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Editor’s note: The below contains spoilers for Season 3, Episode 1 of Star Trek: Picard.After two exhilarating seasons, Star Trek: Picard is finally winding down with Season 3, and yet the premiere jettisons audiences right back into the action. It’s hard to believe that this is the beginning of the end when the stakes are so high and the storytelling is this exciting—especially for audiences that have been longing to see Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) reteam with the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
With Episode 1, which is aptly entitled “The Next Generation,” there is a very distinct and palpable tonal shift when compared to the previous season. While Season 1 and Season 2 delivered anxiety-riddled drama and new fan-favorite characters (I’m looking at you Rios) there is something to be said about seeing the cast of a beloved franchise come together and embark on one more journey together. And of course, when that story is being helmed by someone like Terry Matalas, who has such deep respect and understanding for The Next Generation, it makes the adventure that much sweeter.
The premiere’s cold open is one that I think Star Trek fans will find themselves poring over time and time again as Season 3 unfolds. As The Ink Spots’ haunting tune “I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire” plays in the background, a tracking shot guides the audience down a walk through memory lane and even on the edges of Federation space, Jean-Luc Picard’s presence is felt. In an old Captain’s Log that is playing, Picard discusses an encounter that the Enterprise had with the Borg; there’s a plaque that commemorates a Medical Away Team as Honorary Citizens on Cor Coroli V, which is a planet from an episode that dealt with Picard being replaced by a replica; there’s an old piece of cargo that bears the name of Jack R. Crusher, who was Dr. Crusher’s husband and one of Picard’s best friends; and finally, there’s Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) who is rudely awoken by a warning that her ship has been breached. At odds with The Ink Spots’ ominous crooning, it seems that someone does indeed want to set Dr. Crusher’s world on fire.
And Beverly isn’t alone aboard the vessel, but the camera keeps the man just out of focus and conceals him behind opaque doors as she locks him away and prepares to face the intruders alone. An astute viewer may recognize his voice as none other than Ed Speleers, but more on that later. While Beverly is decently skilled with a weapon, she is ultimately no match against her attackers—especially not the ones outside of the ship. Seriously injured, she manages to make it onto the bridge, where she buys them a little more time by putting distance between them while sending a Hail Mary to none other than Jean-Luc Picard.
At Château Picard, Picard and Laris (Orla Brady) are enjoying a bit of spring cleaning, while reminiscing about the past. With the dust newly settled on the events of the past two seasons, Picard is now focused on downsizing and considering what he might put in his memoirs. He gazes adoringly at a painting of the Enterprise, which sparks a short conversation about “first loves” before Picard decides to have the painting sent away to Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) who is now working for the Fleet Museum. Like the objects aboard Beverly’s ship, Picard ruminates over the artifacts that he possesses that remind him of his old friends, and he considers the legacy that he might leave behind. Picard has, after all, put distance between himself and those he once considered his dearest friends. Even as the series prepares to reintroduce the crew of the Enterprise, it hasn’t forgotten that time and distance will always test the closest friends and the strongest relationships.
Later that evening, he hears a communicator badge going off inside one of the packed-up boxes, and he unearths his old uniform. He’s flummoxed by the fact that someone would be trying to contact him via a twenty-something-year-old communicator, but even more intrigued by why someone is trying to send him an encrypted message. He quickly discovers that the transmission is from Beverly, which includes encoded coordinates and a dire message to trust no one—including Starfleet.
While Starfleet might be off limits, there is one Starfleet-adjacent individual that Picard is confident he can trust: Riker (Jonathan Frakes). At least, after a little prompting from Laris, and a lot of reflection about how badly things ended between him and Beverly. At the bar, Picard and Riker delicately discuss the situation with Beverly and concoct a plan to essentially commandeer a starship and convince them to give them a lift to the edge of Federation space. Their conversation circumnavigates around a few key topics including Riker’s marital troubles, the fact no one has seen Beverly for over twenty years, Picard’s stint as Locutus, and the fact that they’re both feeling their age. Throughout the episode, the duo dole out some delightful snark about their creaky joints, weak bladders, and the fact that they’ve fully stepped into “old fart” territory. It’s the sort of self-deprecating humor that you expect from Picard and Riker and it’s hilarious no matter how many times you hear it. While they may be distinctly aware of the passage of time, Picard and Riker are not aware that they’re being watched by someone in the bar who seems keenly interested in whatever they’re up to.
Elsewhere in the galaxy, in District Six, Raffi (Michelle Hurd) is deep undercover as a relapsed addict who is bereft that her girlfriend and Starfleet have kicked her to the curb. The act is a convincing one at first, and audiences will no doubt wonder—with concern—what the hell happened between Season 2 and Season 3. As she probes her contact for information about a dangerous stolen weapon and tries to uncover who the “Red Lady” is, it quickly becomes clear that she is actually on a mission. However, the identity of her “handler” is kept hidden from not only the audience, but Raffi too. Later in the episode, when she returns to La Sirena, she tries to get her handler to reveal themselves but is met with resistance at every turn. Instead, she’s reminded that she is a warrior who is on a mission to stop an imminent threat from a weapon which is considered to be “an act of war.”
Unfortunately for Raffi, and a whole lot of people celebrating Frontier Day at Starfleet, solving the mystery is a case of too little, too late. At the eleventh hour, Raffi discovers that the “Red Lady” is code for the target, not the assailant, and the target happens to be the massive red statue of Rachel Garrett that they’re unveiling in conjunction with the celebrations. Raffi is left to watch in horror as the shockingly powerful weapon sucks the building through a portal and drops it out of a nearby portal. Raffi feels largely disconnected from the overarching plot playing out in the premiere, but it’s safe to assume that this weapon and the evil masterminds behind it have to tie in with the larger threat.
