Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2 and the trailers, teasers, and announcements for Season 3. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Next Generation, Nemesis, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager.
Is everyone going to survive the upcoming season of Star Trek: Picard? I think there are reasons to doubt that! So today I’m going to take a look at the show’s main and secondary characters and speculate about who may or may not be killed off before the curtain falls. Is that a bit macabre?
Picard hasn’t been shy when it comes to killing off legacy characters. In Season 1 we lost Hugh the Borg, Icheb, Bruce Maddox, and if you want to get technical about it, Picard himself – or at least his original body! We also saw the villainous Rizzo killed off in the season finale. And in Season 2, we said goodbye to Q most notably, but also saw Tallinn killed off as the story reached its conclusion.
In addition, several comments from showrunner Terry Matalas and others involved in the production of Season 3 have seemed to hint at the possibility of character deaths. So I think we have reason enough to speculate about who may or may not make it to the end of the story!
A well-timed character death can do wonders for a story, raising the stakes significantly. In the aftermath of television shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones – pioneers of what I call the “disposable cast” model, where no main character can reasonably be assumed to be safe – audience expectations have shifted, and throwing characters into life-or-death situations definitely feels more dangerous than it ever used to!
A character death can also be the right move for a story. If a character has completed their arc or storyline, it can feel right – at least in some cases – if the way their story ends is with their death. So for all of those reasons, I think it’s at least a possibility that Star Trek: Picard will go down this route in Season 3.
When we’re dealing with legacy characters, this does get a bit more complicated. The main characters from The Next Generation are iconic and beloved, and need to be handled with care! But it could still feel right for the story, the character themselves, or both, if one or more were killed off. This season is being billed as the “final” adventure for this crew – and I can’t help but feel that “final” could really mean “final” for at least one of them!
Before we get started, a couple of caveats. First of all, I’m not necessarily advocating for any of these characters to be killed off. I adore The Next Generation and its characters, and while I could accept the loss of one or more of them if it came at the right moment and was handled well, I don’t really want to have to say goodbye to anyone!
This is also just the subjective opinion of one person. I’m going to look at each of the characters in turn and share my thoughts – but if you think I’m completely wrong or if I miss something you consider obvious, just keep in mind that it’s only my opinion… and although this is a dark subject in some ways, it’s supposed to be a bit of fun!
Finally, I have no “insider information.” I’m not even certain that all of the characters we’re going to look at will appear or even be mentioned in Season 3, let alone that they’ll have fully-fledged arcs, so please remember to take all of this in that spirit.
With all of that out of the way, let’s get started!
Character #1: Jean-Luc Picard
Star Trek: Picard has, as mentioned, already “killed” Jean-Luc Picard – and it would feel very strange if the show were to do so again! I know that a lot of folks speculated that Picard would be permanently killed off in this series, especially in the run-up to Season 1 when it wasn’t clear if the series would be renewed, but having already done a fake-out death, it would be difficult, I feel, for the show to kill off Picard for a second time.
It’s primarily for that reason that I consider Picard to be safe. If we hadn’t gone through that death-and-rebirth narrative at the end of Season 1, I’d almost certainly feel that he was in danger. And I could be wrong about that – if the series is the final chapter of his story, it makes a lot of sense for it to end with his death. But I really feel that it would be a struggle to kill off Picard for the second time in a way that would be impactful, emotional, and that would carry the necessary weight to say a permanent goodbye to such an iconic character who has been such an important part of the Star Trek franchise.
Character #2: Laris
Status: Killed Off-Screen?
Laris was central to Picard’s story in Season 2 – serving as the “love interest” that he struggled to begin a relationship with. Picard’s inability to settle into a romantic relationship was what caused Q to set the entire season’s story in motion, and by the time Picard returned to his vineyard at the end of the season, he finally seemed ready to embrace a potential new relationship with Laris, something Guinan called his “one final frontier still to come.”
But unfortunately, Laris actress Orla Brady is one of the main cast members who won’t be returning for Season 3, something she confirmed shortly after the Season 2 finale had aired. Although Picard and Laris seemed to be on the verge of becoming a couple, Brady’s absence from the new season seems to suggest that it won’t happen. One reason for that could be Laris’ death – and after Zhaban was killed off-screen in between Seasons 1 and 2, I wouldn’t be stunned to see the series treat her the same way. Either way, given Laris’ importance last season her absence will have to be addressed somehow.
Character #3: William Riker
Status: In Danger
When considering potential character deaths, one factor to consider is the impact a particular loss would have on the people around them. While all of the main characters are friends, the bond that Riker had with both Picard and Troi – his wife – would make his potential death incredibly significant for those characters in particular.
Riker has also reached a point where we could at least make the case that his story feels somewhat complete. Having served as Picard’s loyal “number one” for fifteen years, he finally accepted his own command, got married to the person he loves, had a family, and retired. If Season 3 is to be an epilogue of sorts for Riker… maybe it won’t end well for him!
Character #4: Elnor
Status: Killed Off-Screen?
I genuinely do not understand the decision to grant Elnor a last-second stay of execution at the end of Season 2. His death, while tragic in more ways than one, served a narrative function, and was of particular importance to Raffi. After a deeply emotional sequence in the penultimate episode of the season, I felt certain that Elnor was truly gone – until Q resurrected him.
Why, then, do I suspect that Elnor may have been killed off-screen? It isn’t just the confirmed absence of actor Evan Evagora, though that is a part of it, but that we seemed to see Raffi looking angry and distraught in the trailer. It would arguably be repetitive if Raffi were forced to deal with Elnor’s death for the second season in a row… but then again, it worked well as the driving force for her arc last time. Elnor’s absence will have to be explained somehow, and unless he’s being secretly tapped for a role in the long-rumoured Starfleet Academy series, he might end up dead for the second time.
Character #5: Captain Vadic
Status: Deader than dead. 101% dead.
If anyone is going to die this season, surely it will be the villain of the piece! Somehow, some way, by the time the credits roll on the season finale, Captain Vadic will have been killed – I am practically certain of that. Her defeat and death may end up costing Picard and the crew dearly, but these kinds of villains really only end one way.
I just hope that, along the way, we truly come to learn who Vadic is and what’s driving her. Seasons 1 and 2 both left a lot on the table in terms of unexplained or unclear narrative threads, and whilst we’re having fun reuniting with the crew of the Enterprise-D, I truly want to spend time with Vadic to figure out what’s going on with her.
Character #6: Dr Beverly Crusher
Status: In Danger
Because of the nature of her close relationship with Picard – regardless of whether they ever “crossed that line” and became more than just friends – Dr Crusher’s death would hit him especially hard. For that reason alone, in a show called Star Trek: Picard, Dr Crusher is absolutely in danger!
Not only that, but based on what little we know so far, Dr Crusher is going to have a significant role to play in jump-starting the story, sending a distress signal of some kind to Picard while on an assignment in deep space. We’ve already seen clips in the trailers that confirm she will be reunited with Picard, so that mission won’t prove fatal. But Dr Crusher seems to be connected to whatever’s going on – perhaps in a big way. She could be one of Captain Vadic’s targets.
Character #7: Lore
I could see Lore’s story going one of two ways. Either he really leans into the “evil twin” angle from The Next Generation, allowing Brent Spiner to put in yet another delicious villainous performance, or there’s some kind of pathway to redemption for him – perhaps even one that might lead to a resurrection or restoration of Data.
So I’m calling this one 50/50. If there’s more to Lore’s story this season than just pure villainy, I think he’s in with a chance of survival. If he remains true to his mission and is loyal to Vadic, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him meet his end – maybe at the hands of Geordi!
Character #8: Soji
Status: Killed Off-Screen?
Soji made scarcely more than a cameo appearance in Season 2, and didn’t even join the others for a drink at Guinan’s bar at the end of the story. If the story of Season 3 will involve some kind of attack or invasion, such as by the Season 1 super-synths as I’ve previously theorised, we could learn that Soji has been killed. However, after being absent last time, her death wouldn’t have as big an impact on either the characters on the show or on us as the audience – so that could be a reason not to do it.
Either way, I hope some reference is made to Soji to explain her absence from the season’s story. She was such a big part of Season 1 that it would be a shame to hear absolutely nothing about her in the show’s final season.
Character #9: Worf
Status: In Danger
Of all The Next Generation characters, it seems from the trailers that Worf may be the one who’s changed the most from when we last saw him. Worf seemed to suggest that he has become a “pacifist,” something that could really shake up his characterisation. After a long arc across not only The Next Generation, but the back half of Deep Space Nine too, maybe Worf’s story is finally at an end. He might even be at peace with that idea!
Worf is the character that we’ve spent the most time with in all of Star Trek, so his exit – if indeed there is to be one – will have to be handled with care. But for Worf, dying in battle to save his friends (and maybe the Federation, too) would actually be a good way to go. So maybe it will finally be a good day to die for our favourite Klingon!
Character #10: Seven of Nine
I’m calling Seven “safe” because I’m not convinced that the Star Trek franchise is done with her just yet! I know I wasn’t the only one in the aftermath of Season 2 to suggest that some kind of “Captain Seven” series could be an interesting direction to take for the next Star Trek production, but even if that doesn’t happen, the development that Seven’s character has gone through in Picard so far has set the stage for further appearances in some form.
While we’re still waiting to hear what (if anything) is coming up next for Star Trek, any future 25th Century series would do well to include Seven of Nine either as a main or recurring character. Her arc in Picard has been utterly transformative, taking one of my least-favourite characters from Voyager and getting her to a point where I could legitimately see her as the lead in her own spin-off.
Character #11: Deanna Troi
Status: In Danger
As above with Riker, Troi has to be considered in danger because of the emotional weight her death would carry. This would pack a punch for Riker in particular, as they’re married, but Troi was also close with Dr Crusher and Worf too. Like Riker, Troi has also arguably come to the end of her story: serving in Starfleet, retiring, and becoming a parent.
