Warning: Spoilers ahead for "Star Trek: Picard" season 3, episode 2
Following last week's not-terrible premiere of the final season of "Star Trek: Picard" comes an absolute belter of an episode, which frankly, was enough to make this cynical, tired old Trekkie with a wavering loyalty blubber like a baby. But more on that uncharacteristic emotional outburst later.
Without a doubt, the impact of this final season of "Picard" would have 100% benefited had episodes one and two dropped simultaneously. In all honesty, it would've achieved the same, low-cost social media buzz as giving select influencers advance access to the first six episodes, but it wouldn't have annoyed fans who didn't have that privilege quite so much — and it would've meant that nobody had to wait six weeks for a new episode.
Interestingly, Paramount also chose this week to announce an increase in its subscription rates. The price of a Paramount+ Premium plan, which will include Showtime, will increase to $11.99 per month, up from the current $9.99 price point. Paramount+ Essentials, which won't include Showtime, will bump up by $1, to $5.99 per month. The price increase will go into effect "upon launch of the integrated service," which is set to occur "early" in the third quarter of 2023.
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It could also be argued that this updated reunion approach might have been the best strategy from the outset. That way, maybe Jean-Luc wouldn't be an android ... let's not forget that. Dear, oh dear. You have to wonder quite how he'll break that to Beverly.
But thankfully, improvements over the previous seasons are already evident. The all-new Starfleet uniforms are massively influenced by the Kirk-era movies, with really rather beautiful monster maroon-inspired, cross-chest tunic fasteners, along with Beverly Crusher's (Gates McFadden) field jacket that we also saw last week. Plus, the opening credits have been, so far, kept to a minimum, which goes a long way toward quickly establishing a highly dramatic foundation for each episode. And, as we also mentioned last week, the closing theme has more than a nod to the late, great James Horner.
Easter eggs remain in bountiful supply, and the show benefits so very much more from them being subtly placed. When the Titan's shuttlecraft is destroyed by Vadic (Amanda Plummer) — who, so far, is just more or less just playing the part of Nero (Eric Bana) from the dreadful 2009 movie — we get to see a piece of wreckage whizzing past with the word "Saavik" on it. This ties in with an official Star Trek Logs post on Instagram, which reveals that the Vulcan Starfleet Officer (played first by Kirstie Alley and then Robin Curtis) was formerly a captain of the USS Titan. Add in the nebula as a plot device, plus the case of Romulan Ale and you've got quite a few nods to "The Wrath of Khan," which is fine by us; it is, after all, one of the best sci-fi movies ever made.
Too much nostalgia purely for the sake of it can cheapen the effect. And that's why this episode is really rather good — because the nostalgia is kept to a minimum. That, and the fact that the spotlight this week is much more on new characters, rather than the old. Will Riker's (Jonathan Frakes) cheeky chappie routine is thankfully absent, and even Jean-Luc Picard's monologues are mercifully few.
And the moment this week that sent this writer scrambling desperately for a tissue was Worf's introduction. It was beautiful. And just one perfectly placed bar of the epic Klingon theme was all that was needed to instantly produce a lump in my throat the size of a K't'inga-class battlecruiser.
But while this was unquestionably a contextual highlight across the whole of "Picard," from the very beginning to where we are now, there are still a lot of "Next Generation" cast members to reintroduce — and it's unlikely every one of them will be done in such an effective manner. Levar Burton (Geordi La Forge), Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troi ) and Brent Spiner are all yet to come. Are we in for another season with an equal mix of highs and lows?
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Let's not forget that the first two seasons of "Picard" had both high points and low points. For example, season one started off in an average manner, then peaked with its visit to Stardust City, before dipping its nose and diving for the deck.
The best from both of these seasons can count themselves up with the some of the best that other sci-fi franchises have offered us, including the likes of "33" (S01, E01) and "Exodus Pt II" (S03, E03) from "Battlestar Galactica" or "Severed Dreams" (S03, E10) and "Z'ha'dum" (S03, E22) from "Babylon 5" or "The Last Man" (S04, E20) and "Vegas" (S05, E19) from "Stargate: Atlantis" or just about any episode from the first season of "The Expanse." However, all of those shows incorporated series-long story arcs, and they weren't composed of standalone, seasonal story arcs. "The Orville" attempted — as best it could — story arcs that stretched over multiple seasons, a difficult challenge given all the production problems it faced.
Even "Andor" — which was very good, but not quite perfect — had a slightly peculiar pace that peaked and dipped after each successive and spectacular set piece, and then repeated itself. But if you want to watch a masterclass in how to evenly pace a season, while slowly and very effectively building tension and character development, just watch "Severance" on Apple TV. This vastly underrated show was probably the best television series made in all of 2022. Bravo, Ben Stiller, bravo.
Captain Liam Shaw (Todd Stashwick) proved his character is more than one-dimensional this week, which was welcome, although hopefully he'll retain his delicious arrogance. In his defense, though, he acted exactly like any responsible starship captain would in this situation — including both Riker and Picard — which makes their guppy-fish-at-feeding-time reactions somewhat strange when Shaw acts to maintain order on his ship. That said, it's practically a given that at some stage this season, Shaw will either explode, implode, get impaled, vaporized or blown out of a hull breach. Perhaps we should start a pool...100 quatloos gets you in.
Along with wondering if the other remaining cast members' reappearances will be quite so nicely handled, this episode raises a few additional questions. For example, do we think Jack knows his half-brother is an existential being? Will Jean-Luc tell Beverly that, for all intents and purposes, he's actually indestructible? And will we learn how, in such a short space of time, the tranquil life on Nepenthe for Deanna Troi, Will Riker and Kestra seems to have hit hard times?
If — and that's a Galaxy Class starship-sized if — this episode represents the baseline standard for this concluding season, we are absolutely, positively in for a treat. If, however, we get an episode like "Two of One" (S02, E06) thrown into the mix, well, let's just say it will significantly lower the overall quality.
"Star Trek: Picard" and every episode of every "Star Trek" show currently streams exclusively on Paramount Plus in the US. Internationally, the shows are available on Paramount Plus in Australia, Latin America, the UK and South Korea, as well as on Pluto TV in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland on the Pluto TV Sci-Fi channel.
They also stream exclusively on Paramount Plus in Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. In Canada, they air on Bell Media's CTV Sci-Fi Channel and stream on Crave.
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When Scott's application to the NASA astronaut training program was turned down, he was naturally upset...as any 6-year-old boy would be. He chose instead to write as much as he possibly could about science, technology and space exploration. He graduated from The University of Coventry and received his training on Fleet Street in London. He still hopes to be the first journalist in space.