Star Trek: Picard Episode Review – Season 3, Episode 8: Surrender

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

After last week’s admittedly tense and exciting offering took the main storyline of Season 3 to a pretty bland and unoriginal place, I was hopeful that Surrender could steady the ship ahead of the final pair of episodes. What we got this week was, instead, a bit of a misfire.

Parts of Surrender seemed to get stuck in the mud; bogged down, trying to stretch out a story that was too thin instead of moving it along at a more reasonable pace. Yet by the time the credits rolled, I felt that a massive part of the season’s ongoing story had been rushed to an unceremonious – and actually quite disappointing – ending.

The Titan in this week’s episode.

After teases, brief demonstrations of power, and an acting performance that, to be blunt, was too over-the-top for my taste, Vadic has been killed off. And she died having accomplished… well, remarkably little. The scheme in which she was involved is still playing out, but narratively speaking, Vadic didn’t actually do much of anything except get in Picard’s way and slow down the story.

I’ve said several times as the season has ambled along that we needed to see more of Vadic: to get to know her, where she’s come from, where she hopes to go, and what her plans are for Jack. The reveal of her backstory in Dominion seemed to finally – albeit belatedly – get the ball rolling on that front, but Vadic died this week without telling us anything more. We know that she was a victim of a Section 31 experiment, and that she deliberately took on the appearance of her torturer. But this week, she just… died. And that appears to be all there is to see.

Surrender killed off Vadic prematurely.

Picard is now left with no main villain, no secondary villain, no villain’s starship… but still a conspiracy to defeat. The only possible outcome at this point is a deus ex machina: some kind of Vadic fake-out, Floaty McFloatface’s unexpected re-emergence, or another adversary who will feel like a bolt from the blue. This is the Season 1 problem from a different angle: the final two episodes are going to have to dump a whole lot of exposition, at least one new character, and possibly even an entire new faction all at the last moment in order to have the most basic building blocks of a narrative to work with.

It was always unclear when Vadic and her nameless, faceless goons seized control of the Titan how they would extricate themselves from the situation in one piece – and how Picard and the crew would likewise save themselves. But even as Vadic was blown out into space I was thinking to myself, “okay, she’s a changeling so maybe she can survive the cold.” Then, as Vadic’s body shattered into pieces I was still thinking “well okay, she’s in pieces, but she’s a changeling… maybe she can reconstitute herself… or Floaty McFloatface can do something to pull them out of this situation.” I even wondered if Floaty McFloatface might’ve been left aboard the practically-deserted Shrike. It was only when the Shrike was destroyed that the realisation finally hit me: this is it. They’ve really taken the story down this route.

Crunch.

Showrunner Terry Matalas has desperately latched onto the legacy of The Wrath of Khan with Picard’s third season. But can you imagine what The Wrath of Khan would’ve been like if Khan had been killed half an hour before the end of the film – and Kirk and the crew had to rush off to defeat… who, exactly? An unnamed augment ally of Khan’s that we’ve never met? Another villain from The Original Series who hadn’t been mentioned in any way prior to that point? Such a horrible anticlimax would have probably ruined the film.

There’s room for an epilogue in a good story – as we see in The Wrath of Khan itself with Spock’s death and funeral. But there’s a reason why the defeat of the biggest villain in any story should come at the climax of the plot. This is one of the absolute basic, most fundamental rules of storytelling. And I can’t shake the feeling that, whatever may come next, Picard has got it wrong.

The moment of Vadic’s demise.

I said last week that the reveal of Vadic’s history had begun to put her characterisation into some kind of context. But with her death this week, none of that matters. Vadic still feels like a bland, one-dimensional villain stereotype; Khan without any of the interesting bits. A villain needs more than just a vaguely sympathetic backstory – they need a motive, and many of the best ones also have a connection to the hero. Picard and Vadic barely said more than a few words to each other all season long, and her interest in him seems more “business” than anything personal.

The CGI work used for Vadic’s ejection into space and ultimate shattering end wasn’t spectacular, either, so I can’t even say that this storyline was strangely conceived but at least pretty to look at. As Vadic was blown out into space things seemed to be working, but as soon as the “camera” cut to her icy body, visual quality took a dive. It wasn’t the worst CGI moment I’ve seen in modern Star Trek, but it’s noteworthy that this was supposed to be one of the big climactic moments of the season – and it could’ve looked better.

Welcome to the Uncanny Valley…

Other visual effects work in Surrender was on point, though, and it was really just this moment that didn’t look as good as it should have. Regrettably, this was the most important one to get right – and more should have been done in post-production to shore up what was supposed to be the climactic death of the season’s biggest villain.

This could’ve looked better.

Will we get to find out what Vadic actually wanted? What did she hope to “use” Jack and Picard’s corpse to achieve? These are pertinent questions, and in any other television series I’d say that there are still two episodes remaining, and that we should “trust the process.” After all, the writers and producers wouldn’t just dump entire characters and storylines with no explanation. Right?

But this is Star Trek: Picard – a series with a two-season legacy of doing precisely that. What happened to Narek? What happened to the Zhat Vash, to their beacon on Aia, to the super-synths, to the synths on Coppelius? What was the deal with the devastating anomaly that erupted, and where did Dr Jurati, Soji, and Elnor disappear to? This show has consistently dumped characters and storylines that were half-baked as it rushed off to do other things; Picard feels like the television equivalent of ADHD.

I suspect we’ve seen and heard the last of Vadic.

So I have very little confidence, now that Vadic, Floaty McFloatface, all the goons, and even the Shrike itself are gone that they’ll get so much as a cursory mention next time. Whatever Vadic’s plans may have been for Jack, it seems that they died with her. Although the changelings’ attack on Starfleet and Frontier Day will continue that aspect of the storyline, Vadic and her attempt to capture Jack not only kicked off the entire season, but it’s a plotline that has been running for eight episodes now. For that storyline to end so abruptly, without getting any kind of narrative payoff, is a profoundly strange decision.

Villains die all the time without getting what they want. But we don’t even know what Vadic wanted, what she hoped to use Jack to achieve… and unless I’m being even stupider than usual, I don’t see how it’s something we’re supposed to be able to infer from the scattered pieces of an incomplete puzzle that she leaves behind. Sure, Jack’s powers could be useful to a villain or a changeling, and I can see how Vadic might perceive them that way. But there’s one heck of a leap from “this skill could be useful” to the obsessive chase that Vadic performed – at Floaty McFloatface’s behest, no less. We don’t even know what Floaty McFloatface was, what their objectives may have been, and how all of this was supposed to come together to aid in the conspiracy – a conspiracy that feels already comprehensive and successful enough without whatever additional boost it could have gained from Jack.

Vadic on the bridge earlier in the episode.

All of this leaves Vadic as the one thing she should have never been allowed to become: boring. She’s a bland, uninspired, unoriginal, and just plain boring villain that tried to compensate for it all with a hammy, over-the-top performance. This over-acting could have been justified – had Vadic been more interesting and done… well, anything at all of consequence. But she died as she lived.

For all the flair, for all the ham, and for all the chewing of the scenery, Vadic ultimately did very little. Her two encounters with Picard and the Titan both ended in defeat, and the one possible redeeming quality that she could have had – competence – is also gone, shattered into frozen shards just like her corpse.

Not for the first time in Picard, I find myself saying this: what a waste.

This eight-episode arc has come to an unspectacular end.

It’s hard to see how the next two episodes won’t end up feeling like a complete bolt from the blue; a deus ex machina ending. If Picard was a more episodic series, or one based around multi-episode arcs, perhaps that would be okay. But Season 3 aimed to tell a single story split into ten parts. We’ve defeated the villain at part eight – without explaining who she was, what she hoped to achieve, or really anything about her beyond a tortured past. Where else can the story go from here?

I will caveat everything I’ve just said with two points. Firstly, it can be hard to judge one part of an ongoing story until everything comes into focus. It’s possible, however unlikely it may feel in the moment, that we’ll look back on Surrender much more kindly when the season ends; that something in the upcoming episodes will completely reframe all of this.

Secondly, although my expectations and hopes have been shot to pieces by two seasons of Picard that were difficult at best, I still want to hold out hope for a positive outcome. I don’t make these criticisms out of spite or malice.

The destruction of the Shrike.

Even the better parts of Surrender ask us to overlook things or set logic aside in order for storylines to unfold, and so it was with Riker and Troi. Finally, eight episodes into the promised TNG reunion, Deanna Troi got more than a cameo appearance and had the opportunity to make an impact on the story. That’s fantastic – and while it came too late in the game for my preference, I’m happy that we finally got to see her and spend time with her this week.

I would contend, though, that it’s quite the contrivance for Vadic and the changelings to have put Troi and Riker in the same cell. Their prison wasn’t exactly wanting for empty cells, and having two imprisoned characters sharing their innermost feelings… it’s just a bit of a trope. We’ve seen this before with different characters in more stories than I care to count, and it just didn’t feel especially original.

Riker and Troi shared a cell.

That being said, my only real criticism of this side of the story is that I could have happily spent longer with Riker and Troi. In earlier episodes, the death of Riker’s son had been a big part of his more cautious approach to the captaincy of the Titan, and caused a big fight with Picard. The scenes in which he and Troi talked it out seemed to pass by quite quickly – indicative, perhaps, of Surrender rushing around trying to tie up loose ends ahead of a major change in focus in the next two episodes.

Riker and Troi also seemed to drop into the story a point that could have been explosive – Troi “entered” Riker’s mind to remove some aspect of his emotional pain. Did Troi, who is empathic but not telepathic, learn this skill from Sybok? We’ve never seen her do anything like this before, yet it was raced past as almost a throwaway line in Surrender. You’d have thought Riker might’ve been a bit more angry about such a manipulation – but again, the story didn’t spend very long at all dealing with this idea.

Riker and Troi had a difficult conversation.

I wonder if this notion of Troi “taking” something out of someone’s mind may have been set up in Surrender so that it can come into play in the next couple of episodes. We’ll save the speculation for my theory update, but it could be that Troi may use this ability again to help Jack – or even Picard.

In terms of both emotion and entertainment value, the scenes between Troi and Riker were among the best that Surrender had to offer, and although parts of their conversation felt curtailed by an episode that spent most of its time and focus elsewhere, what we did get to see was good enough to make Deanna Troi’s return to Picard a successful and enjoyable one.

Riker and Troi appear to have reconciled.

Worf’s rescue mission also added a lot to this story – though to nitpick still further, there are a few points that weren’t clear. When did Worf install the stolen cloaking device aboard a shuttlecraft? Why are Worf and Raffi no longer using La Sirena – and have we now seen the last of that ship? After tripping the alarms, how did the away team escape? And when did they find time to lower the Shrike’s shields and deactivate its weapons systems?

Again, this part of the story felt cut down – and when other parts of both Dominion and Surrender seemed to be deliberately slowing things down and padding out a relatively thin story… I could have happily traded some of the scenes with Picard, Jack, and Geordi for a bit more of Worf, Raffi, Riker, and Troi aboard the Shrike.

When was the cloak installed aboard this shuttle?

Worf’s reunion with Troi was cute, though – and I think I detected a nod and a wink at the failed romantic plotline that the two engaged in near the end of The Next Generation’s run. Riker’s reaction to it was Surrender’s moment of comedy gold, and Jonathan Frakes’ comedic timing is as on point as ever!

Since we’re talking about Worf, there is something that’s been bugging me since he returned to Star Trek, and the reunion with Troi kind of shot it back into focus. All season long, Worf hasn’t mentioned his marriage and widowhood. In Deep Space Nine, Worf’s relationship with Jadzia Dax, and his response to her death, was a huge part of his character arc – and to be honest, it went a long way to making Worf into a more relatable character. Worf hasn’t so much as mentioned Jadzia… and even though time has passed and Worf has taken on a more calm and ethereal personality, it wouldn’t have gone amiss if he’d said something about her. As Worf was reunited with Troi, and seemed to be flattering her, harkening back to those episodes in The Next Generation’s seventh season… I felt this absence all the more.

Riker and Troi embrace Worf.

Raffi hasn’t had much to do over the past few episodes really, and that unfortunate theme continued this week. Whatever work she was doing aboard the Shrike when Worf, Troi, and Riker reunited with her seemed to be little more than set dressing; a backdrop for the others to have their conversation in front of. Raffi’s first meeting with Deanna was neat, as both women acknowledged one another and continued to work, but that was all.

Aboard the Titan, Raffi got a well-choreographed sequence of explosive action, and I won’t deny that it looked fantastic – a great performance by Michelle Hurd to pull off some fast moves. But aside from the questionable idea of stabbing changelings to death, when they’re entirely comprised of a nondescript liquid, I just feel like we’ve skipped about a dozen steps. Raffi has clearly been working and training with Worf to hone her skills – but almost all of this has evidently happened off-screen. It’s not bad per se, but it’s another indicator in my view of the fact that Picard still hasn’t found enough time to spend with all of its characters.

Raffi aboard the Titan.

I’ve had a lot to say about Data since his resurrection a couple of weeks ago, and I won’t repeat it all this time. You can go back to earlier reviews to see more details about why I think it’s hard to justify. But I will say that I’m glad that Picard didn’t completely ignore Data’s earlier death in Surrender, and was able to give a passing acknowledgement to the events of the Season 1 finale and Picard’s experience with Data in the digital afterlife. This moment – which was only a couple of lines, really – could certainly have been expanded, but given that the writers have ignored so many other story beats from both Picard’s earlier seasons and from other iterations of Star Trek, I want to give credit where it’s due and say that I appreciate the effort here.

As someone who’s never been much of a fan of Lore, I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder going into Season 3. And in Surrender, we got to see Data and Lore clash for what appears to be the final time. For me, this sequence was an unnecessary stumbling block; a sequence of pure padding that added nothing to either the episode or the season itself. Given the issues with Vadic that we talked about above – and the fact that, to be blunt, we could easily have spent more time with at least half a dozen other characters – this easily-resolved Data-versus-Lore idea is something I wouldn’t have opted to include at all.

I wouldn’t have bothered with Lore.

Similar to Vadic, Lore was relatively easy to defeat and accomplished very little from a narrative point of view. And as with Data, Lore is a character who I didn’t feel needed a resurrection and minor epilogue. His defeat in The Next Generation two-part episode Descent could have been left alone, and for my money, we’d already seen enough of Lore. Bringing him back could have served more of a purpose – he could have been connected, in some way, to the conspiracy, as he’d been present at Daystrom Station during the rogue changelings’ raid, just as one example.

If the decision had been taken to resurrect Data – a decision that I’ve already outlined my fundamental disagreement with – then perhaps in such a busy story, Lore should have been left behind. This aspect of Surrender brought a few sweet moments as Data looked back over some of his treasured memories… but a nostalgia overload on its own is not a justification for such a convoluted story.

This sub-plot felt like padding.

I will hold up my hands and confess that Data’s memories, all of which were represented by props and objects from The Next Generation, was one of Surrender’s most emotional moments. Although this storyline wouldn’t have been one I’d have chosen, Brent Spiner played it exceptionally well, and the sequence hit many of the right emotional notes. As someone who first came to Star Trek in the early 1990s by way of The Next Generation, this walk down memory lane – figuratively speaking – was incredibly sweet for me.

Seeing Spot, Data’s cat from The Next Generation, was perhaps the highlight of this sequence. As a cat owner myself, I always appreciate seeing cats in stories like this, and Data’s line about Spot teaching him how to love was beautiful – and it brought a tear to my eye.

Best moment in the episode.

Perhaps the reason why I found the Data-Lore clash so unsatisfying was that it never really felt that Data was in danger. Even as Geordi and Picard watched the “map” of the golem’s brain being taken over by Lore, Data’s importance to the story meant that defeat here never felt like a realistic prospect. As Data surrendered his memories to Lore, it seemed obvious what he was doing – by taking on Data’s memories, Lore became Data. And so it proved.

As a result, this sequence – and particularly the parts with Picard and the others staring blankly at computer screens – didn’t feel tense and exciting, it felt frustrating. It was padding, and it got in the way of what could have been a more interesting story with Vadic and Jack on the bridge. In spite of the emotional highlights that Data’s reminiscences provided, this entire sub-plot feels like one that could have been skipped.

Picard, Geordi, and the others spent a long time in Surrender just staring at this screen.

Criticisms like this next one can feel like nitpicking, and I suspect that, had the main thrust of the narrative been stronger, we wouldn’t be talking about it. With that caveat in mind, however, two major changes were made this week, and they seem to have come unnaturally at the whim of the plot. The ease with which changelings could be killed is the first one – Vadic and her henchman last week took multiple phaser blasts and shrugged them off, but this week, Raffi and Worf were literally killing changelings left, right, and centre. A single stab wound seemed to take down most of them – and a single phaser blast was enough to vaporise them.

Then there’s the number of people involved; both the changelings and the crew of the Titan seemed to grow in numbers from nowhere. Last week, Jack and Sidney ran through deserted hallways, but in Surrender, there seemed to be dozens of Starfleet personnel still aboard – despite Ro moving most of the ship’s complement to the Intrepid a couple of weeks ago. Vadic’s crew’s numbers also seemed to fluctuate – and apparently she took all but one of them with her to the Titan.

The effort and energy required to kill a changeling seem to shift depending on the desires and whims of the writing team.

These points, in a stronger story, might’ve passed unnoticed – or ended up as nothing more than bullet points right at the end of a review in a kind of “huh, that’s a bit silly if you think about it” way. But because they seem to contribute to a bit of a muddled storyline – one that ended in unexceptional fashion – the sense of disappointment in some of these things is inflated.

Any story has to have a degree of flexibility – and I get that. But one of the foundations of suspension of disbelief, at least for me, is that a story must be basically internally consistent. The number of Vadic’s goons and Titan redshirts, and the damage a phaser hit does to a changeling were all far too inconsistent, serving the whims of the writers in a way that ended up feeling unsatisfying.

Does stabbing a changeling to death make sense? A big part of me says “no.”

The way Vadic spoke to and about Jack in earlier episodes didn’t get any kind of payoff this week, even as the two of them came face to face for the first – and last – time. That was a disappointment, and for all the hot air that was blown on the bridge during their standoff, I don’t feel that their chat moved this plotline in any significant way. We’d already seen Jack’s hallucinatory experiences, and while Vadic hinted at the fact that she knew what he was seeing and, most significantly, what it could mean, she died before she could explain herself.

The fake-out with the grenade was clever, and the prop used for the explosive that Jack was holding was a neat one. We got to see other characters use these explosives in earlier episodes, but even if we hadn’t, I think it was pretty clear what Jack was meant to be holding. This aspect of Picard’s plan actually worked – and it’s the only moment since Vadic and her goons boarded the Titan that actually feels like it was planned. That it relied entirely on Geordi’s work with Data is… well, troublesome! But if we set that aside, I liked that Jack went to the bridge with a clear plan.

Jack with the fake grenade.

Because part of Jack’s plan required him to literally stall and delay Vadic while the Data-Lore clash was going on, some of these scenes on the bridge dragged. Vadic danced around her knowledge of Jack without actually revealing anything significant, and all of that contributed to the sense that Surrender wasn’t an especially well-paced episode. What was intended to be tension ended up feeling more like frustration.

I’m in two minds about the way in which Vadic was killed. On the one hand, it feels like a clever plan – overriding the emergency hatch and blowing her out into space. On the other… the way it was executed came across as unintentionally humourous rather than exciting and action-packed. Seven of Nine – who has had remarkably little to say and do all season long – got the Air Force One hero quip, but that kind of fell flat for me. Again, a bit of an unoriginal idea, and one that has been parodied to death. Because Seven hadn’t said more than two words to Vadic the whole time, it also felt unearned.

Get off my plane… uh, I mean bridge.

Seven finally got her clash with Captain Shaw, and while it probably wasn’t the right moment for an emotional blow-up about deadnaming, it was something that had been a long time coming. Had this conversation come at a better time – when they weren’t in immediate danger, perhaps – more could have been made of it. But as it is, it was fine.

After Vadic had been defeated and Shaw returned to the bridge, he seemed to behave as if he had a newfound respect for Seven. We didn’t get to see much of that, because this sequence was relatively short, but it’s something we might get a second glance at before the end of the season. I’m not sure. If what we got in Surrender is all we’ll see, then I’d give this storyline a grade C: a basic pass. Earlier episodes set up a clash between these characters, built upon it, and Surrender brought it to a head. It wasn’t strictly necessary, especially given the relative unimportance of the two characters involved. But it wasn’t handled badly.

There was a resolution (of sorts) to the Seven-Shaw conflict.

Not for the first time this season, I find myself without much to say about Picard himself – which is odd when you consider the name of the series we’re watching! Picard contributed his ideas to the plan, and at least part of that seems to have worked. However, in Surrender, Picard himself was relegated to standing around, waiting for other characters who were more directly involved in key storylines to actually move the plot forward. Again, this was something that could feel frustrating.

In both previous seasons of the show, Jean-Luc Picard was at the heart of the adventure… for better and for worse. But this time, it feels like he’s being swept along by a narrative current that’s entirely outside of his control. Vadic’s conspiracy got things started, Dr Crusher told him the secret of Jack’s existence, Ro explained how Starfleet was compromised, Worf and Raffi did the legwork, Riker’s away team went to Daystrom Station… and the past couple of weeks, it fell to Jack, Sidney, Geordi, Data, and Seven to take most of the actions involved in advancing the story. Picard spent most of his time standing around, staring at screens.

Picard didn’t have much to do this week.

After Worf, Riker, Troi, and Raffi returned to the Titan, we finally got that “the gang’s all here” reunion, as Picard and the crew sat around the conference table. It was a sweet sequence, and some of the characters exchanged pleasantries and talked about how they’d missed one another. It was also a moment that the series has been trying very hard to build up to. In context, I guess I have to say that it worked as well as it could’ve. And again, there’s no denying that it successfully plucked some of the nostalgic chords that it was aiming for.

I never felt that Picard should try to be “The Next Generation Season 8.” In fact, when the series was first announced, I was looking forward to seeing new characters, new stories, and Star Trek moving its internal timeline forwards for the first time in almost two decades. This reunion is, for me, a bittersweet one. It’s great to see everyone back, and I have to admit that the series has managed to find narrative justifications for everyone’s inclusion – even if some of them are more than a little convoluted! But at the same time, the promised “passing of the torch” never happened, and the new characters that had been created in earlier seasons have all been left behind. Even at the conference table, Seven, Raffi, Shaw, Jack, and the La Forge sisters were absent.

The gang’s all here.

With two episodes left, I fear that Picard has been shot in the foot. The lack of a named villain heading into the final chapter of the story risks making whatever comes next feel like the dreaded deus ex machina, and after all of the problems and flaws in both Seasons 1 and 2… it’s disappointing in the extreme to think that we’re about to walk an all too familiar path. Season 3 has had its highlights, don’t get me wrong, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will end on a high, too. But Vadic’s death this week feels like a major stumble.

Surrender was also an episode with pacing difficulties. It got bogged down in too many places, spending too much time on ultimately unimportant minutiae. It stretched too little story too thinly across the runtime of an entire episode when some scenes could have been shaved down – or cut entirely – to allow for more explanation of Vadic, her connection to Jack, and her ultimate ambition. She died without explaining any of that – and her death leaves her feeling bland, uninteresting, and almost like a parody of better Star Trek villains.

Vadic died before she could reveal her connection to Jack.

Because of the way both of Picard’s earlier seasons landed, I can’t shake the feeling that this episode marks a turn for the worse, and that lessons that should have been learned have not been heeded. I desperately want to be able to tell you that I’m excited to see what comes next and that I’m confident that a solid, creditable, and narratively coherent ending has been written – and that next week will be a roaring return to form. But I can’t in all honesty say that.

In spite of the way Vadic had landed for me, I was hopeful that last week’s exploration of her personal history had set the stage for some of that crucial understanding that had been missing from her character. Because of her death this week, and the apparent wrapping up of her storyline and that of her crew on the Shrike, I don’t believe we’ll get that now. The next chapter of this story will be the unravelling of Vadic’s conspiracy – and the defeat of the remaining changelings. I hope that will be satisfying enough to plug what feels like a gaping narrative hole… but to be blunt, I doubt it.

Troi at the end of the episode.

As we head into the final two episodes of the season – and the series – I’m fighting hard against feelings of disappointment and dejection. The return of The Next Generation characters had already thrown a question-mark over this season for me, especially because of the unfinished stories left behind in Seasons 1 and 2. Vadic’s death feels like the continuation of a particularly disappointing theme, and I’m struggling to see where the story could possibly go from here.

I have desperately wanted to enjoy Picard, and to support the Star Trek franchise as it returns to the characters and stories of my favourite era. So far, despite some strong episodes, wonderful performances, and interesting concepts, the series as a whole has failed to deliver. Can the final two episodes of Season 3 rectify that… or at least ensure that it goes out on a high? I’m crossing my fingers. But I’m sceptical.

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

Star Trek: Picard Episode Review – Season 3, Episode 6: The Bounty

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

The Bounty feels like an episode that was made for fans. More than any other episode of Picard – at least since Season 1’s Nepenthe – I felt that the writers were leaning as heavily as they could into the lore and history of the Star Trek franchise, plucking some of those nostalgic chords for no other reason than to harken back to classic episodes, films, and stories that Trekkies will remember with fondness. There were some incredibly powerful emotional moments as a result, and I will never tire of seeing close-up shots of some of the franchise’s most beautiful starships!

Despite that, however, The Bounty was an imperfect outing overall – an episode with a couple of story beats that felt incomplete or just abrupt, and that resurrected a character who I felt had been appropriately and perfectly laid to rest. Moments of nostalgia spread throughout The Bounty felt absolutely magical… for the most part. But I fear this side of things was overdone and may have tried to carry the episode just a little too far. There will be repercussions for the story as a whole as the second half of the season – and the final act of Picard – gets underway.

The USS Titan.

Let’s talk first about something that had been teased in pre-season trailers and had got a lot of Trekkies chattering excitedly: the “return” of Professor Moriarty. For me, the way this ultimately came across in The Bounty was a let-down; a textbook example of how not to over-hype a character. Moriarty, in my view, should never have appeared in trailers and marketing material for two reasons. Firstly, his cameo here was incredibly brief, with Moriarty getting only a couple of lines and one very short moment of action. Secondly, and perhaps most significantly, this isn’t actually Moriarty.

This version of Moriarty was revealed to be a projection; an illusion created from the decaying remnants of Data’s memories. And that’s totally fine in the context of the story. Had I gone into the episode not expecting to see Moriarty nor knowing he was going to be included in the season, I’d have almost certainly been surprised and impressed. But the build-up to Moriarty’s return had been a significant moment in pre-season trailers going back several months… and seen through that lens, I felt more than a little let down – as if the promised return was nothing more than a bait-and-switch.

Moriarty’s cameo in The Bounty was minor.

Ro Laren’s surprise return to Star Trek last week had been kept secret – and it worked phenomenally well as a result. I can’t help but feel that Daniel Davis’ return as Moriarty should have been treated the same way, as keeping Moriarty out of pre-season trailers would have made his return feel impactful rather than underwhelming. There was scope to do more with Moriarty – and having wondered for months why he might be involved and what kind of a role he could play… I just feel like this cameo was over-hyped. Partly that’s my own fault… but partly it’s Paramount’s marketing, which deliberately over-inflated Moriarty’s role in pre-season trailers.

Trying to assess this inclusion on its own merit, though, I think it would’ve been a lot of fun were it not for being basically spoiled ahead of time. Visiting a black site like Daystrom Station only to encounter a dangerous foe from the past, having to figure out what was going on and how to defeat him, while at the same time he’s unable to be harmed… it was a setup that should have been tense and exciting, while at the same time being a great deal of fun to welcome back a character that I don’t think anyone could’ve truly expected. But unfortunately it didn’t stick the landing – and that’s all because this surprise was spoiled by pre-season trailers.

Moriarty’s return had been spoiled by pre-season trailers.

Let’s get all of the disappointments out of the way up front and look at another let-down! I always like to caveat these particular kinds of criticisms by noting that Paramount doesn’t have unlimited financial resources, and that it isn’t fair to compare Star Trek to productions from the likes of Disney or HBO that have significantly more money to play with. But even with that caveat… I felt that there was a scene or sequence that was sorely missing from The Bounty.

Jack Crusher and Sidney La Forge teamed up to “borrow” a cloaking device from the titular Bounty – the Klingon Bird-of-Prey used by Captain Kirk and co. during the events of The Voyage Home. But this daring heist took place entirely off-screen… and I just feel disappointed by that.

The titular HMS Bounty.

Even with the caveat that Paramount doesn’t have unlimited money, let’s consider this story beat and see how it could’ve played out. First up, there are only two characters involved, which obviously makes it a lot more manageable from a practical point of view. Secondly, it wouldn’t necessarily have required the construction of multiple sets. Between the AR wall (which I know is in Toronto, not California where Picard is produced) and pre-existing sets, surely it must’ve been possible to recreate a small portion of a Bird-of-Prey – even if it wasn’t the bridge. Just a corridor or something where we could’ve seen Jack and Sidney beaming aboard. Alternatively, the episode could’ve seen Jack and Sidney take the USS Defiant’s cloaking device, and a small part of that ship could’ve been created.

Although some creative(ish) storytelling and writing tried to present this aspect of the story as a bit of a surprise, it was actually pretty clear what Jack hoped to do, and even though I know we don’t always need to see every moment unfold in order for a story to be entertaining… we absolutely could have in this instance. In an episode that was already leaning heavily on the crutch of nostalgia, think how much fun it could have been if we’d actually been able to visit one of the ships at the museum instead of just seeing their recreated CGI husks.

So I’m afraid to say that this aspect of The Bounty feels like it has a pretty glaring omission.

Jack formulated a plan… but his plan took place entirely off-screen.

I can’t wait any longer to talk about Data! This is a huge point, not just for Season 3 and potentially not only for Picard, either, but for Star Trek as a whole. The resurrection of seemingly-dead characters is something the franchise has done before – and done quite well, at least in some instances. Technobabble can be used to excuse and justify these things in a sci-fi setting, so from a technical standpoint there really isn’t much to say about the whole “Data, Lore, B4, and other androids are all stuck inside the same ‘golem’ body” idea that The Bounty introduced. I think it clears the bar from that point of view.

But I can’t forgive it as a narrative point.

One of the few highlights of the two-part Season 1 finale was how poignant and beautiful the scenes between Picard and Data were. Eighteen years after Data’s death in Nemesis hadn’t really been given a sufficiently emotional payoff, Et in Arcadia Ego righted that wrong, and Data was finally laid to rest as Picard entered the digital afterlife. Those scenes did so much to elevate what was an otherwise disappointing finale – but more than that, they felt final and conclusive; a definitive but also appropriate end for a character we first met way back in 1987.

Data’s resurrection is a difficult storyline to get behind.

By allowing Data to permanently die, Picard helped him achieve his lifelong goal of becoming more human – because what could possibly be more human, for an artificial life-form who doesn’t age, than dying? This was one of the most impactful moments in all of Season 1 for me, and seeing Data come to the definitive end of his life, even as Picard was being reborn in a new body, went a long way to making the journey feel worthwhile.

The Bounty has now undermined and even overwritten that powerful emotional moment – and I fear that it has no reason for doing so other than the selfish desire of some of the show’s producers to play with the character of Data once more. I feel like I’m watching children playing with action figures; sure, Data was “dead,” but that doesn’t matter now. Pretend it didn’t happen, pick up the doll, and start playing a new game.

He even kind of resembles an action figure in a box…

One of my biggest concerns going into Season 3 – and really going back a whole year to the announcement of these actors returning – is that the story would end up feeling not only tacked-on and unnecessary, but like a childish mess. Bringing back these characters has to serve a purpose, but it also has to make narrative sense within a long-established world. More than that, it has to feel like it’s being done for more than just nakedly commercialised nostalgia – and the resurrection of Data, who had been permanently killed off twice, has crossed that line for me.

As we saw in both Seasons 1 and 2, there are ways to include Brent Spiner – if that had been deemed necessary – without resurrecting the character of Data. Pre-season trailers seemed to indicate that Spiner would be playing Lore, and while I wasn’t wild about that as I’ve never been a huge Lore fan, it seemed like a passable compromise if the show’s producers wanted to get as close as possible to a TNG reunion.

Data the projector.

I have no doubt that there will be some kind of narrative payoff to Data being “back,” and I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that it will be something I find at least bearable. But based on what we got in The Bounty, I’m sceptical. This resurrection feels like it serves two purposes: the desire of the showrunner and writers to play with their favourite action figures, and the commercial wishes of Paramount as it hopes to offset some of its huge losses by nakedly playing the nostalgia card. Neither excuse, quite frankly, is good enough – and neither comes close to justifying a pretty clunky technobabble explanation for resurrecting this long-dead character.

