Picard: Let Me Play Among the Stars

Marie Brownhill
Game Industry News is running the best blog posts from people writing about the game industry. Articles here may originally appear on Marie's blog, Fan Collective Unimatrix 47.

HERE THERE BE SPOILERS

Hopefully, this will be the last time I have to “double up” on Picard episodes because there’s just so much to note in each episode, from the Easter Eggs—we now have callbacks to Gary Seven—to the general plot. It’s hard to do each episode justice when I have to do two at a time. However, what’s nice about Picard is that each episode is meant to build toward a greater arc, and at least as of these first five episodes, they fit together nicely, like puzzle pieces. That said, these last two episodes are beginning to show some of the show’s seams, as it were, but despite the more awkward moments, there’s still a lot to love about Picard’s second season.

Plot Ahoy

As before, I’m going to keep this summary shorter, both because there’s too much to include if I want to keep this column to a relatively sane length and because if you’ve been watching the Trekker’s Delight podcasts, you’ll have already seen how we approach the summaries. That said, as a refresher, find Memory Alpha’s detailed plot summaries for “Watcher” and “Fly Me to the Moon” here and here. The major points are that Rios runs afoul of ICE, and Seven and Raffi must save him. Picard mistakenly becomes convinced that Guinan, whom he knows to be on the planet, is the person the Borg Queen means for him to find in order to avert the coming disaster that will rend the timeline apart. Agnes Jurati finds herself opening up a little further to the Borg Queen in order to save her friends, and Guinan facilitates an introduction with a “Watcher” who is far likelier than a “Listener” to be the entity for which Picard searches. Once Picard finally comes face to face with the Watcher, he finds that she’s a human doppelganger for Laris, just before she pulls him through a portal of some kind.

“Fly Me to the Moon” picks up on each of these plotlines and offers some sort of resolution. The Watcher isn’t Laris but rather an agent for a greater purpose named Tallinn. She’s an updated version of Gary Seven, and her charge is none other than Picard’s however-many-greats ancestor, Renee Picard. Renee Picard’s future is to go on the Europa Mission, where she will encounter a microorganism she believes to be sentient, an event key to the development of human history somehow. However, Tallinn confesses that Renee suffers from depression, and she worries that the depression will keep her from going on the mission. She shows Picard a recording of one of Renee’s therapy sessions, and Picard realizes that her therapist is not so much an actual therapist as it is Q in a fancy office.

Meanwhile, Raffi and Seven are trying to determine how best to rescue Rios without jeopardizing the timeline, and they settle on using an EMP to disable the bus. Raffi storms aboard and stuns the guards, allowing Rios and everyone else aboard to escape. Back in France, the Borg Queen is solemnly up to no good. She hacks the local telecommunications network to put in an emergency call to lure a hapless member of the local constabulary to use as a hostage. She plans to convince Jurati that they should work together to do nefarious Borg things. Jurati shoots the queen with an antique shotgun she discovers in Picard’s crumbling mansion and saves the gendarme’s life.

Picard and Tallinn reunite with Team Picard and plot to rescue Renee, somehow, but they opt to do it at this oddly fancy and well-secured gala. They plot to insert Jurati into the location in order for her to hack into the event’s specific network to get the rest of them access. The only problem with this plan is that the Borg Queen used some of her last, dying energy to inject part of herself into Jurati, meaning that Agnes is no longer alone in her own head.

All of that therefore sets us up for what will no doubt be “Picard’s 11” on the 7th.

Analysis

Before I get into the meat of the actual plot for these two episodes, I want to start with the Rescue of Rios because I really wish they’d done more to develop the storyline. The point of those interludes, obviously, is to offer up a critique of U.S. immigration policy, including the ICE raids and deportations, and while the episodes make that point, Star Trek is in a wonderful position to go farther due to the unique nature of the franchise’s vision for humanity’s future. So many other science fiction franchises use their stories to hold up mirrors to our darker impulses, to our prejudices and violence, but they do so with an air of inevitable acceptance. There’s a sense of this is who we are as a species, so only a few chosen souls manage to see past it, thereby confirming the rule by way of the exception. However, Trek doesn’t take that stance.

