The Shrike appears to have the Titan at its mercy and so there’s no choice but to run into the heart of a nearby nebula… and it seems that Vadic is all for toying with her prey first. But even with dangers outside the Titan threatening to end badly, relationships between the crew old and new – reach boiling point within. Picard and Riker have been friends for decades, but even as they remember better times, a rift is starting to open up regarding who has the right to make decisions and Picard is still reeling from the news that his relationship with Beverly Crusher had produced a son, Jack, he knew nothing about until now.
As Jack and Seven of Nine look for clues about how the Titan is being tracked, will disaster strike from their common enemies or will the emotional turmoil onboard doom them all?
Meanwhile, several star systems away, Worf and Raffi are about to discover that they, the Titan and the entire Federation may have a common, shape-shifting old enemy…
Amanda Plummer’s Vadic , about to destroy the Titan at the end of last week’s episode, is largely reduced to a cameo as her ‘Shrike’ sets off in pursuit of her prey, but with the feeling she’s toying them like a cat with a mouse. There’s a good argument that the nebula hide-and-seek recalls some previous Trek chases, but there’s no argument that the VFX in this episode, particularly those nebula maneuverings, are worthy of big screen Trek – not just in the lighting and cinematography but also the grating sound of photon fire hitting ships’ hulls that makes you feel every scrape and blast of the damage being inflicted.
I mentioned last week that Beverly not informing Jean-Luc that they had a son together felt like a narrative flourish for the current plot rather than internal, organic logic. I think that’s still true to a point, but the Crusher/Picard confrontation is played out well by both McFadden and Stewart on top form and the case Crusher makes at least seems genuine and heartfelt from her point-of-view. There’s palpable anger and resentment here, born out of the love and respect they had for one another and the ‘betrayal’ Picard feels for having been denied the chance to be a real father. Some reasonable points are made on both sides of the argument. However the idea that Crusher initially didn’t tell him because Picard is always the target of ‘someone, something or other‘ and that anyone around him would always be in danger, does seem to overstate the matter for purely dramatic effect. Yes, Picard has faced many dangerous situations over his tenure at Star Fleet (as did Beverly) and series necessity has meant we see him take risks and get caught up in dangerous situations… but I’ve never really thought of him as a consistently ‘marked man’ – indeed his retirement seems to have been portrayed as quite sedate with occasional manic adventures worthy of telling as a series.
The other key relationship – between Riker and Picard – also comes under close examination and we see it at its best and worst. They could be considered best friends, born out of trust and their service together. But after their time on the Enterprise they really haven’t had to formally deal with the differences in styles and rank since. The title of the episode comes from the story that Riker tells Picard during a flashback, how the troubled birth of Riker’s son, Thaddeus led to a terrifying seventeen seconds riding the turbo-lift to sick-bay and how that was the moment he became a father. (The de-aging VFX almost works). Later in the episode, Picard takes a similar trip and almost down to the second takes the same amount of time to reach Jack after he’s hit with poisoned gas. Again, it’s the key moment Picard realises he is truly a father.
But it’s also a watershed moment for Riker and Picard in the sense that with Riker formally in the captain’s chair (after Shaw is seriously injured and puts him in charge and responsible for the crew’s welfare). After a classic joke that Picard is now his ‘Number One’ things rapidly get darker when Riker finds himself in direct conflict with Picard, especially when both men’s decisions have huge implications for the safety of the ship. Picard wants to attack in the rare moments they may have the advantage over the Shrike, Riker wants to run and put distance between them and their pursuer. Though it’s debatable which man has the better idea (given the information had at the time) the eventual decision to follow Picard’s edict leaves the Titan tumbling through the Nebula and – as Riker snarls ‘Congratulations, you just killed everybody!‘ That’s a little harsh, as it seems running away, however pragmatic, doesn’t seem to have worked either due to sabotage on board. After two episodes under the helm of Doug Aarniokoski, Jonathan Frakes pulls double-time and serves as director, delivering all with aplomb.
The big reveal here is the role of the Changelings in the current conflict. Last seen in Deep Space Nine at the end of the Dominion War arc, the shape-shifting aliens were always ripe for re-use and after several decades, two come along at once. Given that it was only Picard and Riker’s intervention that brought the Titan out onto the edge of Federation space, one has to presume either the events were already known to happen this way or the saboteur was already in place for some nefarious reason… which has even bigger implications for what may be going on. (Could this be Star Trek‘s answer to Marvel‘s Secret Invasion? It wouldn’t be the first time Star Fleet has been infiltrated and undermined)
Though the ‘B’ plot, concerning terrorist acts against the Federation, is less kinetic and often feels like it’s hitting the brakes at just the climactic ‘A’ points, it does bring in Worf – now formally revealed as Raffi’s handler – and his sparkling sardonic dialogue makes him the episode’s MVP. (We also get our first circumstantial link between the stories with ‘portal technology’ being used to target both Star Fleet and the Titan – though we’re no closer to knowing what that link may actually be and its implications). Michael Dorn is brilliant at delivering an older, wiser Worf as both a commanding figure and a wry observer of others’ behaviour with plenty of memorable one-liners and dry banter. There’s no sign of them joining up with their mutual friends in the next few episodes, but it will be interesting to see he and Raffi (Michelle Hurd also on good form) acting as a team, both as intelligence officers (and as something of a comedy double-act)…
Three episodes in and the newly reinvigorated Picard seems to be working well…
- Production Design / VFX9