I keep thinking back to The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock as a point of comparison, because I think that may be another factor in Data’s resurrection here; it’s intended to mirror Spock’s. But in that story, Spock’s resurrection had been teed up at the end of The Wrath of Khan in a scene that showed Spock’s coffin lying, undamaged, on the surface of the Genesis Planet. Not only that, but these two stories were told one after the other. Data’s death happened back in 2002 – and his supposedly final end came more than a full season ago. While there are echoes of the Spock story here… that one feels a lot stronger, and seems to have been written with more of a sense of purpose. Data’s story, in contrast, feels muddled and disjointed; the consequence of different writers and writing teams having fundamentally contradictory ideas for where to take the character – and how and even whether to end his life.

A glimpse behind-the-scenes during The Bounty’s production.

Star Trek can successfully pull off a death-and-rebirth narrative, so I don’t think that is a problem in and of itself. We got one such example involving Jean-Luc Picard in the Season 1 finale of Picard – and another even more recently with Book at the end of Discovery’s fourth season. But here, with Data, having seen him so beautifully and sensitively laid to rest in Season 1, and with his death in Nemesis having come more than twenty years ago… it doesn’t work, at least not for me.

Rather than feeling like Spock’s rebirth, or even Picard’s in Season 1, Data’s resurrection reminds me a lot more of Elnor’s, which came at the very end of Season 2. Elnor was, like Data, definitively dead. And like Data, his death had a significant emotional impact. Raffi’s entire Season 2 storyline saw her grieving and coming to terms with his death – and that storyline was, for much of the season, one of the few that seemed to be working. Elnor’s last-second resurrection undid all of that, damaged the overall narrative of the season, felt unearned, unnecessary, and just plain stupid. And many of those same points – particularly those about undermining an emotional storyline and feeling ultimately unnecessary – are present here as well.

As much fun as it could be to have Data back and to get reunions with Geordi, Picard, and the rest of the crew, I’m struggling with this storyline.

Though it may have been intended to echo Spock’s rebirth from The Search for Spock… Data’s resurrection didn’t work anywhere near as well.

Data did tell us something very interesting, though: the “real” theft from Daystrom Station that the rogue changelings wanted to cover up was that of Jean-Luc Picard’s corpse. Precisely why Section 31 wanted to keep Picard’s body, and what they might’ve done with it for the past couple of years, wasn’t made clear… and that’s already kind of odd, when you think about it. Could there be a reason why Picard’s and Kirk’s bodies were both kept at Daystrom Station? Perhaps something connected to the Nexus or the events of Generations?

One thing that we learned from The Bounty that Picard and Jack have in common is a diagnosis of Irumodic syndrome. Given that the rogue changelings are also chasing after him, perhaps that has something to do with it – but we’ll save the speculation for my next theory post. Suffice to say it was an interesting development, and one that brings the conspiracy several steps closer to Picard himself.

Apparently the rogue changelings have absconded with Picard’s corpse.

But all of that came at the end of the episode, and there were plenty of fun or at least interesting moments before we reached those revelations. As I said, The Bounty really feels like an episode that was made for fans – or at least that had moments of pure fan-service that I absolutely lapped up.

Visiting the Fleet Museum was an opportunity to show off some beautiful CGI recreations of some of Star Trek’s most well-known ships. The USS Defiant, the Enterprise-A, and of course the titular Bounty were all present. Seven of Nine and Jack taking a closer look at the USS Voyager was an especially sweet moment, and several familiar musical stings accompanied these ships as they were shown on screen. I adore much of the music of Star Trek – especially the films from the ’80s and the shows of the ’90s – so hearing these short clips was enough, as Scotty once said, to bring a tear to my eye.

The Fleet Museum.

This sequence was a perfect “made for the fans” moment. It was a total nostalgia overload, but one that made sense in the context of the story and that was just the right length. Given what we’ve just been talking about, there must’ve been a temptation to drag this out and perhaps go overboard with the nostalgia plays, talking about each ship in more detail. But here, less was more – and the sequence, which only lasted about three minutes, came across beautifully as a result.

Since reappearing as the Titan’s second-in-command, I hadn’t really been blown away by Seven of Nine’s inclusion in the story of Season 3 so far. She served a narrative function on a couple of occasions – by rerouting the Titan against Captain Shaw’s orders and by identifying the first changeling infiltrator by using her real name – but she hadn’t had that much to say, nor many scenes in which she took centre-stage. Pairing her up with Jack on this occasion was fun – and we got to see how two individuals who are very different from one another, yet have a connection as Starfleet “outsiders,” were able to find some common ground.

Seven became emotional when thinking back to her time aboard the USS Voyager.

Seven’s line to Jack about the USS Voyager having been her home was incredibly touching, and it’s great to see Picard embracing the legacy of Voyager in such an overt way. I’ve said this before going all the way back to Season 1, but Seven’s transformation has been wonderful to see and more than a little cathartic. Seeing her in uniform, geeking out about starship designs with Jack, was another example of this.

Sticking with Jack, I spoke last week about how his hallucinatory experiences were something that hit close to home for me, and I don’t really want to get into all of that again; it isn’t an easy thing to think about or talk too much about! But suffice to say that I’m convinced that there must be more to what’s going on with Jack than simply “Irumodic syndrome” – though the connection between Jack’s hallucinations and the genetic disease that affected Picard was handled well in the story.

Is there more going on with Jack?

Jack’s glowing red eyes from a couple of episodes ago would seem to serve as the best argument for there being more to this story than an illness, as would Jack’s out-of-nowhere combat prowess last week. And that’s before we account for the changelings’ desire to capture him… for some reason. We’ll go into specific ideas about where Jack’s story could go in my next theory update, but for now I think it’s enough to say that there’s more going on here than we’re aware of at this juncture.

I actually really liked Jack in The Bounty. His conversations with both Picard and Seven were great, but for me his standout scenes actually came with Sidney La Forge, who was also excellent in this episode. Like their parents before them, they make a great team – and who knows, maybe romance could be in their future!

Sidney and Jack make a great pair!

Sticking with the La Forge family, I think we’ll briefly talk about Geordi’s other daughter. And “briefly” is all we’ll need, because unfortunately Alandra La Forge didn’t get much to say or do in this episode. There’s potential in the “sibling rivalry” idea that Sidney and Alandra seemed, at first, to embody – but if that’s going to be basically dumped now that the girls are both firmly on the same team… without wanting to be unkind, I just don’t see where Alandra is going to fit.

Sidney La Forge got a genuinely great storyline this week as she confronted her father for both his unwillingness to help with the mission at hand and, by extension, for favouring her sister as she was more inclined toward engineering. Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut, who plays Sidney, absolutely excelled in the scene with the far more experienced LeVar Burton, and genuinely sold me on this family argument. Most of us can relate, in some way I daresay, to having this kind of conversation with a parent or relative, and I was beyond impressed with the performance that she gave.

For the first time in the season so far, Sidney got a lot to do.

As for Geordi himself, I can see some fans potentially taking umbrage with the idea that he’d be unwilling to help Picard, or that he’d be so fearful of repercussions that he’d put his family first. It isn’t necessarily a fun story for Geordi, nor is it one that presents him in the best or most heroic, selfless way. But what I’d say in defence of this story is that it’s very human, and is again something that feels incredibly relatable.

One of the themes of Season 3 that we’ve seen through Picard’s conversations with Dr Crusher and Captain Shaw in particular is the idea that Picard himself is a kind of maelstrom; a figure around whom danger, disaster, war, and even death have a tendency to swirl and coalesce. Geordi’s initial reluctance to throw himself and his family into another Picard adventure is a continuation of this theme – and it fits not only with what’s been established before, but with what we’ve seen of Picard over the course of some thirty-five years.

Geordi was initially reluctant to join Picard’s mission.

Because past iterations of Star Trek were primarily episodic affairs, the franchise hasn’t always been able to take a look at some of the longer-term consequences of the adventures and misadventures that some of its key characters have had. There have been attempts to do so: episodes like Family in The Next Generation, for example, or Worf’s scenes with Ezri Dax in Deep Space Nine’s seventh season. But until Discovery and Picard came along, these were limited to a few episodes or character arcs, and didn’t get to go into as much detail.

Parts of Picard haven’t gotten this quite right, particularly in the show’s lacklustre second season. But here, the idea that even some of Picard’s closest friends would struggle to rejoin his cause because of the danger they know it’ll put them in feels surprisingly natural. Having worked with Jean-Luc Picard for fifteen years or more, Geordi saw first-hand the danger many of Picard’s missions posed, and wanting to keep his children away from that is a perfectly valid and understandable reaction – even if we may not like or agree with it on the surface!

Geordi felt that teaming up with Picard would endanger his family.

There was a danger that this part of the story could’ve felt like an artificial speedbump; a delay to slow down the Titan’s progress so other storylines could unfold at Daystrom Station or with the heist at the Fleet Museum. And part of me wants to call it that – to say that Geordi’s rather abrupt turnaround after an entire episode of dragging his feet makes the whole thing redundant. But actually, having had some time to think about it, the positives outweigh the negatives and Geordi’s storyline not only made narrative sense, but played into key themes that have been running for the duration of the season so far.

It isn’t always fun to see an heroic character behaving in a more rational, self-preserving, and more human way. And I get that – Geordi doesn’t feel like the selfless hero for much of The Bounty. But if every main character was totally virtuous, selfless, and pure of heart… well, that would make for a pretty bland and one-dimensional story, wouldn’t it? Geordi has family considerations here, and the idea of wanting to keep one’s children safe – even if that means risking some big, nefarious scheme being able to unfold… it’s relatable and understandable.

Geordi was very relatable in The Bounty.

Although we’ve had some wonderful adventures and powerful emotional moments with all of these characters over the years, here in Picard is where we’re seeing them at the most human and relatable that they’ve ever been – and Geordi encapsulated that feeling for me in The Bounty. I’d defend his characterisation here as not straying from his presentation in The Next Generation – but rather being an evolution of it, showing how conflicted he feels between the fear he has for his family’s safety and his loyalty to Picard and desire to help.

It almost goes without saying that LeVar Burton nailed this complex presentation. It was always going to be wonderful to welcome him back to Star Trek after such a long absence – but to see such a masterful and nuanced performance from the veteran actor was truly astonishing. The character of Geordi La Forge was cast perfectly in 1987 – and as one of the stars of Roots, LeVar Burton was one of the best-known actors in the cast as The Next Generation entered production on its first season. Geordi got some great spotlight episodes across The Next Generation’s run – The Enemy, I Borg, The Next Phase, and Relics all being examples that jump to mind. But here, in The Bounty, we really got to see what LeVar Burton can do with this wonderful character. And it was riveting.

LeVar Burton gave an outstanding performance and was a joy to watch.

Geordi’s inclusion in the story was also an opportunity for the rather superfluous Captain Shaw to have a fun and light-hearted scene. Having set up Shaw as a former engineer a couple of episodes back, that backstory got a truly cute payoff in The Bounty as the Titan’s captain found himself tongue-tied and starstruck when coming face to face with one of his engineering heroes. I felt echoes of Lower Decks’ protagonist Boimler in the way Shaw reacted to Geordi – and it was a nice change of pace for a character who’s been standoffish.

However, I maintain that the story of Season 3 is not well-served by having so many senior officers concentrated aboard the Titan. Riker’s (surely temporary) absence may have alleviated that for now, but the Titan is still blessed with an Admiral, at least one Captain, and now a Commodore as well. Captain Shaw repeatedly draws the short straw – understandably, perhaps. But as we saw yet again this week, big decisions aboard his ship are taken without much input from him.

Captain Shaw with Geordi.

Here’s a question to ponder: are there too many changelings in the plot?

That might sound silly given that the rogue changelings are our main adversaries, but hear me out. Changelings are, if you think about it, kind of overpowered from a narrative standpoint – and their new ability to mimic humanoids in far more detail than ever before has only increased their relative power. We’re at a point in the story where it’s difficult to know who is and isn’t a changeling – and that could make for an exciting and tense mystery… or a frustrating experience!

Past stories involving changeling infiltrators were more cautious, and I mentioned last time that the Deep Space Nine duology Homefront and Paradise Lost made sure to include the detail that there were only four active changeling infiltrators. If, as Ro Laren told us, Starfleet is compromised and there may be multiple changelings aboard many ships in the fleet, it risks making the story hard to follow, and throwing an uncomfortable cloud of suspicion over practically every character arc and plot point. I don’t think we’re at a stage yet where it’s a huge problem… but it could make the story difficult to follow and needs to be handled with a degree of care.

We aren’t always going to be able to know who is and isn’t a changeling in a story like this one…

That only leaves us with the away mission to Daystrom Station. It was fantastic to see Riker and Worf teaming up for an away mission once again! Worf was often one of Riker’s go-to officers when putting together an away team during their adventures aboard the Enterprise-D, so it felt incredibly appropriate and fitting for them to work together again on this occasion.

Raffi was an interesting inclusion here, and after she and Worf had worked over the past few episodes to uncover the Daystrom connection, it made sense for her to join the mission along with them. But after they accessed the chamber where Data was being held, Raffi kind of felt like a bit of an unnecessary addition. She didn’t have the connection to Data, nor the history with him that Riker and Worf had, to give her much to say, and the few lines she got at this point felt more like exposition than anything else.

The away team at Daystrom Station.

Raffi’s reunion with Seven of Nine was also cut short, and I hope it’s something we’ll see more of before the season ends. As disappointing as Season 2 was, and in spite of the problems Raffi’s storyline ran into in the final episode, the developing relationship between Seven and Raffi was one of the season’s stronger storylines. It humanises both characters, gives each of them something to fight for and reach for, and if there is to be any kind of “Captain Seven” show in Star Trek’s future, this relationship, one way or another, will be part of it. With both characters aboard the Titan, I hope there’ll be time in the remaining episodes to reunite Seven and Raffi for a scene or two.

There are already breakdowns and lists of all of the miscellaneous objects and items that were being stored at Daystrom Station that fans have compiled, so I won’t just list all of them here! But some of these little easter eggs were great fun, and in an episode that was all about callbacks to past iterations of Star Trek, this kind of storage facility was a great way to include many smaller references. I doubt very much that any of the stored items at Daystrom Station will prove to be important to the plot, but it was a cute way for Picard to pay homage to characters and stories from across the franchise’s 850+ episodes and films.

Captain Kirk’s body is apparently stored at Daystrom Station too.

The away mission to Daystrom Station felt tense and exciting – but the sets used for the station were, once again, seriously under-lit and far too dark. This has been a problem that’s been running all season long, but the especially dark corridors of Daystrom Station were perhaps the worst example so far. It wasn’t easy to follow all of the action as Worf, Raffi, and Riker were sneaking around and battling their way into and out of the station’s central chamber.

The fight sequences themselves, despite the aforementioned lighting problem, were decent, though. I genuinely felt that Riker was in danger as he raced off to buy time for the others to escape – and that’s really the first time so far this season that Picard has managed to give me that feeling. After Ro’s death the stakes have been raised significantly, and as I said before the season aired, it’s possible that not all of our heroes will make it to the end in one piece! Riker escaped… this time. But it was touch-and-go for a minute there in an incredibly tense and well-performed fight sequence.

Riker genuinely seemed to be in danger.

I confess that Vadic being a changeling is still something I’m getting to grips with. I said last time that I interpreted her scene with Floaty McFloatface as Vadic being a humanoid who had some kind of symbiotic relationship with a changeling… but it seems, instead, that she’s somehow two changelings in one body? The mechanics of it bug me, at least from an in-universe perspective. We know that changelings can communicate by linking, and we’ve seen in Picard that they also seem to have developed a clicking language of their own – so why does Vadic physically cut Floaty McFloatface off of herself and have a chat with them in English? Obviously the answer is “to make it a more interesting story.” But that isn’t always a satisfying explanation!

But still, we got absolute, indisputable proof this week that Vadic is a changeling. I’m excited to see her finally being able to interact with someone other than her silent crew and Floaty McFloatface, and there’s definitely potential in her interrogations of Riker and Troi – assuming it is the real Troi! I’m a tad disappointed, however, that Vadic now doesn’t seem to have any personal connection to Picard. Something may yet be revealed in that regard, but if she’s a changeling it would seem to rule it out.

Vadic at the end of the episode.

Vadic is clearly based on characters like Khan, and that kind of villain can be truly delicious to watch. But so far, Vadic hasn’t managed to capture much of that feeling for me. Her over-the-top performance actually feels out of place right now, and while I still want to see her defeated and her plan stopped, on a personal level I think there’s a disconnect between Vadic and the audience. Six episodes in and we’ve only had a few short moments with her, we’ve already seen her defeated once, and her over-the-top characterisation feels more like it’s treading water than going anywhere.

But now that she’s captured and assaulted Riker, perhaps we’ll finally start to get some of that burning, passionate dislike that Vadic hasn’t managed to garner so far. I certainly hope so! A villain so maniacal should be able to drum up that sort of a reaction – and now that she’s captured not just one but perhaps two of our heroes… there’s the potential, at least, for an improvement on the villainous side of the season.

The Shrike leaves Daystrom Station.

So I think I’ve touched on all of the points I had in my notes for this outing. The Bounty was a beautiful, nostalgic romp through Star Trek’s past in more ways than one… but an episode that didn’t stick the landing on a couple of key points. It can be difficult to fairly judge these mid-season episodes, though, until we know how character arcs and storylines that have been set up will ultimately be paid off – something I’m especially aware of in Picard, given the way Seasons 1 and 2 both ended. So perhaps we’ll be able to look back at some elements of The Bounty a little more kindly in retrospect.

With Troi, Geordi, and the Data-Lore-Soong-B4 golem now in the picture, the cast is complete and the reunion has finally happened. Was the tail end of the sixth part of a ten-episode season the right moment… or should most of the rest of the characters have gotten back together sooner? I guess that’s another point where only time will tell!

There are four episodes left for this story to come to an explosive and exciting conclusion – and it feels as if most of the pieces are now in play. In spite of The Bounty’s shortcomings, I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

A few scattered final thoughts:

  • For such an important facility, it’s kind of silly that Daystrom Station isn’t fully staffed and well-guarded – especially considering it’s already been attacked and robbed once.
  • What could Section 31 possibly want with Kirk’s dead body? And what is “Project Phoenix?”
  • This is the first mention of Section 31 in Picard – could that be a hint at a resurrection of the Section 31 series that’s been languishing in development hell?
  • I’d have given anything to see Picard and the crew beam aboard the Enterprise-A…
  • Geordi was very concerned about his kids… but was perfectly fine with ditching his wife!
  • Including a sequence from Encounter at Farpoint – and finding a way to make it relevant to the story – was incredibly sweet.

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

Star Trek: Picard Episode Review – Season 3, Episode 5: Imposters

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

If last week’s episode had been a bit of a dip in terms of quality, Imposters was a roaring return to form. Picard is really ramping up the dangerous conspiracy angle, and that made Imposters a thrilling ride from start to finish. The intensity of the conspiracy, and the idea of not knowing who to trust, surpassed episodes like Conspiracy, Homefront, and By Inferno’s Light – even as these classics from past iterations of Star Trek clearly served as inspiration.

There were a few imperfections along the way, but generally speaking this was a fantastic outing. The midpoint of the season arrived in style, and while I still have some concerns about key character absences and whether or not the ending of this story will be properly executed, as things stand right now I have to say that Picard Season 3 looks to be in great shape.

The Titan meets the Intrepid.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago that I felt a degree of concern that Picard might’ve blown its biggest reveal too early – i.e. the involvement of the rogue changelings. This angle, which serves as a kind of epilogue to the Deep Space Nine story, could’ve been fairly static, but the writers have found an incredibly engaging – and downright frightening – new approach to the changeling threat. The revelation this week that changelings are able to mimic humanoid bodies in incredible detail, bypassing all of the “standard” tests that Starfleet developed during the Dominion War, adds an entirely new – and unexpected – dimension to the threat they pose, and that was well-explored this week.

Imposters also brought back the legendary Ro Laren for one final outing, and that was wonderful to see. Due to the confines of the episode, there perhaps wasn’t quite enough time to delve into the intricacies of Ro’s time with the Maquis and what may have happened to her during the Dominion War – which is something I’d have liked to learn more about. But her inclusion in the story was inspired, and the way in which she was used as a senior security officer felt like the perfect career path based on what we saw of Ro in The Next Generation.

Ro Laren made a wonderful return to the Star Trek franchise.

I thoroughly enjoyed the return of the “prodigal crewman” that had been teased in the episode’s blurb. Ro was the perfect character to use here – not just because it suited her storyline from The Next Generation and provided her a redemption – if one were necessary – for her defection, but because of the dynamic between Ro and Picard that was able to be explored.

Picard has to confront the changeling threat – but before we could reach that point, he had to figure out who to trust. And for Ro, who had been working on this problem for months, she also had to test Picard’s loyalty to see if he really was who he said he was. Using their contentious history not only to set up this conflict, but to resolve it as well, is nothing less than masterful writing. The strong, deeply-held, bitter feelings that Picard and Ro had for one another set the stage for their clash – but also proved to both of them that, in spite of the betrayals and hurt feelings, they could trust one another.

Figuring out if they could trust one another was a great storyline for Ro and Picard.

This kind of complex, nuanced, character-heavy storytelling is precisely what I’d been hoping to see more of from Picard. There have been some fantastic moments like this – even in the show’s disappointing second season – but this time, there was just something that elevated the conversations between Picard and Ro. Maybe it’s because this is a conversation that fans have been hoping to see ever since Ro’s final appearance in The Next Generation almost thirty years ago!

There was genuine emotion here, and both Patrick Stewart and Michelle Forbes absolutely excelled. The passage of time had clearly not blunted the impact of Ro’s decision on Picard – nor Picard’s reaction to it on Ro. And the way both actors were able to convey this long-overdue, cathartic release of feelings that they’d both held onto for decades… it was pitch-perfect.

This emotional conversation was decades in the making.

I wouldn’t describe any aspect of Ro’s story as “disappointing” or “underwhelming” in any way, and I want to make that clear. There are, however, absences from it that I think are noticeable, particularly on watching Imposters more than once. We got no interaction between Riker and Ro, and given the occasionally adversarial nature of their relationship in The Next Generation, it might’ve been nice if they could’ve at least said more than a couple of words to each other. Ro also didn’t even get one second of screen time with Dr Crusher.

Secondly, and for me I think more importantly, was the somewhat confused status of the Maquis, Ro’s role in Starfleet, and the lack of any direct reference to events we know took place during the Dominion War. The Deep Space Nine episode Blaze of Glory told us of the destruction of the Maquis at the hands of the Cardassians, and how the semi-independent Maquis worlds had been decimated. This was followed up in the Voyager episodes Hunters and Extreme Risk, in which the Maquis crew members aboard Voyager would learn of and have to come to terms with what happened.

Ro on the holodeck.

In Imposters, this was entirely ignored, and for viewers who only saw The Next Generation – or who don’t recall those episodes – it would seem as if the Maquis were never defeated. Even one comment from Riker about the Maquis no longer being an enemy would seem to hint at that, too. And while it’s possible, I guess, to argue that not all of the Maquis were killed and that the survivors might’ve led a renewed push for independence, it certainly feels, at best, to be contradictory.

And I suppose it isn’t that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. For most viewers, I suspect the contradiction passed unnoticed, and as the episode didn’t really deal with the current state of the Maquis, it’s somewhat ambiguous as to what actually happened to the faction and to Ro herself. I freely admit it’s a nitpick to focus on this – but as I’ve said before, too many small points like this risk damaging the overall integrity of the narrative, and if Picard can’t keep up with the internal consistency of the Star Trek franchise, or if there isn’t time to go into more detail on some of these points, then perhaps it’s not the right story to try to tell.

Ro’s defection to the Maquis was a big story point… but the fate of the Maquis was not.

Paramount is clearly squeezing every penny it can out of its investment in the Ten Forward bar set from Season 2… and it’s kind of getting old, to be honest. I already rolled my eyes last week when Guinan’s Bar was the setting for Picard’s conversation with Jack – and his showdown with Shaw – so to drag it up again this week as the setting for the conversation with Ro… I don’t know. Paramount doesn’t have the resources of some other entertainment corporations, so building whole brand-new sets each week for every story is obviously off the table. But the past couple of episodes have really felt like the old “bottle shows,” in a way, and the Ten Forward set just sticks out like a sore thumb.

If we put to one side the specifics of Ro’s reinstatement in Starfleet, why Picard didn’t know it had happened until now, and the defeat or resurrection of the Maquis – all of which would have taken too long to properly explain in a single episode – what we got on screen was fantastic. It was character drama without the “soap-opera” taint; a genuine, two-sided conflict with raw, bitter emotions on full display. And it worked so incredibly well. The scenes between Ro and Picard were riveting.

Picard and Ro in Ten-Forward.

I’ve blown hot and cold about Captain Shaw over the course of my reviews so far, feeling that some elements of his characterisation have worked well… and others have either been a bit flat or, as we saw last week, derivative to the point of being basically plagiarised. The problem I thought seemed obvious a mile away – the pileup of senior officers aboard the Titan tripping over one another – has also been an issue in Shaw’s storyline. But what I loved about him this week was the gleeful way in which he took Picard, Riker, and Seven to task.

As I said in my review of the season premiere: Captain Shaw is right. These people, whom he has his own reasons for disliking and mistrusting, did unlawfully commandeer his ship, placing his crew in incredible danger, and it’s not unfair to say that Picard and Riker treated him with as much disrespect – if not more – as he showed to them, albeit in a more subtle and dare I suggest insidious way. As our hero characters, we understand Picard and Riker’s reasons, and Seven’s reason for giving them her loyalty and support, but at the end of the day, what they did was still problematic.

This scene in the turbolift was hilarious.

There wasn’t any significant follow-up to the revelation that Shaw had been present at the Battle of Wolf-359, and I stand by what I said last time: if the big blow-up in Ten-Forward is all we’re going to get, and that connection isn’t going to matter beyond giving Shaw a bit more justification for being a dick, then I don’t think it passes muster as a story beat. And the lack of any real mention of his bust-up with Picard in Imposters has really just solidified that feeling for me.

But that being said, I enjoyed Captain Shaw’s story this week, and I think even though he is an unpleasant person in more ways than one, it’s possible to empathise with someone who’s forced to work with people he despises, arguably feels out of his depth, and is being swept up in a conspiracy and an adventure that – clearly – he would rather have no part in.

Captain Shaw.

I see Captain Shaw as an officer somewhat akin to Lower Decks’ Captain Freeman. He’s capable, solid, reliable… but unexceptional. He was never going to take command of the flagship and lead Starfleet into battle, but he’s okay with that. He’s settled into his role as the commanding officer of a relatively unimportant starship, and while he may not be the nicest commander to serve with… you get the sense that he runs a tight ship, does things by the book, and wouldn’t be caught dead breaking the Prime Directive or wrangling with alien super-beings.

And it goes without saying that Todd Stashwick has excelled in this role. He brings to life a character who might otherwise feel an unnecessary bump in the road, and ensures that Shaw walks a fine line between being a jerk, but still retaining a degree of sympathy. Captain Shaw has been far more of an interesting and fun inclusion in the series than I’d expected – and much of that is down to a wonderful performance.

I find it hard not to feel for Captain Shaw…

On the other side of the story, Worf and Raffi finally crossed paths with Picard and Riker – albeit right at the tail end of the episode. Their story this week was interesting in some ways, and didn’t quite stick the landing in others. I think we’re skirting the edge of this “chasing down leads” storyline running just a little too long, so I’ll be pleased to see Worf and Raffi finally leaving the criminal underworld of M’Talas Prime behind, hopefully joining the crew of the Titan in the next episode.

Perhaps it’s because I’m a little too jaded when it comes to these kinds of stories, perhaps it’s because I’m a Star Trek superfan, or perhaps the sequence wasn’t especially well-written, but I didn’t find Worf’s fake-out death to be believable. Maybe it wasn’t supposed to be, and we were always supposed to know in the backs of our minds that Worf was about to jump up and defeat the goons… but this whole double- and triple-cross story didn’t quite stick the landing for me.

I didn’t find this fake-out death to be especially convincing.

The pairing of Worf with Raffi continues to be of interest, though, and there’s good chemistry between Michael Dorn and Michelle Hurd that makes their bickering believable. I wouldn’t necessarily have chosen to put Worf and Raffi together – not for quite so long, at any rate – but it’s worked well so far. Again, though, I think we’re probably approaching the limit of how long they could reasonably spend in their own little narrative box off to one side, so it’s probably for the best that this side of the story is wrapping up. I’m quite keen to see Worf getting back together with Picard and the rest of the crew, too.

This calmer presentation of Worf feels like a great progression for his character. Across well over 200 Star Trek appearances, I think we’d probably seen enough of Worf being quick to anger, and this kind of aged wisdom – inspired, perhaps, by the elderly martial arts masters seen in films like Enter the Dragon, Karate Kid… and even Kung Fu Panda – is a great new direction for his character. We still get moments of explosive action, as indeed we saw this week, but they’re tempered by a calmer, more ethereal personality.

Worf has seamlessly stepped into the role of the aged master.

Worf’s meditation also turned out to serve a narrative purpose: by mastering the “Kahless technique” he was able to slow his heart rate, making him appear dead just when the villain’s goons checked his pulse. A clever ruse – if not an original one!

Nevertheless, this story had a degree of tension, and even though I didn’t seriously feel that Worf was in danger of death, there was still the prospect of things going wrong as they tangled with an underworld crime boss. I’m not sure that Imposters had enough time to really do justice to the idea of a Vulcan crime boss – but as a concept it’s a fun one. We’ve seen Vulcans breaking the law in Star Trek many times, not least in Enterprise, so I don’t think it’s in any way incompatible with what we know of them. It’s just something that could’ve been expanded a little, with the character of Krinn given a bit more personality beyond “generic criminal leader.”

Krinn.

Beginning in Season 2, we got to see some wonderful new Starfleet starship designs. Season 3 hasn’t had much time so far to show off new vessels, and the ones we’ve spent the most time with have been the Titan and the Shrike. So it was neat to see the USS Intrepid this week – another ship that feels like an evolution of the design philosophy of the late 24th Century. I liked the idea of having its drive section “backwards,” with the neck set way back behind the deflector dish.

The Intrepid also managed to convey an imposing sensation, almost from the very first moment that it appeared on screen. We could tell that this ship is more powerful than the Titan, and in that sense I felt echoes of Into Darkness, where the USS Vengeance clearly outgunned the Enterprise. The sequence where the damaged Intrepid seemed to rise up to draw level with the Titan was fantastic, and again managed to communicate a sense of imminent danger from the significantly more powerful vessel. The animation work here was again outstanding, and both ships seemed to come alive.

This was such a great moment.

We didn’t see Vadic this week, and again I find myself saying that this is a character we still don’t know very well. If we’re to get invested in her as a villain, and are to be able to revel in her defeat and comeuppance when the moment arrives, we need to start spending more time with her. There’s a reason why her defeat at the hands of Riker’s asteroid manoeuvre in No Win Scenario didn’t really stick the landing: we don’t have any reason to care about Vadic yet. A villain as over-the-top as she is needs some kind of explanation, and her role in this conspiracy is still unclear.

Last week, I said that I thought it was fascinating that Vadic isn’t a changeling – but I seem to be the only person who interpreted her that way, at least based on what I’ve seen online. To me, it looked as if Vadic was removing a changeling from her body, and may be a humanoid who has a kind of symbiotic relationship with them. She’s clearly taking orders from them. Her crew may be changelings – some of them, anyway – based on the clicking language we heard the two changeling infiltrators make this week. But Vadic herself? I’m still not convinced that there isn’t more to be revealed about her – including some kind of connection to Picard.

What is the nature of Vadic’s relationship with this changeling?

For now, I guess it’s sufficient to say that my theory about Vadic not being a changeling remains on the table, and I’m not entirely sure where the story will take her. Sure, she could just be another changeling – the second-in-command of the conspiracy, perhaps. But there’s something about her scarred face, her fearful tone when speaking with Floaty McFloatface, and her generally eccentric demeanour that makes me question all of that. But we’ll be able to talk more about Vadic when she eventually returns to the story. Which I hope will be soon!

Speaking of absent characters, it hasn’t escaped my notice that we’re now at the halfway point and there’s still no sign of Geordi or Lore, and that we’ve only had the barest of cameos from Troi. The promised reunion now only has five episodes in which to make an impact, and while I’ve enjoyed the interplay between Riker and Picard, Picard and Crusher, and even seeing Worf with Raffi… it’s past time for at least Geordi and Troi to show up.

Dr Crusher and the Titan’s doctor performed an autopsy on the dead changeling.

Picard hasn’t been shy about leaving a body count in its wake. In Season 1 we bade farewell to Icheb, Bruce Maddox, Hugh the Borg, Data’s consciousness, and even Picard’s original body if you want to get technical about it! Season 2 killed off Q. And now in Season 3 we’ve seen the final sacrifice of Ro Laren – completing one of Star Trek’s most interesting character arcs.

