Science Fiction

The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard

The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard

Edited by David A. Goodman

Buy the hardcover at Amazon

Buy the Kindle edition at Amazon

I was browsing the TV and Media tie-in section at Amazon yesterday scoping out GameLit books since that’s where they live while authors wait for Amazon to come up with an appropriate LitRPG/GameLit category. While there I spied The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard which caught my interest. Then I saw it was on sale for $1.99 and decided to give it a try.

I’d call this book a page turner, but I was reading it on my Kindle so it’s more like it was a battery devourer. I couldn’t put it down. I missed an update of my ongoing serial Spellcraft over on RoyalRoad because I was so caught up in this book.

I grew up with Star Trek: The Next Generation. My parents were both Trekkies who grew up on the original series, and so it was a no-brainer that TNG would be a staple in our household. Some of my earliest TV memories are watching TNG. I’d regularly sneak into my parents’ bedroom well after my bedtime but before theirs so I could watch episodes when they came on at 10:30PM after the evening news on Fox 59.

This book reads like a love letter to TNG fans. Minor characters who are given a brief appearance in the series, those “I have a deep history with this character to add gravitas to their inevitable death a minute before the commercial break” characters who only ever get their due at Memory Alpha or in the old Star Trek Encyclopedia. Relationships with familiar characters are explored from new and interesting directions.

More than anything, Autobiography fills in the holes of Picard’s early life and the career trajectory that took him to the bridge of the Enterprise-D. The book is peppered with fun references for fans, such as a tongue firmly in cheek explanation of why there were so many Chief Engineers in the first season that I won’t spoil, and is a definite for anyone who considers themselves a fan of TNG.

My only quibble with the book is an issue that must’ve been a Kobayashi Maru scenario for Goodman as he was writing it. Most of the book is dedicated to Picard’s life before he became the famous Jean-Luc Picard we all know and love, and then his career about the Enterprises D and E is rushed in the last sliver of the book before moving on to talk about what he’s been up to since.

I don’t fault the book for this. The stuff we’re interested in is the before and after. We’ve all seen the series and the movie, else we wouldn’t be picking up the book. I can see where recounting episodes that already have an ending wouldn’t be as interesting as telling new stories about years of Picard’s life that haven’t been explored.

Still, for a book that hews closely to the autobiography template it does feel odd that such a substantial portion of Picard’s life is glossed over so quickly, and the few observations that we do get from his point of view in the book give us a tantalizing tease of what a retelling of TNG adventures purely from Picard’s point of view could be while not completely delivering.

I know I spent a few paragraphs on that, but it really is a minor quibble. Overall this book is excellent and worth the read. It’s very rare that I read a book that I feel is an unreserved recommend, but if you’re a Trekkie then you’ll enjoy this one.

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Doctor Who and the perennial alien existence plothole

I was watching the opening of the new Doctor Who this afternoon because as an old man with young children I can’t always make time for things like worldwide simulcasts the day it launches. Jodie Whittaker was amazing in the short amount of time I saw her, and I’m looking forward to finishing the rest of the episode. Which I totally haven’t yet because, again, young kids in the house.

There was one thing that struck me as a bit odd, and it’s something that’s bothered me ever since I first started watching the new series about a decade back. There came a point where some new characters we’re all supposed to get to know and love over the course of the season were menaced by a scary electric tentacle alien thing.

And they all acted like it was impossible that the thing could’ve been an alien. The Doctor’s admission that she was an alien was met with disbelief.

This is despite the past decade featuring a staggering number of instances where the world learned that yes, there were very much aliens in the world and they weren’t all necessarily coming to earth to phone home and leave us all feeling warm and fuzzy with their glowing fingers. Cybermen and Daleks invaded the world and fought each other. Daleks invaded the world a few more times, because why not? Give the audience what they want. An interstellar version of the Titanic nearly crashed into Buckingham Palace. There was the Christmas Invasion where Tennant lost his hand.

Recently under Capaldi’s tenure there was an invasion of Cybermen being led by Missy, and the continued saga of the Zygons low key trying to take over the world every few months, so none of that “cracks in the wall handwaves all the other invasions away” nonsense some people spout about on the Internet.

The point is there have been plenty of alien invasions over the past decade of nuWho. Let’s not even get started on the old series. One of the first things I thought of was the Loch Ness monster that Tom Baker took on during his tenure, and it turns out this was referenced by the Seventh Doctor in a quote about how humans like to forget things.

I understand that they have a show to run here and the stories are more fun if earth isn’t aware that there are aliens out there. I know that the show is constantly refreshing itself and the new creators want to free themselves up to tell new and interesting stories.

It’s just that it all seems a bit… lazy. They’re just hitting the reset button on earth’s knowledge of aliens despite earth being ripped into the galactic community time and time again. I don’t know that there’s a good solution to this problem either. New creators want to try new things before they inevitably go back to the well and give fans the traditional rogue’s gallery of baddies, but it really starts to stretch believability to have an earth that’s been made aware of aliens so many times in the past and then have everyone suddenly forget it. No matter how many times they handwave it.

I suppose the fact that they haven’t come up with a good solution to this problem despite the show being on the air for coming up on sixty years shows that we all need to sit back and repeat the MST3K mantra while watching a new series of Doctor Who. It’s just a show, we should really just relax.

And so far it does seem promising. A new Doctor is always exciting. For all that I’ve been going on about this for nearly six hundred words like the unapologetic geek I am, I really am excited about the new season and can’t wait to see what Whittaker does with the part.

I just wish they could figure out a way of building on past lore that doesn’t involve selectively declaring bankruptcy on that lore until they’re ready to acknowledge it again.