In episode 8, we learn more about the mission of the Zhat Vash, Agnes wakes up from her coma and Picard and Soji return to La Sirena. Rios discovers that he has a connection to Soji, while Seven arrives on the Artifact to help Elnor and the xBs.
In this episode, we also discover that Rios is heavily influenced by the Danish philosopher Søren Kirkegaard. I read Nietzche to recap Netflix’s Dark. I guess I’ll be exploring Kierkegaard for Picard. If you haven’t seen Dark, go watch it while you’re self-quarantined for the coronavirus and wondering how your life came to this!
The episode begins with images of the nebula that also appeared in Picard’s dream from the pilot. In this dream, Picard drank tea and played poker with Data while Bing Crosby sang Blue Skies. Data held 5 queens of hearts in his hand. Then Mars exploded. Every one of these things has become important in some way, which I’ll go over later. Now we discover the nebula is the home of the Admonition, the warning about synthetic life which gives the Zhat Vash its mission.
Commodore Oh showed a version of the Admonitiion to Agnes back on Earth in order to recruit her as a spy. In Broken Pieces, Oh brings her Zhat Vash recruits directly to the source so they can experience the undiluted message.
No Blue Skies in this flashback to 14 years ago, the year of the Mars attack. This is a dead planet, named Aia, the grief world.
Instead, Commodore Oh tells us the history of the Zhat Vash: “Our foremothers came to this system looking for an answer to the riddle of the Eightfold stars. What they found was a storehouse of preserved memories that showed them the grim fate of the civilization that perished here long ago. We still do not know the name of the mighty race who left behind this object, this Admonition, warning us of the horror and annihilation that came from the skies. When our foremothers first endured the Admonition, we, the Zhat Vash, were born. For hundreds of years since, we have worked in shadow to prevent a second coming of the Destroyers. It is this dreaded work that you must now carry on. What you are about to experience will drive some of you mad. But those of you who endure will be stronger. Witness the devastation that must be prevented. Endure the Admonition, if you can.”
She speaks to a circle of ten women in hooded black robes who surround a glowing pool of light which has a rail made of energy around it. Narissa and Ramdha are among them. When she finishes, the women touch their hands to the energy rail and endure the harsh imagery which Agnes went through in her mind meld with Oh. This series of images includes an image of an older android which turns into Data.
When the flood of apocalyptic devastation is done, only Narissa is standing. Ramdha is on her knees, tearing her hair out in madness. The other women have all killed themselves or passed out in horror. Narissa asks Oh how they can stop this from happening. Oh tells her they’ll start on Mars.
Narissa helps Ramdha to her feet and says, “Auntie, we have our work to do.”
The Mars attack was planned on Aia, a planet in the Eightfold star system. Raffi’s conspiracy theory connects the attack to the Conclave of Eight (her son mentioned the phrase in his accusations).
In the present day, Narissa visits with Ramdha on the Artifact. Ramdha is still unconscious after the suicide attempt that followed her meeting with Soji and the recognition that she had met Seb-Cheneb, the Destroyer. Narissa teases that Ramdha is malingering, then repeats what Narek told Soji- there is no medically apparent reason for Ramdha’s coma, but she was a troubled soul even before the Admonishment and Borg affected her mind.
Narissa, with affection and pride: “It was folly, taking in Narek and me after our parents died. And sheer madness, submitting yourself for Admonishment. Though when you lost your mind, you certainly did it with panache. Breaking a Borg cube by the sheer force of your despair? The Collective picked the wrong Tal Shiar ship to assimilate that day. They ought to have picked mine. I’d have made a much better Borg than you. ‘Resistance is futile.’ [Said with deliberate swagger.] Narek’s located the synthetic’s nest. I’ve dispatched ships. I’ll be joining them, as soon as I’ve shut down this house of horrors. If you wake up, you can come along. We have our work to do.”
She kisses Ramdha on the side of the head, then touches her communicator and demands that her guards tell her they’ve found the “freak”, Elnor. The guard responds, “Yes, Colonel.”
This is the first time we’ve heard what Narissa’s Romulan rank is. It’s much higher than her Starfleet rank of Lieutenant.
Narissa refers to the Artifact and the rest of the xBs as a house of horrors, who she loathes, and Elnor, a man from a group of female warriors, as a freak. But in Narissa’s mind, Ramdha, who is also an xB, is still her beloved aunt, despite her madness and disfigurement.
As a career black ops soldier, Narissa can’t afford to get attached to many people. She’s brave, loyal and devoted to her cause and to a few people- Ramdha, Narek and Oh, in that order. She values the same qualities in the people around her and doesn’t put up with cowardice, failure or betrayal.
Narek and Ramdha are rewarded with the double edged sword of Narissa’s absolute devotion and possessiveness. Though she’s mentioned the loss of her parents, she doesn’t mention the loss of her brother. Narek might have lied about him to gain Soji’s confidence, since the synth had just lost a sister.
The Romulan guards have tracked Elmor to where he’s hiding in Hugh’s office. Narissa orders an attack, forcing Elnor to fight the whole squad at once. It looks like this might be his final hopeless cause until phaser fire begins evening the odds.
Seven has arrived in response to the Febris Rangers SOS signal which Elnor sent in episode 7. Once they’ve taken out the squad of Romulan guards, Seven asks where Hugh is and why the cube is in chaos. Elnor throws himself at her in a giant hug.
After the opening credits, we join the La Sirena, already in progress. Rios and Soji are staring at each other, seemingly in a trance. Picard only notices Rios’ speechlessness and yells at him to snap out of it.
