Star Trek: Picard Gives Androids A Vulcan Power (But Why?)
This post contain SPOILERS for Star Trek: Picard episode 9, "Et in Arcadia Ego Part 1."
Star Trek: Picard just gave the android Sutra (Isa Briones) a Vulcan ability - the legendary mind meld - in the season's penultimate episode, "Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1." The mind meld, first introduced in Star Trek: The Original Series episode 9, "Dagger of the Mind," is the process through which a Vulcan and another participant can share thoughts. But it was always assumed to be an innate Vulcan ability, not a skill that an android could learn.
To set her plan in motion, the half-Vulcan, half-Romulan Commodore Oh (Tamlyn Tomita) showed Agnes P. Jurati (Alison Pill) images from the admonition, a mysterious prophecy that says synthetic life will destroy organic life, through a Vulcan mind meld. The vision was intense enough to convince Agnes to betray Picard (Patrick Stewart) and kill her mentor and former lover, the cyberneticist Bruce Maddox (John Ales). After meeting Soji, however, Agnes had change of heart, and decides to no longer help Oh and the Zhat Vash. In an effort to help the synthetic inhabitants understand why the Romulans want them destroyed, Sutra, who looks like a gold skinned, yellow eyed version of Soji, initiates a Vulcan mind meld herself. Dr. Alton Soong (Brent Spiner), Sutra's creator, matter of factly states that Sutra has studied the works of Surak, the ancient Vulcan philosopher, and has developed the mind meld ability through study and practice.Click the button below to start this article in quick view. Start now
This goes directly against what fans have been led to believe, as the mind meld has long been shown to be an exclusively Vulcan power. When asked about this development, Star Trek: Picard showrunner Michael Chabon gave a typically thoughtful response on his Instagram: "As a physiological effect, it can be synthesized, or rather the psycho-anatomical basis can be synthetically reproduced."
One the one hand, this is a bit of a retcon. The Vulcans' mystical, borderline-magical abilities, such as the mind meld and nerve pinch, have been exclusive to Vulcans throughout Star Trek canon. However, there's nothing in Star Trek lore to counter Chabon's hypothesis that the Vulcans have simply implied that the mind meld is something outsiders can't learn. Despite their logical ideology, the Vulcans can be prone to mistrust and condescension to outsiders, and sharing their most precious secrets would not come easy. The fact that it took decades for Starfleet to learn Vulcans and Romulans shared a common ancestry is a good example.
What is more, Sutra and her brethren are much more sophisticated machines than Data ever was. Though they lack Data's empathy, they express emotion with relative ease and are able to pass as fully human when they wish to. After interpreting the vision of the admonition as a call to arms against humanity, Soong's other creations, led by Sutra, vow to rise up against organic life, much to Picard's horror. Evident by her ability to learn the mind meld, Sutra and Star Trek: Picard's other new androids have stronger minds than Data's, but the season finale will reveal if they can match the depths of his heart.