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Recap: Star Trek: Picard - Penance

Picard and his allies face a grim new reality

Star Trek: Picard - "Penance"

We pick up right where we left off, on this different Earth, where the air pollution is setting off alarms — a far cry from the planet Jean-Luc calls home. He runs outside to see it for himself, and Q confirms that they’re on Earth, just not the one Jean-Luc is familiar with. He also stresses how pivotal Picard is to what’s happening, as well as clarifying that Jean-Luc is in a situation of his own — and humanity’s own — making.

As Admiral Picard becomes increasingly enraged by the situation and Q’s games, Q is uncharacteristically emotional in response. He’s played games with people’s lives before — even the fate of humanity — but this is different. Q is different; he’s intense and angry. Picard asks, astonished, whether Q is well. What could possibly be ailing an omnipotent being?

Instead of responding, Q transports them again, to another part of the vineyard. Picard asks again what Q did with the Stargazer and her crew, as well as what he wants. Q declines to respond, and when Picard challenges him, Q actually strikes Jean-Luc — something we have never seen before. This kind of open animosity is uncharacteristic of Q.

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Q expresses frustration that Jean-Luc insists on changing everything — except in the one way that matters the most. Then he clarifies that this isn’t a game or a lesson he’s teaching. It’s penance. Q then informs Jean-Luc just how different this timeline is: The skies are polluted. Romulans are working in his chateau as slaves. Picard has trophy skulls of various aliens, people he killed with his own hand (General Martok, Sarek, and Gul Dukat, who’s apparently responsible for Picard’s artificial body in this timeline).

Jean-Luc is understandably horrified by what he sees, the actions of this alternate timeline General Picard. Q offers Jean-Luc a way out of this world, through atonement and perhaps forgiveness (for what, it’s not clear). Q assures Jean-Luc in a very empathetic way that he won’t let Picard do this alone, but Picard refuses to play the game. Q disappears, leaving Picard seemingly alone in this brutal, strange new world.

And what a strange new world it is. In many ways it feels reminiscent of the Mirror Universe we’ve seen in Discovery, The Original Series, and Deep Space Nine — a loathing for aliens and a brutality we are unfamiliar with from the Federation (in this timeline, the Confederation).

As Jean-Luc reviews who he is, and the terrible things he’s done, Harvey (his android valet) informs him that it’s almost time to leave for the President’s Palace. Apparently, it’s Eradication Day.

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Meanwhile, Seven of Nine wakes up in San Francisco — but the computer refers to her as Annika, and she doesn’t have any Borg implants. She realizes she’s not in a dream, but she doesn’t have much time to figure out what’s going on. Her husband arrives and informs her she has four hours until her Eradication Day speech, because she’s the Confederation president.

Seven tries to play along as best she can until she gets to the office and reviews her files. She notices a familiar name among the updates on the war at the Vulcan front — Colonel Cristóbal Rios. She asks for a personal update from him on a secure line (it’s worth noting that at first, her husband offers a briefing from General Sisko, a familiar name if you watched Deep Space Nine).

Cris is alone aboard his ship, in the middle of a combat situation, and has absolutely no idea what’s going on or why he’s shooting at Vulcans. He receives a communication from the Confederation president, and it takes him a few beats to recognize Seven’s voice. He shares his theory that someone — or something — moved them to some sort of alternate reality or timeline, and Seven recalls him and his ship back to Earth.

Back on Earth, a rebel group is attacking Okinawa, and a very confused Elnor is among them. He tries to get away and is surrounded by security forces — but Raffi, the security chief, takes out her own people to save him. (The hug Elnor gives her is so sweet.)

Seven is walking with her husband (who is getting more and more suspicious of her) and getting a summary of Eradication Day — a day when the Confederation murders aliens and anyone who works with or tries to help them. Today is special because there’s a big execution planned. They’re going to see Dr. Jurati to ensure the prisoner is ready.

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Unsurprisingly, given her anxiety, Agnes is the least able to blend into this new reality. She greets Seven with a lot of relief and asks about her Borg implants, but quickly takes Seven’s cues and recognizes she needs to rein it in. Seven’s husband asks Agnes to bring the prisoner out of their stasis pod — it turns out it’s none other than the Borg Queen.

This isn’t the Borg Queen we know though (though she looks much more like herself, versus the person we saw on the Stargazer in Episode 1). She’s a shell, without the Collective, which presumably has been destroyed. However, something peculiar happens — she recognizes Seven as Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix 01, which was part of Seven’s full Borg designation. (For more on this, watch Star Trek: Voyager’s “Scorpion, Parts I and II.”) This is remarkable because as far as we can tell in this reality, Seven was never assimilated.

The Borg Queen tells them, “Time has been broken,” and Seven explains that the Queen has trans-temporal awareness which allows her to detect alternate timelines and realities. Agnes realizes the significance of this: There’s been a corruption to, or a change within, the timeline. That’s why they are in this unrecognizable future.

Picard arrives at headquarters just in time to see Raffi and Elnor in some trouble. Raffi is supposed to hand over her prisoner and she refuses and is challenged on it. Luckily, Jean-Luc intervenes and Raffi and Elnor are able to go with him to see Seven.

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Seven fills the group in on what the Borg Queen told her — there’s been a divergence in time. That’s the final piece of the puzzle for Jean-Luc, who realizes this isn’t an alternate reality or a Mirror Universe. Q went back and changed the timeline somehow. He also knows that Q won’t restore the timeline until he’s certain they’ve learned their lesson — though Picard also admits Q seemed unstable in their conversation this morning. The only solution? To find out more about what the Borg Queen knows.

This is the first time Jean-Luc has been face to face with the Borg Queen since the events of Star Trek: First Contact, and it’s easy to see how emotional this is for him. She tells him that Q changed just one thing in the timeline, back in the Los Angeles of 2024, and that has led them here. She also tells them that there’s someone there — a Watcher — to help, if they can locate this person.

Picard suggests using the gravitational pull of a star to slingshot around the sun and go back in time (most notably used in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home), but Dr. Jurati points out they need an exceptional mind to keep track of all the calculations, and they don’t have Spock on board. As a result, they’ll have to take the Borg Queen with them.

With Rios in orbit, they should just be able to beam out and go on their way, but everything is in lockdown because of Eradication Day. That means they have to continue this farce a little longer while Dr. Jurati and Raffi work to get them out of there. It’s clear that Seven’s husband knows there’s something very wrong, and it’s going to become a problem.

“A safe galaxy is a human galaxy,” a familiar voice says, as the Eradication Day festivities start. We haven’t seen Brent Spiner in this season yet, but it’s safe to say we will at some point — there’s a holographic statue of “Adam Soong” in that wide shot, which definitely brings up the question of whether work on artificial intelligence is what changed the timeline.

Episode Preview | Star Trek: Picard - Assimilation

Seven makes her speech on stage, Agnes works on communication, and Raffi tries to bring the shield down so Rios can beam them out — it’s tense, to say the least, and it’s taking too long. The crowd at Eradication Day begins to realize that Jean-Luc is stalling (he’s clearly not keen on killing the Borg Queen in front of an audience) and Picard begins to fire at the security personnel surrounding them. Rios gets them out in the nick of time.

However, they’re not out of the woods yet. Agnes connects the Borg Queen to the ship, while the rest of them fend off the forces pursuing La Sirena. A group that includes Seven’s husband manages to beam on board the ship and shoot Elnor. They’ve got the entire crew at their mercy…and the episode ends.

We’ll have to wait until episode 3 to find out what happens!