Star Trek: Picard – Season 3 Episode 2
Star Trek: Picard deals with the threat to the Crusher’s as the overall threat intensifies.
Many TV shows designed for streaming services have fallen into the model of a season actually being a long movie split into episode-sized chunks. This approach often means that an individual episode isn’t memorable in its own right because it’s designed to be considered as part of a larger whole. The Boys showrunner Eric Kripke openly criticised this approach because his view is that each episode should work on its own merits and be memorable in its own right. As someone that prefers to consume a TV show weekly, I fully endorse this opinion. Even when an entire season is released in its entirety I prefer every episode to stand out otherwise I’m unlikely to continue. Star Trek: Picard season 3 is designed as a ten-episode movie with each chapter released weekly which means it runs the risk of falling into the trap of entire episodes spinning their wheels before the pacing accelerates towards the end of the season.
So far, this show hasn’t fallen into that trap. The first episode is memorable because it mainly consists of setup and poses the questions to be answered by the rest of the season where this episode acts as a continuation but there are things about it that stand out enough to be remembered in isolation. This show employs the simple yet effective trick of dramatic cliffhanger endings to make individual episodes stand out. It may seem like a method that lacks substance because cliffhangers are designed to build anticipation and make the viewer eager to see what happens next. The anticipation created by “The Best of Both Worlds” is something fans still talk about because of how powerful it was. The trick is to not have the cliffhanger overshadow what the rest of the episode has to offer and “Disengage” accomplished this to some degree.
The cliffhanger aside, this is the episode that starts to flesh out Jack Crusher following his introduction in the previous episode. It does this by examining him from a few different angles and defining him through his actions before revealing that he’s Picard’s son. It’s an obvious and inevitable reveal that the episode treats inconsistently. On one hand, there is self-awareness in the writing that acknowledges the audience will have already figured it out. Riker directly grills Picard on the obvious resemblance while Picard refuses to address the matter.
On the other, the episode ends with Picard’s dramatic declaration that Jack is his son as if it’s a massive shock worthy of ending an episode. Picard had to acknowledge it at some point and the episode builds towards him making a decision about whether protecting him is worth risking the ship but the chosen method of delivery and ending the episode on it doesn’t work. The audience is unlikely to be shocked because Jack’s parentage has never been in doubt so it isn’t a powerful enough ending to build anticipation for the next episode.
Even discounting the fact that Jack is obviously Picard’s son, he is definitely Beverly’s son so defining him outside of his mother is essential. Beverly is unconscious for most of this episode which allows Jack to be in the spotlight. It’s a smart decision as it forces him to speak for himself and interact with characters other than his mother. A flashback opens the episode to provide context. Flashbacks were used for a similar purpose in the first season. A brief look at past events to give the viewer extra information about what the episode would cover can be important in adding depth to a given idea. In this case, the flashback shows what Jack and Beverly have been doing prior to the events of the season and goes some way towards explaining how they came to be in the current situation.
They spent their time roaming the quadrant offering medical supplies and assistance to those who need it. This often put them on the wrong side of the law as evidenced in the flashback where Jack talks his way out of legal consequences which involves greasing palms with weapons. The Crushers are acting on moral authority rather than legal authority which feeds into the idea of loyalty in opposition to protocol that the first episode featured. In this case, the letter of the law prevents them from taking action but Beverly and Jack feel they have a duty to help people who need it regardless of what laws exist preventing them from doing so. This puts them on the wrong side of organisations like the Fenris Rangers and led to them being featured on various wanted lists which is the working theory for why they ended up in the current situation.
The question at the centre of the episode is whether to turn Jack over to Vadek (Amanda Plummer). She commands a ship that eclipses the Titan in firepower so there’s no hope of matching her offensive capabilities if it came down to a combat situation. She offers an ultimatum to hand over Jack in exchange for their lives and gives them an hour to mull it over. This means that there’s time to evaluate Jack as a person and determine whether he deserves to be handed over.
