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.
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
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
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
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
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
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 lot – Human Error is one of the more interesting, and perhaps some of the themes it touches on will be relevant this time around… even if the main plot points themselves are unlikely to be!
Bonus: Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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 retcons, inconsistencies, and everything else as long as the show is basically fun.
And hey, if it doesn’t go well, there’s always Strange New Worlds Season 2 to look forward to!
Star Trek: Picard Season 3 will premiere on Paramount+ in the United States on the 16th of February 2023, and in the United Kingdom and around the world on the 17th of February 2023. Seasons 1 and 2 are already available to stream or buy on DVD/Blu-ray. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties discussed above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. Some images used above courtesy of StarTrek.com. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the entire Star Trek franchise, including the most recent seasons of Discovery, Picard, and Strange New Worlds. There are also spoilers for upcoming and unreleased Star Trek projects.
By almost every conceivable measure, 2022 has been a fantastic year for the Star Trek franchise. We’ve seen new projects become successful, ongoing series really hitting their stride, and more seasons and individual episodes of Star Trek than at any time in the past. Barely a week has gone by without a brand-new episode to get stuck into – and with different shows targeting wildly different audiences, it really feels like Star Trek in 2022 has had something to offer to practically everyone.
But that isn’t the whole story, and unfortunately it feels as though 2022 has also been a pretty dark year for Star Trek – one in which major mistakes have been made that could very easily lead to serious consequences in the medium-to-long term, and perhaps even premature cancellations for some or all of the shows currently in production.
On this occasion, I want to look back at 2022 from the perspective of a Star Trek fan, and draw attention to both the highs and lows of a rollercoaster year for the franchise. And there’s quite a lot to say, so make sure you’re sitting comfortably!
My usual caveat applies: everything we’re going to talk about today is the subjective opinion of one person. There are a lot of reasons to think positively and optimistically about Star Trek, and the fact that I have some negative or uncomfortable points to raise shouldn’t be interpreted as me being some kind of “hater” of new Star Trek. I love the franchise, I want to see it succeed, and I raise these issues not out of spite but out of genuine concern. If you don’t agree with me, that’s okay. There’s room within the Star Trek fan community for polite discussions and civil disagreements!
Now that that’s out of the way, we can begin.
It seems only fair to allow the Star Trek franchise to put its best foot forward, so we’ll start with what went well in 2022. And there are several incredible highlights, any one of which alone would ordinarily mean we’d consider 2022 to have been a huge success for Star Trek.
Some of the best entertainment experiences that I had all year came from the Star Trek franchise, and those incredible episodes and stories weren’t limited to a single season or a single show. In fact, it wouldn’t be unfair to say that all five of 2022’s Star Trek productions had some fantastic high points; episodes or at least moments within episodes that had me on the edge of my seat, jumping for joy, or in tears.
Strange New Worlds Season 1 was fantastic:
The first season of Strange New Worlds was, without a doubt, the best that modern Star Trek has had to offer – and one of the finest seasons in the entire fifty-six-year history of the franchise. A triumphant return to an older, more episodic style of storytelling that still retained many modern serialised elements represents a model that I genuinely believe every other current and upcoming project in the franchise needs to seriously consider adopting. The diversity of stories on display in Strange New Worlds Season 1 was unprecedented in the franchise’s modern era.
Strange New Worlds’ premiere was also the culmination of a fan campaign to get Anson Mount and Ethan Peck to reprise their popular and incredibly successful roles from Discovery’s second season. The show’s very existence is testament to Paramount’s willingness to take on board feedback from Star Trek fans and a wider audience, and the fact that the corporation backed up this relative gamble by awarding the series a decently high budget should be acknowledged. Paramount didn’t have to make Strange New Worlds – plans were afoot for other Star Trek shows and spin-offs, but the corporation reacted positively to feedback from fans and viewers, and the result was an absolutely outstanding season of television that has hopefully laid the groundwork for one of the best Star Trek series of the current era – if not of all-time.
It really is hard to overstate just how incredible Strange New Worlds’ first season really was. In my spoiler-free review I talked about how the show enthusiastically tried out different genres, managing to thread the needle of staying close to Star Trek’s roots while still feeling like a thoroughly modern production. There were ten fantastic episodes – and while I had a few story nitpicks, overall the season has to be considered the best since Star Trek returned to the small screen in 2017.
So Strange New Worlds is definitely one of the highlights of 2022 – not just for the Star Trek franchise, but in the entertainment space in general. It’s a show that should be accessible to new and old fans alike, with the potential to expand the Star Trek fandom beyond its current niche.
The Strange New Worlds-Lower Decks crossover announcement:
This is something that I genuinely was not expecting – but it’s a fantastic idea! Star Trek did a fair few crossover episodes in its heyday, and while I guess we can consider parts of Discovery and Strange New Worlds to have crossed over with The Original Series, it isn’t the same as bringing together two shows that are currently in production. With five shows occupying five different time periods and regions of the galaxy, a proper crossover felt like a remote possibility – until this announcement came along at Comic-Con in July.
I mentioned the diversity of genres that Strange New Worlds dabbled in in its first season – well, one of those was comedy! We had two episodes that had overtly comedic premises, and many other moments of humour throughout much of the season. A crossover with Lower Decks – an animated comedy series – is thus not as far-fetched as we might think!
