Star Trek: Picard review – Season 2, Episode 10: Farewell

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2 and casting announcements for Season 3. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Next GenerationFirst Contact, and Voyager.

So here we are! Although it seems like only yesterday that we were settling in for The Star Gazer after a two-year wait for Picard Season 2, it’s time to bid “farewell” to Admiral Picard and the (remaining) crew of La Sirena. At least the wait for Season 3 – which has already begun filming – shouldn’t be quite as long!

Season 2 took a meandering and frustrating route to reach this end point, and while Farewell had some real emotional highlights and moments of excitement, I can’t shake the feeling that the lessons of Season 1 weren’t heeded. Just as happened last time around, there were a lot of underdeveloped moments, stories that needed longer in the spotlight, and narrative threads that missed the mark not because they were bad, but because the season wasted time getting here. While I can happily say that I enjoyed Farewell, it wasn’t as good as it might’ve been.

Admiral Picard on the bridge of the USS Stargazer.

Most of the story complaints that I have really aren’t Farewell’s fault on its own. They’re actually the consequence of a slow, muddled season that dedicated too much time in earlier episodes to what ultimately ended up as extraneous fluff. The episode Watcher, for example, spent a huge amount of time tracking down Rios and Tallinn – and those sequences could have been massively shortened to move the story along at a more reasonable pace. That would’ve allowed last week’s episode, Hide and Seek, to have fully wrapped up the Europa Mission and Renée stories – stories that Farewell had to blitz through to get Picard and the crew to meet Q and get back to the 25th Century.

Farewell felt like a busy episode from the first moment, and considering how much story was left to cram in, I think that’s to be expected. I will give credit where it’s due and say that the director and editors did a good job; the best they could with the material they had, I suspect. Although several storylines were undeniably rushed as the season raced toward its end, the cinematography and production values remained high.

The USS Excelsior.

Perhaps you might think this is unfair criticism, but it feels to me as though Picard Season 2 blew most of its budget – in terms of both set-building and CGI – on The Star Gazer and the second half of Farewell. That’s where we got back to the new sets that had been built for the USS Stargazer and that’s where we saw a return of the outstanding animation work seen in the season premiere. The Federation fleet that faced down the Borg – and later the strange anomaly – looked absolutely fantastic, and seeing a big, beautiful Federation fleet in action will be something that I never tire of.

I’m sure that we’ll be seeing the new USS Stargazer back in action in Season 3 (and maybe even a spin-off series one day), so that’s definitely something to look forward to. I talked about this in my review of the premiere, but the design of the Stargazer inside and out felt like the perfect natural evolution of the aesthetic and design philosophy of The Next Generation era shows and films. Seeing more of that ship would be a request of mine – and it’s my hope that Picard will serve as a springboard for more adventures in the early 25th Century.

The Borg vessel and the Federation fleet stop the anomaly.

So let’s start with the shortest and least-interesting of the storylines in Farewell. Kore Soong was a non-entity this season. Her presence served only to provide Dr Adam Soong with some degree of motivation – motivation which at first had me thinking he might be a complex and nuanced character, but that quickly fell away. She didn’t do much of consequence, she was flat and uninteresting, and aside from being a supporting character to prop up the very one-dimensional Adam Soong, her presence seems to have been Picard’s producers throwing a bone to Isa Briones, whose main character of Soji hasn’t been present all season long (and didn’t even show up in the little epilogue when the characters got together in Guinan’s bar).

Kore choosing to hack into and delete her dad’s files was something and nothing. It makes sense – I guess – but it doesn’t feel like it accomplished anything for the story other than finding something for Kore to do after walking out on her home and her life. She doesn’t seem to feel conflicted in any way about that decision, even though she appears to have spent her entire life living with her father in that carefully-shielded house.

Kore’s story also came to an end.

However, I was more than happy to forget all about Kore’s wasted storylines because of the totally unexpected arrival of Wesley Crusher. Tying the Travelers into the same organisation that Tallinn and Gary Seven worked for was a masterstroke; I was totally blindsided by something that I genuinely did not anticipate. Having seen more than 800 Star Trek stories over the span of more than thirty years, the fact that the franchise can still pull off genuinely shocking moments like that – moments that also tie into over fifty-six years’ worth of lore – is amazing. Moments like that are why I love Star Trek, and they can go a long way to redeeming even the most mediocre of stories and flattest of characters.

I had been feeling frustrated that, six episodes on from her introduction, Tallinn appeared to have died without her storyline going into any detail at all about the mysterious organisation she worked for. Going all the way back to Season 2 of The Original Series, there had been questions about this faction and what their objectives might be; I felt disappointed that we weren’t going to get any further explanation. But to my delight, the totally unexpected arrival of Wesley Crusher provided at least a partial answer – and tied together The Original Series, his own role in The Next Generation, and the events of this season in absolutely wonderful fashion.

Wesley Crusher made an unexpected but thoroughly welcome return to Star Trek.

As a moment of pure fan-service, I can totally understand why Farewell didn’t spend more time with Welsey and Kore – as much as I’d have loved it. It would’ve been wonderful to see Wesley reunite with Picard, but in an episode that was very busy I can understand why it didn’t happen. And I don’t interpret this moment as setting up a major new spin-off following Wesley, Kore, and other Travelers and Supervisors – again, as fun as that might be for fans! It was simply a cute cameo; a way to both include a classic character from The Next Generation while also providing closure of a sort to Kore’s story.

There are many questions that I have about what might happen next for Wesley and Kore – as well as why he chose to reach out to her. I assume that the Supervisors and Travelers pick individuals who are both brilliant and somewhat out-of-place – Kore won’t be missed if she vanishes from Earth in 2024 in the way that someone else might, for example. But I guess we should save the speculation for a future theory article!

Wesley and Kore.

Captain Rios’ story has been a disappointment all season long, and the explanation why is simple: we caught a glimpse of him in the season premiere living his best life, but the series stripped that away from him and regressed him back to his Season 1 presentation. If Rios had been not the captain of the USS Stargazer but even just its first officer, at least some of that would’ve abated. But because we’d seen him as a Starfleet captain, the way he seemed to forget about his ship and those under his command had been really grating on me since Penance. The conclusion to his story this time, which saw him written out of the series, just capped off that disappointment.

If it hadn’t been for seeing him in command of the USS Stargazer, I think I could’ve let slide much of what Rios went through – although I would still have some questions. The culmination of his arc this time feels less like a natural decision for either him or Teresa to make and more like one driven by a writers’ room desperate to get rid of main cast members in anticipation of the return of The Next Generation characters in Season 3. Along with Dr Jurati, Rios drew the short straw.

Rios’ story was disappointing this season.

I said in my review of The Star Gazer that I’d be happy to see a spin-off following Captain Rios’ adventures, and had he stuck to the new characterisation that we saw back then, I would’ve absolutely been down for that. Unfortunately Rios’ departure now means that can’t happen – but after seeing the way he regressed as a character this season, I was already less keen on spending more time with him and less confident that he could carry a new series.

As with other narrative threads in Farewell, Rios’ departure was rushed. The episode dedicated less than two minutes of its runtime to Rios saying his goodbyes, and whatever decisions or discussions he’d had with Teresa appear to have happened entirely off-screen. Did Rios, for example, offer to take Teresa and Ricardo to the 25th Century? Did he consider the consequences of staying – both for the timeline and for himself? I mean… World War III is literally right around the corner (in Star Trek, not in the real world… I hope), and the first three-quarters of the 21st Century is arguably one of the worst and most difficult parts of Earth’s entire history in the Star Trek timeline. I know that Rios stayed “because he was in love,” but even so… couldn’t he have thought of something else? Maybe he skipped history class.

Rios chose to stay with Teresa and Ricardo.

As the culmination of a season-long arc, one that took Rios away from much of the rest of the action and that marks his final end as a Star Trek character, the send-off Rios got was poor. So much more could have been made of this moment – but at the same time, with Rios having been so disconnected from almost everyone else all season long, it’s perversely fitting that his goodbye was brief and to the point. Despite what he said in an earlier episode about viewing Picard as a “father figure,” and the words they shared as he prepared to remain behind, I never felt that Rios and Picard were especially close. They were acquaintances; business colleagues. Work friends but not real friends.

One of the things that I wanted from Picard, going all the way back to the show’s initial announcement, was to meet some new characters and spend time with them. Obviously in a series with a clear protagonist there’s going to be a limit on the number of characters that can be included and how much detail their story arcs can receive, but there was so much potential in someone like Rios. It was never mentioned in a big way, but Rios is only one of a handful of Hispanic characters to have appeared in a big way in Star Trek, and the first major Hispanic character to be given the rank of captain and to command a starship. There was so much scope to do more with Captain Rios, and I guess I’m just disappointed that a character with potential – perhaps even spin-off potential – was sidelined, regressed, and kind of wasted in this mad rush to bring back The Next Generation characters in Season 3.

So long, Captain Rios…

Another character who fell victim to this need to trim the main cast was Dr Jurati, but in her case at least she seems to have had more of a substantial arc this season. Although I would be remiss not to point out that in both seasons of the show Dr Jurati ended up causing massive, catastrophic problems for Picard! She didn’t do so on purpose, of course, but it’s interesting to see that the writers chose to follow up her murder of Bruce Maddox by transforming her into the new Borg Queen!

It was obvious, of course, by the time Picard and the crew returned to the bridge of the USS Stargazer that Dr Jurati would be the face behind the mask, and so it proved. I was a little surprised that Farewell seemed to treat this as some kind of big revelation; I can’t imagine that even the most casual and uninterested of viewers wouldn’t have been able to put two and two together long before Picard set up Dr Jurati’s unmasking.

The Borg Queen unmasked.

As above, Dr Jurati was a character with potential. She was also someone who felt closer to Picard in terms of friendship than Captain Rios, and there was certainly scope to see her continue in her un-assimilated role in future stories. Unlike with Rios, though, there’s definitely a substantial season-long arc for Dr Jurati that worked well enough. She felt lonely and isolated, never being able to hold down a relationship or partnership, and through a strange marriage with the Borg Queen ended up with hundreds, thousands, or perhaps even millions of friends. She also got the chance to become partially synthetic – which I have to assume she would approve of based on what we saw of her last time.

Since we’re dealing with the Borg, the reason for their appearance at the beginning of the season was paid off. The sudden appearance of an unexplained anomaly that threatened the quadrant meant that the Borg wished to team up with the Federation to save lives, and generally I liked this angle and I think there’s potential in it. My initial thought was that it could be connected to the Season 1 super-synths, but again that’ll be something to discuss in a future theory article.

What is this strange anomaly? And crucially… will we revisit it next time?

My concern on this side of the story stems from the fact that we know that Alison Pill, who plays Dr Jurati and the new Borg Queen, doesn’t seem to be returning for Season 3. If the Borg chose to remain at the anomaly as a “guardian at the gate,” as Borg-Jurati put it, that seems to imply we won’t have anything to do with her next time around – and thus we may not be revisiting this anomaly. I certainly hope that won’t be the case, because if we don’t get back here it will seriously jeopardise this season’s entire story by making it feel meaningless. Thirty seconds of screen time for a weird anomaly that one character believed could be damaging doesn’t really justify an entire season wandering in the past, nor the loss of two (or three) major characters.

The question of what the Borg wanted loomed large over the entire season, even while Picard and the crew scrambled to save the future from their base in 2024. Now that we have an answer to that question – they wanted help to stop the anomaly from harming the Alpha Quadrant – we need to go deeper. There needs to be some greater story arc that can tie into the closing moments of Season 2, even if it isn’t the main storyline of Season 3.

The Borg vessel and the strange anomaly.

One thing that Farewell didn’t have time to explain was the relationship between the Jurati-led Borg and the Borg Collective that we’ve seen elsewhere in Star Trek. Is the Jurati-Borg faction separate from the Borg or did they somehow replace the rest of the Collective? Are there now two distinct Borg Collectives? It seems like there must be – because everyone involved seems to believe that the prime timeline has been restored, and that couldn’t have happened if the Jurati-Queen took over the entire Borg Collective. Events like the Battle of Wolf 359 and the attempted assimilation of Earth in First Contact wouldn’t have happened – or would have been changed entirely – if the Jurati-Queen was leading the whole Collective. But this is something that should’ve been given more of an explanation – and it’s indicative of the fact that Farewell was overstuffed with story threads.

The season also ended without detailing in any way how the Confederation were able to defeat the Borg using 25th Century technology. While this may not have been important for wrapping up the stories that were in play, it was a pretty big point earlier in the season. There was the potential for something that the Confederation had developed to come into play, even at this late stage, and although I’d pretty much given up on learning anything more about the Confederation several weeks ago, the way the season ended now leaves the entire Confederation timeline feeling like one massive contrivance.

The Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid.

The Confederation timeline existed as a spur for other storylines, and if we had never seen it and only heard about it in passing, maybe that would be fine. But for those of us invested in the Star Trek universe, creating an entirely new setting, populating it with characters, and telling us that those characters did something as monumental as defeating the Borg, only to leave all of the hows and wherefores unexplained is disappointing. With no return to the Confederation timeline on the agenda – and the question of whether it still exists in any form in serious doubt – it feels like it served the story but in an unrealistic way.

Presumably Adam Soong had to survive because with Kore taking off with Wesley and the Travelers, there needs to be some way for his family line to continue in order to reach Data’s creator and the other Soongs we’ve met. Villains don’t need to be killed off in order for their defeats to feel satisfying, and seeing Adam Soong realise that he’d been beaten was a well-done sequence overall. I also appreciated the Khan reference – and the date-stamp.

Is this merely an Easter egg… or could it be a tease of something yet to come?

Star Trek’s internal timeline can feel inconsistent if you go all the way back to The Original Series and watch episodes that reference events in the late 20th or early 21st Centuries. I’ve always assumed that Star Trek and the real world diverged sometime around the 1960s, and the reference to “Project Khan” being in 1996 ties in with what we know from Space Seed and The Wrath of Khan about legendary villain Khan’s origins. I’m glad that Star Trek isn’t trying to overwrite any of this – and it makes me wonder if there may yet be a reprieve for the proposed Ceti Alpha V miniseries! At the very least, Adam Soong looking up “Project Khan” seems to imply that he’ll be returning to his work on genetic engineering – tying in with the appearance of another Dr Soong in Enterprise.

As a character who we’ve only just started getting to know and who has great potential, I’m glad that Elnor survived the season and I look forward to his continued participation in Picard – and hopefully in future Star Trek productions as well. However… his survival renders one of the best and most emotional moments from last week completely impotent, and I’m left wondering why Hide and Seek even bothered to include it.

Elnor’s survival makes one of last week’s biggest emotional moments entirely irrelevant.

One of the things driving Raffi all season has been Elnor’s death – and after speaking with a holographic recreation last week in one of the season’s best and most powerful emotional sequences, she seemed ready to come to terms with it and let go of the guilt she’d been feeling. That was one of the highlights of last week’s episode, and a significant moment that seemed to signal that the shocking decision to kill off Elnor in Assimilation would indeed be permanent.

However, that moment now feels like wasted time, even more so considering that several of the storylines present in Farewell could’ve used a few extra minutes. Had holo-Elnor’s role been cut from Hide and Seek, replaced with literally anyone else to fill the “combat hologram” role, the wasted moment with Raffi and the now-gratuitous sequences that seemed to be bidding goodbye to the character could’ve been reallocated to other, more pressing stories. Seeing how Raffi dealt with Elnor’s death earlier in the season isn’t undermined by his survival – but the scene in which she came to terms with it absolutely is. As deeply emotional as that moment was, it now feels like a total waste.

Raffi was relieved to see Elnor again.

Perhaps this is my dislike of the 21st Century storylines showing, but I never really felt all that invested in Renée and the Europa Mission. For the supposedly-most important event in the show that our characters had to protect, the Europa Mission and Renée herself had been absent for several episodes as the season’s story continued its slow plod to this rushed conclusion. I wasn’t mad that the rocket launch was raced past to allow Farewell to get to other storylines… but it wasn’t exactly a spectacular ending for what has been the driving force in the story of the season since the third episode.

