Analysis / Review: Star Trek: Picard — S01E02: Maps and Legends [2020]; Shadows, Intrigue, and Speculation

Cᴏɴᴛᴇɴᴛ Iɴᴅᴇx —

a review by the Crow.

Captain‘s log, Stardate 97681.73: Last week’s episode of Star Trek: Picard left certain details up for interpretation. Details such as: Did Dahj really die? Could she be the child of Data, Picard and the Borg Queen all at once? Or could she somehow be a new iteration of the Borg Queen? Can Number One tell replicated food apart from “regular” food?

Exhibit A: Of course he can.

All of these are pressing issues indeed.

Remembrance nonetheless provided satisfactory enough answers, yet left enough room for the appetite to crave. And this week, things take a turn for the sinister, with the smoke and mirrors peeling back to reveal the players in the background. There is much ado about Romulans and their ways, just as much there is much ado about bureaucracy.

With that in mind, let’s pin our badges on and transport into Starfleet Command to assess…

Picard 0102
Maps and Legends

SPOILER LEVELS at RED ALERT

Maps and Legends opens with a flashback to the events which occurred in 2385, at the Utopia Planitia Shipyards on Mars. A synthetic named F8 (Alex Diehl) takes part in the attack and thereafter kills both his colleagues and himself. You may have noticed that I had referred to the likes of Ghost in the Shell and Blade Runner (specifically 2049) in my review of the previous episode, and the DNA of those works — as well as a choice few which came before them — is strong in this episode. And, it also seems, that Star Trek‘s penchant for whimsical names continues to know no bounds. A little detail that stood out to me during this scene is the inclusion of a shot which is the exact video clip Picard is played during his interview in the previous episode. When all is said and done, the most significant thing about this scene is the suicide carried out by F8. And with a name such as that, I wonder if this is the last we’ll see of the “plastic person”.

Back in Picard’s study, it appears that whatever was left of Dahj “Asher” has been “erased” from the scene of her death. We still have no body, and dialogue from later in the episode suggests that she is indeed dead. Given the facts, the possibility of her returning in some form does remain open, but for the moment, we should act as if she is no longer a part of the story Picard is trying to tell.

Again, Picard does not dangle a mystery over our heads. While the following scenes might not ring bells in the minds of those new to Star Trek, and amount to almost pure exposition, I’m quite pleased that we are given a thread to hold on to.

The Zhat Vash.

The Zhat Vash are an older organisation within the former Romulan Star Empire who used the feared Tal Shiar as a front for their far-more-nefarious dealings. Their name refers to those who are dead, for only the dead may be trusted with keeping secrets. Much like the House Dimir; minus the five colours of magic, plus the science of Star Trek.

Intercut with the exposition are scenes of Laris and Picard investigating Dahj’s apartment, which has been left for inspection by the Zhat Vash. And yes, just to drive home a point I made earlier, one of the lines of dialogue mentions “ghosts in the machine“.

Side note: In this scene, Picard mentions a few lines about “Romulan methods of forensic molecular reconstruction” which — if the words were changed a little, could easily be a slight on Shinzon. While that might a bit of a reach, I don’t think the lines were included by accident.

A few important things are revealed during this scene. The most important of these is the following: The Zhat Vash are protecting a secret “so profound and terrible” that even knowledge of it might break minds. At the heart of their mission, however, is a superlative-laden “hate and fear and pure loathing for any form of synthetic life” — something inherently tied to the secret they are protecting.

And it is here that the puzzle begins to fall into place. There is much I once wanted to say regarding the greater world of Star Trek (Prime timeline or not) post-Nemesis. While I pointed out that the “Kelvin timeline” — in 2009’s Star Trekcould not have been simply the result of Nero‘s (Eric Bana) appearance in the alternate past, I failed to draw attention to how ridiculous it sounds when someone says that a star “suddenly went nova”.

From here, we are left with two options. If we are to credit those who came up with the idea of the nova (for that movie) with any measure of intelligence, the destruction of the Romulan star must have happened because:

  • Gobbledegook
  • It was no accident

No matter how much umbrage I take with the idea of a star suddenly “going nova”, Star Trek: Picard is running with the plot point, and I must be at peace with that. What is important, though, is what happened following the nova of 2387. Please allow me to speculate a little as I start to make a case, here.

Whatever the reasons behind the destruction of the Romulan star system — and henceforth the Star Empire — it is now clear that (One:) up until two years preceding the nova, Starfleet was working hard on amassing ships on Mars. While the dialogue in the episode does not explicitly confirm this, we can safely assume that the fleet we see in Mars’ orbit is the rescue armada Picard intends to lead towards Romulus. A significant proportion of the “skeleton” workforce is made up of synthetic beings.

Two: The Romulans harbour an ancient and almost-fanatical hatred of all things which may qualify as synthetic beings. This puts certain lines of dialogue from the TNG episode The Defector in a far more sinister light than may have previously been thought.

Three: The synthetics can be assumed to commit mass suicide immediately preceding the destruction of the Utopia Planitia Shipyards. To those who are aware of the Ghost in the Shell franchise, this might spark certain indications of what is going on beneath the surface of the story we are being sold.

Four: Mr Spock, a man not known for his proclivity to act upon impulse, was last seen in the “Prime timeline” as trying to stave off the destruction of the Romulan star on his own, with little support on the horizon — a fact which has always somewhat bothered me.

With these points in mind, let us move forward into the “Romulan Reclamation Site”. One of the first things we see aboard the “facility” is the person above. Later in the episode, it is revealed that the Romulans are “de-Borg-ifying” the drones that have been found on this lost Cube — a process of which Soji Asher is a part. The person above is certainly one of them.

While I shall not reveal my hypothesis as to what might transpire in Star Trek: Picard just yet, I think I have caught wind of the larger game at play, here. What is happening in the show is described as “all of it“, and from there, we have a few lines of thought to go down. What I dearly hope is that this does not tie back to Control. The Control storyline was poorly-thought-out, and didn’t play out in a way which was very cohesive. What I am hoping for is something a little deeper, and a little less on-the-nose (which the name F8 certainly is).

Starfleet is quite corrupt — as it has been for some time. Even those who keep Kir’Shara replicas on their tables are not exempt from this. The Zhat Vash are certainly at play, but their reach is somewhat shorter than one might expect. And it is here that I shall leave my speculation for tonight. I do have much else to talk about, but I shall save it for a separate post. (This post shall also include my thoughts on a certain Commodore and a certain medical condition — both “revealed” in this episode.)

To return to the episode: The episode is quite-alright. While I like — and am excited — for the ways in which the story shall play out, the visual elements of the episode suffer a little. The lens flares return, and there are some very annoying editing elements at play. Sir Patrick Stewart is elegant as always, but Laris and Zhaban steal the show in this episode. Their bickering is comforting, and keeps the show grounded. The musical choices are apt, and the pacing is quite well-managed.

These episodes are flying by fast, and I could not be happier. We are now two episodes in, and Star Trek: Picard continues to be the strongest start to a Star Trek series yet. May the mysteries continue to mire the status quo, and may Admiral Picard continue to scold people. I’ll see you next week.

Until then, LLAP.

— Crow out. 


Final Ratings

THE CROW: 7/10
THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: TBD/10
THE SPOTTED NUTCRACKERTBD/10


See Also

the corvid review - star trek month star trek discovery season 2 - kepxwzr

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