Ten things we learned from Maps and Legends

Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for Maps and Legends and Remembrance, as well as for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

Maps and Legends was a solid episode, and a good continuation of the story that Remembrance set up. Despite not quite reaching the same heights as the first episode of the season, it was enjoyable nevertheless, and we got a lot of new information that, while setting up story elements for later in the season, also tells us about the Star Trek galaxy in the final year of the 24th Century.

You can read my full review of Maps and Legends by clicking or tapping here, and in this article I’m going to look at ten points of interest from the episode as we wait impatiently for the next one!

Number 1: The Romulans seem to be doing better than we thought.

One of the Romulan guards aboard the Artifact.

Because Picard has at least two Romulans working with him at the Château, and because of the total destruction of his planned rescue armada, I surmised after watching Remembrance that the Romulan situation was pretty bad. Though I wrote then that “they aren’t completely out of the game”, it seemed that things were rough for the surviving Romulans.

But we learnt a lot more in Maps and Legends about the status of the Romulans, and it seems things aren’t actually as bad as we’d thought. Obviously the supernova and the loss of their capital has caused significant upheaval, but the Romulans seem to be doing remarkably well despite this.

The Romulan Free State – which I’m assuming is a successor to the Romulan Star Empire based upon its control of the Artifact and that it seems to have a strong military – remains an independent faction. While there is cooperation with the Federation at least, as seen from Soji and other non-Romulans aboard the Artifact, they seem to be in a pretty good position all things considered.

Not only are their operatives – now known to be a new Romulan faction called the Zhat Vash – able to freely operate on Earth, even at the heart of Starfleet, but Romulan intelligence agents have penetrated Starfleet itself.

My personal belief at this stage is that Commodore Oh, despite what was hinted at in Maps and Legends, is actually a Vulcan who’s simply a co-conspirator. But Lieutenant Rizzo is absolutely confirmed to be a Romulan agent. The goal of the Zhat Vash is seemingly to track down and eliminate synthetic life, but I’m sure having an operative strategically placed within Starfleet intelligence brings the Romulans other dividends! And if they managed to get one person in, given an organisation the size of Starfleet it’s at least possible that there are others.

The Romulans have always been a secretive faction, and their power plays in other iterations of Star Trek have tended to be more covert than overt, so this really fits nicely with what we know about them and how we might expect them to behave.

For a more detailed look at the Romulans, I wrote an article before Star Trek: Picard premiered which you can find by clicking or tapping here. Suffice to say, however, that this isn’t their first tussle with Starfleet, nor their first time using undercover agents to try to gain the upper hand. The Khitomer conspiracy, which Kirk and his crew managed to stop at the last moment, had heavy Romulan involvement. Indeed, this seems to be one of the inspirations for the Starfleet conspiracy aspect of Picard’s storyline.

Number 2: The Borg survived the events of Voyager’s finale.

Endgame saw a time-travelling Admiral Janeway infect the Borg with a virus and provide future technology to Voyager’s crew.

It was always a bit of a long shot to think that Admiral Janeway’s actions in Endgame, the finale of Star Trek: Voyager, would have wiped out the Collective entirely. After all, they survived the loss of one Borg Queen during the events of First Contact, and that barely seemed to affect them at all. Not to mention the war they fought against Species 8472 that was said to have cost them thousands of ships and millions of drones.

One of the reasons that the Borg are so dangerous is their adaptability. And the virus that future Janeway introduced, as well as the upgrades she provided to Voyager, may have worked in the short term, but once the Borg have adapted they essentially become useless. This makes me wonder very much about the grey badges worn by Soji and others aboard the Artifact – will they lose their effectiveness, and if the remaining Borg on that “graveyard” were to wake up, would they be able to adapt to the technology the Romulans and others have deployed?

Borg stories can be difficult in Star Trek for the simple reason that the Borg Collective, in theory, is an overwhelmingly powerful opponent for our heroes. A single Borg cube was able to destroy almost 40 Federation ships in their first engagement, and a second cube came very close to assimilating Earth a few years later. In Voyager we saw them deploy dozens of ships against a Delta Quadrant species, conquering and assimilating the planet very quickly. If they used similar tactics against the Federation they’d surely be successful. So just knowing that the Collective still exists, that they’re out there waiting, is dramatic in itself.

Ever since the Enterprise-D first confirmed the existence of the Borg more than thirty years prior to the events of Star Trek: Picard, Starfleet has maintained a tactical division working on technologies and strategies to defeat them. But as we saw in The Best of Both Worlds and in First Contact, Federation technology lags far behind what the Borg are capable of. If they could so easily shrug off a devastating war against Species 8472, the damage inflicted upon them in Endgame would have scarcely registered. The lost ships and complex could be easily rebuilt – the Borg control so much Delta Quadrant territory as to have near limitless resources – and the virus that future Janeway used would be rendered harmless once an adaptation could be found. Adaptations to the virus and the technology she brought from the future would be rolled out to the entire Collective in a short span of time, and it would all be essentially useless thereafter.

