By Maggie Lovitt
An unexpected face from 'The Next Generation' turns up to give Picard a fighting chance against the Changelings.
With Vadic (Amanda Plummer) and the Shrike far behind them, one might assume that Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the crew of the U.S.S. Titan are finally on the path to safety in the fifth episode of Star Trek: Picard’s final season, but that isn’t the case. The full scale of the Changelings' plot begins to come into focus in the aptly titled “Imposters,” and no one could have predicted just how widespread the danger is—both near and far.
The episode, directed by Dan Liu and written by Cindy Appel and Chris Derrick, opens quite serenely with the bridge crew of the Titan making preparations to get the starship back into working order after their near-death stint in the nebula, but the peace is quickly shattered when a Starfleet uniform-clad Jack Crusher (Ed Speleers) steps onto the bridge to murder everyone. Luckily, for everyone involved, this terrifying episode is just a nightmare, but when Jack awakens from it, he is clutching a blaster, which suggests that maybe, just maybe, there’s something very real—and very wrong—at play. To his credit, Jack seems rightfully disturbed by the situation, but after two episodes of ominous red doors and creepy voices, Star Trek: Picard seems to be making a point that there’s something larger at play here for Jack. Just when it seems like he may be past this weird incident, his eyes turn red and that same creepy voice whispers: “Jack, come home.”
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Elsewhere aboard the Titan, Picard, Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Seven (Jeri Ryan), and Captain Shaw (Todd Stashwick) convene to discuss the Changeling situation aboard the ship. After Riker hands control back over to Shaw, Shaw reveals that he already took the liberty of contacting Starfleet to report everything that has happened, including their misdeeds. He asks Seven if she wants to face the music reinstated, and she doesn’t even hesitate to ask to be reinstated. Picard vows to bear the brunt of the punishment since he was the one that orchestrated the whole takeover, and Shaw seems mightily pleased with the prospect that Picard might finally have to pay for his actions.
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Picard sets off to tell Beverly (Gates McFadden) and Jack that Starfleet are on their way to question the crew of the Titan, and Beverly is quick to point out that this situation with the Changelings is far from over. After all, how did the Changelings get onboard the Titan weeks before Picard was even made aware of the situation that Beverly and Jack were facing on the fringes of Federation space? Keen to continue investigating the situation, Beverly sets off back to the sick bay, while Jack lingers to speak with his father. In the wake of his nightmare, Jack clearly seems nervous about anything to do with Starfleet, which makes Picard’s suggestion that he should consider a life within Starfleet after the dust has settled even more alarming. Even without the nightmare, Jack has good reason to turn it down—Starfleet would put a crimp in his lifestyle as a rogue medic. While Picard very clearly wants to stay in Jack and Beverly’s lives, Jack doesn’t seem as excited by the prospect.
When the U.S.S. Intrepid arrives to investigate the situation aboard the Titan, something seems immediately off about the whole thing. Seven and Shaw are the first to find it suspicious that, rather than using the transporter to beam aboard, the Intrepid sends over the investigators on shuttles. With a very uneasy vibe setting in, Picard asks Seven for one more favor—which turns Jack’s nightmare into reality. Taking heed of Beverly’s warning that the Changeling plot is far from over, Picard’s plan with Seven is to help Jack blend in right in plain sight—which means dressing him up in a Starfleet uniform, which he does put on.
Picard is ever-hopeful that he and Riker won’t get into too much trouble, banking on their vast career as galaxy-savers to smooth things over. Shaw, given the bad blood between him and Picard, isn’t as convinced that their legacy is enough to save them. Especially not when they’ve made a lot of mistakes which they had to save the galaxy from too. Picard’s hope for a smooth investigation quickly vanishes when he recognizes a familiar face among the Intrepid’s crew: Ro Laren (Michelle Forbes). Picard is immediately on the defensive, still clearly troubled by what went down on Star Trek: The Next Generation, when she was just Ensign Ro.
Picard and Ro had a complicated relationship during her time aboard the Enterprise, a fact that still seems to weigh heavily on both of them. Despite being the driving force behind Ro defecting to the Maquis, Picard still sees it as an ultimate betrayal—further compounded by the fact that Ro has come aboard the Titan now to claim Picard is a traitor. To her credit, Ro tries to be reasonable with Picard, explaining what their plan is for interrogation, what his rights are, and that they plan to transport most of the crew over to the Intrepid. In an attempt to convince Picard that she isn’t a Changeling, Ro slices her hand open to prove that she bleeds, but he’s fully aware the Changelings they’re dealing with might be capable of bleeding like anyone else.
