Star Trek at Comic-Con 2022 – thoughts and impressions

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-3, Star Trek: Lower Decks Seasons 1-3, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Seasons 1-2, and for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise – including upcoming and unreleased projects.

This year’s San Diego Comic-Con is winding down – and we got a lot of Star Trek news to process over the weekend! I didn’t attend Comic-Con myself, but I’ve been following the event online, and there were several big announcements, a big surprise, teasers and trailers, and comments from Star Trek stars past and present to dive into. I’ll do my best to take a look at all of the major points today!

I’m actually a little surprised that there was so much news coming out of Comic-Con; a Lower Decks trailer and something about Picard felt like certainties, but beyond that I was wondering if Paramount might hold things back and put together a repeat of last year’s “Star Trek Day” broadcast event where the franchise could be centre-stage.

A billboard promoting Star Trek at San Diego Comic-Con.

An event like Comic-Con is a double-edged sword in some ways for corporations like Paramount. On the one hand, there’s a lot of attention directed at Comic-Con even from mainstream news outlets, which can be good for promotional purposes. But on the other, Star Trek has to compete for that attention with the likes of Marvel, Star Wars, Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series, and many others.

So I hope it was a success from Paramount’s point of view and managed to bring at least some new eyes to the Star Trek franchise. It feels as though Paramount put a significant amount of investment into this weekend’s events and promotional materials, so as someone who hopes to see Star Trek continuing to be a success, I’d like to think it paid off!

The Strange New Worlds panel at Comic-Con.

So let’s start with Star Trek: Picard. We didn’t get to see a proper trailer, instead getting another teaser that showed off the main cast of Season 3. I’m still quite disappointed with how the casting situation has been handled, and the fact that we aren’t going to get to spend more time with characters like Elnor and Soji feels like a backwards step – at least in some respects – for a franchise that should be moving forward. But that decision has long ago been taken, so let’s consider what we did see instead of what we didn’t!

First of all, Seven of Nine’s field commission seems to have been made permanent, and she’s seen in uniform for the first time. That was neat, and seems to further her wonderful arc from both seasons of the show so far. The design of Worf was perhaps the most interesting to me; after the Klingons had undergone a major redesign for both the Kelvin films and Discovery, the design of Worf shown off in the Picard Season 3 teaser is much closer to the post-Motion Picture Klingon look that Worf had during The Next Generation’s run.

Glimpses of the main characters.

Absent from the teaser was Brent Spiner – so we still don’t know who he may be portraying. It’s tempting to suggest that his absence may be hiding some major design secret (such as a reimagined Data, Lore, or B4) but I’m not convinced of that yet. Altan Inigo Soong (from Picard Season 1) feels like the most obvious choice for Spiner to portray, but we don’t know that for certain.

At the panel, Sir Patrick Stewart indicated that a visit to “more than one” USS Enterprise could be on the cards in Season 3, which could imply anything from travelling through time to a Search for Spock-inspired starship theft! Precisely which Enterprise(s) Picard and the crew may visit wasn’t stated – so could it be Pike’s Enterprise, perhaps?

Sir Patrick Stewart speaking during the Picard panel.

There’s actually not much else to say about Picard right now. The teaser didn’t give much away, and aside from design choices like several characters wearing leather jackets, we don’t actually know a whole lot more about the show’s final season than we did before Comic-Con. Some of what was discussed – like a potential female villain and revisiting the Enterprise – sounds interesting, and Picard Season 3 is definitely one of my most-anticipated right now. But after an underwhelming Season 2 and the disappointment of the rather callous cutting of under-used characters, there’s no doubt it has serious work to do. Nothing I saw at Comic-Con has me anxious or worried… but because what we saw was relatively barebones, nothing blew me away either.

The upcoming video game Star Trek: Resurgence made an appearance at Comic-Con. Still scheduled for release later this year, the panel didn’t go into a lot of story details for obvious reasons, but the game seems to be shaping up nicely. It looks to be very much in line with Telltale Games titles from the past few years – the likes of Batman, The Wolf Among Us, and The Walking Dead, to name but a few – and considering that developer Dramatic Labs is made up of a number of ex-Telltale creators, that makes sense! I’ll be sure to take a detailed look at Resurgence when it launches, so stay tuned for that!

Resurgence’s Captain Solano.

I wasn’t expecting to see any kind of teaser or trailer for Strange New Worlds Season 2; although filming recently wrapped up we’ve only just finished watching Season 1, so Season 2 is likely ten-plus months away! There was no news about a potential third season renewal either – although I suspect that’s just a matter of time!

The biggest news from the Strange New Worlds panel, though, was the surprise announcement of a crossover with Lower Decks. I’ve been longing for a proper crossover between the current crop of Star Trek shows – so this is great news! Strange New Worlds had moments of humour and comedy in its first season, so the pairing is not as unnatural as it might first appear. I’m not quite sure how the episode will blend live action and animation, though – will Boimler and Mariner appear as cartoons on a live-action set? That’s something to watch out for!

A truly unexpected crossover is on the cards!

