Star Trek: Picard
Our connection to our families, our friends, our found families — they’re what make life worth living. And in the fourth episode of Star Trek: Picard, “No Win Scenario,” our connections to each other (and to this cast!) are front and center.
Let’s get right to the holodeck scene. It’s moving for many reasons: the re-creation of Ten Forward as a holodeck program, Jean-Luc working behind the bar — clearly, it’s a place he’s comfortable. But what got to me most was Picard finally making a real effort to get to know his son, Jack.
It plays out about how you’d expect, with a little banter and a few jokes. Some honest questions, but Jack shuts off once they start getting too deep. He explains to his father (oh, that feels weird) that he doesn’t really need the connection. Jean-Luc doesn’t need to put on this act for him. In a rare moment of emotional honesty, Jean-Luc admits he needs this. “We all need connection,” he says, as the Titan crew members begin streaming in to be with each other before the end.
It’s a weird episode when you step back. It’s fantastic to watch because the pause in action allows for some really strong character moments, but there’s something strange about watching an episode of Star Trek that feels like it’s just people sitting around waiting to die. It’s antithetical to what we know of this group, who fight to live with the very last fiber of their being.
But they also take their cue from their captain, and both Riker and Shaw are not in a good place right now. Captain Riker is having a crisis of faith after the extremely uncomfortable (I’d even call it devastating!) fight he had with Picard on the bridge of the Titan at the end of the third episode. Here, they have a bit of a heart-to-heart. Riker admits that he’s lost his way. The Titan is bleeding power, they don’t have enough to save themselves, and Will doesn’t know how to save this crew, let alone help himself.
Jonathan Frakes is doing some of his best acting in the series (and he’s directing on top of it!). Frakes beautifully portrays Riker as a man who hasn’t fully processed the trauma from his past. It’s why he reacted like he did to Jean-Luc and opted to flee rather than fight. I’m not sure he was wrong, but this tendency to do whatever is safe isn’t typical of Will. Now we know why. At a time when he needs connection the most, Will is alone. His wife and daughter are across the quadrant, and he doesn’t even know how to begin to close the gap between them. Riker tries to send a farewell message to Deanna, but he can’t find the words. He doesn’t know how to come to terms with all of it. It’s why he told Jean-Luc to connect with his son before it’s too late.
But it’s not just Jack Crusher that Jean-Luc connects with. A still-injured Liam Shaw also makes his way to the holodeck, and we finally begin to understand where he’s coming from. He interrupts Jean-Luc and Jack’s attempts to build a relationship with his own story: the first time he met Jean-Luc Picard.
If you know The Next Generation well, you probably reacted like I did. I stiffened up and immediately went on high alert — I knew what was coming.
It’s the specter that has followed Jean-Luc Picard around for decades: Locutus of Borg. The Borg kidnapped him and used him as a tool to destroy his own people. It seems like everyone in Starfleet has a Wolf 359 story, and Jean-Luc has had to bear witness to pretty much all of them. (Remember Commander Sisko in the series premiere of Deep Space Nine?)
It’s a harrowing story, and Todd Stashwick’s delivery is perfect. You can see how traumatized he continues to be by what happened. Even though he’s basically attacking Jean-Luc for something that wasn’t his fault, you can’t blame him here. Even when he’s being an absolute dick, he comes across as sympathetic — a testament to the writing and Todd Stashwick’s performance. “The only Borg so deadly they gave him a goddamn name” is a line that will stick with me for a long time. It also immediately explains (but doesn’t excuse!) his animosity toward Seven of Nine.
To his credit, Jean-Luc is gracious. If we’ve seen this confrontation repeatedly onscreen, it must have happened endlessly offscreen. At this point, he knows the best answer is just to bow out. Thankfully, Jack comes looking for him, but Jean-Luc is ready just to brush it all off and welcome the end alone. But Beverly arrives just at the right second, and together, they do what they do best: figure out how to save everyone.
It’s notable that when the three of them go to Will with a semblance of a plan, his inclination is still to say no. He wants to preserve the ship and their memories in case someone comes looking for them. It’s not until Beverly brings up Deanna that Will softens and listens to her. It’s about connection, but it’s also about trust. Can Will find it within himself to trust these people after everything he’s been through?
It’s clear that Will has always feared the part of himself that feels nothingness. In hindsight, it may be tied into why he broke up with Deanna in the first place, before they were assigned to serve on the Enterprise-D together. He wanted to focus on his career, yes, but he also didn’t want to face this void. Now he has to, will he surrender, or will he fight?
Will finally chooses to fight, and Seven does the same off the bridge. She goes to Shaw to find out how, exactly, she can hunt a changeling, and he gives her great advice. This scene between them feels like the first honest one they’ve had. He admits he underestimated Seven. It’s amazing how much the character of Liam Shaw has redeemed himself since the first episode.
Seven finally catches up with the infiltrator, who disguised themself as a transporter officer and then heads with Shaw to nacelle control. It seems this isn’t a nebula but some sort of space womb. The energy pulses affecting the ship are timed like contractions, and when the space creature gives birth, they can ride the energy wave out. To absorb that energy, though, they have to manually open up the nacelles, which only Shaw, our resident dipshit from Chicago, can do.
It’s a tense scene, as Jean-Luc takes the conn, and they manually fly out of the nebula, throwing some rocks at the Shrike on their way out. And speaking of Vadic’s ship, it’s increasingly clear that she’s specifically after Jack Crusher — alive — and whoever she is working for doesn’t care if the entire crew of the Shrike dies accomplishing their goal.
Speaking of Jack, he’s not doing well. He’s having hallucinations or visions — could this be related to why the changelings want him? Or has he inherited Irumodic Syndrome from his father?
Things are looking up for the Titan, but there’s still a lot to figure out. Will has a nice heart-to-heart with Deanna (I noticed Jean-Luc didn’t check in with Laris after his brush with death). Jack isn’t doing well, though. It seems he’s having hallucinations or visions — could this be related to why the changelings want him? Or has he inherited Irumodic Syndrome from his father? For now, though, at least this crew has each other. That’s enough to give them hope.
• Legacy character count: Four! (Five if you count Ten Forward!) Deanna was just on the view screen, but I’ll take it. I missed Worf, but hopefully, we’ll see him again soon.
• “I need your help despite the fact that you are indeed a dipshit from Chicago” will go into the history books as an all-time great Trek line.
• Why do the changelings look like a cross between raw meat and the goo from Ghostbusters 2?
• Jack Crusher and Sidney LaForge? That’s a legacy spinoff show I’d watch (after Captain Seven, of course).
• The “Encounter at Farpoint” callback was really well done here. Fan service? Yes. Lovely? Also yes.
• I appreciated the frankness with which Jean-Luc asked, point blank, why Jack didn’t choose to get to know him.
• I also appreciate that all changelings apparently come with their own bucket. Is it a standard issue thing when they’re leaving the Great Link?