Here's your chance to beam out to avoid spoilers for episode 10 of "Star Trek: Picard."
To quote a former "Star Trek" alumni in a pre-"Star Trek" role, "Oh boy."
There was a lot riding on this, the concluding episode of the two-part season finale of "Star Trek: Picard," entitled "Et in Arcadia Ego — part II," especially given that the build up last week was not too shabby. The week before however, episode 8, had been a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows — now, imagine that times a thousand.
You'll be shell-shocked for sure, and after that, probably left feeling more than a little disappointed, maybe even angry, but definitely wondering how much the writers on this show get paid.
Sadly, this season finale is going to polarize "Star Trek" fans for a long time to come. In essence, the first two acts, with the exception of a few small to mid-sized shortcomings, were mostly of high quality, with some good ideas and even a couple of glimpses of genius. But then, just when you thought that Alex Kurtzman, Michael Chabon, Akiva Goldsman and everyone else who has a hand in writing this show were about to pull off the boldest most unexpected and courageous move ever…the plot reaches its apex, forward momentum gently slows to a stop and then it pitches, nose down and heads vertically straight for the ground at maximum warp.
We start at the crashed Borg cube — that somehow didn't cause an extinction level event when it plummeted through the atmosphere of Coppelius last week — with Seven (Jeri Ryan) having a conversation about being an xB with Elnor (Evan Evagora). Narek (Harry Treadaway) tiptoes past them, undetected into the cube.
We get some idea of the enormity of the Borg interior (a typical Borg cube has a volume of 28 km³ or 10,000 times the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza), which is worth remembering given the ease with which all the characters seem to be able to find each other. Narek is looking for his sister, Narissa (Peyton List) who still takes an unhealthy interest in her brother's carnal activities.
We quickly cut to Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Soji (Isa Briones) skimming like a stone, off the surface of a conversation about whether or not the synthetics have a choice to live and roll the opening credits: it's a short pre-credit sequence this week.
Back on the Borg cube, Narek is equipping himself with wide-dispersal, molecular solvent grenades in an attempt to destroy the Space Orchid Defense System, before the Romulan fleet arrives. He convinces her to stay on the Borg cube and work to get its defenses operational, the reasoning behind this will become clear later.
Meanwhile on La Sirena, Rios (Santiago Cabrera) and Raffi (Michelle Hurd) are struggling to use the mysterious MacGuffin that Arcana gave them last week to help repair their ship. It's another example of 24th century "Trek" starship maintenance that luckily doesn't require anyone to ever get their overalls dirty, but the scene offers the opportunity for the two to engage in a little banter and Raffi figures out how the spectacular space spanner works pretty quickly.
Back at Coppelius Station, Dr. Altan Inigo Soong (Brent Spiner) is showing Dr. Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill) machinery in Dr. Maddox's laboratory that's required to download a human consciousness into a synthetic body. Dr Soong compliments Dr. Agnes on her decision to support the synthetics in the upcoming confrontation and she tries to psych herself up for what she does next.
The critical repair work of Raffi and Rios is interrupted by the sound of Narek throwing rocks at the bridge viewport of La Sirena. It seems he wants them to work together to stop what's coming to kill them all. They take the Romulan spy into the ship where he explains what's going on at Coppelius Station. He tells them about the beacon that will unleash what the Romulans call Ganmadan, which will destroy all organic life. They try contacting Picard with no luck and then suddenly Elnor shows up and holds his sword at Narek's throat! The crafty Qowat Milat, he's been tracking that pointy-eared pragmatist all the way from the cube.
Jurati approaches Soong and asks for the encryption codes to some of the neural engrams that she needs for the golem. "Bruce always said your crypto kung-fu was the best," she says, flattering him.
Sufficiently flattered, Soong goes off to decrypt the files and leaves Jurati with the body of Saga (Nikita Ramsey), the android that was stabbed through the eye last week. It's odd that such a wound would be fatal to an android. Moreover, Jurati just mentioned that Maddox spoke to her about him, so she knew Soong existed, even all the way back to episode one. Maybe it's a plot oversight, or maybe she was just playing him. Or maybe it was the former and will get passed off as the latter.
We find out what Jurati was psyching herself up to do, but we don't get to see what's involved. What we get instead is a head and shoulders close up of the good doctor and some delightful squelchy noises as she plucks out the other eye from Saga non-functioning body.
Back at La Sirena, Narek is telling the ancient Romulan story of the Seb-Cheneb, as everyone sits around a campfire. Some say that the story dates back to even before his Romulan ancestors arrived on Vulcan. Turns out that the event is called Ganmadan and it refers to the end of all things, like Judgment Day or Ragnarök.
