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 Khan, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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.