Star Trek The Next Generation Ending Explained: How The Series Concluded For Patrick Stewart's Picard

Star Trek: The Next Generation

Decades after Star Trek: The Next Generation's ending in 1994 the series remains one of the most beloved shows in the franchise. That's thanks in no small part to the tremendous cast led by Sir Patrick Stewart, and the finale that set the stage for other adventures that followed.

"All Good Things" was quite a finish for Star Trek: The Next Generation, and a bit to take in all at once. For those that may not remember, here are the events separated by timeline, and how they impacted the futures of other Star Trek shows and movies.

Star Trek: The Next Generation

How Star Trek: The Next Generation Ended

After a tumultuous trial across time and space, Jean-Luc Picard pulled through and spared humanity a gruesome fate. That's what it seemed anyway, though it turned out the whole thing was a test by Q that proved to the Q Continuum that humanity was still capable of evolving. After he thoroughly impressed Q, Picard joined his crew for a game of poker for the first time.

It really sounds simple, but when incorporating a story that shifts between three different timelines, things get a bit garbled up. Here's the action of the two-part finale broken up by their respective timelines, the episodes they referenced, and how the Star Trek: The Next Generation finale has held up over time.

Star Trek: The Next Generation

The Present Timeline

The present timeline kicked off the story as Troi and Worf had just come out from a romantic excursion in the Holodeck. The two were in the midst of a discussion about asking Ryker's permission to date when they are interrupted by Picard. He can't explain why, but he believes he's traveling through time. Picard was briefly able to explain the situation but is ultimately transported through time again.

When Picard returned to the present, he informed Troi he was just speaking to previous lieutenant Tasha Yar, who had died some time ago. Picard was taken to sickbay, where Dr. Crusher evaluated him to see what was going on. She found no sign of temporal displacement but did find a defect in his mind that could eventually lead to Irumodic Syndrome. As Picard digested the news, Admiral Nakamura informed Picard there was a fleet-wide Yellow Alert.

There are 30 Romulan Warbirds near a spatial anomaly in the neutral zone, and orders are for Starfleet to travel to the anomaly as well. Picard shifted through time again, but upon return, can more accurately recall the memories of the present and future. Crusher confirmed Picard has expanded his memories vastly in minutes, and the crew now believed what Picard said was happening.

The situation is still somewhat confusing though, as the rest of the crew can't remember the events of the past Picard has described. Ryker did point out both the past and present have similar spatial anomalies, which is about the best information they gathered in the meeting. Picard informed Riker he should be ready to take command due to the disorientation he has suffered from the time shifts, shares a kiss with Crusher, and gets to bed.

After some more time traveling Picard is transported to a courtroom in which Q presides. After a brief conversation Q informed the captain that humanity is at risk and that Picard will bring about its destruction. Picard is sent back to the present, and the captain tells Ryker to call for a red alert and emergency senior staff meeting. As the staff discussed the new information, the Enterprise approached the neutral zone with Romulan ships present.

The next scene in the present came with Picard in conversation with Commander Tomalak, who granted the Enterprise passage in the neutral zone to explore the anomaly. It's a temporal anomaly, one that is later revealed to be one capable of erasing all of mankind's existence if he can't figure out a way to stop it. To make an already long story short, Picard arranges for all ships past and present to be destroyed in the anomaly, and after the final ship is destroyed, Picard is back in Q's courtroom.

The whole thing was a test, not by Q, but the Q Continuum. In showing his ability to adapt across multiple periods, Picard proved humanity could further evolve and therefore deserved to exist. Victorious, Picard joined his crew that night in a poker game for the first time, and that is a good chunk of the end of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Star Trek: The Next Generation

The Past Timeline

Picard was first transported to the past back after a brief glimpse of the future and found himself in conversation with a long-gone but familiar face, Tasha Yar. Yar explained to Picard the Enterprise is a different ship, but before the reality of the conversation can set in the Captain is transported back to the present.

When he returned to the past, Picard and Tasha Yar had arrived from their shuttlecraft onto the Enterprise. It's the day Picard assumed command of the Enterprise, but something is different. Picard noticed strange beings unseen by the rest of the crew. Rattled by the situation, Picard immediately called for a red alert, which gave his new crew a jolt. Now aware of the time-shifting, Picard opted not to confide in his past crew of the situation, as not to impact the present or future.

Unfortunately Picard faltered a bit in the execution. For example, he commanded Worf later to make a level two alert, despite Yar being the security chief. Eventually, Picard is called to the bridge, only to learn multiple freighters are moving to the neutral zone in Federation and Romulan space. Picard declined Starfleet's directive to go to the location, instead insisted they continue with their current mission. Ship difficulties made that impossible at the moment, but Picard put Miles O'Brien on the problem until the chief engineer arrived.

