Star Trek: Picard picks up two more recruits for their “lost cause” in an episode that introduces what I suspect will be a string of pit stops on the way to Freecloud.
“You can’t even take a guilt trip without a starship.” No lies detected in this statement from Raffi as the crew aboard Rios’ starship discovers that they are not headed directly for Maddox in Star Trek: Picard season 1, episode 4. Instead, Picard has another recruit for the mission in mind, but the pool of warriors he has in mind might not be willing to assist the former admiral in his quest.
“Absolute Candor” stalled a bit in its pursuit of driving two narratives forward. The conversations between Narek and Soji at the reclamation site held no weight, the scenes cast Agnes and Rios at polar opposites were clunky at best, and Picard’s attempt to restore his righteousness with the people of Vashti did little to move me.
The fourth outing of the series did, however, have two great introductions with Elnor and Seven of Nine, as well as some incredible shots courtesy of director Jonathan Frakes (who has yet to make his return ON SCREEN).
‘Star Trek: Picard’ season 1, episode 4 recap
Holograms cannot solve everything
To kick off episode 4, the hospitality hologram has recreated Picard’s study to the letter thanks to scans sent over by Zahad. While it might be worth diving into why Picard wants to construct a reminder of his self-inflicted isolation aboard the ship, it’s likely due to the fact that this is a standing set and why waste all of that work on 3 episodes?
But one thing that is worth unpacking — and is something I was not expecting to happen with the debut of Star Trek: Picard — is decoding the mystery of one lonely, sad pilot and sorted his relationship with various holograms programmed (with his likeness) on his ship. He especially hates the hospitality hologram, who recognizes this strained relationship and instantly disappears when Rios enters the room. These are… smarter than the average aids and feel almost sentient, able to read emotions and respond accordingly.
To be completely fair, I have to side with Rios in that a hospitality holorgram would be my least favorite type of person to be around. Give me a ruffigan who looks like he just rolled out of bed and could care less that he is under attack — like Emmet, the emergency tactical hologram — any day.
But holograms aside, Rios seems to have no problem yielding to the requests of Captain Picard, a trait that Raffi mocks him for. Instead of headed directly to Freecloud, Picard wishes to visit a place from his past, Vashti. One of the locations where Romulans were relocated to after the supernova, we are treated to a flashback early in the episode where Picard is viewed as a hero, someone who was going to relentlessly work for the Romulan refugees he brought to Vashti.
But efforts to complete the integration process were pushed to the wayside as Picard receives a transmission about the attack on Mars that forces him to leave in a rush. Included among those he left behind were the Qowat Milat, a collective of warrior sisters, and a young Romulan boy, Elnor who was taken in by the order.
Picard’s check-ins were a bright spot for the boy, who saw the man as a male figure of leadership, (and style icon in his white suit and Panama hat) the person who introduced him to The Three Musketeers and practiced fencing with him in the courtyard. But “the boy with the stick” is no longer a child and his days of wielding a sword for fun are long over.
This trajectory of this story is clear is day — Picard left these people behind and is seeking to not only make amends but call in a favor and after some much needed reminders of his lack of follow through, things will ultimately go his way. And though all of these beats are hit, the story does have some great moments. For instances, take the way of absolute candor. The Qowat Milat live with full transparency, a total communication of emotions with no filter between thought and word, a complete counter to the ways of the Romulans.
Returning to the planet proves to be a bit difficult with Bird-of Prey on guard and a defense system that only allows 1-minute of access on a 30-minute cycle. Picard buys his ticket for transport and returns not to a 40-foot statue of himself, but a disappointed, tired, and desperate people.
Vishar has become the hotbed of the Romulan rebirth movement, battles are raging, and the Qowat Milat have done all they can to keep people safe. But even the most feared warriors of the Tal Shair can only handle so much. Picard is no longer viewed as their savior. If anything, Picard is as useful as a hologram to these people, if only they could command him away.
The boy with the stick
“One impossible mission at a time.” Raffi, though in a huff about Picard using their precious time to reopen old wounds, does take the time to pull him aside and offers him some softer guidance. While he cannot go back and atone for all the mistakes he made, Picard sees an opportunity to close the book on one of his failings.
Picard makes his way through to the Qowat Milat, where he finds an old friend and leader, Zani. She greets him with respect but does not turn a blind eye to the fact that he does not have much of a reputation to stand on in this territory. “You could not save everyone, so you chose to save no one.” My notes reflect the delivery of this line aptly — YIKES.
Picard does not back away from this accusation, instead admits to his failings that perfection became the enemy of good. He also speaks openly about the fact that while he would like to make amends for his near rejection of these people, his mission is one of layered personal gain. He needs the services of the Qowat Milat, if one will willingly take up his cause.
In speaking to Elnor, he discovers that his training — training that is typically reserved for the sisters of the order — is complete and he can only serve those whom he deems worthy. For the moment the former admiral inspires nothing but resentment in the warrior, however Zani believes that to see Elnor go off with Picard would bring her some joy in knowing that he is seeking a life outside of Vashti.
