The conclusion of Star Trek: Picard was perfect. Say what you want about the series’ first two seasons—and there’s plenty to criticize, trust me—its third was the show we all wanted it to be from the very beginning. A deeply satisfying exploration of who our favorite characters from The Next Generation had become in the decades since the original series aired, Picard concludes by both embracing the legacy they share and looking toward the future they’ve helped to forge. It’s an ending that’s hopeful, heartfelt, and just a little bit bittersweet, in all the best ways. But it’s a peace fans sadly might not get to enjoy for long.
In the wake of Picard season 3’s success, reports have already begun to surface that another feature film featuring The Next Generation cast is in the works. Patrick Stewart himself has said a script is currently being written, and he sounds rather enthusiastic to put on Jean-Luc Picard’s uniform one more time. This is…ominous for many reasons, but primarily because we’ve absolutely reached the point where his story, at least as a series lead, feels pretty darn complete.
It’s maybe an odd thing to say in our current entertainment landscape, driven as it is by existing franchises and known quantities. Our multiplexes are filled with sequels, and our streaming services with spinoffs and reboots. Our pop culture, in general, has never been all that good about letting things go. Yet sometimes, it’s okay, even necessary, to admit when something has reached its end. All good things do come to an end because that’s part of the natural cycle of storytelling. It’s okay for all of us—even that story’s star—-to admit that it’s over.
Look, Stewart is an icon. No doubt about it. But he’s also proved to be a rather unreliable interlocutor when it comes to what’s best for the franchise he shepherds. His influence on the Next Generation movies led to some seriously cringe moments (Picard racing dune buggies) but also illustrated a glaring disconnect between the types of stories fans wanted for his character and those he found most interesting to play as an actor. He was initially resistant about bringing his former castmates back to Picard at all, a preference which, well, gave us…whatever season 2 of the show was. That he seems to think we need another Picard-focused movie is probably all the evidence necessary that we really, really don’t.
At this point, after seven years of The Next Generation, four feature films, and three seasons of Picard, it’s not at all clear what another movie could tell us about this character that we don’t know by this point, or that would provide a better conclusion to his story than what we’ve already seen. The final season of the Paramount+ show not only reckoned with Picard’s lifelong angst about family and fatherhood but allowed us to see how both he and the characters he served alongside for so long have grown in the decades since The Next Generation ended, complete with new relationship dynamics and families of their own.
The Picard series finale, “The Last Generation” is heartfelt and lovely, concluding with a callback to the poker game that closed The Next Generation and a firm sense that the episode is simply the end of one adventure in the lives of these characters and the start of many others. These relationships will continue long after the final credits roll, and we don’t necessarily need to see them play out onscreen to know that they’re happening. This isn’t the end of their stories, it’s merely the end of our time as part of them. And I’m not saying we can (or should) never see these characters again (more on that in a second), but it’s time to acknowledge that their days as a crew are behind them, and a new stage of life awaits—both for these characters we love, and the ones we’ve yet to meet.
Because, honestly, it’s past time for Star Trek to start telling new kinds of stories. Picard only found its footing when it embraced the fact that it was a Next Generation sequel whether it wanted to be or not, and while Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is a joyous celebration of the franchise’s first principles, it’s also an Original Series prequel with a fairly limited scope and an inevitable expiration date attached. So much of Star Trek is (or should be) about looking forward, but at the moment, the franchise largely seems to be stuck in the past. Where is the next Next Generation? Where are the stories about how humanity is still boldly going into an unknown future? One of the best things about Star Trek is its optimism, and its faith that there is always another, greater adventure on the horizon, but you wouldn’t know that from most of its current onscreen products.
The much desired Star Trek: Legacy sequel series wouldn’t necessarily solve this larger problem, but it would serve as a necessary bridge to the future in ways that Picard and Strange New Worlds cannot. Passing the proverbial reigns to a younger generation of characters while still leaving space for fan favorites to pop up when it makes sense for them to do so feels like a much more natural next step for the franchise. And it means that characters like Picard, Dr. Beverly Crusher, or the seemingly now retired Troi-Rikers can pop back in for guest spots to check in with their various kids and friends. Jack Crusher is now serving on board the newly christened Enterprise-G with Captain Seven of Nine, after all, while Will and Deanna’s daughter Kestra is currently a student at Starfleet Academy. And Picard showrunner Terry Matalas has already said that one of his ideas for Legacy involves Worf’s son Alexander and the future of the Klingon Empire. What better way to introduce the next generation of Star Trek stories than with the literal next generation of its characters?
Perhaps the franchise needs to take some advice from fellow sci-fi elder statesman, Doctor Who: “Everything ends and it’s always sad, but everything begins again, too. And that’s always happy.” Because while it may be sad that Jean-Luc Picard’s larger story has ended, it doesn’t mean its impact is over. It’s just time to see what the next phase of it looks like.