The second episode of Star Trek: Picard picked up right where we left off in the premiere, and the mystery laid out in the last episode regarding Data’s offspring, the state of the Federation, and at how Picard is moving forward after the revelation of the previous episode.
WARNING THIS ARTICLE REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR S1 EP2, “MAPS AND LEGENDS”.
The episode opens with a haunting scene about the attack on Mars 14 years ago, a flashback I wasn’t expecting, but I am so pleased was depicted. It’s a holiday, “First Contact Day” on Utopia Planetia, and only a skeleton crew (aided by androids) are left on duty. It’s an evocative sequence, we see that the humanoid staff have different views and relationships with their android co-workers, and conditions are generally not great on that front. Some characters are outright hostile or condescending to their android colleagues, while others are unpleasant via ignorance.
Either way, by the time the audience sees a change in android F-8’s (eyes, it’s too late. He and the rest of the androids turn on their coworkers quickly killing the group we’ve spent time with, and sabotaging the entire station from within. F-8 ends his existence with a shot to the head before the station explodes and is engulfed in flames.
In addition to seeing a peek at some of the conditions of Utpoia Planetia for both flesh and blood and synthetic, we also see just how fast the swiftly the attack took from start to finish, and later on in the episode, there are hints that its timing might have been convenient? We shall see.
Following Dahj’s assassination, Picard continues to investigate her life including how she came to be) and her death (and the Romulan ninja assassins who killed her).
Per Laris and Zhaban, Romulans it seems like androids even less than the Federation at the moment, but with a deep loathing that spans back centuries. Laris and Zhaban explain to Picard that there exists a secret group even more secret than the infamous Tal Shiar (various episodes), which is saying a lot. The Zhat Vash expressly hates androids and are likely the culprits for Dahj’s murder. The pair (Zhaban much more skeptically) describes that this group has operatives deep undercover around the federation. Laris accompanies Picard to Dahj’s apartment to see if they can find any evidence that sheds light on what exactly happened.
The episode takes a procedural turn when Laris uses a device to view the events that occurred in the room. Laris, it turns out, seems to know rather a lot about both the Zhat Vash and the Tal Shiar. She uses outlawed Romulan technology to try to piece together what exactly happened in Dahj’s now spotless and seemingly undisturbed apartment. It’s been totally scrubbed through, apparently at the subatomic level. The level of the clean up adds credence for the both of them that he Zhat Vash are likely culprits and operating on Earth. Fortunately, Laris and Picard are able to uncover some evidence from Dahj’s computer communication with Soji, discovering that the surviving twin will not be found on earth.
Though Romulans have never been a Star Trek species that consistently piqued my interest in the past, I am really enjoying Picard’s relationship and interaction with his two Romulan companions, Zhaban and Laris (Laris in particular). Are they former Tal Shiar perhaps? They certainly know a lot about clandestine Romulan ops. And this organization more secret than their literal secret police and the deep dark secret? The concepts are intriguing enough, so I am interested to learn more about the Zhat Vash.
Meanwhile, on the Borg cube, Soji, and Narek, things have heated up between the still rather creepy Romulan working with her (Dajh had much better taste in boos, rip). However, just because they are swapping bodily fluids, clearly there’s still a lot of secrets between them. Soji and Narek tease around the issue of secrets as they ready to return to work. Narek to my eyes is doing a horrible job of being inconspicuous, but I don’t think Soji is totally clueless to him either. She may not yet be aware of her nature, but again Narek’s weird vibe does not seem super subtle to me. So there’s probably more here than it seems. They both mutually agree to keep their fling a secret before heading off to work.
We learn and see more about the research being done on the “Artifact”, this inactive Borg Cube severed from the collective. It’s still unclear why the Romulans are in control of the Artifact, and while there is potential economic gain from hosting researchers and harvesting technology and raw materials, given what we have just seen and learned about the Zhat Vash back on Picard’s vineyard, it’s easy to imagine that there’s more to the story. New arrival from Trill Polytech (Chelsea Harris) arrives to begin research and Soji takes her under her wing. They listen to a Romulan explain the dangers of the ‘gray zone’ an area of the cube where they might encounter still active drones. IF you badge glows RUN! (You just know we’ll see someone have to run). New girl wisely questions just how safe the cute is to work on, and Narek goes on to assure her that it’s been severed from the hive.
(She’ll probably end up having to run.)
Later, Narek observes Soji’s work with the reclamation (apparently he’s in a high enough position to do so). She oversees Romulan scientists who work to removed technology from a former drone. Soji chastises one of them for referring to the drone as ‘Nameless’, arguing that just because the drone’s species was unknown did not mean it had no name. The Romulans in the room (though perhaps not including Narek), disagree. Given we know Romulans never really went too deep into any sort of AI and have a whole secret organization that seems entirely devoted to being anti-synthetic life (even kidnapped as borg drones are) this is hardly a surprise. Once the drone’s final piece of technology is removed, Soji moves to speak to them (perhaps somehow in their own language?), telling them they are now free. Narek observes the whole time still totally not being subtle.
Meanwhile back on earth, having undergone a medical evaluation as part of his plan to convince Star Fleet to reinstate him, Picard receives some unfortunate news. Picard’s doctor, an old friend from his Stargazer days, informs him of a health issue that will certainly not end well. We know from The Next Generation that he has an abnormality in the parietal lobe (a major plot point in the series finale All Good Things…). In his old age, it seems Picard will likely experience neurological problems, and thus is not fit for reinstatement. However, after impressing upon his old friend how important it is, Picard is given approval.