The crossover episode will air as part of Strange New Worlds’ second season sometime next year, and will be directed by Jonathan Frakes. Frakes has directed some of Discovery and Picard’s best episodes and knows the Star Trek franchise inside and out, so I’m really hopeful that this crossover will end up being as much fun as it sounds! I might not have chosen to stick Lower Decks and Strange New Worlds together, but with both shows hitting their stride after successful debut seasons, the time is right for a crossover. Hopefully it will be the first of many as Star Trek’s renaissance continues!

There were some interesting pieces of merchandise shown off at Comic-Con, too. I didn’t see any Prodigy toys or figures, but there were some prototypes from Playmates and EXO-6 showing off their latest figures of the likes of Captain Kirk, Locutus of Borg, and other classic characters. Factory Entertainment also debuted their Motion Picture insignia and Type II “dustbuster” phaser – which I hope will come to the UK!

A new “dustbuster” phaser replica may be coming soon!

Alex Kurtzman teased us with news that there may be two unannounced Star Trek projects in early production. With Picard finishing its run after Season 3 next year, I feel like an announcement can’t be far away for at least one new project, but what that project may be is still unknown! One potential series is the untitled Section 31 spin-off that was announced back in 2019, but my gut says that project probably won’t see the light of day. There’s been talk of a Ceti Alpha V miniseries focusing on Khan, and there’s also a rumoured Starfleet Academy series. Any of those could be announced before the end of the year – so watch this space!

I wonder, though, if one of these unannounced projects could be a 25th Century post-Picard series, perhaps even a spin-off focusing on Seven of Nine and Raffi. There seemed to be a lot of investment in new sets built for Picard Season 2 that were only seen at the beginning and end of the season, so could those sets be repurposed for a new series set aboard the new USS Stargazer? It’s all speculation at this point, of course, but I can’t help wondering!

The USS Stargazer.

A trailer for Lower Decks Season 3 debuted at Comic-Con, and the series has recently been confirmed to be returning on the 25th of August – in just a month’s time! The trailer picked up from where the Season 2 finale left off, with Captain Freeman in custody and the crew having to figure out what to do next. It seems like we saw several clips from the first episode – at least, that’s the impression I got – so there may be surprises still to come later in the season!

One story will take the Lower Decks crew to Deep Space Nine, and we saw the station and nearby wormhole shown off in the trailer – along with the familiar Deep Space Nine theme. I absolutely adore Deep Space Nine, and after the station was briefly glimpsed in a Season 1 flashback, it will be amazing to head back there for what will be the first post-Dominion War episode in that setting. Series creator Mike McMahan has promised us a look inside the station as well as some familiar faces, too!

The USS Cerritos at Deep Space Nine.

One of those familiar faces seems to be the Klingon General Martok – an important recurring character in the latter part of Deep Space Nine’s run. It may be too much to hope for to get a real Deep Space Nine-inspired story that picks up some of the dangling threads that series left behind… but I can’t help it! I’d love to see the next chapter in the Deep Space Nine story unfold on screen, and even just getting a glimpse or a tease would be fantastic.

Other scenes in the trailer seemed to show a return to one of the first planets visited by Mariner and Boimler in Season 1, stealing the impounded USS Cerritos (presumably to rescue Captain Freeman), Boimler in Cetacean Ops, Rutherford and Tendi at Sisko’s restaurant in New Orleans, Boimler and Mariner acting as Starfleet recruiters, Dr T’Ana performing an amputation, and more! We saw Captain Freeman in uniform alongside Commander Ransom briefly, so I assume she will be able to escape the false charges laid against her!

Dr T’Ana prepares to perform surgery!

The trailer looked like the familiar blend of animated comedy hijinks and throwbacks to The Next Generation era that we’ve come to expect from Lower Decks across its first two seasons. We’ve had some genuinely outstanding episodes so far – and only a couple of duds, really – so more of the same is no bad thing! I’m curious to see how the Captain Freeman cliffhanger will be resolved – will it be a one-episode story or will it rumble on for much of the season?

There was a surprising absence at Comic-Con: Prodigy. There was no mention of Prodigy (aside from a poster as part of the broader “Star Trek Universe” marketing), and that strikes me as odd. We’re supposedly going to be seeing ten more episodes of Prodigy before the end of this year to round out the show’s first season, so it was surprising that nothing was mentioned. We don’t even have an official broadcast date for the next batch of episodes – and there’s currently no new Star Trek being shown for the next few weeks.

There was nothing Prodigy-related at Comic-Con this time.

It’s possible that we’ll come to learn more about Prodigy’s next steps and some of these in-production but unannounced projects in the near future. The 7th of September will be “Star Trek Day,” for example, and we could see another presentation of some kind to mark the occasion. Prodigy could also follow Lower Decks and kick off the second half of Season 1 in late October or early November – this would keep Star Trek on our screens through the holiday season and into 2023.

