Star Trek’s Best Captain Should Be Investigated As A War Criminal

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

picard war criminal

If we told you that a Star Trek captain should be investigated for war crimes…well, you’d probably think we were talking about Captain Janeway, and that’s fair. Her wilder antics (like unilaterally deciding to execute Tuvix) are often decried in the fandom, with many fans explicitly comparing her to cooler-headed captains like Picard. However, here’s a blunt truth that the final season of Picard really drove home: Jean-Luc may be a fan fave, but he most definitely should have been investigated as a war criminal after his assimilation by the Borg.

There Was Too Much Death To Not Investigate Picard

Now, before anyone starts yelling at me, I’m not saying that Picard should necessarily have been found guilty as a war criminal by some kind of Starfleet tribunal. However, in retrospect, it’s downright shocking that there wasn’t at least some kind of investigation into his (admittedly unwilling) cooperation with the Borg. We’re talking about an event that led to the deaths of over 11,000 Starfleet personnel, many of whom would quite possibly have survived if not for the Borg utilizing Picard’s knowledge and him personally leading the Battle of Wolf 359.

Where Was The Drumhead Then?

Again, I’m pretty confident Picard would have been exonerated by such an investigation, but the fact that Starfleet seemingly never even investigated whether he was a war criminal is very strange. It’s even stranger when you consider the kinds of investigations we have seen: when the crew suspects an explosion on the Enterprise was due to sabotage (“The Drumhead”), Starfleet brings a vindictive admiral out of retirement who soon creates a witch hunt to round up the lowliest ensign all the way to Picard himself. But when a captain works with the enemy to kill thousands, there is no investigation whatsoever.

An Investigation May Have Been The Best Thing For Picard

star trek picard voyager

Weirdly enough, Picard being investigated as a war criminal and ultimately cleared would have been better for his career. At the beginning of First Contact, he explains why Starfleet has ordered the Enterprise so far away from an attacking Borg cube: “they believe that a man who was once captured and assimilated by the Borg should not be put in a situation where he would face them again. To do so would introduce an unstable element to a critical situation.”

When that film came out in 1996, fans mostly saw this as yet another case of Starfleet’s admirals being out of touch and punishing Picard for something that wasn’t his fault. However, I think Starfleet’s hesitation to pit him against the Borg is a direct result of their failure to investigate him as a war criminal. A thorough investigation would have included a complete psychological evaluation (likely with the help of Betazoids or other telepaths), and once Picard was exonerated, there would be no hesitation about ordering him to fight against the Borg.

The Tragedy Of Jennifer Sisko Was One Of Thousands

Picard being investigated as a war criminal and cleared would also improve his relations with other Starfleet officers. For example, it was a shocking moment for fans when Commander Sisko had a clear dislike for Picard in the Deep Space Nine pilot episode “Emissary,” telling the Enterprise captain “We met in battle…at Wolf 359.” It shouldn’t be shocking, though: 11,000 Starfleet personnel died in that battle, leaving many survivors and family members of the deceased (remember, Sisko’s wife died in that battle) with a serious grudge.

Lest We Forget The You-Know-What From Chicago

picard war criminal

Had Picard been properly investigated as a war criminal and cleared, Sisko might not have hated him on sight. The same could be said for Captain Shaw: in the third season of Picard, it was equally shocking to encounter a new character who absolutely despised Picard, but we eventually find out that Shaw is suffering from extreme PTSD after being chosen for the last spot on the last life pod of his ship during Wolf 359. He voiced what must be the consensus of literally thousands of Starfleet officers: that Picard was “the only Borg so deadly, they gave him a god**mn name”.

Starfleet Needed Closure

star trek borg

That brings us full circle to the main reason Picard should have been investigated as a war criminal: the collective (so to speak) need for closure. We may not have seen them, but Starfleet was certainly full of other Siskos and Shaws who felt just as strongly that Picard was to blame for one of the worst massacres in Federation history. 

A proper investigation could have cleared Picard of wrongdoing and given everyone a sense of closure. Without such an investigation, we are left with the uncomfortable feeling Starfleet wanted to sweep everything under the rug, never noticing they were tarnishing the noblest organization in the Alpha Quadrant in the name of simply moving on and forgetting past tragedies.