Star Trek: Picard Season 3 Features A Villain Who Has Done The Truly Unthinkable

This post contains spoilers for the first episode of "Star Trek: Picard" Season 3.

A notable new character on the third season of "Star Trek: Picard" is Captain Shaw (Todd Stashwick), the commanding officer of the U.S.S. Titan-A. The Titan has become a more notable presence in "Star Trek" media in the last few years, and the ship has been featured in several episodes of "Star Trek: Lower Decks." It was first mentioned in the 2002 feature film "Star Trek: Nemesis," which featured the marriage between William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis). In that film, Riker had finally been promoted to captain, and he and Troi were moving off of the Enterprise and onto his new command, the Titan. 

On "Lower Decks," set only two or three years after "Nemesis," audiences saw that Riker was a reckless, rock 'n' roll type captain who bravely steers the ship into danger at every available opportunity. It seems that Riker's command style is one of jocularity and bottomless "cool," inspiring his crew to boldly go, whether they want to or not. The neurotic careerist Ensign Boimler (Jack Quaid) can't really hack life on board the Titan, preferring the mundane work on board the U.S.S. Cerritos. Riker is, it seems, too energetic for him. 

This season of "Picard" is set about 22 years after "Lower Decks," so it stands to reason that Riker would no longer be the captain. The Titan has since been retrofitted, and a new captain is in charge. Captain Shaw, perhaps the opposite of Riker, is brusque, rude, and rules-oriented. He talks down to inferior officers, and takes no efforts to ensure they are comfortable. Previously an engineer, Captain Shaw openly prefers structure over familiarity or instinct. He hastily punishes anyone who steps out of line. 

In short, he's an a-hole. An a-hole who has declared war on jazz.

Capt. A-Hole

In his first appearances, Shaw functions essentially as an antagonist. Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Riker require a ship to travel to a remote region at the edge of Federation space in order to rescue Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) from a desperate situation. Riker knows that he must convince Captain Shaw to change course, but without telling him why. At first, Shaw seems receptive to Riker's and Picard's lies about the mission being on the up-and-up, but quickly points out that there is no logical reason to go where they ask, and flatly refuses. This, after disrespecting his first officer Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) by using her long-forgotten human name, and admitting to the most grievous of sins: deleting Riker's jazz collection from the ship's computers. 

That is unthinkable. Riker, being a freewheeling character and a quick-thinking commanding officer, is drawn to the lively improvised energy of jazz. He plays the trombone, even. Riker has previously tried to recommend jazz to fellow crewmates, although not always will success. When Worf (Michael Dorn) hears jazz, he describes it as "screeching, pounding dissonance. It is not music." Captain Shaw, preferring order over improvisation, happily declares right to Riker's face that when he took command of the Titan, he actively deleted Riker's sizable jazz collection. Given the power of computers on "Star Trek," that "sizeable collection" could very well have contained the entire history of the genre. Shaw, essentially, wiped out jazz. 

I suppose he'll have to go back to listening to J.S. Bach, or another form of music that can be mapped out mathematically. 

Captain Shaw's command style

Captain Shaw quickly comes to resent the fact that Riker and Picard are on his ship for reasons of subterfuge, and actively tries to stop their rescue attempt. When he learns that Seven of Nine is in on the ploy, he instantly takes her off duty. Riker and Picard, used to being in command, aren't used to seeking the approval of a starship captain, especially not one so hard-assed as Shaw. The two older cowboys do nothing but lock horns with him. 

Captain Shaw is also quickly becoming one of my favorite new "Star Trek" characters. He's an a-hole by his own admission, and would make a terrible boss indeed, but his very human and relatable adherence to protocol reveals a great deal of admirable integrity. "Star Trek" characters are always more interesting when they have deeply held principles, and Shaw, in refusing to budge, proves that he has unbreakable rules of his own. Shaw reveals that there are more ways to command a starship than what we've seen from the likes of Kirk (William Shatner) or Pike (Anson Mount) who tend to be genial. Shaw is more like Captain Jellico (Ronny Cox), a stern captain who doesn't tolerate "good humor." 

In other words, we're somehow prepared to spend more time with the most difficult man in Starfleet.