Star Trek Picard (PIC) Season 3
The Next GenerationDisengageSeventeen SecondsNo Win ScenarioImpostersThe Bounty
The Next Generation
The Eleos, a small Federation ship, is boarded by unknown attackers. Beverly Crusher takes a phaser rifle to protect herself and her crew. She kills the intruders but gets wounded. At Château Picard, the admiral is preparing to move to Chaltok IV with Laris. But then his old Enterprise-D communicator chirps and receives an encoded message. Picard remembers the pass code and watches a distress call from Beverly, who calls for help and explicitly tells him to trust no one. But the coordinates don't seem to make sense. Only Riker understands the cue "Hellbird" that refers to a computer virus on the Enterprise-D while Picard was Locutus. He adds 3 to all digits as did "Hellbird", and the new coordinates point to the Ryton system outside Federation space. Meanwhile on M'Talas Prime, Raffi Musiker talks to an Orion informant. She does not get the intel she was hoping for but the man speaks of a "Red Lady" that is going down. She is on an undercover mission for Starfleet and trying to track the thieves of a quantum tunneling device (or weapon). Riker and Picard appear for an inspection on the USS Titan-A, where they are welcomed by Seven of Nine aka Commander Hansen. After leaving Spacedock, they ask Captain Shaw to change course to the Ryton system, but he refuses. Hansen, however, feels that her friend Picard wants to do the right thing and alters the course. In the Ryton system, Picard and Riker take a shuttle to the nebula where the Eleos is hiding. On M'Talas Prime, Raffi discovers that the "Red Lady" refers to a statue of Captain Rachel Garrett that is going to be dedicated at the Starfleet Recruitment Center just before Frontier Day. She approaches the facility, which vanishes in the ground before her eyes and then falls from the sky. Picard and Riker board the Eleos. The admiral finds Beverly Crusher in a hibernation chamber, whereas a young man points a gun at the captain. He introduces himself as Beverly's son and says they have been running from attackers with different faces. Then a large mean-looking vessel appears just in front of them...
In the months before the series premiere of Star Trek Picard in early 2020, the creative people in front of and behind the camera kept telling the fans that they shouldn't expect it to be a TNG 2.0, and that a lot would have changed for the worse, for Picard personally and in the world around him. They had palpably little confidence in their product. They were not convinced that the fanbase that grew up with TNG would like it, and so they felt like issuing such trigger warnings. Indeed, the first season of Picard started off with a disgruntled ex-admiral, who deplored that his Federation had become a dystopia. The characterizations, the general tone and feel as well as the serialized format with its mystery-mongering put off many fans. The second season was not really more successful, as the story suffered from seemingly endless sidetracking and manufactured coincidences. Overall, the reception of the series even among most of those who were still watching has not been more than lukewarm so far - until April 5, 2022. On that day, Paramount+ revealed that, after a hiatus of 20 years, the whole TNG main cast would return for a common mission in season 3, the final one. In other words, the people in charge made a U-turn and eventually gave the fans what they were hoping for since the beginning.
The hype about the third season in social media is enormous. It was given a further boost by screeners that showrunner Terry Matalas gave out to several hand-picked reviewers and Twitter followers, almost all of whom loved it or even praised it as the best season of Star Trek ever. Matalas has great confidence in his product or he is very courageous, I'll give him that. The way he deals with criticism and treats some of Trek's most steadfast fans is another story but I promise personal matters won't be a further subject of this review.
So does season 3 live up to the high expectations?
The first episode of season 3, "The Next Generation", begins with Beverly Crusher defending herself against alien attackers - after locking up an unseen other crew member of the USS Eleos for their own safety. We can see that the former Enterprise CMO is a different person now when she vaporizes the intruders without hesitation. Admiral Picard too notices that when he later investigates the traces of the fight. But although it is a bit in-your-face, we will get a quite plausible explanation for her behavior.
I like how the story cares to explain this and several more details that initially don't seem to make sense. We also learn the reason why Crusher would send a message with cryptic cues to Picard's old communicator. And although is is a bit far-fetched that someone else of the crew (in this case Riker) would be required to understand what "Hellbird" means, I dig the idea that Crusher puts back the band together this way. Even the strange replay of Picard's logs from "The Best of Both Worlds" on Beverly's monitor at the beginning makes some sense, considering that she may have just looked up the details about the "Hellbird" virus that struck at the time. Likewise, I am relieved that the relapse of Raffi is just a red herring, and that she is actually working undercover for Starfleet when she poses as a junkie on M'Talas Prime. On the other hand, I am not so sure whether she will stay in control of her own life for the rest of the season. I sort of like her character, and she shouldn't repeatedly be used to demonstrate what can happen to good people in a bad world.
I am glad that the main characters trust in their instincts and trust each other in this episode the way they did at the time of TNG. But I also appreciate that generally every Starfleet officer first and foremost has a sense of duty. In this regard, I am only a bit sad that Captain Shaw is shown as an arrogant prick who takes pride in his inflexibility and who disparages people with intuition. Starfleet wouldn't work without officers who follow orders, but regarding their personalities it wouldn't have to be so awfully black and white. Annika Hansen has my full sympathy when she recognizes that her friend Picard must have a very good reason to request that course change, and when she struggles whether to follow her orders or to listen to her feelings. Unlike it was the case in much of Discovery and in the first season of Picard, I can accept the depiction of Starfleet as an organization composed of different kinds of people in "The Next Generation".
The interaction of Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes is fantastic. I love their wry remarks. Although this is not how Picard and Riker were like in TNG, I think it is perfectly fitting for the awkward situation the two old men are in during the Titan mission.
Whereas the episode starts with a few notes from TNG (or the TNG movies) and with TNG memorabilia, the theme shifts to the TOS movies about halfway through the episode. Goldsmith's music from "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" or Horner's from "Star Trek II+III" (or a blend of the two) play all the time on the Titan. Even though or just because I love listening to them in the movies or to the soundtracks, I don't like if they are used excessively elsewhere. But the music is just the tip of the iceberg. The scenes of the Titan in Spacedock were designed to be visually similar to "Star Trek III". I love the Spacedock, but it's the 25th century now, dammit! Why does the ship have to look like the Enterprise refit for this one sequence against all reason, even with identical windows despite the vastly different size! While this is the most annoying aspect, the TOS movie homage overkill doesn't end here. Much of the story and many of its characters are composed of elements from "Star Trek I-VII". Sidney La Forge aka Demora Sulu is still one of the more decent nostalgic touches. But the back story of the young man on the Eleos who turns out to be Beverly's son and the circumstances in which he is encountered cries "David Marcus" so blatantly that it hurts. And even if the bloke shouldn't turn out to be Picard's son, it would still be a misplaced homage. Well, I firmly expect that Wesley's brother will survive, while I'm not so sure about Captain Shaw, who otherwise fills the extended role of Captain Styles.
Considering that several strokes of the story of "The Next Generation" are just paint by numbers with TOS movie colors on the canvas of TNG, my hope is fading that Vadic may be a different kind of villain than Khan or Kruge and that there may be more about the quantum tunneling technology than it being a 25th century reissue of the Genesis Device.
One more thing that bothers me immensely is that the entire episode is engulfed in darkness. Not only Beverly's powered down ship but every single other set is unpleasantly and unreasonably dimly lit.
I never cared much for the Picard opening credits of seasons 1 and 2. I wouldn't say that something without space motifs were unsuited for a Star Trek series, but I simply found them unremarkable. In "The Next Generation", there is no opening sequence at all, but only a spacy movie-style title card, which seems lazy. The end credits with the "First Contact" theme, on the other hand, are wonderful. My expectation is that the end sequence will be moved to the beginning of the next episode (the way it also happened after the pilot episode of Prodigy). Everything else would be a pity.
