Star Trek Picard (PIC) Season 3
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 these 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).
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.
The Titan hides in the Chin'toka scrapyard. Seven calls Captain Tuvok and asks whether he knows anything about Riker having been arrested by Starfleet, which he negates. She also poses him a personal question to ascertain his identity. Tuvok passes this test but then makes a mistake that reveals he is a Changeling. Considering that he is to open the ceremony for Frontier Day in 36 hours, Picard surmises that the Changelings stole his body and need Jack to create a genetically perfect doppelgänger. He and Geordi try to find out whether Soong's M-5-10 knows more about what their enemies want. But it turns out that Data and Lore are struggling for the control of the android, and all they learn is that there may be some "anomalous form" inside Picard. On the bridge, Seven receives a compromised prefix code originating on the Shrike, a sign that Riker was captured by Vadic. Picard and Jack come up with a trap for the Changelings. With the Titan powered down and Jack posing as the only survivor, they trick Vadic and her crew, who get confined behind forcefields. Jack and Sidney La Forge too get trapped between two forcefields, and Geordi tries in vain to beam them out. This is because Lore begins to take over the ship's systems. Beverly and Picard talk with the captured Vadic, who tells them that she and nine more of her kind were subjected to cruel experiments in Project Proteus on Daystrom Station during the Dominion War, which triggered their evolution. Vadic also says that Jack doesn't belong to his parents. As the forcefields are going down because of Lore's sabotage, Picard and Beverly prepare to kill Vadic, but the Changeling can escape. Jack and Sidney get separated by a forcefield erected by Lore, and each of them has to face a Changeling. Jack somehow manages to establish a telepathic link with Sidney, so she can kill her opponent. With the knowledge where the mutant Changelings were created, Beverly and Picard find a way to track them because of residue of radioactive thelonium-847. But it is too late. Vadic and her people take over the bridge of the Titan.
The episode begins with a big surprise, the return of Tim Russ as Tuvok, or rather as the Vulcan's Changeling duplicate. I really hope the real Tuvok will still appear.
Although the performances of Jeri Ryan and Tim Russ are great, the scene in which Seven exposes Tuvok as a Changeling is less convincing than it could have been. I can understand the intention. Seven asks a personal question that she thinks only the real Tuvok could know about (she beat him at kal-toh many times). This gives the Changeling a false sense of security, and he doesn't anticipate that she has prepared a second, less obvious layer of security. It is also a red herring for the viewers, especially as the Voyager theme plays after Tuvok gives the correct answer. So far, so good. But seriously, how should the true Tuvok have reacted to Seven's statement that she suggests Aklion VII as a secret meeting place, where she underwent a procedure to stabilize her neural pattern? Should he have declined with the words "I will not go to that place because they don't like Vulcans", and who is to say that Seven didn't need help with her neural pattern after she left Voyager (especially considering her time with the Fenris Rangers)? This may make more sense to Seven than to me, and it lowered the impact of the whole scene, whose otherwise only significance for the story is to establish that Tuvok has been replaced.
Another scene with Seven that doesn't work so well for me is when she reports the compromised prefix code that she just received but doesn't mention that it comes from the Shrike, although this is already being displayed on her panel. It takes Shaw and then Picard to explain to Jack that it comes from Riker. Although it is probably just a small continuity error that the display shows the origin of the signal too early, it looks like Seven holds back an important piece of information.
The whole flow of the story is uneven this time. There are discontinuities that throw me off. The most blatant one is when Picard says to Jack he knows how to get Vadic, and the next thing we see is how the Shrike approaches the powerless Titan in the debris field. First off, the previous episodes took place almost in real time, and it doesn't have to be bad idea to break with this concept and skip a few hours. It is clear that there was no battle and that the Titan crew has set up a trap off-screen. Yet, the screenplay unnecessarily tries to turn this into a mystery. Why is the hiding place of the Titan in the midst of the wreckage identified as "Open space, Alpha Quadrant" now, although it was previously established to be the Chin'toka scrapyard (which is not open space)? It gave me the wrong impression that I missed something. I actually had to stop and rewind to verify that the text overlay was just a deception, an error or an extremely badly communicated new setting. What's more, everything that must have happened in the meantime gets handwaved. How was Vadic notified of the position of the Titan in the first place? Where does the Vulcan warship (with fresh battle damage?) suddenly come from? Why doesn't Vadic simply beam over to the Titan? There's plenty more in the annotations. All this may be explained somehow but it leaves me puzzled, rather than excited.
Another disappointing story development is the takeover by Datalore aka M-5-10. I can understand the emotional attachment that both Picard and La Forge have to the android that holds the memory and personality of their friend Data. I too would not want to lose him, even though he is not more than a replica, technically speaking. But the very moment the incorporated personality of Lore got mentioned in "The Bounty", it was blindingly obvious that the android would cause trouble (and even much earlier, considering the bit from the season trailer that was released months ago). It is inexcusable that M-5-10 is not secured in any fashion, especially since Geordi himself admits that he is "infinitely more complex" than the old Data. But instead of keeping the ostensibly dangerous android deactivated, he and Picard simply can't resist opening Pandora's box, just out of a vague feeling that they might learn more about what the Changelings want. As Geordi tells his daughter Alandra (too late!), the chaos that Lore causes on the ship is in line with his character and as such would have been absolutely avoidable. I only hope it won't be revealed that the android was actually manipulated by the Changelings because although Vadic's apparent plan to be captured would make more sense, this would be very contrived on top of everything.
On a positive note, as tired as I am of Datas, Lores and Soongs (and of the latter two causing predictable trouble), it is still a pleasure to watch Brent Spiner as the evil android after so many years. I also like how he gets across the frequent switches between Data and Lore, without appearing as silly. Well, as I watched Spiner in this episode I was also a bit unpleasantly reminded of TNG: "Masks" (an episode in which he performed well but that he couldn't save). Kudos also to LeVar Burton for the gut-wrenching plea to the Data in Datalore.
The positive surprise of the week is Beverly. I know that after my initial praise I have been a bit harsh on her ever since she defended her hiding Jack from Picard, as if the boy had been better off with her. In "Dominion", she is very strong in her interaction with Vadic as well as Picard. She calls her moral compass into question but remains resolute.
Vadic probably has more screen time in this episode than in all previous ones of the season combined. And Amanda Plummer just knows how to use her time. Every line she delivers is poignant and illustrates Vadic's determination, her pain or her madness (or all at once). Even the rather monotonous monologues that Plummer was given never become boring. Vadic finally reveals her back story. And although her motive to take revenge on the Federation is where Khan, Shinzon, Nero, Khan and Krall have gone before, her recount leaves me satisfied. I could have expected as much, but I admit it surprised me that the Changeling was a prisoner at Daystrom Station and that she took over her human face (and perhaps her attitude?) from the woman who tortured her.
