Review: Star Trek: Picard Season 3 Episode 9 “Võx”
In what’s sure to be remembered as a killer episode of Star Trek:
The Next Generation Picard, “Võx” exposes the true menace surrounding the Changeling threat, and sees our heroes slide into familiar roles as we warp full speed into the series finale.
After making a house call in Jack Crusher’s (Ed Speleers) mind to see what exactly is wrong with the man (a question to which we’re thankful to finally get an answer), Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) makes a horrific discovery. Upon opening the mysterious red door that has plagued Jack’s thoughts, Troi finds the true threat of Jack’s mind: the Borg. Yes, Jack apparently has some Borg in him, a result of Jean-Luc Picard’s (Patrick Stewart) assimilation decades ago. It seems Irumodic Syndrome was not what plagued Jean-Luc’s former biological self, but rather a subtle, ever-present side effect of his Borg assimilation.
While it wasn’t too much of a stretch to posit Jack somehow being connected to the Borg thanks to his father’s harrowing experience (and a healthy amount of foreshadowing throughout the season), to see the most memorable enemy from The Next Generation resurrected is quite the twist. Furthermore, to have the Changelings and Borg working together to spell doom for the Federation is a terrific pairing, and such a partnership only compounds the urgency our heroes face. After all, imagine what the Borg could do with someone like Jack, who could enter bodies at will and cause havoc.
“The Borg. That’s quite the explanation. A life of disconnection only to realize I’m emblematic of what? A bee? Seeking a hive, for a collective, a queen?”– Jack about his father’s revelation.
First, Picard must tell his son the bad news. In this one-on-one scene, both Speleers and Stewart sink their teeth into the angst each man feels about the situation. Indeed, this scene might be one of the best performances from Speleers yet, and Stewart profoundly radiates the anguish Picard feels at inadvertently poisoning his son. Instead of going to a Vulcan academy to remediate his condition, as his father suggests, Jack actually feels the urge to reunite with the Borg to sort out this mess and gain the connection he always wanted. Picard understandably prevents him from doing that – or, at least tries to. Jack uses his telepathic powers to get himself off the Titan in a stolen shuttle, and uses his tenuous connection with whatever Borg is out there to find his tormentors and some measure of peace and connection, something he has longed for his entire life.
Jack finds himself warping into a nebula in some unknown location (this exact location is one of our most pressing questions), and there he finds a Borg cube. Beaming aboard, a hauntingly familiar feminine voice guides her “flesh and blood” to a face-to-face encounter with the Borg Queen, although we never see her face in this episode. The Queen frames Jack as “vindication,” a way for the Borg and Changelings to achieve victory over the Federation. Unable to kill the Queen, Jack allows himself to be assimilated, and the Queen gives him a new name: Võx, which is Latin for “voice.” And best of all, the credits for this episode confirm our suspicion: Alice Krige of Star Trek: First Contact fame does indeed voice the Borg Queen in “Võx.”
Picard and his crew, meanwhile, set a course for Earth to stop whatever is about to happen to Starfleet on Frontier Day. Thus, a long-awaited moment arrives: the spectacular vista of dozens of Federation starships grouped around Spacedock in the Sol System. Front and center in this assembled fleet is the Enterprise-F, which gets a gorgeous grand reveal as it exits Spacedock amid a firework show. In our opinion, this is the first time we should have seen the Enterprise-F, instead of the quick blink-and-you-miss-it shot of it in Picard’s trailers. It’s an Enterprise and deserves pomp and circumstance! And boy is the chonky Odyssey-class a looker.
Anyway, addressing the assembled fleet from the Enterprise is a familiar face: Admiral Elizabeth Shelby (Elizabeth Dennehy, who is reprising her role from her memorable two-episode appearance in The Next Generation). Shelby is there mainly to exhibit what Starfleet is doing on Frontier Day – debuting new technology which allows the fleet to link together and act as one unified force.
The admiral’s welcoming monologue is interrupted by a warning from Picard about the Borg/Changeling threat that is about to wreak havoc on Frontier Day, but it’s too late. Shortly after Beverley Crusher (Gates McFadden), Data (Brent Spiner), and Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) learn that Picard’s DNA – and therefore the Borg essence that remained in his body after “The Best of Both Worlds” – has actually been used in transporters across the fleet for some time now to slowly assimilate people, all the younger members of Starfleet start transforming into Borg thanks to an activation signal unleashed across the fleet. Apparently, the younger folks are vulnerable because of the way the Borg essence infects developing brains over time. It’s a frightening scene as the kids of our heroes get Borgified, and turmoil soon reins across the fleet. Poor Admiral Shelby falls victim to the Borg on her ship as Borg vs. Starfleet battles rage across the fleet. It seems people who make cameos on this show just can’t seem to stay alive.
