Star Trek: Picard‘s debut season was a show that, for the first time in nearly two decades, took the Trek story forward. It was generally a triumph, but had it’s share of messy moments, and the occasional indulgence in shock.
Season Two was a step backwards in more ways than one. Taking place almost entirely in the twenty-first century, it wallowed in trauma, forced connections to canon, and at times seemed to exist for the sole purpose of removing characters from the narrative.
And now with Season Three, the story of Picard is complete. As is so often the way with these things, it’s a story that brings us full circle. Not to the start of Picard, but way back to The Next Generation. This is both its greatest asset, and its fundamental flaw.
I grew up watching The Next Generation, and those characters are a part of my childhood. That said, I’ve never held them with the same heights of adoration as some others. It was never my Star Trek the way it was for so many other people. That’s not a problem. One of the best things about Trek is that each show has its own team of characters to spend time with.
Picard: Season 3 may as well be The Next Generation: Season 8. Everything that happens in this show does so in order to further a reunion between the big names of that show. Sometimes this works. Of course Crusher would call on Picard for help, and of course he’d rope in Riker to help out. But at other times it’s an unnecessary indulgence. Nemesis killed off Data, and Season One of this very show centred on giving him a fonder farewell. So why did we need to bring him back again, other than the fact that we all like Brent Spiner? And if you’re going to go through the efforts to acknowledge Yar, Wesley, and bring back guest stars from Ro Laren to Shelby, then why not mention Doctor Pulaski? Is she not also worthy?
The central storyline is the best single-season arc modern Trek has done. It pulls together threads from The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine (though aside from the technicality of Worf, no DS9 characters appear on screen), and does so in a way that evolves the universe rather than latching onto the past. That is, until the final two episodes, in which the rug is pulled out from under our feet and we’re firmly back in nostalgia territory. We’ve got great actors doing some of their best work, special effects that look good without drowning the camera, but still we can’t get past one simple idea: ‘hey look, it’s these things you remembered.’
If you take Picard: Season Three as a love letter to Star Trek, then it absolutely works. That’s what the show was written as, and I can appreciate the sentiment. Finally, we get some more Enterprise acknowledgement, but at what cost? Once again we find a franchise stuck in the past. reliving old glories rather than push into new frontiers. Again we have an end-of-the-world threat, and again it’s loaded with personal stakes for the main characters. And again, I’m tired of it. This is a good show, but it’s failed to build on the setup left by the first season. It even ignores the developments of the second season. It’s well-made and made with love, that much is clear, but really this is no different to any other reunion show.
I enjoyed this season of Picard, but I’m glad it marks the end of the series. It’s as high a note as we’re likely to get for a show that never really had an identity of its own. Surely, surely, it is time for new stories, with a new crew.
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