“Data’s capacity for expressing and processing emotion was limited. I suppose we had that in common.”
Previously on Star Trek Picard: Soji (Isa Briones) and Picard (Patrick Stewart) arrived on Nepenthe, where they met Kestra Troi Riker (Lulu Wilson). Soji and Lulu bonded. Rios (Santiago Cabrera) is haunted by the loss of his former Starfleet captain. Raffi (Michelle Hurd) discovered the Disordered Romulans all drawing the same symbol. Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco) and Elnor (Evan Evagora) plotted to take control of the Artifact, until Narissa (Peyton List) interrupted, killing Hugh. So Elnor called for help. Jurati (Allison Pill) murdered her former lover Bruce Maddox (John Ales), because of what she was shown by Commodore Oh. Narek (Harry Treadaway) tricked Soji into revealing her home planet, and La Sirena was being tracked by the Zhat Vash. So Jurati injected herself with a neural toxin to deactivate the tracker that she had swallowed.
On a planet at the center of an eight-star system, the woman we know as Commodore Oh (Tamlyn Tomita) leads a group of women – including Narissa and Ramdha (Rebecca Wisocky) – in an initials ritual. There is a “storehouse of preserved memories” on the planet, that warns of the danger of synthetic life. It was the discovery of this information, centuries ago, that lead to the creation of the Zhat Vash. The women reach out and touch a railing that shows them this information – the same montage that Oh showed Jurati – and several of them fall away and begin hitting themselves with rocks, tearing at their own faces, or even turning their disruptors on themselves. Ramdha falls to her knees and begins to pull out her hair, but survives. Narissa, however, remains still though it all, and knows that she has to “stop them.” Oh assures her that they will, “on the world the humans call ‘Mars.'”
On the Arifact, Narissa visits the now “disordered” Ramdha, who still appears to be in a coma. Ramdha seemingly took in and raised Narissa and Narek after their parents died. And Narissa implies that it was her despair that brought down the Borg Cube when they attempted assimilation. But Narek has located the synth homeworld, and once they’re all destroyed, Ramdha can finally come home.
The Romulan security on the Artifact located Elnor, hiding in Hugh’s office, and a squad attacks. Just as they’re about to subdue him, Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) arrives and shoots them. Then Elnor wraps her in a big, joyous hug.
Picard and Soji beam aboard La Sirena, and Rios has a very strange reaction to her. Picard is asking him for a secure subspace link to Starfleet Command, and to lay in a course for DS12, but Rios can’t seem to focus. He says he’ll take them to DS12, but after that, he’s done. And he storms away. Soji is scared, but Picard once again asks for her trust, and tries to take her to a cabin. But Raffi’s not excited about Soji’s presence either. They don’t know anything about her. Just like they didn’t know anything about Jurati, and it turns out that she was a spy who killed Maddox. Oh, right – that’s news to Picard. The EMH and Raffi take Picard through their theories, but Picard continues to defend her. But Raffi stands her ground.
In his study, Picard’s in a meeting with holographic Admiral Clancy (Ann Magnuson), gloating that he was right. He wants a squadron to meet him at DS12. If he’d stop talking long enough to let her speak, Clancy would tell him they’re already on their way.
Raffi goes to talk with Rios, but it turns out to the Navigation hologram, Enoch. Rios laid in the course, activated all of the holographs, and is hiding in his quarters. Enoch says that he (and Rios) recognized Soji, but her name is actually Jana. But he doesn’t know any more about that. So she asks him about the symbols that the Disordered Romulans were drawing. It’s an “octanary” – a planetary system with 8 stars. There are some accounts of one such system in some ancient Romulan star charts, but not anything modern. Raffi thinks that this might be her “Conclave of Eight,” and now she has two new mysteries to solve.
Narissa, in Hugh’s office, looks over her slain security guards, and finds the Fenris Rangers calling card. Seven and Elnor have made it to the Queen’s Cell, but need a plan. Seven initiates an auto-repair procedure on the Cube. When Narissa notices, she orders her guards to find away to get rid of all of the un-reclaimed Borg ASAP – so they’re going to blow them out into space.
Picard and Soji chat over dinner, where she reveals that she can’t trust whether any of her likes or dislikes, personality traits, or memories are really hers or programmed. Picard assures her that she has a past and a story, and she just needs to claim them. She asks about Data, and how Picard would hope Data would have remembered him. Soji confidently replies, “He loved you.”
Raffi, looking for Rios, instead finds Ian, the Emergency Engineering Hologram… who has a Scottish accent, which is amazing. So she asks him about Soji. Ian knows that Soji is “bound to stir up unwelcome memories,” but doesn’t know why. So instead, Raffi asks about the octanary system. Ian says that a system like that is incredibly unlikely to occur naturally. So Raffi concludes that it was on purpose, as a warning.
Raffi returns to her quarters and orders alcohol, which the computer refuses to provide. The Emergency Hospitality Hologram appears to remind her that she disabled alcohol service and locked herself out of overrides. Take 3: Raffi asks the EHH about Rios, and he says, “He could use someone to talk to, someone who doesn’t look exactly like him.” The EHH explains that when he purchased La Sirena, he selected the “self-scan” option, which overlaid his appearance and memories/personality on the basic holographic installs. But then went back in and deleted certain, seemingly-random information. Some of that information had to do with Jana, the woman who looked exactly like Soji.
In his room, and inebriated Rios is rifling through a case of his belongings from his Starfleet days on the Ibn Majid. He pulls out a cigar box which contains a photograph of him with his captain and drawing of him sitting at a table with Soji/Jana.