There were some moments of tension as Adam Soong’s drones appeared to be in danger of blowing up Seven, Rios, and Raffi, and again when he’d managed to successfully infiltrate the Europa Mission launch. I stand by what I said a couple of weeks ago, by the way: that Adam Soong having been kicked out of the scientific community should be a pretty serious barrier to his involvement in something like the Europa Mission… but his status and finances are something that, once again, Picard Season 2 didn’t find time to go into any detail on.

How Adam Soong was able to buy his way into Europa Mission HQ wasn’t really explained.

This part of Farewell secured Renée’s mission – one which seems to have been beneficial for Earth itself and set humanity on a path that would eventually lead to first contact and the creation of the Federation. It was also an opportunity to kill off Tallinn – her death being the “price” for Renée’s survival rounds out her arc in a reasonable way.

I didn’t understand why Q believes that Tallinn always dies at this stage in “every” timeline; it seems to me that the only threat to Renée came about because of Q’s interference, and thus had Q not intervened there’d be no reason for Adam Soong or the Borg Queen to go after her or try to prevent the Europa Mission at all. So I guess I don’t get that line – it was included, perhaps, to make Tallinn’s sacrifice feel more justifiable, but it raises as many questions as it answers (if not more!)

Why does Tallinn die in “every” timeline?

This sets up a discussion about the nature of Q’s intervention. Although establishing a Jurati-Borg seems to have prevented some kind of cataclysm in the 25th Century, that isn’t why Q did it – at least, not based on what he told Picard in Farewell. This was all about Picard learning to come to terms with his past and his loss and because Q considered him a friend and a favourite.

But there are some pretty notable problems with this setup – and with Picard’s ultimate reaction to it. People died as a result of Q’s actions, and whether directly or indirectly he’s responsible for that. Q was able to wave away Tallinn’s death and resurrect Elnor – so from the point of view of main characters I guess he gets somewhat of a pass. But what about the dozen or more assimilated semi-Borg who died last week? They were human beings; people whose lives were cut short as a direct result of Q’s intervention. Picard was clearly willing to forgive Q for this extended Tapestry redux – but even if we assume that there are no timeline consequences from the loss of those individuals… they’re still people who died and who won’t be resurrected as a result of what Q did. The morality of it bugs me.

Q’s actions cost lives – and Picard seems okay with it.

So we’ve come to the purpose of the entire story: Q wanted to teach Picard to overcome the traumatic moment in his own past. He wanted Picard to learn to embrace the person that he is; to choose to become that person. That’s a familiar theme that we’ve seen from Q in the past, most notably in the episode Tapestry. In that story, Q gave Picard the opportunity to change mistakes in his past – but he did so in order to demonstrate to him that the mistakes are what made him the person he is. It’s not exactly the same story, because in this instance Picard had to embrace a dark and traumatic event that was beyond his control, and recognise that he can’t always save everybody. But it’s close – and I like that. It means that at least thematically, Q stayed true to his characterisation.

In terms of the wider lore of Star Trek, including the role of the Q Continuum in potential future productions, I wish we’d learned why Q was dying. Although Q wasn’t a main character for most of the season, his impending death spurred him on and served as the main motivation for why he was intervening in Picard’s life at this moment – and for that to end without being explained, and without Picard so much as offering to help, feels a bit hollow.

Q’s final snap.

However, on the flip side there’s something very relatable – and dare I say very human – about not knowing what’s happening and finding no explanation for it. Speaking as someone with health conditions, I can relate to what Q has been going through. Knowing that things will only get worse, losing abilities that you’d once taken for granted, and being acutely aware that – as Picard once put it – “there are fewer days ahead than there are behind,” these are all very understandable feelings, and the idea that Q took inspiration from his own failing health to use his remaining time to help someone who he has always considered to be a friend… there’s something sweet about that.

From an in-universe point of view, Q has always been a wildcard. The schemes and puzzles that he concocts can seem incredibly random, but they usually have a point. Riker was given the powers of the Q as a test, Picard was given just enough information to solve the Farpoint mystery, Q helped Picard move through three different time periods to solve the anti-time eruption, and so on. In this case, the point Q wanted to make was served by the actions that he took… but in a very disconnected way. While we eventually got to Q’s point – that Picard needed to let go of his trauma, embrace who he is, and learn to love – it took a very long time through a very jumbled sequence of events. And unlike in stories such as Tapestry, Q’s actions this time had a significant impact on other people.

Q did it all for Picard.

Whatever we may think of the new Jurati-Borg Queen hybrid, would that have been a destiny that Dr Jurati would have chosen for herself? Was it where she needed to end up, or could she have led a perfectly happy life as a 25th Century human? Q stripped that choice from her, and Picard seems content to roll with it. While Renée did ultimately make it onto her spacecraft, Q screwed with her mental health in a major way, sabotaging her therapy and doing what he could to undermine her. Q’s actions directly led to Tallinn’s death, as well as the deaths of a dozen or more humans that had been partially-assimilated. Q also stranded Rios in the 21st Century – and again, while Rios was happy enough to make that choice, he could have also lived a happy life in the 25th Century had Q not interfered.

In short, other Q stories across Star Trek haven’t been so destructive. If there was a bigger purpose – such as the Jurati-Borg stopping some galactic catastrophe – and that was Q’s main objective, perhaps we could overlook it. The scale would be tipped in such a way that, to quote Spock, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” But Q did it all for Picard’s sake – so the needs of the many were, in Q’s view, outweighed by the needs of the one.

Picard with Q.

Maybe that makes sense to Q, but is Picard okay with it? He seems to be fine with learning that Q did all of this, made all of these changes for his sake and his alone – and I’m not sure I buy it. Maybe Q is right – maybe Tallinn always dies in every conceivable timeline. But does Dr Jurati always become a Borg? Does Rios always quit Starfleet to live through World War III? Do all of those paramilitary people die in 2024? Q might be fine with changing people’s lives, but I’m struggling to accept that Picard would be, especially if he knows that Q was doing it all for his sake.

It also raises another question: was there really no other way for Picard to process his trauma? Did it truly require establishing the Confederation timeline, killing all those people, and spending all that time stranded in the 21st Century? Couldn’t Q have just… got Picard into therapy? Or given him those dreams of his mother in the 25th Century?

Picard prepares to embrace Q.

These points may seem nitpicky, but this is the foundation of the story. Everything Picard and the others have been through over the past ten episodes hinges on this explanation. Q set all of this up because Picard couldn’t let go of a trauma he’s been carrying since childhood, and Q felt that trauma was holding him back and preventing him from learning to love and being happy. And because of that, Q decided that the best way to get through to Picard and get him to work through his mental health issues was by changing centuries’ worth of history and forcing Picard to travel back in time.

In a way, it’s a very “Q” thing. But at the same time, where past Q stories have felt at least vaguely connected to the goals he had, this one requires more than a few leaps to get from point A to point B. Maybe you can suspend your disbelief, get lost in this presentation of Q, and happily accept this explanation. For me… I’m struggling a little.

Q’s plot feels quite convoluted this time around.

However, that isn’t to detract from a wonderfully emotional sequence between Q and Picard. Recognising what Q had done and understanding why he did it, Picard found himself willing to embrace the friendship that Q had been offering him for decades. Picard was able to set aside the animosity he had for Q – allowing Q to spend what appear to be his final moments with a friend. As Picard said, he won’t die alone.

Does that make the whole story worthwhile? It was definitely a beautiful sequence, and after clashes, conflicts, and an ongoing “trial,” it was nice to see Picard and Q reconcile as Q reached the end of his life. Themes of love, of letting go, and of acceptance were weaved through these moments, and while we didn’t get an explanation for everything – including why Q is dying and what may have become of other members of his species – it was satisfying enough as we bid what seems to be a final farewell to a character who was first introduced in the very first episode of The Next Generation.

Picard meets with Q for the final time.

Q giving what remained of his life force or energy to send Picard home was likewise a sweet moment; a final act of kindness that, while it arguably doesn’t redeem Q for everything he’s done, went some way to making his final moments positive, and showed that he has perhaps learned a thing or two from Picard along the way. I did enjoy Q’s line that Picard was his “favourite,” along with the implication that, of all the many beings that Q must’ve met over his many years of life, Picard was someone special to him – special enough to spend his final moments with.

I wonder if in a future Star Trek story – perhaps even in Season 3 – we’ll learn what became of Q and why he was dying. As I said above, for the purposes of this story the exact reason (which would likely have been technobabble) doesn’t matter in a narrative sense, but as Trekkies, I think we have a curiosity about the world of Star Trek and a desire to know these things! I would certainly be interested to know why, after seeming to have been alive for billions of years, Q suddenly found himself dying.

An emotional farewell.

That only leaves us with Seven of Nine to talk about – and her field commission as a Starfleet captain that she seemed to receive during the Borg mission. Seven has been one of my favourite characters in both seasons of Picard; the growth and development that she’s received has completely changed my opinion of someone who was once my least-favourite character from Voyager. After seeing how she’d become much more human, how she’d come to terms with the loss of Icheb (something I’m surprised wasn’t mentioned to Raffi as part of the Elnor story, I must say), this season she got to reconcile her history with both the Borg and Starfleet.

Consider where Seven was at the beginning of the season. Like Michael Burnham in Discovery’s premiere episode, Seven wanted to shoot first the moment the Borg emerged. The idea of listening to anything they might have to say was unfathomable to her. Yet by the season finale, after what she went through with Dr Jurati, she was willing not only to listen, but to follow the Borg’s lead. She put her trust in the Borg, overcoming decades’ worth of hostility that she’d been holding onto.

Seven of Nine in the captain’s chair.

Could we see more from Seven in future? The idea of her and Raffi having their own adventures – either within Starfleet or outside of it – is an enticing one, but I guess we’ll have to see what Season 3 has in store for them first. With potentially three departures from the main cast, there’s room for Seven of Nine to stay on board, particularly if the story of Season 3 continues to involve the Borg. At the same time, though, unlike the new characters who won’t be returning, Seven’s arc across both seasons of the show leaves her in a pretty good place. If this is going to be her swansong, she ends the series in a strong position.

Having had a run-in with Q in the Voyager Season 7 episode Q2, it was a shame that Farewell didn’t see Seven and Q say so much as a single word to each other, and again this is the consequence of a season finale that was left with a lot of work to do to wrap everything up. It wasn’t essential, but it would’ve been nice to at least acknowledge that they’d met each other before racing ahead with the rest of the plot.

Seven of Nine and Raffi.

So that was Farewell. It was the best episode since the season premiere, but that’s damning with faint praise. We’ll have to take a broader look at Season 2 as a whole in the days or weeks ahead, because I have to say that, despite an outstanding premiere and a solid final half-episode, this meandering stroll through the 21st Century was far from my favourite season of Star Trek.

Taken on its own merits, though, Farewell tied together as many of the narrative threads as it could. There weren’t huge gaping holes left behind, but a number of story beats weren’t as well-developed as they could’ve been, and the slow, plodding pace of much of the rest of the season meant that we arrived at this point with the season finale having to do a lot of heavy lifting to get across the finish line. Farwell did what it could in the confines of its runtime, but realistically, much of the damage had already been done and there was a limit on how much a single episode could do to redeem an underwhelming season.

The USS Stargazer.

There were some genuinely heartwarming moments along the way. Wesley Crusher’s surprise appearance (which thankfully wasn’t spoiled in advance) may actually be the highlight for me, and I enjoyed seeing Seven of Nine step up to work with the Borg after returning to the 25th Century as well. Picard and Q’s reconciliation feels incredibly sweet – but it isn’t a storyline free from questions. As the season’s main driving force, it ended in a way that left some points feeling unexplained or underdeveloped, and despite the emotional highs, that taints things a little for me.

Where Picard Season 1 was generally a fun ride that was spoiled by an underwhelming ending, Season 2 has been an underwhelming and occasionally frustrating story that somehow managed to pull out a passable ending. Farewell didn’t hit the same high notes as The Star Gazer had ten weeks ago, but by the time Picard and the crew were back home, it came close. If the second half of the episode had been given more time and was stretched out over forty-five minutes instead of twenty-five, perhaps we’d be able to consider it a bit more favourably.

So that’s it for now. I won’t be publishing any reviews or theories for Strange New Worlds over the next few weeks, because unfortunately the series is “officially” unavailable here in the UK. But stay tuned for more Star Trek content here on the website, including the conclusion of my Picard Season 2 theories, some initial thoughts about Season 3, and eventually a proper retrospective-review of Season 2 as a whole. Until next time!

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.

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.

Star Trek: Picard review – Season 2, Episode 8: Mercy

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

Picard Season 2 certainly has enjoyed its episode-ending mini-cliffhangers! I think we’ve had one in every episode now, and last week’s outing, Monsters, ended with Picard and Guinan being apprehended by the FBI. This led to an episode that felt like the season’s second detour in a row, one which dedicated a lot of its runtime to a new character, his background, and a run-in with Vulcans decades in the past.

Agent Wells may yet have a larger role to play, but with only two episodes remaining in the season, it feels like there’s a heck of a lot of story to get through. Mercy made some progress to that end, but it also got bogged down in places, and I feel like the writers aren’t always aware of the time constraints that a ten-episode season has placed on them. The last thing I want, as the season reaches what should be its climax, is for there to be a repeat of the Season 1 situation. At least in that regard we can say that most of the characters and storylines are now in play… but some feel a long way from being wrapped up.

Picard in Mercy.

I didn’t dislike Mercy, though, all things considered. Unlike in Monsters, where the time spent with a comatose Picard felt padded at best, there was purpose to (most) of the story threads weaved in this week’s outing. And if you’ve been keeping up with my reviews this season, you’ll know that I’ve been saying for several episodes now that I wanted Picard to refocus its energies around the Borg Queen story: well, wish granted! Mercy spent much more time on what I consider to be the season’s more interesting story – and one that feels closer to Star Trek’s high-tech 25th Century.

One question I have that feels unexplained right now is how Dr Adam Soong finds himself with such resources at his disposal. As the episode drew to a close he spoke on the phone with someone identified as a “general,” and was able to hire a private military company to assist in the Borg Queen’s mission to capture La Sirena (something I’d been predicting she’d do for a couple of weeks!) But where has Dr Soong found the ability to do something like that?

Where did Dr Soong get the resources and connections to hire a private military company?

When we met Dr Soong in Fly Me To The Moon, he had been expelled from the scientific community, his licenses had been revoked, and he seemed to have lost everything. He still has a fancy house, so clearly he’s someone of financial means, but that shouldn’t allow him to just call up a general and buy mercenaries, no questions asked. I should’ve posed this question a couple of weeks ago when we encountered Dr Soong at the astronauts’ gala – how had he managed to buy his way onto the board of the Europa Mission when he’d been kicked out of the scientific community for his illegal and unethical research?

I doubt it’s a question that Picard has an answer for, and it’s a contrivance that we’ll probably just have to overlook. Still, given the way Dr Soong appeared during his encounter with the board and the consequences he suffered as a result of his work, it feels odd – and more than a little convenient for the sake of the story – that he’s someone with the resources and connections to be of use to both Q and the Borg Queen.

Dr Adam Soong.

One neat inclusion on this side of the story seems to explain why the people from the Confederation timeline that we saw in Penance venerate and celebrate Dr Soong so long after his death. The planetary shield that was keeping Confederation Earth on “life-support” seems to be one of Dr Soong’s most significant inventions – and we saw a smaller-scale version of this technology a couple of episodes ago. Drones that Dr Soong controlled put up a kind of shield to protect Kore from the sun – and it seems like he upscaled that technology to protect Earth from an “ecological collapse.”

The Borg Queen was able to very effectively manipulate Dr Soong, using his desire to have a legacy to leverage him to work for her. She must have something planned, though, because remember in the Confederation timeline the Borg had been wiped out. Establishing that timeline is categorically not in the Borg Queen’s interest – and indeed preventing it from happening is why she agreed to assist Picard in the first place. So Dr Soong is clearly in a lot of danger!

The Borg Queen continues to assimilate Dr Jurati.