When Ro first appeared in Ensign Ro during the fifth season of The Next Generation, she was the first recurring character on the show who really stood apart from everyone else. The Original Series and The Next Generation had friendly banter between characters and even rivalries, but Ro was the first character who seemed not to fit in with her crewmates. It took a lot of work on both sides for her to find her place aboard the Enterprise-D – only to end up defecting to the Maquis.

We said goodbye to Ro Laren in Imposters.

Coming back from that defection to go out in a blaze of glory, giving Picard a fighting chance to get ahead of the conspirators, feels like a worthy end for such an interesting character. It’s absolutely a sad turn of events – and I’d have been happy to consider a character like Ro for any potential 25th Century spin-off series! But in terms of this story, it worked exceptionally well and didn’t feel in any way gratuitous. If anything, it raised the stakes for Picard and the crew of the Titan.

A well-timed character death can do this – and the fact that the story has now killed off a returning character from The Next Generation has really succeeded at communicating just how dangerous this conspiracy is. As I said before the season began: I’m not certain that all of our heroes will make it to the end unscathed. Whether Ro’s death will be the only one or just the first… who can say?

Will there be more deaths to come?

Part of the reason this review has taken me so long to write is because of Jack Crusher’s storyline. This week, the story ramped up his hallucinations and his potential connection to Vadic and/or the changelings, which is absolutely a fascinating development. But for me… this kind of story is uncomfortable.

Unlike in Seasons 1 and 2 (and in Discovery and other parts of the Star Trek franchise, too) this mental health-adjacent story doesn’t feel poorly done or tokenistic right now. But to be blunt, it’s uncomfortably close to my own personal experiences as someone who’s been diagnosed with mental health issues and spent time in hospital. It took me a long time to come to terms with precisely the kinds of frightening things that Jack Crusher is experiencing in Picard… and the truth is that I don’t really know how to process these scenes now that they’ve appeared in the show.

Jack Crusher.

As much as I’ve just gushed about how incredible this episode was and how engaging the main story about a changeling conspiracy is… Jack’s storyline is a difficult watch for me personally, dragging up some very difficult experiences and memories – things that, to put it bluntly, I spend most of my time trying not to think about.

This is not a criticism of this aspect of the story, not by any means. In fact, in a strange way it’s kind of a compliment to both actor Ed Speleers and the show’s writing team; that these hallucinatory experiences should be so realistic, and conveyed in such a relatable way that they’re felt viscerally by someone who has had those kinds of experiences… for perhaps the first time, I find myself able to compliment the Star Trek franchise for a realistic, understandable, and sensitive presentation of a complex mental health symptom.

But that doesn’t make these moments any easier to watch, and simply processing recent episodes of Picard hasn’t been easy for me.

This mysterious door is part of Jack’s vision/hallucination.

I’m going to set this aspect of Jack’s story down at this point. Obviously what he’s going through is connected, somehow, to the changelings, Vadic, and the conspiracy; the show clearly isn’t going to turn around and say that none of that is related and Jack’s schizophrenic. But I’m finding it hard to go back to those scenes, to process that side of the story, and I don’t really know what else to say about it at this juncture. If and when that changes, I’ll talk about Jack in more detail.

Perhaps when the season is over and I’ve had some more time to think and to process what unfolded, I’ll write about Jack’s story and how it relates to my own experience in more depth. So… stay tuned, I guess. Hopefully this storyline won’t just fizzle out and will come to a suitable end.

Dr Crusher with her son.

One part of Jack’s storyline that has me a little concerned is his potential tie to the changelings. Having set up Jack as the son of Dr Crusher and Picard, it would not be my preference for a twist in the story to rip that away. For Jack to turn out to be a changeling, or for his “real” parents to be someone else… I don’t think that would work. It would risk undermining not only Jack’s story, but Picard’s and elements of Riker’s, too.

Such a storyline would also be incredibly derivative, as it would basically be a play-for-play repeat of The Next Generation Season 7 episode Bloodlines, in which Picard’s old enemy DaiMon Bok fabricated evidence that Picard had a son as part of a revenge plot. In short, Jack’s storyline has to square this circle without undoing or overwriting some of the powerful and engaging emotional moments that we’ve seen in the season so far. If we get to the end of the story and Jack is revealed as a changeling imposter, meaning Picard never had a son, then that’s going to make some of these scenes between him and Picard feel very different – and I would argue far less meaningful – in retrospect.

I hope Jack’s storyline will have a solid ending.

So I think that’s more or less all I have to say about Imposters.

It was a fun episode, a thoroughly enjoyable ride with plenty of tension, excitement, drama, and mystery. Picard Season 3 seems to be in a good place as we reach the halfway point, and I was thrilled to welcome back Michelle Forbes for one final outing as Ro Laren.

With Picard and the Titan now on the run, I think there’s potential for even more exciting and explosive storylines. What I’m most looking forward to, though, is finally seeing the remaining members of the Enterprise-D’s crew joining the story. This promised reunion only has five episodes left to really make an impact – and I guess my concern is that we may look back on episodes like Imposters less kindly in retrospect if we don’t get to spend enough time with all of these returning characters.

A few scattered final thoughts:

  • Dr Crusher once again felt under-used, and I’d have wanted to spend a bit more time with her.
  • We never really got to see The Next Generation crew during the Dominion War – so it’s fun to see Picard and co. facing off against changelings.
  • Is Ro going to be the only surprise character – or could someone else appear before the end of the season?
  • Terry Matalas has now brought back practically all of the main cast members from Twelve Monkeys – a series he worked on from 2015-18.
  • What was going on with Ro’s hair (or wig?) It didn’t look great…
  • Starfleet’s new phaser pistols remind me a lot of TNG-era Romulan disruptors.

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

Star Trek: Picard bonus Season 3 theory: The “Prodigal Crewman”

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-3, including the trailers, teasers, and marketing material for upcoming episodes. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Discovery.

For some utterly inexplicable reason, Paramount doesn’t make all of its marketing material available to viewers outside of the United States. Trailers, teasers, clips, posters, and even Paramount’s own press website are geo-blocked, meaning fans and viewers who aren’t American can’t access them – at least, not officially. This is just another example of Paramount’s stupid, dangerous, and obviously damaging “America First” fetish that we’ve talked about here on the website on more than one occasion in the last few years.

But we’ll have to give Paramount another stern talking-to, clearly.

Fuck you too, Paramount.

Because I don’t have access to that, I missed something potentially huge about the upcoming fifth episode of Star Trek: Picard Season 3 that was revealed in the episode’s official press release. Here’s the full blurb so you can read it for yourself:

“Caught by Starfleet and facing court martial, paranoia grows as Picard struggles to uncover whether a prodigal crewman from his past has returned as an ally – or an enemy hellbent on destroying them all.”

One part of this in particular jumped out at me: the “prodigal crewman.” Who could this character be? And more importantly: might it be someone we’ve met before; a returning legacy character?

There are quite a lot of characters who could potentially return!

I would have included this as part of my theory list if I’d spotted it in time! I don’t like going back to posts I’ve already published and adding whole paragraphs and chunks of text, so instead of doing that, I’ve decided to write this one up as a standalone theory.

The use of the word “prodigal” is very interesting here, as it could absolutely be argued to imply that we’re dealing with a character we’ve already met. A “prodigal” son or daughter is someone who returns home, so I think we’ve got a case – albeit not a watertight one – to make in favour of this character being someone we’ve already met. And you better believe that I have a few ideas for who they could be!

Prodigal Crewman #1:
Tasha Yar

Tasha Yar at her post.

Denise Crosby, who originated the role of Tasha Yar in The Next Generation’s first season, has been heavily rumoured to be involved with Picard Season 3 for months, and it’s primarily for that reason that she’s in contention here. Yar was, of course, famously killed off toward the end of The Next Generation Season 1, but that didn’t stop Crosby from making occasional returns to Star Trek – either as Tasha Yar herself or as her half-Romulan daughter Sela.

Perhaps part of what Picard will have to figure out is whether Tasha Yar survived her injuries at the hands of Armus, or whether this version of Tasha Yar might be the mother of Sela – someone detained and imprisoned for years by the Romulans. Such a storyline could even cross over with a potential Section 31 series; Tasha’s survival may have been hushed up by the shadowy black-ops organisation.

Tasha Yar was killed off early in The Next Generation’s run.

Most fans of The Next Generation would instantly assume that Tasha Yar couldn’t possibly be real – because we know that she died a long time ago. That would potentially set up a kind of double-bluff, where the show leans into the idea that Tasha Yar is a changeling… only to perhaps rip that away at the last moment and say that she’s actually for real.

A good rule in Star Trek (and fiction in general!) is that if you haven’t seen the corpse, a character may not be truly dead. But we did see Tasha’s body, we watched her die, and we even saw her friends attend her memorial service. It would be difficult, narratively speaking, to find a way around that… and I don’t think it’s something that can just be hand-waved away or ignored. So there’s a potential pitfall here, I fear.

Prodigal Crewman #2:
Sito Jaxa

Ensign Sito Jaxa.

Ensign Sito Jaxa made two appearances in The Next Generation. She debuted in the episode The First Duty, where, as a cadet at Starfleet Academy, she played a role in covering up the death of a colleague during an unsanctioned flying manoeuvre. Later she appeared in the episode Lower Decks, having been assigned to the Enterprise-D at Picard’s explicit request.

Ensign Sito was presumed to have died during a mission to aid a Cardassian spy – but her body was never recovered, so it’s possible, perhaps, that she wasn’t killed in action as we were led to believe.

Sito with Picard.

Sito definitely qualifies as a “prodigal” crewman, I think! But as a character who only made a couple of appearances, she may not be as recognisable to the audience. The story would also have to find a way to explain what happened to Sito after her disappearance in a satisfactory way, telling us how and why she disappeared and allowed her friends to assume the worst.

Even with those issues, though, I think Sito could make for a fascinating character to bring back. And as a relatively unknown character, there’s scope to tell a different kind of story unconstrained by too much prior canon.

Prodigal Crewman #3:
Dr Pulaski

Dr Kate Pulaski.

I gotta be honest: I don’t really think that Dr Pulaski is a strong contender here. But as you’ll know if you read my in-depth look at her character, I truly like Dr Pulaski, and she’s a character that I wish we’d gotten to spend more time with. Giving her an epilogue after all these years would be fantastic – even if it seems quite unlikely!

So that’s the truth of Dr Pulaski’s inclusion on this list. But I still think we can build a case for her return. First and foremost, Dr Pulaski never got a conclusive goodbye after Season 2 of The Next Generation. She simply disappeared when Dr Crusher returned at the beginning of Season 3, and while there was supposedly a mention of her over a tannoy in the background during the events of the Voyager series finale Endgame, implying that she may have worked at Starfleet Medical, I don’t think that really counts!

Dr Pulaski, ready for a trip to the holodeck!

It would be genuinely interesting to see some kind of on-screen interaction between Drs Crusher and Pulaski, as that’s something we never got during The Next Generation’s run. How would these two very different doctors react to one another, and would their styles completely clash? It could certainly be a bit of fun to see that!

Dr Pulaski also had a burgeoning friendship with Worf, and has a strained relationship with Riker as she had once been involved with his father. She’s also a character who knew Professor Moriarty, who we know is coming back soon; she was present during his creation on the holodeck. There are good reasons to want to see more of Dr Pulaski – even though I think her return on this occasion isn’t the most likely.

Prodigal Crewman #4:
Ro Laren

Ro betrayed Riker and Picard the last time we saw her.

The former Ensign Ro is someone who could be absolutely fascinating to bring back. Her defection to the Maquis at the end of The Next Generation was something that clearly stung Picard, so there’d immediately be a loss of trust between them. Ro is also a character who could tell us a great deal about relations between the Federation and the Cardassians, as well as the potential survival of some members of the Maquis.

One interesting idea that hasn’t been explored fully in Star Trek since the Dominion War is the idea that characters like Ro and even Michael Eddington were, in a roundabout way, right. They predicted Cardassian aggression years before it happened, and were willing to fight back at a time when the Federation was pursuing what amounted to a policy of appeasement; peace at any cost.

Picard with Ensign Ro at a Bajoran refugee camp.

If Ro were to return, we could see her take Picard to task for failing to recognise signs that the Cardassians would once again make offensive moves against the Federation – and hearing what Picard may have to say in defence of his actions in that era could be fascinating, particularly in light of what happened in the Dominion War.

We could also see Ro as the returning “prodigal” crewman, perhaps having suffered years of imprisonment at the hands of the Cardassians, and lamenting the loss of many of her Maquis friends. I’m sure Riker would have a thing or two to say to her, too, because the last time he saw her she was pointing a phaser at him!

Prodigal Crewman #5:
Lore

Lore as he appeared in The Next Generation.

Is Lore a “crewman” in the strict sense of the term? I’m not so sure… but he’s also the only character on this list that we know for a fact will be included in the season’s story! That alone should mean he’s in contention.

It seems to have been hinted in pre-season marketing material that Lore may have changed since we last encountered him, and that he may have become more of a friend/ally to Picard and the crew. If so, perhaps that will be what Picard figures out over the course of this upcoming episode.

Lore in the final Season 3 trailer.

Is it possible that Lore might have been “repurposed” to somehow resurrect Data? That could also give Picard a puzzle to figure out: is he dealing with the genuine resurrection of his dead friend, or is Lore once again trying to take everyone for a ride by posing as his brother? After a prominent sequence at the end of Season 1 in which Data was laid to rest, I’m not sure this is the route I’d want to see the story go down – but you never know.

I’m not really sold on Lore’s return, to tell the truth. The “evil twin” angle was a fun one on a couple of occasions during The Next Generation’s run, but with Data seemingly out of the picture, Lore’s return seems to be more to do with wanting to reunite actor Brent Spiner with his co-stars rather than for any narrative reason. And with Spiner having already appeared in both Seasons 1 and 2 of Picard… maybe that’s just not something that will turn out to have been necessary. Regardless, this feels like it could plausibly be the moment of Lore’s return.

Prodigal Crewman #6:
Elnor

Season 2 promotional photo of Elnor.

I know, I know: actor Evan Evagora has stated that he isn’t coming back for Picard’s third season. However, we heard similar words from Orla Brady, who plays Laris, and she actually did appear in the season premiere. Perhaps Elnor could be back for a one-off appearance after all!

Would we call Elnor a “prodigal” crewman? And what reason might Picard have to suspect that he’s dangerous – other than the obvious changeling infiltration possibility? Also, what kind of role might Elnor have in prosecuting Picard at a potential court-martial? All of these questions would have to be answered if Elnor is indeed to return!

Cadet Elnor at the end of Season 2.

However, it would be an unexpected and fun twist in the story. We could learn that Elnor has graduated from Starfleet Academy and is now a fully-fledged Starfleet officer, perhaps serving in the security division. He could even enable Picard and Riker to escape their potential arrest, proving that he’s on their side.

Elnor’s return could also lead to a reunion with Raffi, as the two clearly had a strong bond. It must’ve been difficult for Raffi to leave Elnor behind to go undercover – especially as he’s the closest thing to family she has left after alienating and estranging herself from her ex-husband, son, and daughter-in-law. Elnor’s story, perhaps more so than any other new character, is arguably the most unfinished – and finding a genuinely good reason for his last-second resurrection at the end of Season 2 should be a priority, too.

Prodigal Crewman #7:
Sela

Sela in The Next Generation.

We mentioned Sela above when talking about Tasha Yar, but could she turn out to be the “prodigal crewman” herself? Depending on the state of Romulan-Federation relations in this era, it’s possible, I suppose, that other Romulans might follow in Elnor’s footsteps and join Starfleet – or at least work alongside Starfleet in some capacity as allies.

Sela could also emerge not as a member of the crew, but in some other role, perhaps as a fellow prisoner if Picard and Riker are placed under arrest. She could return offering to break Picard out of jail, only for Picard to have to stop to consider whether she’s doing so to help – or because she has some other nefarious goal in mind.

Picard and Sela have crossed paths before…

This would allow Denise Crosby to return but without having to, for want of a better expression, dig up Tasha Yar. Given the adversarial nature of Sela’s relationship with Picard, it would make sense why he wouldn’t know whether or not to trust her – and why he’d need to figure out whether she’s an ally or an enemy.

I definitely think that there’s scope to bring back Sela in some form this season – though whether this would be the right way to do it is still an open question!

Prodigal Crewman #8:
Vadic

Vadic in Seventeen Seconds.

This one is a bit “out there,” so bear with me! I’ve had a theory that has been running for as long as we’ve known Vadic would be a part of the season’s story in which I’ve suggested that she could be a former Starfleet officer – someone who once served under Picard’s command. The inclusion of multiple connections to the Battle of Wolf-359 – including most prominently Captain Shaw’s presence at the battle that was revealed in No Win Scenario – could also be a potential origin story for Vadic: she was a Starfleet officer or enlisted crewman present at the battle.

Perhaps Vadic will return in the upcoming episode, relatively unscathed after Riker’s asteroid attack, and will reveal herself as a former crewmate of Picard’s. She may offer some tantalising piece of information pertaining to the rogue changelings and their conspiracy that Picard will need to investigate – and determining whether Vadic’s offer is genuine or a trap could be a big part of the story.

Who is Vadic?

If Vadic truly is someone who served in Starfleet, I’m not sure if this is how that revelation might come. But it feels like a possibility, at least, and now that we’re relatively certain that Vadic isn’t actually a changeling herself, but is merely working for them in some capacity, the question of her origin is once again an open one.

It would be a shocking twist in the story if Vadic essentially “turned evil” because of something that Picard did or didn’t do. She might blame him for her injuries if she once served aboard the Stargazer or Enterprise-D, or she might hold Picard accountable for her assimilation if she was captured and assimilated by the Borg, for example. There are multiple ways to tie Vadic to Picard’s past – including as a “prodigal crewman.”

Prodigal Crewman #9:
Reg Barclay

Barclay with a medical tricorder.

Barclay would be a fun and interesting character to include in Season 3, and a potential story in which he plays a role could also see him interacting with Seven of Nine. Barclay was instrumental in helping the USS Voyager communicate with Starfleet while the ship was stranded in the Delta Quadrant, so a kind of reunion between him and Seven could be a ton of fun!

Although Barclay was arguably not Picard’s favourite officer during his tenure aboard the Enterprise-D, he was always an ally – so the question of why Picard might mistrust him is an open one. As an engineer, there’s also the question of what role Barclay might play during a potential arrest and court-martial – he clearly isn’t going to be a security officer or advocate.

Barclay in Star Trek: Voyager.

Again, Barclay could be someone who shows up, seemingly out of nowhere, offering Picard and Riker a potential way out. Determining whether that offer of assistance is genuine could be what the blurb of the episode is hinting at, and it could be fun to see Picard and Riker trying to “test” Barclay to see whether he’s the genuine article.

Barclay is another character that I think could make a welcome return to Star Trek, and could link up with Picard, Geordi, Seven, and others in Picard’s third season in different and fun ways. Whether this would be the right way to do it… I’m not 100% sure. But it’s at least a possibility!

Prodigal Crewman #10:
Miles O’Brien

O’Brien in The Next Generation.

Chief O’Brien is basically the only person on this list who meets the strictest definition of “crewman!” O’Brien was never a commissioned officer, instead holding the rank of chief petty officer – a non-commissioned rank that essentially makes him a senior crewman. Could that complicated work of semantic gymnastics be a hint at the return of Chief O’Brien?

I’d absolutely love to see Miles O’Brien come back. He’d certainly have a lot to say to Worf – the two worked together for years during the Dominion War. He’s also a character with a strong connection to Picard, having served aboard the Enterprise-D before transferring to DS9.

Chief O’Brien.

O’Brien is also a great character to include in a story all about the rogue changelings. As a kind of epilogue to Deep Space Nine seems to be unfolding, bringing back other characters from that series makes a lot of sense – and if it’s someone like O’Brien that Picard hasn’t seen for a long time, it would be understandable if trust is hard to come by at first. Worf could be the point of connection here, proving to Picard that O’Brien is on their side.

I doubt that the question of “crewman” versus “officer” will ultimately matter; that was just a bit of fun. It would be great to think that we might see Chief O’Brien again, though, and that he might have a role to play in a story that brings back the changelings and makes reference to the Dominion War – a war in which he played a major role.

Prodigal Crewman #11:
Wesley Crusher

Wesley after his field commission.

Another character who would arguably fit the definition of “prodigal” is Wesley Crusher, who has been off with the Travelers for a number of years. We saw at the end of Season 2 that Wesley has settled into that role, so the question of why he might choose to make himself known to Picard at this time is unclear.

However, as the blurb hints, it could be possible that a changeling is impersonating Wesley to try to catch Picard and Dr Crusher off-guard. This imposter could be trying to get to Jack through Dr Crusher, using the image of Wesley to worm their way into the Crushers’ trust.

Wesley with Kore Soong at the end of Season 2.

Having seen Wesley at the end of last season, though, and seemingly in a pretty conclusive scene, I’m not certain that he’ll be back again so soon. There are good reasons to do it, both narratively speaking and for the fun of including another legacy character, but there are also some pretty solid counterpoints, too.

Still, Wesley would certainly fit the definition, and would be an interesting character to include. His inclusion could set up a kind of double-bluff, where we’re led to believe there’s a high likelihood of his being a changeling, only for the story to prove at the last moment that he actually is Wesley Crusher. I think a lot of fans would like to see a reunion between Wesley and Beverly – and it could be fun to see Wesley meeting his half-sibling for the first time, too!

Prodigal Crewman #12:
Thomas Riker

Thomas Riker.

Thomas Riker – a transporter-created clone of William Riker – would be an interesting character to bring back. Last we saw him, Thomas was being arrested by the Cardassians, having exposed a secret fleet that the Obsidian Order was building. This took place in the years prior to the Dominion War – so what became of him after his arrest was never seen on screen.

If Thomas survived the war, he may have been returned to the Federation, or perhaps liberated from a Cardassian prison camp during the course of the conflict. If so, perhaps he was able to rejoin Starfleet at some point.

Could this be Thomas Riker? Or did Thomas somehow replace the real Riker?

The presence of Thomas Riker could tie into the theme of an “imposter” without going down the obvious route of having another changeling hiding out in Starfleet. It could fall to Picard to figure out whether he’s sitting with the original Riker or his clone – and as the two men are indistinguishable by scans and sensors, it might only be Picard’s insight into his former number one that could find out the truth.

This could also potentially explain why we saw a clip in one of the pre-season trailers that seemed to show Riker trapped or imprisoned. If Thomas is involved, could he be working with Vadic? He was actually one of the characters I suggested could be part of her team when I put together a list back in November. You can find the full list by clicking or tapping here.

Bonus Prodigal Crewman:
Someone entirely new.

Will it be someone we’ve never met?

In Season 1, the super-synths and Zhat Vash were entirely new creations. In Season 2, Star Trek’s past likewise didn’t factor into either the mysterious anomaly or Picard’s own backstory. There have been moments in both seasons where characters from the past could have been included: multiple admirals and senior Starfleet personnel could have been replaced by the likes of Admiral Janeway, for instance, or Dr Benayoun in Season 1 could have been subbed out for someone like Dr Pulaski or Dr Bashir.

So there are good reasons to think that, once again, Picard will create an entirely new character to fill this space. Such a character could be said to have served under Picard’s command aboard the Enterprise-D, the Enterprise-E, the Stargazer, or during the Romulan rescue mission, and they could be tailor-made to fill a particular role in this new narrative.

In Season 1, the new character of Dr Benayoun was created.

I’d suggest that this reference to a “prodigal crewman” hasn’t exactly been a massive part of the marketing or promotional material for either the season as a whole or even for this episode – so if it turns out not to be relevant, I don’t think we can really accuse Paramount of getting our hopes up too much! On several occasions in recent seasons of Star Trek, there arguably have been teases that hinted at potential returning characters or factions that ultimately didn’t pan out. We could point to Tarka’s friend and Unknown Species 10-C in Discovery Season 4, the Burn in Discovery Season 3, and the super-synths in Picard Season 1 as examples of this… but this reference to a “prodigal crewman” feels minor in comparison.

In short, what I’m trying to say is this: don’t be surprised if this character turns out to be someone brand-new. Although we’ve had fun (I hope) speculating wildly about possible returning characters, a brand-new creation is at least as likely – if not more so – than anyone on this list!

So that’s it!

The Titan will rendezvous with another Starfleet vessel…

We’ve considered twelve possible characters who could be the “prodigal crewman” mentioned in the blurb for Imposters, the upcoming fifth episode of Picard Season 3. Will we look back at this list in a few days’ time and think how brilliant and insightful it was? Or will we instead think how silly it was to speculate about a bunch of characters who clearly had no role to play? Only time will tell! But even if I’m completely wrong on this, it was a bit of fun to speculate about who may or may not be coming back.

I’d be hard-pressed to pick a favourite on the list above. For production-side reasons, characters played by actors who we know to be involved in the season – like Thomas Riker or Lore – feel plausible, as do characters like Sela and Tasha Yar as Denise Crosby has been heavily rumoured to be playing a role this time. But Star Trek has kept some wonderful surprises – Wesley Crusher’s role at the end of Season 2 hadn’t been leaked or even hinted at, making it a great inclusion in the episode Farewell. What I’m saying is that a complete shock shouldn’t be entirely disregarded; it’s possible, at least, that a truly unexpected character could be about to make a return.

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

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

Star Trek: Picard Episode Review – Season 3, Episode 4: No Win Scenario

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, and Voyager.

The title of this week’s episode annoyed me! A “no-win scenario” should be written thus, with a hyphen, but Paramount opted not to abide by that particular rule of grammar. Still, I suppose I’m not one to talk!

After Seventeen Seconds had been fantastic across the board last week, I felt the quality dip slightly this time as No Win Scenario couldn’t quite reach that same level. There were a couple of moments where the conversations characters had felt like they were taken from a soap-opera, an incredibly rushed rationalisation for what was going on, and a big, explosive moment as the episode reached its climax that, for reasons we’ll get into, didn’t quite have the impact it was going for.

Picard exits the holodeck.

After last week’s episode ended with Picard and Riker experiencing a major falling-out, I was expecting that No Win Scenario would find a way to bring them back together. However, I wasn’t expecting it to happen so quickly, nor for the conflict to just… fizzle out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always going to be happier to see Picard and Riker on friendly terms and working in common cause, but after such a spectacular blow-up last week that saw Picard banished from the bridge… I expected some kind of apology-come-resolution to settle this argument. No Win Scenario didn’t really deliver that, at least not in a meaningful way, and this aspect of the story – which had been a major part of last week’s episode and its cliffhanger ending – felt unsatisfying.

As happened more than once in Season 2, I felt that No Win Scenario was in a rush to bring this cliffhanger to a resolution so that there’d be enough time left to crack on with the rest of the story. While it’s possible that there will be ramifications for Picard and Riker if things settle down aboard the Titan, and we could re-visit this character conflict in a future episode to get a more conclusive ending, based on what we saw in No Win Scenario I was left feeling a bit empty; something significant was missing from the way this conflict wrapped up.

Picard and Riker’s argument seemed to fizzle out.

That last sentence also applies to my feelings on the conflict with Captain Vadic, and although the fight between the Titan and the Shrike came at the tail end of the episode, we’ll jump ahead to look at that next.

The use of an asteroid as a weapon was visually spectacular and just plain cool, with the animation work used to bring it to life being absolutely outstanding. There was a kind of poetic symmetry to Riker using the tractor-beam as a weapon after Vadic had done the same in Disengage a couple of weeks ago.

The Shrike was heavily damaged by Riker’s asteroid attack.

But here’s the problem that I have with the way this conflict came across: we still don’t know Vadic. We want to see her stopped and we don’t want her to succeed – but that’s only because we don’t want to see Jack Crusher or our other heroes harmed or captured. At this point in the story, Vadic is no-one… we don’t know who she is, what she wants, what her connection is to the rogue changelings and their scheme, or really anything else about her. She’s an over-the-top villain, almost a caricature of someone like Khan… and seeing her defeated just didn’t feel like it had any significance except insofar as it allowed the Titan to escape.

Think about some of the best, nastiest Star Trek villains from the franchise’s past. By the time the Battle of the Mutara Nebula ended in The Wrath of Khan, we didn’t just want Kirk to win – we wanted Khan to lose. Likewise for villains like Sela, Gul Dukat, or the Kelvin timeline’s Admiral Marcus – their stories were written in such a way that we wanted to see them beaten, defeated, and left for dead. I don’t feel any of that toward Vadic right now, and the reason is simple: I don’t know who she is or what she wants. She’s a speedbump; an obstacle for our heroes to overcome. I want to see her stopped, but only by default.

Picard Season 3 hasn’t earned a moment like this yet.

No Win Scenario set up the Shrike’s return and had the ship standing in the Titan’s way as Riker and Picard tried to guide the ship to safety. And this moment felt tense and exciting, with a genuine threat to our heroes. Jack in particular seemed to be in danger; with no shields to speak of, he could have been beamed away by Vadic, perhaps.

But in terms of Vadic herself… her defeat on this occasion felt unimportant and unearned. Sure, the Titan needed to get the Shrike out of the way to make an escape. But beyond that, seeing Vadic and her crew scrambling around on their damaged vessel just didn’t make much of an impression. Earlier in the episode we started the process of unravelling the Vadic mystery… but we haven’t made enough progress on that front for her to feel like a fully-rounded, fleshed-out character just yet. Unless and until that happens, these moments will continue to fall flat.

The Titan launches an asteroid at the Shrike.

A villain created to be as over-the-top as Vadic is supposed to be someone we can “love to hate.” And I’m hopeful that that feeling will come in the episodes ahead; we aren’t yet at the halfway point. But at this point in the story, Vadic isn’t someone I love to hate. In fact, she isn’t someone I “hate” at all, she’s someone who I don’t yet understand.

Had this moment with the Shrike and the asteroid come later, after we’d learned more about Vadic and what this conspiracy is that Picard and the crew will need to stop, then maybe her defeat in the moment would feel more significant and more impactful. At this point in the story, though, it didn’t. We’ll see more of Vadic, of this I’m sure, but there’s also a risk in defeating a villain at an early stage. The Shrike was incredibly intimidating at first… but we’ve already seen that it can be defeated. That could potentially lower the stakes and reduce the tension when we inevitably encounter Vadic further down the road.

We’ve already seen how Vadic can be beaten. Will that make the next encounter feel less tense?

With all that being said, there was a very interesting aspect to Vadic’s story this week. We knew, thanks to the presence of a changeling infiltrator aboard the Titan, that Vadic had some kind of relationship with the rogue changelings that Worf and Raffi uncovered in last week’s episode. I wasn’t alone in having speculated that Vadic might be a changeling herself – but it seems that isn’t the case. Maybe she truly is the bounty hunter she claimed to be – but there’s a close working relationship with at least one changeling that will be fascinating to see unfold.

As a concept, the idea of a changeling forming a body part is something that Star Trek has never really explored before – perhaps it was too gory for television networks in the ’60s or the ’90s to consider! But the idea that Vadic may have a kind of symbiotic relationship with a changeling is an interesting one, and if we learn, perhaps, that Vadic has had a hand amputated due to a wartime injury or a horrible accident, there’s a chance for such a story point to lead to some of that understanding that’s currently absent from her characterisation.

Vadic has a changeling-hand.

Another interesting aspect of the conversation Vadic had with the changeling was how fearful she seemed to be. In her first appearance in Disengage – her most significant thus far – Vadic had a kind of chaotic energy; a bizarre, unsettling, almost carefree approach. She knew that she was in a dominant position thanks to the power of her ship, but she revelled in the chase and in hunting her prey.

Contrast how she spoke to the crew of the Titan a couple of weeks ago with how she spoke to her changeling attaché in No Win Scenario – and particularly how fearful she seemed and how quick she was to acquiesce when pushed. The changeling clearly has some degree of leverage over Vadic here; there’s a power imbalance. But what could it be? For the second time, I find myself saying that “money” will not be anywhere close to a satisfactory explanation!

Vadic’s boss. I vote that we name him “Floaty McFloatface.”

Villains don’t need to be sympathetic. We just talked about examples of wonderful villains in Star Trek who were nasty pieces of work through-and-through. I don’t need to feel that a villain has a good point in order to understand them. But a villain needs motivation, and right now, Vadic’s true motives are obscured through a thick narrative fog. If a suitable ending to her story has been planned, written, and properly executed, then there’s no need to worry. In time we’ll come to understand what Vadic wants and be able to enjoy her comeuppance when she doesn’t get it.

