Previously on Star Trek Picard: Jurati wakes from her coma and confesses to what she’s done as a result of seeing the Zhat Vash ritual known as The Admonition. But she starts to reconsider her actions after meeting Soji (Isa Briones). Picard (Sir Patrick Stewart) calls Starfleet for help and spends some time bonding with Soji. Raffi (Michelle Hurd) pulls together the different Rios holograms (Santiago Cabrera) to piece together why her friend has locked himself in his quarters. We learn his old captain killed two synths – and one of them looked an awful lot like Soji – before shooting himself. Rios helped cover it up and hasn’t been able to live with himself. Meanwhile, on The Artifact, Seven (Jeri Ryan) and Elnor (Evan Evagora) activate the Queen’s cell and Seven briefly becomes the Queen of a mini-collective of the Borg on the cube, before Narissa spaces all the drones. The episode ends with La Sirena heading into a trans-warp conduit towards Soji’s homeworld.
Before we watch the episode, let’s take note of the title shall we? “Et In Arcadia Ego” is a Latin phrase perhaps most well-known from Baroque paintings in which shepherds look upon a deceased person and see the inscription that roughly translates as: “I too lived in Arcadia.” Arcadia is a place in Greek Mythology that represents a kind of utopia associated with natural splendour. So basically the line is a memento mori and maybe a too-clever message for those Trek fans who haven’t embraced the more dystopian elements of this latest spinoff.
For once, this episode doesn’t start with a flashback. La Sirena emerges from the conduit above a very pretty-looking world, and there are no other ships in sight. Jurati comes up to the bridge and doesn’t know what’s going on and whether she’s still under arrest. No one answers her directly but Picard explains they’ve just come twenty-five light years in 15 minutes. Everyone’s smiling at her like they’re eager to forgive and forget that whole Maddox murder thing.
And somehow I just noticed they have seatbelts, which is awesome. Way too many people were seriously injured from being flung across the bridge in previous Treks.
Soji says the planet’s name is Coppelius, which is probably named after the fear-instilling character in the German short story “The Sandman,” but I’m head-canoning is actually named after the German band that plays metal music on classical instruments:
but just as they’re gazing in awe their Romulan shadow pops out of the corridor. There’s a firefight and La Sirena appears to have disabled Narek’s ship and his lifesigns are weak. Soji says it’s a trick and they should let him die, which earns her a mini Picard lecture on how there’s a difference between attacking an enemy and watching a wounded one die. As they’re moralizing the Romulan ship turns around and starts firing again. It does appear Narek tried to trick them, and just as things are looking dire the corridor re-opens and the Artifact flies through it.
Then Raffi detects five bogies coming up from the planet’s surface. They look like giant orchids. In the ship, the power goes out. Then there’s a red light and the ship starts shaking as the orchid takes it through the atmosphere. Other orchids appear to be wrapped around the cube and taking it in too. The Romulan ship is also in an orchid and seems to be in distress.
Raffi notices Picard is sitting with his eyes closed. “Thank you for coming, everyone,” he slurs without opening his eyes. The others unbuckle themselves and run to his side.
After the credits Picard is having flashes from the first few episodes – talking to his doctor buddy, walking through the vineyard, etc. His eyes slowly open to reveal Jurati standing over him. She says the ship seems all right but they have no power (hence the absence of the EMH). Jurati said she found an old-school tricorder and scanned him but she’s not sure if it’s working correctly. He tells her it’s working fine and she gets tearful – evidently she’s discovered his condition and it’s bad.
Picard and Jurati join the rest of the crew and he tells them he has a brain abnormality he’s known about for some time, but hadn’t had symptoms. He said before he left Earth he learned the condition had become more acute, the prognosis was terminal, and there is no effective treatment. He says that’s the end of discussion.
“Anyone who treats me like a dying man will run the risk of pissing me off. Is that clear?”
Raffi nods tearfully. Moving on, Soji says she thinks they’re five or six kilometres from the settlement where she was born.
“Do they hate us?” Jurati interrupts.
“I really don’t think so,” Soji says. She said they’re like what she’s heard about Data: open-minded, unbiased.
Raffi arms herself, explaining they might run into “homicidal fungi…or someone’s asshole Romulan ex.”
Out on the planet’s surface they see the smoking rubble of the Artifact. Raffi says the odds aren’t good that their friends survived (they’re still thinking that’d be Elnor and Hugh, not Seven).
