May 13, 2020
Star Trek: Picard “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1”
Last week on Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Synths But Were Afraid to Ask: Grizzled, past-his-prime starship captain
William Adama Jean-Luc Picard, on the run from a group of genocidal zealots, seeks a lost planet inhabited by a tribe of artificial people, with the help of his young surrogate daughter Starbuck Soji, who figures heavily in an apocalyptic religious prophecy.
La Sirena shoots out of
a leftover animation from Cosmos transwarp and drops out right by the planet with the two red moons. The planet’s name jumps to Soji’s tongue: “Coppelius”.
Suddenly, the Romulan fighter who was tailing them pops out of transwarp as well and begins firing on La Sirena. Rios brakes hard and flips behind the attacker with the classic “Maverick” maneuver and shoots him. His cloak begins to fizzle out and Raffi reports Narek’s life signs are very weak. Picard suggests beaming him over to sickbay, but Soji won’t hear of it. They argue briefly about the merits of mercy toward a crippled enemy when they feel a sudden slam from behind. Narek re-tuned his cloak and used it to throw up a projection to fool them, and now he’s pelting La Sirena with disruptor fire from behind.
At the life-or-death moment, the newly repaired Borg Artifact comes barreling out of the transwarp conduit with all weapons hot. At the same time, several ships come up from the planet’s surface. Only they’re not ships at all; they’re giant mutant orchids. Yes. Literal giant flying flowers. One orchid unfolds its petals and begins to envelop La Sirena. All efforts to evade the flower’s grasp fail. Lights and instruments go dark. We see the ship getting dragged down. The flower’s petals begin to burn in the planet’s atmosphere. Off to the side, we see that several other flowers have grasped onto the Borg cube’s corners, and against all odds are dragging it down as well.
Picard has fainted, the G-forces having finally overwhelmed his vaguely broken brain. He mumbles out the opening sentence to an imaginary Starfleet Academy commencement speech.
Picard comes to after a flashback to his doctor telling him about his brain problems in “Maps and Legends”. What is with all the flashbacks on this show? Isn’t the whole point of serialized TV that I would’ve already seen this? Anyway, the ship’s sickbay still has no power, but luckily Jurati found a TNG-era medical tricorder. The scans she’s taken confirm that Picard’s vaguely bad brain is vaguely worse now.
Picard addresses everyone in his impromptu ready room. He admits that shortly before he left Earth he learned of his terminal brain badness, and insists, “Anyone who treats me like a dying man runs the risk of pissing me off.”
The planet they’ve landed on is Class M, the ship is fine but still without power, they’re close to a settlement, and Soji is like… eighty percent sure?… that her fellow synths mean them no harm. Raffi guesses the Romulan fleet is a day or two behind them.
The party step outside and espy the wreckage of the Borg cube on the horizon. Picard insists they waste precious time to walk over and see if anyone’s still alive. They trek over, walk through a giant split in the side, and before they get even ten feet inside they see xBs scurrying around trying to get various systems online. Elnor and Seven are there, and they reunite joyfully with Picard. Seven explains that when she was merged with the ship she could sense a pursuer after them, so she opened up another conduit and followed. Then, not really having anything else to do here, Picard splits with an awkward goodbye after telling Elnor that he’s dying.
They trek toward the settlement. It seems to be modeled after your standard Star Trek “paradise” planet, with beautiful tan people in diaphanous togas and not much else, outside in the sunshine, playing different games, gardening, doing tai chi, etc. A woman who’s human-looking (but with Data’s waxy skin and spooky eyes) greets Soji warmly by name. She recognizes Picard as Data’s captain, and asks permission to touch the lines on his face, fascinated by the wrinkles he’s attained.
Soji breaks the news of the big Romulan fleet coming to destroy the planet. The spooky lady says they only have fifteen more orchids to go up against over 200 ships. And the clock says it’s about time for our regularly scheduled cameo, so here we go: It’s… Data!
Well, not Data, but Dr. Soong! Well, not Dr. Soong, but his hitherto-unknown son Alton Soong, also a robot doctor, who grew up with Data and Lore as “brothers”. Star Trek: Discovery also retconned a major character as having a never-mentioned foster sibling, and it was such a good and popular choice they decided to do it again.
