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Star Trek Pic - Season 1 - Episode 03

Star Trek Pic - 1x03 - The End is the Beginning

Originally Aired: 2020-2-5

Synopsis:
Completely unaware of her special nature, Soji continues her work and captures the attention of the Borg cube research project's executive director. After rehashing past events with a reluctant Raffi, Picard seeks others willing to join his search for Bruce Maddox, including pilot and former Starfleet officer Cristóbal Rios.

My Rating - 5

Fan Rating Average - 3.28

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Problems
- Hugh refers to the Romulans on the Borg cube as the only Romulans ever assimilated by the Borg, but this isn't true. We've seen other examples, such as Orum on Voy: Unity. Seven of Nine also assumed the personality of a Romulan Borg drone she had previously either assimilated or at least shared the thoughts of during Voy: Infinite Regress. And of course the Borg destroyed and presumably assimilated whole Romulan colonies during TNG: The Neutral Zone. Thankfully Hugh did say these were the only Romulans ever assimilated as far as he knew, so we can presume that Hugh simply didn't know of any of the others. Though that is fairly hard to believe given that he's dedicated his life's work to this and appears to have spent a great deal of time with the Romulans. A clearly bungled line.

Factoids
- The location of Vasquez Rocks is of special significance to Star Trek. It was used as a filming location for numerous alien planets in various episodes. This is the first time the location was used to portray the actual Vasquez Rocks in the story, clearly as a bit of an inside joke.
- The character of Raffi Musiker was previously introduced in the non-canon "Countdown to Picard" comic books, where she was depicted as Picard's first officer on the USS Verity.

Remarkable Scenes
- The flashback to the aftermath of Picard resigning from Starfleet 14 years ago in 2385.
- The revelation that Hugh works aboard the Romulan Borg cube.
- Rios to his hologram: "Spare me the juvenile Sunday school morality." His hologram: "And spare me the angsty teenage moral relativism."
- The Romulan attack on Chateau Picard.
- Raffi: "You're just gonna let Agnes here hitch a ride on your top secret mission?"
- Picard: "Engage."

My Review
Another solid, if slow episode. In some regards the slowness is appreciated. It's nice that they took their time furnishing Picard with a ship, particularly after the previous episode establishing clearly that Picard can't just order up a spiffy new ship on demand. Instead he has to work connections to find shady people willing to go out on a limb for him. Another nice touch was the scene when Laris remarked that chateau life wasn't right for Picard and that his real home was amongst the stars. This was a touching echo of Picard's exchanges with his late family in TNG: Family.

On the topic of chateau life, it's fascinating to see Raffi express resentment towards Picard not just because he was indirectly responsible for getting her fired from Starfleet, but also because his retirement was considerably more glamorous compared to her comparative squalor. The continued existence of wealth inequality to some degree in the Federation might seem to run counter to the utopian vision of Star Trek, but it makes a great deal of sense. We can safely assume Raffi doesn't live in poverty as we know it today. She like any other Federation citizen no doubt has free, universal access to food, shelter, healthcare, and other basic needs. But some things even in the utopian Federation would undoubtedly still be scarce. One cannot simply walk up to the replicator and say, "Chateau, vineyard, France," or "Ship, warp capable, unregistered." For Picard to be able to live on such a vast estate, he clearly had to have some wealth, or at least significantly more social capital of some kind than Raffi did. The episode makes other references to the continued existence of money as well too, such as in reference to the cost of Rios' services.

Speaking of Rios, it is curious how his "unregistered" starship can just hang out in Earth orbit without setting off any alarms. An unlicensed ship could be a powerful weapon in the wrong hands. The warp core could be jury-rigged into an antimatter bomb, and an antimatter explosion on Earth could kill tens or perhaps even hundreds of millions of people. It has always been strongly implied that the Federation heavily regulates who gets access to starships for this reason, so it isn't entirely clear why Rios can just fly around with an unregistered starship like someone joyriding in a Ferrari without a driver's license without anyone seeming to be remotely concerned about it.

It is even more curious that his ship is outfitted with a flock of emergency holograms. It seems holograms are either inexplicably not banned as androids were, or the holograms on Rios' ship are illegal. The lingering still unresolved questions about the status of holograms relative to androids are starting to get pretty conspicuous and annoying. Though one detail pertaining to continuity that is quite appreciated was the little throwaway line from Laris about Romulans with forehead ridges being "northerners." This provides us with an in-universe explanation for why some Romulans have forehead ridges and some don't: it is has to do with ethnic groups among Romulans. This inconsistency was long considered by Star Trek fans to be a similar if less severe problem akin to the Klingon forehead problem created by the transition from TOS to the original series films. The Klingon forehead problem was fixed in Ent: Affliction and Ent: Divergence. Now the Romulan forehead problem is fixed here. A fantastic example of this show playing very nicely in the canon sandbox.

Another great example of this show leveraging canon was bringing back the character of Hugh, last seen in TNG: Descent, Part II in September of 1993, more than 26 years before this episode! We don't know too much about what he's been up to since taking over the rebel Borg faction left behind by Lore, but we learn that he's now the executive director of the Reclamation Project charged with "reclaiming" the Borg drones severed from the collective, now termed xBs. It is curious that Ramdha and a ship full of her fellow Romulans were the last people assimilated by this cube before it suffered a "submatrix collapse." This sounds strikingly similar to what might have happened if the weapon that the Enterprise crew devised to attack the Borg using Hugh in TNG: I, Borg had actually been deployed. Could the Romulans have stolen this virus from the Federation? Could they have invented a similar one of their own? Hopefully we'll find out soon.

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