Sticking with the Soongs, I’m really hoping that Kore has some unknown role yet to play, because right now she feels like fluff; an extraneous character who’s just here to give Isa Briones something to do in Soji’s absence. Kore may exist solely to inform aspects of Dr Soong’s character, but spending time with a fairly one-dimensional character like that doesn’t add a great deal to the story of the season overall. Her story this week continued to be incredibly repetitive, paralleling Soji and Dahj’s stories in Season 1. Kore pressed her father about her artificial origins – a genetic experiment, in this case, as opposed to being a synth – in a way that was very reminiscent of Soji learning her own backstory in the Season 1 episode The Impossible Box.

Even if characters like Kore and Agent Wells have roles to play in the next couple of episodes, I’d still argue that we probably spent too much time focusing on them this week. These are brand-new characters (albeit that one is played by a main cast member) and we just don’t have the same investment in their stories as we do in those of Picard, Raffi, Seven, Rios, and Dr Jurati. There was scope, perhaps, to cut down some of these sequences and spend more time with the main characters.

Kore Soong.

Having dedicated a lot of words to the presentation of Rios in my previous couple of reviews, I’ll try to avoid being too repetitive here. Suffice to say that Rios’ regression shows no sign of letting up, and the romantic sub-plot he’s now in with Teresa actually amplifies the sad decline in his characterisation compared with where he was at the beginning of the season. As with Kore being created to give Isa Briones something to do, I feel like the writers have invented these moments for Rios out of nowhere, dragging him backwards in terms of what could’ve been a satisfying character arc while simultaneously leaving him pretty disconnected from the rest of the story.

Think about this: when was the last time Rios said two words to Picard? Aside from a very brief conversation with Raffi when the gang infiltrated the astronauts’ gala, when was the last time he spoke to her, either? Or to anyone other than Teresa, come to that? Rios got one significant moment this week, as he identified a problem with La Sirena’s transporter that has a bearing on the stories involving Raffi, Seven, and the Borg Queen. But that moment wasn’t necessarily a “Rios” moment; it could’ve been anyone who discovered the Borg code in the system.

Rios working on La Sirena’s transporter.

As speculated in my last theory post, I wonder if Rios is being set up for an heroic death sometime before the end of the season. Skip this paragraph if you’re concerned about Season 3 spoilers, but after Paramount announced that the main cast of The Next Generation would be coming on board for Picard Season 3 in a big way, it’s not at all clear what that means for the current crop of characters. With Elnor already gone and Soji sidelined, killing off Rios and perhaps the Borg Queen in Dr Jurati’s body would only leave Seven of Nine and Raffi heading into Season 3, and that feels like it could be a more manageable number of characters for another ten-episode outing.

In short, Rios may be drawing the short straw here. His story of being detained and deported was a timely one that shone a light on America’s problem with immigration and the way migrants are handled, and as a Hispanic man, Rios clearly fit the bill for that story from the writers’ point of view. But when that story ended, Rios felt listless. Cut loose by the series and serving a pretty minor role in terms of the main story, his side-story with Teresa could be an attempt to give emotional weight to Rios’ potential death. By showing us his love for Teresa – and thus presumably her reaction to his death – Picard may be trying to score some added emotional points when the moment finally comes.

Rios with Teresa aboard La Sirena.

We learned some really interesting details about the Borg in an understated way thanks to Seven of Nine and Dr Jurati. Mercy may go on to be an important episode that future Borg stories can call back to, and as a Trekkie I’m always fascinated by the minutia of how things like Borg assimilation actually work! In the case of a normal Borg drone, they’re able to assimilate someone by forcing nanoprobes into their body. The nanoprobes bring with them the metals and materials needed to self-replicate, and it sounds as if this process has been honed by the Borg over a long period of time. The process relies on high-quality materials that the Borg must produce or refine somehow.

Without any nanoprobes of her own, or with a very limited number, the Borg Queen inhabiting Dr Jurati’s body must acquire the raw materials to construct more – and this is where the idea of taking lithium from batteries came into play in one of the series’ most disturbing sequences to date! The striking visual presentation of Dr Jurati with the wrecked cars drew on things like zombie fiction in a really tense and horrifying way.

This was an incredibly shocking way to see Dr Jurati, and it felt like it was inspired by zombie films.

I love everything about this side of the story. The concept that the Borg Queen needs to acquire resources, the way in which she’s going about it, the fact that the 21st Century doesn’t really provide her with what she needs… all of this works so incredibly well. In addition to exploring more about Borg technology and Borg assimilation, which would be fascinating in its own right, the story that’s unfolding is engrossing and exciting.

After several episodes in which this side of the story felt like an afterthought, giving it a proper moment in the spotlight felt cathartic. This is the kind of storytelling I’ve been wanting ever since Season 2 took us on this mission back in time, and while it’s come pretty late in the game and in an episode that had those other less interesting elements, I’m glad we finally got to see more from the Borg Queen.

Newly-created Borg nanoprobes.

Seven of Nine was at her best on this side of the story, showing off an emotional and vulnerable reaction to being face-to-face, once again, with the Borg. Her confrontation with the partially-assimilated Dr Jurati clearly brought back bad memories, and led to a minor conflict with Raffi – understandably so, perhaps, but I’m glad it was resolved and didn’t descend into a major relationship drama!

One of the best things that Picard has done has been to give Seven of Nine some much-needed character development, and seeing her reacting like this – in a very human, emotional way – is further evidence of that wonderful arc. I said when Seven was reintroduced in Season 1 that she’d become one of my least-favourite Voyager characters toward the end of that show’s run, and the reason for that was how boring and repetitive she was (combined, perhaps, with the fact that she was overused by the show’s writers). Seven would learn some lesson in “how to be human” one week, then forget it all by the next episode, leaving her feeling static and undeveloped. Picard has completely reworked her character in a way that feels natural; that she’s made genuine and lasting progress since the events of Voyager, now twenty-five years in her past.

Seven of Nine in Mercy.

This progression of Seven’s arc has been shown in a new light by bringing her back into conflict with the Borg. The decision to remove her Borg implants for Season 2 – including, as she noted this week, internal implants that aren’t seen – has added to this new, more human presentation. Coming face-to-face with the Borg again is already proving to be traumatic for her, bringing up awful memories that she can’t escape.

We saw this in Season 1 with Picard himself, particularly in the episode The Impossible Box when he boarded the Artifact. But rather than feeling like a redux of that story, Seven’s feels unique. The way she reacts, as someone who had been assimilated at a much younger age and who remained a member of the Borg Collective for much longer, is completely different to the very visceral reaction that Picard had. Jeri Ryan and Michelle Hurd played off one another perfectly during these sequences, processing Seven’s trauma while also trying to stay focused on the task at hand.

Raffi and Seven of Nine tracked Dr Jurati to a car park.

Speaking of trauma, Seven isn’t the only one dealing with it. Raffi is also coming to terms with Elnor’s death, and while she had been hoping that restoring the timeline might save his life, I think we got another significant hint here that that isn’t going to happen. In a flashback sequence we saw how Raffi had persuaded Elnor to remain at Starfleet Academy instead of returning to Vashti, “manipulating” him, to use her and Seven’s words. This is making her feel even more responsible for Elnor’s death.

Coming to terms with trauma can require someone to confront unpleasant truths about themselves, and while I wouldn’t say what Raffi did with Elnor was excessive or horribly manipulative, she recoginises that the way she reacted to him – and the way she treats others in her life, including Seven – can come across that way. Her desire to get the right outcome for herself can be overriding, and she knows just what to say to people to get them to do what she wants. I’m not sure what the series plans to do with this revelation, but if Raffi sticks around going into Season 3, perhaps it’ll be something she consciously tries to work on.

Raffi with Elnor in the flashback.

We got confirmation of a theory that emerged as far back as Penance: there’s something wrong with Q. Q believes that he’s dying, as evidenced by his declining powers, and although he seemed somewhat accepting of it at first, he’s clearly rattled and unsure of what’s happening to him. We have no indication right now of what might’ve caused Q’s declining health – nor how far Picard may be involved. After several episodes in which this has been teased, going all the way back to the second episode of the season, I really hope we get a proper and thorough explanation for why Q is dying (or for whatever else might be happening to him) before the story concludes.

One line from Q was particularly interesting: he told Guinan that: “the trap is immaterial; it’s the escape that counts.” To me, that feels like it embodies Q’s entire philosophy, at least insofar as his dealings with Picard are concerned. He sets puzzles not for their own sake, but to see how Picard will react and respond. He judges those reactions, as we saw throughout The Next Generation, but he also possesses a curiosity – he genuinely doesn’t know what Picard will do, and he wants to see it for himself. In that sense, Q is almost, in his own very twisted way, studying Picard and humanity.

Guinan and Q talked in the FBI office.

There were other interesting snippets from Q’s conversation with Guinan. The idea of a “temporal horizon” being part of how members of the Q Continuum perceive the universe is a neat concept, helping to visualise for us as the audience something that’s fundamentally difficult to grasp. Q experiences time in some kind of linear fashion, even though he’s able to travel to different eras at will. His own personal past is still in the past, and he has a future – except that his future is now something he cannot see or perceive. It’s a complex thing to wrap one’s head around, and I’m not entirely sure I’ve fully understood it nor successfully communicated my interpretation of it! But suffice to say that I think we have a better understanding of the Q Continuum after Mercy.

One word that Q used almost passed by unnoticed: “redeem.” Does Q believe that what he’s doing right now is some kind of redemption for himself? If so, is the “penance” he told Picard about earlier in the season part of some kind of punishment he’s inflicting not upon Picard, but upon himself? How would showing Picard a warped, broken timeline redeem Q? And, come to that, what is he seeking redemption from? There are a lot of unanswered questions!

What could Q be seeking redemption from?

As Q showed Guinan the extent of his failing powers, it raised a question that I’d been contemplating since before the season aired (and that has been part of my theory list). Is Q truly responsible for breaking the timeline in the first place? Picard assumed so when Q first reappeared, but as he seems to be losing his powers, it seems plausible to suggest that making such a dramatic change is no longer something that Q is capable of.

In addition to all of that, we have the question of cause-and-effect. When Q emerged at the end of The Star Gazer, the damage to the timeline had already been done. Yet recent episodes have shown us Q running around in the 21st Century seemingly trying to enact the change to the timeline that Picard hopes to prevent. In The Star Gazer and Penance, Q seemed to be in full possession of his powers, even changing his appearance. But if those events happened after what we’re seeing now, from Q’s perspective, does that mean he got better? Or did he somehow break the timeline, travel back in time to continue to observe Picard, and then start to lose his powers? My head hurts!

Are we seeing Q before or after the events of The Star Gazer?

Picard and Guinan’s interrogation by Agent Wells was interesting, but as stated above I think it ran a little too long and took us on a bit of a detour. If Agent Wells comes back and has a significant moment later in the season, maybe that will be excusable; just one part of an evolving and developing story. But if this is to be his sole appearance, it’s certainly an odd choice for the season to have dedicated so much time to his character and backstory. The entire “apprehended by the FBI” story thread could’ve been cut out, with Picard and possibly Guinan joining the hunt for Dr Jurati instead. We’ll have to wait and see what comes next before passing judgement.

One storyline that the FBI interrogation successfully wrapped up was Rios’ missing combadge. This had fallen by the wayside in recent episodes, and after the point of divergence in the timeline was revealed to be the Europa Mission, its potential importance slipped away. It came back this week in an interesting way, but ultimately this was little more than a bluff and a tease – not only from Agent Wells to Picard, but from the show’s writers to us as the audience! The combadge could’ve ended up as a “butterfly,” with its unknown impact rippling along the timeline. As it is, Agent Wells gave it back to Picard and it can once again disappear from the plot.

Agent Wells interrogating Picard.

The Vulcan sub-plot was interesting, and certainly served to give motivation to Agent Wells as he pursued Picard, Guinan, and all things alien. It also led to a moment with Picard that one again highlighted his calm, diplomatic style, and that’s something I’ll never tire of seeing! However, if there was supposed to be a connection with the Enterprise episode Carbon Creek, which saw Vulcans on Earth in the 1950s, it wasn’t particularly well-established by the short flashback sequence that we got.

More could’ve been done to show what the Vulcans were doing on Earth, or even to establish that young Agent Wells was in the town of Carbon Creek, for instance. That would’ve been a fun easter egg to long-time fans. As it is, the connection is more implicit than explicit – which is fine, I guess! But in a story about time travel that hasn’t had many opportunities to connect to the wider franchise (aside from a few references to The Voyage Home and Past Tense) this kind of feels like a missed opportunity to make a solid connection.

A pair of Vulcans on Earth sometime in the 1960s-1970s.

Storylines in which the hero is apprehended by the authorities while on a time-sensitive mission can be irritating for me. I can find myself feeling frustrated and wanting to shout at the show or film to “just get on with it!” But to Mercy’s credit, that didn’t really happen this time around. The episode was entertaining, and even though the FBI interrogation sequences weren’t the highlight, they were well-paced and inoffensive enough. My hope now is that there’ll be some bigger point to all of it – something to tie together Picard, the Borg Queen, Q, and the rest of the characters and storylines currently in play.

So that was Mercy. We got some significant development of key storylines, but those developments have come pretty late in the season – and there’s still a lot of work to do if we’re to see everything neatly wrapped up in just two weeks’ time. I’m hopeful that Picard has an ace up its sleeve – possibly even a season-ending cliffhanger – that will make the detours and side-stories feel worthwhile rather than like fluff.

What I will say in praise of Mercy – and of the show’s writing as a whole – is that the end of the season feels far from formulaic. I can’t tell what’s going to happen next, nor what the ultimate destination of this story is. Several characters feel in imminent danger – Q, Rios, Dr Jurati, Dr Soong, and even Seven of Nine and Raffi. But what will come next for any of them is still up in the air. The only thing we know for certain right now is that the Borg Queen plans to make a move on La Sirena. Rios is aware of that, but with Picard and the others stuck half a world away, will they be able to get there in time? I have no idea… and after more than thirty years as a fan, I love that Star Trek can still take me on a rollercoaster ride that goes in wildly unpredictable directions!

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.

Star Trek: Picard review – Season 2, Episode 7: Monsters

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 GenerationVoyagerFirst Contact, and Discovery.

I found Monsters to be a frustrating experience – with the odd moment of sheer brilliance. While the story edged along in incremental steps, overall this side-mission inside Picard’s mind seemed to drag just a little too long. That being said, when the amateur Freudian psychoanalysis let up, we got some interesting moments with Seven of Nine and Raffi as they hunted for Dr Jurati, and from Picard and Guinan as the episode drew to a close.

Despite having mixed feelings about the season overall – particularly its time travel story – some of the promotional images released for Monsters looked intriguing, so after a couple of weeks where I’d been uninterested to the point of near-apathy in Picard, this time around I managed to work up some excitement and interest for the latest outing. To summarise, I guess I’d say that Monsters didn’t deliver what I’d hoped for, and the show’s 21st Century setting continues to be a drag, but there were some genuinely insightful and interesting moments, especially as the episode neared its end.

The final few minutes of the episode were the best.

As last week’s episode drew to a close, I felt that there was potential in a story that explored some of Picard’s psyche, and that seemed to be borne out by a couple of the promotional images released before the episode aired. These pictures showed Picard sitting aboard a 24th Century vessel, meeting with a new character who was wearing what looked like a new Starfleet uniform variant. Based on those pictures and that setup, I was hopeful that a season which has been content to stay in the modern-day for the most part might actually show us a little more of Star Trek’s future – the part that I find a thousand times more interesting, exciting, and inspiring.

Unfortunately we didn’t really get any of that – at least, not in the way I had hoped. We returned to the château of Picard’s childhood, and spent a lot of time running around in the dungeons while monsters from low-budget horror films chased after Picard, his mother, and later Tallinn. I think the problem with this story is more fundamental than just its B-movie horror aesthetic, though. If a decision is made to psychoanalyse a character in this fashion, diving deeply into their subconscious mind and buried memories, by the time we reach the end we should feel like we learned something – anything, really – that could inform and educate us about why the character behaves a certain way or has a particular personality trait. We came to the end of this coma-dream with Picard awakening… and I don’t feel like I understand him any better than I did before watching this entire drawn-out storyline.

Tallinn was attacked by one of the B-movie monsters.