As always in Star Trek, technobabble can account for most things! The crew of the Cerritos could find themselves in the 23rd Century thanks to all manner of phenomena, so there’s no real barrier to bringing the two shows together. With some creative scriptwriting, a solid foundation should be able to bring Boimler, Mariner, and perhaps other members of the Cerritos’ crew aboard Captain Pike’s ship.
This announcement has got a lot of Trekkies very excited, and that’s a great thing. Paramount needs to make moves like these to keep the fan community engaged, and while a crossover may feel very much like fan-service, there’s also a huge potential benefit to bringing together two different parts of the Star Trek franchise. Fans of Lower Decks may check out Strange New Worlds for the first time – and vice-versa. Crossover stories have the potential to benefit both shows and increase viewership, potentially turning casual viewers into fans of the franchise as a whole. If Star Trek is to survive long-term, we need to see more moves like this.
Visual effects and CGI:
Although Discovery’s first season felt like it brought to the table some excellent visual effects, there were some definite disappointments thereafter. The Romulan and Federation fleets seen in the finale of Picard Season 1, for example, were pretty lacklustre; copy-and-paste starships that all looked the same and, in the case of the Starfleet vessels, didn’t even have names and NCC numbers. There were also some pretty sloppy CGI moments in Discovery’s third season – one example that comes to mind is a digital sword that supposedly stabbed a character, but just looked awful.
But in 2022, all that changed. We had a big, beautiful Starfleet armada in Picard’s season premiere and season finale. We had other CGI moments in the Confederation timeline that looked spectacular. Strange New Worlds did some incredible things with practical puppets in conjunction with CGI and visual effects to create some wonderful moments. And Discovery brought to screen one of the most “alien-looking” alien races ever seen in the franchise: Species 10-C.
Both Discovery and Strange New Worlds made excellent use of Paramount’s fancy new AR wall, too. When the AR wall first debuted, I felt there were definitely a few moments where its use was noticeable. But by the time we got to 2022’s Star Trek productions, the creative team and effects artists had clearly grown in both confidence and ability, taking advantage of the AR wall to craft some wonderful environments.
Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention the digital de-ageing of John de Lancie in his initial appearance as Q. That moment, which came at the end of the Picard Season 2 premiere, was absolutely fantastic!
Some of these technologies are very expensive, and Paramount doesn’t have the same resources as the likes of Disney or Netflix, so I can understand why they’re used sparingly in some cases. But overall, I’d give Star Trek’s visual effects and CGI work an A grade for 2022.
Discovery Season 4 ended on a spectacular high:
Although Discovery’s fourth season seemed to drag in places, there’s no denying that the way the season ended was pitch-perfect and went at least some way to making up for earlier narrative missteps. Coming Home (the season finale) was an incredible episode: deeply emotional, visually stunning, and tied up all of the season’s loose ends.
The way in which Season 4 ended showed off the Federation at its very best, racing in to help a planet that had left the organisation simply because they needed assistance and it was the right thing to do. I still get chills just thinking about it, and the way Admiral Vance led the charge, bringing Federation HQ to Earth in its hour of need… it’s one of the best story beats in the season.
After the drama with Unknown Species 10-C was resolved, an epilogue saw Earth coming back into the fold, rejoining the Federation, and this has set the stage for what promises to be a different kind of story in the show’s upcoming fifth season. I would challenge any Discovery-avoider to watch Coming Home and not feel that the show has grown spectacularly since its premiere almost six years ago.
By expanding its cast with some genuinely interesting secondary characters, Discovery is starting down the Deep Space Nine road, where characters outside of the main headliners could be just as important to stories. Although it’s still “the Burnham show” in some ways, there’s movement away from a laser-focus on one character, with others being given moments in the spotlight. That’s all to the good – and as Season 5 approaches, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic.
So that’s what Star Trek got right.
There are some really amazing highlights, and were it not for some of the things we’re about to discuss, they’d have meant that the year 2022 would’ve gone down in history as one of Star Trek’s finest; the beginning of a new “golden age” that would rival the franchise’s 1990s heyday. Strange New Worlds truly excelled, Discovery did some bold and interesting things, and Picard put together a Starfleet armada that was big, diverse, and beautiful. And that’s not even mentioning solid seasons from both Lower Decks and Prodigy that continue to branch out in very different directions.
But that isn’t all there is to say, and now I’m afraid we have to consider some of the ways in which Star Trek went wrong in 2022.
Paramount did serious, almost catastrophic harm to Star Trek in 2022, and I genuinely fear for the franchise’s longer-term prospects. I had felt all but certain that we’d make it to the 60th anniversary in 2026 with new seasons and perhaps even new films being created… but that goal feels pretty far away right now, even with the promise of unannounced projects being worked on behind the scenes.
The simple truth is this: I have no confidence in the leadership team at Paramount. It seems as if they don’t know what they’re doing; they leap from disaster to disaster, damaging trust and confidence in the Star Trek brand, harming the Star Trek fan community, and above all, it feels as if 20th Century thinking is trying – and desperately failing – to lead Paramount into the 21st Century. Without a major change in direction at the top and a serious rethink of the corporation’s attitude and approach, Star Trek will not succeed and will not survive.
The international rollout of Paramount+:
If you’ve been a regular reader here on the website, you may remember that I’ve had a lot to say on this subject. The fact that Paramount was unable to speed up the painfully constipated rollout of its streaming platform – and crucially, the corporation’s unwillingness to broadcast Star Trek on other channels or streaming platforms in countries and territories where Paramount+ isn’t available – has been a dead weight around the neck of the Star Trek franchise, pushing Trekkies away… or into the arms of piracy.
