Star Trek Picard – Season 3 Episode 7

Mar 30, 2023 | Posted by in TV


Star Trek: Picard isolates the Titan crew with no allies beyond the bulkheads of the ship as Vadic closes in on them.

So much yet so little has happened so far in this season of Picard. Going into the seventh episode of the season it’s still unknown what the Changelings are planning and Jack’s visions remain a mystery. Developing a mystery is a storytelling skill that is very difficult to pull off as in order to succeed it needs to progress over the course of the available running time with answers being expressed at key points before being properly explored. Much of modern media spends the bulk of its time setting up the mystery before dropping the answers when it’s far too late to explore them to their full potential.


Looking up old friends

This episode proves that with its handling of Vadic. Her origin story is finally detailed after being vaguely alluded to over the course of the season. She talks about being imprisoned in Daystrom and subjected to horrific torture at the hands of scientists. Her hatred for Starfleet is motivated by that experience which sheds light on her repeated declarations that she desires revenge. It’s a simple case of being hurt by Starfleet and wanting to return the favour which seems anticlimactic given the time it has taken for this answer to be supplied.

A desire for revenge after being tortured isn’t a terrible motivation. It’s easy to understand because the effect naturally flows from the cause. Vadic’s hatred is deeply personal and the result of a wound that was inflicted on her. She talks about her experience and the account is suitably harrowing. There’s no ambiguity around what she experienced. Those experiments were meticulous and brutal and she suffered immeasurably in the process. It all adds up to a compelling villain notification that could be used to give her considerable depth and muddy the overall morality of the situation being created by her.

Where it falls apart is that the reveal comes so late in the season that there is very little time to do anything with it. As such, Vadic’s origin story is delivered through an extended monologue outlining it punctuated by edgy barely coherent flashbacks to indicate the difficulty she has even forming those memories through the constant pain she experienced. It’s well delivered and shocking in the moment but that’s all it is, a moment. This should have been definitive for Vadic and fully explored over a longer period of time in order to add the necessary depth to the character and intensify the murky morality that results from the reveal.


Isn’t it about time you did something?

The torture was done to her by Starfleet in one of their facilities which puts blood on the hands of Starfleet and the Federation. Picard realises that as shown when he regretfully states “I didn’t know”. He and everyone else in Starfleet are complicit in what was done to Vadic because they are part of the same organisation and live their lives by the same principles. Whether the torture was performed by Section 31 or some other clandestine organisation is irrelevant because they came under the umbrella of Starfleet. Someone somewhere authorised those experiments, others probably turned a blind eye to it and everyone else lives in blissful ignorance unaware of the cost of their utopian society. It’s clear that Picard realises this and regrets it but it never becomes more than that single utterance. At no point does he confide in anyone about understanding where Vadic is coming from or condemn what was done to her in any meaningful way. Two episodes ago he was furious with Ro Laren because he felt that she betrayed everything that he stands for and wasted no time condemning her for that but his reaction to learning that others in Starfleet actively betrayed their principles to inflict torture on a living being is oddly passive.

Some of this is down to time. The end of the season is fast approaching with lots left to cover so there simply isn’t time for Picard to slink off and question the morality of Starfleet before using that knowledge to inform how he deals with Vadic. It could connect to the cynicism he already expressed in the first season regarding the handling of the Romulan evacuation after the attack on Mars. Picard has had several indications throughout his career and life that Starfleet doesn’t always practice what they preach so this could be the next step in him reckoning with that fact and exploring what his personal tolerances are. If the reveal had come earlier in the season then there would be time to explore the implications. Even if the knowledge had been given to the Titan crew after raiding Daystrom in the previous episode then they could have gone into their encounter with Vadic knowing the source of her hatred. Instead, the information is delivered and becomes quickly meaningless because the plot moves on to the next development.

It’s unfortunate because there are some interesting points of linkage. Vadic wants to hurt Starfleet in a very public and existential way. The Frontier Day celebrations are mere hours away at this point and it’s clear an attack of some sort is planned even if it’s not clear what that attack will be. Frontier Day is a celebration of Starfleet’s anniversary so it is pageantry associated with what Starfleet stands for. Vadic’s perception of the event is that it’s a fanfare of hypocrisy as she knows first-hand that Starfleet doesn’t live up to what they stand for. Attacking the celebration is a clear statement that she believes the organisation to be a lie. It may yet prove to be a powerful statement when the show eventually gets around to depicting Frontier Day but the lateness of this reveal severely limits the time to consider everything associated with it.


