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Star Trek Picard: No Win Scenario

Beverly: "'To seek out new life...'"
Riker: "I think we should boldly get the hell out of here."

Star Trek: Picard continues its Wrath of Khan parallel course with the Kobayashi Maru, while at the same time managing to stay very Next Generation. Neat trick.

As every Trek fan knows, the "no win scenario" is a Starfleet test intended to show how a cadet deals with a hopeless situation and impending death. Riker, not exactly a cadet and commanding a crew that didn't know him as the Titan was falling into the gravity well, had to balance the need to retain life support with their only possibility of escape. Picard was essentially powerless, and chose to spend his final hours getting to know his son, Jack.

At least, after that devastating argument in the previous episode, Riker apologized to Picard and told him he had been correct to choose fighting over retreat. I also found it interesting that Riker chose to relate that decision to his lack of belief in an afterlife, and that after the death of their son Thaddeus, it was causing a rift with Deanna.

Picard and Jack spent some time getting to know each other on the holodeck, talking about baldness, youthful mistakes, and why Beverly named Jack after her first husband. Quite charming, and Ed Speleers held his own acting in an emotionally difficult scene with Patrick Stewart, no small thing. I really liked that when Jack told Picard he didn't like wine, Picard the winemaker didn't admonish him but just poured them both some whiskey.

And then Todd Stashwick stole the episode away from them. That monologue about Shaw's final moments at Wolf 359 was just exceptional. Taut, powerful, emotional. Bravo.

We know what happened to Picard when he was a captive of the Borg because we experienced it with him in the stellar Next Gen two-parter, "The Best of Both Worlds." We know how violated and powerless he was, how horribly he suffered, how nearly destroyed he was after being turned into an unwilling monster. But Picard had no answer for Captain Shaw. He couldn't possibly explain himself or excuse what happened at Wolf 359. All he could do was acknowledge the truth, and leave the room.

Captain Shaw's experience back when he was a grease monkey who became lucky number ten totally explained his difficult relationship with Seven and why he refused to call her by her chosen name. And that made Seven and Shaw teaming up to find the changeling together work so beautifully. Seven disliked Shaw, but she went to him for help because she knew that he knew the Titan better than anyone. And Shaw knew about the pot that changelings need to regenerate.

(Why that particular Odo-like Deep Space Nine pot, though? I'd disguise mine as a random planter, not hide it in an air duct like something obviously being concealed. Whatever. It was all worth it to see Shaw hand Seven a padd with René Auberjonois' picture on it.)

With everything on the line and even stuck in a vulnerable physical position, Captain Shaw had to trust Seven in return. And he did. I liked the payoff of Sidney La Forge previously calling her "Commander Seven" out of respect revealing the Sidney La Forge changeling. I bet Shaw calls her "Seven" later, but they didn't go predictable and do it in this episode.

I thought that maybe the Shrike would be forced to rescue the Titan in order to acquire Jack Crusher, but no – it was so much better than that. Instead, the former Next Gen crew did what they learned to do so well for so many years, working together for the win. I loved that Beverly figured out that the waves were contractions. I loved that Beverly, Jack, and Picard presented the solution to Riker. I loved that Riker gave Picard the con because he was the only one with experience flying blind. I loved that "Engage!" one last time. I even loved the fun visual of the ship surfing the shining wave, and the gleaming jellyfish-like critters at the end, an obvious callback to the Next Gen pilot, "Encounter at Farpoint."

Interspersed with all of this enjoyable drama was a flashback to five years ago, when a group of excited cadets came upon Picard eating his lunch and begged him for stories. (I recognized the reference to "Darmok," but not the other story. Bad Billie, no biscuit.)

The reason for the flashback was at the end, with the reveal of an 18-year-old Jack Crusher at the bar asking Picard about having a real family, and Picard symbolically slapping Jack in the face saying that Starfleet was the only family he had ever needed. Sadly, it was clear that Picard remembered that moment, realizing he could have had Jack in his life for five years if he had answered in a different way.

A couple of other things. Vadic cut off her hand, it formed a very ugly face, and she talked to it. I honestly don't remember much about the end of Deep Space Nine and the Dominion War – can changelings do that?

