Next is Star Trek: Picard, series three, episode ten, “The Last Generation.”
Let’s not pretend the final episode of Star Trek: Picard it was a modern classic, or at least free from its usual flaws. It had the usual mix of crude dialogue, clunky plotting, and indulged its audience with a mix of nostalgia and nonstop porn rather than saying anything important. But what it did, and the episode before it, was deliver a breezy hour of action that, above all else, was fun. After choking on eight hours of heavy high school melodrama, this was a vital and necessary corrective.
“The Last Generation” begins with a plea from President Anton Chekov* (Walter Koenig) that Earth is about to fall to the Bio Borg fleet. The Enterprise races towards the (hopefully) last Borg Cube hidden in the Eye of Jupiter, where the Borg Queen has trapped Jack as her transmitter. How do we know this? Well, it was obvious that Jack, as the “voice” of the Queen, would be key to activating the drones, but also because this series can’t help but remind us of what’s going on.
Do you remember the last episode, when the Borg took control of the fleet and were about to launch an offensive on Earth? This show doesn’t think you did it, which is why we have Patrick Stewart saying lines like “the fleet is being controlled by the collective” and “that cube is projecting a signal across the solar system” and “the only way to save” . Earth is to sever that connection, no matter the cost.” You know, things you saw at least once in the past week and then again on “Previously.”
It’s a similar problem when we see the surprisingly small Federation fleet take aim at Earth. On Titan’s bridge, we see a map of the world’s major locations quickly wrapped in a series of red dots, which was a fancy way of communicating what was going on. Unfortunately, Raffi, so often relegated to the dispenser of exposure, has to reaffirm what we’ve literally just seen. “The fleet is targeting all cities”, yes, we saw, thank you, “all major population centers on the planet”, yes, still with you. Given how often this comes up, I wonder if Paramount did any research and found that most people scroll their phones while watching, so they need to hold their hands with good radio-style storytelling.
The Enterprise appears on Jupiter and is completely dwarfed by the cube lurking in the storm, and I love the sense of scale offered here. Picard, Riker and Worf (Michael Dorn received another silly grace note as he vowed to make the away team a trio) hit the ground running. They milky-eyed goodbye, then head to the cube with a mission to stop the signal and rescue Jack. The pace at which the narrative moves here, again, makes the previous eight episodes feel more like punishment. Things happen here, you don’t go around in circles trying to lengthen the execution time, in fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Meanwhile, the Titan’s crew manages to fight their way to the bridge and transport the Bio Borg to a locked transporter room. Cut off from the fleet, it’s up to Seven, Raffi, and a low-ranking crew to mount a one-handed defense of Earth. Unfortunately, the Titan does not have a regular crew, filled with competent professionals dedicated to the job at hand, but a movie crew. You know, they have next to no previous experience, but after a (not very) enthusiastic pep talk, they’ll rise to the occasion and save the day.
In the cube, the gang discovers that the Borg are a shadow of their former shelves, with a handful of drones still alive. The rest have withered away courtesy of Captain…Janeway, who doesn’t even get an honorable mention for her troubles. Meanwhile, the Queen (Alice Krige) looms in the dark over Jack, who now dons the Locutus suit and controls the fleet. If you’re expecting me to make the obvious comparison to the rise of skywalkeryou’ll have to wait, I’m saving mine. Star Wars Reference for the next paragraph. We even get time for one more silly joke where Riker also tries, and fails, to pick up a Mek’leth.
On the Enterprise, the crew quickly realizes that they will need to physically destroy the wireless transmitter that relays instructions to the Bio Borg drones. And this wireless transmitter is, for some reason, lurking in the heart of the cube that can only be accessed through an impossible route. And so, Data’s grace note is to ask the gang to trust his instincts as he leads the Enterprise on a tribute via the half-finished Death Star of return of the jedi. oops bad Star franchise, Terry! But if they destroy the transmitter, it’ll also burn down the entire cube (the pesky WiFi radios, explosive power and all), with Geordi and Beverly looking into each other’s eyes knowing that acting now will sentence Jack to death, but delaying won’t just sentence him to death. Sidney and Alandra, but also everyone else.
