Spoiler-Free Review of Star Trek: Picard Season 3
My first introduction to Star Trek was The Next Generation. Literally, my earliest memory is of the theme. So when I say that the show is a soft spot for me, that may be a bit of an understatement.
Star Trek: Picard, meanwhile, is a bit of a roller coaster for me in terms of my feelings about it. The first season had some baffling world-building decisions that made the series feel practically dystopian compared to other Star Trek series. Despite some decisions that I really enjoyed one of which being the inclusion of Jeri Ryan’s Seven of Nine as a cast member, the overarching story felt like it was trying to juggle too many ideas and antagonists. The second season, meanwhile, felt a little more at home. The jaunt into 2020s Los Angeles felt like an extended version of a time travel two-parter we’d see as a midseason Voyager fixture, for better and worse.
Star Trek: Picard Season 3, however, reshuffles the cast after many were written off at the end of Season 2. Only Seven and Raffi really stay on in any major capacity, though both are central in a way that doesn’t make them feel seconded by the cast reunion at the heart of this season.
Let’s get this out of the way: how much of a nostalgia fest is Star Trek: Picard Season 3? It is definitely banking on it. The season starts with an audio clip of Picard’s captain’s logs, with parts of Beverly Crusher’s memorabilia from the series scattered around. There are references sprinkled throughout the episodes to previous adventures and old villains that the crew of the Enterprise encountered.
The structure of Star Trek: Picard Season 3 in the first six episodes is in ways similar to Season 1; A younger character with a connection to someone in Picard’s past life has appeared, there is something mysterious about them, and they are being hunted by an unknown enemy. It’s a conspiracy thriller that works, complicated by an untangling thread of learning who that enigmatic threat is. The plot isn’t anything new, but it leans more into the traditional Trek beats than previous seasons have.
Where this season absolutely shines is in the characters. Stewart and company play brilliantly off each other. Of particular note is Jonathan Frakes, clearly having the time of his life here, and Michael Dorn, bringing just the right kind of friendly prickliness to Worf. Todd Stashwick’s Captain Liam Shaw, of the USS Titan-A, is a fantastic iteration of the “asshole by the book” Starfleet Captain archetype, with an unrepentant streak that lightens through the season.
My overall impression of Star Trek: Picard Season 3 is that it’s rocky but enjoyable. I think, especially with a series that is baked off of a reunion and the idea of a “proper” send-off to a cast that had four movies, is a little silly, but something that does save the reunion is that none of the characters feel like they have been encased in amber; they have grown and evolved. The former crew of the Enterprise are still (mostly) close, but they have moved on with their lives and done other things. The crew of the Enterprise have gray hair now, and they have other problems in their lives beyond just what mission the ship is going to. Instead of it being the continuing voyages, it feels like a proper reunion where there are moments of awkward catching up that give the season a fun running beat through it.
In some ways, Star Trek: Picard feels like a completely different show for this third season. While I always liked the cast of characters for its first two seasons, particularly the outsiders of the Federation, it definitely didn’t feel like a perfect fit for a series focused on the last adventures of Jean-Luc Picard. This third season feels like a course correction that gets to what I originally expected of the series, a mix of reunion and new adventures. Am I still maybe not sold on some of the plot and character choices, specifically the “mysterious scion” character being reused? Sure, but we only got the first six episodes.
It’s the characters and performances that make Star Trek: Picard Season 3 shine in the end. It’s walking a tightrope act of its main thriller plot and having meaningful character moments that call back to a show that started thirty-five years ago, and it executes that at a level that at least warms my heart and keeps my interest. Six episodes in, and it is the best of the efforts that Star Trek: Picard has made in its seasonal format, where callbacks no longer feel like an old man talking to a room of people about that one time, but friends gathered again for one last ride.