Here's your chance to beam out and avoid spoilers for episode 3 of "Star Trek: Picard."
When "Star Trek: Picard" episode 3 arrived on CBS All Access today (Feb. 6), we hoped to see more of Raffi Musiker's (Michelle Hurd) backstory and that's exactly where we start in the episode, entitled "The End is the Beginning."
We start with a flashback to 14 years ago, just like we did last week, but unlike the previous episode, this is not long after the synthetic attack on the Utopia Planitia shipyards on Mars.
Admiral Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Raffi meet outside Starfleet HQ where Picard has been trying to convince Starfleet to continue the Romulan evacuation efforts, despite the recent loss of so many ships. In spite of his best efforts to counter every excuse that Starfleet has — not enough ships, not enough manpower — they're not interested. Mars is burning and billions in the Beta Quadrant are in the burst radius of an imminent supernova.
The uniforms of 2399 are really nice and we see that Raffi was a lieutenant commander although while the uniforms have changed in design, the Starfleet insignia/communicator hasn't yet. Interestingly, she already suggests that the Tal Shiar — the Romulan secret police — might be involved. Clearly, she's had her suspicions for some time.
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It's a nice pre-credit scene; Picard explains that he told Starfleet to either accept his revised evacuation plan or his resignation. They chose the latter. At which point Raffi receives a message from the Starfleet CNC who wants to see her. She suspects it's to "fire her" — but that's unlikely since Starfleet operates like the Navy.
After the opening credits, we're back at the beautiful Vasquez Rocks Natural Park (a "Star Trek" staple) at Raffi's 24th century equivalent of an Airstream caravan. We learn that she did indeed leave Starfleet, but whether she was "punished" in some way for her support of Picard or had her career "destroyed" and was reassigned to Vagra II for instance, but instead chose to resign, is unclear. Either way, this needs to be explained further and she blames Picard regardless.
Raffi is understandably upset and we learn that she's endured a lot during the last 14 years, also that not once did Picard try and get in touch with her. Of course, if she held a grudge because she was punished for supporting Picard, who was just trying to do the right thing … then maybe she should've contacted him, but this age old chestnut is about as clear-cut as the chicken-egg quandary.
In fact, Picard soaks all this up with offering any retort; he wouldn't have had it easy either. If she had tried to contact him and he ignored her, that would be a different story, but no mention of anything like this made.
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We cut to another long tracking shot that takes us deep inside the Borg cube. These have been used to great effect so far and are very reminiscent of the "Picard eye" zoom out used at the beginning of "Star Trek: First Contact (opens in new tab)." We get to see Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco) once again, the first time since the "The Next Generation" episode "Descent" parts 1 & 2 (S06, E26 & S07, E01).
It seems Hugh is an executive director of the Borg cube reclamation project. It's a delight to see Hugh and see what he has become. Del Arco is certainly being given more opportunity to show range in new Hugh Mk II.
He's intrigued by the work of Dr. Soji Asher (Isa Briones) and grants her permission to speak to an individual named Ramdha (Rebecca Wisocky).
Meanwhile, Picard and Raffi are still having it out. Apparently, she has evidence, concrete evidence, that a high-ranking Starfleet official allowed the Mars attacks to go forward to put an end to the rescue mission. She's like dialed-down version of Woody Harrelson's conspiracy theory fanatic, Charlie Frost, in "2012." She tells Picard to leave, but not before she says she has a pilot for him, a man named Rios.
Next up we're at the Daystrom Institute in Okinawa, Japan. Dr. Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill) appears to be having her lunch when she's approached by Starfleet's director of security Commodore Oh (Tamlyn Tomita) who wants to know all about Jurati's recent meeting with Jean-Luc Picard.
Then we're back on the Borg cube for the set-up of an interesting scene that comes later. Hugh leads Soji into a secure room with about 20-or so reclaimed Romulan Borg drones. It seems all the "disordered" are Romulans and as far as Hugh knows, these are the only Romulans ever assimilated. Soji seeks out patient 4822/2, or Ramdha.
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But before that scene can develop we're back to Raffi's place briefly and then just as abruptly in orbit around the Earth. The editing in "Picard" seems to favor the approach of simultaneously setting up significant scenes by gradually introducing them in bite-sized chunks.
We see for the first time the La Sirena, the unregistered starship that belongs to Cristobal Rios (Santiago Cabrera). It translates to "The Siren," but in Spanish and Italian, it also translates to "Mermaid." It's unlike any traditional starship and the design is very angular, which seems to be all the rage in "Star Trek" at the moment — just look at the USS Discovery. It's more than likely that the idea here is to create a ship with personality, just like the Rocinante, from "The Expanse" and possibly even the Serenity from "Firefly."
