Review: Star Trek: Picard Season 3 Episode 1 “The Next Generation”
You probably remember where you were when you heard The Next Generation cast was heading back to television for the final season of Star Trek: Picard. Having this cast together again is a landmark moment in Star Trek history, and now the time has finally arrived. The first episode of Picard season three, “The Next Generation,” kicks off a journey that is sure to be one to remember. So, how does this episode fair in setting audience expectations for this highly anticipated season?
The story begins with a character who was arguably utilized the least among the TNG cast back in the day: Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden). The good doctor finds herself and her mysterious crewmate under attack, and it seems like something she has been dealing with a lot lately. Crusher puts up a decent fight against her alien attackers, but it’s clear she has bitten off more than she can chew. Before escaping the aliens, Crusher sends a distress call to her old friend, Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), stressing the urgency of the situation, and that he should trust no one, not even Starfleet.
“A point comes in a man’s life when he looks to the past to define himself, not just his future.”
“Well, I hope that’s not going to be me. I’m not a man who needs a legacy. I want a new adventure.”– Laris and Picard as the pair are packing up Picard’s mementos.
The retired admiral is busy storing items from his chateau as he and Laris (Orla Brady) get ready to travel off Earth together. The romantic pair seem perfectly happy with their life together and what future awaits them, but that all takes a backseat as Picard receives a message on an unexpected device: his old communicator from his time on Enterprise-D. (How lucky is it that the admiral was packing up his items and therefore had his old uniform out and about!) Picard plays the message from Beverly and is super-concerned about her safety, and after talking over the situation with Laris (including the fact that he and Crusher tried to be lovers but couldn’t make it work), he decides to seek help from another old friend: William Riker (Jonathan Frakes).
It’s clear the writers and producers for this season weren’t afraid to start this adventure with an on-the-nose metaphor for this outing of Picard and his crew. Harkening back to the good ole days on the Enterprise-D is undoubtedly one of the goals of this season, and how better to start that adventure than receiving a message on the old communicator itself?
The two friends meet in a bar to discuss the situation with Beverly, and in the process, we get the first of a few tongue-in-cheek jokes about how old the two men are and how their adventuring days are mostly behind them. Importantly, we learn Crusher cut herself off from her old Enterprise crewmates for the past 20 years, but no one knows why. But, rescuing their friend is paramount, so the two men devise a plot to travel to Crusher’s last known position in the Ryton System just outside Federation space, which the two men determined by using an old code word Beverly sent along with her message to Picard.
To get there, Riker hooks them up with the successor to his former Luna-class USS Titan, the Titan-A, under the command of Liam Shaw (Todd Stashwick) with Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) serving as First Officer. There is also a familiar name at the helm, Ensign Sidney LaForge (Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut), daughter of Geordi LaForge. Seeing the Titan–A isn’t a surprise, as the ship was all over recent trailers, but we can confidently say seeing glory shots of this Neo-Constitution class won’t get old anytime soon.
Riker and Picard come aboard the ship with the excuse of simply inspecting it before the Federation’s annual Frontier Day holiday, a time when Starfleet pumps out its chest and celebrates its fleet; both Riker and Picard are expected to give speeches at this event. But when they ask Shaw to divert to the Ryton System, the off-putting captain shuts them down and makes no effort to hide his disregard for the legendary duo and Admiral Picard specifically. The captain even calls out the admiral’s brief but destructive time as a Borg. Shaw is even disrespectful to Seven, who he requires to be referred to by her human name, Annika Hanson. Clearly, he must have an axe to grind against the Borg.
“How can I inspire when all I do is take shit from someone like Shaw? How am I supposed to ignore my gut, ignore my instincts, just to follow orders?”
“If you find that answer, will you let me know? Because I never did.”– Seven and Picard.
With the two men shut down, and after Picard and Riker bring her into the fold, Seven takes matters into her own hands. Disobeying a direct order from Shaw, Seven plots the Titan-A straight to the Ryton System and allows Riker and Picard to travel to Crusher’s ship in a shuttle. Docking their shuttle with Crusher’s ship, the two men find signs of battle, and their friend locked in a medical pod thanks to her injury in the previous battle. Also onboard is a young man (Ed Speleers), who initially holds up the older men at gunpoint before revealing himself to be… wait for it… Crusher’s son. Further questions will have to wait, though, as a menacing alien ship shows up and poses threateningly just outside the three men’s viewpoint.
Besides the plotline of Picard and Riker coming to Crusher’s rescue, Raffaela Musiker (Michelle Hurd) is back and on a mission of her own: trying to track who stole a bunch of weapons – including a quantum tunneling device – from Starfleet’s ultra-secure Daystrom space station. We find the Starfleet Intelligence operative on District Six on M’Talas Prime where she is posing as a druggie – no small ask for someone with a history of substance abuse – to help gain information about the thief. From these scenes, we glean that Raffi and Seven broke up in the time since Picard season two, but we aren’t told why.
