Star Trek: Picard "Maps and Legends" Review

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By Adam David Collings. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

In the second episode of Star Trek Picard, Jean-Luc goes head to head with Starfleet, and things get very heated between him and Admiral Clancy. We learn quite a lot in this episode about what the Romulans are up to, but there's plenty more to discover. Basically, a lot of setup this time around, but that doesn't mean it isn't compelling viewing.

Join me as we dig deep into this episode of Star Trek Picard.

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Transcript

Welcome to Nerd Heaven.

I’m Adam David Collings, the author of Jewel of The Stars, and I am a nerd.

This is episode 12 of the podcast. Today, we’re talking about the second episode of Star Trek: Picard. Maps and Legends.

The description on IMDB reads

Picard begins investigating the mystery of Dahj as well as what her very existence means to the Federation. Without Starfleet's support, Picard is left leaning on others for help, including Dr. Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill) and an estranged former colleague, Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd). Meanwhile, hidden enemies are also interested in where Picard's search for the truth about Dahj will lead.

This episode was

Written by Michael Chabon & Akiva Goldsmith

And Directed by Hanelle M. Culpepper

And it first aired on the 30th of January 2020.

Make it so.

So episode two begins with a flashback to the synth attack on Mars. There have a bunch of androids who live in a closet. They appear to be manual labourers. I’ve heard a few people say that the shuttles in Picard are copies of Discovery shuttles. And that may be so. I’d have to look at them side by side. By honestly, they fit in much better here. They look like 24th century shuttles. So I don’t see that as a problem. Their use here is fine. Their use in the 23rd century is the issue.

One of the human workers is kind of mocking the android F8. This just seems weird to me. I mean, I don’t insult my toaster and make fun of it because it’s not alive. And from what we understand, these androids are not sentient.

In fact, this was all established way back in Voyager.

In the episode Prototype, B'elanna Torres is asked whether her culture includes artificial lifeforms.

She answers “As a matter of fact, it does. They come in different shapes, different sizes, some have limbs, some don’t. Most don’t have your cognitive abilities. I guess you could say that the robots we use are servants in a manner of speaking, but they aren't sentient like you. In fact, we have only one sentient artificial lifeform in our society and he is treated the same as any human.”

She, of course, is speaking of Data.

What we’re seeing here fits very nicely with what Belana said in Voyager. Anyway, that woman was a bit odd. She didn’t feel very federation.

I’ve heard some people saying that this new show completely destroys Gene Roddenberry’s utopian view of the future, and this was before the show even came out. That’s not the way I see it. Deep Space Nine pushed back against the upotian thing, and I think the show was better for it, but I think it might have done a better job. This woman being intolerant of a non-sentient non-living android is a bit clumsy.

And then F8’s eyes flash and he starts doing something at the computer which initiates the synthetic attack.

What brought this on? Was it the woman’s mockery? Were they rising up because they weren’t being treated with respect? I don’t think so. F8 isn’t capable of feeling offense The flashing eyes seems to represent something activating in him. Some latent programming that somebody has turned on.

I’m very interested to learn more.

Fun little tid-bit. Looking at the various images in the opening title sequence, we see some 3d glass polygons. We’ve seen something that looks like that before. A holographic portrait of Tasha Yar that belonged to Data. Interesting. I wonder why they chose that particular image.

Back at chateau picard, Jean Luc is on the case, trying to learn what he can about the attack on dahj.

And we learn about the Romulan myth of the Juk vash. A romulan police even more secret than the tal shiar. Most romulan, including zhaban don’t even believe they exist.

In this opening scene, they keep cutting between Picard at his home, talking with his romulan friends, and Picard 7 Laris investigating Dahj’s apartment. It’s pretty confusing, and I’m left having no idea which of these two events took place first, chronologically.

Some people enjoy filmmaking tricks like this, but I find it pulls me out of the story. I’m the same with books. I tend to like fairly basic prose that doesn’t draw too much attention to itself, because it’s the story I care most about.