The Artifact is cut off from the Collective, and given it has been under Romulan control for a long time (possibly even a couple of decades depending on how we interpret the number of “cycles” that the Romulans claim to have had it) it seems unlikely that the Borg are coming back for it anytime soon. But there could still very well be dangers lurking in the “grey zone” – and as I said in my review, I have a feeling that Soji’s new friend, the Trill doctor, isn’t going to last very long. There was too much foreshadowing for that not to happen!

Number 3: It’s looking increasingly likely that someone hacked the synthetics and compelled them to attack Mars.

The moment F8 turns on his human colleagues – was he hacked?

I wrote previously that the attack on Mars was not random. It was a calculated, deliberate action against a well-chosen target. For the synths to all malfunction at once, and all decide to go after Mars instead of, for example, other Federation targets, or instead of simply killing nearby humans or going on a rampage, strongly suggests that they were being controlled by an outside force.

F8, the synthetic who the first part of the episode focuses on, appears to receive a transmission, or to be processing something. He stops what he’s doing, his eyes change, and then he begins to take down the Martian defences in his sector. It’s only when the humans on his work crew attempt to interrupt him that he fights them; if he and the other synthetics had suddenly been overcome with a simple urge to rebel, it seems more likely that he’d have just attacked the people in his vicinity rather than performing the complex task of compromising the shields and defensive weapons around Mars.

Because the entire attack unfolds in a matter of just seconds, whatever happened to F8 had to have affected all of the synths practically simultaneously. This adds further credence to the idea that they were hacked, as does F8’s suicide. If this had been some kind of synthetic rebellion, a terrorist attack to highlight the plight of synthetics or to inspire rebellion among others, it wholly failed because as a consequence of what happened on Mars, synthetic life was banned and synthetic research largely shut down. The suicide of F8 – and presumably the other synths as well – would make sense if an outside hacker were covering their tracks. By destroying the synths after they’d achieved their goal of destroying the fleet and shipyard, there was no evidence to understand what happened, nor point to any culprit other than the synths themselves.

When it comes to who was responsible for the hack, however, we can only speculate as there’s basically no evidence to go on at this point in the story.

Number 4: Starfleet has been infiltrated.

Lt. Rizzo and Commodore Oh are co-conspirators.

I mentioned this above when discussing the Romulans, but at least one Romulan agent has managed to infiltrate Starfleet, and not just any branch of Starfleet, either. Commodore Oh appears to be a senior officer in Starfleet security, specifically the department of Starfleet security responsible for security on Earth.

There were a couple of elements in play here that I felt riffed off past Star Trek storylines. Star Trek: Picard has been great at that so far; throwing the audience little hints, names, visual details, and now thematic elements that harken back to previous iterations of the franchise. In particular, the Commodore Oh-Rizzo-Narek group of characters plays on themes we saw in The Undiscovered Country. In that film, Romulan agents, including undercover agents in Starfleet, attempted to disrupt Federation-Klingon peace efforts. There were also very subtle hints, I felt, at The Next Generation’s first season, particularly the episodes Coming of Age and Conspiracy – a duology of episodes dealing with parasitic organisms which were attempting to gain control of the Federation.

Playing up these themes is great; returning fans get further confirmation that this really is Star Trek, taking place in the same timeline, and for new fans it’s so subtle that it doesn’t get in the way of the story one iota.

From a story point of view, I have a suspicion that Commodore Oh is in fact a Vulcan, not a Romulan, and is simply a co-conspirator. Perhaps the Zhat Vash, because they have centuries’ worth of experience in tracking down synthetics, are a natural ally for someone like Oh as she tries to enforce the “galactic treaty” banning synthetics.

Lt. Rizzo, however, is very much a Romulan agent. Whether she’s the only one of the Zhat Vash undercover in Starfleet isn’t clear, but she definitely has it in for Soji.

Number 5: The show has broken viewership and streaming records.

The logo for CBS All Access original shows.

Star Trek: Picard was the most-watched series ever on its channel when it premiered on Canadian television. More than 1.1 million viewers tuned in to the CTV Sci-Fi Channel to watch Remembrance last week, which is a new record for the channel. Great job, Canadian Trekkies!

Additionally, CBS All Access broke the 10 million subscribers mark in the week leading up to Picard premiering. It’s possible that, due to the way CBS All Access reports subscriber numbers, not all of those are paid subscriptions as some may be a free trial, but it’s good news regardless. CBS All Access is the platform for Star Trek in the United States, and if the franchise is to survive long-term we need CBS All Access to succeed. This is a good indication that it’s on track to do well at least for now.