We’ve spent a lot of time with Picard over the past thirty-five years, and in that time we’ve seen him go through many significant and traumatic events. There are more things from his past that we’ve only heard about in passing; lines of dialogue in The Next Generation that informed a story or gave us a tidbit of information about the man and his personal history. This episode, and the framework it used, could have explored any of those. Just off the top of my head, we could’ve seen Picard wrangle with the death of Jack Crusher – husband of Beverly Crusher – during his time in command of the Stargazer. We could’ve seen him dealing with the trauma of Tasha Yar’s death, or the loss of his family in a fire at the château that we heard about in Generations.

Instead, Monsters chose to introduce a wholly new backstory element to Picard’s character, giving him a moment in his youth in which he was traumatised by being trapped in the passageways below his family’s château, as well as his mother’s mental health condition. I can deal with the fact that this seems to clash with depictions of Picard’s mother in The Next Generation; the two shows are very different, and while there’s definitely a major difference in tone, there’s nothing that stands out to me as being wholly contradictory. But what I find difficult to get on board with is the fact that this entire sequence feels meaningless to the story overall – we didn’t learn anything significant about Picard, nor did we unlock anything that might be key to understanding the story of the season.

A faded memory from Picard’s youth.

I don’t recall it ever being mentioned prior to Monsters that Picard had a fear of confined spaces. I can recall many occasions in the past where we’d seen him in the Jeffries’ tubes, for example, and that never seemed to bother him. If it had been mentioned even an episode or two ago we could’ve at least said that Season 2 was trying to set it up, but even that didn’t happen, so I find it being brought up here particularly odd. Not only that, but this supposed claustrophobia didn’t even feature in a big way in the story at all – there was no moment where Picard was in a confined space either in reality, in his mind, nor in his memories. The dungeon was certainly a frightening place, but young Picard seemed to be trapped in a pretty large room.

Obviously trauma and the development of phobias is a more complicated thing than that, and I get that. But even so, this attempt to depict Picard’s supposed trauma feels weak. More importantly, though, it doesn’t seem to have accomplished much of anything, certainly not enough to justify producing an entire episode dedicated to it.

Picard and Tallinn inside his subconscious mind.

Star Trek: Picard promised to show us the beloved character in his later years, going on new adventures with a new crew but still fundamentally the same man we remembered from his debut thirty-five years ago. There was scope in a story about memory and digging into someone’s trauma and psyche to draw on something from Star Trek’s past – either something that was underdeveloped during The Next Generation era or something merely referenced – to flesh out some unknown or unseen part of Picard’s character. This episode took that open goal and missed it by a country mile by telling a disconnected and just plain odd story that feels functionally and narratively irrelevant. A ten-episode series can’t afford to waste time – something Picard learned to its cost in Season 1 – so Monsters feels not only like a disappointment, but an episode that could potentially be a weight around the neck of the entire season.

When I deconstructed the failings of Et in Arcadia Ego (the two-part Season 1 finale) a few weeks ago, I concluded by saying that I hoped the lessons of that rushed pair of episodes had been learned. Whole storylines ran out of road, characters disappeared, new factions came and went in the blink of an eye, and narrative threads that could’ve been weaved together had there been more time ended the season just dangling, unresolved. With three episodes remaining in Season 2 to resolve this new story, I feel a sense of anxiety. The past three episodes essentially revolved around the astronauts’ party and its aftermath, without much input from Q or significant progression of the season’s main story arcs. There isn’t a lot of time to get back on track – especially if we get any more short episodes like the half-hour Two of One last week.

We’ve spent a significant chunk of the season’s runtime dealing with Picard’s comatose mind.

To return to the dungeon and the monsters, when this storyline kicked off with young Picard and his mother, it seemed like it had potential. As someone with mental heath issues myself, I briefly felt some of what I’ve experienced being reflected in the depiction of Yvette Picard. There was scope to expand upon this – and perhaps a future episode will tell us more about her nameless condition. Unfortunately, though, what we got in Monsters may have began in a relatable way – so much so that, for a brief moment, it felt uncomfortably close to my own personal experience – but it quickly descended into pantomime and farce.

Mental health conditions are not easy to depict in fiction. It takes time, it needs a nuanced portrayal, and it requires a creative team who all understand the condition in question and what the purpose of its depiction is. Yvette’s condition wasn’t shown for its own sake, and wasn’t even trying to be a sensitive or sympathetic depiction of whatever unnamed condition she suffered from. It existed purely to attempt to inform us as the audience about the trauma Picard himself feels from those events, and that already relegates it to a kind of secondary status that perhaps was always going to prevent a nuanced or at least decent attempt to portray it.

Yvette Picard’s mental health condition was basically a backdrop for other parts of the story.

The Star Trek franchise hasn’t always dealt with mental health particularly well. I noted as recently as Season 1 of Picard how the franchise can lean into unhelpful one-dimensional stereotypes, and Yvette feels barely a step ahead of that. The decision to include hallucinatory elements was potentially an interesting one – but to then turn around and make those hallucinations B-movie horror monsters rendered any impact it could’ve had utterly meaningless.

I’ve tried to be an advocate for better depictions of mental health in fiction, but more than once I’ve found myself exasperatedly saying that if a story can’t get it right – or at least make an effort to do better with the way mental health is depicted – then maybe it’s preferable to leave it alone. If there isn’t time in a series like Picard – which understandably has its focuses elsewhere – to show Yvette’s mental health condition in more detail and more sympathetically, then maybe this angle shouldn’t be included. With a few rewrites, the story could get to the same place while skipping over a pretty uninspired and occasionally problematic one-dimensional depiction of an unnamed but somewhat stereotypical “mental illness.” Otherwise it feels like the series is paying lip service to an important subject; touching on it in the most basic and meaningless of ways.

The nature of Yvette’s condition wasn’t revealed or explained.

So what was this story trying to say? That Picard’s desire to explore strange, new worlds is connected to trauma related to his mother? That seems incredibly clichéd and basic, even by the generally poor standards of mental health stories that we’ve just been talking about. I want to believe that this story has more to give; some twist or turn that will pull out a passable ending to a narrative thread that will otherwise be disappointing in the extreme. I’ve jumped the gun before with these kinds of things and been too quick to criticise, so I guess we need to wait and see what comes next. On its own merits, though, this part of Monsters – the part that took up the majority of the episode’s runtime – was poor.

There was a glimpse of something better (or at least something different) at the close of the episode. Picard visited Guinan’s bar to try to “summon” Q (or another member of the Q Continuum, this wasn’t 100% clear). I liked that we got callbacks to past iterations of Star Trek; Guinan’s “claw” pose that we saw in Q Who made a comeback, for example. And this part of the story filled in a blank from all the way back in The Next Generation’s second season, potentially explaining the animosity between Guinan and Q, or at least the El-Aurians and the Q Continuum.

We learned a little about the relationship between the El-Aurians and the Q Continuum this week.

This is the kind of thing I’d hoped Picard Season 2 would do more of. Season 1 had a fairly narrow focus on the Romulans and synths, and while we got a deeper dive into one aspect of Romulan culture in particular, there was a lot more that the last season could’ve done to connect its narrative threads to Star Trek’s broader canon. Because of how it quickly stepped out of the prime timeline and then shot back in time, Season 2 hasn’t really had much of an opportunity to do this, and when elements from Star Trek’s past have been introduced they haven’t really been explored or fleshed out in a substantial way; take Tallinn and the mysterious organisation she works for as a case in point. So I greatly appreciated the Guinan-Q connection here.

Picard and Guinan being apprehended may yet have a deeper significance to the story – if the “FBI Agent” isn’t who he claims to be, for example. Stay tuned for my theory post for more on that! But if it really is the FBI and 21st Century Earth authorities, I’m actually kind of glad that the story went down this road! Picard and the crew, despite their best intentions, have made a lot of noise since arriving in the 21st Century – so it makes perfect sense that, in the highly-surveilled world of 2024, the authorities would be attempting to track them.

Agent Wells, FBI.

We got several cute moments this week with Seven of Nine and Raffi. Their relationship, which had been teased at the end of Season 1, hadn’t developed as much as I’d hoped or expected this season, and with Seven being sidelined for the entirety of last week’s outing, I’m glad that the show’s writers haven’t entirely forgotten about this angle. We caught snippets of their conversation aboard La Sirena that suggested that their relationship is built on solid foundations, even if they don’t always have time to acknowledge it to each other, and I think in a busy episode with a lot of storylines on the go, I can accept such moments of exposition.

What I would say, though, is that we’re really feeling the impact of modern Star Trek’s shorter seasons, and I noticed that in particular with Seven and Raffi this week. After they returned to La Sirena, tracking down Dr Jurati, figuring out how the Borg code got into the ship’s computers, and coming up with a plan to counteract it and figure out what happened could’ve been an entire episode in itself during The Next Generation and Voyager eras. As it is, we got a couple of lines of dialogue and a cut-down sequence. That isn’t bad, but it’s definitely something that could’ve been expanded upon.

Raffi and Seven of Nine discovered that Dr Jurati has been assimilated.

Rios now officially irks me. His regression from the Starfleet captain we were reintroduced to in The Star Gazer to the Han Solo-inspired rogue that we met at the beginning of Season 1 had been bugging me all season long, but now it feels like there isn’t time to do anything about it. If we hadn’t seen Rios in such a different – and arguably better – state in The Star Gazer, I guess I’d just roll with his storyline. But because we’d got a glimpse of Rios at his best and seen what he can be, this Season 1 presentation feels wrong. The fact that he doesn’t seem to care at all about the ship and crew he left behind (on the brink of self-destruction and death, no less) is the icing on a particularly unpleasant cake.

One of Rios’ lines this week also felt unearned. He referred to Picard as a “father figure” that he had been seeking, but I just don’t feel that from Rios in any way. I can’t actually remember a significant moment that the two characters have shared in either season of the show, aside perhaps from Picard’s remark all the way back in Season 1 that Rios kept his ship to Starfleet standards. They’ve just been on different narrative trajectories, and while they seem quite happy to work together, I’ve never felt that Rios saw Picard that way.

Rios told Teresa how he feels about Picard.

“Show don’t tell” is the advice that creative writing teachers often give their students; show the audience how a character feels, what they’re thinking, etc. through their actions and behaviour, don’t just try to dump clumsy lines of expository dialogue and assume that’s good enough. And that’s basically the Rios situation. I’d seen nothing from him to make me feel he saw Picard as a father figure, so this line of dialogue didn’t land in the way it should’ve.

One of Rios’ lines this week was pitch-perfect, though, and continues a season-long trend of making references to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. When Teresa was figuring out the truth about who Rios is, we got a riff on the lines spoken by Dr Gillian Taylor and Captain Kirk in that film when Rios told her that he’s from Chile, but works in outer space. It was an incredibly neat reference, and I genuinely wasn’t expecting to see The Voyage Home called back to in so many different and unexpected ways this season.

Rios probably got the episode’s best line while speaking to Teresa.

Was Rios right to tell Teresa the truth? And then, having done so, was taking her and Ricardo to La Sirena a good idea? Part of me feels that Rios will bring Teresa and Ricardo to the 25th Century with him – as Kirk did with Gillian Taylor – so stay tuned for my theory update for my thoughts on that! Regardless of whether it was a smart idea, the moment where Teresa materialised on La Sirena’s transporter pad was pitch-perfect, and Sol Rodriguez captured that moment wonderfully.

Dr Jurati was only glimpsed this week, but the Borg Queen’s influence is clearly growing. The “endorphin rush” concept is an interesting one, with the Borg Queen needing to trigger endorphins in order to speed up or help the assimilation process. I certainly hope we learn more about how this works, as well as what exactly the Borg Queen is doing. Is this, as Seven seemed to think, the “birth” of a new Borg Queen? If so, that presumably tees up Dr Jurati (or rather, her assimilated body) for being the masked Borg Queen seen in The Star Gazer at the beginning of the season! There’s also the possibility on this side of the story to learn more about the Borg and how Borg Queens work in a general sense.

Will Dr Jurati become the new Borg Queen?

I would’ve liked Monsters to spend more time on this side of the story. With the bulk of the story dealing with the coma-dream that Picard was experiencing, it feels as if the episode had its focus in the wrong place. Whatever’s happening with Q is clearly still important – but the potential for a Borg Queen to be loose in the 21st Century and growing in power should bring everything to a screeching halt. Picard and the crew need to tackle this problem, and they need to do so urgently! But as far as we know based on what we saw on screen this week, Seven of Nine and Raffi haven’t even told Rios or Picard what they’ve learned about Dr Jurati.

As I suggested in my last theory post, there’s all sorts of ways that this story could go. A Q-Picard truce or even a temporary alliance is one possibility, with a weakened Q working with Picard to prevent the assimilation of Earth. But it feels like the season is running out of road to tell all of the stories that have been set up. We didn’t get any advancement this week of Kore or Dr Soong’s stories, for example, and Q himself – despite being mentioned – was also absent. If we’re to see this Borg Queen story play out in anywhere close to as much depth as it deserves, a change in focus is urgently needed.

Picard in Monsters.

So I guess that was Monsters. It was an episode that dragged in places, one that feels like an unnecessary sojourn in a short season that really doesn’t have time for such indulgences. Yes, it’s possible that the story of Picard’s youthful trauma will come back later in the season in a way connected with Q. But even assuming that will be the case, Monsters feels like a gratuitous and self-indulgent look at this part of Picard’s backstory and psyche that simply ran too long.

I’m reminded in a way of Nepenthe and, to a lesser extent, Absolute Candor from Season 1. These two episodes advanced the main story of Season 1 in increments, but given the way the story ran out of road by the time we got to Et in Arcadia Ego, they feel somewhat like wasted time in retrospect. Monsters feels like it could end up the same way – but unlike the two Season 1 outings mentioned, it wasn’t a strong or particularly enjoyable episode in its own right. If we look back on the season later and feel that more time was needed to allow things like the Borg Queen story, Q’s story, or Kore and Dr Soong’s stories to play out, Monsters will feel like the standout example of what should’ve been cut.

There were interesting ideas here, and if the same framework or story concept had been used in a different way, I think we could’ve been looking at the episode in more of a positive light. But the barebones and clichéd depiction of Yvette’s mental health condition, the uninspired “haunted castle” and B-movie monsters, and the more interesting storylines being sidelined makes it one of the season’s most disappointing outings so far.

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.

17.04.22
Additional thought:

It only occurred to me as I was re-reading this review, but one thing to say about Monsters – and the season overall by extension – is that the season’s main characters, as well as important secondary characters all feel disconnected from one another. They don’t seem to be communicating at all, with Rios taking Teresa and Ricardo to La Sirena seemingly without consulting Picard or anyone else, and Raffi and Seven of Nine chasing Dr Jurati also without a word to Picard or Rios. This is in addition to Q doing his own thing away from everyone else, and Kore and Dr Soong off on their own, too. There are occasional bridges between these groups of characters; meetings or pairings in which they get together. But for the most part, everyone feels like they’re in their own little narrative box, taking part in their own story that’s disconnected from everything else. This is a very odd way to structure a season of television in a show like Star Trek: Picard.

Star Trek: Picard review – Season 2, Episode 6: Two of One

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2.

For the second week in a row I found it difficult to get excited about Star Trek: Picard. My weekly appointment with Star Trek has been something I’ve looked forward to going back to Lower Decks’ second season last year, and with only a few breaks in between batches of episodes we’ve had a ton of Trek to enjoy over the last few months. But the truth is that Picard’s time travel to the present-day storyline isn’t one I feel all that excited about, and without that excitement I’ve found that I’m watching the series more out of a sense of obligation than enjoyment.

Without wanting to over-sensationalise things, I kind of feel “catfished” by Picard Season 2. The Star Gazer was so utterly fantastic that I’ve gone back and watched it at least a dozen times at this point. But the season it kicked off has got bogged down in a time travel story that I’m struggling to remain invested in. There have been some wonderful moments of characterisation – as indeed we saw this week with Two of One – but overall… the season is on course to be a disappointment, probably ranking lower on my list than Season 1.

Dr Jurati showed off an unexpected talent this week.

