The weirdly contradictory nature of Star Trek: Picard

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for all three seasons of Star Trek: Picard – including the series finale and post-credits scene.

For a series that only ran to thirty episodes across three seasons, Star Trek: Picard spent a lot of time overwriting itself! Across all three seasons of the show there were these weirdly contradictory moments where new storylines would appear from nowhere, completely changing what came before. One or two of these instances might pass by relatively unnoticed, or could feel like little more than nitpicks. But for a relatively short series to have so many… it speaks to something bigger, I feel.

I hope in future we’ll get a Chaos on the Bridge-type of documentary or exploration of what went on behind-the-scenes on Star Trek: Picard, because to say that production was “difficult” feels like an understatement. There were clearly major problems on the production side of the series, and I don’t just mean its pandemic-enforced delays. The evidence for this is the contradictory nature of the series itself, and how at the very least there was clearly no overall plan for how the story should be structured. Consistency is an important element of any good story – and Picard absolutely fails on that measure.

Seasons 2-3 showrunner Terry Matalas with Sir Patrick Stewart and the rest of the cast of The Next Generation.

I have a longer piece in the pipeline about Picard’s abandoned and unfinished storylines, but today I thought it could be interesting to take a short look at ten storylines that ended up being overwritten by some pretty sloppy, messy writing that failed to build on the foundations that had been laid in earlier episodes and seasons.

As always, a few caveats. If you loved all of these stories and felt they were perfectly-executed, or if you hated the original setup and feel that it was right and fitting to overwrite or ignore it, that’s okay! We all have different opinions about what makes for a good Star Trek story, and I’m not trying to claim that I’m somehow objectively right and that’s the end of the affair. In several cases, I’d actually agree that the overwrite or retcon was better than what had been previously established. This is all just the opinion of one old Trekkie, and as I always say, there ought to be room in the Star Trek fan community for polite discussion and disagreement! Although I have my issues with Picard, particularly when it comes to the show’s second season, by and large I’m a fan not a hater.

So with all of that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of Picard’s weirdly contradictory storylines.

Contradictory story #1:
Seven of Nine is a captain! Oh wait, no she isn’t…

Seven in the captain’s chair at the end of Season 2.

At the end of Season 2, Seven of Nine was breveted into Starfleet by Picard as Captain of the Stargazer. This story point was already a bit… odd. Firstly, it raises the question of why, if offering a brevet position to someone outside of Starfleet is so simple, Admiral Janeway didn’t do that for Seven years ago. It also seemed unnecessary, as with Picard on the bridge, the Stargazer already had a senior officer present who could give orders.

But this already flimsy setup ended up being overwritten by the very next episode – when Seven was bumped down to the rank of commander and found herself serving as first officer of the Titan. There are a lot of contradictions in Picard, but this one feels even more peculiar because it’s something that literally changes from one episode to the next – episodes that, in spite of being one season apart, were produced and filmed at the same time.

Contradictory story #2:
Data’s dead. Deader than dead. Lol jk, he’s alive again!

Data awaits his final shutdown.

One of the few redeeming features of the two-part Season 1 finale was the laying to rest of Data, and giving him the emotional send-off that Nemesis didn’t have time to do justice to. It went a long way to making up for other deficiencies in the rushed and muddled end to Season 1, and the sequences with Picard and Data in the “digital afterlife” were powerful and deeply emotional.

But despite Data being as dead as it’s possible to be in Star Trek, with both his physical body and the surviving part of his consciousness having been destroyed and shut down respectively, Season 3 resurrected Data. We’ll have to go into this storyline in more detail in the future, because there’s a lot more to say. But for me, Data’s resurrection never really found a narrative justification, and it felt like the showrunner and writers wanted desperately to reunite the cast of The Next Generation – at any cost.

Contradictory story #3:
Welcome aboard the Stargazer! Wait, I mean the Titan…

The USS Titan.

In Season 2, the ship that Picard and co. didn’t spend enough time aboard was the USS Stargazer. In Season 3, they jumped over to the Titan – even though the sets were all the same (with a few minor tweaks here and there). I don’t really understand why this happened. What was the point of setting Season 3 aboard a nominally different starship? The exact same setup could have brought Riker and Picard to the Stargazer as it did to the Titan.

If the two ships had significant aesthetic differences, maybe it would be okay. And compared with some of the other points on this list, I admit it’s relatively minor. But it still feels odd to introduce the new Stargazer, build CGI models for it, and only use it in one-and-a-bit episodes.

Contradictory story #4:
Q’s dying… oh wait, no he isn’t.

Q at the end of Season 3.

I know what you’re thinking: Q already explained his “return” by telling Jack Crusher not to think about time in a linear fashion. While that’s a perfectly rational in-universe explanation for Q’s return at the end of Season 3, it doesn’t get around the fact that Q, whose death was such a vital part of the entire plot of Season 2, is a profoundly odd choice of character to use for that one epilogue scene.

Picard’s writers pinned the convoluted and disappointing story of Season 2 on Q, and Q’s entire motivation was his imminent death. To undo that – even if there’s a technical explanation for it – only a few episodes later feels wrong. It undermines the already-weak story of Season 2 and makes me wonder what the point of it all was.

Contradictory story #5:
The Borg are back! The Borg are back! The Borg are back!

A Borg Cube.

However you look at it, and whatever nitpicky excuses there may be about who are and aren’t the “real” Borg, there’s no getting away from the fact that across its three seasons, Picard re-introduced the Borg three times. All three of the stories rely, either in whole or in part, on the Borg, and while Picard himself has a connection with the Borg after the events of The Best of Both Worlds and First Contact… there’s a whole galaxy out there filled with alien races that the show’s writers and producers could have used.

While Season 3’s Dominion/changeling rug-pull is probably the worst example of this, it really speaks to a broader problem with the show’s production. Picard’s writers, especially in Season 3, were unwilling to abide by what the show had already set up. The Borg are great fun, don’t get me wrong, but by the time we got to yet another Borg story in Season 3, I was feeling burned out.

Contradictory story #6:
The mysterious anomaly has set up a fascinating story! Let’s never mention it again.

Led by the Borg, a Federation fleet stops the anomaly.

The story of Season 2 was bookended by a mysterious anomaly that the Jurati-led Borg faction believed could be an attack against the Alpha Quadrant. Once the anomaly had been stopped, the Jurati-Queen promised to take her Borg faction and stand watch over the anomaly as a “guardian at the gates.” Her Borg faction were even granted provisional membership in the Federation as they did so.

This story felt like it had huge potential. Who could have been powerful enough to create a weapon on that scale? How would Picard and his friends be able to defeat them? What would it be like to see a Federation-Borg alliance? But alas, this storyline was dumped, orphaned, and never mentioned again. Was no explanation ever written? Why end Season 2 on this cliffhanger if it was never going to be resolved?

Contradictory story #7:
Soji’s a massively important character… let’s dump her.

Promo photo of Isa Briones as Soji.

Soji played a huge role in Season 1, serving as both the reason for Picard’s mission and later as someone who needed to be talked down from making a mistake. We spent a lot of time with her in the show’s first season, watching as she was manipulated by Narek, as she learned the truth of her own origin and who her people were, and as she came to work with and respect Picard.

It was disappointing that Soji was essentially forgotten after the end of Season 1, with a barebones cameo appearance and nothing more. Isa Briones got to play a minor role in Season 2 as the daughter of antagonist Adam Soong, but this storyline was samey and boring. As a new, young character – and a synthetic life-form – Soji had huge potential. It’s such a shame that a role couldn’t be written for her after Season 1.

Contradictory story #8:
Picard has a new relationship with Laris! No wait, Laris has fucked off and now he has a kid with Dr Crusher.

Laris and Picard at the end of Season 2.

The entire story of Season 2 – its raison d’être, at least according to Q – was that Picard was alone, prevented by his childhood trauma from being able to find love. At the end of the season, after ten episodes of shenanigans in the 21st Century, Picard finally returned to his vineyard – and to Laris. The two seemed ready to embark upon a new relationship together.

But nope! Laris made a small cameo appearance at the beginning of Season 3, and was never mentioned again. Picard’s story in Season 3 focused on his past relationship with Dr Crusher, a relationship that led to him having a son he’d never met. The season’s epilogue even showed Picard and Dr Crusher jointly escorting their son to his first Starfleet assignment – with Laris nowhere to be found. As I said above: Season 2 was already a weak, flimsy story. Undermining its ending like this was a poor decision.

Contradictory story #9:
Elnor’s dead. Oh wait, he’s back! No… he’s gone again.

Elnor at the end of Season 2.

Although I wasn’t thrilled to see Elnor killed off in the first half of Season 2, as time went on, it seemed to be working. Raffi’s story of coming to terms with loss and grief was one of Season 2’s stronger elements, and while I would’ve still said I was disappointed in Elnor’s wasted potential, at least his loss had mattered. Until it was all undone with seconds to spare.

If Elnor had a major role to play in Season 3 – and there was absolutely space for him – then I could at least have understood this reversal. But after Elnor was resurrected, he got one very brief scene in which he looked confused on a viewscreen, and another in which his dislike of a beverage made him the butt of a joke. After that, Elnor disappeared from Picard never to be seen or mentioned again. What was the point? Why undo a powerful story for the sake of an overdone sight gag?

Contradictory story #10:
Riker and Troi are happy and settled on Nepenthe. Just kidding, they hate it there.

Picard approaches Riker’s outdoor kitchen.

Nepenthe might be my favourite episode of Season 1. It slowed things down, stepped away from some of the drama, and reintroduced us to Riker and Troi – now happily married and living peacefully outside of Starfleet. In spite of the loss of their son, Riker and Troi seemed settled on Nepenthe with their daughter in a home that was important to their son and their family. It was a surprise, to say the least, when Season 3 tried to undo all of that.

In the episode Surrender, Riker and Troi were reunited as captives aboard Vadic’s ship. And while imprisoned, they both spoke about how they hated the “creaky old cabin” that had been their home. The end of the season implied that one or both of them may be back in Starfleet, and all the emotional storytelling present in Nepenthe was taken away.

So that’s it!

Dr Jurati on stage in Season 2.

Although there were some interesting stories – and some complete ones – overall, it’s not unfair to call Star Trek: Picard a contradictory series, one that either intentionally or unintentionally overwrote or ignored key characters and storylines. We’ll talk about some of these in more detail on another occasion, but for now I think we’ve covered the basics.

Picard was clearly a troubled production, one that jumped from one writing and production team to another, and that’s part of why the series as a whole feels so contradictory. I think I could overlook one or two of these things – and I might even support the decision to drop a character or change a storyline that wasn’t working or that failed to resonate with audiences. But for a series that ran to a mere thirty episodes across three seasons… we shouldn’t be able to pull out ten large contradictions like this.

Stay tuned, because I have a lot more to say about Picard even though the series has concluded! A longer retrospective is in the pipeline, and I’ll also be taking a look at abandoned and unfinished storylines, too.

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 7: Dominion

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.

Dominion was undeniably a fun, fast-paced, exciting episode; a thrill ride that kicked Picard’s third season into a higher gear as the plot builds to its climax. It was also an episode that shone a light in some very dark places, and did what Star Trek has always done so well: used its science-fiction setting to think about some of the issues facing us out here in the real world.

Having sat with Dominion for a couple of days, though… it isn’t actually an episode that I particularly enjoyed. It had some explosive moments of action, some engrossing moral quandaries, a sequence between two of my favourite characters from The Next Generation that was tense and emotional, and was backed up all the way by some great writing and some truly outstanding acting performances. But I didn’t actually like much of what the episode brought to the table from a narrative standpoint.

The USS Titan in a scrapyard.

As we discussed last week, the decision to resurrect Data is not one that I would have made. There are some deceased Star Trek characters who, for one reason or another, didn’t get a proper send-off – and I argued just last year that the main characters from Seasons 1 and 2 of Picard are themselves in that category. But Data, more so than practically any other Star Trek character, had been laid to rest. His resurrection not only undid all of that, but it takes away one of the few successful moments from the finale of Season 1 – one of the very few threads keeping the ending of that season together.

And this week, I’m sorry to say that despite incredible performances from both Brent Spiner and LeVar Burton as they wrangled with Data’s apparent return… this storyline hasn’t yet justified itself. I can buy technobabble explanations in Star Trek for all manner of things – that comes with the territory in sci-fi. But you have to admit that few characters in the franchise had been killed as definitively – and as often, in different ways – as Data, so any rebirth or resurrection has a significant obstacle to overcome. I wouldn’t have even attempted it – the technobabble excuse feels like something straight out of fan-fiction – but now that it’s happened, there has to be some kind of narrative or storytelling justification for it. And there isn’t.

The resurrection of Data (and Lore) continues to be a drag on the story.

The resurrection of Data has also brought back Lore – and Lore’s intervention this week led to a storytelling trope that I’ve never enjoyed: the “heroes’ base is captured and they’re all taken prisoner” cliché. Discovery did this a couple of seasons ago, we’ve seen it in Deep Space Nine, too, and on countless other occasions in sci-fi and beyond. To me, these storylines always feel so incredibly forced, as if a particularly uncreative writer couldn’t find a better way of adding tension to a story. And that’s how Vadic’s capture of the Titan feels to me.

If the premise underlying this takeover was stronger, perhaps some of that frustration would’ve melted away. But it came about as a combination of a poorly-defined plan from Picard and Dr Crusher – a plan that was executed terribly, too – and Lore’s shenanigans. What was already a disappointingly overused trope ended up feeling even less appealing as a result.

Vadic in the captain’s chair of the USS Titan.

