Star Trek: Picard Season 3, Episode 7 – Debuted Thursday, March 30, 2023
Written by Jane Maggs
Directed by Deborah Kampmeier
Buoyed by strong performances, Picard slows things down a bit to explore some moral issues in what feels like a good first half of a two-part episode.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“He is asking me for my help.”
The Titan hides in a space scrapyard as Seven checks in with an old friend: Captain Tuvok! Although he seems trustworthy at first, telling her Starfleet doesn’t have Riker, Seven susses out this isn’t the OG Vulcan from her Voyager days, so he switches to villain monologuing about how “death will come as a relief” to the real Tuvok and all the other solids the Changelings are keeping captive. With just 36 hours until Frontier Day, the gang realizes they are on their own. They’re also struggling to sort out exactly why the bad guys want Picard’s original dead body and Jack, worrying it has something to do with making a fake Admiral Picard as part of their Frontier Day attack. As Beverly weighs the morality of using targeted biotech that sounds a bit Section 31-y, Jean-Luc seeks answers from the Data(ish) android. The problem is, Lore is in the mix too, and he is more interested in dropping sick burns than delivering useful info. Seeing what’s left of Data trapped inside this android turmoil is too much for Picard and Geordi, so they shut it all down.
Vadic has problems too. She receives a very angry call from her boss, who makes it clear if she doesn’t squeeze the location of Jack and the Titan out of Riker then her next performance review will be her last. The threats appear to work as the Titan gets a message from Will, but it is a “compromised code” meaning he gave it up under duress. As the grown-ups deal with weighty issues, Jack and Sidney busy themselves with some flustered flirting, but when he starts hearing voices, including hers, it gets sort of creepy. Young Crusher turns to his dad, trying to explain how he has always felt different and he is hearing voices again. He is also wracked with guilt that all the terrible events happening are become of him and wants to trade himself for Riker. But Jean-Luc is starting to get the hang of this fatherhood thing, so he assures his son he isn’t giving up on him—and he may have a cunning plan to get them out of their current predicament.
“You created the perfect monster.”
The Shrike finds the Titan powered down, floating alongside an equally dead Vulcan warship. Ignoring warnings of an obvious trap, Vadic leads a boarding party and is soon greeted by her quarry. She tells Jack she is there to take him to a better place, but he legs it anyway. She dispatches her goons to follow. Jack meets up with Sidney and the pair starts firing at the Changelings and coordinating with the folks on the bridge to trap the bird-mask guys with forcefields around the ship, eventually nabbing Vadic herself in sickbay. The kids also end up trapped between a couple of the force-field-surrounded goons. When Geordi and Alandra try to beam them out, the transporters fail. Turns out the android with the evil personality inside who’s still plugged into the ship decided to turn itself on and start f—king with them. Rookie mistake, La Forges.
As for Vadic, she seems fine just hanging out and whistling in her little forcefield. This calmness unnerves Beverly, who is looking at her oath to do no harm as more of a suggestion at this point. Jean-Luc shows up for what Vadic guesses is some good cop/bad cop tag teaming, declaring herself “bored already.” When pushed for details on why they are pursuing Jack, Vadic reveals she isn’t the one who really wants him, curiously telling Beverly that Jack was never hers either. The baddie then lays out her whole backstory as a prisoner inside of Daystrom, where Changelings were tortured with tests to turn them into weapons that could mimic any being, fake blood and all. And it worked, but she turned on her tormenter, killing her and taking her face, to remind herself of the “eternal pain.” The Changeling dismisses their claims of not knowing about this “Project Proteus” as well as their defense that the Federation did create the cure that eventually saved The Great Link, (rightfully) pointing out the Federation voted against giving them the cure and it had to come from one of their own (Odo). So yeah, maybe she has her reasons, but still totally evil.
“He loves the chaos.”
