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Star Trek Pic - Season 1 - Episode 08

Star Trek Pic - 1x08 - Broken Pieces

Originally Aired: 2020-3-11

Synopsis:
When devastating truths behind the Mars attack are revealed, Picard realizes just how far many will go to preserve secrets stretching back generations, all while the La Sirena crew grapples with secrets and revelations of their own. Narissa directs her guards to capture Elnor, setting off an unexpected chain of events on the Borg cube.

My Rating - 2

Fan Rating Average - 3

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Problems
- It's unclear why anyone thought the Borg drones being blown into space would kill them seeing as how we've seen that drones are able to survive in a vacuum before.

Factoids
- This episode establishes that Commodore Oh is half Romulan, half Vulcan.

Remarkable Scenes
- Seven of Nine rescuing Elnor.
- Picard gloating to Admiral Clancy about being right and then demanding a whole squadron of ships from her. Clancy: "Admiral Picard with all due respect and at long last, shut the fuck up! I'm sending a squadron to rendezvous with you at DS12, now stay put until they get there!"
- Soji to Picard about Data: "He loved you."
- Agnes marveling at Soji.
- Narissa executing the remaining xBs.
- Picard, making a confident attempt to fly the ship: "...Actually, I don't know how to work this."
- Seven of Nine stealing the Borg cube.

My Review
The various plot threads are starting to come together and paint a clearer picture of what this story is adding up to which is sadly a mixture of bad and possibly worse depending on what happens in the following episodes. First and most importantly, we find out here that the Zhat Vash were radicalized by a prophecy of destruction brought about by the prospect of AI advancing too far. This "admonition" warns against the advancement of AI, driving those who experience it to madness, literally. Back in Maps and Legends when Laris first described the Zhat Vash as keeping a secret "so profound and terrible that just learning it can break a person's mind" we had hoped this lame remark was simply hyperbole we could cough over and move on from. Apparently not. Here we see people kill themselves, smash rocks into their faces, tear off hair and skin, etc. All because of a vision they experienced from an alien beacon.

Making matters worse, this madness was somehow enough to break the collective mind of the Borg as well. It's explained that the Borg cube the Romulans commandeered was broken by the assimilation of Narissa's aunt Ramdha, whose mind had been broken by the "admonition." While this is not exactly unprecedented since something similar occurred when Hugh was reassimilated by the Borg after the events of TNG: I, Borg, it was pretty lame then, and it's even more lame now. The idea that resistance to assimilation just requires a sufficiently strong-willed or traumatized mind is difficult to reconcile with the fact that the assimilation process itself is traumatic and the Borg have undoubtedly assimilated billions of strong-willed people before. It simply isn't credible that Ramdha could break the Borg through the "sheer force of her despair" or that Hugh's newfound individuality would be so profound that it could somehow corrupt the cube that retrieved him entirely on its own.

To make it credible, there had to be more going on than just asserting that these characters had stronger feelings than anyone else who had ever been assimilated, so therefore they were immune to it. But the narrative seems to expect us to just believe that strong feelings was all it took. Damn it Magnus and Erin Hansen, if only you just had stronger feelings about being assimilated, maybe you could've broke the Borg and prevented Annika from being assimilated and becoming Seven of Nine, huh? Speaking of Seven, her return is a welcome one and one of the only bright spots in the episode. Her reticence regarding establishing a micro collective is a nice callback to her actions in Voy: Survival Instinct. But speaking of that episode, it sure is a shame that Lansor (Two of Nine), Marika Wilkarah (Three of Nine), and P'Chan (Four of Nine) didn't just have stronger feelings about Seven of Nine reassimilating them, huh? Maybe they could've broke her and gotten away like Hugh and Ramdha. It's bizarre that the writers didn't think through how obviously dumb the "strong feelings break the Borg" plot point was and give us a bit more to hang our hats on. To be fair, it's not an impossible problem to fix. Maybe Hugh had the Borg virus embedded in him against orders by a renegade Enterprise crewman. And Maybe Ramdha had something similar embedded in her after experiencing the "admonition." But it sure would've been nice if the episode established something like that as a fact rather than us having to offer up our own solutions to these problems, huh?

There is a similar problem with Agnes. The previous episode did nothing to convince us that the mind meld she had with Commodore Oh was at all coercive. It was strongly implied that Agnes assassinated Maddox entirely of her own free will because the visions she received were somehow sufficiently persuasive enough to get her to murder a man she loved. In this episode she continues to exhibit no signs of mind control and even deliberately chooses not to do any harm to Soji despite Soji being the literal personification of the threat she supposedly was so convinced was urgent that she would murder her lover. There is a way out of this plot hole too if we extrapolate a bit from the scene when she was asked why she did this and replied she "had to," that Commodore Oh had put "poison" in her mind, and a "psychic block" was put in place to keep her from talking about it. From that we could make a leap of logic that what she really meant was she was under the influence of mind control and the murder was something she did without consciously choosing to, like a sleeper agent. But that's quite a leap from the material presented to us which seems to strongly imply otherwise. She continues to refer to Maddox' work as "hubris" and seems to still genuinely fear the prophecy coming true. But again she doesn't fear it enough to take action against Soji. So it's all a jumbled mess. Agnes' motivations make no sense and this is becoming a serious problem that it seems more and more likely the plot won't resolve anytime soon.

Rios too is now a problem. Instead of just immediately telling everyone that Soji looks just like an android his former captain murdered, he decides to get all moody and hide from everyone for no coherent reason. But a bigger problem is how that development nudges this story away from a charming tale about a motley crew brought together for idiosyncratic reasons into a trite tale about everyone being linked together by destiny. It's a ridiculous coincidence that Picard just so happened to befriend the only person in the Federation to correctly predict Romulan involvement in the Mars attack and that she just so happened to be friends with a random mercenary pilot who just so happened to be randomly connected to the exact conspiracy Picard sought to unravel.

The worst thing about this episode though is how it undermines the promise of the pilot. The pilot offered up the possibility of a real reflection on the Federation flirting with reactionary anti-technology politics. It would've been nice to see more backstory showing us substantive public debate about this and how it intertwines with holograms and previous reactionary material on Star Trek regarding genetic engineering. But we got none of that. The ban was just the result of a Romulan conspiracy. No deep meditation on reactionary politics. The writers don't appear to have noticed the parallels between the AI ban and the genetic engineering ban. Nor did they notice that holograms are AI too. They must not have seen Voy: Revulsion where it's shown that a hologram that can fly a ship can be just as serious a threat as any android.

At the end of the episode Picard delivers a speech to Rios about how the Federation should not have given way to fear that the directing clearly emphasizes as some kind of profound moment; as if a few lines from Picard are the payoff on the deep meditation on reactionary politics we were promised. But the narrative didn't earn that moment at all. It fell just as flat as Burnham's speech at the end of Discovery's first season about how the Federation ought not to "allow desperation to destroy moral authority." You can't just trot out some high minded-sounding platitudes at the end of the story and expect that to serve as a reasonable substitute for narrative substance. Worse yet, Picard's whole point about how secrecy and fear are as ineffective as they are immoral is kind of ridiculous in itself given that secrecy and fear scored the Zhat Vash an AI ban in the Federation that lasted for more than a decade. Seems like manipulating people with secrecy and fear is actually pretty effective sometimes after all.

Overall this is a very disappointing offering. When writers build up something across a season of episodes, the payoff has to be worth it. We're seeing some payoff here and so far it's pretty damn anticlimactic.

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