There was a comment from William Shatner about Star Trek that a lot of folks have picked up on on social media. At Comic-Con, Shater claimed that Gene Roddenberry would not approve of the direction of modern Star Trek, saying that the franchise’s creator would be “spinning in his grave” at the many of the creative and narrative decisions that have been taken. I think it’s worth pointing out that Shatner was similarly dismissive of The Next Generation, the Kelvin reboot films, and practically every Star Trek project that doesn’t feature his take on Captain Kirk. I don’t think we need to dedicate a lot of time to what Shatner has said; he’s entitled to his opinion, of course, and really the question of whether Gene Roddenberry would or wouldn’t approve of certain shows, episodes, or stories is rather a moot point. Modern Star Trek is doing some great things – and I for one hope it’s here to stay!

William Shatner spoke at Comic-Con.

So I think that about wraps things up.

For me, the biggest and most interesting piece of news is the Lower Decks-Strange New Worlds crossover. A story like that has massive entertainment potential as both shows have demonstrated respect and reverence for past iterations of Star Trek. It seems to me that the crossover could be a real “made for fans” moment – but perhaps also one that could bring in new viewers to both series. Blending animation and live-action can be a challenge, but Star Trek has always risen to meet technical and creative challenges as it strives to tell new, different, and exciting stories!

The tease of new projects on the horizon is fascinating – but until we start to get information about what those projects may be, it’s hard to get overly excited! I’ve got a few different articles and lists here on the website looking at pitches and concepts – as well as putting together a few ideas of my own – so check those out if you’re interested. As and when Alex Kurtzman and the creative teams see fit to tell us more, I’ll be sure to cover it in-depth and give my thoughts!

So that was Comic-Con. Star Trek put in a decent showing this year, and it seems like we have a lot to look forward to both later this year and in 2023.

The Star Trek franchise – including all shows, films, and properties discussed above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. Some images used above courtesy of Star Trek/Paramount Global on social media. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1, 2, and 3 theory: the super-synths

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1 and 2, as well as the teaser trailer and casting announcements for Season 3. Further spoilers are present for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

Even as we continue to wind down from Season 2 of Star Trek: Picard, my thoughts have already turned to Season 3! Although the new season is still in production and is probably a year away, I wanted to get one of my big pre-season theories written down ahead of time. This one ties together events in all three seasons of the show – and I think that could make it a satisfying story if it were to unfold.

There are some legitimate concerns about Picard Season 3, at least from where I’m sitting. The fact that most of the new cast members have been unceremoniously dumped in order to make way for the returning characters from The Next Generation really stings, and I’m truly disappointed that we won’t get to spend more time with the likes of Elnor and Soji next time around. I wanted to acknowledge that before we proceed with the theory, because both the cutting of characters and the fact that several of them have disappeared without a proper goodbye is poor form from Picard’s producers and creative team.

Most of the Picard cast are not returning for Season 3.

So let’s talk about this theory, then! In short, what I’ve come up with connects events in both Seasons 1 and 2 with what has been teased about Season 3, potentially meaning that Picard will turn out to be one long connected story after all. We’re taking the mysterious anomaly encountered at the end of Season 2 as a starting point and asking “who could have created something like that?” The Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid believed it was artificial in nature and had the potential to wipe out all life in an entire sector of space. That seems like the first phase of an invasion or attack – so who can we think of in Star Trek who could create a weapon on that scale?

We could absolutely pick on factions like the Dominion, Enterprise’s Sphere-Builders, or Species 8472. All of those – and many more – were potential suspects when it came to another mysterious anomaly in Discovery’s fourth season, too, and for good reason! But when we consider the elements that have already been introduced in Star Trek: Picard in particular, one faction more than any other appears to stand out: the super-synths from Season 1.

The super-synths as glimpsed in Season 1.

To briefly recap if it’s been a while since you watched Et in Arcadia Ego: the super-synths claimed to be “an alliance of synthetic life,” and it was implied that they resided far beyond the Milky Way galaxy. I nicknamed them the “Mass Effect Reapers” for their similarities to that video game faction! The super-synths literally moved stars to point to a beacon that they’d left behind on the planet of Aia, and in a vision that seemed jumbled and terrifying to organic minds they promised to come to the aid of any synths who requested their help.

The super-synths believed that all organics would eventually attack and destroy their synthetic creations; that war between synthetic and organic life was inevitable. The plans they left behind could open a portal to their home in dark space, allowing the super-synths to show up anywhere in the galaxy at a moment’s notice. It was left ambiguous as to whether their offer to help synths in their fight against organics was actually genuine or whether it was some kind of elaborate trap.

The super-synths’ portal over Coppelius.

Although Admiral Picard was able to convince Soji to close the portal she had opened before the super-synths could arrive at the planet of Coppelius, the portal was open for a significant amount of time. In that time the super-synths would’ve seen a civilisation of synthetics on Coppelius asking for their help, and two massive fleets of starships engaged in a stand-off over the planet. Whatever their intentions may have been, Soji and Sutra’s actions have ensured that the super-synths are now aware of the Milky Way, the Federation, the Romulans, and the Coppelius synths.

The super-synths then disappeared from the plot and weren’t mentioned again. It isn’t clear what happened to them, what their goals may have been, nor how they would have reacted to the portal being closed at the last moment. What we do know is that the super-synths possess powerful technology – technology that seems to allow them to hop from one part of the universe to another in an instant.

The super-synths left a beacon on the planet of Aia.

