Star Trek: Picard episode 3×09 “Vox” delivers some surprises, but ultimately doesn’t do anything new. While there’s some good stuff in “Vox” that I want to highlight, I’ve got a bone to pick with the writer’s room. Pull up a chair and get that cup of “Tea! Earl Grey! Hot!” or Jack Crusher’s Jameson on the rocks. You might need it for this one. Here are my thoughts on Star Trek: Picard 3×09 “Vox.”
Close Encounters of the Borg Kind
Let’s begin with something I did enjoy in Star Trek: Picard 3×09 “Vox.” I like that they did the little homage to Close Encounters of the Third Kind that I’ve been calling since we first saw the red door. Especially after learning in Todd Stashwick’s interview with Wil Wheaton for The Ready Room that the name Shaw is a Jaws reference, it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that this is meant to be another Spielberg reference. However, finding out that it’s the Borg on the other side of the red door in Jack’s head? It’s a bit lackluster. Can we really not think of anything new for this crew to tackle?
Yes, I understand that Queen Agnes Borgati’s sect of the Borg is different, but what is the point of spending an entire season reforming one portion of the Borg and making all this commentary about how we’re supposed to treat Ex-Bs when all you’re going to do is make the Borg your Big Bad again? It’s regression, not progression. I suppose I’ll settle in for one last Borg fight for Picard and the gang. The Pah-wraiths would have at least been a lesser-known entity for us to tackle. Oh well.
However, I will say that this explanation of latent Borg organics stuck in Jack’s head that somehow makes him a magical antenna for the Borg is an interesting idea. Albeit one that we’ve had no real set-up for in other iterations of Trek. There’s no hint that Picard’s previous diagnosis of Irumodic syndrome was anything but that. Even when Soong transferred Picard’s consciousness into this new body, there is no indication that I can recall of Soong noticing something anomalous in Picard’s brain. All of this information is just thrown in there. It’s not earned, and that’s lazy. No points for style on that one.
A Captain Goes Down with His Ship
Captain Shaw’s death is not entirely unexpected, but the whole, “Actually, I do respect you, but I deflect emotionally therefore I’m going to be a dick to you until I’m on my deathbed” is a tired and exhausting trope. Are we not more advanced than that in this century? It really took away any emotional sentiment I had toward Shaw’s demise. Did I want him to die? No. I wanted him to live and to be better. Now we don’t get that. Rest in peace, Captain Shaw. Your story deserved better.
Nostalgia Addicts Anonymous
As a certifiable nostalgia addict and retrophile, I love a good trip down memory lane. However, I’m sorry to say that most of these callbacks are falling flat for me. Is it because I don’t like callbacks? Absolutely not. But this entire season has been about 10 steps too far in that direction.
Every emotional cue is built on nostalgia. It has nothing to do with the story at hand. It’s “Oh look, we’re getting on the Enterprise-D!” “Oh look, we’re all around the table again!” It’s frustrating because it doesn’t make me care more about the real story at hand. It just makes me look for references to the past. I ask the same question I have in my previous reviews. Is the Star Trek fandom at large so obsessed with looking back that we can’t move forward? We’re relying solely on emotional nostalgia cues rather than doing new storytelling.
Because of this, Raffi and Seven are left behind to clean up The Borg: The Next Generation but honestly, it’s probably more convenient that way because then only the OG Next Gen cast are on the newly rebuilt Enterprise-D. One more perfect nostalgic call back. It also calls into question if that was a motivating factor in Shaw’s death. He could have stayed alive and helped Raffi and Seven to kick some newly assimilated Borg Butt. Redeem himself a little bit. Nope! Instead, we rely on tropes. Again, no style points for you, Picard writer’s room.
I hate feeling so negative about the overall direction of Star Trek: Picard. But episode 3×09 “Vox” did not land for me in the way that I think it will with the overall Star Trek fandom. Rather than end on a sour note, let me highlight a few things that I think worked well in this penultimate episode of Star Trek: Picard.
The Borg: The Next Generation is particularly sinister. It’s tough to watch our young crew turn Borg, but especially when we cut to Sidney and Alandra all Borg-ified. It’s horrifying. Watching the fleet form Borg symbols over Earth is another nice eerie touch.
One callback that did work for me is Elizabeth Dennehy reprising her role as Admiral Shelby. The last time we saw Shelby in live action was in Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes 3×26 and 4×01 “The Best of Both Worlds, Part I & Part II.” She also got a quick nod in Star Trek: Lower Decks episode 2×05 “An Embarrassment of Dooplers.” Her appearance in “Vox” was quick, it actually had emotional significance on the Borg storyline, and it was just enough to justify it.
However, the best callback we have so far is Alice Krige reprising her role as The Borg Queen. This is the second time she’s reprised her role as The Borg Queen since Star Trek: First Contact. The first was in Star Trek: Lower Decks episode 2×08 “I, Excretus.” Well, I suppose if you want to get really technical, you should also count Star Trek: The Experience – Borg Invasion at the Star Trek: The Experience attraction in Las Vegas which was open from 1998 – 2008. I digress. Anyway, having Alice back as the OG Borg Queen is fantastic. I hope we actually get to see her in action in the finale, rather than just hear her voice.
Where did Star Trek: Picard 3×09 “Vox” land with you? Are the callbacks working for you? I want to know! Leave me a comment and let’s talk Trek.
The finale of Star Trek: Picard will air on April 20, 2023, on Paramount+.