Picard‘s “Monsters” in Review
“There is no better teacher than one’s enemy.” – Jean-Luc Picard
Picking up where we last left Picard and his crew in episode six, Star Trek: Picard continues its descent down the rollercoaster with episode seven, “Monsters”. After two relatively short episodes directed by Jonathan Frakes, we have newcomer Joe Menendez stepping into the foray of the Star Trek world by directing an episode that helps to further Picard’s backstory. Specifically, we explore his traumatic childhood, which had echoes of Patrick Stewart’s own upbringing, and how to get him back to reality after his collision with Adam Soong’s Tesla.
The episode opens with Picard and a mysterious man on an unknown Federation vessel. The man, played by Battlestar Galactica‘s James Callis, is psychoanalyzing Picard, for some unknown reason, and is wearing a Starfleet uniform similar to the ones seen in the early days of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and throughout the run of Star Trek: Voyager. Picard costume designer Christine Bieselin Clark is to be commended here for her extreme attention to detail, which is not to be overlooked, as that Starfleet uniform is remarkably similar to the ones that Robert Blackman designed back in the early 1990s. I thought that choice was very appropriate.
The mysterious man is making Picard feel very uncomfortable. To put Picard at ease, the man asks for him to tell a story. Picard then begins a story in much the same vein as childrens’ books of yesteryear, opening with the familiar phrase “Once upon a time…”
This part of the episode was visually stunning to me, as the visual style reminded me of old-style animated fairy tale films that Paramount has done, or what Disney has done with traditional 2D animated films; similar examples I immediately thought of were the 1973 version of Charlotte’s Web or any of the Disney films based upon classic fairy tales. I give huge commendations to the Picard visual effects team, headed by Jason Zimmerman – they enhanced these scenes so well in post-production that it lets the viewer escape, from the drama unfolding, to this visually stunning section of the episode.
Meanwhile, Tallinn has entered Picard’s mind, hoping to pull him out of the coma resulting from the collision with Soong’s car in the previous episode. Tallinn arrives at a dark and mysterious corridor in a castle-like dungeon. As she begins walking, we can hear mysterious lines spoken by Patrick Stewart, as Picard. I distinctly heard the “I am Locutus of Borg” line famously spoken in “The Best of Both Worlds”, and “I’d rather die as the man I was,” half of a line spoken by Picard to Q in “Tapestry”. Yet another Picard line I heard was “There are four lights,” one of the most iconic and powerful lines ever spoken by him, from the episode “Chain of Command, Part II”.
Back on La Sirena, Seven and Raffi attempt to find Jurati, who has gone missing following her big band song at the Europa Mission gala. Unfortunately, they’re unable to locate her because the Borg Queen hacked into La Sirena’s systems. So, they decide to go back to Los Angeles to locate her on foot. They discover that Jurati – after leaving the gala – went to a nearby bar. What was really cool about this entire sequence was that it featured a cameo appearance by singer Sunny Ozell, the wife of Patrick Stewart. I found that surprise cameo delightful.
At the bar, Jurati decided to smash a window to test her ever-increasing superhuman strength – freaking out many of the bar patrons in the process. I still maintain the theory that Jurati will become the next Borg Queen – and even Seven thinks this way – meaning the future they’re trying to save is still in jeopardy.
Still in Picard’s mind, Tallinn is trying to help Picard overcome whatever has caused the coma. The mysterious man – eventually, after Tallinn discovers the real Picard – is revealed to be Maurice Picard, the father of Jean-Luc. Maurice appeared once before, in TNG: “Tapestry”, where the character was played by Clive Church. In this episode, James Callis’ performance as Maurice cannot be overstated – I thought he played the role very well, with just the right amount of darkness.
Picard then wakes up and learns that Tallinn is a descendant of Laris, which makes Picard very happy. Picard figures out that Q is teaching him a lesson – about Q, rather than Picard. So, to summon him, he returns to Ten Forward and encounters Guinan again.
We get some backstory about the conflict between the El-Aurians and the Q Continuum. The Q Continuum and the El-Aurians had, long ago, been in a cold war with each other and struck a truce later. This backstory l found fascinating.
Guinan attempts to summon Q to Ten Forward using a bottle that immediately reminded me of the 1960s sitcom I Dream of Jeannie. This prop, to me, felt very comical – I honestly thought Barbara Eden would pop out when Guinan opened it up. When Q is not summoned by unleashing the bottle, Guinan is confused. However, a mysterious man comes into the bar and asks for a drink. He decides to go on a tangent, only for Guinan and Picard to discover that the whole affair is an FBI sting operation. They are immediately arrested, the FBI having discovered footage of Picard’s beam-down from the La Sirena (when he used the transporter in the episode “Watcher”).
“Monsters” is a dark and mysterious episode. We finally get somewhat of a resolution to the feelings of anger, towards his father, that Picard has built up over decades. This episode also has some plot points that really make the viewer think, “What in the world is Rios thinking?!” Rios has been committing numerous violations of the Temporal Prime Directive – going as far as beaming himself, Dr. Teresa, and her son aboard La Sirena. Didn’t he read the mission profile of TNG: “Pen Pals”, or any sort of Starfleet history about officers beaming humans from an earlier time aboard their ships, and how dangerous that could be? The episode is great – a definite step up from the past couple of weeks. Here’s hoping the rollercoaster ride comes to a satisfying end. I predict that it will.
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.