Star Trek: Picard Episode Review – Season 3, Episode 9: Võx

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-3. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Wrath of KhanThe Next GenerationDeep Space NineVoyager, and Discovery.

First of all, before we say anything else: Võx might be the most important episode of the season to go into un-spoiled. If you’ve somehow stumbled upon this review before watching the episode – and you decided to ignore Captain Stiles issuing a “spoiler alert” above – this is your last chance to nope out before we get into major spoiler territory. I was lucky to have avoided spoilers before watching Võx, and the episode will be infinitely more enjoyable for you if you can do the same.

Võx is a hard one to review with any semblance of objectivity. It’s an episode “made for fans,” and it hit some absolutely incredible emotional notes, particularly in the closing few minutes. As someone who first came to Star Trek in the early ’90s by way of The Next Generation, and who found comfort in that show as a lonely adolescent, it’s hard to even find words to fully express how incredible some of these sequences were with Picard and his reunited crew.

You know me well enough by now to know that there’s a “but” coming, though.

The Enterprise-F.

But at the same time, Võx prioritised these emotional sequences of pure fan-service over narrative cohesion, and my overriding concern is that the story has reached this point too late in the game – leaving the final episode of the season, and the series, with too much work to do to pull out a successful ending. This problem plagued both Seasons 1 and 2 of Picard, and I can’t help but feel that lessons have not been learned from those stories.

There were logically inconsistent moments spread throughout Võx, moments that could have worked if more time and explanation had been dedicated to them, but that fell flat – or even felt downright laughable – because of how unoriginal, trope-laden, or just plain ridiculous they were. Some scenes and sequences that needed more time dedicated to them were blitzed through in minutes or even seconds, and while the incredible sequences with Picard and his old crew basically wipe away many of those criticisms – or at least they did in the moment – when trying to look at the story through another lens, they seriously challenge and even potentially undermine the entire affair.

Picard is back in the captain’s chair.

As I said last week, the eight-episode chase with Vadic has proven to be a complete and utter waste. Vadic was a bland, unoriginal, and boring villain who accomplished very little, and whose over-the-top performance didn’t come close to finding a narrative justification. That on its own was already problematic for the story of the season, but the revelation in Võx that the Borg have been directing this conspiracy now feels like it has come too late in the game.

There have been hints and teases at a Borg connection to the story all season long – and I’m glad that those received a narrative payoff, don’t get me wrong – but is there enough time now to do justice to this story? The preceding eight episodes – a full 80% of the season-long story – now feel like a preamble; the prologue to what will be a remarkably short main event.

Sidney La Borg.

Last week, I made a comparison to The Wrath of Khan, and said that Vadic’s death coming in the eighth part of a ten-part story is akin to Khan having been killed when there was still half an hour left in the film. Now we can add to that metaphor and say that this story compares to Khan having been killed while there was still half an hour left, and it was subsequently revealed that the Klingons had secretly been pulling his strings all along. Would such a revelation have made the film better? Or do stories work best when they have a clearly defined antagonist who fills the role for the duration?

There’s another point that’s been bugging me, and I’ve struggled with finding the right word for it. Picard Seasons 2 and 3 went into production back-to-back, with the same production and writing team involved in both stories. With that in mind, these two seasons feel remarkably jumbled and even contradictory – the story leaps from one version of the Borg and the Borg Queen to another, sees two structurally similar re-emergences of the Borg play out, and seems to completely ignore its own earlier chapters.

Guess who’s back?

This is something we’ll have to tackle in the future when we do some kind of retrospective look at Star Trek: Picard as a whole, but I feel echoes of the Star Wars sequel trilogy, at least in terms of the way in which production was handled. And no, I don’t mean that in any way as a compliment! Like the Star Wars sequels, Picard was cleaved into three parts. Like the Star Wars sequels, one production team took the helm for two of those parts. And like the Star Wars sequels, the decision to split up the story has led to some seriously questionable narrative decisions.

But that’s a conversation for another day!