The loss of Troi would also deprive the crew of a particularly useful talent: her empathic abilities. As an empath, Troi has been able to get a sense of all kinds of adversaries – and in one of the trailers we saw her become deeply alarmed at what she sensed from Vadic. Losing Troi would weaken Picard’s crew in a potentially significant way – and that could provide a narrative reason for killing her off.
Character #12: Raffi Musiker
Status: In Danger
If there’s going to be any kind of “Seven of Nine show,” surely Raffi would be a part of that? But even with that caveat in mind, I can’t shake the feeling that Raffi could be in danger. If Picard’s writers and producers want the impact of killing off a main character – but don’t want the controversy of killing a legacy character – then Raffi is really their only option.
With the rest of the new characters already gone, it would be a great shame to lose Raffi as well. One of the things I hoped that Picard would do was serve as a kind of launchpad for new stories set in this time period – and for that to happen, at least some new characters need to be introduced, developed, and stick around. Raffi is the last new character standing, so if there is to be any kind of “passing of the torch,” as the show’s producers have suggested, she needs to survive!
Character #13: Geordi La Forge
Status: In Danger
One of the few things we know at this stage about Geordi in Season 3 is that he has two daughters – both of whom are set to appear in the show. As above with Troi and Riker, Geordi’s story could feel complete or close to complete in some ways, which could mean he’s in danger. His death would not only hit the main characters, but also these two new characters – and if it’s played well, the emotional impact of that could be huge.
Although I don’t think this is canon, at least one tie-in novel for Season 1 stated that Geordi had worked with Picard on the Romulan rescue plan prior to the attack on Mars. Dialogue in Season 1 confirmed the two are still friends, but I wonder if there could be unfinished business there. If so, that could give Geordi a reason to stick around – or it could set the stage for an arc that ends with his death.
Characters #14 and #15: Sidney and Alandra La Forge
Status: In Danger
Geordi’s daughters – who seem to have been given the names Sidney and Alandra – will be joining the mission, but despite their connection to him, at this point in the story they’re little more than redshirts… and we all know what can happen to characters like that!
If Picard’s writers and producers wanted to kill off a character in a way that would pack an emotional punch, Sidney and/or Alandra could be in the firing line. Their deaths would have a huge impact on Geordi, which could become a big part of his arc and characterisation across the season. It would be especially cruel to kill off both of these characters… but plenty of television shows have done exactly that kind of thing!
Character #16: Professor Moriarty
Status: In Danger
At this stage, I genuinely don’t know whether Professor Moriarty will have a significant role or if his appearance will be more of a cameo. Regardless, I think he’s in danger – and he could be one of the first villains on the chopping block, with Lore and Vadic keeping up the fight after his defeat/destruction.
Although Moriarty was programmed to be “evil” because of the source material upon which his characterisation was based, he’s a surprisingly sympathetic character – or at least he feels that way to me. His existence isn’t his fault, and the fact that he was trapped by the limitations of his technology feels strangely relatable. Could there be a redemption arc for Moriarty?
Character #17: The Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid
Status: Killed Off-Screen?
The Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid didn’t get a “goodbye” at all in Season 2, promising to stand watch over the mysterious anomaly that was part of that season’s story. I really hope that Season 3 will address this somehow – and I have a theory as to how the mysterious anomaly could connect not only to Season 3, but to the events of Season 1 as well!
Regardless of whether that pans out, though, we know that Alison Pill won’t be reprising her role in Season 3, which leads to the question of the Borg Queen’s survival. If the mysterious anomaly were to erupt again, could it have destroyed her ship? Or might her Borg faction have been one of Vadic’s targets?
Character #18: Sela (or Tasha Yar?)
At time of writing, we don’t know whether Denise Crosby’s rumoured appearance in Season 3 is for real. Some outlets have reported it as if it were fact, but I can’t find anything official on that! But let’s assume she is coming back for a moment. If her character of Sela is involved, somehow, I think she’s in serious danger. If there’s some kind of attempt to bring back Tasha Yar, then all bets are off!
Sela tangled with Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D on two occasions, being defeated both times. If someone like Vadic were putting together a revenge mission, I can absolutely see Sela jumping at the chance to be part of it. Her story could also connect in some way to the Romulan storylines in Season 1. But if she’s coming back as a villain and part of Vadic’s team, I definitely think that puts her in the firing line.
Character #19: Another familiar face
Status: In Danger
One of the most shocking sequences in the trailer was the apparent destruction of Starfleet HQ (or some other major Federation building). If this is real, and isn’t some kind of vision or dream sequence, it stands to reason that a lot of Starfleet folks might be killed. Among them could easily be a familiar face or two from Star Trek’s past – either a recurring character or perhaps even a major character from The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, or Voyager.
As we saw in Season 1, Picard hasn’t been shy when it comes to reintroducing a legacy character only to kill them off. Icheb’s death is perhaps the most noteworthy example, and it could be significant if a familiar character or two were to be killed by Vadic or someone working with her. If this happens, though, I hope we’re reintroduced to the character in some way, and that their death isn’t merely included as a line of dialogue.
So that’s it!
Those are all of the characters we know of at this stage, and I’ve made some wild guesses and perhaps even a couple of logical, educated guesses about who may or may not make it to the end of the season.
At the end of the day, when you throw characters into a high-stakes, high-tension, high-danger story, it stands to reason that they won’t all make it out alive. As television storytelling has progressed, the risk to even beloved main characters has become greater than it ever was, and although we have seen some pretty heavy plot armour in some parts of the Star Trek franchise (looking at you, Discovery) I can’t shake the feeling that someone significant is going to be killed before Season 3 is done.
But hey, maybe I’m wrong about that! In any case, we don’t have long left to wait before we’ll find out! As I said last time, I’m planning to write individual episode reviews as Season 3 is broadcast, and I’ll also craft a few theories if the series lends itself to that – so be sure to stop by when Season 3 arrives!
Star Trek: Picard Season 3 will premiere on Paramount+ in the United States on the 16th of February 2023, and in the United Kingdom and around the world on the 17th of February 2023. Seasons 1 and 2 are already available to stream or buy on DVD/Blu-ray. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties discussed 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.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2 and the trailers, teasers, and announcements for Season 3. Spoilers are also present for Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Voyager.
At New York Comic-Con back in September, Paramount showed off a new trailer for the upcoming third season of Star Trek: Picard, and I’m finally getting around to taking a look at it! This time, I’m going to give my thoughts and analysis of what was shown off in the trailer, as well as speculate a little about what the plot of Picard’s final season might end up looking like.
The first thing to say is that Season 3 appears to be another standalone story, one that doesn’t follow on directly from the events of Season 2. Does that mean that we’ll never know who or what caused the anomaly that was so central to kicking off (and resolving) last season’s main story? And does it mean that the dangling story threads from Season 1 will also be left unresolved when Picard comes to an end? I hope not – but I have to say that, based on what we know of Season 3 at this stage, my hopes of the unresolved storylines from Seasons 1 and 2 being addressed are fading fast.
And before we go any further, I want to address that. Picard, despite having a lot of promise when it was announced and when it premiered, has been hit-and-miss so far; a rather disconnected series that has boldly tried some new and potentially-interesting ideas, but that hasn’t always managed to pull them off successfully. I still haven’t written up my full thoughts on Season 2 as a whole, but suffice to say that there were some pretty significant problems that seriously hampered my enjoyment. If Season 3 is, as I suspect, leaving all of that behind to rush off into another new story, for me that’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, spending too much time looking back at the underwhelming elements of Season 2 isn’t what I’d want to see… but on the other, Season 3 represents Star Trek’s last chance – at least in this iteration – to make more of some of those unresolved storylines. Season 2 could end up looking better in retrospect if it turns out to be one piece of a greater whole… but if Season 3 drops those stories to do its own thing, it will remain a disappointment.
I’ve already shared my thoughts on the way the casting situation has been handled, but as we’re diving back into Picard Season 3, I think it’s worth pointing out again that the return of The Next Generation’s main characters – all of whom got some screen time in the new trailer – has come at the expense of several genuinely interesting characters from Seasons 1 and 2 of Picard that we were only just beginning to get to know. As it seems unlikely that most of them will be seen in the franchise again – at least, not for a long time – I think it’s worth reiterating just how much potential has been squandered.
If the Star Trek franchise is to survive long-term, it can’t simply coast on nostalgia. Trying new things, innovating, and introducing new characters has been what the franchise has done since the 1980s, but the current crop of Star Trek shows all seem to be falling back on nostalgic crutches in a way that they really shouldn’t. Picard Season 3 may be the epitome of this backwards-looking take on the franchise, but it’s certainly not the only example.
But that’s enough about that for now! We’re here to look at the trailer rather than talk about Picard or the franchise in a general sense, and the New York Comic-Con trailer definitely raised a lot of interesting (or potentially-interesting) points!
First of all, the season’s main villain, played by veteran actress Amanda Plummer, will be called Captain Vadic. Vadic was seen briefly in the trailer, and seems to have an almost Khan-like obsession with getting revenge on Picard and his former Enterprise-D crewmates. Exactly what her beef is with the retired admiral is unclear… but given who else is involved, surely there has to be a connection to The Next Generation, right?
Well, not so fast! In both Seasons 1 and 2, key storylines were ultimately not connected in a major way to Picard’s past… or at least, not to elements of his past that we were already familiar with. Speculation abounded regarding the Coppelius synths, the mysterious super-synths, the Borg Queen, the anomaly, and Q, but ultimately in both seasons the writers chose to go in a different and new direction. Captain Vadic could be connected to Picard either because she’s a returning character utilising a nom de guerre or because she’s related to or otherwise connected to a classic character. And don’t worry, I have plenty of ideas in that vein that we’ll talk about on another occasion! But I think we have to consider the very real possibility that this character, as well as whatever may have caused her to hate Picard and his crew, will be something entirely new to us as the audience.
