Review

Star Trek: Picard Season 3 Episode 7 “Dominion” Review: Amazing performances buoy an otherwise middling episode

Review: Star Trek: Picard Season 3 Episode 7 “Dominion”

With the Titan on the run from the Changelings who have infiltrated Starfleet, Admiral Jean-Luc Picard and crew don’t know who to turn to for help… so they hatch a plan to bring their enemy to them.

After retrieving the hybrid android at the heart of Daystrom Station – but losing Captain William Riker to Vadic (Amanda Plummer) in the process – the Titan hides from Starfleet within the wreckage of an old battlefield, one familiar to Deep Space Nine fans: Chin’Toka. With the ship powered down to avoid detection, our heroes must figure out what to do with the Data/Lore hybrid (Brent Spiner).

Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine

With only three days until Frontier Day – the day when the entire Starfleet armada is on display – Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), first tries to understand who among her old connections she can still trust. Thus, the episode opens with the commander seemingly talking to her old shipmate, Tuvok (Tim Russ, reprising his role from Star Trek: Voyager), but despite initial appearances, the Vulcan has already been compromised by the Changelings. What happened to the real Tuvok is anybody’s guess, and as we learn in this episode, Tuvok has worked closely with Admiral Janeway in recent years, so perhaps the Changelings have gotten to her, too?

Tim Russ returns as Tuvok

Before any plan can be put into motion, Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) notes the potential moral dilemma the crew will face in dealing with Vadic and her kind. If the solution to their enemy is a biological weapon – as it was in the Dominion War – the impact on the Changeling race could be disastrous. Picard tables the need for concern for now, but by bringing up this dilemma in the first place it’s safe to say our heroes will face a difficult choice down the line.

Another question faces Picard, too. With the realization that his old body was stolen from Daystrom Station, and the fact that Picard would normally have to take a DNA test to participate in Frontier Day, the motive behind Vadic’s search for Jack becomes clear: using Jack’s DNA, combined with Jean-Luc’s old body, would allow the Changelings to fashion a perfect replica of the admiral himself.

There is someone aboard the Titan with answers to at least some of their questions, so Picard and Geordi reactivate Data, but it’s quickly apparent it’s more than just Data in the hybrid android. At first, their old friend is confused about not being on the Scimitar, his place of death as chronicled in Star Trek: Nemesis, but soon enough the evil Lore makes his presence known and is clearly not the helpful type.

Data and Lore share the bulk of the android’s brain, and there’s no clear dominant personality yet. Geordi speculates one thought-provoking theory, though: Altan Soong must have programmed both Lore and Data into this android, hoping the two personalities merge within the hybrid body to finally give Data the humanity he always wanted. Reactivating the android yields another piece of juicy information: Lore tells Picard that the Irumodic Syndrome he was diagnosed with in season one of Picard may not have been Irumodic Syndrome at all, but something else. Of course, what exactly was in the old Picard’s brain will have to wait.

“So, has Lore always been this arch?”

[To Geordi] “Did the tree move, or did the apple just fall far from it?”

[To Alandra] “When you are constantly subjected to these self-righteous, self-proclaimed heroes spewing their morality as if vomit were somehow virtuous, then sometimes, dear, a little bend, a little arch, a little antagonizing flair is required.”

– Ensign Alandra La Forge (Mica Burton) and Lore.

Indeed, this android is the capstone to the Soong dynasty’s centuries-long work. And if the Daystrom android is the capstone to the Soong family’s efforts, then this character is the capstone to Brent Spiner’s turn on Star Trek. Picard’s producers have crafted an amazing character for Spiner to play, and the actor nails it every time he transitions from Data to Lore, back to Data, and so forth. It’s amazing to watch, and it feels like this is the role Spiner has been destined to play since he first appeared as the two android brothers.

Brent Spiner as Data

Meanwhile, the Shrike is still on the prowl, and Vadic’s boss isn’t too happy about her failure to seize Jack, despite her efforts at torturing the captured William Riker and Deanna Troi. When a signal from Riker is picked up by the Titan, Admiral Picard hatches a plan with his son, Jack (Ed Speleers) to try and gain the upper hand on their hunter.

