Star Trek: Picard – Season 1 Episode 2
“Maps and Legends”
Star Trek: Picard starts the titular character on his journey to finding the truth about Dahj and protecting her sister.
The main purpose of this episode is for Picard to work through the available information in order to figure out his next step. As luck would have it, the Romulans working for him on his Vineyard happen to be former members of the Tal Shiar -the Romulan secret police- so possess certain skills and knowledge that are helpful in uncovering hidden information. Laris is especially handy in that regard; she helps Picard by going over Dahj’s apartment with the proverbial fine tooth comb to uncover what actually happened and was very carefully covered up.
It’s a cool sequence with a lot of technical voodoo and technobabble that would make some Voyager writers blush. Her dialogue is a lot of quick-fire nonsense but she employs the tried and true Star Trek device of saying something that sounds complicated and explaining it with a simple analogy. It occurs so often within the same scene that it’s almost comical though it is entertaining to watch Picard trying to keep up with her. Taking the episode as a whole it really wasn’t an essential scene because all it accomplishes is revealing to Picard that Dahj’ sister isn’t on Earth. The audience found that out in a far more organic way at the end of the previous episode so I’m sure there was some less involved way for Picard to learn this information. The scene Picard shares with Jurati has a similar problem. It’s a strong scene taken in isolation but all it does is confirm that Dahj’ life and credentials weren’t actually real which was already fairly evident so ultimately it wasn’t entirely essential.
Intercut with Picard’s investigation of Dahj’ apartment is Laris and Zhaban telling Picard about an even more secret Romulan organisation known as the Shat Vash. They’re so secret that most Romulans are unaware they actually exist but Laris knows about them and knows that they are on a quest to wipe out all synthetic life due to their fear and hatred of them. It’s not a lot to go on but it gives Picard something to be wary of in his quest to track down Soji. The mention of Bruce Maddox in the previous episode also points him in a direction as finding him could mean finding the truth of the flesh and blood androids. The small amount of information gives Picard the purpose he’s been looking for so the next thing he needs is a ship.
To find this he makes an appointment with Starfleet and has a meeting with Admiral Kirsten Clancy (Ann Magnuson) who point blank refuses his request to be reinstated into active service for one mission and be given a small ship with a crew. In true Picard tradition he comes to her with a well thought out argument designed to be persuasive. He uses Data’s commitment to the Federation as well as his own years of service as a bargaining chip and even offers to be demoted to Captain for the purposes of the mission. His harsh words during the interview in the previous episode do him no favours within Starfleet so his request is categorically died. Admiral Clancy sees Picard as a delusional old man who has no place within the modern iteration of Starfleet and isn’t shy about telling him that.
With this being Picard’s story told largely from his perspective the tendency might be to assume that his side is the right one but this scene offers some degree of balance on the Romulan rescue situation. Admiral Clancy points out that the attack on Utopia Planitia was devastating and crippled the plan to rescue the Romulans but that was also one aspect of a much larger problem. The Federation received pressure from 14 member worlds who threatened to leave if the Romulan rescue effort went ahead which left those in charge with a difficult choice to make. Ultimately they chose to preserve the strength of the Federation at the expense of the Romulans. Picard is still filled with righteous fury over this decision and tries to tell her that the Federation doesn’t get to decide whether a species lives but Admiral Clancy points out that she believes that they do and that’s exactly what they did. Picard is of course unconvinced but it’s interesting to hear the other side of the argument and learn that it wasn’t a simple case of the Federation abandoning its core principles at a crucial moment. The issue is now framed as something without a clear answer and framing the argument between Picard’s idealism and governmental pragmatism produces strong arguments on both sides. There’s a real sense that the Federation is barely holding together and that there is unrest among the member states which creates a compelling tapestry to the galaxy that Picard will soon be heading into.
His words don’t entirely fall on deaf ears as shown by a later scene where Admiral Clancy contacts Commodore Oh (Tamlyn Tomita) to report what Picard told her and arrange for it to be looked into. Commodore Oh then contacts Lieutenant Rizzo (Peyton List) and discusses covert undercover operations with her. The purpose of this branch of the narrative is to establish that the Federation and the Romulan Empire aren’t so different when it comes down to it. Both engage in covert operations and keep secrets. This conversation establishes that there is corruption within Starfleet and that Picard is getting too close to uncovering it which makes him a threat to them. It would appear that he was right in ways that he couldn’t possibly imagine. It’ll be interesting to see how he reacts when he learns that the organisation he devoted so many years of his life to has been corrupted in a way yet to be fully explained. Of course this is nothing new for the franchise with the multiple appearances of Section 31 in Enterprise, Deep Space Nine and Discovery but this is something Picard personally hasn’t dealt with extensively before. Star Trek: Insurrection counts to some degree but that wasn’t on the same scale as this appears to be.
