The Titan may have escaped the gravity well and the pursuing Shrike, but there are consequences to Picard and Riker’s actions and their endangerment of the crew. The Intrepid arrives with the remit of taking the men into custody and examine the cause of recent events.
When the Intrepid’s shuttle arrives, it’s a familiar face that comes aboard to take them into custody. However, it may not be one that Picard wants to see, especially as they haven’t seen each other for years… and they parted on bad terms.
As the investigation continues it also becomes apparent that there may be more at stake… but can anyone’s motives be trusted when it’s no longer possible to tell human from Changeling?
The Powers That be had promised there would be some surprises along the way, but kudos to all concerned for keeping the return of Michelle Forbes as Ro Laren off the marketing and promotion.
Ro Laren was one of those fan-favourite supporting characters that was full of potential, a wrinkle in the often more-perfect world of the Enterprise, a Bajoran character who arrived in Season Five of The Next Generation and to whom Picard took a shine to as a kind of mentor, hoping to mold her wilder impulses into a career within Starfleet. The character appeared as a recurring presence in seasons five, six and seven before making her sign-off in the show’s penultimate episode Preemptive Strike. Her final story dealt with her going undercover to apprehend a group of militant freedom fighters called the Maquis, but during the mission she began to sympathise more with their position than the Federation remit to bring them in. Picard clearly felt frustrated and betrayed by her AWOL departure at episode’s end, but that was the last time she was seen in the Trek franchise. (There was the idea of giving Laren / Forbes a key role in the emerging plans for Deep Space Nine but when she declined that role, wary of the full-time commitment, the concept was reworked for a new Bajoran character, Kira Nerys played by Nana Visitor). As such, it remained a dangling plot point in the Trek universe, only addressed in non-canonical projects.
Nearly thirty years later, Imposters brings us her return as (now) Commander Ro Laren, arriving on the Intrepid to visit the Titan in an official capacity and seemingly there to bring in Picard and Riker for their recent unauthorised behaviour and the endangerment of the ship and crew. Both she and Picard react coldly to each other – Picard remembering how hurt he was when Laren abandoned her post and Laren having little time for his attitude. They circle each other like wounded animals, each refusing to give any ground. It turns out that the Changelings’ appearance on the Titan isn’t as isolated an incident as previously thought and we get to a situation where both Picard and Laren are wary that the other might not be who they say they are. Slowly stripping away the doubt, during an interaction on the becoming-a-standing-set Holodeck, it’s ironically the remaining resentment they both feel that eventually convinces them of each other’s authenticity. It’s only then we realise that Laren’s real mission is to see if Picard is the genuine article and if so warn him about the wider-scale infiltration of Starfleet by the Changelings. There are obvious some questions about Laren’s arc off-screen and how an eventually imprisoned ‘traitor/ ‘freedom fighter’ worked her way up the Starfleet ranks again, but these are likely things that will have to remain fan conjecture. In another twist, it also turns out that Laren is the handler to whom Worf was reporting, thus starting to converge those storylines. Needing to buy time for the Titan to escape, Laren makes the ultimate sacrifice, turning her unfortunately sabotaged shuttle back into a missile that will delay the compromised Intrepid’s pursuit.
Captain Shaw (Todd Stashwick), a much more valued player after last week’s memorable entry, proves he can still be a delightful asshole as he takes a soupcon more joy over the fact that Picard and Riker will soon be off his ship and facing justice. One gets the feeling that if ‘push-came-to-shove’ he’d likely be a character witness for both the prosecution and the defense if it simply meant that he didn’t have to keep dealing with their chaotic, consequential presence. When, yet again, Picard and Riker want him to defy orders and run from the Intrepid, he looks ready to throw them out of the airlock in disbelief, but it’s Ro’s sacrifice that makes him realise that – dammit – the Titan is being carefully framed for recent events and Ro’s death and he’s going to have to pick a side… and that, for now, it’s clearly Picard and Riker that are on the inconveniently pragmatic moral high ground.
The Jack Crusher plot elements are the ones that both vague and troubling and could prove a significant factor in how the season is judged. We’ve had brief flashes of something troubling him on a vision/mental level but despite the fact the character’s importance was stated by Vadic and the Shrike’s pursuit, the particulars really haven’t been addressed. They’ve really taken a backseat to more imminent dangers. Here we pivot quite sharply into the fact that (and hands up who saw this exact line coming?)… “I think there’s something very wrong with me…” Taking a leaf out of Stranger Things, it appears that Jack has very unpleasant visions indeed, mainly of him causing death and destruction, the loss of people he’d call friends and a glowing red door that might as well have had imposing metaphor ™ stamped on its frame. Jack, even in reality, suddenly seems much stronger and more agile than he should be. It’s all obviously linked to the Changelings but raises distinct questions. Is Jack the real jack? Is he an escaped experiment and an evolution of their species? He’s a trojan horse ready to be deployed? How much does Beverly, his mother, know – there’s a suggestion she’s more informed than she should be? One hopes that the show has solid enough answers.
After being totally absent last week, there’s more of Worf and Raffi trying to get answers to their conspiracy questions. Though there’s some great choreography in their two fight sequences – both of which require them to be at the top of their game but not really wanting to kill each other – it is the slower of the series threads and often feels like a moment to catch your breath between events on the Titan. Being made to fight each other by Kirk Acevedo’s Krinn (a nice cameo for what feels like another throwaway wannabee gangland villain) doesn’t quite generate the tension it should because, despite appearances, we’re pretty sure that Worf isn’t going to die (he’s just slowed down his heart-rate to almost nothing mere seconds after an energetic exchange of blows, quite a convenient achievement). But with the Ro Laren connection established, it does seem as if we’ll be seeing Worf and Raffi being in the same room as Picard sooner rather than later.
With half the season already shown, we’ve seen very effective personal stories – a series that’s finally got the hang of balancing its sense of nostalgia as fuel for momentum, but there are various elements still not in place. LeVar Burton’s Geordi has yet to appear, the convention trailer showed us the participation of Brent Spiner and Daniel Davis in returning roles and Marina Sirtis as Deanna looks to be there in person (rather than view-screen) before we’re done. That’s a lot to juggle and still keep the story streamlined and intense, rather than just a series of reverential cameos. But if the show can keep up its current quality, we’re in for a ride…
- Production Design / VFX8