Warning: This Star Trek: Picard season 2, episode 4 review contains major spoilers – many of them set to stun. Boldly go further at your own risk…
As Star Trek: Picard’s hugely entertaining second season reaches its halfway point, someone’s clearly decided it’s time for a Next Generation reunion. So, with Jonathan ‘Riker’ Frakes calling the shots as director, Brent Spiner (AKA the artist formerly known as Data) returns to the cast to take on his seventh role in the Star Trek franchise. It’s immediately clear, however, that his latest incarnation isn’t quite as friendly as the android with the yellow eyes.
Geneticist Dr Adam Soong – presumably a distant ancestor of Data’s creator, Dr Noonian Soong – is something of an enigma. He’s clearly a loving father, doing everything he can to save his daughter, Kore (Picard regular Isa Briones), from a rare genetic disorder that will kill her if she steps outdoors. He’s also utterly ruthless, a scientist whose questionable methods have seen his medical license and funding revoked by an oversight committee. But the billion-dollar question is how Soong gets from morally flexible 21st-century scientist to a figure immortalized as a hologram spouting fascist rhetoric in the distant future.
We wouldn’t mind betting that particular question begins with a Q, as Picard’s long-standing adversary is doing everything he can to manipulate this proto-Soong to do his bidding. This is a different Q to the one who regularly tormented the Enterprise in The Next Generation, a being who’s adapting his regular modus operandi to make up for the unexpected absence of his magical powers.
Without his trademark finger snap, he’s reduced to the sort of tactics you’d associate with a more conventional, Earth-bound villain. Indeed, using the promise of a cure for Kore – in return for some yet-to-be-revealed favor – feels uncharacteristically heavy-handed. Has Q changed his angle of attack because he feels under threat? Could there more at stake in this second season than simply restoring Picard to his original timeline?
As well as messing around in Data’s family tree, Q’s taking an unwanted interest in one of Picard’s forebears. Renée Picard (practically the namesake of Jean-Luc’s late nephew, René), is about to boldly go on the Europa Mission that’s being heavily advertised around Los Angeles. Q really doesn’t want her to be on the ship when it blasts off, however, and is masquerading as a psychiatrist to persuade her to stay grounded. Picard, meanwhile, learns that the mysterious Supervisor/Watcher who looks remarkably like Laris is also taking a special interest in his great-great-great-… aunt, though with more positive outcomes in mind – Tallinn’s more like the Picard family’s guardian angel, there to ensure that Renée fulfils a destiny that will seemingly have ramifications over the whole of existence. No pressure, then…
Given her secretive nature, Tallinn is remarkably trusting – she’s only just met this old guy who claims to be from the future, yet barely pauses before telling him all sorts of sensitive information about her posting on Earth. Then again, there’s also something implausible about Picard’s encyclopedic, almost-fanboy-ish knowledge of Kirk and Spock’s famous five-year mission – his casual reference to Original Series guest star Gary Seven isn’t the first time he’s showed off his impressive knowledge of Treks past.
It’s possibly a sign of the show’s confidence in its main arc plot that rescuing Rios from deportation is such a minor distraction. What could have been an over-the-top bus-based set-piece is actually impressively subtle, a cleverly underplayed operation that doesn’t come close to violating the Prime Directive. It is, however, a good excuse to get another brief glimpse of the brilliant Raffi/Seven of Nine double act in action, before they find their way back to La Sirena. The only problem is, they’re a little too late to make a difference to what’s been going down in their absence.
Surely nobody watching this show thought the Borg Queen would be content to hang around waiting for Picard and co to fix the timeline. It’s therefore no surprise when she takes matters into her own hands – and tentacles. Hacking into the cellular network to call the police out to investigate the strange things afoot at Chateau Picard is child’s play when you’re an interdimensional superbeing, and before long she’s holding an unfortunate cop hostage.
What’s the very alone Agnes Jurati to do? Despite the Queen’s constant whispers in her ear – and some subtle hints that she’s more than a little tempted by the Queen’s offer to join forces – she opts to blast the Borg leader with an antique rifle. (That she resists the urge to shout a Worf-style “Assimilate this” as she does so displays a remarkable level of restraint.)
That’s not the end of the story, however, as the Borg Queen manages to stick around for a spectacular final word. In a killer final reveal we learn that, before her body died, the Queen got close enough to Jurati to inject her with some Borg nanoprobes. With ensuring Renée gets on that rocket now paramount, Jurati’s Mission: Impossible-style mission to infiltrate a high-security pre-launch party is no longer solely reliant on her knowledge of “antique” computer systems. The Borg Queen’s consciousness is now very much out in the open – 2024 won’t know what’s hit it.
New episodes of Star Trek: Picard season 2 beam onto Paramount Plus (US) and Crave (Canada) on Thursdays. Viewers elsewhere can watch the show on Amazon Prime Video on Fridays. For more Trek action, check out our reviews of Star Trek: Discovery season 4.