Assignment: Picard — Star Trek: Picard’s “Fly Me to the Moon”

In 1968, the original Star Trek ended its second season with “Assignment: Earth,” a backdoor pilot for a show about Gary Seven, a human trained by mysterious aliens to keep humanity safe during the rather turbulent late 1960s. While that pilot didn’t go to series, the notion of Gary Seven and his mysterious benefactors took hold in the tie-in fiction, as we saw more of him, along with his assistant Roberta Lincoln, the mysterious Isis, and the aliens in charge in novels by Greg Cox (Assignment: Eternity and The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh Books 1-2) and Dayton Ward (From History’s Shadow and Elusive Salvation), comic books written by Howard Weinstein (from DC’s monthly Star Trek comic), Jackson Lanzing & Colin Kelly (IDW’s Year Five), and John Byrne (IDW’s Assignment: Earth).

But that secret mission of watching contemporary Earth hasn’t been seen on-screen again—until now.

I must give credit to the special effects team, as the teleportation that Tallinn, the “watcher” that Picard finally found at the end of last week, used was the same smoke-on-a-black-background effect that Gary Seven used when he teleported around the globe in “Assignment: Earth.” I should have picked up on that clue that Tallinn was working for the same organization—which Weinstein named the Aegis in his comics story, a name picked up on by many others, including both Cox and Ward—as Gary Seven.

And it’s explicitly laid out this week, that Tallinn was sent by the same people (not named the Aegis, disappointingly), but not to safeguard humanity in general the way Gary Seven was, but rather to keep an eye on one person in particular: the blonde from the end of last week, who is the same person Picard mentioned in his speech to the Academy back in “The Star Gazer“: Renee Picard.

Image: CBS

Renee is an astronaut who is supposed to lead the Europa mission. The Borg Queen has already said that the Watcher—Tallinn—is critical to the event that changes history, and her job is to watch Renee. Worse, they soon learn that the therapist Renee is seeing prior to launch is Q.

I have to say that “Fly Me to the Moon” was a huge relief, as finally, five episodes in, we get some actual plot movement instead of setting things up (only to set up something completely different the next week, or to just spin wheels as we did last week). It feels like the story has finally gotten started, and thank goodness, since we’re already halfway through the damn season.

Orla Brady is one of three opening-credits regulars who plays a 2024 character who looks just like someone from the turn of the twenty-fifth century. Brent Spiner gets to play his fourth member of the Soong family, having played Noonien on TNG, Arik on Enterprise, and Altan last season, now is playing a geneticist named Adam. In addition, he has a daughter, Kore, played by Isa Briones, who played the “daughters” of Data (Dahj, Soji, etc.) last season.

Image: CBS

Kore has a genetic condition that makes it impossible for her to be exposed to sunlight. Soong is trying to find a cure, but he’s having his funding pulled (by a committee led by a woman played by Lea Thompson, who directed the last two episodes; with Jonathan Frakes behind the camera for this and the next episode, Thompson—arguably best known for her role as Marty’s Mom in the Back to the Future movies—is a fun bit of casting as well as directing…). A mysterious benefactor offers him a cure for a price. That benefactor, of course, is Q.

It is completely unclear what Q is playing at here. It’s easy to guess, but there are many different possibilities. He’s obviously trying to influence Renee in some way—he wouldn’t be posing as her therapist otherwise—but I don’t think it’s quite as simple as Picard’s assumption that he’s trying to stop her from going on the mission to break history. For one thing, Q said that the breaking of history was Picard’s fault. For another, even Picard himself admits that he isn’t sure. We continue to get a nice mash-up of the actual history we’ve been living and the fictional history that Star Trek has thrown at us for the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Picard’s exact line is that records from the hundred years before first contact (established in the aptly named First Contact as 2063), which tracks with comments made by Spock in the original series’ “Space Seed” in particular about how fragmentary records are from the late twentieth century.

Besides having the main plot finally kicking in, with Picard and Tallinn making plans to keep Renee safe, and the mystery of what’s going on with Q and the Soong family (which is totally the name of my next band), we’ve also got Rios actually being rescued by Seven and Musiker (thanks to a well-placed EMP) and more drama between Jurati and the Borg Queen.

