Star Trek Picard "Absolute Candor" - Detailed Review / Analysis

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By Adam David Collings. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Picard and his crew are finally off, travelling the stars in their ship. Their first stop is a planet called Vashti, where Picard helped Romulan refugees 14 years ago. This episode forces Picard to confront his past failures, and the guilt he carries because of them. And we meet Elnor, a warrior from a Romulan religious order. Can Picard convince Elnor to join his quest?

I found there were some interesting themes to talk about in this episode. So let's dig into it together.

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Transcript

Welcome to Nerd Heaven.

I’m Adam David Collings. The author of Jewel of The Stars.

And I am a nerd.

This is episode 14 of the podcast.

And today we’re talking about episode 4 of Star Trek Picard. Absolute Candor.

So I’ve finally read the third and final edition of the Star Trek Picard Coundown comic book. Originally, I expected this story to explain why Picard left Starfleet, something the show has already done a good job of explaining. Instead, it gives us some insight into the adventures Picard experienced while trying to help the Romulans. It also explains the backstory of Jaris and Zhuban, and why they are with Picard at his chateau.

I would highly recommend people read this comic. Without it, I would have found characters like Rafi, Laris and Zhuban are bit jarring. Who are these people? It’s available on Kindle and Comixology.

I’ve also started reading the first Star Trek Picard novel. The Last Best Hope. The blurb doesn’t tell you anything about the plot of the book, but so far, it seems to be showing us the very beginning of the rescue efforts, from the moment Picard first learned of the supernova.

And, I’ve finally started playing Star Trek Online during the last week. I created a character years ago but never really got into it. Anyway, I’ve been quite enjoying it. There is such a vast library of stories to interact with after 10 years.

But that’s enough of my general Star Trek geekdom. We have an episode to discuss.

The description for Absolute Candor, according to Memory Alpha, reads

The crew's journey to Freecloud takes a detour when Picard orders a stop at the planet Vashti, where Picard and Musiker relocated Romulan refugees fourteen years earlier. Upon arrival, Picard reunites with Elnor, a young Romulan he befriended during the relocation. Meanwhile, Narek continues his attempts to learn more about Soji while Rizzo's impatience with his lack of progress grows.

This episode was written by Michael Chabon

And directed by Jonothan Frakes

It first aired on the 13th of February 2020.

Make it so.

I can already hear people complaining about the pace of this show. We were supposed to be going to Freecloud, and now we’re spending an entire episode on a detour. Picard has done nothing but recruit new people to help him on his mission for several episodes.

Technically, that is true, of course.

But I’m enjoying the pace of this show.

Is an adventure on Vashti really any less desirable than an adventure on Freecloud?

Yes, this show is slow-paced, but with every little step, it’s doing a whole of stuff with character. And I’m loving it.

This episode starts with another flashback to 14 years ago. I think this is a structure we should get used to.

Picard is in the midst of his rescue mission.

He’s been helping Romulan refugees settle on a planet called Vashti.

We see some Romulans with heavier ridges, making them look pretty much like TNG Romulans. So that was nice.

We follow a young boy through the streets. I’m loving the details in this location. This show really does feel like a movie.

And Picard beams down dressed like John Hammond from Jurassic Park.

Perhaps he’s wanting to put the Romulans at easy by not parading around in Starfleet uniform, but I think the main reason is Patrick Stewart wanted to avoid wearing a uniform except when absolutely necessary.

Picard is well-loved on this planet. Especially by this little boy, Elnor.

The two have a very special bond. It’s quite heart-warming to watch. It’s a shame Picard spent so much of his life afraid of children because he’s actually very good with them now. He would have made a fantastic grandparent. But, as it is, he makes a wonderful “spare grandparent”, and honestly, there’s nothing wrong with that. This type of relationship is important and is not to be undervalued.

So Picard is working with the Qowat Milat. Romulan warrior nuns. The show is giving us a positive sympathetic exploration of religion, which, apart from Deep Space Nine, has been pretty rare in Star Trek. So I’m really liking that. These sisters are raising Elnor, but all agree it’s not the best place for him to grow up. Picard is determined to find him a more suitable home.

We learn about two of their tenants in this episode. I’ll talk about one of them later, but the sister says “A promise is a prison. Do not make yourself another’s jailer.”

This is a thought-provoking quote.

I think in our society, we can take promises a bit flippantly at times. Until, of course, a promise that is owed to us is not fulfilled.