But I’m afraid that Picard’s track record in these areas is once again ringing alarm bells. Season 1 came totally unstuck because it ran out of road and an acceptable ending couldn’t be constructed in the remaining time allotted to the show. Season 2 had a plethora of issues, but the same problem of a rushed, unsatisfying ending that didn’t have time to tie up enough loose ends was repeated. And Season 2 had the same creative team and showrunner as Season 3. So as we approach the midpoint of the season, I look upon Vadic’s story in particular with more than a little concern. There’s no small amount of work to do to give this character a genuine reason for behaving the way she does while also pulling out a creditable ending.

Why do Vadic do what Vadic do?

That’s enough about Vadic for now. Another character who caused me mixed feelings in No Win Scenario was Captain Shaw – and there are several parts to his story. Some worked better than others, and I’ll start by saying that Shaw is a more interesting and nuanced character than I’d been expecting. There’s also an inspired performance from Todd Stashwick, who really seems to be putting his all into the standoffish Starfleet captain.

You know there’s a “but” coming, though.

But unfortunately, Shaw’s story in No Win Scenario was muddled in more ways than one. First of all, we have the problem I could see coming a mile away: there are too many captains aboard the Titan. Shaw’s injury in Seventeen Seconds was a convenient excuse to bump Riker into the captain’s chair – but that was always implied to be a very temporary move. Shaw’s recovery should have seen him reclaim the chair – especially given his obvious dislike of Riker and Picard. A convoluted story beat involving Shaw being literally the only officer on the Titan capable of performing a technobabble engineering task may have gone some way to excusing his absence on the bridge… but by the end of the episode I fully expected him to come bursting out of the turbolift to reclaim his ship.

Captain Shaw.

We’ve seen other Star Trek stories where more than one character holding the rank of captain was present on the same ship, and that doesn’t have to be an issue in and of itself. In The Wrath of Khan, for instance, we had Admiral Kirk and Captain Spock aboard the Enterprise, and by the time of The Undiscovered Country Sulu had also been promoted and was in command of his own ship. But in this particular story, the way Shaw is written and the uncertain nature of both Riker and Picard’s status as Starfleet or ex-Starfleet or semi-retired officers just makes it feel unnecessarily complicated.

If the reason for Shaw sticking around was to have a big blow-up with Picard about the Battle of Wolf-359 and Picard’s assimilation… then I’m afraid it didn’t stick the landing and wasn’t worth the fuss. This was supposed to be one of the emotional punches of No Win Scenario, and a sequence that explained much of Captain Shaw’s hostility since Picard first came aboard the ship. But I didn’t feel there was sufficient buildup to Shaw’s outburst, which left the resulting scene feeling like it came from nowhere – and with character drama that could rival any soap-opera.

Shaw hated Picard for his role in the Battle of Wolf-359.

In principle, this is a clever idea. It forces Picard to confront a part of his past that he’s still uncomfortable with, and he has to do it in front of Jack at a time when the two are just beginning to get to know one another. But the execution here wasn’t great, nor was the shoehorning in of the Guinan’s Bar set that Paramount seems to insist on re-using as often as possible.

A captain who hates Picard because of what happened at Wolf-359? Why does that sound familiar? Oh, right: it’s because this was also the setup for Benjamin Sisko at the beginning of Deep Space Nine more than thirty years ago. In short, we’ve seen this argument before. There are differences between Shaw and Sisko, of course; Sisko’s anger was more of a slow-burning thing, whereas Shaw’s was a rapid explosion – perhaps influenced by the pain medication he claimed to be taking. But while those differences keep the two sequences and two characters feeling distinct, the underlying premise is so similar as to feel incredibly familiar to any long-standing Star Trek fan.

We’ve been here before…

Picard’s third season promised to draw on the legacy of Deep Space Nine in a way that modern Star Trek hasn’t so far – and by introducing a rogue faction of changelings that Odo warned Worf about, the writers have created a truly engaging epilogue to the Deep Space Nine story. But Shaw’s background being nigh-on identical to Sisko’s feels like it crosses the line from homage into plagiarism, and while it gives us a reason to feel more sympathy for Shaw, or at least to understand him better, it also feels like a pretty cheap recycling of such an important story beat.

With no Borg presence readily apparent in the story of the season (though that could admittedly change), I’m also a little confused as to why the story keeps returning to Picard’s Borg past. We had multiple references to The Best of Both Worlds in the season premiere, and now we have this big reveal that Shaw was present at the Battle of Wolf-359 too… but at this point, which again is nearly halfway through the season, these references don’t seem to be going anywhere.

The Enterprise-D flies past wrecked ships after the Battle of Wolf-359.

In Seasons 1 and 2, Picard’s Borg connection – and the trauma it brought him – were big plot points. We had his first visit to a Borg cube in the Season 1 episode The Impossible Box, which contained a truly excellent sequence looking at Picard’s post-traumatic stress and how being back in that environment was a trigger. And in Season 2, we saw how Picard had grown in regard to the Borg, being willing to at least listen to a Borg proposal – something that later set the stage for Seven of Nine’s character arc, learning to accept the Borg side of herself.

In both cases, though, the Borg connection to current events was readily apparent. We had the Artifact in Season 1, which showed up in pre-season marketing before appearing in either the first or second episode of the season (I forget which exactly). And in Season 2, the very first episode re-introduced the Borg in truly spectacular fashion. Both stories set up their Borg elements early on, meaning that their subsequent Borg connections worked and felt meaningful. That sense just isn’t present here.

Picard confronted his Borg demons in Season 1.

Narratively, I don’t see what we gain by Shaw bringing up Picard’s Borg past, either. As mentioned, Picard has basically come to terms with what his assimilation experience means by this point – from The Next Generation episode Family, the Deep Space Nine premiere, the film First Contact, and episodes in Picard Seasons 1 and 2, we’ve seen him process different parts of this experience. I’m struggling to see what – if anything – has been gained or could be gained in future, in a story all about Jean-Luc Picard, by re-hashing this aspect of his life – especially by re-doing a storyline that we’ve already seen play out.

For Captain Shaw, of course, his outburst was almost certainly a cathartic release; the outpouring of emotions bottled up for more than three decades. But – and I don’t mean this unkindly – I don’t really care about Shaw at this stage. He’s a new character, someone who’s only been on screen for a few minutes in total until now, and while this revelation certainly tells us something in a strictly factual sense about his background, I’m just not feeling its necessity… not to this story, at any rate. With Sisko, who was about to take centre-stage in his own series, it made sense to detail this defining incident in his life to set up where he was going to go over the course of Deep Space Nine’s run. For Shaw, who may or may not have much of a role to play over the remaining six episodes of Picard… again, I just don’t see why it was necessary to take this diversion.

Captain Shaw told his story to Picard and Jack.

I said a couple of weeks ago that I understood why Captain Shaw had been basically subbed in for Chris Rios – the character from Seasons 1 and 2 who had been dumped by the series. But if this connection to The Best of Both Worlds and the grumpy, standoffish persona is the only real reason why Captain Shaw exists… then I think I’d rather have had Rios in the captain’s chair this time around. Creating a brand-new character only to essentially re-do part of the plot of Deep Space Nine’s Emissary just doesn’t feel substantial or satisfying. But perhaps I’m biased in the sense that I felt Rios was treated incredibly poorly by the writers for much of last season!

It’s also worth saying that Shaw may yet have more to contribute. I don’t hate him by any means, and I think he has potential in some ways to be an interesting character, and as someone who isn’t a natural friend to Picard, he introduces a bit of drama and conflict into the story that wouldn’t necessarily be present otherwise. What I am saying, though, is that if this is Shaw’s only big moment – his main contribution to the season’s story – then I’m underwhelmed.

Captain Shaw: grease monkey.

One thing that I absolutely adored about No Win Scenario was the alien-nursery anomaly that the Titan found itself trapped inside of. Nothing could feel more “Star Trek” than seeing a spacefaring lifeform give birth, and it harkened back to the events of the very first episode of The Next Generation – as the characters themselves noted in the episode.

The life-forms that were born as the nursery-nebula erupted were beautiful, too, and the CGI artists and animators deserve so much praise for bringing these creatures to life in such spectacular fashion. The whole idea from concept to execution felt like it had been lifted from a classic episode of The Original Series or The Next Generation, with the threat of Vadic fading into the background and a scientific mystery for Picard, Riker, and the Crushers to unravel.

The Titan surrounded by spacefaring life-forms.

However, there was one aspect of this story that didn’t work particularly well, and because of who it involves it feels like quite a disappointment. In The Next Generation, Dr Crusher didn’t always get enough screen time or a lot to do; her scenes were mainly in sickbay, so in episodes with no medical element, she wasn’t always able to make much of a contribution to the story. Her return in Picard – and particularly having been outside of Starfleet for twenty years, operating independently – is an opportunity to right a thirty-five-year-old wrong, and show Dr Crusher in somewhat of a new light. We saw the beginnings of that in the season premiere as she grabbed a phaser rifle to defend her ship… but this week felt like a regression to the way she’d been treated in The Next Generation – and I don’t mean that in any sense as a compliment.

No Win Scenario had its attention on several storylines at once. There was the Picard-Riker spat, the Picard-Shaw confrontation, Picard’s attempt to get to know Jack, and off to one side was Seven of Nine as she hunted a rogue changeling. Even with a fifty-five minute runtime, Dr Crusher once again felt sidelined.

Dr Crusher didn’t get as much screen time as I’d have liked to see.

This mattered not only because, well, I wanted and still want to see more of Dr Crusher, but because her condensed storyline ended up feeling like it skipped a beat… or more like a dozen beats. Dr Crusher seemed to take a completely irrational leap of logic from “these energy pulses are increasing in frequency” to “the nebula must be a womb,” and it happened in a matter of seconds. In The Next Generation era, this kind of storyline would have played out at least slightly slower, and would have been in focus for longer. Dr Crusher would still have arrived at the same end point, but it seemed like one heck of a contrivance for her to figure out exactly what was going on based on a single piece of evidence and a very shaky hypothesis that she concocted in a matter of seconds.

We’re seeing the consequence of a busy season here. Not only were Worf and Raffi entirely absent this week, but there’s still no sign of Geordi or Lore, and of the characters who were present, not all of them got enough time to shine. We had some fantastic moments with Riker, Picard, Jack, and even Seven and Captain Shaw… but Dr Crusher appears to have drawn the short straw. And not for the first time.

Dr Crusher seemed to figure out what was happening unrealistically quickly.

Last week, I said in my review that I was beginning to feel concerned that Geordi and Troi hadn’t shown up yet, and that Worf and Raffi were off to one side in their own little narrative box, unable to interact with the rest of the cast of characters – and this week’s episode has really ramped that up. I’m less worried about Lore, partly I have to say because I’ve never been a huge Lore fan, but also because Brent Spiner has already been a big part of Picard in its first two seasons. But I have been genuinely excited to welcome back Geordi, and to see Worf getting back together with his old crew.

With Dr Crusher having parts of her story cut this week – or, perhaps more likely, not written in the first place – I feel even more concern for this supposed reunion. Even if Geordi, Troi, and Lore join the story next week, and Worf and Raffi’s storyline finally crosses over with the Titan’s, we’ll still have spent basically half the season without them. And based on what we saw with Dr Crusher this week… I’m not convinced that the writers will have given everyone enough to do.

We still haven’t seen Geordi and Lore, nor had more than a cameo from Troi.

In these truncated ten-episode seasons that have become commonplace not only in Star Trek, but in modern streaming series in general, there’s such a thing as too many characters and too many storylines. That’s part of the reason why, despite my objections, the likes of Soji and Elnor were dropped and didn’t come back this time around: there simply wasn’t space for them in an already-crowded series.

But having promised us a reunion, and talked about how characters who didn’t always get enough to do in The Next Generation might finally have an opportunity to contribute… Season 3 hasn’t yet delivered. Those ideas remain incredibly appealing, but it’s at the very least worth noting that we’re 40% of the way through and they haven’t happened yet. Not only that, but at points where characters could have been used and where this feeling could have materialised – as with Dr Crusher this week – it didn’t work as well as it should’ve.

Dr Crusher with Jack and Picard.

After we saw how Captain Shaw was unkind to and even deadnaming Seven of Nine, it was nice to see them working together and developing their very own kind of begrudging rapport. We haven’t really seen in Star Trek this kind of adversarial dynamic between captain and XO, with such unpleasantness and genuine dislike between them, at least not outside of a handful of one-off guest characters like Jellico. So it’s an interesting element to add to the story – and one that did manage to get a cathartic payoff as No Win Scenario reached its climax.

There was also a reason, of a sort, for the deadnaming, which had been an uncomfortable element earlier in the season. I stand by what I said, though: this kind of deadnaming should be socially unacceptable in Star Trek’s optimistic future, and while it served a narrative function in more ways than one, it’s still deeply uncomfortable in terms of what it says about the state of the Federation and the Star Trek galaxy.

The deadnaming of Seven of Nine got a narrative payoff… but still feels uncomfortable.

But the deadnaming of Seven of Nine provided a satisfying end to the changeling infiltration storyline – one which, again, succeeded at recapturing that elusive sense of “Star Trek.” Seven was able to figure out who the changeling was posing as, partly by working with Riker and partly because she’d developed friendships with other members of the crew – in this case, Ensign La Forge.

One contrivance here that I guess we’ll have to overlook is the changeling’s objective. If they wanted to ensure Jack Crusher’s capture – as Vadic’s changeling “boss” seemed to suggest is their main mission – then why on earth would the changeling wish to sabotage the Titan’s escape from certain death in the gravity well of a nebula? I could believe that they would place the success of their mission ahead of their own survival, but in terms of what we know about the changelings’ objective at this stage, if capturing Jack is priority #1, then the infiltrator shouldn’t have been trying to sabotage the Titan’s escape. We learned this week that Vadic only broke off her pursuit last time because she feared for the safety of her ship, not because killing Jack or trapping the Titan were important objectives, so again: the changeling infiltrator’s motives don’t really make a lot of sense here.

Why would the changeling try to prevent the Titan’s escape if doing so meant their own death and the death of Jack Crusher?

I can overlook this point, as in the context of the story it isn’t massive and is basically a glorified nitpick, but I think it’s worth taking note of these things as they arise. One or two contrivances here and there are almost inevitable – but too many risks damaging the overall integrity of the narrative, so keeping it to a minimum is essential in order to maintain suspension of disbelief.

The way in which the story as a whole was set up this week was again something that harkened back to The Next Generation and even The Original Series – the ship being adrift, trapped by an unknown space phenomenon, with time running out. Those are Star Trek tropes as old as the franchise itself! But the way in which No Win Scenario put a twist on them was unique – and very dark.

The Titan “sinking” into the nebula.

Instead of this story immediately leading to the crew springing into action and preparing their escape, there was a defeatist tone from the very first scene of the episode. Riker in particular was very bleak in the first half of the episode, sinking into dejection and depression as he couldn’t figure out a way to save the ship and crew.

This spin on a classic formula was incredibly well handled, and in many ways feels a lot more realistic than any episodes in those earlier Star Trek series. One thing that Star Trek hasn’t always managed to convey is just how deadly and dangerous space can be – and we saw firsthand this week that it’s possible for even an advanced Federation starship to find itself in an impossible situation. Past Star Trek stories succeeded at conveying a sense of danger, but there was always a positive, optimistic approach – never the kind of “lay down and wait to die” mentality that seemed pervasive on the Titan in parts of No Win Scenario. Yet it makes perfect sense that some people would react that way – and it perfectly fits the darker tone that Picard has when compared to The Next Generation.

Riker was one of the defeatists earlier in the episode.

We talked a little about how Picard has arguably already overcome much of his Borg-related trauma, or at least how we’ve seen him engaged in that process in both Picard and earlier Star Trek productions. One thing that we haven’t always seen is Picard asking for help, reaching out to someone else and saying that he needs them – but we got that through his scenes with Jack this week.

When facing what seemed to be imminent death, Picard asked Jack to spend some time with him, and as they talked, it became clear that Picard wasn’t doing it for Jack’s sake – but for his own. To hear him articulate that was deeply emotional, and both Sir Patrick Stewart and Ed Speleers excelled in that moment. This was, from their point of view, perhaps the only opportunity they were going to get to have this conversation – or any conversation, for that matter – and it was important for Picard to at least ask some of those questions of Jack, and to try to reach out to him.

Jack agreed to share a drink with Picard.

Picard had indicated earlier, I think in last week’s episode, that he felt the bridges between himself and Jack had long ago been burned, but it was great to see Riker encouraging him – albeit with the threat of death spurring them on – to give it a try. As his life seemed to be ending, Picard hoped to spend a moment or two with the son he never knew, and there’s something touching about that. Likewise, for Jack to reciprocate that, even if it was only for a moment, was something very sweet.

Male relationships – and the relationships men have with their fathers – can be difficult, and are often defined by a lack of emotion or warmth. Although I now identify as non-binary, I was assigned male at birth, and I can say from my own experience that my relationship with my father has never been warm, emotional, or loving. My father and I can make small-talk, sure, but he would never have a heart-to-heart with me about, well, anything… and the best I can hope for from him has always been a firm handshake.

Daddy issues…

What I’m trying to say is that, for many men, there may be something cathartic about a scene like the one between Picard and Jack. A father and son having a genuine and deeply emotional conversation is something that a lot of folks frankly just don’t get in their personal lives, and even though Picard’s relationship with Jack is new – and pretty complicated – there’s still something about it that brings almost a sense of emotional release.

Jean-Luc Picard is, for many of us, a kind of “space dad;” a character we’ve known for decades and who has often, through his position in the captain’s chair, felt like the patriarch of a family. I often wished I could be a part of that family when I watched The Next Generation in the early ’90s. So to see this conversation between Jack and Picard… I felt a very strong connection with Jack in those moments.

Jack felt very relatable this week.

I won’t lie, though, it still gave me a bit of a giggle to see Picard asking Jack whether he was 23 or 24. I don’t like to keep bringing this up (the show rather forces it upon us) but actor Ed Speleers, who plays Jack, simply does not pass for someone in his early twenties any more. It’s perhaps not quite as bad as some of those “teen” dramedies from the ’70s or ’80s in which actors in their thirties and sometimes even forties were trying – and utterly failing – to play teenagers… but it’s not far off. It’s no slight against the actor – I’m sure I couldn’t pass for thirty any more, let alone twenty… but I know my limitations so I wouldn’t try!

Picard clearly offended Jack several years earlier, as we saw in that flashback scene. One thing about that bugged me a little, and that’s how it seems to conflict with Picard’s status as a “hermit” in that period. Having retired and left Starfleet behind, it just strikes me as odd that he’d go halfway across the world to eat lunch at an establishment that he must’ve known would be frequented by Starfleet cadets and personnel.

Jack in the flashback scene.

But Picard’s sentiment that he considered Starfleet his “real” family obviously stung Jack, who was potentially considering reaching out to his father in that moment. I couldn’t tell, as the episode came to an end, whether Picard was finally realising that he’d seen Jack before… or whether that moment really is just something he doesn’t recall. Either way, I’m sure it’ll come up in a future episode as a sore spot; based on what Jack said in Disengage, he clearly carries some degree of resentment toward Picard – and that moment may be the crux of it.

So that only really leaves us with Riker, who, as mentioned, seemed to fall into a pretty deep depression this week. The story of the last two episodes has wanted to contrast Picard with Riker, first in their differing approaches to battling the Shrike and then this week as they tried to wrangle with the difficult situation the Titan found itself in. Taking the loss of Riker’s son – something we first learned about back in Season 1 – as a starting point, I think No Win Scenario built up a genuinely engaging new chapter for Riker’s story.

Riker’s story felt important and meaningful.

One of the challenges that a series like Picard faces comes from legacy characters. How can someone like Riker get an epilogue that’s both worth exploring in a narrative sense and that takes him to new thematic places without shaking him up so much that he doesn’t feel like the same person any more? The way in which Riker’s story unfolded over the past few weeks has actually mirrored Picard’s – especially from the show’s first season.

Picard faced defeat when Starfleet shut down his Romulan rescue mission, and instead of continuing to fight, he gave up. He went into (relatively) quiet retirement and left the galaxy to fend for itself. This week, we saw the same thing with Riker. He had the additional motive of wanting to preserve the wreck of the Titan so he could send one last message to Troi – but fundamentally, the same idea of falling into depression when confronted with a seemingly unsolvable problem was present.

Picard has been here too…

As I said in Season 1, what makes such stories meaningful isn’t where the characters begin, but where the journey takes them. And so it proved again with Riker – he found a reason to hope, a reason to try again, and through the whole experience of danger and trauma, he emerged out the other side with a newfound sense of purpose, reaching out to Troi to recommit to their relationship and to working on his personal issues and the issues they jointly had been facing. It’s by no means identical to what Picard went through in Season 1 – but it took him from a similarly dark place to find light at the end of the tunnel.

There is real value in showing heroic characters facing moments of self-doubt and depression. I wrote an entire essay a couple of years ago about how well this worked with Luke Skywalker over in the Star Wars franchise, and while Riker’s story was shorter and didn’t go into as much depth as Picard’s did in Season 1, for all of those same reasons I felt it worked well in No Win Scenario. It was understandable that Riker would feel the way he did – but it was also an inspiring story as we got to see him find a spark of hope and use that to regain at least some of his lost confidence.

How a story like this starts isn’t nearly as important as where it takes us…

So let’s start to wrap things up. No Win Scenario wasn’t as good as Seventeen Seconds had been last week. It crammed a lot in – and seems to have brought to a close the first chapter of Season 3’s story – but it skipped one whole storyline entirely, cut down Dr Crusher’s involvement to a mere contrivance, and had a couple of moments of soap-opera-level dialogue that just didn’t fit with the dark tone of the rest of the story.

However, it was a Star Trek episode through-and-through, one that recaptured much of the magic of The Next Generation era – but still found a way to update the formula, giving it a new spin fit for a streaming series in 2023. There were some deeply emotional, cathartic moments with Picard and Jack, an interesting twist in Captain Shaw’s story that led to a reconciliation of sorts with Seven, and some great CGI and visual effects to bring the starships, the nebula, and the spacefaring critters to life. I had fun with No Win Scenario in more ways than one.

A few scattered final thoughts:

  • Could Vadic also be a veteran of Wolf-359? I’ll expand on this idea in my next theory post!
  • Why didn’t the changeling either vaporise or revert to their liquid state when Seven killed them?
  • Too bad there’s already a “Riker manoeuvre,” because that’s what we could’ve called that tractor-beam/asteroid attack!
  • It was interesting to learn that the changeling was already aboard the Titan… makes me wonder how many rogue changelings are out there, and whether there may be more aboard other vessels.
  • Paramount is obviously trying to get its money’s worth out of the Ten-Forward bar set…
  • The actors playing the bridge crew each got a line or two of dialogue this week, which was nice to see.
  • Picard is still ridiculously dark and under-lit, and I wish they’d fix that. I needed to turn up the brightness on several of the still frames used in this review to compensate.

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

Star Trek: Picard Episode Review – Season 3, Episode 3: Seventeen Seconds

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, and Discovery.

For the first time since the beginning of Season 2, I had a genuinely wonderful time with Star Trek: Picard. This week’s episode, Seventeen Seconds, had none of the pacing concerns that were present earlier in the season, and practically every moment was tense, exciting, and thoroughly enjoyable. Season 3 is finally hitting its stride, and if the next seven episodes reach the high bar set by Seventeen Seconds, we’ll be able to consider it a rousing success by the time the curtain falls.

But as the dust settles on Seventeen Seconds, there’s a question burning at the back of my mind that I can’t seem to shake. And here it is: did Picard blow its big reveal too early? I mean, we’re only three episodes into a ten-episode season, and it now feels like we know who the “real” big bad of the season is going to be: the rogue changelings. Should this have been dragged out for another episode or two, perhaps with Worf and Raffi taking longer to figure things out?

Worf was instrumental in finding out what was going on.

So let’s talk about this big revelation, because it’s something that a lot of fans had been wondering about. Pre-season interviews with members of the cast and crew had promised a connection with Deep Space Nine – the one Star Trek show from the ’90s that hasn’t gotten as much attention or love from the modern franchise. This connection came with the inclusion of the changelings, seemingly a rogue faction; an offshoot of the Founders who are bent on causing havoc for Starfleet and the Federation.

This angle is a genuinely interesting one to explore – but it has to be handled delicately in more ways than one! Similar to the Borg, the Founders can be completely overpowered as a faction if the story isn’t well-balanced – and we saw how, in Deep Space Nine, the idea of changeling infiltrators was used sparingly. Too many changelings in too many positions of power will completely throw the story off-balance, and risks making a win for our heroes feel like a bit of a deus ex machina!

Changeling infiltrator Titus Rikka.

Also, a story bringing back the Dominion and the Founders has to be careful not to tread on the toes of the truly wonderful ending to Deep Space Nine. It was incredibly touching to hear Worf speaking so highly of Odo – his friend in the Great Link – especially in light of the sad passing of René Auberjonois in 2019. But a huge part of Odo’s story in that final chapter involved communicating to his people that peace was an option and that the Federation didn’t pose a threat, so undoing that would obviously not be my preference.

And I think that’s where the real genius of this “rogue” faction of Founders could come into play! Rather than saying the Dominion are on the march, what Worf and Raffi have uncovered seems to suggest that only some members of the changeling race are involved – that a schism has been created in the Great Link between followers of Odo’s peaceful path and those who disagreed.

Seventeen Seconds paid homage to Odo.

In short, the line to walk here is a tricky one. It requires the story to keep Odo’s reputation intact, with the touching end to his story not being in any way damaged, undone, or overwritten. But at the same time, it has to find ways to make the rogue Founders engaging and menacing – and to give them motivation for their actions that doesn’t merely boil down to “we’re evil for the sake of it.” On the evidence presented in Seventeen Seconds, there’s reason to hope that the writers and producers have struck the right balance.

Having changelings on the loose also raises the stakes in terms of mystery! We know that Picard isn’t a changeling, and it seems safe to assume that Jack and Dr Crusher aren’t, either. But practically everyone else should fall under some degree of suspicion – and perhaps that could explain why Picard will turn to synthetic beings like Lore and Professor Moriarty: they may be the only ones he can be certain haven’t been replaced by changelings! But we’ll save the speculation for my next theory update.

*ahem*

I’m a huge Deep Space Nine fan – it could well be my favourite Star Trek series, all things considered. So bringing back a major faction from that series is fantastic, and it feels like Picard is leaning into Deep Space Nine in a way that modern Star Trek really hasn’t until now. Sure, there have been appearances in Lower Decks and a couple of obscure references in Discovery… but this feels like our first real opportunity to add some kind of epilogue to the Deep Space Nine story. The inclusion of Worf – who was, of course, a main character in the second half of DS9′s run – means that Picard can make these connections in a way that the series really wouldn’t have been able to before, and I guess my only real concern is that this clear fan-service won’t be too offputting or confusing for people who enjoyed The Next Generation but either haven’t seen Deep Space Nine in a while or who may have skipped it during its original run!

Making content “for fans” always carries this kind of risk. As Trekkies, you and I have almost certainly seen every episode of Deep Space Nine multiple times – even the irredeemably crap ones like Move Along Home. But Picard is trying to appeal not only to Trekkies like us, but to a more casual audience, including people who may not have liked Deep Space Nine or who didn’t stick with it for its entire run. I know several people in my personal life who are in that category – fans of The Next Generation and even of Voyager, but who for whatever reason didn’t stick with Deep Space Nine.

Seventeen Seconds provided just enough of a recap of the events of Deep Space Nine to inform viewers without getting in the way of the story.

In Seventeen Seconds, we got enough exposition and backstory to cover the basics. The show can’t spend all of its runtime bringing viewers up to speed on what happened in 175 episodes of Deep Space Nine, but what it has to do now is convey the basic points so that the story will be understandable for folks who didn’t watch or don’t remember those narrative arcs. Seventeen Seconds got this right, providing enough of an explanation without wasting too much time getting bogged down in it.

Again, Worf was well-used here. He didn’t simply drop heavy-handed exposition, he explained who the Founders were and who this rogue group may be in a brief but informative sequence. This older version of Worf, having had many off-screen experiences over the past thirty-plus years of in-universe time since we last saw him, feels like a mentor or elder statesman – precisely the kind of character to provide this kind of exposition in a way that feels natural. And natural is exactly how it felt!

We got an older, calmer presentation of Worf this week.

Sticking with returning classic characters, pre-season marketing focused on the return of the Enterprise-D’s crew for almost a year… so it’s odd, in a way, that three episodes in we still haven’t seen all of them, and that those we have seen aren’t all working together. Seventeen Seconds gave us Dr Crusher’s first significant on-screen interaction with Picard, and of course we’ve had Picard and Riker teamed up for three episodes now. But Worf is still off in his own little narrative box with Raffi, and there’s no sign of Geordi or Lore. Deanna Troi was briefly seen via a flashback, but again, that was hardly a major appearance.

One of the criticisms fans have made in the years since The Next Generation and its films were on the air is that not every character got enough to do. Everyone got spotlight episodes, of course, but genuine ensemble pieces where everyone made a significant contribution to the story were relatively uncommon, and in some episodes, characters like Dr Crusher would only get a handful of lines. Picard Season 3 was an opportunity to fix that – or at least to give these characters a final mission in which they could all collaborate and work together across a single, ten-episode-long narrative. I’m acutely aware that this is Picard’s final outing, and with basically one-third of the season already over, time is running out to make good on those pre-season promises of major roles for all of the returning characters. I’m hopeful that there will be enough time to have an enjoyable reunion with everyone – but it’s at least worth noting that it hasn’t happened yet!

Geordi still hasn’t made an appearance this season.

Another character who played a big role in pre-season marketing was Amanda Plummer’s Vadic. I said last week that I was a little concerned about Vadic, and how her claim to only be interested in Jack Crusher for the sake of money didn’t really justify her over-the-top presentation. As we learned in Seventeen Seconds, Vadic has at least one changeling ally: the spy embedded aboard the Titan. That ties her in some way to the rogue changelings and their conspiracy – and the portal-weapon that she used was similar (or identical?) to that used against the Federation base at the beginning of the season. But the extent of Vadic’s involvement is still up in the air – and I don’t think we have enough evidence at this stage to say that she is definitely a changeling herself!

In fact, I was struck by Vadic’s absence in Seventeen Seconds. She had a couple of moments in which we saw her happily deploying her portal-weapon, but we didn’t get to spend much time with her at all, which is certainly an interesting decision. As the main named villain of the season so far, I think it’s important to get to see her side of the story – and not merely to hear it second-hand via Worf or some other character. Obviously that doesn’t mean we need to have a lot of scenes with her in every episode, nor that her side of the story needs to be told at such an early stage… but it should happen some time!

Captain Vadic didn’t get much screen time this week.

Since I’ve already mentioned Vadic’s portal-weapon, let’s talk about that for a moment. I… was not blown away by this new piece of tech, to be honest. Don’t get me wrong, it’s far from the worst macguffin that Star Trek has thrown at us, but I felt that there was a considerable disconnect between its visual appearance and the way in which the narrative presented it.

In brief: the way the portals appeared on screen made it look like they should be relatively easy to avoid, even for a starship like the Titan. In this specific case, where Vadic’s goal appeared to be to force the Titan to remain inside the nebula, it makes sense to use a portal in this fashion… but that’s a very niche use case, and the military applications of such a device, especially in three-dimensional battles in outer space, don’t seem readily apparent – which also calls into question parts of Worf and Raffi’s story. It’s a powerful weapon, as we’ve seen, but one that I’d argue has some pretty big limitations.

The Titan encounters a portal.

The portal-weapon is also kind of unoriginal, with similar designs having appeared in everything from hard sci-fi all the way through to the likes of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The most readily apparent point of comparison is to the video game Portal, which shares a name with this device. Again, I don’t necessarily hate it – and I concede that my criticisms are rather nitpicky – but I really feel a disconnect between the relatively small portals that appeared on screen and the way in which the crew of the Titan seemed to respond to them!

But there may be more to the portal-weapon that is yet to be revealed, and it may have additional uses later in the season. I can certainly see it being a useful tool… perhaps it could be used at the last second to transport characters away from danger, for example. I also suspect that Captain Vadic may meet her end by being spliced through her own portal-weapon! But maybe we should save that for my theory update.

The Titan and a portal aperture.

After a couple of weeks in which Picard looked faded, washed-out, and far too dark, I was pleased to note that this week, Seventeen Seconds only looked far too dark! The problems with colour temperature that had been present in the first two episodes of the season appear to have been fixed, at least on Amazon Prime Video, and I hope that particular issue won’t reoccur. It was a shame that it happened in the first place – and it makes Paramount look pretty unprofessional and incapable, let’s be honest – but at least it has been belatedly repaired.

