5:15 pm EDT, March 25, 2020

‘Star Trek: Picard’ season 1, episode 9 recap: The logic of sacrifice

Star Trek: Picard season 1, episode 9 delivers the first half of the season finale, but does little to sort out the problems of the season.

The penultimate episode of Star Trek: Picard brought many of the series scattered plot points to a head. However, it also severed ties — presumably — with those that have the potential to drive more rewarding stories.

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From the start one detail has gone largely unacknowledged — Picard is dying. There have been nods to his final journey, his passing planets for the last time. But more importantly, there is this silent acknowledgement that he is making one last trip to do something that matters. Those around Picard, myself included, have griped several times over the past eight episodes about some of his more selfish behaviors. Is he going across the universe to truly help the synthetics preserve their rights in the face of rising resistance? Or is he trying to prove to himself that he is still useful despite his years of isolation.

Does any of the motivation matter if he is achieving equal rights and protection at the end of the day? “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1” tackles this question from several angles. but does not provide any conclusive answers. Building on the historical context received in Star Trek: Picard season 1, episode 8, “Broken Pieces,” the second-to-last installment gets too caught up in the mythos and twisting of character motivations for its own good.

While we still have one more episode to, again presumably, wrap up the arc of the series’ first outing, it feels as if that is an impossible task. There is the chance that the narrative could lead us to a cliff, waiting for fall (or in the case of current filming delays several Falls) to discover what awaits our rag tag crew.

For now, I remain skeptical that the series can deliver on all the questions raised in this episode. And while I am ok letting a few of the below questions slide, there is one that will bug me until the end of time.

‘Star Trek: Picard’ season 1, episode 9 recap

Arrival at Coppelius

Star Trek Picard 1x09 soji borg cube

Travel through the Borg transwarp is not an experience that I would ever want to endure. But then again, neither is being eaten by a giant orchid that strips my ship of its power and I am forced to work by candlelight in space. As quickly as they arrive off course from Deep Space 12 to the home planet of Soji, the crew of the La Sirena discover that they are not the only passengers to either figure out or follow the Borg transwarp network.

Narek’s ship was close on their tail but suffers catastrophic damage. Soji is keen to let him die, but Picard steps in with some mentor override stating that there is a difference between killing and attacking an enemy and watching one die when you can help. However, before they can beam anyone onboard, A Borg cube appears next to them. “That’s unexpected,” goes down as the winner for the line of the week.

Orchids have been a recurring theme throughout the series. A plant so delicate, beautiful, and temperamental, the orchid is the symbol of synthetic creation. It was the programmed occupation of Dahj and Soji’s father, and here, on their home planet, it is the defense mechanism that drags uninvited visitors to the planet’s surface. But while the journey was not pleasant for Jurati, it was even more unbearable for one member of the crew with sturdier space legs — Jean-Luc.

It was only a matter of time before Jean-Luc was forced to disclose his illness to the crew. After passing out, Jurati takes him to sick bay and uses an old tricorder that she discovered in the ships reserves. With Jurati in the know, Picard decides to announce to the crew that yes, he has a brain abnormality that is terminal. Just before leaving, as we witnessed in episode 2, it was made clear that things have taken a turn for the worse. Picard’s farewell mission, his visits with Riker, his decision to request help from Elnor, his challenges facing the presence of the XBs who still recognize him as Locutus comes into sharp focus for the crew all at once.

However, Picard attempts to subdue their urge to respond with sentimentalities — “Anyone who treats me like a dying man will run the risk of pissing me off.” That, as they say, is that.

With everything offline — RIP holograms — the crew must resort to donning their best exploration wear and leave the ship in search of Coppelius station. First, they are going to pay a visit to the Borg cube to search for survivors and their friends.

The XBs stay behind

“If by any chance Elnor and Hugh survived…” One could almost cringe at the inclusion of a line such as that, but as we discover shortly, somehow the passengers on the cube did survive and are also very close to getting back online. The journey to the Borg cube is luckily not too arduous, yet as soon as he arrives, Picard is recognized and addressed as Locutus, much to the surprise of the crew who did not follow him down on his first visit.

