Gene Roddenberry is unable to say whether or not he ever imagined how popular Star Trek would become over the years, spanning many television programs, movies, video games, and novels. Now, the franchise consists of an entire universe of narratives that are constantly evolving.
Roddenberry could not imagine the wide variety of new fictional lives that would emerge from their creation, from blading Starfleet commanders through to sentient holograms. One such character that grew almost legendary status was Boothby the gardener, but who exactly was this green-fingered hero?
Liam Boothby was introduced to the Starfleet academy on Earth during the Next Generation, and he was taught as a gardener. He was, simply, a working, down-to-earth individual who was very open to the environment. It was likely because of this that he was humble and patient.
Boothby was an old man from the moment he was introduced to audiences. He had been around since Kirk's golden days, witnessing the Federation change and adapt over the years and through conflicts with Romulans and Klingons, and thus was a source of wisdom. He would always offer a shoulder for a fallen officer to cry on, as they faced or faced obstacles.
Boothby is mentioned in the TNG episode The First Duty for the first time, but this was the first time he appeared onscreen, and the appearance really resonated with audiences. The episode revolves around Wesley Crusher's tragic death in a shuttle accident, which results in the death of his friends and fellow cadets at the academy.
The fact about Picard is that he is not some special person, not a superhero, or a legendary authority figure as often presented previously. He is simply a normal guy, a groundskeeper who just happens to listen and help others understand and understand what they already know.
It's a shame then that Star Trek left things there. The episode was fantastic, and it presented Boothby in the perfect light. There may be ways to include him again in episodes, but this wasn't really necessary. Next comes Voyager, who has always received mixed reactions from fans, but this goes double for what they did with his character.
Even after it was first released, the show's ratings were quite low, even though it was lower than TNG and DS9. The show's main aim was to keep things interesting by referencing as many previous Star Trek shows as possible, including many more where the crew added random guest stars such as Riker. However, Boothby's return was a disaster, relying on a nostalgic callback for viewers.
Voyager was engulfed in what they affectionately call a chaotic space, a space that does not adhere to the same laws as the planet's? It was here that Chakotay began to hallucinate being guided in the boxing ring by Boothby, who was apparently not only a gardener, but a boxing coach as well?
Voyager was caught on foot across a Starfleet academy floating in space, created by the Borg antagonists Species 8472, yet again shoehorning the character in without regard for whether or not it made sense.
TNG's nonsensical comments were considered lazy writing, with the producers relying too heavily on the actors and writers of the program to keep viewers entertained, rather than forcing references. The decisions were thoughtful, with Boothby being a very subtle yet extremely important cornerstone for understanding Picard and how he became the man he became.