As I haven't seen anything beyond the first episode so far, it is too early to answer the question whether the hype about season 3 is justified. "The Next Generation", to me, is not the epiphany that some may have expected after the many fulsome reviews. It is an enjoyable season opener that makes me want to see more. I think we can tell already now that the story is better constructed than the ones of the first two seasons with their excessive mystery-mongering. We can see that this is all going somewhere and supposed to fit together. The story profits from characters that we care for and can relate to, as well as from the TNG nostalgia bonus (although most of the former crew have not yet appeared).
What I don't understand at all is the fixation on all kinds of elements from the TOS movies that pervade the second half of the episode to an extent that can only be called bizarre. I can put up with the many small cues and with the obtrusive overuse of music from the films, but the look of the Titan and the character design of Jack Crusher take it too far; they call the objective of season 3 into question and ultimately shatter its credibility. If this season really is a celebration of TNG, as all privileged reviewers seem to agree on, maybe there is still hope that the following episodes don't add even more TOS movie knock-offs.
- Continuity: This episode too shows an endemic PIC Tellarite on the Titan (who I think shouldn't be a Tellarite at all).
- The alien attackers on the Eleos have an incredibly bad aim.
- They have 20th century power lines on M'Talas Prime?
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "First love is always the sweetest, isn't it?" - "Well, she wasn't the first. But she was certainly my favorite." (Laris and Picard, about the ship that is my favorite too)
- "Guinan's hawking souvenirs now?" - "Ugh, it's for Frontier Day." - "How come you have so many Enterprise-Ds?" - "Oh, the fat ones? No one wants those." (Riker and bartender)
- "Not a fan of jazz?" - "No, I am not. I like structure. I like meter. I like keeping tempo and time, which is why you will probably find this inspection boring for the likes of you two." (Riker and Shaw)
- "Will, are you enjoying this?" - "Course not. Are you?" (Picard and Riker, in the shuttle)
- Remarkable scenes:
- The person who observed Riker and Picard in Guinan's bar symbolically scuttles the Enterprise-D model in a shot glass.
- Picard and Riker in the "humiliating" crew bunks on the Titan
- Unremarkable ship: The USS Titan-A, this season's hero ship, is flawed on many levels. First off, I must admit the secondary hull comes out clearly better in the actual episode than in the trailers where it had the semblance of a piece of soap. But I still think that the Titan overall looks like what it essentially is, a kitbash. Whereas the nacelles are the same as on the recent Sagan class, many design elements are taken from the Shangri-La by Bill Krause, a neat 23rd century starship based on Constitution refit technology. The attempt to adapt its aesthetics for the 25th century results in a mess that is also hard to justify on the technical side where it is not just a matter of taste. The Constitution saucer just strikes everyone who knows a bit about the design lineage as anachronistic. But to make things much worse, it was scaled up and still has the same window placements as on the smaller version. The latter was apparently done for the sole trivial purpose to re-enact the escape from Spacedock from "Star Trek III". The overkill of homages continues with the class name "Neo-Constitution", the name Titan and the "legacy letter" registry NCC-80102-A. The series already pulled a similar trick in a much more decent fashion when Picard arrived on the new Stargazer in "The Star Gazer", and the idea to repeat and hyperbolize it with the Titan-A and Riker is very lame. Overall, the Titan-A may not be among the ugliest concoctions designed for Starfleet, but it is the by far most fanboyish hero ship ever to grace a series. And just when I thought it couldn't become still worse, while writing this review I read that the Titan-A, which Riker calls a "refit" of his "old ship" in the episode, is officially supposed to be the very same Luna-class ship in its core that he previously commanded! Utterly ridiculous!
- Remarkable facts:
- Geordi La Forge runs the Fleet Museum.
- Raffi Musiker's birthdate is April 9, 2353.
- Seven of Nine is referred to as Annika Hansen on the Titan because Captain Shaw insists on the name.
- The music in Shaw's quarters is Chopin's Nocturne in E Flat Major (Op. 9 No. 2). I too would prefer it over Jazz.
- The Titan is equipped with metaphasic shields. They should explicitly thank Beverly for that!
- Remarkable credits: Congratulations to Jörg Hillebrand for making it into the episode credits!
- Dedication: "For Annie" (Annie Wersching, 1977-2023)
The enemy ship has targeted all systems of the Eleos. Picard, Riker and Jack Crusher prepare to move the med-pod with Beverly to the shuttle. But the shuttle gets destroyed. The last hope now is the Titan. Seven persuades Captain Shaw to rescue the two Starfleet legends, although this puts his crew of 500 at risk. The Titan enters the nebula and beams aboard the four people from the Eleos. On M'Talas Prime, Raffi doubts that the Romulan dissident Lurak T'Luco, who is officially blamed, really carried out the attack on the Starfleet recruitment center that cost 117 lives. She contacts her ex-husband Jae, who runs a bar, to get in touch with a Ferengi named Sneed, who is said to have brokered the deal between an anonymous seller and T'Luco. Inside the nebula, the commander of the enemy ship, the Shrike, a woman named Vadic, states her demands. She wants Jack Crusher to be turned over within one hour, or she would destroy the Titan. Captain Shaw is willing to extradite the young man, who has a criminal record, which Picard and Riker seek to avert. On M'Talas Prime, Raffi meets with Sneed, who demands she take a drug, to prove she is not working for Starfleet. Raffi tries to convince the Ferengi that T'Luco is her client, not knowing that the Romulan was murdered by Sneed. Worf appears, kills Sneed and his henchman and saves Raffi. The ultimatum has almost expired. Jack escapes from the brig of the Titan, but he is not going to the shuttlebay; he tries to beam over to the Shrike instead, in order to save his mother. Riker takes Beverly Crusher to the bridge, where she gives Picard a glance. He now knows that Jake is his son and demands that Shaw takes evasive maneuvers. After firing a couple of torpedoes at the Shrike, the Titan escapes to the nebula...
"Disengage" begins with a flashback, showing that Jack Crusher is an outlaw with flexible moral standards, rather than a Samaritan. I don't think this would have been necessary. Maybe it could have had more of an impact, had Shaw's research established later in the episode what kind of a person Beverly's younger son is. In any case, the flashback doesn't last too long and fortunately doesn't interrupt the flow of the story like in several previous episodes of the series.
It is a pity that Captain Shaw remains an unlikable character throughout the episode. He initially refuses to go and save Riker and Picard, although there is not the slightest evidence that whatever trouble they are in may be a serious threat to the Titan. Once they are aboard again, he continues to treat his unwanted guests with disrespect and almost seems to be more annoyed by their presence than by a ship pointing all weapons at the Titan. He never seems to listen to anyone. He considers to extradite Jack Crusher, who would probably be executed. By all conventional standards of Star Trek, Shaw is an asshole.
But let us look at the flip side too. Shaw is responsible for 500 lives, as he repeatedly points out. There are an admiral and a captain on board, two "living legends" who are not in command but who act like a higher moral authority. Everyone would be on edge in Shaw's situation, and may not come across as particularly amiable. Also, there is a first officer who disobeyed his orders, which Shaw does react to with a sense of proportion because he knows he needs her. Actually, as I keep watching this episode, I can sympathize a bit with Shaw (which may exactly have been the writers' intent).
On the other hand, my initial sympathy with Jack Crusher fades in the course of the story (which is most likely not the writers' intent). There are his criminal activities for one thing. However, it bothers me more that he breaks laws and bends moral standards with complacency. He possibly believes in his tale that the weapons are used by "bad guys shooting bad guys". I don't. We will still see what Beverly has to say about all that, and if she perhaps has a far better justification. I also don't like how smug Jack Crusher remains in the presence of danger. After the collision with the Eleos, in a moment when Shaw is concerned about the welfare of his crew, he even reacts with a mischievous glance. It is good for the story that the rogue Jack Crusher is not a carbon copy of David Marcus, who used to live in an ivory tower, but right now I have little reason to like him, even though he seems to be ready to sacrifice himself.
