COME FOR THE OPENING JOKE, STAY FOR THE SPOILERS!
Before I begin the blog, here’s a joke: Why are the scenes in season three of STAR TREK: PICARD so dark?
Because there are four lights!
Okay, if you’re one of those fans who’s saying that season three of Picard is some of the best Star Trek presentations in decades—if not ever!—and that you can’t believe that anyone is still refusing to watch the show at this point, then to you, I can only say one thing…
You’re 100% right!!
The third episode of this staggeringly superb season was all but flawless. I have nothing to complain about (other than the dark lighting, which, I will admit, is beginning to bother me just a bit). But aside from that, this show is firing on all thrusters.
So I’ve decided to write about the AWESOME. The episode was titled “Seventeen Seconds,” a reference to the time it took Riker to ride the turbolift from the bridge down to sickbay when Deanna was giving birth to their son Thaddeus and there were nearly fatal complications. For this blog, I am going to call out seventeen “moments” from this episode that I thought were either awesome or at least significant and compelling. Note that these are moments, not full scenes…
ONE – THE OPENING
If you’re a fan of the Star Trek feature films, then what an opening this was! Some fans (not many) have been complaining that the music isn’t original enough and sounds too much like what has come before. To me, though, this is a wonderful feature, not a bug. I grew up with the sounds of Star Trek, from TOS through TAS, the movies, TNG, DS9, etc. To me, hearing those melodies and sounds in new Trek just fills a void in this old fan’s heart like nothing else can.
And what do we hear? That opening low twang is the V’Ger riff from The Motion Picture! That totally hasn’t been a “thing” in Star Trek since 1979, but now it’s also the sound of the Shrike, and that’s an awesome parallel (considering how powerful and dangerous V-Ger was). And it’s followed by that oh-so-familiar red alert klaxon that dates all the way back to 1966. But notice that the rest of the music (what there is of it) is indeed original. And unlike STAR TREK: DISCOVERY, the music is used very sparingly.
Also notice that “A CBS STUDIOS Production” is written in the Eurostile typeface, which was used as the Starfleet font in all of the TOS feature films. Just after, the “Alert Condition Red” was that same graphic animation used in those same films. And finally, the two ships flying through the yellow nebula clouds were more-than-reminiscent of the space battle sequences from Star Trek: Insurrection. So many wonderful connections to so many Star Trek feature films!
My friends, we’ve come home.
TWO – OH, RIGHT, THEY HAVE WINDOWS!
In all my years watching Star Trek, no one has ever given this order! And now I’m beginning to wonder why. When Admiral Kirk was hiding the Enterprise in the Mutara Nebula, why weren’t cadets posted at windows fore, aft, port, and starboard looking for Reliant? So simple! So obvious!
And best of all, later in this episode, we actually see two officers looking out the back window and reporting to the bridge! Huzzah!
THREE – SHAW’S WORST DAY EVER
Granted, there’s an s-bomb, but it feels almost natural coming from Shaw in this situation. What can I say? I just really like the guy! But what really got me is that, just a few nights ago, my son Jayden and I were watching the first season Voyager episode “The Cloud.” In that slow-moving episode, the displaced starship entered what they initially thought was a nebula that turned out instead to be a living entity that they inadvertently wounded and had to help heal. That plot line filled an entire 44 minutes of screen time. Now, it’s just more weird $#@! thrown at poor Captain Shaw. I love it!
FOUR – SYDNEY-OF-NINE
This quiet moment does two important things for two characters that haven’t gotten too much development (yet!) but very likely will in the coming episodes. First, it gives a little more background to Geordi LaForge’s daughter Sydney (along with establishing that her father was “one of the greatest Starfleet engineers that ever lived”—thanks for not saying “THE greatest,” as I know a certain Scotsman who might have something to say about that!). We now know that she’s not following in her father’s footsteps, and people aren’t necessarily accepting her because of it.
Second, the scene begins to establish a bond of friendship between Sydney and Seven. Apparently, it’s not easy for either of them to make friends (something in common to build on?), but when they finally do, it’s a thing to value. Sydney leaves calling her new friend “Commander Seven.” See, it IS possible to have a number for the name…even if you’re temporarily a prisoner in your quarters. (See what I did there?)