Is this really the time or the place?

Another thing the episode has no time to explore is the morality of genocide and murder. Both are raised at different points in the episode and the discussion is tabled where genocide is concerned and rushed where the second is concerned. Beverly brings up the possibility of the Changeling evolution being a possible weakness as it means there is potentially a trait unique to them that could be exploited in order to kill them. Picard asks her to work on it and they’ll debate the morality if they need to which makes sense in a way as there isn’t anything to debate at this point and they have limited time to take action so there’s no sense in wasting it with a potentially unresolvable hypothetical ethical debate.

The other debate is around whether to kill Vadic though it isn’t actually a debate. Beverly points out that Vadic is too calm and confident despite being a prisoner and believes that this points to her having a plan that will result in her escaping and taking Jack. Picard briefly questions whether they are so fundamentally changed that they are willing to compromise everything they believe in. Beverly believes that she is losing her compass and tells Picard that they invited death onto the ship by bringing her on board and Picard responds by readying his weapon. They are absolved of this decision as Vadic escapes before they can kill her but the ease in which they arrived at that decision is troubling.

Their willingness to make that decision proves Vadic right. A point made by her earlier in the episode was about how Starfleet behaved in the face of desperation. The war had barely started before a genocidal virus was deployed and the experiments performed on Vadic as well as the other Changelings show that morality is quickly forgotten when they feel threatened. The cost of paradise is justifying committing atrocities in order to preserve it. Beverly and Picard choose to kill Vadic out of that same fear and desperation which proves her point. They are shown to be no better than those who tortured her because they are willing to kill a -at the time- harmless prisoner in case she escapes. It’s unlikely this will receive any attention after this episode but it’s crying out for examination.


It’s all getting a bit much for poor Jack

Despite the influx of information associated with Vadic, there’s a lot that remains unknown. The most glaring is that she answers to someone else so isn’t in charge of the attack on the Federation. Her deeply personal reasons for seeking revenge and wearing the face of her torture to illustrate the impact that experience had on her would suggest that she is leading the charge but she periodically talks to a mysterious figure who appears as an obscured face that she communicates with by cutting off a part of herself. The face speaks in cryptic language as is common for frustratingly extended mysteries but always makes clear that Vadic and her crew are completely expendable. She has been shown to protest the danger associated with an order she is given only to be reminded of how important she is. Vadic fears whoever she answers to as evidenced by being sheepish around them whenever they interact. The confidence strips away and she quickly stands down when her protests are disregarded. It’s another thing there is limited time to fully explore. Vadic is a poorly developed antagonist that has been peppered throughout the season while remaining mysterious and her boss is even more mysterious which suggests that the identity will be delivered as a shock reveal late in the season. It’s concerning how little is known.

The trap set for Vadic and her soldiers was a clever touch. Deploying forcefields strategically to catch them is a good use of the available technology that shows how resourceful the crew of the Titan are. It does come across as being too easy as the only complication is Jack and Sidney being boxed in between two trapped soldiers. Other than that every trap they set works and the Changelings fall for it every time. There’s a distinct lack of them using their shapeshifting abilities to get the upper hand even though they easily could. If they had opted to transform into something fast-moving or a cloud of vapour then the plan would have failed. It’s far from the first example of the Changelings failing to behave intelligently and it’s unlikely to be the last but as a set piece, it was impressively staged and frenetically paced.

This episode contains one of the few examples of Changelings behaving intelligently. Seven reaches out to Tuvok (Tim Russ) looking for allies only to find out that he has been replaced by a Changeling. Replacing those that the Titan crew are likely to reach out to is a good strategy that makes use of the potential associated with a threat that can appear as anyone or anything. It doesn’t accelerate their plan in any way but it raises the stakes by establishing that there is nobody out there for them to turn to. Geordi is the one to state they should accept the unfortunate truth that they are on their own.


