Et in Arcadia, Part 2, is the finale episode for season 1 of Star Trek: Picard and wow, does it go for the big, unprecedented finish. This is really about three episodes worth of plot crammed into 1 hour. The giant killer orchids make their return, along with Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and another surprise guest. The story moves between space, Synthville, the Artifact and La Sirena as the battle to stop the synths from destroying organic life unfolds. Several characters make unexpected alliances and sacrifices.
Let’s go save the galaxy.
The Artifact is now sitting in water. Was it low tide in episode 9?
Narek sneaks in unnoticed. Elnor and Seven are taking a break and talking philosophy. He wonders if the xBs are better off dead since they’re hated, unwanted and have no home. Seven asks if he thinks she’s also better off dead, since she’s also an xB with no home and no place she belongs. Maybe she should end it all? Elnor doesn’t think she should die, because he’d miss her.
Right answer, wrong reason.
She deserves to live because all life has value for its own sake and because she wants to be alive, not because of someone else’s opinion about the value of her life.
While it’s nice that Elnor cares about Seven, his judgement has nothing to do with whether or not she, the xBs or anyone else deserves to live. He needs to get over that part of his training very quickly.
The vigilantism on this show is not a good development for Star Trek, which has always been about holding society to higher standards, not reverting to lower ones. It’s one thing to kill in self-defense or defense of others in the moment and quite another to hand out frontier justice as you see fit, which is what we have seen this season from Seven and Elnor.
Narissa must have transported to another part of the cube when she was overwhelmed by xBs in episode 8, and then told her ships to leave for Coppelius without her. Presumably she wanted to stay on the cube to protect Ramdha.
Now she sneaks up on Narek and puts a knife to his throat, probably their traditional greeting. Once she turns him around, they hug each other tightly, the first time we’ve seen this much real affection between them. She asks if he found the nest and if he’s had sex with any synths yet. He tells her yes and not yet. But he did kill one. She sees that as progress and takes him off to see her hiding place.
I’m more interested in the “not yet” answer- sarcasm or honesty, what do we think? Is he still hot for Soji or has he realized that the Sutra model matches him in deviousness? Or does he just have a thing for synths in general?
Y’all know I’m a hopeless romantic and at least want some decent closure between Soji and Narek. I admit I wouldn’t mind eventual redemption for him, then years of watching him beg Soji to take him back before he earns her trust again around season 4 or 5.
The synthetic butterfly flies into Picard’s room, where he’s still on house arrest, and lands on his hand. It briefly turns from blue to red then back to blue before flying out of the room again. Picard watches it fly away and, envying its freedom and health, says, “Lucky you.”
Red is Picard’s color, representing his humanity, both in the sense of being a flesh and blood human and in the sense of being moral and compassionate. Blue is his secondary color, representing logic, reason, science, philosophy, freedom and amorality/neutrality. As he faces his own death and potential defeat by the synths, Picard’s outlook is growing more desperate.
Agnes secretly watches Soji scan her eye to unlock Picard’s door.
Soji asks Picard how he’s doing. He tells her he wants to be set free. She asks him to understand that up until now all of the life and death choices have been made for synthetics by organics. She implies that wiping out all biological life is the synths’ only choice. Picard tells her that saying she has no choice is a failure of imagination and asks her not to become the monster the Romulans fear she is. He begs her to stop work on the beacon.
Banning synths from the Federation and even the hatred of the Zhat Vash are a far cry from wiping out all organic life in the galaxy. The synths are trying to commit mass specicide on an unfathomable scale, whereas there have never been very many synths and they’ve never been banned everywhere. They really could run and wait out the ban. I have to wonder about the intelligence and math skills of Soji and the other synths if they don’t get that.
Narek packs a bag of molecular solvent grenades to use on the giant killer space flowers, while Narissa questions his actions. It’s just like old times. He tells her she’s not the boss of him anymore, now that it’s end of the galaxy time, then orders her to bring the Artifact’s weapons online.
She reminds him that their parents and many others died for the Zhat Vash mission. He reminds her that he’s the one who found Seb Cheneb. Him, the family disgrace, the Zhat Vash wash out. She’s not going to take this away from him. She sends him off to complete his mission.
This is new information. He must officially be Tal Shiar and do Zhat Vash work for her as a contractor. In their first scene, Narissa told Commodore Oh that he’s one of her best men and Oh told her to supervise him closely because he’s been unreliable in the past. He definitely has some official standing which allowed him the run of the Artifact.
Elnor follows Narek out of the cube.
Chris and Raffi are pondering how to use the repair device Saga gave Raffi. Chris doesn’t trust the device, since how it works isn’t clear. Raffi explains that Saga said to use his imagination to power it.
Chris explains the complication that makes the repair unsolvable in their current situation: “The intermix reactor is fused. I need to unfuse it, which is impossible. I need to replace it, but the maintenance replicator is offline because the intermix reactor is fused.”
Raffi offers to try out the device, but Chris doesn’t trust that her understanding of the necessary repair will be thorough enough to guide the device. He puts his fingers in the fingerholes of the device, then complains that there’s no on switch.
I think putting your fingers in the holes is the switch that tells it to listen to your brain.
Raffi tells him to imagine the fix- be the
change repair you want to see in the world ship. He’s skeptical, but once he feels the Force, the device sends out an energy beam which makes the repair. It only takes a few seconds before the device powers down and the ship powers up again.
Altan shows Agnes the computer where Maddox stored his research on the downloading of consciousness into a synthetic body. Soong is impressed by how self-sacrificing Agnes is being, but puts it down to her being a mother.
Agnes was cheerful while he was in the room, but once he’s gone, she looks stricken. She tells herself it’ll be okay and that she can do this. Then, with a bitter tone, she says she’s not their mother.
Oops. She’s switching sides again.
Raffi and Chris hear banging on the ship which Chris recognizes as someone throwing rocks at it.
I want to hear that story sometime.
Narek is standing in front of the windshield pelting small boulders at the La Sirena. When Chris and Raffi complain and call him names, he tells them he could use the grenades in his pack instead, but he really wants to talk instead of fight.
Part of me did want to see them at least do a countdown with the molecular solvent grenade and the photon torpedo. Maybe a double explosion in the air. No explosions today though. Narek’s committed to saving the universe.
Raffi’s a little disappointed at the lack of action.
They invite Narek in for a cuppa around the conference table while he tells them what the synths have been up to since they left. Raffi tries to raise JL on the comms as Narek says that the synths are building a transmitter and signaling the Extra Big Bads to come destroy all organic life. He explains that they call the end times Ganmadan. Synthville is on lockdown (just like everyone else!) so that no one can interfere with their plans.
Raffi and Chris chuckle, because they know that Picard will definitely have interfered. Narek reiterates that all comm frequencies are jammed.
The synths appear clueless and friendly, but in fact they have sophisticated technology and are using it aggressively. They are a dangerous enemy, as Rios realized when Soji tried to hijack his ship.