Raffi is wandering by when all three of them tune into what Picard’s saying- he’s not telling Rios to pay attention to introductions. He’s saying that he needs a secure subspace link to Starfleet Command and he wants to know where the nearest Starbase is. The other three are shocked, because, say it with me, Synths are banned and they have a synth on board.
Now the fun starts. We’ve had numerous references to ghosts, all season long. (The best was Narek’s long graveyard metaphor in episode 2. Agnes in the Daystrom Institute lab in the pilot wins number 2.) That wasn’t just because of Dahj and Data and Mars.
Rios looks like he’s seen a ghost because he thinks he’s looking at one. He tells Picard that he’ll take them to Deep Space 12, then he’s done with this Cruise of the D@–ed. He runs from them, but in a calm and captainly manner.
Soji is done playing the nice, patient girl- can you blame her? She turns to Picard to remind him that he’s supposed to take her home and the nearest Starbase is not her home. She’s not letting this old man sidetrack her, no matter what his reputation is.
Thankfully, eating the food grown in the regenerative soil of Nepenthe has rejuvenated Picard a bit, because absolutely no one on this ship is giving him an easy time of it today. Except Agnes, the murderer who’s still in a coma. It’s time for Captain Granddad to step up and show us why he deserves his reputation.
He explains to Soji that they can’t take on both the Romulans who will already be following them and whatever they’ll find on the Synth planet without backup. He says that she has no choice but to trust him, which he knows is infuriating, but that’s the best he can do right now.
He tries to take her to her new quarters, but Raffi jumps to the front of the confrontation queue. They have the kind argument that can only be had by fellow survivors of a terrible struggle that nearly broke them. He remembers his Enterprise crew fondly because those really were the good old days in comparison.
This means that Raffi knows Jean Luc Picard in a way that only his family knew him. She knows the whole person, not just the aloof hero. And now she challenges him for the poor decisions he’s been making.
She questioned him when he brought Agnes on board without having Raffi fully vet the scientist first. At the time, she let it go because she wanted to think of herself as more of a passenger to Freecloud instead of part of the crew.
That mistake ended with the death of Bruce Maddox, Agnes’ suicide attempt, and a Romulan spy on their tail. Those are major failures, yet Picard left his crew to deal with the mess he’d created while he rested on Nepenthe.
Now that they’ve handled it, he’s waltzing onto the ship with another potential mess that he clearly hasn’t thought through.
Raffi is so totally always right about everything and so totally not going to let him get away with it again.
She explains to Picard about Agnes the killer spy, who had a veridium tracker in her system of the kind favored by the Vulcans (like Oh), but he doubts her theories until the EMH verifies them.
Wow. He wants to believe the word of the holo over the word of his first officer. He’s really sunk to the point where he tries to choose which truth he wants to hear.
At least the EMH finally gets a chance to tell the crew that Agnes turned off the machines that were saving Bruce’s life and to give his medical opinion that Bruce shouldn’t have died. Jean Luc, however, dismisses both Raffi and Emil the EMH, saying that Agnes can be excused for murdering Bruce because she was distressed.
What? WHAT?! I swear, eventually we will find out that Agnes is Picard’s long, lost biological daughter and something inside him always knew it. At the same time, we’ll discover that Bruce cloned Soji and Dahj from Agnes, so they are her daughters and technically Jean Luc’s biological granddaughters, in addition to being Data’s daughters.
It’s the only excuse for the prescient dream and favoritism. Well, that and the ongoing Borg subspace connection, but they are playing fast and loose with whether or not that exists and how strong it is.
More importantly, Kirk got a long lost biological child. It’s only fair that Jean Luc gets one as well. Jean Luc’s child has to be a cooler scientist and spy and live longer than Kirk’s son, because Kirk and Picard are the Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood of Star Trek.
Raffi brings her argument around to the bottom line: Picard doesn’t actually know much about Soji and Soji doesn’t know herself. They can’t be sure of her motives.
She storms off to tell Rios what’s going on, hoping it’ll feel better to make him see the truth about Agnes the killer spy. Picard goes to his study to dial up Kirsten Clancy and gloat that he was right all along about everything, including the danger to the
He keeps forgetting the synth ban and that he hasn’t proven the synths didn’t start the attack on Mars. Clancy has Oh whispering in her ear, reminding her that synths can’t be trusted in the long run. He’s belligerent with Clancy again, finishing by saying she’s a waste of space if she doesn’t do exactly what he wants.
Clancy tells him to shut the f— up, because she’ sending a squadron to rendezvous with him at DS 12. But she signs off directly afterward, without making any further plans. She pointedly doesn’t say what she’s sending the ships to so once they meet him. Will they be helping Soji or arresting her?
And she doesn’t say who’ll be in charge of the squadron. Since Narissa also doubles as Starfleet Lt. Rizzo, who reports to Security Chief Oh, she could tackle this matter.
Gold, especially golden light and maybe candle light, seems to signify safety, but I have a feeling it also often means a false sense of safety. There’s golden light streaming in the fake “windows” of Picard’s study, but it, like Clancy, is holographic. Picard could be talking to someone else who’s hiding behind a Clancy avatar from a Starfleet location. Even if it is Clancy, Oh might have done the same kind of coerced mind meld on her that she did on Agnes. Only on Clancy, Oh probably renews it every month or 2.
Bottom line, I will be shocked if Clancy sends a squadron of Starfleet ships anywhere that actually helps Picard protect Soji and her relatives, but stranger things have happened. Picard’s dream does foreshadow the Enterprise showing up to help.
