Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Picard - All About That Surprise Cameo

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 1, Episode 9 of Star Trek: Picard, "Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1," now streaming on CBS All Access.

Brent Spiner appeared in the very first scene of Star Trek: Picard, playing poker aboard the Enterprise-D in his former captain's dream. And just as the veteran actor played a part in the beginning of the newest series in the Trek franchise, he surprisingly plays another near the end of its first season.

In the latest episode, "Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1," Spiner shows back up as Dr. Altan Inigo Soong, a self-proclaimed "mad scientist." Altan is the son of the late Noonian Soong (also played by Spiner in The Next Generation), one of the leading cyberneticists of the 24th century. Noonian Soong revolutionized the android game, creating not only Data but the malevolent Lore (who was also played by Spiner). That makes Altan the "brother" of Lore and Data, though the only flesh and blood of the three. Spiner also played Noonian's ancestor, Dr. Arik Soong, a scientist who specialized in genetic engineering, in Enterprise.

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Though Altan was never mentioned during Data's time on The Next Generation, he seemed to join the family business of robotics. After the attack on Mars led to the Federation banning synthetics, he and Dr. Bruce Maddox suddenly found themselves out of a job. The two partnered up and traveled to the planet of Coppelius in the Ghulion system so that they could continue their work without persecution. When Picard and the crew visit Coppelius, they see this result of their freedom in the form of a settlement teeming with androids of all shapes and sizes.

Altan and Maddox worked in tandem to fill out the synthetic population of Coppelius, even cooperating on other projects like mind transfer. But Maddox continued to be fixated on the Mars attack, feeling the Federation had set up an inside job. He then created twins Dahj and Soji, using a positronic neutron from Data, hoping to ingratiate them into the human population so they could investigate the issue further. Altan disagreed with the idea, feeling it would draw unwanted attention to their secret sanctuary.

Maddox left Coppelius behind in pursuit of his initiative, leaving Altan behind. He served as a father figure to the androids, while simultaneously continuing his work on transferring sentience into a synthetic body, claiming a "sense of urgency." He also made the planet more his home, creating a cat named Spot II (a reference to Data's cat spot from TNG) and filling the world with colorful butterflies.

When Picard arrived on the planet, Altan greeted him warmly, even if his cordialness was not extended to the rest of the crew. When Dr. Agnes Jurati approaches him alone, he reprimands her for killing Maddox, who was her mentor and lover. "You put out a small, bright candle shedding its light in vast darkness," he tells her. But within that shame is an opportunity as he offers that she continue Maddox's work to repay her debt. She gratefully accepts, getting the chance to live among the culmination of her life's work.

Jurati becomes not only a co-worker of Altan but his ally, as he and synths decide to assemble their ranks against the oncoming Romulans. Android Sutra had mind-melded with Jurati to find out the "Admonition," a device stored with memories of a destroyed civilization, had left a message. It told of a secret alliance of synthetic life existing outside of time and space. When given the signal, they would come to protect those who hailed them, sparing the synths and leading to the extinction of humanity.

Together, Altan and Sutra had discovered subspace transmissions encoded within the Admonition. Hoping to protect his children, they constructed a beacon to signal the alliance for protection from a fleet of Romulan warbirds. Picard spoke up against the plan, promising he would speak on their behalf to the Federation with no blood spilled. Altan disagreed, still angered by what Starfleet did previously. As a result, he took the side of Sutra, and the episode ends with Picard being taken into custody as the others prepare for battle.

While fun to see Spiner play yet another member of the Soong family, his presence contributes largely to the stakes coming into Picard's season finale. His care for his synthetic creations has allowed them to support Sutra's plan, even if it comes at the expense of humanity. And his work in mind transfer could prove as foreshadowing for a dying Picard, who could be looking for another body soon.

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.


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