TV Review: Star Trek Picard S3
One of the first shows in the current slate of entries in the Star Trek franchise is Star Trek: Picard. Taking place several years after his time in the captain’s chair it focused on the further adventures of Jean Luc Picard in this new stage of his life. Naturally, the “Engage!”-spouting captain, now admiral, was the focus but any Trekkie will tell you that he was not the only beloved character from Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was the entire crew of the USS Enterprise who endeared themselves to fans, and aside from the odd cameo, they had been conspicuously absent from Picard’s life in his twilight years. But, in this final season, new showrunner Terry Matalas, decides to go for broke giving Jean Luc a threat so powerful and personal he can not face it along. This leads the aging admiral to turn to the family he was apart of three decades ago for one last grand adventure.
With Frontier Day quickly approaching, Picard and Riker receive a distress call from the outskirts of Federation space from none other than, Dr. Beverly Crusher. Never ones to leave their old friend behind, the two former leaders of the Enterprise hitch a ride on the USS Titan. Soon they discover rescuing Crusher, and her son Jack, is only the beginning, as the psychotic Changeling, Vadic, makes herself known as part of an intricate plot to take down the entire Federation. With the walls closing in and a conspiracy reaching the highest level of Starfleet, the only allies Picard can trust are his old friends as they reunite for the biggest mission of their lives with the fate of the universe resting on their shoulders.
I want to start this off by gathering a collection of friends, family, strangers, and whoever else I can find to give a standing ovation to showrunner Terry Matalas. With this season of Star Trek Picard being the conclusion, he decides to go for broke and tell the biggest Trek tale he possibly could. The end result is a grand spectacle filled with thrills and heart in equal measure. In an era where we have far too many shows that are reboots/requels/remakes of shows from the past that solely rely on presenting bushels of ‘Member Berries, Matalas crafted something that tips its hat appropriately to what came before while still being something worthy of its own 10-part series. His love for the franchise is clear as he draws in the history of, not just TNG, but also Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and even The Original Series. But at the same time, he realizes this is something new and such gives us something like we have never seen before taking the series into exciting and surprising places.
Naturally the long awaited reunion of one of the most popular ensembles in television history is initially the biggest draw of this season of Picard. There is something about seeing Sir Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, LeVar Burton, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn, and Brent Spiner together once more that hits right in the emotions for us longtime fans. In the past when Trek characters from the past return to the franchise, the powers-that-be have seemed happy just to say they are starship captains themselves at this stage of their lives. However, in Star Trek Picard we see that over the decades the former Enterprise crew have experienced character growth absolutely in-line with who they are. Dr. Crusher has been bringing medical care to the furthest reaches of the universe with her son Jack. Geordi is in charge of overseeing the Starfleet museum, preserving the most iconic ships from the fleet’s history. Perhaps coolest of all is Worf, who has become the Klingon equivalent of an aged samurai, traveling through space fighting evil with a newfound inner-peace. Despite the different paths their respective lives have taken, when Jean Luc Picard calls upon them once more, they have no issue with rallying behind their former captain.
While the return of old friends fills all of us Trekkies with the warm and fuzzies, Terry Matalas does not hesitate to introduce brand new characters to the Star Trek franchise who have instantly become fan favorites. Chief among them is the cynical captain of the USS Titan, Liam Shaw. Expertly played by Todd Stashwick, Shaw initially charmed audiences as a cynical smartass, but in the episode “No Win Scenario” he delivers a haunting monologue that completely enriches this salty captain and causes us to see him in an entirely new light. On the villain front, Amanda Plummer’s Vadic easily ranks among the greatest Trek baddies to ever grace our screen. Finding the perfect balance between grand theatrics with true menace is not ease, but she does so with seeming ease.
The presentation of Picard is that of a 10-part movie, divided into three distinctive acts. The first sees Picard, Riker, Seven of Nine, Crusher and Shaw as underdogs in a battle against Vadic. The next part sees everyone on the run as enemies of both their Changeling enemies. It is the end where everything comes together giving us the full scope of what it at play (SPOILERS AHEAD) alone in one remaining cube, the Borg Queen unleashes her vengeful fury upon the universe. Suffering the effects, of the virus Captain Janeway unleashed on her kind so many years ago in Voyager, the Borg Queen has never been more terrifying as she seeks to take the universe down with her (SPOILERS END). What Terry Matalas understands perfectly is that you can have all of the blockbuster action in the universe, but if the heart is not there it will not resonate. This is why the moments that hit the hardest are the emotional character moments. He takes full advantage of the fact the viewers have known and loved many of these characters for decades by playing them to their full potential. Of course, we get plenty of uplifting reunions but Matalas also plays up some friction in a way they were famously not allowed to during the run of TNG. I for one will never forget the drop in my heart when Riker, fighting back tears, sternly tells a broken Picard “You’ve just killed us all”. Actors who have such established characters that can say so much with just a glance is one thing, but even the characters we are meeting for the first time are capable of holding their own in big heavy moments. Downton Abbey, veteran Ed Speleers has instant chemistry with Picard as his long lost son Jack Crusher, and the scenes between the two truly carry the emotional weight of a complicated relationship. Of course the defining scene of Picard is easily the moment when they find out what Geordi has been keeping in Hangar 12. I defy any Trekkie worth their weight in Tribbles not to choke up when they hear Majel Barrett’s voice coming through the computer once again. These scenes resonate all the more thanks to composers Stephen Barton, Frederik Wiedmann, and Jeff Russo and their absolutely magnificent score.
In coming to a close Star Trek Picard saw fan expectations and blew right through them to create one of the very best productions to ever come from the Star Trek universe. It expertly hits all of the right notes of nostalgia while still being fresh and exciting leaving waiting for the next chapter. As we eagerly await to see if we get the adventures of Captain Seven of Nine in the rumored Star Trek Legacy, this serves as the perfect farewell to the crew of the USS Enterprise D, who took us along with them so many years ago for their ongoing mission to boldly go where no one has gone before.