We just got to watch the fourth episode of the (thusfar fantastic) final season of Star Trek: Picard, this week entitled “No Win Scenario”. The episode was cowritten by co-executive producer Sean Tretta and showrunner Terry Matalas. The director was, like last week, the legendary Jonathan Frakes. We all knew that the Titan would escape last week’s cliffhanger, but let’s delve into how they “changed the conditions of the test”. There were also a few easter eggs I picked up along the way, with some thoughts as to what’s coming up.
Let’s start with the obvious. The title. The idea of the “no win scenario” is no stranger to Star Trek. The Kobayashi Maru test, originating in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, presented a no-win scenario. It was Kirk’s meddling with the test’s conditions that let him win. This test was later replicated in his encounter with Khan. Like Kirk, Picard changes the conditions. This continues on from this season’s many callbacks, both subtle and obvious, to the classic Star Trek film.
Another Flashback to 10 Forward
One of my favourite things about this season is how it sets the stage for the episode through flashbacks. Plus it’s always nice to spend a little more time in that beautiful LA Ten Forward setting. We open on some nice establishing shots, with some more replica starships, and even a painting of Picard and Guinan. I’m half wondering how they got a painting of something that happened in the Nexus (in Star Trek: Generations) and half wishing we could see Guinan again in person this season. I miss her a lot.
We also see posters advertising Frontier Day, which I guess we can infer must be an annual thing. I seriously wonder what sorts of festivities we might be seeing further down the line. I’ve said before that I’d adore a holographic cameo from Jonathan Archer or maybe even Zephram Cochrane. If not, I’m sure the teases through the credits of ships such as the USS Enterprise-F, USS Voyager, and USS Voyager-B, will make for more than exciting enough viewing.
They also use one of the shots from the first teaser trailer. We didn’t know why these younger officers were approaching Picard, and the sinister trailer music didn’t put my mind at ease. It turning out to be story-time was crazily wholesome, yet I’m left wondering how many of the remaining unused trailer shots have been completely removed from their original context. Perhaps the “all consuming darkness” that Deanna mentions isn’t Vadic? And maybe Moriarty is pointing his gun to defend the crew rather than attack them?
When Picard mentioned an encounter with the Hirogen, I got really excited. They’re one of the more interesting aliens to come out of Star Trek: Voyager, a show that because of how far away it’s set, is harder to pay service to. Name dropping Janeway and Worf to create a genuinely thrilling story. We’ve teased a few fun action-packed around-Nemesis adventures for the crew this season, and it’s something I’d love to see them adapt into a comic or animated series. If not its a nice little easter egg!
He later mentions the events of the classic Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Darmok”. There’s a lovely common thread between the stories where Picard was forced to adapt and remain steadfast, his own No Win Scenarios. Also given the canonical presence of Tamarians in Starfleet in Star Trek: Lower Decks, it would be lovely to see some Tamarians in the background through the season
Picard also recalls a mishap with a shuttle in his youth. We’ve not focused a lot on Picard’s time on the Stargazer, so it’s lovely to get a better picture of what he was like back then. It’s also lovely to hear a bit more about Jack’s namesake. While the story ultimately holds the solution to the Titan’s predicament, the best bit was Picard admitting that he would’ve named his kid after Jack as well. I thought it was a little strange Beverly named Picard’s kid after her dead former-husband, so it’s nice to have a little clarification.
Riker and His Imzadi
I was worried about Troi being able to “use a break” from Riker. The last thing I wanted was some bitter, irreconcilable romance between two legacy characters. Thankfully we’ve avoided the pitfalls of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, sidestepping it with a gutwrenching speech from Riker. It also explains Riker’s excessive caution in recent episodes, he’s afraid of death after the experience of losing his son Thaddeus.
Trying to make some distance between him and Deanna also wasn’t a decision he took lightly. He was barely able to record a message for her. I’m incredibly glad to see them reconcile by the end of the episode. It was also nice to finally see where Deanna was in 2401, clearly safe at home. Just how she ends up being dragged into the fight against Vadic and what “dark presence” she detect remain up in the air. But it looks like she’s going to get involved soon.
We’ve also seen evidence in the most recent trailer that all seven of the returning TNG regulars will share a scene together in the present day. While I can’t wait to see the gang back together, I’d love to know how far away we are from that scene. Due to Worf’s subplot remaining separate at the moment, as well as Lore’s and Geordi’s continued absences, I don’t believe this will be anytime soon. Hopefully Riker and Troi get to meet up in person long before this, though.