I’ve never been much of a Lore fan. The “evil twin” angle was an interesting one in some ways… but even after a mere four appearances in The Next Generation, spread out over several years… Lore had already worn out his welcome, at least for me. He’s as one-dimensional as they come, feeling akin to a Mirror Universe character in some respects, and I’ve just never found him to be of much interest. Stories in which he would attempt to take Data’s place or convince his brother to betray his friends just never stood out to me as being among The Next Generation’s best.

And I think I should be up-front about that – I have a bias against this character that’s been running for some thirty years or more! When it was teased that Lore would play a role this season, this feeling being dragged back up is precisely what I feared would happen – and so it proved in Dominion. As we’ve said in earlier episodes about Vadic: a villain needs some kind of motivation. Lore is “evil for the sake of it,” and I find that deeply unsatisfying. It was unsatisfying in The Next Generation and it was unsatisfying in Dominion, too.

I’ve never been the biggest fan of stories that included Lore.

The saving grace on this side of the story should’ve been Geordi – and the wonderfully emotional performance that LeVar Burton put in as Geordi tried to reach out to his long-dead friend. Burton deserves an award for his scenes this week, as they were absolutely riveting to watch. In fact, in just two episodes, Geordi has quickly become one of the best characters in Picard, and LeVar Burton has been hitting all of the right notes consistently. But it’s a scene that just… didn’t need to happen, at least not this way.

We’ve basically had this conversation and this scene before: it came between Data and Picard at the end of Season 1. Geordi’s reunion with Data, and his attempt to reach out to him and break through Lore’s control, feels like a rehashing of those conversations between Picard and Data. In spite of what has to be one of the single best acting performances in all of modern Star Trek, these scenes just don’t add much to the story. Geordi could have expressed his sorrow at Data’s death to Picard, or to Altan Soong if the character hadn’t been unceremoniously killed off. Bringing back Data still isn’t sitting right with me.

This was a masterful performance from LeVar Burton.

I’ve talked before about the “snowball” in media criticism: a few big or fundamental criticisms of a story get things rolling, and before you know it, the “snowball” is picking up speed, finding more and more elements of a narrative to pick on and single out for criticism. And because of how the Data-Lore resurrection has landed for me, I find myself pulling at threads on this side of the story that would have probably passed unnoticed otherwise.

For example: how was Lore able to break out and effectively seize control of the ship? The answer seems to be “because plot,” and that’s just never a very satisfying explanation – especially given the high stakes. It’s hard to see how Vadic would have been able to take control of the ship had Lore not intervened, so the main thrust of Dominion’s narrative now appears to unfold thanks to a succession of unlikely, unpredictable coincidences one after another.

Lore’s escape wasn’t well-explained.

Alright, enough about my gripes about Data’s resurrection and my dislike of Lore! There’s no denying that LeVar Burton’s performance this week was outstanding, and when watching his big emotional scene with Data in particular, it was easy to put all of those concerns and criticisms out of my mind. Burton has made this older, more mature version of Geordi a real tour de force, and he’s brought far more to the table than I could have expected. If there are to be any future Star Trek projects set in this time period, they’d damn well better find a way to include Geordi – because I’m not ready to say goodbye!

It made sense for Geordi to be the one working with the Data-Lore golem, given his experiences with Data in The Next Generation, and I felt the setup for this story was handled about as well as it could’ve been. Geordi’s line that this golem is significantly more complicated than Data was also a helpful bit of exposition! Given that we’ve heard these new generation synths referred to as “flesh-and-blood” creations, maybe Dr Crusher, not Geordi, should have been examining the golem? Food for thought, at least!

Geordi was working on the Data-Lore golem.

I have to admit that I was sceptical about Mica Burton – LeVar Burton’s real-life daughter – playing Geordi’s on-screen daughter Alandra. I’d been vaguely familiar with Mica Burton’s work as a presenter from Star Trek Day a couple of years ago, and her stint on a YouTube gaming channel a couple of years before that. But I felt that she was untested as an actor, having only had a couple of bit-parts before now. This felt to me like “stunt casting;” bringing an actor into the series not on merit, but due to a combination of her parentage and a desire to make headlines. A “nepo baby,” to use some contemporary slang.

And… well, I’m not wrong about that. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see that Mica Burton has put in two solid, perfectly creditable performances in the episodes in which she’s appeared so far. The character of Alandra La Forge, while not exactly front-and-centre, adds something to this story, and has given Geordi both an assistant and a dependent, all while managing to feel like a rounded character in her own right. We’ve started to see some great things from Sidney La Forge over the last couple of episodes – and I hope that there will be time before the season ends to give Alandra a moment in the spotlight, too.

Geordi and Alandra La Forge.

Before we get into other big stories, let’s talk briefly about another surprising character: Tuvok! Or should that be “the changeling formerly known as Tuvok,” because after what had been a great sequence between Tuvok and Seven of Nine, this character reunion was ripped apart. It was dramatic and exciting – but perhaps not how I’d have chosen to bring back an actor for what may turn out to be their final Star Trek appearance.

As a moment of pure shock value, I think the revelation that Tuvok was a changeling worked incredibly well. And I’m holding out hope that the real Tuvok might make an appearance before the end of the season – I mean, the changelings have to be keeping all of these prisoners alive somewhere, right? Maybe we should save the speculation on that for my next theory update!

The changeling formerly known as Tuvok.

It was a bold move to bring back a character in this way, perhaps even more so than killing off the likes of Hugh and Icheb in Season 1. Tuvok was a main character for all seven seasons of Voyager, and aside from a tiny voiceless cameo in Lower Decks last year, this is the first time we’ve seen him since. Bringing back Tim Russ to play a changeling imposter feels like a very brave call – one that could’ve backfired. I think Dominion managed to make it work, though – and it was a real twist to bring back Tuvok and seem to set him up as an ally, only to rip it away mere moments later in the same sequence.

I’d love to see more from Tuvok, though – and get a genuine reunion with Seven of Nine. In a story with Worf, there’s also scope to put these two characters together. Worf and Tuvok were both security chiefs and tactical officers – but they were very different characters who had conflicting approaches to the role! Even now that Worf has entered his transcendental meditation phase, it could still be a lot of fun to put him together with Tuvok for a scene or two. A Trekkie can dream, eh?

The scene between Seven and Tuvok was bold… and a lot of fun.

Speaking of Worf, he was absent this week – along with Raffi, Riker, and Troi. There are now only three episodes left for Deanna Troi to make any kind of impact on the story, having had only a couple of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameos so far, so I really hope that she’ll have something major to say and do soon.

Despite being billed as a reunion for the characters, there hasn’t yet been a single scene or sequence in which Picard and his old crew are back together – with different characters or pairs of characters largely in their own narrative boxes, not really interacting with one another. Before the season is over, I hope that there will be something for everyone to do – but perhaps more importantly, their effort to stop Vadic and the rogue changelings should feel like a collaborative effort. In Season 2, splitting up the main characters for much of the story led to a number of issues – and I sincerely hope that won’t be the case this time around. But it’s noteworthy, at this stage, that the promised reunion still hasn’t materialised, and that several main characters haven’t gotten as much to do as I’d hoped.

Is Riker, as the changeling claimed, already dead?

As Jack’s superpowers continue to manifest, it’s now more than obvious that there’s more going on with him than we’ve learned so far. This week, we saw him “take over” Sidney La Forge, using his newfound combat skills to defeat a nameless goon who appears to serve as Vadic’s second-in-command.

This sequence, by the way, was exceptionally well choreographed. It must have been one heck of a challenge for actors Ed Speleers and Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut (or their stunt doubles) to perform these difficult acrobatic moves in total synchronisation, but the way it came across on screen was just fantastic. Few sequences in modern Star Trek have managed to feel truly new – but this was something that the franchise hasn’t ever done before, at least not as far as I can remember! It was fantastic to watch, and while it may not have been the most intense action sequence ever brought to screen, it was incredibly clever – and it marks the beginning of a new phase in the stories of both of these characters.

This sequence was exceptional.

The exciting and beautifully choreographed fight was almost enough to make me forget the horrible contrivances that led to it. Almost! I stand by what I said before: Lore’s involvement in this story, messing with forcefields and transporters at precisely the right moment, was one heck of a contrivance. While we got an exciting sequence with Jack and Sidney as a result, that alone isn’t enough to justify it – and too many forced coincidences like this make for a particularly weak narrative foundation.

As the fight simmered down, one moment really stuck with me. As Sidney looked at Jack, she had a mixture of fear and shock in her eyes; that moment, as Sidney realised that she’d just been – for want of a better term – “possessed” by Jack, was exceptionally well done. Once again, Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut excelled.

Dominion was a great episode for Sidney La Forge’s characterisation.

There was potential in the “let’s lure the baddie into a trap” idea that was posited by Dominion, but it quickly fell apart. The writing on this side of the story failed to set up a narratively coherent plan, and when we’re dealing with experienced officers like Picard, Seven, Dr Crusher, and even Captain Shaw, the fact that their plan was so flimsy, and fell apart so easily, doesn’t make for a satisfying presentation. There were other ways to have Vadic commandeer the Titan – if that was the episode’s required outcome – without going through this long and convoluted rigamarole.

Splitting up their forces, having poorly-armed ensigns with little combat experience literally running around the deserted hallways of the ship, and allowing the much more powerful Shrike to transport a group of changelings aboard the Titan are all indicators of a poorly-formulated – and poorly-written – plan, one that was clearly written in order to arrive at a particular outcome. Some of the specifics of this plan feel incredibly flimsy, too: where did the Titan’s crew acquire the wreck of a Vulcan ship, and how were they able to convince Vadic of its authenticity?

This plan was neither well-conceived nor well-executed.

All of this, however, led to two interesting revelations about Vadic. The smaller revelation concerns the character I’ve dubbed Floaty McFloatface (Star Trek: if you don’t want fans to give silly names to your characters and factions, name them yourself). It now seems as if Floaty McFloatface may not be a changeling – or at least, not the same kind of changeling as Vadic herself. We won’t get too deep into speculation here – and I’ve been wrong about Vadic and Floaty McFloatface before – but suffice to say that there’s a complexity to their relationship that was spoken to, albeit rather briefly, this week.

I’ve been saying for weeks that we need to spend more time with Vadic, and to come to understand what’s been driving her all this time. It still seems as if Vadic’s desire to capture Jack Crusher stems from orders from Floaty McFloatface – and not, as Picard and Dr Crusher repeatedly assumed, in order to steal his DNA to make a copy of Picard. But we found out a lot more in Dominion about where Vadic came from – and it was in equal parts incredibly dark and absolutely riveting.

Vadic and Floaty McFloatface have a difficult relationship.

By coincidence, I’ve recently been re-watching Ken Burns’ documentary The Vietnam War, and with all the talk this week of torture and rogue military operations, I felt echoes of that conflict – as well as more recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I think we can absolutely see Vadic’s story in Dominion as a cinematic response to American foreign policy over the past few decades, and a reflection of how the country is coming to terms – or failing to come to terms, in some cases – with its own recent history.

One of the lessons of Vietnam that was sadly not learned by the time of Afghanistan was an oft-repeated line that America was “creating its own enemies.” Every house burned down, every village raided, every bomb dropped… all of these things created more Viet Cong or Taliban fighters, and this is the lens through which I see Vadic’s story. By torturing and experimenting upon Vadic and the other changelings – implied to be the crew of the Shrike – Starfleet has inadvertently created another enemy for itself.

Starfleet (or Section 31, at least) is responsible for making Vadic into the villain she became.

However, there are a couple of queries I have about this revelation. They aren’t yet “problems,” let alone “plot holes,” but parts of this backstory for Vadic seem to come dangerously close to contradicting what we know of the rogue changelings and their scheme from earlier episodes. Worf, for example, specifically told us that this group of changelings had departed the Great Link following a schism, implying that these rogue changelings may be those who rejected Odo’s path of peace.

Secondly, the number of changelings involved in this conspiracy feels massively inflated based on what Vadic told us. She said that she was one of ten changelings being experimented upon, yet there are clearly far more than that. We’ve already seen at least seven killed – and that doesn’t account for Vadic and her crew. While she did say that she could pass along the abilities that she had developed to other changelings, it still doesn’t seem to add up. Ro seemed to think that all of Starfleet was compromised, and that there could be changeling infiltrators aboard multiple ships. If the original group consisted of just ten members, where have all the others come from?

Vadic and her crew.

I’ve always felt that there was a conscious effort on the part of the writers and producers of Deep Space Nine to present the Dominion War as a conflict akin to the Second World War – something we see quite prominently in the show’s finale at the signing of the Treaty of Bajor. But there were definitely Vietnam War influences during Deep Space Nine’s run, too. Episodes like Change of Heart, which prominently featured a “jungle” setting, spring to mind – as does The Siege of AR-558, which was directed by Vietnam veteran Winrich Kolbe.

But there was an even darker tone to the story Vadic told us this week, something that echoed less the Afghanistan War and more the human experiments performed in concentration camps. We’ve always known that Section 31 was willing to go to extreme lengths on behalf of the Federation – even violating Federation law. But when we saw the virus they created in Deep Space Nine, we only saw its effects. This time, we saw the process – the torture that Vadic and her fellow changelings endured.

Vadic’s torturer.

Since its emergence in Deep Space Nine more than twenty years ago, Section 31 hasn’t sat right with a lot of Trekkies – and I get that. This organisation is about as far from Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a more idealistic and enlightened humanity as it’s possible to get. But the idea that Section 31 represented has always been a fascinating one for me: that there’s someone in the background, working behind the scenes, to preserve the enlightened future that humanity has struggled to build. Section 31 sees itself as defending the Federation – even if it has to violate every single Federation principle and law in the process.

