Picard’s “Disengage” in Review
The episode “Disengage” acts as more of a bottle show than the previous installment, with minimum sets but maximum drama. It will likely go down in Star Trek history as the episode where Picard gained a son. How will the man who told Will Riker, in the TNG pilot “Encounter at Farpoint”, that he was “not a family man” react to this news?
This episode opens with a flashback showing Beverly Crusher’s son in command of the S.S. Eleos. He’s attempting to bring aid to a plague-riddled world but is intercepted by a number of Fenris Rangers who relay his location to a mysterious woman.
Continuing from last week’s cliffhanger, the Eleos is now disabled and being confronted by a huge enemy vessel. Meanwhile on the Titan, Seven of Nine appeals to Captain Shaw to rescue the Starfleet legends. He profusely refuses and the enemy ship destroys the Eleos’ only shuttle, making escape impossible… at least for now.
After the opening titles, we return to M’Talas Prime, where Raffi is struggling with guilt that she wasn’t fast enough to save a Federation recruitment bureau in the previous episode. Spurned on by a news report of the incident, she continues her investigation into the culprits of the terrorist attack. Raffi contacts her mysterious handler, who is insistent that she disengage her search, warning that it could otherwise result in her death too.
On board the Eleos, Picard and Riker, along with the passenger they’ve found, foil an attempt to beam the young man aboard the enemy ship. They also manage to repeal a boarding party, but the opposing vessel attaches a tractor beam to the crippled Eleos, slowly crushing it. With destruction seemingly imminent, the young man turns to Picard and states, “Well, it was nice meeting you.” It’s a genuine moment from the young passenger, and the scene adds an emotional complexity to their relationship. Moments before the Eleos can be destroyed, the Titan warps between the two vessels, finally aiding the Eleos and beaming Picard, Riker, the comatose Crusher, and her son aboard.
Raffi’s investigation leads to a reunion with her ex-husband. This scene highlights the season’s stronger writing. It would have been easy to have written a short scene where Raffi gets the information she requires from a nameless character, but bringing in her ex-husband adds a personal dynamic to her story. Raffi being given the choice between having a potential reunification with her estranged family or access to information that could help Starfleet is a heart-breaking conundrum. Actress Michelle Hurd should be commended for her performance in this scene, completely selling the torment of her choice.
Picard, Riker, and their newfound companion join the crew of the Titan on the bridge, where the ship’s personnel are hailed by the frankly unhinged Vadic, commander of the enemy ship. She identifies Captain Liam Shaw and the newly encountered young man by their full names, referring to the latter as “Jack Crusher”. Vadic also reveals that he’s sometimes broken the law. She gives the crew an ultimatum — hand him over within one hour, or face destruction.
For good measure, Vadic uses her tractor beam to throw the Eleos at the Titan. Of all the episode’s effects shots, this must be the highlight. It’s a shocking moment, the like of which we have never seen before.
Vadic’s ultimatum has left Captain Shaw with a difficult decision. After confirming Vadic’s claims about Jack, Shaw banishes him to the Titan’s brig. The captain also has Seven confined to quarters for insubordination, as she helped Picard and Riker reach the Eleos in the previous episode. Vadic’s ultimatum leads to a tense debate over what to do with the young man next, with Shaw ready to hand over his prisoner.
Defending Jack, Picard takes on the role of legal advocate and visits him in the brig. They debate what Jack has done, leading to a tense standoff. Picard is clearly uncomfortable, both in his new role of potential father and in exploring the allegations aimed at Jack. This leads to another tense scene between the two characters, culminating with Picard snapping and yelling, “Who is your father?!”
Back on M’Talas Prime, Raffi’s investigation leads her to a personal confrontation with Sneed, a Ferengi gangster. To prove she isn’t with Starfleet, he forces her to take a new narcotic. This seems a cruel situation to put her character in, especially after the previous choice she had to make. The drug renders her vulnerable until a mysterious assailant arrives to save her in person, decimating Sneed’s guards and beheading the Ferengi with a new style of Klingon sword, a kur’leth. Accompanied by classic Klingon theme music, Raffi’s rescuer turns out to be Worf. He’s a complete badass in his first scene and implies that he is her handler.
