Last week’s Star Trek Picard was high on drama, but low on plot movement. So it’s good to see that this week’s Star Trek Picard season 3 episode 3 starts with a pretty big boom.
In the latest episode of the show, we open with the USS Titan racing through the nebula, with Vadic and the Shrike coming in hot pursuit after the previous episode’s conclusion. There are some impressive visuals here of the two ships and of the nebula itself.
To escape the Shrike’s grip, the USS Titan plunges itself deeper into the nebula, where it loses its sensor capabilities and other systems begin to fail too. They can’t warp away, they can’t see, and they’re outgunned. In short, they’re in a heck of a lot of trouble.
Then a flashback. And – oh my god. Is that horrendously de-aged Picard and Riker? Why are they so… shiny, and smooth? We already saw Patrick Stewart get de-aged in the X-Men movies, and this honestly looks no better. Haven’t we got past this, now, and learnt just to not do it?
Anyway, moving on. The pair are discussing the birth of Riker’s first child, who we know from earlier seasons would go on to die an early death from a silicon-based virus. Their conversation is framed around Picard’s own potential regret at not having had a family, setting up the theme of the episode.
Star Trek Picard season 3 episode 3 recap – Expectations
Back in the present day, the USS Titan is struggling with some strange effects of being within the nebula. Seven, still confined to her quarters after being relieved of duty by Captain Shaw, is greeted by Geordi’s daughter Sidney. She tells Seven that she doesn’t belong either, because she hasn’t lived up to her father’s expectations.
There are a few things here that I take issue with: firstly, we’ve seen this arc for Seven before. You know, in Voyager? Secondly, Sidney says that Geordi had a hard time making friends. Did he? He was always one of the warmest, and most approachable Star Trek characters aboard the Enterprise-D crew. Yes, he struggled with romantic relationships – as seen most clearly in ‘Booby Trap’ – but friendships were never a challenge for him. Still, we get the point. Seven is feeling left out again.
Star Trek Picard season 3 episode 3 recap – Beverly explains
In the sickbay, Doctor Crusher is doing what she does best: practicing medicine and helping to heal people. Picard pays her a visit, and the pair have their overdue frosty reunion. Crusher explains that two months before she left the Enterprise, a night of romance shared between them would lead to her pregnancy, and Jack Crusher.
They go through the trials and tribulations of their romantic history, with the script slightly overstating just how on and off it was. She continues to explain what happened, saying that she hid her pregnancy from him because he was always in and around danger, and any son of his would have to face that too.
Naturally, Picard is emotional about this, disagreeing and saying that things would have been different had he been told. Crusher says no; when the galaxy calls out for help, he always answers and puts himself in harm’s way, so she had to hide the pregnancy from him. This leads to Picard getting his best line so far: “You don’t get to condemn people before the fact.”
It all ends with the pair reflecting on the life they may have led. It’s a good scene. It relies too heavily on theoretical danger than Picard places himself in (really leaning on the TNG Star Trek movies, rather than the TNG Star Trek series itself), but we get good performances from Stewart and, especially, McFadden who has so far had very little to do.
Then they get onto the situation at hand, and Picard interrogates Crusher about what she knows with regards to the Shrike and why her and Jack Crusher were being pursued. She says they’ve been hunted for some time now, with various aggressors looking to take Jack Crusher – she believes that has something to do with Picard.
Star Trek Picard season 3 episode 3 recap – Back in command
There’s not enough time to find out much more, because the Shrike has found the USS Titan amid the nebula, and lays into it with some impressive fire. Captain Shaw gets injured and – clearly panicking – he hands command of the Star Trek starship to Riker. He tells him to get the USS Titan out of the mess he got it into.
Thrust unexpectedly back into the saddle, with Picard at his side once again, how will he react? How will it shift their dynamic, 20 years later? It’s far more interesting than the obvious, and lazy creative choice to go down the ‘Picard has a secret son’ road, and the USS Titan returns fire, and knocks the Shrike away.
Sadly that’s all we get to see though, because now we’re back with Raffi, who is of course joined by Worf. He explains that he’s been, “working on himself,” in order to take on some inner peace. He tells Raffi that her investigation into the Red Lady is only the start of something bigger, and that another attack is on its way. So, their next step is to track Worf’s latest lead.
That leads us back to the Titan, where Riker and Picard are having a disagreement about the next course of action: should they react defensively, or should they try to take the upper hand? Riker is of the opinion that the Shrike is too unpredictable and powerful to take on, and he decides to remain hidden.
Star Trek Picard season 3 episode 3 recap – Nowhere to hide
In sickbay, Captain Shaw has internal injuries and is on the verge of death. Doctor Crusher comes in clutch, as they say, and saves him, and he lives to ask an important question to Jack Crusher: how does the Shrike keep finding the USS Titan despite it being hidden within the nebula?
Speaking of the nebula, the science office informs Riker that it’s not what it appears to be, and she recommends exiting it quickly. Riker agrees, and prepares the Titan to leave the nebula and attempt to outrun the Shrike. They come to the edge of the nebula and get ready to warp to the nearest starbase, but the Shrike is right on their tail once again.
