‘Star Trek: Picard’ Series Finale Sets the Stage for a Big Spinoff
This post contains spoilers for the Picard series finale, “The Last Generation.”
When this third and final season of Picard debuted earlier this year, I wrote that while on the one hand it was shameless fan service, on the other this was exactly what Star Trek fans wanted and needed after the show’s first two years were so disappointing. Simply bringing back the entire crew of The Next Generation — and giving most of them much better and richer material than what they got to play back in the Eighties and Nineties — felt like more than enough, even if the season’s conspiracy plot was largely gibberish.
The season’s concluding four chapters (which I hadn’t seen at the time of that earlier review) only amplified this feeling. By this point, the TNG gang was finally coming together in full, rather than in smaller groups. (Or, in the case of Worf, being saddled with the last remaining Picard original character, Michelle Hurd’s Raffi.) The chemistry between these seven actors, who have known and liked each other for so long in the real world, just crackled on the screen. Combining that with various bits of personal history — the animosity between Riker and Worf over the brief period where Worf dated Deanna Troi, or Geordi La Forge’s ongoing quest to help best friend Data feel more human — made these episodes sing. TNG often gave the supporting actors very little to play — poor LeVar Burton, in particular, basically got nothing but technobabble for seven years — and it was a credit to that cast that we loved them so much. Across these 10 episodes, Picard showrunner Terry Matalas did a lot to make up for that, and that by itself was worth it. If anything, the least interesting part of this season was Picard himself. Which makes it an inverse of the first two years, where Patrick Stewart was really the only reason to watch. It’s not that Stewart was bad, by any means, but rather that the father/son relationship between Jean-Luc and Jack never entirely landed, while his trauma about the Borg felt like a rehash of earlier stories(*). The emotional climax of the season is Jean-Luc plugging back into the Borg collective in order to rescue his son (as well as the entire Federation), but it didn’t hit nearly as hard as, say, Data saying goodbye to evil twin brother Lore.
(*) On the whole, the season made great use of various vintage Trek movie scores, but the prominence of Jerry Goldsmith’s great First Contact theme also meant that every time Jean-Luc railed against his enemies, all I could think about was him screaming at Worf and Alfre Woodard’s Lily in that film (easily the best one made with the TNG cast).
On the whole, though, this is exactly what most Trekkies would have wanted from this season, and from Picard as a whole: one last chance to see these characters at their best, and to let the actors dig deeper into roles that were often much thinner than they should have been in the Eighties and Nineties.
Some more thoughts on the finale, and the season:
- The season used the Changelings from Deep Space Nine as red herring villains, finally roping the Borg back in for the last couple of episodes. This was a mixed bag, not only because it conflicted with what had happened previously on this very show, but because it feels like it is somehow always going to be the Borg with Jean-Luc. The Changelings were at least surprising, and also a small way for this season to pay homage to the wildly underrated Deep Space Nine, when otherwise it was made up of pieces of TNG and Voyager. (Heck, there was even an original series cameo of sorts, as Walter Koenig provided the voice of Pavel Chekov’s son, Anton — not a nod to playwright Anton Chekhov, but to the late Anton Yelchin, who played Pavel in the Chris Pine films.) Réne Auberjonois (whose Odo was the cleanest connection to the Changelings) has passed away, and Avery Brooks’ Ben Sisko is trapped in the wormhole, but couldn’t Nana Visitor have stopped by? (Colm Meaney who, like Michael Dorn, appeared on both TNG and DS9, but was much more integral to the latter?) Plus, the nature of the Borg takeover of Starfleet made everyone — particularly Borg expert Elizabeth Shelby from the classic “Best of Both Worlds” two-parter — look very, very stupid.
- The relentless nostalgia did go over the line a bit at the end of the season’s penultimate episode, when Geordi brought his friends onto a rebuilt version of their old ship. Exciting as it was to see them back on the familiar Enterprise-D bridge, it didn’t feel like a time for gawking while the Borg had taken complete control of Starfleet and were preparing to destroy Earth.
- Boy, were Stewart and Michelle Forbes great together in the episode where Jean-Luc’s rebellious Bajoran protege Ro Laren returned. Ro was one of the better TNG recurring characters, and was meant to be the female lead on Deep Space Nine, but Forbes wasn’t crazy about committing years of her life to Star Trek. But she was very invested in the character here, and her argument with Jean-Luc about their former relationship was among the more complex pieces of old business the season did.
- Finally, before we see the Enterprise-D crew play one last round of cards together, we get set-up for a potential spinoff, where Seven of Nine is the captain of the newly-rechristened Enterprise-G, Raffi is her first officer, Geordi’s daughter Sidney remains at the helm, and the multi-talented but reckless Jack is, for now, the ship’s counselor. And later, he’s visited by his father’s old nemesis Q. (Q died at the end of Season Two, but Matalas picked and chose which aspects of the first two seasons he wanted to use and which he wanted to ignore.) On the whole, this feels like a mixed bag. Jeri Ryan can certainly carry a new series as the lead, and Ed Speelers had his moments as Jack, but Raffi has been a dud for three seasons now. If we do get a Seven-centric show, though, the good news is that it would keep pushing the timeline forward, where the otherwise-excellent Strange New Worlds and Lower Decks take place in the franchise’s past.
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