This brings us to the anomaly encountered by the Borg and the Federation at the end of Season 2. The strange anomaly was described by Seven of Nine as being akin to a “transwarp conduit.” The Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid was unsure of who created it, but considered them to be “a threat” requiring close observation. The anomaly was also described as being one piece of a larger puzzle – something that could tie in with a theory like this one!

Given what we know of the super-synths based on their appearance in Season 1, creating something on this scale seems well within their capabilities. They left behind instructions on how to create a portal to their domain, and what is a transwarp conduit if not a portal between two points in spacetime? Then there’s the scale of the attack: the initial outpouring of energy was enough to destroy an entire sector of space, something that hardly seems impossible for a faction that can literally move entire stars.

A joint Federation-Borg fleet defends against the anomaly at the end of Season 2.

So I think we have enough evidence based on what we saw on screen in the Season 2 finale to make the case that the anomaly may have been created by the same faction of super-synths that very nearly arrived at Coppelius in Season 1. But what of Season 3?

Not much has been officially teased so far about Picard’s upcoming third season – but we have a little to go on. Besides the announcement of returning cast members, we heard a few new lines of dialogue and caught a glimpse of both Admiral Picard and Captain Riker in a teaser trailer released to mark First Contact Day last month, and nothing there contradicts anything I’ve suggested above.

In fact, we could try to build a case for the Season 3 teaser hinting at this theory!

Captain Riker in the Season 3 teaser.

Firstly, the clips we saw of Admiral Picard and Captain Riker showed them readying themselves for combat, wielding some kind of phaser pistol (possibly the kind seen briefly in Seasons 1 and 2). At least part of the season, then, is going to involve a fight of some kind against a hitherto-unseen enemy! That’s hardly conclusive, of course, but it doesn’t contradict the idea that the main enemy is the super-synths.

Secondly, we have a handful of lines heard in voiceover. Geordi talked about “rushing into danger” during his time aboard the Enterprise. Worf speaks, saying that “sacrifice is required.” Dr Crusher spoke directly to Picard, telling him that “the galaxy comes calling.” In typical understated style, Riker talked about a “good old-fashioned road trip,” before Troi rounded things out by letting Picard know that he “will not be alone.” Again, nothing conclusive there – but also nothing contradictory. All the characters seem to be talking about gearing up for a big mission or battle.

Admiral Picard with a phaser pistol in the Season 3 teaser.

But the most interesting line in the trailer – and one that could perhaps be pointing to some kind of connection to synthetic life – came from Brent Spiner’s currently-unknown character. Spiner’s inflection sounded very emotive, definitely not like Data or B4. My first thought was that he could be portraying Lore (Data’s “evil twin” from The Next Generation), but he could also be portraying Dr Altan Inigo Soong – the son of Data’s creator who was a major character at the end of Season 1.

The line that stood out to me was this: “Evolution is not an act of preservation; it’s addition.” That line is ambiguous, naturally, but if we assume that Spiner’s character has something to do with synthetic life and synthetic research, he could very well be talking about the creation of new synths or the search for new synthetic life. He could also be talking about some kind of fusion between organic and synthetic life – perhaps Borg assimilation.

Will Brent Spiner’s Dr Altan Inigo Soong be a villain next season?

We don’t know what goals or objectives the super-synths might have, but if they view organic life as a threat it’s possible that they plan some kind of assimilation-like process to forcibly convert organics to become partially synthetic. That could be what Dr Soong is referring to – and he could be the super-synths’ advocate if they arrive in force and broadcast their intentions. Akin to someone who has been “indoctrinated” by the Reapers in the Mass Effect series, Dr Soong may be doing the super-synths’ bidding. That could set up Brent Spiner’s character to be one of the season’s main villains (again).

Am I clutching at straws? Well, that’s possible. But because of how deliberately coy the writers and producers of Picard have been about several key aspects of the storylines of both Seasons 1 and 2, I think this idea is a solid possibility. We don’t know what the super-synths wanted, but we do know they’re technologically very powerful and more than capable of creating portals and anomalies. We don’t know where the mysterious anomaly in Season 2 came from, nor why the Dr Jurati-Borg Queen hybrid considered it and its creators to be a threat. There’s enough ambiguity in those two points alone to reasonably connect them.

The Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid.

Ever since Season 1 came to a rather unspectacular conclusion, I’ve been hoping that Star Trek will do something more with this faction of super-synths. I suggested that they could be involved with the main storylines in both Seasons 3 and 4 of Discovery, as they seemed to be a faction with the technological power to do something like the Burn or to create something like the DMA. Those theories didn’t pan out, of course, but it’s possible that things will come full-circle and we’ll see them again before Picard comes to an end.

What we’d get, if this theory were to pan out, would be a transformation in the way Star Trek: Picard has operated. Rather than being three essentially standalone seasons with three distinct, separate stories, everything would be connected. What happened on Mars that sent Picard into a decade-long depression would be connected to the final fight against the super-synths; they’d be responsible for all of it. It would bring together the stories of Seasons 1, 2, and 3 in a neat way. The first two seasons could still be enjoyed as standalone affairs; nothing in Season 3 would overwrite any of that. But for fans who want to see a broader connection, this theory would deliver it!