FIVE – BEVERLY HAS A POINT
First of all, BRAVO to two incredibly gifted actors who made this entire scene one of the most emotionally poignant in Star Trek history. I’ve only clipped the final 49 seconds of a flawless four-minute scene that is worth another watch if you have the time and the means.
But here’s why this particular clip is a “moment”…
Up until Beverly’s final words, I was firmly on Team Jean-Luc. How DARE she!!! Making the decision to hide Jack’s existence from her child’s father is almost unforgivable, and I’m not sure I can ever forgive Beverly for what she did. But then she said something that left both Jean-Luc and me at a loss for words…because she’s right: “As a mother, your whole being is about protecting your child. I-I thought I could protect mine. I didn’t know if I could protect yours.”
Wow. What do you say to that? Of course, Jean-Luc could have said all sorts of things like how he would have left Starfleet and found somewhere safe to raise Jack. But the fact remains that Picard has far too many enemies for his son to ever be completely safe. Does that excuse what Beverly did? No, not at all. But it does explain it. And moral ambiguity like that is one of Star Trek‘s endearing and greatest strengths.
SIX – THANKS FOR NOT IGNORING THE OBVIOUS
Yes, exactly! The mark of “sloppy” Star Trek is glossing over the obvious anarchoonisms rather than dealing with and/or explaining them. For example, Nero’s “mining” ship in Star Trek 2009 was armed heavily enough to defeat an entire Starfleet armada. I don’t care if his weapons were a century more advanced, that’s still a frickin’ armada! Against a mining ship??? And why is a mining ship so heavily armed in the first place? Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy!
Vadic and her Shrike vessel present the same conundrum. How do you make a lone bounty hunter spacecraft a true threat to a Federation starship? First of all, you make the starship a lightly-armed exploratory class vessel. But more importantly, you arm the bounty hunter’s ship to the hilt.
BUT! If you’re going to do that, you need to explain it. Granted, they haven’t explained it yet on the show, but at least someone is noticing it! That never happened when J.J. ABRAMS was in charge of Star Trek.
SEVEN – ACCENTS ARE NOT HEREDITARY!
Thank you! Three cheers for not ignoring yet another elephant in the briefing room! Having Jack Crusher sound British was a casting decision; they could just as easily have chosen an American actor. But since they went with British, it became necessary to explain the accent, since a single mother without a British accent wouldn’t have raised a child with a British accent unless there was some other significant external influence because, no, accents are NOT in your DNA.
And it only took a quick 5 seconds to explain it away. Imagine all the trouble Abrams (him again!), Orci, Kurtzman, and Lindelof could have saved themselves in Star Trek Into Darkness had they given Khan a throwaway line like, “Your people even altered my appearance and vocal chords to ensure that I would not be recognized as a major historic figure!” Seriously, one line and we fans would have been fine with BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH in the role rather than furious.
EIGHT – ANOTHER REASON I’M LOVING SHAW!
Of all the awesome moments in the episode, this was the most awesomest in my opinion! Remember back in the TOS episode “Journey to Babel” when Spock wouldn’t turn over command to Scotty in a potential combat situation even to save his father Sarek’s life? Then Kirk relieves Spock, even though Kirk is almost bleeding out in the command chair. As soon as Spock leaves, Kirk calls Scotty to the bridge, then as the Orion ship turns to attack, Kirk belays his order and “toughs it out.” Since then, the idea of a captain staying on the bridge even tough he or she is injured has been a mark of strength on Star Trek.
Not so with Shaw, whom I am beginning to REALLY love! Shaw knows he’s been critically wounded. He needs to turn over command to someone capable and experienced. The obvious choice under most circumstances would be his first officer, Commander Hansen, who knows the ship and crew. But Hansen’s been relieved of duty for insubordination, and even if she weren’t, that whole Fenris Ranger crap would probably end up getting everyone killed.
Picard is, of course, a battle-tested Starfleet legend, but he’s also been retired for a long time, doesn’t know the latest systems and protocols, and is used to commanding ultra-powerful ships of the line, not “puny” little exploratory vessels. He’ll get us all killed, too, thinks Shaw…or so I’m guessing.
