Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for Maps and Legends, as well as for the previous episode of Star Trek: Picard and other iterations of the Star Trek franchise. If you haven’t seen the episode yet and don’t want to know what happened, now’s your chance to jump ship!
A week seems like a long time when you’re waiting for something, and waiting for the release of Maps and Legends, the second episode of Star Trek: Picard, seemed to take forever. After Remembrance had been so stunningly good last week, I was hoping that Maps and Legends would manage to be just as enjoyable. In case you missed it, you can find my review of Remembrance by clicking or tapping here.
Though I don’t think it hit quite the same highs as last time, Maps and Legends was nevertheless a solid episode that advanced the story – albeit at a slower pace than Remembrance. There were some great performances again, especially from Sir Patrick Stewart, and we learned a lot more about the synthetics and the Romulans.
The episode opens with a step back in time – to fourteen years prior to last week’s episode and the rogue synths’ attack on Mars. We get a better look at the rescue armada – Picard’s fleet that was under construction – than we did in the Short Treks episode Children of Mars from a few weeks ago. Unlike in that short episode, where the few ships that we briefly glimpsed looked very similar to vessels of the Discovery era, my impression of the ships being built in orbit of Mars was that they were much more in line with the 24th Century. And I’m glad, because while some elements of Discovery’s visual style crossing over is inevitable given that the two shows are being produced simultaneously, the two eras are separated by one-and-a-half centuries from an in-universe perspective, so we shouldn’t really be seeing that many similarities in things like starship design.
To pick out a couple of specific examples, I felt that the tapered look that the warp nacelles on the rescue ships had was reminiscent of the Enterprise-E. This would make sense as the Enterprise-E would have been active in this era – the attack on Mars having taken place around six years after the events of Nemesis. Secondly, the red impulse engines mounted on the “saucer” section of those vessels is a familiar element of Federation starship designs, and has been seen on many vessels across all iterations of Star Trek. I’m assuming, anyway, that the glowing red sections were impulse engines – that’s what they look like to me. Unlike the vessels in Children of Mars, these ones felt like they definitely were late-24th Century Starfleet ships. This could be simply a change in the viewing angle, but they looked like an altogether different design to me.
Oh, and while we’re breaking down this briefest of scenes, the CGI work was absolutely excellent. The ships really felt like they were hanging there in orbit of Mars, and the whole shot, though it only lasted a few seconds, did a great job establishing the scale of the fleet. Previous iterations of Star Trek have, on occasion, struggled with such large numbers of ships – a consequence of the days when they had to use hand-built scale models.
The action starts with a crew working on Mars. The synths we’d seen in the trailer – who I speculated might’ve been deactivated as part of the purge on synthetic life in the aftermath of the attack – turned out to actually be workers on Mars from this time period. They were in some kind of storage – presumably sent there to rest in between shifts.
Unlike Data, these synthetics were far less “human” in the way that they acted and behaved. Dr Jurati told us last time that no one had ever been able to recreate the process used to build Data – and that’s apparent from looking at these synths. Even when we first met him in The Next Generation’s premiere, Encounter at Farpoint, Data had a personality. He had the desire to expand his programming and become more human – almost akin to a craving or a desperate want. He came close to achieving his goal in Generations, seven years later, when an emotion chip was installed allowing him to feel sensations like amusement, fear, and disgust. The androids we met in Maps and Legends, though, are missing all of that. They have clearly been programmed to be interactive – they respond when spoken to, answer questions, fake a smile when told a joke – but they lack any personality or character of their own. Clearly Maddox’s work was incomplete at this stage.
It’s also interesting to note that, as of Nemesis, no Data-esque androids were known to exist aside from the few examples made by Dr Soong (Data’s creator). Work on these synths must’ve been well underway by then, however, to have teams of them deployed to Mars only a few years later.