This isn’t a trap, not even a little bit

Seven constantly setting verbal traps for Changeling Tuvok was another nice touch. The mention of Kal-toh seems to be proof that Tuvok is who he says he is but Seven continues to challenge him until he slips up. This reinforces Seven’s intelligence and justifies the appearance of Tim Russ as the conversation relies on Seven and Tuvok’s prior relationship to work. His inclusion feeds into the acceptance of their isolation so it makes for an example of meaningful fan service. The episode manages to lull the viewer into a false sense of security by deploying the Voyager theme when Changeling Tuvok passes Seven’s first test before shattering it by revealing that he is an imposter. This also highlights that the Changelings are difficult adversaries because people may be predisposed to quickly trust the face of someone familiar and abandon the line of questioning. Seven isn’t one to be easily fooled but many may not be as thorough.

The mystery surrounding Jack continues to be bereft of answers. Vadic teases revealing the truth about him in the closing moments but otherwise, all that exists are reminders that there is a mystery. Her dialogue is purposely vague in regard to him. She talks about taking him somewhere but won’t say where, wanting him for his abilities and won’t say why. The dialogue is deliberately geared towards withholding answers for as long as possible when there is no tangible reason for doing so.

Jack gains two new powers that he uses throughout. One is telepathy and the other is the ability to possess or take control of someone. Both are used on Sidney. Telepathy is used in service of developing their attraction to each other and possession is used to allow her to defeat a Changeling. The latter prompts her to point a phaser at him out of understandable fear. That sets up a potentially interesting personal consequence for what is happening to Jack. If what he is or what he’s becoming is something that will terrify people around him then that will only add to the sense of isolation that he has referenced previously. He talks to Picard in this episode about always having felt different and is quickly realising that he is different in ways that he can’t understand. This terrifies him which creates a strong basis for exploration.


Who is supposed to be trapped anyway?

Other than brief acknowledgements, Jack’s visions and abilities are largely plot-driven. It’s another issue with dragging out a mystery until late in the season. Doing so makes it far more difficult to provide an engaging character-driven connection to the mystery. We’ve seen that Jack is a good person who has visceral visions where he does terrible things such as murdering everyone on the bridge. This was an issue in only one episode and hasn’t been brought up since. If the idea had been introduced earlier and he was constantly wrestling with a desire to kill then there would be much more of a contrast between the person Jack wants to be and the person he fears he’s becoming.

It has been mentioned that he recognises what traits he has inherited from Beverly and Picard so having opposite traits that he doesn’t know the origin of associated with the violent visions could make for a fascinating inner conflict for Jack to wrestle with. What is being loosely set up is an eventual choice built around the kind of person he wants to be. That connects to Starfleet’s choice to give into the worst of themselves when threatened. Will Jack do the same? Based on how little attention this has received beyond reminders that there is plot behind that mysterious red door there is unlikely to be a satisfying exploration of what this means for Jack as a person. It’s frustrating as the ingredients are all there but the writers refuse to put them together properly.

Some of the content surrounding Jack is engaging. His conversation with Picard is very well-acted and contains some compelling character beats. Jack is struggling to deal with the cost of his safety. He mentions that people have lost their lives in service of protecting him and he is not at all comfortable with that. It’s supposed to be a contrast to his well-honed self-preservation instincts though it was never actually established that he only looks out for himself. In the second episode, attention was drawn to him and Beverly being good samaritans providing medical aid to those who needed it so he isn’t above putting himself in danger for the benefit of others though will actively look to ensure that he escapes a situation possibly at the expense of others. That’s no longer who he is as he has grown to realise that others laying down their lives for your benefit isn’t a good thing and isn’t easy to live with.


Curse your sudden and inevitable betrayal

A major thing weighing on him is Riker’s capture. He blames himself and is likely thinking back to Riker urging him to earn the effort being put into protecting him. It seems to be something he didn’t truly understand until now and he’s willing to trade himself for Riker. Ed Speelers is excellent in this exchange. He plays Jack as someone who is spiralling and dealing with situations he is wholly unprepared for. Picard is the calm and collected voice of experience who knows exactly what Jack is going through and can offer the guidance he needs to manage his emotions in the moment. It’s something he mastered over a long career and now he has the opportunity to impart real wisdom to his son. Jack coming to him and opening up about the visions he has been experiencing shows how their relationship has developed. He is starting to trust Picard and a bond is developing between them. This gives an indication of the direction their relationship is heading and starts to give Picard a tangible legacy as he has a son who feels there is a place for him in his life.

