Published Mar 5, 2020
Recap: Star Trek: Picard - Nepenthe
Two old friends make an appearance as Picard plans his next step
By Swapna Krishna
The seventh episode of Star Trek: Picard opens with a flashback, finally revealing what happened during that fateful meeting between Dr. Jurati and Commodore Oh at the Daystrom Institute on Earth; the one that led Agnes to discontinue Bruce Maddox’s treatment and effectively murder him in “Stardust City Rag.” Oh asked Dr. Jurati for her help and initiated a mind meld with her, showing Agnes what would happen “if synthetic life is allowed to exist.” We aren’t privy to more than flashes and images, but it’s enough to convince Agnes to turn against everything she’s worked toward her entire life.
There are a few important points here. First, what is it that Commodore Oh shows Dr. Jurati? Is it a theoretical future, the worst-case scenario of what could possibly happen if synthetic life were allowed to flourish? Is it some sort of information gleaned through someone from the future or time travel (a Star Trek: Enterprise sort of situation?) Or is it some other possibility — a secret that connects to what the Zhat Vash fight against — some sort of prophecy connected to Ramdha?
Also, the fact that Commodore Oh is able to mind meld is an intriguing bit of information in and of itself. Though Romulans and Vulcans share common biological origins, as far as I know, only Vulcans are able to initiate mind melds. This likely means that Oh is merely working with the Zhat Vash, and is not actually a Romulan herself. Then, the question here is what could have possibly convinced the head of Starfleet Security to work with the secret police within the Romulan’s secret police? It seems we’re getting closer to uncovering that answer.
Not only does Agnes agree to go on the mission with Admiral Picard, but she serves as a human tracking device so that Oh can keep tabs on where La Sirena is at any given time. And right now, the ship is stuck in a tractor beam from the Borg cube, dealing with the fallout from Jean-Luc and Soji’s escape. Once Narek is in position to follow them, the Romulans let them go.
They’re not the only ones affected by Picard and Soji. Hugh is being interrogated about the location to which they might have escaped. He’s a Federation citizen, and so while Narissa can’t touch him she can certainly use the ex-Borg to convince Hugh to cooperate. Despite the fact that she murders all of them, Hugh refuses to betray Picard.
Many people were afraid for Elnor’s fate after the last episode, but fear not: Elnor comes to Hugh’s rescue and vows to help him fight the Romulans. La Sirena heads out towards Nepenthe, where Jean-Luc and Soji have taken refuge, without him.
On the planet, they first come into contact with a young girl named Kestra, a name The Next Generation fans might immediately recognize (see the episode “Dark Page”). As she takes the duo to her parents, Kestra interrogates Soji as to her relationship with Jean-Luc. From her answers, it’s clear that Soji is still in shock — and it doesn’t help when Kestra reveals that, if Data is her father, Soji must be an android. At this point, Soji’s convinced that everything around her is just another mind game to convince her to give up information. (As an aside, Kestra is absolutely delightful and I’m sorry we likely won’t see her in future episodes).
The reunion with both Deanna and Will is absolutely wonderful, though it leads to natural questions about how the two of them ended up in such rustic conditions (though not too rustic, as their defensive measures make clear). The answer to that is a sad one: Their son, Thad (named after one of Will’s ancestors, as seen in the Voyager episode “Death Wish”) contracted a rare but curable virus — curable with the help of a positronic matrix, that is. The synth ban ensured that Thad would die, despite their relocation to Nepenthe to take advantage of the restorative properties of the soil, and Will and Deanna chose to remain there to raise Kestra.
The dynamic between Kestra and Soji is absolutely delightful; Kestra tells Soji about who Data was, and in return Soji has the chance to process what she’s been through in a way that seems less traumatic than going through it alone. As she starts to embrace who she truly is, there’s a scene between Soji, Picard, Will, and Kestra in which Soji looks so much like Data, it made my heart hurt a little.
Between Soji’s android-like mannerisms and the fact that she learned an entire language in a few minutes, Will figures out what the deal is and calls Jean-Luc on his arrogance. One incredible thing about the deep and real relationship that both Will and Deanna have with Jean-Luc is that they will tell him what they think, without any filters (“So, you want to be ass deep in Romulans for the rest of your life?”). It’s what Jean-Luc needs at this point, as he has a tendency to be a little bit self-important.
It’s also a chance for Jean-Luc to take stock of this mission: These are people who know him in and out, and who he can be candid with about his failures. But also, someone who will remind him of the price of his missions, the cost as measured in lives. Deanna does this in a beautiful way when she speaks about needing to protect Kestra, while also emphasizing how welcome Picard is to stay. She also manages to connect with Soji, helping draw out what she’s been through and the devastation she’s currently feeling — and chides Jean-Luc when he makes light of Soji’s mistrust. (Additionally, if you’re curious about Will’s use of the word “Imzadi” to refer to Deanna, check out Peter David’s now-classic Star Trek: The Next Generation novel of the same name.)
For an episode that seemed relatively quiet, “Nepenthe” is pretty jam-packed. We’re still not finished aboard the Borg cube: Hugh has a plan to take the ship away from the Romulans, and he’s enlisted Elnor to help. The problem is that Narissa overhears him talking about his plan, and she labels it a treaty violation, which means that Hugh’s status as a Federation citizen will no longer protect him. After a fight between Elnor and Narissa, Narissa escapes, but not before she deals Hugh a fatal blow.
It’s heartbreaking to say goodbye to Hugh so quickly after we met him again, older and wiser, but he is grateful that he got to hope again one last time — a callback to the Borg teenager he was when we first met him. He tells Elnor that to enact the plan, Elnor will need another ex-Borg — and Elnor activates the signal that Seven of Nine gave Picard. It looks like we’ll be seeing our favorite Fenris Ranger again soon.
Back on La Sirena, Ríos has his own problems: trying to shake off Narek’s tail while also dealing with Agnes’s increasing anxiety — and both he and Raffi are utterly bewildered as to why Jurati is so upset about the prospect of finally meeting Soji. We, as the viewers know why, and she realizes she must take action as Ríos confesses to her that he thinks that Raffi might be their leak (albeit unknowingly). Agnes puts herself in a coma to break the tracker, and they manage to head toward Nepenthe without anyone on their trail.
Jean-Luc and Soji’s time on Nepenthe was healing and necessary in more than one way, but it ended up with the formulation of a new plan: a journey to Soji’s homeworld. Thanks to Kestra (and the somewhat mysterious Captain Crandall) we now know where that is (I’ll admit, I suspected for a minute it might be Noonian Soong’s laboratory on Terlina III, as shown in The Next Generation episode “Brothers”). “Nepenthe '' ends with a beautiful moment between Will and Jean-Luc, before Kestra tells Soji that she and Picard could choose to belong to one another, an indication that they might eventually make the choice to become family.