Warning: Spoilers ahead for "Star Trek: Picard" season 2, episode 4
The second season of "Star Trek: Picard" on Paramount Plus continues to enthrall and this week's installment was no exception.
La Sirena has crashed into the vineyards of Château Picard in La Barre, eastern France; Dr. Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill) and Jean Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) are with the rescued disembodied head of the Borg Queen (Annie Wersching) while Cristóbal Rios (Santiago Cabrera) is now in the custody of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Meanwhile, Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) and Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd) are trying to locate Rios. Finally, poor Elnor (Evan Evagora) is still dead.
Picard and Jurati enter the Château and we're treated to a new chapter of Picard family history. The writers have found an opportunity to squeeze in lots of nice, new details of the all-important Picard family residence. The vineyard and surrounding grounds are in fact deserted and run down as Jean-Luc explains the site was used during the second World War as a regional command post for the German army, but has remained empty since then. Apparently, it has remained in the family however, which would explain how such an amazing piece of real estate could still be empty in this day and age. (By the way, if you need to catch up on season 1, check out our Star Trek: Picard streaming guide.)
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This is just one, beautifully written, part of a much more interesting journey into Picard's past and previously unknown elements of his character. So far, it's making this second season so much more enjoyable than the previous attempt. It's interesting to note that Lea Thompson also directed this episode in addition to last week's installment.
In a nice set piece, Agnes subconsciously keeps selecting the number 15 at every opportunity and both she and Picard deduce that they have just three days until the future-changing event occurs, since they arrived on April 12. There are only 10 episodes in Season 2, much like the first season, so is three days of adventure and excitement enough to fill out a further six episodes..? How much of the remaining story will be set in the past..? Who knows, or dares to dream.
Immediately upon return after the opening credits, the episode pays respect to the influence of "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" by having the same obnoxious, ginger-dyed Mohawk-sporting punk rocker on a bus playing loud music, played once again by Kirk R. Thatcher who, 36 years prior was an associate producer on "The Voyage Home." According to IMDb, the scene was written by Nicholas Meyer to revive a scene that was deleted from his film "Time After Time" that had H.G. Wells encountering a teenager with music blaring from a boom box. The idea of having Spock give the Vulcan nerve pinch was inspired by Leonard Nimoy who had encountered a similarly rude individual in New York City.
Thatcher asked Nimoy to play the role as he had experience with punk fashion and he adjusted his wardrobe accordingly. He expressed displeasure at the music chosen for his boom box and asked to compose and perform a song that he feel would be more representative of his character. The result was the now-famous "I Hate You." The punk makes another, even briefer cameo in "Spider-Man: Homecoming" standing next to a hot dog vendor. The punk is still carrying a boom box and Thatcher has revealed his character's name is "Krash."
The pitch for this episode that probably took place at Spago one sunny lunchtime between the showrunner and some power-dressers from Paramount was "the very best of TNG meets Voyage Home" and this is a nice way of paying respect to that epic 1986 movie (in this writer's opinion, the second best "Star Trek" movie after "The Wrath of Khan").
What's interesting is that instead of saving the whales, this season contains an unmistakable political element, which reflects what needs saving in this decade.
Now armed with the coordinates of the "watcher," Picard believes it best that he beam there and attempt to make contact…leaving Jurati alone with the Borg Queen and allowing the inevitable battle of wits to begin.
The coordinates take Picard to an alleyway in Los Angeles and the bar 10 Forward, where — as predicted — he meets Guinan. But, there's a twist we did not see coming ... it's young Guinan, played by Ito Aghayere, rather than Whoopi Goldberg. And thank The Maker the producers chose not to go down the CGI de-aged route a la Luke Skywalker, but chose instead to spend the insane amounts of cash that would've cost on something else.
It's good that the watcher-Guinan-reunion wasn't drawn out over several episodes and while the idea of an (almost) ageless El-Aurian was fun, this opens up some very interesting possibilities. One assumes then that this would be where she first meets Picard, before their long relationship onboard the USS Enterprise-D some 341 years from now and before the journey back to 1893 in "The Next Generation" two-part episode "Time's Arrow" (S05, E26 & S06, E01). However, the surprises don't stop there. (In fact, the events of "Time's Arrow" won't have happened because Picard et al returned from the alt-future. Think "Back to the Future part II.")
