Leadership has consequences, especially when you lead through a cult of personality.
It's the 50th episode review episode of the Starfleet Leadership Academy! To celebrate this milestone, Jeff Akin reviews Star Trek Picard, Season 1.
This looks back at all ten episodes of the first season of Picard and examines the consequences of Picard's leadership choices. He makes up for those choices and takes accountability using compassion, empathy and humility; all qualities Jeff describes in this episode so you can apply them to your life and work.
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Welcome to the 50th episode review from the Starfleet Leadership Academy! This is a huge milestone and there’s no one I’d rather celebrate it with than you. And what a celebration we have! 10 episodes, nearly 10 hours of content, and I’m condensing it into this one, single episode.
Through this season, Jean-Luc Picard demonstrates leadership through massive adversity, and I’m going to share how you can do that too. So, buckle-up for one of the most unique looks at Star Trek so far, as we start Star Trek Picard, Season 1.
This season is nearly 10 hours long. Instead of diving into a full recap, I’m going to take a slightly different approach for this section. I’m going to skip whole story and character arcs here, so if you want the whole thing, I recommend you watch the series. But I’ll capture the pieces that are important for our purposes or are just fun and cool.
The season picks up 20 years after the events in Star Trek: Nemesis, which puts it about 19 years after what we’re seeing at the time of this recording in Lower Decks.
It also connects this universe of Star Trek with the Kelvin-verse movies. In the first of those movies, the Romulan sun blew up and Spock tried to contain the energy from that using red matter. It didn’t work and Spock ended up in a different timeline. In this timeline, when word came around that the sun was going to explode, Picard led a Federation effort to evacuate the Romulan worlds that would be impacted.
Picard picks up 14 years after the Federation gave up its evacuation efforts, really for purely political reasons. What didn’t help was an attack on the Utopia Planitia Shipyards on Mars. The synths that were providing a lot of the labor turned and absolutely annihilated the entire planet. In fact, they say Mars is still burning to this day. That resulted in a Federation-wide ban on synths and androids, including any research on them.
We meet a lot of new people in this season. Picard has two Romulans that he works with on his vineyard, you know, the one we saw in the TNG episode, Family. They are Laris and Zhaban. They are awesome! Former Tal Shiar operatives laying low and helping to support Picard.
Dahj and Soji, synth sisters. “They’re created in pairs.” E1 40:18 They don’t really use the word android much like they did when describing Data. Not sure why, but now they’re all called synths.
Narek and Narissa are Romulans that appear to be with the Tal Shiar, but we learn more about them and where their allegiances lie later.
Dr Agnes Jurati. A scientist that worked with Bruce Maddox on developing synthetic life. Bruce Maddox is known through TNG. He was the villain in the classic second season episode, Measure of a Man and went on to become friends with Data.
Raffi Musicker served with Picard on his mission to relocate Romulans. She really serves as the connection to absolutely everything for Picard, both when they were in Starfleet and now.
Chris Rios. Captain of La Sirena and former Starfleet officer. He was an XO that watched his captain die. He was discharged shortly after that and now works as a pilot for hire.
Commodore Oh is the head of Starfleet Security. We learn a lot about her but what’s important, at this point, is that she’s in Okinawa
Elnor is a young, Romulan that was raised by a group of warrior nuns called the Qowat Milat. He believes in Absolute Candor, which I’ll talk about later, and is an awesome warrior.
Seven of Nine returns! And she is a lot different than the Seven we remember from Voyager. She’s a member of the Fenris Rangers, a group of vigilantes that try to bring order to the systems the Federation has abandoned.
That’s the new group of people we’re dealing with here. So the season kicks off with a dream sequence. We’re in 10-Forward on the Enterprise D, the one from The Next Generation. Picard and Data are playing cards. They near the end and Picard says, “I don’t want the game to end” E1 2:19 That’s a theme we’ll come back to through this.
He wakes up, and he’s living the life of a Picard…making wine and working the land. Which is very much not a Jean-Luc kind of thing to do. He wrestles with this quite a bit and confides in Laris when he wakes up, “The dreams are lovely. It’s the waking up I’m beginning to resent.” E1 9:42. Sad.
We then meet Dahj, along with her boyfriend. They’re attacked by these futuristic biker looking ninjas and she just wails on them!! Up to this point, she was just a human doing science stuff. Suddenly, she’s a highly trained fighter and killer. Something in her tells her to find Picard.
And speaking of Picard, he’s about to grant the first public interview since he retired from Starfleet. It does not go well. The interviewer starts out pretty racist, or, species-ist and Picard isn’t having it. “There were millions of lives at stake. Romulans. No, lives.” E1 13:30 She starts pushing on the attack on Mars and he ends the interview.
He and Dahj meet up. They go to the Starfleet Archives to see what they can find on her. He finds a painting that Data did called Daughter and it has Dahj’s face on it. As they leave the Archives, the biker ninjas attack and kill Dahj. Turns out they’re Romulans.
