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All Good Things… — Star Trek: Picard’s “The Last Generation”


All Good Things… — <em>Star Trek: Picard</em>’s &#8220;The Last Generation&#8221;

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All Good Things… — Star Trek: Picard’s “The Last Generation”


Published on April 20, 2023

Image: CBS / Paramount+
Image: CBS / Paramount+

The original conception of Star Trek: Picard was that it would not be a retread of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but instead be an examination of Jean-Luc Picard in his twilight years, to examine a hero past his prime rather than in the midst of it. It’s a concept that is rarely seen, though some of the few examples are great: Unforgiven and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and another Sir Patrick Stewart vehicle, Logan.

Unfortunately, the first two attempts to execute this notion didn’t entirely work, as season one of Picard was a bit of a mess, and season two was a much bigger mess. And so season three instead became the very thing Stewart said he didn’t want to do back in 2019 when they announced the show: a retread of TNG. And now it’s over, and while many aspects of it were disappointing—some of it relating to who wasn’t in the episode—it’s a generally satisfying ending that also nicely sets up what is likely to be the series taking its place in Paramount+’s schedule.

Let’s start with the first thing they got right: the explanation for why the Borg and the rogue changelings were working together, because the entire notion was absurd. Even changelings that aren’t part of the Dominion or the Great Link are usually smarter and cleverer than what we got from these guys. They also don’t trust any solids, and would be unlikely to work with anyone. And that’s as nothing compared to how uncooperative the Borg are by definition—they don’t collaborate, they assimilate. The one and only time we’ve seen them collaborate was when Species 8472 was stepping on their necks in Voyager’s “Scorpiontwo-parter (ironically, the story that gave us the character of Seven of Nine).

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But then the newly refurbished Enterprise-D flies to Jupiter, from which the Borg are transmitting instructions to their under-25 drones. Picard, Riker, and Worf board the ship and find that most of the drones are dead or dying. The Borg Queen herself looks like crap (Jane Edwina Seymour is the one in the makeup, with Alice Krige continuing to provide the Queen’s voice as she did last week), and is obsessed with revenge on Starfleet for committing these indignities on the Borg. There’s almost nothing left of the Borg (retroactively explaining things like the empty Cube in season one).

I can’t really blame writer/director/show-runner Terry Matalas and his gaggle of writers for this particular characterization of the Queen because it’s just continuing the terrible work done by Voyager to make the Borg less interesting and to turn the Queen into a mustache-twirling villain who would’ve succeeded if it hadn’t been for those meddling Starfleet officers.

The Queen is using Jack—who is wearing the exact same half-assimilated outfit that Picard wore in Part 1 of TNG‘s “The Best of Both Worlds”—to broadcast instructions to the Starfleet drones. Picard is trying the usual thing fictional characters do when someone they care about is taken over by bad guys, to wit, yell at them to fight it and try to break though and all that other nonsense, but in the end what works is Picard plugging himself into (what’s left of) the Collective and talking to Jack directly.

That scene is generally well played, mainly because Jack’s being subsumed by the Borg hive mind makes sense. One of the things prior seasons of Picard established was the euphoria that comes with assimilation. That, combined with Jack’s very chaotic life up until now, makes the very orderly Collective extremely appealing to him. He isn’t just being mind-controlled, he feels like this is where he belongs.

Except part of his argument is about how he’s been alone, and he hasn’t been alone, he’s been with his mother this whole time. One of the major issues I’ve had with the storyline this season is that it’s predicated on Crusher taking Jack away for years and years and living away from the comfort of the Federation. I have a hard enough time buying that she kept Jack safe from Picard’s crazy life by gadding about as a renegade doctor while Picard was sitting on his ass in a vineyard, but to constantly hear Jack talk about being alone and not having a family when he was traveling with his mother the whole time is irritating to say the least.

Image: CBS / Paramount+

But it does set up Picard’s Big Speech, because in a show called Star Trek: Picard, there has to be at least one Picard’s Big Speech (it’s how he stopped Soji from letting the Cthulhu AI into our universe in “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2” and how he got his ancestor to go on the Europa mission in “Two of One”). The speech actually flows nicely from the themes of seasons one and two: it was in season two that we saw just how toxic Picard’s family was and why he needed to get away from Labarre to find a new family in Starfleet. He found it on the Enterprise, but then the family fell apart after Nemesis (Riker and Troi went off to Titan, Data died, Picard got promoted and tried to help the Romulans, Crusher pulled her disappearing act). He sat alone in his vineyard for years because he had lost everything, but now he’s got them all back, and now he has a son, too!

