After a relatively Trek-free opening episode, Maps and Legends indulges in a homecoming of sorts. When Picard’s investigation into Dahj revealing that she made a call to her sister off-world, the retired Admiral realises its time to go back into the black. That means an attempt to re-enlist in Starfleet; the very organisation he resigned from in protest and openly condemned. Needless to say, Picard’s pitch to Admiral Clancy isn’t particularly impressive given that he’s only working off two half-baked theories. That Dhaj was an advanced synthetic lifeform created from remnants of Data’s neural network and that she was killed by a hitherto unknown Romulan organisation known as the Zhat Vash. Which is the kind of conspiracy theory you pick up when you hire former Romulan spies to run your vineyard.
In its favour though, the whole sequence kicks off with a strong sense of fanfare; with The Next Generation theme playing as Picard crosses the threshold and finds himself surrounded by Starfleet officers. But it quickly becomes sombre as Picard realises that he’s little more than a relic to this new generation of crews and scientists. A decorated Admiral and war hero now unrecognised by the fleet in which he once commanded the flagship. Clancy doesn’t hesitate to poke at these insecurities when she rejects his offer to re-join. Accusing him of indulging in delusions to try and reclaim a sense of relevance.
It’s a counter that particularly hurts because it hits at the truth; Picard has after all been experiencing nightmares and mood swings. It takes a visit from a physician and old friend to approve him for space travel and his worst fears. That Picard is indeed suffering from the kind of neurological disorder hinted at back in ‘All Good Things… (the TNG finale). This all adds to a sense of melancholy that was rarely present in TNG. The knowledge that this latest adventure may really be Picard’s last. He’s venturing into the unknown with an uncertainty that Picard has never felt before.
For now, though the episode remains in familiar, if still uncomfortable territory. A considerable amount of the episode is spent on board the derelict Borg Cube glimpsed last episode. Here we are in the company of Dhaj’s sister Sori; specifically, her identical twin sister as synthetics of Dahj’s type were conveniently created in pairs. There’s little noticeable difference between the two characters but for the time being Sori comes across as less of a panicked wreck. Like her sister she seems largely unaware that she’s synthetic but is more certain of herself. While Dahj was on the cusp of finding her purpose Sori is firmly established in hers: studying the remains of long-dead drones with a combination of analytical professionalism and human compassion.
While clearly more than an un-activated synth sleeper agent she’s still subject to impulsive actions. Which is why her opening scene this episode shows her in bed with Harry Treadaway as Narek; a member of the Romulan senior staff who in fact own the cube. Now I’m no prude and Narek, as mentioned, is played by Harry Treadaway, so I see the appeal. But from a story-telling perspective hooking Sori and Narek up this quickly feels like Picard again trying to rush through its plotting. When a real relationship, built on shared interests and compassions is far more narratively rich to pull the ‘Sleeping with the Enemy’ twist on. Because Narek is so obviously going to betray her that his meeting with a Starfleet double agent feel more like espionage script box checking than an unexpected reveal.
After an action-packed opening ‘Maps and Legends’ largely concerns itself with careful set-up and exposition. Crucially though none of it though is boring. A flashback to the synth attack on Mars crams enough character into a short space of time to give the event a strong tragic weight. Picard’s investigation into Dahj allows us to learn more about his housekeepers Laris and Zhaban, who are fun and witty enough to carry the scenes. Even the world-building aboard the cube has a sinister sense of intrigue running throughout. Whatever Picard intends to be its clearly something that its still building towards. However, this episode demonstrates that it has the tools to get there, all it needs now is the right momentum to…well, engage.
Picard is available to stream from Amazon Prime UK