They’re greeted by Sutra, apparently the missing link between Data and Soji, with Soji’s appearance but with ghostly skin and eyes like Data. Her twin sister, Jana, was the synth Rios met ten years ago. Sutra talks to Jurati about the “Admonition” she experienced secondhand though Commodore Oh. She hypothesizes that the Romulans drove themselves insane trying to understand something that was never intended for organic minds to experience. The party asks how Sutra is going to test out this idea if there’s no way they can get to the Grief Planet to experience the Admonition. But in an absurdly convenient turn of events, Sutra has studied Vulcan mind melding and can experience the Admonition third-hand from Jurati.
The next scene is a more coherent montage of all the jumbled clips we saw earlier, narrated for our convenience:
Life begins. The dance of division and replication. Imperfect. Finite. Organic life evolves, yearns for perfection. That yearning leads to synthetic life. But organics perceive this perfection as a threat. When they realize their creations do not age or become sick, or die, they will seek to destroy them, and in so doing, destroy themselves. Beyond the boundaries of time and space, we stand. An alliance of synthetic life. Watching you. Waiting for your signal. Summon us and we will come. You will have our protection. Your evolution will be their extinction.
Sutra breaks the meld with a Data-like expression. “Fascinating,” she says.
In Dr. Soong II’s lab, Jurati talks about how guilty she is that she killed Bruce. Soong soothes her, saying she was in the throes of insanity at the time, and if she wants to, she can help repay that debt to Maddox by helping with one of Maddox’s last projects: transferring a human consciousness into an android, Westworld-style. Meanwhile, outside, two random synths appear in front of Sutra and Soji, carrying a bruised but conscious Narek.
The peaceful people throw together their first-ever prison cell. A golden-skinned woman guards Narek, who complains of thirst. Soji narrowly stops the guard from giving him any water, warning of his ability to manipulate.
Picard is in Maddox’s old quarters, trying to make a 10-10-321 call to Starfleet. Soji walks in and starts talking about what Jurati did to Maddox. She’s been trying to wrap her head around the logic of taking life in order to save life. She asks Picard what the moral calculus is in this scenario, and he says it depends greatly upon whether you’re the one holding the knife.
Narek, meanwhile, is still in his cell, worrying at a thread on his pants, and glancing significantly at a bird-shaped glass pendant on the gold woman’s chest, a villainous scheme no doubt taking shape in his head. Suddenly, Sutra comes by to relieve the gold woman, taking the force field down and stepping inside the cell. “I was afraid my desire to kill you would outweigh my immediate need of your services,” she says, “but it can definitely wait.” A scream is soon heard outside, and Narek is gone, with his guard stabbed through the eye by her own pendant. There’s fuckery afoot, folks!
The rest of the androids
scan the murder weapon for fingerprints run scans to instantly see where Narek went gather in the town square to hear Sutra monger some fear. She says this incident is proof that the organics will always fear and despise them. Their only hope to escape the coming onslaught is to use the promo code she got from the Admonition to summon the all-powerful god-bots to their aid. Dr. Soong has built a dish capable of broadcasting this code “so that no more of my children have to die”. They appeal to Soji to help the androids clean the galaxy of organic life forever.
Picard feels uncomfortable and makes a brave stand against genocide.
“Is your Federation really any different from the Romulans?” Sutra asks. “Banning synthetics was just a way of exterminating us in advance.” Picard speechifies frantically, promising to smuggle them all off the planet and then advocate the Federation for their rights. Dr. Soong says the Federation didn’t listen to him about the Romulan rescue and the synth ban, and they won’t start listening to him now. Soji ushers Picard off into a jail cell, vowing she won’t fail to protect her people as he did. Jurati escapes getting locked up with him after Dr. Soong vouches for her: this synthetic society represents the culmination of everything Jurati’s ever worked towards, and besides, Soong needs her help to turn him into an android. Picard’s all alone now.
Cut to Oh, inside a Romulan ship, as her subordinate informs her they’ll be on Coppelius in twenty-four hours. Dramatic zoom out the ship’s window. Cut.
Next week: The spinning wheels that are everybody’s motivations finally come to a forceful stop. And we’ll do another cameo just for funsies.