Space has become even more dangerous.
What They Say:
The crew’s journey to Freecloud takes a detour when Picard orders a stop at the planet Vashti, where Picard and Raffi relocated Romulan refugees 14 years earlier. Upon arrival, Picard reunites with Elnor (Evan Evagora), a young Romulan he befriended during the relocation. Meanwhile, Narek continues his attempts to learn more about Soji while Narissa’s impatience with his lack of progress grows.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the show now bringing us back to space more formally with our lead character and giving him a crew to play off of, Picard felt like it closed the prologue and opening chapter and is moving onto the meat of the story. With Michael Chabon so heavily involved in the show – and writing this episode – Star Trek has not felt quite so mature as this series has. It’s taking a very different approach that’s certainly more in line with a lot of modern series in focusing on the world-building and character building and not just using action set pieces to get us from key moment to key moment. The result is one that I find thoroughly engaging because I get completely lost in just enjoying all the small moments, to exist with these characters and to see something new. I always remember the early parts of Star Trek III where we get The Original Series crew in civilian clothes getting the mission underway and just loving something so different from what usually got.
With Jonathan Frakes on board to direct this episode and a 30-second tease at the end with Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine, the journey to Freecloud is the main focus here. Picard, being Picard, has them making a stop on Vashti along the way as he knows he needs one more thing to complete the ragtag crew that has come together. Naturally, this causes some trouble as Raffi knows it’s nothing but trouble for him while the other two are just kind of along for the ride. We’ve always seen some conflicting and tense moments between Picard and whoever is serving as his number one or similar role, but there’s a difference with Raffi that’s welcome to see. A different kind of deferential in how she deals with him because we’re so used to see Riker roll over so easily, especially when he didn’t have the backing of everyone else to make it a group effort. Raffi’s right of mind in how she’s wary of returning to Vashti and even though a decent chunk is telegraphed, it’s still pretty exciting.
The thing with Vashti, and it dominates the episode, is that this was the place Picard was when the synths attacked Mars. He was there for a few days checking on the relocation going on as there were a lot of Romulans being brought there and a group that Picard was working with, a semi-religious order, that was doing a lot of the heavy lifting in all of this. Picard looks like Belloq from Raiders of the Lost Ark as he beams in fourteen years prior to bring gifts and do the check-ins he needs amid the larger evacuations and it’s engaging to see him in this role. It was a regular thing on TNG and it’s far more nuanced here, richer in how it unfolds. Especially with the little boy, Elnor, that the sisters took in while trying to find him a proper home. Elnor’s smitten by Picard in his own way and the two share a strong bond through books, engaging conversation, and a little swordplay as well. But you know that it’ll end poorly with Picard being drawn back to Starfleet and then falling out. Giving up. Ashamed of himself and hiding away for years until now.
Dealing with an adult Elnor is much like dealing with the child, though this one is far deadlier and not enamored with Picard anymore. Casey King takes on this role of the adult Elnor and there’s a lot of simple samurai elements to it, including the way that he binds himself to Picard’s “lost cause” as is the way of this particular order. It’s not convoluted in how it unfolds as it’s something he rebuffs at first but then accepts after seeing Picard in trouble. And Picard loves to get in trouble, such as in seeing the way that Vashti has fallen to such poverty and degradation but also segregation. His history with the Romulans means there are plenty who remember his lofty promises and the broken deals and hold a lot of anger over it. So seeing that unfold in the dusty street is a nice little update of the old standalone episodes and western-style stuff we got across the original series. It has some interesting bits to it, such as the Romulan that used to be a senator but is now basically a kind of local thug, but it’s all designed to get Elnor on board with Picard – and for Picard to try and shape him for the better as he’s definitely a bit rough.
As I’ve said before, I completely get why people are frustrated by the pacing of it. But if we look at this as being the planned 20-30 episode run over three seasons that it is, we’re basically getting a dense Picard novel brought to life and it’s moving through adapting it in a serious way. There are some interesting bits in this episode that focuses on Soji and hints more of what’s going on there, we get touches on how lawless a lot of areas are after the fall of Romulus, and a couple of other little things here and there to flesh out the crew Picard has. But we get so much quality time with Picard in the past and present focusing on the order that’s on Vashti, and such fascinating visuals for it, that I was just lost in the pacing and measured approach of it all and soaked it up, wanting more.
Streamed By: CBS All Access