In her death, Picard learns she was synthetic. He starts to find purpose in his life and tells Laris, “Nursing my offended dignity. I haven’t been living, I’ve been waiting to die.” E1 34:50. And he’s on the case! Who is Dahj? How does she connect to Data? Why are the Romulans trying to kill her?
He goes to the Daystrom Institute in Okinawa and meets Dr Jurati. This is where we learn they create the synths in pairs and that they have been created from tech Maddox pulled from B-4, which is a whole other story. Basically it’s where Data’s memories and programming ended up when he, spoiler alert, died in Nemesis. She says that when the synth ban came down, Maddox went into hiding and he’s the one with all the answers. So they’re searching for Maddox and Dahj’s sister now.
Back at the chateau, they talk with Laris and Zhaban about what they’ve learned. They tell them about a Romulan sect call the Zhat Vash. The Zhat Vash deeply hate, fear and loathe all synthetic and artificial life. In fact, they’re dedicated to destroying it all. It looks like they destroyed all records of the attack so there is nothing showing them kill Dahj.
Soji, we see, is working on a disabled Borg Cube called The Artifact. The Romulans own this Cube and are salvaging it and learning about all the tech. There’s also a program run by Hugh – we know Hugh from a few episodes in The Next Generation. He’s a Borg, now an ex-Borg, or XB, that befriended the crew of the Enterprise. Soji is working with Hugh to reclaim the Borg drones, to give them normal lives again. She meets Narek, who is posing as a member of the crew on the Artifact and they end up getting really close.
Picard is going to go to Starfleet to ask for help, but he visits with his old Doctor from the Stargazer. Why he doesn’t meet with Beverly Crusher is beyond me, but, well, here we are. Turns out Picard has an abnormality in his parietal lobe. Doctor says, “A few are treatable but they all end the same way.” E2 18:42, basically saying it’s terminal. Even with this, he’s sure he can be cleared to lead a starship again, so off he goes!
Funny and awkward moment when he arrives and checks in for his meeting with the C-in-C, Admiral Clancy. “May I have your name, please, sir.” E2 21:12. He’s not remembered the way he once was. His meeting with Clancy does not go well. “Sheer fucking hubris.” E2 23:02. He keeps pushing, he wants a small ship and a crew so he can find out what is going on and why the Romulans are doing this. She denies his request and hits a theme we’ll hear a lot about, “Do what you’re good at, go home.” E2 24:13.
He goes back to the chateau. Jurati says she’s learned that Dahj’s existence was implanted into databases about 3 years ago. Knowing he has to do something, Picard says he’s going to look for someone to help. “You need someone that hates you and has nothing to lose.” E2 36:19. He calls Raffi to ask for help. But she totally ignores him.
He travels to Raffi’s place to meet her in person. On the way we get a flashback to 14 years ago. He just submitted a new plan to Starfleet Command to continue the Romulan evacuation. They tell him they’re done and are ending the initiative. Full of hubris, he says they can either accept his plan or his resignation. And that’s his last moment in Starfleet. When he meets with Raffi, she is still furious about that moment; and even more furious Picard hasn’t spoken to her since then, “say hi.” E3 10:20. She eventually connects with him Chris Rios.
As he’s preparing to leave, the Romulan biker ninjas attack his chateau. They interrogate one that says they are also chasing after Soji, but they call her The Destroyer.
They meet up on La Sirena. Raffi figures out that Maddox is in a place called Freecloud, basically space Vegas. Classic Picard as they head out. “Engage.” E3 41:18. They stop at a planet that Picard relocated Romulans to on the way. He beams down, vacation style – I mean, vacation hat and everything, kind of ridiculous outfit – and looks for his friends in the Qowat Milat, the Romulan warrior nuns. We learn about absolute candor, “It’s their primary teaching. No filter.” E4 14:09, which leads to some pretty great moments. Picard knew Elnor as a child and now he’s grown. Elnor agrees to accompany Picard on his hopeless cause. But not before they get their licks in with a healthy dose of that absolute candor, “You could not save everyone so you saved no one.” E4 26:29. It’s more of the theme we saw with Clancy earlier. On his way out, some locals go to attack Picard. They recognize him and are angry they were abandoned. Elnor comes to his aid, “Choose to live.” E4 34:43. He rips through the attacking Romulan and says, “I regret your choice.” E4 35:01. Picard takes accountability. “The Federation – I have failed you all.” E4 35:24. Then they beam out.
On La Sirena, we’ve been meeting Rios’s “crew.” He has a host of emergency holograms, all made in his image and all with a different personality. He’s got medical, engineering, navigation, weapons and hospitality. With the help of Emmett, the Emergency Weapons Hologram, they end up needing to fight their way away from the planet. Unexpected help comes in the form of Seven of Nine! Her fighter is destroyed but they are able to beam her over. And we’ve got our crew! Picard, Rios, Raffi, Jurati, Elnor and Seven.
