In the Cold Open, Picard struggles against something that has taken over the bridge of a starship and activates the Self-Destruct Sequence.
48 hours earlier, it's been a year and a half since Ganmadan was prevented. We catch up with our crew: Jurati and Soji doing goodwill ambassadorship on behalf of synths; Rios and Raffi back in Starfleet, the latter at the Academy looking after newly-minted cadet Elnor; Seven captaining the La Sirena on behalf of the Fenris Rangers; and Picard back on Earth supervising the harvest at Chateau Picard. However, we are introduced to what will be the season's Driving Question when Laris makes a move on Jean-Luc... and he is unable to reciprocate. A consultation with Guinan, now running a bar in Los Angeles, confirms that, for Picard, the final frontier is not space but romance. However, he is unable to continue soul-searching because of something odd: both the La Sirena and the Stargazer, which Rios now captains, have discovered a Negative Space Wedgie that is calling for help... from Picard specifically.
It turns out to be the Borg. In a state of emergency, Picard is mobilized, with Raffi and Elnor backing him up aboard the USS Excelsior and an entire fleet of starships arriving to confront the new arrival. The Borg claim to want to negotiate, and Picard allows the Queen to beam aboard Stargazer's bridge... But she begins to assimilate the ship and the rest of the fleet, and with no further recourse, Picard orders the self-destruct.
After a flash of light, he finds himself back on Chateau Picard on Earth... But a different Earth than he knows, with widespread pollution, widespread synth and Romulan slaves. And then Q appears...
- Actor Allusion: According to background details, Picard’s first starship posting was to the USS Leondegrance while it was serving as a training ship under the command of Captain Uhura; Patrick Stewart played Leondegrance in the film Excalibur.
- Alien Sky: Earth in the new timeline has a Beehive Barrier covering the planet, just in case Picard's altered Starfleet badge wasn't a big enough hint at things going wrong.
- All There in the Manual: This tweet from Production Designer Dave Blass reveals what is said on the various Ships of the Line plaques. Among them:
- True to Captain Kirk's word, Commodore Decker is remembered as a hero who tried to destroy the Doomsday Weapon after it killed his crew and nearly destroyed the Constellation.
- Sulu's time on the Excelsior ended at the same time as the ship was decommissioned, lasting an amazing 35 years.
- Uhura was captain of the Leondegrance after her time on the Enterprise and Enterprise-A, even sticking around as training captain before retirement. This was also Picard's first assignment (after he recovered from his heart injury at Starbase Earhart).
- The Enterprise-D's saucer section was retrieved and placed in a museum.
- The Voyager was actually decommissioned soon after it returned to Earth.
- Almost Kiss: Picard and Laris come close to sharing a kiss, but he stops at the last second.
- Art Evolution: Q's signature snap-flash is a Meta example. The basic visual effect is still the same as it was in the earlier 24th Century shows. But it's also undeniably more detailed and distinct as it's now being created digitally and for high-definition.
- Attack Hello: The Stargazer security teams and several of the bridge officers open fire on the Borg Queen as soon as she arrives on the bridge (or the guards emerge from the turbolift). Not that it helps, because the Queen simply redirects their phaser fire right back at them (though non-fatally).
- Big Sister Instinct: Raffi pulled strings to get Elnor assigned to the Excelsior so she could keep an eye on him, as his Absolute Candor can rub people the wrong way and she wants to keep him out of trouble.Picard: Keeping him under your wing.
Raffi: That boy's Absolute Candor can get his ass kicked. So I'm protective of him.
- Bilingual Dialogue: Seven and Emmet converse in English and Spanish, respectively.
- Borrowed Catchphrase: Rios uses Picard's "Make it so" when giving orders after saying "Dale"* , which is Spanish for "Do it".
- Once again, as in "The Best of Both Worlds, Part 1", the Borg hail Picard specifically by name.
- The auto-destruct sequence aboard the U.S.S. Stargazer incorporates the "zero-zero-zero-destruct-zero" pattern also used in TOS and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.
- The ageless Q intentionally ages himself up to mock Picard similar to how he did to Future-Picard during the episode "All Good Things..."
- Canon Immigrant: Four starships from Star Trek Online make the jump to canon status in this episode:
- The Gagarin-class, a 25th Century variant of the Shepard-class from Star Trek: Discovery.
- The Reliant-class, the 25th Century variant of the iconic Miranda-class.