The darkness issue is still ongoing, though, and this one feels much more like a creative choice. The lights on the Shrike, the Titan, the Eleos, La Sirena and in flashbacks in Guinan’s bar too, were all turned down, and the low brightness is noticeable even when compared to Seasons 1 and 2. With the colour temperature being corrected, there weren’t any scenes this week that I felt were unwatchably dark, or where main events couldn’t be perceived, but there are details in the periphery that I’m sure are functionally invisible as a result of this very deliberate choice of cinematography.

Picard Season 3 is still very dark – even now that the faded, washed-out look has been corrected.

CGI and visual effects were good in Seventeen Seconds, though, and I felt none of the dreaded “uncanny valley” that I flagged up in the season premiere. Whether that’s because there’s been any kind of change in the visual fidelity of Picard or whether I’m just getting reacclimated to the way Paramount and the Star Trek franchise handle their animation and visual effects… well, who can say, really? I’m just satisfied that I’m not being pulled out of the immersion every time the action cuts to the ships in space!

One particular sequence that I’d like to draw your attention to came right at the end of Seventeen Seconds. The moment where the disabled Titan appeared to “fall” – i.e. be dragged – into the nebula’s gravity well was spectacular, and successfully conveyed a sense of helplessness as the ship appears to be headed to its destruction. The effect was akin to a watercraft “sinking” under the surface – and that point of comparison feels apt. It was incredibly well done, and the perfect way to set up a cliffhanger ending.

The Titan falls into a gravity well.

One visual effect that could have been difficult to pull off was that of the changelings in their liquid form. In the 1990s, when Deep Space Nine was on the air, the effect used for Odo and other changelings looked good – by the standards of the time. In 2023, however, that “smooth and shiny” CGI effect is outdated, and the way in which it was brought up to modern spec was solid. The new “changeling goo” feels like a natural progression, and the kind of look that a remastered Deep Space Nine might want to adopt!

There are subtle changes, though. The Deep Space Nine effect was an amber, almost honey colour, whereas the new animation created for Seventeen Seconds had a duller, slightly greyer tone, perhaps closer to an organic compound than anything we’d seen in Deep Space Nine. In addition, the new visual effect feels much more substantial and textured, seeming to flow or ooze in a natural way. I like it, and I think it’s a great update to a classic visual effect!

The updated visual for a changeling in their liquid form.

As mentioned, I feel that the visual effect created for the Shrike’s portal-weapon may have clashed somewhat with the way the weapon was talked about and presented on-screen. But despite that, the effect itself was a clever one, and the way it seemed to unnaturally “bend” the light around it was really neat to see. It reminded me a little of Discovery’s black hole effects in Seasons 1 and 2 – a visual style influenced by the film Interstellar.

The battle sequences between the Shrike and the Titan were great, too, and the technobabble of the nebula “blinding” the Titan’s sensors really amped up the tension. Seventeen Seconds channeled the Battle of the Mutara Nebula from The Wrath of Khan in some of these sequences – but with the addition of forty years’ worth of improvements in visual effects!

The Titan’s crew had to be on lookout duty!

The only thing I’d say about the battle as a negative point is that – to quote Mr Spock from that same film – it “indicates two-dimensional thinking.” The Shrike and the Titan seemed, for the most part, to operate on a two-dimensional plane, not a three-dimensional space, and that was apparent particularly toward the end of the episode as the Shrike was able to “block” the Titan’s escape from the nebula by basically getting in the way. A line or two explaining how the Shrike could accelerate faster than the Titan, or some similar technobabble, could have negated part of this, perhaps.

This was also apparent in the operation of the portal-weapon, at least as presented visually. The relatively small portals opened in front of the Titan, but the ship had multiple routes to avoid it: up, down, left, right, or even simply coming to a halt. Again, this seems to clash with the way the weapon was emphasised in dialogue. Are these nitpicks? Absolutely!

Parts of this battle felt rather “2D.”

It would have been more impactful had we met the Titan’s changeling infiltrator before he was revealed. This anonymous character may go on to be a bigger part of subsequent episodes, but the revelation that there was a spy aboard the ship was blunted, at least a little, by the fact that it was an anonymous “extra” in that role. Had the officer been someone we’d met, even briefly, it would have been more exciting – especially if we’d never suspected that there was anything unusual about him!

This is, I suspect, a consequence of the relatively short ten-episode season. However, I really do believe it would have been worth doing – it’s something that would have turned up the surprise factor in the episode if it had been done well. A short scene or two featuring this character in his role as a Starfleet impostor would have been good enough to achieve this effect.

The changeling spy.

Star Trek has told stories that deal with impostors within Starfleet on many occasions, from episodes like Conspiracy and films like The Undiscovered Country through to the changeling stories in Deep Space Nine like Homefront – and, of course, Discovery’s first season. These stories usually work well and manage to be tense and exciting – but a common hallmark is that we’ve gotten to know the impostor or impostors, at least a little, before the truth of who they are is revealed. In fact, I’d argue that this is a big part of the way this narrative framework is intended to operate; it’s nowhere near as satisfying to say “there’s a spy in our midst!” and then reveal that the spy is just some anonymous background character that we’ve never met.

Look at how well the Michael Eddington story worked in Deep Space Nine, because that’s probably the best example of this kind of storyline in the Star Trek franchise. We got to know Eddington over the course of half a dozen episodes prior to his big reveal, so when he turned out to be a Maquis operative, it was a heck of a shock! The way the changeling infiltration storyline unfolded in Seventeen Seconds worked well, and there was some clever direction and editing to have Worf and Raffi’s uncovering of the plot followed up immediately by Jack’s confrontation with the changeling… but the sequence overall could have been improved, in my view anyway, if we’d met this spy ahead of time.

Michael Eddington was a Maquis infiltrator/rogue Starfleet officer in Deep Space Nine.

When the Titan’s science officer repeated multiple times that the nebula the ship was trapped in was behaving abnormally, my first thought was simply this: I sincerely hope that the story isn’t going to say that this whole thing is one elaborate trap! It’s too much of a contrivance to say that Vadic was purposefully trying to trap Picard and the Titan in the Rykon system given the difficulty involved in getting there and the seemingly obscure location of this nebula.

On the other hand, the fact that this isn’t a normal nebula – and could even be “life, Jim, but not as we know it” – could open up some genuinely interesting story ideas! I feel certain that the “organic” elements of the nebula wouldn’t have been emphasised so prominently were they not going to be significant to the plot later on – but how, exactly, is shrouded in mystery right now.

What’s going on with this nebula?

There were two conflicts central to the character stories present in Seventeen Seconds: one between Picard and Dr Crusher and a second between Picard and Riker. We’ll talk about each in turn, but I think that both worked well in the context of the story.

It was interesting to see Picard and Dr Crusher having this deep and intense conversation about their son – and before we get into specifics, there’s one thing that jumped out at me. Here we have two older characters engaged in what is typically a storyline we’d associate with younger characters: pregnancy, paternity, and raising a child. It wasn’t lost on me that Sir Patrick Stewart is now in his 80s and that Gates McFadden is in her 70s, yet here they were having a discussion that would suit characters a generation younger!

Picard and Dr Crusher had a difficult conversation.

One of the themes that we’ve started to see in Picard’s third season is that of age – something that was also present in The Wrath of Khan, which serves as part of the season’s inspiration. Entering retirement, leaving friends and colleagues behind, and coming to terms with changes to both oneself and the wider world have all been touched upon – though not to quite the extent I’d been expecting, perhaps.

But this storyline – and especially Picard’s conversation with Dr Crusher – felt like it rolled back the years for both of them significantly. The intense discussion of whether Dr Crusher should have told Picard about her pregnancy is something we might’ve expected from far younger characters, so to see it handled – and handled so well – in Seventeen Seconds was great. It completely twisted the expected theme of age, and arguably also reinforces the notion that, in Star Trek’s advanced and optimistic future, humans can live longer, healthier, and more active lives.

Dr Crusher had a child later in life.

There was also a moment in the turbolift after Jack’s injury – the titular “seventeen-second” ride that Riker had talked about in a flashback sequence – in which Picard felt very much the new father, which again gives his story a far more youthful edge than I’d been expecting. Although the focus was on Jack’s injury and survival, those seconds with Picard in the turbolift felt akin to watching an anxious soon-to-be dad in the delivery room, waiting on the birth of his son.

There was deliberate symmetry to the turbolift ride that cut through the Picard-Riker fight, and perhaps has set the stage for their potential reconciliation next week. It’s also noteworthy that Riker was hardly youthful when he became a father – and as someone whose parents were older when I was a child, I appreciate that Star Trek is putting older characters into this position. Not every child is born to young parents – increasingly so, in some communities and cultures – and while many television shows and films do a wonderful job of highlighting the particular problems and issues facing teen parents, for example, it’s actually really nice – and dare I say a little cathartic, personally speaking – to see Star Trek acknowledging that some people become parents later in life. That wasn’t the main focus of Seventeen Seconds in any way, but it’s something that I personally can take away from the story.

Picard’s turbolift ride echoed Riker’s.

Before we get into the weeds too much, let me just say this: I suspect that the decision to pit Picard against both Dr Crusher and Riker in the same episode may not go down well with every fan! Part of the appeal of Picard Season 3 was in reuniting the cast of The Next Generation, and while the characters had disagreements during that show’s run, by and large they were on great terms. Some might say their friendships were a little too perfect, which is why Deep Space Nine and Voyager tried to insert more disputes between characters, and created characters from different backgrounds who had conflicting motivations.

But if the draw of an Enterprise-D reunion was bringing people back together for one last adventure, there’s a danger that these kinds of conflicts – especially if they drag on for multiple episodes – could detract from that, and I understand that argument even if I’m not personally fully signed-up with it. I hope that both conflicts will come to a satisfying conclusion, and that in fairly short order we can see Picard and his crew back on friendly terms – after all, that is a big part of what made this season interesting as a concept in the first place!

Picard and Riker on the bridge of the Titan.

My take on the first conflict is this: Dr Crusher is both correct in her belief that the son of Jean-Luc Picard would be in danger, while also being horribly inept when it comes to keep him “safe.” By leaving Starfleet and the Federation behind to go on a twenty-year unsanctioned medical mission, Dr Crusher has placed Jack in at least as much danger – if not more – than she ever would have if she’d remained in Starfleet. And that’s where this argument and this whole storyline could come unstuck.

Based on everything we know about Starfleet and the Federation, it’s generally a very safe environment. I could absolutely entertain the idea that Dr Crusher would feel a need to resign her commission in order to dedicate herself to raising Jack full-time… but the idea that she felt she had to do so beyond the borders of the Federation, in what is clearly a very complex and dangerous galaxy, risks undermining this aspect of the story. At best I guess we’ll have to call it a contrivance, something necessary to drive this part of the plot forward. At worst… well, it makes Dr Crusher look like a bit of an idiot. A dangerous idiot.

Did Dr Crusher get it wrong? Or are her reasons understandable?

This side of the story also feels as if it’s chafing uncomfortably against a massive part of the main plot from Season 2 – which was on our screens less than a year ago. The entire reason for the Confederation timeline, the mission back in time, and Q’s scheme was, at least as Q explained it, because Picard himself had been unable to let go of childhood trauma enough to settle down in a relationship. We’ve learned in Seventeen Seconds that he and Dr Crusher were once again pursuing a romantic relationship in the months or years after Nemesis, and Picard even stated that he would have been willing to be a husband and father, and that his reasons for not fully committing to Beverly were more to do with Jack Crusher Senior – his deceased best friend.

The story of Season 2 was already a terribly convoluted one that was on shaky ground, so anything that undermines it is a problem. And unfortunately, there’s no escaping the fact that parts of this storyline, as presented in Seventeen Seconds at least, are in that position. The writers tried to throw a bone to this, with Picard making an oblique reference to last season’s events, but that didn’t really go far enough and certainly hasn’t saved this aspect of the story.

Picard’s complicated romantic history with Dr Crusher treads on the toes of last season’s story.

We’ll have to go into more detail about this on another occasion – perhaps after having seen the entirety of Season 3 – but there are actually quite a few areas where these two productions seem to grate against one another. What’s so surprising about that, of course, is that Seasons 2 and 3 went into production back-to-back, with the same production team and showrunner present for both. I’m not saying I wanted or expected Seasons 2 and 3 to form a single ongoing story – though they certainly could have if a suitable story had been written – but it feels odd to see so many small and large points of conflict.

But we’re drifting off-topic! Picard’s second conflict was with Riker, and while the two men seemed to work together seamlessly at first, a radical difference in approach became apparent as the episode wore on.

Picard and Riker had different ideas about how to tackle Vadic and the Shrike.

So there’s a dichotomy here for me. On the one hand, I don’t particularly dislike this idea, and I feel that Seventeen Seconds handled it well. The conflict felt organic and natural, and it was presented as exactly what it was: a genuine difference of opinion and approach. The episode didn’t frame either Picard or Riker as being right or wrong, and there are interpretations as to how to approach a battle of this nature.

But on the other hand… the more I think about it, I can’t escape a simple reality: pitting Picard and Riker against one another would not be my choice, if for no other reason than the story, at least at this point, doesn’t seem to need it. I’ve spoken about this before, particularly in relation to Discovery, but it feels as if this extra element of drama has been concocted and then forced into a story that was already so tense and dramatic that it didn’t need it. Picard, Riker, and the rest of the crew of the Titan were already in a life-or-death, impossibly high-stakes confrontation, so throwing in a personal spat between two main characters didn’t really ramp that up; the tension and drama were already turned all the way up to eleven.

I think a lot of people were surprised by this conflict…

That being said, I have a theory about Riker that, were it to pan out, would completely explain this and basically negate all of those points of criticism. Even if my theory is wrong, the disagreement may end up resolved within the next episode, and that would set the season back on what feels like the “right” path: the path where these characters get back together for one final mission.

Just because I wouldn’t have chosen to tell a story in which Picard and Riker find themselves at loggerheads doesn’t mean that it didn’t work well in Seventeen Seconds, and the way in which their disagreement was built up and then spilled over into argument was well handled. By the time Riker banished Picard from the bridge, we had a solid understanding of both men’s positions and perspectives – and under the circumstances, that’s the most we could have asked from this storyline!

Riker at the end of the episode.

So let’s wrap things up!

Seventeen Seconds was a tense, exciting, and thoroughly enjoyable ride from start to finish, and probably the best episode of Picard since the Season 2 premiere last year. There are nitpicks, as there almost always are, but they melt away when confronted with such an outstanding episode of television.

I’d felt that Season 3 had gotten off to a slow start, but the pacing this week felt perfect. There were no truncated or cut-down moments, and practically everyone got something significant to do. All in all, a great episode!

A few scattered final thoughts:

  • I liked the interaction between Seven and Ensign La Forge, showing how Seven has won respect and friendship from her colleagues, even if she doesn’t get it from Captain Shaw. After the “deadnaming” over the past couple of episodes, it was great to see La Forge call her “Seven!”
  • Captain Shaw is injured – but not dead! Will he remain in sickbay for the next few episodes… or will he come roaring back, take command of the ship back from Riker, and find a way out of the nebula?
  • Surely we’ve gotta see Geordi and Troi next week, right?
  • Worf and Raffi were able to track their target pretty easily… is that because of Worf’s skill, or because the story has its focus elsewhere?
  • With the Titan disabled, why did Vadic abandon her pursuit? Is capturing Jack no longer her objective?
  • Time is a bit of an issue: Dr Crusher says she found out about her pregnancy shortly after she last saw Picard – circa twenty years ago. And I don’t mean to be unkind, but actor Ed Speleers, who plays Jack, is clearly not twenty. A poor casting choice, or are we okay with giving a bit of “soap opera ageing” flexibility here?

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

Star Trek: Picard Episode Review – Season 3, Episode 2: Disengage

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 Search for Spock, The Undiscovered Country, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager.

If you read my review of the season premiere last week, there’s almost no need to read this! In short, many of the points I made last time are the same this time: Disengage was an episode with the same contradictory feel as The Next Generation, one in which the main storyline seemed to edge along at a very slow pace while several story beats rushed past too quickly, or else didn’t get enough time dedicated to them.

And those story beats are more or less the same ones as last time, too: Raffi’s undercover mission seemed to race by, some of the scenes between Picard and Jack could have been extended, Riker didn’t get a lot of time to shine, and even the intrigue on the Titan with Captain Shaw and Seven didn’t get a lot of time in the spotlight. As I said last week, it’s a story with a contradictory feel.

The Shrike looms over the Eleos.

Let’s talk visuals. Both last week and this week, Picard looked incredibly washed-out and faded on my 4K HDR display. I tried adjusting my screen manually, but I could either get the default faded, washed-out look or I could get a horribly over-corrected, over-saturated look. Neither is right or natural, and the colour temperature of the season so far feels off. I hope this is something that Paramount can fix – but I doubt it.

In addition to the colour temperature issue, both episodes of the season so far have been incredibly dark. In multiple scenes and sequences – particularly those set in Raffi’s underworld city, but it wasn’t entirely restricted to that setting – it hasn’t always been easy to see what’s going on. Areas that should be in focus are poorly illuminated, and the washed-out effect doesn’t help here either. Again, this is something I’d hope Paramount would have been able to correct behind-the-scenes when it became apparent… but so far, no luck. I did manage to, shall we say, “source” a second copy of Disengage, but this was also plagued by the same issues.

Picard Season 3 has a dark, faded look in many scenes.

There are really two parts to this complaint. The first is that this is a deliberate choice of cinematography, presenting scenes in a dark, under-illuminated way to try to achieve a certain visual effect. The limitations of this are apparent, and one need only look at similar complaints in other television shows to see why turning the brightness down isn’t a good idea.

Secondly we have the way episodes are compiled and compressed for streaming, and I think there’s a technical issue here that Paramount has yet to get to grips with. Because the episodes were dark to begin with, compressing them down for streaming may have contributed to this faded, washed-out look. My screen isn’t a cheap model by any means, but it’s a problem if the only time Picard can look reasonable is when it’s seen on an expensive, high-end OLED television set.

For illustrative purposes, here’s a promo photo for Disengage featuring Seven of Nine and Captain Shaw…
…and here’s the photographed scene as it appeared in the episode. Note the radical difference in brightness, colour temperature, and tone.

So let’s take a step back. Where are we in terms of story? After two complete episodes – a full 20% of the season – it still feels like we’re at the beginning. The main events of both The Next Generation and Disengage appear to have taken place, for the most part, over the span of a few hours; the exception being Raffi’s sequences, which, despite being rushed, actually seem to take place over a longer spell of time.

This episode focused on Jack Crusher, the character who many of us had guessed was the son – somehow – of Jean-Luc Picard and Beverly Crusher. This focus on Jack’s identity and backstory was worth doing, and although some moments didn’t quite stick the landing, it’s an interesting and engaging story – one that has me wanting to learn more. But again, in terms of the overall narrative arc of the season, it feels as though Disengage crawled along at a pretty slow pace.

Is the main story progressing at the right pace? Or am I overthinking things?

Two episodes in and we’ve barely gotten off the starting line. Dr Crusher’s plea for help and Picard and Riker’s off-the-books rescue was the starting point for this story, yet after two entire episodes have passed, we haven’t moved much beyond that yet. It makes me feel as though some of the moments in Disengage could and perhaps should have been included last week.

The ten-episode seasons of modern television shows are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, Picard would almost certainly never have been made if Paramount insisted on twenty episodes or more per season! And the serialised nature of these stories makes a ten-episode season akin to a ten-part movie, which is a great thing in many ways. But on the other hand, these truncated seasons don’t have as much room for manoeuvre, so getting bogged down at the starting line – or spending too long on side-quests – can end up having a serious knock-on impact. We saw this with Picard in both its first and second seasons… and I can’t shake the feeling, even at this relatively early stage, that the same problem is about to reoccur.

Captain Vadic and her crew on the Shrike.

Now for the contradiction! At several points, I felt that all we were getting of Riker were clips; cut-down snippets of what should’ve been longer scenes. There was scope to spend a lot more time with Riker as he tried to convince Picard of what he already knew: that Jack is his son. Having Riker realise that first was a genuinely great story point – one that showed just how close these two old friends are, and how Riker has a perceptiveness, even years later, that Picard can rely on. But it was blitzed through so quickly that there wasn’t enough time to really showcase this angle, and that’s a shame.

Re-establishing and evolving the relationship between Riker and Picard has been one of the best things about Star Trek: Picard, and feels like a real, solid justification for providing these characters with new storylines after such a long time. But it’s only really when the action slowed down in Season 1’s Nepenthe that the show truly excelled in terms of this kind of character-focused storytelling.

Picard and Riker had an all-too-brief chat about Jack.

I’d have wanted to spend a bit more time with Riker this week, and the moments we got with him felt somehow cut-down. The problem, as I’ve said before in Picard, isn’t that the core idea is in any way bad, it’s that it needed more screen time to properly unfold. There was merit in Riker seeing the obvious, and using him as the point-of-view character to convey the truth of Jack’s parentage; revealing to us as the audience something Picard couldn’t – or wouldn’t – see. But that got lost because of how short most of Riker’s scenes were, unfortunately.

We continue to rush through Raffi’s story to such an extent that certain elements, such as the inclusion of her ex-husband, felt almost gratuitous; the story clearly doesn’t have time to delve into this relationship in a big way. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the last we see – or even hear – of Raffi’s ex, and as I’ve said about narrative elements in Picard more than once: good idea, not enough time to do anything meaningful with it.

Raffi with her ex-husband.

Once again, Michelle Hurd excelled – but she did so in spite of the way the season has been scripted and/or edited. And despite jumping from point to point as she tried to chase down the terrorist or terrorists responsible for the attack, her storyline again feels like it hasn’t made a lot of progress from its start point.

Last week, Raffi was desperately trying to hunt down the person who stole “experimental weapons,” and this week she continued to do that. She found the broker who arranged the sale – but that’s all. Again, all of this could turn out to be okay… but I’m just worried about the pacing of the story in light of what happened in Seasons 1 and 2.

Parts of Raffi’s story continue to feel rushed.

All that being said, the moments we got with Raffi this week were among my favourites in the episode – and are probably among Raffi’s most interesting scenes, from a narrative point of view, that we’ve gotten in the entire series to date. It’s absolutely true that Raffi’s underworld planet borrows a lot both visually and thematically from Star Wars and dystopian sci-fi, but I think there’s more than enough room in the Star Trek galaxy for places like this to exist. We’ve caught glimpses of such worlds in past iterations of the franchise, too, so I think it works well.

The scenes with Sneed – the Ferengi broker – were fantastic. At first, I wondered if there might be some kind of connection to Quark or perhaps DaiMon Bok with the introduction of a Ferengi character, but Sneed was perfectly interesting on his own. And the last-minute arrival of Worf to save the day – revealing himself as Raffi’s “handler” – capped off this story in pitch-perfect fashion. There are nitpicks here, sure, but overall I felt it worked well.

Worf is back!

Let’s talk about Vadic, who made her first appearance of the season. I’m convinced that there’s more to Vadic than has been revealed so far – though it was noteworthy in Disengage that no one recognised her, or had even heard of her. That certainly calls into question some of the ideas that I and others may have had for who she could be and how she may be connected to Picard and the crew… but I don’t think it totally destroys all but the most outlandish of fan theories, so we’ll come back to that perhaps in my next theory update.

My concern about Vadic’s presentation in Disengage comes down to a single factor: her motivation. A villain this over-the-top (and Vadic was, for better or worse, certainly over-the-top in Disengage) needs to have a reason for being so. Khan – the character I and others compared Vadic with after her initial appearance in pre-season trailers – had a single-minded quest for vengeance. Like Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick, he was willing to do anything and sacrifice anything to get his revenge on Kirk for years of being abandoned in a desolate wasteland, and that came across in his on-screen presentation.

Vadic lighting a cigarette.

If Vadic is motivated solely by money – as she claims – that seriously undermines her characterisation. Sure, Jack Crusher may be a valuable target – but does that justify the kind of “Khan meets the Wicked Witch of the West mixed with Dr Doofenshmirtz” presentation? Amanda Plummer really dialled it up to eleven with her villainous performance, letting every word, every syllable, drip with malice, and throwing in a wonderful cackle for good measure. But if Vadic only cares about money… I just feel there’s a disconnect between the character and the performance if that’s the case.

But there are still eight episodes left for Vadic’s story to unfold, and for her to become more than just a one-dimensional villain trope. I’d hoped we might’ve seen the beginnings of that in some way this week, and going into the episode I was probably more excited to meet Vadic than I was about any other character. While I wouldn’t describe her as a “let-down,” she’s definitely a character I think we need to see more of before we can really assess whether or not she’s going to work, and whether her inclusion will end up being a positive thing for the season… or might end up detracting from it.

If we’re to see Vadic as something more than a bog-standard villain trope, we need to know more about her and what’s driving her.

What we’ve heard about Vadic and her crew from Jack – as well as a couple of remarks of a rumoured ship matching the Shrike’s design from Seven of Nine – tells us that she has resources at her disposal. The Shrike was armed to the teeth, and more than outmatched the Titan – which Captain Shaw described this week as a vessel of exploration, which I thought was interesting. But that doesn’t really speak to who Vadic is or what her overall motivation might be – especially if, as the season seems to be suggesting, she’s the terrorist mastermind that Raffi and Worf have been chasing and who attacked the Federation facility last week.

So again, we need to learn more about this character. We obviously weren’t going to get her entire backstory and an explanation of her mission in a single episode, and I wasn’t expecting to. But I was expecting to at least see the beginnings of that – and so far, it feels that Vadic’s true identity and motivation is rather obscured. I don’t believe that “money” will be all there is to it… but just in case I’m wrong about that, let me say right now that it will be monumentally unsatisfying if that somehow were to be the case.

The Shrike’s tractor beam attack was neat, though.

In The Wrath of Khan, Kirk learned that he had a son: David Marcus. Continuing the theme of Season 3 being “Picard does The Wrath of Khan,” we have Jack Crusher being Picard’s own son. This revelation – that at least some fans saw coming – is an interesting one, though I hope the mechanics of how it came to be will be explained… somehow. I don’t need a detailed, no-holds-barred flashback sequence (please no) but some kind of explanation of the events surrounding Jack’s conception wouldn’t go amiss.

As I said last week: there’s a question of timing that I find particularly interesting. According to Riker, Dr Crusher has been absent from her friends’ lives for approximately twenty years, but Jack is clearly not twenty years old or younger – no offence to actor Ed Speleers! – which means he had to have been around before her unannounced departure. Could we learn that a threat against Beverly, Jack, or perhaps against Picard might’ve prompted her to take him and leave?

Why did Dr Crusher take Jack and leave everyone behind?

The question of safety is also a pertinent one. Based on one of Dr Crusher’s lines from pre-season trailers, in which she says something to Picard about “attempts on [his] life,” I’d been wondering whether Dr Crusher may have taken her son as far away as possible in order to keep him safe. But Jack’s long list of criminal offences and the huge bounty seemingly placed on his head would seem to run completely counter to that; at the very least, if this was Dr Crusher’s intention, she hasn’t done a very good job of it!

If we’re sticking with comparisons to The Wrath of Khan, will Jack Crusher end up meeting the same fate as David Marcus? And if so, will his death have the same kind of effect on Picard as David’s did on Kirk? It would be cruel to introduce this character and begin to explore his background and his relationship with both his mother and Picard only to see him killed off – but it could be poetic symmetry, too.

What will become of Jack in the end?

We’ve already seen Jack offering himself to Vadic in an attempted act of self-sacrifice – something not incomparable to how David stepped in to save Saavik’s life in The Search for Spock. Saavik’s name was seen, briefly, this week – used for the doomed shuttle that Picard and Riker piloted to the Eleos. According to background details released by Paramount, Saavik was the commanding officer of the original USS Titan in the late 23rd Century.

These references could be to honour the late Kirstie Alley, the first actress to play the role of Saavik, who passed away late last year. They could also just be coincidental references to tie Picard Season 3 into past iterations of Star Trek. But there’s also a very deliberate connection to The Wrath of Khan once again… and in light of what happened with David Marcus and Saavik, I can’t help but wonder whether the season is setting up Jack Crusher for a similarly sacrificial end.

Debris from the shuttlecraft Saavik…
…and Kirstie Alley as Saavik in The Wrath of Khan.

I hope that there will be time to explore some of what Dr Crusher and Jack have been doing. Jack’s crimes can’t and shouldn’t just be hand-waved away by the story; such an important part of his background needs to be fleshed out. It won’t be enough to say “Jack’s a criminal,” and leave it at that – we need to know some of the details of why he broke the law, whether some or all of it could be morally justifiable, and why, when he’s supposedly on a “mission of mercy,” such law-breaking was required in the first place.

As with Raffi’s criminal underworld, I think there’s scope to show off a side of the Star Trek galaxy that hasn’t always been front-and-centre, and there’s definitely a pathway to explain Jack’s criminality in a way that feels natural and even sympathetic. Saying that he “did what he had to do” in order to provide medical assistance is going to be part of that, for sure – but I hope there will be time to go into a bit more detail.

Jack has an extensive criminal record… and a list of aliases.

There’s also clearly more to Captain Shaw than meets the eye. Vadic alluded to his “psychological profile,” and I think that could potentially connect with his anti-Borg prejudice that we saw in last week’s episode. If Captain Shaw had lost someone to the Borg, such an event could have had an impact on him – and could explain why he’s so openly hostile to Picard and Seven of Nine in particular. I keep expecting Captain Shaw to be killed off – but there may be more of an arc for this character than I’d been expecting.

What I liked about Shaw’s story this week was the moral ambiguity of it. It’s tempting to portray Shaw as being cowardly; turning over Jack to Vadic in order to save himself. But there’s clearly more to it than that – he takes the responsibility of command very seriously, and his number one overriding priority seems to be to keep his crew safe. He’s outside Federation space, with no immediate hope of backup, facing an opponent that clearly outmatches him in terms of firepower… so risking the lives of everyone on his ship to save a wanted criminal is a big ask – even if we as the audience would want to see the son of Jean-Luc Picard and Beverly Crusher kept safe.

Captain Shaw is growing on me.

Am I warming up to Captain Shaw?! That’s certainly not something I expected! But under the rude, unpleasant, and even bigoted exterior, I think we’ve seen glimpses of a good, upstanding captain. Putting aside the anti-Borg prejudice, Shaw reminds me, as I said last time, of the likes of The Search for Spock’s Captain Stiles, Discovery’s Captain Lorca, and The Next Generation’s Captain Jellico. Shaw isn’t wrong in his read on Picard and Riker – who snuck aboard his ship and took it on an unsanctioned mission. His anti-Borg attitude may be extreme, and targeting the wrong people, but I feel we may be on the verge of finding out how it came about. And finally, when he realised the true circumstances he was faced with, Shaw did the right thing – albeit at the last possible moment.

So Captain Shaw has turned out to be more complex than I expected. What’s more, he’s different enough from Chris Rios to provide some kind of justification for the latter’s departure from the series. These storylines wouldn’t have worked with Captain Rios, and while others could have been created to get the rest of the characters to similar narrative places, it would have been a lot more friendly and less adversarial. That’s more “Star Trek” in some ways – but perhaps less interesting in others!

Captain Shaw in the briefing room.

Picard seemed to be struggling with the idea of Jack being his son, and only really came to accept it at the end of the episode. As mentioned, I think there was scope to do a bit more with this idea – explaining why Picard felt that way, and whether he was trying to push those questions aside simply as a point of practicality given the time constraint, or whether it was because he feared the truth. The way Disengage presented Picard left it open as to which it might’ve been – I can see clear cases for both explanations, and the episode doesn’t seem to have picked a side.

The scene in which an injured Dr Crusher wordlessly conveyed the truth, though, was spectacularly well done, and the emotional high point of Disengage. The wordless scene was set to a fantastically evocative piece of music, and told us what I think most viewers already knew: that Jack is Picard’s son.

This was a fantastic scene all around.

Though this story was, overall, a tad rushed, and I’d have liked to have spent more time with Picard, Riker, and Jack in the moments leading up to it, there’s no faulting the final “reveal” itself. This moment also cemented Captain Shaw as an albeit begrudging ally, and has set the stage for the next chapter of the story as the Titan fled into a dangerous nebula.

A battle in a sensor-blind nebula? That sounds like yet another story beat from The Wrath of Khan! This season really is going all-in with the Khan comparisons… and so far, I’m really into that! It isn’t a straight copy; there are enough differences that we can consider it a variation on a theme. But the overt callbacks to one of the best things Star Trek has ever done are not going unnoticed – and after two muddled, lacklustre seasons, maybe this kind of big all-action blow-out is just what the doctor ordered.

The Titan opens fire on the Shrike.

Aside from the danger of coming across as repetitive – which Season 3 has thus far avoided, I have to say – the other potential pitfall here is that this story just feels a bit… safe. Not safe for our characters – not all of whom will make it to the end alive and unscathed, I’m fairly confident of that – but in terms of how the story comes across. This narrative framework is one that Star Trek has used before, and that could mean that we’ll end the season feeling it played things a bit too safe. We’ll have to see – but it’s worth keeping in mind.

