Published Mar 10, 2023
RECAP | Star Trek: Picard 304 – No Win Scenario
Starfleet has been the only family Picard has ever needed.
SPOILER WARNING: This article contains story details and plot points for Star Trek: Picard.
While they parted the previous episode, “Seventeen Seconds,” on bad terms following Picard’s removal from the Bridge, the admiral and Captain Riker come together to lead the Titan out of the nebula and avoid certain destruction.
In Episode 4 of Star Trek: Picard, “No Win Scenario,” the second episode directed by Star Trek legend Jonathan Frakes this season, with time running out, Picard, Riker and crew must confront the sins of their past and heal fresh wounds, while the Titan, dead in the water, drifts helplessly toward certain destruction within a mysterious space anomaly.
Five years ago, Admiral Picard sits down at 10 Forward to enjoy a meal when he was interrupted by a group of Starfleet Academy cadets. An eager cadet inquires about his encounter with the Hirogen, referenced in a tale in his book.* Specifically, they’re curious about him being hunted by the Alpha Hirogen, and if Admiral Janeway ever offered him any advice.
Picard politely tries to avert storytelling so he can tend to his meal, but is swayed by the cadets’ persistence. He credits Lt. Commander Worf for cleverly constructing a deadfall trap for the Alpha, resulting in the hunter turning into the prey. As they delight in his brief story, Picard softens and offers them advice, “There will be a time when you will need to remember that no matter how bleak or unwinnable the situation, as long as you and your crew remain steadfast in your dedication, one to one another, you are never ever without hope.”
Back to present day, aboard the Titan, a grim Picard looks out the window reflecting on their current predicament, alone and without hope. The ship, adrift and without power, is stuck in the nebula’s gravity well. On the Bridge, the ship’s crew, Ensign La Forge, Lt. Mura, Lt. T’Veen, and Ensign Esmar explain how dire the situation is to Captain Riker. They are unable to pull power from anywhere. Engines are down, and every time La Forge tries to engage them, they hemorrhage more. The ship is down to 9%. If they don’t divert some power, they’ll start losing life support. Riker orders the crew to divert as much power as they can to life support, eliminating all non-essential functions. Suddenly, another bio-electrical energy wave explodes in the gravity well striking the Titan.
Moments later, Riker approaches Picard in crew quarters. Picard begins to apologize, but Riker interrupts him giving him an update out of courtesy. The ship is dead in the water; they estimate there’s only four hours left until they’re crushed by the gravity well. Riker concedes that Picard was right, surprising him. Contemplative, Riker admits that when he and Deanna buried their son Thaddeus, it felt like infinite emptiness. Despite all their far-reaching adventures, nothing has proved to him that there’s anything after. He’s been unable to shake that feeling. More, Deanna, who feels everything, could not live with him feeling nothing. That was why he left her and his daughter Kestra to go on this mission with his former captain. He’s been running from this feeling only to find it once again. Heavy, Riker states that this is the end, and encourages his longtime friend to spend the remaining hours getting to know his son. Riker apologizes to his solemn friend and exits.
Commander Seven heads to Ensign Foster’s quarters to investigate and finds the real transporter officer’s body in his closet. The Changeling saboteur killed the ensign days before Jack Crusher ever encountered it in the nacelle control room. Addressing Riker in the Observation Lounge, she states that the Changeling can look like anyone now. Riker advises that they keep this development quiet, shocking Seven. With morale already low, he posits that if the Changeling’s mission was to deliver Jack to Vadic, it failed. There’s no advantage to crippling them any further. Off Seven’s defiance, he suggests they keep it quiet and that she remain in an unofficial capacity sussing out the saboteur.
In Sickbay, Dr. Beverly Crusher counts down just as the ship rocks from another strike from an energy wave. The now-recovered Jack states that wasn’t an asteroid, which Beverly confirms, when Picard enters the room. Acknowledging the dire situation at hand and how time is now precious, Picard asks if she could spare some time for him to spend it with Jack. Filling both his parents with gratitude, Jack allows it.
