Even though every television series has a certain percentage of exposition, especially the great science fiction franchises, the amount tends to fluctuate from episode to episode. A series with such complexities as the ones we see within Star Trek: Picard requires more than a modicum of exposition. All throughout the Star Trek franchise, we have seen exposition and its importance questioned.
Maps and Legends, as a single episode, presents more information than possibly the entire first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. This point is exemplified in an early scene.
The scene, intertwined with one set at the Picard vineyard, sees Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Laris (Orla Brady) actively investigating the Greater Boston apartment where Dahj (Isa Briones) and her boyfriend (David Carzell) were attacked by then-unknown assailants. We have since discovered that those assailants were members of a secret Romulan cabal known as the Jhad Vash. The sect has a profoundly deep hatred from all synthetic lifeforms.
Even though the reason for the sect’s hatred of synthetic lifeforms is unclear, in two prominent Star Trek: TNG stories, Lt Commander Data (Brent Spiner) was instrumental in preventing the Romulan Star Empire from forwarding plans to destabilise the Klingon Empire and invade Vulcan.
The ST: TNG fifth season premiere, Redemption II, saw Data ignore orders and prevent a Romulan fleet from entering Klingon space. Data’s actions left the Duras sisters, Lursa (Barbara March) and B’Etor (Gwynyth Walsh), without Romulan military support. The Duras sisters fled before they could be captured.
Later that same season, during Unification I and Unification II, Data was assisted by the then Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy) with infiltrating the Romulan Security Net. Romulan Commander Sela (Denise Crosby), even though she came to respect Data in battle, found his meddling a tad tiresome. Romulan plans for both the Klingon homeworld and Vulcan were abandoned.
Whilst the mentioned Star Trek: TNG stories had far-reaching implications within the franchise, not that there isn’t at least a modicum of logic to my reasoning, whether Data’s involvement in preventing Romulan plans from moving forwards is purely speculation.
As Maps and Legends unfolds, even before Commodore Oh (Tamlyn Tomita) reveals herself to the viewing audience as a Jhad Vash operative, there are signs indicating Laris is correct.
Shortly after Admiral Kirsten Clancy (Ann Magnuson) denies Picard’s request to be temporarily reinstated, the admiral contacts Oh. She informs the commodore of what transpired during her heated conversation with the retired admiral. On Oh’s desk, there is a box with a gold emblem. Whilst it isn’t visible to Clancy, as the audience, we can see it. Whilst the emblem is indicative of Romulan design, it could be mistaken for something of Vulcan origin.
This isn’t the first time a Romulan organisation has gained access to the highest levels within Starfleet. During the Star Trek: TNG fourth season episode Data’s Day, it is Vulcan Ambassador T’Pel revealed (Sierra Pecheur) is an undercover Romulan operative. The deception is not revealed until after T’Pel transported from the USS Enterprise-D to a Romulan warbird.
The commodore isn’t the only Romulan operative working on Earth. The surgically altered Lieutenant Narissa Rizzo (Peyton List) is working with Oh on Earth. Rizzo, Narek’s (Harry Treadaway) sister, was one of the assailants that had attacked Dahj in the previous episode. With almost all Dahj’s attackers having been killed, given how one of them beamed away, there is no doubt that was Rizzo that almost fell to her death.
Speaking of Narek, with him having quickly become intimately involved with Dr Soji Asher (Isa Briones), his duplicitousness is soon unmasked. We, as the viewing audience, see the character’s true nature. With numerous moving parts, as the episode progresses, it becomes clear Maps and Legends is specifically designed to set up a much greater mystery.
The Borg Cube, referenced by the Romulans as being the Artefact, is being exploited for technological advancements. Even though these scenes aren’t as compelling as other parts of the episode, with a distinctly different tone, we might not be looking at them from the correct perspective. How would a Romulan perceive these scenes?
The episode introduces us to former Lt Commander Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd). Musiker, a character created for the comic book miniseries Picard: Countdown, worked aboard the USS Verity as Picard’s first officer. The three-part publication, released in November 2019, revolves around Picard’s efforts to help the Romulan Star Empire prepare for the coming supernova. The supernova was depicted in the 2009 film Star Trek. Musiker, Starfleet’s leading analyst specializing in Romulan Star Empire, had her own way of communicating that didn’t always follow the organisation’s rigid formality.
Whilst people might find the exposition in this episode a little too heavy, given what has been revealed, it’s clear showrunners have left coming instalments open to exploring the ramifications of what has been learned. Consequently, because of how heavy the exposition is in this instalment, we will undoubtedly see the pace quicken significantly in coming episodes. Picard, as seen in the 1998 film Star Trek: Insurrection, much once again go against Starfleet.
The gold emblem seen on a box in Oh’s office is of Vulcan origin. It is the emblem associated with the IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations). IDIC is the basis of Vulcan philosophy. The emblem is a match to a Vulcan pin.