Picard Recap: “The Next Generation” (S3, E1)

“I am not a man who needs a legacy. I want a new adventure.”
– Jean-Luc Picard

Here we go… the moment Next Gen fans have been waiting for since at least April 5, 2022 (at least): It’s the beginning of Star Trek: Picard season 3, and we know we will finally see our crew back together again.

At the start of the 25th Century, a ship is just floating in space as “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire” by the Ink Spots plays. Inside, we see orchids, pearls, comedy/tragedy masks, medical equipment, awards, a case belonging to Jack Crusher… and one of Picard’s old logs is playing (from “The Best of Both Worlds, Part I”). But another ship of unknown origin is approaching. As the computer alerts a security breech, Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) bolts upright, and this is the first time Crusher’s been seen on screen in live-action since Star Trek Nemesis in 2002 (she had an animated appearance on Prodigy‘s “Kobayashi Maru” in 2022).

Crusher springs into action, ordering the ship, the Eleos, to activate warp drive, which requires a power-up. (Eleos is the Greek goddess of mercy, pity, and compassion.) From another room, someone asks “How did they find us? That’s impossible.” Crusher quickly moves to the door and locks her companion on the bridge. They’re not happy about it.

Crusher diverts all power to the warp core then grabs a phaser rifle as the Eleos is boarded by two intruders. After a brief exchange of fire, her power cell runs out of juice and she’s hit in the shoulder. She runs through enemy fire to grab another one and is able to shoot and kill the first intruder. She sees the second approaching in a reflection, and shoots the vent to disorient and then kill them as well.

But Crusher’s taken more hits, and when she touches her side, her hand comes away covered in blood. With more enemy ships approaching, she calls for an update on warp status, but the Eleos needs another minute to complete the power up. So she sends an encoded message to Admiral Jean-Luc Picard, and the ships jump to warp just as two more vessels come into range.

In La Barre, Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Laris (Orla Brady) are gazing at an oh-so-familiar painting of the Enterprise-D. She teases him about sending it for a cleaning, but he decides to send the painting to Geordi, who’s running the Fleet Museum. They’re packing up many of Picard’s belongings, sending things to storage, since he’ll be accompanying Laris to Chaltok IV. She’ll be working on diplomatic security, and he might just be ready to start writing his memoirs. He’s ready to move on from his past.

That night, while listening to Will Grove-White’s “I Can’t Stop Crying” and working at his desk, Picard hears a chirp, but can’t figure out where it’s coming from. Eventually, he locates to source in a storage bin. It’s his communicator from the Enterprise-D, receive an encrypted long-range transmission. All his computer can tell him is that it uses an uncommon codec that requires a passcode. After a moment of thought, he tries the password “Myriad” and is able to access the recorded message from Beverly Crusher.

The message wastes no time. Crusher says she’s encoded the transmission with coordinates, then repeats the phrase “Hellbird.” And finally, warns him not to trust anyone. Not even Starfleet. Then she collapses as the recording ends.

Picard shares the message with Laris, who can see that Crusher is clearly terrified. But Picard hasn’t spoken with Crusher in over 20 years—and neither has anyone else. So why now? Laris reminds him that they were close, and trusted one another with their lives…and even “tried to be lovers.” The phrasing makes Picard chuckle. But Laris suggests that Picard is the only person Beverly knows that she can trust. She’s out of options and asking Picard, specifically, for help. And Laris knows he has to go. He says he’ll be back in a couple days. She knows he’s lying, but puts on a brave face and says she’ll save him a seat at the bar on Chaltok IV.

At 10 Forward in San Francisco, Captain William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) orders a drink and looks over the ship model souvenirs being sold for Frontier Day—there are a lot of Enterprise-Ds sitting on the shelf. The bartender (Jani Wang) explains, “The fat ones? Nobody wants those.” Riker tells her to leave the bottle. As Picard approaches, he repeats what the bartender said, then quips, “That’s ‘Galaxy Class’ to you, young lady” and from now on that will by my response whenever someone tries to insult me by calling me fat.

The two old friends start to catch up – Riker’s in town for the spectacle that is Frontier Day, and scheduled to give a speech. “Who wants to hear some old fart drone on about ‘going boldly’ for the last 250 years?” Picard’s giving a speech, too. It’ll be great. And then the conversation turns serious. Picard expresses his appreciation for Riker giving up some family time, and Riker’s reply indicates that maybe things aren’t so great at home. But Picard doesn’t pry and the subject changes quickly to the message he received from Crusher.

Riker remembers the “Myriad” codec from Rigel VII, when the crew thought their communications were compromised. But the coordinates from her message are in the middle of nowhere. That’s where “Hellbird” comes into play—Picard doesn’t know what it means, but Riker does. It was a virus on the Enterprise when Picard “incapacitated” (aka Borged), which added 3 to every digit in the navigation system. And adding 3 to every digit of Beverly’s coordinates points them to the Ryton System, just outside of Federation space. And Riker has an idea of how they can get a ship. They head out of the bar, but it appears that someone else there was eavesdropping.

In District Six on M’Talas Prime, Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd) moves through the crowd to meet her dealer (Antony Azizi)—for the second day in a row. After their transaction, she asks for his help. She’s in a rough spot—her girlfriend left her, she’s using substances again, and she’s out of Starfleet. But she knows she could get back in if she could just figure out who stole some quantum tunneling tech. After giving him all the money she has, he tells her “something’s going down with The Red Lady” and kicks her out.

Raffi finds her way to a secluded alley where she pulls out her communicator, and reports in to Starfleet Intelligence to request a debriefing. And more money. Then, after a brief internal struggle over whether or not to take the drugs, she drops them and moves on.

