[Warning: The post contains spoilers from Thursday's episode of Star Trek: Picard, titled "Maps and Legends." Read at your own risk.]
We're starting to get a clearer picture of the Romulans' mysterious connection to the Borg in Star Trek: Picard and it's a doozy. Thursday's episode of the CBS All Access series revealed a startling relationship in which the Romulans have subjugated a group of ex-Borg, experimenting on the synthetic beings in the hopes of better understanding them for nefarious reasons that have yet to be revealed. Among the brilliant scientists attached to the project is Soji (Isa Briones), a newcomer who doesn't share in the Romulans' disdain for AI and hopes to help them.
Soji's arrival on the the Artifact, a sort of replica of the Borg Cube, comes in the wake of her twin sister Dahj's (Briones) death at the hands of the Romulans she is now working with. Both were revealed to be AI created from Data's neurons, though it looks like neither had any idea of their synthetic origins and were instead implanted with fake human memories. With Picard (Sir Patrick Stewart) racing to find Soji in the hopes of protecting her, things are about to get even more complicated for the remaining now that she's involved with the Romulan Narek (Harry Treadaway), who's only cozying up to her to find the remaining AI like her and destroy them.
As questions surrounding Soji's origins loom, TV Guide spoke to Isa Briones about what's ahead including Soji's "dysfunctional" relationship with Narek and why Briones feels so protective of the character.
Being a part of Star Trek: Picard's first season must have been the experience of a lifetime. What was it like working on set with Sir Patrick Stewart?
Isa Briones: Well, he was the first person I met in this whole process besides the director who I auditioned for. But yeah, I met Patrick and I was so, so nervous. He's this legend of stage and screen so it was nerve-wracking. But God, he's just the most calming presence, the most generous person and actor and really is a dream to work with. That sets the bar so high for all of us, not just in talent, but in how he carries this show. He really makes all of us want to rise to that occasion and he's the perfect leader.
What wisdom did impart, if any, while you were working together?
Briones: He's not [one to] talk down to anyone. [It's] really just the way that he is. The way that he lives is basically a master class for anyone walking and paying attention. I think the thing that struck me the most was just is kindness throughout every part of the process of making this [show]. He was always so generous and kind to everyone.
Dahj is dead so now the focus seems to be on Soji. Is that the last we've seen of Dahj or will she pop up in flashbacks?
Briones: There's not much I can say about that, but you are right in that Soji is going to be [the focus]. You'll be seeing a lot more of Soji and we're kind of following her journey right now.
We know very little about Soji so far. What can you say about who she is and where she comes from?
Briones: As you can see, she's working on the Borg artifact right now. She's got a very interesting job. She's kind of caring for these ex-Borg, which I think is really cool because you get to see what an empathetic person she is, which is interesting when you know she really values emotion and and that is kind of ironic in the way that she is. I think that a lot of the journey is her kind of figuring out who she is. I think she's very much in the dark about her own path and about her life and her identity, but you get to see a young woman come into her own and decide for herself who she is and who she wants to be.
It's interesting that she is working with the Romulans on the Artifact because the Romulans don't share Soji's sympathetic view of these ex-Borg. How would you describe her dynamic with the Romulans?
Briones: I think if you look at anyone who is working for an organization that they may not completely agree with, it is a job and they're doing what they can to do good. So that is kind of her situation right now. She has a really important job and may not completely agree with what the Romulans are doing. She obviously feels very deeply for the ex-Borg in a way that a lot of the Romulans don't, but still she's showing up every day and doing the job because she knows what she's doing can help — even if it's within an organization that is kind of against her beliefs.
Things have progressed rather quickly between Soji and Narek, who first met in the premiere. How would you describe what's going on between them? Is it just a fling or could there be something more?
Briones: Because I used to be on tour with Hamilton, I kind of compare their relationship on the Borg Cube to what it's like being on tour. You're always with the same people and obviously, you get lonely. You know, there's this new guy Narek. He comes in and shows interest in Soji's work and [he's] a new face and he seems different. I think he's intriguing in a way that he's unlike the other people that she has seen on the on the Artifact before. Their relationship is something that is going to be fun to watch and unravel. It's a very passionate and secretive and complicated relationship. But, you know, what isn't?
The audience knows that he's up to something and he seems to know more about Soji than she does. so how aware is she of his ulterior motives? Does she suspect anything or is she kind of oblivious to this mysterious guy right now?
Briones: I don't want to call her oblivious because I think that would be kind of annoying to say about a woman in a relationship. She obviously knows that he's keeping secrets, but she also knows that that is a very Romulan way of living. I think, more than anything, she's curious. As much as he's keeping secrets from her, she's just trying to figure him out because in her line of work, her job is trying to figure people out, just trying to get inside someone's mind. That is exactly what she's trying to do with Narek, so I think there is that kind of aspect of how exciting that relationship is because he's that nut that she can't crack. Trying to get someone to open up, I feel like they represent a very dysfunctional but interesting relationship.
Absolutely. And thanks for checking me on the "oblivious" thing. There's still some, maybe internalized misogyny, I need to unlearn.
Briones: Definitely. You don't even think about it. But I feel like I've become very protective of Soji in certain ways because a lot of people can make assumptions about the character. I think they saw Dahj was so kickass that then they're like, 'Oh, is Soji gonna be like...oh she's the fast one," but what I really want to say is Soji's strong as hell, and you're going to see why. It looks like she's being manipulated and being lied to, obviously from Narek, but the cool journey is how she rises above that.
She's definitely someone a lot of women can relate to.
Briones: You see it in every aspect of her character. She can be undermined at work, she can be undermined in relationship and I feel like that is just a struggle that so many women have to go through even in today's world. So you get to kind of watch her go through that and completely prove everyone wrong.
You seem to have really connected with Soji, so what have you learned about yourself in playing her this season?
Briones: I'm very young and I'm trying to figure out who I am and that's exactly what Soji is going through which is why I feel really connected to her and so protective. It feels like me and starting this new, exciting journey of being in Picard. It feels very weird what Soji is going through in discovering who she is and and figuring out what her power is. Of course that can be physically in her case because she's synthetic and she can do all these amazing things. But also for me as a young woman, it's like discovering your power as a person and your strength of character and will and your willingness to fight for yourself and stand up for yourself. [That] is something I feel so many young women need to learn, and often don't feel like they have. So getting to play Soji, who has that strength inside of her but has to really work to find it, is really exciting.
What else are you excited to explore this season? What can you tease?
Briones: All [of] the characters feel broken in some way, or feel like they're missing something or feel lost and I think the only thing I can tease about this is that we all, through some kind of unconventional means, find that missing part of us or realize that it's been there the whole time through each other and through camaraderie.
New episodes of Star Trek: Picard drop every Thursday on CBS All Access.