In which Kirk dies, Data feels, and Picard contemplates his own mortality, but in entirely different ways this time, as it turns out.
Soran has captured Geordi, and is really intrigued by the VISOR. Once again, he seems to be saying things that hit home very, very effectively. This is, after all, an interrogation. On the Enterprise, Crusher (the only other person than Geordi with a steady enough hand, and hopefully over her dunking) can’t remove the emotion chip, but declares Data as fit for duty as he can be. Data explains that the Nexus circles through the galaxy every thirty-nine-and-change years. I don’t know quite what Data means by that which makes it hard to calculate, but an object passing through the diameter of the galaxy every 39 years would be going about 2500C. That’s if it’s a one-way trip. More if that’s only a segment of its traverse.
This is 78 years later, so Soran must have watched and studied the Nexus on its last path through, and been ready for it this time. While Data is attempting to plot the results of the Amargosa explostion, he’s distracted by those pesky emotions. He wasn’t expecting to have to leave them on all the time. He might have remembered what a hassle they can be. One of the effects of the star was that the Bozeman had to make a course-correction due to the altered gravity layout, which will also affect the course of the Nexus. And holy cow, the Stellar Cartography lab is pretty.
Side note, it takes a pretty hefty set of reproductive glands of your choice to yell at an android that’s literally capable of ripping your limbs off and beating you to death with them who’s also currently having trouble with emotions for only the second time ever. Picard would also like to turn off his emotions, and doesn’t appreciate the whining. Picard figures out that Soren’s trying to change the course of the ribbon, because it’s too dangerous to fly into a ship. The new course of the Nexus takes it close to Veridian III, and the destruction of that star would make the ribbon intersect the planet. Which might be fine, except that Veridian IV has a pre-industrial society of 230 million. So now there’s some stakes to play for.
Soran and the Duras sisters approach Veridian, and Soren makes a crack about Geordi’s heart while he plays with the visor. It’s not ominous at all. He’s also planned a pretty decent method to not get betrayed by the Duras sisters – give them a flash drive with the data they want, and give them the code to unlock it once he’s safely away. They might be able to crack it in time if he betrays them, so they’ll accept the deal, but it’s easier for everyone if nobody defects. ‘Course, the Enterprise shows up to put a crimp in the plan. B’Etor isn’t willing to engage the Enterprise in combat, but Soran has a plan.
Picard seems to have pulled together sufficiently to run his ship again, at least. The Duras’ decloak for parlay, and they agree to hand over Geordi in exchange for Picard as a hostage, once his business with Soran is concluded. Picard’s offered himself as hostage before to save his crew, but this time there’s only one person at stake. He’s a great leader and likely would have offered to make the trade anyway and trusted his crew to get him back, but… he did just spiral into a deep depression only a few hours ago.
The exchange is made, and Picard gets beamed down to the surface to meet with Soran at the Vasquez Rocks again. Soran has a force field and the Duas sisters put Picard outside of it.
The Duras sisters have bugged Geordi’s visor. And they get to see on the visual spectrum. The good news is, Geordi wasn’t tortured badly enough to keep him off duty.
Picard’s trying to negotiate with Soran, but he claims to have spent the better part of a century looking for a way that didn’t involve killing a civilization. I guess he gets a few supervillain points taken off for even bothering to try. But not sufficiently many. The Borg have killed the old Soran, and the Nexus built a new one. Just in case we didn’t get it early on, Soran talks about Time again, as a fire and a predator, and which doesn’t exist in the Nexus.
Data has a song about scanning for life-forms. It’s kind of jazzy. Literally everyone on the bridge stops their efforts to save Picard and an entire civilization to gape at him. Meanwhile, Geordi’s made it back to engineering, and the Klingon ship gets the Enterprise shield frequency and can adjust their torpedoes to pass right through. The pounding they take knocks out their helmsmen, and Troi takes the wheel. Riker and Worf brainstorm ways to fight back, and their best idea is to remote-trigger the cloak. The shields and the cloak are incompatible, so they’ll be visible and vulnerable for about two seconds.
Point of pride for Starfleet construction: the Enterprise was under sustained fire with no shields for something like two minutes and is still battle-ready. One torpedo to a D12 takes it out. The D12 isn’t a part of the modern Klingon navy, but still. That’s a lot of punishment for a Galaxy to take.
Picard, down on Veridian III, is playing with the shield and throwing rocks. At least part of that is to annoy Soren, but he finds a rock formation that the force field doesn’t block. Which is really quite interesting, actually. Whatever generates the field doesn’t create a barrier X distance-units away from whatever is generating it, or it would fill in the gap. Instead, it gets generated from something (which we can’t see) and fill in space contiguously, but won’t pass through solid matter.
The damage to the Enterprise has been sufficient to breach the core, and they begin to evacuate to the Saucer section. To be fair to the utility of this feature, they’ve actually used it quite a bit, although mostly in a lifeboat-situation like this, rather than “oh we’re going to do something dangerous, let’s leave the civilians behind.”
Soran starts his countdown. It’s unclear what he’s waiting for, apart from the last possible moment, because it’s not like he knows the Enterprise has failed to be destroyed. Oh wait, no. He’s waiting for the Nexus so the solar explosion won’t kill him. The saucer section is away, but not very far, and the explosion of an antimatter reactor and all the antimatter storage pods has done very, very bad things to their orbit. Very extremely bad.