When the first major trailer showed off the time travel aspect of the story I was concerned that this is how I’d feel, but I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. Star Trek can do time travel exceptionally well, even with a modern-day focus, and I hoped to be pleasantly surprised by a story involving Q, the Borg Queen, Guinan, and so on. And across the season so far there are plenty of mysterious elements, unanswered questions, and more that I find mildly interesting… but I can’t muster much more than that.

I suspect that when I look back at the season as a whole I’ll say it works far better as a binge-watch than it does as a weekly series, and that’s a position I would’ve never expected to be in. Generally speaking, I prefer it when a new TV series releases its episodes weekly like this. I like having time in between each episode to digest what’s happened and get ready for the next outing. But with Picard Season 2, even if the Admiral and his crew make it back to the 25th Century next week, there’ll still be this rather drawn-out chunk of the story in the middle of the season that’s really starting to drag. If it takes them until the season finale to make it home, that feeling will be even stronger.

An establishing shot of modern-day Los Angeles by night.

So once again it took me a few days to even feel up to watching the latest Picard episode. Whereas I’m usually feeling so excited to have new Star Trek that I can’t wait to dive in… for the second week in a row I just found myself feeling apathetic.

The whole “let’s go undercover at a fancy party” setup that had been established last week is also a premise that I’ve never been wild about. And while Two of One pulled it off reasonably well, I feel that it still hampered the plot to a significant degree. There were moments of contrived drama that were so extreme they felt almost toe-curlingly cringeworthy, with Picard and the crew facing off against Adam Soong and a team of party security guards.

Adam Soong and 21st Century party security guards were this week’s antagonists.

The runtime of Two of One was shorter than expected at less than forty minutes (closer to thirty-five excluding credits, opening titles, and a recap of previous events), and this also got in the way of the story. I wouldn’t have wanted to spend more time with Picard and the crew dodging 21st Century party security staff as if they were in some kind of Hitman video game, but there’s no escaping the fact that several of the episode’s major plot points were raced through in pretty quick fashion. At one point, Adam Soong seemed to have rumbled Picard to the event’s security team, but mere moments later this angle was dropped. It was one of several elements that could have been made more of – even if it wasn’t my favourite part of the story, seeing it cut short was odd.

The highlight by far was Picard’s conversation with his ancestor Renée. This moment really captured the feel of “classic” Picard; his uplifting words to her could’ve come from any one of dozens of episodes of The Next Generation, and reminded me why I love this character so much and why I had been so excited in 2018 when it was announced that he was coming back. Picard doesn’t have to be an action hero to be a wonderful and inspiring captain – he uses his words and diplomatic skills to move people. Credit must go to the writers of this episode – Cindy Appel and Jane Maggs – who beautifully and perfectly managed to recapture the magic of Jean-Luc Picard in that moment. The writers demonstrated not only an understanding of Picard’s character, but a real love and respect for him too.

Picard’s conversation with Renée was one of the high points of the episode.

I’ve long been an advocate for better representation of mental health in entertainment, and again Picard’s conversation with Renée serves as an excellent example of that. Though the meeting between the two of them was brief, what Picard had to say was incredibly impactful, and there are several lines from their conversation that have the potential to be remembered as iconic lines from this beloved character.

Picard also seemed to be drawing on his own experiences in Season 1 as he spoke to Renée, which is something I appreciated. There were some viewers who felt that Picard was “too depressed” at the beginning of Season 1, and that they didn’t like that presentation of the character. But as I argued at the time, where Picard began the story was not as important as what happened to him and the journey he undertook. He found his own “light;” his own glimmer of hope back then through his meeting with Dahj, and that set him on a path to recovery. He was trying to offer that same kind of hope to Renée, and there’s a powerful message there. Even when things seem dark and depressing, there is hope. That’s not only a message that people suffering from clinically-diagnosed depression need to hear – everyone needs to hear those words sometimes. That makes the entire sequence something that I think many viewers would be able to relate to. All in all, a powerful moment.

Renée listened to what Picard had to say.

We’ll return to the party in a moment, but there was another major revelation in Two of One that’s worth talking about. One of the episode’s biggest reveals is that Kore – the “daughter” of Dr Adam Soong – is, in fact, some kind of clone or genetic experiment rather than his natural offspring. As always, I’ll caveat what I’m about to say by saying that my thoughts could shift depending on how this storyline unfolds, but for now I confess that this leaves me distinctly unimpressed. There are two main reasons why.

Firstly, one of the most interesting things about Dr Soong in his appearance last week was this idea of desperation. Dr Soong wasn’t necessarily a bad person, but he was someone willing to go to extreme lengths to save someone he loved and cared for – his own daughter. This left him open to unethical behaviour and to manipulation from Q, but at the core there was an understandable, sympathetic, and even somewhat relatable character. Anyone who’s ever loved someone or lost a close friend or family member could feel some kind of empathy with Dr Soong. Maybe what he did crossed a line, but he wasn’t a villain in the usual sense of the word. He found himself in opposition to Picard and Picard’s mission through a mere accident of circumstances, and there was value in a morally complex character like that.

I feel like Adam Soong has lost a significant part of his characterisation.

The revelation that his scheming goes far deeper than we realised, and that his unethical behaviour is nothing new, risks seriously detracting from the character. Gone is any sense of sympathy or empathy, and an entire dimension that Dr Soong had vanished in an instant. He feels smaller this week, less of a well-rounded human being and more of a flat, uninteresting “mad scientist” character trope. Robbed of his sympathetic motivation to save his daughter, we now see him as someone who seems to engage in unethical and forbidden science for the sake of it. That’s something I find rather disappointing at this juncture, as Dr Soong becomes less interesting as he turns into a fairly standard Star Trek character archetype.

The second reason why this particular story beat fell flat for me was the involvement of Kore. I noted last week that it was odd to have so many new characters played by returning actors, and Kore was one of the characters I pointed out, as she’s played by Soji actor Isa Briones. A huge part of Soji’s story in Season 1 was discovering her own synthetic nature, coming to terms with the fact that much of her life had been an elaborately-constructed lie, and finding her own place in the aftermath of that. Kore’s discovery in Two of One would already feel repetitive given the Soong connection and Soji’s story last season, but this repetitiveness was absolutely hammered home with all the subtlety of a brick to the face because of the fact that Isa Briones is playing this role.

Kore’s story feels derivative of Soji’s in Season 1.

There could well be some kind of connection between Soji and Kore that’s yet to be revealed, in which case there may be more to say. But as things sit right now, it feels like this casting choice was a mistake. In a story that already brought back familiar faces in unfamiliar roles, having Isa Briones’ new character going through a remarkably similar storyline to Soji’s last season doesn’t feel like some kind of poetic symmetry… it feels like a recycled story beat. Not even a riff on the same concept, it comes across as a cheap copycat of what came before, bringing remarkably little to the table that we could even call superficially new or different.

This may set the stage for Kore to somehow come to the aid of Renée or to Picard and the crew of La Sirena, so stay tuned for my theory post for more on that! There’s also the distinct possibility of further developments on this side of the story that could re-energise it and improve things. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed as the season continues to unfold.

Hopefully this story will go somewhere!

The interplay between the Borg Queen and Dr Jurati had been one of my favourite parts of the last few episodes; there’s been something absolutely delicious about the way they talked around one another aboard La Sirena. Following the revelation at the end of last week’s episode that the Borg Queen had done something to Dr Jurati using her assimilation tubules in her dying moments, I was curious to see how this dynamic would evolve.

Fortunately I think it remains one of the season’s stronger storylines, and with Dr Jurati potentially losing control of herself to the Borg Queen, that could set up a whole new direction for the story to go. If a Borg Queen, semi-restored and potentially regenerating her abilities, is now loose in the 21st Century, that could even lead to a cessation of hostilities between Q and Picard; they may need to set their differences aside to prevent the Queen from assimilating more and more humans! Again, stay tuned for my theory post for an expanded look at this idea.

Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen on stage.

Alison Pill played this dual role well, communicating successfully the difference between the moments when Dr Jurati was in control and when the Borg Queen was in control. This can be an acting challenge that isn’t easy to pull off, especially when it has to be somewhat subtle, but a combination of a great performance and some clever direction by Jonathan Frakes meant it stuck the landing.

Seeing Dr Jurati struggle with remaining in control and battling against a “voice in her head” that no one else could see or understand was perhaps the episode’s second mental health allegory – albeit an unintended one, perhaps. It was one I found very relatable, and there were definitely aspects of the conversations Dr Jurati had with the Borg Queen inside her own body that hit close to home as someone with a mental health condition. Both Alison Pill and Annie Wersching deserve a lot of credit for the way they brought this to screen, and it was a powerful part of the episode.

Dr Jurati’s story was a powerful one this week.

We got a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment with Raffi this week, as she continues to struggle with the grief she feels in the wake of Elnor’s death. More could’ve been made of this, and while Michelle Hurd did well with the very short scene she had at communicating how Raffi is struggling – and struggling alone – in an episode that already felt cut-down, I felt that more time could be dedicated to this storyline. Right now, it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere; treading water in the background while other stories take centre-stage.

There was a moment between Rios and Raffi that could’ve been expanded upon to further this story. Literally just an extra minute or two of dialogue between them could’ve begun to set the stage for Raffi to reach out and ask for help, or take the story in a different direction. As it is, it felt more like a repetition of the same hallucination she had last week rather than any real progress being made with this storyline. Again, though, there’s value in almost any depiction of mental health on screen, and seeing Raffi experiencing these post-bereavement hallucinations has merit. I just wish the past couple of episodes had made more of it.

Raffi with Rios at the gala.

I spoke last week about how Rios has been a disappointment in recent episodes, not because I didn’t enjoy the immigration storyline, but because of how he seems to have forgotten about his crew and his ship. The fact that he’s gone five episodes without so much as thinking about the USS Stargazer and its crew continues to feel regressive, and overall Rios has taken massive backwards steps since the season premiere. This remains a source of disappointment, and again it’s something that Two of One did nothing to address.

In that same conversation with Raffi, there was the potential for Rios to share his own sense of loss or his worries about the crew of the Stargazer. As things stand, if the timeline is restored in exactly the way it was then the Stargazer will be lost with all hands when the ship self-destructs. Instead we got a tonally weird Rios, self-indulgently revelling in the excesses of 21st Century high society – cigars, rich canapés, even old-fashioned matches. Not only does this continue this unfortunate regression, with Rios no longer feeling like a Starfleet captain, but it also presents an incredibly odd contrast to how Rios was presented just a couple of episodes ago when he found himself detained by the authorities and facing deportation.

Rios seems a little too happy in the 21st Century.

There were some interesting moments in Two of One, and some callbacks to past iterations of the franchise that were little treats for returning fans. Picard and Renée discussing OV-165 – one of the futuristic spacecraft seen in the opening title sequence of Enterprise – was neat, for example. I’m also intrigued by Picard’s new synthetic body shorting out a defibrillator; the exact nature of synths like Picard and Soji has never really been explored – they seem to be human enough to pass basic scans and such, but yet are also inhuman enough to cause damage to equipment like this. As with things like the Confederation’s defeat of the Borg, it would be interesting to learn more about the exact nature of Picard’s synthetic status.

Speaking of Picard on the operating table, I do have a couple of gripes with the way the episode ended. After Picard pushed Renée out of the way of the car, Two of One promptly dropped her side of the story. Considering that Renée was in a very fragile emotional state, being almost run down by a car – and seeing a man who had been so kind to her badly injured – has the potential to have a massive impact on her, yet this is something the episode didn’t even pretend to try and explore. This feels very odd in context, and anyone who’s ever suffered from the anxiety and depression that seems to be afflicting Renée can tell you that even seemingly minor events or bumps in the road can be enough to completely throw you off-course. In short, although Picard’s speech helped Renée and lifted her mood for a time, seeing him badly injured – in an act of self-sacrifice to save her, no less – seems like it would have had an affect on her, and could have even undermined the entire mission.

Picard was run down by a car.

The second point is much more of a nitpick, but I’ve never liked the way that car-versus-pedestrian accidents like this are depicted in fiction. The injuries one can typically expect from being hit by a car are things like broken bones, blunt-force trauma to the legs, arms, ribs, etc. Being knocked out or concussed can be part of that, but these kinds of collisions are often depicted in a very contrived way, and that’s how this one felt. It felt rather like a scene from a soap opera, both in terms of the way it was scripted and the way it was filmed and edited.

However, I often find myself saying that contrived and awkward moments can set up much better things to come, so I’ll put a pin in it for now and wait to see what the next episode brings! An exploration of Picard’s subconscious could be interesting in and of itself, and I daresay there will be plot-relevant points there to help further some of the season’s story arcs too!

Outside of the gala venue.

So that’s it for this week, I guess. A short episode that could’ve been more than it was, hampered by a setting I’m not really invested in, a couple of major story beats that feel repetitive or derivative, and bringing more than one cliché to the table is basically how I’d summarise Two of One. There were some great moments contained within that framework, though – Picard’s speech to Renée probably being the highlight.

I’m still very keen to get back to the 25th Century to see what the heck’s going on with that new Borg ship. For me, the past few episodes have dragged, and I think the time travel aspect of the story could have been cut down by making a handful of different choices. That’s just my personal taste, though, and I get that a lot of folks are totally fine with these kinds of stories. There are still some wonderful moments of characterisation and some clever allegories in Picard Season 2.

Perhaps if the next couple of episodes get things back on track, I’ll look on Two of One more favourably in hindsight.

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.

Star Trek: Picard review – Season 2, Episode 5: Fly Me To The Moon

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 GenerationVoyagerFirst Contact, and Discovery.

Fly Me To The Moon was an interesting episode, one which introduced several new characters and story elements. I didn’t see most of its various twists coming until they landed – and being genuinely surprised by a story is always something I appreciate. Jonathan Frakes returned to Picard to direct for the first time since Season 1, and I noted more than a few similarities to Stardust City Rag – one of two episodes that he directed last time around.

However, Fly Me To The Moon wasn’t an outstanding episode for me personally. It piled a couple of frustrating story tropes on top of one another, compounding a modern-day setting that’s already beginning to stretch my patience with a stealthy infiltration mission that felt rather like something lifted from a video game. These stories weren’t badly-executed by any means, but the foundations upon which they were built just aren’t my favourites, and from a personal point of view I felt that the episode suffered as a result of that.

Dr Jurati undercover.

There had been quite a lot of buildup to the story of Rios being arrested and deported from the United States; a timely examination of a real-world phenomenon that’s happening right now. But three episodes of buildup fizzled out rather quickly in Fly Me To The Moon, with Rios’ rescue and the liberation of a handful of migrants being treated as a relatively minor part of the story. We got a satisfactory conclusion to Rios’ capture after his run-in with Teresa, but it wasn’t a particularly long or engaging one.

It’s always worth saying that we’re nowhere near the end of the season yet, and there’s still time to return to Teresa’s clinic and take another look at this aspect of the story. With Rios’ combadge still missing, I think they’ll have to take action to retrieve it somehow. So I’m trying to avoid passing judgement too quickly. What I’ll say for now is that if we don’t pick up this story thread later, it gets a grade C: a basic pass. If we take another look at the way migrants are being handled – and specifically, what’s so dangerous about a Sanctuary District on the border – then maybe that grade can be bumped up a notch or two.

Rios with Pedro, a fellow deportee.

Sticking with Rios, I’ve had an unsettling feeling about him that’s been building for several episodes. I touched on this last time, but I wanted to dedicate a little more time to it here. In short, Rios has regressed as a character in a pretty significant way. He hasn’t regressed since last season, but since his role in the Season 2 premiere: The Star Gazer.

That episode saw Rios after he returned to Starfleet and accepted a brand-new command. He had a crew to be responsible for, a galaxy to explore, and he seemed to have taken to heart the lessons he learned on his adventure with Admiral Picard in Season 1 – particularly Picard’s act of sacrifice and the words he spoke during the climactic standoff over Coppelius. It was genuinely wonderful to see Rios in that role – and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Trekkies asking for a Captain Rios spin-off show in future!

It feels like Captain Rios has regressed somewhat since The Star Gazer.