Raffi finds someone who looks like Rios sitting in her bridge chair at the helm, messing with the navigation screens, so she sits in the captain’s chair and tells him that Jurati had a tracker in her and killed Bruce. He sure is sorry to hear such bad news.
Raffi says, “Yeah, unless you like giant, all-encompassing, paranoid conspiracy theories. Then it’s, you know, kind of awesome, you know, in a horrible way.”
As long as only fictional people are hurt, I’m thrilled when it all comes together. I suspect Raffi was also thrilled to see 15 years worth of conspiracies, for which she’s lost a lot, finally falling into place.
“Rios” points out that they should try to find something positive in the situation.
Raffi figures out that she is not speaking to Original Flavor Chris Rios. Emergency Navigation Holo Enoch introduces himself. I believe the last time we saw him he was removing a rogue tracker from the navigation system before the trip started. Wonder who could have put that there?
Enoch says that after Rios laid in the coordinates for Deep Space 12, he activated all of the holos and locked himself in his quarters. Enoch thinks Soji’s name is Jana and doesn’t know why Rios is upset about her. He wants Raffi to quiz him about astronavigation.
Raffi does have a question, actually- she’s noticed the Romulans repeatedly drawing a figure with eight dots inside 3 intersected circles. Enoch tells her that it seems like an attempt to depict an octonary, which is a planetary system composed of eight component stars. He pulls up Nu Scorpii, which is a septenary system (7 stars), which are extremely rare.
Then he remembers seeing some accounts of one octonary in ancient Romulan star atlases, but they are considered apocryphal (of uncertain origin and veracity) and don’t appear in modern charts.
Enoch: “The gravitational mechanics would have to be incredibly complex.”
Raffi has been thinking that the Conclave of 8 must refer to the people who attacked Mars, but now she realizes that it’s the place where they met.
Narissa finds the remains of Elnor’s escape and the Fenris Ranger SOS card.
Seven and Elnor go to the queencell. Elnor tells Seven that Picard released him from his vow. He stayed on the Artifact because he found a cause even more hopeless than Picard’s. Seven activates the cell’s holo controls, then tells the cube to wake up and repair itself. Thousands of machine drones get started on repairing the physical structure of the cube.
Narissa and a Romulan Centurion figure out what’s happening to the cube. They decide to kill the xBs and Borg drones still in stasis.
Soji and Picard eat a meal together on La Sirena. Soji tells Picard that she has no idea what her preferences are or who she is, because she’s lost what she thought was her life’s story. Picard has no idea what that’s like, but tries to understand. He tells her that she does have a past and a story, waiting to be claimed.
Soji realizes that he means Data and asks him to tell her about the android. Picard tells her that Data was brave, curious, gentle, wise, pure, and funny, in a sweet way.
Soji: “And you loved him.”
Picard: “Yes, in my way.”
Soji: “Did he love you?
Picard: “Data’s capactity for expressing and processing emotion was limited. I suppose we had that in common.”
Soji: “If I could see you with his eyes, with his memories, what would I see?”
Picard: “How would I know that?”
Soji: “What do you hope I would see? How do you wish he would remember you?”
Picard: “You mean if he had survived me, rather than the other way around. I hope he would remember Jean Luc Picard as someone who believed in him. Who believed in his potential. Celebrated his successes. Counseled him when he fell short. Helped him if he needed help. And if he didn’t need it, got out of his way. Words to that effect.”
Soji thinks for a moment. “He loved you.”
Soji continues eating, while Picard has some complicated feelings.
Soji may not have been programmed to find Jean Luc Picard in an emergency, the way that Dahj was, but she does have an instinctive chemistry with him. After watching that scene, which healed something inside each of them, I have no doubt that she’s Data’s daughter and that she and Picard need more time together to continue healing each other. Soji needs someone to tell her family stories about Data that might otherwise be lost to her. Picard needs to be reminded of the good he’s done in the world, and can still do, by someone who doesn’t hold any resentment toward him for his past mistakes.
And they both need a lot of hugs from people who truly care about them, while being told it’s okay just to be the person they are.
Raffi finds the engineering holo, known as Ian, who is, of course, Scottish. Was there any doubt? But this makes me wonder if Montgomery Scott was really an Emergency Engineering Hologram with an amazing mobile emitter. Think about it- he lived in a transporter pattern buffer for decades…
Ian tells Raffi that Soji is a very upsetting sight for the original Rios, so he’s still holed up alone in his quarters. But Ian doesn’t know why the sight of Soji is so upsetting for Rios, he only knows that it’s true.
Raffi confirms with Ian that octonary star systems are virtually never naturally occurring. She figures out that someone would only go to the trouble of creating one if they had something important to say, like a warning. Thinking about that kind of huge warning gets her spidey senses tingling, and not in a good way.
She goes to her quarters and tries to order a drink but Mr Hospitality reminds her that she’s disabled the alcohol service controls and the backup controls as well. Raffi asks him how Rios is. Hospitality suggests that Rios could use a friend. She asks if the emergemcy holos are all linked to Rios.
Mr Hospitality: “When Captain Rios acquired La Sirena, he selected the self-scan option. He claims it was an sccident, but he never bothered to revert it, so…”
Raffi: “So you’re all Rios, overlaid on the 5 basic installs?”
Hospitality: “Not, not, not precisely. He went in later and made some deletions. Careless ones, I must say. Ask me the proper temperature for making Yridean tea. I no longer have any idea. In any case.”
