Star Trek: Picard Episode Review – Season 3, Episode 10: The Last Generation

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-3. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Wrath of KhanThe Next GenerationDeep Space NineVoyager, and Discovery.

It only really hit me when I was sitting at my desk, creating the header image for this review: this is the final episode of Star Trek: Picard. This will be the last time I crop still frames, the last time I have to warn you about spoilers… the last time I review a brand-new episode of this series. There will be plenty of opportunities in the weeks, months, and years ahead to look back at Picard – and I have no doubt we’ll do just that. But for now, suffice to say that I already feel a swirling mass of emotions as the series comes to an end.

I’d waited more than eighteen years for Remembrance – the premiere episode of Season 1. In all of that time, Star Trek had looked backwards. Prequels, spin-offs, and and alternate timeline had all told some fun stories and kept the franchise going, but my Star Trek era – the late 24th Century – had been sidelined. Picard was the show that brought it back, and that brought back Jean-Luc Picard and other incredible characters. I was so passionately excited when I sat down to watch Remembrance a little over three years ago… and it’s been a journey, to say the least!

The Last Generation got its own poster.

If you read my review of Võx last time, you can probably skip this one! I’m going to say more or less the same thing about The Last Generation as I did about Võx: this was a flawed episode, hamstrung by clichés, contrivances, and a badly-paced second half of the season… but I liked it anyway because of the deeply emotional storytelling that it managed to get right.

For a good hour or more after I’d first watched The Last Generation, I found myself sitting around wearing a big stupid grin – because despite the obvious flaws and issues with the episode that we’ll get into in a moment, by far my biggest takeaway was how it made me feel. That’s the success of The Last Generation – and, in a broader sense, of the final chapter of Picard’s third season as a whole. I didn’t expect to feel this way, and if you write out on paper the elements that were dumped into the story at this late stage, how they came together, how rushed much of it felt, and more, I’d have expected to come away from The Last Generation feeling disappointed. But… I don’t.

Showrunner/director Terry Matalas with the main cast.

And that’s in spite of The Last Generation being a deeply flawed outing from multiple angles. I’d go so far as to say that the episode doesn’t even feel like a finale or an ending… let alone a definitive one for a crew who should be ready to enter retirement. Think about where everyone ended up at the end of the story: Dr Crusher has been reinstated in Starfleet, Seven, Raffi, and Jack are about to head off on a new adventure, Riker and Troi appear ready to leave Nepenthe behind and find a new home, Data is just beginning to get used to his new body and newfound humanity, and the only characters who might be ready to return to their pre-Season 3 lives are Worf, Geordi, and Picard… though we didn’t see much of an indication of that in the episode itself.

And that’s before we get into the strange implications of the mid-credits scene.

You did stick around for the mid-credits scene, right? After the credits roll over the lingering overhead shot of Picard and the crew playing poker – a callback to All Good Things at the end of The Next Generation – we got one final scene. Go back and watch it if you haven’t! I’ll wait here.

You stuck around after this, right?

I guess we’ll start with what The Last Generation got wrong, as well as talk about the decisions that led to the story reaching this particular ending.

This was a rushed episode, one in which the main villain of the entire season was outsmarted and defeated in a matter of minutes. There were gripping moments of explosive action and tense drama along the way – but practically all of them would’ve benefitted from a few extra minutes. I stand by what I said last week: the decision to change track from the changelings to the Borg came too late, and there wasn’t enough time remaining to have the kind of climactic final battle that the writers wanted.

If this exact pacing problem hadn’t also afflicted Seasons 1 and 2 of Picard, it would still be deeply disappointing to see it here. But given the criticisms that both of the previous seasons of this series received for precisely this issue… quite frankly it’s unforgivable. This isn’t strictly a problem with The Last Generation, but rather with the pacing and structuring of the season as a whole. If showrunner Terry Matalas is to be trusted with a spin-off – as he and some fans are pushing hard for at the moment – then lessons have to be learned. Matalas helmed Seasons 2 and 3 of Picard, and both seasons came to a close in a mad rush, without enough time to fully explain everything.

The Enterprise-D in action.

As the dust settles, it isn’t even clear whether Vadic and her rogue changelings actually knew who they were working with, or the extent of the damage done to the Borg Collective. That side of the story evaporated with Vadic’s death a couple of weeks ago, and was barely touched in the epilogue after the Borg’s defeat. For a story that supposedly brought together two of Star Trek’s most powerful villainous factions – the Founders and the Borg – to come to an end without any on-screen interaction between them… again, it’s very odd. Something is missing here.

Realistically, if both the rogue changelings and the Borg were to be included, we needed this revelation to have come earlier. There would still have been secrets to keep – such as the inclusion of the Enterprise-D – but had the Borg reveal come sooner, and been explained better, other story elements that came to a head in The Last Generation would have flowed better and more naturally.

Behind-the-scenes on The Last Generation.

The Last Generation relies heavily on a story from two decades ago that wasn’t explained and only got the most oblique of references earlier in the season. In the Voyager finale, a time-travelling Admiral Janeway infected the Borg Collective with a “neurolytic pathogen,” devastating it. It was this event that the Borg Queen said was the cause of the decrepit state of the Collective – but for such an important story point, this needed far more explanation than it received.

Although the latter part of Picard’s third season has the feel of a production that was “made for fans,” it isn’t just hard-core Trekkies who watch the show. I have friends who aren’t immersed in the world of Star Trek who have enjoyed Picard for the sci-fi series it is on its own merit – and I suspect that a lot of more casual viewers, those who either don’t recall or didn’t watch Voyager, would have been left baffled by the Borg Queen and the Collective in general being in such a state. That this presentation of a different Borg Queen is now the third distinct version of the character to appear in Picard just adds to the confusion.

The Borg Queen.

Again, this isn’t a problem with The Last Generation on its own, nor even just of Season 3. Picard’s showrunner and writers chose to bring the Borg into focus in each of the show’s three seasons, offering different and contradictory presentations of the Collective and its leader each time. Given that the changeling storyline had worked so well for the first three-quarters of this season… perhaps a different ending could have been written, one that kept the Borg out of things. Or, alternatively, given that Seasons 2 and 3 went into production together with the same team at the helm, Season 2 could’ve been changed if this Borg ending to the series had already been decided upon.

Though we can argue it’s fitting, in a way, for Picard to be present at what appears to be the final demise of the Borg, given that he was present when the faction was introduced and was assimilated by them, the way this story unfolded doesn’t actually have that much to do with Picard. The Borg’s defeat came at the hands of Janeway, who was mentioned by name several times but didn’t even make a cameo all season long. Picard himself was just sort of… there. As has been the case more or less all season long, Picard – the show’s title character and main protagonist, lest we forget – was swept along by a narrative current that was almost entirely out of his control.

Picard in the Borg Queen’s chamber.

Because the reveal of the Borg’s involvement came so late in the story – partway into the ninth episode of a ten-episode season – Jack’s “defection” to the Collective already felt like it was built on shaky ground. There was the kernel of a good idea here, but again I feel the pacing issue causing a stumbling block. Jack’s powers manifested slowly earlier in the season, and in fact it wasn’t until several episodes in that we saw any indication that he was anything other than human at all. His decision to run away last week was blitzed through in a matter of seconds, and his reconciliation in The Last Generation was likewise rushed.

Reaching out to someone and using “love” to bring them back from a dark place is a bit of a cliché, but it’s hardly the worst that Season 3 has offered up. The way it was handled worked well enough in the moment – though I would argue that Dr Crusher, rather than Picard, would surely have been better-placed to try to convince Jack to stand down. Although we’ve seen a developing relationship between Picard and his son, the events of Season 3 have taken place over a few days at most, meaning the connection between Jack and Dr Crusher is going to be far stronger.

Picard and Jack embrace inside the Borg Collective.

Given the remarkably similar premise between Jack’s story here at the end of Season 3 and Dr Jurati’s toward the end of Season 2, it’s a shame that she and her Borg faction couldn’t appear. In fact, the whole end of Season 2, with the mysterious, unexplained anomaly attacking the Federation, has now passed its last chance to get any kind of resolution. At this late stage I wasn’t expecting that to happen – but it’s again indicative of Picard as a whole being a deeply troubled and poorly-managed production. Lessons need to be learned going forward so that future Star Trek projects don’t suffer similar shortcomings.

