Star Trek: Picard Season 3 Episodes 1-6 Review – TNG in Slow Motion

For the first four episodes, Star Trek: Picard season 3 has at least one thing in common with the previous two seasons: It moves slowly. The lion’s share of the first four episodes is devoted to a “Balance of Terror” style starship battle fought like submarine combat; the sort of thing that used to occupy a single episode of TV, or at most a full movie. The extra time allows for more character development and such, but this can feel like a literal adaptation of a novel rather than the streamlined version that usually hits the screen.

By episode 5, the pace picks up; and only by episode 6 have all of the core members of the classic Star Trek: The Next Generation crew appeared (except Tasha Yar and Doctor Pulaski, perhaps obviously).

Jonathan Frakes as Riker and Patrick Stewart as Picard of the Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: PICARD. Photo Cr: Trae Patton/Paramount+ © 2022 CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Pace aside, though, this season is radically different in the best ways. For better or worse — definitely better, in most fans’ eyes — Picard finally takes the approach of The Force Awakens. It gives us the real sequel we want, complete with classic musical cues (Worf even gets the “Klingon” theme from Star Trek: The Motion Picture), references to larger events (including adult children), and Easter eggs both essential and tangential to the plot. TNG fans never got much of a break between the show and the movies. Now, they get to feel the way O.G. fans did seeing the original Enterprise crew reunite after a long hiatus.

Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Riker (Jonathan Frakes, at his absolute best) primarily drive the story, with an upended dynamic. Now that Picard is retired and a little more in “old man yells at clouds” mode than he used to be, he has become the impulsive aggressor type. The matured Riker has settled into the role of a cautious captain, and can finally lecture his previous commanding officer when he fails to properly think a course of action through.

This new dynamic gets tested when Picard gets an S.O.S. from Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden), whom he hasn’t seen in decades. She’s stuck outside of Federation space, requiring her former colleagues to use deceit in hijacking a starship to go get her.

Pictured: Amanda Plummer as Vadic of the Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: PICARD. Photo Cr: Trae Patton/Paramount+

Picard‘s best episodes have always involved returning characters, from Riker to Q to different-actress-variant Guinan, so bringing in almost all of them is a strong play. Picard’s new crew never seemed particularly memorable, thus it wasn’t a problem when season 2 removed most of them from the board. Raffi’s still here in season 3, mostly on a side quest apart from the starship battles. And Raffi is still the least interesting part of the show, especially since she and Seven seem to have broken up. Her adventures at least allow for the show to give us some old-school Andorians, Orions, and Ferengi, stripped of all the extra stuff Discovery glues to their faces. The aliens look like they should, and all is right with the quadrant.

The less specifically revealed about Amanda Plummer’s villain, Vadic, the better. Suffice it to say, Plummer is clearly enjoying herself onscreen. While Vadic is a new character, she does tie into familiar things. Lore (Brent Spiner) isn’t as pivotal as the trailers made him out to be, but there are still four episodes beyond what we’ve seen. And indeed, despite Data having died twice in canon, the show finds ways to acknowledge his presence. This may feel like a cheat, but a very fan service-y cheat.

Michael Dorn as Worf of the Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: PICARD. Photo Cr: Trae Patton/Paramount+ © 2022 CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Like Armin Shimerman on Lower Decks, Michael Dorn and Marina Sirtis have either forgotten how to do their “alien” voices, or just said “Screw it, I’m talking like I actually talk.” It’s jarring at first, but since aging has also arguably mellowed both characters out, one can accept their vocal intonations relaxing as well.

Of all the new characters, Todd Stashwick’s Captain Shaw seems the most likely to click with fans and live on into other shows, providing he survives this one. A former blue-collar crewman and heavy drinker who survived the Borg attack under Locutus, he’s a transparently flawed leader. But those flaws keep him consistently entertaining. While the social commentary overall feels less overt, there is a great bit which rebukes Shaw’s “deadnaming” of Seven as Annika Hansen.

The new plot retreads several familiar beats: It’s a little bit Wrath of Khan, a little bit Deep Space Nine, and a lot of TNG. Visually, it has the gloss and shine of all the new shows. Picard’s finally back on a proper starship, as opposed to the tiny skeleton-crew vehicles he’s used the last two seasons. Will the show actually give us the whole TNG crew on one bridge at once? So far, no. But here’s hoping.

It’s pretty clear that this was always the show everyone wanted to make. They just had to persuade Stewart, who had to be lured back by two seasons of “something different” before agreeing to do this. Unlike a lot of the Star Trek actors, Stewart has plenty of other options; it’s a good thing he exhausted the others so he could pick this one at last.

If there’s one annoying issue, it’s that the two classic female characters still get short shrift. Troi vacillates between nagging shrew and victim in her two main scenes thus far, and Beverly seems to exist only to deliver exposition. Picard has no inherent problem with female characters generally, as Raffi, Seven, Vadic, and some spoiler characters are all well-developed. It’s just a bummer that the writers don’t seem as able to give the older women more to do.

Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher of the Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: PICARD. Photo Cr: Trae Patton/Paramount+ © 2022 CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

They may yet prove more integral, but there’s also still a chance season 3 could blow the finish. Endings are always tricky, especially endings designed to keep a franchise going as long as humanly possible. Either directly or in spinoffs. Thus far, for the first time since First Contact, it feels like we have a really good Next Generation adventure on our hands. One that actually advances the story and characters. Now, please stay good. And give us the similar Deep Space Nine follow up we deserve.

Star Trek: Picard season 3 begins February 16 on Paramount+.

Grade (so far): 4.5 out of 5.

Recommended Reading: Star Trek: The Next Generation: Through The Mirror

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