Suddenly, Elnor is holding his sword to Narek’s neck, speaking to him in Romulan. Unlike almost everyone else we’ve seen this happen with, Narek emphatically chooses to live. Also unlike the other times, Elnor wishes he wouldn’t. Chris tries to convince Elnor that Narek is on their side right now.
Agnes finds Altan downloading Saga’s memories as a memento for Arcana, but the damage to her optical processors corrupted the data stream. He asks Agnes what she wanted. She says she’s run into some encrypted files in Bruce’s data and wants Altan to decrypt them for her. He leaves her to monitor the data transfer while he goes to decrypt the files.
She actually just wanted to get him out of the room. In an echo of Icheb’s death in the Borg chop shop, Agnes plucks Saga’s remaining intact eyeball from her head using her bare hand. She does at least apologize a little, but she certainly doesn’t show the emotion a normal person would feel when removing the eye from another human being.
Agnes might not be able to kill Soji, but she doesn’t think of these synths as real people, either. It was difficult for her to kill the Romulan at the vineyard and to kill Bruce. Saga’s body doesn’t register. A work of art is not a person.
Elnor, Narek, Raffi and Chris sit around a campfire and discuss Romulan mythology. But first, Narek explains to Elnor that the world doesn’t revolve around his personal feelings. Elnor, the only son of many mothers, is having a hard time coming to terms with his lack of influence in the real world. Narek, who had at least 2 siblings, is quite happy to explain to him that he needs to put his feelings aside and focus on the mission.
I’m still betting on them being half brothers. Maybe Aunt Ramdha will eventually recognize Elnor the way she recognized Soji.
Raffi interrupts the sibling rivalry to ask for an explanation of Ganmadan. Elnor thinks it’s just a story. Narek says it’s the story of the end of everything. Chris compares it to Ragnorak or Judgement Day.
It also sounds like Armageddon.
Narek: “Some say it dates back from before our ancestors first arrived on Vulcan. The story of Ganmadan begins with two sisters. Twin khalagu.”
Narek: “Twin demons who come at the end of time to open the way and unleash the ch’khalagu.”
Elnor: “Very bad demons.”
Narek: “One sister is called Seb Natan, the Foreteller. She plays a drum made from the skin of children. She strikes it with a chain of skulls, so hard and so long that her heart bursts from the effort. The other sister is called Seb Cheneb.”
Raffi: “Seb Cheneb? Yeah, see, we know about her.”
Narek: “So you know that she carries a horn from the great pale hell beast called Ganmadan. You know when she blows a blast on the horn, it will unleash all the ch’khalagu who’ve been waiting since the beginning of time. You know the sky will crack, and through the crack in the sky, the ch’khalagu will come ravening. You know about the Thousand Days of Pain. You know the streets will be slick with entrails of half devoured corpses. You know the worlds will burn, and the ch’khalagu will feast and nurse their brats on blood and pick their teeth with bones.”
Chris: “No, we did not know any of that.”
Raffi: “You really believe this is a prophecy?”
Narek: “No. I believe it’s history. And the fascinating thing about history is it always repeats itself.”
There is a lightning storm in the background, just like the one in Soji’s dream. Maybe they only happen at night?
Commodore Oh is almost there. She tells her crew that their great work is nearly done.
The next day, Narek shows the others how the molecular solvent grenades work so that they can use them on the transmitter instead of the space flowers. He explains that they can sneak the grenades in by bringing him back to the village as a prisoner.
The synths have a transporter block on and will search their belongings so they’ll need to cleverly hide the grenade in a nonmetal casing. One of Rios’ soccer balls does the trick. The synths let them pass through.
Meanwhile, Agnes uses Saga’s eyeball to unlock Picard’s door. He’s napping and takes a moment to wake up, but then tells her he’s not dead yet and asks what she’s doing. She gleefully tells him she’s been acting as a secret double agent all along and is now busting him out. They need to get back to La Sirena.
Whereas Agnes has only become a more confusing character with this development, Narek now seems relatively clear to me. He is a professional spy with one goal who puts his ego aside and gets the job done, even when the work is difficult or distasteful. This gives him a heroic, self-sacrificial edge, despite the terrible things he’s done. Agnes’ actions still seem like they could be motivated by doing what’s best for Agnes instead of working for a larger goal.
Narek has been helped by his scenes with Narissa, which give us a through line showing that no matter how his actions appear, he’s always working toward the same goal. He’s still mysterious, because he may have additional goals of his own, but it’s hard to believe at this point that he’s faking his scenes with his sister. Agnes, on the other hand, doesn’t have anyone she’s trusted and confided in throughout the mission, was and maybe is mind controlled and has her own agenda. We have to guess at whether she’s telling the truth to Picard each time she has a heart to heart with him.
Soong’s golem reaches the stage where it’s ready to receive neural engrams- time to transfer the mind in. Before he can tell Agnes, Saga’s memory also finishes downloading and for the first time, Soong sees exactly how she died. Narek holds onto her shoulders while Sutra stabs her in the eyeball with the glass hummingbird.
Called it. Not exactly a heroic move on Narek’s part, but I was pretty sure he wasn’t the one to stab her.
Narek, Chris, Elnor and Raffi sneak up behind the transmitter so they can get a clear line of sight on the superluminal tuner at the base. Before they can use the grenade, Soong catches them.
Picard and Agnes have already made it back to the ship- they must have hitched a ride on a floating flower to get there so fast and also missed the rest of the crew. Picard goes into captain mode, expecting Agnes to act as an efficient one person crew now that she’s proven herself as a spy.
One impossible thing at a time, Jean Luc.
Agnes gamely takes over the con and gives him a status report- The Romulans are 7 minutes from the planet. No sign of Starfleet and no way to tell if they received Picard’s message.
Suddenly, Agnes knows everything about flying the ship. What happened to the woman who couldn’t even operate the transporter? Either the writers of this show are inconsistent or we are constantly jumping timelines.
TAgnes and Picard banter back and forth, wondering how they can stall the Romulans until Starfleet gets there and convince the synths to shut down the transmitter. Agnes points out that the synths’ abilities are generations beyond organics, but Picard realizes that they are also still children in many ways. He feels that Soong and Maddox simply weren’t up to the task of teaching their children that mass biocide is wrong and that life is for other things.
This is, of course, what Picard lives for. This time, no one will stop him from speechifying until the galaxy is saved. A five minute, unfettered Picard speech can definitely perform that kind of miracle. He’s even wearing a messiah shirt.
Picard’s thesis: “Fear is an incompetent teacher… To be alive is a responsibility, as well as a right”
He intends to teach them by example. He’s also been watching Chris and is now able to pilot La Sirena from the captain’s chair. After Agnes orders Picard to “Make it so,” La Sirena takes off.
While Soji programs the beacon, Sutra explains to the gathered population of Synthville that the transmitter will go online soon. Then their rescuers will arrive instantaneously and they’ll be free. The other synths stand and listen silently, unmoved.
They apparently don’t get paid for reaction shots. Or they think it sounds too good to be true.
