Star Trek: Picard
If Jean-Luc Picard were disappointed in me, I’d crawl into a hole and never come out. Even as a fictional character, he’s one of those people who has been so pivotal in my life, so fundamental to the person I chose to become, that I couldn’t imagine being the target of his anger and disappointment.
Even so, he’s not perfect. One of the best parts of Star Trek: Picard is that it explores Picard’s arrogance in a way we haven’t previously seen. And as viewers, we’ve come to understand the weight of his expectations in this latest episode. What happens when you don’t become the person he thinks you should be?
It’s easy to breathe a sigh of relief at the beginning of “Imposters.” The Titan escapes the nebula and clutches of the Shrike, but as Beverly says, “I don’t think this is over yet.” We’re only halfway into the season, after all!! Starfleet arrives on the scene, ready to take Jean-Luc and Will to task for their actions.
Things are amped up, but once the USS Intrepid arrives, everything feels off. The Starfleet representative is arriving by shuttle, not the transporter. There’s no real communication as to what’s happening. Everything about this screams changeling imposter. When that shuttle docked, I was prepared for the Starfleet representative to be anyone, anyone at all. And yet I still gasped at the reveal: Ro. Freaking. Laren.
My personal relationship with Ro Laren has changed over the years. When I first saw the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Preemptive Strike,” I couldn’t believe that Ro betrayed Starfleet and joined the Maquis. It was unthinkable. SHE TURNED AGAINST JEAN-LUC PICARD? HOW DARE SHE!
But upon subsequent watches of the episode (which originally aired in 1994, nearly 30 years ago), I started sympathizing with Ro more (it doesn’t hurt that the excellent Michelle Forbes plays her). All of a sudden, the issue — having her loyalty tested between Picard and a group of resistance fighters opposing the Cardassian Union — wasn’t so black and white. You can see how torn Ro is, how much she doesn’t want to disappoint Jean-Luc or betray the trust he puts in her, but in the end, she has to do what she thinks is right. To see her again, back in a uniform, working for Starfleet Intelligence, and sitting in judgment of our heroes: I had a lot of feelings (putting them on trial for treason???).
It is fascinating to watch the different reactions. Will was in the shuttle with Ro when she betrayed Starfleet all those decades ago and saw how conflicted she was. He bore her message — “I’m sorry” — back to Captain Picard. Unsurprisingly, he tries to talk Jean-Luc down and curb his anger.
But Picard is having none of it. He’s angry at everything, and his emotion is intensely focused on Ro Laren, who, in his opinion, is an affront to everything he stands for. She betrayed Starfleet, sure, but more importantly, she betrayed him. And now she dares court-martial him??
It’s a tense chess game. After Jean-Luc learns from Beverly that changelings can pass blood tests, he immediately begins to suspect he’s dealing with an imposter. Commander Ro doesn’t help things when she pulls a phaser on him and redirects Picard into the holodeck. (Apparently, Ten Forward is just where all the good conversations will happen this season.)
It’s here that they begin to really test each other out. They’re half examining each other’s memories, half having the confrontation they’ve thought about for years. The conversation between them is so good that I struggle to write about it. My notes from the scene are just the dialogue written out because it’s so emotional and poignant. It is the catharsis I didn’t even know I was looking for: Jean-Luc pours out his anger, and it all comes down to the two breaking each other’s hearts: “You broke my heart,” Picard says. “And you broke mine,” Ro says back.
Interestingly, Jean-Luc’s anger is palpable, while Ro’s is quieter. It seems she’s accepted she betrayed him and that he will never forgive her. She tries to defend herself but also feels resigned to bear the brunt of his disappointment. It’s a weight she’s been carrying for decades. In the end, Jean-Luc’s anger at Ro convinces her to trust him. Neither of them are changelings. Ro tells Jean-Luc of a changeling infiltration of Starfleet at the highest levels. (At once, it becomes clear who Worf’s handler is.) Ro doesn’t even trust the Starfleet officers who traveled with her from the Intrepid.
As Ro explains what she knows, things become more apparent, but there’s one thing we don’t get an answer to: Why Jack Crusher? Even Ro doesn’t know, just that she’s been ordered to bring him in (presumably by changeling impersonators). But her crewmates can’t find him because Seven of Nine disguised Jack as a Starfleet officer. His visions are getting worse, but he’s safe for now.
Ro returns to the Intrepid, leaving the investigation in Jean-Luc’s hands. She pulls him aside and gives him an emotional goodbye, putting her Bajoran earring in his hand. It’s an ominous sign. As Commander Ro heads back to the Intrepid, her companions activate a bomb on her ship and beam back to the Titan. They’re clearly changelings and are going after Jack Crusher. Ro maneuvers the shuttle toward the Intrepid’s nacelle and says to Jean-Luc, “I’m giving you what you gave me all those years ago: a fighting chance.” It’s only then that Jean-Luc truly understands what Ro was trying to tell him, that her honor required her to do what she thought was right instead of being loyal to an institution like Starfleet. Even though she couldn’t be the person he wanted her to be, that doesn’t mean Ro doesn’t have honor or integrity. He realizes how much he’s misjudged and vilified her. He’s in tears as, in her final moments, he finally understands who she is.
After her death, the Titan escapes. Will realizes that the Bajoran earring Ro gave Jean-Luc has a data chip embedded within it, and it grants them access to her entire changeling investigation. As they’re looking through her files, Worf calls to check in with his handler — and finds his old captain and commander at the other end.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the escapades Worf and Raffi went on in this episode after being absent from the last ones. They are such an incredible team and an absolute delight to see onscreen. The story can be heavy at times, especially in this particular episode, and they provide necessary lightness whenever they’re onscreen. It makes for a nice balance.
This is one of those episodes that, as Trek fans, we’ll talk about for a long time. Was it a bit of fan service? Probably. Will anyone who cares about these characters actually mind? No, I don’t think so. Because the story line and motivations are authentic to who these people are, and the resolution between these two characters needed to happen. Jean-Luc is really hard on people, and living up to his expectations must be brutal — Ro earned every bit of her beautiful redemption arc.
• Legacy character count: Five.
• What is going on with Jack Crusher? I’m so glad he finally told his mom what was happening at the end of the episode, but those red visions? The voice saying, “Find me?” That has to be why the changelings want him, but what does it mean?
• “I’m going to step outside so the three of you can get your bullshit story straight.” Captain Shaw continues to be the most delightful asshole.
• Will Jean-Luc eventually succeed in recruiting his son to Starfleet? That’d be a lot of fun, but I also like the idea that Starfleet isn’t for everyone.
• Changelings no longer revert to goo when they’re killed; that’s fun and disturbing news.
• I knew Worf wasn’t going to die, but “Today was a good day to die” GOT ME.