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But what's really peculiar is the Rios has an Emergency Medical Hologram (EMH) that looks just like him. In fact, it's also played by Santiago Cabrera. Moreover, Rios seems to have more than one Emergency Hologram…but they all still look like him. One has an English accent and the other an Irish accent. He actually calls the Irish one an Emergency Navigation Hologram (ENH).
Perhaps he's created them this way to represent different elements of his own personality. The Irish one could easily be his conscious for instance. Maybe it's just the ultimate extension of actually "talking to yourself." No doubt this slightly weird decision will be explained at a later date, but the use of various types of holograms is probably how he operates without a regular full crew.
We learn that he was formally the executive officer of the heavy cruiser USS ibn Majid, named after Ahmad ibn Majid, an Arabian navigator and cartographer circa mid-15th century. (He is purported to have helped Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama complete the first trade route over water between Europe and India by using an Arabian map that was unknown to European sailors.) However, for some reason Starfleet has erased all records of the ibn Majid's existence, again, hopefully we'll find out more about that in a later episode.
Picard sizes Rios up and warms to him immediately. The cigar-smoking, shot-drinking former Federation flyboy looks like he's going to add a little Capt. Malcolm Reynolds to "Trek" and why not.
Raffi meanwhile has managed to locate Maddox. He's somewhere called "Freecloud." Could this be a lawless gambling planet, like Carillon from the 1978 "Battlestar Galactica"? A David Bowie reference perhaps? Or maybe it's a service where users can store and synchronize digital content across multiple platforms. Who knows.
And now we get to the first of our two favorite scenes in this episode. Back at the Picard château Laris (Orla Brady) and Zhaban (Jamie McShane) are helping Jean-Luc ready himself. Standing outside, looking up at the night sky, Laris and Picard share a moment and together as he admits he's always had one eye on the stars, despite trying to settle down at the vineyard. She knows him pretty well, it seems.
Then suddenly, from nowhere, a Tal Shiar spec ops team assaults the château. This has been skillfully set up and catches you totally by surprise. Moreover, the combat is well choreographed as Laris steals the show. She ducks, dives and dodges incoming fire, while simultaneously, single-handedly, taking out half the squad. Picard and Zhaban do their bit too, but Laris is in her element. A beautiful extra touch is that a handphaser is secretly hidden under almost every desk and table in the lounge; someone — probably Laris — is clearly a firm believer in being prepared.
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Once it's all over, everyone checks to see if everyone else is alright and one more Tal Shiar operator appears from nowhere only to be shot in the back…by Dr. Jurati who just stopped by to warn Picard that Commodore Oh came to see her. They tie an injured Tal Shiar operator to a chair and attempt to question him. Picard asks why they killed Dahj and the soldier tells them, “She’s not what you think she is! She is the destroyer!” Laris punches him in the face and he coughs up that nasty green Romulan phlegm and disintegrates.
Our second favorite scene in this week’s episode is with Soji and Ramdha on the Borg cube and both this and the attack at the château are woven together, cutting from one scene to the other to escalate tension and create a dramatic crescendo.
Soji is watching Ramdha lay down a Romulan equivalent of tarot cards or a Mandala. We gain a fascinating glimpse into historic Romulan culture and Soji is honorable and courteous to Ramdha, respecting her and waiting to be allowed to sit with her. Hugh is suitably impressed. Soji is intrigued that Ramdha considers the reading of the cards as news; she clearly sees destiny in the cards. Ramdha looks up at Soji and whispers, “I know you… I remember you from tomorrow …"
Soji tells Ramdha she was on the very last ship that was assimilated by the Borg cube currently under reclamation. Even Hugh doesn’t know this. Soji explains that Ramdha was on the imperial scout ship Shanor, with 25 other passengers, they were all assimilated, but then something went wrong. Soji grasps Ramdha's hand, and asks, "What happened? What caused the sub-matrix collapse?!"
Ramdha turns over a card that appears to have twins on it and, with tears in her eyes, her hands trembling, she asks Soji, "Which one are you? Which sister are you?! The one who dies or the one who lives?!" Ramdha grabs a guard's disrupter points it at Soji and screams, “I know who you are! You are the destroyer!" She points the disrupter to her own head, but Soji manages to grab it in time (it seems to take an age to charge up). Phew. And thankfully everyone is OK.
