Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-3. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Wrath of Khan, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager.
If last week’s episode had been a bit of a dip in terms of quality, Imposters was a roaring return to form. Picard is really ramping up the dangerous conspiracy angle, and that made Imposters a thrilling ride from start to finish. The intensity of the conspiracy, and the idea of not knowing who to trust, surpassed episodes like Conspiracy, Homefront, and By Inferno’s Light – even as these classics from past iterations of Star Trek clearly served as inspiration.
There were a few imperfections along the way, but generally speaking this was a fantastic outing. The midpoint of the season arrived in style, and while I still have some concerns about key character absences and whether or not the ending of this story will be properly executed, as things stand right now I have to say that Picard Season 3 looks to be in great shape.
I wrote a couple of weeks ago that I felt a degree of concern that Picard might’ve blown its biggest reveal too early – i.e. the involvement of the rogue changelings. This angle, which serves as a kind of epilogue to the Deep Space Nine story, could’ve been fairly static, but the writers have found an incredibly engaging – and downright frightening – new approach to the changeling threat. The revelation this week that changelings are able to mimic humanoid bodies in incredible detail, bypassing all of the “standard” tests that Starfleet developed during the Dominion War, adds an entirely new – and unexpected – dimension to the threat they pose, and that was well-explored this week.
Imposters also brought back the legendary Ro Laren for one final outing, and that was wonderful to see. Due to the confines of the episode, there perhaps wasn’t quite enough time to delve into the intricacies of Ro’s time with the Maquis and what may have happened to her during the Dominion War – which is something I’d have liked to learn more about. But her inclusion in the story was inspired, and the way in which she was used as a senior security officer felt like the perfect career path based on what we saw of Ro in The Next Generation.
I thoroughly enjoyed the return of the “prodigal crewman” that had been teased in the episode’s blurb. Ro was the perfect character to use here – not just because it suited her storyline from The Next Generation and provided her a redemption – if one were necessary – for her defection, but because of the dynamic between Ro and Picard that was able to be explored.
Picard has to confront the changeling threat – but before we could reach that point, he had to figure out who to trust. And for Ro, who had been working on this problem for months, she also had to test Picard’s loyalty to see if he really was who he said he was. Using their contentious history not only to set up this conflict, but to resolve it as well, is nothing less than masterful writing. The strong, deeply-held, bitter feelings that Picard and Ro had for one another set the stage for their clash – but also proved to both of them that, in spite of the betrayals and hurt feelings, they could trust one another.
This kind of complex, nuanced, character-heavy storytelling is precisely what I’d been hoping to see more of from Picard. There have been some fantastic moments like this – even in the show’s disappointing second season – but this time, there was just something that elevated the conversations between Picard and Ro. Maybe it’s because this is a conversation that fans have been hoping to see ever since Ro’s final appearance in The Next Generation almost thirty years ago!
There was genuine emotion here, and both Patrick Stewart and Michelle Forbes absolutely excelled. The passage of time had clearly not blunted the impact of Ro’s decision on Picard – nor Picard’s reaction to it on Ro. And the way both actors were able to convey this long-overdue, cathartic release of feelings that they’d both held onto for decades… it was pitch-perfect.
I wouldn’t describe any aspect of Ro’s story as “disappointing” or “underwhelming” in any way, and I want to make that clear. There are, however, absences from it that I think are noticeable, particularly on watching Imposters more than once. We got no interaction between Riker and Ro, and given the occasionally adversarial nature of their relationship in The Next Generation, it might’ve been nice if they could’ve at least said more than a couple of words to each other. Ro also didn’t even get one second of screen time with Dr Crusher.
Secondly, and for me I think more importantly, was the somewhat confused status of the Maquis, Ro’s role in Starfleet, and the lack of any direct reference to events we know took place during the Dominion War. The Deep Space Nine episode Blaze of Glory told us of the destruction of the Maquis at the hands of the Cardassians, and how the semi-independent Maquis worlds had been decimated. This was followed up in the Voyager episodes Hunters and Extreme Risk, in which the Maquis crew members aboard Voyager would learn of and have to come to terms with what happened.