So let’s start to wrap things up! Disengage finally saw the season move beyond its starting point, and we now have some idea of how the two main narrative arcs may come together. It was a treat to see Worf again after so long – but a shame he was on screen so briefly. The same can be said for Riker, whose contributions to the episode were a little too rushed for my liking.

Ensign La Forge.

Visually, Disengage was a bit of a disappointment due to a washed-out, faded look that didn’t suit an already dark episode. However, the CGI and other effects work was perfectly okay, and unlike last week I didn’t feel too much of the dreaded “uncanny valley” in CGI sequences featuring the Shrike and the Titan.

Whether Disengage did enough to advance its two main narratives is still an open question, and one that I feel particularly attuned to after the disappointments of Seasons 1 and 2. I’m crossing my fingers that it will all be alright, and that the next eight episodes will see the story advance and unfold at just the right pace. Both this week’s episode and last week’s have left me worried, though.

Time will tell…

Overall, I had a good time with Disengage. I don’t think it’s the best episode of the series or anything, but it feels like there’s the potential to consider it a solid addition, one that advanced key storylines just far enough. I certainly hope so, anyway!

Aside from pacing, my biggest point of concern – or rather, my biggest question-mark – coming out of Disengage has to do with Vadic and the way she’s both written and presented on screen. I feel that we’re going to learn something significant about Vadic in the weeks ahead that will completely reframe her characterisation, and give meaning and purpose to someone who feels a bit out-of-place right now. “Money” can’t be all there is – at least, I hope not!

So that was Disengage. Let’s see what Season 3 has in store for us next time.

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.

Five more episodes to watch before Star Trek: Picard Season 3

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2 and the trailers, teasers, and announcements for Season 3. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Prodigy.

A few days ago I picked out a dozen Star Trek episodes (and a couple of films) that I thought would make good background viewing ahead of Star Trek: Picard’s upcoming third and final season. Since then, we’ve been treated to the final Season 3 trailer, and while I wasn’t exactly blown away by the trailer itself, it raised a couple of potentially interesting points that made me think of a few more Star Trek episodes. So on this occasion we’re going to add five more Star Trek episodes to the list!

I had quite a lot to say about the final Season 3 trailer, so if you missed my thoughts and analysis you can find that piece by clicking or tapping here. And to see the first part of this list, containing other episodes and films that I think will be good to watch ahead of Picard Season 3, click or tap here.

The USS Titan in Spacedock.

There’s still an awful lot that we don’t know about Picard Season 3. Although we have a sense of who the main characters will be, there are still some question-marks about how they will all work together – and even which side everyone will be on. There are also, in my opinion at least, a couple of potentially-open character slots on the villainous side of the season – particularly if Captain Vadic has, as I have posited, put together a kind of “rogues’ gallery” of past Star Trek baddies!

A couple of caveats before we get started. First of all, I have no “insider information,” and I’m not trying to claim that any of the episodes listed below definitely will have a bearing on the storyline of Picard Season 3. This is guesswork on my part – and nothing more! Secondly, all of this is simply the subjective take of one person. I’ve picked a few episodes that I think could be relevant, but if you disagree with my picks or if I exclude something you think is blindingly obvious, that’s just the way it goes! This is just one person’s opinion – and it’s meant to be taken in the spirit of fun.

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

Story #1:
Coming of Age and Conspiracy
The Next Generation Season 1

Admiral Quinn, Riker, and Picard at Starfleet Headquarters.

Coming of Age is primarily about Wesley Crusher and his first attempt to get accepted into Starfleet Academy. However, the episode’s secondary plot sets up the story of Conspiracy, the penultimate episode of The Next Generation Season 1. In Conspiracy, a race of parasitic aliens infiltrate Starfleet Command, taking over senior officers, including admirals, as part of a plot to subjugate the Federation. Though the parasitic aliens would claim that they sought “peaceful coexistence,” their actions clearly showed that they planned to take over Starfleet – perhaps as a first step to conquering the Federation.

Before their “mother creature” was killed it was able to send a signal into deep space, and Data believed that the parasite-aliens would one day return. This story was originally intended to set up the Borg storyline in Season 2, but I think everyone can agree it’s for the best that that didn’t happen! For our purposes, there was something about Captain Vadic in the Season 3 trailer, and particularly Dr Crusher’s line about Picard being unable to trust anyone within Starfleet, that made me think of Conspiracy. I think it would be an incredibly bold and unexpected move to return to what was, let’s be honest, not one of The Next Generation’s finest or best-remembered stories. But at the very least, the episode’s concept of a conspiracy within Starfleet itself could be worth checking out… even if the parasite-aliens aren’t going to make a comeback!

Story #2:
The Enemy
The Next Generation Season 3

Geordi on the planet Galorndon Core.

The Enemy is a great Star Trek episode, and an absolutely classic example of how the franchise uses its sci-fi setting to tell stories that reflect the real world. When considering what may be to come in Picard Season 3, it’s also a strong Geordi La Forge story, and one that sees him interacting with a Romulan. The Romulans were a big deal in Picard Season 1, and if we take Geordi’s role in the spin-off comics and novels that have been released in recent years, he may have been present on Mars when the Zhat Vash caused the synths to attack. He may feel he has unfinished business with the Romulans, or lingering trauma over those events, so stepping back to see Geordi’s first big meeting with a Romulan could be worthwhile.

Geordi is one of the characters whose role in Season 3 feels totally ambiguous. All we know at this stage from the trailers and teasers is that he seems to have been promoted to the rank of commodore and that he may have a senior position on board Spacedock or another similar starbase. I like the idea of revisiting an earlier Geordi story to see how far he’s come – and The Enemy is one of his best episodes in The Next Generation.

Story #3:
You Are Cordially Invited, Change of Heart, and Tears of the Prophets
Deep Space Nine Season 6

Worf and Jadzia Dax on their wedding day.

This trio of episodes, spread across Deep Space Nine’s fantastic sixth season, focus in large part on Worf’s relationship with Jadzia Dax. Worf and Jadzia got married at the height of the Dominion War, not long after the Federation had re-taken DS9 from the Cardassians and the Dominion, but their marriage was, sadly, not to last – Jadzia was killed at the end of the season. I remember Jadzia’s death coming as a huge shock when I first watched Tears of the Prophets; although we knew actress Terry Farrell would be leaving the series, the decision to outright kill Jadzia was still a bold one – the first main character death in Star Trek since Tasha Yar at the beginning of The Next Generation a decade earlier.

With Worf coming back in Season 3, there’s a chance, at least, that his marriage to Jadzia will be referred to. Showrunner Terry Matalas has suggested that part of Worf’s arc will connect back to his experiences not just on Deep Space Nine, but specifically to his service in the Dominion War – and although Worf did a lot for the war effort, the biggest emotional moment for him has to be his marriage and the subsequent death of his wife. Although Deep Space Nine’s seventh season explored this through Worf’s conversations with Ezri Dax, there’s definitely scope to see how Worf would have processed his grief and loss after the war’s end.

Story #4:
What You Leave Behind
Deep Space Nine Season 7

Odo and Colonel Kira on the Founders’ homeworld.

Picking up that same Dominion War theme, we come to the finale of Deep Space Nine and the final engagement of the conflict. The episode ends with the Dominion’s defeat and Odo choosing to return to the Founders’ homeworld to share his knowledge of living in the Alpha Quadrant – as well as Captain Sisko’s departure to the realm of the Prophets! There’s a lot to unpack in this complex and emotional feature-length episode, but for our purposes we’re focused on the Dominion War and its ending.

It’s possible that Captain Vadic will have some connection to the war – she certainly seems old enough to have potentially served in it. She could be a Founder, perhaps, and if the changelings are once again on the move, that could explain why Dr Crusher warned Picard about not trusting anyone. Or Vadic’s connection to the war could come from the other side: she could be a Federation or even Romulan officer who served. Either way, some kind of Dominion War connection has been teased – so seeing how the war came to an end could be important.

Story #5:
Human Error
Voyager Season 7

Seven of Nine with the Doctor.

I didn’t really pick any Seven of Nine episodes on my last list – which is kind of an oversight, given that she will be returning in Picard Season 3! Voyager’s later seasons included quite a few Seven-focused episodes (if you’d have asked me at the time, I’d have definitely said there were too many!) but for today, I want to take a look at Human Error.

Part of Seven’s story this time around is sure to focus on her new role within Starfleet, and although Picard’s first two seasons already gave her a deeply cathartic arc and plenty of development, her change of circumstances this time around could be very interesting. Human Error shows Seven of Nine trying to hone her social skills on the holodeck, as well as setting the stage for a potential romance with Chakotay. Of all the “Seven of Nine learns how to be human” stories – of which there were a lotHuman Error is one of the more interesting, and perhaps some of the themes it touches on will be relevant this time around… even if the main plot points themselves are unlikely to be!

Bonus:
Star Trek: Prodigy
Season 1

The wreck of the USS Protostar.


I almost included this as an “official” entry on the list, but I’m not sure I could justify saying that all of Prodigy’s first season is going to make for necessary or even relevant background viewing ahead of Picard Season 3! But there are a few points of note that, while unlikely to come up in a big way, would be worth keeping in mind – especially for Seven of Nine’s story. Prodigy’s first season serves as a sequel, of a sort, to Voyager – and we learn what happened to Chakotay and Admiral Janeway in particular over the course of twenty episodes.

This isn’t Prodigy’s main focus, but it’s a story that’s weaved through the entire season, setting up the story and taking it to its end point. Seven of Nine may or may not know all of the details of what happened, and the events of Prodigy take place almost fifteen years before Picard. But as someone who was close with Janeway and Chakotay, Seven may have come to know about their adventures with the USS Protostar. I really doubt that there will be a major connection, but there could be a name-drop or some other hint at the events of Prodigy through Seven’s story arc.

So if you have time and you haven’t seen Prodigy yet… now could be the right moment!

So that’s it!

Geordi La Forge looking rather cross in the most recent trailer.

Unless I think of any more episodes – or come up with any of my patented (and usually wrong) theories – I think this is it! Between this list and the one I published a few days ago, these are all the stories that I think could make for useful background viewing ahead of Picard Season 3.

As I said last time, I’m less “excited” for this new outing than I want to be. Two difficult, muddled, mismanaged seasons of Picard have been, on the whole, a pretty big disappointment, especially when I consider that this was the series – and the Star Trek concept – that I was most interested in and had waited almost twenty years to see. Season 3, rather than being one more fantastic adventure, feels more like the last chance saloon – not only the final opportunity for Picard to tell a decent, well-paced, exciting story, but perhaps the last good opportunity for the Star Trek franchise as a whole to demonstrate to parent company Paramount that it’s worth investing in this early 25th Century setting in a big way.

Promotional photo of Worf.

I have concerns already, particularly surrounding the way the main cast from Season 1 was handled and how they were jettisoned from the series with most of them not getting so much as a “goodbye.” And I can’t shake the feeling that the new season may be rushing headfirst into exactly the kind of nostalgia overload that has continually tripped up the modern Star Wars franchise.

But despite all of that, I’ve vowed to give Picard Season 3 a fair shake when it debuts in a couple of weeks’ time. Whether any of the stories and episodes we’ve talked about today will be relevant or not, I still think they’re all enjoyable and well worth a watch. If nothing else, they can give us a bit of a baseline to see where these legacy characters were in their prime.

Don’t forget to check out the first part of this list, which contains another batch of Star Trek stories that I think could make for useful background viewing ahead of Picard Season 3. You can find it by clicking or tapping here. And when Season 3 premieres, I hope you’ll check back for weekly episode reviews – and perhaps even a few theories!

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.

Star Trek: Picard Season 3 – Death Predictions

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2 and the trailers, teasers, and announcements for Season 3. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Next Generation, Nemesis, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager.

Is everyone going to survive the upcoming season of Star Trek: Picard? I think there are reasons to doubt that! So today I’m going to take a look at the show’s main and secondary characters and speculate about who may or may not be killed off before the curtain falls. Is that a bit macabre?

Picard hasn’t been shy when it comes to killing off legacy characters. In Season 1 we lost Hugh the Borg, Icheb, Bruce Maddox, and if you want to get technical about it, Picard himself – or at least his original body! We also saw the villainous Rizzo killed off in the season finale. And in Season 2, we said goodbye to Q most notably, but also saw Tallinn killed off as the story reached its conclusion.

Season 2 saw the death of Q.

In addition, several comments from showrunner Terry Matalas and others involved in the production of Season 3 have seemed to hint at the possibility of character deaths. So I think we have reason enough to speculate about who may or may not make it to the end of the story!

A well-timed character death can do wonders for a story, raising the stakes significantly. In the aftermath of television shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones – pioneers of what I call the “disposable cast” model, where no main character can reasonably be assumed to be safe – audience expectations have shifted, and throwing characters into life-or-death situations definitely feels more dangerous than it ever used to!

Icheb was one of several legacy characters to die in Season 1.

A character death can also be the right move for a story. If a character has completed their arc or storyline, it can feel right – at least in some cases – if the way their story ends is with their death. So for all of those reasons, I think it’s at least a possibility that Star Trek: Picard will go down this route in Season 3.

When we’re dealing with legacy characters, this does get a bit more complicated. The main characters from The Next Generation are iconic and beloved, and need to be handled with care! But it could still feel right for the story, the character themselves, or both, if one or more were killed off. This season is being billed as the “final” adventure for this crew – and I can’t help but feel that “final” could really mean “final” for at least one of them!

Several of the main cast and crew at a recent panel.

Before we get started, a couple of caveats. First of all, I’m not necessarily advocating for any of these characters to be killed off. I adore The Next Generation and its characters, and while I could accept the loss of one or more of them if it came at the right moment and was handled well, I don’t really want to have to say goodbye to anyone!

This is also just the subjective opinion of one person. I’m going to look at each of the characters in turn and share my thoughts – but if you think I’m completely wrong or if I miss something you consider obvious, just keep in mind that it’s only my opinion… and although this is a dark subject in some ways, it’s supposed to be a bit of fun!

Finally, I have no “insider information.” I’m not even certain that all of the characters we’re going to look at will appear or even be mentioned in Season 3, let alone that they’ll have fully-fledged arcs, so please remember to take all of this in that spirit.

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

Character #1:
Jean-Luc Picard

Status:
Safe

Star Trek: Picard has, as mentioned, already “killed” Jean-Luc Picard – and it would feel very strange if the show were to do so again! I know that a lot of folks speculated that Picard would be permanently killed off in this series, especially in the run-up to Season 1 when it wasn’t clear if the series would be renewed, but having already done a fake-out death, it would be difficult, I feel, for the show to kill off Picard for a second time.

It’s primarily for that reason that I consider Picard to be safe. If we hadn’t gone through that death-and-rebirth narrative at the end of Season 1, I’d almost certainly feel that he was in danger. And I could be wrong about that – if the series is the final chapter of his story, it makes a lot of sense for it to end with his death. But I really feel that it would be a struggle to kill off Picard for the second time in a way that would be impactful, emotional, and that would carry the necessary weight to say a permanent goodbye to such an iconic character who has been such an important part of the Star Trek franchise.

Character #2:
Laris

Status:
Killed Off-Screen?

Laris was central to Picard’s story in Season 2 – serving as the “love interest” that he struggled to begin a relationship with. Picard’s inability to settle into a romantic relationship was what caused Q to set the entire season’s story in motion, and by the time Picard returned to his vineyard at the end of the season, he finally seemed ready to embrace a potential new relationship with Laris, something Guinan called his “one final frontier still to come.”

But unfortunately, Laris actress Orla Brady is one of the main cast members who won’t be returning for Season 3, something she confirmed shortly after the Season 2 finale had aired. Although Picard and Laris seemed to be on the verge of becoming a couple, Brady’s absence from the new season seems to suggest that it won’t happen. One reason for that could be Laris’ death – and after Zhaban was killed off-screen in between Seasons 1 and 2, I wouldn’t be stunned to see the series treat her the same way. Either way, given Laris’ importance last season her absence will have to be addressed somehow.

Character #3:
William Riker

Status:
In Danger

When considering potential character deaths, one factor to consider is the impact a particular loss would have on the people around them. While all of the main characters are friends, the bond that Riker had with both Picard and Troi – his wife – would make his potential death incredibly significant for those characters in particular.

Riker has also reached a point where we could at least make the case that his story feels somewhat complete. Having served as Picard’s loyal “number one” for fifteen years, he finally accepted his own command, got married to the person he loves, had a family, and retired. If Season 3 is to be an epilogue of sorts for Riker… maybe it won’t end well for him!

Character #4:
Elnor

Status:
Killed Off-Screen?

I genuinely do not understand the decision to grant Elnor a last-second stay of execution at the end of Season 2. His death, while tragic in more ways than one, served a narrative function, and was of particular importance to Raffi. After a deeply emotional sequence in the penultimate episode of the season, I felt certain that Elnor was truly gone – until Q resurrected him.

Why, then, do I suspect that Elnor may have been killed off-screen? It isn’t just the confirmed absence of actor Evan Evagora, though that is a part of it, but that we seemed to see Raffi looking angry and distraught in the trailer. It would arguably be repetitive if Raffi were forced to deal with Elnor’s death for the second season in a row… but then again, it worked well as the driving force for her arc last time. Elnor’s absence will have to be explained somehow, and unless he’s being secretly tapped for a role in the long-rumoured Starfleet Academy series, he might end up dead for the second time.

Character #5:
Captain Vadic

Status:
Deader than dead. 101% dead.

If anyone is going to die this season, surely it will be the villain of the piece! Somehow, some way, by the time the credits roll on the season finale, Captain Vadic will have been killed – I am practically certain of that. Her defeat and death may end up costing Picard and the crew dearly, but these kinds of villains really only end one way.

I just hope that, along the way, we truly come to learn who Vadic is and what’s driving her. Seasons 1 and 2 both left a lot on the table in terms of unexplained or unclear narrative threads, and whilst we’re having fun reuniting with the crew of the Enterprise-D, I truly want to spend time with Vadic to figure out what’s going on with her.

Character #6:
Dr Beverly Crusher

Status:
In Danger

Because of the nature of her close relationship with Picard – regardless of whether they ever “crossed that line” and became more than just friends – Dr Crusher’s death would hit him especially hard. For that reason alone, in a show called Star Trek: Picard, Dr Crusher is absolutely in danger!

Not only that, but based on what little we know so far, Dr Crusher is going to have a significant role to play in jump-starting the story, sending a distress signal of some kind to Picard while on an assignment in deep space. We’ve already seen clips in the trailers that confirm she will be reunited with Picard, so that mission won’t prove fatal. But Dr Crusher seems to be connected to whatever’s going on – perhaps in a big way. She could be one of Captain Vadic’s targets.

Character #7:
Lore

Status:
50/50

I could see Lore’s story going one of two ways. Either he really leans into the “evil twin” angle from The Next Generation, allowing Brent Spiner to put in yet another delicious villainous performance, or there’s some kind of pathway to redemption for him – perhaps even one that might lead to a resurrection or restoration of Data.

So I’m calling this one 50/50. If there’s more to Lore’s story this season than just pure villainy, I think he’s in with a chance of survival. If he remains true to his mission and is loyal to Vadic, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him meet his end – maybe at the hands of Geordi!

Character #8:
Soji

Status:
Killed Off-Screen?

Soji made scarcely more than a cameo appearance in Season 2, and didn’t even join the others for a drink at Guinan’s bar at the end of the story. If the story of Season 3 will involve some kind of attack or invasion, such as by the Season 1 super-synths as I’ve previously theorised, we could learn that Soji has been killed. However, after being absent last time, her death wouldn’t have as big an impact on either the characters on the show or on us as the audience – so that could be a reason not to do it.

Either way, I hope some reference is made to Soji to explain her absence from the season’s story. She was such a big part of Season 1 that it would be a shame to hear absolutely nothing about her in the show’s final season.

Character #9:
Worf

Status:
In Danger

Of all The Next Generation characters, it seems from the trailers that Worf may be the one who’s changed the most from when we last saw him. Worf seemed to suggest that he has become a “pacifist,” something that could really shake up his characterisation. After a long arc across not only The Next Generation, but the back half of Deep Space Nine too, maybe Worf’s story is finally at an end. He might even be at peace with that idea!

Worf is the character that we’ve spent the most time with in all of Star Trek, so his exit – if indeed there is to be one – will have to be handled with care. But for Worf, dying in battle to save his friends (and maybe the Federation, too) would actually be a good way to go. So maybe it will finally be a good day to die for our favourite Klingon!

Character #10:
Seven of Nine

Status:
Safe

I’m calling Seven “safe” because I’m not convinced that the Star Trek franchise is done with her just yet! I know I wasn’t the only one in the aftermath of Season 2 to suggest that some kind of “Captain Seven” series could be an interesting direction to take for the next Star Trek production, but even if that doesn’t happen, the development that Seven’s character has gone through in Picard so far has set the stage for further appearances in some form.

While we’re still waiting to hear what (if anything) is coming up next for Star Trek, any future 25th Century series would do well to include Seven of Nine either as a main or recurring character. Her arc in Picard has been utterly transformative, taking one of my least-favourite characters from Voyager and getting her to a point where I could legitimately see her as the lead in her own spin-off.

Character #11:
Deanna Troi

Status:
In Danger

As above with Riker, Troi has to be considered in danger because of the emotional weight her death would carry. This would pack a punch for Riker in particular, as they’re married, but Troi was also close with Dr Crusher and Worf too. Like Riker, Troi has also arguably come to the end of her story: serving in Starfleet, retiring, and becoming a parent.

The loss of Troi would also deprive the crew of a particularly useful talent: her empathic abilities. As an empath, Troi has been able to get a sense of all kinds of adversaries – and in one of the trailers we saw her become deeply alarmed at what she sensed from Vadic. Losing Troi would weaken Picard’s crew in a potentially significant way – and that could provide a narrative reason for killing her off.

Character #12:
Raffi Musiker

Status:
In Danger

If there’s going to be any kind of “Seven of Nine show,” surely Raffi would be a part of that? But even with that caveat in mind, I can’t shake the feeling that Raffi could be in danger. If Picard’s writers and producers want the impact of killing off a main character – but don’t want the controversy of killing a legacy character – then Raffi is really their only option.

With the rest of the new characters already gone, it would be a great shame to lose Raffi as well. One of the things I hoped that Picard would do was serve as a kind of launchpad for new stories set in this time period – and for that to happen, at least some new characters need to be introduced, developed, and stick around. Raffi is the last new character standing, so if there is to be any kind of “passing of the torch,” as the show’s producers have suggested, she needs to survive!

Character #13:
Geordi La Forge

Status:
In Danger

One of the few things we know at this stage about Geordi in Season 3 is that he has two daughters – both of whom are set to appear in the show. As above with Troi and Riker, Geordi’s story could feel complete or close to complete in some ways, which could mean he’s in danger. His death would not only hit the main characters, but also these two new characters – and if it’s played well, the emotional impact of that could be huge.

Although I don’t think this is canon, at least one tie-in novel for Season 1 stated that Geordi had worked with Picard on the Romulan rescue plan prior to the attack on Mars. Dialogue in Season 1 confirmed the two are still friends, but I wonder if there could be unfinished business there. If so, that could give Geordi a reason to stick around – or it could set the stage for an arc that ends with his death.

Characters #14 and #15:
Sidney and Alandra La Forge

Status:
In Danger

Geordi’s daughters – who seem to have been given the names Sidney and Alandra – will be joining the mission, but despite their connection to him, at this point in the story they’re little more than redshirts… and we all know what can happen to characters like that!

If Picard’s writers and producers wanted to kill off a character in a way that would pack an emotional punch, Sidney and/or Alandra could be in the firing line. Their deaths would have a huge impact on Geordi, which could become a big part of his arc and characterisation across the season. It would be especially cruel to kill off both of these characters… but plenty of television shows have done exactly that kind of thing!

Character #16:
Professor Moriarty

Status:
In Danger

At this stage, I genuinely don’t know whether Professor Moriarty will have a significant role or if his appearance will be more of a cameo. Regardless, I think he’s in danger – and he could be one of the first villains on the chopping block, with Lore and Vadic keeping up the fight after his defeat/destruction.

Although Moriarty was programmed to be “evil” because of the source material upon which his characterisation was based, he’s a surprisingly sympathetic character – or at least he feels that way to me. His existence isn’t his fault, and the fact that he was trapped by the limitations of his technology feels strangely relatable. Could there be a redemption arc for Moriarty?

Character #17:
The Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid

Status:
Killed Off-Screen?

The Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid didn’t get a “goodbye” at all in Season 2, promising to stand watch over the mysterious anomaly that was part of that season’s story. I really hope that Season 3 will address this somehow – and I have a theory as to how the mysterious anomaly could connect not only to Season 3, but to the events of Season 1 as well!

Regardless of whether that pans out, though, we know that Alison Pill won’t be reprising her role in Season 3, which leads to the question of the Borg Queen’s survival. If the mysterious anomaly were to erupt again, could it have destroyed her ship? Or might her Borg faction have been one of Vadic’s targets?

Character #18:
Sela (or Tasha Yar?)

Status:
Unknown

At time of writing, we don’t know whether Denise Crosby’s rumoured appearance in Season 3 is for real. Some outlets have reported it as if it were fact, but I can’t find anything official on that! But let’s assume she is coming back for a moment. If her character of Sela is involved, somehow, I think she’s in serious danger. If there’s some kind of attempt to bring back Tasha Yar, then all bets are off!

Sela tangled with Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D on two occasions, being defeated both times. If someone like Vadic were putting together a revenge mission, I can absolutely see Sela jumping at the chance to be part of it. Her story could also connect in some way to the Romulan storylines in Season 1. But if she’s coming back as a villain and part of Vadic’s team, I definitely think that puts her in the firing line.

Character #19:
Another familiar face

Status:
In Danger

One of the most shocking sequences in the trailer was the apparent destruction of Starfleet HQ (or some other major Federation building). If this is real, and isn’t some kind of vision or dream sequence, it stands to reason that a lot of Starfleet folks might be killed. Among them could easily be a familiar face or two from Star Trek’s past – either a recurring character or perhaps even a major character from The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, or Voyager.

As we saw in Season 1, Picard hasn’t been shy when it comes to reintroducing a legacy character only to kill them off. Icheb’s death is perhaps the most noteworthy example, and it could be significant if a familiar character or two were to be killed by Vadic or someone working with her. If this happens, though, I hope we’re reintroduced to the character in some way, and that their death isn’t merely included as a line of dialogue.

So that’s it!

Those are all of the characters we know of at this stage, and I’ve made some wild guesses and perhaps even a couple of logical, educated guesses about who may or may not make it to the end of the season.

At the end of the day, when you throw characters into a high-stakes, high-tension, high-danger story, it stands to reason that they won’t all make it out alive. As television storytelling has progressed, the risk to even beloved main characters has become greater than it ever was, and although we have seen some pretty heavy plot armour in some parts of the Star Trek franchise (looking at you, Discovery) I can’t shake the feeling that someone significant is going to be killed before Season 3 is done.

But hey, maybe I’m wrong about that! In any case, we don’t have long left to wait before we’ll find out! As I said last time, I’m planning to write individual episode reviews as Season 3 is broadcast, and I’ll also craft a few theories if the series lends itself to that – so be sure to stop by when Season 3 arrives!

Star Trek: Picard Season 3 will premiere on Paramount+ in the United States on the 16th of February 2023, and 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.

What to watch to get ready for Star Trek: Picard Season 3

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2 and the trailers, teasers, and announcements for Season 3. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Wrath of Khan, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Nemesis, and Lower Decks.

Last year, shortly before Picard’s second season premiered, I put together a list of twelve Star Trek stories that I felt would make for good background viewing – and I was pleasantly surprised that most of the episodes and films that I selected actually did have some bearing on the story of the season, or at least would’ve given viewers some additional information as the story unfolded. Given my usual track record with theories and predictions, that was a bit of a surprise! But you know what they say: “even a broken clock is right twice a day!”

With Season 3 now less than three weeks away, I wanted to once again compile a few stories from Star Trek’s extensive back catalogue that I think could make for useful background viewing ahead of its premiere. At this stage last time around I felt we had a pretty good idea of the main narrative elements that would be present in Season 2: Q, the Borg Queen, and time travel had all been teased ahead of time, and comprised a big portion of the season’s story. This time, though, it feels like we don’t have as much information to go on!

A chair and console aboard the USS Stargazer.

As always, a couple of important caveats before we get started. First of all, I have no “insider information.” I’m not trying to claim that I know or have somehow clairvoyantly predicted the plot of Star Trek: Picard Season 3, and it’s quite possible that none of the stories we’re going to talk about will have any bearing whatsoever on the new season. Paramount is keeping a relatively tight lid on things this time around, and while we know which characters will be included, there’s still plenty that we don’t know! I’ve made a few guesses and assumptions – but I could be completely wide of the mark.

I’m calling the entries on this list “stories,” as several of these arcs play out across more than one episode. And I’ll be listing the stories in broadcast order – not in order of importance! It also goes without saying that Picard Seasons 1 and 2 are necessary viewing – so I’m not going to put them on this list.

Finally, all of this is the subjective opinion of one person. If I include episodes and films that you hate or think will be irrelevant, or I exclude something that seems blindingly obvious, please just keep in mind that this is only the opinion of one Trekkie – and that it’s meant to be a bit of fun!

With all of that out of the way, let’s take a look at a few Star Trek stories!

Story #1:
The Wrath of Khan

The USS Enterprise in The Wrath of Khan.

Although we’re unlikely to see any characters cross over from The Wrath of Khan – which is set more than a century before the events of Picard – ever since we got our first glimpse of the new season’s villain a few months ago, I’ve been wondering if we might see some of the same themes crop up. Captain Vadic is still shrouded in mystery right now, but she gives me a very strong Khan vibe, and her potential obsession with Picard and desire to seek revenge against him could take the story down a somewhat familiar path.

Ricardo Montalbán’s take on Khan is one of the most iconic villain performances not only in the Star Trek franchise, but in all of cinema. So if Season 3 is going to try to emulate that in some way, there are some very big shoes to fill! If Star Trek is going to return to this idea of a powerful villain on a quest for vengeance, it will definitely be worth stepping back to see the franchise’s first take on that concept. And maybe, just maybe, there could be something in the story about genetic engineering and augmentation, too!

Story #2:
The Battle
The Next Generation Season 1

DaiMon Bok on the Enterprise-D’s main viewscreen.

This one is a bit of a stab in the dark and it could go absolutely nowhere! But The Battle introduces us to DaiMon Bok, a Ferengi captain who holds a grudge against Picard. Years earlier, the USS Stargazer had come under attack by an unknown vessel, and Picard was able to defeat it before the ship was lost. Aboard that ship was Bok’s son, and the Ferengi has never forgiven Picard for causing his death.

Aside from the fact that this is another story that deals with the theme of revenge (and specifically, revenge against Picard), I can’t help but wonder whether Bok might make a surprise appearance in Picard Season 3. We’ve already seen that Captain Vadic has brought two of Picard’s old adversaries – Lore and Moriarty – onto her team, and I have no doubt that Bok would jump at the chance to join another mission against his old foe. If Captain Vadic has put together a “rogues’ gallery” of Star Trek villains, perhaps we’ll see Bok among them.

Story #3:
Datalore, Brothers, and Descent Parts I-II
The Next Generation

Lore.

Lore only appeared in four episodes of The Next Generation, and I’m grouping them all together for this entry! Given that Brent Spiner is listed as a main character, I think it’s a safe assumption that Lore will play a significant role in the story of Season 3, so I think it will be absolutely worthwhile to see where he came from and what he went through prior to being shut down by Data.

Lore is Data’s “evil twin,” a malicious android who betrayed his creator and has caused a lot of harm. But especially by the time we got to the two-part episode Descent, I felt there was much more to the character than just a one-dimensional anti-Data or a foil for the crew of the Enterprise-D. Lore has a degree of complexity, and I’ll be curious to see what’s become of him when the new story gets underway.

I also have a theory about how Lore’s backstory could be connected to the events of Season 1, and you can find it by clicking or tapping here.

Story #4:
Elementary, Dear Data and Ship in a Bottle
The Next Generation

An evil hologram…

Sticking with villainous characters, a huge surprise last year was that Daniel Davis will be reprising his role as the malevolent hologram Professor Moriarty. Moriarty was created by a computer error in Elementary, Dear Data and went on to kidnap Dr Pulaski. In Ship in a Bottle, Moriarty returned and tried to escape the confines of the holodeck. Both episodes are fascinating, and Davis’ portrayal of the iconic Sherlock Holmes character has a menacing calmness that’s absolutely riveting to watch!

Given what we know of holographic technology, and advances like the Doctor’s mobile emitter that was seen in Voyager, I wonder what kind of role Moriarty might play? He’s a genius, that much is certain, and he could cause Picard all kinds of trouble – as indeed he did in his earlier appearances!

