Star Trek: Picard
There has been a lot of skepticism surrounding Star Trek: Picard’s third season. The question has come up, again and again, of whether this show can deliver genuine emotional storytelling amid the pileup of fan service. (I mean, there’s a reason the third season has been called TNG, season eight.) But I’m here to ask: Does it matter? And, more specifically, are the two mutually exclusive? From Star Trek: Picard’s first episode on, showrunner Terry Matalas has packed the series to the brim with nostalgia. And the fact is that every show in the Star Trek franchise serves some kind of fan, whether new or longtime. Every iteration is different, but also connected to the greater whole of the franchise, and I’d argue that’s a good thing. Star Trek: Picard’s third season probably isn’t for everyone, and that’s fine. Not everything has to be for everyone.
So who is it for? Aside from me, it’s for the people waiting for that “Avengers Assemble” moment when the entire Enterprise-D crew reunites on the bridge of a starship. Who would have thought they’d take that moment and turn it into an entire season?
“The Next Generation” opens with a Fallout homage, as the camera pans over cluttered belongings on a ship. Jean-Luc’s Enterprise logs play over the music as we see plants, experiments, and even a case with Jack Crusher’s name on it. But the first character we see isn’t Jean-Luc, it’s Beverly Crusher, an indication that this season will be different from previous ones. And if that’s not enough, the good dancing doctor arms herself with a phaser rifle and gets into a shootout after her ship is boarded. She and Jack Crusher manage to fight off the intruders and escape, but not before Bev is badly wounded. Desperate, she sends a coded plea to Admiral Jean-Luc Picard for assistance.
We’ve gotten glimpses of the long-awaited TNG reunion over the first two seasons of Star Trek: Picard: exploring the legacy of Commander Data (who was killed in the oft-maligned movie Nemesis); visiting Riker and Troi at home and understanding their personal tragedy; an all-too-brief reunion with Hugh; an update on Wesley Crusher’s adventures; seeing Guinan again; and finally coming to some closure with Q, a figure who loomed large over the entire series.
By opening this season with a focus on Beverly, though, Matalas shows us that The Next Generation characters aren’t going to be set dressing this time around. These aren’t going to be cameos. This is a full and authentic last adventure featuring characters we dearly love.
Back to the episode. Jean-Luc is back at his chateau and in a committed relationship with Laris. They’re very fond of each other, but something isn’t quite right. After Admiral Picard receives Beverly’s coded message and confides in Laris, it feels like an ending — and it’s not because the mission may be dangerous. It seems that after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis, Jean-Luc and Beverly did try to pursue a relationship, and it didn’t work out. Laris knows this is good-bye, even if Picard insists he’ll be back soon.
If this conversation with Laris is an ending, Picard’s later conversation with Riker represents a new and exciting beginning: We discover that not only did Jean-Luc and Beverly try to have a relationship, it failed so spectacularly that she hasn’t spoken to him or anyone else from the Enterprise-D/E crew in 20 years. Which explains why Beverly emphasized in her message not to involve Starfleet and to trust no one.
But Will is family. And he’s currently free as a bird, as he implies that he and his wife, Deanna Troi, are having some problems. He and Picard head to Will’s old ship, the Titan, to try and get close to the coded coordinates Bev sent in her message. They can at least reach the edge of Federation space.
The first officer of the Titan is none other than Seven of Nine, now Commander Annika Hansen of Starfleet. The fact that she prefers Seven but Captain Shaw insists she use Annika is nauseating, to be sure, and makes clear that this isn’t going to be as easy as they’d hoped. Todd Stashwick’s turn as Captain Shaw makes him the person you love to hate, as he not only shoots down their (admittedly thin) ruse to get the Titan near Beverly’s coordinates but also accuses Seven of being loyal to her former Borg friend over the Titan.
As viewers of The Next Generation, we experienced both Jean-Luc’s assimilation during “The Best of Both Worlds” and the traumatic aftermath as he processed the experience in “Family.” It’s something that haunts him and that we know he continues to grapple with to this day. For it to be used against him in this way is unwelcome and also unsurprising, to say the least. But it indicates there’s something we have yet to learn about what’s behind Captain Shaw’s visceral dislike of the Borg.
Raffi isn’t having a much better time than Seven, unfortunately. She’s undercover with Starfleet Intelligence, desperately trying to figure out who stole classified weapons tech from the Daystrom Institute’s offsite station. She finally gets a lead, but it’s going nowhere, and she’s spiraling. Her handler is the definition of unhelpful. The nature of undercover work makes the way they communicate — via computer, no face-to-face meetings, a synthesized voice — understandable, but it’s lonely and brutal. After months of this kind of work, Raffi is feeling the effects, but her handler denies her request for a meeting and continues to push her to figure out what’s going on.
Raffi finally does, but it’s too late: She bears witness to a terrorist attack on a Starfleet recruitment center, watching in horror as the building is destroyed and the remains drop on another part of a city. It’s a good reintroduction to the character, if a bit of a detour from the main event of getting the band getting back together (no fault on Michelle Hurd’s part; she’s excellent).
Back on the Titan, Jean-Luc and Will are entirely out of options. A retired admiral and a captain without a ship can’t really pull rank, so short of mutiny, they’re going nowhere. That is, until Seven calls them up and asks — demands, really — that they level with her. Once they tell her what’s going on, she reveals that not only did she disobey orders and take them to the edge of Federation space, but she has a plan to put them on a shuttle. They’ve located the ship; now, all Jean-Luc and Will have to do is get over there and rescue Beverly.
And that’s what they do as Captain Shaw watches angrily from the bridge of the Titan. They board Beverly’s ship and find the evidence of her firefight, along with the doctor herself in a stasis pod. Will is taken prisoner by a young man who claims to be Jack Crusher, Beverly’s son. Considering he looks an awful lot like young Jean-Luc from The Next Generation episode “Rascals,” there’s a story here that I’m very excited to learn. But before they can dive into it, a ship appears on the sensors.
• TNG legacy-character count: three.
• Let’s be honest: Jonathan Frakes has never looked better than he does this season, while Patrick Stewart looks like a Newsie in that cap.
• Ensign Sidney LaForge! It’s so nice to see Geordi’s daughter and know that he found a stable and happy home life after The Next Generation failed the character on every romantic storyline.
• The Rachel Garrett statue was a nice throwback to “Yesterday’s Enterprise.”
• Will and Deanna have problems?? Say it isn’t so! Kestra was one of the highlights of Star Trek: Picard’s first season, so I hope we see her again.
• HIGH appreciation for both the sense of humor and the old-person banter in the episode.
• Are Raffi and Seven still together? PLEASE TELL ME THEY ARE STILL TOGETHER. “My girlfriend left me” isn’t exactly promising, but Raffi is also undercover.