On the Artifact, Seven can see that there are thousands of drones still in status, that have yet to be reclaimed. In order to use them against the Romulan troops, she’d have to reconnect their transceivers and create a mini-collective on the Cube. But that’s like assimilation all over again. And worse, she’s afraid that if she does that, she won’t want to give it up again.
Raffi’s gathered all 5 holograms in Picard’s study. They each have a piece of the puzzle, and she intends to put it all together. Whatever happened to Jana was tragic. And it happened on the Ibn Majid, and has to do with the loss of his captain, Alonso Vandermeer. Emmet is able to remember that Captain Vandermeer shot himself, but but none of the holograms can actually articulate any more details. Whatever happened is classified, and why searching for information won’t return any results – even for Raffi.
Agnes Jurati regains consciousness in sickbay, to be immediately met by Picard. She successfully neutralized the tracker, but Picard expect her to surrender herself to Federation authorities as soon as they arrive at DS12. And then Picard asks why. Jurati tells Picard about the mind meld, everything that Oh showed her, and the mental block that prevented her from talking about it. They’re at a threshold – unless all synthetic life is destroyed, “hell will come again.” That threshold is the coming of The Destroyer, Soji, who just entered the room. Jurati asks her questions, just like Kestra did, and is marveled by her imperfect perfection. But Soji just wants to know if she’s a person. And she knows that Jurati was ordered to kill her, but Jurati insists that she would never make the attempt.
Raffi visits Rios in his quarters, and asks about his former captain. Rios thought of him as a father… until “he turned out to be a cold blooded murderer.” The Ibn Majid picked up a small ship with just two passengers. The ambassador was called Beautiful Flower, and had a young protege named Jana. They sit, and eat. And a few hours later, the captain killed them both. It was a “black flag directive” – straight from Starfleet Security (and that means Commodore Oh). If he disobeyed, the Ibn Majid would have been destroyed with all hands. And that’s when Captain Vandermeer turned the phaser on himself. And Rios was left to cover it up. Six months later, Rios was dismissed from Starfleet with “post traumatic dysphoria.” Rios shows Raffi the drawing of Jana, and it click: “They were synths. That’s why they had to die.”
Narissa storms of a room of xBs, searching for Elnor and Seven. There’s no time to waste, so Seven connects to the Cube, and three tubules attach to her spine. Just as she activates the drones on board, Narissa gives the order to jettison them into space.
Soji walks Jurati to the dinner table, where she tells the gang that she’s “done murdering people” and will be turning herself in. More importantly, she apologizes. Rios also apologizes to Soji, and replicates her some peppermint ice cream and french fries. Raffi takes the time to explain the octanary start system, and the warning it contains – which the Romulans call The Admonition. It’s a warning against the creation of synthetic life, because at a certain point – a threshold – it will begin to evolve, and you don’t want to cross that line. The Romulans took this warning seriously, and created the Zhat Vash, dedicated to the extermination of synthetic life.
Then, about 40 years ago, Noonien Soong started creating synethic life, and it scared them. So they sent a mole, a half-Romulan half-Vulcan named Oh. She joins Starfleet and rises through the ranks to become head of Security, all with one goal: The destruction of synthetic life. She devises a plan that will leave the Federation no choice but to ban the research and development of synthetic life: The attack on Mars. But she wasn’t entirely successful – Nine years ago, the Ibn Majid encountered Jana and Beautiful Flower, who came from the world that Maddox fled to after the ban. Ever since, the Romulans have been searching for this world. The world that Narek now knows about because of Soji.
Soji gets up and goes immediately to the bridge, where she hacks the ship and sets a course for home. She’s called up a map of the Borg transwarp conduit network, which she doesn’t remember knowing. But learning the truth means she knows a lot of things now. Even though Rios is trying to talk her down, Picard wants to do it Soji’s way. He sits down and calls up the holographic computer interface… and then admits he doesn’t know how to work this version of iOS. Rios concedes, and changes course for the transwarp conduit. (So much for Deep Space 12 – In my mind, the USS Pasteur was one of the ships that would be meeting them there. Oh well.)
The Romulan fleet have the coordinators for the Synth homeworld and are on their way. Narissa’s about to leave, too, when the xBs attack. Seven has regained control of the Cube. Elnor asks if he’s going to be assimilated now, but Seven says “Annika still has work to do,” before the tubules disconnect.
On the bridge of La Sirena, Picard recounts his memories of being a young ensign, believing himself to be the only person awake for light years. He knew Vandermeer – he was first officer to Picard’s “classmate” Marta Batanides (yes, that Marta, from “Tapestry”). Picard and Rios begin to speculate on whether Vandermeer knew that the people he killed were synthetics. Rios wants to believe that he did, and because of that, Vandermeer thought he might be able to live with that action. Mostly, he hates that Vandermeer died believing it was Starfleet that betrayed him.
But, of course, Picard believes that the synth ban was the real betrayal. The Zhat Vash set a trap and the Federation fell right into it. Rios isn’t sure – Soji was able to hack his ship in less than 5 minutes, and supposedly there’s a whole planet of more androids, just like her. Maybe the Romulans are right, and she is the Destroyer. The Romulans might be right about what happened in the past, but the future is yet to be written. “We have powerful tools: Openness, optimism, and the spirit of curiosity. All they have is secrecy and fear. And fear is the great destroyer, Rios.”
La Sirena arrives at the entrance to the transwarp conduit, and Soji takes Kestra’s compass out of her pocket. It seems to be working now, and it’s pointing her home. As they enter the conduit, a Romulan ship decloaks and follows them in.