As I said last week when discussing the Borg, Jack’s story would feel stronger – and certainly more original – were it not basically a re-hashing of Dr Jurati’s story from last season. Dr Jurati felt lonely, isolated, and without friends – and found those things in the Borg. Jack felt lonely, isolated, and without friends… and also sought out those things from the Borg. Jack’s defection feels weaker, in some respects, because of the way it was set up, and the fact that it’s no longer an original idea further diminishes it.

Jack was able to break free of the Borg Collective thanks to Picard.

Several characters displayed skills in The Last Generation that are either perfectly aligned with things we’ve seen them do in the past, or that felt like natural evolutions based on the story the season has told. Dr Crusher manning the Enterprise-D’s weapons is a case in point: after two decades away from Starfleet, operating outside of the Federation under dangerous conditions, she knows her way around a phaser bank and torpedo launcher!

But Deanna Troi exhibited a telepathic skill that we’ve never seen her use before, being able to pinpoint Riker’s location as if by magic. There were opportunities earlier in the season to set this up, such as the conversation Troi and Riker had while imprisoned aboard the Shrike. As it is, this newfound ability felt like a magical solution to a story that had rather written itself into a corner – a cheap way to allow the Enterprise-D to swoop in and save everyone at the last second.

Deanna Troi on the bridge.

Unlike some of the other points I’ve raised, this one isn’t even a question of timing or pacing. It would’ve required an extra handful of lines of dialogue in an earlier episode, explaining that Troi had been honing her abilities or that when she used her “pain removal” skill on Riker she’d done so at a distance. That small amount of setup would’ve allowed this moment to flow far more naturally, and wouldn’t have led to me rolling my eyes quite so much!

A clever and well-executed misdirect can add a lot to a story, particularly if the stakes are high. But even with that caveat, I have to say that the excessive “foreshadowing” of the deaths of Riker and Picard in particular fell very flat for me in The Last Generation. The episode dedicated an inordinate amount of time to setting up that the away team wouldn’t be returning from the sojourn to the Borg Cube… only for everyone to survive. Stripping some of this out would’ve still allowed The Last Generation to keep the tension high, but would’ve blunted the impression that it was deliberately deceitful. Not only that, taking a few of these scenes away would’ve opened up other possibilities, such as spending a bit more time with the Borg Queen.

There was a lot of foreshadowing that wasn’t paid off.

There’s nothing wrong with an episode feeling like a throwback to an earlier style of storytelling – especially in a story with such a strong nostalgic component. But even with that in mind, the fact that all of the main characters survived the story was a bit of a surprise. Television storytelling has changed a lot since The Next Generation premiered in 1987, and main characters should no longer consider themselves to be safe just because of their status. To the episode’s credit, it genuinely felt like Picard, Riker, and Worf were all in danger during their mission… but nothing substantial came of that, and we even got a deus ex machina rescue right at the end.

Killing off a legacy character was always going to be controversial, and I’m sure that if someone hadn’t survived, there’d have been criticism from some quarters. But a well-timed character death can feel right, conveying how high the stakes are, paying off a character arc, or making an heroic sacrifice. Star Trek has done all of these things before in different ways, and I feel it would have strengthened not only The Last Generation but Season 3 as a whole if a well-written end could’ve come for one of our main characters.

Jack and Picard were both saved at the last second.

Part of the reason for that is that, for all the buildup, The Last Generation doesn’t really feel like an ending. It feels more like All Good Things than The Undiscovered Country, with a new chapter for some or even all of these characters seemingly ready to be written. I’m all for leaving the door ajar, with possibilities on the table… but this season was supposed to be the “final” outing for this crew. Only Picard seems ready to enter retirement – and even that feels questionable as he reunited with Dr Crusher to escort Jack to his first ever Starfleet posting.

All Good Things was clearly part of the inspiration for the epilogue at the end of the episode, particularly the poker sequence. But All Good Things was written and produced at a time when the cast and crew knew that Generations was literally days away from entering production. It didn’t need to be a definitive end… because it was never meant to be. Season 3 as a whole, and The Last Generation in particular, was billed as the final voyage of this crew. And yet it ended in such a way as to suggest that practically everyone has at least one more adventure yet to come.

Riker, Picard, and La Forge on the Enterprise-D.

The final fight against the Borg Queen brought with it a lot of tropes. The Enterprise-D blasted its way along the surface of the Queen’s oversized vessel almost like an X-Wing running the Death Star trench in Star Wars, and though this sequence was visually exciting – and technically perfect from an animation point of view – it was again something that was rushed. The buildup to this sequence was blitzed through, thanks in part to the decision to spend so much time setting up character deaths that ultimately didn’t come.

Starships and the way they operate have always been vague; adaptable to different kinds of stories. Given the size discrepancy between the Enterprise-D and the Borg Queen’s mega-cube, I don’t think it’s any kind of “problem” to see the Enterprise-D move as quickly as it does and with such fluidity – and this sequence felt like an updated, modernised version of the starship’s clashes with Borg vessels in episodes like Q Who and The Best of Both Worlds.

The “Death Star trench run!”

I think my biggest eye-roll in The Last Generation came as the Enterprise-D swooped down for a last-second rescue, literally appearing in the “sky” above the Borg Queen’s chamber. Both in terms of narrative and visual presentation, this was just such an overdone trope. Across the sci-fi genre and into action, adventure, and more… we’ve seen this kind of ending so many times.

Part of the reason why this moment fell so flat for me was, I suspect, because The Last Generation hadn’t made good on any of its foreshadowed character deaths. The rescue of the survivors might’ve been more impactful had one or two of these characters lost their lives along the way. But a combination of the trope itself, its previously-unseen telepathic “magic” setup, and the fact that it rescued all of the main characters from a supposedly impossible situation… it all came together to feel like a clichéd ending.

The Enterprise-D saves the day!

I stand by what I said last time: the presentation of the Borg Queen feels quite diminished in light of what we saw in Season 2. The idea of a decrepit, weakened Borg Queen was an interesting one – but not one that The Last Generation found much time to explore. She leaned very heavily into the “I’m evil for the sake of it” villain trope, far more so than earlier presentations of the Borg Queen, who seemed to have an overarching goal in mind for the Collective. However, I can forgive that trope in light of the collapse of the Borg Collective; the idea that she’d use the last of her power to seek revenge on Starfleet makes sense.

As Jack was liberated from the Collective, and particularly as the Enterprise-D came racing in to save the day, though, the characterisation of the Borg Queen fell apart. Another huge part of why this sequence felt so clichéd was the Borg Queen’s screams of “noooo!” as her plan unravelled. This is the kind of thing that you expect to see from the supervillains of children’s comic books, or the bad guys in a Saturday morning cartoon, as their evil scheme is defeated. Again, this whole sequence was so much less interesting than it could’ve been.

“Nooooooo!” screams the defeated villain.

But now we have to contend with a question that I asked last week: does any of that matter? The clichés, the overused tropes, the basic, formulaic story, the cookie-cutter plot, the poor pacing, the underused yet also played-out villain… none of it really feels like it gets in the way of a fantastic, thoroughly enjoyable romp with Picard and the crew.

Even though The Last Generation absolutely fails to feel like an ending in any sense of the word for basically any of its characters, it’s still a more enjoyable send-off and final mission than the crew of the Enterprise-D got in Nemesis. If this is to be their final outing (and I wouldn’t bet against Paramount considering some kind of Picard TV movie or even theatrical release, given the strong reception to Season 3) then we can finally say that this crew went out on a high.

All safe and sound on the bridge.

And it’s a high because of the emotional storytelling that manages to play the nostalgia card in a way that works. This was another “made for fans” outing, one that leaned heavily into The Next Generation, Voyager, and really all of Star Trek’s past. If you’d told me at the start that the season finale would be like this, I’d have been sceptical – fearing that it would come across as a nostalgia overload. And frankly that’s what The Last Generation is: an episode that sacrifices narrative integrity for the sake of nostalgia.

Maybe it’s the blinkers of nostalgia speaking, as The Next Generation was my way into the Star Trek fandom more than thirty years ago, but I can’t hold that against Picard. It worked for me – and if that’s because I’m a basic bitch, blinded by nostalgia to the obvious flaws and gaping holes of a mediocre story… then so be it! I’ll be a basic bitch all day long.

The Enterprise-D arrives at Earth.

There’s more to storytelling than canon, consistency, and even logic. These things all matter, don’t get me wrong – but in a story like The Last Generation, it’s just that they matter far less than how the episode makes us feel. And for me at least, though I recognise with a critical (some might say cynical or jaded) eye that the episode and its narrative have flaws, almost the entire time I was on the edge of my seat, truly going through all of the emotions with Picard, Riker, and the rest of the crew as their mission unfolded.

