HERE THERE BE SPOILERS
Well, I had a couple of easy weeks in which Star Trek: Picard didn’t end on a cliffhanger, but now, with season three’s seventh episode “Dominion,” that streak has ended incredibly effectively. Vadic and Lore have turned the table on our Starfleet friends while forcing Picard and his crew to face the potential darker side of Starfleet. While arguably family has been the biggest theme in this season, Picard has also asked us to look at Starfleet more objectively. Season one flows from the Federation’s, and by extension Starfleet’s, failures to uphold their values vis-à-vis the Romulans and the synthetics, forcing Picard to face those issues as well as his own personal failings with respect to Elnor. Season three brings us back to that, and Vadic stands before Picard, the result of Starfleet’s own wrong-doing. Her crusade is certainly wrong, but Starfleet owes her and her fellows a certain moral debt, and I’ll be interested to see whether and how Picard repays it.
After consulting with a Tuvok who proves to be yet another Changeling, the crew aboard the Titan continues to struggle with their predicament, realizing that they truly are on their own. In the face of the enormity of their position, Jack continues to flirt with Sidney La Forge, but he begins to hear her thoughts. He hears her wonder why he doesn’t touch her hand, so he does. She asks him why he did that, but he has no answer for her.
Picard speculates that the Changelings took his body possibly to recreate a version of him that they can use in their nefarious Frontier Day plot, but someone reminds him that there is one person aboard who can tell him with anything remotely approaching certainty why the Changelings want Picard’s original body. They go to Data, but La Forge explains that while the B4 and Soong personalities exist as memory files, Data and Lore are constantly battling within the body for dominance. La Forge and his daughter wake him up, and Picard tries to ask Data what the Changelings might have wanted. Lore interrupts, and eventually La Forge shuts Data down.
Jack goes to his father to suggest surrendering himself to Vadic because he doesn’t believe he’s worth the sacrifices the remaining crew aboard the Titan might be making. Picard reminds him that surrender isn’t an option, but he does have an idea as to how they can possibly corner Vadic.
Aboard the Shrike, the other Changelings tells Vadic effectively that she’s fungible. The Shrike receives a transmission from a Vulcan ship, broadcasting that they’ve encountered the Titan. The Shrike moves to intercept, and they find the Titan damaged and powered-down. Vadic collects a boarding party and takes a shuttle over to the Titan. Jack greets them once they board, and he and Sidney La Forge lead the boarding party on a merry chase, with the judicious application of a few forcefields.
Picard and Crusher capture Vadic and question her. She reveals that she and her kind are the result of experimentation and torture by Starfleet. Meanwhile, La Forge and Alandra discover that Lore is taking over the Titan’s systems. La Forge begs Data to fight his brother, but Lore drops the forcefield protecting Sidney. Jack uses his telepathic abilities to enable Sidney to fight off the Changelings. The rest of the party rescues Vadic and takes over the Titan, and Vadic promises to take Jack to where he most belongs.
However, Crusher has looked over Project Proteus data and may have some useful knowledge to share.
I have to admit, I’m a little concerned about what they’re planning to do with Jack. Before Data gets subsumed by Lore, he mentions that Picard’s diagnosis of Irumodic Syndrome may be an error. Apparently, Picard’s body contained traces of something else, and the heavy implication is that the something else got passed along to Jack. Vadic’s comment to Dr. Crusher that Jack wasn’t really for her either seems to confirm that whatever it is that makes Jack special is alien. I’m not particularly interested in this turning into another “son goes off to discover his mysterious powers” plotline. Hasn’t Beverly Crusher suffered enough of that? She lost one son to the Traveler; does she have to lose his brother as well?
While Jack’s mystery has begun to feel contrived, there’s something interesting about Vadic’s origin story. We know that Section 31’s Project Proteus represents a nadir for Starfleet’s morality, and Beverly Crusher initially seems to be stepping right back into that gray zone when she suggests developing a biological weapon to target the new Changelings. This rather heavy-handed reminder serves as the introduction for Vadic’s narrative, in which she and people she loved were used as subjects for viral testing during the Dominion War. It should also be more compelling than it is. Yes, there’s something poetic to having Starfleet’s own failure coming back to bite the institution in its proverbial rump, but despite Amanda Plummer’s able portrayal, Vadic just isn’t a terribly good villain. She comes across as unstable and obsessed with revenge, but her insistence that the Dominion and the Changelings are the victims in all of this comes across as childish and under-developed. It would be far more interesting to have her acknowledge their wrong-doing and double down on it, particularly as a foil to the inevitable grab at the moral high ground Picard et al will make. Vadic as she is, however, inspires no sympathy, no matter how poorly treated she and her brethren were by Starfleet.
Still, there’s something interesting about forcing Starfleet via Picard as a proxy to face its epic betrayal of its own principles. Timing that confrontation with Frontier Day, the celebration of those same principles makes thematic sense. However, the pacing for this plot is starting to stall, and “Dominion” does precious little to speed up the process.
Lastly, can someone please explain to me why Data is left connected to a system that further connects to the ship? C’mon, Geordi, you know Lore is devious. Why don’t you set up a separate network that doesn’t offer Lore the beautiful opportunity to take over the ship? This is basic cybersecurity, people. That said, of all the subplots in this episode, the emotional beats between the La Forge clan, Jack, and Data constitute the episode’s most satisfying moments.
Ultimately, “Dominion” feels like a filler episode, and in a ten episode season, we really don’t have the screentime to waste on filler.
Two cups of Earl Grey Tea and a saucer
Stray Thoughts From the Couch
- TUVOK! I was so excited to see Tuvok that the revelation that he was a Changeling, no matter how expected, was still a gut punch.
- Okay, I get that Jack is on the inhibitors, so perhaps he’s feeling a little more balanced. However, Jack’s character has been all over the map. Ed Speleers is doing what he can with the role, and I have to say, watching Jack flirt awkwardly with Sidney is the first time I’ve believed Jack to be in his twenties. I just wish his character arc felt a little less rushed.
- I really think the show wants me to take some of these characters more seriously than they warrant. That said, I’m still looking forward to seeing where this season goes.