Vadek is poorly served by the episode as she exists to be a mysterious threatening force. Amanda Plummer delivers a chillingly menacing performance evoking shades of her father, Christopher Plummer’s General Chang in the way she casually swivels in her chair while delivering threatening dialogue but there’s nothing to her beyond that so far. She’s a face on the view screen that provides a time limit and nothing else. She will undoubtedly receive more attention as the season progresses but she’s forgotten when not on screen despite the looming threat she represents.
Naturally, there are complications that are created by Jack’s criminal record and known aliases in different systems. He is positioned as someone who is dishonest and breaks the law. If Vadek is a Bounty Hunter and he’s a wanted man then she has a legitimate claim to him. The Federation has no jurisdiction so Jack isn’t innately protected by Federation law. From a legal point of view, the obvious course of action is to do what Vadek asks, particularly when it means saving the Titan.
The situation isn’t as simple as that as Vadek’s ship is far more advanced than any other known Bounty Hunter ship and is equipped with an arsenal of weapons that raise more than a few red flags. Why someone in command of a ship like that would want Jack Crusher becomes a question to ponder considering his criminal record doesn’t match what is coming after him. As such, Picard, Riker and Seven act as advocates for not sending him to either death or something worse.
Turning him in was never an option for Picard as he doesn’t believe in the sort of justice he imagines will come from Vadek. If he’s a criminal then he deserves a fair hearing under the justice system. He takes it upon himself to evaluate Jack and see if he can understand the sort of person he is. It’s a personal investigation for him as he wants to get an idea of who his son is. Their conversation in the brig is built around Picard evaluating him by asking him to answer for the crimes he is accused of.
Jack comes from the position of everything he has done being necessary in order to help people. On the surface, he seems like a good Samaritan fighting against unjust laws and offers corrections to the reports Picard reads to him based on his experience. It’s a compelling depiction of how perspective can shape conclusions. Picard is reading reports others have written and is drawing conclusions based on them but Jack has actually been in those places and has a different opinion based on what he has experienced.
He calls Picard out on his self-righteous attitude and points out that he hasn’t been living in the real world. It is made personal when Picard flatly states that Beverly Crusher is incapable of the things she has supposedly done and Jack challenges how well he knows a woman he hasn’t seen in decades. He accuses Picard of hiding in his Vineyard while the universe moved on and asks him whether anyone he knows is who they were when he last saw them? Patrick Stewart’s silent reaction says everything about how raw a nerve this strikes.
It’s hard to argue with Jack as one thing the first season addressed was that Picard hid away from the universe and was out of touch with reality, something that would continually catch him out as he became a more active participant outside the bubble he had created in the Vineyard. Now he’s faced with the prospect of reuniting with his former crew and dealing with how much they have changed since they served together. In the case of Beverly Crusher, she’s one of his oldest friends and he has no idea who she is any more because they haven’t been in each other’s lives for decades. As stated in the previous episode, that was due to Beverly cutting herself off from her former crew but Picard was wrong to assume that she is the same person he knew all those years ago. Jack represents the present and stands up for the decisions they both made in the name of helping people.
Jack shows himself to be honourable when he escapes the brig with the purpose of turning himself over. He does this to protect his mother rather than the ship at large but it shows that there’s more to him than the criminal record that acts as a first impression. Picard points out that if he was selfishly looking to save himself he’d have stolen a shuttle rather than gone to the transporter room. Vadek’s ship is the only thing in transporter range so it’s evident that he is looking to hand himself over. Picard sees that as proof that he has been honest about what is important to him.
The brig conversation heavily contributes to Picard’s decision to risk the ship and protect Jack as does their biological connection. Any uncertainty related to the latter on Picard’s part is completely dismissed by the silent confirmation given by Beverly when Riker brings her to the bridge. It’s a strong moment between them as everything is said without a single word being spoken. Picard’s shift in attitude from conflicted to completely decisive is perfectly performed by Patrick Stewart even if framing it as a shock reveal doesn’t work. This links in with the loyalty vs. protocol theme as Picard continues to prioritise family over what regulations might say. It’s his reason for being in this situation and knowing Jack is his son activates his protective paternal instincts.
