Season 1, Episode 4: ‘Absolute Candor’
I didn’t expect another episode of setup this week, but Jeri Ryan’s first appearance as Seven Of Nine at the end made the payoff worth it. Still, this was the first episode of the season that felt a bit extemporaneous, after the tight storytelling of the first three installments.
Picard decides to take the expedition to find Bruce Maddox on a detour to the planet Vashti, a Romulan relocation site, where a group of what appears to be sword-wielding Romulan nuns called the Qowat Milat reside. An early flashback shows that Picard was a god of sorts here when he was leading the effort to rescue Romulans from the supernova.
A few words on the Qowat Milat: This is a group of secretive female warriors who believe in complete and total transparency in all things. And somehow they are still Romulan, in spite of rejecting all of the traditional Romulan values. On one hand, I applaud the writers for finding new and novel ways to explore and flesh out a traditional Trek villain. And yet: A new bunch of Romulan warriors who totally eschew Romulan traits seemed a bit off to me, given the amount of interactions “Trek” heroes have had with Romulans over the years. (I’m torn on this: Romulans are also traditionally secretive so perhaps it makes sense that this discovery is relatively recent.)
From the Department of Coincidences: The group Picard is fighting is the Tal Shiar sect, Zhat Vash, and the planet the Romulan warriors are on is Vashti. I’m wondering if this will come into play later.
This episode also reveals one of the closest things Picard has ever had to a child, Elnor. Elnor (Evan Evagora) is angry at Picard for abandoning him 14 years ago, when the synthetics attacked Mars. Since then, he has become quite a warrior himself and is perceptive in realizing that one of Picard’s flaws is that if something is not happening right in front him, he is generally uninterested, as Raffi can attest to. Even so, Elnor joins Picard on the quest, but not before beheading a former Romulan senator who threatens him. (Yikes! “Trek” is rarely this dark! And is anyone going to mention that Elnor seems oddly similar to Elrond from “Lord of the Rings”? Was this intentional? I must know.)
And of course, we have our first space battle in this episode, featuring Picard’s mode of transport, La Sirena. Side note: Was Jurati … very awkwardly flirting with Rios? For the love of all the Prophets, please give her something else to do. In the meantime, Rios — one of the best pilots in the galaxy, we are told — has some difficulty outmaneuvering an ancient Klingon Bird of Prey. That ship is purportedly being piloted by a pirate who has taken over the sector, although we never see said pirate. (This, of course, isn’t the first time a seemingly superior ship has trouble with an old Klingon ship. This is a “Trek” trope as old as time.)
Over on the Borg cube, Narek and Soji are still doing their thing. The scene where they both slide down a hallway as a “Borg ritual” was something else. Again, I’m not sure where this is going, but Narek awkwardly interrogating Soji, post romantic-slide, should be the first example in the “what not to do” chapter of the Spy Handbook.
What are we doing here guys? If you want to know why Soji wasn’t listed on a previous passenger manifest, at least put a ring on it first! Eventually, Rizzo shows up to seductively stroke her brother and then choke him. None of that is a typo, and I’m not entirely clear how she was able to do any of this, given that she is supposed to be a projection.
I’m having some fun with this episode because I’m a fun guy. But I did find the scenes on Vashti fairly compelling, because I appreciate exploring new terrain and Patrick Stewart fencing with a child makes for an enjoyable visual. This episode, directed by the upcoming cast member Jonathan Frakes, just felt a little distracting to me. However, seeing Seven at the end was joyous.
My assumption is that next week, we head to Freecloud with our favorite former Borg drone and we’ll learn what she has been up to.
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