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Star Trek Pic - Season 1 - Episode 02

Star Trek Pic - 1x02 - Maps and Legends

Originally Aired: 2020-1-29

Synopsis:
Picard begins investigating the mystery of Dahj as well as what her very existence means to the Federation. Without Starfleet's support, Picard is left leaning on others for help, including Dr. Agnes Jurati and an estranged former colleague, Raffi Musiker. Meanwhile, hidden enemies are also interested in where Picard's search for the truth about Dahj will lead.

My Rating - 6

Fan Rating Average - 4.24

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Problems
None

Factoids
- This episode firmly establishes the year as 2399.
- The Romulans have been in possession of that Borg cube for at least 16 years.

Remarkable Scenes
- The flashback to the attack on Mars.
- Admiral Clancy: "Sheer fucking hubris. You think you can just waltz back in here and be entrusted with taking men and women into space?"
- Clancy: "There's no peril here. Only the pitiable delusions of a once great man desperate to matter."
- Picard: "I never really cared for science fiction. I guess I just didn't get it."
- Soji and her team operating on former Borg drones.
- Picard: "The daughter of the man whose death I have been mourning for two decades comes to me for help and assistance. And then she is assassinated in front of my eyes by a Romulan death squad who will then will go and try and find and destroy her twin sister. And you want me to sit here worrying about what to do about the spittlebugs on the pinots?"

My Review
It turns out that bigotry towards androids had been on the rise over the preceding decades. The Utopia Planitia workers didn't regard their android coworkers as people. Their attitudes probably weren't that uncommon across the Federation. It turns out that Starfleet did exactly what Picard was afraid of way back in TNG: The Measure of a Man. They created a race of android slave laborers, not unlike the hologram slave labor race they created with the Emergency Medical Holograms in Voy: Author, Author. This progression of events is very similar to the backstory of Battlestar Galactica (2003). A quote from Commander Adama in BSG's pilot is on point here: "We decided to play god. Create life. When that life turned against us, we comforted ourselves in the knowledge that it really wasn't our fault, not really." That is the sentiment that Federation society is expressing right now. However, Adama went on to say: "You cannot play god then wash your hands of the things that you've created. Sooner or later the day comes when you can't hide from the things that you've done anymore." That is the sentiment that the narrative appears to be expressing. The Federation refuses to take responsibility for all the awful things it has done to its artificial life forms. We still don't know precisely why the synths attacked, but treating them as a slave race just as Picard warned against decades ago probably didn't help matters.

Another nice piece of exposition we got in this episode was when Admiral Clancy explained that the Federation's decision to let the Romulans fend for themselves was due to political pressure from fourteen different Federation members threatening to secede from the Federation if the rescue mission was allowed to continue. This significantly clarifies why the Federation would consider abandoning a humanitarian mission and makes it easy to see both sides of the argument. On one hand, Picard is right that it is unconscionable to let people die needlessly. He was indeed right that we shouldn't refer to them pejoratively as Romulans, but instead simply as people. On the other hand, it's hard to argue with Admiral Clancy's logic that allowing fourteen members of the Federation to secede might destabilize the Alpha Quadrant to such a degree that abandoning the rescue mission could quite reasonably have been the lesser of two evils. What if a partial dissolution of the Federation led to a war that killed even more people? If members of the European Union threatened to secede if the EU offered medical relief to a geopolitical rival during a natural disaster, would the EU accede to this demand or let them secede? It's hard to know. It would probably depend on which members were making the demand, how vital they were to the union, and what the geopolitical repercussions of secession would be.

Meanwhile we learn much more about why the Romulans appear to be taking up residence inside the wreckage of a Borg cube. It seems they captured the cube after it was severed from the collective for some unknown reason, then used it to extract Borg technology and profit by exploiting it. They've had the cube for a very long time (more than a decade!), refer to it as "The Artifact," and consider it a research institute where they invite foreign scientists to work for them, though apparently only after a great deal of vetting. Former Borg drones are aboard, slowly being "reclaimed." The narrative seems to be strongly implying there's a lot more going on here than simply a salvage operation and a science project though, so we'll have to wait and see what else all this is all about. The whole thing is quite thrilling and fascinating though!

As for Picard himself, he doesn't want to reassemble the old TNG crew because he doesn't want any of them to end up like Data. He has developed the neurological disorder that was foreshadowed in TNG: All Good Things ("Irumodic Syndrome"). It is incurable and he will soon die. We see the full extent of his falling out with Starfleet in this episode when Admiral Clancy dresses him down in a powerful way. Her "sheer fucking hubris" line followed shortly by referring to Picard's request as "the pitiable delusions of a once great man desperate to matter" certainly make that scene one of the most memorable exchanges in all of Star Trek so far, mostly because it's justly deserved. He's burned far too many bridges to be able to just be handed a starship and a crew and fly off into the sunset again. Back in the day he could crash the Enterprise-D into a planet and Utopia Planitia would get busy building a brand new state of the art flagship just for him, but nowadays he can't even get the admiralty to commission him a garbage scow. It's very effective drama. That said, it does beg the question of just what Admiral Janeway is up to nowadays. It's hard to imagine her refusing to take Picard seriously given her affinity for Voyager's doctor, a form of artificial life that was oppressed just as the androids were. It's quite unfortunate that the story hasn't addressed this question yet.

Another unfortunate detail was nearly all the exposition concerning the Zhat Vash. While none of it is necessarily irreconcilable with canon, the amount of hyperbole used to describe them evokes the worst aspects of the overwrought storytelling style of Discovery or TOS. The Zhat Vash are referred to as keeping a secret "so profound and terrible that just learning it can break a person's mind..." Uh, okay. Whatever. Also speaking of Discovery aesthetics, holo communicators are apparently back in fashion after falling out of fashion during TOS and TNG, then briefly coming back into fashion during DS9, then falling out of fashion again... until now. Whatever. That's not necessarily irreconcilable with canon either, but it is an indicator that this show is more willing to embrace Discovery's visual language than perhaps it should be. More concerning was that little holographic original series Enterprise floating in the Starfleet HQ lobby which used Discovery's TOS reboot aesthetics. While a minor detail, this is a serious cause for concern because it implies that Star Trek: Picard endorses the "visual reboot" that Discovery proffered, which we should firmly reject. Instead, we should continue to hope that Discovery can be safely confined to a multiverse set apart from the main canon, like the Kelvin films for the sake of preserving visual canon. Hopefully this is the last time this topic needs to be discussed on Star Trek: Picard!

Overall though this is another strong episode. Not as strong as the pilot, but clearly there is a lot of potential in this story!

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Mitchell O on 2020-04-12 at 7:50am:
    I get the desire to keep these newer stories consistent with canon, but I for one am glad they’ve made visual updates for these new stories.

    Yes, Discovery and the original Enterprise featured in Season 2 look wildly more futuristic than the 60s TOS series, but I think it’s unfair to expect anything but. Visual effects have come an unbelievably long way in 50 years (!!!), and I think many of the things they’ve done to stay true to the original is a great compromise.

    The shots of the Enterprise bridge in the Season 2 finale are stunning, and have just the right amount of the 60s design elements mixed with modern day set dress and visual effects.

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