Worf Has Rescued The Worst Subplot In Star Trek: Picard Season 3

This post contains spoilers for "Star Trek: Picard" season 3, up to and including episode 3, "Seventeen Seconds."

The third episode of "Star Trek: Picard" is probably the most uneven one so far in season 3, but at least it has one thing going for it — the full return of Worf, played by Michael Dorn. By now, "Picard" has jettisoned most of its season 1 and 2 cast in favor of a hard reset that is, nominally, giving the fans what they want: a "Star Trek: The Next Generation" reunion. However, one character still kicking around from the first two seasons is Raffi (Michelle Hurd), whose subplot has been largely disconnected from the main action ... until now.

If nothing else, Worf's insertion into this subplot might get old-school "Next Generation" fans to perk up and pay a little more attention to Raffi's scenes, though what they do with Worf in those scenes and whether it's the right creative choice is another question entirely.

Let's accentuate the positives first. Worf makes what is, hands down, the best entrance of any legacy "Star Trek" character in "Picard" season 3. Raffi's tense episode 2 confrontation with a Ferengi crime lord named Sneed puts both her life and soul in peril until Worf shows up.

First, Raffi is forced to relapse into her old drug addiction, only to realize that her cover's blown anyway because Sneed has already beheaded T'Luco, the Romulun triggerman Raffi claimed to be working for. Sneed knows Raffi is a narc for Starfleet, and just when it looks like it's curtains for her (as an old-timey gangster, Ferengi or otherwise, might say), Worf swoops in with his Klingon blade. Supposedly a pacifist this season, he nonetheless impales all of Sneed's henchmen, then beheads the Ferengi.

Raffi's missing scene partner arrives

Compare Worf's rousing entrance in "Picard" season 3 with that of his old flame, Deanna Troi, current wife of William T. Riker (Jonathan Frakes). Marina Sirtis is dialed all the way up to 11 in her all-too-brief return as Troi, who breaks up Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Riker's digitally de-aged bar conversation with the news, "Your son just vomited all over engineering!"

On the one hand, episode 3 does give Picard and Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) a scene with some real gravitas when he confronts her about why she skipped out on him for the last 20 years with the son he never knew he had. On the other hand, that scene is at odds, tonally, with Raffi's subplot, which gets goofier this episode and is now dragging Worf along with it.

As a newer character, Raffi likely won't have as many viewers invested in her as these other hallowed veterans. But I'll say this much for her: watching her interact remotely with Worf (before we knew it was Worf) might be weirdly relatable for anyone who's grown accustomed to the maddening vagaries of online communication.

There's a scene in episode 2 where Raffi sits in front of an impersonal screen, talking via a secure channel to Worf, whose voice is masked to sound like the computer and whose true identity hasn't been revealed yet. Raffi is alone in the room, but she gets upset, stands up, and in true TV melodrama (or "Incredibles" villain) form, gets to monologuing. It's a very one-sided scene that asks a lot of an actor, since Michelle Hurd's only scene partner, as it were, is the proverbial black mirror. Thank God Worf actually shows up in person later to give her a real partner.

Good cop, bad cop, and changeling slop

Yes, Raffi and Worf are partners now: it's been officially decided and declared by Worf himself onscreen. The writing doesn't do them any favors, but maybe it will bounce back?

When Raffi wakes up in Worf's loft and he lists off all his titles ("slayer of Gowron," etc.) before ending with, "I have made some chamomile tea," it's played for a laugh. There's nothing wrong with that, but then we get the line, "I have been, as humans say, working on myself," and it starts to feel like this version of "Trek" and Worf is a little too self-aware. It's as if we're watching some woefully underlit, post-modern bit of "Trek" fan fiction, where the best scene transition they could come up with was a dramatic pause, followed by Raffi deadpanning, "Cool."

There's an idea that holds a genre is dead once it lapses into self-parody. I'm not sure that's what's happening with Worf, but it does seem like they've turned him into a more constant stream of comic relief, as he offers one-liners like, "Beheadings are on Wednesdays." That said, we do get a nice allusion to Odo and Worf's "Deep Space Nine" history as he and Raffi uncover the changeling conspiracy that seems destined to bring their subplot and the main plot of "Picard" season 3 together.

As they interrogate one changeling, Worf and Raffi play good cop and bad cop, respectively, before the changeling's solid form destabilizes and it turns into a puddle of goo. I don't know when Worf will link up with Picard, but as long as the Klingon's around, I guess I'll be along for the ride, hoping the plot of "Picard" season 3 doesn't itself liquefy.

New episodes of "Star Trek: Picard" hit Paramount+ every Thursday.