Paramount sits atop a global media empire, and owns television channels in dozens of countries around the world. If the rollout of Paramount+ was so slow, the corporation had months or years in which to make other arrangements to broadcast Star Trek. Prodigy, for instance, is produced in part under Paramount’s Nickelodeon brand – and there are Nickelodeon channels available in more than 100 countries around the world. Why was Prodigy not broadcast on any of them until months after its first season had gotten underway? And why was Strange New Worlds not made available here in the UK on one of the dozen or so channels that Paramount already owns?
These decisions hit the Star Trek fan community hard. But more than that, they greatly harmed Strange New Worlds and Prodigy in particular. In a 21st Century media landscape, word-of-mouth on social media makes all the difference – and Paramount has consistently failed to learn that cutting off a huge portion of the potential audience for its shows means that posts get fewer likes, hashtags don’t trend, and the resulting lack of online chatter harms these shows in the United States as well. The blinkered, short-sighted “America First” approach that the corporation has adopted may have worked fine in the 1980s… but it isn’t the ’80s any more. The internet is one single worldwide audience, and by denying a huge portion of that audience access to Paramount+ and the Star Trek franchise, Paramount has done immeasurable harm to Lower Decks, Strange New Worlds, Prodigy, and the entire franchise.
At time of writing, Paramount+ doesn’t even have the faintest idea about a launch in countries like Japan or South Korea, and even in western Europe, coverage is spotty. And you can forget about the hugely growing markets in places like China or Africa – Paramount doesn’t even acknowledge their existence. If there were plans afoot to get Star Trek shown on other networks in those regions – whether Paramount-owned or not – at least that would be something. But no such plans have been forthcoming, so the option Trekkies have in much of the world is to either pirate Star Trek or miss out. There’s no prospect of bringing on board new fans as long as this attitude persists.
Why did Discovery Season 4 overlap Picard Season 2 by three weeks in the spring of 2022? And why was the Picard finale shown the same day (the same minute, in fact) as Strange New Worlds’ premiere? Paramount’s scheduling decisions were pathetic in 2022, as there was simply no need for the shows to overlap like this.
Had Picard Season 2 been delayed and not run alongside Discovery, and Strange New Worlds also been delayed a mere four or five weeks so as not to overlap Picard, that would have lined up almost perfectly with Paramount+ launching here in the UK. There would have been the option for Trekkies in the UK to join in with fans in the USA, watching Strange New Worlds together. This bizarre rush saw several weeks with two different shows on at the same time, and while that did also happen during The Next Generation era, in an age of ten-episode seasons and on-demand streaming… it just shouldn’t be happening any more.
You don’t see Disney+ having The Mandalorian and Andor overlapping one another – Disney makes sure that the Star Wars shows have room to breathe. I genuinely don’t understand how a decision was taken to have these shows clash. At the very least it should have been possible to spread out the release of episodes so that they weren’t on the same day, but Paramount even failed to consider that possibility, apparently.
Were it not for the rushed scheduling meaning that Strange New Worlds debuted in the USA weeks before Paramount+ arrived in the UK, I’d still find the whole thing pretty stupid. But when a slightly more spread out schedule could have allowed Paramount+ to land in the UK the same week as Strange New Worlds premiered… I honestly can’t forgive it. Whichever idiot at Paramount (and there’s no shortage of those, clearly) signed off the scheduling decisions for 2022 needs to be fired.
A premature announcement:
One of the most basic, entry-level rules of the entertainment industry is this: you don’t officially announce anything until all of the pieces are in place. Paramount became a laughing stock in 2022 by announcing a sequel to 2016’s Star Trek Beyond… before trying to quietly un-announce it only a few weeks later.
Whatever you may think of the merits of a new Kelvin timeline film, it should be patently obvious that this was not the way to handle it. It seems as if no main cast members had been so much as offered a contract, let alone been in a position to sign one and start work on a film that had a very ambitious release date of July and then December 2023. Paramount’s failure in this regard was spectacular, and practically unheard of for a big corporation in the modern entertainment industry.
Whether a new Star Trek film gets underway in the months ahead or not, this total own-goal from Paramount’s team of corporate morons has already damaged the film – and arguably the wider franchise, too. To make an official announcement, put a film on the schedule with an expected release date, and then have to walk it all back and try to quietly brush it aside is a bad look. It makes Paramount and the Star Trek franchise look disorganised, unprofessional, and chaotic. Who’d want to go to work for a corporation like that the next time they’re hiring?
I can’t even believe we have to say this, but here we go: if you don’t have all the contracts signed, don’t announce your film. If the executives at Paramount don’t understand that, then they need to be removed immediately.
Star Trek Day:
Oh, I feel bad about putting this on the list – but I’m afraid we must. Star Trek Day was hyped up as a celebration of all things Trek… but it was a spectacular let-down. Despite promises of “announcements and reveals throughout,” nothing major was actually announced at Star Trek Day… unless we count a scripted podcast. Which we don’t.
The live broadcast was also pretty amateurish, with hosts who seemed unprepared, guests who couldn’t answer the most basic of questions about their shows, and panels that were either cut too short or that went totally off the rails and fell apart. There were a couple of teaser trailers, but even then, Paramount seems to have been saving the biggest and boldest of those for Comic-Con a couple of months later.