The anomaly in Season 2.

Setting this theory aside for a moment, one of the concerns I have about Season 3 is that the events of Seasons 1 and 2 will be ignored. The fact that most main cast members aren’t returning has really ramped up the sense that Picard Season 3 may try to ignore everything that’s just happened – or relegate it to a couple of short scenes at the beginning of episode 1 – and rush ahead to become The Next Generation Season 8.

In particular, the mysterious anomaly that was shown off at the end of the season could be ignored as part of this push to get to a new story. I truly believe that would be a mistake; not only was the anomaly massively important to the plot of Season 2, but it was also very deliberately unexplained. Who could create something like that? Why would someone do that? Was it meant to be an attack against the Federation? How did the Borg know it was coming? There are many questions like this that Season 2 chose not to answer; if Season 3 ignores them as well then it’ll be very disappointing.

Will the dangling story threads of the anomaly and the Borg be concluded in Season 3?

Regular readers may recall from my Picard Season 2 reviews and commentary that I wasn’t wild about many of the storytelling decisions made last time. This new season is an opportunity to build on what came before; to make some of the first two seasons’ underwhelming events matter in a way that they currently don’t. If the Season 2 anomaly, for example, was just a naked plot device to give the Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid something to do then it’ll remain a disappointing element of an already underwhelming season. But if it turns out that Season 3 revisits it in a big way and builds on what we saw last time, it has the potential to transform this aspect of Season 2 and make it matter.

So I think that’s all there is to say this time. To briefly recap my theory: the super-synths from Season 1 were responsible for creating the mysterious anomaly that almost destroyed an entire sector of space at the end of Season 2. They will use this anomaly – and perhaps others like it – to travel to the Milky Way galaxy, where they will become one of the main villains of Season 3.

The beacon used to summon the super-synths.

I quite like this idea of bringing the story of Star Trek: Picard full circle, as well as bringing together the seemingly disconnected events of Seasons 1 and 2 in a natural, understandable way. Nothing we’ve seen on screen would prevent the Season 1 super-synths from also creating the dangerous anomaly in Season 2 – so if Season 3 ignores both of those things to go in a different direction… well, this might just have to become my own personal head-canon!

It’s always worth saying that no fan theory, no matter how fun or plausible it may seem, is worth getting too worked up over. This is an idea that I came up with to bind together events in Star Trek: Picard that may ultimately be unrelated. This theory may go nowhere – and that’s okay! I like it when Star Trek can surprise me and take me to different and unexpected places, so I always like to caveat my theories by saying that I have no “insider information,” I’m not trying to claim that anything we’ve talked about today will ever be seen on screen, and I hope you’ll join me in welcoming the story of Season 3 – whatever direction it ultimately goes.

Having touched on this theory briefly the other day I wanted to give it a full write-up here on the website. I hope you’ll stay tuned for more Star Trek content in the weeks and months ahead – including a look at any major news or trailers for Picard Season 3. Until next time!

Star Trek: Picard Season 3 will stream on Paramount+ in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video around the world some time next year. Seasons 1 and 2 are available to stream now and are also available on DVD and Blu-ray. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties mentioned 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 Season 3 – thoughts on the casting situation

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2 and casting/character announcements for Season 3. Spoilers are also present for Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 and Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-2.

Star Trek: Picard’s second season wrapped up a couple of days ago, and even as the dust settles on the show’s latest outing we’re already beginning to see Season 3 take shape. Filming on Picard Season 3 has been underway for months; Seasons 2 and 3 entered production back-to-back, so we have a good chance of seeing it in the early part of 2023 as things currently stand.

Today I wanted to take a peek behind the curtain and talk about some production-side announcements that are related to Season 3 – in particular, which characters might not be included in the new season. This is serious spoiler territory for Season 3, so if you don’t want to know who may or may not be reprising their roles (and you ignored the giant warning at the top of the article), this is your last chance to avoid Season 3 spoilers!

The USS Stargazer in Farewell.

The only way I can describe what I’ve learned about Season 3 is that the Picard cast has been massacred. At time of writing, we have confirmations (or as-good-as confirmations) that Orla Brady, Isa Briones, Santiago Cabrera, Evan Evagora, and Alison Pill won’t be returning for Season 3. That means Laris, Soji/Kore/Sutra, Rios, Elnor, and Dr Jurati/the Borg Queen won’t be included in any meaningful way in the new season.

These departures make way for the returning main cast members from The Next Generation (minus Wil Wheaton and Denise Crosby), who will be reprising their roles as Riker, Troi, Worf, Dr Crusher, La Forge, and a currently-unknown character in the case of Data actor Brent Spiner. As nice as it will be to welcome them back to Star Trek, I can’t help but feel that this decision is the wrong one – or at the very least that the Picard cast departures have been handled particularly poorly.

The cast of The Next Generation in Season 2.

In Farewell, the Season 2 finale, Captain Rios and Dr Jurati got goodbyes… of a sort. Rios’ goodbye felt permanent as he chose to remain in the 21st Century after falling for Teresa; the Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid had less of a “goodbye” and more of a “see you later,” but I guess in the context of her season-long arc we can at least call it an ending. But Elnor, Laris, and Soji didn’t even get the most basic of goodbyes.

