Monday, 10 February 2020

Picard: The End is the Beginning

It’s taken three episodes but he’s back in space.... in the last 30 seconds - so let’s skip back 45 minutes to start with!

Episode three fills in more of the Picard backstory with the focus this time being on his resignation from Starfleet following the Mars attack and the withdrawal of help for the Romulan evacuation. 

Michelle Hurd’s Raffi Musiker may well be the stand out character in the show from the off. We have an individual here who goes well against the mould of what we expect from someone who has operated in the ranks of Starfleet. Smoking some form of plant, heavy drinking and clearly suffering from mental strains that haven’t been addressed for 14 years, Musiker may also turn out to be a dangerous liability given her resentment of ‘JL’ over her ejection from Starfleet.

Putting Picard into contact with the off-the-books Captain Rios and his unregistered starship, Musiker lays herself open to be teased/tormented by her former CO to bend her will to join his mission.  Hurd gets a wide range to play even here. Deep guilt, self torture, an eye roll of sarcasm and much more mean that Raffi is already a fully 3D character within seconds of being on screen. 

Rios is cleverly introduced in a twist making us think his Irish accented EMH is the real deal. Rios is also ex-Starfleet as deduced by Picard due to the way I which he manages his ship although just what he did as XO on the heavy cruiser USS ibn Majid which was erased from official records after the death of its captain as witnessed by Rios himself. I like this guy. Not as much as I'm intrigued by Raffi but there's a certain charm to the character which I hope isn't an attempt at creating a Star Trek Han Solo. The two both have a level of grudge against Starfleet and there's a concern that they might develop along very similar lines. The fact that Rios can only seem to really confide in his EMH - which is a version of himself of course - speaks volumes about the loneliness and possible isolation of this character from society.

While Picard may have to dodge Tal’Shiar/Zhat Vash protected by his Romulan defector vineyard assistants Laris and Zhaban, it’s the events on the reclaimed Borg Cube which grab the limelight this week - or at least until Picard steps on a goddamn ship. 

Soji is part of the reclamation project to bring individuals back from the severed collective of the Cube but for some unknown reason is capable of communicating with the Nameless (ex-drones) in their own language which is, apparently, unknown. Spotted by facility director "Hugh" (Jonathan Del Arco back after his last appearance in 1993!!!), Soji is introduced to the Disordered. These are the only Romulans to have ever been part of the Collective and are also the only former drones that have not acclimatised to life away from the Borg.

Picard is showing these individuals as mentally unstable/unwell with a particular focus on the fortune-telling Ramhba who knows Soji and marks her out as the "Destroyer". The sequences with Soji and the Disordered open up more questions for the show to answer in the coming weeks especially where Soji is concerned. The writers have been keen to point out that she can acquire information at an alarmingly quick speed and is exceptionally adaptive. 

Now, cleverly, she could be being set up as the ultimate anti-Borg weapon, hunted by the Zhat Vash and clearly unaware of her significance. The inclusion of her "mother" suggests that this is a way for mission details to be passed to her undetected as part of the transmissions. 

Seeing Del Arco back is amazing after so many years. The makeup is superb, mirroring his removed implants but still giving him that Borg twist so to speak. He's definitely grown up but there's something underlying that I can't put a finger on at the moment. Is he there to help or to hinder and what is going on aboard that Cube? Why are the Romulans so interested in freeing drones? Is it because this ship assimilated the only Romulans the Borg ever managed to capture? So many questions!

The End is the Beginning certainly does what it says in the title, moving Picard away from Earth and allowing the former captain to get out in space and "Engage" once more. I've found the slower pace with the show to be a bit of a godsend especially since there has been an immense amount of set up in these first three weeks and it feels like there's more to come from episode four. 

Of all that's happened so far, this 45 minutes has been perhaps the most satisfying with there being a sense of progress by its closure. The story behind Commodore Oh is also pushed further with her aide, Rizzo (now Narissa) back on the Artifact and sporting her Romulan ears. Interesting touch that Oh is wearing sunglasses when she meets with Jurati before the doctor does a bunk and heads over to France. Is Oh a Romulan or a Vulcan? The series would suggest the latter  as she's described as a useful ally but then again we have seen a Romulan hide behind that veil before (Data's Day) and wouldn't siding with the Romulans be illogical?

Picard may not be all action every second but you can see that there is a lot of building work each week. Whether this could have been condensed....maybe but it's allowing each of the main cast to grow and it doesn't feel like we're rushing ahead with the same high levels of energy that we've been used to with Discovery. The End is the Beginning truly feels just like that - in much the same as we had the first two episodes of Discovery setting up the backstory, the same has been done here - and now it really...well...begins...

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Thanks to Chris Groves for assistance with screenshots

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