The Queen, who I’m pretty sure didn’t have her own arms in any of her appearances before and yet has now grown a pair, has Jack under her control. After repeating several of the same lines from her confrontation in First contact, Picard decides to reconnect with the collective in order to save his son. The only way he can do that, of course, is by opening up to Jack, admitting that this need to connect while also keeping people away is what brought him to Starfleet. But, because we have so much more to get through, all it takes is for Picard to hug Jack and his hedgehog dilemma is resolved. There’s even a montage of shots earlier in the series which, if you weren’t paying attention, might suggest this thread played out correctly, but it’s hard not to get carried away, again, mostly by the vibes.
With Jack free, the Enterprise opens fire to destroy the cube, then rushes in at the last second to rescue the gang. It’s all very, uh, triumphant, isn’t it? And I think if we had seen this happen in 1993 or so, it would have blown our minds. With the cube destroyed, the Bio Borg return to normal and we can continue with our happy ending. Data overcomes his welcome into a therapy session with Deanna, Worf leaks details of Raffi’s heroism so his family will respect her again, Crusher finds a way to fix the Borg mutation (and trap the mutants in the process), and Tuvok turns him in. to Seven the command of the Titan. as recommended by Shaw. Now, we might rightly wonder why Shaw privately praised Seven, even using her chosen name of hers in her annual review, and yet still belittled and serially humiliated her in front of the crew. But you knew all along that her arc would be redemptive, and the groundwork has already been laid for her possible resurrection.
A year later, the Enterprise D is in the fleet museum, and Jack Crusher has been sped through the academy and is now ready for his first posting. We know we’re going to have a hero ship revealed, because the picardo the theme suddenly includes the bells used so well at Leonard Rosenman’s Journey home score. At the rebuilt space dock, we see that Titan A, already a strange rebrand of the original Titan, has now been renamed Enterprise G. Why? Because, uh, heroics, or something, and not as part of some shameless attempt to use this entire third season as a backdoor pilot for a spin-off.
The new Enterprise heads back to the M’Talas system, with Seven, Raffi, and Jack now on the bridge. Jack may be an ensign, but he’s been assigned as “Captain’s Advisor” to keep Ed Speelers on the bridge. Who would have thought that Starfleet would have given command of the Federation flagship to a “thief, pirate, and spy”, well, not this guy. But then this is new Star Trek, where narrative gravity will pull everything into a structure that looks a lot like what’s come before.
There’s a new Enterprise with a Crusher in one chair and a LaForge in another, because a family name and the inherited genes that come with it are far more important than anything else these days. There’s even a mid-credits stinger with Q from John deLancie, who you might remember died very prominently in season two. He’s back in full jerk mode, and he’s ready to put Jack through the same steps he put his dad through in the late ’80s. He meets the new villain, literally the same as the old one.
You know, I’m sure we’ll hear the news that Star Trek: Legacy by Terry Matalas, featuring the adventures of the Enterprise G in the M’talas system, has been commissioned within the next week. Paramount needs to capitalize picardo outgoing hype and popularity, and I’m interested to see what kind of show we get: one with the tone of the first eight episodes or the last two. And to see how many Golden-Era Trek story elements will be pulled for inspiration to keep fans in the loop. I wish him the best though, because this has worked for some sections of the fans, and I’m glad they liked it, even though it often left a sour taste in me.
And while the next the next generation, or what’s left of it, heads, our team goes to Ten Forward to work together. if you know you Next Generation history, you will know that this gang went through a pretty tough time together and united in that early adversity. The chemistry, warmth, and love these characters exhibit is not fake, as anyone who has seen this group on the convention circuit will tell you. his story is our history and I cannot envy anyone who chose to point a camera at these seven and let it unfold. Of course they have to end up playing poker, because that’s what these characters did. It was a sign of Picard’s growth when he first opted to join the weekly poker game, and now they’ve not only aged, but aged together, at least off-screen. And as, by my ear, the final frontier The mix of the Goldsmith theme begins to play, we launch the credits. At least that last one was fun, right?
* As much as it reinforces the hateful narrowing of Trek’s narrative universe, because of course Chekov’s son ends up as Earth’s president, was a nice nod to the late Anton Yelchin.