Then we get to Freecloud and launch into the loyalty missions from Mass Effect 2. And I know I’ve brought up Mass Effect before, but, bear with me…this season proves that I’m right on point with the comparisons!
Raffi heads off on her own, she’s got business she needs to take care of while the rest of the team sets up a casino-style heist! Maddox is being help prisoner by a crime-lord named Bjayzl. The Tal Shiar have made an offer to buy him, so Picard and crew have to make a better deal. They set up a super fun rouse with everyone playing characters. Picard is really into it, “Disgusting thing!” E5 22:04. They are going to offer Seven in exchange for Maddox. Seven assures everyone this is ok and she’s been working to get to Bjayzl anyway. “She butchers ex-Borgs. She’s top of the Fenris wanted list.” E5 14:25
Things are going well; and we get a Deep Space 9 reference, “Mr Quark of Fereginar was appreciative of your help.” E5 17:57 which is cool! Of course Quark would be plugged in to Freecloud! They get Maddox beamed to La Sirena, and then Seven loses her cool pretty quickly. Turns our Bjayzl is responsible for the heartless and gory death of Icheb – Icheb was basically her adopted son in the later seasons of Voyager. They’re in a standoff and Picard’s team beams away. Seven gives Picard a way to contact her again, grabs two phasers and beams herself back to Bjayzl’s. And she just starts blasting. Bjayzl goes down. “He was a son to me. This is for him.” E5 37:48
They get Maddox to sickbay, he’s really beat up. He says that Soji is on The Artifact and that he thinks the Federation is working with the Romulans. They leave him with Jurati, you know, the Doctor; the one that was dating Maddox before he ran off. Instead of caring for him, though, she removes all the life support from Maddox and watches him die “I wish you knew what I knew.” E5 43:09
Jurati explains Maddox’s death to Picard. “His heart just couldn’t take it.” E6 4:43. And Picard is amazing and compassionate, “This is hard for you.” E6 4:52. They start talking about what to expect on The Artifact. Jurati is interested in the Borg, given her specialties. Picard is not cool with that that at all. “They don’t change, they metastasize.” E6 6:36. There’s a perfect and powerful scene of his overlaid with the Locutus face. He’s experiences so much trauma from that time.
Everyone is recovering from the Freecloud experience. Raffi, who was told to go fly a kite by her son has been drinking. Jurati and Rios hook up. Picard pulls everyone together so they can come up with a plan to make this work. Raffi is able to get diplomatic credentials for Picard but no one else will be allowed on the Artifact.
On the Artifact, Soji has been having a lot of weird experiences; knowing things there’s no way she could know, falling asleep every time she calls her Mom. She’s starting to panic and scans all of her personal belongings. All of it, every single piece is 3 years old, “Probable age, 37 months.” E6 28:18.
They arrive at The Artifact. Amazing job showing his trauma. Flashes of Locutus, weird camera angles, tense music – the pacing of it all really pulls you in. He sees Hugh and embraces him as if he were drowning. “Hugh!” E6 31:17. It’s almost cathartic. Hugh helps him, reassures him. “You are Jean-Luc Picard, not Locutus.” E6 32:54 and agrees to take Picard to Soji. As they’re walking through, Picard sees the Borg being restored. It’s a huge turning point for him and his views on the Borg. “They’re victims, not monsters.” E6 36:55
Soji, even more panicked goes to Narek. They’ve been getting closer and she trusts him. He takes her to a Romulan meditation space. It’s like a labyrinth, where you follow along a path and explore a memory. Narek is guiding her through a recurring dream she’s had. As she works through the dream, she sees two moons that locate where she was. She starts asking questions, and Narek says “You aren’t real. You never were.” E6 46:30. He leaves and gasses the room. She fully activates as a synth and punches her way through the floor to escape!
She runs into Hugh and Picard. He pleads with her “I was a friend of your father’s.” E6 48:55. They run from the Romulans that are chasing after them. Hugh leads them to the Queen’s cell. It’s hidden and has a spatial trajector that can basically transport someone up to 40,000 light years away. He tells Rios and La Sirena to head to a planet called Nepenthe to rendezvous.
Elnor, on his own, beams over and intercepts the Romulans. He insists on providing coverage for Hugh while Picard and Soji beam away. “I will not leave you again.” E6 52:10 but Elnor says Hugh’s cause is more hopeless than Picard and Picard releases him from his commitment. Soji is afraid and hesitant but trusts Picard knowing the Romulans are the worst. They beam away and the Romulans arrive. “Please, my friends, choose to live.” E6 52:52
Jurati is a wreck. She is really struggling with having killed Maddox. We get a flashback to after her and Picard’s first meeting. She was eating lunch and Commodore Oh came to her. “I need your help.” E7 3:21. Oh grabs Jurati in a two-handed mind-meld. “My mind to your mind.” E7 3:54 to show her what happens if synthetic life is allowed to exist. Wild sequence here! Worlds exploding, people tearing their faces off and shooting themselves. Jurati breaks away and vomits. Oh gives her a device and forces her to chew and swallow it so they can track her.
