Julien Neaves, Sci Fi Head Writer
Star Trek: Picard wrapped its third and final season on April 20 to practically universal acclaim from fans and critics. And the season was such a vast leap in quality over the two uneven previous seasons it might has well have been a completely different show!
Seeing Picard reunite with his Next Generation crew to save the galaxy one last time (one assumes) truly felt like some of the best Trek we have had in years, and definitely in the franchise’s current Bronze Age/Discovery Era. As a Trekkie, I had an unmitigated blast with Season 3 and enjoyed repeatedly basking in the waves and waves of nostalgia. But as a critic there were a few flaws which made it fall short of perfect. With a planet-sized SPOILER ALERT let’s break it down in three sections, my Nitpicks, my Top Picks and Legacy:
Most of my issues with Picard Season 3 relate to the two previous seasons. Do allow me to explain. The final season is a love letter to The Next Generation (with a postscript to Deep Space Nine and Voyager) and serves as a much more suitable sendoff to the TNG crew than the hackneyed Star Trek: Nemesis. But it also had to do double duty as a capstone to Picard as a series, and that’s where the problems begin. First off, let’s deal with the android in the room. Now I understand they wanted to get the entire original crew back, so they had to find a way to bring back Data. But we already said a fitting goodbye to him in Season 1, so having him return again felt kinda off. And yeah, it was a new, human-looking, more human acting Data/Lore hybrid but if they had left out that plotline in the first season his revival would have been more resonant.
And now on to the cyborgs in the room, the Borg. The mystery over Picard’s secret son Jack Crusher’s strange visions and abilities tantalised viewers for most of the season. We had the return of the Changelings from DS9, so could it be the Pah-wraiths? Or perhaps another enemy species, like those creepy mind-controlling crawlies from TNG episode Conspiracy? Nope. It’s the Borg. Again. I groaned inside. Now I get how important the Borg are to the story of Picard as a character, and I could understand choosing to make them the true big bad of this tale. But the revelation would have been ten times more impactful if we did not have the Borg be a plot point in Season 1 (and a completely unnecessary one at that) and the major antagonists of Season 2.
And speaking of the Season 2 Borg, why in Worf’s white beard did no one, and I mean no one, make a single reference to them in Season 3? Maybe I missed it, but I think I was paying pretty close attention. Actually, I was waiting to hear it. But nada. When it is revealed that the Borg is the origin of the threat everyone acts like they haven’t seen the cybernetic nasties in ages. You just fought them last season and made an odd alliance with Jurati as the new, kinder Human/Borg Queen hybrid. I spent the whole of the final episode waiting to see the Jurati-led Borg swoop in to help Seven and the crew of the Titan protect Earth from annihilation. Old Borg vs New Borg would have been awesome! But nothing. It seems like the writers forgot that she or this plot point existed. And speaking of being forgetful, Picard love interest Laris (played by the stone-cold fox Orla Brady) is completely left out of the finale. Not even a vid call? Not cool.
And I will always be a fan of John de Lancie’s Q and he was easily one of the highlights of the mixed bag that was Season 2. But did he have to be the character to return for the post credits scene? His sendoff in Season 2 was beautifully done and this return kind of undermined all of that. Why not have Jack’s half-brother Wesley Crusher show up and meet him? I am sure Wil Wheaton would have made the time. Or, if you really wanted to blow fans’ minds, why not have Benjamin Sisko show up? The fandom would have broken into a fit of multiple nerdgasms like that lady who was way too into a performance of Tchaikovsky.
Season 3 also picked up a nasty habit of Season 2, and that is bringing back legacy characters only to kill them immediately. Season 2 did it with Icheb and Season 3 doubled down with both Ro Laren and Admiral Shelby. Now at least Ro Laren had some scenes before her death and her act of sacrifice was meaningful, though I thought they could have left out the secret Ro/Picard romance. While I assumed they wanted to ramp up the impact of her loss it just felt weird, and I don’t see a man as devoted to duty as Jean-Luc Picard having a secret affair with a junior officer, especially one as troubled as Ro.
But she got off better than poor Shelby who only got a couple scenes before she got blasted away by the Changelings moments after enacting the ill-advised plan to link all the Starfleet ships together. It was unceremonious and felt unnecessary. Also unnecessary was the renaming of the Titan as the Enterprise-G. I love the Enterprise. You love the Enterprise. We all love the Enterprise. But this felt like a moment of fan service gone too far.