That gets Jack to throw off the Queen’s control, at least. But stopping the Queen herself is up to everyone else. Riker and Worf find the hub of the Cube and transmit it to the Enterprise, all the while fighting off what few drones are left. Back on the Enterprise, La Forge is in charge of the ship (hilariously, he’s actually the second-highest ranking person in the group as a commodore—at one point, Riker says, “Belay that order” to La Forge, but La Forge actually outranks him now, which nobody mentions), and he, Data, Crusher, and Troi have to do the hard work of stopping the Borg. Data is the one who flies them into the center of the Cube intact, Crusher is the one who lays down the weapons fire (“A lot’s happened in the last twenty years,” she says when La Forge, Data, and Troi all turn to stare at the doctor at the tactical console kicking all the ass), and Troi both reminding La Forge of what he has to do, even if it means the Enterprise’s destruction, because the galaxy’s at stake, and then later using her telepathic link with Riker (established when the characters were introduced in TNG‘s “Encounter at Farpoint“) to locate him, Worf, and Picard so they can beam them out before the Cube goes boom.

By the way, as has often been the case this season, the best bits have involved Worf. At one point, Worf—wounded by weapons fire—tells Riker to grab his kur’leth. Riker nearly dislocates his shoulder when he tries to pick it up (“Shit! I had no idea it was that heavy!”), and then is told that there’s a phaser in the hilt. Riker incredulously looks at Worf, and Worf just says, “Swords are fun.” I nearly died laughing. Michael Dorn has honed Worf’s deadpan to a razor’s edge this season, and the bluntness has been turned up to eleven. And Dorn and Jonathan Frakes continue to be a superb double act. (“And I will make it a threesome.” “Do you even hear yourself?”)

Meantime, there’s an armada of Starfleet ships in orbit of Earth under the Borg’s control, and Earth’s defenses won’t hold up for long. In a season that has been chock full of callbacks to Star Trek movies, we open the episode with a tribute to The Voyage Home with a message from the Federation President telling everyone to stay away from Earth. In a beautiful touch, the president is named Anton Chekov (presumably the president’s office in Paris has a phaser on the mantelpiece, cough cough), and he’s voiced by Walter Koenig, pretty explicitly intended to be the son of Pavel Chekov.

Image: CBS / Paramount+

That’s the one and only hit this season hadn’t given us. We’ve had TNG references out the wazoo, obviously, as well as callbacks to DS9 (the changelings, Section 31, the Defiant cameo, the mention of Odo), Voyager (Seven of Nine, Tuvok, the Voyager cameo, the mentions of Janeway), and Enterprise (the entire Frontier Day celebration is for the anniversary of Archer’s inaugural voyage on the NX-01). But there hadn’t been any references to the original series, until we heard President Anton Chekov remind us that there are always possibilities. Bravo.

The attack on Earth is also at least forestalled a bit by Titan, as Seven, Musiker, and a group of older Titan crew (including Dr. Ohk and the cook, the latter reluctantly pressed into service as the conn officer) manage to retake the bridge. Musiker was able to rig up a remote transporter to a phaser rifle, which beamed the people shot to the transporter room, which they’d managed to lock down.

On the one hand, I’m glad that we got to see Seven and Musiker do well on Titan. On the other hand, I find it impossible to credit that they’re the only ones who were able to manage this. (Last week, the Excelsior crew were also able to take back control of their ship, but then they were destroyed—in an amusing touch, the ship that destroyed it was the Hikaru Sulu.) But none of the other ships have opening-credits regulars on their crews, I guess…

I will also give Matalas credit. Everything was set up for Picard not surviving to the end of the episode. For one thing, half of Picard’s dialogue throughout the episode was a sort of benedictory goodbye to everyone, and I found myself reminded of “All Those Who Wander” on Strange New Worlds, where every line of Hemmer’s was similarly benedictory, all to set up his death at the episode’s climax. Plus, Stewart is in his eighties, and he’s very obviously slowed down considerably in the last few years. It would be fitting for him to go out in a blaze of glory, taking down the Borg once and for all.

But no, he lived. And so did everyone else. They take out the Borg Cube, the assimilated young folks are all unassimilated, and everyone lives happily ever after except for the people who already died.

Crusher—who is not only reinstated to Starfleet, but gets promoted to admiral—is able to dope out a way to remove the Borg DNA from people via the transporter so they can’t be reassimilated. She also improves the changeling-detection on the transporters so they can find and get rid of them. (This is a very facile and unconvincing solution to the changeling issue, by the way.)

And then we get another special guest star, one we’ve seen before, in Tim Russ as Captain Tuvok—the real one this time. I never object to seeing Russ’ Tuvok, as I’ve always loved the character. But the scene in question is one where Seven wishes to resign, but Tuvok not only refuses the resignation, but—after playing a unexpectedly glowing evaluation from Shaw, made before this season began—promotes her to captain.

Image: CBS / Paramount+

That scene should have been between Seven and Admiral Janeway. It’s already been established that Janeway is still around and still an admiral (Picard takes place a decade and a half after Prodigy), so why not get Kate Mulgrew back? Tuvok is certainly the second-best choice to have this scene with Seven, but the first-best would’ve been her mentor.