La Sirena, minus Picard, heads off to Nepenthe. Narek, in a small fighter, cloaks and tails them. Picard and Soji appear on Nepenthe immediately. They meet a young girl, Kestra, who happens to have the same name as Troi’s sister from TNG season 7’s Dark Page. She takes them to see her parents. And, yes, her parents are Troi and Riker! “You’re in trouble. How Bad?” E7 16:30 “Oh, you need a place to hide out.” E7 17:50. They know him so well. They’re living the rustic life; big house in the woods, outdoor, wood-fired pizza over. Great stuff.
Rios finds Narek’s ship tailing them. He tries to lose him. While they’re waiting, Jurati tries to get them to give up the chase. “I’m sorry, I want to be the fun crew member, but do you even want to go to Nepenthe?” E7 25:58 She even brings up one of my all time favorite books! “Turn this ship around.” E7 26:46. Raffi takes her and tries to calm her down. With cake. “You bet it’s cake.” E7 27:19.
Picard and Riker are talking and Soji meets him. She cocks her head to the left, just like Data used to and Riker totally notices. When she walks away Riker says he’s figured it all out. “And not just any android. I recognized that head tilt.” E7 29:55. “Not bad, for a pizza chef.” E7 30:10 And then Riker hits on the theme that’s been building in the season. “Classic Picard arrogance.” E7 30:20 After Troi talks with Soji for awhile, she tries to coach Picard on how to approach her. Picard makes light of her not trusting anyone and Troi lays into him. “Her ability to trust was a flaw in her programming.” E7 35:57. And he finally gets it. “I need to be (cut together) compassionate, caring, curious.” E7 36:15
On the Artifact, Hugh tells Elnor he’s going to take over the Cube, power it back up and get rid of the Romulans. Narissa overhears and cuts him off. “Not just a treaty violation, open insurrection.” E7 37:34, Elnor tries to protect him. Narissa fights him in the tradition of the Zhat Vash and Qowat Milat – hand to hand. But this gives her the chance to throw a knife at Hugh, killing him, and she beams away before Elnor can get to her. He finds a device that calls the Fenris Rangers and activates it.
It’s dinner time at the Troi-Riker’s. They talk about what next-steps will be. Picard follows Troi’s advice. He shares his experience with Dahj and reaches for trust. “Soji, hear my voice. Note my heart rate.” E7 43:26. He explains why he wants to help, “A friend, Data.” E7 44:13 and he shares this gives him purpose again, no longer just waiting to die. Soji shares the info about her home that she saw in her vision, from her dream. Riker guesses that Maddox went there to hideout and create Dahj and Soji. Riker and Troi say the Romulans have a head start. “Given what the Romulans know, it’s in great danger.” E7 46:30 Given the info she shares, Kestra determines “It’s in the Vayt Sector,” E7 46:46, by asking a friend from the spaceport.
Raffi and Jurati bond over delicious, red velvet cake. So much, it seems, that Jurati gets sick. They take her to sickbay to get some rest. She gets a toxin and injects herself with it. She starts foaming at the mouth and collapses. The EMH calls Rios “Is it Agnes. She’s in a coma.” E7 51:09
On Nepenthe, Picard and Riker go for a walk. Even though it feels like it, it’s not all fan service. Picard says he regrets being forced to retire. Riker is semi-retired, “I am still on active reserve.” E7 53:16. It’s a great scene. After that, La Sirena arrives and Picard and Soji beam up.
Another flashback, again to about 14 years ago. There are a group of Romulans on a remote planet doing a ritual. This is the initiation to become Zhat Vash. “We have worked to stop a second coming of the Destroyer.” E8 2:28. They are going to experience a vision, The Admonition, the thing Oh shared with Jurati. Most people who see this lose their minds and can’t comprehend what they see. Oh is there, dressed as Zhat Vash, turns out she’s actually half Romulan, half Vulcan. She kicks off the vision, “Endure the Admonition of you can.” E8 3:03. We see brief glimpses of humans and robots and then a world exploding. If you ever played Mass Effect, it’s basically what Shepard sees from the Prothean Beacon.
Many of the Romulans there go mad, ripping out their hair, smashing rocks in their faces. Notably, Narissa, Narek’s sister and the one that killed Hugh, does not go mad and is eager to help. “We have to stop them.” E8 4:10. And then Oh shares the conspiracy, “On the world the humans call Mars.” E8 4:22. So the attack on Mars and the ban on Synths was all orchestrated by Oh. It is a Romulan and Federation conspiracy! Kind of…I mean, if you count Commodore Oh as the Federation.
