Picard‘s “The Last Generation” in Review
As of the previous episode, it’s been revealed that Jack Crusher is secretly a transmitter for the Borg Queen, thanks to biological Borg cells that still remained in Picard’s organic corpse, and that these had actually been the cause of Picard’s incorrect diagnosis of Irumodic Syndrome. The TNG regulars are back together on the Enterprise-D, Jack has gone to the Borg Queen’s cube, and Seven and Raffi have taken command of the Titan-A to face off against a Borg-assimilated Starfleet fleet, their own crew included. In this article, I’ll examine the highs and lows of the conclusion of this story, “The Last Generation” — Star Trek: Picard’s third season finale and overall series finale.
Immediately after the recap, we rejoin the Enterprise-D as Earth faces attack from Starfleet’s Borg-assimilated young officers. The Borg cube coordinating the attack turns out to be not in a nebula but in the clouds of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot — a nice nod to the TNG relaunch novels. The Enterprise-D crew is on a mission to recover Jack from the cube.
As the Borg-controlled fleet attacks Spacedock, Seven, Raffi and company use all the tricks they can think of, with transporter tags and whatnot, to imprison assimilated crew members of the Titan-A.
On the Enterprise-D, Picard formulates a plan to board the cube with Riker and Worf, so that he can rescue Jack. They also plan to find and tag the cube’s transmission booster for destruction, so that it can no longer broadcast Jack’s control signal to the assimilated fleet.
The Borg vessel turns out to be pretty empty, with only the occasional dead drone keeping Jack and the Borg Queen company. It’s very nice to see that there’s at least one proper First Contact-style Borg, in the form of Jack. That’s a nice change from the assimilated younger Starfleet ranks — older ones, for technobabble reasons, don’t take to the new biological form of Borg assimilation.
While Seven and Raffi cloak the Titan-A, Picard, on the Borg cube, learns that Jack has chosen to be assimilated because then he feels like he belongs. As the Titan-A continues making quick hit-and-run attacks on the fleet, the Borg Queen explains how, thanks to the Changelings, the Borg are now into evolution, not assimilation.
The Enterprise-D, in order to destroy the transmitter from inside the Borg cube, flies into the cube, much to Data’s delight. Despite the Titan-A’s best efforts to protect Earth, however, they still lose Spacedock.
Picard plugs himself back into the Collective as Locutus, and together he and Jack manage to separate from the Queen. The Enterprise-D beams our heroes up, immediately before the cube destructs.
And before you know it, we’re into multiple endings wrapping up all the main character arcs, to rival the number of endings in Peter Jackson’s Return of the King. They’re all lovely endings too, with the acknowledgements of the last hurrahs of Picard, Riker, Troi, Worf, Data, Geordi, Beverly Crusher… and the promotion of Seven to captain by (the real) Admiral Tuvok.
The episode then takes a one-year leap into the future, by which time Jack has joined Starfleet. A mid-credits scene shows him encountering Q, who isn’t as deceased as the show’s second season led us to believe he would be.
This is like a Doctor Who anniversary special, full of fun callbacks and spectacle. But it’s also a somewhat frustrating mix of an episode, with nonsensical or at least wildly inconsistent and self-contradictory plot points.
Make no mistake, it has been a great season – better than Season 2 – and there’s much to enjoy in this finale, starting from Walter Koenig’s opening voice cameo, through the return of Majel Barrett as the Enterprise-D computer from beyond the grave. All the action is amazing, the effects are flawless, and the score is utterly awesome. The Enterprise-D’s flight into the cube and last-minute transport of our heroes amidst the destruction, and the swooping space battle with the Titan-A, are both amazingly spectacular. The finale also features lovely performances from all your favourites and beautiful scenes with all the old regulars — Michael Dorn again steals all the best lines. However…
There are those contradictions, last-minute plot abandonment, character IQs dropping all over the place — why does nobody consult Seven’s expertise? — and a lot of stuff that ought to have been done isn’t. For example, Janeway has been name-dropped so many times and is the one who poisoned the Queen’s Collective but doesn’t appear or be credited with that! The season has also followed on from DS9 yet has no DS9 character appearance even here. Clarity is also lacking — was the mutated Borg Queen the fiery face talking to Vadic before? She looks a little bit similar, but nothing is confirmed nor made clear. And how did the Queen end up in that state? However it happened, it’s great to have Alice Krige back, voicing the Borg Queen.
On the other hand, the Borg’s emphasis on evolution rather than assimilation means they’re really not the Borg and, more importantly in storytelling terms, contradicts the message Jack keeps broadcasting: to destroy the unassimilated. The Borg Queen’s plan is jumbled, as she needs both Jack as a transmitter and a giant actual transmitter that fills most of the cube.
Like the Changelings’ quest for revenge, the Queen’s motivation is about the Collective having been poisoned by Picard – except Janeway did that back in Voyager’s “Endgame”. That said, this wrap-up being all about Picard and the Borg does make sense as the biggest thing that ever happened to him, and it’s more fitting than the Borg’s appearance in Season 2. The only thing that would have been more fitting would be if it was all Q, tying back to “Encounter at Farpoint”, but of course Season 2 prevented that. Although… again, that mid-credit scene here does contradict the second season in regards to Q.
It’s worth noting that the week this episode aired saw the finales of two huge franchises’ third seasons: Picard and The Mandalorian. Both shows had spectacle and beloved characters as well as multiple endings, but only one show remembered to save logical twists and plot points to include in the finale. This is the other one.
You see, the biggest problem here, to be blunt, is that the season already delivered all the continuity, callbacks, depth of emotion, tears, joy, etc. by the end of episode nine. Which meant that, while it has action and suitable cooldown moments in the swathe of endings (well, most of them; Jack joining Starfleet was more eye-rolling propaganda), it didn’t have any real surprises or shocks to offer. Everything is just returned to the status quo, like a tie-in novel had to be… which is a damn shame, given that a series/era finale could have done anything.
David A McIntee is a writer and historian who has written for properties such as Doctor Who, Star Wars, Final Destination, and Stargate, as well as having written several adventures in the Star Trek franchise for Pocket Books. He has contributed many pieces to the magazines Star Trek Explorer (née Star Trek Magazine) and Star Trek Communicator, as well as having written nonfiction books about Star Trek: Voyager.