Six Star Trek “hot takes”

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the following Star Trek productions: Picard Seasons 1-2, Discovery Season 3, Strange New Worlds, the Kelvin timeline films, Deep Space Nine, and The Next Generation.

Today I thought we could have a bit of fun! There are many so-called “hot takes” about the Star Trek franchise flitting about online, and I thought it could be a change of pace to share a few of my own. These are – based on my limited engagement with the wider Star Trek fan community, at least – opinions that aren’t widely held or especially popular. I’ll do my best to explain why I feel the way I do about each of the six subjects we’re going to consider below.

More than ever, I ask you to keep in mind that all of this is subjective, not objective! I’m not saying that these opinions are factual and unquestionable; this is just my singular perspective on a handful of very complex topics. As with everything in media, there are going to be a range of views, and while I’ll try to justify my opinions below, I know that a lot of people can and do disagree. And that’s okay! There’s room in the Star Trek fan community for respectful disagreement about all manner of things.

With all of that out of the way, this is your last chance to jump ship if you aren’t interested in some potentially controversial Star Trek opinions!

“Hot Take” #1:
Star Trek: Picard transformed Seven of Nine into an enjoyable character for the first time.

Seven of Nine in Picard Season 2.

Star Trek: Picard hasn’t been perfect across its first two seasons, but one thing that it absolutely got right is Seven of Nine’s characterisation. Seven was an unexpected character for the series to introduce – she’d never interacted with Jean-Luc Picard on screen before, and the pair hadn’t even the barest bones of a relationship to build on. In that sense, I was surprised (and maybe a little concerned) when it was made clear that she’d be featured in a big way in the first season.

Perhaps I should explain myself before we go any further. Seven of Nine was introduced midway through Voyager’s run in the two-part episode Scorpion. At first she seemed to be a character with a lot of potential, and I enjoyed what she brought to the table in early Season 4 episodes such as Scientific Method and The Raven. But Seven very quickly became repetitive. Week after week she’d learn some lesson in “how to be more human” from the Doctor or Captain Janeway, but she’d seem to forget all about it and revert to her semi-Borg self by the next episode. This was exacerbated by the fact that Voyager’s latter seasons seemed to include a lot of Seven-heavy episodes and stories, making her a prominent character.

Publicity photo of Seven of Nine during Voyager’s run.

That’s how episodic television works, and I get that. Most other Star Trek characters up to that point in the franchise’s history also “reset” in between episodes, and we could talk at length about how characters like Miles O’Brien could go through some horrible trauma one week only to be happily playing darts at Quark’s a few days later as if it never happened. But with Seven of Nine, a combination of her prominence and storylines that often revolved around learning and taking to heart some aspect of what it means to be human and exist outside of the Borg Collective meant that her week-to-week resets and lack of significant growth really began to grate. Toward the end of Season 7, Seven was given an arc of sorts that threw her into a relationship with Chakotay – but I’m hardly the only person who feels that didn’t work particularly well!

So by the time Voyager ended, I was burnt out on Seven of Nine. Out of all the main characters from Voyager, she was perhaps the one I was least interested to see picked up for a second bite of the cherry – but I was wrong about that. Where Seven had been static and repetitive in Voyager, Picard gave her that development I’d been longing to see, and it was incredibly cathartic! Even though Seven’s post-Voyager life hadn’t been smooth, it had been human, and seeing her experience genuine emotions like anger, betrayal, and later through her relationship with Raffi, love, was something I didn’t know I wanted. Having seen it now, though, there’s no way I’d want to lose this element of Picard.

Seven with Admiral Picard.

The death of Icheb, which was shown in one of Picard Season 1’s most gory sequences, became a key part of Seven’s character arc. His loss devastated her – and the idea that Seven of Nine could be devastated was already a colossal leap for her character. That it spurred her on to one of the most human of desires – revenge – is even more significant for her. And this growth continued across the rest of Season 1, with Seven coming face-to-face with the Borg and even becoming a leader (of sorts) for the liberated ex-Borg on the Artifact.

Even though Season 2 was a mixed bag (at best) with some lacklustre storylines, Seven of Nine shone once again. Her relationship with Raffi added a whole new dimension to her character, and after seeing her experiencing anger and negative emotions in Season 1, Season 2 gave her a chance at love. Season 2 also saw Seven revelling in a new experience, having hopped across to a new timeline and found herself in a body that had never been assimilated. That set her on an arc to accepting herself for who she is – including her Borg past.

Seven without her trademark Borg implants.

Seven’s journey has been beautiful to see, but also cathartic. To me, her journey in Picard feels like it’s righted a twenty-year wrong, finally giving Seven of Nine genuine development and an arc that stuck. While I’m sure fans can and will debate individual plot points (like Icheb’s death or Seven’s off-screen involvement with the Fenris Rangers), taken as a whole I’ve really enjoyed what Picard did with what had been one of my least-favourite characters of The Next Generation era.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for more from Seven of Nine – and if you’d told me in 2000-2001 that I’d write those words I wouldn’t have believed you!

“Hot Take” #2:
I don’t like The Inner Light.

Picard/Kamin in The Inner Light.

Often held up as an example of The Next Generation at its best, I’ve never enjoyed The Inner Light. It’s an episode I usually skip over without a second thought when re-watching The Next Generation, but I put myself through the chore of viewing it recently; it’s part of what inspired me to put together this list!

The Inner Light steps away from the exciting adventures of the Enterprise-D to show us a pre-warp civilisation living on a random alien backwater planet, and while exploring strange new worlds is part of the gig, the way this episode in particular does that is just not interesting or enjoyable in the slightest. It’s certainly “different” – and I will concede that point. Star Trek has never been shy about experimenting, after all! But this particular experiment didn’t work, which is probably why we haven’t really seen another episode quite like it.