“Hope and the odds make poor bedfellows,” says Picard. They decide to stick together and go there first. When they reach the cube they walk inside nervously and an xB identifies Picard as Locutus. They’re scared and not sure what’s happening until Elnor runs out and wraps Picard in a big hug. Then Seven walks out and asks, “Are you here to help clean up or do you just make messes?”
Seven explains to Picard that she saw what was happening when she was connected to the Queen’s cell, and came because she saw they needed her help.
Raffi and Rios run scans and find that more than two hundred warbirds are headed their way. Soji finds a photo of her and Dahj at their graduation and Picard notes that he feels they keep having to say goodbye.
“But this time is worse, because you’re dying,” says the Candor Elf. Everyone looks at Jurati, who obviously told. Picard stays behind to talk with Elnor and Seven. Elnor says he’s torn because Picard needs his help again, but Picard says the xBs need him, and Elnor should stay and help get their defensive systems online. But he says he is very proud of his bebe Romulan murder nun.
“Keep saving the galaxy, Picard,” says Seven.
“That’s all on you now,” Picard replies as he walks out into the light.
Picard and co. arrive at the synths’ village and it feels really TNG-y – beautiful and utopian and there are scantily-clad youths doing physical activity outside…ok not quite as scantily clad as in TNG.
Everyone is a twin and there are different ages and races present. Two identical women look up from gardening and walk up to them. One of them knows who Soji is and says she’s been missed. Her name is Arcana and she has yellow eyes like Data.
Soji is happy to be home and introduces her friends. Arcana recognizes Picard and is moved to meet Data’s captain. She asks permission to trace the lines of his face and expresses wonder at the experiences they connote.
But things can’t stay celebratory for long. Soji tells them a fleet of warbirds is coming and Arcana says they only have 10 orchids left. Rios says they only have two days to prepare. As they mull that over, Brent Spiner enters, playing another Soong.
“Alton Inigo Soong, mad scientist. My father had me but he created Data. In fact he never let me forget.”
He seems like a charming mentor/father figure to the synths and I think we’re supposed to trust him but can we? We’ve had experiences with evil Brent Spiner characters once or twice before. But he’s kind of giving me Bill Nye vibes at the moment and I like him.
Soong invites Soji to tell them what’s happened and he and Arcana join the crew for a bit of a presentation. Soong tells Soji not to be too hard on herself because she couldn’t be expected to keep a secret she didn’t even know she knew. He blames the ban for making Bruce Maddox deceptive.
A woman synth with gold skin and long, black hair comes up to Picard. When they join Soji and the others we see she has the same face as Soji and Dahj, presumably an earlier model. Soong introduces her as Sutra, Jana’s sister. Sutra thanks Soji for bringing information, and she asks Jurati about the Admonition and how she feels when she thinks about killing Bruce Maddox. She stammers that when she thinks about it now, it feels…
“Like she was out of her goddamn mind,” says Raffi.
“Maybe she was,” says Sutra. She said that maybe the Admonition was intended for synthetic lives and the Romulans have been driving themselves crazy trying to understand it. She beckons to Jurati and Soong explains that as a fan of Vulcan culture, Sutra has taught herself how to mind-meld.
In a protective impulse, Rios runs up and grabs Sutra’s arm to stop her but Agnes says it’s ok. This time we see a much clearer vision of the beginning of life, with magma flowing through rock and cells dividing. A human fetus grows. Flowers bloom. A drawing of the vitruvian man changes into images of a robot arm, a robot face, Data’s face.
“Life begins. The dance of division and replication. Imperfect, finite. Organic life evolves, yearns for perfection. That yearning leads to synthetic life. But organics perceive this perfection as a threat. When they realize their creations do not age or become sick or die, they will seek to destroy them, and in so doing, destroy themselves,” says the voiceover.
We see more images: a fox dying and decaying, maggots covering its body; a robot workforce, and scenes from the synth attack on Mars. Then images from Oh’s vision that she shared with Jurati: a planet exploding, Romulan women tearing their faces.
“Beyond the boundaries of time and space we stand. An alliance of synthetic life, watching you, waiting for your signal. Summon us and we will come. You will have our protection. Your evolution will be their extinction.”
Sutra breaks the mind meld: “Fascinating.”
Jurati walks into Soong’s study and comments on the butterflies flying around – he has several more dead ones in a collection of clear containers. Soong said he really missed butterflies and made his own. But Jurati came to talk about Maddox. Soong said Maddox talked about her a lot and that leaving her behind was his only regret.
“But you did. Shame on you Agnes. You put out a small, bright candle shedding its light in a vast darkness. You owe a great debt.”
