In 1994, Star Trek: The Next Generation ended its seven-year run with “All Good Things,” one of the most heralded series finales in television history. Now, almost 30 years later, Star Trek: Picard has pulled off a similar trick — with a phenomenal conclusion to both the series, and its amazing third season.
In “The Last Generation,” the emotion is real and it runs deep. From the original core of TNG’s cast to the new family members introduced this season and ultimately to the journey of Seven of Nine, the level of story being framed in this 63-minute epic is hard to contain.
Propped up by a towering, defining performance from its lead star, Picard Season 3 did what it had to do: return Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) to square off once and for all with his haunting past as Locutus. The story also deftly concludes his three-season arc of first accepting the legacy of his choices, then opening himself up to love through understanding trauma, and now finally to becoming the father to a son in a family that he never knew he needed.
In completing this final piece of the puzzle, we get a beautiful merger of “family” and “found family” that has been there from the start in Star Trek, and is now finally, definitively a part of Picard’s life forevermore. A massive milestone for a character that has been portrayed so solitarily for the better part of 40 years. The theme of family and the inability to control what we pass on to our children is satisfyingly showcased in literally every thread of the show — from Data’s reunion with Lore all the way to Raffi and the House of Musiker, as well as Seven’s surprising story arc in finding her place in Starfleet.
Of course, all of this is seen most prominently in Picard’s poignant rescue of his son Jack (Ed Speleers) from the clutches of the Borg Queen (the voice of Alice Krige), who has hidden her cube inside the gases of Jupiter as it orchestrates a DNA-driven assimilation of Starfleet that kicked off last week in “Võx.”
As the crew arrive at Jupiter to try and stop the Borg, Deanna Troi (Marina Sirits) lets them know she can sense Jack, but that he has been “totally consumed by the collective,” leading to a beautiful scene from the bridge of the Enterprise-D in which Picard assigns one final away team for his beloved colleagues.
With Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Worf (Michael Dorn) joining the “threesome” that will head to the cube, he needs Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) to continue to work on isolating Jack’s location, while Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) and a frustrated Data (Brent Spiner) to stay on the ship to help provide solutions. It feels like an “Away Team of a Generation” and the first of many great acknowledgments to the DNA of The Next Generation in the episode. (The scene even includes a classic Worf shutdown moment when he wonders aloud if Jack might be too far gone, and Beverly immediately cuts him off with “No!” Great stuff.)
After a powerful exchange of silent thoughts between Riker and Troi, an emotional Picard steps toward the turbolift and says, “It’s been an honor serving with you all.” It’s a heartfelt moment that leaves the audience legitimately left to wonder if it might just be the final goodbye.
Once on board the cube, Picard immediately feels a connection to Jack, indicating again that despite being in a completely new body after his “death” in Season 1, some small part of him “remains compatible with the Hive.” Knowing he needs to go it alone while Riker and Worf try to shut down the beacon transmitting the Borg’s Starfleet takeover, it is time for a second loving goodbye from Picard, who emotionally tells Riker, “I can no longer be your captain. I now have to be a father.… Will, thank you. I, it means so much to me.” To which Riker responds, “You know that I know. Always.”
Again, the emotion is real in this episode and the goodbyes feel definitive, especially when Mr. Worf salutes his captain by saying, “There are two turns of phrase that a Klingon never admits to knowing. Defeat… and farewell.” The level of emotional perfection here is surpassed just a few seconds later when Picard now turns his goodbyes to Beverly by passionately telling her that in thinking “of Jack from the beginning. Shielding him from danger. You did everything right.”
The move concludes a wonderful gambit by the series showrunner Terry Matalas, who both wrote and directed the episode. It’s the release everyone needed for Beverly, to make that decision at the core of the entire season truly work – to hide her son from her friends for more than 20 years. And it does work, especially as we see Beverly’s emotional release in her response.
Stewart is at the heart of all these emotional goodbyes, hitting all the right notes again after 30 episodes of portraying Picard post-TNG, and somehow now bringing it back to a place where it felt like he never left the bridge of the Enterprise. The achievement is amazing and pairs up exquisitely with Speleers’ performance when he finds himself face-to-face with his son, assimilated in the same style and appearance as Locutus.
