Star Trek: Picard
Star Trek: Picard began as a series partly dedicated to giving Jean-Luc Picard, the aged but unbowed former captain of the Enterprise, a late-in-life shot at returning to the stars and partly as a torch-passing exercise that surrounded Picard with new characters (a kind of next generation, you could say). Across three seasons, that mission didn’t so much drift as grow in scale. This third and final season has extended the autumnal adventures to almost all of the original cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation (while keeping Jeri Ryan and Michelle Hurd around from the preceding Picard seasons) and making the torch-passing theme even more explicit by bringing in Picard’s previously unknown son, Jack Crusher, and a pair of Geordi LaForge daughters to boot.
That’s a lot to ask of any series, much less one that has to give the beloved TNG characters the proper send-off (maybe?) they were denied by the less-than-beloved Star Trek: Nemesis. And, by and large, the season has shouldered that burden well. The TNG characters have all had their moments in the spotlight as the show reassembled the team, Ryan’s Seven of Nine and Hurd’s Raffi have had plenty to do (as did Todd Stashwick’s Captain Shaw, RIP), and Jack has proven to be a charismatic addition when he could have felt like an interloper shoehorned in to bring down the cast’s median age.
But does this final episode stick the landing? Pretty much, yeah. “The Last Generation” both brings the season-long story — which began as a confrontation with the Dominion before that dread foe essentially handed over villain duties to the Borg — to an exciting conclusion and gives the original cast a nostalgic valedictory moment while also leaving the door open for future adventures.
As it opens, however, any possibility of a happy ending seems unlikely. Federation President Chekov (not that one but his son) issues a dire warning that the Federation’s younger generation has been assimilated, and there’s little to be done about it, but in the words of his father, “There are always possibilities.” Picard and the crew are not an easily dissuaded bunch, and recognizing, as Data puts it, they “are the cavalry,” they come up with a plan.
Sure, it’s a desperate plan, but a plan nonetheless: Head to Jupiter, board the Borg vessel, and shut down the beacon that allows the Borg to do what they do. (And hopefully rescue Jack in the process.) For Picard, it’s personal. The Borg have his son (whom he’s come to like quite a bit despite a messy start), and he’s been plagued by their threat for over 35 years. For everyone else, it’s, well, also pretty personal. If this is truly a last stand, it’s a last stand against an enemy with whom they have a long, nasty history. The newly emotional Data sums it up as they approach: “I hate them.”
No one knows that better than Seven, of course, who leads a party to reclaim the Titan. She and Raffi will play a crucial role in the confrontation that follows, but it’s the newly reunited TNG crew that drives the action. And, in classic Trek faction, that means breaking into smaller groups. Picard, Will, and Worf head into the cube. (“And I will make it a threesome,” Worf says, by way of announcing his intentions.) Their farewell is one of the episode’s first heart-tugging moments. Could this be the last time these characters see each other? The look on Deanna’s face as Will walks away says it all.
On the cube, they find a lot of rotting Borg drones but little action. Then it’s time to split up after another wrenching farewell scene in which Picard can’t bring himself to tell Will how much he means to him. “You know that I know. Always,” Will says, letting him off the hook while making the scene that much more intense, with Worf’s own final words about Klingon’s not knowing the words “defeat” and “farewell” providing poignant punctuation.
When Picard reaches Jack, it’s worse than he feared. His son appears fully Borgified and the Borg Queen (voiced by Alice Krige and looking more like a nightmarish H.R. Giger creation than ever) looms over him. She’s mostly interested in mocking “Locutus,” calling his arrival a homecoming. The Borg Queen also announces that assimilation is old news. The new Borg goal is evolution. And it looks like that plan is working out for them. Thanks, unwittingly, to Jack, Starfleet is now filled with unwitting hybrids walking around with Borg DNA just waiting to be told what to do.
