“I never really cared for science-fiction. I guess I just didn’t get it.”
Previously on Star Trek Picard: We learned that Picard (Patrick Stewart) left Starfleet after rogue “synths” (synthetic lifeforms) attacked Mars, and Starfleet abandoned its mission to help resettle the worlds that would be affected by the imminent Romulan supernova. Dahj (Isa Briones) and her boyfriend were attacked, and she fled to find Picard, knowing intrinsically that she’d be safe with him. Picard believed that, somehow, Dahj was Data’s daughter. However, the attackers found her again, and killed her. On a trip to the Daystrom Institute, Dr. Agnes Jurati (Allison Pill) explained that Bruce Maddox believes all of Data’s memories and programming could be reconstituted from a single neuron – but that the process always produces “twins.” And Dahj’s twin is named Soji.
It’s First Contact Day 2385, 14 years ago, and a huge fleet of ships (many of them being of older design) surrounds Mars. Most of the workers at the Utopia Planitia Shipyards are off for the holiday, but not everyone. And not the synths. The organic workers start their day by having some fun at the expense of F8 (Alex Diehl) – Fate? – with one even saying, “You can’t offend them, they’re not people.” But apparently, they can be offended. Or maybe remotely activated? As his organic colleagues break for lunch, F8’s eyes suddenly change, and he begins to alter the controls in the room. The computer announces: “Security Alert – Multiple Synthetic Labor Units have been compromised.” The organics try to stop him, but F8 kills them all, and turns the defense satellites towards the planet. On the security screens, ships are attacking the surface. As the computer is about to suffer a cascade failure, F8 shoots himself in the head.
In “present” day France, Picard, Laris (Orla Brady), and Zhaban (Jamie McShane) watch the security footage taken when Dahj was killed, but she and their attackers have been erased completely. It could be the Tal Shiar, but Laris believes this to be the work of the Zhat Vash – a “term used to refer to the dead – the only reliable keepers of secretes” – an organization that may be behind the Tal Shiar. We also learn that she and Zhaban are former Tal Shiar, as were Zhaban’s parents, who got a bit drunk one night and let them in on the secrets of the Zhat Vash: at the heart of their mission is a loathing for synthetic life and artificial intelligence. Hadn’t Picard ever noticed that androids and AI are completely absent from Romulan culture? Even Romulan computer systems are limited to purely numerical functions.
The trio travels to Dahj’s apartment in Boston, where Laris uses some Romulan forensic techniques that she “had no idea” were illegal on Federation worlds. Picard points out that they’re also not very reliable, but that’s what the Tal Shiar wanted him to think. Laris is able to reconstruct the scene before the attack, but the Zhat Vash completely wiped the forensic evidence of their appearance in the apartment. They even deleted the indexes in her computer interface. Laris, however, is able to access Dahj’s call history, and sees that Soji has been calling from off-world. They still don’t know exactly where she it, but they know she’s not on Earth.
On the Borg Cube, Soji and Narek (Harry Treadaway) have become more-than-friends, and exchange some pillow talk about finding beauty in imperfection and vulnerability, not a very Romulan concept. An alarm goes off, and both have to get ready for work. Soji asks, “Are we allowed to be sleeping together, or is that a secret?” To which Narek answers, “Very much the latter.” Narek has so many secrets, in fact, that he won’t even tell Soji what his job is.
Picard gets a visit from his old friend and doctor Mortiz Benayoun (David Paymer); They served together on the Stargazer (I thought Carter Greyhorse was the doctor on the Stargazer…) – Picard had done a remote med scan, but there was some sort of problem, and he just needs good old Moritz to sign off on his health so he can go back into space. While Picard’s results were at or above Starfleet minimum, there’s the matter that pesky little defect in his parietal lobe, which can cause bad dreams, loss of appetite, irritability… and outbursts that get broadcast Federation-wide. There are a few different things it could be and they will need to do more scans and tests before there’s a specific diagnosis – and of course, we’re all thinking Irumodic Syndrome at this point – but regardless of the exact affiliation, “they all end the same way.” But Picard presses on – he wants to be certified as “fit for interstellar service.” Dr. Benayoun doesn’t understand it, but he signs off.
