Star Trek is in the midst of a new renaissance! And Picard S3 continues their hot streak with flare. Read on for my thoughts on this latest season…
Jean-Luc Picard finally achieves inner balance. He’s at ease with his present and his legacy, he’s in an emotionally rewarding relationship, and he’s begun to settle down. But he comes out of retirement once more when he receives an encrypted call from Beverly Crusher, begging him for his immediate and discrete help. Picard enlists Will Riker to help find her. Neither man has spoken with Crusher in near-20 years. Why did she reach out now? And what trouble has she found?
Haven’t watched Picard yet? Don’t bother with the first couple seasons unless you’re a Star Trek completionist. I definitely reviewed them too kindly, in retrospect. Picard S3 is The Next Generation‘s true successor, and the only continuation you need. Terry Matalas ensured that the events of S3 would stand alone such that you could, indeed, skip S1 and S2 and not be lost. Maybe you’ll be confused by a few stray details and characters but not enough to matter.
Picard Season 3 effortlessly ties into The Next Generation‘s legacy (as well as that of Voyager and Deep Space Nine), and organically expands upon it. You might find this material too dense if you’re unfamiliar with the 90s shows. But you probably wouldn’t watch Picard without at least a passing familiarity of TNG lore to begin with, so you probably won’t be too lost.
Said ties to the old shows led to many “holy crap!” moments, which left me shocked, delighted, and devastated. This story heavily plays on nostalgia, yes– but it’s nostalgia done right. “Remember this thing? Good. Now here’s what it would naturally become NOW, after twenty years of off-screen development.” All such inclusions well-served the story, made the old actions of these characters feel like they mattered in the grand scheme, and offered us closure on old dangling plot-lines.
Patrick Stewart effectively (and shockingly) leads this action series at 82 years old. There comes a point where old stars performing action roles gets sad, but Stewart isn’t there yet. I mean, Picard isn’t often on the front lines, but he’s believably combat-capable for what he does.
Better yet, Jean-Luc’s story and dialogue received a HUGE upgrade from S1 and S2! Prior seasons portrayed Picard as a feeble and broken old man who retained little of his former spark. Now he’s the man I remember: confident, a steady moral compass, wise, just, and commanding– though a tad softer in his old age. And the writers gave him a compelling new plot-line, which SHOULD feel more ham-fisted than it does. Yet it’s a wholly satisfying and emotionally rewarding continuation to his story.
Brent Spiner is reliably amazing this year! He demonstrates his versatility and range as an actor in multiple stand-out scenes. And he proved to me that he’s the magical spark which ignites the vibrancy of The Next Generation cast. The others are all great when Spiner isn’t there, but they’re magnificent together when he’s in the room. Star Trek fans should delight at what they did with him this season.
I respect that ST: Picard gave Doctor Crusher more of an edge. She’s the same in many ways– though she’s tougher, more stubborn, and less vulnerable than she used to be. Her choices will spark the ire of some, but I sympathized well enough with her reasons that I got over them quickly. Gates McFadden plays the good doctor wonderfully, through a variety of emotional catalysts.
But Jonathan Frakes is Picard S3’s stand-out performer! He effortlessly slides back into that playful Riker charm. Yet Frakes adds a dark undercurrent of melancholy to Riker, brought about by the untimely death of Riker’s son. Captain Riker is funny, heartfelt, disciplinary, badass, distraught, and generally ST: Picard‘s most well-rounded character.
But let’s not judge this series purely by its best. Because ST: Picard also did the unthinkable and made Raffi a watchable character. I was, to put it mildly, unimpressed by her in the previous seasons. And she’s still not my favourite, but the writers found a good balance of her character traits. For once she feels more redeemable, relatable, and healthily flawed than toxic, insufferable, and boring.
Though I’m mixed on the main baddie, Vadic. Amanda Plummer played her a bit too eccentric for my tastes. But Plummer’s performance demands your attention and keeps it for as long as she’s on screen.
I appreciate how naturally the writers built to the Next Gen crew’s reunion. They teased us by making Picard gather one crew member at a time, as their services were required. And some viewers might grow impatient to see everyone together. But this approach made more sense for the story. And that delayed gratification proved worthwhile, ’cause I was genuinely moved by the crew’s first reunion in 20 years.
Picard S3 makes a shocking swerve with its supporting cast– in that they replaced most everybody from S1 and S2 (besides Raffi and Seven). Some might find this shift jarringly at odds with the previous seasons… but I didn’t care. I actually connected with the new characters more deeply in one year than I did with the other characters in two. Captain Shaw, Sydney La Forge, and Jack Crusher are all well-realized, three-dimensional characters whose inclusion felt both natural and exciting!
These characters also lay the groundwork for a new spin-off of Star Trek: Picard, which I clamor to see! Please make it happen, CBS!
Some of Picard S3 is so spectacularly cinematic that I wanted to watch it in a movie theatre! The final few episodes especially are basically The Next Generation cast’s 5th movie. The Star Trek Picard crew ensured that our beloved Next Generation characters would FINALLY go out on the high note they deserved.
These epic adventures are bolstered by some impressive special effects and production design. Star Trek series are some of the best-looking shows on TV right now. CGI is exceptional, the myriad of practical sets are astounding, and the costumes are aesthetically pleasing yet functional.
This season’s themes are also a timely and poignant reflection on the state of our modern society– its mob-mentalities, over-reliance on unsecured technologies, and how twisted minds take advantage of lost youths desperately looking for acceptance. But, unlike previous seasons of Picard, these reflections are a hopeful reminder that we have the power to course-correct our societal failures through vigilance, compassion, and breaking a few rules.
Star Trek: Picard S3 is a rousing reminder that we as a culture desperately need our heroes of old. We’ve deconstructed classic do-gooders and saddled them with dark continuations for so long that we’ve forgotten why they inspired us in the first place. Picard S3 updates The Next Generation such that they’ve grown with age yet maintained their core essence which endears us to them 36 years on! Said essence being: love, optimism, duty, strong morals, team-work, and comradery.
Star Trek: Picard S3 is both a great nostalgia trip and damn good television: a Must See.
Do you want to see a spin-off with the new characters from this season? What did you think of Star Trek: Picard S3? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know.
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Till next time,