After two middling but slowly improving seasons of Star Trek: Picard, the show has returned for one last hurrah — and god damn, was it worth the rest. If you have ever considered yourself a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation (or even, to a lesser extent, Deep Space Nine or Voyager), then get ready for the love letter coming your way on February 16th.
While this season puts its characters in terrible spots, and there are rumors a few will die by season’s end, this wild ride has a real genuine affection for all the players. It's the absolute most fun I’ve had watching Paramount Plus’ myriad of Star Trek shows. And part of my love of this final season comes from how excited the show is to take some of Star Trek’s most flawless heroes and find the humanity in them. These characters are messy dumbasses, and it makes the adventure all the better.
Back in Deep Space Nine, Worf, new to the station and struggling with the many conflicting personalities of the crew, speaks fondly of the crew of the Enterprise-D from Star Trek: The Next Generation. “We were like warriors from the ancient sagas,” he says wistfully, “there was nothing we could not do.” Which was true. The crew of TNG fought gods, survived wars, discovered new species, traveled through time, got turned into monsters and back to people again, and occasionally got busy with alien ghosts inhabiting antique candles (you had to be there).
But the problem with TNG was the characters seemed to be without significant flaws. Sure, Picard liked Shakespeare a bit too much, Riker had his love of the trombone, and Troi’s fatal flaw was her love of chocolate. But when put up against other crews, like the Deep Space Nine one (it had a terrorist on the team!) and Voyager (it had multiple terrorists on the team!), the TNG crew felt more sanitized. For many fans, this was the boring crew.
Yet, if you squinted, you could see where the show glossed over what might be some significant character issues. Picard’s love of adventure got him killed multiple times, while Crusher was so sure of herself she’d regularly ignore commands and once even was convinced the universe was the broken one. Riker cracked jokes and put his career first to avoid intimacy, and Geordi LaForge was so obsessed with engineering he fell in love with a hologram. These characters have always had flaws, but they rarely, if ever, drove the action.
Until Star Trek: Picard.
Twenty years after Nemesis, this crew’s last big adventure together, they’ve all returned, and they finally feel like messy humans instead of warriors from the ancient sagas. Picard and Riker race to save Crusher, Worf deals with a new threat to the Federation, and Troi, Geordi and whoever Brent Spiner is playing this time around get caught up in the action too. They all still feel like the characters of TNG — only pried out of the 1990s syndicated space adventure mold and put into the 2020s prestige streaming show mold.
Watching the first six episodes of this season, I kept thinking this was what it must have felt like to be a fan of the original series and finally get great movies like Wrath of Kahn and The Voyage Home. These are still the same characters, played by the same actors, but we’re seeing them in a way the original show never could have allowed. And I don’t just mean that it’s more violent, although Worf does dismember some people. Sometimes the characters make bad decisions in Picard. They mess up. They fight.
But when you worry Picard is starting to feel like a too-edgy sequel, there will be little moments of wonder you can only get in Star Trek. New discoveries. Clever puzzles that get solved. Old villains reappear and feel more menacing thanks to the bigger budget and better special effects of Picard.
Like Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, this feels like a proper Star Trek show in a way a lot of live-action Star Trek has failed to. But because these are characters we’ve known since 1987, there’s real emotional weight to these adventures. And some shockingly good acting. Jeri Ryan is back as Seven of Nine, and she continues to steal every scene she’s in by virtue of just being that good, but she’s not carrying the whole show on her back like she sometimes did the last two seasons. Patrick Stewart seems to sometimes doze his way through Picard, but there’s a scene with him and Gates McFadden’s Crusher that will have you sitting up straight — eyes glued to the screen. Michael Dorn and Michelle Hurd both have their own scene-stealing moments as Worf and Raffi, respectively, and in one scene, Brent Spiner reminds us of why he and his characters Data and Lore had such fervent followings in the ’90s. There’s something a little electric as all these characters come together.
There are still four episodes of Star Trek: Picard I haven’t seen, and the show could drop the ball spectacularly. The wildness of this show (you should really make an effort to avoid all spoilers) could veer into absolutely absurd territory. But in these first six episodes, you have a very goofy, very thrilling, and very fun sequel to Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Star Trek: Picard airs weekly on Paramount Plus beginning February 16.