Picard with the Kataan probe.

I don’t like to say that something “doesn’t feel like Star Trek,” not least because that vague and unhelpful phrase has become associated with a subgroup of so-called fans who use it to attack everything the franchise has done since 2009. But to me, The Inner Light feels about as far away from what I want and hope to see from an episode of Star Trek as it’s possible to get.

By spending practically its entire runtime in the past, with Picard taking on the role of an alien blacksmith in a pre-warp society, The Inner Light abandons not only the entire crew of the Enterprise-D, but also many of the fundamental adventurous elements that are what makes Star Trek, well… feel like Star Trek. Its deliberately slow pace doubles-down on this sensation, and The Inner Light seems to drag as a result, coming across as boring.

Picard/Kamin playing the flute.

I’m not particularly bothered by the way the Kataan probe operates – that seems technobabbley enough to get a pass. But after Picard has been hit by the probe and the majority of the episode is then spent on Kataan with Kamin and his family… I’m just not interested. Sir Patrick Stewart is a great actor, and what happened to the Kataan people is both tragic and a timely reminder of our own burgeoning environmental catastrophe (something that we haven’t even tried to fix more than a quarter of a century later). But despite all of the elements being in place, the story just doesn’t grab me like I feel it should. At the end of the day, I can’t find a way to give a shit about Kataan, nor about Kamin or anyone else.

There are many episodes of Star Trek with races and characters who only appear once, and yet very few of them manage to evoke that same “I just don’t care” reaction. Just within Season 5 of The Next Generation we have characters like Hugh the Borg and Nicholas Locarno, or aliens like the Children of Tama and the Ux-Mal, all of which manage to hook me in and get me invested in their storylines. I’d generally consider The Next Generation’s fifth season to be one of its best, with many of my favourite episodes. But The Inner Light isn’t one of them.

Picard/Kamin overlooking the village of Ressik.

There are points to The Inner Light that did work. The Ressikan flute theme, for example, is a beautiful piece of music, and Picard’s flute-playing ability (which he learned during the events of The Inner Light) would become a minor recurring element for his character going forward, notably appearing in episodes like Lessons. And the underlying premise of a probe that transmits a message in this way could have worked; it feels quite Star Trek-y in and of itself.

But for me, The Inner Light just isn’t fun to watch. It’s boring, uninspiring, and I can’t find a way to get invested in the story of Kataan and its people – despite good performances from Sir Patrick Stewart and the other actors present.

“Hot Take” #3:
Modern Trek needs to pick a single era (and timeline) and stick to it.

Admiral Vance and Captain Burnham in the 32nd Century.

Star Trek, perhaps more so than any other major entertainment franchise, is convoluted. As Trekkies, we love that! The fact that modern Star Trek can explore different timelines, different eras, and broadcast different shows that are entirely separate from one another makes for a diverse and interesting presentation. It also means that we can simultaneously step back in time to before Captain Kirk’s five-year mission while also seeing what came next for Captain Picard twenty-five years after the events of Nemesis.

But try to look at Star Trek from the point of view of a newcomer. Every single one of the five shows currently in production is set in a different time period and location, and just figuring out where to start with Star Trek – or where to go next for someone who’s enjoyed watching one of the new shows – is the subject of essays, articles, and lists. It’s beginning to remind me of Star Wars’ old Expanded Universe – a combination of games, books, comics, and so on that had become so convoluted and dense after decades in production that it felt offputting.

Cadet Elnor in the 25th Century.

In order for Star Trek to successfully convert viewers of one of its new iterations into fans of the franchise, it needs to simplify its current output. A fan of Strange New Worlds might think that their next port of call should be Picard or Lower Decks – but they’d be completely lost because those shows are set more than a century later.

The lack of a single, unified setting also prevents crossover stories – and these aren’t just fun fan-service for Trekkies like us! Crossovers link up separate Star Trek outings, bringing fans of one show into close contact with another. Just as The Next Generation did with Deep Space Nine (and DS9 did with Voyager), modern Star Trek should make the effort to link up its current shows. There are links between Discovery and Strange New Worlds – but any crossover potential has evaporated due to Discovery shooting forward into the far future.

Beckett Mariner and Jennifer the Andorian in the late 24th Century.

This also applies to alternate realities, most significantly the Kelvin timeline which is supposedly being brought back for a fourth film. The Kelvin films served a purpose in the late 2000s and early 2010s, but as I’ve argued in the past, is it really a good idea to bring back that setting – as well as its presentation of characters who have recently been recast for Strange New Worlds – with everything else that Star Trek has going on?

In 2009, it was possible for new fans to jump from the Kelvin films to other iterations of Star Trek and keep up with what’s going on. But we’ve had more than 100 new episodes of Star Trek since then across several different eras, some including recast versions of characters who appeared in the Kelvin timeline films. I’m not so sure that a new Kelvin timeline film serves its intended purpose any more.

Captain Pike in the 23rd Century.

I wouldn’t want to see any of the shows currently in production shut down before their time. We’ve only just got started with Strange New Worlds, for instance, and I’m hopeful that that series will run for at least five seasons (to complete Captain Pike’s five-year mission!) But as the current crop of shows wind down, the producers at Paramount need to consider their next moves very carefully. Where should Star Trek go from here, and where should its focus be?

Discovery’s 32nd Century is certainly a contender, and setting the stage for new adventures years after the stories we know provides a soft reboot for the franchise while also opening up new storytelling possibilities. But it would also be great to see Star Trek return to the late 24th or early 25th Centuries of the Picard era, picking up story threads from The Next Generation era – Star Trek’s real “golden age” in the 1990s. Setting all (or almost all) of its films, shows, miniseries, and one-shot stories in a single, unified timeline has many advantages, and would be to the franchise’s overall benefit.

