No, it wasn’t that I saw a red door and wanted to paint it black…although I kinda did…didn’t you? And it wasn’t the dark lighting—which seemed to be a little better this week, did you notice?
If you want to know what almost bothered me about the fifth episode of season three of STAR TREK: PICARD, “Imposters” (and how I mentally overcame that complaint), you’re gonna have to read till the end. Or of course, you could just scroll down and skip the rest of the blog…that’ll work, too!
First, however, I want to tell you all what I didn’t complain about and, in fact, really LOVED about this latest episode.
OKAY, PLAY TIME’S OVER, KIDS!
It’s funny, but after four episodes of intensity, I wasn’t sure what to expect from episode five. However, I quickly forgot about those first four episodes because they seem like only a light appetizer! The main course is now being served, and…holy crap!
In many ways, the first four episodes served as the first “act” of this amazing play. They were, for the most part, a self-contained mini-story of the Titan engaging Vadic and the Shrike, Picard learning about his son Jack and connecting with him (or at least starting to), Riker getting his groove back, Seven (re)gaining some self-respect, and Captain Liam Shaw convincing fans that it’s not only okay to use swear words in the future but that we actually kinda like this “dipshit from Chicago.” And of course, there were mysteries to set up and begin to explain, like the antagonists being rogue Changelings and that a major weapon has been stolen from Daystrom Station. Oh, and we got to watch the events leading to Raffi teaming up with Worf.
But all of that pretty much wrapped up by the end of episode four. The Titan escaped, the crew was safe (for now), the Changeling on board was killed, and the only real “cliffhanger” was a strange reddish vision (red matter, red angel, red shirts…always red!) that Jack Crusher had at the very end. And considering that there’s only ten episodes total, I suspect that five-thorough eight will work together as a “second act,” setting up a big two-part finale of both Star Trek: Picard and the saga of the Next Generation characters.
And I am totally fine with that story structure. In fact, this second act brought in a whole bunch of new stuff that I honestly did NOT see coming, and it all kept me on the edge of my seat. Let’s take a look at what blew me away…
TO BOLDLY RO!
(You have no idea how many sub-header ideas I went through before deciding on the one above! Be happy I didn’t stick with “Ro, Ro, Ro, your boat”‘”!!!)
Okay, I need to compliment the rumor police for keeping any hint that MICHELLE FORBES would be returning as Ro Laren in this final season away from the general media. I HAD NO IDEA!!!! In fact, I’ve been chuckling at the fans conjecturing that DENISE CROSBY would be appearing as Tasha Yar (despite her character being dead) or maybe the Romulan Sela. Personally, I didn’t think it was likely, as such a cameo would likely have leaked by this point, right? Well, now I’m not so sure and am even wondering if DWIGHT SCHULTZ might show up briefly as Reginald Barclay! At this point, I am open to any possibility!
The inclusion of Ro in this episode was nothing short of masterful, not only in concept but in flawless execution both plot-wise and via characterization. As it happens, I watched the TNG penultimate episode “Preemptive Strike” fairly recently, so the intensity of Lieutenant Ro’s betrayal of Picard was reasonably fresh in my mind. Michelle Forbes is an amazingly talented actress, and with such a gifted actor as SIR PATRICK STEWART to play off of, the performances we were treated to rose to a whole other level. Picard held such resentment—even 30 years later—for Ro, and she for him. Their mutually soulful pain and hurt was almost suffocating and certainly heartbreaking for us viewers to watch…as it should be!
Now, what made this all particularly satisfying is the fact that the writers on Picard are assuming that their viewers are INTELLIGENT and are thinking about the plot—something that doesn’t always happen (ahem, DISCOVERY). So when you establish that the threat of the season is that shape-shifters have infiltrated Starfleet, the first thing a viewer is going to suspect when they suddenly see Ro Laren coming on board via a shuttle (not a transporter, which could potentially scan for a Changeling)—and she is accompanied by two tough-looking security guards—is certainly going to be: “She’s a Changeling!”
And the episode leaned into this in a big way, as Ro certainly seemed suspicious, and Picard was likewise unconvinced of her appearance. And the questions he shot at her were, dare I say, logical ones. After all, Ro Laren betrayed Starfleet on two different occasions. Fool me once, and all that! How does a person like that get to be reinstated AND wind up with two promotions to full commander???
