Picard’s “No Win Scenario” in Review
Friendships are strained. A saboteur is on the loose. Can the Titan crew find a way to overcome the “No Win Scenario” in episode four of Picard’s third season?
We start with a flashback, set five years ago. Picard is in Guinan’s bar on Earth, eating lunch, when a group of Starfleet cadets approach and ask him about an incident with the Hirogen. Picard is initially reluctant but eventually delivers a speech about how having faith in your crew will always give you hope.
Now, Picard is alone in the Titan’s observation lounge, having fallen out with Riker. The starship is critically damaged, falling into a gravity well, and repeatedly struck by bio-electrical waves. Riker arrives and admits that the loss of his son has deeply impacted him and his relationship with Troi. He advises Picard to spend the next few hours getting to know his own son.
Alone, Riker starts recording a message for Troi, in case the Titan is ever recovered. It’s so difficult for him, he eventually gives up.
Visiting a holodeck reproduction of Guinan’s bar on Earth, Picard explains to Jack why the holodeck is operational in a time of crisis. I appreciated the explanation, as this plot point initially bothered me, but the reasoning makes sense.
Seeking the Changeling saboteur, Shaw and Seven plan to steal the pot where it regenerates, an amusing and original idea. It’s also nice to see Odo appear on a PADD when Shaw is telling Seven about the pot.
There’s an unsettling scene onboard the Shrike, where Vadic slices her left hand off. The visual effect resembles that of the Changeling when it morphs. This deed is a ritual she performs to contact her mysterious superior, who is clearly a different species and regards she and her people as insignificant. He orders her to retrieve Jack Crusher.
On the holodeck, Picard — indicating development from Season 2 and subverting my expectations — admits to Jack that he needs an emotional connection between them. This is a pivotal moment for the character and again delivers on the potential of the Picard series to evolve the character.
Jack amusingly wonders why he is named after his mother’s dead first husband. This was a criticism raised in several reviews of earlier episodes and it’s nice to see that the writers of Picard had already addressed this. Picard recounts the full story involving the Stargazer and Jack Crusher’s namesake.
When Captain Shaw arrives in the simulation, he divulges his own no-win situation, recalling the Battle of Wolf 359. The audio production and acting are commendable in this fantastic scene, as we hear muffled explosions and conversations from the horrific battle. Exploring the impact of Wolf 359 finally explains why Shaw has such a dislike towards Picard.
In a corridor, Beverly informs Picard and Jack that she has realised the waves are contractions. Jack suggests using them to ride the ship out of the gravity well, almost like surfing.
They present their plan to Riker, who is resistant but hears them out. It’s a great scene. With the fear of loss threatening to overwhelm Riker, Beverly ultimately persuades him to put his faith in his friends and agree to the plan.
Picard assumes command. It’s a moment fans have been waiting for since Season 1. He begins leading the Titan out of the gravity well. Hearing him shout orders is wonderfully natural and he finishes with an “Engage.” It feels like a conclusion to an episode of TNG.
In Shaw’s company, Seven manages to kill the Changeling, who — in the guise of Sidney La Forge — has been attempting to further sabotage the ship. This is a particularly rewarding scene.
The Titan draws power from the next wave and rides it out but detects the Shrike ahead. There’s so much fun and nostalgia in seeing the Titan crew — led by our legacy characters — beat the no-win scenario, with everyone contributing and putting their faith in one another. As the Titan escapes, the nebula collapses, leaving behind a newly birthed alien species — a type of space jellyfish similar to the Farpoint aliens.
Flashback to the bar scene. It turns out Jack was actually there and asked Picard if he ever had a life or family outside of Starfleet. Picard’s reply? “Starfleet has been the only family I have ever needed.” Jack’s flashback appearance was a genuine surprise. Now realising that Jack was the young man in the bar, Picard understands why Jack didn’t want anything to do with him.
Later, Riker reconciles with Troi. The events of the episode have reminded him that the universe can be “beautiful, and amazing.”
The episode ends with a scene that evokes the start of Star Trek: First Contact. Jack washes his face in a basin, looks up at his reflection and has another vision. A red door is glimpsed and a red veiny web appears, as Jack hears a female voice calling, “Find me.”
This installment delivers a nice payoff to the third season premiere, when Riker stated that Troi would be glad to have some space from him. In this episode, Riker has an entire arc and Jonathan Frakes is excellent throughout. Frakes not only acted his socks off in this episode but directed it too.
Other impressive performances in this outing are given by Ed Speleers, Patrick Stewart, Jeri Ryan, and Amanda Plummer. There are numerous fantastic scenes between Picard and Jack Crusher. Meanwhile, Seven’s hunt for the Changeling evokes memories of Deep Space Nine. Pairing Seven and Shaw also works well, allowing both characters to develop their relationship.
“No Win Scenario” is a classic episode of Star Trek, an excellent installment of Picard’s third season, and truly feels cinematic and special. From the epic conclusion to the beautiful character beats, this is an episode to return to, time and time again.
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!