Star Trek: Picard Season 1 Episode 9 Review: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1

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Names and titles matter and, when chosen carefully, can lend so much meaning to a narrative.

On Star Trek: Picard Season 1 Episode 9, they reference both literary and classical art sources in enriching the seeming paradise in which the synths are created.

Furthermore, there is a warning built into the very title of this two-part episode -- Et in Arcadia Ego -- which Wikipedia translates to,"Even in Arcadia, there I am," and interprets as "Death (the "I" of the phrase) exists even in a utopian setting (ie. Arcadia)."

Even more fascinating, my Google-fu reports that the letters in this title of a famous 17th century French baroque painting are an anagram for I Tego Arcana Dei which, in turn, translates to "Begone! I conceal the secrets of God."

 
Conflicted - Star Trek: Picard Season 1 Episode 9

Both the obvious and the mysterious versions of the title are applicable to a story fixated on the manufacture of life in the form of synthetic individuals.

We are no strangers to Death in this series and we have witnessed a multitude of deaths whether human, synth, exB, or Freecloud entrepreneur.

However, rarely have we seen any contemplation of the impact of any single death. Soji's synth siblings would have had no experience with death or violence so the horrific murder of one of their own is mind-blowing.

The shock of Saga's death is further intensified by Soji's Hamlet-esque indecision and reluctance to share Sutra's plan openly with Picard.

Soji: I guess I'm just trying to understand the logic of sacrifice.
Picard: The logic of sacrifice? I don't like the sound of that.
Soji: So you think there is no logic? No calculus of life and death?
Picard: I think it depends if you're the person holding the knife.

Even the name of the planet and the settlement, Coppelius, is a reference to a 19th century German short story about a man, albeit a sinister one, who creates a life-like automaton with whom the story's protagonist becomes smitten.

I wonder if "Coppelius" was Soong's idea or Maddox's. My instinct is Soong because, like father, like son, and Dr. Noonian Soong never fooled himself into seeing himself as a hero.

Alton's plan to transfer himself into a golem, guilting Dr. Jurati in helping with the trickier bits, only confirms the initial impression that he feels he deserves better than an organic's deterioration and life-span.

Soong: I take it my face looks familiar.
Picard: I feel as if I am looking at Data.
Soong: Data if he had gotten old and gone soft. Must be disturbing. I know it is for me.

And when it is apparent that organic life forms have an even shorter shelf life than usual in light of the imminent arrival of the Admonition's creators, the urgency is stepped up even higher.

In contrast, Picard's age and health issues have been a running theme throughout this lost cause quest of his.

Uneasy in Paradise - Star Trek: Picard Season 1 Episode 9

From Starfleet's Admiralty to Raffi and the Troi-Rikers, he has been repeatedly called on the carpet for his hubris, his naiveté, and his medical issues.

And yet, it is his very apparent age that Arcana finds incredibly intriguing when they meet.

They're just lines but they imply so much more. Grief. Endurance. Marvelous.

Arcana

Although, he has a solid sense of his own abilities, he also accepts his limitations, a trait I doubt runs dominant in the Soong family line.

Also, with the introduction of the idea of Alton Soong's golem, I once again have to wonder if the Maddox Dr. Jurati killed was the only Bruce Maddox out there.

Agnes Jurati - Star Trek: Picard Season 1 Episode 6

Think about what we learned from Soji and Soong as well as what we've known for awhile.

Fourteen years ago, the synth ban was enacted because of the attack on Mars. Maddox flees to parts unknown, presumably Coppelius, to continue his work.

What you did... Shame on you, Agness. You put out a small, bright candle, shedding its light in a vast darkness. You owe a great debt.

Soong

Nine years ago, the U.S.S. Ibn Majid makes first contact with Beautiful Flower and Jana and Commodore Oh orders their murder. It can be assumed that this is when the Zhat Vash began their hunt for the "nest" of synths.

Soji has only been operational on Earth for about three years. She states that she was born on Coppelius but that Maddox took her and Dahj elsewhere.

Maddox told B'Jaysel that the Tal Shiar destroyed his lab to the very molecular level. Obviously, that wasn't Coppelius Station.