As tragic as her personal fate appears to be, Vadic is hypocritical when she accuses Starfleet of genocide. In fact, what she refers to as normal warfare of her own people was nothing short of genocide from the very beginning. I can understand Picard and Crusher that they don't start a discussion on which side actually started the war and also committed the by far most atrocities. It simply isn't the right time and place. Perhaps this debate would take place if this were a TNG episode. Anyway, the way it is written, "Dominion" requires quite a bit of Trek knowledge to understand the context and to put Vadic's statements into perspective, and I don't think this is bad.
New aspects are added to the mystery about what is wrong with Jack and/or Picard. Last week we learned that the boy inherited the Irumodic Syndrome from his father. But Datalore speaks of an "anomalous form inside Jean-Luc Picard" that Soong discovered and that calls the diagnosis into question. So there may be something alien about both Picard and Jack, although the admiral muses that the Changelings need his and Jack's bodies only to pass a genetic identity verification for Frontier Day. This leads to a dilemma because no one could truly want Picard (the dead one, not the golem) to be revealed as some sort of alien, something that was never hinted at as long as we know the character. On the other hand, it would be a bummer and would defy the principle of Chekhov's gun if there were nothing special about them except for the mere DNA to pass the controls. At least in the case of Jack, we know that he is not a normal human being, and can add telepathy to the ever-growing list. There are also at least three lines in the episode that insinuate that he was originally created by the Changelings. I don't know if I like the idea.
I like the little romance of Sidney and Jack, although the scene in the turbolift when she thinks of touching his hand, and he does touch her hand a second later because he hears her thoughts, is shown as menacing for no good reason. Any two people who feel attracted to or are in love with each other could assure Sidney that one does what the other one is thinking of, for which it doesn't need to be telepathic! At least, I don't believe in telepathy in real life despite the existence of such situations.
The casually mentioned departure of Worf and Raffi to some place I don't recall (and I don't want to look up right now) for some reason that may be important is another disappointment. It almost seems that, after being part of the main feature for two episodes, they are in the sideshow again. Their new mission may gain significance next week, but in that case it should have been foreshadowed in some fashion, like in "We need them to be successful [in whatever they are about to do]". Simply sending them away off-screen is not the way it should have been done. And speaking of characters that don't appear this week, it is also frustrating that we don't learn what happened to Will and Deanna after last week's cliffhanger.
After just one episode with motion, "Dominion" returns to the static setting that has totally dominated the season so far. The episode is thrilling, especially in its second half. But all action takes place on the Titan, which itself is resting in a scrapyard the whole time. It feels like a bottle show in a bottle season. There are huge plot holes pertaining to the trap set up for Vadic. The highlight of the week is the revelation of Vadic's back story, whereas it is just dumb how Lore is given the opportunity to take over the ship. There are several more sequences that don't make as much sense as they could or that appear as awkward. This is clearly the weakest episode of a so far unusually good season.
- Continuity: The Chin'toka system was conquered by the anti-Dominion alliance in DS9: "Tears of the Prophets" and retaken by the Jem'Hadar in DS9: "The Changing Face of Evil".
- The gaping plot holes:
- Vadic's people pick up the fabricated subspace message (which is said to be a recording, explaining the delay) after the Shrike has already arrived at the alleged site of the battle. So there must have been something else that caught their attention in the first place. But what?
- Why the effort to create the message from the Vulcan ship? I don't think it's easy to credibly fake it, complete with embedded security codes. Also, while the name VSS T'Plana in the message has to match with an actual active Vulcan ship of that name (Vadic is well-informed!), the name on the wreck is most likely printed on its hull.
- Where does a Vulcan warship suddenly come from anyway, in a debris field of two battles that took place some 30 years ago? The ship is said to emit radiation, and there would have to be other signs that it was recently active and engaged in a battle, for Vadic not to become suspicious.
- Quite unlike the recording about it recently exchanging fire with the Titan says, the hull of the warship (actually a reuse of the much smaller DIS-style Vulcan ship...) looks like it has been resting and rusting at the scrapyard for many years (and yes, I know there's no oxidization in space).
- Since when do 24th century Vulcans have warships anyway?
- Wouldn't the crew have to add new damage to the exterior of the Titan to fool Vadic?
- How could Picard know Vadic would not shoot at the Titan prior to boarding, just to ensure that the ship really is defenseless?
- How could Picard know she would personally come aboard instead of sending some of her disposable people as she did before?
- How could Picard know she would take a shuttle, instead of simply beaming over?
- Even if he somehow made sure they would use a shuttle, Vadic's people have to board the ship with brute force, such as by blowing an airlock, which is a much better way than destroying the shuttlebay door. This means they could come from almost anywhere, and the traps set up for them in specific places would be useless. Unless the destroyed shuttlebay is still shown in some fashion, I think it is safe to say they entered through one of the many airlocks.
- Vadic insists on going over to the Titan on a shuttle, and she also ignores the warnings that it could be trap. Is it her plan to be captured in forcefields? Does she know that Lore would free her? Although it could explain why Vadic is ostensibly stupid, it better isn't true. It would be outrageously far-fetched if the Changelings, as they steal Picard's body from Daystrom Station, also manipulate the android - just in case someone followed the leads, got hold of the key, managed to break into the station and survived that, found out that the android holds the station's manifest, successfully reactivated him without discovering that evil Lore is in control and stupidly kept him active on the very same ship that Jack hides on and that they would have to find somehow.
- The Chin'toka system is misleadingly identified as "Open space, Alpha Quadrant" when the Shrike arrives. But this is not "open space". No less than two major battles were fought inside the system during the Dominion War, which is where the scrapyard realistically has to be located.
- It is possible that I got the location of the incident "wrong", and that the Titan is not supposed to be in the Chin'toka system any longer when the Shrike arrives after the alleged skirmish with the Vulcan warship. After all, the communication with the Tuvok Changeling may have given away their position. But that idea comes with further problems. Wouldn't the Titan need to go to warp sooner in that case? Quite a few things happen, but the ship is still in the Chin'toka system as Picard is talking with Jack in the ready room just before the big disruption of the story. For what it's worth, "Open space, Alpha Quadrant" could make sense in that case. But the question where the Vulcan warship comes from would be even harder to answer. Well, there is definitely debris besides that vessel, so the extremely lame explanation could be that the Titan went from one junkyard to another one that looks the same and needs a text overlay to establish it as a different place.
