Observations in PIC: "The Impossible Box"

by Jörg Hillebrand and Bernd Schneider

Here are some observations about sets, props, make-ups and visual effects in PIC: "The Impossible Box", with special attention to continuity with previous Star Trek series and movies.


Chronological List

Observation 01

Wood appears in many forms and shapes in "The Impossible Box", more so than in any other Star Trek episode set in the 24th century. The floorboards in Soji's dream are made from wood, as are panels on the door to her father's lab. The floorboards are creaking as Soji approaches her father's lab. When she opens the door, we can also hear it creak noticeably, like an old wooden door would. Of interest is also the shape of the paneling on the door: it forms an "S".

Observation 02

Soji is holding the same plush animal that was already present in her quarters aboard the Borg cube in "Maps and Legends". In "The Impossible Box", it gains the name Squoodgy. The animal is seen a lot better later in the episode when it falls to the ground.

Observation 03

There's a futuristic light or control switch next to the door in Soji's father's lab. Door switches aboard Federation Starfleet vessels were usually less elaborate.

Observation 04

There seems to be a box of matches on Soji's nightstand.

Observation 05

A small wooden mannequin and a wooden hand (as already known from "Maps and Legends"), both helping artists to sketch the human body, are seen on Soji's desk. A similar mannequin, apparently made from metal, showed up in the house of cyberneticist Dr. Ira Graves in TNG: "The Schizoid Man". There's also a photo of Soji with her sister Dahj and her mother. A photo of Dahj or Soji with their mother previously appeared on Dahj's desk in "Maps and Legends". A sketch of a dream catcher can barely be made out lying on an old-fashioned spiral bound notepad. It's the same drawing that was also seen on Dahj's desk in "Maps and Legends". In the foreground, parts of a Spirograph are visible and the drawing on the wall looks like it depicts biological cells. It is similar to graphics of cells in "Unnatural Selection" and "Transfigurations".

Observation 06

This is the first look we get at the mess hall on La Sirena's lower level. The set features two tables with benches and a replicator comprised of a smaller and larger unit. On the left of this shot, on the upper level, the bridge can be found while the transporter platform is on the right.

Observation 07

The cups in use in the mess hall feature the emblem of La Sirena, just like the backrest and cargo crates since "Absolute Candor".

Observation 08

This shot is filmed through the open sickbay doors. The door shape, the windows next to the door, the small boxes in front of them and the round table are identical to how the set appeared in "Stardust City Rag". Picard must be leaving the mess hall through a door that leads to a room located under the bridge. The second shot shows the sickbay set behind Elnor and another comparison shot from the previous episode.

Observation 09

Two pictures are seen next to the entrance to Picard's study. The top one is "Veduta del Porto di Ripetta" by Giovanni Battista Piranesi.

The bottom painting next to the door is "Sir Neville Wilkinson on the Steps of the Palladian Bridge at Wilton House" by John Singer Sargent.

Observation 10

This is a nice view of the study showing the area with Picard's desk.

Observation 11

The holographic display in Picard's quarters looks very much like the well-known late 24th century LCARS display. The color of the display is similar to how it appeared in "Star Trek Nemesis". The words "Library Computer Access and Retrieval System" can also be read at the top of the screen.

Picard looks at images from several previous Star Trek episodes and films:

Observation 12

La Sirena is beautifully seen in these shots from early in the episode.

Observation 13

Rios plays futsal on the main deck of La Sirena, using a futsal ball with some unique markings. A futsal ball is a little smaller than a regular football (or soccer ball) but weighs about the same. The only time a football has ever been seen on Star Trek was in the TNG episode "Lower Decks" in Sam Lavelle's and Taurik's quarters. The script to the episode confirms that the white and blue ball behind Sito Jaxa is indeed a soccer ball.

Observation 14

The large upper deck of La Sirena and a glimpse into the lower deck, comprising sickbay (seen in the previous episode) and the mess hall (seen earlier in the episode). In the first cap, the replicator station where Elnor orders his food earlier in the episode can barely be made out. Stairs down to the lower level of the ship, located next to the transporter platform, are seen behind Dr. Jurati in the third cap.

Observation 15

Rios is drinking from a small metal flask, most likely containing alcohol. Zefram Cochrane drank from a similar flask shortly before first contact with the Vulcans in the eponymous film and Dr. McCoy offered a sip from his flask to James T. Kirk before taking a shuttle ride in "Star Trek (2009)".

Observation 16

The Romulan puzzle box is seen up close in several shots in this scene. The prop appeared all the way back on Narek's desk in "Maps and Legends".