We get another look at the new transporter effect. When Picard and Laris beam into the apartment, the effect is longer, and looks more like a modern update on the classic TNG transporter effect. It seems logical there are different types of transporters in operation, and one available to civilians (and retired starfleet officers) would be an older type. Anyway, I like this effect more. Looks more transporter-ish

The romulan technology that lets Laris somehow see what was happening in the room several days ago based on particle residue or something, seems a little absurd to me. I know most of the technology in Star Trek is essentially magic, but I have a harder time suspending disbelief with this than I do warp drive, transporters or phasers. Maybe someone more in the know could explain the science, or at least pseudo-science behind it, but I don’t get it. It gives a clear photorealistic image and even sound. Where’s it getting that data from?

But the biggest thing here is the massive consequence a technology like this has on the world of Star Trek. If you can do this, it changes everything.

So, at the heart of this mysterious Juk Vash is a deep hatred for artificial lifeforms and AI. We just don’t know why yet.

Through a bit of technobabble, Picard and Laris figure out that Dahj’s twin sister is not on earth.

Which takes us to the borg cube

We learn quite a bit more about the cube in this episode.

We learn that the romulans are actively trying to reclaim the drones and the technology. Freeing borg and giving them back their individuality, just as was done for Picard and Seven. This is admirable.

I’m sure they have selfish reasons as well. They want the borg technology. And given there are very few of them left, I don’t blame them. They need any advantage they can get at this point.

Soji’s job is to help seperate the drones from the collective, so I was wrong about her being a psychologist. She’s more of a surgeon.

So those glimmers of attraction I thought I saw in Soji’s eyes when she met Narak last episode turned out to be true. And they’ve gone straight from attraction to sleeping together, because that’s how it works in hollywood.

Narak is very unwilling to share much about himself, which is funny since last week he was basically, “G’day. I’m Narak. I have a dead brother which makes me very sad.”

Now we meet a brand new character. Doctor Moritz Benayoun. He’s an old friend of Picards. They served together on the Stargazer, which, of course, was Picard’s first command.

This is a nice touch and reminds us that Picard had a full life before we met him as he first took command of the Enterprise D.

I dunno if Benayoun has a great bedside manner, though. His face immediately gives away the bad news, and then he tells Picard he might need a stiff drink.

But then this isn’t just a doctor talking to his patient. This is one friend to another.

So basically, Picard needs medical clearance so he can approach starfleet and ask to be reactivated to go on a mission to help find Dahj’s sister.

Picard is very healthy, except for a little defect in his parietal lobe, which of course, Beverly discovered back in All Good Things.

Now I loved this because they’ve acknowledging the intergalactic elephant in the room. Picard’s irumodic syndrome. I’ve been wondering if they’d just ignore that altogether. I’m kind of glad they are acknowledging it, because it will gives us a whole other dimension to Picard’s character. Clearly it’s not as advanced as it was in the alternate future created by Q, but it’s still there. Picard is heading toward dementia. And there’s nothing he can do about it. The dreams are likely part of it.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what they do with this.

Seriously, what other TV show gives us a hero in their 90s dealing with the inevitable onset of dementia?

For the sake of friendship, Benayoun is willing to sign Picard off as fit for duty.

But he says if he’s lucky, whatever he’s getting himself into will give him before the syndrome does. That’s kinda dark. But I get it. Many people would rather go out in a blaze of glory than slowly descend into madness.

Now we get the scene where finally, Picard returns to Starfleet headquarters. The show is beginning to feel a lot more star trek. We hear the starfleet fanfare, and then the TNG theme.

And in this moment, Picard is relishing in it.

Despite the problems he had in the past with Starfleet, it still means a lot to him. That uniform, everything it stands for, that’s what his life was all about. As he walks into the building, he feels home. Just look at his face.

I quite like the public transporter chambers. They look pretty cool and they make sense as a logical form of public transport on 24th century earth.

And as he looks up, he sees holographic representations of a constitution class ship and then a galaxy class. Beautiful. OF course, what we’re seeing is the Discovery retconned design for the constitution class. Still not sure what how I feel about that. But you can still imagine that it was a different version prior to a refit when Kirk took command. Anyway, it’s a minor thing.

