Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2 as well as the trailers, teasers, and announcements for Season 3.
For the first time ever (at least that I can remember) we got a trailer for a trailer. A full week ago, Paramount teased us with a couple of brief clips from the final Star Trek: Picard Season 3 trailer, as well as a broadcast date. I’m not sure how well this approach will have worked; it certainly got some Trekkies talking, but I’m not sure it will have built up a great deal of anticipation beyond the confines of the existing fan community.
In the United States, advertising slots halfway through major American football games are pretty big business, and in a way it’s positive that Paramount would sacrifice one of the most valuable of these on its CBS network to promote Picard. Perhaps for some casual viewers who weren’t aware that the cast from The Next Generation will be reprising their roles, showing the trailer at such a big, heavily-viewed event will generate some interest. As a non-American, however, it’s hard not to see Paramount debuting this trailer in the middle of an American football game as just another “America First” move from a corporation that doesn’t care about its international audience. Paramount has, to its credit, put the trailer on several of its social media pages (not on its YouTube channel, though, weirdly) so at least fans who follow those pages will have been able to see it.
The trailer itself showed off two new characters, and there were explosions and battles aplenty. But I don’t think it was actually as exciting as I’d expected, and it didn’t have any big tease or reveal to really punch through and sell me on the notion that this is going to be an unmissable season of Star Trek. There were also several moments in the trailer that seemed to be recycled from past teasers and trailers, which I wasn’t wild about.
At New York Comic-Con last year, the trailer that was shown off introduced Captain Vadic and also dropped the surprise returns of Lore and Professor Moriarty as characters on the villainous side of the season. In hindsight, I wonder if at least one of these characters should have been saved for this trailer, which showed us two brand-new characters but didn’t really have anything quite at that same level in terms of stunning or surprising moments.
Of course, it’s true that Picard can’t blow all of its big surprises in pre-season marketing material! If that were to happen there’d be nothing left to shock and excite viewers when the show gets underway – and I certainly hope that there’ll be some wonderfully surprising moments in the new season. But as we said last year, the way in which Paramount schedules and reveals these things could have been better. Instead of revealing Lore and Moriarty last time, why not have revealed one character in each trailer? That would have been a bit more interesting, at least from the point of view of fans who follow Star Trek more closely.
But that’s enough about what wasn’t there or what we didn’t see! The new season’s story is taking shape, little by little, and we caught glimpses of potentially-interesting story beats that could have a major impact on Picard’s final outing.
First of all, let’s talk about Captain Vadic. In the new trailer, she was shown alongside a handful of masked characters – and they gave me a bit of a “comic book villain” feel. Their bird-like masks were intimidating – but not quite at the same level as the masked Borg Queen at the beginning of Season 2. As happened on that occasion, I wonder if there’s a reason why Vadic’s crew are masked – could some of them be familiar characters?
I’ve theorised that Vadic may have put together a kind of “rogues’ gallery” of past Star Trek villains for her mission of vengeance, and if that’s the case, the masks could serve a narrative function – keeping the identities of her crew secret until the time is right. I’m by no means certain of that, and it could simply be a design choice, but it’s interesting that, in the final trailer, we saw this glimpse of Vadic’s crew but all of their faces were concealed. Vadic also seems to have a second-in-command, a tall, burly individual who stood behind her at one point.
Sticking with villains, I’m less convinced right now that Lore and Moriarty will be allied with Vadic – or at least, less convinced that she will be the one to re-awaken them. Both characters had been deactivated the last time we saw them, and the question of who may have reactivated them is now a pertinent one! For both Lore and Moriarty, the trailer was cut together in such a way that seemed to imply that Picard and his crew may be responsible for reawakening them.
If that’s true, it raises the obvious question: why? What could Lore and Moriarty possibly have to offer to Picard’s crew as part of a mission to stop Captain Vadic and prevent what was described as “some kind of attack” for which the target could be Starfleet? I think the fact that both Lore and Moriarty are artificial life-forms must be relevant – and we should also keep in mind that Picard himself is now in a synthetic body. Could there be something going on that only affects organics?
Dr Crusher’s line, which seems to come from the first episode of the season, warning Picard to “trust no one” was very interesting, and could also tie into the same theme. Dr Crusher seems to be hinting at some kind of conspiracy, possibly within Starfleet itself, and that could lead to Picard not only having to turn to his old crew – the people he’s known the longest and trusts the most – but also to these malevolent artificial life-forms who may be immune to whatever is going on.
Two storylines from Star Trek’s past leapt to mind when I put those two things together. First we have the parasite-aliens from The Next Generation Season 1 episode Conspiracy. That story was never concluded, and it was implied that the parasite-aliens may have successfully contacted their homeworld before being defeated. It would be a bold choice to return to that story… and I’m not sure how it would connect with Captain Vadic, but I suppose she could be the new “mother creature?” Maybe this one is a bit of a stretch!
Secondly, we have the Dominion from Deep Space Nine, and specifically the shape-shifting Founders. Although later seasons focused on the Dominion War, prior to the conflict’s outbreak several episodes dealt with the idea of changeling infiltrators replacing key individuals and wreaking havoc in the Alpha Quadrant. Notable characters who were replaced by changelings included the Tal Shiar’s Colonel Lovok, Klingon General Martok, and DS9’s own Dr Bashir.
