Josh’s Episode-by-Episode Analysis of Star Trek: Picard Season Two
Yesterday I posted my overall thoughts on the second season of Star Trek: Picard. Here now is my detailed episode-by-episode analysis. Engage:
01 — “The Star Gazer”
- This season premiere functions as somewhat of a reboot of the series, and for the most part, I think they did a great job at course-correcting from season two’s most egregious mistakes. I was thrilled that we returned to a happier, more optimistic future as opposed to the dour depiction in season one. Picard (and all the main characters) seem to be back in the fold of Starfleet and the Federation. The Federation’s fear-induced and racist anti-Synthetics law has been repealed, and their xenophobic fear of Romulans seems to have been corrected (with the Romulan Elnor seen graduating from Starfleet Academy). Instead of an angry cursing Admiral we get a friendly Admiral who welcomes Picard’s involvement. A focus-point for the bad decisions in season one for me was the dull and uninspired look of the Federation fleet as seen in the season one finale — generic, almost-identical-looking ships that didn’t include any familiar designs. And so I was delighted that when we see Starfleet assembled to take on the new Borg incursion, we got to see a totally different looking fleet, filled with familiar-looking ships — Sovereign class vessels like the USS Enterprise-E! The first-ever live-action appearance of the Luna class (like Will Riker’s USS Titan, designed for book covers and then depicted in animation on Lower Decks)! Updated versions of the Excelsior and Reliant-class ships! Akira class ships (seen in Star Trek: First Contact!) Starships from the Star Trek: Online game! And then there was the beautiful new Stargazer, a wonderful new version of Picard’s first command (as originally seen in the first-season TNG episode “The Battle”). I loved seeing Rios looking happy and confident in command, and still chomping on his cigar. I loved the look of the Stargazer bridge; huge and modern but with a look very inspired by the TNG movie-era Enterprise-E visuals. (And, thank heaven, the return of the iconic TNG Federation “LCARS” displays, seen all over the gorgeously sleek control stations that surrounded the Stargazer bridge.)
- I was a little confused at Picard’s status. For the first half of the episode we see him back in France making wine; had he returned to his status quo from the beginning of Picard season one? When Picard and Laris talk about his never stopping to have a romantic life, it felt weird, because hadn’t season one established that Picard basically spent the last two decades doing nothing but hiding on his family’s estate? But then later in the episode there’s a comment about Picard’s being in charge of Starfleet Academy now (which I liked as a good spot for Picard to have landed); so I guess he just beams back to La Barre, France, after each day’s work?
- Creating a romantic tension between Picard and the Romulan Laris seemed out of left field. I am intrigued by the idea that this season will explore why it is that Picard never settled down into a lasting romantic relationship with anyone. Though I didn’t love the hint that it’s because of something traumatic in his past with his parents. That feels a little too 21st century present-day to me.
- I was surprised that the show jumped almost two years ahead from the end of season one, though I think the choice works. It’s interesting to see the characters having moved on to new places, and I was actually pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed watching them reunite (such as Rios’ pleasant reaction to seeing Seven pop up on his viewscreen).
- I was delighted to have Whoopie Goldberg back on the show and the Picard-Guinan scene was strong. Ms. Goldberg seems a little rusty as an actor (she way oversells that first “Earl Grey, very hot” line), but it’s fun to see her and Patrick Stewart sharing the screen again together. I do wish some de-aging had been used here. Guinan looked identical in the 1800’s on Earth (as seen in the TNG “Time’s Arrow” two-parter) as she did in the 24th century, so it’s weird to see her so much older. (The line about El Aurians being able to choose to age didn’t really make any sense to me.)
- On the other hand, I thought they handled John DeLancie’s looking older much better — a CGI shot of him looking like he did back on TNG, and then a snap of his fingers to age himself to match the elderly Picard. I hadn’t been eager to revisit Q (I thought they wrapped up his character, and his relationship with Picard, so beautifully in the TNG series finale “All Good Things…”), but Mr. DeLancie was terrific as Q in the brief moments we saw him here. I’m interested to see where this goes.
- I liked seeing the display of former starships at Starfleet Academy. (At first I thought it was a display of ships in-service, to match up with the ships we saw the cadets being assigned to. We saw the Excelsior and the Stargazer prominently. But then I started to think it was a display of former starships that either had been lost heroically, or just retired heroically.)
- I’m mixed about seeing the Borg again. On the one hand, I’ve been waiting ever since “The Best of Both Worlds” for another truly great Borg story. On the other hand, I’m tired of mediocre Borg stories (which is what Picard season one wound up being). We’ll see where this goes…
- I didn’t care for the awkward comedy of Jurati drunkenly stumbling around the Stargazer’s bridge.
- It was weird hearing Picard saying “l’chaim!” I’m Jewish so I loved hearing it, but that felt like something that made the Jewish writer/producer Akiva Goldsmith happy as opposed to something Jean-Luc Picard would actually say.
02 — “Penance”
- In season one of Picard, I quite enjoyed the first episode but was then disappointed that the show settled into mediocrity (or worse). I have similar fears for the second season after watching this episode. This isn’t a bad episode. There’s nothing egregiously painful like I find in almost every episode of Discovery. But it’s crushingly familiar. Star Trek (not to mention all the other sci-fi TV shows and movies that have followed in Trek’s footsteps) has done this sort of dark, alternate timeline story so many times. Everything here is perfectly competently done… but nothing sets this story apart from the previous umpteen times we’ve seen exactly this type of story. (Even the look of the fascist rally at the end of the episode, with all those blacks and reds, seemed directly ripped off from previous depictions of this sort of thing, such as the Wachowski’s film adaptation of V For Vendetta.)