Here’s a fascinating twist: the older age of our heroes now actually helps determine how the plot develops. Before “Võx,” this season addressed the decades-long passage of time since Nemesis by making jokes about age or using events from that interim to explain their shifted personalities. But like Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the fact that our heroes are old is a driving element of the story. We approve!
The older folks must escape the rise of this young army of Borg, and escape the Titan aboard the shuttle. To aid their escape, Captain Liam Shaw (Todd Stashwick) puts up a fight against the encroaching Borg but is gunned down in the process. His last breath is uttered to Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), and nicely enough he finally has a change of heart and calls her by her preferred name. It isn’t exactly clear to us what caused Shaw’s change of heart. Seven didn’t do anything to earn his trust and respect more than she already had, and if anything, we would think Shaw would hate the Borg even more for destroying Starfleet from within. In any case, it appears Shaw really is down for the count, which is a shame. We loved the character and don’t want to see him go. In our eyes, he deserved a better send-off than what he gets in “Võx.” Alas, all good things…
“Hopefully we have enough juice to get us there.”
“What makes you think ‘there’ hasn’t been destroyed already?”
“Data, could you try to be a little more positive?”
“I hope we die quickly.”– Geordi and Data as they prepare to warp to the fleet museum.
Where do our heroes run to now that the Titan and the Sol System fleet is under Borg control? As we expected, Geordi La Forge suggests returning to the fleet museum, but not to commandeer one of the previously seen ancient vessels. No, the engineer has a surprise in store for his friends: a replica USS Enterprise-D, a restoration project La Forge has been working on for 20 years. That ship’s saucer section was recovered from its resting place on Veridian III, and various vessels, such as one USS Syracuse, supplied the other needed parts. It’s a momentous homecoming for our heroes, and good luck holding back tears as the seven friends return to the familiar Galaxy-class bridge one final time. The episode ends with the Enterprise majestically leaving the fleet museum and warping to Earth to have a final showdown with the Borg.
You don’t need us to surmise for yourself why “Võx” is a bonkers episode. The arch-enemy of the Federation – and Picard in particular – comes back in a big way, as we learn they have been behind the Changeling threat all along. Moreover, Jack is now squarely in the clutches of the new Borg Queen, as are thousands of Starfleet officers and their respective ships. The long-simmering Borg takeover of Starfleet seems like a critical event for this universe; we have a feeling the landmark events of “Võx” will be referenced in Star Trek media for some time to come, much in the same way that, for example, the battle in New York was repeatedly referenced in post-The Avengers Marvel Cinematic Universe material.
But the revelation of the Borg plan isn’t even the greatest part of this episode. How astonishing is it that the TNG cast is back on the Enterprise, even if it’s something we saw coming a lightyear away? Granted, it’s not entirely their old ship, but it’s as close as they can possibly get. It’s the same bridge, at least!
Who among us hasn’t dreamed of this day? Who among us hasn’t pontificated to our friends or family about how awesome it would be to get that particular hit of dopamine again? It’s a wonderfully scripted scene in “Võx,” too, as our characters marvel at their old home and return to their familiar positions. Clearly, much love and thought were put into making this an exceptional moment. It’s nostalgia overdrive of a kind we haven’t seen in any new-age Star Trek, including when the Enterprise showed up in the Discovery first season finale. We can’t wait to see whatever behind-the-scenes featurette spotlights the restoration of the Enterprise-D set and the actors returning to it. It’ll likely be a great reason to pick up the eventual home media release of this season.
“I’m reluctant to ask you all to face this threat again.”
“We’re the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise. But more than that, we’re your family.”– Picard and Riker.
Once the dopamine high wore off and our souls returned to Earth, we did have some questions about the final minutes of this episode. Firstly, Picard and the crew race off to Earth without a plan. How is one Galaxy-class ship, even if it was fully operational, going to handle an entire Starfleet armada, plus whatever the Borg is bringing their way? What does Picard plan to do? Surely there are other avenues worth entertaining, like calling as many allies as possible to Earth, much, in the same way, the young crew of the Protostar called upon the Federation’s allies and enemies to combat the Living Construct in “Supernova, Part II.”
