Star Trek: Picard revealed something new about the Romulan Star Empire. The Romulan people despise androids and all forms of artificial life. This loathing led to the creation of the Zhat Vash and the Tal Shiar. They don't study cybernetics, and they're after Data's daughters, Dahj and Soji Asha. But some Star Trek: The Next Generation fans have been pointing out that the idea that Romulans don't study cybernetics contradicts a line from the episode "The Defector." In that episode, Admiral Alidar Jarok tells Data, "I know a host of Romulan cyberneticists who would love to be this close to you."
Star Trek: Picard showrunner Michael Chabon took to Instagram to answer this question and some others. Of this apparent contradiction, Chabon says, "Being a 'Romulan cyberneticist' is kind of like being a 'Nazi doctor.' 'I do not find that concept particularly appealing,' Data sagely replies to his Romulan companion. 'Nor should you,' is the telling reply."
Chabon is encouraging fans to look past the text of that line of dialogue into the subtext. Taken in context with what we now know about Romulans and artificial life, it seems that a Romulan cyberneticist is no true cyberneticist at all. At best, they'd be similar to the Romulans working at the Artifact for the Romulan reclamation project, looking to tear Data down for his base tech to sell for a profit. More likely they'd only be interested in making sure Data was destroyed and that the technology that made him was lost forever, which seems to be at least part of the reason why the Zhat Vash is after his daughters now.
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Chabon precedes his explanation with a freestanding "Um…," which suggests that maybe this line of dialogue was overlooked and that he's massaging things a bit after the fact. But Star Trek is a 50-year old franchise. Sometimes you have to make your own wiggle room to tell new and interesting stories without tossing out all of the continuity that came before it. It happens with most if not all long-lived franchises, and this is a pretty minor continuity as far as these things go.
What do you think of this explanation for the dialog in "The Defector"? Let us know how you feel in the comments. New episodes of Star Trek: Picard become available to stream Thursdays on CBS All Access.
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