Star Trek Picard: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

"Starfleet was founded to seek out new life. Well, there it sits! Waiting."

Star Trek has always been about the exploration of humanity, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to find life we have never seen before and reach out a hand in peace.

This season has, at its core, been about the exploration of a different kind of life, and what a wonderful journey it has been. Picard’s journey started on Stardate 42523.7 in the episode "The Measure of a Man." There he fought, successfully, for Data’s right to choose. It set into motion a thirty-one year question (yes, the episode aired February 13, 1989), does Data have a soul? I think we just got our answer.

I’m sitting here typing these words in tears, because in a lot of ways we finally got closure for Data’s death. Closure we were robbed of when Star Trek: Nemesis flopped and ended the run of Next Generation. Data’s half-baked sacrifice felt not only unfinished, but sloppy and half-assed because they introduced a new android called B4 that had been downloaded with Data’s memories. A tease of Data coming back from the dead was given as a coda to that movie, and that was it.

Fast-forward to the beginning of this series. We are given Dahj and Soji, who were possibly Data’s daughters. This tantalizing idea of a familial continuation of a beloved character fit so well that it felt like we were going to finally get the closure we needed. What I didn't know was that this whole season would be about Data, about his legacy and his death. It was about that, or more importantly – does synthetic life have a reason and a purpose? Should it exist?

The answer is pure Star Trek, because of course it should exist. It is the foundation of the optimistic future envisioned by Gene Roddenberry, a world of hope and equality, where everyone is treated as an equal. This was explored in a number of ways throughout the season – from the new kind of synthetic/organic life like the Asha sisters, to former cyborgs like Seven and Hugh, and of course, Picard. Let us not forget that Picard is a former Borg. He had an artificial heart, and now he has an artificial body. What could have been a contrived plot twist speaks to the soul of this entire story. Picard survives Data as the embodiment of a human android.

The entire episode – hell, the entire season – built up to that moment in the quantum consciousness where Data and Picard had a chance to say goodbye. It was perfect on nearly every level. Data was so quintessentially Data, and Picard got to have a wonderful conversation with him. They didn’t discuss the core question, but it was implied heavily that their souls were speaking directly to one another. Then finally, we got a chance to mourn Data properly and no matter how much it hurts, I am grateful to finally be able to say goodbye to one of the best characters ever put to film.

There is almost too much to talk about as far as the rest of the episode is concerned. Could it have been trimmed a little in places, or perhaps spread out to another episode? Maybe, but honestly, this was about as good as I could've hoped. We got some closure for all of our characters, and the final moment promises the start of many more journeys to come.

Bits:

Seeing Riker as a captain of a ship was lovely.

Seven and Raffi holding hands at the end was unexpected and great, and I'm so happy that Seven has officially joined the crew.

As much as I've grown to like Jurati, she still murdered Bruce Maddox. Despite extenuating circumstances, she hasn't answered for that crime.

Narissa's death was fun, but I am curious why they didn't keep her around.

I wonder what will be come of Sutra? She was shut off, but I wonder if she going to be our new Lore next season?

The final battle was visually stunning. I don't think there have ever been so many ships on screen at once, and the orchids made for an impressive spectacle.

Quotes:

Narissa: "Sad Queen Annika. Six years old and all she got for her birthday was assimilated."

Rios: "Go ahead. Throw it. I want to see what a photon torpedo can do at this range."
Narek: "I have twelve wide-dispersion molecular solvent grenade canisters. I'm throwing rocks."

Jurati: "If you figure out a way to get us out of this one, they'll name it after you. The Picard Maneuver. Wait, no. That's actually a thing, isn't it?"

Jurati: "I honestly thought I was the worst secret agent ever, but I'm starting to believe I may have a gift."

Seven: "I'm an exB. I have no home. I don't belong anywhere. Why not just put a phaser to my head and get it over with?"
Elnor: "Because I'd miss you."

Picard: "Among the many, many things that I regretted after your death was that I never told you..."
Data: "That you love me. Knowing that you love me forms a small but statistically significant part of my memories. I hope that brings you some comfort, sir."

Data: "The Soongs can be, I believe the phrase is, 'an acquired taste'?"

Soji: "You choose if we live. You choose if we die. You choose. We have no choice. You organics have never given us one."
Picard: "To say you have no choice is a failure of imagination."

