Star Trek: Picard 1.07 Nepenthe
After a couple of dramatic episodes, Star Trek: Picard allows the audience - and Jean Luc Picard - to take a moment to breathe. An escape to the titular planet of Nepenthe sees Picard and a traumatised Sojo to find a moment of solitude with old friends. And what a lovely thing it is too. If you though Picard's hug with Hugh was beautiful last week, seeing Picard reunited with Deanna Troi and William Riker was enough to make your heart swell.
Well Nepenthe carries a good dollop of nostalgia for Star Trek: The Next Generation, it doesn't rest solely on seeing the old Enterprise crewmembers reunited on screen. Riker and Troi serve a purpose. They remind Picard of the life he once had as the 'greatest captain in Starfleet' and have the experience to guide him and call him out on his failings. Together they help Picard get back on the right path and forge a connection with Soji, who views him as nothing more than another trap.
Dahj always felt like she had more character in that first episode than Soji has the rest of the season, so Soji's development here was very welcome. In discovering she is an android, little more than three years old, her connection with Riker and Troi's daughter Kestra (a fantastically endearing performance from Lulu Wilson) was just what she needed. For the first time, I was really invested in her emotional journey. Troi falling back into her past as a counsellor to help Soji also gave her purpose. Marina Sirtis had some great moments this week with Patrick Stewart and Isa Briones, as Troi offered guidance and protection after the drama of last week.
There were some lovely moments with Riker and Picard too. While Troi carried the leg work in building the connection between Picard and Soji, Riker's presence gave Picard a chance to find his bearings. You felt the thirty-five years of friendship between Stewart and Jonathan Frakes on screen as much as that between the former Enterprise captain and first officer. There was a deeper connection to the overall story too. Riker, Troi and Kestra offered Soji insight into her spiritual father Data, while also feeling the haunting effects of the synthetic ban. The death of their son Thaddeus - another typical Star Trek genius child like Kestra - came as a result of a debilitating disease that could have been averted with access to a positronic brain. Sirtis and Frakes not only brought back the beloved characters we've always known, but also delivered a nuanced performance as parents balancing the joy of reuniting with Picard with the grief of the loss of their son.
The reunion on Nepenthe would have easily been enough to sustain the episode, but it also packed in more of the on-going conflict with the Shat Vash (giving Nepenthe the longest running time yet at almost an hour). The Borg Cube saw Hugh facing the consequences of helping Picard and Soji escape as a vengeful Narissa began killing Ex-Borg as punishment. The presence of Elnor quickly turned the storyline into a deadly game of cat and mouse - Shat Vash against Qowat Milat - with poor Hugh caught in the crossfire. I've come to admire Jonathan Del Arco's very different performance as Hugh and his death was shocking and heartbreaking. His demise at Narissa's hands felt like the first truly big casualty of season one, a character the audience will surely miss.
And finally we saw more of Agne's meeting with Commadore Oh from The End is the Beginning, which put together the pieces surrounding her betrayal. It was a surprise perhaps that Oh is a Vulcan and not a Romulan pretending to be one, creating an ever darker layer to Starfleet's shadowy alliance with the Shat Vash. However, I didn't quite buy that the Terminator-esque glimpse of a synthetic apocalypse would cause Agnes to kill Maddix, the man she claimed to love.
There was some interesting moments on board La Sirena, most notably Raffi playing a mother figure to Agnes and her own admission at playing a 'good person'. Agnes trying to kill herself after an emotional breakdown, to remove the tracker Oh had implanted in her, was a desperate move that served to offer some kind of redemption and make her another broken member of Picard's miss-fit crew. Assuming she survives the season of course.
Nepenthe offered the perfect balance of nostalgia, while driving the storyline forward as it heads into the final three episodes. It was wonderful to see Riker and Troi back, with a backstory worthy of exploration of its own. But right now Star Trek: Picard has a lot of ground to cover as the race to Soji's home world begins. The time for nostalgia is over and I'm excited to see where the rest of the season takes us.