After some significant COVID-related delays, Star Trek: Picard season 2 will arrive at last on Paramount+ sometime in the first half of 2022. With its first-season finale having aired all the way back in March of last year, we’ve certainly had plenty of time to contemplate how this most prestigious of the new batch of Star Trek shows can improve upon a solid, if ultimately unspectacular, inaugural outing.
While there are all sorts of ways for the second season to present a superior story, here are five of the most fundamental building blocks to catapult Picard to greater heights. (Just, uh… not literally. Sir Patrick Stewart is 81; he looks great for his age, but let’s not catapult him in real life.)
Growth for the New Characters
Understandably, many of us think about returning faces quite a lot when Star Trek: Picard springs to mind. Jean-Luc Picard isn’t just the star of the show; he’s literally the title itself. When news broke that Jeri Ryan would reprise her role as Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager, a not-insignificant slice of the internet pretty much imploded with hype. And there’s a reason the show’s seventh episode, “Nepenthe,” is probably its most celebrated chapter to date.
That said, for all the fanfare involved in watching William Riker command a Federation starship again in the finale, we haven’t dug deeply enough into the characters of Raffi Musiker, Cristobel Rios, Elnor, or Agnes Jurati. Soji, Data’s surviving “daughter,” is off the hook here since she was very much at the narrative center of the first season. As for the rest of the La Sirena crew? Don’t get me wrong, they’ve had their moments. But I’d be willing to bet that if I asked people to recall Rios’ first name many would stumble. (And if I ask people to recite Raffi’s surname, many will tell me it’s Raffi.) Can Picard season 2 please amend this?
We got a taste of who these people are in season 1. Well, I suppose we got more than a taste with Agnes, seeing as she’s a murderess. But each of these characters needs to grow. Rios seems visibly happier to be captaining a ship and escorting the legendary Jean-Luc Picard at the end, but it doesn’t feel entirely earned; he needs his own trials and tribulations. Watching Raffi hold hands with Seven in the closing montage is an oddly welcome if a rather random hint for Picard season 2 fare, but I don’t get the impression that the former Starfleet officer has truly overcome much of anything. And as for Elnor, the kid’s actor Evan Evangora is fantastic. Let’s not waste his talent next go-around.
Justice for Jurati
I’m really not happy with her right now. I don’t mean because of her actions in the first season — Star Trek is chock full of antagonistic forces we love to hate — but because her apparent “redemption” feels unearned. In fact, everything about it feels off somehow. Sure, I get that she wants to atone for killing Bruce Maddox by helping Altan Soong save Picard’s life. But Soong is written as sort of… monstrous… in “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part I” only to turn out to be not too shabby in the second part? I guess? And Jurati seems like she’s going to turn against him but then she’s all smiles and jitters alongside him later?
We’re supposed to laugh when Agnes’ admittedly cute face duplicates a dozen times like an internet pop-up ad, but I’m only capable of laughing at the incredulousness of her character development up to that point. Don’t even get me started on her romantic moments with Captain Rios; I get that she’s in a bad way mentally after offing her boyfriend but she doesn’t need to drag another character arc down with her.
If it sounds like I’m not a fan, it’s true. But I still believe that actress Alison Pill is quite capable of imbuing Jurati with greater depth and appreciative qualities if given the proper material to do so. Her earlier episodes, before the writing gave her what could have been complexity but spilled over into convoluted caricature, remain proof that there’s a core to the character potentially worth further exploration. For the time being? We need to see her truly answer for her actions. Star Trek: Picard season 2 ought to see her locked up at a Federation prison at first before she inevitably proves herself in new ways and gets out on space bail courtesy of Jean-Luc’s charisma.
Better Sense of Scale
I’m not typically one to quibble over technical matters, even when it comes to Star Trek, but I sincerely hope that Picard season 2 doesn’t repeat the first season’s mistake of treating the Federation and the Romulan Free State fleets like advanced warships are as plentiful as TIE Fighters on the Death Star. Or, uh, Star Destroyers orbiting Exogol. (Which is a whole separate can of worms.)
