Picard S3E8: Surrender

As always, we start out in deep trouble. Vadic has taken over the Titan’s bridge, and is shutting down systems elsewhere on the ship so the crew can’t communicate and fight back. She’s holding the crew hostage and demanding Jack Crusher in return. And she’s smoking on the bridge, just so we know she’s extra evil.

While Picard and Beverly are trying to regain control in one part of the ship, and Geordi and Data in another, Jack is having an out of body experience. It turns out, he can’t just read Sidney LaForge’s thoughts, he can read everyone’s. And skipping from one crew member to another, he starts to get a picture of how things are going on the Titan. They’re not going well. Dead crew members are strewn around the corridors, and Vadic’s henchmen are running amok.

Things also aren’t going well for Riker and Troi — imprisoned on Vadic’s ship, and absent last week, both have been tortured (although Troi can still look adoringly on “the face of an old man who can still take a punch.”). We get a compressed version of the excellent earlier episode “Seventeen Seconds,” as the characters face their impending death and delve into their relationship. The two had grown apart since the death of their son — Riker assumed she blamed him for shutting down with grief. She assures him she just hated to see him suffer (and her psychic abilities made his suffering just as painful as her own). She used her abilities to try and numb his pain, but he resented that as not allowing him to properly grieve. It’s a nice emotional moment for the characters, who start to see a way forward in their ailing marriage, assuming Vadic’s thugs don’t kill them first.

And more relevant to the the plot, we also learn that Riker gave Vadic access codes to the Titan to protect his wife from torture, but was confident that in doing so Picard was setting a trap for her. And in Riker’s defense, that was true, Vadic just escaped Picard’s trap. And she now has the bridge crew at her mercy. Shaw reprimands Seven for saving his life, instead of blowing him and the changelings out the airlock when she had a chance last week. We get a lot in this episode of who should be sacrificed for whom, and whether giving in to a hostage-taker’s demands to save lives is justified, or whether you’re just granting them license to take more lives.

But despite entreaties from his parents to not give Vadic what she wants, Jack is determined to give himself up so no one has to be sacrificed for him. He also has an ulterior motive — he believes he can try and use his newfound abilities to take the ship back from Vadic. Before he goes as far as surrendering himself, he uses his ability to control one of the bridge crew to try and unlock control of the ship’s computer. Vadic immediately knows it’s him. She understands his power even if he (and we) don’t. And she’s even more determined to go ahead with whatever evil plans she has for him.

But the good guys are making plans too. Picard quickly realizes the only person who can wrestle control of the ship’s systems away from Vadic is Data, who’s currently plugged into those systems, but is also veering unpredictably between Data and Lore, a malevolent, scheming fellow android now reduced to a second personality in the same body.

Bereft of any other options, Geordi takes down the partition between Data and Lore and lets them fight it out. We get a face-to-face between the two, as Brent Spiner acts out both personalities vying for dominance. It could come across as hokey in lesser hands, but instead of the expected “just when all is lost, our hero just believed in himself and/or knew his friends were there for him and turned the tide!”, we get something a bit more subtle, and that takes the characters’ personalities into account. Data understands that all Lore wants is to win, so he lets him (the “Surrender” of the title), and then uses that against him, in a clever turnaround that draws on the years of character development we saw in Data over the course of Next Generation’s run.

Meanwhile, Jack does give in to Vadic and goes to the bridge, and then in a move straight out of Blazing Saddles, takes himself hostage. He knows Vadic wants him alive, so he threatens to kill himself if she doesn’t let the others go, which he does. She knows he hears voices, she even knows about the red door in his visions. But she’s drawing out the reveal of what the hell is going on. Which means the show also gets to draw out that reveal for another episode at least, but it also means Jack can do what he really came to do: stall for time while dear old Dad does what he does best.

And what follows is one of the greatest joys Trek has to offer — a risky plan, relying on cleverness and teamwork, pulled off with panache. We won’t spoil the fun of watching it unfold for yourself, we’ll just skip to the denouement afterwards. There’s a reason we haven’t seen much of Counselor Troi this season, apart from not wanting to crowd an already-overstuffed cast.

As soon as Troi is on the same ship as Jack, she senses a powerful darkness. Not emanating from Jack himself, necessarily, but following him, surrounding him. She can sense the voice that’s calling to him. She knows there’s a door waiting to be opened. And we might finally find out what’s on the other side next week.

Stray tachyons

• I suppose it’s difficult to come up with a convincing holiday, but Frontier Day always sounds a bit silly, no matter how seriously the show treats it.

• I feel like Brent Spiner has been overused in the franchise as various ancestors or descendants of Dr. Noonien Soong, Data’s creator. But he’s terrific here as affectless Data and scenery-chewing Lore. They’re the two variations on the character with the most distance between them, and yet he gives them a believable sibling relationship that’s a mixture of affection and disdain. Even as Lore’s trying to destroy Data, Data understands Lore and feels some sympathy for what he’s become.

• We finally get enough of a break from “Data, we need your help!” for a nice moment of friendship between him and Geordi, and a reunion with the rest of the crew. While we don’t have much time for empty fan service, seeing the old crew finally sitting around a conference table together as the old familiar music swells feels like some well-earned fan service.

• “I have slaughtered countless enemies over the years, and have considered sending their heads to all of you.” Oh, Worf, you big softie.