Here's your chance to beam out to avoid spoilers for episode 9 of "Star Trek: Picard."
Here we are then, after nine short weeks, part one of the two-part season finale of "Star Trek: Picard" — entitled "Et in Arcadia Ego" — has arrived.
The episode's Latin title translates to "Even in Arcadia, there am I" and the usual interpretation of this phrase is that "I" refers to Death and "Arcadia" means an utopian land. So, let's cut straight to the chase: The last thing we saw last week was the brave crew of La Sirena flying into a Borg transwarp conduit en route to the Vayt sector, in the Ghulion system, but unbeknownst to them, Narek (Harry Treadaway) was in hot pursuit in a Romulan Snakehead class scout ship.
We pick the story up straight away, no 14-year flashback this week. Soji's (Isa Briones) proudly announces the name of the planet as Coppelius and Dr. Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill) is positively thrilled at the prospect of going there rather than Deep Space 12. The red alert activates as La Sirena detects the Romulan scout ship…and what follows is a much better dogfight than the last attempt we saw in episode 4 with space pirate Kar Kantar.
The scout ship itself is pretty cool and has a twin, rapid fire, front blaster set up not unlike Jango Fett's Firespray-class interceptor we saw in "Star Wars: Attack of the Clones." Rios (Santiago Cabrera) hits the brakes and the Romulan scout ship overshoots. It appears to take heavy damage in the last volley fired by La Sirena and is having trouble with its cloaking device. Picard orders that the pilot be beamed to sickbay when the ship ahead of them disappears and another, behind them, appears.
"What's going on?!" Jurati shrieks.
"He reversed his cloaking device — he used it as a projector," Rios says angrily.
All of this is a subtle nod to the infamous Picard Maneuver. Introduced into "Trek" culture in "The Next Generation" episode "The Battle" (S01, E09), it was an attempt by then acting Capt. Picard to save the USS Stargazer. Already badly damaged, the Stargazer warped to a position just off the enemy's bow — an incredibly short distance — so it appeared for an instant to be in two places at once and the Ferengi vessel that they were fighting fired at the wrong one, giving Picard time to fire all phasers and unleash a volley of photon torpedoes, destroying the attacking craft.
The dogfight continues and the more nimble and heavier armed Romulan scout ship gains the upper hand until the Borg cube emerges from the transwarp conduit! The majestic, menacing mass fills the space above the planet, its weapon systems powering up, ready to wipe out whoever is unfortunate enough to be deemed an enemy. And, since it's being flown by Seven (Jeri Ryan), that means it's curtains for Narek.
But then, in a marijuana moment, some giant…er, orchids rise up from the planet and engulf all three spacecraft and drag them back through the atmosphere to crash land on the surface. Maybe someone in the writer's room thought it would be amusing if they added acid to the orange juice that morning and this was the result. It's weird, but well executed. The dialogue exchange in La Sirena mirrors our own reaction and is actually quite entertaining. Roll opening credits.
Picard (Patrick Stewart) regains consciousness after passing out while La Sirena was plummeting through the atmosphere and as she scans him, Jurati discovers his condition. Picard briefs the crew on the mission ahead of them and at the same time announces he has a terminal condition. It's a solemn moment and Raffi (Michelle Hurd) in particular is upset as she wasn't previously aware.
Not one to dwell on bad news, Picard assesses the situation and they head off to a settlement, Coppelius Station, now confirmed to be the former base of Dr Bruce Maddox. They have a one, maybe two-day advantage over the incoming Romulan fleet that's hellbent on annihilating every living thing on the planet. It's a little upsetting to see La Sirena quite so badly banged up, but Rios assures everyone the damage is superficial. They spot the Borg cube that the orchid planetary defense system also brought down and, forgoing some laws of physics about how something that big impacting the surface at that speed would probably cause an extinction level event, our gallant crew makes their way over.
They enter through a crack in the hull — there were certainly plenty of those — and find Seven and Elnor (Evan Evagora) with remarkable ease given quite how big the Borg cube is (a typical Borg cube has a volume of 28 cubic kilometers), and especially if there's no power to the equivalent of turbolifts. Perhaps even just a small acknowledgement of this potentially huge issue would be welcome, maybe the simplest of tricorder life-sign scans to guide them, but no, not today.
Picard is delighted to see Seven since the last time he saw her, she was on her way back to Stardust City on Freecloud intent on overdue revenge. She explains the recent events on the cube and of course the death of Hugh. And when this first season is over and done — and assuming of course that next week's final installment is flaw free — the death of Hugh will be remembered as the single, most disappointing element of this story. His character had so much potential and was shown to be getting more interesting week by week. His death at the hand of Narissa (Peyton List) was a shortcut to intensify our dislike of her and it was a waste of something enjoyable that could have been developed further.
They power up the long range scanners on the cube and discover there are 218 Romulan Warbirds on their way. Uh-oh. Then, all too soon, it's goodbye all over again as Rios, Soji, Raffi, Jurati and Picard must continue their journey to Coppelius Station. Meanwhile, Seven and Elnor must work to get the defensive systems of the cube back online.