The fact that the guy at reception has no idea who Picard is gives him a harsh reality check that the world has moved on without him. I think anyone at least approaching middle age can probably identify with this a little. Picard tries to be cordial but he’s got some annoyance there which bubbles to the surface.

That brings us to the scene with Picard in the admiral’s office.

First of all, I want to talk about this whole neuron cloning thing that was brought up last episode and again in this scene.

Maddox thinks he can re-create the entirety of what Data was from a single positronic neuron.

Which really doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

We’re talking about a neural network here, which is a real world concept in computer science.

A neural network is made up of many neurons, connected by pathways of varying weights. It’s a simulation of how the human brain works, at a very basic level.

But a neural network is just that. It’s a network. The data, the understanding, is stored in the various weightings between neurons. If you’re got one neuron, you’ve got one neuron. That can’t tell you anything about how all the other neurons relate to each other.

All I can think is maybe each neuron stores a cached backup of the entire network within itself, which seems kinda of extreme redundancy. I dunno. It really doesn’t make sense.

But, data’s neural network was more than just a software concept. He had a positronic brain, which was a physical hardware device. So, I guess there’s a lot more to it than what we understand in the 21st century.

Still, this is probably the hardest thing in the show for me to swallow.

I have very mixed feelings about the conversation between Picard and Admiral Clancy.

First of all, let’s just get the swear word out of the way.

I’ve talked a little about this regarding Discovery in the past.

It is basically Star Trek canon that swearing is not a thing in the future. Kirk and Spock are exposed to it in Star Trek IV when they travelled back to the 1980s. Kirk says “It’s simply the way they talk. Nobody listens to you unless you swear every other word.” Both Kirk and Spock attempt to swear to fit in, but neither of them do a particularly good job of it. Spock especially. Clearly, they swearing is not something they’re accustomed to doing, or hearing.

Now, I’ll grant you that In Star Trek III and V, Kirk does utter a mild word. And Data also makes that amusing utterance as the Enterprise D is crashing, but I can kind of hand-wave those away.

But the sudden propensity of Starfleet officer to drop F bombs, that’s not Star Trek. I argue it’s not canon.

Plus, Star Trek has always been a family show. Does this add anything? Maybe. Enough to make it worth losing the younger audience? I’m not convinced.

However, I’ll say this for Picard. The way that word was used in Discovery was very badly done. Tilly says “this is so effing cool”. It added nothing to the drama. It wasn’t used to emphasise strong emotions. It was basically just the writers saying “Hey, we’re on streaming now. We can swear…...because we can.”

Contrast that with how it is used here. It powerfully gets across Clancy’s emotions. It shows us a lot about who she is, about how she’s feeling, and about what she thinks of Picard. It’s used in a moment of high tension. And that’s the way I prefer swearing to be used in fiction. If it’s peppered all over the place it loses its impact. But placed here, to emphasise drama, it actually means something.

I still don’t think Star Trek needs f bombs, but I much prefer how it was used here than in discovery.

Also, I love the little thing Patrick Stewart does with his eyebrows when Clancy starts her triade. Great physical acting.

So clancy comes across as a massive jerk. We absolutely do get to choose whether a species dies, she says.

I’d like to have a little bit of balance in all this. I’d like to see a sympathetic character who sees things differently to Picard.Who has different opinions, but not the almost ridiculous extremes that we’re seeing from Starfleet as represented by Clancy. I’d like to see the issue actually explored and honestly look at both sides.

We get a little of that, but I think Starfleet is being set up as a bit of a caricature of pure evil.

We start to understand some of the pressure that went into starfleet’s decision not to help the romulans. 14 member species threatened to pull out of the Federation unless they cut the Romulans loose. Again, that seems very un-federation. But it’s also realistic. So many species with so many values and ideas.

The Federation council had a lot of difficult things they were trying to keep together.

I’m not saying I agree with Starfleet’s decision to abandon the romulans, I just like the acknowledgement of the complexity of the issue.

This is something that Babylon 5 was especially good at. Looking at multiple sides of an issue and then asking the audience, what do you think? Discuss?

Picard does probably come in here with a little too much ...arrogance isn’t quite the right word. But he expects they’ll give him a ship and crew. And he’ll concede to be demoted to Captain.