Oh, and for anyone who is still wondering about that—even after the big reveal that this was, in fact, the real Ro Laren—let me plant a seed in your mind. Ro’s release from prison, reinstatement, and assignment to Starfleet Security would likely have happened within the last ten years or so. That would place the decision firmly in under the administration of Commodore Oh. Remember her? She was the highly-placed Romulan spy from season one of Picard. Somehow, the reinstatement of a former two-time traitor and assignment of her to Starfleet Security would seem a much more acceptable decision from a covert Romulan operative than it would have from an authentic Chief of Starfleet Security.
Anyway, the mind games and shadow dancing continued just long enough to satisfy viewers’ expectations that Ro might, in fact, be a Changeling infiltrator. Indeed, as the two entered the Holodeck and pulled phasers on each other, I was totally convinced Ro was not the real Ro. And of course, that’s when the writers assured us all that this was, indeed, the real Ro Laren…in a way that only the ensuing scene could have succeeded in doing.
And then things got really good…
ACTUALLY, I MEAN REALLY BAD!
There were four times in Star Trek history where Starfleet was nearly taken over from the inside, and each time, the writers kinda wimped out. One of those times was the aforementioned Romulan deep-cover operative, Commodore Oh, from Picard season one. With one Romulan in the highest ranks of Starfleet, what if there were more? After all, a Chief of Starfleet Security could “look the other way” as a lot of other operatives got placed in high positions. And indeed, the Romulan Zhat Vash villainess Narissa served Oh as the human-disguised Lt. Rizzo. But after at least nine years as a Starfleet top brass, Narissa seems to have been the only Romulan operative inserted. I consider that “wimping out.” (Now, it IS possible that Commodore Oh let in a bunch of rogue Changelings, as well…and that might be interesting.)
Back in the 23rd century, Starfleet Colonel West, Fleet Admiral Cartwright, and others took part in a conspiracy to assassinate Chancellor Gorkon and start a war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. That secret plot died at the end of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
And speaking of conspiracies, perhaps the biggest one lasted for only two episodes during the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. And despite a final message being beamed into deep space by the bug-parasites who liked to eat live worms (gagh is best served live!), nothing more ever happened with them. One wonders if, maybe, they’re finally back, teaming up with the rogue Changelings…wouldn’t that be wrapping up a major loose end!
And of course, the Changelings themselves infiltrated Starfleet back during the middle of the run of Deep Space Nine. But in the two-parter “Homefront“/”Paradise Lost,” Sisko is told that there are only four Founders in all of Starfleet. Of course, developing tests for Changelings became a huge priority, and eventually, the idea of deep-cover shape-shifters was limited primarily to the doppelgängers of Bashir and Martok who were later discovered and disposed of. And that was that.
In all of the above cases, the real potential for massive fleet-wide conspiracies was never truly explored…at least in my opinion. Of course, the reasons were usually logistical: budget limitations to build new sets for those operatives to do their mischief, episodic-versus-serialized storytelling styles, everything needing to happen in a single movie (Trek VI), or just not knowing how to deal with such a “big” problem without overwhelming every other aspect of the show.
But in season three of Picard, they’re going all-in. The imposters are already infiltrated into all areas of Starfleet, the screening tests no longer work (oh, crap!), and the Federation is probably already screwed…along with Picard, Riker, Shaw, Seven, and what remains of the crew of the U.S.S. Titan. As I said earlier, all that “peril” with the Shrike during the first four episodes…just the appetizer! Play time is indeed over, kids, and now you need to put on your big-boy/girl/gender-fluid pants and deal with some REAL problems! Let’s hear it for serious threats close to home, which will make the ultimate “saving the day” moment in five more episodes feel even more satisfying…assuming that actually happens!
RAFFI, WORF, AND…RO?
I do have to admit that I was really hoping that Raffi would become more interesting and watchable now that Worf is sharing scenes with her. And admittedly, she is a bit more watchable because of it. But I’m still not really interested yet as a character. (This is not my complaint for the episode, by the way.) Raffi comes across as a truly tough, kick-ass character with some inner demons and a few insecurities that she hides behind bravado, but that’s really the extent of it, and those same notes aren’t really creating “music” for me as a viewer.