Elsewhere on the ship, the issue of the newfound android is a significant distraction. The main objective is to figure out exactly who or what it is which involves a lot of repeated information from the previous episode being shared among people who were there to hear it the first time. The facts have been fleshed out slightly where the makeup of the android is concerned. Gone is the mention of Lal being in the mix and B4 and Soong are relegated to memory files only. The major ingredients of this android are Data and Lore who begin a battle for dominance over the body that they share with Lore becoming the threat that was predictable the moment his name was mentioned.

The Jekyll and Hyde dichotomy is one of the most well-known conflicts there is. One man wrestling with his inner darkness that manifests as a persona made up of the worst of himself. An evil twin is another of the most well-known conflicts there is. Someone who is essentially a genetic copy of you being almost the exact opposite. The android provides both as Data and Lore are positive and negative forces residing within a single body while also being brothers. The episode doesn’t deliver much of the internal conflict beyond acknowledging that there is one but there’s bound to be a visible internal struggle within the positronic brain of the android in the near future because that’s just how TV works with these sorts of stories. For now, Lore takes over and threatens the ship just as the crew are holding the Changelings prisoner which provides the opening leading to the seizure of the Titan. Data regains control at a key point while making it clear that the fight is far from over. The stage is set for a final confrontation between the brothers.


I wanted to be caught. I’ve seen The Dark Knight!

One of the more interesting things about the android is its duality. It’s currently both Data and Lore and there’s currently a struggle to achieve harmony between the two sides of that. Much is said about Data and Lore being partitioned personalities as a simple way of describing that two personalities are installed but kept separate. One of Geordi’s theories is that the partition exists as a way to possibly combine the personalities in a functional way that allows for a functioning individual. Data was limited by a lack of emotion hindering his full understanding of Humanity and Lore was limited by sociopathic tendencies leading him to regard humanity -and other organic life- with contempt. A happy medium may exist between the two where Data’s positive lessons combine with Lore’s emotions to create the best of both. Alternatively, one may simply win over the other and prove themself to be the superior brother.

For me, the most compelling outcome is that the conflict is resolved by the creation of something new yet familiar. So much of this season of the show is built on reminding the audience of what came before by pointing at it and doing nothing interesting with it. Based on that, it’s likely that the end result will be Data defeating Lore and the character continuing on in this new body. That’s less interesting than a new character that reminds the other characters of their old friend while being different and unpredictable in ways that may unsettle them. It would create opportunities for compelling drama built around the uncertainty of having an ally that isn’t quite what they are used to in their midst.

Data’s inclusion in the season is itself somewhat troubling as this is a character who has had two on-screen deaths. The first season finale delivered a solemn and dignified end for Data that Nemesis failed to achieve. It was a poignant end for the character so dredging him up in this way does that conclusion a disservice. It’s also worth noting that this is the second copy of Data that has been featured in this show. The original -even though it’s likely not the original if you scour The Next Generation for examples of duplicate- was destroyed with the Scimitar and the version of him that appeared in the finale of season 1 was a copy extrapolated from a piece of him that was running in a simulated environment. That copy of him asked for Picard to help him die and that wish was granted. This version is extrapolated from the memories that were copied to B4 so picks up from the point of the copy.


Torture and a jaunty tune

All of that makes sense in the context of technology. If the essence of Data is simply, well, data then, theoretically, he can’t die because all that he is can simply resume in a new body with only a few hours missed. The problem with that is that it boils Data down to a machine that simulates sentience rather than being a sentient being with his own agency. That was never the approach in The Next Generation. A whole episode was done on the subject of Data’s sentience and it was declared that he is no less a person than any other member of the Enterprise crew. The Next Generation would come to revisit the examination of Data’s sentience and self-awareness multiple times so the approach here is a disservice to all the work that went into developing the existential arguments around Data as a person.

Nemesis had another take on the issue, specifically where Data is concerned. In the film, he transfers his memories to B4 and tells Picard that even though B4 is physically identical and contains all of his memories, they are completely different people because their experiences have created something unique. The conversation was in service of answering Picard’s self-doubt about his own potential after meeting a dark clone of himself but it clearly shows that Data had a clear idea of how unique he was. According to this show so far, he isn’t as unique as was previously stated because he can apparently be copied infinitely to continually resurrect him. It could be that there is more to be said on this existential issue but so far there seems to be a lack of consideration of the full implications of what is going on here.