Stay tuned, because I have a longer article about this in the pipeline!

“Hot Take” #4:
Far Beyond The Stars is an unenjoyable episode, albeit one with a very important message.

Benny Russell in Far Beyond The Stars.

This is my way of saying that “I don’t like Far Beyond The Stars” while still giving credit to the moral story at its core. Star Trek has always been a franchise that’s brought moral fables to screen, and Far Beyond The Stars does this in a very intense – and almost brutal – way, shining a light on America’s racist past and present.

But as I’ve already discussed with The Inner Light above, the way in which this story is presented doesn’t really work for me. I find Benny Russell’s story sympathetic… but because what’s happening is so far removed from the events of Deep Space Nine, it’s difficult to turn that investment over the course of a single episode into anything substantial. The “it was all a dream or a vision” explanation also hammers this home; whatever was happening to Captain Sisko was taking place outside of the real world – perhaps inside his head, perhaps as a vision from the Prophets – and thus it doesn’t feel like it matters – in the context of the show – in the same way as other, similar stories.

Julius and Benny.

Far Beyond The Stars is comparable to The Inner Light insofar as it steps out of the Star Trek franchise’s fictional future. In this case, the story returns to our real world a few short years in the past. While there are occasional flashes of Star Trek’s signature optimism, the darker tone of the story combines with its real-world setting to feel different; separate from not only the events of Star Trek, but its entire universe.

“But that’s the whole point!” fans of Far Beyond The Stars are itching to tell me. And I agree! Far Beyond The Stars knows what it’s trying to be and knows the kind of story it wants to tell and goes for it, 100%. I’d even say that it achieves what it set out to. But that doesn’t make it a fun watch, an entertaining story, or an episode I’m keen to revisit. As with The Inner Light, I almost always skip over Far Beyond The Stars when I’m watching Deep Space Nine.

The unnamed preacher.

Perhaps if I were an American, more of Far Beyond The Stars’ real-world elements would hit closer to home. But when I first saw the episode in the late ’90s here in the UK, I confess that at least parts of it went way over my head. That’s perhaps my own bias showing – but the whole point of this exercise is to discuss parts of the Star Trek franchise beginning with my own biases and opinions!

Having re-watched Far Beyond The Stars after spending time living in both the United States and South Africa – two societies which continue to wrangle with legacies of structural and systemic racial discrimination – I definitely felt its hard-hitting message a lot more. In fact, Far Beyond The Stars could be a great episode to use as a starting point for a broader conversation about race and structural racism. But having a moral message – especially a very on-the-nose one – doesn’t always make for the most interesting or enjoyable story.

Sisko sees himself reflected as Benny Russell at the end of the episode.

I don’t find Far Beyond The Stars to be “uncomfortable” to watch. The racial aspects of its story have purpose, and even with the progress that America has made since the turn of the millennium, many of the racial issues that Far Beyond The Stars highlights are just as relevant today as they were twenty-five years ago. But I guess what I’d say about the episode is that it doesn’t deliver what I personally find interesting and enjoyable about an episode of Star Trek.

Taken as a one-off, I can put up with Far Beyond The Stars. It didn’t become a major recurring thing in Deep Space Nine, and while Captain Sisko would recall the events on more than one occasion, it didn’t come to dominate the latter part of Deep Space Nine’s run in any way. So in that sense, I’m content to set Far Beyond The Stars to one side, acknowledging what it brought to the table in terms of allegory and morality while being content to rewatch it infrequently.

“Hot Take” #5:
Canon matters – up to a point.

The original USS Enterprise.

There seems to be a black-and-white, either/or debate in the Star Trek fan community when it comes to the franchise’s internal canon. Some folks are adamant that the tiniest minutia of canon must be “respected” at all costs, criticising things like the redesign of uniforms or even the recasting of characters because it doesn’t fit precisely with what came before. Then there are others who say that “it’s all just a story,” and that canon can be entirely ignored if a new writer has an idea for a story. I don’t fall into either camp!

Canon matters because internal consistency matters. Internal consistency is – for me, at least – an absolutely essential part of the pathway to suspension of disbelief. If I’m to believe that transporters and warp cores exist, the way they work and the way they’re presented on screen has to be basically consistent from one Star Trek story to the next.

The USS Discovery at warp.

The same applies to characters. If a character has a background as an assassin and that’s a central part of their characterisation in one story, the next episode can’t arbitrarily change that and make them into a marine biologist because the plot demands it. Characters need to feel like real people, and the world they inhabit needs to operate by its established rules.

Luckily for Star Trek’s writers, there is a lot of flexibility in those rules! Most of the specifics of how individual pieces of technology work have never been delved into in any detail, and there’s a lot we don’t know about even the most basic of things within the Star Trek universe. So new writers find themselves with considerable leeway if they want to make a change or do something differently for the sake of a story.

A combadge from an alternate timeline.

But there is a limit to that – or at least there ought to be. And the Star Trek franchise has tripped up by introducing new elements that seem to tread on the toes of what has already been established, even if they don’t technically overwrite anything. Spock’s family is a case in point. The Final Frontier gave Spock a half-brother who had never been mentioned, and then Discovery came along and gave him an adopted sister as well. Neither of these additions overwrote what we know of Spock’s family history… but they definitely came close.

