This article is part of our ongoing Picard Explained series, featuring the insights of our resident Starfleet officer Brad Gullickson. In this entry, we recap the Star Trek: Picard episode “Absolute Candor.”
In the time between Star Trek: Nemesis and Star Trek: Picard, a production company could have jammed two and a half Star Trek: The Next Generation(s). That’s a whole lot of missing time, which the producers of this current series have seemed to fill mostly with tragedy, despair, and angry new faces. Each episode begins with a flashback and a reminder of how far Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the Federation have fallen since we last saw them.
This week, the adventure finally kicks off in “Absolute Candor,” as the disgraced former Admiral and his crew of outcasts make a pitstop at the Romulan relocation hub on Vashti before confronting the positronic maestro, Dr. Bruce Maddox, on Freecloud. Fourteen years ago, Picard was recalled from the planet to deal with the synthetic rebellion on Mars, and never returned. He abandoned a horde of refugees to simmer in their loss.
In his absence, the grief of these castaways bubbled into hatred, and they naturally want nothing to do with the human who left them to rot so he could wallow in self-pity. Looking to placate, and confront his shame, Picard boldly beams down amongst the furious. He’s asked the Qowat Milat, an order of warrior nuns, to lend him their sole male member to his lost cause, and while that individual weighs his frustrations regarding Picard’s treachery, an ancient Romulan Bird of Prey enters the system looking for a fight.
Now, more than ever, Picard needs friends. He’s a doddering old fool without a Starfleet to back his rekindled humanitarian desires. On Vashti, we see a man who can no longer hold his own in a sword fight. In the past, when his words failed him, at least Picard could best anyone in a duel. That is no longer the case. If not for Elnor (Evan Evagora), the Romulan samurai, Picard would have left his head on the floor.
La Sirena, the little starship engine that could and the only one brazen enough to accept Picard’s apology tour across the cosmos, is a scrappy little fighter. Her captain Rios (Santiago Cabrera) is a morose galactic vagabond who surrounds himself with holographic tormentors that wear his face. Only such a self-loathing scoundrel would agree to Picard’s plight and have the brass to take on a Romulan warship three times his vessel’s size.
Once more, Picard would not have made it out of this scenario without further assistance. As survival appears unlikely, another fighter shoots into the frame. Together, the micro machines topple the titanic Romulan Bird of Prey, but not before this new ship takes a catastrophic hit. With little time to consider their options, Picard orders their potential ally beamed aboard La Sirena. It’s that other famous ex-borg, Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan).
Picard stares gobsmacked. He calls out her name, and she replies, “Picard, you owe me a ship” before plummeting to the floor unconscious. Cut to credits.
These two have never shared the screen before, but in the space since Star Trek: Voyager went off the air, they’ve apparently gotten somewhat friendly. We should expect another flashback next week to fill in those gaps. Clearly, given all the Borg/Romulan shinanigans at play in Star Trek: Picard, Seven of Nine is a crucial player in the plot. Is she the Moses to lead her people from the biological hell they’re living on the Romulan Reclamation Site?
Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco), your new BFF has arrived.
Seven of Nine was meant to work as the Spock to Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew)’s Captain Kirk. Cold logic meets hot emotion. Ripped from the Borg Collective, much of her journey involved rediscovering her humanity through her comradery with the U.S.S. Voyager crew.
After nearly a lifetime lost to the far reaches of the Delta Quadrant, it’s easy to imagine that when Seven of Nine’s ship returned to Earth, adjusting to normal life was practically impossible. Throughout her series, we caught glimpses of possible futures where she married Commander Chakotay (Robert Beltran) but given her appearance out of uniform here, and the lack of Beltran on the call sheet, these last few decades have been rough. She’s one more fractured character aboard La Sirena.
Much of Star Trek: Picard, it seems, will revolve around the title character making amends for retreating from duty. Not the obligation to Starfleet, but its ideals. As we saw last week, when push came to shove with his superiors, Picard’s last-ditch effort was to offer his resignation. When Starfleet accepted it, Picard was so hurt that he tossed up his hands and quit. Not just his job, but humanity – scratch that – life. Pride corrupted the Admiral, and the galaxy lost one of its great heroes.
One cannot simply return to the captain’s chair and think the final frontier will offer a warm embrace. Space is cold, sir. First, he must prove himself to those he hurt: Raffi, Elnor, maybe Seven of Nine, and us, his audience. The supporting players of Star Trek: Picard take on a much grander role. Through their forgiveness, we’ll find ours.
In episode one, the appearance of Data (Brent Spiner)’s daughter sent a shockwave through Picard. She is a reminder of everything her father strived to become – a real boy and not the wooden, synthetic approximation he was cast inside. Data wanted nothing more than to be just one of the guys. He idolized the flaws of humanity. He strived to understand their illogical desires and the righteous principles they stood upon.
Picard should do no less. Data was a man of honor who gave everything so that Picard could go on. When he retired to his vineyard after his failings with Starfleet, he betrayed everything Data sacrificed. Even dead, Picard’s friends are kicking his ass.
To make up for fourteen years of solitude, Picard will have to give more of himself than he ever has before. He needs to show the universe that the Starfleet of The Next Generation still resides within. To do that, he needs to demonstrate his worth to those around him. We have faith, but it might take more than a single season of television.