HERE THERE BE SPOILERS
I realize this column is a week late, but I honestly needed some time to process and digest Star Trek: Picard’s series finale. There’s a lot to love about “The Last Generation” episode, though I do feel there are some very real gaps. However, I find myself really grieving the fact that this really is the last time those characters will be onscreen together outside of a rewatch ever again. I’m finding it difficult to say goodbye, no matter how nicely done the finale was. Still, in true Trek form, showrunner Terry Matalas included a backdoor pilot, that even should it not get made, promises a continuation of the story. There’s comfort in the hope that it implies. While yes, this story has ended, life and the franchise do go on.
Aboard the Enterprise, the TNG crew hurry to intercept the Borg, realizing that they are the cavalry. What they find, however, is a signal hidden within Jupiter that is likely the Borg transmitter, from which they’re transmitting the signal they’re using to control all of the Starfleet drones. Upon arrival, they discover that they’re correct; the massive Borg vessel within Jupiter is responsible for the signal, but the ship’s sensors cannot determine the exact location of anything on board the ship due to interference.
Picard, Worf, and Riker beam down to the ship with a two-fold purpose. Worf and Riker are to find the transmitter while Picard searches for his son Jack. What they discover is that the ship is almost entirely comprised of Borg corpses, indicating that this may be the Borg’s last gasp. Worf and Riker do locate the transmitter, but they discover that the beacon is so intertwined with the ship’s sensors that they cannot destroy the beacon without destroying the ship and everything on it. Picard, too, locates Jack who has been converted entirely into Vox, with an immobile, skeletal Queen trapped behind him. She warns Picard that he cannot separate Jack by force; Jack must choose to leave the Collective himself. Picard plugs himself into Jack’s Collective to try and draw his son out of the Borg’s clutches.
Aboard the Titan, Seven of Nine, Raffi, and a small group of older crew members retake the bridge. Seven takes command and orders the Titan to take advantage of its cloaking device in order to perform strafing runs on the rest of the fleet in order to provide Spacedock and Earth as much protection as possible. Seven reminds her crew that though they can do little, they must do what they can. Unfortunately, Sidney and Alandra La Forge, having been assimilated, destroy the cloaking device, neutralizing the Titan’s ability to thwart Fleet Formation. The assimilated bridge crew prepares to eliminate all non-assimilated personnel aboard the ship.
Worf and Riker transmit the beacon’s location to the Enterprise, but getting close enough to destroy it seems impossible. Data, however, promises that he has a gut feeling that he can do it, and Geordi La Forge, who has been left in command, allows Data to follow his hunch, which proves correct, of course. Via comms, the crew hashes out whether they should destroy the Cube, possibly killing Picard and Jack in the process. Beverly Crusher grieves but recognizes the necessity of preserving the good of the many over the good of the few. Worf and Riker, however, refuse to return without at least trying to locate Picard, who is still missing due to the interference. Geordi gives the order, and the Enterprise fires on the beacon.
Picard continues to try and reason with Jack, reminding him that Starfleet provides Picard with a family of choice but that Jack is the piece of that family that has always been missing. Jack severs his link with the Collective, and they all prepare to die. Riker taps into his mental link with Deanna to tell her goodbye, which enables her to locate them all. She pilots the Enterprise to within beaming range and rescues them all just as the Borg Cube explodes.
Once the beacon ceases transmitting, the Titan crew return to themselves, and Seven shares a heartfelt hug with Sidney La Forge. The rest of the episode is spent wrapping things up. Dr. Crusher returns to Starfleet as head of Starfleet Medical, again, and she devises the means not only to undo the genetic modifications the Changelings used the transporter systems to make but also to identify Changelings, clearing Starfleet of their presence. Deanna plans a vacation with her husband, while pretending to listen to Data in therapy. Jack gets fast-tracked through the Starfleet ranks to Ensign, and his mother and father escort him to his first posting. Starfleet has renamed the Titan the Enterprise, and Jack will be Captain Seven’s special advisor with Raffi as First Officer. Worf leaked confidential awards from Raffi’s time with Starfleet Intelligence, securing her family’s forgiveness and understanding.
The episode credits run on a final poker game played by the stalwart TNG crew once Picard has offered a speech out of Julius Caesar as a toast. However, “The Last Generation” does feature a post-credits scene in which John de Lancie’s Q appears to Jack, promising that it’s Jack’s turn to stand in as a defendant in the Continuum’s trial of humanity.
“The Last Generation” features some legitimately great moments of acting. Gates McFadden gives a wonderfully understated performance when she gives us Dr. Crusher’s absolute devastation at the prospect of having to kill her only remaining son. There aren’t words, but you see the grief and the horror play not only across her features but also in her body language. In a season in which she has been criminally under-utilized, this moment almost makes up for it. The sequence in which Ed Speleers as Jack makes his peace with not only his father but also his own otherness is just beautifully performed. Marina Sirtis also gives us all of Deanna’s strength when she, like Beverly, realizes that saving Earth means killing her husband.
“The Last Generation” serves us moment after moment like these, allowing each of our characters a scene in which to shine. Given how large the ensemble cast is, that’s pretty impressive stuff. The episode also continues to stick the landing, blending nostalgia with plot nearly flawlessly. Alice Krige returns to voice the dying Borg Queen. Our legacy characters get one last run on an amazingly reconstructed Enterprise-D set, and they even squeeze in a speech from Shakespeare, Picard’s other signature move that doesn’t involve tugging on a uniform shirt. We even get enough new plot elements to keep the nostalgia from dominating. Deli Cook Guy on the Titan is great, and I defy anyone to listen to Seven’s speech rallying her ragtag crew and not feel the stirrings of some deep emotion.
I guess what I’m saying here is that “The Last Generation” is a great episode and one that I fully intend on watching repeatedly. However, while it exemplifies all that has been good about Star Trek: Picard’s final season, it also suffers from the season’s weaknesses. Picard gets to go down to the Cube to save Jack, and while I’m thrilled that Picard gets to step into his role as a father, Beverly has been a single mother for twenty years. Yes, this final episode is about Picard putting paid to his personal demons—the Borg and his lack of familial legacy. I even understand that it makes sense to have Picard, who was at one time Locutus, try to appeal to Jack. However, you cannot tell me that all of that supersedes Jack’s relationship with his mother.
Picard’s use of its female characters has not been the strongest it could be. Last season demonstrated that in spades with its treatment of Laris as a fungible commodity. “The Last Generation” episode continues in that trend as Laris apparently doesn’t even merit a passing mention. Neither does Kestra Troi-Riker, and the show treats her father’s decision to sacrifice his life for his old captain rather than coming home to be a better father as both understandable and acceptable. Even Seven’s last stand aboard the Titan serves mostly as a backdoor pilot rather than really pushing the episode’s plot forward.
In the final tally, the episode’s good points far outweigh the bad, but this is Star Trek, folks. I really feel that Star Trek: Picard could have done better by its female characters. However, “The Last Generation” really is a wonderful farewell to these characters that have been part of our lives for so long, and it made almost every stumble along the way to get to this point worth it.
Four cups of Earl Grey Tea and the teapot.
Stray Thoughts From Behind the Couch:
- I narrowly missed the post-credit scene. I only saw it because I couldn’t stand to turn off the poker game.
- Seriously, Deli Cook Guy needs to be on Legacy, if it ever happens.
- This is hardly Trek’s first backdoor pilot. Anyone else remember “Assignment: Earth”?
- Worf continues to be hilarious when stating “And I will make it a threesome.” Love it.