But despite the odds stacked against them, our heroes prevail via a series of pretty good fight scenes that mix aerial combat, a hand-to-hand battle with Borg drones, some fancy flying from Data, and a battle for Jack’s soul. The latter involves Picard plugging himself into the Borg network and selling Jack on the pleasures of life outside the Borg cube, despite the possibility of loneliness and fear. Picard’s pitch includes freely expressing his emotions (never an easy thing for the captain), including his feelings for his son. “You are the part of me that I never knew was missing,” he says. Later, they hug. (This episode just does not let up on big emotional moments. Will’s farewell to Deanna, if anything, hits even harder: “I’ll be waiting. Me and our boy.”)
Star Trek is a franchise dedicated to following intriguing science fiction concepts wherever they lead, but it’s also one in which occasionally love saves the day, and the Borg Queen’s dying shout of “No!!!” shortly before her cube explodes signals that this is one of those Star Trek installments. (Even Seven’s in a hugging mood when the Borg control lifts from the Titan crew.) It’s a happy ending for all, and the tableau of everyone posing on the Enterprise bridge (an image that includes Will and Deanna embracing and Worf asleep) could be a fitting end to the series.
But there’s more to be done. That includes giving the TNG crew some more time together and setting up future adventures. Will’s log reveals that Beverly has developed a method to eliminate Borg DNA and scan for Dominion holdouts. Tuvok, the real Tuvok, is still alive, it’s revealed. Seven learns that Captain Shaw actually liked and respected her, even recommending she be promoted to the rank of captain. Data is still sorting through his new emotions with a lot of help from Deanna, who’s a little distracted planning a vacation during the latest of their marathon sessions. But, essentially, all is well.
One year later, the long good-bye continues as Will, Picard, and Geordi put the Enterprise D to bed. A bit later, Picard and Beverly escort their son to his first Starfleet assignment aboard … the Enterprise? Rechristened in honor of Starfleet’s fabled flagship, the Enterprise is now under Seven’s command, with Raffi and Jack by her side. That looks like a setup for a whole new series featuring this crew. (I would watch.)
We’re not done: Over drinks and a stirring recitation of one of Brutus’s speeches in Julius Caesar from Picard (“There is a tide in the affairs of men”), the TNG crew spends the evening in each other’s company, reflecting on their time together before, in a nod to “All Good Things …,” the original TNG finale, a game of poker breaks out with Picard enthusiastically participating. It’s an indulgent moment that calls on decades of accumulated affection for these characters, and boy does it work. It feels like a fitting farewell, albeit one that suggests all good things, or at least all good shows, don’t always come to an end. They just kind of lay around waiting for someone to pick them up again.
• Hello! No, I am not your regular Picard recapper (though I did cover the first season). I’m just filling in for the excellent Swapna Krishna, who was unexpectedly unable to cover this episode.
• This episode pretty clearly sets up a Seven/Raffi/Jack–focused series and that’s a pretty exciting prospect. Ryan is, of course, already a Trek legend and her reprise of Seven has broadened the character and confirmed she has a range we never saw on Voyager. Hurd was always a Picard highlight and Ed Speleers has fit right in when Jack could easily have been the series’ Poochie.
• If there is a series, please, please find room for the “Ma’am, I’m just a cook!” guy. He’s great.
• Over the end credits, there’s one last surprise: Q is back and ready to put Jack to the test. Nothing really ends or dies with this franchise, does it? (Okay, except for Ro Laren, Capt. Shaw, etc., etc.) After a first season partly dedicated to putting Data down, he’s back and the Data who wanted to die got hand-waved away. Now Q’s mortality, a big part of the second season, is out the window. It’s inconsistent, but is any going to complain, particularly after a season this strong?
• That said, the sudden transition to a mostly different supporting cast hasn’t been without some awkwardness. Whither Laris?
• Is this the last time we’ll see the TNG characters all in one place together again? Another reunion seems unlikely, but then this reunion seemed pretty unlikely. If it is the end, it’s a warm, affectionate send-off. If not, let’s hope the next reunion strikes as deft a balance between nostalgia and adventure.