Unburdened by tedious sub-plots, Star Trek Picard season 3 produces its best episode yet. Still, small issues still bubble away under the surface.
Star Trek Picard season 3 episode 4 recap. After last week’s confrontation with the Shrike, the USS Titan is falling through space, headed towards the centre of the gravity well like a sinking submarine. Upon our return in the latest episode this week, the ship is almost entirely out of power, and the crew – and Captain Riker himself – seem to have lost all hope.
Riker tries to patch things up with Picard after their argument, and tells him this is the last, short chance he has to get to know his son Jack Crusher. On his ex-first officer’s advice, the admiral seeks out some alone time with his newly discovered son, who he takes to a holodeck simulation of Guinan’s Ten Forward bar (the one on earth, not aboard the Enterprise-D) and they have a good chat.
Seven of Nine, finally given something to do, is dispatched by Riker to hunt down the Changeling, but to do so quietly. He chooses not to reinstate her after Captain Shaw relieved her of duty, because he thinks it’s better to have her working in a less official capacity. And who does she look to for advice? None other than Captain Shaw, because he knows the ship and its personnel better than anyone.
Star Trek Picard season 3 episode 4 recap – the Change(ling) face of evil
After dumping some Changeling exposition on her (which she should know just as well as him), he gives her the basis for a plan. Find the Changeling’s ‘resting pot’, take a sample of the goo, and then use the Titan’s scanners to detect it. After hunting through some quarters she finds it, but it gets destroyed by the Changeling who confronts her in a new form. Those pesky Changelings do tend to do that.
And while we’re on the subject, is Vadic a Changeling? Aboard the Shrike, she cuts off her hand which turns into the face of a Changeling who then instructs her to recover the Titan from its predicament in order to get Jack Crusher (we still don’t know why they want him though). What’s unclear is whether Vadic herself is a changeling, or if she just had one on her arm that she detached from herself, somehow. Let’s wait and see.
Star Trek Picard season 3 episode 4 recap – familiar backstories
While Picard and Jack Crusher are having their talk in the holodeck, one of Picard’s stories is interrupted by Captain Shaw. Shaw finally reveals why he hates Picard so much: he was at the battle of Wolf 359. At the time he was just an engineer, but the death and destruction he saw stuck with him, and he blames it on Picard’s actions as Locutus.
Stashwick is good here, as he delivers a little monologue, but it’s entirely ripped from Sisko, isn’t it? This is the exact same backstory. We see in the very first episode of DS9, Emissary, that Sisko hates Picard for his role in Wolf 359, and this is just the same thing.
To balance out the negative, now’s as good a time as any to give some plaudits to some of the excellent production and set design that’s gone into the show. Everything about the USS Titan is crafted with thoughtfulness and care for detail, from the quarters with nifty desks at the foot of the bed, to the beautiful observation lounge where Riker tries to record his message to his Imzadi.
There are wonderful details scattered throughout, and it’s the first time a starship in Star Trek Picard has really felt like a starship (the La Sirrena just felt like an empty box). Yes, everything is too dark, as if we’re in the alternate reality of Yesterday’s Enterprise, but there’s still much to appreciate.
Star Trek Picard season 3 episode 4 recap – that’s no nebula
While Captain Shaw is explaining his backstory, Beverly Crusher has figured out the nebula is actually more akin to some kind of womb, and it’s having contractions. Those contractions are leading to energy waves, which the Titan can use to propel itself out of the nebula. Riker takes a great deal of convincing, but decides to trust his old colleagues as he has done so often before. Beverly is getting a much more involved role in this episode, and that’s a good thing.
Seven and Shaw have teamed up to help facilitate the escape by doing some engineering work, and Ensign La Forge comes in to help. But it’s clearly the Changeling, looking to disrupt things again. Seven figures that out and blasts it out of existence. The Changeling is gone, and the Titan is on its way out of the nebula. Things are looking up.
The sequence as the Titan is navigating its way out of the nebula is all very ‘Booby Trap’ from TNG (which I also mentioned last week as a reference point), which is a good place to take inspiration from. All the systems shut down to give thrusters maximum power, including life support. The ship goes dark. Very dramatic, and very cool.
The final contraction explodes within the nebula, and the Titan manages to surf it out. But the Shrike is here once again. This time though, Riker’s had enough, and with the Titan’s momentum he locks a tractor beam onto a huge asteroid and flings it at the Shrike, with a huge amount of speed and force, knocking out the Shrike in a single hit.
The Titan leaves the nebula and warps to safety; the Shrike is in the mud; and the space-contractions have given birth to some floaty space octopuses, too. Before things end too happily though, Jack is getting his cliché visions again suggesting that danger is right around the corner.
Star Trek Picard season 3 episode 4 recap – the verdict
Star Trek Picard season 3 episode 4 isn’t just the best episode of the season so far, but the best episode of Star Trek Picard. It works with a blend of exciting action, and an ensemble cast firing on all cylinders. Beverly, Seven, and Captain Shaw all have important roles to play here, and that’s great.
The TV series is also notably improved by focussing on the A story, rather than cutting back to Raffi. This is a Raffi-free episode, and the constant sense of momentum proves that she (or at least the way in which her side of the story is written) is a lead weight around Star Trek Picard that it needs to shake.
Still, there are problems. The dynamic between Picard and his son is yet to convince me that it’s in any way interesting. Jack’s visions continue to be clichéd and sigh-inducing. And, sometimes homage slips into outright rip-off as with Captain Shaw’s backstory (in contrast to the inspiration from ‘Booby Trap’ which is balanced right).
Overall though, this is as good as it’s got. It’s just a shame that it’s taken two and half seasons to get here.
For more on Star Trek Picard season 3, read our Star Trek Picard season 3 review as well as our explainers on Rachel Garrett, Moriarty, the Red Lady, and find out our picks for the best Star Trek characters and our ranking for the Star Trek Captains. Or, stay up to date with the Star Trek series by learning about the Strange New Worlds season 2 release date.