By Nick Schager
January 30, 2020 at 07:05 PM EST
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Having learned about the existence of a synthetic created from his late friend Data, Jean-Luc Picard looks to get himself reinstated by Starfleet for one last mission to the stars in this week’s Star Trek: Picard a task complicated by both his own troubled history with the organization, as well as more nefarious forces at play.

“Maps and Legends” opens with a flashback to 14 years before Picard’s main action. It’s First Contact Day on Mars circa 2385, and at the Utopia Planitia Shipyards, a group of human workers joke around with F-8 (Alex Diehl), one of the many bald-headed synthetics that help man the station. “Dude creeps me out,” says a female staffer about F-8, and though she shortly assures a colleague that “you can’t offend them — they’re not people,” that doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous. Without warning, F-8’s eyes go wonky — as if another entity has taken control of him — and he begins messing with the computer system, causing satellites overhead to turn toward Mars and allowing invading ships to enter the atmosphere and fire on the shipyards. F-8 kills everyone who tries to stop him, and once his mission is complete, he blows his own robotic brains out.

Having now depicted the Mars calamity that led to the intergalactic ban on synthetics (referenced in the premiere), the series returns to Château Picard, where Picard, Laris, and Zhaban watch video of Dahj’s demise — footage from which Dahj and the Romulan “death squad” have, mysteriously, been erased. Laris deduces this cover-up could only be the work of the Zhat Vash, a cabal of deep-state “boogeyman” that reside within the Romulans’ Tal Shiar secret police. According to Laris, the Zhat Vash’s sole purpose is to keep “a secret so profound and terrible, just learning it would break a person’s mind.”

To investigate further, Picard and Laris beam to Dahj’s apartment and use tech to watch a holographic recreation of the night she was attacked and her boyfriend was killed. Unfortunately, that footage has also been scrubbed. Laris asks Picard if he ever noticed that there’s a complete absence of artificial life in Romulan culture, thereby prodding him into realizing that the Zhat Vash have “a hate and fear and pure loathing for every form of synthetic life” – and that their secret must be related to this anti-synthetic sentiment. Further computer analysis leads to the revelation that Soji called Dahj multiple times from somewhere other than Earth.

In space, Narek and Soji are enjoying post-sex pillow-talk. Narek is surprised that Soji finds the Borg Cube “beautiful.” She corrects him by saying it’s an “Artifact” because “a Borg Cube is mighty and omnipotent [and] the Artifact is lost, severed from the collective, broken, vulnerable.” Narek teases her about being a subversive and then confesses that, like most Romulans, he’s “a very private person.” It’s clear from their talk that the Romulans are looking to extract intel from the Artifact and its dead Borg inhabitants, and that Narek isn’t necessarily who he claims to be.

Back at his French vineyard, Picard is visited by Dr. Moritz Benayoun (David Paymer), who references their earlier adventures together aboard Picard’s first ship, the Stargazer. Benayoun reports that “for a relic, you’re in excellent shape.” It’s not all good news on the medical front, however; Picard does have some parietal lobe abnormality, and while further tests are required, the prognosis is that they’ll eventually kill him. Given this bombshell, and hearing that Picard seeks clearance for an upcoming mission, Benayoun asks him, “You really want to go back out into the cold? Knowing?” Picard resolutely responds, “More than ever. Knowing.”

Picard beams to Starfleet, where he meets with Admiral Kirsten Clancy (Ann Magnuson) and tells her everything that’s taken place involving Dahj, Data, Maddox and the Romulans. He asks for temporary reinstatement, a small-scale ship and a light crew for one last mission — a request that doesn’t go over well. In the face of Picard’s “hubris,” Clancy rips the former Starfleet hero for his TV-interview criticism of the Federation’s handling of synthetics and the Romulans. When Picard defends himself by saying that the Federation doesn’t get to decide which species live or die, Clancy counters by asserting that’s precisely its role — and that it had to sacrifice the Romulan refugees in order to keep the Federation intact.

Picard warns Clancy about ignoring him, to which she sneers that he should do what he does best: “Go home.”

Matt Kennedy/CBS

Back on the Artifact, Soji chats with new recruit Dr. Naashala (Chelsea Harris) at the Borg Artifact Research Institute. Nashaala asks Narek if the Borg collective might decide to reconnect to this Cube. He assures her that’s not going to happen, because as far as the Borg are concerned, this abandoned vessel is akin to a graveyard, populated only by those who feed on the dead, ghosts, and individuals — like Soji — who are hoping for resurrection. Narek accompanies Soji to work, where she oversees the dissection of a Borg male. Soji objects to the Romulan surgeon referring to these patients as “The Nameless,” and after the creature’s ocular processing core is removed, she gazes at the corpse, stating (in Romulan), “You are free now, my friend.”

In his chateau study, Picard finds Dr. Jurati flipping through an Isaac Asimov book; he remarks that she has “a taste for the classics,” but confesses — wink, wink — that he never liked science fiction (“I just didn’t get it”). Over Picard’s favorite, Earl Grey tea, Jurati informs Picard that all of Dahj’s personal and school records are fabrications, and were probably created within the past three years.

Clancy reports her meeting with Picard to Starfleet Commodore Oh (Tamlyn Tomita), a Vulcan who says that if Romulans were running secret operations on Earth, it would amount to an act of war. Oh calls for Lieutenant Rizzo (Peyton List), and shows her video of the aforementioned Dahj ambush. It turns out that Oh was the mastermind behind the attack, not the Romulans, and she’s furious that Rizzo’s team killed Dahj instead of capturing her for interrogation, as had been the original plan. “We have one more opportunity — do not squander it,” Oh tells Rizzo, thereby revealing that she knows about Dahj’s twin Soji. Oh promises to take care of Picard herself, while Rizzo assures the Commodore that she already has her best man on the job.

Having donned his combadge late at night to call old comrade Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd), asking for help and a ship, Picard is now yelled at by Laris for his stupid plan, which she implies is really motivated by his ego. Zhaban suggests Picard enlist his old crew for the mission, but Picard — in the aftermath of Data’s death — doesn’t want to once more be responsible for those loyal to him. He subsequently taxis out to a rocky desert home, where Raffi greets him with a pointed gun. Nonetheless, upon hearing he’s there because secret Romulan assassins are operating on Earth — and seeing the vintage wine he’s brought — she reluctantly invites him inside.

That meeting is followed by one between Narek and a hologram of Rizzo, who’s Narek’s sister, and the person behind his secretive surveillance of Soji on the Artifact. Gazing at Narek’s unkempt bed, Rizzo says that she can see her brother is “on top of it.” Rizzo asks if the Artifact has given up the location of its “fellow abominations” — meaning their orders involve finding the Borg. Rizzo warns Narek that if his undercover approach doesn’t get them their coveted intel by the time she arrives on the Artifact, they’ll try her method instead — or face a disaster that will consume them both.

Captain’s Log:

  • The real-world location of Raffi’s home is California’s Vasquez Rocks, a site used as numerous Star Trek locales throughout the franchise’s history
  • There’s no sign of Picard’s trusty pit bull Number One in this episode, which makes one think he may have a smaller role to play than initially imagined
  • Watching Picard go rogue, it’s hard not to be reminded of his legendary predecessor, Captain James T. Kirk
  • It’ll be interesting to see if we learn more about Picard’s seemingly fatal condition — especially since Picard has already been renewed for a second season, and thus in no hurry to kill off its protagonist.

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