No Win Scenario: Picard S304 Review.
With time running out, Picard, Riker, and the crew must confront the sins of their past and heal fresh wounds, while the Titan drifts helplessly toward certain destruction within a mysterious space anomaly.
There’s something quite nice about this episode and how the opening scenes set everything up. Following their encounter with Vadic, the Titan is spiralling into certain doom. Having taken heavy damage, there’s no power to escape a gravity well, no hope and no way to call from help. As everyone faces certain doom, Riker sets up the rest of the episode with a warning to Picard. The one thing Riker wished he could do was see his son again. After Picard’s avoidance of Jack, Riker tells his former captain that there’s not much time left and that time would be best spent getting to know his son.
From there the episode follow a series of cathartic emotional moments for much of the crew which both gives a break from the action as well as highlights more on the hidden truths behind these characters. Something thats quite welcome considering the previous season’s best moments came from hidden depth. This time a lot of that hidden depth was shown in the holodeck – a system with it’s own power source designed for moments like this; in facing certain doom the holodeck becomes the violins playing as the Titanic sinks. And thus, a version of Guinans Ten Forward was generated to play host to catch ups and confessions.
The most intriguing part of that depth came from Shaw. As Jack and Picard were getting to know each other, Shaw interrupted after escaping sickbay to tell the tale of who Picard is to him. As a young officer Shaw served as an engineer during the battle of Wolf 359. Much like Ben Sisko – and likely countless other officers and crew – he first met Picard in battle as Locutus during the annihilation of the task force that failed to combat the Borg Cube Locutus was commanding on the way to Earth.
Shaw’s hatred of the Borg and Picard in general don’t all come down to seeing him as a Borg kill thousands of people. It comes down to survivors guilt. Shaw was randomly selected to enter an escape pod ahead of his peers and the memory has lived with him for decades. The recap of what happened was a deeply emotional scene that sheds some light on who Shaw is and shows a real struggle to why he resents the old Enterprise crew and plays it safe to protect his own and not have to face that choice himself.
Not only did that moment bring Shaw a little more humanity from the previously seen sarcastic and antagonistic qualities, it let us see many shades of the Pivard-Locutus time; Shaws understandable anger. Picards calm acceptance. Jack’s defence despite making a conscious choice not to know his father. The younger crew, who never experienced it, both confused and upset at their captains raw feelings for a moment they haven’t experienced.
That complexity of emotion runs throughout the whole episode. For Riker, it’s coming to terms with his failings as a husband as he struggled to accept his sons death and how that effected his relationship with his wife, who had to carry her burden alongside his as an empath. There’s Seven who comes to terms with not being the pinnacle of perfection she’s expected to be while taking some solace in Crash LaForge calling her by her name, and not by Hansen.
As an episode it’s perhaps one of the best mixes of old and new styles of writing. Since the (quite incredible) opening of the 2009 Star Trek movie, the franchise has focused on character and emotion. Even in Strange New Worlds which focuses on the traditional story of the week tales, there’s an undercurrent of Pike being very aware of his future among other threads. However here there’s a real blend of emotion and good old classic problem solving. Including Bev Crusher being completely distracted with the nebula and how it’s behaving, finding a solution and Picard listening enough to try and bury the hatchet with Shaw to ask for his help to use Bev’s sciencing and his engineering background to find a solution to save the Titan and it’s crew.
As an aside to it all, we also learned some key plot points. Mainly that there were Founders on board the Titan. And they’re not quite the same Founders we remember….
All in, only four episodes in and it’s already an impressive outing. Changelings running rampant on the Titan. Emotional reveals that break down most of our characters. An escape that brings hope and wonder…
- The dipshit from Chicago. Shaw really is one of the most grounded humans we’ve had in this era. Terry Matalas has managed to replicate the same character arc for Todd Stashwick in Twelve Monkeys in four episodes rather than four seasons. And It’s wonderful.
- Riker. Frakes had always joked that he was never any good and hated watching himself back in certain episodes where he had to challenge himself He’s aged like a fine wine here, especially both acting and directing that episode. Like anyone else, he’s carrying the weight of tragedy and regret perfectly, from telling Jean Luc to talk to Jack right up to taking control. Though gutted he said “acting Captain” in his speech as he hit the mark and would have been nice for him just to be the captain in live action now he’s taken command by default.
- The nacelle work. I always love to see the inner workings of the ships and that kind of effect would never have happened before. Just from a geeky standpoint, the added detail made the sequence all the better. Though even the Titan “sinking” was wonderfully put together.
- And of course… Jack. We know now he did want to reach out and just didn’t like what he’d seen or heard. But it’s nice that they’re not writing in any particular resentment. Just someone who got on with life on his own terms and is willing to talk it out now and ask when he’s likely to go bald.
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