Star Trek: Picard Season 3, Episode 9 – Debuted Thursday, April 13, 2023
Written by Sean Tretta & Kiley Rossetter
Directed by Terry Matalas
An excellent start to the season (and series) finale, “Võx” is jam-packed with revelations and an emotional roller coaster of character moments.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“Your son is dangerous.”
Things kick off inside Jack’s red door vision, now guided by a reassuring Deanna, who helps him realize the creepy vines are from a childhood memory about an arboretum visit and a fascination with flowers being connected, symbolizing his own primal need for connection. Deanna promises Jack he isn’t alone, but after finally opening that door, she shuts the whole thing down and makes a hasty exit. The shocked counselor runs to his parents, revealing what she saw… it’s the Borg. Dun dun duuun! After a bit of back and forth, the trio quickly puts the pieces together–when he was Locutus, the Borg changed something on an organic level to make him into a receiver, which later manifested as (misdiagnosed) Irumodic Syndrome. He passed this to Jack, where it has transformed into his new powers as a transmitter, which is why why the Borg want him. Picard takes the revelation hard, seeing that everything that has happened is his fault. As he heads off to inform Jack, Troi points out that there are protocols, specifically that Jack is clearly compromised by Starfleet’s greatest enemy who want to use him as a weapon. Jeez Deanna, as if Jean-Luc wasn’t feeling guilty enough.
Picard finds Jack clawing at walls and sits him down to tell the tale of when he was assimilated and how the Borg left something behind. This new twist on the birds and bees has Jack now understanding why he has always had a subconscious, Borg-like drive for perfection and shocked to learn of the “cybernetic authoritarianism” origins. The compassionate father and son bonding flips when Picard suggests Jack go to a Vulcan institution that deals with this sort of thing, but Jack isn’t having it, especially after the two security guys outside the door make it clear the admiral wasn’t just suggesting. After a sick burn about how Picard never learned the “protocols of a father,” Jack does his red eyes control thing on the security guys, creating a little collective to assist his escape. A desperate Beverly is unable to stop her son, who vows he’ll find the Borg Queen to tell her to buzz off… what could possibly go wrong with that plan? After stealing a shuttle, Jack senses his way to a transwarp conduit that leads straight to a Borg cube. Left behind, his parents are helpless to stop this joyride, but Beverly is determined to find answers and leaves Picard to commiserate with his old pal Data, who asks if now is the right time to “say something comforting.” Meet the new ‘droid, same as the old ‘droid.
“Happy Frontier Day, everyone.”
In Sickbay, Geordi and Data have been going over the Changeling database and have learned Altan Soong was studying how the Borg did some extra monkeying with Picard’s DNA, which is why the Changelings stole the body: to weaponize the code. The details of how Jack fits into the plan are still unclear, but everyone assumes it has something to do with the plot for Frontier Day, which is kicking off now with all of Starfleet gathering above Earth. A reluctant Shaw steers the ship back home, where they watch Admiral Shelby (on board the Enterprise-F!) give a nice speech about the launch of the first Enterprise starship 250 years ago, leading to the creation of the new Starfleet. The Titan gang gets salty (especially Riker, holding an old grudge) when they hear about the new “fleet formation” advancement, mocking the “Borg-like” connected ship “unity.” And speaking of the Borg, Jack has made his way into the cube to have a chat about Latin with the obscured Queen, who welcomes him “home” and dubs him “Vox.” (Title alert!) Dr. Jack wants to show her “mercy” at end of his phaser, but resistance is… well, you know the rest.
A triumphant Queen does some monologuing about vindication and revenge as the kid gets plugged in for the big show. How’s that plan working out, Jack? Back in sickbay, the Data/Geordi/Beverly braintrust has even more exposition: Changeling infiltrators coded Picard’s Borgified DNA into transporters across Starfleet. “They’ve been assimilating the entire fleet this whole time.” OMG! The Titan arrives at Earth, but they’re too late. Picard’s warning about the conspiracy is cut off by a Borg signal which starts assimilating the young crews across the fleet (something about the frontal cortex stopping development after age 25)… this includes Mura, the La Forge girls, and the rest of the Titan’s junior officers… who announce they are Borg! Seeing Shelby gunned down by some ensigns and the entire fleet quickly assimilated, the older folks decide it’s time to get off the Titan, which has gone total Logan’s Run.
“We’re the crew of the USS Enterprise.”
The gang struggles to find a safe deck to exit the turbolift as firefights rage across the ship, now commanded by BorgEsmar. A last-gasp message from the USS Excelsior over a maintenance channel gives Captain Grease Monkey an idea, so Shaw directs everyone old enough to remember round combadges to meet up at a repair shuttle, which importantly isn’t part of the new ship network. The Borg announce Starfleet has been added to the collective, and the “weak and willful” are soon to be eliminated as the synchronized fleet takes aim at Spacedock… and Earth. Everyone rallies on the maintenance deck and even as he struggles to deal with his daughters’ assimilation, Geordi is convinced to fight another day—and he has an idea of where to go. He and Data have some gallows humor prepping the shuttle as some Borgies show up to say “Okay, Boomers” with phasers. Shaw holds them off as one by one, the TNG vets get into the shuttle, but he takes a serious hit. Picard doesn’t want to leave him behind, but Seven tells him to go, leaving her and Raffi to tend to the dying man. We can see how far the two Titan officers have come as Shaw uses his last words to address her as “Seven of Nine,” telling the tearful commander she is captain now. Shaw dead? All I have to say to that is… No.
