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Star Trek: Picard

One last hurrah for Picard and the crew

By golly, they stuck the landing. It wasn’t flawless or groundbreaking or deep or anything crazy like that, but they saw this final adventure through to a satisfactory and satisfying conclusion. The result is certainly the best season of Star Trek in the Alex Kurtzman era, and one that honors the legacy of these characters and sends them off right.

This season of Star Trek: Picard might best be thought of as the final TNG movie that never happened after Nemesis tanked at the box office. It’s structured like a movie and has the sensibilities and technical qualities of a movie (visual effects, production design, music, sound design) — and, yes, the mainstream dramatic concessions of a movie. It also has the length of several movies, which was perhaps the biggest problem with how the season was structured.

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Picard’s crew acquires some significant hardware in ‘Vox’

Resistance is futile.

That’s what I realized as Picard and the entire TNG crew stepped onto the bridge of the Enterprise-D in all its perfectly restored glory. The plot doesn’t really matter. The blatant manipulation in triggering the memories of my youth doesn’t really matter. Spreading the Vadic storyline out over eight episodes to get to this point doesn’t really matter. What matters is giving this crew an adventure to enable its proper sendoff, and doing it in the most nostalgic way possible. It’s all been building to this payoff, which you might call "Relics II." It works beautifully.

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‘Picard reaches a turning point in ‘Surrender’

"Surrender" is a bit of a mixed bag — one that gives me hope while at the same time trepidation for how this series will close things out. It has moments that are good enough to make me want to do fist pumps, and others that feel like they are scraping the bottom of the barrel of cinematic filler.

Let’s start with the filler, since that’s what the episode does. The first 20 minutes, where Vadic holds the crew hostage on the bridge, are tedious beyond words. "Hostage situation," as I’ve said many times over many years, is the hoariest old saw of action cinema crutches, and this episode does absolutely nothing to demonstrate otherwise. Any tension that might’ve been possible is dissipated by the wheel-spinning of the whole enterprise.

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Plot fissures are exposed in Picard’s ‘Dominion’

"Dominion" is a title, like "The Next Generation," which could be taken to mean something more thematically generic and specific to this episode, or refer to the larger element from Trek‘s history. For this episode, it’s definitely a case of the former rather than the latter. The Dominion isn’t actually the subject of this episode at all, although it raises the question of where exactly the Dominion is in all of this. If a rogue faction of the Founders had broken off and was now trying to wage war against the Federation, wouldn’t the actual Dominion at least have something to say about that? And might an episode titled "Dominion" examine that?

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The gang’s all here, and everyone’s pondering legacy

"The Bounty" is a jam-packed, kitchen-sink outing that piles on the nostalgia and references like there’s no tomorrow, possibly because, for this cast, there soon won’t be. We’re down to four episodes after this one, and the plot is going to start moving this all toward some sort of a conclusion soon. There’s the sense the writers are getting in all their wish-list items, even if some of those items are strange. That "The Bounty" holds together and still makes sense is admirable given how much it throws at us. And it even manages to find thematic connections and emotional resonance through it all, which is definitely a big plus.

The common theme is one of family and legacy as all these characters converge and reflect. (This is the first episode of the season where all the TNG characters/actors appear, and mostly all in one place.) With the Titan on the run from a compromised Starfleet and also from the Shrike, we start getting into the nuts and bolts of the investigation with the crew’s arrival at Daystrom Station, which is not so much a research facility as an (another dimly lit) abandoned warehouse of illicit technology and Section 31 experiments.

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‘Picard’ reopens a 30-year-old wound with an unexpected reunion

"Imposters" is a tight and effective little thriller that serves as a package to reunite two characters and resolve long-simmering feelings that suddenly boil to the surface. Many of those feelings were conveyed with the final shot of Picard’s grim, wordless face in TNG‘s penultimate episode, "Preemptive Strike." The reunion here is between Picard and Commander Ro Laren (Michelle Forbes in a surprise appearance and standout performance), who famously abandoned Starfleet to join the Maquis in that episode after she became sympathetic to their plight. It’s something Picard took as a deep, personal betrayal and never got over, we learn.

Ro appears after the USS Intrepid rendezvouses with the Titan, ostensibly to take Picard and Riker into custody for their unauthorized commandeering of the ship. Make no mistake, these two have strong, unresolved feelings about each other concerning that betrayal, which, for Ro, was not a one-way street. There’s also the complication that Changelings are apparently everywhere, and Picard begins to suspect Ro herself may be one.

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‘Picard’ delivers a top-tier outing with ‘No Win Scenario’

"No Win Scenario" hits the sweet spot between old-school Berman-era Trek and current-generation Kurtzman-era Trek. Old-school Trek was all about the professionalism, the procedure, and the problem solving. New-school Trek weaves in the human failings and the penchant for everyone bringing their emotional baggage to work. (This is most notable on Discovery, where it’s frequently taken way too far, but it has also been the case on Picard, where everyone is grappling troublingly with their past.)

In this episode, we get the best of both worlds (if you’ll forgive the expression), as the two aspects are blended together into a cohesive and emotional whole that works pretty much from beginning to end. Yes, there are the usual mild annoyances that pervade this series, but I can easily get past them within this contemplative life-or-death premise that manages to get so many things right.

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Picard, Riker and a difference of tactical opinion

If nothing else, Star Trek: Picard has finally learned in its third season that the primary action of this series should be on the bridge of a starship. "Seventeen Seconds" is a tactical cat-and-mouse game between two starships where one has a massive advantage and the other must try (although they fail) to outthink the other to level the playing field.

The series may even have learned the lesson too well, as we’ve now spent three episodes arriving at or being inside this nebula. Some variance to the settings of where all this happens and a faster advancement of the macro plot might take this from "passably good" to "substantially better."

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‘Picard’ does the tried-and-true with ‘Disengage’

Jack Crusher asks Picard, "Is there anyone you know who is still the person you knew?" It’s a question central to this season — and perhaps this series — that I think is especially useful to consider as we catch up with characters whom we haven’t seen in over 20 years. I’ve heard complaints that Picard and Seven are unrecognizable compared to who they were 20 years ago. I don’t necessarily even agree with that, but to a certain degree, isn’t that the point?

The question is asked about halfway through "Disengage," which is an efficient, straightforward, tried-and-true Standoff Situation. In this scenario we have the heroes and villains in close proximity, and the villains provide a deadline that, if not met, means the unleashing of firepower that promises annihilation. It’s certainly not the newest or freshest idea on the block, but as a way of establishing the core conflict with the key players, it does so with an adequate amount of interest and tension.

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Renewed optimism for ‘Picard’ with ‘The Next Generation’

"The Next Generation" is an intriguing title, because it cuts to the very heart of the matter. This is an episode singularly devoted to refocusing our attention on the idea that this final season of Star Trek: Picard will be about the Next Generation characters. It does this when these characters would be more accurately described with a title like "The Previous Generation" or maybe even "The Old Guard." If there’s an actual next generation to be established in this final season of Picard, that’s not yet apparent (unless the man accompanying Beverly Crusher offers a clue).

No, the title is about looking back rather than forward, and in doing so, this episode provides reason for optimism — at least as much, if not more so, than "The Star Gazer" did at the beginning of last season. Naturally, no one can blame us for being cautious, even suspicious, after season two burned us badly by trapping its characters, and us, for eight episodes in an uninspired and plodding 21st-century time-travel plot, immediately after teasing us with what seemed to be the absorbing atmosphere of the early 25th century. But now we have a storyline that promises — for real this time! — to be just that.

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