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Recap: Star Trek: Picard - The Star Gazer

The second season begins with a bang

Star Trek: Picard - "The Star Gazer"

The first episode of Star Trek: Picard’s sophomore season starts out with a bang, as an all-too-familiar klaxon signals that there’s something wrong. An intruder alert sounds as Starfleet officers rush through the halls of a ship, phasers in hand. On the bridge, the situation is bad — Admiral Picard, on the floor, calls for a status check, but no one responds in the chaos. Rios, in a Starfleet uniform, asks Dr. Jurati what’s happening, and we see a blurry, alien figure on the bridge. Admiral Picard, with a concerned Seven of Nine looking on, activates the self-destruct sequence as the mystery figure calls his name.

Two days earlier, the admiral was back at his chateau in France (along with his trusty dog, Number One), and it’s clear that it’s time for the harvest. After a long day at work in the fields, Laris and Jean-Luc settle in for a glass of wine. It’s been at least a year since the events of the first season, and Zhaban, Laris’s partner, has apparently passed. Because Romulans don’t mourn the way that humans do, Laris has accepted his death and moved on. It’s clear she and Jean-Luc are interested in each other, but he can’t bring himself to admit it. Laris recognizes that he’s chosen to be alone and is perhaps afraid to commit to something personal.

It’s during a flashback in which we learn that Jean-Luc’s parents weren’t the best example for him — they fought a lot, and he wasn’t thrilled about moving to Labarre. We also see glimpses of something more sinister — something more nightmarish — happening to his mother. It was she who taught him to look up at the stars, to turn away from personal strife and find a refuge in space.

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The next morning, after a brief conversation with Laris in which she makes clear that things have irrevocably changed between the two of them, Admiral Picard heads to Starfleet Academy, where he’s the chancellor, to deliver an address to an audience of cadets, including Elnor (with short hair!). Commander Raffi Musiker watches the ceremony proudly.

Out in space, we see La Sirena, except Captain Rios is nowhere to be found. Instead, Seven of Nine is using the ship on Fenris Ranger business (and making good use of the ship’s Rios hologram). Apparently there’s a massive subspace distortion outside, something Starfleet has also noted.

Meanwhile Soji has been continuing her work as a researcher getting to know other cultures, learning languages, and making connections — this time with the Deltans, a people we first met in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Dr. Jurati is there with her, awkward as ever, and discloses that her relationship with Rios is over. They’re still working together, though, and he asks for her help with something; Soji stays behind to continue her diplomatic efforts.

Rios, now the captain of the U.S.S. Stargazer (which was the name of Admiral Picard’s first ship), is investigating the same spatial anomaly that caught Seven’s attention. He wants Dr. Jurati’s help.

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Back on Earth, Raffi criticizes Jean-Luc for using his job as chancellor of Starfleet Academy to avoid personal matters, and he points out Raffi is doing the same. She and Seven are in a romantic relationship, but Seven’s work is consuming and it’s a struggle for Raffi. After a brief chat with Elnor, who’s been assigned to the Excelsior (Raffi’s ship), Picard says his goodbyes.

He beams to a new building that we’ve never seen, but has a familiar designation — number 10. He finds Guinan, the El-Aurian who tended bar on the Enterprise in Ten Forward, inside. He confides in her about his personal struggles, and she points out that while he has loved before, it’s always with people who aren’t going to be in his life for long. He’s willing to risk his life, but not his heart.

Aboard the Stargazer, Rios and Seven say their hellos before turning their attention to the mysterious spatial anomaly. They receive a message from inside the distortion, and Dr. Jurati figures out the reason they can’t understand it is because it’s in dozens of languages overlaid on top of one another — and whoever it is, they’re asking for help from Admiral Picard.

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And he’s going to give it. The message seems to indicate that whoever this advanced race is, they want to join the Federation. Admiral Picard heads back out into the stars to learn more about this mysterious anomaly.

He runs into Seven of Nine first, and they discuss her discomfort at being aboard the ship. The Stargazer is the first Starfleet ship to incorporate technology gained from the Romulan artifact — the Borg cube in the show’s first season. She thinks that others aren’t comfortable with her presence on board given her own Borg implants.

On the bridge, the admiral greets his friends and attempts to make contact with the aliens. It provokes an ominous response, as something comes through the anomaly — a Borg vessel.

As a fleet (including the Excelsior) arrives to back up the Stargazer, the crew debates what to do. Admiral Picard points out that their request for help might be genuine, while Seven counters that there’s no way they can trust the Borg and advocates for destroying the ship. Dr. Jurati remarks that as far as the Federation knows, the Borg were decimated, likely due to the neurolytic pathogen that the starship Voyager introduced to the Collective in that show’s series finale.

They’re interrupted by the Borg, who say that there is no more time — but it’s still unclear what their motivations are and why they are in a hurry. They state they want to send someone over to negotiate with Picard directly, a proposal Rios rejects. But the Borg aren’t exactly used to getting “no” for an answer.

The Borg beam someone onto the Bridge — presumably the Borg Queen — even though the Stargazer’s shields are up. A figure materializes, with their face covered, dressed all in black. It’s not clear why their face isn’t visible (and it’s not how the Borg Queen usually appears). Only time will tell whether this is significant.

The situation is tense, but the Borg reiterates their wish for peace — but also for power. They begin interfacing with the ship’s systems, trying to take over the Stargazer, and Seven starts firing. The rest of the bridge crew follows suit, and while the Borg fires back, they’re just stunning people, not killing them. It’s not exactly characteristic of Borg tactics, but even so, it’s clear that the situation isn’t good. It turns out the Borg is using the Stargazer, and the ship's enhancements, to take over the entire fleet.

That’s when we see the scene from the beginning of the episode, with Admiral Picard activating the self-destruct sequence. As the last few seconds count down, the Borg Queen says to the admiral, as his mother did, “Look up.” The ship explodes, and it should all be over.

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Instead, we’re back in Labarre, France, at the Picard chateau. The admiral is wearing very different clothing, and there are aspects of the house he doesn’t recognize — a painting of himself, for example. Laris isn’t there — instead, it’s one of the Mars-style androids designed to build ships at Utopia Planitia, as we saw in the show’s first season.

Then, with one voice, Picard gets immediate answers and many, many more questions: Q appears to him. The omnipotent being who put humanity on trial, and made Picard fight for the species’ very existence, in the first (and last) episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation is back, and he has some unwelcome news: “The trial never ends.” He’s going to make Picard confront the choices he made . . . and those he didn’t.