Raffi and Rios, along with the EMH update Picard on what happened with Jurati. “Agnes Jurati had a tracking device. She’s a Romulan spy and we think she killed Bruce Maddox!” E8 11:40. The EMH says the toxin she injected herself with blocked the tracker. It also says that Maddox should have lived. It was Jurati messing with the support systems that killed him. Picard waits for Jurati to wake up. When she does, he confronts her. She shares what happened when Oh came to her in Okinawa including the Admonition, “It happened thousands of centuries ago.” E8 33:26. At this point this has 100% become the Reaper storyline from Mass Effect. The coming of the Destroyer triggers something that will destroy the galaxy. And, if you remember, they believe Soji is the Destroyer.
Jurati gets to meet Soji and is so excited. Picard talks with her as well. Soji is feeling lost and is not accepting her new reality well at all. His leadership shines through again. “You don’t know what it’s like to have this vacuum inside you. You’re right. I can only try and imagine.” E8 19:03. He tells her about Data to help her understand why he is helping her.
On the Artifact, Seven has responded to Elnor’s call. She has a desperate plan. She’s going to plug herself into the Cube as the Queen to power it back up and use the Drones to fight off the Romulans. “We are Borg.” E8 41:11. Narissa and the Romulans start killing XBs and venting the drones out into space to try and protect themselves. A Romulan fleet leaves for the synth homeworld. Narissa is preparing to leave but is overtaken by Borg drones. She’s barely able to beam away. With the Romulans gone, Seven is hesitant to release her control of the Cube. “Are you going to assimilate me now?” E8 50:21. She releases herself and Elnor gives her a smile.
The crew on La Sirena come together and go over everything. Soji knows of a Borg transwarp conduit that is nearby that can shave days off the trip to her homeworld. They head towards it while Picard and Rios talk about the danger of giving into fear instead of using what we have. “We have powerful tools. Optimism, openness, curiosity.” E8 53:13. They enter the conduit, and we see a small, Romulan-looking vessel, cloaked, follow them in.
They arrive. “We call it Copelius.” E9 2:53. More of Soji just knowing things. Things pick up fast! Narek’s fighter, that was following them, uncloaks and attacks. Shortly after that, the Artifact, piloted by Seven, comes through the conduit too! And if that weren’t wild enough, 5, well, things come up from the planet’s surface “Um, I want to say like a giant flower.” E9 5:02. They disable all the ships and bring them crashing to the planet’s surface.
They land a few kilometers from the synth settlement. Picard goes over the plan, to warn the synths that Romulans are coming, and he mentions his terminal disease in passing, “One more thing, I have a brain abnormality. Anyone that treats me like a dying man will piss me off.” E9 10:30 Soji knows the place but her memories are jumbled. She’s not sure what to expect. They head out and walk towards the settlement but they see the crashed remnants of the Artifact and head to that. XBs are walking through the ruins and they recognize Picard. “Locutus.” E9 15:18. And then Elnor and Seven emerge with the Voyager theme playing in the background – kind of cool. They use the Cube to scan for the Romulan fleet. There are 218 warbirds on their way.
Elnor and Seven stay on the Cube to try and salvage it while the others continue on to the settlement. It’s a thriving community of synths, doing tai chi, playing 3-D chess and hanging out. They recognize and welcome back Soji. They also recognize Picard, “Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Data’s Captain.” E9 20:01. We meet the kind of leader of the synths, Sutra. She looks just like Soji but with golden skin and eyes. She has learned to mind-meld, somehow, and melds with Jurati “My mind to your mind.” E9 25:38 to see the Admonition. Turns out people lose their minds when they see it because it is meant for synthetic life. Sutra can completely make sense of it. It’s a warning to synths that, eventually, organics will turn on them. When that happens, they can reach out for help. “Beyond the boundaries of time and space we stand, an alliance of synthetic life.” E9 26:30. Seriously…how is this not Mass Effect, but with the emphasis on preserving synthetic life instead of organic. Wow.
Altan Inigo Soong, biological son of Data’s creator, Noonian Soong, is there as well. He and Maddox created this settlement and all the synths. Soong has also created a golem, a synthetic body, that can accept a human consciousness; he just doesn’t know how to handle the transfer. Lucky for him, Jurati does. She agrees to work on that for him.
Sutra tells Soji that she plans on building a beacon to reach out to the beings behind the Admonition. Soji is conflicted about it. An awkward moment with Raffi and Picard that is huge. “I love you, JL. I love you too, Raffi.” E9 31:52
Narek, who also crashed on the planet, is subdued and captured by the synths. Sutra comes and talks with the synth that is guarding him, Saga. Shortly after this, Saga is found, murdered and Narek is missing.
Picard and Soji have a deep discussion about sacrifice. “The logic of sacrifice. I don’t like the sound of that.” E9 36:16
Sutra uses Saga’s murder to start rallying the synths. “The organics came and killed one of us. They will always chase us, hunt us and kill us.” E9 38:40 real Ensigns of Command vibes here, with the villagers and the setting. Picard challenges her and she shares the plan to call out to the Admonition beings. Sutra puts it more plainly and Picard gets right to it. “They excise the organic threat.” E9 39:57. Soong calls for him to be placed under house arrest to keep him quiet, and Soji agrees.