- The Sutherland-class, the 25th Century variant of the Nebula-class.
- The Ross-class, a variant of the iconic Galaxy-class. This is a double one as this was designed for the Star Trek Adventures Actual Play show Clear Skies.
- Character Aged with the Actor:
- Cleverly acknowledged and executed with Q (and John de Lancie still playing an ageless character despite now being in his seventies). In his very first shot, de Lancie is digitally de-aged to appear just as he did back during TNG. Seeing Jean-Luc is now much older, he snaps his fingers to mockingly 'catch up' with mon capitaine.
- Likewise, when Picard notes he thought Guinan's species didn't age, she responds "we can when we choose to." She says humans find her lack of aging off-putting, so she allowed her physical appearance to age with them.
- Continuity Nod:
- Jurati mentions how the Borg are supposed to be in a crippled state these days.
- Guinan's lounge on the Enterprise-D was called "Ten Forward" owing to its location on Deck 10 at the very front of the ship. Here, her bar is again named for its location, now in Los Angeles: Number 10, Forward Avenue.
- Contrived Coincidence:
- Seven, aboard La Sirena, just so happens to be within sensor range of the anomaly while fending off some pirates trying to steal her cargo of medical supplies.
- The anomaly also happens to coincide with Starfleet Academy sending a class of cadets on training flights aboard actual starships, meaning both Raffi and Elnor are aboard Excelsior when they join the fleet that is sent to the site of the anomaly.
- Death of the Hypotenuse: Zhaban's off-screen death is quite transparently done to enable a Picard/Laris romance to be teased.
- Double-Meaning Title: The title can refer to Picard, who's gazed at the stars since he was a child and once commanded a ship named Stargazer, or the new USS Stargazer that Rios now commands.
- Mechanical tentacles, an anomaly with a Sickly Green Glow, many voices speaking in unison ... the Borg reveal can be seen coming a mile away.
- Picard is told that the anomaly is putting out a ton of temporal radiation, suggesting the return of the Borg is more than merely a rather showy method of space travel.
- Hard Light: Seven summons Emmet so he can distract the pirates, being impervious to phaser fire as an incorporeal hologram. Once the pirates start ignoring him, she disables the safety protocols so he can fight them.
- In Medias Res: The episode begins with a starship under attack and Picard activating the Self-Destruct Mechanism. It then shows How We Got Here.
- Legacy Vessel Naming:
- Rios is now The Captain of the newest USS Stargazer, which looks like a 25th-century descendant of Picard's first command, quad-nacelles and all.
- There's also a new USS Excelsior, where Raffi is XO and Elnor is a midshipman cadet. The nacelles are different and the neck is thicker, but it's still the same basic shape.
- Another USS Grissom is also mentioned.
- In addition, three of the new starship classes are named after previously-featured starships: the Reliant from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the Sutherland from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Redemption", and the Gagarin from the Star Trek: Discovery episode "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum".
- A Lighter Shade of Black: While forcing your way onto The Bridge of a Starfleet vessel and attempting to hijack an entire fleet isn't precisely a gesture of good will, the Borg Queen avoids killing anyone as she does it, merely stunning all who fire upon her. This is a significant change of behavior from the Borg, who would have assimilated the ship — crew and all — without sparing a thought for the lives destroyed in the process.
- Little "No": Becomes a little Rapid-Fire "No!" when Picard hears the voice of Q behind him.
- Lured Into a Trap: Picard, the Stargazer, and numerous other Starfleet ships are lured to the site of a Negative Space Wedgie by a Distress Call specifically asking for Picard's help. The wedgie in question then spits out a Borg ship which beams the Queen to The Bridge of the Stargazer so she can begin assimilating the assembled ships.
- Malevolent Masked Men: The new Borg Queen design features a creepy mask made of many shifting metallic layers.
- Mile-Long Ship: According to this tweet by Dave Blass, the Borg ship is 6.29 miles (10.16 km) across.
- Missed Him by That Much: Laris returns to the villa of Chateau Picard just moments before Picard boards a shuttle to head to the anomaly, entering the house through the front door as he leaves out the back.
- Mundane Utility: Chateau Picard has drones which beam the ripened crop right off the vine for processing, and wine labels which materialize on the bottles as they're being packed.
- Negative Space Wedgie: The main plot is kicked off by a tear in space forming out of nowhere. From it, a signal calls Picard for help and asks for Federation membership, before spitting out a Borg ship as soon as the former announces his presence.
