On ‘Star Trek: Picard’ Traumas Are the Real “Monsters”
Last season on Star Trek: Picard, “Nepenthe” explored Picard’s past through his friendships. This season in “Monsters,” it’s a party in Jean-Luc’s head and generational trauma is invited! Hope you brought your party hat and your anti-depressants!
Previously on Star Trek: Picard… Agnes Jurati sings a Pat Benatar song! The Borg Queen uses said Benatar song to take over Jurati’s body! And Jean-Luc gets hit by a Tesla! Will those Soong’s ever chill out? The answer, for this week at least, is yes – but only because Adam Soong isn’t in it. In “Monsters,” we (mostly) switch gears to focus on Picard’s past rather than his future.
To Boldly Recap
What’s inside Picard’s brain? Why, a space port, naturally. Inside, Picard speaks with an unnamed therapist played by Battlestar Galactica alum James Carris. The therapist considers Picard’s mental state to be a potential danger to himself and his crew. Picard is asked to tell a story in order to pass the time/open up.
Unsurprisingly, Picard tells the story of his youth, but with a twist: both he and his mother are portrayed as royalty. In the story, the pair are beset on all sides by the shadows of monsters and seek refuge in the underground tunnels of their home. Young Prince Jean-Luc’s foot is caught underneath some wood and his mother, the Queen, is dragged away into the darkness screaming.
Meanwhile, adult Picard begins to realize he is not where he thinks he is. He tells the therapist he is stuck as a loud banging is heard from behind a door. The therapist insists that Picard knows what the banging is and posits that Picard is hiding his own past from everyone including himself. “Perhaps there’s a version of yourself you’re hiding,” he says. “A darker version of yourself. A secret shame. A guilt. What is it?”
Tallinn and the Real Boy
Back in the real world of Star Trek: Picard, Tallinn attaches a device to her ear (which suspiciously makes said ear look pointed) and enters the dream. She helps young Picard escape his bonds and agrees to help the boy find his mother, too. After fending off a number of foes, the pair make their way towards a locked room. Who is on the other side? Why, adult Picard, of course.
But adult Picard is not alone – the therapist is there, too. Young Picard says the therapist is the monster he and his mother are running from and we confirm what many expected from the outset: the therapist is Picard’s father. Adult Picard spits with rage that his father abused his mother, but there’s more to the story. It turns out that Picard’s mother suffered from severe mental illness, and, not knowing what to do, his father sometimes resorted to locking her up in her room for her own safety.
While adult Picard struggles to come to terms with this new information, Tallinn attempts to calm young Picard as he stands at the locked door holding his mother trapped. But as Tallinn hopes to calm young Picard with promises of a future he can control, the young boy takes out a key and opens his mother’s locked door. Before we can find out what happens next, both Picard and Tallinn awake from the dream.
How Do You Solve a Problem Like Rios?
While Tallinn helps Picard in the dream, it’s up to Rios to help Picard outside of the dream. Teresa and her son Ricardo return to the clinic to find Rios. More than that, they find Rios protecting a comatose Picard with Tallinn hooked up to him and in a trance. Weird! But weirder still is what happens next. Picard begins to seize and, in order to save his life, Rios has Seven and Raffi beam him a neural oscillator to correct the problem.
Will Rios oscillate Picard’s neurons? No, no, no! Instead, Rios hands the futuristic device to Teresa. So, not only does Teresa have to fend with an object suddenly appearing out of nowhere, she also has to use it to save Picard’s life. Well, she is a doctor after all! Teresa presses some buttons as best as she can and Picard stabilizes.
Freshly coping with what just happened, Rios decides the best way to help is to beam both Ricardo and Teresa on board the La Sirena. Ricardo is jazzed. Teresa is not okay. And one other problem: La Sirena appears to be Borg hacked. Speaking of which…
How Do You Solve a Problem Like the Borg Queen
After discovering that Agnes done Borged the ship, Seven and Raffi try to track her down. They find footage of Agnes chilling at the local dive bar where she decides to punch her fists through a plate glass window. It seems… not good. And, indeed, it is extremely not good. The Borg Queen is activating all Agnes’ endorphins in order to rebuild her supply of Borg nanites so she can assimilate Earth.
Seven and Raffi update Picard and Tallinn on the whole situation. Tallinn hypothesizes that Q wanted Picard to have visions of his past. Picard recalls a part of his memories where his mother says “there is no greater teacher than one’s enemy”. Picard concludes that he needs to know what’s driving Q to do what he’s doing.
Who knows how to contact Q? Not Tallinn! But, Guinan on the other hand? Maybe! Picard heads back to Ten Forward and asks Guinan for an assist. Guinan pulls out a bottle of booze which was used to broker peace between her people, the El-Aurians, and the Q Continuum. Opening the bottle should call forth a Q. But it doesn’t! Guinan sure does scream a bunch, though!
Instead of Q, a random guy shows up. It turns out he is an FBI agent who has footage of Picard using the transporter. For some reason, this is considered illegal? Anyway, Federal Agents show up and arrest Picard and Guinan. The end.