On the other side of things, I’m quite okay with Star Trek making changes and updates to its visual style. The redesign of the USS Enterprise that debuted in Discovery and has been expanded upon for Strange New Worlds is a great example of one way that the franchise has modernised its look without really “damaging” established canon. All that’s required to get around the apparent visual changes – for anyone who feels it’s necessary – is to say that the Enterprise must’ve undergone some kind of retrofit in between Pike’s command and Kirk’s.

Sarek and Michael Burnham in Discovery’s premiere.

Where canon matters to me is in terms of characterisation and story. If we’ve established, for example, that the Vulcans and Romulans are related to one another, then future stories must remain consistent with that; there can be no “Romulan origin story” that tries to say that they evolved separately, for example. Likewise for characters. We all love a good character arc – but if a character’s personality and background are established, changing those fundamentals in an arbitrary manner should be off the table.

So to the canon purists, my message is going to be “loosen up a little!” And to the canon ignorers, what I’d say is “internal consistency matters.”

“Hot Take” #6:
The Kelvin films got a lot right – and could be textbook examples of how to reboot a franchise.

Spock, Kirk, and Dr McCoy in Star Trek Beyond.

Even today, more than a decade after 2009’s Star Trek kicked off the Kelvin timeline, I still have Trekkie friends who have refused to watch them. Other fans who showed up at the cinema were unimpressed with what they saw, and the Kelvin films can feel like a controversial part of the Star Trek franchise sometimes. For my two cents, though, although the Kelvin films were imperfect and certainly different to what had come before, they managed to get a lot of things right. I’d even say that Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness could be used as textbook case studies in how to reboot a franchise successfully!

Modern Star Trek – from Discovery to Picard and beyond – would simply not exist without the Kelvin films. When Enterprise was cancelled in 2005, it really did feel as though the Star Trek franchise itself had died and wouldn’t be returning. Even as someone who hadn’t been a regular viewer of Enterprise, that still stung! But if there had been doubts over the Star Trek brand and its ability to reach out to new audiences and bring in huge numbers of viewers, 2009’s Star Trek shattered them.

Transwarp beaming.

Into Darkness eclipsed even the massively high numbers of its predecessor and remains the cinematic franchise’s high-water mark in terms of audience figures and profitability, so it’s not exactly shocking to learn that Paramount hopes to return to the Kelvin cast for a fourth outing next year! These films took what had been a complicated franchise with a reputation for being geeky and nerdy and skimmed off a lot of the fluff. What resulted was a trio of decent sci-fi action films that may just have saved the franchise’s reputation.

The Kelvin films also gave Star Trek a visual overhaul, modernising the franchise’s aesthetic and visual style while still retaining all of the core elements that longstanding fans expected. Transporters were still there – but they looked sleeker and prettier. Warp drive was still present – but a new visual effect was created. Many of these aesthetic elements have remained part of the franchise ever since, appearing in the various productions that we’ve seen since Star Trek returned to the small screen in 2017.

The USS Enterprise.

By establishing an alternate reality, the Kelvin films found scope to take familiar characters to very different places. We got to see how Kirk and Spock met for the first time at Starfleet Academy – a premise that Gene Roddenberry had considered all the way back during The Original Series’ run – but with a twist. Star Trek reintroduced us to classic characters, but put its own spin on them, providing a satisfactory in-universe explanation for why so many things were different.

But at the same time, the inclusion of Leonard Nimoy’s Spock from the prime timeline anchored the Kelvin films, providing a link to what had come before. This reboot wasn’t about erasing anything; it was an expansion of Star Trek into a new timeline, one that had basically unlimited potential to tell some very different stories. The trio of films took advantage of that, and while I would argue that there’s no pressing need to revisit the Kelvin timeline right now, I absolutely do appreciate what they did for Star Trek.

Two Spocks.

As a reboot, the Kelvin films succeeded in their ambition. They reinvented Star Trek just enough for mainstream audiences to discover the franchise – many for the first time. Some of those folks stuck around and have become big Trekkies all off the back of what the Kelvin films did. They updated Star Trek without overwriting anything, and they set the stage for further expansion and growth. By every measure, the Kelvin films were successful.

That isn’t to say they’re my favourite part of the franchise! But as a fan who wants Star Trek to stick around and continue to be successful, projects like the Kelvin films are essential.

So that’s it!

Were those takes as hot as a supernova?

I hope that this was a bit of fun rather than anything to get too seriously upset about. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions about the episodes, films, characters, and storylines that Star Trek creates, and whether I’m thrilled about something, hated it, or have mixed feelings, I will always try to explain myself and provide reasons for why I feel the way that I do. But at the end of the day, all of this is just the subjective opinion of one person!

We’re very lucky to have so much Star Trek content coming our way in the next few years. It seems like the franchise will make it to its sixtieth anniversary in 2026 with new films and episodes still being produced, and there can’t be many entertainment franchises that could make such a claim to longevity!

There are definitely points on the list above that I could expand upon, and I’m sure I could think of a few more “hot takes” if I tried! So stay tuned for more Star Trek content to come here on the website as we move into the summer season.

The Star Trek franchise – including all 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.

Star Trek: Picard review – Season 2, Episode 9: Hide and Seek

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Next GenerationFirst Contact, and Voyager.

This review deals with the sensitive topics of mental health and suicide and may be uncomfortable for some readers.

If I’ve done my counting right, then I believe Hide and Seek is Jean-Luc Picard’s 200th Star Trek appearance. It gets a little fuzzy when we look at two-part episodes that are occasionally considered as feature-length outings, but if we go in broadcast order then I’m pretty sure that the character of Jean-Luc Picard has now appeared in 200 Star Trek productions (including four films). So that’s pretty neat!

