After 8 episodes the story of Star Trek Picard has finally reached its climax. In this week’s episode (the 9th) – Et in Arcadia Ego Part 1 – we see Picard, Soji and party arrive at their destination of Capalius. Its the planet were Dr. Bruce Maddox created Soji and her twin sister Dahj. Once there the episode moves at a breakneck speed, sometimes dealing clumsily with established plotlines. We start with the La Sirena being attacked by Narek.
The latter is disabled and despite a suggestion to destroy his craft this is not done, only for Narek to attack once again. The fight culminates with the arrival of the Borg cube piloted by Seven. The occupants of the planet send out giant petal shaped craft that encapsulate Narek’s craft, La Sirena and the Borg cube (partly). All three craft are disabled and make a hard landing on the planet. It is arguably a weird moment, that harkens back to the first episode of The Next Generation – Encounter at Farpoint.
The endgame for Jean-Luc Picard
But as I mentioned there is little time to think about the circumstances. Picard (Patrick Stewart) suffers a blackout after the arduous landing. Upon examination by Dr. Jurati (Alison Pill) he explains to the rest of the crew his brain abnormality – and his terminal diagnosis. The news hits Rafi particularly hard, as does Picard’s unwitting attempts to push her away. As Narek no doubt gave the location of Capalius to the Zhat Vash a Romulan fleet could arrive at any time. Picard, Soji and party first make a detour to the crashed Borg cube.
They discover it intact but damaged. Picard learns Hugh has died but Elnor and Seven remain alive. From Seven he learns the Romulans will arrive no later than 48 hours. In a seeming random turn of events Picard leaves Elnor behind on the Borg cube. His supposed reason is that he wants to ensure Elnor help raise the Cube’s defenses. But I think it is a deliberate attempt at thinning the cast as the number of subplots remain too large.
Doctor Altan Soong
Picard and Soji eventually arrive at the village of the Synths. What looks like Utopia is also the place where Bruce Maddox created Dahj and Soji. There are plenty of other Synths at the village, all of them twins, but not flesh and blood like Soji. Picard also meets Dr. Altan Soong – the son of Dr. Noonian Soong – the man who created Data. The introduction of Altan Soong appears at first hand to be a harmless retcon. An opportunity to introduce Brent Spiner yet again into the series. Despite the amicable meeting between the two the audience does get the feeling Altan Soong is capricious and vain – not unlike other members of the Soong family. After the friendly introduction we are also introduced to Sutra (Isa Briones), a Synth that appears to have served as a template for Dahj and Soji.
Picard and Soji and the end of a Journey
Picard and Soji reaching their destination gives a palpable ‘happy’ feeling as a long journey has finally been accomplished. Yet, the final act of the episode sets up the series denouement. Here is where it starts to falter. Right from the introduction of Dr. Altan Soong did I have a feeling he would be a villain or somebody terribly misguided. The latter is the most likely. After Sutra undergoes a mind-meld with Dr. Jurati she appears to known more about the admonition. Further near the end of the episode it is revealed the Synths who originally created it have not disappeared, but can be called for protection. At the cost of organic live. After Sutra secretly aids Narek to escape, causing the death of a Synth, her opinions start to sway others.
Picard understands he is fighting a losing battle. For Synths such as Sutra as well as Dr. Altan Soong the conflict with the Zhat Vash is a zero-sum game. This turn of events feels formulaic. If there is no high-ground regarding the plot there ought to be at least a moral high-ground. Picard directly appeals to Soji, but to no avail. Throughout the episode they discussed the logic of sacrifice. Picard’s terminal illness but steadfast desire to do the right thing will no doubt sway Soji in part 2 of “Et in Arcadia Ego”. As punishment for his desire to prevent a mass genocide Picard is placed under house arrest. The final shot of the episode shows the fleet of Romulan warbirds as it travels to Capalius.
I liked this episode Et in Arcadia Ego Part 1. Its ties up a lot of plotlines and it sets the stage for the season finale. I was happy to see Dr. Jurati obtain a chance at redemption. It is now understood by the others she killed Bruce under the influence of the admonition. The palpable anxiety between Jurati and Soong over the death of Bruce stood in contrast with some of the other personal development. I hope their burgeoning professional relationship will pay off in the season finale, or even move beyond that.
Yet, at times this episode also felt clumsy. The decision to make a detour to the Borg cube yields only the knowledge Elnor and Seven are alive and that Hugh is not. The revelation that Soji is based on an earlier incarnation called Sutra is seen as a reason for Rios to mention he knew her twin sister Janna. It continues the subplot of Rios’s service onboard the USS Ibn Majid. Unless there is a more meaningful revelation coming in the last episode this entire subplot feels far too convenient. It is with this episode Picard as a series has perhaps became too formulaic and predictable. I can only hope the season finale will reward fans with something truly new. If you like this review don’t forget to hit the subscribe button to the right!