In this case, the question is perhaps a bit less interesting. It feels a lot easier to say that Vadic’s torture was wrong – because it was ultimately unnecessary. It was designed, at least according to Vadic, to allow the creation of a weapon – changelings who could bypass all the typical tests and who would report to Section 31 and Starfleet. The virus, in contrast, has always posed much more of an interesting moral question: when faced with conquest and possible extinction, should that kind of biological weapon be off the table?

The experiments that Section 31 performed were intended to create a weaponised changeling.

It’s easy to condemn Vadic’s torturer – and by extension, to feel a pang of sympathy for what Vadic herself has been through. There’s no denying that Vadic is a far more complex and interesting character coming out of Dominion than she was before the episode began – and that’s a good thing. We don’t need to agree with a villain or sympathise with them to understand them – but in order to really get invested in their story, we need something to give them motivation and to explain who they are. Vadic had been lacking this all season long – but we finally got the details this week, and it puts her characterisation into context.

The one disappointing thing, though, is that Vadic lacks any meaningful connection to Picard – and to anyone else on the crew, for that matter. Her torturer was a nameless Section 31 operative, she wasn’t even involved in the Dominion War as far as we can tell, and she certainly didn’t know Picard or any of the others prior to this conspiracy getting underway. They’ve definitely formed an adversarial relationship – but it comes quite late in the story. Contrast this with the likes of Khan or Gul Dukat: characters who had burning, passionate hatred for their Starfleet adversaries.

We know a lot more about Vadic now.

In a series called Star Trek: Picard, that could be the missing piece. In both Seasons 1 and 2, for better or worse, Picard was at the centre of the story. The Zhat Vash conspiracy disrupted Picard’s armada, and he was the one to unravel it years later. Picard’s relationship with Q led to the whole Confederation/time travel plot. And while Vadic’s determination to kidnap/capture Picard’s son gives her some kind of connection to him… I’m still not feeling the personal side of it.

I will say, though, that we’ve seen moves in that direction not just this week, but over the past several episodes. As Picard has gotten deeper into the conspiracy, his determination to do anything to stop it has grown. And there are personal stakes for him: the death of Ro, the capture of Riker, and the threat to the son he didn’t know that he had. All of those things are positive, and while we still don’t have all of the details, we have more than enough to understand Picard’s decision-making process – and his ability to cross a line that we might never have expected him to cross.

Dominion presented Picard with a moral dilemma.

Star Trek has a fantastic collection of morality tales going all the way back to The Original Series. But for me – and I daresay for many fans of my generation, too – fewer hit harder than Deep Space Nine’s Season 6 classic In The Pale Moonlight. That episode, told through flashbacks and a frame narrative, sees Captain Sisko wrangling with breaking all of the rules in order to manipulate an outcome that he and the Federation needed. It was life-or-death, and Sisko took it upon himself to place the Federation’s survival ahead of his conscience – and ahead of following the law.

Dominion sees Picard and Dr Crusher confront the same basic moral quandary. There are laws against the killing of prisoners – yet killing Vadic (and unbeknownst to them, Floaty McFloatface too) would have thrown a spanner in the works of the conspiracy ahead of its targetted date of Frontier Day. We see them agonise over the decision, especially in light of Vadic’s backstory… but they ultimately decide to go for it.

Picard and Dr Crusher ultimately decide to break the law – and their own moral code.

Dominion tries to present this as a choice with a time-limit – it will only be a matter of time before Vadic escapes or before someone breaks her out, so they have to decide relatively quickly. The episode also worked hard to show how conflicted Picard in particular felt about violating one of the foundational laws of war. And in the moments we got with Picard and Dr Crusher, this question of morality versus practicality worked well, and I could feel through the screen how painful it was for Picard to even have to consider a course of action like this.

However, this side of the story was split up at points by Jack and Sidney running around the hallways of the Titan, and by Geordi and Alandra working on Lore and the ship’s systems. I’m not sure that Dominion dedicated enough time to what was meant to be the key dilemma for the show’s title character – because after Vadic had explained where she came from and we’d gotten all of the other scenes and sequences with other characters… the ultimate decision seemed to be reached by Picard and Dr Crusher pretty quickly. It felt, in that moment, as if they’d already decided what they were going to do before we saw them confirm it.

This moment was arrived at rather quickly.

And I’d also like to point out another unenjoyable trope that came out of this side of the story. We saw in Seventeen Seconds a few weeks ago how easily Worf was able to kill a changeling in their liquid state. Seven and Jack were also able to relatively easily kill changelings in their humanoid states, too. But this week – as soon as it became convenient for the story – both Vadic and her second-in-command were able to survive multiple phaser blasts under what appeared to be similar circumstances.

There was a pathway to allow both characters to survive without doing this, and it’s really just a worn-out cliché at this point. There was some fantastic acting and choreography on both sides of the story here – but it all led to such a bland and oft-repeated outcome.

The old “you thought he was dead” cliché…

And I guess that last line kind of encapsulates my thoughts on Dominion as a whole, really. Patrick Stewart, Gates McFadden, and LeVar Burton all absolutely excelled… with the material that they had in the confines of a fairly uninspired story. This was a tense, exciting episode that moved along the plot on the Titan – while ignoring the stories of Worf, Raffi, Riker, and Troi – but that just didn’t take the season’s main narrative to a particularly exciting or original place.

There was scope to make more of Dominion, and there’s a risk, I fear, that its “captured starship” outcome will be easily undone next week, rendering much of the episode a bit… well, pointless. I’m glad we got to learn more about Vadic, and to put her conspiracy and quest into some kind of personal context for her. That was desperately needed as the season passes its three-quarter point. And there were some wonderful performances along the way, both in terms of acting and in terms of a well-choreographed sequence that felt like something new to Star Trek. But overall, I’m not thrilled with where the story went this week.

The Shrike and the Titan.

With three episodes left, there’s still plenty of time for Season 3 to recover, to deepen its mysteries, and to throw in some more twists and turns. And despite my criticisms, I don’t hate Dominion. It told the story it wanted to tell about as well as it possibly could. It can be hard to judge mid-season episodes fairly when the final destination is still unclear – and it’s to Dominion’s credit, in some respects, that the story’s endgame is still obscured through a thick narrative fog.

So I’m trying to stay positive! I’m loving the fact that we’re getting a look at some familiar faces from Star Trek’s past, that Section 31 is in play, and that it feels like Picard is finally taking a look at the broader state of the galaxy in this 25th Century time period. Dominion also put a morality question at its heart, harkening back to some of my favourite complex episodes from Star Trek’s past. There’s potential to build on what was delivered here – and maybe to take the story to a more enjoyable place next time!

A few scattered final thoughts:

  • Repeated mentions of Admiral Janeway – could she appear in the season finale?
  • Vadic didn’t confirm what she wanted with Picard’s corpse… but a look in her eye seemed to suggest he was wrong in his assumption.
  • I’m sure that Geordi’s partner won’t appear now… but I hope it isn’t supposed to be Leah Brahms!
  • Jack is wielding a 23rd Century phaser pistol – which is pretty cool!
  • Tuvok has been promoted – good for him!
  • Captain Shaw is, to my immense surprise, still alive.
  • A reference to the Chin’Toka system – the site of two major battles in Deep Space Nine – did not pass unnoticed!

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.”


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 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 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!

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 – 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:

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:

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:

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 This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

What can we expect from Star Trek Day 2022?

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the Star Trek franchise, including recent seasons of Picard, Discovery, Lower Decks, and Strange New Worlds.

The 8th of September is Star Trek Day! On that date in 1966, The Original Series premiered in the United States with the episode The Man Trap, kick-starting a franchise that’s still going strong fifty-six years later. Last year, Paramount organised a major broadcast to mark the occasion, hosted by Wil Wheaton (The Next Generation’s Wesley Crusher and host of The Ready Room) and Mica Burton (daughter of Geordi La Forge actor LeVar Burton). It was a fun event – albeit one that probably went on a little too long – that celebrated all things Star Trek. With Star Trek Day coming back this year, I wanted to look ahead to the event and consider what we might see when it arrives in just under three weeks’ time.

My usual caveat for these sort of things applies: I have no “insider information,” and I’m not trying to claim that anything discussed below will definitely be included in this year’s Star Trek Day broadcast. This is speculation from a fan – and an opportunity to talk Trek – and nothing more! With that out of the way, let’s get started!

George Takei at last year’s Star Trek Day.

First of all, I think it’s worth talking about some of the big announcements we’ve seen over the past few months, because Paramount hasn’t been shy when it comes to making headlines for the Star Trek franchise. We’ve had major announcements about Picard Season 3, including who will be part of – and excluded from – the main cast, we’ve seen trailers, clips, and teasers for Lower Decks, which will be a couple of episodes into its third season by Star Trek day, we’ve had plenty of news about Strange New Worlds Season 2 – including the surprising return of a fan-favourite character… and much more besides. Events like last month’s Comic-Con saw big panels featuring main cast members and major announcements, like the Strange New Worlds crossover with Lower Decks.

In short, I’m not so sure that we should expect a glut of trailers and teaser clips and a plethora of massive announcements! Paramount could’ve saved things like the Picard Season 3 teaser and posters that were shown off at Comic-Con for Star Trek Day, but in a way it makes sense to use an event like that – where all eyes are on the world of entertainment – to make waves and show off Star Trek’s renaissance. Star Trek Day itself, at least based on what we saw last year, is more of a celebration for Trekkies and the Star Trek community.

Star Trek already dropped some big announcements at Comic-Con just last month.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be anything of substance, and the official press release for Star Trek Day promised announcements, reveals, and surprises! With Season 3 being Picard’s last, and principal photography already having been completed, I can’t help but wonder whether we might get an announcement of what could replace it in the lineup. When Picard disappears from the schedule next year, there will be a gap – and as Alex Kurtzman (head honcho of Star Trek for Paramount) has previously told us, there won’t be any new Star Trek until one of the current shows has ended its run. Well, something’s going to have to fill the Picard hole in late 2023 or 2024… so could the announcement of a new project be imminent?

I note that the official press release for Star Trek Day specifically mentioned that Michelle Hurd (Raffi) and Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine) will be present to talk about Picard. I know I’m not the only one who’s talked up the possibility of a “Seven and Raffi Show” as a spin-off from Picard, so it’s interesting that these two actors will be present together at Star Trek Day. Sure, they could just be there to talk about Picard Season 3… but maybe, just maybe, there’s more to it than that!

Seven of Nine and Raffi in Picard Season 2.

There are at least two unannounced Star Trek projects in the works at Paramount, again according to Alex Kurtzman. I don’t think we’d get two massive announcements like that at Star Trek Day, and if I had to put my money anywhere I’d say that a Picard spin-off or at least another show set in that same 25th Century era is the most likely. But you never know! There are rumours of a Khan-focused project and a Starfleet Academy series, the latter of which may (or may not) be a Discovery spin-off set in the 32nd Century with Mary Wiseman reprising her role as Lieutenant Tilly.

Does the untitled Section 31 series still count as having been “announced,” given that there’s been no official news for almost four years at this point? We could finally hear something about that project, too, I suppose. But I’m not holding my breath on that one.

So there are a few different possibilities for a major announcement. A brand-new series would be a heck of a way to celebrate Star Trek Day, especially if the announcement came along with things like concept art or maybe even casting information.

Are we going to get an announcement about… Khaaaaaaaan?!

The other big project that’s currently up in the air is the untitled feature film Star Trek 2023. As we recently discussed, I seriously doubt whether the film will make its intended December 2023 release date given that most of the main Kelvin timeline cast don’t appear to be on board yet, but Star Trek Day could surprise us with some more information about the project.

So those are the potential projects that I think we could hear something about. As I said, my money would be on some kind of 25th Century Picard replacement if you forced me to make a bet… but there are definitely cases to be made to hear something about a Starfleet Academy series or perhaps a some kind of Khan project, too.

The new USS Stargazer.

This year’s Star Trek Day will be hosted by Tawny Newsome (Ensign Mariner on Lower Decks) and Paul F. Tompkins (Dr Migleemo on Lower Decks) who co-host The Pod Directive, Star Trek’s official podcast. I’m sure they’ll make a great presenting duo – though part of me feels a little sad that Wil Wheaton won’t be on hosting duties. His energy and passion for Star Trek really elevated last year’s event.

I’m curious to see what may be teased about Discovery Season 5. Filming is currently underway in Toronto, and a behind-the-scenes tour hosted by Wilson Cruz (Dr Culber) promises appearances by some of the cast members and a look at new sets. I’m not sure when Discovery’s fifth season will make its debut; it seems right now as if Picard and Strange New Worlds will be ready first, even though Discovery Season 4 wrapped up back in March, so we could see one or both of those arrive before Season 5 is ready. Still, it’ll be neat to catch a glimpse behind the curtain – and maybe there’ll even be a teaser of some kind!

Dr Culber in Discovery Season 4.

We’re edging closer to the first anniversary of Prodigy’s premiere, and we’ve been promised a second batch of ten episodes to round out that show’s first season before the end of this year. With a Prodigy panel on the agenda for Star Trek Day, I have to assume we’ll get some more details about those episodes – hopefully including a premiere date. If I had to guess, I’d say that the second half of Season 1 could directly follow on from Lower Decks, which could mean a premiere date in late October or early November.

