Captain Liam Shaw – It’s Complicated

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I am about to say something that might cause a riot or even get me booted from the Star Trek fandom. I don’t really like the character Captain Liam Shaw from Star Trek Picard’s season three. There, I’ve said it. And before you stop reading or yeet me into outer space, I hope you will take a moment to hear me out. Do take note that I never said that I hated the character, because I don’t hate him. I simply find the grumpy captain of the Titan to be, well…complicated.

Captain Shaw is a complicated character. It certainly didn’t help that in our first encounter, we found out that he is deadnaming Commander Seven of Nine by insisting she use her human name while serving on board the Titan-A. It was a shocking moment learning that Seven had joined Starfleet and was once again facing the discrimination associated with being a former Borg drone. This was especially disheartening knowing that this was coming from Seven’s commanding officer. One of the biggest reasons we turn to Star Trek is for hope that the future will be a better place for everyone, and that our differences will be celebrated rather than weaponized. Yes, this is idealistic, and I acknowledge that even in the future there will be those that don’t embrace the ideology of equality for all. However, Seven of Nine is a beloved character in the Trek franchise and learning that after all this time and after finally joining Starfleet she is still facing the same stigma and discrimination for simply being herself was infuriating to say the least.

I understand that there are leaders in the world that tow a hard line. They play by their interpretation of the rules and do not look to do anything more or less than what they are tasked to do. They, in fact, frown upon those that go above and beyond their call of duty or those that are creative in achieving their goals. This is certainly a part of who Captain Shaw is, but Shaw also goes a step further when it comes to Seven of Nine. Shaw undermines her in front of the crew by addressing her with her human name. He bullies her publicly every single time that he does not address her as Commander Seven of Nine.

If you have never been mistreated by a superior, then I challenge you to discuss this with any female in your life or anyone representing a marginalized group of people. I am confident that every single one of them will relate to Seven of Nine and that they will find Captain Shaw’s behavior complicated at best.

There is a long history of starship Captains that follow the rules and regulations of Starfleet but that also know when the time is right to bend or even ignore those rules. Captain Janeway and the crew of Voyager survived their journey through the Delta Quadrant by bending the rules. Using the regulations of Starfleet to guide them but also never being afraid to toss the rules out of the airlock when survival was on the line is what kept Voyager going on their journey home. This same type of playbook holds true for all the great Captains of Starfleet during their storied careers. Captain Shaw, however, holds tight to the rulebook. So much so that his grip on the rules presents more of an opportunity to harm himself and his crew than it does keeping them safe.

Captain Shaw already had zero respect for Admiral Picard because of Jean Luc’s role as Locutus of Borg during the Wolf 359 battle. Playing every mission tight to the rules and regulations is exactly the opposite of what Picard and Riker represent as Starfleet officers. Their reputation for diving headfirst into dangerous situations and for playing many of their missions fast and loose by Starfleet standards has made the tales of their successes revered throughout the galaxy. Which is exactly why Shaw wants nothing to do with either of them when they come aboard the Titan-A. Shaw begins his interactions with Picard and Riker by playing things very respectfully disrespectful. As they are forced to work together to save the Titan-A and ultimately the galaxy, Shaw becomes more egregious with his comments toward them and the situation that they caused.

When Captain Shaw delivers his infamous monologue in the holodeck Ten Forward aboard the Titan-A, we learn quickly that he suffers from PTSD and survivor’s guilt from being present during the battle between the Borg and Starfleet at Wolf 359. Shaw’s trauma is real, and he is certainly not alone in having to deal with being a survivor of one of Starfleet’s greatest losses. Captain Sisko was also a survivor of Wolf 359 and we clearly saw that his anger was directed like a laser at Jean Luc Picard. Dealing with trauma is highly individualized despite having the same or similar diagnosis. Knowing that Shaw carries guilt from being saved at Wolf 359 does allow us to understand where much of his disdain for Seven and Picard originates. However, it does call into question Shaw’s ability to serve as a leader in Starfleet and why he chose Seven of Nine to be his Commander.

Ultimately, Captain Shaw is killed by his Borg/Changeling assimilated crew in his efforts to save his crew and the galaxy. It is unfortunate that we learn posthumously that he thought highly of Seven of Nine and the way that she commands. Shaw had so much respect for her that he submitted her for immediate promotion to Captain. He died with a crew having respect for his rank, but not the man. He was ruled by his past and his trauma to the point that it kept him from being the best version of himself. Captain Liam Shaw was consistent in both his grumpiness and his hatred for all things Borg and ex-Borg, but ultimately to a fault.

I cannot talk about Captain Liam Shaw, the ”dipshit from Chicago”, without singing the praises of Todd Stashwick. Todd delivered Shaw with absolute perfection. He gave Shaw the exact nuances that made the character completely authentic. It is impossible for anyone to witness Todd’s delivery of Shaw’s Ten Forward monologue and not be in awe. Stashwick played Shaw with a uniqueness that made the verbal battering of Seven just as compelling as Shaw fanboying over Geordi LaForge being onboard the Titan-A. Todd Stashwick is a self-proclaimed nerd, an expert level geek, and a Dungeon Master capable of bringing Jeri Ryan to the game table. I am thrilled to have him as a part of the great Trek family and I look forward to meeting him some day, shaking his hand, and letting him know that I found Captain Shaw to be complicated.

LLAP & Go Boldly

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Fueled by coffee and willing to charge into a nebula for more. I’m a lifelong musician and creative with a love for all things sci-fi. In a universe where you can be anyone, be a Trekkie.

Go Boldly & LLAP

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