Star Trek: Picard Season 3 Review - IGN (2024)

Full spoilers follow for Star Trek: Picard Season 3.

William Shatner has a line at the end of Star Trek IV (the one with the whales) that seems pretty apt at this point in the context of Star Trek: Picard’s third season:

“My friends, we’ve come home.”

The sentiment applies on a few different levels. First, there’s the obvious connection of Captain Kirk saying that line as he and his crew rediscovered their USS Enterprise (or a version of it), just as Admiral Picard and his crew boarded their beloved Enterprise-D once again in the final episodes of Season 3. Then there’s the fact that the season continuously paid homage to/riffed on/ripped from various Star Treks of days past, including that very scene from Star Trek IV. But most importantly, there’s the sense that this final season of Star Trek: Picard finally figured out what it needed to be in order to succeed: a final voyage for the Next Generation cast that brought them home one more time.

Patrick Stewart famously (infamously at this point?) did not want his return to the character of Jean-Luc Picard to be a “Next Generation reunion.” As a result, the first two seasons of the show were hamstrung by the need to break from the mold of what had come before. After a disastrous season 2, however, it seems that the powers that be at Paramount Plus gave the keys to the Enterprise to showrunner Terry Matalas, who would go on to take the old girl to that rare sweet spot in our modern era where nostalgia and actual, quality storytelling meet.

The season began like an exploding photon torpedo as Gates McFadden made her return as Doctor Beverly Crusher, now blasting away at aliens and on the run with her adult son Jack (a charismatic Ed Speleers) – soon revealed to be the love-child Picard never knew about. Picard, meanwhile, sits at home at his vineyard, contemplating his life and adventures of yesteryear. “I am not a man who needs a legacy,” he says. How wrong he will turn out to be, as Jack will, by season’s end, become the piece of Jean-Luc that has been missing all these years.

Soon enough, Picard is enlisting friends old and new to help save Beverly and Jack and, as it turns out, the very Federation itself, which is under threat from the same malicious force that is hunting his two loved ones. The ever-game Jonathan Frakes is a huge presence this season both in front of the camera as Riker but also behind it as the director of two episodes, and while he spends most of his time helming TV shows these days, his work playing Riker here is some of the best we’ve ever seen from him.

But then again, the same can be said of the whole Next Gen outfit, as each character’s (and actor’s) return throughout the season triggers a release of fan endorphins that is only topped by the developments and changes they've undergone since we last saw them. From family man Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) and Worf’s (Michael Dorn) Zen Master ways to the newly human-ish Data (Brent Spiner) and the still-grieving Troi (Marina Sirtis), each actor is given so much to play with, and they all do so in a way that they were rarely afforded the opportunity to on the old show and in the movies.

The theme of legacy is apparent throughout the season: Geordi’s daughters are introduced (played by the terrific Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut and Burton’s real-life daughter Mica Burton); Jeri Ryan’s Seven of Nine grapples with her inheritance of the responsibilities of Starfleet from her mentors, Admirals Janeway and Picard; Riker and Troi continue to deal with the loss of their son; Worf becomes a mentor figure to Raffi (Michelle Hurd, the sole survivor of the “Picard Squad” cast from Season 1); the Soong family essentially combines Voltron-style to form this new version of Data; and so on. Even the Borg Queen’s legacy comes into play, as she is fighting to preserve her race… while devouring her “children” to do so. Man.

Occasionally the plot of the season feels either underbaked – there’s a stretch of episodes where our heroes are trapped in a game of cat and mouse in a nebula that never really recaptures the tension of Wrath of Khan – or too big for the 10 episodes in which it’s being told – as with the shape-shifting Changeling aspect of the story, which gets abruptly dropped after episode 8.

The introduction of a rogue faction of those Deep Space Nine villains is an interesting development, not only because Next Gen and its spin-off series didn’t really mix and match story threads like that too often back in the day. Amanda Plummer’s Vadic, the leader of this new breed of Changeling, goes from scary mystery-box baddie to victim of the darker side of the Federation over the course of her eight episodes. Even if she’s not quite sympathetic by the end of it all, we’ve at least enjoyed her unique performance and aggressively French pronunciation of “Jean-Luc Picard” along the way (and her homage to her real-life dad Christopher Plummer, who was the Klingon villain Chang in Star Trek VI).