And Jack had another vision of the red branches, red explosions, and a door opening. These things must be why Vadic is after him. I have no clue what it means. Anyone have a theory? (No actual spoilers, please!)


— Knowing how the fans would latch onto it as a boo-boo, Picard explained why the holodeck had a separate, independent power source so that crew could use it during times of distress. Okay.

— Riker never recorded that message for Deanna, but they talked after the crisis. It sounds like they're going to patch up their differences.

— No Raffi and Worf this time. Hey, it was a jam-packed episode.

— This one was directed by Jonathan Frakes, and included probably the best acting he's ever done.


Jack: "I think we need to talk about the elephant in the room."
Picard: "Yes. Of course."
Jack: "The hair. When did it go?"
Picard: "You're what? 23? 24? Enjoy it while you can."

Shaw: "Bait them. Steal their pot."
Seven: "Pot? I'm assuming you're not referring to cannabis."
Shaw: "Sadly, no."
I am starting to love Captain Shaw.

Jack: "I know my mother didn't hate you, but naming me after her first husband..."
Picard: "Jack Crusher was once my very best friend at the Academy. And truth be told, I would have named you the same."

Beverly: "So let's do what we've spent our entire lives learning to be great at."

Picard: "Captain Shaw, I realize that I am the last person you want to see right now, but I need your help, despite the fact that you are indeed a dipshit from Chicago."
Shaw: "Nice."

Beverly: "Will, did you just throw an asteroid?"
Riker: "Goddam right I did."

Another absolutely exceptional episode. Four out of four dipshits from Chicago,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. Wow, what an episode. Just kept getting better and better. Only thing I missed was Worf & Raffi but there was just no time.

    “I thought that maybe the Shrike would be forced to rescue the Titan in order to acquire Jack Crusher, but no – it was so much better than that. “ Exactly.

    Seven & Shaw: Love them both and together they’re an intriguing work in progress.
    Callback to "Encounter at Farpoint.”: I loved that episode.
    Vadic’s hand: I’ve no memories of such a thing from DS9.
    Jack’s dream: No guesses yet.

    I’ll end by saying, what a review! Thanks Billie. It was worth the few days wait.

  2. Måge, thanks. I know I'm late posting, and I was going to put a note about it in there. I'm having some awful writers' block these days.

  3. Billie, you are fine. Just glad to even get such a good review. If I could, I’d offer to help with some of my favs that aren’t being reviewed here. Unfortunately for me, trying to write a well rounded review bleeds all the joy out of it. I hope your writer’s block disappears soon.

  4. Mage, if you should ever want to write for us, link is below. If not, then I will be happy with your well-written and always welcome comments.


  5. Riker having that asteroid thrown at the Shrike was awesome!

    A Changeling could cut their hand off. It would separate temporarily, but then remerge. That communication was weird, almost like demonic magic.

  6. Agree with all above comments. I particularly liked it when Shaw commented that, "the real Borg are still out there". This felt very very real and intriguing and EXACTLY what his character would maybe think. Loved the shout out to "Darmok", one of my favourite STNG episodes... and really loved when Riker said, "To boldly get the hell out of here".

  7. The writers were on fire!

  8. I agree with everything you said, Billie, but I can't believe you didn't mention Riker throwing the Asteroid at the Shrike. Not only was it a great reversal of the Shrike throwing a starship at them, but it was also the first time in a long time that I had to throw my hands up and yell, "YES!" I don't do that very often, but there was no holding back this time. I have enjoyed both of the previous seasons of Picard a lot; enough that I have said it was my favorite of the new Star Trek shows. But as much as I loved the previous seasons, so far, this is really shaping up to be the best.

  9. Psyborg, I did quote it. :) There really was a lot to love in this one.

  10. This was an all-timer for me in the Trek universe, up there with The Inner Light and Yesterday’s Enterprise. Shaw’s speech in Ten Forward and several moments with Riker were among the best I’ve seen in any Trek series. Just a brilliant season to date and can’t wait to see where it’s going.

    I do have to say though that the final scene looked a little Stranger Thing-ish to me. I’m sure the crossover episode will be a blast! 😀


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