Picard: Episode 3 – The End is the Beginning

[Mild spoilers]

Sometimes, before I try and write a review of something, I read other reviews first. Other times, I studiously avoid doing so. It very much depends on whether I am clear on what I am going to say, even if what I am going to say is “I’m confused”. Episode 3 of Picard is a transitional episode as the story shifts from the Earthbound plot that is pulling Picard back into Starfleet machinations and onto a space-based quest.

What reading reviews after the episode gave me was a missing a piece but the missing piece nicely illustrates the thought that is being put into the story. On the Romulan project investigating the Borg cub artefact, we meet a new character Hugh, who is both a senior member of the project and also a former Borg. I thought he worked very well as a character: nominally important but aware of his fragile status within a Romulan dominated project. It was only on reading reviews that I learned that he wasn’t just Hugh-random-new-character but Hugh, the isolated Borg from The Next Generation episodes I, Borg and the Descent two-parter. I hesitate to call it a shout-out to past episodes, because it was done in such a low-key way. Rather, Picard appears to be picking up dangling threads of stories as a way of showing Jean-Luc as a man with unfinished business. The show connects with less-lauded or even disliked aspects of the past (notably Star Trek: Nemesis) in a way that is subtle and carries with it no requirement to have seen those episodes/films.

Those Hugh episodes were also Data episodes and also episodes in which questions about machines-as-humans and humans-as-machines were central. Cleverly, Picard is picking out from the chaotic hodge-podge of Star Trek storylines and creating a new text where these questions are a common narrative theme in Jean-Luc’s past. The added depth being the core unresolved conflict within Star Trek between it’s liberal, utopian elements versus the setting of a military vessel that is part of a military organisation. Outside of science fiction, what clearer space is there to examine the ethics of turning humans into machine-like people than within the military’s desire to have people who will obey orders.

In a flashback to the past, we see the day Jean-Luc resigns from Starfleet as a grand gesture and as a final gambit to force Starfleet to find a way to save the Romulan population. That gambit fails but the personal impact falls less on Jean-Luc and more on Raffi Musiker, a Starfleet officer who was helping him with his plans. Back in the show’s present Raffi is embittered and living in isolation in the desert — angry at Jean-Luc for abandoning her and angry at Starfleet for wrecking her career. However, Jean-Luc’s wine and confirmation of Romulan agents working within the Federation are the hooks needed for him to re-enlist her help.

Our other new character is Chris Rios, who currently is just framed as disreputable but capable starship pilot straight from the big book of space opera cliches. I’m going to trust that a show that has so far be more subtle in its character development has some more subtle elements planned for him.

The reviews I read all seemed impatient at the pacing of Picard. It isn’t rushing along, true, but it fits nicely into the pace of a mystery/thriller. A Star Trek: TNG episode would rattle along more quickly but would only pick up on one (at most two) of the Bad-Starfleet, synthetic-people/Data, Borg, Romulan story themes at a time. Taking its time with exposition and slow reveal of plot and character is working for me. Even so, I’m glad Jean-Luc is in space now.

Stray observations

  • Nobody seems worried that holographic people have complex personalities. I get that this is just a contradiction that spilled over from different gimmicks in past Trek but I’m also not sure if the show is intentionally pointing at the pervasive use of hologram-people in the Federation or whether they just haven’t thought through the implications. If Robert Picardo turns up in the final episode as the hidden figure running everything…
  • Laris and Zhaban are exactly the people I would choose to run a vineyard. Good at estate management and other core competencies like fending off trained assassins and interrogation techniques.
  • The show implies that the Borg attempts to assimilate Romulans was bad news for both parties. Thinking back, weren’t the Borg hinted at as being the cause of disappearing colonies near the neutral zone? I can’t find a reference to that, so maybe I’m mixing things up.
  • Of course, Jean-Luc himself is a de-Borgified person.
  • Yes, I’m calling Picard ‘Jean-Luc’ now because it’s just confusing to call him Picard when the show is called Picard and me having to remember which Picard’s to italicise.
  • I’m not calling him JL and I’m surprised he put up with that from Raffi. In a surprise twist, it turns out she was actually fired from Starfleet for repeatedly making up new names for senior officers.

