Todd Stashwick's Captain Liam Shaw from Season 3 of Star Trek: Picard isn't very likable, but he's right about the show's heroes putting his crew in unnecessary danger.
It’s official: my favorite new Star Trek character is Captain Liam Shaw of the U.S.S. Titan, who made his debut appearance in the Season 3 premiere of Star Trek: Picard. I don’t know that I’d want to hang out with the guy and if I had to choose a captain to save me from the Borg or the Jem’Hadar he probably wouldn’t be my first pick. But not only is he being played by the exceptional Todd Stashwick, but the fact is that when quite possibly the least adventurous captain in the history of Starfleet treats Picard and Riker like garbage because he feels they’ve unnecessarily put him and his crew’s life in danger with lies and subterfuge, there isn’t a single drop of the guy that’s in the wrong.
WARNING, SPOILERS follow for the first 2 episodes of Star Trek: Picard‘s final season.
Yes — Star Trek’s Captain Liam Shaw is undeniably, unforgettably, and unapologetically a dick. When Picard and Riker board the ship for a faux inspection — really just a pretense to use the Titan to find Beverly Crusher — he heaps one insult on top of another. He isn’t there to greet them when they arrive, he starts his dinner without them, insults Picard‘s gift of his family’s wine, likewise trashes Riker’s love for jazz, and goes so far as to call Picard “former ex-Borg.”
He does it all, it’s clear, because he knows damn well exactly why Picard and Riker are sitting at his private dinner table.
Stashwick’s Shaw is part of a long tradition of franchise characters I like to call Jerks In Charge. Trek’s Jerks In Charge are usually admirals instead of captains — but with Picard retired and Riker without a command, a captain is all it takes — and they never want the heroes to do the thing the heroes want to do, the thing we want the heroes to do, and the thing which we know ultimately is going to get done. They’re the guys who say no you can’t go save Odo from the Romulans, you can’t stop the stretchy-faced aliens from displacing their parents, or you can’t go to the forbidden planet just in case it magically resurrected your best friend.
But there’s a big difference between Star Trek: Picard‘s Captain Shaw and all of those other Jerks In Charge — Shaw isn’t issuing his (inevitably ignored) orders from a viewscreen light years away. Picard and Riker come to his ship with the intent of conning him (Riker literally says they’ll have to “con” Shaw) into putting himself and the 500 people on board his ship in danger. Sure, they have their reasons, just like Shaw has reasons to distrust them and to put his crew before the heroes’ needs (which, let’s remember, they’ve hidden from Shaw).
And while Star Trek: Picard‘s Shaw may be no Willam Shatner, he isn’t a coward and he isn’t heartless. When Seven of Nine tells him to run after they rescue Picard, Riker, and the Crushers, he responds, “We’ve engaged — I want to know with who and why.” He makes the admittedly coldblooded decision to turn over Jack Crusher to Vadic, but once he learns that Jack is Picard’s son, he gets fully on board with giving Vadic the slip.
Unfortunately at the end of the day Shaw is one of the Jerks In Charge and considering that, and the fact that previews of Season 3 have shown lots of people who aren’t Shaw in the Titan’s Captain’s Chair, Stashwick’s character will likely be hanging out with Tasha Yar pretty soon (honestly, I’m surprised he’s survived until at least the third episode). But if/when he’s vaporized, at least he’ll leave this life knowing he was justified in dissing Picard’s family and Riker’s jazz all in the same conversation.
You can see Todd Stashwick as Star Trek’s Captain Shaw in the first two episodes of Star Trek: Picard, streaming now on Paramount+.