A promise is something that should be entered into in a very considered way. It’s better to not make a promise than to make one you won’t be able to fulfil.

So in the same way, expecting somebody to make you a promise, pressuring them into making one when they haven’t given it that due consideration, could be thought of as a bad thing.

Basically, Zani is counselling Elnor against pressuring Picard into making a promise he may not be able to keep.

I think that’s interesting.

I think to Picard, this relationship with Elnor is helping to fill the hole in his heart left behind by his nephew Rene. A boy he was starting to bond with, before he was cruelly taken away by a fire.

It’s at this moment when Picard first learns of the synth attack on Mars.

It’s a shame they couldn’t have put Jeri Ryan’s name in the ending credits for this episode, rather than the start, so as not to spoil her appearance right at the end. I spent the whole episode waiting for her appear. My wife said “I bet she'll show up right at the end.”

Poor Agnes is bored. Surely she can find something to do. They’ve got a holodeck on board. We’ll see that shortly. Maybe she should have brought some entertainment of her own. I know I would have. I guess I’m just used to my kids saying “I’m bored.” I was never bored as a kid, and you’ve got so much more than I had. And I had so much more than my parents.

The book Rios is reading is a real book. He says it’s about the existential pain of living with the consciousness of death and how it defines us as humans. Sounds like a cheery read. I’m sure this is going to be telling of his character.

The emergency hospitality hologram pronounces Zhuban really strangely. I dunno where he gets the ch sound from. Those letters are nowhere in the name.

Anyway, Picard wants to make a stop at Vashti, that same planet we saw in the teaser 14 years ago.

We learn, as is logical, that the qiros system, where Vashti is located, is now a dodgy place. There’s a big power vacuum since the fall of the Romulan empire. The whole place is run by a gangsta with a hundred-year-old bird of prey.

We get a namedrop of the Romulan rebirth movement, but no explanation of what exactly that is.

And this is where we learn the other tenant of the Qowat Milat, although we’ve already seen it demonstrated.

Absolute candor. Total communication of emotion without any filter between thought and word.

On one hand, this type of open honesty could be refreshing. You always know where you stand with someone. They don’t mince their words or hide things from you. A lot of problems in life are caused by people not being honest with one another.

On the other hand. I believe our words should always be carefully considered and filtered by thought. You know the old saying, “think before you speak.” A lot of problems in life are also caused by speaking rashly without thinking first.

Picard has good practical reasons for making this detour. The assistance of the Qowat Milat could be invaluable on this mission. But really, he is being driven by his guilt.

As Rafi puts it, the death of Dahj has you thinking of Elnor. The boy you promised to help, but couldn’t. When Starfleet called off the rescue mission, Picard was never able to return.

As he says, “I may never pass this way again. If he ever wants to make things up to the sisters and Elnor. This is the time.

Back on the Borg cube, we get a little more insight into what Ramdha was saying last week. It seems that she believes that Soji is a part of Romulan religion. She is the prophesied destroyer. The Uuk Vash also believe Soji is the destroyer, but possibly for more practical reasons related to her being synthetic. I dunno. It’s all a bit mysterious right now. This show is raising a lot of mysteries. What happened to Rios when he was in Starfleet? What’s Rafi’s deal with Freecloud. Picard even withholds the criteria used by the Qowat Milat for no reason other than to reveal it at the end of the episode.

But the most compelling mysteries on this show, to me, are those being explored by Soji. The stuff about Ramdha. The assimilation of her ship that somehow killed the cube. And how it all fits into Romulan mythology.

Soji felt drawn to Ramdha. No doubt some programming built into her.

She wants to know Narak’s deal. Why he has such unrestricted access to the borg ship. He, of course, is not forthcoming. The one thing he’s been open and honest about with her from the start is that he has secrets, and he won’t reveal them.

The scene where Narak and Soji slide down the corridors would feel extremely romantic, except that we know Narak is evil and he’s using her.

It’s funny. TV shows so often go straight to sex to show the intimacy between characters, but I felt the intimacy between the characters so much more in this scene than I did when we saw them in bed together. It’s something about the way Isa Briones acts with her face. She really gets across the attraction she’s feeling. The scene brought back memories of the feelings I had when my wife and I were first in love, just doing fun things together.

