Star Trek: Picard season 1, episode 8, certainly has its work cut out for it as it reveals the true enemy of the season — fear.
Star Trek: Picard season 1, episode 8 shakes up 300,000 years of Romulan lore in a matter of 41 minutes. As the two-part season finale sits just ahead, “Broken Pieces” takes a beat to give some nuance to the Zhat Vash’s mission to destroy any trace of synthetic life.
While Picard is outrunning the Tal Shiar, and the Tal Shiar are outrunning the rise of the synthetics, and everyone is skating around the Federation and trying to stay one step ahead of one thing which seeks to destroy them all — fear.
The fear that their lives are going to end without retribution for past actions. Fear that one lifeform will destroy an entire civilization with a snap of their fingers. Fear that everything was for nothing.
The stakes are different for each person, but the weight of the guilt that comes with the idea of the worst possible outcome is distributed equally.
While I am certainly rallying on the side of the presumed heroes, Star Trek: Picard has set a forcefield around even the most admirable characters. In fact, the only true neutral in the series are the holograms (and possibly Elnor).
So, while I want to lift up Jean-Luc and support his heart being in the right place, it’s hard to see how his intentions are reflected back at him by the likes of Soji and Rios.
I want to stand behind Soji, but I don’t know her full history and if she was truly made to reflect the best of Data and organic life. I want to turn fully against the Tal Shiar, and probably still should do that, but I do not have the full picture of their history.
“Broken Pieces” attempts to fill in those blanks and has a lot of leg work to do, but mostly, it left me standing even closer to the center, away from everyone than I was before. For now, I’ll be sitting in the chateau with the pieces of Rios, trying to make sense of who I trust heading into the final two episodes of season 1.
‘Star Trek: Picard’ season 1, episode 8 recap
The Admonishment, or the end of days, is a vision that is passed down to generations of Tal Shair. Those who are able to sustain the images of what will come the day that the Destroyer leads synthetics in a revolt against organic lifeforms, dedicate their lives in service to ensuring it never arrives.
The same flashes that we saw Jurati experience through the mind-meld with commodore Oh, appear again here. The vision of the Admonition is so profound that it burrows deep inside of her, almost creating a barrier so that she can no longer access her inherent emotional and logical senses.
But watching Jurati live through the fallout of this experience has been one of the more frustrating narratives of the series.
As a thought-to-be double agent, the lack of context surrounding her motivations are not set against any Romulan beliefs. Without insight into what is making this particular ancient sect of Romulan act, we have no context for Jurati’s experience.
That all changes when we once again experience the same flashes of destruction, pain, and brutality during the Admoniation ceremony. This time, instead of witnessing Jurati’s look at the ceremnony from a bird’s eye view, we are in the center of the event, standing by a new group of Tal Shiar, awaiting their test.
Narissa not only has the fortitude and willpower to endure the imagery and swell of pain and loss and anger, she also has a familial stake in the cause. As the others around her become ill, go mad, and even commit suicide, she stands firm and says, “We have to stop them.” The next directive is simple; they go to Mars.
Her aunt, Ramdha, is not as strong. She succumbs to imagery, losing her ability to function properly. Unpacking their family history a bit, Narissa reveals that Ramdha took in her and Narek.
Following the Admonishment, Ramdha was not just on the ship that was assimilated, she was the reason that the Borg cube failed. All of that pain and despair and hatred for synthetic life, brought down the cube. However, she is still lost in the void.
No feelings of victory will come to her, which is evident by her reaction to seeing Soji, the face she associates with the Destroyer.
Reassembling the crew of the La Sirena
To say the crew aboard the La Sirena is in shambles would be the understatement of this article. Rios is thrown into a spiral by the sight of Soji. Picard is arguing against people who are (at least on the surface) on his side.
Raffi is torn between helping and comforting Rios, and tying together the final threads of the mystery that has hung over her entire career. Jurati, meanwhile, is recovering in the sick bay after trying to change her alliance once and for all.
Yeah, they need to get it together. But in order to regain some balance of trust, each member of the ship needs to work through their own trauma.
Picard finds a familiar face
After someone announces to the entire ship that you have already brought one homicidal murderer aboard and points a phaser at your face, it may be hard to make new friends. But Jean-Luc and Soji continue the work that they began with Riker and find some space to connect.
Soji’s imagination is what drives her actions and this is something that she discovers through talking with Picard about what it feels like now that she knows she is a synthetic. She describes the feeling as if she has a vacuum inside of her. Likes and dislikes are only formed as the product of her imagination saying, “maybe we do like eggs today.”
Soji is realizing that the coloring that filled in the outlines of her story is disappearing. Her past did not exist, so what is it that makes her who she is? Picard offers some insight to Data and the person that Picard saw, his impressions of the man he knew as a friend.