But after Rios found himself in the Confederation timeline, he seemed to forget all about that. He mentioned his command last week, but only in this weirdly aggressive rant to a prison guard. He doesn’t seem to care – or even remember – his crew, the officers under his command and for whom he is responsible. Instead he seems back in his “Star Trek does Han Solo” mode; the renegade with a heart of gold. That characterisation suited Rios in Season 1 – knowing that there was a good soul inside someone who had a hard time showing it and a hard time processing grief and loss was key to his character back then. But we’ve seen so much change for Rios in just that one episode at the start of the season that the way he’s been acting for the last few episodes feels like a major regression.

And it’s a complicated situation to resolve right now. Clearly the writers are pushing Raffi down the “grief and loss” road this time around, with Seven of Nine in a supporting role. In addition, if Rios were to suddenly start showing an emotional response to the loss of the crew of the Stargazer, not only would it seem a bit late in the game, but it would also feel like a retread of what he went through in Season 1. I feel like Rios has been written into a somewhat of a corner, and I’m not sure I see an easy way out for him as things currently sit. I’m sure he’d be glad to get his ship and crew back, if such a thing is even possible, but he hasn’t done anything to show that to us as the audience. I’m just not feeling much coming from Rios right now.

I’d like to see more from Rios to convince me he’s a Starfleet captain.

If I may make a bold suggestion, it seems to me that Rios has been included in the story in large part because, as a Hispanic man, it really hammers home the point the writers have been trying to make about immigration in the United States. But because Rios had already seen such an amazing turnaround by the time of The Star Gazer, at this point in the season I’m left wondering if maybe we might’ve had a more enjoyable time overall if Elnor had been the one to survive and it was Rios sitting in La Sirena’s morgue.

That’s not because I dislike Rios. I think he can be a fun character, and there’s something about his roguish charm that makes him feel different in Star Trek; a character archetype we don’t often see. But having undergone that development and become a captain, dragging him backwards feels wrong. If there needed to be cuts to the cast of Season 2 for whatever reason, bringing Elnor along could’ve been more interesting. We’d have got a lot more of the “fish-out-of-water” comedy with Elnor, for example, and there’d have been scope to develop his character a lot more. With a little creative writing, the story of loss for Raffi could still have been included.

Raffi briefly thought that she saw Elnor among the migrants.

But enough about the story we aren’t watching!

One thing that felt quite odd in Fly Me To The Moon was the inclusion of three actors playing brand-new characters and not the characters we’re familiar with. Brent Spiner’s role as a new member of the Soong family had been teased in pre-season marketing material and was expected, and of course we’d seen the Watcher (in Laris’ form) last week. Isa Briones also returned this week – but not as Soji.

When a new character played by a familiar actor is introduced, I think most fans just shrug it off and continue with the story. Star Trek has done this so many times going all the way back to weird “body swap” stories in The Original Series, so it’s not like it’s a problem or anything like that. But it was very strange to have three brand-new characters in a single episode all played by familiar faces. One or possibly even two might’ve gotten a pass, but to have three felt gratuitous and ultimately detracted from the way Fly Me To The Moon landed.

Isa Briones was one of three regulars to be playing a different character in Fly Me To The Moon.

I’m glad that Picard’s writers haven’t just forgotten about Soji, considering how she was such a major part of the story of Season 1. And it was nice to welcome back Isa Briones for a much larger role than she had in the premiere. But all things considered, this new character of Kore felt odd in an episode that was already dealing with the return of Brent Spiner as another Dr Soong and Orla Brady as the Watcher/Laris.

That being said, there was something interesting about Kore’s character, and the life-limiting genetic condition that she was suffering from managed to walk a fine line between feeling realistic enough to elicit sympathy but at the same time feeling very “Star Trek.” Particularly after Q’s medicine wore off and she suffered a flare-up, I felt that this unnamed condition had a very sci-fi feel, and I appreciated that.

Kore’s illness had a definite sci-fi feel.

I can relate to Kore. As someone whose poor health means I spend more and more time at home, I can empathise with the way she feels about being trapped and isolated, and like she’s missing out on everything from everyday things like swimming to special events like parties and gatherings. It’s an interesting angle for the series, and I hope we get to spend a little more time with Kore. Seeing what her life is like in isolation is interesting to me – and more than a little timely after the couple of years we’ve all just been through!

People with severe allergies might also find the presentation of Kore and her health condition to be relatable. I’m not in that category, but I’ve known people with allergies so severe that what others might consider to be everyday events – such as eating out at a restaurant – become impossible, and I felt at least some influence there in the way Kore came across on screen.

I found the presentation of Kore to be very relatable.

Although I generally enjoyed this story point, it does feel as though the writers of Picard took Kore’s health condition to somewhat of an extreme, and the real reason for that is to give motivation to the new character of Dr Soong. Brent Spiner did well to put across such a conflicted character in just a single episode – I really felt that Dr Soong was buckling under the weight of an impossibly difficult situation. The only caveat there is that maybe the situation with Kore was overreaching – trying to be an eleven out of ten when a nine would’ve been perfectly sufficient for the sake of the story!

How many Dr Soongs has Brent Spiner played now? I’ve honestly lost count! I think at this point we’ve seen practically all of Data’s ancestors on screen in one way or another! But that’s okay, and tying the events of Season 2 to a familiar face is something that I think many fans will appreciate. While I don’t think there can really be very many blanks left to be filled in for the Soong family at this point, possibilities exist to connect Adam Soong’s story to that of Dr Arik Soong – a character who appeared in Enterprise.

Dr Adam Soong.

Brent Spiner was unexpectedly one of the standouts in Fly Me To The Moon. Coming hot on the heels of his portrayal of Altan Inigo Soong in Season 1, I felt that the hairstyling (including a beard) and makeup used in Season 2 went a long way to making him look at least superficially different, and the performance really succeeded at capturing the notion that Dr Adam Soong is a good person who’s being forced to do increasingly questionable things out of desperation.

If Adam Soong is hailed in the Confederation timeline as some kind of hero, we’re still yet to find out why that is. And it’s possible that whatever he’s trying to do will ultimately lead to something serious, possibly even evil. I noted in Kore’s reaction as her medication wore off a kind of dark greyish tinge to her veins; could we be looking at nanotechnology, perhaps? If so, could Dr Soong have some kind of involvement with the Borg? With Q around, anything is possible – so stay tuned for my updated theories!

A monument to Adam Soong in the Confederation timeline.

Speaking of the Borg, the situation with the Borg Queen aboard La Sirena took a turn that I genuinely wasn’t expecting. The interplay between Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen had been one of the most fascinating parts of the season’s story, and it came to a head in Fly Me To The Moon. If I were to make one criticism I’d say that maybe this was a little premature; I could’ve happily watched Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen continue to talk around each other and build up this antipathy and fascination for a lot longer!

It was an incredibly well-done story, though. After being pushed, prodded, and manipulated by the Borg Queen for the past three episodes, Dr Jurati finally took a stand. When faced with a choice between preserving the timeline and saving her way home, Dr Jurati chose to kill the Borg Queen. Doing so saved the life of a hapless 21st Century police officer (who felt, sorry to say, like a bit of a stereotype), but came at the expense of the Borg Queen’s physical form, at least.

The death of the Borg Queen.

The final moments of the episode showed us one final twist in this tale – the Borg Queen inserted some kind of assimilation tubules into Dr Jurati in her dying moments. Having seemingly recovered her ability to assimilate – at least partially – Dr Jurati is now haunted by an apparition of the Borg Queen that only she can see. We’ll have to save this for my next theory post, but I wonder if there’s a possibility that this is some kind of psychological symptom rather than the actual Borg Queen!

There was some stellar cinematography during the scenes set aboard La Sirena. Though not quite on par with the dramatic arrival of the Borg and the masked Queen in the season premiere, I still got a real creepy, horror movie vibe from Jonathan Frakes’ directing and camera work. The dimly-lit sets, parts of which were tinged with the green light we so often associate with the Borg, amplified this sensation. The entire story, from the Borg Queen’s fake phonecall all the way through to Dr Jurati hunting her with a shotgun was pitch-perfect in that regard.

Dr Jurati versus the Borg Queen!

There was a definite influence from sci-fi-horror films like Alien, The Thing, and others on this side of the story. A darkened La Sirena felt incredibly claustrophobic, particularly in the scenes featuring the hapless police officer. Captain Rios’ ship made a wonderful stand-in for Alien’s Nostromo, something I particularly felt as Dr Jurati came aboard wielding a shotgun!

Unfortunately it felt as if this sequence existed in a separate story. With the exception of a few seconds after Rios, Raffi, and Seven materialised aboard La Sirena, which led to the revelation that the Borg Queen was dead, the characters essentially ignored this huge moment for Dr Jurati as they raced ahead to planning their heist on the astronauts’ gala. Maybe we can argue that this is another way in which Picard and co. are overlooking Dr Jurati or failing to care for her as much as they ought to, but in the context of the episode itself it ended up feeling as if something was missing from the story.

Dr Jurati being assimilated.

Fly Me To The Moon was the shortest episode of the season by far, clocking in at barely forty minutes when you exclude the credits and title sequences, so there was definitely scope to expand on what happened to Dr Jurati in some way. Picard literally did not even acknowledge what had happened to her, and again this can be argued to be part of what the Borg Queen was saying to her about her loneliness, but honestly I don’t feel it landed that way.

Just a couple of episodes ago, in Assimilation, we saw how Picard does genuinely care for Dr Jurati. He was the one who okayed her mission to link up with the Borg Queen, but he also showed real concern at the dangers, and there were incredibly sweet and tender moments between the two of them as Dr Jurati subconsciously shared her feelings for Picard, and later as Picard covered her with a blanket and then positioned himself defensively in between Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen. So in short, I don’t buy that Picard arrived back at La Sirena, saw what had happened, but chose to disregard it entirely. Maybe a scene was scripted and not filmed for some reason, or maybe something was left on the cutting room floor – but one way or another, this felt like a significant omission.

Picard and Tallinn after ariving aboard La Sirena.

Before we get to the gala we have to consider Q’s condition. We’ll get deeper into speculative territory in my theory update, but it definitely seems as though Q may be approaching the end of his life – somehow. It had long been the assumption that members of the Q Continuum are immortal (or so long-lived as to be effectively immortal) and I’d point to the Voyager episode Death Wish in particular as an example of this, as well as The Next Generation first season episode Hide and Q.

So that has changed – or a change has somehow been inflicted upon Q. How or why that is we don’t know – but I suspect it has to be connected in some way to Picard, otherwise why would Q choose to spend what could be akin to his final moments by inflicting one last puzzle upon him? Perhaps something has happened to destabilise the Q Continuum, such as an attack or invasion, and that could be to blame. One way or another, though, it seems like Picard is setting up a story in which Q may not survive.

What could be happening to Q?

John de Lancie and Brent Spiner played off one another expertly, and I got a hint – just a glimpse, at this stage – that Q may be more desperate than he’s letting on. This would connect to the slap a couple of episodes back (no, not the one at the Oscars!) as evidence that Q is losing control, no longer able to fully contain his emotions. He put on a brave face for the sake of manipulating Dr Soong, but I got the sense that if Dr Soong had resisted in any way, Q wouldn’t have known what to do. Without his powers – or with his powers being less reliable – he’s more vulnerable and exposed than we’ve seen him since he was temporarily stripped of them in The Next Generation Season 3 episode Deja Q.

Before we move on from Q, one final “easter egg!” In movies and on TV, most phone numbers use the prefix 555, which is set aside for use in the industry. Q’s “business card” didn’t… so out of curiosity (and not really expecting anything) I called the number. Try it if you can!

We learned a little more about the Watcher this week, including their name. It was interesting to tie the Watcher to the events of The Original Series episode Assignment: Earth, and that’s something I really wasn’t expecting. As an interesting aside, Assignment: Earth was created as a backdoor pilot for a prospective spin-off series that would’ve focused on Gary Seven!

The Watcher – a.k.a. Tallinn.

Though we learned part of the Watcher’s story, there’s still a lot that Fly Me To The Moon didn’t explain that will surely come out later in the season. The most obvious question is how the Watcher relates to Laris, and why the two characters look identical. Is it possible that this Tallinn is actually Laris? If so, what would that mean for Laris and Picard, and why would Tallinn be assigned to watch over Picard in the future? I sense a time-loop paradox coming!

There’s also the question of the organisation that Tallinn and Gary Seven worked for, and what their goals and ambitions are. Assignment: Earth seemed to suggest that these technologically powerful aliens were benevolent – but they seem to be aware of time travel, divergences in time, and other such things. How they could connect to the events of the season is unclear right now, but quite interesting!

Gary Seven in Assignment: Earth.

It’s been a while since I last watched Assignment: Earth, and I confess it’s not a particular favourite of mine. It’s not like I hate it or anything, but I wouldn’t usually pick it out to watch – as evidenced by the fact that it’s been several years since I last saw it! But I think it’ll be worth going back and taking another look, not so much to give context to Fly Me To The Moon, but in case it’s referenced again in a future episode this season.

Orla Brady got to show off a different set of skills as Tallinn compared to her role as Laris, and she did a fine job of convincing me that Tallinn was powerful and had a lot of knowledge of things that both Picard and the audience do not. It’s difficult to fully judge this character without seeing where things go from here; now that the initial shock of her appearance has worn off, we need to be patient while the next phase of the Picard-Tallinn-Laris story unravels.

Picard and Tallinn watch Renée’s therapy session.

Up next, we come to the gala itself. This is also incomplete, as we’re waiting to see what will happen next week, but for now here are my initial thoughts. I don’t like this setup, this kind of “sneaking into a high society party in disguise” trope. It’s been done before in different ways, some more successful than others, but generally speaking it’s a story setup that can fall victim to feeling contrived and forced, and there were definitely unpleasant notes of that for me.

The buildup to the party aboard La Sirena and at the Château was another sequence that could’ve been expanded upon; it felt as though Picard and the crew put together a plan very quickly before rushing into executing it. I could’ve spent another couple of minutes watching them talk about the plan for the gala and how it was supposed to work.

The episode seemed to rush headfirst into this moment.

Finally, the idea that the crew can’t all just beam in made sense and was well thought-out, but this was then immediately undermined by the idea that one of them could sneak in and “hack the mainframe” so that the others could join later. If Tallinn had the ability to add one person to the guest list and create an entire fake ID for them, why couldn’t that be repeated? It’s a nitpick for sure, but these things sometimes bug me in stories like this!

That said, once the action shifted over to the gala itself it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. Alison Pill did well to convey Dr Jurati’s lack of confidence and how she feels conflicted and perhaps even traumatised by recent events, and this led to a truly unexpected twist to round off the story.

Dr Jurati at the end of the episode.

It seems certain that Picard and the crew will make it to the gala within the first few minutes of the next episode, continuing a strange trend this season of these mini-cliffhangers that don’t get substantial payoffs. The end of Penance, for example, led into a short, underwhelming sequence of the crew of La Sirena easily overpowering the Magistrate and Confederation forces, and just this week we got a fairly short and nondescript ending to the aforementioned Rios storyline. The cliffhanger at the end of The Star Gazer worked well to tease the Confederation timeline – but some of these other ones haven’t blown me away. Maybe next week’s episode will, though!

So that was Fly Me To The Moon. Renée Picard and her mission are intriguing, but we didn’t find out a great deal about her on this occasion. Renée herself was a relatively minor part of an episode that had a lot of pots on the stove, so it won’t be until subsequent episodes that we learn what role she may (or may not) ultimately play in this divergence in time.

Renée at the gala.

For me, no episode so far has come close to recreating the incredible highs offered by The Star Gazer as the season kicked off. Fly Me To The Moon had some interesting elements in the mix, and I’m certainly curious to learn more about the conflicted and anxious Renée Picard, but they came in a framework that didn’t always excite or enthrall me. As I said last week, the limitations of a modern-day setting are definitely beginning to bite, and as interested as I am to see more from Q, to learn more about Dr Soong, and to see the Europa Mission, I’m also quite keen for Picard and the crew to find out exactly what’s happened so they can start thinking about getting back to their own time period!