Prodigy has not been particularly well-supported by Paramount, in my view, at least not so far. Splitting up its first batch of episodes into chunks of four and five respectively with a long gap in between is not a great way for a new series to gain traction – especially with its young target audience. There’s also a lack of toys and tie-in products, and while there are plans in place to address that, at time of writing none of those items are available for purchase. Paramount has a lot of work to do to really sell Prodigy – and I really hope they get on with it, because it’s a unique project within the Star Trek franchise and one that could turn a whole generation of kids into Trekkies if handled better.

We’ll hear something about Prodigy at Star Trek Day.

Either Lower Decks or Strange New Worlds stars could go into more detail about the upcoming crossover, and although it’s still early days we could get some kind of teaser for Strange New Worlds’ upcoming second season. I don’t expect to see any clips from the crossover at Star Trek Day – that’s just a hunch, of course, but something tells me it’ll be kept under wraps until much closer to the episode’s premiere. But we could learn more about Season 2, including whether any new cast members will be coming on board. There’s at least one and perhaps two spots open if the producers wanted to make additions, although I hope they don’t go overboard and try to cram in too many new characters – especially not characters from The Original Series.

Season 1 managed to strike a good balance between legacy and new characters, and I’d hope that would continue in Season 2. There must be a temptation to add characters like Scotty, for example, in engineering, but I hope that the show’s writers can resist – at least for now. There may be scope to bring in more legacy characters in later seasons, but for now I’d like to spend more time with some of the newbies who we’re just getting to know.

Behind-the-scenes with Captain Pike and the Enterprise bridge crew.

There’s also a decent chance, in my view, that we’ll hear about a Season 3 renewal for Strange New Worlds. Season 2 has already finished its main production phase, and with Discovery Season 5 well underway, it’s definitely time for those conversations to be happening behind-the-scenes. It seems utterly unfathomable to me that there won’t be a third season (and a fourth…) given how well Season 1 was received. Pre-production may be already happening, so it wouldn’t shock me at all to get a formal announcement at Star Trek Day.

In a similar vein there could be announcements for a fifth season of Lower Decks, a third for Prodigy, and perhaps even a sixth for Discovery – though the latter may be premature at this stage. As Discovery has been running since 2017 (and in production since 2016), it’s not an absolute certainty that we’ll get more after Season 5, but at the same time the 32nd Century feels like a really interesting setting to spend more time in, so I’m hopeful that there’ll be more to come from Captain Burnham and the crew.

Captain Burnham in Discovery Season 4.

So those are my main thoughts/predictions. I’m also looking forward to some of the other events that will be part of the live broadcast, including a tribute to Nichelle Nichols, as well as a couple of fan-focused events, some music, and even some stand-up comedy. Star Trek Day’s stated runtime is two hours, and that feels about right for something like this. As mentioned, last year’s event may have dragged just a little – at least for me – so it seems as though some lessons may have been learned from that. But as they say, live events have the potential to take unexpected turns, so I won’t be shocked if Star Trek Day ends up running a little over that time limit!

I guess that’s about all there is to say. I’m glad Paramount is doing this, and I’m glad the event will be free to stream on the official Star Trek website instead of being locked behind a Paramount+ paywall. It’s a nice way to celebrate all things Star Trek, and even if there are no massive announcements about brand-new shows or films, I still think it’ll be a fun time. There’ll be glimpses behind-the-scenes, chats with cast members, and hopefully a lot of positivity and excitement about the Star Trek franchise.

I’m looking forward to Star Trek Day, and when the event is over I’ll be sure to share my thoughts on the broadcast, as well as perhaps take a longer look at any major trailers, teasers, or announcements. Stay tuned here on the website in the next few days because I have a list of a few potential upcoming Star Trek projects currently in the works – and who knows, we may hear about some of those at Star Trek Day!

Star Trek Day will be live-streamed on the official Star Trek website and social media channels on the 8th of September 2022 beginning at 3:00pm Eastern Standard Time/8:00pm British Summer Time. The Star Trek franchise – including all shows and 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.

Ten 25th Century Star Trek concepts

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the entire Star Trek franchise, including Picard Season 2, Discovery Season 4, Prodigy Season 1, Strange New Worlds Season 1, and more.

With Season 3 of Star Trek: Picard purportedly being the series’ last, I’m not ready to give up the 25th Century! Ever since Nemesis in 2002, I’d been desperately keen to see Star Trek show us what happened next; to move its timeline along. After the briefest of glimpses in 2009’s Star Trek, it was Picard that finally scratched that itch! Although Discovery is still in production with a fifth season being worked on, that show’s 32nd Century is far removed from the characters, factions, and themes of The Next Generation era. That’s why today I wanted to consider ten possibilities or concepts for shows that could pick up the baton from Picard.

For me, The Next Generation era – i.e. the late 24th Century setting that also includes Deep Space Nine and Voyager – is the franchise’s “golden age.” These shows – and the four films made during that time, too – represent the bulk of Star Trek’s 800+ episodes, and while there are definitely points of interest in the 22nd Century and 23rd Century that the franchise could revisit, for me it’s this time period that I’d like to see picked up for more adventures.

Captain Picard.

With Star Trek: Picard having established the dawn of the 25th Century as its setting, I really do feel that there’s scope to build on what’s been created so far. Season 3 may spend more time with Starfleet, but as of the end of Season 2 at least, there’s a lot we haven’t seen of this era. Picking up some of the characters, factions, storylines, and themes from past iterations of Star Trek is a big part of why spending more time in this era is worthwhile, but that doesn’t mean that every potential 25th Century project has to be a straight-up sequel to something that’s come before. I’d be thrilled to see a Strange New Worlds-style semi-episodic exploration-focused series with a brand-new cast, for example, set in this time period.

Although Picard Season 3 is still being worked on and likely won’t hit our screens until next year, I sincerely hope that the creative teams over at Paramount have already considered their next move. Alex Kurtzman (who is in charge of the Star Trek franchise for Paramount) has stated that there are other concepts in early development, and that as the current shows come to the end of their runs, these new shows would begin to be worked on. Whether any of the series concepts that he was referring to are going to be set in the 25th Century is unknown – but there are significant advantages to doing so.

Alex Kurtzman was interviewed by Wil Wheaton for Star Trek Day back in September and commented on the potential Starfleet Academy series.

I would wager that a significant portion of the Star Trek fan community would rank at least one of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, or Voyager in their top two favourite shows. And fans under the age of forty literally won’t be able to remember a time before The Next Generation! Most fans of my age will have either come to Star Trek during The Next Generation era or will have encountered it soon after becoming a fan; The Next Generation era was dominant from 1987 to 2002.

Fans who were invested in storylines like the Dominion War, the Maquis, Voyager’s journey home, and many, many more are interested to know what came next for their favourite characters. Picard has shown us a little of this – with a focus on Admiral Picard himself, naturally – and there have also been teases and glimpses in Lower Decks, Prodigy, and potentially in Discovery’s 32nd Century, too. But there’s a heck of a lot of room to do more.

The new USS Stargazer.

With Strange New Worlds flying the flag for the 23rd Century, and Discovery off doing its own thing in the far future, there’s a gap in live-action Star Trek that at least one 25th Century project needs to fill. Having established a few interesting details about what we must now call the Picard era, it would be positively criminal for Paramount to just abandon it. There are so many characters who we could catch up with, so many incomplete storylines to resume, and so many codas and epilogues still to be written.

Time is marching on, too – a sad reality for all of us. It won’t always be possible to bring back original actors and the characters that they portrayed, so it’s really a case of “if not now, when?” Wait too long to greenlight projects set in this time period and it may be too late to bring back certain characters.

So with all of that in mind I’ve put together a list of a few Star Trek projects that I personally think could be interesting and could pick up the baton from Picard. Although I feel confident that conversations are happening about future projects set in this era behind closed doors, my usual caveat applies: I have no “insider information.” I’m not trying to claim that any of these ideas will be picked up and make it to screen. This is a wishlist from a fan, and nothing more! It’s also entirely subjective, so if you hate all of my ideas or I don’t include something that you think should obviously be included, then that’s okay! There’s plenty of room within the Star Trek fan community for respectful disagreement and civil conversations!

Concept #1:
Starfleet Academy

The emblem of Starfleet Academy.

When Lieutenant Tilly departed the USS Discovery early in Season 4, she became an instructor at Starfleet Academy in the 32nd Century. With her departure episode feeling like somewhat of a backdoor pilot thanks to introducing us to a handful of cadets, I’m sure I’m not alone in assuming that the heavily rumoured Starfleet Academy series will be set in the 32nd Century with Tilly as a major character. So that’s a big caveat to this potential project!

But a 25th Century Starfleet Academy series has a lot of potential, too. As a direct spin-off from Picard it could bring back characters like Raffi and Elnor, the latter of whom has already been established as a Starfleet cadet. That could even give meaning to Elnor’s unexpected survival at the end of Season 2.

Cadet Elnor in Picard Season 2.

A 25th Century Starfleet Academy series would be perfect for bringing back all sorts of characters from Star Trek’s past. We could learn, for instance, that Miles O’Brien is still at the Academy teaching engineering – as was established at the end of Deep Space Nine. Even if Chief O’Brien wasn’t a major character he could still make occasional appearances in that role.

One of the big advantages to a Starfleet Academy series right now is how it could serve as a kind of soft landing for new, younger fans who’ve been enjoying Prodigy. A series starring young adult cadets (or featuring cadets in major roles even if they aren’t the exclusive focus) would be a natural next step in so many ways, and could be a gateway into the Star Trek fandom for legions of newcomers. Just as holo-Janeway has been a guide in Prodigy, a returning character could fill a similar role here.

Concept #2:
The Seven and Raffi show

Seven of Nine and Raffi in the Picard Season 2 finale.

When Season 2 of Picard premiered, I really thought that a USS Stargazer spin-off with Captain Rios in command would be a fantastic new series. That can’t happen now (and after Rios’ disappointing regression in Season 2, I don’t think I’d want it anymore anyway), but there is still the possibility to see a direct spin-off. This version would feature Seven of Nine and Raffi.

Although Seven of Nine’s captaincy of the USS Stargazer in Farewell felt very much like a brevet or a temporary thing, I feel there’s potential to see her given a commission in Starfleet. Raffi certainly felt that she would make an excellent captain! So maybe the next Star Trek series could be Star Trek: Stargazer with Captain Seven and XO Raffi taking the USS Stargazer on all kinds of adventures.

Captain Seven.

Seven of Nine is particularly well-suited to feature in stories that focus on the Borg, but there’s more to her character than that. I’m not sure whether a traditional exploration-focused series would be the best fit; maybe Seven and Raffi’s ship would be a rapid-response vessel designed for combat and tactical missions. An overtly action-oriented series would be new to Star Trek, so this could be a fun experiment to see how well it could work.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Seven of Nine’s arc across the first two seasons of Picard. It’s been cathartic to see a character I once disliked for her dull and repetitive storylines undergo genuine and lasting growth, and we might just be reaching a point where Seven of Nine is a strong enough character to take on the challenge of headlining a brand-new series of her own… supported by Raffi, of course!

Concept #3:
Captain Sisko’s return

Captain Sisko.

Perhaps better-suited to being a miniseries or limited series, I really love the idea of Captain Sisko finally returning to the galaxy after spending time with the Prophets. At the end of Deep Space Nine, Sisko promised us that he wasn’t really gone and that he would return “one day.” After more than twenty years, could “one day” finally be just around the corner?

It’s worth acknowledging that Avery Brooks has seemed less willing than some other former Star Trek actors to reprise his role, and although there has been speculation as to why that may be, there’s never been any definitive statement from the man himself. I wouldn’t want to see Sisko recast at this moment in time (nor recreated through some kind of CGI process), so if Avery Brooks isn’t interested, the project won’t get off the ground.

In The Pale Moonlight is one of my all-time favourite Star Trek episodes.

One massive advantage to bringing back Captain Sisko is that he’d make a wonderful point-of-view character for us as the audience. As someone who’s spent decades away from the galaxy, Sisko would be just as interested as we are to learn what happened to his friends, to Deep Space Nine, to the Cardassians and Dominion, and so on. A Sisko-focused series could get away with dropping a lot of exposition in a way that feels natural, bringing us up to speed on the events of the past couple of decades without it feeling out-of-place.

More than that, though, I want to spend more time with Captain Sisko. Although picking favourites is hard, Sisko has always been one of the best and most interesting characters of The Next Generation era, and one of the best captains in the Star Trek franchise. Bringing him back would be just as impactful as bringing back Picard has been, and providing an epilogue and closure to Sisko’s story would be absolutely worth doing.

Concept #4:
Section 31

A black Section 31 combadge in the mid-23rd Century.

The untitled Section 31 series was announced in 2019, shortly before Season 2 of Discovery aired. But since then, the supposedly ready-to-go project has been sidelined. Lack of interest from fans was part of the equation, perhaps, but Strange New Worlds certainly stole its thunder too!

The proposed series was to follow ex-Terran Empress Georgiou as she worked with the shadowy organisation that was first introduced in Deep Space Nine, and after Georgiou went through some significant character growth in Discovery’s third season, she finally seemed to get to a place where she could potentially take on the role of a morally ambiguous Section 31 leader without feeling like someone who resorts to violence and literal genocide at the drop of a hat.

Empress Georgiou’s departure.

To briefly recap, Georgiou had to leave the 32nd Century due to suffering from a technobabble illness that appeared to be fatal, and she was permitted to do so by the Guardian of Forever. If a suitable explanation could be found, Georgiou could potentially emerge in the 25th Century, setting the stage for her to play a role in Section 31 in this time period.

Alternatively, a Section 31 show set in this era could drop Georgiou altogether and focus on new characters instead. With Borg, Romulans, super-synths, strange anomalies, and other potential threats to the Federation that we’ve glimpsed in Picard, Section 31 could have a lot of work to do in this era!

