On a desert planet called Vashti, Picard visits some of the Romulan refugees he’s been helping to resettle. This was 14 years ago, when he was still an admiral with Starfleet. He meets with Zani, the leader of a group known as the Qowat Milat – Romulan warrior nuns and, as we learn later, enemies of the Tal Shiar. They’re looking after a boy, Elnor, whom Picard seems to have a fondness for. He reads to him from The Three Musketeers and they enjoy a spot of play-fencing. Then Picard receives a call from Raffi: synths have attacked Mars.
Back in the present day, Picard explores a holodeck recreation of his vineyard on the La Sirena. Raffi is furious to discover that Picard has asked Rios to take a detour to Vashti. The planet is very different now, she says, ruled by warlords and protected by an impenetrable web of killer drones. Raffi softens when she realises that losing Dahj has made Picard think about his relationship with Elnor.
On the Borg cube, Soji watches a holo-recording of Ramdha talking about Ganmadan, the Day of Annihilation. She and other Romulans believe that “shackled demons” will one day break their chains and “answer the call of the Destroyer”, which Soji has been referred to as several times—including once to her face by Ramdha.
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Troubled by this discovery, Soji meets with Narek and asks him what happened to Ramdha’s ship, the Shaenor. He says that information is classified, stored on the Borg cube’s computers, but that he might know someone who can access it. Soji also reveals to Narek that she knows he’s spying on her. In turn, he says there are details about her past that don’t add up. But before they can delve any deeper into their respective secrets, they goof around in an air vent together, sliding up and down it in their bare feet. Narek seems to be falling for Soji.
Picard beams down to Vashti and instead of the hero’s welcome he got in the flashback, he’s met with sneers and suspicious looks. A sign on a cafe reading ROMULANS ONLY is another clue that things have taken a turn for the worse here. He receives a warmer welcome from Zani, who is pleased to see him. She asks Picard to take Elnor, now a Qalankhkan, a mercenary, on his mission with him. She says he’s grown into a formidable fighter. Elnor initially refuses, saying Picard abandoned him. But when Picard is almost killed by some angry Romulans, Elnor steps in and saves him, and agrees to “bind his blade” with him.
Back on the cube, Zhat Vash agent Rizzo is once again hassling Narek about his lack of progress in his mission. The goal, she says, is to kill “them all”, and to find out where “the others” are. This is our first clue that there may be other Maddox-brand organic synths out there, not just Dahj and Soji. Narek is told he has one more week left.
Above Vashti, the La Sirena flees from a pursuing Romulan Bird of Prey, flown by a local warlord called Kar Kantar. Things are looking hopeless, but an unknown ship flies in and gives them a window to escape. Just before this mystery craft is destroyed by the Romulans, the pilot is beamed aboard the La Sirena and is revealed to be none other than Star Trek: Voyager’s former Borg, Seven of Nine.
Verdict: This is the most Picard has felt like classic Star Trek, which may be a result of it being directed by series veteran Jonathan Frakes. We’re no closer to Bruce Maddox, but this detour is worth it for the addition of both Seven of Nine and Elnor to the crew. Elnor is the star of the show here, being essentially a sci-fi Legolas from Lord of the Rings, and I can’t wait to see more of him in future episodes.
- You can learn more about Picard’s new allies, the Qowat Milat, in spin-off novel The Last Best Hope, written by Una McCormack. This group of warrior nuns believes in absolute truth, which makes them natural enemies of the shady, secretive Tal Shiar.
- This is the first episode of Picard directed by Jonathan Frakes, who played William Riker in The Next Generation. Frakes has a long history of directing Star Trek, including episodes of TNG, Voyager, Deep Space Nine, and Discovery. He also directed the movies First Contact and Insurrection, and PC game Star Trek: Klingon.
- Elnor briefly mentions Spot, Data’s cat. According to the TNG short story anthology The Sky’s the Limit, Worf took ownership of her following Data’s death. After helping Worf sniff out an alien infestation on the Enterprise, he came to respect her as a warrior.
Star Trek: Picard is available to watch on CBS All Access every Thursday in the US, and every Friday on Amazon Prime Video internationally.