Twin sisters or khalagu (demons) will come and they're prophesied to release the ch'khalagu (really bad demons). One sister is called Sepnatahn (the foreteller) and she plays a drum made from the skin of children. She strikes it with a chain of skulls so hard and for so long that her heart bursts from the effort.
The other sister is called Seb-Cheneb (the destroyer) who carries a horn from the great pale hell beast called Ganmadan. When she blows a blast on that horn, it will unleash all the ch'khalagu who have been waiting since the beginning of time. It's well delivered by Treadaway and, with the exception of the Zhal Makh scene in episode six, this is probably his best performance in the show so far.
Staying with Rios, Raffi, Elnor and Narek, it's morning now and Narek is explaining how the wide-dispersal, molecular solvent grenades can now be used against the transmitter instead of the Space Orchid Defense System. The plan is to go through the front door, naturally. The thing is, La Sirena is repaired and operational now, so quite why they don't just fly in and blow it up isn't really explained. It would've been quite easy to solve this dilemma, since even Will Riker's (Jonathan Frakes) house had a shield, so briefly mentioning something similar that Coppelius Station could have had would've worked, but no.
The gang arrives at the house and present Narek as a prisoner that they found to gain entry. The explosive will need a delivery system, however, it has to be non-metal. There's a transporter block over the compound (no shield though) so they can't beam it in. Rios, the genius that he is, puts it inside one of his futsal balls.
Actually inside the compound, Jurati uses her "third eye" (sorry, Saga) to get past the retina scan and into the quarters Picard has been locked inside, busting him out of his cell-of-sorts and dragging him back to La Sirena.
Soong meanwhile is marveling over the fact that his Golem is now ready to receive neural engrams. In the background, he's been downloading Saga's memories and stops his work as he sees her very last memories, which of course, were of being stabbed through the eye. He can see Narek, obviously, but also Sutra (also played by Isa Briones). In fact, it's Sutra who fatally stabs her android associate.
Picard and Jurati reach La Sirena and learn that the Romulan fleet is just seven minutes away. Picard gives one of his bite-sized speeches; this one on how the synthetics have life yes, but no one is teaching them what it's for. The "Star Trek" fanfare plays softly in the background to add further grandeur to the moment. It's all good fun and is a nice reminder of what "Star Trek" is really all about without overdoing it, this time at least. Picard powers up La Sirena and Jurati turns from her helm control chair, smiles and says, "Make it so," which on the whole, probably wasn't really necessary, but it's hardly a major complaint. That comes later.
Back at the compound, Sutra is giving her evil monologue to all the other synthetics. Soong marches through the crowd to confront his artificial offspring and finally deactivates her. The others get ready to deliver the explosives, but they have to get past Soji, who's still brainwashed to follow Sutra's cause and hell-bent on completing the beacon. Rios launches the drone containing the charge but Soji catches it and throws it some distance away before it detonates harmlessly, without even scratching the beacon.
And then, we unexpectedly cut to the Borg cube, where Narissa has finally managed to get the weapons systems online. She tries to target lock La Sirena, but out of the shadows comes Seven, blaster in hand.
Narissa vs. Seven is something we hadn't even considered – what a match-up! Sadly, the fight is a major disappointment, it's brief and poorly choreographed: from Seven's obvious over-extension while holding her blaster (surely a Fenris Ranger would've heard of center axis relock) giving Narissa ample opportunity to disarm her, all the way to Narissa's eventual demise. It's a monumental missed opportunity. We all wanted it, especially after the death of Hugh. Out of all the disturbing ways to die as seen in "Star Trek" — incinerated by a Horta, having all the salt sucked out of your body, blown out into space or being ripped apart at a sub-atomic level while half formed in a transporter — Narissa plunges down a shaft. Yawn.
The Romulan fleet drops out of warp and Soji launches the Space Orchid Defense System. They form a net of sorts and while they're destroying quite a few Romulan Warbirds, it just isn't enough.
And just in case there was any question that it was the Picard Maneuver that was being referenced last week, it's definitely referenced this week. If only they had some kind of whacky fundamental field replicator with a neural atomic interface. Thankfully, the mysterious MacGuffin is lying there on the control console and quicker than you can say "redundant melacortz ramistat kiloquad interface modules," they've created the illusion of hundreds of ships, all identical to La Sirena, dropping out of warp and facing off against the Romulan fleet.
If only General Oh (Tamlyn Tomita) could say "fire" quicker, this would've all been over ages ago.
