Welcome back, dear reader, as we continue to review Star Trek: Picard with Season 1 Episode 6, “The Impossible Box.” At long last, the journey we set out on at the onset of the show, i.e. “find the sister,” has been accomplished. But no sooner do we have the entire gang together, then they are all torn apart. We end up with Picard and Soji light years away, Elnor on the Borg cube, and the rest of the crew just outside on the La Sirena.
Overall, another great episode, plenty of action, and the plot finally moves forward into the unknown. Rios and Jurati hook up, Soji and Darek break up, Raffi burns another bridge for JL, and Elnor slices and dices a few Tal Shiar goons. The best parts though, as always, were the character growth moments.
“Probable age: 37 months”
My now, we’ve been well conditioned to expect each episode to begin with a flashback from 13-14 years ago. But this time the flashback was a dream—Soji’s dream—as her unconscious subroutines try to sort out the cognitive dissonance caused by the mounting evidence that she’s not what she thinks she is. Bad enough to find out you’re “The Destroyer” in an ancient Romulan mythological prophesy, but now she discovers that she zonks out calling her mother at exactly 70 seconds every night and everything she owns is 37 months old.
Narek guides her on this path to discovery. Quite literally, as he breaks taboo to take her through the Zhal Makh, a Romulan meditative practice for exploring the mind’s hidden truths. He finally one-ups his sister and gets the payoff they were after with his more subtle approach. Was the name he revealed to her, Hrai Yan, his true name? I think yes, he really did fall in love with his little robot girl. He can’t face her through the door glass as the radioactive gas seeps out to kill her. I would even hazard a guess that he and the guard could have rushed in to stop her from escaping, but Narek secretly wanted her to get away. There may be hope for him yet, we’ll see.
All of this discovery gives us more questions than answers though. For one thing, Maddox said he sent Dahj and Soji out to find out the truth behind the Federation’s ban on synthetics. With that goal in mind, Dahj going to the Institute makes total sense. But how does Soji going to the Artifact help that cause? The Federation is merely a guest out there. So far as we know, Hugh is the highest ranking Federation member out there, and he certainly had no part in the decision to implement a synthetic ban.
It seems Soji’s actual goal was to find out why this cube’s submatrix collapsed, cutting it off from the rest of the Collective. She had been trying to see Ramdha for a long time, with the unconscious knowledge that she and the other “disordered” were the last ones to be assimilated before the collapse. She also has a lot of unconscious knowledge about Romulans in general. Things that would seem to go way beyond anything Maddox would know to program into her.
The show also seems to be going along with this idea that she and Dahj are somehow connected with this “nest” of synthetics that Zhat Vash are trying to hunt down. In her dream, Soji sees the two red moons, but if this is supposed to be where she was created, that should just be Maddox’s melted down lab. Clearly we’re to believe that this is instead the “home world” of the synthetics, and the rest of the season will play out as a race to get there and destroy / save the synths. So, did Maddox really make the twins, or did he discover them? Or perhaps his hand was guided by the “nest” without his active knowledge, and they implanted these images for the twins to find their way back home to their kind.
“Thank you for showing me this”
After five solid episodes of the “Everybody Hates Jean-Luc” show, it’s an amazing relief for Picard to run into someone from his past who actually still likes and respects him. That hug between Hugh and Picard may be the highlight of the season, from a TNG-nostalgia perspective. It was also a nice tension breaker after all of Picard’s PTSD-induced flashbacks. We can guess that the Romulans gave him beam-in coordinates that would place him deep inside the cube and all alone for a bit. Nasty trick to play on him.
We started the series being introduced to these other characters who, to one degree or another, had also given up, in a manner similar to Picard: Clancy, Jurati, Raffi, Rios. Now, in the last two episodes, we’ve transitioned to characters who did not give up: Seven of Nine and Hugh. These two are trying to do something rather than nothing. They are not trying to save the galaxy, just helping at an individual level, person by person. Even more of a stark contrast given that both were previously part of the ultimate “collective.”
This is the lesson that Picard is working through in the series. Zani showed Picard that “because you could not save everyone, you chose to save no one.” He recognized that he had “allowed the perfect to become the enemy of the good.” He turns that line around and uses it here with Hugh, telling him, “What you’re doing is good, Hugh. There’s no need for it to be perfect.”
That said, he still has a way to go. While he is trying to save Soji, he continues to just ruthlessly use those he’s gathered around him on the quest. When he starts clapping after Raffi manages to get him diplomatic credentials—clearly at the cost of a friend who tells her to never call again—it’s just nauseating.
The others join in the applause somewhat confusedly, while Rios moves in and helps her stumble back to her quarters. There he does what a true caring friend does: he listens. She tells him about her son, and her impending granddaughter, who she’ll never know. After she passes out, he commiserates, “No one gets it all right, Raff,” and walks away with the bottle for himself. Does he perhaps have an estranged kid of his own somewhere out there in the galaxy?
