Picard‘s “Watcher” in Review
Star Trek: Picard Season 2 coasts on the rollercoaster with episode four, “Watcher”. Now firmly grounded in the early 21st century, Picard and friends search for the person who can help explain the change to the timeline which instigated the Confederation of Earth. Lea Thompson, who also helmed the previous installment, turns in another stellar directorial outing. The episode blends humor quite nicely with subtle character moments and even some new backstory for Picard. If you thought “Assimilation” was the climbing up the first hill of the rollercoaster – it was, to an extent – but now we’re coasting to the top, right before the fast slide to the bottom.
We find out La Sirena crashed in La Barre, France – the episode before didn’t specify the location of the crash site – where Château Picard is located. We discover that the château was used as a base of operations for the French Resistance during World War II and that Picard’s ancestors hid in the tunnels to evade the Nazis before escaping to England. Thirty-five years after we were introduced to Jean-Luc Picard as a French character with a British accent, we finally get an in-universe explanation for this aspect of his character. We also find out that the La Sirena crew has arrived on April 12, 2024. This puts the 2024 events of the DS9 two-parter “Past Tense” about four and a half months later – and, shockingly enough, it’s three days prior to the timeline shifting. Something will happen on April 15 – known in the United States as “Tax Day” annually – that brings about the Confederation of Earth.
For me, the episode gets going with a rowdy bus ride very much like one Kirk and Spock undertook in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. In fact, we have Kirk Thatcher playing the “Punk on the Bus” character again, thirty-six years after his last appearance. The song “I Hate You”, which was composed and sung by Thatcher originally, even gets a 21st-century update. That punk on the bus even has the same boombox playing the updated song! What a nice touch by the production staff to tie the two scenes together. Seven begging the punk to turn down his boombox was great and had echoes of Kirk saying much the same thing. Unlike when he incurred the Vulcan nerve pinch in The Voyage Home, the punk obliges and shuts off the boombox willingly. This hilarious scene made me laugh so hard, and I loved it. In fact, it was the highlight of the episode for me. When I watched this scene, I was screaming, “AWESOME!”
This part of the episode also highlights the relationship between Raffi and Seven. As I stated in my Season 2 predictions article, I was hoping for a more in-depth relationship between these two. For now, that’s proving true, as Seven attempts to comfort Raffi over the loss of Elnor. They hold hands on the bus, which to me was a nice, quick but poignant moment between these two. Their relationship was an unexpected one at the end of the first season, but now seeing it become something more than a one-time, two-minute affair delights me to no end. More “Raffieven” or “Sevenaffi”, please!
Anyway, the point of this episode is to search for the Watcher – the person who can help Picard and his crew determine exactly what will cause the changes to the timeline. To find the Watcher, Picard beams down to the 2024 version of the Ten Forward bar (at 10 Forward Avenue, Los Angeles), where he encounters the 2024 version of Guinan.
In a moment that is sure to turn heads and may make people turn away from Picard altogether and rage-quit the series entirely, this Guinan (played by Ito Aghayere) doesn’t recognize him at all, even from the time travel adventure of TNG: “Time’s Arrow”, which sent (most) of the Enterprise-D senior staff to 1896 San Francisco. The scenes between Picard and the 2024 Guinan make you think about the poor, decrepit homeless areas you can see in any urban area of the United States and think you should do more to help them out.
ICE authorities have detained Rios. Before being forced onto a bus for deportation, he potentially violates the Temporal Prime Directive by blabbing about who he really is. After a hilarious and crazy chase through the streets of Los Angeles in an LAPD squad vehicle, Raffi and Seven catch up to the bus and are beamed away to that bus’s path. (That beaming is potentially seen by an LAPD officer – the Department of Temporal Investigations or the 29th-century Federation is going to have a field day with that one!)
In Jackson Roykirk Plaza (a nice homage to TOS: “The Changeling”), Q tries to snap his fingers, and nothing happens. Uh-oh; he’s screwed up now, and three theories come to my mind. Theory #1: The Q Continuum has seen what Q’s done to the galaxy and has revoked his powers. Theory #2: The timeline changes he made in the future don’t allow him to make further changes and obstacles for Picard and his crew. Theory #3: The Watcher (in the form Picard recognizes as a variant of Laris) has made contact with Picard, and Q therefore can’t make any more changes. I deem the third theory the most likely one.
“Watcher” is a fantastic episode that helps propel the story arc of the season. Round 2 between the Borg Queen and Agnes Jurati is fantastically performed by both Allison Pill and Annie Wersching. The episode is full of nice homages to TOS and one of the most popular Star Trek films, The Voyage Home.
Although I enjoyed this episode, I did have one small criticism – which doesn’t detract from the episode altogether nor affect my rating of it – which is the fact that they didn’t use a de-aged Whoopi Goldberg for the 2024 Guinan scenes. On the other hand, Ito Aghayere does a great job at bringing in the inflections that Whoopi Goldberg has brought to the character over the decades. If there were to be more Star Trek: Short Treks episodes, I would like Aghayere to play a younger Guinan in one of those. As for this season of Star Trek: Picard, I can hardly wait to snap my fingers and watch episode five.
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.