Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Next Generation, Voyager, First Contact, and Discovery.
Fly Me To The Moon was an interesting episode, one which introduced several new characters and story elements. I didn’t see most of its various twists coming until they landed – and being genuinely surprised by a story is always something I appreciate. Jonathan Frakes returned to Picard to direct for the first time since Season 1, and I noted more than a few similarities to Stardust City Rag – one of two episodes that he directed last time around.
However, Fly Me To The Moon wasn’t an outstanding episode for me personally. It piled a couple of frustrating story tropes on top of one another, compounding a modern-day setting that’s already beginning to stretch my patience with a stealthy infiltration mission that felt rather like something lifted from a video game. These stories weren’t badly-executed by any means, but the foundations upon which they were built just aren’t my favourites, and from a personal point of view I felt that the episode suffered as a result of that.
There had been quite a lot of buildup to the story of Rios being arrested and deported from the United States; a timely examination of a real-world phenomenon that’s happening right now. But three episodes of buildup fizzled out rather quickly in Fly Me To The Moon, with Rios’ rescue and the liberation of a handful of migrants being treated as a relatively minor part of the story. We got a satisfactory conclusion to Rios’ capture after his run-in with Teresa, but it wasn’t a particularly long or engaging one.
It’s always worth saying that we’re nowhere near the end of the season yet, and there’s still time to return to Teresa’s clinic and take another look at this aspect of the story. With Rios’ combadge still missing, I think they’ll have to take action to retrieve it somehow. So I’m trying to avoid passing judgement too quickly. What I’ll say for now is that if we don’t pick up this story thread later, it gets a grade C: a basic pass. If we take another look at the way migrants are being handled – and specifically, what’s so dangerous about a Sanctuary District on the border – then maybe that grade can be bumped up a notch or two.
Sticking with Rios, I’ve had an unsettling feeling about him that’s been building for several episodes. I touched on this last time, but I wanted to dedicate a little more time to it here. In short, Rios has regressed as a character in a pretty significant way. He hasn’t regressed since last season, but since his role in the Season 2 premiere: The Star Gazer.
That episode saw Rios after he returned to Starfleet and accepted a brand-new command. He had a crew to be responsible for, a galaxy to explore, and he seemed to have taken to heart the lessons he learned on his adventure with Admiral Picard in Season 1 – particularly Picard’s act of sacrifice and the words he spoke during the climactic standoff over Coppelius. It was genuinely wonderful to see Rios in that role – and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Trekkies asking for a Captain Rios spin-off show in future!
But after Rios found himself in the Confederation timeline, he seemed to forget all about that. He mentioned his command last week, but only in this weirdly aggressive rant to a prison guard. He doesn’t seem to care – or even remember – his crew, the officers under his command and for whom he is responsible. Instead he seems back in his “Star Trek does Han Solo” mode; the renegade with a heart of gold. That characterisation suited Rios in Season 1 – knowing that there was a good soul inside someone who had a hard time showing it and a hard time processing grief and loss was key to his character back then. But we’ve seen so much change for Rios in just that one episode at the start of the season that the way he’s been acting for the last few episodes feels like a major regression.
And it’s a complicated situation to resolve right now. Clearly the writers are pushing Raffi down the “grief and loss” road this time around, with Seven of Nine in a supporting role. In addition, if Rios were to suddenly start showing an emotional response to the loss of the crew of the Stargazer, not only would it seem a bit late in the game, but it would also feel like a retread of what he went through in Season 1. I feel like Rios has been written into a somewhat of a corner, and I’m not sure I see an easy way out for him as things currently sit. I’m sure he’d be glad to get his ship and crew back, if such a thing is even possible, but he hasn’t done anything to show that to us as the audience. I’m just not feeling much coming from Rios right now.
If I may make a bold suggestion, it seems to me that Rios has been included in the story in large part because, as a Hispanic man, it really hammers home the point the writers have been trying to make about immigration in the United States. But because Rios had already seen such an amazing turnaround by the time of The Star Gazer, at this point in the season I’m left wondering if maybe we might’ve had a more enjoyable time overall if Elnor had been the one to survive and it was Rios sitting in La Sirena’s morgue.
That’s not because I dislike Rios. I think he can be a fun character, and there’s something about his roguish charm that makes him feel different in Star Trek; a character archetype we don’t often see. But having undergone that development and become a captain, dragging him backwards feels wrong. If there needed to be cuts to the cast of Season 2 for whatever reason, bringing Elnor along could’ve been more interesting. We’d have got a lot more of the “fish-out-of-water” comedy with Elnor, for example, and there’d have been scope to develop his character a lot more. With a little creative writing, the story of loss for Raffi could still have been included.