Picard makes one last plea to Soji to power down the beacon; she refuses, so he tells her that he's going to offer her people (the synthetics) one last thing in an attempt to convince them to change their minds, his life.
The fight above the planet continues, but if the fundamental field replicator with neural atomic interface has created hundreds of projections of La Sirena, wouldn't they all be twisting and turning and generally flying in an identical manner to the original ship?
Soji activates the beacon and a giant, red bolt streaks into the sky, opening some kind of Eye of Sauron-looking, trans-dimensional portal, or something. And Oh is just about to give the command, again, to engage planetary sterilization pattern number five, when the "Star Trek" fanfare plays once again and a few hundred starships arrive.
The Federation flagship hails the treacherous Tal Shiar and waddaya know, it's Acting Captain Will Riker, commander of the USS Zheng He. Apparently the United Federation of Planets has designated the planet Ghulion IV in the Vayt sector as under the protection of Starfleet according to the terms of the Treaty of Algeron.
"Right now, I'm on the bridge of the toughest, fastest, most powerful starship Starfleet has ever put into service and I've got a fleet of them at my back," Riker says.
And he's right, they all look identical: very much like the Pathfinder Class from Star Trek Online, which raises a few questions. Is Starfleet really only building one class of starship now? Well, according to TrekCore, the visual effects work for the season only got completed last week and VFX supervisor Ante Dekovic said that a wider range of ship variation simply wasn't possible due to a lack of available production time. And that just sounds a bit odd.
Riker explains that he'd heard Picard had tried to send an SOS, presumably that was the message he'd tried to transmit from Coppelius Station. That was when the Romulan fleet was two days away, La Sirena had only got there earlier because they utilized a Borg transwarp conduit. How the blazes did Will Riker assemble a fleet quickly enough to arrive 20 minutes or so after the Romulans?
Oh still isn't giving up and gives the order to prepare to fire, again. The two fleets stand ready to annihilate each other. But back on La Sirena, Picard's terminal condition flares up, for the very first time, ever. Jurati gives him a hyposhot to get by and Picard opens a channel to Soji that everyone can hear and see. Quite why the two massive fleets of ships aren't slogging it out in orbit yet is anyone's guess.
Picard pleads with Soji to show everyone that she's not the enemy that the Romulans think she is and power down the beacon. He makes a compelling argument, naturally, as Oh looks stares at her viewscreen and Riker breaks into a wry smile as he watches his dearest friend and mentor save the galaxy once more.
And just as whatever horror was coming reaches the portal, Soji smashes the beacon, which has the effect of closing it. So, in a brilliant move by the writers, the whole "what's coming" plot is dismissed in very well executed misdirection. Bravo.
You might have thought it was Control. You might have thought it had something to do with the Tkon Empire. You might have thought it had something to do with Lore. You might even have thought Sutra was Lore in a dress and he'd pull a "Scooby-Doo" ending and peel off a rubber mask and reveal himself as the mischievous son of Soong that he is.
Riker says cheerio and then Picard really starts suffering and in all honesty, this just feels like lazy writing. It's now, in the finale, that his condition starts to show itself. Could the writers not have perhaps introduced this in a more believable manner over a period of time? Take for example Marshall Pentecost (Idris Elba) in "Pacific Rim" when his nose starts bleeding at inopportune moments. This could've been something that Picard had had to try and hide from everyone, perhaps with varying degrees of success. That way it certainly wouldn't feel like rushed or unimaginative writing, which this does.
But that aside … for a moment, for a fleeting second it does feel like the writers and show runners are about to go for the most daring "Star Trek" season finale since "The Best of Both Worlds" and actually kill off Picard. Why not? Capt. Kirk was killed off in "Generations" when they could've just left him alone and continued the saga without him. Why couldn't they have Jean Luc Picard make the ultimate sacrifice, he was prepared to do it. Yes, "Picard" has been renewed for a second season — but Patrick Stewart could be utilized in all sorts of ways — Brent Spiner was for this season.
If he wasn't ever going to be permanently killed off, he should've never have died in the episode.
That said, the actual death and the subsequent mourning by everyone is genuinely emotional, from Raffi in particular. There's a tender moment between Rios and Seven and between Raffi and Elnor. A cursory glance however, at the time remaining shows there's more than a quarter of the show still left to watch and you'd be forgiven for thinking "how is this going to be filled?"
It was obvious someone was going into the golem that Soong had been preparing. We had feared it would be used to recreate Data, but thankfully that didn't happen. There was an outside chance it might have been Soong himself, but in hindsight perhaps it was obvious it was going to be Picard.