Picard finds himself somewhat adrift after this meeting but is no less determined to get back out into the galaxy and make a difference so starts to explore alternate avenues that will allow him to do that. Zhaban suggests getting his TNG crew back together for another mission but Picard refuses as he doesn’t want to get anyone else killed out of loyalty to him. This is backed up by him talking about mourning Data’s death for decades. The implication here is that he has reached his lifetime limit of loss and isn’t able to deal with losing anyone else he cares about. It’s somewhat questionable that he has no problem risking the lives of people he isn’t close to but the mission has to start someone and hopefully the fact that he is wilfully assembling a team of Expendables will be explored in a way that adds to the introspection that this show is becoming known for.
One of the many things I like about this show is how packed every scene is with important characterisation. A strong example is when Picard tells Laris and Zhaban that he plans to head back out into space in order to find answers. I mentioned in my review of the previous episode that Laris and Zhaban’s interactions with Picard suggested a strong familial connection that had been cultivated over the years they have spent caring for him. This comes through very clearly in the reaction to learning what Picard plans to do. Laris is worried to the point of anger because she sees what he plans to do as so profoundly stupid. It’s clear from Orla Brady’s performance that she cares deeply for Picard and doesn’t want to see him hurt. I especially liked the touch of her storming off when she realised that he couldn’t be reasoned with. It’s a very real conversation between people that care deeply for one another who don’t see eye to eye. Laris challenges Picard in ways that may appear uncomfortable but are also necessary.
It makes a lot of sense that Picard would choose people that can help keep his Hubris in check to be close to him. The sarcastic line from Laris; “Of course. If it’s important to Jean-Luc Picard, it must be important to the whole galaxy” supports this as it shows an awareness of how Picard sometimes sees himself from her. Zhaban is much calmer and more understanding. He offers Picard support and points him towards his next step. It’s a great dynamic and I hope it doesn’t disappear once Picard leaves Earth. It’s that same hubris that allows him to approach Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd) who hates him for an as yet undisclosed reason to ask for help.
Picard remains the central focus of this episode which isn’t unexpected considering the show is named after him. In general there is a lot less nostalgia with more focus on how Picard and the world he now inhabits will progress. There are a few differences in his characterisation from the previous episode. In this one he has clarity and purpose which gives him a proverbial spring in his step. The Picard of last week was directionless and lost but now that he has something to strive for there’s a determination behind everything he does. Admiral Clancy’s observation that he’s desperate to matter is right on the money as Picard has always been someone who needs purpose in his life in order to function properly. He lost sight of that for many years but now he’s making up for lost time and is determined to help Soji before she is hunted down.
The mention of an abnormality in his brain that could lead to a number of syndromes that all lead to eventual death regardless of treatment. This brain abnormality was last mentioned in the TNG finale “All Good Things” so it’s good to see it brought up here as a nod to continuity. It also serves an important function within the context of this show as it casts doubt on Picard’s overall competence. His dreams and changes in temperament can be attributed to this abnormality and it creates an open question over whether Picard is the right man for the job given that he might be compromised in some way. This question is supported by the fact that he has been retired for over a decade, has upset some very powerful people within Starfleet and has very few resources to call on. His age is also a significant factor so even without the medical condition there are questions over his ability to see this through. Determination will only get someone so far and Picard is far from at his best in terms of his physical condition. If questioning his competence remains a theme throughout the season then it will certainly be worthy of exploration.
Last week’s episode ended with the striking visual of a damaged Borg Cube under Romulan control. This is called “The Artifact” and has been completely cut off from the Borg Collective who consider it too damaged to waste resources on recovering. It has become a long term project to study the ship and liberate the Borg drones onboard. I’m not sure that the episode provides enough context of what the Borg are for new viewers to follow it but I commend the writers for finding a new approach to dealing with them. On a visual level the Borg Cube is eerie and foreboding combined with a grotesque quality to the removal of the implants attached to the drones.
This obviously suggests body horror which has been commonly attributed to the Borg but the loss of self is also in there too with the liberated drones being classified as “nameless” as there is nothing to indicate who they were or where they came from. The suggestion is that they are being reclaimed from being part of the Borg collective but still aren’t being restored to who they once were which is quietly tragic and a really good commentary on how nefarious what the Borg do to people is. Soji picks up on this and doesn’t like it which offers insight into what is important to her.