Seven visits the grumpy Captain Shaw in his private quarters, who snidely comments on the “bang-up job [her] heroes” are doing to his ship. Despite his refusal to talk, she informs him the issue at hand is a result of a Changeling onboard, who was present well before the Crushers arrived on their ship. Something bigger is happening here. And despite her reluctance, she needs his help; they’ve got major personnel problem, and nobody knows this ship as well as he does. Meanwhile, alone in Observation, a somber Riker begins to record a private message for his Imzadi Deanna Troi but struggles to find the words.
Elsewhere on the ship, Picard takes Jack to the holodeck, running a 10 Forward program, telling his son this place holds a lot of significance for him. He invites Jack to share a drink with him as he steps behind the bar’s counter. Given the state of the ship, Jack questions how the holodeck can run a program, to which Picard explains, the system runs on a small independent power cell for this very reason — times of distress — it can be a sanctuary for the crew. Easing the tension, Jack asks to address the “elephant in the room,” he wants to know when Picard’s hair went. He cheekily tells Jack to enjoy it while he can. Picard admits he wants to know more about him and his life, but Jack doesn’t know where to begin. As Jack steadies his hands playing with the cocktail straws, Picard pointedly asks why he decided not to get to know him. Deflecting, Jack recalls a medical supply run instead….
In his captain’s quarters, Shaw pulls up Ensign Eli Foster’s service record on his padd. Unfamiliar with Changelings, Shaw explains they’re “goo-people, walking, talking clay-dough,” who can replicate anyone based on sight alone, including their voice, mannerisms, and speech patterns. To identify one, Shaw states the simple best approach is to ask a question they should know the answer. Seven counters that requires a lot of knowledge of a 500-person crew. Thinking, Shaw suggests to snuff them out, bait them by stealing their pot. Showing Seven a Changeling report of Deep Space 9’s Odo and his bucket, Shaw elaborates that they can’t maintain their false form for too long, they have to rest inside a receptacle where they sometimes leave behind residue matter, which the ship can scan.** Beverly continues to monitor the electrical wave surges rocking the ship as Seven searches Foster’s quarters for the pot. She finally finds it behind a light fixture, and success, there’s “resi-goo” left behind in the receptacle.
On the Shrike, Vadic heads over to an ornate brass platter in the center of the room. She takes a blade and severs her left hand at the wrist, which liquifies then takes form as a skull-like face. The face demands her report. Vadic, revealing herself to be a Changeling, states that they unfortunately cannot retrieve Jack Crusher as his starship is stuck at the center of a gravity well. The face orders her to pursue, which Vadic protests due to the Shrike’s payload; the portal device utilizes gravimetric distortion rendering it a suicide mission. The face proclaims it is suicide to refuse; Vadic is to obtain and deliver the asset. Everything is expendable — her ship, her people, herself. With a hint of fear, the Shrike’s captain concedes to pursue as the face dissolves and merges back into her hand. Vadic, then, bombastically orders her crew to disengage the portal system. Spinning in the captain’s chair, she repeatedly sings out, “goodbye.”
Returning to the flashback at 10 Forward with the group of eager Starfleet cadets, Picard recalls another event where he discovered the Tamarian’s language was based on metaphors. If they had given up their will to communicate, they both would have been killed. While he enjoys the impromptu gathering, he expresses his desire to return to his lunch. Another cadet then brings up an unofficial record of an incident, a shuttle mishap, involving his best friend, Jack Crusher. She recalls his description, “one of the worst navigational [he’d] ever been in — a no-win scenario.” Picard shares that had been when he was just about the same age as them when he was just “a little reckless.”
Just then, in the present, an ensign interrupts Jack and Picard in their 10 Forward holodeck simulation and asks if they were in a private gathering. Picard welcomes the ensign and the group of other young crewmembers in; they’re all fearful and weary, in search of sanctuary. As Picard moves over to the other side of the bar next to Jack, his son tells him that he can see what he’s doing, thinking that this would make things better somehow, but he doesn’t. Kindly, he assures Picard he’s not saying this to be harsh; some people need to be a part of something while others don’t. Given those who currently surround them on the holodeck, Picard believes everyone needs connection. Jack admits that he grew up mostly on his own; sure, he had his mom, but that’s just who he is. Being on the outside suits him fine. He doesn’t need a moment like this, to which, Picard vulnerably reveals he does though.