But Narak kind of drops the act when he outright accuses her of lying about being on the ship that brought her here. It’s clear that her past is fabricated, and he’s laying seeds of doubt in her, making her question her own past.

Despite being a ragtag crew of misfits on an old civilian ship, this episode is feeling very star treky. Which just goes to show that you don’t actually need the uniforms to make it feel like Star Trek.

I enjoyed all that time we spent on earth, but man it feels good to be on a spaceship beaming down to alien planets at last.

We see a symbol on the shoulders of several Romulans. No doubt the “Romulan rebirth movement. Whatever that is.”

Vashti sure isn’t what it used to be. There’s a sense of hopelessness hovering over the settlement. And none of them are happy to see Picard. A stark contrast to last time he beamed down here.

I like that they adopted Jolan tru into the Romulan language, which is a greeting we first heard in the TNG episode Unification.

Anyway, everyone on Vashti is angry about Picard’s presence. And the gangsta Kar Kantar is on his way.

I’ll admit that Vashti feels a little Star Wars. But it’s logical that a frontier world like this would feel like Star Wars, because so much of Star Wars is set on worlds like this. It makes sense for the setting. This is well outside of Federation space, and we’ve already established there’s a power vacuum.

And then we see Elnor. Now all grown up.

Elnor is played by Australian actor Evan Evagora. He’s fairly new to acting but appears in the new movie Fantasy Island.

I love that they let him use his native Aussie accent in the show. And why not? We have an Irish Romulan in Laris. A British Romulan in Narak. Why should all aliens have to sound American?

This episode is forcing Picard to face his past failures.

Zani says “Because you could not save everyone, you chose to save no one.”

“I allowed the perfect to become the enemy of the good,” he says.

We talked about this last week too, but Picard almost made the same mistake as Starfleet. He failed to convince them to resume their rescue efforts. They’d given up.

So he gave up.

He did.

He could have jumped in a private ship and flown to Vashti. He could have helped Elnor. He could have continued helping people one at a time. One man couldn’t do much to help save an entire race, but he could have helped individuals. One at a time. That’s what Raffi was trying to tell him 14 years ago.

But in his mind, offering his resignation was his last-ditch effort. When that failed, he felt there was nothing left he could do. So he retired to his vineyard.

I think now he’s regretting that decision. He’s wishing he’d gone out on his own and tried to save those individuals.

It’s like the story of the starfish. Have you heard that one? The man walking the beach strewn with starfish. He sees a boy frantically throwing the starfish back in the water. “Help me,” he begs. “I’ve been walking this beach for ages. There are hundreds of starship back that way. You’ll never help enough of them to make a difference,” he says.

The boy picks up a starfish and throws it in the water. “It made a difference to that one,” he says.

That’s the kind of difference Picard could still have made.

If only he could go back and make a different decision.

Once again I’m loving how Picard is still the good man of great conscience that he has always been, but at the same time, the show allows him to be flawed. To be human.

Elnor has all the training of the Qowat Milat. He is, in every way that matters, one of them, except that as a male, he can never really be a member, because their order is a sisterhood.

He’s the perfect one to join Picard’s quest. It would be mutually beneficial.

Except for one thing, Elnor is filled with bitterness and resentment that Picard never came back for him.

The Romulans only sign reminds me of racial segregation, that has occurred in a number of places in the past, but it’s a very different context here.

We get a sense from the former senator’s speech about how it felt from a Romulan perspective to have to rely on Federation aide. It would have been humiliating.

The Romulans are a very proud people. They didn’t even want to admit to the Federation that their world was dying. And some among them actively tried to prevent or interfere with Federation aide. They wanted to save themselves.

But the worst of it all was that at a time when they were most vulnerable, they put their trust in Picard, only to have him fail them. In their minds, he may have made things worse for them.

This is really interesting stuff. It digs deep into what could have been a very shallow story idea, but the show looks at how people really felt, how different cultures affected what it all meant. It’s great stuff.

So the senator wants to fight Picard with swords. Good thing Picard is a fencer. But he’s not as young as he was. He’s not getting drawn into this.

So Elnor comes to his rescue. I love how he says “Please my friend. Choose to live.”

He doesn’t want to have to kill this Romulan. He’s kind of begging, “please don’t make me kill you.”

The senator chooses badly so Elnor chops off his head. “I regret your choice.”

There’s something we have to talk about.

Elnor is basically a warrior elf. You might argue he belongs in Lord of The Rings more than he does in Star Trek.