- My favorite part of the episode was the Q-Picard sequence that opened it. It’s wonderful to see John DeLancie (and to hear his beautiful voice) again. (In contrast, I was surprised by how raspy Patrick Stewart’s voice sounded. Time is rough on us all.) I was surprised by how aggressive both Q and Picard were towards the other. That seemed somewhat out of character for them both. Q’s meta references to “Yesterday’s Enterprise” and “In a Mirror, Darkly” were a bit much for me, but I smiled at both lines. I was sad when Q vanished from the episode. I hope it’s not too long until we see him again.
- I liked that the dark, fascist “Confederation” was not literally dark. Earth still seems utopian and peaceful, and this “Confederation” has clearly been more successful against the galaxy’s terrors than the actual Federation was — they’ve even eradicated the Borg! I liked all that. I enjoyed the references to Dukat, Martok, Sarek, and Ben Sisko. (And also what seemed like a reference to the M-5 computer from the Original Series on Dr. Jurati’s prison/lab display console.)
- While I understand that this motley crew is the ensemble on this TV show, it doesn’t really make any sense why Q would have chosen these people to accompany Picard into this alternate timeline adventure as opposed to, say, Riker and the crew of Picard’s Enterprise, who served together for almost two decades and with whom Q has interacted a lot. Similarly, while I understand it made plot sense for Seven to choose Rios as the first person to contact once she realized her situation (Rios’ ship was needed to get Picard & co. off of Earth and onto the next step in their time-travel adventure), don’t you think that actually the first person Seven would look for in this alternate reality would be Kathryn Janeway, or another of her cremates from Voyager? (Alternatively, if the show wants us to get invested in the idea of a Seven-Raffi romance, maybe she should have checked on Raffi first?) One could argue that maybe we’re meant to understand that Q chose all the key players off of the Stargazer’s bridge to accompany Picard, but that doesn’t work because Elnor wasn’t there.
- Interesting to see the Borg Queen again! The role has been recast for the third time, but new actress Annie Wersching does a great job. I can sort of buy the idea that the Borg Queen can connect to other Borg Queens across the space-time continuum. We know Borg tech is advanced way beyond that of the Federation, and the Queen’s unique interconnected nature with other Borg also lends some support to that idea. So I can accept that she’d be aware that the timeline has been changed. But I didn’t buy that she could, with a blink, precisely access the exact time and place centuries in the past when the timeline split. That was too easy and convenient.
- I was intrigued by the insights the Borg Queen seems to have into Dr. Jurati, calling her a “fragile teacup”. But how/why does the Queen know anything about Jurati? I hope this is something the show will follow up on.
- I liked seeing Elnor kick some ass when Raffi gives him permission to take out the evil Starfleet security guards.
- Fun casting of Jon Jon Briones — the father of Isa Briones (Soji) — as the Magistrate. He was great in the role. (But, again, wouldn’t this have been more fun if Seven’s husband in the alternate universe had been someone we already knew? Like Chakotay?)
- I’m not sure what the point of Jurati’s A.I. computer cat was, but I enjoyed hearing Patton Oswalt’s deadpan voice in the small role!! I hope we see more of this cat!
- Don’t think I didn’t notice the statue to Adam Soong, clearly hinting at a character to be played by Brent Spiner who I’m sure will be important when Picard & co. travel to 2024…
03 — “Assimilation”
- This episode (and 04 too) were directed by Lea Thompson!! Very cool!
- These three episodes have gotten subsequently worse in quality, in my opinion. Episode two’s retread of a dark alternate future felt “been there done that”, but this episode’s depositing the crew in what’s basically present-day Earth was even more boring and derivative to me. It just feels like a failure of imagination for a sci-fi show to move its setting to the present day. This was a new and fun approach when they did it way back in 1984 in Star Trek IV. But today, it feels like the most boring possible choice to me.
- I just don’t buy the set-up that Jurati has to allow herself to get sort-of-assimilated. The situation doesn’t feel nearly that desperate yet, and I just cannot buy that Picard of all people would ever in a million years allow someone to knowingly risk the nightmare of assimilation.
- That being said, Allison Pill’s scenes in which she slowly slips into assimilation were terrific. Very reminiscent to me of Patrick Stewart’s remarkable performance during the mind-meld in TNG’s “Sarek.”
- Is Elnor really dead? If yes, it feels like a waste of the character. If no, it feels like a silly fake-out. Either way, I don’t love the choice. (If we just didn’t have a place for Elnor in this time-travel story, then why not have left him in the 24th century? We saw him getting assigned to a different starship in the season premiere — that could have been where we left him, to revisit or not in the future as the writers chose.)
- Raffi is ridiculously panicky when Elnor gets injured — and then her reaction to Elnor’s death, and her anger at Picard, seemed way over the top. This is shockingly unprofessional behavior from someone who used to be a highly ranked Starfleet officer. This seems very silly to me.
- At the same time, Picard’s little “mourn later” speech seemed pathetic and lame. Not Picard’s finest hour. I wish the writers had written him something better. Here he seems cold and out of touch. We should see Picard feeling the loss of Elnor more — in season one, the boy was established as being a sort-of son to Picard!
- I liked seeing the sign for the Sanctuary District regulations in the park for the homeless. That was a nice continuity reference to DS9′s “Past Tense” two-parter.
