Welcome back, dear reader, as we continue to review Star Trek: Picard with Season 1 Episode 7, “Nepenthe.” Another superb episode. For the most part, we take a brief respite as things gear up for the action-packed final three episodes (if the previews are to be believed). The reunion with Riker and Troi was both the nostalgia we wanted and the nostalgia we needed. On the sad side of nostalgia, we witness the death of another legacy character, but this time maybe with a little more meaning.
Elnor finds a new lost cause, Jurati has a regurgitation issue, and the “hug” bar is raised to a whole new level. Let’s engage.
“That can be an extremely humbling experience”
Picard really tried to keep his old crew out of this. When he pulled Geordi into the Romulan rescue effort, he was almost killed. So we can understand Picard’s motivation. But when put on the spot, his impulse was to go to Nepenthe and huddle down with some old friends.
He and Soji step out of the transport pretty much in their back yard, which is a darned good aim for a device that sent them halfway across the galaxy, but we’ll ignore that convenience. They are met by a rare creature indeed, a child actor who is actually likeable on Star Trek. Not just likeable, she’s amazing. They need to retool this coming Starfleet Academy show to be live-action and get her to be one of the leads. Seriously.
Ostensibly Picard is there to regroup and plan out his next moves, but what he really gets out of the exchange is a lesson in being a parent. We were reminded just a few episodes ago that Picard’s general view on children has always been that they are a hindrance. Yet he’s now picked up both a surrogate son in Elnor and a surrogate daughter (or perhaps granddaughter) in Soji. Elnor doesn’t always do as he’s told and Soji might just break you in half, but otherwise, that’s going well.
Meanwhile, at the kids’ table, Soji learns about family from Kestra. When Dahj came to Picard, she was in a completely different mental state. In many ways, her instantaneous transition from human to synthetic was easier on her mentally than Soji’s slow-burn disintegration of everything she thought was real and true. Soji is so paranoid now that she’s not sure she isn’t in a simulation, where even the words of a caring counselor are exactly what you’d expect to be part of that script.
Deanna’s message to Soji is a really important one though. Soji starts out with a classic self-deprecating metaphor that a real tomato “is so much better” than the replicated ones she’s eaten her entire life. Deanna tells her the tragic story of their son Thad, who died because the synthetic ban made the cure for his illness unobtainable. “So, you see Soji, real isn’t always better.”
“We are gonna take this cube away from them forever”
We pick up on the Artifact with Hugh having been caught by Narissa, who is understandably irked that Picard and the synthetic got away. Hugh has “ruined years of patient work by dozens of operatives across hundreds of star systems” and “doomed a trillion souls across half the galaxy.” Bad guys who believe they’re the good guys are great monologuers, aren’t they? And somehow, despite those stakes, she’s still worried about the “asinine” treaty with the Federation, so she lets Hugh live.
Forgetting that he still on a Romulan controlled vessel, Hugh blabs his plan to take over the Borg cube to Elnor, giving Narissa the excuse she needed to kill him. As Zhat Vash and Qowat Milat face-off hand-to-hand like mortal enemies should, she whips a dagger into Hugh’s throat and beams out when Elnor tries to return the favor. Alone and tasked with a new “lost cause,” Elnor somehow finds one of those Fenris Ranger call buttons conveniently hanging right next to him. Help, in the form of just the ass-kicking xB you’d want in such a situation, is on its way.
Hugh’s death is the second in this episode to really pack a punch, the first being Thad Troi-Riker. They set us up pretty well with Narissa first letting him off the hook with his Federation protection. Didn’t see that coming—I didn’t anyway. As swan songs go, Hugh got a pretty good character arc carrying over from ST:TNG. Better than Icheb anyway. It’s a shame perhaps that he couldn’t be around to see his plan put into action. From the previews, it’s going to be intense. His legacy from this event could be far-reaching, depending on what action the xBs take after the takeover. We know that somehow the events on the Artifact need to reunite with the events at Soji’s homeworld in the next three episodes.
“You bet it’s cake”
The other big character growth in this episode comes from Dr. Jurati. The episode starts, as they all do, with a flashback. This one fills in the gaps on Commodore Oh’s visit to Agnes from three weeks ago. As expected, she performed a mind meld to pass on the Zhat Vash secret. What was unexpected however was that she kind of forced it on Jurati without her consent. Beyond the mind-rapey nature of the meld, there are also questions about the content as well. Oh seems to be showing her visions of a future that might play out should the synthetics take over, not current thoughts or memories of the past.
One possible solution to this quandary is that Commodore Oh is indeed showing Agnes events from the past—her past—because she’s been sent back from a dystopian future to prevent the synthetics from wiping out most of biological life in the galaxy, a la The Terminator. This might even somehow explain the weirdness with the sunglasses. Only time will tell.
Meanwhile, aboard the La Sirena, tensions mount between Rios and Raffi, while Agnes is not-so-quietly falling apart right in front of them. Since Rios did the sex thing to calm her nerves last episode, this time it’s Raffi’s turn, and she chooses cake. I think though that it’s safe to say we were all expecting that Auntie Raffi’s cakes would feature “snake weed” as a key ingredient, right?
