HERE THERE BE SPOILERS
While we knew that we’d see familiar faces in this season of Star Trek: Picard, I did not expect to count Michelle Forbes among them. Finding out what happened to Ro Laren, even in broad strokes, after her stint with the Maquis offered a pretty rewarding viewing experience, though I’m not sure the episode used her as well as it could have. Star Trek: Picard has had its problems with how it uses its female characters, and while I’m unwilling to say that Ro gets fridged exactly, I’m not wild about how her narrative ceases to be about her and rather turns into a vehicle for the eponymous Picard’s story. Still, we get the return of the Worf and Raffi Dynamic Duo, so I’m not going to write the third season’s fifth episode “Imposters” off completely. I’m equally a fan of how the show has woven them together with the other Picard characters. “Imposters” falls at midseason, and while there’s a lot to recommend it, it’s definitely not the strongest episode we’ve seen yet.
Now that the threat has passed, mostly, Riker turns the Titan-A back over to Captain Shaw who delightedly informs them he has contacted Starfleet. He asks Seven of Nine if she prefers to face the music reinstated, and she agrees. Shaw then reinstates her and heads off to gloat while Picard, Seven, and Riker get to hash out how they’re going to deal with the consequences. Picard volunteers to take responsibility, and he goes to see Jack. Jack asks if he should expect to be arrested, and Picard recommends that Jack think about joining up. Jack declines.
The U.S.S. Intrepid rendezvouses with the Titan-A. A shuttle arrives, containing Commander Ro Laren and two security personnel. Ro immediately decides to question Picard and instructs the security officers to escort Riker elsewhere. Dr. Crusher, meanwhile, autopsies the dead Changeling and discovers that the Changeling can now replicate human organs and fluids that remain in solid form not only post-mortem but also post-removal. She comms Picard with a warning to trust no one, and Picard tells Ro that he needs to go down to medical. Ro agrees but escorts him to the holodeck instead where they use the bar program to conceal their conversation. After rehashing their joint issues, they determine that each of them is who they say they are, and Ro tells Picard that she’s tracked Changeling infiltration to the highest level in Starfleet. She passes him her earring, the same one she demanded to wear with her uniform, despite the uniform code.
She charges him with continuing her investigation and meets back up with her security officers. She orders them back to the shuttle, and they protest that they had orders to retrieve Jack Crusher, whom Seven has concealed via a command uniform. Ro rebuffs them, and they all board the shuttle. Just as Ro departs, the officers reveal themselves to be Changelings and plant a bomb aboard the shuttle. They beam back onto the Titan where they find Jack. Two more Changelings beam over, but Jack, who has been seeing some incredibly violent hallucinations, kills all four of his attackers.
Seven discovers they can’t beam Ro back aboard the Titan, and Ro realizes she can’t defuse the bomb in time. She reminds Picard that the future of the investigation lies with him, and she pilots her shuttle over to the Intrepid’s nacelle, where it explodes, buying the Titan time to escape. Riker tells Shaw to believe his own eyes, and he commands the Titan to warp away and that a general order regarding a compromised Starfleet is in effect.
Back on M’Talas Prime, Raffi and Worf continue their investigation. Worf’s handler denies him the clearance to go directly to Daystrom to look for clues, so they decide to focus their efforts on Sneed’s associates. Worf concludes that Krinn might know more, so he and Raffi try to draw him out. However, Krinn tries to outmaneuver them, but Worf planned for that, accepting a stab wound in order to capture Krinn. Krinn reveals that he has a device to exploit the Daystrom AI’s flaws, and Worf demands he give them the device. Krinn agrees that it is logical to do so. Worf then reaches out to his handler.
Picard and Riker discover a data chip in Ro’s earring, and they find on it the entirety of her thorough investigation. Suddenly, they receive an incoming transmission from none other than Worf. Ro was apparently his handler, so now, the gang’s getting back together. Down in Sickbay, Dr. Crusher talks to her son, and Jack admits that he believes something is very wrong with him.
Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first. I’m thrilled that Jack is finally going to tell someone about his creepy visions, even if he doesn’t actually know about the red eyes. We watched Jack Crusher have the mother of all intrusive thoughts in real time during the episode, and to this point, he’s demonstrated his father’s famous allergy to feelings. One of the things I loved most about TNG is that the crew of the Enterprise-D always demonstrated faith in their fellows, even when that faith seemed misplaced. Jack finally demonstrates a similar sort of faith, which admittedly he invests in his mother. Still, it shows us a different side of Jack, and it also just makes sense to do.
