Major spoiler alert for Picard Season 3, Episode 3 ahead!
What A Wonderful World
Let’s get something out of the way first: The United Federation of Planets, as presented in all Star Trek media, is at its core, an enlightened progressive democracy and a post-scarcity society. I know there are people out there who think that Star Trek presents a culmination of social and economic conservatism. They are, without a doubt, incorrect. Star Trek never went “woke,” it was full-on Space Socialism from the beginning.
Many people smarter than me have already made this point. I’m only pointing this out to reinforce that various episodes over the years have dealt with medical ethics, body autonomy, and personal self-determination as it applies directly to an individual’s rights under law. That means we’re just going to have to deal with the fact that In the 24th and 25th centuries of Star Trek, birth control and abortion are perfectly legal.
Who’s This Now?
We’re introduced to Jack Crusher, and over the course of Seventeen Seconds, Picard learns that he’s not just Beverly’s son, but also his. This is a bit jarring considering he’s just now meeting this 20-year-old kid. There are a lot of things to unpack here in that sentence. Let’s start with what is, weirdly, the least concerning thing: Beverly had a love child with a man who was responsible for her husband’s death, and she named that child after her late husband. That in itself is a pretty glaring look into the psyche of Beverly Crusher.
The second wild thing she did was to cut Picard (and the rest of the crew) out of her life and go off alone with this child. She could have had any number of reasons for this, but she made choices for people, including a man with whom she had a relationship, who was rightly mystified by this action.
Modern Marvels of Medicine
Now we’re getting to the real what the actual fuck part of what Beverly did. She became pregnant with Jack around 2381. It’s well-established by this point in the TNG era that human lifespans are longer, but we are talking about a 76-year-old man fathering a child with a 57-year-old woman. They were both consenting adults, but it really puts into perspective the oddity of their relationship.
Jean-Luc and Beverly met while Jack Sr. was serving aboard the Stargazer, and Picard was invited to their wedding in 2348. Beverly was 24 at that time, and Jean-Luc was 43. Picard admitted to falling in love with her even before Jack Sr. died. Beverly became CMO of the Enterprise-D in 2364, where they continued their will-they-won’t-they while still finding time to horn it up with other people, including (but not limited to!) rogue archaeologists, freedom fighter/terrorists, mail-order brides, and ghosts.
Remember what I said about how abortion and birth control are legal in 24th century? Are you really telling me that the former head of Starfleet Medical, the CMO of the fleet’s flagship, a pioneer of cutting-edge frontier medicine, just accidentally got pregnant and had no recourse other than to have the child? Two words for that: bull and shit. Yes, I know I made mention of birth control being a mystery before, but the more I think about it, the more it occurs that Crusher knew what she was doing going in. She knew she stood a good chance of becoming pregnant. There was almost certainly a computer telling her she was ovulating when she got up that morning.
Beverly Crusher didn’t just make a choice to keep the baby, she made a choice to become pregnant.
We got an entire episode of TNG where Crusher was a medical ethics hard-liner, so it feels wildly out-of-character that she would turn her long-time romantic partner into nothing more than sperm donor and then peace out of his life. Her tepid explanation that it was always explosions, assimilations, and crash landings comes across as a pathetic cop-out, a contrived excuse for her horrid behavior.
If she wanted a child so badly, she had plenty of options, but she chose to use a man who was already wracked with the guilt of never starting a family at the very point that he was set to retire, and then left him completely unaware. A man who had already been traumatized by having a clone of himself secretly made. She tossed away a host of relationships, some more than 30 years old, to keep that particular secret. Who the hell is this woman?
Reading The Room
Despite the screed here, I’m actually enjoying Picard Season 3 so far. There are a number of bright lights, including the deliciously malevolent Todd Stashwick who is amazing in everything I’ve ever seen him in. Captain Shaw is a glorious asshole and also completely right. Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut does a great job playing Geordi’s daughter fighting against his shadow to be her own star.
As has been the case with the first two seasons, the writers don’t seem to know what they’re doing. Crusher’s actions are completely out of character, to the point that I honestly believe they didn’t even consider just how atrocious they really are. Jonathan Frakes seems to have really caught his Riker stride… except for barking “you’ve killed us all” at Picard. That entire exchange with Picard urging a fight they couldn’t win and Riker putting all of the failure on him came across more like a writer who had very little knowledge of those characters more than it did a reversal of their roles. That is certainly not the Riker we know and Picard would never have blamed Riker like that, even if Riker was wildly out of line.
But hey, you know what we did get? Worf working on himself. So maybe we are getting the redemption that he needs.