I would bet a lot that the deletions are very far from random. Remember the rogue navigation program the ENH had to scrub?
Rios is very, very drunk. The camera takes us into his room for the first time and lets us snoop around a bit. There’s a collection of sirens/mermaids from around the world (galaxy?). He has more books of existential philosophy on his shelf in addition to the Tragic Sense of Life, including The Stranger by Albert Camus, Death in the Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway, Casebook on Existentialism by William V Spanos, The Concept of Dread by Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling/ The Sickness Unto Health by Søren Kierkegaard, The Rebel by Albert Camus.
Surak and Existentialism by Nicolaus Notabene, a fictional book from the future, lies on the shelf next to a ceramic blue siren. Surak was a great Vulcan philosopher, peacemaker and scientist.
Rios is not into light reading. He is exploring approaches to life, death and murder that range from the casual emotional detachment of a psychopath who acts alone to a cultural way of life that involves passion and rich tradition to mainstream philosophies with and without moral codes or belief in any meaning in life.
Rios has big questions and has split himself into 6 pieces trying to answer them. Kierkegaard did the same, writing under numerous pseudonyms to explore various points of view, so that may be a reason for the multiple hologram Rios. Maybe when no one is looking, they take all of the sides of a philosophical debate.
I would pay to see a Short Trek of this. Obviously Emmett takes the Ernest Hemingway POV.
Now Rios turns to his impossible box of memories and keepsakes to put himself back together. Or make himself worse. On the La Sirena, things tend to go both ways at once.
Rios pulls out an old Starfleet storage locker and opens it. His Starfleet uniform is on top. A collection of vinyl albums is next to it. Inside a duffle bag is a red cigar box. Before Rios opens it, Raffi buzzes him and asks if he wants company, as Mr Hospitality strongly suggested. Rios tells her to bug off, so she does. These are private memories.
More importantly, we are about to get to know Rios better. But the first versions of his story that we’re going to receive will be through the hearsay and broken recollections of his holograms, then his own hazy, drunken visions of his possessions. Pay attention to the lighting in his room. More than just being in the dark, Rios is literally in a filmy haze in this sequence.
Inside the cigar box, we can see the old pips from his uniform, a shiny rock, a small alien skull about the size of a cat’s, his old com badge, a photo of himself with the captain of the Ibn Majid and a drawing. He takes the drawing out to look at. It’s a simple pen and ink sketch of himself sitting next to a woman who looks like Soji. He gasps, in tears when he unfolds the paper.
Red is real. It says “real” on the cigar box, just in case we’ve forgotten. These are the most real things in Rios’ life.
Back in the queencell, Seven pulls up a screen which shows the life signs of the reclaimed xBs and the thousands of Borg drones who are still in stasis. Elnor encourages her to wake them up, but it’s not that simple. They’ll be lost and unable to function as individuals without going through
rehab the reclamation process to sever their dependence on the Collective.
Seven considers waking them up and forming a microcollective on the Artifact, but finds the idea repulsive. It would allow the drones to function under her control, but they would be enslaved once again. Elnor tries to convince her that it’s worth the sacrifice for a short time, if it means they survive. They can reclaim the drones once they’ve gotten rid of the Romulans.
Seven explains that the drones won’t want to be released. Even worse, she’s worried that once she’s hooked back up to the Borg network, she won’t want to release them.
Raffi calls all five of La Sirena’s emergency holograms together in Picard’s study to conference about what has broken Rios. She sees them as his broken pieces, or the five cards in his poker hand, but she can’t quite get all of the cards to flip face up.
We’ve seen these images someplace before. Add 6 broken Rios, 10 fallen Zhat Vash after the Admonition and a collection of sirens to the pile.
Mr Hospitality helps Raffi lead the meeting. Emmett keeps dozing off, though he seems to remember more than anyone else, perhaps because he uses a different, more kinesthetic, part of Rios brain from the others.
Raffi discovers that the captain of the Ibn Majid, Alonzo Vandermeer, shot himself in the head. Collectively, the holos remember Jana and that what happened on the Ibn Majid with her and the captain was the tragedy that caused Rios to have a breakdown after he left the ship. But all of the official records concerning the matter are classified.
The holos feel the ghost of understanding and knowledge about what happened somewhere in their code, but as soon as they try to consciously pull it up, rather than speaking before they think, it disappears.
There’s the word ghost in connection to Soji again.
When the holos get too close to information that someone didn’t want them to know, the lights in their eyes do their processing flicker and the information is gone. At one point, the eyes of all 5 holos flicker at once. It’s as if they’ve been whammied with a psychic block so that they can’t talk about it.
I wonder if there was a Vulcan member of the Zhat Vash stationed on the Ibn Majid, or if Oh tracks down and zaps all commanding and first officers as early as possible in their assignments. If she’s from the mirror universe she would have extra mind meld powers. That would also explain her sunglasses, since the mirror universe has a different light spectrum.
Speaking of mind melds used for evil purposes, Agnes is finally awake. She opens her eyes to Jean Luc staring down at her with his disappointed Admiral face. He tells her that the Tal Shiar are no longer tracking them, but he expects her to turn herself in for Bruce’s death when they get to DS 12. She nods her head, yes, confirming her guilt.
He asks how she could have done this to someone she used to be close to. Agnes explains that she had no choice. Commodore Oh found her before the mission and did things to her. Picard’s voice drips with a belittling tone as he repeats her story, clearly assuming that Oh’s rank disqualifies her from any suspicion of wrongdoing. And that there’s no way someone could or would have coerced Agnes into doing something she didn’t want to do.
