SERIOUSLY, EPISODE-RUINING SPOILERS AHEAD! JUST FRICKIN’ WATCH IT FIRST!!!
Perfection! The fourth episode of PICARD‘s second season, “Watcher,” was sheer, brilliant, fun, edge-of-your-seat Star Trek perfection! The Borg Queen would be envious!!!
Actually, there was one teensy oopsie. Picard visits 10 Forward Street, the address of Guinan’s bar in Los Angeles, and younger Guinan does NOT recognize him! I mean, it has been 128 years since their first meeting in San Francisco with Samuel Clemens (“Mark Twain”) and Data getting his head blown off. But Jean-Luc Picard is pretty unforgettable…as are time travelers who know your future. On the other hand, Guinan’s whole apathetic attitude did a U-turn when Picard finally revealed his name. So maybe she did remember him…just not by appearance (and he is MUCH older now).
(Oh, and I read the theory that Guinan didn’t remember meeting Picard a century ago because, in the altered timeline, Starfleet never existed, and Picard never went back in time to the 19th century. If so, then how does the punk rocker remember Spock’s Vulcan neck pinch? Hmmmm…)
But I’m willing to overlook the oopsie because there were so many things about this episode that I loved! The scenes between Agnes and the Borg Queen continue to be an unexpected highlight thanks to the amazing performances of both ALISON PILL and ANNE WERSCHING. The two characters couldn’t be more different, and yet they’ve begun to mirror aspects of each other, like their loneliness, as the attempted assimilation might be affecting both of them. It was also intriguing at the end when Agnes breaks her promise to the Borg Queen (to stay and “chat”), proving that she (Agnes) might not be completely trustworthy either.
The car chase was also amazing, punctuated by some of the best “old married couple” bickering I’ve seen on any TV show (Trek or otherwise). The writers are trying a “do-over” with Seven and Raffi, helping us to not only accept their relationship but to actually root for it to happen. The on-screen chemistry between JERI RYAN and MICHELLE HURD is simply magic. I don’t think any other Star Trek couple has clicked to comfortably.
(And for anyone asking, “Hey, how is it that a person born in the 24th century, raised by the Borg, and currently a Fenris Ranger can drive a 21st century SUV like she’s in a Fast and Furious movie?” I’ve got an answer. Seven was on Voyager for four years with Tom Paris. Voyager has a holodeck. Tom Paris loved hot-rods from the 20th century. Just because we didn’t see him teaching Seven to drive and to race doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Granted, it’s not official canon, but I’m placing it firmly in my personal “head canon.”)
And speaking of chemistry, the sparks between Captain Rios and Dr. Teresa Rodriguez are flying as fast and furious as Seven’s driving. Two more actors giving very engaging performances.
But let me tell you what I loved the most. Let’s talk easter eggs…!
SO THAT’S WHY HE HAS A BRITISH ACCENT!!!
It’s one of those things we just don’t talk about—like Bruno or why the Klingons in TOS don’t have bumpy foreheads like they do in every other Star Trek series and feature film. Some things are just not to be discussed!
Of course, Star Trek DID eventually talk about and explain the Klingon mutation. But one nagging mystery of Star Trek remained unsolved for 35 years: why does a FRENCH starship captain, born and raised in France, speak with a BRITISH accent??? Granted, it’s a magnificent accent that exudes confidence and Shakespearean acting prowess virtually unmatched on stage or screen. But still…why doesn’t Jean-Luc Picard sound French???
This latest episode of Picard FINALLY gives us the answer, and it makes perfect sense! When the Nazis occupied France during WWII, they used the chateau and as a base of operations. Picard’s ancestors fled to England, where they remained for generations (get it?), before finally returning to the home that had remained in their family all that time. It’s even possible that Picard’s father was born and raised in England, which explains why Picard’s brother and nephew both had British accents, as well. It might take a few more generations for the Picards to get their accents back—although it might be too late for that unless something ultimately happens with Laris, she’s still of child-baring age, humans and Romulans can conceive children (Sela, anyone?), and synths can…well, you know. Or they could adopt!
