Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for all three seasons of Star Trek: Picard – including the series finale and post-credits scene.
For a series that only ran to thirty episodes across three seasons, Star Trek: Picard spent a lot of time overwriting itself! Across all three seasons of the show there were these weirdly contradictory moments where new storylines would appear from nowhere, completely changing what came before. One or two of these instances might pass by relatively unnoticed, or could feel like little more than nitpicks. But for a relatively short series to have so many… it speaks to something bigger, I feel.
I hope in future we’ll get a Chaos on the Bridge-type of documentary or exploration of what went on behind-the-scenes on Star Trek: Picard, because to say that production was “difficult” feels like an understatement. There were clearly major problems on the production side of the series, and I don’t just mean its pandemic-enforced delays. The evidence for this is the contradictory nature of the series itself, and how at the very least there was clearly no overall plan for how the story should be structured. Consistency is an important element of any good story – and Picard absolutely fails on that measure.
I have a longer piece in the pipeline about Picard’s abandoned and unfinished storylines, but today I thought it could be interesting to take a short look at ten storylines that ended up being overwritten by some pretty sloppy, messy writing that failed to build on the foundations that had been laid in earlier episodes and seasons.
As always, a few caveats. If you loved all of these stories and felt they were perfectly-executed, or if you hated the original setup and feel that it was right and fitting to overwrite or ignore it, that’s okay! We all have different opinions about what makes for a good Star Trek story, and I’m not trying to claim that I’m somehow objectively right and that’s the end of the affair. In several cases, I’d actually agree that the overwrite or retcon was better than what had been previously established. This is all just the opinion of one old Trekkie, and as I always say, there ought to be room in the Star Trek fan community for polite discussion and disagreement! Although I have my issues with Picard, particularly when it comes to the show’s second season, by and large I’m a fan not a hater.
So with all of that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of Picard’s weirdly contradictory storylines.
Contradictory story #1:
Seven of Nine is a captain! Oh wait, no she isn’t…
At the end of Season 2, Seven of Nine was breveted into Starfleet by Picard as Captain of the Stargazer. This story point was already a bit… odd. Firstly, it raises the question of why, if offering a brevet position to someone outside of Starfleet is so simple, Admiral Janeway didn’t do that for Seven years ago. It also seemed unnecessary, as with Picard on the bridge, the Stargazer already had a senior officer present who could give orders.
But this already flimsy setup ended up being overwritten by the very next episode – when Seven was bumped down to the rank of commander and found herself serving as first officer of the Titan. There are a lot of contradictions in Picard, but this one feels even more peculiar because it’s something that literally changes from one episode to the next – episodes that, in spite of being one season apart, were produced and filmed at the same time.
Contradictory story #2:
Data’s dead. Deader than dead. Lol jk, he’s alive again!
One of the few redeeming features of the two-part Season 1 finale was the laying to rest of Data, and giving him the emotional send-off that Nemesis didn’t have time to do justice to. It went a long way to making up for other deficiencies in the rushed and muddled end to Season 1, and the sequences with Picard and Data in the “digital afterlife” were powerful and deeply emotional.
But despite Data being as dead as it’s possible to be in Star Trek, with both his physical body and the surviving part of his consciousness having been destroyed and shut down respectively, Season 3 resurrected Data. We’ll have to go into this storyline in more detail in the future, because there’s a lot more to say. But for me, Data’s resurrection never really found a narrative justification, and it felt like the showrunner and writers wanted desperately to reunite the cast of The Next Generation – at any cost.
Contradictory story #3:
Welcome aboard the Stargazer! Wait, I mean the Titan…
In Season 2, the ship that Picard and co. didn’t spend enough time aboard was the USS Stargazer. In Season 3, they jumped over to the Titan – even though the sets were all the same (with a few minor tweaks here and there). I don’t really understand why this happened. What was the point of setting Season 3 aboard a nominally different starship? The exact same setup could have brought Riker and Picard to the Stargazer as it did to the Titan.
If the two ships had significant aesthetic differences, maybe it would be okay. And compared with some of the other points on this list, I admit it’s relatively minor. But it still feels odd to introduce the new Stargazer, build CGI models for it, and only use it in one-and-a-bit episodes.
Contradictory story #4:
Q’s dying… oh wait, no he isn’t.
I know what you’re thinking: Q already explained his “return” by telling Jack Crusher not to think about time in a linear fashion. While that’s a perfectly rational in-universe explanation for Q’s return at the end of Season 3, it doesn’t get around the fact that Q, whose death was such a vital part of the entire plot of Season 2, is a profoundly odd choice of character to use for that one epilogue scene.
Picard’s writers pinned the convoluted and disappointing story of Season 2 on Q, and Q’s entire motivation was his imminent death. To undo that – even if there’s a technical explanation for it – only a few episodes later feels wrong. It undermines the already-weak story of Season 2 and makes me wonder what the point of it all was.
Contradictory story #5:
The Borg are back! The Borg are back! The Borg are back!
However you look at it, and whatever nitpicky excuses there may be about who are and aren’t the “real” Borg, there’s no getting away from the fact that across its three seasons, Picard re-introduced the Borg three times. All three of the stories rely, either in whole or in part, on the Borg, and while Picard himself has a connection with the Borg after the events of The Best of Both Worlds and First Contact… there’s a whole galaxy out there filled with alien races that the show’s writers and producers could have used.