He also admits that he shouldn’t have spoken against starfleet in the news interview. That was a mistake. I like how they allow Picard to be imperfect, but still good.

In the end, Picard comes out of this as a man with a very strong moral conscience, which is the core of his character.

I think I can safely say that Gene Roddenberry would not have liked this show. But then, I don’t always agree with Gene Roddenberry either.

And honestly, if it’s a choice between this, and the Rodenberry rules of early next generation, where no crewmembers were allowed to have conflict with each other, I’d choose this in a heartbeat.

We get to see a number of familiar star trek species in the background on the borg cube. I like that. I saw a few Andorians, and quite a few of a species that I honestly can’t remember the name of, but I’m sure I’ve seen them. The have kinda slimy green faces with a bit of a beak..

The sign that says 5843 days without an assimilation is chilling. Good reality check of what they’re dealing with here. Where they are.

I assume the safety badges are coded to turn green when they detect the presence of Borg nanoprobes.

We still don’t know the history of this cube. How was it damaged. When did the Romulans find it. I hope we learn more about that.

Why doesn’t Narak need authorisation of the director to watch the procedure? I guess we’ll find out later.

We get a bit of a look at the borg makeup in this episode. Not much more than we’ve seen in the trailers. We still haven’t really seen a full borg, completely assimilated, but what I’m seeing so far I like.

Pretty close to the First Contact borg.

And then, finally Picard takes out his old com badge. It’s the familiar one we remember from the TNG movies. My favourite com badge design. It’s a wonderful moment.

But it’s kind of broken when he taps it and it makes the wrong sound. I’ll be honest, that really disappointed me.

I wanted to hear that familiar high-pitched click.

Anyway, Picard calls somebody named Rafi. We’ll come to her shortly.

I gotta say, I really love Laris. Zhuban too, but especially Laris. She’s so cool.

She worries a lot about Picard. She really does mother him, which is funny given his advanced age. The way those two romulans play off each other is delightful.

I’m not sure why Picard won’t take Zhuban with him. He says “the grapes are in far more need of protecting than I am.” Which is just plain wrong. Picard knows the Tal Shiar are dangerous, these people after Dahj and her sister even moreso. So why does he want zhuban to stay?

I enjoyed the name drops of Riker, Worf and LarForge. They are the obvious ones for Picard to go to for help. Picard’s excuse that he doesn’t want to get them involved feels like a flimsy excuse for “we’re not getting all the old actors back.” but at the same time, Picard doesn’t want to risk loosing his closest friends. Which kinda makes it seem like Rafi is expendable. Doesn’t matter if she dies, as long as Riker, Worf and Geordi don’t die.

We get to see some inner workings at starfleet. Admiral Clancy is talking to a vulcan officer about picard. The vulcan’s name is Commodore Oh. That’s a weird name, especially for a vulcan.

Let’s briefly talk about the new Starfleet Uniform.

I don’t mind it. It’s not my favourite, but it’s both new while still having familiar elements.

There are two things I especially like, because they call back to the future uniform we say in All Good Things. First, there’s the com badge, which is very similar to the all good things combadge. Nice touch. Then there’s the rank pips on the chest, again, quite similar to the all good things uniform. I can very much believe that this is a slight update on that uniform.

Anyway, Oh meets with a lieutenant Narissa Rizzo.

At first, her performance felt a bit wooden and stiff. The kind of less realistic acting that my friend Paeter often associated with Star Trek. Both my wife and I were actually looking at the ears to see if she was Vulcan. But no, she looks human. But something about the angle they shot her really emphasised her ears and made her look almost vulcan.

It’s starting to look as though we have a secret romulan incursion in the heart of Starfleet. It seems that Oh and Rizzo are behind the people that killed Dahj. I think Rizzo is a Romulan surgically altered to look human. And as for Oh, well, she doesn’t even need to be altered, because Romulans and vulcans look so similar.

And Narak is working for them as well. So it seems he is manipulating Soji, rather than having a genuine romantic interest in her. Some people got some manipulative vibes from him at the end of last week’s episode. I didn’t, but I can see it now.

