Is this episode the most Star Trek: Picard has ever felt like Star Trek? I’m not saying it’s classic Star Trek, or even anything like Star Trek: The Next Generation; they’re certainly not peacefully exploring strange new worlds, but it least has the look and feel of a recognisable version of Trek albeit with the bombast of the more recent movies.
Even as I’m resisting, the choices that they’ve made are having the desired effect. Seeing a sickbay that reminds me of Voyager makes me feel at home. Having a transporter room that feels like a natural evolution of TNG; that really works. The brig design is consistent too. It’s a world that I recognise, which has certainly not been the case up until this point.
And I really like the title cards. They’re a pretty but simple star-scape with Star Trek: The Next Generation blue. That’s delightful. The experience of watching this season is not unlike watching The Orville, Seth Macfarlane’s Star Trek tribute show, in that they use the colours, sounds and structure that stimulate a nostalgic part of my brain. Basically, aesthetically speaking, there’s a lot that works in this episode. It looks like someone turned the lights up too, or maybe my eyes have adjusted to the unrelenting darkness.
Perhaps if they had started the first episode with Riker and Picard boarding the Titan with the Crusher backstory kept as a mystery until later, it might even have been more elegant. Chateau Picard has too many bad memories for viewers as well as the Admiral so mooching around there was never going to be a progressive step.
But let’s not get caught up in the past. Oh sorry, the episode starts with a flashback allowing us to get to know Jack Crusher. He’s a geezer, you know: a little bit weerrrr, a little bit weeeeeey – he’ll nick anything. But is he a geezer with a heart of gold? Well, it seems he’s just doing anything it takes, alongside his mother, to get medical supplies to the people who need them the most, but now he’s crossed paths with the wrong terrifying space gangster.
The relationship between Beverly and Jack reminds me a little of David and Carol Marcus from Star Trek II, a son who followed in his mother’s footsteps and wants nothing to do with the bureaucracy of Starfleet. Wait a minute, you don’t think Jack could also be Picard’s son, do you? I mean, he does have a Yorkshire twang and uses at least one French phrase during the episode.
As the episode begins, Picard, Riker and young Crusher are stuck on board the medical transporter ship, facing off against an unknown enemy in a big pointy Romulan ship, while Beverly has been literally fridged for the episode – story-wise because she could actually share some useful information, but in terms of production because we can only afford so many appearances. Even worse, their shuttle is destroyed giving them nowhere to go. Will the Titan come in and save the day?
Liam Shaw, captain of the Titan, is given a lot more rounding out this episode, with his methods and reasoning made clear. His main objective is the safety of his crew; he doesn’t want to put them in risky situations and doesn’t see any reason why one life should count more than a whole ship of them. Someone wise once said: ‘Risk is our business‘. Someone else once said: ‘The needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many.’ So really, I guess it’s just a bit tricky to find that balance.
Eventually, he does intervene with a little pushing from his first officer and the rest of the episode is a countdown. The villain reveals herself to be Vadic, played by Amanda Plummer (remember when her father Christopher Plummer was in Star Trek?) who seems nicely charismatic and in her viewscreen conversations with the bridge, not totally unlike Eric Bana’s Nero in Star Trek (2009). And the rest of the episode plays as a countdown with Vadic demanding they hand over Crusher in the next hour or she’ll blow the whole thing up. She also has a fancy new weapon that means she can throw starships at each other, just in case you thought you might be watching something cerebral for a moment.
So you have a fairly classic dilemma, do you hand over the (probably) bad guy to the even worse guys to his certain death to protect the whole ship, or do you protect him and probably all die because they have superior firepower? Okay, it’s not that classic a dilemma but the time gives us a chance to get to know Jack through his interactions with Shaw, Riker and particularly, Jean-Luc Picard.
As Patrick Stewart has said many times, the only reason he agreed to come back was because Picard was a man changed by time and circumstances. Who is this man and where does he fit into the world after leaving Starfleet? It’s a question that the show has really struggled to answer. But you know a good way to show the passage of time? It’s through the human life span, people no longer with us, and adult children of your leads. So – and please turn back now if you fear spoilers – giving Picard a son makes decent story sense, even if it’s not an original thought.
There’s an amusing thread in the episode where Riker keeps looking at the two of them and asking Picard: ‘Do you not see this?’ The implication that this young man is the double of his father. But he isn’t. He looks nothing like Tom Hardy. And to be honest, neither his mannerisms nor his actions really reflect Stewart’s performance. Not once does he tug his top down, or ask for Earl Grey tea. But here we are. One suspects that there’s more to this than has been revealed, otherwise, why did Beverly abandon her life? And why are contraceptives so ineffective in the 24th century?
In B-plot news; poor Michelle Hurd. She’s been asked to act against nothing, standing on an empty ship set talking to a computer. It’s pretty unforgiving but hopefully that’s the last we’ll see of that. Raffi uses the contacts of her dodgy ex-husband to track down a Ferengi who sold the weapon used to commit a terrorist act on a Federation building. Against the orders of her handler and going in without a plan, which seems to be standard for Picard’s associates these days, she’s threatened with death and has no way out. But wait, is that the Klingon theme from Star Trek: The Motion Picture? Worf arrives to save the day, brutally beheading the bad guys, which compared to the Discovery beheading incident, is a fairly restrained action sequence.
It’s great that Worf has shown up so early. It would have been tedious to have to tease this out when it was so obvious he was Raffi’s handler. However, in one of those weird parallels that inflict this era of Star Trek, just like Doctor Crusher, he showed up in an action sequence murdering some aliens. Really looking forward to next week when Geordi takes down some Breen with some nunchucks. Or perhaps it’ll be Troi on the Jem’Hadar with some lead piping. Hopefully it won’t be too long before these plots tie together because it feels somewhat obvious who Raffi is looking for.
The episode ends with the Titan heading deeper into the nebula, Picard having taken command in order to save his son. Patrick Stewart gets so excited every time he gets to say ‘engage’ these days. You almost expect the audience to clap. So, will this be like the final battle in The Wrath of Khan, with two ships without sensors attempting to outmanoeuvre each other in a battle of wits? Perhaps, but this time someone will probably throw a starship.
Read our review of Star Trek: Picard season 3 episode 1 ‘The Next Generation’ or, even better, listen to our podcast review.