I liked what I saw of Amanda Plummer’s performance in the trailer. She brought a ferocity to Captain Vadic that straddled the line between dedication and obsession, and had an almost animalistic or beastly quality that echoed not only Khan, but other great Star Trek villains too. Vadic has been described as an “alien,” though what species she could be if not human wasn’t clear. Could her scars suggest some kind of ex-Borg origin, perhaps?
Vadic’s ship, the Shrike, seemed to draw inspiration from Nemo’s Narada that we saw in 2009’s Star Trek reboot film, as well as perhaps from the Romulan vessels seen in Nemesis, which could all hint at a Romulan (or Reman) origin or connection. The sweeping, blade-like lines of the Shrike give the vessel a genuinely threatening appearance, and if what we saw from Picard and Riker in the trailer depicts them and their vessel in combat against the Shrike, Vadic’s ship seems to have the weapons to back up its intimidating look!
Speaking of starships, we got a closer look at the USS Titan in the new trailer – and it looks absolutely fantastic! One of the criticisms some fans have had of Picard – especially with last season’s 21st Century story – has been the lack of starships, and in addition to the Titan we also caught a glimpse of Star Trek Online’s Enterprise-F. Though I dabbled briefly in Star Trek Online, MMO games aren’t really “my thing,” but I’m nevertheless happy to see the creative team take inspiration from the game on this occasion. Fans of Star Trek Online will be thrilled, undoubtedly!
La Sirena was also present, and may be being used by Raffi and/or Seven of Nine. I like the design of La Sirena and I hope the story will find a way to include the smaller vessel alongside bigger ships like the Titan and Enterprise-F. Rounding out the “starship porn” in the trailer was a beautiful shot of Earth Spacedock – bringing back memories of both The Next Generation and some of the Star Trek films in which the massive station was featured. Could a Search for Spock-inspired starship heist be on the cards? I guess we’ll have to wait and see!
Although the producers are keeping a pretty tight lid on the season’s story, the trailer did actually give us quite a lot to go on. Captain Vadic seems to be chasing Dr Crusher – perhaps to get to Picard or get his attention – and her reason for doing so seems to be connected to her hatred of Picard and his Enterprise-D crewmates. As I said, we’ll speculate more about her possible reasons in the days ahead.
As part of her anti-Picard vendetta, Captain Vadic appears to have put together what I’d describe as something of a “rogues’ gallery” of The Next Generation’s villains. We saw Professor Moriarty – the sentient hologram created in the Season 2 episode Elementary, Dear Data – as well as Lore, Data’s “evil twin.” Could there be more villains from The Next Generation era who’ll be brought on board? I think that’s a distinct possibility!
Captain Vadic was seen speaking to a group of characters – most of whom had their faces covered or obscured – promising “vengeance,” so I think it’s at least possible that we haven’t seen the last big or surprising announcement of a returning villain! Several of the characters with Vadic seemed to be aliens, and I can think of no shortage of alien adversaries that Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D tackled during their adventures. Could the promise of revenge combined with Captain Vadic’s powerful personality have convinced them all to work together?
Any time a television show brings back a number of past characters all at once, there’s a risk of some of them being overshadowed. If, as I suspect, Captain Vadic is someone wholly new connected to a hitherto-unseen event in Picard’s past, her dominant role as the leader of the rogues’ gallery could end up relegating the likes of Lore and Professor Moriarty to smaller cameos. Depending on how it’s handled that could be fine – or it could be a little underwhelming. Paramount is promising big things from this “explosive” final season of Picard… so I hope the series can deliver!
We saw quite a lot of Riker in the new trailer, more than almost anyone else aside from Picard himself. The relationship between Riker and Picard was, in my view anyway, beautifully restored in the Season 1 episode Nepenthe, which saw the two men reuniting for the first time in almost twenty years (at least on screen). After seeing Riker out of uniform enjoying his family life and retirement, it’ll be great to see him back in action once more.
I feel that Worf’s appearance has the most potential to cause controversy out of all of the returning cast members. His statement in the trailer that he “prefers pacifism” and has abandoned the way of violence was played for laughs at first, but it represents a major departure from the character we knew through seven seasons of The Next Generation and four of Deep Space Nine. It’s definitely something that could feel like a natural progression if it’s suitably well-explained – some older Klingon characters, like Kor, for instance, seemed to mellow with age and become less quick to anger – but it’s definitely a move that could be controversial in some quarters. Could this be the producers and creators potentially setting up a calmer, more level-headed Worf for a leading role in his own series or film?
We didn’t see too much of either Dr Crusher or Deanna Troi, though the former seems to be a major driving force in kicking off the storyline. I expect we’ll hear of her distress signal in the season premiere, and that could be the moment where an off-duty Picard was approached by two Starfleet officers (was that scene in Guinan’s bar? I couldn’t tell!) As for Troi, she seems to be along for the ride with Riker, and her Betazoid senses were put to use describing the mood on what could be the Shrike as an “all-consuming darkness.” This ties into the themes of obsession and revenge that I touched on earlier.
Seeing Dr Crusher in some form of stasis pod was interesting; could her distress signal have been the lure to get Picard (and the others) back out into space? If Dr Crusher was the only one of the Enterprise-D crew who was on a deep space assignment, she would seem to be the logical target – as bait in a trap!
Raffi also seems to be being hunted – can we assume it’s by the same adversary? If so, Captain Vadic may be doing more than simply targeting the crew of the Enterprise-D – she may be trying to get to Picard by attacking anyone he’s worked closely with in the past. As his former aide-de-camp from his time as an Admiral, Raffi certainly fits the profile!
But there could be more to it than that. We’re getting into some seriously speculative territory, but if the story of the new season involves a villain (and/or a rogues’ gallery of villains) trying to hurt Picard by targeting those close to him, we could potentially learn of the deaths of some friendly faces. Elnor and Soji spring to mind as possible victims – both worked closely with Picard and neither are scheduled to make a major appearance this time around. Could one or both of their deaths have sent Raffi into hiding? Or put her on the revenge trail?
Finally we have Geordi La Forge. In the trailer his main moment came when he seemed to criticise Picard for dragging Worf and Riker into whatever crisis is going on… but it doesn’t end there. We know from casting – and briefly from an appearance at the Titan’s helm in the trailer – that Geordi will be joined by two of his children. One of his daughters will be played by LeVar Burton’s real-life daughter Mica, which is neat. Mica Burton hosted Star Trek Day 2021 alongside Wil Wheaton, and has been a fixture in the expanded Star Trek community ever since the franchise returned to the small screen.
Having covered the main characters – and speculated a little about some of them – we still have a few disjointed clips and images to assess from the trailer before we wrap things up! Starfleet Academy or Starfleet HQ appears to be attacked and destroyed at one point, but for some reason my gut instinct is to say that that may not happen in the real world. We could be looking at a simulation, dream, or plan rather than an actual attack. I don’t know exactly why I feel that way… but I do!
Amongst some wreckage in space we caught a glimpse of a derelict or abandoned starship. Could this be Dr Crusher’s ship – the one from which she sent the distress signal to Admiral Picard? The name and registry number was hard to make out from the trailer, and the design seemed similar to the USS Titan. The field of debris in which the ship was drifting seems too large to all have come from one (largely intact) vessel, so could this be the aftermath of a larger battle in which other ships were destroyed?
As mentioned, I can’t quite tell if the trailer’s opening shot sees Picard at Guinan’s bar on Earth (“Ten” on Forward Avenue in Los Angeles’ historic district that was featured in Season 2), but it certainly could be. Starting Season 3 in a location that was central to the story of Season 2 would go some way to tying the stories together if there isn’t a bigger connection between what seems to be two separate stories.
Some of the shots of the Shrike and Titan chasing one another and battling seem to be reminiscent of the Briar Patch from the film Insurrection, so could that be a clue? Starship battles that take place in nebulae have been a part of the franchise from The Wrath of Khan all the way through to Discovery’s most recent outing, so it’s by no means a cast-iron statement. But the colour and appearance of the clouds in the nebula certainly brought back memories of Insurrection for me.
The Shrike having the power to outgun the Titan could mean that the ship is incredibly powerful – like Nero’s Narada or Shinzon’s Scimitar, for example – but it could also speak to the Titan potentially being an older vessel, perhaps one that has been recently taken out of mothballs and potentially with only a skeleton crew aboard. While the Shrike definitely has the appearance of a warship or a hunter, it could be worth keeping in mind the Titan’s potential condition!
After being given a field commission last season and assuming command of the USS Stargazer, Seven of Nine appears to wear the rank pips of a commander rather than a captain, though she does still seem to be on the command track. It wouldn’t be the first time that an officer below the rank of captain has been given a command, though, so Seven may yet prove to be in command of a vessel. Geordi, meanwhile, appears to hold the rank of either a commodore or perhaps a one-star admiral based on the single pip seen on his uniform collar.
I find it interesting, too, that Seven has chosen to remain in Starfleet while Raffi appears to have taken La Sirena on a mission of her own. Is this something that we’ll see her do during the season, or is this where her story will begin? If so, what could have caused her to abandon Seven, Elnor, and her role in Starfleet? And could this connect with my theory above about Captain Vadic potentially having attacked, kidnapped, or killed the likes of Elnor and Soji?
By far my biggest question at this stage is this: who else, besides Moriarty and Lore, might be joining Captain Vadic’s rogues’ gallery? I feel all but certain that we’re going to see other villains of The Next Generation era coming on board if this is a quest for vengeance against Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D. From the Duras family and Sela to DaiMon Bok and even the Maquis, Picard and his crew thwarted the nefarious schemes of many villains during their adventures – and if Captain Vadic is indeed putting together a crew of her own to seek revenge, there must be no shortage of applicants!
