An Editorial By John Camarena
After bingeing the whole Next Generation series, I was pleasantly and uncomfortably surprised by how much action Captain Picard got, and I don’t mean the “punching Ferengis in the face” kind.
While Riker had the more prominent masculine presence on the show, Picard was no slouch when it came to the ladies. They range the gamut from wild weekend fling to full on lifetime of marriage, and even risked his career as captain once, all for the love of a woman. And while it is possible that the most famous Star Fleet captain of them all, Captain James T. Kirk, may have had a higher conquest count, it is arguable that none were more passionate than that of Jean-Luc Picard.
Take a gander at my top five of Picard’s “love interests” and see what I mean.
5. Eline – Season 5, Ep. 25; The Inner Light
The crew of the Enterprise find an ancient satellite in space one day, and it shoots a laser directly into Picard’s head, causing him to pass out. When he comes to, he’s on some unknown planet, a woman named Eline says she is his wife and tries to convince him that he is in fact just another resident in the village. All his memories aboard a starship were dismissed as the result of a fever dream. Eventually Picard gives in to their story and accepts living as one of them. He has children and grandchildren, and lives as an exemplary member of this civilization. In his spare time he learns to play the flute (which will be relevant in a later episode). Eline and Picard both grow old together and Eline dies. Shortly before a cataclysmic event wipes out all life on this planet, a rocket is shot into space, and Picard is greeted by his dead wife, looking as young as the first time he met her. Picard finally learns the truth: the satellite that the Enterprise encountered was launched by this dying civilization with the last memories of their collective experience, and Picard became the vessel to experience their lives so that they may live on through him.
Though it wasn’t a whirlwind romance, his relationship with Eline was as complete as one could be. What’s great about this experience is that deep down inside, Picard always wanted the peaceful family life. This is made evident in ‘Star Trek: Generations’ when he goes to a dimension of pure happiness, and what manifested for him was a Christmas morning straight out of a Charles Dickens book. Yet because of his focus and dedication to Star Fleet, he denied himself settling down.
So Picard had a full and happy lifetime in the span of about 25 minutes and had confirmation that he really wasn’t missing out on anything.
4. Vash – Season 3, Ep. 19; Captain’s Holiday
Picard is certainly a workaholic, so when the time comes for him to finally take some much deserved time off, he resisted. Still, after hesitantly accepting to go on vacation to the pleasure planet known as Risa, all Picard wanted to do was read his book and not be bothered. Destiny had other plans, and he was thrust in the middle of time-traveling doomsday weapon Indiana Jones-style adventure, complete with a love interest. A freelance archeologist named Vash first runs into Picard and uses him to hide from a Ferengi that’s looking for her. How does she use Picard? The ol’ “pretend we’re lovers who are passionately kissing while she plants some secret object on him” move. Once he finds out she’s looking for some ancient artifact, which is actually from the distant future (just go with it), he’s all in: Picard is a nut for archeology and can’t pass up the opportunity to get involved. He does, however, disapprove of her mercenary ways. Vash is not into archeology for academic purposes; she’s essentially an antique dealer and raids artifacts for profit.
At the end of the day, while Picard does not approve of her activities, he enjoys the excitement this little adventure brought him, and he still gets to have the moral superiority by preventing the artifact from ending up in the wrong hands. Picard is always on the straight and narrow, but Vash gave him a small taste of being on the wrong side of the tracks, and he didn’t exactly hate it.
3. Lt. Commander Nella Daren – Season 6, Ep. 19; Lessons
In this episode, Picard is rather annoyed by the presence of a team performing stellar cartography under the command of Lieutenant Commander Nellar Daren. Picard actually has a lot of respect for this branch of science; here, however, Picard keeps butting heads with Daren and her demands that give priority to her project. Picard begins to see her in a different light when she performs at a recital and finds out she’s a talented musician. They bond over science and music, and share a few intimate moments in some hidden areas of the Enterprise; then the unthinkable happens: Picard actually opens up to her. He not only plays for her the music he learned during ‘The Inner Light’ episode, which up until now he kept completely private, but after a moment of apprehension, he even allowed her to play around with the song and they turned it into a duet. Symbolic much? Unfortunately, Picard’s duty is nearly compromised when Daren is put in a situation that almost costs her life, and Picard realizes he can’t focus on being the captain he needs to be if his emotions are involved. They end it amicably and leave it open for a rekindling someday, but the Picard spin-off would suggest that never happens.
2. Kamala – Season 5, Ep. 21; The Perfect Mate
This one was pretty rough. So two warring races are on the verge of an epic peace agreement that could end centuries of feuding; the Enterprise is to facilitate a trade and deliver a gift to one of these races; but this cargo turns out to be a humanoid woman named Kamala, who was trained from birth to be the perfect mate to whomever she bonds with. The intention from one of the aliens is to gift her to the other in essentially an arranged marriage. The biggest problem here though, is that she was released too early and now most males she comes into contact with are overwhelmingly attracted to her because of her increased levels of pheromones. The curious thing is that while every man pretty much wants her, she becomes interested in Picard. Picard then has to deal with the temptation of having a beautiful, intelligent, empathic lover that would exist solely for his pleasure, or deliver her like the bargaining chip she was intended to be and entrust her to a life of servitude to someone that would never appreciate her as anything more than an object. Once again, duty trumps his personal feelings and he accepts that they must go through with the mission as planned in order to help the two factions finally broker a peace. The unfortunate truth of the situation is that the ambassador whom she is betrothed to couldn’t care less about her and only sees her as means to an end as well. Kamala used the only agency she had and made the choice to bind herself to Picard after all, at least emotionally, and though she would be more than capable of feigning devotion to her new husband, she would always only ever love Picard.
Few times in the entire series do you ever see Picard actually struggle with his emotions and the sense of loss displayed from this situation.
1. Dr. Beverly Crusher – entire series minus season 2
What has to be Picard’s greatest romantic interest is none other than the ship’s Chief Medical Officer: Dr. Beverly Crusher.
Picard was good friends with her husband Jack, who also served with Picard, and when Jack died under Picard’s command, Picard was the one who delivered the bad news. As fate would have it, Dr. Crusher would end up serving under Picard as the medical officer on the Enterprise as well, and during the 7 seasons of the show, you are shown a steady progression of their relationship.
Starting with regular dinners and tea sessions, several circumstances bring them closer together until they finally have an honest conversation about their feelings for each other, due to the obvious tension. They never truly start a relationship, but in the alternate future from the series finale, they end up divorced and Picard lives alone on Earth while Beverly has command of her own ship. Still, the whole “will they, wont they” lasted for several years unlike these other examples.
Perhaps Picard was too great to be conquered by a single individual. Each of these experiences seems to have brought something out of him but there remained a vast unexplored chasm where his emotions lay. In the end, Picard’s true love may have been Star Fleet itself, and thus could never dedicate his full attention to just one person when there was a whole galaxy out there left to explore. Honorable mention goes to the lady from the film ‘Star Trek – Insurrection’ though; she almost got him to commit treason and risked a court martial. In the end, however, Picard remained unconquered by love.