In Imposters, this was entirely ignored, and for viewers who only saw The Next Generation – or who don’t recall those episodes – it would seem as if the Maquis were never defeated. Even one comment from Riker about the Maquis no longer being an enemy would seem to hint at that, too. And while it’s possible, I guess, to argue that not all of the Maquis were killed and that the survivors might’ve led a renewed push for independence, it certainly feels, at best, to be contradictory.
And I suppose it isn’t that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. For most viewers, I suspect the contradiction passed unnoticed, and as the episode didn’t really deal with the current state of the Maquis, it’s somewhat ambiguous as to what actually happened to the faction and to Ro herself. I freely admit it’s a nitpick to focus on this – but as I’ve said before, too many small points like this risk damaging the overall integrity of the narrative, and if Picard can’t keep up with the internal consistency of the Star Trek franchise, or if there isn’t time to go into more detail on some of these points, then perhaps it’s not the right story to try to tell.
Paramount is clearly squeezing every penny it can out of its investment in the Ten Forward bar set from Season 2… and it’s kind of getting old, to be honest. I already rolled my eyes last week when Guinan’s Bar was the setting for Picard’s conversation with Jack – and his showdown with Shaw – so to drag it up again this week as the setting for the conversation with Ro… I don’t know. Paramount doesn’t have the resources of some other entertainment corporations, so building whole brand-new sets each week for every story is obviously off the table. But the past couple of episodes have really felt like the old “bottle shows,” in a way, and the Ten Forward set just sticks out like a sore thumb.
If we put to one side the specifics of Ro’s reinstatement in Starfleet, why Picard didn’t know it had happened until now, and the defeat or resurrection of the Maquis – all of which would have taken too long to properly explain in a single episode – what we got on screen was fantastic. It was character drama without the “soap-opera” taint; a genuine, two-sided conflict with raw, bitter emotions on full display. And it worked so incredibly well. The scenes between Ro and Picard were riveting.
I’ve blown hot and cold about Captain Shaw over the course of my reviews so far, feeling that some elements of his characterisation have worked well… and others have either been a bit flat or, as we saw last week, derivative to the point of being basically plagiarised. The problem I thought seemed obvious a mile away – the pileup of senior officers aboard the Titan tripping over one another – has also been an issue in Shaw’s storyline. But what I loved about him this week was the gleeful way in which he took Picard, Riker, and Seven to task.
As I said in my review of the season premiere: Captain Shaw is right. These people, whom he has his own reasons for disliking and mistrusting, did unlawfully commandeer his ship, placing his crew in incredible danger, and it’s not unfair to say that Picard and Riker treated him with as much disrespect – if not more – as he showed to them, albeit in a more subtle and dare I suggest insidious way. As our hero characters, we understand Picard and Riker’s reasons, and Seven’s reason for giving them her loyalty and support, but at the end of the day, what they did was still problematic.
There wasn’t any significant follow-up to the revelation that Shaw had been present at the Battle of Wolf-359, and I stand by what I said last time: if the big blow-up in Ten-Forward is all we’re going to get, and that connection isn’t going to matter beyond giving Shaw a bit more justification for being a dick, then I don’t think it passes muster as a story beat. And the lack of any real mention of his bust-up with Picard in Imposters has really just solidified that feeling for me.
But that being said, I enjoyed Captain Shaw’s story this week, and I think even though he is an unpleasant person in more ways than one, it’s possible to empathise with someone who’s forced to work with people he despises, arguably feels out of his depth, and is being swept up in a conspiracy and an adventure that – clearly – he would rather have no part in.
I see Captain Shaw as an officer somewhat akin to Lower Decks’ Captain Freeman. He’s capable, solid, reliable… but unexceptional. He was never going to take command of the flagship and lead Starfleet into battle, but he’s okay with that. He’s settled into his role as the commanding officer of a relatively unimportant starship, and while he may not be the nicest commander to serve with… you get the sense that he runs a tight ship, does things by the book, and wouldn’t be caught dead breaking the Prime Directive or wrangling with alien super-beings.