04 — “The Watcher”
- Obviously the centerpoint of the episode is Picard’s meeting Guinan in 2024. They recast the role with Ito Aghayere, who does an interesting job. She really looks the part. But she just didn’t feel like our Guinan to me. Instead of the serene, unflappable Guinan, this Guinan is angry and depressed. On the one hand, that’s an interesting choice, and certainly Guinan has every reason to be pissed off at what humanity is up to in our present day. And I’m OK with the idea that this Guinan, 400 years younger than the TNG Guinan, might be in a different place. The problem is that we’ve already seen that Guinan was still the serene Guinan we knew when we saw her on Earth in the 1800’s in “Time’s Arrow”, so having this very different Guinan in between feels weird. Also, the choice to recast Guinan here only made Whoopi’s appearance in episode one feel more out of place. To me, either use Whoopi in all the timelines and let’s just all agree to pretend she doesn’t look so different… OR recast the role and allow someone new to play this ageless character. I felt cognitive dissonance that the show did both. But really the biggest problem that undercut every second of the Picard-Guinan stuff in this episode is that we know from TNG’s “Time’s Arrow” that Guinan met Picard in the 1800’s!! She should totally know who Picard is!! So it’s a huge continuity screw-up that she doesn’t recognize Picard here. (And don’t tell me that this is all part of a plan that the show-runners know and will deal with later. If there is an intentional story-point why Guinan doesn’t recognize Picard, something that will be answered down the road, then Picard should be SURPRISED that Guinan doesn’t recognize him. But he’s not! In fact, he doesn’t even want to tell her his name or anything about the future, for fear of messing up the timeline. Sigh. This feels like a huge screw-up to me and a big missed opportunity.)
- Paramount and show runner Terry Matalas actually issued a statement: ““Guinan does not recognize Picard in 2024. Fans might be briefly confused by this because she did meet him on Earth in 1893 in ‘The Next Generation.’ The reason that she doesn’t recognize Picard is that he’s traveled from a future in which Starfleet doesn’t exist, and therefore the whole thing with Data’s head in ‘Time’s Arrow’ never happened.” No, sorry, that explanation doesn’t work. Picard is in the past to PREVENT the change to the timeline that leads to the alternate timeline we saw in episode two. In this very episode he and Jurati learn they have three days, until April 15, to prevent the change. So in this UNALTERED timeline, the events from Time’s Arrow that took place in 1893 WOULD have still taken place, and so Guinan in 2024 SHOULD recognize Picard.
- Giving the El-Aurian ability to sense changes to the timeline a silly name (“Af-kelt”) and calling it a “time sickness” was dumb. This was better as a mysterious ability off Guinan’s, as opposed to this idea that she sort of has the flu. Also, Picard tells her that she can’t leave Earth because distance won’t change the time-sickness she feels… which of course makes no sense, because are we to assume that now every El-Aurian in the galaxy is sick because of this time-travel event on Earth? Come on. It’s far more believable that Guinan’s proximity to the event (both geographically in her being on Earth, and emotionally/spiritually because of her connection to Picard) does affect her awareness of something being wrong.
- While I’m complaining about Guinan stuff, seeing that her bar in episode 1 was #10 on Forward ave (10-Forward, get it?) was a fine little joke. But now seeing her bar in the same location in the past is a problem. It suggests that 10-Forward on the Enterprise was named after this bar on Earth, but TNG well-established that 10-Forward got its name from its location on the ship (deck ten, forward — meaning, in the front-most section of the saucer).
- I like the stuff between Rios and Dr. Teresa. I wish the ICE officer wasn’t such a heavy-handed, one-dimensional asshole, but I am A-OK with Trek taking a stand against ICE and it’s treatment of people who are not U.S. citizens.
- The stuff between Jurati and the Borg Queen is interesting. It seems insanely foolish that they leave the Queen alive and active, and that Jurati actually allows her access to the ship’s systems in order to fix the transporters. The situation doesn’t feel nearly desperate enough to warrant that, since the Borg Queen represents an existential threat to humanity were she to escape and get loose in 21st century Earth. Picard and Jurati seem quite foolish. But I like the content of the scenes between Jurati and the Queen; very reminiscent of the Queen’s attempted seduction of Data in First Contact.
- The dynamic between Seven and Raffi is great and I like this pairing. Again, I just wish what they were doing was a little more thought out. They seem so reckless and dumb to steal a police car and drive crazily through the city. These Starfleet officers should be better than this. (Either they should be able to be smarter and more cautious, or — as with Jurati and the Queen — the show needed to put them into a more desperate, higher-stakes situation in which their actions would be understandable because they had no other choice in order to survive.) Also: what happened to not interfering in the timeline?? Their crazy joyride across the city seems pretty high-profile to me.
- In a season that seems like a total rip-off of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, I was delighted to see the return of Kirk Thatcher as the “punk on a bus”!! That was delightful. The updated “I Still Hate You” song he was listening too was also a hoot!
- There were several other fun continuity nods, such as the glimpse of “Jackson Roykirk Plaza” (a nod to TOS’ “The Emissary”) and the sight of a young woman reading a novel by Tracy Tormé . (Mr. Tormé wrote “The Big Goodbye”, the TNG episode that introduced Dixon Hill. Jurati actually called Picard “Dixon Hill” earlier in the episode!)
- I’m intrigued by the “Supervisor” Picard meets at the end. Is this someone else from the mysterious organization to which Gary Seven from “Assignment: Earth” belongs?? That would be very cool!