But enough about the story we aren’t watching!
One thing that felt quite odd in Fly Me To The Moon was the inclusion of three actors playing brand-new characters and not the characters we’re familiar with. Brent Spiner’s role as a new member of the Soong family had been teased in pre-season marketing material and was expected, and of course we’d seen the Watcher (in Laris’ form) last week. Isa Briones also returned this week – but not as Soji.
When a new character played by a familiar actor is introduced, I think most fans just shrug it off and continue with the story. Star Trek has done this so many times going all the way back to weird “body swap” stories in The Original Series, so it’s not like it’s a problem or anything like that. But it was very strange to have three brand-new characters in a single episode all played by familiar faces. One or possibly even two might’ve gotten a pass, but to have three felt gratuitous and ultimately detracted from the way Fly Me To The Moon landed.
I’m glad that Picard’s writers haven’t just forgotten about Soji, considering how she was such a major part of the story of Season 1. And it was nice to welcome back Isa Briones for a much larger role than she had in the premiere. But all things considered, this new character of Kore felt odd in an episode that was already dealing with the return of Brent Spiner as another Dr Soong and Orla Brady as the Watcher/Laris.
That being said, there was something interesting about Kore’s character, and the life-limiting genetic condition that she was suffering from managed to walk a fine line between feeling realistic enough to elicit sympathy but at the same time feeling very “Star Trek.” Particularly after Q’s medicine wore off and she suffered a flare-up, I felt that this unnamed condition had a very sci-fi feel, and I appreciated that.
I can relate to Kore. As someone whose poor health means I spend more and more time at home, I can empathise with the way she feels about being trapped and isolated, and like she’s missing out on everything from everyday things like swimming to special events like parties and gatherings. It’s an interesting angle for the series, and I hope we get to spend a little more time with Kore. Seeing what her life is like in isolation is interesting to me – and more than a little timely after the couple of years we’ve all just been through!
People with severe allergies might also find the presentation of Kore and her health condition to be relatable. I’m not in that category, but I’ve known people with allergies so severe that what others might consider to be everyday events – such as eating out at a restaurant – become impossible, and I felt at least some influence there in the way Kore came across on screen.
Although I generally enjoyed this story point, it does feel as though the writers of Picard took Kore’s health condition to somewhat of an extreme, and the real reason for that is to give motivation to the new character of Dr Soong. Brent Spiner did well to put across such a conflicted character in just a single episode – I really felt that Dr Soong was buckling under the weight of an impossibly difficult situation. The only caveat there is that maybe the situation with Kore was overreaching – trying to be an eleven out of ten when a nine would’ve been perfectly sufficient for the sake of the story!
How many Dr Soongs has Brent Spiner played now? I’ve honestly lost count! I think at this point we’ve seen practically all of Data’s ancestors on screen in one way or another! But that’s okay, and tying the events of Season 2 to a familiar face is something that I think many fans will appreciate. While I don’t think there can really be very many blanks left to be filled in for the Soong family at this point, possibilities exist to connect Adam Soong’s story to that of Dr Arik Soong – a character who appeared in Enterprise.
Brent Spiner was unexpectedly one of the standouts in Fly Me To The Moon. Coming hot on the heels of his portrayal of Altan Inigo Soong in Season 1, I felt that the hairstyling (including a beard) and makeup used in Season 2 went a long way to making him look at least superficially different, and the performance really succeeded at capturing the notion that Dr Adam Soong is a good person who’s being forced to do increasingly questionable things out of desperation.
If Adam Soong is hailed in the Confederation timeline as some kind of hero, we’re still yet to find out why that is. And it’s possible that whatever he’s trying to do will ultimately lead to something serious, possibly even evil. I noted in Kore’s reaction as her medication wore off a kind of dark greyish tinge to her veins; could we be looking at nanotechnology, perhaps? If so, could Dr Soong have some kind of involvement with the Borg? With Q around, anything is possible – so stay tuned for my updated theories!
Speaking of the Borg, the situation with the Borg Queen aboard La Sirena took a turn that I genuinely wasn’t expecting. The interplay between Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen had been one of the most fascinating parts of the season’s story, and it came to a head in Fly Me To The Moon. If I were to make one criticism I’d say that maybe this was a little premature; I could’ve happily watched Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen continue to talk around each other and build up this antipathy and fascination for a lot longer!
It was an incredibly well-done story, though. After being pushed, prodded, and manipulated by the Borg Queen for the past three episodes, Dr Jurati finally took a stand. When faced with a choice between preserving the timeline and saving her way home, Dr Jurati chose to kill the Borg Queen. Doing so saved the life of a hapless 21st Century police officer (who felt, sorry to say, like a bit of a stereotype), but came at the expense of the Borg Queen’s physical form, at least.
