- Episode 7 (of 10), ' Nepenthe'
- Written by Samantha Humphrey & Michael Chabon
- Directed by Douglas Aarniokoski
At the Daystrom Institute, Commodore Oh – Starfleet's Director of Security, but really a Zhat Vash agent – approaches Dr. Jurati on her lunch break. She tells Jurati about Picard's mission to rescue Soji, and asks her to accompany him as a spy. Jurati protests, but Oh uses a Vulcan Mind Meld to show her what will happen if Soji and other synthetic life are allowed to exist. She sees apocalyptic visions of Earth being destroyed. This is apparently what she meant when she told Bruce Maddox that she wished "he knew what she knew" before she cut off his life support in episode 5.
Back in the present, the La Sirena escapes the Borg Cube, tailed by Narek. On the Cube, Rizzo kills reformed Borg one by one in an attempt to get Hugh to reveal where Soji and Picard escaped to. He refuses, but she can't kill him because he's protected by the Federation. On the idyllic planet Nepenthe, Picard introduces Soji to some old friends from the Enterprise: Deanna Troi and William Riker, who are now married and living there with their daughter, Kestra. Picard tells Riker that he may be in danger, and Riker orders his house's computer to bring shields online and enable perimeter scans. He seems prepared for this kind of thing.
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Despite his best efforts, Rios can't shake off Narek, who is still closely tailing the La Sirena. On Nepenthe, Riker makes pizza for everyone, and Kestra forges a close bond with Soji. She tells her about her father, Data, and what a great man he was. But just as Soji is getting comfortable on Nepenthe, she remembers that her entire life is a lie, and wonders if this is all just another attempt to manipulate her. Picard tries to make light of her concerns, as if the very idea is ridiculous, but Troi scolds him for it. Soji has been tortured, she says, and Picard needs to be more like he was on the Enterprise: compassionate, patient, curious. "And useful." he adds.
Back on the Borg Cube, Hugh tells Elnor about his plan to take it back from the Romulans – which Rizzo unfortunately overhears, and claims strips away his Federation protection. Elnor steps in to protect him and he and Rizzo engage in a spot of hand-to-hand combat. During the scuffle, Hugh gets a throwing knife in the neck and dies, and Rizzo beams away. Aboard the La Sirena, Jurati begins to crack under the stress of the last few weeks. Raffi comforts her by replicating a few too many slices of red velvet cake, and chocolate milk to wash it down, which she pukes up.
At the Riker household, a more trusting Soji tells Picard about the planet she saw in her dream – the one with two red moons and lightning storms. Kestra locates the planet – which only has a number, not a name – with help from a friend, Captain Crandall, who may also be able to get Picard and Soji off Nepenthe. Riker suggests this planet is where Maddox made Soji. On the La Sirena, Rios suspects Narek is tracking the ship – and tells Jurati he thinks it's Raffi. Knowing it's actually her, thanks to a tracker given to her by Commodore Oh, the guilt seems to get to her, and she injects herself with a chemical that doesn't kill her, but puts her in a coma.
Verdict: This episode is a frustrating mix. Picard's reunion with Riker and Troi is easily the highlight, with some of the best writing and acting we've seen in the show so far. But killing off Hugh felt contrived and unnecessary. We already know Rizzo is evil, yet the show insists on proving it repeatedly. And Elnor continues to be wasted, hanging out on the Borg Cube for no real reason. But the Riker/Troi scenes ultimately win out, and I almost wish the whole series was as slow and character-focused as this.
• Kestra, who seems to idolise Data, asks Soji if she loves Sherlock Holmes as much as he did. In the TNG episode 'Elementary, Dear Data' (S2E3), Data plays the role of the famous detective in a holodeck simulation that goes awry when villain Professor Moriarty becomes self-aware.
• Picard mentions his artificial heart, the story of which is told in the TNG episode 'Tapestry' (S6E15). As a young, reckless cadet, Picard started a bar brawl and ended up with a knife through the heart. This ultimately led to him maturing and becoming the man he is today.
• Riker and Troi's late son was named Thaddeus. In the Voyager episode 'Death Wish' (S2E18), in which Jonathan Frakes makes a cameo appearance, we learn that one of Riker's ancestors, Thaddeus Riker, was a colonel in the American Civil War, and fought for the Union Army.
Star Trek: Picard is available to watch on CBS All Access every Thursday in the US, and every Friday on Amazon Prime Video internationally.
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