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Star Trek Picard: Imposters

Shaw: "Basically, when it comes to rescues from danger, you two have a real 'chicken and egg' thing happening."

Did you catch the major theme of the episode? Hint: It's the title.

I should probably begin with a quick personal note. I've seen all of Star Trek exactly once. I'd missed it entirely as a kid, so I made it my Pandemic Lockdown Project. And thus it was, that back in March of 2020 I started with 'The Cage' and proceeded to watch every last bit of it from the beginning of the original series to the most recent episodes of the modern series. I think it was up to Prodigy by the time I got there.

Yes, I am aware that 'The Cage' wasn't actually broadcast for a really long time. What can I tell you, it just felt right to start there.

My point is that while I've actually seen all of Star Trek, I have in no way retained all of it. Or indeed most of it. And in reading the absolutely wonderful reviews of the first four episodes of this season written by Billie and Samantha, I couldn't help but notice that there was a great deal of discussion to be had regarding what portions of the episodes reflected what events from past Trek and what characters are interesting twists on what characters from the Berman era and that sort of thing. All of which is absolutely not going to be possible in this review.

Like, I'm pretty sure that the Starship Intrepid was a big deal somewhere along the line, and I'm mostly certain that the Daystrom Institute had something to do with the scientist guy who wanted to pop Data open like a toaster to see what made him go, but that's about as 'deep lore' as I can get. I eagerly await hearing about the easter eggs that I missed in the comments. I mean that sincerely.

In fact, you might say that my relative lack of Star Trek knowledge in comparison to Billie and Samantha has left me with a serious case of Imposter Syndrome...

Yes, that is the segue I'm going with.

This episode is absolutely packed to the gills with 'things pretending to be other things in order to advance their personal goals.' Jack – reluctantly – poses as a Starfleet officer to avoid security. Worf's handler sends a message that ostensibly tells them that they aren't allowed to investigate, but in reality is urging them to continue. A simple Bajoran earring is really a supercharged thumb drive chock full of important information. Raffi is pretending to be with Worf in the main hall so that she can ambush Krinn, the Villainous Vulcan, who is pretending to be fooled by her imposter hologram, but is really already way ahead of her.

Do not believe anything that you see. Trust no one and nothing. It's imposters everywhere.

The most obvious and direct reference for the title is the return of the Changelings 2.0. Starfleet has been infiltrated by evil imposter duplicates and no one can be trusted. It feels a little like someone thought about the threatened Changeling infiltration of Starfleet in Deep Space Nine, then remembered that time in season one of The Next Generation when Starfleet was infiltrated by psychic bug things, and was struck by how neither show had really taken that premise and done much with it.

Whoever that theoretical person was, they were absolutely right. Neither show did much with the premise beyond a quick handwave, which is a shame because it's a good premise. There's a lot more drama to be milked out of it, and from what I can see they intend to do so here. So, here's to Dominion War II. This time with more body snatching.

As I said, that's the most obvious example of 'Imposters' in this episode, but it's not to my mind the most interesting one. For me, the most interesting thematic implication on display here is the opening scene. On a seemingly normal bridge shift, Jack walks in and coldly murders everyone present. This means that technically, everyone else in that dream sequence was an imposter created by Jack's mind. Which, in storytelling semantics, strongly implies that it's Jack who's the imposter. Particularly when he still has the gun in his hand upon waking from the dream.

This is the first of countless sequences in this episode which imply that Jack isn't Jack. Or perhaps more accurately, isn't Just Jack. What is the strangely beautiful red vine structure that he keeps seeing? What is behind that mysterious red door? How is Beverly able to send psychic voicemails begging him to return to her? How does he suddenly become John Wick upon getting a good whiff of changeling odor?

It seems pretty clear that Jack himself doesn't know what's going on or, to quote the bridge officer in the opening sequence, 'What' he is. I have a sneaking suspicion that Beverly does. Her excuse for fleeing from Picard seemed a little shallow to me at the time. What did you do, Beverly? What do you know?

And then we come to the final imposter that I want to talk about: Former Ensign, now Commander, Ro Laren. Pretending to be a security officer who's hell bent on bringing Picard to justice for his actions earlier in the season, she instead is desperate for his help because she fundamentally trusts him. At least, she hopes she can and is willing to pretend to be whatever she has to in order to find out.

I really loved the reappearance of Ro. I loved her in TNG, and I was thrilled to see her here. I have to be honest, I thought that the powers that be on the last season of Next Generation did Michelle Forbes wrong in a serious way. I think that they were pissed that she didn't want to go be on Deep Space Nine, and so they deliberately wrote her out of the show in the shittiest, most insulting way possible. Just my opinion.

But here they used that to such wonderful effect. Picard's visceral sense of betrayal. The look in her eyes as she keeps up her 'Security Bitch' persona – which is only really noticeable the second time you watch the episode. The desperate regret that she shows in every fiber of her being when she talks of wishing that he'd understood her decision. It's all good stuff. It's making great drama out of vindicative character plotting from three decades ago. That's impressive.


