In which old enemies resurface, I get properly paranoid, and Picard will be your father figure.
Picard walks calmly out of his ready room to reports that the Enterprise has found a small coffin-shaped probe that’s hailing him. As these things tend to go, the probe starts a scan attack on the Enterprise, one which the shields evidently seem actually capable of stopping this time. Picard orders the signal to be permitted once it turns out to be a message rather than a brain-altering retrovirus or a memetic plague or something. In fact, it turns out to be a holoprojection of a Ferengi. We’ll worry about how they managed to project a hologram onto the bridge later. The Ferengi, in fact, who tried to get Picard killed a while ago. He’s baaaack! And this time, he found out that Picard has a son named Jason Vigo, and Bok is going to kill him.
One gets the sense that Picard didn’t know about this. Starship captains, bro. They’re just kind of like that sometimes.
Piard orders a database search, and starts with someone who we can infer was one of his lovers, and Amanda Vigo who was born in New Gaul. Also, if Bok has recovered from his demotion Picard may finally getting around to glassing the planet. Data’s search returns that the person named Jason Vigo does exist, and from Picard’s reaction to his age the timing is probably approximately right. They went to Kamor V, so off Picard goes, abandoning whatever his current mission was. He takes the time to explain to Will the top-level overview of his time with Miranda, and Picard has determined that whether the kid is his son or not, Jason is in danger because of Picard.
When they arrive at the planet, Data scans for people who could be Miranda and Jason Vigo. Somehow the Enterprise scanners are able to detect the sex and approximate age of everyone in a localized area from orbit. I would also like to take issue with Data’s phrasing and failure to state some significant information just because the specifics were unknown at the time.
Because they think one of the people (who could be Picard’s son) is in danger, they beam him out of a cave system which he was evidently spelunking. His first thought at getting beamed off a rock wall is that he’s being arrested. After the initial awkwardness is dealt with, Picard has the chance to explain the deeper and more underlying awkwardness, but Jason gets to respond with some further awkwardness, and it’s awkward all around.
Picard admits that Bok probably won’t care to kill Jason if it turns out they’re not related, and utterly fails to account for how exactly he expects to convince Bok of this when he has every reason to suspect trickery even before factoring in fifteen years of seething hatred. As a student of classic literature, I’m sure it’s crossed Picard’s mind that telling Ahab “chill, it’s just a whale” would have done precisely jack.
Jason likes climbing, and doesn’t believe in using anti-grav safety harnesses. He’s also unemployed, which garners a very fatherly disapproval. This is fortunate, because it turns out that Jason is indeed Picard’s son.
Now the enforced attempt at awkward bonding must commence. Picard shows off his collection of alien knick-knacks, and Jason explains that Kamor V is a place where luxuries aren’t really a thing. Picard explains the situation and sets Jason up with some quarters, then sets to the task of ‘taking care of’ the Bok situation.
Analysis of the probe is proving difficult. Its computer is encrypted so they can’t just check its logs, but there’s some traces of a relatively common phenomenon that will lead to some information later in the plot. For now, Picard has a Ferengi Daimon on the line to chat about how Bok has access to a uniform. What passes for Ferengi High Command states confidently that Bok is indeed rankless, but mentions in passing that he was able to buy himself out of prison a while back. A minor matter, not worth mentioning, hardly.
A minor note. The hint the Ferengi gives is pronounced one way, and Geordi pronounces it another. I’m having a hard time deciding whether this is a deliberate difference in pronounciation due to Geordi and the Universal Translator having slightly different accents, or if it’s just a function of disjointed scene recording. Regardless, the Enterprise has beamed someone out of some caves during some seismic activity and is now leaving orbit. The planet, being a harsh border planet, probably now thinks he’s dead and is divvying up his stuff.
Picard’s next stop is Sick bay where he seeks the advice of a parent. He lays out his plan for dealing with Jason, and Beverly suggests that maybe he’s being a coward. Meanwhile, Troi goes to chat with Jason to see how he’s doing. As was inevitable, Jason starts flirting instantly. By this time in her career, Troi is evidently bored of that sort of thing.
Picard wakes up later to a vision of Bok – this time solid, so he’s probably dreaming. he calls security anyway. Something that Bok says has me thinking about how I would do this if I were Bok. Assuming I have access to malevolent tech like that migrane machine, I’d have dosed the kid with some sort of time-delayed or delayed-activation bioagent, or an explosive nanobot pill or something before I ever sent the probe. I wouldn’t trust any ship I could get my hands on just out of prison to be able to take on the Federation’s tip-of-the-spear commanded by the Hero of Maxia. Food for thought.