Considering that both Professor Moriarty and Lore are both artificial life-forms, I have a theory that could connect the story of Season 3 with that of Seasons 1 and 2. Check it out by clicking or tapping here.

Story #5:
Redemption Parts I-II and Unification Parts I-II
The Next Generation

Sela.

There have been rumours flitting about for months that Denise Crosby will appear in Picard Season 3, and while we have yet to get any official confirmation of this, if it’s true and she will return, it seems logical to assume that it will be in the role of Sela. Sela was the daughter of an alternate timeline’s version of Tasha Yar, and tangled with Picard on two occasions – trying to interfere in the Klingon Empire’s civil war and later attempting to conquer Vulcan.

As discussed above, if Captain Vadic is looking for allies in her campaign against Picard and/or the Federation, Sela would surely jump at the chance to be involved. Her failures were almost certainly very costly for her politically, and I can absolutely see her wanting to get her own revenge on Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D. There’s also the possibility that Sela’s involvement in the story could connect with the Zhat Vash plot and other Romulan storylines from Season 1.

Story #6:
Disaster
The Next Generation Season 5

Riker in Disaster.

Disaster is a fantastic episode that throws the whole crew of the Enterprise-D into a chaotic situation. When the ship strikes a quantum filament in space and is left damaged and without power, everyone has to step out of their familiar roles in order to save the day. Disaster is an ensemble piece that gives practically everyone something to do.

Disaster is one of the strongest episodes from Season 5 – which is perhaps my personal favourite season of The Next Generation, so that’s saying a lot! For our purposes today, I like that it’s an episode that throws everyone far out of their comfort zones, that it groups together characters who didn’t often interact with one another, and that it gives all of the main characters something to do to contribute to the story.

Story #7:
Attached
The Next Generation Season 7

Picard and Dr Crusher.

There are several episodes that look at Picard and Dr Crusher’s relationship, but few are as detailed or emotional as Attached. What sounds like a silly sci-fi premise of being connected to one another by telepathic implants actually leads to a great story about the two characters and their emotional bond – a bond that has skirted friendship and something romantic.

One open question that fans have had really since Picard premiered three years ago is what may have happened between Picard and Dr Crusher over the past twenty years or more. It certainly seems as if they’re still friends based on what we’ve seen… but did they ever “cross that line” and become something more? Picard’s arc just last season ultimately turned out to be about his lack of romantic attachments, but you never know!

Story #8:
All Good Things…
The Next Generation Season 7

The USS Pasteur.

In some ways, All Good Things doesn’t really feel like a finale – and that makes sense given that Generations would release in cinemas only a few months after it was broadcast! But The Next Generation’s final episode is an interesting one, and when looking ahead to Picard Season 3, what’s perhaps its biggest draw is that parts of the episode are set in the same time period.

Q sets Picard the challenge of solving an “anti-time” mystery, and to facilitate that, Picard moves through three different time periods – including an alternate future in which we get a look at the show’s main characters. Events in Picard and other Star Trek projects have already undone much of the anti-time timeline, but some elements may make their way into this new story.

Story #9:
The Way of the Warrior
Deep Space Nine Season 4

Worf with a Klingon D’k tahg dagger.

Worf is about to make a big return to Star Trek – but unlike his crewmates, we’ve already seen the chapter of his life after he left the Enterprise! In Deep Space Nine’s fourth season, Worf transferred to the station, and the two-part episode The Way of the Warrior not only brought him on board, but did so in spectacular fashion.

The episode focuses on Worf’s inner conflict between his Klingon heritage and duties to Starfleet, as the Klingons plan a mission into the Gamma Quadrant. With Worf set to return, and promises of some kind of connection or tie-in with Deep Space Nine on the cards, I think seeing how he came to join the crew could be worthwhile.

Story #10:
In Purgatory’s Shadow and By Inferno’s Light
Deep Space Nine Season 5

Garak and Worf at a Dominion internment camp.

This pair of episodes wrapped up the Klingon-Federation war that started in The Way of the Warrior, and set the stage for the Dominion War that would break out at the end of the season. It was also a strong Worf story that saw him held prisoner at a Dominion internment camp along with Martok, Garak, and Dr Bashir.

Since Star Trek returned to the small screen in 2017, we’ve only gotten the barest of mentions of the Dominion War – but there’s so much potential in a return to Cardassia, the Dominion, and to look at the aftermath of the conflict. As someone who was heavily involved in the war and who did so much to keep the Federation and Klingon Empire united, Worf is the perfect character to use to explore some of these points. We may learn nothing new about the aftermath of the Dominion War in Season 3… but I kind of hope that we will.

Story #11:
Insurrection

Troi and Riker in Insurrection.

I know that Insurrection isn’t everyone’s favourite film, but I actually see several parallels with its story based on what we know of Season 3. Picard and his crew undertaking a “Starfleet-adjacent” mission, which may or may not have official approval, sounds an awful lot like what the crew got up to in Insurrection!

Furthermore, I noted in the Season 3 trailer a little while ago that one of the nebulae that Picard and the crew will seemingly visit looks an awful lot like Insurrection’s “Briar Patch” – the region of space in which the Ba’ku homeworld was located. Could there be a deeper connection there? Maybe Captain Vadic is a Son’a, one of the defeated adversaries from Insurrection. That would be a bold move in more ways than one!

Story #12:
Author, Author
Voyager Season 7

The Doctor with Captain Janeway and Tuvok.

With the return of Professor Moriarty, a sentient hologram, I think it could be worth taking a look at Voyager’s seventh season episode Author, Author. The story focuses on the Doctor, who has written a holo-novel based very loosely on his experiences aboard Voyager – but when he wants to make changes to it, his publisher tries to deny him that right, claiming that a hologram cannot “own” the copyright to his work.

Author, Author may turn out to be ahead of its time given that right now, here in the real world, the question of AI authorship is being discussed! In light of AI art, AI essays, and the like, we’re going to have to take a serious look at this issue in the years ahead! But for our purposes, Author, Author could be an interesting starting point to consider the state of holographic rights and synthetic rights in a general sense in the late 24th and early 25th Centuries. Maybe none of it will matter for Professor Moriarty’s story, but given that Season 1 looked at a ban on synthetic life, there’s a chance some of the themes in the episode will turn out to be relevant.

Story #13:
Nemesis

A painting of the Enterprise-E.

Nemesis was the last time that Picard and his old crew were all together – at least as far as we know! It was certainly the last time that we as the audience got to see them working together, even if they may have reunited off-screen in the years before Season 1. So Nemesis, while arguably not the best Star Trek film, is going to be an important one to watch.

This is also Data’s final mission, as he was killed while stopping the Reman plot. A big part of Season 1 involved giving Data the send-off that he didn’t get in Nemesis, and his influence loomed large over the story in more ways than one. There are also mentions of Lore in the story, though nothing significant I suspect, and we’re introduced to B-4, an early precursor to Data. For all of those reasons and more, Nemesis is a story worth checking out.

Story #14:
Kayshon, His Eyes Open
Lower Decks Season 2

Captain Riker of the USS Titan!

This might seem a bit of an odd choice, but Lower Decks actually showed us a bit of a look at Captain Riker’s tenure aboard the USS Titan – and the Titan, or at least a ship bearing the same name, is going to be seen in Season 3. In this episode, Lower Decks main character Boimler is serving aboard the Titan under Riker’s command, and takes part in an away mission to a dangerous planet.

When Kayshon, His Eyes Open premiered, I was thrilled to get a look at Riker, the Titan, and the crew he served with. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Season 3 make some kind of reference to Riker’s time in command, and there could even be name-drops of one or more of the characters in this episode. Season 1 already made reference to Star Trek’s animated adventures, and with this episode including Riker in such a large role, it would be a shame in a way if Season 3 just ignored it completely.

I have a full episode review of Kayshon, His Eyes Openclick or tap here to check it out!

So that’s it!

Who (or what) is Picard firing his phaser at?

Those are fourteen Star Trek stories that I feel could make for interesting or useful viewing before Picard Season 3 kicks off.

If nothing else, all of the stories above are good fun, and worth re-watching for any Trekkie who may not have seen them in a while! With the story of Season 3 being kept under wraps, some of these picks are admittedly guesses – but I think that all of them have the possibility, at least, to connect with the story that lies ahead.

I’m cautiously optimistic about the upcoming season, despite Picard as a whole not having been as enjoyable as I’d hoped nor having accomplished what I’d wanted it to. There are reasons to be concerned – such as the disappointing decision to jettison all but one of the new characters that the series had introduced – but I’d be lying if I said that one more adventure with the crew of the Enterprise-D wasn’t a tantalising, enticing prospect.

When Picard Season 3 arrives next month, I’ll do my best to keep up with weekly episode reviews, and if the series lends itself to theory-crafting, I daresay I’ll put together some of my patented (and usually wrong) theories as well! So I hope you’ll stay tuned for that!

Star Trek: Picard Season 3 will premiere on Paramount+ in the United States on the 16th of February 2023, and 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.

Star Trek: Picard Season 3 – hopes, fears, and expectations

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1 and 2 as well as trailers, teasers, and announcements for Season 3. Spoilers are also present for The Next Generation, Nemesis, and Discovery.

With Star Trek: Picard’s upcoming third season now barely a month away, it seems like a good time to look ahead. Thanks to trailers, teasers, and interviews with the cast and crew, we know a little about how the season is shaping up, and from my point of view, it wouldn’t be unfair to say that Picard Season 3 has a lot of work to do to salvage a troubled, muddled production that hasn’t hit the high notes that I’ve been hoping for.

Let’s take a step back. My “first contact” with the Star Trek franchise came in the early 1990s. The first episode I can solidly remember watching was The Royale, from The Next Generation’s second season – though I’m fairly sure I’d seen others, or at least parts of others, prior to that. The Royale aired here in the UK in June 1991, so I’ve been a Trekkie for more than thirty years at this point! Moreover, I have an incredible fondness for The Next Generation in particular, as it was Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D that first made me into a Star Trek fan.

The cast of The Next Generation Season 1.

In short, I’m about as close as it’s possible to get to the ideal target audience for Picard Season 3; a season of television that promises to bring back the main cast of The Next Generation. But before so much as a single frame has aired, I find myself having mixed feelings. I genuinely want to see Picard Season 3 succeed – and if I dare to hope, maybe even find a way to tie up loose ends and unresolved narrative threads that were left on the table as Seasons 1 and 2 faltered. But at the same time, I have concerns.

Seasons 1 and 2 both had some incredible highlights: episodes and moments within episodes that were as good as Star Trek has ever been, that hit all of the right notes, and that left me on the edge of my seat or jumping for joy. But step back and look at the bigger picture, and I’m afraid that both seasons also had some pretty major issues that hampered my enjoyment. Both seasons told long, serialised stories… and both plodded along in places, stumbled in others, and failed to resolve key storylines and character arcs by the time it was over.

Do you think we’ll find out more about this mysterious anomaly?

One of my biggest pre-season questions is this: will Picard simply ignore what came before as it races to tell a new story? Or might there be time to step back, even if just for a moment through a line or two of exposition-laden dialogue, and try to tie up some of these loose ends? If – as I suspect will be the case – Season 3 is going to tell a new story unrelated to the events of Seasons 1 and 2, there could still be time to acknowledge, in the most barebones of ways, what became of the Coppelius synths, the Zhat Vash, Narek, the new Borg faction, the mysterious anomaly, and other unexplained or unresolved story points.

In fact, that would be my single biggest request!

There are ways in which Picard Season 3 could tie everything together, transforming the disjointed series into something more closely resembling a single, ongoing story – and I have a theory as to how that could pan out that involves the faction of super-synths from Season 1. But even if none of that comes to pass, it would still be worthwhile, in my view, to find some way to acknowledge the events of the past twenty episodes and do something to try to tie up those loose ends. If Season 3 is to be Picard’s last, as we’ve been repeatedly told, and no other early 25th Century projects are coming up in the short term at least, this will be the last opportunity to do so for several years – possibly ever.

The storyline involving the super-synths in Season 1 is just one of several that remain incomplete.

I think it’s worth reiterating just how disappointing it is that all but one of the new characters introduced in Picard have been dumped. Although a couple of them got what we could generously call “narrative arcs” in Season 2 that felt somewhat conclusive, I still felt that, twenty episodes in, we hadn’t really had much of a chance to get to know most of them. Soji and Elnor, who were both sidelined for practically all of Season 2, had a lot of potential as young, new characters – but that potential was squandered by a production that didn’t seem to know what to do with either of them, and then completely wasted by the decision to cut them both from Season 3.

As I said at the time, if Star Trek is to survive long-term, it will be new characters, not old ones, who will have to pick up the baton and drive the franchise forward. Just as Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D did when The Next Generation premiered, it will fall to new characters in the years ahead to keep Star Trek fresh and relevant. By removing almost all of them from the show in favour of what could turn out to be nothing more than a desperate attempt to play the nostalgia card, I truly fear that Picard’s producers have done serious harm to the Star Trek franchise’s longer-term prospects.

The cast of Picard Season 1.

Before Picard Season 1 had premiered back in 2020, I said here on the website that it was my genuine hope that legions of new, younger Star Trek fans would be just as excited in another thirty years’ time to see Star Trek: Elnor or The Dr Jurati Show as I was to see Jean-Luc Picard’s return. That moment felt like it had the potential to be on par with the premiere of The Next Generation – a handing of the torch from one generation of characters to another. But it hasn’t happened, and I feel we’re seeing the Star Trek franchise as a whole struggling with its identity, not really knowing how to move beyond its legacy characters.

There’s no way in which I can fully get on board with Picard Season 3 and the return of The Next Generation characters because of this. Although I’m interested and perhaps even a little optimistic as this new adventure approaches, their return feels tainted because of who had to be unceremoniously kicked off stage in order to make it happen. I think I’d still feel that way even if all of the departing characters had been given enjoyable arcs that felt complete, but when at least two (Soji and Elnor) didn’t even get the barest of goodbyes, and Dr Jurati got more of a “see you later” rather than a definitive ending to her story, this disappointment feels all the more egregious.

Isa Briones and Evan Evagora at a Star Trek: Picard panel in 2020.
Image Credit: Fandom Spotlite via YouTube

That would be bad enough in isolation, but unfortunately it isn’t the first time that Picard has lost a character without giving them a proper send-off – or even a conclusion of any kind to their storyline. Narek simply vanished at the end of Season 1, midway through the second half of the finale, and was never seen nor heard from again. Despite having plenty of time to process the reaction to Season 1 and plan for ways to avoid making the same mistakes, it feels as if the producers and creative team didn’t learn any of the lessons from the rushed and disappointing Season 1 finale.

Narek’s disappearance is a big part of why I don’t have much confidence that Season 3 will do anything at all to tackle some of these unresolved narrative threads. How difficult would it have been for someone in Season 2 to comment on Narek, confirming that he had been incarcerated? It would’ve taken a line or two of dialogue at most – and in a plodding story that really slowed down and dragged in places, it’s not like there wasn’t time to fit it in!

So… what happened to Narek?

But all of that is looking backwards when we should really be looking ahead. Despite feeling disappointed in cast departures, reminiscing about “what might have been,” and worrying about what it could all mean in the future, I’d be lying if I said that the return of the Enterprise-D’s crew isn’t something that I feel has huge potential to be entertaining and enjoyable. Seeing what these characters could do in a modern television environment that wouldn’t have been possible thirty-five years ago is genuinely appealing, and getting what should feel like a “ten-hour movie” with all of the visual effects and other trappings of a thoroughly modern production is a prospect that I daresay many fans of The Next Generation will be thrilled about.

Star Trek: Picard has already taken us back to some of these characters and showed us how much we’d missed them. I noted in Season 1 that seeing Picard give Data a proper goodbye and laying him to rest was something that I didn’t even know I wanted, but in retrospect I can see how it was a glaring omission from Nemesis. And for all the talk of characters being left in the lurch with incomplete stories and arcs, Nemesis didn’t really provide a conclusive or definitive endpoint for anyone – so this season will be an opportunity to do that; the first such opportunity that these characters have gotten.

Captain Riker and Admiral Picard in a promo photo for Season 3.

When all of this talk about “endings” started coming out, and when executive producer and showrunner Terry Matalas talked about Picard Season 3 as giving the characters the “send-off” that they never got in 2002, I can’t be the only one who started to think about character deaths, can I? We just talked about Picard bringing the crew of The Next Generation into a modern, serialised television framework – and if there’s one thing more than any other that has defined television over the past decade or so it’s main characters being killed, often at shocking moments or in particularly gory ways.

Picard has done this too. Season 1 saw three Star Trek legacy characters killed off: Dr Bruce Maddox, Hugh the Borg, and Icheb. And although Data was already “dead,” that season also saw the last parts of his consciousness shut down as well. Season 2 then saw Q meet his final end… so I don’t think any of the characters feel safe at all as we go into this new story!

Some of the main cast and crew at a recent panel.
Image Credit: StarTrek.com

And that could be okay. A character death, if handled well, can set up the stakes for a story, or it can even feel right for the character if they’ve gone through a satisfying arc or come to the end of their place in the story. After thirty-five years, 176 episodes of The Next Generation, four films, and further involvement with Star Trek for at least some of these characters, though, it would be a pretty bold decision to kill off even one of them! But it absolutely could be the right thing to do if it fits with the story, accomplishes a narrative goal, and/or brings someone’s decades-long arc to a satisfying end.

There was speculation when Picard premiered in 2020 that the show would end with his death – but having already seen Picard die once (only to be immediately brought back to life thanks to technobabble) he actually feels pretty safe – or at least safer than the others. It would be a strange series indeed that ran to only thirty episodes in total and killed off the same character on two separate occasions!

Picard has died once in this show already…

I’ve criticised Discovery for providing its main and even its secondary characters with some borderline-ridiculous plot armour in certain episodes and sequences, and it’s been to that show’s detriment in some respects that we haven’t seen any main character deaths for two whole seasons at this point. Picard has already demonstrated a willingness to swing the proverbial axe – though the question of who may end up on the executioner’s block is still an open one. It could be no one, of course, but I can’t help but feel that the “end” to these characters’ stories that has been discussed may prove fatal and permanent for at least one of them.

The main villain of the season, Captain Vadic, feels like an interesting new element for the series. In her brief appearance in the trailer, she gives me a “Khan” kind of vibe; the obsessive, maniacal, revenge-obsessed villain archetype that Ricardo Montalbán brought to screen so perfectly in The Wrath of Khan. I don’t want to pin my hopes too much on Vadic being “the new Khan” or anything like that, because that kind of character could easily stray into a one-dimensional villain caricature, but from what we’ve seen so far, there’s potential.

The villainous Captain Vadic.

I talked about this back in November, but I’d really love to see some kind of connection to the events of The Next Generation through Vadic. Bringing back the old crew for a wholly new adventure could still be fun, don’t get me wrong, but if it tied into a past Star Trek story in some way, that could be absolutely fantastic. I’ve already come up with a few ideas about how Vadic could be connected to The Next Generation, and who she could bring along for the ride if she puts together a “rogues’ gallery” of Star Trek baddies – and at this stage, none of that seems to have been ruled out!

Given that Picard has introduced new narrative elements for its main storylines so far, I stand by what I said last time we looked at Captain Vadic: if I had to place a bet right now, I’d still have to put my money on her being someone new. That would mean her driving force, the reason for her revenge obsession, is also likely to be new and unconnected to Star Trek’s past, too.

The Shrike, Captain Vadic’s warship.

If we assume that Captain Vadic is someone new and her reason for hating Picard and/or the Federation is also new, that leaves open the question of why Picard would choose to reunite his old crew to take her on. Although Captain Rios is gone, he could still have called on Soji, Elnor, Laris, and the Borg-Jurati hybrid to help if he needed it – and I wonder how (and whether) the absences of these characters will be addressed. Could they even have been killed off-screen to both explain away their absences and to give motivation to Picard, Seven, and Raffi?

Away from narrative decisions, on the technical side of things I expect Picard Season 3 to be polished and to look great. The teasers and trailers that we’ve seen so far had no shortage of beautiful starships, vessels which continue the design philosophy of The Next Generation era but move it along into the early 25th Century. We already saw this – a little too briefly, unfortunately – with the USS Stargazer in Season 2, but with a big return to space supposedly on the agenda this time around, there’s scope to finally spend some more time with Starfleet.

The USS Titan at warp.

Picard Season 1 was probably the low point for modern Star Trek in terms of visual effects. We’ve talked before about the copy-and-paste fleets seen in the season finale, but there was also a CGI sequence copied from Discovery’s second season, a pretty obvious redress of Discovery’s bridge, and more besides. Although none of these moments were atrocious, they didn’t hit the highs that Star Trek can reach in its modern incarnation – and when compared to what the Star Wars franchise and others have been doing, they were downright poor.

But all of that has changed! Not only did Season 2 build whole new sets for the USS Stargazer, including a bridge, ready-room, and hallway, it also showed off a beautiful and diverse Starfleet armada that more than made up for the lacklustre one we saw in Season 1! Just from what we’ve seen so far in the trailers and teasers, I have high hopes for the visual effects that we’ll be able to enjoy in Season 3.

The Enterprise-F, based on a design from Star Trek Online.

Picard has struggled to get enough diversity in its filming locations, something that was incredibly obvious as Season 1 wore on and took us to places on Earth, including Japan and France, and then half a dozen planets – all of which were filmed in the “thirty-mile zone” around Los Angeles. Season 2, because it stepped back in time to a particular time and place, largely avoided that feeling, but I’m not sure how Season 3 will fare. If more time is going to be spent in space on starships, that’s probably a net positive for the series in more ways than one. Because Picard is filmed in California, the show doesn’t have easy access to Paramount’s AR wall in Toronto, so the choice the producers have is to either build sets on sound stages or film on location in the all-too-familiar California area. I hope they’ve chosen the former!

Nostalgia is a big deal in today’s entertainment landscape, and when done right, a show that harkens back to the past and successfully plucks the right chords can be wonderful. I’m not opposed to any and all forms of nostalgia in entertainment, and despite my disappointment in the casting situation that we discussed above, there’s a big part of me that wants to see the crew of the Enterprise-D back in action. But nostalgia is something that needs to be handled with care. Crucially, it mustn’t be overdone or overplayed.

The cast of The Next Generation in the 1990s.
Image Credit: StarTrek.com

It’s all too easy for a production to assume that digging up fan-favourite characters or returning to familiar settings will cover up all manner of storytelling sins – but there are dozens or perhaps even hundreds of examples by now that prove that isn’t the case. And there are productions that go completely overboard with attempts to play the nostalgia card, something that can come across as just plain desperate. The Star Wars franchise has fallen victim to this in more ways than one in recent years, and it’s a trap that I truly hope Picard Season 3 can avoid.

A story that goes all-in on nostalgia can end up feeling gratuitous or tacked-on; an unnecessary epilogue for characters whose stories were, for better or worse, already over. While it’s true that Nemesis didn’t exactly end in conclusive fashion, that doesn’t absolve Picard Season 3 of responsibility to these characters. Just because their stories didn’t end definitively twenty years ago, that doesn’t give the new season free rein to do anything. What comes now – especially if it’s being designed from the ground up to be a send-off or finale – has to be decent in its own right, not simply “more.”

A promotional photo for Season 3 showing Riker and Picard at a bar.

Unlike in 2020 when Season 1 was approaching, I feel less out-and-out excitement for Star Trek: Picard and more a sense of restricted optimism. I have hope that the new season will look great, that it will be fun to welcome back fan-favourite characters after a twenty-year absence, and that we’ll get at least some enjoyable moments and perhaps a dash of that elusive sense of “Star Trek” that hasn’t always been front-and-centre in the franchise’s modern era. But I also have reservations about a season that may very well race past or just outright ignore key story points that were left on the table last time around.

Maybe I should give up hope of seeing much of anything from Season 1; those stories had the chance to be addressed in some way in Season 2, but it didn’t happen. But things like Season 2’s mysterious anomaly – that felt like an attack on the Federation or Alpha Quadrant – just being ignored as the story rushes to bring back legacy characters and set up a new mystery… I will be disappointed, I fear, if the season ends without so much as mentioning what happened last time.

Gates McFadden at a recent Star Trek: Picard panel.
Image Credit: StarTrek.com

I’m trying to reconcile my disappointment in the way the new cast was handled with my interest and excitement in seeing old favourites coming back for another adventure, and I’m keenly aware that I need to at least try to judge Season 3 on its own merit – for the story it aims to tell – rather than wondering what might have been or being upset at a situation that I can’t change. That’s a challenge that I will have to face – and if you stick around, you can judge for yourself how well I do when you read my episode reviews!

After two mismanaged, difficult seasons that had some great episodes and moments but ultimately failed to deliver, this is Picard’s last chance. As someone who’s a huge fan of The Next Generation and the other Star Trek shows of that era, it also feels like a last chance for the Star Trek franchise as a whole to demonstrate that there’s potential in this 25th Century setting, and that telling stories that at least tangentially connect with the themes, settings, and characters of Star Trek’s “golden age” is a concept worth pursuing. It’s definitely noteworthy to me that, at time of writing, no new Star Trek projects have been announced, despite several concepts supposedly being worked on behind the scenes. Is Picard Season 3 an opportunity not only for these characters but for this setting and this time period? Will Paramount be watching to see whether there’s still potential here? I can’t help but wonder.

The briefing room of the USS Stargazer in Season 2.

I see genuine potential in the new season’s villain, Captain Vadic. A character who feels as though she’s drawing inspiration from Khan, one of the best villains not only in Star Trek but in all of cinema, could be absolutely delicious to watch, and Amanda Plummer is an actress who has the ability to pull it off. While the story remains shrouded in mystery, the teases and glimpses we’ve seen have been genuinely fascinating to this old Trekkie, and have inspired me to craft a few of my patented (and usually totally wrong) Star Trek theories!

At the end of the day, all any of us really want is for Picard to be entertaining. It doesn’t have to be high art, it doesn’t have to be the best thing Star Trek has ever done… but it does have to keep my attention and interest, not annoy me, and be basically consistent with what the show and the franchise have done before. Everything else is just fluff, and I can overlook nitpicks, retcons, character absences, and everything else as long as the show is basically fun.

And hey, if it doesn’t go well, there’s always Strange New Worlds Season 2 to look forward to!

Star Trek: Picard Season 3 will premiere on Paramount+ in the United States on the 16th of February 2023, and 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. Some images used above courtesy of StarTrek.com. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Looking ahead to 2023

Spoiler Warning: Minor spoilers may be present for some of the titles on this list.

As a new year gets underway, it’s a good opportunity to look ahead. There are some exciting-sounding films, television series, and video games that are currently on the schedule for 2023, and on this occasion I thought it could be fun to pick out a few that I find particularly interesting and preview them! I’ll share some of my preliminary, pre-release thoughts on ten of each.

On balance, I don’t think 2022 will be held in particularly high esteem in future in terms of its entertainment experiences. There were some good ones, but there were also plenty of delays and projects that just underwhelmed for one reason or another. Will 2023 fare any better? That’s still an open question… but there are certainly some big releases on the horizon that could potentially excel.

What does 2023 have in store?

It’s time for a couple of caveats! First of all, delays can happen at any time in the creative process, especially in a war-torn, pandemic-disrupted world. As a result, any or even all of the films, shows, and games that we’re going to talk about today could miss their intended release dates or release windows – and there really isn’t anything we can do about that! I’m firmly in the camp that says delays are almost always a net positive; while never fun, I’d rather creatives spent longer working on a project to finish getting it ready rather than launching it too soon. We don’t need to look far for examples of how wrong that goes!

Finally, these projects seem interesting or exciting to me personally for one reason or another… in my subjective opinion! I’m not trying to say that these are or will be “objectively the best” releases of 2023, nor should the exclusion from the lists below be interpreted as any kind of snub. I’ve just picked out a few projects that I find to be of interest, and if you hate all of my picks or I’ve excluded some of your favourites, please just keep in mind that this is only the opinion of one person!

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

Films:

I confess that I didn’t see a lot of films in 2022. I can’t go to the cinema any more due to my declining health, and while practically every major title made its way to a streaming platform last year, there were some I just wasn’t interested in or found that I didn’t have the right mindset or headspace for. That’s just the way it goes sometimes! That being said, there are some interesting films on the schedule for this year, and I shall be keeping an eye out for these ten in particular!

Film #1:
The Super Mario Bros. Movie

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the two trailers we’ve seen so far for The Super Mario Bros. Movie. The film looks like it’s going out of its way to stay as true as possible to its source material, while at the same time putting a twist on Mario’s adventures in the Mushroom Kingdom. The “hero who has to save a princess” trope has been rather overdone – and feels pretty outdated in 2023 in more ways than one – so seeing Luigi being held captive by the villainous Bowser and Mario working with Peach feels like it should be a great change of pace.

The inclusion of an all-star Hollywood cast has proven controversial in some quarters, but from what I’ve seen of the film so far, I will be surprised if most folks aren’t won over by the time the credits roll. There will be some die-hard haters – as there always are in any franchise any time something is changed – but overall, I have high hopes for this one. This film could easily be the best animated film of the year – and one of the best non-Disney animated films of the decade!

Film #2:
Dune: Part Two

The first part of Dune was a surprisingly strong adaptation of a book that has proven to be notoriously difficult to adapt. I had a fantastic time with it when it was released at the end of 2021, and I’ve been meaning to go back and re-watch it for some time now. I was concerned that this sequel might not see the light of day if Warner Bros. didn’t feel the first part did as well as they’d hoped – but fortunately there was no denying the critical and commercial success of Dune in 2021!

The cast from the first film are all reprising their roles, and director Denis Villeneuve is returning to the big chair. Filming officially wrapped a couple of months ago, and Dune: Part Two is well into post-production at this stage. A November release is on the cards, and I’m really excited to see the story continue.

Film #3:
Knock at the Cabin

Director M. Night Shyamalan has an inconsistent track record, and I suspect his career has been more harmed than helped by acquiring an early reputation as the “master of twists.” But regardless, he’s back with Knock at the Cabin in 2023, a psychological horror film about a family who are confronted by four people who claim to be trying to prevent the apocalypse.

The film’s premise sounds interesting to me, and a cast that features Jonathan Groff and Rupert Grint feels like it has potential. I wouldn’t say my expectations for Knock at the Cabin are sky-high, but we could certainly be in for one of the more interesting titles in the horror genre this year.

Film #4:
The Little Mermaid

To be blunt, I wasn’t blown away by the visuals in the teaser trailer for The Little Mermaid. The CGI looks fantastic, but the fully live-action moments didn’t feel convincingly “underwater,” and actually looked pretty amateurish. Assuming that Disney can figure out a way to pull off those underwater sequences convincingly, though, The Little Mermaid should be a creditable adaptation of the 1989 animated film.

Visual criticisms aside, I feel hopeful that this new version of The Little Mermaid will introduce the story to a new generation. While the animated film is still perfectly watchable in its own right, there’s nothing wrong with updating things and recreating the film for a younger audience, and Disney has a pretty good track record at doing so by now.

Film #5:
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

Is it a great idea to bring back Indiana Jones for another adventure? As a child of the ’80s, I’d be lying if I said I don’t enjoy the Indiana Jones films… but Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was already a let-down. Dial of Destiny could redeem the series, ending Harrison Ford’s turn with the famous hat and whip on a high note – or it could double down on the disappointment!

This film is definitely one I’m placing in the “interested in” rather than “excited about” category. I don’t really have high hopes, but I’d love to be proven wrong. At the very least, I hope Dial of Destiny will be a passable popcorn adventure flick. Whether it will truly live up to its illustrious forebears… well, I’m less hopeful of that. If it succeeds at bringing in a wad of cash, though, I think we can expect to see reboots, prequels, and spin-offs in the years ahead!

Film #6:
Asteroid City

There isn’t a lot to go on with this film, billed as a “romantic comedy-drama.” But the director, Wes Anderson, has pedigree, and has put together a diverse ensemble cast that rivals his previous pictures, such as The Grand Budapest Hotel. The full cast list is far too long to include, but some of the standout performers for me that I’m interested to see include Bryan Cranston, Tom Hanks, Willem Dafoe, Tilda Swinton, and Scarlett Johansson.

Though I’m not entirely sure what to expect from this one, it could be a lot of fun! The setting is the mid-1950s somewhere in the American Southwest, and some kind of “stargazer convention” will be part of the plot, too.

Film #7:
Wish

To mark the company’s centenary, Disney is going to release Wish – a film all about the “wishing star;” the star upon which characters in other Disney films have made their wishes. The star itself is going to be a character of sorts, but the film will also introduce a new cast of characters, including Asha, voiced by Ariana DeBose of West Side Story fame.

