“Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1”
Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Episode 9 – Debuted Thursday, March 19, 2020
Teleplay by Michael Chabon & Ayelet Waldman
Story by Michael Chabon & Ayelet Waldman & Akiva Goldsman
Directed by Akiva Goldsman
This week, the show takes a sharp directional turn as it sets us up for the season finale. Our heroes reunite (and re-disband) on the synth homeworld, where they meet some new friends with familiar faces.
[WARNING: Spoilers from here on]
This penultimate episode of Picard season 1 seems to be resonating on different frequencies with fans. Some welcomed the change of pace after last episode, which was largely expository. I, on the other hand (this is a biased review, after all), was a bit surprised by the complete change to the look and feel of the show in its new setting on Coppelius. Some fun character moments were had, but the story has left me more confused than ever about what this show is about and where it will go from here – and there’s only one hour of the story left.
Take me home, space orchids
Soji and the gang arrive at a very M-class looking planet: Coppelius. Soji is remembering more and more about her past life, and being home seems to have accelerated that process. It is fantastic to finally see Soji coming into her own after stepping up to take control of her destiny at the end of the last episode. I am excited to be learning more about her, at the same time as she learns about herself.
As we knew, Narek’s “snakehead” ship sneakily followed them through the transwarp conduit to arrive at the planet along with them. But before they can get very far into a space battle, giant flowers envelop the ships and take them down into the planet’s atmosphere. This was a fun bit of sci-fi weirdery that I can get behind. Meanwhile, the Artifact arrives to save the day! Aaaaand, it’s also taken down by a space flower. Rats.
After the crash, Picard comes to in La Sirena’s sick bay to Jurati hovering over him. It appears her old school tricorder has revealed some information about Picard that he had been trying to conceal. He is sick. And dying. It’s degenerative. And incurable. In a brief but powerful scene, Picard tells the crew about the secret he is carrying. The camera slowly pushes in on Picard until he is the only one in frame. He is alone in this. This was one of the finest moments this week.
Let’s take a little trip for some reason
Soon the gang emerges from La Sirena, which has crash landed in southern California (with some added red foliage for good measure), and heads to the Borg Cube. I’m not going to say much about this scene, because not much happened, and I’m frankly confused as to why our heroes decided to walk over there, say hello, and then say goodbye. Apparently the xBs need Elnor’s protection (?) so the gang decides not to join forces and instead go their separate ways (??????). I’m assuming the Cube is here to save our butts next week, once they get its defenses up and running again, just in the nick of time as the Romulans attack.
Finally our heroes arrive at Coppelius Station. Soji’s former home. What will they find? A whole commune of Sojis? A Data Mark II? Kind of neither of those things, but also kind of both? The place is teeming with androids who immediately recognize Soji and welcome her home. A few of them look like her, but with very cool copper-colored skin. Soji appears to be the most advanced model. This reunion feels a bit tentative, since Soji only kind of remembers her life here, and it’s not immediately clear that we can trust the situation our heroes have just walked into.
Then, lo and behold, it’s Brent Spiner! Is it Data, somehow aged? Is it Lore playing tricks? Why no, it’s Altan Inigo Soong, self-proclaimed “mad scientist” and the son of Data’s creator, Dr. Noonian Soong. The Soong family sure has some strong genes; he’s a spitting image of his father! Dr. Soong doesn’t seem terribly surprised at the arrival of Picard and the gang, and he also doesn’t seem terribly bothered by the death of Dahj.
Soon the androids of Coppelius are gathered round as Soji tells her story. One of the Soji look-alikes, whose name is Sutra but who I’ll call “Soji but wearing Pink,” is intrigued by Jurati having experienced the so-called “Admonition”—the ritual undergone by the Zhat Vash with imagery so powerful it might just make you rip your face off with your bare hands. Pink Soji apparently has read a lot of books on the teachings of Surak; so many, in fact, that she has mastered the art of the Vulcan mind meld—something that, until this moment, I understood to be a consequence of Vulcan physiology and generations of evolution. Screw Duolingo, sign me up for Surak’s books on tape!
Pink Soji was right about one thing: It does appear that the visions weren’t meant for biologic life. And, maybe, the Zhat Vash should have come to this conclusion when the visions basically brain damaged anyone who witnessed them. No, it appears that the vision was meant to be experienced by a brain of a different nature; one with the capacity to see individual images for what they are, rather than a flurry of evil and despair. Through Pink Soji’s eyes, we see the evolution of organic life, from the first amino acids coming together to form the first proteins, to fetuses, to the development of synthetic life. This wasn’t a warning to the Zhat Vash… or was it?
Keep a close EYE on Narek, would you Saga?
Narek didn’t seem to have much of a plan here, did he? I admit it felt wonderful to see him be dragged into the village by the synthetic life he vows to destroy. Finally Narek is getting a bit of what he deserves. I was nervous when Soji went to speak with him. the kind of nervous you feel when your good friend has a “talk” with her awful ex-boyfriend who you always hated and who you know, deep down, will convince her to get back together with him. Yuck. Luckily, our girl Soji stays strong. Will it last?
In a move that really makes me question why anyone put her in charge, Sutra quickly makes a deal with the devil – releasing Narek so that he can murder Saga by stabbing her in the eye with a hummingbird brooch that she had been wearing earlier. Grim. What’s with this show and eye-related violence? As Soong mourns over Saga’s dead body, I could not help but wonder if Saga could simply be fixed; she is an android after all. Data has taken some pretty serious damage and come back from it none the worse for wear. Can’t they just make her a replacement eye? Guess not. Moving on.
A self-fulfilling prophecy
Shortly after meeting her, Sutra a.k.a. “Narissa Part II,” goes from “maybe Soji’s friend” to “wait, I’m pretty sure she is evil” to “yeah, she started a cult”. No one on the planet, save Picard, seems to see the issue with Sutra’s plan to completely obliterate the Zhat Vash and also hold Picard prisoner. It’s an age-old question and one that Star Trek has dealt with beautifully many times in the past. If we sacrifice who we are to save ourselves, were we really saved? If we kill in order to not be killed, are we any different from our enemies? It was nice to see Soji grappling with this for a brief moment and asking Picard for help in understanding “the logic of sacrifice.” Unfortunately, his response about holding a knife seems to have made about as much sense to Soji as it did to me—Picard’s advice doesn’t seem to be sinking in.
What am I hoping to see next week? I am hoping for someone to stop and realize that they are all being manipulated by a 200,000 year-old pop-up ad. I want our characters, Soji, Pink Soji, even Narek, to take control of their own destinies. I want love and kindness and logic to prevail. We will find out what fate awaits our heroes… next week!
New episodes of Star Trek: Picard are released on CBS All Access in the USA Thursdays at 12:01 AM PT/3:01 AM ET. In Canada it airs Thursdays on CTV Sci-Fi Channel at 6PM PT /9PM ET and streams on Crave. For the rest of the world it streams Fridays on Amazon Prime Video. Episodes are released weekly.
Keep up with all the Star Trek: Picard news at TrekMovie.