Star Trek: Picard – Season 3 Episode 10
“The Last Generation”
Star Trek: Picard wraps up its third and final season with a final showdown with the Borg and the fabric of the Federation itself at risk.
Regular readers won’t be surprised to read that I consider this to be a subpar season of television. More than that it has been a woefully inadequate send-off to iconic television icons. Nostalgia has been confused for substance and the lack of narrative momentum has been a constant source of frustration. On top of that, there’s a general lack of depth to the storytelling where obvious avenues exist to dig deeper and explore complex and interesting ideas. It’s the TV equivalent of a fireworks display designed to dazzle while containing nothing more than an elaborate light show.
The reveal of the Borg in the previous episode came far too late for anything meaningful to be done with them. Rapid fire exposition clumsily explained their plan and events moved very quickly to compensate for not delivering this reveal earlier in the season. Their presence rendered the Changeling plot that filled the rest of the season largely irrelevant as they were dismissed as a means to an end. I mentioned in my review of the previous episode that one of the biggest issues is the lack of time remaining to properly wrap up everything still on the table and this episode very much proves that prediction to be true. So much is quickly resolved or dismissed entirely in favour of a happy ending that isn’t earned.
As the episode begins, the stakes are unimaginably high with every Starfleet ship near Earth under Borg control and every one of them attacking Spacedock to take out Earth’s remaining defences before devastating Earth itself. Star Trek has fallen into the same trap a lot of franchise media has; constant escalation. There seems to be a widely held belief that audiences won’t invest in a story unless an apocalyptic threat is attached to it. Discovery has made a habit of seasons being focused on potentially universe-ending threats and Picard has delivered this in one form or another in all three seasons. This phenomenon can be found in many other places so Picard and Star Trek, in general, can’t be singled out for continually relying on it but it doesn’t alter the fact that the franchise has become reliant on trying to capture interest through having the protagonists routinely save the universe.
The stakes as presented in this episode are fairly empty as there’s nothing tangible to the threat. There are no point-of-view characters on Earth fearing annihilation in order to ground these events and the escalation of the situation amounts to people reading screens to indicate how close they are to destruction. Spectacle isn’t necessarily a bad thing especially when it’s complimented by more meaningful content but there’s nothing especially urgent or interesting about the attack on Spacedock even when considering the involvement of Seven, Raffi and those old enough to avoid assimilation.
t is a good showcase for Seven’s potential to be a Captain as she proves herself to be a natural fit for leadership. In the middle of a crisis situation, she is driven, decisive and inspiring to those around her. Nothing about her suggests that she believes that the threat can’t be defeated even if she’s aware of how unlikely survival is considering the odds. Her small crew hear nothing but encouragement and confidence from their commanding officer which is exactly what a Captain needs to be at that point. It proves that she is ready to step into that role and sets up her promotion later in the episode by making it clear that she deserves it.
Seven and her crew can buy time as the Enterprise D crew works to stop the attack at its source. They find a Borg ship hidden in Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and need to work out a way to stop the signal so that all of the ships and personnel can be freed. Added to that is the need to rescue Jack who is the main voice broadcasting the signal in line with the name the Queen gave to him in the previous episode. Accomplishing this requires the splitting of the party and nearly everyone is lining up to volunteer for what is likely to be a suicide mission.
Picard takes charge and recognises where everyone needs to be at that moment. He as a father needs to be on the Borg ship to rescue Jack, Riker goes with him as his trusted companion, Worf joins them for pure muscle, Beverly is needed on the Enterprise to be his guide and Data’s superior intelligence and reflexes are needed on the Enterprise as a counter to the Borg’s resources. Geordi and Troi don’t have defined roles but Picard leaves Geordi in command of the Enterprise and Troi gets to sit there without anything to do. Some things never change.
It’s quickly established that the Borg are dying, presumably after the damage inflicted on them during the events of Voyager‘s “Endgame” and are acting out of desperation to ensure their survival. This puts them in a weakened state but also presents them as an adversary with nothing to lose which is at least a new approach to the Borg as they are typically coming from a position of power with anyone in opposition to them being on the defensive. They are exceptions to this such as Scorpion where they were facing a threat that eclipsed them but broadly they represent an existential threat with near-limitless resources committed to the singular task of absorbing those they deem worthy of attention.
