At the beginning of Star Trek: Picard’s eighth episode, we finally learn the truth behind the Zhat Vash — the truth that, if you learn it, could destroy your mind. The opening scene of the episode takes us to a sort of initiation ritual for the super secret Romulan organization. Commodore Oh fills the candidates on on the backstory: An advanced ancient civilization preserved its memory in a system with eight stars on a planet called Aia.
Over the course of the episode, we learn that this unnamed race left a warning that there was a line of demarcation for advanced artificial life. Once a people crossed it, someone or something would show up to end them — which is what happened to this race. The Zhat Vash took this warning so seriously that it became their central mission: to eliminate any artificial beings, and the will to create them, before they reached that point.
The initiation itself is fascinating, in that both Narissa and Ramdha (apparently Narissa’s aunt) are present. Of all the initiates, only Narissa is left standing — proving her worthiness to join the organization. Ramdha is still alive (unlike many of the others) but her mind is clearly affected. The implication here is that Ramdha was the reason that the Borg cube separated from the Collective after her assimilation.
On the Borg cube, Elnor is hiding out, waiting for rescue, and it arrives just in time, in the style you’d expect from Seven of Nine. Her casual, “Where’s Hugh?” is painful on multiple levels, as it reminds us of the fate of our one of our favorite ex-Borg, but also makes it clear that there’s backstory there we will likely never get to see (except perhaps in a book or comic). The hug Elnor gives Seven is absolutely perfect.
Seven begins regenerating the Borg cube and creates an entirely new collective among the local Borg — with herself as queen. There are so many interesting discussions to be had here, from the ethics of using drones this way, knowing that they can be reclaimed as individuals, to Seven’s statement that she might not want to release them once she’s finished (what has she learned since the end of Voyager?) But Seven recognizes she has no choice in the matter if she wants to take back the cube — and she does in a very cool scene (that does not in any way require her to remove any clothing, thankfully). Narissa responds by murdering the drones in stasis. The ex-Borg overwhelm her, but she once again escapes. In the end, Seven takes the cube back and is able to disconnect from this new Collective she’s created.
From the second he sees Soji, Ríos begins acting very strangely. It quickly becomes clear that Dahj and Soji weren’t the first of Data’s daughters, and that he’s come across one of their previous incarnations — Giana, in this case. Raffi spends the bulk of the episode piecing together Ríos’s relationship with her, as well as the truth behind the synth attack on Mars: The Conclave of Eight isn’t a secret organization, it’s the name of the system where the Zhat Vash holds their initiation rites and where the warning is located.
The crew of La Sirena have learned of Agnes’s treachery, and as a result they begin to distrust Soji. They are jumping to conclusions, to be sure, and playing into the fear and mistrust of artificial life that pervades Starfleet. But their point is a sound one: Picard doesn’t know Soji’s capabilities, and if she were to turn against them the results would be catastrophic.
If anything, “Broken Pieces” makes it incredibly clear how singular Data was, and how destructive he potentially could have been (see also, his brother Lore). If you’re curious about Data’s lineage, especially his creator Noonien Soong, check out The Next Generation episodes “Datalore,” “Brothers,” and “Inheritance.”
Dr. Jurati finally awakens and she admits to murdering Bruce Maddox while also filling in some of the blanks of the Zhat Vash’s mission. Now that she can be honest about what she’s done, and the things she’s seen, it seems as though Agnes is on a slow road to redemption, especially with her promise to Soji. Let’s hope she can make up for what she’s done, and that this can be the best of found families.
In the end, Raffi manages to get through to Ríos: His old captain, the man he admired, turned out to be a murderer. Starfleet (or more specifically, Commodore Oh) ordered him to kill two synths, a brother and a sister (who looked exactly like Soji), or risk the Ibn Majid being destroyed. He complied and then —because he couldn’t live with what he’d done— killed himself, leaving a traumatised Ríos to cover it up.
Raffi also gathers the crew’s disparate pieces of information and is finally able to convince everyone —including Jean-Luc— that Oh (who is apparently half-Romulan, half-Vulcan, explaining how she could be a member of the Zhat Vash but also initiate a mind meld) and the Romulans were behind the synth attack on Mars. The bottom line was that protecting the galaxy from artificial life, and its consequences, was more important than saving their own people from a supernova.
When Jean-Luc mentioned that he wanted a subspace link to Starfleet, my stomach dropped — after all, his last meeting with them didn’t exactly go smoothly. But it turns out that Clancy is on Jean-Luc’s side, and he gets the fleet he wanted. It’s time to go save the androids! However, Soji has her own plans (she’s now been fully activated, including her memories), which don’t involve waiting for Starfleet’s task force. Instead, she’s ready to go home. And that’s just where La Sirena is taking her — with Narek hot on their tail.
Swapna Krishna (she/her) writes about tech, science, and sci-fi. She’s a contributing editor at SYFY FANGRRLS and has been published at Engadget, Gizmodo, Mental Floss, the Los Angeles Times, and more. You can find her on Twitter @skrishna.
Star Trek: Picard streams on CBS All Access in the United States, in Canada on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and OTT service Crave, and on Amazon Prime Video in more than 200 countries and territories.