Star Trek: Picard “The Impossible Box”

Previously on Grumpy Old Captains: They finally found Maddox and discovered the location of Soji, but Jurati secretly killed him because of something scary Commodore Oh told her Soji was gonna do. Raffi is depressed after an acrimonious encounter with her son. Picard’s personal samurai hasn’t gotten to cut anybody up yet. Narek is still convinced that if he fiddles with Soji’s mind in just the right way, he can make it spit out the location of a mysterious secret colony of androids.

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Like every previous episode, “The Impossible Box” starts with a flashback, only this time it’s extra pointless because this flashback depicts something that didn’t even really happen. A “young” Soji can’t sleep due to a thunderstorm, and she sneaks down the hallway to where her “father” is hard at work doing flower science in his laboratory.

“It sure was rough growing up inside a Blumhouse horror movie.”

Present-day Soji wakes up with a start before she can see his face, and tells Narek about the dream. Narek suggests that if it’s based on something she remembers, she should talk to her “mom” about it, revealing that he knows she talks to her mom every night.

On the ship, Jurati describes the circumstances of Maddox’s death, and Picard reveals Maddox had told him the other android was on the Borg Artifact. Elnor remarks on Picard’s visible discomfort with the idea of going to the Artifact. Jurati helpfully explains that it would be his first visit to a Borg cube since being assimilated and forced to betray and kill his friends. She suggests maybe the Borg on this cube are different. Picard, having shown an open-mindedness towards his former enemies the Romulans, nonetheless has nothing good to say about the Borg, and goes on a tirade about how Borg never really change their violent ways.

“They’re bringing probes. They’re bringing implants. They assimilate. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Picard retires to his study and asks the computer to research some topics related to the Artifact. The computer’s image search cycles through pictures of Hugh, whom Picard discovers is leading the Borg reclamation project, and also a picture of a fully assimilated Picard, AKA Locutus of Borg. The camera swings around to artfully superimpose the image of Locutus against Picard’s current face.

“Oh, look at all that hair, you young devil!”

The title card shows La Sirena is cruising through the former Romulan Neutral Zone, in the Beta Quadrant. Rios is awake, drinking from a flask and kicking a soccer ball around (four hundred years of history cannot diminish the Latino passion for fútbol). Jurati enters and talks about how in the wake of Maddox’s death, she feels hollow and lonely and afraid. She takes a drink from Rios’s flask. She realizes the scene isn’t going anywhere and abruptly decides she wants to bang Rios. The lovers light up the screen with all the passionate sexual energy that the Star Trek franchise is known for.

Dammit Q! Stop making people kiss!

On the Artifact, Rizzo has finally arrived, and she’s in Narek’s quarters playing with a Romulan toy that looks like a Rubik’s cube, except it opens up to reveal a prize when you solve it. For the fifty-seventh time, she expresses her impatience and her great desire to kill Soji. Narek tells Rizzo about Soji’s dreams, which Rizzo dismisses as a “bug” in her programming. Narek, however, is convinced that these dreams are evidence that Soji has an unconscious mind, formed by the collision of her personality engrams against the limitations enforced by her programming. He says if he can get her to talk about her dreams, he can access the information buried in her subconscious without activating her self-defense programming. He likens his task to solving the puzzle box: “The key to opening the tan zhekran is taking the time to understand what’s keeping it closed.” Rizzo leaves him to this task after threatening him with another arbitrary deadline.

“And if you miss this deadline I’ll for serious have to kill her. Yep. Yessir. Killed to death. She will be thoroughly killed, for sure. Just you wait.”

La Sirena is coming up on the Artifact, which means they’re now in Romulan space and are technically committing an act of war. Picard says if the Romulans on the cube don’t recognize him, the Borg definitely will, which is why their way forward is through the Qowat Milat art of absolute candor. Raffi, in the midst of self-medicating with booze and snake leaf, puts in a quick call to an old Starfleet friend, and with the drug addict’s natural talent for begging a favor, she cows her reluctant friend into granting Picard temporary diplomatic credentials so he can meet with Hugh as a Federation envoy. Afterward, Rios helps her collapse into bed.

“Awesome! And you’re still gonna help me move on Saturday, right?”

