'Star Trek: Picard' Season 1 Episode 9 Review: The synthetic threat is a lot more pertinent than expected

'Star Trek: Picard' Season 1 Episode 9 Review: The synthetic threat is a lot more pertinent than expected
Still from 'Star Trek: Picard' (CBS)

Spoilers for Episode 9 of Season 1 of 'Star Trek: Picard' 

Given how shaky the journey has been so far, it feels like 'Star Trek: Picard' started with a great idea, then worked its way backwards without much efficiency. This episode is by far the season's strongest, and contains everything that people would return to a Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) TV series for.

There are large-scale sci-fi battles in space, discussions about the ethics of sacrifice, Partrick Stewart at his best, and, of course, a brand new undiscovered culture to explore. It's a fantastic episode and sets up the finale in a big way.

At long last, Picard's crew find themselves at Soji's (Isa Briones) homeworld, Coppelius. It's far from a peaceful welcome, however, as they're first attacked by Narek (Harry Treadaway), then interrupted by a giant Borg Cube, all of which is brought to a halt by ship giant, ship-disabling psychic orchids, all before the show's opening theme. It's a thrilling sequence, giving 'Star Trek: Picard' the grand scale usually only afforded to the 'Star Trek' films. 

Down on Coppelius, we meet a whole collective of synthetic beings, amongst whom lives Dr. Olton Inegon Sung (Brent Spiner) — the son of the man who created Data (Brent Spiner), the first true synthetic life form. It's a real treat to be able to see Brent Spiner get to have fun onscreen as a new personality separate from Data's politeness and shiny gold paint. That treat doesn't last long, however, as the oncoming Romulan threat leads the synths to decide that it's probably best to wipe organic lifeforms out, once and for all. 

What's interesting is that Picard's impassioned speech fails. It comes close — the synths even lock Picard up for fear that another speech from him might convince them after all — but this show has repeatedly focused more on Picard's failures, rather than his capabilities. Picard has been more of a catalyst for a larger plot, without being able to successfully alter the course of events. In fact, this episode really brings a sense of Greek tragedy to the season. Zhat Vhash's mistaken belief that all synthetic life should be wiped out was in fact a warning from a previous synthetic civilization that believed organic life would inevitably want to wipe them out. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy leading up to war, and the heroes are the ones trying to change fate — so far, to no avail. 

There's no real telling how things will end up in the finale. Given that the show's writers have already seen the Romulan homeworld blown up, and the last episode had thousands of Borg drones jettisoned into space, 'Star Trek: Picard' is not afraid of genocidal body counts. War may yet be averted, but the real question is, how?

The next episode of 'Star Trek: Picard' airs March 27, on CBS All Access.

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