Seven swiftly walks the corridor with the Changeling’s receptacle in hand. She alerts the biochemistry lab on comms that she has a substance she needs scan immediately. Suddenly, a passing officer shoots the second officer, then shoots the pot in Seven’s hand, disintegrating and destroying any lead she has. The Changeling officer charges at Seven as she fires phasers at the saboteur, blasting one of its arms and then witnessing it regenerate before her. Sustaining multiple phaser blasts, the Changeling slams itself into the wall, seeping itself between paneling, and escapes. Seven then alerts Sickbay that an officer has been killed on Deck 5. Overhearing, Beverly exclaims that things are only going to get much worse.
Back in the 10 Forward holoprogram, Jack switches gears and moves behind the bar to prepare another drink. He asks Picard, excluding the present situation, what’s the worst predicament he’s ever been in. Reminiscent of Picard’s earlier flashback with the group of young cadets at the real 10 Forward, he tells Jack that it was an incident that involved his namesake, Jack Crusher — Picard’s best friend at the Academy and Beverly’s first husband. His namesake was always something Jack was curious about, to which Picard revealed he would have named him the same thing. While on leave on Argelius IV, Picard and the elder Jack Crusher when they met two women. However, they were called back to the U.S.S. Stargazer. Picard hatched a plan to borrow a shuttle to return to Argelius. On their way back, they encountered a micrometeroid shower at high speed, which wrecked their shuttle, leaving them blind, powerless, and running out of air. They couldn’t alert the Stargazer because their comms were disabled; essentially, they were dead in the water. The two friends resourcefully improvised a plan where for 10 grueling hours, they alternated the remaining power between docking thrusters and life support, without sensors or visuals, inching their way home completely in sync. Off of Jack’s lack of reaction, Picard wonders out loud if Beverly already told him that story.
Captain Shaw, then, suddenly, and sarcastically interrupts the “harrowing tale of survival” and Picard’s moment to connect with his son. Addressing Jack, but loudly enough for all the crewmembers in the holoprogram to hear, Shaw decides to share his own harrowing tale, of when he and Picard first met, much to the latter’s confusion. U.S.S. Constance — the Battle of Wolf 359 — where 40 Federation starships up against, and trading fire, with one single Borg cube. He was in Engineering when the attack occurred; 50 of the crew made it down to the life deck. However, there was only one functional pod remaining with 10 seats available. They were all friends, all his “Jack Crusher,” and no one fought over who would live and who would die. They just waited for orders until a lieutenant came down and chose 10 of them at random. He was the lucky number ten, except he always wondered if this self-professed “dipsh** from Chicago” being chosen was a mistake. Shaw states there were 11,000 casualties, and then rhetorically asks Jack if he knew where his father was during the attack, before shouting that the assimilated Picard was “in that Borg cube, setting the world on fire!” Not only that, Shaw, seething with contempt, notes that the real Borg are still out there and they have a name for him, “Locutus of Borg — the only Borg so deadly they gave him a goddamn name.” Jack tries to end the one-sided conversation, but to everyone’s surprise, Picard, full of shame, stands, stating it’s alright, and that he understands before exiting the holodeck. Jack follows. Looking around the room at the sullen crewmembers, Shaw apologizes to them.
Jack catches up to the admiral in the Titan’s corridor as the ship reverberates from another energy wave. Jack tells him that he doesn’t have to explain himself to him. Still shaken from Shaw’s outburst, Picard abruptly thanks Jack for his time; it meant a lot to him. As he turns around to leave, Beverly comes up to the two men telling them there’s a pattern in the electrical waves. The gravity well they’re in is drawing in matter, then expelling energy. The increasing intensity and narrowing frequency of the wave, which she has been tracking, leads her to believe they’re akin to birthing contractions. Believing that they’re powerless, she states that at least it’ll be over for them quickly when the final wave hits. Jack suddenly counters with an idea, they receive a momentary surge of power every time the wave hits; if they can find a way to tap into them, they could find their way out of the gravity well.