The execution of the idea of the Borg as a dying race in a last-ditch effort to survive leaves a lot to be desired. As with most things in this episode, there isn’t much time to properly explore it and it doesn’t connect to the attack on Earth in any significant way. The lack of tangibility to the threat is one problem and the lack of a strong connection between the two locations is another. The only connection comes when the Borg ship is destroyed and the signal stops, other than that they might as well be two completely unconnected events. Something as simple as diverting some of the ships to deal with the Enterprise would have gone some way towards enhancing the threat as the crew would have been faced with the prospect of fighting and possibly killing innocent assimilated officers.
In general, the episode is guilty of being little more than a procession of things happening until it reaches a climax. There’s no real depth to any of it nor does it feel as if any of the characters are actually in any danger. Despite the continued insistence that total annihilation is imminent, there is no believable jeopardy as events progress. Sparks fly on the Titan’s bridge but their ability to act isn’t impeded until the cloak is destroyed and the Enterprise being an outdated ship doesn’t come into play at all. The shield percentage is lowered when she’s attacked but there at no point is she anywhere near destruction.
The Enterprise D is used in surprising ways. Unfortunately, it isn’t a welcome surprise. One of the enduring features of the D is that she is a majestic ship not known for manoeuvrability but this episode has her doing a riff on the sequence from Return of the Jedi where various ships fly into the superstructure of the second Death Star to destroy it. The Enterprise D bobs and weaves through the crowded innards of the Borg ship, demonstrating movement that she was previously incapable of. One caveat is that Data is at the helm and making use of his new emotion-based instincts to accomplish what was identified as a nigh impossible feat. It’s an absurd sequence that is completely incongruous with all that’s known about the Enterprise D in ways that take away from the identity of the ship as well. It’s an unfortunate lack of care taken in bringing back the iconic ship that was a character in the show.
Having the Enterprise D stand up to the Borg ship so easily diminishes the threat it represents by itself. One thing the episode impresses with is the sense of scale. Compared to the Enterprise, the Borg ship is massive and seeing how large it is relative to the Great Red Spot gives a clear idea of the sheer size of what is being dealt with. It’s also shown to boast considerable weaponry but, as mentioned before, the scale doesn’t feed into it being dangerous nor does the strength of its weapons. It dwarfs the Enterprise considerably so the Enterprise should be nothing to it yet she performs a successful attack run that knocks out weapons and is able to take several hits that have little to no impact. Details like this make it impossible to invest in the severity of the situation as it constantly comes across as if minimal thought has gone into constructing it.
The return of the Borg Queen (Alice Krige) was a waste as she has nothing meaningful to contribute. She does little more than make gloat while making grand yet vague proclamations about the Borg evolving. Lip service is paid to the Borg/Changeling alliance but there’s no detail to how that came about or how the dynamic functioned. Vadic being afraid of her superior doesn’t track with how the Borg are presented. Vadic’s reaction to being threatened while being reminded that she and her crew are expendable suggests that negative consequences would befall her and her people if she doesn’t obey but the Borg are clearly not in a position to be much of a threat to Vadic in their current state. More work needed to be done to flesh out this alliance to understand how it came to be and how it was beneficial for both sides rather than sidelining the Changelings as soon as the Borg were revealed and doing nothing more than acknowledging their connection with a couple of lines of clunky dialogue. There’s a consistent aversion to depth in this show that severely hampers the storytelling.
A major source of frustration is when the ingredients are clearly present to provide something far more meaningful. The Borg Queen represents the Borg and everything they stand for and Picard represents the Federation and everything they stand for. In the middle of them is Jack under the thrall of the Borg who promise him everything he has wanted in his life. The stage is set for a battle for Jack’s soul with the fate of the galaxy being the consequence of whatever choice he makes.
The episode only delivers half of what it had to work with. Picard connecting to the Collective to convince Jack to reject them is a natural furthering of the developing connection between him and Jack. Both have had to deal with having this unexpected presence in their lives as Picard only recently learned he has a son and Jack never expected his father to be an active part of his life. They have been circling one another all season trying to figure out how best to define their relationship. Picard has been looking to make up for lost time while Jack has transitioned from keeping his distance to being more comfortable accepting Picard’s presence in his life. Going aboard the Borg ship and connecting to the Collective to save Jack is an extension of that development as it forces Jack to either accept or reject Picard as a meaningful part of his life. Rejection of that relationship means that the Borg win so there are actual meaningful stakes associated with this because they flow from the character dynamic that has been building this season.
