HERE BE SPOILERS
“The Bounty” is a cracking, action-packed episode, and with a name that is certainly appropriate, if you consider an abundance of references and Easter eggs to be a bounty. In a season that is overflowing with nostalgia, it is the episode most overstuffed with kisses to the past, to the point where it seems almost like an episode of Lower Decks. Yet it’s also a strong episode with a focus on both action and character. There are a couple of decisions in the storytelling which are bit questionable, but as we are discovering more each episode, it’s clear we haven’t learned the full truth about any of it.
We’re finally away from both M’Talas Prime and the living nebula, and onto some new locations: the Fleet Musuem at Athan Prime, and Daystrom Station in orbit of an unnamed planet. I don’t mind the overly dark sets this season – it’s unrealistic, but it does make it cool and moody, so fair enough – but inside Daystrom is just ridiculous. Has Data’s disembodied mind decided that pitch blackness is best for security? There could have been even more Easter eggs in there than we realise, and no one would ever be able to see them.
Anyway, it’s old friends and enemies all round. Of course, unlike Ro’s return last week, most of the returning characters were spoiled by the season trailer, but it appears that was just as much for misdirection as anything. After Lore’s involvement was revealed early on, I assumed, along with many, that he would be the, or at least a, major villain this season. While he could certainly come to play a bigger part, it seems he’s just a sidenote right now, sharing a body with Data, Soong and B-4 (and allegedly Lal, who hasn’t spoken up yet. They should have had Brent Spiner snog Riker to show she was in there.) It’s not a massive surprise that Spiner’s playing Data again (or at least, a version of him), but there’s only so many times they can kill the character off and bring him back without it seeming meaningless. Still, I guess a robotic character is one who you don’t have to find too many excuses for resurrecting. The script still isn’t very clear on the difference between androids, golems and synths, but it seems to have something to do with them being played by old men. Twenty years ago, Spiner said he was done playing Data and didn’t want to keep playing an increasingly aged android, but you’re allowed to change your mind, aren’t you?
Daniel Davis’s brief appearance as Moriarty was a treat, but sadly rather spoiled by his appearance in the trailer. Had he appeared out of the blue, it would have been fantastic. Still, as a red herring it worked well, since we were all expecting that the archvillain would actually be taking part in the plot properly. It seems this is just a recreation of Moriarty as part of the security system, rather than the AI himself – hopefully, he’s still out there in his little virtual world. Given that mobile holo-emitters are now seemingly easy to come by, there’s no reason he couldn’t come back as a proper villain. In the end, he was just included as extra colour, along with a lovely call back to the very first appearance of Riker and Data in “Encounter at Farpoint” back in 1987 (or 2364, if you prefer).
Levar Burton excels as an older, wearier, more cautious version of Geordi. Now a Commodore (so he outranks Riker!) and worried about his daughters, he’s understandably not ready to go in, all guns blazing, or to turn his back on the chain of command and break orders. Of course, if the Changelings do take over Starfleet, his daughters are screwed anyway, along with everyone else. Setting aside just how Picard and co. can be sure he isn’t a Changeling as well, I rather liked how they assumed he'd be ready to throw his lot in with them again at a moment’s notice, only to be rebuked. Characters have to move on, after all, and becoming more cautious in later life, as with both La Forge and Riker, is probably more realistic than Picard and Crusher’s increased recklessness. Plus, we saw Captain La Forge about ten years earlier (in-universe time) chasing after rogue Starfleet officers in VOY: “Timeless,” so it’s in character.
The interplay between Riker and Worf was great, with it never being clear how much Worf is really being a reborn, Zen Klingon, and how much of it is just a new way to wind up Riker. I would have liked some more time with Seven and Raffi, if only to give them some closure and find out just what went wrong between them, but there is still time for that. It’s not all about the old guard, though. The next next generation is being set up here, with Mica Burton (Levar’s real life daughter) now introduced as Geordi’s other daughter Alandra, bringing a new dynamic to the developing new crew. Speelers and Chestnut have great chemistry together as Jack and Sydney. Their side mission to nick the cloaking device from the Bounty was a lot of fun. Altogether, it has a flavour of the earlier Trek movies, where David Marcus and Saavik seemed to be set up to carry on the franchise, before they got pushed aside so the old boys could carry on.
However, perhaps the single most touching moment in the episode is during the browsing through the starships at the Fleet Museum. What could have been pure fanservice is raised to something rather beautiful when Seven shares a moment with Jack, reflecting on how the starship Voyager became her home. Jack also shares some nice moments with his father as he reflects on the burden of his inherited Irumodic Syndrome. I don’t buy for a second that this is all there is to his hallucinations, though. For one thing, what sort of neurodegenerative disorder grants someone the ability to beat the crap out of four Changelings without breaking a sweat?
Presumably, it all has something to do with whatever else is hidden within Picard’s original body, now in the possession of the Changelings (again, great misdirection – I assumed that it was Lore and/or Moriarty that they had stolen from Daystrom). It feels very much as though we’re moving into the final stage of the mystery now.
I absolutely loved Shaw’s geeking out at meeting legendary engineer Geordi La Forge. We absolutely need more from Shaw in a future series (although, a younger version of him, mid-career, could appear on Lower Decks as well).
For a moment it appeared that Riker hadn’t heard of Section 31. They should have kept it like that – it would have been hilarious if he was the only person in Starfleet who still wasn’t in on the “secret.”
Not only did Daystrom hold Picard’s old body, they also apparently have Captain Kirk’s in there – do they collect them or something? They must be annoyed that Sisko ascended instead of leaving a body behind.
The “attack tribble” was utterly pointless and completely ridiculous. I love it.
You have to wonder if the Bounty’s cloaking device is still any good after nearly 120 years – surely Starfleet can detect ships using such an old cloak by now. I’m assuming the Defiant no longer has its cloaking device (if the second one ever even had one).
As well as the HMS Bounty and the USS Voyager NCC-74656, the Fleet Museum includes the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-A from Star Treks IV to VI, and a previously unseen classic Constitution-class, the USS New Jersey NCC-1975 (apparently referencing Terry Matalas’s home state and year of birth). It looks like the original Enterprise, not the Discovery/Strange New Worlds redesign.
There’s also, among several others, a Klingon battlecruiser (perhaps Kronos One from Star Trek VI); a Romulan Bird-of-Prey; an Excelsior-class ship (perhaps the Excelsior NCC-2000 itself) and an NX-class ship (probably not the Enterprise, as it’s a refit version).
The existence of an intact Enterprise-A and Kirk’s corpse proves the Shatnerverse novels can’t take place in this universe.