A few days ago I wrote an article detailing six of my own pet theories for Star Trek: Picard. And one of the theories I had, based on what we saw in Remembrance, was that the synthetics on Mars were hacked. While this is still very much an unconfirmed theory, we may have seen some more evidence in Maps and Legends that points to it being true. The work crew are going about their day, when their android – F8 (is that a play on the word “fate”?) – seems to malfunction. He stops, appears to process something – perhaps downloading or receiving a transmission – then starts working feverishly on one of the computer terminals. He may have been the one responsible for taking down Martian defences, or at least one section of them. Mere moments later, after F8 has turned on the work crew, killing them and two guards, the “stingray ships” arrive and the attack on Mars unfolds.
Whatever happened to F8 had to also have happened to other synthetics simultaneously – the attack unfolded in a matter of seconds. He wasn’t physically interfered with, so whatever altered his programming had to have been a transmission coming from somewhere else, or perhaps an innate flaw in his programming that activated for some reason. It also seems that the rogue synths killed themselves in the aftermath of the attack. F8 fires a phaser into his own head, presumably destroying his positronic brain. If something similar happened to all the synths it would explain why no reason for the attack has been discovered: they left no evidence behind. The fact that F8 killed himself is another hint, in my opinion, that he and his fellow synths were hacked. This would be the hacker trying to conceal the evidence of their crimes.
After the opening titles we’re back at Château Picard, where Laris and Zhaban are talking with Picard about who might’ve been responsible for killing Dahj. They initially suspect the Tal Shiar (the Romulan intelligence agency), but Laris has another idea – an older, much more secretive Romulan faction called the Zhat Vash. Romulans, according to Laris, don’t work with androids, AIs, or any other synthetics because of a deep-seated fear and loathing of them, and the Zhat Vash hate synthetics even more passionately than other Romulans. They may have been responsible for the attack on Dahj as part of their crusade against synthetic life. This is a fascinating idea, but I didn’t feel that the way this information was conveyed – a single scene with one character dumping a lot of expository dialogue – was particularly strong.
We were always going to learn more about the Romulans in Picard, with the show being so tied up in the aftermath of the supernova, but this was especially interesting to me notwithstanding how it came across on screen. In the Romulans’ appearances throughout Star Trek, they’ve never indicated that they hated or feared artificial intelligence, yet apparently it’s a Romulan trait going back hundreds of years or more. The Romulans have always been a paranoid race, and this fits in nicely with what we already knew about them. Whether there’s a reason for this fear – such as an historical attempt at building their own AIs that went awry – is unclear. It’s possible that the synths’ actions in destroying the rescue armada has given the Zhat Vash additional motivation to hunt down any remaining synthetics – as well as perhaps covert support from elements within the Federation, but more on that later.
The scene at the vineyard is spliced with another taking place at Dahj’s apartment in Boston. Picard and Laris travelled there to look for clues – but whoever attacked Dahj has since been back and completely cleaned everything. Laris uses some kind of illegal scanning device to recreate some of the events leading to Dahj’s death, but the holo-recording she manages to piece together cuts out abruptly – thanks to the way the apartment has been surgically cleaned up. They are, however, able to confirm the existence of Soji – who is now confirmed 100% to be Dahj’s “twin”. Soji is offworld, but they don’t know exactly where.
I’m not sure why, but I wasn’t certain until this point that Dahj was the “sister” that Soji referred to in the previous episode. For some reason I was thinking that there might be others, and that they may have been two members of a larger group. But Dahj’s last name – Asha – was spoken in Maps and Legends and it’s the same as Soji’s.
The action then returns to the Romulans’ Borg cube, where Soji and the Romulan she met at the end of the last episode, Narek, have wasted little time in becoming intimate. He’s incredibly secretive, giving non-answers to most of the questions Soji asks him, and it turns out “Narek” may not even be his real name – when asked, he says it’s “one of” his names. Does that mean it’s one part of his full name, or does it mean perhaps that he has numerous aliases?