And it goes without saying that Todd Stashwick has excelled in this role. He brings to life a character who might otherwise feel an unnecessary bump in the road, and ensures that Shaw walks a fine line between being a jerk, but still retaining a degree of sympathy. Captain Shaw has been far more of an interesting and fun inclusion in the series than I’d expected – and much of that is down to a wonderful performance.
On the other side of the story, Worf and Raffi finally crossed paths with Picard and Riker – albeit right at the tail end of the episode. Their story this week was interesting in some ways, and didn’t quite stick the landing in others. I think we’re skirting the edge of this “chasing down leads” storyline running just a little too long, so I’ll be pleased to see Worf and Raffi finally leaving the criminal underworld of M’Talas Prime behind, hopefully joining the crew of the Titan in the next episode.
Perhaps it’s because I’m a little too jaded when it comes to these kinds of stories, perhaps it’s because I’m a Star Trek superfan, or perhaps the sequence wasn’t especially well-written, but I didn’t find Worf’s fake-out death to be believable. Maybe it wasn’t supposed to be, and we were always supposed to know in the backs of our minds that Worf was about to jump up and defeat the goons… but this whole double- and triple-cross story didn’t quite stick the landing for me.
The pairing of Worf with Raffi continues to be of interest, though, and there’s good chemistry between Michael Dorn and Michelle Hurd that makes their bickering believable. I wouldn’t necessarily have chosen to put Worf and Raffi together – not for quite so long, at any rate – but it’s worked well so far. Again, though, I think we’re probably approaching the limit of how long they could reasonably spend in their own little narrative box off to one side, so it’s probably for the best that this side of the story is wrapping up. I’m quite keen to see Worf getting back together with Picard and the rest of the crew, too.
This calmer presentation of Worf feels like a great progression for his character. Across well over 200 Star Trek appearances, I think we’d probably seen enough of Worf being quick to anger, and this kind of aged wisdom – inspired, perhaps, by the elderly martial arts masters seen in films like Enter the Dragon, Karate Kid… and even Kung Fu Panda – is a great new direction for his character. We still get moments of explosive action, as indeed we saw this week, but they’re tempered by a calmer, more ethereal personality.
Worf’s meditation also turned out to serve a narrative purpose: by mastering the “Kahless technique” he was able to slow his heart rate, making him appear dead just when the villain’s goons checked his pulse. A clever ruse – if not an original one!
Nevertheless, this story had a degree of tension, and even though I didn’t seriously feel that Worf was in danger of death, there was still the prospect of things going wrong as they tangled with an underworld crime boss. I’m not sure that Imposters had enough time to really do justice to the idea of a Vulcan crime boss – but as a concept it’s a fun one. We’ve seen Vulcans breaking the law in Star Trek many times, not least in Enterprise, so I don’t think it’s in any way incompatible with what we know of them. It’s just something that could’ve been expanded a little, with the character of Krinn given a bit more personality beyond “generic criminal leader.”
Beginning in Season 2, we got to see some wonderful new Starfleet starship designs. Season 3 hasn’t had much time so far to show off new vessels, and the ones we’ve spent the most time with have been the Titan and the Shrike. So it was neat to see the USS Intrepid this week – another ship that feels like an evolution of the design philosophy of the late 24th Century. I liked the idea of having its drive section “backwards,” with the neck set way back behind the deflector dish.
The Intrepid also managed to convey an imposing sensation, almost from the very first moment that it appeared on screen. We could tell that this ship is more powerful than the Titan, and in that sense I felt echoes of Into Darkness, where the USS Vengeance clearly outgunned the Enterprise. The sequence where the damaged Intrepid seemed to rise up to draw level with the Titan was fantastic, and again managed to communicate a sense of imminent danger from the significantly more powerful vessel. The animation work here was again outstanding, and both ships seemed to come alive.
