Season 1, Episode 8: ‘Broken Pieces’
Man, “Star Trek: Picard” is dark. That is the thought that kept running through my head during this week’s episode. There have been other dark moments throughout the series — but this is the episode when the darkness really stood out. From the start of the episode — when several Romulans stand in a circle, go insane and commit suicide — to Admiral Clancy’s randomly telling Picard to shut up with an unnecessary expletive, I kept thinking that this is a grim world Picard inhabits — and a much different one than the franchise creator, Gene Roddenberry, had in mind decades ago.
But we are what is in front of us. And when Soji meets Rios for the first time, he has a moment of confusion and seemingly, panic. We finally get a bit of Rios’s back story and his history with a former captain, Alonzo Vandermeer — a father figure in his life. And filed under “What an Incredible Coincidence”: In a past life, Rios and Vandermeer picked up “a diplomatic mission out of nowhere” with two passengers. Vandermeer eventually murdered these two based on a directive from Starfleet and then killed himself, an incident that Rios covered up.
Remarkable, the two ended up being synths. Thank goodness that Rios happened to be hired as the pilot for a synth-related mission for Picard!
The uniting characteristic of the La Sirena crew is that all of them withdraw in times of deep discomfort, except, perhaps, for Picard. They are also all fundamentally broken human beings, as the episode’s title suggests. But in this showing, the members make an effort to look after one another: Raffi shows a compassionate side in dealing with Rios’s heartbreak (just as he did with her when she was rejected by her son). Soji is sympathetic toward Jurati, even though Jurati has orders to kill her and previously murdered her father. The crew recognizes that they are kindred spirits, having started off as distrusting strangers.
The crew has uncovered a new mystery here that feeds into the current one they are trying to solve: It turns out that the Romulan quest to stop the development of androids actually stretches back hundreds of thousands of years and that they were behind the attack on Mars. Commodore Oh is a deeply embedded plant.
I will admit that seeing yet another layer of plot on top of an already complicated plot muddles the central story line for me. And it is a bit difficult for me to believe that Oh would have risen up to near the top of Starfleet given the tensions between the Romulans and the Federation. (I realize that Worf became a Starfleet officer, but still.)
But by the end of the episode, Picard and his merry band are in a race to beat the Romulan fleet to the synth planet — so it feels as if this story were finally coming to a head.
And yet, even with all the darkness in the episode, Picard gives one of his trademark monologues — this one about optimism — as this chapter comes to a close.
“The past is written but the future is left for us to write,” Picard tells Rios, doing his best Natasha Bedingfield impersonation.
It’s the kind of dialogue Patrick Stewart really bites into and thank goodness, because otherwise, we were in for a bleak “Iceman Cometh”-type viewing experience. Fundamentally, Picard cannot help who he is: a duty focused, morally bound optimist. He is Roddenberry’s ideal. Borg drones being ejected into space? Not so much.
Even with the extra layer of plot, I enjoyed the episode, but I do wonder how many of these threads will be wrapped up by the end of the season.
Odds and Ends:
I enjoyed the moment when all the Rios holograms hit themselves on the head at once. A lighthearted scene in an episode that sorely needed one.
This episode was a lovely showcase for Santiago Cabrera as Rios (and his holograms). He has put together a very versatile performance.
The B story line in the episode is the return of Seven of Nine. With Elnor’s help, she somehow reintegrates into the Borg hive mind and retakes the cube — even though Rizzo has thousands of drones sucked into space. Essentially, Seven of Nine grudgingly becomes the Borg Queen for a moment, which seems like a pretty cool experience. She just plugged herself in!
Narek! Where are you?! (On a separate note, I continue to wonder what Elnor is supposed to be doing.)
My favorite moment in the episode was when Picard described Data’s characteristics to Soji. It was a testament to what Brent Spiner brought to the character and a reminder of why Data is one of the most fascinating characters in all of Trek.
Admiral Clancy cursing at Picard and then simultaneously sending a fleet to Deep Space 12 made me laugh. There was no apology from her about not taking Picard seriously. She shows the same contempt for him she did previously. What a strange character.
So, Jurati says she is going to turn herself in for the murder of Bruce Maddox. The crew seems to accept readily that she has reformed and is no longer a murderer. Why? Commodore Oh has proved herself to be an effective double agent. Why would Picard and company believe Jurati?
It’s kind of amazing that the Federation never showed more skepticism about the Mars attacks.