- This is a late find, but some intrepid Redditor found the painting that hangs in Picard’s study. It’s “Woman in an interior” by French modernist painter Fernand Léger. (Source: Reddit)
- Speaking of painting, notice that Soji has painting supplies and several of her own works hanging on the walls of her room. Takes after her “father,” Data.
- The Sikarians, mentioned as the race who gave the Borg the spatial trajectory technology after being assimilated, come from ST:VOY S1E10 “Prime Factors.”
- Nepenthe (the planet Picard and Soji transport off to) is the “drug of forgetfulness” in The Odyssey.
- When Raffi’s friend Emmy quips that the Romulans have been in a 250 year bad mood, that refers back to either the Romulans first meeting humans in 2152 or more likely the Earth-Romulan War, which lasted 2156-2160 (after which the Neutral Zone was established).
- When Picard and Hugh enter Soji’s quarters, there is an overhead announcement that several sectors have been “temporarily closed due to detected chronometric activity.” The Borg used chronometric particles to travel back to the past and assimilate Earth in Star Trek: First Contact.
- Soji had a lunchbox featuring The Adventures of Flotter, from ST:VOY S5E5 “Once Upon a Time.”
- If you translate “Elnor” into the Elvish language that J.R.R. Tolkien developed for his Lord of the Rings series, it means “star trek.” (Source: Reddit)
A couple of quick takes on the rest of the episode:
- I’ve noticed this before, but haven’t mentioned it. The Borg cube is heavily damaged, with large chunks taken out of it. So they didn’t just simply get disconnected from the Collective. They also seem to have been attacked.
- Every date Narek takes her on requires Soji to take off her shoes.
- That hug was not scripted, it was added during filming by Patrick Stewart. (Source: Phantastic Geek podcast)
- Names were a theme of this episode, with Narek revealing his true name to Soji (my take is that he was sincere about that) and Hugh discussing with Picard how “a new name can be the first step to a new identity.” Hey, maybe that explains the series use of “JL?”
- If we ever had a doubt that Narek and Narissa are brother and sister, the line “that’s mine, give it back, you’ll break it,” clinches it.
- Is the “molecular solvent” that the Tal Shiar used to melt Maddox’s lab the same stuff the Zhat Vash death squad guys spit out when they bite down on their suicide capsules?
- Hugh knows about the “dashing young Romulan spy” who showed up two weeks ago asking questions about Sochi? So why hasn’t he warned her? He’s a bad boss.
The best lines of this episode:
- “Narek? Narek!” “That’s not my name.”
- “Maybe that’s none of my business. I should out-butt.”
- “I’ve never slept with the captain of anything before.” “Well I-I recommend it.”
- “You’re saying the robot girl has an unconscious?”
- “I have a superpower. I can sense mistakes while I’m making them.”
- “I mean, you know Picard. Every part of that guy that’s not ego is rampaging id.”
- “I already hate this place.”
- “A new name can be the first step to a new identity. I learned that on the Enterprise all those years ago.”
- “After all these years, you’re showing what the Borg are, underneath. They’re victims, not monsters.”
- “Only now our queen is a Romulan.”
- “It fills me with joy to hear you say that.”
In The News
Here I try to point you to a few of the more interesting and informative news items over the last week related to Star Trek: Picard or just Star Trek in general:
- This week on Deadline’s Star Trek: Picard Podcast, they have executive producer Akiva Goldsman on (along with Jonathan Frakes), and he says the following about Peyton List (Narissa Rizzo): “She and Harry have a great thing. As you can probably see, originally they were written to be brother/sister and lovers, and there’s still some color of that. … You can still feel that between them.” Really? Ya think so?
- “Bjayzl? I love that they hired Snoop-Dog to write the names of aliens in Star Trek: Picard.” – Wil Wheaton on this week’s The Ready Room. In his interview with Jerri Ryan, she reveals that Seven of Nine will indeed return later in the season. Yay!
- This has been reported just about everywhere, but TrekMovie.com has a nice summary of showrunner Michael Chabon’s comments on Instagram, responding to fans’ questions. That article also includes an interview with Jonathan Frakes.
- Not the usual fair, but Bounding into Comics reported on how ST:TNG writer Melinda Snodgrass has not been paid the appropriate royalties for use of the character Bruce Maddox.
- Maybe the most interesting article about Picard this week isn’t an interview, but rather a speculation piece on Inverse about the influences of Sherlock Holmes on Michael Chabon’s writing for Picard. It’s good stuff.
That’s all for this week. Please let me know your thoughts and feelings about this week’s episode, and any theories you have on what’s to come, in the comments below, or catch me on the r/Picard sub on Reddit as u/catnapspirit. Remember that 25YL will provide continuing coverage of Star Trek: Picard throughout Season 1 and beyond, as well as covering Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek in general.