With the exciting news that Patrick Stewart is returning to the role that made him a household name, Jean-Luc Picard, there is a chance that Hollywood can make up for the mistakes of its past by recognizing the impact he and his character had. His training in the Royal Shakespeare Company and the recognition he received for his stage work should have been a precursor for his recognition in film and on television.
However, that is not how things worked out.
The Emmy awards have recognized the Star Trek franchise for its technical work (mostly visual effects). The franchise has even won 34 awards out of 155 nominations but only one of those wins was a “major” award. That win was for Star Trek: The Animated Series (TAS) when it won a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Entertainment Children’s Series in 1975.
Of the original cast only Leonard Nimoy was ever even nominated for an Emmy (all three seasons of the original series, he did not win even once). No other cast member was ever nominated for an Emmy for their work on Trek. While there are arguments for many cast members of each series to have (at least) been nominated, Stewart has turned in so many great performances during the run of Next Generation and its subsequent films that it is literally a crime that he hasn’t been rewarded for his stellar work as the bald Frenchman who was captain of the starship Enterprise.
Here are five times he knocked it out of the park and should have been given an Emmy for his mantle:
“The Best of Both Worlds” – Parts 1 and 2
(Season 3, Episode 26 and Season 4, Episode 1)
This episode changed not only Star Trek but the television landscape. It was the first time Trek had a cliffhanger season finale and the buzz as the fourth season began made cliffhangers a regular part of episodic TV after 1990. But in this episode we saw, for the first time, the true threat the Borg held for the Federation and just how powerful they were. This was the first time they were seen to assimilate someone into the collective. They became even more fearful when they took Picard captive and transformed him into Locutus.
Locutus is the exact opposite of the captain that Trekkies had come to know over the first three seasons. At first, his differences from Shatner’s portrayal of Kirk were so pronounced that Picard was considered almost a pansy. This episode brought him up to speed as not only the tactician seen before but as a man of action. Where Picard would try to talk to an antagonist, Locutus glibly cuts off communication with Riker and continues toward Earth.
The coldness of Locutus after the warmth and humor of Picard in the previous episodes, shocked fans at the time. This was the episode that in many ways stopped the comparisons of this show to the original series. It also kicked into high gear the comparisons of Kirk to Picard that still are going on today.
As great as Stewart was in this dual role, it was the following episode that added new depth to the character of Picard.
(Season 4, Episode 2)
For the first time in the series we got to finally see Picard and his “real” family. He goes home to La Barre, France. It is a home that he hasn’t visited in over twenty years. Even though he is still recovering from his time as Locutus and the fact that he made so many deaths possible, he reconnects with is past via his family and friends. Picard’s interaction with his nephew, René, and his brother, Robert, allow Stewart to really stretch his acting chops. The interactions with young René are opposite those viewers knew from his contact with Wesley. He shows anger, resentment, and, eventually, love for his brother.
As Picard considers leaving Starfleet for a planet bound job, Stewart gets to give the fans a much more nuanced performance than his usual, “Make it so” and “let’s discuss things” approach.
It is his reconnecting with his family that allows him to deal with his grief and return to the Enterprise as its captain. The emotional range shown in this one episode is on par with anything Shakespeare ever wrote.
“The Inner Light“
(Season 5, Episode 25)
The humanity of Picard had been highlighted before but seeing him live a whole life with a family and to then be thrust back into his own reality was heartbreaking. This one performance was a tour de force that should have won many awards. It is one of only four Trek episodes to win the Hugo Award (the others were “The Menagerie” (Parts 1 and 2), “The City on the Edge of Forever,” and the series finale for Next Generation “All Good Things…”
Stewart had the earliest call time of anyone ever in Trek for his old age makeup in this episode and got to be on screen with his real life son, Daniel (who played Picard’s son in the episode).
Stewart played this one perfectly and it is nigh impossible to not be moved when Riker brings him the self same flute he had played in his “other” life and he shows how his knowledge of playing it stayed with him.
“Chain of Command” – Parts 1 and 2
(Season 6, Episodes 10 and 11)
The depth of family connection gave Picard a range that would expand many times. But no episode put Stewart’s skill front and center more than this two parter. The short synopsis is that Picard first gives up control of the Enterprise to Edward Jellico played by the wonderful Ronny Cox. The discomfort of the crew and Picard at this changeover is palpable.
Picard does this so he can lead an infiltration team consisting of Worf, Dr. Crusher and himself. The goal is finding proof of Cardassian use of metagenic weapons.
The first episode is truly off putting as not only does Jellico take command but he seems unhinged to the crew after the stable and predictable methods of Picard. However, he slowly gains the trust of the crew and completes his part of the plan with their help.
The part that should have won Stewart the Emmy is his time as a captive of the Cardassians. Gul Madrid (David Warner) takes delight in torturing the Starfleet captain. The viewer gets to see Picard’s vulnerable side and the line, “There…Are…FOUR light!” has lived on to become a popular internet meme.
(Season 6, Episode 15)
This episode is about Picard’s past and we get to see Stewart play a much younger, more brash Starfleet officer. We also get the return of Q (John de Lancie).
This episode is a lot like It’s a Wonderful Life, in that it shows an alternate history that occurs if Picard makes a choice during his Academy days that affects the trajectory of his own life. He would have been a much less effective officer and, in fact, would have served as a junior lieutenant on the Enterprise instead of as its captain.
Stewart seems to call up his experience on Excalibur as King Leondegrance or even Gurney Halleck in David Lynch’s Dune. He chews up the scenery and has memorable dialog with his Academy friends, as well as with Q. He is full of passion and willing to take risks that help him gain the captain’s chair of the flagship of the fleet.
While these are by no means the only episodes that present the intrepid Picard at his most dramatic, these are the episodes that if they hadn’t been “genre” or “trek” would likely have won multiple awards.
What episodes do you think Stewart should also have won for? Who else to you think was worthy of an Emmy for Trek? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page.