Hide and Seek was an exciting episode that focused on the Borg side of the story in a big way. But it was also an episode that fell into the trap of some pretty clichéd storytelling, something that definitely detracted from some of the impact that the story had. There were some emotional highlights – including some wonderful performances from Alison Pill, Michelle Hurd, and Jeri Ryan – but overall, I’m left feeling that the season has taken a slow and meandering route to reach this point, and that more time could’ve been spent on some of these interesting storylines and powerful moments had some of the extraneous fluff been cut out from earlier episodes.

It was a dark and stormy night…

For the first time this season, I wasn’t wild about some of the cinematography in Hide and Seek. Parts of the episode were coloured with a dark blue hue – something not uncommon on television to indicate darkness – but I found that it gave those sequences a washed-out look. Though we aren’t anywhere close to the failures of something like The Long Night in Game of Thrones’ eighth season, the colour palette did not flatter the scenes set at Château Picard, and the episode suffered for this creative choice.

Hide and Seek doubled-down on exploring the trauma that Picard faced in his youth, and it was revealed that the memory he’s been repressing was his mother’s suicide and discovering her body. As in Monsters a couple of weeks ago, though, I’m struggling to see how this story connects with what’s happening in the rest of the season, and why the series has decided that this hitherto unknown chapter of Picard’s life warranted so much time dedicated to it.

Hide and Seek delved once again into Picard’s youth.

In a general sense, I’m not averse to the idea of taking an established character and fleshing them out, giving more detail to their background and history. And as stated earlier in the season, I can’t recall anything from Picard’s past Star Trek appearances that would’ve explicitly ruled out something like this happening to him in his youth. However, when dealing with a character who’s made as many appearances as Picard, these kinds of stories have to serve some greater purpose – and right now, this story of Picard’s youth and his mother’s death doesn’t appear to do that.

As I asked in my review of Monsters: what aspect of Picard’s character, personality, temperament, or personal philosophy does this revelation explain? How do we as the audience feel that we understand Picard any better in light of this season spending a significant chunk of its runtime on this story? We know more about Picard’s past in a factual sense – but the facts that have been brought to light don’t inform his characterisation in any way, neither here in Picard nor in The Next Generation. There’s no “aha!” moment where the way Picard has behaved, or his stance on life, suddenly seems to click.

It doesn’t feel like this moment informs Picard’s character in any significant way.

If the story itself had been handled differently, perhaps in a season with fewer other things going on, I think I could forgive it. But during two out of the season’s ten episodes now, a significant amount of time has been taken away from other, more interesting and engaging stories to flesh out an aspect of Picard’s backstory that feels unnecessary.

A character like Picard, who has made so many Star Trek appearances, has unexplored moments in his past that a story like this could’ve told. We could’ve learned, for example, that a similar trauma stems from his time in command of the USS Stargazer – the death of Jack Crusher springs to mind as an unexplained event that would be both traumatic and ripe for a deep dive. But this story shone a light on a part of Picard’s past that none of us could’ve anticipated – and when there are events in his past that feel like they could’ve been more interesting, I guess I’m left wondering what might’ve been.

Other events in Picard’s past could’ve taken us on a similar journey.

Picard’s story also had a very “20th Century” feel to it, and as I’ve said on more than one occasion, that doesn’t feel very Star Trek-y. We know from The Next Generation that Picard had an upbringing on a vineyard and that his family weren’t in favour of him joining Starfleet, so in that sense none of it is contradictory. But from the point of view of someone sitting down to watch Star Trek and not some other contemporary drama series, it’s a tad disappointing when the series spends so much time either in the modern-day or in a setting that feels also very much like the modern-day.

And again we come to the mental health side of the story. I was deeply disappointed with what we saw in Monsters, and while nothing in Hide and Seek sank to that level, Yvette’s mental health condition was again underdeveloped and fell into the trap of stereotyping. Continuing our theme of feeling like a story from contemporary times, not three centuries in the future, we saw no attempt made to use the technology of the early 24th Century to help Yvette. Did her husband do anything to help her? Locking away someone with mental health issues “for their own safety” is the kind of thing that the Victorians did – and although Picard seemed to get to a place in Monsters where he could understand the burden his father carried and forgive him, the way Maurice treated Yvette raises some seriously disturbing questions.

Maurice Picard.

As someone who is disabled and who has diagnosed mental health conditions, one of the things that I’ve always found inspirational about Star Trek’s future is this idea that many of the ailments people today have to live with will one day be curable. Medical technology that’s akin to magic has been present in the Star Trek franchise since the beginning, and while mental health hasn’t often been depicted in a particularly sympathetic way (look at episodes like Whom Gods Destroy or Statistical Probabilities, for example) I’ve always liked the concept Star Trek proposes: that one day, cures for many health issues – including mental health conditions – will be discovered.

Hide and Seek chose to ignore that, and if it had done so for a better reason, I might be able to overlook it, or at least reduce my negative feelings toward it. But because the story of Yvette’s suicide and its impact on Picard feels so disconnected from everything else going on this season, it just hammers home for me that many of the narrative decisions on this side of the story were, at best, odd. At worst I’d call the whole thing pretty poor.

Yvette Picard’s suicide.

One final note on this aspect of Hide and Seek: for the first time, I felt Star Trek: Picard fall into a storytelling trap that has tripped up sister show Discovery on multiple occasions. Picard and Tallinn were on an incredibly dangerous, time-sensitive mission, with half-assimilated Borg shooting at them, yet Picard allowed himself to become distracted by this event in his past. Being thrown into the room where something bad once happened is, of course, a trigger for post-traumatic stress, and I get that. But even with that understanding and that caveat, I found myself wanting to shout at the episode in frustration that there isn’t time for this right now!

