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

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

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

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

The USS Stargazer in Farewell.

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

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

The cast of The Next Generation in Season 2.

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

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

Soji in Season 1.

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

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

Soji was sidelined for all of Season 2.

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

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

Holo-Elnor in Season 2.

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

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

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

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

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

Picard with Laris at the beginning of Season 2.

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

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

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

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

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

Captain Rios at the beginning of Season 2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and around the world. Season 3 is currently in production and may be targeting a 2023 broadcast. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard, The Next Generation, and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.