-- I can't be the only one who now wants a Liam Shaw spinoff show. The little way he 'dubbed' both of Seven's shoulders when he reinstated her. The cheerful humming, just because he was 'chipper.' There's an indefinable quality about him that it's hard to put a finger on. He's constantly being a dick, and yet it almost never feels vindictive. He's just kind of enjoying himself. Todd Stashwick is an absolute gem. I'm so glad he's tagging along for the ride.

-- Frontier Day. Well, there's our ticking clock for the season. Changeling Terrorists are planning something big for what's essentially 'Federation Fourth of July.' (If you're reading this outside of the US, please insert your own nationalistic holiday. 'Federation Canada Day,' perhaps.

-- Despite what I said at the beginning I did actually recognize the three instances that Shaw cites as times when the Enterprise crew did more harm than good. I was very self satisfied about it.

-- Is it weird that we haven't seen LeVar Burton yet?

-- I'm really loving the updated 'changeling goo' effect with the red meaty bits swirled in.

-- Worf's fight training with Raffi was very Pai Mei.

-- If you turn on closed captioning, it translates Picard's Bajoran for you.

-- I genuinely believed that they'd killed Worf. It's the last Hurrah, send Michael Dorn out with a bang. I totally fell for it.


Shaw: "Oh, and as a courtesy, because of the harrowing ordeal that we all survived together, I’m gonna step outside so the three of you can get your bullshit story straight."

Raffi: "Can you not put holes in my floor every time you need to make a point?"

Beverly: "Ensign La Forge, can you please verify for the recording that this corpse is indeed not you?"
La Forge: (Vomits)
Beverly: "For the record, Ensign La Forge has indicated ‘yes’."

Ro: "Your Bajoran has improved."
Picard: "Oh, I have been rehearsing this conversation for thirty years."

Ro: "All these years, I wish you’d known me. And that I’d known you."

One of the criticisms – one of the few criticisms – that I've seen of this season of Picard is that it's drawing on and referencing too many pieces from the past. I get that, broadly speaking. But obviously it's not something that I'm going to be bothered by, as I've forgotten about 90% of the past anyway and this was a whole lot of fun, capped by a moving re-framing of a really stupid decision made thirty years ago which completely redeemed the initial mistake. It was just an imposter. The real truth was this lovely conclusion all the time.

Four out of four imposters. Or is it three imposters pretending to be four...? (No, it's really four.) This one definitely rewards a re-watch.

Mikey Heinrich is, among other things, a freelance writer, retired firefighter, and roughly 78% water. You can find more of his work at the 42nd Vizsla. If you'd like to see his raw notes for this and other reviews, you can find them at What Was Mikey Thinking.


  1. Mikey, I loved your review. I think you're right that Beverly knows what's up with Jack, while it's clear that Jack doesn't know what's up with Jack.

    It was great to see Ro Laren again, although brief. And sad. At least she resolved her issues with Picard and gave him that data.

    And while everyone has been doing a great job, Todd Stashwick is practically stealing the season as Captain Shaw. I loved the bullshit story comment, and the way he "knighted" Seven. According to a Ready Room episode, Shaw was written with Stashwick in mind.

    I keep wondering who is going to make it to whatever spinoff must be in the works. I mean, other than Seven.

  2. And I also thought we had just seen the last of Worf. I went "Noooooo!"

  3. Thanks for the review, Mikey, and for sharing your history with Star Trek. I’ve been a fan since the original series aired, but I in no way remember everything I’ve watched or read.

    I do remember the Intrepid was, in Kirk’s day, a starship manned completely by Vulcans. It was attacked by an amoeba like creature preparing to reproduce, and the crew of 400 were killed. Similarities exist, but I’ll let others figure out what it means. Any possible tie in with Krinn? Don’t know, but he seemed way out of place as a Vulcan gangster. Can Vulcans even be gangsters?

    For the record:
    - Have I mentioned I like Shaw?
    - Yay Worf’s not dead!
    - So that was Beverly’s voice calling Jack?
    - Poor Jack. Hope he’s not evil. He was pretty awesome when he went all Hell on Wheels against those Changelings. Maybe he’ll turn out to be the secret weapon to defeat them.
    - Now I’m Mulder and I trust no one.

  4. Thanks! I do remember the ask Vulcan crew now that you mention it. Was that in the one with the Jack the ripper cloud, our the big angry space tube...

    I thought it was evil captain Amanda Plummer calling out to jack the first time through, but closed captions identified the voice as Beverly. I wonder if the show was trying to keep that vague and the captioning spoiled it, now that you mention it.

    I should also mention as part of my personal Star Trek journey, an unexpected result of my watching the whole franchise is that Billie and I and several others here started doing discussion reviews of Star Trek the Animated Series, which means that's the only star trek series that I actually know really well.

    If you haven't checked out the discussion reviews, they've been so much fun to do.

  5. I discovered that a Starship Intrepid also was the first to respond to the Klingon outpost Khitomer after the Romulan massacre. (When Worf was adopted.) Also the Intrepid was mentioned in Voyager when dealing with species 8472. Now I’m really confused, lol.
    Thanks for the heads up about the animated series discussions.

  6. Maybe there's just been a lot of Intrepids. It is a pretty good name. :)


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