Welcome back, dear reader, as we continue to review Star Trek: Picard with Season 1 Episode 3, “The End Is the Beginning.” At long last, Act 1 is done. If you weren’t already aware, at the U.S. premiere, they showed all three of these first episodes, not just the single pilot episode. So we’re also finally safe from the accidental spoilers that have been showing up from otherwise well-meaning outlets like Entertainment Weekly.
Since this is the end of the beginning, let’s cheat and start at the end. That final scene was the moment we’ve all been waiting for, as the ship’s crew all turn to Picard, the TNG music cue swells, and he utters the magic word: “Engage.”
Now, a lot of fans have been complaining about how old and feeble they’ve made Picard in the series so far, missing the entire point that he is supposed to look old and feeble for much of this preamble. In fact, encapsulated in this one episode, we have the most dramatic changes. We see peak Picard from 14 years ago, looking fit and trim in his Starfleet uniform. We get age-spotted, out of breath, and croaky-voiced Picard, as Raffi gives him yet another well-deserved dressing down. Then lastly, here back in space at last, we get the Picard that we will probably keep and hold on to for the rest of the series. Older, sure, but with a definite glow that comes from being at home in his element.
Even when he’s interviewing Rios—his first off-planet moment of the series—we see a little swagger returning to him, as he leans back in the chair and puts his feet up. Mind you, not so much that he’d take the offered Captain’s chair (which was a nice touch), but it’s all coming back to him.
“Something’s off about this whole business, JL”
The thing that really has fans riled up this week though, is Raffi’s nickname for Picard: “JL.” Boy, the hate is almost universal. The thing is, this is actually a natural extension of the ending of ST:TNG, where Picard joins his crew for poker night, expressing regret that he should have done so sooner. He wanted more familiarity with them, his family. So if anything, I’d envision he actually encouraged her lack of formality. This might have even become more of an imperative for him as he moved up in ranks from Captain to Admiral.
That said then, the real discontinuity here is his treatment of Raffi. She was his “number one” aboard the USS Verity, his new family. She clearly put a lot of work into their re-plan for the Romulan evacuation. Without consulting her, he put both of their careers on the line by threatening his resignation. He retires to his comfortable chateau to nurse his offended dignity, and Raffi’s entire life collapses in his wake—without so much as an apology. Much more so than last week’s encounter with Admiral Clancy, he really deserved the scorn and ridicule he received from her.
And even after all of that, he’s still using Raffi like an A500 synth. He comes to her for an off-the-books pilot, and she comes through for him. He baits her with an irresistible (to her) conspiracy story about secret Romulan assassins, but continues to blow off any suggestion from her that Romulans could have been involved in the Martian attack. He’s not OK with Riker, Worf, or La Forge putting themselves at risk for him, but he makes no objection to Raffi “hitching a ride.” It’s kind of disgusting, to be brutally honest.
“Mythology? I hate that word”
Quite a few surprises on the Borg cube this week. The Director of the Reclamation Project had been mentioned last week in passing, but now we find out it’s none other than Hugh himself. Of course he is, what could be more perfect? He’s impressed with Dr. Asha for talking to the Nameless in his own language, showing an unprecedented humanity towards the “xBs” (love that). Personally, I’m more impressed that she somehow knows the language of a completely undocumented species (thus the title “Nameless”), but I guess we’re supposed to just kind of ignore that bit.
So she gets to interview Ramdha, an ex-Borg who is/was an expert on ancient Romulan mythology. The kind of person who might just know a thing or two about a certain Tal Shiar myth used to frighten new recruits? Hmm. Now here, for me, is where the series opens the door to two very bad possibilities. For one, there’s a potential time travel element happening when Ramdha tells Soji, “I remember you from tomorrow.” Oh boy. And as if that is not bad enough, we also seem to be dealing with a “prophecy” now, with the sister who died and the sister who lives—Seb-Cheneb, the Destroyer. As a certain Starfleet Captain put it, “the future is the past, the past is the future, it all gives me a headache.”
We find out that the assimilation of these particular Romulans may have led to the submatrix collapse that disconnected this Borg cube from the rest of the Collective. While this is news to Hugh, Soji apparently just knows all of these classified details off the top of her head. Maybe it was uploaded to her during one of her nappy-time phone calls with “mom.” Not coincidentally, all of the “disordered” are the Romulans from that ship. Is this evidence supporting the “Romulans have been synthetic lifeforms all along” theories? Stay tuned.
- Confirmation: Vasquez Rocks is Vasquez Rocks. (See last week’s review for more details.)
- The book Rios is reading is the real-world novel, “Tragic Sense of Life,” written by Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno in 1913. Loosely, it is a treatise on rejecting a life of reason for a life of passion, somewhat reminiscent of the Spock versus Bones dichotomy on ST:TOS.
- During Raffi’s research, there is a reference to a crypto-algorithm called “Gorn Egg.” Perhaps I should rename this section of the reviews?
- All of the events of Picard’s career that the ENH rattles off to Captain Rios come from canonical references within the Star Trek series and movies. (Source: Reddit)
- Laris’ line about their captive Romulan being a “stubborn northerner” instantly resolves long standing issues with the differing appearances of Romulans in various instantiations of Star Trek.
