|Directing||Terry Matalas, Doug Aarniokoski, Jonathan Frakes, Dan Liu, Deborah Kampmeier|
|Producing||Douglas Aarniokoski, Aaron Baiers, Akiva Goldsman, Heather Kadin, Alex Kurtzman, Dylan K. Massin, Rod Roddenberry, Trevor Roth, Patrick Stewart, Jason Michael Zimmerman|
|Writing||Cindy Appel, Chris Derrick, Christopher Monfette, Jane Maggs, Terry Matalas, Sean Tretta, Kiley Rossetter, Matt Okumura|
|Starring||Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, Michael Dorn. LeVar Burton, Brent Spiner, Marina Sirtis, Amanda Plummer, Michelle Heard, Ed Speleers, Jeri Ryan|
|Release Date||February 16th, 2023|
Language: Occasional strong language including f***, G********, and milder expletives.
Violence: Standard sci-fi violence, characters get maimed, shot with phasers, stabbed, and vaporized.
Sexual Content: None
Spiritual Content: None
Note: If you’ve managed to avoid all of the spoilers surrounding Picard season three, all of the biggest surprises are under the spoilers section near the end.
I discovered Star Trek in the summer of 1994 at the age of thirteen. Of course, I knew it existed before then, but it was that summer that seared Star Trek into my brain. It was the golden age: The Next Generation had just ended, Deep Space Nine was hitting its stride, and Voyager was due to premiere in January of 1995. The seventh film of the franchise was being released that Fall. Star Trek was at the height of its popularity.
Looking back on it now, I see its (many) flaws; but as a young kid with undiagnosed ADHD, Star Trek was a world I wanted to vanish into. Thanks to books, video games, models, and toys, this was almost possible.
I put it away for a time, as I realized everyone didn’t think it was quite as cool as I did. I dug it all out again as J.J. Abrams tried to reinvent the franchise, and to this day Star Trek remains TV comfort food – the show I can play in the background while I work or write.
With Star Trek: Discovery, a new era dawned. The revival and expansion of the Star Trek Universe under Alex Kurtzman has certainly had its hiccups. However, as of this writing, five new television series are actively airing, with whispers of more to come. IDW has revived the Star Trek comics, new novels are being written, a new video game is due this year, and Playmates is launching a new toy line.
Discovery offered a grittier take on Star Trek than any prior incarnation. I didn’t love it at first, but it grew on me. Then came the announcement Patrick Stewart, who had long insisted he was finished playing Jean-Luc Picard, had agreed to…engage…one more time.
Picard would not be a reunion of The Next Generation cast; that was made clear over and over. This would be a new story, a new ship, and crew. It would pick up the narrative of the prime Star Trek timeline (as opposed to Abrams’ alternate reality) in the post TNG/DS9/Voyager years.
The series followed an older Admiral Picard, disillusioned with Starfleet, and feeling the ravages of Alzheimer’s…I mean, Irumodic Syndrome. It was lovely to sort of return to the Star Trek I had cut my teeth on; but what I wanted, what everyone seemed to want, was to know what the entire crew had been up to. I kept asking “Where’s Beverly?” as Jean-Luc delved into a complex relationship with his Romulan caretaker Laris. We did get some cameos from other Trek veterans, but this was most certainly not TNG. Season one’s exploration of mortality, use of bloodier violence, and the occasional F-bomb was divisive for some fans. Freed from the restrictions of television censors and Gene Roddenberry’s inviolable utopian vision, the show was able to take some different paths.
Season two brought Q back as the primary…’tagonist? Once again both causing trouble and rescuing Picard at the last moment. We met a fantastic new Borg queen and saw a different potential arc for one of the most iconic villains in sci-fi. The season delved into darker territory, exploring Picard’s childhood trauma, leading to an aloofness that had thawed somewhat in TNG but never fully melted. It retconned a few things and painted a very vulnerable picture of a captain known for stoicism.
It still wasn’t quite the show we wanted.
With its third and final season, Picard finally delivered. Showrunner Terry Matalas, himself a deeply devoted fan, pulled out all the stops and created a ten-hour season that not only revisited The Next Generation but also elements of Voyager and Deep Space Nine. Some of it worked, some of it didn’t, but my inner thirteen-year-old self was giddy through the whole of it. I laughed, cried, audibly cheered, and pulled my friends along for the journey.
Admiral Jean-Luc Picard receives an urgent distress call from Dr. Beverly Crusher whom he has neither seen nor spoken to in more than twenty years. Her ship has been boarded and she is critically injured and desperate. She warns him not to trust anyone, especially Starfleet, and to come find her on the fringes of Federation space.
Despite her warnings, Picard enlists the aid of Captain William Riker who uses his old command, the U.S.S. Titan, as their means of reaching Beverly.
The Titan has undergone an extensive refit and is now under the command of Captain Liam Shaw, a by-the-book rule follower. Shaw harbors deep trauma and survivor’s guilt from the battle of Wolf 359 and despises Picard for his role in that massacre while under the influence of the Borg. Despite this animosity, Shaw also has Seven of Nine, now a commander, serving as first officer.