Now Picard and Riker have their chance to do a little acting—they’re going to fake a “routine surprise inspection” of the USS Titan, Riker’s old command, the recently refit Neo-Constitution Class. Since Crusher’s coordinates are outside Federation space, they’ll have to find a way to convince the current captain, Shaw, to change course. Riker thinks this will take some convincing. However…

The pair is welcomed aboard by the First Officer, Commander Seven of Nine Annika Hansen (Jeri Ryan). Shaw prefers she use her given name rather than her Borg designation, which she prefers. (And in these recaps, we respect Seven of Nine.) Shaw will not be meeting them—he’s “catching up on some logs”—but Seven relays a dinner invitation.

On the Bridge, one ensign in particular is particularly star-struck by their guests. She’s Ensign Sidney LaForge (Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut). And Riker goes full “embarrassing uncle” and and announces to the whole rest of the crew that their pilot’s nickname at the the Academy was “Crash.” Seven gets things underway, and Ensign LaForge successfully pilots the ship out of space dock. As Seven orders the ship to warp, Picard makes a comment to remind us that things have changed since he was in command.

Picard and Riker arrive for dinner to find that Captain Liam Shaw (Todd Stashwick), has already begun eating. Despite this show of disrespect, Picard presents Shaw with a bottle of Chateau Picard, which Shaw accepts, but he prefers Malbec. He’s also not a fan of jazz, or Riker’s “loosey goosey” command style. But Picard and Riker need his cooperation, so they put up with it, and try to convince Shaw to change course, go above-and-beyond for this inspection, and claim bragging rights for Frontier Day. It seems like Shaw might be on board until Picard makes another error, suggesting a final engineering inspection at Deep Space 4, which has been shut down for a year. Shaw shuts it down. He has actual orders from his actual superiors, and he’s going to follow them. Seven makes one last-ditch effort to convince her captain, who reminds her where he expects her loyalties to lie, and leaves.

In a quiet moment alone, Raffi watches a vid of her granddaughter, until she receives contact from her handler, who’s communicating in text only. She still doesn’t have any solid information on The Red Lady. She requests to meet face to face, and is denied. She’s frustrated. She’s spent months trying to figure out who stole experimental weapons from Daystrom Station. All she has is “The Red Lady.” Her handler reminds her that stolen weapons are an act of war, and that makes her a warrior. They suspect an imminent attack, and she has to find The Red Lady. So Raffi gets back to work.

Aboard the Titan, the accommodations are not exactly what an Admiral and Captain are used to—a single room with bunk beds. But at least it gives them some time to talk. Picard’s worried. The way he and Beverly left things: “it was not on the best of terms.” But no one expected that they wouldn’t see or hear from her for over 20 years. He’s worried that it’s already too late.

But before Picard can spiral any deeper, he and Riker are summoned to Observation, where Seven is waiting for them, and she wants to know what’s really going on. So they read her in. But they didn’t want to make her complicit in their scheme, especially since she’s still relatively new to Starfleet. Turns out, she’s not sure that Starfleet is the right path. She wants to trust her gut and fight for justice, but instead she just has to follow orders and take shit from Shaw. But Picard’s never been big on ignoring his instincts and following orders…

The Titan drops out of warp and the trio exits to the Bridge. Seven ordered a change of course—they’re in the Ryton System on the edge of Federation space. Sensors have detected a vessel running on empty just inside the nebula, but it’s properties are preventing them from getting more details scans. And in exactly four minutes, the guard on Shuttle 3 will be called away. Riker and Picard express their thanks and book it off the Bridge.

In his quarters, Shaw is awoken by the light streaming in from the Nebula and is instantly furious. He heads to the Bridge and orders a lockdown, but not before the shuttle launches. He tells Seven that she’s just “loyalty’d [her] way to the end of a career” and demands a full report before stalking away.

Raffi is so frustrated by her search for any reference to “The Red Lady” that she breaks a PADD. On her twenty-third search attempt, she cross-references the phrase with ship names. Still no luck. And then it finally occurs to her that it could be a target, and she has a breakthrough: as part of a pre-Frontier Day recruitment drive, there will be a dedication ceremony for a statue of Rachel Garrett, Captain of the Enterprise-C. And that statue is all red. Raffi heads immediately to District 7.

When she arrives, she tried to reach any Starfleet personnel, but her calls aren’t being answered. And that’s when the Starfleet Recruitment Center seems to fall into the planet’s surface, disappear, and then fall from the sky above. That stolen tunneling tech is being used as a portal weapon.

Picard and Riker approach the Eleos, and are able to confirm that the lifesigns are Crusher’s, and she’s in bad shape. But someone else is there, too.

They dock and board the ship. Music is playing—and Picard recognizes it, since he was just listening to this same song at home: “A complication of classics I created for Beverly, in lieu of wine and roses.” He made her a mixtape and my heart cannot handle it. They see the aftermath of the phaser battle, but not Beverly. Picard enters the Bridge and finds Beverly in a medical status pod.

Riker enters with a phaser to his neck, captured by a young man (Ed Speleers). Picard raises his own phaser while identifying himself and Riker. They’re only here to help. Beverly asked them to. And since the controls for the med pod are on the outside, it stands to reason that this man helped her inside, and also cares for her.

The stranger lowers his weapon, and Riker elbows him in the face, then disarms him. And Picard remarks the Beverly wouldn’t call him for help if only she were in danger. “So who’s this?” Riker asks. “Her son.”

Picard is taken aback and the silence is deafening. Until the warp field destabilizes and another proximity alert goes off. Crusher and her son are being hunted, and with every encounter, the enemy has a different face. Whoever they are, the Starfleet shuttle led them right to the Eleos.

Bechdel-Wallace pass: Seven gives Ensign LaForge several orders when leaving spacedock, which she verbally acknowledges.

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