Picard’s “Seventeen Seconds” in Review
The third episode of Star Trek: Picard’s third and final season begins where the previous installment ended, with the Titan heading deep into a nebula to evade the Shrike. How will the ships fare inside the nebula and what else does this episode have in store for us? There are questions that need answered, conversations to be had, and a surprisingly historic enemy to elude.
Visually stunning, the opening scene evokes the battle of the Mutara Nebula but on a larger scale. The Titan eventually outmanoeuvers the Shrike.
After the opening credits, we’re treated to a flashback, set shortly after Nemesis. Riker and Picard toast the birth of Will’s son, Thaddeus, and discuss the joys of becoming a parent. Unfortunately, the de-aging effects disappoint. The slightly cartoon-ish result is forgiveable thanks to the quality of the acting and dialogue. The topic of fatherhood is admirably discussed, a subject we know Jean-Luc will have to face.
Flash forward to now. The Titan, no longer beset by the Shrike, has a respite. Although it’s rare for a modern Star Trek episode to allow our characters time to discuss their feelings and situation, this episode excels in that department.
The first meaningful conversation involves Sidney La Forge and Seven of Nine. The scene gives Sidney some much-needed character development. She chooses to visit Seven, who has been confined to quarters. They discuss friendship. We start to glean a deeper understanding of Sidney’s relationship with her legendary father and the shadow he has cast over her career and her ability to make friends. Jeri Ryan and Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut have instant chemistry, and a budding friendship becomes visible. The end of the conversation is particularly poignant, with Sidney referring to Seven as “Commander Seven” instead of “Commander Hanson”.
Next, Beverly Crusher and Jean-Luc Picard finally reconnect. Something feels right about this moment being set in sickbay. We learn they were intimate until two months before Star Trek Nemesis. Their frank discussion is full of regret, as Beverly confirms that Jack is Jean-Luc’s son. She outlines her reasons for having kept Jack away from Picard. Picard’s father issues provide an emotional performance from Patrick Stewart, possibly his best of the series. They also examine the theme of protection. This echoes when the younger Riker and Picard discussed protecting a child at any cost.
The Shrike eventually overtakes the Titan. In the ensuing firefight, Captain Shaw is incapacitated and leaves Riker in command.
Aboard the La Sirena, Worf is listening to Berlioz when Raffi regains consciousness. It’s a nice allusion to a Picard scene from Star Trek: First Contact. Worf’s reintroduction is extremely well written and humorous. He and Raffi resume their investigation into the destruction of the Federation recruitment building.
Whereas Jean-Luc proposes attacking the Shrike, Riker chooses to evade the enemy vessel. We get our first glimpse of the Shrike’s portal weapon. Clearly, whoever has been stealing technology from the Federation has been supplying Vadic.
On M’Talas Prime, Raffi and Worf track down a suspect. Raffi comments that Worf is dressed like he’s attending a “Tuesday beheading” and, once they catch their suspect, Worf responds, “Beheadings are on Wednesdays.” Their wonderfully witty repartee works so well here.
Jack Crusher visits Seven of Nine, having realised the Shrike is somehow tracking the Titan. They conclude that the Titan must be leaking verterium due to a saboteur who is still on board. While attempting repairs, Jack is assaulted by the saboteur. Shockingly, it turns out to be a Changeling, who incapacitates Jack, causing him to inhale dangerous gas.
The drugged and injured Jack experiences a strange vision — red veins surround a smiling Seven who tells him, “Connect the branches,” while someone pleads, “Find me,” and we then glimpse an opening door. Luckily, Seven finds him and rushes him to sickbay.
On the bridge, Picard is informed that Jack has been injured. As Picard heads to sickbay, his son dies. Patrick Stewart excels in this exceptional scene. The editing, music and camera work are praiseworthy as Picard observes Beverly and the Titan medical staff struggling to revive Jack. At first, it genuinely looks like Jack might not recover. But thankfully, he does.
Returning to the bridge, Picard confronts Riker, claiming that fear of loss is driving his decision-making. Riker refuses to change his tactics, instead reasserting his command.
While Worf and Raffi are questioning their captive, it liquifies — it’s a Changeling! Worf shoots it. Meanwhile, Jack informs the Titan crew that their saboteur is also a Changeling. What follows is a beautiful scene where Worf delivers a voice-over, indirectly mentioning Odo. There’s a renegade group of Changeling terrorists. Planning the continuation of his investigation with Raffi, Worf recruits her as his partner.
The Changeling aboard the Titan causes a detonation that disables the warp drive. Riker finally heeds Picard’s pleas to attack but things go terribly. The Shrike uses the portal weapon to deflect the Titan’s own torpedoes on itself.
This incident leaves the starship badly damaged and falling into the gravity well, toward certain destruction. Riker orders Picard off the bridge, telling him, “You have just killed us all.” It’s a shocking statement to end on. They’ve found themselves in a no-win scenario.
Terry Matalas teased that this season would include a Riker-Picard disagreement echoing the film Crimson Tide, which plays out nicely here. During TNG, the two seemed to always be singing off the same hymn sheet, but here that is not the case. There has been more development in their friendship within the past three episodes than in all four TNG movies. Picard is no longer Riker’s captain, and Riker no longer has to defer to him. Both characters have clear plans and reasons for their actions. It’s fascinating to watch.
We’d also been promised that this season would link back to DS9, which also pays off. The Dominion War was a massive event in DS9, but we never saw how it impacted the TNG crew. Are the Dominion or rogue Changelings the big bad of this season? For me, it’s too early to tell… but colour me intrigued.
This episode is the strongest so far. The theme of loss is beautifully explored. The writing is intriguing and exceptional, allowing the characters to behave authentically. Particular highlights of the episode include the banter between Raffi and Worf as well as seeing the Titan crew realistically running their vessel. Three episodes in, I’m beginning to wonder if this is going to be one of the greatest seasons of Star Trek ever.
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!