As Jean-Luc Picard once said to Data: “Nicely done!” The finale of Star Trek: Picard has wrapped-up the show’s first season, and managed to finish off a few loose threads from Star Trek: Nemesis at the same time. (No, a Shinzon Tom Hardy cameo tragically did not appear.)
But, one feature of the Picard season 1 finale was a decided restraint against fan service or an outpouring of what we think of as conventional nostalgia. For the most part, the finale—and the series as a whole—focused on finishing what it set up, and little else. This means that when Picard season 2 happens, The Next Generation nostalgia could go into overdrive. Here’s why.
Spoilers ahead for Picard episodes 1-10.
To be clear, saying Star Trek: Picard avoided nostalgia or fan service isn’t exactly true. From Hugh, to Riker and Troi, and of course Data, the series honored the continuity of Star Trek in clever and sometimes very surprising ways. Data’s eventual “death” inside his quantum simulation is meant to make us remember how much we love Data, but this is also wraps up the left-over plot point from Nemesis about Data’s memories getting shunted over to B-4. And, from the point of view of Picard as a series, it also answers questions set-up in episode 1, specifically, is Data still “alive?”
Similarly, when Riker warped-in with a giant fleet of new Starfleet ships, it’s not like we got the cameo party that some of us predicted or hoped for. A hologram of Geordi wasn’t holding Data’s hand as he died, and all the androids and android friends who came before didn’t speak to Data through
the Force the massive quantum simulation that housed Data’s memories. As a series, Picard deployed call-backs and “fan service” strategically, because outside of the stories of legacy characters like Seven of Nine, Data and Jean-Luc, this series needed to establish its own mojo. This is similar to Discovery Season 1. Yes, Michael Burnham was established as Spock’s human sister, and yes, Spock’s parents were major characters, but, that season stopped short of giving us an actual appearance from Spock.
And Picard season 1 is the same. If Crusher, La Forge, Worf, and Naomi Wildman all crashed the Zhat Vash party along with “acting Captain” Riker, the finale of Picard would have become fan service for the sake of fan service. The stories of Raffi, Rios, Jurati, Soji, and Elnor would have suddenly been overshadowed by a 3-second cameo of Beverly Crusher saying, “Fuck you Romulans!” (In my head Bev drops a lot of F-bombs now, too.) But this didn’t happen, which means, the crew of the La Sirena was given their origin story, and it felt like it belonged uniquely to them.
In Picard season 2, some more overt fan service could sneak back into the show without messing things up for the new characters. Again, this already happened in Discovery season 2; Captain Pike, Spock and Number One were a welcome addition to the DISCO ensemble because Burnham, Saru, Stamets, Culber, and Tilly had already established themselves. If La Sirena meets Beverly Crusher or Gunian in Season 2 of Picard it will be a fun event, but it won’t have to take the spotlight away from the new characters.
In this way, Picard season 2 is poised to be closer to Star Trek: The Original Series than any spin-off since The Next Generation. The mission of the La Sirena isn’t clear and unlike the buttoned-up days of TNG, the galaxy is a little wilder in 2399. In TOS, Kirk and company were supposedly exploring strange new worlds, but they were also just as often, trying to maintain some kind of sense of justice and order out in the galaxy. Because La Sirena isn’t part of Starfleet, some of Kirk’s cowboy diplomacy from the old days might give Picard season 2 a more retro vibe. Plus, in theory, there’s no major season-long arc that season 2 has to tackle. The last shot is literally leaving things wide-open for La Sirena to have a variety of different kinds of adventures.
Does this mean Picard season 2 will see Trek revert to being more episodic rather than serialized? It’s tough to say. But, the finale of Picard season 1 has certainly opened that door, in a bold way that hasn’t happened for quite some time.
We don’t know when season 2 of Picard will arrive, but based on this finale, one thing is for sure, It will be very, very different.
Star Trek: Picard is streaming all of season 1 on CBS All-Access right now.
Ryan Britt is a longtime contributor to Tor.com and the author of the book Luke Skywalker Can’t Read and Other Geeky Truths (Plume 2015.) His other writing and criticism have been published in Inverse, SyFy Wire, Vulture, Den of Geek!, the New York Times, and StarTrek.com. He is an editor at Fatherly. Ryan lives with his wife and daughter in Portland, Maine.