It’s a shame because MICHELLE HURD really is a gifted actress. In the same way, I feel frustrated for SONEQUA MARTIN-GREEN, who is also a gifted actress forced to play the very uninteresting, non-compelling, and somewhat grating (in my opinion) character of Michael Burnham, someone whom I have never managed to connect with.
That said, Worf never disappoints, and MICHAEL DORN plays the new, older Worf perfectly. Surprisingly, his character is also playing the same notes over and over, but somehow his character is making music for me. I suppose it’s a combination of having already had seven seasons of TNG, four seasons of DS9, and four feature films to develop a connection with, interest in, and concern for the character. Maybe he’s just getting better lines than Raffi. No idea.
But what really impressed me is how the writers continue to surprise me. I already had no idea that Worf was Raffi handler. And as I said above, I was completely shocked by this episode’s appearance by Ro. But the trifecta was earned by the big reveal that Ro was Worf’s handler! With her connections to Starfleet Security, of course Ro would have set up a covert agent or two (or more) under the strictest secrecy to figure out what’s been going on.
However, the episode was so engaging and enrapturing that my mind didn’t even have time to think about who Worf’s handler was until Ro revealed to Picard that she had two operatives uncovered details of the plot. And indeed, it was a perfect way to bring together the two separate plot-lines of the season so far: Picard and Riker on the Titan and Raffi and Worf on the hunt for clues. The band is finally getting back together!
HOW MUCH DO WE LOVE SHAW?
If you’d asked me to make predictions going into season three of Picard, one of the items far below the bottom of the list would have been: “They’ll introduce a new starship captain who is a complete asshole, and I’ll actually want him to star in the next Star Trek series!”
For over half a century, Star Trek fans have known exactly whom to root for and against. The “good” captains were brave and noble heroes, like Kirk and Picard and Archer. And sure, Sisko crossed some lines “In the Pale Moonlight,” but he kinda did the wrong things for the right reasons. And Janeway was a tough captain put in an impossible situation, so she needed to…adapt a little. But they were all good people with moral compasses who treated others with respect and courtesy. Even the new Captain Christopher Pike on STRANGE NEW WORLDS is a kind and decent guy, very easy to get along with.
And then there’s Shaw.
Each time I see him, he’s more of a sanctimonious schmuck than the previous episode. And yet, I love it…and I love HIM! I love to watch Shaw take down our heroes a peg or three. The following scene was, in my humble opinion, brilliant…
Now, we pretty much know that Picard and Riker will get out of trouble in the end. But all too often in Star Trek, the main characters either get framed for a crime or simply piss off someone and, by the end of the episode, their bravery and/or nobility in helping save the day makes everything all right with that person and turns their anger or resentment into forgiveness and admiration. We’ve seen it hundreds of times, and indeed, it would have been totally understandable here, as well. After all, Picard and Riker (and Seven) successfully got the Titan-A and her crew out of danger and helped find and stop a Changeling saboteur among the crew. Shaw should be thankful, right?
Of course, Picard and Riker (and Seven) pretty much got them all into that mess to begin with! And so Shaw’s not-so-subtle smugness and anticipatory glee to watch Picard and Riker get their comeuppance is equally understandable. So even though the expected response from Shaw (in the great Star Trek tradition) would have been to let bygones be bygones, instead we see Shaw being a totally arrogant prick…yet again. And he’s not entirely wrong, as Picard and Riker did try to pull a fast one on him to get Shaw to take them to the edge of Federation space in the first episode.
On the other hand, at the very end of this episode, we finally see Liam Shaw the captain take command and show us why he’s in the center seat. I am 100% on board for STAR TREK: SHAW…aren’t you?
JACK, GET BACK…COME ON BEFORE WE CRACK!
Actually, it’s Jack Crusher, not us viewers, whom I’m worried will crack soon. I mean, that boy ain’t right!
There’s still not much to say about Jack yet, as his story and backstory are still mostly a mystery. And that’s fine. A little mystery keeps us interested and watching…especially when that mystery is why Wesley’s little half-brother seems to be a combination of Jason Bourne, Batman, and The Terminator with violent homicidal hallucinations. I hope the ultimate explanation of this ticking time-bomb isn’t too far fetched, but thus far, this season isn’t letting me down…so I’m willing to trust them for another five episodes.