With force fields buckling and the kids trapped, Geordi tries to get through to Data. His raw emotion is heartbreaking, but Lore doesn’t have a heart. In sickbay, Beverly and Jean-Luc are convinced the Changeling won’t give them any info and is too dangerous to let loose. Determined to protect their child, they set their coveted Federation ideals aside as they gird themselves to kill their prisoner, but they don’t get their chance, thanks to Lore. He sympathizes with the Changelings. Like them, he just wants to survive, so he decides to “level the playing field,” dropping the force fields around the ship to set Vadic and her goons loose. And just to be extra cruel, Lore puts up a forcefield between Jack and Sidney as both face Changeling soldiers. Gulp.
Jack quickly dispatches his foe, but Sidney is a pilot, not a fighter dammit, so the hulking shapeshifter starts tossing her around like a toy. Watching on the monitor, a grief-stricken Geordi implores Lore, Data, or anyone who will listen inside that android shell to stop this. Stuck on the wrong side of the force field, Jack tries to use his ability to connect to Sidney to help her fight, and she lets him in, glowing red eyes and all. Together they take down the goon with some impressive, mind-sharing synchronized choreography. Geordi’s imploring finally gets through as Data’s personality emerges, dropping the force field just in time for Jack and Sidney to escape from Vadic as she whistles her way down the hall. Back in sickbay, Bev has been busy, using Project Proteus data to work out a way to track the shifters, who are headed bridge-ward. Unfortunately, they easily get past Shaw’s security team, then toss the bleeding captain out of the lift as they swarm the bridge. Vadic sashays to the chair, declaring herself the new captain of the USS Titan, but she is reasonable: All she wants is “to bring Jack Crusher where he most belongs.” Wherever that is.
It’s a trap!
After all the action and nostalgia last week, Picard changes things up again for a solid episode highlighted by character exploration, moral quandaries, and excellent performances. Narrowing the scope to focus on just the characters remaining on the Titan allowed each to get more attention; however, not picking up on last week’s cliffhanger with Marina Sirtis finally (but briefly) appearing together with Jonathan Frakes was frustrating. The season’s plot took some welcome steps forward, although the core issue of Jack’s true nature continues to be elusive. This pause before the storm was an opportunity to delve more into the Dominion War, including the actions of the Federation during this conflict that hangs over this season. While this season is all about giving the Next Generation crew their “proper sendoff,” this episode is another fine example of how this show is also picking up on the best of Deep Space Nine and how that show opened the door to testing the limits of Star Trek’s ideals.
Finally bringing the season’s primary antagonist onto the USS Titan offered an opportunity to add some depth as Amanda Plummer stepped up for the daunting task of creating empathy for Vadic. As a counterpoint, this exploration of the dark side of Federation history allowed an exploration of the ethical gray areas for both Beverly Crusher and Jean-Luc Picard; Gates McFadden particularly rose to the occasion as Dr. Crusher struggled with her moral compass. LeVar Burton and Brent Spiner were also given the chance to shine with Burton giving his most emotional Star Trek performance yet and Spiner not skipping a beat when challenged to switch between the diametric characters of Data and Lore with apparent ease. This brought back all the weight of their Next Generation friendship and built on it, which is what Picard does best this season.
“Dominion” also gave Jeri Ryan something to do, kicking things off with the surprise and delight of a little Voyager reunion as Seven put Tuvok to the test. It was wonderful to see Tim Russ again, who didn’t skip a beat playing the stoic Vulcan and then deftly flipped to smirking villainous Changeling. We got a little taste of Seven as leader for the hoped-for Star Trek: Legacy show, however the season seems to have pushed exploring her character’s struggle to integrate into Starfleet and her apparent breakup with Raffi off to the side. The characters that got the most development this week were Jack and Sidney as their romance ran up against his emerging psychic abilities, which still raise more questions. The playful chemistry between Ed Speleers and Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut sells this little rom-com in the middle of all the chaos.