- Other nitpicking:
- Geordi says that M-5-10 aka Data knows more about the plan of the Changelings. Unless the burglars were talking about it all the time, there is not the slightest reason why the android would have any knowledge of what they want to do with Picard's body. Well, there is still the possibility he collaborated with them or was reprogrammed by them, in which case Geordi ought to confine or deactivate him.
- Why the hell does Geordi keep the obviously dangerous Datalore connected to the ship's computer, even as Vadic comes aboard?
- Picard and Crusher are determined to kill Vadic as the forcefield fails. It would have been a good idea to set the phasers to a high setting. They hit a few times with no effect before the Changeling slips through a vent, and as their beams hit the ceiling, they cause no damage at all.
- Vadic's disposable minions hardly ever kill anyone, but just wait to be killed themselves.
- Considering how rare and how incredibly elusive they are, how could Starfleet get hold of ten Changelings in the first place?
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "Why is Lore doing this?"- "Chaos. He loves the chaos." (Geordi and Alandra La Forge)
- "Are you and I so fundamentally changed that we're willing to compromise everything... everything that we've believed in?" - "Yes, I think I'm losing my compass." (Picard and Crusher)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "I'm as good as dead. Just like you." (Changeling, after morphing from Tuvok to Riker)
- "Data, you made me better. You did. You made a better man, a... a better father. A better friend. And when you died... it broke me." (Geordi)
- "The moment we allowed her to board, we invited death onto this ship." (Beverly)
- "Attention... crew of the Titan. You've proven yourselves worthy, I suppose. Not without guile. But what defense is formidable against the formless? I warned you it would end this way. You could have spared yourselves then where you are now. I did this not out of cruelty, but mercy. To be mutable, fluid, means knowing what the river knows: that there are many ways to the same sea. So here we are, where we were always going... to bring Jack Crusher where he most belongs. I am Vadic. Captain of the USS Titan. And, Jack, my dear, if you can hear me, it's time you learned who you truly are." (Vadic)
- Remarkable appearance: Tim Russ as Tuvok, or rather as the Tuvok Changeling
After taking the bridge of the Titan, Vadic shuts down the systems on the rest of the ship. With the bridge crew as hostages, she demands Jack to surrender, otherwise she would kill someone every ten minutes. Jack tells Picard and Crusher that he can enter the minds of other people, which Sidney La Forge confirms. Picard suggests to use his powers to get in touch with a member of the bridge crew to enter the override codex that would allow the admiral to regain control. But Vadic thwarts the attempt and murders Lt. T'Veen in retaliation. Worf arrives with a cloaked shuttle on the Shrike and liberates Riker and Troi. They find the body of Admiral Picard. It seems the Changelings extracted parts of his parietal lobe, but then the alarm sounds and they have to leave before they can finish their investigation. On the Titan, only the Soong android can possibly override Vadic's command code in time. The problem is that it requires to remove the partition between Data and Lore, without Geordi being able to support Data in his struggle in any fashion. But they have no other choice. In the mind of the android, as Data gets weaker and weaker, he gradually hands over his memories to Lore. Then Data vanishes. However, his gifts to Lore contained everything that made up Data, so he eventually becomes Data. Jack enters the bridge with a device that he says may kill Vadic but that will definitely kill him if she doesn't release the hostages. After Data has restored Picard's control over the ship, Jack activates the device, which is actually a forcefield generator that protects Seven of Nine, who has decided to stay, and himself. As the evac hatch opens, Vadic gets blown into space and dies. Worf and Raffi kill the rest of the Changelings. After destroying the Shrike, the Titan warps away to uncover the Changeling infiltration of Starfleet and to avert whatever they plan to do on Frontier Day. Troi feels a "darkness" on the ship and telepathically connects to Jack to see what is plaguing him. In his mind, they open the red door Jack always sees in his dreams...
I was disappointed with the two last episodes "The Bounty" and "Dominion". This was mainly because of contrived twists (yet another Soong/Data clone), offensive story elements (stealing human corpses), gigantic plot holes (countless unexplained mysteries about Picard's trap for Vadic) and plain stupidity (inviting Lore to take over the ship's computer). I was hoping that this dullness would be only intermediate and that the story would make more sense again. "Surrender" is not only a vast improvement in this regard. It is a payoff. When I watched it, it almost made me forget everything that irked me in the past couple of weeks.
First and foremost, "Surrender" is among the most exciting thrillers of the franchise ever produced and is a further step up from "No Win Scenario", the so far best episode of the season.
I still have a problem with Data's repeated deaths and resurrections. "Surrender" doesn't quite reconcile me with the contrived idea to bring back Brent Spiner in the first place and doesn't provide an in-universe rationale either. Yet, the end justifies the means. I think the idea of Lore becoming Data by receiving memories as gifts from him is great. It is a new stage of the evolution of the android, in a storyline that goes all the way back to "Encounter at Farpoint". And although it is debatable whether this new artificial lifeform really is Data, whose consciousness technically died, either in "Star Trek Nemesis" or in "Et in Arcadia Ego II", he clearly has everything that made up our favorite android, and more. I wouldn't have asked for this reincarnation, still I am happy with it.
There is only one thing that I would have done differently in the struggle between Lore and Data, which is wonderfully played by Brent Spiner. The way it is shown in "Surrender" it looks like Data dies, then Data is suddenly alive again, upon which Lore dies. This doesn't match at all with the dialogue that Lore becomes Data or that the two become one. In a much better visualization, the two would initially have to look more distinct. Data would vanish but then Lore would morph into Data. I can understand that for the sake of the drama it is not revealed what is happening until after Data's (third) death. But even with this constraint it would have been possible to show that there is only one program left, without visually resurrecting Data and killing Lore.
Many other pieces fit together now. Although their cloaked shuttle comes a bit out of nowhere, it is satisfying that Worf and Raffi are not sidelined but were gone for a reason. After they were sadly absent last week, we also see how Riker and Troi are doing as prisoners on the Shrike.
It almost seems as if part of the story development in "Dominion" was inscrutable or plain dumb so "Surrender" could shine all the more brightly. This eighth episode is much like a small season finale. For a moment, as the complete senior crew of TNG including Data is sitting at the ready room table, it almost has the air of everything being fine now. Season 3 of Picard is very fond of its symbolism and frequently preys on nostalgia. This time it strikes a chord with me.