He describes him as you would any other person — he was brave, curious, had a child’s wisdom unclouded by habit or bias, he made the crew laugh. Picard recalls all of this with a smile, until Soji asks if he loved Data.
In his way, yes, of course Picard loved Data. But when asked if he returned the sentiment, Picard understands that logically Data’s ability to express and process emotion had boundaries.
It would be unfair to assume that one person could make such an influence to overcome those rules. Picard does align himself with Data in that way. Even though he has the human capacity to give and receive and process love, he is limited in his ability to do so.
One of the best questions I’ve ever heard on Trek follows — “If I could see you with [Data’s] eyes and memories, what would I see? How do you wish he would remember you?”
I did not need Jean-Luc’s reply. Even if we were left with silence and he told Soji in secret, the weight of that question would have sat just as heavy.
We do get an answer, and it reflects what Picard wants not only Data to remember, but the world — that he wants to celebrate the best in everyone, help when he can, and recognize when he cannot. It’s something that he is still striving for with the world, but hopes he achieved with Data before his end was met.
Those few neurons are alive somewhere and Soji assures him that Data loved him in return. If you need to go lie down, it’s okay, I understand.
Rios faces the ghost of his past
“Alexa, play ‘Solitute’ by Billy Holiday.”
If we thought that Jurati’s submission to the Tal Shiar’s whims took over her life quickly, the same could be said for Rios. The mystery of his captain, Alonzo Vandermeer. Aboard the Ibn Majid, Rios held Vandermeer in the highest regard.
In his head he called him “Pops,” a term that slipped out a few times on duty, but one that never phased the mentor. However, the mission set the pair on a course guided by the same exact vision that steered Jurati to murder.
But Raffi does not come upon answers to Rios’ self-inflicted isolation easily. First, after talking to a hologram, she is reminded that variations of Rios’ personality are split among them.
After taking the ship following his honorable discharge from Starfleet, Rios initiated a self-scan to create the ship’s various working parts. He never overwrote the process and was therefore left with several accented versions of himself tasked with keeping the vessel in top shape.
The “five broken pieces of Rios” as Raffi describes them assemble in the chateau in the hopes that together they can create the narrative of Rios’ journey to this point.
First piece of the puzzle — Jana. The name that Rios mentioned when he saw Soji. She was a passenger on the Ibn Majid and someone that Rios knew fleetingly during his service. Second, Vandermeer took his own life in front of Rios (thank you Emmet for the pantomime). Third, the rest of the information is classified. Scrambled in their brains.
Other information, however, leaks out thanks to their various programming. The navigation hologram overloads her with optimism, but also information about the eightfold stars. Nu Scorpii, a sepenary system of seven component stars, is rare.
Eight component stars is unheard of naturally, but to engineer such a system would be even more complicated.
However, this is exactly where the Conclave of Eight held their Admonition. Engineering confirms her suspicions but says that anyone who could construct something like that would only do so to say, “Hey, look at what I can do!” It’s something for people to pay attention to, almost more of a distraction than a cause.
All of this information eventually takes her to a hungover Rios who puts it all in context. The guide of a diplomatic mission, Vandermeer boards two people, Beautiful Flower and the young protégé, Jana.
Hours later, he kills both of them and then takes his own life. Six months later, Rios was dismissed citing post-traumatic stress disorder, but he knows deep down that he was just broken.
The girl, Jana, sketched the two of them just before Vandermeer killed them. In that short time, Rios and Jana talked, learned a few things about one another. In the sketch, she looks just like Soji.
Jurati sees her life’s work in Soji
“Am I a person?” This is the question that, arguably, the entire series is predicated on. First posed by Picard to Dr. Maddox regarding Data, the argument that spawned from it sparked one of the most memorable episodes in Next Generation.
Maddox’s interest in Data was guided by his need to understand him, but he was clouded by the desire to take him apart rather than see him for what he was as a whole person.
Jurati now faced with seeing Soji standing in front of her, still asks the questions that break her down to parts — does she cry, does she eat, does she sleep? “You’re so beautiful.”
Amazement does overcome Jurati as her life’s work is fully realized before her eyes. But she sees her creation, a proof of concept. Soji wants to be more than that, so she asks Jurati if she would carry out Commodore Oh’s orders to take her life. Jurati refuses.
What is happening on this cube?
My greatest wish for Star Trek: Picard is that there could be more time given to the XBs. The death of Hugh gutted me in Star Trek: Picard episode 7. His was a story of a life pieced together out of one episode of Next Generation.
A life that was reborn out of the kindness of the crew of the Enterprise filled with the desire to give back the gift that he was given to as many XBs as he could. His end, however, was met as he watched all that work taken before his eyes. Even though he gave Elnor the key to bringing in another XB who dedicated their life to the same mission, there was no hope left in him.
