Star Trek: Picard Season 2 Is About Jean-Luc's Interior Trauma – And Also Patrick Stewart's

Captain Jean-Luc Picard has overcome trials that would've broken many men. Borg assimilation. Brutal torture at the hands of Cardassians. Showdowns with far too many scheming Romulans to count. And, of course, that time Q zapped him into a Robin Hood-inspired fantasy world. But Captain Picard rarely let anyone see him bleed, always putting on a mask of courage and dignity even when he was deeply hurting. When that mask does slip, like in the powerful "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episode "Family," it's profoundly moving. The most unflappable man in the Federation is only human. 

"Star Trek: Picard" has doubled down on this. The first season saw the (mostly) retired Starfleet legend battling an ailing body, and an illness that would ultimately kill him (due to sci-fi reasons, he got better). Season 2 finds Picard facing not only a terrifying alternate history/time travel plot that threatens to tear his galaxy apart, but also his own internalized trauma. The season is playing the long game, but one thing is made clear early and often: something very bad happened to Jean-Luc when he was young, and as the character approaches a century of life, he's never gotten over it, or confronted it.

If this sounds familiar ... well, that's because Patrick Stewart has been open about his own childhood trauma, and how he continues to grapple with it into his old age. Naturally, this gave Stewart the opportunity to bring his own troubled past, and his own healing process, in "Star Trek: Picard."

Weaving real-life into Star Trek

When I spoke with Stewart over Zoom, I asked him if "Star Trek: Picard" is a series about aging gracefully, with season 1 tackling a failing body and season 2 tackling the internal trauma of the mind. He responded in the affirmative, noting that this season gives him an opportunity to work his own personal experience into Picard as the character deals with the same issues he has over the years:

"Yes, it was, very much. And in that respect, I could draw from my own life experiences. And also largely thanks to very high-class therapy, which has been very important in my adult life, for, I would say the last 30 years. And I've benefited enormously from it. But a lot of it was to do not with my adulthood, but my childhood, and how I could come to terms with what I have often looked on as being failures in my life, to not to have helped my parents more. In the same way, Jean-Luc is troubled, and it has been extraordinary and interesting to weave elements of my own experience into that of a fictional character."

When Stewart speaks of not helping his parents more, he is specifically referring to his father, a World War II veteran who returned home with undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and subjected his wife to abuse, often with his young son present. Many years later, Stewart would find empathy for his father and his condition, leading to the actor's ongoing involvement with charities working to assist those with PTSD. However, the lingering trauma from his childhood (and associated rage issues) never went away, and Stewart has been very open about his experiences in therapy, and how much it has helped him over the past several decades. 

Knowing that "Star Trek: Picard" season 2 will allow Stewart to portray both the pain he has endured and the healing has experienced adds a new layer to the story, and to the character of Jean-Luc Picard. As the character heads toward a probable retirement (season 3 of the series will be its last), the actor seems to be tying himself and his best-known character closer together than ever before.

When I asked showrunner Akiva Goldsman about this subject, and if "Star Trek: Picard" is a show about finding a way to age gracefully, he wasn't as ready to commit as Stewart: 

"Well, I don't know about that, because I'm not sure any of us on this end have figured that [aging gracefully] out yet. Except Patrick. But this season definitely is about this view inward to the mind and the heart, and to where the obstacles in those uncharted territories are. And that's been fun because it's a more internal journey."

But honestly, having seen the first three episodes, Stewart's work speaks for itself.

"Star Trek: Picard" season 2 premieres on Paramount+ on March 3, 2022.