- Kind of an anti-Easter egg, but Hugh is grossly ill-informed that these are the only Romulans who have ever been assimilated by the Borg. Either that, or it’s a wee bit of a retcon.
A couple of quick takes on the rest of the episode:
- The cross-cutting between scenes was well done last episode, in a way that enhanced the exposition, as Laris explained to Picard about the Zhat Vash while they performed CSI on Dahj’s apartment. However in this episode, I found the cross-cutting between the interview with Ramdha and the interrogation of the would-be Romulan assassin was clunky and distracting. I suppose the goal was to get to the mark where both conversations uttered the “Destroyer” line, but the effect kind of took away from both scenes, for me.
- In case you missed it, Rios has at least two holograms on his ship, both configured to look like him but show different aspects of his personality. There was the Emergency Medical Hologram (EMH) that met Picard when he first came aboard (with an English accent), and then the Emergency Navigational Hologram (ENH) who talked to Rios after Picard left (with an Irish accent).
- The soundtrack, “Star Trek: Picard – Season 1, Chapter 1 – Original Series Soundtrack,” just released on February 7. Buyer beware though, just the title of many of these tracks contain some pretty serious spoilers. If you’re adverse, you might want to wait until after the season to buy this. (Source: Reddit)
- When Ramdha starts to get worked up during her interview, Soji’s gradient badge starts to glow green. The Romulan officer last episode said that “if your gradient badge starts to blink green, run.” Given how all the xBs all seem to be tuning in to the conversation at that point, perhaps these badges detect Borg-to-Borg communication frequencies?
- Not only should Vulcans never wear sunglasses from a purely aesthetic perspective, they shouldn’t even need sunglasses. They have special eyelids that shield them from sunlight, having evolved on a desert planet. (Source: Reddit)
- Beyond that though, the show went to great pains last episode to show us how brightly sunlit Commodore Oh’s office at Starfleet is, with lots of weird up-angle shots and more lens flares than a J. J. Abrams movie. She didn’t need protection then, so why the shades now? My theory is that maybe they act like the Zhat Vash death squad helmets, shielding her from electronic surveillance. Perhaps she even gave them to her new undercover agent, Dr. Jurati, and we’ll see them pop up again later in the season.
- So yes, there is much speculation that Dr. Jurati may be a sleeper/undercover agent, given Raffi’s overt on-screen protestation that she hadn’t run even a basic security check on her. Her timely arrival to save Picard and company from the death squad is a bit suspicious. Even more so is her ability to just pick up and fire a Romulan disruptor like that. But it may go deeper than her off-screen meeting with Commodore Oh implies. It’s her information on Maddox that yields the blinking yellow clue to his whereabouts. Dahj was on her way to the Institute, maybe to get that very same information. Could Jurati be another synth who doesn’t know she’s a synth, left behind by Maddox? Maybe she’s not such a “terrible liar.”
- Raffi hints that her use of snakeweed is an old habit she’s returned to, implying that not only was she riding JL’s coattails professionally, but he may have even uplifted her out of some bad situation personally. Making his betrayal of her just that much worse.
- Speaking of her hip vaping habit, there’s also been a large collective gasp in the fandom at both that scene and Rios’ cigar smoking in Gene Roddenberry’s utopian future. Likewise for the implication that someone could be down and out as Raffi was in this post-scarcity society.
- We all wanted Laris and Zhaban to go into space with Picard, didn’t we? Maybe next season.
The best lines of this episode:
- “I don’t remember you being such a chatterbox back in the day.”
- “I suppose you always had one eye on the stars.”
- “I’m not in the habit of consulting lawyers before I do what needs to be done.”
- “Romulan disruptors don’t have a stun setting.”
- “Raffi warned me you were a speechmaker.”
- “You’re kind of a know-it-all, aren’t you?”
In The News
Here I try to point you to a few of the more interesting and informative news items over the last week related to Star Trek: Picard or just Star Trek in general:
- Film Music Magazine had a really good interview with composer Jeff Russo (Jan 24). One thing that really popped out at me was his pretty insightful summary of the show as compared to Discovery: “This is a really different show. This is a humanistic approach to telling the story of someone who wants to make amends to himself. Picard had this break with Starfleet because of their differences of opinion on the Romulans and an artificial human attack on Mars. That’s why he ended up leaving Starfleet. Now Picard wants to get to the bottom of the whole thing. So this isn’t a show about outward exploration. It’s about his inward exploration. It’s a more of a personal story really talking about his journey as opposed to a group of people’s.”
- Full Circle Cinema reported on a rumor (yes, I acknowledge the oxymoron) that “reliable sources” are confirming that there will be a Captain Pike spinoff series, featuring Pike, Number One and Spock as seen in Season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery and a couple of the Short Treks Season 2 episodes.
That’s all for this week. Please let me know your thoughts and feelings about this week’s episode, and any theories you have on what’s to come, in the comments below, or catch me on the r/Picard sub on Reddit as u/catnapspirit. Remember that 25YL will provide continuing coverage of Star Trek: Picard throughout Season 1 and beyond, as well as covering Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek in general.