A Reliable 'Assimilation' For Episode 3 Of Star Trek: Picard Season 2

It's astonishing what a departure the second season of "Picard" is from the first. There may still be some lingering trepidation from those who recall the awfulness and the absurdity of "Picard"'s first season, but there may come a point soon where one can cease waiting for the other shoe to drop.

In the first episode of "Star Trek: Picard," Q (John de Lancie) had whisked Picard (as well as the rest of the show's cast, for reasons he didn't explain) into an alternate timeline wherein Earth was a galaxy-wide fascist dictatorship systematically committing multi-species genocide. At the end of the second episode, the cast kidnapped the Borg Queen (Annie Wersching) with the intent of using her massive intellect — as well an ineffable interdimensional sense she possesses — to pull a "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home," and travel back in time to 2024 Los Angeles to discover the point when Earth split into the dark timeline. 

Note from a Trekkie: I did appreciate the detail that the "slingshot" time travel technique used in "The Voyage Home," repeated here, requires massively complicated calculations to be made on the fly, and only rare minds can handle it. Here, it's a pan-dimensional cyborg semi-deity. In "Voyage Home," it was merely Spock, whom Dr. Jurati (Alison Pill) namechecks. And before you think "Picard" is merely deifying Spock as some sort of untouchable superbeing, the writers seem to be playing fair. There is a common danger writers have committed in nostalgia-inspired remakes and reboots to over-emphasize the importance of characters already beloved by the audience, whether or not it fits logically into the story. Recall the three "Star Wars" prequels wherein Darth Vader was blown up from an evil thug into essentially an anti-Messiah figure. For the retcon of Spock in this episode of "Picard," recall that "Voyage Home" was shortly after Spock had been resurrected from the dead, and was, at that point, more purely intellect than ever before. As such, he was able to make those complex calculations. 


But to the task at hand: In episode three, "Assimilation," Picard's quest can begin in earnest. With only a clue as to the time and place where a timeline divergence will occur, the cast beams down to 21st-century L.A. to begin sniffing around as to what might have happened. Raffi and Seven (Michelle Hurd and Jeri Ryan) have to sneak into a skyscraper by posing as girlfriends, while Capt. Rios (Santiago Cabrera) immediately sustains an injury and falls in with a local hospital that is constantly being raided by ICE. Dr. Jurati and Picard (Patrick Stewart) remain in orbit with the Borg Queen, hoping to interrogate her and find out more about their mission. I will leave the fate of Elnor (Evan Evagora) for you to discover.

While time-travel-based, fish-out-of-water, lost-on-an-Earth-we-don't-recognize stories are commonly revisited throughout "Star Trek," it is, nonetheless, a reliable trope. How will an enlightened 24th-century character respond to the brutal and uncivilized present? It's a question that is always fun to ask. This was a story used not only in "The Voyage Home," but the episodes "City on the Edge of Forever" (Kirk and Spock during the Depression), "Time's Arrow" (Picard and co. meet Mark Twain), "Past Tense," (Sisko and crew in a dystopian near-future), "Little Green Men" (Quark at Roswell), "Future's End" (Janeway faces off against a Bill Gates-like computer whiz in 1996), "Carbon Creek" (T'pol and Vulcans watch "I Love Lucy"), and other episodes besides. 

I was also — perhaps regrettably — reminded of "Inhumans," a TV show connected to the MCU which seems to have been conveniently forgotten by fans of the Avengers. The conceit of the show was that a group of superpowered Moon-dwellers (one of them played by Anson Mount, who is playing Capt. Pike on the upcoming "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds"), after a coup in their hidden Moon city, are scattered on Earth and are forced to find one another again and return home, undetected. I bring up "Inhumans" not to cast aspersions on the fish-out-of-water story idea — "Inhumans" was poorly received — but to point out how dependable it is. Watching Picard carefully traverse the past is going to be fun, and situations grow organically out of the characters' investigation.

Picard is no longer an android

The episode's title comes from a scene aboard the U.S.S. Stargazer wherein Picard oversees a partial assimilation of Dr. Jurati by the Borg Queen. The Borg Queen, being impish and sinister, refuses to reveal details about Picard's mission without something in exchange, and Jurati figures that she can tap into the Borg Queen's brain directly by becoming a Borg, but then pulling herself out before the assimilation can "take," as it were. Being deliberately assimilated is also a conceit used before, as the crew of the Voyager did it on their show. Given that so many people have been un-assimilated at this point in "Star Trek's" history, it's seeming less and less threatening all the time. Needless to say, Jurati and Picard's plan works. 

Perhaps this Trekkie is dense, but it only occurred to me in episode three that Picard is no longer an android. At the end of "Picard's" first season, in order to save his life, Picard's consciousness was shunted into an android body that was made to look exactly like him, and also age the way a human body would. This was a controversial conceit, and a pretty silly one, even by "Star Trek" standards. As Q had inserted the cast into the alternate versions of themselves, they now have the bodies of their counterparts. Seven of Nine no longer had Borg implants, and it's safe to assume that Picard has gone back to being 100% organic, including his notorious artificial heart.

"Star Trek" in the Paramount+ era has been a constant push-and-pull between introducing new ideas and then retracting them once the writers realized they were bad. In "Discovery," for instance, the title ship can teleport anywhere in the galaxy, effectively making starships — and trekking — obsolete. In order to fit teleportation technology into the story, the writers had to think of a way to erase the U.S.S. Discovery from Trek's own timeline so that other shows (set after "Discovery") would have an organic reason to never discuss the ship's astonishing technology. Picard's android body was a silly idea that was thrown in at the conclusion of season one, almost as an afterthought, and without any sort of meaningful thematic reason. Season two seems to be, like "Discovery" on a constant path of correction. 

"Picard," however, is having an easier time of it. For the first time in a long time, I'm eager to see what happens next on a "Star Trek" show.