Star Trek: Picard – Soji’s Home, But It Becomes A Tense Homecoming – Review, Ep. 109

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At long last, the crew and passengers of La Sirena have arrived on Soji’s homeworld, a beautifully earth-like sight from the atmosphere around it. Unfortunately, the joy and satisfaction of finding this new, off-the-beaten-track world will not last long. A lot of interesting faces and agendas will eventually find their way to this planet – and then things get really interesting.

In this episode, titled “Et in Arcadio Ego, Part I (I (death) too am in Arcadia),” we finally see just what Bruce Maddox had been up to in the aftermath of the synth ban, and get a reminder of how marginalized populations can feel threatened, even to the point of justifying genocide to survive. It’s dark stuff, but not so dark that there aren’t rays of light shining through it. It is here, on the planet Coppelius, that we find out just who and what “the destroyer” may be – and who actually wants to welcome it to this galaxy.

But first, a reminder that SPOILERS will be following. So, if you haven’t seen the episode, there are SPOILERS coming. If you’re good, engage your warp engines and let’s see what’s going on on Coppelius.

The arrival at Coppelius has a lot going on, including Narek showing up and firing on La Sirena. But while those two are engaged in a bit of a phaser tussle in the skies, who else should show up but Seven of Nine and Elnor, along with the surviving XBs aboard the Borg Cube. But wait, there’s more. In the midst of all this, these ships are set upon by — flowers. That’s right, the planet’s defense system looks like flowers.

“They hit us with a flower,” says Dr. Jurati. “Looked like an orchid,” added Raffi. “I’m pretty sure we just call them orchids,” says Raffi. It’s one of those wonderfully subtle exchanges during tense moments that lightens the vibe without making a mockery of it. It’s the kind of humor that Star Trek has always done so well and that Star Trek: Picard employs to incredibly good effect. Unfortunately, the flower defense force isn’t a play thing and those soft, alluring petals disable all three ships before depositing them on the surface.

So, given that the La Sirena crew is on land, it was safe to assume that Narek and whoever was left on the Cube would be in a similar state – shaken, stirred and without power. Additionally, Picard suffers a blackout during the entry into the atmosphere and, using an old-school medical tricorder that worked, Dr. Jurati discovers the brain anomaly that will eventually kill Picard.

It’s a heartfelt moment from Jurati when Picard confirms her suspicions. Here’s a woman that needs redemption in the worst way and has seeme to have so much suffering built up within her. Allison Pill really delivers in this character. So much pain, so much regret and so much uncertainty about who and what she is and should be. Picard then shares his condition with the rest of the La Sirena crew. “There will be no further discussion. Anyone who treats me like a dying man runs the risk of pissing me off,” he tells them. Again, a fun little moment in a tense and sad situation. So damn good.

There’s a settlement to get to, but there’s a Borg cube that’s down as well and they decide to investigate. Again, more good news as Elnor and Seven have survived, along with a substantial group of XBs. They are trying to repair things (I enjoyed Seven kicking a pair of Romulan bodies off the wall) when Jean-Luc and the gang arrive. It’s funny, because Picard has been faced with more emotional focus in these nine episodes than he had in all of TNG. This episode, in particular, has a storage locker full of emotional moments.

It’s so interesting to see this old, dying man rediscovering a part of him he’s spent so long subjugating. Those moments are sprinkled throughout this episode and it’s so interesting to see it play out with this character. In a recent episode of “The Ready Room,” Jonathan Frakes talked about how Patrick Stewart was kind of re-energized, that he “was on fire” playing this character again. I agree. There’s a frailty there that wasn’t in TNG, but that’s what really humanizes Picard today. He’s become so much more enjoyable in dealing with his age.

Once gain, we see that Seven is pretty darn awesome – smart, innovative, determined and loyal – in getting the cube to the very spot that La Sirena would eventually be. Jeri Ryan just bullseyes this character in every scene she appears. It will be interesting to see what happens to her, the remaining XBs and even Elnor. Do the Rangers welcome them into their midst? Will Seven lead a new colony of XBs, with Elnor in the mix? That’s a side story I’m really curious about moving forward.

