the story: Picard visits with old friends (you've probably heard of them).
review: It's official, then. Riker became Little John. (Give you a moment to remember.) That's the wonderful memory and thought I had, anyway, watching "Nepenthe," among other happy reflections. This was another solid episode. At this point, I'm easily calling Picard the most rewarding series experience of the whole franchise, not just because I enjoy seeing Picard again, but because the season has been so consistently good, an excellent mix of everything, from ideas to characters new and old, and building on the rich legacy preceding it.
Let's talk about the ideas a little. Finally we learn what convinced Jurati to kill her own friend and lover, Bruce Maddox, a vision of the future, and not just a vision, but that frequent vision of today, some dreaded apocalypse. If we don't do this, this will happen. And there's no convenient real world allegory here, no side to pick, in case you were worried. It's just the times we live in, which is much as it was in the '60s, when Star Trek originally suggested it didn't have to be that way.
But we begin to have an idea of why the Romulans, or anyone else, fear artificial life so much, and that's the key here, in this episode, that prejudice so often infused with some awful kernel but more often created by hysterical imagination, especially when the victim is so easy to dismiss as "other," as of course is always the case.
No doubt we'll learn more.
In the meantime we have Picard and Soji visiting Riker and Troi and their daughter! And, learning about what's happened in the meantime, who they lost, and how their lives have developed along the way. Troi's there, but Riker receives more emphasis, and before anyone cries injustice, let me just suggest that Riker makes for better entertainment, and this might actually be his best-ever appearance in the franchise (across Next Generation, Voyager, Enterprise, and even his transporter duplicate in Deep Space Nine, and the movies, and now this, helping him, and Jonathan Frakes, set a new record, surpassing the likes of Nimoy/Spock and Dorn/Worf for most franchise appearances, that is unlikely to be broken). And I'm not sure his height difference with Picard ever came across this sharply, either, at least for me.
For everything in the mix, it's another strong showing for Soji, who perhaps again most benefits from what might otherwise have seemed an obvious Picard spotlight, as she begins to accept who and what she is as she interacts with Picard's friends.
(Is it too early to suggest that the daughter gets her own series?)
Plus, unfortunately, the death of another familiar face, this time Hugh, as the Romulans officially switch into villainous gear. Who else was seeing Narek, meanwhile, as a Star Trek Boba Fett?
(The title "Nepenthe," meanwhile, comes from The Odyssey, referencing a drug that cures a troubled mind. Love the deep Greek mythology cut for that one, as with another recent Star Trek classic, Discovery's "An Obol for Charon.")
- franchise - I mean, gosh, it's great to see Riker and Troi again!
- series - But there's still plenty of room to celebrate what's happening in Picard, all you fans still paranoid about "These Are the Voyages..."
- character - Soji grapples with recent revelations, among other highlights.
- essential - Hardly a missed opportunity!
Jonathan Frakes (Riker)
Marina Sirtis (Troi)
Jonathan Del Arco (Hugh)