Star Trek Picard: Broken Pieces

Picard: "Data's capacity for expressing and processing emotion was limited. I suppose we had that in common."

By nature I love brevity: A whole lot more setup, this time for the finale. But this is interesting and entertaining setup sprinkled with exceptional character work, as opposed to the boring and slow setup and weaker character work we saw early in the season.

Behold, the status quo for Star Trek: Picard, just barely. It's finally here, eight episodes in, and there's only the two part finale left, so don't get used to it. By the status quo, I mean that the characters are finally starting to settle into established roles. We now have Soji aboard the La Sirena, alongside most of the rest of our main cast. This was the first time she's joined them for any meaningful length of time, and she still hasn't met Elnor in any meaningful way. It's kind of interesting that the episode that represents this show's status quo most is titled 'Broken Pieces'. I think that's actually very fitting. This show is all about people, societies, and even ships that don't quite work the way they're supposed to anymore.

Currently the part that's least relevant to the main plot is the action aboard the Borg Cube, with Seven's brief return to the land of the Borg and Elnor's continued uselessness. Don't get me wrong, he's just fine as a character and a lot of fun to watch, but he has yet to do a single helpful thing other than save Picard's hide in the short term a couple times. Seven, meanwhile, willingly returns to the Borg, which is no small act. And then, incredibly, she returns from that brink. Was I the only one disappointed by that simple ending? They built the tension like she wasn't going to come back, but then she just did. Maybe it will turn out to have lasting repercussions, but for now it seemed like a whole lot of build up for an anticlimactic payoff.

We also have a serious attempt to humanize our villainous evil lady of death, Narissa. Up until now, she's been nothing but gleeful, ham-fisted evil with a tinge of 'that's really gross', and while I appreciate the effort to flesh her out a little bit, I'm afraid it's far too little, too late. If the opening sequence of this episode had been three or four episodes ago, maybe it would have been successful. But you can't cram all your character work in at the very end and expect us to care, no matter how good that work is (see also: Airiam from Star Trek: Discovery).

But the crux of 'Pieces' is aboard the La Sirena, where Soji’s arrival has sparked a few distinct responses from different members of the crew. Raffi's instinct is an immediate distrust. Her cynicism won't let her immediately accept anyone new without testing them first. But her attention is soon directed elsewhere. Rios' reaction is the most plot-driven, and it only comes from within his character after a bit of explanation from his backstory. Consequentially, it's not very compelling until the end, but Santiago Cabrera carries it well enough to keep our attention.

Speaking of Santiago Cabrera, this was definitely an episode designed to showcase his talents. We learn there are five holograms aboard the La Sirena: Medical (EMH), Navigation (ENH), Hospitality (EHH), Engineering (EEH), and Tactical (ETH). Each was initially an exact copy of him, until he removed portions from each because he couldn't stand to look at what he'd become. Ouch. Cabrera steps effortlessly through each of these distinct caricatures, delivering six good performances in one episode. Careful, Tom Cavanagh, he's coming for your corner of the market!

Next is Dr. Jurati. I want to spend some time on her meeting with Soji before we get to that scene with Picard, because it fascinated me almost as much. The reason Agnes wanted to come on this journey, other than her shady dealings, was to meet Soji. Soji represents a project Agnes spent many years of her life on, working alongside someone she loved. Now he is gone, and she finally gets to see that dream come true. And that wonder is there, but only for a moment, because the scene immediately turns to 'Am I a person?' The truth is that Agnes sees Soji as a brilliant feat of engineering. She's a project, a thing. A work of art. But she isn't a person. Just like Bruce Maddox saw Data as a piece of technology, Agnes can't see Soji as anything else.

Ok. Now let's talk Picard. His scene with Soji is easily the best of the episode, possibly one of the best of the season. It's deep and incisive, cleaving through the characters' outer layers to get to what's underneath. The dialogue is rich and moving. And the acting is superb. Soji's journey toward accepting Picard as a father figure is in its early stages, but this was an important step. And it all unfolds through a conversation about her 'real' father. We're getting into exactly what makes Picard tick. He doesn't express emotion well. And what he does express reveals deep insecurity. Picard would argue profusely that Data had the capacity to love if challenged, but if you ask him whether Data loved him, he dodges and obfuscates. Data is a sore spot, so it's where he's most tender. It may have taken the Riker family to set him on the right path, but it will take the Data family to help him to get back to a healthy emotional state.

The episode flows well, and the two plots don't step on each other's toes at all. Director Maja Vrvilo navigates the intertwining plot threads and expository reveals with a nimble hand, and the actors are all in peak form. Though this may not be the absolute peak of Picard's material, the show is still firing on all cylinders for the third week in a row.

Pensees:

-ExBee Ramhda is Narissa's aunt. She also appears to be one of the few Borg that Narissa neglected to kill. I imagine this will be important later on.

-I rag on Elnor, but the dude is entertaining. Seriously though, I don't care what accent you go with, just pick one you can keep any level of consistency with! It's all over the place yet again.

-The cube regenerating may not have done a whole lot plot-wise just yet, but holy heck, is it terrifying to any longtime Trekkie.

-The EEH is Scottish. Heh. Maybe don't use that joke again, though; it'll get old by the next time. He also goes by Ian.