Not for the first time in Star Trek: Picard, a genuinely interesting, exciting, and engaging storyline has been presented – but was let down by overused clichés, insufficient explanations, and unnecessary time constraints. The idea that the Borg would ally with (or take advantage of) a rogue group of changelings, combining their powers together to take on Starfleet, is a fascinating one – in theory. Likewise, the Borg having biotechnology far beyond the capabilities of the Federation, and insidiously using that to take over Starfleet, was an incredible shock, and a concept that fits right in with everything we know about both of these factions.

This explanation was clever.

But Võx was imperfect in its execution of these fascinating ideas, and Picard’s third season as a whole spent an awfully long time arriving at this point. With only one episode left, which on current form will be somewhere less than an hour long, is there enough time to fully explore this changeling-Borg team-up, undo the damage to the Federation, save Jack and the La Forge sisters, and protect Earth from the “assimilated” Federation fleet?

As the ninth part of a ten-episode story, Võx repeated the problem that Et in Arcadia Ego had in Season 1 by dumping all of this into the story at a very late stage. Surely there must’ve been ways to keep some secrets while revealing others earlier in the season – to move the story along at a more reasonable pace, reaching this point sooner, allowing for more time to do justice to some of these wonderfully creative ideas.

Did we reach this point in the story too late?

Let’s talk about some of these tropes and clichés, because they let down what could have been a far more entertaining episode – and I’m afraid that there really is no excuse for them other than uninspired writing.

Firstly we have Jack’s conversation with Deanna, his confrontation with Picard, and particularly his escape from the Titan. After so many teases of the “red door” that I’ve lost count, having Deanna run away from Jack without revealing what she saw – and without the episode letting us see what she could see – wasn’t the best or strongest way to start. If I were to nitpick, I’d also say that Deanna choosing not to tell Jack what she saw, and experiencing such fear, feels out-of-character for her. That she’d tell Jack’s parents what she knew without informing Jack himself is, in Jack’s own words, “unethical.”

This sequence wasn’t great – though I’m glad Troi finally got something to do!

Jack’s escape from the Titan was poorly-scripted, with practically every character aside from Jack himself behaving in profoundly odd ways. After their clash in Jack’s quarters, Picard simply stood around, not bothering to give chase, contact anyone on the Titan, order a lockdown… or do anything at all to prevent Jack from leaving. Perhaps Jack’s Borg-given superpowers would have made his escape inevitable, but Picard should have done something beyond standing there yelling his name.

I literally laughed out loud when Picard and Dr Crusher were stood at the window, haplessly watching Jack’s shuttle warp away – such was the absolute anticlimax of this sequence. And again, this is a consequence of season-long pacing: had some of the extraneous fluff been cut from the past couple of episodes, we could have had more of an involved sequence depicting Jack’s escape. One that might have felt a little less contrived.

I laughed out loud at this moment.

Technobabble in Star Trek can be used to cover all manner of sins – including weak story points! But even with the caveat that “technobabble solves everything,” the way in which the technology and universe of Star Trek behaves has to be basically internally consistent from one story to the next, and there can’t be too much hacking away at the foundations of how some of these computers, machines, and equipment have been known to operate for literally decades.

With that in mind, the idea that the Titan would be unable to locate Jack’s shuttle – which had departed a matter of seconds earlier with everyone watching – simply because he “deactivated its transponder” doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t gel with how sensors have always been shown to operate in practically every other Star Trek story, and while I will give credit for Võx re-using this idea later with Picard’s crew taking their shuttle using a similar loophole, for me, it was a bridge too far in terms of technobabble. I’ve written before that internal consistency is the bedrock of suspension of disbelief in any story, so when a new chapter makes changes on the fly to established technologies that are too big, the gulf between what we’ve seen before and what’s currently unfolding becomes too large to cross. That’s what happened at this moment in Võx. It was too great a contrivance for me – though in a stronger story, perhaps it’s something that would have felt less of an important point.

Suddenly being unable to scan for a shuttlecraft was a major contrivance.

