Warning: Spoilers ahead for “Star Trek: Picard” Season 3, episode 3
Has “Picard” set itself a high standard it can’t maintain? Following last week’s surprisingly high-quality installment, we now have a cautiously optimistic view for this third and final season … but, we’ve been hurt before. That said, this incarnation of “Nu-Trek” is borrowing more than little bit from the very best that the “Star Trek” universe has to offer, namely “The Wrath of Khan,” which is a welcome change from lifting off of other intellectual property, like “Discovery” has done in the past. And when you think about how much in-universe history there is in “Trek,” you have to wonder why there would ever be a need to look elsewhere.
This week’s installment is entitled “Seventeen Seconds” and successfully establishes the meaning and importance of that particularly specific amount of time and circles back to it just as successfully to create a nice bookended feel to this episode. Although quite why Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) didn’t do a site-to-site transport between the bridge and the infirmary rather than mucking about (opens in new tab) in a turbolift for an eternity isn’t adequately explained. Lest we forget, in the 32nd century at least, transporters have replaced stairs … and while we’re not quite at that stage just yet, site-to-site transport is a very real thing in the 25th century.
And that’s what happens when you start going so far into the future that the capability of technology creates story writing minefields that cannot be avoided once established. You know, like the fact that Jean-Luc Picard is now an android … which interestingly enough actually gets referenced this week. And then just as quickly brushed back under the carpet from whence it came, probably never to be mentioned ever again.
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That minor plot pickle aside, the writing is once again of a high quality this week, hopefully marking a breakthrough in terms of how Paramount, Kurtzman et al produce “Star Trek” going forward. And while some of the dialogue is fantastic, “I am Worf, son of Mogh, House of Martok, son of Sergey, House of Rozhenko, Bane to the Duras family, slayer of Gowron … I have made some chamomile tea, do you take sugar?” it walks a very fine line between just enough and too much.
The reintroduction of Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) is also nicely handled and mercifully we’re not given a “Happy Days”-style, live-in-front-of-a-studio-audience scene that has been known to happen from time to time. Plus we’re given some additional backstory to Troi and Riker’s son, Thad. If you recall in the episode “Nepenthe” (S01, E07) Troi speaks of her son, Thad, and how he was born and raised on starships and thus he felt like he had no homeworld of his own, but when he became sick, Troi and Riker came to Nepenthe and it became his homeworld.
According to Troi, Thad had “mendaxic neurosclerosis,” (MN) a very rare silicon-based virus (opens in new tab) and in theory, completely curable (you just have to culture the infected cells in an active positronic matrix), but by the time Thad came down with MN, there were no active positronic matrices and no one was allowed to develop new ones, because of the synth ban. This was of course a small part of the synthetic storyline from the first season, but in this episode the focus is somewhere completely different. Thankfully.
So far, the story hasn’t really gone anywhere particularly new or exciting and everything up until now seems to be serving the Son of Picard plot. Hopefully Vadic (Amanda Plummer) will turn out to be more than just a deus ex machina. It is fun, though, to see the end result of 65 years of unresolved sexual tension between Jean-Luc (Patrick Stewart) and Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden), but is it enough to carry the next seven episodes?
Picard’s hubris could also get very tired very quickly and while he shuffles off the bridge of the Titan like a teenager who’s just been scalded, you have to wonder why Riker listened to him in the first place. Social media has been quick to point out that Captain Liam Shaw (Todd Stashwick) was in fact 100 percent correct in his reluctance to bow to the whims of an eccentric old admiral and Riker fails in that respect. Though it could be suggested that his sense of loyalty to his old friend took precedence, but that’s not the job of a starship captain and not a responsibility he would easily forget.
Other Trek references are also nicely placed, including Worf listening to the opera “Les Troyens” by Hector Berlioz, which of course is a nod to the movie “First Contact” — but again, runs the fine line between just enough and too much. All that excessive fan service does is show a lack of imagination. This week also sees a massive throwback to “Deep Space Nine” and the Dominian War, which might turn out to be interesting. Or it might not.
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A lot unfolds this week and the episode is well paced, though perhaps not quite as effective as last week’s installment. That said, this is among the best Nu-Trek that we’ve seen so far, but Frakes still has a tendency to over do it on the humor, clichés or theatrical set pieces and one suspects that he still had to dial it back a bit. The dialogue is good and the principle story writing is still far superior than anything we’ve seen so far in “Discovery.”
“Star Trek: Picard” and every episode of every “Star Trek” show currently streams exclusively on Paramount Plus in the US. Internationally, the shows are available on Paramount Plus in Australia, Latin America, the UK and South Korea, as well as on Pluto TV in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland on the Pluto TV Sci-Fi channel.
They also stream exclusively on Paramount Plus in Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. In Canada, they air on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and stream on Crave.
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