But even with the intrigue of Data and his daughters and the possibility of seeing cats — not the film, but the living, breathing animals — is not enough for Elnor to take up his sword in defense of Picard. Another blow to the ego of Picard, he takes his wounded pride and heads into the town where he has more enemies than friends. So how does he choose to spend his final 7 minutes on the planet? By inciting throwing a “Romulans Only” sign into the dirt and taking a seat at the café.
Jonathan Frakes has two incredible shots on Vashti. The first takes place as Picard arrives and we catch a fleeting glimpse at the armbands worn by some of the residents. They appear to have a target of red. In a later shot, as Picard is headed to the town center to prepare for transport back to the ship, he is shown through a red barricade, essentially targeted in the same detail as badge. For a planet that is muted in its display of color, the two items are striking. Both signaling against unwelcome visitors.
The latter leads into this moment where Picard faces down the least forgiving people and their spokesperson, a former Romulan senator. Faced with taking up arms against the man, Picard chooses to hear his words and try to assuage his anger by expressing his guilt. But words offer him little help as these are a people who were betrayed once by the words of Picard. Promises made during the evacuation efforts, promises that left them with tears of joy are now distant memories.
His words reflect the pain of all Romulans who were displaced during the refugee crisis.
“No one asked for your help. You didn’t understand Romulan ingenuity, resolve, self-sufficiency. You took advantage of us when we doubted ourselves. Scattered, confused, and divided us.”
Though he apologizes, the former senator goes to attack the defenseless admiral. However, Elnor steps in asking the senator to choose to live in this moment. But he does not and as he advances, Elnor slices his head clean off saying, “I regret your choice.” If it weren’t so brutal, it would be beautiful.
With that action, Elnor has proclaimed himself qalankhkai to Picard. Why? His cause met the requirements for worthiness — it is a lost cause. Though grateful that Elnor has joined the team, Picard stresses that the man on Vashti did not need to die. In future, he need only act on the orders of Picard.
Speaking of acting on the order os Picard, not meaning to step on too many toes it is second nature for the retired admiral to dish out commands on the bridge. Rios is happy to oblige and these give and takes guide is through a battle with a Bird of Prey style ship that is more than eager to take the La Sirena out of the Romulan neutral zone.
But lucky for us the scruffy Spanish-speaking tactical hologram and a familiar face come to the rescue of the best pilot.
The reclamation site could use a little activation
Just as the way of absolute candor helps those who need the assistance of the Qowat Milat, another practice in direct opposition to the type of secrecy the Romulans practice proves useful — public records of ship passengers. In his quest to “plant seeds” of doubt in Soji he discovers that her backstory does not line up. She was never on the ship, Ellison.
But he buries that information under the guides of flirting his way back into her company. Narek is only fooling himself if he thinks he can keep up this charade without developing actual feelings for the person/thing his people are out to destroy before she activates and destroys them.
This event is known to the Romulans as Ganmadan — the Day of Annihilation. We learn this by watching a video of Rhamda before her assimilation as she describes what the ancestors thought of as the end of everything, all life everywhere, when the shackled demons break chains and answer the call of the destroyer. Though Soji sees herself as a normal researcher, one who has a framed picture of her and her sister on her desk, the Romulans view her as the threat to end their entire race and the world.
Soji cannot stay away from Rhamda who is in recovery. When Narek presses her for a reason why she says, “I felt seen even though she didn’t like what she saw.” Countering Narek, she asks for more information on his mysterious nature — no badge, no uniform, everywhere at all times, yet needed nowhere. Is he Tal Shiar? Instead of evading the question, he does answer her with a “yes.” Much to my surprise. But after all, would she believe him?
In the Picard episode 3, Soji explains to Hugh that she usually gets what she wants simply by asking for it, even if the information is classified. She has to work a bit harder when it comes to gaining access to the Borg files that contain the details of what happened to Rhamda’s ship, but Narek does offer to help her access the files.
He tries to court her on a cheesy date, sliding through the ventilation system of the cube, but his questions get him the cold shoulder. Beyond planting seeds of doubt, Narek’s efforts have failed to produce anything worthwhile for his sister. He has one week left to get something from Soji or she will… kiss him? It’s really hard to tell with Narissa.
‘Star Trek: Picard’ final thoughts
- I am having trouble grasping the idea that “Freecloud” is a physical place, but I’ll leave it to next week’s romp — in fabulous costume — as proof enough that this is a manufactured experience not unlike Picard’s hologram-generated study.
- Jurati and Rios could be great friends, but I feel as though the writers are going to push them into romantic territory and I’m not quite into that idea.
- Speaking of Jurati, her motivations for being on that ship — besides being candidly irritated by everything happening around her — is the
- “You owe me a ship, Picard.” SEVEN OF NINE IS HERE!
- Narissa and Narek’s relationship is less fun now. I am all for a brother-sister duo but her possessive nature and playful behavior is LOADED with erotic undertones that I am not vibing with.
- I need that long story about Kelpian opera, Rios.
Star Trek: Picard will release new episodes on CBS All Access in the U.S. on Thursdays, on CTV Sci-Fi channel in Canada on Thursdays, and on Amazon Prime elsewhere on Fridays.