Wish will also bring back a hand-drawn animation style, something Disney hasn’t used since The Princess and the Frog more than a decade ago. While we haven’t seen just how the film will look, some concept art has been released that looks absolutely beautiful. Disney’s big animated releases are almost always fantastic, and I have high hopes for Wish.

Film #8:
The Haunted Mansion

The third Disney entry on this list, The Haunted Mansion is the company’s latest attempt to turn a theme park ride into a film! No one would deny that Pirates of the Caribbean set a high bar for that concept a few years ago, but other attempts haven’t always worked! An adaptation of The Haunted Mansion twenty years ago (that I’m fairly sure I’ve seen but can’t really remember much about) starred Eddie Murphy, but even he couldn’t salvage what critics regarded as a picture that was average at best.

Jungle Cruise may not have been 2021’s film of the year, but I enjoyed it for what it was, so there’s definitely room for another theme park adaptation. The Haunted Mansion could be great to watch around Halloween; a kind of lighter, child-friendly horror title that will be spooky… but not too spooky!

Film #9:
65

65 has an unusual premise – an astronaut accidentally travels back in time to the era of the dinosaurs, and must figure out a way to survive. Adam Driver will take the lead in this sci-fi action-adventure, and his presence alone should make it worth checking out. Driver’s performances as Kylo Ren in the Star Wars sequel trilogy were outstanding, and his turn as a divorcee in Marriage Story was Oscar-worthy in my opinion.

That being said, I can’t help but feel that 65 could go either way! Its premise could make for a different kind of sci-fi title in a genre overrun by sequels and comic book adaptations… or it could turn out to be an overblown B-movie that didn’t deserve a leading man of such quality! Time will tell… but I’m definitely interested to see how it shakes out.

Film #10:
Napoleon

Ridley Scott will direct this historical epic that focuses on the rise to power of Napoleon Bonaparte. Scott has a great track record, with films like Alien and Thelma & Louise under his belt, but an earlier attempt at an historical epic – 1492: Conquest of Paradise – was not particularly well-received! Could this be a chance for redemption for the director in the genre?

The title role has gone to Joaquin Phoenix, and that feels like it could be an inspired choice. Backed up by a cast that features Ben Miles and Vanessa Kirby, I’ll be curious to see what Napoleon has to offer when it releases. The film will be an Apple TV+ exclusive, which is also a point of note.

Television Series:

2023 looks set to be another year where franchises, spin-offs, and continuations of ongoing stories dominate the television landscape. There are several big shows whose new seasons I’m eagerly anticipating, but it feels like there are fewer wholly original projects to look forward to. That being said, there were some great new stories in 2022 – so hopefully this year will bring along some surprises, too!

Television Series #1:
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
Season 2

Strange New Worlds was truly outstanding in its first season, blending old-school episodic storytelling with modern serialised elements. As much as I like what Discovery and Picard have done with season-long story arcs, the approach used by Strange New Worlds should, in my view at least, serve as a model for the entire Star Trek franchise going forward.

The show’s second season wrapped months ago – and I will be positively stunned if we don’t get an announcement that a third season is being worked on sometime before Season 2 premieres this spring. I absolutely cannot wait to spend more time with Captain Pike, Spock, and the rest of the crew of the Enterprise!

Television Series #2:
Hailey’s On It!

Hailey’s On It! is a Disney Channel animated series that will feature Moana’s Auli’i Cravalho in its leading role. The premise sounds interesting – a young woman must step outside of her comfort zone and confront her fears in order to “save the world.” And with Cravalho leading the charge, I think there’s the potential for the show to be something a little more than just a distraction that parents can use to get a few minutes’ peace!

The animation style shown off in concept art looks fantastic, and while I wouldn’t normally say that I’m excited for a new Disney Channel cartoon, I feel hopeful, at least, that Hailey’s On It! could be the kind of kids’ show that has something to offer to a grown-up audience as well.

Television Series #3:
Star Trek: Picard
Season 3

After a decidedly lacklustre second season, my disappointment was compounded by the announcement that all but one of the new characters introduced in Picard will not be returning for the show’s final outing. Season 3 has a lot of work to do, then, to pull out a satisfying ending to what has been a troubled production. If the trailers and teasers are anything to go by, it just might be up to the task after all!

The return of main characters from The Next Generation feels bittersweet because of who had to be unceremoniously kicked off stage to make room for them. This season could be a roaring return to form, or it could drown in failed attempts to play the nostalgia card. I’m absolutely hoping for the former… but trying to prepare myself for the latter.

Television Series #4:
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
Season 2

It isn’t entirely clear when The Rings of Power’s second season might be ready. Filming only started in October, and a series with such extensive post-production work may take a while. That’s not to mention that Season 2 is being filmed in new locations, and may even serve as somewhat of a soft reboot of a series that proved controversial in some quarters.

Despite that, however, I called The Rings of Power my favourite television series of 2022, so I’m incredibly excited to see what happens next. The first season ended with several massive cliffhangers for both individual characters and for the story as a whole, so it’ll be great to see the next chapter of this fantasy epic unfold.

Television Series #5:
Star Trek: Discovery
Season 5

Discovery’s fourth season ended on a high, with what is almost certainly one of the best episodes that the show has ever produced. I was concerned that the show would attempt yet another recycling of the old “the entire galaxy is in danger and only Burnham and the crew can save it!!!” narrative framework that has been used four times now… but thankfully, based on the first trailer and comments from the show’s producers, it seems as though Discovery will finally be bold enough to try something different!

As a result, my excitement for Season 5 grew immensely! Although Season 4 dragged in parts, on the whole I think it marks a turning point in the show’s run, and the addition of some wonderful secondary characters to the cast has given new life to a series that is rapidly approaching its sixth anniversary and sixty-fifth episode. Season 5 could build on what Season 4 did, taking these well-rounded characters to new thematic and storytelling places.

Television Series #6:
Masters of the Air

Produced by the same team that created Band of Brothers and The Pacific, this new World War II drama will follow the stories of members of the United States Army Air Forces – the precursor to the Air Force. The miniseries seems to be following a similar format to its popular predecessors, with an expansive cast of characters, almost all of whom are based on real people. Masters of the Air is based on a biography of the unit that was published in 2007.

I’m expecting a tightly-focused story with plenty of character. CGI and visual effects have improved since Band of Brothers premiered, so I’d hope that the show will look fantastic and really succeed at bringing World War II to life on the small screen.

Television Series #7:
Shōgun

The second adaptation of James Clavell’s 1975 novel has a lot to live up to! An earlier adaptation, made in 1980, was one of the most popular shows of the year, and with a troubled production that saw scripts scrapped and rewritten, new showrunners brought on board, and a shoot that overran by two months… let’s just say that Shōgun has work to do.

But the story, set in 17th Century Japan, is an interesting one, and there’s potential in this new adaptation to see it introduced to legions of new fans. A shipwreck sets up the story of a “fish-out-of-water” hero in an unfamiliar land, and the palace intrigue at the castle of the titular Shōgun could rival the very best drama series of the year.

Television Series #8:
The Last Of Us

Video game adaptations are notoriously difficult, but The Last Of Us has an all-star cast, a sky-high budget, and crucially, it seems to have won over many fans of the video game. The Last Of Us is one of the best video game narratives that I’ve ever experienced, and it feels like a natural fit for a serialised drama series; the story would certainly be far too long to condense into a film. So I’m hopeful that – finally – a video game adaptation will get the accolades it deserves!

Moreover, I’m really excited to be able to show this fascinating and unique horror-drama story to friends and family members who have no interest in gaming. The story of The Last Of Us is fabulous and absolutely deserves to find a bigger audience. There’s reason to hope that this adaptation will be up to the task.

Television Series #9:
Halo
Season 2

I enjoyed what the Halo series did in its first season, all things considered. It succeeded at bringing the long-running video game franchise to the small screen, adapting its story to fit the new format and making a few changes along the way. Some of those changes proved controversial – as such things always do – and I can certainly entertain the argument that there was less action than fans were hoping for.

But Halo will press on, potentially taking on board some of those criticisms, and it’s my hope that Season 2 will build on the accomplishments of Season 1 to progress the story in an enjoyable way. The first season had some great performances, clever cinematography that incorporated a first-person perspective during key sequences, and a mysterious story that will have kept even fans of the games guessing. I’m interested, and dare I say even excited, to see more.

Television Series #10:
Faraway Downs

I am joking. This is a joke. Nobody should ever be tortured into watching Faraway Downs. I can honestly think of nothing less appealing than watching an extended, reworked version of Baz Luhrmann’s Australia – quite possibly the worst film that I have ever had the misfortune to see. When I heard that Luhrmann was planning to use cut footage to expand Australia into a six-part miniseries I was flabbergasted. Who on earth would possibly want to see this? Was anyone asking for it to be made?

I’d rather trek to the bottom of the garden, heave the lid off the septic tank, and spend six hours staring unblinkingly at the festering sewage within.

Television Series #10:
The Three-Body Problem

China can often feel like a world unto itself; western productions struggle to cross over, and Chinese productions seldom attract mainstream attention over here. The Three-Body Problem is an adaptation of a Chinese sci-fi novel (or rather, the first part of a trio of novels) and is helmed by Game of Thrones’ showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss.

I haven’t read The Three-Body Problem, but the premise sounds absolutely fascinating to me. Benioff and Weiss have proven themselves capable when it comes to adapting novels for the small screen – at least, completed novels – so there’s reason to hope that The Three-Body Problem will be interesting and entertaining in equal measure. This one could easily go toe-to-toe with the likes of Foundation in the sci-fi genre.

Video Games:

There are some massive releases on the schedule for 2023 – several of which were originally promised for last year! If even one of these big titles succeeds, 2023 will already be a great year for gaming. Single-player games are definitely holding the line in an industry where online multiplayer continues to bring in the big bucks, so there are plenty of reasons to think that 2023 could actually turn out to be a fantastic year for the medium.

Video Game #1:
Tchia

I’ve been tracking the progress of this amazing-looking indie game for more than a year, and it looks like 2023 could be Tchia’s moment. Based on legends from the developers’ New Caledonia home, Tchia will see players take on the role of a young girl on a quest to rescue her father. In addition to platforming and action-adventure gameplay in an open-world archipelago based on the island of New Caledonia, the ambitious game promises to unleash players’ creativity – and even includes a playable ukulele!

There have been some fantastic debut games by indie studios in recent years. My game of the year in 2021 was Kena: Bridge of Spirits – and without wanting to raise expectations too high, at least part of me is hoping that Tchia might just reach that same high bar.

Video Game #2:
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
DLC: Booster Course Pass Waves 4, 5, and 6

You might think it a cheat to include a piece of downloadable content on this list, but it’s my list so that’s just tough! Although I was disappointed not to see a wholly new Mario Kart title in 2022, the Booster Course Pass for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has been a surprising amount of fun. Not only have racetracks from past games in the series been updated and made welcome returns, but wholly new tracks have been created, too.

The Booster Course Pass is only half-finished, and three more waves are planned for 2023. Specific dates aren’t known, nor is it certain which racetracks will be appearing, but I’m nevertheless excited to have more Mario Kart to get stuck into!

Video Game #3:
Star Trek: Resurgence

A narrative adventure game with a branching storyline sounds like a perfect fit for the Star Trek franchise. After years in which no new Star Trek games had been licensed for PC or home consoles, two have come along within a few months of each other; Resurgence is hot on the heels of last year’s Star Trek: Prodigy – Supernova, which I really must get around to playing!

The game is being developed by folks who used to work for studio Telltale Games, a developer whose games were often praised for their narratives. I’m hopeful that, after a drought of games for Trekkies who aren’t interested in the online multiplayer scene, Resurgence will be a welcome return to the video game realm for the Star Trek franchise.

Video Game #4:
Disney Speedstorm

Developers Gameloft worked with Disney and created my favourite gaming experience of 2022: Disney Dreamlight Valley. Having taken Nintendo’s Animal Crossing formula and massively improved upon it… could they be about to do the same thing by creating a Disney-based rival to the Mario Kart series? Maybe that’s expecting too much… but Disney Speedstorm looks like a ton of fun!

I like casual, arcade-style racing games, and I’m a pretty big Disney fan, too. Bring those two things together and I hope it’ll be a fun time.

Video Game #5:
Starfield

One of the year’s biggest releases has to be Bethesda’s Starfield – the company’s first foray into a wholly new world in a quarter of a century. An epic sci-fi adventure has been promised, with all of the hallmarks of past Bethesda titles: joinable factions, a huge mix of varied side-quests, diverse non-player characters to interact with, customisation of every facet of your character, and much more besides.

Starfield will also give players the opportunity to design and upgrade their very own spaceship, before setting off to journey to one of a thousand different planets across dozens of star systems. Starfield is ambitious, and while there are certainly things that give me pause – such as Bethesda’s insistence on reusing its outdated game engine – I can already feel myself getting swept along by a growing hype train!

Video Game #6:
The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria

I confess that I’m not entirely sure what to expect from this one. The game promises base-building and adventures in the Dwarven realm of Moria, set years after The Lord of the Rings as the Dwarves seek to reclaim their abandoned halls. It sounds as if the game will be set up for multiplayer – though the official blurb promises that it can be played solo, too.

There’s something about an underground setting that harkens back to the days of dungeon-crawler games, and the subterranean setting combined with the lore of Tolkien’s Middle-earth could make for a genuinely exciting title. I’m curious and perhaps a little hopeful of having some fun adventures deep underground!

Video Game #7:
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor

The much-anticipated sequel to Jedi: Fallen Order is almost ready! The game – which I played through back in 2020 – is one of the best Star Wars experiences I’ve had in recent years, and it was left open-ended by the time the credits rolled. Finding out what happens next for Cal Kestis, the former Jedi padawan, is something I’m really interested in!

Jedi: Survivor seems to have taken the gameplay of Fallen Order and expanded upon it, giving Cal new weapons and abilities – and at least one new companion, too. I recently played through it for a second time, which seems to be perfect timing with the sequel coming up! I really can’t wait to join Cal and the crew of the Stinger Mantis for another adventure in a galaxy far, far away.

Video Game #8:
Forspoken

Unlike many action-adventure titles, it seems as though Forspoken will focus much more on magic and spell-casting – something that could be absolutely fascinating. Set in an open-world, the game will follow the story of Frey, a young woman from our world who finds herself transported into a mysterious realm where magic exists and must find her way home.

Forspoken hadn’t really been on my radar until recently, but I’m now genuinely looking forward to it.

Video Game #9:
Perfect Dark

Though unconfirmed at this stage, Xbox’s Perfect Dark remake/reimagining would be well-timed if it should be ready this year – because the original game on the Nintendo 64 was set in 2023! Perfect Dark was originally created by Rare, hot on the heels of their success with Goldeneye 007 on the same platform, and it was a ton of fun when it released in the year 2000.

I’m genuinely curious to see what a recreated Perfect Dark might look like. Could it kick off another first-person shooter series for Xbox… and, perhaps more importantly, for Microsoft’s Game Pass service? I think that’s a possibility – but my main hope is that the single-player campaign will be fun to play through!

Video Game #10:
EA Sports FC

Bear with me on this one, okay? I know football (soccer) isn’t everyone’s favourite thing, and I know that sports games – and especially Electronic Arts’ sports games – have been particularly scummy with their in-game gambling and monetisation. But for the first time since EA published FIFA International Soccer in 1993, the corporation won’t have the official license or naming rights from world football’s governing body. That could mean we’re about to witness a sea change in the series… or it could lead to nothing of consequence at all!

Nevertheless, I’m curious to see what changes – if any – will come about as a result of EA and FIFA going their separate ways. Will EA Sports FC be noticeably different from recent entries in the FIFA series? We’ll find out later this year!

So that’s it!

We’ve picked out ten films, ten television shows, and ten video games to watch out for as 2023 gets underway. There will be many surprises along the way, I have no doubt, and it’s possible that some of the entertainment experiences that I’m excited in right now will either end up being disappointments or won’t even make it out of the door this year. But I’m hopeful that we’ll get some exciting, dramatic, and just plain fun stories to enjoy between now and Christmas!

There are definitely things to look forward to. I’ll try to cover at least some of these titles with reviews, first impressions, and general commentary here on the website over the next twelve months. I hope that you found this interesting, and that it was a fun, positive look ahead to some of what I hope will be the entertainment highlights of 2023.

Until next time!

All titles discussed above are the copyrights of their respective studio, developer, publisher, distributor, broadcaster, etc. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Picard Season 3 theory – the super-synths, part 2

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2 and the teasers, trailers, and announcements for Season 3. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Next Generation and Voyager.

You can find the first part of this theory by clicking or tapping here.

Today I’m updating one of my big Star Trek: Picard Season 3 theories and adding a second part to it! This addition is based on what we saw in the recent New York Comic-Con trailer, and if you’re a regular reader you may have seen me allude to it in my recent articles about who Captain Vadic could be and who else might be joining her on the villainous side of the season!

First of all, a recap. A few months ago I put together a theory that, if it were to pan out, would tie together all three seasons of Star Trek: Picard – which is something that hasn’t really happened so far. Seasons 1 and 2 told largely standalone stories, and it’s a distinct possibility that Season 3 will also go in its own direction – the likelihood of which was arguably raised when most of the main cast members from Seasons 1 and 2 were dumped.

The crew of La Sirena at the end of Season 1.

But the theory that I came up with tied together Seasons 1 and 2 in a big way, and potentially set the stage for Season 3 as well.

In brief, my theory says that the super-synths from Season 1 (the faction who left the beacon on Aia and who Soji and Sutra attempted to open a portal for in the season finale) are also responsible for the anomaly that the Borg Queen and Picard joined forces to stop at the end of Season 2. After being unable to arrive at Coppelius, the super-synths used the anomaly to try to attack the Federation and/or the Romulans, perhaps in retaliation or perhaps as some kind of preemptive strike prior to an invasion.

Nothing that we saw on screen in either season would rule out the super-synths as being responsible for both attacks, and as we know so little about this faction and their objectives and motivations, it feels plausible to me that they might have left the beacon on Aia as a trap – that their real intent was not to help synthetics, but to use the presence of synthetic life as an indicator that a quadrant or galaxy was ripe for the conquering!

The super-synths’ portal.

Enter Captain Vadic and her “rogues’ gallery.” After what we saw of synthetic life in Seasons 1 and 2, I don’t think we can entirely rule out an artificial background for Captain Vadic, even though she appears to be organic at a glance. But that’s neither here nor there, really. One thing that I find absolutely fascinating about the characters we saw joining her crew is this: they’re both artificial life forms. Professor Moriarty is a sentient hologram and Lore is, of course, an android.

I had speculated back when I made my original theory that the villain Picard and the crew would have to face in Season 3 would be the super-synths; tying together all three seasons of the show and giving Picard a truly powerful adversary to defeat. This theory now expands to include Captain Vadic – she could be their pawn, she could be a synth, or she could be someone who experienced the beacon on Aia and became obsessed with the arrival of the super-synths.

Who is Captain Vadic?

We’ve spoken before about some of the similarities between Picard Season 1 and the Mass Effect video game series, in particular the first game, and I think we can draw upon Mass Effect once again to add to this theory. In the world of Mass Effect, the Reapers – a race of sentient machines from far beyond the Milky Way galaxy – could exert influence over organic minds through a process called “indoctrination.” Indoctrinated servants of the Reapers could work on their behalf, but would eventually begin to worship the Reapers themselves before going mad.

Captain Vadic could be someone who has been indoctrinated – or brainwashed, if you prefer that term – by the super-synths. Perhaps this happened when she encountered their beacon, or maybe it happened on some other occasion – possibly during the standoff over Coppelius. Either way, Captain Vadic came to worship the super-synths and wants them to arrive in the Milky Way galaxy. Picard prevented that from happening – at least once and maybe twice – so that could explain why Captain Vadic has such a personal grudge against him and his crew.

Could Captain Vadic be “indoctrinated” like some characters in the Mass Effect video game series?

This could also set the stage for the story of the season. Season 1 ended with Picard preventing the arrival of the super-synths, and Season 2 ended with Picard and the Borg Queen stopping the anomaly – which, as we’ve discussed, could be a super-synth weapon. Season 3 may begin with Captain Vadic on a quest for revenge against Picard, but it could also see her – and her gallery of rogues – planning to build a new portal to allow the super-synths to invade. This could be what Picard and the crew have to stop, it could even be what Dr Crusher was doing on her mission in space when she had to send a distress signal.

If I’m right, the super-synths could be behind the attack on Starfleet Command that we saw in the most recent trailer, too. We saw some kind of beam coming from above completely destroy one of the main Starfleet buildings, and that beam was superficially similar (in colour, at least) to the Season 2 anomaly. Could that be another piece of the jigsaw puzzle?

Who did this… and why?

So there are really two additional components to my super-synths theory! And the story could go in either direction. It seems possible that Captain Vadic has been driven mad by the beacon on Aia, like the Zhat Vash were, but redirected her madness into some kind of devotion to or worship of the super-synths, perhaps through a process not dissimilar to Mass Effect’s indoctrination. That could explain why she wants to attack Picard and the Federation – they were responsible for preventing the super-synths’ arrival.

Alternatively, Captain Vadic could be seeking to build her own portal to allow the super-synths to travel to the Milky Way, and this could be what Picard and the crew have to prevent. Captain Vadic could be a synth herself, or she could be an organic under their thrall who’s doing their bidding.

The Shrike – Captain Vadic’s ship.

With Professor Moriarty and Lore on her side – both of whom are malevolent artificial life-forms – Captain Vadic could be attempting to bring about a full-scale assault on organic life in the Milky Way galaxy, or seeking revenge for an arrival that was thwarted by Picard and the Federation. I could quite see Lore and Moriarty supporting this kind of “synthetic supremacy” crusade, and who knows – maybe the ultimate twist will be that the super-synths never intended to help artificial life-forms, but rather intended to destroy, conquer, or assimilate them.

So that’s my addendum to my earlier theory!

What I liked about the super-synth idea in the first place was that it would tie together all three seasons of the show in a big way, connecting everything from the attack on Mars and the Zhat Vash plot through to the Season 2 anomaly, Dr Jurati becoming a Borg Queen, and beyond into Season 3. Star Trek: Picard would be transformed from a disjointed sequence of standalone stories into one continuous story – albeit one that got sidetracked!

The strange anomaly in Season 2.

And at the very least, what we’ve seen of Captain Vadic and her “rogues’ gallery” – at least so far – hasn’t ruled any of that out. It’s still a viable theory, and it still seems at least possible to me that Season 3 will pan out this way. The decision to show Captain Vadic seemingly working with two artificial life-forms could even be a hint toward the idea of her working for the super-synths in some capacity.

There are other possibilities, of course, and as has happened in recent seasons of Star Trek, the show could go in wildly unpredictable directions! But I think it’s possible to tell this kind of story in a way that would still keep Season 3 approachable for newcomers and casual viewers. Because the super-synths and the Season 2 anomaly were only on screen for such a short time, and because so little was revealed about them in the first two seasons, Season 3 has a near-blank slate on which to build. The connection back to Seasons 1 and 2 would be fun for returning viewers, but wouldn’t necessarily hamper the enjoyment of anyone who missed those seasons or for casual viewers who may not remember every event that unfolded.

Professor Moriarty.

But as I always say: I have no “insider information,” and all of this is just for fun! I like writing, I like Star Trek, and writing up these Star Trek theories is fun for me – and that’s the spirit in which I hope you’ll take this theory. No fan theory, no matter how fun or plausible it may seem, is worth getting upset about, and it’s highly likely that Star Trek: Picard Season 3 won’t include anything that we’ve talked about today. I’m totally okay with that, and I hope that the new season will tell a fun and exciting story regardless of whether any of my fan theories come to pass!

So that’s all for today. After thinking about Captain Vadic a lot over the last couple of weeks I thought it was worth adding this addendum to my earlier super-synths theory. I’m really looking forward to Picard Season 3, which is now less than three months away from being broadcast! If we get any major news or new trailers between now and then I hope you’ll check in as I’ll be sure to provide some analysis.

You can find part 1 of this theory by clicking or tapping here.

Star Trek: Picard Season 3 will be broadcast on Paramount+ in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and around the world beginning on the 17th of February 2023. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties discussed above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Picard Season 3 theory – the “rogues’ gallery”

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2 and the trailers, teasers, and announcements for Season 3. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Discovery, and Lower Decks.

Last time we talked about Captain Vadic – the mysterious villain who will appear in Picard’s third and final season next year. We considered a few possibilities as to who she might be and what her grievance might be with Admiral Picard, so if you want to check out those theories – some of which are more plausible than others – you can do so by clicking or tapping here.

This time I want to move beyond Captain Vadic. Taking the most recent trailer as a starting point, I thought it could be fun to look back at other characters from The Next Generation and beyond who might have a bone to pick with Admiral Picard. The most recent trailer for Season 3 included two pretty big surprises: the return of Lore and Professor Moriarty, both of whom seem to be allied with Captain Vadic. So here’s my theory: those two won’t be the only villains on her team!

Professor Moriarty in the recent Season 3 trailer.

Could Captain Vadic have put together what I’ve termed a “rogues’ gallery” of Star Trek villains? If so, it could make for an even more explosive and exiting final season – and there’s certainly no shortage of candidates for such a team. Like Marvel’s HYDRA or DC Comics’ Legion of Doom, perhaps Captain Vadic has managed to create her very own rogues’ gallery!

So today, I thought it could be fun to consider which other characters could be included – if indeed this is part of Captain Vadic’s scheme. During his adventures aboard the Enterprise-D, it’s not unfair to say that Picard made more than his share of enemies, and it stands to reason that many of them would jump at the chance to seek revenge.

As always, a caveat: this is just for fun! I don’t have any “sources” or “insider information,” and I’m not trying to claim that any of the characters below definitely will appear in Season 3 of Picard. I don’t even know for sure that there will be any other villainous characters besides those we’ve already glimpsed, so please take all of this with a healthy pinch of salt! With that out of the way, let’s get started!

Rogue #1:
Toral, son of Duras

Toral, son of Duras, after his attempted coup failed.

The two-part episode Redemption, which closed out Season 4 of The Next Generation and kicked off Season 5, introduced us to Toral, son of Duras. The House of Duras made several attempts to take over the Klingon Empire and to cover up their family’s collaboration with the Romulans, including at the attack on Khitomer in which Worf’s family was killed. Although Toral was relatively young during the events of Redemption, and was merely being used by his more powerful and manipulative aunts, there’s no denying his ambition.

Toral’s father and his aunts were killed by the crew of the Enterprise-D, and both Toral and his house were left disgraced and without a future in Klingon politics. If given the chance, Toral – or perhaps another member of the House of Duras – would surely be on board with a mission to destroy Admiral Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D.

Rogue #2:
Ro Laren

Ro Laren in Season 7 of The Next Generation.

Although Ro Laren, a former Starfleet officer and Maquis defector, didn’t hate Picard the last time they met, subsequent events could certainly have changed her opinion. In the years before the Dominion War, Picard was very much in favour of maintaining peace with the Cardassians at all costs – even if that included abandoning Federation colonies in Cardassian space. The former Ensign Ro took a different approach, ultimately defecting to the Maquis and abandoning Starfleet.

As we learned in Deep Space Nine, following their alliance with the Dominion the Cardassians were able to wipe out nearly all of the Maquis, leaving only a few survivors. Starfleet was unable to help, and given how bad relations had got between the Federation and the breakaway Maquis, it stands to reason that any survivors would carry a deep hatred for the Federation. If Ro Laren survived the Dominion War, maybe she’d try to seek revenge on her former captain and the organisation that abandoned her friends to their fate.

Rogue #3:
The Remans

The Reman Viceroy.

The Romulans treated the native Remans horribly, essentially using them as a class of slave labourers. The Remans’ only real chance to overturn this came when Shinzon – a Romulan-created clone of Picard – seized power on Romulus and uplifted many Remans, putting them into positions of power. Picard defeated Shinzon and his Reman Viceroy, potentially restoring the status quo on Romulus and relegating the Remans once again to their enslavement.

Not only that, but Starfleet’s decision to abandon the Romulan rescue armada that Picard was in charge of arguably cost Reman lives. The Romulans would surely have prioritised saving their own citizens ahead of saving Remans, so it stands to reason that many Remans were killed during the supernova. Although there are no remaining Reman main characters (the Viceroy was killed in Nemesis) I think it’s possible that we could see a Reman figure who wants to get revenge on Picard.

Rogue #4:
Sela

Sela aboard the Enterprise-D.

The half-Romulan daughter of an alternate timeline’s Tasha Yar was an adversary for Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D on more than one occasion. Picard prevented her from interfering on behalf of the House of Duras during the Klingon succession crisis, and then thwarted her plans again when she tried to use Ambassador Spock’s peace process to invade and conquer Vulcan. Sela survived – but her authority within the Romulan hierarchy was surely undermined by these major defeats.

Sela would almost certainly want revenge on Picard for those incidents, and I could absolutely see her teaming up with someone like Captain Vadic. Assuming that Sela survived the Romulan supernova, Picard must be right at the top of her enemies’ list! Furthermore, Picard disrupted yet another Romulan scheme back in Season 1, and while we can’t say that Sela was involved with the Zhat Vash, it’s possible that she was privy to their plans or involved, to some degree, in the mission to Coppelius.

Sela and Tasha Yar actress Denise Crosby has teased a possible appearance in Season 3, too… so I think Sela showing up is a distinct possibility!

Rogue #5:
DaiMon Bok

DaiMon Bok on the Enterprise-D’s viewscreen.

While in command of the USS Stargazer – about ten years before the events of The Next Generation – Picard defeated a Ferengi vessel, and in doing so killed the son of DaiMon Bok, a Ferengi captain. Bok attempted to get his revenge on Picard on two subsequent occasions, firstly by sabotaging the wreck of the Stargazer, which he had salvaged, and secondly by convincing Picard that he had a son. Both times, Bok was defeated.

However, Bok survived his run-ins with Picard, and as I noted last time, the grudge he carried is deeply personal and feels like it would be something he would never be able to let go of. Like Sela above, Bok has a personal vendetta against Picard, and if the opportunity were to arise to join a mission to kill or defeat him, I could see Bok signing up in a heartbeat!

Rogue #6:
The Conspiracy parasite-aliens

One of the parasite-aliens outside of a host body.

After thirty-five years, could a continuation of the story begun in The Next Generation first season episode Conspiracy finally be on the agenda? Anything’s possible, right?!

The Conspiracy parasite-aliens attempted to take over Starfleet and the Federation before being thwarted by Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D. Although their “mother creature” was killed, before it died it was able to send a message, presumably to its home world or others of its species… but the story was never continued (although the parasite-aliens were recently referenced in an episode of Lower Decks).

The parasite-aliens were originally conceived as part of the storyline that would eventually lead to the introduction of the Borg in Season 2, but this connection was written out of the series before Q Who entered production. So the parasite-aliens have remained a mystery ever since – but would surely want to gain revenge on the people most responsible for foiling their plans. Maybe Captain Vadic and others on her crew have been taken over by these parasitic beings.

Rogue #7:
Norah Satie

Norah Satie overseeing a sham trial.

Rear Admiral Norah Satie was sent to the Enterprise-D to investigate an apparent act of sabotage. However, she massively overstepped her brief and became paranoid, treating the entire crew with suspicion and using her power to drag innocent officers before a hastily-arranged “drumhead” trial. Picard was eventually able to outmanoeuvre her at the trial, ending her investigation – and possibly her career as well.

We don’t know what became of Norah Satie after her humiliation, but it’s at least possible that she would hate Picard as a result. Perhaps her actions led to her being kicked out of Starfleet, or at least losing her investigative position, and after having had years in which to build up resentment, she might be ready to seek revenge.

Bringing a Federation officer into the “rogues’ gallery” (if Captain Vadic is not a former member of Starfleet herself) could lead to some really interesting and complex storytelling.

Rogue #8:
Altan Inigo Soong and/or the Coppelius synths

The Coppelius synths.

Although we’ve seen Brent Spiner as Lore in the most recent trailer, could he also be back as Season 1’s Altan Inigo Soong? One line from the first teaser trailer really stood out to me (as I flagged up at the time) and that line came from one of Spiner’s characters: “evolution is not an act of preservation; it’s addition.” I’ve wondered ever since if that line could be Dr Soong – or one of his synths – arguing in favour of some kind of organic-synthetic synthesis.

Connected to this idea is something we touched on last time – my theory that Captain Vadic could be motivated by the Season 1 super-synths. Both of the characters we know of so far in her “rogues’ gallery” are synthetic: Lore is an android and Moriarty is a hologram. If her crusade against Picard and the Federation is somehow connected to the super-synths from Season 1, perhaps other synthetics will join her cause, such as the ones on Coppelius.

Rogue #9:
Captain Benjamin Maxwell

Captain Maxwell shortly before his arrest.

Captain Maxwell was a fascinating character in his sole appearance. A renegade Starfle