When most of Star Trek: The Next Generation cast was announced to return to the Star Trek universe to reprise their roles in the final season of Star Trek: Picard, expectations increased tenfold from an already vocal fanbase. It’s hard to strike the right balance in a franchise that’s been around since the late 60s. With the first six episodes of Picard in mind, you could say the latest Trek iteration takes a pretty good stab at it, with satisfying performances and revisited Trek history. This season feels specifically molded by people behind and in front of the camera who have had a hand in this world since before the latest rebirth of Trek content, and thank god for that—it’s not easy to tiptoe the line of what some deem as ‘fanservice’.
One of the best parts of the season hinges on how the plot seamlessly pulls together characters or pulls them apart. Years of waiting and the finality of ending Picard as a series adds a newfound urgency, elevating a season in a way that Picard hasn’t managed to date. With Picard no longer having an organic body, that’s saying something. Driving the TNG crew to finally have the conversations that fans have been dying for them to have, Picard also includes new relationship conflicts. Initially surprising, but only a natural result of the time that has passed, and how they all have grown since last seen in Star Trek: Nemesis.
The only way this works is through the performances of the cast. Not a single actor has trouble stepping into roles from over two decades ago, embodying their old characters as if they continued portraying them since their final movie. Not only that, but they’re also organically written—nobody is forced into roles uncharacteristic of them to service the action or story of the protagonist. The way this crew comes back together is natural, and they’re even able to integrate Raffi (Michelle Hurd) and Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) into the story in ways that make sense, but still feel like their place among the TNG crew works and is earned.
Particular stand-outs include Jonathan Frakes, who not only directs several episodes of the season but also brings his A-game as Riker. While he’s known in recent Star Trek series as a famed Starfleet Captain, it’s his friendships that affect his position in a surprising and newfound way. Even though he’s the TNG member the audiences are perhaps less excited about this time around, he’s a scene-stealer nonetheless. Of the new-returning cast members, Michael Dorn (Worf) comes with the same classic cadence and an interesting new role in the galaxy. It’s no coincidence these two both boast the best one-liners throughout the first six episodes.
Also worth mentioning are Ed Speleers, playing a super secret role, and Todd Stashwick as Shaw, Captain of the Titan. Speleers is able to hold his own, already known for the fantasy/sci-fi genre with his roles in Eragon and Outlander. His position is interesting, to say the least, for more reasons than him being a good three decades younger than most of the rest of the cast. Stashwick also shines, despite his newcomer status. He slides right into the asshole captain archetype which is no surprise considering his last collaboration with showrunner Terry Matalas, 12 Monkeys. With another unannounced cameo, Picard Season 3 is packed to the brim with Trek minds and talent.
Star Trek: Picard Season 3 starts on a solid foundation that knows the right pace to combine the various elements needed to both catch up with old stories and start new ones. It’s easy to see new endeavors that follow characters relied upon in the series, such as Worf and Seven, but it also pulls on threads and universe-wide events that weren’t even touched upon in the original Picard-led series. This season is almost as much a follow-up to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as it is The Next Generation, laying a foundation for the aspects of the season that TNG does not. Star Trek, and the greater sci-fi genre, are bountiful with reasons why audiences are attracted to the ideas and storytelling it brings, with so much to offer fans, new and old alike. The latest iteration of Picard has much to offer, and is bound to bring some type of catharsis to those that have been waiting painstakingly for the newest chapter of the highly beloved crew.
Feature image credit: Trae Patton/Paramount+
Star Trek: Picard Season 3 premieres on Thursday, February 16 on Paramount+