Soji was Season 1’s second main character along with Picard himself. She was both the driving force behind the plot of the first six episodes and a major character in her own right, and her story of learning the truth of her synthetic origin and coming to terms with that was something that Star Trek had never really tackled before. More significantly, Soji led Picard to her people’s homeworld: Coppelius.

Soji in Season 1.

The discovery of the Coppelius synths led to the unravelling of the Zhat Vash plot, as well as uncovered the role of Commodore Oh as a spy within Starfleet. It provided Starfleet with an explanation for the attack on Mars a decade earlier and for the cover-up aboard the USS Ibn Majid. It transformed Starfleet from a semi-antagonist with an inward-looking, almost xenophobic edge back into a faction worthy of support. It’s a landmark moment in the history of this post-Nemesis era.

Soji was instrumental in all of that, as well as in contacting and then not contacting the unnamed faction of super-synths. We spent a lot of time with her across Season 1, and I’d point to some of her scenes with Kestra in Nepenthe and her role in The Impossible Box as being two of the big highlights. Unfortunately, Soji was completely sidelined in Season 2, not taking part in the mission back in time or the stand-off with the Borg in any way… but there was still scope to bring her back.

Soji was sidelined for all of Season 2.

Elnor’s absence – if indeed it is confirmed; at this point it’s only been mentioned by actor Evan Evagora on social media – feels utterly inexcusable to me. After Elnor had been killed in the Season 2 episode Assimilation, his death served as a major motivating factor for Raffi’s character arc, and coming to terms with her guilt and remorse were key components of her storyline. This culminated in a beautiful sequence in the episode Hide and Seek in which Raffi was able to speak to a holographic recreation of Elnor and come to terms with what had happened – accepting his death and letting go of at least some of the guilt that had been plaguing her.

This story was already muddled – and I would argue that its beautifully emotional conclusion was severely undermined – by the decision to resurrect Elnor in the Season 2 finale just one episode later. As much as I wanted to see Elnor’s story continue – as I feel he’s a character with huge potential – his death and Raffi’s acceptance of it seemed to be permanent, and undermining what had been one of Hide and Seek’s best moments wasn’t something that the season needed in its final minutes.

Holo-Elnor in Season 2.

But now to learn that Elnor isn’t coming back after all… I just don’t get it. For the sake of two minutes of screen time in the season finale and a look of relief on Raffi’s face, why not just leave Elnor dead if he has no role in Season 3? That would’ve at least given Raffi’s main narrative arc in Season 2 some significance. Most of the impact of what Raffi went through had been blunted by Elnor’s survival, and while we could certainly argue that she learned something from the experience, it smacks of the whole “it was all just a dream” story trope that resets everything back to the way it was.

Given that there seems to be no role for Elnor in Season 3, he may as well have stayed dead. At least his death would’ve mattered, spurring on Raffi to learn a lesson and grow as a person – growth that could stick around and continue to provide inspiration to her in whatever story comes next. Having him survive only to be shuffled off-screen anyway, presumably assigned to a different starship, just feels completely hollow and meaningless.

It seems as though there’s no place for Cadet Elnor in Season 3.

Although Laris hadn’t been a major character, her romantic interest in Picard was one of the main factors involved in kicking off the plot. As it turned out, Q wanted Picard to process grief and trauma that he’d carried since childhood – something that seems to have prevented him from forming longlasting relationships. In that sense, Laris was an incredibly important character for the series – and the closing moments of the Season 2 finale implied that she and Picard will indeed be striking up a new romantic relationship.

But if we aren’t going to see that relationship unfold on screen, if it’s just going to be relegated to that one scene at the end of Season 2, it again raises some pretty big questions. It’s beginning to feel that the decision to bring back The Next Generation characters in Season 3 has already undermined some significant story beats from Season 2, cutting them off at the knees and preventing the next – and final – chapter of the story from developing them further and taking them to their natural conclusions.

Picard with Laris at the beginning of Season 2.

When Star Trek: Picard was first announced, I didn’t want it to be The Next Generation Season 8. That’s a neat idea – but it wasn’t what this series was. I wanted to see some of these new characters grow on me and be given the opportunity to become fan-favourites for the next generation (pun intended) of Star Trek fans.

If the Star Trek franchise is to survive in the long-term, it can’t simply copy what Star Wars is doing and rely on cheap overloads of nostalgia. It has to continue to grow and develop, and new characters have to be given equal standing alongside legacy characters. In thirty-five years’ time, it’s my genuine hope that fans will be just as excited for Star Trek: Elnor as we have been for Star Trek: Picard… but in order for that to happen, we need to be spending more time with these characters. Having them cut entirely from the final season of the show – several of them without any kind of goodbye or send-off – doesn’t just sting because we won’t get to enjoy more adventures with them or see what comes next, but it could seriously damage Star Trek’s long-term prospects.

The Star Trek: Picard main cast. Only two are confirmed to be part of Season 3.

