Feb. 10, 2023

Life From Lifelessness: Picard Season Three Finally Gets it Right

Life From Lifelessness: Picard Season Three Finally Gets it Right

I'm sitting here on a rainy Sunday afternoon, just having finished the first six episodes of Picard season three.

While I was thinking of a byline for this spoiler-free review, the news came out of Annie Wersching's (24, The Rookie, Star Trek Picard) passing. It's bittersweet writing this article, but when Annie left us, she left me with one more gift, which is an opening for this piece. Because her passing immediately made me think about the line from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, "Life from lifelessness."

I've been one of the more vocal critics of both Picard seasons one and two. Maybe even, at times, a little too harsh with my assessment. In season two, Annie Wersching was a bright spot, portraying the equally terrifying and calculating Borg Queen. But if you're looking for one or two bright spots from Star Trek Picard season three, you won't find them. That's because it would be impossible to pick out just one or two from the multitude in the show's first six episodes—life from lifelessness.

What Terry Matalas, his team, the original TNG cast, and everyone involved in the production have managed to do with Picard season three is nothing short of brilliant. I grew up right in the heart of the "TNG Era" of Star Trek, and after feeling burned by the first two seasons of this show, I went in with the absolute lowest of expectations. Season three not only recaptures the heart and soul of The Next Generation, it also finds a way to feel right at home in Alex Kurtzman's modern era of Trek, a task that I would imagine is a lot more complicated than it sounds.

One of my biggest complaints about Picard's first two seasons was the pacing. In season one, there was a failure to launch, both figuratively and literally. The show spent way too much time getting Jean-Luc onboard a ship and into space. We spent the first episode right where he belonged in season two, only to spend the rest of the season in present-day Los Angeles, with middle episodes that slogged.

Season three immediately explodes into the action and, for the next six hours (Paramount has really given season three its due diligence with most episodes coming close to the one-hour mark), never lets up. Whether that's the action onboard the Titan as we follow Jean-Luc, Will Riker, and Seven alongside Todd Stashwick's Captain Shaw, or Raffi doing deep undercover work for Starfleet Intelligence with someone Trekkies are going to be very happy to see, there's almost not enough time to take a breath, and that's not a bad thing. 

 But don't let Picard season three's fast pace concern you. In each episode I had the pleasure of watching, our beloved TNG cast all had moments to shine. And for newcomers like Captain Shaw, I highly suggest you pay close attention to Todd Stashwick's performance in episode four. It is not one to miss.

Jonathan Frakes as William Riker - Photo Cr: James Dimmock/Paramount+

There's one actor in particular who does most of the heavy lifting in the first half of the season, and that's none other than Jonathan Frakes. When fans got a taste of Will Riker in season one of Picard, it understandably got people excited for more. When I say that Jonathan Frakes does his best work as Will Riker in Picard season three, I say without a doubt in my mind others will feel the same way. 

Will Riker has always been my favorite Star Trek character and seeing him finally get a chance to stretch his acting legs is something special that I won't soon forget.

And the same goes for the rest of the Next Gen crew, especially Gates McFadden's triumphant return as Beverly Crusher. The Beverly we meet early in season three is far removed from the last time we saw her on-screen in Star Trek Nemesis. This is a Beverly that has left Starfleet behind and is sure of her purpose and her new mission. 

Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher - Photo Cr: James Dimmock/Paramount+

Fans have been patiently waiting for her character to have something substantial and meaningful, and the way that Gates McFadden portrays this older, wiser, more badass version of Crusher will ensure they won't be disappointed.

Then we have season three's baddie, Vadic, played brilliantly by Amanda Plummer. I've watched a couple of the episodes twice now, and I still can't quite wrap my head around the character. She's one part cold and calculating like General Chang (played by her father Christopher Plummer) and one part absolute bat-shit crazy like Jennifer (Emily Hampshire) from Terry Matalas' 12 Monkeys series. Vadic is someone brand new to the franchise, which is refreshing, but she also feels right at home in the Star Trek universe.

Amanda Plummer as Vadic - Photo Cr: Trae Patton/Paramount+

Finally, I've been giving a lot of thought to what exactly Star Trek Picard is in its final season. Some have said it's a long-form final Next Generation film. Others have called it a limited Next Gen mini-series. In reality, it's all of those things. Yes, Jean-Luc Picard is the titular character. Still, more than anything, from the opening title to the end credits of all six episodes that I watched, Picard season three feels like an ensemble adventure with all the action, adventure, mystery, and wonder TNG gave us for seven-plus years.

If this truly is the final frontier for Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the Enterprise, their farewell is in the right hands with Terry Matalas at the helm. Be ready to laugh and cry, and make sure the replicator has a good popcorn recipe encoded because you'll need some of that too.

The final season of Star Trek Picard premieres this Thursday, February 16th on Paramount Plus in North America and Friday, the 17th in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe. To catch our full spoiler review of the premiere, set a course to the Strange New Pod YouTube channel at 9:30 PM ET next Thursday night and every Thursday for the next ten weeks. Helm, engage!