It was blindingly obvious that Jack would turn out to be Picard's son, and I am glad that Picard speaks it out at the end of the episode and doesn't defer it until the end of the season. Until then, the story takes too much pleasure in Riker making insinuations of a kind that remind me of soap operas or of old movies. Picard's talk with the imprisoned Jack, on the other hand, is a highlight of the episode. I also like the idea that Beverly tells Picard with just a glance that his assumption is right. Great acting doesn't need words. Yet, the whole episode was too much designed to prepare us for this and for Picard's words "he's my son", the big reveal that everybody was waiting for. This overall becomes a bit tiresome. The pivotal moment comes as a relief, but is not quite as rewarding as it perhaps should be.
On another note about Picard's parenthood, would he have sacrificed Jack, had he just been Beverly's son with a different father?
As for the villain, she waits a long time until she comes across with her demands and then waits one more hour, further slowing down the pace of the story. Vadic overall has a couple of minutes of screen time, which are quite entertaining and which were visibly a lot of fun for the great Amanda Plummer. She has clear Shinzon/Nero vibes and engages the main characters on a personal level, which may be a sign she is just well-informed but could also point towards the usual lame revenge motive.
Of course, Worf shouldn't remain unmentioned. His face appears only briefly after he has saved Raffi, but it is all the more impressive that he doesn't speak and that we see him through her eyes. I'm so happy that he is back!
There is a clear improvement over last week's "The Next Generation" in one regard. The frequent cues from TOS movies are largely gone in "Disengage" (the homage to Lt. Saavik being one exception). This episode has the confidence to present itself as a TNG story. And if it were not for the ludicrous design of the Titan, I could absolutely enjoy the visuals of the series. That is, as soon as my eyes have eventually adapted to the permanent darkness.
I am a bit disappointed that this episode keeps the brief title card without opening credits. To me, opening credits have always been like an invitation to watch. And while I admit I usually skipped those of DIS or of PIC seasons 1 and 2, the end credits of season 3 would have been perfect at the beginning, and I would watch them each time.
Summarizing, "Disengage" continues where "The Next Generation" left. The irritating TOS movie cues are largely gone, the darkness remains. I can see how Captain Shaw is here to stay and to grow as a character, whereas the nicest thing I can say about Jack Crusher right now is that he is Picard's son. There is some action, but also a feeling that overall this episode doesn't move forward, except for the one revelation that was obvious anyway. It is not unusual for a season to lose steam in its second episode. I hope it's just that, and that "Disengage" doesn't forebode how this season gets stalled like the two previous ones. So let's see what next week's episode brings, which I would tentatively title "Battle in the Mutara Nebula".
- Continuity: Jae, Raffi's ex-husband, refers to her "ambushing" their son Gabe, which happened on Freecloud in PIC: "Stardust City Rag".
- How can Shaw know that there is a vessel inside the nebula that is more powerful than the Titan? He says that at a time when sensors can only confirm the presence of a vessel and before the Shrike actually fires.
- Before Picard begins to set up the transport inhibitors, the Shrike would have had more than enough time to beam over Jack Crusher.
- When the Titan arrives to rescue them, Picard, Riker and Jack all forget about the transport inhibitors that they have just activated.
- "Good afternoon. I believe it is afternoon in Sol System." Yeah right. It's afternoon everywhere on Earth.
- Why is help days away? If I'm not mistaken, it took the Titan at most a few hours to the Ryton system. The real problem may be the jammed communication.
- Why is Starfleet so negligent when it comes to scanning their prisoners for hidden gadgets?
- Remarkable dialogue: "Did you assist Captain Riker and Admiral Picard in commandeering my shuttle?" - "I am more than certain they were able to find the shuttlebay without assistance." (Shaw and Hansen)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "First it was Fenris Rangers, then Klingons, a day later. Then three guys in Starfleet uniforms tried to prime-direct me into an early grave." (Jack Crusher, about the attackers)
- "Looks like you two were conned into saving the life of a con man." (Shaw)
- "We are essentially cornered. In space. Which has no corners." (Shaw)
- Remarkable facts:
- The registry of the Eleos is NAR-59019.
- According to Shaw, the Titan has a crew complement of 500.
- We can see the name of the Titan shuttle on its debris. It was the Saavik.
- The Shrike's weapons include 40 isolytic burst warheads, 88 plasma torpedoes, 236 photon torpedoes, 18 antimatter missiles, 20 pulse wave, 30 series 5, plus "something loaded in primary position in the bay - technology unknown".
The Shrike follows the Titan into the nebula and damages the warp engines of the Starfleet vessel. Deeper in the nebula, Captain Shaw thinks that his ship is safe from the enemy's sensors. The repairs to the engines continue. Picard and Beverly take the chance to talk about Jack and about their relationship, for the first time in 20 years. Then the Shrike reappears and attacks again, this time injuring the captain. Riker takes over command of the vessel, with Picard acting as his "Number One". The admiral drops a torpedo and detonates it halfway between the Titan and the Shrike, shaking off the enemy for the time being. In sickbay, Beverly recognizes that Shaw has internal bleedings that the scans did not indicate and manages to stabilize him. Shaw can hardly speak but briefly talks to Jack, expressing his concern about how Vadic was able to find them. Riker now attempts to escape from the nebula and warp away, but the Shrike is on his heels. Vadic orders to use the portal weapon, which brings back the Titan into the range of the Shrike's weapons. Jack Crusher consults with Annika Hansen, who is confined to her quarters for insubordination. She thinks that verterium leaking from the engines may give away their position. She and Jack investigate the engines and find that they have been sabotaged. Riker takes the Titan back into the nebula, which turns out to be an anomaly with a high-gravity region in the center that the ship has to avoid. Picard and Riker consider to use the fact that they now know about the sabotage for their advantage. As Hansen is checking another section for verterium leaks, Jack is attacked by a shapeshifter, who reopens the verterium valve and exposes Jack to a high dose of the gas. On M'Talas Prime, Worf and Raffi team up to apprehend a man named Titus Rikka, who paid the Ferengi to lie about the sale of the weapon. Raffi is irate when the two interrogate Rikka, who would not talk, whereas Worf is waiting patiently. Finally, after several hours, Rikka has to reveal his true, liquid shape. He is a Changeling, and belongs to a rogue faction of the Great Link that seeks to take revenge on the Federation. He says that the stolen portal weapon was just a distraction. Seven finds the unconscious Jack and takes him to sickbay. Picard rushes to sickbay too, horrified that he may lose his new-found son. But Jack is successfully resuscitated by his mother. As he returns to the bridge, Picard urges Riker to fight instead of continuing to run away. Then an explosion caused by the saboteur rocks the ship and interrupts warp power. On Picard's suggestion, Riker fires torpedoes at the Shrike, but thanks to the portal weapon these are directed back towards the Titan. The ship is adrift now, and is pulled into the center of the anomaly. Riker is enraged about Picard's decision that will get everyone killed and throws him off the bridge...
Although the basic setting, with the Titan facing the powerful combat ship Shrike, has not changed that much since last week's "Disengage", a lot more is going on in "Seventeen Seconds". And this doesn't only apply to the amount of action in the form of the space battle and the emergency situations in sickbay, which are naturally dramatic. Also with regard to "normal" character interaction, this week's episode is more versatile and dynamic. I especially like Picard's talk with Beverly, Riker's banter with Jack and the clash of the titans on the bridge of the Titan. I was shocked about Riker angrily sending Picard off the bridge, and I am anxiously awaiting the resolution.
On the downside, the writing is a bit too eager to create a web of relationships. It doesn't make much sense why Shaw would confide in the uninvited troublemaker of all people, and why Jack would think over in the first place what the unpleasant captain tells him. It is also contrived that Jack would seek the advice of Seven of Nine, a person he doesn't know at all. But most notably the scene in which Ensign La Forge assures Seven of her solidarity is cringey. The way she refers to herself not living up to the expectations of her legendary father Geordi reminds me of how such a scene would be written for Discovery. Seven aptly calls this out as "rehearsed", but when Sidney rephrases the awkward statement, it doesn't really sound more natural.
