Here is my take on the latest episode of Star Trek Picard. And yes, I know this is late, but I have been tired and busy. My take on Moon Knight will probably come in the next few days. For my take on previous episodes and seasons of Star Trek Picard, go here.
Warning: Spoilers below the cut!
When we last met Jean-Luc Picard and his Merry Men and Women, Rios was still in prison, Elnor was still dead, Seven and Raffi were bonding over Seven’s attempts to drive a 21st century police car, Agnes was still playing cat and mouse with the Borg Queen and Picard had just found the Watcher, who looks uncannily like Laris, his Romulan housekeeper and potential love interest.
However, the woman is not Laris. She is called Tallinn and she is a supervisor like Gary Seven from the Original Series episode “Assignment Earth”. Of course, it was widely theorised that season 2 of Picard would reference “Assignment Earth”, which was after all one of the time travel episodes of the Original Series. And indeed, Picard even namechecks that particular adventure of his predecessor as captain of the Enterprise. There are a lot of visual callbacks to “Assignment Earth” as well such as the smoke effect when entering Tallinn’s retro apartment which in itself looks more like the 1960s than 2024. Honestly, that could be a repurposed Mad Men set. And while talking of “Assignment Earth”, doesn’t Teri Garr look just like a Mod era Barbie in this publicity still with the human form of Isis, the cat? This 1968 Barbie dress named “Rare Pair” hits the look even better. Honestly, she looks like the lost Roberta doll. Coincidentally, this also explains why I have always liked the Mod era Barbies so much. Because they look like Star Trek supporting characters. See this Christie doll from 1968, who looks a lot like Uhura.
Like Guinan last episode, Tallinn isn’t particularly eager to help Picard, until he introduces himself to her. For it turns out that the person that Tallinn is supposed to watch over and protect is none other than Renee Picard, a direct ancestor of Jean-Luc Picard. Renee is a brilliant overarchiever, a teenged single-hand sailor, former test pilot and now the NASA astronaut, who is supposed to take part in the Europa mission, for which we saw billboards all over the place. Renee is also the blonde woman whom Q was observing at the end of last episode.
Even though Renee is brilliant, she also suffers from the bad case of imposter syndrome as well as depression, so NASA has assigned her a therapist. Unfortunately, that therapist is Q who’s doing his utmost to make things worse for Renee and talk her out of the Europa mission, which is apparently the timeline change he is trying to make. Picard learns all this from Tallinn’s handy futuristic laptop, via which she watches over Renee.
Tallinn also tells Picard that once Renee and the other astronauts go into pre-launch quarantine, she’ll be safe from Q’s influence and it will also be very difficult for her to back out of the mission. So they’ll only have to keep Renee on track for another day or so. Unfortunately, this day involves a huge party thrown for the astronauts pre-launch. This reminded me very much of A.E. Van Vogt’s 1944 story “Far Centaurus”, where the narrator kisses a girl at exactly such a pre-launch party and the moons over her whenever he awakes from cryosleep on a five hundred year sublight mission to Alpha Centauri. They do get a happy ending, though you have to read the story (or my review, but just read the story) to find out how.
However, infiltrating the pre-launch party to build up Renee’s confidence and get her away from Q won’t be easy, because security will be heavy. “We’ll need help”, Tallinn notes. Luckily, Picard has got a team that can help.
Which brings us to Raffi and Seven who are still trying to rescue Rios from ICE detention, deportation and possibly worse. Agnes has managed to beam Raffi and Seven to a hilltop near the road that the ICE prison bus carrying Rios and others about to be deported will come along. Raffi wants Agnes to just beam out Rios (though he lost his com badge at the Mariposa clinic), though Seven points out that this will cause a lot of attention they cannot afford. Of course, Raffi and Seven themselves just vanished into thin air in front of a bunch of police officers after a chase with a stolen police car, so one person suddenly vanishing into thin air from a ICE prisoner transport will not exactly make things worse. In fact, considering that Starfleet personnel been showing up in California – usually San Francisco, but also Los Angeles – regularly since 1968, I suspect there are urban legends about strange visitors from the future or alien planets who suddenly appear out of and vanish into thin air all over California.
However, if the solution to Rios’ dilemma was as simply as beaming him out of the bus, the car chase, which made up the bulk of the previous episode, would have been entirely pointless and so the show goes for another solution. Seven uses Raffi’s tricorder to disable the bus via an EMP pulse, causing it to stop.