*record screech* Ok hang on a minute. Is he saying Bruce Maddox was the candle? Even if he’s saying she just denied her own potential, let’s not act like Maddox has a spotless reputation here. Theirs was always a weird relationship where he had more power as her professor, and then apparently just by reputation. I guess mad scientists gotta put their egomaniac buddies first.
But anyhow, Soong says she can repay the debt if she wants, and she says yes. He shows her a being in a case that she calls a golem and asks if he’s been able to crack mind transfer. He says he hasn’t yet, because that was more Bruce’s area, but he said he’s regained interest and there is now a sense of urgency to perfect it – presumably they’re thinking about Picard.
Outside, Soji and Sutra are having a bit of a Data/Lore-like exchange. Sutra is trying to convince Soji they need to burn it all down, that they can’t defend the planet with themselves and the orchids, and that she doesn’t want to run and hide.
Soji says there has to be an alternative where so many people don’t have to die. Sutra says no but before they can continue, she says, “Look at what the cat dragged in.” It’s Narek (Harry Treadaway), being pulled in by two burly synths.
Jurati is inside scratching an orange cat, Spot II (Elnor needs to see this). She tells Rios it’s a synth cat and he’s sorta impressed but not a cat person. She tells him she’s staying to do some work while he tries to fix the ship, and he tells her to be careful because he doesn’t really trust them.
“Them? Or me?” she asks, then laughs nervously. They exchange some flirty words and he touches her face as if trying to commit it to memory.
Arcana’s twin Saga gives Raffi a weird looking tool that she says will help fix the ship if she uses her imagination. Before she goes she apologizes to Picard for breaking the rules and gives him a hug. She said she had to thank him after all he’s done for her, and says, “I love you, JL.” When he freezes she hastens to add he doesn’t need to say it back, not unless he wants to.
“Okay,” he says awkwardly as he extracts himself, but as he turns to walk away he says, “I love you too, Raffi” and her eyes well up with tears.
Picard goes to Maddox’s office and hails Starfleet. There is a get-a-room-worthy holo-photo of Maddox and Jurati kissing from that cookie baking video. Meanwhile, Narek tries to trick Saga into getting him some water. Soji stops her but she insists Narek isn’t lying about being thirsty. He sadly said to Soji that he loves her and reaches out for her face.
“I know,” she says after a moment. “What a sad and twisted thing you are.” She says he disgusts her and she disgusts herself even more for pitying him. He says the Romulans are going to rain down fire on this planet and kill every “so-called living thing” on it. Soji walks away and Narek ominously eyes the bird pendant Saga is wearing.
Soji comes into Maddox’s room to talk to Picard. She says she’s trying to understand “the logic of sacrifice,” why Jurati killed Maddox, etc. Picard says he doesn’t like the sound of that, and that the calculus between life and death “depends on if you’re the person holding the knife.”
Sutra relieves Saga of watching Narek and she takes down the force field around his cell. She says she wanted to kill him but needs his services, and asks if he wants to be let out.
Soji and Picard continue to discuss the decision Agnes made as Soji clearly weighs as similar decision about whether to take Sutra’s approach to the situation or not.
“Maybe there’s no logic in it at all. Maybe all rationales for killing just boil down to fear, the opposite of logic. But what if killing is the only way to survive?” she says. Picard asks what they’re talking about when they hear a scream. Soong is kneeling over Saga’s body, her eye pierced through with the bird brooch. Soji says she should have killed him and asks herself why she didn’t.
Sutra leads a funeral-type ceremony for Saga and blames it on “the Organics.” Picard comes through to ask what’s going on. She and Soong tell the group that the Admonition contained a promise of higher synthetic life that they can summon with a beacon before the Romulans get there. Soong is on board as long as his “children” stop dying.
“Their purpose is to seek out advanced synthetic life and excise it from the oppression created by Organics,” says Sutra. She says they will eliminate the threat “all Organics pose.”
“Did you just say all?” Picard asks. Soji looks like she’s agreeing with Sutra, but has doubts. Picard says this will make them the Destroyer after all.
Time for a Picard speech – he says he understands why they wouldn’t trust the Federation after the Ibn Majid. But he offers to evacuate them and says he will advocate on their behalf. But Soong says the Federation won’t listen. Sutra and Soong move to put Picard under house arrest and Soji backs them (although maybe not really?).
Jurati asks them not to lock her up, if not for her then to let her help Soong survive. Soong says she’s probably as close as they’ll get to a mother and Sutra asks if if that’s so, would she die for her children? Jurati says yes.
As the synths arrest Picard, Narissa and her fleet are twenty-four hours away.