How 'Star Trek: Picard's Dystopia Connects To Our Current-Day Problems
This week’s episode of Star Trek: Picard finally found our characters travelling back in time to Los Angeles of the 2020s – which is, coincidentally, when and where the show is actually produced! Boy, it sure is lucky that Q didn’t meddle with Earth’s timeline in, say, the Middle Ages or some other far more costly historical period. But, of course, this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen Star Trek characters travel back to the year 2024 …
As we’ve mentioned before, the cast of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine journeyed back to 2024 in the episode “Past Tense,” and it really sucked – by which we mean the poverty-filled dystopian future, not the show. (Sisko 4 life.)
While Deep Space Nine may have inadvertently predicted many of our contemporary problems, it was made back in 1995. Picard, on the other hand, is forced to reckon with the precedent of the existing Star Trek canon from the perspective of 2022, just two years ahead of said events. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, the show is able to bridge the gap between real life and the craptastic Star Trek future, which … sure isn’t great for us.
For starters, the crew land in a version of Los Angeles that looks not unlike it does today. Even the massive tent city in a public park (which directly connects to the unhoused internment camp seen in DS9) resembles the real life encampments of unhoused people, currently being targeted by the city. And behind the camp is a billboard for a “Europa Mission”; NASA actually is planning a flight to Europa in 2024, with a cost of $4.25 billion.
Placing these two images side by side seems like a pretty pointed criticism, and a surprising one coming from Star Trek, which has historically romanticized space travel – particularly the kind of space travel in which you get to romance green women. In terms of the militaristic police force subjugating the rights of citizens, which was key to the version of 2024 we already saw, well in Picard we get a scene in which Starfleet Captain Rios gets roughed up and arrested by ICE – because raiding hospitals is very much their thing.
If we needed any further evidence that the reality of the show gels with our reality, apparently Rick and Morty exists in the Star Trek-verse – so in retrospect, we’re just glad that we never had to endure Commander Riker going on and on about Pickle Rick between trombone sets.
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Top Image: Paramount+