If Picard and the crew are going to go out with a bang, as we’ve been promised, facing off against a team of their most powerful and feared adversaries could absolutely make for an exciting, tense, and explosive season of Star Trek. After the slower pace of Season 2 and its focus on Picard’s innermost thoughts and his personal family history, something a bit more action-oriented this time around could be just what the doctor ordered. Although I’m still upset about the decision to ditch most of the main cast members from Seasons 1 and 2 in favour of this return to The Next Generation’s characters, I’m hopeful that what we’ll get will be a fun ride and a great way to say goodbye.
The trailer shown off at New York Comic-Con looked action-packed and exciting, so hopefully that’s representative of the new season. Although Picard has its problems and I have some gripes, the trailer itself has raised my hopes, and I’m now definitely looking forward to the new season.
So that’s it for now! Although this summer and autumn has seen me writing less and making fewer posts here on the website, when Picard Season 3 kicks off in February I still plan to review each episode in turn, as well as crafting a few theories and giving my thoughts on how the season as a whole shapes up. So I hope you’ll stay tuned and join me for that in the new year!
Star Trek: Picard Season 3 will stream on Paramount+ in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video around the world beginning on the 16th of February 2023. Seasons 1 and 2 are available to stream now and are also available on DVD and Blu-ray. 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.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: The Next Generation.
This is the first in what I hope to be a weekly series over the next few months. In the wake of the Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 disaster – the series has been withheld from fans outside of North America, if you somehow missed the news – I won’t be covering the show at all. Instead I’ll be writing up re-watches of some of my favourite episodes from Star Trek’s extensive back catalogue. This week we’re visiting The Next Generation’s final season to look at the episode Masks.
First up, a brief introduction to this format. I’m not calling these articles “reviews.” It wouldn’t be fair to do so because I’ve seen Masks – and all of the other episodes we’ll be looking at over the next few weeks – more times than I care to remember! This won’t just be a recap of the plot of the episode – I will be giving my thoughts and analysis as we go. But it can’t really be an objective “review,” strictly speaking.
Masks was one of the last episodes produced for The Next Generation before production shifted to Star Trek: Generations. At this stage we’ve been with the crew of the Enterprise-D for almost seven years and we know them well – so we think we know what to expect. Season 7 tried to shake things up at various points – like in Genesis where the crew all de-evolved! And Masks is kind of in a similar vein. We’ll see the ship transformed, and Data in particular will take on several different personalities.
Masks is one of those episodes that sticks in my mind. The Enterprise-D and her crew found themselves in many wacky and unpredictable situations over the years, but there’s something about the Aztec-inspired aesthetic that really makes what’s going on in Masks feel ancient and otherworldly. It’s a story that feels at home in the Star Trek franchise; the kind of episode no other sci-fi series would even attempt.
The episode is also a great one for Data actor Brent Spiner, who gets a chance to show off his range as an actor. There’s always seemed to be a disconnect between the character of Data and the personality of the man who plays the role! Data is cool and logical, but Brent Spiner has an almost chaotic energy to him, full of life and with a great sense of humour. Masks isn’t the only episode of Star Trek to give him more to do – look at his roles as Lore and as various members of the Soong family for more examples – but it’s certainly an episode that gives Spiner many opportunities to shake up his regular role.
Data is such a wonderful character, and his series-long quest to become more human saw him attempt to mimic a variety of different behaviours. At the beginning of Masks we see him taking an art class, learning to sculpt and to use his imagination. Because of the largely episodic nature of The Next Generation, even in Season 7 Data is still chasing his ambition of becoming human in much the same way as he had been earlier in the show’s run. The character saw evolution across the series as a whole, but moments like these at the beginning of Masks could sometimes feel like a reset, reinforcing Data’s android nature and showing how he doesn’t fully understand some element or other of what it means to be human.
I wouldn’t try to argue that Masks is an especially important episode, either for The Next Generation or Star Trek as a whole. It’s great, don’t get me wrong, but it isn’t groundbreaking or transformative for the franchise in the way certain stories can be – it doesn’t introduce new characters, factions, or themes that would carry over to future projects, for example, nor is it a transformative event in the lives of any of the main characters.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a fun episode with an interesting premise. In a way, what we have in Masks is an examination of computer viruses and the major cultural and technological differences that exist between cultures. After encountering the D’Arsay archive inside of what appears to be a comet, it transmits its information to the Enterprise-D, but that computer code plays havoc with the ship’s systems – and with Data. Though this computer virus analogy isn’t the episode’s message or primary focus, it’s not a coincidence that a story like Masks was created at this time.
In 1994, when the episode was initially broadcast, home computing was growing exponentially. Along with the rise of the PC came fears of computer viruses, and antivirus software was becoming a big business. Though Masks mainly considers cultural themes within the story itself, I’d argue very strongly that the premise – disruptive or even malicious software being beamed to the Enterprise-D – is a reaction to the way the home computer market was shaping up at the time.
Computer viruses continue to plague systems today, of course, but with improvements in antivirus software and better computer education, the fears most folks have of viruses has diminished. In that sense, this aspect of Masks feels like a step back in time a quarter of a century – which it is, of course! The idea of rogue computer code harming – or in this case transforming – one’s computer was certainly a relevant concern at the time, though, and although it’s one that the episode doesn’t feature prominently it’s still an interesting aspect.
Masks also looks at how we deal with cultures very different from our own, and how we need to be careful when interpreting history. Captain Picard is at his best in episodes like Masks, getting the chance to show off one of his real passions – history. Picard is well-placed to jump into the story and find a use for his skills, and is supported at various points by Riker, Troi, and perhaps the most unusual choice – Worf. One of Worf’s lines about the sun and moon proves crucial to unlocking the mystery of the archive, and while Captain Picard definitely needed others around him in these scenes, I’m not sure I’d have chosen Worf!
The struggle that Picard and the others had of trying to interpret an unfamiliar culture is one that historians and anthropologists have long dealt with. And to me, Masks is an example of Star Trek doing what it has always done: using a sci-fi lens to examine a real-world subject. Usually the stakes aren’t so high, of course, but putting a kind of ticking clock and threat in the background gave the story an impetus it would’ve otherwise lacked; had Picard and the crew simply been trying to learn about the D’Arsay symbols and characters out of curiosity, the story wouldn’t have gone anywhere.
On the technical side of things, Masks was one of the first Star Trek episodes to use computer-generated imagery (CGI), using the new technology for the comet and D’Arsay archive. The remastered version, which is what you’ll find on blu-ray and streaming – didn’t preserve the original CGI model, recreating the archive from the ground up based on the original design. The DVD version, however, and other older copies (like VHS) do still have this piece of Star Trek’s history. You can also find images of the original CGI model online, of course.
A few times across The Next Generation, sped-up shots would be used to show Data working or moving faster than a human could. Out of everything present in Masks, this short sequence (which shows Data sculpting a treble clef in his art class) is perhaps the only part that feels dated in 2021. The rest of the episode’s effects hold up remarkably well, and the remastered CGI sequences look great even on a modern 4K display.
Many times across Star Trek’s long history there have been so-called “bottle shows.” These are episodes which primarily use existing sets and often don’t bring in many new characters or guest-stars, focusing on just the main cast. Though there was a set built for Masks – the temple, which would later be re-used in Deep Space Nine – the episode is mostly a bottle show, or perhaps a semi-bottle show! It focuses on a handful of characters, mostly re-uses existing Enterprise-D sets – with a few additions and changes to reflect the transformation the ship is undergoing – and feels like a very self-contained story in that respect.
Given Data’s prominent role, Brent Spiner is the star of Masks. And while we see elements of his portrayal of Lore in one of the personas that Data assumes, for the most part he makes each of the D’Arsay characters feel unique and distinctive. For an actor who spent most of The Next Generation’s run playing a very unemotional, unreactive character, I can quite understand why Brent Spiner would describe Masks as one of his biggest acting challenges on the show. I think he rises to the occasion and shows off a range that any actor would be proud of; making each persona feel separate despite only minor costuming changes is no mean feat, and he pulled it off very well. There was a risk, perhaps, that in order to differentiate each of the D’Arsay personas in such a short runtime each would have to be exaggerated to the point of pantomime caricature, but that didn’t happen in the final episode. That alone should be testament to Brent Spiner’s talents and hard work.
There are a few lines from Masks that resonate with me from a mental health standpoint. Though the episode isn’t intended as an examination of mental illness, Data developing an android version of “multiple personalities,” as Troi puts it, does bring up some comparisons. When Data asks Geordi what it feels like to lose one’s mind is a line that very much struck a chord with me, not least because it’s a question I’ve asked myself (and doctors) in the past.
Data’s line as the episode draws to a close about feeling “empty” following the removal of the D’Arsay personalities likewise felt very relatable. It isn’t always easy to tell where the line is between one’s own personality and aspects of oneself that might be better characterised as manifestations of mental illness, and even the removal or lessening of a mental health symptom can, in some cases, bring with it a feeling of emptiness or of feeling incomplete. That’s definitely a second thing I find relatable – and I think it shows how stories which only touch on themes of mental health can still be impactful even if mental health isn’t the focus.
The only real criticism I have of Masks is that its ending feels a little too quick – almost abrupt, really. After a slow buildup which sees the Enterprise-D progressively transformed to resemble the D’Arsay culture, Picard has a short conversation with Masaka, and then after a quick “woosh” everything is un-transformed and back to normal. A quick epilogue with Data and Picard in the ready-room closes the episode, and the final few minutes just feel a little rushed, especially considering the deliberately slow pacing of the rest of the episode.
