Early within the new season of Star Trek: Picard, our eponymous hero (performed, as at all times, by Patrick Stewart) and his companion Laris (Orla Brady) are supervising the donation of a lot of his profession mementos to numerous Starfleet and Federation museums. Jean-Luc fears being an outdated relic who simply waxes on in regards to the good outdated days, however she assures him that he doesn’t should spend a lot time speaking in regards to the current. “The previous issues, and that’s okay,” she insists. “Some extent is available in a person’s life when he seems to his previous to outline himself.”
It’s exhausting to think about a extra blatant mission assertion for a season of tv than this trade. The primary two Picard seasons have been largely forgettable save for the spectacle of Stewart persevering with to offer the fabric his all whilst he entered his 80s. Makes an attempt to offer him a brand new crew by no means actually clicked, and the prolonged story arcs have been a slog. Among the many uncommon highlights was a Season One episode the place Jean-Luc paid a go to to outdated shipmates Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), whose relationships with the title character felt way more lived-in than makes an attempt to generate new backstory between him and, say, former Starfleet intelligence officer Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd).
So for the present’s third and remaining season, the Picard artistic workforce has largely deserted all pretense of attempting to boldly go the place Jean-Luc has by no means gone earlier than. Will and Deanna are again, and so is nearly all the Star Trek: The Subsequent Era ensemble at one level or one other, together with former ship’s physician — and Picard’s outdated flame — Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden), noble Klingon warrior Worf (Michael Dorn), and down to earth engineer Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton). The season even finds a technique to get Brent Spiner again, although — as Jean-Luc factors out in a single episode — we’ve already seen Knowledge die twice. (As soon as in Star Trek: Nemesis, as soon as on the finish of Picard Season One.)
Raffi remains to be hanging round, as is Jeri Ryan as Star Trek: Voyager alum Seven of 9, however the remainder of the Picard ensemble is gone. Dr. Crusher is being hunted by events unknown, for causes unknown, and her determined scenario ends in a lot of the Enterprise-D bridge crew teaming as much as assist her.
Now, a lot of the brand new season is fairly shameless pandering. It’s not simply that the outdated gang is again, however that these episodes quote liberally from well-known compositions from previous Star Trek movies, in addition to sure story beats. There are a number of episodes, for example, the place Picard, Riker, and Seven are on a starship being chased by way of a nebula by a relentless foe, one in all a number of concepts borrowed from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. There are Easter eggs galore, Worf inevitably references the notion of it being a very good day to die, different outdated faces and ships seem, and on and on. At one level, Jean-Luc merely begins recapping the plot of a well-known Subsequent Era episode (“Darmok,” the one the place he met an alien race who communicates fully in metaphors) for a gaggle of keen Starfleet cadets. Massive swaths of the season can really feel like fan service searching for a narrative to justify all of it.
On the similar time, the followers (myself included) may use a bit of service and pandering after two disappointing seasons that didn’t stay as much as the magic of the franchise’s biggest actor reprising his most well-known position. Star Trek as a complete could also be on a little bit of an upswing due to reveals like Decrease Decks and, particularly, the defiantly old-school Unusual New Worlds, however numerous the CBS All Entry/Paramount+ period has been very irritating. If a present’s not going to be nice, it might as effectively simply give the individuals all of the characters and callbacks that they need.
The brand new episodes don’t qualify as nice. There’s a deadly-dull thriller thread involving Raffi and Worf. She nonetheless feels extraneous regardless of Hurd’s finest efforts, whereas Michael Dorn will get buried below a metric ton of exposition that doesn’t play to any of his strengths as an actor. A few of the storytelling can nonetheless be clumsy: the Wrath of Khan homage doesn’t actually work as a result of we don’t know or perceive the villain (performed by Amanda Plummer) the way in which we did Khan. And the present nonetheless presents solely probably the most superficial makes an attempt at being extra “grownup” than Subsequent Era. When Star Wars lastly needs to be grownup, it provides us Andor, a morally complicated, Wire-esque drama relating a number of layers of society throughout the Empire. When Star Trek tries to be extra grownup, Patrick Stewart will get to name somebody a “dipshit from Chicago.”
Having stated that, these new episodes are nonetheless an unlimited, huge enchancment over what Picard has performed earlier than. The TNG solid has remained shut over the a long time, and their chemistry from the Eighties and Nineties nonetheless works. Dorn might wrestle rattling off the prison histories of characters we’ve by no means heard of earlier than, however he additionally will get to fantastically ship one-liners like, “Beheadings are on Wednesdays,” and nonetheless has that fireside in his eyes when Worf is getting ready to threat his life on behalf of his pals. Jonathan Frakes (who additionally directs a number of episodes) does some sturdy work as a sadder, extra cautious William Riker. And since these characters have a lot shared historical past, a lot of them can stand as much as their former captain and generate fascinating drama, the place a lot of the Picard newbies handled him on some degree with reverence. The brand new season’s fifth episode, which brings again a recurring participant from Nineties Trek, is particularly satisfying in the way it forces Jean-Luc to revisit selections we noticed him and others make approach again when. As excellent as Stewart was at enjoying this older, frailer Picard within the first two seasons, he appears even stronger attending to spar with so a lot of his outdated scene companions.
Unusual New Worlds has made a convincing argument that Trek is finest served by going again to the Mission of the Week format that served Picard so effectively in middle-age. The conspiracy plots right here aren’t inherently extra fascinating than what we bought on this present’s first two seasons, however they appear extra thrilling by advantage of who’s concerned. It will have been enjoyable for the present to contrive an excuse for this aged crew to reunite for one remaining burst of exploration, and easily go to a brand new planet each episode. Failing that, although, this class reunion is fairly darned entertaining. As Don Draper as soon as stated — whereas speaking about an object that he insisted was not a spaceship — nostalgia actually means “the ache from an outdated wound,” and urged that there was nothing improper with revisiting “a spot the place we ache to go once more.” It’s good to be again on this explicit firm of Starfleet officers in any case this time.
The third season of Star Trek: Picard begins streaming February 16 on Paramount+, with further episodes releasing weekly. I’ve seen the season’s first six episodes.