Star Trek: Picard has been a real rollercoaster this year. Much like Doctor Who, Picard’s quality has dipped and peaked, bringing with it some of the best and worst of the franchise while settling into a somewhat mediocre and forgettable rhythm. Much like Who this week, Picard pulls up its Federation socks and delivers a surprisingly good episode, one chock full of tension and action, while making sure the entire thing doesn’t descend into an all-out Michael-Bay-athon. The result is something that manages to reach the same heights as the first episode, setting things up nicely for a thrilling second half to come.
We begin with a flashback of Soji entering a laboratory and hearing someone shout “stop”. When she wakes up, Narek lies with her and tells her he wants to know everything about her. This snake continues to coil itself around Soji and sooner or later, he’s going to squeeze what he needs out of her. It’s only a matter of time of course and Narek is approached by his sister not long after, whom he finds playing with the cube in his room. After teasing him about being in love, Narek bites back and tells her because Soji’s part synth/part human, she could be penetrated by infiltrating her dreams.
Meanwhile on the ship, Dr Agnes speaks to Picard about Bruce Maddox’s death before turning their attention on the Borg Cube and what happened to him in the past. Despite being under Romulan control, Picard tells her the Borg won’t change and retires to his chambers, breathing heavily as the past weighs down on him.
In The Beta Quadrant, the Captain practices his football moves until Dr Agnes approaches and asks him what her thoughts on space are. As they talk, she opens up to him, leading to a tender kiss and the hint at something more.
Back on the bridge, questions circle surrounding convincing the Federation to approve the Borg Reclamation Project. They approach Raffi and ask for her help, and despite being blind drunk she phones through to the Federation and asks to help “JL” get what he needs. Raffi twists her contact’s hand and convinces her to approve their safe passage. It’s a hollow victory for Raffi though, who drinks herself into oblivion and heads off to sleep, still haunted by the memories of her son.
Picard arrives at the Borg Cube but is forced to go in alone. He turns to Elnor and tells him not to leave the ship before being beamed down. In a separate part of the Cube, Soji learns that her life has been a lie as she scans her possessions and finds out everything she has has a probable age of “37 months”.
As flashes of the past materialize themselves, Picard comes face to face with an old friend in Hugh. Picard is clearly torn up about being on the Cube though after all these years but he manages to maintain his composure and asks for Soji. While Narek convinces her to head off and perform a taboo Romulan procedure in a secret part of the cube, Picard wanders through the rooms and sees firsthand the good this project is doing, showing that the Borg aren’t completely bad.
Meanwhile, Narek manipulates Soji into giving up the the secrets in her memory, convincing her to walk through her dreams in order to extract the truth. As she does, Picard is shown her room where he realizes she’s close to discovering the truth about herself. The trackers onboard the ship fail to find her but unfortunately it’s too late – Narek manages to extract the truth about her and relays it on to her sister via a comm link.
As Soji breathes heavily, the facade breaks and Narek tells her she’s not real. He proceeds to say goodbye, leaving her trapped in the room with his box, which opens and releases a toxic red cloud of poison. Using her strength, she manages to break the floor and escape.
Realizing she’s been activated, Picard races down the corridors and finds himself face to face with Soji herself as she drops down the ceiling. With Romulans all round, he pleads with Soji for help and convinces her to follow him through the ship to the Queen Cell. Only, Elnor touches down on the Borg Cube too and proceeds to stop the pursuing soldiers while preparing to buy Picard precious time and stop the ensuing rush of Romulans. As Picard and Soji teleport away, things are left wide open for next week.
With a big cliffhanger and plenty to chew over this week, Picard suddenly moves things into hyperdrive for this week’s episode. After last week’s disappointing stand-alone pantomime and several “call to action” sub-stories before that, Picard has felt like a show destined to reach Discovery levels of disappointment. Thankfully, the show is far from descending to that level and this week manages to inject some much needed urgency and pace into the show.
There’s of course still a fair amount of exposition here but things do feel like they’re moving in the right direction now. Whether the rest of the show can follow suit or not, remains to be seen.