Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Picard - Is Section 31 Working With the Romulans?

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

The second episode of Star Trek: Picard introduces the Zhat Vash, an ancient Romulan conspiracy dedicated to seeking out and destroying artificial life. They are believed to have been behind the attack on the Mars shipyard that led to Jean-Luc’s resignation and the ban of artificial life within the Federation. However, they did not work alone, and they had help from inside of Starfleet to achieve their goals. Later in the episode, we met one of their Starfleet co-conspirators, Commodore Oh, a ranking member of Starfleet Security.

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The Vulcan officer is depicted as overtly hostile, willing to resort to intimidation and violence with little hesitation. Though she played the part of a loyal officer well enough when speaking to Admiral Clancy, it was clear she held her superior with disdain. It might have simply been a case of Vulcan arrogance, but when she calls in Lt. Rizzo, a Zhat Vash mole within Starfleet, we see just how far from Starfleet’s moral code she operates.

Rizzo clearly identifies the Commodore as an “ally,” not a full member of the Zhat Vash. So as a Vulcan, known rivals and distant relatives to the Romulans, and as a Starfleet officer, what possible reason could she have to be helping them? It could be an as-yet revealed personal motivation, but there may be a simpler and more insidious explanation: Section 31, Starfleet's covert intelligence operation, is in league with the Zhat Vash.

If Commodore Oh was an agent for Section 31, it could explain her disdain for Starfleet ideals and her willingness to kill. There's even a possibility that Section 31 could have also assisted in the attacks on Mars. It seems hard to believe that an attack of this magnitude could ever happen so close to Earth without the Federation 's knowledge, but it becomes more plausible when you consider that the Zhat Vash may have had inside help. Section 31 is more than capable of supplying the Zhat Vash with whatever security codes they required. They might have even facilitated the hacking of the synths which enacted the attack.

There are a few reasons why Section 31 is a likely factor in the Zhat Vash conspiracy. Chiefly, it seems impossible to believe that the two could both operate clandestine infiltrations of Starfleet without encountering one another. If the two were aware of each other, it’s doubtful Section 31 would tolerate the Zhat Vash unless their goals were aligned.

But if Oh is a member of Section 31, it still doesn't explain why they might be helping the Zhat Vash. Does sewing fear of synths in the populace help further Section 31’s ends? This fear did make the Federation more hostile and likely, more militant. Nothing would make Section 31 happier than to turn public favor towards nationalism and developing new weapons. Unlike the Zhat Vash, they aren’t protecting a secret, they are the secret. Section 31 believes that only they have the strength to keep the Federation from falling to its enemies.

However, Picard has proved that it isn’t afraid of making massive status quo shifts and retcons, so there may be another reason. The Zhat Vash has been around far longer than Section 31. They've been described as having existed for millennia, pre-dating the Federation and humanity’s warp travel capabilities by many centuries. So When did the Zhat Vash first begin their infiltration of Starfleet? Though the Mars attack is the only act we can tie them to, they may have been interfering with the Federation since the day they first encountered the Romulans. If that’s the case, Section 31 -- who've been around since at least the Star Trek: Discovery era --  could even be a creation of the Zhat Vash to weaken the Federation.

As things stand, it’s still entirely possible Commodore Oh has nothing to do with Section 31. Even beyond her actions, there's ample evidence showing that Starfleet is a shadow of its former glory. Both Jean-Luc being cursed out and dismissed as a crazy old man by Admiral Clancy and Starfleet’s prejudice against synthetic life show that the Federation is fraying at the seams.

If Commodore Oh was simply an independent corrupt Starfleet officer, it would serve as a disheartening signal to just how far the Federation has fallen. While more details on the Commodore are likely to be revealed in subsequent episodes, but from what little we’ve seen, she’s certainly a grave threat. Adding Section 31 into the mix would only make things worse for Jean-Luc.

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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