Picard’s Fluid Morality: The Shape-Shift of things to come?

Picard sets a trap to lure Vadic aboard the Titan. But events prove a Lore unto themselves...

Discouraged by the scale of infiltration of the Changelings into all levels of Starfleet and the fate of the missing Riker, Picard suggests a ‘Hail, Mary’ answer by tricking Vadic into coming aboard the Titan and hopefully capturing her. It’s a long-shot, but at first the plan seems to be working as Vadic explores what seems to be the remains of a crippled ship. However, even as Picard, Seven, Jack and the bridge crew seem to gain the upper hand, they haven’t counted on the interference of Lore.

If Data can’t win over the more dangerous personality in his positronic brain, will any of the crew live long enough to get the answers they desperately need?



After last week’s cliffhanger, there’s no sign of Will Riker and Deanna Troi, though Vadic does momentarily take the former’s form to taunt Picard. (Worf and Raffi are also away on their own away-team, mostly for the sake of the story). Dominion begins by showing how well you can crank up the tension with words, performances and camera-work rather than action. Seven is engaging in communication with her Voyager crew-mate Tuvok (reprised by Tim Russ in the first of two appearances this season) and trying to work out if he’s the real deal or a Changeling. It’s one of those subtext-filled dialogues with each side prodding the other for clarification. That the audience does not know what to believe given recent deceptions works very much in the show’s favour and the fact that Seven is almost convinced until she tries one more insight and discovers the truth is immensely satisfying. The implications that for the imposter to know certain details, the real Tuvok must have been captured  has huge implications and makes one wonder just how far spread the infiltration by the Changelings must be. (In many ways this season’s arc uses the largely foreshortened notion of a ‘secret invasion’ alien infiltration first suggested by TNG‘s 1988 Conspiracy episode).

This isn’t a bad episode by any stretch, but it is connective tissue with some familiar beats. Cat and mouse games through the corridors of a starship are also one of the staples of Trek stories, also sometimes the hallmark of budget-saving ship-in-a-bottle stories, but in the case of Dominion, though the sets themselves are technically limited in number, it all works to solid effect. Force-fields, ever the saviour of fight-of-flight tactics, work extremely well here…. entirely too well in separating the bad from the good until Data/Lore’s interference in the system threatens to turn victors into victims. Kudos as always to Brent Spiner who conveys who is in control of the synthetic character’s persona with just a movement of the eyebrow and inflection of voice.

It’s interesting that while the title of the episode, Dominion, somewhat takes its cue from the story-arc of the same name in Deep Space Nine, it can also refer to the notion of superiority taken directly from Genesis itself. (“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth“). Likely something the Changelings would disagree with… As The Next Generation originally progressed – and moved a little away from Roddenberry’s more idealistic edicts – it had its more morally-complex stories and by the time we got to Deep Space Nine‘s endgame there were a multitude of dark and grey areas regularly being explored. The conclusion of the Dominion War saw the apparent defeat of the Changeling forces but only by the Federation creating a biological defense that when deployed against the enemy was dangerously close to outright genocide. (The late René Auberjonois’ Odo would eventually re-enter the Great Link bringing with him a semi-cure, but arguably the damage had been done.

With this episode, those desperate war-time actions somewhat pale in comparison to the revelation that experiments were then being done on several captured members of the Changeling race – what amounts to torture and vivisection – all in the name of finding a way to turn them into a weapon of even greater infiltration and danger. Vadic has always come across as a few drops short of a gallon, an overtly theatrical and twisted super-villain played with relish by Amanda Plummer. However this is the episode that explains more of her origin – a dark mix of a captured Changeling and her torturer – driven insane by those experiments and now on a mission of vengeance against the race that tried to annihilate her own. It’s a tribute to the performer and the writing that we start to feel sympathy for Vadic without lessening our dislike. It’s also worth remembering that while she’s been the main antagonist thus far, she appears to be taking orders from Evil McFloaty Face, so we’ll need to know more about him/it before we’re done.

The subject also affects the interactions between Beverly and Jean-Luc as they hold a far-too-calm Vadic captive. Even understanding the bigger picture, they both know that Vadic is someone who will never be reasoned with and whatever the righteous origins of her motivations will always be a danger to everyone. It’s interesting that they both seem… not comfortable but almost resigned to the fact they’ll have to kill her. While I see no problem about that fatalistic approach in a life and death confrontation, I’m not quite convinced that they’d do that with actual malice aforethought to an unarmed figure and there’s still a niggling thought in the back of my head that if Jack’s origins aren’t what they seemed, Beverly could still turn out to be other than the real deal.

Speaking of Jack, charismatic Ed Speelers is giving his all as the character but as one of the big enigmas of the season with, the character seems somewhat at the whim of an episode’s writing rather than having a very strong throughline. He’s gone from Han Solo-esque swaggery to troubled, estranged offspring and he moves from lover to fighter from scene to scene – and the awkward even sinister flirting with Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut’s Ensign Sidney La Forge is interesting to watch develop as they potential death together. Now we have some latent telepathy thrown in to the mix just in time to save the day again. At episode’s end Vadic – now in control of the Titan – gets ready to reveal Jack’s secrets, just in time for the credits to roll.

After Pop goes the Weasel as a musical touchstone last week, we have variations of Three Blind Mice in the musical cues and Vadic’s murmurings – whether there’s a common denominator or not, we probably don’t have long to find out, but given that this is a remnant of the torturer’s whistling and ‘Weasel’ was a genuine music cue remembered by Data, it could be just a happy motif rather than actually thematically linked.

All in all a decent episode, not quite as good as last week’s but still proving to be a welcome addition to Picard‘s best season to date.

'Star Trek: Picard S03  Ep7 -Dominion'  (Paramount+ review)
'Star Trek: Picard S03 Ep7 -Dominion' (Paramount+ review)
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