Trek

Picard sets up a shocking twist straight out of Westworld

Wait, so who's gonna die?

Zapping your human consciousness into a robot body is not a new idea. From Ghost in the Shell to William Gibson's brilliant cyberpunk novel Neuromancer, the idea of transferring your organic wetware into the hardware of an A.I. receptacle remains one of the most compelling ideas in science fiction.

The second-to-last episode of Star Trek: Picard's first season introduces the idea of robot immortality with a sneaky Westworld vibe. That means Picard can only be implying one thing. Somebody is going to die and be reborn in an android body, right?

Spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard episode 9, "Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1." Speculation for episode 10, too. You've been warned. The line must be drawn here!

With the late-in-the-game introduction of Data's previously unknown human brother, Altan Inigo Soong (Brent Spiner), a more important twist is hiding in plain sight. It's much more important than the revelation that Data's creator had a biological son. A self-described "body man," cyberneticist Atlan Soong created a "golem" for himself — an android body that could house his own human mind at some point in the future. Shocked, Dr. Jurati says to Altan, "You cracked mind transfer?"

That faceless body sitting in Soong's lab could become exactly like James Delos in Westworld Season 2. Delos had his mind reborn in a Host body with disastrous results. However, we later learned the Man In Black/William managed to transfer his mind successfully, effectively rendering him reborn in robot form.

Westworld definitely isn't the first show to tap into transferring-brains-into-robot-bodies storylines. (In fact, you could view Westworld as a very NSFW version of the classic Star Trek episode, "Shore Leave," but I digress.) This precedent exists in Star Trek canon, too.

In the TOS episode "Return to Tomorrow," all-power beings ask Kirk, Spock, Scotty and the rest of the crew to build them android bodies to house their super-powerful non-corporeal souls. In "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" Dr. Roger Korby creates a perfect android duplicate of Captain Kirk, and we later learn the mad scientist was an android with a human mind the whole time.

So many secret androids back in the day.CBS

So, a lot of people love downloading their brains into robots. Okay? Star Trek: Picard is doubling-down on old Trek canon, and also, hitting-up a well-trodden sci-fi trope. What's the big deal?

Well, if we bust-out our nerdy fan theory brains, Picard may be foreshadowing a way for Jean-Luc Picard to straight-up die and come back to life.

Think about it. In the second episode, we learned Picard's brain condition from the TNG series finale was back with a vengeance. This week, we learned the prognosis was "terminal." When Picard visited Riker and Troi, they mentioned that their sick son Thad would have been able to pull through, had positronic brain tech not been made illegal throughout the Federation.

What's more, every single episode of Picard has gone out of its way to prove that Soji (and Dahj) are — to borrow a Blade Runner phrase – more human than human. Outside of her superhuman jumping and reading abilities, Soji passes as an organic lifeform. She's got blood, salvia, and a beating heart. She needs to eat food and take showers. The fact that she is a synthetic lifeform is, in every meaningful way, a distinction without a difference. She asked Jurati in episode 8, "Am I a person?" She is, and the audience considers her to be a person. Perhaps even more so than Data.

This means if Jean-Luc died in the season finale, we could accept him subsequently getting reborn in an android body. As of this writing, I have not seen episode 10 of Picard. Still, it seems the path ahead is crystal clear. Dr. Jurati feels awful about Picard's illness. If she's the one at the controls of this whole mind-transfer business, she's not going save the soul of the super-amoral Atlan Soong. She's going to save Jean-Luc.

In real life, Patrick Stewart is 79, but Picard is actually 94 years-old in 2399. IRL, Patrick Stewart is not as feeble as he's acting with Jean-Luc right now. (Reminder: Patrick Stewart is a good actor.) This means if Jean-Luc did get his mind transferred into a new body, Stewart could play Picard with a different kind of vitality. Glow-up time!

Jean-Luc Picard in season 1 of 'The Next Generation'CBS

We already know Star Trek: Picard will have a second season. If the titular character has a terminal illness, then you can bet all your quatloos that the finale of this season will have to resolve that. Right now, putting Picard into that "golem" android body makes the most sense.

If it happens, maybe Jean-Luc and Soji, will finally feel like family members. After all, secret androids have to stick together.

The Season 1 finale of Picard hits CBS All Access on March 26.

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