By some accounts, Star Trek Day didn’t bring in much of an audience, which is a shame in a way. But if Paramount isn’t going to make this kind of celebration of the franchise and its fans a big blow-out, perhaps it’s better just to skip it next year – or at least make sure that expectations are properly set in advance.
I hoped for better things from Star Trek Day, and while I don’t want to be too critical of the main figures involved, it was a pretty big disappointment.
Social media failures:
We’ve already touched on this in a couple of places, but Paramount and the Star Trek franchise really need to get a better handle on social media. The way in which they used social media in 2022 was poor, and we need to see Star Trek becoming much more engaging and interactive with fans and viewers. Social media isn’t merely a billboard on which to paste an advertisement or show off a teaser trailer; Paramount needs to start treating social media platforms as spaces to engage with fans.
To just give a couple of examples, Star Trek’s social media pages could showcase fan art, highlighting the real passion that many Trekkies have for the franchise. And they could run competitions, with giveaways of merchandise or Paramount+ subscriptions as rewards. Take a look around at other big corporations and see what they’re doing; social media is a gateway that Paramount could open, giving new, especially younger fans a first look at Star Trek.
At the very least, Paramount and Star Trek need to be more active on social media. They need to respond to genuine questions from fans as much as possible, especially concerning things like release dates and availability. Frankly they also ought to curate their social media posts better, deleting hateful comments about some of the new Star Trek shows and especially about some of the actors. LGBT+ actors and actors from ethnic minority backgrounds are particular targets, and it’s a bad look when a post has comments of that nature.
Look at television shows as diverse as Game of Thrones, Tiger King, and Squid Game. What helped them blow up and break out of their original niches to attract massive audiences? Social media! Well-timed promotions and social media teams that actively leaned into the discussion, the jokes, the memes, and everything else helped those shows – and many more. Star Trek could have that too – if only Paramount could get someone competent to manage its social media operation.
When a director with the undeniable talent of Quentin Tarantino says that he wants to make a film for you, serious consideration of the proposal is warranted. For whatever reason, higher-ups at Paramount decided not to go ahead with a film that had been pitched by the famed director of Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Kill Bill. No explanation has been given – and I really do fear that this could be a huge missed opportunity.
Here’s the short version: you may not like Tarantino personally or his filmmaking style. That’s okay. Maybe you’d hate his take on Star Trek. That’s okay too. Because what someone like Tarantino has that no one else who’s come anywhere close to Star Trek has is star power and pull. Tarantino’s films are on a different order of magnitude to anything else that Star Trek has ever done, and what that would have meant for the franchise is millions of new viewers turning up for the very first time. At least some of those folks would have stuck around, gone back to watch other Star Trek films and shows, and the fan community would have grown.
The very worst possible outcome for a collaboration with Tarantino would have been a mediocre film that made a decent profit. But beyond that, the potential for legions of viewers taking a first look at Star Trek – or a second look from folks who’ve not seen it in a while – is immense. To squander such an opportunity when it was seemingly presented on a silver platter may turn out to be an unforgivable mistake.
A standalone Tarantino film need not have impacted any ongoing series or project. It could have been a one-and-done thing occupying its own little piece of the Star Trek universe, inoffensively ignoring everything else in the franchise and doing no harm. Sure, there are potential pitfalls to working with someone like Tarantino… but the gains Star Trek could have made were massive.
Where are the Prodigy toys?
It’s been well over a year since Prodigy premiered, but there are still no toys, no dolls, no dress-up costumes, no replica phasers or combadges, no teddies… nothing. Prodigy must be the only kids’ show in the world to have zero tie-in products even after its entire first season has come and gone.
There’s more to merchandise than just raw sales and profit. The way children engage with a franchise like Star Trek, especially in the moments where they aren’t sitting down to watch the latest episode, is all about play. Seeing exciting toys on shelves will literally get kids to check out the show for the first time, and seeing their friends dressed up for Halloween or playing with Star Trek dolls has the potential to expand the show’s audience.
The Star Trek franchise may be new to making a kids’ show, but Paramount isn’t. Paramount owns Nickelodeon, and has made many other films and TV series for children in the past – and knows how to make toys and merch for them. Moreover, the Star Trek franchise used to be much better at this, even giving Star Wars a run for its money in the ’90s with figures of practically every guest character, costumes for dressing up, prop replicas, and much more.
I waited and waited for Paramount to address this as Prodigy’s first season went on, then took an extended break. I hoped that we’d have gotten something before the first season finale aired… but it didn’t happen.
Most of Picard Season 2:
Now we’re getting into narrative decisions, which I admit is something quite subjective – but I’m certainly not alone in considering most of Picard’s second season to have been a disappointment. After a truly spectacular premiere (that I gushed over in my review, calling it “one of the best episodes of live-action Star Trek that I’ve seen in a long time”) the second season took a nose-dive, spending eight-and-a-half episodes wandering aimlessly in a modern-day setting that didn’t feel inspiring, exciting, or even interesting much of the time.
There were some highlights, and by the time the action returned to the 25th Century in the second half of the finale, things did improve. But by then it was almost too late; the damage was done. This was an experimental season, and it’s to the Star Trek franchise’s credit that the creative team are given leeway to try out different ideas. But this one didn’t work, and considering it was one of only three seasons that Picard is going to get, its failure feels all the more egregious and disappointing.