This was a simply fantastic end to a nuanced and well thought out season.

4 out of 4 Synthetic Souls

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.

9 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I loved it. I sobbed when Picard died, even though I knew we were getting a season two, and fell to pieces when in the quantum consciousness, Data asked Picard to turn him off and let him go. Star Trek tends to do the deaths of major characters well, and they finally fixed this one and made Data's death what it should have been.

This season was so compact and beautifully written. It wasn't perfect, but I really, really loved it. I especially liked that Seven of Nine was part of the crew in the end, too. She belonged.

CoramDeo said...

I went on record as really skeptical of this one after last week, but I have to say this blew past those lowered expectations. It wasn't perfect, but it hit all the right beats, did what it had to do, and sidestepped many of the pitfalls I had envisioned. I'm very pleased, and very excited for the second season.

I don't think Narissa is dead. It's not just that she fell from a great height into a dark pit (Billie's tenth rule of TV comes to mind), it's that they've set her up such that any death that isn’t gruesome won't be her final end. I do think we'll be seeing more of both Narek and Sutra, as well.

CoramDeo said...

And great job on the turnaround time for this review! That is seriously impressive!

BrianN said...

Sci-fi takes a level of suspension of disbelief...but I couldnt maintain it. Why did the Romulans not just purify the world. Why would they bother with 100 tiny ships when the fate of existence was on the line? Where did the Federation come from? Why were the two sides scratching themselves while Armageddon was crawling out of the ether? Are we to believe now that the ancient synths dont know where their progeny are and they wont come back to complete the cycle? So since Soji slapped the comm panel, now there's no risk so the Romulans and Federation can just skip off their merry ways?

Plus, the whole "he's dead!" but not really thing is horribly overplayed. You mention how STN was half-assed because of this but they did the same thing with Picard...why is that not half assed? Also, Picard can barely lift off a shuttle but can pilot it through a raging battle?

Dont get me wrong, the season as a whole was good, but its emblematic of NewTrek: Digestable to the masses but totally not evocative scifi. There's no Measure of a Man, Duet, or In The Pale Moonlight. Its Marshmallow Sci-Fi...looks nice, tastes great, but it just doesnt leave you satisfied and you cant live on it.

CoramDeo said...

BrianN, my personal take on the Picard thing is that yes, it's really dumb and ridiculous conceptually, but the execution (for me) smoothed it over very well. It's all in the execution, for most things.

milostanfield said...

Good but not as good as some other recent and current shows. I'll call it a high mid level show. Despite some character inconsistencies here and there I loved almost all of the actors/characters. Seeing them together on the same deck at the end held out great promise for S02. This S01 was hella better than the S01 of Next Gen.

I really really wish the Trek franchise would stop dotting the i's and crossing the t's of its own history so much and actually move toward the future, but the 40 plus years fandom loves that stuff. So it will continue and I'll just have to accept it. Worth the price for some really good Sci-fi.

JRS said...

This episode was powerful enough to make me cry, like Billie.

It also had some weird gaps that are sticking with me the more I think about them.

Why did everyone just listen to Narek's story and go along with it? Five minutes of sincere mythology and suddenly he's forgiven all? Despite Elnor's repeated protestations that whole scene seemed false to me.

Why didn't Soong reveal Sutra's betrayal to the synths? He had data backing him up. By the end of the episode, I still wasn't sure where the nuDatas were in terms of political leaning.

What was up with those weird out-universe monsters? They seemed like ravening beasts, like the demons 'revealed' early in the episode. They didn't seem like synthetic things or like the Borg I thought they might be in a previous episode. Were they really synths or just bait from an advanced race for a species or galaxy advanced enough to create synthetic life but still working out how to accept it? Seems oddly specific for a trap.

Despite these questions... the solution for the episode was indeed very Picard. Everyone presented what they wanted to do, and he found a solution that held everyone off and let a new option appear.

sunbunny said...

I totally thought Picard was really dead and they were going to rename Rios's ship the Picard and it would be such a subversion but no I was wrong.

Anyone else have flashbacks to Harry Potter and Dumbledore at King's Cross?

sunbunny said...

I'm a newcomer to Star Trek, but Picard makes me want to watch more, which I think is the highest of compliments.