Concept #5:
A new exploration-focused series

The original USS Enterprise.

Strange New Worlds is currently flying the flag for semi-episodic “old school Star Trek” with a big focus on exploration. But this is the foundation of Star Trek; the franchise’s roots. Returning to this format in the 25th Century could be absolutely fantastic – and it could be a fun way to include a mix of new and legacy characters.

One of the limitations faced by Strange New Worlds is that it’s set a decade before The Original Series. There’s still a lot of wiggle room in that time period, and we could see Captain Pike make first contact with new and familiar alien races alike. But there are still constraints on which alien races can be included and how, and what stories Captain Pike and the crew could reasonably take part in.

Captain Pike.

In contrast, a new exploration series set in the 25th Century would basically have free rein to hop all across the galaxy, meet brand-new aliens, and bring back classic factions without treading on anyone’s toes. As long as such a series avoided Unknown Species 10-C (basically the only major new faction introduced in Discovery’s far future that Captain Burnham made first contact with), a show like this one could do what The Original Series, The Next Generation, and to an extent Voyager all did: set out on a mission of exploration with a blank canvas.

Seeking out strange, new worlds is where Star Trek began; it’s the core mission of Starfleet and the main goal of the Federation. Strange New Worlds is already proving that fans enjoy a series with that kind of focus, so picking up that concept and reworking it to be set in the Picard era absolutely could work.

Concept #6:
Hospital ship

The USS Pasteur – a Federation medical ship.

In the ’90s, when I was watching and enjoying the shows of The Next Generation era, this was a concept that I thought could be a ton of fun! I imagined “ER in space,” with a hospital ship like the USS Pasteur being the show’s main setting and a chief medical officer as the main protagonist. My original version of this concept would’ve seen characters like Dr Pulaski and Dr Bashir return; a team-up of some of my favourite medical characters from other Star Trek shows.

Although Dr Pulaski is unlikely to be part of such a series now, there’s definitely scope to bring back the likes of Dr Bashir or Voyager’s EMH, as well as secondary medical staff like Nurse Ogawa, as part of a series that also introduces new characters.

Nurse Alyssa Ogawa.

The hospital ship would travel around the Federation and beyond, lending its services to planets, bases, and starships in need. There’d be illnesses and diseases to cure, natural disasters to bring aid to, and the ship could even be part of major military engagements and battles, tending to wounded soldiers and crewmen. Star Trek has shown us all of these basic concepts before, but this time they’d have an overtly medical focus.

There’s a huge audience for shows like House, ER, and Grey’s Anatomy, and a medical Star Trek series could have an appeal that extends far beyond the franchise’s typical sci-fi niche. Without the constraints of the real world, and with numerous aliens as both staff and patients, there’s almost unlimited potential in terms of creativity as well. We could see new deadly diseases created that could be timely reflections of our pandemic-afflicted world, and we could even take a deeper dive into diseases and medical conditions that have been referenced in past iterations of Star Trek.

Concept #7:
Captain Kim

Ensign Harry Kim.

It’s become a bit of a joke in the Star Trek fan community: Harry Kim spent seven years as an ensign without being promoted. Perhaps he could finally get the command he’s always wanted and headline a new Star Trek show in the process!

Harry Kim would be the second major character from Voyager to play a role in this era of Star Trek, and that could lead to crossovers. It could be a lot of fun to see an older and more mature Harry Kim reunite with Seven of Nine – perhaps for the first time in many years. The series could even feature a Voyager reunion of the kind seen in Endgame. And of course, any time we’re talking about Voyager these days there’s the potential to tie in with themes and ideas present in Prodigy.

An older Harry Kim (from an alternate future) in the episode Timeless.

Captain Kim could show us a different side of Starfleet. Perhaps he’s in command of a hospital ship as we were discussing above, or perhaps his vessel is much more scientific in its mission; charting anomalies and stellar phenomena rather than making lots of first contact missions. A series like that would be more personality-driven and serialised rather than episodic with a “monster-of-the-week” to engage with, and I think someone like Harry Kim would excel in that kind of role.

Out of everyone on Voyager, I’d suggest that Harry Kim has perhaps the most potential for growth if he were to return. Considering that we met him on his first mission after graduating – and that he stuck with that “young and eager” characterisation for a long time during Voyager’s run – there’d be something rather cathartic about being reintroduced to an older, more mature Captain Kim.

Concept #8:
A Klingon series

General Martok, a 24th Century Klingon leader.

This one would be quite a radical departure from anything that Star Trek has tried before. Leaving the Federation and Starfleet behind, this show would be set aboard a Klingon vessel. A Starfleet officer could be present as a point-of-view character and a way to help us as the audience find both a way in and a frame of reference, but the rest of the characters would be Klingons.

With Worf returning for Picard Season 3, he could become a recurring character on a Klingon-focused series. A character like Worf bridges the gap between the Klingon Empire and Starfleet, and along with a Starfleet officer aboard the ship he could also help ground the series.

Kol, a 23rd Century Klingon who recently appeared in Discovery.

What I like about this idea is that it would be something genuinely bold and different. We’ve spent a lot of time with the Klingons across various iterations of Star Trek – they’re probably the faction we know the most about after the Federation itself. But there’s still plenty of room to expand our understanding of the Klingons, and to show us the next chapter for their Empire in the aftermath of the Dominion War and their alliance with the Federation.

What kind of mission would a Klingon vessel have? If it’s exploration, how different would their approach be to what we’d expect from Starfleet? A Klingon series could also show off different roles for Klingons beyond that of “warrior.” How does a Klingon crew treat its engineers, scientists, and medical personnel, for example? Far from being one-dimensional “baddies,” there’s plenty of room for nuance and to show us a different side to the Klingons, and different Klingon personalities.

Concept #9:
Captain Worf

Could Michael Dorn finally get his Captain Worf series?

Sticking with the Klingons, Michael Dorn has been talking about his pitch for a Captain Worf series for the better part of a decade at this point! Although I confess that I remain sceptical of the proposal for a number of reasons, with Worf’s imminent return in Picard Season 3, it has to be considered at least a possibility that there’ll be some kind of backdoor pilot or an attempt to test the waters to see if a Captain Worf series could be viable.

As the character who’s made the most Star Trek appearances (280+, not counting upcoming appearances in Picard Season 3), I feel that we’ve seen more than enough of Worf! We’ve seen his inner conflict between his Klingon and Starfleet identities, his struggles with fatherhood, his marriage and the grief he felt at losing Jadzia… and I’m just not sure where else there is to go.

Worf as he appeared in Season 1 of The Next Generation.

But despite my personal reservations, a Captain Worf series could prove me wrong and be the right move for Star Trek once Picard ends. Like Picard itself, a Captain Worf series would be anchored by its familiar face but perhaps rounded out with a fun group of new characters. There would be potential, perhaps, depending on how things go in Season 3, to bring in someone like Raffi as Worf’s first officer, tying the show to Picard in an even greater way.

As with Seven of Nine and Raffi above, a Captain Worf series could go all-in on action, with Worf commanding a tactical vessel and rushing into dangerous situations and combat missions. Or, in an attempt to put a completely different spin on the character, maybe Captain Worf would be in command of a lightly-armed science vessel on a mission of exploration! That could be a fun way to go and a twist on the expected premise of the series.

Concept #10:
Super-synth invasion

The mechanical noodles of the super-synths.

Spoiler alert for a future theory article, but one of my guesses about Picard Season 3 is that the Admiral and his friends will have to face off against the super-synths from Season 1 – and that they’re responsible for the anomaly in Season 2. That would be a neat way to tie all three seasons of the show together!

But assuming that doesn’t happen, I’d love to revisit the super-synths that we only caught a glimpse of in the Season 1 finale. Assuming that their intentions were hostile, and that they planned to attack organic life in the Alpha Quadrant, could a new spin-off revisit that concept and perhaps show the super-synths making their invasion attempt?

Did Soji paint a target on the Alpha Quadrant thanks to her beacon?

This is a reworking of another concept that I’ve had kicking around for some time: a Borg invasion series. But with the Borg having already played a big role in Season 2, perhaps the super-synths could be subbed in to become the antagonists of a series (or miniseries) that sees the Federation involved in a war for its very survival.

This kind of existential threat has been used and re-used in Discovery, and I could understand if some fans wouldn’t want to see it brought back so soon! As I’ve said recently, it’s my hope that Discovery will try something different in Season 5! But it would be fun to bring back the super-synths and to revisit the Federation at war for the first time since Enterprise’s conflict with the Xindi – and it could be a great way to bring in a mix of new and legacy characters.

So that’s it!

Admiral Picard.

Those are ten concepts for Star Trek shows that I think could pick up the baton from Star Trek: Picard in the years ahead, sticking with the early 25th Century and potentially expanding on what Picard has already done.

My “first contact” with Star Trek back in the early 1990s was The Next Generation, and I was a big fan of Deep Space Nine and Voyager during their original broadcast runs as well. With live-action Star Trek series set in the 23rd and 32nd Centuries, it seems to me that Picard’s eventual finale is going to leave a pretty significant hole in the franchise. Even if every major character from The Next Generation returns and gets an amazing goodbye, there are still characters, themes, storylines, and more from Deep Space Nine and Voyager that I’ve been longing to see picked up for more than two decades!

Deep Space Nine.

If it were up to me, the early 25th Century would probably be the main setting that I’d want to use for the majority of new Star Trek projects. There was even scope a couple of years ago to bring Captain Burnham and Discovery into this time period, and I think that could’ve worked exceptionally well too. I don’t think that Picard necessarily needs a direct spin-off, bringing back main characters in a huge way, but I’d dearly love to see the setting and time period re-used in future.

I’m hopeful that Season 3 will be a fun adventure with the crew of The Next Generation, and that it can serve as a launchpad for one or more new Star Trek projects set in this era. Whether any of my own ideas will make it… well, I doubt it. But who knows! More than ever it feels like Paramount is listening to Star Trek fans; without a massive fan campaign we would never have seen Strange New Worlds. So there’s a possibility, perhaps, if Picard Season 3 is well-received that a spin-off or follow-up could indeed make it. Time will tell!

Star Trek: Picard Season 3 will be broadcast on Paramount+ in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video around the world sometime in the next year or so. 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.

Six Star Trek “hot takes”

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the following Star Trek productions: Picard Seasons 1-2, Discovery Season 3, Strange New Worlds, the Kelvin timeline films, Deep Space Nine, and The Next Generation.

Today I thought we could have a bit of fun! There are many so-called “hot takes” about the Star Trek franchise flitting about online, and I thought it could be a change of pace to share a few of my own. These are – based on my limited engagement with the wider Star Trek fan community, at least – opinions that aren’t widely held or especially popular. I’ll do my best to explain why I feel the way I do about each of the six subjects we’re going to consider below.

More than ever, I ask you to keep in mind that all of this is subjective, not objective! I’m not saying that these opinions are factual and unquestionable; this is just my singular perspective on a handful of very complex topics. As with everything in media, there are going to be a range of views, and while I’ll try to justify my opinions below, I know that a lot of people can and do disagree. And that’s okay! There’s room in the Star Trek fan community for respectful disagreement about all manner of things.

With all of that out of the way, this is your last chance to jump ship if you aren’t interested in some potentially controversial Star Trek opinions!

“Hot Take” #1:
Star Trek: Picard transformed Seven of Nine into an enjoyable character for the first time.

Seven of Nine in Picard Season 2.

Star Trek: Picard hasn’t been perfect across its first two seasons, but one thing that it absolutely got right is Seven of Nine’s characterisation. Seven was an unexpected character for the series to introduce – she’d never interacted with Jean-Luc Picard on screen before, and the pair hadn’t even the barest bones of a relationship to build on. In that sense, I was surprised (and maybe a little concerned) when it was made clear that she’d be featured in a big way in the first season.

Perhaps I should explain myself before we go any further. Seven of Nine was introduced midway through Voyager’s run in the two-part episode Scorpion. At first she seemed to be a character with a lot of potential, and I enjoyed what she brought to the table in early Season 4 episodes such as Scientific Method and The Raven. But Seven very quickly became repetitive. Week after week she’d learn some lesson in “how to be more human” from the Doctor or Captain Janeway, but she’d seem to forget all about it and revert to her semi-Borg self by the next episode. This was exacerbated by the fact that Voyager’s latter seasons seemed to include a lot of Seven-heavy episodes and stories, making her a prominent character.

Publicity photo of Seven of Nine during Voyager’s run.

That’s how episodic television works, and I get that. Most other Star Trek characters up to that point in the franchise’s history also “reset” in between episodes, and we could talk at length about how characters like Miles O’Brien could go through some horrible trauma one week only to be happily playing darts at Quark’s a few days later as if it never happened. But with Seven of Nine, a combination of her prominence and storylines that often revolved around learning and taking to heart some aspect of what it means to be human and exist outside of the Borg Collective meant that her week-to-week resets and lack of significant growth really began to grate. Toward the end of Season 7, Seven was given an arc of sorts that threw her into a relationship with Chakotay – but I’m hardly the only person who feels that didn’t work particularly well!

So by the time Voyager ended, I was burnt out on Seven of Nine. Out of all the main characters from Voyager, she was perhaps the one I was least interested to see picked up for a second bite of the cherry – but I was wrong about that. Where Seven had been static and repetitive in Voyager, Picard gave her that development I’d been longing to see, and it was incredibly cathartic! Even though Seven’s post-Voyager life hadn’t been smooth, it had been human, and seeing her experience genuine emotions like anger, betrayal, and later through her relationship with Raffi, love, was something I didn’t know I wanted. Having seen it now, though, there’s no way I’d want to lose this element of Picard.