It is adequate that Crusher and Picard use a pause in the fighting to talk about their relationship, for the first time in 20 years. This is the moment everyone has been waiting for since the beginning of the season, and it doesn't leave me disappointed. Also, both Stewart and McFadden are in top form. Still, I have a few critical remarks on their discussion. Beverly says that the main reason for her to leave without a trace was that Picard's life was constantly in danger and that she would do everything to protect her son. I think she is being dishonest, considering how she apparently fostered or at least didn't prevent Jack's development to an arms dealer (at the age of barely 20!!!). She also mentions her deceased parents, her deceased husband Jack and, in the same breath, her other son Wesley. But Wesley is doing well, and even if he has decided to go into hiding (just like she herself!), it is presumptuous to speak of him as if he were dead. Finally and most impudently, she states that she lost them all "to the same stars that own you [Picard]". Whereas the death of her parents happened well before she knew him, it seems she can't get over her feeling that Picard took away her husband and her son from her. And regarding her parents, she means to say that they died because they moved to a remote colony where life is dangerous, which is extremely inconsistent with her own decision to take her son on humanitarian missions to war zones! With heavy weapons as cargo! The more I think about what Beverly says to Picard, the less I can sympathize with her reasons to take Jack away from him. It is sad how Picard is being humbled with easily refutable arguments, as already in the first two seasons.
I can sympathize a bit more with Jack Crusher now than in last week's episode, although he once again knocks down a crew member of the Titan. Jack shows that he cares - and even though we may argue he currently cares only for his mother, I think I see where his character development is going. Although it doesn't make much sense that he would want to join forces with Seven in the first place as I already mentioned, their connection is telling. Perhaps rather than his father, she may become his mentor like she was one for Icheb. At least, it is a direction that would be desirable. On a critical note, after getting the ultimate confirmation from Beverly, Jack can only be some 20 years old. But everything in his behavior points to him being considerably older, not to mention that actor Ed Speleers is and looks like 34. The story has a serious credibility problem because of that.
As I anticipated last week, "Seventeen Seconds" is inspired by the Battle in the Mutara Nebula. Some of the TOS movie vibes are back for that matter, but only in the form of subtle story similarities and musical cues. With the exception of the portal weapon, nothing about the cat-and-mouse game is really new. Also, a situation of starships facing one another other in battle generally shouldn't last two and a half episodes or even more. Besides the already mentioned "Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan", TOS: "Balance of Terror" and DS9: "Starship Down" are two more classics of its kind, but I would never want them to be extended beyond 45 minutes. Despite its long duration I have to admit that the battle is very exciting. But I really hope that the story moves on and we see other locales besides that nebula and M'Talas Prime. Preferably some place with proper lighting.
Speaking of M'Talas Prime, for the third episode in a row this planet is the setting of a side show, whose connections to the main plot are recognizable but which still remains somewhat isolated. In order to get things moving, Worf and Raffi should finally talk to someone outside that planet, or better leave it for good. I love their interaction and Worf's wry remarks are wonderful, but their mission is overall far less interesting than what happens on the Titan.
There was a lot of speculation in the fandom about who would be this season's antagonist. Considering how many people had already seen the episodes, it is amazing that this bit of information never became public before the episode aired. (Well, some may have guessed correctly that it was the Founders when Jack spoke of enemies that always looked different, but at the time that was as a good a speculative theory as any.) I generally don't think Star Trek needs enemies whose goal is to destroy everything as it has become customary in recent years. But I'm fine with the decision to bring back the Changelings. Even though the motive, as usual, seems to be revenge, I prefer them over a new species that for some reason has some sort of beef with the Federation. Yet, I am afraid a contrived reveal about Vadic is still coming.
I am overall pleased with "Seventeen Seconds". It is suspenseful and meaningful. Unlike last week's episode, it moves on in terms of the plot. I would only wish the series also moved on literally and showed other places in the galaxy. Right now, the season has the promised Star Trek vibes in terms of TOS movie-like motifs such as space battles and character revelations. But the "boldly going" feel of TNG is sadly missing as the Titan is still in the same nebula for the third week in a row, and Raffi is stuck on M'Talas Prime for just as long. Well, we know that the rest of TNG cast will join the quest and I am confident we will also see more places.
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "Jean-Luc, when the galaxy comes calling for you, you are not put upon by it, you love it. Don't tell me you would have walked away." - "Beverly, you made the choice for me. You don't get to condemn people before the fact." (Crusher and Picard)
- "Thank you, Jean-Luc." - "Will, I think it might be time you called me Number One." (Riker and Picard)
- [Looking at Worf's outfit] "Seriously, where do you wear that? To a Tuesday beheading?" - [after they have apprehended Rikka alive] "Beheadings are on Wednesdays." (Raffi and Worf)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "It took seventeen seconds to get down there. The longest turbolift ride of my life. I thought I was losing him. My unborn son. His whole future flashed in front of my eyes." (Riker, to Picard)
- "Oh, enjoying whiskey and cigars, are we? Well, I haven't brushed my hair in 72 hours. And your son just vomited all over Engineering. Projective vomit. Four feet in the air. They should study him for science." (Deanna, in the flashback)
- "I am Worf, Son of Mogh, House of Martok, Son of Sergey, House of Rozhenko, bane to the Duras family, slayer of Gowron. I have made some chamomile tea. Do you take sugar?" (Worf, to Raffi)
- Remarkable effect: I am glad that the de-aging of Picard and Riker in the flashback is better than the one of Data in season 1. But there is still room for improvement. I think Riker looks more natural than Picard in that scene.
- Remarkable fact: Jack got his British accent because he went to school in London (and perhaps it is hereditary too in the Picard family).
No Win Scenario
Stardate 78183.1: The situation is hopeless as the Titan is without power and is being pulled into the center of the anomaly. Riker and Picard apologize to each other for their conduct on the bridge. The admiral uses the time that is left to get to know his son and spends time in the holographic Ten Forward with him. Meanwhile, Seven keeps chasing the saboteur, but Riker tells her to do so with discretion. Captain Shaw gives her the advice to look for some sort of vessel that the Changeling would hide in while regenerating. On the Shrike, Vadic talks to her superior, who manifests himself from her hand and orders her to pursue the Titan. As the portal weapon is gravity-based, she has to drop it in order to enter the depths of the anomaly. Just as Seven is going to take the bucket with "resi-goo" she has found to the biolab, the Changeling attacks again, and she doesn't manage to kill it. On the holodeck, Captain Shaw interrupts the admiral's talk with Jack with the bitter tale of his Wolf 359 experience, for which in his view Locutus aka Jean-Luc Picard is to blame. Beverly has discovered that the energy surges that hit the ship follow a pattern, as if the anomaly was giving birth. Picard and Jack come up with a plan to "hitch a ride" and use the energy to power the ship. After initially refusing the plan as too dangerous, Riker suggests that it could work if someone opened the protective nacelle covers manually. Picard asks Shaw to do this work, as he is most familiar with the design. Assisted by Seven, he opens the covers on one side and then works on the other side, as Ensign La Forge enters to support them. Shaw trusts her, but Seven recognizes that this is not Sidney La Forge. She kills the Changeling. Maneuvered by Picard with support from Jack, the Titan evades the asteroids, successfully rides the wave and escapes from the anomaly. But the Shrike is already waiting. Riker swiftly decides to use the tractor beam and throw a rock at the enemy ship. It turns out the anomaly was actually giving birth as Beverly surmised. The Titan can warp away now. But Jack continues to be plagued by horrible visions, and by a voice that tells him "Find me."
I was a bit concerned after Riker's harsh reaction at the end of "Seventeen Seconds" that the falling out with Picard would persist. There were theories that our good captain would turn out to be a Changeling, but that would have been detrimental to the very idea to show the heroes of TNG in action for one last time. Although it may not be in accordance with the handbook for screenwriters to first build tension and then not make use of it, I am glad that the issue was resolved right at the beginning of "No Win Scenario", in a mature way by Riker and Picard simply mutually apologizing.
