Star Trek Picard: Et in Arcadia Ego Part II

The Romulans are mere minutes away from Coppelius. The synths are busy building a beacon to summon a force that could obliterate all organic life. Can Picard and his crew put together a plan to save everyone before it’s too late?

Well, here we are, at the end of the rollercoaster ride that has been Picard season one. We made it, but was the journey worth the effort? Unsurprisingly, I have a lot to say about that.

Aboard La Sirena, Rios and Raffi are bemoaning the fact that the ship is broken and they have no way to fix it – except for the magic MacGuffin device that Raffi got from the synths last episode. It’s basically the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver on steroids – think about what you want it to do, point it in the right direction, and voila! Star Trek has had some pretty outlandish technologies in its time, but they all had at least a veneer of respectable science. This one is sheer narrative convenience.

With the ship fixed, Narek shows up to convince Rios and Raffi that they should put aside their differences in order to defeat the synths. He just happens to have some grenades, and also a plan. It’s the kind of plan that gets discussed in flashbacks that are intercut with present scenes of the characters carrying it out – classic TV stuff. Anyway, the trio head back to the synth compound to get going on Narek’s scheme.

While those three head from La Sirena to the synth compound, Jurati busts Picard out so that they can head the other way. Picard’s plan is basically to fly the ship into the oncoming fleet and then hope for the best. Fortunately, the sonic screwdriver that was so helpful earlier comes in handy once again, as Jurati is able to use it to magically project lots of copies of the ship, and ultimately buy enough time for Will Riker to come out of retirement and fly in with a bunch of top of the range Starfleet ships that can face off against the Romulans.

There’s more for Picard to do than just stop the Romulans, however – there’s still the matter of the whole synth beacon. Back on the surface, Altan Soong has realised that one of his synths, Sutra, killed her sister and freed Narek, just to get the other synths on board with destroying all humanoids. Fortunately, he has a device that can instantly deactivate her, but even so, everyone has to stand around and do nothing while Soji continues to work on the beacon.

Yes, only Picard can save the day here – with one of his stirring Picard speeches about the importance of life, cooperation and free will. It proves to be just the ticket, with Soji deactivating the beacon just in time to stop a bunch of mysterious Lovecraftian tentacles snaking into our universe and destroying everything. What were those tentacles? Let’s hope we never see them again.

Now, I have to admit that Picard’s speech is pretty good, and it is, after all, what the good captain admiral is known for. But unfortunately, it comes at a cost. That brain condition that has been teased all season suddenly kicks into high gear, going from no discernible symptoms whatsoever to Picard dying on the floor in the space of an episode. And yes, of course I got emotional at the sight of Picard’s passing, but this whole storyline could have been written better. Why did we not see Picard’s slow deterioration over the course of the season? We could have seen him losing fine motor function, or having to rely more on drugs. Instead, we never really knew what the symptoms were meant to be, whether he was suffering from them yet, or when he was likely to die.

Anyway, Picard dies, and everyone has a moment of mourning the great man they grew to know and love. I’d like to take a moment here to say that I liked (for some value of liked) that they let Elnor cry over Picard’s death – too often male characters aren’t allowed to cry or show weakness, so it’s always left to women. But Star Trek is exactly the right place to show that men are allowed to express their emotions too.

Well, you say, surely that’s it. Picard is dead, so we all pack up and head off to watch a Seven of Nine spin-off series? Not quite. Remember that golem that we saw in the last episode, in the most obvious foreshadowing tease ever? Well, even as I wrote in the last blog that I hoped it wouldn’t be used to resurrect Picard, I stumbled upon a spoiler that said that that was exactly what was going to happen. And indeed, after spending time inside a ‘quantum simulation’ that hosts Data’s consciousness – allowing Picard to finally say a proper goodbye – Picard is rebooted into his new, golem body.

