Much of Picard’s third season has examined the legacy and lineages of its heroes—with Jean-Luc discovering his son with Beverly Crusher, Raffi and Seven combatting their loneliness in different ways, and Riker still grappling with the loss of his own child. But its latest episode finds much more solace in the families you find, rather than the ones you’re born into.
“The Bounty,” the sixth episode of Picard’s final season, ushers in the back half of the show’s swan song with a call to action Jean-Luc and the crew of the Titan needed. Now realizing just how close their backs are to the proverbial wall—Vadic is still out there somewhere, a compromised Starfleet is now on the hunt for them, and at this point the ship is just about holding together on a hope and a dream after the week it’s been through—Jean-Luc rallies his friends and what’s left of the Titan’s staff to figure out their next steps. Those steps are, it turns out, an old-fashioned heist: break into Daystrom Station, figure out what the changelings were really after, and get the hell out of dodge.
After dropping off the strike team of Worf, Raffi, and Riker, the Titan flees the scene to help get Starfleet off their backs... bringing us face to face with the returning LeVar Burton and his daughter Mica, as Commodore Geordi and Ensign Alandra La Forge, respectively. And while these two story lines are separated by location—and both deal with nostalgia in some very different ways, which we’ll get to—they are not separated in their unified theme: the importance of any family you create for yourself, whether it’s with your flesh and blood or in connections with friends and colleagues.
Naturally the side of things that deals with this the most is aboard the Titan—where Jack has to learn that some things he picked up from his father sting a little more than others. Case in point: the irumodic syndrome that plagued Picard himself in his later years (before, y’know, he died and got better) also afflicts the young Crusher, sowing some more embittered feelings between the two men. But a conversation about families with Seven of Nine, as they both glance over at the retired USS Voyager in space dock at Geordi’s Starfleet museum, her reflections on where she made her own family after losing her parents and her sense of self to the Borg inspires Jack to embrace what connections he does have with his father—beyond the anger and hurt from years of distance to see just how much he’s like his dad in some ways.
Some of those ways include being stubborn as a mule, it turns out—something Jean-Luc is used to being, considering the cool reception he gets from Geordi when they re-unite. It’s not that the elder La Forge doesn’t want to see his former captain, it’s more about his own family—and reuniting with Sidney. Geordi is sick of Picard’s uncanny ability to rope people into his problems, even if those problems affect everyone in Starfleet who isn’t a changeling impersonator right now. He cares even less when one of those people is his own daughter, who Geordi is frustrated with, not just in her rebellious distancing from him when she went on to be a pilot unlike her sister Alandra, but because by staying on the Titan she’s letting Picard put her in danger again. In the ways Picard is still learning lessons about parenthood with Jack, Geordi has already gone through it with his own kids—and he knows that Jean-Luc is too big a storm to keep them in his orbit. He doesn’t want to help the Titan beyond basic repairs (much to the glee of Chief Engineer La Forge Stan, Captain Shaw, in a touchingly goofy moment), and he does not want Sidney staying on board the ship, demanding she stay at the museum with him and Alandra.
It’s not Picard that can call his old friend out on his bullshit though, understanding where Geordi is coming from. That has to come from family, as Sidney defends her decision to follow her career on the Titan, and to stay there now in this moment of crisis: she’s doing what her father did, what he’s failing to do now in helping his old crewmates. Sidney has found a family beyond being a La Forge aboard the Titan, one she is willing to fight for just as much as Geordi was willing to fight for his aboard the Enterprise, a feeling he has lost in becoming a father. It’s a fantastic moment, one that jolts Geordi out of his anxieties, and a clever reaffirmation that Star Trek’s tried and true faith in the familial bonds of its crews is, in a season of nostalgic reunions and familial themes, is just as valid and empowering as the bonds in your blood. Geordi is forced to acquiesce that parents can’t always control their children when Alandra helps Sidney and Jack—the true Next Generation trifecta!—steal the cloaking device out of the classic bird of prey Bounty from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, also on display at the museum. Forced to help retrofit it into the Titan because, after all, of the three of them only Alandra is an engineer, Geordi finds himself along for the ride once more—as the Klingon cloak will let the Titan sneak back to Daystrom and extract their away team.
Speaking of, aboard Daystrom things get nostalgic in less of a thematic way and more of an absolutely bonkers way. It’s a nice little jolt of some of the chaotic energy of Picard season two thrust into the proceedings, but it doesn’t dominate the story as it did there—and a touchingly cheesy acknowledgement of the fact that TNG wasn’t afraid of being a bit silly sometimes. After familiar whistles of “Pop Goes the Weasel” and a holographic raven, Riker, Worf, and Raffi are confronted by Daystrom’s defense systems in the form of none other than Professor Moriarty, the Enterprise Holodeck’s rogue program who wanted to make his Holmesian plots real. It’s incredibly silly—Daniel Davis came back to play the character, decades after his turn as Moriarty in TNG!—but also a lot of fun, especially when it all coalesces and Riker realizes just what unites all these baffling systems: Data. After deactivating Moriarty with a whistle-along, the trio uncover the big secret at the heart of Daystrom...
A new Soong android (Brent Spiner, of course), incomplete but just together enough for them to extract—and not just any android, but an amalgam of the positronic systems of Lore, Data, B4, Lal, and even Spiner’s Picard season one character, Altan Soong, a hologram of whom explains that this “ultimate Data” is designed to be the best of the Soong androids by combining all of them. Except, Altan died before he could complete the work, and as the team makes its escape when the now-cloaked Titan arrives to rescue them from Starfleet-disguised changelings, they realize they’ll need to wake this new Data up out of storage and see just which facet of him they’ll get.
The escape is not without cost—Riker sacrifices his own chance to escape to give Data, Worf, and Raffi their own, leading to his capture and imprisonment by Vadic (who reveals in the episode’s final moments that she also has Deanna Troi captive too). And when Geordi re-awakens his new-old friend, at first our heroes do get their Data, but he quickly flits between personalities, from Data, to B4, and to, of course, Lore and Altan, creating a bittersweet touch to their reunion. But “Data” does have the information our reunited found family needs, even as they bristle at Riker’s sacrifice: Vadic and the changelings didn’t want to steal a weapon. They wanted the remains of Picard’s original body, apparently locked up after his death and rebirth at the end of Picard season one.
Suddenly, their need for Jack makes more sense—as does another reminder of the curse your bloodline can bring. But just what do the changelings want Picard’s body for, and Jack too if they already have themselves a Patrick Stewart at home? Why not Picard himself, in his new form? We’ll have to wait and see, but Star Trek: Picard is setting up for a very personal showdown for our hero and his reunited friends.
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