star Trek: The Next Generation. (Let the record show we first heard the latter order from Jeffrey Hunter’s Captain Pike in “The Cage.”) Captain Kirk didn’t have a recurring catchphrase, nor did Captain Sisko. Ryan Britt argues that an angry “do it” constituted Captain Janeway’s catchphrase.
But Captain Burnham’s adoption of “let’s fly” in Discovery, coupled with Saru’s brief search for a catchphrase of his own that series’ third season, established the tradition as a trope not to be ignored. Even Dal, in Star Trek: Prodigy, tried one of his own (“Go fast!”).
In the series finale of Star Trek: Picard, the “tradition” of the captain’s catchphrase is trotted out once again. This time, however, it’s handled with a twist.
Star Trek: Picard doesn’t disclose Seven’s captain’s catchphrase
Near the end of “The Last Generation,” as the recently rechristened Enterprise-G prepares to embark on a shakedown cruise, First Officer Raffi Musiker and Ensign Jack Crusher ask Captain Seven of Nine what her command catchphrase will be. Indeed, they make a bigger deal out of the catchphrase than anyone has before:
"RAFFI: “Engage”? “Make it so”? “Take her out”? There’s a long history of this. Your first official act of command. Writing the opening line to your legacy.JACK: So then—what’ll it be?"
The revisionist insistence that all Starfleet captains coin a unique catchphrase continues. What kind of grandiose nonsense is this? Do all starship commanders assume they will be so successful, so worthy of future generations’ attention, that they are writing their legacies from their very first day in the center seat?
But then, thankfully, “The Last Generation” throws a curve ball. The camera cuts away from the scene just as Seven opens her mouth, draws a breath, and starts to speak. We don’t hear the order she gives. We don’t get to find out what her catchphrase is.
The moment feels refreshing and right. Seven of Nine has never been one to conform to others’ expectations—not from the time Voyager separated her from the Borg, not while she served as a Fenris Ranger, and not while she was Captain Shaw’s XO on the Titan. Given that Shaw suggested, in the performance review he recorded for her, that any rules Seven might break “might have already been broken,” maybe it stands to reason the same goes for a stubborn adherence to this command catchphrase ritual.
Maybe she said, “A captain’s catchphrase is irrelevant.”
But even if Seven does adopt a captain’s catchphrase, it’s best left to the audience to ponder what it might be. Leaving the moment unheard and unfinished gives a sense of new, wide open possibilities more than anything else in Picard season 3 did. Seven is at the beginning of a new chapter in her life, surely with many grand adventures ahead of her and her Enterprise’s crew.
Leaving this scene unresolved is an unexpected and exciting choice and a beautiful way to honor the potential Seven’s captaincy represents. It’s a welcome invitation for the audience to use its imagination about what comes next, something Star Trek at its best has always done.