This article is part of our ongoing Picard Explained series, featuring the insights of our resident Starfleet officer Brad Gullickson.
Where does the man of science place his faith? With humanity? When Starfleet rescinded their aid to the Romulans and placed a ban on all Synthetic experimentation after the Mars rebellion, Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) shriveled into despair. He quit the game and took his bat and ball and went home to sulk. In choosing to pout, he merely met Starfleet’s disgrace with is own. Tantrums only result in extending lethargy. They must be purged before progression can occur.
These last seven episodes of Star Trek: Picard have been a great emotional expulsion. Dahj’s arrival and subsequent execution during the first episode rekindled the memory of the man he was before. Picard was never meant to pick grapes from the vine. His home is the stars and the people who need him out there. Dahj died as a result of the decade-plus apathy he allowed to fester within. He would be damned if he let it happen again.
Soji (Isa Briones), Dahj’s twin sister, is Picard’s purpose. Condemned an anti-christ by the Romulan Zhat Vash, Soji appears not long for this world. To assist her, Picard needs others to assist him. Friends would be nice, but strangers must do. A crew of outcasts formed. In their willingness, Picard found his faith. They are the antidote to the cancer of fear running through Starfleet.
At the climax of last week’s episode, Picard found his hide against a (Borg Cube) wall. His crew got him where he needed to be, but it would take an assimilated McGuffin to see him through. Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco) hot-wired a transporter that would make Scotty blush. This device will take him anywhere within the range of thought. Soji, freshly activated, was at his side and ready to follow wherever. Elnor (Evan Evagora) had their back and stood his ground against the incoming Romulan goon squad. With certain doom looming, Picard took only a second to consider his portal escape. Nepenthe was the answer.
Fear for their safety, and probably a good deal of pride, kept Picard at a distance from his old Enterprise shipmates. With nowhere else to go and a magic door before him, he ran to the only family he has left: Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis). The husband and wife are surprised to see their former captain at their door, but they take him in with open arms…and shields raised. Where Picard walks, trouble follows.
In the last twenty years since we saw them, sorrow has shadowed Riker and Troi as well. They lost their first-born son Thad to a silicone-based disease that could have been treated if not for the positronic ban established by Starfleet. Their younger daughter Kestra (Lulu Wilson), spends her days scurrying about the woods, speaking in the numerous imaginary languages conjured by Thad, fighting her pain in his words.
The planet Nepenthe, with its restorative soil, was meant to rescue Thad from his end, and replace the homeworld he was denied as a child raised on starships. He left his parents and sister, but they remain to tend to the garden he brought them. Their unity in loss is a hard slap for Picard. How can he whimper and gripe and despair when they stand firm having experienced the ultimate attack?
The family has each other. When Picard was spurned by Starfleet, he turned his back and walked away. He chose isolation, and in that isolation, he found utter darkness. Dahj was the first light. Soji, the second. The pirate crew of La Sirena the third.
We are watching Picard reconnect with humanity. If he can find his faith in others, then he can be the next spark to reignite the engine of Starfleet. He can return them to the station in which we, their most idealistic audience, strive: a species working for the betterment of itself for the sheer purpose of betterment. Yes we can.
It’s understanding that Soji doesn’t quite trust the old man who appeared in the nick of time to steal her away from the Borg Cube. The sudden realization that she is not who she thought she was, and the reveal that her lover Narek (Harry Treadaway) was merely siphoning her for clues to her mysterious planet of origin, has opened up the possibility that everyone around her could be an elaborate hoax orchestrated by the Romulans. Her world has collapsed, and she finds herself absolutely alone. Isolated.
Soji keeps a wall between her and Picard, but she lets Kestra over. The young girl tells her stories of Lieutenant Commander Data (Brent Spiner), the android Picard believes to be her father. She tells Soji about her brother and his knack for languages. Kestra reveals to Soji that Picard is as equally displaced as she is, and if nothing else, “You could both have each other.”
Trust is earned, not given freely. Soji chooses to stay with Picard, and follow him to his ship, where they will seek out the planet with the two moons and the sky filled with red lighting. Soji is trepidatious, and Picard’s smile, no matter how genuine it may be, is not comforting. Kestra plops her broken compass in Soji’s hand and offers one last bit of wisdom, “You just have to pretend it works.”
Fake it till you make it. Is that how faith operates? The hope that the compass is pointing in the right direction is the first step. The hope that this old man will not lead you astray is about as good a gesture as Picard could ask for at this point. In her hope, he finds his own. As do we. We may never see our old Picard again, but we should recognize the one by season’s end.