The three (father, mother, and son) propose their idea to Riker, who incredulously reacts that such a plan could not work. Elaborating, they explain that they would be able to sustain contact, moving with the wave, by diverting all power to thrusters. If they move quickly enough, instead of rolling over them, the waves would absorb them, where the Titan will be able to use the energy drawn from the wave to exit the gravity well and the nebula. Beverly informs Riker the nebula is a womb, and they’ve been swimming in its amniotic fluid. Lifeforms that thrive in the vacuum of space, something that they’ve all encountered before at Farpoint.*****
Recalling Picard’s thrilling adventure with the elder Jack Crusher, the younger Jack proposes they navigate manually and use the docking thrusters to steer around the surrounding asteroid field, a gesture that warms Beverly. Looking over his pending recording for Deanna, Riker is fearful of choosing certain death for those aboard the ship. If they stay put, they could leave something behind for their loved ones. Beverly interjects stating that Deanna would tell them it’s about trust. It’s about trusting each other and doing the thing they’ve spent their entire lives learning to be great at. Picard makes one last appeal to his friend — if this is the end, let them face it together doing what they know they do best. Riker absorbs as he looks out over his bridge crew before stating that the nacelle covers are designed to prevent plasma conduits from absorbing too much radiation. If they find a way to open them manually to channel the energy from the wave down to the warp core, that could work. Spirits lifted, Riker’s in.
Addressing the entire ship, Riker shares the agreed-upon plan revealing the risk as it will draw every ounce of the remaining power left on the ship. He acknowledges most of the crew does not know him, but like any captain, he knows something about them — he’s only as effective as they are. From experience, if they hang tight and work together, they’re going to get through this together.
At Shaw’s captain’s quarters, Picard and Seven approach him with a favor while acknowledging he’s the last person the Titan’s captain wants to see. In spite of the ship’s retrofit, the inner workings of the nacelle shields are over 20 years old and none of the young crew members know how to hotwire them like the old grease monkey in front of them does. Shaw acquiesces. In the nacelle control room, as they work, Shaw and Seven concoct a plan to bait the Changeling as this would be the ideal opportunity for a saboteur. Seven alerts Riker of the ruse.
On the Bridge, Picard invites Jack on the Bridge to be with his mother. As Riker orders all power diverted to thrusters, the Bridge crew prepares for the final wave. Meeting Picard over by the chairs, Riker offers the admiral the conn as he’s the only one with experience flying blind. In the captain’s chair of a Federation starship, with Riker by his side, Picard signals Ensign La Forge that it’s time to go home. Engage.
With Seven and Shaw’s plan in play over comms, they’ve released one nacelle cover. Seven exits to check the manual lock is off when Ensign La Forge arrives at the nacelle control room offering Shaw her assistance. She reminds him that her father is Geordi La Forge, decorated Starfleet engineer and legend. She questions if the ship can still fly with only one cover open and reluctantly holds on to Shaw’s requested torch. Seven suddenly emerges with her phaser pointed at La Forge’s head ordering her to turn around. La Forge cautiously tells Seven that she was sent down to help; the commander counters that she told Riker specifically not to send anyone. Asking La Forge to acknowledge her name, the ensign responds, “Commander Hansen.” Seven shoots La Forge in the chest, revealing her to be the Changeling, much to Shaw’s relief. The captain asks her how she knew. Seven responds that Ensign La Forge calls her “Commander Seven” out of respect.
Back on the Bridge, with the real Ensign La Forge at the helm, she alerts command that there are multiple obstructions, an asteroid field, ahead and her contact sensors are down. Jack runs over to an open console to call out their positions, just as the elder Jack Crusher did for Picard on the Stargazer shuttle. As they narrowly avoid one asteroid and the second one approaching, Jack asks Picard to trust him and hold on for a few more seconds. Success! Decades later, Picard and Crusher are flying blind once more. The Bridge is relieved and revitalized. La Forge informs them that thrusters are up to 98%, but they don’t have anything left to transfer. Exchanging looks with Picard, Riker orders Helm to transfer all power from life support leaving the crew to all exchange grave looks.