In sickbay, Beverly and Dr. Ohk (Tiffany Shepis) have brought Ensign La Forge (Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut) in to confirm that the dead Changeling that looks like her, is indeed not her. Unlike previous run-ins with Changelings, this particular Changeling has retained its previous form after being killed—instead of turning back into goo. Beverly discovers that this new breed of Changeling has blood, which allows it to pass the required Starfleet blood testing, meaning anyone aboard the Titan could be a Changeling: confirming Picard’s concerns on the other side of the ship. As they continue running diagnostics on the corpse, they discover that not only can this newly evolved species pass blood tests, but they can replicate human organs.
After making this discovery, Beverly reaches out to Picard who is still being interrogated by Ro. Picard quickly makes it clear that their conversation is not private, and Beverly smoothly explains that she’s relaying some sort of medical test to him, which he claims are personal health scans. With the brief reprieve that Ro allows him, Picard retrieves Beverly’s message, which once again urges him to “trust no one.” With this new knowledge, Picard is even more suspicious of Ro and the fact that she isn’t asking any hard questions about the situation. Recognizing that he thinks she may be a Changeling, she dives into their history and fills in the blanks between the last time they saw each other now, but still, she sidesteps the more personal questions Picard tries to strike at. Shifting gears, Ro requests to see the Changeling remains they have aboard the Titan, which is all a ruse to get Picard alone and far away from prying eyes. In a very surprising turn, she pulls her phaser on him and herds him into the holodeck which is still set up to look like 10 Forward. Despite having a phaser trained on him, Picard slides behind the bar and offers to make her drink, which is a ruse in and of itself. The holodeck is a perfect replica of 10 Forward, including the phaser that Guinan had stashed behind it.
Once again, Picard brings up the fact that Ro isn’t wearing her Bajoran earring, which was a source of great controversy because it technically broke Starfleet protocol, though he had bent the rules for her when she was aboard the Enterprise. Their conversation shifts quite sharply, with Picard claiming that this is a conversation he has been waiting to have for thirty years. He’s quick to lash out and tell her that she betrayed everything he had ever believed in, but Ro meets his words with harsh truths of her own. She accuses him of trying to mold her in his own image, something that she was never going to be able to achieve—which is evident in how their arc played out on The Next Generation. The betrayal was mutual, but Picard set her up to fail by expecting more than she could give. After a heartfelt confession that they both broke each other’s hearts, Ro and Picard lower their weapons and return to the far more pressing matter at hand. Locked away on the holodeck, far from suspicious ears, Ro admits that Starfleet has been compromised all the way to the highest levels and, despite everything that has happened between them, she asks Picard to trust her again.
Ro goes on to explain that she has been investigating what appears to be a widespread Changeling plot, though every time she gets close to finding answers she’s locked out. For months there have been fleet-wide issues, which have been covered up, and she is convinced that something is going to happen on Frontier Day when all the fleets are present. Despite the grandeur of the event and the all-hands nature of it, she has found herself largely locked out of the planning—leading her to believe the Changelings are behind it. She also tells Picard that she has been hearing Jack’s name on intelligence chatter for months: someone wants something from him, and it all seems connected.
Speaking of Jack, he is doing a terrible job of keeping a low profile while a pair of security engineers from the Intrepid are prowling the ship looking for him. With most of the crew of the Titan being transported aboard the Intrepid, Jack finds himself in the transporter room fantasizing about killing the transporter officer. He is still hearing voices, though now the voice is saying “Find me. Connect us. Do you hear me?” It’s all very ominous stuff, especially with the glowing red eyes, and the unsettling desire to kill Starfleet officers. On the other side of the galaxy, Raffi (Michelle Hurd) and Worf (Michael Dorn) are training aboard La Sirena. Worf is still intent on figuring out what the Changelings stole from Daystrom, but their investigation is coming up short for two, very different reasons. Sneed was their only lead and since Worf had to kill him to save Raffi’s neck—they can’t pursue that lead anymore. Also, Starfleet is continuing to deny them access when they try to investigate that avenue, leading them to believe that someone wants to keep them out. Worf deduces that their only remaining lead is a criminal by the name of Krinn who worked alongside Sneed.
When they arrive at District 6, they very quickly realize that something is amiss. Everyone is running and hiding and clearing out the streets. It would seem that after killing Sneed, everyone in the city fears them now. Raffi attempts to take advantage of the situation, shouting that they’re looking for Sneed’s associate Krinn, but it backfires. Quite a bit. Krinn does show up, and he’s furious that they killed Sneed, who was essentially his brother even though he is a Vulcan and the latter was a Ferengi. Krinn swiftly sees through the little trap that Worf and Raffi set for him and takes them hostage, with a plan to force them to fight to the death.
