Star Trek Guide

Picard Questions Star Trek's Most Famous Saying

Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Picard season 1, episode 9.

In Star Trek: Picard episode 9, Soji (Isa Briones) questions the most famous saying in Star Trek: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of a few." There's a twist, however, as Soji flips Spock's (Leonard Nimoy) classic quote. Rather than sacrificing yourself to save many others, Soji wonders whether it's right to kill someone to save many others - or does the synthetic daughter of the late Commander Data (Brent Spiner) simply desire revenge?

Spock coined "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few (or the one)" in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The Vulcan was forced to put this belief to the test when he risked his own life to get the Starship Enterprise's warp drive online to escape the explosion caused by Khan's (Ricardo Montalban) stolen Genesis Device. Spock was exposed to a lethal amount of radiation, and he soon died after a touching farewell with his best friend, Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner). Of course, Kirk couldn't accept Spock's death, and when the chance arose to resurrect him, the Enterprise crew risked their careers to bring Spock back - with Kirk reversing Spock's saying because "the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many." Ninety-four years later, Data made the same sacrifice to save Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the U.S.S. Enterprise-E from the destruction caused by Shinzon's (Tom Hardy) thalaron weapon in Star Trek: Nemesis, and Picard continues to mourn his android friend in Star Trek: Picard two decades later.

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However, in Star Trek: Picard episode 9, Soji isn't musing about sacrificing herself. Rather, Data's daughter is wrestling with her desire to kill Narek (Harry Treadaway), the Romulan Tal Shiar agent who seduced her and then tried to murder her aboard the Borg Cube Artifact. In "Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1," Soji confronted Narek for the first time since the Artifact when the Romulan was captured and imprisoned in Coppelius Station, the habitat where her synthetic family lives. Soji was disgusted when Narek still claimed to love her, and she tried to express her feelings to Picard. Soji wrestled with "the logic of sacrifice" and "the calculus of life and death" as she wondered whether her killing Narek would be right because it would save many lives besides also satisfying her desire for revenge. A concerned Jean-Luc reminded her that, "I think it all depends on if you're the person holding the knife."

Soji's desire to kill Narek is colored by the fact that Dr. Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill) murdered Soji's creator Dr. Bruce Maddox (John Ales) after being coerced into becoming a Romulan spy by the Zhat Vash's leader Commodore Oh (Tamlyn Tomita). At the time, Agnes believed she was doing the right thing because Maddox built the synthetics who the Romulans believed would destroy the galaxy. Agnes repented for killing Maddox, who was also her ex-lover, and professed her guilt to Soji, but now that Soji believes she has Narek at her mercy, she explores the morality of Agnes' decision: is it justifiable to kill one to save many?

Soji's conundrum is a thornier issue than the simpler and reassuring "calculus of life and death" that Spock made and that Kirk reversed to bring Spock back in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. After all, Soji isn't thinking about giving her life to save others but whether what Narek did (and could still do) is so unforgivable that he no longer deserves to live. Naturally, Soji hates Narek for abusing, torturing, and trying to kill her.

Unfortunately, Picard wasn't able to provide an elegant solution to Soji's problem, but this only highlights how there are fewer outright easy answers in Star Trek: Picard. Soji's questioning also led to her joining her sister Sutra's plan to summon the Synthetic Federation, which could turn Soji into the Destroyer the Romulans claimed she was. With only one episode to go in Star Trek: Picardseason 1, Trekkers won't have long to wait to find out if Soji found the best answer to the calculus of life and death.

Star Trek: Picardstreams Thursdays on CBS All-Access and Fridays internationally on Amazon Prime Video.


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