Thursday, March 16, 2023

REVIEW: 'Star Trek: Picard' - A Familiar Face Requires Picard to Face the Truth of Why a Past Betrayal Hurt So Much in 'Imposters'

Paramount+'s Star Trek: Picard - Episode 3.05 "Imposters"

Caught by Starfleet and facing court martial, paranoia grows as Picard struggles to uncover whether a prodigal crewman from his past has returned as an ally - or an enemy hellbent on destroying them all.

"Imposters" was written by Cindy Appel & Chris Derrick and directed by Dan Liu

The Changeling have evolved. They can bypass the blood sensors aboard every Starfleet ship. The Titan believed it escaped to freedom the moment the warp drive could be used again. That was far from the truth. The Titan is hardly the only ship to be infiltrated by a Changeling. It's systemic across the entire fleet. Anyone throughout the chain of command could secretly be a Changeling hellbent on a different agenda entirely. Crusher warned Picard in her first message not to trust anyone. That rings more true now. Crusher made that calculation based on the wide swath of people targeting her son. And now, the crew aboard the Titan has a better understanding of what's actually going on. It's not various fractions of civilizations across the universe working together for a mysterious common goal. It's the Changeling who have infiltrated many different aspects of society. Only a few are wise enough to catch a glimpse of what's happening. They are largely powerless to stop any of it. It means every potential interaction could turn deadly. Picard and his allies have quickly established trust with the crew of the Titan. It's all been reluctant on Captain Shaw's part. He's eager to hand Picard and Riker over to Starfleet so they can stand trial. He doesn't see their histories of notable service as liberty to do whatever they want. Picard and Riker are still caught up in the thrill of adventure. It's more than just stories from many decades ago. Of course, the past informs so much of the present. It's startling when they see Commander Ro as the Starfleet officer sent to interrogate them. They had no idea she had returned to this service. They didn't know Starfleet even allowed her back into its ranks. Ro offers an explanation. And yet, the most visceral moments of this story come from Picard and Ro finally getting to express themselves truly to each other. The sting of betrayal only hurts so much because they were vulnerable and giving of themselves. An explanation is long overdue. It comes at the height of this new crisis. They don't have any time to waste. Questions still linger. The doubts of the present are informed by how behavior has shifted over the years. Picard has let so many friendships slip away through time. He has long seen Starfleet as this shining example of noble service. He's always recruiting people. He believes they won't find a better home than Starfleet. And yet, the institution has been corrupted. The intelligence division may be the only service capable of carrying out this far-reaching investigation. Even then, it must be shrouded in secrecy. Raffi was enraged by the lack of transparency. All of the secrecy makes sense now. Everything is coming into focus. That only makes the stakes more dire as the crew of the Titan is all alone in a galaxy where everyone seems eager to hurt them down and exact vengeance.

This all happens because of the internal secrets Jack carries. He doesn't know what's happening inside him. And yet, he's now having these vivid hallucinations where he kills people. He gives in to the temptation when he's fighting against four Changeling warriors. He drifts off when it comes to the helpless members of the Titan crew. Their lives are endangered because of his presence on the ship. That's true both from the outside pressure as well as what turmoil plagues him internally. Crusher understands that something is wrong with her son. He can't explain it. He's simply a piece connecting to something greater. He can tap into that energy when it's beneficial. That doesn't end his suffering. His mother may not even be able to provide a biological answer. It's better to be honest and use these connections in the hopes that some discovery occurs. Picard knows to question everything because of his long history with Starfleet. He needs Commander Ro's story to point in one direction. Seven knew when the Changeling was pretending to be Ensign La Forge. She received that clarity right away. It's not always that easy. Sometimes it takes revisiting the pain of the past. Ro and Picard arrive at a moment of true beauty. Ro had to join the Maquis. That was her calling. That was her embrace of a noble action in the hopes of making a difference. Picard could never understand that because he has always seen Starfleet as this pillar of exemplary service throughout the Federation. That steadfast devotion and love has cost him so much. He placed all his hopes and dreams in this one institution. It didn't prepare him for love outside of the service. He is only now seeing what it cost him. It's never too late. He wants to remain devoted to his family. He is a part of their lives now. He can't be pushed away. He hopes to honor the spirit of Ro's mission. She dies for the cause. That's the choice she makes. The Changeling understand she is getting too close to the truth. She delivers orders that make their secret mission more difficult. It's now a convenient time to eliminate her. Fortunately, she leaves behind a wealth of resources revealing just how compromised Starfleet has become. It also ties into Raffi and Worf's investigation. That has been so tangential. It was always going to connect to the larger story. The narrative was simply better when it was contained to Picard and whatever was happening on the Titan. Those limitations just aren't reasonable. This story extends far beyond the importance of any individual. Picard must rely on his allies to once again save the world. That means exploiting these connections even though Starfleet now has a convenient story to hunt down the Titan. Jack is still safe. That could change at any moment given the increasing severity of his hallucinations. It's all well-executed escalation of the stakes in a way that fits the spirit of Star Trek while remaining grounded in character. It's devastating when Worf is seemingly killed. And then, it's rousing when he bursts back to life ready for a reunion with his former crew. That's the focal point for this season after all.