As happened last week, that’s my real takeaway from The Last Generation. The fact that I was roped in, entertained, and went through a rollercoaster of emotions with Jean-Luc Picard and the crew more than makes up for any logical inconsistencies or narrative missteps that the episode made.

Picard toward the end of the episode.

The idea that Picard, Riker, Worf, or anyone else might actually be killed – as was extensively foreshadowed and hinted at – was gripping, and more than a little upsetting. Death felt like it was stalking the members of the away team – and those on the bridge of the Enterprise-D or trying to remain in control of the Titan scarcely felt much safer, either. This feeling persisted for much of the episode, and though the way in which it ended was ultimately a little unsatisfying because of everyone surviving, in another way that’s very “Star Trek.” Heroes like Captain Kirk famously didn’t believe in no-win scenarios – and Picard managed to pull off the impossible task of saving everyone.

Animation brought these stories to life in spectacular form – and thinking back to the finale of Picard’s first season just three years ago, it’s amazing how far Paramount and Star Trek have come. The fleets and ships seen in The Last Generation were beautiful and diverse, and seeing Spacedock as Earth’s last line of defence against a massive, imposing armada was a truly stunning sight.

Spacedock and the assimilated fleet.

Both the Titan and Enterprise-D were beautiful, too, and both ships performed incredible feats as they battled their foes. Seeing the Titan in action, taking on the entire assembled fleet, was spectacular to see – and it found another narrative justification for the cloaking device that Jack and Sidney “borrowed” a few episodes ago!

Seven and Raffi hadn’t had as much to do this season as I’d hoped – but the moments they got in The Last Generation showed both characters at their best. Part of the reason fans are so hyped up for a potential spin-off is to see more from Seven of Nine, and The Last Generation added to and rounded out her arc across all three seasons of Picard by placing her, once again, in the captain’s chair. This time, we got to see her people skills – being able to inspire and protect the motley crew of survivors on the bridge was pitch-perfect.

This was a good episode for Seven of Nine.

Again, my only real criticism of this part of the story is that I could’ve happily spent more time with Seven of Nine and the crew of the Titan! As Picard and his crew worked to stop the Borg Queen, Seven and hers provided essential covering fire – and the way that this came across was outstanding. Seven, Raffi, and their assembled survivors felt in danger practically the entire time, especially as the Titan’s cloak was destroyed and its assimilated youngsters made their way back to the bridge.

As unsold as I’ve been on Data’s resurrection this season, the character dynamic between Data and Geordi has been cute – and this trend continued in The Last Generation. Geordi sat beside Data on the bridge of the Enterprise-D – as he had in The Next Generation’s first season – and they had some fun and exciting moments together.


Likewise Riker and Worf! These two characters had a great relationship during The Next Generation era, serving together and often taking part in away missions. It was a treat to see them teamed up once again, and the dynamic they had aboard the Borg vessel added a lot of comedy to what was an otherwise serious story. Jonathan Frakes and Michael Dorn have great chemistry and comedic timing together, and the moments of lightheartedness through what was a dangerous mission really elevated the sequences aboard the Borg vessel.

Picard’s act of sacrifice required him to “jack in” to the Borg Collective – voluntarily assimilating himself. As the culmination of Picard’s arc with the Borg, this was a fascinating idea. Picard had already come to terms with aspects of his Borg experience in First Contact and in Seasons 1 and 2 of this series, so it wasn’t totally original or new – and that might’ve improved it, perhaps. But making this sacrificial move was clever, and fits right in with themes that the entire series has touched upon in different ways.

Picard jacks in.

I’m glad that Tuvok survived his ordeal with the changelings – though I would’ve liked to have seen how he and others may have been rescued. Again, this is something a longer season might’ve been able to include. But his scene with Seven, in which she was promoted to captain, was a very sweet part of the epilogue.

I’m not sure how I feel about the return of Q. As I said last year after Q had been “killed” in Season 2, bringing him back to life – especially with the kind of hand-wavey explanation of “don’t think in such linear terms” – undermines one of the few remaining narrative points propping up the entirety of Picard’s disappointing second season. For the sake of such a brief cameo… I wouldn’t have included Q here, I think.

Q is back.

One cameo that I adored was Walter Koenig – who sadly only appeared in audio form – as Anton Chekov, the son (or grandson) of Pavel Chekov. I jokingly said a few weeks ago in one of my theory updates that Chekov would be an unlikely inclusion this season… but it turns out I’m rather prophetic!

The name Anton was presumably chosen in memory of Anton Yelchin, who portrayed the character of Chekov in the Kelvin timeline films. This was a sweet way to memorialize him. Bringing Walter Koenig in for a cameo really brings together all of Star Trek. This finale began last week with a callback to Enterprise, Koenig represents The Original Series, and we have main characters from across The Next Generation era. It really was a celebration of all things Trek!

Data and Geordi listening to President Chekov.

There’s more to say – but we’ll have to return to The Last Generation and Season 3 on another occasion.

This review took me a long time to finish, having started it on the day the episode premiered. I had an original draft ready by last weekend, but I wasn’t happy with it so I ended up deleting and re-writing large parts of it. Keeping up with Picard this season has been a struggle, and I think I’m ready for a bit of a break from these reviews! Thankfully, the Star Trek franchise seems to be better-paced this year, and there’s a break before Strange New Worlds Season 2 arrives in June.

I enjoyed The Last Generation – in spite of its shortcomings. It was a great way to end the season, and it potentially sets up a spin-off set in this same time period, which is something I truly hope can happen.

So long, Captain Picard!

So we come to the end of Season 3… and of Star Trek: Picard. In the weeks and months ahead we’ll return to The Last Generation and to Season 3, perhaps taking a deeper look at some of the individual characters, narrative points, and themes – and dissecting them! But for now, I’m about ready to put this review to bed and move on to other topics!

I’ll round up my theory list sometime soon, too. But for now, I hope you enjoyed following along with my Picard reviews this season. Season 3 was an improvement on Season 2, without a doubt, and for the most part I had a good time with it.

Stick around, because the website isn’t going anywhere! There’s Strange New Worlds to come this summer, the video game Star Trek: Resurgence, and Discovery’s final season in early 2024. In between I’ll be re-watching older films and episodes, crafting theories, previewing upcoming projects, and talking about other franchises, too. Thanks for bearing with me while I was writing this review, and I hope to see you soon!

Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-3 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and other countries and territories where the service is available, and on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and around the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties discussed above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Picard Episode Review – Season 3, Episode 9: Võx

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-3. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Wrath of KhanThe Next GenerationDeep Space NineVoyager, and Discovery.

First of all, before we say anything else: Võx might be the most important episode of the season to go into un-spoiled. If you’ve somehow stumbled upon this review before watching the episode – and you decided to ignore Captain Stiles issuing a “spoiler alert” above – this is your last chance to nope out before we get into major spoiler territory. I was lucky to have avoided spoilers before watching Võx, and the episode will be infinitely more enjoyable for you if you can do the same.

Võx is a hard one to review with any semblance of objectivity. It’s an episode “made for fans,” and it hit some absolutely incredible emotional notes, particularly in the closing few minutes. As someone who first came to Star Trek in the early ’90s by way of The Next Generation, and who found comfort in that show as a lonely adolescent, it’s hard to even find words to fully express how incredible some of these sequences were with Picard and his reunited crew.

You know me well enough by now to know that there’s a “but” coming, though.

The Enterprise-F.

But at the same time, Võx prioritised these emotional sequences of pure fan-service over narrative cohesion, and my overriding concern is that the story has reached this point too late in the game – leaving the final episode of the season, and the series, with too much work to do to pull out a successful ending. This problem plagued both Seasons 1 and 2 of Picard, and I can’t help but feel that lessons have not been learned from those stories.

There were logically inconsistent moments spread throughout Võx, moments that could have worked if more time and explanation had been dedicated to them, but that fell flat – or even felt downright laughable – because of how unoriginal, trope-laden, or just plain ridiculous they were. Some scenes and sequences that needed more time dedicated to them were blitzed through in minutes or even seconds, and while the incredible sequences with Picard and his old crew basically wipe away many of those criticisms – or at least they did in the moment – when trying to look at the story through another lens, they seriously challenge and even potentially undermine the entire affair.

Picard is back in the captain’s chair.

