Star Trek Reveals Major Retcon of Romulan Culture and Technology
Star Trek: Picard continues with episode 2, "Maps and Legends", which manages to introduce even more mystery and intrigue than the season premiere. We get more background on the events of synthetics uprising on Mars, as well as why Starfleet turned its back on the Romulan evacuation effort. However, Picard season 2 also does a major retcon of previous Star Trek lore regarding the Romulan race and culture, and the sophistication of their technology (which Starfleet has apparently underestimated all along). There's also the introduction of a major new Star Trek foe: an old, clandestine Romulan organization that is fanatical in its hatred of A.I. and the synthetics race.
Warning - Star Trek: Picard Episode 2 SPOILERS Follow!
The premiere of Star Trek: Picard revealed that Jean-Luc Picard is living in France on a vineyard, where he is attended to by two Romulans housekeepers named Laris (Orla Brady) and Zhaban (Jamie McShane). In investigating the death of Commander Data's "daughter" Dahj Asha, Picard must enlist the help of Laris to retrace the steps leading up to the girl's assassination by a Romulan hit squad. That investigation leads Picard and his housekeepers back to Asha's apartment in Boston, where her boyfriend was killed by the Romulan assassins.
In order to effectively perform the investigation, Laris reveals to Picard that his so-called knowledge of Romulan technology (like forensic molecular reconstruction) is totally irrelevant, as the Romulans always kept the full extent of their tech capabilities a classified secret, allowing their enemies to believe Romulan tech to be unreliable and faulty, when in fact it was far more advanced and capable than anyone outside the empire knew.
The bigger reveal, however, is that there is a faction of the Romulan Empire that exists, which is older and even more sinister than "Tal Shiar," the Romulan Secret Police. As Laris explains to Picard:
"Here in the Federation you refer to Tal Shiar as 'the Romulan Secret Police.' But it's a bit redundant: you could put the word "secret" in front of almost any aspect of Romulan culture. I have heard - and I have reason to believe - that the Tal Shiar is merely a mask worn by another far older cabal. That before the Tal Shiar there was the "Zhat Vash."
Zhaban adds that the name "Zhat Vash" refers to "the dead," whom the Romulans felt were the only true keepers of secrets. Laris explains the group is meant to keep secrets "so profound and terrible" that learning them could drive a normal person mad. The faction also has a fanatical hatred of A.I. and synthetics, and is clearly committed to destroying that threat.
After that somewhat ominous introduction, Star Trek: Picard episode 2 ends with the reveal that Zhat Vash is so good at their mission that they've already infiltrated and positioned agents in Starfleet command - as well as at the Romulan Reclamation Site on the Borg cube, where Dahj's twin sister Soji (Isa Briones) has no idea that she's now, literally, sleeping with the enemy.
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