We didn’t see Vadic this week, and again I find myself saying that this is a character we still don’t know very well. If we’re to get invested in her as a villain, and are to be able to revel in her defeat and comeuppance when the moment arrives, we need to start spending more time with her. There’s a reason why her defeat at the hands of Riker’s asteroid manoeuvre in No Win Scenario didn’t really stick the landing: we don’t have any reason to care about Vadic yet. A villain as over-the-top as she is needs some kind of explanation, and her role in this conspiracy is still unclear.
Last week, I said that I thought it was fascinating that Vadic isn’t a changeling – but I seem to be the only person who interpreted her that way, at least based on what I’ve seen online. To me, it looked as if Vadic was removing a changeling from her body, and may be a humanoid who has a kind of symbiotic relationship with them. She’s clearly taking orders from them. Her crew may be changelings – some of them, anyway – based on the clicking language we heard the two changeling infiltrators make this week. But Vadic herself? I’m still not convinced that there isn’t more to be revealed about her – including some kind of connection to Picard.
For now, I guess it’s sufficient to say that my theory about Vadic not being a changeling remains on the table, and I’m not entirely sure where the story will take her. Sure, she could just be another changeling – the second-in-command of the conspiracy, perhaps. But there’s something about her scarred face, her fearful tone when speaking with Floaty McFloatface, and her generally eccentric demeanour that makes me question all of that. But we’ll be able to talk more about Vadic when she eventually returns to the story. Which I hope will be soon!
Speaking of absent characters, it hasn’t escaped my notice that we’re now at the halfway point and there’s still no sign of Geordi or Lore, and that we’ve only had the barest of cameos from Troi. The promised reunion now only has five episodes in which to make an impact, and while I’ve enjoyed the interplay between Riker and Picard, Picard and Crusher, and even seeing Worf with Raffi… it’s past time for at least Geordi and Troi to show up.
Picard hasn’t been shy about leaving a body count in its wake. In Season 1 we bade farewell to Icheb, Bruce Maddox, Hugh the Borg, Data’s consciousness, and even Picard’s original body if you want to get technical about it! Season 2 killed off Q. And now in Season 3 we’ve seen the final sacrifice of Ro Laren – completing one of Star Trek’s most interesting character arcs.
When Ro first appeared in Ensign Ro during the fifth season of The Next Generation, she was the first recurring character on the show who really stood apart from everyone else. The Original Series and The Next Generation had friendly banter between characters and even rivalries, but Ro was the first character who seemed not to fit in with her crewmates. It took a lot of work on both sides for her to find her place aboard the Enterprise-D – only to end up defecting to the Maquis.
Coming back from that defection to go out in a blaze of glory, giving Picard a fighting chance to get ahead of the conspirators, feels like a worthy end for such an interesting character. It’s absolutely a sad turn of events – and I’d have been happy to consider a character like Ro for any potential 25th Century spin-off series! But in terms of this story, it worked exceptionally well and didn’t feel in any way gratuitous. If anything, it raised the stakes for Picard and the crew of the Titan.
A well-timed character death can do this – and the fact that the story has now killed off a returning character from The Next Generation has really succeeded at communicating just how dangerous this conspiracy is. As I said before the season began: I’m not certain that all of our heroes will make it to the end unscathed. Whether Ro’s death will be the only one or just the first… who can say?
Part of the reason this review has taken me so long to write is because of Jack Crusher’s storyline. This week, the story ramped up his hallucinations and his potential connection to Vadic and/or the changelings, which is absolutely a fascinating development. But for me… this kind of story is uncomfortable.
Unlike in Seasons 1 and 2 (and in Discovery and other parts of the Star Trek franchise, too) this mental health-adjacent story doesn’t feel poorly done or tokenistic right now. But to be blunt, it’s uncomfortably close to my own personal experiences as someone who’s been diagnosed with mental health issues and spent time in hospital. It took me a long time to come to terms with precisely the kinds of frightening things that Jack Crusher is experiencing in Picard… and the truth is that I don’t really know how to process these scenes now that they’ve appeared in the show.