The scenes with the “Son of Locutus” are legitimately terrifying as the episode steers directly into the horror genre with a gruesome, emaciated Borg Queen hovering over their reunion in a style and substance straight out of David Cronenberg’s The Fly. The reveal is a jarring, but appropriate change of pace from the emotional moments that have peppered the episode up to this point.
And right on cue with the themes of the series, the Borg Queen announces: “At last, Locutus has returned to his true family, to his collective, to me….” Mired in an “unimaginable loneliness” since the fallout from Voyager’s “Endgame,” the mutilated and disfigured Queen had been isolated and feeding off her collective until hearing the voice of Jack and realizing the future of the Borg lies “not in assimilation, but evolution.”
Turns out that sentiment was highlighted by Beverly earlier in the season in “Imposters” when she was analyzing the Changelings, who at the time we did not know had teamed up with Borg. Together the new faction had worked to weaponize Picard’s biology so that the Borg could propagate with a new goal in mind: “not just to assimilate, but to annihilate all.”
Picard knows it is up to him to try and guide Jack back to himself, but disconnecting him from the Collective will kill him, so with no other option, we get a moment as epic and grand in the scope of Star Trek as anything you could ever expect to see.
Despite running from it for more than half of his life, Picard connects himself to the Hive as Locutus to join Jack and help him break free — and he does so by succinctly defining the journey of his life that we have all been on together for so many years:
“I joined Starfleet to find a family I didn’t have. And I found it. I let them in. But there was always a barrier. I too thought there was something wrong with me. And I waited in that vineyard. Waiting to die. Alone. But now Jack I realize that you are the part of me that I never knew was missing.”
The sentiment is a beautiful one, with roots dating all the way back to “Encounter at Farpoint” and the first time Picard chased Wesley off his bridge; here it helps define both Picard the character and Picard the series.
Back on the Titan, Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) and Raffi (Michelle Hurd) have cleverly reclaimed the ship and protected their assimilated crewmates (portable beam me ups!), allowing us to get our first real dose of Captain Seven, as she was dubbed by Captain Shaw prior to his death. With only a makeshift crew at her disposal (including a cook at the helm), Seven goes into captain mode by telling her team that she is “not asking you to give your lives for nothing. I’m asking you to fight for what’s below.”
A thrilling moment made even better when we see the Titan buying Picard some valuable time by running interference with a cat-and-mouse, fire-and-cloak maneuver to distract the fleet trying to take down Earth’s planetary defenses. The visual effects in the scene are a smorgasbord of starship artistry.
Not to be outdone, the Enterprise-D is also under attack from the Borg cube when Geordi tells Beverly she will need to return fire manually — as he wasn’t able to complete the weapon installation yet. With nary a second to think, Beverly quickly announces, “Torpedoes away, locking phasers and returning fire.” Much to the surprise of a stunned-to-silence Data, Geordi and Troi, she nullifies the Borg attack and proclaims, “A lot’s happened in the last 20 years.”
Elsewhere on the cube, Riker and Worf have successfully communicated the location of the beacon, where the Enterprise, based on a gut-feeling and some “enjoyably” deft piloting from Data, has now positioned itself to destroy it, knowing the explosion will also kill everyone on board the cube.
With everything coming to a head, Jack is able to pull himself out of the Collective, courtesy of a hug from Picard (“If you won’t leave, I will stay with you until the end. You have changed my life forever.”) and then a nice montage of Season 3 clips between the father and son. The beautiful, mystical score from Stephen Barton during the scene is oddly reminiscent of the score in the Nexus (Star Trek: Generations) and helps set the tone for Jack’s extraction and his announcement that “the time of the Borg is over.”
In a perfect confluence of stories, Worf and Riker join Picard and Jack as the ship collapses around them, just as the Enterprise-D (fresh off destroying the beacon) swoops in to beam them out. At the helm? Well, it’s none other than Deanna Troi, of course. She jumped into action after connecting with her Imzadi — who fittingly was thinking about the child they lost so many years ago, to quietly close out another season-long story thread — to safely pilot the ship into position. (Hopefully, this will finally put an end to the insufferable “Troi crashed the Enterprise” jokes for good!)
