Review: Star Trek: Picard 310 “The Last Generation” — As one trial ends, another begins
Congratulations, folks. We just lived through an epoch of Star Trek history together. The end of Star Trek: Picard – but in reality, “The Last Generation” – is a bombastic, poignant, and unforgettable rollercoaster that is the bow the TNG cast deserved but never got.
Saving the World Once Again
After embarking on their old home to head for the Sol System, Admiral Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his crew are on their way to Earth when they discover a threat lurking beneath the gasses of Jupiter: a Borg Cube. They realize this Cube is where Jack Crusher (Ed Speleers) is, and he is directing the carnage wrought in Earth orbit by the assimilated Starfleet armada. So, it’s up to our seven heroes to, once again, save the world.
Picard, Captain William Riker (Jonathan Frakes), and Worf (Michael Dorn) beam aboard the Cube with two goals: destroy the beacon that is transmitting instructions to other Borg, and save Jack. Picard tackles the latter himself, leaving his friends with a fond farewell for the likely scenario the older man doesn’t make it from whatever trap the Borg are likely laying for him.
“What began over 35 years ago ends tonight.”– Jean-Luc, upon discovering the Cube in Jupiter. This line is also clearly reflective of this being The Next Generation’s final adventure.
Finding his assimilated son, Picard also finds the main baddy who has been pulling the strings all along: the Borg Queen (voiced by Alice Krige and played by Jane Edwina Seymour). It’s a terrifying realization for the man, knowing there is a Queen who is haunting him and his family again. Picard has no choice but to hear the Queen’s monologue about how and why she exists as this decrepit, vile, and mere shadow of a proper Borg Queen. Apparently, this Queen, the last of the Borg, has been living on the fringes of space and biding her time, even absorbing drones within her Cube to sustain her last vestiges of life – until she sensed Jack and decided it was time to strike back. All this waiting has paid off for her, though, as now her plans have come to fruition and she holds Jack, Picard, Starfleet (especially its younger members), and perhaps the galaxy in her grasp, while inviting Picard to witness his “future’s end.”
What the Queen wasn’t counting on, however, was Jean-Luc’s newfound dedication to his son, and in a moment of self-sacrifice, he plugs himself into the Borg Collective to try and save Jack. Returning to the Collective is no easy feat for Jean-Luc, as his time as Locutus weighs heavily on his mind, perhaps more so now than at any other point since First Contact. The two men share a tender moment in the Borg consciousness, as Picard asserts to Jack that the younger man was the element Jean-Luc was missing ever since leaving Starfleet. In a welcome reference to the all-but-forgotten previous seasons of this show, Picard tells his boy that all that time just “waiting to die” back on the chateau wouldn’t have happened if Picard knew about Jack. Jack, for his part, is grateful to feel the connection for once in his life by being in the Borg Collective and struggles to free himself from the cage the Queen has built for him.
The emotion emanating from the father has a profound effect on the assimilated son, especially when Jean-Luc offers to stay with his son in the Collective since the younger man doesn’t want to leave. But this show of affection and connection makes Jack return to reality and rip himself from his Borg garments, thereby eschewing himself from the Queen. The two men are far from safe, as Riker and Worf have successfully shut down the beacon and the Cube now has mere moments before its destruction. It seems like the landing party and Jack will have to be sacrificed for the greater good, if not for a last-minute save from the Enterprise-D, which, thanks to Data’s skillful flying and insight from Troi’s boundless connection with Riker, pulled a Millennium Falcon-like run through the Cube to reach our heroes.
“I joined Starfleet to find a family I didn’t have. And I found it. I let them in. But, there was always a barrier. I, too, thought there was something wrong with me. And I waited, waited in that vineyard waiting to die, alone. But now, Jack, I realize you were the part of me that I never knew was missing.”– Jean-Luc to his son.
Let’s take a moment and appreciate what sheer ass-kicking the Enterprise gets to do here. Who would have ever thought we would see this ship tear across the surface of a Cube, phasers, and photons flying, and then dive into the belly of the beast to twist its way through the (surprisingly spacious) arteries of the monster? Yeah, it’s awesome, and the scenes of the Enterprise flying through the Cube will live in our heads rent-free for quite a while. (Although the D sure is in great shape for being a museum piece with basically no crew, yeah?). Seeing the ship’s abilities realized via modern effects is certainly one of the most striking parts of this episode.
