Star Trek Picard (Season 3) --A Review
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a Star Trek fan. I don't own a uniform and have yet to attend any conventions, but of the big science fiction franchises that have stood the test of time, Trek is probably the nearest and dearest to my heart. I've written about it before and I'll write about it again: I do believe that the current moment of Trek is probably the best the franchise has seen in decades. There is an embarrassment of riches for Trek fans these days and it's awesome, I'm soaking it all up and loving every single minute of it.
I have no time for fan gatekeeping or toxic fan culture, my criteria is simple: is it entertaining? For the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek starting in 2016 and lasting well into 2017, I watched every episode of Star Trek ever made. (I modeled my post titles after Wagner's The Ring Cycle, because well, it felt that epic- so here, here, here, and here you go if you want my full thoughts on the franchise.) Although many people had mixed reactions to the first two seasons of Star Trek: Picard, I did not. I loved them both and felt that if the series stuck to its stated plan of three seasons, then we would see a basic arc of resetting the character/cleaning up the mess left behind by Star Trek Nemesis (Season 1), exploring the character- an inner examination of who Picard is and what makes him tick (Season 2) and then finally, Season 3 would be Star Trek: The Next Generation The Undiscovered Country and give the TNG crew a fitting sendoff and a final farewell.
And you know what? That's kind of exactly what happened.
Don't get me wrong: I did have my issues with Season 2. Time travel and dystopian Mirror Universes have been done to death in Star Trek, so it was a bit much to right back there again. Q was great, if underused, the surprise cameo from Wesley Crusher at the end of Season 2 was nicely done and it set up a great, big juicy plot potential with the new kind of Borg and a mysterious trans-warp conduit they offer to monitor at the end of the season and then, of course, they just sort of... left it hanging there and went on with the third season.
But, despite the uneven nature of it, I could at least appreciate what they were trying to do with it. It was a fairly solid attempt at a deeper exploration of the character of Jean-Luc Picard... I don't think there's one moment that really leaps out at me the way the return of Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) did in the first season or Picard visiting Riker and Troi in 'Nepenthe', but it was solid. It was okay. I can respect the effort.
All of that leads us to the third and final season of Star Trek: Picard.
I will give y'all fair warning-- it's been a month since the final episode aired, so if you haven't seen it all yet, be warned, I'm going all in, spoilers and all.
The third season picks up a year after the second season when meet Beverly Crusher and her son Jack, who are being attacked on their ship by forces unknown. She is injured and placed in stasis but manages to send a coded message to retired Admiral Jean-Luc Picard, who is planning a trip with his current love interest Laris, who encourages him to go. Dr. Crusher tells Picard not to involve Starfleet, so he gives Riker a call and they stage a surprise inspection of the U.S.S. Titan-A, the successor to Riker's old ship, and try and convince its Captain, Shaw to go to the coordinates. He declines, but his first officer, Seven of Nine, changes course and heads there. Meanwhile, Raffi is working for Starfleet Intelligence and is on the trail of a stolen portal device her handler believes is going to be used in an imminent terrorist attack.
Picard and Riker find the shuttle, find Beverly, and meet Jack as a large ship, called the Shrike appears and tries to take Jack. The Titan crew soon realizes that there's a lot more at work here than they realized, especially when Beverly reveals that Jack is, in fact, Picard's son- and the mysterious Vadic (Amanda Plummer) is part of a wider conspiracy that threatens not only the Titan, Picard and the rest of the crew, but Starfleet itself.
Soon, the old crew of the Enterprise is drawn back together and on Frontier Day, the true scope of the conspiracy is revealed: a rogue faction of Changelings has been infiltrating Starfleet and futzing with the transporters just enough to change the genetic code of all the people under a certain age in Starfleet to allow the Borg to assimilate the entire fleet and the old crew has to go back to the Fleet Museum (which Geordi runs) and pull out a special surprise from a hanger-- the reconstructed Enterprise-D, the only ship not integrated into the new fleetwide integration system and they go back for one, final showdown with the Borg, which ultimately proves successful.
A year later, the Titan is rechristened as the Enterprise-G, Seven is made its Captain, Raffi her first officer, and Jack surrenders to the inevitable of being in the family business as an Ensign and, in a nod to his real-world non-Starfleet experience, officially the 'special counselor to the Captain'-- at the very end of the show, Jack gets a visit from none other than Q, who informs him that his trial has just begun.
Oh my, there is so much to unpack with this season.
First of all, Beverly Crusher. Gates McFadden is finally, finally given good writing and plot development and character development and it's awesome. That's not to say she didn't have her moments during TNG's original run- they actually do start to figure out what to do with both Dr. Crusher and Counselor Troi in the later seasons, but both of these characters have had standout moments in Picard and have been given good material to work with and not before time. It's awesome. I love it. I love her being on the run with Jack and shooting bad guys and being all bad ass. It's excellent. That's my Dr. Crusher, damn it.
Second of all, Worf- spoiler alert, Raffi's handler, turns out to be Worf! And Michael Dorn is excellent as always- just jumps right back into the role only this Worf is older and more chill. Not that much more chill, because he decapitates a bad guy at one point, but he's mellowed a bit and it's a nice bit of character development. And I will say they get that very, very right for all these characters-- they're not just playing the characters as they were or as we remember them, not these characters are older, a little bit more weary and little more careworn and it just works, so, so well. I loved it.
Third of all, Geordi: He's got kids now- and although we don't see his wife, there's a certain amount of tension between him and his helmsman daughter, Sydney. (Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut) If I have one tiny nit to pick it might be that they didn't plant the seed of this tension early enough and so the resolution seems a bit forced- but overall it works. (Fun bonus: his daughter Alandra is played by his real-life daughter Mica Burton.)
Captain Shaw (Todd Stashwick) just about steals the entire season out from under the TNG crew and his arc is perfect.
There are so many other beautiful touches throughout the season it would be impossible to catalog them all if this stands as anything, it might be as a love letter to the TNG, but what has impressed me is the ability of actors who have played large roles and small within the franchise to step back into their roles so effortlessly. Michelle Forbes is in one episode as Commander Ro Laren and it's... perfect. Tim Russ comes back as Tuvok and informs Seven of her promotion to Captain so perfectly. "Request denied." Professor Moriarty (Daniel Davis) shows back up. Alice Krige is the voice of the Borg Queen. Elizabeth Dennehy as Admiral Shelby! (There are even two more that are worth discovering for yourselves if you haven't made your way through Season 3 yet- I won't spoil those.)
I loved every minute of this. It had a satisfying conclusion. It was the perfect send-off for the TNG crew. It featured villains that actually had a well-thought-out and downright villainous plan! Everyone got their time to shine! There were callbacks and connections aplenty- with Vadic being played by Amanda Plummer- who turned in an iconic performance and made the Changelings creepier and more menacing than DS9 ever could, whose Dad, Christopher Plummer played General Chang in Star Trek VI being only one of many.
The clamor for the obvious sequel series began immediately and I hope we get to see the new crew again in Star Trek Legacy or whatever they end up calling it, but what a swan song for Picard. They stuck the landing. Absolutely perfect. No notes (except for a tiny nitpick here and there, but pretty much, no notes.) My Grade: ***** out of ****.