Star Trek #1500: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1

CAPTAIN'S LOG: The crew reaches Soji's homeworld.

WHY WE LIKE IT: Orchids. Brent Spiner.

WHY WE DON'T: Can we stop leaving Elnor behind?

REVIEW: The episode starts with sfx guns blazing. Pleasant dogfighting and Rios throwing out a massive understatement ("That's unexpected") when the functional Borg Cube arrives, and THEN giant space orchids (the root of Soji's memories/dreams) arrive to take all the ships down! Well! 218 Romulan warbirds are headed that way, and Picard puts in a call to Starfleet too, and you're just gonna have to wait 'til the finale to get your big space battle, kids. As the penultimate chapter, this baby just sets it up. But that's not all it does.

First, there's the thrill of finding a colony of androids who are all(?) in some way Data's children. They affect gold skin and yellow eyes, and it's a real society of peaceful geniuses who create wonderful technologies and manage to develop mindmeld skills (for example). And here I was expecting those limited synths from the Mars attack and maybe a couple of the new breed. It gets better. Among their number is Brent Spiner as Soong's heretofore unknown son Altan Inigo Soong, a chip off the old block, but perhaps more like ol' Arik (from Enterprise) in what he's willing to do. He's built a synthetic Spot, squee. There is also, of course, another Soji model, the golden Sutra, who will surprisingly (or not, we need a Destroyer, after all) become the piece's villain.

Because it didn't exactly make sense that the Admonition, a crucial warning from the past, would drive people mad upon receiving it, nor that a culture could be destroyed, THEN build an octonary system. If you raised an eyebrow at all that, this episode reveals the truth. The Admonition wasn't a warning to organics, it was a promise to synthetics, though organics should definitely fear this "Android Federation" lying in wait outside time and space for a signal from sufficiently advanced synths. Sutra gets it from Jurati's mind, and she and Soong agree the Children of Data should be protected at all costs, even if it means destroying all organic life in the quadrant/galaxy. Well, I don't think Data would agree... Sutra ruthlessly allows a captured Narek to escape and kill one of the androids so she can inflame spirits and make her call to arms. Soong is quick to call Picard's charisma out, perhaps intuiting Data's offspring are hard-wired to trust the ethical old man. Perhaps our salvation lies in Jurati, deeply in need of redemption, and her promise to perfect mind transfer so Soong can get into a body he's built, saving him from the Android Apocalypse, eh? I wouldn't turn my back on that one, Altan. I also wouldn't count Soji and even Narek out.

The android body could conceivably also be used to prolong Picard's life, but that would be about as wonky as William Shatner's novels resurrecting Kirk as a superhero in the novel The Return. Then again, they've ramped up is brain abnormality to the point where he has a seizure and has to tell his crew what's what. He delivers it matter-of-factly and doesn't want to be treated differently, though he later shares some touching moments with Raffi and Elnore. Nothing too big, they let it happen in looks, faces, voices mostly. (Similarly, Spiner does a great job of trying to avoid looking at Jurati after he knows she killed his friend Maddox.) Perhaps the androids have or could develop a cure for his condition, though I can't imagine human medicine is really their field. Or there's a third alternative to having Picard die a slow, degenerative death in the second season. During a trip to the downed Borg Cube, Picard tells Seven it's her turn to save the universe, or words to that effect. What if Picard Season 2 is really Seven Season 1, well-hidden from audiences to keep her role in this series a surprise? She's already become friends with Elnor (who continues to be left behind by Picard, which has gotten pretty ridiculous) and has met the rest of the crew. HER crew, in TNG Sequel Season 2? I don't know, but that's what these events are inspiring me to muse about.

LESSON: Don't read other people's mail.

REWATCHABILITY - High: While we wait for the big finale, the writers make the pieces of the puzzle click together more tightly, throw an unexpected guest star at us, and a few surprises as well for good measure.

 

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