Welcome back, dear reader, as we continue to review Star Trek: Picard with Season 1 Episode 4, “Absolute Candor.” This was a fun one, and a bit of a stand-alone episode, as it turns out. Leaving the three-part pilot behind us, we’re now in the capable hands of actor-turned-director Jonathan Frakes. I wonder if he’s upset that for the rest of his career he’s going to have to clarify he’s the man who played “Number One,” not the dog.
Picard continues on his whirlwind tour of people from his past who hate him now: Admiral Clancy, Raffi, and now Elnor, along with most of the Romulans on Vashti apparently. No doubt next episode Seven of Nine will take her shot at him.
Speaking of our favorite xB, she arrived in spectacular fashion at the end of the episode, saving Picard’s bacon in a pretty cool spaceship dogfight scene. We also got a pretty cool regular fight scene with Elnor, although it only lasted about two seconds.
“I may never pass this way again”
A lot of discussion about this series settles on this being a “redemption story” for Picard. Is it though? I don’t see that Picard is treating it that way. To him, this is “one last mission.” He doesn’t think he’s coming back. Rather than waiting on Earth to die, he’s going to go die in space. He’s going to repay Data’s sacrifice for him by sacrificing himself for Data’s “daughter.” That’s actually a bit self-serving, in all reality.
In achieving that goal, he seems to be more than willing to use people from his past. He doesn’t want to draw other dear friends into the quest, only people with “nothing to lose.” He’s using Elnor just like he used Raffi, as a tool to advance him along in his quest. Jurati, having invited herself to tag along, may be the only one of the crew actually there for the quest itself.
Picard is still nursing his wounded dignity and still doesn’t quite see that he did anything wrong. He’s only just learning about the impacts of his decision to withdraw from Starfleet. He wasn’t in it alone. He had like-minded allies that he let down when he took his toys and went home. Just like the experience of Raffi on a personal level, here a community suffered in the wake of his departure. Really the whole sector has suffered, as the withdraw of Starfleet left a power vacuum filled by smugglers and petty warlords.
“Feeding an insatiable curiosity”
The only thing creepier than watching Narek and Soji get closer and closer is watching Narek and his sister get closer and closer. So Narek already knows that Soji, like her sister, has a background that was invented whole cloth, just before her arrival in the Beta Quadrant three years ago. Also like her sister, Soji herself has no idea and gets defensive when he pokes at her story. He’s playing a dangerous game.
Soji is coming to her own realizations about her possible role in “Ganmadan,” the Romulan version of Ragnarok. The A500 androids simply cannot be the “shackled demons” of the prophecy. They lack sentience. The attack was clearly programmed into F8, not something he chose of his own free will. He has no free will. So that pretty much leaves the Borg. We are on a Borg cube after all. Is Soji going to become the next Borg queen? Is she already a Borg queen?
The Last Best Hope
The final piece of pre-show (sort of) multimedia tie-in content dropped this Tuesday, with the release of the novel Star Trek: Picard: The Last Best Hope by Una McCormack. Personally, I’m only a little more than halfway through the audiobook, but I thought we ought to talk about it a bit. If you haven’t read it yet, Entertainment Weekly published an exclusive excerpt from early in the novel that will whet your appetite. That said, if you don’t want to be spoiled, go ahead and skip ahead to the next section.
The book starts out with the discovery of the Romulan supernova, as Picard is called back to Starfleet Headquarters and put in charge of the relief effort. The story drags a bit as he puts together his team on Earth, but before long they embark on their first evacuation effort. That one goes badly, as they’re forced to dump their “guests” onto a desert planet with guard-patrolled refugee camps. The second effort is Vashti, which we’ve seen on the show here with this episode. At that time, it was a wild success thanks to the sisters of the Qowat Milat, and Elnor even plays a role as a holo-vid of him and a human girl playing becomes part of the PR campaign to keep up support back home.
There are two other stories playing in parallel to the main one. The first follows Bruce Maddox back on Earth, as he is enlisted by Geordi La Forge to create an android workforce for the Mars shipyards. He is extremely upset at being forced to put off his real work to make “toys,” but his extremely devoted new student, Agnes Jurati, acts as his personal muse and urges him to not give up. If you had suspicions about her in the show, just wait to you see her in the book.
The other story follows the happenings on Romulus itself, centered around an astrophysicist who discovers that the supernova is going to happen sooner and have a blast radius much further out than officially reported, encompassing ten additional Romulan worlds. He tries to get his information to the right officials, blithely unaware that the evacuation of the home world has long been underway for those with wealth and power.
