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'Star Trek: Picard' Season 2 episode 3 offers epic updates to classic storylines

Annie Wersching is deliciously sinister as the Borg Queen in "Picard" Season 2 episode 3 "Assimilation"
Annie Wersching is deliciously sinister as the Borg Queen in "Picard" Season 2 episode 3 "Assimilation" (Image credit: Paramount Plus)

Warning: Spoilers ahead for "Star Trek: Picard" season 2, episode 3

While the finale of Season 4 of "Star Trek: Discovery" on Paramount Plus was a disappointing cookie-cutter reproduction of Season 3, only showing the most marginal evidence of improvement from the previous season, Season 2 "Star Trek: Picard" on the other hand has already shown massive improvement over the previous one and we're only three episodes in.

Following the recap, we pick up straightaway where we left off last week. Jean Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) and Cristóbal Rios (Santiago Cabrera) are being held at gunpoint on the bridge of La Sirena along with Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd) and Elnor (Evan Evagora), by Confederation security forces including Seven's husband in this Q-induced alternative reality. Dr. Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill) is with the rescued disembodied head of the Borg Queen (Annie Wersching). (Fun fact: the First Magistrate — Seven's "husband" — is played by Jon Jon Briones, father of Isa Briones, who plays Soji.)

Naturally a struggle ensues and while the security forces are dispatched with, poor Elnor takes one in the chest, while Rios desperately tries to evade Confederation starships that are hot on their heels. Fun fact: according to production designer Dave Blass, the first pursuing ship that Seven is able to destroy in the CSS Dougherty, named after the somewhat shady Admiral played by Anthony Zerbe in "Star Trek: Insurrection." Raffi frantically tries to help Elnor and Jurati is face to face with Borg Queen. The only way to save the situation is to connect the Queen to La Sirena, which she does.

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The Queen takes charge, destroys the remaining Confederation vessels and takes the gallant crew on their time travelling, slingshot warp maneuver back to the year 2024. It's a tasteful tribute to the last time major characters in "Star Trek" attempted such a bold strategy in the amazing "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home." What's particularly interesting about this strong installment of "Picard" is that it's directed by a veteran of time travel movies, Lea Thompson, who starred opposite Michael J. Fox in the "Back to the Future" trilogy. Moreover, she's also recently directed two episodes, so far, of Season 2 of "Resident Alien."

A little worse for wear, La Sirena arrives in Earth orbit and begins an uncontrolled dive. Fortunately Picard has the presence of mind to crash in the vineyards of Château Picard in La Barre, eastern France, rather than risk it near a populated area. Unfortunately, Elnor dies from his injuries. Thus begins a three-strand plot thread for this episode: Raffi, Seven and Rios beam to Los Angeles to look for "the watcher" that the Borg has said is critical to restoring the timeline while Picard and Jurati attempt to restore the Borg Queen back to health and squeeze some more information from her. Obviously that's only two plot threads, but things will become clear in a moment.

Related: The first 'Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' trailer is here

There's been some interesting speculation on who exactly "the watcher" is going to turn out to be, from Data's head, that should currently be a in cave somewhere under San Francisco as we saw in "The Next Generation" two-part episode "Time's Arrow" (S05, E26 & S06, E01), to a member of T'Mir's crew that remained on Earth in the underrated "Enterprise" episode "Carbon Creek" (S02, E02). However, given we've already been reminded of Guinan's presence in the premiere episode, it's seems more than likely to be her, especially given her species' unique ability to traverse time and Q's involvement in the proceedings. And while her return is certainly welcome, it will hardly come as a surprise.

Frankly, Rios is lucky to come away from that fall with just bruises, concussion and a dislocated finger

Frankly, Rios is lucky to come away from that fall with just bruises, concussion and a dislocated finger (Image credit: Paramount Plus)

Raffi, Seven and Rios prepare to beam to Los Angeles and Jurati gives a solid set up, reminding everyone — including the viewer — of the dangers of affecting the timeline. The dialogue in this episode is practically perfect and despite some generous exposition to help set up the scene, it surprisingly doesn't feel excessive in any way. Moreover, this episode really allows Alison Pill to shine, more so than any instance in the previous season and she effortlessly steals every scene she's in.

