When Riker and Picard talk about “needing a ship,” they’re hanging out in a bar somewhere, which is probably on Freecloud. But this really seems to reference Bones trying to charter an off-the-books space flight in The Search for Spock. Then, when Riker decides to talk to Picard to actually pick up their ship, it suddenly feels like this whole season is a borderline remake of Search for Spock.
For one thing, the look of the new USS Titan bears a strong resemblance to the classic USS Excelsior from that film, while the space dock is a subtle redesign of the space dock we first saw in Star Trek III. This design, which came from ILM artists David Carson and Nilo Rodis-Jamero, has endured more than any space station in the entire canon. And when Seven, Riker, and Picard get onto the bridge of the Titan, the shots are almost identical to what we saw in Spacedock in Star Trek III.
But what does it all mean? Is it just cool fan service? Well, partially.
While some critics of the first two seasons have felt the series left behind TNG fans, Matalas has done several podcast interviews indicating that Picard season 3, will, in many ways, seem like a new series. By visually referencing The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock so heavily, it seems like Picard season 3 could be poised to give us an emotional and character-centric story in the vein of the TOS Trek films. In other words, if Picard seasons 1 and 2 were more like The Motion Picture – competent but not warm — then Picard season 3 could be the character-focused TNG adventures fans have always wanted.
Other than perhaps First Contact, you could argue that the TNG cast never quite got the same kind of room to do big cinematic stories about Starfleet characters who were approaching retirement age. While every TNG film could have been “the last ride” for the crew, there was never a clear plan to make one story that concluded the stories of those characters. The classic crew got that with The Undiscovered Country, but the TNG crew didn’t get it with Nemesis.
But now, as Matalas and Star Trek franchise creative head Alex Kurtzman have said, they will. The Easter eggs in the Picard season 3 trailer aren’t just nifty shout-outs to production design from 1984. Instead, it seems these cues are a promise, a signal to fans that this time, the Next Gen gang is going to get the kind of warm, big adventure we got with the TOS crew from 1982 to 1991. Picard season 3 has 10 episodes to essentially create the TNG movies we always wanted. And with this trailer, it looks like it may actually happen.