Star Trek: Picard – Season 3 Episode 9

Apr 13, 2023 | Posted by in TV


Star Trek: Picard gears up for the end of the season with answers to longstanding questions and the beginning of the attack on the Federation.

This season of Picard has been very light on narrative progression. Most of the focus has been on reminders of the mysteries established early on rather than delivering information as the season progressed. A good mystery builds by each answer presenting a different question before all of the pieces fit together before the climax. This show hasn’t done that as the same questions are constantly repeated up until the reveal finally comes and there’s no time to explore it. Vadic’s backstory is the most prominent example as it was revealed in the seventh episode and then wasn’t utilised beyond providing a reason for her hatred. There was potential but leaving until such a late point in the season to provide answers meant there was no chance of realising that potential.


Not these guys again

The other prominent example of a drawn-out mystery made up of reminders instead of development is Jack’s visions. Ever since he started having them, any subsequent coverage was made up of the repetition of the red door and the vague voice asking to be found. This episode finally provides the answer to the owner of the voice and it turns out to be the Borg.

This reveal is underwhelming for a couple of reasons; chief among them is that the Borg are massively overused even in the context of this show with all three seasons featuring them in some capacity. They were used differently in each one but their prominence can’t be ignored. Their inclusion is understandable as one of the main objectives of this season is fanservice and the Borg are popular among Star Trek fans so making use of them is an easy way to get a vast chunk of the fandom excited without doing much in the way of development. The Borg are powerful and innately terrifying so merely including them is enough to provoke a strong reaction.

Another issue is that the reveal comes so late in the season that there’s very little time to use the Borg effectively. Everything has to be established, explored and concluded within two episodes which unfortunately lends itself to screeds of exposition designed to outline the Borg’s plan. There’s a significant imbalance in how time has been spent this season. The majority of it has been taken up by the Changeling threat and that seems to have been brushed aside now that the Borg have been revealed. The handling of Vadic made it evident that the Changelings were little more than a means to an end and they are only referred to in the past tense as the attention shifts to the true threat.


A moody conversation

If handled better the Changelings could have been a far more interesting threat and much of their contribution to the season remains unresolved. One key question is how they came to be working for the Borg. The promise of the destruction of Starfleet is the obvious motivation behind this alliance but the mechanics of how this came to be remain unanswered. Vadic’s interactions with the Borg showed that they were the dominant partner and controlled the relationship through fear, at least to a partial degree. The lateness of this reveal leaves very little time to explore the dynamic of their alliance. It’s unfortunate as they both have a collective consciousness so exploring that similarity and how it’s applied differently would be potentially something very interesting. Not exploring that renders having both involved in the same story a wasted opportunity. There also isn’t much time to cover whether the Changelings are satisfied with what the Borg have delivered. If nothing else their desire for revenge was visceral and powerful so brushing them aside as the stepping stone to the introduction of the Borg does them a massive disservice. The caveat to my comments is that the final episode may cover this to some degree but the problem with everything at this stage is the limited time in which to wrap everything up.

This episode is full to the brim with exposition as the characters drop knowledge at an accelerated rate. There is no other option beyond burning through plot in an effort to have it make some kind of sense. This means that so many of the scenes are functional with very little time to let moments breathe. An early example of this is Troi exploring the dark recesses of Jack’s mind to find out what’s behind the mysterious red door. What could have been an engaging introspective look at Jack’s psyche turns into largely mechanical plot delivery. There are mentions of Jack’s childhood connection to a song and flowers that suggest the Borg tried to entice him into embracing them. Using Beverly’s voice is another obvious attempt to draw him in.