If this were to pan out, perhaps Vadic is a changeling seeking revenge for the Federation’s victory in the Dominion War. It might be impossible to know who within Starfleet is who they say they are and who might be a changeling – forcing Picard to rely on his old crew, who he knows very well, and synthetic life-forms who couldn’t be easily replaced? Maybe we’ll have to put some flesh on the bones of these ideas in the days ahead.
The two new characters that the trailer introduced are both unnamed right now, but one is a somewhat snarky Starfleet captain – presumably the commanding officer of the Titan and Seven of Nine’s boss – played by Todd Stashwick. I remember seeing Stashwick in a show called Twelve Monkeys a few years ago, and he’s a decent actor who should bring a lot to a role like this one. I’m not sure he’s long for this world, though – he’s giving me strong redshirt vibes!
The second new character is someone who may work with Dr Crusher in some capacity. I’m not familiar with actor Ed Speleers, but I like the idea of Dr Crusher having an ally of some kind who may be mistrustful of Picard and the crew at first. Could this character turn out to have a deeper connection with Dr Crusher, though? Perhaps he could be a relative – or even her son?
The addition of new characters is something that, if I’m being honest, I’m having majorly conflicted feelings about. On the one hand, the story has to have the freedom to introduce new characters, particularly if they serve a narrative function. But on the other, I’m still reeling from the loss of all but one of the new characters who had been introduced in Picard’s first season. Those characters were dumped in order to make room for the returning crew of the Enterprise-D… but now we’re seeing that there will be at least two other newbies to go along with Captain Vadic, the two La Forge sisters, and the returning villains from The Next Generation. Perhaps it’s because I’m already put out by the way the casting situation was handled, but it stings a little. I can’t help but wonder whether these characters’ roles couldn’t have been filled by the likes of Rios, Elnor, or Soji.
Last time, I commented on how Vadic’s quest for vengeance seemed to be reminiscent of Khan’s, and in this trailer, I felt Picard was really drawing quite heavily on The Wrath of Khan for inspiration. Visually we had things like the boatswain’s whistle and the battle inside a nebula, thematically of course we have the themes of age and revenge, and narratively it even seems that part of the story will see Picard and Riker given a tour of the Titan – much like Kirk was given a tour of the Enterprise at the beginning of The Wrath of Khan.
The trailer did well to juxtapose the new Starfleet captain’s lines about a boring, unexciting mission with images of explosions, phaser fire, battles, and even a starship collision at one point. The only thing I’d say about this is that the line itself felt very much like it was there for the explicit purpose of being used in pre-season marketing material… and sometimes lines of dialogue that were created for that purpose can feel out-of-place, clunky, or even just plain wrong in the context of the story itself. So while it was a great moment in the trailer, and a clever one at that, I hope when that scene rolls around in the actual show it will make sense in context for the captain to say those words!
We caught glimpses of all of the main characters in the trailer, and I hope that they’ll all play a significant role in the story of the season. “Significant” doesn’t have to mean that they’re on screen at every moment, but it really means that I hope everyone will feel as though they’ve joined the mission and come out of retirement (in some cases) for a reason that feels genuine. There’s always a danger when a series or franchise digs up old characters that they could feel superfluous; as if they’re only there because a room full of TV writers wanted them to be. So far we’ve seen Dr Crusher seemingly on an important mission… but the others I’m less clear about at this early stage.
When I previewed the season a few days ago, I wrote that I feel less “excitement” for Picard than I did in the run-up to Season 1 in 2020 and more a sense of restrained optimism. And to be blunt about it, this trailer didn’t change how I feel. There are definitely areas that seem to have potential, and a “Picard does The Wrath of Khan” narrative could be an engaging one if done well, but there are still lingering concerns and questions.
The trailer was, once again, action-packed and designed to generate plenty of excitement as Paramount enters the most crucial phase of the show’s marketing campaign, and I hope that it succeeded at drawing attention to Picard, at any rate. While the trailer may not have allayed my fears that Season 3 will blitz past and ignore the characters and storylines from Seasons 1 and 2, it didn’t really add any new points of concern, so that’s good. I guess.
To tell the truth, I want to be more excited about Picard – and about this latest trailer – than I actually am. I don’t like feeling cynical about these characters and themes, and with Picard being set in precisely the era that I’d love Star Trek to spend more time exploring, I genuinely hope that this final season will succeed, and will, as promised, finally hand the torch to some new characters who may one day star in a spin-off project also set in this time period. We might’ve seen the first glimpses of who those characters could be, but I’m not sold on that idea just yet.
If there’s one thing to take away from the final trailer it’s this: it’s probably time to give The Wrath of Khan a re-watch! This story seems to be picking up on themes, narrative beats, and character types that were present in that film – and as it’s one of the best things Star Trek has ever done, that could be a great plan. Or it could feel disappointingly regressive and repetitive.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Picard can pull out a decent final season to end on a high note, and while even a fantastic story won’t wash away the disappointment of two muddled, mismanaged seasons, if the show goes out with a bang at least we can be satisfied that we got a fun final adventure with the crew of the Enterprise-D. This trailer hasn’t fully sold me on that concept, and it was missing the kind of big surprise or unexpected character that might’ve generated a bit more excitement. But it didn’t ruin anything, either, and I came away from the trailer no more and no less excited for Picard’s final season than I was before I pressed play.
Star Trek: Picard Season 3 will premiere on Paramount+ in the United States on the 16th of February 2023, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and around the world on the 17th of February 2023. Seasons 1 and 2 are already available to stream or buy on DVD/Blu-ray. 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.