Review: Star Trek: Picard Season 3 Episode 3 “Seventeen Seconds”
Our weekly dose of dopamine hits just right in the third episode of Star Trek: Picard‘s final season, as “Seventeen Seconds” sees the USS Titan evading its hunter while Admiral Jean-Luc Picard comes to grips with a surprise addition to his family tree.
After Captain Liam Shaw (Todd Stashwick) agrees to not hand over Jack Crusher (Ed Speleers) to the “bounty hunter” Vadic (Amanda Plummer), the Titan dives deeper into the mysterious nebula for a game of cat and mouse. But before that game can play out to its fullest extent, the audience is treated to a flashback scene with Admiral Picard (Patrick Stewart) and new father Captain William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) in L.A.’s Ten Forward sometime after Star Trek: Nemesis. The pair are celebrating the birth of Riker’s child, Thaddeus, and Riker tells the story of how the tense turbolift ride to see his newborn son after a stressful delivery was the longest seventeen seconds of his life. It was in that fleeting space of time when he discovered what it truly meant to be a father.
The de-aging of Stewart and Frakes in this scene isn’t fantastic, especially in a post-The Mandalorian world, so that somewhat sucked us out of the experience. But who doesn’t get a kick from seeing these friends celebrate a joyous occasion? Moreover, hearing Riker talking about his child, primarily based on what we know happens to the ill-fated Thaddeus, is heartbreaking – but at the same time, we appreciate gleaning more about the character in his post-Nemesis years. And this scene certainly informs how we view Picard’s parentage later in the episode.
We want to praise Jonathan Frakes, who has become the surprise MVP of this season so far, for a touching monologue about what Riker thinks is the essence of being a parent. In this scene, we also get Marina Sirtus’ first appearance in this season, as the stressed-out new parent urges her husband to come back to the Titan to help care for their son.
Flashforward to the present day and our protagonists are in a dire situation. They are outgunned by Vadic, with only the nebula to keep them temporarily safe. Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) is in the doghouse thanks to her helping Picard and Riker divert the Titan under Shaw’s nose. Seven has some friends in the crew, though, as Ensign Sidney La Forge (Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut) is in Seven’s corner, as the ex-Borg learns when the ensign stops by her quarters for a friendly check-in. La Forge assures Seven that even though Captain Shaw has left the traitorous Seven out to dry, La Forge’s father wouldn’t because he would recognize some illegal actions are worth taking for friends.
The major drama on the USS Titan involves our titular character. Admiral Picard is dealing with the revelation that Jack is his son, a secret Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) kept from him for 20 years. But why would she do that? She passionately asserts how being the son of the legendary Picard would likely spell sorrow for his family, as the man would always be targeted by one group or another. Crusher backs up her argument with examples of the post-Nemesis adventures of the Enterprise crew, which for our money seems like good material for tie-in media. Notably, Crusher recalls how Jean-Luc always claimed he never wanted to be a father, as he didn’t want to be like his own father, who, let’s remember, was a powerful presence in Picard season two.
“Jean-Luc, when the galaxy comes calling for you, you are not put upon by it. You love it. Don’t tell me you would have walked away.”
“Beverly, you made the choice for me. You don’t get to condemn people before the fact.”– Beverly Crusher and Jean-Luc Picard, as Beverly is explaining why she kept Jack’s existence from him.
We’re thrilled to see Beverly get the kind of attention her character always deserved but never really got in recent TNG outings, and McFadden and Stewart play off each other like the vets they are. McFadden has a lot to chew on in this episode, and she is totally up to the challenge. The exchange the pair have in sickbay is one of the tensest scenes of this episode and a major breakthrough in the decades-long arc of this couple.
The family drama takes a backseat for a little bit as the Titan gets knocked around by the vulture-like Shrike, which was able to locate the Federation ship despite the nebula’s interference. The battle damage is so extensive that Captain Shaw gets majorly injured and needs to relieve command. He chooses Captain Riker to guide his ship through the engagement, so it’s here we see an unusual sight: Riker in the center chair, and Picard playing Number One. Complicating the engagement in the nebula is that the Titan crew is picking up strange biological readings from the space around them – leading them to believe it might not be a nebula at all.
How to handle the battle at hand proves to divide the legendary duo, as Riker asserts the need to escape the nebula and their pursuer, while Picard asserts the need to stand and fight. Seeing this pair at odds certainly is unusual –the only other time we can think of is in “The Pegasus.” But here, the divide seems more foundational and deep-set, with each man sticking to their respective obligations – Riker to the Titan crew, and Picard to his son.
The Strike and the mysterious weapon at the base of its structure prove quite the wild card for Riker, as the Titan quickly gets trapped in various portals in space the Shrike projects. Escape seems impossible, and Jack Crusher ponders to Seven of Nine how exactly their enemy is tracking them. The pair postulate the Titan is leaking an element from their warp coils that is allowing the Strike to track them, but Seven needs evidence before taking action. The pair indeed find a viterium leak that is being masked from the computer, which means there’s a saboteur among the crew.
The saboteur soon reveals himself to Jack as the younger man faces off against a surprise visitor wearing a Starfleet uniform. However, during the fist fight that ensues, the officer appears to not be human at all — it’s only at the end of the episode that we learn what species the person truly is. After the fight, Jack is subsequently taken to sickbay, and it’s now Picard’s turn to have a tense, thoughtful turbolift ride, just like Riker described earlier in the episode. Jack indeed almost perishes were it not for the medical skills of his mother.
