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Star Trek: Picard Season 3 Review: Next Generation Reunion Is a Blast

The Paramount+ drama's final season feels like an installment in the film series

Keith Phipps
Jonathan Frakes and Patrick Stewart, Star Trek: Picard

Jonathan Frakes and Patrick Stewart, Star Trek: Picard

Trae Patton/Paramount+

Twenty years ago, no less than Patrick Stewart declared Captain Jean-Luc Picard dead and buried, and the rest of the Star Trek: The Next Generation characters along with him. Still smarting from the failure of 2002's Star Trek: Nemesis a few months after its release, Stewart told Entertainment Weekly, "I've probably said goodbye to Picard forever," adding, "I think Next Generation is over."

What a difference two decades, mounting nostalgia, and a streaming service eager for hits can make. For the past two seasons, Stewart has revived Picard via Star Trek: Picard, a Paramount+ series focusing on the pulled-out-of-retirement-by-crisis now-Admiral Picard's adventures with a new crew. But both (largely pretty good) full-season storylines have kept one foot in Star Trek's past, whether via guest starring roles from familiar faces or plot threads involving unfinished business with major characters: Brent Spiner's Data in the first season, John de Lancie's Q in the second. 

Beyond Data, Spiner has played major roles as various characters in both seasons of Picard, and — apart from Orla Brady (who plays Picard's Romulan housekeeper/love interest Laris and, in the second season, took on a second role), Michelle Hurd (as Raffi, a troubled but capable crewperson from Picard's past) and Jeri Ryan (as Seven of Nine, a legacy character from Star Trek: Voyager) — he's one of the few to survive the second-season purge that sent the rest of the cast off to explore other parts of their galaxy. In their place, this third and final season has brought back almost the entirety of the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation for a new adventure.

Eventually. Over the course of the six episodes of the 10-episode third season provided to critics, Star Trek: Picard reassembles a crew of familiar faces a little bit at a time. Fans expecting an eighth season of The Next Generation should recalibrate their expectations, if only a little bit. This plays more like a belated fifth installment in the Next Generation film series, telling a big story in which everyone plays a role rather than a string of smaller stories that each shift the spotlight to different parts of the crew.


Star Trek: Picard


  • Stays true to beloved characters
  • Gives the supporting cast room to breathe
  • The whole ensemble is engaging


  • The story lags mid season

In many respects that's in keeping with Paramount+'s approach to Trek. Though Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has largely made a return to self-contained episodes and Star Trek: Lower Decks exists in its own fun pocket of the Trek universe, the Trek revival shows have been defined by a sweeping, high energy, moodily lighted style that emulates blockbuster movies, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. Picard continues that trend, while allowing a little more breathing room for its characters between life-threatening crises and unsettling revelations. That doesn't mean there's not a lot of time for catching up with what everyone's been up to, however.

Titled "The Next Generation," for reasons that aren't as cheeky as they first appear, the third season's first episode kicks off with an attack in some far-away corner of the galaxy where Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden), having seemingly transformed into a gun-toting woman of action in the years since we last saw her, captains a small ship apparently staffed by only a single other crew member, an initially unseen assistant named Jack (Ed Speleers) whom she quickly locks up before singlehandedly confronting some grim-looking invaders. (Jack will be back, however.) The fight does not entirely go Crusher's way, so she sends a message to the one person she believes can help (even though they're on the outs and haven't spoken to each other for 20 years): Admiral Jean-Luc Picard.

Picard, meanwhile, is enjoying life on his vineyard with Laris, seemingly better adjusted after a second season that plunged into the darkest parts of his psyche. He does, however, in his words, "want a new adventure." Before long, one comes crashing his way via Crusher's message. Told by her to "trust no one," not even Starfleet, Picard turns to someone he believes he can trust: William Riker (Jonathan Frakes, who also directs the season's third and fourth episodes). Meanwhile, Raffi is working undercover for a handler she's never met in an attempt to root out a Starfleet-threatening plot while Seven of Nine, now officially back in Starfleet, has taken a post as the first officer of the Titan, a spiffy new starship that Riker and Picard plan to con into taking them to Crusher's last-known coordinates.

Gates McFadden, Star Trek: Picard

Gates McFadden, Star Trek: Picard

Trae Patton/Paramount+

Once there, however, they find a wounded Crusher has been placed in a medical suspended animation and that the brash, protective Jack isn't particularly happy to see them (and may be especially unhappy to see Picard). But the arrival of a massive vessel captained by a gleefully sadistic foe named Vadic (a fun Amanda Plummer, making a Khan-sized meal of the role), forces them to put aside their differences, at least for the moment.

Revealing more means plunging deeper into spoiler turf, though it's worth noting that the season, so far at least, gives its supporting characters room for their own development. The series might be called Picard, but it still finds space for Worf's (Michael Dorn) somewhat incomplete conversion to pacifism and Riker's unresolved feelings about the death of his son. It's probably fair to expect the same of later-arriving characters with limited screen time in these early episodes, like Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton), Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), and… well, let's just say Spiner also plays a role this season. The amount of time allotted to Jack might be a point of contention for fans who want the focus to fall only on old friends, but Speleers is winning, throwing himself into the role wholeheartedly. The rest of the supporting cast is strong as well. Ryan and Hurd continue their fine work from previous seasons, Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut is charming as an ensign named Sidney with a familiar last name, and Todd Stashwick is especially fun as the Titan's easily annoyed Captain Shaw.

Whether it will all come together as a fully satisfying story remains to be seen, and this season, under the command of showrunner Terry Matalas, is showing some of the same signs of mid-season fatigue familiar to other Trek revival series (and, frankly, series in the streaming era in general). It's a compelling adventure so far, but it also feels like a movie-sized adventure stretched a bit thin by the need to fill 10 episodes. Still, it gets the important things right, staying true to cherished characters and making it a pleasure to see them together again. And, if hints provided by Stewart and others in interviews are true, this might be the end of Picard but not the end of Picard or the last we'll see of the reunited Next Generation cast. These episodes make it easy to wish for more.

Premieres: Thursday, Feb. 16 on Paramount+, with new episodes rolling out weekly after that
Who's in it: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden
Who's behind it: Terry Matalas
For fans of: Star Trek, of course, especially Next Generation fans (but newcomers might like it too)
How many episodes we watched: 6 of 10