Riker and Picard attempt to deceive Shaw regarding the true nature of their plans. When he discovers their intent to reroute the Titan for a rescue mission, he has the pair arrested. However, with help from Seven, Riker and Picard escape and manage to commandeer a shuttle and reach Beverly’s ship.
There they find Beverly in stasis to prevent her from dying from her injuries, placed there by a young man who claims to be her son, Jack. Jack reveals they have been pursued for the past several weeks by various aliens, even Starfleet officers. He can offer no explanation. He and Beverly have been offering medical assistance along the frontier to whomever might need it, outside of the legal parameters set by the Federation. He’s amassed a criminal record in the process, but nothing that seems to justify the bounty placed on him.
Soon, a sinister vessel arrives, in possession of a range of advanced weapons, and attempts to abduct Jack. Shaw reluctantly orders the Titan, which has retreated to Federation space, to intervene.
Vadic, the captain of the imposing vessel, demands the Titan surrender Jack or she will unleash the unique weapons at her disposal. With the entire crew now at risk, Picard attempts to ascertain who Jack is and why Vadic wants him.
As Shaw is preparing to hand Jack over, Beverly is revived by Riker in the Titan sickbay and reveals Jack is also Picard’s son. Shaw finally agrees to engage the Shrike and the Titan flees to the protection of a nearby Nebula.
Meanwhile, Raffi Musiker is now working for Starfleet Intelligence. She has found evidence of a conspiracy involving the theft of weaponry from Daystrom Station, a top-secret Starfleet facility. She is thwarted in her investigation by her unseen handler, who repeatedly admonishes her to stand down.
When a Starfleet recruitment center is destroyed with a weapon capable of generating quantum singularities, Raffi’s suspicions are confirmed and her frustration grows. She takes matters into her own hands, suspecting the singularity weapon was actually a cover for the theft of something far more dangerous. When her attempts to question a Ferengi crime lord place her in peril, her handler steps in to save her and is revealed to be Worf.
Worf tells Raffi he shares her suspicions, but Starfleet is compromised. His attempts to thwart her further involvement were meant to protect her.
As Raffi and Worf work to uncover the true threat to the Federation, Picard and the crew of the Titan attempt to understand why Jack is suddenly so important to whatever plot is being hatched by Vadic and the faceless mastermind she works for.
As the corruption within Starfleet grows, Picard turns to old and trusted friends to try and stop a looming disaster. To do so will require the entire crew of the Enterprise-D, their unique individual skills, and their bond as a crew.
A lot of work has been done to pay homage to The Next Generation, satisfy fans, and resolve a number of plot lines. It’s not perfect, but there’s enough that works and enough squeal-worthy nostalgia to make this final season what Star Trek fans of every era have been waiting for.
Easter eggs abound for hardcore fans to find, as well as a number of big surprises. The cameos from what has been termed “legacy” characters set the stage for a spin-off. Matalas has stated his goal with this season was to open the door for a new series that will feature a mixture of new characters and old, with the opportunity to revisit Voyager and Deep Space Nine.
One by one, the old crew assembles: Riker, Beverly, and Worf. Geordi LaForge, whose daughter Sydney is the helmsman of the Titan, now oversees the fleet museum housed within the old Spacedock. The museum is the final resting place of legendary ships from the whole of the Star Trek timeline. The Enterprise-A, Defiant, and Voyager all get a few beautiful minutes of screen time.
The ships and environments of Star Trek are just as big a part of the series as the people, and the homage paid to the vintage vessels is touching. Like the crew, the technology within the older ships of the fleet will provide a key component to fighting the new threat Starfleet is facing. Even that Klingon Bird-of-Prey from Star Trek IV (the one with the whales) has a part to play.
Brent Spiner joins the gang mid-season. In true TNG fashion, he plays multiple characters, all of whom have a connection to Data who died in Star Trek: Nemesis.
Everyone has something to do in this season. Beverly soon dons a familiar blue lab coat and sets about trying to solve several medical mysteries. Geordi’s skills as an engineer give the crew an edge no one else has. Worf uncovers the true enemy behind the plot against the Federation.
The final piece of the puzzle is Deanna Troi. I admit I am a huge Troi fan, and felt she was vastly under-utilized for much of TNG. My favorite episodes were later in the series when she got a uniform and was more than plunging necklines and bad romantic storylines. She finally arrives in the last half of the season with an ironic nod to her presence in TNG.
Deanna was conveniently off the ship or away when her empathic powers would have revealed who was up to no good before the first commercial break. It is Deanna who gets to the bottom of what’s really going on shortly after she beams aboard the Titan. It is also Deanna who firmly guides her friends to make the hard choices. In many ways, she gets her due, including a turn in the literal driver’s seat that doesn’t involve crashing the ship.
While TNG resolved everything by the episode’s end, this is not the case with Picard. Once everyone is reunited, all is not well with this group of old friends. Gene Roddenberry was adamant there be no infighting amongst the crews of his shows. Later, after his death, writers explored this tension in DS9 and Voyager.
