Fans of “Star Trek” can be particular when it comes to remembering what canon is. Even the most minor mistakes can cause a stir in the fan community. In a way, this can be a force for good. It keeps creators on their toes and remembering to keep everything aligned to what happened previously (or what is planned in the future).
For years, films based on the characters of Marvel Comics flopped at the box office. Through the 1980s and ’90s, Marvel films were made for super-low budgets — like “The Fantastic Four” or “Captain America.” DC’s Batman made billions of dollars for Warner Brothers, and Marvel kept striking out with their films. Outside of the successes of the Tobey Maguire “Spider-Man” and Wesley Snipes’ “Blade” trilogies, Marvel was a non-factor at the box office.
That continued until a long-time fan of “Star Trek” took over the movie-making division for Marvel. His name is Kevin Feige, and he admitted to Entertainment Weekly that he’s a “big-ass nerd” who loves Trek. Feige and the filmmakers who created the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) modeled some of their success on how “Star Trek” operated, with an intertwined universe. As William Shatner starred as Captain Kirk in the movies, Patrick Stewart was Picard on TV. Things that happened in the films mattered on the TV show, and vice versa.
Feige and his team are involved in crafting the films’ broad narrative. Part of that is checking that all the details click together, and the story can flow from television show to film and back.
Since the history of “Star Trek” spans 56 years, a much older connected universe than Feige deals with — his began in 2008 with “Iron Man” — there are thousands of little facts and details that could make or break a Trek film or show.
In the debut episode for the second season of “Star Trek: Picard,” some fans took umbrage at the fact that Captain Christobal “Chris” Rios (Santiago Cabrera) is chomping on a cigar.
A Trek fan on Twitter started a conversation about Rios’ cigar, which got a bit heated. “I don’t understand why the creative staff on ‘Star Trek: Picard’ invite controversy and risk alienating legacy ‘Star Trek’ fans for such a petty artistic choice! Roddenberry said no smoking on starships for good reason!”
This is a fact, as summarized by Memory Alpha. According to their “Smoking” post, Trek creator Gene Roddenberry fought to keep smoking references out of his show. Back then, smoking was something that was not frowned upon. In fact, smoking ads were seen regularly on television.
“Even with the heaviest smokers, including myself, I fought for it,” Roddenberry wrote in the book, “The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.”
“In the end, it paid off for everyone; I think everyone now agrees that the original episodes would not be rerunning so successful[ly] if we had yielded to advertising pressure and put a ‘twenty-third-century cigarette’ into the mouth of Kirk and others.”
Rios and his Cigar
Still, having Captain Rios with a cigar (which appeared to be unlit) was enough to upset some. Another Trek fan, Stu Meevins, reminded fans that while Roddenberry’s stance on smoking was well-intentioned, some of his other ideas were not as well-received.
“He also originally pitched Betazoids as basically four breasted nymphomaniacs and a disturbingly detailed list of the sexual proclivities of the Ferengi…on balance, a skipper having a cigar on his bridge is nothing,” tweeted Meevins.
Many others jumped into the debate — which you can read here — but it is obviously something that folks have different opinions on.
Memory Alpha pointed out that even as smoking was prohibited on “The Original Series,” characters did smoke in one form or another, starting from the first episode of “The Next Generation.”
Q (John de Lancie) was seen holding a cigarette on “Encounter at Farpoint.” In the story, Q was teasing Picard about Earth’s war-filled past. He appeared on the Enterprise bridge dressed in a U.S. Army uniform from WWII. Picard said that humans no longer wore “costumes” like that.
Q also slipped cigars into the mouth of Riker (Jonathan Frakes), the hands of Worf (Michael Dorn), and Geordi (LeVar Burton) at the end of the episode “Deja Q.” This was done in celebration after the god-being had his powers restored.