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What to Watch Before ‘Star Trek: Picard’ Season Three

The poster art for Star Trek: Picard season three with the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation featured prominently.

The final season of Star Trek: Picard starts streaming on Paramount+ on February 16th, 2023. And it sees the long-awaited reunion of the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. But before you rejoin your long-lost friends, take a few hours to revisit their best moments from years gone by.

Update, 1/30/23: Paramount+ premiered the final trailer for Star Trek: Picard season three during the AFC Championship game on January 29th. Although the new trailer won’t affect our watching recommendations, it’s still fun to see. Check it out below:

Because the final season of Picard is essentially functioning as the eighth season of The Next Generation, rather than break down the trailer and dissect all the easter eggs (although I’ll touch on the trailer later), it’s probably better to reacquaint yourself with the crew of the Enterprise-D since it’s been so long since we saw them.

Starting in the third season of Next Generation, the show shifted toward character-centric stories. Each episode featured a particular crew member as the “main character” for the episode. Below you’ll find my recommendations for the episodes that provide the most insightful look into each character.

Note: Unless otherwise noted, all these episodes are available to stream on Paramount+

Jean-Luc Picard:  “Tapestry” (TNG 6×15)

Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard

Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) has a reputation among Star Trek fans as the diplomatic captain who stays above in the safety of the starship while the rest of the crew beams down to the dangerous planet below. Not because he’s cowardly but because he understands the proper place for a captain is on the bridge of his ship.

But he wasn’t always like that, as this episode shows. In “Tapestry,” the god-like Q transports Picard back to a pivotal point in his reckless youth to show him what could have been if he had made different decisions. This story gives maybe the best insight into why Picard is the way he is and also offers a glimpse of a different life trajectory.

Other great Picard episodes from TNG include:

  • “Captain’s Holiday” TNG 3×19
  • “Family” TNG 4×2
  • “Qpid” TNG 4×20
  • “The Drumhead” TNG 4×21
  • “Darmok” TNG 5×2
  • “The Inner Light” TNG 5×25
  • “Chain of Command” TNG 6×10,11
  • “Lessons” TNG 6×19

William Riker: “The Pegasus” (TNG 7×12)

Jonathan Frakes as William Riker

One of the big reasons that Captain Picard rarely joined the away teams during the run of Next Generation was because his first officer, William Riker (Jonathan Frakes), forbade it, citing Starfleet protocols. Riker is the prototypical Starfleet officer, valuing duty, high-performance standards, and attention to detail. He frequently took command of the Enterprise when Picard wasn’t around and proved himself fit to hold the captain’s chair on more than one occasion.

However, a secret has haunted him throughout his entire career. We find out what it is in “The Pegasus,” when the captain of his first command returns with a mysterious and dangerous assignment for the Enterprise.

It’s also worth it to watch the first three episodes of the second season of Star Trek: Lower Decks to see Riker in action as a captain. There’s also a fun Riker sub-plot that spans TNG and DS9 where he discovers a transporter duplicate of himself. Plus, he and Deanna Troi show up in Picard season one episode “Nepenthe” (PIC 1×7).

More great Riker stories:

  • “Peak Performance” TNG 2×21
  • “A Matter of Perspective” TNG 3×14
  • “The Best of Both Worlds” TNG 3×26, 4×1
  • “Future Imperfect” TNG 4×8
  • “Second Chances” TNG 6×24
  • “Defiant” DS9 3×9

Deanna Troi: “The Loss” (TNG 4×10)

Marina Sirtis as Deanna Troi

Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) is the ship’s counselor on board the Enterprise throughout The Next Generation. She comes from a telepathic race known as the Betazoid. But since she’s half human, her telepathy is limited to sensing emotions and communicating with full betazoids like her mother. Troi’s quasi-telepathic abilities allow her to sense the emotions of people around her, giving her great insight into how to deal with many situations.

However, in “The Loss,” she loses those empathic powers and struggles with what amounts to humans becoming blind or deaf. And it couldn’t have come at a worse time since the Enterprise is stuck in a particle field, slowly drifting toward disaster.

