Oct 9, 2020
Star Trek: Picard “Broken Pieces”
Previously on Star Trek Into Oldness: Picard rescued Small Wonder from the Borg Cube, and his heroism inspired Hugh to start a Borg revolution on the cube, which apparently he’d just plain never thought of doing before. Tragically, he got assimilated by the Grim Reaper for his efforts. Will Riker and Deanna Troi still exist.
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This week’s flashback takes place fourteen years previously, on the melodramatically named “Aia, the Grief Planet”. A circle of black-robed Romulan women, among them Narissa (or Rizzo, as we know her), the future Commodore Oh, and a pre-Borgified Ramdha are standing around what looks like a round table made of glowing green energy.
Oh recites the story of their foremothers finding this planet and discovering the doom it foretold. She instructs the women to grip the green rails and submit to “Admonishment”, warning that it will drive some of them hopelessly mad, but the survivors will be stronger. All the women grip at the same time and experience horrifying visions. Almost all scream. One woman shoots herself in the head. Another bashes her head in with a rock. Ramdha tears large chunks of her hair out.
Only Narissa remains standing, silent though visibly aghast. Oh says they must work quickly to avert the doom they all saw. Their mission begins “on the world the humans call Mars.”
Back in the present, Narissa visits a still-comatose Ramdha in her quarters. Ramdha is aunt to Narissa and Narek, and also took them in as orphans years ago after their parents were killed by a lazy writer. Though she half-expects Ramdha to be faking her coma, she fills Ramdha in on their secret mission, relaying that they’ve found the android homeworld and will soon leave.
Meanwhile, Elnor is still cowering in Hugh’s old office when Romulan redshirts (greenshirts?) show up. A cool but frustratingly brief fight happens and half a dozen or so mooks eat it before they’re finally able to get Elnor in manacles. (The fight choreography on Picard is easily the best in the Star Trek series, which is to say it has average fight choreography.) Suddenly, Seven of Nine shows up and shoots all Elnor’s captors. The happy manchild gathers up a bewildered Seven in a hug.
Cut to Soji and Picard beaming up to La Sirena to a very frosty reception from Rios and Raffi. They’re upset because they’ve found out some things about Jurati from the EMH. Such as: she had a “tracking isotope” in her blood which allowed the Romulans to tail her. That is, until she took that hypo of hydrogen compound to purge it, sending her into a coma. Also, she might have done a small amount of murder—which the EMH saw, but never brought it up to anyone until now. Raffi upbraids Picard over his naively trusting nature and holds Soji at gunpoint, while Rios vows to dump him at the nearest Federation starbase and wash his hands of the whole deal.
The sight of Soji in person for the first time causes Rios to become mysteriously spooked. He activates all the emergency holograms and retires to his bunk to listen to A Perfect Circle and brood.
Picard has a holo-conference with Admiral Clancy in his study, with tales of his travels so far that are just as wild as those she rejected earlier. For plot reasons, she believes him this time, and promises to send a squadron to meet him at Deep Space 12. Meanwhile, Raffi goes out to chat with the ENH (the Irish one). He acts and dresses like Mr. Rogers and also goes by “Enoch”. Raffi asks Enoch why Rios was so freaked out by Soji. He searches his database and identifies her as a woman named “Jana”, but how he got that information, he has no idea. Raffi moves on, asking him about a symbol the crazy xB Romulans kept drawing, and he says it probably depicts an “octonary” star system, which are so rare as to essentially not exist. But ancient Romulan star charts, now considered apocryphal, do mention one.
On the Artifact, Elnor leads Seven into the queencell, which she activates with her handprint. She manipulates some hologrammatic controls and green lights start flashing everywhere. Insect-like robots start rebuilding the blown-away section of the side of the cube. Narissa watches this happen and coolly decides it’s time to put this whole Borg project out to pasture.
Back on the ship, Raffi talks to the Emergency Engineering Hologram, or “Ian” (who has a Scottish accent, of course), and learns that an octonary star system has a close to zero chance of occurring naturally, and if one exists at all it was probably built. She talks next to the “Mr. Hospitality” hologram (the Canadian one), who uses his hospitality algorithms to inform her that Rios is all in his feels right now and needs somebody (not just anybody). We cut to Rios in his quarters having the sadz over a cigar box full of pictures of his old dead Starfleet captain and a pencil sketch of him and… a woman who looks like Soji? The plot… I won’t say “thickens”, but it sure does something.
On the Artifact, Seven gestures toward some holograms indicating the positions of both xB’s and regular Borgs in stasis. Elnor suggests waking the latter Borgs up, but Seven says they’ll be disconnected from the Collective and useless. She could, however, create a mini-Collective with just the Borg on this ship, with her as the queen, directing their movements and deploying them against the Romulans. She has moral reservations about enslaving the Borg again. Elnor suggests to simply set them free when she’s done. “They won’t want to be released,” says Seven, and ominously adds, “I might not want to release them.”
Back on La Sirena, Raffi has gathered all five emergency holograms in Picard’s study for a little visit. Each of them has mysterious gaps in their knowledge about Rios’s Starfleet career, but each of them knows a little piece of the information she needs, and she just has to put it all together. She starts with Rios’s captain, Alonzo Vandemeer. Emmet says he committed suicide, miming a gun in the mouth. (When future people do this gesture, they still use their thumb to represent the hammer, even though it’s been a good 300 years since anyone fired a weapon with a hammer.) Emil says that afterwards, Rios suffered a mental breakdown that led to his departure from Starfleet. The ship that all this happened on, the ibn Majid, doesn’t appear in Starfleet records. When Raffi asks why, none of them knows. Wow, real productive scene here.