The Borg cube, incidentally, is occupied by the Romulans, but it’s hinted that they may not have been responsible for its damage. The Borg Collective is also implied to still be active, as the cube is disconnected from the rest of the Collective – “a graveyard” as far as the Borg are concerned, according to Narek. So the events of Voyager’s finale, Endgame – in which a time-travelling Janeway infects the Borg Queen with a virus and equips Voyager with anti-Borg armour and technology – doesn’t seem to have wiped out the Collective as a faction in the Star Trek galaxy. Good to know!
Picard meets with his doctor at the vineyard, and apparently the two know each other from having served together on the USS Stargazer. I liked this inclusion, it was a reference to Picard’s past but without being too distracting or overt. However, it would have been a perfect opportunity to bring in someone from Star Trek’s own past, like Dr Pulaski or Nurse Ogawa – both of whom Picard served with on-screen in The Next Generation. But that’s just a creative decision, and having Dr Benayoun be someone new was a perfectly valid choice.
Dr Benayoun brings bad news. Picard had asked him to certify to Starfleet that he was fit and well to return to active spacefaring duty, but the doctor has discovered something in Picard’s scans that may be a terminal illness. There are hints that this could be the “Irumodic Syndrome” mentioned in The Next Generation’s finale, as Picard says he was warned something like this might be coming, and Dr Benayoun refers to the collection of conditions that may be present as “syndromes”. As with the Stargazer reference, this was a nod to The Next Generation for returning fans that in no way interfered with or got in the way of the overall story. The news of his impending illness pushes Picard even harder to unravel the mystery of Dahj – before it’s too late.
He travels to San Francisco, to Starfleet Headquarters. We saw this in the trailers, and Picard has made an appointment with Admiral Clancy – who is seemingly in charge of Starfleet. He asks to be reinstated to track down Dr Maddox and learn what happened with Dahj, and offers to be demoted to Captain for the mission if it will sway her. Apparently she and Picard had tussled before, during the Romulan rescue attempt, because she angrily refuses his request. They debate the Romulan issue, and it emerges that some member worlds of the Federation (it’s not stated which ones) threatened to secede from the Federation if help was provided to the Romulans. Admiral Clancy felt – and still feels – that calling off the rescue mission after the attack on Mars was the right thing to do because it preserved the Federation.
Though I doubt we’ll learn exactly who may have been threatening to withdraw, it would be interesting to know. Could the Vulcans be among those uncomfortable with helping the Romulans, perhaps? After multiple attempts by the Romulans to forcibly conquer them, perhaps the Vulcans decided to leave them to their fate. Pure speculation, but I can’t help wondering.
This scene was, frankly, a little clichéd: the hero asking for help and getting turned down by a superior officer who believes everything is fine the way it is is a trope seen throughout fiction. Sir Patrick Stewart was passionate, however, and we’re seeing more and more of the Picard we remember coming to the surface after his time away from Starfleet. Guest star Ann Magnuson – who played Admiral Clancy – gave a solid performance too, and the argument that the two characters have really emphasises how Picard is now seen – and sees himself – as an outsider to Starfleet.
This is a significant shift in tone from practically anything we’ve seen in Star Trek before. In other series like Deep Space Nine and Voyager, non-Starfleet main characters have felt like they were largely on the same page as Starfleet, sharing the same basic ideals and goals. Even someone like Quark, arguably the most non-traditional main character in Star Trek to date, had a longstanding association with the Federation, and the Maquis in Voyager were so quickly absorbed into the crew (a consequence of the writers not really knowing what to do with the Maquis-Starfleet conflict after the first few episodes) that they don’t really count as being anything different from a thematic perspective. To be fully on the outside – a rebel, if you don’t mind thinking about it that way – is something we haven’t really seen before. Putting together a non-Starfleet crew, as Picard is with Dr Jurati, Raffi, and others we’ve yet to meet, is also something new.
