Review: Star Trek: Picard Season 3 Episode 5 “Imposters”
With their adventure in the nebula-womb over, the crew of the USS Titan must face the threat of Changelings once again infiltrating Starfleet — and along the way, Picard meets an old friend-turned-enemy.
First, the episode fakes out its audience with a dream sequence that involves Jack Crusher (Ed Speleers) murdering everyone on the USS Titan’s bridge. In this dream, Jack is under the influence of whatever strange entity or thoughts manifest in his mind — the same red tendrils dominate the moments before he returns to reality. Interestingly, in this sequence, Jack is wearing a red Starfleet command uniform. When we are back to reality, Jack’s eyes turn red and we hear what sounds like a female voice beckon him home.
These hallucinations must be quite stressful on this poor guy.
The Titan, meanwhile, has paused its journey back to Federation space to conduct repairs. Captain William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) uses the reprieve to return command of the ship to its proper captain, and Liam Shaw (Todd Stashwick) notes he has already contacted Starfleet to meet the Titan and help investigate the Changeling threat – and bring Picard and Riker to justice for their shenanigans aboard Titan.
“As a courtesy because of the harrowing ordeal we survived together, I’m going to step outside so the three of you can get your bullshit story straight.”– Captain Shaw to Picard, Riker, and Seven before the incoming Starfleet ship arrives.
Doctor Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden), like everyone else, is amazed a Changeling could infiltrate a Starfleet ship, and she starts investigating the body of the ship’s resident deceased shape-shifter. She finds something unexpected: the Changeling, which last took the appearance of Ensign Sidney La Forge (Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut), has retained that form instead of reverting to a liquid state. Moreover, this Changeling is far more advanced in its mimicking of humanoids than other Changelings; indeed, Crusher thinks it’s an evolved form of the Changelings famously featured in Deep Space Nine.
Meanwhile, the USS Intrepid arrives, as Shaw hinted, and guess who comes aboard: Ro Laren (Michelle Forbes, reprising her role from multiple episodes of The Next Generation). She brings the threat of treason against Picard, her former mentor, and Riker. Picard, for his part, is still furious at Laren for joining the Maquis against his wishes, even though he originally assigned her the mission that ultimately led her to the rogue organization. These events are chronicled in the TNG episode “The Preemptive Strike.”
So, we are now treated to a scene 30 years in the making. Despite harsh words directed at Ro by the retired admiral, the commander is focused more on Picard’s son, Jack. More importantly, we get some backstory for the decades that have passed since we last saw Laren; we learn that after being with the Maquis for years, she turned herself into Starfleet, where she was court-martialed and sent to prison. After that, she joined Starfleet Intelligence. This is all well and good, but Ro has a more serious surprise in store for Picard: she pulls a phaser on him and orders him into the holodeck.
“Why did you join the enemy? Why did you betray your honor?”
“My honor, or do you mean Starfleet’s? Blind faith in any institution does not make one honorable.”– Picard and Ro Laren.
The pair share a scene in Ten Forward (where else?), and thanks to being momentarily distracted by music playing from a nearby jukebox, Picard pulls a phaser on Laren and evens the odds a bit. (At this point, we have to ask: Would Ro Laren really believe the walls are thin enough on the Titan to warrant playing music in Ten Forward so her conversation with Picard isn’t overheard? Folks are busy enough being sent to the Intrepid and going about regular duties; no one would have their ear to the holodeck wall trying to listen to their conversation.)
With phasers pointed at each other, Picard laments how Laren betrayed him and his mentorship to join the Maquis, and Laren asserts he knew nothing of the struggle she endured while under his tutelage. Ro gives a harsh assessment of Picard’s seemingly misguided faith to Starfleet, and Picard returns the barb with his own accusations of dishonor and disappointment about how Laren turned out despite his efforts. Ultimately, Picard issues a scathing, forlorn statement: “you broke my heart,” and Laren returns the sentiment. Damn, Picard, way to follow up on this long-defunct plotline with a devastating and overdue confrontation we didn’t even know we needed!
This emotional conversation is just what the pair need to confirm to each other they aren’t Changelings, and now we can get down to the bottom line: why is Ro Laren on the Titan? As Beverly Crusher asserted in the season premiere, Ro says Starfleet is compromised in a major way. She is concerned about the upcoming Frontier Day, a time when the fleet is vulnerable, and how there have been multiple security incidents reported across the fleet but have been kept relatively quiet.
Laren asserts to Picard that he and Titan should run away from Starfleet. Moreover, she laments how the pair never did really get to know one another. She leaves the admiral with a parting gift: her Bajoran earring, an item that was symbolic of their first encounter. On the way back to the Intrepid, two shapeshifters sabotage Ro’s shuttle, and Ro figures the enemy knows she is working against them. In a last act of selflessness, Laren rams her shuttle into the Intrepid’s nacelle to allow the Titan to escape – indeed, she gives Picard what he gave her “all those years ago: a fighting chance.” With the Intrepid powering up weapons, the Titan is in a bind. If Shaw engages with their fellow Starfleet ship, they’d be firing on their supposed allies. Their only choice is to run.