Wolf-359 and Captain Shaw
I was actually right about something! Way back after episode one, “The Next Generation” came out, I said that Shaw was related to the Battle of Wolf 359. Not only that, but that this was connected to the USS Constance in the end credits, and would be why he was rude to Picard and deadnames Seven. All of that was proven correct in the best monologue in recent Trek.
It’s also been confirmed that Shaw is named after legendary actor Robert Shaw. Shaw’s role in the blockbuster Jaws has him reciting a similarly harrowing monologue about his trauma. This was primarily led by writer Sean Tretta’s love of Jaws. It does a great job of making Shaw a bit more sympathetic, and is a really nice contrast to Sisko’s trauma response from way back in “Emissary”. The subtle vocal cameo from Locutus is also a nice easter egg.
It’s also cool to see the live-action return of the TNG era holodeck, seeing the familiar black and gold grid again was amazing. Speaking of familiar patterns, you can also briefly catch the Daystrom Institute logo introduced way back in season 1 of Picard when the Shrike ejects the portal weapon. Everything i this season, even blink and you miss it moments, are really faithful recreations of things from Trek’s past. I’m absolutely loving this so much!
Also aboard the Titan, Shaw has a fascinating scene with Seven. We callback to Sidney LaForge not deadnaming Seven from last week. I really want that to be a turning point for Shaw’s respect for her identity. I doubt it, though. There’s something very refreshing about Shaw’s demeanour that makes me want more of him. I’d really love to see a 25th Century spinoff, now more than ever.
Picking up from last week, Seven is working unofficially, hunting the Changeling through the Titan. We get to see a Changeling’s bucket, identical to that used by Odo who we even get a photo of, which is a nice little easter egg. However why this pot is the same as Odo’s, who knows? I guess Bajoran style pots got popular with Changelings! The way Seven found it behind the light panel is similar to the way Kirk found the overloading phaser in “The Conscience of the King”, creating a quintessential Trek moment.
There’s also a classic Trek plot to re-power the ship. It culminates in some beautiful action sequences, but most importantly some real classic Trek moments. The Titan seeks out new life. A part of the core mantra of Starfleet. The little squids also look a little similar to the creatures from the end of TNG’s pilot, “Encounter at Farpoint”. While the namedrop felt forced, it’s a cool moment nonetheless. Also, if this is the end of the first act of the season, can this be the pilot to a Titan spinoff series? Please?
Changeling Goo and “Future Guy”
There’s a small scene with Vadic, where we learn that she is also a Changeling. After the subtitle issues last week, spoiling the Shrike’s crew being Changelings, this isn’t much of a surprise. However she cuts off her hand with a knife identical to the Reman blades in Star Trek: Nemesis. She does this to communicate with her boss, a secret villain. The distorted voice and obscured figure is reminiscent of the obscurations of Future Guy in early episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise. However, this time it’s almost certainly not a secret Scott Bakula.
There’s a good chance that this is Laas, returning from the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Chimera”. A Changeling on the lookout for the missing hundred, led by vengeance after presumably linking with Odo and being infected with the Chimera virus. While this would certainly be an obscure DS9 cameo, the motive makes a lot of sense, and it would be amazing to get to see JG Hertzler return to Trek since Martok is dead.
I’d also be interested to see how this ties into Jack’s visions, if it even does at all. There’s a voice that I’m not unconvinced is Amanda Plummer’s, calling Jack to “find me”. Just what this has to do with anything remains to be seen, but this is a lovely setup for a mystery box plot. I just want Jack available for future appearances and spinoffs, so hopefully whatever’s wrong with him isn’t too deadly.
While “No Win Scenario” wasn’t as full of references and callbacks as previous weeks, it didn’t need to be. Now it feels like we’re at the end of the first act of the season. I’m really excited about next episode, “Imposter” to see what’s coming up. The prodigal crewman in the synopsis is probably Data, but trailers have insisted Spiner is instead playing Lore. It’s going to be a lot of fun to see just who Spiner’s “old new character” is. It could also be someone unexpected, like Ro Laren, with the return of Michelle Forbes.
So, was there anything in “No Win Scenario” that I missed? Who do you think that mysterious face is? Will we see any more swearing? We’ll have to wait until next time to find out!
Star Trek: Picard Season 3 airs on Thursdays via Paramount+ for those in the United States. Additionally, on Crave and the CTV Sci-Fi channel for viewers in Canada. However, new episodes air Fridays via Amazon Prime Video in international regions like the United Kingdom. Paramount+ also streams the episodes in select locations, such as Italy, Germany and France.
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