I think it was just the right time to get rid of Vadic as a villain. Although Amanda Plummer's monologues never cease to be entertaining, at some point they inevitably become repetitive, especially considering how often she already demanded Jack to surrender to her. We also know that she is not on the top of the hierarchy, and the "talking hand" that no one of the crew knows about is clearly a more formidable threat than a shapeshifter whose knowledge, abilities and methods are familiar by now.
We will have to wait and see what Deanna finds out about Jack. As I mentioned in previous reviews, I don't like the idea that there is something alien about Jack. I also don't like that the writing of the whole series is totally obsessed with the Picard (and Soong) family secrets. At least for the story of "Surrender", it makes perfect sense that Jack would try to use his abilities, to get the Titan crew out of the trouble for which he is responsible in a way. It comes a bit as a surprise that his attempt to get the Bajoran bridge crew member to enter the code fails and that T'Veen gets killed for it. In some way, it is good to see the limits of his powers.
After two middling episodes, "Surrender" is a glorious return to form - thrilling from the first to the last minute and with some wonderful humor despite the dramatic events. I don't mind that it's another dark bottle show because this time it is the very nature of the story. The complete TNG reunion makes me happy. And even though I never asked for him to be resurrected, it is good to see that my favorite android is back as well. The mystery about Jack drags on, and the unpleasant but seemingly inevitable revelation that he is some sort of alien gets postponed. Still, I have only the best hopes for the final two episodes.
- Continuity: Will and Deanna talk about the terminal illness of their son Thaddeus, which made them move to Nepenthe (named after an ancient Greek "drug of forgetfulness") and stay there (PIC: "Nepenthe"). We now learn that they both don't really like it - and that Deanna used her Betezoid powers to ease Will's pain after his son's death.
- The visualization of Data and Lore's struggle is consistent as long as Data becomes weaker and eventually vanishes (dies?). But when Lore notices what has happened by accepting all the gifts, Data suddenly reappears as if he were resurrected, rather than integrated into Lore. Also, Lore disappears now. This doesn't look at all like they have been merged.
- How many Changelings does Raffi take on, armed only with blade weapons? Did they all lose their guns? Do these minions have a purpose anyway, except for allowing themselves to be slaughtered?
- Why is it suddenly so easy to kill Vadic? Last week, she morphed into extremely agile goo that was impervious to phaser fire when the forcefield came down. In strong contrast, when the doors on the bridge open, she remains in solid form and allows herself to be blown out into space without trying anything. Also, unlike Laas in DS9: "Chimera", she cannot survive in space. It is not clear whether Laas was the exception in this regard, or rather the "evolved" Changelings. In any case, it looks a bit like the crew of the Titan was just lucky that Vadic was killed because they couldn't be sure what would happen.
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "I've missed you, imzadi." - "Imzadi. I should have taught you another word. Yintaru?" - "Yintaru? What does that mean?" - "Baby of immense size." (Riker and Troi)
- "Deanna, I have counted the days since I last saw you, like waves in the ocean. Constant and unending. I have thought of your empathic gifts often during my self-evaluation." - "Well, that's wonderful, Worf!" - "Inappropriate!" (Worf, Troi, Riker)
- "The work I have done on myself, the level of sensitivity that I have achieved has been in more ways than one..." - "Is this a rescue mission or a continuation of the torture?" (Worf and Riker)
- "Well, tell me. How do you feel?" - "I feel... I feel." (Geordi and Data)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "One's personal space is a right." (Worf, as Troi hugs him)
- "Greetings, USS Titan. This is your friendly positronic, pissed-off security system. Back online. Unwanted guests and monologuing protoplasms, I am initiating an immediate shift change." (Data)
- "Get off my bridge!" (Seven, to Vadic)
- "It's been a long time since we all sat around a table like this." (Riker)
- Remarkable scene: It is obvious that Vadic will kill someone after Jack tried to enter the command code while in Lt. Mura's mind. A minion walks towards the timid Ensign Esmar, who has to get on her knees. Seven protests. Then Vadic turns to Mura, who reveals that he has a son but refuses to call Picard's son Jack for her. Vadic leaves him and puts her gun on Esmar's head - only to to suddenly turn left and shoot T'Veen. Although not totally surprising, this is the most shocking and stirring scene of the season so far.
- Remarkable trinkets: We see the Sherlock Holmes hat and pipe, an old tricorder, the Tasha hologram, a deck of poker cards and Spot.
As Deanna Troi crosses the door in Jack's mind, she sees something terrifying but doesn't tell him. Troi heads for sickbay, where Picard and Crusher are already waiting, and reveals that it is the Borg. Picard protests, saying that Jack doesn't have any nanoprobes in his body. Yet, there has to be something that the admiral passed on to his son. According to protocol, Jack has to be taken into custody, but he manipulates the guards and escapes with a shuttle. His destination is a Borg vessel where he confronts the Borg Queen. But he gets assimilated. On the Titan, Geordi and Beverly find out that the Borg left a genetic code in Picard after his assimilation 35 years ago, which is the reason why he could still hear the Collective. It caused similar side effects as the Irumodic Syndrome but remained dormant until Jack was born. The Changelings stole Picard's body to somehow weaponize the Borg DNA. Meanwhile, a big fleet of starships has assembled in Earth orbit for Frontier Day. Fleet Admiral Elizabeth Shelby on the USS Enterprise-F announces a demonstration of the fleet formation technology that links all starships together to act as one. Geordi and Data find out that the specific genetic code the Changelings extracted from Picard's body was added to the programming of the transporter system, so everyone using the transporter would become assimilated without their knowledge. The Titan arrives at Earth, and Picard tries to warn Shelby of the danger, but the communication gets cut off. A Borg signal activates the genetic modifications in all young crew members whose frontal cortex is still developing. They begin to attack the non-assimilated crew. The USS Excelsior is destroyed as the old crew members gain the upper hand. Shaw comes up with a plan to use a maintenance shuttle to escape from the ship. But he gets fatally injured. Raffi and Seven stay with the dying captain as Picard, Crusher, Troi, Riker, Worf, Geordi and Data board the shuttle and head for the Fleet Museum. Here, Geordi has a surprise for his former crewmates: He has restored the Enterprise-D after salvaging the saucer and connecting it to the engineering hull of the USS Syracuse. Using this old ship, which is not connected to the rest of the fleet, they hope to stop the assimilation somehow...
After last week's "Surrender", it felt like I had just seen the season finale. Although the mystery about Jack was still lingering and the threat to Starfleet was arguably still around, the episode had everything that I would have liked and had expected to see as a conclusion to this final season of Picard. The baddies are dead and the TNG crew is back together. Actually, with a few small tweaks to the storyline, we could have called it a day.
