When Star Trek: Picard premiered in 2020 on Paramount+, the legacy sequel series promised it wasn't going to attempt to repeat the storytelling of The Next Generation to tell a wider narrative. To that extent, the showrunners accomplished their mission while honoring and expanding the past, reintroducing figures from Jean-Luc's (Patrick Stewart's past. Season three takes its boldest step as the series' final season by reuniting the core of the TNG beyond the appearances we've seen from the first couple of seasons. In a more comprehensive look, executive producer and showrunner Terry Matalas and stars Jonathan Frakes (William Riker) and Gates McFadden (Beverly Crusher) spoke to Den of Geek about what's to come.
On Jonathan Frakes & Gates McFadden in Star Trek: Picard Season 3
Frakes recalled the cryptic conversation he had while directing season two that saw Alison Pill's Agnes Jurati complete her Borg Queen transformation, "Are you ready to play Riker?" he recalled Matalas asking while in a perplexed state. "I didn't know what he was talking about. I told him I'd be happy to, but then, Terry said, 'No, are you really, really ready to play Riker? Are you ready to bring Riker back?'" The last time the actor was regularly involved as Riker in the franchise was in 2002's Nemesis, the final TNG film. Since then, Frakes made guest and recurring appearances on several shows, including Deep Space Nine, Enterprise, Picard, and Lower Decks.
In season one of Picard, Riker and Troi (Marina Sirtis) provided refuge to Jean-Luc and Soji (Isa Briones), who were on the run from Romulans. Riker would return with a fleet of Federation ships against the opposing Tal Shiar forces looking to eliminate life on a synth planet. "In my mind, I would've called it 'Star Trek Legacy,'" Matalas explained on expanding his question to Frakes. "I mean, it is truly a Picard story. He is the focus. But the spirit of it is different than seasons one and two, just because of what it is." As far as what Picard season three, Stewart said it left him "fulfilled way beyond anything that I had imagined" at New York Comic Con 2022, which is saying a lot for what it's worth considering the actor's initial reluctance to return to the role and not wanting to return for the sake of returning.
McFadden, who played Crusher for the bulk of TNG's seven-season run along with the four films, it was a welcome return with how she started season three. "I loved the very first scene. I mean, to me, that was so much fun to get to do that," she said. "To be active and fighting. I loved it!" One of those loose ends that will likely be tighter will be Crusher and Picard's relationship with Matalas confirming season three will take place "at least a year and a half to two years" after season two, and we'll see what's happened since. "As an actor, you can't help but bring the changes in you into that performance," she explained. "We have all become closer over the years, and so to have a chance to act again together in the same roles…it was extraordinary to me that it could even happen. It was really quite wonderful to be looking into Patrick's eyes or Jonathan's and know that there's so much love, as well as laughter and bonding, between all of us."
Voyager & Deep Space Nine Fans, Take Note!
Matalas, who was a production associate on Voyager and Enterprise, stressed the need to try to close some of the arcs. "just felt like Picard season three needed to feel like it fit into this universe. It was very important to me, first and foremost, that it treads new ground, but [also feel] like a continuation of the stories and arcs set up 30 years ago. There's a fine line between fan service and just honoring the universe that you're in. So, I just went full tilt at the things that mattered to me." One thing he does leave open is the possibility of expanding beyond TNG with Picard season three. "I think that it's important to 'Deep Space Nine' fans to feel seen," he said. "It's a continuation of Voyager too, of course, with Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) in our show. If you're going to be in this time period, there's such a rich opportunity to honor what came before." For more on what season three of Star Trek: Picard can mean for the future of the franchise TNG cast reaction to their Picard arcs, you can check out the whole interview here.