This Star Trek: Picard review contains spoilers.
Star Trek: Picard Season 3 Episode 9
The penultimate episode of Star Trek: Picard season 3 is an hour it feels like we’ve been waiting weeks to see. (Which, technically, I suppose we have, given how generally mediocre the last two episodes have been.) “Vox,” thankfully, seems to understand that there are two episodes left in this entire series and acts accordingly. The end result is an hour that may not be perfect from a narrative perspective, but that definitely hits all the right notes when it comes to the heart and emotion that have made this season of Picard such an improvement over the two that have come before it.
After largely spinning its wheels through “Dominion” and “Surrender”, two mediocre installments notable only for the return of Deanna Troi and the successful merging of Data’s multiple personalities, the series’ sudden dash through a half dozen major plot points at once is certainly a welcome change, if only because it feels like things are finally happening again. In the course of an hour, we learn the truth of Jack’s secret history, lose a fan-favorite character, witness the return (again!) of Star Trek’s all-time greatest villains, see the mysterious threat of an attack Frontier Day finally come to fruition, and watch our favorites head off together to save the day on the very ship we all fell in love with them on in the first place.
If this is fan service, serve me forever, is what I’m saying. But, once again, the episode’s many Star Trek easter eggs, callbacks, and deep-cut references aren’t simply there to delight fans, although they surely do. They’re also relevant and necessary pieces of who these characters are and who they’ve become in the two decades since the events of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The return of the Borg was probably always the most natural place for this season (and Picard itself) to end. After all, they are Picard’s greatest nemesis and most crippling fear. There’s very little connective tissue between the three seasons of Picard, but the lingering trauma of Borg assimilation—for both Jean-Luc and Seven of Nine—has been one of the series’ few constants. It makes complete sense that this is the enemy Picard would have to face one last time, with the life of his child on the line. And, despite the fact that a lot of viewers had probably already guessed some portion of Jack’s heritage, the revelation still lands with plenty of emotional heft. After all, this is literally Picard’s worst nightmare and everything he’s ever been afraid of, all put into the body of the child who only just realized he had. That’s…a lot.
Granted, the revelation that Jack inherited organic Borg matter from his father would probably have been better served with a bit more time to breathe. Why Picard felt the need to drag this out for three episodes is indeed a mystery and I weep for the version of this season that told us who he really was back in “Dominion,” thereby allowing the story to dig into Picard’s complicated reaction for more than what felt like maybe ten minutes before his son literally ran away from him and the Borg attacked. It’s not hard to feel like that would have been a better story, even if it revealed the “twist” of the season’s true Big Bad a little bit earlier.
“Vox” also leaves plenty of questions unanswered and features several plot twists you’ll be a lot happier if you don’t think about too hard. Why are the Changelings working with the Borg in the first place? What does Jack have to do with any of this if they’ve already passed on their altered DNA to all of Starfleet’s youth? What, exactly, was Jack’s grand plan besides running straight to the Borg and surrendering immediately? Isn’t Agnes Jurati technically the Borg Queen now? And shouldn’t the events of Picard season 2 have made a whole lot of this Borg subplot impossible to begin with? Shrug emoji! Who knows!
I realize I am part of the problem here, because, in truth, I’ve already accepted that Picard is likely never going to answer most (any?) of those questions, and I loved the crap out of this episode anyway. Primarily because it’s fully back on its nostalgia bullshit, and giving fans everything they wanted from this show in the first place: Our legacy favorites working together again to save the day against seemingly impossible odds, on a note-perfect recreation of the very set we first saw them take to the stars in. Yes, the reveal that Geordi’s been rebuilding the original The Next Generation Enterprise-D in what is essentially the Fleet Museum’s garage for the past two decades is kind of ridiculous on its face, but it’s also incredible, and my heart absolutely grew three sizes while everyone got emotional over the vintage carpet and antique weapons systems. Is this extended walk down memory lane the best use of everyone’s time while the Earth is under attack by a Borg-controlled Starfleet armada? Probably not. Do I care? Not even a little bit.
With just one episode to go, there’s a lot of narrative ground to cover and we should probably accept that some of the specific plot questions we care about may not get answered satisfactorily. But if Picard Season 3 has taught me anything thus far, it’s that this outing still understands the emotional heart of these characters—and that’s what I really need from the conclusion of this story. Engage.