As I said last week, the eight-episode chase with Vadic has proven to be a complete and utter waste. Vadic was a bland, unoriginal, and boring villain who accomplished very little, and whose over-the-top performance didn’t come close to finding a narrative justification. That on its own was already problematic for the story of the season, but the revelation in Võx that the Borg have been directing this conspiracy now feels like it has come too late in the game.

There have been hints and teases at a Borg connection to the story all season long – and I’m glad that those received a narrative payoff, don’t get me wrong – but is there enough time now to do justice to this story? The preceding eight episodes – a full 80% of the season-long story – now feel like a preamble; the prologue to what will be a remarkably short main event.

Sidney La Borg.

Last week, I made a comparison to The Wrath of Khan, and said that Vadic’s death coming in the eighth part of a ten-part story is akin to Khan having been killed when there was still half an hour left in the film. Now we can add to that metaphor and say that this story compares to Khan having been killed while there was still half an hour left, and it was subsequently revealed that the Klingons had secretly been pulling his strings all along. Would such a revelation have made the film better? Or do stories work best when they have a clearly defined antagonist who fills the role for the duration?

There’s another point that’s been bugging me, and I’ve struggled with finding the right word for it. Picard Seasons 2 and 3 went into production back-to-back, with the same production and writing team involved in both stories. With that in mind, these two seasons feel remarkably jumbled and even contradictory – the story leaps from one version of the Borg and the Borg Queen to another, sees two structurally similar re-emergences of the Borg play out, and seems to completely ignore its own earlier chapters.

Guess who’s back?

This is something we’ll have to tackle in the future when we do some kind of retrospective look at Star Trek: Picard as a whole, but I feel echoes of the Star Wars sequel trilogy, at least in terms of the way in which production was handled. And no, I don’t mean that in any way as a compliment! Like the Star Wars sequels, Picard was cleaved into three parts. Like the Star Wars sequels, one production team took the helm for two of those parts. And like the Star Wars sequels, the decision to split up the story has led to some seriously questionable narrative decisions.

But that’s a conversation for another day!

Not for the first time in Star Trek: Picard, a genuinely interesting, exciting, and engaging storyline has been presented – but was let down by overused clichés, insufficient explanations, and unnecessary time constraints. The idea that the Borg would ally with (or take advantage of) a rogue group of changelings, combining their powers together to take on Starfleet, is a fascinating one – in theory. Likewise, the Borg having biotechnology far beyond the capabilities of the Federation, and insidiously using that to take over Starfleet, was an incredible shock, and a concept that fits right in with everything we know about both of these factions.

This explanation was clever.

But Võx was imperfect in its execution of these fascinating ideas, and Picard’s third season as a whole spent an awfully long time arriving at this point. With only one episode left, which on current form will be somewhere less than an hour long, is there enough time to fully explore this changeling-Borg team-up, undo the damage to the Federation, save Jack and the La Forge sisters, and protect Earth from the “assimilated” Federation fleet?

As the ninth part of a ten-episode story, Võx repeated the problem that Et in Arcadia Ego had in Season 1 by dumping all of this into the story at a very late stage. Surely there must’ve been ways to keep some secrets while revealing others earlier in the season – to move the story along at a more reasonable pace, reaching this point sooner, allowing for more time to do justice to some of these wonderfully creative ideas.

Did we reach this point in the story too late?

Let’s talk about some of these tropes and clichés, because they let down what could have been a far more entertaining episode – and I’m afraid that there really is no excuse for them other than uninspired writing.

Firstly we have Jack’s conversation with Deanna, his confrontation with Picard, and particularly his escape from the Titan. After so many teases of the “red door” that I’ve lost count, having Deanna run away from Jack without revealing what she saw – and without the episode letting us see what she could see – wasn’t the best or strongest way to start. If I were to nitpick, I’d also say that Deanna choosing not to tell Jack what she saw, and experiencing such fear, feels out-of-character for her. That she’d tell Jack’s parents what she knew without informing Jack himself is, in Jack’s own words, “unethical.”

This sequence wasn’t great – though I’m glad Troi finally got something to do!

Jack’s escape from the Titan was poorly-scripted, with practically every character aside from Jack himself behaving in profoundly odd ways. After their clash in Jack’s quarters, Picard simply stood around, not bothering to give chase, contact anyone on the Titan, order a lockdown… or do anything at all to prevent Jack from leaving. Perhaps Jack’s Borg-given superpowers would have made his escape inevitable, but Picard should have done something beyond standing there yelling his name.

I literally laughed out loud when Picard and Dr Crusher were stood at the window, haplessly watching Jack’s shuttle warp away – such was the absolute anticlimax of this sequence. And again, this is a consequence of season-long pacing: had some of the extraneous fluff been cut from the past couple of episodes, we could have had more of an involved sequence depicting Jack’s escape. One that might have felt a little less contrived.

I laughed out loud at this moment.

Technobabble in Star Trek can be used to cover all manner of sins – including weak story points! But even with the caveat that “technobabble solves everything,” the way in which the technology and universe of Star Trek behaves has to be basically internally consistent from one story to the next, and there can’t be too much hacking away at the foundations of how some of these computers, machines, and equipment have been known to operate for literally decades.

With that in mind, the idea that the Titan would be unable to locate Jack’s shuttle – which had departed a matter of seconds earlier with everyone watching – simply because he “deactivated its transponder” doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t gel with how sensors have always been shown to operate in practically every other Star Trek story, and while I will give credit for Võx re-using this idea later with Picard’s crew taking their shuttle using a similar loophole, for me, it was a bridge too far in terms of technobabble. I’ve written before that internal consistency is the bedrock of suspension of disbelief in any story, so when a new chapter makes changes on the fly to established technologies that are too big, the gulf between what we’ve seen before and what’s currently unfolding becomes too large to cross. That’s what happened at this moment in Võx. It was too great a contrivance for me – though in a stronger story, perhaps it’s something that would have felt less of an important point.

Suddenly being unable to scan for a shuttlecraft was a major contrivance.

I can understand Dr Crusher and Picard jumping the gun and rushing to talk to Jack before they were ready. They’re emotionally compromised by their ties to Jack and, in Picard’s case, an overwhelming sense of guilt for passing this genetic condition to his son. But the others – Deanna, Data, and Geordi in particular – should have been the level-headed ones here. We saw moments later that they had been able to learn a great deal about Jack’s condition, so if Picard could’ve gone into his conversation with Jack armed with some of that knowledge, it feels like Jack’s need to run away might have been avoided altogether.

Again, this is a contrivance – characters behaving in illogical ways to serve the plot. Such contrivances can pass by inoffensively, and they have in many other Star Trek stories, I daresay! But here, as I watched the discussion of Jack’s condition and the revelation of what’s happened to him, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this wasn’t particularly well-written.

The situation with Jack could (and should) have been handled better.

The firefight in which Captain Shaw lost his life also played out like a tired trope. Dozens of blasts of phaser fire from assimilated Starfleet crewmen evaporated into thin air the second Shaw was hit, and the convenient end of the battle allowed Seven and Raffi to rush to his side. There are many ways to script and film heroic deaths without falling back on such overdone clichés… and it was a bit of a disappointment that the firefight in the Titan’s hallway ended this way.

Captain Shaw’s death was certainly dramatic, and I felt a pang of emotion in the moment thanks in part to an evocative performance from Jeri Ryan and an excellent musical score. But at the same time, Shaw feels like the lowest of low-hanging fruit to kill off, especially at this late stage in the story. The writers clearly wanted to get the impact of killing off a major character – but didn’t want to risk killing off a legacy character, at least not until everyone had taken their places on board the Enterprise-D.

Captain Shaw died this week.

Shaw served two purposes earlier in the season. He got in the way of Picard and Riker as they tried to jump-start their rescue mission, and his big blow-up with Picard about Locutus and Wolf-359 was the most significant reference to the Borg prior to the events of Võx. But since his emotional outburst, which came all the way back in the episode No Win Scenario half a season ago, Shaw has felt completely listless and unnecessary to the story. He’s been sidelined and kept out of the decision-making on his own ship, showing none of the backbone that he seemed to have in the season premiere.

Worse, Shaw’s continued mistreatment and deadnaming of Seven of Nine passed several opportunities for a resolution – and while there was a sweetness, in a way, to his seeming acceptance of her with his dying breath, it wasn’t the best way for this storyline to have progressed. In some ways, we can argue that Shaw actually regressed as a character after the events of No Win Scenario and Surrender in particular.