Picard Season 2 felt muddled, bloated, and unnecessarily long. Yet by the time it ended, there were still huge unanswered questions about key storylines and characters, questions that I feel all but certain the series has no answers to and no plans to even pay lip-service to in Season 3. A meandering, confused batch of episodes gave way to a rushed finale that didn’t have time to bring everything to a satisfactory conclusion.
Some storylines in Season 2 just felt confused, as if there were two writers working against one another. Rios’ story, for example, saw him experience the worst of the 21st Century, being incarcerated and deported. But a couple of episodes later, Rios was raving about how much he loves the 21st Century for the cigars and the food on offer at a fancy party. There were clearly ideas on the table that, had they been executed better, were potentially interesting. But the way the season as a whole came to screen was poor – and it’s a concept that I hope won’t be repeated any time soon.
Prodigy isn’t gaining much traction:
Right now, Prodigy is being watched mostly by existing Trekkies and some of their kids. It doesn’t appear to be finding much of an audience of its own, and there are a few reasons why that may be the case. The situation with toys and merch that we just talked about is definitely harming the show’s prospects, preventing it from reaching out beyond existing Trekkies for the reasons laid out above. But there’s more to say.
Prodigy hasn’t been marketed particularly well, with relatively few ads for the show cropping up online. Kids shows need to advertise where kids are – on apps like TikTok, for instance. Also, the show remained a Paramount+ exclusive until very recently, when a belated broadcast on Nickelodeon was announced. While I understand that Prodigy was made as a Paramount+ show, the platform itself is mostly being marketed at an adult audience.
Unlike something like Disney+, which clearly has a lot of content made for kids, Paramount+ just doesn’t have that reputation yet. As a result, I doubt most kids even know that Prodigy exists a full year and a full season later.
The question is this: who is Prodigy really made for? Is it for Trekkies who want to see more Captain Janeway and Chakotay? Is it for children of Trekkies as a way for their parents to get them into the franchise? Or does it have the ambition to bring in completely new viewers? The answer should be “all of the above,” but the way the show has been handled from its marketing and scheduling to its place in the wider franchise, it feels like a show that won’t succeed at growing Star Trek’s audience much beyond its current fans and viewers.
The Picard cast being unceremoniously dumped:
It was profoundly disappointing to me to learn that all but one of the new characters who had been introduced in Picard would not be returning for the show’s third season. That disappointment was compounded because most of them didn’t even get an ending to their character arcs/stories in Season 2.
There were some really interesting characters in the mix when Picard debuted, and over the course of two full seasons I feel that we didn’t really get to know all of them very well; after twenty episodes we’d barely spent any time with Elnor, for example, and Soji was absent for all of Season 2 bar a tiny cameo in the premiere. There was vast potential in these characters – but it’s potential that the show has now thoroughly wasted.
If the Star Trek franchise is to survive long-term, fans and viewers need to be given the opportunity to fall in love with a new generation of characters, because it’s these people who will drive the franchise forward in the years ahead. As much fun as I hope it will be to go on one last adventure with the crew from The Next Generation, it will be their final mission. That show is now more than thirty-five years in the past, and while there’s definitely still ways to bring back legacy characters, it isn’t exactly indicative of a franchise trying to move forwards.
It was my hope when Picard premiered that a new generation of fans would be just as excited in thirty years’ time to see Elnor or Rios make a return to the Star Trek franchise as we had been to see Picard come back. These new characters could and should have picked up the torch, taking Star Trek into the 2020s and beyond. Although I adore The Next Generation and will be happy to see its main characters make a return, it’s a bittersweet moment because of who had to be booted off the show to make it happen. And it’s a decision to double-down on nostalgia that I fear could have long-term ramifications for the entire franchise.
Paramount+ lost the Star Trek films. Twice:
On two separate occasions in 2022, all or most of the Star Trek films disappeared from Paramount+. Let’s restate that: Paramount lost most of the Star Trek films from its own streaming platform, sending them to Hulu or Peacock or one of those other second-tier streaming services for a number of months. Then, after getting them back, it happened again!
From the point of view of a Trekkie, we’re told that Paramount+ is going to be the place to get all things Star Trek. But that’s demonstrably not true, as some of the best stories in the franchise – and the projects which had the highest production values – have arbitrarily disappeared. If I’d been a paying subscriber to Paramount+ at that time I’d have been livid.
But it’s not just about Star Trek. It’s about Paramount as a whole, and what these mistakes say about the corporation and the platform it hopes to convince folks to sign up for. Losing parts of Paramount’s own back catalogue is something that simply should not be allowed to happen. It makes Paramount+ look inconsistent, cheap, and like a bad deal. The lack of communication about this – the announcement of the recent loss of the Star Trek films was made with just days to spare – also makes Paramount look chaotic, and Paramount+ look like a very poor relation indeed to the likes of Disney+ and Netflix.
Can you imagine logging into Disney+ and seeing a message that Beauty and the Beast, The Aristocats, Snow White, and more would no longer be available? Can you imagine Disney leasing the exclusive rights to those films to any other streaming platform? Of course not, because it undermines the entire concept of owning a streaming platform. Paramount+ is already on very shaky ground as a second-tier streaming platform in a massively competitive market. Mistakes like this cannot be repeated.
Was it simply too much?