#2 Top Picks
My Nitpicks are over, let’s move on to my Top Picks AKA the things that I liked. And there are a lot of them. The new TNG-esque opening theme was sweet and all the musical callbacks made me smirk. I enjoyed seeing all the TNG crew back and kudos to the writers that they were all given something to do, with the wisecracking Riker and samurai Worf easily being highlights. And it was hard not to get goosebumps seeing them on the bridge of the reconstructed Enterprise-D. The cameo of Tim Russ’ Tuvok was very cool and I smiled liked a fool when I heard Walter Koenig’s voice as Federation President Anton Chekov, likely son of legendary Trek character Pavel Chekov and whose first name is a tribute to the late Anton Yelchin who played the character in the Kelvinverse films.
Picard Season 2 ended with most of the main crew being scattered to the wind, obviously to make room for all the returning TNG characters. But the titular hero is back and has the best plot arc of the series. Watching Picard struggle with the earth-shattering news that he has an adult son and moving from a place of coolness to love, from duty to family was beautiful to watch. Sure, Beverly hiding her son for so long feels a little soap opera-ish but it was executed competently. And kudos to Ed Speleers for infusing Jack with so much roguish charm and energy. I also enjoyed his will they-won’t they chemistry with Ensign Sidney La Forge (the delightful Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut) and Daddy La Forge’s protective papa energy. Seven was back too and showed her quality as a leader. And while Raffi was grating in Season 2, she was endearing and entertaining with her mentor/mentee relationship with Worf.
But when it comes to heroes the absolute scene stealer was Todd Stashwick’s witty, matter-of-fact Captain Shaw. His plot arc from douche to wounded soldier to sacrificial hero was simply incredible, and his telling off of Picard one of the best speeches in Trek history. Despite being out of the way for much of the action, he made his presence felt in every…single…scene. The only thing I disliked was the fact that they killed him off. We need more Shaw Paramount. What the heck?!
And speaking of action, my goodness there was loads of it this season. We had Worf slashing up fools with his new Kur’leth sword, multiple phaser fights, the exhilaration of the Enterprise-D flying through the Borg structure and the epic dogfights with the intimidating Changeling vessel the Shrike.
And can we talk about Amanda Plummer’s Changeling baddie Captain Vadic? Hands down one of the best villain performances of the entire franchise. With her dry wit and maniacal behaviour she was equal parts chilling and hilarious. And that is not an easy combination to pull off. She is the daughter of late Shakespearean actor Christopher Plummer, who played the Klingon General Chang in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country, and definitely did her father’s Trek legacy justice. It was cool having Alice Krige reprise the voice of the Borg Queen in the finale, and her decrepit look was memorable, but she could not hold a candle to Vadic. She and the creepy Changelings were so good as adversaries, they probably should have left them as the sole antagonists and dropped the Borg entirely.
But I cannot be too hard on showrunner Terry Matalas, as the overall plotting and pacing of the season was expertly handled. Each episode built upon the next and I was hungering for more when the credits rolled. And despite my above nitpicks, at the end of The Last Generation I felt genuinely satisfied with the overall experience.
Picard is over, so what’s next?
With Seven now in charge of the Enterprise-G we may have a Star Trek: Legacy spinoff on our hands. I would have much preferred one with Shaw at the helm (please bring him back) and sans Raffi (she and Seven have absolutely no chemistry) but it is Trek and I will still watch it if it is ever made.
What I would be more interested in, however, would be seeing a Worf series. Michael Dorn has been trying to get one greenlit for years now, and I think the highly positive reaction to his return in Season 3 shows that the fans would also be on board. So come on Paramount, make it so! And I also suspect that while Season 3 was a swan song to the TNG crew one or more of these characters will return in future projects.
Like the Star Wars sequels, it felt like there was no three-season road map for Picard and they were making up things as they were going along. Thankfully, unlike the atrocious The Rise of Skywalker, the series ended on a high note. And props must be given to the cast and crew on their stellar work. No pun intended.
Editor Jules’ Score: 8 out of 10
What did you think of Picard Season 2? How would you rate it? And you check out more warp-tastic content below:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.