Star Trek: The Next Generation could always swing between serious drama and silly high concept, and we follow last week’s meditation on impending death with a cold open in which Jack mercilessly kills the bridge crew… but it was all a dream! Jack’s having hallucinations, hearing voices, and getting flashes of red lights, a mysterious door, and some Stranger Things-esque creeping vines.
If this were still Next Generation, unexplained weirdness would be the crux of the episode and this week’s mystery to solve. But instead it lurks in the background as we get a more conventional episode, in which Picard and Riker have to face the music for stealing a starship and nearly getting everyone on board killed several times over. (Much to the barely-concealed delight of Captain Shaw, still as delightfully pissy as ever.)
Shaw gleefully turns Picard over to be interrogated by a Commander from Starfleet Security, who turns out to be… Ro Laren! A fan favorite from the last three seasons of Next Generation, she was added in a recurring role as someone who could challenge Picard, and she slips right back into that role, threatening to bring the Admiral up on charges of treason.
And while a lesser show — or even a lesser season of this show — would simply throw Ro in for the cheap thrill of recognition, season three of Picard does what it’s done best: taking what we already know about these characters and delving deep into the emotional well of their relationship.
Picard throws the treason charge back in her face, as when we last saw Ro, in the second-to-last episode of Next Generation, she betrayed Picard and Starfleet, throwing her lot in with a terrorist group she was supposed to be infiltrating. She in turn felt betrayed by Picard, who wanted to mentor her only so long as she followed his rules, and never tried to understand that she joined the terrorist cause believing she was doing the right thing.
Each feels like they betrayed the other’s trust, and trust is on short supply in “Imposters,” as the Changelings the crew caught last week were just the tip of the iceberg. There are more of them, they could be anyone, and Picard and Ro relentlessly interrogate each other to see if they’re really the person they say they are, only to realize neither of them actually knew the other as well as they thought.
Speaking of interrogations, Worf and Raffi are back after missing last week’s episode, and busting heads looking for someone who can lead them to the stolen portal weapon. Raffi suggests the weapon — used in a terrorist attack at the beginning of episode one, and to devastating effect against the Titan by Vadic two weeks ago — was in fact a distraction, and the Changelings stole it to distract from something else they want.
So they return to the criminal underworld and find a weapons broker involved in the heist who, surprisingly, turns out to be a Vulcan. We’ve had preening, condescending Vulcans in adversarial relationships with various Trek characters, but never an outright villain. The Vulcan arms dealer justifies to himself that society is always going to have a criminal element, so the underworld may as well be run logically. That he wagers on the outcomes of his various schemes is a nice nod to Spock’s logical mind always knowing the odds.
We don’t get much from the Worf-Raffi storyline beyond the fun of watching the two bounce off of each other, but we inch the conspiracy storyline forward, and inch the characters closer to Picard so they can inevitably team up against their common enemy.
Who, again, could be anywhere and could be anyone. Dr. Crusher discovers that these Changelings have evolved since the ones we saw on Deep Space Nine, and can mimic human blood and organs, making them impossible to detect (the originals were just blobs of goo underneath their outwardly human appearance). What’s worse, the only place we know for sure they are is the Intrepid, the ship sent to rescue Titan. Bad enough Ro makes it clear Intrepid is there to interrogate the Titan’s crew first, and rescue them later. It soon becomes clear the Changelings are not only running the ship, they might be running all of Starfleet. And they know that Picard and company are onto them.
And then we’re finally back to What’s Wrong With Jack. To the episode’s eternal credit, when Beverly finally confronts him about his odd behavior, he doesn’t do the “it’s nothing, I’m fine” wave-off that every other character in the history of television has done in his place. We still don’t know exactly what’s going on, but we at least get some reassurance we’re not going to waste any time finding out as we head into the second half of the season.
• No idea why the episode title is misspelled. It’s impostor, although -er is a common enough mistake.
• Shaw, recounting all the potentially world-ending problems the Enterprise crew fixed that they themselves had caused: “When it comes to rescues from danger, you have a real chicken-and-egg thing happening.”
• Michelle Forbes is terrific here, as she was on Next Generation. Series creator Gene Roddenberry had originally forbid any conflict between the leads, which made it tough to generate drama, so Forbes’ prickly, defiant Ensign Ro gave the series a shot in the arm. Producers liked Forbes so much they started building spinoff Deep Space Nine around Ro, but Forbes didn’t want to commit to a seven-season series, so they created a new character with a similar backstory and found another actress (the also-excellent Nana Visitor). Fans have long wondered what DS9 would have looked like with Forbes at the center, so it’s nice to see her get a chance to shine here.