Soong leads the rebels in and tells the gen pop synths to watch them. He brings the glass hummingbird to Sutra and says he’s returning it to her. He tells her that he understands why she thought the other synths would need more motivation to go along with her plan to build the transmitter, but he finds it unforgivable that she helped Narek kill Saga. “I thought I taught you better than this. Turns out you’re no better than we are.” He zaps her with a device and she falls to the ground, unconscious.
I don’t know if that was the equivalent of an off switch or a phaser set to stun (or kill), but it was not any more okay for him to knock her out mid conversation and leave her on the ground than it was for her to kill Saga. It’s clear that he doesn’t respect the synths bodily autonomy or ability to make decisions, so they haven’t learned how to respect others.
Were they supposed to be better than humans and other humanoids? I thought the point was to create life that was indistinguishable from organic life, in all its flawed glory? Plus, Soong implicitly lied and tried to pin the actual murder on Narek. That’s probably why he knocked Sutra out when he did- so that she couldn’t contradict him about who commited the murder.
Soong nods to Raffi and the rebel team moves to stop Soji and break the transmitter. They put in a good effort and Narek shows off some acrobatic fighting skills, but without the element of surprise it’s hopeless. Soji catches the grenade in the air and throws it off to explode at a safe distance from the transmitter, despite Narek begging her to stop what she’s doing. A couple of the synths (based on the same model as F8) drag Narek away.
Narek really will do anything for the mission, which has been passed down through his family for generations. Soji really only has sketchy morals, which are programmed in. At the moment, they are complete opposites. She has a goal, which involves biocide, that she’s only just decided on for unclear reasons. He has a lifelong goal that involves rescuing everyone in the galaxy, which he won’t be swayed from, yet he tries to avoid murder by his own hand. She seems nice, other than trying to wipe out all life in the galaxy. He seems creepy, because he’s willing to do almost anything
short of murder to stop her from wiping out all life in the galaxy.
Narissa, who has no problem with murder, has gotten the Artifact’s weapons online and is targeting the La Sirena when Seven of Nine finds her. They fight hand to hand while slinging witty but insulting banter at each other. Once Seven has had her fill, she throws Narissa down into a (bottomless) shaft to avenge Hugh’s death.
Narissa has that nifty site to site transport button that’s rescued her at least twice already, so she might use it again during this long fall. Remember, no body, no death. She might also land in the arms of a Borg/xB with a crush on her and some nanoprobes to spare. Either way, this cat probably has a few more lives left in her.
Agnes and Picard make it into space, then try to figure out the details of how they’re going to hold off 218 Romulan ships all alone. Former Commodore Oh, who is in command of the Romulan fleet, orders her ships to sterilize the planet. Coppelius launches a bouquet of giant killer space orchids.
Agnes and Picard hold their own during the orchid battle, while Agnes plots their next move. She thinks it should be named the Picard Maneuver, until she remembers that already exists. While he was on the Stargazer, Picard doubled the senser image of the ship so the enemy thought they were fighting two Stargazers.
Picard doesn’t see how that maneuver could work in their current circumstances, since they are so outnumbered. Agnes notices the imagination device Raffi and Chris used ealier to repair the ship. “If only we had some kind of wacky fundamental field replicator with a neurocotamic interface.”
Yeah, if only they had one of those. Agnes recognizes the device and knows how to use it without being told, suggesting she’s used one before. Did she or Bruce invent it?
Agnes get a big smile on her face and makes the device repeat the image of her head 2 dozen times in midair around their heads.
Soji continues to concentrate on programming the beacon. Picard contacts her from La Serena and tells her to power down the beacon. When she refuses, he says he has a gift for her that he hopes will change her mind. She asks what it is. He says, “My life. Picard out.” Soji looks upset.
The Romulans neutralize the flower brigade and prepare Planetary Sterilization Pattern #5 for use on Coppelius. Patterns 1-4 just aren’t right for this job.
Agnes creates a fleet of hundreds of holographic La Sirenas, complete with warp core signatures, so that the Romulans think help has arrived for Picard. Oh orders her fleet to fire on Picard’s “fleet”. The real La Sirena is hit during the bombardment and sent spinning.
Soji sees this and yells, “No!” She stops working for a second, then goes back to finishing the beacon. Within a few seconds it begins transmitting and opens a red ring in the sky.
Picard doesn’t seem well. He looks faint and is short of breath. But a large fleet of Starfleet ships arrives, just as Oh orders her ships to finish the sterilization. Acting Captain Will Riker is commanding the new fleet and the flagship, the USS Zheng He.
Will tells Oh that Starfleet and the Federation have put Ghulion IV/Coppelius under their protection according to the terms of the Treaty of Algeron. Oh replies that she got there first, so the planet is Romulan. Will plays Picard’s message requesting permission to open diplomatic negotiations in the name of the Federation and protections for Ghulion IV. Picard’s request was enough to stake the Federation’s claim on the planet.
When Oh doesn’t immediatly back down, Will uses the facts that he’s on the fastest, toughest, most powerful ship ever made by Starfleet, and he’s backed by a whole fleet of the same, as threats. He invites her to make his day by allowing him to kick her Tal Shiar butt. Or she can back off.
Oh prepares to fight. So does Starfleet.
Picard’s diseased brain can’t handle the stress. He’s in immense pain, clutching the back of his head and having other internal symptoms as well. He tells Agnes that he wants to speak to Soji on an open channel so that the Romulans and Starfleet can hear their conversation. And he wants 20 cc of polisinephrine. Agnes doesn’t want to give him the medication, but he convinces her that “it will only hasten the inevitable.”
It must be a drug that will temporarily boost his brain function but also ultimately worsen whatever is killing him.
Once Agnes has given him the injection and opened the channel, Picard begs Soji to power down the beacon. “Show them how profoundly wrong they are about you. You’re not the enemy. You’re not the Destroyer. If that doesn’t convince them, then they will have to answer to the Federation.”
Soji: “The same Federation that banned us and threw us on the scrap heap?”
Picard: “If we wanted to destroy you, Soji, we would’ve joined forces with the Romulans. We would be training our phasers on you right now. We aren’t. We won’t. You know why? Because we trust you to make the right choice. I trust you, Soji. I know you. I believe in you. That’s why I saved your lives. So that you could save ours, in return. That’s the whole point. That’s why we’re here. To save each other.”
Giant mechanical tentacles arrive at the gate, but don’t come through. Like vampires, they must need an explicit invitation at the door to enter our galaxy. Soji looks up at the scary tentacles and looks at Picard’s face. Now that the destruction of everything is about to become real, she reconsiders the idea, then pounds on the control panel to destroy it and close the gate.
The tentacles recede. Will tells Oh that the beacon has been destroyed. She agrees to stand down. Will and Picard share a friendly word, then Will and Starfleet escort the Romulan fleet out of Federation space.
Let’s be real, some of those Starfleet ships had to be aiming at the beacon and the gate, able to fire within a second or two. They weren’t going to let all life be destroyed without a fight. The fact that Will let it come so close is ridiculous. The way the tentacles waved goodbye and left when Soji pushed a button was also odd. They are very agreeable superior beings for a species who want to wipe out all organic life without even saying hello first.