Observation 17

Narek is drinking Romulan ale from a bottle similar to the one he shares with Soji in "Absolute Candor". The bottle also resembles the one given as a birthday gift from Dr. McCoy to Captain Kirk early in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan". The upper half of the characteristic label can be seen.

Observation 18

Narek seems to have re-arranged his quarters since we last saw them in "Absolute Candor". In that episode, the bed was on the right wall when looking towards the door, now it is on the left wall.

Observation 18a

One new feature of the Romulan make-up can be seen up close here. Some Romulans, like Narissa, have tiny rides on the side of their ears. As can be seen in the shot from TNG: "Face of the Enemy", this was previously not part of the Romulan ear make-up. Both Zhaban and Laris also show these small ridges or dots on their ears. Commodore Oh doesn't, as the shots from "Maps and Legends" reveal.

Observation 19

Narek's desk has also changed position since it was last seen in at the end of "Maps and Legends". There seem to be some tools or weapons lying on his desk in this episode. There's also a console now in Narek's quarters, similar to the ones in several places aboard the Borg cube.

Several objects are placed on Narek's desk. There's a Romulan disruptor pistol, seen a little later in the episode and much better in "Nepenthe", two Romulan knives, similar to the ones used to kill Dahj's boyfriend in "Remembrance" and a holographic projector similar to the one on Soji's desk, just folded together.

Observation 20

Narek is wearing a ring that can be seen nicely in this shot.

Observation 21

The puzzle box seems to be made of wood. As previously mentioned, wood appears numerous times in this episode in earlier and later scenes. When the box pops open, a small sculpture of a woman keeping her eyes closed with her hands is seen. This appears to be a reference to Soji, who cannot see the whole truth yet.

Observation 22

Narissa wears the same in-ear device as her brother. His was seen up close in "Maps and Legends".

Observation 23

This shot shows La Sirena at warp. The warp effect appears similar to how it does on Star Trek: Discovery.

Observation 24

La Sirena's logo is clearly recognizable on the backrest of Rios' Captain's chair. It first appeared in this place in "Absolute Candor".

Observation 25

La Sirena's two-dimensional controls match the three-dimensional controls seen since "The End is the Beginning". The interface echoes the ones aboard Enterprise in Star Trek Enterprise and the USS Enterprise in The Original Series. Raffi's bottle clearly reads "Whiskey" and most likely "Bourbon".

Observation 26

We saw Raffi last using her Orion "flashpipe", known as a hargl, in "The End is the Beginning". In that episode she was smoking snakeweed and the tip of the pipe did not glow green, like it does here.

Observation 27

The Starfleet Command logo, in use in the late 24th century, briefly appears on screen, now in red. On Picard, the logo previously appeared in "Remembrance" and "The End is the Beginning". Like in the latter episode, the vertical separation of the Starfleet delta is much less noticeable here than it was in the pilot episode and in Star Trek Discovery. See also The Evolution of the Starfleet Command Emblem.

Observation 28

Raffi's old friend Captain Emily Bosch wears a regular late 24th century Starfleet uniform. It is not mentioned she is located in this scene but the night skyline appears to be largely the same as Greater Boston in "Remembrance". Five buildings are a match, but the angle is somewhat different. Captain Bosch refers to a Romulan "250 year bad mood". This refers to first contact between the Enterprise NX-01 and the Romulans in "Minefield" in 2152 and the Romulan War later that decade.

Observation 29

While La Sirena is traveling at warp, the six cockpit side windows are covered with a blind. When the ship is later seen close to the Borg cube, those blinds are opened and the stars are visible through the windows. Something similar also often happened aboard DS9's runabouts. Adding warp streaks to the side windows in post production would have been costly and taken time, so the blinds were often conveniently closed when the runabouts traveled at warp. See also Variations of the Runabout Interior.

Observation 30

After it didn't appear in the previous episode, the Borg cube, called the "Artifact", is seen again in this episode.

Observation 31

Several aliens quickly walk by in this scene. One of them already appeared on the Borg cube in "Maps and Legends". In that same shot, an interesting Bird-of-Prey-like shape appears on the reddish Romulan wall on the left.

Another alien, quickly overtaking Narek and Soji, has not been seen before. Finally, another alien previously seen in "Maps and Legends" walks past a control point.

Observation 32

Raffi's quarters aboard La Sirena are shown for the first time, after Picard stood in front of her door at the end of "Stardust City Rag".

Observation 33

There's a small red sculpture of a hand on Raffi's nightstand. This is the third sculpture of a hand seen in somebody's private quarters. A white sculpture of a hand holding a sphere is on Picard's desk in his study and Soji keeps a wooden hand sculpture on her desk in her quarters aboard the Borg Cube, as mentioned above.