I can understand Dr Crusher and Picard jumping the gun and rushing to talk to Jack before they were ready. They’re emotionally compromised by their ties to Jack and, in Picard’s case, an overwhelming sense of guilt for passing this genetic condition to his son. But the others – Deanna, Data, and Geordi in particular – should have been the level-headed ones here. We saw moments later that they had been able to learn a great deal about Jack’s condition, so if Picard could’ve gone into his conversation with Jack armed with some of that knowledge, it feels like Jack’s need to run away might have been avoided altogether.

Again, this is a contrivance – characters behaving in illogical ways to serve the plot. Such contrivances can pass by inoffensively, and they have in many other Star Trek stories, I daresay! But here, as I watched the discussion of Jack’s condition and the revelation of what’s happened to him, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this wasn’t particularly well-written.

The situation with Jack could (and should) have been handled better.

The firefight in which Captain Shaw lost his life also played out like a tired trope. Dozens of blasts of phaser fire from assimilated Starfleet crewmen evaporated into thin air the second Shaw was hit, and the convenient end of the battle allowed Seven and Raffi to rush to his side. There are many ways to script and film heroic deaths without falling back on such overdone clichés… and it was a bit of a disappointment that the firefight in the Titan’s hallway ended this way.

Captain Shaw’s death was certainly dramatic, and I felt a pang of emotion in the moment thanks in part to an evocative performance from Jeri Ryan and an excellent musical score. But at the same time, Shaw feels like the lowest of low-hanging fruit to kill off, especially at this late stage in the story. The writers clearly wanted to get the impact of killing off a major character – but didn’t want to risk killing off a legacy character, at least not until everyone had taken their places on board the Enterprise-D.

Captain Shaw died this week.

Shaw served two purposes earlier in the season. He got in the way of Picard and Riker as they tried to jump-start their rescue mission, and his big blow-up with Picard about Locutus and Wolf-359 was the most significant reference to the Borg prior to the events of Võx. But since his emotional outburst, which came all the way back in the episode No Win Scenario half a season ago, Shaw has felt completely listless and unnecessary to the story. He’s been sidelined and kept out of the decision-making on his own ship, showing none of the backbone that he seemed to have in the season premiere.

Worse, Shaw’s continued mistreatment and deadnaming of Seven of Nine passed several opportunities for a resolution – and while there was a sweetness, in a way, to his seeming acceptance of her with his dying breath, it wasn’t the best way for this storyline to have progressed. In some ways, we can argue that Shaw actually regressed as a character after the events of No Win Scenario and Surrender in particular.

Captain Shaw used Seven’s real name with his last breath.

So by the time we arrived at Shaw’s end this week, two things struck me. Firstly, Shaw’s irrelevance to the story for the past few episodes, and the uninspired resolution to his conflict with Seven of Nine, come together to mean that his death could’ve come sooner – and that the story of the season as a whole might’ve been better for it.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Shaw’s death had an impact, demonstrating the high stakes and danger that the crew are now facing. But it wasn’t as impactful as it could’ve been, and killing off someone who is still very much a secondary character is less significant at this juncture than killing off someone more major.

The choice to kill off Captain Shaw – rather than another character – feels like the writers taking the safest route.

The decision for Raffi and Seven to remain aboard the Titan also feels narratively incoherent. Again, the writers and director/showrunner Terry Matalas clearly (and pretty desperately, it seems) wanted the reunion scene on the bridge of the Enterprise-D to consist of only characters from The Next Generation – which is why Seven and Raffi didn’t escape with the others. But the way in which they ended up abandoned aboard the Titan was poor; there was seemingly no reason why they couldn’t have boarded the shuttle with Picard and the others.

Maybe having Raffi and Seven staying on the Titan will lead to something significant next time – and I certainly hope that will be the case, or this will feel even more wasteful than it already does. But even assuming that hope comes to pass, there were better and more natural ways that they could have been trapped or forced to remain behind. Again, I feel the consequences of a season that padded out key storylines over the past few episodes and arrived at this stage with a lot to cram into a forty-five-minute runtime. A couple of extra minutes with Raffi and Seven in the aftermath of Shaw’s demise could have logically explained why they couldn’t board the shuttle, and would have gone a long way to strengthening this sequence.