This is something that Discovery does far too often – characters bringing their own personal issues to the fore in a way that clearly interferes with the missions at hand. Picard had never had this issue – not even in Monsters when Picard’s trauma was one of the main storylines – but because of the circumstances of the Borg attack on La Sirena this time, it really did feel that Picard didn’t have the time for such indulgent reminiscing. It’s only through sheer luck that he and Tallinn survived.

Picard allowed himself to become distracted in the middle of a very dangerous situation.

Despite being a relatively long episode at almost fifty minutes, there were a few points, especially as Hide and Seek drew to a close, where I felt some important scenes may have been left on the cutting-room floor. For example, how did Rios know exactly where to transport to save Picard and Tallinn? And how did Picard know that Seven and Raffi had let La Sirena escape when he reunited with them? These questions could’ve been answered, and while they may not feel hugely substantial in terms of the way things turned out, the fact that we didn’t see everything as it unfolded left the final part of the episode feeling rather cut-down and perhaps a little contrived.

I’m glad that Dr Jurati was able to not only wrestle some control back from the Borg Queen, but also talk her down from the most extreme version of her plan. This was Hide and Seek’s emotional high point, and Alison Pill put in an outstanding performance. It was nice to welcome back Annie Wersching as the Borg Queen, too.

Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen.

However, I’m left feeling that this sequence was shorter than it could’ve been, and more importantly that key characters were missing. This is the emotional crux of Dr Jurati’s story this season, and the end of the 21st Century side of the Borg’s story, at least. In a series called Star Trek: Picard, shouldn’t Picard himself have been present? He only showed up after this had happened, seemingly already aware of what had transpired even though we never saw him find out on screen.

After what Picard went through with the Borg from The Next Generation through to First Contact and Season 1 of Picard, there was scope for his inclusion here to wrap up his inner conflict with the Borg; to take the argument he expressed in The Star Gazer about wanting to hear out what the Borg had to say and going one step further. Picard could, in this moment, have come to forgive the Borg Queen and arrive at a place where he’d be willing to give her the opportunity to chart a new path and do things differently.

This sequence was undeniably well done. But it feels like Picard should’ve been involved.

In order for that to have happened, though, this episode – and realistically, much of the season leading up to it – would have needed to be structured very differently. This could even have become the “lesson” that Q had been pushing Picard to learn; that forgiving one’s greatest adversaries and giving them a chance to change is worth doing. Is that something Q might want to teach Picard? I don’t know, but it could’ve worked.

Instead it fell to Raffi, Seven of Nine, and Dr Jurati to strike a deal with the Borg Queen – and while this sequence was emotional and well-constructed, as it ended and the deal was honoured, I felt that, if I were in their shoes, I wouldn’t be convinced that the Borg Queen would stick to her commitments. She basically promised, over the span of a few short minutes, that she’d entirely change her philosophy and worldview, and would build a Borg Collective based on an entirely different guiding principle. Because we’ve seen the Borg on a number of previous occasions, I think this moment needed more to be convincing.

Can we feel certain that the Borg Queen will stick to the agreement she made?

Think back to episodes in Voyager such as Scorpion and Dark Frontier. We saw the Borg’s duplicity and deceitfulness on full display in those stories, and we saw how Captain Janeway and others were absolutely correct not to trust the Borg to uphold their end of whatever deal had been struck. Although Dr Jurati felt that she had extracted a solid commitment from the Borg Queen, and I could quite see Raffi being willing to go along with it in exchange for saving Seven’s life, looking in from the outside I have a lot of reservations that Hide and Seek simply didn’t do enough to placate.

The Borg Queen got what she wanted – and everything we know about her from all of her past appearances tells us that she’s the kind of single-minded, domineering character who would say and do whatever was necessary to get the right outcome. Dr Jurati was standing in her way; appearing to concede to her proposal and saving the life of one single individual would be a negligible price to pay – from the Queen’s perspective – if it meant gaining control of La Sirena and the possibility of reuniting with the Borg Collective in the Delta Quadrant.

The Borg Queen ended up getting what she wanted – control of La Sirena.

In short, this concept was an interesting one. The idea of Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen “merging,” rather than Dr Jurati losing her entire personality, is a clever twist on the way the story could’ve gone, and one that had been set up well in Mercy last week. The broader idea of a Dr Jurati-Borg Queen hybrid potentially taking the Borg Collective in a different and perhaps less aggressive direction is likewise a fascinating concept. But neither of these ideas, great as they are, feel complete. It’s true that there’s one more episode of the season remaining – but as the Borg Queen has now warped away in what felt like a pretty conclusive departure, and with a lot of other storylines still in play, it doesn’t seem as though Picard will be able to revisit these ideas right now.

There was potential in the idea of Dr Jurati pacifying the Borg Queen and lending her unique perspective to the Collective. There was potential in the idea of the Borg Queen listening to such a proposal and giving it some degree of consideration. And there was potential in the idea of a negotiated peace (of a sort) at the end of an episode that had these moments of battling and violence. But I don’t feel that Hide and Seek – and Season 2 as a whole – left enough time to really do justice to any of them, at least not as things currently stand.

A powerful moment as Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen discussed the fate of the Borg Collective… but it needed more.

Negotiations with the Borg Queen could’ve been an entire episode in itself – and I’d certainly be up for a story with that kind of diplomatic focus. We’ve seen Star Trek – and Jean-Luc Picard himself – do those kinds of stories exceptionally well, and it could’ve been an interesting coda to the Borg story that has been running this season. Maybe the season finale will bring more of that, but taken on its own, Hide and Seek had some clever concepts and lofty ambitions – but ultimately failed to fully deliver on them.