And the return of Seven of Nine felt eerily similar. Jerri Ryan is brilliant in her return to the role, and the fact that there was not enough time dedicated to her emotional return to assimilated life does not mean that she didn’t knock the performance out of the park.
We saw in her first appearance that Seven has motherly instincts. She has helped bring up XBs, mentored Icheb and cared for him as her own. Arriving on the cube, Seven finds a terrified Elnor, who embraces her. Instead of demanding answers, she leans into that instinct telling Elnor it’s alright, she is there to help.
For as motivated as Seven of Nine is to help Elnor and the remaining XBs on the cube, the path that she must tried to do so is unenviable. Waking up the XBs would be risky, especially since they are not rehabilitated and would be lost without the voice of the Collective.
Plugging herself into the cube, regenerating the very thing that caused so many people, including herself, such loss of self is not a decision she takes lightly, but there is no other way.
Just as quickly as they come online and say, “We are Borg,” Narissa launches thousands of the XBs into space. The eery silence of their death is a punctuation on just how unrelenting the Tal Shiar are when it comes to their mission.
No one left to trust
Not a single person aboard the La Sirena trusts anyone in their present company. But since the pickings are slim for alliances, they gather for an all-hands-on-deck debriefing. The initial plan was to arrive at Deep Space 12, where Federation support will be waiting and Jurati will turn herself in for the murder of Bruce Maddox.
However, as information from all parts begins to paint a more cohesive picture of the situation, plans become a bit more flexible. Raffi and Rios share what they know.
About 300,000 years ago a planet was created and the Admonition was a warning against creating something similar to what they did, a race of synthetics that evolved into a powerful enemy.
The Zhat Vash was created to find and destroy this threat and, as it turns out, Maddox’s work was the closest they came to discover a new race of synthetic life that treads the same path as their predecessors.
Oh infiltrated Starfleet, aiding with the ban on synthetics and working with the Tal Shiar to ensure that an event so heinous would stir up enough fear in the galaxy to support their claim — the attack on Mars. Finally, Raffi has the attention of a room full of people who not only believe her suspicions but can back up her claims.
One detail from Rios sends Soji over the edge — his meeting with Jana and Beautiful Flower. The two were from the planet where Soji was born, and if there are more of her family still there, then she is leading the enemy directly to them. Here, Soji is not “activated” as we’ve seen in the earlier episodes of the season.
She slams the table in frustration, but her fight instinct does not take control. Instead, she takes a breath and says, “excuse me.” That composure is something that not even Jean-Luc has anymore. Mind you, she has only been alive for three years and this sort of growth is fascinating to watch over the course of only a few weeks.
But that composure is only to placate them enough not to follow her to the bridge where she takes over the ship. Deactivating the holograms and putting up a forcefield, she sets course for her home planet by tapping into some stored knowledge of the Borg transwarp network.
Though she is quick to settle into this almost programmed work ethic, Soji succumbs to Rios’ calm voice, his delivery of a lullaby that lowers her guard just enough to release the physical shields that surround her.
There is always so much talk of moments where a person lets their guard down or starts to remove the brick wall that they built between them and the outside world. This was quite a brilliant way to depict this moment for Soji.
She has become increasingly difficult to read since she stumbled upon her identity. Thinking back to the start of the season, you almost forgot at times that she was a synth, making the case that Maddox and Jurati’s work achieved something incredible.
We saw that especially highlighted when she visited with Riker and Troi. But here, the physical acknowledgement that she has become at ease enough to remove a boundary is a reminder of just how complicated the finale will get.
But Picard does what he does best — uses his words to rally whatever spirit the crew can muster. “The past is written but the future is left for us to write, we have the tools, the openness, the optimism and the spirit of curiosity…They have secrecy and fear. Fear is the great destroyer.”
‘Star Trek: Picard’ 1×08 final thoughts
- Narissa’s mocking of the Borg, “Resistance is futile,” is a line that changed so drastically over the arc of the episode. So many layers to something that could have just been a throwaway mockery of the Borg.
- Picard getting into the Captain’s chair and saying, “I don’t know how to work this,” is the best energy they could have given him in that moment.
- “Annika still has work to do.” I so wish we could dive into this whole Seven of Nine story much, much more than I think we will ever have time for.
- My vow to not give into the use of Data against Picard for emotional value has been broken. “He loved you,” was too much for my stone heart to handle.
- The holograms are far too precious for this world. I would personally not want to be stuck on a ship with only my likeness.
Star Trek: Picard will release new episodes on CBS All Access in the U.S. on Thursdays, on CTV Sci-Fi channel in Canada on Thursdays, and on Amazon Prime elsewhere on Fridays.