So, certificate in hand (metaphorically), Picard goes to Starfleet headquarters, where a holo of the Enterprise-D is on display, but the receptionist doesn’t recognize him. Picard attends his meeting with Admiral Kirsten Clancy (Ann Magnuson), where he spills all the beans – Data, Bruce Maddox, Romulans – and asks to be temporarily reinstated to investigate. He’ll need a small ship, a minimal crew, and will even willingly be demoted to Captain. Well, she rips him a new one. After what he’s said, there’s no way that Starfleet would trust him. And what he doesn’t seem to understand is that even before the Synethics attacked Mars, fourteen member species threatened to leave the Federation if they didn’t “cut the Romulans loose.” (New info alert! Trouble inside the Federation!) Picard is flabbergasted, “The Federation does not get to decide if a species lives or dies.” The Admiral thinks otherwise. And their fight over the ideals of the Federation continues. “Request denied.”
The researchers on the Borg Cube – or the “Borg Artifact Research Institute” – still don’t know exactly how much damage this Cube sustained, but have to wear specific gradient badges when crossing into “the grey zone,” where they are likely to encounter former Borg, or XBs. Yet, they’re positive that it’s impossible that the Borg would ever try to reestablish their link to this Cube. (They are so sure, in fact, that I’m convinced they must be incorrect.) Narek asks Soji if he can watch her work – he’s curious about their reclamation procedures – but she says that he’d need approval from the head of the Borg Reclamation Project. In fact, he does not.
Picard’s invited Dr. Jurati over for tea, and they continue to talk about Maddox’s work. Jurati even posits that it would “make sense” for Maddox to model new android’s on Data’s paintings, since they were “friends.” And Dahj? She has the grades and the paper trail, but there’s no history of her ever actually attending the programs that her records say she did. It seems her entire identity was carefully constructed, about 3 years ago But the most important question for both Jurati and Picard is: Where is Dahj’s sister and what is she up to?
On the Cube, Soji and her Romulan colleagues are removing the Borg implants from “nameless” former drones. She objects to that moniker: “Their species had a name, we just don’t know what it is.” Yet, Soji can somehow speaks the native language of this XB, which draws Narek’s attention.
In his study, Picard takes out his old communicator. After a few moments of contemplation, he puts in on, activates it, and calls someone named Raffi. He needs a ship.
At Starfleet Headquarters, Admiral Clancy is filling in Commodore Oh (Tamlyn Tomita), a Vulcan, on her meeting with Picard. Maddox, androids, synths, clandestine Romulan operations… They call is “sad,” even “tragic.” Oh believes that “if the Romulans were running covert operations on Earth, I would know.” But she promises to check it out anyway. This Vulcan doesn’t seem like other Vulcans – she seems uncomfortable. And when the call ends, she immediately calls for a Lt. Rizzo.
Laris is furious with Picard and his scheme to go looking for Soji, but he’s going anyway. He has to help. She tells him to take Zhaban with him, but Picard doesn’t want to put them at risk. He needs a crew: “Riker, Worf, La Forge.” (Not the women?) Picard knows they’d all help him in an instant, but this isn’t a reunion show he can’t let them put themselves at risk out of loyalty. “Okay, you need someone who hates you and has nothing to lose.” Not to worry – he’s already asked.
When Lt. Rizzo (Peyton List), a Human woman, arrives at the Commodore’s office, Oh is looking at the footage from the explosion that injured Picard. She magnifies a section and asks if a reflection looks like disruptor fire. Lt. Rizzo says no…. But the Commodore tells Rizzo what Picard knows, and some of the information she didn’t even get from Admiral Clancy. Rizzo offers to “take care of” Picard. No, not yet. Clancy has discouraged Picard, but if the need arises, Oh will take care of it. It was Rizzo’s team that killed Dahj before she could be studied or questioned, and almost blew their cover. They only have one more chance, and Oh wants her to manage it in person. But not to worry – Rizzo has put her best man on it.
Picard’s taken a taxi shuttle to Vasquez Rocks, wine in hand, looking for Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd), who hasn’t responded to his messages. She walks out of her trailer pointing a weapon at him, demanding he leave. Picard just wants to talk, but she doesn’t want to hear it. He turns his back and starts to walk away, while mentioning, “Secret Romulan assassins are operating on Earth…” Raffi asks what vintage he brought (she specifically asks if it’s the ’86 – a year we don’t know too much about yet), then turns off her phaser. That’s the closest thing to a welcome he’s going to get.
Rizzo’s checking in oh her best man: Her brother, Narek. She’s not fully comfortable with his approach, and they can’t afford to lose Commodore Oh as an ally. Rizzo asks if he’s “found the nest” or learned the location of “its fellow abominations.” So, if the Zhat Vash are to be believed, there are more androids left than just Soji. Rizzo’s on her way to the Cube, and they’ll be doing things her way if he hasn’t made progress by the time she arrives.