Finally, both Remembrance and Maps and Legends are among the most-pirated television episodes right now. While this of course means that CBS and others aren’t making money from those views, it does indicate that there’s a huge number of people interested in seeing Picard right now. Discovery, by the way, never came close to being the most-torrented or most-downloaded show, not even its premiere. Other shows that have been massively pirated in the last twelve months include Game of Thrones, The Witcher, and Chernobyl – all of which were hugely successful for their parent companies. Piracy should be seen as a reflection of how much interest there is in a series, so seeing Picard right up near the top is, despite what ViacomCBS might be inclined to think at first, remarkably good news.

The level of excitement for Picard was sky-high before Remembrance premiered. I’ve had friends and family who didn’t watch Discovery and who may not have watched any Star Trek property since the 1990s asking me about Picard and telling me they’re going to tune in, so I think that the show is really riding high right now. Hopefully the interest and excitement can be maintained over the whole season and the series can continue to be the biggest hit – so far, at least – for this new generation of Star Trek shows.

Number 6: The rank of Commodore still exists!

Commodore Oh in uniform.

In The Original Series, and I want to say in The Animated Series as well (but I’m not 100% sure on that), there were several characters who held the rank of Commodore. Starfleet ranks imitate United States Navy ranks, where a Commodore is essentially a nonspecific rank offered to senior Captains. Previously the rank was used for a Captain who was in command of more than one ship – a kind of half-step between a Captain and an Admiral.

But since the era of The Original Series we haven’t seen anyone in Starfleet holding that rank (at least not in canon). It was possible that, as in the United States Navy today, the rank was less commonly used or only honorary, but this is evidently not the case.

Commodore Oh is clearly a senior commander in Starfleet security on Earth, and may even be wholly in charge of Earth’s security as she seems to report directly to Admiral Clancy, who is in charge of Starfleet. This is a serious responsibility, and her rank reflects this.

Her uniform is a point of note, however. Red has been the colour of command officers since the The Next Generation era, yet she is wearing the yellow/gold of security. Her uniform is also the same as Lt. Rizzo’s, and not the same as Admiral Clancy’s, despite both a Commodore and an Admiral technically being flag officers. She has a single rank pip, which presumably denotes her status as a Commodore, and her rank pip has a background to it as opposed to the pips Lt. Rizzo has, which are plain.

I looked at the combadges used in the new Starfleet uniforms in my review of Maps and Legends, but hopefully as we see more of the uniforms in the next few episodes I’ll be able to do more of a breakdown. One thing I did spot, though, was that the coloured portion of the uniform features a Starfleet logo pattern, similar to the uniforms of the Kelvin-timeline films.

Number 7: There may be more Sojis and Dahjs out there.

Picard with Bruce Maddox – the man who we assume built Soji and Dahj – aboard the Enterprise-D.

This was implied during the conversation between Rizzo and Oh. They talk about finding a “nest” of synthetics, and interrogating Dahj and Soji to learn where they came from so they can be tracked to their source.

It makes sense that, if it was possible to create Soji and Dahj three years ago, there could be more that have been built subsequently. When Soji said, at the end of Remembrance, that she had a sister I wasn’t convinced that she was referring to Dahj at first. I thought it might’ve been an interesting story point to learn that she was talking about someone else, but Dahj’s last name being confirmed seems to put that particular theory to bed.

However, it’s possible that there are still others out there like Soji, and that she and Dahj weren’t the only ones created by Dr Maddox – or whoever it turns out is ultimately responsible.

Number 8: The Artifact may have been under Romulan control for decades.

The Romulans have controlled the Artifact for a long time.

I hinted at this above, but three moments in Maps and Legends suggest that the Romulans may have been holding onto that Borg cube and its technology for a very long time.

Firstly we have the sign hanging in the checkpoint area. It says, in English and in Romulan, that the Artifact has “gone 5843 days without an assimilation”. 5843 days is around sixteen years, so the Romulans must’ve had control of the Artifact for at least that long.

This ties in closely with the next scene, where Soji is assisting with the dismantling of Borg drones recovered from the Artifact. The drone she and her Romulan colleagues are working on – that the Romulans call “Nameless” – is said to have been in regeno-stasis for fourteen years. Depending on what precisely regeno-stasis means (a combination of stasis with Borg regeneration?), this drone has been inactive for some time. However, the most recent assimilation aboard the Artifact took place longer ago than the drone has been inactive – so that raises the question of what was happening aboard the Artifact at that time. Were there still Borg alive and working on board when the Romulans first arrived? If so, were they still connected to the Collective at that time? The Collective currently sees the Artifact as a “graveyard” according to Narek, but if there were still Borg alive for potentially two years after the Romulans captured it, could the rest of the Collective be aware of what’s going on?