The computer issues a ship-wide warning notice that life support is offline as power cuts across the Titan plunging everyone into darkness. T’Veen counts down the gravimetric detonation; the ship is then engulfed in an explosion of light and energy as the open nacelles soaks up the energy. They’re in the wave. With systems back online, Picard orders La Forge to gun it. T’Veen interrupts to tell them the nebula is changing. Mura alerts them that the Shrike is dead ahead. With the tractor beam operational, Riker orders the crew to cut the beam and fire keel thrusters, successfully flinging an asteroid at the enemy vessel. Payback!
The impact sends the Shrike spiraling deeper into the gravity well, hemorrhaging power. The vessel’s crew alerts the glum and rage-filled Vadic that their core is in critical condition.
As Commander Seven and Captain Shaw return to the Bridge, outside their viewscreen, they admire the beauty and wonder of being enveloped by hundreds of newborn, bio-electrical lifeforms, moving in unison with the Titan. Picard and Beverly exchange smiles as the good doctor states, “To see out new life.” Riker then tells La Forge they should “boldly get the hell out of here.” With a hint of bittersweetness, Jack looks around the Bridge as those around him revel and embrace each other, connecting, for surviving the harrowing ordeal.
Back to 10 Forward five years earlier, Picard still holding court with the rapt Academy cadets. He shares one last parting sentiment, “You’re only ever really as good as those around you. Your crew become a part of you, complete you. They lift you up to accomplish the things you never could do alone.” Interrupting the gathering surrounding Picard, a young civilian asks the admiral that he talked extensively about his crew and his life in Starfleet, but did he have a life outside of that, a real family? Picard responds, “Starfleet has been the only family I have ever needed.” In present day, on the Bridge holding Jack’s gaze, Picard realizes that the young civilian from years ago at 10 Forward was his son who did try to seek him out but was embarrassed and rejected.
Elsewhere, in Observation, Riker connects with his Imzadi, opening up, “You can’t hide from the pain anymore by being alone. At least, I can’t, anyway.” He admits that him being away was not the answer to their problems. Deanna tearfully expresses that she’s glad that he’s okay and that everyone’s okay. After what he’s experienced here, he now understands that the universe can be beautiful and amazing, which delights his wife. He’s committed to fixing it, with her. She questions if he and Jean-Luc are in trouble, but Will states that he’s unsure.
Looking pained and ill in his quarters, Jack splashes his face with water. He’s startled when he sees red branches explode behind him in the reflection in the mirror as a voice beckons him to find them and whispers that they’ll be together soon. Closing his eyes tightly, he’s haunted by shrieks, a series of apocalyptic red visions, followed by a glowing red door. He slaps his head until it all goes away.
* “Hunters” and “Prey” — Interested in learning more about the nomadic Hirogen species? These two Star Trek: Voyager episodes are a great starting point to discovering their culture and rituals, especially “the hunt.”
** “Forsaken” – Deep Space 9’s head of security Odo ends up stuck in a turbolift with Deanna Troi’s mom, ambassador Lwaxana Troi. Opening up about his life as an experiment, he begins to feel pain from putting off regeneration — a private occurrence he likes to keep between himself and his bucket.
*** “Darmok” — This iconic, fan-favorite episode explores the time Picard was captured and trapped on a planet with the captain of the Children of Tama. Without the aid of universal translators, the Enterprise-D captain must find a way to communicate with Captain Dathon.
**** “Emissary” – In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiere, the Deep Space 9 space station’s new commander Benjamin Sisko reacts vehemently to Picard’s presence, much like Captain Shaw. Sisko lost his wife at the Battle of Wolf 359 while serving on the U.S.S. Saratoga, a loss he holds Picard responsible for.
***** “Encounter at Farpoint” — In the Star Trek: The Next Generation premiere, the Enterprise-D crew was tested by the entity Q on their humanity. The Farpoint Station had captured a space vessel lifeform and was siphoning power from it. Notably, this was Riker’s first mission with the crew and Picard. Similar creatures can also be seen in “Much Ado About Boimler.”
- “Can’t Break Away from That Girl” – Slam Allen