Anyway, with the day saved over Jupiter, the Starfleet armada that destroyed Spacedock and was turning its sights on Earth shuts down, its young crewmembers returned to normal. And not a moment too soon, as Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) and Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd), who had just taken back the Titan and were trying to distract the large Starfleet armada with hit-and-run attacks, reached the end of the line and were all but doomed. Seeing the Titan strafe the Starfleet armada is also incredibly exciting, and the visa of the flotilla raining an ungodly hell storm of phasers and photon torpedoes on Spacedock is a majestic sight. That station sure did take a lot of heat, huh?
With our heroes safe and Earth saved, it’s a chance for everybody to take a breather. We are most appreciative of “The Last Generation” allowing time for the TNG folks to have their (ostensibly) final moments; Nemesis is often criticized for being way too short a goodbye for these legendary characters, and rest assured director and writer (and showrunner) Terry Matalas is not apt to make that same mistake.
We Don’t Want the Game to End
20 minutes of scenes string together to form the grand goodbye this episode offers. Beverly, now head of Starfleet Medical, devises a solution to beaming the Borg essence out of all younger members of Starfleet; and better yet, those who were assimilated bear no side effects from their ordeal. We’re not quite sure how that works, but okay. Also luckily, the Changelings never killed the people they replaced. It seems like a happy ending all around.
As we expected, Raffi gets some vindication, as she makes amends with her family after her heroic actions. It’s a fairly quick resolution, as we were hoping, but it’s also the happy ending we always thought Raffi deserves. Better yet, Worf seems to have formed a bond with the woman – and it’s heavily hinted Worf was the one responsible for letting Raffi’s family know about her exploits as soon as possible, even the ones previously classified. It’s a sweet action from the Klingon, and we would definitely be down for seeing more of this surprisingly poignant platonic relationship.
We get a scene with Data and Troi, where Data is absorbing the emotions he felt during their adventure, and realizes being human is extraordinarily more complex than he assumed. Troi, for her part, once again offers some poor counseling and ultimately is distracted from Data’s admittedly long session and opts to research vacation destinations for her and Will instead. In any case, seeing Data deal with the real, honest-to-God human condition is a rewarding scene that Brent Spiner plays with heartfelt emotion.
“If ever there was better evidence that the past mattered, it’s right here.”
“How many times has she managed to save the world?”
“No doubt more than the years will allow three old men to remember.”– Picard, Geordi, and Riker upon saying goodbye to the Enterprise again.
One year later, Riker, Picard, and Geordi give the Enterprise’s bridge one last lookover before turning the lights off and offering some tender parting words to their home. Why they waited a year to do this, we don’t know, but it’s a fond farewell to a legendary ship. This scene is emotionally punctuated with snippets of “To Live Forever” from the Star Trek: Generations soundtrack, the same track that played when Picard and Riker said goodbye to the Enterprise-D the first time.
We also see what happens to Jack after his ordeal with the Borg. The man has decided to enlist in Starfleet, and we see his parents escorting him to his first assignment. After a clever conversation about the importance of names and legacy, Picard realizes where Jack is posted when they reach their destination: the U.S.S. Titan – or rather, the ship formerly known as the Titan. It’s now the U.S.S. Enterprise-G, rechristened in honor of Picard and his crew. As Jack retorts to his father’s previous statement, “Names mean almost everything.” Don’t worry, Jean-Luc, we are also tearing up at seeing another Picard serve on another Enterprise.
Taking his station on the bridge next to Captain Seven of Nine and First Officer Raffi Musiker – with Ensign Sidney La Forge (Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut) at the helm – Jack seems to be off on a whole new adventure. Considering this scene and the post-credits section we’ll get to in a moment, there’s no way Terry hasn’t set up the Enterprise-G crew for their own show, right? No way.
Seeing Seven of Nine as captain will surely be thrilling to many fans. It’s a long-awaited resolution to her character and one she wouldn’t have gotten if it weren’t for the reveal – from the real Tuvok (Tim Russ), no less – than the late Captain Liam Shaw (Todd Shashwick) actually recommended Seven for a promotion before the Titan embarked on its journey in the season premiere. Seems like the curmudgeon had a soft spot for her, after all, and it’s a sweet scene when Seven tearfully realizes her former captain’s respect for her.
“She’s brave. And loyal. And the book that she writes is going to be great. And the rules she breaks… maybe they were broken to begin with.”– The late Captain Shaw about Seven of Nine.
At Seven’s side on the Enterprise-G is Raffi, and this pairing of ex-lovers seems rife for exploration in a future series. They seemed to be getting along great in the couple minutes we saw them on the bridge together, and it’s refreshing to see a relationship with ex-lovers that isn’t awkward, strained, or laden with drama. It isn’t clear how exactly Raffi secured the XO posting on the Enterprise-G, but at this point, we suppose it doesn’t really matter.