As much as I’ve just gushed about how incredible this episode was and how engaging the main story about a changeling conspiracy is… Jack’s storyline is a difficult watch for me personally, dragging up some very difficult experiences and memories – things that, to put it bluntly, I spend most of my time trying not to think about.
This is not a criticism of this aspect of the story, not by any means. In fact, in a strange way it’s kind of a compliment to both actor Ed Speleers and the show’s writing team; that these hallucinatory experiences should be so realistic, and conveyed in such a relatable way that they’re felt viscerally by someone who has had those kinds of experiences… for perhaps the first time, I find myself able to compliment the Star Trek franchise for a realistic, understandable, and sensitive presentation of a complex mental health symptom.
But that doesn’t make these moments any easier to watch, and simply processing recent episodes of Picard hasn’t been easy for me.
I’m going to set this aspect of Jack’s story down at this point. Obviously what he’s going through is connected, somehow, to the changelings, Vadic, and the conspiracy; the show clearly isn’t going to turn around and say that none of that is related and Jack’s schizophrenic. But I’m finding it hard to go back to those scenes, to process that side of the story, and I don’t really know what else to say about it at this juncture. If and when that changes, I’ll talk about Jack in more detail.
Perhaps when the season is over and I’ve had some more time to think and to process what unfolded, I’ll write about Jack’s story and how it relates to my own experience in more depth. So… stay tuned, I guess. Hopefully this storyline won’t just fizzle out and will come to a suitable end.
One part of Jack’s storyline that has me a little concerned is his potential tie to the changelings. Having set up Jack as the son of Dr Crusher and Picard, it would not be my preference for a twist in the story to rip that away. For Jack to turn out to be a changeling, or for his “real” parents to be someone else… I don’t think that would work. It would risk undermining not only Jack’s story, but Picard’s and elements of Riker’s, too.
Such a storyline would also be incredibly derivative, as it would basically be a play-for-play repeat of The Next Generation Season 7 episode Bloodlines, in which Picard’s old enemy DaiMon Bok fabricated evidence that Picard had a son as part of a revenge plot. In short, Jack’s storyline has to square this circle without undoing or overwriting some of the powerful and engaging emotional moments that we’ve seen in the season so far. If we get to the end of the story and Jack is revealed as a changeling imposter, meaning Picard never had a son, then that’s going to make some of these scenes between him and Picard feel very different – and I would argue far less meaningful – in retrospect.
So I think that’s more or less all I have to say about Imposters.
It was a fun episode, a thoroughly enjoyable ride with plenty of tension, excitement, drama, and mystery. Picard Season 3 seems to be in a good place as we reach the halfway point, and I was thrilled to welcome back Michelle Forbes for one final outing as Ro Laren.
With Picard and the Titan now on the run, I think there’s potential for even more exciting and explosive storylines. What I’m most looking forward to, though, is finally seeing the remaining members of the Enterprise-D’s crew joining the story. This promised reunion only has five episodes left to really make an impact – and I guess my concern is that we may look back on episodes like Imposters less kindly in retrospect if we don’t get to spend enough time with all of these returning characters.
A few scattered final thoughts:
- Dr Crusher once again felt under-used, and I’d have wanted to spend a bit more time with her.
- We never really got to see The Next Generation crew during the Dominion War – so it’s fun to see Picard and co. facing off against changelings.
- Is Ro going to be the only surprise character – or could someone else appear before the end of the season?
- Terry Matalas has now brought back practically all of the main cast members from Twelve Monkeys – a series he worked on from 2015-18.
- What was going on with Ro’s hair (or wig?) It didn’t look great…
- Starfleet’s new phaser pistols remind me a lot of TNG-era Romulan disruptors.
Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-3 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and other countries and territories where the service is available, and on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and around the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties discussed above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.