Despite that, I enjoy Masks. It isn’t my all-time favourite episode of The Next Generation, but it’s one of those solid standalone stories that Star Trek does far fewer of since the move to serialised story arcs and shorter seasons. Masks shows off a different kind of science fiction with its slightly wacky concept of an archive transforming the ship into stone artefacts, but at the same time it’s a story that’s grounded in real-world parallels of history and anthropology. Brent Spiner puts in one of his finest performances, taking on a variety of personas that force him to step well outside of his normal bounds as Data.
So I hope this was a bit of fun. My objective at the moment is to remain connected to Star Trek and the Star Trek fan community but without providing any support or coverage of Discovery in light of the awful decision from ViacomCBS. Later this week I hope to look at an episode from Star Trek: Enterprise, and I already have dozens of other ideas for episode re-watches as we move through the holidays and into 2022.
Star Trek: The Next Generation is out now on blu-ray and DVD, and is available to stream on Netflix outside of the United States (at least for the time being). The Star Trek franchise – including The Next Generation and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for Nepenthe, as well as for the first six episodes of Star Trek: Picard. There may also be spoilers for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise, including Star Trek: Discovery Season 2.
Hugh! Poor, poor Hugh. When I heard Jonathan Del Arco was returning for Star Trek: Picard, well before the show had premiered, my first reaction was “What? Really?” Of all of the characters in Star Trek’s history, I just felt that Hugh, who had only appeared in a couple of episodes of The Next Generation, wouldn’t have been my first choice when thinking about characters to bring back. But I was wrong – the way Hugh has developed as a character between The Next Generation and his appearances this season was incredible, and his death this week was genuinely heartbreaking.
Star Trek: Picard’s death toll, for legacy characters anyway, now stands at three – Bruce Maddox, Icheb, and now Hugh. In the aftermath of series like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones this was always a possibility – no main character on television should consider themselves “safe” any more. But of the three, Hugh’s death hit me the hardest.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves! Where last week’s episode, The Impossible Box, was an edge-of-your-seat wild ride, Nepenthe was a quieter affair, but intensely emotional. Simply processing everything that happened will take some time. Nepenthe didn’t merely advance the storyline of Star Trek: Picard, it took us on a detour that looked at Riker and Troi, and thus broadened our understanding of how the overall story of Star Trek has progressed since the events of Voyager and Nemesis. In that sense, it felt like an episode that was “made for fans” far more explicitly than anything else we’ve seen so far this season, even counting Seven of Nine’s appearance.
If someone were to ask me why I’ve been so in love with Star Trek: Picard, I could give many reasons. But Nepenthe encapsulated them all perfectly. It brought back those nostalgic feelings, but it used characters and name-drops from the past in a way that made sense and tied in perfectly with the main plotline of the show. Unlike some other franchises we could mention, nothing in Nepenthe felt like fanservice, or overplayed the nostalgia card; Star Trek: Picard has been like a perfectly-cut jigsaw puzzle, with each piece of the story slotting neatly into place as the overall picture is now slowly coming together.
After the standard recap to bring us all up to speed, the episode kicks off with a flashback to just three weeks ago. We see more of the meeting between Dr Jurati and Commodore Oh from The End is the Beginning – and we see why it wasn’t shown in full in that episode. This is the moment Dr Jurati was recruited to join the Commodore Oh-Zhat Vash conspiracy, and I think we can now say with relative certainty that Commodore Oh is not a Romulan agent, but is in fact the Vulcan she has always claimed to be. While, in theory, there should be no reason Romulans can’t mild-meld, it’s never been shown on screen and that further adds to the evidence that Commodore Oh is a Vulcan. Whether her alliance with the Zhat Vash is new or not is unclear, but she is certainly fully signed up with their anti-synth crusade.
I had to go back and look at one part of this sequence several times before I could be sure, but at least part of what Commodore Oh showed Dr Jurati in her mind-meld is taken directly from Star Trek: Discovery’s second season. The two shows were always close from a thematic perspective, as both were looking at the possibility of rogue AIs and how they could be a danger, but this sequence seems to suggest that there’s more to it than thematic coincidence. In Discovery, the AI named Control was trying to acquire data stored in the USS Discovery’s computer which contained many millennia of information collected by an ancient lifeform, and if it had been successful it would have used its newfound power to wipe out all organic life in the galaxy. This seems to be the reason for the Romulans’ fear of synthetic life – that they will go rogue and start killing their creators. At least two of the shots of life in the galaxy being wiped out that Commodore Oh showed Dr Jurati in the mind-meld were identical to the vision Michael Burnham and Spock received.
Could this simply be a case of reusing shots to save money? After all, in the past Star Trek has shown the same Klingon ship blowing up on half a dozen occasions or more, and numerous models were reused over and over again from the era of The Original Series films through The Next Generation and its spin-offs. Given that the two clips I could identify in the mind-meld were less than a second long, I suppose we shouldn’t discount the possibility entirely. However, I’m not convinced that this is the reason. CGI nowadays requires far less effort and financial investment than many practical effects – like exploding starships – did in the past. For the sake of a couple of seconds’ worth of footage it would have been relatively inexpensive and not particularly time-consuming to make something altogether new if that was the aim. So I’m getting the sense that there’s a connection between Discovery’s Control AI and the Romulans in Star Trek: Picard – as I have been saying for several weeks in my Star Trek: Picard theories series! While I will save further speculation about what this could mean for my next theory post, I wanted to acknowledge it here too.
Mind-melds have been inconsistent in the way they’re presented in Star Trek. This one was more in line with the confusing jumble of images that Spock showed to Alternate Reality Kirk in 2009’s Star Trek film, rather than the calmer, slower-paced mind-melds that we’ve seen in The Original Series and The Next Generation. Obviously we didn’t get the full effect that Dr Jurati did, because the horrors she was shown caused her to vomit up her lunch. It was enough to immediately convince her, without any further persuasion needed from Commodore Oh, to sign up with the conspiracy and do anything – even kill her former friend and love interest and betray Picard.
Dr Jurati is given a tracking device, which she has to eat – and yes that is “eat” not “swallow”, which was interesting! The action then jumps to the present day, where La Sirena is caught in a tractor beam that the Artifact has deployed. Raffi and Rios are scrambling around on the bridge trying to break free. While Raffi attempts to break La Sirena free, she hacks into the Artifact’s computer and seems to see some drawings – possibly those drawn by Ramdha or another xB. Whether these will come into play or not is unclear, but the drawings, which were a pattern of circles repeated over and over, were at least visually interesting. So many aspects of Star Trek: Picard have been brilliantly set up by the creators and writers that almost everything we see or hear on screen has the potential to turn into a story point!
Dr Jurati is clearly terrified, trying to get Raffi and Rios to tell the Romulans that they “just want to go home” as it’s not really La Sirena that the Romulans are after. The others dismiss her semi-hysterical shouting, and then we get the beginning of Hugh’s punishment for the crime of aiding Picard. I didn’t expect Hugh to turn on his friend, and he never did, but there was always the possibility, as he didn’t know that Soji was synthetic, that learning her true nature might’ve shifted something for him. However, he stands by his promise to protect Soji and Picard, even as Rizzo executes one of the xBs. Even knowing the stakes he refuses to tell her – putting his loyalty to Picard ahead of his feelings for the room full of xBs, who Rizzo orders executed when he refuses to tell her where they went.
Rizzo also confirms that the operation to track and extract information from Soji has been ongoing for several years and has involved a number of different people, which is a neat thing to know I suppose.
This was definitely an emotional scene, and as I mentioned already, Jonathan Del Arco gives an amazing performance as Hugh sees people he has worked so hard to help cruelly and coldly murdered in front of him. His reaction to their deaths was raw and heartbreaking.
Peyton List, who plays Rizzo, was also on good form. Some of her earlier performances in the series have been a tad one-dimensional in parts. Rizzo as a character is, like Michelle Yeoh’s Terran Empress from Star Trek: Discovery, someone who is basically evil for the sake of being evil – or at least, that’s how I characterised her before this scene in Nepenthe. We finally get to see Rizzo’s motivation here – helpfully informed by the earlier mind-meld sequence. Far from being evil, she’s terrified. Synthetic life frightens her, and she genuinely fears that, were Soji allowed to live, all sentient life in the galaxy – “a trillion souls” as she puts it – would be wiped out. How it is that the Zhat Vash have come to know this – or rather, believe this – is not yet clear, but again I think the Control AI from Discovery surely has a role to play somehow. This second dimension changes what has been a rather flat villain and we are finally a big step closer to understanding why the Zhat Vash are so militant in their anti-synthetic crusade – and why, despite his feelings for her, Narek felt he had no choice when it came to killing Soji.
Speaking of Narek, he boards a one-person spacecraft in the Artifact’s hangar bay and departs the cube. La Sirena is no longer caught in a tractor beam – though Rios and Raffi realise it is undoubtedly a trap. We get a great scene as La Sirena skims along the Artifact’s hull at close range, showing off the incredible level of detail that has gone into the CGI work on both vessels. Elnor, who seems to have struck up a bond with Hugh since we last saw him, opts to remain behind to help the xBs after seeing them executed, and La Sirena warps off toward Nepenthe with Narek close behind.
For the first time since the show premiered, the main cast actually felt like a crew in this moment. And I know it seems silly as they’re all split up, but leaving Elnor behind was emotional for Rios, Raffi, and Dr Jurati – they clearly think they will never see him again. Whether they’re right or not doesn’t matter right now, because in that moment there was a sense of camaraderie; a bond between La Sirena’s crewmates. This is definitely something that Star Trek: Picard has lacked when compared to other shows. Even Deep Space Nine and Voyager, which both had different interpretations of a “divided” crew, had a sense of fellowship – and finally, seven episodes in, we saw some of that here. It was a nice throwback to the way crews have been in other Star Trek shows, and I really hope we see more of that going forward as Soji joins the crew and they’re all – hopefully – reunited with Elnor in a future episode.