Observation 34

Soji uses the same holographic device she called her mom with in "The End is the Beginning". Instead of a hand-held device, it works as a tabletop holographic projector here.

Observation 35

Both the lines that appear as the camera moves through the holographic projection and the blue, green and red pixel clusters that briefly appear as the hologram changes appearance make the technology look rather 20th century-ish.

Observation 35a

Soji's father briefly appears in a very blurry shot.

Observation 36

La Sirena finally arrives at the Borg cube.

Observation 37

As Picard sees the Borg cube up close, flashes of his previous encounters with the Borg are briefly seen. In this sequence, only shots from "The Best of Both Worlds II" are used. They show Picard looking at the camera and during Borg procedures where the color of his skin fades away and becomes gray and a single tear runs down his right cheek.

Observation 38

As La Sirena is no longer flying at warp, the blinds covering the side windows have been removed and the stars are visible through the windows.

Observation 39

As La Sirena slowly approaches the Borg cube, one of the warning beacons surrounding the vessel can clearly be seen.

Observation 40

A photo of Soji and Dahj is seen up close. It is noteworthy how the twins comb their hair differently.

Observation 41

Soji has an "Adventures of Flotter" lunchbox. Flotter was mentioned in several Voyager episodes and appeared as a holographic character in "Once Upon a Time". A Flotter doll replicated in this episode also appeared in "Bliss". The lunchbox seems to have images of Flotter on its side.

Observation 42

Several photos showing Soji, her sister Dahj and her mother and diaries or scrapbooks appear in this sequence. One photo sticks out as it appears in nearly every shot. It is the first photo Soji scans with the device. It shows Soji, her sister and her mother wearing paper crowns. A crown was also seen on the desk in Dahj's apartment in "Maps and Legends". This might be a further reference to the five queen of heart cards Data put on the table in Picard's dream, at the beginning of "Remembrance".

Observation 43

Soji uses what seems to be a Romulan quantum dating device to find out how old the keepsakes from her youth are.

Observation 44

Soji's quarters feature several drawings in this scene that were already there in "Maps and Legends". Some drawings (including the one of her family and a dog) are seen for the first time here, however.

Observation 45

The cavernous interiors of the Borg cube were also depicted like that in TNG: "Q Who" and VOY: "Infinite Regress", in the latter only in Seven's mind.

Observation 46

Like in "The End is the Beginning", parts of the walls of the Borg cube are seen to be moving. In the earlier episodes, parts of the wall actually detached and flew across the hallway, however.

Observation 47

Picard is nearly overwhelmed by memories of the last time he was on a Borg cube. In contrast to the earlier flashbacks in "The Impossible Box", the ones seen here are mostly a little longer and taken from "Star Trek: First Contact".

Observation 48

A Borg drone is awakening in its alcove. This is a moment also seen in "Star Trek: First Contact" and several Voyager episodes.

Observation 49

Picard and Hugh last saw each other at the end of the season 7 TNG episode "Descent II".

Observation 50

Several Romulan medical tools in the room were xBs are treated. The scarred former Borg, sometimes missing limbs, eyes or hair, are reminiscent of the former Borg seen in the Voyager episode "Unity". Caps from several TNG episodes give an idea of how Romulan hand-held devices looked like in the past.

Observation 51

The shape of this holographic Romulan interface is very similar to one seen in "The End is the Beginning" and seems to be inspired by older Romulan graphics like the ones seen in DS9: "The Die Is Cast" and ENT: "United".

Observation 52

Some of the Romulan tools look rather archaic, like the ones seen in the first screen cap and the second one in the background.

Observation 53

When the gradient badges were first introduced early in "Maps and Legends", they were flat hexagonal pieces of plastic. Later in that episode, the badges suddenly appeared much thicker. The badges stayed that way until they were seen in this episode, returning to the much flatter version.

Observation 54

A cup of coffee is replicated using the small replicator in Raffi's quarters. Interestingly, the main part of the cup and the coffee replicate before the handle is created.

Observation 55

We get a better look at Raffi's small quarters aboard La Sirena in this shot. Her quarters are much smaller than the spacious Captain's quarters seen in "The End is the Beginning".

Observation 56

The Romulan writing can be seen up close in the shot of the puzzle box.

Observation 57

These Romulan dignitaries wear costumes evoking the Romulan senator robes seen in "Star Trek Nemesis".

Observation 58

The Zhal Makh is practiced in a room with wooden floorboards featuring a unique logo used for the technique. Like the small wooden stand next to the doors, this is another occurrence of wood in this episode.

Observation 59

To give the user some privacy, the two small windows in the only entryway to the room turn dark and opaque shortly before the ritual begins.

Observation 60

Rizzo watches the progress on an extra large Romulan console featuring two holographic displays.