When The Next Generation characters have come back, what’s next? We’ve already had Voyager characters come back in Picard and in Prodigy, so that only leaves Deep Space Nine of the 24th Century shows. If future projects recycle characters from Deep Space Nine and Enterprise, there’ll be nobody left! Star Trek has to expand – to build on the legacy of the shows and characters that came before. What it mustn’t do is keep trying to bring back those characters and relive those past successes.

The Next Generation and the other shows of that era are in the past – and while there’s definitely potential to revisit characters like Jean-Luc Picard, it’s worth remembering that Star Trek is more than just a handful of familiar faces. Since at least 1987, when The Original Series passed the torch to The Next Generation in the first place, that’s a lesson that the Star Trek franchise has done well to take to heart. The Star Trek galaxy is vast, populated with billions or perhaps trillions of individuals across thousands of planets, and it’s ripe for exploration! Narrowing the franchise’s focus to a handful of characters from older shows is not what Star Trek is about – and it never has been.

Captain Rios at the beginning of Season 2.

Until now, I’ve felt that modern Star Trek has struck a pretty good balance between the old and the new. Discovery introduced us to brand-new characters, but tied its main protagonist to Spock and Sarek, before reintroducing Captain Pike. Picard focused on Picard himself, of course, but instead of sending him off on an adventure with his old crew, it brought some genuinely interesting new characters on board. Unfortunately, we’re now learning that several of them won’t stick around… and I find that to be quite disappointing.

I suppose the good news is that these characters still exist, and if Picard serves as a jumping-off point for potential new spin-off series, miniseries, or films set in the early 25th Century, it may be possible to revisit some of them. But I’m not going to hold my breath for that, at least not in the short-term. There are other Star Trek projects in the works, but with characters like Elnor having received precious little development across two seasons of Picard, it’s my suspicion that he’ll simply drop off the face of the galaxy never to be revisited.

Dr Jurati got a significant arc in Season 2… but won’t return for Season 3.

That’s all there is to say for now, I guess. Decisions have already been made and the new season – which will supposedly be Picard’s last – is already well underway in terms of production, so it’s clearly far too late to change any of that now. Star Trek’s past is, of course, filled with one-off characters; guest stars who appeared in an episode or two before disappearing forever. And there have been main cast members who were shuffled off their respective shows in unceremonious ways. None of it is new – but that doesn’t make it any less disappointing.

I was genuinely looking forward to spending more time with the likes of Elnor, Soji, Laris, and potentially the Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid. Had you asked me shortly after the Season 2 premiere I’d have said that a Captain Rios spin-off has real potential, too. The return of The Next Generation crew isn’t bad… but I wish that their returns didn’t have to come at the expense of some wonderful characters that we’ve only just begun to get to know.

I remain hopeful for a fun season and an exciting adventure with these returning characters… but I confess that I’m quite disappointed to learn that so many Picard cast members had to be culled to make it happen.

Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and around the world. Season 3 is currently in production and may be targeting a 2023 broadcast. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard, The Next Generation, and all other properties mentioned 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.

Paramount’s cack-handed marketing strikes again…

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for unreleased Star Trek episodes, including casting information for Strange New Worlds Season 2 and Picard Season 3. Spoilers are also present for Picard Seasons 1-2.

Today has been First Contact Day – the 5th of April is the date in 2063 when the Vulcans will arrive on Earth, as depicted in the film First Contact. First Contact Day has become somewhat of an “event” in the Star Trek fan community, with an entire digital broadcast being dedicated to it last year. This year there was nothing quite so big on the schedule, but there were still teases and hints from Paramount Global that the corporation would do something to mark the occasion.

I’ve given up on hearing anything about an international broadcast for Strange New Worlds, so that never seemed like a realistic prospect – though it’s probably the biggest request from non-American Trekkies at the moment. But I admit that I was curious about the prospect of some kind of announcement. There are other Star Trek projects being worked on behind-the-scenes, after all… could we be set for an announcement of something like the Starfleet Academy series, perhaps?

No, as it turned out.

No news about a Starfleet Academy series today.

Instead, what we got was the second announcement in a row from Paramount Global’s marketing department that just feels exceptionally poorly-timed. A couple of weeks ago, Paramount Global had clumsily dropped the news that Strange New Worlds Season 2 would feature the character of James T. Kirk in an unspecified capacity; an unnecessary overreaction to a single leaked photograph from the show’s ongoing production.

That announcement sent fans into overdrive, and Star Trek’s social media channels were overwhelmed with toxicity for a few days, as the threadbare announcement left many things unclear about Strange New Worlds – a series which hasn’t even aired a single episode yet. Announcing Kirk’s return to Star Trek was premature to say the least, and the way in which Paramount Global handled it left much to be desired.

A promotional photo of James T. Kirk in Strange New Worlds Season 2.

The corporation had a solid couple of weeks to learn lessons from the fiasco surrounding Kirk’s role in Strange New Worlds… but, as evidenced by another announcement put out today, their inept marketing team has learned absolutely nothing. To commemorate First Contact Day, Paramount Global released a teaser for Star Trek: Picard Season 3, announcing the reunion of most of the main cast members of The Next Generation.