Rios realises that the unscheduledd bus failure is probably the prelude to his rescue and tells one of the other prisoners, Pedro, to be ready. This attracts the attention of one of the ICE guards, who doesn’t speak Spanish (which should be a must for someone dealing with immigrants from Spanish speaking countries), but really doesn’t like his prisoners talking. Rios knocks out the annoying guard with some help from Pedro, then Raffi and Seven storm the bus, stun the driver and proceed to free all the prisoners. Rios hugs Pedro and Raffi briefly mistakes a young Hispanic man with long hair for Elnor, to show both that Raffi is still mourning Elnor and probably also to justify why Evan Evagora is still in the credits, when his character has been dead for two episodes now.
Of course, by freeing a busload of prisoners who were destined to be deported and/or disappeared, Raffi, Seven and Rios may well have changed history in a big way, but the episode ignores this implication. Besides, those ICE thugs really had it coming and freeing the prisoners is a “Hell yeah!”, so we shall just ignore the potential issues and assume that all of the freed prisoners will keep a low profile. Unless Raffi, Rios and Seven accidentally changing the timeline by doing good is the plot for season 3, which we know was shot alongside season 2.
Meanwhile, aboard La Sirena, the Borg Queen is lonely and bored. She is missing the voices of the Collective in her head, so she tunes into the local radio and cellphone chatter. Then she accesses La Sirena‘s computer – mimicking the voices of Seven and Picard before realising that La Sirena only responds to Rios – and places a call to the local emergency services to order herself some company.
The local emergency services send a gendarme to check out the call reporting about hearing a woman screaming for help on the deserted vineyard. The gendarme checks out the chateau first and is literally seconds from finding Agnes, who is not in danger at all, but sleeping on the couch, when he notices a flicker among the trees outside, which turns out to be the La Sirena‘s cloaking device fizzing out.
The gendarme apparently expected the call to be a hoax and did not expect to find a spaceship from the future. He even less expected to find the Borg Queen inside the spaceship, because no one expects to find a Borg Queen. Before the poor gendarme can as much as fire his gun, the Borg Queen wraps a tentacle around his throat.
When Agnes comes back, carrying a shotgun that was seen hanging over the fireplace of Chateau Picard last episode, she finds the Borg Queen with her hostage. The Borg Queen promises Agnes she’ll let the gendarme go, if Agnes allows herself to be assimilated, since it’s Agnes the Queen really wants. Agnes, however, pulls the trigger and shoots her – with a rifle that was seen hanging over a fireplace at Chateau Picard. Yes, Agnes literally shoots the Borg Queen with Chekhov’s (Anton, not Pavel) Gun, which makes my geeky heart a lot happier than it should.
Raffi, Seven and Rios make it back just in time to find a blood-splattered Agnes, a dead Borg Queen and an unconscious gendarme. Though Agnes has managed to stabilise the gendarme and erase his memories, so he won’t be blabbering about alien spaceships and murderous tentacled cyborg women who are only torsos. When Picard arrives with Tallinn in tow, Raffi and Rios are just dragging the still unconscious gendarme out of La Sirena, prompting Tallinn to ask if Picard is sure that these are the right people for the job.
However, it’s not as if Picard can hop back into the future to grab Ryker, Worf, Geordi, Data, Beverly Crusher or Deanna Troi. Okay, if Picard were to break the fourth wall, he could in theory grab Ryker or at least Jonathan Frakes from the director’s chair, but it’s not that kind of show. Therefore, this is the team he has and so they get to work. Security at the astronaut pre-launch party is tight – facial recognition, biometrics, the whole shebang – so infiltrating the party is extremely difficult. Hacking the guest list isn’t possible either, because the guest list is kept on a separate computer. And Tallinn can only sneak one person in, not six.
So it is decided to send Agnes in and let her be captured, so she can get into the security center and hack the guest database. Which is exactly what happens. Agnes attends the party in a stunning red gown, has a glass of champagne while the band plays “Fly Me To the Moon”, justifying the episode’s title.
And while we’re on the subject, can we talk a little about the use of music in season 2 of Star Trek Picard. Because not only does season 2 have a lot of non-orchestral music, which is normally rare in Star Trek – Remember the fury when Star Trek Enterprise had a (perfectly fine) theme song with lyrics rather than an orchestral theme? – but music from a very particular era, namely the 1950s and early 1960s. “Fly Me To the Moon” was written in 1954 and the famous Frank Sinatra recording was made in 1964. “Time Is On My Side”, which can be heard in episode one, was written in 1963 and the famous Rolling Stones recording was made in 1964. And “Non, je ne regrette rien” was written in 1956 and recorded by Edith Piaf in 1960. All three songs fit the mood perfectly, but they’re songs you’d expect to hear in Mad Men rather than in a series set in 2024 and the 25th century. And indeed, “Fly Me To the Moon” did appear in Mad Men, playing over a scene where Peggy Olsen masturbates in what I always thought was a brilliant music and visual match, even though Mad Men also had a lot of anachronistic music choices, which are one of my pet peeves in period TV shows. Of course, Guardians of the Galaxy popularised the idea of pairing up science fiction with vintage pop music (though Guardians picked songs from the early to mid 1970s, i.e. the Musikladen era) and it worked really, really well, so it was likely that other SFF shows would eventually follow suit. Though I still wonder why Picard went for music from the 1950s and early 1960s. It’s not because the 1960s were the era of the Original Series, because the songs playing in Picard all date from a few years before the Original Series. Also, pop music changed and evolved extremely quickly in the 1960s, a lot quicker than in any other decade. In 1966, when the original Star Trek premiered, “Fly Me To the Moon”, “Time Is On My Side” and “Non, je ne regrette rien” were not exactly the cutting edge of pop music. Anyway, I may be overthinking this, but I find it interesting.