Speaking of the Changelings, they are a bit underwhelming in this show so far. Unlike the elusive members of Odo's species on DS9, the PIC Changelings seem to be neither very clever nor very fast and overall not very scary, although the new effect of their liquid form lets them appear like ground meat. I imagine how much more damage and how much more paranoia the saboteur on the Titan could have caused. But I also understand that this was not (yet) supposed to be the focus of the series. After all, there may be another Changeling on the ship.
It is noteworthy how in "No Win Scenario" the theme gradually shifts from last week's "Losing a beloved person" to an uplifting "Connecting with your family" - a feeling that becomes prevalent even before there is hope to escape from the gravity well. And although the idea to "connect" sounds like it is just borrowed from Discovery, where characters speak about it all the time since the third season of that series, it makes a lot of sense in this third season of Picard. The scene in which the admiral forms a bond with his son in the holographic version of Ten Forward is written, directed and played masterfully. And the flashback with Jack as a then anonymous young man in the bar, five years ago, who learns that Starfleet is his father's only family, totally amazed me.
The only part I don't like about the "connection" story is when Shaw interrupts the two and talks about his Wolf 359 trauma, closing with a statement that is as much an accusation of Picard as it is a message for Jack. The fact that they are all facing their almost certain death doesn't exonerate him in my view. On the contrary, I think his motives are both malicious and self-serving. I don't mean to say that Shaw should have remained silent about something that quite possibly caused PTSD in him. But he should have openly addressed the issue in due time. Also, he usually doesn't want company, and he could have spent his last hours just like that instead of ruining it for Picard, the boy and several of his crew. I can see that this disruption was included to demonstrate to Jack what a decent man his father is, in spite of everything that he may have done in the past. But it happens at the expense of Shaw's character, who once again acts like a dick and has a hard time to redeem himself.
There is much less action than in last week's episode, but I don't miss it. The desperate atmosphere on the (now still darker!) ship evokes the one of DS9: "Starship Down", which becomes more thrilling likewise as the fighting is paused and the ship is trapped. It is only a subordinated plot element, but the "space babies" naturally remind me of episodes such as TNG: "Galaxy's Child", and although the idea of discovering space-dwelling lifeforms is anything but new, this aspect of Star Trek has been neglected in the past couple of years.
"No Win Scenario" is like a mid-season finale. It resolves more issues than it newly establishes. It is focused on telling the story of the escape from the gravity well and of Picard getting to know his son, almost completely without sidetracking. I noticed only towards the end of the episode that Worf and Raffi do not appear. I hope that when they return, they will be somewhere else but on M'Talas Prime.
I think nothing epitomizes the real-world significance of this episode as well as Beverly's line "So let's do what we've spent our entire life learning to be great at." that Picard essentially repeats just a couple of seconds later as Riker is still not convinced of the escape plan: "Let's face it together. Doing what we know to do best." In consideration of the many promises and the plethora of advance praise that this season would be like the Star Trek we love, they are breaking the fourth wall. And indeed, "No Win Scenario" is a celebration of old-style Trek, to a larger extent than the previous three episodes of the season. The repeated literal and figurative backslapping may have been a bit more subtle, especially towards the end, but I think it is justified. I hope the series keeps up this spirit until the finale.
Despite a few flaws, "No Win Scenario" may be the best episode of the whole series so far, and perhaps the best live-action Star Trek in the past 18 years.
- Picard provides an explanation for why the holodeck is operational even in case of a power loss everywhere else on the ship, in this episode and on several occasions in Star Trek Voyager. It relies on its independent power cell for the very reason to serve as a sanctuary.
- The complete story of Picard's hair loss is, well, a bit complicated.
- Changelings, in their liquid form, were shown as brownish, slightly transparent goo on DS9. In PIC, they look more creepy, like molten meat.
- Is there a reason why the bucket that Seven finds looks exactly like Odo's, considering that we know the Changelings could use anything to contain them (even Lwaxana's lap)?
- Shaw reminds Picard of Wolf 359 by just mentioning the stardate 44002.3 that falls into the episode "The Best of Both Worlds II".
- The events of "Encounter at Farpoint" (space-dwelling lifeform) and of "Booby Trap" (Picard manually firing thrusters) are also referred to, as well as "Darmok" (communication with the Tamarians) in the flashback.
- Picard mentions his invitation by the "delightful and enthusiastic" women of Argelius IV to Jack, a planet established as hedonistic in TOS: "Wolf in the Fold".
- The makers of the series keep tormenting us with the idiotic back story that the Titan-A is a refit of Riker's Luna-class Titan, which was totally different in shape and size. This week, Picard and Shaw explicitly refer to the nacelle shields being essentially still the same. This is like building a compact car into an SUV with bigger wheels and keeping the brakes!
- There are two possible reasons why the ship is dead in the water when it drifts towards the gravity well. Either its warp core and/or power distribution network is damaged, or it has lost its energy supply in the form of antimatter and/or deuterium. The energy surge from the anomaly obviously not only provides momentary power for the ship to escape; it also restores the energy status for the Titan to go to warp again - immediately! So it is safe to say that there was no damage to the power system (irrespective of possible statements that may indicate just that). But if the ship had lost its power supplies, the energy from the anomaly couldn't replenish it in a way for the warp core to work normally again. Riker suggests that after removing the nacelle covers it would be possible to channel the energy right down to the warp core. In other words, he says that the power transfer through the conduits can be reversed. So far, so good. But the warp core normally runs on matter and antimatter. Even if the plasma flow could be reversed, the warp core would not generate matter and antimatter to be fed back into the storage. Starships may have antimatter generators as suggested in the TNGTM, but this realistically has to be a system separate from the warp core that wouldn't be built to allow "quick charge" through the nacelles and main warp conduits. Also, aside from the bit about directing them to the warp core, the energy waves are just said to "jump start" the ship, so it remains pure plot magic how the power is suddenly restored. The problem is eased because in the following episode there will be a stopover in deep space to repair the warp core.
- How could Vadic know where exactly the Titan-A would emerge from the anomaly? And why is the Shrike still at the very edge of the phenomenon? Wasn't the order she received to go inside and search for the Titan, which is why she dropped the portal weapon?
- Since when is throwing things at starships an efficient weapon? Although I admit I was amused, it doesn't become more credible by being repeated in this episode.
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "I think we need to talk about the elephant in the room." - "Yes, of course." - "The hair. When did it go?" - "You're, uh, what? 23? 24? Enjoy it while you can." (Jack and Picard)
- "Look, you and I got off on the wrong foot. I underestimated you. You have great instincts. You're a natural leader, make a great captain one day. Which is something I totally would say..." - "If you were a Changeling and not just a dick." - "Now you're starting to catch on." (Shaw and Seven)
- "Excuse me, Admiral? You went on and on about your crew, your life in Starfleet. Did you have a life outside of that? What about a real family?" - "Young man, Starfleet has been the only family I have ever needed." (Unknown young man, actually Jack, and Picard five years ago)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "You know, there will be a time when you will need to remember that, no matter how bleak or unwinnable a situation, as long as you and your crew remain steadfast in your dedication, one to another, you are never ever... without hope." (Picard, in Ten Forward)
- "I watched the coffin being lowered into the ground. It was only six feet, but it was so dark. It was like infinite emptiness. And you and I have traveled to the far reaches of space, and yet there's nothing, nothing that proved to me that there is anything... after. And I've tried to shake that. Deanna, as you know, feels everything. But she couldn't live with me feeling nothing. And neither could I, which is why I left and I came here. I was running from this. Only to find it again." (Riker)
- "We could hitch a ride out of here." (Picard)
- "So let's do what we've spent our entire life learning to be great at." (Beverly)
- "I think we should boldly get the hell out of here." (Riker)
- Remarkable fact: On stardate 44002.3, Shaw was on the USS Constance, as a "grease monkey" in engineering. 50 engineers were waiting in front of a lifeboat. A lieutenant came and seemingly randomly selected the lucky ten to be admitted to the lifeboat. Shaw was number ten. She didn't count herself.