Leaning back on their training sequence from the top of the episode, Raffi and Worf reluctantly engage in combat, which leads to Raffi gaining the upper hand and stabbing Worf. In a heart-wrenching moment, Worf says the iconic line, “Today was a good day to die.” and seemingly keels over dead. Luckily, “Imposters” doesn’t make the audience wait too long to learn that they didn’t actually kill off one of the most beloved characters in the franchise. But what’s important is that Krinn believes that the Klingon is dead just long enough to be lulled into a false sense of security, allowing Worf to come through and kill everyone. Krinn was the one that orchestrated the break-in at Daystrom and, at knifepoint, he reveals that the facility is guarded by a flawed and illogical AI system. He happened to find a device that exploits its flaws, and without this device, no one else can get into Daystrom undetected. And, as any intelligent Vulcan would realize, he admits that providing them with the device would be the most logical course of action.
On the Titan, things are starting to reach another crisis point. Ro informs Picard that her plan is to leave them with a skeleton crew of hopefully non-Changeling crewmembers, and tells him that they are going to have to run. Before they part ways, in the midst of a tearful goodbye, Ro leaves Picard with the earring that has been such a hot topic throughout the episode. Befuddled, but recognizing the peril they are most likely in, Picard goes straight to Shaw to inform him that they’re going to have to run away because things are so much worse than they could’ve imagined.
Aboard Ro’s shuttle back to the Intrepid, she realizes that her two security engineers (the pair that has been looking for Jack on the Titan) have planted a bomb on the ship, and before she can stop them, or kill them, they beam back onto the Titan. Ro hails the Titan to tell them what happened, but she refuses Picard’s desperate attempts to offer help because there’s no time for her to defuse the bomb. Instead, Ro navigates the shuttle towards the Intrepid, crashing into it as the bombs go off. This, in her own words, is an attempt to give Picard a fighting chance. With part of the Intrepid smoldering in space, the starship turns on the Titan, and they quickly realize they are about to be framed for “attacking” another Starfleet vessel. Before anyone can get too carried away, Seven cautions them that they can’t fire on the Intrepid because they will kill their crew members which were taken aboard it. Riker pleads with Shaw to trust them, just as he trusts what his own eyes have seen, and Shaw informs the remaining crew aboard the ship that Starfleet has been compromised.
As this message is broadcast across the Titan, the pair of Changeling security engineers finally track down Jack and are joined by another set of dubious Starfleet officers. Cornered, and seemingly about to be captured, Jack sees the eerie red door again and—for lack of a better descriptor—goes apeshit on the officers. With super-human strength, he takes out all four of them, as if it were the easiest thing in the world. The door returns again and this time it doesn’t seem like a far-off vision: this door appears to be right at the end of the corridor. But nearly as soon as it appears, it vanishes, leaving Jack to take in what he just did. While this encounter wasn’t exactly what played out in his nightmare, it’s awfully suspicious that he knew he would have to take out a handful of Starfleet officers—Changelings, or otherwise.
The Titan manages to jump to warp before the Intrepid can attack them, and now that things have settled down for a few minutes, Picard and Riker have a little heart-to-heart about Ro. Picard admits that he didn’t realize just how much it would affect him to see her, and perhaps the subtext there is that he also didn’t realize how much it would affect him to lose her too. Riker is sympathetic, as he has always been with the complex connection between Picard and Ro. What confuses Picard the most is that Ro left him with the earring, which Riker quickly recognizes for what it is: a smartly concealed data chip. As they look through all the information that Ro had collected over the past few months, they intercept an incoming transmission from Worf who is both glad to see old friends, but concerned about Ro’s absence.
In sickbay, Shaw commends Jack for being able to take out four Changelings all by himself, which might just be the first nice thing Shaw has said to Jack since he came onboard. Beverly, however, recognizes that something is wrong with her son. She asks for a moment alone with him, wherein she tells him he can’t hide anything from her: she knows he hasn’t been sleeping again. Beverly reminds him of a time, many years ago when he was just a boy, when he was too afraid to sleep because of the nightmares he was having. She goes on to ask him how he knew that the officers he killed were Changelings and, with tears streaming down his cheeks, Jack admits that he didn’t know. As the episode comes to a close, Jack claims that there is something very wrong with him, and it’s easy to agree with him on that front.
As the second act of the final season of Star Trek: Picard begins, it appears the series is prompting its audience to look deeper into what we have already been told. Now that Worf and Raffi’s storyline is finally converging with the plot aboard the Titan, hopefully, more answers will be answered in the following episode—both with the Changelings, and perhaps whatever is plaguing Jack. Why do the Changelings want him, and more importantly, who and what is he supposed to “connect” with?
The first five episodes of the final season of Star Trek: Picard are streaming now on Paramount+.