Picard Recap: “Stardust City Rag” (Season 1, Episode 5)

“Picard still thinks there’s a place in the galaxy for mercy – I didn’t want to disillusion him.”
– Seven of Nine

Previously on Star Trek PicardBruce Madddox developed a new theory of creating synthetic life on par with Data, but disappeared after the ban of synths, leaving Agnes Jurati (Allison Pill) and the Daystrom Institute behind.  So when Picard (Patrick Stewart) decided that he would go off to find Maddox, Jurati insisted upon joining him.  Picard also called his old second-in-command from the Romulan Rescue days, Raffi (Michelle Hurd), and she got them a pilot: Rios (Santiago Cabrera).  Raffi located Maddox on Freecloud, and en route, this motley crew has picked up Elnor (Evan Evagora), a Romulan warrior “nun” who was raised in the ways of Absolute Candor, and Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan).

Thirteen years ago:  A young man is strapped to an operating table, as a chop doc removes his eye with a drill and apparently no anesthesia.  She’s looking for his cortical node.  This is a former Borg.  In fact, it’s Icheb (Casey King), and he’s wearing a Starfleet uniform.  Just as she’s is about to drill further, Seven breaks into the lab and shoots down the doctor and the guards.  Seven tells Icheb that he’s going to be alright, but he knows better, and begs her to end his suffering.  As she holds him close and cries, she shoots him in the chest.  The camera pans out and we see that they are surrounded by blood and dismembered Borg parts and technology.

Two Weeks Ago:  Bruce Maddox has been identified in Stardust City on Freecloud – which looks essentially like Space Vegas.  Bjayzl (Necar Zadegan) orders him killed, but then changes her mind.  She goes to see Maddox (John Ales), offers him some Tranya and gets his side of the story – the Tal Shiar has raided his lab and destroyed all his work with  molecular solvent.  There’s no way he’ll be able to repay her loan, and she brushes that off.  But then Maddox succumbs to some kind of poison, Bjayzl says, “Making a deal with the Tal Shiar is always such a pain in the ass.”

Present Day:  Seven has recovered, and goes to catch up with Picard in his holo-study, in which he’s watching some advertisements for Freecloud, which promises to “keep your secrets.”  Seven has joined the Fenris Rangers, who keep their money on Freecloud – so she’s familiar with it, but hates the place (again, Space Vegas).  Picard admires the Rangers’ goals, but thinks that, in practice, they’re really just vigilantes.  Seven says she’s helping those who have no one else, and it’s either this or give up.  Now that’s something that Picard can identify with.

On the bridge, Raffi is reading a file on Gabriel Hwang, when interrupted by Rios, who is intrigued by his new passenger:  “Seven, the ex-Borg Fenris Ranger from the Delta Quadrant.”  She’s notorious.  Rios is getting nervous.  (Sidenote:  Rios is about to light up a cigar, and Raffi stops him.)  Agnes Jurati is watching a holovid in her quarters, of her an Bruce Maddox – turns out they were more than colleagues, they were lovers.

La Sirena arrives at Freecloud, and each member of the crew (except Elnor) gets a super-targeted holographic advertisement:  Rios for ship enhancements, Picard for high tea, Jurati for “entertainment robotics,” and Raffi for Snakeweed (which she dismisses with anger).  Raffi starts rifling thoguh a jobs board for Interfacers (go-betweens for hire) and locates Maddox – Bjayzl is holding him and looking for someone to broker a deal with the Tal Shiar.  So, she is going to get her money back.  Seven recognizes the name:  Bjayzl butchers ex-Borg and sells the parts (and is behind Icheb’s death).  The Fenris Rangers have been after her for years.  Our heroes know that they can’t outbid the Tal Shiar, and extracting Maddox by force would be nigh impossible.  Seven suggests a trade – for her.

Raffi takes us through the plan as we see it play out:  Rios arrives in Stardust City – in front of an advertisement for Mr. Mot’s Hair Emporium –  dressed… um… extravagantly, in a shiny green suit with fur accents and a bright orange hat. Raffi has created a false identity for him as a Facer (which includes a glowing references from Mr. Quark of Feranginar) and he has a meeting with Mr. Vup (Dominic Burgess), a Beta Annari who can literally smell lies.  When Rios breaks the news that he’s not acting on behalf of the Tal Shiar, but is in fact there to make a different offer, Vup points a blaster at his head.  Just in time, some delayed-release beta blockers kick in and Rios relaxes, and shows Vup a scan of Seven – so many intact and functioning Borg implants is practically unheard of.

Picard, dressed like a cartoon villain complete with eye patch and outrageous accent (it’s very Muppets Most Wanted), arrives with Seven, who has a small transport pattern enhancer, and will create a stable transport tunnel, even with the shields up around Stardust City.  Elnor gets to go too, but he’s not allowed to talk, since he can’t lie and all. Picard tells Vup that Seven was assimilated as a child, which is why she has so many more implants than recently assimilated Borg.  Vup’s in, but before they can make a deal, Picard wants to see Maddox.

