Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Picard's New Villains Are Even Worse Than TNG's Romulan Tal Shiar

Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Picard Episode 2.

The second episode of Star Trek: Picardhas introduced Romulan villains even more dangerous than their feared secret police, the Tal Shiar: a faction known as the Zhat Vash. The oldest enemies of the United Federation of Planets, the Romulans have taken center stage in the new CBS All-Access series charting the twilight years of Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart). But as the Starfleet hero has learned, a deadly new faction of Romulan operatives is loose on Earth and placed Picard in their crosshairs.

In Star Trek: Picard's premiere episode, "Remembrance," the Starfleet Admiral's quiet retirement in his French vineyard was disrupted by the arrival of Dahj Asha (Isa Briones), a flesh-and-blood synthetic girl who is the "daughter" of the late Commander Data (Brent Spiner). Not long after Picard met Dahj and discovered who/what she is, Dahj was assassinated by black-clad armored soldiers who chased her from Greater Boston to Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco. Worse, the villains covered up their murder and removed all evidence of Dahj after Picard was injured during their attack. Because of his loyalty to Data, Picard vowed to find Dahj's twin sister, Soji, so he elicited the help of Laris (Orla Brady) and Zhaban (Jamie McShane), his Romulan friends who tend to the day-to-day winemaking of Chateau Picard. Fortunately, Laris and Zhaban are former members of the Tal Shiar who befriended Picard during the Admiral's ill-fated mission to rescue the Romulans from their sun going supernova.

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As Laris and Zhaban deduced in Star Trek: Picard's second episode, "Maps and Legends," Jean-Luc is up against the Zhat Vash, an even older and more secretive sect of the Tal Shiar - and one so proficient in staying hidden that even Admiral Picard, who had the highest Starfleet security clearance, had never heard of them until now. "Zhat Vash" is a Romulan term referring to the dead, "the only reliable keepers of secrets," and most members of the Tal Shiar consider them a myth. However, they are indeed very real, and their roots run deep into Romulan history. At the heart of the Zhat Vash is an all-encompassing fear and loathing of artificial lifeforms - hence their targeting Dahj and Soji Asha, the most advanced synthetics in existence. Perhaps, long ago, the Romulans had a catastrophic encounter with artificial lifeforms (possibly the Borg), which forged the Romulans' collective distrust of A.I. and the Zhat Vash's unassuageable hatred of synthetics.

Perhaps the most frightening aspect of the Zhat Vash is that they are operating freely on Earth, the heart of the Federation, in a bold manner not even the Tal Shiar would dare. The Zhat Vash brazenly attacked Dahj in her apartment and in broad daylight at Starfleet Headquarters, then vanished without a trace. When Dahj, who is programmed with formidable fighting skills, defeated the Romulan shock troops, they committed suicide and took Dahj with them. Such blatant shows of force are unlike the more insidious Tal Shiar, which was first mentioned in Star Trek: The Next Generation before their diabolical villainy was explored more fully in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Laris believes the Zhat Vash's reach even extends to thousands of other worlds, including the Klingon Empire and the Gorn Hegemony. While it's not known how long the Zhat Vash have been on Earth, its mission to eradicate artificial life is clear. It's even possible that the Zhat Vash's clandestine influence may have caused the Mars attack by rogue androids that led to synthetics being banned in the Federation.

Little does Picard know that the Zhat Vash have been secretly weaponized by the head of Starfleet Security, a Vulcan named Commodore Oh (Tamlyn Tomita). The Commodore and her top agent Lieutenant Rizzo (Peyton List) appear to be the spearhead of a sinister conspiracy to hunt down Data's synthetic "daughters" built by Dr. Bruce Maddox. Meanwhile, Rizzo is actually Narissa, a Romulan agent and the sister of Narek (Harry Treadaway), who is busy seducing Soji on the Borg Cube dubbed the Romulan Reclamation Project. Narissa charged Narek with finding out where Soji's "nest of machines" is hiding - meaning that there's a greater collective of synthetics the Zhat Vash wants to destroy. Certainly, the fate of synthetic lifeforms and even the security of the Federation hinges on whether the rest of Starfleet will learn that a cabal of Zhat Vash has infiltrated Earth in Star Trek: Picard.

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


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