And in that flash of a moment, Shaw knows there is only one choice: Riker. Yeah, Shaw doesn’t like Riker any more than he likes Picard or Hansen. But Riker knows this ship (or a previous version of it), some of its crew, the latest Starfleet systems, and he’s battle-tested. Shaw’s “order” to Riker: get us out of this.
Also, notice the brief cuts to Vadic. She is no longer loony. She is now surgical and precise. This is not a one-note villain. She knows how to inflict damage without reveling in it like Khan would. I remain intrigued!
NINE – MY NUMBER ONE SCENE FOR THE WHOLE EPISODE
This was a moment for the ages! It’s obvious that Picard and Riker operate on the same mental wavelength. They’ve worked together for enough years to almost read each other’s thoughts. But it was always Picard giving the orders, even if he trusted Riker to execute those orders even if the words weren’t actually spoken. Watch seven seasons of TNG to see that Riker often gave the orders that Picard was probably thinking. The two men were that close.
But now, Riker is in charge, and Picard humbly acknowledges that reality with his wonderful line, “Will, I think it might be time you called me ‘Number One.'” Who didn’t smile at that bit of brilliance?
TEN – WORF IS IN DA HOUSE!
Ladies and gentlemen: Worf.
For a character who likely needs no introduction, Worf actually does need an introduction because 1) there might be some viewers who have never seen Star Trek before (no, seriously, I know a few), and 2) the rest of us haven’t seen Worf in two decades and don’t know how or if he’s changed.
The interesting thing about Worf as a character is that he oscillates between deadpan seriousness (his discommendation, his loyalty to Kor, the death of Jadzia) and being a convenient comedy relief tool for the writers because he is so serious (need I say anything more than prune being a warrior’s drink or “Captain, I must protest; I am NOT a merry man!”). Worf is a man of both quiet and not-so-quiet extremes, making him a fan favorite.
Worf’s introduction—both in showing that he’s still “got it” when it comes to awesome fighting skills and in providing his resume/pedigree—reassures us that yes, the old Worf is back. And his deadpan delivery of “I have made some chamomile tea; do you take sugar?” lets us know that comedy relief is still very much on the menu. Strap in, folks, ’cause the Worf scenes are gonna be wild!
Also, this scene gave us a really fun meme that’s been making its way through social media. Just in case you haven’t seen it…
ELEVEN – IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO
And this is where you’re gonna start liking Raffi. Up until now, actress MICHELLE HURD hasn’t had anyone to really play off of (except a few minor characters working in opposition to her). Now she has Worf, and things are about to get much more interesting…and here’s a perfect example. Notice that Worf says, matter-of-factly, “You have served me well.” Raffi assumes he is now going to cast her aside and move on with his mission without her. And perhaps he was indeed going to do that. Or perhaps he was simply going to add, “…so I have another task for you.” Or maybe, Worf was waiting to see her reaction to his ambiguous comment, trying to gauge if Raffaela did, in fact, still have the heart of a warrior. (And I guess she passed.)
Interactions like these that define both characters (and also leave us guessing) are intriguing and something that could not have happened with either character operating alone.
TWELVE – DAMMIT, I’M A DOCTOR, NOT A RELIC!
Two things about this scene triggered the awesomeness meter. The first is Beverly. One of the sub-texts of this episode—and of the Picard series as a whole—is the chasm between seasoned wisdom born of knowledge and experience versus uselessness that comes from advanced age combined with outmoded and archaic ways of thinking. The series deftly balances the two, and this scene swings the pendulum favorably in the direction of the “old geezers” as Beverly recognizes something that the young Trill chief medical officer of the Titan-A does not.
The other piece of awesomeness is yet another feather in Captain Shaw’s hat as he thinks of something that even the great Picard and Riker haven’t: how is she finding us? And this, of course, provides Jack Crusher with a clue to follow that reveals a really cool plot point that they have a saboteur on board!
THIRTEEN – A KNOCK-OUT LINE
Okay, we were all expecting to see Jack Crusher start talking and then belt the security gorilla into unconsciousness. We’ve seen that a thousand times in both Star Trek and elsewhere.
What I didn’t expect was Seven’s reaction: “You’re insane.” It wasn’t said accusingly or uncomfortably or with surprise. And Seven certainly wasn’t going to complain about Jack solving the “how do we get out?” problem so quickly and easily. And it wasn’t even that Seven was particularly impressed either. The delivery of the line was perfect. “You’re insane.” Fact stated. Let’s move on.