Seven and Raffi are stuck on the Titan.

One line of technobabble leapt out at me in Võx, and it’s one that I fear could become problematic. One of the key narrative conceits of the episode is the Borg’s newfound ability to transmit their programming through biological means, specifically through a DNA sequence that afflicts the frontal cortex of the brain. I actually thought that this was a really neat idea, one that magnifies the threat that the Borg pose and simultaneously reinforces the idea that the Borg are still light-years ahead of the Federation in technological terms.

It was also a clever idea, especially in a story whose protagonists are older, to have this newfound Borg ability only impact younger members of the crew. That’s something that gives a reason for Picard and his old crew to work together – though it’s a justification for bringing back these characters that comes after they’ve already reunited! But when the story has dealt with themes of family, of parent-child relations, and of inheritance, it’s something that fits.

The Borg have modified Picard’s and Jack’s DNA.

However, there’s a real-world comparison that really bugs me in the way this was explained and brought to screen. I will caveat this by saying that I’m sure this story point wasn’t intended to be taken this way… but there are uncomfortable comparisons that exist nonetheless. In some anti-transgender circles, one line of attack that is particularly deployed against younger trans people is that “their brains aren’t developed enough” to make a decision about their gender identities. Specifically, this attack centres on the development of the frontal cortex and the age at which it supposedly stops developing – something that, of course, varies from person to person.

Although this idea is based on real-world science, I can’t help but feel that its inclusion in Võx may not have been the best idea given the situation out here in the real world. There are already a lot of anti-trans organisations here in the UK that are trying to contort science to support their views, and something like this is unhelpful at best. At worst, it risks adding fuel to the fire. I have no doubt that the writers and creative team didn’t intend for this line of technobabble to be taken so seriously, let alone be used as some kind of anti-trans metaphor. But that interpretation is present and it isn’t a total leap.

Worf and Geordi explaining the DNA modifications.

Võx has all of these imperfections and flaws, and key narrative points rely on tropes and clichés that have been done to death – and done far better in other stories, come to that. It’s worth pointing these out because the issues with the episode aren’t merely a consequence of narrative decisions taken earlier in the season, nor are they problems necessarily with the story of the season as a whole. These moments take what could have been a better episode and drag it down a rung or two, and while there are criticisms of the overall season, how long it took to reach this point, and the apparent irrelevance of much of what came before, it’s worth also noting that Võx is an imperfect offering even when taken on its own.

The question now is this: does any of that matter? All of these criticisms of Võx itself and of the occasionally ambling story… can they be overlooked, or even eradicated, by considering the strengths of the episode, and the nostalgia overload presented? See, the rational part of my mind is screaming “no!” because throwing up the nostalgia card, bringing back the Enterprise-D and the Borg Queen… it all feels so cheap. But the rational part of me is being completely drowned out by another voice, the voice of emotion. And that part of me adores practically everything we got to see this week, and is totally willing to overlook all of the contrivances and flaws that were present along the way.

The big reveal.

I’ve stated several times that I didn’t want Star Trek: Picard to try to be The Next Generation Season 8 or Nemesis 2. I wanted it to do its own thing, stand on its own two feet, drive Star Trek forward in new and different ways, and introduce some fantastic new characters who just might become fan-favourites for a new generation of fans. We’ll have to assess whether and to what extent the series as a whole accomplished any of those objectives after the dust has settled on this final outing.