Using some kind of weaponry similar to that which destroyed the recruitment centre, the Shrike opens up a two-way portal which the Titan passes through, leading it back into the nebula. Visually, and in concept, it’s very cool. Riker tries to steer the USS Titan out once again, and again the Shrike opens another portal. Now desperate, Riker reverses course and tells the USS Titan to go back into the nebula. It’s all genuinely quite exciting.
But, once again, when it reaches its most exciting moment we’re drawn back to Raffi. Sigh. They’re on the hunt for their next lead, and there he is walking down the street. As with everything in this side of the story, it’s just all too convenient and that means it feels detached from reality; in contrast to the threat faced by the USS Titan feeling so palpable.
Star Trek Picard season 3 episode 3 recap – Enemies from the past
Meanwhile, things on the USS Titan are going from bad to worse. Picard and Riker are disagreeing about their strategy, and Seven is still stuck in her quarters when she receives a visit from young Jack Crusher. He tells Seven that he thinks the way in which the Shrike is able to keep track of the Titan is because it’s detecting some leaking signals from it, like a shark sensing blood in the water.
Jack and Seven think it’s coming from a warp core leak, and they find that the USS Titan has been sabotaged by some internal mole. That mole shows up while Jack Crusher is investigating, and attacks him. It’s a starfleet officer, but not really: there’s a Changeling on board. Oh boy! There was always a sense that something much bigger was going on, but the return of the Changelings as villains is a major development (though not necessarily one I welcome, given how well their story was concluded with DS9 and the opportunity that was here to bring in something new.)
And to connect things all together, Worf and Raffi (having tracked down their lead) discover that he’s a Changeling too! Changelings everywhere! This is the link between the A plot and the B plot that has been missing, and it immediately makes Worf and Raffi’s quest slightly more interesting. But only slightly.
Worf explains that a terrorist faction of Changelings had broken away from the Great Link, and he thinks they’re planning to attack Starfleet. He and Raffi decide to head to Daystrom station to find answers.
Star Trek Picard season 3 episode 3 recap – Fight or die
What’s less interesting is the visions that Jack Crusher starts to see. In what looks like a homage to Star Trek Picard season 1 (of all things) he starts to see dark red tentacles in his mind’s eye, pointing towards something sinister. At the same time, Riker and Picard’s escalating confrontation reaches boiling point, as Picard demands the Titan faces down the Shrike, saying that Riker has become too fearful of loss.
The changeling aboard the USS Titan manages to knock out its warp systems, though, meaning that the crew can’t run any longer. Options are dwindling. Picard says it’s time to, “fight, or we die.”
Riker concedes, and the Titan launches a full attack on the Shrike. But Vadic is canny, and uses the portal tech to send the Titan’s photon torpedoes back on itself, leaving the Titan completely unresponsive. Without its engines, the Titan begins to get sucked into the centre of a gravity well in the nebula. Picard’s advice backfires, and Riker tells the admiral to get the hell off of the bridge.
So, the USS Titan and its crew are not in a good place. Unable to run, and unable to fight, the Shrike looks to have outmanoeuvred them at every turn.
Star Trek Picard season 3 episode 3 recap – The verdict
This is a hard one to judge. On one hand, Star Trek Picard season 3 episode 3 has the best moments in the TV series so far. The sequences of combat between the Shrike and the Titan in the nebula (though perhaps too heavily inspired by The Wrath of Khan) are brimming with tension and excitement, and the portal weapon is a great concept that’s executed well by some confident direction from Frakes himself.
Equally good is the battle between Picard and Riker, and the way in which the dynamic has shifted between the pair makes for some great drama, and is gripping by the virtue of the fact that it isn’t something we’ve seen before. More of that, please. The moment between Picard and Beverly, too, is good.
On the other hand, McFadden is almost entirely side-lined other than that. Why does she have no moments with Riker? Why is she not on the bridge, using her own experience to help advise? Seven, too, really doesn’t have enough to do either. If you’re going to have one of the best Star Trek characters in the franchise on board, then you should be using her.
Then there’s Jack Crusher. He’s become one of the most important aspects of Star Trek Picard season 3, but it all feels surface level, and like a distraction from other much more interesting developments. The Raffi side quest also entirely drains the momentum out of the more interesting aspects of the show. It’s just feels completely under baked.
Deciding to go down the Changeling route is also another instance of the show navel-gazing and looking longingly to the history of Star Trek itself, when it could be pushing forward with new plotlines, rather than ones we’ve seen before. And, frankly, the less said about the whole de-ageing scene the better. I never want to see that again.
So, it’s highs and lows. Star Trek Picard season 3 episode 3 is a definite improvement on last week and it does set up developments. It could actually be the best episode of Star Trek Picard yet; it’s just a shame about the flaws.
For more on Picard, check out our Star Trek Picard season 3 episode 1 recap, and our Star Trek Picard season 3 episode 2 recap, as well as our guide to Rachel Garrett the Red Lady and who we think Worf’s handler could be. Or, take a look at our ranking of the Star Trek captains and our Star Trek Picard season 3 review.
Star Trek Picard season 3 episode 3 recap
A mixture of highs and lows make for an uneven outing, but it’s the most interesting episode yet in both concept and execution thanks to the confident direction of the veteran Frakes.