Season 3, Episode 7: ‘Surrender’
For much of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Starfleet was presented as the most virtuous force in the universe — a body with the aim to do good. No conquest. No fighting. Just good old fashioned exploration. Any time a photon torpedo was fired, it was because the Enterprise was forced to fire by hostile forces. If there were corrupt admirals here and there, they were just bad apples. If the Federation tried to move Native Americans away from their home without their permission to satisfy a silly treaty, it was with noble intentions: to avoid war.
After “Next Generation,” Gene Roddenberry’s utopian vision of mankind’s future began to give way to darker versions. “Star Trek: Insurrection” gave us a Starfleet-sponsored plan to steal a planet away from an Indigenous species. In “Deep Space Nine,” we saw Starfleet personnel repeatedly operating in a moral gray area, especially when it came to the Dominion War. In one of the best episodes of “Deep Space Nine,” Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks), the show’s hero, helped orchestrate the murder of a Romulan Senator in order to lure the Romulans into the war. Later in the series, we learned that Starfleet tried to orchestrate a genocide of the changelings through a virus — a story line that returned with gusto this week in “Picard.”
“When you’re 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,” Lore snarls in front of Geordi in this week’s episode. It seems the “Picard” writers really wanted to take our favorite characters down a peg this season. (Note Shaw’s repeated mention of how often the Enterprise crew got themselves into trouble.)
Geordi responds, “Lore has a perverted sense of what it means to be human.”
Does he? Or does he have a perfect grasp of what it means to be human based on what we learn in this episode from Vadic?
Vadic, after being “captured” on the Titan, tells Beverly and Jean-Luc that the Federation reneged on its promise to give the changelings the cure for the virus at the end of the Dominion War, and in fact, someone had to steal it. I’m a bit unclear as to how this is possible: This would seem to be in direct contrast with what we saw onscreen when Odo cures the Founders himself as a condition of the Founders’ surrender to end the war. Unless the Founders themselves chose to withhold the cure from certain changelings.
But nevertheless, Vadic also reveals that she and nine other changelings were experimented on by Starfleet as prisoners of war, as part of Project Proteus. It’s a startling revelation: Starfleet tried to convert changelings into, as Vadic calls them, “perfect, undetectable spies, able to drop into any species and spread chaos,” and instead created the biggest threat to the Federation since … well, since the last one.
It’s a far cry from the noble Starfleet that Jean-Luc loved and eschewed a family for. Even the enlightened Beverly isn’t as righteous as she used to be. She introduces the idea of a biological weapon to root out the changelings, which she acknowledges would be tantamount to genocide. The New Jean-Luc indulges the proposal and, later, floats the idea of executing Vadic, once he realizes that they won’t get anything of use from her once she is captured.
“Are you and I so fundamentally changed that we’re willing to compromise everything?” Jean-Luc asks Beverly.
“Yes,” Beverly says. “I think I’m losing my compass.”
In “Next Generation,” this exchange would have led to a moralizing speech from Jean-Luc about how they cannot play judge, jury and executioner. And everyone would have gone home happy, and there would have been virtuous solution. But Jean-Luc and his friends are older now. Harder. They’ve seen some stuff. And deep down, they know Lore was right about what he said.
Jean-Luc and Beverly move to execute Vadic and, of course, it doesn’t work. The force field goes down. Vadic escapes and takes over the Titan. Worst of both worlds!
Odds and ends
While finding out Vadic’s motivations in becoming a baddie was certainly a worthwhile addition to the season’s story line, Jean-Luc’s plan, like many of his actions this season, made no sense. His grand idea was to lure the changelings from the Shrike, a superior ship, onto the Titan? When he, of all people, should know is Lore is also onboard and really wants to get revenge on him? Why would Shaw leave a powerful villain alone in a room with just force fields and two older humans not known for their hand-to-hand combat? That’s what security teams are for!
Fun cameo from Tim Russ as Tuvok. One takeaway from the conversation, despite its not really being with Tuvok, is that Seven still considers Tuvok a friend — another indication of how fondly she thought of her time on Voyager.
It turns out that the generational inheritance Jean-Luc passed onto Jack is actually the abilities of Professor X, now that Jack can read minds and control other people just by thinking really hard.
The Shrike needs an upgrade in its scanners. The ship can read that the Titan’s warp core is offline and that the ship is running on emergency power only, but it cannot tell if there is any life on board.
Geordi’s speech to Data about mourning him was a nice moment for LeVar Burton. He got to say the goodbye to his favorite android that he didn’t get to say in Data’s previous two deaths.
The post ‘Star Trek: Picard’ Season 3, Episode 7 Recap: Moral Ambiguity appeared first on New York Times.