In a subconscious dream-like scene, Picard once again meets Data and the two, in essence, seek closure in the afterlife for the events that took place in "Nemesis" when Data died to save Picard. It needlessly drags on a bit and this is what basically fills most of the remaining time in the episode. However, Data asks for a favor, before Picard steps into the light.
Picard wakes up in Soong's laboratory and yes, he's in the golem. But, rather than allow him all the benefits an artificial body made of the most robust elements known to mankind might offer, no, they've incorporated all his frailties to make the body feel more natural. And now we enter The Ridiculous Zone; granted, the parietal lobe abnormality has been removed, but who chooses arthritis or cataracts over the fitness of a 20-year-old? Poor Picard back is still stuck with huffing and puffing when he climbs stairs like we saw in episode one.
"I knew you wouldn't want to adjust to something new, not after 94 years in the same body," Soong says, explaining away that particular issue.
The favor that Data asks is that he be switched off, terminated effectively and allowed to die. This might seem a little strange, but we see some data sticks that were obviously the engrams of Data's mind that Maddox managed to save. It seems he was alive in a complex simulation and it's possible that the butterfly that was always nearby, in Soong's office, represented his consciousness. Or at the very least, it was intended as a metaphor.
We end on La Sirena and see that Seven and Raffi have hooked up, not entirely unsurprising as there was clearly more to Seven's relationship with Bajazzle than we saw. One assumes the thing with Chakotay didn't work out. And that's it; the crew takes their position and set course for Season two. Let's hope that an extended pre-production period will give the writers time to come with something less formulaic and more fearless. We still like to see Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould given a chance to run a live-action series of "Star Trek."
For a season finale, this was ultimately disappointing. There were some moments of absolute ingenuity and then some moments of appalling absurdity. Sadly, the latter outnumbered the former. But it's still better than "Discovery."
Was the entire first season about seeking closure with Data? What's happening with Mars, it's still burning after all. Where did Narek end up?
The question also arises as to how much of this story was changed when the second series was confirmed. Clues like the drawn out third act, the lack of practical effects when Jurati pulls out Saga's eye (remember when we saw poor Icheb in episode 5?), the Maddox-Soong-Jurati plot slip up, the lack of VFX for the Federation fleet, perhaps Jean-Luc was going to be killed off when it was just one season? Will we ever find for sure, doubtful.
It's frustrating because "Star Trek" has a habit of killing off characters and not having the courage to keep them dead. They have to be reincarnated by the power of spores, or neural engram transfer. At least Tasha Yar wasn't reanimated through an orifice of Armus. And yet Hugh was casually dismissed without even batting an eyelid. It's like a pendulum swing from one extreme to the other.
Every series of "Star Trek" has to follow certain, basic criteria, otherwise it’s not "Star Trek," but they really are very basic. "Picard" offered a new, updated incarnation, complete with unnecessary expletives, but it really didn't stray from the formula, at all. And we end up with something that's trying to be new, modern and edgy, but it's still held back by the restraints of nostalgia. Remember when the producers of "Stargate" tried something totally new with "Universe?" Sadly, it was short-lived, but that was because of the lack of foresight of the Syfy channel, again. It might be nice to see "Star Trek" try something new, really new, because this wasn't it and "Discovery" isn't either.
Rating: 6 ½ /10
Weekend on Rigel II ✓
- Planetary Sterilization Pattern Number 5 LOL Good name for a band.
- The misdirection of Ganmadan and not revealing what it is was brilliant.
- Harry Treadaway's performance in this episode was one of his best as Narek.
- Jonathan Frakes looked pretty good in that 2399 Command Red.
- The "we were here to save each other" speech was well written and effective.
Imprisoned on Rura Penthe ✗
- Narek seems to have switched sides without any major ethical struggle.
- Narissa's death, after everything she's done, was a monumental let down.
- Why didn't Rios et al fly into Coppelius Station and destroy the beacon?
- A fleet of identical starships? Was this to cut down the VFX budget?
- Was Dr. Jurati aware of Dr. Soong the whole time, but didn't mention it?
The 10-episode "Star Trek: Picard" is on the paid subscription streaming service CBS All Access in the U.S., and in Canada on Bell Media's Space and OTT service Crave. It streams exclusively on Amazon Prime Video in more than 200 countries worldwide within 24 hours of its premiere on CBS All Access and Space in the US and Canada, respectively.
CBS All Access subscription is the home of "Star Trek: Picard," "Star Trek: Discovery" and a host of other original and archival CBS television shows. Subscriptions start at $5.99 a month. You can try CBS All Access for a week free here.
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