About this episode
– Episode 2 (of 10), ‘Maps and Legends’
– Written by Michael Chabon & Akiva Goldsman
– Directed by Hanelle M. Culpepper
We begin with a flashback, 14 years ago, to the Utopia Planitia shipyards on Mars. It’s First Contact Day, a celebration of the day humanity first made contact with the Vulcans. In the shipyards, humans work alongside primitive androids: so-called Synthetic Labour Units. One of these androids, F8, seems to have a playful relationship with his fleshy colleagues – although some are more mocking than friendly. But then his eyes suddenly begin to flicker and he uses a computer console to lower the facility’s deflector shields. As alien ships attack, F8 brutally kills his co-workers, then turns the phaser on himself.
At Château Picard, Laris, Zhaban and Picard watch a recording of the attack in San Francisco. There’s no trace of Dahj, as if she’s been somehow erased. Laris, a former member of the Tal Shiar, the Romulan secret police, tells Picard that the group might be responsible. She says they have a deep loathing of synthetic life, noting that there are no androids in Romulan culture. At Dahj’s apartment in Boston, Laris determines that the assassins wiped any clues to the crime, but finds a reference to Dahj’s twin, Soji, in her call records. She’s off-world somewhere, but they don’t know where.
At the Romulan reclamation site – which we now know to be the remnants of a Borg cube – Soji and Narek, a Romulan, share a bed. She refers to the cube as ‘the artifact’ and notes that it has been severed from the Borg collective. He suggests that Narek isn’t really his name, and that them sleeping together has to be kept secret. Back at Château Picard, Picard’s doctor – an old friend with whom he served on his first ship, the Stargazer – tells him he has an abnormality in his brain that will eventually kill him. Undeterred, Picard asks the doctor to clear him for Starfleet duty so he can go and find Dahj’s twin.
Picard travels to Starfleet HQ in San Francisco. He meets with an Admiral Clancy and asks to be reinstated to Starfleet, saying he’s happy to be demoted to captain. Clancy angrily refuses his request, accusing him of hubris and calling him a “once great man desperate to matter.” At the reclamation site, Soji prepares to enter the Grey Zone on a research mission, where she is “likely to encounter former members of the Borg collective.” If her safety badge flashes green, she has one simple instruction: run. We also learn that Narek is the director of this project. Why are the Romulans so interested in the Borg?
Dr. Jurati from the Daystrom Institute arrives at the vineyard. Picard catches her leafing through an Isaac Asimov book, but says he never really cared for science fiction himself. Jurati tells Picard that Dahj’s identity was too perfect, indicating that it was fabricated – and as recently as three years ago. Later, Picard is in his study and removes an item from a box: his old Starfleet badge, which he pins to his chest. He taps it, contacting someone, and says he needs a ship, and we hear echoes of the Next Generation theme. Seems Picard is going back into space, with or without the help of Starfleet.
At Starfleet HQ, Admiral Clancy tells her superior, a commodore, about Picard’s request. The commodore seems concerned that Picard knows so much about Dahj and Soji, and about Bruce Maddox’s experiments with organic synthetics. She calls in a Lieutenant Rizzo, and it’s revealed that they’re both undercover Romulans working with the Tal Shiar – and that they were behind the attack on Picard and Dahj in the previous episode. “Your team destroyed the thing before it could be interrogated.” she says angrily, referring to Dahj. The commodore says Rizzo has one more opportunity; Rizzo says her best man is on it.
It seems Narek is not just the director of the reclamation site, but also a part of the Tal Shiar conspiracy. Rizzo appears in his quarters through a holo-communicator and asks him if he’s found the nest yet, and whether “the machine” (presumably Soji) has given up the location of “its fellow abominations” yet. Narek says he hasn’t, and Rizzo indicates that if he doesn’t get results soon, she’ll have no choice but to try her approach. Back on Earth, Picard is in the desert and approaches a phaser-toting woman who orders him to leave. She lowers the weapon when Picard mentions the Romulan assassins he encountered, and the offer of a bottle of his vineyard’s wine sweetens the deal.
Verdict: This is another great episode, with revelations you’d expect to see later in a season, not two hours in. A conspiracy at the heart of Starfleet is a shocking and unexpected twist, and Picard’s newfound awareness of his fragile mortality will give Patrick Stewart plenty to chew on.
He remains superb, and seeing Picard digging out his old Starfleet badge was a cathartic moment. The most intriguing thing in this episode is what exactly the Romulans want with the Borg cube, and why Soji refers to it as ‘the artifact’ with such reverence.
- When Picard meets his new ally in the desert, her home is next to a very familiar-looking rock formation. This spike of rock has appeared in countless films and TV shows over the years, and is where Captain Kirk famously fought the Gorn in classic Trek episode ‘Arena’.
- You can learn more about Laris and Zhaban, and why they’re so loyal to Picard, in the prequel comic series Picard: Countdown. The comic also reveals more details about Picard’s controversial formation of a rescue armada in the wake of the destruction of Romulus.
- The Tal Shiar, an elite Romulan intelligence agency, has appeared, or been mentioned, in Star Trek before. In the Next Generation episode Face of the Enemy, Deanna Troi finds herself posing as a Tal Shiar agent, having been surgically altered to look like a Romulan.
Star Trek: Picard is available to watch on CBS All Access every Thursday in the US, and every Friday on Amazon Prime Video internationally.