As a 94-year-old synthetic, Admiral Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) is, predictably, reflecting on the life he’s lived, the lives he’s saved, the adventures he’s had, and the regrets he holds. In season 2 of Picard, Picard is continuing to explore strange new worlds. Just this time, it’s his own love life.
“In the original TNG series [...] it was touched on, occasionally, but not often,” Stewart tells Polygon, “because I don’t think Gene Roddenberry — may he rest in peace — was as interested in that aspect of storytelling.” It was only later, after the franchise was in other hands, that it became an inclusive part of the TNG storytelling, providing, as Stewart puts it, “a greater exploration of who these people were.”
Picard is picking up that baton and running with it, and not just when it comes to the title character. The highs and lows of relationships are explored with every character in season 2 of the Paramount Plus show, not least of which is the one that drove fans crazy in the closing minutes of season 1. As the camera panned around the ship, it moved over Raffi (Michelle Hurd) and Seven (Jeri Ryan) talking at the table, grinning, and endearingly reaching to hold hands.
“What’s interesting is that the emergence of that relationship was really their idea. The two actors, both of them, came up to me and Michael Chabon at a party, and they put their arms around each other,” showrunner Akiva Golsman says. “And they said, ‘This is next season.’”
Of course when season 2 picks up there’s been a time jump; already their relationship is getting complicated, hamstrung by their competing needs and desires. It’s maybe not the swoony romance that fans hoped for in that tentative glimpse of early love bliss, but it’s something Hurd relishes the chance to dig into.
“Jeri and Michelle — just like Raffi and Seven — are, you know, very independent women. We’re very strong minded [...] we’re grown,” she says. “[And] I love that that’s a common ground, that we could bring those realities into our characters’ realities, and how they would actually truthfully react, and dive into a relationship.”
And for whatever rough seas they hit, it’s nothing compared to the quarrels of Picard and Q (John de Lancie), the extra-dimensional fan-favorite being who’s back to mess with Picard. In their on-going attempts to top each other, Q is once again playing games with Picard, only driving the nonagenarian crazy. It is, in Q’s special way, an expression of love.
“There’s no question in my mind that when I play it, I love Picard,” de Lancie says, “and I believe he loves me — but not in a physical way. It is in a way that neither of us can particularly admit, but is there.”
Goldsman certainly took the “profound love” between the two seriously when writing the season. Across the second season the writers found a series of paired characters whose stories they felt naturally aligned. Q and Picard, perhaps unsurprisingly, were one such pair.
“I think is, in some ways, as significant as any other love life in Picard’s life, and in Q’s life,” Goldsman says. “We do want to examine that, and how that works and why it exists and what it means to both of them [... and] we definitely explored every version of that relationship — they’re not all explored on screen, but as we were developing.”
What they did settle on is a conclusion they will only hint at. But there’s a lot more mirroring between them than there ever was.
“The writers are using the fact that time has passed here as a temporal thing for real, between two actors, as a motivator,” de Lancie says. “Season 2 is about an old Picard who does not have much time to come to grips with certain personal issues that he has not dealt with — and the clock is ticking.
“The hidden part of this, which I think you’re getting a little taste of in those opening episodes: is that there’s a clock ticking for me as well.”