Picard returned to the past after some time hopping only to learn the ship is approaching the coordinates given. A scan revealed there was nothing there, but that was exactly what Picard expected. Finally privy to the situation, Picard called out Q and was transported to the first courtroom scene referenced in the present timeline.

When Picard returned to the past, he requested the Enterprise be sent to the Devron system. The move is met with much concern given it's in Romulan neutral territory, but everyone goes along. I'll admit it's kind of crazy the respect Picard has from day one on the Enterprise. The past arrived at the Devron location about the same time as every other timeline, and pick up the same anomaly.

Once the past is up to speed on the whole anti-time thing, Q took Picard back into the past. I'm talking 3.5 million years into the past, where he witnessed the beginning of human life. Picard was sent back to the past knowing if he can't figure out how to stop the anomaly, humanity is lost. After a bit of action, the past ship converged in the same spot as the present and future ships and was destroyed. No one actually died, but it's not like they knew that at the time!

Star Trek: The Next Generation

The Future Timeline

Star Trek: The Next Generation picked up in the future with Patrick Stewart's Picard at a vineyard. He's hanging out with Geordi LaForge, the new director of the Daystrom Institute. LaForge confessed his visit was to check on Picard's battle with Irumodic Syndrome, Picard is interrupted by the mysterious figures (who were later revealed as attendants in Q's courtroom), and shifted out of time.

Picard is eventually able to convince Geordi to take him to the neutral zone, but there's a problem. The neutral zone of the past is now Klingon territory, and relations between the Federation and Klingons are not good. Admiral Riker (yes, Admiral) isn't able to help, but Dr. Crusher can give transport via her ship of command the Pasteur.

Eventually Picard returned, but his knowledge of the time shifts concerned Geordi. Geordi thinks it's Picard's sickness, but agreed to take Picard to Data to talk out the issue. Data (who is living in a lavish house) admitted he is skeptical but said there was nothing to disprove what Picard was saying about the time shifts.

What's crazier is that Picard and Crusher were formerly married, but it didn't work out. At this point, no one in Star Trek: The Next Generation's past believed Picard's thoughts on an anomaly, but decided to honor him with the one final mission if he believes it's important.

Worf, who is now a Governor for Klingons, could not allow safe passage in the zone and advised against the mission for their safety. Picard swayed him to help, but by that point, Crusher is about at her wits' end. After a brief power struggle, Crusher admitted she could not trust Picard's judgment and suggested the entire mission could be a construct within his aged and diseased mind. Q appears after this to mock Picard, but inadvertently (or intentionally, you never know with Q) revealed Picard's solution lies in all timelines.

The Pasteur is attacked by Klingon vessels, and only barely bailed out by Riker and Worf's ships. The crew of the Pasteur is taken aboard the Enterprise and flown out of the area. Picard is outraged, but put down with a sedative by friends who believed he all but lost his mind.

Eventually, the crew realized that the anomaly hasn't occurred yet in the future, and arrive just in time for its beginning. Just like in the two previous scenarios, the Enterprise heads into the anomaly and is destroyed. No one is killed really, and frankly, they never actually existed.

Star Trek: Picard CBS All Access

How The Episode Has Held Up Over Time

Suffice to say, a good portion of what was shown in Star Trek: The Next Generation's future has not come to be. Data "died" (mostly) in Star Trek: Nemesis, Riker left Starfleet to marry and have children with Troi, and Patrick Stewart's Jean-Luc Picard resigned at the admiral level. Of course, fans weren't entirely surprised by that, as Star Trek: The Next Generation's characters did state that the future in which Picard saw was no longer guaranteed to happen.

Even so, Star Trek: Picard has honored elements of Star Trek: The Next Generation's finale in its work. Picard did retire to a vineyard chateau and his Irumodic Syndrome did metastasize. Season 1 goes into that situation quite a bit actually, though anyone looking for answers on that should be warned of massive spoilers for the CBS All Access series. Most of the other TNG cast has yet to appear in Picard, so their fates are one big question mark. Hopefully, more easter eggs from the finale will be referenced in Season 2, but if not, at least canon already accounted for that!

Star Trek: The Next Generation is available to stream on CBS All Access. Continue to stick with CinemaBlend for more Star Trek news, and the latest happenings in television and movies.

Mick Joest
Content Producer

Mick contains multitudes and balances his time reporting on big happenings in the world of Star Trek, the WWE, reality television, and other sci-fi shows.