'Star Trek: Picard' episode 4 surrenders quality for more setup

Indiana Picard? Jean-Luc certainly dresses the part of diplomatic envoy for the Federation in "Star Trek: PIcard" episode 4.
Indiana Picard? Jean-Luc certainly dresses the part of diplomatic envoy for the Federation in "Star Trek: PIcard" episode 4. (Image credit: CBS All Access)

Here's your chance to beam out to avoid spoilers for episode 4 of "Star Trek: Picard."

We're nearly at the half-way mark of "Star Trek: Picard" on CBS All Access with the series' fourth episode, entitled "Absolute Candor," and we begin with another flashback to 14 years ago to where Admiral Picard (Patrick Stewart) was at the moment of the synthetic's attack on Mars. He was on the planet Vashti, in the Beta Quadrant, which is serving as the resettlement hub for evacuated Romulans. 

This episode marks the first of this new series to be directed by Jonathan Frakes, who not only plays Will Riker, but has directed countless episodes of "Star Trek," a few of "The Orville" and he directed arguably the best episode of "Discovery" Season 2, "New Eden." 

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The village looks like a Frakes interpretation of an clichéd idyllic settlement — imagine if Charles Dickens wrote science fiction — just like the Ba'ku planet in "Star Trek: Insurrection." Everyone seems happy and the colony appears to be thriving. Picard beams in and is immediately welcomed by everyone. He reassures them that the Federation is working hard to relocate everyone and makes his way to one particular household. 

One of the great things about "Picard" is that it's giving much more insight into Romulan culture and creating a whole host of new elements that are subsequently being incorporated into canon, the Zhat Vash for example, and this episode offers us even more. Picard enters a house, where he speaks to Zani (Amirah Vann). She and the other "sisters" in the house are part of the Qowat Milat, a sect of women-only, Ninja-like Romulan warriors … which is incredibly cool.

At a guess, the La Sirena is maybe half the size of the USS Defiant (NX-74205), so it should be a nimble little starship. (Image credit: CBS All Access)

It's here we get to the purpose of this flashback, which is to introduce us to a young Romulan rapscallion named Elnor (Evan Evagora). Within this house of the Qowat Milat "absolute candor" is the rule, which means only the truth is spoken with no filter between thought and word. There's the predictable banter between Picard and Zani and young Elnor, but the dialogue doesn't feel as natural as other scenes in previous episodes. We learn that a home will be sought for Elnor eventually, but as yet nothing suitable has been found. At which point Lt Cmdr. Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd) hails Picard and informs him of the attack on Mars ... and roll opening credits.   

Onboard the La Sirena, Dr. Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill) evidently has nothing to do, so she decides to bother Cristobal Rios (Santiago Cabrera). It's a shame that the character has little involvement with the story at this stage, so she's being written as a mildly irritating court jester. Thankfully, she's still nowhere near as irritating as Ensign Tilly (Mary Wiseman) from "Discovery," but she's on the same heading. An alternative theory is that perhaps she's actually been sent to spy on Picard by Starfleet's director of security Commodore Oh (Tamlyn Tomita). 

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Picard on the other hand has been working with the Emergency Hospitality Hologram – oh yes – to perfectly recreate his château in La Barre in the holosuite on the La Sirena. And once again, the EHH looks like Rios and is played by Santiago Cabrera. We really like what the writers are doing with the Emergency Hologram concept and the fact that they all look like Rios is utterly bonkers … and we love it. 

Raffi comes in and argues with Picard about why they're heading to Vashti. Rios joins in and finally Dr. Jurati brings her own unique brand of bland banter to the conversation. Rios seizes the opportunity to provide some helpful exposition about the potential problems they face in getting to Vashti, which includes an impenetrable defense shield and pirates, or one pirate in particular who's running around in an [antique] Bird of Prey. So we can expect to see that later in this episode then.

(L-R) Emergency Medical Hologram, Navigation Hologram, Hospitality Hologram ... and Emmet. (Image credit: CBS All Access)

 Picard explains the plan to persuade a member of Qowat Milat to join their mission, thus becoming his qalankhkai, or warrior bound to his cause. Dr. Jurati helpfully asks all the questions to ensure everything is clear to the viewer, just in case there was any doubt.

