Review by C.J. Bunce
A new in-universe book finds Star Trek: The Next Generation captain of the Enterprise-D and Enterprise-E, Jean-Luc Picard, providing a first-hand account of his family roots, his Starfleet Academy days, and his career as one of the franchise’s greatest leaders. The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard: The Story of One of Starfleet’s Most Inspirational Captains is edited by (actually written by) David A. Goldman, a Fall release published by Titan Books. Goldman’s portrayal of the inner monologue of Picard paints a picture of the famous captain that most fans will recognize, a man who would acknowledge his roots in France, his ambition to join Starfleet, his valued friendships in people like Marta Batanides and Jack and Beverly Crusher, Boothby the groundskeeper, Professor Galen, and many more figures that he would encounter throughout his life.
Most of the book is the backstory that fans have only glimpsed of Picard via episodes of the series including Family, Conspiracy, Tapestry, The Best of Both Worlds, Yesterday’s Enterprise, The Chase, All Good Things…, many more episodes, and Star Trek Generations, but here many blanks are filled in. Key to the series and the character of Picard was his long relationship with Guinan, and the Autobiography recounts their first meeting. Readers will also find Picard’s surprising personal ties to the crew of the original starship Enterprise, via James T. Kirk’s nephew Peter, Hikaru Sulu’s daughter Admiral Demora Sulu, Admiral Pavel Chekov, and even Dr. Leonard McCoy and President Uhura at one of Spock’s weddings, where Picard served as member of the honor guard. Of course, McCoy, Scotty, and Spock would all appear in Picard’s life in his Enterprise-D years (seen in Encounter at Farpoint, Relics, and Unification) and Enterprise-E years (seen in the prequel book to the Star Trek 2009 reboot movie, Star Trek: Countdown). The Autobiography shows Picard in his own primary timeline fans know from the series (not his Q-guided revisitations of the past), all the way to his encounter with Spock before Spock returned to the past after the destruction of the planet Romulus, and ending at Picard’s retirement to his family’s vineyard in France, where we encounter Picard during the finale of the television series, and see an image of him with beard in his portrait gallery.
In many of these in-universe books, readers familiar with the character whose voice is being emulated may find it difficult to embrace the characterization. Writer David A. Goodman handles that risk well here, interspersing some believable stories to bridge gaps from Picard’s past as told in the television series, and stitching together key pieces of his life toward the final quarter of the book into a complete and honest view of the character that many fans would call their favorite of all the Star Trek series. Goodman also peppers his narrative with some Easter eggs via subtle throwbacks to not just Star Trek: The Next Generation but to other Star Trek series and movies, plus he also throws in some Star Wars references for good measure. Are all the inner thoughts just as Picard would think and say them? So much of the character of the Picard is in the British accent of actor Patrick Stewart, making both seem so much one and the same. Stewart would add his own inflections, words, and phrases, supplementing the scripts. The character in the Autobiography does not adhere to that same British voice, but the thoughts are still believably very “Picard.”
Although it’s not as densely packed with memories of spacefaring travelers as you’d find in the real thing (check out our recent reviews of Chris Hadfield’s autobiography here and Leland Melvin’s autobiography here for that), Goodman provides readers longing for a next encounter with Picard with good insight into what could be the character’s own views of his past and later influence.
An internal photography section of the book provides some full-color images from Picard’s past (some cleverly modified photos of Stewart as Picard in various phases of his life).
Pick up a copy of The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard for your favorite Star Trek: The Next Generation fan for the holidays. It’s available now here at Amazon. In case you missed it, Titan Books also published earlier entries in their in-universe Star Trek autobiography series, The Autobiography of James T. Kirk, available here, and Star Trek Federation: The First 150 Years, available here. The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard is the best of these works.