You’ve probably noticed that I’m a few days late with this week’s review. The truth is that I didn’t even get around to watching Fly Me To The Moon for several days; I’ve been on a bit of a downer in general, made a lot worse (at least insofar as my enjoyment of Star Trek is concerned) by the international broadcast mess engulfing Strange New Worlds. So it took a lot of effort – more than usual – to push through that to get this review done. Sorry for the delay, and I hope things will begin to get back to normal in the days ahead!

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

Star Trek: Picard review – Season 2, Episode 4: Watcher

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 GenerationVoyagerFirst Contact, and Discovery.

For me, Picard Season 2 had been coasting on the incredible high that the season premiere delivered. Now that we’ve hit the fourth episode of the season – almost halfway through – I felt the quality dip ever so slightly, dropping down from an incredibly strong start. That’s not to say I didn’t have an enjoyable time with Watcher it’s week, but rather that Picard Season 2 has begun to settle into its time travel story.

As I said a few months ago when looking at one of the pre-season trailers, stories involving time travel to the modern day have never been my favourites in Star Trek. In addition to the omnipresent problem of crafting a time travel narrative that makes sense and doesn’t rely on paradoxes or other contrivances, I really just feel that a big part of what makes Star Trek so appealing – its optimistic, high-tech future – is missing. Watcher gave us glimpses of that thanks to the scenes set aboard La Sirena, but the bulk of the story took Picard, Raffi, Seven, and Rios to contemporary Los Angeles. It told an interesting story – one that, as a mid-season episode, we’ll have to reserve judgement on aspects of until we know how storylines unfold – but one that was constrained by that setting, at least for me.

An establishing shot of modern-day Los Angeles.

For the first time this season I felt that Picard was in a rush. There were a couple of significant moments early in Watcher that seemed to be raced past in a flash, despite the fact that we’d realistically expect them to take longer. The first was Seven, Raffi, and a nurse from Teresa’s clinic being able to identify Rios from an incredibly vague description, and the second came a few moments later when Picard and Dr Jurati figured out that they only had three days to avert a change to the timeline.

In both cases, a longer episode (or a longer season) could’ve spent just a little more time to help these points unfold naturally. The idea that the nurse would’ve been able to figure out that Seven and Raffi were talking about Rios from the description of a “scruffy” man is ridiculous considering the clinic’s clientele. And when it came to Dr Jurati and Picard, the concept of subconsciously drawing on a particular number was interesting – but the rushed pacing meant it felt poorly-executed and underdeveloped. I certainly had a hard time buying that they’d been able to hit on the solution to that particular puzzle within literally a minute of exploring it. In the days of The Next Generation, when seasons were longer, that could’ve been almost an entire episode!

Seven of Nine and Raffi visited Terea’s clinic… briefly.

There’s another thing I’m struggling to follow on this side of the story, too: why is the Borg Queen suddenly being so evasive and unhelpful? She agreed to help Picard travel back to the 21st Century in order to repair the timeline – a timeline which saw the Borg wiped out in a way that I sincerely hope we find out more details about. She needs the timeline to be repaired as much as they do; their motivations are the same even if this is merely an alliance of convenience. Yet after crash-landing in the 21st Century – and, if Picard and Dr Jurati are correct, with merely three days to spare in order to prevent the divergence in time – the Borg Queen suddenly stopped being helpful and even tried to hide the Watcher’s location and the date of the divergence. Why?

At the moment it seems to be that the answer is “because plot,” and that’s just not very satisfying. If she had told Picard and Dr Jurati where, when, and how to meet the mysterious Watcher, half the plot of Watcher could’ve been skipped. It isn’t that the narrative in question was bad or unenjoyable, it’s just that it feels so very flimsy. A single question about one character’s behaviour or motivation is enough to send the whole house of cards tumbling down – and as someone who’s invested in the story of Picard and the world of Star Trek, I prefer to see stories with rock-solid foundations!

The Borg Queen in Watcher.

Leaving one person alone with the Borg Queen – especially Dr Jurati after her experience last week – seems like a very bad idea! I’m certain that this is setting up something that will be paid off later; their evolving relationship seems to stand as testament to that. In fact, the dynamic between Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen is rapidly becoming one of my favourite parts of the entire season – the way they tease one another, talk around and over each other, and betray each other’s trust is absolutely riveting to watch.

Alison Pill has brought a lot to the character of Dr Jurati, managing to successfully balance a character who has a definite comedic edge and light-heartedness with some incredibly deep and complex storylines. We saw in Season 1 how Dr Jurati was the brainwashed sleeper agent; an embedded spy who used her closeness to Picard to kill her friend and sometime lover Dr Maddox. That almost led her to suicide in one of Season 1’s most painfully raw sequences.

Dr Jurati in Watcher.

This time around, Dr Jurati is staring down one of the biggest villains in all of Star Trek: the Borg Queen. She’s allowing the Borg Queen to get inside her head – literally and figuratively – and while this week we saw that she still has the capacity to lie, hide things from the Borg Queen, and use her skills to her advantage, there’s a very real sense that the mask is slipping. With the two of them alone – potentially for days or longer – the Borg Queen could continue to push Dr Jurati and find an angle to successfully manipulate her.

Perhaps we’ll have to save this for my next theory post, but I wonder if there could be a catalyst for setting off this conflict. So far, in the time that’s passed since La Sirena arrived in the 21st Century, no one from that era has noticed the crash site… but could it be possible that someone is already on the way? We saw in one of the pre-season trailers a pair of characters who seemed to be in the early stages of assimilation; if someone noticed La Sirena’s crash landing, could police or military forces be en route? If so, perhaps Dr Jurati will have to team up with the Borg Queen to keep La Sirena out of their hands.

Who’s this chap that we glimpsed in a pre-season trailer?

Perhaps part of the reason why the scenes set aboard La Sirena felt so fun was because they were the only scenes in which Star Trek’s futuristic technology was centre-stage. As mentioned, time travel to the modern day may be a typical Star Trek story setup going all the way back to the first season of The Original Series… but these kinds of stories seldom end up as my favourites, personally speaking. Taken as a one-off episode or a two-part story, back in the days of longer seasons, I generally found the setup to be inoffensive enough, but as we’re settling into the 21st Century now, with everyone except Dr Jurati now firmly embedded on that side of the story, I’m getting the sense that the limitations of that setting are beginning to bite.

The “fish-out-of-water” side of sending 25th Century characters back in time was on full display as Seven of Nine and Raffi attempted to track down Rios, and that was certainly fun for a while. Their sequences in the stolen police car started off feeling exciting, particularly as Seven had to figure out how to drive a vehicle that she’s inherently unfamiliar with, but overall I felt that it probably ran a little too long. Once the basic concept had been shown off – that Seven of Nine is driving a stolen police car – there wasn’t really much more for that sequence to say; both metaphorically and literally, it didn’t go anywhere.

Grand Theft Auto: Star Trek edition.

For a crew who were warned about “butterflies” and the need to be incredibly careful about preserving the past, they certainly seem to be making a scene in 2024! Beaming Seven and Raffi out of the police car in broad daylight when they could be seen by at least one police officer feels like an incredibly risky move. I guess this side of the story is also considering the impact of Raffi’s grief about Elnor and how that could be impairing her judgement; it felt like we came close to a more detailed look at that concept but didn’t quite get there this week. Maybe it’ll be something that builds up over a few episodes before being talked about more openly and coming to a resolution.

For the first time since Elnor’s death, I got a sense that it could be more permanent than I’d initially thought. Raffi’s single-minded insistence that restoring the timeline will save him, and her unwillingness to even contemplate the possibility that it won’t, feels like a storyline that could end with her having to confront the reality that Elnor is really gone. Star Trek loves using technobabble to save the day – and that could still happen, don’t get me wrong – but if we consider Elnor less as a character in his own right and as more of a motivating factor in Raffi’s arc this season, he could well be permanently dead.

Raffi is convinced that Elnor can be saved.

Speaking of characters who seem to have been written out of the show – at least in the immediate term – where is Soji? I’m genuinely surprised that we’ve now had three episodes (out of a ten-episode season, remember) where she hasn’t appeared, and that comes after a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it role in the season premiere that didn’t actually have a significant impact on the story. Are we going to see Soji at all this season, or will she perhaps cameo in the season finale to bookend things?

Considering Soji’s incredibly central role to the events of Season 1, it seems more than a little odd that Season 2 has gone in this direction. I felt that there was scope to see Soji in the Confederation timeline, and perhaps we will if we ever revisit that setting, but so far her absence has been noticeable. The fact that none of the other characters have so much as mentioned her by name hammers this home, too. Depending on how long the mission to 2024 lasts, there’s still time for Soji to have an impact on the story later on… but that prospect feels like it’s shrinking the longer the season remains in this time period.

We haven’t seen Soji since the season premiere.

But enough about who wasn’t included this week! There was a returning character that I would never have expected to see in a million years: the punk on the bus! This character made an incredibly unexpected yet welcome return from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and actor Kirk Thatcher reprised his role from that film. I honestly couldn’t stop smiling at seeing him again; this nod and wink to longstanding Trekkies was absolutely appreciated!

This is something that Picard has done really well even going back to Season 1. Bringing back characters and including little references and nods to the history of the franchise goes a long way to making the series feel connected to the rest of Star Trek. I would have never expected to see the punk on the bus from Star Trek IV make a return in Picard – and that’s what made it so special. I was grinning from ear to ear after this wonderful and unexpected scene, even more so because he seems to have learned a valuable lesson after his run-in with Kirk and Spock in 1986!

The best character surprise in all of modern Star Trek!

There are some things in Star Trek (and film and TV in a general sense) that I’ve never felt needed explaining. Why do characters look different in different iterations of the franchise, for example? The fact that certain characters have been recast – as Guinan was in Watcher or as the entire cast of The Original Series were for the Kelvin films – has honestly never been something that bothered me, and as a viewer I think a degree of leeway has to be offered when suspending our disbelief in these circumstances. It was possible to digitally de-age John de Lancie for his initial appearance as Q – and that moment was absolutely fantastic. But to digitally re-create a younger Whoopi Goldberg for Watcher would’ve either meant Guinan’s role in the story needed to be cut down, or it would’ve been phenomenally expensive to have a CGI character in all of these scenes.

In light of the way the Star Wars franchise has handled the return of some of its classic characters (too many, if you ask me) I can already anticipate that there will be some Trekkies who want to see Star Trek do the same; to use CGI and digital techniques more gratuitously in some of these circumstances. Personally, I don’t think it’s something that’s necessary – and as long as the newly-cast actor bears a passing resemblance to the original character, I’m more than happy to continue to suspend my disbelief! It’s worth remembering that Star Trek isn’t backed up by Disney-level money; some of the technologies that Star Wars can afford to use are very expensive, and I’d rather see the Star Trek franchise use its money more wisely rather than rely on digital gimmicks.

Guinan’s new look.

Speaking of things that are unnecessary: did we really need Watcher to explain why Picard has a British accent despite being from France? After 35 years and close to 200 appearances, are we not just happy to accept that that’s the way Picard talks? Again, it’s something that honestly never bothered me and I hadn’t even thought about – except in a very tongue-in-cheek way, perhaps.

In this case, it was partially an explanation for why Château Picard is abandoned in the 21st Century, and I appreciate that the writers didn’t just leave that unexplained. I just feel like there was an unnecessary attempt to tie in an aspect of Picard’s past with the way Sir Patrick Stewart speaks, and I’ve just never felt that it was a contradiction in the character of Admiral Picard in the first place, let alone one that needed to be given an in-universe explanation. Characters like Geordi La Forge or Hoshi Sato also don’t speak with the accents we might typically expect to hear in contemporary times from people born where they supposedly were, and again it’s never felt like a contradiction or something that begged an explanation.

Picard and Dr Jurati at the abandoned Château.

On Rios’ side of the story we got perhaps the smallest tease that we haven’t seen the last of Teresa. I inferred from her parting words to Rios that we might see her again. I didn’t really like the way that Rios told his life story to the prison guard; I didn’t see what the point was, other than presumably setting up some kind of contradiction or problem that might be referenced later on. It just felt unnecessary for him to tell the story of the Stargazer, Picard, and the 24th Century in this kind of strangely angry way. I get that Rios was feeling angry after seeing the injustices of 2024, but this doesn’t seem like a natural way for him to react.

I’d like to see something from Rios going forward to at least acknowledge the Stargazer; ever since being transplanted into the Confederation timeline he seems to have basically ignored or forgotten what happened. He’s the captain, and the crew under his command should be one of his top priorities, so to have not even so much as mentioned any of them for several episodes feels a little odd – and it’s beginning to erode Rios’ standing as a Starfleet captain. Even just a line or two of dialogue to say that he hopes restoring the timeline will mean they’ll be okay would do so much to alleviate this.

Rios on a bus.

The way Rios must be feeling about the crew of the Stargazer could also set up a connection between him and Raffi. The two characters have hardly said two words to each other for several episodes, yet the weight of responsibility and the sense of grief and loss that both must be feeling could be a way for them to connect. It seems, though, that Seven of Nine and Raffi are dealing with that particular storyline.

The story about illegal immigration and police brutality that Rios is involved in is a timely one, though, and one absolutely worth telling. There was some incredibly evocative cinematography from director Lea Thompson on this side of the story, with shots of Rios framed through the wires of the cage detaining him that really hit hard. As a non-American I fear some of the nuances of this story are lost on me, but many of the themes it touches on can apply here in the UK as well, unfortunately.

A caged Captain Rios.

It took me a moment to figure out why Guinan wasn’t familiar with Picard when he arrived at her bar. In-universe, Picard remembers the events of the episode Time’s Arrow, in which he met Guinan for the first time in the 19th Century. But because the timeline has been damaged, the 24th Century as we know it didn’t happen, which presumably means that the Confederation timeline version of Picard didn’t travel back to the 19th Century and never met Guinan. Time travel stories can be complicated, huh?

I enjoyed what Ito Aghayere brought to the role of Guinan. She played the character with a kind of world-weariness that I think a lot of us can relate to after a difficult few years. I didn’t expect that Picard Season 2 would spend much more time with Guinan after her short role in the season premiere – but I should’ve known from the fact that they made an entire new set for the bar that we weren’t only going to see it make a single appearance!

Ito Aghayere as Guinan in Watcher.

Having introduced Picard to the Watcher, setting up the next episode and presumably the next phase of the story, I’m not sure how much more time we’ll spend with Guinan. I hope this hasn’t been her sole appearance in this time period, though, as I feel there’s scope to spend more time with her and explore a little more of her past and her relationship with Picard. In Time’s Arrow we saw their first meeting from her point of view (although the shifting timeline has erased that, at least for now), but we’ve still never learned how they came to meet in the 24th Century, nor exactly why they struck up such a close bond. There’s scope to delve into that in more detail – if there’s time!

Because of the rushed ending to Season 1 and how that left a sour note, I’m conscious that the season is limited to just ten episodes – and while there have been interesting elements that I feel could be explored in more detail, overall I’d rather we got to the end of the story in a way that felt conclusive. If that means that some of these points of lesser importance don’t make it to screen, I’m okay with that.

Picard and Guinan.

One question I have about the Guinan story is this: if Time’s Arrow didn’t happen in this timeline, and Picard’s plan is to erase the Confederation timeline by preventing it from ever happening… will Guinan remember any of this? Or when the timeline is reset will she forget this meeting, and perhaps even this version of Earth? El-Aurians have a particular sensitivity to time, something Picard referred to in this episode as Af-Kelt, or time sickness, so maybe she’ll somehow be aware of two distinct encounters? I’m not sure… and it’s the kind of incredibly minor point that only Trekkies like us would get bogged down in!

As happened with Picard himself in Season 1, particularly at the beginning of the story, I can anticipate that some viewers will be put off by the disconnect between the previous presentation of Guinan as someone calm and ethereal with this new presentation of someone ready to give up on humanity. But just like with Picard, the point of this new presentation isn’t about where Guinan starts, but where she ends up. Even within the story of Watcher, Guinan already proved willing to listen to Picard, to help him when she learned who he was, and perhaps as a result we’ve begun to see that spark that we saw in Picard when Dahj helped set him on a new path last time. Even if Guinan makes no further appearances in the story, we’ve still seen in microcosm that narrative of someone who’d lost hope finding a glimmer of it.