Captain Shaw used Seven’s real name with his last breath.

So by the time we arrived at Shaw’s end this week, two things struck me. Firstly, Shaw’s irrelevance to the story for the past few episodes, and the uninspired resolution to his conflict with Seven of Nine, come together to mean that his death could’ve come sooner – and that the story of the season as a whole might’ve been better for it.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Shaw’s death had an impact, demonstrating the high stakes and danger that the crew are now facing. But it wasn’t as impactful as it could’ve been, and killing off someone who is still very much a secondary character is less significant at this juncture than killing off someone more major.

The choice to kill off Captain Shaw – rather than another character – feels like the writers taking the safest route.

The decision for Raffi and Seven to remain aboard the Titan also feels narratively incoherent. Again, the writers and director/showrunner Terry Matalas clearly (and pretty desperately, it seems) wanted the reunion scene on the bridge of the Enterprise-D to consist of only characters from The Next Generation – which is why Seven and Raffi didn’t escape with the others. But the way in which they ended up abandoned aboard the Titan was poor; there was seemingly no reason why they couldn’t have boarded the shuttle with Picard and the others.

Maybe having Raffi and Seven staying on the Titan will lead to something significant next time – and I certainly hope that will be the case, or this will feel even more wasteful than it already does. But even assuming that hope comes to pass, there were better and more natural ways that they could have been trapped or forced to remain behind. Again, I feel the consequences of a season that padded out key storylines over the past few episodes and arrived at this stage with a lot to cram into a forty-five-minute runtime. A couple of extra minutes with Raffi and Seven in the aftermath of Shaw’s demise could have logically explained why they couldn’t board the shuttle, and would have gone a long way to strengthening this sequence.

Seven and Raffi are stuck on the Titan.

One line of technobabble leapt out at me in Võx, and it’s one that I fear could become problematic. One of the key narrative conceits of the episode is the Borg’s newfound ability to transmit their programming through biological means, specifically through a DNA sequence that afflicts the frontal cortex of the brain. I actually thought that this was a really neat idea, one that magnifies the threat that the Borg pose and simultaneously reinforces the idea that the Borg are still light-years ahead of the Federation in technological terms.

It was also a clever idea, especially in a story whose protagonists are older, to have this newfound Borg ability only impact younger members of the crew. That’s something that gives a reason for Picard and his old crew to work together – though it’s a justification for bringing back these characters that comes after they’ve already reunited! But when the story has dealt with themes of family, of parent-child relations, and of inheritance, it’s something that fits.

The Borg have modified Picard’s and Jack’s DNA.

However, there’s a real-world comparison that really bugs me in the way this was explained and brought to screen. I will caveat this by saying that I’m sure this story point wasn’t intended to be taken this way… but there are uncomfortable comparisons that exist nonetheless. In some anti-transgender circles, one line of attack that is particularly deployed against younger trans people is that “their brains aren’t developed enough” to make a decision about their gender identities. Specifically, this attack centres on the development of the frontal cortex and the age at which it supposedly stops developing – something that, of course, varies from person to person.

Although this idea is based on real-world science, I can’t help but feel that its inclusion in Võx may not have been the best idea given the situation out here in the real world. There are already a lot of anti-trans organisations here in the UK that are trying to contort science to support their views, and something like this is unhelpful at best. At worst, it risks adding fuel to the fire. I have no doubt that the writers and creative team didn’t intend for this line of technobabble to be taken so seriously, let alone be used as some kind of anti-trans metaphor. But that interpretation is present and it isn’t a total leap.

Worf and Geordi explaining the DNA modifications.

Võx has all of these imperfections and flaws, and key narrative points rely on tropes and clichés that have been done to death – and done far better in other stories, come to that. It’s worth pointing these out because the issues with the episode aren’t merely a consequence of narrative decisions taken earlier in the season, nor are they problems necessarily with the story of the season as a whole. These moments take what could have been a better episode and drag it down a rung or two, and while there are criticisms of the overall season, how long it took to reach this point, and the apparent irrelevance of much of what came before, it’s worth also noting that Võx is an imperfect offering even when taken on its own.

The question now is this: does any of that matter? All of these criticisms of Võx itself and of the occasionally ambling story… can they be overlooked, or even eradicated, by considering the strengths of the episode, and the nostalgia overload presented? See, the rational part of my mind is screaming “no!” because throwing up the nostalgia card, bringing back the Enterprise-D and the Borg Queen… it all feels so cheap. But the rational part of me is being completely drowned out by another voice, the voice of emotion. And that part of me adores practically everything we got to see this week, and is totally willing to overlook all of the contrivances and flaws that were present along the way.

The big reveal.

I’ve stated several times that I didn’t want Star Trek: Picard to try to be The Next Generation Season 8 or Nemesis 2. I wanted it to do its own thing, stand on its own two feet, drive Star Trek forward in new and different ways, and introduce some fantastic new characters who just might become fan-favourites for a new generation of fans. We’ll have to assess whether and to what extent the series as a whole accomplished any of those objectives after the dust has settled on this final outing.

But as much as I wanted to see more of the new characters, and to get Picard to a place where it could reasonably become a launchpad for other live-action Star Trek projects set in this era… again, a big part of me is on board with this TNG reunion. I genuinely didn’t expect that, especially after the disappointment I felt last year when the news emerged that most of the new characters were being jettisoned. We can argue about whether this was the right way to do it, whether this story is strong enough to move beyond those contrivances, and whether individual storylines and character arcs have worked as well as intended. But at the end of the day, seeing Picard and the crew reunited aboard the Enterprise-D, and getting that flyby of the ship itself… all of the criticisms that I had of Võx and of Season 3 seemed to melt away in the moment.

The crew arrives on the bridge.

Storytelling isn’t just canon, consistency, and logical outcomes. It isn’t just about the strength or weakness of individual storylines, whether a plot point is original or clichéd, or whether lines of technobabble stick the landing. Those points all matter, don’t get me wrong. But they aren’t the only factors.

Where Võx succeeded for me was in its emotional storytelling. It got so much right on this front, and not just the reunion of classic characters that I remember with fondness from my formative years. This was an episode that plucked all of the right emotional chords – even when it wasn’t getting every element perfect or making total sense. And this is a combination of elements: it’s cinematography and camera work, it’s the musical score, it’s visual effects, it’s acting performances, and of course, it’s the script itself. While there are undeniable flaws in Võx, the episode’s ability to pull at the heartstrings and create incredibly powerful emotional moments is its true success.

According to executive producers, this is the original dedication plaque from the set of The Next Generation.

The episode was densely packed with callbacks and references too numerous to list. The inclusion of the USS Pulaski – presumably named for Dr Kate Pulaski – was incredibly sweet, and I appreciated that the story hadn’t entirely forgotten her contributions to Star Trek. The return of Elizabeth Dennehy as Admiral Shelby was also pitch-perfect – Shelby was the up-and-coming young officer who helped Riker and co. battle the Borg in The Best of Both Worlds. As the Borg make their return, Shelby feels like a wonderfully fitting inclusion.

The speech Admiral Shelby gave brought a tear to my eye, and I’ll unashamedly admit that. As she sat on the bridge of the Enterprise-F, Shelby spoke of the NX-01 Enterprise and its original mission of exploration, laying the foundations for what would become Starfleet and the Federation. Enterprise hasn’t always been fully appreciated by Trekkies – myself included at the time of its original broadcast, regrettably – so to build this Frontier Day event on the back of Enterprise was incredibly sweet. Moments like this tie Star Trek together, especially as Enterprise premiered after The Next Generation.

Admiral Shelby’s speech was fantastic.

Shelby’s apparent death was also incredibly dramatic, being gunned down by her partially-assimilated crew as chaos was breaking out across the fleet. Although I think it’s important to concede, given the direction taken by the story and what we knew of the conspiracy by this late stage, that Shelby felt like a goner the moment she appeared on the viewscreen, her death was still dramatic, well-portrayed, and demonstrated clearly the extent of the Borg’s conquest of Starfleet.

Shelby and the captain of the USS Excelsior (which briefly appeared in Season 2) also stand as exemplars of thousands or perhaps tens of thousands of Starfleet officers who suffered similar fates during Frontier Day. The Borg-led scheme has been successful thus far, and the result is the decapitation and perhaps even the decimation of Starfleet as a whole. It wasn’t possible to show the unfolding chaos aboard multiple vessels in the fleet, so Shelby’s shock at what was rapidly transpiring around her, and her quick execution, stand in as the most brutal of examples.