Additional Troi-centered episodes are:

  • “Loud as a Whisper” TNG 2×6
  • “Night Terrors” TNG 4×17
  • “Violations” TNG 5×12
  • “Man of the People” TNG 6×3
  • “Face of the Enemy” TNG 6×14
  • “Eye of the Beholder” TNG 7×18

Worf: “The Sword of Kahless” (DS9 4×9)

Michael Dorn as Worf

Worf (Michael Dorn) has the distinction of being the character to appear most in all of the Star Trek franchise. He’s a main cast member in two series, The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, and until the premier of Star Trek: Picard, Worf was the only character to do so. He appears in a whopping 282 episodes in both series.

Picking just one to highlight his character is difficult. However, The Sword of Kahless is a fun adventure that delves deep into Klingon mysticism and spirituality. It also features Kor, the first Klingon to appear in the original Star Trek in the 60s. Plus, it’s just a lot of fun.

More great Worf adventures include:

  • “Heart of Glory” TNG 1×20
  • “Sins of the Father” TNG 3×17
  • “New Ground” TNG 5×10
  • “Parallels” TNG 7×11
  • “The Way of the Warrior” DS9 4×1,2
  • “Change of Heart” DS9 6×16

Geordi La Forge: “Interface” (TNG 7×3)

LeVar Burton as Geordi La Forge

If you grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, the one thing you knew about Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) was that he was also on Reading Rainbow (at least the actor who played him was). The connection between the two shows is undeniable for many fans.

However, since Geordi is blind, he couldn’t even read the same way you and I did in the 20th century. But that didn’t stop him from flying the Enterprise in the first season of The Next Generation or becoming chief engineer for the rest of the series. His blindness, and the apparatus he uses to see, come into play in “Interface,” where Geordi must find his missing mother.

Geordi is great, but don’t take my word for it:

  • “The Arsenal of Freedom” TNG 1×21
  • “Samaritan Snare” TNG 2×17
  • “Booby Trap” TNG 3×6
  • “The Enemy” TNG 3×7
  • “Galaxy’s Child” TNG 4×16
  • “Identity Crisis” TNG 4×18
  • “The Next Phase” TNG 5×24

Beverly Crusher: “Remember Me” (TNG 4×5)

Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher

Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) is nothing like Bones McCoy, her counterpart Enterprise chief medical officer from the original Star Trek. Instead of a gruff and coarse man, she’s a caring and charismatic widower with a young son on board a starship. And even though Gene Roddenberry hated the character after the first season and replaced her with Katherine Pulaski for the second, Crusher returned in the third season and stayed throughout the rest of the series. In “Remember Me,” we get a glimpse of Beverly’s handling of an emergency situation when the rest of the Enterprise crew start going missing from the ship.

More great Trek stories staring Beverly Crusher:

  • “Symbiosis” TNG 1×22
  • “High Ground” TNG 3×12
  • “The Host” TNG 4×23
  • “Cause and Effect” TNG 5×18
  • “Suspicions” TNG 6×22
  • “Attached” TNG 7×8
  • “Sub Rosa” TNG 7×14

Seven of Nine: “Scorpion” (VOY 3×26, 4×1)

Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine

Fan-favorite borg character Seven of Nine did not appear in Star Trek: The Next Generation. We didn’t meet her until the season finale of the third season of Star Trek: Voyager. However, she is a main cast member in Star Trek: Picard (one of the few to make it all the way to the third season), so it’s only fair that we give her due. And to do that, rewatch her premier appearance on Voyager, “Scorpion.” This two-parter not only serves as Seven’s character introduction but also marks a turning point in Voyager as the ship meanders into Borg territory. In which it remains throughout the remainder of their journey home from the Delta Quadrant.

