6:00am PT by Phil Pirrello
How The Borg Are Shaping 'Star Trek: Picard'
[This story contains spoilers for Star Trek: Picard, season one, episode two]
Star Trek: Picard executive producer Alex Kurtzman recently told The Hollywood Reporter that when it comes to seeing Patrick Stewart’s iconic captain again, “the first things that come to mind are Data and the Borg."
The latter of the two is a central focus of the most recent episode, “Maps and Legends,” as Picard further explores why the Borg — who once kidnapped and assimilated the Enterprise captain into their collective — are back, as glimpsed in the premiere episode’s final moments where we discovered that the Romulans now call a damaged Borg cube their new home. But nothing is ever what it seems if the Romulans are involved, which is further proven in episode two. Here’s how the links between the Borg and Picard’s recent past seemingly pave the way for the series’ future.
What’s Happening on the Borg Cube
Or rather “The Artifact,” as Soji (Isa Briones) calls it in the episode.
Following the tragedy on Mars, where more than 90,000 people were killed when rogue synthetics pulled a Roy Batty from Blade Runner and left the planet in flames, the Federation refused to aid the Romulans any further and their oldest enemy found and laid claim to a seemingly derelict Borg cube. Aboard the ship, the Romulans employ a workforce whose objective is to, in part, essentially mine the cube for Borg tech that the Romulans can profit from. (Though it is unclear how.)
Most of the work occurs in the dangerous Grey Zone, an area of the cube where workers could still encounter former, inactive drones that once belonged to the Borg collective. Efforts here partially focus on also ascertaining the full extent of damage the ship has suffered. We hear a Romulan with oversight over this operation caution that workers stay within their designated areas. All of the workers wear “gradient badges” that inform them where they should and should not be. Should their badges glow green, the advice is to “run.” (I’d bet gold-pressed latinum we will see the owners of those badges do exactly that before season’s end.)
Efforts in the Grey Zone come with another unique world-building warning: Any object or tech removed from the cube for personal use and without authorization is subject to prosecution. (It’s very interesting that such laws are in place here, in the 24th Century.)
What’s Soji’s Role Here?
She is a key player and employee of the Borg Reclamation Project, of which the Grey Zone is an essential feature. Basically, Soji is a valued member of the team that’s graverobbing Borg drones and extracting and salvaging various tech off them. Soji has an extensive knowledge of alien species and linguistics, and seems vital to the Project’s mandate to catalogue various species that were once drones.
We see Soji’s expertise in action when she is part of a procedure to harvest (in gory fashion) an ocular implant from Patient 8923 — a drone whose alien species is unknown. As a result of that, 8923 — and others like it — are referred to in a derogatory way as “The Nameless.” Soji reminds her colleague that she does not like the use of that term, arguing that just because they do not know what they are doesn’t mean they are without identity.
More interesting, and adding another layer to the mystery plot here, is that Soji appears to speak Patient 8923’s language. After the procedure is successfully completed, she looks down on the corpse with heavy eyes and, in an alien tongue, says “You are now free, my friend.”
So, wait — why would a race as smart and cunning as the Romulans call a ship home that houses scary things that will likely attack them in the inevitable future? Shouldn’t a Borg cube be the last place they should set up residence in?
Sure. Unless, of course, the risk is outweighed by the reward. (Now we’re coming up on that “nothing is what it seems with the Romulans” thing we promised you.)
What the Romulans Really Want
“Maps and Legends” peels back the curtain in significant ways in terms of setting up how the Romulans plan to somehow use secrets the cube has against the things they hate the most: Androids.
The exposition-heavy episode informs us that the Romulans frown upon the use and existence of Synthetics; their culture never developed a need for them and therefore is android-free. The Romulans seemingly despise all forms of synthetic life, and appear to be using the Artifact as means to help them track down the surviving Synths and locate their home world, a place the duplicitous Starfleet Security’s Rizzo (clearly a Romulan in human disguise) refers to as “The Nest.”
Both Rizzo and her sibling, Narek (Harry Treadaway), discuss that they know what Soji really is — a copy of a superior form of android — even if Soji does not. She is vital to their secret mission — which involves a super obvious evil Vulcan and Starfleet Commodore — to understand and acquire something from the cube that allows our Romulans to learn where the synths are. Once they discover that info, you can guarantee the Romulans plan to visit some harm upon their non-human rival.
And, of course, you can expect Picard to be standing in their way.
Star Trek: Picard streams new episodes every Thursday on CBS All Access.