KIRK THATCHER STILL HATES YOU
When I saw that bus going through the streets of Los Angeles with the loud music playing, I thought to myself, “They’re gonna do the same gag from Star Trek IV, aren’t they?” Fans are already alternately loving and complaining online about the similarities between the two time-travel stories.
So it appears that the writers have decided to embrace the campiness and re-do the “I Hate You!” scene on this bus, a scene that originally featured KIRK THATCHER (who actually wrote and recorded the song) as the punk rocker. But not only did they do a version of the same scene, they actually got Kirk Thatcher BACK to record a new version of the song (“I Still Hate You”) and play the same punk rocker!
That alone would have been awesome enough, but this time, when he’s told to turn down the music, instead of flipping the bird to Seven and Raffi and turning the music UP, this happens…
So YAY…he’s learned his lesson!
I SAW THE SIGN, AND IT REALLY BLEW MY MIND!
Of course, Star Trek IV isn’t the only classic time-travel episode in Trek‘s long history. One of the earliest trips back into Earth’s past was made compliments of the Guardian of Forever (who now prefers to be called “Carl”) in the TOS episode “The City on the Edge of Forever.” And when Kirk and Spock first arrive in 1930 New York City, there is a poster behind them featuring two boxers, fighters by their trade.
Take a look at the above photo. Do you see that beige poster at the back of the alley behind Picard just as he materializes in front of Guinan’s bar? Well, let’s enlarge it a little…look familiar?
Believe it or not, that poster is kind of a staple of Star Trek time travel episodes. Scroll to the bottom of this Web page to see the boxing poster’s previous appearances in TNG, DS9, Voyager, AND Enterprise!
LOOK WHAT ALSO MADE THE CUT…
As you can see above, also enjoying a return appearance from “City…” was Floyd’s Barber Shop, last seen behind Kirk and Edith Keeler on their walk home. And for those wondering, yes, that was the same Floyd’s Barber Shop from The Andy Griffith Show. Both shows were filmed on the Paramount backlot, and in fact, the TOS episode “Miri” could very well have been titled “Mayberry.” Why? Check out this mind-blowing video.
WE’RE ON A MISSION…TO THE MISSION!
And one final “City on the Edge of Forever” easter egg. But first, here’s a quick trivia quiz: what was the name of the charity mission that Edith Keeler ran during the Great Depression? Here’s a hint…
Yep, Guinan is dropping off her stuff as a donation at the 21st Street Mission, which is also the name of Edith Keeler’s mission in New York City. Same mission? Impossible! Guinan is in Los Angeles.
On the other hand, there is a 21st Street in New York City and a different 21st Street in Los Angeles. Amusingly, I checked Google, and there is a Mision Evangelica Del Dios Vivo just south of downtown Los Angeles, within view of the beautiful, tall office buildings but separated by the 10 Freeway and certainly in an impoverished neighborhood. The only problem: Mision Evangelica Del Dios Vivo is on 22nd Street, not 21st!
THERE’S A STARMAN WAITING AT THE LIGHT…
The 1984 sci-fi movie Starman, with JEFF BRIDGES playing an alien in human form learning about Earth culture, features this memorable scene…
And while this isn’t specifically a Star Trek easter egg, I am counting the scene where Seven asks Raffi, “What does a yellow light mean?” and Raffi replies, “Go faster.” Hey, we all do it, right? Right???
Another non-Trek easter egg, but it’s still kinda cute (or should I say Qt?) is the actor who plays Uncle Dale, the man who comes by Guinan’s bar to pick up her dog, Luna. BRIAN QUINN was the star of the hidden camera comedy series Impractical Jokers. Quinn’s nickname? “Q.”
SANCTUARY DISTRICTS ARE ALL OVER THE PLACE!