With more time, Troi guiding Jack through his mind could have been a strong insight into his character and the influence the Borg have had on his life. The previous season explored the psychological component of assimilation. Annie Wersching’s (R.I.P.) Borg Queen worked to make Jurati accept assimilation as a good thing because the Borg require their victims to embrace the Collective in order to complete the assimilation process. Jurati was shown how euphoric being part of the Collective consciousness could be and the Queen preyed on her insecurities while offering her something beyond the kind of connection she had always wanted. Something similar happened in the Prodigy episode “Let Sleeping Borg Lie” when Zero was tempted by what the Collective was offering. Seeing how that temptation has impacted and shaped Jack over the course of his life could have been a compelling companion to those two prior examples but the recurring theme in this review is that the lack of time results in underdeveloped ideas and disappointment.


Better than words

Ultimately, Troi opens the door and runs off to report what she saw to Picard and Beverly without telling Jack, therefore teasing the answer to the question of the identity of the voice behind the door for another few seconds. This results in quickfire exposition explaining how Jack’s connection to the Borg could be possible by comparing his abilities to that of a bird among a flock of birds or a bee in a beehive before stating that Picard’s Irumodic Syndrome was a misdiagnosed remnant of his assimilation. It was previously established that it appeared Picard’s brain abnormality had been inherited by Jack which brought up the idea of a parent passing on an illness to their child and blaming themselves for a quirk of genetics. That idea is still there but it has now changed to Picard unwittingly passing on his connection to the Borg. He refers to it as the worst of him and is unquestionably remorseful for being the cause of what is plaguing Jack.

Picard accepts responsibility and resolves to be the one to tell Jack the truth. He’s an honourable man who never shies away from a difficult conversation so this is entirely expected behaviour and it allows Jack to confront the source of his issues. Their conversation is very dense for a relatively short exchange with the two actors delivering excellent performances as they process their very different emotions. Picard recounting his experience of being Locutus of Borg is beautifully acted by Patrick Stewart. It’s clear the trauma has stuck with him and the things he was forced to do weigh on him heavily. This follows up his reaction to Shaw detailing his experience of being on the other side of the Borg’s attack during the events of Wolf 359 in the fourth episode and further highlights the lack of consent the Borg represent. Picard recounting his experience is an attempt to meet Jack somewhere near his level by offering assurance that he understands the power of the Borg’s influence and how difficult it is to resist. There’s real pain in Picard’s voice when he talks about the Borg using him to try to kill everyone and everything he holds dear.

Jack’s side of the conversation is fascinating introspection on his part. He starts to question his own sense of self as he worries everything he is came from the Borg. He talks about his desire for connection and his belief that everyone should put aside their differences and think with one mind. There are two obvious interpretations of that philosophy. The first is the noble idea that conflict-free unity is possible and a peaceful universe is something worth striving for. The second is the Borg’s quest to stamp out individuality and replace it with every being contributing to a single mind and purpose. Jack’s desire can either be idyllic or terrifying depending on the way you look at it. People putting aside their differences to work together and embrace their differences is what many would consider the ideal eventuality whereas the Borg as a fascistic force of nature bending everything they deem worthwhile to their will. Becoming Borg will achieve that unity but the substance of life will be lost.


Pomp and circumstance

The concern Jack has is that he has spent his life desiring what the Borg want and he finds it very difficult to resolve that within himself. He knows he has compassion within him and a strong desire to help others but his sense of self has been shattered now that he believes he’s the result of a Borg experiment. Instead of being Jack Crusher; humanitarian and believer in helping others he now sees himself as Jack Crusher, child of the Borg and that’s more than he can currently handle.

Regardless of the source of his desire for unity and peace, there is an existential question to be asked about the concept of nature vs. nurture. Is Jack corrupted with a predetermined path before him or can he choose to be better? Choice is the opposite of what the Borg represent but can Jack choose to take what they are and be the best version of it? Can he break their hold on him and be his own person or will that temptation overpower him? The idea of changing the Borg into a more positive force in the universe is similar to Jurati’s appeal to the Borg Queen to form a collective based on compassionate cooperation rather than conquest. Jack’s situation is different and the conclusion for him may be a far more personal break from the destiny the Collective wants him to fulfil but the idea of the Borg being something that can be used positively is an interesting one.

