Like many with nerdlinger tendencies, I was camped in front of my computer to catch this:
The first episode of Star Trek: Picard.
It was roughly 10PM on a Thursday, and I resisted for all of ten seconds before purchasing a subscription to CBS All Access. All for the sake of nostalgia. I even brewed up some Stash Double Bergamot Earl Grey for the occasion. Decaf. (It was late, and I’m too old for caffeine at night.)
The episode opened with a gorgeous starscape, and Bing Crosby’s rendition of “Blue Skies” played in the background. Then we—the nostalgic, nerdlinger audience—were introduced to a familiar sight; the Enterprise-D floating quietly in the great expanse. As the camera zoomed in on one of the long, rectangular, transparent aluminum windows on the vessel’s saucer section, we were shown two familiar faces locked in a game of poker. Data and Picard, respectively.
Picard chided Data for his “tell” (or lack thereof), whereas Data second-guessed his “employment of deception”. Picard, then, offered his android lieutenant commander cream and sugar for his tea. Data rebuffed him both times; politely and redundantly.
As Picard surreptitiously sipped his tea—Earl Grey, of course—Data broke the momentary silence with, “Why are you stalling, Captain?”
In a trembling voice, Picard answered, “I don’t want the game to end.”
Later on, we learn it was a dream sequence. I won’t give away the dream, the reason for it, or other plot details. Rather, I would like to fast-forward to the next tea scene. Yes, there’s more than one.
After coming back in from his family-owned vineyard, Picard wandered over to a replicator. I expected him to utter his famous catchphrase: “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.” And he did . . . sort of.
Instead of his usual—the one we, the nostalgic, nerdlinger audience were familiar with—he requested, “Tea. Earl Grey. Decaf.”
I froze in mid-sip of my own tea. Earl Grey. Decaf.
Fast-forward to another scene. A girl came to Picard for help. He brought out the usual tray of tea, and comforted her with the line, “Earl Grey. It never fails.”
Aside from the text of the actual episode, the subtext hit me right in the palate. The Jean-Luc Picard we’re shown here is a tired, melancholic old man; convinced that his adventuring days are behind him. This was exemplified further by the subtle change in his flagship beverage. Caffeine is risky—a gamble, even—especially when you’re older.
Of late, I—too—have had to re-evaluate my tea intake. Too little, and I get withdrawal headaches. Too much, and my anxiety is triggered. For most, like coffee drinkers, this simply means a change of habits. But what if said “habit” was also a hobby, or worse . . . a passion?
Like the namesake character of the show, I feel like I’m at a crossroads. On the fence between two adventures. On the one hand, I feel a pull for other adventures. Other stories. On the other, I seek the comfortable, bosom-shaped pillow of my familiar cuppas. Like it or not, though, things change. But I don’t want the game to end.
I’m reminded of two moments from the Star Trek: The Next Generation series finale; “All Good Things . . . ” Picard‘s premier more than alludes to it several times. The omnipresent character, Q, uttered two key lines that spoke to me then. Just as they do, now.
The first? When disaster seemed to strike, Q turned to Picard and said, “Goodbye, Jean-Luc. I’m gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end.”
And at the end of the episode, Q told Picard, “For that one fraction of a second, you were open to options you had never considered. *That* is the exploration that awaits you. Not mapping stars and studying nebulae, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence.”
I often look at cutting back caffeine, or stopping this blog because of that possibility, as a disaster. An existential question I don’t want to answer. But through a cup of decaf Earl Grey, I learned that I’ve been trying to answer the wrong question. For three years, now.
If my relationship to caffeine should end, and if this blog of my tea adventures were euthanized because of it, that wouldn’t be the end end. Merely a new beginning. The game wouldn’t be ending, merely this round. All I’ve been doing is stalling.
If countless iterations of Star Trek—and by extention, the titular Jean-Luc Picard—have taught me anything throughout the years, it’s that time is tenacious. Time winds on, but never winds down. Things begin, continue, and end. As do we.
But the story continues.