HERE THERE BE SPOILERS
The current incarnations of Star Trek have very much embraced nostalgia. In Star Trek: Picard’s third season’s sixth episode “The Bounty,” we get seconds of a familiar Moriarty, which makes little sense, as well as some truly bizarre additions, like an attack tribble. However, the problem with nostalgia is that it can become paralyzing, but “The Bounty” refuses to allow an affection for the past to suffocate hope for the future. In this case, we watch as a new generation takes what they’ve inherited–both the good and the bad–and starts to make something new. This episode asks its viewers to consider whether one can truly control one’s legacy, and I’d submit that the writing tells us that not only is doing so impossible but that that impossibility is a very good thing indeed.
Dr. Crusher does a scan on Jack Crusher’s brain only to discover that Jack has inherited Irumodic Syndrome from his father, which explains the visions, waking nightmares, and bouts of aggression. Picard attempts to console his son, but Jack is less interested in being consoled than he is in drinking his woes away. Meanwhile, Raffi and Worf beam aboard the Titan-A. The Dynamic Duo convince the crew on the run to burgle Daystrom Institute in order to determine what else was stolen from the Institute. Riker, Worf, and Raffi beam over to Daystrom Station and use Krinn’s key, but they have to avoid Starfleet patrols. Meaning that they have an hour to grab the project manifest.
They’re able to use the key and avoid immediate annihilation, but Starfleet ships discover the Titan. Picard orders the Titan to flee to Athan Prime, which happens to be the location of the Starfleet museum. That leaves Riker, Raffi, and Worf to explore the station, when they begin to see very familiar holograms, including Moriarty. Riker whistles “Pop Goes the Weasel,” saving them from being shot by the malignant doctor, and they discover that a version of Data is the actual project manifest. Arik Soong created a new golem and incorporated Data’s, Lore’s, and B-4’s personalities into the new golem, creating something that is both Data and more. Unfortunately, Soong died before he could integrate the personalities together; all three of them are warring inside the new android vessel.
Meanwhile, the Titan has its own struggles. Picard gets a shockingly chillier reception from Geordi LaForge than he expected, and that chill extends to the tension between Geordi and his daughter Sidney. Geordi initially declines to help his old crewmates because he worries for his daughters’ safety, especially Sidney’s. She, on the other hand, rather handily puts him in his place. Alandra, Geordi’s other daughter who accompanied him to the Titan, reveals why the ships are constantly able to track the Titan, and it has everything to do with the fact that all Starfleet ships are now interconnected. The ships talk to each other, meaning that the Titan-A itself is the problem.
Jack, Sidney, and Seven of Nine notice the H.M.S. Bounty and concoct a plan to steal its Klingon cloaking device. Sidney gets to help them install the device onto the Titan-A, but she struggles a bit. Geordi eventually comes to her aid, and while he installs the device, they reconcile. The Titan-A warps to Daystrom Station and arrives just as a squad of Starfleet Security led by an unknown alien that might be Picard’s version of a Jem Hadar. Riker moves to intercept them, giving Raffi and Worf enough time to disconnect Data from the station and beam to the Titan-A with their somewhat confused android friend. Just as the Starfleet security squad moves to capture Riker, the Jem Hadar kills the other security officers and reveals itself to be the Changeling Vadic. Vadic and Riker beam aboard the Shrike, where Vadic reveals that she has what appears to be Deanna Troi captured.
Aboard the Titan-A, Geordi and Sidney wake up Data, in the hopes that they actually get Data. They do, but each of the personalities cycles through control over the vessel, including Lore’s. However, Data is eventually able to tell them that the Changelings stole Picard’s original remains, which bodes ill.
“Bounty” is a shockingly quotable episode; this may be the episode featuring the best one-liners that we’ve seen in years. I’ve included a few of my favorites in the “Stray Thoughts” section, but I certainly did not manage to generate a complete list. The humor serves as a nice counterpoint to the heavier emotional themes that serve as throughlines for the episode, and as with all of the other episodes in this season, these themes are not only key to the individual episodes but to the season’s overall themes of family.
