"Et in Arcadia Ego Part 1" is the first of the two parts in which the final episode of the “Picard” series is divided Amazon Prime, set in the Star Trek universe.
It is difficult to present the episode in a few lines, as it is divided into two parts, so I will avoid giving my personal opinion on what I have seen until I have completed it completely. I hope you understand my position.
Here I leave you the list of our previous articles in order to better prepare you for the season finale: Brief introductory guide, Episode One, Episode Two, Episode Three, Episode Four, Episode five, Bet Six, Episode Seven, Episode Otto.
“Et in Arcadia Ego” a title that already contains everything
Shall we start with some easter eggs? We already have the first in the title of this episode. We immediately perceive the theme of duality that will be present throughout this first part of the season finale. The title of this episode refers to a painting, or rather two, one by Guercino and the other by Poussin.
The interpretation of what this sentence intends and its entry into the collective imagination, with the passing of the centuries, is known, but for the sake of scruple I report below two analyzes of this inscription:
- the omnipresence in time and space of death (catfish - I am also present in Arcadia);
- the transience in the face of the death of the literary glory of the deceased (were - I was also in, I was part of Arcadia).
After having cheered ourselves up with this observation of the inevitability of our existence, together with taxes, let's analyze the episode in more detail.
Transcurvature ducts, chronotonic particles and collisions between shuttles
The episode begins where we left off, in a transwarp conduit pointing towards the planet of synthetics. The first time we saw such a conduit was in "Hopes and Fears", the last episode of the fourth season of "Star Trek: Voyager". Sure, in those days the special effects weren't the best, with the bluish gray color, but the Borg transwarp ducts had a fundamental contribution to the narrative of that series.
A bit like chronotonic particles! In countless Star Trek series, time travel has been one of the fundamental topoi of storytelling. Chronotonic particles have always been closely linked with the Borg Collective, but not only with them. The fact is that, to take advantage of transwarp conduits or temporal vortices, Borg ships use these kinds of particles as a shield to prevent the ship from falling apart. In the previous episode, Soji was about to throw "The Siren" into a transwarp conduit without this kind of shielding. Not a very smart move.
As if that were not enough, in addition to Captain Rios' ship, another vessel also took the same conduit: Narek's vessel. In the immediate moments following the exit from the tunnel, the Romulan engages in a firefight. For the first time we see an astrodog fight worthy of the name. There are no longer the immense flagships to collide as in “La Nemesi”, but small shuttles. Do you know why I am talking about the film “La Nemesi”? In a deleted scene, after the fight against the Scimitar, the Enterprise-E ship is being repaired and finally the seat belts are inserted, a device that we finally find also on “La Sirena”.
During the fight, Narek puts in place a maneuver similar to one carried out in the past by Jean-Luc Picard, that is to project a false trace linked to the concealment. Picard instead moved the ship at warp speed to appear in two places simultaneously. In any case, the battle ends very quickly thanks to the arrival of flying space orchids and the Borg Cube "commanded" by Seven of Nine.
A planet named Coppelius and its flowers
As mentioned a few moments ago, the clash ends when some space plants from the planet put the ships out of use. Before talking about these plants, capable of resisting the void, I would like to focus on the name of the planet: Coppelius. In the short story "The Sandman" written by ETA Hoffmann, Coppelius is Nathanael's antagonist, as well as the stealer of an artificial life form created by Professor Coppola.
In addition to being one of the most interesting and distressing works of the writer, this story talks about the loss of lucidity, ambiguity and the creation of "synthetics", topics that have found ample space throughout the series we are talking about.
The duality of Data and Lore, that of the new synthetics named Sutra and his sister Jana, are just some of the classic examples of this concept of duality, of comparison between good and evil, the fear of accepting changes and the will to evolve psychologically .
But let's go to the little flowers. A careful eye will surely have noticed the similarity of these with those present in the theme song of "Star Trek: Discovery", go to 00:59 and see what I'm talking about.
