“The Best of Both Worlds” operates as an outlier to this examination of Picard episodes. While the story of what occurs centers on Picard and the assault that he receives from the Borg, this two-parter is ostensibly focused on Commander Riker. From beginning to end, it deals with Riker’s readiness and overall qualifications of captaincy. When there is question of his preparation to accept a command of his own in the beginning of “The Best of Both Worlds”, he is thrust into the center chair after Picard is captured and assimilated by the Borg.
While focus on Riker is deserved, this is a Picard series. Picard’s personality’s overtaken by the Borg, he becomes Locutus, the spokesperson, of sorts, for the Borg species in which is typically faceless. Picard is absent from most of the two-parter, and thus we are offered a perspective of his character from his absence versus his presence.
Naturally, the crew struggles to adjust to the sudden departure of Picard. He has been their guide and steadfast leader. And as the episode brilliantly puts it during the Battle of Wolf 359, Picard is their conscience, their strategic leader. How can they, after all, battle an enemy who has taken over Picard’s experience and knowledge? Picard knows them better than they know themselves.
This puts the crew of the Enterprise in a precarious position. Riker, despite his public display of resolve, is most impacted. There are different scenes with Troi and Guinan, who know Picard with a unique intimacy, where they confront Riker on his command decisions. Clearly wounded and distraught, Riker is determined not only to win the battle over the Borg, but likewise reclaim his captain and the person of Jean-Luc Picard.
It’s here we see the connection that Picard has with his crew. Riker is determined not just to get his captain back, but also wants to liberate the person of Picard as well. Riker, as the episode presents, is more than qualified to assume captaincy. He’s competent. He’s tactful. He’s more than capable of making the decisions with lives on the line. To this extent, he does not need Captain Picard. Instead he needs his friend. He’s willing to sacrifice in order to save this person that means so much to him. Picard is rarely a character that tips his hands to his friendship or connections. You know he has them, but his sense of duty will always prevail over his personal needs. It’s here in “The Best of Both Worlds” where we see the depth of Picard’s friendships, not from his perspective, but from those of others who grapple with his absence.