While Season 3’s Dominion/changeling rug-pull is probably the worst example of this, it really speaks to a broader problem with the show’s production. Picard’s writers, especially in Season 3, were unwilling to abide by what the show had already set up. The Borg are great fun, don’t get me wrong, but by the time we got to yet another Borg story in Season 3, I was feeling burned out.
Contradictory story #6:
The mysterious anomaly has set up a fascinating story! Let’s never mention it again.
The story of Season 2 was bookended by a mysterious anomaly that the Jurati-led Borg faction believed could be an attack against the Alpha Quadrant. Once the anomaly had been stopped, the Jurati-Queen promised to take her Borg faction and stand watch over the anomaly as a “guardian at the gates.” Her Borg faction were even granted provisional membership in the Federation as they did so.
This story felt like it had huge potential. Who could have been powerful enough to create a weapon on that scale? How would Picard and his friends be able to defeat them? What would it be like to see a Federation-Borg alliance? But alas, this storyline was dumped, orphaned, and never mentioned again. Was no explanation ever written? Why end Season 2 on this cliffhanger if it was never going to be resolved?
Contradictory story #7:
Soji’s a massively important character… let’s dump her.
Soji played a huge role in Season 1, serving as both the reason for Picard’s mission and later as someone who needed to be talked down from making a mistake. We spent a lot of time with her in the show’s first season, watching as she was manipulated by Narek, as she learned the truth of her own origin and who her people were, and as she came to work with and respect Picard.
It was disappointing that Soji was essentially forgotten after the end of Season 1, with a barebones cameo appearance and nothing more. Isa Briones got to play a minor role in Season 2 as the daughter of antagonist Adam Soong, but this storyline was samey and boring. As a new, young character – and a synthetic life-form – Soji had huge potential. It’s such a shame that a role couldn’t be written for her after Season 1.
Contradictory story #8:
Picard has a new relationship with Laris! No wait, Laris has fucked off and now he has a kid with Dr Crusher.
The entire story of Season 2 – its raison d’être, at least according to Q – was that Picard was alone, prevented by his childhood trauma from being able to find love. At the end of the season, after ten episodes of shenanigans in the 21st Century, Picard finally returned to his vineyard – and to Laris. The two seemed ready to embark upon a new relationship together.
But nope! Laris made a small cameo appearance at the beginning of Season 3, and was never mentioned again. Picard’s story in Season 3 focused on his past relationship with Dr Crusher, a relationship that led to him having a son he’d never met. The season’s epilogue even showed Picard and Dr Crusher jointly escorting their son to his first Starfleet assignment – with Laris nowhere to be found. As I said above: Season 2 was already a weak, flimsy story. Undermining its ending like this was a poor decision.
Contradictory story #9:
Elnor’s dead. Oh wait, he’s back! No… he’s gone again.
Although I wasn’t thrilled to see Elnor killed off in the first half of Season 2, as time went on, it seemed to be working. Raffi’s story of coming to terms with loss and grief was one of Season 2’s stronger elements, and while I would’ve still said I was disappointed in Elnor’s wasted potential, at least his loss had mattered. Until it was all undone with seconds to spare.
If Elnor had a major role to play in Season 3 – and there was absolutely space for him – then I could at least have understood this reversal. But after Elnor was resurrected, he got one very brief scene in which he looked confused on a viewscreen, and another in which his dislike of a beverage made him the butt of a joke. After that, Elnor disappeared from Picard never to be seen or mentioned again. What was the point? Why undo a powerful story for the sake of an overdone sight gag?
Contradictory story #10:
Riker and Troi are happy and settled on Nepenthe. Just kidding, they hate it there.
Nepenthe might be my favourite episode of Season 1. It slowed things down, stepped away from some of the drama, and reintroduced us to Riker and Troi – now happily married and living peacefully outside of Starfleet. In spite of the loss of their son, Riker and Troi seemed settled on Nepenthe with their daughter in a home that was important to their son and their family. It was a surprise, to say the least, when Season 3 tried to undo all of that.
In the episode Surrender, Riker and Troi were reunited as captives aboard Vadic’s ship. And while imprisoned, they both spoke about how they hated the “creaky old cabin” that had been their home. The end of the season implied that one or both of them may be back in Starfleet, and all the emotional storytelling present in Nepenthe was taken away.
So that’s it!
Although there were some interesting stories – and some complete ones – overall, it’s not unfair to call Star Trek: Picard a contradictory series, one that either intentionally or unintentionally overwrote or ignored key characters and storylines. We’ll talk about some of these in more detail on another occasion, but for now I think we’ve covered the basics.
Picard was clearly a troubled production, one that jumped from one writing and production team to another, and that’s part of why the series as a whole feels so contradictory. I think I could overlook one or two of these things – and I might even support the decision to drop a character or change a storyline that wasn’t working or that failed to resonate with audiences. But for a series that ran to a mere thirty episodes across three seasons… we shouldn’t be able to pull out ten large contradictions like this.
Stay tuned, because I have a lot more to say about Picard even though the series has concluded! A longer retrospective is in the pipeline, and I’ll also be taking a look at abandoned and unfinished storylines, too.
Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-3 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and other countries and territories where the service is available, and on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and around the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties discussed above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.