Each character’s return triggers a release of fan endorphins that is only topped by the developments and changes they've undergone.

Dorn and Hurd prove to be ideal partners in the season’s early episodes, as Worf and Raffi team up on a spy mission for Starfleet Intelligence (notably not Section 31) that takes them to the seedier side of the Star Trek universe. That Worf has become the guy who is now preaching a “speak softly” philosophy to the hotheaded Raffi is kind of perfect, and allows for some fun comedic bits too – all while still allowing him some quality time with his old friend the bat’leth.

But the real tightrope that the season walks is in its full-throated embrace of, seemingly at times, everything we’ve loved about The Next Generation and Star Trek in general, so that one might occasionally think they’re watching a remixed version of Trek’s greatest hits. This is most apparent in the first couple of episodes, as one has to regain their equilibrium after two seasons of Picard that did their best to eschew many of the touchstones that the character was built upon.

For me, at least, it seemed at a certain point that I had a choice when watching season 3: Embrace its indulgences for what they are – pure, unadulterated love of the franchise – or let them take me to that dark place of fandom, where I’m griping for some reason about the very thing I adore. By the time episode 5 rolled around and Matalas and his team had not just managed to bring back Michelle Forbes’ Ro Laren (last seen in a TNG episode in 1994), but done so in such a way as to strengthen both her and Picard’s stories in an emotionally satisfying way, well… I knew that I had to choose pure, unadulterated love over griping.

By season’s end, when the crew has reassembled onboard the USS Enterprise-D, the ship from their original series, the show seemingly reaches warp factor maximum nostalgia. Not only has the Galaxy-class vessel’s bridge been painstakingly recreated here, but the CG shots of the ship soaring through space are simply astounding. Indeed, all of the spaceship p*rn this season is top-notch, from the retro-styled USS Titan to the ship Ro arrives on, the uniquely shaped USS Intrepid. That the D winds up going on a Return of the Jedi-style attack run inside a Borg cube in the finale is perhaps a bit too much for a starship that’s always been based on a battleship rather than a fighter jet, and yet by that point it also makes perfect sense for this show.

Star Trek: Picard Season 3 Review - IGN (1)

But a final visit from the Borg Queen, voiced by OG actress Alice Krige from First Contact, manages to make those galactic bogeyman actually creepy again after decades of abuse, misuse, and overuse (including in Picard’s first two seasons). That the final confrontation with the Borg would be anchored in Picard’s love of his son, and his son’s of him, only seals the season’s place as one of the finest Next Generation tales, and a truly heartfelt way to end Jean-Luc Picard’s story once and for all.

Questions and Notes from the Q Continuum:

  • RIP Shaw
  • And RIP Shelby… or not, actually. Matalas told me Shelby lives!
  • Will Captain Seven, First Officer Raffi, “special counselor to the captain” Jack Crusher, and the La Forge sisters get a chance to continue on in a Star Trek: Legacy spin-off? For now, Matalas says nothing is in development. But man, it sure sounds like a good idea.
  • My gut tells me that Patrick Stewart truly is done playing Picard after this. But that doesn’t mean that Frakes, Burton, Dorn, Spiner, McFadden, and Sirtis can’t or won’t return in guest roles on other series.
  • How is Q back in Picard’s mid-credits scene after dying at the end of Season 2? Hey, it’s Q!
  • We miss you, Laris.

Verdict

Star Trek: Picard’s third season got the fam back together for what the show’s creators had previously said it would never be: a Next Generation reunion. And it turns out that’s exactly what had been missing in the first two seasons. Not every plot point flows as smoothly as one might like, and the show leans as heavily into the nostalgia at times as if it’s Jadzia Dax caressing a 23nd century tricorder. But Picard season 3 is an emotional, exciting, and ultimately fun journey for Jean-Luc and his family – both old and new – that gives the character the send-off that he has long deserved. Make it so.

Star Trek: Picard Season 3 Review - IGN (2024)
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