I'm not complaining that the story continues. However, in several ways "Vox" doesn't feel like it is the same story any longer. The underwhelming mutant Changelings are gone, and the much more menacing Borg are here - yet again. It is almost a reset button. Looking back, it is like everything that has happened so far has lost its significance. Whatever our crew did find out in the past eight episodes (such as how to identify Changelings) hasn't prepared them in any fashion for whom and what they are facing now. I find this very dissatisfying. And most frustratingly, the seemingly endless struggle with Vadic, who was trying to apprehend poor Jack time and again, is anticlimactic and out of proportion in hindsight, considering that he returns to the Borg anyway, apparently on his own will.
Even if the final episode should still provide a rationale for how and why the Borg and the Dominion work together to destroy or assimilate the Federation and although the latter are just junior partners, this alliance is hyperbole. Each one of these two enemies alone would have been more than sufficient to pose an existential threat to Starfleet. And as I'm not tired to reiterate, the Star Trek that I love most never heavily relied on villains anyway. The present-day Trek doesn't seem to know better.
In its third season, Picard goes over the top with the destruction of Starfleet. It is a theme that I am generally apprehensive of, as the story somehow has to continue after the disaster and may lose its positive vibe if it is consequential. After Wolf 359 (a little skirmish compared to what is happening now!), the recovery of the fleet was skillfully incorporated in stories. In fact, the whole storyline was so awesome that this season still profits from it, after as long as 35 years! Classic Trek also had the Dominion War and its aftermath that changed Starfleet and whose legacy persists likewise. But the obliteration of Starfleet has become a fashion by now. It happens about once in every in-universe decade. The last time we know of was in 2385, as seen in flashbacks in Picard's first season (discounting the averted disasters in seasons 1 and 2). With no new series in the time frame on the horizon, I doubt that the events of "Vox" will be wrapped up. My apprehension is that the finale will shamelessly gloss over that 50% of all ship personnel are dead and the remaining 50% are traumatized, like already in PRO: "Supernova II".
On a positive note, although it is a stretch that the Borg would build a genetic weapon which requires waiting for a still to be conceived child to grow up and although I doubt they would join forces with the Changelings, this explanation of the alteration of Picard and Jack works a lot better for me than if it had been a still different or even a so far unknown alien species. The altered DNA explains retroactively why the captain still kept hearing Borg voices. Also, it absolutely makes sense that Soong would discover this very secret while building the golem. And the idea to assimilate people as they are using the transporter is amazing. Perhaps this is also why Ro preferred the shuttle over the transporter. As much as I otherwise dislike the sudden revelation of the Borg connection in the story, it aptly connects all the dots, something that the two previous seasons utterly failed to accomplish.
I love the Enterprise-D like no other inanimate object in the whole franchise. I couldn't avoid the rumors about the ship making a cameo in the series, and so I anticipated what was coming when Geordi suggested to go back to the Fleet Museum. When the doors of the Spacedock opened, it should have been a reason for me to rejoice. But the moment when the Enterprise-D appeared and the scenes on the bridge that followed left me strangely unmoved (although these were literally the brightest few minutes of the whole season). One reason is that the ship's return is awfully contrived, in the same way as already the resurrection of Data. So Geordi managed to keep the 642m long (and most likely fully armed) ship in the belly of his museum a secret? Yeah right. Also, it is not exactly the best moment for nostalgic re-enactment and carpet jokes when you embark on the most desperate suicide mission ever undertaken. To my surprise, many reviewers complained about Worf's humorous remarks when he rescued Troi and Riker from the Shrike last week, so I think I am entitled to take offense by the forced happiness on the Enterprise-D. And this just scratches the surface of the problem I have with the fan service in this episode, and in this season in general. The storyline is decent, the characters are awesome, so why does Matalas push it so extremely hard that it becomes fan fiction of the most awkward kind?
Maybe I get it all wrong and the fight of the gray-haired crew with their "analog(!)" ship against the young Collective in their interconnected vessels has a symbolic meaning. Maybe it stands for the struggle of steadfast old fans against the modern soulless Trek? Who knows.
Although Terry Matalas attaches importance to his approach being entirely different and although he almost indisputably created the best season of the series with his recipe, there are some motifs (besides the Borg appearances) that pervade all three seasons of Picard and that I am tired of. First of all, Picard's medical or psychological condition is repeatedly the focus of interest, which this time does make some sense as mentioned above but which has become a pathological obsession. Secondly, season 3 inherits the fondness of symbols and music from previous episodes. However, unless it still gains a significance in the final episode, there is simply nothing special about Jack's memories of the arboretum, the flowers, the red door or the song his mother listened to. All that really mattered in the past couple of episodes were the voices and perhaps the branches, everything else was extraneous. Thirdly, I know many fans used to complain how often and how deeply Picard got humbled in the first two seasons, and pointed out how this allegedly didn't happen in the third season. Yet, in "Disengage" the admiral already got his share of unjustified criticism. "Vox" eventually turns it into a full-blown guilt complex: "He inherited the best of you and the worst of me". After this deconstruction I doubt that the series can realistically end on a positive note for the character.
Well, Shaw's life does end on a positive note. I actually expected him to die much sooner because he always seemed like the tragic antihero character to me. I hold no grudge against Shaw because, as I explained in a previous review, I can understand his motivation. I only would have expected him to overcome at least one or two of his many preconceptions. It is a nice touch in the story that with his last words he (expectedly) addresses Commander Hansen as Seven, but for him as a character it is too little too late.
As for the characters in general, their actions and statements in "Vox" are rather plot-driven and not as nuanced as in almost all other episodes of the season so far. The faster pace may excuse this to some extent. Yet, many dialogues seemed like "Look, I found out another thing." - "I'd say we're screwed".
A couple of things don't add up, although they are not necessarily inconsistent. After Deanna has seen the Borg in Jack's mind, she is not only a bad counselor and leaves without a word but also jumps to conclusions that I wouldn't have expected from her. I also can't understand why Jack would run away to the Borg. No person with a sane mind would do that. It should have been shown in a way that he was mind-controlled or at least obsessed with it, but he acts like a teenage boy who decides to beat up the bully who has been tormenting him. And it doesn't make sense that Seven is still sidelined and not involved in any capacity but normal business on the ship even after the Borg connection has been revealed. Finally, in a story that now is about the Borg, Jurati should at least have been namedropped, but somehow the second season of the series seems to be wiped out of existence.
"Vox" is overshadowed by the sudden appearance of the Borg and by an over-the-top threat that makes everything that has happened so far sort of futile in hindsight. The episode is thrilling, but mostly because the stakes are so ridiculously high. The fat memberberries are not my taste. But although I don't like everything that has happened and although I am apprehensive of what may happen, I'm looking forward very much to the series finale next week.
