CBS’ newest entry into the Star Trek canon, Star Trek Picard made a splashy debut three weeks ago and promised a grim and grittier version of the future as seen in the 24th Century. The latest episode, “The End is the Beginning” which debuted yesterday on the streamer, showed a side of the Star Trek world that isn’t spotlighted very often, namely that future citizens of the “United Federation of Planets” are just as mortal as their 21st Century counterparts, and substance abuse addiction is still a problem.
A Main Character with Addiction
One of the main characters on the new show is Jean-Luc Picard’s former first officer Raffi played by Michelle Hurd. Raffi has experienced severe trauma in her back-story and has serious substance abuse issues with alcohol and drugs. Hurd spoke to SyFy Wire about her character saying “…She has lived a challenging life, and she’s doing her very best to get up every day and meet the day. She struggles with past decisions, she’s haunted by things she’s done. She’s trying to make amends, and even if she wasn’t trying to make amends, she has vices that deaden the pain.” Those vices include heavy drinking and vaping of a substance called “snake root” which has a side-effect of paranoia induced delusions. While alcohol and it’s synthetic counterpart “synthahol” has appeared many times previously, vaping and smoking have never been depicted in the future of the long-running franchise. In the past the IP has even gone out of its way to indicate that smoking was an anathema to even alien races. Yet this new show not only shows one main character vaping, but another smoking a cigar!
Photo Attributes: Michelle Hurd as seen on Star Trek Picard. Copyright CBS/Paramount/Viacom
Star Trek has never shied away from mirroring current-day issues in it’s Sci-Fi setting. Back in the 60’s racial discrimination was touched upon on multiple occasions and famously showed the first interracial kiss on network television. The first sequel series, The Next Generation showcased themes of aging, mortality, sexism and on a few occasions, addiction. A notable episode in the fifth season “The Game” showed the crew of the Enterprise manipulated by an alien species into becoming addicted to a holographic video game. The next sequel series Deep Space Nine featured an entire alien species that had been genetically engineered to be dependent on a manufactured drug that their masters supplied in small doses. Additionally the villain species The Borg can be seen as a metaphor for addiction to technology itself as the species integrates all manner of electronics and technology into their bodies.
Even Though She’s Suffering, She Still Has Value and a Voice
The facet of the show that sets Trek apart from other contemporary narratives is that despite the character’s obvious flaws, they are still treated as viable, constructive members of society with a place and value all their own. Ms. Hurd goes on to say: “What I love about playing this character, is that there are all kinds of people who struggle with addiction, and the devils that are on people’s shoulders are there for a reason…You could write people off as alcoholics or drug addicts or whatever; but for the majority of people, there was a core event that subconsciously or consciously changed their path and they started to have to lean on vices. But, when people are going through these battles, they are still valuable. They are still vital to our world. They still have a voice. They deserve respect. They deserve for us to reach our hand out to help. Or knock on the door.” Ms. Hurd spoke further on these topics in an interview on The Ready Room, which is the after-show hosted by Wil Wheaton. The section on Raffi’s struggles with substance abuse begins at 7:28.
Visibility is important. Compassion is important. Being able to have empathy for others is a key element of humanity that sets us apart. Our friends and family members who are suffering from addiction certainly do deserve our respect and help as Ms. Hurd says. While we expect to see the character of Raffi overcome her challenges in the future, we understand that here on Earth problems and dilemmas are not resolved in a 45 minute television episode. It takes hard work and dedication to ones recovery. WeRecover can help. If you or a loved one has a substance addiction or mental health issue, please contact us today to get help. We are here for you.