2022 was a bumper year for Star Trek. In fact, the franchise barely had so much as a week’s break all year long – and as already noted, some weeks had two episodes at once. There were ten episodes each of Lower Decks, Picard, and Strange New Worlds, six episodes of Discovery, and fifteen episodes of Prodigy taking the total number for 2022 to a whopping fifty-one episodes of Star Trek. Is that too much for one franchise in a single calendar year?
There’s a danger, I fear, of “franchise fatigue” beginning to set in. Even the most ardent Star Trek fan would struggle to keep up with all the different productions, and I think there’s a case to be made that Paramount needs to take a foot off the accelerator and slow things down. The last thing we need is for fans and viewers to get burned out on Star Trek – or for the franchise to begin to look too complicated and too difficult to keep up with.
There is a balance somewhere that Paramount needs to find. After years in the wilderness with no Star Trek at all it may seem odd to be complaining about there being too much, but it feels as though the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction. It’s good and healthy for franchises to take breaks and not to be constantly on the air, and for both the creative teams and fans, I don’t think the level of Star Trek we saw in 2022 can be maintained.
And that’s a worry because if burnout sets in, it could prove fatal to the entire franchise. Take a deep breath, slow things down, and try to spread out some of these shows a little more. Taking breaks of a few weeks in between each series would be a good start – and this really ties in with what we said about scheduling. Paramount blitzed through fifty-one episodes of Star Trek in 2022… but there’s now nothing for at least six weeks. Had things been better spread out, we could have had short, consistent breaks in between each show that would have meant the entire franchise would be more balanced.
So that’s what went wrong.
In 2022, Star Trek premiered more episodes than at any other point in its history… but the franchise was massively harmed by decisions on the corporate side that prevented millions of fans from even being able to watch any of it. The glut of episodes was arguably too much, and poor scheduling decisions saw shows overlapping one another, and too many episodes arriving all at once.
Paramount’s failures behind the scenes have seen Strange New Worlds denied to most of the world, massively harming the show’s reputation and killing much of the online chatter. On social media, Star Trek not only ignored fans, but in some cases actively attacked them, using outdated copyright laws to get fan accounts suspended. The lack of toys for Star Trek’s first kids’ show more than a year after its launch and after its entire first season has finished its run is pretty pathetic – and is just another way that Paramount has harmed its prospects.
2022 was, as the title of this piece states, a great and terrible year for Star Trek.
I can’t overstate how much I enjoyed Strange New Worlds, and how that show’s first season has to be one of the strongest debuts in the entire history of the franchise. After three seasons that were of varying quality, Discovery finally seems to be hitting its stride, too. Season 4 wasn’t perfect, but it was the best the show has had to offer so far. Lower Decks continues to do its thing and do it well, though it isn’t really reaching out beyond the existing Star Trek fan community in a big way. Prodigy is also a fun series, continuing to build up its characters. Even in Picard Season 2 there were fun moments; highlights in practically every episode even if the overall story itself wasn’t stellar.
But I can’t shake the feeling that 2022 could be both the zenith and a turning point for modern Star Trek. The sheer number of episodes and the way in which they were scheduled was enough to start the process of burnout, and one of the key lessons for Paramount has to be to better schedule the Star Trek franchise and spread it out more.
Moreover, on the production side of things, Paramount had an absolutely atrocious year. Failing to bring Paramount+ to fans around the world is a weight around the neck of the Star Trek franchise and will continue to be for years to come. The lack of communication with fans, and Paramount’s piss-poor “America First” corporate attitude is also doing considerable harm to the Star Trek fan community and the wider brand.
In a difficult economic climate, it’s hard to see Paramount+ breaking into the top tier of streaming platforms, and on current form I would be surprised if it survives the decade. When Disney+ and Netflix – platforms with many more subscribers backed up by far bigger and more successful corporations – are struggling to turn a profit, one can only imagine how much money Paramount+ is losing and will continue to lose. If Paramount+ fails, will it drag Star Trek down with it?
Pull back the curtain and I’m afraid it was a tough year for Star Trek. I don’t see anything changing in the immediate term, either, as Paramount looks set to keep doing what it’s been doing for the past few years. No major changes seem to be coming on the horizon, and teases of unannounced projects came and went in 2022 with no major announcements for new shows. And of course the Beyond sequel had to be rapidly un-announced as it became clear that Paramount had completely screwed things up.
If you enjoyed having fifty-one Star Trek episodes in a single year, I guess what I’d say is this: don’t get used to it. For all manner of reasons, I doubt we’ll see another year quite like 2022. And maybe that’s for the best.
The Star Trek franchise – including all films and television series 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.
I’ve written longer articles and columns about several of the subjects discussed above, and you can find links to them here:
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Although Laris hadn’t been a major character, her romantic interest in Picard was one of the main factors involved in kicking off the plot. As it turned out, Q wanted Picard to process grief and trauma that he’d carried since childhood – something that seems to have prevented him from forming longlasting relationships. In that sense, Laris was an incredibly important character for the series – and the closing moments of the Season 2 finale implied that she and Picard will indeed be striking up a new romantic relationship.
But if we aren’t going to see that relationship unfold on screen, if it’s just going to be relegated to that one scene at the end of Season 2, it again raises some pretty big questions. It’s beginning to feel that the decision to bring back The Next Generation characters in Season 3 has already undermined some significant story beats from Season 2, cutting them off at the knees and preventing the next – and final – chapter of the story from developing them further and taking them to their natural conclusions.
