This review contains mild spoilers for Star Trek: Picard.
On the whole, Star Trek: Picard has been a mixed bag. With a languid pace in its first season, followed by a ridiculous time-travel plot (even by Star Trek standards) in its second, it needed to be clarified what the series wanted to be. For better or for worse, these are not problems that Season 3 shares.
Picking up about a year after the end of Season 2, Admiral Picard (Patrick Stewart) is called to action by a mysterious distress signal from Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden), whom he hasn’t seen in twenty years. With the aid of his former first officer Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes), he lies his way on board a newly refitted USS Titan-A with the intent of tracking her down. This plan is threatened by the ship’s Captain, Liam Shaw (Todd Stashwick), a by-the-book officer who points out that their many heroic adventures have also been near catastrophes. Luckily, their friend Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) is also the ship’s first officer and gets them where they need to go.
What follows is an adventure that proceeds at a breakneck pace and with a clear purpose: let’s get the crew back together and save the galaxy one last time. It doesn’t take long before we learn that Star Fleet is compromised and that the bad guys are some of the most dangerous enemies from 24th-century Trek.
One of Picard‘s stumbling blocks in its first two seasons was its inconsistent commitment to continuity and fan service. In Season 2, especially when Picard and friends travel to the past, the series makes deep cuts references to The Original Series, but then forgets that Picard had met Star Trek: Next Generation‘s Guinan already on a different time travelling adventure.
Season 3 doesn’t have this issue. There is a ton of fan service, sometimes a little too much, but it’s at least fun and in balance. It’s always clear that showrunner Terry Matalas and his production team love The Next Generation, and that love is on screen in every scene. The Next Generation cast – reunited for the first time since 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis – all slip back into their roles in the same way we might a favourite coat. Michael Dorn has many of the series’ funniest lines as Worf, Gates McFadden is still the passionate and hyper-competent Dr Crusher we know and love, and once the series gets around to resurrecting Data (Brent Spiner), he and Geordi (LeVar Burton) share some genuinely emotional scenes as best friends reunited.
Frakes and Marina Sirtis still have the same chemistry they’ve had since the late 1980s, but Frakes is the standout of the original crew. He shares many of the toughest scenes with Patrick Stewart as they discuss their past failures and family tragedies, but also with a genuine smile and glint in his eye whenever he’s called on for an action sequence.
There are a few new faces this season as well. Todd Stashwick plays Captain Liam Shaw as a fierce, straight-edged jerk, and while he might rub you the wrong way at first, by the series end, he’s our jerk. Ed Speleers has the most significant new role as Jack Crusher, the long-lost son of Dr Crusher and Captain Picard. At 35 years old, Speleers often looks like the oldest 24-year-old to have ever lived, but his charisma and charm are enough to let this go overlooked, even if he is a generic rogue-type character. Finally, Amanda Plummer is on hand as the series villain, the changeling Vadic, and makes a meal of the scenery. Whether firing torpedoes or monologuing about her character’s tragic past, she would have made her father – Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country villain Christopher Plummer – proud.
Yet, for all the series’ concerns with legacy, there are some notable omissions – namely, the cast of this very show. Despite being main characters in Seasons 1 and 2, Isa Briones, Santiago Cabrera, Evan Evagora, and Alison Pill do not appear this season. Evagora is especially missed, given his setup as an adopted son for Picard. Pill as well, whose character Agnes Jurati became an alternate Borg Queen in Season 2. When it came time to fight the original Borg again at the climax of season 3, it felt a lot like Agnes would have been able to help!
With the entire cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation returning, Matalas and the writers had to make some hard choices to maintain a manageably-sized cast, but it is at least a little disappointing that these characters don’t get any closure in favour of giving the old set a second kick at the can.
This is reportedly the last season of Picard, and it’s fitting that it goes out on an emotional high and leaves the door open for new adventures. There’s no denying the emotion that fans will get from seeing the Enterprise-D flying off at warp nine with the crew back on the bridge one last time. It is not hyperbole to say that it might bring a tear to one’s eye -as it did to mine. By the time it’s over and the day is won with a spectacular sequence of both action and love, you won’t be able to help having a smile on your face.
Star Trek: Picard Season 3 is streaming on Crave.