NOTE: Article contains SPOILERS for the Star Trek: Picard season one finale.
How many Picards are there?
In last week’s Star Trek: Picard finale episode (“Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2”) Jean-Luc Picard died. There was no equivocation; the character introduced in 1987 in Star Trek: The Next Generation and played by Sir Patrick Stewart in the decades since, met his end as he sacrificed his life to help save the syth homeworld Coppelius, presumably finally succumbing to the neurological disorder Irumodic Syndrome.
However, using Bruce Maddox’s consciousness transfer technology, Alton Soong and Dr. Jurati captured Picard’s consciousness as he was dying and downloaded him into a new organic synth ‘golem’ body. Picard’s new body was designed to be the same as his organic one, with the exception of being cured of Irumodic Syndrome. It is even designed to age and die.
So, now comes the philosophical question. Is this new Picard still Picard? Or is this synth Picard a separate and entirely new character? Fans have been debating this ever since the finale, including our own Shuttle Pod podcasters. There are valid arguments to be made on both sides. And this isn’t an entirely new discussion, with the “is Picard still Picard” question being a manifestation of the classical metaphysical Ship of Theseus thought experiment. And big questions like this were the basis for the 1997 book The Metaphysics of Star Trek.
On one hand, it’s 100% clear that Picard died. It was spelled out in the episode as well as in post-episode discussions with the show creators. The synthetic Picard is literally new in terms of it being custom-made after the death of the organic original.
On the other hand, it can be argued that the synthetic body is merely a vessel, and the true essence of Picard is his consciousness which has been transferred to this new body. He retains all his memories up to that moment of his death. After revival, all indications were Picard looked and felt the same, and still enjoyed a nice cup of tea, as he always did.
The show’s executive producers lean towards the notion that this new Picard is still the same Picard. Akiva Goldsman called Picard’s death “closure on a chapter of his life.” He described the Picard seen at the end of the finale as “new reinvigorated, reborn, and therefore most essential Picard.” And Alex Kurtzman said, “It is the same person, it is the same consciousness, it is the same body in many ways, just rebuilt.” However, early indications are that the show will not entirely ignore Picard’s synthetic resurrection. Michael Chabon said that they will address what the “implications are going to be for Picard having this new body.”
Memory Alpha’s two Picard problem – resolved
This debate isn’t just purely philosophical—there are some practical issues on how one should refer to the new Picard for those who cover and document the show. Is the character still “Admiral Jean-Luc Picard (retired)” or some new character? Is he “synth Picard,” “golem Picard,” or the “Picard android?” Memory Alpha—the comprehensive and essential Star Trek wiki consulted by Star Trek movie and TV producers as well as fans—has been grappling with this issue in terms of how he’s represented on their site.
The question was a practical one: should Jean-Luc Picard have a single article page, or should the synthetic Picard have his own page? Do the adventures of Jean-Luc Picard in the upcoming season belong to a new entity, with the last bit of history for the original Picard page ending with his death?
After last week’s finale, the initial decision was to end Picard’s history on the original page for “Jean-Luc Picard,” noting his death and linking to a new page “For the golem his memories were implanted into, please see Jean-Luc Picard (golem).”
This move to have two pages for Picard sparked a massive debate within the Memory Alpha community, with contributors arguing and even venturing into the philosophical, posing questions such as: “Is a copy the same as the original?” and “Is a ‘person’ just the physical parts, or is there an intangible life that exists beyond the purely physical?”
Both sides were citing precedents in an online Star Trek fan version of a courtroom drama. There are many cases of Star Trek characters being resurrected in new bodies, including main characters such as Spock, Harry Kim and Hugh Culber. While each of their pages notes their death and resurrections, none of the resurrected characters were split into new pages. On the other hand, there was precedent for the two-page solution, including characters like Roger Korby and Roger Korby (android).
The “two Picard pages” debate continued over the last week; however, in the last day things moved towards consensus. This morning the “golem” page was merged into the original Picard page, which will continue to be the single Jean-Luc Picard page moving forward. The Picard character’s status is again set to “Active” as of the year 2399. There is a new section titled “‘Death’ and resurrection.” Picard’s year of death is still noted, but with the caveat that it was for his “human body.” His species has also been updated to “Golem.”
What say you?
At Memory Alpha, the two Picard problem has been resolved. For our part moving forward we will continue to simply refer to the character as Jean-Luc Picard, but will note his death and resurrection in his new synth body when the context is appropriate.
Do you agree? Is Picard still Picard? Or is this new Picard a whole and unique character in your mind? Sound off below.
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