When Star Trek: Picard was first announced, I didn’t want it to be The Next Generation Season 8. That’s a neat idea – but it wasn’t what this series was. I wanted to see some of these new characters grow on me and be given the opportunity to become fan-favourites for the next generation (pun intended) of Star Trek fans.
If the Star Trek franchise is to survive in the long-term, it can’t simply copy what Star Wars is doing and rely on cheap overloads of nostalgia. It has to continue to grow and develop, and new characters have to be given equal standing alongside legacy characters. In thirty-five years’ time, it’s my genuine hope that fans will be just as excited for Star Trek: Elnor as we have been for Star Trek: Picard… but in order for that to happen, we need to be spending more time with these characters. Having them cut entirely from the final season of the show – several of them without any kind of goodbye or send-off – doesn’t just sting because we won’t get to enjoy more adventures with them or see what comes next, but it could seriously damage Star Trek’s long-term prospects.
When The Next Generation characters have come back, what’s next? We’ve already had Voyager characters come back in Picard and in Prodigy, so that only leaves Deep Space Nine of the 24th Century shows. If future projects recycle characters from Deep Space Nine and Enterprise, there’ll be nobody left! Star Trek has to expand – to build on the legacy of the shows and characters that came before. What it mustn’t do is keep trying to bring back those characters and relive those past successes.
The Next Generation and the other shows of that era are in the past – and while there’s definitely potential to revisit characters like Jean-Luc Picard, it’s worth remembering that Star Trek is more than just a handful of familiar faces. Since at least 1987, when The Original Series passed the torch to The Next Generation in the first place, that’s a lesson that the Star Trek franchise has done well to take to heart. The Star Trek galaxy is vast, populated with billions or perhaps trillions of individuals across thousands of planets, and it’s ripe for exploration! Narrowing the franchise’s focus to a handful of characters from older shows is not what Star Trek is about – and it never has been.
Until now, I’ve felt that modern Star Trek has struck a pretty good balance between the old and the new. Discovery introduced us to brand-new characters, but tied its main protagonist to Spock and Sarek, before reintroducing Captain Pike. Picard focused on Picard himself, of course, but instead of sending him off on an adventure with his old crew, it brought some genuinely interesting new characters on board. Unfortunately, we’re now learning that several of them won’t stick around… and I find that to be quite disappointing.
I suppose the good news is that these characters still exist, and if Picard serves as a jumping-off point for potential new spin-off series, miniseries, or films set in the early 25th Century, it may be possible to revisit some of them. But I’m not going to hold my breath for that, at least not in the short-term. There are other Star Trek projects in the works, but with characters like Elnor having received precious little development across two seasons of Picard, it’s my suspicion that he’ll simply drop off the face of the galaxy never to be revisited.
That’s all there is to say for now, I guess. Decisions have already been made and the new season – which will supposedly be Picard’s last – is already well underway in terms of production, so it’s clearly far too late to change any of that now. Star Trek’s past is, of course, filled with one-off characters; guest stars who appeared in an episode or two before disappearing forever. And there have been main cast members who were shuffled off their respective shows in unceremonious ways. None of it is new – but that doesn’t make it any less disappointing.
I was genuinely looking forward to spending more time with the likes of Elnor, Soji, Laris, and potentially the Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid. Had you asked me shortly after the Season 2 premiere I’d have said that a Captain Rios spin-off has real potential, too. The return of The Next Generation crew isn’t bad… but I wish that their returns didn’t have to come at the expense of some wonderful characters that we’ve only just begun to get to know.
I remain hopeful for a fun season and an exciting adventure with these returning characters… but I confess that I’m quite disappointed to learn that so many Picard cast members had to be culled to make it happen.
Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and around the world. Season 3 is currently in production and may be targeting a 2023 broadcast. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard, The Next Generation, and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for unreleased Star Trek episodes, including casting information for Strange New Worlds Season 2 and Picard Season 3. Spoilers are also present for Picard Seasons 1-2.
Today has been First Contact Day – the 5th of April is the date in 2063 when the Vulcans will arrive on Earth, as depicted in the film First Contact. First Contact Day has become somewhat of an “event” in the Star Trek fan community, with an entire digital broadcast being dedicated to it last year. This year there was nothing quite so big on the schedule, but there were still teases and hints from Paramount Global that the corporation would do something to mark the occasion.
I’ve given up on hearing anything about an international broadcast for Strange New Worlds, so that never seemed like a realistic prospect – though it’s probably the biggest request from non-American Trekkies at the moment. But I admit that I was curious about the prospect of some kind of announcement. There are other Star Trek projects being worked on behind-the-scenes, after all… could we be set for an announcement of something like the Starfleet Academy series, perhaps?
No, as it turned out.
Instead, what we got was the second announcement in a row from Paramount Global’s marketing department that just feels exceptionally poorly-timed. A couple of weeks ago, Paramount Global had clumsily dropped the news that Strange New Worlds Season 2 would feature the character of James T. Kirk in an unspecified capacity; an unnecessary overreaction to a single leaked photograph from the show’s ongoing production.
That announcement sent fans into overdrive, and Star Trek’s social media channels were overwhelmed with toxicity for a few days, as the threadbare announcement left many things unclear about Strange New Worlds – a series which hasn’t even aired a single episode yet. Announcing Kirk’s return to Star Trek was premature to say the least, and the way in which Paramount Global handled it left much to be desired.