Seven more Seven of Nine stories:

  • “The Raven” VOY 4×6
  • “One” VOY 4×25
  • “Infinite Regress” VOY 5×7
  • “Someone to Watch Over Me” VOY 5×22
  • “Unimatrix Zero” VOY 6×26, 7×1
  • “Relativity” VOY 5×23
  • “Body and Soul” VOY 7×7

Tasha Yar: “Yesterday’s Enterprise” (TNG 3×15)

The first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation was a rocky affair, both on-screen and off. To make a long story short, the drama drove away Denise Crosby, the actress who played the Enterprise-D‘s first security chief. And the way they wrote her off the show was as hokey and meaningless as the rest of the first season. However, Tasha Yar did make a return of sorts in the third season of TNG in this alternate universe adventure featuring the Enterprise-D‘s immediate namesake predecessor, the Enterprise-C.

This episode also paved the way for the introduction of Yar’s half-Romulan daughter later in the series. And while there’s no official indication that Tasha Yar or her daughter will return for the last season of Star Trek: Picard. Something in my bones tells me it’s a good idea to get reacquainted with them…just in case.

Some other Yar episodes to watch:

  • “Code of Honor” TNG 1×4
  • “Skin of Evil” TNG 1×23
  • “Legacy” TNG 4×6
  • “The Mind’s Eye” TNG 4×24
  • “Redemption” TNG 4×26, 5×1
  • “Unification” TNG 5×7,8

Wesley Crusher: “Journey’s End” (TNG 7×20)

If you’ve been watching Star Trek: Picard up to this point, you know that Beverly’s son Wesley (Wil Wheaton) makes a cameo appearance at the end of season two. While I’m not going to get into spoilers, and we haven’t heard any rumblings that he’ll return in season three–nothing’s impossible. Although, it’s worthy to note that Wil Wheton has stated he will not return for season three. But, he would say that if it were true or not to keep any potential surprises intact.

Given the nature of his cameo, it’s probably best to check out his last appearance on The Next Generation (he had a non-speaking cameo in the final Next Gen film Star Trek: Nemesis) to give you an idea of where they took the character.

Here are some more choice Wesley stories:

  • “Where No One Has Gone Before” TNG 1×6
  • “Final Mission” TNG 4×9
  • “The Game” TNG 5×6
  • “The First Duty” TNG 5×19

Data: “The Measure of a Man” (TNG 2×9)

Unfortunately, Data isn’t in the final season of Star Trek: Picard (that we know of). The franchise has ended his story twice now (I’ll leave it there to avoid spoilers). But since we’re watching character-centric Next Generation episodes, I can’t just leave Data out. It just feels wrong.

If you want to get to know your favorite Android from the 90s all over again, there’s no better episode to watch than the second season’s “The Measure of a Man.” In this episode, Data’s rights as an artificial life form are put on trial when an up-and-coming cyberneticist wants to strip him down to his wires to uncover the secrets of his creator and make a whole race of Data duplicates.

Lore’s Arc

But that’s not all of Data you’ll get out of this list. Although Data himself does not appear in the season three trailer, his evil android brother Lore does. The last we saw of Lore, Data declared he was going to disassemble him for the safety of the Enterprise crew.

Lore was one of the great recurring characters throughout The Next Generation, and since it appears that we’ll get some more of him, it’ll be good to brush up on all his appearances. They are:

  • “Datalore” TNG 1×13
  • “Brothers” TNG 4×3
  • “Descent” TNG 6×26, 7,1

Moriarty’s Arc

And we’re not done with Data stories yet! Like most of the Enterprise-D crew, Data loves playing dress-up-and-pretend on the holodeck. One of his favorite characters to play during the series was Sherlock Holmes. But in the episode “Elementary, Dear Data,” he couldn’t stop solving mysteries before they had a chance to begin. So, he found an unusual way to bring Sherlock Holme’s nemesis, James Moriarty, to life in holographic form. I won’t spoil the ending, but Moriarty comes back in later seasons. And we see a glimpse of him in the Star Trek: Picard trailer–looking more sinister than ever.

