Star Trek Picard: Et in Arcadia Ego Part I

Using a Borg transwarp conduit, La Sirena is able to make it to Soji’s home world of Coppelius – a sanctuary for synthetic life forms. Unfortunately, the Romulans are right behind them, but where Picard hopes humans and synthetics might be able to work together to defeat the enemy, the Coppelians have quite a different plan in mind.

Before we get stuck into the review, let’s take a moment to enjoy this music video from the video game Ratchet and Clank 3:

Why have I included this seemingly unrelated video? Well, it’s because it sums up Picard episode nine remarkably well. Our eponymous hero and his rag-tag crew of misfits have finally made it to Soji’s homeworld, home to numerous yellow-eyed androids and the previously unmentioned son of Dr Noonien Soong. Picard is somewhat concerned about the fact that the Romulans are hot on their tail, but even though the androids have limited defensive capabilities, they’re not massively concerned. You see, it turns out that the “Admonition” that drives so many Zhat Vash insane was never meant to be a warning for organics, but rather a message for synthetics. It comes from an advanced civilisation who believe that organics will inevitably turn on the synthetics they create, and promises to help those synthetics by turning up to destroy their creators.

Now of course, Picard and his squishy humanoid allies would really rather this didn’t happen, but the Coppelians seem pretty convinced that this is the correct course of action to take. Are we about to see the end of organic life in the galaxy? It seems unlikely, but we’ll have to wait and see how things play out.

While the above description captures the main thrust of the episode, there are also plenty of sub threads as well. Seven of Nine brings the Borg Cube to Coppelius, only to crash it on the surface. I really wanted the Borg elements to be really key to the main plot, but by this point it just feels like it hasn’t really gone anywhere. Sure, we got the chance to think about how assimilation affected Picard, Seven and Hugh, but ultimately it’s just contributed to the story feeling a bit of a mess. With so few episodes to play with, something more focussed on fewer plot threads would have made for a tighter, more engaging storyline. Or perhaps we could have had a lighter touch main plot with the time for more supporting character development or episodic adventures along the way.

Narek also shows up in this episode, in which he gets rescued by La Sirena, only to be captured by the androids and ultimately escape. Where will his machinations end, and will we care by the time they do? At present, it’s unclear.

Other observations and questions

  • Picard finally fesses up to the crew about his terminal brain syndrome. It would have been nice to have more information about this – we know from TNG that it may well be Irumodic Syndrome, but we’ve never really had a keen grasp of what the symptoms are or how quickly it’s killing Picard. Without this information, it’s harder than it should be to feel sympathetic for his plight – is he going to die in three months, or ten years? How effective are the treatments? Are his current actions due to symptoms, or is it just how his character is being written for this series?
  • Unless there’s more to his story than meets the eye, Altan Soong feels like a really lazy way to get another Brent Spiner cameo. If Noonien Soong had a biological son, how was this fact never once mentioned during TNG? Was Juliana Tainer his mother, or was he a child from an earlier marriage? Was he on Omicron Theta when the Crystalline Entity attacked, or was he elsewhere? If he was close enough to his father to continue the family’s work, how come Noonien never mentioned him? Wasn’t the whole point of Data and the other androids that they were the Soongs’ children in lieu of any biological offspring?
  • Soong has a blank “golem” android ready to take a humanoid consciousness, and Picard is a human who is probably going to die soon. Are they really going to go down that route?
  • As well as androids, other synthetic life forms on Coppelius include Spot II, a replica of Data’s original ginger cat.
  • Does the Admonition originate from some version of Discovery’s Control?
  • How is an android able to master a Vulcan mind meld? I know Data could perform the nerve pinch, but in theory anyone in the Star Trek universe could learn this – it’s a matter of learning the precise positioning of the fingers and pressure to apply. But the Vulcan mind meld also requires some sort of base telepathic ability. I suppose Maddox and Soong must have figured out how to encode some level of telepathic aptitude into a positronic brain.

Summary – Et in Arcadia Ego, Part I: “Don’t stop until we dominate, won’t you feel great, when we exterminate all organic life!”

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