If you’ve been here before and read my other reviews, you’ll know I like to nitpick. And even in an episode as good as Nepenthe, there are still small things to pick at. After the credits roll, we’re with Picard and Soji as they materialise on Nepenthe – a few minutes’ walk from Troi and Riker’s house. That was some luck with the spatial trajector! I know it’s possible to get exact transport coordinates, but did Picard tell Hugh exactly where on the planet to send them? Did he know, by heart, the rough location of Riker’s house? Anyway, after they materialise they’re set upon by a girl brandishing a bow and arrow. Picard makes reference to his artificial heart – as seen in the episode Tapestry from the fifth season of The Next Generation – and it’s clear he recognises the girl. He calls her Kestra – which was the name of Deanna Troi’s sister from the seventh season of The Next Generation, specifically the episode Dark Page. It was nice to get a couple of little references in quick succession like that – and as always, neither of them got in the way of the flow of the story. Star Trek: Picard has handled its links to the franchise extraordinarily well.
While walking with Kestra to her home, Picard drops two huge bombshells on Soji. The first is that her father is Data, which means she’s an android. And the second is that Dahj has died. Soji, unsure really of what’s happened or who to trust, doesn’t really react. In this moment she doesn’t have space to process what she’s feeling, so grieving for Dahj will have to come later. Whereas Dahj seemed to have, as part of her programming, a desire to find Picard and an inherent feeling of safety in his presence, this seems to be absent in Soji for the duration of the episode. While she will, later, start to warm up to him and come around to the idea of trusting him, that feeling of safety and a desire to turn to Picard for protection does not seem to have been programmed into her in the way it was with Dahj. If I were to speculate as to why, I’d say it was probably because Dahj’s assignment was on Earth, whereas Soji’s was on the Artifact. It makes sense for Dahj to run to Picard as he was someone Maddox knew he could trust and was a stone’s throw away. On the Artifact, running to Picard would be difficult if not impossible, and Soji may have had someone else programmed into her as part of her activation, or she may have simply been programmed to defend herself. It’s also possible that, as Picard and Hugh intervened, Soji is not fully activated in the way Dahj was.
Picard was clearly expecting a different reaction from Soji. Even though he only knew Dahj for a short time, she trusted him implicitly, turned to him for help, and even saved his life. Because Soji and Dahj look identical – “more than twins”, as the show puts it – I wonder if he’s expecting her to behave in an identical manner too. When she doesn’t, it almost seems as if he doesn’t know what to do or what to say; she isn’t what he expected, and he may even feel disappointed by that, underneath the frustration of constantly messing things up.
The cabin was an absolutely lovely set, and must have been a fun location to film on for the actors. It’s rustic in its appearance, but it’s what I’d call “21st Century rustic” in that this is clearly not a log cabin from the 1800s! It makes sense as the home of a couple who know their way around technology but want the appearance of something from an earlier time, and as we’ll see that is basically exactly what the cabin is. Of all the sets used so far in Star Trek: Picard, including the vineyard, this is the one which feels most like a modern-day building, though. I liked that, because I could see how that kind of design could still be popular or could make a comeback, but I can also see that being a point of criticism for some, as it is definitely different from any other 24th Century buildings we’ve seen in earlier Star Trek shows.
While we’re dealing with the aesthetic, though, Star Trek: Picard has definitely fallen into the trap that The Next Generation and its contemporaries also fell into in that every planet visited is clearly California! We had Picard’s home in France, the town on Vashti, and now Nepenthe. While they are all different in some respects, they’re not so different that you’d be tricked into thinking they weren’t all filmed within fifty miles of each other. In a way, I think we’ve probably been spoilt by big-budget shows like Game of Thrones, which famously had filming locations right across Europe from Croatia to Northern Ireland and Iceland. Expecting something on that level was unrealistic, and to the credit of the showrunners the locations mentioned do all have a different tone – it’s just that they are all very definitely filmed in California.
The music in Star Trek: Picard has generally been great, but the music played as Picard reunites with Troi was a cut above and absolutely outstanding. Much of the emotion in any scene is tied to the music, even if we as the audience don’t realise it. And as Kestra delivers Picard and Soji to her mother we get a beautiful piece that ebbs and flows with the emotions of the characters.
Troi, as an empath, can tell that Picard is in trouble – which is of course why he came to them in the first place. However, it’s her next moment after they embrace that really got me. We know, as of Maps and Legends, that Picard is dying. And Troi wordlessly touches his face and conveys, with just a bare look, that she knows his health is beginning to fail. He tries to reassure her that he’s fine, but of course we know better.
The next scene is the one we’ve all been waiting for since we first saw Riker in the second Star Trek: Picard trailer last year: the reunion between the Captain and his Number One. Jonathan Frakes’ performance in this scene reflects perfectly what the audience has been feeling for this whole journey: the excitement and pure joy of seeing an old friend again. That’s what nostalgia is, in a way. We’re just as happy to be reunited with Picard after all this time as Riker is in this moment. The last time we saw Riker and Picard, at the end of Star Trek: Nemesis, they were parting ways as Riker was moving on to take command of his own ship. A lot has happened since then as Troi and Riker seem settled in their home and with a teenage daughter to boot.
Riker’s home is not as rustic as it seems. Upon learning that Picard is in trouble and hiding out, he barks orders at the cabin’s computer: “shields up!” being my favourite, a classic Riker line from The Next Generation, delivered in exactly the way we’d remember from that show. There was also a neat little name-drop of the Kzinti – a feline-like species that featured in an episode of The Animated Series back in the 1970s! That might actually be my favourite one-line reference so far in the whole series; tying Star Trek: Picard to Captain Kirk’s lesser-known adventures.
The young actress playing Kestra does a great job in this scene as she brings a hunted “bunnicorn” to Riker to prepare for dinner. It’s clear that, having grown up in a rural setting, Kestra is much more comfortable with hunting and skinning than many would be in the 24th Century – or even in the 21st! Sometimes younger performers, especially those cast for smaller roles, can end up coming across inauthentic in their delivery of lines and the way they inhabit their roles, but none of that was the case here. She did a great job and was convincing as the daughter of Riker and Troi.
Soji takes a shower – outside, of course, to add to the feeling of a rustic cabin-in-the-woods – and Kestra pesters her with questions, all of which related to things Data enjoyed or could do: playing the violin, reading Sherlock Holmes, and finally her physical abilities like running and jumping – which we sad Dahj do in Remembrance – and being able to bend steel. Soji has just done this, when she ripped a hole in the floor of the meditation room to escape, but we also saw Data do so on several occasions, notably in Star Trek: Nemesis and in The Measure of a Man, the second-season episode of The Next Generation which introduced Bruce Maddox. Kestra is immediately accepting of Soji. Not that the others weren’t, of course, but she takes to Soji as a friend whereas Picard sees himself as more of a guardian. Soji needed that, I feel, after everything she’s been through.
The questions Kestra asked about whether she has, among other things, saliva, were reminiscent of the observations Dr Bashir made of Data in The Next Generation episode Birthright, a two-parter from the sixth season. Both Bashir and Kestra were interested less in the extraordinary things an android could do – like calculate unimaginably huge numbers in an instant – and more in the ways that their creators had tried to make them ordinary. Data could breathe and had a pulse, and Soji has normal body fluids like saliva. Whether intentional or not, and I have to assume it was given how much care and attention has gone into Star Trek: Picard at this point, I loved this little callback to Data and The Next Generation.
Kestra’s parents have clearly told her so much about Data, and again as a long-time fan I think that’s something I wanted to see even if I would never have realised it. To know that Data, who died in Nemesis almost twenty years ago, is still remembered by his friends is a great feeling – and as someone who had longed to be human, this most human of legacies is something I think he would have approved of. As Kestra keeps up her questions and discussion of Data, Soji says that, until she heard the word “android” used, she was still hoping that she might be human after all. This is a lot to take in for her, as in the last few hours her whole life has been exposed as a lie and everything has come crashing down: her boyfriend, her job, her family, and her whole identity. Now she’s stuck on a planet she doesn’t know with people she’s never met, and she feels horribly unsettled not just with them but in her own skin – or whatever the android equivalent of skin is.
It was a nice touch to see the term “android” back in Nepenthe, after previous episodes of Star Trek: Picard had almost entirely used the terms “synth” or “synthetic” when discussing artificial life. I still feel, despite the presence of holograms on La Sirena, that there must be a reason for that. The vision Commodore Oh showed Dr Jurati, and the idea of rogue AIs destroying sentient life which motivates her and the Zhat Vash, are not exclusive problems caused by Soji-type androids. As we saw with Control in Star Trek: Discovery, any kind of AI is potentially susceptible.
An emotional Deanna leads Picard to her son’s bedroom, and we learn that not everything worked out for the Troi-Riker family after we last saw them. Their son, and Kestra’s older brother, died a few years previously. As is not uncommon with grieving parents, Riker and Troi have kept his bedroom as he left it, and as it’s presumably the only other available room, this is where she offers Picard a rest. We got a nice photo of Picard – in his post-Nemesis uniform – holding Thad as a baby, and Deanna gives Picard a very unconvincing “we’re fine!” when discussing him. It’s clearly still incredibly painful for her – whether she feels the loss even more as someone who has empathic traits isn’t clear, but as an episode dealing with the loss of a child and looking at how families and parents respond to that, Nepenthe was right up there with many other Star Trek episodes throughout the years that have tackled complex emotional topics.
One thing that is clear, though, as Picard and Troi continue this conversation, is that she is uncomfortable with their presence. Not because she didn’t want to see him – she clearly does – but because of the danger their visit poses. Having lost her son, she cannot bear the idea of her daughter being in any kind of danger. Nepenthe can be a stopover for Picard and Soji, then, but any hope of a permanent shelter or even a longer stay is dashed – and Picard knows that. He probably knew it before they ever arrived, but if he had hope of staying beyond a few days it’s gone without Riker or Troi having to come out and say so.
