“You think you can just waltz back in here and be entrusted with taking men and women into space?”
It occurs to me on the second viewing of “Maps and Legends,” the “previously on Picard” bits are not intended to keep the audience up to speed, but to consume the running time and stretch the very thin story at play. Based on what is revealed in the second episode, all we require is roughly five seconds of the premiere. Maybe less. Almost nothing happens in this episode. Utopia Planitia is a hot-bed of android hate (which makes no sense to me considering the amount of respect Data fostered during the show’s run).
Guinan’s prophecy has been fulfilled. She envisioned a future where androids would become slaves, and she turned out to be right. In Star Trek: Voyager, we saw armies of Robert Picardo’s consigned to manual labor because that hologram was ill-mannered and not aesthetically pleasing, but he was made up of photons and force-fields, so his personal comfort didn’t matter. This reversal tells me nothing about the nature of humanity I didn’t already know, but it does irritate the super-lifer fans. Regardless of Roddenberry’s central thesis, I don’t believe humans are capable of a positive change. Thirteen years ago on Mars, humans and other sentient species upset the apple cart by treating their android “day laborers” (I’m sorry, I couldn’t come up with another description) like crap. The androids got even by destroying them. One of these androids even commits suicide.
One of the more jarring edits in all of Star Trek is a back-and-forth investigation of Dahj’s apartment (where she was attacked and her boyfriend was killed) while Picard, in his home, is given an expositional dump by his Irish-accented Romulan valet, Laris. I don’t understand the purpose of telling the story in this manner unless it is to keep the audience awake. Laris tells Picard of a super-secret-with-cherries-on-top Romulan coalition of spooks called the Zhat Vash either attempting to kill synthetic people or whisk them away to safer environs, I’m not sure which. Most of the episode is taken up with Picard listening to other people’s stories.
Laris and Picard do discover that Dahj has apparently been erased. It’s kind of like being unfriended and blocked. All evidence of her existence has been removed. Picard gets bad news from his doctor (David Paymer). He’s dying, but we knew that, and he knew that, so it’s not exactly a jaw-dropping revelation. Picard wants his doctor to falsify his medical records so that Picard can undertake an important mission. Picard goes to Starfleet to request reinstatement and a warp-capable ship to find Bruce Maddox, but Ann Magnuson ain’t having it. She even drops the f-bomb on him. I don’t understand her hatred of Picard or her hatred of anything. It’s over-the-top in a way that would make James Kirk or Chief O’ Brien blush. Picard saved the galaxy at least 200 times by my count, but Magnuson accuses him of hubris (in an oddly hubristic tone).
“This is no longer your house, Jean-Luc,” she tells him. This is a bizarre (and unprofessional) exchange between colleagues, but it gives Picard an excuse to use improper, unorthodox channels to get what he wants. On the Borg cube, Dahj’s twin is assigned (with many others) to disassemble and analyze the Borg, but again we knew that. What we don’t know are the specifics. Why are the Romulans so interested in the Borg? Why are there several non-Romulans among these researchers? Why is the Starfleet mouth-piece so angry yet does not take Picard’s theories seriously? Frankly, I don’t care about the Data/Dahj subplot. It’s ultimately pointless, in my opinion*.
It’s a little too easy for her to deny Picard’s request while pulling double-duty in some unspecified covert operation to spy on Romulans. She contacts the Asian/Vulcan Commodore (we’re back to Commodores now?) Oh who, in turn, drops the dime to her Romulan collaborators. She could’ve just as easily granted his request and sent a spy along on the mission to monitor Picard’s progress. That’s what I would’ve done, but I also wouldn’t use Starfleet as an extension of my Id. All we know (two episodes in) is there appears to be a massive conspiracy deep inside Starfleet Command, but unfortunately I don’t think it involves enormous parasites with blue gills and exploding heads. That would’ve been cool. Maybe Picard’s caught in the legend. Maybe he’s caught in the mood. Maybe these maps and legends have been misunderstood.
* As were the hopes of “original recipe” Star Trek fans who believed Picard was canon. Those hopes were dashed the week this episode premiered. When Picard walks into Starfleet headquarters, he looks up at holographic models of previous ships to bear the name, Enterprise. He sees his beloved ship, but he also sees the version of Enterprise featured in Star Trek: Discovery rather than the original designs from The Original Series. As I said in the previous Picard review, it isn’t worth it to get angry.
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