Part of me thinks this has been a dream or hallucination since Agnes found Picard asleep in his room. I will continue to think so for the rest of the episode. “It’s a Wonderful Picard” shows how his neverending hubris affects the galaxy. A few other people also take part and learn a lesson. Some time in season 2, the dreamers wake up and realize they really shouldn’t go through with that transmitter, the golem or their plans to kill the synths or the Borg.
Once Picard says “Adieu” to Will, he begins to lose consciousness. He sees flashes from his dream of Data painting in the vineyard. We hear Picard say, “I don’t want the game to end,” from the dream that began the pilot episode.
He falls out of the La Sirena captain’s chair. Agnes confirms that he’s dying, so there’s no point in taking him to sick bay. Soji beams them down to Coppelius and his new crew gather around him.
Soji asks what he did and Picard says, “I gave you a choice. Not being the Destroyer was up to you. It always was.” He caresses Elnor’s face and says his name. Then he turns to Raffi and says, “Raffi… You were quite right.”
Then he dies.
He doesn’t tell Raffi what she was right about. Everything, of course, but I expect he meant that they needed to tackle one impossible thing at a time in order to save the galaxy.
Later, Seven and Chris share a bottle of some sort of vile Coppelian liquor and grieve. They both did things they swore they’d never do again. Seven has done this many times, but most recently, she killed someone (Narissa) just because they deserve it, because it seems wrong for them to be alive. Rios swore he’d “never again let another self-righteous, hard-@$$ed old starship captain into my heart. Never again have to stand there and watch him die.”
This time, there wasn’t anything Rios could have done to prevent it, so Seven declares herself the winner in the regrets contest.
Raffi holds Elnor as he cries his eyes out. The motherless son and the mother who’s lost her son take comfort in each other.
The synthetic butterfly leads us from place to place during this sequence, across the gorgeous sunset desert scenery of Coppelius. It leads us back to Picard, who is waking up in what he thinks is another dream in yet another room with a hearth and fire. We’ve watched the butterfly shift in color from blue to red to blue to gold as Picard’s fate has slowly been revealed. Fire has meant destruction and home, endings and beginnings. Now the two symbols and the color shifts have their culmination in Picard’s final transformations.
Picard grumbles about being in another dream. Data, wearing his final Starfleet uniform, appears and sits down opposite Picard in front of the fire, explaining that this is not a dream. It’s a massively complex quantum simulation. He concedes that it does probably feel a lot like a dream about Data would feel, if Picard ever dreamed about him.
Picard hastens to assure Data that of course he dreams about his friend ALL THE TIME. Then they have a slightly confused conversation about the fact that Picard is dead. After a minute, Picard remembers dying, saying, “something in my head seemed to just go away, like a child’s sand castle collapsing.”
Data knows that he died in 2379 (exactly 20 years before the show’s present day), but he doesn’t remember it. His consciousness exists inside this quantum reconstruction, made from the copies he downloaded into B4 before he died. Picard remarks on the irony of Data not being able to remember his own death, while Picard can’t stop thinking about it. Data is aware that he died saving Picard. Picard acknowledges that this is true, and that he was angry that Data had made the sacrifice before Picard even realized what was happening.
Data is sorry that his actions caused Picard distress, but he wouldn’t change what he did. Picard understands that Data was only being true to his nature, but he’s always wanted to say that he wishes he could have been the one to die that day, if one of them had to go.
Data: “Captain, do you regret sacrificing yourself for Soji and her people?”
Picard: “Not for an instant.”
Data: “Then why would you imagine I regret sacrificing mine for yours?”
Picard has no answer to that.
This was never about Data’s feelings. Picard’s real regret was that Data was gone from the world. Being the cause of that loss just made it worse. Like any adoring parent, he viewed Data’s potential as much greater than his own, so he thought Data deserved to keep on living more than he did. However, knowing that Data lives on in Soji and “her people” and that Data knows they exist and that Picard saved them in return, has to give Picard a sense of having closed that loop.
Picard asks Data to confirm that they are in a simulation. Data says, “my memory engrams were extracted from a single neuron salvaged by Bruce Maddox and then my consciousness was reconstructed by my brother, Dr Altan Soong.”
Data has a lot of knowledge for someone who’s been alone in a simulation for 14 years. I wonder if various people have stopped in to visit over the years. I also wonder if he’s not normally up and running the way he is now. He might normally be dormant, but they pulled him out of storage to add Picard’s consciousness while it’s in a holding pattern. Maybe they usually only fire him up when they clone the neuron.
Picard tells Data that he doesn’t like Altan much, which seems a little petty. Data notes that the Soongs can be an acquired taste.
Picard says that it’s wonderful to see Data and to have the chance to tell him that he… Data fills in that Picard loves him. Picard has always regretted not saying so before. Data tells Picard that knowing about Picard’s feelings forms a statistically significant part of his memories. This comforts Picard.
Data then says he has something he wants to ask Picard to do after he leaves the simulation. Picard is shocked that he’ll have to leave.
For Picard, heaven is a simulation where he sits in front of a fire and debates ideas with Data for eternity.
I’m not crying. The lights got too bright and hurt my eyes when Data opened the door back to reality.
Data explains that while, yes, they are in a simulation, Picard is not simulated. “Before your brain functions ceased, Doctors Soong and Jurati, with help from Soji, were able to scan, map and transfer a complete neural image of your brain substrates.”
A door opens behind Picard. It sounds like the doors on the Enterprise, but all we see is a bright white light. Picard asks if he has to leave. Data says he does.
Data: “When you leave, I would be profoundly grateful if you terminated my consciousness.”
Picard: “You want to die?”
Data: “Not exactly, sir. I want to live, however briefly, knowing that my life is finite. Mortality gives meaning to human life, Captain. Peace, love, friendship. These are precious because we know they cannot endure. A butterfly that lives forever is really not a butterfly at all.”
He opens his hand to show that he’s holding the blue synth butterfly, which flies away.
Picard agrees to his request. They say goodbye, then Picard walks into the light.
You walk into the light when your spirit leaves this Earthly plain. Just sayin’.
Picard, however, wakes up in a synth body. He opens his eyes to Soji, Agnes and Altan looking down on him, like a creator god and goddesses. When he asks if he’s real, Soji tells him of course he is.
As real as she is. And the pretty blue butterfly.
Later, they sit down and explain to Picard that his new synth body doesn’t have any augmentations or superpowers. He looks disappointed that they didn’t give him a little extra juice, but Altan says that he didn’t think Picard would want to adjust to a new body after 94 years in the same body. However, they repaired his brain abnormality and overal his body works like it’s brand new- since it is. They knew he wouldn’t want to be immortal, so they designed a cellular homeostasis algorithm that should keep him alive for approximately the amount of time he would have lived if he didn’t have the brain condition.
Picard could handle living an extra 10 or 20 years, so watch for Agnes or Soji to eventually fiddle with the algorithm.
