Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Picard's Synthetic Villains Were Disappointing

Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Picard's season 1 Finale

There was one glaring flaw in the otherwise superb season 1 finale of Star Trek: Picard: the synthetic alien villains Soji (Isa Briones) summoned using a beacon were a huge disappointment after so much build-up. The final episode, "Et in Arcadia Ego, Part II," was the culmination of the Romulans' season-long hunt for the nest of synthetics living on the planet Coppelius, who are Soji's (Isa Briones) brothers and sisters. Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) took it upon himself to defend Coppelius against the Romulans until a Starfleet cavalry arrived. Meanwhile, Picard had to convince Soji to deactivate the beacon, lest she instigate the deaths of every organic lifeform in the galaxy at the hands (or rather, tentacles) of the ancient synthetic aliens.

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Star Trek: Picard season 1's overarching story was rooted in a mystery about the synthetic alien beings who once caused a galactic Armageddon over two hundred thousand years ago. Everything, from the Romulans' prophecy that Soji was 'The Destroyer' to the dark political turn the United Federation of Planets took after an attack on Mars in 2385 by rogue androids caused a ban on synthetic lifeforms, led to the reveal of these heretofore unheard of ancient synths. Star Trek: Picard episode 8, "Broken Pieces", finally revealed that the Romulan cult called the Zhat Vash was formed because they discovered a warning left behind by the ancient androids called the Admonition. In Star Trek: Picard episode 9, "Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1," Soji's sister Sutra deduced that the Admonition wasn't meant for organics at all, but rather was a message to future synthetics that they had kindred beyond the galaxy who were just waiting to fight the same war again that they won eons ago.

After all that build-up, Star Trek: Picard's season 1 finale did (briefly) show the ancient synths. Considering all the possibilities, these villains were a massive letdown: instead of evolved androids, what penetrated the tiny portal Soji opened above her homeworld was a series of robotic arms. And that was all - just clanking, metal appendages with pincers that looked like Doctor Octopus' mechanical arms crossed with the tentacled Sentinel drones from The Matrix. Now, this is Star Trek - the franchise has introduced numerous god-like beings like the Metron, the Organians, Q (John de Lancie), and the Prophets on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. These were often fascinating and memorable characters who challenged the beliefs of our heroes. The Admonition's provocative vision certainly promised something more than robot tentacles but, instead, robot tentacles is what we got. Even the alien posing as "God" in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was less of a disappointment.

The synthetic killer appendages didn't come close to living up to the build-up from the Admonition, which promised an alliance of highly-intelligent androids who made their home beyond the galaxy and possibly even formed their own federation of synths. The potential of this idea could explain many long-running Star Trek mysteries, like the origin of the Borg or who rebuilt V'Ger from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Now, to be fair, it's quite possible that the robot arms were merely the infantry or attack wing of the synthetics and not the actual synthetic race themselves. Still, after a season of set-up, and considering Star Trek's goal is to seek out new lifeforms and new civilizations, a glimpse of robot tentacles is the symbol of a promise that Star Trek: Picard didn't keep.

On his Instagram account, Star Trek: Picard's showrunner Michael Chabon said that there was intended to be more to the ancient synthetics and the writers dubbed them "the Alterity," though that never made it into the aired episode. The Star Trek: Picard finale's focus was certainly busy enough with Jean-Luc trying to set a heroic example for Soji to make the right decision, Picard's death and resurrection, and a touching farewell to Commander Data (Brent Spiner). And while the possibility does exist that the alien androids could be explored further in Star Trek: Picard season 2, the robot tentacles that Trekkers were shown in Star Trek: Picard's season 1 finale was a failure of imagination.

Star Trek: Picard is available on CBS All-Access and internationally on Amazon Prime Video.


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