With the Titan’s allocated hour almost up, Picard returns to the bridge, Jack breaks out of the brig, and Riker resuscitates Beverly Crusher. Vadic threateningly contacts the Titan again, referring to her ship as the “Shrike,” a reference to the bird of the same name.
Seven meanwhile finds Jack in the Titan’s transporter room and prepares to stop him from beaming away. As Picard deduces, Jack wants to hand himself over to Vadic, hoping to save everyone.
Before Jack can beam over, his mother, now revived, arrives on the Titan’s bridge, aided by Will Riker. She shares a beautiful moment with Picard. Their reunion is a tour-de-force of silent acting. The emotional complexity that both actors portray with gestures and movements but no dialogue is outstanding. The scene outwardly confirms Jack’s parentage: he is the son of Beverly Crusher and Jean-Luc Picard.
Jean-Luc’s realisation that Jack is his son propels him into action. Reverting to the captain we know, he stands up to Shaw by refusing to hand his son over to Vadic. With the reluctant support of Shaw — who acts like any good starship captain would — the Titan prepares for battle and Picard takes control of the ship’s bridge, reminding us why he’s such an inspiring leader. At his command, the Titan fires on the Shrike and rushes into a nearby nebula with the Shrike following close behind, much to Vadic’s gleeful delight.
This is a tense forty-eight minutes of television that packs an emotional story at its core. Central to that emotional core is the character of Jack Crusher, played by Ed Speleers. Long-time fans will recognise his character’s name as the same as Beverly Crusher’s first husband and Picard’s best friend from the original Stargazer. It’s a nice call-back and again highlights this season’s ability to embrace canon rather than avoid it.
Jack is portrayed as a competent, cocky but ultimately selfless individual, wanting to protect his loved ones and do some good in the universe. I’m reminded of a scene in Star Trek Nemesis where Beverly Crusher describes a young Jean-Luc in this manner. It seems the writers have taken great pains to give the young Crusher the traits of his parents. He’s therefore a more convincing portrayal of a son of Jean-Luc Picard than, say, Jason Vigo was in the TNG episode “Bloodlines”. Whereas Vigo had none of Jean-Luc’s positive character traits, Jack Crusher is selfless and puts the needs of others before his own.
Patrick Stewart gives another multi-layered performance as Picard. It’s fascinating watching his deeply complex relationship with Jack develop, leading to a number of scenes where Stewart and Speleers — who have instant chemistry — trade barbs and butt heads.
Another character who has an interesting arc throughout this episode is Todd Stashwick’s Captain Shaw. Here, we start to get an understanding of what makes him tick. He prefers to safeguard the life of his crew rather than save Riker and Picard and later sacrifice Jack Crusher to protect them from Vadic. Shaw’s debates with Picard are a highlight of the episode.
Introduced in this installment, the antagonistic Vadic, played by Amanda Plummer, is crazy, menacing, and completely unpredictable. We don’t know if she’s from a familiar race, nor her motivation other than having an interest in Jack Crusher.
Throughout the episode, Vadic’s ship, the Shrike, is a menacing presence with the personality of a predator, which is illustrated particularly well when it circles the Eleos. Interestingly, the theme music for the Shrike uses a “blaster beam”, an electronic musical instrument that Jerry Goldsmith used for V’ger’s theme in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
One must again commend Picard’s visual effects artists. This episode looks impressive, featuring shots reminiscent of the classic movies, and the Titan is beautifully detailed.
Away from the main plot, Michelle Hurd delivers another impressive performance as Raffi. Her interactions with her handler are intriguing, and Michael Dorn slips back into his role as Worf effortlessly.
This is another strong episode of Picard, in which the characterization of the legacy characters continues to be a joy to behold. There’s clearly going to be a conversation between Jean-Luc and Beverly, and I look forward to seeing that. Picard becoming a father promises to have a radical impact on the show, and the arrival of Worf promises much too.
Jamie Flint has been a Star Trek fan since he was four years old and caught the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan on television. He quickly devoured the other movies and TV episodes and can fondly remember being the youngest person in the cinema watching Generations.
Thirty years later, you’ll find him watching all the series — both new and old — with his little family. Oh, and he is a big defender of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier!