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Star Trek Pic - Season 1 - Episode 07

Star Trek Pic - 1x07 - Nepenthe

Originally Aired: 2020-3-4

Picard and Soji transport to the planet Nepenthe, home to some old and trusted friends. As the rest of the La Sirena crew attempt to join them, Picard helps Soji make sense of her recently unlocked memories. Meanwhile, Hugh and Elnor are left on the Borg cube and must face an angered Narissa.

My Rating - 6

Fan Rating Average - 6

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- Troi says she can't read Soji's emotions, but she could read Data's emotions in TNG: Descent along with Lal's emotions in TNG: The Offspring.
- Rios claims somebody's tailing them "just beyond the limits of seeing it" on the scanners. This seems hard to believe given that the ship is clearly within visual distance.
- The image of Dahj from her digital assistant seen in Maps and Legends is actually an image of Soji from the end of this episode.

- The title of this episode "Nepenthe" refers to an herb from Homer's Odyssey, which is described as a medicine for sorrow or a drug of forgetfulness.
- Thanks to this episode, Jonathan Frakes has become the only actor to appear in five different Star Trek shows, playing Riker in TNG, Voyager, Enterprise, and now Picard. He also plays Thomas Riker in DS9.
- The daughter of Troi and Riker, Kestra Troi-Riker, is named after Troi's older sister Kestra Troi, whose death was established in TNG: Dark Page.
- The deceased son of Troi and Riker, Thaddeus Troi-Riker, is named after Riker's ancestor Thaddius Riker, who was mentioned in Voy: Death Wish.
- Two visual effects shots from Dis: If Memory Serves were recycled and edited to show the destruction of Earth in Commodore Oh's mind meld with Agnes.

Remarkable Scenes
- Rios: "I'm tractor locked to a Borg cube full of Romulans!"
- Soji to Picard: "Whatever. None of this is real. Just get on with the mind game."
- Picard dropping in on Troi and Riker.
- Raffi to a panicky Agnes: "Gonna hook you up with whatever you need." Agnes: "Is it cake?" Raffi, not expecting that request: "...You bet it's cake!"
- Riker guessing the details of the mess Picard got himself into quite accurately.
- Troi trying to reach Soji, then Picard interrupting clumsily only to get shoved by Soji. Troi: "This isn't something a ship's counselor is supposed to say, but you had it coming."
- Hugh resolving to seize the Borg cube from the Romulans only to be summarily executed by Narissa.
- Agnes injecting herself with a neurotoxin.
- Riker: "What are they like, this new crew of yours?" Picard: "Well, I would have to say they are decidedly motley."

My Review
This is a sappy, sentimental story that doubles down on catching up with old characters and definitely delivers on that front. In Maps and Legends Picard said with considerable grief in his voice that he had hoped to avoid involving any of his previous Enterprise colleagues in any of this because he didn't want any of them to end up like Data. That context makes Picard showing up at Riker's doorstep unannounced all the more moving. Indeed, the portrait of the Troi-Riker family we get in this episode steals the show, particularly the charming scenes between Soji and Kestra. Soji's PTSD and dissociation were understandable and portrayed well, as were Troi's efforts to provide counseling. There are also some interesting parallels between this episode and Ent: Cold Station 12. Here we are told Troi's and Riker's son died because the technology that could've cured his illness was included as part of the synth ban. In Ent: Cold Station 12, Archer tells Dr. Phlox that his father died because the ban on generic engineering precluded a cure. Hopefully these nuggets of nuance are building to broader and more direct social commentary on the ethics of banning whole categories of technology to prevent immoral uses of it.

The subplots of the episode were not as well put together though. The flashback to Commodore Oh's mind meld with Agnes was clearly meant to provide context for why she assassinated Maddox, but it doesn't quite get us all the way there. It's hard to believe seeing visions of Earth possibly being destroyed some time in the future by some nonspecific threat would be enough to get Agnes to murder a man that she loved because his work—which she deeply believed in as well—might possibly some day indirectly lead to those visions coming to pass somehow. The only way to rationalize this is to assume that the mind meld was more than just visions; that it was also a form of mind control as well. Notably Commodore Oh did not ask for consent before melding with her, making it hard to consider it anything other than something akin to a rape scene given that Star Trek has established quite clearly by now that mind melds are acts of the utmost intimacy. While the mind meld mind control explanation does indeed work quite well to make sense of Agnes' behavior, the story's narrative does not endorse this interpretation on screen explicitly, undermining the potential dramatic impact of her suicide attempt. Also of note, the fact that Commodore Oh can perform mind melds implies that she is either a Vulcan rather than a Romulan disguised as a Vulcan as it initially seemed, or perhaps more interestingly a Romulan who can perform mind melds. This too is not made at all clear though, unfortunately.

The most disappointing detail of the story though is the tragic waste of Hugh's character. Killing characters for dramatic effect can certainly be done tastefully and well. Icheb's death in Stardust City Rag was an excellent narrative choice. Icheb's character had already been fully actualized by that point in the story and he had been a Starfleet officer for more than a decade after arriving at Earth with Voyager. While it perhaps would've been fun to see some flashbacks of what his life in Starfleet was like before he was tragically murdered, his death served to deepen Seven of Nine's character in significant ways without wasting any significant character growth potential for Icheb. On the other hand, Hugh's death serves no useful purpose to the story except to gin up some cheap shock value now and some cheap revenge drama later. Plus had he lived, we could've taken some solace in knowing that he continued to do good work bringing former Borg back into the fold in the finest spirit of Star Trek. Sometimes a character surviving a story is a more powerful ending than a shocking death.

The weakness of the subplots isn't enough to drag the episode down too far though because the main story with Picard and Soji visiting the Troi-Rikers was immensely satisfying.

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