With the Titan safely underway, Picard ponders why Laren gave him her earring. Riker, for some reason, knows: the earring actually contains a data chip holding all information related to Laren’s investigation of the Changeling incursion of Starfleet. While viewing the earring contents, the pair receive a message from the operative Laren was handling: Worf, who is just as surprised to see his former crewmates as Riker and Picard are to see him.
During the faceoff between the Titan and the Intrepid, meanwhile, Jack is trying to hide in plain sight from Ro and her security officers. Wearing a red Starfleet uniform (like in his dream sequence at the beginning of the episode), Jack is still experiencing deadly hallucinations and echoes of a woman telling him to “find” her. When a quartet of Starfleet officers tries to apprehend Jack, something unlocks within the young man that allows him to kill all four people. Near the end of the episode, his mother asks her son how he was able to tackle all four Changelings, and Jack admits there’s something “very wrong” with him.
After taking an episode off, we return to Raffaela Musiker (Michelle Hurd) and Worf (Michael Dorn), who are trying to learn what else Changelings may have stolen from Daystrom Station. Worf’s mysterious handler, however, shuts down the idea of the pair going to Daystrom. While Raffi is hellbent on going to Daystrom anyway, Worf seems to be more patient and measured. In an interesting bit of revelation, Worf hints to Raffi that he has sacrificed much to pursue the mission up until now, so he is just as adamant as her to see it through. We bet this little seed of foreshadowing will be addressed later in the season.
The pair try to figure out who, besides the late Sneed, knows how the Changelings broke into Daystrom through its sophisticated AI security system. Ultimately, Worf identifies another person, Krinn (Kirk Acevedo), who may know the information they seek. Krinn quickly gets the upper hand on the pair when they do meet, and the Vulcan demands the two fight to the death. Raffi succeeds in besting the aging Klingon, but of course, our heroes have a trick up their sleeve. Worf purposefully pretends to lose the match so the pair can turn the tables on Krinn. Krinn, at knifepoint, tells the pair that Daystrom Station is guarded by a sophisticated artificial intelligence, and he has a device that can break the AI.
So, let’s talk about this week’s big surprise: the appearance of Ro Laren almost 30 years after her last showing on The Next Generation. The fact that Picard and Laren had a chance to hash out their differences after the latter defected to the Maquis is something we didn’t realize we needed, but it certainly lends itself to the idea that this season of Picard is serving as a de facto season eight of The Next Generation. We never considered just how Laren’s betrayal would impact Jean-Luc; such a thought was never given room in season seven of TNG or any of the TNG movies. How neat is it that we saw the conclusion to that intriguing plotline that began in “Ensign Ro” in 1991?
Michelle Forbes eases right back into Laren, appropriately with 30 years of emotional turmoil on her shoulders. She and Patrick Stewart nail their emotionally charged scenes, and one would be forgiven if one thought the scenes involving Picard and Laren in this episode were planned from the very beginning of the pair’s arc. “Imposters,” then, is an aptly named episode. Changelings are everywhere, of course, but wasn’t Ro an imposter of sorts during her time on the Enterprise? While it’s too bad the fan-favorite character comes back just to die at the end of the episode, at least she was able to get some measure of peace with her old mentor.
Laren’s appearance is a bit more than just fan service; she apprises our heroes that the Changelings are back in a big way. That news, combined with Beverly Crusher’s observation that the Changelings can mimic humans better than ever before, poses a serious threat to Starfleet. Now that Worf has contacted Picard and Riker, their respective investigations will combine, which leaves us super-excited for next week. Besides learning what else was stolen from Daystrom Station, hopefully, we’ll learn more about what ails Jack. Will the foreshadowing in this episode about him betraying his fellow crewmembers come to fruition?
- The list of Sneed’s known associates includes:
- Larell is a character seen in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Who Mourns for Morn.” Morn is the classic silent character from DS9. Brunt is the Ferengi liquidator seen in multiple DS9 episodes.
- Thadiun Okona, the outrageous character from The Next Generation, Prodigy, and Lower Decks.
- In the turbolift on their way to meet the security team from the Intrepid, Captain Shaw mentions a list of infamous events Riker and Picard are known for, including “hot dropping” the saucer of the Enterprise-D, as seen in Star Trek: Generations; Picard’s romantic entanglement with a member of the Ba’ku, as seen in Star Trek: Insurrection; and almost destroying all of humankind, as seen in the events of the TNG finale “All Good Things.” Who doesn’t love a good easter egg?
- Worf uses a mobile holographic emitter to project a hologram of Raffi next to him during his confrontation with Krinn. This type of futuristic emitter was first introduced in Star Trek: Voyager so the Doctor could roam the ship.
- We’re curious about what tipped Krinn off about Raffi being a hologram. We certainly didn’t detect any telltale signs of holography.
- Besides dramatic tension, why did the Changelings leave such a conveniently long disarm timer on the bomb aboard Laren’s shuttle?
- Ro’s story in between “The Preemptive Strike” and “Imposters” seems like great material for tie-in material. We’d certainly read that novel.
- We’ve come to realize Captain Shaw is a fantastic addition to the Star Trek universe – easily the best new character from this season. While he is an ally to our heroes, he is still a great foil for them, providing a welcome counterweight to Picard and Riker’s legendary status and do-what-they-want attitude.
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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