Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Picard's Mars Attack & How It Connects To Classic TNG Episode Explained

The second episode of Star Trek: Picard depicted the attack on Mars by rogue androids, and it's the tragic worst-case scenario foretold in the classic Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Measure of a Man". Set in 2399, 20 years since the events of Star Trek: Nemesis, Star Trek: Picard picks up the story of Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart); the retired Starfleet Admiral discovers a new conspiracy centering around the murder of Dahj Asha (Isa Briones), a synthetic woman targeted by an insidious Romulan cabal called the Zhat Vash that seeks to wipe out artificial life.

However, it's crucial to understand two pivotal events in Star Trek history that Star Trek: Picard's story hinges upon: the Romulan supernova and the attack on Mars in 2385; the latter tragedy wiped out the Utopia Planitia Fleetyards, which was building the rescue fleet Picard was going to lead to save the Romulan people. The Mars attack was a devastating blow to the United Federation of Planets: on April 5, 2385 (First Contact Day), a group of synthetic workers dropped Mars' planetary defense grid and attacked the red world. Not only was Utopia Planitia destroyed, but the explosions ignited the Martian atmosphere. The fires killed 92,473 people and Mars is still burning 14 years later. The political fallout of the Mars attack changed the Alpha Quadrant: synthetic lifeforms were banned throughout the galaxy and the Federation abandoned their Romulan rescue mission, a reversal that led Picard to quit Starfleet in protest.

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"Maps and Legends", the second episode of Star Trek: Picard, opened with a flashback to the Mars attack. Android workers were key personnel on Mars, and one of them, a synth designated F8 (Alex Diehl), commandeered Mars' defense satellites, massacred his human co-workers, and then committed suicide with a phaser blast to the head as the base exploded. There was no warning or apparent provocation for F8 (or the other androids) to suddenly go rogue; although F8 was tolerated and mocked by the humans who work alongside him, there was no violence or outright malice displayed towards the synths. However, the way artificial workers were treated does raise eyebrows. Unlike Commander Data (Brent Spiner), who behaved and was treated as a person, the androids were corralled in a holding facility together when offline and were derisively referred to as "plastic people". The humans didn't mind insulting the emotionless synths since "you can't hurt their feelings", but they were certainly treated as property and not as actual people.

The synths in Star Trek: Picard harkens back to how the treatment of artificial lifeforms was debated in the TNG season 2 episode "Measure of a Man". In that classic, Picard went to court to defend and define Data's rights as a free individual when Dr. Bruce Maddox (Brian Brophy) wanted Data designated as "Starfleet property" under the belief that he wasn't a sentient being. Maddox's intention was to deactivate Data, take him apart, and reverse engineer the positronic technology of his late creator, Dr. Noonien Soong. It was Maddox's dream to create a "race of Datas" to populate starships and starbases, but thanks to the savvy advice of Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg), Picard saw Maddox's plan for what it really was: the slavery of an entire race of androids.

Maddox lost the case, changed his mind about Data, and he became friends with the android, but Star Trek: Picard shows that the former director of the Daystrom Institute went ahead and made his race of Datas anyway - but they are inferior android copies that Starfleet utilizes as workers. They are offputting, humorless drones that lack Data's humanity and his drive to better himself. Worse, their programming was corrupted and they were led to turn on humans: the nightmare scenario Picard foresaw and fought against decades earlier in "Measure of a Man". So it seems while Picard was able to secure Data's individual rights, Maddox and Starfleet circumvented that ruling, created an android slave labor class anyway, and paid a costly price. Now, in Star Trek: Picard, the fate of any artificial life form - including Data's daughters, Dahj and Soji Asha - are under attack since the Alpha Quadrant has taken a darker turn regarding synthetics.

Star Trek: Picard streams Thursdays on CBS All-Access and Fridays internationally on Amazon Prime Video.


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