Seven with Admiral Picard.

The death of Icheb, which was shown in one of Picard Season 1’s most gory sequences, became a key part of Seven’s character arc. His loss devastated her – and the idea that Seven of Nine could be devastated was already a colossal leap for her character. That it spurred her on to one of the most human of desires – revenge – is even more significant for her. And this growth continued across the rest of Season 1, with Seven coming face-to-face with the Borg and even becoming a leader (of sorts) for the liberated ex-Borg on the Artifact.

Even though Season 2 was a mixed bag (at best) with some lacklustre storylines, Seven of Nine shone once again. Her relationship with Raffi added a whole new dimension to her character, and after seeing her experiencing anger and negative emotions in Season 1, Season 2 gave her a chance at love. Season 2 also saw Seven revelling in a new experience, having hopped across to a new timeline and found herself in a body that had never been assimilated. That set her on an arc to accepting herself for who she is – including her Borg past.

Seven without her trademark Borg implants.

Seven’s journey has been beautiful to see, but also cathartic. To me, her journey in Picard feels like it’s righted a twenty-year wrong, finally giving Seven of Nine genuine development and an arc that stuck. While I’m sure fans can and will debate individual plot points (like Icheb’s death or Seven’s off-screen involvement with the Fenris Rangers), taken as a whole I’ve really enjoyed what Picard did with what had been one of my least-favourite characters of The Next Generation era.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for more from Seven of Nine – and if you’d told me in 2000-2001 that I’d write those words I wouldn’t have believed you!

“Hot Take” #2:
I don’t like The Inner Light.

Picard/Kamin in The Inner Light.

Often held up as an example of The Next Generation at its best, I’ve never enjoyed The Inner Light. It’s an episode I usually skip over without a second thought when re-watching The Next Generation, but I put myself through the chore of viewing it recently; it’s part of what inspired me to put together this list!

The Inner Light steps away from the exciting adventures of the Enterprise-D to show us a pre-warp civilisation living on a random alien backwater planet, and while exploring strange new worlds is part of the gig, the way this episode in particular does that is just not interesting or enjoyable in the slightest. It’s certainly “different” – and I will concede that point. Star Trek has never been shy about experimenting, after all! But this particular experiment didn’t work, which is probably why we haven’t really seen another episode quite like it.

Picard with the Kataan probe.

I don’t like to say that something “doesn’t feel like Star Trek,” not least because that vague and unhelpful phrase has become associated with a subgroup of so-called fans who use it to attack everything the franchise has done since 2009. But to me, The Inner Light feels about as far away from what I want and hope to see from an episode of Star Trek as it’s possible to get.

By spending practically its entire runtime in the past, with Picard taking on the role of an alien blacksmith in a pre-warp society, The Inner Light abandons not only the entire crew of the Enterprise-D, but also many of the fundamental adventurous elements that are what makes Star Trek, well… feel like Star Trek. Its deliberately slow pace doubles-down on this sensation, and The Inner Light seems to drag as a result, coming across as boring.

Picard/Kamin playing the flute.

I’m not particularly bothered by the way the Kataan probe operates – that seems technobabbley enough to get a pass. But after Picard has been hit by the probe and the majority of the episode is then spent on Kataan with Kamin and his family… I’m just not interested. Sir Patrick Stewart is a great actor, and what happened to the Kataan people is both tragic and a timely reminder of our own burgeoning environmental catastrophe (something that we haven’t even tried to fix more than a quarter of a century later). But despite all of the elements being in place, the story just doesn’t grab me like I feel it should. At the end of the day, I can’t find a way to give a shit about Kataan, nor about Kamin or anyone else.

There are many episodes of Star Trek with races and characters who only appear once, and yet very few of them manage to evoke that same “I just don’t care” reaction. Just within Season 5 of The Next Generation we have characters like Hugh the Borg and Nicholas Locarno, or aliens like the Children of Tama and the Ux-Mal, all of which manage to hook me in and get me invested in their storylines. I’d generally consider The Next Generation’s fifth season to be one of its best, with many of my favourite episodes. But The Inner Light isn’t one of them.

Picard/Kamin overlooking the village of Ressik.

There are points to The Inner Light that did work. The Ressikan flute theme, for example, is a beautiful piece of music, and Picard’s flute-playing ability (which he learned during the events of The Inner Light) would become a minor recurring element for his character going forward, notably appearing in episodes like Lessons. And the underlying premise of a probe that transmits a message in this way could have worked; it feels quite Star Trek-y in and of itself.

But for me, The Inner Light just isn’t fun to watch. It’s boring, uninspiring, and I can’t find a way to get invested in the story of Kataan and its people – despite good performances from Sir Patrick Stewart and the other actors present.

“Hot Take” #3:
Modern Trek needs to pick a single era (and timeline) and stick to it.

Admiral Vance and Captain Burnham in the 32nd Century.

Star Trek, perhaps more so than any other major entertainment franchise, is convoluted. As Trekkies, we love that! The fact that modern Star Trek can explore different timelines, different eras, and broadcast different shows that are entirely separate from one another makes for a diverse and interesting presentation. It also means that we can simultaneously step back in time to before Captain Kirk’s five-year mission while also seeing what came next for Captain Picard twenty-five years after the events of Nemesis.

But try to look at Star Trek from the point of view of a newcomer. Every single one of the five shows currently in production is set in a different time period and location, and just figuring out where to start with Star Trek – or where to go next for someone who’s enjoyed watching one of the new shows – is the subject of essays, articles, and lists. It’s beginning to remind me of Star Wars’ old Expanded Universe – a combination of games, books, comics, and so on that had become so convoluted and dense after decades in production that it felt offputting.

Cadet Elnor in the 25th Century.

In order for Star Trek to successfully convert viewers of one of its new iterations into fans of the franchise, it needs to simplify its current output. A fan of Strange New Worlds might think that their next port of call should be Picard or Lower Decks – but they’d be completely lost because those shows are set more than a century later.

The lack of a single, unified setting also prevents crossover stories – and these aren’t just fun fan-service for Trekkies like us! Crossovers link up separate Star Trek outings, bringing fans of one show into close contact with another. Just as The Next Generation did with Deep Space Nine (and DS9 did with Voyager), modern Star Trek should make the effort to link up its current shows. There are links between Discovery and Strange New Worlds – but any crossover potential has evaporated due to Discovery shooting forward into the far future.

Beckett Mariner and Jennifer the Andorian in the late 24th Century.

This also applies to alternate realities, most significantly the Kelvin timeline which is supposedly being brought back for a fourth film. The Kelvin films served a purpose in the late 2000s and early 2010s, but as I’ve argued in the past, is it really a good idea to bring back that setting – as well as its presentation of characters who have recently been recast for Strange New Worlds – with everything else that Star Trek has going on?

In 2009, it was possible for new fans to jump from the Kelvin films to other iterations of Star Trek and keep up with what’s going on. But we’ve had more than 100 new episodes of Star Trek since then across several different eras, some including recast versions of characters who appeared in the Kelvin timeline films. I’m not so sure that a new Kelvin timeline film serves its intended purpose any more.

Captain Pike in the 23rd Century.

I wouldn’t want to see any of the shows currently in production shut down before their time. We’ve only just got started with Strange New Worlds, for instance, and I’m hopeful that that series will run for at least five seasons (to complete Captain Pike’s five-year mission!) But as the current crop of shows wind down, the producers at Paramount need to consider their next moves very carefully. Where should Star Trek go from here, and where should its focus be?

Discovery’s 32nd Century is certainly a contender, and setting the stage for new adventures years after the stories we know provides a soft reboot for the franchise while also opening up new storytelling possibilities. But it would also be great to see Star Trek return to the late 24th or early 25th Centuries of the Picard era, picking up story threads from The Next Generation era – Star Trek’s real “golden age” in the 1990s. Setting all (or almost all) of its films, shows, miniseries, and one-shot stories in a single, unified timeline has many advantages, and would be to the franchise’s overall benefit.

Stay tuned, because I have a longer article about this in the pipeline!

“Hot Take” #4:
Far Beyond The Stars is an unenjoyable episode, albeit one with a very important message.

Benny Russell in Far Beyond The Stars.

This is my way of saying that “I don’t like Far Beyond The Stars” while still giving credit to the moral story at its core. Star Trek has always been a franchise that’s brought moral fables to screen, and Far Beyond The Stars does this in a very intense – and almost brutal – way, shining a light on America’s racist past and present.

But as I’ve already discussed with The Inner Light above, the way in which this story is presented doesn’t really work for me. I find Benny Russell’s story sympathetic… but because what’s happening is so far removed from the events of Deep Space Nine, it’s difficult to turn that investment over the course of a single episode into anything substantial. The “it was all a dream or a vision” explanation also hammers this home; whatever was happening to Captain Sisko was taking place outside of the real world – perhaps inside his head, perhaps as a vision from the Prophets – and thus it doesn’t feel like it matters – in the context of the show – in the same way as other, similar stories.

Julius and Benny.

Far Beyond The Stars is comparable to The Inner Light insofar as it steps out of the Star Trek franchise’s fictional future. In this case, the story returns to our real world a few short years in the past. While there are occasional flashes of Star Trek’s signature optimism, the darker tone of the story combines with its real-world setting to feel different; separate from not only the events of Star Trek, but its entire universe.

“But that’s the whole point!” fans of Far Beyond The Stars are itching to tell me. And I agree! Far Beyond The Stars knows what it’s trying to be and knows the kind of story it wants to tell and goes for it, 100%. I’d even say that it achieves what it set out to. But that doesn’t make it a fun watch, an entertaining story, or an episode I’m keen to revisit. As with The Inner Light, I almost always skip over Far Beyond The Stars when I’m watching Deep Space Nine.

The unnamed preacher.

Perhaps if I were an American, more of Far Beyond The Stars’ real-world elements would hit closer to home. But when I first saw the episode in the late ’90s here in the UK, I confess that at least parts of it went way over my head. That’s perhaps my own bias showing – but the whole point of this exercise is to discuss parts of the Star Trek franchise beginning with my own biases and opinions!

Having re-watched Far Beyond The Stars after spending time living in both the United States and South Africa – two societies which continue to wrangle with legacies of structural and systemic racial discrimination – I definitely felt its hard-hitting message a lot more. In fact, Far Beyond The Stars could be a great episode to use as a starting point for a broader conversation about race and structural racism. But having a moral message – especially a very on-the-nose one – doesn’t always make for the most interesting or enjoyable story.

Sisko sees himself reflected as Benny Russell at the end of the episode.

I don’t find Far Beyond The Stars to be “uncomfortable” to watch. The racial aspects of its story have purpose, and even with the progress that America has made since the turn of the millennium, many of the racial issues that Far Beyond The Stars highlights are just as relevant today as they were twenty-five years ago. But I guess what I’d say about the episode is that it doesn’t deliver what I personally find interesting and enjoyable about an episode of Star Trek.

Taken as a one-off, I can put up with Far Beyond The Stars. It didn’t become a major recurring thing in Deep Space Nine, and while Captain Sisko would recall the events on more than one occasion, it didn’t come to dominate the latter part of Deep Space Nine’s run in any way. So in that sense, I’m content to set Far Beyond The Stars to one side, acknowledging what it brought to the table in terms of allegory and morality while being content to rewatch it infrequently.

“Hot Take” #5:
Canon matters – up to a point.

The original USS Enterprise.

There seems to be a black-and-white, either/or debate in the Star Trek fan community when it comes to the franchise’s internal canon. Some folks are adamant that the tiniest minutia of canon must be “respected” at all costs, criticising things like the redesign of uniforms or even the recasting of characters because it doesn’t fit precisely with what came before. Then there are others who say that “it’s all just a story,” and that canon can be entirely ignored if a new writer has an idea for a story. I don’t fall into either camp!

Canon matters because internal consistency matters. Internal consistency is – for me, at least – an absolutely essential part of the pathway to suspension of disbelief. If I’m to believe that transporters and warp cores exist, the way they work and the way they’re presented on screen has to be basically consistent from one Star Trek story to the next.

The USS Discovery at warp.

The same applies to characters. If a character has a background as an assassin and that’s a central part of their characterisation in one story, the next episode can’t arbitrarily change that and make them into a marine biologist because the plot demands it. Characters need to feel like real people, and the world they inhabit needs to operate by its established rules.

Luckily for Star Trek’s writers, there is a lot of flexibility in those rules! Most of the specifics of how individual pieces of technology work have never been delved into in any detail, and there’s a lot we don’t know about even the most basic of things within the Star Trek universe. So new writers find themselves with considerable leeway if they want to make a change or do something differently for the sake of a story.

A combadge from an alternate timeline.

But there is a limit to that – or at least there ought to be. And the Star Trek franchise has tripped up by introducing new elements that seem to tread on the toes of what has already been established, even if they don’t technically overwrite anything. Spock’s family is a case in point. The Final Frontier gave Spock a half-brother who had never been mentioned, and then Discovery came along and gave him an adopted sister as well. Neither of these additions overwrote what we know of Spock’s family history… but they definitely came close.

On the other side of things, I’m quite okay with Star Trek making changes and updates to its visual style. The redesign of the USS Enterprise that debuted in Discovery and has been expanded upon for Strange New Worlds is a great example of one way that the franchise has modernised its look without really “damaging” established canon. All that’s required to get around the apparent visual changes – for anyone who feels it’s necessary – is to say that the Enterprise must’ve undergone some kind of retrofit in between Pike’s command and Kirk’s.

Sarek and Michael Burnham in Discovery’s premiere.