But as much as I wanted to see more of the new characters, and to get Picard to a place where it could reasonably become a launchpad for other live-action Star Trek projects set in this era… again, a big part of me is on board with this TNG reunion. I genuinely didn’t expect that, especially after the disappointment I felt last year when the news emerged that most of the new characters were being jettisoned. We can argue about whether this was the right way to do it, whether this story is strong enough to move beyond those contrivances, and whether individual storylines and character arcs have worked as well as intended. But at the end of the day, seeing Picard and the crew reunited aboard the Enterprise-D, and getting that flyby of the ship itself… all of the criticisms that I had of Võx and of Season 3 seemed to melt away in the moment.

The crew arrives on the bridge.

Storytelling isn’t just canon, consistency, and logical outcomes. It isn’t just about the strength or weakness of individual storylines, whether a plot point is original or clichéd, or whether lines of technobabble stick the landing. Those points all matter, don’t get me wrong. But they aren’t the only factors.

Where Võx succeeded for me was in its emotional storytelling. It got so much right on this front, and not just the reunion of classic characters that I remember with fondness from my formative years. This was an episode that plucked all of the right emotional chords – even when it wasn’t getting every element perfect or making total sense. And this is a combination of elements: it’s cinematography and camera work, it’s the musical score, it’s visual effects, it’s acting performances, and of course, it’s the script itself. While there are undeniable flaws in Võx, the episode’s ability to pull at the heartstrings and create incredibly powerful emotional moments is its true success.

According to executive producers, this is the original dedication plaque from the set of The Next Generation.

The episode was densely packed with callbacks and references too numerous to list. The inclusion of the USS Pulaski – presumably named for Dr Kate Pulaski – was incredibly sweet, and I appreciated that the story hadn’t entirely forgotten her contributions to Star Trek. The return of Elizabeth Dennehy as Admiral Shelby was also pitch-perfect – Shelby was the up-and-coming young officer who helped Riker and co. battle the Borg in The Best of Both Worlds. As the Borg make their return, Shelby feels like a wonderfully fitting inclusion.

The speech Admiral Shelby gave brought a tear to my eye, and I’ll unashamedly admit that. As she sat on the bridge of the Enterprise-F, Shelby spoke of the NX-01 Enterprise and its original mission of exploration, laying the foundations for what would become Starfleet and the Federation. Enterprise hasn’t always been fully appreciated by Trekkies – myself included at the time of its original broadcast, regrettably – so to build this Frontier Day event on the back of Enterprise was incredibly sweet. Moments like this tie Star Trek together, especially as Enterprise premiered after The Next Generation.

Admiral Shelby’s speech was fantastic.

Shelby’s apparent death was also incredibly dramatic, being gunned down by her partially-assimilated crew as chaos was breaking out across the fleet. Although I think it’s important to concede, given the direction taken by the story and what we knew of the conspiracy by this late stage, that Shelby felt like a goner the moment she appeared on the viewscreen, her death was still dramatic, well-portrayed, and demonstrated clearly the extent of the Borg’s conquest of Starfleet.

Shelby and the captain of the USS Excelsior (which briefly appeared in Season 2) also stand as exemplars of thousands or perhaps tens of thousands of Starfleet officers who suffered similar fates during Frontier Day. The Borg-led scheme has been successful thus far, and the result is the decapitation and perhaps even the decimation of Starfleet as a whole. It wasn’t possible to show the unfolding chaos aboard multiple vessels in the fleet, so Shelby’s shock at what was rapidly transpiring around her, and her quick execution, stand in as the most brutal of examples.

The (apparent) demise of Admiral Shelby.

The Borg make a great metaphor for our collective fears of out-of-control computers, artificial intelligence, and the “technological singularity” that some have argued may lie in our future. This is something that I discuss in far greater detail in my essay The Borg: Space Zombies, which you can find by clicking or tapping here. What we saw in Võx feels – as it should do – like a modern-day adaptation of this same basic concept.

When the Borg Collective was first conceived in the ’80s, there was a technological revolution underway as computers and digitisation were transforming many aspects of life. This was the world of my childhood, and I remember arguing with my parents about getting a computer in the house – something they adamantly refused to do for a long time! But we’re drifting off-topic. The Borg at that time represented “technology gone wrong,” or what could happen to a race of technophiles if they took things to an unreasonable extreme.