We cut to the Romulan reclamation site of the Borg cube and Dr. Soji Asher (Isa Briones) is watching a recording of Ramdha (Rebecca Wisocky) prior to her assimilation on a talk show called "Yrrh Mnrrh" — possibly the Romulan equivalent of "60 Minutes" — talking about "Ganmadan," which is what the Romulan ancestors called the Day of Annihilation. Apparently, it's when all the shackled demons break their chains and answer the call of the Destroyer. Soji is laying out the Romulan tarot cards, called Pikhmit that we saw Ramdha using as last week and is unsurprisingly still a little disturbed after Ramdha freaked out, called Soji out as the Destroyer and then tried to take her own life. 

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And then we're back on the surface of Vashti as Picard beams down from the La Sirena. Nothing much seems to have changed in 14 years. Despite trying to say hello to the locals, they all either ignore Picard or glare at him. A battered sign hanging over a bar says "Romulans Only" and this represents the xenophobic attitude that's now the norm in this once clichéd idyllic settlement. Picard continues past the bar and onto the Qowat Milat house where he finds Zani, who's understandably quite surprised to see him. And even more surprised to see Picard is Elnor, who's grown up to become a strapping, young Romulan.

Meanwhile, back on the Borg cube, Narek (Harry Treadaway) consoles Soji in his continuing effort to woo her. He takes her to a little, out-of-the-way bar for a short, sharp glass of Romulan ale. Frakes it seems relies quite heavily on music to build atmosphere or dramatic tension, which ironically hinders it. Despite being really nice music, it also often plays to loudly to allow the actors dialogue to be as effective as it might be. Hanelle Culpepper was certainly guilty of this in the first episode, but thankfully she chose an alternative approach for episodes two and three.

Is the purpose of Dr. Jurati to provide useful exposition, or does she have a more sinister part to play? (Image credit: CBS All Access)

Continuing his lame efforts to sweet-talk some useful information out of her, Narek takes Soji to a corridor where they can slide, in their socks, along the greasy floor of a Borg ventilation shaft. You'd be forgiven for thinking that he was going to show her some spectacular stellar vista or a mesmerizing view of the cube interior that perhaps few people knew about and would cost half this episode's budget in VFX alone – but no. Boy oh boy, this Romulan Romeo really knows how to show a girl a good time. Needless to say it fails, she see right through him and this disastrous scene ends. 

Meanwhile, in orbit high above Vashti, Kar Kantar – the pirate who flies the antique Bird of Prey – has appeared and while this is a quirky throwback to "The Original Series" era and in particular the excellent episode "Balance of Terror" (S01, E08) it is a bizarre one that makes little sense and stands out as over-the-top fan service. The Bird of Prey featured is over 130 years old and we're expected to believe that the person flying it is a notorious pirate? That's the equivalent of trying to make a living as a bank robber today and using a horse-drawn wagon to escape in.

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Back with the Qowat Milat on Vashti, Picard explains that he has a cause worthy of commitment from a member of the sisterhood. He learns that Elron, now grown up, never went to live anywhere else and consequently has been taught by the sisterhood, despite not being strictly able to join the Qowat Milat. Zani swears he is one of the finest warriors she has ever seen, although he still has some adolescent issues to deal with. Quelle surprise, Elron blames Picard for not being there for him. 

Hopefully, a visit to Freecloud next week will provide a change of pace and advance the story a little further. One more episode of let's-find-a-recruit-for-this-mission-that-blames-Picard-for-leaving-them is going to get very tired, very quickly. Zani comes up with a solution — the one we all saw coming a light-year away — that Picard should take Zani as his qalankhkai since he doesn't truly belong and through the natural course of maturing, needs to broaden his horizons.  

No need to go losing your head. Elron makes a particularly ruthless example of one rowdy Romulan. (Image credit: CBS All Access)

Elron refuses and Picard has a few minutes to kill before the next window opens in the impenetrable shield that will allow transporters to be used. He strolls once more through the settlement until he reaches the bar that has the "Romulans Only" sign hanging. He picks up said sign, throws it to the floor in disgust and enters the bar. Then for some strange reason Picard seems surprised when no one will serve him, but his erroneous puzzlement passes when he's confronted by a particularly large local who clearly still holds a grudge from 14 years ago when the Federation abandoned them. Lot of that going around. 

After a theatre-worthy speech, said Romulan forces Picard to take a sword and he's carried into the town square, where Picard refuses to fight. At which point Elron appears and gives the Romulan the choice to live or die. Naturally he's ignored and so Elron … decapitates him.  