Finally, back at the checkpoint scene, we have the number of “Ops Cycles” stated by one of the Romulan guards. Maps and Legends takes place during or at the beginning of Ops Cycle 9834. If Ops Cycles are equivalent to standard Earth days, that would mean that the Artifact has been under Romulan control for almost 27 years – which would put them capturing the Borg vessel sometime around the year 2372. This would coincide with the second season of Voyager and the fourth season of Deep Space Nine, prior to the outbreak of the Dominion War. While this is a possibility, I think it’s more likely that we’re looking at a 14-16 year timeframe for the Romulans’ capture of the Artifact, which would place it not too far away from the attack on Mars. Could the Borg have been involved with that?

Number 9: The Romulans have a new emblem.

The Romulans’ new emblem.

This was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it affair, but the Romulans do indeed have a new emblem. It appears to be a stripped-down version of the one we’d seen in The Next Generation era. That emblem featured what appeared to be a winged creature gripping something in its talons, and this design, in a dark red/maroon colour, is a similar shape with a spread-wings design.

It can be glimpsed briefly behind Soji while she’s working on the Nameless Borg drone, and if I had to speculate – which you know I do – I’d say it’s the emblem of the new Romulan Free State.

The new emblem can also be seen – though much less clearly – on the railings in the checkpoint scene aboard the Artifact. There may have been other appearances that I didn’t notice!

Number 10: Picard is dying.

Dr Benayoun brought Picard the worst possible news.

This was arguably the biggest revelation of the episode. Picard asked his doctor – who happens to be an old crewmate from the Stargazer – to certify that he’s fit for duty to Starfleet as part of his plan to get reinstated. But his scans revealed something in the parietal lobe (a section of the brain).

Dr Benayoun isn’t sure exactly what the abnormality represents, but all of the conditions it could cause “end the same way” – i.e. in Picard’s death.

In The Next Generation’s finale, All Good Things, Picard learned that he would suffer from something called Irumodic Syndrome, and this was clearly a reference to that. Picard tells Dr Benayoun that he had been told this parietal lobe issue could become a problem, and Benayoun refers to the collection of conditions that could afflict Picard as “syndromes”. Irumodic Syndrome looked to be something similar to Alzheimer’s disease insofar as it was a degenerative condition.

Later in Maps and Legends, Laris sarcastically asks Picard if he’s suffering from “dementia”, which I think is another reference to Picard’s age and state of health.

This diagnosis, such as it is, changes the tone of the show. No longer is Picard merely coming out of retirement, overcoming his depression, and finding a cause worth getting involved with. All of those elements are still present, but in addition is the sense that his time is running out. Whatever condition he has – presumably Irumodic Syndrome – is terminal. And, if Dr Benayoun is right, it won’t be a pleasant death.

Picard is now a man facing his own mortality, and more than that, he’s facing the prospect of losing himself before the disease kills him. This is clearly an allegory for degenerative conditions faced by many people today as they enter old age – I mentioned Alzheimer’s disease but there are many others. Many of us will have known someone who suffered from such a condition. There are several people I can call to mind in my family and among friends and neighbours. There will be consequences for Picard as a result of this diagnosis. We may not see his decline and death on screen – though that may be something the showrunners have in mind for later seasons – but as Picard assembles his crew and ventures into space, at the back of our minds we’ll be wondering if this really will be his final mission. Unlike in the past, when he’d been able to escape even what seemed to be insurmountable challenges like being assimilated by the Borg, this time there is no escaping his own mortality.

So that’s it.

Ten things from Maps and Legends. Despite being two episodes in already, Star Trek: Picard is still playing its cards close to its chest; we have far more questions than answers right now. The biggest answer we got from Maps and Legends, or at least the closest thing to an answer we got, is that the synthetics on Mars were almost certainly hacked or otherwise interfered with. Who did it and why, however, remains unknown.

As I said last week, I’m glad that we’re getting the episodes on a weekly basis instead of having the whole season at once. Star Trek: Picard has a lot going on, and I think if I’d binge-watched the full season I would have missed a lot of things, especially little references, throwbacks, and easter eggs.

I’m incredibly excited to learn more about the conspiracy in Starfleet, Soji and Dahj’s origins, and to finally meet the rest of the main cast – we’re almost certainly going to meet Santiago Cabera’s character next week and I’m a fan of his. There’s so much still to come, and The End Is The Beginning can’t come quickly enough!

Maps and Legends, the second episode of Star Trek Picard, is available to watch now on CBS All Access in the United States, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and other countries and territories. The Star Trek franchise – including Star Trek: Picard – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.