05 — “Fly Me to the Moon”
- There’s plenty of great stuff in this episode — super-creepy scenes with the Borg Queen, an exciting sequence when Raffi & Seven help break Rios out from the ICE van, an interesting conversation between Picard and the woman from Gary Seven’s organization (the first on-screen canonical return to concepts introduced way back in TOS’ “Assignment: Earth”), and terrific scenes between Brent Spiner and John de Lancie. But it’s annoying to me that we’re this deep into the season and we still don’t really know what’s going on. I wish the show wasn’t using the tired “mystery box” approach and was instead actually explaining things to the audience, so we could better understand and invest in what’s happening. What is Q up to? What happened to his powers? How much control does he have over events and is he trying to help or hurt Picard? Why does the “Supervisor” Tallin look like Laris? What is the pivotal event that Picard & co. are trying to avoid or assist, and what role does his ancestor Renée Picard have to play in it? It feels like a complete failure of storytelling to me that the show hasn’t bothered to give us any of that information. It undermines, for me, an otherwise competently-made episode.
- It’s fun having Jonathan Frakes direct this Borg-centric episode. The Borg Queen & Jurati stuff is again excellent. I’m really enjoying the Queen’s attempted seduction of Jurati. Though, as I’ve commented before, Picard and Jurati come off as idiots to me for allowing the Borg Queen to have access to the ship’s systems — obviously she was going to use that for no good. And Jurati seems like a fool for allowing the Queen to touch her (because we’ve known, ever since First Contact, that the Borg can assimilate with merely a touch). Speaking of which, why didn’t the Queen assimilate the security guard when she touched him? She could have then sent him out to assimilate others, and/or he could have surprised Jurati and assimilated her.
- Jurati says she did her best to heal the injured security guard, though his spleen is in a box. But the dude is still fully dressed with his vest strapped tight, so… that doesn’t really make sense. (Was that spleen comment just supposed to be a joke?)
- I’m excited that the show is picking up the threads from “Assignment: Earth”. I loved seeing the smoky-doorway effect that Gary Seven used to transport himself, that was very cool! The Picard-Tallinn scenes were good, though I wish we’d gotten more information on what exactly is going on. I liked hearing Picard talk about Captain Kirk and Gary Seven. However, it’s strange that Picard knows enough history to know about that, and to know about the Europa Mission, but not know that a Picard ancestor was a key figure on the mission. Also, it looked to me like Tallinn recognized the names Kirk and Gary Seven. But if this show believes that no time travel we’ve seen before in Trek has actually happened — which is the lame and, to me, totally incorrect explanation for Guinan’s not recognizing Picard in the previous episode — then Kirk’s trip back in time to meet Gary Seven also wouldn’t have happened, right? So the show isn’t even being consistent with it’s own (misguided) rules of time travel. I suppose one could say that Tallinn never actually said anything to confirm she knew of Kirk’s encounter with Gary Seven… but wouldn’t she have mentioned something if she didn’t know that? Wouldn’t she have said, “wait a moment, I know of Gary Seven’s time on this planet, but he never met a time-traveler from the future!”
- It’s a stretch to me that we have Brent Spiner back again playing yet another never-before-heard-of Soong ancestor who is again present at a pivot-point of human events. (It worked for me when they did that for the first time on Enterprise. When they went back to that well in the first season of Picard it was a stretch, and now they’re doing it AGAIN with a DIFFERENT Soong here in Picard season two I think it’s REALLY a stretch.) But Brent Spiner is so great that I can forgive this. I’ve been waiting for Soji to reenter the story; I like the choice to have that actress play Soong’s daughter Kore here. And I LOVED the scenes between Brent Spiner and John de Lancie. Their face-off at the restaurant really sparked. (Though Q seemed very mean to Soong — I guess he’s forgotten the debt he owes Data from “Deja Q”?)
- Soong’s drone shield that he uses to protect Kore from the sunlight seem similar to the atmospheric shield we saw in the Confederation timeline in episode 2. I’m not sure what the connection is supposed to mean.
- Soong makes a face when Kore asks about her mother. Is the show suggesting she’s artificial somehow? That seems unworkable for what’s basically our present day. What is that all about?
- I liked that Rios’ friend Pedro gives a good two-handed Kirk punch during their escape from the bus!
- I loved seeing Lea Thompson, who directed the previous two episodes, on-screen here! She played Dr. Diane Werner, the chairman of the committee questioning Soong.
- The heist stuff at the end should be fun, but all feels very much like a rip-off of Mission: Impossible. Also, how did Jurati get into the party in the first place, since she hadn’t yet hacked the system to accept any of their IDs?
- More enjoyable than anything I’ve seen on-screen in this first season and a half of Picard is the hilarious voicemail message from Q that can be heard when you call the number that appears on-screen on his card. (I read on-line that it was worthwhile to call that number, so I did, and I was not disappointed.)
06 — “Two For One”
- A step backwards for the show. Not much happens here; it mostly feels like narrative wheel-spinning as the team futzes around at the Europa gala and then Picard gets hit by a car. The end of last week’s episode made me hope for some tense, exciting fun with a cool heist as the team Mission: Impossibled their way into the Europa Mission gala. But instead, they just breeze right in with no trouble. And what I thought was an OK but unexciting episode really turned sour during that hard-to-watch scene of Jurati singing. My eyes rolled almost out of my head. Just cringe-worthy.
- The Jurati-Borg Queen stuff really didn’t work for me here. Why did the Queen need endorphins to take full control? Why doesn’t anyone on the crew notice or worry that Jurati is acting so strange? Don’t they remember she got half-assimilated a few episodes ago??? The way Picard & co. treat the Borg Queen so cavalierly this season really makes them all look so dumb. This is one of the most dangerous creatures in the universe, and Jurati has been alone with her for huge stretches of time!! They should all be on red alert!