SO WHAT WAS THERE TO COMPLAIN ABOUT?
Vulcan gangsters??? Seriously??? Who thought that was a good idea? I mean, when I first saw those pointed ears, I thought: Romulans. That would have worked. Orions? Totally acceptable. An Andorian, Trill, or even a Betazoid. That would have been absolutely fine. But a Vulcan??? Vulcans are NOT gangsters!
Then Krinn explains: “There could be no utopia without crime. Ergo, an organized criminal enterprise is logical.” REALLY? You expect us to buy that felgercarb? The literal definition of “utopia” is a perfect society! Crime is NOT perfection. Indeed, it is very much the opposite.
Of course, we could ask: is the world of the United Federation of Planets really utopia, as Gene Roddenberry postulated all those decades ago? Even Star Trek itself argued against that, with criminals like Harry Mudd, con-men like Cyrano Jones, inmates at rehabilitation colonies like Tantalus V and Elba II, and butchers like Kodos the Executioner. Gene’s future, in fact, WASN’T a perfect utopia. Orion women were slaves in the very first Star Trek pilot. Star Trek III showed us the seedier side of smuggling within the Federation. TNG and DS9 showed us places in the quadrant where there totally was crime…even on DS9 itself! So if the future really is a utopia-with-crime, then maybe that Vulcan gangster on M’Talas Prime is right after all.
But he’s still a Vulcan, dammit! And Vulcans aren’t criminals and gangsters!! It’s not frickin’ logical!
Or is it…?
This was the point where I was about to complain. I even had a few paragraphs of the blog written in my head. But then I watched the episode again (I’m doing that a LOT this season!). And when Krinn explains that he grew up scavenging the streets of District 7 of M’Talas Prime with Sneed as a “brother,” I thought about theft as a means of survival—especially theft from those who would survive despite the loss of some wealth. Hmmm. I suppose that might seem like a logical solution. After all, Spock helped Kirk steal clothes in “The City on the Edge of Forever.”
But a Vulcan gangster? It seemed so unprecedented! If only there had been at least one other Vulcan in Star Trek history who had committed some kind of heinous crime. Then I could maybe accept a Vulcan gangster.
Then I remembered.
In the seventh season DS9 episode “Field of Fire,” Ezri Dax (with the help of her sixth host, the unstable murderer Joran) determined the identity of a serial killer on the station. And that killer was—wait for it—a Vulcan! And apparently, that Vulcan had mental trauma from an attack on the U.S.S. Grissom where all but five of his crew mates were killed by the Jem’Hadar. Well, if one Vulcan can go through hard enough times to justify criminal behavior, then perhaps I could accept a Vulcan gangster unable to escape a hard life a crime-ridden planet.
And there you have it…one almost-complaint taken care of…along with a blog marking the half-way point of this amazing and engaging Star Trek journey. We’re getting a real treat here, folks. I only wish it could last more than just five more episodes.
I am totally not kidding about Star Trek: Shaw!
3 thoughts on “I almost had ONE complaint about this week’s episode of STAR TREK: PICARD…ALMOST! (editorial review)”
Great article and review! I personally find Raffi the weakest character. Also, the cussing is completely out of character and unnecessary. That said, thank goodness Paramount took a hint and gave us some real Trek! It’s amazing!
I’ll remember Picard, Season 3 as “those were the days”!!!
And this review about Vulcan crime logic sent me to the internet (of course) where I found this:
[Crewman Suder has been identified as the murderer of Crewman Darwin]
The Doctor : You don’t seem satisfied, Lieutenant.
Lieutenant Tuvok : No.
The Doctor : You have a confession and the murder weapon.
Lieutenant Tuvok : And no established motive.
The Doctor : Does it matter?
Lieutenant Tuvok : A crime must have a logical purpose.
The Doctor : Ah, yes, I see. How to close the case without understanding the logic of the crime. For a Vulcan, that would be a dilemma, wouldn’t it?
And of course he might have been lying as in https://www.ex-astris-scientia.org/inconsistencies/vulcan-lies.htm
On to episode 6!
I did think of that episode, but in that episode, it was the investigator who was the Vulcan, not the criminal! 🙂
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