HERE THERE BE SPOILERS
This season of Star Trek: Picard is turning out to be really terrible for my blood pressure. The third season’s third episode “17 Seconds” starts in the middle of a potential disaster and ends with a cliffhanger, and I’m starting to wonder if that’s going to be the pattern for the rest of the season. I’m not even going to pretend that I’d be willing to wait long enough to binge the whole season, but these first three episodes have been a ride.
Aboard the Titan things are not going well, but Dr. Crusher has rallied enough to provide medical care to those who need it, despite the angry posturing of the Titan’s actual CMO. Picard finds her in Sickbay, and she explains that she didn’t tell Picard about her pregnancy because she worried about Picard’s enemies harming Jack. She also informs him that Jack knows he’s Picard’s son. Picard has thoughts about that, but he storms off to go apologize to Captain Shaw.
Back on the bridge, things aren’t going well for the Titan. Every time the ship flees, the Shrike somehow finds them. Vadic’s lethally focused fire damages the ship and injures Shaw, who appoints Riker to the captaincy temporarily as his injuries are too terrible for him to remain. Picard sits down to be Riker’s Number One, but it’s immediately apparent that he isn’t any better at giving up the center seat than was Riker. They do secure a respite from the Shrike through a clever gambit involving a torpedo detonation.
Meanwhile, Jack has deduced that the Shrike is following some breadcrumb trail to find the Titan, and he goes to Seven of Nine who rapidly connects the dots and determines that something is leaking from Engineering. Jack helps her escape her confinement to quarters, and they head down to Engineering, where they find evidence of sabotage, which Seven reports to the Bridge. Seven checks another compartment, and a Starfleet officer sneaks in to attack Jack, leaving him barely conscious in a room full of toxic gas. Seven finishes her task and goes to find Jack. She finds him on the floor, barely conscious, and she takes him to Sickbay immediately, using her combadge to call Picard on the way. Picard gets down to Sickbay in time to see Dr. Crusher revive her son.
Back on the Bridge, Picard tries to convince Riker to use the knowledge of the sabotage to attack the Shrike, but Riker would prefer to flee. However, the Titan cannot remain in the nebula as there’s both a gravity well at the center and some strange biological readings. Riker decides to flee, but the saboteur aboard the Titan destroys significant parts of the ship’s engine, leaving them without the capability to warp.
Picard convinces Riker to turn and attack the Shrike, but the Shrike deploys its portal weapon, using the portals to turn the Titan’s torpedoes back on itself. The damage to the ship is critical, leaving them dead in the water and hurtling toward the gravity well. Riker evicts Picard from the bridge claiming that Picard has killed them all.
Raffi and Worf are having better luck. Worf identifies the being that paid off Sneed, and they find him still on the planet. After capturing him, they try to interrogate him, with minimal success. He’s shaking badly enough that Raffi believes him to be undergoing withdrawal, but as it happens, he’s a Changeling. Worf explains that he’s part of a rogue group of terrorists who have abandoned the Great Link. The Changeling dissolves, and Worf kills it with a phaser. Both Raffi and Worf share their concerns that stealing the Daystrom portal gun was only a distraction to keep attention off of the group’s real target.
As an initial matter, I’m not as happy about seeing Shaw get injured as I thought I would be. To be sure, Shaw is an unpleasant person and clearly a touch racist, but he’s not entirely wrong that Picard and Riker have put his people in danger. Watching Riker in the center seat was really lovely. We’ve only gotten glimpses of the type of captain he would be, and while this engagement is not going well, it’s nice to see him take the lead. Picard’s inability to accept Riker’s command makes complete and total sense, but this Picard seems to err on the side of violence rather than playing it safe. Tactically, his suggestion makes sense at first, but it seems less prudent given the existence of the Shrike’s portal weapon. Picard keeps after Riker to stand and fight even after the Shrike reveals that devastating piece of technology. In this, Picard’s emotions appear to have superseded his more rational mind.
That throws Worf’s new calm into sharp relief. This new Worf has, in his own words, been working on himself, and he has developed a distinctly Klingon version of tranquility. He’s also leaning into his role as the straight man with his comedy partner Raffi, and I’ve got to say, funny Worf may be my favorite Worf. He also comes across as deadlier than his younger counterpart, more Klingon, even beyond his casual murder leathers. Pairing him with Raffi works nicely not only because he can riff off her backtalk but because he recognizes something of her struggle. Worf’s relationship with his own son has been fraught, so he can certainly sympathize with Raffi’s inability to find a work/life balance. I’m really looking forward to seeing what they accomplish together.
All of that being said, the real heart of the episode lies in two conversations. The first is Crusher’s confession to Picard, and the second occurs between Picard and Riker. Both discuss Jack, but neither of them involves Jack himself, which is a significant lack. Given the title of the series, the focus on the eponymous character comes as no surprise, but this feels a touch excessive. Beverly Crusher’s confession is deeply painful, both for her and for Picard. He angrily demands to know why she took his choice from him, and he’s right. That’s exactly what she did, and in so doing, she has hurt Picard more deeply than we’ve ever seen. We see her try to excuse herself using Picard’s own concerns about turning into his father, and he rightfully refuses to allow her to do so.
Crusher’s assertion that Picard’s life is dangerous, and that he’s made dangerous enemies makes a certain amount of sense. She lists off a series of events, and Picard’s counter that he could have changed doesn’t quite ring true, especially given what we’ve seen of his “quiet” retirement. However, she tells us her real issue in a brief line when she observes that space has taken her parents, her husband, and her son from her. There’s a real terror underlying her decision-making that had Picard been part of his life, Starfleet and space would have taken Jack just as it has done with everyone else she has loved. That fear doesn’t excuse her actions, but it does render them understandable.
The conversation with Riker is much less tense, but it is no less important. We get to watch a much younger Riker tell Picard about the birth of his first child, and how the experience was not only difficult but transcendently joyful. Listening to Riker describe Thad’s life flashing before his eyes, knowing how Thad’s life will end, only highlights the tragedy Riker refers to when he explains to Jack that he had a son. Even more affecting is watching Riker express the hope that his old friend will have the same experience of becoming a father, which underscores just how much Crusher’s decision took from him. However, this entire history of loss just adds a greater punch to Riker’s advice that Picard should talk to Jack.
That is, of course, the one thing Picard won’t do; he’d rather apologize to Shaw. It turns out that the allergy to feelings runs in the family because Jack doesn’t want to talk to his father either. Crusher explains that she told Jack not only who his father was but how to get in contact with him, but Jack never acted on the knowledge. Faced with his father now, Jack still refuses to reach out, though admittedly, things aboard the Titan have been busy. I don’t know that either conversation would be anything other than awkward. However, Jack is an important part of this complex knot of emotions and relationships, and he has the same right to agency over how the situation evolves. I hope the story affords him that agency, and that he is not, as Laris became, simply a vehicle to further Picard’s domestication.
I’m looking forward to next week’s episode, and I’m guessing that the “biological signatures” the Titan detected in the nebula will factor into the ship’s and/or crew’s survival.
Four and a half cups of Earl Grey Tea
Stray Thoughts from the Couch
- Ah ha! There’s the DS9 tie in! Yes, Worf, we all know that the man of honor was Odo.
- Sidney LaForge is every bit the badass Geordi wishes he had been in TNG, and Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut is just killing it. When she says goodbye to “Commander Seven,” I cheered.
- Beheadings are on Wednesdays.
- I say again, funny Worf is the best Worf, and I will not take criticism at this time.
- They addressed the accent issue! “Maybe it’s genetic.” Ha!