The following contains spoilers for Star Trek: Picard episode 1.
Jean-Luc Picard is back, and with him, a slightly more chilled-out, wine-sipping vibe for Star Trek. That said, like its immediate predecessor — Star Trek: Discovery — the debut episode of Star Trek: Picard kicks off with a few massive twists. The climax and cliffhanger of Picard episode 1 gives us two twists, both of which no one really could have seen coming based on any of the trailers or advanced information. Here’s what these twists mean and how they might impact the rest of the Picard series and Star Trek as a whole.
Though every single trailer made us think that newcomer Dahj Asher (Isa Briones) was set to be a series regular for Star Trek: Picard, Dahj is totally vaporized by a Romulan bomb about two-thirds of the way into the episode and dies. And this is right after Jean-Luc figures out that she’s a “flesh and blood” android who is possibly the spiritual daughter of Lt. Commander Data. The fact that Dahj dies is important for a few reasons. First, it lets us know that just because Jean-Luc Picard says he’s going to protect somebody, that doesn’t mean he can. Nobody is safe on this show! Unsurprisingly, this is straight from the contemporary Trek playbook. Star Trek: Discovery pulled a similar twist in 2017 with its two-part debut. Back then, we all thought Michelle Yeoh was set to be as series regular, but her first Star Trek character, the heroic Captain Philpia Georgiou, was killed at the end of the second episode, “Battle at the Binary Stars.” And just like Captain Georgiou on Discovery, Picard is not messing around. Dahj is really dead. But. There. Is. Another.
And that’s where the second twist comes in. At the end of the episode, Picard learns that it’s possible that Dahj was one of two twin flesh-and-blood androids, possibly created by Data’s old cronie a cybernetics named Bruce Maddox. Don’t remember him? He was in one episode of The Next Generation called “The Measure of a Man.” Anyway, that’s when we cut to the what appears to be Romulan space, and a secret facility called the “Romulan Reclamation Site.” There we meet a second “Dahj”, who is referred to by a Romulan named Narke (Harry Treadway) as “Dr. Asher.” The credits tell us this second “Dahj” is named Soji, and like her recently deceased sister, she seems not to know she’s a flesh-and-blood android. And if that weren’t weird enough, it turns out the Romulan Reclamation Site is really a Borg Cube. WTF!
With these twin twists, Picard has set into motion several season-long mysteries all at once. Why do the Romulans have research facility on a Borg ship? How did Soji get there? Does she know what happened to her sister? Are these two human-ish androids really Data’s spiritual daughters, or were they created by Maddox for another reason? What if none of them were created by Maddox? Is Data still connected? Why did Dahj have a vision of Picard? All of this stuff will have to be answered in the forthcoming episodes of Picard, unless of course some mysteries are leftover for season 2.
But, the there are implications for the larger canon of Star Trek, too. Back in The Next Generation era, we encountered more androids that could “pass” for human. In fact, Data’s own human “mother” was eventually replaced by an android who believed she was human. Data had another daughter in The Next Generation too: the android Lal from the episode “The Offspring.” Do Dahj or Soji have any of Lal’s programming? Then there’s the larger question of why the Synthetics on Mars went rogue 14 years before the show began.
In Star Trek: Discovery season 2, a rogue A.I. called “Control” threatened to take over the Federation and used holograms and tiny nanoprobes to mount that invasion. Picard is set roughly 142 years after Discovery’s second season, but because the USS Discovery jumped 930 years into its own future, Picard also set 788 years in prior to Discovery season 3. It’s a rare sequel and prequel to the seasons of a sister series that it both follows and precedes.
Obviously, there’s several centuries in between all of this, but the fact that the A.I. uprising in Picard happens about a century and a half after the A.I. uprising in the most recent season of Discovery feels suspicious. A cynic would say that the Star Trek franchise is just out of ideas, and the producers are going to the rogue A.I. option because it’s easy. But this feels more specific and pointed. During season 2 of Discovery, many fans and critics wondered if some kind of retconned Borg origin story was happening, and now that the Borg are back properly, it really feels like connections between Discovery and Picard could be made more overt.
Alex Kurtzman has gone on record saying there wouldn’t be too much obvious crossover between the two series, and has also said that Control was totally neutralized at the end of Discovery season 2. And yet, the twin twists of the first episode of Picard will give the hardcore fan pause. Why did the androids on Mars revolt? What is the connection between those synthetics and Dahj and Soji? How does Data fit in? Are the Borg connected or are they just kind of hanging out?
Hopefully we’ll get plenty of answers to these questions in Picard season 1. We’ve got nine more episodes to really dig in. Let’s just hope that when it comes to solving the mysteries, the writers make it so…clear.