Death came to Star Trek: Picard last week, and it may come to paradise in the two-part season finale of Star Trek: Picard. On Instagram, series showrunner Michael Chabon revealed the titles for the remaining three episodes of the first season of the CBS All Access series. Episode eight is titled "Broken Pieces." Then comes the two-part finale, "Et in Arcadia Ego" parts one and two. The finale shares a title with a famous painting by Italian Baroque artist GIvannia Francesco Barbieri. Thought the painting is sometimes referred to in English as "The Arcadian Shepherds," the title translates to "I too was in Arcadia." The "I" is death. Arcadia was a pastoral, rural region of Greece during Antiquity. To many Greeks living the city life, the region would have been thought of as a paradise. But still, death exists in paradise.
What do we gather from this title in relation to Star Trek: Picard? We can only speculate, but the utopian society of the United Federation of Planets has often been thought of as a paradise. Benjamin Sisko made the comparison in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, in a scathing monologue chasting the Federation for its handling of the Maquis ("It's easy to be a saint in paradise"). The title seems to suggest death is coming to the Federation.
On a less literal level, this can be seen as the theme of the entire first season of the series. Picard thus far has dealt with the citizens of the Federation who have, in one way or another, fallen from grace while living in paradise. Sometimes it's by their own volition and in other cases its due to circumstances beyond their control. In Picard's case, it's stepping away from Starfleet while there was work left undone. For Raffi and Rios, it was their own poor partings from Starfleet.
The theme has been pervasive enough that some fans questioned whether the Federation was still a utopia at all, or if it viewers have been watching its "downfall." Chabon addressed this question via his Instagram account.
"'Federation downfall?' What Federation downfall? The Federation is still very much alive and well and home to trillions (quadrillions?) of safe, housed, fed, educated citizens with the potential to lead fulfilling lives," Chabon said. "There was a crisis 15 years ago, in the wake of the costly Dominion War and the Romulan emergency, which had a negative impact on the lives of many people, including most of our principal characters, in one way or another, during which Starfleet (and by extension the Federation) did not acquit itself well - in Picard's eyes. From Admiral Clancy's viewpoint, which is likely the mainstream view, Picard's attitude was unrealistic, quixotic, and even dangerous. She may be right! They may both be right, and both wrong. But that was fifteen years ago, and the Federation is still going strong. Perhaps in the eyes of some it lost its luster, its air of invulnerability, its claim to the moral high ground, a process that began during DS9 times. That is hardly a 'downfall', though."
New Star Trek: Picard episodes become available to stream Thursdays on CBS All Access.
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