Picard leaves the meeting dejected, and the action returns to Soji aboard the Borg cube. We learn that the cube has been named “the Artifact”, and as we’d seen in both the trailers and the previous episode, is under Romulan control. Interestingly, however, the Romulan Star Empire isn’t named, and instead the cube is controlled by the Romulan Free State. In the video game Star Trek Online, the Romulans broke into two factions: a continuation of the Empire and a democratic state called the Romulan Republic. Whether something similar has happened here, or whether the Romulan Free State has replaced the Empire as a result of the supernova is unknown, but the Free State clearly has resources and a powerful military judging by their security guards.
Soji assists a newbie on the Artifact – a Trill doctor – as they get ready for work. Part of the cube – seemingly the part where Soji and her crewmates live – has been rendered entirely safe and free of any Borg activity. There are even private rooms which have been built into the cube. But beyond this area Soji, the Trill doctor, Narek, and others all have to take extra precautions – including wearing a grey combadge-like device. This device serves as a warning system, with a Romulan guard telling Soji and the assembled crew to get out of danger if the grey badge flashes green. It may also be some kind of shield or even a cloaking device to keep wearers safe from residual Borg activity – we’ve seen similar technology in Voyager.
Though the guard seemed to be revelling in his role, and the other Romulan security personnel clearly take their jobs very seriously, this scene gave me the impression of a tourist trap. We’ve all been somewhere like that, I’m sure, where the tour guide or someone from the local area tells a gaggle of tourists to be extra careful because where they’re going is dangerous – but of course it’s all a play to make them feel more excited. Whether that was intended isn’t clear but that’s the impression I got!
I can’t help but feel that the Trill doctor isn’t long for this world, though – perhaps she’ll end up assimilated before long. There was just too much “everything will be fine” from Soji for that particular cliché not to play out!
The Romulans, counter to what we might have expected, seemingly allow researchers and doctors from other factions – including the Federation – access to their Borg cube for study. Soji is assisting in disassembling some of the drones who remain on the Artifact. Their components are collected by the Romulans and, presumably, studied in more detail. How exactly this fits into their “no AI, no synthetics” mantra is unclear, but as the Borg are known to have technology far more advanced than the Federation, perhaps they’re hoping to learn more about that. Soji is clearly uncomfortable with the callous way the Romulans are treating the Borg drone she’s helping with, even though it appears to be dead.
The Borg drone – Nameless – being disassembled was suitably gory for an episode of Star Trek. The removal of his eyepiece revealed some raw flesh, and the whole makeup and prosthetics departments should be complimented for their work here. Indeed all of the visual effects here, from the holo-screens projected in mid-air through to the look of the Borg bodies and their components, were absolutely on point. The scene really got across the look and feel of a disabled Borg ship being pulled apart.
Another of the scenes from the trailers was Soji and others in the red jumpsuits aboard the Borg cube. I know some folks online had speculated that it was a prison, but it seems that this isn’t the case. There are also scans on the Artifact to presumably detect Borg activity. This ties into what I said last time about Soji and Dahj being able to register as fully human on scans, but clearly Soji has been able to get aboard the Artifact, a militarised, secure facility, without raising any alarms. How exactly that’s accomplished is still unknown.
Back at the vineyard again, and Picard meets with Dr Jurati. They discuss Dr Maddox and the synths, and she seems sure that Dr Maddox would have modelled Soji and Dahj on Data’s painting to pay homage to him. She’s also researched more about Dahj – and it seems she may have only existed for three years or so. Her credentials and background have been faked, and prior to that time there’s no record of her existing. Dr Maddox is mentioned again, but Dr Jurati can’t speak to his motivations for creating Dahj and Soji.
However, it seems that Dahj may have been looking for something at the Daystrom Institute. Soji is aboard the Artifact, the Romulan-occupied Borg cube, and Dahj had been accepted to work/study at Daystrom. Picard and Jurati seem to suspect that they have been programmed to look for something – something common to these locations, or two separate somethings perhaps. Whatever it may be, however, it clearly isn’t all that time-sensitive given that Dahj had been active for three years and had only just made her way to the Daystrom Institute. Whoever built and/or programmed them – Picard and others assume it’s Dr Maddox but that could be a deliberate misdirect – evidently has time to wait.
