Star Trek: Picard returns for another slow episode, this time with a bit more progression around the plot as the narrative continues to split in two – one on-board the Borg ship and the other on Earth. With some flashbacks surrounding the past, one cringe-inducing nickname and the beginnings of an apocalyptic prophecy hanging over proceedings, Picard continues to descend into dystopian territory, leaving behind the hopeful, utopian dreams of The New Generation for a darker and bleaker story to play out.
14 years ago at starfleet, during the days after the synthetic Mars rebellion, Picard relays information to Raffie that synthetics are completely disbanded and Starfleet believe it’s a flaw in their coding. While Raffie is convinced that foul play is involved, Picard tells her he gave the board an ultimatum; green light his idea for saving the refugees or accept his resignation. Refusing to help the Romulans, Picard is forced to resign. Raffie sympathetically lends her support to “JL” (Raffie’s nick-name for him) until she learns she’s been fired as a consequence of Picard’s actions.
Back in the present, Picard sits with Raffie and talks about his plan but she rejects it and walks away. Picard follows after her and talks about the synth hunters and their possible connections with the Federation. She tells him to leave but promises to get him a pilot – Cristobal ‘Chris’ Rios. Later than evening, Picard realizes that she’s doing research and promises to send her over files to help, despite her vehemently declining that’s what she’s doing.
Picard is beamed up to the ship with Captain Rios, where his assistant helps cut a shard of glass out of his shoulder before we learn more about this man, including Starfleet allegedly erasing records leading him to become bitter. Agreeing to think it over, Picard leaves as Captain Rios is given exposition about how good Picard is by his assistant until Rios presses a button and erases his holographic companion and ponders the proposition.
Meanwhile on the borg cube, Soji is approached by Hugh about the Romulans and after some pursuasion, agrees to let her help. Hugh leads Soji into an area housing a group of Romulans that have been assimilated. Soji sits with one of the women, Ramdha, and asks about her mysterious triangular cards, which she places on the table and explains is her story.
Picard decides to leave for the stars and says goodbye to his Romulan companions. Despite being ambushed by assassins, the group stand their ground and manage to win the fight, with Dr Agnes arriving and firing the Romulan gun, not realizing it doesn’t have a stun function. Together, they tie up their captors and attempt to find out who sent them. This coincides with the scenes on the borg cube as Picard interrogates the Romulan assassin as Ramdha learns that Soji is one of the sisters. It’s here we learn she’s “the destroyer”.
Picard allows Dr Agnes to go with them onboard the ship, given she’s a Synthetic Expert, and it turns out Raffie has agreed to go along to. With the crew assembled, Picard tells them all to “engage” and they blast off in search of Soji where the episode ends.
When it comes to Picard the show will undoubtedly split the fan base. On the one hand, it’s great to see Jean-Luc Picard back (despite the unnecessary “JL” pet name) and the slower pace is a much better fit compared to the bombastic, cheesy, over-the-top exploits of Discovery. The story itself is quite interesting and the nods to the past are a nice contrast – juxtaposing the changing attitudes of the Federation now compared to the hopefulness it had so many years ago.
At the same time, this bleak, dystopian feel is a long way away from the Star Trek of old and the pockets of action so far have come off the back of random assassin attacks that have spiked the pacing superficially rather than naturally letting things bubble over from sustained tension. Still, it’s early days and as someone who isn’t a die-hard Trekkie and just a casual fan, there’s enough here to enjoy but also plenty to pick holes in too.
Only time will tell whether this nose-dives like Discovery but one thing’s for sure – Picard is unlikely to have a hopeful, optimistic outlook if what we’ve seen so far is anything to go by.