TV reviews

Star Trek: Picard 1×06 – ‘The Impossible Box’ – Review

After a slower couple of episodes, episode six of Star Trek: Picard finally sees the former Captain come face-to-face with the Borg once more.  This throws into immediate conflict the disparate experiences of movie and TV Picard, but more on that in a while.

We pick up with Soji (Isa Briones) experiencing a dream of what appears to be her childhood.  As she wakes to discuss this with Narek (Harry Treadaway), we lead into a scene that confirms Narek’s plan is to kill all remaining synthetics; that he is keen to identify the location of the dream’s setting, as that will reveal the location of others.  We also see childhood photos of Soji and her twin with their mother.  Later, Narek will continue to sow seeds of doubt in Soji, as she learns her history is not quite what she believes or remembers.

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Meanwhile Jean-Luc is discussing the death of Bruce Maddox with Dr Jurati (Alison Pill), where is becomes clear that Maddox’s murder is not yet common knowledge, and Agnes is able to pass it off that he died from injuries acquired at Freecloud.  As their next task is to visit the Artefact, and Picard knows that the Borg will instantly recognise him from his former Borg Drone identity of Locutus (an effective visual as Jean-Luc is researching the archives and happens across a photo of himself in that guise), any attempt at a ruse/going undercover is instantly doomed to fail.  Consequently, Raffi (Michelle Hurd) manages to persuade a contact in Starfleet to issue temporary diplomatic credentials to allow him to visit openly, and meet with Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco).

As a personal view, the Borg instalment of the Next Generation film series, Star Trek: First Contact, was not as effective as either it could have been, or as it is generally lauded amongst fans of the series.  There were two key reasons for this: the first was that the character of Jean-Luc Picard lost all of the characteristics of a calm, seasoned diplomat, and became an irrational, quick-to-temper action star.  This was a clear attempt to market the film as more action heavy than its TV counterpart.  To sell this – and the second reason – this part of the canon of the show was ignored, as all Picard’s work to process his assimilation into the Borg Hive, and his work to weaken the collective, was ignored, and the Borg were once again a seemingly unbeatable adversary – one who had left our Captain emotionally shattered.

Along comes Star Trek: Picard, and it is not sure which of these disparate approaches it wished to follow.  Jean-Luc is clearly more damaged than when he finished the TV series, but the Borg remain as defanged as they were, and as the films ignored.  This leaves Picard visiting the cube as weighted with greater significance than full history of the property would support.  This is a general issue with relaunched Star Trek: it is never sure of its place in the show’s history, or the tone it wishes to adopt.

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These are small gripes, as it is just a great relief to see this show finally catch-up to where it should have been at least a couple of weeks ago.  The two plot strands (Artefact and La Sirena crew) have finally coalesced, and we can look forward to a second half of this season that should, theoretically, be a long series of pay-offs to all of the emotional and expository heavy lifting that has been done to this point.  The long play on the whole mystery of both Soji’s past and status, and the goals of Narek and his fellow Romulans is finally moving towards providing some resolution – not before time, as the whole tease, like waiting for Spock in Star Trek: Discovery, has been severely overplayed.

The show is providing just enough in the way of layers to remain interesting, and to provide points of interest secondary to the main plotline, with Rios (Santiago Cabrera) and Jurati clearly having more to show us; though the whole drunken and damaged aspects to Raffi is in danger of looking somewhat clichéd.  This decent character work is well played by all actors, and provided in support of a very attractive show, and an episode that is extremely well designed and directed.  It’s been a long road (no pun intended, Enterprise fans), but, finally, we may be reaching the good stuff.  The relief is tangible.

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