The Shrike arrives and sends a boarding party to the seemingly crippled Titan, and once Vadic and her cronies get onboard, Jack and Ensign Sidney La Forge (Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut) lead them on a chase through the Titan’s dark hallways. (Why Ensign La Forge is the one who is helping Jack in this way isn’t quite clear, besides the writers’ need to get these two potential romantic interests more time together). In their brief face-to-face encounter, Vadic asserts to Jack how she wants to take him to a “better place,” but that it’s better for him to see this place, rather than for her to tell him about it. Thanks for being so cryptic, Vadic.

Ed Speelers as Jack Crusher

In any event, Vadic herself has soon ensnared thanks to some quick force-fielding by Commodore Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) and Captain Liam Shaw (Todd Stashwick), and Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan). For the moment, it seems like our heroes have outsmarted Vadic. But let’s take a moment and ask: How did the Titan crew know where Vadic and her guards would beam to, and thus set forcefield traps to ensnare them? Moreover, does allowing the Titan to come under the mercy of the Shrike seem like a great idea to you? The Shrike can easily overpower the Federation ship in a head-to-head fight, and the Titan is only working with a minimum crew. Was this really the best plan Picard could have devised?

In any case, allowing Vadic’s people to board the Titan allows Jack and Sidney to share a surprising revelation: Jack can somehow telepathically communicate with Sidney, which he does to help Sidney win a melee fight. This is just another curious aspect of Jack Crusher and his mysterious abilities, but as you could probably guess, we don’t get answers to this revelation in this episode.

Vadic uses her captivity to monologue to Beverly Crusher and Picard about who she is – along with some taunts about Jack for good measure. (Notably, she vaguely claims Jack was never “for” Beverly, and that there is something unique about his physiology.) As Vadic explains, during the Dominion War she and other Changelings were taken prisoner by the Federation, and Starfleet scientists experimented on her and her kin. It was a tortuous process for Vadic as the scientists poked, prodded, burnt, maimed, and otherwise tested the shapeshifters to their limits, and the horrendous memories of her entrapment are forever etched in her mind. Also etched in her mind is the tune the Starfleet scientist (Amanda Plummer) forever whistled while the solid worked away on Vadic. With the appearance of Plummer playing the Starfleet scientist who experimented on her, it’s clear Vadic assumed the form of that woman, which serves as a reminder for her of her own seething hatred for the solids. It’s clear Vadic has been radicalized thanks to the anguish she suffered at the hands of the solids.

Amanda Plummer as Vadic

“How remarkable it is that an enlightened species can ignore each other’s pain.”

– Vadic as she exposits her past to Picard and Crusher.

It’s clear from these flashback scenes that Vadic was driven quite bonkers by her experience in the Starfleet lab as part of the so-called Project Proteus, a project spearheaded by the Federation to capture shape-shifters and fashion them into perfect spies for Starfleet. Some of her personality eccentricities can even be traced to her time in captivity; in fact, she is seen in “Dominion” eccentrically whistling and miming along to the tune her torturer was fond of, which appears to be “Hot Cross Buns.” Taken together, this episode presents the most dramatic look at Vadic yet, and Amanda Plummer truly shines as the extent of her motivation is revealed. We were already impressed by the actor’s dedication to her character, what with her various quirks and ticks, and this episode only solidifies that opinion.

Curiously, Picard and Beverly have a serious (if not a bit melodramatic) realization about their own moral compass as the two parents face down the person who has been hunting their son. Considering Vadic will not offer any information useful to the Titan crew in stopping the upcoming attack on Frontier Day, Picard suggests they just eliminate her, and even readies the phaser himself. Could you imagine a younger Picard opting for such violence? We guess being a parent sure does change you. Crusher, likewise, agrees that she has somewhat lost her moral compass and sides with Picard about eliminating their prisoner.  If we were looking for ways this season shows how our heroes have changed, this scene pretty well illustrates that.