In fairness, the other characters are operating on the premise that Data is a person and someone very important to them that they lost. Picard declares that witnessing the battle between Data and Lore is “too much” and is visibly desperate to do something to help Data in some way. He suggests erasing Lore which completely ignores another moral quandary. If Data is a sentient being then Lore also is so erasing his personality from the android is tantamount to murder. It’s not something that is discussed because Lore is unquestionably a threat but not addressing the moral complexity of what they’re dealing with renders the struggle between the two brothers pointless from a narrative standpoint. It’s obvious that Data’s friends would favour him but not considering there being another fully sentient presence to consider is a glaring omission.

Geordi shoots down the notion of erasing Lore because he doesn’t know enough about the mechanics of how the android works to consider interfering with it. He wants to take things slowly and figure out a way to restore Data because letting down the partition means that Lore might succeed which would result in the permanent loss of Data. Geordi doesn’t think he can live through that again. This is a good beat because it provides emotional stakes to the situation based on a well-developed friendship. Geordi is a man who lost his friend and doesn’t want to reopen that wound. Lore’s sentience may be ignored as part of this conversation but at least it’s easy to understand where Geordi is coming from, specifically where Data is concerned.


Playing possum

Brent Spiner once again proves how gifted a performer he is by seamlessly shifting between the Data and Lore personas. It makes what may otherwise be dry exposition-filled scenes more interesting viewing by adding a character-driven flavour to them. Data and Lore give some clues to why the Changelings took Picard’s former body by referring to “an anomalous form” within it that may render his prior diagnosis inaccurate. The suggestion is that Picard is special in some way and has passed that on to Jack. No details are given as to what that anomalous form is believed to be nor is there any light shed on what Lore means by a “perfectly imperfect Picard”. It’s yet more mystery box storytelling more focused on questions than coherent answers.

Shifting back and forth clearly between Data and Lore establishes how intense that battle for dominance is and how strong a presence Lore is. Later suppressing Data entirely and taking over the Titan’s systems is another example of that. There’s a strong suggestion that Data will win because of the connections he created with others based on him taking back control after a heartfelt appeal from Geordi. He talks about how their friendship made him a better man and how devastating losing him was. It’s an appeal to Data to fight and use that connection for strength in the same way Geordi did. Lore even admits that Geordi’s strategy is a powerful one before declaring that he wants survival.

He’s willing to do whatever it takes to achieve that which includes freeing the Changelings to take down the crew. The most frustrating thing about the lack of coverage of Lore’s sentience from the point of view of a moral debate from Picard and the others is that everything Lore does is begging for that to be addressed. He is a dying man with nothing to lose and there is no recognition of that from the supposed heroes of this story.

As the episode ends the only question that has been definitively answered is why Vadic wants revenge. The closing moments are a tease of the answers to the mystery surrounding Jack which may come in the next episode but, as repeatedly said above, the season is 70% complete and there is very little in the way of narrative progression. It’s unlikely that there is enough time to deliver answers and satisfactorily explore them.


Under new management


A weak episode that is too little too late in terms of answers to some enduring mysteries and delivers only surface-level exploration of an interesting existential debate.

  • 4.5/10
    Dominion - 4.5/10


Kneel Before…

  • Vadic’s simple and understandable motivation
  • the first example of strategic intelligence from the Changelings
  • Seven constantly testing Changeling Tuvok
  • Jack and Picard’s conversation about the cost of Jack’s safety
  • the sequence where the crew trap Vadic and the Changelings
  • the Jekyll and Hyde dynamic with Data and Lore
  • Brent Spiner shifting characters
  • the emotional beats from Picard and Geordi in regards to Data
  • Geordi’s emotional appeal that helps Data take over

Rise Against…

  • very few answers this late in the season
  • no time to explore Vadic’s origin story
  • surface-level acknowledgement of Starfleet being behind the atrocities
  • no further information given about who Vadic answers to
  • moral debates set up and not explored such as the morality of genocide and murder and willingness to erase Lore despite being sentient
  • Picard and Beverly concluding that they should kill Vadic with troubling ease
  • Changelings failing to use their shapeshifting abilities against the Titan crew
  • dragging out the mystery surrounding Jack unnecessarily
  • repeating the information about the new android delivered in the previous episode to the people who already know it
  • glossing over much of the existential debate surrounding Data and Lore
  • the suggestion of Picard being special in some way


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