It is not the first time that we have found a link between "Picard" and "Discovery". Let's just hope there can be a logical explanation. The choice of orchids, on the other hand, is widely documented throughout the series. In Daji's house there are orchids, as well as where Soji lives, and they are also present in childhood memories during Romulan meditation. I look forward to seeing this Gordian knot untied as well.
"The Siren" out of order, the Cube out of order, Picard out of order
In the following moments "the landing" on the planet, in the episode "Et in Arcadia Ego", the pathology of which Picard is suffering, manifests itself in all its gravity, so much so that it can be recognized by a years old medical tricorder. The irumodic syndrome will leave him no way out. Many years have passed since Q showed the future to Jean-Luc, a future where that pathology was wearing him down. Well, we've come to the showdown. With the ship out of order, the cheerful gang decides to take a stroll towards Synthville with the fear of possible encounters with the Gorn and mushrooms capable of destroying entire crops. Did someone say easter egg?
We have talked extensively about the Gorn in previous articles, but the fugitives deserve some attention. In the fourteenth episode of the classic series of "Star Trek", a mushroom infestation devastates the food supplies of the federal planet Tarsus IV and its governor Kodos decides to put to death half of the population, after having selected them through obvious eugenic choices, in order to allow the colony to survive. "The magnificence of the king" was one of the first episodes to deal with very dubious moral choices within the Federation.
After the walk to the Cube, our heroes are greeted by the omnipresent “Balance of Terror” soundtrack which then fades into the more hopeful theme of “Star Trek: Voyager”. The next scene leads to the farewell of Jean-Luc from Elnor, never very present in this series, and Seven of Nine, not before yet another Borg recognizes him as Locutus. The outing resumes while the two left behind repair the defensive positions of the Cube. Perhaps they will find some use in the next and final episode.
Of twins and mad scientists in Synthville
In the episode “Et in Arcadia Ego, part 1” we find one of the themes so dear to Star Trek: the twins.
Very often, in past series (original and otherwise), pairs of twins were used to make a situation more real. This episode is no exception.
Upon arrival in the synthetic settlement, we see pairs of twins training in the Mok'bara, a Klingon martial art already seen in the episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, playing the famous three-dimensional chess so dear to the Vulcans and, after the ritual introductions, a familiar face approaches.
Brent Spinner has once again lent his face to the franchise, this time wearing the shoes of another member of the Soong family. After being Noonien Soong, Alrik Soong, Data, Lore and B-4, he is now Altan Inigo Soong. Except that he introduces himself as a mad scientist, but have you noticed his name? AI Soong. Could he be an artificial intelligence too? Maybe not, but they sure enjoyed it.
And finally the late Jana's sister Sutra arrives. Here we meet, in my opinion, one of the villains of the series. Although the character is presented to us as a logical being, a scholar of Surak's Vulcan doctrine, capable of mental fusions, playing the ka'athrya (a sort of twelve-stringed lute), we also understand that the best part of her is dead. when her sister Jana was killed by the captain of the Ibn'Majid on the orders of Commodore Oh.
The thing that troubled me most in this scene is not so much that an android can be passionate about Surak's doctrine, but that a non-Vulcan can make a mental fusion. If I have to look for an explanation I go back to the classic series, when Spock merges with a silicon-based life form. If that was possible, then it is also possible that an android can learn mind fusion.
Warning and Mass Effect
Basically, I think the writers of the series, or those of the episode "Et in Arcadia Ego", have played a little too much on the Mass Effect series. Of course, after years and years it is normal that ideas may be scarce, but that the Admonition can be used to rally a Federation of synthetics, on rather distressing ships, so full of hooked tentacles, to defend other synthetics, a little reminds me the arrival of the raiders in the Milky Way.
But that's another story. Let's analyze the Warning in detail: the images that follow are the classic cycle of life. In this case, particular emphasis is placed on duality and replication. The organic hand touching the inorganic hand is a clear reference to Michelangelo Buonarroti's “Creation of Adam” fresco. Other images follow one another and it is suggested that this Warning is constantly “updated” by this alliance of highly evolved synthetics, as shown by the images of Airiam and Data.