- Non-Standard Character Design: Both the Borg Queen and her vessel are very different from the usual Borg look:
- Instead of the usual "bald woman with cables for hair", the Queen has a Badass Cape and a creepy faceless metal mask. Jurati Lampshades it, saying, "Okay, that's new."
- The Borg ship is a jagged starburst shape with plenty of Spikes of Villainy, instead of a geometric shape of some sort.
- Not Me This Time: Q denies responsibility for the altered timeline, and in fact implies that he rescued Picard so he could fix it.
- Once More, with Clarity!: When the plot returns to the scene of the Borg Queen boarding and attempting to assimilate the Stargazer, we not only see her actual arrival along with that of her vessel, but we also find out that the Queen is actually only stunning the crew members trying to shoot her, rather than killing them with their returned phaser fire as was implied in the Action Prologue.
- Oh, Crap!:
- It's The Borg. And they're asking for Picard by name...
- Picard has this reaction when he hears Q's voice for the first time in decades.Picard: What is happening here?
Q: An excellent question, Jean-Luc... Mon Capitaine. How I've missed you.
Picard: No… No… no, no, no, no, no…
- Plot-Relevant Age-Up:
- As only an immortal Reality Warper can — Q first appears to Picard as he did decades ago before snapping his fingers and making himself look old like Picard.Q: Oh dear. You're a bit older than I imagined. Let me catch up.
(Snaps fingers. Adopts grey hair and a beard.)
Q: There. Now we're even.
- Guinan says that El-Aurians can control their ageing process as well.
- As only an immortal Reality Warper can — Q first appears to Picard as he did decades ago before snapping his fingers and making himself look old like Picard.
- Precision F-Strike: When Q finally appears before Picard, the former captain's first words to him are "Q. God damn Q."
- Properly Paranoid: Seven is naturally completely right about the Borg having ill intent, though the Queen conspicuously avoids killing anyone.
- Robot Maid: In the new timeline, Picard has a synth assistant, the same model that was used on Mars in the first season before the attack on the shipyards.
- Self-Destruct Mechanism: When the Borg Queen boards the Stargazer and attempts to use it as a hub to hijack the entire fleet, Picard activates the autodestruct to stop her.
- Space Cadet: Elnor is now the first fully Romulan cadet at Starfleet Academy. (The "fully Romulan" bit also serves as a Continuity Nod to the fact that there were partial Romulans in Starfleet who claimed that they were wholly or partially Vulcan, like Oh and Simon Tarses. And Saavik, if you count the Deleted Scene that establishes her as half Romulan as canon.)
- Space Pirates: Seven and Emmet successfully defeat several pirates who try to raid La Sirena.
- This Is Gonna Suck: The moment he hears that familiar voice call him "Mon Capitaine", Picard can only let out a Rapid-Fire "No!" when he realizes who's back...
- Time Skip: It's been over a year and a half since the end of season 1. In that time:
- Picard has become Chancellor of Starfleet Academy, a position he was previously offered back in Season 1 of TNG. He also still manages Chateau Picard.
- Raffi is back in Starfleet and is XO of USS Excelsior.
- Rios is also back in Starfleet and is The Captain of USS Stargazer.
- Elnor is a cadet at Starfleet Academy and has been assigned field duty aboard Excelsior.
- Seven is flying La Sirena and still with the Fenris Rangers.
- Soji has been on a diplomatic tour on behalf of her fellow synths. Agnes is with her; she has been cleared of murdering Bruce Maddox, since she was under the influence of a mind-meld.
- Zhaban has died, leaving Laris a widow.
- Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: The Starfleet Security team waiting in the turbolift to arrive at the Stargazer's Bridge during the teaser.
- Villainous Rescue: Say what you will about him, but Q did pull Picard out of a self-destructing starship.
- Watch the Paint Job: Rios is upset to find his ship, now under Seven's command, is pretty banged up. She brushes off his complaints because it belongs to her now and battle damage is just part of the job of a Fenris Ranger protecting innocents.
- We Come in Peace — Shoot to Kill: The Borg invoke Article 15 of the Federation charter to imply they wish to join, but as soon as they confirm Picard's presence, they forcefully beam their Queen through the Stargazer's shields so she can hijack the vessel and through it the assembled fleet.
- Working with the Ex: Jurati broke up with Rios, but she still works with him in some capacity on the Stargazer.