Raffi and Seven beam safely into Los Angeles, however Rios suffers an extremely painful looking accident as he materializes about 30 feet in the air and suffers a very nasty fall, bouncing off a fire escape on his way down. Lucky for him, a kind passer-by takes him to a hospital, but that means he's now separated from Raffi and Seven…and the three-strand plot thread takes shape.

Related: 'Star Trek: Picard' season 2 continues to enthrall with dark timeline

The quality of this episode comes from good writing and solid direction, but it also benefits from great casting and Annie Wersching is deliciously sinister as the Borg Queen. The only way it seems to get the required information about the location of Guinan the all-important "watcher" is for Jurati to plug connect herself to the Queen, which you know, carries the risk of assimilation. And despite the absence of the more traditional method of assimilation, which usually involves having a couple of tubes unceremoniously inserted into your body, releasing a swarm of deadly nanoprobes that rebuild your body from the inside, this battle of wits set piece is written in a such way that still makes every minute enthralling.

Griffith Park is on fire in 2024; that's going to devalue a lot of the celebrity-owned homes in Los Feliz

Griffith Park is on fire in 2024 and that's going to devalue a lot of the celebrity-owned homes in Los Feliz (Image credit: Paramount Plus)

While the Rafi and Seven thread of the story is a little less exciting, it does incorporate some lovely touches that clearly come from the heart. Rios on the other hand finds himself in a hospital that offers treatment to those without identification or money. Santiago Cabrera brings melt-in-the-mouth charm to the character of Rios and he's fast becoming one of my all-time favorite characters from "Star Trek." 

He is helped by Dr. Teresa Ramirez (Sol Rodriguez) and there's instant chemistry, but again, it's handled in a way that doesn't involve a double serving of cheese. During the process of his admittance and treatment however, he's lost his comm badge — the only piece of 25th century technology that they've been permitted to carry beyond the crashed La Sirena. He befriends an adorable little urchin named Ricardo (Steve Gutierrez), who turns out to be the young son of Dr. Ramirez.

Despite one or two little hiccups and probably at least two cracked ribs, the situation seems to be manageable, until that is, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement burst through the door and arrest Rios.

This one has impressed the Queen; we can only wait to see quite how dangerous that's going to prove

This one has impressed the Borg Queen; we can only wait to see quite how dangerous that's going to be (Image credit: Paramount Plus)

Jurati has the coordinates to find Guinan "the watcher" from the Borg Queen, but Rios is now in the custody of local law enforcement — something everyone was expressly told to avoid at all costs…and of course Elnor is dead. How long he stays dead remains to be seen. We all know that when Q eventually restores the time line, it will also prevent Elnor's death. But a little like Soji, is his character relegated to the background until that happens? Much depends of course how long this story arc remains in 2024 and it's going to be fun watching it unfold.

"Picard" remains the "Trek" aimed at nostalgia aficionados and adopting that strategy incurs a high risk of overkill; nostalgia for nostalgia's sake. Season one was guilty of this on many occasions. However — so far — this should be considered a masterclass on how to incorporate it effectively. The dialogue is believable, the story is well paced and the humor is well placed and understated, exactly how it should be. These aren't new ideas in "Star Trek" history, Along with the previously mentioned "Star Trek IV," creating a temporal fissure by slingshotting around the sun at warp speed also featured in "The Original Series" episode "Tomorrow is Yesterday" (S01, E21) and the Borg Queen has been an admired adversary ever since "Star Trek: First Contact," plus of course time travel — regardless of how it's achieved — has been a staple in "Star Trek" from the outset. But...a new, interesting perspective has been applied, making these classic plot lines interesting once again. And few shows do this well.

Rating: 8/10

The first three episodes of "Star Trek: Picard" are now available to watch on Paramount Plus and the premiere season of "Strange New Worlds" begins on May 5. Season 4 of "Star Trek: Discovery" is available to watch now on Paramount+ in the US and CTV Sci-Fi or Crave TV in Canada. Countries outside of North America can watch on the Pluto TV Sci-Fi channel.

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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. You can follow Scott on Twitter @LorumIpsum.