Stardate 78186.03: As the Titan's engine system is being repaired, Riker transfers command back to Captain Shaw. He, Picard and Hansen prepare to answer for the charges against them. The USS Intrepid arrives, and a member of Starfleet Intelligence insists on taking a shuttle to the Titan. This officer turns out to be Commander Ro Laren. She orders most of the Titan crew to beam over to the Intrepid for debriefing. Picard still resents her betraying him 30 years ago. While the two are talking, Crusher performs an autopsy of the dead Changeling, who turns out to have been able to replicate internal human organs with perfection. She gives Picard a cue to trust no one. And indeed, as Picard and Ro are walking down to see the corpse of the Changeling, Ro suddenly points a phaser at him and they head for the holodeck. In the Ten Forward simulation, Picard manages to disable the safety protocols and pulls out "Guinan's gun" from behind the bar. He continues to accuse Ro, saying that she broke his heart, upon which she puts down her phaser and Picard does the same. They now know that the other person is who they pretend to be. Ro reveals that Starfleet has been infiltrated up to the highest ranks, and that she is sure that there are Changelings on the Inrepid too. She suspects they are planning some sort of attack on Frontier Day, the celebration of Starfleet's anniversary. She also says she has explicitly been ordered to retrieve Jack. Worf and Raffi are denied access to Daystrom Station, where they could find out what else besides the portal weapon the Changelings got their hands on. But Worf finds a contact of Sneed on M'Talas Prime, a certain Krinn, who may help them. They search for him in District Six, or rather wait for him to find them. Worf and Raffi are prepared and try to deceive the gangsters with a mobile emitter creating a hologram of Raffi. But Krinn anticipated that and apprehends the true Raffi in her hiding place. Krinn, a Vulcan, arranges a ritual fight to the death - Raffi against Worf. Raffi stabs the Klingon, and Krinn's henchmen confirm he is dead. But Worf assaults them and puts a knife at Krinn's throat. He has mastered a technique to control his heart rate. Krinn reveals that he has a key that could trick the AI guarding Daystrom Station. As Commander Ro leaves, her two security officers plant a bomb on her shuttle and beam over to the Titan, only to change their shape. As there is no time to disarm the bomb, she heads for the Intrepid's port nacelle to buy the Titan more time. The shuttle explodes, and the Changeling-controlled Intrepid prepares to fire on the Titan. Shaw hesitates but finally gives the order to warp away. Before she left, Ro gave Picard a Bajoran earring that Riker recognizes as a storage device with all of her intelligence. A call from Worf arrives, whose handler was Ro Laren. In the meantime, Jack has killed no less than four Changelings, for which he has no explanation...
Last week's "No Win Scenario" set the bar pretty high for the rest of the season. The episode resolved a couple of issues and closed with a small happy ending. Considering that we know there are still Changelings around, it was clear that in "Imposters" something would disrupt the deceptive peace. I like very much that this happens in a sneaky fashion. There is a creepy atmosphere on the Titan especially in the first half of the episode, although or just because there is no immediate threat and no sign of Changeling activity.
The appearance of Michelle Forbes as Ro Laren is another one of those well-kept secrets that I would never have wanted to be spoiled about. I was totally baffled when I saw her. Is that...? Show me your nose! Please! And then Riker spoke it out. Wow. I am sure I am not the only one who always had Ro on the short list of characters that just have to appear again. And I am even more happy that her return is accomplished in a way that is far more than just fan service. I think it makes the more sense the longer she is talking with Picard.
Actually, I was skeptical at first because Picard was being unusually hostile towards her. I mean, it has been thirty years, more than enough time for him to forgive, understand or at least overthink what she did and why. And even if he is not willing to make his peace with her betraying his trust a long time ago, the least he could do is give her a chance to apologize. But Ro strikes back verbally and calls out how, in her view, Starfleet in general and Picard in particular tend to appropriate people. I recognize as late as in the holodeck scene that their mutual reproaches, while honest at the core, are exaggerated for a reason. Picard is mistrustful, and I think the feeling that there may be something wrong with Ro predates the cue that Beverly gives him about her possibly being a Changeling, whether it is conscious or not. He is particularly harsh on her because he knows only the true Ro Laren would be hurt by his reproaches. Best scene in the season so far!
Ro Laren is killed off as so many dear legacy characters on the show before her, thinking of Icheb, Maddox, Hugh or Q, not to mention Picard himself and Data (sort of). But her death is not gratuitous and does not have the air of it being a symbol of the demise of the old Trek, as especially in the first three mentioned cases. As sad as it is to lose the character, it contributes greatly to the story. I think Michelle Forbes as Ro Laren has the most memorable guest appearance in all of modern Trek.
I would have expected it to be some sort of filler episode to set a few new things up, but "Imposters" successfully keeps up the suspense of "No Win Scenario".
What this episode doesn't accomplish is to move on in terms of other places. The Titan is still stuck in deep space, near the nebula where the ship arrived as long as four episodes ago. And even more clearly, although I firmly expected them to finally continue their investigation somewhere else, Worf and Raffi are still on M'Talas Prime and are still working off a list of criminals. At first it was T'Luco, then Sneed, later Titus Rikka and now Krinn, all of whom can conveniently be found in the block of the same district on the planet. This story is as repetitive as it can possibly get. Fortunately they finally contact the outside world in this episode!
I love the chemistry between Raffi and Worf, and I admit I somehow have a soft spot for the motif of characters that are working towards a common goal with very different approaches. But Raffi's eagerness clashes too frequently and ostentatiously with Worf's composure. Their quibbles are becoming less interesting every week, just like their continuing mission to find shady criminals in the shabby District Six.
I know many fans like Shaw very much, but in my view he is a nuisance every time he appears in this episode, and in every possible way. I wouldn't have expected him to become amiable, but considering all that his ship and his crew have been through, shouldn't that have changed at least a little bit in him? Shouldn't he be attentive instead of going back to business as usual, considering the Changeling situation on his ship? Shouldn't he finally have learned to listen to his guests, instead of calling security when the admiral makes a request? Shaw's mention of Picard's and Riker's alleged screw-ups was still meant to be on the funny side. The bad thing is he means what just sounds sarcastic, and overall I have the impression he has become even more misanthropic than at the beginning of the season.
Jack's visions continue to be visually impressive and very creepy, as already last week. At one point he has a nightmare in a nightmare, not unlike his father at the beginning of "First Contact", but even though I usually don't like to be fooled like that, it all worked very well to visualize the mental trouble of the young man. The question "Who is Jack?" was answered quickly and predictably, the one "What is Jack?" seems to be more interesting. The fact that he mutates to a superhero and kills four Changelings, on the other hand, is rather disappointing. The exact same already happened with Dahj and Soji in the first season. Moreover, I think that Trek shouldn't assign so much significance to brute force when mental strength is much more important, as various examples from the very same episode, including Worf's meditation techniques, demonstrate impressively.
Speaking of clichés that the story of this season reiterates, once again Starfleet has been infiltrated by a villain whose goal is to destroy the organization from within. This is a recurring motif in modern-day Star Trek. I can tell already now that season 3 of Picard is the best of the bunch. It is an exciting, well-acted, well-directed, emotionally strong and visually appealing spy thriller. But for the reasons mentioned in the above couple of paragraphs, it so far is not very imaginative.
- The central part of Daystrom station looks just like Jupiter station, established in VOY: "Life Line".
- Besides Krinn, the list of persons of interest that Worf accesses contains a certain Larell of Renhia, T'Luco of Romulus, Morn of Luria, Brunt of Ferenginar and Thadiun Okona of Omega. It's a very small galaxy...
- Shaw reproaches Picard and Riker for crashing the saucer of the Enterprise-D ("Star Trek Generations"), for breaking the Prime Directive to support the Ba'ku ("Star Trek Insurrection") and for causing a temporal phenomenon in the Devron system (TNG: "All Good Things").