Second, just how is a crew of seven going to operate the entire ship? Did Geordi build the replica strictly for presentation, or is the ship fully operational, complete with remote control for various systems that none of the seven people could handle? Maybe the final episode will expand on the extent of Geordi’s creation, but for now, the nature of this Enterprise is in question. It’s also majorly convenient that Geordi happened to finish this 20-year-long restoration project in time for it to be used in this way.
Finally, let’s not forget that in the time it took the Titan‘s shuttle to get to the fleet museum, the TNG crew assume their stations on the Enterprise, and for the Enterprise to get back to Earth, there is a Borg fleet hanging out above Earth. What kind of damage will befall humanity’s home while our heroes get their act together?
The final episode of this season is sure to be explosive, and there are plenty of threads left hanging from this banger of a ride. Jack is assimilated, but it can’t be that simple. How will the hybrid Borg’s story end? And how exactly will the TNG cast take their final bow as we close out their long-awaited finale? Our hearts can barely handle thinking about it. “Võx” is edge-of-your-seat viewing, not because there’s an indulgent amount of action (although the episode itself is quite well-paced, complete with a killer soundtrack), but because we know our time remaining with this crew is severely limited.
- This episode was directed by showrunner and Patron Saint of Star Trek Terry Matalas.
- Troi asserts to Jack that she will support him as they venture through his mind together, but when she learns of the Borg influence on the young man, she all but sprints out of the room and doesn’t even tell Jack what she saw. That doesn’t seem like great counseling. No wonder Jack is so angsty when Picard sees him later.
- If you need more Elizabeth Shelby in your life, go read the excellent The New Frontier novels.
- As Shelby monologues, Frontier Day appears to celebrate specifically the maiden voyage of Jonathan Archer’s Enterprise, the adventures of which are chronicled in Star Trek: Enterprise.
- Did we hear comm chatter mentioning the U.S.S Pulaski during the Frontier Day exercises? If so, that ship is undoubtedly named after the one-season-long doctor of the Enterprise-D, Katherine Pulaski.
- During the scene where the Excelsior meets its fate, we see the following starships as part of the Frontier Day fleet:
- U.S.S. Hikaru Sulu – this ship, named after the TOS crew member, was mentioned in Picard season two.
- U.S.S. Cochrane – likely named after warp drive creator Zefram Cochrane.
- U.S.S. Luna – perhaps this is the prototype of the Luna-class ship, of which Will Riker’s Titan was one.
- U.S.S. Trumbull – surely named after Douglas Trumbull, the visual effects wizard.
- U.S.S. Reznick – this ship was seen in Probert Station in this season’s premiere.
- U.S.S. Mandel
- U.S.S. Gilgamesh
- U.S.S. Okuda – named after Star Trek production legends Michael and Denise Okuda.
- U.S.S. Drexler –named after veteran Star Trek designer Doug Drexler.
- U.S.S. Intrepid
- U.S.S. Firesword
- U.S.S. Venture
- U.S.S. Magellan
- U.S.S. Clark
- U.S.S. Ross
- It turns out Captain Shaw’s monologue in Ten Forward in “No Win Scenario,” which included a line about him thinking the Borg were out there somewhere despite the events of the Picard season two finale, was really foreshadowing the Borg’s reappearance.
- The Enterprise-F and its starship class originated in the video game Star Trek Online.
- During Todd Stashwick’s visit to The Ready Room, he described how Captain Shaw was modeled after Robert Shaw’s ill-fated character, Quint, in Jaws. Now, it seems Quinn and Shaw share the same fate by having their hated enemy be the end of them.
- This episode marks the off-screen destruction of the USS Excelsior, which was last seen in Picard season two.
- Why are shuttles spared from the fleet-wide synchronization system?
- Were no other older members of the Titan crew able to make it to the repair shuttle?
- When the repair shuttle drops out of warp, Picard asks Geordi why are they at the fleet museum. Surely, Geordi would have told Picard and everyone else his plan before then.
- Why does Geordi ask Picard if the Enterprise-D will fly? Isn’t the engineer the only one who could answer that? Sure, Picard gets the sentimental line about being ready to board that ship again, but realistically it’s Geordi’s call.
- The computer on the replica Enterprise appears to use the voice of the “classic” Starfleet computer, the late Majel Barrett Roddenberry. What a great touch by this episode’s producers.
- This episode asserts Worf is somehow responsible for the destruction or otherwise disabling of the Enterprise-E, but we don’t know how. Sounds like good tie-in media to us. Also, that makes him public enemy number one in our eyes.
The Star Trek: Picard series finale drops next Thursday, April 20th on Paramount+.
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