Star Trek: Picard has made much this season of trying to evoke the feel of what Star Trek could be like in its past — classic premises like evil alt realities and retro-contemporary time travel. This week, a chaotic bit of stage setting managed to turn it into a Borg horror, a prelude for a heist movie, and even a throwback to a Trek spinoff that never was.
For better or worse, episode five of Star Trek: Picard season two, “Fly Me to the Moon,” was a necessary bit of re-jiggering for Picard’s second season, with a mix of conveniently pushing its previously scattered heroes back together as quickly as possible again, just so it could then layer in new threats and additional complications to the wider story of the season arc. Now that we know team La Sirena has just three days to fix time and stop Q’s shenanigans, it’s time to actually learn why… and then make it much, much harder to do than it should be.
The why is quite fascinating, and the first of the episode’s peculiar tonal veers. We immediately learn that last week’s “abduction” of Picard by Not-Laris (the returning Orla Brady, at last) — who we discover is indeed the Watcher he was looking for, and is in fact basically a new supervisor akin to Gary Seven, the star of the original Trek episode “Assignment: Earth,” and one time potential spinoff of the series — is to ascertain his threat to her mission. And, quickly enough, that that mission is to guard one fabric of the timeline in the form of Jean-Luc’s ancient (to him at least) ancestor, astronaut Renée Picard (Penelope Mitchell). If that wasn’t enough to get your head spinning, just as quickly it’s dumped on us and Picard alike that Renée is the change in time he must safeguard, too: in three days, she’s preparing to fly to the moon Europa, a mission that becomes a turning point in humanity’s exploration of the stars and eventually first contact. No Renée Picard, poof, no United Federation of Planets. So it’s probably not great that an anxious, depressive Renée is having her doubts stirred by none other than Q himself, who, in spite of losing his reality-manipulating powers, is doing a great job of still trying to muck up as much as possible in 2024.
We learn this just as messily in between Picard and the Supervisor deciding to team up, and Seven and Raffi hastily recusing Rios from the hands of the Department of Homeland Security, because Renée is not the only finger in the temporal pie Q has his hands in. Turns out he’s also manipulating the Doctor Soong of this era, Adam (Brent Spiner, playing his third character on Picard already), with promises that he can help Soong cure his daughter Kore (Isa Briones, also returning, what an episode of returns!) of a deadly genetic disease that leaves her unable to go outside. Just how Q is managing to sneak into the Europa mission’s psychiatric team — with a truly disastrous fake accent — while also having access to enough near future technology that he can quickly offer Soong an answer to the cure he’s been looking for his entire, murky career (if he in turn helps Q), remains to be seen. But that’s this episode: ask not how the pieces get set up, just know they’re being set up, and pray you’ll get details at some point in the next five episodes.
For now, it’s still more set up. The Watcher tells Picard and his newly reunited team that Renée is about to enter a vital phase of her involvement in the Europa test flight. Their one chance to ensure that she doesn’t back out of the mission due to stress will come at the world’s most absurdly overprotected gala for the astronauts, held the night before she’s due to enter quarantine before the flight. Using Jurati’s tech know-how — cheekily played as her being nerdy enough to have taken a course in “ancient” computer hacking skills during her studies — to infiltrate a party that has biometric scanning, facial recognition, and enough armed guards to think several world leaders were involved, Picard suddenly goes all Ocean’s Eleven, sci-fi trappings dropped for fancy dresses and copious bottles of booze. The stage is set at the climax for Jurati to make her move and use her intentional detention by the party’s security to hack entry details for her friends onto the guest list… until it’s revealed that things will inevitably go very wrong very quickly for her, because a remnant of the Borg Queen from their time in each other’s heads is now lingering in her consciousness as a very bad guardian angel.
Oh, sorry, did I not already mention that at some point this episode the Borg Queen attempted to restart a tiny new collective by catfishing a French police officer, leading to Jurati shotgunning her to death, only for the Queen to use her final moments to re-assimilate part of herself into Jurati? Yeah, that happened in about five minutes dotted throughout the course of every other plotline this episode. It’s a lot! It’s arguably too much. But what is here in “Fly Me to the Moon,” even it is a chaotic approach to setting up too many pieces only to immediately start toppling some of them all the way over, is interesting at least. The Jurati/Borg Queen stuff, even if highly condensed here, is an interesting twist on the danger established last episode. The idea of Picard doing a heist episode next week where the target is the mental fortitude of a Picard ancestor is wildly fun. Hell… the Q stuff might even be interesting at some point! If he stops being able to seemingly show up everywhere at once and just cackles maniacally for a little bit!
There’s promise here for what’s to come, even if in the moment Picard has to hope that promise is enough to make up for some messy narrative stage setting. Hopefully, with the chaos settled this week, the intended storm of all these little plans all Picard’s players have going into motion — which in some cases are already falling apart — will actually be worth suffering a little mess.