Image: CBS

I’m of two minds about what’s going on with the Queen. On the one hand, she’s nothing like the leader of a Collective. On the other hand, right now she isn’t the leader of a Collective, and they’ve made a point of emphasizing how frustrated she is by the silence.

So she goes full super-villain. She apparently is able to re-create the voices of everyone on board. Amusingly, the ship doesn’t respond to the voiceprints of Jurati or Picard, but does respond to Rios. (It was his ship in the Confederation.) She connects to the Labarre police and reports a disturbance at the Picard estate. This lures a gendarme (played by Ivo Nandi, who is the go-to guy if you want “ethnic,” apparently, since I’ve seen him play Italian, Latinx, Russian, as well as the Frenchman he is here) to the estate, whom the Queen then lures to La Sirena and takes hostage in order to get Jurati to do her bidding.

It’s a good response to Jurati’s fuck-you from last week, as is Jurati’s response: a shotgun to the face. But the shot happens off-camera, and later we see the Queen seemingly dead and the gendarme being healed by La Sirena’s sickbay. But by episode’s end, we learn that all is not well: the Queen is now in Jurati’s head.

For all that I find this a weak-sauce use of the Borg Queen—I didn’t like it when Voyager turned her into a mustachetwirling villain, and it’s no better here—I must say that Annie Wersching is doing a superb job in the role. She’s genuinely menacing, and the thing I’m most excited about for next week is seeing how this plays out in Jurati’s already-pretty-messed-up head.

Image: CBS

The acting has been really strong in the series all along, but this is the first episode where it feels like the script has caught up. John deLancie’s Q is always way more interesting when he’s mysterious and menacing instead of a clown. He plays beautifully off Spiner, who also does excellent work as the very cranky Soong, a role that’s so completely different from Data, with the added bonus of the love for his daughter that he mostly hides behind being a snot. Santiago Cabrera’s relaxed charm remains a joy to watch, Jeri Ryan gives us a Seven who’s still the logical ex-drone but with a great deal more understanding about individual life, while Michelle Hurd’s Musiker is in seventeen kinds of pain (she hallucinates one of Rios’ fellow prisoners as Elnor, thus allowing Evan Evagora to be in the opening credits for a five-second cameo—nice work if you can get it). And Alison Pill is quite excellent as Jurati.

After being a bit off last week, Sir Patrick Stewart is back in form, being very much the captain. It’s amusing to see that Tallinn tries very much to kick him back in bounds, reminding him that she doesn’t work for him, but that doesn’t even slow the admiral down even a little bit. Picard takes charge of everything in short order.

It’s not all great, as Orla Brady is mostly just there to provide exposition and be Stewart’s straight man, while fighting to maintain her American accent, and Isa Briones has a most thankless task of being The Noble Victim without having an actual personality of her own.

Still, for the first time all season, I’m excited about what will happen next. The episode ends with Jurati going into a pre-launch shindig that Renee is at, and her job as Computer Person is to hack the system to create IDs for the rest of the gang. But while we do see her get in, it’s right after that that we find out she’s got some Borg Queen in her cranium. It’s a most effective cliffhanger, probably the best one yet, because it really does cast doubt on everything. After all, we only have the Borg Queen’s word that this is the turning point, and she’s hardly a reliable source…

Keith R.A. DeCandido has stories out in many anthologies that will be published in 2022: “The Light Shines in the Darkness” in Phenomenons: Every Human Creature, a shared-world superhero anthology edited by fellow Trek scribe Michael Jan Friedman; “The Carpet’s Tale” in The Fans are Buried Tales, edited by another fellow Trek scribe, Peter David; “What You Can Become Tomorrow” in Three Time Travelers Walk Into, edited by Michael A. Ventrella, featuring Mary Shelley, Florence Johnson, and Josh Gibson; “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in Tales of Capes & Cowls, an anthology of superhero stories edited by C.T. Phipps; “A Lovely View” in Zorro’s Exploits, edited by Audrey Parente; and more besides, including an urban fantasy short-story collection Ragnarok and a Hard Place: More Tales of Cassie Zukav, Weirdness Magnet.

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