Star Trek #1493: Maps and Legends

CAPTAIN'S LOG: Picard is desperate to find a ship for his mission.

WHY WE LIKE IT: The look on Picard's face when he gets disrespected.

WHY WE DON'T: The dreaded recap syndrome.

REVIEW: It's unfortunate that, for all its qualities, the second episode of the series is already playing for time. We certainly get more information about what's happening (and more questions), though the characters are playing catch-up with things the audience already knows. The plot itself doesn't advance much, if at all, which is especially egregious because the characters keep recapping information from the first episode. I get that this is released weekly, but in this world of on-demand streaming and binging, is there really a need for repeating information, especially when there's a "Previously..." prologue at the top of the show. It feels like an old-fashioned way to do television to me, and is nothing more than padding in an already slim episode. The scripting is otherwise quite strong, with a lot of cracking dialog and memorable character-building scenes, so it's a real shame when these dovetail into exposition.

Picard himself has several stand-out moments. I love his talk with Dr. Benayoun, his physician from the Stargazer (paying off his entire history, not just his time on the Enterprise), which reveals the future of All Good Things is finally coming true in some form. If Picard will soon start to deteriorate, then yes, he needs to get back into space, not just for this mission, but because that's where he should die. Time weighs on him, as his reflection in the mantle clock reminds us, and he doesn't have time for rambly old remembrances with his friend. I likewise like his visit to Starfleet, where despite his old ship acting as a holo-sculpture in the ceiling, and his sensationalistic interview having just run on the space telly, he isn't recognized at reception. The look on his face. These kids, right? And it makes it feel like Admiral Clancy (they're really going for the covert conspiracy feel, aren't they?) has a real point when she accuses him of hubris and of simply wanting to be relevant again (but could have done without the F bomb). Is he now the old interfering admiral trope that used to give hero captains trouble? I'm less enamored of the magic CSI scene in Dahj's apartment, because it's just technobabble about impossible forensics and computer tags and such. Plus, we already knew all this stuff. It's certainly interesting that Laris and Zhaban are former Tal Shiar agents though (which complicates the relationships). The other thing I noted in the scene is that those orchids, though ostensibly the ones Dahj's "father" created, are actually the same as Tuvok's on Voyager (and which caused the Tuvix imbroglio). If my mind is wandering this much, you know the scene can be shortened or jettisoned.

Speaking of the Tal Shiar, the episode also establishes they are merely the equivalent of Starfleet Intelligence, and that they have a Section 31 in the form of the whisper-secret Zhat Vash, who in particular have a fear and loathing of synthetic life and artificial intelligence. The reasons are not known, but easily divinable. Skynet. Computo. Heck, maybe the Borg itself is a runaway A.I. (with ties to the Romulans we have not guessed at?!). Romulans do not want to be supplanted by artificial life, which in the Star Trek metaphor might relate to some Westerners' irrational fear of sharia law somehow being imposed on their countries. I was at first a little disappointed that the Romulans were actually at fault, but it's more complicated than that. Starfleet Intelligence (and the impressive Commodore Oh - is that really a Vulcan name?) is in on it, but may not know they have a disguised member of the Zhat Vash in their midst. Or may, since they apparently know about Narek on the Cube. It's just not clear who is playing who in this scenario, and against whom. I certainly love the conversation about "unexpected" being a dirty word in their business.

Back on the Borg Cube, or the Artifact as they call it, Narek is supposed to get Soji to tell him where the other synths are located, implying there's a connection between the twins, the rogues, and Maddox's Soong-type exile. We do have to wonder who radicalized the synths in the first place - a very cool and somewhat terrifying flashback to 14 years prior shows us they were badly treated, but it's not clear how sentient they were either - or if radicalize simply means programmed, in their case. The question stands either way. Not that Soji has the answer on a conscious level. If I'm very much mistaken, Narek may be falling in love with her actually, especially after he sees the surprising empathy she shows for the Borg drones being de-assimilated under her care. Synthetics aren't necessarily the abominations he was led to believe they were, and I predict he'll turn against his sister before long. Good, because Narek is a good character, and more than any Romulan, he's being allowed to show the race's psychology of keeping secrets in more intimate contexts. A fun visual gag to look out for in these sequences is the chalk message on a platform saying how many days it's been without an assimilation. Cute.

There's not much to say about the character of Raffi who will supply Picard with a ship, according to one of the last scenes. She lives out in the desert (by Vasquez Rocks, because of course she does). She's antagonistic to Picard. The comic book prequel tells us she was his first officer during the Romulan relocation effort, so perhaps her career was destroyed when he made waves. The idea is for Picard to call in favors from ALL stages of his career, which I think is sensible, not just from the series standpoint of this not being Next Gen all over again, but to give a fuller, richer account of the life of one of Starfleet's greatest captains. Even if he never liked science-fiction (that's a Patrick Stewart thing, isn't it?).

LESSON: In a post-currency economy, don't underestimate the value of a good bottle of wine.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: Too much padding and too little plot movement, but a lot of great scenes.

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