Star Trek: Picard

‘Star Trek: Picard’ Season 3, Episode 4 Recap: A Sinking Ship

In this week’s “Picard,” the crew of the Titan is powerless in more ways than one.

Jonathan Frakes, left, and Patrick Stewart in “Star Trek: Picard.”
Credit...Trae Patton/Paramount+

All the world’s a stage, and all the cadets are merely players.

Jean-Luc Picard, on some level, has been playing a part. That much is clear in this week’s “Picard.” When he sits down with his haddock and regales the eager cadets with stories of his biggest professional successes, he is putting up a front. The purposeful blocking makes this clear: The lunch table is the stage. The cadets are the audience. And in a brilliant bit of acting by Patrick Stewart, you can see that he’s hamming it up for the cadets. Underneath it, there’s a loneliness.

It’s an interesting window into Jean-Luc: He likes the attention, but especially because he doesn’t get it from other places. It’s not ego. It’s insecurity.

In that same bit of theatrics, Jean-Luc blithely discusses high jinks he got into with Jack Crusher’s namesake and smiles as he describes himself as being “a little bit reckless” in those days.

So later in the episode, when the cadets part to reveal a younger Jack at the bar asking Jean-Luc about a life outside of Starfleet and “a real family,” it’s a visual “Let’s cut through the garbage” moment. Jean-Luc’s answer: “Young man, Starfleet has been the only family I have ever needed,” followed by applause from Starfleet cadets. But that’s not as revealing as the visual: They are applauding him, but Jean-Luc is eating alone.

One can understand why Jack didn’t feel the need to have Jean-Luc be a part of his life. Jack is established to be a teenager when he shows up to this bar. He learns that Picard never cared about having a family and views the death of the man Jack is named after as an amusing story to be used to charm cadets. It surely rings hollow to Jack on the holodeck in the present day story line when Jean-Luc remarks to Jack, “I think we all need connection, don’t we?”

In some ways, Jean-Luc and Jack are very alike: They are both putting up a front about not needing other people and mostly focusing on work; Jean-Luc on his career in Starfleet and Jack on his medical supply runs.

Meanwhile, Riker and the rest of the crew’s situation on the Titan is quite bleak. The ship is sinking in a gravity well and losing power rapidly. The officers on the bridge inform Riker that the situation is nearly hopeless. So hopeless that Riker tells Jean-Luc to get his affairs in order and that everyone is essentially about to die. Jonathan Frakes puts in a wonderful performance describing the death of Riker and Troi’s son, and how it created a gulf between grieving parents — one who thrives on sensing emotion, and the other trying his hardest to be numb to the pain.

“This is the end, my friend,” Riker tells Picard. “And if I were you, I’d take the next few hours to get to know your son.”

I would put Frakes’s work in this episode among the best of any he has done as Riker, including the movies and “Next Generation.”

But when Jean-Luc takes his son to the holodeck for some father-son bonding, it’s an extraordinarily distracting plot point. One of the first scenes of the show features officers talking about the hopelessness of the situation because the power is draining from essential systems. Yet, Jean-Luc and Jack go to a perfectly functioning holodeck to have a drink? Jean-Luc waves this away by saying the holodeck relies “on a small, independent power cell for this very reason so that in times of distress it can be a kind of sanctuary.”

In other words: plot armor. No one thought to tap into the holodeck for extra power when they are so desperate?

(The Picards can handle their whisky. In the “Next Generation” episode “Relics,” Picard throws back a glass of whisky with Scotty as if it is absolutely nothing.)

As Jean-Luc and Jack bond, they are interrupted by several crew members who arrive to commiserate. Uh, hey Titan crew? Your ship is falling. Maybe the bridge crew could use a hand with repairs? Or you know, anything? Why are you in a bar?

This goes double for Shaw. Seven recruits him to help find the changeling, which is, on its face, a great idea. But why is Shaw in his quarters rather than on the bridge of the ship he is supposed to be commanding? If he’s well enough to perform a complex maneuver to save the ship, why isn’t he well enough to, you know, be captain?

And that’s before does he go to the holodeck himself to hang out! In the previous three episodes, Shaw has been painted as putting the concerns of his crew above all. So the notion that as the ship is rapidly losing power, he would just go chill at the bar to yell at Jean-Luc while his bridge crew and Riker try to figure out a way out feels ridiculous.

But let’s leave that aside — because I don’t want my head to explode — and examine the big reveal here: the reason for Shaw’s antipathy toward Jean-Luc and Riker. Shaw angrily (and unprofessionally) yells to the whole bar that he was at Wolf 359, and saw many of his fellow crew members die as a result of Locutus, a.k.a. Captain Picard. (Benjamin Sisko was angry at Picard for similar reasons in the pilot of “Deep Space Nine.”) Jean-Luc is accustomed to adoring crowds in bars. He’s not used to being confronted about all the deaths that he — or a version of himself — caused.

Todd Stashwick does a nice job conveying Shaw’s righteous anger at Jean-Luc, but it is a bit odd that he selected Seven to be his first officer. Unless she was thrust upon him, he chose a former Borg to be his most trusted commander. (Then again, people are complicated. Maybe he wanted to see past that, and that’s why he insists she go by Annika.)

  • A cadet asks Jean-Luc about an encounter with the Hirogen. The Hirogen were a predatory species that Voyager encountered in the Delta Quadrant, and I am certainly curious how Jean-Luc’s Enterprise would have encountered them.

  • Riker offers to keep Seven in an “unofficial capacity” to root out the changeling, rather than reinstating her command. You can see how much more comfortable Seven is with an off the books arrangement rather than playing by the rules.

  • Jack mentions offhand to Jean-Luc in the holodeck that he’s been to M’Talas Four, a “vile place.” Raffi has been doing intelligence work at M’Talas Prime this season, and one wonders if these two things are connected. (I’m not entirely clear what M’Talas Four is.)

  • I am also wondering if Vadic’s boss — obscured by, uh, changeling goo — is someone we will find familiar in the future. It demands that Vadic go on a suicide mission, while also making clear the Shrike does not matter in the grand plan.

  • Beverly’s solution of moving “with the wave,” and seeing the old “Next Generation” pals work together to get out of the sticky situation had the feel of the old show. Beverly had the best line: “Look where we are. Here, all of us in this moment. So let’s do what we spent our entire lives learning to be great at.”

  • Does anyone want to command the Titan? Shaw hands it off needlessly to Riker for no discernible reason in a previous episode. In this one, Riker hands it to Jean-Luc for no reason.