- Ro Laren's last Trek appearance was when she defected to the Maquis, in TNG: "Preemptive Strike", some 30 years ago in-universe as well as in real life.
- The "Vulcan-style" fight to the death, of course, is a homage to TOS: "Amok Time", including the faked death.
- Why does Ro insist on taking a shuttle? If the intention was to avert being killed in a transporter "accident" arranged by the Changelings, the bomb on the shuttle proves that it was a bad decision.
- Seven tries to hide Jack in plain sight by giving him a Starfleet uniform. If Ro Laren really had wanted to find him, I bet half of the crew of the Titan would have been happy to identify the boy.
- If their primary objective is to apprehend Jack, why don't the Changelings simply beam over from the Intrepid to the Titan while the crew is being evacuated? They wouldn't raise much attention, and Jack would be easy to find because he is walking around all the time.
- It is not exactly a nitpick but a weakness of the story that Beverly thinks she needs to signal to Picard that Changelings can now pass the blood test and that he should trust no one. Beverly somehow anticipated that Ro would prove her being a Solid with the old-fashioned blood test, although no one so far did it or only mentioned it in this season. This is a bit far-fetched. Also, her warning "Trust no one" is the very same she already issued in her first message to him in "The Next Generation". It is just a reminder, not the important clue that the story pretends it is. Considering that Changelings were able to pass all security measures on the Titan in the first place and kill a couple of crew members, her investigation provides some answers but is no reason to rate the situation as still worse than it already was. If anything, she should have warned Picard beforehand that Intrepid crew members might be Changelings.
- If Krinn was imprisoned at some time, how is it possible that nothing is known about him, not even his species?
- If the Changelings are everywhere, why would they still need ordinary criminals to break into Daystrom Station? Maybe just as scapegoats, but doesn't it overall raise unnecessary attention if they are planning something much bigger?
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "You know, many a rebel from all reaches of the galaxy have found their way to Starfleet. Perhaps you might consider choosing a more honest vocation." - "Starfleet? Me? For such a brilliant man, you haven't really been paying much attention, have you?" (Picard and Jack)
- "Your Bajoran has improved." - "Oh, I have been rehearsing this conversation for 30 years." - "You have no idea what it was like living under your relentless judgment." - "This wasn't about judgment. We had a bond based on mutual respect. Based on... you and I..." - "You and I what?" - "You betrayed everything I believed in." - "No. You wanted to mold me in your image. Your mentorship. Your affection. It was conditional." (Ro and Picard)
- "Reason suggests that you won't kill me because you need more information." - "My friend is bleeding pretty badly. How much of his impatience have you factored in there?" (Krinn, to Worf, and Raffi)
- "I'm giving you what you gave me all those years ago. A fighting chance." - "Ro, I do see you. Everything. Forgive me. It's only now." (Ro and Picard)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "Basically, when it comes to rescues from danger, you two have a real chicken-and-egg thing happening." (Shaw, to Picard and Riker)
- "Can you not put holes into my floor every time you need to make a point?" (Raffi, to Worf)
- "There can be no utopia without crime. Ergo, an organized criminal enterprise is logical." (Krinn)
- Remarkable ship: The USS Intrepid NCC-79520 is a new design, with the same type of nacelles as the Stargazer and Titan and with a deflector pod featuring an aft sensor array, according to Dave Blass.
The USS Titan manages to escape its pursuers (Starfleet and the Shrike) with the help of decoy transponders. Beverly tells Picard that Jack has inherited the Irumodic Syndrome from him, which explains the boy's nightmares. Worf and Raffi are beamed aboard. They say it is inevitable to break into Daystrom Station to get hold of the manifest and find out what else besides the portal weapon the Changelings stole. Riker, Worf and Raffi beam down to the station. With their key giving them the authorization, they have at most one hour before a Starfleet patrol arrives and finds them. But two patrol vessels show up much sooner. The Titan has to run and leave the away team behind. Picard orders a course to Athan Prime, the location of the Fleet Museum, run by Geordi La Forge. On Daystrom Station, the away team runs into holograms of a crow and of Dr. Moriarty and into musical cues that Rike recognizes. They were created by the AI of the station that turns out be yet another copy of a Soong android with elements of Data, B-4, Lal and Lore, built by Altan Soong but not completed before his death. At the Fleet Museum, Geordi rejects Picard's wish to clone the Titan's signature in order to provide a cover. He says it is useless anyway because ships communicate with each other, and the fake signature would not fool Starfleet for long. Jack and Sidney act on their own and, with the help of La Forge's other daughter Alandra, steal the cloaking device of the HMS Bounty. They activate it just as Geordi is going to beam back, leaving him no other choice but to support his friends. When the device overheats, Geordi knows how to fix it. A Starfleet patrol materializes on Daystrom Station, but the Titan has not yet arrived. Riker takes a phaser to give Worf and Raffi cover. The two are beamed aboard the Titan together with Daystrom Android M-5-10, who contains the manifest. Worf vows to save Riker. Geordi successfully activates the android, who says that he is and isn't Data. When asked what the Changelings stole from Daystrom Station, the android repeatedly says "Jean-Luc Picard", which everyone ascribes to a malfunction. But it turns out M-5-10 really means to say that they got hold of the remains of the admiral. Riker has been captured on Daystrom Station. The interrogator reveals herself to be Vadic. And it turns out she has a means to get Riker to talk because she has kidnapped Deanna...
Picard's third season gains pace as the USS Titan is on the run again. After last week's "Imposters", a comparably slow yet very suspenseful episode, "The Bounty" is marked by action. There is also a lot of character interaction. Overall, this is the most eventful and maybe most revealing episode of the season so far. What's more, this time I may not have a reason to complain about the static setting with always the same sparsely illuminated sets because we see the Fleet Museum (albeit just from the outside) and Daystrom Station (although it too is unnecessarily dark inside and less impressive than I would have expected).
The dualism of these two places governs the course of the story. Daystrom Station is for secret cutting-edge projects, the Fleet Museum for legacy tech. Daystrom Station contains a cabinet of horrors, whereas the Fleet Museum boasts a collection of historically important starships. Even Captain Kirk is sort of doubled because his body can be found in the former and his ship in the latter storage. Most importantly, Data is rediscovered on Daystrom Station, while we meet Geordi in the Fleet Museum.
"The Bounty" was announced big time as the episode in which LeVar Burton as Geordi La Forge would return. I am happy that he is back. We may criticize that the refusal to help his friends is cowardly (Is this why Shaw likes him so much?) and shortsighted (because when the Changelings kill everyone they won't care whether he supported Picard or not). But I can understand his position. And what he says about Picard conjuring up danger may not be the admiral's fault and may not be fair, but the story proves him right. The only aspect I don't like about their reunion is that Geordi clashes with his friend about essentially the same topic as Beverly and Riker before him (not to mention Shaw), that the admiral is taking too many risks. Even though he is right, the statement doesn't become more interesting or impactful by just being repeated by different people.
It is a pity that Geordi's return is overshadowed by the resurrection of Data, which in my view is a decision in poor taste. I really like Brent Spiner, and I used to rejoice every time he appeared on screen. Some 20 years ago, the actor made it quite clear that he wouldn't want to play an aged Data. This may have been the main reason to kill off the android in "Star Trek Nemesis" (leaving the loophole that he could return thanks to B-4). Spiner then reappeared as Arik Soong in the fourth season of Enterprise, an idea that didn't meet my approval at first because it seemed so contrived. But the story as well as Spiner's performance convinced me. Flash forward to 2020, and he appears as a reincarnation of Data and as yet another Soong in Picard's first season. The plot was unconvincing on many accounts and was only saved by the emotional touch. The next return of Spiner as the fourth(!) Soong in Picard's second season was obviously governed by the motto "Who still cares about it anyway?" At least, I didn't. As I mentioned, Brent Spiner is great but he can't save uninspired and implausible writing. The Soongs, Datas and Lores, in any incarnation or combination, are as dead to me as the proverbial horse. Perhaps Matalas and his staff will at least pull off a rationale for why Data is back, but so far it is very gratuitous in the story.