Has Picard helped Guinan find a glimmer of hope?

I didn’t anticipate that the Watcher would be someone we knew. In fact I was a little taken aback by some of the online speculation in the days leading up to the episode’s broadcast about possibly Guinan being the Watcher, or maybe Soji, or perhaps someone from The Next Generation. People came up with some clever suggestions, but I felt sure that the Watcher would turn out to be a brand-new character. The fact that it was Laris caught me off-guard… and still leaves a lot of unanswered questions!

Some of these we’ll go into a little more detail on in my upcoming theory post, but in brief here’s what I’m wondering about: is this really Laris? By which I mean, is this character simply a younger version of the character that Picard will come to know as Laris in the late 24th Century? If not, is the Watcher simply assuming a form that Picard is familiar with – perhaps someone he loves? If it is Laris, that still doesn’t answer who she is and what she’s been doing with Picard all this time! Many of the suggestions I made last week – such as the Watcher being a member of the Q Continuum, a Prophet, or some kind of temporal agent – are all still in play based on where the episode ended.

The titular Watcher!

It was lovely to get a genuine surprise to close out a mysterious episode. Even though I’d seen speculation in the days before Watcher premiered, no one (at least that I’d seen, at any rate) had even suggested Laris might be the titular Watcher. Her inclusion at the end of the episode – seemingly in human form, no less – came as quite a surprise! The entire episode built up to this moment in a very clever way, and it was more than enough to feel like it ended on a high note.

So that was Watcher. It was a fine episode, a solid mid-season offering that moved several key storylines along but didn’t resolve any of them. There’s really only one drawback to Picard Season 2 right now, and for me that’s its modern-day setting. I’m sure there were reasons for this choice of setting – one of which, dare I suggest, may have been to keep costs down – but as I’ve tried to explain, such stories aren’t as enjoyable for me when I’m sitting down to watch Star Trek. I find myself wondering how long Picard and the crew are going to spend in 2024, perhaps even hoping that they’ll move on by the end of the next episode so we can get back to the 25th Century.

All that being said, I had a good time this week and I’m curious to see how the story will unfold. I’m about ready to see Rios reunited with Raffi and Seven of Nine, and I’m definitely curious to see more from Guinan and learn who the Watcher is and what they know! That’s not to mention Q… what’s going on with his powers? Stay tuned, because in the days ahead I’ll update my theory list, and I have a few ideas!

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.

Star Trek: Picard review – Season 2, Episode 2: Penance

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

After such an incredibly strong start to Season 2 last week, there was almost nowhere left for Penance to go in terms of action and excitement! But the season continues in strong form with another excellent episode, one with a very different tone to its immediate predecessor.

After the explosive end to last week’s episode, Picard and the crew of the Stargazer found themselves transported – as if by magic – to a strange, twisted reality, one in which the human-centric Confederation reigns. But the surprising thing they learned (which had essentially been explained already in the trailers and teasers) is that this isn’t some alternate reality or parallel universe, but rather the prime universe after something or someone had changed the past.

Seven, Elnor, Raffi, and Picard reunited in the Confederation timeline.

The Confederation definitely strayed into Mirror Universe territory with its militaristic aesthetic, demagoguery, and clear love of violence, but I actually found it more interesting to watch as a viewer than practically any story set in the Mirror Universe. There’s one key reason for that, I think: practically all of the characters we spent time with in Penance were from the original timeline, meaning that the actors were playing their familiar, more complex and nuanced roles.

One of my primary complaints about the Mirror Universe in practically all of its appearances, from The Original Series right through to Discovery, is that it feels like hammy, over-the-top pantomime. It’s a setting that’s written in such a way that it tricks even great actors like Sonequa Martin-Green into putting in incredibly poor, one-dimensional performances as their Mirror Universe counterparts, and I think if we’d had to spend a lot of time with Confederation Picard or Confederation Rios, we could’ve been in a similar position in Penance.

Sticking with our established characters – and not their alternate counterparts – was good for Penance.

Luckily that didn’t happen, so what we got is a genuinely interesting setting – it’s the Mirror Universe but also not the Mirror Universe at the same time. Q even used the familiar expression “through a mirror, darkly” (a riff on a similarly-titled Enterprise episode!) to describe the Confederation timeline, and similar themes of presenting our characters with a dark, twisted version of reality are present here, just as they are in the Mirror Universe.

In this case, though, it’s arguable that Picard and the crew might feel worse about how things have turned out. In the Mirror Universe, we’re dealing with similar-looking but very different people; dark counterparts to our familiar characters. But the Confederation timeline aims to say that Picard – our familiar Picard – would have behaved this way if he’d been born and raised here. Picard is confronted not with a doppelgänger, but with an alternate version of himself.

A recording of the Confederation timeline version of Picard.

This isn’t the first time we’ve been here with Picard, if you think about it! In Nemesis, Picard had to deal with a clone of himself, and at one point in the film he came to the realisation that, if he had led the life that Shinzon had, he’d have turned out exactly the same way. Here, in the Confederation timeline, Picard must deal with the fact that this version of himself has been such an all-conquering general, subjugating alien races and bringing a xenophobic, human-centric ideology to the galaxy.

Speaking of “all-conquering,” something I’d be very interested to learn more about is the Confederation’s conquest of the Borg. Dr Jurati specifically stated in Penance that the Confederation’s technology is comparable to the Federation’s in the prime timeline, and we saw just last week how completely overpowering the Borg were when facing the Federation. So how did General Picard beat the Borg? And having destroyed literally the entire Borg Collective, why does the Confederation seem to be having such a problem keeping the planet Vulcan under control?

Rios watches the Battle of Vulcan from La Sirena.

It’s possible that this will be explored in more detail in the episodes ahead, and there could be a connection here between the Borg of the Confederation timeline and the Borg in the prime timeline that we saw in The Star Gazer, perhaps. I’d certainly be interested to see a conversation between the captive Borg Queen and Picard on this subject; if she is the sole survivor of her entire people, she would certainly have a thing or two to say to him!

It’s also possible, of course, that the Confederation’s conquest of the Borg won’t be referenced again – and personally, I think that would be a bit of a disappointment. Maybe Picard’s trip back in time – which seems to be coming in the next episode, despite the cliffhanger ending this week – will wipe out the Confederation timeline, and what we saw of it in Penance will be all we ever see. But as I’ve said before, as Trekkies who feel a connection to the Star Trek galaxy, we always want to dig deeper and learn more about this wonderful setting. To brush aside something as potentially huge as the Borg being defeated would be a shame.

Picard comes face to face with the Borg Queen.

Like The Star Gazer before it, Penance revelled in the lore and history of Star Trek. We got our first major references to Deep Space Nine since live-action Star Trek returned to the small screen thanks to mentions of Gul Dukat (also known in this timeline as “Skull Dukat!”) and General Martok; two of General Picard’s defeated adversaries. There was also a reference to one General Sisko, which was awesome! As a big fan of Deep Space Nine, it’s wonderful to see modern Star Trek make reference to it.

I doubt that we’ll see anyone from Deep Space Nine on screen this season, but the callbacks were definitely appreciated. Aside from Sarek, though, the conquests Q showed to Picard weren’t really characters or villains that I’d have associated very strongly with Picard himself. There was scope to reference someone like Dathon, the Tamarian captain from the episode Darmok, who has a stronger association with Picard than the likes of Gul Dukat or General Martok – characters we never saw him meet on screen. That’s not to be critical, though – I adored the Deep Space Nine references and for something relatively minor that most viewers won’t have thought twice about, it was a great way to include a couple of references to this part of Star Trek!

Confederation Picard was quite the collector of skulls, apparently!

Was it a little bit of a contrivance that the characters were all able to find each other so soon after their arrival in this new timeline? And if we get really nitpicky about it, shouldn’t they have considered the possibility that someone else might’ve found themselves transported there too? Captain Rios didn’t seem to even consider looking for any of his officers or crew from the Stargazer, for example. It didn’t cross my mind during my first time watching Penance, but as I was going through it for a second time it gave me a moment’s pause.

That being said, I liked very much that the characters were all split up after their arrival in the Confederation timeline. Although we can call it somewhat of a contrivance that they were able to contact one another and get back together within a single episode, the fact that they all found themselves in different places, occupying very different roles, was something that Penance pulled off very well considering that it all had to be done in the runtime of a single episode.

Elnor, shortly after his arrival in the Confederation timeline.

Around the 23-minute mark, when Elnor has been cornered by Confederation security forces, there was a very odd visual moment where one brief shot looked very different – and of significantly lower quality – to the others. It hardly ruined the episode, but it was noticeable even on a first viewing that this one shot of Elnor didn’t look right. It seemed as if it was using a green screen and the shot had been spliced into the episode at the last minute.

Other than that, though, the visuals, CGI, and other special effects in Penance were outstanding. The battle Rios found himself engaged in over Vulcan was one of the most fast-paced that the Star Trek franchise has ever shown, and it had almost a Star Wars starfighter feel, as other ships of La Sirena’s class fought against Vulcan ships that drew on designs from Enterprise for their visual inspiration.

La Sirena and other Confederation ships battling Vulcans.

So let’s talk about Q: what could be going on with him? Picard seemed to think that there was something wrong; the implication being that Q, like Picard, is coming to the end of his life, perhaps? I’m not sure if this is the route the story will go, though, and I have a couple of theories that I’ll expand on in my next theory post. It was definitely a change to see a more aggressive, less jovial characterisation of Q, though. For all the puzzles and tricks Q has laid for Picard in the past, he never treated any of them in the same way as he did here. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that Q was angry.

Could the root of this anger be a sense of disappointment that Q feels in Picard? When Season 1 kicked off, Picard had been in self-imposed isolation on his vineyard for more than a decade, having chosen to resign from Starfleet and cease participating in Federation and galactic affairs. As someone Q had taken a very strong personal interest in, could Q have taken that decision personally? Could he have felt that Picard was failing to live up to the potential that Q initially believed him to have? If so, perhaps that might explain Q’s attitude in Penance.

Why is Q so grumpy?

When I put together a list of episodes that I felt could be good background viewing for Picard Season 2, I deliberately included stories like Q Who, Tapestry, and All Good Things. These episodes I feel encapsulate the Q-Picard relationship; the adversarial but not villainous nature of Q, the way Q sees himself as a guide, the way Q has even tried, in his own twisted way, to help Picard. All of these things feel quite far removed from the way Q appeared in Penance, but as we almost certainly haven’t seen the last of him this season, I’m sure we’ll learn more about Q’s role and motivations.

We don’t even know for certain at this stage that it was Q who damaged the timeline. At most, I think we can say with reasonable certainty that Q used his powers to ensure that Picard and the rest of the crew were aware of the change that transpired, but the question of his guilt – or the extent of his complicity in these strange events – is still open.

Q and Picard at Château Picard.

Just like Sir Patrick Stewart makes it feel as if The Next Generation never ended, John de Lancie stepped back into the role of Q seamlessly. Yes, there’s a noticeable change in the way Q was characterised in Penance, but the performance was outstanding and hit all of the right notes for bringing back the Q that we remember. I’m thrilled to have Q back, and right now I’m genuinely curious to see where this new timeline and history-changing event go!

Dr Jurati provided some darkly comedic moments in Penance, and was strangely relatable. We’ve seen her anxious babbling before in Season 1; in a similar vein to characters like Discovery’s Tilly she has a tendency to overshare or not know when to stop talking! Those moments with Seven and the Magistrate were funny, but where I found Dr Jurati at her most relatable were her moments of vulnerability. The Borg Queen rounded on her, sensing how she feels like an outsider no matter what timeline she’s in – and I think that’s something a lot of people can relate to.

Dr Jurati provided both comic and relatable moments this week.

Feeling like an outsider, feeling like your “friends” aren’t really your friends, and so-called imposter syndrome are all things that any of us can feel at different points in our lives, but speaking as someone who is neurodivergent, I think it hits home in a different way. It seems like Penance is setting up a story about manipulation using Dr Jurati’s natural insecurities as a base, and we could see a very interesting allegory play out in future episodes, taking this complex dynamic between Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen to different thematic places.

Notable by her absence was Soji. If this Confederation timeline only has basic F8-type synths (as we saw with Harvey at Picard’s vineyard, for example) then it’s not inconceivable to think that Soji may not exist at all. However, if Q’s statement to Picard about him being given a synthetic body in this timeline is correct – and we have no reason to think he’s lying about that, necessarily – then obviously the synth-creating process had reached the same level, and thus Soji may exist!

Harvey the synth.

With Picard and the crew being prevented from going back in time in the closing seconds of Penance, I wonder if next week we’ll see Soji make an appearance. Otherwise she seems set to miss the entire adventure – and that would be a shame. Soji was a huge part of Season 1, but noticeably didn’t appear in a big way in any of the pre-season trailers and teasers. I wonder if that’s because she’s going to take on a different appearance, or whether there’s something even bigger going on with her that we don’t know at this stage. Time will tell!

Where The Star Gazer had deliberately embraced many different 24th Century Star Trek design elements, Penance was striking out in its own direction, trying something new. There was a definite “Mirror Universe” feel to some of it, but even then the Confederation felt distinct. The scenes with Raffi and Elnor definitely honed in on a very specific kind of dystopia – the police state – that we haven’t really explored in the Mirror Universe before, and it felt shocking and frightening as a result. The way that the sequence with Elnor immediately preceding his arrest was filmed was incredibly claustrophobic, and did an excellent job at communicating just how different this new timeline is.

Elnor and Raffi.

Penance leaned into the “fish out of water” angle with most of its characters, too. Seven’s husband – the Magistrate – seemed to catch on very quickly that something wasn’t right, and kept her and everyone else under suspicion the entire time. Having him watching over her shoulder, and getting too close for comfort to Dr Jurati, Picard, and everyone else was successful at keeping the tension high, and Jon Jon Briones – father of Isa Briones, who plays Soji – put in a riveting performance as a villain. He was perfect for the role, and when he materialised on La Sirena at the end of the episode, it felt like the culmination of a wonderful performance that managed to be menacing and disconcerting but without ever falling into the Mirror Universe trap of hammy over-acting.

As a cat lover, Spot-73 was incredibly cute! Actor and comedian Patton Oswalt brought a lot of life to the cute animated critter, and although we didn’t get a lot of time with Spot-73, those moments were cute, funny, and also set up the apparent loneliness and isolation felt by this timeline’s version of Dr Jurati – something that, as noted, the Borg Queen was able to hone in on.

Tell me I’m not the only one who wants a Spot-73!

Does Laris’ apparent death in this timeline mean she won’t accompany Picard back in time? I had thought we might see more from her this season! It was clearly a moment that affected Picard greatly, and really hammered home just how different – and evil – this timeline’s version of the character is. Laris’ death also gives Picard an added motivation; he now has someone to save, and someone to get back to if he can save the future. Establishing their closeness last week was paid off in a very different and unexpected way here.

Overall, I had a great time with Penance. I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to compare it directly with The Star Gazer; the two episodes are doing entirely different things, and both achieve the feelings and objectives that they were clearly aiming for. Purely subjectively, because of things like the design of the USS Stargazer and the excitement of the Borg’s return, I would probably say I had more fun last week – but Penance was an interesting exploration of a very different timeline, and also managed to include a lot of Star Trek references!

The Magistrate at the end of Penance.

I have so many questions – and the story feels very unpredictable right now. Two episodes in and we’ve seen most of the scenes from the trailers already, with the exception of some of the 21st Century clips. The pre-season marketing did a great job of teasing just enough about the story to get fans interested and excited, but without spoiling big reveals like the Federation fleet, the USS Stargazer, and other key story elements.

There’s a lot to look forward to as Picard Season 2 finds its feet! Will Elnor survive his injury? What will the Magistrate do next? I can hardly wait to find out!

Sorry for the delay in getting to this review! With two episodes of Star Trek premiering within hours of each other (on Fridays in the UK, remember) writing two big reviews is a lot. This weekend I was also building my new computer, something that cut into my writing time quite a bit too. But it’s here now – and stay tuned for my weekly theory updates, too!

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.