La Sirena is up next, and the trio still aboard have realised that they’re being pursued. Narek is clearly an expert pilot, and has managed to get his ship to sit in a kind of “blind spot”, almost unnoticeable to Rios. They discuss how to throw him off their tail, and Rios performs a new manoeuvre of dropping out of warp very suddenly so that Narek will “overshoot” La Sirena without realising. Star Trek’s warp drive has always been a bit of a mess in canon, so this being a new tactic is fine. I think it’s not original in that it’s something other sci fi franchises have used in the past, but as a narrative device it worked well here, I felt.
Dr Jurati then pipes up asking Raffi and Rios if they really want to go to Nepenthe or if they can instead pack up and go back to Earth. We know, as the audience, that she’s getting cold feet about her mission, frightened of what might happen if she ended up face-to-face with Soji. But Rios and Raffi don’t know what’s going on – or how it is that they’re being tracked – so Raffi assumes she’s just frightened and takes her off the bridge. Dr Jurati made reference to a gormagander in this scene, which was a space-dwelling life-form seen in Short Treks and Star Trek: Discovery, continuing the theme of the episode tying itself into other stories in the franchise!
Riker is cooking dinner on Nepenthe when Picard walks up. He’s reluctant to tell him too much about Soji or what happened, but Riker is able to figure out much of it from Soji’s behaviour. Picard has been a man alone in his mission so far. Dr Jurati, the only person on La Sirena who we thought was on his side is actually working for the enemy, and the others are just along for the ride or for pay. Even Elnor, who had signed on for Picard’s hopeless cause, has chosen to stay on the Artifact where he feels he’s more needed. So in this moment, when he had a genuine friend offering to help, it seems strange that Picard chose not to. Of course part of it has to do with what happened to Riker’s son and the presence of Kestra and Troi – he doesn’t want to endanger them any further. But telling Riker the full truth – something he failed to do for Hugh, the only other trustworthy face he’s seen since he left Earth – was an option.
Seeing Soji immediately pick up on Thad and Kestra’s made-up language was great, and we’ve seen her in previous episodes speak Romulan and the language of the xB called “nameless”, so we know it’s a skill she possesses. What I absolutely did not like in this sequence, or rather, what I felt had not been set up at all and failed to work, was Soji’s awkward Data-esque head tilting motion. That was a Data trademark from his earliest appearances in The Next Generation, but we’ve never seen Soji behave in such an artificial way. Whatever techniques Bruce Maddox and his team used to create her, they had improved upon the formula used by Data’s creator Dr Soong, meaning we shouldn’t see her do something that looked so odd and artificial. It was clearly put in as a story point, one which Riker immediately picked up on, and I know as a single second of screen time it doesn’t seem worth commenting on, but of all the Soji moments in Nepenthe, I felt it was by far the weakest, and its inclusion was not a good decision given that it had never been set up. There were plenty of other ways for Riker to pick up on Soji’s true nature, or of course, as mentioned above, Picard could have explained the situation.
Riker gives Picard a piece of his mind – calling him out for trying to carry everything himself and not let anyone help, calling it “classic Picard arrogance”. This wasn’t an attack, it was the “absolute candor” of an old friend. (See what I did there?)
In the tomato garden, Troi offers Soji a home-grown tomato. For someone who’s only ever had replicated food, she can sense the difference right away. There’s a message here too, I think, for us as the audience. We live in a world where food is increasingly processed, and more often than not something that comes in a packet from a supermarket. Many of us in the modern world are out of touch with food production and where our food comes from, and there is a uniqueness to something grown at home that I think we can all relate to.
Troi uses the example of the tomato to explain to Soji why “real” isn’t always better. Soji says that she is not real – like replicated food as they had just been discussing. But it turns out that the illness that killed Thad was something that could have been cured using a positronic matrix – i.e. an android brain. Unfortunately, due to the ban on synthetic life, no such matrix was available to synthesise a cure, and Thad died as a result. While an interesting metaphor, and something Soji desperately needed to hear, this also adds a personal dimension to the synth ban. Not only has it gotten Dahj killed, but we now know that the ban directly resulted in the death of Troi and Riker’s son. I’d absolutely argue that this raises the stakes even higher in Picard’s coming battle against the Zhat Vash and their allies in Starfleet.
Soji finally opens up, telling Troi a little about what happened with Narek and how he betrayed her trust. Narek has really done a number on Soji. In addition to everything she’s gone through and learnt in the last few hours, she finds it impossible to really trust anyone, and that’s all thanks to Narek’s manipulations. I wrote last time that the Narek-Soji storyline can be seen as analogous to gaslighting, and again I feel we see part of that here. Having been lied to, having had her head messed with and dissected by Narek, Soji is finding it incredibly hard to trust anyone, even Picard.
Their conversation is interrupted by Picard and Riker, however, and Soji storms off after Picard tries the old “reverse psychology” technique. He should have left the counselling to, well, the counsellor, because he really just managed to make things worse. Troi gives him a second dressing-down for the way he acted, and he starts to realise in this moment what’s going on and why Soji hasn’t behaved the same way that Dahj did. He will have to earn her trust, despite going out of his way to save her.
Elnor and Hugh are racing around the Artifact with a mission – they plan to return to the “queen cell” that they used to help Picard and Soji escape, and use the “immense power” it contains to seize control of the Artifact. Unfortunately they run into Rizzo, who has been tracking them. We finally, for the first time since Picard left Earth, get a mention of the Zhat Vash and confirmation that Rizzo is indeed a Zhat Vash operative. That aspect of the show had all but disappeared as Picard and everyone else insisted on referring to their adversaries as the Tal Shiar. As I said last time, this does make a kind of sense from an in-universe point of view, but I think it could be offputting for casual viewers in particular, as following the ins and outs of various Romulan factions is not easy, and the last thing viewers want when watching a show is to not understand the basics like who’s who and what’s going on.
Interestingly, Elnor doesn’t really seem to react to this revelation, though it is clear that the Zhat Vash and Qowat Milat know of each others’ existence. I had speculated that Elnor, having been told by Picard that he was facing off against the Tal Shiar, might have reacted badly to the involvement of the Zhat Vash. He still might, if he learns that Picard knew and didn’t tell him, but in this moment he doesn’t even react at all, he simply continues the fight. After dispatching a couple of Rizzo’s guards, the two engage in a hand-to-hand battle, but Rizzo uses a hidden blade to kill Hugh. In his dying moments, Hugh tells Elnor to find an xB and use them to activate whatever is in the “queen cell” – presumably something which will allow them to work together and overthrow their Romulan guards. Rizzo beams away before Elnor can avenge Hugh’s death, but I’m sure she’ll get her comeuppance sooner or later.
Raffi and Dr Jurati are sharing cake in the back of La Sirena. One thing I liked, both with the replicator in this scene and with transporters in various episodes since the show premiered, is that the materialisation process for both replicators and the transporter is significantly faster than it had been in The Next Generation and shows of that era. The faster pace, which allows both people and goods to appear almost instantaneously, feels like a natural progression of those similar technologies, and I appreciated that. Dr Jurati breaks down on being told she’s a good person – she’s been wrestling with her feelings and emotions since she killed Maddox. In that moment she was able to do the deed, but it’s broken her and, if she survives, her usefulness as an operative to the Commodore Oh-Zhat Vash conspiracy is surely at an end. If she did plan to stick around and kill Soji, I just don’t see her being able to go through with it.
As Dr Jurati vomits up her cake – the second time in this episode that poor Alison Pill has had to throw up on screen – Raffi escorts her to sickbay. Rios informs them that Narek is still on their tail, which I’m sure could only make Dr Jurati feel worse at this point, as it’s her presence that allows him to track La Sirena.
Dinner is finally served at the Troi-Riker cabin. After Picard has been unable to contact Rios aboard La Sirena, Kestra mentions a Capt. Crandall who has a ship, and again we got a couple of name-drops, this time of the Klingon homeworld, Qo’nos, most recently seen in Star Trek: Discovery, and Tyken’s Rift, which refers to the episode Night Terrors from the fourth season of The Next Generation. Picard and Soji did leave Nepenthe at the end of the episode, but I wonder if this Capt. Crandall will come back into play in future, as Star Trek: Picard has hardly wasted a second of runtime in any of its episodes on dead ends.
Picard uses himself, or rather, his physical state, to try to persuade Soji to trust him, remembering his encounter with Dahj and getting Soji to use her newly-activated skills to assess him to determine whether he’s telling the truth.
During the conversation, Picard confesses to Soji and the others his true reason for helping her. Partly it’s a desire to help Data, to repay Data’s sacrifice by helping what Picard considers to be his offspring. But the other element to his willingness to help is that Dahj essentially snapped him out of a fourteen-year-long depression, giving him motivation and a cause again, which is clearly something he never felt he’d get. I’ve written before about how Picard has been depressed in Star Trek: Picard. The first two episodes in particular looked at that side of him and his life since Nemesis, but it’s in this moment that Picard acknowledges it for himself. It can be hard for someone dealing with depression to even realise what’s happening, and acknowledging that privately to oneself is incredibly difficult to do because it means acknowledging what society still considers to be a weakness. Picard has been depressed, and if anyone says “but the Picard I remember never would be depressed!” then I have two things to say. First is that they should go and watch The Measure of a Man from the second season of The Next Generation – a review of which can be found here – and watch how Picard acts when he seems like he’s going to lose the case. Watch him in the scene with Guinan in Ten-Forward and compare it to how he was acting in the premiere of Star Trek: Picard. Also look at his emotional, angry reaction to the Borg in First Contact and compare that to his fear and hatred in last week’s episode. This is the man we’ve known. The second thing I’d say is that anyone believing that certain people, even fictional characters, could “never” fall into depression needs to get some fucking empathy because that can happen to anyone, at any time, for any reason or for no reason. Anyone who’s lived a life has had ups and downs; Picard’s “down” was intense and long-lasting, and just because someone has been lucky in life never to suffer like that, or see someone close to them suffer, well that doesn’t mean it can’t happen or that it doesn’t happen to others. This moronic criticism plagued Luke Skywalker’s characterisation in The Last Jedi a couple of years ago too. It was as stupid, insensitive, and ignorant about mental health then as it is now. Rant over.