20 thoughts on “Picard: Episode 3 – The End is the Beginning

  1. Regarding the Romulan – Borg connection this is the episode you’re looking for. Updated the Romulans for TNG and hinted at the Borg which were introduced in the next season. Also featured the Warbird the Romulans would be using until “Nemesis”. Marc Alaimo (later Gul Dukat in DS9) played the Romulan commander. The funny thing is that it’s a rather low key episode which only features the Romulans and the destroyed outposts at the very end.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Neutral_Zone_(Star_Trek:_The_Next_Generation)

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  2. Regarding Raffi, she quite rightly reamed Picard a new one for letting her be fired and not even checking on her for fourteen years. He got to quietly shuffle off to his vineyard, while she lost a great deal more than that. I like the notion in this show that Picard has made major mistakes and is now reaping the consequences. Stewart’s performance in those scenes was simply magnificent, even more so than usual.

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  3. IIRC Robert Picardo stated that he will be in the second season.
    Actually Im very glad there will be second season, because the first pitch sounded like a one-off thing (and I feared they kill him off)

    I liked this episode more then the second. I feel its moving somewhere. Slowly, but surely

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  4. I liked the bit about the Northern Romulans being the ones with the brow ridges. And why not? Lots of planets have a north.

    It looks like the adventuring party has all been assembled now, and the adventure itself can commence. I find I don’t mind them spending three episodes on setting it up – it looks like the pay-off should be worth it.

    There were some nice touches, I have to say. Jean-Luc being invited to sit, making a bee-line for the centre seat and then stopping in embarrassment – and I will admit to having a nostalgic shiver down my spine when he got to say “Engage.” The Romulan triangular Tarot looked intriguing, too. (I’ve been spending a lot of time with the Tarot over the past few days….)

    One point struck me: does Rios’s ship have a name? If anyone mentioned it, I must have missed it…

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    1. // The Romulan triangular Tarot looked intriguing, too.//

      Yes…some great merchandising potential there as well! I’m not one for buying genre-related stuff but I’d be tempted by a pack of those cards.

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  5. Cam: “It was only on reading reviews that I learned that he wasn’t just Hugh-random-new-character but Hugh, the isolated Borg from The Next Generation episodes I, Borg and the Descent two-parter.”

    Jack: “Beware the lone Cyberman.”

    Who/Trek crossover confirmed!

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  6. Wait…that was Hugh? Wow, I completely missed that as well.

    Raffi calling Picard “JL” is so jarring and off-putting. I like your real explanation of why she was fired.

    Excellent acting from all involved, and I am loving the cinematography.

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      1. Yes! I like it that they contacted him “You remember the character youve played it 2,5 episodes in a 7-series show 25 years ago? You better get into character!”

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  7. Because someone pointed it out at twitter: I found Raffis “Youre rich and I have nothing!” plight a bit at odds with the utopian idea of that there is no material want bc replicators.

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    1. Yes and no. It needn’t be financial. Picard retained his fame and prestige, is surrounded by friends and is gainfully occupied. Raffi appears to be alone and isolated.

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  8. This is a good reminder for me that not all fans are obsessed the way I am. Since the series was announced, I have not just watched every trailer, but I’ve tracked down YouTube videos of every Convention panel that members of the cast were on, and every media interview I could find. And I’m a fan of Jonathan Del Arco’s work since TNG, so when he was on the ComiCon panel with Stewart and the others, and at all of the interviews (at which he said several times, “I’ve been told it is okay to confirm that I’m playing the same character I played on Star Trek: the Next Generation) I have been waiting with baited breath for him to appear…

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  9. Also, I had explicitly planned to write my review of the third episode before I read any others… but last night during a wind storm (after five weeks of record-breaking rain here north of Seattle), several large trees went down about a block from my place, and took out my power literally while I was writing the first sentence of what was to me my review… power wasn’t restored for about 16 hours, by which time we were off at a social events with a bunch of friends… so I have once again read a couple of other people’s reviews of the episode before I completed mine. 😛

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  10. The use of Hugh was nicely done. I picked up on it, but if I hadn’t it wouldn’t have left me going Wait, What …
    And Agnes as the non-adventurer looks to be a lot of fun (“Maybe it was set on stun?”). I like her a lot more here than as Katie on Devs (how odd she wound up playing two SF tech geniuses the same year)

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