Loyalty vs. protocol is broadly the basis of the conflict between Seven and Shaw. She risked throwing away her career out of loyalty to Picard and is starting to suffer the consequences. Shaw suffers from the same issues that limited him in the first episode. He is written as a standoffish antagonistic force so that the audience will take a dislike to him for being on the other side of what Picard, Riker and Seven believe to be the best course of action. Many of the points Shaw makes are valid and it’s clear the safety of his crew is his top priority but he comes across as spiteful rather than professional which lets him down severely. Advocating for turning Jack into Vadek because he considers her claim on him to be valid robs him of intelligence as it’s plain that there is something far bigger going on than any of them are currently aware.
Riker provides the counterargument by pointing out that regardless of his criminal record, Jack is still a person but it’s an argument that never should have taken place because Shaw should already understand that as a Starfleet Captain. There was an opportunity to portray Shaw as a heavily conflicted man thrust into the middle of a no-win scenario after his ship was diverted against his orders. Instead, he’s written as the unpleasant contrarian because that’s the only way the audience can side with Picard and Riker for putting his crew in this situation. It’s shallow, manipulative and insults the audience by steering their opinion down a particular path.
Raffi is continuing her investigation in the wake of the attack on the Starfleet recruitment facility. The attack is discussed in news bulletins that fail to frame it as a catastrophic event of any substance. The treatment of it is very passive as there are no tangible consequences. Raffi witnessed it in the previous episode and was too late to do anything about it but it isn’t devastating, there’s no sense of people being shaken or suddenly feeling unsafe. It’s simply something that happens and propels Raffi onto the next story beat.
She continues her investigation despite her mysterious handler telling her to stand down. Her decision to ignore her orders and continue feeds into the protocol vs. loyalty theme that is playing out as she is choosing to do what she thinks is right and is trusting her instinct that something is being covered up. It would be a stronger character beat if there were more tangible emotional stakes at play. For example, if Raffi had lost someone in the attack then she would be believably emotionally motivated to continue.
The episode does attempt to give her an emotional arc of sorts when she meets with her ex-husband Jae(Randy J. Goodwin) because she needs his help getting an audience with Sneed; the Ferengi who may be able to help point her in the right direction. Jae offers her an ultimatum that forces her to choose between work and her family after criticising her for focusing on her career before her family in the past. We have some context for this because of the limited coverage of Raffi’s family situation in the first season so this hasn’t come entirely from nowhere but it’s still heavily rushed when presented here.
Raffi’s choice is a difficult one because she fears something huge is on the horizon that Starfleet is turning a blind eye to for some reason. She feels like she’s the only one looking into this and failing to investigate may result in massive loss of life or worse. Jae offers her the opportunity to have a good word put in with her son but choosing that means that she forfeits access to Sneed. She chooses work over family, likely because she recognises the stakes are too high to do anything else and Jae condemns her for her choice, seeing it as her valuing her career over family.
On paper, it’s a reasonable dramatic beat that puts Raffi in a tragic light but it lacks impact because the entire thing plays out over the course of a single scene. The personal consequences of Raffi’s choice are significant and the deliberation deserved more attention than it received. This could have been a strong arc to play out over at least the course of an episode. Instead, it’s a conversation containing an ultimatum that is intangible because there is no effort to explore Raffi’s feelings about what she is being asked to choose. The context to her fractured familial relationships does help but that was similarly rushed in the first season so there’s very little to grasp onto emotionally. It’s immediately forgotten about following her choice which significantly diminishes its weight.
Raffi’s conversation with Sneed isn’t all that interesting by itself. It’s a fairly standard example of these sorts of scenes though the interesting part is when she’s forced to take drugs in order to maintain her cover. One thing that has been well-established is that Raffi is constantly battling inner demons with drug addiction being one of them. She’s risking a relapse in the name of doing her job and Michelle Hurd plays the struggle Raffi has to maintain a grasp on her faculties wonderfully. It’s a truly tense moment as the temptation to spiral can plainly be seen. Fortunately, the timely arrival of Worf (Michael Dorn) removes the danger -and some heads- while dropping the quick reveal that he is her mysterious handler.
It’s a great introduction for Worf. A figure attacking the criminals with the camera out of focus to represent the drug assaulting Raffi’s senses builds a strong sense of anticipation before focusing the camera to reveal his face followed by his line of dialogue scored with the Klingon theme. It’s impactful and exciting with a great display of nostalgic music while bringing Worf into the story in a way that is striking. His role in the larger story will have to wait for a later episode but for now, he was brought in brilliantly.