Agnes goes on to explain that she’s not only talking about the tracker. Oh poisoned her mind as well as poisoning her body with the viridium, then put in a psychic block to stop her from talking about it.
Picard immediately tells her that she has to talk about it, apparently not comprehending what the words “psychic block” mean. Agnes snaps at him that she doesn’t want to talk about it, but then she gradually does.
I have a feeling that the near death experience or the uranium or both may have weakened Oh’s block enough that Agnes can work around it.
I’m so glad that Agnes yelled at him. At the beginning of this episode, we watched 9 out of 10 women, who were prepared for the experience, kill themselves or go mad from the Admonition. This is the same information that Oh forced on Agnes without warning.
Agnes has been functioning fairly normally, but is now recovering from a suicide attempt. Picard doesn’t get to tell her what she needs to do to recover. She’s clearly trying to do what she can to help, now that’s she’s free from Oh’s mind control.
He clearly puts her in the category of hysterical woman, but she keeps talking. She explains that the visions Oh showed her in the mind meld was like living through H–l. The images happened thousands of centuries ago because a culture invented synthetic life. The galaxy is now at the same threshold reached by that ancient culture. Unless they destroy even the possibility of synthetic life, the same horror will destroy them.
Picard: “And this threshold…”
Soji: “Is the coming of Seb Cheneb, the Destroyer. Me.”
Rios is listening to Billie Holiday sing “Solitude” on the record player. Raffi comes in and gets him a drink from the replicator, then asks about Captain Vandermeer.
Rios: “I used to pretend he was my father. Called him ‘Pops” in my head. Couple of times it almost slipped out. Kind of a surprise when he turned out to be a cold-blooded murderer.”
Raffi: “Who did he murder?”
Rios: “We were way the heck out in the Vayt sector. Picked up a diplomatic mission. Out of nowhere, tiny ship, unknown design. Two passengers. We scanned them. They checked out. We sent the info to Starfleet and notified them of a first contact. Then we beamed them on board. The ambassador, Beautiful Flower, and his young protege.”
Rios: “We shake hands. We sit down, have a bite to eat. A few hours later, Alonzo Vandemeer kills them both in cold blood. He takes them both out with two quick pops of a phaser.”
Rios: “It was a black flag directive, straight from Starfleet Security. He told me they said if he disobeyed, the Ibn Majid would be destroyed with all hands. I went at him hard. Pretty hard. That’s when he put the phaser in his mouth and pulled the trigger. Raffi, then I covered it up. Like he was supposed to do. So it wouldn’t all be for nothing. So they woulgn’t blow up the Ibn Majid and everyone on it. I beamed the bodies into space. Deleted it from the transporter log. Let the whole fleet know that Alonzo Vandermeer had killed himself for no reason at all. Six months later, I was out of Starfleet. They called it Post-Traumatic Dysphoria. But I was just…”
Raffi: “Broken. I’m so sorry, babe.”
Rios, showing her the drawing: “When that girl beamed aboard today, I mean, Raffi, it’s the same girl. The other one sketched it while we were talking.”
Raffi: “They were synths, that’s why they had to die. Chris, who gave the order?”
(In the other scene, Soji answers for him- Commodore Oh, of course.)
I question Chris’ memories of this story, based on the fact that it only took one pop from a phaser to kill Jana. That should have either activated her, if she wasn’t already, or made her angry. I don’t think there’s been a Star Trek synth yet who would have been more than minimally affected by one hit from a phaser. More on this later.
Meeting Soji, the flesh and blood synth with a positronic brain that was created through fractal cloning, has been the dream that’s kept Agnes going through this horror. Agnes is still fragile, but she sits up and questions Soji about her physical habits. She’s thrilled to discover that Soji sleeps, eats, drinks and cries whenever she feels the biological need. And to see the unique qualities that her flesh body has allowed Soji, unlike the synths who came before her.
Agnes refers to Soji as “a wonder. A technological masterpiece and a work of art.” But what Soji really wants to know, from the medical doctor/robotics expert/person who saw the synth doomsday scenario, is, “Am I a person? Not in theory. To you, right now, looking at me, talking to me. Do you consider me to be a person, like you?”
When Agnes doesn’t answer, Soji figures out that Oh ordered Agnes to kill her. She says that she’ll never give Agnes the chance to do so. Agnes promises that she would never try, now that she knows Soji.
Narissa, on the other hand, has been impatiently waiting for the chance to kill as many xBs and drones as possible and today is her day. She races through the Artifact’s labs, firing as she goes, sparing none. When Elnor shows Seven that the Borg life signs are going dark, her mind is made up.
Seven instructs the cube to attach to her as the Borg Queen. Cables attach to her spine and her eyes turn black. She says, “We are Borg.”
Yikes. Haven’t heard that line from her in a while.
Narissa and her Centurion have already made plans to vent the helpless drones still in stasis into space. When they see the cube activate under the Queen’s orders, they open up the sections under Romulan control and send thousands of drones into the frozen void.
Soji helps Agnes out to the main section of the ship. Agnes announces that she’s done murdering people and will turn herself in at DS 12. She apologizes for ruining the atmospere on the ship, since they were the closest she’s had to a crew, ever. Jean Luc nods in acknowledgement.
No one acknowledges that she was coerced into her actions.
Rios apologizes to Soji for earlier and brings her peppermint ice cream with French fries because he knows she loves it. He also says he thinks it’s disgusting. The boys on the ship need to work on their manners and compassion.