As Soran sees Picard try to make it through the field, he shoots him a lot. Enough to feel safe. As the Saucer comes in, it shears the tops off mountains and carves a furrow through the forest that you can see from space. Probably. There’s nobody up there any more to disagree. I mention this because what it shows us is, again, just how robust the hull material is. Even the Ten-Forward windows aren’t broken, although the bridge dome is. The Enterprise… is dead. There’s simply no getting up from this.
Soran’s missed Picard after all, and they fight on a bridge, but Picard forgot about the strength of madness. The Nexus is on its way, Soran’s missile fires off and reaches the sun in 11 seconds, which is really surprising for a planet evidently in the Goldilocks zone. Mercury is three light-minutes from Sol. The Veridian star must be pretty dim. Well, it certainly is now. The Nexus engulfs the planet moments before the shockwave hits and kills the planet, the Enterprise crew, and the millions of inhabitants of Veridian IV.
Picard is blindfolded and spinning. Surrounded by his large loving family on Christmas morning. Proven by the nexus, Picard has a thing for redheads. It’s certainly easy to see why he wouldn’t want to leave – now he gets everything he just lost. But there’s an ornament on the tree showing an exploding star.
We will gloss over the painting of a historical Picard which I bet Patrick Steward still has somewhere because it’s very obviously a portrait of Patrick Stewart. Instead, Guinan shows up to explain things. This is his personal vision of joy, but there’s a bit of Guinan stuck in the Nexus to explain that because time has no meaning, he can skip around in his life and experience the best parts any time he wants.
Picard has some experience with this sort of situation, though. It may be what gives him the strength of will to turn aside. It might be his sense of duty to the millions on Veridian IV. He wants to leave, but he needs help. He can exit the Nexus anywhere and at any time, but he needs help. Luckily, there’s another Starfleet captain stuck in the Nexus, still alive because time has no meaning, and out behind his cabin chopping wood.
Kirk is back in a house that he sold years ago, surrounding by things he gave away. His dog is there, another thing distracting Kirk from listening to Picard. He’s reliving the moment he broke the news to his girlfriend that he was going back to Starfleet, only this time he’s not going to do that. He’s going to ignore Picard and his duty and expound an object lesson in missed opportunities.
The next moment in Kirk’s highlight reel is the day he meets Antonia in the first place, when he’s out riding. Picard, also an avid horseman, goes after him. But Kirk detects something wrong when he’s out joyriding. When he’s jumping a ravine, he’s not scared, where he always was before. Knowing it’s not real takes all the excitement out of life.
Starfleet either creates, promotes, or simply seeks people for whom the important thing is not the hollow joy, but in doing something that matters. It’s why they can put holodecks on ships and it’s mostly not a problem. Kirk’s going back to holding on to what matters. And together they ride off into the sun-death.
The Enterprise is back to mid-crash. Picard is still stuck in some rocks. Everything is as it was, only this time, it’s Kirk on the bridge with Soran as well. Kirk’s going to beat the crap out of Soran with his patented two-fisted hammer blow, the same one that Bashir studied at the Academy. Picard’s going to kill the missile. Kirk should have the advantage here, after all, he knows the terrain. But he manages to get ambushed by Soran and has to be rescued by Picard, but he redeems himself by punching Soran off a cliff.
Soran cloaks the missile again, and it’s kind of amazing how small cloaking device technology can get these days. However, he’s lost his remote. Kirk goes to grab it and Soran shoots the bridge out from under him. To be honest, I’m having a hard time working up a sense of urgency – after all, as long as they both survive they can evidently try this over and over again until they get it right. But I guess Starfleet captains don’t think in terms of quicksaving. Just regular saving. Kirk makes the critical jump and decloaks the missile, only to ride a doomsled to the bottom of the cliff. Picard’s locked the missile into the launcher, blowing it up, killing Soran, and saving the star and all associated celestial bodies.
Kirk’s held on just long enough to confirm that he’s saved the day for the last time. His last words are “It was… fun. Oh my.” Strangely fitting.
Picard would have had a long hike back to the Enterprise, if he even knew where it was. It crashed in a different biome. Fortunately, at least one of the shuttles was still working. Or maybe just the distress beacon. The crew is mostly still alive, but again, the Enterprise is dead. I’d like to think that Starfleet will send a salvage crew to gradually deconstruct it so that when the inhabitants of Veridian IV develop chemical spaceflight they won’t find the remnants of a hyperadvanced alien flying saucer crashed in their neighborhood. Data’s decided to keep the emotion chip, with justification that amuses the heck out of Troi, just before he finds his cat alive and well. Sadly, Picard’s fish is probably a goner.
Picard seems to have come to terms with his mortality and the mortality of his family line, of his ship and his crew. The legacy will carry on.
I leave you then with one final thought. As I mentioned at the top of this episode, this takes place just before the events of “Defiant.” Given the implications of the Romulans developing trilithium weaponry and the loss of the flagship of the fleet, how is it remotely possible that nobody asked Tom Riker for his account of the crash?