“Keep saving the galaxy, Picard,” Seven tells Jean-Luc as he heads toward the village. “That’s all on you, now,” he tells Seven over his shoulder as he leaves. Man, you can feel a bit of a changing of the guard occurring, so that should be interesting to see how it manifests itself moving ahead.

The settlement is a synthetic paradise that is overseen by Alton Inigo Soong, the son of Dr. Noonian Soong and played delightfully by Brent Spiner. He’s played several Soongs over the years, but this one had teamed with Bruce Maddox on this planet to create and perfect the synthetic work. Not only do they meet Soong, they also run into Jana’s sister, Sutra. She’s an early model of the synths with much more of a Data look and vibe. It’s also clear she carries some negative vibes toward organic lifeforms (That “pitiful Romulans” comment caught my ears). She wonders if the “admonition” is actually intended for synthetics, not the organic life forms.

She also has a very keen interest in Vulcan culture and has developed the ability to mind-meld. A look in Jurati’s mind convinces here that the “admonition” is intended to keep synthetic life safe from the destruction that organic life would visit on them. The impending Romulan attack, coupled with the vision in Jurati’s head, convinces her that a higher synthetic life form is out there, watching, waiting to protect their own. It’s a scary revelation and you can see Sutra start to wonder if the time is right to call for their help.

Remember, Jana was her sister, so there’s clearly a connection to her cold-blooded death at the hands of Star Fleet and Captain Vandermeer. She seems to have a very real willingness to call in the help as the Romulan threat descends. Isa Briones has played four different iterations of the Soji character and the latest, Sutra, appears to be far more menacing and manipulative than any. She has really done a tremendous job of giving all of the characters their own voice, their own vibe. I’m so impressed with the talent of this young actor. I’m less enthused about Sutra, who is clearly angling for some very bad mojo.

That vibe is cemented in place when she arranges to have Narek (who had been captured) escape and kiill one of her sisters. Using that as the final straw, Sutra rallies her fellow Synthetics, Soji and even Soong to the cause of unleashing this mysterious force that’s watching from afar. Sutra is not only smart, she’s incredibly intuitive for a synthetic life form and is able to manipulate her brothers and sisters in the settlement. She’s got a little attitude, a little saltiness in her aura. I like it, but she’s definitely on a path that’s not organic friendly.

I don’t see her as evil as much as a bit vindictive for the organic’s killing of her sister and the chance to end their threat once and for all. In the end, Picard’ s pleading for calm and rational thought ignored and Sutra has him taken away. It also looks like they’ll be heading out to perhaps snag the people on La Sirena and the cube. That should be incredibly interesting.

The one positive of this is that while Soji is talked into it and can see the reasoning behind it and the threat the organics pose, I suspect her exposure to organics and her ability to absorb and learn may be a way out of this situation when all the cards are played. I’m looking at you, Soji, though I suspect that Seven, Elnor and the others will play a huge part of this as it plays out in the season finale.

An interesting side-story going on is Dr. Jurati and Soong looking to finish a project Maddox had left unfinished. Soong is well aware of his growing age and it looks like he’s working on a synth that would allow him to transfer his brain functions to it. That was Bruce’s passion and something that Jurati, it would appear, is capable doing as well. Soong notes that the killing of Maddox was a “shame on you” moment and wonders if Jurati, having taken a life, would like to create one.

I think that phrasing really appealed to a woman that is dealing with a lot of torment over what she has done. Meeting Soji also impacted her in regards to how she views synthetics. All that comes into play when she agrees to help Soong finish this most unique synth, which also happens to allow her to not be put in confinement with Picard. Can’t help but think that she will have a part to play that is somewhat unique in this situation. It’s clear Jurati needs some sort of redemption for her heart and soul. Will this project, will this moment, be just that for her.

And then, we are here – the season finale of season 1 of Star Trek: Picard. What an interesting ride it has been thus far and with all entities seemingly descending on Coppelius, things should get very, very tense and dramatic in the season finale. I, for one, am delighted with the work done on this show and the direction it has gone. I’m looking for more of this story in the final episode and a road to more seasons from that.

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John Baker