The newly-assimilated Ensign Esmar.

In Võx, we see an evolution of this idea, complete with modern-day influences. The Borg in Võx “hack” into both Starfleet and into human beings – using a combination of biology and technology to do harm. The connected, linked fleet represents our globalised communications infrastructure, and the ease with which it was hacked and turned against our heroes is a warning against an overreliance on technology and artificial intelligence. Picard and his crew are forced to turn to the Enterprise-D – because it’s outdated, disconnected, and therefore perfectly-placed to save the day!

I’ve always found the Borg to be fascinating, and this Battlestar Galactica-inspired idea of using a “dumb” ship to combat the connected, “smart” ships feels like it fits perfectly with what we know of the Collective. As with the Borg’s biotechnology, this feels like a natural evolution of the Borg’s story – and of the Federation’s ongoing war against them.

Some kind of Borg transmitter… or something.

A Borg Cube was beautifully created in CGI, and the visual of it hidden in a nebula or cloud was spectacular, too. The new vessel seemed to have more illumination on the outside when compared to Borg ships seen in past iterations of Star Trek – but I actually quite liked the way it looked. Again, though, there are issues here: Jack figuring out where to go and how to get there is a moment that needed a bit more time, and I could’ve happily spent a scene or two with Jack en route to the Borg, perhaps seeing him struggling with his decision or seeing the Borg side of his mind working to suppress his human side.

Then there’s the interior of the Borg vessel. This was… not great. There were a couple of alcoves that looked decent, but overall I felt that the set design and construction could’ve been better. Looking back to scenes aboard the Artifact in Season 1 and there really is no comparison. If we aren’t going to spend too much time aboard this ship, then I guess it will pass inoffensively enough. But as the climax of a storyline for Jack Crusher that has been running all season long… I was underwhelmed with the small and unimpressive interior of the Borg Cube.

I wasn’t blown away by the set design here.

And this is another example of how the jumbled, muddled production of Star Trek: Picard as a whole series trips up Võx. Had we not seen the Artifact in Season 1, and the spectacularly frightening Borg vessel at the beginning of Season 2, this return to a Borg environment would have been far more impactful – and I could have probably overlooked the deficiencies in the presentation of the Borg ship.

The Borg Queen, played this time by a body double and archive voice recordings, was likewise a bit of a let-down. At the beginning of Season 2, we got a truly shocking and terrifying presentation of a new Borg Queen: hooded, wearing a robe, wielding mechanical tentacles, and able to take over an entire starship completely on her own. The way the Borg Queen came across in that episode was stunning, and because Võx comes barely a year later, this reversion to an older presentation just feels lesser in comparison.

This older presentation of the Borg Queen feels less interesting and intimidating than the version we saw in Season 2.

Tragic news broke in January of this year that Annie Wersching, who played the Borg Queen last season, had passed away. Given that she had been unwell during filming, we can’t say for sure whether she’d have been able to continue to work as production got underway for Season 3. But if the Borg Queen is going to be featured here – for the second season in a row – it would have made sense to retain the same actor if at all possible, surely? Again, given the circumstances we can’t say for sure one way or another – but it feels like something that should have happened if it had been possible.

And again, I feel the consequence of a muddled, mixed-up production here. Having the Borg as Picard’s final, ultimate “big bad” makes a lot of sense, as they’re a faction closely associated with Picard himself and The Next Generation, but also as they’re so powerful and threatening. But having had two Borg stories in previous seasons – one of which was written and produced by the same team that created Season 3 – I just feel that the Borg should have either been saved to be the final villain this time, or else the way in which they were used in Seasons 1 and/or 2 should have been all we got. After all, the changeling idea seemed to be working well all throughout the season – and seeing Picard and the crew face off against a genuinely different threat, one we’d never seen them tackle before, was also a fun idea. One that has been if not overwritten then at least brought to a screeching halt.

The Borg Queen as presented in Võx feels less impactful in the aftermath of the way the Borg appeared in Season 2. And in Season 1.