- Continuity: Picard famously heard the voices of the Collective in "Star Trek: First Contact".
- What exactly are the protocols that Troi cites that require Jack to be locked up? There is certainly something wrong with him and he may be part of a plan to destroy Starfleet on Frontier Day, but this is already known for some time. "I saw the Borg in his mind" is hardly evidence for him being suddenly more dangerous than he already was anyway. I bet everyone in the Federation has nightmares of the Borg.
- So the Borg incorporated that hidden DNA in Picard, in the hope that the old man (he was around 60 at the time) would procreate and they could exert their revenge some day with the help of someone else? Doesn't sound like a plan at all.
- When Picard asks why the Borg can speak to them, although there isn't any of their technology left in him, much less in Jack, Beverly mentions flocks of birds, bees or ants as examples of non-verbal communication. But that is beside the point. The ways that these animals communicate is well-understood and also wouldn't work across the vast reaches of space. The much better analogy would have been telepathy, with the possible explanation that the Borg may have taken the ability from an assimilated telepathic species.
- What happened to forcefields? Why can Jack simply leave the ship, without anything stopping him? And since when is there no other way to locate his shuttle than with the transponder?
- According to detractors Star Trek's transporter, this technology kills you and just creates a copy that believes to be still the same person. The mention of the transporter program that contains "common biology" to simplify the procedure may further fuel their argument. There is no explicit statement in the episode that DNA fragments (or cells or tissue) would be taken from a database and replicated, rather than transferred and reassembled by the transporter. Still, the mere fact that it was possible to modify all transporter systems to add one specific piece of DNA irrespective of who is being transported is evidence that this may be the normal procedure.
- Is the Enterprise-F really going to be decommissioned now, as could be seen in the news on Matalas Prime? It seems odd that a ship that is being retired would lead a fleet that has just been outfitted with the newest technology.
- Riker lampshades the fact that Admiral Shelby of all people would condone the Borgification of Starfleet. But what is the actual in-universe rationale for the obviously flawed idea to link all ships together with the fleet formation?
- When the young crew members get assimilated biologically, why does it look like there are nanoprobes in their bodies?
- With so many assimilated starships being around, it is a miracle that the shuttle can escape.
- So Geordi kept the Enterprise-D a secret and used the Spacedock like his private garage. On the other hand, if he had the approval of his superiors, it wouldn't really be a secret. Also, he would have told Picard, Worf, Troi or Riker of it and not waited for his most desperate hour to reveal the big surprise.
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "I have thought of so many names for you. Regenerati. Puer Dei." - "A fondness for Latin, I see. But I am neither your rebirth, nor a child of God." - "That is why you are Vox. Not Locutus, the one who speaks. You are the voice itself." (Borg Queen and Jack)
- "Data, could you try being a little more positive?" - "I hope we die quickly." (Geordi and Data)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "He inherited the best of you and the worst of me." (Picard, to Beverly)
- "I realize what I miss most - the carpet." (Picard)
- Remarkable scene: After Jack has escaped from the ship, Data wants to say something comforting. Picard replies that he might find that impossible. The android then puts his hand on Picard's shoulder, which seems to have a comforting effect.
- Remarkable set: Notwithstanding the bad timing to resurrect the Enterprise-D, I just love the replica of the bridge that Liz Kloczkowski and her team have built. It's perfect!
- Unremarkable starship: The Enterprise-F. I don't care for this pompous fat bucket. I think it is okay to use STO designs as background ships, but Shelby would have deserved better. Perhaps the Enterprise-E? But I take it Matalas hates the Enterprise-E, considering that its destruction gets hinted at only in an offhand comment.
- Remarkable appearance: Elizabeth Dennehy appears as Elizabeth Shelby.
- Note on the episode title: Like already in ENT: "Vox Sola", vox means voice in Latin. As Jack notes, the Borg are fond of Latin for some reason. There is also a common theme because locutus is the past participle of loquor and means "the one who has spoken". The title card of the episode is stylized with a tilde for some reason: "Võx". It is possible to write the "o" with a macron "ō" to denote it's a long vowel. But the tilde is no feature of the Latin language and has no real-world significance. In other words, it is wrong. At EAS, this episode will be written with the correct standard "o", unless there is a better rationale.
As all young people are being assimilated, President Anton Chekov issues a warning to all ships not to approach Earth. The Enterprise-D crew discovers a huge Borg ship that apparently emerged from a transwarp conduit inside the gas layers of Jupiter. This cube transmits the control signal for the drones, with Jack acting as the voice of the Collective. Picard decides that the connection has to be severed no matter the cost. On the Titan, Seven, Raffi and some older crew members retake the bridge and beam the assimilated crew into confinement. But the ship is still part of the fleet formation. The Borg cube lowers the shields, which to Picard is much like an invitation. As the sensors don't allow to locate Jack or the beacon, Picard, Riker and Worf beam down. To their surprise, they find dead Borg whose bodies are being consumed. The Titan manages to break the formation, cloaks, uncloaks and fires, thereby distracting the fleet and buying the Spacedock more time. Picard tells Riker and Worf to search for the beacon, while he himself is going to look for Jack. He finds his assimilated son and the Borg Queen. She says she has been feeding on dead drones after most of the Borg perished but now plans to build a new Collective, bent on annihilation. While Worf and Riker are fighting Borg drones, the Enterprise-D is attacked by the cube. Beverly successfully destroys the weapons array. Further analysis of Riker and Worf's data reveals that the beacon would have to be destroyed by taking the Enterprise inside the Borg cube. Although everyone on the bridge rates this as impossible, Data thinks he can do it. Spacedock has been destroyed, and the planetary shields of Earth are going down. The assimilated fleet begins to target major cities. Moreover, the cloak of the Titan fails and the drones escape from their prison. The Enterprise now targets the beacon, but its destruction would lead to a chain reaction. When Geordi offers to beam them up, Riker and Worf decide to stay and search for Picard and Jack. Picard tries to unplug Jack, but this is in vain. He then takes one of the pipes and assimilates himself to be able to talk to his son. Beverly fires at the beacon. Picard tells his son to leave with him, but Jack doesn't want to go. The admiral then says he will stay with him. Jack becomes conscious again. He, Picard, Worf and Riker are trapped in a section of the disintegrating cube that is impervious to sensors. However, Deanna senses where they are. The Enterprise arrives to beam them up. As the beacon is gone and the Borg Queen has died, the assimilated crew members are returned to normal. Admiral Crusher, the new Head of Starfleet Medical, develops a method to purge Borg DNA using the transporter, and also to uncover Changelings. Seven is ready to resign from Starfleet, but Tuvok plays a recording to her, in which Shaw recommends her promotion to captain. -- One year later, the Enterprise-D gets a spot in Geordi's museum. Crusher and Picard accompany their son, Ensign Crusher, to his ship. It is the USS Titan, now rechristened USS Enterprise-G, where he serves under Captain Seven of Nine and Commander Musiker. Picard and his Enterprise-D crew meet in Guinan's bar for a poker game as Jack receives an uninvited guest in his quarters: Q.