Picard’s contribution to Jack’s choice is very well done. There’s an indicator of major growth in his character evidenced by his willingness to interface with the Collective. Picard has been living with PTSD since he was assimilated and freed from the Borg Collective so always regards them with trepidation and fear in his encounters with them. The most extreme case is his hate-fuelled quest for vengeance in First Contact. He drags his crew along with him and almost loses them, all of Humanity and the Federation in the process. Other times he is haunted by his memories of what happened and is unable to truly move on. He has all the markers of a survivor of trauma and periodically relives it. Jack gives him the motivation to face that trauma head-on because his son is at stake. This moment is foreshadowed earlier in the season with a promise of a moment when he would feel like a father. That moment is now and nothing will keep him from doing all he can to save Jack. He has a powerful reason to fight the Borg rather than run from them as he has been doing since his ordeal and embraces that opportunity without hesitation.
His conversation with Jack is an extension of Picard’s development towards fatherhood as he fully embraces the role of a father in trying to convince him to reject the Borg. He gives Jack the benefit of his experience with the Borg to encourage them to reject them. Jack speaks of the euphoria he feels hearing the joyful and welcoming voices. He talks about there being no suffering, fear or loneliness and the lack of conflict appeals to him following on from his remarks in the previous episode about his desire for everyone to speak in one voice building towards the same goal. Jack’s perspective is that the Collective is giving him everything he has always wanted and Picard tells him that the euphoria isn’t real because it comes at the expense of the individual. The unity is false because it’s forced on those who are part of it and doesn’t actually solve any problems.
Picard appeals to Jack on a deep emotional level by providing the benefit of his experience and offering him a genuine connection. He makes it clear that he understands Jack’s desire to keep others at a distance because he did exactly the same thing and talks about joining Starfleet to find the familial connection he didn’t get at home. Even though he succeeded in finding that family there was always something missing and it turns out that Jack was that last piece that was always lacking. Picard mentioned right at the beginning of the season that he isn’t someone who needs a legacy and this episode has him recognise that he was wrong as the missing thing in his life was that legacy and the connection that comes with it. He can face the Borg without fear because Jack completes him in a way he didn’t think possible and he’s singularly focused on ensuring that he isn’t consumed by the Borg. Part of Picard’s trauma is feeling that the Borg took something from him that he can never get back but learning about Jack filled that void with something positive and it’s something he’s determined not to lose.
His decision to stay with Jack when it seems that he is committed to staying with the Collective is a clear indicator of the impact Jack has made in Picard’s life in the short time they’ve known one another. Patrick Stewarts’s delivery of “You have changed my life, forever” is perfect. He adds a lot of weight and sincerity to the line which punctuates how much Picard has changed through getting to know Jack and embracing fatherhood. The episode is very on the nose in conveying Picard having to approach this situation as a father but Patrick Stewart absolutely sells the emotional weight so it works on that level. Their conversation is moving and Jack’s decision to reject the Borg, because he recognises that he isn’t alone and accepts the offer of a genuine connection from Picard instead of the false euphoria of the Borg Collective, is an earned moment of triumph. His realisation is punctuated by the Enterprise appearing to save them as a declarative example of true loyalty founded on the willingness of those onboard being willing to risk their lives to protect those they care about. It’s a powerful display of everything the Borg aren’t and shows why their way of life isn’t sustainable.
As good as this was, it could have been so much more. If Picard’s conversation with Jack had also featured the Queen trying to tempt him to embrace the Borg then Jack’s rejection of the Collective could have been far more powerful. It would also have given the Queen something to do beyond making empty proclamations about the Borg evolving. The Borg Queen was created for First Contact to give the Borg a singular presence as there was a fear that audiences wouldn’t respond favourably to a disembodied voice as the central antagonist. Having a representative of the Collective in a single body provides an opportunity to characterise them in ways that a disembodied voice can’t. She can provide the personal touch and make a case for Assimilation as something worth giving into. The Queen in the previous season did this with Jurati and there was a real opportunity to extend that idea with Jack while approaching it from a different angle.
This Queen referred to Jack as her child so there was a twisted maternal connection that the episode fails to exploit beyond a single mention. Squandered potential is a common problem in this show and failing to have the Queen try to tempt Jack into submitting to the Collective from the perspective of a parent offering a child unconditional love while Picard campaigns for him to embrace genuine affection and choose a family that is real is another example of that. The Queen is a passive presence that has no narrative or emotional significance.
Another problem is that Jack’s choice has no connection to the defeat of the Borg. Another similarity to Return of the Jedi is the fact that the destruction of the Borg ship would have happened regardless of what Jack chose. This doesn’t diminish the weight of Jack’s choice but setting him up as the Borg’s salvation naturally suggests that he should be instrumental in their defeat since this revolves around him. Instead, there is an attempt to force a connection through those on the Enterprise acknowledging that they have to choose between dooming the Galaxy or killing those they care about. It ends up being nothing more than a dramatic statement as they easily accomplish both. It’s clear that the setup was in service of allowing both groups to contribute to the situation but events in one don’t inform the other.