Picard accidentally makes the situation worse by making Jack feel like a prisoner which drives him away. He talks about keeping Jack safe and sending him to an institute on Vulcan where he can be helped. Jack sees this as an attack and uses his possession powers to control two security officers to escort him to the Shuttlebay. On his way out he loudly declares to Beverly that he’s going to seek the Queen out to get answers before showing her who he is. Jack’s hostile reaction to both Picard and Beverly is understandable given that he’s spiralling and then made to feel worse by Picard’s less-than-tactful handling of the protocols he’s trying to follow. It makes him feel cornered and the natural impulse is to escape which ends up with him on a Borg Cube addressing the Queen.

Contributing to this is repeated reference to fixing or undoing this. Jack rejects the idea that he needs to be fixed as that means there is something wrong with him. The last thing he needs to hear is that he’s wrong in some way as he already has a fragile grasp on his own identity. If he isn’t a complete person who can control his own destiny then he’s a failed experiment that needs to be repaired and that’s not something that can simply be processed. Jack feels that he needs to understand what he is rather than have his family change him in unpredictable ways. At this point, he believes that he can only get the answers he seeks from the Borg which puts him in a very dangerous situation.

His meeting with the Borg Queen (Alice Krige) is frustratingly bereft of answers. She makes declarations about him being her child and she refers to him as “Võx” meaning “voice” as a distinction from his father, Locutus meaning “the one who speaks”. Jack being the voice suggests that he is considered very important to the future of the Borg but those answers will have to wait until the finale as Jack appears to submit and doesn’t appear again in the episode. The Borg ship is an impressively ominous setting; the state of disrepair highlights that the Borg aren’t at their strongest which somewhat justifies the need for more direct tactics. It’s unknown whether the next episode will be able to deliver a satisfying conclusion to Jack’s story. As per the theme of this review, time is the problem.


Working the problem

The Borg begin their attack on the Federation using the Frontier Day celebration as the time and venue of their attack. Exposition sets up that they have been secretly altering people when they use a transporter and have managed to assimilate almost everyone as a result. The only people susceptible are those under the age of 25 which is bad news for Geordi’s daughters but good news for everyone else in the cast. Picard started as a show about how the current generation has been failed by the previous one and the need to accept responsibility for creating a less-than-ideal world for them to inherit. Since then the show has pivoted somewhat to the notion of the older generation still being relevant with things to offer. Both are strong ideas but Picard as a show hasn’t developed either of them very well and this season has been so concerned with nostalgia that there is an awkward reverence for the “good old days” suggesting anything coming after them is irrelevant.

Taking younger characters out of the equation entirely is in keeping with what this season has delivered so far. It has been advertised as a send-off for The Next Generation crew so it’s only natural that they would be the focus but the climax of the story sidelining the younger characters to the point that they need to be rescued points to the older generation being the only ones capable of solving this problem because of their age and experience. The old crew coming together for one final mission that proves they deserve their status as legends is a reasonable idea but the active dismissal of anything that came after them is short-sighted and a sign that the Star Trek franchise is trading on past glories with a pathological fear of moving forward.

It’s especially egregious in this episode as every development isolates The Next Generation crew and positions them as the only hope. Jack leaves to seek answers from the Borg and everyone that didn’t come from that show either dies, ends up -presumably temporarily- assimilated or stays behind on the Titan. Seven especially should be in the thick of whatever the crew will do to try to counter the Borg threat but she remains on the Titan with Raffi. It’s especially odd as Seven is a legacy character albeit from a different show but her expertise should have been an important part of what comes next. Raffi was newly created for this show and could have easily fed into what comes next. It’s possible Seven and Raffi will have a part to play but taking them away from The Next Generation Crew furthers the idea that the writers aren’t especially interested in them.

