Thursday, 20 February 2020

Picard: Absolute Candor

No lies, total truth all the time without exception. 

Such is the way of absolute candor as embraced and preached by the Romulan Qowat  Milat nuns now residing on Vashti. I’m sorry... what?!

Ok, ok, calm it down.... let’s take this slowly....

A part of Picard’s Starfleet past, Vashti was the final world the former admiral visited before he was recalled to Earth following the Synth attack on Mars. Now he’s returning to this world enroute to FreeCloud, Jean-Luc is looking for support from the fighting nuns in his quest.

The first few episodes of Picard have focused heavily on the setup, the steady introduction of the main cast and a split story focus between Earth and the Artifact. 

We’ve seen the effects of the Mars attacks, how Jean-Luc has changed over the years since Nemesis and how Starfleet itself has altered over time. While the pacing has been steady, this week’s instalment for the most part felt slightly slower however what it did well was the deep dive into Romulan society. The nearest we’ve ever been to seeing inside their society before was during Unification with Face of the Enemy and later Nemesis opening up any real sense of what was going on behind the walls of the secretive empire. 

Absolute Candor probes further and for the first time in a long while and certainly in Picard, we have one of our best examinations of the Romulans ever. Their society has changed drastically in recent times so their pain and dislike of ‘aliens’ especially Picard-shaped ones is fairly understandable. 

Chabon has successfully painted a distressing picture of a crumbling society trying to pick itself out of the ruins and feeling cast aside and abandoned by the Federation who seemed to be there to assist. But its more than just a hatred of anything non-Romulan because we also get to see facets of their society not previously explored. The nuns for example are an intriguing addition to the universe much the same as the heavily ret-conned Boreth Monastery from Discovery.  

The concepts of binding to another with qalankhkai are fascinating and this is all tying into the threads of mystery emanating from the second half of the episode focusing on Soji. The Romulan mythology introduced last week is further played on returning Professor Ramdha to the screen as well as pulling up the question of just what happened to both her and the other crew and passengers on the Shaenor which was assimilated. What exactly happened to cause such critical mental damage to the Romulans alone? 

Absolute Candor also makes it very, very clear that Narek and Narissa are both very aware of Soji and of what she is capable. Their limited screentime however does little to expand their characters and in relation to this thread, Narek definitely needs fleshing out.

We have, of course, assumed that they would given the events of episode one however it has not been verbally disclosed by Narek until this week. Oddly there's no Hugh popping up around the Artifact and most of the action there does feel like filler perhaps only to reaffirm the relationship between Narek and Narissa - are they actually related or is that more brethren terminology for Tal'Shiar operatives.

Elnor is a bit of a strange one. His initial appearance suggests another facet of Picard that has changed with him willingly spending time with a child and one on whom he had a major impact. Older Elnor is still seemingly enamoured with Jean-Luc choosing to follow him on his apparent lost cause. This whole warrior nun thing seems to have got the trolls in a right frenzy. Why can’t this be an element of Romulan society? Its a culture we barely know and there are bound to be more pieces yet to come.

The Romulans themselves really are the core of the episode. Their continued xenophobia and hatred for Picsrd comes to a head if not for some of the Enterprise captain’s meddling leading to one of Star Trek’s most graphic moments since the Dexter Remmick's head exploded in Conspiracy. Elnor’s involvement in this part of the episode emphasises his role in this - the muscle and a trusted confidant of Picard. 

Up on the La Sirena we have Rios, Musiker, Jarati and the ship’s tactical hologram repelling an attack from a local gang leader. Nothing immediately might grab you with that but in keeping with the appearance of the Emergency Medical Hologram last week, not only is there a Tactical version but also a Hospitality one too. Certainly for Santiago Cabrera this is giving him a lot of opportunity to stretch his acting muscles in these varied personalities. Does he have some kind of inability to really connect with anyone other than himself?

The ancient Romulan Bird of Prey is a great touch, marking only the second appearance of the ship in the franchise (as long as you don't count the remastered The Enterprise Incident) and looking pretty neglected after a fair few years. The CG team have however done a sterling job to bring back this classic complete with the iconic hull patterning!!!

Also to save on a bit of set design, Picard has commandeered Rios' holodeck to build his study from the vineyard house. This maintains an air of familiarity and reassurance. If we recall this might be because of Jean-Luc's gradually deteriorating mental state. Might this be a sign of Picard needing a comfort zone for his first trip into the great beyond for a decade? Could Rios himself be a hologram and not actually know it? Is he a physical construct of the La Sirena main computer? Great character, very fast development and brilliantly entertaining.

Ok.. and finally... how can we discuss this episode without that last line? A totally ruined guest appearance if you ask me, thanks to including Jeri Ryan in the opening credits but still, amazing to see Seven of Nine back in Star Trek...

You owe me a ship, Picard...!!!

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