Elnor runs and hugs Picard, and I don’t think my heart will ever fully mend. Though his demeanor is close to that of a Vulcan, I find that I have to remind myself that Elnor was not taught to reject emotion, but to embrace the honesty of situations. In that moment he is overcome with joy at seeing his friend. But another assault of emotion is just around the corner as Picard takes a minute to inform Seven of Nine and Elnor of his terminal situation.

Elnor once again aligns with Picard, his helpless cause, but the XBs will render a greater service from him than the ailing Captain. He leaves Elnor with a message of pride and hints at the fact that this may be the last time he sees either of them. In an exit that is FAR too literal, Picard walks directly into the light. When the camera lingered on Seven of Nine, it struck me that this may be the last time we see Jerri Ryan in the Picard series.

Sure, she may swoop in next season, but this is Picard’s story, but for better or worse, this is Picard’s story. What role does she have left in it?

Paging Dr. Soong

Brent Spiner’s return to the role of Data in the first few episodes of Star Trek: Picard came with the crushing realization of how lonely and let down Picard has been over the past two decades. But Spiner was not quite done tugging at our heartstrings. In one way, it’s sentimental, seeing Picard address the face of an old, dear friend. In another its enraging given his role at the end of the episode.

Nevertheless, the crew discovers the secrets of the world that Maddox once inhabited before he left with Soji and Dahj. Coppelius, a planet of synthetics of all shapes, heughs, and ages are living together as any other settlement. Besides the fact that they are identical clones of one another, the community feels oddly soothing. Playing soccer, three-dimensional chess, attending to chores, all the work of Dr. Noonian Soong and successors, including her biological son, Altan Inigo Soong, played by Spiner.

Soji slowly becomes flooded with information, remembrances, of these people and this place. She addressed another synthetic, Arcana, by name and is able to answer the question, “Did you complete your mission?” There are several details left out of that statement, as we move further into the settlement and get to know what exactly has been going on here and prepare the inhabitants for an attack.

In the course of sharing stories, Sutra — the sister of Jana — appears as one of the de facto leaders of the collective. She is strong-willed and makes those around her a bit uneasy. She has the same golden tint as Data. I take this as a sign of her older age, closer to Data than Soji on the spectrum of their creation but born out of his image of what he called, “daughter.”

When it is revealed that Jurati has seen the Admonition, Sutra proceeds to perform a mind-meld that she mastered from studying Vulcan culture, despite Rios’ objections (more on this later!). Shown in greater detail than any of the flashes beforehand, the Admonition means something to the synthetics. Just as Soji was studying on the Borg cube about the possibility of giving the Borg a shared history, a lore to latch on to, the Admonition has given the same thing to synthetics in one quick vision. This idea will, hopefully, be one that Soji remembers in the season 1 finale.

data picard soji

After this encounter, Soong Jr. calls Jurati into the workspace where she could tap into some of Bruce’s history. Soong reveals to her that Bruce’s greatest regret was not bringing Jurati with him to see their work reach fruition. But just as quickly as he comforts her, Soong chastises her for “putting out a small bright candle that shed light into the vast darkness.” Yikes.

He offers her penance for the debt she has stacked against her — stay on the planet, finish the work. Jurati agrees and notes that they appear to be close to generating a golem. One that would live on with mind transference. The kinks still need to be worked out, but a solution may rest with her.

Look, Jurati’s story is not my favorite and this episode sets her up to be a hero redeemed by her work in a field that she has great interest and skill. She fits the bill of the type of character that Maddox was, that Soong is, unstable and yielding to the slightest push of a force greater than themselves. Hopefully, Jurati’s story will take a hard right in the finale and the right amount of attention will be paid to flesh out her story. She still, after eight episodes, feels like a hollow shell of a character and one that I do not see Rios having any connection to.