From her dealer, she gets a tip about something happening with something or someone known as “the Red Lady,” so Raffi begins to search for what that means in relation to the stolen weapons. We also learn Raffi is being handled by someone in Starfleet Intelligence, but who this person is will have to wait. Raffi eventually discovers “the Red Lady” must refer to a statue just outside the soon-to-be dedicated Starfleet recruitment building in nearby District Seven, but she gets there just in time to witness the horrible destruction of the building via the quantum tunneling tech stolen from Daystrom Station.
As an introduction to the season, “The Next Generation” kicks off the piecemeal return of the TNG cast without wasting any time. We are pleased to see Beverly Crusher as an integral part of this plot, as her character was often underutilized in The Next Generation. Her character here offers quite a few questions, like what was she and her supposed son doing out in the middle of nowhere, where it seems like plenty of bad guys are out to get them. Importantly, is this Jack Crusher really Beverly’s son, and who is his father?
While we previously saw Jonathan Frakes as Riker in the memorable Picard episode “Nepenthe,” seeing him back in uniform is a joy and in such a prominent role is awesome. Yes, Picard and Riker crack wise about how old they are, and it’s hard to ignore the 30 years that have passed since their first adventures together, but who hasn’t dreamt of seeing this dream team back together again? Intriguingly, this episode also hints at some trouble in paradise, as Riker briefly mentions how he can join his former captain on this journey because his wife and daughter could stand some time away from him, although why exactly is not explained here.
One thing is for sure: this season isn’t interested in immediately bringing back the entire TNG cast for an adventure. Rather, it seems this season’s plot will gradually re-introduce these characters to the audience and bring them together in its own good time. On that front, this season is sure to offer an appealing proverbial carrot on a stick for Star Trek fans until we finally do reach an episode that features the entire cast. If “The Next Generation” is anything to go by, it’ll be a terrific journey, indeed.
- This episode was written by Picard showrunner Terry Matalas. M’Talas Prime is undoubtedly named after him. This is not the first planet named in honor of the showrunner, as the planet Matalas Prime from Enterprise is also a tribute to him. Matalas was a production associate for all four seasons of Enterprise.
- The recording of Picard’s log we hear in the first minutes of this episode is from TNG’s “The Best of Both Worlds.” Although why that’s playing on Crusher’s ship at this moment in time is unknown.
- On Crusher’s ship (which is identified as the S.S. Eleos XII on an LCARS display) is an old container belonging to her deceased husband, Jack R. Crusher, as played by Doug Wert in TNG’s “Family.”
- Eleos was a god who represented mercy and compassion in Greek mythology.
- The aliens who attack Crusher have worse aim than stormtroopers!
- The painting of the Enterprise-D Laris and Picard admire is the same painting seen hanging in Picard’s ready room on TNG.
- Among the mementos from Picard’s past that are displayed on his desk is the Ressikan flute he learned to play in “The Inner Light.”
- To decrypt Beverly’s message, Picard uses the same command code authorization he used in Star Trek: First Contact (Picard-4-7-Alpha-Tango).
- Riker and Picard mention an off-screen adventure they had “back in the old days” on Rigel 7, which is the same planet featured in the Original Series episode “The Cage.”
- In TNG’s “All Good Things,” the alternate-future Picard asks Geordi about his daughter, Sidney.
- This episode reveals the Titan-A’s maximum warp is 9.99. Why Picard would remind Seven to tell engineering to prepare for such a high speed is a fairly awkward way to help enforce the notion Picard is out of his element.
- Why wouldn’t Captain Shaw be on the bridge for the Titan–A’s departure, even if he was “catching up on logs,” as Seven claims?
- Deep Space 4 and Deep Space 11 are referenced during the dinner scene with Seven, Shaw, Riker, and Picard. Deep Space 4 was previously mentioned in TNG’s “The Chase” and Voyager’s “The Gift.”
- Raffi asks the computer to display “all big events coming up in the next few months,” and the computer only displays three events?! She didn’t mention any filters, such as the number of attendees or location, so wouldn’t there be many more than three events to display?
- One of the events displayed is the Gratitude Festival, the annual Bajoran holiday mentioned in various Deep Space Nine episodes. Another event displayed is Empire Union Day, a Klingon holiday mentioned in the audiotape Power Klingon, a 1993 audio production that helps the listener speak Klingon. What a deep cut!
- The Red Lady in question turns out to be a statue of Rachel Garrett, the captain of the ill-fated Enterprise-C, as seen in TNG’s classic episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise” and played by Tricia O’Neil.
- Also seen on the display when Raffi pulls up imagery of Frontier Day is a Sagan-class Starfleet ship, as introduced in season two of Picard, and a Yorktown-class Starfleet vessel, as introduced in the game Star Trek Online. Based on trailers for this season, that Yorktown-class ship may very well be the Enterprise-F.
The third and final season of Star Trek: Picard stars Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard, LeVar Burton as Geordi La Forge, Michael Dorn as Worf, Jonathan Frakes as William Riker, Gates McFadden as Beverly Crusher, Marina Sirtis as Deanna Troi, Brent Spiner as Lore, Jeri Ryan as Seven, Michelle Hurd as Raffi, along with Amanda Plummer as Vadic, Todd Stashwick as Captain Liam Shaw and Ed Speleers.
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