Shadowing the Shrike
“I thought you might care to know the name of my particular vessel. The Shrike. It’s an Earth creature. A small carrion bird, one that doesn’t attack in anger or malice, one that isn’t made frantic by hunger but rather kills surgically, carefully.” — Vadic, “Disengage”
In the Star Trek: Picard episode “Disengage”, Vadic (played by Amanda Plummer) reveals the name of her ship, the Shrike, and expands upon its meaning, thoroughly detailing her modus operandi for our heroes aboard the Titan-A. I was entertained and inspired by the scene. Plummer’s performance stands out as a triumph of artistic teamwork that hits every measurable principle of a work of art. But I felt I had to give the ship more consideration.
Stepping outside after the show, I envisioned clearly the thrill that the little bird, the shrike, is known for. I felt as if Plummer had cleverly broken the fourth wall and challenged us to reconsider what we think we know about the shrike. Surprisingly, even scientists and journalists describe the bird’s behavior in anthropomorphic terms. They say the shrike is evil!
The odd thing is what Vadic doesn’t say about the shrike. She says it picks apart its prey, but she doesn’t go into detail about what the shrike is most famous for: impaling its victims onto sharp objects like thorns or barbed wire fences. It’s commonly referred to as the “butcherbird” or “thorn bird” because of this.
I must confess: my heart is with the shrike. The shrike is simply trying to survive. And the starship, like its avian namesake, is a predator trying to survive.
I understand the terror our heroes aboard the Titan-A must be feeling as they face the Shrike. The ship is terrifying when viewed from a smaller vessel. The ship is gigantic compared to the bird and visually reminds me of Nero’s massive vessel Narada from the 2009 film Star Trek. Seeing the Shrike, I’d feel bad if I was aboard the Titan-A but a lot better if I was on the Enterprise-E. That ship was a Borg cube destroyer!
A particular line from Star Wars keeps ringing in my ears. “There’s always a bigger fish.” In one sense, that relates to how the Shrike essentially takes the place of several smaller attack vessels used by Vadic’s identically masked group of minions. But the Star Wars reference might relate to the Shrike’s situation in another way too. Shrikes are not at the top of the food chain. In its interactions with the Titan-A, the Shrike is the middle child picking on the baby. But what about the oldest kid? Whether or not that possibility bears fruit, the Star Wars reference is a fun connection.
Although the Shrike was fleetingly introduced in the cliffhanger ending of the Picard Season 3 premiere “The Next Generation”, we see more of the ship in the season’s second episode, “Disengage”. Even then, the only part of its interior that appears is the bridge, containing Vadic’s thrown-like command chair, which took design cues from Chang’s chair in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. It’s interesting that a white light shines down on Vadic. I’m not entirely sure why this light piqued my interest, but it did. I wish we’d seen more areas of the Shrike’s interior. It would have been great to see the weapons bay, so we could see the mysterious weapon that Vadic has equipped the ship with.
The Shrike’s tractor beam looks smoky and more akin to plasma than laser-like. Its unusual look can be accounted for since it’s alien tech outside of Federation space.
The moment when the Shrike, using its tractor beam, throws the S.S. Eleos at the Titan-A reminds me of ship-to-ship collision sequences in Star Trek Nemesis and the TNG episode “Cause And Effect”. A tractor beam as the means of propulsion is similar to a furniture mover that Wesley uses in the TNG episode “The Naked Now”.
As of this writing, the Titan-A has made a little escape and is headed for a nebula, with the Shrike in pursuit. From experience, we might assume the Titan-A will be at equal footing with the Shrike in there. “Sauce for the goose?” Yet, we don’t know what affects the nebula will have on the systems of these starships. No matter what happens in there, I believe our heroes must reach for a peaceful resolution of this conflict with Vadic. There are no guarantees that she’ll reciprocate.
We’re supposed to boldy go where none have gone before and seek out new life and new civilizations. And there it sits, in the form of the Shrike. Thanks to its impressive design by Doug Drexler, John Eaves, and Darek Zabrocki, the Shrike is an apt addition to the Star Trek universe.