Jurati finally wakes up restrained in sickbay. Picard tells her the hypospray worked, she’s no longer being tracked, and they’re en route to Deep Space 12, where she will surrender herself for Bruce Maddox’s murder. Jurati acquiesces, explaining herself by saying that Commodore Oh put “poison” in her mind. She tells Picard about the horrifying visions of doom, about the Zhat Vash and the secret planet, and about the Romulan end-times myth in which Soji plays a central figure.
Raffi goes into a passed-out Rios’s room and replicates coffee. Rios the hipster has both paper books and vinyl records, and he’s listening to a sad Billie Holiday song. Hey, remember when Raffi was going to put clues from all five holograms together to figure out what happened to Rios? And then that just, like, didn’t happen? Well she’s in luck, because despite how tight-lipped he was being yesterday, today Rios decides to tell her everything with no prompting because that’s how plotting works.
Captain Vandemeer took the ibn Majid out in the Vayt system and made first contact with two strange and lovely people. One of them, Jana, looked exactly like Soji. Commodore Oh called Vandemeer on a secret channel and told him to shoot the two people or else the ibn Majid would be destroyed. Vandemeer reluctantly did so and Rios gave him such a hard time about it that he killed himself. Rios beamed the bodies into space and continued the cover-up to save his crewmates, but got forced out of Starfleet anyway.
Meanwhile, Jurati is asking Soji about all her android abilities. The fact that Soji can eat, drink, sleep, cry, and has physical imperfections is enough to convince Jurati that Soji is a person and it would be wrong to kill her even if the apocalypse will happen if she doesn’t. These last two scenes feel like they each have like half an episode’s worth of plot development. We’re back to the weird chunky pacing that we had at the beginning of the season, before they brought in Jonathan Frakes to smooth everything out.
Back on the cube, Rizzo is strolling through hallways mowing down all the xB’s. The sight of all the life signs disappearing from the map steels Seven’s resolve, and she decides to activate the drones. She steps up to the Queen’s altar. A bunch of cables punch into her spine, her eyes blacken, and she becomes the Borg Queen with the scary resonant voice.
But if you were afraid that you were going to have to sit through an awesome epic battle with swarming columns of Borg chasing freaked-out Romulans down hallways to their bloody doom, fear not. Rizzo hits a button and the drones all get vented into space.
Jurati walks into the galley with Soji, and apologizes for going into space on a mission to murder her. Now it’s Rios’s turn to apologize to Soji, which he does by replicating some French fries and peppermint ice cream. He knows Soji likes to dip the one into the other, and she asks how he knows that.
Raffi launches into a story about an ancient civilization, several hundred thousand years ago, that moved eight stars together with a planet in the middle and put a warning to future people not to do what they did, which is make robots too real. Just as how, once you develop warp travel, you’ll start getting calls from advanced civilizations, apparently if you develop artificial life past a certain point, someone comes to visit. Only these guys don’t come to acquaint themselves with the music of Roy Orbison; instead, they blow up the galaxy. The Romulans developed the Zhat Vash to keep things from ever getting to this point. They were the ones who staged the attack on Mars, with the synth ban as their goal.
But there’s a secret planet of androids; it’s the planet that Bruce Maddox fled to after the ban, the planet that sent people to meet with the ibn Majid, the planet the Romulans have been trying very hard to find, and now, thanks to Soji, succeeded.
This new bit of plot development unlocks a new node in Soji’s skill tree, and she can suddenly fly ships and knows where the nearest Borg transwarp conduit is. She hacks Rios’s ship, locks Rios out of the cockpit, and starts to lay in a course to the conduit, hoping to beat the Romulans there. Rios unlocks the ship by singing it a lullaby and chides Soji for trying to fly into a transwarp without knowing what the fuck she’s doing. After some negotiation, they agree to help her save her entire race or whatever.
On the cube, the Borg drones are all iced and the xB’s will be mopped up soon, according to Rizzo’s subordinate. A moment later, he’s silently dragged away by xBs and Rizzo gets swarmed. She shoots a bunch of them, but they dogpile her and she’s nearly torn apart like a challah before the Romulan fleet beams her on board and takes off for the android planet.
Seven announces her victory and decouples her spine from the cube, citing “work to do”. Hey, remember when Seven was going to have to reckon with the moral quandary of suppressing the Borg’s identities, and the risk of becoming addicted to such power? And then that just, like, didn’t happen? Hmm.
On the way to the transwarp conduit, Rios and Picard have a chat about Vandemeer. Rios says he hates thinking Vandemeer died not knowing that Oh, not Starfleet, betrayed him. Picard says that Starfleet did betray him: the Zhat Vash may have set the trap, but the Federation walked right into it by giving in to fear. Rios asks in hushed tones what happens if the Romulans were right about Soji being the Destroyer. Picard says that they need to be optimistic that history won’t repeat itself.
They head off into the portal. A Romulan ship de-cloaks and follows them in.
Next week: A good old fashioned two-part finale. I have half a mind to start a Venmo pool and take bets on who’s going to make a surprise cameo. Q? Dr. Pulaski? Riker’s clone? Vic Fontaine? It’s anything goes over here at Star Trek: Picard!