The (apparent) demise of Admiral Shelby.

The Borg make a great metaphor for our collective fears of out-of-control computers, artificial intelligence, and the “technological singularity” that some have argued may lie in our future. This is something that I discuss in far greater detail in my essay The Borg: Space Zombies, which you can find by clicking or tapping here. What we saw in Võx feels – as it should do – like a modern-day adaptation of this same basic concept.

When the Borg Collective was first conceived in the ’80s, there was a technological revolution underway as computers and digitisation were transforming many aspects of life. This was the world of my childhood, and I remember arguing with my parents about getting a computer in the house – something they adamantly refused to do for a long time! But we’re drifting off-topic. The Borg at that time represented “technology gone wrong,” or what could happen to a race of technophiles if they took things to an unreasonable extreme.

The newly-assimilated Ensign Esmar.

In Võx, we see an evolution of this idea, complete with modern-day influences. The Borg in Võx “hack” into both Starfleet and into human beings – using a combination of biology and technology to do harm. The connected, linked fleet represents our globalised communications infrastructure, and the ease with which it was hacked and turned against our heroes is a warning against an overreliance on technology and artificial intelligence. Picard and his crew are forced to turn to the Enterprise-D – because it’s outdated, disconnected, and therefore perfectly-placed to save the day!

I’ve always found the Borg to be fascinating, and this Battlestar Galactica-inspired idea of using a “dumb” ship to combat the connected, “smart” ships feels like it fits perfectly with what we know of the Collective. As with the Borg’s biotechnology, this feels like a natural evolution of the Borg’s story – and of the Federation’s ongoing war against them.

Some kind of Borg transmitter… or something.

A Borg Cube was beautifully created in CGI, and the visual of it hidden in a nebula or cloud was spectacular, too. The new vessel seemed to have more illumination on the outside when compared to Borg ships seen in past iterations of Star Trek – but I actually quite liked the way it looked. Again, though, there are issues here: Jack figuring out where to go and how to get there is a moment that needed a bit more time, and I could’ve happily spent a scene or two with Jack en route to the Borg, perhaps seeing him struggling with his decision or seeing the Borg side of his mind working to suppress his human side.

Then there’s the interior of the Borg vessel. This was… not great. There were a couple of alcoves that looked decent, but overall I felt that the set design and construction could’ve been better. Looking back to scenes aboard the Artifact in Season 1 and there really is no comparison. If we aren’t going to spend too much time aboard this ship, then I guess it will pass inoffensively enough. But as the climax of a storyline for Jack Crusher that has been running all season long… I was underwhelmed with the small and unimpressive interior of the Borg Cube.

I wasn’t blown away by the set design here.

And this is another example of how the jumbled, muddled production of Star Trek: Picard as a whole series trips up Võx. Had we not seen the Artifact in Season 1, and the spectacularly frightening Borg vessel at the beginning of Season 2, this return to a Borg environment would have been far more impactful – and I could have probably overlooked the deficiencies in the presentation of the Borg ship.

The Borg Queen, played this time by a body double and archive voice recordings, was likewise a bit of a let-down. At the beginning of Season 2, we got a truly shocking and terrifying presentation of a new Borg Queen: hooded, wearing a robe, wielding mechanical tentacles, and able to take over an entire starship completely on her own. The way the Borg Queen came across in that episode was stunning, and because Võx comes barely a year later, this reversion to an older presentation just feels lesser in comparison.

This older presentation of the Borg Queen feels less interesting and intimidating than the version we saw in Season 2.

Tragic news broke in January of this year that Annie Wersching, who played the Borg Queen last season, had passed away. Given that she had been unwell during filming, we can’t say for sure whether she’d have been able to continue to work as production got underway for Season 3. But if the Borg Queen is going to be featured here – for the second season in a row – it would have made sense to retain the same actor if at all possible, surely? Again, given the circumstances we can’t say for sure one way or another – but it feels like something that should have happened if it had been possible.

And again, I feel the consequence of a muddled, mixed-up production here. Having the Borg as Picard’s final, ultimate “big bad” makes a lot of sense, as they’re a faction closely associated with Picard himself and The Next Generation, but also as they’re so powerful and threatening. But having had two Borg stories in previous seasons – one of which was written and produced by the same team that created Season 3 – I just feel that the Borg should have either been saved to be the final villain this time, or else the way in which they were used in Seasons 1 and/or 2 should have been all we got. After all, the changeling idea seemed to be working well all throughout the season – and seeing Picard and the crew face off against a genuinely different threat, one we’d never seen them tackle before, was also a fun idea. One that has been if not overwritten then at least brought to a screeching halt.

The Borg Queen as presented in Võx feels less impactful in the aftermath of the way the Borg appeared in Season 2. And in Season 1.

So we come – as Picard and the crew did – to the Enterprise-D.

This was an exceptionally well-kept secret, and that’s why I said at the beginning that Võx is an episode to watch without spoilers if at all possible. I’m pretty attuned to what’s going on at Paramount, and I keep an eye on the production side of Star Trek as much as possible so that I can follow significant developments and share my thoughts here on the website. But even I was blindsided by the reconstruction of the Enterprise-D’s bridge that we got to see in Võx.

There had been hints and even teases from some folks on the production side of Picard’s third season that we might get to see “more than one” USS Enterprise this season, but after we’d seen the Enterprise-F in trailers and the Enterprise-A at Geordi’s museum, I figured that would be that. The Titan has made a great hero ship this season, feeling smaller and less powerful than vessels like the Enterprise, Intrepid, or the Shrike – but having a plucky attitude and ability to punch above its weight that reminded me of the comparably-sized USS Voyager.

The USS Titan at warp.

But the Enterprise-D is special to me, and seeing it recreated here – inside and out – was beautiful, and it was undoubtedly the highlight of Võx. The emotional impact these ships can have can’t really be overstated, and pairing a beautiful starship, wonderfully rendered with CGI, with a stirring musical score – it hits me just as hard in 2023 as it did when I watched The Next Generation back in the ’90s. Seeing the Enterprise-E swooping in to save the day at the Battle of Sector 001, watching Kirk lay his eyes on the refit Enterprise for the first time in The Motion Picture, and of course getting so many beautiful sequences with the Enterprise-D across The Next Generation’s run… this moment in Võx equalled the very best of them.

Picard and the crew arriving on the bridge was also an incredible moment. I didn’t know how much of the ship might’ve been rebuilt for Picard – especially with just two episodes in which it would feature. So I wasn’t sure if we were going to get a kind of AR wall/greenscreen mashup as the crew made their way to the ship aboard their shuttle. To my delight, the entire bridge set has been recreated – and it looks absolutely stunning.

The recreated bridge of the Enterprise-D.
Image Credit: Paramount/Dave Blass

I hope in future the producers and creative team will tell the tale of how they came to recreate the bridge in such detail, because I’d love to hear more about it. A couple of photos have been shown off on social media, but there’s obviously a lot more to say! For my two cents, though, it looks absolutely fantastic – a recreation down to seemingly the last detail, recapturing perfectly the look and feel of the Enterprise-D from The Next Generation.

This is a starship that I’d long ago fallen head-over-heels for, and the Galaxy-class remains one of my all-time favourite Star Trek starship designs. We’d seen a CGI model as far back as Enterprise’s finale, and an up-to-date version in the Season 1 premiere of Picard, but the time dedicated to the flypast in Võx was something special. Seeing the Enterprise-D powering up and departing the Fleet Museum was also something new – though we’d seen similar sequences with other vessels, this is the first time we’d gotten to see it with a Galaxy-class ship.

She’s a beauty!

From Scotty’s love for the Enterprise in The Original Series through to Captain Shaw’s “fanboy” moment with Geordi just a couple of weeks ago, we’ve seen the respect and adoration that Starfleet officers have for their ships. Starships are, in many ways, an additional character in their respective shows – so to see Picard and the crew treating the Enterprise-D as they might an old friend was an incredibly powerful and sweet moment.

This was a starship that was with them through many adventures, a vessel that was their home for seven years, and this reunion feels just as powerful as any interactions between the reassembled crewmates. It actually surpasses some of those moments for me, especially given the weakness of the Data’s resurrection storyline that we’ve discussed over the past few weeks. The restoration of the Enterprise-D is by far the better and more coherent of Season 3’s unexpected resurrections!

Rebuilding the iconic bridge console.