Once they arrive at the Fleet Museum, Geordi says they are going to need “something older” that isn’t connected to Starfleet’s new network and reveals what’s behind hanger door number 12. It’s the goddamn USS Enterprise-D! La Forge has been working on it as a pet project since Deanna crashed the saucer into Veridian III 30 years ago. Everyone—even Data—has all the feels of seeing their old ship and soon enough they are on the perfectly restored bridge, with Picard particularly nostalgic over the carpet. Somehow not blinded by bright lights after all their time on the Titan—and despite Worf griping about wanting the fancier weapons of the Enterprise-E—everyone is happy to be home and they soon settle into their old positions. Content with the familiar computer voice redubbing him“Captain Picard,” Jean-Luc assures his friends that together they can save their families, Starfleet, and the Federation because that is what they do. His simple “make it so” fills us all with the belief that they will.
Whole lotta episodin’ goin’ on
Things really come together nicely in this first part of the season and series finale, while “Võx” delivers plenty to work as a standalone episode. If anything, there is too much going on, making a repeat viewing help to catch all the details. The (mostly) good pacing slowed down at just the right times for some key character moments, allowing for some strong performances and emotional beats. The season’s recurring theme of family was on full display with the Picard/Crusher and La Forge families being torn apart, with the hope that they will be brought together again by the reunited Enterprise-D family.
Of course, the big reveal in this episode was Jack’s Borg origin story, and Ed Speleers was outstanding as Jack came to grips with this shocking truth and the perceived betrayal of his parents, with heartbreaking moments from both Sir Patrick Stewart and Gates McFadden. Marina Sirtis continues to show the wait for her to arrive on the scene was worth it. She was the key to all of this heavy lifting, while also bringing some of the lighter moments, especially in the final act. When it comes to shocks and heavy moments, the death of Shaw was brutal, but beautifully earned with Todd Stashwick and Jeri Ryan bringing their arc to a close. It’s a testament to the actor and the writers that the passive-aggressive foil introduced in episode 1 went out like a boss in episode 9, and will be so missed. While mostly relegated to exposition, LeVar Burton and Brent Spiner also had a few moments to shine with some tough love and even some fun banter as their friendship evolves along with them.
After all the buildup, we finally arrived at Frontier Day, which included that fun cameo from Elizabeth Dennehy, playing a more seasoned Fleet Admiral Elizabeth Shelby. Her speech (and Frontier Day itself) was also a nice nod to Star Trek: Enterprise, although going along with this new fleet connectivity thing doesn’t reflect well on the character as it didn’t make a lot of sense and was clearly vulnerable to exploitation, presumably by design of the conspirators. Leaving all the big reveals until episode 9 required a lot of exposition scenes that impacted the pacing and were all a bit much to take in. Following two episodes that had a bit of filler, the story might have been better served had some of the reveals about Jack and the Borg/Changeling plot been put into the previous episodes to give a bit more detail and allow it all to sink in. The rush in this episode brought back the one major gripe for the season when the show jumps through some hoops to get to where it wants to go without explaining or showing things, like why it was so easy for Jack to escape the ship, seemingly without any attempt from the bridge crew to stop the shuttle. And later in the episode, it could have been clearer and more impactful (via a brief cutaway at the right moment) how the Queen was using Jack to send out her signal, which was sort of the point of the whole big conspiracy. The Queen briefly mentions Vadic, but time could have been spent showing how and why the Borg and the Changelings are working together, plus showing that “The Face” communicating with Vadic was the Queen (presumably) all along.
Of course, rushing through moments in the first two acts allowed time for the pitch-perfect reveal of Geordi’s pet project at the Fleet Museum. Nicely teased earlier in the season, the restored USS Enterprise-D was what he had hidden away in Hanger 12, although it was curious how Picard and the rest of the gang didn’t know the Prime Directive required Starfleet to retrieve the saucer from where it crashed in Star Trek Generations. It may be dismissed by some as mere fan service, but there was a legitimate plot reason to bring back the old ship and the reveal inside and out was beautifully done, with fantastic visual effects and amazing production design that made the ship look as good as it ever has, even down to that carpet — although that gag may have been delivered better by Frakes, who has been the more reliable jokester this season. It was nice that these moments on the bridge of the old ship were given some time for both the characters and the audience to take it all in, and we could all feel it, making us just as overwhelmed with emotion as Data. Even after all the death and destruction we just witnessed, this ship with this crew shined through, representing all the hope and optimism at the core of Star Trek. Can’t wait to see what it does in the finale.