Aghayere gives a dynamite performance; the dialogue is as expositional as it needs to be without sounding like you've just ordered extra cheese. It's an effective set piece that's as solid as any scene with Catherine Hicks and this is, without a doubt, the single most important message that's ever been in "Star Trek" since "The Voyage Home."
"This place is a pressure cooker," she says, describing the current situation on Earth. "You know they're actually killing the planet?" She asks rhetorically as Picard looks on. "Truth is whatever you want it to be. Facts aren't even facts anymore. A few folks have enough resources to fix all the problems for the rest, but they won't. Because their greatest fear is having less." Tears stream down her cheeks. "They got one tiny ball in the entire galaxy ... and all this species wants to do is fight."
Picard calmly replies that humanity will eventually have its moment — except of course that in "Star Trek" history, we sadly still have to get past the third World War (and a global death toll of over 600 million) before our salvation begins in 2063 with first contact with the Vulcans. Which is a bit of a drag. Has the timeline split because Guinan did or did not do something?
Fun fact: This episode is littered with "Star Trek" Easter eggs and eagle-eyed Jörg Hillebrand has spotted that the license plate on Guinan's pickup is S02 E01, which is the first episode of "The Next Generation" that she appeared in, "The Child."
Meanwhile Raffi and Seven end up in a half-decent car chase through downtown Los Angeles in a simultaneous attempt to avoid the authorities and reach Rios. When was the last time "Star Trek" featured a good car chase?! And no, "Star Trek: Nemesis" doesn't count. Since filming technology has improved so much over the years, together with CGI, the standard of good quality cinematic car chase set piece sequences has risen. The magnificent 1998 movie "Ronin" starring Robert De Niro, Jean Reno and Natascha McElhone set the standard as the very best a suburban car chase can possibly be, without the use of CGI ("Matrix: Reloaded" for example) and while this episode is far from that scale, it's not terrible.
Every story strand from this episode is interesting and none more so than the incarceration of Rios. There's a very meta moment where "Star Trek" shows a second or two of self-awareness.
"What's your occupation?" The disinterested ICE officer asks him through the crisscrossed stainless steel wire of his cage.
"Captain," replies Rios after finally having decided to go down this particular route. "Of the USS Stargazer. You wouldn't know it," he adds. "It's a starship from the year 2400," he continues as he begins to relish the irony. "I'm on an ongoing mission to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and civilizations," he continues, barely pausing for breath. "But instead I'm stuck back in a particularly primitive past — no offence — trying to correct the timeline so I can, you know… [whistles, mimicking the motion of getting out] With who, you ask? A ragtag group of misfits including one cybernetic queen that I'm fairly certain is just in it to wipe out all of humanity with her old cohort, a crusty old admiral who, if I understand it correctly, is now a flesh and blood robot. I-I, you know, I can't be sure, 'cause nobody can explain it to me!" he rasps with just enough air left in his lungs at the end for a cheeky chuckle.
Rios is loaded onto a prison bus to be transported to the US/Mexico border while Raffi and Seven have beamed from their stolen police car to a location on the buses route with the aim to intercept it. But, there's still a little left in Picard's and Guinan's story thread.
Turns out she isn't the "watcher." So, she takes him to Echo Park Lake in Los Angeles to someone who can then lead him to the watcher. In an exciting sequence of using temporarily possessed civilians to guide him…he soon finds himself face to face with a non-Romulan, identical lookalike to … Laris (Orla Brady).
But ... the writers room has one last leftover-from-lunch banana-skin-of-slippery-suspense to throw at us before the closing credits...and we cut to Q (John de Lancie) wearing a lab coat — with a mission patch of some sort on it — sitting on a rooftop trying to cause yet more mayhem, but mysteriously failing in his attempt. Roll end credits.
Thus ends another thoroughly enjoyable installment of "Star Trek: Picard" and I do so very hope this thrilling, high standard continues through the rest of this second season. The events of just the last minutes raise all manner of questions
The first four 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 Plus 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.
If you want to find more Star Trek shows and movies in both the US and UK, check out our main Star Trek streaming guide. And if you're looking for something for the Trekkie in your life, our Star Trek gifts and deals guide has what you need.