Picard‘s “Assimilation” in Review
Star Trek: Picard Season 2 continues up the roller coaster at breakneck speed with episode three, “Assimilation”. This episode was directed by Back to the Future star Lea Thompson, clearly the right person behind the camera to bring the Picard crew back in time to the early 21st century.
At the start of the episode, the Confederation Magistrate (Jon Jon Briones) has taken the La Sirena crew by force, holding a phaser to each of them. Elnor lies on the floor, having sustained a phaser wound caused by the Magistrate when he beamed onto the ship in the previous episode. Thanks to quick action by Raffi, the crew manages to dispatch the Magistrate and two of his aides by vaporizing them with phasers. It’s time to leave this hellish timeline, but not before three Confederation starships (two Nova-class and a Steamrunner-class) begin to pursue La Sirena with phaser and photon torpedo fire. Rios manages to destroy one of them with a perfectly targeted photon torpedo that slams into one of the Nova-class ships.
Jurati frantically works to plug the Borg Queen into La Sirena, which begins to assimilate the vessel. This improves the ship’s defenses, and they obliterate the two other Confederation starships with a pair of torpedoes. The Borg Queen sends La Sirena barreling towards Earth’s sun at warp speed, utilizing the slingshot maneuver depicted numerous times before in Star Trek (most notably in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home). After some trippy close-ups as well as fading backward effects and a moment of silence, La Sirena escapes the gravitational pull of Earth’s sun and arrives back in the past. Hovering over Earth, the ship suddenly loses power. The disabled vessel is forced to crash on the planet’s surface, Picard setting the craft down in a secluded area so that it’s not picked up as a high-profile UFO.
With barely any power left, Picard makes the tough decision to keep the Borg Queen alive. This proves controversial, as Raffi frantically begs for power to be diverted to La Sirena’s sickbay, because Elnor is in critical condition there. The power slowly fades from the sickbay and towards the Borg Queen, and Elnor dies in Raffi’s arms. Raffi is furious with Picard, who states that, even though a sacrifice has been made, they must press on to prevent the hellish Confederation of Earth timeline; Raffi speculates that fixing the timeline will return Elnor to life. For now, their goal is to search for a mysterious person whom the Borg Queen referred to as a “watcher.” This individual is in Los Angeles and can help the crew determine exactly when the divergence occurs between the timeline they knew and the one that leads Earth into the Confederation – a fascist, xenophobic organization that has conquered the entire known galaxy.
Raffi determines that the most likely place to locate the Watcher’s subspace signal in L.A. is the Markridge Industrial Tower, described as the city’s tallest skyscraper. Seeing that Raffi is too emotionally invested in this mission due to the death of Elnor, Picard asks Rios and Seven to accompany her.
The transporters gain enough power for a one-way trip to the city, and the three of them transport out. They do not materialize together, however. Seven beams right in front of a little girl, who asks if she’s a superhero. Raffi beams into a mysterious alley and sets out for the tower. Rios, however, has the hardest beam-in. In a moment that made me laugh, he materializes in mid-air and falls two stories, knocking him unconscious. He’s brought into a local clinic – against Jurati having advised them to avoid all hospitals, authorities, and security checkpoints – and is treated for his injuries.
Meanwhile, Jurati has an idea to restore power to both La Sirena and the Borg Queen. She thinks she can hook herself up to the Queen and restore power with Picard monitoring her. At first, Picard refuses, thinking it will be too dangerous. After some convincing, he finally allows Jurati to hook up to the Queen. We thereby learn a lot more about Jurati’s personality – including a moment that made me chuckle, where she admits that she sometimes wishes Picard was her dad. Father issues in Star Trek are nothing new, but it’s great to see this kind of character development for Jurati’s character. When she grabs Picard and he asks whose hand is grasping his, both Jurati and the Queen repeatedly say “mine,” which I found enjoyable to watch.
In order to access the tower, Seven and Raffi find themselves having to sweet-talk a guard. This scene proved awkward and funny at the same time.
Finally, the Borg Queen is fully revived and is more like her chilling self when she was encountered by Picard and Kathryn Janeway in the past. “Hello, Locutus,” she says, in a chilling, strangely friendly voice.
At the clinic where Rios is being treated, a United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement team storms the facility. Most of the patients there are undocumented immigrants. With Rios’ help, they manage to flee, but Rios and a fellow doctor, Teresa, are detained by the authorities. The episode ends with Picard hailing Rios, who hears but is unable to answer the call.
“Assimilation” wastes no time getting from Point A to Point B. The awkward scenarios Raffi, Seven, and Rios find themselves in bring welcome humor to the episode. Lea Thompson’s direction of the installment is stunning and brilliantly successful, with the right amount of humor and drama, as well as helping to vividly establish the not-too-distant future of 2024.
As of this episode, the animated sci-fi comedy series Rick and Morty is canon in the Star Trek universe, an in-joke reference to Rick and Morty creator Mike McMahan’s Star Trek sci-fi comedy animated series, Lower Decks. This was a nice bridging of the gap between the two franchises.
The performances in this episode are to be commended all around, especially Annie Wersching as the Borg Queen. While she does not get a lot to say in the episode, her delivery of the line “Hello, Locutus” was unexpected and great. The episode also subtly hints that we will get to see a lot more interaction between the Borg Queen and Jurati in the very near future.
Although I found Elnor’s death shocking, I think Raffi is likely correct that, once the timeline is restored, Elnor will be alive again. If this was Berman Trek, a subsequent plot point would probably enable a character to rescue the Elnor we’re familiar with or, from a parallel universe, a substitute version of him. Since this is Kurtzman Trek (where characters who die usually stay dead and are very rarely resurrected), I expect Q won’t let Elnor stay dead. Raffi and Picard will do all they can to ensure Elnor is restored to life.
Wes Huntington has been a Star Trek fan since he was born, thanks to his parents (both of whom are still very much alive and are big Trek fans themselves). He lives in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area, with his wife and cat. He is also a co-host of the Twin Cities Trekkies podcast, which launched in February 2021 and talks about all things Star Trek. You can find Twin Cities Trekkies via Facebook, Instagram, or anchor.fm/twincitiestrekkies.