So we come – as Picard and the crew did – to the Enterprise-D.

This was an exceptionally well-kept secret, and that’s why I said at the beginning that Võx is an episode to watch without spoilers if at all possible. I’m pretty attuned to what’s going on at Paramount, and I keep an eye on the production side of Star Trek as much as possible so that I can follow significant developments and share my thoughts here on the website. But even I was blindsided by the reconstruction of the Enterprise-D’s bridge that we got to see in Võx.

There had been hints and even teases from some folks on the production side of Picard’s third season that we might get to see “more than one” USS Enterprise this season, but after we’d seen the Enterprise-F in trailers and the Enterprise-A at Geordi’s museum, I figured that would be that. The Titan has made a great hero ship this season, feeling smaller and less powerful than vessels like the Enterprise, Intrepid, or the Shrike – but having a plucky attitude and ability to punch above its weight that reminded me of the comparably-sized USS Voyager.

The USS Titan at warp.

But the Enterprise-D is special to me, and seeing it recreated here – inside and out – was beautiful, and it was undoubtedly the highlight of Võx. The emotional impact these ships can have can’t really be overstated, and pairing a beautiful starship, wonderfully rendered with CGI, with a stirring musical score – it hits me just as hard in 2023 as it did when I watched The Next Generation back in the ’90s. Seeing the Enterprise-E swooping in to save the day at the Battle of Sector 001, watching Kirk lay his eyes on the refit Enterprise for the first time in The Motion Picture, and of course getting so many beautiful sequences with the Enterprise-D across The Next Generation’s run… this moment in Võx equalled the very best of them.

Picard and the crew arriving on the bridge was also an incredible moment. I didn’t know how much of the ship might’ve been rebuilt for Picard – especially with just two episodes in which it would feature. So I wasn’t sure if we were going to get a kind of AR wall/greenscreen mashup as the crew made their way to the ship aboard their shuttle. To my delight, the entire bridge set has been recreated – and it looks absolutely stunning.

The recreated bridge of the Enterprise-D.
Image Credit: Paramount/Dave Blass

I hope in future the producers and creative team will tell the tale of how they came to recreate the bridge in such detail, because I’d love to hear more about it. A couple of photos have been shown off on social media, but there’s obviously a lot more to say! For my two cents, though, it looks absolutely fantastic – a recreation down to seemingly the last detail, recapturing perfectly the look and feel of the Enterprise-D from The Next Generation.

This is a starship that I’d long ago fallen head-over-heels for, and the Galaxy-class remains one of my all-time favourite Star Trek starship designs. We’d seen a CGI model as far back as Enterprise’s finale, and an up-to-date version in the Season 1 premiere of Picard, but the time dedicated to the flypast in Võx was something special. Seeing the Enterprise-D powering up and departing the Fleet Museum was also something new – though we’d seen similar sequences with other vessels, this is the first time we’d gotten to see it with a Galaxy-class ship.

She’s a beauty!

From Scotty’s love for the Enterprise in The Original Series through to Captain Shaw’s “fanboy” moment with Geordi just a couple of weeks ago, we’ve seen the respect and adoration that Starfleet officers have for their ships. Starships are, in many ways, an additional character in their respective shows – so to see Picard and the crew treating the Enterprise-D as they might an old friend was an incredibly powerful and sweet moment.

This was a starship that was with them through many adventures, a vessel that was their home for seven years, and this reunion feels just as powerful as any interactions between the reassembled crewmates. It actually surpasses some of those moments for me, especially given the weakness of the Data’s resurrection storyline that we’ve discussed over the past few weeks. The restoration of the Enterprise-D is by far the better and more coherent of Season 3’s unexpected resurrections!

Rebuilding the iconic bridge console.