With the Borg cube destroyed and a predicable reset button taking place above Earth with the assimilated fleet, the episode and series makes time for a therapeutic and satisfying 20-minute epilogue to quietly say goodbye to the series.
The therapy session begins with a reunion of the crew on the bridge and Jack being welcomed onboard the Enterprise by his father and then continues with an actual therapy session for Data with Deanna, who humorously is a little worn out from his excessive need to discuss his very human and ever-shifting emotional state. Knowing that Data will forever be neurotically analyzing his changing moods from joyful to melancholy and everything in between is extremely satisfying. The moment is eloquently encapsulated by Spiner when he responds to Riker’s query on how he is feeling by saying simple, with an air of resigned contentment and a shrug, “I’m… okay.”
In between we get a cathartic moment for Raffi, reconnecting with her family in a healthy way for the first time in probably more than 20 years, courtesy of “an honorable maverick” who made sure they knew what she had accomplished and sacrificed while they were estranged. It’s an intelligent and respectful coda for the show to carve out time for this moment, which could have easily been glossed over.
Of course, the most important resolution in the immediate aftermath of the action belongs to Seven of Nine, who sits down now with the real Tuvok (Tim Russ) to discuss her Starfleet future. Russ is instantaneously Tuvok again — authoritative, direct and, yet, supportive, and it is fitting to have him there for the coronation of this character’s journey from popular Trek icon to the hallowed state of Trek royalty, right alongside Kirk, Spock, Picard and Janeway. It is that big a moment.
With the help of a pre-recorded message from Captain Shaw (Todd Stashwick) recommending her for promotion to Captain, we get a gratifying one-year time jump to see her taking her rightful place in the center seat as Captain Seven of Nine, alongside Raffi as her Number One, as well as Lieutenant Sidney LaForge (Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut) at the helm and accelerated Starfleet ensign, Jack Crusher.
And in one final masterstroke, a choice so clear and obvious that, of course, you never see it coming, Matalas and his team make a truly grand, genuinely great, generational, and glorious decision to rechristen the Titan as the Enterprise-G. It’s genius. Names do mean something.
In the proper context of this final hour of the TNG cast in one place, to quickly introduce a new ship and a new design as the next iteration of the beloved Enterprise would never have been satisfying enough. It would not have worked. But now, to suddenly realize that this exceptional season of the adventures of the Titan, a ship we have all come to love and embrace for its starship lineage that looks both forward and back simultaneously, is now the Enterprise-G… well, again, it is a genius decision, and beyond satisfying.
The introduction here is truly a surprise, and it is choreographed in the most familiar of ways, as Picard’s shuttle eases above the horizon inside Spacedock to see the name beautifully engraved on the ship’s hull. Captain Seven of Nine of the USS Enterprise-G, about to write the opening line of her legacy. What a way to close out her journey. Perfection.
And as for that post-credit scene? Well, wow. It certainly is yet another gift in this bonanza of an episode and leaves us with a lot to consider. We get the resurrection of Q (John de Lancie), but as the entity himself says, there is no need to think so linearly regarding his “death” at the end of Season 2, as well as the proclamation that while Picard Senior’s trial might be over, Picard Junior’s “has just begun.”
It seems that for this “young mortal,” there is much ahead of him. I sure hope we get to see it someday.
MOMENTS OF STASHWICK
We think Todd Stashwick and his portrayal of USS Titan captain Liam Shaw is destined for Trek icon status — each week this season, we’ll be highlighting one one of the character’s (and actor’s) best moments.
I could not be happier to report we have one last Moment of Stashwick to highlight in this incredible episode, and it is, of course, his performance evaluation of Seven of Nine. The anti-Shaw brigade will likely again fail to see what is right in front of them, but this log entry brilliantly adds to the layers of internal healing this character has been battling.
Before all the action, before her betrayal of the Titan — a betrayal significant enough to require an actionable pardon in this episode, as mentioned by Tuvok — Shaw had come to a place of recognition for Seven, identifying her by name and acknowledging her abilities, thus recommending her for promotion to captain.
Sadly, in his worldview, that recording was followed hours later by him watching Seven ‘betray’ him and his ship, thus putting him back into his own internal spiral that he would eventually battle his way through before his death.
