Jean Luc Does Penance as Star Trek Picard Explores a Road Not Traveled

Oh my goodness, is season two of Star Trek: Picard continuing to be an absolute blast! We had funny character moments, drama, a had phaser gun fight, last minute rescues, and more than one Hobson’s Choice. We also got to see just how very stunning Jeri Ryan can be in a nicely tailored uniform. Did I mention hand-to-hand combat? We had that, too!

I continue to enjoy the series and am vibrating on the edge of my seat to find out what happens next.

I can’t talk about the episode any further without spoilers so…

If you don’t want to be spoiled for this episode or episode one, turn back now!

Turn back now if you don’t want any spoilers!

If you haven’t seen the episode you should (if you can) go watch it now!


This is your last chance before the spoilers!

The second episode picks up almost exactly where the first ended. Jean Luc is at his vineyard, but in an alternate timeline. His uniform is different. Romulan slaves work to keep the place running. His library is full of grisly trophies of milatary victories (a number of alien skulls mounted with little plaques explaining who they were). Worst of all–in this timeline, Jean Luc doesn’t drink Earl Grey tea, hot; he drinks fresh ground Columbian coffee black!

And Q is there, speaking in riddles as always, claiming that he hasn’t done anything. He claims this is a future that humans have wrought, he’s just showing Picard the end result.

Picard doesn’t believe him, of course–this is one of Q’s tests, surely. Q says no, it is a penance. And then Q conveniently vanishes.

After being informed that a shuttle is coming from the capitol to pick him up, Jean Luc tries to give himself a history lesson with his home computer system. The viewer is treated to an excerpt of a speech by this world’s Jean Luc–General Picard–speaking in very fascist terms about making the galaxy safe for humans.

The narrative jumps around to some of the other characters. Seven wakes up in a bedroom she doesn’t recognize and freaks out when she finds she has no borg implants. She puts herself through some cognitive tests (it’s a bit heart-wrenching) until someone enters the room. Turns out that in this world Seven (who is going by her human name) is the President of the Fascist Confederacy, and his married to someone called Magistrate One.

Elnor is a Romulan rebel in Okinawa, and almost gets killed before he is rescued by Raffi, who is some kind of high-ranking security officer in the Confederacy. Rios is a Colonel in the Confederacy fleet currently in command of some kind of military assault on Vulcan.

Each of the main cast we catch up to at have all their memories from what we think of as the main Trek Timeline and don’t remember their lives here, so they’re all trying to fit in while trying to find anyone else who remembers the other timeline.

Dr. Jurati works in the capital in an unspecified science job. On this particular day she is supposed to be preparing a captured Borg Queen–supposedly the last Borg still alive in this timeline–to be killed by General Picard’s hand in front of a huge crowd.

Seven uses her presidential secure channel to contact Rios and get him to come get her while she tries to find any of the others.

Picard, Seven, Raffi, Elinor all meet up in the capital and windup in Jurati’s lab, where they have a conversation with the Borg queen. Because all Borg queens have a sort of trans-temporal sense and she still has her computer implants, the queen is able to determine that Q broke the timeline by doing something in the city of Los Angeles in 2024.

So now our heroes just have to get to 2024. The Confederacy doesn’t have time travel technology, so the only option is to do the slingshot around the sun and turning on the warp engines and just the right point, as Enterprise did more than once. Since they don’t have Spock, they have to make an alliance with the Borg queen, who has the computing capacity to calculate their jump to get them to the correct year.

But there’s the pesky ceremony, Seven’s ever-more-suspicious husband, and the paranoid Confederacy security measures to get through before they can go.

There’s a bit of derring do and some technological trickery and even a gun fight on the stage of the big rally, but our heroes and their evil ally manage to beam up to Rios’s ship (which conveniently seems to be a duplicate of La Sirena).

Unfortunately, before they can get away, something else goes awry.

There are a few things one can nitpick about this episode. It is awfully convenient that most of the main cast find themselves in positions of authority in this alternate timeline, for one. But those nitpicks are things that keep the plot moving, rather than trip it up. And since we don’t know yet exactly what Q’s actual game is, it’s possible that he arranged things so they could learn what they need to know and go do something about it.

On the other hand, particularly after we’d already seen a clip of one of Alternate Picard’s fascist speeches, I’m not sure we needed to see as much of the eradication ceremony as we did. Cora Buhlert points out in her review that it reminded her, in unpleasant ways, of studying the history of the Nazi era when she was at university. And I don’t disagree.

I should mention somewhere in here that Picard believes that Q is unwell. Not in the sense that he isn’t rational (he never has been), but that something has happened to him. But we don’t know yet is Picard is right.

When I was working on the first draft of this review, I was telling my husband about the show apparently heading back to 2024 and it seems a little odd that it is just two years into our future. But we also both agreed that some of the best Star Trek episodes have been when they traveled back to our time (My faves are Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Tomorrow Is Yesterday… there are others that are also good).

I figured the main reason to do these sorts of adventures is that they are cheaper to film. And cast, writers, and crew have a lot of fun with the juxtaposition of our mundane world with the heroes from the future. My husband opined that the reasons episodes like those work so well is because they don’t have to fake anything about the world our heroes visit. The writers and set designers aren’t tying to make up a future, they know what 1960s America or 1980s America looked like. They could literally put the actors in costumes on a regular street and film with real pedestrians cluelessly walking through the scenes.

Over at Gizmodo James Whitbrook opines that 2024 has been chosen because a two-part Deep Space Nine episode, Past Tense involved the cast of that series landing in San Francisco in the year 2024 and disrupting the timeline and then having to fix it. And it is certainly possible.

Whether that is the case, I’m dying to know what happens next. The series is keeping me entertained!

Some reviews by others you might find useful:

Cora Buhlert: Star Trek Picard does “Penance”

Den of Geek – Star Trek: Picard Season 2 Episode 2 Review – Penance – ‘Star Trek: Picard’ season 2 episode 2 continues to enthrall with dark timeline

Gizmodo – Picard Is Just Diving Right Into Some Classic Star Trek Good and Evil

Camestros Felapton: Picard Season 2: Episodes 1 & 2

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