Discover the life of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, told in his own words, in the recent release of The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard, by David. A Goodman.
The Picard autobiography follows up on the successful Autobiography of James T. Kirk that was released in early 2015, and for the majority of the book narrates Picard’s life up to the point that he took command of the Enterprise-D.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and would recommend that all fans of the character of Jean-Luc Picard or Star Trek: The Next Generation rush to pick up a copy. It’s an easy, breezy read, and provides significant added depth and context to the already layered character of Picard by weaving together all of the references to Picard’s history seen in the shows and movies.
The emotional resonance of the character’s journey on screen is significant enhanced by reading this book.
The underlying theme throughout the book, which picks up one of the themes from the show, is family. At every point in Picard’s life – during his childhood, at the Academy, aboard the Stargazer, between assignments, aboard the Enterprise – he is defined by his relationships to others.
It is established in the show that Picard had a distant relationship with his father, and is estranged from his brother up to the events of the episode “Family,” and the story focuses heavily on the impact that such a lack of paternal or fraternal love has on his life.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in the exploration of father figures in Picard’s life. We see a number throughout The Next Generation, including Professor Galen, Admiral Hansen, and Admiral Quinn, who all have close bordering on paternal relationships with Picard that are expanded upon and contextualized by this story.
The journey that Picard goes on and the choices that he makes to find his family makes the final scene of “All Good Things…” at the poker table even more satisfying, because it really does represent the culmination of a journey for Picard stretching back well before “Encounter at Farpoint.”
Picard’s relationship with the women in his life is also a central theme. While many of his more furtive relationships don’t feature – there are no mentions of Vash or Nella Darren – Beverly Crusher is a central character for a large portion of the narrative, and Picard’s feelings about Crusher and their relationship are explored in much more detail, to an ultimately satisfying conclusion.
There are few stones of The Next Generation canon left unturned in The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard. If I have one criticism, it’s that at times it can seem like Goodman tries a little too hard to stuff as many characters together as possible.
By way of example, Picard’s first posting on the USS Reliant (a deep cut reference to a deleted scene from the extended cut of “The Measure of a Man” included on the TNG Season 2 Blu-Ray) includes four characters who would show up in episodes of TNG – Admiral Quinn, Admiral Nakamura, Fleet Admiral Shanthi, and Captain Walker Keel, as part of a ship with a complement of only 34.
As a result, the narrative can sometimes feel like it’s suffering from “small universe syndrome,” where an organization as big as Starfleet can feel like it includes only a couple of hundred characters because they all keep bumping into one another.
On the other hand, tying all these characters together more tightly increases the emotional resonance of events in Star Trek canon, most notably the Battle of Wolf 359. Seen through Picard’s eyes, the Borg are not just using him to destroy the Federation fleet, but kill friends and colleagues too.
It lays bare the true horror of what the Borg did to Picard more than the show was ever able to accomplish.
The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard is entirely a standalone book, with very few references to other tie-in media. This story of Picard’s life does not align at all with the novels, but that’s perfectly okay – Goodman gives his own unique and compelling spin on Picard’s life and career that aligns extremely well with everything seen on screen.
We do get a nice IDW comics tie-in at the end of the book, but I won’t spoil it here. There are little cameos throughout for the other Star Trek shows as well, including one well-hidden but very much intentional Discovery reference that it would be easy to skip over. Six strips of gold-pressed latinum to the first person to find it!
Overall, I highly recommend this book to all Picard and TNG fans, even if you’ve never picked up a Star Trek book before. Here’s hoping Goodman’s autobiographies have been successful enough for the publisher, Titan Books, that we can look forward to additional volumes for Sisko, Janeway, Archer, and maybe — one day — Michael Burnham.
If you liked The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard, you should check out:
- The Autobiography of James T. Kirk, by David A. Goodman – If the autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard worked for you, it’s actually the second Star Trek autobiography David Goodman has written. The first, The Autobiography of James T. Kirk, gives us the same deep dive on the first beloved Star Trek captain.
- Star Trek — Federation: The First 150 Years, by David A. Goodman – Goodman’s first book expanding on the Star Trek canon, Federation: The First 150 Years tells the story of the founding of the United Federation of Planets and follows it through the little explored period of the timeline between Enterprise and the Original Series.
Its initial release came on a pedestal with a short audio clip narrated by George Takei – if you can find one and have the storage space, it’s a cool addition to your collection.