On the Artifact, Soji tells Narek she had the dream again. Narek reveals that he knows Soji often falls asleep after talking to her mother, and also that he knows each call to Soji’s mother lasts exactly 70 seconds. Confused, Soji calls her “mother”, begins to fall asleep, and stabs her own hand to keep herself awake. The “Mom” program glitches out and repeats the magic fall-asleep words until Soji finally succumbs. After she wakes up, she gets out a box with all her hard-copy photos and diaries and assorted childhood mementos in it. She waves a tricorder over each one of them, and the tricorder informs her that none of this stuff is more than 37 months old.

“Oh, bullshit! I even have the certificate of authenticity! Damn you, eBay!”

Elnor wants to accompany Picard to the Artifact, but Picard’s diplomatic credentials specify that only he may go. He beams over, finds himself alone in a hallway stuffed with regeneration pods, and suffers a series of intrusive PTSD flashbacks from his time with the Borg. Borg hands reach out to grab him and he cries out in alarm, but when he comes to, he sees two heavily-scarred ex-Borg are trying to keep him from fainting. Hugh greets him with a wide grin.

“Winter is always murder on my skin.”

After settling in as best he can, Picard tells Hugh he’s looking for Dr. Soji Asha. Hugh says he knows her—and he also knows of a Romulan spy who’s trying very hard to look like she’s not a special project of his. Meanwhile, Soji is confronting Narek about the revelations she’s just made about her past. Narek suggests someone implanted her with false memories to try to get her to find something on the Artifact. Luckily enough, there’s a Romulan meditation practice that can help her with just this problem.

Picard is being led by Hugh through a medical facility where Romulan technicians are working on ex-Borg. Picard is amazed that it’s possible to de-assimilate on such a large scale. The virulent anti-Borg prejudice he’s had since the beginning of this episode has quite melted away. He realizes they’re really victims, not monsters. Hugh says that they’re “just as helpless and enslaved as before, only now our queen is a Romulan.” He says that the support of an admired public figure like Picard might go a long way toward securing the rights of the ex-Borg, who remain the most hated people in the galaxy.

“Like the eyeball? Got lucky at a Christie’s auction. It’s Paul Newman’s!”

Meanwhile, we learn that this “Zhal Makh” meditation is a common enough pastime that the Artifact has several rooms set aside for it. Narek brings Soji to such a room, despite a guard’s insistence that Zhal Makh shouldn’t be practiced by “round-ears”. Inside is a path on the floor marked off by Christmas luminarias.

“Oh yeah, we tried these one year. Dumb dogs knocked them over.”

Soji is to remove her boots and let Narek guide her through the path. She enters a hypnotic trance and starts walking through her dream, reporting her sensations. Narek talks her through the point in the dream when she would normally wake up in fear. In the other room, Rizzo watches and listens.

Hugh and Picard show up in Soji’s quarters, which is in disarray. Hugh pulls up a map and she’s nowhere to be found on the cube.

Dream-Soji has entered her father’s laboratory. Narek tells her that her father is going to shout, but she’s not to listen this time, and continue walking in. She looks behind a row of orchids and sees… herself, in the form of a partially disassembled mannequin carved from grainy wood.

“I was taking an NSAID for my rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, but I still felt like I was falling apart at the seams. Then my doctor suggested Celebrex.”

Narek tells her to look through the skylight and she sees “two red moons, dark as blood… and lightning. So much lightning.”A satisfied Rizzo asks the computer to identify a planet with the features Soji just described. Soji sobs to Narek, asking him what it all means. Narek says it means her suspicions were correct: she’s not real. He kisses her goodbye and locks her in the chamber, opening the puzzle box to reveal a glowing red pyramid that slowly begins to fill the room with noxious gas.

Oh, darn. I was hoping for the slide whistle.

Soji crawls to the other side of the room to avoid the gas. Her distress causes her android powers to activate, and she bangs on the floor, making a dent. She punches the floor over and over, breaking through the wood to reach the metal panel underneath, wrenching it open as well. The guard alerts Narek and motions to open the door, but Narek stops him because the room is too deadly. They watch helplessly as Soji drops down through the floor.

“I said I was ready to leave the party, dammit! I’m an introvert!”

Hugh picks Soji up on his map, puzzling at the speed she’s moving. “She’s been activated,” says Picard, and they take off to intercept her. She drops from the ceiling in front of Picard. He earns her trust by showing her Dahj’s necklace, and they flee from an incoming wave of Romulan redshirts.

