Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Episode 4 – Debuted Thursday, February 13, 2020
Written by Michael Chabon
Directed by Jonathan Frakes
Picard, Rios, Jurati, and Raffi pick up an old acquaintance of Picard’s to join their mission, and then get a surprise when they run into someone another former Starfleet crew member.
[WARNING: Spoilers from here on]
This episode, the 4th of the season, is supposed to be the first one after the “prologue” of the previous three, when our story was set in motion. As a viewer, I don’t agree with that assessment. I personally felt like the first three episodes had plenty of story that was much more than mere set-up, and this one, which takes the action off Earth and moves it to a starship, felt as much like a set-up, if not more so, than what came before.
Ultimately, that’s because not a whole lot happened in this episode. We got a ton of backstory, a lot of exposition about the evacuation of Romulus and what went wrong after the attack on Mars, and an explanation-heavy introduction to an all-female sect of Romulan warriors with a philosophy of “absolute candor.”
Bottom line: this week was mostly about picking up Elnor… and surprise! Seven of Nine. While it wasn’t the most exciting episode, it still had some great lines of dialogue, another fun Rios hologram, good character moments for Picard and Jurati, and a little bit more about why the Romulans are so afraid of Soji.
It’s hard not to just sit here and gush about Patrick Stewart’s performance. Not only is it obvious that Picard has changed since we last saw him—he’s warmer, more natural, more casual—he’s also evolving over the course of this first season, and we can see it. He’s a man who knows himself more, who’s living with regrets, who knows his time is running out, and who still, after all these years, MUST do what he knows is right. This time, he knows he has to return to Vashti, a Romulan colony he helped settle and spent quite a bit of time on.
This is where he got to know the Qowat Milat, an all-female Romulan sect of warriors, and young Elnor, an orphan they raised when they couldn’t find a home for him. They’re reminiscent of the Bene Gesserit from Dune, and Zani, played beautifully by Amirah Vann, also reminds me a little bit of Kai Opaka with her quiet but commanding presence.
Picard had big plans for Vashti and for young Elnor, but when the attack on Mars happened, everything changed. He never went back to visit as he planned, so Elnor shares something with Raffi: they have both felt abandoned by Picard for 14 years.
Let’s talk about Elnor. I loved the kid who played him when he was little; it was a nice way to endear the character to us. As an adult, it’s been a little tricky for me personally, since he looks sort of like a big elf and has a very Lord of the Rings-type character name. But the idea of a warrior sect he can’t be a real part of due to being male is intriguing. He obviously saw Picard as a father figure, then had him yanked away, so I imagine these two will be rebuilding that bond over time.
The other Romulans on Vashti are not so forgiving of Picard’s perceived transgressions, and he deliberately antagonizes them when he yanks a “Romulans Only” sign off a local watering hole and then steps on it. This leads to some more exposition about Picard’s regrets and what happened in their wake: there are a lot of Romulans who think he was part of a Federation plan to “scatter, confuse, and divide” them. A former Romulan Senator challenges Picard to a sword fight, of all things. Picard refuses. He’s tossed a sword, and out of reflex, takes it, then assumes the stance. It takes him just a moment to realize this isn’t a fight he can truly engage in; he’s an older man now, at a tremendous disadvantage, and it’s a fight he doesn’t even want to have. He’s rescued by Elnor, who gives his opponent a very polite and specific warning: “Please, my friend. Choose to live.”
The Senator does not, and loses his head for his troubles. Picard and Elnor are beamed back to La Sirena just before they’re fired on by an onlooker with a disruptor. (My small nitpick: How did they know to beam up TWO people instead of one?) Picard’s take on Elnor’s last-minute rescue is the opposite of his response to Jurati’s back at the chateau; he makes Elnor swear not to kill anyone else without permission.
There’s one more last-minute rescue to come! A ship appears just as La Sirena is in trouble, and we hear some very familiar Star Trek language as everyone comments on how HE’s a magnificent pilot and HE’s in trouble and HE’s breaking up and can they beam HIM over, and GOT HIM!—and then we find out the magnificent pilot is Seven of Nine. Sometimes these choices can feel forced and overblown; I can’t help but compare it to some of the unfortunate lines delivered by Cornwell and Georgiou on Star Trek: Discovery, where we are supposed to cheer when they call out bad male behavior. But this didn’t feel like that at all. As a female fan of Star Trek since I was ten, it wasn’t a lot of fun hearing my otherwise beloved Captain Kirk address rooms and sometimes the whole ship as “Gentlemen” when there were women everywhere, so this moment was a long time coming, and it’s appreciated. Plus: WELCOME SEVEN OF NINE! Can’t wait to see how she knows Picard. According to The Ready Room, she’ll be sticking around for a while. I’m in.