His entire log entry saluting Seven of Nine is the perfect end for the character.
- Has anyone heard from Laris?
- The Star Trek franchise animation opening gets an update for this episode; the USS Titan is replaced by the Enterprise-D, and the Starfleet delta gets corrupted by Borg assimilation.
- The episode’s opening visual is a recreation of the blue nebula which appeared in the beginning of the Star Trek: The Next Generation opening credits for Seasons 3 through 7, right down to the bright star which zooms into camera.
- In a message quite similar to the distress signal sent by the Federation President in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, current-day Federation President Anton Chekov warns travelers to “save yourselves… farewell.”
- President Anton Chekov, son of Enterprise legend Pavel Chekov, is voiced by Star Trek: The Original Series star Walter Koenig — who of course portrayed the original Chekov character.
- President Chekov’s first name is likely an homage to Kelvin Timeline Chekov actor Anton Yelchin, who died in 2016.
- The Enterprise-D digital model still sports scorching from its atmospheric descent and impact onto Veridian III (Star Trek: Generations), and interior details of Ten Forward and the behind-bridge Observation Lounge can be seen through the ship’s windows.
- The Borg transwarp conduit at Jupiter is tucked within the planet’s Great Red Spot.
- Data notes that the Borg cube is only “thirty-six percent operational”; back in “The Best of Both Worlds,” where Shelby shared that a Borg ship… could continue to function effectively even if seventy eight percent of it was inoperable.”
- Jonathan Frakes leans with one foot up on the helm console as the Enterprise approaches Jupiter, reprising the pose he often struck when Riker faced a tense situation on the bridge.
- Star Trek: Picard makeup and prosthetics head James MacKinnon plays one of the two gold-shouldered officers who helps Seven and Raffi retake the Titan’s bridge; he first identifies the NCC-1701-D on sensors.
- The ship’s chef who Seven assigns to take over the Titan’s helm wears a neutral grey-colored Starfleet uniform; this may be reserved for enlisted crewmen.
- The disabled Borg cube has several pyramid-shaped distribution nodes on its ceiling, the target of Shelby’s away team assualt in “The Best of Both Worlds.”
- As the Borg Queen commands the captured fleet to destroy Spacedock, she says “Watch your future’s end,” the same threat issued in Star Trek: First Contact when she believes quantum torpedoes are about to destroy Zefram Cochrane’s warp ship Phoenix.
- Worf’s kur’leth sword is much heavier than it looks (as Riker is suprised to learn); it also contains a small phaser hidden inside the hilt.
- Data learned about humans’ “gut instinct” from Geordi in “The Defector,” concluding that “a person fills in missing pieces of the puzzle with his own personality, resulting in a conclusion based as much on instinct and intuition as on fact” — and later desired the ability to consult a gut instinct of his own during the events of “Data’s Day.” (Glad to see he finally gets his wish!)
- Deanna Troi’s Betazoid powers are now able to sense Data’s emotions, thanks to his organic new body.
- Once assimilated by the Borg, Jack Crusher’s cybernetic appearance is a near copy of Locutus’s design, right down to the faceplate and red laser.
- The visual effects of the Enterprise working its way through the cube to destroy the beacon were gloriously reminiscent of the adventure in the now-closed Star Trek: The Experience Klingon Encounter ride, where a group of shuttles must navigate a similar trajectory to destroy a cloaking generator.
- Inside his assimilated mind, Jack Crusher describes the same “intense euphoria” that Jean-Luc Picard described to Jurati in Season 2’s “Assimilation.”
- Troi takes the helm for one final time, piloting the Enterprise to just above the Borg Queen’s chamber to rescue Riker, Worf, Jack, and Picard before the Borg cube is destroyed.
- After being ravaged by Admiral Janeway’s neurolytic pathogen Star Trek: Voyager’s “Endgame,” the Borg Queen — and the Borg Collective as a whole — is finally destroyed once and for all.
- Alice Krige’s voice performance is exquisite in her return to Trek — and a special shout-out to her on-screen body double Jane Edwina Seymour for her work in this episode (as well as the incredible makeup team who brought the Borg Queen back to life).
