As Star Trek: Picard closes the door on Season 1 and looks ahead to Season 2, showrunner Michael Chabon is reflecting on the inaugural season of the series. The showrunner admitted ahead of the Season 1 finale that while there were some fan reactions he expected when writing the show, others still took him by surprise.
Most notably, Michael Chabon revealed that he was especially surprised to see how the Star Trek fandom reacted to the deaths of returning characters Hugh and Icheb. While both characters held relatively minor roles within the franchise overall, fans had mixed reactions to the deaths in general. Chabon referenced their deaths in a conversation with Variety, and how that reaction blindsided him.
I will say, I don’t think I quite understood that there were going to be people who would be upset about a character’s death regardless of how that character died. That simply the fact of a character dying — that was not okay with them. Even if I had known that I would have ultimately dismissed it because it seems — I just don’t understand television in that way.
Michael Chabon spent a majority of his career as a novelist, which may be why the reaction of Star Trek: Picard fans took him by surprise. Chabon has been a lifelong fan of Star Trek, though perhaps he underestimated how much fans cared for even the relatively minor characters.
More understandable is that Michael Chabon and the Star Trek: Picard crew thought that the manner in which the characters died would impact fan response. Chabon explained there were discussions ahead of each death, and ultimately, they justified both exits in the manner in which they went down.
In the course of this season, we show the death of Icheb, who was a recurring character on Voyager, and then the death of Hugh, who was a recurring character on TNG. When we talked about it, we definitely had a sense of like, there’s probably going to be some people who are upset that these characters have died. And we were okay with that, because we thought in both cases, neither death was gratuitous. The death of Icheb has now become part of the story of Seven of Nine. It felt completely called for and we couldn’t have told her story without it. I mean, the death of Icheb is upsetting partly because it’s fairly gruesome, which I understand, but also because, you know, he’s so powerless, he has no agency. He’s really a victim. But that isn’t the case with the death of Hugh. He dies trying to do what he’s been trying to do for his entire adult life, which is help former Borg. His death felt meaningful.
Both Icheb and Hugh were relatively small characters on their respective shows, so the mindset of honoring the characters with meaningful exits or using them to push larger character's stories makes sense. Hugh appeared in more episodes of Star Trek: Picard than he did in Star Trek: The Next Generation, so it's kind of a wonder he was even thought of and given such a role in the CBS All Access series at all. The Picard team could've let Hugh fade into obscurity, but instead, gave him a meaningful arc and exit.
Michael Chabon's interview comes ahead of the Season 1 finale of Star Trek: Picard, which some have theorized will have a controversial ending. What may be more controversial to fans is Star Trek: Picard's willingness to kill legacy characters, which could happen down the stretch. Whether it will continue to be minor characters or characters more substantial like Worf or Geordi La Forge remains to be seen.
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