The crew of the Enterprise-D rarely bickered on screen, but everyone has changed in the two decades since they were all together. Beverly cut off contact with everyone after she unexpectedly became pregnant. As captain of the Federation flagship, Picard made for an alluring target. Having already lost Wesley and her first husband (and Jack’s namesake), she instead chose to distance herself from Starfleet and Picard. Picard, who outwardly never wanted a family, is now faced with an adult son he does not know, and the pain of his own choices to close himself off.
Picard and Riker don’t see eye to eye anymore and find themselves in conflict over command decisions. Geordi is reluctant to join the fight, fearful of endangering his family. He has a strained relationship with Sydney, who takes a more headstrong approach to things, inspired by her father’s stories of his escapades on the Enterprise. Even Will and Deanna are at a difficult crossroads, each walking out grief in different ways and at odds with each other. Mistakes from the past come back to haunt them all.
Patrick Stewart, Gates McFadden, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn, and Brent Spiner reprise their TNG roles and easily slip back into them. Jeri Ryan returns as Seven of Nine, as do a number of “legacy” characters from TNG and Voyager. Michelle Heard reprises her role as Raffi, as does Orla Brady as Laris, although it seems the five minutes of screen time she receives doesn’t give the character or actress her due. Matalas stated that, in order to facilitate the TNG reunion, a number of cast members and storylines had to be dropped.
Amanda Plummer joins the cast as the primary villain. Plummer’s portrayal is nuanced and unsettling. Vadic is cruel, calculating, and unhinged. She’s also terrified of another unseen mastermind who is pulling the strings. As the pieces started to click into place, I was genuinely surprised at some of the turns her storyline took. She’s not the final boss the crew has to fight, and I wanted more from and for her before the end of the show.
Ed Speleers portrays Jack Crusher, who is harboring a secret that can literally destroy everything. There’s a fair amount of smoldering into the camera with broody existentialism, cementing his position as the Kirk/Riker/Bashir/Paris/Tripp of the series.
Todd Stashwick as Liam Shaw steals the show several times and has become a fan favorite. Shaw is initially off-putting and ultimately endearing and Terry Matalas has stated he would like to bring the character back.
Warning, Here There Be Spoilers
Elizabeth Dennehy makes a brief appearance as Elizabeth Shelby, the feisty lieutenant from “Best of Both Worlds” who went toe to toe with Will Riker, now an Admiral in command of the Enterprise-F. Seven turns to Tim Russ as Tuvok for aid and seeks help from Admiral Janeway. Sadly, we don’t get to see Kate Mulgrew on-screen but hopefully, this means something more is in the works.
The jaw-dropping twist (or one of them at least) everyone managed to keep secret was the appearance of Michelle Forbes as Ro Laren. Ro was a fantastic character who was supposed to transition to Deep Space Nine, but Michelle Forbes didn’t want to be tied down as a series regular. The role of Kira Nerys was created for DS9 instead, and Ro was written out of TNG, betraying Starfleet to help the Maquis. The resolution of that storyline and the relationship Ro and Picard had is a high point of the season.
Gone Before Her Time
While I gasped when Ro arrived in Episode 5, the penultimate episode of the series reveals the most touching return of all: the Enterprise-D. The iconic galaxy-class ship was destroyed at the end Star Trek: Generations. Or rather, half of it was. Faced with a warp core breach, the crew separated the ship, and the subsequent explosion of the star drive sent the saucer crashing to the planet below. Our last glimpse of the 1701-D is the saucer, smashed beyond repair as Picard says it will not be the last ship to bear the name Enterprise.
In Episode 9 we learn, thanks to the Prime Directive, the saucer was removed from the surface to avoid influencing the pre-warp civilization on the planet. Geordi has been working to restore it, as a passion project, with other bits and pieces of old galaxy-class ships. In the final moments, the crew steps onto the iconic bridge once more.
This moment alone hits harder than anything else, and it is absolute fan service. Behind-the-scenes footage shows painstaking attention to detail was used to recreate the bridge exactly as it appeared in TNG, right down to the wood grain of the tactical station and the glow of 80s neon in the lighting effects. When the computer chirps and we hear the late Majel Barret’s voice once again, the whole family is, in a way, back together. “I miss that voice,” Riker later quips. We all did.
All Good Things…
While there is so much to geek out about, there are moments when writing, acting, and directing are clunky. Star Trek is no stranger to flat moments, and there are a few in Picard, although fewer than in other seasons, and the good outpaces the bad by lightyears.
At the end of it all, while it wasn’t perfect, it was also more than I expected. Like the send-off Kirk and the original crew got with Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country, this season of Picard gives The Next Generation a heart-warming goodbye, while not fully closing the book for good. All good things must come to an end…or must they?
The Bottom Line
A nostalgic homage to one of the most iconic eras in Star Trek, Picard Season 3 offers a touching send off to the crew and opens the door for new adventures.