Picard is is then seen putting on his old Nemesis-era combadge, and contacts someone called Raffi – immediately asking her not to hang up on him, showing that they clearly have some history!
Starfleet combadges have changed since Nemesis, featuring a design similar to that seen in TNG-era shows’ depictions of the future, which was a nice touch. The new combadge is an understated design, a hollow silver outline over a dark background, combining elements of The Original Series, Discovery, and the TNG-era shows all in one, with the most obvious influence being the future combadge we saw in those 24th Century shows. The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager all featured this same design when they set episodes in the future, so to use a visually similar combadge here is a great way to tie Picard to the rest of the franchise from a design standpoint.
At Starfleet Headquarters, Admiral Clancy contacts someone called Commodore Oh, who appears to be a Vulcan, to discuss Picard’s visit. She is clearly alarmed by the idea that Romulan agents may be operating on Earth, and Oh says she will investigate. However, Commodore Oh is working with a Lieutenant named Rizzo and they are responsible for the attack on Dahj – though killing her before they could interrogate her was clearly a mistake. Furthermore it’s revealed that Rizzo is a Romulan disguised as a human, and is very close with Narek – she refers to him as “brother”, though whether this is literal or not is unclear. Narek is, however, implicated in this plot, and his relationship with Soji seems a facade simply to get close to her. Rizzo – which is probably not her real name – says she will travel to the Artifact to complete their mission with Soji. What she plans to do isn’t clear, but it seems like Soji is in real danger.
It’s possible that Commodore Oh is a Romulan agent. That’s heavily implied by Maps and Legends, but it could also be the case that she’s a Vulcan who’s simply cooperating with the Romulans. While it may be easy enough for a well-organised intelligence agency to have one of their operatives disguised as a lieutenant, I think it would be much harder to create the fake identity of someone of such high rank as Commodore – not least a Commodore who is in charge of what looks like a whole department of Starfleet security and/or intelligence. That, to me at least, suggests she may be a Vulcan who’s simply decided to work together with this Zhat Vash faction, who are mentioned by name.
When Picard proposes to go back into space, looking for Soji and answers, Laris refuses to go, saying he’ll get himself killed. Zhaban suggests Picard contact his old crew – Riker, Worf, and La Forge are all mentioned by name – and have them join him on the mission, but Picard, seemingly still haunted by what happened to Data, won’t put them in danger. He travels to see Raffi, another new main character played by Michelle Hurd, and she points a phaser at him and tries to get rid of him. By telling her about the “Romulan assassins”, he manages to persuade her to at least hear what he has to say.
There was a lot going on in Maps and Legends, but the action was mainly taking place on the vineyard and on the Artifact. I had expected, as we’re now two episodes into a ten-episode series, that Picard may have left Earth before the end of the episode, or that we might’ve met more than one of the other new starring characters. I think that’s why this episode feels slower-paced than last time. Star Trek: Picard is clearly working towards bringing this crew together and getting off Earth, but it’s a slow build.
The Romulans having a fear, mistrust, and hatred of synthetic life, while wholly new to Star Trek, does fit in with their paranoid nature and I think it’s an interesting element to the faction. The fact that we’re no longer using the term “Romulan Star Empire”, and instead the “Romulan Free State” is also a point of note, but since the Tal Shiar are confirmed – by Zhaban and Laris – to still exist, I wonder how “free” the Free State really is.
The only part of the episode that I wasn’t so keen on was Laris’ exposition dump regarding the Zhat Vash. While this faction is clearly going to be an important element to the story, simply having one character talk about them instead of letting us, as the audience, learn more about them through seeing them on screen, interacting with others, or even seeing our characters find evidence for them, fell a bit flat. Exposition is always hard to get right, and in an episode with limited runtime it can be hard to avoid it feeling like just a pure information dump. While it’s helpful to know who we’re dealing with – the antagonists now have a name, at least – the scene was just a little clumsy in my opinion.