Again, I appreciated the chance for Picard to have one last goodbye with Data – I’m a real sucker for these kinds of scenes. But what follows just felt wrong to me. Picard gets downloaded into a new body – it’s synthetic, but not enhanced in any way, and will live as long as Picard would have if he hadn’t had a brain condition. Why is Picard, a man who has spent years trying to explore and reaffirm his humanity after his time as Locutus, so casually okay with waking up in android body? Why isn’t he screaming in horror about it, or at least the tiniest bit perturbed? Given how poorly written the whole brain condition thing was anyway, why go through all of this? I would rather have seen Picard’s original body magically cured by synth technology, rather than this contrived and slightly disturbing outcome.

With Picard back up and running, there’s just enough time to pull the plug on Data’s consciousness – at the former android’s request – before our protagonist heads back into space with his new crew. What crazy adventures will await them in season two? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Inspired by

Yet more sci-fi franchises that seem to have inspired the writers of Picard.

  • Doctor Who: as mentioned above, the MacGuffin device seen in this episode seems to draw heavily on the good Doctor’s sonic screwdriver.
  • The Culture: a neural lace is briefly mentioned, which is a piece of technology frequently encountered in Iain M Banks’s Culture novels.
  • Humans: Obviously any show about synthetic life forms fighting for their rights is going to be reminiscent of the Swedish TV show and its UK Channel 4 adaptation. In particular, Sutra’s logical approach to killing her sister was reminiscent of the casually homicidal Hester in series two.
  • Final Fantasy VII: The fight between Seven of Nine and Narissa (more on that below) reminded me of Tifa and Scarlet’s slap-off in this video game.

Other questions and observations

  • The Borg storyline, such as it turned out to be, ends with Seven of Nine pushing Narissa to her death during a fight on the Artifact – citing the killing as revenge for Hugh. So that’s twice this season that Seven has killed someone in revenge for the death of a Borg drone. Can’t we find something else for her to do?
  • Speaking of which, I’m sad that Narissa didn’t get to do more than basically skulk around in corridors being evil. She could have been a properly fleshed out character.
  • Narek refers to himself as a family disgrace and Zhat Vash washout – if only we’d had more of a sense of this throughout the season, instead of having it tossed in as last minute character development.
  • Oh orders the Romulans to use Planetary Sterilisation Pattern number five. Why do the Romulans have at least five planetary sterilisation patterns? Who needs that many?
  • Jurati refers to the famous Picard manoeuvre, as seen in TNG.
  • It would have been an interesting twist if Picard’s parietal lobe issues had been caused by having been assimilated – perhaps due to having once had a Borg cortical node.
  • At the end of the episode, we see Raffi and Seven holding hands in a way that could be construed as them being in a relationship. I would very much like to see more lesbians/bisexual women in Star Trek, but if this is going to happen next season, let’s have it be a properly explored relationship rather than a performative nod to Star Trek’s LGBT+ fans. For one thing, if they are a couple now, then we’ve already had a wasted opportunity in seeing their relationship develop – in fact, they’ve barely spent any onscreen time together.

Character round-up

Picard aside, did this season do justice to the other characters on La Sirena’s crew?

  • Rios: although we got a look into the troubled past of this brooding and mysterious captain, he doesn’t feel particularly fleshed out.
  • Jurati: Don’t get me wrong, I like Jurati overall. But are we all okay with the fact that she murdered her ex-lover? Is she okay with that? We seem to have gone into forgive and forget mode, without any introspection on her part, or punishment for her crimes. If she was forced to do so by Oh’s evil mind meld, make more of that fact – it was touched on, but not sufficiently enough to absolve Agnes of all guilt.
  • Raffi: I didn’t much care for her “deadbeat mum” storyline, and apart from that, he role seemed entirely plot-driven in terms of procuring whatever items or contacts the team needed. Let’s see her doing more front-line stuff next season.
  • Elnor: I quite liked his fish out of water moments, but mostly his role was to wield a sword and cut people’s heads off. It’s hard to see where his character can go, as there doesn’t seem to be much to work with.

Summary – Et in Arcadia Ego Part II: Arise, Replicant Picard!

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