I didn’t for a minute buy the “Picard is dead” premise, but it’s fun to watch the away team, dressed in civilian clothes, chatting with aliens in a cantina. They learn the “smooth-headed” human they are tracking was attacked and vaporized by artifact smugglers.
Troi asks Riker to speak at the eulogy, but Riker wants justice. Acting on a lead from the witness, and acting against Acting First Officer Data’s advice, Riker leads an away team to a planet of archaeological interest, and promptly gets captured by raiders.
The Enterprise-D picks up and quickly loses track of the raiders’ ship. Acting First Officer Worf chafes when Acting Captain Data orders search parties to the planet to find out what the raiders were doing there.
The big-haired leader of the raiders, Baran, interrogates Riker, and tortures him with a remote-controlled pain zapper. When a subordinate gets too mouthy, Baran zaps her, too.
Of course we know Picard isn’t really dead, but the big revelation works well. The incognito Picard pretends to want Riker dead, and secretly technobabbles a jimberjam that he knows Riker can untechnobabble, thereby giving Baran a reason to value Riker. We learn that Baran has been looting Romulan artifacts, apparently searching for something specific.
The Enterprise-D search party scans stuff and talks about things that would have been too expensive to show. Data thinks deep thoughts, and soon the Enterprise-D is on its way to what must be the raiders’ next target.
Picard does an impressive juggling act, helping Baran analyze the artifacts, making Riker look useful, sowing the seeds of mutiny, and also trying save lives. (The neck-zapping widgets are a short-cut to establishing Baran as a weak leader, but because this is a two-parter, there’s time to show some of the power dynamics on the raider ship.
When the Enterprise-D shows up, and Riker uses outdated access codes to remotely shut down the shields, Data orders a notably back-talky Worf to comply.
On the raider’s ship, Baran gives the order to fire, and Picard himself pushes the pew-pew button.
To be continued…