Picard acknowledges for the first time how bad he’d been feeling. And though he doesn’t say it, his gratitude to Dahj for snapping him out of it and giving him something worth believing in again is a powerful motivator when it comes to helping Soji.
This was a deeply personal speech, but delivered in the calm Picard style that we remember from The Next Generation. He doesn’t raise his voice, he doesn’t try to be sarcastic or pushy or aggressive, or anything else. He gently makes his case to her, and after everything she’s been through, Soji relents and shares with Picard and the others the information she gave Narek. Last week I nitpicked this information, saying that in an area the size of the explored galaxy, a planetary body with two red moons and a lightning storm is hardly conclusive. There are other issues, too, such as the fact that nothing in her dream indicated that lightning storms were a constant presence on that world, nor that whatever caused the moons to appear red from the surface would be noticeable from space. I also said, however, that none of this would matter for the sake of the story! And in moments, Kestra has texted this Capt. Crandall and found the location of the planet – an unnamed world in the Vayt Sector.
So much to unpack here, but let’s start with Picard saying “thoughts?” to Troi and Riker. For a brief moment, we weren’t at a cabin in the wilds of Nepenthe, but on the Enterprise-D in the briefing room. That moment, as Picard asked the two for their opinions and they replied in turn could have been transposed to that setting and it would have slotted perfectly into place. I loved it as a nostalgia trip.
Next, though it wasn’t necessarily approached this way in the episode, how do we feel about young Kestra having a literally under-the-table text conversation with Capt. Crandall, who Riker describes as “unstable”? In another episode of Star Trek, perhaps that concept could be explored more. As we live in a world where almost all young people over the age of nine or ten have an internet-enabled device, what they use that technology for and who they communicate with is an issue that parents, schools, and governments will have to face.
Armed with the location of Soji’s homeworld – or at least, a good candidate for it – there’s a renewed optimism to Picard’s mission, and hope that he and Soji might be able to get there in time – though what exactly they will find there isn’t known. Troi and Riker, when they discussed Maddox around the table, seemed to imply that Soji and Dahj may not be the only synthetics living there – could there be a machine civilisation on this world for Picard to make first contact with? And how does this tie into what we already know from Stardust City Rag about Maddox’s lab having been destroyed by the Tal Shiar?
Rios takes Dr Jurati to the sickbay area of La Sirena. We get a better look at this area than last time. La Sirena is a small ship, but still larger than the Runabouts seen in Deep Space Nine or Voyager’s Delta Flyer. The rear area of the ship seems to double as a sickbay with a couple of beds and also a meeting/conference area with a table. Rios suspects they’re being tracked by Narek, which is how he keeps finding them. But he’s mistaken in his choice of who to trust – he feels that Raffi, after her time on Freecloud, may be spying on them or being tracked herself. This had been set up perfectly last week – not the suspicion of Raffi itself, but that Rios, when left with only two people on board, would turn to Dr Jurati having shared an intimate moment with her last time. He’s known Raffi longer, but he also knows she has a drug issue. He hasn’t known Dr Jurati very long at all, but they have shared a very close moment – possibly the first time in a long time that the lonely starship captain had been with anyone. His suspicion of Raffi only makes Dr Jurati feel still worse, and she comes right out and admits that she’s the one being tracked, but in that same moment Raffi calls Rios to the bridge to deal with Narek. There’s a look between Rios and Jurati that could be interpreted as him understanding what she said – or at least planting a seed for that understanding next week. In the moment, however, he has to deal with Narek and runs to the bridge.
Overwhelmed, unable to cope, and now having probably blown her cover and ruined her relationship with the only person on La Sirena she could have conceivably turned to for help, Dr Jurati uses the replicator to synthesise poison, which she uses a hypospray to inject herself with. Alison Pill was phenomenal here, no exaggeration. Without saying a word, the expressions on her face, the shaky way she raises and lowers the hypospray before finally taking the plunge and using it was riveting and disturbing to watch. Even though Star Trek: Picard is science fiction and her suicide method was a hypospray, there was something gritty, realistic, and outright disturbing to watching her try to take her own life. Suicide can be hard to portray on screen, often being overly dramatic and stylised, or worse, the “noble” suicide where a character kills himself or herself for the greater good. This scene was neither of those things. Dr Jurati made the attempt on her own life because she couldn’t live with the double guilt of what she’d done to her former friend, and that she was putting her new friends in danger. She was at the end of her rope, and felt that she had nowhere to turn to and no other option – it was an act of desperation. And it was portrayed as such. The camerawork stayed on her face and upper body throughout the scene, starting with her dash to the replicator and ending with her collapsing on the floor.
I don’t think this is the end for her – La Sirena’s EMH will make sure of that – but her crime will now surely be exposed, and it will be up to Picard, Soji, and the others what to do with a murderer and a spy.
Taking the poison does appear to have the side-effect of neutralising the tracking device, at least temporarily. Aboard his ship, Narek watches a single light blink out on his map, and is unable to find it again. For someone who had seemed to be wavering, Narek feels, in this wordless scene, like he’s once again found his faith in the Zhat Vash cause. Whether that will hold up if he meets Soji again is not clear, though.
On La Sirena’s bridge, Rios is clearly still suspicious of Raffi, but the EMH’s call notifies him that Dr Jurati is in a coma and they both seem to drop that conversation as he runs to be by her side in sickbay. Raffi remains alone on the bridge, seeming to dismiss his short investigation with an eye-roll. The action then jumps back to the Artifact, where Elnor is now alone and hiding out from Rizzo’s security forces. He spots a Fenris Rangers badge/chip and activates it – the call will bring Seven of Nine and her vigilante group to the Artifact. Elnor just has to lay low until they get there, then he can – presumably – use Seven of Nine to do whatever it was that Hugh wanted to do with the “queen cell”. In another scene with no dialogue, I really got the impression of Elnor being a man alone, trapped against impossible odds. He’s way out of his depth as a man with a sword on a Borg cube – and he knows it.
It’s time for goodbyes on Nepenthe, and we get a scene glimpsed in the trailers as Riker and Picard sit down on a wooden dock. They talk, one-on-one, about the mission, about Picard jumping back into galactic affairs, and again Picard’s “condition” – i.e. his terminal illness – is again referenced. Picard always valued Riker’s advice, and had always insisted on being given his unfiltered opinion, and just as in The Next Generation, Riker obliges here.
There was a strange kind of Americana vibe to two older men sat on a fishing dock that I feel served the scene well given their conversation. The staging, in that sense, was fantastic, even if it wouldn’t have been something we’d necessarily say was “Star Trek-y” just reading about it. Seeing the full scene unfold, however, was a different experience, and just like how in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, seeing Kirk, Spock, and McCoy camping in the wilderness was a great scene, so too was this one. The “thank you” Picard gave to Riker – not just for letting him stay but really for everything they did together – was beautiful, but tinged with emotion knowing that Picard thinks he may never get another chance to say it.
I get the sense that Riker would have signed up in a heartbeat – but Picard can’t and won’t ask him to leave his family. He has obligations on Nepenthe, and Picard is content to head off to Soji’s homeworld with the new crew he has put together.
We already knew Picard, Riker, and Troi have a great connection. And that was on full display in Nepenthe, no doubt. What really surprised me, however, was the bond between Soji and Kestra. They got together like kids whose parents are friends often do – how many of us remember something like that from our own childhoods? But the bond they forged was genuine, and when Kestra says she will miss her, she really means it. Partly, I’m sure, that’s because she lives in a quiet, rural area, and Soji represents someone new and something altogether different and exciting. But largely it is because the two young women got along really well together – Soji may have made her first genuine friend on the show thus far. The hug between them as Soji and Picard prepared to depart was no less emotional than Picard’s was with Riker and Troi.
As La Sirena enters transporter range, Picard and Soji are beamed aboard, leaving the Troi-Riker family behind. I can’t tell right now whether it’s the last we’ll see of them in the series, or whether we might get Riker steaming back in to save the day if something goes wrong. We’ll have to see as the final episodes unfold.
So that was Nepenthe. As I said at the beginning, a quieter episode in some respects, but an intensely emotional one. The theme of nostalgia was once again perfectly played and never overused, with enough screen time given to all of La Sirena’s crew to balance out the scenes with Riker and Troi. Unless the show’s creators have a surprise in mind for later episodes, which they just might, I think we’ve seen all of the legacy characters that we knew would be in the show now.
After The Impossible Box, I sat back in my seat and felt this amazing sensation that you might experience after an intense rollercoaster at a theme park. When the credits rolled on Nepenthe, I almost cried, such was the intensity of emotion than ran through almost every scene. Some of them hit particularly hard – as some of you may know if you’re regulars, my own mental health is somewhat complicated, and my history with some of the issues raised in the episode brought feelings and memories to the fore.
Overall I loved Nepenthe. Seeing Riker and Troi was a treat after so long, and finally Picard and La Sirena now have their final destination in mind. Elnor may need help first, though.
Nepenthe is available to stream now, along with the first six episodes of Star Trek: Picard, on CBS All Access in the United States, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and other countries and territories. The Star Trek franchise – including Star Trek: Picard – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.