I broke a lot of my own preferred viewing rules to watch season 3 of Picard.
I had not watched season 1 or 2 of this show. While I was familiar with The Next Generation characters and had seen a handful of episodes, I knew far less about TNG than the Original Series, which is my favorite Trek era.
So, why jump in at the very end of a series without watching much of the preceding material?
Great question. In a perfect world, I would have gotten caught up on all seasons of TNG and Picard before diving into season 3. But the reality is, I recently signed up for Paramount+ so I could watch season 2 of Strange New Worlds, and I thought that since I had the service for a while, I might as well explore some of the other content. I’m also currently in a stage of life where my free time is limited; I typically have about an hour of free time each night to watch TV, and so I’m very mindful/careful about what I spend that time on.
I’d heard really, really great things about Picard season 3 and greatly enjoyed the panel I attended hosted by Jonathan Frakes at my regional con earlier this year. I asked my favorite Trek fan — my dad — if I’d be able to follow Picard if I just jumped in at season 3, and he recommended I go for it.
And I’m really, really glad I did.
I loved every second I spent watching Picard season 3, and it’s one of my favorite geek stories of the year so far. It was tense, thrilling, and packed with character development. Patrick Stewart was wonderful as the aging Captain Picard (now a retired admiral) grappling with his past (but we’re talking about Patrick Steward here, so of course the fact that he’s wonderful isn’t a surprise).
To me, Picard season 3 represents nostalgia done right. Sure, there are a couple moments that feel overly fan service-y. But overall, we got to see well-known characters like Will Riker, Seven of Nine, Worf, and Data, and they are more than just cameo appearances. They go on unique and meaningful journeys as characters.
Here are some more spoiler-y thoughts on why I loved this series so much:
The concept of legacy is always a favorite theme of mine (it’s why I love the Star Wars sequel trilogy so much). You have a legendary character like Picard who is reflecting on his career and life, and then he has the unexpected surprise of learning he fathered a child with Dr. Beverly Crusher. (Fun fact: I was already familiar with the actor who plays Jack Crusher, Ed Speleers, from his days on Downton Abbey.)
Naturally, Jack feels a bit of resentment towards the father who wasn’t present in his life, but throughout this season, they are able to form a deeper bond and find healing. I’ll admit, I got more than a little emotional at the end where Picard goes to rescue Jack from the Borg Cube and is embracing his son.
I was intrigued by the concept of the Changelings as the primary villain (and then later, the Borg switcheroo). Maybe it wouldn’t have come as a surprise if I’d watched more of the supporting material, but it still worked for me. The series does a great job amping up the stakes, and as viewers, we buy that this is a potentially universe-ending threat.
The special effects felt film-worthy, and it’s always incredible to see the Enterprise in space. And of course, hearing that classic, well-known Star Trek music heightens every scene it plays in.
I don’t know that I’d necessarily recommend that other Trek newbies follow the same viewing path I did, but it worked for me. And now I find myself wanting to go back and watch the earlier seasons of Picard and also the original Next Generation run.
Franchises grow and evolve over time, and not every stage they pass through is popular with fans. I know not everyone loves J.J. Abrams’ Trek films, and I don’t want to invalidate those feelings. But as I’ve mentioned before, those movies were the first time I really connected with Star Trek as a fan. And because I loved the 2009 movie, I went back and started watching the Original Series and fell in love with it too.
Maybe, in a similar way, Picard season 3 will be my gateway into The Next Generation content. Sometimes it just takes the right story at the right time to open up a brand new geek experience.
You all know Star Wars is my first love, but there’s enough space in my heart for Star Trek too.