Janeway’s absence and a proper closure of the changeling storyline are two of several missing elements from this episode. Where are the Klingons? The Cardassians? The Bajorans? The Romulans? The non-Starfleet Federation ships? For that matter, where’s the rest of the fleet? There’s no way the entire fleet was at Frontier Day—there’s too few of them at Earth, for one thing—and there had to be some ships protecting the border or on deep-space missions or unavailable for whatever reason. (Heck, I didn’t see any California-class ships at Frontier Day, and that would’ve been a nice Lower Decks shout-out…)

Where’s Wil Wheaton? Wes is a Traveler now, and wouldn’t it have made sense to have him, y’know, meet his half-brother? I mean, we know the actor’s around, he’s hosting the after-show every damn week…

Where’s Kestra? At no point were we ever told what happened to Riker and Troi’s daughter when her mother was kidnapped by Vadic, and at no point are we told if she’s okay or where she is or anything.

Where’s Laris? After spending all of last season building the relationship between Picard and Laris, and after setting up their reunion after this mission is over in “The Next Generation,” Laris isn’t mentioned and Orla Brady is nowhere to be found, which is wretched and dreadful. Brady and the character of Laris both deserve much better.

Where’s Jurati? Not even a mention of the Borg offshoot that they spent all of last season creating?

Where are Diana Muldaur and Denise Crosby? Yeah, their time on the show was limited, but so was Michelle Forbes, and we got her back.

Where’s Whoopi Goldberg? Our penultimate scene is in the inevitable Ten-Forward set that they’ve made ridiculous use of since debuting it in season two, and La Forge even mentions Guinan giving them the side-eye for keeping the place open past closing. Which makes her absence all the more frustrating.

Ah yes, the penultimate scene. In a season full of self-indulgence, we have the ultimate self-indulgence: the gang playing poker again. It’s a very fitting way to end the season and the series, truly.

Indeed, most of what happens in the episode’s denouement is superb. We get one final Worf-Musiker scene, and it’s golden, especially since Worf used his mad skillz to have it get out that Musiker played a huge role in saving everyone’s ass, which goes a long way toward enabling her to reconcile with her family. We get a delightful therapy session between Troi and Data. Brent Spiner continues the superlative work he’s done the past few episodes of giving us a character who’s part Data, part Lore, and part Altan Soong, and it’s absolutely glorious.

Most importantly, we get the next show set up. The Titan has been rechristened the U.S.S. Enterprise, registry NCC-1701-G (I guess the F that Admiral Shelby was in charge of was destroyed?), with Captain Seven of Nine in command, and Commander Raffaela Musiker as her first officer. Sidney La Forge, Kova Esmar, and Matthew Mura are all back on the bridge. And Ensign Jack Crusher—who was fast-tracked to a commission, as, probably, were a lot of people, as Starfleet lost a shit-ton of personnel—is also assigned to the Big E, currently serving as a special counselor to the commanding officer, whatever the hell that is. Then again, it’s a tradition for a child of Beverly Crusher to get a bullshit title and be assigned to the bridge of a ship called Enterprise

I expect the announcement any minute now of Star Trek: Legacy starring Jeri Ryan, Michelle Hurd, Ed Speleers, Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut, Jin Maley, Joseph Lee, Tiffany Shepis—and, as a special guest star, John deLancie.

Image: CBS / Paramount+

Yes, there’s a mid-credits scene! And it’s Q showing up to tell Jack that he’s about to undergo a trial! And it’s total nonsense and I don’t care! Jack says that Daddy told him Q was dead, and Q scoffs and says that Jean-Luc is so dang linear, which is all the explanation we need. I never really bought that Q was dying anyhow.

This whole season has been a meringue: tasty but not with very much substance. The setup for Legacy (presuming that that really is what’s being set up, as nothing has been officially announced as of this writing), complete with deLancie’s uncredited cameo is the yummy whipped cream on top of that meringue.

Next week, we’ll have an overview of the season—and the series—and we’ll see how that meringue ultimately tasted…

Keith R.A. DeCandido will have stories in each of the next three issues of Star Trek Explorer, starting with issue #7—available now to subscribers and going on sale to newsstands at the beginning of May—which has a DS9 story called “You Can’t Buy Fate,” featuring Nog and Ezri Dax.

About the Author

Keith R.A. DeCandido


Keith R.A. DeCandido has been writing about popular culture for this site since 2011, primarily but not exclusively writing about Star Trek and screen adaptations of superhero comics. He is also the author of more than 60 novels, more than 100 short stories, and around 50 comic books, both in a variety of licensed universes from Alien to Zorro, as well as in worlds of his own creation. Read his blog, follow him on Facebook, The Site Formerly Known As Twitter, Instagram, Threads, and Blue Sky, and follow him on YouTube and Patreon.
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