"Keep saving the galaxy Picard," Seven says, holding back a quivering bottom lip, as they head out.
"That's all on you now," Picard casually replies, heading out into the sunshine.
Given how awesome Seven has been in this series, it wouldn't be at all surprising if she's chosen for one of the next live-action spin-off shows. It's entirely possible that no decision on this has been made yet and the one of the biggest determining factors is the reaction to various characters on this show. Of course, that's just a theory, but if she is, can you imagine how great it would've been to have had Hugh pop up from time to time? [sigh]
Eventually, our intrepid team get to their destination and there's a wonderful, almost "Ocean's Eleven"-style montage of each of their faces as they look down upon it. Nicely done, director Akiva Goldsman. They enter the compound and it's a little like some sort of monastery, which is deliberate to reflect the tranquil, enlightened harmony in which they all live. At first no one really pays any attention to the newcomers and everyone continues their yoga, Tai chi, or game of 3D chess or whatever it is that they're doing.
Eventually everyone gathers around them and an android named Arcana (Jade Ramsey) greets them. "Welcome back," she says to Soji, who introduces her friends. She then goes on to explain that a fleet of Romulan Warbirds are on their way. Picard asks how many of the planetary defense orchids they have.
"We had 15, now we have 10," Arcana replies.
As everyone shuffles about nervously pondering the impending threat, a voice can be heard in the background. "Excuse me, excuse me," he says, making his way through the crowd. And then we get our mic-drop moment #1 for this episode: it's Brent Spiner … playing another descendant of Soong, Dr. Altan Inigo Soong, son of Dr. Noonian Soong, the creator of Data. Boy, those Soong genes are super-dominant.
It's great to see Spiner in a human-Soong-related role, we haven't seen this since "Enterprise" in 2004, in the excellent augments story arc, where he played the bonkers-but-brilliant Arik Soong, father of Noonian Soong. Together with "Independence Day," where he played Dr. Okun, it's safe to say Spiner has truly redefined the role of "eccentric scientist." In fact, this episode echoes a little of the augments story: Soong and his children.
He debriefs Soji and she explains everything that has happened up to this point, including of course the death of Bruce Maddox, Soong's friend and co-worker. Then another near-identical android to Soji appears, only this one has gold-colored skin. She is Sutra (also played by Isa Briones), sister to Jana — the synthetic lifeform Rios encountered on the USS ibn Majid that we learned about last week.
Sutra confronts Soji about the admonition and about how what she saw persuaded her to murder Maddox. Sutra slowly builds a case for an alternative theory about the admonition. Perhaps, she says, the Romulans have been pointlessly driving themselves insane for centuries, trying to grapple with something that was never intended for organic minds at all in mic drop moment #2, but we'll talk more about that a little later.
What comes first is probably our single, biggest grumble in an otherwise awesome episode. Apparently, Sutra is well read in all the Vulcan disciplines and has taught herself to mind meld. Oy.
It's reminiscent of "Discovery" when we suddenly find out Vulcans can communicate telepathically over long distances (and subsequently block it with katra stones — ha ha!). It devalues Vulcan characteristics and in this instance, it's just a convenient way to allow someone else to have the same special skills. Was a whole room full of writers honestly unable to find another, alternative way that Sutra could delve into Soji's mind?
Anyway, she gets a montage of the same images that we've seen previously — including the stock footage of the decomposing fox, which apparently is the "Wilhelm scream" of time-lapse flashbacks — plus narration.
"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. Contact us and we will come. You will have our protection. Your evolution will be their extinction."
We pay a visit to Soong's laboratory, where Jurati wants to address the death of Maddox and it's great to see she's not being let off the hook for this. Their conversation leads to Soong's work and he shows her a golem he has created and she asks if he's perfected mind transfer. Not yet, he replies, adding that he's taking more of an interest in that as a result of a growing sense of urgency — his old age.
Meanwhile, Sutra and Soji are having a heated discussion over what is the best course of action: Sutra is pro killing all the organics and Soji would prefer a less genocidal approach, at which point Narek is dragged through the compound, kicking and screaming. "Look what the cat dragged in," sneers Sutra and we cut to Spot II, a synthetic replica of Data's original ginger cat. Brilliant.
Rios shares his concerns about everything that's going on with Jurati — who has no idea how to hold a cat – and we get to see that their time together truly meant something to both of them. He says he's going to return to La Sirena to try and get it up and running and she says she's going to remain and help Soong with his project.
Then we see a really tender moment between Raffi and Picard. We always knew she cared for him, but we were never sure if it was the sort of affection that perhaps Deanna Troi has for Picard or possibly something more. She tells him that she loves him and he toys with her for a moment before telling her that he loves her too. Her lip quivers and her eyes well up just a little bit, as do ours, but we're still none the wiser.
We cut to Narek slumped in his cell who tries to convince another android, Saga (Nikita Ramsey), to give him water. She's about to when Soji runs over and tells her not to. Narek tries his best to sweet talk Soji, but thankfully she's not having any of it.
