Let me state my biases: I thought seasons one and two of Star Trek: Picard were a disaster. The show seemed to represent an internal power struggle within Star Trek itself, as it lurched from vague, unformed idea to vague, unformed idea. The Star Trek series was rudderless, and Picard’s first two seasons failed to provide audiences with anything that even resembled lucid storytelling.
Here’s the first positive of Star Trek: Picard season 3 – it recognises that failure of past seasons to tell a coherent, intelligible story. This latest instalment drops all of the storylines from the two previous seasons, acting as if they never existed. There aren’t endless subplots that go nowhere, and the plot actually progresses from episode to episode, with new revelations adding to a building sense of growth.
That might seem like the bare minimum, and it is. But it’s also something that can’t be taken for granted given the history of Star Trek: Picard.
The change is so drastic, Star Trek: Picard season 3 could justifiably be classified as some kind of reboot. The intro sequence has been ditched, as have all but one of the original Star Trek characters from seasons 1 and 2. On top of that, the entire premise of Star Trek: Picard being a character study unconcerned with starships and space exploration is also out the window.
So, Star Trek: Picard season 3 substantially differs from Star Trek: Picard season one and two. As well as being different, Star Trek: Picard season 3 is also firmly better than prior seasons, but only in the sense that having a bad cold is better than having the flu.
The second – and sadly, final – positive is that Star Trek: Picard season 3 seems to enjoy being Star Trek. If you can imagine it, Star Trek: Picard season 3 is actually largely set in space, aboard a starship. While everything might look a little wonky, lingering shots of space stations and new Star Trek starships are a breath of fresh air, and it seems to understand that the idea of space – and the exploration of it – is actually quite important to what Star Trek is. The score, too, is impressive and strikes the right balance between themes we’ve heard before, and new arrangements.
There is clearly passion behind Star Trek: Picard season 3, but that passion only gets you so far. These two positives: telling a coherent story, and having an appreciation for what makes Star Trek often feel like Star Trek (albeit on a purely surface, aesthetic level) are welcome, and they mean that there is something to appreciate about Star Trek: Picard season 3. However, these infrequent bright spots are still smothered by fundamental flaws.
While mentioning the surface-level positives, it’s only fair to mention the surface-level negatives, too. Star Trek: Picard’s action is laughable. There are some very early sequences of phaser rifle combat aboard a starship which just look awful. The blocking, lighting, and actual mechanics of the combat are amateurish. Especially when action sequences in Star Trek have been improving, to go ahead and provide something that is such a step back is a big shame.
But you don’t watch Star Trek for thrilling action. Much more detrimental to Star Trek: Picard season 3 is the fact that it’s entirely unoriginal. Everything in Picard season 3 is something that, if you’ve watched Star Trek, you will have seen before. Yes, the plot makes sense, but that’s no surprise given that it’s a wholesale amalgamation of various well-known Star Trek episodes and movies, even rehashing an entire plot point from the first season, just in a new form.
This unoriginality isn’t some wink-wink nod to things that we all love, it’s just a rip-off. It leaves Star Trek: Picard season 3 feeling deeply unsatisfying. We’ve seen this all before, and often in a way that’s executed far more impressively. You can watch the TNG episode ‘Conspiracy’, the Star Trek movie The Wrath of Khan, and then Star Trek: Picard season one, and you’ve seen everything that Star Trek: Picard season 3 has to offer.
But, by far the most egregious flaw of Star Trek: Picard season 3 is the way in which it treats and reframes its characters. First, if you’re watching Star Trek: Picard season 3 for an all-out TNG reunion, you’re in for disappointment. The show entirely squanders the opportunity of having the TNG cast together again, and sidelines anyone who isn’t Admiral Picard or Captain Riker.
While I have no particular enthusiasm for reunions (I’d much rather focus on new characters) this alone will bother a lot of people. What bothers me far more is how the characters are presented, and Jean-Luc Picard continues to be Star Trek: Picard’s greatest challenge.
Patrick Stewart seems to have entirely forgotten who his character is, and since Star Trek: Picard started this issue has only worsened with time. There are certain moments where the dialogue and subsequent line-delivery is so off kilter for who we know Jean-Luc Picard to be, that you can feel something’s wrong in your bones.
When you have spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours (and counting) with the TNG cast you feel as if you know them like real people. What helps with that is that they were always so consistently characterised.
So when they do things that go against their core nature, even minor actions stick out like a sore thumb: Beverly Crusher killing an already-incapacitated enemy; Jean-Luc Picard saying he wants to write his memoirs and present them to the galaxy.
Of course, characters change, and this Star Trek series is set over two decades after the last TNG Star Trek movie. But when the essence of who characters are is removed, it’s almost impossible to even recognise that they’re the same characters. And, if these are entirely different characters, what’s the point?
There was always the potential within Star Trek: Picard to tell a fun Star Trek story with an ageing Jean-Luc Picard firmly at the centre. That opportunity is now well and truly gone, and I hope this is the last time that Picard and the TNG crew return to the screen. It really is time for something new.
For more on Star Trek, check out our guides to the Star Trek Discovery season 5 release date, and the Star Trek Strange New Worlds season 2 release date. Or, learn more about the USS Titan and Star Trek’s Moriarty, Rachel Garrett, and Captain Liam Shaw before reading our Star Trek Picard season 3 episode 1 recap.
If you want to see the TNG characters back together, just watch TNG