Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Picard - Starfleet Has Been Compromised by [SPOILER]

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 1, Episode 2 of Star Trek: Picard, "Maps and Legends," now streaming on CBS All Access.

Starfleet and the Federation have changed significantly since the idealistic interstellar organization was last seen on the small screen, including Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space 9 and Voyager. In the face of a dramatic influx of Romulan refugees following the destruction of Romulus, the Federation has become a more isolationist entity, reducing its humanitarian aid and largely keeping to its borders. After a devastating attack on Mars by rogue androids, the Federation has effectively banned synthetic life, and both of these developments have led Jean-Luc Picard to retire from Starfleet in disgust. However, both of these developments may be related to an enemy that has infiltrated Starfleet from within: the Romulans.

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After learning the android twins Dahj and Soji, along with their apparent creator Bruce Maddox, may possess a positronic neuron capable of resurrecting the fan-favorite android Data, Picard is desperate to reenlist in Starfleet for one last mission to track Soji and Maddox down. Before approaching an old contact within Starfleet named Admiral Clancy, Picard learns of a clandestine organization that operated behind the scenes of the now-defunct Romulan Star Empire known as the Zhat Vash. Even more secretive than the Empire's Tal Shiar, the Zhat Vash carried out a brutal agenda to maintain the Empire's strict ban on the development of synthetic life and artificial intelligence, with the Romulans' computer systems featuring nothing more advanced than numerical programming.

While Picard's request for reinstatement is summarily rebuffed due to the televised outburst of his disagreement with the Federation's policies, his concerns lead Clancy to contact Commdore Oh, a Romulan officer working for Starfleet. Oh dismisses Picard's claims of the Zhat Vash's existence before promising to investigate the matter further on her end. It is then that the episode's biggest bombshell drops: Oh is secretly working for the Zhat Vash herself, and intends to discover how exactly Picard learned of her organization's existence, tasking her loyal agent Rizzo to capture and interrogate Picard before Oh can kill the retired Starfleet admiral.

The idea of Starfleet being infiltrated was a concept introduced in The Next Generation's Season 1 episode "Conspiracy." Deep Space 9 would explore this further while Starfleet was embroiled in the galaxy-consuming Dominion War, with Dominion agents similarly compromising the highest levels of the Federation's military branch. Here, the Romulan infiltration is more insidious, with agents undergoing cosmetic surgery to appear human and revealed to be responsible for the Romulan attacks on Dahj in the series premiere. However, given the Zhat Vash's anti-synthetic agenda, they may have infiltrated Starfleet far earlier than the start of the main story.

14 years before the start of Picard, Mars suffered a devastating attack by rogue synthetic androids reprogramming the planetary defense systems to target Federation facilities, resulting in the deaths of over 92,000. The Federation has since banned synthetic life and defunded research into the field, taking a similar hard-line stance as the Romulan Star Empire's agenda under the Zhat Vash. While the cause of this tragedy was never fully revealed, the remnants of the Zhat Vash apparently survived Romulus' destruction to infiltrate Starfleet. By staging such an attack on Mars, the clandestine organization's mission continues on through the Federation.

Moreover, it appears the Zhat Vash are not intent on stopping their crusade with Mars and Picard: Soji's new Romulan boyfriend Tarek is revealed not only to be an agent of the Zhat Vash but also Rizzo's sister. Tarek has been planted to get close to Soji -- with the medical doctor still unaware of her true nature as an android -- to use her capabilities to help the Zhat Vash locate other forms of synthetic life across the galaxy. While Commodore Oh is unlikely to use the full resources of Starfleet to stop Picard and Soji, her placement does indicate Picard will truly be working against Starfleet and even more sinister enemies as he searches the galaxy for Soji and Maddox. What's more, the Zhat Vash are known for dispatching anyone who knows of their existence with extreme prejudice.

All things considered, it would appear Jean-Luc's new adventure has just gotten infinitely deadlier with Star Trek: Picard's own "Hail Hydra" moment.

Star Trek: Picard stars Patrick Stewart, Alison Pill, Michelle Hurd, Evan Evagora, Isa Briones, Santiago Cabrera and Harry Treadaway. New episodes of the series premiere every Thursday on CBS All Access.


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