‘Star Trek: Picard’ Finally Returns to “The Next Generation”
After two seasons of mostly Jean-Luc on Star Trek: Picard, it’s time for a TNG reunion. But what are the circumstances of that reunion?
Welcome back to Star Trek: Picard! When last we left our heroes they… you know what? It doesn’t really matter. The “previously on…” section is more or less irrelevant. This third season is almost entirely a fresh start.
But for the record: most of Picard’s new crew is now his old crew. Rios stayed in the past. Jurati is a Borg Queen. The Soongs are basically in the wind. Last we checked, Seven and Raffi are dating. And Picard is also dating someone – Laris.
As for Picard’s actual old crew, here’s what we know. Riker and Troi live on Nepenthe with their daughter Kestra. Data is dead (again). Wesley Crusher helps run a team who keeps time in order. And that’s actually kind of it. According to the Star Trek: Picard novel “Last Best Hope” Geordi was working on the Utopia Planitia shipyard and Worf was captain of the Enterprise. But none of that is official canon – so far as we know.
“What’s up with Beverly Crusher,” you might be asking yourself. Well, funny you should ask.
Star Trek: Picard – To Boldly Recap
Beverly Crusher awakes on her ship to the sound of an invading force. She immediately shuts out the only other crew member who seems to be aboard. And then she wipes out the masked aliens who attempt to board.
Bleeding and with more invaders on the way, Crusher sends an encrypted message using the Myriad Codec to Admiral Jean-Luc Picard. On Chateau Picard, Laris and Picard discuss moving away to Chaltok IV. He looks forward to giving up his past and material possessions so he can rest easy and write his memoirs.
But that night he receives a distress call from Beverly on an old Enterprise D comm badge. In the message, Crusher says she’s enclosed coordinates to her location. She says the word “Hellbird” and instructs Picard to trust no one, not even Starfleet. Laris tells Picard to investigate.
Picard and His Number One
Picard meets Riker at Ten Forward to share with Riker what he knows. Riker recognizes the word “Hellbird” which refers to a virus on the Enterprise D during their battle with the Borg. Riker uses that knowledge to ascertain Crusher’s true coordinates. She is in the Ryton system – outside Federation space.
Riker has one question: Why did Beverly cut everyone off? Knowing they can trust no one, Riker hatches a plan. But someone overhears their conversation and they look evil.
Meanwhile, on M’Talas Prime, Raffi appears to be out of Starfleet and addicted to drugs again. She and Seven apparently broke up. She begs her dealer for some information about stolen tech from the Daystrom Institute. If she can help Starfleet, maybe she can get back in.
The only information her dealer gives her is about “the red lady”. It turns out Raffi is not kicked out of Starfleet – she’s undercover. And she has a handler whose face she’s never seen taking in all her intel. The handler refuses to meet in person but presses Raffi to find out who, or what, the Red Lady is.
A Titan Among Ships
Back with Picard and Riker, the pair intend to do a fake surprise inspection on board the USS Titan-A. They need to convince Captain Shaw to change course for the Ryton system, but he’s “not a friendly face”. Fortunately, Shaw’s first officer is Seven of Nine. And even more fortunate is the woman at the helm: Sidney LaForge. Yes, daughter of Geordi LaForge.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that Captain Shaw is dismissive of Picard and Riker’s past missions. And, after giving them a faux fair hearing, he makes it clear that the Titan is not going to the Ryton system. Lucky for Picard and Riker that Seven feels more allegiance towards them than she does for her captain.
After Seven demands an explanation (and gets one), she reveals that she has disobeyed orders and takes the Titan to the Ryton system. She instructs Riker and Picard when to steal a shuttlecraft and make way for the nebula where Crusher’s ship hides.
The Red Ladies
After a long search, Raffi figures out what the Red Lady is. She, or rather it, is a statue of Enterprise-C captain Rachel Garrett which gets a dedication ceremony at the upcoming Frontier Day. At Starfleet recruitment, home to the new Garrett statue, Raffi reaches out with an emergency message. But it’s too late. What appears to be a portal weapon gobbles up Starfleet’s recruitment center from the bottom before depositing its remains on top of the city.
Back with Riker and Picard, they board Beverly’s ship where they find evidence of a battle. On the bridge, Picard finds Crusher inside a bio-tube – and she’s near death. Unfortunately, Riker has found the other member of the ship who is holding Riker at gunpoint.
Picard talks the other crewmember down and asks who he is. The answer: Beverly Crusher’s son. There’s no time for that revelation, though, because Riker and Picard have led the mysterious masked aliens to the ship’s location. Crusher’s son says they’ve encountered these aliens everywhere they run, but they always have different faces.
Before the young Crusher can explain who the aliens are, a giant ship appears that looks like a cross between the Enterprise-D and the Reman vessel from Star Trek: Nemesis, the Scimitar.
Fade to black.