Finally, the seven TNG crewmembers share a scene in Ten Forward, where drinks and laughs are in no short supply. To toast their adventure, Picard offers a heartfelt and entirely appropriate passage from William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.” It’s simultaneously quintessential Picard and Patrick Stewart. But the real celebration comes as the admiral, of all people, suggests rejoicing in a far more appropriate way: a game of poker. This is the perfect icing on the cake, and the episode’s credits play over a lingering shot of the crew playing poker and having a grand time. This, our friends, is the big goodbye.
“My father told me all about you. I thought you were dead?”
“Oh… and here I was hoping the next generation wouldn’t think so linearly.”– Jack and Q.
Of course, there’s one more thing worth watching – an end credit sequence where Jack is setting up his new quarters on the Enterprise-G when he is greeted by a surprise guest: Q (John de Lancie). That’s right, Q is back, and apparently not dead given the events of Picard season two. Jack voices the audience’s question and asks Q why he isn’t dead, but Q responds with a perfectly Q-esque retort about humanity always thinking so linearly. Q is in fact there to begin Jack’s trial, in the same way, Q began Jean-Luc’s trial in The Next Generation series premiere. What an intriguing way to leave viewers!
A Generation’s Final Journey
Thus, we are at the end, and what a remarkable ride it was. In the lead-up to this season, one would see numerous Tweets and comments from both cast and crew of this show who espoused how great this season was going to be, and it got to the point where we thought it would be nearly impossible for Picard to attain the level of entertainment fans were expecting. But boy did it. The last two episodes alone were hard-charging, emotional, and well-paced rides that adroitly navigated the needs of these characters and offered fans some long-awaited payoffs. Indeed, the season itself was pretty spectacular when taken as a whole.
This season’s thesis was examining how the passage of time changed our beloved characters, and showrunner Terry Matalas and his people explored new facets of these people while still having them retain familiar characteristics and personalities. From Riker’s depression and apathy after losing his son and his following marital problems, to Geordi’s maturation as a father and trying to balance his loyalty between Picard and his daughters, to Data rising from the dead again but being remarkably different thanks to his brother’s polarizing influence. These are all sensible, intriguing ways our characters returned to TV. Oh, and let’s not forget Beverly Crusher actually having a key role in a Star Trek plot, something she was desperately lacking in the TNG movies, and Worf’s new holistic perspective on life. These attitudes all combined to help form a season that serves as a great template for how to explore legacy characters and not just offer fan service, although don’t get us wrong – there was plenty of that in this season. Case in point: the platter of red meat Matalas served up to fans in “The Bounty.”
Quite a few characters and threads from The Next Generation were picked up in Picard season three. The return of Ro Laren in “Imposters,” with all the emotional turmoil that entailed for Jean-Luc, was an unexpected but welcome plotline, and a template for how to bring back a legacy character for more than just fan service. Seeing Elizabeth Shelby again, this time in command of the Enterprise-F in “Vox,” was also a surprising pleasure, and her fate is ironic considering her Borg-fighting role in “The Best of Both Worlds.”
Having Data return to the cast in the form of a human hybrid golem was a smart way to bring back the twice-dead character, but this time with fascinating baggage. Seeing his drawn-out fight against Lore in “Surrender” was a confrontation we’d waited years to see, and it’s neat to think there’s still a bit of Lore, and Soong’s other creations, in the person we now know as Data. Finally, having Alice Krige offer her sultry voice to the revived Borg Queen, even if it wasn’t her likeness, was a neat touch that plays to the idea that the Borg are everlasting and ever-connected. Clearly, this show’s producers saw The Next Generation’s body of work and lovingly picked which elements they’d like to see back, even if for a fleeting moment, such as was the case with Moriarty’s brief but logical reappearance in “The Bounty.”
We were also thrilled with how each member of the TNG cast had an important role to play in this final confrontation with the Cube. Worf, Riker, and Picard formed the landing party that ultimately destroyed the Cube and rescued Jack. Geordi assumed command of his labor of love; Data, acting on his gut – something he was never able to do before – flew like a pro; Beverly got some serious ass-kicking screentime as the Enterprise’s de facto tactical officer; and Deanna ultimately saved the landing party by telepathically geo-locating the landing team. Considering the TNG movies are often criticized for not utilizing the entire cast properly, “The Last Generation” definitely doesn’t follow in those footsteps.