Geordi now has the unenviable task of telling Picard that there’s no technical reason he saw that and that it’s probably just stress. Also, in ensuring that Picard is wholly focused on Jason Vigo, he’s ignoring the possibility of misdirection – maybe Vigo is a plant, or was dosed with an agent that reacts to Picard’s DNA.
Never fear, Data’s here, with some news about Jason’s criminal record. He grew up without the stabilizing influence of a father figure, after all. The resulting confrontation is going to do wonders for their budding relationship, over and above the security forces Picard assigned to him. He’s also started to exhibit a tremor, which he’s of course going to hide until it’s impossible to do so. Instead, he’s going to roll his eyes at Picard’s attempts to create any common ground between them.
The goose chase continues, and Worf detects another probe which may have been cloaked until now. This one appears to have been a bomb, but it explodes in a very specific way using Ferengi Morse Code to say, basically “ha ha, suckers.” Shortly thereafter, in his ready room, Bok appears again, only this time circumstances seem to indicate that he’s really there, but still only to taunt and threaten. It is approximately this time when Jason Vigo starts to seize up in his quarters, and would have died right there if not for his invasive security detail.
He has a degenerative neuromuscular disorder that started kicking in a few months ago. It can be fatal without treatment, and it’s hereditary, but Picard didn’t have it and as far as Jason knows neither did Mom. Again, because I’m also reading some paranoia fiction, my conclusion is either that a) Bok managed to introduce or fake the disease in the kid, or the more insidious b) he found someone who could have been Picard’s kid and somehow faked his DNA with markers that fooled Crusher’s tests. He doesn’t have to kill Picard’s kid, just make Picard think that his son is dead. Whatever the underlying scenario, it definitely is getting to Picard.
Data and Geordi have studied Picard’s chair and found residue from a subspace transporter, which Starfleet investigated and abandoned as being energy-expensive, difficult, and unsafe in exchange for benefits which Starfleet had no need of. Officially speaking, anyway. Benefits like ranges on the order of light-years. Picard is still thinking of the threat to his son in terms of purely overt harm, like using the subspace transporter to beam Jason out. I have to say, though. If it were me, I’d use a flashy and attention-grabbing tech like that purely as a distraction, if at all. I’d also set it up with a trail that leads to a moon I’d packed full of explosives so that when the Enterprise comes to investigate they get pelted with 7×1022 kg of shrapnel. Technobabble ensues, and Picard gives the go-ahead before going to find Jason in the holodeck.
Picard is able to successfully demonstrate his climbing ability while making sufficiently many old-man-noises that Jason won’t feel threatened that they can actually have a conversation. The philosophical aspect to rock climbing is a joy that Picard shares with Kirk, as a matter of fact. The whole’being in charge of your own destiny’ thing. He asks how Jason and Miranded ended up on the planet, and it turns out Miranda moved them there to run a foster home and school for orphans of the conflict with the Cardassians. And then she was robbed, mugged, and killed for groceries. After some heartfelt and deep truths, Picard manages to lighten the mood with a crack about his hair.
Just in time for the turn. Beverly calls in Picard to tell him something Vitally Important That We’re Going To Cut Away From To Heighten The Drama. Instead we get to see that the Enterprise is closing in on the transporter trace. Bok’s transporter starts beaming Jason out, the Enterprise tries to contest the lock and loses, and Jason next appears in Bok’s probe transmission in a beheading video, suitably edited for network television.
In order to get to Bok in time, Picard orders Data to jury-rig the subspace transporters and beam him over Not like it would really matter either way – if Bok was actually about to straight-up murder Jason, the amount of time it would take him to take two steps and stab the kid is much less than the amount of time it seems to take Data and Geordi to lock down the transporter modifications. If only O’Brien were here instead of over on DS9. Picard beams over, phaser in hand.
Jason is desperately trying to negotiate with Bok when Picard beams over, points the phaser at Bok, and tries to claim that he has the upper hand because Jason isn’t actually a Picard. Of course, the fact that he beamed over anyway to save the kid means that Jason still makes an effective hostage, but I guess these are things you can think of with the benefit of a pause button. Plus, Picard has a whole lot of leverage to use to make Bok’s crew turn against him – the venture is without profit, after all. With that out of the way and with a few lines of dialogue indicating that Jason might not actually die of Space-Parkinsons, they send him back home at his request, with a touching little moment at the end. You can see Picard regretting the fact that he never had a family. Well, there’s always his nephew.