Star Trek: Picard is now in its final season on Paramount Plus. It’s been a potent exploration of long-serving protagonist Jean-Luc Picard’s psyche, and a redemption saga for his deepest regrets. It has encountered fan criticism for rendering Picard challenging to like at times, it’s been overly morose, obsessed with giving send-offs, and has more than one alcoholic. But Star Trek: Picard Season 3 feels like a breath of fresh air, one final outing in the aptly-named Season 3 premiere called The Next Generation.
All Hands, to Your Stations
I love Star Trek, and while I’m certainly more casual a fan than many viewers, having only been exploring the series for a few years, I appreciate this direction Picard Season 3 is taking. With the show seemingly finally steering away from the parade of misery, we see a glimpse of that hopeful, charming spark that drew the fans to the series. All it took was for two aging Starfleet officers (one retired!) to go on a maverick mission to rescue a friend, and we’re here for the ride.
More specifically, Admiral Jean-Luc Picard and Captain William Riker set out to rescue their fellow former crewmate, and Picard’s past love interest, Dr. Beverly Crusher. On their quest they encounter Seven of Nine…or rather, Annika Hansen — scratch that, Commander Annika Hansen, on the USS Titan. Picard and Riker even spot a young ensign on the bridge who turns out to be Sidney La Forge, daughter of Geordi La Forge. Everything feels familiar, yet fresh, new, and exciting.
We even see Seven sit in the captain’s chair and say “Engage” which is sure to make more than enough fans rejoice. Jeri Ryan is so fantastic for this franchise and it’s good that her character has received the love she has rightly deserved. The fanservice feels real here, but it also feels justified and entertaining.
Make It So
When Picard sets out with Riker, it’s two old officers against the world and Starfleet, urged by Crusher not to get the entity involved. So what do they do? They contrive an inspection of the USS Titan-A to get the resources and access they need to rescue their friend. But despite meeting Seven, or Hansen, as the vessel’s First Officer, they meet a familiar obstacle: bureaucracy, in the form of the ship’s commanding officer, Captain Liam Shaw.
Captain Shaw runs a tight ship, pun intended, and has no desire to let Picard and Riker redirect the ship’s course. He rightly points out that it’s counter-intuitive and serves no practical purpose, and pulls not only rank but also points out Picard’s retirement and Riker’s loss of command over the vessel.
Shaw even rejects Picard’s gift of wine and has Riker’s alcohol tastes pegged by his music preferences and background. Shaw’s a prick, but a sharp one. So Picard and Riker naturally disobey them, maverick behavior fitting of a great Trek adventure. Their friend is in danger, and they set out like the seasoned adventurers we know and love them to be, chain of command be damned.
The Next Generation
The final season of Star Trek: Picard is the most seemingly self-aware yet but in a loving way. Riker pokes fun at Picard’s disapproval of his methods, even eliciting a glower from him when asking for his inspection face. It feels like the subtle hints at something the fans will love, but also how good the genuine chemistry of the original cast was, and how fun it is to have Jonathan Frakes feature so prominently.
But the show also seemingly acknowledges just how old these officers are. Picard was 96 years old in Season 2, yet there was rarely much indication that people saw him as truly that old. But he and Riker set out all the same, with Riker quipping, “your hands are stiff, my knees are killing me. So long as we don’t move or shoot we should be fine,” while setting out, armed with phasers, ready to move and shoot.
The episode concludes with them learning a fascinating twist on Dr. Crusher’s backstory, expanding on the original crew’s lore, easily making these moments the show’s strengths.
Notes from the Lower Decks
Some aspects of the episode warrant particular mention, specifically:
- Music in Star Trek: Picard has always been reasonable, with the premiere’s opening song of choice is I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire by The Inkspots. It feels significantly less meaningful than Bing Crosby’s Blue Skies from the series premiere but could be connected to the playlist of classics Picard gave to Crusher.
- The biggest visual highlights of this episode seemed to be the sight of the USS Titan-A and just how unwelcoming and uncomfortable Shaw’s captain’s quarters are. This dinner served as easily among the most awkward exchanges between officers in the series, like having dinner with a disapproving, arrogant aristocratic father who hates his wife and children. Great work there.
- There’s an entire subplot with Raffi, but it feels less interesting due to the series retreading familiar ground with her character. She’s been wonderful in the series so far, but having a time skip where Seven of Nine dumps her feels like wasted potential. While her falling off the wagon feels like the writers don’t know how to write her happy, it does feel realistic for an addict in recovery. Also, a lack of Elnor so far, one of my favorite parts of the show, drags this show down.
Star Trek: Picard opens season 3 with a great first episode, an entertaining reminder of the show’s potential with great dialogue, and maintains the show’s excellent production values. It opens the viewers up to a mystery not only of terrifying pursuers such as those closing in on the crew in the final moments, but also the potential for a fantastic reunion. Veering away from Picard’s internal anguish, the show pushes forward instead of clinging to the past, part of what Star Trek is all about.
- This article was updated on February 17th, 2023