Each of the ships seen in the above image —Zheng He class vessels — is said to be the most powerful Starfleet craft in existence as of 2399. How in blazes are there several dozen of the things? Again, I’ve virtually never complained about this kind of thing with the franchise, so it must be kind of wild for even me to make a point out of it. Star Trek has always made each ship feel special of its own accord and when colossal fleets do come together it’s a matter of great effort (and doesn’t involve 50-something titans but rather a motley assortment of command, cruiser, science, escort, and the like).
Crazier still, the Romulan Free State dispatches 200 warbirds in the season finale. 200. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, you know, back before Romulans practically became an endangered species when their home planet exploded, three warbirds were considered a triple threat. Commodore Oh has clearly been working overtime here.
More Welcome Returns
Admittedly, this might sound somewhat at odds with my point about growing the new cast more, but I’d like to think the writers behind Star Trek: Picard can find ways to accomplish that and round up more returning franchise alumni in season 2. Jonathan Frakes spends a lot of time behind the camera for Star Trek these days, which is wonderful in and of itself, and by all cast accounts, he’s as warm and kind as a director as he is everywhere else in life. But seeing him inhabit the role of Riker again for two episodes of Picard was simply amazing.
Deanna Troi is no slouch, either; I swear Marina Sirtis has somehow gotten even better at portraying the character despite taking a whopping 17 years off from the role. As a big Voyager fan, Seven practically joining as main cast (I don’t care that the credits claim otherwise!) is perhaps the best treat of all. And while the fates of Hugh, Icheb, and Maddox aren’t exactly savory, I’m still here for it.
Recently, actor Robert Duncan McNeill revealed that his Voyager character Tom Paris almost appeared in Picard‘s first season but scheduling issues prevailed. Evidently, this has happened again while Picard season 2 has been shooting. Yet just days later we learned he’s showing up on Star Trek‘s new animated adult comedy Lower Decks soon — as a talking plate, perhaps, but we’ll take what we can get.
24th-century Trek was home to three seven-season television series and is now being explored by three more new shows, most seriously of which is Star Trek: Picard itself. There’s a line between catching up with old friends and overstuffing the show with known commodities and with only 10 episodes a year it’s entirely justified for the writers to want to be picky and choosy. We know Q and Guinan will be in the time-twisting second season, but a few more legacy characters would be more than welcome.
LeVar Burton knows for a fact he’s “not in season 2” of Star Trek: Picard, but it sounds like there’s room in season 3. Worf would be a welcome sight as well and frankly, I’ll take any DS9 character I can get, even if it’s Leeta or something. Most of all, the first season hinted at a frayed connection to Beverly Crusher, so let’s hope Gates McFadden gets rescheduled to return.
A Quiet Place
My household was enamored with the Picard series premiere, “Remembrance.” I think, at that time, the show felt like it was filled with infinite possibilities. More importantly, it kind of signaled we’d be receiving a different show entirely on multiple levels.
“Remembrance” is a brilliant episode of television. It reintroduces Jean-Luc Picard as a grumpier yet quieter man, a man in his twilight years who suffers from a tremendous degree of guilt but retains in his heart what he knows to be the true essence of Starfleet and Federation. There’s a scene early on in which a reporter interviews the iconic man for his thoughts on the commemoration of an important event; the emotion that Sir Patrick puts into his performance when Picard snaps at the interviewer is some of the man’s best work in ages. And this is Stewart we’re talking about here. Almost everything he touches is gold.
We can’t necessarily go back to watching Old Jean-Luc on his farm with his sassy Romulan assistants and most precious pet. And yet, if Picard season 2 truly does feature time travel as much as its teaser trailer indicates (and I cannot fathom why such a thing would be a misdirection), such a setup can give us quieter moments not just for Picard but for the rest of the La Sirena crew. That’s the beauty of time travel, after all; the past is filled with just as much silence as sound, and the future is ever-ripe for moments of self-reflection.
Whatever shape Star Trek: Picard season 2 takes, be it boisterous or slow-going, I hope it can build upon its uneven initial batch and deliver something stronger, more cohesive, and with more to say about the world around us. There are extraordinary moments in the first season, a few of which even rival the best of Treks past. For as long as I live, I will never forget Picard and Data’s final conversation together. But for every stellar scene, there’s something as silly as Soji and Narek dancing barefoot on a reclaimed Borg Cube.
Less Dirty Dancing, please, and more Kestra Troi.