The Romulan fleet is en route. We see the commander of the armada…and it’s Oh! They are 24 hours away from the planet.
Work has begun on the beacon. Soji visits Picard in his quarters. He basically sums up all Of Star Trek. “To say you have not choice is a failure of imagination.” E10 5:33
Narek goes to La Sirena. He tries to set up an alliance. “We can keep fighting, or we can work together.” E10 12:38. They bring him in and meet with him. He explains the Admonition and that something is coming. Elnor knows the story, says it’s a children’s myth. Ultimately, though, they agree they should work together. Narek offers himself as a prisoner for the Sirena crew to bring to the settlement. That gets them in so they can try to take out the beacon.
Jurati is able to get to Picard and sneak him out. They make their way to La Sirena. Soong, cleaning up Saga, sees the record of her death, and sees that Sutra made it happen. He changes his tune and looks to help against the beacon.
Picard and Jurati are trying to launch, they need to notify Starfleet. Picard talks of their responsibility to the synths, “They have life, but no one is teaching them what it means to be alive.” E10 21:25. He says he will teach them by example and launches La Sirena. Sutra and Soji are bringing the synths together as the beacon nears completion. Soong, who has partnered with the crew, joins them and confronts Sutra, “I thought I taught you better than this.” E10 23:12, and then incapacitates her.
The Romulans arrive. Oh commands, “Ready planetary sterilization pattern number 5.” E10 29:37 wait, they have more than one of these?? Picard sees the armada arrive and hails Soji. He’s making an attempt to stop them and show them what being alive means. He offers “My life” E10 28:46
Then hundreds of (the same) Starfleet ships arrive. Oh is hailed. “Acting Captain Will Riker.” E10 31:30. They pull the planet under the Federation’s protection which brings it under the Treaty of Algernon. Riker gives them a chance to stand down. Both sides prep for a shootout.
The beacon activates. A hole tears in space and Picard’s brain thing flares up. He needs to talk to Soji so Jurati gives him some meds. He pleads with her. “Show them how profoundly wrong about you they are.” E10 34:17 “I trust you. I believe in you.” E10 34:47. This is all on an open, armada wide channel.
Weird, robot-snake things start coming near the hole and Soji powers down the beacon, sucking them back in. Very Mass Effect Andromeda Architect.
A short, tense moment, and then the Romulans stand down and warp away. Picard and Riker connect. “I’m supposed to sit in the woods making pizza while you have all the fun?” E10 36:24 and he takes the fleet back.
Picard immediately starts feeling pain again, and he begins to die. We see scenes of him and Data from earlier in the season. Soji brings them to the planet’s surface. Heartfelt good-byes with Soji and Elnor and Raffi then he dies. Everyone is mourning in their ways. It’s very impactful.
Picard wakes up in a Study, and Data is there. “No, Captain. It is a massively complex quantum simulation.” E10 43:17. Data has questions about dying. “Data, am I dead? Yes, Captain.” E10 43:52
Picard acknowledges Data’s sacrifice for him. Says he wishes it were him instead. “Then why would you think I regret my decision?” E10 45:20
Picard is so happy to see Data again. “Among the things I regret, is never telling you that…That you love me?” E10 46:09 Data explains they transferred Picard’s brain into the golem. When he leaves the simulation, he’ll be alive again. Data wants Picard to terminate his consciousness when he leaves this simulation. Picard agrees, out of love.
He wakes up, as a golem, looking identical to before. “It has no augmentations. No superpowers.” E10 50:19. They built an algorithm so he’ll die, naturally, around the same time he would have otherwise. We see scenes of Picard, in his TNG uniform, sitting with Data as his consciousness terminates. The TNG theme takes us to credits as La Sirena, with the full crew, including Seven and Soji, takes off. “Engage” E10 55:11
Wow, that was a lot! Remind me to not try to condense 10, super dense episodes into one podcast release again.
Still, it was a lot of fun to watch through this again; I haven’t watched it since it first released. I also jumped passed entire story and character arcs, so if I missed something, know it was in the interest of brevity and out of respect for your time. Now let’s talk about this season!
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There are two things that really make this season work. Nostalgia and incredible acting. Picard introduced Allison Pill as Jurati, Evan Evagora and Elnor, Michelle Hurd as Raffi and Santiago Cabrera as Rios to Star Trek, among others. But these 4 are so incredible. They made super deep characters breathe and live in a super real way.
I remember the first time I watched Picard and all I could think was, where have Michelle Hurd and Santiago Cabrera been my whole life? I, of course, remember Hurd from the newer 90210. They are exactly what Star Trek needs.