The destruction of the Borg ship supposedly wipes out the Borg completely. I’d be surprised if that was the case as they are such an iconic villain that it’s unlikely they will be off the board in perpetuity. For a relevant example see the treatment of the Daleks during Rusell T. Davies’ run of Doctor Who where they were wiped out in almost every appearance only to return time and again. With this being the swansong for The Next Generation crew it makes sense that there would be a desire to end the season on a definitive defeat for the Borg but the problem with that is it diminishes the very idea of the Borg. “The Best of Both Worlds”, First Contact and most of Voyager’s Borg stories had them as a recurring threat that was too large to ever be truly defeated.
They are to be feared because they have near limitless resources and are relentless in their determination to force their way of life on others. Every victory was tempered by the knowledge that the Collective was still out there and could attack again at any time. Yes, they were established as being dying and desperate in the previous episode but the whole point of a decentralised Collective should be to prevent anything from wiping them out completely. Perhaps some coverage of how the Collective came to find itself in this state would have justified this more clearly but there’s no depth to the storytelling which means that the victory is a hollow one.
Following the destruction of the Borg ship everything associated with them is wrapped up nearly. The transporter-based assimilation is easily undone and Changelings can now be easily found so the two major threats established this season are dismissed with a single line of dialogue highlighting that they are no longer a problem. Beverly simply developed ways to do both and the threat disappears. This runs counter to the nefarious existential threat both were supposed to represent.
Neat resolutions are to be found elsewhere such as Raffi being welcomed back into her family now that she’s a hero. This should be a satisfying development as it was previously established that her choices had estranged her from her family but it doesn’t land because the time wasn’t taken to properly explore this. Raffi was at best an afterthought this season with superficial coverage of anything unique to her so this resolution doesn’t have the necessary impact. Fortunately, her moment with Worf where they declare their mutual respect for one another is earned because they spent time together early in the season cultivating a working relationship that developed into a friendship. Worf being the one to make sure Raffi got widespread recognition for the part she played in events and by extension making her family aware of what she did was a meaningful gesture on his part and shows how supportive he is of those he respects.
Another unearned resolution was Shaw’s posthumous validation of Seven. It comes in the form of an evaluation recorded prior to the events of this season where he acknowledges her identity as Seven and recommends that she be promoted to Captain because her virtues outweigh her disregard for protocol. This is completely at odds with their dynamic as presented over the course of the season. Shaw was consistently hostile and disrespectful which suggested an arc that would culminate in him coming to both respect and accept her. This happened to an extent upon his death but the development to that point wasn’t actually shown so it wasn’t justified at this point. His evaluation suggests that there was nothing to actually develop because he always respected and accepted her so nothing needed to be done. It does Shaw a disservice by throwing out everything that defined him early on in favour of a sentimental resolution to this conflict.
It also does Seven a disservice by dismissing the notion that she had things to learn about command and why the protocols exist in the first place. None of that matters because Shaw already thought she was ready for command so she has nothing to learn despite time being spent establishing that Shaw doesn’t respect her and that she is continually looking for something to belong to. It’s even acknowledged in her conversation with Tuvok when she resigns because she believes that she isn’t a good fit for Starfleet which suggests that her quest for something to belong to will go in a different direction. It’s dismissed after seeing that evaluation because Shaw states that she is exactly where she belongs but there’s no sense that Seven actually believes that so the resolution is forced. What was once a compelling isolation-based emotional problem for Seven after her time on Voyager came to an end is clumsily resolved with an unambiguously happy ending that doesn’t flow from what was previously established.
Her promotion is very similar to Michael Burnham’s promotion to Captain in Discovery. She was also promoted in spite of her disregard for protocol and it was equally confusing then. There seems to be a general aversion to allowing characters to be flawed and having them overcome those flaws over time. Shaw not acknowledging Seven’s preferred identity was something for him to overcome and Seven’s desire to find something to belong to was an ongoing struggle for her to overcome but both are rendered meaningless by this ending.
Seven in command of the newly christened Enterprise G with Raffi as her first officer and Jack as a fast-tracked ensign serving as “Special Counsellor to the Captain” is a clear setup for the desired Star Trek: Legacy series that some have been campaigning for. These components by themselves aren’t enough to muster my interest to see this continued even if it does contain characters that have a lot of untapped potential like Seven, Raffi, Jack and Sidney La Forge. This show hasn’t really given me anything with most of those characters to make the prospect of an entire show based around them seem unique or exciting.
