Warning: SPOILERS Below For Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Episode 9
The true villains of Star Trek: Picard have been revealed: The great threat isn’t the Romulans, but a federation of synthetic beings that exist outside of the galaxy and are coming to wipe out organic life. However, this doesn’t mean the anti-synthetics cabal called the Zhat Vash are on the side of the angels; in Star Trek: Picard episode 9, “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1”, the Romulans are still plotting to eradicate the planet Coppelius and the synthetics who live there, all of whom are the brothers and sisters of Soji (Isa Briones).
The mysteries of Star Trek: Picard season 1 are all tied together by the actions of the Zhat Vash, who have spent hundreds of years dedicated to wiping out artificial lifeforms. However, the Romulans believe that the threat to the galaxy is Soji and the numerous other synthetics built by Dr. Bruce Maddox (John Ales) and Dr. Altan Inigo Soong (Brent Spiner) from the positronic neuron of the late Commander Data. Ironically, it was Zhat Vash leader Commodore Oh’s (Tamlyn Tomita) plot to force the United Federation of Planets to ban synthetics by staging an attack on Mars by rogue androids that led to Maddox and Soong to escape to the hidden planet of Coppelius and spend 14 years perfecting human-like synthetics, culminating in the creation of Soji and her late twin sister Dahj. The Zhat Vash have been chasing Maddox and his “abominations” ever since but thanks to the devious machinations of Narek (Harry Treadaway), the Romulan Tal Shiar discovered the location of Coppelius from Soji.
When Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) sought refuge for himself and Soji with his friends Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) on Nepenthe, the aged Starfleet legend confessed he was in over his head. It turns out this was an understatement because in his quest to find Data’s daughter, Picard and his ragtag crew aboard the hired starship La Sirena found themselves embroiled in a conflict for the fate of the galaxy. Worse, it’s unclear who is entirely in the right or whether Picard can trust the synthetics he came to save – especially when they placed him under house arrest under the orders of Sutra, one of Soji’s android sisters, during “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1’s” cliffhanger ending. So, let’s unravel Star Trek: Picard‘s macro story and try to determine who the bad guys truly are.
By using a Vulcan mind-meld on Dr. Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill), Sutra saw the Admonition, which is the ancient warning left behind by the ancient synthetics. For centuries, the Zhat Vash used as the Admonition as an initiation rite to plunge the unassuageable fear of androids into the heart of their members. However, it seems that Sutra was right when she guessed that the memories of the Armageddon hundreds of thousands of years ago weren’t meant for the Romulans to find but they were actually intended as a warning for other synthetic beings.
The complete message Sutra discovered detailed an ancient history of organic beings building synthetic lifeforms in their pursuit of perfection and then growing jealous because their creations don’t age or die. So, the organics sought to destroy the synthetics. The organics won the war long ago and, since they left the message behind, it’s logical to assume that the synthetics were the ones who dragged eight suns together into an octonary star system and left Aia, the Grief World, in the center. But hundreds of millennia later, the synthetics have formed a vast alliance of artificial beings far outside our galaxy – and they have a way to watch the evolution of the synthetic race that originated with Dr. Noonien Soong’s positronic androids.
Sutra and Altan described the Synthetic Federation as an all-artificial lifeform version of the United Federation of Planets. Their purpose is to “seek out advanced synthetic life and excise it from the oppression by organics” – a spin on Starfleet’s mission to seek out new life and new civilizations to join the Federation. The Synthetic Federation is waiting to be summoned by the androids on Coppelius to wreak the same devastation to the organic lifeforms in the Alpha Quadrant. Sutra sees this as the best option for her family’s survival against the Romulans’ attack. But she also bears a special grudge against Starfleet and organics because of the synthetics ban and especially because Captain Alonzo Vandermeer of the U.S.S. ibn Majid killed her twin Jana in 2390 under Oh’s orders when she learned they were synthetics. However, it’s unclear whether the Synthetic Federation are “villains” in the sense that they are evil, or if they’re just coming to fight for the survival of their synthetic race.
However, the fact that there’s an even greater threat somewhere beyond the final frontier (that the Romulans aren’t aware of yet) doesn’t mean the Zhat Vash aren’t also the villains because they absolutely are. Commodore Oh, her operatives, Narissa (Peyton List) and her brother Narek, and their underlings have caused the deaths of tens of thousands during the Mars attack. Narissa also ordered the assassination of Dahj and she murdered Hugh Borg (Jonathan Del Arco) as well as thousands of Borg Drones in stasis aboard the Artifact. The Romulans are also looking to wipe out all of the synthetics, who are sentient beings, despite the fact that their creation was illegal under Federation law (that the Zhat Vash’s devious acts made possible).
The damage Oh has caused is possibly incalculable, especially since she was planted into Starfleet as a Romulan mole soon after Data was created and has manipulated the Federation from the shadows for decades. And while the Zhat Vash see their nefarious acts as necessary for the good of the galaxy, it is their aggression against synthetics that is now provoking the Synthetic Federation to attack the Alpha Quadrant. Sutra surmised that since the Admonition was meant for synthetics and not Romulans, the Zhat Vash have been willingly driving themselves insane for centuries, all based on something that wasn’t intended for their pointed ears in the first place. Indeed, if and when the Synthetic Federation attack, the Zhat Vash will have written the book of their own demise. The dreaded question is whether the Synthetics will stop at destroying the Romulans or if they’ll lay waste to the entire galaxy as well.
The final lingering question of Star Trek: Picard season 1 is who will be the Destroyer that the Zhat Vash prophecized would lead the synthetics? The discovery of the Synthetic Federation casts ‘the Destroyer’ in a new light; if it’s one of the synths on Coppelius, does the Destroyer merely lead the other Data-derived androids against the Romulans or is the Destroyer somehow an interface to the Synthetic Federation and will lead their army from beyond the galaxy?
After reuniting with her family, Soji spent much of “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1” questioning whether taking a life is justified in order to protect many others. She was musing about her desire to kill Narek but, in a macro sense, if Soji becomes the Destroyer, then it extrapolates to her killing the thousands of Romulans about to invade. Star Trek: Picard episode 9 ended with a hint that Soji would indeed become the Destroyer the Zhat Vash believed her to be. However, the more likely candidate is Sutra, Soji’s predecessor and golden-skinned doppelganger. Sutra clearly has a revenge-fueled agenda in mind and it was her idea to summon the Synthetic Federation. Sutra’s manipulative behavior, like freeing Narek from captivity, which led to the murder of her sister Saga (Nikita Ramsey) positions Sutra as a true villain. In fact, even though she was created from Data’s positronic neuron, Sutra acts more like Lore, Data’s evil android older brother.
There are still other options for the Destroyer as well; it could be Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), who is now the ersatz Queen of her own micro-Borg Collective, or it could be Narissa if she was indeed assimilated by the Borg at the end of Star Trek: Picard episode 8. Trekkers can only hope that Star Trek: Picard‘s season 1 finale answers all of the questions in a way that lives up to the classic Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes of the past.
Next: Star Trek: Picard Breaks Its Own Borg Cube Timeline
Star Trek: Picard streams Thursdays on CBS All-Access and Fridays internationally on Amazon Prime Video.