Raffi begins the staff meeting. She’s going to explain her entire conspiracy theory as it currently stands, now with added proof from everyone at the table.
She starts with the octonary and the Admonition. They interpret the warning to be that the people who built the octonary also created synthetic life, which took them across a threshold of synthetic evolution. When you cross that dividing line someone shows up to visit you, just like the Vulcans showed up on Earth when the warp drive was invented. Only with synthetic life, someone really bad shows up.
I want to note here that right now this is open to interpretation. We haven’t been shown anything in the visions that looks like an avenging or conquering monster, just lots of chaos and destruction. And the Zhat Vash have taken credit for all of the terrible things that have happened so far.
Raffi continues, with help from the gang: The Romulans believe in the Admonition and created the Zhat Vash to seek out and destroy all synthetic life. When, 30 or 40 years ago, Noonian Soong began creating his synths, the Romulans sent in the half-Romulan Vulcan named Oh.
She was embedded deep into Starfleet and rose to head of Security. Her mission is to stop Starfleet’s research and development of synthetic life-forms. She engineered the attack on Mars, figuring that it would be so huge, destructive and terrifying that she would get her ban on synths. And it worked.
Then 9 years ago the Ibn Majid made first contact with Beautiful Flower and Jana. The Zhat Vash have been searching for their planet ever since.
Soji gets upset that she’s leading the enemy to her homeworld. She breaks the table, then goes to the bridge, deactivates the EHs and lays in a new course. Rios tries to stop her, but she’s put up a force field and locked him out. Soji tells him that she’ll give him his ship back as soon as she gets them to her planet. She thinks that he couldn’t possibly understand what she’s going through, since he says that he doesn’t have a family.
She might want to ask him what happened to his family.
Raffi notices that Soji is calling up a map of the Borg transwarp conduit network. Soji says that they’re about 9 hours from the nearest node. She doesn’t know how she knows about the transwarp conduit network. She thinks she must have picked it up on the Borg cube. But the minute she heard that her brother and sister had been murdered, she knew a whole bunch of things.
It sounds like the new threat level sent her into a higher level of activation, which corresponded to her emotional and physical outburst. She’s risen to a new level of self awareness.
Rios reponds by singing a Spanish lullaby to the ship, which works as a code to give him back control. He says it’s a song his mother used to sing to him. His mother didn’t like people playing with her things either.
Picard jumps in and says that Soji has done it everyone else’s way, so now she should get a turn doing it her way. Maybe they’ll get to the planet in time to warn the inhabitants. He sits in the captain’s chair and tries to work the controls, but sheepishly realizes he doesn’t know how.
Rios takes over. He gives Soji the lecture your Dad gives you when you take the car out alone for the first time: “So your plan is just, fly into a transwarp conduit, don’t set up a structural integrity field, no chroniton field? Just jump right in, gravimetric shear be d@*ned?”
She raises her eyebrow and tilts her head at him, a killer combination of Data and Spock. How can he resist? How can we?
He shakes his head at her. “Sirena is my G-D ship, hija.”
Soji is not stupid. “Captain Rios, please take me home. For Jana’s sake.”
No one actually wanted to say no to her, so they all take their places. Rios tells her he’s got her.
Over on your friendly neighborhood Borg cube, Tarent the Romulan guard tells Narissa that their fleet has the coordinates for the synthetic homeworld and are leaving immediately.
That sounds suspiciously like there’s still a spy or at least a tag on La Sirena. Remember Rios’ theory that someone planted something on Raffi while she was on Freecloud? Or maybe it’s that Fenris Rangers SOS card.
The Romulans have spaced all of the Borg and they’re finishing up with the xBs. Just as Narissa is asking if her ship is ready to go, a pair of xBs grab Tarent, then come for her. She shoots at the mob, but they’re rather relentless about it. Resistance is futile.
Alas, Narissa still has her site to site transporter device with her and escapes to her ship. Hopefully she left Tarent behind to be assimilated and questioned. Meanwhile, her fleet jumps away from the Artifact as soon as she’s on board.
Free Borg Queen Seven notes with satisfaction that the Romulans are gone and the cube is theirs. Elnor asks if she’s going to asimilate him. Free Borg Queen Seven says, “Annika still has work to do.” Then she disconnects from the cube and returns to normal.
Many hours later, it’s just Picard and Rios left on the bridge of the La Sirena. Picard remembers standing nightwatch as an ensign on the Reliant and feeling like he was the only one awake in all that wide open space. He says he’d forgotten, until just now, how much he loved it.
I feel like he told someone a similar story early in the season.
Then he tells Rios that he knew Alonzo Vandermeer slightly. Vandermeer was first officer to Captain Marta Batanides, who attended the Academy with Picard. Batanides was with him when he got into the fight that resulted in him needing an artificial heart (“Tapestry”). Rios felt like he knew Batanides, too, because Vandermeer spoke of her so much.
Picard asks if Vandermeer knew Jana and Beautiful Flower were synthetic. Rios doesn’t know, but he thinks that might have made it easier for Vandermeer to kill them. Picard thought highly of Vandermeer. Rios hates that he died thinking Starfleet betrayed him.
Picard says that Starfleet did betray Vandermeer. And it betrayed its own principles. Oh couldn’t have done what she did without help from others who gave in to fear. Rios points out that Soji hacked into his ship within a few minutes. What will happen when there are a whole planet of them?