Oh, and I absolutely agree with Picard: starships need carpets! This line was a cute little nod and wink to fans who’ve commented on the lack of carpets aboard vessels in modern iterations of Star Trek – something that has been a minor point of contention in some quarters of the fan community. Beyond mere attention to detail, this is an indication that the writers and producers are fans themselves, or at least are aware of the things that fans pick up on and discuss. Having Picard himself comment on the carpet was cute, but it also shows how the writers and producers are at least trying to keep the fan community on side.

There are absolutely nitpicks and contrivances on this side of the story. Was no one at the Fleet Museum assimilated? How did the shuttle get from Earth to the Fleet Museum so quickly? Will it be possible to operate a Galaxy-class starship with just seven people when it took a crew of roughly 1,000 in The Next Generation? How can one ship – disconnected though it may be – stand a chance against a fleet of newer and more powerful vessels? Why did Geordi install an automatic torpedo launcher on the ship – was he expecting an event like this?

The Enterprise-D departs the Fleet Museum.

These are the structural weaknesses of Võx, and it remains to be seen how and even if they’ll be resolved. As above, several of these points could have been addressed had the season as a whole been better-paced, arriving at this point either an episode or two earlier, or with more explanation and exposition having been dropped in previous chapters of the story. As I said about Seasons 1 and 2 in various ways, the flaw doesn’t lie with the story beats themselves, which are fascinating, but rather with the way in which they were executed.

Even a few days after first sitting down to watch Võx, the emotional side of the story goes a long way to making up for its flaws – but it’s not clear to me whether that will always be the case! If we go back to Picard Season 3 in a few years’ time, will the return to the Enterprise-D still be enough to redeem Võx for all of its contrivances and narrative inconsistencies? Perhaps that’s another conversation we’ll need to have one day!

Picard orders everyone to their posts.

As you can tell by now, I’m conflicted about Võx.

On the one hand, it’s an episode of overplayed tropes and boring clichés, let down by a muddled, incoherent story that didn’t have enough time to properly explain key points. It takes the safest path, killing off the least-important secondary character and finding an incredibly contrived way to ensure that only the characters from The Next Generation would make it to the bridge of the Enterprise-D.

The episode is also hamstrung by what came before it: not only the eight episodes of Season 3, plagued by an over-acted villain who now feels like an utter waste of time, but also by Seasons 1 and 2 and the storylines they introduced. The presentation of the Borg, Borg Queen, and Borg Cube in Võx are very much the lesser versions of those same creations that we saw in earlier seasons – and had those stories not taken place, Võx would be in a much stronger position.

The Enterprise-D prepares for departure.

But despite all of its flaws, I can’t hate or even particularly dislike Võx. The emotional storytelling was fantastic, and maybe this is just the blinkers of pure nostalgia, but I felt that the problems and inconsistencies in the episode melted away in light of the incredible, beautiful sequences with Picard and his old crew – and especially their reunion with the Enterprise-D itself and its wonderfully reconstructed bridge.

It isn’t enough to just throw legacy characters into a story and rebuild sets, and if Võx had presented these elements in a worse way, I think I’d have found it too much, or I’d be saying that the nostalgia card doesn’t cover up any and all storytelling sins. But when watching the episode itself, a combination of clever direction and creative writing, beautiful visuals and a wonderful musical score, and some outstanding and evocative acting performances made the whole thing work. This nostalgia-heavy, deeply emotional story feels like one that was perfectly made for Trekkies like you and me.

Picard and the crew in a promotional photo.

There’s a lot of work for the season finale to do, and I’m really not sure how things will shake out when all’s said and done. I also think we might return to Võx in the years ahead and consider it a little less favourably – particularly if the series ends in unspectacular fashion next time. I’ve tried to treat the episode as fairly as I could, and having sat with it for a few days… the emotional side of the story still really sticks with me, and remains my biggest takeaway from Võx.

I genuinely don’t know what to expect from the finale. There are so many possibilities for where the story could go! Although this feels like an existential threat to the Federation, surely it must be possible for Picard and the crew to save the day, right? But one old starship against an entire connected, Borgified fleet? That’s a tough task right there!

Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-3 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and other countries and territories where the service is available, and on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and around the world. 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.