Also happening this week, cavorting on the Borg cube. Soji’s still trying to figure out why Romulans went crazy after being disconnected from the Collective, and why she feels “seen” (sigh) by Ramdha, especially since Ramdha called her “The Destroyer.” Narek takes her to an area of the cube where they can gleefully slide, flap, dance, and twirl in their stocking feet (and then make out) but he ruins the moment by mentioning that there are no records of her being on the transport she claims brought her to the cube. The moment of wild abandon is fun, admittedly. But the fun ends with Narissa’s arrival in Narek’s room while he’s sleeping. She’s dressed in tight leather again to remind us that she’s a baddie, and is still taking her cues from Emperor Georgiou by sexualizing everything; the mustache-twirling continues. She shows her brother just how lethal she can be, then spells out their mission: find out where Soji came from and where the “rest of them” are before she’s activated, so they can be eliminated. She warns Narek he has one more week before “we go back to good old pain and violence.” Honestly, it sometimes feels as if these scenes were written by someone else entirely, as they don’t live up to the high standards of the rest of the episode.
I hope this part of the story gets some momentum and we see more of Hugh, because right now, it’s just not that compelling, despite Isa Briones’ always strong performance. Narek seems less sure of his motivation, so my guess is that he’ll soon be a reluctant Soji ally. Time will tell, as we move slowly towards Ganmadan—the Day of Annihilation, “when the shackled demons break their chain and answer the call of The Destroyer.”
All in all, there was too much telling and not enough showing in this episode, but it still had plenty of great moments along the way.
Some other random thoughts:
Raffi is reminding me of McCoy in a wonderful way, especially when she asked Picard if he was out of his “goddamned mind.” She calls him on his crazy behavior, then softens to discuss it more intimately with him. The Kirk-McCoy relationship is a beautiful one, and seeing echoes of it between Raffi and Picard adds even more depth to their connection. “The man can’t even take a guilt trip without using a starship,” she points out; I feel like McCoy would say this about Kirk in a heartbeat. (See Star Trek: The Motion Picture if you don’t believe me, where McCoy was the king of pointed asides.)
Jurati didn’t have a lot to do in this one, but I like that she’s sort of the outsider of the group, not knowing what life aboard a spaceship is really about. She seems like a cross between Tilly and Reno from Discovery, doesn’t she? I also think (as has been suggested online and discussed on last week’s Shuttle Pod) that she may be a spy for Commodore Oh, but at this point I think she’s an unwitting one, who’s either doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, or has been brainwashed or manipulated in some way so she doesn’t really know what she’s doing.
Loved that Elnor remembered Data’s cat, and that Picard referred to Data’s daughters as “offspring” in a nod to the TNG episode “The Offspring” about his first daughter, Lal.
Rios’ interest in reading about “the existential pain of living with the consciousness of death and how it defines us as human beings” tells me that he’d really enjoy the final season of The Good Place. Also, I do think his holograms are hilarious. Sure, they’re silly, but so what?
How did I not realize that Zhaban, the Romulan played by Jamie McShane, is named after Michael Chabon? I didn’t notice it until the hospitality hologram said he’d gotten specifications from “Mister Cheebon.” D’oh.
The much talked about swearing doesn’t bother me one whit when it comes from a character who would naturally use it. I didn’t like it from Admiral Clancy because it felt forced, but I absolutely buy it from Rios.
The Romulan greeting “Jolan tru” should sound familiar to anyone who’s seen TNG’s “Unification” (which is begging for a re-watch this week) or Enterprise’s “United.”
Jurati: “Anyone else think the way of absolute candor sounds potentially annoying?”
Picard: “I allowed the perfect to become the enemy of the good.”
Zhani: “Children are demanding, distracting, and interfere with duty and pleasure alike.”
Zhani: “A promise is a prison. Do not make yourself another’s jailer.”
Jurati: “Space turns out to be super boring. Go figure.”
Next week: Crazy costumes on Freecloud.
The Ready Room
This week brought a produced package about the Qowat Milat and Elnor’s background, plus a piece about special effects featuring Jason Zimmerman. The “live” interview was with Santiago Cabrera (Rios), who talked a lot about how he’s been developing and thinking about the character. He says we’ll learn more about Rios’ history with Raffi, promised that Seven will stick around for a while, and revealed that when he was going through the rounds of hair and makeup tests and had down time, he’d take his scripts to La Sirena and read them there to help make the ship feel familiar to him. Now I like him even more.
The preview clip for episode 5 is different from the one attached to the episode on CBS AA, but no less silly. It’s going to be a wacky one.
Next week’s guest is Evan Evagora (Elnor), which is great, but can we get some more writers and directors on as well?
New episodes of Star Trek: Picard are released on CBS All Access in the USA on Thursdays. In Canada it airs Thursdays on CTV Sci-Fi Channel at 6PM PT /9PM ET and streams on Crave. For the rest of the world it streams Fridays on Amazon Prime Video. Episodes are released weekly.
Keep up with all the Star Trek: Picard news at TrekMovie.