Actually, I missed this on first viewing, but we get confirmation Rizzo is absolutely a Romulan in disguise. Narak makes fun of her rounded ears. And calls it a terrible disguise. More than that, she is Narak’s older sister.

Anyway, I now have no issue with the way Rizzo talks. Because she’s talking like a Romulan.

Let’s talk holographic communications.

They did this in Discovery and I really didn’t like it. There, it was a significant canon issue. They tried to patch it up in season 2. Not really satisfactorily, but they tried.

Here, it makes a lot more sense. Holographic technology is all over the place in the 24th century. We know Starfleet dabbled in holo communicators during Deep Space Nine’s 5th season, before letting it go by the wayside. It’s logical that they would improve the technology and then bring it back. So that’s all fine.

I don’t have any canon issues with it. It makes a lot more sense in this setting.

Except...I dunno. I still don’t overly like it. My main problem with it is the way it’s done. The way holograms walk around the room. The worst example was in Discovery when a holographic Sarak actually sat on the edge of a desk in Georgou’s office.

The only way I can see this working is if Rizzo is in a holodeck, and she’s seeing a holographic representation of Narak’s room. She sees everything he sees. And for both of them, it’s like they’re in the room together. That works and I’d be cool with that, in fact I kinda like that, so until I’m proven wrong, I’m going to adopt that as my head canon.

Picard goes to see Raffi Musiker. You may be wondering who she is, and if that’s the case, you clearly haven’t read the Picard Countdown comics. Essentially Raffi was Picard’s first officer on the Verity which he commanded after the Enterprise, while he was trying to evacuate Romulans.

It seems that she left Starfleet as well, and clearly she has some issues with Picard. I don’t know all the backstory yet, because I haven’t yet read book 3, which has just come out, but I would certainly recommend reading these comics to ge the full experience. Without that backstory, this would feel kinda weird.

There’s not much more to say about her at this point, so let’s delve into her character next week.

Interesting that so many locations we saw on the trailers, which I assumed would be alien planets, turn out to be Earth.

So there you have episode 2 of Star Trek Picard. When the credits appeared I was shocked. What? Over already? I’m not sure if I felt that way because I was really into it, or because it felt like nothing much actually happened in the episode.

I think it’s probably both.

This episode had a lot of setup in it. It actually moved the plot forward a whole lot less than episode 1 did. And that’s ok. That’s the nature of serialised storytelling, and this show is even more serialised than Discovery. Some people may not like that, but I love serialised storytelling.

The last thing I want is to see Picard go on 40 minute advntures of the week every episode.

I’ve got 7 seasons of that I can go back and watch. I don’t need any more of it.

What I want is a big grand story that has enough time to really dig into characters, and shoe us long term consequences. Which is exactly what we’re getting.

So overall, I’m still really enjoying star trek Picard, and can’t wait to see what we get next week.

I wonder which episode Picard will finally go into space. Do you think it’ll be next week, or further away than that? When do you think we’ll get our first Engage or Make it so? I know he’s going to say engage at some point because it’s in the trailer. We’ve already heard a twist on Tea, Earl Gray. Hot.

So last week I mention I’d started a walk to Mordor, based on the journey taken in Lord of The Rings. I’m pleased to report that it’s still going well. I have now reached the encounter with the black rider.

Overall, I’ve walked 55.41 kilometers. Just 3,053.76 to go.

My next milestone will be an encounter with the elves at 10.57 kilometres.

Don’t forget to check out my Jewel of The Stars books. You can get the first one for just 99 cents at books2read.com/jewel. And that’s the number 2.

Or, you can read it for free, on wattpad. I add a new chapter every weekend (except for last weekend. I forgot because I was so busy making the podcast.)

I’d appreciate a review wherever you listen to this podcast. Reviews on iTunes are especially helpful, even if you’re not an apple person. I’m an Android man myself. But if you are on Ios, you can leave a review directly from your phone. I’m told it’s quite easy. That really helps raise the visibility of my podcast so others can join us on this journey.

Anyway, I’ll talk to you all next week when we discuss episode 3, “The End is The Beginning”

Live long and prosper.

Make it so.

56 episodes