Review / Speculation: Star Trek: Picard — S01E09: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 [2020]; A Sudden Pit Stop

Cᴏɴᴛᴇɴᴛ Iɴᴅᴇx —

a review by the Crow.

Picard

Captain‘s log, Stardate 97831.72: The final episode of Star Trek: Picard releases in a little over 24 hours, and I once again apologise for the delay in bringing this review to you. There is much going on in the world at the moment which we intend to discuss, matters due to which we’ve had to change some of our plans on The Corvid Review. We will bring you an update over the weekend, but remember to stay safe and stay indoors as much as you can.

This week, in our ongoing reviews of Star Trek: Picard, there will be little in the way of synopsis, and a greater focus on what is actually going on in the series. With that said, let us warp into:

La Sirena warp scene

Picard after the landing

Picard 0109
Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1

SPOILER LEVELS at RED ALERT

Let us first address the technical aspects of the episode.

A few editing choices once again stand out as poor, as does the pacing of the opening third, but the episode is well-made, overall. The action is not stuttery or jarring, the visual effects, the sets, and the general framing — albeit subject to annoying camera movements — of the things which happen on screen are above standard. The performances are fine for the most part, but nothing special stands out, since this is not an episode which requires anything special. The dialogue is — for better or for worse — the usual fare we’ve come to expect from Star Trek: Picard, and features a new inclusion to the Star Trek swear jar through Captain Rios’ rather bombastic “¡P[ʙʟᴇᴇᴘ] M[ʙʟᴇᴇᴘ]!”. The sound mixing is a little subpar, which is becoming an increasing issue with SF in general, but the dialogue is afforded enough space through which to shine.

The planet Coppelius and the main plot-line of the episode feel very old-timey when it comes to Star Trek. The main plot goes: an away team steps foot on a new planet, they meet and greet the natives, then intrigue. It’s a throwback to the usual fare of Star Trek, and will find itself welcome to long-time fans. Of course, given that Picard is not an episodic show, there is a subplot regarding the borg cube known as the Artifact, and a brief nod to the oncoming threat our heroes will face in Part 2 of this season finale.

The episode opens with Narek attacking La Sirena on the other end of the transwarp tunnel, before both ships are run into a brief silence by the sudden appearance of the Artifact. Before anything else can happen, a number of “space flowers” hit the ships and drag them down to the planet’s surface.

Space flowers (orchids) surround the Artifact

After some tending-to by Dr Jurati, Picard reveals his condition to everyone present, and they pay a short visit to the Artifact, which is undergoing heavy repair after its crash landing. There, Rios and Musiker spy the strength which the Zhat Vash has sent after Soji, and Picard goes for a stroll with LAN-queen Seven of Nine after reuniting with Elnor.

Once Picard has said (what amounts to) more final goodbyes, the crew of La Sirena proceed to Coppelius station — a settlement almost entirely composed of synthetic twins (most of who are also played by twins). Once Soji meets Arcana (Jade Ramsey) and mentally spools up to the present day, Arcana decides to take a moment to inspect Picard. It’s interesting to note — throughout the episode — that only the Soji-like synthetics are an improvement upon Data when it comes to their “humanity”. With the exception of Arcana and her sister Saga (Nikita Ramsey) — who are on equal footing with Data in that regard, the others seem to be less.

Enter the only “organic” present on the settlement: one Dr Altan Inigo Soong (Brent Spiner), “Mad Scientist”, who invite our heroes to a sit down in which everyone can catch up with one another. It’s at this point that Sutra (Isa Briones) makes her presence known. From there, it’s all downhill.

It appears that many people like this episode. While I won’t deny its old-timey charm or its overall composition, I will have to point out that with one episode left to go, Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 feels like a step backwards for Star Trek: Picard. The consequences of Sutra’s undergoing “admonishment” are underwhelming to say the least; and given that the whole series hinges on the resolution of the admonition, it might as well spell doom for the Picard as a whole.

And that would be true if not for one significant question:
Can we believe the admonition?

Planetary destruction seen in the Admonition

I posit that the answer is: no.

The Admonition seems tailored to fit the receiver. Every time we have seen it through a the eye of a character’s mind, it is altered. One could say that the simple reason for this is one of production secrecy, or one of in-universe logic. It has already been established that organic minds are ill-equipped to deal with the message the Admontion carries, but some of the images flashing through Sutra’s mind are too specific to recent happenings in the Star Trek universe to appear in a PSA from hundreds of thousands of years in the past. And to counter the inevitable issue that this is simply a result of Sutra’s mind referencing what she knows: why would she see flashes of the admonition ritual seen in Broken Pieces? This lends some credence to the idea that the admonition is some kind of viral thought process (or jumble of past memories) which is shifted and coloured by each user it passes through from the object on Aia outward. Even in Sutra’s edition of the Admonition, there seem to be possible contradictions within the encoded message which very well might be informed by Sutra’s own proclivities; proclivities which become apparent later in the episode.

