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[This story contains spoilers for season one, episode six of Star Trek: Picard.]
The newest episode of Star Trek: Picard literally opens its biggest mystery box that sets future events into motion as Picard is forced to confront the darkest parts of his past — all aboard a Borg cube.
“The Impossible Box” is a densely plotted hour that finally reveals to Saji who and what she really is — something audiences have already known since the premiere episode. But this discovery runs parallel to the hour’s most interesting storyline, and one of Jean-Luc Picard’s most compelling moments: Dealing with the trauma and PTSD of being taken into the Borg Collective against his will by stepping foot on to a Borg cube — The Artifact — for the first time in 30 years. In doing so, “The Impossible Box” unpacks a mini-treasure trove of Easter eggs and callbacks to Star Trek: The Next Generation and a very deep cut to Star Trek: Voyager. Here are the highlights:
1. Picard references his last visit to a Borg cube was an involuntary one, in a very emotional way that echoes similar sentiments he shared in the iconic “the line must be drawn HERE!” scene from 1996’s Star Trek: First Contact feature film.
2. When Picard retires to his study, he calls up archival images from past encounters with the Borg. They include: the Enterprise-E from First Contact engaging the Borg in battle near Earth; a Borg in his alcove aboard the E from the same movie; a picture of the drone, Hugh, from TNG‘s season five episode, “I, Borg’; and, finally, Picard gets face-to-face with Locutus, appearing here on the Enterprise-D’s viewscreen in the final moments of the TNG season 3 finale, “The Best of Both Worlds, Part I.” (As far as canon goes, this seems to be the first time Picard has seen and interacted with this iconic shot from the series. So it’s kinda weird to see the character examine a screenshot from a classic of episode of TV, but it’s the least weird thing in a show full of superior android sleeper agents and Romulan assassin nuns.)
3. Raffi is helpful in making a call to a friend in Starfleet to help grant Picard access to the Artifact’s Borg Reclamation Project. Upon completion of her successful effort, we hold on Picard as the classic opening bars from The Original Series‘ theme plays.
4. Triggered before and during his visit to the cube, Picard suffers several vivid flashbacks to various Borg memories from First Contact. He glimpses several Enterprise-E crewman in various stages of assimilation on the ship (never mind that Picard never saw these events firsthand in the movie). He also flashes back to a Borg helping turn the E’s main deflector dish into an interplexing beacon to call for reinforcements, as well as the iconic shot from the opening of the film where the Borg press a sharp needle-like device against his pupil prior to adding Locutus’ eyepiece. And, in what is flashback of a flashback, Picard briefly sees the time that the Borg Queen (Alice Krige) oversaw his initial assimilation.
5. A former Borg, known as “Ex B’s” among themselves, recognizes Picard, er, Locutus, and calls out that name as Picard passes him in a corridor.
6. Picard and Hugh share the screen together for the first time since TNG‘s season seven premiere episode, “Descent, Part II.”
7. In their scene, Hugh references that “only now our Queen is a Romulan.” This is nod to the Borg Queen, first seen in First Contact, played by Krige, and then later in several Voyager episodes — played by different actors. (Krige would reprise the role in the Voyager series finale, “Endgame.”) This is the first time Picard has talked about the Queen since he encountered her in First Contact.
8. Fans of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine will get a kick out of Rios telling a hungover Raffi that she owes him “two strips of latinum.” Which was the currency of choice for his old acquaintance, Quark, aboard Deep Space Nine.
9. The Romulan onscreen displays have a graphics design very similar to those seen in Star Trek: Nemesis.
10. Seeing Soji on a slab in pieces, like a wooden puppet, feels like a reference in part to the Next Gen series premiere, “Encounter at Farpoint,” where Riker calls Data “Pinocchio” when they first meet. (Could this also be a hint toward Data’s involvement in her creation, or possibly another Soong android?)
11. A never-before-seen location aboard the Borg Cube is introduced: The Queen’s Cell. And with it, comes a very deep cut and reference to Star Trek: Voyager [pushes up glasses, puffs on inhaler]. Here we go:
The final moments of “Impossible Box” call back to the first season episode of Voyager, “Prime Factors,” and an alien race known as the Sikarians. Hugh explains that the technological-advanced race was, long after Picard’s time, assimilated by the Borg — along with their spatial trajector tech. This device could transport a person up to 40,000 light years. Captain Janeway was unsuccessful in brokering a deal for the tech to help get her crew home, but the Borg took it as a means to get the Queen to safety in the event of an emergency. (This could imply that the Queen survived the firey destruction of her ship that occurred during “Endgame’s” climatic set piece.)
Star Trek: Picard streams new episodes Thursdays on CBS All Access.
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