To complicate matters, the Titan is dangerously close to the center of the nebula. But the crew can use the Titan’s breadcrumb trail to its advantage and turn the tables on the Shrike. A heated disagreement ensues between the captain and his Number One about standing and fighting, but an explosion aboard the Titan by their resident saboteur means Riker ultimately defers to the older man and opts to stand and fight, despite the risks. Ultimately, the Titan even falls victim to its own torpedoes, leading the disabled vessel to slowly drift into the center of the nebula, the battle seemed lost. Picard, for his part, seems regretful of his stance to stand and fight, and Riker blames the admiral for setting them on course for certain death. It’s not a great situation for our heroes.
Our only sticking point about the events on the Titan comes at the very end of the episode when Riker blames Picard for their crew facing certain death. Riker is the captain of the ship; the buck stops with him. It was because of the explosion in engineering that Riker chose to side with Picard and fight the Shrike – he really didn’t have any other choice. For Riker to blame Picard for the Titan’s misfortune seems misplaced and irresponsible, and we would think Riker would know better than blame the admiral.
Off the Titan, Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd) is busy getting introduced to one of the other TNG cast members: Worf (Michael Dorn), who was revealed in the previous episode as Raffi’s mysterious handler. After the two determine they share the same objective, Raffi and Worf continue to try and determine who has the super-powerful weapons stolen from Daystrom Station, and what their true target is. Michael Dorn proves to be surprisingly adept at providing a semblance of comic relief in this show, as our conception of who this character is shifted as Worf introduces himself to Raffi (and re-introduces himself to fans).
“I am Worf, son of Mogh, House of Martok, Son of Sergei, House of Rozhenko, Bane to the Duras family, Slayer of Gowron. I have made some chamomile tea – do you take sugar?”– Worf introducing himself to Raffi.
The pair capture Titus Rikka (Thomas Dekker), a person who was working with the late Sneed, and it’s here we get a major revelation that will surprise and delight veteran Star Trek fans. While we think the seemingly drugged-out nature of Titus is just the effects of withdrawal, he apparently just can’t hold his human form and reverts to the natural state of… a shape-shifter! Before he returns to his congealed state, Titus reveals whoever stole the Daystrom weapons was merely misdirecting Starfleet from something else stolen from Daystrom, and that the solids’ worlds are “on the verge of destruction.” Worf quickly vaporizes the Changeling before it can get away.
Before the episode ends, we get a monologue from Worf about the Changelings and their history since the last time we saw them in Deep Space Nine. Apparently, after the Dominion War, there was a divide between the Changelings, and Worf was contacted by a “close friend” within the Great Link. We assume this friend was Odo, and he informed Worf about the schism in the Link. The rogue Changeling faction was supposedly targeting Starfleet, and Worf suggests he and Raffi get to Daystrom Station to determine what else was stolen besides the quantum tunnel weapon that recently destroyed the Starfleet Recruitment Center.
Besides the reveal of Titus’ true identity and the ominous threat against the solids, an equally notable part of the conversation with Titus is that we learn more about who Worf is nowadays. The years in between Star Trek: Nemesis and current events certainly have mellowed him out. He likens his past self to Raffi, someone who was always looking for a fight. But, he now claims he is wiser and more measured, a personality shift that has happened because of his “change in perspective.”
One of the major questions this episode leaves us with is: what exactly is going on with Jack Crusher? After his fight with the saboteur, we see him hallucinate a vision of Seven with strange red tendrils protruding into the room, along with various creepy red-and-black imagery. What in the world is going on?
One of the challenges Picard faced in bringing back the TNG crew was how it could make the interactions between these characters different than what we’ve seen before. “Seventeen Seconds” certainly accomplishes this. Riker and Picard being at odds in such a substantial way is striking; could you imagine the younger man talking to his superior in the way he does in this episode? Picard and Beverly, best of friends on the Enterprise who regularly shared breakfast together and had to temper their romantic attraction, are clearly at odds with Beverly’s decision to hide Jack from his father. And finally, Worf is no longer the Klingon warrior we knew. Age has softened the man’s perspective of the galaxy, and while he is still good with a blade, he seems far less willing to use it. We’re curious exactly which experiences changed the Klingon in this way. In any case, altering these character dynamics was necessary for this cast’s return, and for that reason “Seventeen Seconds” is perhaps the most notable episode of the season thus far.
- This episode was directed by Jonathan Frakes, marking his 29th Star Trek directorial credit.
- The Trill doctor who rudely asserts to Beverly it would take too long to explain how Starfleet’s medicine has changed in the last 20 years must be forgetting it’s not like Beverly wasn’t practicing medicine at all in that time.
- Beverly never quite explains why Picard was the only one she could trust to help her and Jack. Beverly was adamant about not allowing Jean-Luc into her and Jack’s life – why not go to any other TNG cast member? If Starfleet can’t be trusted, as she claimed in the first episode, why go to Picard, who is clearly still aligned with Starfleet?
- Worf is listening to Louis Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens when we first see him on La Sirena, which is the same music Captain Picard plays in his quarters in Star Trek: First Contact.
- How is Worf able to guide Raffi in her pursuit of Titus? He clearly doesn’t have a line of sight with the man until he magically appears at the right moment to apprehend the suspect.
- Viterium was mentioned before in the Deep Space Nine episode “Valiant.”
The third and final season of Star Trek: Picard stars Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard, LeVar Burton as Geordi La Forge, Michael Dorn as Worf, Jonathan Frakes as William Riker, Gates McFadden as Beverly Crusher, Marina Sirtis as Deanna Troi, Brent Spiner as Lore, Jeri Ryan as Seven, Michelle Hurd as Raffi, along with Amanda Plummer as Vadic, Todd Stashwick as Captain Liam Shaw and Ed Speleers as Jack Crusher.
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