FOURTEEN – THE PERFECT REVEAL
With only ten episodes, you can’t (or shouldn’t) really keep the identity of the bad guys a mystery for too long. (And you listening, Star Trek: Discovery???) Interestingly enough, the involvement of Changelings was hinted at in the first episode when Beverly shoots one of the invaders on her ship and it turns to black dust…something that happens when Changelings die (and a few fans caught that).
Here in episode three, however, it all comes together quickly. In the previous scene, Jack hits the engineering ensign, and his face goes all gooey for a second. But then this scene happens, and we’ve all probably been thinking this is a junkie having withdrawal symptoms like Raffi. But then, fans of DS9 remember how Odo used to have to return to his liquid shape every sixteen hours, and suddenly we knew exactly what is going on. And of course, Worf was on Deep Space Nine for four seasons, and so his question, “So tell me, how long have you been away from the Great Link?” (and the Changeling’s surprised reaction to it) was perfection!
FIFTEEN – TROUBLE IN PARADISE?
This was a hugely important scene because it supplied a bridge (no pun intended) between the initial good-natured “Will, I think it might be time you called me ‘Number One…” and the final scene where Riker kicks Picard off the bridge in anger. The tension between these two old friends and comrades has been building—and in an unexpected way. Remember back when Riker was a bit of a hot-head and Picard was the voice of reason and restraint? We called that show Star Trek: The Next Generation. Riker would take chances, and usually Picard would be more measured.
But now the roles have reversed. Riker is the captain, and he’s trying to protect his ship and crew. Picard is ready and willing to throw caution to the wind and attack a vastly superior enemy. As fans, we want to believe that the old man is right in what he believes. The only question now is: WHICH old man? I can understand and respect both sides in this, which makes the schism developing between the two longtime friends even more painful…yet compelling to watch.
SIXTEEN – THE ULTIMATE STAR TREK CROSSOVER
This isn’t an awesome moment so much as an awesome realization: this is the first time TNG, DS9, and Voyager have all crossed over together in canonical Star Trek! Think about it. There were a few crossovers of TNG and DS9, including the DS9 pilot, episodes like “Birthright, Part I” and “Defiant,” and of course, seeing the U.S.S. Defiant in ST: First Contact and the mention of Ketracel White and the Dominion War in ST: Insurrection. Voyager crossed over with DS9 in the Voyager pilot and later when Dr. Lewis Zimmerman came to the station in “Doctor Bashir, I Presume.” And of course, Voyager crossed over with TNG when Beverly activated the EMH in First Contact, when Barclay and Troi began helping Voyager get home, and when Admiral Janeway appeared in ST: Nemesis.
But have these shows ever had a 3-way crossover before? I realize that Worf straddles TNG and DS9, so his appearances in First Contact and Nemesis KINDA represent a 3-way crossover. But they weren’t really significant ones, as the EMH and Janeway only had short cameos, and Worf is really TNG at heart.
But as of this episode, we now have the TNG crew, Seven-of-Nine from Voyager, and the Changelings from the Dominion War, which was a major element of DS9. And THAT, my friends, is a 3-way crossover!
SEVENTEEN – THIS IS ANOTHER FINE MESS YOU’VE GOTTEN US INTO!
And finally, this! Some fans have complained that Riker would never speak to Picard like that! But for me, that’s what made this moment so powerful. Granted, both of them should have seen that portal-redirecting-the-torpedoes move coming a parsec away (I know I did). And yeah, it was cool. But the real purpose of this scene was to hammer a final wedge between Picard and Riker. Will is in command, and Jean-Luc’s insistence on fighting has landed them smack dab in the middle of Vadic’s trap. Picard has killed them all.
Or has he?
The beauty and impact of this scene is that it has set up one of Star Trek‘s most awesome cliffhanger endings ever! Seriously, how are they going to get out of this mess? And why is Vadic letting the Titan sink into the anomaly rather than putting a tractor beam on it? Who is really behind all of this (other than the renegade Changelings)? What is true weapon stolen from Daystrom? (You thinking it’s Lore, too?)
For a third straight week, I’m on pins and needles waiting for the next episode!