- Picard looks like a doddering old fogey at the start, when Tallinn points out that Picard keeps calling her Laris. Also, are we to believe now that Laris is Picard’s true love? I’m not buying it. (I’ve wanted Picard and Dr. Crusher to wind up together for decades, and that’s still what I want.)
- I did like the scene in which Picard met Brent Spiner’s Adam Soong. That scene crackled.
- However, the idea that Soong could pass as an important donor at the Europa gala is crazy, because we know he’s been publicly disgraced. (One could explain that by saying Q pulled the strings to put Soong in that position, but the show didn’t bother to actually show us that.) And then he hits Picard with his car, right outside this huge NASA event, and apparently just gets away with it without anyone noticing?? AND somehow the team gets Picard’s broken body out of there and manages to transport him all the way back to Dr. Teresa’s clinic??? Just ridiculous.
- I like Picard’s scene with Renée. It was nice seeing Picard back to being his inspiring, hopeful self. (But the set-up with Renée being such an anxious mess isn’t working for me. I like the idea; that even hugely successful people can have demons of depression and anxiety. But it also strikes me as being a little silly to imagine that Renée could have gotten so far, to be serving a critical role on this groundbreaking mission, and apparently be such in such a delicate psychological state. That rings false to me.)
- I did really enjoy the Easter egg when Picard asks Renée to tell him about the shuttle model hanging above them, as a way of centering her… and the shuttle (which Renée calls the OV-165 Shuttle) turns out to be from the opening credits sequence of Enterprise, in which we see the progression of ships that led to Cochrane’s warp ship and then starships named Enterprise. That was cool. (Also cool: a display behind Renée for the Nomad probe, from the TOS episode “The Changeling.” We already saw that the Europa mission’s control building was named Jackson RoykirkPlaza, after Nomad’s creator!)
- At the end, Kore learns that she’s apparently some sort of Frankenstein-like project, created by her “dad”. Duh? I wish it felt like Kore had to work harder to uncover her dad’s secrets. Instead she just walks into his lab, and all his files are open right there on his desktop. The staging is silly and makes her look dumb for not discovering this until now.
07 — “Monsters”
- Well, it was a surprise and a delight to see Jean Luc Picard talking to Gaius Baltar in this episode!! Battlestar Galactica’s James Callis makes a terrific guest appearance. Mr. Callis is a spectacular actor, and he really delivers here — his scenes with Patrick Stewart truly crackle. And Mr. Callis looks damn sharp in his TNG movie-era Starfleet uniform! (That’s one of my favorite Trek uniform designs — and it looks a hell of a lot better than any of the uniforms on any of the modern Trek series.)
- The basic premise running throughout this season, that Picard has some deep trauma in his childhood that explains why he’s never had a lasting romantic relationship, doesn’t work for me. I’ve never felt we NEEDED any reason for that; many heroic characters in many different media have not maintained a significant romantic relationship, whether by choice or not. And I just don’t buy that the Picard we’ve known all these years has this deep dark secret. Wouldn’t he and Deanna Troi have gotten into this at some point over the many years they worked together and she helped him through his other trauma (such as being assimilated into the Borg or tortured by the Cardassians)?? I also don’t buy the set-up that would allow for Picard to have this head-trip conversation with his father, learning truths he’d never known. If this is all in Picard’s head, he wouldn’t have access to any new information about what his father was really like. There are many sci-fi ways that the show COULD have used to make this more plausible. (Heck, TNG already did an episode, “Tapestry”, in which Q helped Picard understand a truth about his past — in that case, the positive effects on his life of his near-death experienced as a Starfleet cadet.)
- That being said, I loved the scenes between Patrick Stewart and James Callis, and I thought the ending, in which Picard discovered that his father was not the evil villain he’d always thought of him as, was moving. There’s a strong story there. It would have been helped by a better set-up (see the above bullet-point) and by not being undercut at the end by 1) the silliness of the idea that, in the 24th century, there was no better solution to Picard’s mother’s mental illness than locking her in her room (truly, do these writers understand ANYTHING about the basic universe of Star Trek??) and 2) the fact that we didn’t actually get full resolution to the story here, just a tease that there’s more to come (and a hint that young Picard unlocked the door to his mother’s room which undoubtedly didn’t end well). This episode would have been better served by abandoning the other subplots (like Raffi and Seven hunting Jurati) to really focus in on the Picard story, and by resisting the urge to continue stringing this story along for additional episodes.
- Picard references his ready room at the end of the episode, which made me wonder, were all the scenes with him and his dad supposed to have taken place in his ready room on the Enterprise?? The set didn’t look (nor was it lit) anything like the familiar ready room, either on the D or the E. I wish they’d done a better job with that. It would have been cool to have felt like we were back in Picard’s ready room!
- Picard’s mom predicting that one day he will give inspirational speeches had me rolling my eyes. That’s the sort of too-on-the-nose stuff I hate in prequels.
- So it’s revealed that Tallinn is a Romulan. Duh. The show treats this like it’s an explanation for why she looks and acts EXACTLY like Laris, and why she also seems to have the same crush on Picard… but to me this is unsatisfactory. Also, why did the show keep this a secret for half the season? The payoff is meaningless. I am not a fan of this mystery box approach — the show would have been better had we understood who and what Tallinn was from the beginning.