Star Trek: Picard – To Boldly Review
Star Trek: Picard starts every season on a strong note. “The Next Generation” is no exception. The season three premiere reintroduces our characters, sets up our mystery, and leaves us on a suitably menacing cliffhanger. But that’s the thing – it’s hard to trust these first episodes precisely because they are always good. And then the execution of the stories these episodes set up is always mediocre. It’s hard not to get ahead of yourself at this point.
Focusing on the good. It is very good to see Beverly Crusher again. It’s exciting seeing Beverly take down a ton of mysterious aliens on her own both because it shows us a new side of the character and because it leaves us wondering how she became the person she is now.
It is also very good to see Will Riker. The closest Picard has ever gotten to recapturing the TNG glory days was in a season one episode called “Nepenthe”. In that episode, Picard seeks shelter with Riker and Deanna Troi. Jonathan Frakes has a wonderful warmth in that episode and he brings it back once again for “The Next Generation”.
Seven and Raffi
One of the problems with the first two seasons of Star Trek: Picard is the supporting cast. Rios, Jurati, and Elnor especially never quite gel. All of them are out of the picture now. And, after one scene with Laris, that character is out, too. I wish I could say I am sorry to see them go, but I’m not.
Seven of Nine, however, now the number one on board the USS Titan is back and better than ever. After the revenge murders in season one and the hemming and hawing over her case of the Borg Sads in season two, this season Seven is much more focused. She’s a commander. She is struggling with the over-safe Captain Shaw. And she is choosing to take risks and do what’s right for her friend Jean-Luc. Her motivations feel clear and I’m rooting for her.
Raffi, on the other hand, is still a little rough in “The Next Generation”. It’s interesting how she’s both faking and not faking her ongoing substance abuse problem. And the scene where she’s too late to prevent a terrorist attack is genuinely harrowing. But this primary character trait she has where she’s pissed off all the time? It’s getting old before it starts. Hopefully, she’ll find her center in the coming episodes.
The Titan Crew
The absolute stand-out of “The Next Generation” is Captain Shaw. He’s surly, he hates jazz, and he has no patience for “superior officers” who want to mess with the good thing he’s got going on. He’s likable in his unlikability. He openly hates former Borg. Like with Ben Sisko back in the day, I suspect we’ll find out why eventually.
There’s this fascinating situation between Shaw and Seven where he refuses to call her by anything other than Seven’s original name, Annika Hansen. He basically deadnames her, which is super gross. But what makes it work is that everyone knows it’s gross except for Shaw. It feels authentic to both Shaw and Seven. They’ve got a core conflict and I’m looking forward to seeing how it resolves.
And of course, it’s also a thrill to see a LaForge at the helm. Sidney “Crash” LaForge is so named because she’s crashed multiple shuttlepods. Her jubilance at the sight of Picard and Riker mirrors the audience’s, and that’s just neat.
Things I’m Not So Sure About
People change over time. Who you are now is most assuredly not who you were two decades ago. I accept that our beloved “TNG” characters must change. However, I struggle with the notion that Beverly Crusher just up and stopped talking to everyone twenty years ago. Really? And nobody knows? Don’t these people have the 24th-century equivalent of Facebook? I don’t buy it. It feels like the characters were altered for the sake of the narrative in this case and not because it makes sense.
Related: we get this idea that Riker is on the outs with Deanna and Kestra. Why? They all seem like they’re on great terms in “Nepenthe” so what gives? I’m not saying this can’t work in the long term. I am saying this feels a little forced in the short term.
Stray Observation Deck
There are a lot of Easter eggs in “The Next Generation”. Crusher’s ship alone is loaded with them. The theater masks are from Beverly’s love of theater. The log playing is Picard’s from “The Best of Both Worlds Part I”. Crusher has an award that references Cor Caroli V where she helped eradicate the Phyrox plague. This is something we never see but do hear about in the episode “Allegiance”. Even the pearl necklace is a shout-out to the episode “The Big Goodbye”.
But obviously the one thing everyone is wondering about is the gear labeled “Jack Crusher” a.k.a. Beverly’s long-dead husband.
Riker bemoans how no one wants to buy the Enterprise-D statues. Laris mentions Chaltok IV which is a Romulan colony mentioned in the Voyager episode “Time and Again”. The new Titan is a “Neo-Constitution” class ship, a reference to the original USS Enterprise. The Titan had a lot of jazz built-in which Shaw has removed. And Shaw refers to Picard and Seven as “Former Ex Borg” for obvious reasons.
Questions, Queries, Quibbles
There are a lot of obvious questions, the biggest being “how can Beverly have a son and who’s the daddy?” But there’s a lot of other stuff in the stew, too. Why are the Crushers being chased by aliens and how are those aliens able to change their faces? Why does Shaw seem to have a thing against the Borg? Who destroyed that Starfleet building and why?
But my big question is this: Raffi’s handler is Worf, right? Because they refer to Raffi as a “warrior” and that’s a pretty classic Worf move. If it is him, hopefully, we won’t have long to wait before we see him in the flesh.
All in all, a solid start. 4/5 stars
Until next time, this is your humble recapper signing off. Computer: End Program.