Nic Cage, when asked if he would ever join the “Star Wars” franchise, emphatically responded: “I’m not in the ‘Star Wars’ family. I’m in the ‘Star Trek’ family.” This third and final season of the “Star Trek: Picard” is for the faithful, the sci-fi humanitarians who venture boldly from their couches, for folks like Cage.
The series once again rallies around Patrick Stewart’s Shakespearean now-retired Admiral Jean Luc Picard, reprising his role from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Loyal, egalitarian, lover of Earl Grey tea, and stuffed full of wisdom gleaned from his many travels on the U.S.S. Enterprise, Picard’s a born leader winding down. But the explorer isn’t quite ready to wrap himself in the robes of past accomplishments. There’s talk of relaxing with his books, brandy and penning a possible memoir beside the still thriving career of his Romulan love interest, Laris (Orla Brady).
But wait…what’s that sound? That S.O.S. from a distant ship under attack beyond the borders of Federation territory in the 25th Century? Could it really be the siren call of one-time love Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) – reaching out to Picard over the universe as the last possible hero to rescue her from a dire situation? Um, yes.
With a fond good-bye to Laris, Picard, his voice no longer as strong as it once was, begins a final, and unsanctioned, mission to find out if it really is Crusher on the other end of the line. And, in the process, he gets the band back together in a highly satisfying, and clearly final, adventure.
Enter Riker (Jonathan Frakes, who also directed two episodes), and Worf (Michael Dorn) and La Forge (LaVar Burton). Onward Lore, the android formerly known as Data (Brent Spiner), and Troi (Marina Sirtis), and Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), and Raffi (Michelle Hurd).
Think of this as the reunion Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young would have had if their interpersonal squabbles hadn’t outlived the late David Crosby.
Picard gathers his team, starting with Riker (“old farts going boldly,” he wisecracks). The still-evolving plan is to go out and check the verisimilitude of the distress call. Untethered by Federation directives, Picard discovers that his kind of cowboy spontaneity in a vast untamed universal frontier has given way to bureaucracy and caution. But that never stopped him, no matter how properly he pronounced his vowels, and carefully he contained his anger.
Over 10 episodes, the Trek Expendables rescue Crusher and her first mate (“Downton Abbey’s” Ed Speleers), only to discover that there are much larger, more destructive forces at play with newly developed weapons of mass destruction that threaten the Federation down to its very shiny medals.
Stepping in as one of many antagonists is the ever-freaky Amanda Plummer as Vadic, captain of the superpowered starship Shrike. We won’t give away the scorched universe villain’s secret power, but she goes toe-to-toe with Picard on the Shakespearean asides. She’s a credit to her late father Christopher Plummer, a Trekkie who himself played villainous General Chang in “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.”
The ships, the sky battles, the views of space all dazzle in a visionary series that once used handheld communicators long before the birth of the cell phone. The adventures meld visceral danger with the intimacy of familiar characters, struggling with love, loss, addiction, power and father issues.
Despite addressing the inevitability of aging, there’s nothing creaky in the third and final season of ‘Star Trek: Picard.’ It comforts, and challenges, the audience’s knowledge of these characters that were drawn over decades, and are drawn together one last time. When this band gets back together, it really sings.
“Star Trek: Picard, Season 3” debuted on Paramount + on Feb. 16