There’s this incredible scene where Raffi is talking to the 5 hologram versions of Rios. “What happened on the Ibn Majid?” E8 30:38. I mean, what a feat for all of them!
I talked about the direct influence of Mass Effect on the show, but going through and listening to the audio clips, like, even the soundtrack is straight from the game! Even when the AI synthetic beings reveal themselves, they sound just like the little hologram reaper kid at the end of the trilogy! But it also had more of a Star Wars feel than Star Trek, in my opinion. “Serious power vacuum. Smugglers.” E4 12:19 Fighters, space dogfights. I mean, it’s not a bad thing; it’s just, well, it’s just a thing.
The season is built as one, big story and each episode drops little hints, ending with a hook to bring you back. If you’ve watched any big TV in the last 10 or so years, you know the formula well. I think, for a show that leaned so heavily into nostalgia, they missed the boat in a few places. For the first episode or so, when Dahj and Soji are still just maybe androids, I was convinced they were either going to be, or be somehow related to Data’s daughter, Lal, he constructed in the TNG episode The Offspring. She doesn’t even get a mention in this season, and neither does Data’s brother, Lore. I’m disappointed that, in a season about artificial life, they were completely forgotten.
But even forgetting that, they leaned heavy into TNG and Voyager nostalgia, and pretty smoothly too. Early on they make super on the nose references, “You need a crew, Riker, LaForge.” E2 36:19. And, of course, almost the entire 7th episode, Nepenthe. Talking about former Enterprise crew and Riker and Troi reminiscing with Picard. They even have some super deep cuts! One of my favorites is in Soji’s room on the Artifact. All her memorabilia, the stuff that’s just 3-years old, is in an Adventures of Flotter lunchbox. We’ll talk about Flotter in some Voyager episodes at some point.
In a very real way, this whole season was about tying up loose ends from the TNG series and movies, specifically between Picard and Data. The dream sequences with them were really well done and Picard’s sadness in them reflected what a lot of us that grew up with TNG feel. And the final scene, where Picard terminates Data’s consciousness is the closure that I think a lot of us wanted after Nemesis. That scene was nearly perfect.
They start off some romantic relationships in this, Rios and Jurati, Raffi and Seven, but they do a thing almost no TV has had the courage to do, and I’m so glad they did. “I love you, JL. I love you too, Raffi.” E9 31:52 I mean, why does every loving relationship have to be a ‘ship? Like, Raffi and Picard have a deep love, but it’s rooted in respect and friendship; it’s not romantic. I know this might alienate some people, but this is why I’m so glad Chakotay and Janeway never hook up. They’re just two professionals that, I believe, love each other, but the kind of love two amazing friends have. Stop making everything a romantic relationship and normalize loving, respectful friendships on TV! Thank you, Star Trek for doing this when almost no one else will!
At the end of the episode we learn the ban on synths has been lifted. And, other than putting the crew together, there isn’t much that hints at the next season. At the time of this recording, the second season is just starting to air, and it is very different than this season. Paramount, and some of the actors, have stated this will be a 3-season arc, and that’s it. And, honestly, I’m totally good with that.
I’m optimistic about the second season so far, but, to be completely honest, I don’t really care too much for this first season of Picard. It’s probably my least favorite Star Trek so far. And that doesn’t mean it’s bad, I mean, is the Olympic athlete that doesn’t medal a bad athlete? Absolutely not! They’re still at the top of their sport. Picard, to me, is exactly that. I’m glad I saw it, and I’m thankful for this opportunity to dive into it again, but it’s likely I won’t watch it again, at least not for a very long time.
Robert G Ingersoll said, In nature, there are nor rewards or punishments. There are only consequences. Well, there are consequences to leadership. And Picard experiences in them in a very real way throughout this entire season.
But he also shows why many consider him to be the greatest Captain in Star Trek. He takes accountability, listens with compassion and empathy, and sticks to his guiding values no matter the cost. I’m going to look at how he did these things and share how you can as well.
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“Classic Picard arrogance.” E7 30:20. When the Federation found out the Romulan sun was going supernova, they appointed Picard to handle the evacuation and relocation efforts. He never had any doubt he would be successful. Even when every bit of evidence to the contrary was in front of him. The synths destroyed Mars and political maneuvering caused the Federation to pull out. Picard and Raffi developed a plan to scale back but continue evacuation efforts. Picard we so assured of his status and importance, he put it all on the line, “I said they accept the updated evac plan, or my resignation.” E3 4:20. And they accepted his resignation.
After this, he retreated to his vineyard and left the galaxy behind. But, in the meantime, the work he had started was left undone. Romulans had been dumped on planets and left to fend for themselves, personal relationships, like with the Qowat Milat and Elnor were forgotten, and Raffi was left to fend for herself and to drown in depression.