On a further note on Data's return, we know too well from the trailer that at some point Geordi will incredulously say "Lore?", which now has to be rated either as a counterproductive spoiler or perhaps as a red herring. Either way, it looks like Data/Lore will be more than a hard disk with a projector in the upcoming episodes but quite possibly also still less credible.
My impression of Jack has been an up and down in the preceding five episodes of the season. He has warmed up to the people on the Titan by now - and especially to the female crew members as it seems. Gone is his initial smugness when he enthralls Seven, Sidney and Alandra in a good sense, albeit not without an agenda. He certainly could and should have asked his dad, rather than seek other allies, but I sort of like his unconventional ways. And in the mindset of the clever kids it makes sense to unite to get something done that their stubborn dads would not approve of.
There is a lot of other character interaction in "The Bounty". Only the reunion of Raffi and Seven gets a raw deal and becomes unnecessarily awkward as Worf speaks for them. And Shaw seems to take a break. He hardly speaks a word and he is not even present during a few crucial moments of the episode; it seems that Riker and later Picard are in command of the ship again. I don't think this is bad, especially considering that during a TNG reunion it may seem appropriate for the only outsider to take a back seat. Still, it is inconsequential that Shaw, the notorious moaner, is so reserved this time.
There are two new revelations about the Picards, of which the one that Jack suffers from the inherited Irumodic Syndrome makes sense. This sufficiently explains why he has those scary visions. But the Irumodic Syndrome certainly doesn't give him superpowers. At least, I don't remember Picard as an unstoppable fighting machine. There must be something for which the Changelings need his body. And for some reason, they also need his father's corpse. This is tasteless, also because Section 31 or whoever runs Daystrom Station keeps the body of James T. Kirk as well. I expect a very good explanation for what is so special about them that it justifies desecration of corpses and may turn them into a weapon against the Federation. And irrespective of whether it makes sense this time, I want this to be the last story in Star Trek in which one particular person or family holds the key to either saving or destroying the galaxy. Or two families, the other one being the Soongs.
"The Bounty" is as full of fan service as hardly any live-action episode in the franchise before. The dead body of Captain Kirk is just a particularly gross example. I routinely complain about Lower Decks episodes if they contain an overkill of Easter eggs or of mentions of legacy starships or characters. Several sequences in "The Bounty" are like they are ripped from Lower Decks, which is pure pleasure in the case of the tour of the Fleet Museum but comes across as tacky in the case of the exploration of Daystrom Station. Overall, I think the story should have relied less on memberberries (or only on the few sweetest ones).
I am torn whether the many things I like in this episode compensate for the necrophilia of Data's return as a zombie and of Picard's dead body as a weapon, as well as for the smaller weaknesses of the story, some of which I address in the annotations. Even if I wouldn't mind all these problems (and I know many fans don't mind), "The Bounty" is not as well-rounded as the two preceding episodes. I hope it isn't the case, but it almost seems like the storyline of season 3 is beginning to fall apart as it becomes more complex, just as it happened to some extent in every season of Discovery and Picard so far.
- The decoy shares several features with the multispatial probe from VOY: "Extreme Risk".
- Raffi refers to Data dying twice, which happened in "Star Trek Nemesis" and in PIC: "Et in Arcadia Ego II".
- The eponymous HMS Bounty is the ship from "Star Trek III/IV", of course.
- "Pop Goes the Weasel" is the tune that Data attempted to whistle in TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint", the crow appeared in "Birthright I" and Dr. Moriarty in "Elementary, Dear Data" and "Ship in a Bottle".
- With the concept of the golem, the first season of Picard blurred the difference between humans and androids, and repeatedly mixed them up. Fans are still divided over the question whether the "new" Picard is just an android to which the admiral's brain patterns were transferred, or rather his actual consciousness in an artificially created essentially human body. The fact that Soong refers to his unfinished creation (with projector eyes!) as a "golem" is little helpful in this regard and will likely further fuel the controversy.
- Why does Daystrom Station remain totally dark, although the away team has been officially admitted?
- Does it make any sense to use an unfinished unstable experimental android to protect the extremely dangerous secrets of Daystrom Station and store its manifest?
- Why does Vadic keep killing her thugs? Just because it's something pulp villains love to do?
- Transport inhibitors seem to be active or not just as the plot requires it. Thanks to Ro's intel, Seven knows how to bypass (not disable) the ones on the station when Raffi, Worf and Riker are going to beam down. So far, so good. Then the Starfleet patrol ships appear and for some reason the first thing they do is to erect a transport inhibiting field, although they have no reason to assume the one of the station isn't working fine. And if they suspect that someone tampered with it, wouldn't they also beam down and search for possible intruders? Later, Vadic and her people from the Shrike beam down, so it doesn't seem inhibitors are active now. They too may know how to bypass them, or the two Starfleet ships that are still present are already under the control of the Changelings. But Vadic doesn't simply beam up the away team, which would have been a lot more convenient. Riker is captured because he gets tagged with a transport inhibitor. The rest of the away team, on the other hand, can be beamed up to the Titan, which precludes the explanation that the area where the android is located has additional shielding that would not allow beaming.
- The ancient alien cloaking device is small and handy and can be installed on the Titan in a matter of minutes. Just because this is a homage to TOS: "The Enterprise Incident", it doesn't become automatically credible.
- The cloaking device of the HMS Bounty is some 120 years old. Even though Geordi may have kept it in good condition, wouldn't Starfleet have long found ways to detect so cloaked ships?
- Interstellar travel in modern Trek is instantaneous, even without spore drive. This episode has a particularly ludicrous example. Picard tells the away team that they are 90 seconds away, while Geordi is still working on the cloaking device of the Titan, in a different star system as it seems.
- When the Titan arrives at Daystrom Station to rescue the away team, the ship is uncloaked. The cloak is only activated a second later. Fortunately the sensors of the two starships guarding the station are much slower than our eyes. But even if we accept that as artistic license, why is the cloaking considered useful at all for those few seconds until it has to be deactivated anyway, in order to beam the away team aboard? This whole sequence could have been a lot more credible, if ships in modern Trek did not stop immediately after a warp jump and if they had to approach a destination at impulse (or drifting), just as in old Trek.
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "How did you survive it?" - "I didn't." (Jack and Picard, about the Irumodic Syndrome)
- "Admiral. Permission to come aboard." - "Granted, Mr. Worf. It's been far too long." - "Eleven years, five months, four days. Minus your infrequent messages and the annual bottle of sour mead." - "Sour mead?" - "Château Picard." (Worf, Picard, Riker)
- "Have you any idea, Jean-Luc, how many Federation treaties this violates?" - "Well, I guess they'll just have to add it to my tab." (Geordi and Picard)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "Please don't spend time burdening yourself when you can unburden him." (Beverly, to Picard, about Jack)
- "For so long, my mother thought to protect me from you. To shield me from being collateral damage in the life of Jean-Luc Picard. Irony is... maybe I was doomed before I was even born." (Jack)
- "That young man is your son? Leave it to you, Jean-Luc, to turn fatherhood into an intergalactic incident." (Geordi)
- "You would believe in this if you believed in me." (Sidney, to her father)
- Remarkable scene: In a wonderfully uplifting scene Seven plays "Guess the museum ship" with Jack. When Seven shows her ship USS Voyager, saying that she was reborn there and found a new family, I was close to bursting into tears.
- Remarkable ships: We can see several legacy starships docked to the Spacedock-type museum, including a Constellation class, the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-A, the USS New Jersey NCC-1975 (Constitution class), a Romulan Bird-of-Prey, a Klingon K't'inga, a Klingon Bird-of-Prey, the USS Defiant NX-74205, two Akira classes, an Excelsior class, a Nebula class, a Miranda class, USS Voyager NCC-74656, an NX class refit and one or two more.
- Remarkable appearance: Alandra La Forge is played by Mica Burton, LeVar Burton's real-life daughter.