REVIEW: Star Trek: Picard's Season 3 Premiere Is an Effective Slow Burn
A generation's last stand begins as Star Trek: Picard's third and presumably final seasonbegins after months of mounting anticipation. Right from the opening scenes of the season premiere, aptly titled "The Next Generation," it's clear that Season 3 has a much more cinematic scope and level of production value compared to its preceding seasons. PicardSeason 3 feels like the fifth movie starring the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast that fans never got as the opening chapter provides an intriguing hook to pull audiences into Jean-Luc Picard's latest adventure.
Having made peace with the traumatic memories from his childhood in the previous season, the retired Admiral Jean-Luc Picard begins writing his memoirs at his family vineyard in France with his loving Laris by his side, only to receive an ominous message from his old crew mate and occasional lover Beverly Crusher. Determined to help his old friend, Picard reunites with his former first officer, Will Riker, to travel across the cosmos and investigate what has happened to Crusher. However, the two Starfleet officers find themselves facing a stubborn starship captain before stumbling across an enemy that could jeopardize the Federation as they know it.
"The Next Generation" wisely focuses on Picard for much of the episode, but whenever it strays from its eponymous protagonist, the pacing begins to drag. Fortunately, this doesn't occur too often over the course of the season premiere, only to establish subplots that are sure to tie into Picard's main arc as the season progresses. It's also clear that the season will be a slow burn; rather than throwing the entire TNG cast together right out the gate, Picard Season 3 is organically and patiently taking its time and bringing them back together individually.
The real highlight of the opening episode is the interaction between Picard and Riker, with Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes bringing more depth and variety to their fan-favorite roles than they had on TNG. This is the story of old friends trusting each other and coming together for one last ride, a distinction that mirrors Stewart and Frakes' own friendship, adding to the verisimilitude on-screen. There are plenty of scenes between Picard and Riker, with Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) continuing to build her friendship with Picard while befriending Riker.
Action was never really Star Trek's forte, and that remains true here, with a serviceable but not particularly spectacular set piece kicking off the season. Used to illustrate the dire circumstances Crusher finds herself in, the action largely subsides after the prologue as the perspective shifts to Picard embarking on his tacitly off-the-books mission. And while the action is not the centerpiece of the season premiere, the grandeur of futuristic worlds and cosmic vistas underscores the epic scope of the adventure about to unfold.
Star Trek: Picard Season 3 is off to a rousing start, resisting the urge to fling everything it has as quickly as it can in favor of a more deliberately earned pace. Stewart and his veteran co-stars remain as solid as ever in their iconic roles, growing only more tightly together as an ensemble before all hell breaks loose. As opposed to its preceding seasons, Season 3 has a tighter focus and clear direction that's moving along, even in its opening episode, and this consideration makes all the difference for a strong season premiere.
Created by Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, Kirsten Beyer, Alex Kurtzman, and Terry Matalas, Star Trek: Picard releases new episodes Thursdays on Paramount+.