Moriarty’s TNG episodes inclue:

  • “Elementary, Dear Data” TNG 2×3
  • “Ship in a Bottle” TNG 6×12

“All Good Things” (TNG 7×25, 26)

If you watch all the episodes of Next Generation listed above, you probably qualify as a fan of the series. And since you’re in this deep, you may as well watch the finale of the series. “All Good Things” is a great series capper, a sweet goodbye to fans of Next Gen. It shows Captain Picard shift back and forth through three time periods: one where he first takes command of the Enterprise, the current (in the context of the show) time, and one 25 years in the future.

The future period is interesting because it portrays the exact time in which Picard season three occurs. Obviously, the way the characters are depicted in no way resembles what we know of Picard season three, but it is a fascinating correlation that you probably should check out.

Deep Space Nine Dominion War 10-Parter

A box set of Deep Space Nine DVDs on a wooden table.
Danny Chadwick / Review Geek

Star Trek: Picard showrunner Terry Matalas stated that the final season’s arc has a lot to do with the aftermath of the Dominion War. This is interesting because that war was the primary focus of Deep Space Nine, not The Next Generation. If you skipped DS9, I highly recommend you go back and watch it.

But, since you don’t have time to watch the whole series before Picard season three begins, I suggest watching just the last ten episodes of the series, where the DS9 crew finally brings resolution to the conflict. If you haven’t seen it before, don’t worry, you’ll be able to keep up.

  • “Penumbra” DS9 7×17
  • “‘Til Death Do Us Part” DS9 7×18
  • “Strange Bedfellows” DS9 7×19
  • “The Changing Face of Evil” DS9 7×20
  • “When It Rains…” DS9 7×21
  • “Tacking Into the Wind” DS9 7×22
  • “Extreme Measures” DS9 7×23
  • “The Dogs of War” DS9 7×24
  • “What You Leave Behind” DS9 7×25, 26

Star Trek: The Next Generation Films

If you stopped watching Star Trek: The Next Generation after it went off the air in 1994 and pick up watching Star Trek: Picard season three next month, you’ll probably have some questions. What happened to the Enterprise-D? Where’s Data? Wasn’t Picard a borg that one time? And more.

As long as you’re binging Next Gen episodes, you’d do well to watch the movies too. There are only four of them, and while some aren’t the best Trek ever produced, they have info you’ll need to make sense of what’s happening in Picard.

But, keep in mind that these films are not currently available to stream on Paramount+, you can head over to HBO Max and see them there. Or, just buy the Blu-rays.

Star Trek 10-Movie Stardate Collection (Blu-ray + Digital)

Get all the classic Trek movies, including the Next Gen titles in one package.

Star Trek: Picard Seasons One & Two

Patrick Stewart as Jean Luc Picard in 'Star Trek: Picard."

Obviously, if you’re going to watch the final season of a TV show, it’s best to be acquainted with the previous seasons. However, I don’t think it’s strictly necessary to watch the first two seasons of Picard to enjoy the final season–especially if you’re watching it as a coda to Star Trek: The Next Generation.

So far, the series has been disappointing for many Next Generation fans for reasons I don’t really want to get into. Suffice it to say that the quality of the stories and the consistency with the rest of the Star Trek franchise has been spotty (to put it as kindly as possible). Moreover, the series seemed to reset itself in a way after season one. The story of the second season isn’t intimately connected with the first season. And it looks like that’s going to be the case again with season three.

I’ll leave it by saying, watch the first two seasons of Picard if you want to be a completist about the series. But if you’re a die-hard Next Generation fan, be warned that you may not enjoy what you see.

The final season of Star Trek: Picard premiers on Paramount+ on February 16th.

Danny Chadwick Danny Chadwick
Danny has been a technology journalist since 2008. He served as senior writer, as well as multimedia and home improvement editor at Top Ten Reviews until 2019. Since then, he has been a freelance contributor to Lifewire and ghostwriter for Fit Small Business. His work has also appeared on Laptop Mag, Tom’s Guide, and business.com. Read Full Bio »