The corporation had a solid couple of weeks to learn lessons from the fiasco surrounding Kirk’s role in Strange New Worlds… but, as evidenced by another announcement put out today, their inept marketing team has learned absolutely nothing. To commemorate First Contact Day, Paramount Global released a teaser for Star Trek: Picard Season 3, announcing the reunion of most of the main cast members of The Next Generation.
The teaser trailer was smooth and well-composed. Unlike the first tease for Season 2 (which was shown off at last year’s First Contact Day digital event) it showed off a couple of clips of what at least appears to be actual footage from the new season. And the announcement that closed it out was clearly designed to get a lot of fans excited. But here’s the thing: we’re only halfway through Picard Season 2 right now, so the new teaser for Season 3 not only feels wholly unnecessary at this moment, but it opens up a lot of questions about the series that Paramount Global isn’t interested in addressing.
I confess that I’m intrigued by the prospect of a reunion. The Next Generation was my own “first contact” with the Star Trek franchise and my way into becoming a Trekkie in the early 1990s. I’ve been a fan for more than three decades off the back of that series, and I always felt that there was scope for Picard to show us at least a glimpse of what other members of the crew of the Enterprise-D were up to. We’ve had some of that already across Seasons 1 and 2.
But I was also keen that Picard shouldn’t try to be “The Next Generation Season 8.” There are new characters, new storylines, and other new elements in play, and for the series to do justice to all of that – and to do right by the new characters – it had to keep its focus there and avoid the gratuitous overuse of classic characters. Season 1 generally struck the right balance in that regard; Season 2 has already sidelined two major new characters and, thus far at least, has underdeveloped and regressed a third.
The Season 3 announcement made no mention of the current Star Trek: Picard cast. While we now know that Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, and Marina Sirtis are joining the crew, we don’t know what that means for Evan Evagora, Alison Pill, Michelle Hurd, Santiago Cabrera, Isa Briones, or even Jeri Ryan. Part of the fun of Picard has been seeing the Admiral working with a new crew, and I feel like we don’t know some of the new characters as well as we ought to at what is now the halfway point of the series’ three-season run.
Those new characters should be given the chance to become the next generation of fan-favourites. In thirty-five years’ time, it’s my firm hope that a new group of Trekkies will be talking as excitedly about the return of Elnor and Dr Jurati as we are about Worf and Dr Crusher. In a series that already has a limited number of episodes remaining, it’s hard to see how there will be enough time to deal with some pretty heavy stories and make sure each of the new characters gets enough screen time, especially if the entire crew of the Enterprise-D is reuniting.
There’s also the issue of spoilers. Now I know that it always seemed like a reasonable assumption that Picard would survive and that, somehow, he and the crew would make it back to the prime timeline! But we’re literally halfway through Season 2’s story right now, and there are a lot of different directions it could go and different ways that it could pan out. To drop a massive Season 3 announcement at this time was categorically the wrong thing to do, and it risks blunting the dramatic edge of the rest of Season 2.
We now know that Picard will make it back to the 25th Century, for example, which wasn’t necessarily a given in a franchise that loves season-ending cliffhangers. We also know that Picard will successfully restore the prime timeline as of the beginning of Season 3, which again was not guaranteed as of where we are in terms of the story of Season 2. And finally, it now seems that we can safely assume that Season 3 will be the beginning of a new story, not the continuation of an ongoing one.
All of these things colour how we’ll watch the second half of Season 2 over the next five weeks. And I can’t help but feel that a significant chunk of the show’s tension and drama has been stolen by this ill-timed announcement. There will undoubtedly be twists and turns along the way as Picard and the crew of La Sirena rumble with Q and Dr Adam Soong, but one way or another everything will work out – Picard will make it home, the crew of the Enterprise-D will reunite for one last mission, and then… who knows.
If this announcement had come at the end of Season 2, I’d still have some of the same concerns about the current Picard cast (well, unless they’re all killed off, stranded in the past, or otherwise clearly written out of the series) but at least it would feel like the right time to make it. The halfway point of Season 2 was not the right time for this announcement, just like the timing of the James T. Kirk announcement wasn’t right prior to Season 1 of Strange New Worlds.
It seems to me that Paramount Global knew that they didn’t have anything major to announce at First Contact Day this time around. Discovery Season 5 hasn’t entered production yet, Strange New Worlds has already released teasers and trailers over the past few weeks, and while there was perhaps scope to do something with Lower Decks Season 3 or the second half of Prodigy, it was evidently decided by someone higher up that a major announcement was necessary. I don’t see any reason why that should be the case; First Contact Day this year could’ve been dedicated to the upcoming Strange New Worlds and the second half of Picard Season 2, but there we are.
Maybe I’m still sour off the back of the Strange New Worlds situation, but I’m not as excited by this announcement as I feel I should be. The timing of it just seems incredibly wrong, hot on the heels of another self-inflicted wound with the Kirk debacle. And it opens some uncomfortable questions about the fates of the current main cast members of Picard.
All things considered, I wish that Paramount Global could’ve at least waited until the end of Picard Season 2 before making this announcement. Doing so now doesn’t seem right, for the reasons outlined above. While I’m intrigued by what has been teased, right now I can muster curious interest, tinged with more than a little concern, rather than the outright excitement that this announcement was trying to generate.
Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and around the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard, Strange New Worlds, and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.