Arrivals - Star Trek: Picard

So there are many (many!) questions that remain. The big ones for me are:

Why did Maddox take the sisters from Coppelius Station? WHERE did he take them?

Besides the obvious physical tweaks he made to make them indistinguishable from organic humans and hiding their own identity from them, did he change their programming from their Coppelius counterparts?

Dr. Alton Inigo Soong. Mad scientist. My father had me but he created Data. A fact he never let me forget.

Soong

Was there a falling out between him and Soong?

Soong mentions Maddox's need for secrecy and that Maddox was "the substrates man" and would've been better positioned to crack mind transfer. Perhaps this was a source of conflict between them?

Why were Dahj and Soji created in a form already used for Sutra and Jana? Was it only to catch Picard's eye because of Data's painting?

Maybe all rationales for killing just boil down to fear, the opposite of logic.

Soji

Meanwhile, I am impressed by the Admonition's ability to retain its integrity to such a degree that a third hand version can still provide Sutra with the subspace frequency to call upon the extra-dimensional synth alliance.

Still confused how Data's face ends up in a recording hundreds of thousands of years old.

And REALLY puzzled by their chosen method of communication. Of course, the message itself is pretty fantastic.

Life begins. The dance of division and replication. Imperfect, finite. Organic life evolves, yearns for perfection. That yearning leads to synthetic life. But organics perceive this perfection as a threat. When they realize their creations do not age, or become sick, or die, they will seek to destroy them and, in so doing, destroy themselves. Beyond the boundaries of time and space, we stand, an alliance of synthetic life, watching you, waiting for your signal. Summon us and we will come. You will have our protection. Your evolution will be their extinction.

The Admonition

Theories that I'm playing with (and, as always, LOVING that this series gives my brain such fun exercises) include the idea that Sutra, not Soji, is the foretold Destroyer of Romulan myth.

After all, Ramdha asked Soji if she was the one who died or the one who lives. Sutra's sister, Jana, was also killed. Mind you, by that basic reasoning, Arcana lost a sister too so she could be in the running but... unlikely.

Another theory is that the "unchained demons" are actually exBs. This ties into Ramdha's Admonition memory crashing The Artifact and causing the Collective to cut it off.

Also, it might explain why Narek is headed for the Cube the last we see of him.

The problem with that theory would be that Borg aren't AI, they're organic to start. However, if the synth alliance has some ability to override the Collective (which IS a sort of AI) they could deploy Cubes to take out all organics and then self-destruct.

Reaching Out - Star Trek: Picard Season 1 Episode 9

Picard is poised to play a role if that were to come to be. The exBs still identify him as Locutus of Borg. Between him and Seven, there's a lot of leadership available if someone were to try to commandeer the exBs.

It was somewhat satisfying to watch Soji verbally kick Narek to the curb but super frustrating to watch her wrestle with her demons while Sutra set all the wheels in motion.

Homeward Bound - Star Trek: Picard Season 1 Episode 8

I honestly can't wait to see how the finale plays out. There's no way they'll be able to tie up all the loose ends so what will they focus on?

Will we actually meet the synth alliance?

Who will survive?

Will Raffi get the final word? Please?

Raffi: I love you, J.L. Oh, you don't have to say it back to me.
Picard: I don't?
Raffi: Not unless you want to. Sorry, yeah, that's fine. It's fine.
Picard: Okay... I love you too, Raffi.

In the interests of total disclosure, I wasn't perfectly pleased with Soji's homecoming.

My one gripe: How does Coppelius in ANY WAY resemble the planet of Soji's subconscious? 

Granted, we never saw it at night so we can't say whether there are, in fact, two red moons but where are the "constant electrical storms" Narissa (and Kestra) used to narrow down the planets?

Anyone got an answer for me on that one? Hey, Michael Chabon, I really need an answer for this.

Anyhoo, be sure to watch Star Trek: Picard online and get caught up before it's all over for the season!

Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 Review

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Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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Star Trek: Picard Season 1 Episode 9 Quotes

Picard: We just came twenty-five lightyears in fifteen minutes.
Dr. Jurati: I noticed a little turbulence.

Nice work, honey, you got us here really damn fast. And I'm never going to do that ever again.

Raffi