Warning: This Star Trek: Picard season 2, episode 10 review contains major spoilers – many of them set to stun. Boldly go further at your own risk…
With its numerous nods to movies The Voyage Home and First Contact, and Deep Space Nine two-parter ‘Past Tense’, Star Trek: Picard’s second season hasn’t been shy of homaging previous Trek missions. Now it’s the turn of classic The Next Generation finale ‘All Good Things’ to provide inspiration, as this closing installment makes it clear that the whole of this year’s arc has been built around an eerily similar premise.
In the last-ever episode of TNG, Q jumped Captain Picard backwards and forwards through time to save reality from a bizarre spatial anomaly. In ‘Farewell’ we learn that the whole of Jean-Luc and co’s jaunt back to the 21st century – including all those flashbacks to the tragedy at Chateau Picard – has been an extremely round-about way of rescuing the Alpha Quadrant from a “galactic event”.
Despite the familiarity of the premise, it’s a clever – and poignant – piece of plotting. There’s a neat symmetry to the idea of Q – who’s had humanity on trial since the TNG pilot – returning to point the older Jean-Luc Picard in the right direction to fix a problem of galactic importance. More importantly, Q’s involvement provides an emotionally satisfying climax to the story arc that – while occasionally contrived – makes this wonderfully entertaining season’s few narrative missteps feel like they were part of a grander plan.
‘Farewell’ takes its time getting to the point where those plot threads coalesce, however, and the messy opening act is far from convincing. Ensuring Renée Picard blasts off on the pivotal Europa mission is, unsurprisingly, the priority, but the story’s in such a rush to get her into orbit that the episode struggles to build any tension. It also gets bogged down in the idea of prophecy, a plot device that feels totally at home in Star Wars, Game of Thrones, and Doctor Who, yet feels more awkward in the harder sci-fi worlds of Star Trek.
Picard himself is appropriately skeptical about the Borg Queen’s assertion that “to succeed there must be two Renées; one who lives and one who dies”, but Tallinn takes her words as proof she needs to sacrifice herself to ensure the young astronaut fulfills her world-saving destiny. The shock reveal that she was impersonating Renée when Dr. Adam Soong delivers a lethal, neurotoxin-infused handshake is a neat twist, but it also feels like it’s been lifted from a Mission: Impossible movie.
Perhaps Tom Cruise’s blockbuster movie franchise is where Soong got the idea for the stunt, though he continues to be the most problematic element in the show. When he was introduced as a morally questionable scientist, he was a plausible addition to the ensemble, but as the season has gone on, he’s evolved into the sort of mustache-twirling, cat-stroking Bond villain you might have encountered before things got serious in the Daniel Craig era. In his quest to shape the dystopian future we saw in ‘Penance’, he’s rolling out weaponized drones, demanding a pre-launch audience with the astronauts, and playing assassin – away from Austin Powers, it’s rare to see anybody who relishes being evil quite this much.
After Soong’s dastardly schemes have failed once and for all – and Renée is safely on her way – there’s a last gasp effort to make him feel essential to Star Trek lore, courtesy of a secret file labeled “Project Khan”. It’s currently unclear how a rogue geneticist like Soong will tie into the origins of Trek’s greatest ever villain – in the original timeline, Khan was a dictator in the late ’90s, a quarter of a century ahead of the events here – but right now it feels like an ill-conceived effort to plug a gap in the canon that really doesn’t need filling.
Although Soong is having something of a ’mare, things are looking up for his daughter, Kore. Having been a relatively minor player this season, her exploits erasing her creator’s hard drives are enough to get her noticed by a familiar face from The Next Generation.
The announcement that the crew of the Enterprise-D are returning in season 3 unsurprisingly attracted headlines, but for the Traveler formerly known as Wesley Crusher to show up here is a wonderful surprise – especially after actor Wil Wheaton seemingly confirmed in his own blog (via ScreenRant) (opens in new tab) that he wasn’t coming back. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that Kore would be selected to help police the tapestry of the space-time continuum – perhaps it explains why 24th-century androids Dahj and Soji look identical to Kore? – but it’s a fun nod to fans to confirm that Wesley is still out there protecting the universe.
It’s the last act of ‘Farewell’ that makes everything worthwhile, however, as Q finally reveals his true motives for interfering with Picard’s timeline – and goes some way to finding redemption for a lifetime of cosmic tinkering. In contrast to Boba Fett’s awkward journey from ruthless bounty hunter to caring man-of-the-people, Q’s shift from villain to antihero works remarkably well. At heart, this entire season has been about a dying man’s desire for his final act to make a positive difference, and Picard – a man for whom Q has obvious respect – is the beneficiary. While it’s questionable that a man as accomplished as Jean-Luc has been significantly held back by his childhood trauma – an issue seemingly manufactured for this season – it also gives Q the chance to belatedly reveal a layer of humanity hiding beneath the riddles and the mischief.
And besides, even a reformed Q would never have made it so simple that the mission was just about a man. The season therefore saves its best twist until last, as Q transports Picard and his crew back to the bridge of the USS Stargazer, resuming their encounter with the Borg Queen who demanded Jean-Luc’s presence at the start of the season.
It turns out that the Borg using Edith Piaf’s ‘Je Ne Regrette Rien’ as a hailing frequency was no coincidence, as the intruder reveals she’s the Agnes/Queen hybrid who left Earth on La Sirena 400 years earlier. She needs to coordinate the navy of Starfleet vessels to stop the anomaly destroying a significant chunk of the Federation, but such a truce would never have been possible had Picard not gone back in time. Suddenly, all the pieces of this cleverly plotted season – and Q’s grand plan – fall into place.
It’s also an excuse for some unashamedly happy endings, with Rios staying in the 21st century with Teresa and Ricardo, Elnor returning from the dead, and Raffi and Seven reconciling. It also looks like – in what could be a first for Star Trek – Jean-Luc might finally be lucky in love, as he comes clean with Laris about his feelings. Is the ending too neat? Possibly, but it would take a hard heart to begrudge Jean-Luc and his new surrogate family a few moments of joy at the end of such an entertaining run of episodes.
Star Trek: Picard season 2 has come to an end. However, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has only just started! Click through that link to read our review of the premiere. It’s Star Trek all the time!
3.5 out of 5
Star Trek: Picard season 2 episode 10 review: “Saves the best twist until last”
‘Farewell’ takes time to find its feet, but it grows into an emotionally satisfying conclusion to a cleverly plotted season. When Riker, Troi, Worf, Geordi and Crusher step back into the action in Star Trek: Picard’s third year, there’ll be some big shoes to fill.