Everything goes as planned. Agnes is arrested, taken to the security center and handcuffed to a chair. However, we then get a flashback to what really happened aboard La Sirena when Agnes shot the Borg Queen. Because just before the Borg Queen expired, she transferred part of her mind into Agnes’, setting up Agnes to either become the new Borg Queen (which would fit in nicely with her terminal loneliness) or a Borg hybrid disconnected from the Collective like Seven or Hugh. Either way, this is going to throw a massive wrench into Picard’s plans. It’s also a shocking moment, for while it was obvious that Agnes was at risk of assimilation, I for one did not expect it to happen like this and neither did Paul Levinson, as he explains in his review of this episode.
However, Picard and his team are not the only ones who have a plan. Q has a plan as well. And since he can no longer make things happen just by snapping his fingers (and what’s up with that anyway?), he, too, recruits himself some help. This help happens to be a brilliant of unorthodox geneticist named Dr. Adam Soong, ancestor from Noonien Soong, creator of Data. Like every male member of the Soong family, Dr. Adam Soong is played by Brent Spiner, who has by now played four different members of the Soong family, six if you count Data and Lore. We first meet Dr. Adam Soong in front of a university committee, which is withdrawing his funding for unethical behaviour. The chair of the committee is played by none other than Lea Thompson, star of several 1980s SFF films, who also directed the last two episodes. Sitting next to her is a man billed as Dr. Rozhenko by his name plate. Star Trek fans will recognise the name, since the Rozhenkos were Worf’s adoptive family.
Dr. Soong is heartbroken, for he has a very good reason for crossing all sorts of red lines with his research, namely his daughter Kore (played by Isa Briones, who also played Soji and Daj and is apparently what all female members of the Soong family look like). Kore has a rare genetic disorder which means that expore to sunlight or dust can kill her. Dr. Soong is looking for a cure, which is why he is so desperately pursuing his research.
Soon after losing his funding, Soong is contacted by a mysterious benefactor, who just happens to have a small vial of a blue liquid that could cure Kore. However, the cure is only temporary and in order to make it permanent, Soong will just have to do a little favour for this mysterious benefactor. And of course, the benefator is none other than Q. The phone number on the dramatic calling card Q leaves for Soong actually does work, as James Whitbrook points out, and plays a snarky message from Q himself, if you call.
I hadn’t heard that Brent Spiner would be in season 2 of Picard, so his appearance her is a pleasant surprise. Though it’s also notable that not only do all Soongs look at same, they’re also all in essence mad scientists tampering with life itself. Also, why do all the Soongs look the same? Are they clones, just like the Emperors Three from the Foundation TV show?
While the previous episode moved too slow, “Fly Me To the Moon” is a very busy episode. New characters are introduced and a lot of stuff happens. Tor.com reviewer Keith R.A. DeCandido is happy that the plot is finally moving forward again, since the season has already reached its mid point. However, io9 reviewer James Whitbrook also points out that “Fly Me To the Moon” has almost too much plot and that quite a few things don’t make a whole lot of sense.
For example, why is the security so tight at the astronaut pre-launch gala? Cause the sheer amount of security suggests a G7 summit rather than a party for some astronauts. And if NASA security is so tight in this era, how can Q of all people sneak in, posing as a therapist? And since Q’s finger-snapping trick no longer works, how did he come to have the cure Dr. Soong needs for Kore? Finally, why exactly do Q’s powers no longer work? And what is up with Agnes and the Borg Queen? And what about the Mariposa Clinic? Was that a red herring or is it going to be significant in the future?
It’s a credit to the writers that you don’t ask all of those questions during the episode, but only realises that there is a lot here that makes no sense when you think about it afterwards.
“Fly Me To the Moon” has pushed the plot a large step forwards, so let’s see where the show goes next.