The second issue is the sudden appearance of this “extra universal” alliance of synthetic beings. Surely, given the width and breadth of the Star Trek universe, there would have been some indication of such a force. There are far too many beings *cough* the Q Continuum *cough* aware of what happens “beyond the boundaries of time and space” to not put in safeguards to protect organic life. And this is where the apocrypha I delved into last time becomes relevant once again. The Iconians, the Tkon Empire, the Old Ones, Sargon’s species, an so on and so forth have all danced around the ideas presented as the crux of the story in Picard; and a being like 0 certainly fits the bill as the kind of lying, manipulative entity which would forward such a divisive PSA to the “present day” in the Star Trek universe. To top it: he is a “shackled demon”, and comes with associates. Again: I stress that I do not expect 0 to appear in Picard, but I contend that something very similar to the idea floated in the Q Continuum novels is behind this so-called Admonition. That would explain the lack of the Q or similar beings, as they would be far too tied up dealing with containing the threat of such a being to give their time — or however they divide their labour — to the immediate happenings in the series.

(Imagine how amazing it would be if The Doomsday Machine tied into this series.)

Dr Altan Inigo Soong, mad scientist, meets Jean-Luc Picard

At the end of the day, I — and I expect many other people — don’t want Picard to be so simple. When taking what is happening so far at face value, this is ground that has been covered. The basic premise of Star Trek is to go where no one has gone before, not go where Mass Effect, Terminator, and Battlestar Galactica have gone before. I severely doubt that the people behind Picard would be happy with leaving things as they exist right now, but I have been burned by Star Trek before (read: Star Trek: Discovery and its lack of imagination). For all it’s worth, I’m hedging my bets on the Admonition being a lie, and the true threat lurking behind the scenes wanting to drive a wedge between the “us” and “them” factions which are forming in the show.

After all, Picard is somewhat a response to recent real-life events which have done much the same to the public. If this isn’t the case, expect me to resign from my duties as a Star Trek reviewer in protest.

Now, it’s time to make a few observations, tie up some loose ends, and a break to speculate some more about the series.

One thing I haven’t mentioned in my reviews thus far is my issue with the ban as it stands. Surely, even after an attack like the one seen in Absolute Candor, production would be banned; not research. That would be missing the forest for the trees. While Starfleet has a long and sordid history when it comes to their treatment of snythetic life (remember how often Data was threatened?), the ban is all forms of stupid.

Next: Sutra’s learning how to mind meld is quite a fascinating turn of events. If memory serves correctly, this is not the first time we’ve seen a non-Vulcan utilise a mind-meld, but it adds a new layer to the lore surrounding positronic brains.

The Seb-Cheneb problem I’ve mentioned so-often is finally laid to rest. Soji and Dahj were twin sisters, Sutra and Janah were twin sisters. The question of the “one who lives” or the “one who dies” came down to two sisters, and so far that has bothered me. No longer: since it’s clear that Soji and Sutra are the two remaining. Sutra is Seb-Cheneb. Whether or not this means Soji will be the one to die remains to be seen, but for now, we can at least lay this point aside.

The way in which Sutra seems hungry to reach out to the so-called alliance is quite disturbing, especially considering how calm her apparently “simpler” cousins are when the “final solution” to the organic problem is revealed. While realistic, this could have been handled far better, and I’ll whip back around to this point in my summary thoughts on the episode below.

One last observation before we move past synthetics: Dr Altan Soong, mad scientist, is not to be trusted.

Finally, let’s address the “golem”.

I won’t go into a long yarn about this point, but it’s obvious that this is a gun, owned by a man named Chekov (not Pavel), waiting to be fired. We don’t have long left with Jean-Luc Picard, and Sir Patrick Stewart (may he never die) is finally ageing. The obvious answer is that Picard will at some point die, and his mind will be transferred into the golem.

Picard being "built"
Evidence

Whether or not this happens now remains to be seen, but I wager it will happen. This could open the door to a new actor taking on the role in future instalments in Star Trek, with Sir Patrick Stewart appearing as an “inner reflection” of the character. The other options available to the golem are either a resurrected Data or Soji, but Picard is the obvious choice. How I feel about the idea is hard for my to explain at the moment, but it seems a natural progression given the events of Picard so far.

Especially so, when one considers the inclusion of the above shot in the intro to the series.

With all that said, we can do little else but wait for the next episode of Star Trek: Picard. I personally didn’t think much of Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1, and think that the story it tells could have been delivered in a far better manner over a little more time. It’s a sudden pit stop which halts the continual “ramping up” Picard has showcased of late, and defuses a lot of the tension the previous episodes have generated. The short length of the series continues to be its biggest problem, and those behind it should have taken into consideration the “amount” and “distribution” of story they were going to deliver with more care.

I am of course excited to see how it all resolves in the upcoming finale, but for now, I cannot recommend Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 as a recommended watch unless you intend to follow the entirety of the show. As a one-off, it is middling at best, although the production design is quite nice.

A selection of additional screenshots we took for this episode is attached below.

I hope to see you soon with a review of the final episode of Star Trek: Picard.

Until then, LLAP

— Crow out. 


Final Ratings

THE CROW: 4.5/10
THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 6.5/10
THE SPOTTED NUTCRACKERNA/10


See Also

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

1 thought on “Review / Speculation: Star Trek: Picard — S01E09: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 [2020]; A Sudden Pit Stop”

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