Warning: Spoilers ahead for "Star Trek: Picard" season 2, episode 5
Despite Paramount pouring many millions into "Star Trek," it seems "Halo" has been the recent draw as the new sci-fi show's premiere broke the streaming channel's records this week on Paramount Plus. And while recent episodes of "Picard" have been some of the best "Star Trek" we've seen since the first season of "Discovery" back in September 2017, there are early indications that Season 2 of Jean-Luc's ongoing adventures is beginning to slip. But more on that later.
The tribute to "Star Trek: The Voyage Home" was evidently limited to just one episode and we've moved on, way past that now, with episode 5, entitled "Fly Me To The Moon." That said, there are still a lot of exciting plot threads to continue with and we pick up more or less straightaway from last week's episode with Picard (Patrick Stewart) talking to
Laris Tallinn (Orla Brady). He concludes that she's a sort of "Supervisor," similar in principal to a one-time character called Gary Seven who appeared in an episode of "The Original Series" entitled "Assignment: Earth" (S02, E26), which was actually an attempt to jump-start a potential spin-off series.
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According to Memory Alpha, Gary Seven (played by Robert Lansing) was a human-looking male whose ancestors were abducted from Earth around 4000BC and taken to another planet. He was a Class 1 "Supervisor" sent to Earth in 1968 to discover why his superiors lost contact with Agent 201 and Agent 347. When he discovered they were killed in an car accident, he assumed their mission. Using advanced alien technology, he continued their mission to make sure mankind did not destroy itself with nuclear weapons.
There were subtle indications that this connection was coming and even if you missed those, lest we forget how "Discovery" tapped into "The Original Series" back in the Season 3 two-part episode "Terra Firma" with the Guardian of Forever. And while there's nothing wrong with this, it would be nice to see these throwbacks developed further, rather than appearing to be casually-regarded, short-lived references used when new ideas seem to be thin on the ground. Perhaps we'll learn more about the backstory of
Laris Tallinn later, but given the rapid turnaround of guest-star characters in this show so far, it feels unlikely. And we'll come to that too, a little later.
We see the same young girl that Q (John de Lancie) was obsessing over during his lunch break last week only now she's in a kind of spacecraft cockpit simulator and not doing a very good job with an orbital debris evasion practice run. A French flag patch can be seen on her arm before a head and shoulders close reveals her name badge, Renée Picard (played by Penelope Mitchell).
Picard provides some helpful exposition, "The Europa Mission was a pioneering space flight in my history," so you'd think he'd remember that a Picard was on it. In "Star Trek: Generations," he says to Deanna Troi, "From being a small child, I can remember being told about the family line. The Picard who fought at Trafalgar. The Picard who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. The Picards who settled the first Martian colonies…" Confirming the family's importance through history, but he'd surely remember this. (Then again, it didn't even occur to him that an "alien living in Los Angeles in the 21st century" might be Guinan.)
Turns out she's supposed to be on the prime crew for Expedition Europa, which was an early interplanetary mission to the Jovian moon of Europa. We've even seen big billboard posters promoting — for some reason — this mission when Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) and Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd) were causing havoc in downtown Los Angeles.
All that's known about Renée is that she "discovered a microorganism on Io that she believed was sentient and convinced the mission commander to bring it back to Earth." Given all the twisty-turny timey-wimey nonsense that's been going on of late, especially with whether or not Guinan would've known Picard, it's probably best to just not think about it too much, a bit like how the writers haven't.
Following the opening credits we're back on the crashed La Sirena and the Borg Queen (Annie Wersching) is up to some clever mischief. Tapping into the nearby cellphone towers, she calls the local constabulary and reports, "There are screams coming from the Picard vineyard!" This has the desired effect and a poor policier from little La Barre comes to pay a visit. Raffi and Seven meanwhile have managed to rescue Cristóbal Rios (Santiago Cabrera). So, you know, phew.
Upon watching some video footage of a therapy session with young Renée that
Laris Tallinn has managed to get hold of, they can see that Q, who's gone full Freud, is the one who is surreptitiously trying to talk the young astronaut out of going on the mission, which suggests a whole new level of intervention from Picard's omnipotent adversary. In the past, Q's been satisfied with purely observing the various outcomes in his experiments in alternative history, but this is active interference. And then we get the biggest surprise of this episode, a Soong (Brent Spiner) and Soji character cameo.
This is a brand new incarnation of Dr. Soong, bookending his appearance in the first season of "Picard" as that was the oldest Soong we've seen, in the 24th century and now this one, in the 21st century marks the earliest. And since it's the modus operandi of this show to incorporate as many of the much-loved former cast members of "The Next Generation," it feels apt. The problem is, as we've mentioned, so far, it's been a rather rapid in the turnaround of potentially interesting reinvented characters.
And that's a shame, because as we see, Q versus Dr. Soong — with two exceptional, heavyweight classically trained actors playing the roles — could arguably be the greatest single match up in "Star Trek" since…well, Captain Kirk took on Trelane in "The Original Series" episode "The Squire of Gothos" (S01, E18). Who knows, maybe he'll turn up next week.
This episode isn't directed by Lea Thompson — although she makes a brief appearance as the chairman of the board that revokes Dr. Soong's license for breaking the Shenzhen Convention and running genetic experiments on soldiers with a privatized military organization, Spearhead Operations. This episode is once again in the hands of Jonathan Frakes and evidence of that will become obvious later in the episode.
Soong is struggling to find a cure for his daughter Kore's (Isa Briones) rare and unusual condition and Q introduces himself by way a cryptic business card, which incidentally has a number on it that you can actually call to hear a prerecorded message from the irksome entity. He gives Soong a test sample, which works, for a short period. But now Q has his claws well and truly sunk into the dodgy doctor so he'll naturally do anything for the promise of a permanent sure.
Meanwhile, on La Sirena, the poor policeman has totally failed to detect either Dr. Jurati (Alison Pill) fast asleep on the sofa, or the smell of the fire that they lit earlier. He's instead drawn to the voice of the Borg Queen who's imitating the sound of someone in distress. Jurati finally wakes up, grabs an antique shotgun and goes back into the crashed ship herself to see what's going on. She finds the Queen holding the policeman hostage and give her both barrels. Go Agnes.
Not long after, everyone regroups at the ship and Jurati explains what happens. Out intrepid time travelling team hatch a plan to crash a fancy gala where young Renée will be in attendance. This new plot thread has distinct a "Stardust City Rag" vibe from last season along with an element of "Mission: Impossible," as even the accompanying music helps set the tone in a trademark Frakes set piece. Jurati cleverly, deliberately lets herself get caught by security guards so that she's held in the security surveillance room, where through the power of flashback, we see how the Borg Queen was able to get two assimilation tubules into her neck before she "died" from her shotgun wounds.
Roll closing credits on what is an interesting episode that gets better the more you watch it. The worry is where it goes from here. Guinan was undoubtedly underused and let's hope that next week's story isn't just a format to introduce yet more cameo characters for just the space of one episode. The Brent Spiner versus John de Lancie match up is worth half the season alone and it's great to have yet another ancestor of the legendary father of eugenics appear in "Star Trek."
The first five 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.
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 that Trek fan in your life, our Star Trek gifts and deals guide has everything your Trek heart may desire.