Hugh uses his handprint to open up a hidden wall panel leading to a secret room. Picard’s former connection to the Collective allows him to identify this room as the Queen’s cell. Hugh explains that this cube has been outfitted with an interesting bit of technology they got when they assimilated a species from Voyager’s first season: a transwarp beaming portal, to be used to evacuate the queen in case of emergency, with an effective range of 40,000 light years.

Picard radios La Sirena to set a rendezvous for the planet Nepenthe. Rios copies, and prepares to head out when he realizes Elnor isn’t on board anymore. He’s disobeyed Picard’s instructions and beamed to the Artifact, encountering three soldiers who quickly meet their gory green deaths at his sword.

“It’s a brand new razor. Let me know if I nick you any.”

Picard thanks him and ushers him toward the portal, but Elnor volunteers to stay behind and hold off the guards so they don’t follow him and Soji through the portal. Picard, aghast, releases him from his ninja oath, and he declines to be released. “I will find you again,” Picard promises, and he and Soji step through the portal.

“Wait, don’t go through yet! Is radiation bad for humans? I forget.”

“It’ll take a few minutes to shut everything down and hide this room again,” says Hugh. “Can you hold them off that long?” “I won’t need a few minutes,” says Elnor.

“Okay, but, uh…it’ll take a few minutes, regardless. Damn, not the brightest bulb, are you?”

Next week: A cameo that is simply Beyond Belief.

(to the tune of “Goldfinger”) Old Rikerrrrrrr…

TV Show: Star Trek: Picard

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  • Michael Weyer

    I like it, the idea that over 30 years later, Picard still has never gotten over what the Borg did to him and natural he still despises them to his core. The show has done a good job showing Picard isn’t always right and this shade on the Borg is only natural.

    • Captain’s Orders

      Except TNG picard already worked out his issues with the borg with the help of his brother and the I, Hugh episode. Its wasnt until movie Picard that retconned him into a crazy revenge driven lunatic

      • Michael Weyer

        It is funny how so many Trekkers see his “the line must be drawn here” speech as a wonderful bad-ass moment when it’s meant to show Picard’s obsession overwhelming his reason.

      • Spuddie

        People do tend to get crankier and more racist as they get older. (See Facebook)

        • Tyler Peterson

          I’ve seen enough Facebook, thanks.

  • Will113

    It’s almost as is stuff happened this week. So presumably next time will be people talking in rooms. And not about interesting stuff either.

  • David Klopotoski

    The scene that really sticks with me is when Picard and Hugh reunite. I thought it was kinda weird how insanely happy Hugh was to see Picard including hugging him. PIcard and Hugh were never bros like that. In fact Hugh at one point showed a lot of disdain for the Enterprise crew and what they had done to him and his friends. The stigma attached to Hugh as an ex-Borg should also make him very bitter toward anyone in the Federation which resulted in him having to rely on Romulans to build his reclamation project.

    As I thought more about it I figure Hugh’s journey to becoming a leader of the ex-Borg and dealing with that stigma probably made him appreciate the compassion he received from the Enterprise crew, especially Picard who knew the trauma Hugh was probably going through all too well. More than that it’s just nice to see someone Picard comes to for help not be all butthurt about being betrayed and let down. Someone is actually happy to see him and willing to help without even knowing what he’s going to ask for. It might be a bit of an over correction for every other scene with people rejecting Picard, not to mention how EVERYONE else on this show seems to be hiding some secret motivation. Plus in his first appearance on the show I felt Hugh came across as kinda sinister- probably all the black and his scarred face. So if it weren’t for him being super nice to Picard I might have been suspicious of what he was up to.

    • Captain’s Orders

      everyone is hiding a secret motivation. Its almost as if Dracula wrote this since everyone is a “miserable pile of secrets”

      • David Klopotoski

        Data isn’t hiding a secret motivation. He’s just dead, thankfully. At least the show has gotten that much right.

    • Spuddie

      “As I thought more about it I figure Hugh’s journey to becoming a leader of the ex-Borg and dealing with that stigma probably made him appreciate the compassion he received from the Enterprise crew, especially Picard who knew the trauma Hugh was probably going through all too well.”

      That is exactly the vibe I got there. That Hugh appreciates Picard not only as a fellow Ex Borg but also personally as part of the reclamation of his humanity. Picard looked relieved to have a figure from his past who was genuinely happy to see him.

