Star Trek: Picard S1/E8 Review: ‘Broken Pieces’
For most of the season, a chief complaint about Star Trek: Picard has been that it’s been too vague with its mysteries. Why did this person do that, or why is any of this happening? In “Broken Pieces,” the answers finally come, and the season locks into something like cohesion, though not quite.
Eight episodes in, Star Trek: Picard has been an outstanding return to the Prime Trek timeline, delivering the considered, ambitious storytelling Star Trek has always offered. It is also an exercise in why Trek never does well when it tries to mimic what other franchises do. Case in point: the Game of Thrones-esque intrigue of Narek and Narissa, which ultimately amounts to nothing. Connected to that is the Lost-style labyrinth of mysteries within mysteries, which only complicates the story, and the logic behind much of the actions of the characters in the present, and the past.
“Broken Pieces” gives us the big reveal behind why the Romulans fear ‘The Destroyer’ and Daj and Soji in particular. Turns out somewhere along the way post-Vulcan Exodus, the Romulans encountered a rare star system comprised of eight suns and a single planet. On that planet, they discover a type of portal, a warning from the planet’s former inhabitants against the advance of artificial life. Once a certain threshold is reached, the end result is Armageddon. The Romulans took this so seriously they formed a secret cabal called the Zhat Vash that has been working in secret – why a secret, one wonders now – to systematically sabotage the progress of AI not just in their society, but others.
You can forgive the Romulans, who abandoned logic when they left Vulcan, but not the writers. Here’s how the timeline of the show plays out, in conveniently inspired bit of guesswork by Raffi: Romulans discover The Admonition. They work in secret for centuries to undermine AI. Dr. Soong activated Data, Lore, B-4 and perhaps others sometime in the 2330s (Data is discovered on Omircron Theta in 2338). This is nearly seventy years before the events of Picard, and over fifty before the Romulans sabotage the rescue armada intended to help them with the supernova of their own sun. This leads to a synth ban within the Federation, and the collapse of the Roman Star Empire. This act of sabotage is engineered by Commodore Oh, a half-Vulcan/Romulan double agent tasked with disrupting Federation AI progress. This effort evidently never extended to Data. At one point, the Romulans cloned Picard for some clandestine effort, but never attempted to take out the biggest advance in AI in millennia.
The heavy Battlestar Galactica elements of this show, such as the numerous copies of Soji, would be more effective if the Romulans were not shown historically to be on technological par with the Federation. There has never been anything analog about the Romulans, and if anything, their rivalry with Starfleet has always sought a technological edge. It might have made more sense of if Bruce Maddox had made his enormous strides with Data’s positronic engrams before the supernova, and an army Sojis was coming to save Romulus. Fearing The Destroyer, the Romulans either balk at the offer, or sabotage as it they do on the show. Maddox goes on the run to preserve Daj and Soji, rather than create them in secret after the Synth Ban, deferring the primary motivation for the Romulans’ actions.
All that said, this episode features a lot of amazing moments. The F-bomb arms race continues as Admiral Clancy returns to tell Picard to “Shut the f*ck up.” This time, he gets what he wants, which is an entire squadron to help him save Soji’s birth planet (not the planet of the Eight Stars, mind you, another greebly sort of narrative excess). Picard and Soji share a touching scene where they discuss Data. In a rare moment of candor, Picard finally underlines the unspoken bond between he and Data after nearly forty years: “He was limited in emotion,” Picard says. “I suppose we had that in common.” Picard says he loved Data, ‘in his own way,’ and doesn’t know if Data felt the same way about him. Soji closes the scene by telling Picard that Data did love him, finally easing, one hopes, Picard’s grief over Data.
Dr. Jurati wakes up from her coma, and Allison Pill delivers another knockout performance as she gushes with excitement over Soji. Still, it’s a bit hard to swallow that she killed her lover, Bruce Maddox, out of fear of Soji, but once she sees her in the flesh, promises not to murder anyone else. We get a ton of backstory on Rios, though it continues the series needless tendency to connect everything back to the same plot point, as it did last week with Riker and Troi’s son.
Rios is in shock when Soji comes on board, and we discover he knew a woman who looked just like her on his old Starfleet ship, the USS ibn Majid. This synth, Janna, accompanied an ambassador named Beautiful Flower in a first contact scenario. Rios’ captain, whom he thought of a father, executed Janna and Beautiful Flower before killing himself. This was another black flag order from Commodore Oh, though it apparently was carried out before taking the time to locate the synth’s homeworld (an oversight the Romulans tend to do). It all gets sorted quickly, though Raffi goes through some holographic hoops as she tries to find Rios, by dealing with the forgetful EMH’s patterned after him.
He’s in his room. It’s a tiny ship.
On the Borg Cube, things really move. Seven of Nine shows up to save Elnor from the Romulans, and in the process, becomes a de facto Borg Queen. She takes over the remaining drones after Narissa executes the ex-B’s, but she jettisons the drones out into space. This leaves Seven with an empty Borg ship and a serious gripe with the Romulans, who take off for Soji’s homeworld. The Romulan effort in the Borg Reclamation Project seems muddy right now. They evidently permitted or engaged in some black market trade of Borg drone parts, which seems counter to their objectives regarding AI.
Next week, things look to really ramp up as Picard and crew finally arrive at Soji’s birthplace.
- The EHE, or Emergency Holographic Engineer aboard the La Sirena, has a Scottish accent. Raffi needlessly mocks it by saying ‘it’s not even a language.’
- Rios’ former captain, Alonzo Vadermeer, was once the XO of Picard’s Starfleet Academy classmate and friend, Marta Batanides.
- Rios’ former Starfleet ship, the ibn Majid, is very Sovereign-class like, though with some differences.
- Before diverting to Soji’s homeward, the La Sirena makes for Deep Space 12.
- Narissa is shown taking part in a Zhat Vash induction ceremony where she exposes herself to The Admonition. She does this alongside her aunt, Ramdha, who we met as part of the ex-B’s on the Borg cube. Ramdha evidently severed the Borg cube from the collective through the sheer force of the madness she incurred by going through the Admonition (another dangling thread – why so many Romulans counted among the ex-B’s – that doesn’t add up to much).
- Raffi confuses Rios’ record player for a ‘Walkman.’
- Soja steers the La Sirena through a Borg transwarp conduit, a network of subspace tunnels the Borg used extensively on Star Trek: Voyager.