Picard holds a small funeral for Data before removing his storage blocks from the simulator. The song that began the season, Blue Skies, as sung by Soji/Isa Briones, plays on the record player.
Picard: “It says a great deal about the mind of Commander Data that, looking at the human race, with all it’s violence and corruption and willful ignorance, he could still see kindness, immense curiosity, and greatness of spirit. And he wanted, more than anything else, to be part of that. To be part of the human family. ‘We are such stuff as dreams are made on. And our little life is rounded with a sleep.’ ”
While Picard speaks, Data sits and listens to the song, enjoying one last beverage. Then he lies down on his couch. It’s daylight outside, with sunshine streaming in his windows. While Picard pulls Data’s red storage blocks out, TNG era Picard, in his red uniform, appears next to Data and takes his hand. Data is startled when Picard appears, so it seems to be something of the real Picard, rather than something Data conjured. Data ages as each block is removed. When Picard is finished, both Data and the Picard apparition turn into wisps of smoke, then the entire simulation dissolves.
Blue Skies continues as the scene moves to la Sirena. The ship is more brightly lit than we’ve ever seen it. Rios is in the captain’s chair. Agnes leans over to kiss him. Downstairs in the common area, Seven and Raffi play a game and hold hands. Picard, dressed in black, tells them all, “It’s time.” He walks to the bridge with Elnor and Soji.
Before they leave, Picard marvels that Soji went through so much to find her homeworld, but now she’s leaving it behind again. Soji explains that she’s a wanderer at heart, and since they’ve lifted the ban on synthetics, she’s free to travel. Picard notes that he is, too.
Everyone takes their places. Seven takes Emmett’s place at tactical/navigation. Rios says, “Ready, Admiral?” Picard responds with, “Engage!”
La Sirena takes off on her new mission, whatever that will be.
Grade for the season: A-
The making of Isa Briones/Soji’s version of Blue Skies, which plays over the final scenes of the episode:
Star Trek: Nemesis- Picard’s wedding speech to Will and Deanna, plus Data’s version of Blue Skies. Data’s part is the final minute:
The ban has been lifted already? How long was Picard out of commission for? Did the Federation just lift the ban immediately out of a sense of guilt or goodwill toward the people who were about to annihilate them 5 minutes ago? To do it properly, first Starfleet had to get over the fact that they were riddled with Romulan spies for decades, investigate the new evidence regarding the Mars attack, investigate the synth alliance and the Admonition, investigate Coppelius, and then get together enough members to admit they were wrong. You’d think that would take a while.
Maybe the Federation couldn’t wait to get their non sentient synth labor back and put their minimum wage organics out of work again. Hopefully the Federation’s universal basic income is more generous than Earth’s in The Expanse. Raffi complained that she was living in a hovel when Picard found her, but it didn’t look too bad to me. She was surely making some money on the side renting Vasquez Rocks out for TV and movie shoots.
Season 2, I say we bust Narek out of Soong’s synth prison. I have a feeling we didn’t see him after his arrest because they didn’t have time this episode to deal with his reaction to Narissa’s death and the fact that Seven, friend of his new friends, killed her. If Narissa’s even dead. That’s the other aspect they didn’t want to deal with. Our little Romulan family, Narek, Narissa and Ramdha, all remain question marks, along with the Borg cube they call home.
Sutra’s fate is also a question mark. If she and Narek are imprisoned together, they’ll have broken out before the end credits finished rolling on this episode. Sutra is an honorary Vulcan after all, and Vulcans are honorary Romulans. Narek has to take her home to meet the rest of the family. I desperately need her to mind meld with Ramdha and trade barbs with Narissa while healing her injuries.
Actually, what I want is for those four to have an odd, wacky sitcom with the xBs on the Artifact. Please, CBS AllAccess, I’m not sure why you owe me this, I just know you do. Sutra (Isa Briones) and Narek (Harry Treadaway) are the kooky young newlyweds, Narissa (Peyton List) is the sarcastic sister in law who dates one xB that’s wrong for her after another, and Ramdha (Rebecca Wisocky) is the lovable but ditzy mom in law who can predict the future with startling accuracy, sending them all over the galaxy on missions. Before long, Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco) comes back to life and dates Ramdha. He becomes the moral compass of the show, when he’s not watching Earth reruns in the queencell.
Back to ST: Picard- This show has an excellent hand to hand fight coordinator. It would be nice to see more melee action and less head slicing next season. Especially if they turn the lights on so we can actually see the action sequences. Some of the stuff in the cube was a black on black waste of film.
In one sense, Picard has now lost his identity as an xB, since Locutus’ Borg technology is no longer part of him. But Soji had enough nanoprobes and maybe other Borg tech inside her to communicate with the Borg cube the same way Picard and Hugh’s minds did, so he will most likely still have things in common with the Borg/xBs. It will be interesting to see if they still recognize his brain waves and face as Locutus.
There will be ramifications for Picard as a synth:
As for the “Picard 2.0” that both the series and its fans inherit by the season’s end, Chabon and Goldsman declined to reveal too much about what’s specifically in store for Jean-Luc in his new body.
“But we definitely don’t want to pretend like these events never happened,” Chabon says. “So, whatever the implications are going to be for Picard having this new body, and essentially a new brain structure, too — although his mind and his consciousness are the same — all of that is going to be part of [the character’s] way of thinking going forward.”
More Confusion and Inconsistencies-
Narek has molecular solvent grenades, which are what Bruce Maddox said destroyed his lab. Maybe the Tal Shiar did destroy one of his labs after all? But why no mention of a second lab from anyone other than Maddox?
And Narek isn’t in the Zhat Vash but he’s one of Narissa’s men, knows the Zhat Vash secret and is working on the Zhat Vash cause, with Oh’s knowledge and reluctant approval? How is that not being part of the Zhat Vash?
Did the xBs release Elnor from his pledge or was he only sworn to protect Hugh? The xBs’ troubles don’t seem to be over, even if Narissa is neutralized. Is Seven the xB he’s currently protecting? I’d love to see him explain that to her. On the the other hand, I’ve been hoping Elnor would become Seven’s apprentice/son since episode 5.
What about synth Picard’s brain twin? The show emphasized that Maddox’s fractal cloning method for creating new positronic brains (from the B4’s single neuron which contained Data’s memories) created two new twin brains who were Data/B4’s descendants each time it was used. We were told and shown this over and over and over from the pilot, when Agnes first described the method, through to the finale, when Altan downloaded Saga’s stored memories for her twin, Arcana.
Each set of twins also had identical bodies, though I don’t know that there’s any reason they needed to, other than so they could feel closer to each other. Maybe Maddox and Soong didn’t have many DNA patterns to use. Presumably the twins’ personalities and “memories” were overlaid on top of Data’s memory patterns.
So why did we only see one synth body who eventually became Picard and hear about one mind transfer being planned? We never heard about a positronic brain for the golem at all. Did Maddox come up with a completely separate type of synth brain for mind transfers? I doubt it. It makes more sense to transfer the mind transfer imprint onto the positronic matrix.
