“Fly Me to the Moon” brings back familiar faces in new roles.
Viewers of Star Trek Picard haven’t seen Isa Briones since the second season premiere episode. And they haven’t seen Brent Spiner since the show’s first season. But both actors return to the series as completely new characters in the second season’s midway point episode, “Fly Me to the Moon”—as does Orla Brady, who’s no longer playing Picard’s Romulan housekeeper and would-be love interest, Laris!
Brent Spiner plays yet another member of the Soong family. Adam Soong is his fourth, if my count is correct (Noonien Soong in The Next Generation, Arik Soong in Enterprise, and Altan Soong in Picard’s first season). Adam Soong is a geneticist who, in what Q correctly calls “a sad, sad irony” has a daughter—Kore, Isa Briones’ new character—with “an incurable genetic disease.”
Adam Soong is arguably the most relatable of Star Trek’s several Soong characters. Adam is a scientific genius as his descendants will be, but he’s a man of our own time motivated by his desperate desire to cure Kore’s condition, which leaves her unable to experience the outside world. Q tempts Adam into a quid pro quo. He gives Adam a temporary cure for Kore’s condition and promises he can make it permanent if Adam will only “remove an obstacle” named Picard.
Threats to the Picard family legacy of exploration and the future
But the Picard in question is NASA astronaut Renée Picard (Penelope Mitchell), an ancestor of Jean-Luc Picard. Renée is set to be part of a mission to Jupiter’s moons where, in the timeline the La Sirena crew is striving to restore, she will discover a microorganism on Io she believes to be sentient and persuade her commander to bring it back to Earth.
Her frequent self-doubt, anxiety, and depression, however, is affecting her performance in mission training—and her therapist, who unbeknownst to her is Q, is actively encouraging her to drop out of the mission. Although, as Picard says, the history of the 21st century is spotty, the Io incident must prove a pivotal point, because he believes Q is attempting to stop it in order to bring about the dystopian future we saw in “Penance.”
Orla Brady’s new character, Tallinn, is a “Supervisor” from the same enigmatic, extraterrestrial society monitoring humanity in the original series episode “Assignment: Earth.” Tallinn has been assigned to watch Renée Picard all of Renée’s life. She sees Renée’s tremendous potential and is concerned Renée won’t fly on the mission, but it takes Jean-Luc Picard to convince Tallinn—whose resemblance to Laris is, for the moment, unexplained—to intervene and thwart Q’s plans.
And so the last act of the episode takes an abrupt but ultimately enjoyable turn into heist movie territory. Picard hatches a plan to get the La Sirena crew into a pre-mission gala for the astronauts, where they will watch Renée to ensure she doesn’t quit the mission. Jurati gets herself captured to infiltrate the gala so she can bring the others in.
But Jurati is now sharing consciousness with the Borg Queen. She had shot and supposedly killed the Queen when the Queen took a French police officer hostage aboard La Sirena. But just before the Queen “died,” she restarted the “partial assimilation” process begun in “Assimilation.” How the Queen’s presence in Jurati’s mind will affect the mission to protect Renée is unclear, but we can bet it can mean nothing good.
“Fly Me to the Moon” is a tense and riveting episode of Star Trek Picard, with wonderful performances, especially from the seemingly endlessly talented Brent Spiner. It solves the second season’s key mystery—how has Q changed history?—while adding multiple new mysteries and complications to the plot. It continues the season’s thematic focus on loneliness, in the Borg Queen’s insidious appeal to Jurati for her life. It also continues recent Star Trek series’ much-needed normalization of talking about mental health. “Depression in a human can be debilitating,” Picard tells Tallinn. Anyone who’s struggled with feelings of not being good enough can relate to Renée.
The parallels to Star Trek IV in this season of Star Trek Picard appear to have ended, at least for the time being. But “Fly Me to the Moon” makes clear this adventure in the characters’ past, our present, is far from over.