Leadership has consequences and Picard faces those, many time in this season. Clancy called him on it early on, and even Seven gets some digs in, “You think I’m a vigilante, fine. I help others. The only thing worse would be giving up.” E5 9:42. Honestly, as leaders in the corporate world we all live in, this is something we are faced with. We support people, we start projects and initiatives, we impact cultures. And then, eventually we move on. Hopefully, not with the bravado of Jean-Luc Picard, but new jobs, opportunities, retirements, and, yeah, getting asked to resign or even being fired…these things happen to all of us. Have you ever said, or heard someone else say, “things sure were better when so-and-so was here?” I know I’ve said it. Never feels good.
So, what do you do about it? About ten years ago, I managed a program and was able to transform its culture. It was awesome. People were happy to come to work, we had fun together and our work was very high quality. Eventually, I took a promotion, said my good-byes and went on with my career. Maybe 3 weeks later, the place was unrecognizable. Back to a top-down culture and people not being excited to come to work. Why did that happen? Well, like Picard, even though my core, guiding values were solid, my maturity wasn’t, and I made it about me. My team wasn’t following and aspiring to my values or vision, no, they were following me. And once I left, there was nothing left to follow.
This is what a cult of personality can look like. In fact, to this day, I have “cult of personality” written in red on whatever whiteboard is closest to my desk to remind me of this failure.
So, to combat this, you do what leaders do. You create more leaders. As many as you can, regardless of their position. You clearly talk about the vision and you hold everyone accountable to following the values you or your organization have. And then you enable others to carry the messages. Big team meeting coming up, let someone else carry the culture message. Important report to send to the team, let someone else do that. Spread the visibility and ownership of the tasks so it’s not about you.
Picard could have done this. He could have created other leaders on other ships to champion his cause. He could have gone with a team to the Federation to share the updated plan. But he didn’t. He made it about him, “You know Picard. Every part that isn’t ego is rampaging id.” E6 20:21 and when they didn’t want him, he didn’t know what to do. “Guy can’t even take a guilt trip without using a starship.” E4 10:05, so he ran away from everything and found himself just marking time.
Through this season, though, he was forced to face the consequences of his leadership. And he showed up for it. “The Federation – I have failed you all.” E4 35:24. And he says this in front of a group of Romulans ready to beat him up!
We all make mistakes, it’s part of our humanity. And, like I talked about in the episode on TNG’s Elementary, Dear Data, mistakes and failure are essential for growth and learning. But you don’t get to make a mistake that causes harm or impacts a project or task and just move on. You own that mistake. You take accountability and apologize. “I allowed perfect to get in the way of the good.” E4 26:35. And then, the key to accountability – it’s not just apologizing, it’s then taking the actions to make things right. And that’s what this entire season is – Picard making right on his wrongs.
And he does it with so much awesomeness! I mean, there are so many quotes I could include here to show how amazing he is as a leader through this, like, “It makes total sense you’re angry with me. I am truly sorry” E3 13:43, and “This is hard for you.” E6 4:52, and even “You don’t know what it’s like to have this vacuum inside you. You’re right. I can only try and imagine.” E8 19:03. So much compassion. You’ll notice the first thing he does is validate the other person’s feelings. He does this and is able to come to positive outcomes with people that either have nothing left to lose, or who literally hold all the cards.
In these moments, it’s not about him, it’s about the person he’s talking to. I mean, his compassion and empathy with Soji leads to one, pivotal moment, “I trust you. I believe in you.” E10 34:47 that changes everything. Had he made this about him, or demanded that Soji listen to him, or insisted on strict, top-down command styles, instead of the inclusive style we know him for, “We need him. Options.” E5 14:58, that approach wouldn’t have worked and the Reapers would have emerged from Dark Space and destroyed the mass relays…or, um, I mean the synthetic, AI beings would have answered the beacon and wiped out all organic life.
This is an approach you can apply in all of your interactions. Remember, it’s not about you – it’s about the person or people you’re talking to. Acknowledge their feelings and hear them, really hear them. And maybe you’ll have the chance to save the galaxy one day.
Thank you so much for 50 episodes looking at leadership in Star Trek. Only about a thousand more to go!
I have a 5-star review to share with you! From Bridget: I'm a relatively new listener to the Starfleet Leadership Academy and as I work through the back catalogue of episodes I find this quickly becoming one of my favorite podcasts. It is both fun and informative with many gems of wisdom that I am keen to apply to my daily life. Would recommend to anyone whether an aspiring leader or not.
Thank you so much, Bridget! If you haven’t left a review for the podcast yet, please do. I can’t wait to share it here and on social media.
And speaking of social media, I’m on Twitter: @ SFLA podcast and you can follow me on all the social media, @jefftakin Jeff, t as in Terminating Consciousness, a k i n.
Computer, what are we going to watch next time….
Oh, good, it’s working again! Back to Deep Space 9, the 17th episode of the 2nd season, Playing God. This is a cool sci fi concept episode that really starts to solidify the characters in the series. I’m looking forward to watching it with you.
Until then, Ex Astris Scientia!