Star Trek #1494: The End is the Beginning

CAPTAIN'S LOG: Picard hires a ship. Soji talks to de-assimilated Borg.

WHY WE LIKE IT: Alison Pill.

WHY WE DON'T: 14-year-old fashions.

REVIEW: Because of the time jump between Nemesis and Picard, I think we can expect the latter show to jump around in time a little to fill in the holes, provide better context for what's happening in the current-day (2399 A.D.) time frame, and so on. I'm not against it, nor do I always think it necessary. Episode 3 opens on a scene from 14 years prior, when Picard quit Starfleet (or really, when his bluff was called), and introduces us to his then-XO Raffi Musiker who... I don't really like. Not as a Starfleet officer anyway (calling Admiral Picard "JL"? ugh). She's a bit more badass and textured as a defrocked mercenary type, but they still put the weight of conspiracy theories (not my favorite trope) on her shoulders, and though the idea that Starfleet knew about the synth attack ahead of time and used it to get out of the Romulan rescue operation has parallels in the Pearl Harbor attack, it just reminds the modern audience of 9/11 conspiracy theorists, and that's less palatable. (Of course, in both examples, the event was used to get INTO something, not OUT OF something, but same difference.) I'm not even sure how Picard's dismissal destroys HER career, but I do like how he knows her enough to know she's working the problem even after she said she didn't want to have anything to do with him. If I have a negative reaction, it's perhaps that, as far as the 14-years-ago sequence goes, I'm also viscerally reacting to those terrible Starfleet uniforms. A good visual cue about WHEN we are in the timeline, but I can't imagine a series set in that time, yuck.

Speaking of fashions, what they heck is the deal with Commodore Oh of Starfleet Security wearing big-ass shades to her meeting with Jurati?! It feels like an anachronism, would not be needed by a Vulcan, and sticks out like a sore thumb when she's plainly trying to be covert. So weird. We might also question her methods. Sending a murder squad to Picard's chateau right after Jurati tells her about Picard's proposed mission (which mostly just confirms what Oh already knew) doesn't really match her reputation as Starfleet's invisible hand. I guess she may not be in total control here, not that the pointlessly interrogated Romulan is going to say. At least Picard's staff isn't killed; I like these characters too much to see them get it this early in the process. They're not coming on the mission or anything, but I would keep them in my back pocket for future action.

If the show were more like past series, assembling the crew would have happened in episode 1. We're on 3, and it's not much of a crew. Raffi will be along, but she just wants to go to Freecloud where Maddox is apparently hiding. A bit of a mystery, and also a chance for her to arc back to her Starfleet values along the way. Jurati will be along as well, and I've got to say Alison Pill really sells the excitement - she's the audience identifier - all smiles as the ship takes off, but also trembling with dread when she's forced to kill a Romulan at the chateau. All the old pros go there, there, but it shakes her. She's such a natural, real-person presence, I think she may be my favorite member of the cast at this point. The only new actor we're introduced to is Santiago Cabrera as Captain Cristóbal Rios (and we'll see how he and Picard get along sharing leadership qualities). Like Raffi, he seems to be a defrocked Starfleet officer, which kind of puts me in mind of Star Trek III-IV, when the original crew went into action in their civvies. Amusingly, Cabrera (Heroes, Salvation) also plays the rest of the crew! His EMH is in his likeness, and so is his Emergency Navigational Hologram, and I'm assuming we'll see more as needed (EEH? ECH? ESH?), each one with a different accent. I guess they discovered Cabrera had a particular talent, or this was a requirement for the casting in the first place. I can't wait to find out WHY La Sirena is equipped this way. Narcissism? A feature of the ship? We don't really know what design it is of it it was built by humans. Kind of looks Tamarian to me, though I'm sure that's just a coincidence. So it's a minimal crew (you also have many actors on the payroll to serve the series arc), but an interesting one I'm happy to follow into this adventure (and possibly others).

The Borg Cube has its own mysteries and revelations, as Soji details her plan to create a shared myth for the de-assimilated Borg to give them a sense of belonging and structure. It's an interesting anthropological notion, and her meeting with a de-assimilated Romulan ethnologist yields potential answers to what's going on. Here we learn that Romulans aren't de-assimilating normally and are all part of the "disordered", former drones whose minds have been broken by the experience. Again ignoring the events of Voyager's "Endgame", it's suggested that assimilating this particular woman, Ramdha, may have caused the Cube to get severed from the Collective. And further, as the conversation with Soji takes a turn for the worse, it seems Ramdha and her crew may be Zhat Vash, and Ramdha's psychic prescience seems able to detect Soji's true nature. Violence erupts. Now, was Ramdha always psychic and the Collective was unable to absorb that ability, causing the break with the Cube? Or did these Zhat Vash zealots let themselves be assimilated knowing they carried a virus (for lack of a better term) that would attack the Collective A.I. (the machine side of the Borg)? It's getting quite interesting. I didn't mention that the de-assimilated Borg colony is run(?) by Hugh, with Jonathan Del Arco reprising the role, but that's because I didn't even realize it was him on my first watch. It's kind of thrown away, but I hope he and Picard cross paths down the line. Less of a surprise is that Narek's big secret is that he's fallen in love with Soji. We knew it. His sister suspects it. Narek admits it to Soji, which must be a massive thing for a Romulan to do.

LESSON: If your actors have talents, use them.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium-High: Costuming problems aside, there are some very interesting revelations in this one, and I like the humor inherent to the character dynamics between Picard's ragtag crew.


Radagast said...

I wasn't as bothered by the fashions, but I agree on Oh's shades. We don't see sunglasses in Trek, generally; on a Vulcan of her stature it was very odd.

I also failed to recognize Hugh at first, then I saw Jonathan Del Arco's name in the credits and it finally clicked.

Ryan Blake said...

You are so much more generous than I am on this show ...

Siskoid said...

I still don't know what your problem with it is, but I try to come at things with a positive outlook, that is to say, wanting to like them, and if I can't, then I'll happily mock them because I want the experience of reading the blog and listening to the podcasts to be a pleasant one.

It doesn't mean I give bad things a pass, but I do tend to focus on the good while acknowledging the flaws. For now, a lot of the big picture problems are impossible to really evaluate because we don't know enough. I imagine there'll be greater dissection of them as we near (or hit) the season finale.

LiamKav said...

The attack on Picard's house was so incompetent that I'm almost wondering if it was a deliberate diversion to get a turned-by-Oh Dr Jurati on board. It would be a bit of a shame if she turns out to be a traitor as I really like her, but then that would be the point...

Definitely got chills when the TNG theme played at the end. If there's one unambiguous improvement over the Berman-era it's that we aren't forced to have wallpaper music anymore.

WorldWanderer007 said...

Perhaps Commodore Oh is really a T-101 Terminator (Arnold era) working on behalf of Skynet to ferret out and regain control of the renegade synthetics. All part of what will slowly be revealed to be a Star Trek/Terminator crossover extravaganza. ;) Sorry, couldn't resist, and hey, as you pointed out, the show brought it on with those anachronistic sunglasses...on a Vulcan, of all things.


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