This Star Trek: Picard review contains major spoilers.
Hoo boy, Star Trek: Picard dumped a whole lot of information on us in its eighth installment, “Broken Pieces,” but writer/showrunner Michael Chabon does it with character-illuminating panache, setting most of the hour’s action on the La Sirena ship, and letting conspiracy theorist Raffi put the pieces together for us. The answers are less exciting than Picard perhaps wants them to be, but the process of finding them out, which exposes some important backstory for many of our recurring characters, makes this episode soar.
Is there anything more fun than watching a detective do her work? When it comes to Raffi, she already has the picture; it’s more about collecting all of the pieces so she can make the goddamn puzzle. This means diving into the fragmented psyches of Rios’ five hologram clones, all modeled after Rios truly.
They’ve all got fun accents (including an obviously Scottie-inspired one with an engineering specialty) and costumes, and Santiago Cabrera seems to be having a hoot diving into these different caricatures, but there’s a whole in their collective knowledge that only the real Rios can fill. When it comes down to it, Raffi’s hologram interrogation isn’t about finding the answer so much as coming up with the questions that will get her to the answer: Who is Jahna? What happened on the Ibn Majid? And what does it have to do with Soji?
Turns out Jahna was one of two synthetics the Ibn Majid took aboard nine years prior. Shortly after they were brought on board the ship, Rios’ mentor and father figure, Captain Alonso Vandermeer, murdered them in cold blood on orders from Starfleet Command. They had given the captain an ultimatum: kill the two emissaries and delete all record of their existence from your ship’s records or the Ibn Majid and everyone on it will be destroyed.
Vandermeer does it, but can’t live with himself after the fact. He shoots himself in front of Rios, who carries out the rest of the orders himself, erasing any record of Jahna and Beautiful Flower from the records. Now, he knows the truth about the two strangers: they were synths, from the same world Soji hails from. And they were killed by Commodore Oh, using Starfleet as her weapon.
How did Oh get involved in all of this? “Broken Pieces” has an answer for that, too, and it’s the final piece in Raffi’s conspiracy theory puzzle. Half-Romulan, Half-Vulcan Oh infiltrated Starfleet not long after Data’s creator, Dr. Noonien Soong, began popping out androids. Once in place, she orchestrated the Mars attack so that the Federation would stop work on synths altogether.
Why would Oh go to such extremes to keep synthetic life from developing further? As we have long assumed, she is part of the Zhat Vash. This episode, we get far more insight into the secret organization by flashing back—yes, 14 years—to one of their initiation ceremonies, which includes both Narissa and her aunt Ramdha (surprise! they’re related).
Known as The Admonition, the ceremony involves bringing recruits to a octonary system (i.e. a system with eight component stars) to expose them to the same apocalyptic vision of the future we saw Oh mind meld into Agnes’ brain last episode. The message is a warning, left by a species more than 200,000 years ago. This group constructed the octonary system just to get people’s attention—apparently, the Romulans were the only ones who were listening—to show others what happened when they let synthetic life develop past a certain point: “Somebody shows up.” “Somebody really bad.”
This prophecy, and the Romulans who follow it, know Soji as The Destroyer. Is she the bad person who shows up or is that someone else? These questions have yet to be answered.
Elsewhere in the episode, Agnes wakes up and, frankly, it feels like the crew of the La Sirena lets her off the hook a little easily. After Picard informs her they will be turning her over to the authorities for the murder of Bruce Maddox once they reach Deep Space 12, she’s all like: No, I shall turn myself over when we reach DS12. But I am pretty sure that’s not how it works.
Also, they all have a very easy time believing Agnes when she says she won’t murder Soji, even though she murdered her former lover and watched the life drain from his body just days before. Like, I know Soji is a lie detector and Agnes knows how to pop a crocodile tear and I am all for giving people a chance at redemption, but this all feels a little laissez faire, even for a ship as loose as the La Sirena.
In the end, Agnes doesn’t try to murder Soji. Instead, they all lay their cards on the table (well, sadly, not the holograms, Soji disabled them) and set a course for Soji’s homeworld after some minor power struggles on the bridge. Little do they know, Narissa’s Romulan fleet will be there waiting for them… as will Narek, who somehow didn’t completely lose the La Sirena, even as they enter a Borg transmat tube. Oy vey.
Elsewhere in the episode, Seven of Nine swoops in to save Elnor just when Narissa’s men may have gotten the best of him. Elnor gives him a big hug, endearing him further to at least this audience member. But Seven’s work is not yet done. When Narissa begins killing all of the Ex-Bs on the ship, Seven attaches herself into the system, waking up the dormant Borg onboard and “assimilating” them to do her bidding.
Before Seven can use them to save the Ex-Bs, however, Narissa vents all the Borg on the Artifact into space, which is just a straight-up massacre. Narissa gets what’s coming to her when some of the remaining ex-Bs take her out. She seemingly dies in the struggle, but I remain skeptical—though it would be a fitting end for her evil character.
While the action on the Artifact was exciting, it lacked the emotional weight of the La Sirena storyline, which is filled with characters we know getting some proper development (or illumination). The Artifact storyline wanted to belong to Seven, and she did have her moments of narrative triumph, but it really belonged to Narissa, who we never got to know past her cartoonishly villainous surface. It truly did peak at that Elnor hug.
- The many Rios-grams are reminiscent of the many versions of Wells Tom Cavanagh gets to play on The Flash.
- The Zhat Vash all appear to be women? Or at least they do in the flashback Admonition scene.
- Oh yeah, turns out the Artifact broke when the Borg on it tried to assimilate Ramdha, who had the power of the Admonition in her head. Borg can’t take those levels of feels.
- Will we get flashbacks to Little Narek and Little Narissa being taken in by their Aunt Ramdha as kids? I hope so.
- Was anyone else getting Firefly vibes on during the La Sirena-set action this episode? Well, Firefly with a healthy dose of Battlestar Galactica‘s “This has all happened before and it will all happen again” nonsense.
- Speaking of which, Rios has a lullaby security protocol, which is a lovely detail.
- Oh, hey, remember that time Picard yelled at Clancy until her got a squadron, then apparently ditched them in order to let Soji take her own path?
- This was a great quote though: “And now the windmills have turned out to be giants.”
- “Data’s capacity for expressing and processing emotion was limited… I suppose we had that in common.”
- “You are a wonder. A technological masterpiece and a work of art.” “Am I a person? … Not in theory. To you, right now. Looking at me. Talking to me. Do you consider me to be a person, like you?”
- A Black Flag Directive, huh?
- Lot of talk of suicide in this episode.
- Zefram Cochrane shout out!
- Picard knows of Vandermeer because he served as First Officer under his academy classmate Marta Batanides, who was a main player in the excellent TNG episode “Tapestry.”
- “Fear is the great destroyer.” – JL Picard