It’s all connected
While it may take a rewind to fully understand, this episode finally put all the pieces together with the big reveal that the rogue Changelings have been working with the Borg the entire time. Bringing back the Borg may be a bit of a repeat, but being the ultimate big bad fits with Jean-Luc Picard’s arc as a character. Doing a bit of retcon on Picard’s original assimilation works, explaining how the Borg gave Locutus more genetic manipulation, and this, combined with him having a son that evolved that genetic manipulation, worked out as a huge bonus for the Borg, giving them a whole new way to assimilate. This could be the key to a big comeback, decades after the Borg were set back by future Admiral Janeway. There was a mention in this episode about how the Borg hadn’t been seen in over a decade. The Jurati Borg featured in season 2 were actually separate from the main collective (they were a splinter group formed by Agnes Jurati in an alternate past), something noted earlier in the season by Captain Shaw when he said: “Forget all that weird shit on the Stargazer, the real Borg are still out there.”
The hints of the Borg hand behind the wheel have been there all season, but were still vague enough to keep plenty of other theories viable. Looking back at episode 1, there was foreshadowing for Changelings, The Borg, and the Enterprise-D, proving how season 3 stands above previous seasons of Picard in making things fit together from beginning to end. The Picard genetic manipulation plot even answers the curiosity of how Jean-Luc could still hear the Borg in Star Trek: First Contact, years after all of his cybernetic implants had been removed.
Tying everything to age offered up a clever way to turn the older crew (and their old ship) into the last great hope for the Federation. Leaving Raffi and Seven back on the Titan to allow for just the TNG crew to have their moment on the Enterprise-D was a bit obvious, so perhaps they should have been given a specific task, although they will surely play a part in the finale. There is also more to be revealed about the ultimate Borg goal, unless it is as simple as using their new transporter assimilation trick on the entire young population of the Federation and killing everyone else. This penultimate episode did hint that maybe Jack’s reckless move to deliver himself to the Queen can work out, if his ideals of fairness, mercy, and compassion can be used to fight back and perhaps transform the Borg from within. How fitting would it be for the Next Generation’s final hurrah to have the son of Jean-Luc Picard bring a peaceful end to his father’s greatest enemy?
All indications are that season 3 is sticking the landing. Part one of the season (and series) finale is full of memorable and profound moments, so the skipped steps it takes are worth it. These nine weeks have been some of the most fun for Star Trek fans, making the anticipation for the final almost unbearable.
- The late Majel Barrett was credited for providing the computer voice of the USS Enterprise-D, as she did for all seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
- Captain Benbassat of the USS Excelsior was voiced by prolific voice actor Nolan North, who has voiced a number of characters in Lower Decks and appeared in Star Trek Into Darkness.
- Season 1 and 2 main character Elnor was last known to be assigned to the USS Excelsior, so it’s possible he was killed when the ship was destroyed by the Borg.
- Star Trek: First Contact’s Alice Krige returns to voice the Borg Queen, but actress Jane Edwina Seymour played the Queen, credited as “Borg Queen body double.”
- The Borg Queen gave Jack (and the episode) the name “Vox,” meaning voice in Latin. She also referred to him in Latin as Regenerati (rebirth/regenerated) and Puer Dei (child of god).
- Speaking of Latin, the episode title “Vox” is written somewhat unusually with a tilde (~); typically the Latin word is written without an accent over the O, and the accepted accent for the word is to have a bar (a macron) as in Vōx.
- The Star Trek novel The Return included a Borg character named Vox who served as Speaker to the Romulan Empire.
- Picard recalls his time as Locutus, hearing his voice from the TNG episode “Best of Both Worlds, Part 1.”
- Jack’s vision included the song “I Can’t Stop Crying” by Will Grove-White, which was one of the songs from a mix Jean-Luc Picard gave Beverly, heard in the season 3 premiere.
- Raritan IV is named for Raritan, New Jersey, the birthplace of showrunner Terry Matalas.
- The rebuilt USS Enterprise-D used the drive section from the USS Syracuse, a ship referenced in the TNG season 7 episode “Eye of the Beholder.”
- Starfleet’s new “Fleet Formation Mode” was designated “Emergency Protocol NX12.11.”
- Picard wanted to send Jack to a Vulcan academy named Keslovar, which Jack described as an institution where they could “mind-meld and lobotomize” the Borg out of him.
- The Enterprise-F is based on a design from the game Star Trek Online.
- The fate of the Enterprise-E (last seen in Star Trek Nemesis) remains a mystery beyond Worf (who was the ship’s final captain) insisting it wasn’t his fault.
- The fleet of ships around Earth included the USS Okuda and the USS Drexler, named for designers Mike and Denise Okuda and Doug Drexler.
- Other ships included the USS John Kelly, named for the 21st century astronaut found in the Voyager episode “One Small Step,” the USS Forrest, named for 22nd century Starfleet Admiral Maxwell Forrest from Star Trek: Enterprise (who was named in honor or TOS star DeForest Kelly), and the USS Pulaski, named for the season 2 TNG character Dr. Katherine Pulaski.
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.
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