That isn’t to detract from some wonderfully evocative performances, though. Alison Pill deserves so much credit for the way she inhabited two very different roles in Hide and Seek, and in particular the way she managed to capture the mannerisms, style, and essence of Annie Wersching’s Borg Queen. That kind of acting challenge – playing a different character in someone else’s body – is a Star Trek trope going all the way back to The Original Series, and some actors are better at it than others! Alison Pill really managed to be convincing as the partially-assimilated Borg Queen, and the moment where she donned the iconic outfit was a special effects home run to boot.

The new Borg Queen looks down at her old body.

As mentioned, the idea of a Borg Queen-Jurati hybrid (Borgati? Jurorg?) is an interesting one, and everyone involved did their best to sell it. To me, the fact that this “negotiation” sequence was too short doesn’t negate those wonderful performances. However, the scene immediately afterward, in which Seven of Nine and Raffi agree to honour their deal felt just a little odd. One of Star Trek’s biggest ever villains just kind of… stood around on the bridge of La Sirena, and the way the ship was then turned over to her felt not only rushed, but also rather anticlimactic.

Dr Soong, who had seemed so interesting when we first met him in Fly Me To The Moon, had already lost all pretence of nuance or complexity prior to the events of Hide and Seek. Although the suitably over-the-top performance from Brent Spiner was absolutely delicious to watch – as his villainous performances always have been – I don’t really understand Dr Soong’s inclusion on this side of the story.

Dr Adam Soong.

Q wanted to shut down the Europa Mission to create the Confederation timeline, but to the Borg Queen that outcome isn’t a good one – it’s what she allied herself with Picard and came to the 21st Century to prevent. Despite the fairly weak protestation that the Borg are now “aware” of the danger the Confederation may pose, I don’t buy that she’d remain allied to Dr Soong – especially not after gaining access to several dozen goons that she partially assimilated.

I guess in that sense the Borg Queen acted out-of-character, not by allying herself to Dr Soong but by maintaining her end of the deal even after he’d served his purpose. Perhaps we could argue that it ties in with the merging of Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen; that the Queen’s personality was already showing signs of being altered. But why should the Borg Queen care about Dr Soong? And if Dr Jurati’s influence is present to excuse that contrivance… shouldn’t she be even more inclined to break their deal and stop him?

Dr Soong ultimately escaped to fight another day.

Despite a performance from Brent Spiner that I will unashamedly admit to having thoroughly enjoyed, I don’t find Dr Soong a particularly interesting villain, and when the story has to contort itself into knots to pull out contrived ways to keep him relevant and engaged, it just falls flat for me. Dr Soong may have been an interesting ally for Q, but the way in which he was included this week, and the way in which the Borg Queen stuck to her agreement with him, stretches credulity to breaking-point for me.

Jeri Ryan had some wonderfully emotional and insightful moments as Seven of Nine this week. We got to learn more of Seven’s post-Voyager history, including that she attempted to join Starfleet, but had her application denied. Seven ascribes this to her Borg past, but it raises the interesting question of why Starfleet permitted Icheb to join (as we saw in Season 1), but not her.

We got some interesting information about Seven of Nine’s life during the years in between Voyager and Picard.

Seven’s story this season has now come full-circle, and she’s regained her Borg implants and appearance thanks to the deal Raffi and Dr Jurati struck with the Borg Queen. It’s sad for Seven, who had been enjoying her newfound appearance, to be forced back to the way she had previously been. However, after what she’s been through over the past few episodes, perhaps Seven has reached a place where she can accept herself, despite what she sees as imperfections. There’s a metaphor there, perhaps, albeit one that’s buried quite deeply in the story.

I felt that there was the potential for this new presentation of Seven of Nine to have carried forward, and although it’s perhaps early days to be thinking about spin-offs and future Star Trek projects, one centred around Raffi and Seven of Nine would certainly find supporters! But if Seven of Nine isn’t going to be a huge part of the series in future – and spoiler alert for Season 3 if you missed the announcement, but with the main cast of The Next Generation set to reprise their roles next time around, there may not be as much of a place for her – then her story this season has a cyclical feel to it; she returns to where she began, albeit having been changed somewhat by the experience.

Has Seven’s story come full-circle?

Raffi got two very powerful emotional moments this week, and Michelle Hurd gave her best performance of the season to bring them to screen wonderfully. Dealing with the fatally-wounded Seven of Nine was the latter of the two, and I really felt the pain that she went through in that moment. But the more powerful moment had come a few minutes earlier as Raffi came face-to-face with the “ghost” of Elnor.

It wasn’t exactly made clear how the holographic version of Elnor worked, nor how it came to have the memories of his last moments, and that was something that could’ve been technobabbled a bit better. Again, we’re feeling the constraints of an episode – and a season – that has to make cuts and creative choices in order to fit into a limited timeslot. However, setting that minor gripe aside, the conversation between the two of them was one of the episode’s emotional highlights.

Raffi was able to get closure for Elnor’s death.

Both Michelle Hurd and Evan Evagora excelled as holo-Elnor provided Raffi with the closure and forgiveness that she needed, and the moment was sad but beautiful. Elnor’s death has been one of the things driving Raffi this season, and it felt for a time as if it was something that could be reversed. Raffi now seems ready to accept Elnor’s passing, however, and I think that’s a signal to us as the audience that Elnor’s death is indeed going to be permanent.