Soji generally remains a mystery in terms of who and what she is beyond what is already suspected but Isa Briones counters this lack of information with a performance full of personality and life. She has great chemistry with Harry Treadaway’s Narek and their conversations suggest a strong desire for meaningful connection on her part despite her attraction to his secretive nature. It’s a really compelling dynamic that tells us a lot about Soji while keeping Narek interesting despite knowing very little about him. Soji is very much an innocent who has a lot to offer with her intelligence and skill. Narek’s proximity to her subtly increases tension due to his secrecy which is confirmed by the confirmation that he does have a hidden agenda in getting close to her.
Narek’s conversation with Rizzo -hereafter referred to as Narissa since that’s her real Romulan name- reinforces what is sure to be one of the central themes of the show; that of the connections forged between siblings. The extent of Dahj and Soji’s relationship is yet to be revealed but it will definitely be significant as will Narek’s relationship with Narissa. Mechanically their conversation reinforces the conspiracy that exists while revealing that Narissa is a surgically altered undercover agent which possibly introduces another theme of people not being what they seem. It’s not a hugely interesting interaction though I do like the contrast between Narissa’s brute force approach detailed in the previous episode and Narek’s more measured and personal one. Undoubtedly their mindsets will cause them to further conflict.
A strong continuation that focuses on Picard’s desire to make a difference and deepens the various mysteries in really interesting ways. In general this is an episode devoted to Picard figuring out his next step. The sequence where Laris investigates Dahj’ apartment is well put together and shows us a good amount of Laris’ backstory though does little more than establish that Dahj’ sister isn’t on Earth which leaves it feeling somewhat superfluous. The same can be said of the scene Picard shares with Jurati. These scenes are good on their own but don’t accomplish a great deal which leaves them feeling somewhat redundant. Laris telling Picard about the secret Romulan group out to destroy synthetics gives Picard something to be wary of during his quest. In order to get a ship and crew he first asks Admiral Clancy who outright declines his request and reprimands him for his criticism during the interview in the previous episode. Admiral Clancy offers an alternate perspective on the circumstances surrounding the abandoned Romulan rescue mission and offers a complicated alternate viewpoint for the audience to consider showing that the universe isn’t as simple as Picard wants it to be. Picard’s words don’t fall entirely on deaf ears and leads to a reveal that there is a conspiracy within the Federation linked to the secret Romulan organisation.
Once again Picard is the central focus of the episode. Every scene is full of characterisation which gives them deeper meaning. The familial connection he has with Laris and Zhaban is reinforced in his interaction with them where he details his plan to go on his self imposed mission. Laris is worried to the point of anger and makes a very cutting remark about the sort of man Picard is. It’s very telling that Picard would choose to be surrounded by those who challenge him in his old age and help keep his hubris in check. The mention of the abnormality in his brain suggests that his overall competence is in question. Symptoms such as intense dreams and an altered temperament are noted which is in line with what Picard has been experiencing. This hints that he may not be the best person for the job as determination only takes someone so far. Hopefully this will be a running theme through the episode. The information given on the Borg Cube that ended the previous episode is interesting and adds to the ongoing theme attached to self. Soji has empathy for the drones because they are being classified as “nameless” which suggests that their identities aren’t actually being reclaimed. There is a constant sense of foreboding about the Cube as well and it’s generally eerie. Soji proves to be an interesting character so far while still remaining enigmatic. Her interactions with Narek show that she has a desire for connection and the two characters have excellent chemistry. Narek’s secretive nature is compelling and quietly increases tension in their scenes together. His scene with Narissa hints at a theme surrounding sibling relationships that will play out through this connection as well as Soji and Dahj.
- more focus on Picard and his current core relationships
- the continuation of the familial relationship Picard has with Laris and Zhaban
- the way Laris challenges Picard and his hubris
- strong scenes dripping with meaningful characterisation
- Admiral Clancy adding complexity to Starfleet’s cancellation of the mission to save the Romulans
- the suggestion of a conspiracy within the Federation
- Picard’s determination and drive to find answers
- the suggestion that Picard may not be the best man for the job
- Soji’s characterisation and Isa Briones’ performance
- Narek and Soji’s interactions and what they reveal about Soji
- some scenes that have very little purpose despite how strong they are
What did you think? Select your rating in the “User Review” box below
User Review( votes)
We’d love to know your thoughts on this and anything else you might want to talk about. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter or just leave a comment in the comment section below. You’ll need an account for Disqus but it’s easy to set up. Don’t forget to share your rating in the “User Ratings” box
If you want to chat to me directly then I’m on Twitter as well.