Picard tells him that the past may already be written, but the future is for them to decide. They “have powerful tools, Rios, openness, optimism, and the spirit of curiosity. All they have is secrecy and fear, and fear is the great destroyer, Rios, not…”
Soji walks up beside them and announces that they’re at the entrance to the transwarp conduit. She pushes some buttons, then takes out Kestra’s broken compass. It points north, toward Soji’s homeworld. As I suspected, it’s not broken, it just didn’t work on Nepenthe because Kestra was already home.
Rios takes them into the conduit. A Romulan ship that’s been waiting next to the entrance follows them in.
This is the episode for Santiago Cabrera’s Emmy-Golden Globe-Saturn Award reel. Between the 5 holos, the scene with the cigar box, and his scenes with the various other characters, he showed a season’s worth of range and heart. Plus, he got to rival Tatiana Maslany’s turn in Orphan Black by acting against multiple versions of himself playing other characters. Beyond the different accents and personalities, it was fun to watch the very different physicality of each holo while they were in the same room.
Did Narissa take Ramdha and the disordered with her or are they still in the cube?
I think Narissa survived the Admonishment because she was already full of violence and hate. The need to destroy artificial life gave her someplace to aim it. We hadn’t seen her with a boyfriend or family who wasn’t part of the mission and an underling until this episode, so we hadn’t seen any other side to her besides the ruthless agent. Hopefully she’ll continue to become a more fully realized character.
The images of planetary destruction are similar to the images Spock and Michael Burnham saw on Talos IV in the ST: Discovery episode If Memory Serves. The images were filtered through other sources, yet they drove Spock mad and made Michael pass out. Could they have originated with the Admonition as well?
Does Seven have all of the knowledge of the Borg from that cube now? Does she also know the Admonishment?
Oh may have shared the Admonishment with Rios’ captain somehow, perhaps before they left on that mission, the way she did with Jurati, and that’s the real reason he killed himself.
Ramdha’s knowledge of and despair over the Admonishment was enough to send the cube over the edge, similar to the way Hugh’s individuality was enough to destabilze his cube when he was returned to the Borg in the TNG episode I, Borg. The Borg’s strength is in their great numbers and consistency. They aren’t set up for drones to introduce extreme mental states of mind into the Collective and find it more efficient to surgically remove the “infection” than to treat what are, most likely, intractable mental conditions.
What Happened to the Ibn Majid and Who Are The Conspirators?
I don’t think we’ve been given the whole story of what happened on the Ibn Majid yet. The deletions within the holos’ memories were strangely selective and Rios knew too much about Soji for someone who’d only known Jana for a few hours. Captain Vandermeer’s reaction suggests that Oh found a way to share the Admonition with him in an attempt to get him to comply or to keep him silent. Rios may have seen it too, then wiped some of his own memories, along with the holos.
It’s exceedingly strange that Oh told them to kill the synths before they found out where the synths were from and if there were more of them. It’s spycraft 101 to keep your source alive and talking for as long as possible, yet the Zhat Vash doesn’t even seem to know where the Ibn Majid was when they picked up the synths.
The ENH has astronavigation deletions. One is specifically in Medusan astrogation. There is also a deletion in Hospitality’s ability to make Yridian tea. This show is swimming in people using replicators to make tea. Both are important, I can feel it.
I strongly suspect that we’re dealing with a third organization beyond Starfleet and the Zhat Vash. Maybe it’s the synths themselves, trying to cover the tracks left behind by others that let people know they exist. There are Vulcans (or Romulans or Remans?) involved who use mind melds to create false memories and erase what they want forgotten.
It could be Section 31. It could involve a Vulcan from the mirror universe, who would have extra mind control powers, such as the ability to plant telepathic suggestions during mind melds. There might be a Vulcan who has mastered the ability to communicate telepathically over long distances, the way Michael Burnham and Sarek could, without leaving a portion of the katra behind in each target. Or maybe Oh leaves horcruxes in strategic people.
I think that Oh is from the mirror verse, hence the sunglasses, and routinely forces mind melds on people, implants suggestions, then wipes their memories. She might also be leaving a bit of katra behind so that she can telepathically affect them over long distances.
Someone covered up what happened on the Ibn Majid and protected the synth homeworld. They erased all institutional memory of the encounter, except for Rios’ broken memories. I suspect that those were altered as well. And I think that when we met him in episode 3, he had just survived a near death experience because he was attemping to get his own memory back and weaken a psychic block. Did he have psychic suggestions left behind, too, like “murder the synths”, or “secretly notify the Romulans”?
How much influence have Oh and her proteges had on the Federation and Starfleet? She’s not alone in either organization. Is Rios the only one this has happened to? Or is Starfleet losing its way because Oh has been manipulating it through secret mind melds and Zhat Vash spy plants for decades? Did they orchestrate the downfall of Picard, the synths’ most prominent supporter, in order to undermine his influence?
Have the Zhat Vash had an agent planted in Picard’s home for years, so they could keep him under control?
This season is a Romulan puzzle inside an impossible box meant to solve the Admonition.
Meanwhile, during their summary staff conference the characters tried to tie the entire plot and conspiracy together neatly, but it doesn’t actually work when you examine the details. There are conflicting threads of information on a few subjects, such as Maddox’s two labs, the Admonition’s Big Bad vs Ramdha’s prophecy of seeing Soji tomorrow, and the identity of Soji’s father. The characters haven’t actually done a thorough investigation yet, which is what will be required to sort out the details.
Picard keeps urging everyone to ignore details and assume that the issue is simply fear and prejudice. That kind of problem can be solved by openness and optimism, but I don’t think it will be that easy. Raffi is the one with the correct instincts about the complexity of the conspiracy and she needs time to sort through everyone’s stories. Right now, she’s the Agatha Christie detective working with a house full of hostile witnesses.
