We’re taking a lot of deep dives in this week’s episode of Star Trek: Picard. We’re taking a deep dive into our Captain’s mind, learning about these terrible flashbacks he’s having. We’ve got Rios taking a deep dive into breaking the temporal prime directive. We’ve got the Borg Queen trying to take complete control of Agnes, and we’ve got a potential Star Trek: Voyager callback so deep and obscure, it might be nothing at all. Sound crazy to you? It was definitely crazy to watch! Pull up a barstool at 10 Forward, grab a strong cup of coffee or your beverage of choice, and let’s talk episode 2×07 of Star Trek: Picard, “Monsters.”
“Come along and ride on a fantastic voyage!”
Last week I made a reference in my review to the 1966 science fiction film, Fantastic Voyage, where a scientist is nearly assassinated and a team of scientists and doctors are shrunk down in a submarine and injected into the scientist’s bloodstream in order to save him. That’s not entirely unlike what we have here in “Monsters.”
Tallinn dives into Picard’s mind via an interesting pointy-eared mind-melding contraption. If this and her swearing in Romulan last week wasn’t a big enough clue, then the reveal at the end of this deep dive into Picard’s mind that she’s actually Romulan is just the icing on the cake. So yes, Tallinn is an ancestor of Laris. It’s very cool to have a connection that intertwines Tallinn in Picard’s past and that one of her descendants connects to his future. I don’t know that I totally shipped Picard and Laris before “Monsters,” but I think I do now.
Unpacking the Unknown
Helping Picard work through his trauma aside from Tallinn is a manifestation of Picard’s mind–a psychiatrist (played by Battlestar Galactica’s James Callis)–talks him through some of the deeper things that he’s dealing with. Now, I’ll say that this reveal about the state of Picard’s mother’s mental illness was unbelievably tragic and a big narrative misdirect with this season.
Last week, I postulated that Picard’s father was abusive. I’m glad to have been wrong about that, as abuse is evil and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, fictional or not. But the tragedy of Picard’s mother being unwilling to get treatment for her mental health is one that we face today.
How many of us bear emotional wounds today because the adults in our lives when we were growing up didn’t seek treatment for their mental and emotional health? I’d hazard a guess that it’s quite a few. It serves as a tragic cautionary tale for the viewer. It also helps Picard to understand his father better. The fact that the psychiatrist in Picard’s mind takes the image of his father is especially poignant. That being said, we get the hint that we’ve not been given the whole story. Young Picard pulls out a key, but before Tallinn can find out more, we’re back in the 21st century. I don’t think we’re done with this part of the story just yet.
Picard is Everyone’s Trek Dad
Despite having a fraught relationship with his own father, Picard seems to have inadvertently taken on a paternal role with many characters. Elnor views Picard as a father figure, which we see in season one. Jurati says in episode 2×03, “Assimilation” that she wished Picard were her dad. Rios tells Teresa that because his dad was never around, he’s always gravitated towards paternal figures, like Picard. And yet, as his father points out, “All your closest friends still call you Captain.”
Picard’s always been married to the job, and yet his incredible gifts as a leader have left him bereft of personal intimacy of every kind. This is also his deepest pain. Tallinn points out to his younger self, “You do so much with this pain. You save worlds with it.” He truly does. But this pain also keeps him from allowing himself to truly love and be loved. He is admired, he is respected, but the fear of experiencing this kind of pain again makes him keep everyone at arm’s length. Picard’s walls are starting to tumble. Tallinn is breaking in, and I think he’s just about ready to allow himself to be fully known, and fully loved.
Back to 10 Forward
I’m so glad that we got more of 21st century Guinan again this week. Ito Aghayere is perfect in the role. What I especially love about her presence here is that we are finally getting a deeper look at the mysterious El-Aurians. She says, “We El-Aurians believe food and drink unite us, so the truce was made over a bottle.” And while she meant a quite literal bottle in this instance, the first half of this sentence makes me feel like the Star Trek writers’ rooms have several Inklings fans in them.
Two weeks ago, I felt like they were drawing from C. S. Lewis in The Four Loves. This week, Guinan effectively paraphrased something J. R. R. Tolkien wrote in The Hobbit. Uniting over food and drink sounds an awful lot like the words of Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit, when he says, “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
I adore the idea that an entire culture is based on sitting around a table, sharing a meal, and talking. It’s easy to yell at someone from behind a keyboard. It’s a lot harder to say those things from across a table. I know they are now few, but I want to meet more El-Aurians and have a drink with them.
We’re still in a type of chess piece moving phase in “Monsters.” Picard is now out of his head. I think we’re being set up for some real action in the next episode. That being said, here are a few odds and ends in “Monsters” that made me raise an eyebrow, yell, or otherwise sit up and take notice.
- Rios, what the heck? Just because you are capable of charming the pants off of everyone doesn’t mean you get to take Teresa and Ricardo to the La Sirena! Good thing Raffi and Seven were already on the hunt for Queen Agnes of Borg. Otherwise, they both would have given you a good smack upside your gorgeous head for violating the temporal prime directive.
- Speaking of Queen Agnes of Borg, we only get one scene with her in “Monsters,” but it’s quite telling. I’ve been taking note of the way music is used all season. Listen closely to the singer at the bar in this scene. She sings, “No one’s stopping me, and no one’s leaving today.” That’s more than a bit thematic with Agnes still under the Queen’s control. Pay attention to the music, people! They are telling a bigger story.
The Eyebrow Raising
- “There is no better teacher than one’s enemy,” says Picard’s mother. This idea seems to keep popping up around discussions of Q. I feel like we’re in for a long-overdue explanation of why Q has woven this tangled web of time travel horror.
- How about that FBI agent that walks into the bar? We’re not given a name in the episode or the credits, but Memory Alpha identifies him as Agent Wells. The actor is Jay Karnes, who’s been in one episode of Star Trek prior to this and has never been mentioned again. He’s in episode 5×24 of Star Trek: Voyager, “Relativity” where he plays Lt. Ducane of the Federation Timeship Relativity.
You read that right. He’s no FBI agent. He’s a Federation Time Officer who’s about to bust up the crew of the La Sirena. If this is the case, then I declare this one of the deepest cuts put into modern Trek, and that includes Lower Decks. We’ll see if that comes to light in the next episode.
The Sit Up and Take Notice
- Finally, how much did PBR pay for product placement in “Monsters”? We’ve got a prominent PBR sign in 10 Forward, a couple of big shots of the PBR tap handle, Seven pulling a PBR bottle out of the trash to smash it, etc. As a fan of craft beer, I’ll say that PBR is my go-to domestic because they give to the arts. But if we’re going to put product placement in my Star Trek, let’s support true craft beer.
What did you think of “Monsters”? Leave me a comment and let’s talk Trek.
The next episode of Star Trek: Picard will premiere on April 21, 2022, on Paramount+.