But in that case, where is Picard’s twin? And where is Beautiful Flower’s twin? Everyone we saw on Coppelius had a twin except for Soong. Have they already created non identical twins in the form of Beautiful Flower and Soong? Or is Picard using the brain/body that was Beautiful Flower’s twin? Was it kept in stasis for 9 years until they figured out how to transfer Soong’s mind into it?
Just who was Beautiful Flower? I need Rios to describe him to a sketch artist, already. And why were he and Jana in space, where they’re illegal, instead of hiding out on Coppelius? I have a feeling BF will be a clone of someone interesting.
New Picard, Old Data and Synths vs Golems vs Gholas
One version of Data has been put to rest, the version created in a simulation made from the positronic neuron Bruce Maddox smuggled out of the Daystrom Institute right after the synth ban. Since B4 is still in storage, it’s possible that Data’s mind could be cloned many more times using B4’s brain cells and then placed in new synth bodies that look like anyone.
Like the Data we meet in this episode, those Datas would also only have Data’s memories up to the point when he did his backup into B4 in Star Trek: Nemesis and wouldn’t have the memory or experience of the Coppelius simulation or choosing to die the way the Data we just met in this simulation did. They would each be a different incarnation of Data, branching off at the point of the backup.
It seemed like Soji accessed her store of Data’s memories in episode 8 when she told Picard that Data loved him. So it could be that each of his fractally cloned children’s personas is built on top of Data’s own, with the potential to bring out his persona instead. Creating a Data during the synth ban would be complicated by Data’s strong morality and the need for secrecy, so they might have refrained from putting him into a body even if they could.
The simulation incarnation of Data and the imprint of human Picard gave each other closure on the Starfleet portion of their lives, something both were sorely in need of. If someone does make more Datas, each new incarnation might need to go through a quick version of that before moving on.
It won’t be the somber occasion this one was, since they won’t have been through the isolation of the simulation and will have different options in front of them, such as a future with a synthetic Picard and many synthetic children. The newer Datas, who will no longer be alone in the universe, can be expected to choose to live on with the new families that eagerly await them, once they understand that they no longer face a future of repeatedly watching everyone they know grow old and die.
Even though Picard’s current body is scheduled to die at a certain age, his consciousness should be transferable to another body. That body could look any way the creators want. New, younger looking bodies that potentially take on new public identities are the solution to letting Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner move on from the characters while giving the characters the opportunity to continue on.
However- I’m suspicious of the fact that the writers continued to call Picard’s synth body a golem even after he was in it. After they created the Qowat Milat, a group of warrior nuns who Picard was close to that were similar to the Bene Gesserit from Dune, now they have specifically given Picard a synth body with a name that sounds like ghola and given both Picard and Data elements of the Dune gholas’ characteristics.
A true golem is a body that is manufactured from inanimate matter, without a mind or life force of its own. Those elements are added later by the manufacturer, but generally the creator is able to remove the mind and life force again at will and to easily control the golem’s life and mind. In contrast, a creature who is born the traditional way grows up to become free of its parents’ wills and has control of its own body, mind and spirit.
The fact that Picard is in a body that is referred to as a golem, rather than just a synth, the way all of the other manufactured beings were, has scary implications for what the synths might expect of him in the future. In Jewish folklore, golems are made as protectors to battle the enemies of their creators. They turn to dust when the battle is over and their creators no longer need them. They aren’t allowed to roam free and live their own lives.
In Frank Herbert’s science fiction series Dune, the most important ghola is Duncan Idaho, who is originally a human swordmaster and valued adviser to the ruling family. After the original human Duncan dies, the Tleilaxu, a group of genetic manipulators who traffic in biological products, bring him back to life as a ghola who is a human computer with no memories of his previous life.
Duncan eventually recovers his memories and identity. Each time an incarnation of the Duncan Idaho ghola dies, his cells are used to create another cloned ghola, who must then go through the memory recovery process. Duncan recovers his memories by going through a triggering event- reliving a traumatic event from his original life.
Sort of like Picard settling into his new synthetic mind by having a chat with Data about one of the most traumatic experiences of his human life.
Versions of Duncan Idaho continue serving the royal family for thousands of years. Later, the Bene Gesserit take over the care and feeding of the Duncan Idaho gholas.
Once the ghola process has been perfected on Duncan Idaho, the Tleilaxu use it to make themselves effectively immortal through consciousness transfer using cloned bodies.
This has wide ranging implications for the Star Trek universe. If the synths have copies of Picard and Data’s minds and templates for their bodies, they can sell exact replicas of each hero to anyone who wants one, to be used however the buyer wants- as an advisor or a fighter or a pal. They can also now sell immortality via mind transfer to the highest bidders, the way Bejayzl was selling Borg parts. They can sell Picard golems that anyone can wear as their own body.
Taking the concept further into the future, once immortal synth bodies become popular, the synth alliance doesn’t have to come through the portal to destroy all organic life. When a species becomes extinct, we’ll just replace it with a hardier synthetic version, the way Altan Soong replaced the butterflies. Eventually, everyone will want to become immortal and live in a synthetic body.
Why bother to have children the old fashioned way when you can buy a perfect synth child who’s guaranteed to be healthy and love you? We were shown an organic child who died and an adult child who rejected his mother for just that reason.
If someone offered Will and Deanna the chance to transfer Thad’s mind into a synth body, of course they would take it. How long would it be before everyone wanted the same chance for their child? Maybe decades or centuries, but it would happen eventually.
Especially because now the official spokesperson for the synths is also the Federation’s arbiter of morality, Admiral Jean Luc Picard (insert long list of humanitarian accomplishments read by EMH here). If he says becoming a synth is okay, then it must be! He even has a synth sidekick/daughter! Case closed.
By turning Picard into a synth without his consent, the Coppelians took away his chance to think the implications through and to have his wise long time advisers present him with arguments he might not consider otherwise. They appealed to his sense of adventure, his natural longing to stay alive and his desire to prove how open-minded he is, which also allowed his hubris to bury any objections he might have had. On top of that, he wouldn’t want to seem ungrateful to his rescuers for the apparent gift of saving his life.
But Picard, and we, don’t really know anything about this golem body. We don’t know what kind of programming might be hidden behind a firewall. I lost track of how many times Agnes changed sides. Who knows which side she was on when she programmed his body. Who knows what kind of programming abilities Soong really has.
We should watch Picard’s communication habits in season 2- will he have a version of an AI Mom who he checks in with everyday?
Contrary to what Soji and Sutra led us to believe, the Tentacles of Doom may have transmitted a strategy to the waiting synths, instead of taking immediate violent action. This would be the first step. Derail your potential enemies while benignly disseminating your technology. Picard and the Zhat Vash have been effectively discredited as voices against synthetic life forms.
Maybe the whole point of Soji and Dahj’s programming was not so much to clear Bruce Maddox’s name and figure out who was really responsible for the Mars attack, but to get Picard to Coppelius and put him in a synth body and to defang the Zhat Vash.