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Nothing like leaving a subtle message. Unsurprisingly, this riles all the other Romulans so Picard and Elron must make a hasty exit. Thankfully the window for transportation is now open and just in the nick of time, they're beamed up to La Sirena. Once aboard, Picard quite rightly gives Elron a severe telling off and makes him swear to not fight unless he is told. 

We return to the Borg cube Romulan reclamation site where Cersei Lannister Narissa Rizzo (Peyton List) starts her incestuous routine with her brother Jaime Narek; cause it's perfectly ordinary behavior for your sister to wake you up by seductively stroking your legs. She gives him one more week to get answers from Soji about who she is, where she came from, etc etc or otherwise it's "back to good old pain and violence." 

Seven of Nine saves the La Sirena, but has her ship destroyed in the process. (Image credit: CBS All Access)

And then we cut to the inevitable dogfight between Rios in the La Sirena and the unseen pirate Kar Kantar in his antique Bird of Prey. And we use the term "dogfight" in its broadest possible sense since what follows is pretty disappointing. The bridge crew of the La Sirena do that classic "Trek" all-lean-to-the-right, now all-lean-to-the-left and, as the show's budget clearly didn't allow for the bridge set to be built on a gimbal, it looks as entertaining now as it did in 1966. Since Season 2 of "Picard" has been granted a bigger tax incentive from the state of California, maybe they'll consider using one should the plot call for any more "dogfights."

It's all a bit haphazard and generally not very well put together. Rios can't seem to get a shot on target and is flying the La Sirena from his command chair hologram UX. (Does no one use guided torpedoes in the 24th century?) He even calls up yet another Emergency Hologram, this one only speaks Spanish – is named Emmet – and appears to be seriously hungover. One can only assume this is perhaps an Emergency Pilot Hologram?

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Finally Rios tries to use the impenetrable shied surrounding Vashti, but the mysterious Kar Kantar seems to get the better of him … until another ship appears from out of nowhere and blows the Bird of Prey out of the sky. 

However, in doing so, that ship is irreparably damaged and the pilot is beamed out before it explodes. Lo and behold, it's Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan). "You owe me a ship," she says, catching her breath. Roll end credits.

 Humpbacked people ✓ 

  • "Wrath of Khan" Romulan ale bottle in the bar where Soji and Narek drink. 
  • Spot, Data's cat, maybe gone, but he's not forgotten, thanks to Elnor. Bless. 
  • The Qowat Milat — a women's only nun/ninja elite warrior clan is so cool!  
  • An Emergency Hospitality Hologram?! Whatever will they think of next?! 
  • Ah, Seven of Nine, nice of you to join us. 

 Humpbacked whales ✗ 

  • Is every episode going to end with a fangasm nostalgic "Trek" throwback? 
  • Still not keen on "JL" — it makes Jean-Luc sound like he's from Krypton. 
  • A 130-year old Romulan Bird of Prey? It's probably worth more as an antique. 
  • Drink every time someone blames Picard for deserting or abandoning them! 
  • The placing of profanity could be better, to make it more effective. 

Rating: 6.5/10

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 5 arriving on 20 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.

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Scott Snowden

When Scott's application to the NASA astronaut training program was turned down, he was naturally upset...as any 6-year-old boy would be. He chose instead to write as much as he possibly could about science, technology and space exploration. He graduated from The University of Coventry and received his training on Fleet Street in London. He still hopes to be the first journalist in space.

  • Glenriven
    I am enjoying the show.
  • Macona
    Considering that we are using B-52s built in the 50’s still and we plan on using them till the 2050’s 130 years for a bird of prey is not unreasonable.
  • bunny335
    Admin said:
    Episode 4 of "Star Trek: Picard," en'Star Trek: Picard' episode 4 surrenders quality for more setupd "Absolute Candor" has Jean-Luc recruit two more members to his cause and one of them is very familiar.

    'Star Trek: Picard' episode 4 surrenders quality for more setup : Read more
    Just read the article - you need to edit the name Elron for Elnor

  • exile183
    Good article. But his name is Elnor, not Elron. The latter is the Scientology dude......
  • bunny335
    exile183 said:
    Good article. But his name is Elnor, not Elron. The latter is the Scientology dude......
    Or unless it was a deliberate reference to the Lord of the Rings, and commenting on the elf look. Bones did call Spock an elf once I believe. Vulcan, Romulus, they both have the ears and the eyebrows