In Star Trek: Picard Episode 9, “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1,” the penultimate episode of Season 1, Picard faces giant space flowers, 80s androids, and begins to grow a heart.
This recap of Star Trek: Picard season 1, episode 9, “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
At two points in Star Trek: Picard Episode 9, I feared we’d already jumped the shark. And it had nothing to do with space orchids flying out of a new planet and taking down the La Sirena, a Romulan interceptor, and a pursuing Borg cube. That in itself sounds like the beginning of a weird Trekkie joke you’d find at 3am in a bar at a second-tier convention: “a rogue ship, a Romulan, and a Borg Cube all drop out of warp…” and the punch line is that space flowers kick all their butts. Seriously–not the thing that nearly drove me over the edge.
What did it for me was when an android mind-melded and when Brent Spiner returned (this should be a yay! moment, but alas) as another Soong. First, the easiest and yet most head-smacking moment for me: an android mind-melded. Have we moved into Doctor Who? I’d be fine with it there–the TARDIS and the Doctor have a psychic/telepathic/empathic link (let alone the plethora of psychic paper out there). However, in Star Trek, I’m fairly sure that circuitry cannot have a telepathic link. Data could learn how to give a Vulcan neck pinch, but a synthetic being cannot mind-meld.
Next, we could use more Brent Spiner in Star Trek – please don’t get me wrong on this. He’s phenomenal. Lore could have returned (in fact, this is what I was predicting) so that we could get more Spiner. However, we get another Soong relation. The Soongs are apparently like Spock’s family – there’s always another brother somewhere out there. Star Trek: Enterprise already gave us this; we got more than enough Soong in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Moreover, it’s a cop-out after Maddox is credited with being the father of Soji and Dahj. This is lazy writing. After Discovery inexplicably dug out another long lost relation of Spock’s, we have another relative of Data and his creator. This isn’t working.
That being said, the rest of Star Trek: Picard Episode 9 had some solid elements – and that includes the mighty space orchids.
The end of last week’s episode brought us to Soji and Dahj’s homeworld with Narek in pursuit – although we’ve got the Seven of Nine-piloted Borg Cube pursuing him. Then, up from the planet comes space flowers. These orchids envelop them, cut the power, and then Picard passes out. Some of the craziest imagery Star Trek has ever seen, and I loved it. I loved the ridiculousness of it, the beauty of the effects. It brings them down on Coppelius, Soji’s world, and after Picard passes out, Dr. Jurati scans him and finds out about his anomalous brain issue (see the Star Trek: The Next Generation finale “All Good Things”). Picard tells them he’s got a terminal brain condition and he doesn’t want sympathy, because it’ll “**** him off.” That doesn’t stop Raffi from telling her friend she loves him, which he gruffly–and wonderfully–acknowledges. In the midst of some of the poor, poor plotting of this series, they’ve done a great job of characterization, especially of late.
The crew of the La Sirena walks to the crashed Borg cube then meets Seven and Elnor. Picard tells Elnor he’s proud and then they leave. I am still truly perplexed at this odd usage of side characters and subplots. Seven has her scary hero moment last episode, becoming a Borg queen to stop Narissa, then the rug is pulled out from under her; she pursues Narek to save Picard, then the space flowers bring her down–why is she here? Obviously, we still have another episode, but it’s such strange story construction.
Picard and company trek to Soji’s home and, in one of the best callbacks to TOS and TNG yet, we meet a utopic community filled with scantily clad people. The production and costume design is straight out of the season 1 TNG episode “Justice.” It’s wonderful and subtle. This is a synthetic utopia, filled with beautiful, gold-flecked people in skimpy clothes, led by the aforementioned Dr. Altan Inigo Soong and the late Bruce Maddox. And this utopia is about to face 218 Romulan Warbirds reigning down destruction upon the planet.
We meet Soji’s golden doppelganger Sutra (also played by Isa Briones) in Star Trek: Picard Episode 9. Where Dahj and Soji are made to wholly imitate humanity, Sutra (the twin of Jana, whose death traumatized Rios) is eerie and deeply sinister, with Data’s yellow eyes and golden skin. She somehow mind-melds with Agnes (despite being a synthetic…) and reveals that synthetics are the next step of evolution and waiting for humanity to destroy itself. There’s a higher order of synthetic life out there (synth gods?) that will come to assist their fellow synths when called. They will bring with them a perfection to the universe that organics fear—anyone else getting notes of Borg in this vintage? Maybe these are the only ones the Borg could ever be afraid of, and Seven will use the Borg to fight them off?
The synths bring Narek and lock him up, and Soji confronts her deceitful lover: “You disgust me, Narek. But not as much as I disgust myself for pitying you.” It’s a good line, as Soji finally stands up to the man who’d tricked her for so long. Unfortunately, Sutra helps Narek escape and kill one of her own and uses it as a rallying cry to destroy organics. This is what the Admonition meant when it said synthetics were the Destroyers. This also mirrors the actions that the Zhad Vash took in ordering the synth attack on Mars—essentially, by attempting to prevent a synth uprising they have guaranteed one. Now that’s good storytelling. Just leave out the extraneous Soongs, please.
I must say, connections to Discovery must be made; otherwise, we’re in danger of Star Trek being one-note storytelling. All last year, Discovery built up the evil Control (an Artificial Intelligence bent on destruction, huzzah!) as their big bad, and the only way that it could be destroyed was by sending it so far into the future that it couldn’t get them anymore (I love this, by the way, as it’s propelling Discovery into a whole new world of story possibilities). However, we’re just getting more of the same here. Is AI the only thing to deal with in the Star Trek world? What about the stories of humanity, of society, of culture? What about the mirror it must hold up to ourselves? Of course, we can glean some of that from Picard, but it’s still the same mirror that Discovery held up. Now, if this is part of an interwoven, interconnected, greater Star Trek universe plan that will transcend individual series’–I am on board all the way! Otherwise, Star Trek is in danger of becoming a one-trick franchise. But alas, such is the inevitable problem of penultimate episodes: it’s all set up, no payoff. So I can’t fully judge yet.
I look forward to the conclusion, to answers, and I hope that it’s not all space battles and that we see more introspection, more growth, more character. More Picard.
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Tyler is a teacher, librarian and the Co-host of The Geek Card Check Podcast. He has been a Film Critic for Ready Steady Cut since 2018.