Q appearing to Jack adds to that trepidation as it’s another example of retreading old ground in an attempt to appease the fandom. He talks about Jack’s trial beginning now that Picard’s is over but leaves the detail for potential future coverage. This renders Q’s death in the previous season utterly meaningless as any heft associated with that is undone by the knowledge that he was lying. His plan already made no sense but it was possible to connect on some level as his upcoming death motivated him to help Picard deal with long-held trauma. His appearance here taints an already flimsy justification for the entirety of the previous season. If the season was to end on this scene then it would have made more sense for Q’s son to appear to Jack to feed into the theme of legacy with a riff on the Q/Picard dynamic being established between Q and Picard’s sons.
There is some merit to be found in the various conclusions presented. Data’s counselling session with Troi was an amusing exchange reminiscent of similar scenes in The Next Generation where Data would puzzle through his lack of understanding of Humanity with Troi trying to explain the nuances of emotion and behaviour. This example is noticeably different as Data is now trying to puzzle through his emotions and what they mean to him and it works because it’s an evolution of that old dynamic that makes it feel fresh. Troi being bored by their long sessions was a confusing choice though it’s consistent with the repeated examples of her being very bad at her job in The Next Generation.
The farewell to the Enterprise D was another strong moment. The score from Generations to punctuate her new resting place is complimented beautifully by Picard, Riker and Geordi’s heartfelt declarations of affection for their old ship. She was a character in The Next Generation and was given a fitting conclusion by being displayed as a hero ship in the Fleet Museum along with the parting sentiment “She’s always taken good care of us”. It’s the strongest conclusion the episode and series offers.
Jack’s final scene with his parents was another noteworthy inclusion. Having him join Starfleet and follow in their footsteps makes sense as a point in his development as he gained a different perspective on the organisation through practical examples of what it stands for. The discussion about nepotism being the reason for being fasttracked and Picard assuring him that everything he accomplished was all down to him rather than the family name worked well as it acknowledges Jack’s privileged roots where Starfleet is concerned while highlighting that he has skills that deserve to be recognised. Picard’s suggestion that names mean almost nothing is obviously inaccurate especially considering how fixated this season has been on referencing the past and celebrating things that have come before. There was an entire episode where famous names and imagery was highlighted. It builds to the reveal of the Enterprise G coupled with Jack’s counter “Names mean almost everything!” which is certainly true in this show. It’s a short scene but a good one as it allows Picard to see the direction his son is heading and declare his pride while presenting a possible future for Jack where he learns and grows in the family environment Starfleet can provide.
The series ends -aside from the aforementioned Q scene- with The Next Generation crew celebrating in Guinan’s bar “Ten Forward”. The chemistry pops as expected in an infectiously joyful moment of old friends enjoying each other’s company. Patrick Stewart is indulged by reciting Shakespeare as a toast and the series ends on a poker game just as The Next Generation did. It’s a warm and genuine moment that makes for a fitting final scene featuring these characters. Overall the conclusion may have been lackluster but there’s no denying how well these actors work together so at least there was an opportunity to celebrate that in a more sedate setting.
An underwhelming ending to a frustrating season with a ludicrous high-stakes situation that never feels as threatening as it needs to and a lacklustre conclusion to such iconic characters.
- Seven demonstrating her readiness for command
- the sense of scale of the Borg ship
- Picard’s appeal for Jack to reject the Borg
- Picard taking on the role of a father imparting his experience and wisdom to his son
- Patrick Stewart’s performance in that interaction
- Raffi and Worf’s final scene flowing naturally from their established relationship
- Data’s counselling session
- the farewell to the Enterprise D
- Jack’s final scene with his parents
- the bar scene and the poker game ending the series
- empty stakes due to there being nothing tangible to the threat
- limited exploration of the idea of the Borg as a dying and desperate race
- no sense that the characters are actually in any danger
- the ludicrously manoeuvrable Enterprise D
- the Borg Queen doing nothing meaningful
- having the ingredients for an engaging battle for Jack’s soul but not making use of them
- Jack’s choice having no connection to the defeat of the Borg
- wrapping up everything associated with the Borg threat neatly
- Raffi being welcomed back into her family being an unearned conclusion
- Shaw’s posthumous validation of Seven being completely at odds with their relationship over the course of the season
- diminishing Shaw’s character by showing there was nothing to actually develop
- also dismissing the notion that Seven had things to learn and struggles to find something to belong to
- Q appearing to Jack undermining the entirety of season 2 and Q’s conclusion
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