Beware of what you desire. This is the primary takeaway from the second and penultimate season of Star Trek: Picard, which may very well be the most disappointing season of Star Trek ever created. Year 1 of Next Gen, step aside.
The announcement of Patrick Stewart’s return to his iconic role as Jean-Luc Picard was a dream come true for Trekkies. Captain Picard would finally receive the conclusion he deserved! However, two seasons into this ending, it seems neither Jean-Luc nor the fans have truly earned this.
Season 1 of Picard had its ups and downs, as the series and Stewart sought to distance the protagonist from his Next Generation days. No uniforms, no starships, no Enterprise crew – these were the conditions that allowed Stewart to return to space. There were some highlights, but the outcome was often a somber, dark, and somewhat confused experience.
Season 2 seemed to be trying to correct course from the very beginning, with the first episode opening with a starship battle. The first season’s cast – the Picard Squad – were largely reimagined into more endearing, Star Trek-esque versions of themselves, while Jean-Luc appeared to have a new lease on life. He accepted a position as Chancellor at Starfleet Academy and was even exploring a potential romance with Orla Brady’s Laris, a fan favorite from the previous season.
Furthermore, TNG regulars Q (John De Lancie) and Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) returned in recurring roles. But as Q would be well aware, be cautious of what you desire…
After an enjoyable Season 2 premiere, the storyline took a turn towards the cliché, albeit still entertaining. Q’s interference sends the Picard Squad to a dark, alternate universe. Confirmed. The crew uses a slingshot maneuver around the sun for time travel in an attempt to fix the timeline. Absolutely. Do comical misadventures ensue? Of course. The Borg Queen returns… again? Yes, that as well. An edgy punk rocker with a boombox on the bus…? Confirmed.
Picard Season 2 felt like a mere compilation of greatest hits
It appeared as if the production, in response to Season 1’s departure from previous Treks, swung too far in the opposite direction, attempting to incorporate all the beloved aspects of the franchise. Regrettably, as it progressed, Picard Season 2 felt more like a greatest hits album, and not just that, but one where all your favorite songs are covers.
It was evident from the start that the writers wanted to reverse much of the baggage from the previous season. Central characters like Isa Briones’ Soji and Evan Evagora’s Elnor were essentially written out of the narrative (though Briones would later get another new character to portray, her fifth so far). Brent Spiner’s rather unremarkable Dr. Altan Soong was replaced with another Soong, the somewhat irritating and disheveled Adam Soong (played by Spiner once more). Additionally, the budding relationship between Raffi (Michelle Hurd) and Seven (Jeri Ryan) hinted at in the Season 1 finale had already reached its end by the time we rejoined them here.
That being said, it was pleasant to see the group again as the new season began, with characters like Santiago Cabrera’s Captain Rios and Alison Pill’s Agnes Jurati becoming more likable versions of their Season 1 self. However, as the characters arrived in the past and it became clear they would not be returning to the future anytime soon (likely for budgetary reasons), a sense of stagnation set in. This included some characters embarking on multi-episode missions that ultimately accomplished nothing.
The NASA ball heist-style infiltration comes to mind, where there’s an elaborate scheme to sneak into the event. But in the end, the mission seemed to achieve very little (and certainly didn’t require the entire Squad). At least everyone got to dress up in tuxedos and fancy gowns.
As for Picard himself, it’s disheartening to say that at times this season, Stewart appeared frail and possibly overburdened. It’s unclear what was happening behind the scenes, but the actor is now 81 years old. When we reached the mid-season and witnessed two episodes in a row where Picard was unconscious for most of one hour and spent much of the next seated in a chair, it raised concerns about whether the legendary actor simply needed a break.
Picard’s arc this season had potential and somewhat worked, as the show delved into his childhood and his mother’s mental health struggles. Were these painful memories, buried so deeply that even he doesn’t fully recall them, the reason for Picard becoming the reserved, emotionally distant man he was often depicted as? The show tries to connect his blossoming romance with Laris and his apparent inability to commit to the relationship with the mysterious past gradually revealed throughout Season 2’s 10 episodes. However, the storyline hits a snag, partly because Laris is underutilized, introduced in the premiere and then essentially sidelined until the final moments of the finale.
Instead, Brady spends most of her expanded role this season as Tallinn, a Romulan “supervisor” tasked with guarding Renée Picard, a 21st-century family member of Jean-Luc’s. In a very TV-esque “identical twin from Texas” situation, Tallinn bears an uncanny resemblance to Laris and is also a callback to the Gary Seven character from the Original Series episode “Assignment: Earth” (which is essentially recreated in the Picard Season 2 finale). It’s a lot to take in, and as the season progressed, it increasingly seemed that the various storylines couldn’t be tied together in a satisfying manner.
The season ultimately ends with a massive shrug of the shoulders
As for Guinan and Q, the younger Guinan of the past, portrayed by Ito Aghayere, added a spark to the season whenever she appeared, but she never really felt like Guinan. De Lancie’s Q, on the other hand, seemed aimless throughout, alternating between mischievous and humorous, and at times, feigning scariness? Q’s overarching story, which is supposed to be the entire reason for this season’s events, seems to make the least sense. Consequently, the season itself ends with a massive shrug of the shoulders. And yes, we’re talking about Next Gen Season 3, late ’80s shoulder pads.
In the end, it appears as if the stage has been set for the anticipated reunion of the Next Generation cast in the third and final season. How far we have come from Season 1 in this regard, right? Rios remains in the past to be with his new love and her son. Jurati is now a centuries-old Borg Queen but a benevolent one. Briones’ latest character departs for the galaxies’ byways and highways with… Wesley Crusher, in a squandered and perplexing cameo. Presumably, Elnor will be sent off on the Excelsior in Season 3 to make room for Riker, Worf, Troi, and the rest. Sadly, none of these character arcs feel particularly deserved but rather an “ends justifying the means” situation.
So, what was the point of all this? What did this extended journey to 2024 truly contribute to the Picard saga?