Oh, and I absolutely agree with Picard: starships need carpets! This line was a cute little nod and wink to fans who’ve commented on the lack of carpets aboard vessels in modern iterations of Star Trek – something that has been a minor point of contention in some quarters of the fan community. Beyond mere attention to detail, this is an indication that the writers and producers are fans themselves, or at least are aware of the things that fans pick up on and discuss. Having Picard himself comment on the carpet was cute, but it also shows how the writers and producers are at least trying to keep the fan community on side.

There are absolutely nitpicks and contrivances on this side of the story. Was no one at the Fleet Museum assimilated? How did the shuttle get from Earth to the Fleet Museum so quickly? Will it be possible to operate a Galaxy-class starship with just seven people when it took a crew of roughly 1,000 in The Next Generation? How can one ship – disconnected though it may be – stand a chance against a fleet of newer and more powerful vessels? Why did Geordi install an automatic torpedo launcher on the ship – was he expecting an event like this?

The Enterprise-D departs the Fleet Museum.

These are the structural weaknesses of Võx, and it remains to be seen how and even if they’ll be resolved. As above, several of these points could have been addressed had the season as a whole been better-paced, arriving at this point either an episode or two earlier, or with more explanation and exposition having been dropped in previous chapters of the story. As I said about Seasons 1 and 2 in various ways, the flaw doesn’t lie with the story beats themselves, which are fascinating, but rather with the way in which they were executed.

Even a few days after first sitting down to watch Võx, the emotional side of the story goes a long way to making up for its flaws – but it’s not clear to me whether that will always be the case! If we go back to Picard Season 3 in a few years’ time, will the return to the Enterprise-D still be enough to redeem Võx for all of its contrivances and narrative inconsistencies? Perhaps that’s another conversation we’ll need to have one day!

Picard orders everyone to their posts.

As you can tell by now, I’m conflicted about Võx.

On the one hand, it’s an episode of overplayed tropes and boring clichés, let down by a muddled, incoherent story that didn’t have enough time to properly explain key points. It takes the safest path, killing off the least-important secondary character and finding an incredibly contrived way to ensure that only the characters from The Next Generation would make it to the bridge of the Enterprise-D.

The episode is also hamstrung by what came before it: not only the eight episodes of Season 3, plagued by an over-acted villain who now feels like an utter waste of time, but also by Seasons 1 and 2 and the storylines they introduced. The presentation of the Borg, Borg Queen, and Borg Cube in Võx are very much the lesser versions of those same creations that we saw in earlier seasons – and had those stories not taken place, Võx would be in a much stronger position.

The Enterprise-D prepares for departure.

But despite all of its flaws, I can’t hate or even particularly dislike Võx. The emotional storytelling was fantastic, and maybe this is just the blinkers of pure nostalgia, but I felt that the problems and inconsistencies in the episode melted away in light of the incredible, beautiful sequences with Picard and his old crew – and especially their reunion with the Enterprise-D itself and its wonderfully reconstructed bridge.

It isn’t enough to just throw legacy characters into a story and rebuild sets, and if Võx had presented these elements in a worse way, I think I’d have found it too much, or I’d be saying that the nostalgia card doesn’t cover up any and all storytelling sins. But when watching the episode itself, a combination of clever direction and creative writing, beautiful visuals and a wonderful musical score, and some outstanding and evocative acting performances made the whole thing work. This nostalgia-heavy, deeply emotional story feels like one that was perfectly made for Trekkies like you and me.

Picard and the crew in a promotional photo.

There’s a lot of work for the season finale to do, and I’m really not sure how things will shake out when all’s said and done. I also think we might return to Võx in the years ahead and consider it a little less favourably – particularly if the series ends in unspectacular fashion next time. I’ve tried to treat the episode as fairly as I could, and having sat with it for a few days… the emotional side of the story still really sticks with me, and remains my biggest takeaway from Võx.

I genuinely don’t know what to expect from the finale. There are so many possibilities for where the story could go! Although this feels like an existential threat to the Federation, surely it must be possible for Picard and the crew to save the day, right? But one old starship against an entire connected, Borgified fleet? That’s a tough task right there!

Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-3 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and other countries and territories where the service is available, and on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and around the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties discussed above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Picard bonus Season 3 theory: The “Ancient Evil”

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-3. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Wrath of KhanThe Next GenerationDeep Space NineVoyager, and Discovery.

Toward the end of the episode Surrender, Deanna Troi told us something very interesting about Jack Crusher: there’s an “ancient and weak” voice that surrounds him, a voice that isn’t his own. This voice has also been described as a “darkness,” and something “evil.” Today, I want to consider a few possibilities for who and what this “ancient evil” could be.

There are, at least as I see it, two candidates that are more likely than any others – at least based on the narrative elements that have already come into play. I covered the Borg Queen in my most recent theory update, but it’s also worth considering the Founders themselves, and how an ancient changeling or changeling leader could be a likely possibility. Finally, we have to contend with the idea that the “ancient evil” will be a character or faction that we’ve never met before – as this is something that’s happened in these types of stories consistently in modern Star Trek!

Let’s try to peek through the keyhole of Jack’s red door…

I’ve heard several fan theories that seem completely implausible to me, and I’ll also cover a handful of the more popular ones and why I think they wouldn’t make sense or wouldn’t work narratively. If I try to shoot down a theory you’re personally invested in, I hope you won’t take that as some kind of attack! I’ll try to explain my reasons as gently as possible.

It also goes without saying that I have no “insider information!” I’m not trying to claim that any of the ideas we’re going to discuss today can, will, or must be part of Picard Season 3. It’s possible that I’ve completely misunderstood what Troi was saying, or that Jack’s hallucinatory red door will lead to something completely unexpected, unpredictable, or even a completely different kind of storyline altogether. All of this is also just the subjective opinion of one person.

With all of that out of the way, let’s get started!

“Ancient Evil” #1:
The Borg Queen.

The Borg Queen in First Contact.

As I explained in my recent theory update, the Borg Queen is the candidate I feel is most likely to be the “ancient evil.” The voice Jack has occasionally heard has a feminine quality, there have been multiple references to the Borg and to Picard’s assimilation experience, and the idea of Jack “inheriting” some kind of Borg nanites or Borg DNA from Picard would connect with themes of family, parentage, and inheritance that have been present in different ways all season long.

The Borg Queen hasn’t been explicitly mentioned, but right now, the myriad references to Locutus, the Battle of Wolf-359, and Picard’s connection to the Borg haven’t had any kind of narrative payoff. Bringing the Borg Queen into the story at this particularly late stage is a risk, but it’s also something that has been set up across the entire season – so it wouldn’t feel like a total bolt from the blue.

“Ancient Evil” #2:
The Season 1 super-synths.

The super-synths’ mechanical tentacles.

Should we abandon all hope of the unnamed “alliance of synthetic life” from the end of Season 1 ever making a return to Star Trek? Well… probably! But of all the “ancient” factions we know of in Star Trek, few are older – and potentially more malevolent – than the super-synths that were introduced in Season 1.

Millions of years before the events of the story, this synthetic faction literally moved the stars in the Milky Way and created a beacon, promising to ride to the aid of any synthetic life-forms that needed their help. Whether that offer was genuine or an elaborate trap, well… I’m still not sure! But these super-synths may not have given up on their aim of returning to the Milky Way just because Picard convinced Soji to close the portal to their realm.

“Ancient Evil” #3:
The Female Changeling from Deep Space Nine.

The Female Changeling.

The Female Changeling who led the Dominion’s war effort against the Federation alliance seemed to be one of the most senior Founders. With the changelings featuring heavily in this story, perhaps she is once again trying to lead the charge against the Federation, using Vadic and her evolved allies to get revenge.

Earlier in the season, Vadic cited revenge against Starfleet and the Federation as one of her motives – though she didn’t really elaborate on what that meant. Floaty McFloatface – the unnamed character who seems to have been Vadic’s boss – also mentioned vengeance, so could the changelings be seeking to avenge their defeat in the Dominion War? Vadic knew the details of Jack’s hallucinations, including the existence of the red door – how could she have possibly known that if the changelings aren’t involved?

“Ancient Evil” #4:
Locutus of Borg (or a clone of Locutus).

Picard was assimilated by the Borg.

As above, Season 3 has made multiple references to Picard’s assimilation experience and time as Locutus. Could the rogue changelings have stolen Picard’s corpse as part of a plan to resurrect Locutus? Or could the Borg Collective itself have recreated or cloned Locutus based on Picard’s genetic material? Perhaps Floaty McFloatface is a representative of the Borg – and wants Jack Crusher to become the new Locutus.

