Star Trek: Picard recap: To thine own self be true
It’s Picard to the rescue in this week’s episode of Star Trek: Picard (“The Impossible Box”), but only after Soji comes face-to-face with the traumatic memories haunting her — and, consequently, the truth about her inherent nature.
A shaken Soji awakens after suffering a recurring dream in which, as a child (Ella McKenzie) on a rainy night, she walks down a long, dark corridor toward her father’s workshop, where she sees him behind a row of orchids and, upon entering, is yelled at — thus ending the reverie.
Narek is beside Soji in bed, and under the covers, he kisses her and admits, “I want to know every little thing about you.” Soji thinks Narek suspects she’s an imposter because all Romulans love secrets. He says everyone is hiding something, whether they know it or not. Despite pressing him on the issue, however, he won’t reveal his actual name — the one that’s reserved for the individual to whom a Romulan gives his or her heart. Before leaving, he suggests she speak to her mother about her dream.
Chatting with Picard, Jurati says that Maddox’s death was “harder than I could have imagined” (but obviously not too hard, since she killed him!). Picard confirms that Soji is onboard the Artifact. Though he doesn’t know why she’s there, he’s not looking forward to joining her. “My last visit to a Borg cube was not voluntary … they coolly assimilate entire civilizations, entire systems — in a matter of hours!” he cries, still distressed by his assimilation ordeal years ago. “They don’t change; they metastasize.”
Much to Jurati’s chagrin, Elnor perceptively states about her and Picard, “He can’t see you’re also haunted by something you’d like to forget.”
Troubled as she might be, Jurati later encounters Rios on the deck, shirtless and kicking around a soccer ball (some Earth sports have apparently endured). Over swigs from his flask, she confesses, “I’ve never slept with the captain of anything before.” Jurati knows that having sex with Rios is a bad idea — she says her “superpower” is recognizing mistakes as she makes them — but does so anyway, to ease the fact that she feels “hollow, hopeless, alone, afraid.”
Narek finds Rizzo waiting for him in his room. He reports that he’s making progress with Soji, and she once again mocks him for having feelings for the female synth (which Rizzo refers to as “It. A program. A machine”). Narek is sure that, since every element of a synth is designed for a specific purpose, there must be a reason Soji is having dreams. He surmises that they’re manifestations of her subconscious, which has developed as a means of reconciling the synthetic and human parts of her mind. If he can get her to talk about her dreams, he can unlock her core secret: namely, the location of her homeworld, where the rest of her artificial kind can be found (and destroyed).
Rather than using subterfuge to gain access to the Artifact’s Borg Reclamation Project, Picard opts to do things the Qowat Milat way — “by being perfectly open.” He has Raffi, still on a smoking-and-boozing bender following her disastrous meeting with her son Gabriel, call up an old Federation buddy and ask for diplomatic credentials. That request doesn’t go over well. Yet since La Sirena is about to be in breach of galactic treaty by entering Romulan space (thereby threatening war), Raffi’s friend relents and grants Picard access. Afterward, Rios helps Raffi back to bed, and she opens up to him about her son before passing out in a haze of guilt and anguish.
Soji tells Narek that she had the dream again, but that when she talked to her mom about it, she fell asleep. He reveals to her that every call she’s had with her mom lasted only 70 seconds. Soji can’t believe this and later calls her mom again. She becomes immediately drowsy, such that stabbing herself in the hand can’t keep her awake. When she rises from her slumber at her desk, she scans her family photographs, childhood drawings, and necklace to verify their age, and learns that everything she owns is only 37 months old. Unsurprisingly, this revelation causes her to freak out.
Plagued by flashes of his Borg past, Picard orders Elnor to remain on La Sirena no matter what happens. Upon beaming to the Artifact, Picard is greeted by a friendly face — Hugh, who understands what the hero is going through. “Coming back is hard, I know. This is the last place any of us would want to see again.” Nonetheless, they’re not alone; there are plenty of XBs (i.e. “ex-Borgs”) on the Artifact. Picard informs Hugh about his search for Soji. Hugh says that he not only knows her, but he’s also had a hunch she might be in danger, especially because of the young Romulan spy (i.e. Narek) who showed up two weeks earlier pretending that he wasn’t asking questions about her.
Picard visits the Borg Reclamation Project, and is heartened to see that Hugh’s work is truly undoing the assimilation perpetrated by the Borg. This proves Picard’s fundamental belief that “They’re victims, not monsters.”
Soji recounts her (self-)discovery to Narek. He deceptively theorizes that someone may have implanted her with false memories, as a means of using her to find something on the Artifact. Although it’s traditionally only available to Romulans, he says Soji should partake in the ancient Romulan meditation practice of Zhal Makh in order to unlock the true meaning of her dreams.
In the Zhal Makh chamber, Soji follows Narek’s instructions and is transported back to the dark hallway we saw at the episode’s opening. He asks her questions and counsels her to push past the point at which her father yells at her and the dream ends. Soji does this, entering her father’s workshop. She sees that his face is blurred. Worse still, behind her father’s row of orchids is an operating table featuring a wooden doll-like Soji in unconnected pieces. Narek has her look up through the ceiling’s window, and she spots two red moons in an atmosphere wracked by lightning. “It means you found home,” Narek states about her vision.
Picard and Hugh find Soji’s room in disarray. A scan indicates that she’s nowhere to be found on the Artifact. “I believe she’s close to discovering who she really is,” Picard intuits.
Back in the Zhal Makh chamber, Narek explains to Soji why she imagined her father working on an artificial version of herself: “Because you’re not real. You never were.” He says farewell and locks her inside the room, leaving behind his toy puzzle box, which emits a deadly gas. This activates Soji, and she uses her super-android strength to punch and tear a hole in the floor and escapes. Freed from her confinement, she’s also now back online, so Hugh and Picard race to find her.
That doesn’t take long, since Soji plummets through the ceiling and lands right in front of them. Picard quickly convinces her that he not only knows her but is there to help; showing her Dahj’s necklace, which is identical to her own, does the trick. Soji races off with Picard and Hugh as Romulan guards follow in pursuit.
Hugh takes to them to the Artifact’s clandestine Queen Cell, which both he and Picard remember despite the fact that they’ve never visited it (a byproduct of their time spent as part of the Borg hive-mind collective). Hugh activates a spatial trajector that will beam them anywhere within a 40 light-years range. Picard contacts Rios and tells him to meet them at the distant planet to which they’re headed. However, their travel is momentarily delayed by the arrival of Elnor, who couldn’t resist helping Picard. While Picard is frustrated by Elnor’s heroism — and by his desire to stay and fend off more incoming adversaries — he’s forced to acquiesce to the warrior’s wishes.
As Elnor and Hugh cover their tracks by hiding the Queen Cell and prepare to fight more Romulan enemies, Picard and Soji travel through the spatial trajector.
- We still don’t know why Jurati murdered the man she supposedly loved (Maddox), but her habit of offing men she cares about can’t bode well for Rios.
- Though the Artifact has served its narrative purpose well, it’ll be nice to see Soji — and the show — explore a somewhat different environment.
- That said, it’s hard to believe Elnor will be left behind for good, given that Picard has, regrettably, already abandoned him once before.