- I liked getting some backstory, finally, on the connection between the El Aurians and the Q continuum. However, the idea of drinking from that wine bottle seemed silly to me (and there’s no conceivable reason why Guinan, on her own in a dive bar on Earth, would be in possession of this important artifact). I assume the reason she failed to summon Q is because Q has somehow lost his powers again… but again, the show can’t be bothered to give us that info. The cliffhanger with Picard and Guinan being arrested by an FBI agent was uninteresting to me. (Our heroes are at a low ebb indeed if that dopey FBI agent is a real threat to them.)
- I loved hearing Rios quote Captain Kirk from Star Trek IV (“no, I’m from Chile, I only work in outer space”) but I groaned at his throwing time-travel safety to the winds by beaming Dr. Teresa and her kid onto the La Sirena. (Also, him calling the La Sirena “his ship” feels like the show forgetting that, when this season opened, he’d been Captain of the Stargazer for quite some time…)
- I’m glad that finally Seven and Raffi appear to have noticed Jurati’s “alarming behavior”. DUH!!
- The title, “Monsters”, feels like a rip-off of the identically titled masterpiece written and illustrated by Barry Windsor-Smith, also about an abusive dad, that was published last year (after decades in development). I hope I’m wrong and it’s just a coincidence.
08 — “Mercy”
- Picard seems old and weak for most of the episode, seeming helpless and befuddled after getting arrested. But at the end thankfully he snaps back into classic Picard form for his inspirational speech to FBI agent Martin Wells.
- I don’t understand why visual evidence of Picard beaming onto a street didn’t warrant more attention than what seems to be this one lone dude (Agent Wells) who’s keeping Picard and Guinan held in a basement storage room.
- I don’t understand why Jurati is still hanging out right next to the bar whose windows she smashed, even though it’s the next morning — so probably around 12 hours later. (It’s so that Seven and Raffi can conveniently encounter her, of course.) Then Seven and Raffi seem pretty lame for letting Jurati get away from them.
- I don’t love the shift of Aaron Soong into supervillain mode. It just feels so “been there, done that” to me. We’ve seen so many evil versions of Soong over the years. I thought it was cool when Enterprise did it, but here it’s one time too many for me.
- Wells’ past with the Vulcans was interesting, but I don’t understand why the Vulcans beamed away before completing the mind meld. (Also, they’re Vulcans with great hearing — they shouldn’t have been surprised by young Wells in the forrest; they should have heard him!)
- The revelation that Q is dying is interesting. The Q-Guinan scene was fun. John de Lancie is doing amazing work — he’s my favorite actor on this show! But I still don’t understand what Q is trying to do, and why, and I think this season would’ve been much stronger had they given us that info right from the beginning, as opposed to this “mystery box” approach.
- Rios and Dr. Ramirez are a fun couple, and I like their scenes. But again, it feels like time-wasting, and I continue to be surprised by the shocking lack of urgency among any of our heroes that 1) a Borg Queen is lose and 2) she has Borgified the systems on La Sirena, which could give her unstoppable power in the 21st century and also make it impossible for our heroes to ever get home. (When the boy complained that he didn’t feel well after eating the replicated cake, I assumed the Borg Queen’s tech had slipped something bad into the replicated food. I was surprised Rios trusted the replicators on his ship after the Queen infiltrated its tech! But the show didn’t go there.)
- The scene in which Raffi reveals that she’d manipulated Elnor to stay in Starfleet was moving. But, again, I feel that this should have been clarified much earlier, rather than being treated as a mystery to be revealed. That way we could have better understood Raffi’s actions and gone with her on this emotional journey of dealing with her guilt or grief, as opposed to just wondering why she’s acting so out of character.
09 — “Hide and Seek”
- There’s some fun suspense/action in the episode — it’s well-shot and edited, so there’s a nice exciting, suspenseful pace. Unfortunately the whole setup of the sequence falls apart once you think about it for two seconds. Picard & co. are trying to get to the La Sirena to stop the Queen/Jurati. So why doesn’t Supervisor Tallinn use her smokey-doorway teleporting technology to just beam them right into the ship? Why do they beam into the Chateau Picard and then have to fight their way out of there? (Tallinn even uses her teleporting tech mid-fight to beam away an injured Rios! So we know she has that tech! By the way, beaming away the lightly-grazed Rios seems so stupid. He’s not so severely injured that he couldn’t keep fighting and help! Why give up his help so quickly, when they should be desperate to stop the Queen?!!) On the subject of Tallinn’s tech, I’m bummed she resorted to using a plain old big gun, rather than any of the much cooler and unusual tech that Gary Seven used back in “Assignment: Earth.” As usual, this modern Trek show resorts to the obvious choice as opposed to 1) any more interesting or creative ideas or 2) actually paying attention to established Trek continuity. Sigh.
- I guess we don’t care about the time travel paradox of our crew’s killing all of Jurati’s Borgified soldiers?? Have they already changed so much in the past that they just don’t care? Are they assuming Q will put everything right in the end?? (Or are the writers playing this as an alternate timeline, so nothing matters? Remember, for some reason this Guinan never met Picard in the 1800s, so maybe none of this is supposed to sync with the “real” timeline?? That would explain why the Chateau Picard in the 24th century doesn’t still have the corpses of the soldiers they beamed into the walls of the basement. I wish the writers had bothered to actually explain the rules of this season-long time-travel story to the audience.)
- I like the idea that Jurati and the Queen are going to combine to build a “better Borg” — a collective based on willing participation and mutual cohesion rather than the Queen’s former, cold, use-and-discard approach to her drones. That’s a cool idea. But wowsers it took us WAY too long to get here.