Of course, Vadic’s story won’t end just because our heroes have trapped her in a forcefield. In fact, another foe comes onto the field, and the havoc the newly unleashed Lore causes with the Titan’s systems allows Vadic to escape her captivity. (Although how and why Lore was able to hijack all systems on the ship is somewhat of a mystery.) Despite Geordi’s emotional pleas for Lore to stop his chaos and allow Data to shine through, the malevolent android has been waiting a long time to cause trouble again for his brother’s friends. Lore doesn’t stop his interference until Data finally does break through his brother’s personality, but it’s too late to make a difference. Vadic gains control of the Titan’s bridge, and starts dramatically broadcasting to the entire ship, telling Jack Crusher it’s about time he learned who he truly is.

Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine

Despite only first appearing in the last episode, LeVar Burton gets plenty of chances to flex his acting muscles as Vadic’s people threaten the ship and his daughter, Sidney. Indeed, Geordi in TNG never had too many chances to show honest-to-God emotion, so seeing the character that vulnerable and helpless here is certainly a highlight of the episode. Ultimately, we think “Dominion” will be remembered most for standout performances from Amanda Plummer, Brent Spiner, and LeVar Burton.

Coming off the soaring high of “The Bounty,” it was always going to be hard for Picard to regroup and offer an episode as fantastic as that one. “Dominion” falls a bit short compared to other season three episodes thanks to its uneven pacing and questionable script, but it does leave us wanting more. Plenty of questions confront the viewer at this point. Why can Jack enter other people’s minds? What is Vadic going to do now that she has control of the Titan? What was really at the heart (or more accurately, brain) of Picard’s old body? And finally, it’s hinted that Worf and Raffi, who we don’t see in this episode, are trying to find ways to rescue Riker and Troi, who also aren’t seen in this episode; since the Shrike is just hanging around the Titan now, we’re assuming that rescue is going to happen soon. Let’s hope the next episode has a stronger script than “Dominion” but maintains this season’s excellent level of performances from its main cast.

Stray Thoughts:

  • Seven recalls when she and Tuvok used to play Kal-toh, including times she beat him at the game. We see her beat him in “The Omega Directive.” Kal-toh was previously seen in the Star Trek: Picard season one finale “Et in Arcadia Ego,” where Seven and Raffi were playing it.

  • Tim Russ has quite the Star Trek career to his name, having not only played Tuvok in all seven seasons of Voyager, but appearing as one-off characters in The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Generations.

  • At the beginning of this episode, we see Geordi do his quintessential hands-clasped-in-front-of-body motion. It’s nice to see some things never change.

  • After Sidney asks Jack why he touched her hand, she doesn’t even wait for an answer before walking away or allowing the turbolift door to close.

  • When Picard asks Jack what he hears in his head, why doesn’t Jack answer him? Jack has already admitted he has always felt different and that something was wrong with him – why not explain as much as he can? His hesitation just seems like an artificial way to extend the mystery to another episode. Moreover, why doesn’t Picard press Jack more on the voices he hears?

  • The second location title card in this episode says, “Open Space, Alpha Quadrant,” and we must ask: why even put a locator here if you’re going to be that vague about it?

  • Why is there a Vulcan ship close to the Titan, as Vadic’s crew identifies? Sure, it appears the Vulcan ship fought the Titan to a standstill, but where did the Vulcan wreck come from? Nothing about Titan’s plan makes sense.

  • Vadic notes to Jack how she thought he would be taller. When Picard met Shinzon (his clone) in Star Trek: Nemesis, Shinzon noted the same thing to Picard.

  • When Vadic pointedly asks Beverly if she knows all about Jack’s physiology, how is the next question out of Beverly not, “what do you mean?” Instead, she asks “what do you want with Jack?” The villain just talked about your son’s physiology! Ask for details!

  • Never in Vadic’s monologue does she mention she took the face of her torturer, but Beverly notes as such to Picard later in their conversation. Is Beverly watching the episode, too?

  • When the forcefields dropped, why didn’t Vadic’s soldiers just shoot Jack and Sidney, instead of allowing themselves to get into a melee fight?

  • Considering the number of times Janeway has been mentioned this season, there’s no way we aren’t getting a cameo from Kate Mulgrew, right? It certainly would be appropriate to see her on Frontier Day.

The third and final season of Star Trek: Picard streams Thursdays on Paramount+ and 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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