Picard’s Big Reunion

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It’s been a long time since we all sat around a table like this…”

Will Riker’s words, in this scene from ‘Surrender’, could not have been more accurate. After over 20 years, Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis and Brent Spiner were back together on-screen, ready to begin the endgame of the much-anticipated final season of Star Trek: Picard.

Like many, I became a Trekkie through the arrival of Discovery in 2017, using the second season finale’s jump into the future as my springboard into exploring the wider Star Trek canon. Although I may be a more recent convert to the Star Trek universe, I found myself embracing it quite easily, particularly the 24th century era Treks like The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager. Seeing Picard’s first two seasons continue to tell the stories of characters from this era, like Picard, Seven and Q, was a fun experience to have alongside people who had been Trekkies for much longer than me. Therefore, when the first teaser for the final season was released, I felt just as excited for the full-scale returns of Will, Deanna, Beverly, Worf, Geordi and Data (or whoever Brent Spiner was set to play this season). Having not been alive for almost the entirety of The Next Generation’s original run, it meant a lot to be able to finally watch a new story with these characters unfold on a weekly basis.

Picard’s original aim, as a series, was to explore the character of Jean-Luc on a more personal and emotional level than The Next Generation often did. Going into this season, one of the things I was most excited for was getting to see the other TNG veterans explored in this way, especially after hearing about their pre-season discussions with showrunner Terry Matalas on what their character arcs would be like. Crucially, Picard season 3 was helmed by a devoted Trekkie who, alongside his assembled team of writers and directors, made the effort to ensure that each of them would be given strong material that allowed them to shine in new ways. This resulted in many beautiful scenes, such as Jean-Luc and Beverly’s painful discussion in sickbay about why she kept their son Jack a secret from him, Will battling with his grief over losing his and Deanna’s son and Geordi making a desperate and heartfelt plea to Data/Lore to help him save his daughter. These are just some examples of how the third season of Picard represented, in my opinion, the most powerful performances from the cast of TNG in their 35 years span of playing these characters. Their shared history and friendships, on and offscreen, helped make the eventual reunion in the eighth episode of the season all the more impactful than if they had all been together for its entirety.

Throughout the season, there had been much teasing about Jack’s unusual abilities, why Vadic was determined to capture him and why her faction of Changelings had also stolen Jean-Luc’s human remains from Daystrom Station. In the aftermath of Vadic’s death, it was Deanna who discovered that Jack’s abilities were the result of unknowingly inheriting the vestiges of Borg technology from when Jean-Luc had been transformed into Locutus in the classic TNG two-parter, ‘The Best of Both Worlds’. Although the decision to have the Borg as the final antagonists of Picard was a divisive one within the fandom, I thought it worked rather well. The lasting trauma of Jean-Luc’s assimilation had been a recurring thread across all three seasons, with Seven’s continuing struggle to find her identity, post-assimilation, also being a key part of the story. Picard’s third season had already seen Jean-Luc come face-to-face with another victim of his time as Locutus, when Captain Liam Shaw spoke of his traumatic experience at the Battle of Wolf 359, in one of the most powerful scenes in Trek history (performed beautifully by Todd Stashwick). Therefore, it seemed only natural that the series should end with the Borg returning to pose a threat that was more epic and personal than ever before.

As the combined result of Jack’s assimilation and the Changelings adding a code which contained Jean-Luc’s own Borg-altered DNA into the transporter systems of every Starfleet vessel, the Borg were able to assimilate Starfleet’s youngest officers (among them, Geordi’s daughters) and proceed to take over all ships in a bid to obliterate the Federation. With Commanders Seven and Raffi Musiker leading the fight to regain the Titan, Jean-Luc and his former crew retreated to the Fleet Museum at Athan Prime, where Geordi led them to Hangar Bay 12, in what would be a pivotal moment. Following the announcement that the TNG cast would be reunited, a lot of people’s thoughts turned to whether the characters would be seen back on the bridge of the Enterprise-D in some form. In my mind, I had figured that it would happen as a flashback or a holodeck simulation. However, the closing scenes of ‘Võx’ brought something far more beautiful. For me, it was quite a breathtaking moment, watching the seven Starfleet legends as they exited the turbolift and stepped onto the bridge of the fully-restored Enterprise-D. I had come to TNG 25 years after its original conclusion but, nevertheless, I still got emotional seeing these characters back on the bridge as if I had been alive and watching since 1987, like so many people watching this episode.