The teaser trailer was smooth and well-composed. Unlike the first tease for Season 2 (which was shown off at last year’s First Contact Day digital event) it showed off a couple of clips of what at least appears to be actual footage from the new season. And the announcement that closed it out was clearly designed to get a lot of fans excited. But here’s the thing: we’re only halfway through Picard Season 2 right now, so the new teaser for Season 3 not only feels wholly unnecessary at this moment, but it opens up a lot of questions about the series that Paramount Global isn’t interested in addressing.

Picard holding a familiar combadge in the teaser.

I confess that I’m intrigued by the prospect of a reunion. The Next Generation was my own “first contact” with the Star Trek franchise and my way into becoming a Trekkie in the early 1990s. I’ve been a fan for more than three decades off the back of that series, and I always felt that there was scope for Picard to show us at least a glimpse of what other members of the crew of the Enterprise-D were up to. We’ve had some of that already across Seasons 1 and 2.

But I was also keen that Picard shouldn’t try to be “The Next Generation Season 8.” There are new characters, new storylines, and other new elements in play, and for the series to do justice to all of that – and to do right by the new characters – it had to keep its focus there and avoid the gratuitous overuse of classic characters. Season 1 generally struck the right balance in that regard; Season 2 has already sidelined two major new characters and, thus far at least, has underdeveloped and regressed a third.

The main cast of Star Trek: Picard.

The Season 3 announcement made no mention of the current Star Trek: Picard cast. While we now know that Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, and Marina Sirtis are joining the crew, we don’t know what that means for Evan Evagora, Alison Pill, Michelle Hurd, Santiago Cabrera, Isa Briones, or even Jeri Ryan. Part of the fun of Picard has been seeing the Admiral working with a new crew, and I feel like we don’t know some of the new characters as well as we ought to at what is now the halfway point of the series’ three-season run.

Those new characters should be given the chance to become the next generation of fan-favourites. In thirty-five years’ time, it’s my firm hope that a new group of Trekkies will be talking as excitedly about the return of Elnor and Dr Jurati as we are about Worf and Dr Crusher. In a series that already has a limited number of episodes remaining, it’s hard to see how there will be enough time to deal with some pretty heavy stories and make sure each of the new characters gets enough screen time, especially if the entire crew of the Enterprise-D is reuniting.

What will become of characters like Elnor in Season 3?

There’s also the issue of spoilers. Now I know that it always seemed like a reasonable assumption that Picard would survive and that, somehow, he and the crew would make it back to the prime timeline! But we’re literally halfway through Season 2’s story right now, and there are a lot of different directions it could go and different ways that it could pan out. To drop a massive Season 3 announcement at this time was categorically the wrong thing to do, and it risks blunting the dramatic edge of the rest of Season 2.

We now know that Picard will make it back to the 25th Century, for example, which wasn’t necessarily a given in a franchise that loves season-ending cliffhangers. We also know that Picard will successfully restore the prime timeline as of the beginning of Season 3, which again was not guaranteed as of where we are in terms of the story of Season 2. And finally, it now seems that we can safely assume that Season 3 will be the beginning of a new story, not the continuation of an ongoing one.

Jonathan Frakes as Captain Riker in the Season 3 teaser.

All of these things colour how we’ll watch the second half of Season 2 over the next five weeks. And I can’t help but feel that a significant chunk of the show’s tension and drama has been stolen by this ill-timed announcement. There will undoubtedly be twists and turns along the way as Picard and the crew of La Sirena rumble with Q and Dr Adam Soong, but one way or another everything will work out – Picard will make it home, the crew of the Enterprise-D will reunite for one last mission, and then… who knows.

If this announcement had come at the end of Season 2, I’d still have some of the same concerns about the current Picard cast (well, unless they’re all killed off, stranded in the past, or otherwise clearly written out of the series) but at least it would feel like the right time to make it. The halfway point of Season 2 was not the right time for this announcement, just like the timing of the James T. Kirk announcement wasn’t right prior to Season 1 of Strange New Worlds.

The Next Generation main cast will be returning.

It seems to me that Paramount Global knew that they didn’t have anything major to announce at First Contact Day this time around. Discovery Season 5 hasn’t entered production yet, Strange New Worlds has already released teasers and trailers over the past few weeks, and while there was perhaps scope to do something with Lower Decks Season 3 or the second half of Prodigy, it was evidently decided by someone higher up that a major announcement was necessary. I don’t see any reason why that should be the case; First Contact Day this year could’ve been dedicated to the upcoming Strange New Worlds and the second half of Picard Season 2, but there we are.

Maybe I’m still sour off the back of the Strange New Worlds situation, but I’m not as excited by this announcement as I feel I should be. The timing of it just seems incredibly wrong, hot on the heels of another self-inflicted wound with the Kirk debacle. And it opens some uncomfortable questions about the fates of the current main cast members of Picard.

All things considered, I wish that Paramount Global could’ve at least waited until the end of Picard Season 2 before making this announcement. Doing so now doesn’t seem right, for the reasons outlined above. While I’m intrigued by what has been teased, right now I can muster curious interest, tinged with more than a little concern, rather than the outright excitement that this announcement was trying to generate.

Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and around the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard, Strange New Worlds, and all other properties mentioned 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.