The Raffi and Worf show continues to be the fun counterpoint to the drama of the A-story. I love the chemistry between them and how the show treats Worf’s awkwardness not as something othering about him but rather as an aspect of his personality that makes him who he is. That’s a much better approach than we’ve seen Trek take at times to Worf. That said, “It’s a good day to die” got me right in the feels, y’all.
That brings us to Ro Laren, and I’m thrilled to see her appear onscreen. There are two characters that I’ve wondered about since their respective final appearances on screen. The second is Thomas Riker, but Ro Laren has been a subject of idle speculation for thirty years now. After a long character arc in which she comes to develop a mentee relationship with Picard, she wrestles with her conscience in TNG‘s “Preemptive Strike” and ultimately sides with the Maquis over Starfleet. Picard, as we see in this episode, never forgave her for that betrayal. In 1994, TNG portrays Picard’s rage and disappointment as justified, no matter that we watched Ro wrestle with her conviction that Starfleet had betrayed the members of the Maquis for forty-five minutes. Ro’s loyalty was never to Starfleet; it was to Picard, for his trust and his mentorship, so when he asks her to choose the institution of Starfleet over her own beliefs, Picard vastly misunderstands Ro. He assumed that she placed her faith in the same institution he did, and frankly, TNG mostly expected us as viewers to do the same as the show had spent six plus years teaching us that Starfleet is a good institution. Thus, we see Ro making an understandable choice, if not the best one she could be making.
Now, in 2023, we have a much older Picard, and we’re watching the Changelings undermine the very institution in which he has placed so much faith over the years. Moreover, determining whether someone is a Changeling or not requires that the characters place their faith in their own knowledge of the other person and their ties with them. “Imposters” therefore represents in a weird sense, Ro’s victory. Ro placed her trust in people, not in ideas, and “Imposters” proves her right to do so. Clearly, the show uses Ro to chair the investigation into Starfleet to invoke this comparison, and in that sense, she’s a perfect candidate for not only being the person to see past Starfleet’s PR to the problems within but also for highlighting the thematic throughline of the season. It’s a clever move.
However, Ro and her death serve only to force Picard to reevaluate his arrogance. Yes, she gets to hear him acknowledge that not only did she have honor, that honor compelled her to act the way she did, but this is really about Picard. I might even be convinced otherwise but for the fact that last season treated many of its female characters as scene props, even going so far as to portray Laris as fungible. Having Ro sacrifice herself for Picard gives him another chance, almost as a thank you for his acknowledgement. That doesn’t really seem like the Ro we knew thirty years ago. Moreover, I don’t understand her decision to return to Starfleet. She turned her back on it once, and it took Picard to bring her back, more specifically, his willingness to create a bond with her. Who did that this time? Was she convinced of Starfleet’s validity as an institution? If that’s true, it undermines her significance to this story.
Connection and collaboration have been at the heart of Trek for the entirety of the franchise’s history. I’m glad to see Picard tackling these themes explicitly, but the show very much struggles with a tension between these themes and its real focus on Picard as a character. I can’t say that it’s finding a way to strike that balance, and that problem shines through in “Imposters.”
Three cups of Earl Grey Tea and a Saucer
Stray Thoughts From Behind the Couch
- Shaw just could not sell calling Jack Crusher a kid. He’s very clearly not.
- I felt for Ensign LaForge; I don’t know that I’d do especially well watching someone cut my doppelganger apart either. That said, Dr. Crusher’s response was hilarious.
- We got our first Vulcan gangster!
- Yes, I also think Ro passing Picard her earring was a statement on how she felt about him.
- Shaw continues to be a jerk but a jerk with sense.
- Also, why did the Intrepid dip when it lost its nacelle? Aren’t we in space?
- Ro Laren continues to be stone cold awesome, even in the face of the Changeling threat.
- AND FINALLY, we get an acknowledgement that personnel have to go through biological scans before boarding the starship. How many past episodes would have been solved within five minutes had Starfleet been doing that before the Dominion War?