A Proper Send-Off for the Star Trek: The Next Generation Crew: 21 April 2023

The Star Trek: The Next Generation cast on the bridge of the USS Enterprise-D in Star Trek: Picard season 3.

Today, we watched the final episode of Star Trek: Picard. For those of you not in the know, this final season has been a swan song of sorts for the characters we first met in 1987 in Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG).

It wasn’t their first send-off. No, unfortunately, a horribly written and directed movie named Star Trek: Nemesis, touted to be their final adventure, came to screens in 2002. Even a young Tom Hardy and seasoned Ron Perlman sadly couldn’t save that bomb of a picture.

Everything about it felt off. The story. The characters. The premise. The end especially. It wasn’t that TNG we’d all come to know and love. The cast, who by all accounts are very close and had a ball of a time filming TNG the series, didn’t like the movie and that showed oh so much on the screen.

It performed poorly at the box office. The fourth out of four films released over the period of eight years, it promised to give the TNG crew a proper send-off. That promise was very much broken.

I didn’t religiously watch the first few seasons of TNG, to be honest. The first season came out when I was in my last year of junior high, and it screened at the same time we went to church on Saturday nights. Sometimes I was lucky and remembered to tape the episodes. Sometimes I wasn’t.

But I found it kinda weird as a show, and even though I loved the ship and kinda liked the characters, it wasn’t must-see TV for me.

When the third season came along in 1989, that’s when I started to pay attention. My friends were all watching it, and the quality of the episodes improved. TNG started to hit its stride, and it became a hit.

I was hooked.

I still think season 5 was TNG’s best season. I don’t really know why but it felt like a lot of things were converging in my life at the same time TNG shone. It was my senior year in high school, and that may have had something to do with it. Everything was clicking. Things were changing. This was my final year in compulsory schooling, beyond an exciting new frontier of adulthood. A classmate of mine pulled me out of class to register to vote. Bill Clinton was running for office, and it seemed like our MTV Generation, Generation X, were going to vote him in: for change, for good, for a better future. All so very exciting.

One big memory was sitting in my brothers’ bedroom, their black-and-white TV on, watching the start of the episode “Cause and Effect”. They blew up the Enterprise-D in the opening of the show. I lost it. I ran out of the room, into the house, yelling they’d just blown up the Enterprise and killed all the crew. My Mom, I think, thought I was crazy.

It was one of the stories I watched that made me think more seriously about my writing.

By the end of spring 1994, TNG was ending. My high school friends and I — most of us now in college — watched the finale in the addition at my house. It was a wonderful experience. The show had changed over the years. We’d changed too, but still remained together as friends, for the most part.

We were all glued to the set, watching these three timelines converge. There was a massive plot hole, which I’m not sure anyone spotted except for our friend George. He started to explain the plot hole, but we all turned to him and said: “Shut up, George!”

It took me a little while and a few viewings later to grasp what he was trying to tell us. He was right, of course. It was right there in front of us the entire time. Good old George caught it right off the bat. Maybe he should’ve been a writer too. Or an editor. I think he’d be good at either.

The first TNG movie came out late in the autumn after the series finale had aired. They were trying to keep the momentum going from the popularity of the series, I guess.

This was the fall of 1994. I’d managed to snag 4 tickets to the local two screen movie theater in the town where I went to university. In our troupe was 2 good friends, The Man I Once Loved, and me. When we arrived — we were running late for some reason, and running late always irritates me to no end — there were barely any seats left. The theater was packed with nerds and geeks and frat boys and sorority girls and everyone in-between. I didn’t think it would be so popular.

No 4 seats were together, but there were plenty of double seats around. I threw a tantrum because I’d bought the tickets for The Man I Once Loved’s birthday, and I wanted to sit with him to watch the movie. I think that was fair enough. And we managed to sit side-by-side.

I need to add, I wasn’t out at the time. No one knew I loved him, I don’t think.

I didn’t fully appreciate the movie. I was still fuming about being late and wondering if our other friends had caught on I was so utterly in love with The Man I Once Loved by the way I’d been so adamant and so petulant about sitting with him instead of either of them. As the audience gasped and cheered, I sat isolated with my thoughts and stewed in my feelings.

My high school friends, or at least most of them, had their spring break earlier that we did at my university in 1995, so they descended on our campus for a few days before we all headed home to spend the time together. Things between The Man I Once Loved and I had been very unstable for a long period of time, and I was too smitten and too scared to walk away, and between that, struggling with classes due to that, trying to convince my parents to be guarantors on an apartment for my senior year coming up in August 1995, and secretly thinking maybe all these signs were the universe urging me to move on in my life, my mental health was pretty poor. The slightest thing threw me off kilter.

A few of my high school friends attended the same college as I did, so we hosted those friends who were visiting in our rooms. It felt like this strange blurring of worlds, and I started to feel claustrophobic.

The Man I Loved, God bless him, could read me like a book, and he knew this was weighing heavily on me. He heard how upset I was on the phone, even though I tried my best to not let on, and before I knew it, he arrived at my dorm. We were standing at the entrance to my floor, him in the small landing of the stairwell that led up to the lobby, down to the basement, and out to the areas between the wings and me inside the doorway.

Let’s go away, just you and me, he said. He could be a hero like that.

I don’t know, I replied. All my friends are here.

You’re upset. He laid his hand on my arm. You need to get away for a while.

I gave in. What did you have in mind?

I dunno. He sounded non-committal. See a movie?

Like what? I hadn’t been paying attention to what movies were on.

They’re showing Star Trek: Generations at a movie theater near where I went to high school. Maybe that?

It sounded perfect.

Like Lot’s Wife, I hesitated. I don’t remember if it was to get a jacket or my wallet, or if I was afraid of being alone with him and all the feelings that would bring, or if one of my high school friends bumped into us at that moment, but just him and me grew to a few others too.

Good way for me to ruin the moment.

He didn’t let on he was upset or anything, if he was. We drove in his car, through the cornfields to halfway through the suburbs to this theater he liked. I tried to pay for my ticket, but he wouldn’t let me. I don’t think he knows to this day how much that meant to me; even though whatever our relationship was at that moment, it was on thin ice, but he was a gentleman in my time of need.

There was barely anyone there. Such a contrast to the first time we’d seen the movie.

This time? This time I enjoyed it. Immensely.

There are fans you are never going to please. There are fans who have legitimate criticisms of the third season of Star Trek: Picard. I get it. I understand.

Sure, there were a few things here and there that bugged me about this final send-off of the TNG crew. But there were a lot more things that I loved.

We felt the pure friendship these characters, these actors have for one another. They bounced off one another. There was humor and sadness and tiny moments where my heart shattered into a million pieces. I gasped in shock. I cried. I laughed my Santa Claus laugh.

I enjoyed it. I felt myself feeling so strongly for each and every one of these characters again, these same feelings I had when I was a high schooler watching them on a black-and-white television screen all those years ago.

I didn’t want to say good-bye. But all good things must come to an end, right?

They finally got a proper send-off. Beverly. Data. Deanna. Geordi. Jean-Luc. Will. Worf. The Enterprise-D. These characters I’d love to serve with on what I feel is a beautiful starship if I lived in this fictional universe. They finished their story with the honor, respect, and love they should have had all along.

And it made me feel so very happy this story and these characters I’ve loved all these years have a resolution I felt they deserved.

Live long and prosper.