In a similar way to how The Undiscovered Country film gave the cast of The Original Series the final farewell that they deserved, ‘The Last Generation’ represented a more emotionally-charged finale for the TNG cast as well as providing a beautiful full-circle ending for the Picard series. Throughout the episode, their decades-strong chemistry was in full effect, with Terry Matalas’s writing and directing talents combining with the strong acting performances from all seven to produce some highly emotional moments. One of the most important scenes, for me, was the one in which Beverly, Geordi, Deanna and Data were faced with the dilemma of having to sacrifice Jean-Luc, Jack, Will and Worf by destroying the Borg cube, which would save the Federation in the process. With this scene, alongside many others in the season, it was very easy to feel like there was a genuine chance of one or more of the TNG veterans not surviving to the climax of the episode. As the finale continued with Jean-Luc confronting the Borg Queen and choosing to be re-assimilated into the Collective in an attempt to save Jack (and being prepared to remain there with him), these feelings increased even further. I was on the edge of my seat as Beverly fired the torpedo at the cube’s central beacon and Jean-Luc and the others prepared themselves for the end. When Deanna heard Will’s goodbye to her and was able to pinpoint where they were on the ship, I was not prepared for how the mood shifted from dread to joy as she made it possible for everyone to be rescued. Going into this episode, I was not expecting such a happy and triumphant ending, so I found it very emotional to see all seven of them escape the Borg cube with Jack, as the Enterprise came flying out of the fiery inferno. I will never forget how hard I laughed when Worf fell asleep in his chair, whilst the others celebrated because it symbolised how much of a relief it was to avoid a downbeat Nemesis-style ending where one of them died.

Over the course of three seasons, Jean-Luc literally died and was reborn as he journeyed through the depths of recent and childhood traumas, with the help of old friends and new, before finally opening himself up to love and finding new meaning in his life through being a father to Jack. Having his legacy reaffirmed during the closing stages of ‘The Last Generation’ was beautiful to see, whether through the Enterprise-D being added to the Fleet Museum or through the Titan being rechristened the Enterprise-G in his honour, with Captain Seven of Nine and Commander Raffi Musiker preparing to lead the next generation of Picards (and Crushers and LaForges) on the next missions of exploration. It was only fitting that the episode (and the series) ended with Jean-Luc in a much happier place in his final scene; having drinks and playing poker with his Enterprise-D family in 10 Forward. Seeing all seven of them having fun like this, in a joyfully expanded recreation of the famous poker scene from ‘All Good Things’, was a perfect way to sum up the bond shared between characters and actors simultaneously.

Picard’s final season was the perfect opportunity for me to reflect on my journey so far as a Trekkie. Five years ago, I was largely unfamiliar with characters like Picard, Riker and Data, aside from distant memories of catching glimpses of episodes on TV when I was a kid. My first full watch of The Next Generation in the Summer of 2019 allowed me to fall in love with the crew and their past adventures but there was nothing like getting to experience a continuing story with them, in real-time, alongside the rest of the fandom. Now that I have seen every episode and movie, I can say that there have been many moments in Trek which have struck a chord with me emotionally. Although I am certain that there will be more wonderful moments in Star Trek’s future, Picard’s third season and its TNG cast reunion will always have a special place in my heart because it brought one of my favourite crews to life again. If ‘The Last Generation’ serves as the last time they are all together on screen, I think it was a farewell to be proud of.

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