That’s really my only significant criticism. There are other nitpicks, but they’re all very minor things that in no way detract from the episode or the story. Maps and Legends was a good follow-up to Remembrance, and the show feels like it’s coming together. Hopefully next time we’ll get to see more of the new crew, and possibly even give them a destination. If this Lt. Rizzo is already preparing to head to the Artifact, they don’t have a lot of time if they’re to get there first to help Soji.
There were a couple of uses of the word “fuck” in Maps and Legends. Though we’ve seen swear words before in Star Trek, both of these instances – by Laris in Dahj’s apartment and by Admiral Clancy – felt scripted and forced. I’m not sure if it had more to do with the way the lines were written or delivered, but I didn’t think that either felt natural. Instead the uses of “fuck” felt artificial, as if a team of writers had sat around and said “hey we’re allowed to use the F-word! So where can we put it?” It’s nothing to do with foul language “having no place in Star Trek”, because we’ve seen it used before and it’s generally okay when it’s done right. I just felt that neither of these uses were done right. It’s worth noting that times have changed since The Next Generation and other Star Trek shows were on the air. CBS All Access and Amazon Prime Video don’t have to be as constrained when it comes to their use of language, and television audiences are far more accepting of it too. As I said I don’t think that the use of such language in Star Trek is an issue in itself, but the way it was done here fell flat for me.
Toward the end of The Next Generation’s first season there was a conspiracy in Starfleet by parasitic organisms to infiltrate and take over the Federation. Picard and his crew stopped that before it could proceed. There was also the Khitomer conspiracy seen in The Undiscovered Country, which involved both undercover Romulan agents and some Starfleet personnel working together. I got the impression that the Commodore Oh-Lt. Rizzo-Narek grouping of characters was drawing inspiration from both of those sources, and I liked that. A few of the components of those characters’ actions are comparable to those previous Star Trek adventures, and whether the showrunners were conscious of that or not, it adds a nice little extra element to the story. Without being a copycat or even being particularly overt, using the feel or concept of those stories is a nice way to tie some of these things together. And thematically, it brings Picard in line with something we’ve seen before, which is again a nice little tie-in to the rest of the franchise.
I liked Picard’s line about science fiction during his conversation with Dr Jurati. In case you didn’t know, Sir Patrick Stewart came very close to turning down The Next Generation in 1986-87, and though he’s now inseparable from the franchise – as indeed he also is from the X-Men film series – he’s not by nature a science fiction fan nor an actor who would’ve chosen such roles. In the context of a science fiction series a main character saying they were never interested in sci-fi is funny in itself, but knowing that little bit of background information makes it even more amusing, and I’m sure it was put in as an acknowledgement of Sir Patrick!
Overall I had a great time with Maps and Legends. It was a good follow-up to Remembrance – even though it wasn’t quite as spectacularly good as that episode had been. The Zhat Vash add an extra dimension to the Romulans, and their motivation for attacking synthetics, which I had assumed to be vengeance for lost lives in the supernova, is a little clearer. But there’s still plenty of mystery – who really built Soji and Dahj? Where are they now? What were they created for? Who’s in charge of the Zhat Vash? Is Commodore Oh a Romulan? Who is Raffi, and how does she know Picard? So many questions – hopefully we’ll start to find some answers soon!
Santiago Cabera was in a television series a couple of years ago called Salvation, which I thoroughly enjoyed. When I heard he was going to be in Picard I was very pleased, and it looks like we might finally get to see his character next week, so I’m looking forward to that as well.
Stay tuned over the next few days, as I’m sure there will be much more to talk about before next week’s episode, The End Is The Beginning.
Maps and Legends, the second episode of Star Trek: Picard, is available to watch now on CBS All Access in the United States, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and other countries and territories. The Star Trek franchise – including Star Trek: Picard – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.