You know, when I started writing this review, I was pretty pissed off with this episode, because it feels like a grimdark DC Comics-esque Zack Snyder reboot of Star Trek. The characters are all there – at least the important ones who are in this particular show – but they’ve been thrust into a reality that is so unrecognizable, so utterly antithetical to anything Gene Roddenberry would have dreamed up, that the show just doesn’t feel like Star Trek anymore. I’ve said that just way too many times with Picard. I said it with Discovery too, but Discovery has largely redeemed itself.
Then there’s the fact that this Confederacy nightmare regime that Q has created is even more ridiculous and unrealistic than the Mirror Universe ever was. The totalitarian set dressing is comically overwrought and cliche, a camp 1984 with the self-serious self-importance dialed up to 11.
But the more I think about this episode, the more intrigued I am by the possibilities. I’m still pissed at the grimdark, and the totalitarian ridiculousness of it all, but here’s my thinking now.
The episode starts with Picard trying to come to grips with whatever the hell is going on – he’s got alien slaves, a room full of the skulls of his enemies (including Ducat and Spock’s father – yikes), and Q is there to not explain anything to him (as per usual). Picard is apparently a big shot general who will be helping to celebrate Eradication Day, where this new evil empire champions the, well, genocide of all of its enemies. The ceremony is supposed to culminate with Picard blowing the Borg Queen’s head off.
Meanwhile, Seven of Nine, who is now just Annika Hansen, is the President of whatever this thing is. Yadda yadda yadda, our heroes are the only ones who know that time is broken, and they all wake up confused and figure out a way to come together and find a way to escape. It’s a plot we’ve seen a thousand times: an alternate reality where only a few people know things are wrong, and everyone else is like “what’s wrong with you?” It’s not even a new plot to Trek – we’ve done this dance before.
I wonder in these episodes what someone on the other side might think. “Hey, my wife, who is President of this totalitarian dictatorship thingy, just woke up and is acting all weird like she doesn’t know what’s going on or even who I am. Yesterday she was fine and made me eggs and killed a few Vulcans just for fun.” What must that be like for the people who are just living their lives like nothing is weird?
Our heroes find the Borg Queen being kept hostage, and BQ knows that something has happened to time, and conveniently, knows when and where time diverged – 2024 Los Angeles. Something happened then that turned the Earth into a brutal, genocidal hellscape.
So let’s unpack this a little bit, and dive into some Trek lore and try not to get confused.
Unless we’re in the mirror universe (which we’re not, I’m pretty sure, despite all the hints, and Q literally saying “through a mirror darkly,” and if we are in the mirror universe, I’m going to throw my computer at my television), humanity in the Star Trek universe became, if not benevolent, at least slightly more sensible, after the Eugenics Wars and World War 3. First Contact showed the aftermath of World War 3, with humanity relegated to living in makeshift camps, an irradiated atmosphere – basically, the ragged edge of the human race putting itself back together, before Cochran’s flight showed us the larger universe and we started working together to build a hopeful future.
The Eugenics Wars happened in the 1990s (that’s where we get Khan) and the Third World War happened in approximately 2026, according to First Contact. If something happened in 2024 LA that undid the Federation and Starfleet, fine, I can see that happening. What if undoing World War 3 is what undoes everything else?
Maybe our heroes are going to go back in time and have to make World War 3 happen? Yikes.
The Q of it all is obviously the key. The trial never ends. The trial in Farpoint was a simulation of a kind of brutal regime that existed during World War 3, with Q as judge. Is the change in the timeline what would happen if that brutality continued and we never got Cochran and the Vulcans? Did something happen in 2024 that makes World War 3 worse somehow? Why the hell is Q doing this? Why does Q do anything?
I’m intrigued by what’s going to happen in 2024 Los Angeles, if our intrepid heroes can get there with the help of the Borg Queen. That’s a cool twist – they need the help of the Borg Queen to go back in time and stop whatever the thing is. And so Picard is going to have to contend with the Locutus of it all, and Seven is going to have to contend with her Sevenness versus her Annikaness – and with her Sevennness – the implants – stripped away, what’s that going to mean for her character going forward?
I kind of wish Q had been in Voyager at the same time as Seven of Nine, but he only showed up in Season 2. Seven knowing what Q is and what he’s capable of – that could really throw an interesting twist into the show.
8/10. The more I think about this episode, the more I’m intrigued by it. I’m still irritated by all the grimdark, but there’s a lot of Trek lore to argue about here, and I love arguing about Trek lore. The payoff had best be very, very good.