    • mamba

      This is where the show would have benefited from ONE cameo anyway…Geordi LaForge.

      He is literally the ONLY one that ever bonded with Hugh, literally the only one he trusted/almost called friend, and the ONLY one who would have been able to be the friendship bridge to this meeting with any level of plausibility.

      A simple…”Captain, I want to prepare you, but you can trust him I assure you…” then have him reveal his friend, ensure that Picard is ok with this, then leave if necessary.

      • David Klopotoski

        No that would have been lame. They didn’t even have Laforge and Hugh have a scene together in “Descent” because it would have been too cute. Besides for all we know they hadn’t seen in other in decades as well. I think the common ground Hugh has with Picard being an ex-Borg is strong enough to cement them working together. It was just the hug that seemed over the top. But at the same time Star Trek is often too cold and reserved, so a genuine moment of, “Holy shit am I happy to see you,” is kinda nice.

  • Captain’s Orders

    Is there a point to this show? Like seriously what is the point???

    • David Klopotoski

      It’s unfair to ask a show that’s only 6 episodes old what it’s overarching point is. I mean, what was the point of Star Trek TNG 6 episodes in? Right now the show is hitting on a lot of poignant themes. If I had to fit it into a general “point” probably the biggest message I can think of is, “If you want to change the galaxy, don’t abandon it for 14 years.”

      • mamba

        Star Trek TNG…by episode 3 we knew the feel of the show (exploration but much more focus on science and diplomacy), had the main bad guy, and got introduced very well to practically everyone (“the naked now”)

        Voyager, same deal. DS9…same deal. We knew what was happening, what was at stake, and the general tone.

        Even discovery, while it shifted this constantly, had established itself by 9 episodes. It changed like 4 more later, but it had established itself.

        But Picard? I agree with the OP, what IS the point of this? They should have had lots of time to give us a good feeling about it or the characters anyway. In reality if this was your first Trek show you’d be even more lost!

        • David Klopotoski

          It’s easy to say such things about shows that are twenty years old in some cases. Going back and really looking contemporarily, TNG didn’t become known as more than a lame retread of the original series until years into its run. DS9 is beloved now but was considered by many to be the red headed step child of the Star Trek family as it was getting less views than Voyager. They had to bring Worf and the Klingon war into the series to save it at one point. And maybe we were all watching Voyager but before too long we knew it was just a dull TNG clone. If it weren’t for the occasional Borg episode we wouldn’t have cared. So Picard might seem jumbled and messy and directionless now, but it’s only 6 episodes. I wish they would have serialized it less but I have appreciated the slow build.

          • Susan Montgomery

            Well, that’s kind of the point. They did serialize it, really. This is all one connected story and not an open-ended series and long before now they should have established motivations and themes for the characters. By this point, it all still feels like setup.

          • David Klopotoski

            I do feel like Star Trek has relied way too much on the Mystery Box technique which requires a lot of setup since JJ placed his stamp on the franchise. Maybe even a bit before that- both Insurrection and Nemesis had fairly pointless mystery elements. It just tends to involve a lot of meandering and a lot of pointless scenes needed to say, “Oh yeah, these characters exist.” I wouldn’t mind if the payoff is worth it. With Into Darkness and Discovery season 2 I feel it wasn’t. I have modest hopes with Picard because at least a mystery plot involving Romulans makes sense. And I was waiting for them to get on with it already, but then they arrived at “The Artifact” and did that thing which I thought was going to be nearer the endgame, so… I’m slightly satisfied? Yeah, I’m questioning it. But I’m not dismissing it.

          • David Klopotoski

            It’s the modern form of American television. Some shows are better at serializing and still creating a self-contained episode. Others lean way too far in the serialized direction. I think I can accept the heavily serialized form because I suspect the alternative will be for Star Trek writers to fall back on what appeared to be their previous approach- how many old scripts can we just tweak slightly to crap out “new” episodes?

  • oohhboy

    WHAT IS IN THE BOX?!

    In a show that is nothing but mystery boxes the one literal mystery box they open is full of literal poison. A toy box sitting in the open that is used to make ham fisted pseudo intellectual metaphors. This happened.

  • Spuddie

    “Oh, bullshit! I even have the certificate of authenticity! Damn you, eBay!”

    That line gave me the giggles in the most embarrassing way at work.