Captain Liam Shaw: The Most Misunderstood Character of Star Trek: Picard, Season 3

Oh Captain Shaw, how much I love your character and anxiously look forward to each week’s installment of Star Trek: Picard this season, and honestly…it’s mostly because of you! Please be advised that the following includes massive amounts of spoilers for Season 3 of Star Trek: Picard. Consider yourselves warned, proceed at your own risk.

I’ve seen so many kneejerk reactions to Captain Shaw and his meme-enducing “No” responses to so many requests made of him this season along with comparisons to Ronnie Cox’s Captain Edward Jellico from The Next Generation’s Season 6, 2-part series “Chain of Command”, that I just felt compelled to step in. Is Shaw a hardass like Jellico? Sure, but there are SO many differences here that we really need to look at and consider Shaw’s point of view before labeling him this way.

First, let’s take a look at Edward Jellico. In this 2-parter for The Next Generation series, Edward Jellico is put in command of the Enterprise-D while Captain Picard, Dr. Crusher & Worf are sent under cover into Cardassian territory on a classified mission for Starfleet Intelligence. Jellico arrives and begins making his own changes to the daily operations onboard the USS Enterprise, which his new First Officer seems to take offense to from the get-go.

Of these changes, the one that seems to stick the most with Will is the change from a 3-shift duty rotation to a 4-shift duty rotation, and he informs Will of this request immediately upon beaming aboard the ship. Now this is Will’s new commanding officer, and though he may not understand the reasoning behind the change in command of the ship, in all reality, it’s really none of his business and he’s expected to carry out his new Captain’s orders. Instead, Will doesn’t fulfill this request and continues to butt heads with Jellico at every turn. It’s also explained that Will doesn’t understand Jellico’s reasoning for his moves likely because Jellico doesn’t share the same openness with his tactics and reasoning with Will as Picard has in the past, which makes Jellico come off as acting quite erratically in how he commands the ship and especially in negotiations with the Cardassians. In fact, his erratic tendencies even have his new empathic Counselor unable to read and understand his motives. We all know how the episode concludes…Picard refuses to see five lights, the Cardassians’ sinister plot is revealed, Picard is returned to command of the Enterprise and Captain Jellico is sent on his way. For all his flaws, Jellico was put in this position by Starfleet Command because of his negotiating tactics. Had Starfleet needed to take a more diplomatic approach with regards to the Cardassians, there’s no doubt that Captain Picard would have been the man for the job, but this was a far dirtier negotiation than Picard would have been ready for or prepared to handle.

For more on Captain Jellico, may I suggest Steve Shives’ Trek, Actually episode below: Why Captain Jellico Is Actually Pretty Awesome:

Now that we’ve explored Captain Jellico, let’s take a deeper look into Captain Liam Shaw, shall we? We’re introduced to Captain Shaw during a meeting between now-retired Starfleet Admiral Jean-Luc Picard & Captain William Riker. Picard needs a ship to go rescue Beverly Crusher, but is instructed to not involve Starfleet, so he contacts Will, who decides he’s going to pull an “inspection” on his old ship, the USS Titan. While onboard the Titan, we are introduced to a familiar face who is now the First Officer on the Titan, Commander Seven of Nine, or if you’re Captain Shaw, Commander Annika Hansen. Yes, that’s right…Captain Shaw has a prejudice against the Borg, and more specifically against Picard, calling him “the only Borg so deadly, they gave him a goddamn name”, since he was a survivor of the Battle of Wolf 359.

So Riker & Picard make their way onboard the ship and hatch a plan to alter the planned course of the ship in an attempt to retrieve their friend, Dr. Beverly Crusher under the guise of an inspection. Upon meeting Captain Shaw, Picard & Riker join him for a meal, which he has already begun without their company. When told of the alteration to their course, he responds with an emphatic “No”, then goes on to explain his views and that he’s not taking orders from a retired Admiral or a Captain who is not assigned to a ship. He’s well aware of their previous adventures together and as he sees it, their recklessness, and he’s not going to put his crew or ship in harm’s way because of their whims.

So let’s look at this…he’s the Captain of the Titan, and a retired Admiral along with the ship’s previous Captain surprises him with an inspection along with orders of changing the course of his ship for a rendezvous at a space station that the retired Admiral didn’t realize was shut down, only to be corrected by his own First Officer of another space station he must have meant – clearly, covering for an old friend in a rouse on her current Captain. Things are tense between Captain Shaw and his First Officer already before you throw in a couple of her friends and you have plenty of reason for him to believe that a conspiracy against him is unfolding, and you wouldn’t be wrong! Outright mutiny happens when Seven orders the ship to Picard’s requested coordinates unbeknownst to Shaw.

Also, as if the relationship between Picard/Riker/Seven of Nine wasn’t already enough, how about we throw in that Shaw’s helmsman just so happens to be the daughter of Picard’s former Chief Engineer! That’s right…Ensign La Forge has shown her own resistance towards her captain by referring to the Commander in secret as “Commander Seven” instead of “Commander Hansen” as Shaw has dictated she be referred to.

When you throw in the beloved Starfleet legends, one of which just so happens to be the former Captain of his ship commandeering his ship for their own personal use with no explanation along with a number of his own crew showing a general disregard for his command, you really can’t help but to feel for Captain Shaw. However you, the viewer aren’t supposed to be looking at it from his perspective…no, your heroes are the ones perpetrating mutiny against this poor Captain who’s just trying to do his job to the best of his ability.

Is he gruff? Absolutely! Is he tough on his crew? Sure he is, but that doesn’t mean he’s a bad guy. As he put it, he runs a tight shift & is proud of his ship, his crew & expects only the best from every one of them as he brags to Picard & Riker that they will “find the engines pristine, the hull intact, and every surface on the ship dust-free.” Can’t the same really be said about Picard, when he was the Captain of the Enterprise-D? He expected excellence of his crew and didn’t interact well with children because he saw them to be unpredictable and irresponsible. But just like most well-written characters do during the course of a 7-year run of a television series, Picard grew immensely as a character, and developed that softer side and a real connection to his senior officers to the point that by the end of the series, he had finally joined in on the poker game, and when he stated that he “should’ve done this years ago,” that comment was met with “You were always welcome!”

I’ve read that much like Captain Pike. Spock & Una popping up in Season 2 of Discovery, that Captain Shaw & Commander Seven could possibly earn themselves a spinoff series after this season of Picard just as we’ve gotten Strange New Worlds, telling Pike’s stories as Captain of the Enterprise. I really hope this becomes a reality, because I’m loving Captain Shaw & all his eccentricities! Todd Stashwick is doing an excellent job with this character & I look forward to more from him!

Trek on! đź––

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