March 23, 2023

So when Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore decided to make the first proper TNG movie a sequel to “The Best of Both Worlds,” they found a rich vein of storytelling potential and fan interest. Dodgy action beats aside (“Assimilate this!”), First Contact gave Picard’s trauma its due, advancing the character in a way that felt earned after such a horrific event.

But here’s the thing: Locutus/Picard wasn’t the only person hurt by the Battle of Wolf 359. The original episode gives us a hint of the larger cost, when we see the wreckage of the USS Melbourne, the potential ship for Riker’s first command. But outside of a few passing references, the cost of Wolf 359 only comes back to the forefront for the series premiere of Deep Space Nine. There, we learn that Jennifer Sisko, wife of Benjamin and mother of Jake, died in the Borg attack. During a meeting with Picard in that pilot, Sisko makes no effort to hide his fury toward the former Borg, but the Captain deflects the Commander’s anger with rules and protocols. By the episode’s end, Sisko and Picard have made peace, but it’s not clear how they got there.

While those were the ’90s, Star Trek can go to much darker places in 2023. Which is why the franchise brought back the wonderful Jonathan Frakes, who on top of playing our beloved William T. Riker also directed First Contact, to helm a very satisfying Picard two-parter that, among many other things, serves as a continuation of the Borg fallout explored in that Trek film.

When Captain Liam Shaw of the Titan interrupts Picard’s bonding moment with Jack Crusher in the Picard episode “No Win Scenario,” he comes ready to bring the former Locutus a long-deserved reckoning. Picard had been telling his son about his relationship with the boy’s namesake, Beverly’s husband. Picard’s guilt over his role in Jack’s death on the USS Stargazer was a key plot point in The Next Generation, the biggest obstacle to him and Beverly getting together. But Shaw doesn’t want to hear about the one death that still haunts Picard. He wants to talk about the thousands of others, including his friends on the USS Constance during the Battle of Wolf 359. Actor Todd Stashwick plays up the horror that still lives inside him as he describes the devastation wrought when Picard was Locutus. “It was like space was burning,” he says, wisely refraining from excess inflection in his voice.

Digging up his most horrible Starfleet memory, Shaw recalls how he and his crewmates in engineering tried to evacuate the Constance during the battle. But there was only one escape pod for 50 people. “We were all friends,” he points out to Picard in the present, a believable claim given all the USS Enterprise camaraderie we’ve seen this season. “They were all my Jack Crusher.” Under orders from one of the ship’s lieutenants, Shaw and nine others boarded the escape pod, to be forever racked with survivor’s guilt while those left behind died. As his story goes on, Shaw grows angrier, directing his fury at Picard. “Do you know where your old man was on that day?” he asks Jack. “He was on that Borg cube, setting the world on fire!”

By the time Shaw identifies Locutus as “the only Borg so deadly they gave him a goddamn name” (thus solving a nagging continuity issue), Jack has had enough and comes to his father’s defense. But Picard calls him off. He recognizes Shaw’s anger. He gives it dignity. As Picard turns toward Shaw, Patrick Stewart draws on that inherent kindness and warmth that made us love him for decades, even when Picard was a kid-hating fuddy-duddy. “It’s alright,” he tells Shaw, validating the other man’s feelings.

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