Rather, Trek holds up the mirror and says, “This may be who you are now, but you can be better. You will be better. You just need to do the work.” By virtue of their horror at the conditions of the world to which we have become inured, Trek says in a single breath both that such things are deplorable and also expresses that we get over it. We, as a species, work past it and find solutions. The hope implicit in the condemnation is unique to Trek and ultimately keeps me coming back to the franchise. The ICE/Rios situation would have been a perfect opportunity to express it, and while, yes, the episode does offer some criticism of the situation, the relationship between Seven and Raffi eclipses the discussion.

I don’t mean to imply that I am anything other than a fan of the Seven/Raffi relationship because I think it’s fascinating to see Seven, a character we all knew in Voyager to be incredibly controlled, leaning into her brokenness and finding kinship in Raffi, whose own wounds complement her own. We know that Raffi understands Seven to be afraid of commitment, but “Fly Me to the Moon” demonstrates that Seven herself is aware of the problem. However, she reveals to Raffi that her fear is not of committing to Raffi, which would trigger Raffi’s own sense of inadequacy, but rather that she’s protecting herself from additional pain. That’s such a fantastic moment between them because Raffi is still reeling in her guilt from losing Elnor, and that guilt builds on the foundation of the guilt she feels from failing her son. Raffi’s impulse is therefore to dig in and fight, and that coping mechanism perfectly triggers Seven’s flight response. Seven offering a moment of explanation represents a shared moment of vulnerability, and Raffi seems to recognize it for the peace offering it is. I love the deep and nuanced portrayal of their relationship that we’re getting. Historically, Trek hasn’t done nuance terribly well, so it’s nice to see them taking the time to develop this relationship now.

Agnes Jurati is getting her own plotline as well, and while there are parts of it that resonate, some simply don’t. While I understand that Jurati likely feels herself to be alone and isolated, she isn’t. We don’t know much of how her relationship with Rios worked out, but there’s no question that Jurati is part of this particularly rag-tag group of people. The story has gone out of its way to separate her at plot-useful moments, but again, Picard demonstrates clear affection for her. Granted, the Borg Queen could be stepping into the shoes of one too many poorly chosen partners and actively attempting to isolate Jurati from her support group. That relationship, too, is fascinating. This Borg Queen seems far more devious than her predecessors, which gives rise to the question of whether or not she planned for Jurati to kill her in order to assimilate Jurati. Regardless, I have high hopes that given the amount of agency Jurati has demonstrated this season, Jurati will be able to triumph over her unwelcome mental houseguest.

Finally, that brings us to the question of Picard himself, who has, over these two episodes, honestly been the weakest part of the story. He mostly seems to be reacting rather than acting. At first, he’s convinced that Guinan is the help promised him, and he leaps into finding her with a certainty that he immediately transfers to Tallinn when Guinan redirects him. He has clearly compartmentalized Elnor’s death, and while his ability to do so hearkens back to the strange switch he flips in First Contact upon learning of the deaths of his brother and nephew, it seems out of place here. We’ve been told by Q that this story centers around Picard’s emotional life, but Picard’s easy acceptance of his own significance doesn’t especially sit well for me. Tallinn even calls him on it when she tells him that he’s confused her with someone over whom he has authority. The build up almost has me wondering whether we’ll be seeing some comeuppance for Picard’s hubris later in the season.

“Fly Me to the Moon” brought back Brent Spiner as the latest in a line of Soongs and cast Isa Briones as his dying daughter. This iteration of Soong oozes desperation and crankiness, which makes him a perfect target for Q’s manipulation. However, I do have to speculate that the alteration to the timeline that causes the Confederation future may not have as much to do with Renee Picard’s depression as it does with Q’s involvement with Soong. Could the disastrous alteration be that Q saves Kore Soong so that her father doesn’t turn down the even darker path of genetic manipulation that will contribute to the development of the Augments and thus the Eugenics Wars? Could the change be preventing a tragedy in the immediate timeline whose occurrence would prevent even greater horror centuries down the line? That would be an interesting twist, but we’ll have to see where Picard takes us.

Rating: Three Cups of Earl Grey Tea

Stray Thoughts From the Couch:

  1. Yes, the gentleman Seven and Raffi encounter on the bus is actually the gentleman from Star Trek IV.
  2. Gary Seven and the concept of “supervisors” comes from “Assignment: Earth.”
  3. You may have wondered where the head scientist comes from. That’s Lea Thompson of Back to the Future fame. If you read the placards around her, one of them is for a “Rozhenko,” the name of Worf’s adopted family.
  4. The dates on Renee Picard’s passport are significant. She was born on the date that First Contact hit theatres and renewed on the date that Discovery hit our televisions.

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