A good episode that fleshes out Jack Crusher in interesting ways while challenging Picard’s held assumptions about people he once knew. Defining Jack outside of his mother is essential and the episode achieves this by having her be unconscious for most of the episode, therefore, forcing Jack to be central and speak for himself. A flashback provides context as to what Beverly and Jack have been doing over the years. They are shown to be good samaritans acting on moral authority rather than legal authority which is suggested to be the source of the current predicament. The flashback depicts them as being on the wrong side of the law and Jack talking his way out of consequences. Moral authority vs. protocol links into the currently ongoing theme of loyalty vs. protocol explored in other characters. The question at the centre of the episode is whether to turn Jack over to Vadek. Vadek isn’t an interesting character though she is well performed. There is very little to her currently beyond the fact she commands a ship that eclipses the Titan in firepower. She offers an ultimatum to hand over Jack in exchange for their lives and gives them an hour to mull it over. This provides time to evaluate Jack as a person. Jack’s criminal record creates complications as it means that a Bounty Hunter’s claim is valid. The situation isn’t as simple as that due to how advanced Vadek’s ship is compared to a standard Bounty Hunter’s. Another question to ponder is why someone in command of a ship like that would want Jack Crusher. Picard, Riker and Srven act as advocates for not sending him to either death or something worse. Turning him over was never an option for Picard as he believes that Jack deserves a fair hearing under the justice system. He takes it upon himself to evaluate Jack. It’s a personal investigation for him as he wants to get an idea of who his son is. Jack comes from the position of everything he has done being necessary to help people whereas Picard reads reports and draws conclusions based on them. He calls Picard out on his self-righteous attitude and points out that he hasn’t been living in the real world while challenging his assertion that he knows Beverly when he hasn’t seen her in decades. Jack shows himself to be honourable when he escapes the brig with the purpose of turning himself over. He does this to protect his mother rather than the ship at large but it shows that there’s more to him than the criminal record that acts as a first impression. Picard’s decision to risk the ship and protect Jack flows organically from the brig conversation with their biological connection playing into it as well. Beverly’s silent confirmation of what Picard strongly suspects is brilliantly played though framing it as a shock reveal doesn’t work, particularly when the episode is elsewhere making it obvious that Jack is Picard’s son.
Loyalty vs. protocol is broadly the basis of the conflict between Seven and Shaw. Many of the points Shaw makes are valid but he suffers from the same issues that limited him in the first episode. He comes across as spiteful rather than professional so that the audience will be inclined to side with Picard, Riker and Seven. Advocating for turning Jack into Vadek because he considers her claim on him to be valid robs him of intelligence as it’s plain that there is something far bigger going on than any of them are currently aware. There was an opportunity to portray Shaw as a heavily conflicted man thrust into the middle of a no-win scenario after his ship was diverted against his orders. Instead, he’s written as the unpleasant contrarian because that’s the only way the audience can side with Picard and Riker for putting his crew in this situation. It’s shallow, manipulative and insults the audience by steering their opinion down a particular path. The attack on the Starfleet recruitment facility is handled very passively with no tangible consequences. There’s no sense of people being shaken or suddenly feeling unsafe. It’s simply something that happens and propels Raffi onto the next story beat. Her decision to ignore her orders and continue feeds into the protocol vs. loyalty theme that is playing out as she is choosing to do what she thinks is right and is trusting her instinct that something is being covered up. It would be a stronger character beat if there were more tangible emotional stakes at play. There is an attempt at an emotional arc when her ex-husband forces her to choose between family and work. It’s a difficult choice but lacks in weight because it plays out over the course of a single scene. The personal consequences for Raffi are significant and the deliberation deserved more attention. It’s a conversation containing an ultimatum that is intangible because there is no effort to explore Raffi’s feelings about what she is being asked to choose. Raffi being forced to take drugs to maintain her cover is interesting and draws on an established fact of her character. Michelle Hurd plays the moment wonderfully and it makes for a truly tense moment. Worf’s introduction shortly after is excellently handled also.