Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Picard - The Romulan Consipracy, Explained

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 1, Episode 8 of Star Trek: Picard, "Broken Pieces," now streaming on CBS All Access.

The first season of Star Trek: Picard has depicted the titular character's ragtag group of adventurers fighting against the Zhat Vash, a secretive and legendary Romulan cabal. As more were discovered to be a part of the organization, their motives remained hidden. That all changed in "Broken Pieces," the eighth episode of the CBS All Access series.

The first scene of the episode takes us back 14 years. A group of Romulan women, clad in black hoods, congregate on Aia, also known as the "Grief Planet." It turns out it's the home world of an extinct civilization that was wiped out mysteriously hundreds of thousands of years ago. The only remnant  is the "Admonition," a glowing structure the group surrounds.

Guided by Oh, long before she became Starfleet chief of security, the group is named as a generation of the Zhat Vash. The revelation is interesting on multiple levels: The Zhat Vash is made up of only women; it is assumed the use of the word "foremothers" means this has always been the case. This nicely counters the Qovat Milat, Romulan nuns who dedicate their lives to lost causes. This Zhat Vash configuration includes not only Oh and Narissa Rizzo, but also Ramdha, one of the formerly assimilated Romulans seen on the Artifact in previous episodes.

The Admonition warns them "of the horror and annihilation that came from the skies," according to Oh. It was left behind to give the Zhat Vash a mission: To prevent the return of the "Destroyers" and subsequent devastation. As the Zhat Vash touches the Admonition, they are witness to this horror. We see flashes of images, ranging from a fetus and a blooming flower to an android's face that transforms into the visage of beloved character Data. 

When we first heard about the Zhat Vash back in Episode 2, Picard's Romulan housekeeper Laris said they kept a secret that was heard to drive the very people keeping it mad. That madness manifests once the Admonition is seen. Some take their own lives in the moment, in a brutal fashion. Others began to tear at themselves in madness. In talking with Ramdha (who turns out to be her aunt), Rizzo reveals that the despair she possessed from the Admonition infected the Borg assimilation of her spacecraft, which destroyed the Collective's connection to the Artifact and rendered her and others on board mentally unstable. Even Agnes Jurati, who was brought in on the conspiracy and killed her co-worker and former lover, Bruce Maddox, out of it, said she contemplated suicide every day after learning what she did.

The Admonition, it turns out, comes bearing a cautionary tale. The people of yore had invested their efforts into artificial life and the production of synthetic technology. Eventually, the technology evolved beyond a certain threshold. At that point, the synths turned on their masters, as the "Destroyers" lay waste to everyone and everything. The survivors sent a message of their story through the Admonition, warning the Zhat Vash to prevent a similar fate by any means possible.

The Zhat Vash has spent hundreds of years working to stymie synthetic life, which has manifested in several events of Picard so far. It was confirmed this episode that the group was behind the brutal attack on Mars, where synths destroyed the Utopia Planitia Shipyards. This was meant to inspire distrust in androids and subsequent ban on production, as instituted by Oh and the Federation. Additionally, any currently-existing synthetic life was mandated to be snuffed out. One example came on the ibn Majid, where Rios' captain Alonzo Vandermeer was ordered to kill two new arrivals in cold blood, both of which turned out to be androids.

It's understandable, then, why the character of Soji poses such a substantial danger to the Zhat Vash. Her presence means that their attempts to eradicate androids to avoid armageddon is incomplete. There is still a chance that "Ganmadan," the mythical Romulan day of annihilation, can still occur, where "all the shackled demons break their chains and answer the call of the Destroyer." Though the Zhat Vash have been calculating, menacing, and torturous so far in Picard, their motives are surprisingly out of saving all life in the universe.

Star Trek: Picard stars Patrick Stewart, Alison Pill, Michelle Hurd, Evan Evagora, Isa Briones, Santiago Cabrera and Harry Treadaway. A new episode arrives each Thursday on CBS All Access.