This next easter egg is direct tie-in to the Deep Space Nine 2-part episode “Past Tense” where Sisko and Bashir are trapped inside of Sanctuary District A in San Francisco on Earth in the year 2024 (hey, same year as Picard and crew!). Since Sanctuary Districts (and the riots that led to eventual elimination of them) was the main focus of that episode, it would have been odd NOT to see them mentioned at all during Picard‘s trip to 2024.
But while the original DS9 episode focused primarily on locking away the homeless behind walls and fences (out oof sight, out of mind) and letting them essentially fend for themselves, things have changed in the world since the late 1990s when “Past Tense” first aired. And while homelessness in many cities (including Los Angeles) has gotten significantly worse, illegal immigration and how to handle Latinos who cross the border seeking refuge in America has risen to be just as charged and challenging an issue today.
So it’s not entirely surprising that Rios would be transferred to a Sanctuary District intended to house captured illegal immigrants (since he has no ID or papers of any kind). But unlike the Sanctuary District we see in Los Angeles near Guinan’s bar, which does not appear to be fenced in, my guess is that the Sanctuary District “near the border” that Rios is being transported to might be one of those that functions more as a prison.
Now, I’ve seen some fans complain that the security guard “bully” was a heavy-handed plot device and manipulative of the audience. But consider this: if all the ICE agents in the episode were just background extras and/or courteous and gentle with Rios and the other undocumented Latinos, Rios’ scenes wouldn’t carry the same feelings of jeopardy. Would we have cheered quite as loudly for Sulu if the Starfleet security guard hadn’t first called him “Tiny”?
In many ways, the ICE security guard is a way for the creators of the episode to take a position on ICE abuses of undocumented immigrants (there are still 1,000-1,500 immigrant children who have yet to be reunited with their parents along with still unresolved charges from 2020 of ICE facilities in Georgia forcing incarcerated women to undergo medically unnecessary hysterectomies against their wishes). This character becomes the “face” of the abuses we’ve heard about, just as the two 1950s-era cops who beat the crap out of Benny Russel (Ben Sisko) in the DS9 episode “Far Beyond the Stars” were the face of racism. Star Trek does this in order to make the episodes and the messages they carry more impactful.
DID YOU GET THE LICENSE NUMBER ON THAT TRUCK?
Okay, back to the fun easter eggs! The license plate on Guinan’s beat-up Ford Bronco pickup says S02 E01. For those who aren’t familiar with the nomenclature for labeling television shows, that code would typically refer to Season 2, Episode 1. As it happens, the character of Guinan (along with the brand new Ten Forward set that the production had excitedly constructed during the summer of 1988) was introduced on Star Trek: The Next Generation in “The Child,” the first episode of Season 2 to air.
Coincidentally (and I think this truly was a coincidence), Guinan’s first appearance on Star Trek: Picard was also in the first episode of this show’s second season. One wonders if, like Q, Guinan might be “breaking the fourth wall” to subtly signal to the audience that she’s aware that she’s on a television show? Probably not, but fun to think about nonetheless.
THE NEXT ASSIGNMENT?
Back in 1968, TOS aired a back-door pilot for a new TV series starring GARY LANSING as Supervisor Gary Seven and TERI GARR as his assistant, Roberta Lincoln. In the episode, “Assignment: Earth,” the Enterprise travels back in time to 1968 and intercepts Gary Seven’s transporter beam on his way to Earth. He claims his people keep an eye on major global events in an effort to guide a planet’s development, often saving it from its own short-sightedness.
When Guinan discusses the Watcher, she also uses that term “Supervisor” and describes Gary Seven’s mission (and personality) to a tee! Of course, this Supervisor is female, not very pleasant, and can “possess” people. Granted, Gary Seven had lots of gadgets and was able to make people fall asleep on command. Anyway, it turns out that this 2024 Supervisor looks exactly like Laris, Picard’s Romulan housekeeper, bodyguard, and wannabe consort…only not Romulan but human. How is this possible???