Aboard the U.S.S. Titan, Picard and Riker drop in on Riker’s old post under the guise of assuring that everything is in running order ahead of the Frontier Day festivities. While the Captain’s reputation seems to precede him, the duo finds a friendly face in his First Officer, Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), or Annika Hansen as the Captain has directed her to refer to herself as. The crew aboard the Titan seem mostly excited to have two legends like Picard and Riker aboard the vessel, though there are a few wary expressions on the faces of a handful of engineers that greet them. In addition to Seven, Picard and Riker also meet Alandra La Forge (Mica Burton) who is following in her father’s footsteps with Starfleet.
Seven takes them on a short tour of the Titan, and cautions them to lower their expectations when it comes to the ship’s captain. Picard seems very impressed with Seven, even going so far as to saying that he thinks she might become the captain of her own ship before too long—which neatly sets up the stakes for what she’s going to have to do for them. She’s been working alongside Picard long enough to know that he has a unique penchant for breaking rules. When they finally meet Captain Shaw (Todd Stashwick) he sees straight through their bullshit explanation for why they dropped in unannounced, and shuts down every single one of their plans to get him to reroute the Titan. And to make matters worse, Shaw clearly has an issue with the Borg—which puts both Seven and Picard in his crosshairs.
After Picard and Riker retire for the night (to a pair of bunkbeds, no less) Seven calls them into her quarters to question them about what they’re actually doing aboard the Titan. She asks for permission to speak freely, which Picard gladly gives, and she bluntly threatens to throw them out of an airlock if they don’t tell her the truth. Riker is shocked by her frank words, but Seven explains that she’s addressing Picard as a friend—not a superior officer. Picard reveals what their true intentions are and explains Beverly’s situation and her warning about Starfleet. He claims the only reason he didn’t tell Seven everything upfront was because he didn’t want to make her complicit in their actions. In the theme of revelations, Seven reveals that she isn’t actually happy as a Starfleet officer and wishes she was still a Ranger so she could trust her gut, rather than follow orders. Even without knowing what Picard’s motivations were, Seven defied her Captain’s orders and navigated the ship out to the edge of Federation space, and orchestrated a ruse to allow Picard and Riker to steal a shuttle. As Shaw warned her when he woke up and realized what she had done, Seven “loyaltied your way to the end of a career.”
Aboard Beverly’s vessel, Picard and Riker investigate what may have happened in the lead-up to her distress call to Picard. They discover evidence of blaster fire, a lot of medical-related cargo, and the fact that the playlist playing over the ship is the one that Picard had curated for Beverly. Despite Picard’s repeated references to their complicated relationship and bad break-up, Beverly has seemingly held onto the remnants of her time with Picard for over twenty years. While Picard heads up to the bridge to look for Beverly, Riker hangs back to continue searching the ship, but he is quickly apprehended by the mysterious man (Speleers) aboard the ship.
When Riker and the man make it onto the bridge, Picard doesn’t seem terribly surprised by the fact that Beverly wasn’t alone aboard the ship. Perhaps it is because she has been placed inside a medical pod that can’t be done solo, or it is the fact that he knows that Beverly wouldn’t have risked so much just for herself. The man is thoroughly unimpressed with Picard and Riker’s presence on the ship, and when Picard presses him to explain who he is to Beverly—no one is more surprised to learn that he is Beverly’s son than Picard is. The look on his face says everything, but there’s no time to process any paternity questions because Beverly and her son are being hunted and Riker and Picard have led the hunters right to their proverbial doorsteps.
While nothing is confirmed yet, this cleverly concocted reveal plays into a number of beloved tropes. Some of which might even be found in a number of fanfics about Beverly and Picard. The clues are all there—or are they carefully planted misdirects? No one has seen Beverly for over twenty years, she and Picard had a messy break-up, she seems to have a shrine dedicated to all things Picard, she’s still playing a playlist he made for her, and on top of all of that her son seems to know exactly who Picard is and there’s quite a bit of disdain built into that recognition. Oh, and Beverly Crusher’s son just happens to be British? Did he pick that up from listening to old Captain’s Logs?
Speleers makes quite the first impression in this role. He exudes the kind of charm and roguish confidence that conjures up memories of Han Solo-type characters, and it makes you want to hit play on the next episode. He’s had quite the journey from Eragon to going toe-to-toe with Sir Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes with practiced ease. To borrow from another Star Trek series, one might even say that for Speleers, it’s been a long road getting from there to here. Picard gives him the opportunity to showcase his talent, and it’s only up from here.
Season 2 of Star Trek: Picard may have come to a close a little less than a year ago, but the Season 3 premiere makes Star Trek: Nemesis feels like yesterday, instead of over two decades ago. Matalas and the creative team behind the series have constructed what feels like a love letter to not only The Next Generation, but to Star Trek as a whole. No matter how many far-flung adventures and exciting locations the franchise has ventured to, the core of it has always been bound together by the crews that bring those stories to life. Wherever this season may boldly go, it doesn’t feel like a long goodbye, but it feels like the start of a beautiful beginning. How can it not, when you have Beverly Crusher’s son and one of Geordi La Forge’s daughters in the same episode?
The premiere of Star Trek: Picard is streaming now on Paramount+.
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