Taken together, we were thrilled with “The Last Generation,” as Terry Matalas and crew have delivered a send-off worthy of this legendary cast. The finale is a generally high-speed affair that knows when to slow down and appreciate the beauty these characters and this universe can bring to the screen. We won’t soon forget the Enterprise-D facing off against a Cube above Jupiter, the downright nauseatingly grotesque design of the Borg Queen and her environment, the Titan strafing Starfleet as Spacedock crumbles before our eyes, or the crew gathered around a poker table one more time. It’s all lovingly written and directed by Matalas, who has proven himself not only a showrunner with a keen respect for Star Trek but a superb director to boot.
Paramount, give this man and his team all the money they need to continue their voyages through 25th-century Star Trek. Based on Picard’s reception, it’s what the fans want. And perhaps more importantly, it’s what Star Trek’s legacy characters deserve. Other beloved characters should get the same treatment the TNG cast received in this amazing season.
- This episode marks the first ending of a new-era Star Trek show.
- This episode has a special Star Trek splash logo, with the Enterprise-D replacing the Titan.
- It’d be hard for us to say no to any Star Trek cameo, but we really thought the Walter Koenig voice cameo as Federation President Anton Chekov, son of the famous crew member of Kirk’s Enterprise, was quite shoe-horned. Although we do really appreciate Chekov’s son being named Anton, no doubt in honor of the late Anton Yelchin, who played Chekov in the most recent Star Trek movies.
- We’ve seen the Enterprise-D in orbit around countless planets, but to see it so small compared to Jupiter is quite striking. Likewise, seeing the sheer size of the Cube against the Galaxy-class is strikingly different from, say, “Q Who.” Thanks, modern visual effects!
- Terry Matalas is a pro when it comes to knowing when to insert comic relief in an otherwise serious story. Case in point in this episode: Riker’s discovery that Worf’s sword is way heavier than he thought, Beverly’s surprising adroitness at wreaking havoc with the D’s weapons – and saying simply “A lot has happened in the last 20 years” – and Data’s enjoyment at diving into the Borg Cube. Hilarious.
- The Fleet Formation mode and the attack on Spacedock both seem like elements from this show that could easily make the transition to Star Trek Online as an ability and playable event, respectively.
- This is nitpicky, but Worf asserts the term “farewell” is one no Klingon ever admits to knowing, but why not? Seems like “farewell” could be used honorably in the Klingon lexicon, like when heading into battle.
- If we were Geordi, we would have at least offered to replace Beverly at tactical when it came time to fire on the beacon, thus destroying the Cube and everyone on it, including her son. Asking her to pull the trigger that kills her son seems a bit harsh.
- Why didn’t Seven and Raffi start immediately firing on the younger assimilated crew members when they entered the bridge, and vice versa?
- Why would Seven, Raffi, and the two La Forge children appear on the Enterprise’s viewscreen, and then nobody says a word?
- Our thought last week about the Borg takeover of Starfleet being a landmark event in this universe seems to be correct, as Riker points out in his final captain’s log that it might as well be stardate 1, as it’s the dawn of a new era.
- Tuvok claims the Enterprise crew is receiving a full pardon for hijacking the Titan, but it was really only Picard and Riker who need the pardon; the other Enterprise crew had nothing to do with it.
- The vacation destinations Troi reviews during her session with Data include Kaphar Prime (previously mentioned in this season), Bajor, Trill, Malibu, California, Orlando, Florida, and Zadar IV (mentioned in TNG’s “When the Bough Breaks”).
- While it serves as a dramatic reveal, we don’t believe for a moment that Jack wouldn’t mention to his father where he was posted as soon as he learned, or that Picard wouldn’t pry about where his son was heading.
- Likewise, we think Jack would definitely have received his posting around the Enterprise before making it to the bridge and having to ask Captain Seven of Nine where he should be stationed.
- Data wanting to finish the limerick that begins with “There once was a lady from Venus” is a callback to the third TNG episode, “The Naked Now,” where Data begins that limerick but then is cut off.
- It felt fairly awkward for Geordi to mention Guinan in Ten Forward but we never see her. They couldn’t get Whoopi Goldberg one last time?
- Jack appears to have a real-life photo of Patrick Stewart and Gates McFadden as a keepsake on the Enterprise-G.
- Q has the distinction of being one of two people who has uttered phrasing reflective of the franchise’s name. In “All Good Things,” he says, “It’s time to put an end to your trek through the stars.” (Only Zefram Cochrane in First Contact says the words “star trek,” specifically when he says to some Enterprise crew members, “And you people, you’re all astronauts on… some kind of star trek.”) It’s appropriate, then, that Q gets to utter the words “the next generation” in this episode.
- Hat’s off to Stephen Barton, the composer for this season and this episode specifically, who has included numerous familiar refrains from Star Trek’s past into a score that is perfectly touching and memorable. We’ll be listening to this soundtrack on Spotify, that’s for sure.
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