Nothing will get the conspiracy theories flowing like a cryptic episode title, a week long encampment in our homes to avoid a virus, and knowing that the end of the season is next week! What does this week’s episode of Star Trek: Picard set up for next week’s finale?
Recap of Picard, S1.E9: “Et in Arcadia Ego: Part 1”
For the first time, we don’t get a flashback to start up what the showrunners see as a two part finale, with the Latin title “Et in Arcadia Ego” (more on that title later). Instead, we jump right in as the crew, using Soji’s knowledge of wormholes and space, manage to go 25 light years in a few minutes, much to everyone’s surprise. They arrive at Soji’s home world, which they call Coppelius (Let’s all give a shout out to the closed captioning folks on your favorite science fiction shows, so we aren’t guessing on some of the spelling of these names!).
But Narek comes through right behind them and a dog fight ensues. At one point, the crew think that they have Narek basically dead in the water and there is an interesting discussion about what to do with him. They choose mercy but it turns out it was just a rouse by him, using his cloaking device in a weird way to send a different signal.
But they had already hailed Coppelius, who it seems sent up these giant orchid like creatures/structures which swallowed the ship and put it safely on the surface of the planet, though draining the all of its power it seems. And Picard has an incident and loses consciousness, much to the crew’s dismay. But even more alarming is that the Reclamation Project Borg Cube comes through the same wormhole and heads for the surface. Though several of the “Orchids” try to help it, its size means it has a much more severe landing.
When Picard wakes, he is under the care of Dr. Jurati, and Agnes, using a very old medical scanner, has discovered the head issue that he has long known about but not told the crew. Picard reveals it to Jurati and then to the rest of the crew, insisting that they not treat him as a dying old man.
They get the status of the ship (lacks all power), what they know of the planet, (Raffi calls it an M Class, smaller and denser than Earth) and what Soji remembers, that the Coppelius Station, her likely birth location, is nearby. They need proceed to warn the planet of the coming Romulans, who had a head start and could arrive at any point.
Once outside the ship, they see the crash site of the Borg Cube and head over and rather quickly connect with Seven of Nine and Elnor. Picard asks Elnor to stay with the xBs as they need him more, expressing pride at who Elnor has become, even as Elnor mourns the new knowledge that Picard is dying. And the crew is able to use some of the Borg technology to learn how many Romulans are coming. 218 Warbirds are coming and they are headed towards the synthetics’ colony.
At the colony, Soji is welcomed by Arcana, another synth but also many more. And the crew is welcomed briefly until Soji shares the news of the coming Romulans in two days. And the colony reveals that they only have another 10 space orchids and not enough time to make more.
Dr. Altan Inigo Soong then appears, the physical reminder of Data, though as a older, human form. Soong is the son of Data’s “father” or creator and has been living among the synths in their colony. As they discuss things, we see a new synth that Rios calls “Jana”, a golden skinned, golden eyed visage of Soji. Only we learn that it isn’t Jana at all but her twin sister Sutra. Upon learning that Jurati has had the vision, Sutra is able to Vulcan mindmeld and see the Admonition, and unpacks how it will always in some ways be a self fulfilling prophecy.
We then see two side discussions. One, Dr. Soong reveals that he can do the work of creating a synthetics physical body but not the work of mind transfer as he is discussing things with Dr. Jurati. There is an implication that he would like to cheat death and move his own mind into the new form. Dr. Jurati seems to be his best chance, as her mentor and lover Dr. Bruce Madoox handled that part before.
In the other side discussion, we see Sutra and Soji argue about the solution to their problems. Soji is wanting to avoid the incoming battle, to get the ship up, which is large enough to flee. Sutra seems to want to take a different approach but their conversation is cut short when Narek is brought in as a prisoner. Soji and he eventually have a conversation where it is clear that Soji wants nothing to do with him and Narek, in his pain, promises to rain down fire and revenge on the whole planet to destroy everything.
The crew is then at work repairing the ship with the help of some synth tech. But before they go, Raffi breaks the rules, giving Picard a hug and expressing her love for him. There is an awkward moment before he confesses as well that he loves her. It is a touching moment of expression of care; it almost made Picard seem synth-like for a moment.
And during a conversation with Picard, as Soji is discussing weighing the value of sacrifice and life or death, it is determined that Narek has escaped, killing one of the synths. But before it, we see that he had an accomplice in the synth Sutra.
The discovery of the death triggers a debate among the synth, where they think it is time to ask the help of an even stronger, ancient forms of synthetics. And this new alliance would then go about to exterminate the organics of the universe and the synthetic worlds will thrive, becoming the Destroyer of prophecy. When Picard attempts diplomacy and the chance to start over, he is quickly shut down by Dr. Soong and Sutra, who put him under house arrest.
And the end of the episode, the Romulan Warbirds are coming in full speed, and being told they are 24 hours from arriving.
Review of Picard, S1.E9: “Et in Arcadia Ego: Part 1”
So let’s start with the title of this episode itself: “Et in Arcadia Ego.” Now, I am no lover of paintings from the 1600s, so the information that I needed to gain from this came from my Google-Fu. And the piece(s) are also known as “The Arcadian Shepherds” and it is actually the name for two pieces by Nicolas Poussin. The translation of the Latin is something along the lines of “Even in Arcadia, there I am.” and is largely interpreted to be taken from the perspective of Death. The gist is that even in a utopian area, I exist. And there are some clear things to draw from this episode.
First, the two pieces of art makes me think about Sutra/Jana in the same way that we think about Soji/Dajh. The duality of creations doesn’t necessarily mean that the created things, especially ones with the ability to learn and grow, will end up in the same place.
Scene of the week is the scene with Agnes and Picard, when he reveals what she saw in the tricorder isn’t a glitch but the truth: he has a brain abnormality and it is killing him. Alison Pill has been excellent all season as the intellectual but at times passionate Agnes Jurati but watching the emotion wash over her face as she hears it was stellarly acted. And it sequenced beautifully into the next scene where we slowly get to see the same emotions hit each crew member. By reputation, history, or even short term impact, Jean Luc-Picard means something to this motley crew.
And here comes my crazy theory: Jean-Luc is winding up with the new synthetic body. Now, part of me thinks this is the easy solution; I mean, the man portraying Charles Xavier does a mind-body swap, again? But hear me out. Soji and her sister were clearly meant to be on the Reclamation Project to learn something. I doubt that learning would be of anything from the Romulans. Instead, the Borg technology holds a piece that is somehow important to Bruce Maddox. What was the thing they were trying to learn?
At the same time, Picard is having mental health issues and dealing with an old frail, aging body. But what if the mental issue is a product of Borg technology left in his body. Need a reminder of what Locutus of Borg looked like?
See the tech? Would it be far too easy for him to have a USB drive boot-up location that he can plug into for both a new body and a new adventure in season 2? I could be way off but that is my theory. And poor Agnes is going to be the one to have to figure out how to do it.