The Admonition was installed hundreds of thousands of years ago, but the Romulans who became the Zhat Vash only found it hundreds of years ago. Are the images we see in the Admonition the initiate’s interpretation of the ideas presented? That would explain why Data is present in this version but not in Agnes’ version. Agnes doesn’t see him as a threat, might even be incapable of seeing that.
I still think the Admonition is being misunderstod by the Romulans. They are possibly making the story they are being shown more complicated than it needs to be because of their mindset. Maybe the species who made the Admonition just made another, more powerful species angry, and it wiped them out. We’ve seen that happen before. But before that species became extinct, they left a monument which tells their story through psychic connection. We’ve also seen that before, in the TNG episode Inner Light.
Everyone is interpreting the Admonition through the lens of their own culture and experience, rather than examining the monument without bias and doing archeological work to examine it in its original cultural context. That would be where Soji would come in, as a xenoanthropologist and synthetic life form, who could, perhaps see the Admonition in its most pure form and interpret it as it was meant to be understood.
Maybe what she destroys is the Zhat Vash and other destructive aspects of Romulan culture.
Maybe the Zhat Vash usually transfer a filtered version of the Admonition to their members person to person through mind meld, the way Oh did with Agnes. To avoid too many suicides, they might reserve the ritual on Aia for a chosen few leadership candidates. Perhaps Narissa showed the Admonition to Narek. Or not- he doesn’t seem to loathe synths the way she does.
No matter how the Admonition device works or what its story means, I suspect that Narissa and Oh are going to bring about the thing they fear through the heavy handed enforcement of their beliefs.
Enslavement, abuse and lost children/siblings are huge themes and will probably be important to whatever is coming. It could be that the Admonition machine reads the minds of the people it warns and that’s how it knows when the threshold is reached. And how the synthetic children have been treated by their organic parents.
Or it could be that Soji will discover something that leads to an internal rebellion among the Romulans, who are an oppressive, violent, secretive society which is plagued with inequality. The Federation had moved past those qualities, buts Oh’s interference has helped bring them back.
Flowers and Planetary Destruction and Yridian Tea, Oh My
I don’t think Soji will destroy life in the galaxy, because all of the symbolism associated with her and her siblings has been oriented toward home, life and growth, while the symbolism associated with the Romulans and Zhat Vash signifies violence and destruction.
I wrote about the color scheme Star Trek: Picard is using HERE.
The Zhat Vash are generally shown as assassins and spies who are killing, hurting or interrogating innocent people. If they are involved in a pleasant scene, they are probably acting as a spy and fooling the other person into thinking they care. Or, as with Narissa and Ramdha, one of them is seriously damaged. The imagery associated with them is guns, violent fights, death and destruction.
Soji, Dahj, Data, Jana and even F8 have more pleasant associations. F8 spent time socializing before it rebelled. Jana is associated with pink ice cream, French fries and a beautiful flower. Our first impression of Dahj found her spending loving time with her boyfriend in an apartment with prominently displayed orchids. Then she was surrounded by more flowers at Chateau Picard and the Starfleet campus. Data was shown with the playing cards and tea. He disappeared when Mars was destroyed. All 3 sentient synths experienced canon deaths in which they were not the aggressors. Organic life forms were.
Like her sisters, Soji is also associated with flowers, especially orchids. She has also been the victim of attacks by organic life forms but hasn’t been the aggressor. Dahj and Soji were both shown in their own homes, while we’ve never seen Oh or Narissa in their quarters. We have been in Narek’s quarters, but he was lying to Soji at the time. He’s also a symbolically muddy character, with traits that suggest he could become a double agent or switch sides, similar to Agnes.
The Vulcan character Tuvok bred orchids on ST: Voyager and discovered a species that was capable of synthesizing two separate species together through symbiogenesis. I suspect that this is the method Maddox and his collaborators are using to fuse the synth’s positronic matrices with their flesh and blood bodies.
The same orchid contained lysosomal enzymes, which were responsible for the digestion of large organic molecules in a cell and “were so powerful that if they were released from their vacuole, the cell would be obliterated, digested from within.”
That sounds exactly like the green acid slime encased in the crush capsules used by the assassins sent for Dahj and Soji, doesn’t it?
Are the Zhat Vash and Maddox/the synth creators both working with the same rare orchid from the Delta quadrant?
In ST: Picard, green means complexity and deception. How does the green acid made from the orchid that creates the synths fit in? The acid was the only thing that affected Dahj in her fight with the assassins.
Moving on to Yridian tea. Mr Hospitality no longer knows the correct temperature at which to serve the tea. Replicators are programmed with the tea, so theoretically he shouldn’t need to know- or does his lack extend to the replicator?
The clue to the ST:Picard conspiracy is that Deanna Troi ordered Yridian tea while working on the case of a suicide on the Enterprise. That suicide was due to a telepathic imprint in the ship’s plasma stream which had occurred many years earlier during its construction at the Utopia Planetia Shipyard on Mars. Deanna almost committed suicide due to the imprint before the case was solved.
A telepathic imprint sounds like something the Zhat Vash could learn to weaponize. It also sounds like the technology the Admonition uses.
More on Yridian tea, Medusan astronavigation, Beautiful Flower, orchids and Rios’ memory glitches: Star Trek: Picard- Beautiful Minds and Beautiful Flower with a Side of Yridian Tea- Two Clues Explained
Images courtesy of CBS AllAccess.
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