In Star Trek: Picard The Final Frontier Is Parenting
If you’re the generation of The Next Generation, your Star Trek just grew up.
If you’ve slept on the new Star Trek shows for the past few years, you’re missing out on a great show full of wonderful performances, wit, slick space action, and most importantly, heart. But you’re in luck because right now is the perfect moment to jump back in. For those who watched The Next Generation in childhood, there’s a good chance you now have a family of your own. And guess what? Season 3 of Star Trek: Picard is here to talk to you — specifically you, dad — about what it feels like now that the next generation has grown up. Debuting on Paramount+ in February 2023, the latest season of Picard has already received rave reviews — and currently holds a score of 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
Why is the series getting such a positive response? Well, other than just stating the obvious and saying it’s very good, there might be a generational reason. Unlike some of the other new Trek shows, the main cast of Picard is literally your parent's Star Trek, or more specifically, the Star Trek you probably watched with your parents when you were a kid.
Most of the Star Trek cast you might remember from the ‘90s — Jonathan Frakes as Riker, Gates Mcfadden as Dr. Crusher, Michael Dorn as Worf, LeVar Buton as Geordi — these people are in their 70s. Or, in the case of the lead actor, Patrick Stewart, 80 years old. The baby of the bunch here is Jeri Ryan’s Seven of Nine, originally from Star Trek: Voyager, who is 55. Refreshingly, in Star Trek: Picard the adults are talking.
But, this isn’t just ‘90s nostalgia for the sake of coddling aging millennials or younger Gen-Xers. The storyline of Picard in the third season challenges our nostalgia because these characters have grown and changed in ways that reflect real life. When showrunner Terry Matalas approached the shape of Picard for the latest season, he wanted to explore a “kind of relationship has Picard not had.” And that relationship was fatherhood.
“He's had many surrogate children, but not his own,” Matalas tells Fatherly. “As a real father, one the things you know is, when you the good things you’ve passed on to your children, and you see all the bad, too. And it’s powerful. It’s really powerful because it makes you want to be a better person.”
In Episode 2, “Disengage,” we learn that Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) and Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) have had a son in the interim between The Next Generation and this series. That son is Jack Crusher, played by Ed Speleers, a character who is here to shake up the status quo of Trek, and possibly, take the franchise forward. (Assuming a spinoff show happens after this season of Picard). Jack has a bit of an edge, but he’s not a bad seed, per se. While Matalas hints that the stakes are high in this season, this is still the uplifting Star Trek that many fans fell in love with. And, for dads who grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, that means this is also a story about family.
Part of what makes the new season of Picard unique in the pantheon of action-adventure sci-fi that also happens to be about dads is that the writing doesn’t shy away from hard conversations. In episode 3, “Seventeen Seconds,” Riker and Picard butt heads over Riker’s trauma over losing a son. Picard has never had to face this before, and even though he’s older, has never connected with his former “number one” over issues of parenting. Meanwhile, Riker is openly struggling with his failures as a husband and a father to his daughter, Kestra. The audience isn’t supposed to root for any of this dysfunction, but rather, we’re invited to unpack it in a very Star Trek-ish way: Here’s the problem, how can we make this better?
“I feel like stories of fatherhood have always been part of Star Trek, at least in the Star Trek that I love,” Matalas says. “I think back to The Wrath of Khan or Kirk forgiving the Klingons for the death of his son in Star Trek VI. I think about Spock’s father Sarek, and how their story was set up in The Orignal Series and ended in The Next Generation, in that beautiful moment in which Spock mind-melds with Picard and is able to see that his father loved him. Come on. There’s nothing better!”
The latest season of Picard has nail-biting sci-fi action that is on par with some of the best classic Trek films, like The Wrath of Khan. But, unlike any Star Trek before it, this is a ten-hour family story; the story of the surrogate family of The Next Generation crew finding each other again, but also their very real children, and how those children are not plot devices to create drama. In real life, as in Star Trek, children will replace us. Even in the 25th century.
Star Trek: Picard Season 3 is streaming on Parmaount+. New episodes drop on Wednesdays. Newcomers can start with Season 3 and not be confused at all.