Will this lead to the Federation and the Romulans eventually figuring out the synths strategy and then to synth wars? To Picard turning himself off to make a statement against organic life choosing to become synthetic and immortal? Or will Picard become the leader of the militant synths?
Data himself gave us the warning that a synthetic butterfly isn’t the same as an organic one and shouldn’t be seen to symbolize the same things. We’d do well to remember that. Data’s children don’t feel the same way about humanity, in both senses, as he did. Picard has transformed into a different version of himself. We’ll need to get to know this new one all over again.
The Coppelians found the perfect way to use Picard as their mascot for the next step toward the destruction of organic life.
What Did That Whole Big Confrontation Resolve? Not Much, Really. And It Left Soji a Questionable Character.
Soji’s response to both Picard’s initial offer to sacrifice his life for the synths and to seeing his physical condition worsen was to work faster on the beacon, then turn it on, thus attempting to hasten the death of all organic life. At that point, she was working alone, of her own volition, rather than being coerced into helping by the other synths.
Are we supposed to believe that the way she yelled, “No!” meant she was moved by the way Picard was risking his life, even as she was attempting to wipe out life on a scale never before seen?
And did Picard really sacrifice his life for the synths, since he was dying anyway? In a sense, he used his imminent death as a piece of theatre created to manipulate Soji into doing what he wanted. He hoped she’d understand the message he was trying to teach her, but he used a sledgehammer to get his message across.
Everyone involved in that situation ultimately used coercion, force or the threat of force, not diplomacy, to get what they wanted. No one came to a deal, no compromises were made and no one’s mind was changed, other than Soji turning off the beacon because Picard basically bullied her into it.
Picard said that fear wasn’t a good teacher, but actually it is. It’s a better teacher than a hammer. It’s what we do with the fear that makes the difference. Ignoring valid fears is what leads to the type of hubris that plagued Picard his entire human life.
Being afraid of making the same mistakes that have been made before is how we avoid repeating the worst parts of history. The trick to being successful is knowing when to listen to fears and when to ignore them. Picard is a risk taker and that’s mostly worked for him, but even he had to go home and recover from his mistakes for 14 years prior to this season.
It made Picard feel good to pay Data’s mortal sacrifice forward, but I didn’t get the sense that Soji actually internalized much from his sacrifice and speech beyond feeling sorry for Picard and getting distracted away from the transmitter for the moment. His grand speech amounted to him telling her that she owed him for stopping the Romulans and for his belief in her.
The synths’ situation isn’t permanently resolved. No one worked through the issue between the synths and the Romulans. The Federation dropped the synth ban but could easily bring it back, since we don’t know their real reasons for dropping it.
The only one who talked the problem through with the other side was Narek. He told the ancient story and described the issues to the La Sirena crew and in doing so, he built a bridge.
Then they were able to get through to Altan, who took out Sutra. Narek and Soji also discussed the anciant story earlier in the season, but she doesn’t seem to care about its effects on the other side anymore, or the fact that she knew all along that Narek was a spy who was doing a job. That doesn’t excuse his feeble murder attempt on her. It does mean that she’s not as new to these concepts as some of the other synths and thus, as a xenoanthropologist, she could have been better a leader to her people as things broke down.
(Alas, the show forgot Soji is a xenoanthropologist with a broader perspective than most, just like it forgot that Raffi is a specialist in Romulan culture. Raffi should at least speak Romulan and know some of the same cultural information Elnor knows.)
Narek did the actual work of diplomacy, negotiation and building a coalition to put a plan into operation. The fact that the writers had Soji respond to Picard’s death instead of more reasonable approaches that came before is a failure of the writers’ imaginations and significantly weakens her character.
Before the last two episodes she was a logical scientist who showed compassion and sound judgement. As soon as she hit Synthville, she inexplicably lost her ability to make her own decisions and forgot that anyone had ever been fair or kind to her. She didn’t just go along with Sutra’s plot or remain passive, she became an equal participant who actively wanted the destruction of everyone she’d ever met, including Kestra, Deanna, Seven, Ramdha, Agnes and her coworkers on the cube.
I don’t see how Soji can ever be trusted again.
While wandering the galaxy without a homeland, as Picard asked of the synths, isn’t a desirable choice, it’s currently what many of the Romulans face and it’s what many cultures have faced throughout Earth’s history. Those cultures sometimes turn to violence, but so far none have destroyed the entire planet.
The synths had allies and options other than galactic destruction. Soji almost chose the death of everyone over a period of struggle for her people. That’s the worst kind of terrorist, the type we often execute.
Since the transmitter wasn’t destroyed, what happens the next time the synths feel they’re being mistreated? Will Riker didn’t even come down to the planet to officially establish relations between the synths and the Federation. All we got was a brief reference to the synth ban being dropped and a lie told to the Romulans about the transmitter being destroyed when it was clearly just turned off/the control panel cracked. It could easily be rebuilt anyway.
I wonder if Maddox’s original underlying mission for Dahj and Soji was to bring Picard to Coppelius so that he could be turned into a synth, then act as an advocate for the synths. Picard’s involvement with the synths has only made things worse for organic life in general and his former best friends, the Romulans, in particular. It turned out great for his new best friends, the Coppelians, though.
Did Maddox specifically plant Dahj and Soji where they would draw the attention of their enemies and eventually Picard? Is that why so many details still don’t add up?
Mind Transfer and Issues of Identity, Speciesism and Eugenics
This season grappled with themes of identity and what it means to be who you are, frequent themes for Star Trek. The synths’ dilemma of what it means to be a real person is a continuation of issues explored on TNG, particularly Data’s struggle to define what makes us human and if one has to be born human or if one can become human through thoughts, words and actions. Will and Tom Riker struggled with issues of uniqueness, personal history, the body and their relationship to identity after they discovered Tom, Will’s duplicate, had been created by a transporter accident.
This season adds flesh and blood synths to the Star Trek universe and asks whether a unique, manufactured being (or twin), who passes for human, who can create another manufactured being, should be included as the same species with biological humans or if they should be counted as a separate species. And do all synths, including flesh and blood synths, deserve equal rights, now that there are enough of them to constitute a threat to organic life?
Personally, I’m not terribly interested in the boundaries between species, since they are artificial constructs created for the convenience of scientists. Nature doesn’t really follow those rules. I don’t think who our parents are or how we are born/created matters (beyond arguments about how science and progress can become destructive if taken too far, which are certainly relelvant here).
What matters among individuals is how we live our lives. Collectively, sentient species deserve human rights. This is true on Earth and these have always been the principles of the Federation. Exhibiting the behavioral traits associated with sentience has traditionally been considered enough to grant species sentient status until proven otherwise.
So we’ve theoretically settled the Coppelians’ status as sentient life forms who will be treated as full citizens of the Federation. It remains to be seen if the Federation will actually live up to that ideal in season 2, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.
That leaves the status of new Picard to be determined. He says he’s the same Picard as the man who met with Kirsten Clancy and requested a ship a couple of months ago, but is that the truth? He looks the same. He should scan as human, since apparently Soji and Dahj did (while Jana and Beautiful Flower presented as a new species).