Jurati confesses that while turning herself in for murder is something that should be done, her exile here would allow her to bring about new life in place of the one she took. She is trusting Soong and the synthetics all too quickly for Rios’ liking who prefers to keep everyone at arm’s length until motivations can be sorted.

Perhaps he needs to save someone. But he can do that by bringing Elnor that cat that Jurati definitely does not deserve to be holding.

Raffi and Rios head off to fix the La Sirena, but not without Raffi breaking rule number one — confessing to JL that she respects and recognizes every opportunity he gave to her over her career. And that she loves him. As she stumbles over her words about him saying back and goes to walk away, Picard calls back, “I love you too, Raffi.” The man is not made of stone after all.

First time prisoner

“Friend, I am thirsty.” Save it, Narek. Was that too harsh? Honestly, I am not sure where I land on the prisoner in question. Sure, he was a truly horrible person to Soji, but he feels bad about it. Yes, he is still pursuing her and just tried to blow her ship up yesterday, but he feels bad about it. The odds are stacked way against him ever being redeemable and yet Soji still finds it as hard as I do to take him completely off her radar.

That is until he says, “I pity you because we are going to rain fire down on this world and kill every so-called living think on it.” Alright, there’s a line. He crossed it. Still Tal Shiar afterall.

Killing prisoners is not something that is done on Coppelius, but then again, neither is keeping prisoners. Luckily for Narek, Sutra has another idea in mind for him. Saga winds up dead, a pin pierced through her eye, presumably self-inflicted given the trajectory of past events this season. Sutra, not one to be trusted, has let Narek flee.

Your speeches hold no weight here, Picard

Star Trek Picard 1x09 soji

To say that the collected group on Coppelius is ruled by persuasion would be an understatement. They are clever, cunning, but easily susceptible to the strongest voice in the room. Yet, they are also like Data in that their curiosity and need to understand the “whys” of the world can overpower them much to either the annoyance or fascination of present organic company.

In a scene that plays much like my freshman year philosophy class, Soji and Picard hash out the reasoning behind Jurati’s motivation to kill Maddox. Soji is layering her need to answer an inherent question about herself and the desire, or something akin to desire, to take another life. Picard poses: What if killing was the only way to survive?

There is no time to debate the topic at great length, but Soji’s ability to still wrestle with these ideas proves one thing — she got the best of Data in her creation. Sutra, however, got a bit more of the Maddox we saw post-Data. She is riling the masses blaming the organics for the loss of one of their own. Sutra speaks of a higher being, a higher synthetic being to be precise, one that is hiding but can be summoned.

The Romulans are on their way to destroy synthetic life, but what if they could tap into a power that would destroy them and all other enemies? These beings that were yesterday playing soccer are now about to become mass murderers on a whim. Picard’s voice and cadence and reason stands tall against Sutra’s but he does not have the support of two people who could back him up.

Soong points out to the synthetics what may be a flaw in their programming, he makes them self-aware that they have had no prior connection to this man, the people of Earth did not listen to him after the attack on Mars, why will they listen now. His words are empty promises and Picard should not attempt another failure that will cost synthetics. Soji joins the crowd in support of Sutra, but there is more to it than that.

Soji has more emotion written on her face than any other synthetic on that planet. She has lived among the conniving behaviors of the Romulans, seen the love and devotion to Picard from his crew members and acquaintances like Riker, she has tackled these big ideas of life and death.

Soji is going to turn this whole mission around.

Questions for the season 1 finale of ‘Star Trek: Picard’

Star Trek Picard 1x09 group exploring

  • Will Elnor ever get to see a cat?
  • What will become of Seven of Nine and her renewed mission to save the XBs?
  • Will Raffi and Chris be able to turn the ship back on and save the holograms… I mean, everyone?
  • What will Soji’s plan actually be to convince the Romulans to stand down?
  • Can we see this higher being or will it be a mystery?
  • Will Brent Spiner return as Data one last time?
  • Does an actual neuron of Data’s exist? Why tease the golem is not? They are not going to replicate Picard… right?

Fans in the US can now stream Star Trek: Picard season 1 for free through April 23, 2020.

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.

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