If you’re worried about spoilers for Star Trek: Picard‘s ninth episode—first of all, what are you doing here?! And secondly, GET OFF THE INTERNET. Seriously, I saw a mainstream publication stick a major spoiler right there in the caption of an otherwise context-less photo. And of course the click bait-y headlines like “What SPOILER means for SPOILER” that just show up on webpages, even when you’re not looking for Picard stuff at all. All right, y’all have been warned. All the spoilers to follow this pic of a sad-looking Picard.
Welp, the masterminds behind Star Trek: Picard‘s third season sure did their homework. Not only are they trying to tie in threads from the first season, with Picard’s synth body, but they’re plugging decades-old plot holes from the Next Generation era. I’m actually quite impressed. Until Data revealed that the Changelings had stolen Picard’s organic body, I thought they were going to go on pretending that whole thing never happened. Instead, they made that whole season-one plot line, with Picard’s weird brain disease and having to switch bodies, essential to the season-three conflict. And it actually kind of makes sense. They also manage to tie it into First Contact, where Picard can hear the Borg. Now, if they actually bring back Queen Agnes in a way that makes sense, that’d just wrap up this whole thing in a nice bow…
Anyway, we kick off with a telepathic therapy session, where Troi helps Jack figure out what the heck is going on with those vein-y red-door visions. He’s too afraid to open it, so she offers to do it for him. What she sees SHOCKS her. And no, that’s not a click-bait headline. It literally happens, and she goes running to Picard instead of talking to the scared young man right in front of her. Good job, Counselor. I also thought it was a cheap trick to cut away from what she sees like that, and go straight to Picard and Beverly’s alarmed-yet-vague reactions.
Oh, an aside. Fans care SO MUCH about spoilers, if social media is to be believed, and outlets like this one are doing our best to put up ample warnings. But the writers behind Picard think nothing about putting big fat spoilers right their in the episode titles. Show of hands—how many fellow nerds out there recognized “Vox”, the episode’s title, as Latin for “voice” right away and were like, “Oh, this is a Locutus thing… I’ll bet the answer to everything is that Picard passed on his Locutus side to Jack”? You could say similar things about “The Next Generation”, or “Dominion”, or “Surrender”, or… anyway, I think Terry Matalas said something about how he didn’t care about fooling audiences with mystery boxes. Maybe this is his way of trolling all of us.
Anyway, after way too much reacting, Picard finally tells Jack what Troi saw and what it means: When Picard was assimilated, he ended up with not just embedded tech, but with Borg DNA too. That was mistaken for a brain disease and passed down to Jack, who was born part Borg. Jack is, in typical Jack fashion, extremely upset. If only there was someone on board the ship who knows a thing or two about being Borg and isn’t the much-resented father. Who spent twenty formative years as a mindless drone before being unplugged against her will and learning to adapt to being both Borg and human. Who might have some useful things to share, unlike Picard, who seems to think Jack would be okay with being locked up and experimented on. If only. IF ONLY.
Anyway, of course no one thinks to consult Seven—that might get in the way of THE PLOT, which demands that Jack instead make the very rational decision to mind control two Starfleet security officers into threatening not only said much-resented father, but also the much-beloved mother. Then he takes off in a shuttle to seek out the Borg Queen. Who has been seeking him all along. Oh, hey, remember how the entire crew of the USS Titan put their lives at risk—and several died—just to save Jack from Vadic so she couldn’t hand him over to her boss? Yeah, screw them. He goes running right to the being they fought to keep him safe from. And the Borg Queen of course does the whole “join me” thing and names him Vox, because he’s going to be even more of an Important Borg Figure than Locutus.
Whatever. I’m really over Picard kids/surrogate kids getting away with (in one case, almost literal) murder because they’re the Writers’ Chosen Ones (Soji. I’m talking about how Soji tried to destroy all organic life but was forgiven because she was Picard’s special baby in season one).
Okay, so as you can probably tell by that lengthy rant, I was NOT a fan of Jack this episode. But I liked it overall, I swear! The various mysteries finally come together for one big reveal, and we finally learn what’s been going on this whole time. Basically, the Changelings and the Borg formed an alliance. The Changelings needed Picard’s body to extract Borg DNA, and they implanted it into Starfleet transporter systems, integrating it into every individual in Starfleet who used one so they could control them (so, pretty much all of them). EXCEPT, and I found this part hilarious, the mind control thing only works if your brain isn’t fully developed. So our wrinkly, gray-haired Next Generation cast is exempt!
Meanwhile, for Frontier Day, Starfleet has decided to demo an extremely… Borg-y… new capability: The fleet is all connected and can create a formation to act as one. Oh, we know where this is going. We know exactly where this is going.
All the youthful Starfleet officers are assimilated thanks to their dormant Borg DNA bits being activated (including both La Forge girls, much to Geordi’s dismay), and all the new and shiny Starfleet ships are as well thanks to the whole interconnected thing. So we need old officers and an old ship…
You know what, it’s become extremely obvious that this whole season’s plot was one giant excuse to get the Next Generation crew back together on the Enterprise-D (which Geordi has lovingly restored from the salvaged saucer section). It’s a shameless nostalgia-fest, unabashed fan service… and I’m totally cool with that. Why else bring back Picard at all? If anything, it felt weird in previous seasons that there weren’t more callbacks (couldn’t we have swapped some of season two’s outdated pop psychology for nostalgic moments instead?).
Sadly, since this show is for the Next Generation fans, it has no problem fridging one of its new characters. Alas, poor Shaw, we knew you well. I guess it was a heroic death, and a redemptive one in that he finally acknowledges Seven’s chosen name and merits by naming her captain. But it still felt like a fridge, and disappointingly insignificant (whether he died or not, the Plot would have moved on).
All in all, this episode was fantastic for answers, for nostalgia / fan service, and for setting up what will hopefully be an epic grand finale. It stumbled a bit on the emotional stakes around Jack, mostly because that character feels weirdly underwritten despite plenty of screen time (maybe because he only ever does what the Plot needs of him), and Shaw, mostly because that death felt so unnecessary. But look, sometimes all we want is an excuse to get the band back together. And I actually was quite impressed by how the show has managed to bring in story elements from across the Star Trek timeline. The last two episodes have shown that this season knows how to depict a rousing cinematic ending. Here’s hoping they saved the best for last.