The season continues to show each of our characters acting smartly, mostly avoiding tropes to keep the story moving. Picard’s trap may have been obvious, but they knew Vadic wouldn’t be able to resist it, and the tag team forcefields gambit was something new and clever. Although it wasn’t clear what the next step of the plan was as they debated simply killing Vadic instead of using her as leverage to find out more about the attack or get Riker back. Lore finding common cause with the Changelings appears to just be their good luck and not an indication they have been working together all along, although why Vadic was so unnervingly calm is curious. It’s frustrating when characters forget to vaporize the Changelings completely (something Beverly showed us in the first scene of the season), like when Captain Shaw conveniently allows them to get the jump on him, leading to their takeover of the bridge.
Tick, tick, tick
Progression on the season plot took a few big steps, but dangling the truth of what really is going on with Jack is starting to overstay its welcome. Where things have come into focus is Vadic’s motivation, as it turns out her master (“The Face”) isn’t a Changeling and she is terrified of him. He is the one who wants Jack, not her. None of what has transpired this season is personal, so this isn’t just another revenge plot like in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; Vadic seeks retribution for the mistreatment of her family at the hands of the Federation. As for Jack, it’s now clear he is not completely human, and Vadic even hinted he may not even be entirely Beverly’s son, saying “he was never really for you either” and she is there to take Jack “where he most belongs.” Jack is now coming to understand his feelings about being different are more than young angst and he is starting to harness what appears to be some kind of power within him.
As for what The Face has planned for Frontier Day, we still don’t know, but the team has accepeted they’re completely on their own to stop it. There was some speculation the plan will involve creating a fake Picard, although it’s unclear how duplicating a retired admiral is going to help when it’s pretty clear Starfleet is already severely compromised. Jack’s part was also unclear: They have Picard’s body and DNA, so why do they need Jack to make a double? All of this just felt like the episode was just filling time telling us mostly what we already knew, including another Admiral Janeway namedrop. The only hint came from Data, who mentioned Picard’s diagnosis of Irumodic Syndrome (which he passed on to Jack) was “in question.” It was also confirmed the Changelings are keeping some of those they have replicated prisoner, so is freeing Tuvok and the others going to be part of the Titan’s mission this season? One thing that hopefully will come in handy is Beverly’s new Changeling detector.
Even within the constraints of a mid-season bottle show, smart editing and an active score highlighted the personal stakes to maintain the tension at a high level, making “Dominion” an entertaining hour of Star Trek. Thanks to outstanding character performances, the episode is a solid first of a two-part episode, but perhaps one that doesn’t fully stand on its own. Frustrating cliffhanger aside, season 3 of Picard continues to be can’t-miss TV and the best of the new era of Star Trek.
- Vadic was whistling the nursery rhyme “Three Blind Mice.”
- The Chin’toka Scrapyard is what was left over from the two Battles of Chin’toka from Deep Space Nine.
- One of Seven’s tests for Tuvok was remembering playing the Vulcan game of Kal-toh. Seven also recalled the time Tuvok helped stabilize her neural pattern with a mind meld in the episode “Infinite Regress.”
- The fake Tuvok was also unaware of the anti-Kolinahr demonstrations on Aklion VII, although why anyone would protest the Vulcan ritual is unclear.
- Tuvok is the only character we know who has served in Starfleet in three different centuries—and yet he’s still just a captain.
- This is the first episode of the season that doesn’t use the 10 Forward set
- When Data was first powered up, he addressed Admiral Picard as “Captain” and asked about the Scimitar because he is based on a download the original Data put into his brother B-4 during the events of Star Trek Nemesis 22 years prior.
- Even though it was previously mentioned there was a bit of Lal in the new Data, Geordi only mentioned Lore, Data, Altan Soong, and B-4.
- Project Proteus is named for the Greek sea god Proteus, who could take many liquid shapes.
More to come
We will discuss the episode in detail on Friday’s episode of All Access Star Trek. every Friday, the TrekMovie.com All Access Star Trek podcast covers the latest news in the Star Trek Universe. The podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Stitcher and is part of the TrekMovie Podcast Network.
Picard streams exclusively on Paramount+ in the Americas, Europe, the Caribbean and South Korea. It also streams internationally on Amazon Prime Video in more than 200 countries and territories. In Canada, it airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave.
Keep up with news about the Star Trek Universe at TrekMovie.com.