Picard is on the hunt for the people who killed Data’s daughter Dahj in the premiere of Star Trek: Picard. He has no idea what the Romulans have been up to.
In the series premiere of Star Trek: Picard, Sir Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard discovered that a synthetic woman named Dahj was possibly Data’s daughter. And, she has a twin. After Dahj was killed by Romulans, Picard is on a mission to find out who these Romulans are and why they killed her.
Much like in the premiere, the second episode begins in the past – this time it’s an actual event rather than Picard’s dream. 14 years ago (2385), on First Contact Day, the maintenance crew aboard the Utopia Planitia Shipyards were going about their daily routine, complaining that they didn’t get a day off.
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The shipyard had a regiment of synthetics working with the humans. One of whom was F8, the android that set off the rogue attack on Starfleet’s ships and destroyed the shipyards. We don’t know who or what caused F8 to attack, but we glimpse the apparent condescending suspicion with which these average humans interact with the synths. It appears that, though Star Trek fans have become used to Starfleet officers treating everyone, including man-made creations, with respect and dignity, the regular people did not hold them in the same regard.
Is this how the show plans to deal with the current xenophobia and racism at play in North America? It’s possible that the Romulans set off the attack to rid the galaxy of synths (whom they hate as we will soon find out), but what isn’t clear is how the attack was planned and programmed.
The Zhat Vash
Despite witnessing Dahj’s assassination with his own eyes, Picard can find no evidence of the same. The camera footage has been erased and Dahj’s apartment scrubbed clean. According to Picard’s confidante, Laris, there can only be one Romulan entity capable of such a thorough job – the Zhat Vash.
Those in the Federation are familiar with the Romulan secret police Tal Shiar, but Laris insists that the Tal Shiar are redundant. The Zhat Vash is the real power, and have agents in every world, including the Klingons and the Federation. Laris believes that the Zhat Vash fear and loathe artificial intelligence. Romulans, apparently, never used any cybernetic or AI technology, and it was because of the Zhat Vash’s diligence. Their need to eradicate all synths could be the reason why they killed Dahj. But this revelation comes with a disturbing realization – the life of Dahj’s sister Soji was also now in danger.
Through some clever online sleuthing Laris discovers that Soji is off-world, but neither Picard nor Laris has any idea where.
Not Like Old Times
The only way for Picard to find Soji is with a ship. But he’s left Starfleet, so it’s time to pull some strings. Picard enlists the help of an old friend and Stargazer colleague to give him a clean bill of health for re-enlisting. But it’s not that easy. Picard has an abnormality in his brain, a condition that Dr. Beverly Crusher had warned him about on Star Trek: The Next Generation. The prognosis in his old age is bad, but Picard is undaunted. He feels indebted to Data and guilty for letting Dahj die and hence must pursue this mission.
In one of the most authentic scenes on the show so far, Picard returns to Starfleet headquarters in San Francisco but he isn’t recognized by the young ensign at reception. When he enters to meet Admiral Kirsten Clancy (Ann Magnuson), Picard is so full of his own self-importance that he fails to predict how Clancy will react to his demand for a warp-capable ship, a crew and a ‘demotion’ to captain. Clancy cuts Picard down to size, reminding him of the melt-down he had on live television recently. Apparently, Starfleet is also still very bitter about Picard putting the lives of the Romulans in front of those of the Federation, thereby costing endless lives. Suffice to say, Picard doesn’t get his ship. Instead, he reaches out to another old acquaintance, Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd) for help.
In the closing moments of the Star Trek: Picard premiere, viewers were introduced to a damaged Borg cube. The Romulans have claimed it as their own playground and are working on the Borg Reclamation Site for unknown reasons. Soji and other doctors and scientists like herself are in charge of examining and liberating the remaining Borg, while Romulans like Narek are supervisors of the project. The Borg cube has a huge workforce of not only Romulans, but other species as well.
We later find out that Laris’ theory of Romulan infiltration within Starfleet is true. Admiral Clancy vents her frustrations about Picard’s Romulan conspiracy and his notion that Bruce Maddox successfully created unidentifiable synths to Commodore Oh (Tamlyn Tomita), who appears to be a Romulan disguised as a Vulcan. Her subordinate is Lieutenant Narissa Rizzo (Peyton List), who is also a Romulan and undercover as a human. Rizzo is ordered to speed up Narek’s mission.
Narek is Rizzo’s brother and a spy tasked with discovering Soji’s synthetic kin. He’s not doing a very good job of it. Despite Narek and Soji sleeping together, Narek refuses to divulge anything about himself. His actions make us question why Soji even bothers with him, and it’s understandable that Soji hasn’t opened up about her past completely yet. There is nothing attractive about Narek, especially not his personality, irrespective of the episode writers attempting to convince us otherwise.
Episode two of Star Trek: Picard, though directed with slick ease by Hanelle Culpepper, is a slog to get through. It’s directionless, overly convoluted with a bloated cast and has far too much exposition. Picard is a passenger aboard his own ship, while the inner intrigues of the Romulans fall flat with the lackluster characters. Soji and Narek are cardboard figures from old-fashioned stories; their actions even more so.
Without an anchor, for viewers to understand why the Romulans have a sudden interest in the Borg cube and hatred for synths, it’s a struggle to care about this subplot. The characters of color haven’t taken center-stage yet either, and the show feels like it isn’t even trying to catch up to Star Trek: Discovery’s boldness. For two episodes, the viewers have been talked at but there is no cohesion to hold our interest. Sir Patrick Stewart remains a powerhouse performer, which only makes the lackluster episodes even more disappointing. An overarching season storyline is a welcome approach, but at the moment the show feels like lone ships stranded in different quadrants of the galaxy.