Shaw’s death also furthers that idea. It’s framed as a powerful emotional beat but it doesn’t land because it hasn’t been earned. Shaw was written as deliberately antagonistic to Picard, Riker and Seven by being unnecessarily abrasive. It’s a manipulative tactic to ensure the audience side with them over him even though he is usually right in condemning their actions. One major point of contention was his refusal to refer to Seven by her preferred name, instead opting to force her to go by her given name, Annika Hansen. His history with the Borg adds some texture to this as Seven is a former Borg and using her designation as her preferred name was likely an uncomfortable reminder of his experience but regardless of the reason, refusing to use her preferred name is disrespectful. Perhaps whoever assigned Seven to the Titan should have considered Shaw’s history with the Borg before doing so.


This puts a damper on the celebrations

The obvious conclusion to this is that Shaw comes to respect Seven and demonstrates this by calling her the name she prefers. This happens in his dying moments but it’s completely unearned because there has been no evidence of his attitude to Seven changing over the course of the season. As recently as the previous episode he was chewing her out for making the wrong decision when the Changelings were trying to take over the ship so a point was never reached where he started to respect her to the point that he would accept her for who she is. It’s a cheap tactic to make his death more impactful by manufacturing Seven earning that respect and ending their relationship at the point it had changed positively. The show didn’t deliver it so his death doesn’t have the meaning it was supposed to. As with many things, it’s just something that happens.

Frontier Day ends up being underwhelming considering the buildup to it. The Enterprise F performs a quick flyby as the entire fleet watches and there’s a terrible speech by Admiral Shelby (Elizabeth Dennehy) before the Borg take over every ship thanks to the software that allows every ship to operate in unison. The takeover is swift and definitive and combines neatly with the biological component to give the Borg total control of the ships in the fleet as well as the people on them as long as they’re under the age of 25.

A possible message to be interpreted from this is that the younger generation is too reliant on technology and leave themselves vulnerable to being exploited because of that dependency. It doesn’t quite work as a message as Shelby is an older character extolling the virtues of this starship networking software but The Next Generation crew later looking to fall back on something analogue and old school supports the notion that advancing technology is in itself a threat because it takes away people’s ability to do without it. Surrendering control of every ship in the fleet to software in the name of defence is a powerful display of that reliance and it proves -at least in the context of this event- that it’s dangerous to trust technology so completely.


My friends. We’ve come home

The scenario involving ships connected by software is so contrived as it seems tailor-made to be abused by an enemy. It’s also worth noting that the first season of Prodigy culminated in networked ships turning on each other and the last season of this show began with the Borg taking over ships that were augmented with Borg technology so this threat is already a heavily recycled one. It’s difficult to connect with it on an emotional level as the stakes are so unimaginably high and all that builds up to it is reams of exposition rapidly fired at the audience. There is limited emotional resonance brought on by Geordi’s daughters being among the assimilated but they are poorly defined characters at best so beyond the surface-level recognition that every active ship in Starfleet as well as a lot of the officers onboard are under Borg control there’s very little to latch onto emotionally.

One thing that is unfortunately lost in the abundance of things happening is the idea that the Borg and Federation aren’t all that different when viewed from a high level. They were once so compelling because they were a twisted version of aspects of what the Federation stands for. The Federation look for unity through peace and collaboration whereas the Borg look for unity through conquest and assimilation. Ultimately, both powers want the same thing but have vastly different outlooks on what that looks like. It’s touched on through Jack worrying that his worldview is influenced by the Borg and brought up again when Picard points out that the software connecting the fleet is Borg-like. This could act as a potential jumping-on point for a “Are we really so different?” introspection but such a question would require more interrogation of the Federation. There is still merit in the comparison between the Federation and the Borg as being almost two sides of the same coin. Embracing software that further blurs the line between them is an ideal starting point to explore that idea but it drifts by with only a handful of references.

Another problem with the exposition-heavy plot movement is that there isn’t enough time to properly capitalise on The Next Generation Crew finally being together. Data was added to the mix in the previous episode but is largely relegated to being an exposition delivery machine along with Geordi and Worf. Instead of seeing the two friends working through a problem together like old times, all that is delivered is them reporting after the problem has already been solved. It’s a waste of the potential that comes with having these characters reunited as their dialogue could be delivered by anyone.


