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.
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".
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.
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.
There seems to be a box of matches on Soji's nightstand.
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".
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.
The cups in use in the mess hall feature the emblem of La Sirena, just like the backrest and cargo crates since "Absolute Candor".
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.
Two pictures are seen next to the entrance to Picard's study. The top one is "View of the monument erected by the Emperor Titus Vespasian restored for the new aqueducts of Anion and Claudia" 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.
This is a nice view of the study showing the area with Picard's desk.
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:
- The first image shows the USS Enterprise-E engaging the Borg at the beginning of "Star Trek: First Contact".
- The Romulan Continuing Committee featuring Praetor Neral from "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges".
- An image of a Borg looking at the camera from "Star Trek First Contact".
- Hugh in Picard's ready room aboard the USS Enterprise-D from "I, Borg".
- Hugh in the year 2399 aboard the Borg cube from "The End is the Beginning".
- An image of Paris (including the Eiffel Tower and the location of the Office of the Federation President) from DS9: "Paradise Lost".
- An image of a Borg on an operating table with Narek sitting on a chair watching the operation. Though this scene originally appeared in "Maps and Legends", the image more closely matches footages watched by Hugh on a holographic display at the beginning "The End is the Beginning". For that shot, another camera angle was used that matches more closely what is shown in Picard's study.
- An image of an unconscious xB with a bloody wound where a Borg facial implant that has just been removed used to be. The exact image does not appear in "Maps and Legends" but it is the same Borg seen in that episode.
- Picard as Locutus as seen on the main viewscreen of the USS Enterprise-D at the end of "The Best of Both Worlds I". The footage had to be mirrored so the effect of the image of Locutus and Picard's face would match. From Picard's point of view, it is like looking into a mirror, rather than at a picture on the screen. Knowing where the Borg implant was attached, he correctly touches his right cheek, so it is a match when looking through the screen.
La Sirena is beautifully seen in these shots from early in the episode.
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.
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.
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)".
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
Narek is wearing a ring that can be seen nicely in this shot.
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.
Narissa wears the same in-ear device as her brother. His was seen up close in "Maps and Legends".
This shot shows La Sirena at warp. The warp effect appears similar to how it does on Star Trek: Discovery.
La Sirena's logo is clearly recognizable on the backrest of Rios' Captain's chair. It first appeared in this place in "Absolute Candor".
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
After it didn't appear in the previous episode, the Borg cube, called the "Artifact", is seen again in this episode.
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.
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".
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.
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.
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.
Soji's father briefly appears in a very blurry shot.
La Sirena finally arrives at the Borg cube.
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.
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.
As La Sirena slowly approaches the Borg cube, one of the warning beacons surrounding the vessel can clearly be seen.
A photo of Soji and Dahj is seen up close. It is noteworthy how the twins comb their hair differently.
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.
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".
Soji uses what seems to be a Romulan quantum dating device to find out how old the keepsakes from her youth are.
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.
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.
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.
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".
- Several pictures of Borg and of the assimilation procedure.
- One of the shots is odd because it is taken from Data's perspective when he awakens in the USS Enterprise-E's main engineering after having been taken by the Borg. Data's arm can even be seen in the shot. The shot shows an assimilated Klingon wearing the regular Klingon make-up of TNG and not the redesigned Klingon make-up of Discovery.
- Another shot from "Star Trek: First Contact".
- Another shot of a TNG-style assimilated Klingon.
- Still more shots from "Star Trek: First Contact".
- This shot shows Picard with a preliminary stage of his Borg modification, only covering a smaller part of his face. It is taken from "The Best of Both Worlds I".
- Two shots were newly filmed for this episode. They show the Borg drone that is seen activating in the following observation.
- The famous "eye drill" from "Star Trek: First Contact".
- Another shot of the not yet fully assimilated Picard from "The Best of Both Worlds I".
- Picard and the Borg Queen from "Star Trek: First Contact".
A Borg drone is awakening in its alcove. This is a moment also seen in "Star Trek: First Contact" and several Voyager episodes.
Picard and Hugh last saw each other at the end of the season 7 TNG episode "Descent II".
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.
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".
Some of the Romulan tools look rather archaic, like the ones seen in the first screen cap and the second one in the background.
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.
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.
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".
The Romulan writing can be seen up close in the shot of the puzzle box.
These Romulan dignitaries wear costumes evoking the Romulan senator robes seen in "Star Trek Nemesis".
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.
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.
Rizzo watches the progress on an extra large Romulan console featuring two holographic displays.
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.
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.
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".
Soji's father is seen a second time, again without recognizable facial features.
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.
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.
The symbol on the wooden floor in the room where Romulans practice Zhal Makh is seen clearly in this screen cap.
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".
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".
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.
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.
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.
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").
A series of transparent Borg PADDs or storage devices is seen next to Hugh.
The window blinds on the bridge of La Sirena are closed again, even though the ship is not traveling at warp.
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.
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.
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".