I don’t think we know if synth Picard’s blood type will be the same. We know that his bioscans will be very different. His incurable brain condition is gone and the Borg implants which have been part of him for 30 years are also gone. That makes him look like a fake who has had very good plastic surgery.
Is he physically and legally now the equivalent of Tom Riker, a very convincing duplicate with the same memories, who branches off from the original at a specific point in time?
What do you decide if you’re Kirsten Clancy and need to judge whether this man is still the original Jean Luc Picard or not for legal purposes? Presumably he has the same fingerprints and can pass eye scans. So does Tom Riker.
Alex Kurtzman said in the final Ready Room episode that Picard’s mind/consciousness was transferred, so we have to accept that as canon. But it’s demonstrably not his body or brain. Would you treat him as an identical twin, as Thomas Riker is treated, as a clone, or as the same man? Will Picard consider these issues for himself?
These issues probably won’t even come up in the show, but they should. The surviving version of Picard is no longer the man who served Starfleet. We watched that man die. He did so on Coppelius, with only a few witnesses, so the death of his original body may be kept a secret for as long as possible.
In some ways synth Picard is undeniably the same man, since he has the memories and other mental characteristics of Jean Luc Picard. Theoretically he could be the same person deep down in his soul, since his “consciousness” was transferred, whatever that means. To my knowledge, the Star Trek universe has never defined the human consciousness, mind or soul, if you will, the way they have defined the characteristics of the Vulcan Katra. We don’t really know what it was about Picard’s essence that was transferred and if some other essential part of him stayed behind or moved on.
The way Data’s “death scene was shot, with TNG era Picard dissolving into mist along with Data, suggests that some part of Picard did move on with Data when he left this mortal coil. I can imagine that part of Picard would have made that choice. I can also imagine part of him choosing to stay on the plane of the living in a new synth body. But did he choose? No one asked him in our prescence, mortal or immortal.
Going forward, by all of the ways our society and probably the Star Trek universe would judge identity, he is either a clone or a manufactured human with Picard’s memories. If Picard is the first or second mind transfer to ever happen, then there won’t be laws or traditions governing its legality as far as retention of identity between bodies.
A mind transfer into a manufactured human body isn’t the same as using a transporter, or transporters would be routinely used to bring people back from the dead, restore lost limbs and create organs for transplants. The existence of Tom Riker suggests that they could be used for those purposes, but the research hasn’t been pursued. There’s a good chance that it’s illegal due to the ramifications of human cloning, the same way eugenics experiments are illegal.
As I discussed in the essay above about golems and gholas, in the long run the ramifications of mind transfers, cloning and manufactured humans for organic species are similar to the ramifications of eugenics. When viewed through the lens of the Eugenics Wars and World War 3, the synth ban and the Zhat Vash really, really don’t seem so bad anymore.
In the short term, the reality is that anyone could be inside Picard’s body, sharing space with his downloaded memories and convincingly assuming his identity. I believe that Jean Luc Picard is inside the golem body right now. But there is no reason for the Federation to trust the synths when they say that’s what they did. Soji and Dahj were both weapons hidden behind firewalls inside young women disguised as scientists.
What is potentially hidden inside the synth Jean Luc Picard? Just think of all the places he has access to, where his programming could then be activated.
Every synth is an impossible box holding a honey trap. Every human is a potential hummingbird or butterfly.
Picard told Soji that he was sacrificing himself to teach her that, “We’re here to save each other.” I think that duty and self-sacrifice are two of his core beliefs, it’s true. But I don’t think they are the most important principle he lives by.
I think Picard’s guiding star is the lesson he learned in the TNG episode Tapestry, when he got his artificial heart: that taking risks and living life to its fullest are the ways to be true to yourself. He reiterated this message to his friend Dr Moritz in episode 2 when he learned his brain disease had accelerated. He told Moritz that knowing how little time he had left made him want to go back into space even more.
What Q showed Picard in Tapestry was that if he had lived his life more carefully, always making the safe, mature choices, he would have more regrets than he did in his original life and none of the successes or relationships with people he cares about. That you have to listen to that gut feeling that’s telling you what’s right and take the leap of faith rather than simply following the crowd.
As a young ensign, it seemed crazy for Picard to defend his friends and get into a bar fight that cost him his heart. As an old retired officer, it seemed crazy for him to go back into space on a wild goose chase, when his health was declining. When his illness had progressed, it seemed crazy for him to go into space again to face 218 Romulan ships in La Sirena with only Agnes to help him.
Each time, he trusted his instincts and threw himself on the rocks of fate, because for him it’s better to give life everything he’s got and risk that he’ll die trying, instead of withering away safely on his vineyard.
That’s why La Sirena has her name– Picard will always be called to throw himself at one siren cause or another and give it everything he’s got, whether it’s wise or not. That lack of wisdom is what ultimately defines love. That’s what he was trying to teach Soji. That’s what Seven and Rios and Will and Deanna and even Kestra already know. And Data and Hugh knew. That’s what the Qowat Milat wanted Picard to teach Elnor.
It’s okay to die when you’ve truly lived for something or someone. That ability to go all in is what makes you a real, unique person, not the chemical composition of your blood.
For Soji and Synthville, calling in the evil synth alliance was the safe choice. It would bring in synth parents who would take away all risk and challenge that the Coppelians might face. Learning to live with the organics who made them and the Romulans who don’t understand them are the challenges that can help the Coppelians grow and develop into something new and complex.
This season was ultimately about Picard’s definition of love and what makes life worth living. He gave Soji a very reasoned definition when they spoke about Data in episode 8. That is one side of Picard. But he has another side, the man who’ll laugh when his heart has been sliced through by a Nausican sword, because he’ll die feeling alive, doing what he wanted to and thought was right, with friends he loved. The man with enough passion for living to keep going even after his heart has been smashed against the sirens’ rocks, because he knows that there’s a cry for help hidden inside their song and he won’t be satisfied until he’s given the cause everything he’s got.
Prior to this season, Picard had been wrung out and his heart was smashed to bits by Data’s death, the Romulan rescue operation and the Mars attack. For maybe the first time in his life, he needed to stop for a period of years and put himself back together. He was able to accomplish that mentally, but his body had been through too much over the course of his life to ever fully recover.
Now we have a Picard whose body is more sturdy than ever.
He’s been through a multitude of betrayals and losses and has a faithful few who’ve stuck with him through everything.
What will it mean for him, now that he no longer has to take his fragile body into consideration the way he has for his entire life? Will he become foolhardy and impatient? Will he seek to have the limits that were built into his body removed, so that he can take even bigger risks and go on bigger adventures?
Will he lose some of his compassion and empathy? Will he gradually forget what it was like to be a fragile human? Will he continue to value his organic companions or will he gravitate toward and identify with synths?
In some ways, becoming a synth sets Picard free to become even more fully himself. But becoming a synth could threaten the very things that Picard is most known and loved for, his humanity and nobility.
Images courtesy of CBS AllAccess.