After Jurati ralphs up her therapy cake, Rios steps in to take another turn. He’s got a theory about their shadow—maybe they’re tracking Raffi. Because after all, we don’t know why she wanted to go to Freecloud. Except, he does know. Raffi told him about her son. OK, maybe she didn’t say Gabe was on Freecloud, but geez, put two-and-two together already. However, before he incorrectly shoots Raffi out an airlock, the EMH returns to let everyone know that Agnes just tried to kill herself. It’s a little suspicious that the EHH didn’t pop up for the earlier “hospitality emergency.” Maybe Jurati, in covering her tracks with Maddox’s death, tinkered with the wrong emergency hologram? Lucky for her, if so.
- Kestra was the name of Deanna’s older sister, Kestra Troi, as seen in ST:TNG S7E7 “Dark Page.”
- Her brother Thaddius was named after Will’s ancestor, Civil War Colonel Thaddius Riker, as seen in ST:VOY S2E18 “Death Wish.”
- Kestra says that Captain Crandall has been “everywhere from Qo’noS to Tyken’s Rift.” Qo’noS is the Klingon homeworld. A Tyken’s Rift is an energy phenomenon that the Enterprise was caught in ST:TNG S4E17 “Night Terrors.”
- When Riker brings the shields up, he says to Picard, “We’ve had a little trouble around here lately with the Kzinti.” The Kzinti are a race from Larry Niven’s “Known Space” novels, which include the Ringworld series. Niven himself introduced them into Star Trek when he wrote the script for ST:TAS S1E14 “The Slaver Weapon.” (BTW, Amazon is supposed to be developing a series based on Ringworld, which would be awesome.)
- Jurati’s quip about hiding in an asteroid that turns out to be a gormagander was not a Star Wars reference, but was, in fact, a reference to a species of “space whales” encountered on ST:DIS S1E7 “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad.”
- Picard mentions that his heart is solid duritanium. Picard was stabbed in the heart during a bar fight after he graduated Starfleet Academy, as told in ST:TNG S2E17 “Samaritan Snare.”
- Riker calls Troi “imzadi” several times. That is the Betazoid word for “beloved.”
- Kestra’s t-shirt when she’s drawing Soji appears to be for a Klingon Sex Pistols cover band. If true, this may be the most amazing Easter egg of the season. (Source: Reddit)
- One of the xBs lined up and executed was a Hirogen, a species of nomadic hunters featured in several episodes of ST:VOY.
- The cabin that the Troi-Rikers are living in was also featured most famously in the 1988 John Hughes film, The Great Outdoors, starring Dan Aykroyd and John Candy. (Source: Phantastic Geek Podcast)
A couple of quick takes on the rest of the episode:
- Now I’m worried about them bringing back Seven of Nine next episode. No one may be safe.
- In ST:TNG S6E26 “Descent,” when Data got his emotion chip, Troi was able to “read” him. Minor discontinuity, though perhaps Data’s emotion chip works differently than Soji’s apparently inherent emotions. (Source: Star Trek Universe Podcast)
- It seems that the Artifact was cut off when they absorbed a Zhat Vash agent, learning the terrible secret. When Seven connects next episode, she too will learn the secret. What will it do to her?
- One of the great subtle ways they showed us how rattled Soji is by recent revelations is when she corrects Picard introducing her as “Doctor” Soji Asha, because now she has no reason to suspect she is actually a doctor. Nice touch.
The best lines of this episode:
- “I’m not as brave as I used to be, Jean-Luc.”
- “So you want to be ass-deep in Romulans—for the rest of your life?”
- “Actually, until you said the word “android” back there, I was still clinging to the idea that I was human.”
- “And because you’re three years old, so I get to be the boss of you.”
- “I want to be the fun crew member who says, ‘Let’s hide in that comet,’ and it turns out to be a giant gormagander or something.”
- “From me? I must have been drinking at the time.”
- “How am I doing?” “Not bad, for a pizza chef.”
- “I would kill you, too, but you’re Federation, and you’re protected by that asinine treaty.”
- “I’m just thinking how great it would be if ignorance of danger was all it took to keep it away from the people we love.”
- “I’m more like the wreckage of a good person. In an emergency, you can slap together a temporary good person out of the pieces.”
- “What is the nature of your—Oh bloody hell!”
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:
- Jonathan Del Arco was interviewed by StarTrek.com, giving him a chance to talk about the death of Hugh in this episode.
- Speaking of Jonathan Del Arco, he just started a podcast in January called “Hollywood Caucus” about the intersection of Hollywood and politics. Jeri Ryan was the first guest. Worth checking out and supporting.
- In this week’s The Ready Room, Brent Spiner and Jonathan Frakes say the head tilt was completely Isa Briones’ idea. They never coached her on that, as either fellow actor or director.
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.