- Same goes for Picard’s emotional climax concerning the fate of his mother. We had to suffer through way, way too many scenes of young Picard and his mom running through the halls and basement of Chateau Picard all season long. This should have reached a climax several episodes ago, when we met Picard’s father. This story would have been a great one or two-part episode; but it just didn’t work stretched over a whole season. The TNG episode “Tapestry” took Picard on a (very similar) complete emotional journey through his past, and it all happened in one 45-minute episode.
- Same goes for Seven’s return to Borg-hood. That was a strong emotional moment, beautifully played by Jeri Ryan. But it took way too long to get here. (And it doesn’t make sense that, to repair Seven chest/stomach wound, the Queen had to restore Seven to her exact former appearance, complete with a Borg piece over her eye and Borg stuff on the tips of her fingers.)
- Back to Jurati and the Borg Queen — the scenes between the two of them were really great. Allison Pill is terrific (and I like this smart, clever, tough Jurati much more than dumb, awkward, goofy Jurati). I don’t love the idea that the fearsome Borg have been reduced to this: a Borg Queen who is basically just lonely. Jurati says that, in every timeline, the Borg “always lose”, and that just doesn’t feel right for me — it’s just a lessening of this once fearsome enemy. But after seeing the Borg Queen get defeated in First Contact, and then a million times on Voyager, and now again here, I guess Jurati’s comment is accurate. But it’s a disappointing misuse of the Borg, in my opinion.
- I liked seeing Elnor again, even in holographic form. But the idea that Raffi could get actual emotional closure with this hologram seemed like a stretch, to me. Still, that scene of them together was strong. Also, I liked seeing that the Elnor hologram was wearing a mobile emitter, just like the Doctor did in the later seasons of Voyager! That was a nice continuity touch!
- Speaking of Voyager, I liked hearing Seven mention Janeway, but the idea that Seven was rejected from joining Starfleet because of her past as a Borg drone doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s yet another example of Starfleet in the Picard timeline being dumb and xenophobic, which I hate. I just cannot imagine that Starfleet would reject Seven when it accepted Worf (a Klingon!), Data (and android!) and so many others. (Plus, the first season told us that the former drone Icheb WAS allowed into Starfleet, so this really makes zero sense.)
- One nice continuity touch that I appreciated was Picard’s admission that, although his mother was dead, he “used to imagine seeing her, older, offering me a cup of tea, and asking for a chat.” This explains how we saw his mother, as an old woman, doing exactly that in the TNG episode “Where No One Has Gone Before.” Here is an example of a continuity change that I approve of. I don’t believe that one scene in one TNG episode from decades ago should prevent a modern Trek show from doing something different with Picard’s mother, and I appreciate their including that line to show they recognize the discontinuity and are actually taking the trouble to provide a reasonable canonical explanation. I approve.
- Previous Trek series have established it’s not a good idea to go to warp while still within the solar system (and certainly not while in orbit of a planet), a concept the show ignores when we see the La Sirena warp away while still visible in the sky.
10 — “Farewell”
- OY. I find it hard to believe what a weak season finale this was. After a season that felt like it wasted a ton of time spinning its wheels (seriously, it felt like this entire season should have just been a two-parter), suddenly here at the end everything is super-rushed. For almost the entire season, Picard & co. have been focused on making sure Renée Picard successfully launched on the Europa mission, and that’s all wrapped up super-fast before the episode is even half over. We only get one real scene with the actual Renée; what little “closure” we’re given comes in the form of Tallinn dying in Picard’s arms, in the form of Renée. I just don’t understand this choice at all, dramatically. Why didn’t the show bother to spend the time with Renée needed to make her into an actual character we’d care about, rather than just a plot device? Since the season was so desperate to make us believe that Laris/Tallinn was Picard’s true love, why not allow actress Orla Brady to actually play that full scene with Patrick Stewart? And the notion that trained “Supervisor” Tallinn couldn’t think of a billion ways to protect Renée and stop Soong other than allowing him to kill her in Renée’s place is ridiculous. (Even the timing & staging of that death scene was absurd. Soong intercepts what he thinks is Renée when she’s on her way to the Europa launch. That would mean there must still at least be several hours before the launch; she’s not even near the ship yet! And yet, what seems like mere minutes if not seconds after being poisoned, Tallinn finds Picard and sees the Europa launch from his arms. That doesn’t make any sense.)
- OK, many online have criticized this scene, but I was actually very happy to see Will Wheaton appear as Traveler Wesley Crusher. I’m delighted to see Mr. Wheaton return to Trek, and it’s nice to have a canonical post-Nemesis appearance of Wesley, confirming that he’s not back to being a normal human in Starfleet (as Nemesis seemed to annoyingly suggest) but that he’s now a powerful Traveler (as was suggested in his final TNG appearance in the episode “Journey’s End”). It’s a nice end for the artificial Kore’s story for her to become a Traveler too. (Is this the last we’ll see of Isa Briones on this show?) BUT I do NOT like the idea that the Travelers are in charge of the Supervisors like Gary Seven and now Tallinn. Ugh, that makes no sense to me. The Travels and the Supervisors seem totally different to me; I reject the smushing together of these two concepts.
