Star Trek: Picard (CBS All Access)
Season One, Episode Eight – “Broken Pieces”
Written by Michael Chabon
Directed by Maja Vrvilo
We went from an episode that really hit on the themes that make people love Star Trek to an episode that is unrecognizable as a piece of the franchise. “Broken Pieces” is attempting to be an entry so full of plot twists that it has no arc, no structure, just a serialized chapter. There are genuinely some low points for Picard in this one, particularly a plot development with Rios that comes entirely out of nowhere and doesn’t read as an organic progression for the character or the story.
The episode opens with a flashback that’s meant to shock us. We see Oh, Narissa, and Ramdha as part of the Zhat Vash. They are on the planet Aia where a secret cache of information is kept the new inductees must endure as they enter the secret order. Narissa and Ramdha are the only people who survive the experience, and we don’t get much more information on what exactly is going to happen. I am assuming, at this point, an ancient species were wiped out by their own synthetics and before they were killed entirely left warnings. I’m starting to worry that this is going to be the reveal of the origins of the Borg. I’m not really interested in knowing how the Borg came to be, but this is what pop culture is obsessed with prequels and origins.
Nothing in this scene adds to our knowledge about these characters. We already knew Oh and Narissa were part of a conspiracy within Starfleet. Now we learn Ramdha was also part of it, but what actions she took as a member of the Zhat Vash is not revealed. With two episodes left, I doubt we will learn much more about her, maybe I could be wrong. It just seems like there are so many other plates spinning at this moment that a tertiary character just isn’t the most important thing right now. I’m hoping Michael Chabon can surprise me and make her relevant but having doubts.
When Soji is brought to the ship by Picard, it triggers a strange response in Rios who claims to recognize her. The show had been hinting that Rios had a dark moment in his past, and the reveal here is some of the worst writing I’ve seen in the show. Apparently, when Rios was a first officer, his ship picked up two stranger travelers, one of whom looked precisely like Soji. His captain murdered them both and killed himself. Rios would find out that these were orders from Starfleet tied to the Zhat Vash, I guess. The ludicrous nature of this plot reveal stretches the audience’s tolerance. Picard just happened to get a captain who had met someone that looked exactly like the woman he’s trying to find. I think there could have been some reveals that wouldn’t have tested the viewer’s suspension of disbelief.
This is the first episode that really feels like it is trying to create relationships between the supporting cast, but it’s too little too late. For having spent ⅔ of the season setting up the plot and stalling its progression, you would think that time would have been used for this purpose. Now one episode out from the two-part finale, Chabon starts building connections between crew members. There are some decent moments, I liked the exchange between Agnes and Soji, with the former being called out for literally objectifying Soji as a wonder of human construction rather than an autonomous being. I wish Soji had joined the crew earlier so we could have more time to watch the relationships develop. Instead, by the end, we are rushed into the final act.
The most annoying thing is how Picard is absent for most of this episode. The reason most people are watching is because of him, and there’s nothing wrong with spending time on other characters. But if you aren’t going to make other aspects of the series feel like Star Trek and structure the show like any other contemporary serialized program, then just make a new Star Trek show with some guest appearances by old characters. I really can’t see how Picard furthered his arc in this episode, and so much time is spent on the embarrassing Rios storyline.