In the end, the Warning is clear. Call us and we will destroy all those who are trying to eliminate you. Again the reference to Control, known in the second season of Star Trek: Discovery, is quite clear. Extinction of organic, imperfect and fallacious life in favor of the synthetic one. And obviously Sutra can only like it.
Synthetic bodies, synthetic butterflies and a synthetic Spot in "Et in Arcadia Ego"
A plethora of synthetic organisms are shown in "Et in Arcadia Ego". From synthetic clothes like the Edo, one of the peoples met in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” to synthetic butterflies, to the synthetic replica of Spot, Data's cat, to a golem.
For the uninitiated, the golem is a figure from Jewish mythology. The name derives from the Hebrew "Gelem" which can mean raw and unfinished matter or lifeless mass. According to the legend, the golem was a "guardian and a protector" a clay giant with no intellectual faculty, but with superhuman strength.
Legend has it that, however much this golem was to be a guardian, he himself turned his strength against his creators, sowing panic in the Prague ghetto, where he was first created, so says the story.
Here the word golem serves more to identify a raw and unfinished body, in which someone's mind will be poured out later. I play what you want that will be destined for a certain captain.
The transfer of memory into a synthetic body was a topic already covered by "Star Trek" with the episode "Una madre per Data". Here we know an android in which the memories of Juliana Tainer Soong had been poured, which we can hypothesize is also the mother of AI Soong. In the episode in question, for the first time we hear about memory transfer in a positronic matrix.
A similar memory rescue seems to have been done a hundred years earlier, to save what was left of Lieutenant Airiam. I avoid any comment on "Star Trek: Discovery" and its hyper-technology.
To complete the presentation of synthetic animals, at the end, we also review Data's beloved cat, Spot. Spot has always been a "problem" cat. She changed sex several times and from long-haired to an orange short-haired cat. I always thought the writers enjoyed seeing if Data, or the viewers themselves, ever noticed the difference. Here cats are serious for me, so yes, I had noticed the difference!
Narek, Sutra and the Romulan fleet
After being taken prisoner, Narek is thrown into a cell surrounded by a force field. This force field is identical to the one present on the USS Shenzhou in "Star Trek: Discovery" in the episode "Battle at the Binary Star", and here, with his savoir faire, he tries to get rid of one of the androids. If the attempt initially fails due to Soji's arrival, after meeting Sutra, the Romulan escapes from his prison and the android who was watching him is killed.
We bet that it was Sutra who freed him and killed the android to create a casus belli against the organic?
I don't always want to compare the evil android to Lore, but in the final speech, when Sutra convinces his friends and family, of the need to make contact with the Synthetic Federation, the obsession with the clash between synthetic life and organic life becomes evident. Already in the episode "The Return of the Borg, Part 1 and 2", Lore was trying in every way to improve the Borg and evolve them into a totally synthetic life, to free them from the flesh, and enslaved his brother Data through the use of the famous and infamous emotion chip. In any case, following Sutra's speech, Jean-Luc Picard is placed under arrest, despite his heartfelt attempt, through a high-sounding, as useless, speech on brotherhood, open-mindedness and much more.
The episode ends with the Romulan Warbirds heading for Coppelius. We can admire Commodore Oh in all his glory on the bridge of a ship which, if it were not for the colors, would look like a Klingon ship. The design, in fact, was recovered from the Klingon ship that appeared in "Star Trek - In Search of Spock".
Et finale in Arcadia Ego, Part 1
This first final episode of “Et in Arcadia Ego” suffers from a very small underlying problem, being divided into two parts. Very often the season finals were divided between one season and the other to have the cliffhanger that "retained" the spectators.
Nothing could be more false.
Thankfully this nonsense idea was put aside but, in my opinion, the episode should have been conceived as a single double episode. Obviously it's a personal taste, but as it was done in "Star Trek: Discovery" even in this one they could have tried a little bit to make a nice long and final episode.
And nothing, I lied. I said that I would not talk about my personal opinions and instead here are some of them.
See you in a week with the final episode of the first season of “Star Trek: Picard”!