She leaves Narek trapped in his cell and has a conversation with Picard about the logic of sacrifice, suggesting she's seriously considering every option at this point and then Sutra, who's overdoing the menacing mastery a little, relieves Saga guarding Narek's cell and with a clichéd moment of power-flirting, she lets him out. Next thing we know, Soji hears a scream, runs outside to find Narek's cell empty and Saga lying on the ground having been stabbed in the eye with her brooch. Narek, meanwhile, is hot-footing it back to the Borg cube.
Seizing this opportunity (of her making) Sutra rallies everyone together and convinces them to take her side following the tragic death of Saga.
"They will always fear us," she says to the gathered synthetics. "They will always turn on us, hunt us, kill us. And one day our enemies will be here with overwhelming force intent on exterminating us. When I melded with her mind, I experienced this so-called admonition, but unlike you, I understood it. For you, it was a warning, for us it was a promise."
All of which brings us back to mic drop moment #2. Soong steps in with some handy exposition; apparently, there are some sort of higher-level, synthetic beings out there, watching. The sub-space frequencies needed to contact them are encoded in the admonition.
"Dr Soong and I have designed a suitable beacon to summon them," Sutra explains. "We can have it transmitting before the Romulan fleet arrives ... Their purpose is to seek out advanced synthetic life and excise it from the oppression by organics."
Picard does his best to rationalize the situation, explaining quite rightly that they will be mass murderers, effectively fulfilling the prophecy and becoming the Destroyer after all. He suggests that they can flee in La Sirena and he will act as an ambassador for them to the Federation, ensuring their rights will be guaranteed. But, that one doesn't go down well, given his recent track record of trying to do the same for the Romulans. Even Soong sides with Sutra, as does Soji and even Jurati. Picard is taken away to be placed under house arrest and, with only 24 hours before the Romulan fleet arrives … we can only guess as to who is coming.
So, about that. There are a few theories, naturally.
Some suggest it could have something to do with V'ger and the machine planet thing from "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" (a vast, super-intelligent version of a long lost Voyager probe), while others speculate it might have something to do with the Tkon Empire. Not frequently mentioned in "Star Trek," the Tkon Empire was massive and existed over 600,000 years ago. It's only really mentioned in "The Next Generation" episode "The Last Outpost" (S01, E05), but according to Memory Alpha, the Empire had a population of trillions and was highly advanced technologically and — more importantly — they had the ability to move entire stars.
However, the theory that we think is most probable, especially given overseer Alex Kurtzman's suffering of Small World Syndrome, is one put forward by ScreenCrush.
We've long suspected "Picard" would tie in to the events of "Discovery." In the last season, Michael Burnham et al sent the evil A.I. Control into the future and Spock saw visions of it destroying all life; near-identical scenes were used in the Admonition montage.
Moreover, in the "Voyager" episode "Timeless" (S05, E06) an elderly Ensign Kim and equally-as-old Cmdr. Chakotay are the only survivors of the USS Voyager. They acquire a piece of technology from the wreckage of a Borg cube in the Beta Quadrant, which could be the same cube from "Picard" as that was also in the Beta Quadrant, plus the dates would roughly match up. Kim and Chakotay use the device, which is a temporal transmitter, to broadcast a warning to themselves in the past to prevent Voyager's destruction.
So is Control using a similar technique to try to send its consciousness back through time to another A.I. advanced enough to understand it? This also fits in with the whole Zhat Vash is V'draysh theory.
We only have a week to wait.
Temba, his arms wide ✓
- The holo flight controls of La Sirena follow the movement of Rios' head. Cool.
- Boy, those Soong genes are super-dominant.
- Spot II, yay! (Although minus points for Rios, cause he's not a cat person.)
- Some nice editing this week.
- Automatic seat restraints, but thank heavens they're not "smart matter."
Shaka, when the walls fell ✗
- How did the impact of the Borg cube not cause an extinction level event?
- It would take days to find two people on a Borg cube with a volume of 28km.
- Sutra has taught herself to mind meld?! Yet more Vulcanisms devalued.
- Third time around for the "Soong and his children" theme.
- Evil Sutra is evil cliché.
In other "Trek" news, the recent coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entertainment industry severely, with production being halted on just about every show and movie currently in production, from "The Orville" and "Stranger Things" to the "Avatar" and "Matrix" sequels. Many of these were in principal photography, however thankfully, Season 3 of "Discovery" wrapped some time back and a source told Space.com that postproduction – for the moment at least – was unaffected, as the team was able to work from home. So, even though we have no official premiere date from CBS, for the time being at least, that date won't have to be pushed back. Fingers crossed.
That said, principal photography on "Picard" Season 2 will almost certainly be delayed for a really long time — spare a thought for Patrick Stewart, he's 79. And the rumored Season 4 of "Discovery" — it's not yet officially confirmed by CBS — will no doubt also be delayed.
The 10-episode "Star Trek: Picard" series will air 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. New episodes will air each week, with episode 8, entitled "Et in Arcadia Ego, Part II" debuting on 26 March 2020.
CBS and Amazon Studios have announced that the new show will stream 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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