It's never easy to confront monsters, and Star Trek: Picard Season 3 Episode 7 drives that home with the return of a classic villain, the backstory of our new one, a suspicion of another, and two of our heroes choosing a monstrous path.
Furthermore, the horrific truth that the changelings have infiltrated Starfleet so profoundly that even Tuvok has been replaced is heartbreaking.
It's interesting to note that without Riker, Worf, and Raffi, there isn't a light-hearted quip in sight. Even Shaw is uncharacteristically taciturn and all business-y.
There is no adequate language to convey the trauma that gave rise to Vadic's insanity-tinged fanaticism, which is probably why her narrative is fleshed out with disjointed flashbacks and that eerie whistled rendition of "Three Blind Mice."
Remembering that Section 31 not only created the morphogenic virus, they infected Odo without his knowledge so he would carry it back to the Great Link, it's not hard to imagine them trying to weaponize changelings through experimentation.
That doesn't make it any less repulsive and cruel.
While Section 31's nearly successful attempt at genocide would've been an adequate enough reason to explain a changeling plot, the knowledge the Federation conducted Nazi-like lab experiments on captive changelings escalates their retaliation from a potential threat to an inevitable outcome.
The symphony I discovered didn’t have brass and strings but rather squealing of wheels down a hall, squeaking of boots on concrete, creaks of cage doors, screams of all tempos, pitches, and whistling. She whistled while she injected us, exposed us, inflicted us with more pain than any being should ever be expected to endure.Vadic
The Dominion War ended in 2375, but there's no date as to when Vadic and the other nine Daystrom Station changelings escaped their captors. Section 31 wouldn't have documented their captivity and certainly wouldn't have felt obligated to free them when the war ended.
After the torturous experimentation Vadic survived, it's no wonder she projects a sense of barely lucid ennui.
Would you like to hear more about where my appetite for your brutal inevitable extinction comes from? I got it from Starfleet. You gave me the ability to mimic your blood, hold my form, pass every test. And you did so while inflicting more torment on me. And those I loved. So don’t tell me I have no regard for love! Or innocence! Or pain.Vadic
Amanda Plummer has been killing it (and many individuals) as Vadic, determined to reap vengeance, calculating in strategy, vicious in purpose, and confident in having the upper hand.
But she is a product of her experiences. Everything she dreams of comes from the Federation. Everything that drives her is ignited by the wrongs visited upon her people.
Beverly: There never would’ve been a war had the Changelings not initiated it.
Vadic: Necessity. Solids like you were coming and you ruin every world you touch.
Picard: Name one.
Vadic: Mine. We were barely out of the gates of war and your Federation turned to genocide.
And yet she is not truly the Big Bad of the conflict. She is a soldier -- a high-ranking one, yes -- and carries out orders.
We have yet to learn who directs her actions, ordering her back into the nebula and demanding that she put Riker and Deanna (?) to more rigorous interrogation.
Beverly: What do you want with Jack?
Vadic: Me? Nothing.
Picard: Answer the question!
Vadic: He’s not for me! We could bond over that, since he was never really for you either.
Beverly: What the hell does that mean?
Everything Vadic shares with Picard and Beverly is calculated. When they decide they must kill her before she can harm Jack, there is satisfaction in her expression.
Monsters making monsters.
The contemplative moral naval-gazing Beverly and Picard undertake is true to character.
Alandra: So has Lore always been this arch?
Lore: Did the tree move? Or did the apple just fall far from it? When you’re constantly subjected to these self-righteous, self-proclaimed heroes, spewing their morality as if vomit were somehow virtuous, then sometimes, dear, a little bend, a little arch, a little antagonizing flair is required.
Lore's description of the Enterprise crew as "self-righteous" and "self-proclaimed heroes" isn't actually wrong.
Beverly and Picard see themselves -- even pride themselves -- as moral individuals. The fragility of that self-image is that there is no halfway way of being.
Beverly: The solution may be biological. And targeting a species on biology alone is tantamount to genocide.
Picard: Like the virus used against them in the Dominion War.
Beverly: Exactly. I know we’re desperate but I am concerned about crossing the line.
Picard: Well, see what you can find. We’ll weigh the morality if and when this becomes actual.
Once Beverly formulates a biological weapon that can target the Daystrom changelings, or she and Picard execute a prisoner, they will never be able to see themselves as they did before.
Picard: Are you and I so fundamentally changed that we’re willing to compromise everything, everything that we believed in?
Beverly: Yes, I think I’m losing my compass.
Trek fans know that both characters have made morally ambiguous decisions in the past, but in their minds, they've had justifiable reasons.
Would they be able to reconcile their actions in the name of parenthood? If intentions counted, we would have an answer soon.
As it is, Lore's impeccable timing saved them from having to deal with the fallout of a successful execution.
Lore has a perverted sense of what it means to be human.Geordi
My hot take: Brent Spiner is more impressive in his portrayal of Lore than Data or any of the Soongs.
Go ahead, fight me on that.
Spiner's Lore is unrepentantly brilliant, bitingly eloquent, and perfectly without a bothersome moral compass.
That's not to say he's without direction. Lore knows precisely where he's going and what he needs to get there.
Watching him struggle to keep Data subdued as Geordi makes plea after plea for help in the name of their friendship is a masterclass in externalizing internal conflict.
Data, I know you’re in there. So I need you to listen to me because Life rarely gives you second chances to say what you should. Data, you made me better. You did. You made me a better man, a better father, better friend. And when you died, it broke me. But, see, you put me back together, you repaired me, the memory of you.Geordi
Geordi's position here is the most painful to watch. An engineer -- nay, a Commodore -- is used to getting things done.
With Lore assuming control of the ship's systems and Sidney trapped and in danger, Geordi is at his most helpless and desperate.
All he can do is keep hammering away at Lore until Data is able to regain control.
Meanwhile, Sidney discovers what Jack has always suspected. He's not exactly normal.
Picard: I’m not giving up on you, Jack. Don’t you give up either.
Jack: I don’t want to. I love a good fight when it’s fair – or when it’s not, I’m the one cheating – but have never had the advantage here.
Yes, having him take over and puppet her through the fight saves her life, but it's also an incredibly invasive experience, and it's not like he had time to explain what was going to happen.
If he even could.
Things are once again looking bleak for the good guys.
Data has some control for the moment. But with Lore working at cross-purposes, I suspect it won't be easy to dislodge Vadic from her new command.
I warned you it would end this way. You could’ve spared yourself then where you are now. I did this not out of cruelty, but mercy. To be mutable, fluid, means knowing what the river knows, that there are many ways to the same sea. So here we are, where we were always going.Vadic
I wonder if Jack's powers of mind control extend to changelings? Could he red-eye one of Vadic's soldiers into doing his bidding?
Worf and Raffi were returning to the Titan when they were hiding in the scrapyard. Did they update him and Raffi on where they were going to spring the trap on the Shrike?
Poor Shaw. There have been more unwanted butts in his bridge seat this week than any captain should have to endure.
Are Riker and Deanna (?) okay? Is Deanna really Deanna? I still suspect she's not.
How will they get themselves out of this pickle? Will everyone survive?
What will the changelings' Frontier Day plot look like if they cannot get Jack in time?
Log your comments below! Hit us with your best thoughts and theories!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is a lifelong fan of smart sci-fi and fantasy media, an upstanding citizen of the United Federation of Planets, and a supporter of AFC Richmond 'til she dies. Her guilty pleasures include female-led procedurals, old-school sitcoms, and Bluey. She teaches, knits, and dreams big. Follow her on X.