- Somehow Soong seems to get away scott free? No scene of his getting arrested? I rolled my eyes when he pulled out the “Project Khan” folder. Oy. (It was cool when a Soong was revealed as connected to a Khan-related project, the Augments, in Enterprise. But as I have commented above, Enterprise has already done that story. Here it just seems like a cheap attempt at fan-service and another way for this Soong to be one-dimensionally evil as opposed to a three-dimensional character I’m actually interested in. Also, this series is set in, I believe, 2024. We know it’s not exactly our universe/timeline because we saw the “Sanctuary District” signs earlier, which don’t exist in our real life but do exist in Trek’s past (as established in DS9). According to Classic Trek, the Eugenics Wars and the rise and fall of Khan would have happened by now. But I’ve always just ignored that now out-of-date reference from “Space Seed” and assumed the Eugenics Wars take place a few decades in our future, a date constantly moving forward. Is this folder meant to suggest that in this timeline the Eugenics Wars DID already happen, and Soong wants to access that work on genetically engineered supermen, something his descendant will be involved with in Enterprise a century later? Or is it meant to suggest the Eugenics wars did NOT already happen, and that this Soong was involved in creating Khan himself? I am confused. Also, after hinting in the second episode that this Soong was an important player in the rise of the evil Confederation, I’d have liked for the rest of the season to have drawn that connection more strongly. What exactly did Soong do that led to the rise of that Confederation?
- Speaking of timelines, this episode just makes a huge mess of everything. Picard comments that he remembers seeing, as a child, the bullet-holes in the wall of the Chateau Picard (made last episode). And at the end, future Guinan remembers her 21st century interactions with Picard. So that seems to suggest that the timeline wasn’t changed; that everything that happened this season in the 21st century is what ALWAYS happened. So that means Picard would also remembering seeing dead Borg soldier corpses in the walls of the Chateau Picard, right?? Ridiculous. Also, remember that I objected, back in episode four, to 21st century Guinan’s not remembering her interactions with Picard back in the 1800’s (from the TNG two-parter “Time’s Arrow). Showrunner Terry Matalas gave a lot of interviews claiming that this was because we were in an alternate timeline where 24th century Picard never went back to the 1800’s. That didn’t make sense to me, and now it REALLY doesn’t make sense because this episode seems to suggest that the timeline wasn’t changed and this all is what originally happened. Because if this season represented an alternate timeline, then the end of the season should negate that, which means 25th century Guinan wouldn’t remember these 21st century events. You can’t have it both ways!! What a mess. What a disappointment that these writers couldn’t be bothered to actually map this time-travel stuff out clearly.
- Q’s “death” scene with Picard was wonderful. John de Lancie continues to be amazing as Q. He’s my favorite part of this lame season. I love his farewell moments with Picard. BUT — How can a Q die???? How can that not ever be explained??? Where is Q’s family (wife and son) from those Voyager episodes he was in? If Q really wanted to help Picard all along, why was he so unusually angry with Picard in his early appearances this season? Most importantly: if really all the time-travel shenanigans this season boil down to Q’s trying to help Picard learn to open himself up to a lasting romantic relationship, so he won’t die alone, then why this outlandish trip to an alternate universe and then the past to do that?? It really doesn’t make sense to me; it’s far too convoluted. And what did Picard & co. actually accomplish in the past other than make a mess of things and leave a ton of dead bodies and evidence of their future tech scattered around?
- Then we finally loop back to the 25th century and the encounter with the Borg on board the Stargazer. I like the idea that this is a group of new Borg, led by the Jurati/Queen hybrid, that has created a different, more equal collective. It was fun to see Jurati back like this. BUT — there’s of course no reason that Jurati originally appeared hidden behind a menacing black face-mask, as opposed to with her face visible so Picard would recognize her at once and prevent the almost catastrophic misunderstanding that happened in the premiere. This is only done for a TV plot reason, so the “surprise” of Jurati’s appearance could be held until now. It’s bad writing. (In the same vein, Jurati would have known that using her Borg tentacles to take control of the ship would immediately be seen as a hostile gesture.) I like the idea, on paper ,of these new Borg teaming up with Picard and the Federation to prevent a catastrophe. But this totally unexplained hole in the middle of the galaxy doesn’t work — it’s just a plot device with no actual explanation or story behind it. (Make this something cool! The return of some other villains, or maybe a final confrontation with the OLD still-evil Borg!) And the alliance is able to defeat this danger with staggering ease, so there’s no drama here. (And the staging of the visual effects sequence is awful. This hole doesn’t send out it’s destructive force in all directions, like a sphere? Instead it’s just a tiny laser-beam that can be stopped by the surprisingly small shield created by the super-close-together starships? Oy.) I also wish the show bothered to give us more of an explanation of this new Borg. They timeline hasn’t been changed, right? (With this new nicer Borg replacing the old evil Borg?) I think that all the old Borg conflicts still happened, it’s just that Jurati has been off somewhere creating this new collective. Is that right? I wish the show had explained it. I wish we’d gotten to see a few other of these new Borg — do they seem happier than the old soulless Borg drones?
- It was clear all season that Rios was probably going to stay in the past. I guess I can live with that, but it’s a shame to see this character, who I like, written off the show… and it seems out of character that this man — who was CAPTAIN of a STARSHIP in the premiere, would abandon all that to stay in the past. No other heroic Trek starship captain would have made that choice.
- While someone comments that Rios has disappeared from the Stargazer bridge, it’s weird that no one seems to notice that Jurati has vanished, too.
- There’s obviously no reason why Elnor gets resurrected by Q, but I’m happy the character isn’t dead. (Though, as with Rios’ decision, the show treats this like it’s a surprise, when it’s not. I’d seen both events coming.)
- I can’t believe that after spending so much time developing the backstory of FBI agent Wells in episode eight, he never again appeared in the rest of the season. What a waste of time!
- After this whole season about Picard learning to love, it’s so weird to me that he and Laris don’t kiss at the end. (Part of me is happy he’s not, because I have not bought into the idea that Picard and Laris are in love and meant to be together. I wish that last scene was of Picard’s knocking on Beverly Crusher’s door!!)
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