Unsurprisingly, Soji is pretty shaken up and she calls her Mum…which sends her to sleep. We already suspected that whoever “Mum” was, she was programming both Soji and Dahj and now it’s confirmed. Our money is on Maddox being behind this method of control.
In a darkened, isolated corridor on the Borg reclamation site, Narek (Harry Treadaway) meets up with his sister who has been posing as Starfleet officer Lt. Rizzo (Peyton List). They’re all over each other in a creepy, brother/sister incestuous plotting kind of way and sadly, this is so 2014, it’s practically a cliché now.
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Finally, Dr. Jurati pleads with Picard to let her come along and they beam up to the La Sirena where Raffi is already waiting for them. She tells Picard that she’s found Maddox and he’s on Freecloud, to which Picard replies, “Of course,” like that makes perfect sense. As Rios sets course we zoom in on Jean-Luc who stares straight into the camera and says, “Engage,” as those all-important first few notes of the infamous “Star Trek” theme play in the background. It’s enough to fill your eyes with water and make your bottom lip quiver uncontrollably.
Incidentally, we reached out to Brian Brophy, the actor who played Cyberneticist Cmdr. Bruce Maddox in the "The Next Generation" episode "The Measure of a Man" (S02, E09). He seems to have retired from acting and is now Director of Theater Arts at the California Institute of Technology. In his somewhat cryptic email reply he mentions that Melinda Snodgrass, who wrote "The Measure of a Man," was humbled and flattered that the character of Maddox was featuring so heavily in "Picard" and added, "Maybe I’ll have more information to share with y’all." Judging from all the activity on various “Star Trek” fan pages and discussion groups, it seems quite a lot of people have reached out to him about this.
I’m both flattered and humbled to discover that the Star Trek TV series Picard is building off my Next Generation Episode The Measure of a Man. Bit disappointed to discover that Commander Maddox didn’t actually learn anything from the experience. 😌 #PicardJanuary 24, 2020
Fancy cocktail on Omicron Delta ✓
- Phasers hidden under almost every table and desk at the château Picard.
- Super-fan gush moment when Picard says "engage" at the end.
- Hugh seems to have a very interesting personality, more of Hugh please!
- Ramdha is like a crazy cat lady and we love her, more of Ramdha please!
- The cutting between the two biggest scenes built tension and worked well
Flat beer on Nimbus III ✗
- How does Raffi get fired from Starfleet? Navy officers can't get fired.
- That Picard doesn't contact Raffi for 14 years seems a little out of character .
- When Starfleet cancelled the evacuation, even the Vulcans agreed?!
- Having an EMH that looks almost identical to yourself is a little creepy.
- Narek and his sister having an almost incestuous relationship.
The 10-episode "Star Trek: Picard" series will air on the paid subscription streaming service CBS All Access in the U.S., and in Canada on Bell Media's Space and OTT service Crave. New episodes will air each week, with episode four arriving on Thursday 13 February 2020.
CBS and Amazon Studios have announced that the new show will stream exclusively on Amazon Prime Video in more than 200 countries worldwide within 24 hours of its premiere on CBS All Access and Space in the US and Canada, respectively.
CBS All Access subscription is the home of "Star Trek: Picard," "Star Trek: Discovery" and a host of other original and archival CBS television shows. Subscriptions start at $5.99 a month. You can try CBS All Access for a week free here (opens in new tab).
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"How does Raffi get fired from Starfleet? Navy officers can't get fired. "
No, but she mentioned that they revoked her security clearance. She was tainted by her association with and loyalty to Picard, so I surmised that they made her Starfleet career unpleasant and unfulfilling enough to get her to resign, which she did, and for which she was bitter over the loss of her career.
"That Picard doesn't contact Raffi for 14 years seems a little out of character."
Agreed, and I hope this is explained later. Perhaps despite their friendship Picard felt it too painful to speak to her, and kept burying those feelings so as not to have to deal with them. Cosmos knows I've certainly done things like that.
"When Starfleet cancelled the evacuation, even the Vulcans agreed?!"
I surmised that the Vulcan High Command at the time thought it the more logical response.
"Having an EMH that looks almost identical to yourself is a little creepy."
Well, Rios is a little full of himself. Nifty that the EMH and the ENH had different accents. (MORE IRISH ACCENTS IN STAR TREK PLEASE!)
"Narek and his sister having an almost incestuous relationship."
Why are you gatekeeping? "Someone who isn't even a fan of any past Star Trek"? Where are you getting that from?