-Rios' old ship, the U.S.S. ibn Majid, was a Sovereign-class vessel (same as the Enterprise-E), commanded by Alonso Vandamir.

-So there are at least three androids who have looked like Data's painting: Dahj, Soji, and Janna. But as others have pointed out, the opening scene of the series features a poker game in which Data's hand of cards consists of five Queens of Hearts.

-When you cross that line, somebody else shows up. That sounds ominous.

-French fries in peppermint ice cream sounds awful. Then again, so does Oreos in mustard.

-Picard talks about serving night watch on the U.S.S. Reliant. This is not the same Reliant as appeared famously in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but another ship of the same name, first referenced in TNG's 'The Measure of a Man.' Starfleet has a history of naming multiple ships the same thing, including the many starships Enterprise and two Defiants.

-I loved Picard's captain's chair moment, followed by the realization that he no longer has any idea how anything works.

-A nice callback to 'Nepenthe' at the end with Soji's compass.

-No Harry Treadaway this week, but presumably it was Narek's ship that followed the La Sirena through the Borg transwarp conduit at the end.

-The optional Trek homework for this week is TNG's 'The Measure of a Man', arguably the first truly great episode of that series. It'll give you all the backstory on Bruce Maddox's view of synths. And once you've seen it, here's my shameless plug for JD Balthazar's excellent review of the episode.

-Sorry this review took so long. Yes, I've been practicing social distancing lately due to the big virus, but other crazy and horrible things happened this past week and my mind has been elsewhere. This is the first time I've been able to focus on the episode.

Quotes:

Raffi: "A neuron. That's all you know about her."

Picard: "If you say this is not a job for Starfleet, you are a waste of space."
Kinda harsh, Picard. But then again, she has cursed you out both times she's met you, so...

Soji: "Tell me about Data. What was he like?"
Picard: "Well, Data was brave, curious, very gentle. He had a child's wisdom, unclouded by habit or bias. He made us all laugh, except when he was trying to make us laugh."
Soji: "And you loved him."
Picard: "I, uh... Yes, in my way."

Soji: "He loved you."

EHH: "He could use someone to talk to, someone who doesn't look exactly like him, only better groomed."

Agnes: "Do you believe in Hell? Neither did I, until I saw it."

Agnes: "Well, I'm done murdering people. So that's a good thing."

Picard: "Fear is the great destroyer, Rios."

4.5 out of 6 incorrect temperatures for making Yridian tea.

--
If CoramDeo had wheels, he'd be a wagon.

8 comments:

CoramDeo said...

Turns out the other holograms have names, too! Some of them were only revealed in subtitles. The ENH is Enoch, the ETH is Emmet, the EHH is Mr. Hospitality, and the EMH is Emil. Thanks to TrekCore for this information.

Billie Doux said...

CoramDeo, you wrote: "Was I the only one disappointed by that simple ending?" You're not the only one. I was expecting her to become the Borg Queen, at the very least. It was a huge thing for her to do, and then... it was over.

I also went omg when the Borg cube came to life. :)

The emergency holograms are a hoot, and sort of sad. Much like Rios himself.

"The Measure of a Man" is one of my favorite Next Gen episodes. It's brilliant. Good choice for this week's homework.

Patryk said...

Now I really regret that I never was a Star Trek fan with all the callbacks in Picard (and to both Generations and Voyager to boot) because I would enjoy the show even more if I had references for the minor returning charaters (like Hugh and Seven's friend from the casino episode flashback).

But sadly when Star Trek Next Generation was airing I was a kid and more a Star Wars fan and really disliked that Picard and his crew mostly talk their way out of problems instead of doing spaceship battles.

Then later as a teenager I fell in love with Babylon 5 and dismissed DS9 as a clone (JMS even said as much that B5 was rejected by the network and then copied) and didn't watch it much.

Voyager I missed because it only aired with childish dubbing on a paid channel here in Poland. Could not watch it even if I wanted.

I didn't even know Enterprise existed for a while until I went into a TV show renessaince when Lost began airing. I'm watching tons of TV shows ever since but that leaves little time for catching up with oldies.

And that's the story how I didn't watch any of the previous Star Treks (at least not completely).

Paul Gadzikowski said...

Am I the only one who got the impression that the mini-collective ejected Seven regardless of her preference in the matter? Because the last thing it said with her mouth was that she has other work yet to do.

Patryk said...

Yeah You're right I totally forgot the line about Annika.

Juan said...

Good review CoramDeo. Just one thing, according to Michael Chabon, on his Instagram account, the ibn Majid was a Curiosity-class cruiser who where all named after old explorers, in this case probably the arabian navigator and cartographer of the 15th century, Ahmad ibn Mājid.

For those interested, here I left you an awesone edition of the Soji and Picard scene done by TrekCulture on Twitter, where they insert old scenes fron TNG in the dialog. Really nostalgic and beatiful. Worth the watch.
https://twitter.com/TrekCulture/status/1238835292691406850?s=20

CoramDeo said...

Juan, that's interesting. Maybe the Sovereign-class silhouette seen on his equipment was from a different ship he served on?

Juan said...

For what I have seen in renders on internet it is like a Sovereign class but with four nacelles instead of only two. So easy to confuse I guess. :)