Star Trek: Picard review, Episode 203: “Assimilation”

Last week on Star Trek: Picard, the omnipotent Q transported Picard and the rest of the cast to an alternate dimension where a fascist government led by Seven of Nine had subjugated the galaxy. Picard, in this universe a bloodthirsty general, was rightly outraged and resolved to fix the timeline, and needed an imprisoned Borg Queen to help with his plan. After a daring escape, however, the crew is captured by Seven’s alternate husband.

“Assimilation” resolves the cliffhanger from last week with a brief firefight in which Elnor is injured. The magistrate and his henchmen are killed in the process. Jon Jon Briones is a highlight of any show and it’s a shame that not only is he gone so quickly but that we only get to explore this alternate reality for one episode before the team travels back in time to try and correct things.

Meanwhile, Agnes plugs in the Borg Queen, who still has a lot of power. Soon enough, she has control of the ship. She takes La Sirena around the sun to produce the slingshot effect seen in “Tomorrow is Yesterday” and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The Picard team is headed to the 21st century!

Star Trek: Picard gets its first big character death

You can feel the influence of The Voyage Home all over this episode. The crew has just as much trouble adjusting to “our time” as the Kirk-era crew did. We even get some ideas from that movie repeated, like Raffi realizing they need money now. Whereas Kirk’s crew needed to find whales, Picard and company need to see someone known as The Watcher. We don’t know their identity but I’ll be shocked if it’s not Guinan. We know she was on Earth during this period from The Next Generation, and “Q Who” mentioned her having dealings with the Continuum, saying that she went by another name.

However, before our gang can depart, we get the first major death of the series in Elnor. Unfortunately, while the character was a good idea, the show never found anything compelling for him to do. They seemingly wanted him to be another Worf: a badass who could also do comedy. But in practice he seemed more like Wesley Crusher. Without more time dedicated to fleshing out his character, he often faded into the background and was only called on when there was an action scene.

Whether Elnor will be resurrected remains to be seen, but his death does create some dramatic friction between the crew and Borg Queen. The queen needs reviving after the trip around the sun, so Agnes connects herself to reactivate her from within. Of course, this is a two-way process and the queen is soon inside Agnes’ head, which leads to some profound exploration of her inner  thoughts and feelings. While the scenes are disturbing and show some of the horror of the Borg, they don’t really say anything new about Agnes; I thought they could have been an opportunity to grapple with the murder of Bruce Maddox.

In any case, considering her mental state and the connection the Borg Queen seems to feel to her, Agnes is undoubtedly in danger, and the episode makes it clear that despite being on the same side (for now) the Borg Queen remains a threat.

Star Trek: Picard visits modern-day Los Angeles

The scenes in modern-day Los Angeles are, of course, very different from the Star Trek that we’re used to. While Deep Space Nine touched on societal problems in the year 2024, at the time that was 29 years in our future. Yes, it’s really been that long since DS9!

Here, however, the Picard crew is dealing with issues going on right now. No doubt this will provoke intense debate among fans, particularly the end of the episode. However, this is not new or unusual ground for the franchise, although it’s usually tackled these topics through euphemism and analogy. Tackling them directly will likely to be too much for some.

There’s certainly a lot of humor in the LA scenes, again reminiscent of The Voyage Home. Rios, of course, is the one who ends up in trouble and finds himself a likely love interest, Theresa. His eventual reluctance to return to the future is easy to foresee.

Rating: 7.0

Overall, “Assimilation” is a much quieter episode than our opening pair, with only a brief appearance from John De Lancie as Q as we’re introduced to the new setting in LA and new characters who’ll be joining the show going forward. How the La Sirena crew deal with surroundings and scenarios that are as alien to them as any faraway planet will undoubtedly be a focus next week.

This trip to our own time is already fun and pointed; expect the social commentary to be balanced out with a bit of humor. However, it remains to be seen for how many episodes the show can stay here before the old complaints about it not feeling like Star Trek start to resurface.

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