The idea of Picard having to come face-to-face with Locutus would surely be his worst nightmare. Locutus would literally know Picard inside and out – and could be very difficult to outmanoeuvre and defeat as a result.

“Ancient Evil” #5:
Someone entirely new.

Who could it be?

In earlier seasons – and in other modern Star Trek productions, too – the franchise’s past didn’t provide the answers to mysteries like this one! So it has to be considered plausible or even downright likely that a brand-new character or faction is the “ancient evil” that we’re looking for. This could come in the form of a new character from a familiar faction – a new Borg or changeling leader, perhaps. Or it could be an entirely new creation that doesn’t connect to Star Trek’s past at all.

There is a danger in this approach, and part of the reason why creations like the super-synths and Species 10-C didn’t excite fans as much as they could’ve is that, after a season-long tease, expectations have been raised! But at the same time, writers should feel free to create new elements to add to Star Trek instead of being constrained by what has come before. A new character or faction could absolutely stick the landing – if it was handled well.

So those are the candidates I consider to be most plausible.

Up next, we’ll take a look at a few others that I’ve heard suggested by fans on forums and on social media. For reasons that I’ll try to explain, none of these feel likely to me… so feel free to come back at the end of the season and laugh at how wrong I was if any of them prove to be the true “ancient evil!”

Not the “Ancient Evil” #1:
The Pah-Wraiths.

Jake Sisko possessed by a Pah-Wraith.

I don’t know who originated this idea, but it seems to have spread like wildfire in some quarters of the fan community! For my money, there’s no way the “ancient evil” could be the Pah-Wraiths, though – even though the faction is undoubtedly both ancient and evil! Firstly, despite references and connections to Deep Space Nine, there have been no mentions of Bajor, the wormhole, the Prophets, or the Pah-Wraiths all season long – so any last-second inclusion would be a complete deus ex machina.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the return of the Pah-Wraiths would hugely undermine the ending of Deep Space Nine, and Captain Sisko’s arc in particular. Sisko sacrificed his life to prevent the Pah-Wraiths from escaping their confinement in the Fire Caves, fulfilling his duty as the Emissary of the Prophets. For a new story to say that the Pah-Wraiths escaped anyway, a mere twenty-something years later, would seriously damage that story and undermine Sisko’s arc and characterisation. Finally, the Pah-Wraiths have no connection to Picard or to the Crusher family.

Not the “Ancient Evil” #2:

Armus in Skin of Evil.

C’mon everyone… it isn’t Armus, okay? It just isn’t. Not only has Armus not been mentioned since Season 1 of The Next Generation, but the evil puddle of printer ink has no real connection to Picard, to the Crusher family, or to anyone else involved in Season 3. As a villain who only appeared once in what was, let’s be blunt here, not one of The Next Generation’s best stories, Armus would also be underwhelming in the extreme.

Had the story of Season 3 revisited the planet of Vagra II, or if Tasha Yar had been mentioned in the story somehow (aside from a minute cameo as part of Data’s memories) then maybe we could consider this theory more favourably. But Armus would also be a complete bolt from the blue – and one that I don’t believe could possibly be strong enough to carry the ending not only of Season 3, but of the entire series.

Not the “Ancient Evil” #3:
The Romulans/Zhat Vash.

Zhat Vash initiates as seen in Season 1.

Although it would be cyclical in a way if the end of Season 3 were to return to the Romulans in some form, I don’t believe that the story will go in this direction. There have been no Romulans included in the story all season long, and no mentions of the Zhat Vash or their conspiracy, either. The Romulans were also a faction that fought against the changelings during the Dominion War – and there probably isn’t enough time left to sufficiently explain how they might have been persuaded to switch sides.

Finally, although Elnor continues to exist in the Picard timeline, he hasn’t been part of the story of this season – despite opportunities to include him. Elnor is a Romulan, and if there was to be any kind of Romulan connection to the story, I’d have expected him to take part in it.

Not the “Ancient Evil” #4:
Q and/or the Q Continuum.

Q as he appeared in Season 2.

We got our Q story – for better or for worse – in Season 2. While it would be thematically interesting in a way if the end of Jean-Luc Picard’s story were connected to the very first episode in which he appeared, the death of Q last year combined with the total absence of any discussion of Q and the Q Continuum this time make it feel very unlikely at this juncture.

There’s also the question of motivation – something that also tripped up Q’s story in Season 2! Why would Q, or another member of the Continuum, have allied with a faction of rogue changelings to attack Starfleet? If the Q wanted the Federation weakened or destroyed… all it would take is a snap of the fingers. Why go to all this trouble? And why would the Q Continuum hate Starfleet anyway? The Q Continuum is ancient… but is it evil? I don’t think so.

Not the “Ancient Evil” #5:

Khan as he appeared in Space Seed.

Genetic engineering and augmentation were discussed in Season 2, and there was even a reference to something called “Project Khan” at the end of the season. But not only is Khan dead, he has no connection to Picard and the Crushers. Although Season 2 has leaned heavily into the legacy of The Wrath of Khan in more ways than one… I just don’t see how the story bringing him back could possibly be made to work.

Star Trek Into Darkness was a riff on the Khan story, and it worked pretty well – at least in my view. But Khan is a character that we don’t really need to see more of… which is part of the reason why I was always sceptical about the Ceti Alpha V pitch! Bringing Khan and his augments into Picard wouldn’t work.

Not the “Ancient Evil” #6:
The Abronians, the Kelvan Empire, the Voth… and more!

Hanar, a representative of the Kelvan Empire.

There are a number of ancient races in Star Trek – and a number of villainous ones, too. But many of these made only a single appearance or a handful of appearances in stories that most viewers would struggle to recall decades later, and while some of them might nominally fulfil some of our criteria – such as by having a tangential connection to Jean-Luc Picard or Dr Crusher – the fact that they haven’t been so much as hinted at all season long should be enough to rule out all of them.

At this late stage in the season, and with the only named villain having already been killed off, it’s already a storytelling challenge to make whatever’s behind Jack’s red door and whomever has been directing the conspiracy not feel like a deus ex machina. If this character or faction is ultimately revealed to be something or someone that we’ve had no mention of through the entire story… I fear that would be too high a narrative hurdle to successfully clear.

So that’s it!

The Shrike’s destruction in Surrender.

We’ve considered a few possibilities for who the “ancient evil” could be. This “ancient and weak” voice that Jack has heard seems to have somehow latched onto him – and is giving him superpowers. Deanna Troi (and everyone else involved in the story) seems to believe that this is directly tied to the rogue changelings and their plans to attack Frontier Day, so one way or another this “ancient evil” has been driving the story all season long.

The death of Vadic has, for me at least, thrown a cloud over this story. Even if the “ancient evil” is the Borg Queen, another Borg representative, or a changeling, it will still be difficult to pull off this storyline successfully and explain everything sufficiently with just two episodes left. I feel echoes of the Season 1 problem, in which the two-part finale dumped new characters, factions, and storylines into the plot but didn’t have anywhere near enough time to pay them off successfully. But we’ll have to wait to see if Season 3 will fare any better!

Jack will explore this “ancient evil” alongside Deanna Troi.

I hope that this was a bit of fun. I tried to consider some seemingly-plausible ideas for the “ancient evil,” as well as explain why I feel that some popular theories are unlikely. If you put me under duress and forced me to pick only one candidate, right now I’m inclined to say that the Borg Queen feels the most likely. There have been multiple Borg references this season, there’s a solid connection to Picard, there’s a narratively coherent way in which Jack could have inherited Borg DNA or nanites from Picard which would also tie in thematically to the ideas of parent-child relationships and inheritance, and the voice that Jack has periodically heard sounds feminine in tone. So that would be my guess – if I absolutely had to choose!

As a final note: I always like to end these theory lists by saying that I do this just for fun. I enjoy writing, I enjoy Star Trek, and spending more time in this world is an escape and an enjoyable distraction for me. But for some folks, fan theories can become frustrating or unenjoyable, especially if they get very attached to a plausible-sounding theory that ultimately doesn’t pan out. I have no “insider information” and I’m not trying to claim that anything suggested above can, will, or must be part of Picard Season 3. The story will almost certainly take an unpredictable path!

Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-3 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and other countries and territories where the service is available, and on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and around the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties discussed above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.