“The Bounty” in some ways is an episode about legacy and what it is that we pass on to our children. For Arik Soong, he realized that evolution is, as he explains, about addition rather than lengthening his own lifespan. He therefore sprinkles a bit of all of the Soong heritage, including bits of his own personality, into what he hopes will be something integrated and entirely new. However, he doesn’t quite achieve his goal, and this new Data becomes the manifestation of the metaphor that the episode wants to explore. This new Data is a quilt rather than a tapestry; each personality stands on its own despite being stitched together with the others. Soong’s legacy is therefore imperfect. Despite his efforts to choose what attributes he passed on to his synthetic child, he doesn’t quite manage to achieve his goal.
Jack Crusher has spent this season wrestling with the reality of meeting his father, and in “The Bounty,” Jack has to confront the reality of what being Picard’s son really means. He inherited the Irumodic Syndrome that killed his father, but by the end of the episode, Jack recognizes that he’s inherited some of Picard’s better qualities as well. Geordi struggles to relate to his daughter because he sees Sidney’s desire to be pilot as a rejection of everything he’s tried to pass on to her. Alandra has followed in his footsteps and become an engineer, so in that sense, Geordi’s legacy is assured. Sidney, however, has forged her own path and asks him to see her for who she is. She never rejected Geordi and in fact sees serving as a pilot as a way to get closer to her father.
Much like Arik Soong, parents do their best to pass on the best of themselves to their children, but the truth of the matter is they have no control over what their kids get. That is, at the moment, true of not only genetics but also in terms of the traits they attempt to inculcate. Parents never know what lessons their children take to heart because it’s ultimately up to the child to integrate the lessons and traits they receive into an entirely new whole. Sidney LaForge has found a way to be her own person while still honoring her father, even to the point of reminding Geordi that family can be more than blood. Jack Crusher gets to mold himself from the best and worst of his parents, and I think this new Data will have to make a similar leap.
Parents may not get to choose the people their children will become as that duty falls to those same children, but they do have the choice to have faith in their children. That’s the part of parenthood that Geordi forgot, and Picard is learning. “The Bounty” doesn’t let us forget the importance of choice to family either. In Star Trek: IV, Kirk asks each of his crew to make the choice to stand together after the events of Star Trek: III, and they do. “The Bounty” serves as a reminder that families can and often are a matter of choice, especially in Star Trek. While the parent/child bonds explored in the episode are important, they aren’t the only significant bonds. Seven wants to find a new family after life aboard Voyager, and perhaps she has. So, too, perhaps has Jack Crusher.
I don’t yet know if Deanna Troi is going to be the real version of herself, or if she’s another changeling. Neither do I know whether Riker will survive, or why anyone would ever think that adding Lore to anything is a good idea. What I do know is that evolution is messy and chaotic, and that chaos is beautiful even as it is anathema to the world the Changelings desire. All things being equal, that’s the best lesson to take away from “The Bounty.”
Four cups of Earl Grey Tea
Stray Thoughts From Behind the Keyboard
- Turns out Worf doesn’t have a taste for Chateau Picard wine.
- Attack Tribble is going to be the name of my new cover band. I don’t even care what genre of music it is.
- Why is Kirk’s body at Daystrom? How does keeping his corpse at a black site make any sense at all? Same question re: Picard’s.
- I love how deeply Riker struggles with a pacifist Worf.
- Hello, Mica Burton as Alandra!
- “Leave it to you, Jean-Luc, to turn fatherhood into an intergalactic incident.”
- Yes, the tune comes to us from “Encounter at Farpoint,” and the crows are from the episode in which Data learns to dream.
- The New Jersey is at Athan Prime as a nod to the birthplace and date of showrunner Terry Matalas.
- “Yeah, it’s been a weird week.”
- “Well, I guess they’ll just have to add it to my tab.”
- “And you, stay away from my daughter.”
- Shaw’s hero worship for Geordi was adorable, and I really want to see them get a chance to geek out over the Titan-A together.