It’s wonderfully delicious mysteries like this that can make Star Trek extra fun because they beg for fan speculation. My theory is that supervisors might be very long-lived…or else get “preserved” in suspended animation until needed. Gary Seven himself was taken from Earth in 4000 BC only to be returned 6,000 years later. And any race that can manage that should certainly be able to transform a human into looking like a Romulan. Or maybe this female supervisor is really Gary Seven’s cat Isis, who was already a shape-shifter in that episode…
It’s actually possible that Laris even remembers her time with Picard in 2024, and that is why her future self seeks him out after the destruction of Romulus because she knows that he’s a good man who can be trusted.
One last easter egg was the way the Watcher/Supervisor transports herself and Picard away from MacArthur Park. As you can see in the photo at the top of this sub-section, Gary Seven would materialize within a cube of blue mist…as did “Laris” (Isis?) and Picard!
TO BOLDLY GO…TO EUROPA!
If you’ve been watching closely, you might have noticed the poster in the screen cap above i various locations around Los Angeles, advertising the Europa Mission. Apparently, humans are already on their way to this Galilean moon of Jupiter, where a frozen lake might be waiting just beneath Europa’s smooth surface.
The thing about water is that we humans kinda need it to survive, and it’s really heavy to carry with us on a rocket. So if we can find a convenient source of the wet stuff (even frozen) in the outer solar system, that would make colonizing the asteroid belt and other outer moons of the gas giants (for mining) just a wee bit easier and less expensive.
In an epilogue segment that feels more like a post-credits sequence in a Marvel movie, we find Q, wearing a light gray lab coat with the Europa Mission patch on the chest. He is sitting in the Jackson Roykirk Plaza (likely part of a NASA pavilion in downtown Los Angeles). Longtime Trekkies will remember Jackson Roykirk was the creator of the Nomad space probe, the robot’s return to Earth having been recounted in the second season TOS episode “The Changeling.” Easter egg!
Anyway, Q is reading this newspaper, dated January 21,2024…
The article (which I had to enlarge and sharpen) mentions that the launch of this manned mission is just days away. Since the date is now April 12, we can assume the explorers are about three months into their 4-year journey to Europa.
Eagle-eyed fans (or those who freeze frame) may also have noticed the name Brynner on the lower left. Brynner Information Systems was mentioned in “Past Tense,” and was the global communications corporation where Jadzia Dax found herself while Sisko and Bashir were trapped in Sanctuary District A. In that episode, their CEO, Christopher Brynner, was a good and decent man who cared about the common man But now Brynner Information Systems is fighting unionization. It will be interesting to see if this company plays a role in any of the upcoming episodes in this storyline.
A MYSTERY WORTHY OF THE GREAT DIXON HILL!
Speaking of interesting, what the heck happened to Q??? One moment he’s sitting there, talking to himself(?), Picard(?), us(?) that cute blond woman reading the book(?), and the next moment, he snaps his fingers and…nothing. “That’s unexpected,” Q says, “and most unfortunate.” Indeed! But really, WTF, Q?
Also, just after he snaps and nothing happens, that pretty woman lets out a boisterous laugh. Now, maybe it was just something she was reading at that exact moment. But maybe not! Perhaps she is negating or stealing Q’s powers or something. Who out-Qs the Q? I wonder!
Such mysteries are best tackled by a super sleuth like Dixon Hill, whose name is mentioned earlier in the episode when Agnes calls Picard that name in jest. One would assume that Agnes is unaware of Picard’s history on the Holodeck playing the famous gumshoe.
Later in the episode, we see the cover of a Dixon Hill novel, The Pallid Son, being read by the attractive woman. The author, TRACY TORMÉ, shares a name with the executive story editor for TNG‘s first two seasons. This actually goes back to the episode “The Big Goodbye,” which first introduced Dixon Hill and was written by Tracy Tormé. As an inside joke, in an LCARS readout, Scenic Art Supervisor MICHAEL OKUDA listed Tormé as the author of the Dixon Hill series of novels.
So many easter eggs! So much to talk about! I haven’t been this excited or this eager to see the next episode of ANY Star Trek in a very, very long time!