- Starfleet cures Borg-infected young officers by running them back through the transporter to repair their DNA; this style of treatment was also used to restore Katherine Pulaski to her correct age at the end of “Unnatural Selection.”
- Beverly Crusher returns to Starfleet service; after being promoted to the rank of Admiral, she returns to Starfleet Medical once again for the second — or, if you count the Star Trek: Nemesis deleted scenes — third time.
- Tim Russ returns as Tuvok; this time, he portrays the real Vulcan officer who served with Seven aboard the starship Voyager.
- Troi and Riker explore a number of vacation options, including Omicron Ceti III (from “This Side of Paradise”), Vulcan, Andoria, Bajor, Trill, Zadar IV (mentioned in “When The Bough Breaks”), and both Kauai, Hawaii and Malibu, California on Earth — ultimately narrowing it down to “the beaches of Kaphar Prime… or Orlando.”
- When the Enterprise-D is placed on display in the Fleet Museum, composer Dennis McCarthy’s “To Live Forever” (from the Star Trek: Generations soundtrack) plays — this is the music which accompanies Picard and Riker’s final moments aboard the crashed starship at the end of the film.
- Geordi says the ship has “always taken good care of us,” echoing DeForest Kelley as Dr. McCoy in “Encounter at Farpoint” when he says, “She’ll always bring you home.”
- Majel Barret’s computer voice returns, with audio segments clipped from two Next Generation episodes: “Electropathic pattern located” is from “Violations,” while “Shutdown sequence initiated” is from “Eye of the Beholder.”
- In honor of Jean-Luc Picard and crew’s efforts during the Borg invasion, the USS Titan has been officially rechristened USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-G) — captained by the newly-promoted Seven of Nine, with Commander Raffi Musiker serving as her first officer.
- The Starfleet Engineering Corps is a pretty impressive group, rebuilding the massive Spacedock facility in just one year!
- The Enterprise-G may be the second Enterprise to begin life as another starship; apocryphally, the Enterprise-A originally served as the USS Yorktown before the events of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
- Tyrellians were previously mentioned in “Starship Mine.”
- Starfleet introduces a new commbadge design in the year after the Borg defeat; the dark grey bars behind the silver Starfleet delta are now a shiny gold, emulating the “All Good Things” combadge which inspired the original Star Trek: Picard combadge design — and yes, FanSets now has them available for purchase.
- It’s fitting that Jean-Luc Picard’s final monologue comes from Shakespeare (his Julius Caesar); Patrick Stewart famously began his career with the Royal Shakespeare Company before joining the cast of The Next Generation.
- Worf gives lectures on “Mugatu Meditation,” apparently — and “The Last Generation” extends Michael Dorn’s franchise appearance count to 281, which will stand for the foreseeable future.
- Data first attempted his interrupted joke — “There was a young lady from Venus…” — during the events of “The Naked Now.”
- Q wears a fanciful new red-and-black outfit, emulating the coloring of his “Judge Q” outfit seen in both “Encounter at Farpoint” and “All Good Things…”
- In the post-credit scene, Jack Crusher displays a photo of his parents — in reality, that photograph is this 1988 picture of Gates McFadden and Patrick Stewart taken at and event held during Star Trek: The Next Generation’s first season.
As Jean-Luc stated in the episode’s teaser, “What began over 30 years ago, ends tonight!” But not with a phaser battle or a ship christening, but with seven friends playing poker and reminiscing about the fact that the past does matter.
It’s a beautiful moment that obviously harkens back to that first game of cards the group played together at end of “All Good Things.” It is and has been a reunion for the ages. A glorious 10-episode run to gift The Next Generation cast, and their legion of fans, yet another poignant signoff.
That first series ended with Picard saying, “I should have done this a long time ago,” and Star Trek: Picard opened with him uttering the words “I don’t want the game to end” — and the story concludes with his much more optimistic outlook: “I’ve come to believe that the stars have always been in my favor.”
It’s a series and a season that literally gave us everything — including a happy ending.
Jim Moorhouse is the creator of TrekRanks.com and the TrekRanks Podcast.
He can be found living and breathing Trek every day on Twitter as @EnterpriseExtra.