Back where we’re supposed to be

Data does have two strong moments within the episode. The first is when he asks Picard if he would like him to say something comforting and opts to simply put a supportive hand on his shoulder when such a feat proves impossible. The other comes when all he can muster when asked to be more positive is “I hope we die quickly”. These are good moments but that’s all they are, fleeting moments while the potential to make use of these familiar dynamics is wasted throughout the episode.

The reveal of the restored Enterprise-D is the logical culmination of this season’s obsession with nostalgia. Every episode has contained a litany of callbacks and references to Star Trek of old which stops this show from having a defined identity of its own. Modern Star Trek has a frustrating obsession with reliving its glory days. It’s a problem as the franchise consistently fails to move forward and forge its own identity that doesn’t rely on its own history. This is a persistent problem in all franchises and shows no signs of going away any time soon because audiences respond positively to reminders.

Bringing back the Enterprise D is unquestionably a manipulatively nostalgic manoeuvre that fully exploits the audience’s connection to The Next Generation. It puts the characters back to exactly where they were in the days the audience remembers and completes the roster of characters as Gene Roddenberry often said that the ship has to be a character within the show.

This is precisely why the reveal works. Most viewers who watched The Next Generation will have an emotional connection to the Enterprise D -myself included- so seeing the ship restored and ready for another adventure with the crew she carried has undeniable weight. Pushing aside the fact that the Enterprise D is a variation of the Ship of Theseus as it has been restored by Geordi but likely contains no original components it is still a monumental reveal and enjoyable to see in all her glory. The ship represents a bygone era of Star Trek that this show desperately wants to belong to but doesn’t. It never can because time has moved on and no amount of failure to recognise the need to evolve will change that. There’s a simplicity to The Next Generation on a conceptual level that can never be recaptured so what comes next will be different and any attempt to recapture that magic will fail.

The scene on the bridge prior to departure is heavily saccharine to the extent that undermines the moment to some degree. It makes sense that the characters would be emotionally affected by seeing their old ship but the dialogue in the moments itself feels forced. Despite that, these characters back on the bridge of their ship manning their familiar stations is exciting and builds anticipation for the finale. If only everything prior to that moment had been as strong.


The Enterprise D of Theseus flies again…or for the first time


A weak episode with ridiculously high stakes that has no choice but to deliver reams of clumsy exposition to make up for the lack of narrative progression in the preceding eight episodes.

  • 4.5/10
    Võx - 4.5/10


Kneel Before…

  • the science fiction twist on inherited illness from Picard to Jack
  • Picard accepting responsibility and telling Jack the truth
  • Picard’s deeply emotional recounting of his experience with the Borg
  • Jack losing his sense of self when considering what about him may have come from the Borg
  • raising a compelling nature vs. nurture debate with the nature being what the Borg gave Jack
  • Data comforting Picard with a simple hand on his shoulder
  • the Enterprise D reveal having weight and pushing all the right nostalgic buttons


Rise Against…

  • the underwhelming Borg reveal
  • no detail given about how the Borg/Changeling alliance came about
  • brushing the Changelings aside
  • not exploring the obvious collective consciousness connection the races share
  • far too much exposition
  • not capitalising on the dynamics the reunited characters have
  • Troi and Jack’s mind trip being nothing more than functional
  • Jack’s meeting with the Borg Queen being frustrating bereft of answers
  • Frontier Day being underwhelming
  • taking every character not from The Next Generation out of the equation
  • Shaw’s death lacking the necessary impacy
  • underdeveloped messaging about the overreliance on technology
  • not exploring the idea that the Federation and the Borg are more alike than anyone is prepared to admit
  • the contrived scenario involving all ships being connected by software
  • the heavily saccharine scene on the Enterprise D undermining the moment to some degree


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User Review
6.57/10 (7 votes)

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