TL;DR – It does what Star Trek does best and explores complex morality problems as the world implodes around them.
Disclosure – I paid for the Paramount+ service that viewed this episode.
Star Trek: Picard Review –
Can you make someone have a moral quandary in the middle of an action scene? That feels almost like an area that few would dare to tread, but where else will you learn about someone as well as you can when you have engaged them in a dance of battle? Whatever the case, this week brings emotions to the fore, or is that to the Lore?
So to set the scene, the USS Titan-A is all alone but with the knowledge that there is a conspiracy that has gone to the top of Starfleet as the Changelings are out for revenge. The crew is trying to find allies that are left out there when Seven (Jeri Ryan) gets in contact with her old crewmate Tuvok (Tim Russ), but the reach of the Changelings is extensive, and time is running out. Which means that maybe it is time to throw the hail Mary. Now from here, we will be looking at the episode as a whole, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead.
If there has been one thing that has united Star Trek all the way back to the Original Series, it is its want to explore politics and morality. For example, A Taste of Armageddon’s war without damage, or the needs of the many out ways the needs of the one in The City on the Edge of Forever or the most noted example, Let That Be Your Last Battlefield. This led to the groundwork for everything that followed, including Deep Space Nine, from which this season of Picard draws much of its vibe.
Thus I am glad that we finally got into the weeds this week regarding just what has been happening at the Daystrom Institute facility. We know from DS9 that Section 31 created a virus that affects Changelings, but we never knew what it took to get to that point. Well, this week, we know it was the systemic torture of 10 captive prisoners of war with the attention also to create a new bread of shock troopers. One of the earliest international laws that shaped the international system we have today was Hauge (1907) and Geneva Conventions (1929), which covered the treatment of Prisoners of War before it was codified more clearly in the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War (1949). Watching what was done to the Changelings gives us echoes of everything from Nazi scientific trials to the policies in Abu Ghraib and “Enhanced Interrogation”. A very relevant real-life event to explore and one that fills in the motivations of our antagonists.
However, not only do we get this exploration of Prisoners of War, but the ethical quandary of a species-wide response that may be paramount to genocide. Then there are the more personal stories of how it would affect your own moral code if the life of a loved one were put into the crosshairs. Something that Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Crusher (Gates McFadden) must experience first-hand with Jack (Ed Speleers) after the Changelings run amok on the Titan. Also, the question that we were left with at the end of The Bounty when we find that Riker (Jonathan Frakes) is not the only captive on The Shrike. Conversely, it was appealing to love and emotion that brought Data (Brent Spiner) out of the control of Lore (Brent Spiner) as Geordi (LeVar Burton). You can feel this stunning performance from LeVar in your soul.
When we look at the narrative as a whole, some parts stood out, and others fell a bit flat. I liked that we finally started to see the endpoint of what is going on with Jack, and it looks like it is going to an interesting place. I very much liked Ed Speleers and Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut’s rapport during this episode, which made that third act work as well as it did. I know I am a broken record on this, but I am captivated by every moment that Amanda Plummer is on screen. She is one of the best antagonists that Star Trek has brought to life. I also liked that, given the revelations here, it casts The Face (Garth Kemp) in a very different light. Finally, if there was one frustration this week, it was how quickly the Changelings took the bridge. It is clear that something got lost in the edit there, with it looking like everyone just stood around and let themselves be captured.
In the end, do we recommend Dominion? Yes, we do. I liked all the many different moral quandaries that we explored this week. Add intense action and emotional beats to this, and you have an engaging episode.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Star Trek: Picard
Directed by – Deborah Kampmeier
Written by – Jane Maggs
Created by – Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, Kirsten Beyer & Alex Kurtzman
Showrunner – Terry Matalas
Based on – Star Trek: The Next Generation created by Gene Roddenberry
Production/Distribution Companies – CBS Studios, Amazon Prime & Paramount+
Starring – Patrick Stewart, Jeri Ryan, Ed Speleers, LeVar Burton, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden & Brent Spiner with Tim Russ, Todd Stashwick, Amanda Plummer & Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut and Mica Burton, Jenson Cheng, Stephanie Czajkowski, Joseph Lee, Garth Kemp & Jin Maley
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