Where canon matters to me is in terms of characterisation and story. If we’ve established, for example, that the Vulcans and Romulans are related to one another, then future stories must remain consistent with that; there can be no “Romulan origin story” that tries to say that they evolved separately, for example. Likewise for characters. We all love a good character arc – but if a character’s personality and background are established, changing those fundamentals in an arbitrary manner should be off the table.

So to the canon purists, my message is going to be “loosen up a little!” And to the canon ignorers, what I’d say is “internal consistency matters.”

“Hot Take” #6:
The Kelvin films got a lot right – and could be textbook examples of how to reboot a franchise.

Spock, Kirk, and Dr McCoy in Star Trek Beyond.

Even today, more than a decade after 2009’s Star Trek kicked off the Kelvin timeline, I still have Trekkie friends who have refused to watch them. Other fans who showed up at the cinema were unimpressed with what they saw, and the Kelvin films can feel like a controversial part of the Star Trek franchise sometimes. For my two cents, though, although the Kelvin films were imperfect and certainly different to what had come before, they managed to get a lot of things right. I’d even say that Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness could be used as textbook case studies in how to reboot a franchise successfully!

Modern Star Trek – from Discovery to Picard and beyond – would simply not exist without the Kelvin films. When Enterprise was cancelled in 2005, it really did feel as though the Star Trek franchise itself had died and wouldn’t be returning. Even as someone who hadn’t been a regular viewer of Enterprise, that still stung! But if there had been doubts over the Star Trek brand and its ability to reach out to new audiences and bring in huge numbers of viewers, 2009’s Star Trek shattered them.

Transwarp beaming.

Into Darkness eclipsed even the massively high numbers of its predecessor and remains the cinematic franchise’s high-water mark in terms of audience figures and profitability, so it’s not exactly shocking to learn that Paramount hopes to return to the Kelvin cast for a fourth outing next year! These films took what had been a complicated franchise with a reputation for being geeky and nerdy and skimmed off a lot of the fluff. What resulted was a trio of decent sci-fi action films that may just have saved the franchise’s reputation.

The Kelvin films also gave Star Trek a visual overhaul, modernising the franchise’s aesthetic and visual style while still retaining all of the core elements that longstanding fans expected. Transporters were still there – but they looked sleeker and prettier. Warp drive was still present – but a new visual effect was created. Many of these aesthetic elements have remained part of the franchise ever since, appearing in the various productions that we’ve seen since Star Trek returned to the small screen in 2017.

The USS Enterprise.

By establishing an alternate reality, the Kelvin films found scope to take familiar characters to very different places. We got to see how Kirk and Spock met for the first time at Starfleet Academy – a premise that Gene Roddenberry had considered all the way back during The Original Series’ run – but with a twist. Star Trek reintroduced us to classic characters, but put its own spin on them, providing a satisfactory in-universe explanation for why so many things were different.

But at the same time, the inclusion of Leonard Nimoy’s Spock from the prime timeline anchored the Kelvin films, providing a link to what had come before. This reboot wasn’t about erasing anything; it was an expansion of Star Trek into a new timeline, one that had basically unlimited potential to tell some very different stories. The trio of films took advantage of that, and while I would argue that there’s no pressing need to revisit the Kelvin timeline right now, I absolutely do appreciate what they did for Star Trek.

Two Spocks.

As a reboot, the Kelvin films succeeded in their ambition. They reinvented Star Trek just enough for mainstream audiences to discover the franchise – many for the first time. Some of those folks stuck around and have become big Trekkies all off the back of what the Kelvin films did. They updated Star Trek without overwriting anything, and they set the stage for further expansion and growth. By every measure, the Kelvin films were successful.

That isn’t to say they’re my favourite part of the franchise! But as a fan who wants Star Trek to stick around and continue to be successful, projects like the Kelvin films are essential.

So that’s it!

Were those takes as hot as a supernova?

I hope that this was a bit of fun rather than anything to get too seriously upset about. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions about the episodes, films, characters, and storylines that Star Trek creates, and whether I’m thrilled about something, hated it, or have mixed feelings, I will always try to explain myself and provide reasons for why I feel the way that I do. But at the end of the day, all of this is just the subjective opinion of one person!

We’re very lucky to have so much Star Trek content coming our way in the next few years. It seems like the franchise will make it to its sixtieth anniversary in 2026 with new films and episodes still being produced, and there can’t be many entertainment franchises that could make such a claim to longevity!

There are definitely points on the list above that I could expand upon, and I’m sure I could think of a few more “hot takes” if I tried! So stay tuned for more Star Trek content to come here on the website as we move into the summer season.

The Star Trek franchise – including all properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Picard theories – Season 2 finale

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2 and casting information for Season 3. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: DiscoveryEnterprise, VoyagerFirst Contact, and The Next Generation.

After a plodding and occasionally frustrating season, Star Trek: Picard wrapped up this week. Going into the season finale we still had more than twenty theories on the table – though some were definitely beginning to feel unlikely! This week we’re going to conclude my Season 2 theory list and take a look at how some of those remaining theories landed.

Across the season as a whole, I had some theory successes – as well as more than a few misses! But as I always say, all of this is just for fun – so the theories that ended up being completely wrong are totally fine by me! It was enjoyable to spend the extra time thinking about where the story of Picard Season 2 could be headed, and even when I was wide of the mark it was still a great excuse to dive deeply into the Star Trek galaxy.

So without any further ado, let’s start wrapping up the theory list. We’ll begin with the theories that were confirmed, then take a look at the ones that were debunked. There are also a couple of theories that may survive going into Season 3, so stay tuned in the days and weeks ahead for a preliminary Season 3 theory list!

Confirmed theory #1:
A character from The Next Generation made an appearance.

Wesley Crusher!

Wesley Crusher’s return was one of the high points of the season finale for me! After a thirty-year absence from the role, Wil Wheaton stepped back into the shoes of Wesley Crusher and showed us a glimpse of his life as a Traveler. The fact that this was kept secret and not spoiled ahead of time made it one of the biggest surprise moments in the finale – and while I had been speculating that at least one character from The Next Generation would appear all season long, I would’ve never guessed that it would be Wesley!

With the rest of The Next Generation crew reuniting next season, it’s incredibly sweet that we got this moment with Wesley before Picard wrapped up. It would’ve been amazing to see him reunite with Picard himself, of course, but just seeing Wesley back in action, knowing that he’s living an amazing life and that he still exists in the Star Trek timeline was absolutely fantastic.

Wesley’s appearance also tied together the Travelers from The Next Generation with the Watchers and Supervisors from The Original Series – and connected in a big way with Tallinn’s role this season. It was an incredibly creative way to bring these storylines together and to connect with over fifty years’ worth of Star Trek’s history. All in all, one of the season finale’s best moments.

Confirmed theory #2:
Seven of Nine was given a Starfleet commission.

Captain Seven!

Maybe it would be fairer to call this one “semi-confirmed,” as Seven’s commission from Admiral Picard in Farewell seemed very much like a brevet; a less-than-official or impermanent role that came about as a result of the unique circumstances of working with the Borg. But regardless, I had speculated that Seven would join Starfleet before the end of the season, and technically that happened!

It was a fun moment to see Seven assume command of the USS Stargazer, but moreover I was impressed with the way her season-long arc took her from a place where she hated the Borg (and the Borg side of herself) and was advocating for shooting first and asking questions later all the way to placing her trust in the Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid. Seven’s growth got her to a place where her trust and her actions allowed her to play a definitive role in saving the entire quadrant from the mysterious anomaly.

Confirmed theory #3:
The Borg’s request for help from the Federation turned out to be genuine.

This is the disaster that the Borg wanted to prevent.

It was implied in The Star Gazer at the beginning of the season that the Borg’s message may have been a ruse; a deception that was intended to be the pretext for a new Borg invasion of the Federation. However, just because some of our characters believed that to be true didn’t mean it was true, and I wondered whether the story might end up saying that the Borg were genuinely asking for the Federation’s help.

That turned out to be correct – in a roundabout way, of course. The Borg weren’t fleeing from some unknown assailant, as I had speculated, nor were they crippled following the events of Voyager’s finale. Their intention was to help – to join with the Federation and use their technology to prevent the attack on the Alpha Quadrant by whoever sent the mysterious anomaly.

Confirmed theory #4:
The masked, hooded Borg was not the “real” Borg Queen.

The Borg Queen, unmasked.

I daresay this one had been increasingly obvious for at least half of the season, and especially after the way Hide and Seek had ended a week earlier, it seemed all but certain that the Borg Queen on the bridge of the Stargazer would turn out to be the Dr Jurati hybrid as opposed to the original Borg Queen. This turned out to be true – although why Farewell attempted to treat this as a big, shocking revelation is something I’m not sure of!

Ever since we first saw the masked Borg Queen at the beginning of the season I felt sure we’d find out who was behind the mask. Along with Dr Jurati, earlier in the season I’d suggested Admiral Janeway, Soji, and Renée Picard as possible candidates.

Confirmed theory #5:
Elnor was restored to life in the 25th Century.

Cadet Elnor aboard the USS Excelsior.

I’m afraid that I don’t like the way that Elnor’s story was handled as the season wrapped up. On the one hand, I’m pleased that a character like Elnor – who has a lot of potential as someone young and from a unique background – hasn’t been permanently killed off. However, his survival undermines Raffi’s season-long arc of coming to terms with guilt and grief, as well as renders one of the best and most emotional moments in Hide and Seek entirely impotent.

Regardless of all that, I had been speculating that Elnor would be saved ever since he was killed, and as I said last time, I wasn’t prepared to drop the theory with only one week remaining in the season. I’m glad I didn’t – because it turns out I was right and this is another one I can place in the “win” column for Season 2!

Confirmed theory #6:
Rios chose to remain in the 21st Century with Teresa and Ricardo.

Rios chose to stay behind.

This was another disappointing storyline, unfortunately. As I’d been saying all season long, the way Rios regressed as a character from his presentation as a Starfleet captain at the beginning of the season was ridiculously poor, and his choice to stay in the 21st Century really just capped off what has been a truly disappointing season for him.

Rios spent most of his time in Season 2 disconnected from all of the other main characters, spending his time only with Ricardo and Teresa, so even his goodbye with the other characters didn’t hit as hard as it could’ve. As I said last time, I never really felt that Rios and Picard were anything more than acquaintances; work friends, not real friends. Also, I guess Rios must’ve not been paying attention in history classes at Starfleet Academy, because World War III is about to break out, followed by the post-atomic horror. He’s about to live through the worst fifty years in all of human history in the Star Trek timeline. So… good job, idiot.

Confirmed theory #7:
Q shielded Picard and the crew from the changes to the timeline.

Oh, Q.

The season finale finally saw us get an explanation from Q as to what he’d done and why. As part of a plan to help Picard overcome trauma and grief from his childhood and his mother’s death, Q set a very elaborate plan into motion, changing the past and ensuring that Picard and the crew of La Sirena were the only ones unaffected.

As we saw in the finale, Q’s powers could be used to send people’s consciousnesses through time or even across the divide between different realities, meaning that must’ve been what he did in the first place to set up this puzzle. It had seemed all but certain that this was the case, but until we heard from Q himself and gave him the chance to explain what had happened I wasn’t ready to call it confirmed.

So those theories were confirmed.

We have one theory that I’m calling “semi-confirmed,” but we won’t be sure about its status until we start to learn more about Season 3.

Semi-confirmed theory:
The season will end on a cliffhanger.

The mysterious anomaly.

What’s going on with the anomaly? We didn’t get any kind of explanation for what it was, where it came from, or who might be responsible for attempting to destroy the entire Alpha Quadrant… so I think that this is setting up at least part of next season’s story. If that’s correct, then this theory that I’d been running all season long will, in a roundabout way, turn out to be correct!

However, if the anomaly isn’t revisited next time, we’ll have to call this one debunked. At the moment it feels like we’ll have to come back to the anomaly in some way, just based on its mysterious and unexplained nature, but then again the Season 1 super-synths (and other Season 1 plot threads) didn’t come back into play in any way during Season 2… so I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Regardless, I’m calling it “semi-confirmed” for now.

So that theory was semi-confirmed.

Now we’ll go through the theories that were debunked by Farewell and definitely won’t be returning for Season 3!

Debunked theory #1:
Some or all of the main characters from The Next Generation will rescue Picard from 2024.

The main cast of The Next Generation in Season 5.

I had wondered if, with Picard stranded in the 21st Century, some or all of the main characters from The Next Generation would show up to rescue him. Given that Q’s powers seemed to be in decline, and with few other options for getting back to the 25th Century, it seemed like a plausible idea, one that could’ve potentially set the stage for Season 3. It would’ve also tied in thematically with what we saw at the end of Season 1, where Acting Captain Riker arrived at the last minute to save the day.

However, it didn’t happen. Q was able to use the last of his energy to get Picard home, and the only character from The Next Generation to appear was the aforementioned Wesley Crusher.

Debunked theory #2:
The “two Renées” comment refers to Picard’s nephew.

René Picard – not to be confused with Renée Picard.

Though it would’ve been somewhat of a bolt from the blue, I was wondering if the Borg Queen’s cryptic comment in Hide and Seek about there being “two Renées” might’ve been referring to Picard’s nephew. In the prime timeline, René Picard was the son of Jean-Luc’s brother Robert. The two were killed in a fire at the vineyard during the events of Star Trek: Generations, and I wondered if the Borg Queen may have been referring to that moment as it was another significant one for Picard and his family.

