Episode two of Star Trek: Picard, Maps and Legends, sees two distinct arcs kick into action. It feels like small steps in the grand scheme of things, but necessary ones. Let’s discuss the two intertwined tales.
Stepping Back Into The Abyss
Picard had a tough time of it this week. First up, he was taken all the way back to the ST:TNG finale All Good Things. You see, early on, Picard learns that Soji is somewhere off-world. Needing a warp-capable ship to reach her, he instigates a plan to get back in with Starfleet. And that starts with a visit from Dr. Benayoun.
Unfortunately for Picard, his medical exam reveals some physical issues that are likely to result in neurological issues, many of which cannot be treated. In the future glimpsed in said finale, Picard saw himself retired on the vineyard with neurological problems. Though he knows that the exact future shown to him would not now happen, that has to play on his mind a little.
Nevertheless, he pushes forward. Dr. Benayoun agrees to deem him fit for interstellar work on the grounds that he ‘doesn’t know what sort of trouble Picard is planning to get into, but if he’s lucky, it’ll kill him first.’ Things are not so simple though. Picard has burned bridges and, after a heated disagreement with Admiral Clancy, his request for a war capable ship is denied.
Of course, Picard won’t stop there. He decides to take matters into his own hand, largely because he wishes to help the daughter of the man whose death he has been mourning for two decades now. The kicker is, he can’t ask his old crewmates for help. He puts this down to the idea that they would leap in without a second thought and put their lives at risk for him, and he doesn’t want that again.
In truth though, I wonder if he’s worried about more than that. Back in All Good Things, Q told Picard that the trial never ends. He also knows that he caused the anti-time anomaly that would wipe out humanity. Perhaps putting the key players back in place would risk triggering the disaster again?
Anyway, Picard thought the same thing as his housekeeper Zhaban: He needs someone who hates him and has nothing to lose. To that end, he put a call in to Raffi, a lady that certainly doesn’t seem to care for Picard. In fact, when he visits her, she tells him to leave as there’s nothing he could say that she would want to hear. Leave it to Jean-Luc to find the right words though: “There are secret Romulan assassins are operating on Earth.”
This was all very good. It was a clear showing of how far Picard has fallen in terms of Starfleet. To a degree though, I think he’s still living in the past. He still mourns Data. He can’t risk his friends. He is facing an echo of a potential future. And he cannot stop being Picard, even if Starfleet no longer sees him as the same man. All good things may come to an end, but for Picard, they are not yet finished.
Artificial Life: Hatred And Uses
The other arc that started this week involved the secrets being held by the Romulans. As it transpires, there’s a cultural hatred of all synthetic life within Romulans. To the point that they even keep their computers basic in terms of function. The Romulan Secret Police, the Tal Shiar, are said to be a public-facing distraction from the real threat: the Zhat Vash.
Now, Picard brought the Zhat Vash up during his talk with Admiral Clancy, and she subsequently contacts Admiral Oh, a Vulcan lady, to discuss this and ask her to look into it. This is where things start to head into full-blown conspiracy territory. Oh then contacts an officer named Rizzo, who appears to be human. It is soon revealed however that she is an undercover Romulan, and that the Romulan we saw speaking to Soji at the end of episode one is her baby brother.
Narek too is undercover and is supposed to be trying to get on Soji’s good side to find out where the ‘nest of abominations’ is. This has so far included sleeping with Soji, by the way. The thing is, there’s no definitive proof of there being a nest. Our understanding so far is that she was created as a pair, so unless there are more pairs that we haven’t heard of yet, that’s speculation on the Romulans part.
One possibility is that the synthetics who went rogue – as we saw in the flashback at the start of the episode – could have downloaded their consciousness to elsewhere before committing suicide. Again though, there’s no evidence of this.
What I enjoyed here was the mild contradiction. Romulans hate artificial life. Yet, in going undercover, their physical life is artificial. They’re also surrounded by synthetic life, working on ‘reclaiming’ victims in the Borg Cube. I’m looking forward to seeing where this story is heading and what the overall goal is for the Romulans.
Despite the callbacks to TNG, this felt less like a nostalgia trip than the last episode. The past was important, but it was more about setting up the present, I think. Thus far, the series is attainting a good balance between old and new, and I hope that continues.
So, those were my thoughts. But what about yourselves? Are you watching Picard’s solo series? Did you enjoy this episode? Let me know in the comments below.
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