The stories of seasons 1 and 2 of this series plodded along almost aimlessly until an emotional finale gave them the significance that they had lacked so far. It feels a bit like the opposite is true for season 3 that had a well-structured storyline until the penultimate episode threw this build-up away for the sake of a more exciting showdown. I admit that as I am watching the finale I am not yet over the dramatic paradigm shift last week, which to me was both overblown and underwhelming.
So does "The Last Generation" reconcile me with the new storyline and dissipate my doubts and objections? Yes, as far as the Enterprise-D is concerned. I just love this ship, and even though I could have thought of a much better timing to bring her back, I enjoyed every moment this beauty was shown from the outside and inside. I would have liked to see more sets than the bridge. Actually, if the sequel series Star Trek Legacy that Terry Matalas proposed isn't a thing, I will subscribe to a retro show set on a Galaxy-class ship in the golden era any time!
The sudden replacement of the Changelings by the Borg was another main point of criticism of "Vox" - because there are much more original ideas than always resurrect the Borg if a hateful enemy is needed, but mainly because it makes the whole story of Vadic's hunt for Jack sort of futile in retrospect. Just as I suspected, the Changelings are only briefly mentioned by Picard and the Queen and don't appear in person again in "The Last Generation", except for the one who is very briefly shown as being exposed in the aftermath of the disaster. This aspect leaves me just as disappointed as last week. Also, if her actual client was the Borg Queen all along and not one of her own kind, it is a deception that Vadic would have to cut off her hand in order to speak with her, rather than use normal hardware.
Regarding Jack, it bothered me most of all in "Vox" how incredibly easy it was for him to escape. No one tried to stop him, although Picard was perfectly aware that he would fall into the hands of the Borg, who could then carry out whatever exactly their plan was. In addition, I recognize only now that Jack did not only run away like an obstinate teenager. It was not just incredibly stupid of him to pay the Borg a visit and get assimilated; it was more or less what he wanted for himself. Although we may argue that Vox, just as Locutus, is merely a figurehead for the Borg Queen, Jack seems to be able to speak and act for himself, clearly before his assimilation in "Vox", and still to some extent in "The Last Generation". In my opinion he is complicit in the murder of tens of thousands of Starfleet personnel, definitely to a higher degree than his father some 35 years ago in the smaller Battle of Wolf 359. The issue of his guilt gets conveniently overlooked. On the contrary, thanks to nepotism Jack even takes the fast track on Starfleet Academy.
Jack is an example of a more general symptom that Raffi lampshades when he arrives on the ship: "I still can't believe Starfleet saw fit to give a thief, a pirate and a spy their own ship." Maybe Jack deserves his chance. And I don't question that Raffi's and Seven's places in Starfleet are well-earned. But Seven herself demonstrates that her heart is not as much with Starfleet as it should be. When Tuvok speaks of consequences for her subordination, she defiantly says she will resign. Only Shaw's pre-recorded message convinces her to stay. A more allegiant officer would have reacted with "I am willing to bear the consequences".
Yet, the impression that these three may not be as committed as they should be is only a minor issue. Seven is still one of my all-time favorite characters. Raffi has grown on me in the course of the series, just because of all her flaws and lows. And even though the Borg thing casts a shadow on his character, Jack (played by the very talented Ed Speleers) just begs to be in a future show. I think their chemistry is great and a definite recommendation for Star Trek Legacy (which Matalas also promotes through the fourth wall: "Set a course for the M'Talas system").
One of my main worries was that, after half of Starfleet's personnel is either dead or suffers from PTSD, the series finale would shamelessly gloss over the enormous tragedy. And in fact, that is exactly what happens in "The Last Generation". We have to recall that the young crew members on hundreds of Starfleet vessels were turned into zombies but remained conscious and witnessed how they hunted and killed most of their senior officers. But as the signal stops and the Queen is dead, we are supposed to believe they are suddenly all well again, maybe just a bit numb. A whole army of counselors would be required to help people cope with the trauma. It is weird that of all people who may need it, it is Data who is seen in a counseling session with Deanna! And don't even get me started that Starfleet has to replace thousands of their most experienced officers, besides the mere technical tasks of salvaging the wreckage and building a new fleet and a new Spacedock. But everything is perfectly fine in the end, in the aftermath and ultimately in the after-aftermath one year later.
One particular gripe in this regard is that we never actually see anything of the massacre that is going on. There are no close shots showing hull breaches or people who are dying. It is all tiny ships firing phaser beams at the Spacedock all the time, more like a light show than like the absolutely horrific scenario it must be. I believe this huge problem could have been avoided by simply reducing the threat level and the amount of death and destruction by an order of magnitude. It would have absolutely sufficed if the enemy had had the potential to cause such a cataclysm, without it actually happening. At least, this would have enabled a true happy ending and not a fabricated one with a bitter aftertaste.
Terry Matalas is very fond of adopting plot elements from previous Trek shows and movies. In addition, he heavily borrows from a certain other sci-fi franchise when it comes to the fight in and around the huge Borg cube. The Enterprise-D maneuvers like a single-seated fighter, performs attack runs across the surface of the Borg cube, which has the size of a small moon, and "takes out those turrets". The ship then navigates the channels inside the enemy vessel and arrives at the
reactor core beacon, whose destruction triggers a chain reaction. And all this happens while a father is trying to save his son from the clutches of the evil overlord (although here it is the son who changes his mind). All these similarities are a bit too obvious and clearly lack originality. Actually, not just the Star Wars elements but everything in the plot is a tad too predictable. Real surprises are missing, and the Q appearance doesn't count.
Regarding the TNG crew, realistically no one of them would survive the fight against the Borg. On the other hand, I definitely would hate to see any of them die, or to see the Enterprise-D destroyed. In this regard, the story skillfully plays with our expectations as Picard and his crew repeatedly say goodbye to each other in this episode. Will someone die after all? I paid accordingly close attention to what they were saying. Or to what they were not saying. The glance that Troi gave Riker before he beamed down with Worf and Picard was heartbreaking and didn't need any words. And when Picard told Jack he would stay with him to the end, I was close to tears. Although it may seem predictable in hindsight that they all made it, they really got me worried while I was watching!
