Picard begins the first step on his new journey to save Data’s daughter while the season’s shadowy antagonist is revealed.
In last week’s premiere, Star Trek: Picard set the table with some of Starfleet’s more — curious —decisions since viewers last visited this particular timeline. Making the outline of events even more effective, “Maps and Legends” drops viewers into the Utopia Planitia attack that occurred 14 years prior. Taking place on the anniversary of First Contact, the events play out from the more intimate perspective of shipyard workers who amicably joke with F8, the synthetic worker that inevitably lowers the planetary defense shields to facilitate the attack that set fires across Mars that still burn to the day. The personal nature of the synth slaughtering “his” co-workers effectively reminds us that this is no lighthearted romp, rather a much more serious affair.
Returning to the present, Picard shares the information on Dahj with Laris and Zhaban. Though little of the Romulans’ background has been given, the information they give Picard regarding the Zhat Vash — a most clandestine sect of the Tal Shiar, the Romulan secret police — suggests the two are more than just regular citizens versed in their cultural myths. Add to it Laris’ handiness with some impressive Romulan tech when she and Picard look to reconstruct the events in Dahj’s apartment, bolsters this idea.
The editing here is fantastic, intermixing the Laris and Zhaban depositing necessary exposition (on the Zhat Vash and the Romulan culture’s disdain and fear of synthetics and AI) with her and Picard’s investigation of Dahj’s flat. The special effects and usage of technology continue to be phenomenal and what Picard finds — Dahj’s communication with her twin sister — commits him to reach out to Starfleet to once more be commissioned for one final mission. As it turns out, Picard’s actions have not made him friends in the organization he once loved.
“The Federation does not get to decide whether a species lives or dies!”
Briefing Admiral Clancy (Ann Magnuson, Titans, The Man in the High Castle) on what he’s discovered, Picard requests permission to commence his search for Dahj’s twin before the Zhat Vash track her down. Unfortunately, his very public interview in which he castigated Starfleet for their culpability in allowing countless Romulans to die, has alienated him from Starfleet. Picard’s argument with Clancy is classic Trek. Her counter to his humanitarian argument is that several members of the Federation would have broken away if they did not pull the plug on the relief effort and, perhaps unintentionally, emphasizes Spock’s famous supposition that “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”. The pressure of destabilizing the decades-long peace fostered by the Federation was more important that hundreds of millions of lives (albeit the lives of an enemy).
The Star Trek franchise has always been, at its core, more about the moral issues of life rather than action. “Maps and Legends” brings this to the forefront and though, as the point of view character, we empathize with Picard’s feelings on the matter, the larger whole cannot be discounted, regardless of how tasteless it is leaving so many to die. But Picard doesn’t let the negative response halt his mission and he instead reaches out to Raffi (Michelle Hurd, Blindspot, Hawaii Five-O ), a once frenemy who threatens him with furious violence until relenting at the promise of an ’86 vintage and the old codger’s ineffable charm.
As it was the final shot on the premiere, there was scant in the way of detail on Soji or Borg Cube where she worked. “Maps and Legends” gives us the backstory we needed. Christened as the ‘Artifact’, this specific Cube has been excised from the Borg Collective and Soji, along with the rest of the workers, partake in the ‘Reclamation Project’. In short, they’re removing the implants for all Borg currently inhabiting the ship. It’s been so long since the Borg have been properly explored that many may have forgotten the horrible nature of the Collective’s rape of an individual’s will. Soji understands this and connects with these victims in a way that may or may not be in part due to her own (as yet undiscovered) synthetic nature.
The larger conspiracy “Maps and Legends” shines a light on is that of the Zhat Vash. With no strictures on treaties or sovereignty, they’ve infiltrated Starfleet, as seen with Commodore Oh (Tamlyn Tomita, The Good Doctor, The Man in the High Castle), who may not be an official member but is definitely a collaborator, and Lieutenant Rizzo (Peyton List, The Tomorrow People, Gotham, Frequency), who maintains a major position in the clandestine death squad and is Narek’s elder sister. The reveal of Narek’s ulterior motives towards Soji was far and away the least surprising aspect of the episode but now that he and Soji have become lovers, I can’t help but wonder if his affections for her will be enough to cause him to waver in his convictions or will his Zhat Vash oath continue strong?
A strong follow-up to the impressive premiere, “Maps and Legends” offers the first real clues about the season’s primary narrative. Though it answers some of the questions posed from “Remembrance,” it adds even more to the list regarding the future and how both the Zhat Vash and Borg will ultimately fit into the story.
Make It So
• Perhaps the most difficult thing to keep straight in future tales like Star Trek is the consistency in balancing the technological advances with their limitations. When Dr/ Benayoun (David Paymer, The Good Wife, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel), Picard’s friend and former Stargazer shipmate, shares his findings on Picard’s health, I couldn’t help but wonder that, with all the tech present in the Star Trek universe, how is it there is no cure for the unnamed illness affecting Picard? Hell, Star Trek: Discovery had a plotline where the mind of one character was transferred and imprinted atop another’s. I’m not a doctor (nor do I play one in reviews) but unless procedures that exist to help Picard are banned for ethical reasons, I’m not certain if adding this particular plot element is a boon or bust for Picard’s character arc.
• The more they bring up Bruce Maddox, the surer I am he’s still alive. More than that though, has he created more synths (aside from Dahj and Soji) and did he have anything to do with the synth hack that devastated the Utopia Planitia?
• As intriguing as the Zhat Vash story line is, the Borg reclamation project arc was the best for me. Not only did it give us the Borg as a part of the narrative but also a deeper, more intimate understanding of the Collective’s victims not seen since “Best of Both Worlds”. Maybe even more intriguing is if, even with the Cube severed from the Collective, will the Borg (the true Borg, not former drones such as Hugh and Seven) play a role in Picard somewhere down the line?