Picard’s arrival at Star Fleet headquarters is charming, but it also provides a lot of insight into the current state of affairs in Star Fleet and by proxy something more of what is going on with the Federation as well. For himself, Picard seems so excited to be back and we see the famous ships of old displayed in the lobby. The front desk guy doesn’t even recognize him! Even as an audience member, and one who loves Picard, I am already about 90% certain this is absolutely not going to work, but it’s hard not to smile at Picard’s hopefulness as he starts his meeting with Admiral Kirsten Clancy.
Laying out his desire to be reinstated and ‘graciously’ offering to be demoted to captain, Picard explains to Admiral Clancy (Ann Magnuson) his theory on Dr. Maddox’s creation of androids, the possibility of the Zhat Vash operating under deep cover throughout the Federation, as well as his need for a ship and crew. To say that Admiral Clancy is not impressed is a major understatement. To be fair, from her point of view, Picard does seem like an elderly retired man asking to meddle, who did very recently bad mouth her organization on intergalactic new and sure and maybe it’s all a little ridiculous. And the way he suggested the captain thing probably didn’t come off the way he intended. And so we arrive at the first f-bomb of the series? The level of hostility Picard receives seems quite interesting to me, and this combined with a later exchange in the episode possibly hints to something more concrete about the split between Picard and Star Fleet than a philosophical disagreement and some inconvenient android uprisings.
This scene, though really just two older people sitting in a clean office talking at each other, seems at its outset very simple, is really dynamic and again demonstrates just how out of alignment Picard’s vision of Star Fleet and the Federation is from the reality he faces.
Suffice to say, Picard’s plan of getting reinstated did not go well.
Following that a visit from Dr. Jurati also reveals, some information. (Not least of which, that Picard approves of the scientist’s taste in tea.) Though the files related to synthetic life research and Dr. Maddox’s work were ‘black boxed’ following the attack on Mars, she was able to dig a bit more into Dahj’s past. She had indeed been accepted as a fellow at the Daystrom Institute, and her academic record and life seemed, real- to a point. It all seemed to have appeared and come together with in the last three years. Which means it’s likely that both she and her living sister Soji, have specific reasons for working at both Daystrom and on the Borg Cube Reclamation project. Hmmm…
The conversation leaves Picard more determined than ever to get out into the galaxy to find (and protect) Soji, but he still lacks the means. A familiar orchestral scene swells as he goes to the mantle and puts on his old (and familiar to us) communication badge, looks up to the night sky and contacts someone called Raffi asking for them not to hang up and to provide assistance.
He receives no answer.
Back in San Francisco, we find Admiral Clancy updating Commadore Oh (Tamlyn Tomita) on Picard’s visit. Seemingly a calm and rational Vulcan, Oh reacts somewhat unexpectedly to some of the information Clancy passes on about Picard’s discoveries about Dr. Maddox’s research and the Zhat Vash. While she calmly dismiss the encounter and the merits of Picard’s theories- “If the Romulans were running clandestine operations on Earth, I would know…” (HA!)- as soon as the call is over she calls in a Lieutenant Rizzo (Peyton List) and proceeds to berate her for screwing up their clearly clandestine operation on earth with Dahj.
Rizzo is about as unsubtle undercover as Narek, even though she’s essentially got cosmetic assistance, so it’s not a shock when we find out later in the episode that the pair are siblings. Oh feels that Rizzo’s methods are impatient (Dahj was killed before information could be gathered), and reminds her that there is only one more chance to achieve their purpose (Soji). Oh, I will hold the spy personally responsible if this operation fails. Later in the episode, Rizzo then plays a video dear brother Narek to essentially tell him exactly the same thing. The scene is useful in that it establishes them as siblings with slightly different methods for how to do this, and shows that dynamic, but other than that it didn’t really do much, despite being the end stinger.
Laris can only imagine dementia would cause Picard to want to go find Dr. Maddox and hopefully Soji. She believes it to be a death wish to go against the Tal Shiar or the Zhat Vash. Her and Zhaban’s concern and friendship with Picard continues to be a highlight of the show. When Zhaban suggests getting the gang back together, calling Worf or Riker or LaForge to help this mission, Picard says he knows they would do it in a heartbeat and that’s why he can’t ask them to. He needs someone who hates him and “has nothing to lose”. The call he made the previous night, to the mysterious Raffi (Michelle Hurd), implying that Raffi hates him.
Picard pays a visit to her space-age equivalent of a desert mobile home to try to push his case for assistance and is met at gunpoint. This response, along with Clancy’s as I mentioned earlier piqued my interest. Why does Raffi hate Picard specifically, and does it relate to the Romulan Refugee/ Mars attack/ unhappy falling out of Picard and Star Fleet? Fortunately, He came baring wine and that seems to be enough not to get shot, but clearly, there is a history there I want to learn more about.
The ’86 must be really good.
Though I think the pacing on this episode could have been better, most of the scenes in this episode were really well done and add to the overall mystery and development. We’re starting to see the series get its feet and I am really looking forward to the next episode. Star Fleet compromised by a secret anti-robot society, Picard’s neurological situation, the Artifact, Maddox, the Borg, and more! There’s so much to explore!