As it turned out, “two Renées” were required to complete the mission. With Dr Adam Soong on the prowl, Tallinn disguised herself as Renée and allowed Dr Soong to kill her in order for the real Renée to board the Europa Mission spacecraft, setting up her significant discovery and the role she would ultimately play in creating the brighter future that we’ve come to know in Star Trek.

Debunked theory #3:
An alternate reality is about to be created.

“An alternate reality?”

With the Dr Jurati-Borg Queen hybrid departing Earth in the 21st Century, and a cryptic message about “two Renées” to consider, I wondered if the end of the season might’ve seen some kind of permanent divergence in the timeline. One timeline may have been the familiar one, but the other could’ve been completely different either because of a very different Borg Collective or even because of the actions of Dr Adam Soong.

That didn’t happen, however, and it seems as though the prime timeline has been restored without the Confederation timeline – or indeed any other alternate reality – coming into existence. That keeps things nice and simple, at least!

Debunked theory #4:
The loose ends from Season 1 will be tied up.

What happened to Narek?

I’m disappointed that Picard Season 2 did basically nothing at all to wrap up any of the loose ends from Season 1 – and there were quite a few. A rushed finale last time around left significant chunks of story still on the table, and there were some pretty sizeable unanswered questions remaining. Even just a few lines of dialogue would’ve been something, but we didn’t get that.

It’s possible that Season 3 may bring back a faction like the super-synths, in which case we may learn more about them or see other connections to events from Season 1, so I’m not entirely giving up on this one. But explanations for what happened to Narek, what became of the surviving ex-Borg, the fate of the beacon on Aia, and so on could’ve been addressed this time. It’s a shame that there wasn’t time to do so.

Debunked theory #5:
Picard and the crew will “borrow” Renée’s Europa Mission spacecraft to get home.

The Europa Mission launch.

With La Sirena having been surrendered to the Borg Queen, the question of how Picard and the surviving crew might make it home came up. I wondered if part of the reason for making Renée an astronaut with access to a spacecraft might be so that Picard and the others could use it to return to their own time period. Comments earlier in the season about how records of the Europa Mission had been lost could’ve also fed into this theory.

As above, it was ultimately Q who saved the day, sending Picard and the crew home using what remained of his power. I wasn’t especially fond of the Renée and Europa Mission storylines, so this could’ve been a way to make them feel more directly relevant to the plot.

Debunked theory #6:
Q is not responsible for changing the timeline.

Q’s final snap.

This is a theory that I put together before the season had even aired a single episode! In short, I felt that making Q the direct antagonist of the season would go against his established characterisation, and that there didn’t seem to be a plausible reason why Q might want to punish Picard in such extreme fashion. It also seemed odd that pre-season marketing had essentially revealed one of the season’s biggest narrative points months in advance, so I wondered if there might be more going on than we had been led to believe.

Whatever we might think of Q’s reasoning, it turned out that he was responsible for changing the timeline after all – something that had been seeming increasingly likely as the season wore on. The resolution to this story was undeniably rushed, and I would question the idea of putting so many lives at risk – as well as getting people killed and transforming the destinies of others – but ultimately this is how Q decided to help Picard learn to let go of his trauma and grief and choose to become the person he has been. In a sense, there were echoes of Tapestry – a Season 6 episode of The Next Generation – in the way this came about, making it feel in line with other Q stories at least to a degree.

In retrospect, clinging on to this theory for as long as I did may have been a mistake, and it could have arguably been debunked at an earlier stage.

Debunked theory #7:
Other candidates for changing the timeline.

The super-synths.

Earlier in the season I’d proposed a few other candidates who might’ve been responsible for changing the timeline if, in fact, Q had been innocent! Though there are many factions in Star Trek that could potentially possess time travel technology and might wish to mess with the Federation, based on what we knew about Picard I proposed three candidates: the Zhat Vash, the secretive Romulan sect who were the main antagonists in Season 1, the super-synths from the Season 1 finale, and the Borg. By the time we got to Farewell this week, only the Borg seemed even slightly plausible.

But with the revelation that Q was responsible for changing the timeline and setting everything up, none of that came to pass! It could’ve made for an interesting story in some respects, with Q being less an outright antagonist and more of a helpful force, guiding Picard to the conclusion of the mystery. But that would have been an entirely different story!

Debunked theory #8:
The Borg are fighting a war – and they’re losing.

The Borg ship in Farewell.

The Borg’s cry for help at the beginning of the season led to a lot of speculation! Why might the Borg be asking for help, and why from Picard specifically? One possibility seemed to be that the Borg may be on the losing side of a war. We’d seen this story play out in the Voyager episode Scorpion – in which Seven of Nine was first introduced – when the Borg bit off more than they could chew by trying to assimilate Species 8472! It seemed at least possible that something similar could have happened this time around.

As above, we learned that the Borg’s motive was significantly more altruistic. Led by the Dr Jurati hybrid, this version of the Collective aimed to prevent an anomaly from causing a destructive event that would’ve wiped out the Alpha Quadrant.

Debunked theory #9:
Kore Soong will team up with Picard and the crew of La Sirena.

Kore Soong.

Although the arrival of Wesley Crusher (one of the finale’s best moments) salvaged an ending for Kore, her storyline this season was one of the absolute worst and most meaningless. Kore was repetitive, and her story felt like a cheap recycling of the Soji and Dahj stories from Season 1. She mainly existed to prop up the otherwise entirely one-dimensional Dr Adam Soong, and while at first it seemed like her existence and mysterious health condition could’ve led to a nuanced and interesting antagonist, that went out the window pretty quickly.

One way to have potentially made something of Kore would’ve been to have her work with Picard and the others to stop her father. It didn’t happen, and that meant that there was literally no on-screen interaction between Isa Briones and the rest of the cast, which was a real shame.

Debunked theory #10:
The Q Continuum has been attacked.

Picard and Q.

While not technically “debunked” outright, Q’s apparent death means that revisiting the Q Continuum is incredibly unlikely in the near future. And as we learned in Discovery Season 4, there’s been no Federation-Q Continuum contact for hundreds of years as of the 32nd Century, so again it seems highly unlikely that spending any more time with other members of the Q Continuum is on the cards.

Earlier in the season it seemed plausible that the explanation for Q’s declining powers could be that the entire Q Continuum had come under attack. If something that Picard had done – or hadn’t done – was responsible, that could have explained both Q’s desire to change the timeline and the angrier, more aggressive presentation of the character.

It didn’t happen, though, and although Q himself seems to be gone, as far as we know the rest of the Continuum is okay!

Debunked theory #11:
Q is angry with Picard for “giving up.”

Grumpy Q.

This is again connected to the angrier presentation of Q that we saw in episodes like Penance. I wondered if Q’s motivation for putting Picard through a punishment might be because he was angry with the way Picard gave up and recused himself from galactic affairs in the decade leading up to Season 1. Because we know Q considered Picard as a friend and a favourite, seeing him depressed might’ve been something that angered Q.

Q saw potential in Picard in The Next Generation – including the potential for humanity to one day achieve a similar level of understanding as the Q themselves, so seeing Picard’s fall from grace could have been part of why Q was so upset.

Ultimately it didn’t turn out that way – and I think I’m glad that it didn’t. Though there are definitely issues with the story as it was written, this presentation of Q would have been much more antagonistic and vengeful.

Debunked theory #12:
The Borg are aware that Picard is now a synth – and his synthetic status is part of the reason why they waited until now to make contact.


In short, I wondered if the reason for the Borg’s re-emergence at the beginning of the season might’ve been connected in some way to Picard becoming a synth at the end of Season 1. Because we know that the Borg seek “perfection” through the merging of organic and synthetic life, Picard’s new synthetic body might’ve been something that they desired to assimilate.

As above, the story of Season 2 was a standalone affair that didn’t connect to Season 1 in a major way. Aside from one mention by Q in the episode Penance and one by Rios in Assimilation, Picard’s synthetic status wasn’t brought up and had no bearing on the plot.

Debunked theory #13:
The Borg ship from The Star Gazer crossed over from the Confederation timeline.

The Borg vessel identified as “Legion.”

Because we didn’t know why the Borg were asking for help, I wondered if their vessel might’ve somehow found a way to punch through from the Confederation timeline to the prime timeline. This might’ve been able to happen if an alternate reality had been created, one in which the Confederation became dominant.

We now know the Borg vessel’s true origin: it was the flagship (or possibly the only ship) of the Borg faction led by the Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid, placing it firmly in the prime timeline.

Debunked theory #14:
Rios will bring Teresa and Ricardo to the 25th Century.

Teresa and Rios aboard La Sirena.

An inversion of what actually happened with Rios and Teresa, this story would’ve mimicked that of Kirk and Dr Gillian Taylor in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Dr Taylor accompanied Kirk and the others to the 23rd Century at the conclusion of their mission, and I wondered whether Rios might offer Teresa and Ricardo the same opportunity.

As noted above, Rios ultimately chose to stay in the 21st Century. Though we don’t know whether Q even had the power to send two extra people, it seems possible at least. But for whatever reason, Rios chose to remain behind.

Debunked theory #15:
Teresa and Ricardo are Rios’ ancestors.

That could’ve been awkward…

One way to potentially resolve the Rios-Teresa romance could’ve been to make Teresa and Ricardo his distant ancestors! This would’ve also tied in thematically with a season in which Picard met one of his own ancestors, and it could’ve provided some entertainment value, similar to comparable storylines in the likes of Back to the Future.

Debunked theory #16:
Rios will be killed and Picard will assume command of the new USS Stargazer.

Rios in the captain’s chair of the USS Stargazer.

As Rios’ storyline progressed and his relationship with Teresa deepened, I wondered if he might’ve ended up dead as a way to write him out of the show. Picard hasn’t pulled any punches when it comes to killing off characters, and with a need to free up space in the cast ahead of Season 3, Rios definitely seemed in danger after a story that cut him adrift from the rest of the crew.

Rios would ultimately end up staying in the 21st Century, and the captaincy of the Stargazer has fallen, in the short-term at least, to Seven of Nine. Whether she’ll still be in the chair when Season 3 arrives is anyone’s guess, though!

So those theories were debunked.

We have two theories that Farewell seems to have neither confirmed nor debunked, and those remain possibilities going into Season 3. It depends on what we see in terms of pre-release trailers and the like, but these two might just sneak back in next time. Watch this space!

Returning theory #1:
The Borg Collective was badly damaged in the Voyager episode Endgame and has been unable to recover.

Admiral Janeway and the Borg Queen.

It seemed to be suggested by Dr Jurati in the season premiere that the Borg have been in a weakened state, and I wondered if that might be because of the actions of a time-travelling Admiral Janeway in Voyager’s finale. Janeway introduced a virus into the Borg Queen that severely damaged her, her base of operations, and dozens of Borg vessels on the way to helping Voyager make it back to Earth. Those events have never been addressed on screen, and with the return of the Borg it seemed possible that we might be about to learn more.

It didn’t happen in Season 2, but with the Borg back – at least, one faction of Borg – maybe we’ll discover the extent of the damage to the Collective in Season 3. I’ve long assumed that the Borg were adaptable and clever enough to eventually recover from the damage inflicted upon them, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see!

Returning theory #2:
There will be a Borg civil war between a faction inspired by the Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid and the rest of the Collective.

The Dr Jurati-Borg Queen hybrid.

We don’t know exactly how the Dr Jurati-led Borg and the rest of the Collective have interacted in the four centuries since she left Earth. At one point it seemed to be implied that this faction would replace the Borg Collective, but doing so would effectively wipe out the entire prime timeline. So I have to assume that the Dr Jurati-led Borg are distinct and separate from the main Collective – but would the rest of the Borg be okay with that?

I had speculated that we might learn that the Jurati-Borg were fleeing from a civil war, one in which the regular Borg had somehow gained the upper hand. That could have accounted for their request for help from the Federation. However, that didn’t happen in Farewell… but I don’t think we can rule out the idea of these factions being at odds just yet.

So those theories may return in time for Season 3!

The USS Excelsior.

That concludes this season’s theory list. In addition to the pair of stragglers directly above, Farewell did actually inspire a couple of other Season 3 theory ideas, so perhaps in the days or weeks ahead I’ll put together a very preliminary Season 3 theory list. Watch this space for that!

Picard Season 2 wasn’t the best that modern Star Trek has had to offer. Its modern-day setting hampered it to a great degree, and while there were occasional flashes of brilliance, overall the story felt quite disjointed, with individuals or pairs of characters seemingly embroiled in their own distinct narratives for the most part, with only occasional link-ups between different storylines.

The USS Stargazer.

That being said, it was fun to speculate and theorise about the season while it was rumbling along. I had some interesting ideas along the way – some of which would’ve made for a radically different story! At the end of the day, this is all just for fun; a chance to spend more time in the Star Trek galaxy. And I had fun coming up with these theories and writing them down while the season was ongoing.

Season 3 already has some issues – and if you want to see me talk about some of my criticisms of the casting in particular, click or tap here for that. However, the return of The Next Generation characters is a tantalising idea, and I’m hopeful that Picard Season 3 – supposedly the show’s swansong – will be exciting, dramatic, and fun.

Over the weeks and months ahead, stay tuned. There’s plenty more Star Trek content to come here on the website, and when we get trailers or news about Season 3 I’ll do my best to take a look at it and give my thoughts. Until next time!

Star Trek: Picard Season 2 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, Scandinavia, Latin America, and Australia, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and the rest of the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Picard Season 3 – thoughts on the casting situation

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

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

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

The USS Stargazer in Farewell.

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

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

The cast of The Next Generation in Season 2.

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

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

Soji in Season 1.

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

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

Soji was sidelined for all of Season 2.

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

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

Holo-Elnor in Season 2.

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

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