To Boldly Review
There’s no way to review the Star Trek: Picard episode “Monsters” without focusing on the trauma it introduces. From early on in this season of Star Trek: Picard, we knew that Jean-Luc’s past would be important. It was a very big choice to connect Patrick Stewart’s real life with Picard’s fictional one. That Stewart’s mother was abused by his father is something Stewart has spoken out about. Stewart uses his past trauma as an engine to propel towards helping others in similar situations. And that’s laudable.
Here’s the thing: now that Stewart’s real life is inexorably connected with Picard’s by a shared trauma, I don’t know what to think about this twist in the storyline. Right now, the story is that Picard’s dad wasn’t an abuser so much as he was a man who didn’t know how to deal with his wife’s mental illness. I confess, that makes me feel really icky. Because locking a woman up “for her own good” isn’t really a story I want told unless it’s done so very sensitively and, ideally, from her perspective.
Instead, this story feels like we’re teeing up the tragic fridging of Momma Picard. Even if everything else turns out fine, Tallinn even makes a point of telling young Picard how he’ll use this trauma to save lives and the world.
The performances are great, no doubt. I just don’t understand why we’re adding a tragic backstory to Jean-Luc Picard. Legitimately how does this make him a more interesting character? I would contend it simply does not.
So About Not Breaking the Timeline
Okay, just real quick: what is Rios doing? Because it looks like he’s playing ridiculously fast and loose with altering time. Transporting future technology in front of Teresa? Giving said future tech to Teresa? Beaming Teresa and Ricardo on board La Sirena? Even Scotty would think Rios is out of pocket and Scotty literally taught a 20th century dude how to produce transparent aluminum centuries ahead 0f time.
And there’s a reason I bring up Scotty and his actions during Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. At least with Scotty we got a justification for messing with time. McCoy says giving transparent aluminum to some rando is a bad idea. Scotty counters with, “How do you know he didn’t invent the thing?” You know what that is? Smart writing.
You know what isn’t smart writing? Having Teresa save Picard’s life using a neural oscillator even though she has no idea what a neural oscillator is. It’s real cute and all that Rios paraphrases Kirk’s classic line, “I only work in outer space,” but the nostalgia doesn’t cover up how much sense Star Trek: Picard is not making right now. And then Rios takes the whole gang on a field trip to a space ship? The only way that makes sense is if it happens to serve the plot moving forward. And when a character only chooses to take an action in order to service the story, the audience can see the puppet’s strings.
“Monsters” is Good If You Don’t Think About It
The most frustrating thing about this episode is that it’s wildly entertaining despite its flaws. James Callis as Picard’s dad? Perfect casting. Callis and Stewart are dynamite on screen. Rios and Teresa have great chemistry, too. Ito Aghayere returns as Guinan and she is channeling Whoopi Goldberg’s performance perfectly. There’s some tension between Raffi and Seven and that’s great, too. Even the little bit of Jurati as the Borg Queen works.
The actors are doing great work, but the story is not serving them right now. And I am deeply concerned about where the Mommy Picard story will lead. The way the writers choose to leave that story open suggests a very bleak ending indeed. If Jean-Luc lets his mother out and it ends in sunshine and rainbows, then the story is pointless. If he opens the door and she causes permanent harm to herself and others, then I think Picard’s backstory just got a lot more bleak than it ever needs to be.
Hopefully next week we’ll get back to Borg Queen shenanigans and wild Soong goings on. Heck, I’d be fine with the two of them teaming up, even. That would be an exciting twist that doesn’t leave me wondering why modern Star Trek is so depressing these days.
Stray Observation Deck
So Tallinn is a Romulan after all. Picard says she could be an ancestor of Laris, but no one actually thinks that in the real world, right? We all know Tallinn and Laris are the same person, right? She literally tips her hand and seems to know Jean-Luc’s future, right? Laris is a Supervisor who is supposed to keep an eye on Jean-Luc. Code cracked. You’re welcome, everyone.
When Ricardo beams on board La Sirena he says “I’m going to touch everything” and that’s a relatable kid right there. What Trek fan wouldn’t touch literally everything on a starship the second they find themselves aboard one?
What’s up with the FBI in 2024? Are they usually looking for transporter shenanigans or is this a specific case? Worth noting that the agent who captures Picard and Guinan is played by Jay Karnes. You might remember Karnes as Agent Robert Gale from producer Terry Matalas’ other major sci-fi show Twelve Monkeys. It feels like maybe there’s something to that, I’m just saying!
In addition to hearing “I am Locutus of Borg” when she enters Picard’s dream, she also hears another classic TNG line. “You are dangerous. They’re only victims. You made them what they are.” That comes from an episode called “The Hunted” and refers to genetically altered soldiers. I wonder why that quote was chosen.
Questions, Queries, Quibbles
Obviously the big question coming out of “Monsters” concerns the fate of Momma Picard. But there’s also a lot of outstanding issues out there. Renee Picard is safe, but will that last? And where is Adam Soong right now? We see Jurati still wearing that same red dress. She must be stinky by now! How long before we see her in a new costume and what are the odds that costume is a Borg Queen outfit? What are your predictions for next week’s Star Trek: Picard? Tell us what you think will happen next!
Until then, this is your humble recapper signing off. Computer: end program.
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