The final moments of the episode showed us one final twist in this tale – the Borg Queen inserted some kind of assimilation tubules into Dr Jurati in her dying moments. Having seemingly recovered her ability to assimilate – at least partially – Dr Jurati is now haunted by an apparition of the Borg Queen that only she can see. We’ll have to save this for my next theory post, but I wonder if there’s a possibility that this is some kind of psychological symptom rather than the actual Borg Queen!
There was some stellar cinematography during the scenes set aboard La Sirena. Though not quite on par with the dramatic arrival of the Borg and the masked Queen in the season premiere, I still got a real creepy, horror movie vibe from Jonathan Frakes’ directing and camera work. The dimly-lit sets, parts of which were tinged with the green light we so often associate with the Borg, amplified this sensation. The entire story, from the Borg Queen’s fake phonecall all the way through to Dr Jurati hunting her with a shotgun was pitch-perfect in that regard.
There was a definite influence from sci-fi-horror films like Alien, The Thing, and others on this side of the story. A darkened La Sirena felt incredibly claustrophobic, particularly in the scenes featuring the hapless police officer. Captain Rios’ ship made a wonderful stand-in for Alien’s Nostromo, something I particularly felt as Dr Jurati came aboard wielding a shotgun!
Unfortunately it felt as if this sequence existed in a separate story. With the exception of a few seconds after Rios, Raffi, and Seven materialised aboard La Sirena, which led to the revelation that the Borg Queen was dead, the characters essentially ignored this huge moment for Dr Jurati as they raced ahead to planning their heist on the astronauts’ gala. Maybe we can argue that this is another way in which Picard and co. are overlooking Dr Jurati or failing to care for her as much as they ought to, but in the context of the episode itself it ended up feeling as if something was missing from the story.
Fly Me To The Moon was the shortest episode of the season by far, clocking in at barely forty minutes when you exclude the credits and title sequences, so there was definitely scope to expand on what happened to Dr Jurati in some way. Picard literally did not even acknowledge what had happened to her, and again this can be argued to be part of what the Borg Queen was saying to her about her loneliness, but honestly I don’t feel it landed that way.
Just a couple of episodes ago, in Assimilation, we saw how Picard does genuinely care for Dr Jurati. He was the one who okayed her mission to link up with the Borg Queen, but he also showed real concern at the dangers, and there were incredibly sweet and tender moments between the two of them as Dr Jurati subconsciously shared her feelings for Picard, and later as Picard covered her with a blanket and then positioned himself defensively in between Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen. So in short, I don’t buy that Picard arrived back at La Sirena, saw what had happened, but chose to disregard it entirely. Maybe a scene was scripted and not filmed for some reason, or maybe something was left on the cutting room floor – but one way or another, this felt like a significant omission.
Before we get to the gala we have to consider Q’s condition. We’ll get deeper into speculative territory in my theory update, but it definitely seems as though Q may be approaching the end of his life – somehow. It had long been the assumption that members of the Q Continuum are immortal (or so long-lived as to be effectively immortal) and I’d point to the Voyager episode Death Wish in particular as an example of this, as well as The Next Generation first season episode Hide and Q.
So that has changed – or a change has somehow been inflicted upon Q. How or why that is we don’t know – but I suspect it has to be connected in some way to Picard, otherwise why would Q choose to spend what could be akin to his final moments by inflicting one last puzzle upon him? Perhaps something has happened to destabilise the Q Continuum, such as an attack or invasion, and that could be to blame. One way or another, though, it seems like Picard is setting up a story in which Q may not survive.
John de Lancie and Brent Spiner played off one another expertly, and I got a hint – just a glimpse, at this stage – that Q may be more desperate than he’s letting on. This would connect to the slap a couple of episodes back (no, not the one at the Oscars!) as evidence that Q is losing control, no longer able to fully contain his emotions. He put on a brave face for the sake of manipulating Dr Soong, but I got the sense that if Dr Soong had resisted in any way, Q wouldn’t have known what to do. Without his powers – or with his powers being less reliable – he’s more vulnerable and exposed than we’ve seen him since he was temporarily stripped of them in The Next Generation Season 3 episode Deja Q.
Before we move on from Q, one final “easter egg!” In movies and on TV, most phone numbers use the prefix 555, which is set aside for use in the industry. Q’s “business card” didn’t… so out of curiosity (and not really expecting anything) I called the number. Try it if you can!
We learned a little more about the Watcher this week, including their name. It was interesting to tie the Watcher to the events of The Original Series episode Assignment: Earth, and that’s something I really wasn’t expecting. As an interesting aside, Assignment: Earth was created as a backdoor pilot for a prospective spin-off series that would’ve focused on Gary Seven!