I also appreciate very much that everyone of the TNG crew plays an important role in the final battle, and also that everyone seems to talk with everyone else, like in a true ensemble cast. My only slight point of criticism in this regard is that Worf too frequently serves as comic relief in the finale. For Terry Matalas it seemed to be a matter of the heart not only to continue the story but also to undo alleged mistakes and bring back two sadly missing characters from the dead. Although I don't share this view and I don't think that "Nemesis" was all that bad, it was great to see my heroes and their ship in action again.
So was it necessary to bring them back? Definitely not. Did I ask for it? Uhm, no. Did I like it? Yes!
As happy as I am to see Tim Russ as the real Tuvok, it is disappointing that Laris doesn't show up again and effectively gets discarded like so many characters of the series before her. Also, Kestra Troi-Riker could at least have been namedropped. And with Guinan's bar being a key set in the season, it doesn't feel appropriate that she is not present once.
On a note on the post-credit scene with Q, I think it is uncalled-for in two regards. Firstly, it is a shameless plug for a new series, of which the season and especially the finale already had enough. Secondly and more importantly, it effectively invalidates what happened in PIC: "Farewell", an episode that I liked very much for its emotional impact that now has no meaning any more.
I have made my peace with some creative decisions of season 3. I can accept that the 96-year-old Picard suddenly has a 20-year-old son who acts and looks like 35. It is okay with me that Data is alive again in some way and that Geordi restored the Enterprise-D in his garage. But I still hate the darkness. I would go as far as ranking this among the visually least appealing seasons of all of Star Trek. Yes, it has its share of beautiful space scenes, but the underexposed real sets look unattractive in comparison with the bright and rich sceneries of Strange New Worlds, for instance. This is a pity because the set design, especially on the Titan-A, is full of wonderful details that are impossible to recognize. Finally, the exterior of the Titan-A or Enterprise-G will never grow on me.
Notwithstanding my many points of criticism especially of the two last episodes, I still think that Picard's third season is the best of the series, and also the best live-action Trek since 2005. I appreciate very much that the story focuses on the characters and honors them in way that has become rare. To me, the character moments, rather than the action sequences, are the highlights of this season. I also like the return of straightforward storytelling without endless sidetracking that serialized shows are otherwise fond of. Only the sudden switch to the Borg as the principal enemy was a major mistake that the two final episodes couldn't make up for. While I love the attention to detail in sets and the many Easter eggs, I find it annoying that homages are often in-your-face. I would have hoped for a bit more modesty in the vision of Terry Matalas, both on the screen and in real life.
Anyway, the consensus in the fanbase is that this is the best Star Trek in a long time, and the kind of Star Trek that everyone wants to see, rather than still more Discoverse. I am all with the desire for another series set in the 25th century. But I would want it to be more decent than the third season of Star Trek Picard - not another dark ten-hour thriller movie but an episodic series with diverse stories.
- The young crew members of hundreds of Starfleet ships were assimilated. All older personnel on these vessels is either dead or must still be trying to put up a fight, just like on the Excelsior and the Titan. But no other ship ever breaks the formation. So I take it most of them are dead.
- What happened to the young people on Spacedock? On Earth? People are using Starfleet transporters all the time. But Spacedock seems to be totally unaffected. Realistically, there should be a worldwide genocide with millions being killed by Borg zombies.
- Even if we assume that Spacedock and Earth are unaffected and "only" the starship crews were either assimilated or killed, this amounts to tens of thousands of deaths in space, plus possibly hundreds of thousands on Earth as the fleet attacks major cities.
- How could the Borg possibly hide a transwarp conduit and a 1 million cubic kilometer cube (a small moon) inside Jupiter? Sure, they didn't need to conceal their presence for long but for a dying Collective on a hardly operational and totally oversized cube this is quite an accomplishment.
- Jack and Picard both accomplish the fastest and easiest de-assimilation in the history of the Borg. The official rationale may be that no nanoprobes and "only" their DNA was used to link them to the Collective. Then again, we already know that for that it wouldn't even require a physical connection. Considering that they both have the DNA modification and are both standing next to the enormously powerful beacon, what more could the cable accomplish that Picard uses on himself? This is why it is well possible he injected nanoprobes into himself.
- The dying Borg conveniently have just the firepower left that the Enterprise-D can cope with and just the number of drones that Worf and Riker can handle.
- Was the Queen's plan to maintain the signal that controls the assimilated young people forever? The new way of assimilation isn't really sustainable if without that signal everyone returns to normal.
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "I've never felt anything like this before. It's like... a quiet suffering." - "So much pain. So much misery inflicted on so many. I hate them." (Troi and Data)
- "If ever there was better evidence that the past mattered, it's right here." - "How many times has she managed to save the world?" - "No doubt more than the years will allow three old men to remember." (Picard, Geordi, Riker)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "At last, Locutus has returned. To his true family. To his Collective. To me." (Borg Queen)
- "Then, if you won't leave, I'll stay with you. Till the end. You have changed my life. Forever." (Picard, to Jack)
- Remarkable opening: The first shot of the episode, as Anton Chekov is speaking, is taken from the beginning of the TNG opening credits.
- Remarkable scene: The poker game. I somehow knew this was coming, but I absolutely loved that callback to "All Good Things".
- Unremarkable starship: I already wrote a rant on the Titan-A's design and history after watching "The Next Generation". "The Last Generation" adds another chapter to the cringey story of this ship. Terry Matalas is obsessed with symbolism. For the season start he insisted on the new ship being named for and even being composed of portions of Riker's Titan against all reason, just because of some legacy thing that he wanted to push. But whatever was so awfully important about preserving parts of Riker's old ship and honoring it merits suddenly doesn't matter any more, as it is renamed Enterprise-G. Ships get rechristened all the time in real life, and I wouldn't bother if the fact was casually mentioned in the series. But after the unprecedented fuss (on screen and in real life) about this being *the* Titan and after all the ship has been going through under this name, it is self-defeating that it is now supposed to be *the* Enterprise. Also, if Starfleet really wanted to honor the admiral, wouldn't they name the ship (or preferably another one) USS Picard? And wouldn't a USS Ro Laren have been a much more fitting homage?
- Remarkable appearance: Walter Koenig can be heard as the voice of Anton Chekov and Alice Krige as the one of the Borg Queen (as already in "Vox").