'Star Trek: Picard' Pulls Back Curtain on Its Borg Mystery
[This story contains spoilers for Star Trek Picard, season one, episode three.]
As mystery boxes go, Star Trek: Picard just revealed a significant chunk of what’s inside theirs in the latest episode.
Following a flashback 14 years prior to the start of the series, when we see why Admiral Picard (Patrick Stewart) retired from Starfleet, “The End Is the Beginning” doubles down on the Romulan’s agenda aboard their salvaged Borg cube (AKA The Artifact) as former drone-turned-bureaucrat Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco) works with Soji (Isa Briones) to mine a group of ex-Borgs for intel in a way that upends everything we know about the Federation’s most lethal enemy.
Long story slightly less long: The Romulans are plotting something on the evil side (shocker), the Borg’s collective consciousness is critical to that plot, and key players in the Federation have worked and are working behind the scenes to help the bad guys do their thing. From Picard’s resignation to the secret (ish) history of the Borg, here’s how it all breaks down:
Why Picard Retired
“Retired” in this case is a euphemism for “resigned.” Because that’s what the former Enterprise captain had to do when the Federation balked at his proposal for a second attempt to aid the Romulans in their relocation effort following the rogue A-500 androids going all murder-y on Mars’ Utopia Planitia Shipyard -- which resulted in tens of thousands of deaths.
In the episode, Picard tells his (former) close friend and colleague, Rafi (Michelle Hurd), that several Federation worlds struggled to get on board with the original plan. So, of course, any follow-up efforts would be even a harder sell, which was proven in the meeting Picard just walked out of when we first see him. At that meeting, Picard gave Starfleet an ultimatum: Either they can sign off on his new proposal or he can sign a letter of resignation. Picard obviously did the latter, and without consulting Rafi — whose career is also on the line, given that she was Picard’s Number Two on the rescue effort.
As a result, Rafi loses her position at Starfleet as well — and, in an uncharacteristic move for Picard, he spends the next 14 years never once checking up on her or asking how she is. Which festers into deserved resentment and anger on Rafi’s part.
Following their last encounter, we pick up with the two of them in the present day, where Picard apologizes for his behavior, but not before asking for Rafi’s help for his super secret mission to find out why elements of his dead friend, the android Data, turned up in the body of Picard’s other dead friend, the near-perfect biological/android mix Dahj (Isa Briones).
Rafi still maintains her 14-year-old theory (with some evidence to back it up) that the Federation and the Romulan secret police, known as the Tal Shiar, conspired in the lead up to the destruction of both Mars and the rescue armada. Why would the Romulans work with Starfleet to kill their own people? Or have a hand in the thing they hate, androids, going rogue? Good questions, Jean-Luc! The answers to both Picard will find in part in outer space.
What Does Picard Need With a Starship?
Technically, he needs an unregistered starship captained by a man named Rios (Santiago Cabrera). He’s a former Starfleet officer and ExO, who lost his captain somehow on a mission that went bad. (That mission and the name of the vessel involved went south in a way that required them to be erased from Starfleet records. Which means we’ll soon know the truth about what went down as we get to know Rios more.)
Rios is full of Han Solo/Mal Reynolds energy, as he finds himself succumbing to Picard’s gift for “speeches” and his own ethical code to help the legendary officer out. With Rafi and Dr. Jurati (Allison Pill) in tow, the crew set out on a mission to find the missing android expert, Bruce Maddox, at something called Freecloud. Rafi’s ties to what appears to be some kind of gambling establishment makes her very uncomfortable going there, but she can’t turn down her old friend for one last mission.
What the Romulans Are Doing With the Borg
The Borg collective is like the iCloud and Slack for this race of interconnected beings. From the moment aliens or humans are assimilated into it, they join a chorus of thousands in service of the hive mind. Once disconnected from the collective, like Hugh was in the classic Next Generation episode “I, Borg,” they are free of those voices. But we learn this week that what’s not silent is the echo or imprint the individual drone’s experiences have within this mess of overlapping voices speaking as one mind.
Thanks to Hugh and Soji’s efforts in the Borg Reclamation Project, they’ve discovered that the collective share a common narrative full of archetypal information from past experiences but it is just as relevant and timely to them as the day’s news is to humans. As the executive director of the Project, Hugh appears to want to tap into this knowledge — especially with the help of the only Romulans on record to have been assimilated by the Borg. They are also the only former drones to be… a little off. (Think the mental institution Brad Pitt’s character calls home in 12 Monkeys).
Why this is exactly, and why one of the ex-drones seems to know Soji is a clone with hints of seeing her in the future, remains (you guessed it) a mystery.
New episodes of Star Trek: Picard stream every Thursday on CBS All Access.