Though we learned part of the Watcher’s story, there’s still a lot that Fly Me To The Moon didn’t explain that will surely come out later in the season. The most obvious question is how the Watcher relates to Laris, and why the two characters look identical. Is it possible that this Tallinn is actually Laris? If so, what would that mean for Laris and Picard, and why would Tallinn be assigned to watch over Picard in the future? I sense a time-loop paradox coming!
There’s also the question of the organisation that Tallinn and Gary Seven worked for, and what their goals and ambitions are. Assignment: Earth seemed to suggest that these technologically powerful aliens were benevolent – but they seem to be aware of time travel, divergences in time, and other such things. How they could connect to the events of the season is unclear right now, but quite interesting!
It’s been a while since I last watched Assignment: Earth, and I confess it’s not a particular favourite of mine. It’s not like I hate it or anything, but I wouldn’t usually pick it out to watch – as evidenced by the fact that it’s been several years since I last saw it! But I think it’ll be worth going back and taking another look, not so much to give context to Fly Me To The Moon, but in case it’s referenced again in a future episode this season.
Orla Brady got to show off a different set of skills as Tallinn compared to her role as Laris, and she did a fine job of convincing me that Tallinn was powerful and had a lot of knowledge of things that both Picard and the audience do not. It’s difficult to fully judge this character without seeing where things go from here; now that the initial shock of her appearance has worn off, we need to be patient while the next phase of the Picard-Tallinn-Laris story unravels.
Up next, we come to the gala itself. This is also incomplete, as we’re waiting to see what will happen next week, but for now here are my initial thoughts. I don’t like this setup, this kind of “sneaking into a high society party in disguise” trope. It’s been done before in different ways, some more successful than others, but generally speaking it’s a story setup that can fall victim to feeling contrived and forced, and there were definitely unpleasant notes of that for me.
The buildup to the party aboard La Sirena and at the Château was another sequence that could’ve been expanded upon; it felt as though Picard and the crew put together a plan very quickly before rushing into executing it. I could’ve spent another couple of minutes watching them talk about the plan for the gala and how it was supposed to work.
Finally, the idea that the crew can’t all just beam in made sense and was well thought-out, but this was then immediately undermined by the idea that one of them could sneak in and “hack the mainframe” so that the others could join later. If Tallinn had the ability to add one person to the guest list and create an entire fake ID for them, why couldn’t that be repeated? It’s a nitpick for sure, but these things sometimes bug me in stories like this!
That said, once the action shifted over to the gala itself it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. Alison Pill did well to convey Dr Jurati’s lack of confidence and how she feels conflicted and perhaps even traumatised by recent events, and this led to a truly unexpected twist to round off the story.
It seems certain that Picard and the crew will make it to the gala within the first few minutes of the next episode, continuing a strange trend this season of these mini-cliffhangers that don’t get substantial payoffs. The end of Penance, for example, led into a short, underwhelming sequence of the crew of La Sirena easily overpowering the Magistrate and Confederation forces, and just this week we got a fairly short and nondescript ending to the aforementioned Rios storyline. The cliffhanger at the end of The Star Gazer worked well to tease the Confederation timeline – but some of these other ones haven’t blown me away. Maybe next week’s episode will, though!
So that was Fly Me To The Moon. Renée Picard and her mission are intriguing, but we didn’t find out a great deal about her on this occasion. Renée herself was a relatively minor part of an episode that had a lot of pots on the stove, so it won’t be until subsequent episodes that we learn what role she may (or may not) ultimately play in this divergence in time.
For me, no episode so far has come close to recreating the incredible highs offered by The Star Gazer as the season kicked off. Fly Me To The Moon had some interesting elements in the mix, and I’m certainly curious to learn more about the conflicted and anxious Renée Picard, but they came in a framework that didn’t always excite or enthrall me. As I said last week, the limitations of a modern-day setting are definitely beginning to bite, and as interested as I am to see more from Q, to learn more about Dr Soong, and to see the Europa Mission, I’m also quite keen for Picard and the crew to find out exactly what’s happened so they can start thinking about getting back to their own time period!
You’ve probably noticed that I’m a few days late with this week’s review. The truth is that I didn’t even get around to watching Fly Me To The Moon for several days; I’ve been on a bit of a downer in general, made a lot worse (at least insofar as my enjoyment of Star Trek is concerned) by the international broadcast mess engulfing Strange New Worlds. So it took a lot of effort – more than usual – to push through that to get this review done. Sorry for the delay, and I hope things will begin to get back to normal in the days ahead!
Star Trek: Picard Season 2 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, Scandinavia, Latin America, and Australia, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and the rest of the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.