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Star Trek: Picard - Review - Seventeen Seconds: Recapturing the Magic

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Warning: This review may contain spoilers.

Whatever the elements are that go into making a great episode of television Star Trek: Picard’s third episode “Seventeen Seconds” has it in spades. Intense conflict beyond the space battles, complex and layered plotting, masterful storytelling, extremely sharp and biting dialogue, heart-pounding action, and impressive, movie-level special effects, they are all there.

Performance wise there isn’t a single actor this episode who didn’t bring their “A” game. But, the real star of this episode is producer Terry Matalas, who knew just how to put all these elements together to create one of the best episodes of the Star Trek franchise in decades. He wisely hired one of his stars with major directing chops, Jonathan Frakes, to direct this exceptional episode that recaptures the the magic that made Star Trek: Next Generation, one of the most revered series of the franchise.
Matalas gets the importance of rich Star Trek history and has used it to full advantage all season. He continues to pay respect/homage to not only Next Generation history but also to the other Star Trek shows of that era. And his nods to that history can be at times either subtle like Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) working on a model of her former Star Trek: Voyager ship or revealing that the Titan’s science officer may indeed be a Vulcan, to a little more in your face like using the Changelings as agents of chaos in this drama and revealing this year’s ultimate villain’s plan of trying to re-ignite the Dominion Wars of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine lore.
Story wise there are so many layers in “Seventeen Seconds,” each one balanced perfectly to give them the time to grow as they should. It is masterful how Picard (Patrick Stewart) is made to relive Riker (Jonathan Frakes)’s horror of a fearful seventeen-second ride to learn if his injured newly arrived son could be dying. The moment when Picard becomes a father mirrors Riker’s in a beautifully directed moment done without dialogue. More insight is given into Riker’s psyche of how the choices he made back then ultimately cost him his son and perhaps his family. It’s in a critical moment when Picard hesitates that Riker urges him to not make the same mistakes he did in choosing duty over family. Then there’s the not-so-happy family reunion between Beverly (Gates McFadden), Jean-Luc, and their son, Jack (Ed Speleers). That first private confrontation between Beverly and Picard where she explains her reasons for her silence will go down as one of the great scenes in Star Trek history thanks to the insane chemistry between Stewart and McFadden and their considerable acting skills.
Regarding the villain of the season, having Vadic (Amanda Plummer) use the stolen portal weapons Raffi (Michelle Hurd) is searching for as a means to have the Titan deliver its own death blow is sheer genius. As formidable as Vadic is, she is just the hired gun. Someone else is calling the shots, and it would not be surprising to find that, that someone is a returning adversary Next Generation’s past. And Raffi and her new partner, an older/wiser, kinder, “gentler?” Worf (Michael Dorn) suspect someone is playing a much, much bigger game.
Much of this wouldn’t work without knowing how to use the words to tell the story. By that I mean, knowing when to use words perfectly, like Worf’s droll, sarcastic delivery, “Beheadings are on Wednesday” and knowing when not to use words and letting the actors tell the story with their faces, like the McFadden and Stewart do as Beverly works to save their dying son.
What have we learned this episode? Something very big is a foot and it’s going to take the whole team to face it. There was another brief arrival in the form of Marina Sirtis as Deanna Troi Riker in a hologram and more are sure to come. We learned that good partnerships work even when there is intense conflict between the parties, and this week showed that expertly with Picard and Beverly, Picard and Riker, Worf and Raffi, Riker and Shaw (Todd Stashwick who does some great work turning over command of the Titan back to its former Captain after he is seriously injured), and Seven and Jack who discover that the Titan has a saboteur on board, as Ryan continues to shine showing her character grow into a Starfleet leadership role. Most importantly, we learned that Terry Matala knows how to make a great episode of television and that he should hire Jonathan Frakes to direct all the episodes! Buckle up because if “Seventeen Seconds” was this exceptional what comes next is sure to be epic!

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