On this point – if indeed it comes to pass – I’m not so sure that Picard got it right. Spoiler alert again for Season 3, but as a point of practicality given the return of the main characters from The Next Generation, I can understand why the show is doing everything it can to shuffle its current crop of main characters out of the way. But as I said when that decision was announced, that in itself is something I have mixed feelings about, and Elnor in particular is a character that I feel we never really got the chance to know very well. Aside from his spotlight episode in Season 1 – Absolute Candor – Elnor’s impact on the story of both seasons has been, at best, limited. The decision to enrol him in Starfleet Academy and to give him a new parental figure in Raffi worked well, especially in light of the beautiful scene where Raffi comforted him at the end of Season 1. But there’s so much potential in a young character like Elnor – the first Romulan in Starfleet. If the Star Trek franchise is to survive long-term, characters like him need to stick around.

Is this the end of the road for Elnor?

Despite my great dislike of Rios’ story this season, and the way in which he has regressed as a character from the season premiere, his role in Hide and Seek was largely inoffensive. For the first time I felt that Picard genuinely cared about Rios – he told Tallinn to turn off the transporter to prevent Rios from returning to the battle after he was injured. If I was being cruel I might say that moment felt unearned given the lack of interaction between Rios and Picard for practically the entire season, but we know Picard as a character well enough to know that he does truly care about those under his command.

The Rios-Teresa romance progressed, getting him to a place where he was one transporter beam (or transporter puff) away from saying “I love you” to her. I had wondered, prior to Hide and Seek, if Rios was being groomed for an heroic death. That still could happen in the season finale, but the developing romance with Teresa, combined with Seven’s return to her Borg status, now has me wondering if Rios will choose to stay in 2024 if and when the moment comes to go home. Teresa seemed to be pushing him in that direction this week.

Rios told Teresa he had to go and save the future.

Having talked about everyone present in Hide and Seek, we now turn to one significant absence: Q. Q has been the season’s driving force, seemingly setting up the Confederation timeline and thus also the trip to the 21st Century. But as the story reaches what should be its endgame, Q was once again absent. There’s now just one episode left not only to put a stop to the next phase of Q’s plan, but also to explain what drove him to do all of this in the first place.

As mentioned, it might’ve been possible for Q to be included here – to say that one of his plans or part of his plan was to see how Picard would react to the merging of the Borg Queen with one of his friends. Though a story about mercy, forgiveness, and a willingness to move beyond animosity wouldn’t be as grand in scale as something like learning to perceive time in a non-linear way – as happened in All Good Things at the end of The Next Generation – in another way it’s kind of in line with what Q tried to show Picard in the episode Tapestry. In that story, Q showed Picard an alternate life that he might’ve led, and guided Picard through events in his past that led him to become the person he is. In this story, Q might’ve been showing Picard, in a similar way, that he can grow and learn to let go of the anger, hate, and fear he has toward the Borg and the Borg Queen.

All of this might’ve been part of Q’s grand plan.

But that doesn’t seem to be what this story is trying to say. With Q entirely absent from Hide and Seek, there isn’t much time left to wrap up his story and provide a satisfactory explanation not only for Q’s behaviour, but in a broader sense for the entire story of the season. Why Q did whatever he did, and what his goals and objectives are, are still concealed by the plot – and if they aren’t given a proper moment in the spotlight next week the entire season could fall apart.

As much as I enjoyed a tense story about a battle against modern-day semi-Borg, and as great as those emotional moments were with Raffi, Elnor, Seven, and Dr Jurati, Hide and Seek feels like it has a gaping hole due to the absence of Q. With Q’s henchman Dr Soong still at large and also needing to be stopped, and the Europa Mission still to save, the season finale has been left with a lot of work to do and a lot of story to wrap up – and that’s before we even consider getting Picard, Seven, Rios, and Raffi back to the 25th Century.

The eerie green glow of Borg transporter beams.

Hide and Seek raises a lot of questions – not least of which has to be what will become of the Borg if the new Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid makes good on her promise to effectively restructure the entire Collective and implement a wholly new guiding philosophy. If such a change to the Borg were to happen in the 21st or 22nd Centuries, that could be transformative for the entire prime timeline. Guinan’s people may never have been attacked, Picard may never have been assimilated, the events of The Best of Both Worlds and First Contact may be erased, Captain Janeway’s run-ins with the Borg may have been averted or turned out completely differently, Seven of Nine may never have been assimilated… heck, even Captain Sisko would be affected, with his wife never dying at the Battle of Wolf 359. If Picard and the crew set out to preserve the timeline, then changing more the three centuries’ worth of Borg history means that they very definitely failed!

Setting those implications to one side for now, I think we’ll have to return to Hide and Seek when the season is over and reassess how some of these story points are ultimately borne out. There’s potential for some of them to become better in light of a successful finale – and likewise there’s the potential for some of them to seem disappointing if the season doesn’t wrap up in a neat way.

La Sirena takes flight.

So that was Hide and Seek. A complicated episode, all things considered, with some significant weaknesses and flaws, but one that managed to be exciting and action-packed with a focus on the Borg that I did appreciate.

The Star Trek franchise continues to try some very different ideas, but not all of them stick the landing. The mental health side of storytelling, not just in Hide and Seek, nor even just in Picard Season 2, but in a much broader sense across the franchise, remains an area of concern and disappointment. Star Trek can do mental health stories well, but the producers have to allow enough time to really do justice to big and complex topics. For me at least, Hide and Seek didn’t succeed at that.

I’m anxiously awaiting the season finale. Having seemingly concluded one of its big storylines – at least the part set in the 21st Century – Picard has left itself with two villains to defeat, a mission to save, a cryptic message about “two Renées” to explain, a return to the 25th Century to facilitate, potentially two love stories to bring closure to, and finding a way to connect the events of the past eight episodes to what we saw in the season premiere. There’s a lot of work to do… and I really hope that the season finale will be up to the task.

Star Trek: Picard Season 2 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, Scandinavia, Latin America, and Australia, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and the rest of the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.