It’s always hard to say goodbye. The cast of Star Trek: The Original Series got their swan song in the form of Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country. To this day, it remains a favourite of mine. However, the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation originally did not fare as well. Star Trek: Nemesis was a disappointing last hurrah. So, therefore, we look at Picard Season 3 vs The Undiscovered Country. The comparison is there, and some scenes are almost like for like!
A mediocre movie was not the sendoff that the legendary cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation deserved. This error was rectified thanks to the final season of Star Trek: Picard. Reactions to the ending have been broadly positive, and almost everyone walked away pretty satisfied. But how does this compare with the sendoff that the other cast received in The Undiscovered Country? Which cast was sent off better? Let’s discuss this.
Nostalgia and the Next Next Generation
When TNG premiered in 1987, the TOS films were still being made. While The Undiscovered Country is an amazing film, and maybe my favourite Star Trek movie, it doesn’t pass the torch. The torch had already been passed. It’s just the end of this crew’s journey, no more, no less. If we’re to set Picard Season 3 vs The Undiscovered Country, then we’ve got to look at the nostalgia and endings of each.
However, The Undiscovered Country shows us the beginnings of the Khitomer Accords, setting up peace between the Federation and Klingons in the TNG series. I get lots of extra points for that. The Undiscovered Country is one of the more political Trek films, capitalising on the Klingons standing in for the Soviets through many Cold War allegories in previous appearances. Whilst bits and pieces of Picard appear politically minded, it is (in my eyes), first and foremost, a nostalgia fest.
Where The Undiscovered Country is a satisfying ending, telling its own story, I’m not sure what the story of Picard would have been like without all the passionate, reference-laden set dressing. We’ve got two very different styles of sendoffs, one reminding you of the good old days and the other trying to find an all-new big-screen sendoff for a cast. Although the mediums of TV and film are quite different, Picard’s length allows it to slow down and have the sort of easter eggs it wants.
Keeping it in the Family
An amazing villain is one of the key components of a good Star Trek. Finding the right choice to send off the crew of TOS was a tall order, especially considering the intensity of Shatner. The cast was also very well settled into their roles, having been making movies for over a decade. Nicholas Meyer had also already directed one of the greatest villains of all time with Khan (Ricardo Montalban). I think he improved on his first outing with the casting of Chang (Christopher Plummer).
Christopher Plummer was perfect. From the tense court scene to quoting Shakespeare in the final battle, his performance was truly amazing. In many ways, the Shakespearean aspects are reminiscent of Captain Picard (Sir Patrick Stewart), Shatner’s successor. Then, I suppose it’s fitting that Plummer’s daughter Amanda was cast for the final outing of the TNG cast. In terms of looking at Picard Season 3 vs The Undiscovered Country, both villains were a good match!
Amanda Plummer gave us Vadic. Her performance was intense, over the top, and she really threw herself into the role. While the reception was more mixed than her father’s, she was a great villain. The only problem with her being the main villain is that the Borg Queen suddenly replaces her in the finale. As satisfying as the end of Picard was, as awesome as it was to see Enterprise D in action, flying around a Borg Cube… I can’t shake the thought it would’ve been better with Amanda having more of the spotlight.
The Final Journey
A story’s ending is a make-or-break moment, and this is only doubly true for swan songs. The Undiscovered Country ends with the crew taking one last quick trip before the ship’s decommissioning. It’s very fair that the journey of this crew ends on the bridge, with literary references to boot. The signatures over the end credits also remind us how legendary these characters are. It’s something that no film or franchise could emulate as impactfully, no matter how hard Avengers: Endgame tries.
Picard season 3 showrunner Terry Matalas went in another direction. It’s no secret that the TOS cast feuded a little through the years, with Shatner at the centre of just about it. On the other hand, the TNG cast has maintained that they’ve all been great friends since day one. This makes the poker ending so much more impactful. Beyond the callback, these cast members are all great friends, and having the camera roll for 45 minutes really allowed them to have fun. If it’s the final time we see them, it couldn’t be any better.
Their conclusion here was miles ahead of what they got in Star Trek: Nemesis, which teases more journeys and leaves the story unfinished. It also showed us this legendary cast letting loose and having fun together in a far more relaxed setting. It’s the perfect way to say goodbye. Having their old theme play over the scene also worked wonders, rather than The Undiscovered Country having its own original theme and not using any of the established Trek themes in this scene.
So, when we look at Picard Season 3 vs The Undiscovered Country, it’s hard to compare a television season with a film, especially where that season took far more cues from The Wrath of Khan. As such, it’s hard to pick a clear winner. It could be recency or my hard preference for the TNG cast and era, but Picard Season 3 was overall the better Swan song. The way reunited them after 20 years and sent them off so beautifully, passing the torch and ending the stories of these characters. I want more and really wish it could last forever. What a special series on television.
You can find The Undiscovered Country streaming on Paramount+, with Star Trek: Picard streaming on Paramount+ and Amazon Prime Video in certain international territories. For all news, features, reviews, and talking about all things Star Trek, be sure to follow Trek Central!
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