I heard a criticism of the Picard trailer a few months back.

It’s the age-old problem that no matter how good you are with a sword, that’s not much help in a world of guns. I mean, Indiana Jones showed us that rather humorously.

But I love that the episode actually calls itself out on that. Twice actually. The Romulan says your sword is no match for a disruptor, and they have to beam out urgently. Then Raffi calls him “a boy with a stick”. That second one got a good chuckle out of me.

I think now that we understand where the character has come from, we have good reason so his elvish appearance.

So what good really is Elnor going to be when they’re up against enemies armed with disruptors?

Think of it this way. Warrior traditions in science fiction often value traditional hand-to-hand combat skills with weapons like swords. Especially those with a religious connotation. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only skills they teach.

Look at the Anla'Shok in Babylon 5. They learn to fight hand to hand with pikes. But that’s not their only skill. They’re also fighter pilots in space.

I’ll be interested to see how they use Elnor in future episodes. Right now, I’m totally open to it.

Anyway, Picard finally tels Agnes the criteria for worthiness used by the Qowat Milat. They will only bind their sword to a lost cause.

So it wasn’t just me. Everyone is talking about how creepy the apparent incestuous overtones of Narak And Rizo’s relationship. What on earth is their deal?

I actually don’t think they are biological siblings. I think perhaps members of the Juck Vash refer to each other as brother and sister.

Just a theory.

Rizo and Narak have different approaches to Soji. Rizzo is worried that Narak is developing feelings, even sympathies for Soji. And there may be some truth to that.

And then we get a good old space battle with an old school TOS Romulan warbird. Very cool.

This thing wouldn’t threaten the Enterprise, but it packs enough of a punch to endanger Rios’s ship.

It’s nice that they don’t get out of this fight with technobabble like Voyager would have.

And we meet yet another hologram. The emergency tactical hologram. Is this starting to get a little too much?

I’m noticing something on this show. We’ve heard the ships’ computer speak, and we’ve heard the crew talk to it. But not once, has a person actually addressed it as “Computer”

I find I’m missing that. I wanna hear Picard say “Computer” before giving it a command. We really haven’t heard that since Voyager. They didn’t have a talking computer on Enterprise, and I don’t think I’ve heard it much on Discovery either.

I didn’t think so last week, as some did, but now I’m starting to wonder.

This hologram is like a drunk old version of Rios who looks kinda like Aquaman. Seriously, with that long hair, he looks a lot of Jason Momoa.

But it’s not very good at its job. It’s kind of too lazy to fire the weapons.

Not sure this quite worked as intended.

I like the awkwardness that still exists between Picard and Rios. Picard is in charge of the mission, but this is Rios’s ship. I’m sure they’ll figure it out eventually.

And then Seven of Nine comes to their rescue. We don’t know it’s her until she beams aboard, except that, of course, we know it’s her. She was in the credits, and we haven’t seen her yet.

They true weakly to conceal it by having the pilot respond in text rather than voice, and constantly referring to “he” and “him” but we all know it’s Seven.

Picard and Seven have never met on screen before, but of course, they recognise each other on sight. I mean, he’s Jean-Luc Picard. And she’s Seven of Nine.

I can’t really talk about this yet, because there’s nothing to talk about. We see her for a few seconds. Her one line “you owe me a ship, Picard” is somewhat amusing. But then the episode ends. Let’s just say I’m excited to see Seven in the show next week, and I’m sure I’ll have lots to say.

So another very enjoyable episode.

Until now, I’ve been enjoying the show, but the first three were so connected that it wasn’t the kind of show where you could say “I especially enjoyed this particular episode”. This is the first one that you can kind of pull out on its own and say “that was a good episode.” which is fine. That’s the nature of serialised TV, and I’m ok with it.

But yes, tonight was a very Star Trek kind of show, and I had fun with it.

Can’t wait for next week.

Don’t forget to check out my writing.

If you’ve like to sample it for free, you can get the prequel story that sets up the premise of my Jewel of The Stars series, by joining my email list at AdamDavidCollings.com/free

You can’t get the story anywhere else.

Or, you can read the first book free on Wattpad. I post a new chapter each week.

I’ll catch you next week when we discuss episode 5 of Picard. Stardust City Rag. That’s an interesting title.

See you then.

Live Long and prosper.

Make it so.

56 episodes