Here’s a few more quick takes from the book:
- Raffi has a son Gabe and a husband Jay, who is a holo-sculptor. They lived in Santa Fe.
- Picard was promoted to Admiral when he was assigned to this rescue mission. Worf took command of Enterprise when he left.
- We get a farewell conversation between Jean-Luc and Beverly, but he can’t bring himself to ask her to come along with him.
- Unlike Picard, Geordi has a fondness for science fiction. A trait that he attributes to all engineers.
- The A500s are based on “bio-neural circuitry” instead of positronics.
- Jurati is already a medical doctor when she takes Maddox’s class.
- Jurati is the one who brings up the capabilities of a single positronic neuron and gets Maddox thinking on that path.
- It’s pretty much outright stated that the Romulan star going supernova was not natural.
- The warrior nuns are enemies of the Tal Shiar.
- Not sure if this is an Easter egg or not, but a lot of folks are commenting on Soji doing a head tilt movement that was very reminiscent of Data. Maybe she got that direction from Jonathan Frakes?
- The greeting phrase “jolan tru” comes from ST:TNG S5E7-8 “Unification” and means “peace be with you” or “may your day be filled with peace.” (Source: Inverse)
- Soji shipped out for the Beta Quadrant aboard a ship called the Ellison (at least she believes she did). That is probably a nod to author Harlan Ellison who wrote ST:TOS S1E28 “The City on the Edge of Forever” and also contributed a story to showrunner Michael Chabon’s fiction anthology “McSweeney’s Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales” in 2003.
- The Romulan Bird-of-Prey starship that warlord Kar Kantar uses against the La Sirena harkens back to the original design as first seen in ST:TOS S1E14 “Balance of Terror,” where the Romulans were first introduced.
- Another starship reference was the Nightingale, a “Wallenberg-class” transport ship that brought the Romulan refugees to Vashti many years ago. “Nightingale” being an obvious reference to English nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale, and “Wallenberg” being a reference to Swedish humanitarian Raoul Wallenberg, who rescued tens of thousands of Jews from Nazi-occupied Hungary during WWII.
A couple of quick takes on the rest of the episode:
- All the fans were deeply worried that we had left Earth behind us and were going to be stuck with “Picard in space” the rest of the series. This is an emergency! Thank goodness we just happen to have an Emergency Hospitality Hologram on board. Now Picard can take the chateau with him, even though I’m pretty sure he was trying to get out of that place, wasn’t he?
- So now we have added the EHH (Emergency Hospitality Hologram) and ETH (Emergency Tactical Hologram) to Rios’ holographic crew. The ETH actually has a name, Emmet, perhaps indicating this is the rare case of a hologram that Captain Rios doesn’t completely hate?
- Just to clarify, Vashti is not a Romulan planet. It’s a Federation planet, just outside the Neutral Zone, that accepted Romulan refugees early on in the effort.
- Perhaps it was another parietal lobe flare up that made Picard decide to take on the entire disgruntled town as a good way to kill time waiting for his window to beam up.
The best lines of this episode:
- “A promise is a prison, Elnor. Do not make yourself another’s jailer.”
- “So space turns out to be super boring.”
- “Well, that’s not a conversation killer at all. I totally want to talk about the existential pain of living with the consciousness of death.”
- “Man can’t even take a guilt trip without using a starship.”
- “Anyone else think the Way of Absolute Candor sounds potentially annoying?”
- “A cash gift is always appropriate.”
- “These aren’t love letters, JL.”
- “Please, my friend. Choose to live.”
- “I allowed the perfect to become the enemy of the good.”
- “He might die.” “He will.” “Before that comes to pass, it would gladden my heart to see him live.”
- “I had a friend called Data.” “It’s usually a sad story.” “He died.”
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:
- Showrunner Michael Chabon answered a handful of post-Episode 3 questions on the TrekCore The questions were mostly about all the little things that bothered the fans, and his answers mostly amounted to, “Yeah, we did that.”
- Super Cluster has a really lovely article about the history of diversity that has been baked into the foundation of Star Trek from its inception.
- The Ready Room, the official CBS All-Access after show, is worth watching this week, just to see Wil Wheaton and Santiago Cabrera (Captain Rios) nerd out talking about the 1-to-10 scale of being thrown around during Star Trek space battles.
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.