Observation 61

The slanted roof of the corridor behind Rizzo (seen a little better earlier in the episode) looks like the roof of the Queen's chamber in the Great Pyramid at Giza. The shot makes Rizzo look particularly imposing.

Observation 62

Graphics of Borg cubes are known from several earlier episodes, including "The Best of Both Worlds I" and "Endgame". A graphic of this Borg appeared on the bridge of La Sirena earlier in the episode.

Observation 63

The orchids in Soji's father's lab are yellow and pink. In "Remembrance", Soji's sister Dahj described the orchid hybrid her father named after her as "Orchidaceae Dahj oncidium, yellow and pink".

Observation 64

Soji's father is seen a second time, again without recognizable facial features.

Observation 65

Soji finally sees her body, made of wooden parts, on her father's desk. Various objects made from wood show up many times over the course of the episode, culminating in this scene. This, of course, is a reference to Pinocchio, the wooden puppet that longs to be human. Commander Riker compared Data to Pinocchio twice, in "Encounter at Farpoint" and "The Measure of a Man", the episode featuring Dr. Bruce Maddox.

Observation 66

Soji's homeworld has two moons and constant lightning storms. Planets with two moons have appeared several times in previous episodes. Examples include Eden ("The Way to Eden"), Holberg 917G ("Requiem for Methuselah"), Nimbus III ("Star Trek V: The Final Frontier"), Peliar Zel II with its Alpha and Beta moon ("The Host"), Soukara ("Change of Heart") and Archer IV ("Strange New World"). Interestingly, the planet were Data was built, Omicron Theta ("Datalore") and the planet were Lore started a Borg colony ("Descent I") also have two moons.

Observation 67

The symbol on the wooden floor in the room where Romulans practice Zhal Makh is seen clearly in this screen cap.

Observation 68

The effect of the puzzle box releasing the red radiation shows some similarities to the round box release the thalaron radiation in the Romulan Senate at the beginning of "Star Trek Nemesis".

Observation 69

It is revealed in this shot that the device in Narek's ear is indeed a communicating device. Picard used a similar less visible in-ear communications device in the flashback at the beginning of "Absolute Candor".

Observation 70

We briefly get to see Hugh's point of view, featuring some Borg graphics. The blurry point of view of Borg has previously been seen in "Star Trek: First Contact" and Voyager episodes such as "The Gift". Also notice how the Borg interface appears in a darker hue of green than the Romulan interfaces, making it possible to tell them apart. The characteristic disk-shaped Borg letters are also visible in Hugh's point of view shot.

Observation 71

Hugh uses a rather large three-barreled flashlight aboard the Borg cube. In the TNG episode "Peak Performance" Starfleet crew members were also seen using rather large old-fashioned flashlights. Palm beacons were introduced a few episodes later in season 3.

Observation 72

Several green Borg interfaces show up in these shots. Screenshots from TNG: "Descent II", "Star Trek: First Contact" and VOY: "Unimatrix Zero II" show what Borg consoles and interfaces looked like in earlier Star Trek series and films.

Observation 73

This is the first appearance of a Queen cell aboard a Borg vessel. Previously shown specialized locations aboard Borg cubes are the transwarp chamber ("Dark Frontier"), the Central Plexus ("Unimatrix Zero II") and the central alcove, where the queen usually resides and her parts are stored ("Dark Frontier").

Observation 74

A series of transparent Borg PADDs or storage devices is seen next to Hugh.

Observation 75

The window blinds on the bridge of La Sirena are closed again, even though the ship is not traveling at warp.

Observation 76

The new Romulan disruptor pistol can be nicely seen in these screenshots. A different model appeared in PIC: "Absolute Candor". A comparison shot from the TNG episode "The Next Phase" shows the pistol from the 2360s and 70s.

Observation 77

Romulan blood is seen again. Like in "Absolute Candor" it is a little lighter green in color than it was in previous episodes and films.

Observation 78

Picard and Soji are using a Borg verseion of the Sikarian spatial trajector to escape from the Borg cube. According to Hugh, Sikarians were assimilated some time after Picard was freed from the Collective in "The Best of Both Worlds II". The crew of USS Voyager met the Sikarians in the episode "Prime Factors". In that episode it was established that the range of the spatial trajector is forty thousand light years, similar to that of the trajector used by Picard and Soji. The screenshots show the trajector in action, a graphic depicting the distortion (in the case of "The Impossible Box" most likely a stellar map) and the actual device seen in "Prime Factors".



Most screen caps from TrekCore and Trek Caps. Thanks to Philoust123 for a correction about the picture "Veduta del Porto di Ripetta".


Back to Observations index

View as gallery