Raffi has located Gabriel Hwang (Mason Gooding) in the Stardust City Medical District and beams down to see him at Reproductive Health Services, in a waiting room.  But he’s not exactly happy to see her.  She tries to apologize for not being there for him, then tells him that she’s clean (I wish we could have seen this journey at some point in the last few episodes).  She wants to be a part of his life, and meet her granddaughter.  So, Gabe is her son.  He doesn’t believe that’s she’s really on the right track and presses her:  “Tell me how it wasn’t really the synths.  Tell me about the Conclave of Eight.  Tell me what was worth ignoring me and dad until we hardly recognized you.  Why you abandoned us for some crackpot tin-hat theory.”  And that touches a nerve – Raffi still believes that she’s right about the attack on Mars, there was a conspiracy.  Gabe doesn’t want to hear it.  His very pregnant Romulan partner enters, and Gabe politely introduces her to his mother Raffaela, but sadly she’s just passing through.

Vup had Maddox brought in from his holding cell, and also called Bjayzl over to take a look at Picard’s offering.  “It is good to see you again, Annika.”  It dawns on Picard that there’s more to Seven’s story that she didn’t share, and that’s accented by several people now pointing blasters at them.  Bjayzl can’t help but needle her:  “Are you still angry that I carved up your little friend for parts, or that you trusted me?”

Jurati, on transporter duty and pacing nervously; her vital signs initiate the Emergency Medical Hologram, who wants to give her a sedative.  Rios, who’s watching the exchange between Bjayzl and Seven, warns her over comms that they might have to abort the mission.  Jurati has a transporter lock on them, but it’s showing red, which means that haven’t activated the transporter enhancer yet.

Seven releases herself from her handcuffs and grabs Bjayzl by the throat, telling the guards to drop their weapons – Bjayzl assents.  Picard lifts up his eye patch and asks Seven what exactly is going on.  Elnor gets the impression that they’re not pretending anymore, and grabs the blasters from the guards.  Picard grabs Maddox, who recognizes (and verbally identifies) him.  Seven tells him to take Maddox and go, but he must know more.  Seven relents:  Icheb was a science officer on the USS Coleman, and used his leave to do recon for the Fenris Rangers.  His ship received a distress call, but it was an ambush.  As a ex-Borg from the Delta Quadrant, his implants were quite valuable, just like Seven’s.  The worst part is that Bjayzl learned about Icheb from Seven.  The pet names, Bjayzel’s use of “closer personal relationship,” and the way these two play off each other certainly implies that there was some kind of deeper (romantic or sexual) relationship (is Seven queer?!), which Bjayzl used to her advantage.

Picard gives one of his inspirational speeches, reminding Seven that her humanity has been restored and urging her not to squander it on revenge.  But Rios sees Vup activating a weapon, and shoots.  Seven tosses the pattern enhancer to Rios, ordering him to get everyone else out.  Rios pointedly tells Seven that he understands her desire for revenge, but to do it now puts them all at risk, including “the kid and the old man.”  He flips the pattern enhancer like a coin and says, “You found her once, odds are you’ll find her again.”  Picard calls for 5 to beam up, and Rios activates the enhancer.

Agnes and Elnor rush Maddox to sickbay, and in the hubbub, Rios leaves the pattern enhancer on a computer console for Seven to pick up.  Picard offers to give her a ride, but the Rangers have already sent a new ship to Freecloud; She’ll just take 2 of the phaser rifles.  And leaves Picard calling card, just in case.  And they have this parting exchange:

Seven:  After they brought you back from your time in the Collective, do you honestly feel that you regained your humanity?
Picard:  Yes.
Seven:  All of it?
Picard:  No.  But we’re both working on it, aren’t we?
Seven:  Every damn day of my life.  

The Voyager theme plays as Seven beams away… and materializes back in Bjayzl’s casino.  She shoots the guards as other employees and patrons beam out.  Bjayzl says she was surprised when Seven gave up her chance at revenge before, but Seven knows she’s just trying to stall.  Moments before the secondary security forces arrive, Seven says, “He was a son to me, Jay” and shoots and kills Bjayzl. The security team arrives and Seven shoots her way out.

In sickbay, Picard chats with Maddox as the automated biobed tends to his injuries.  Picard asks about Dahj’s sister and where she is.  She’s on the Artifact, the captured Borg cube.  Maddox sent there for the same reason he sent Dahj to Earth:  To find the truth about the ban on synthetic life.  He believes that the Romulans and the Federation, together, are hiding something.  And Agnes, listening in, is getting apprehensive, and suggests that Picard leave Maddox to rest.

So they have to go to the Artifact, in Romulan space, which doubles Rios’s fee, of course.  Plus, they have a stowaway to deal with – Picard knocks on Raffi’s door, and she tells him to leave.  He simply answers, “Welcome back,” and walks away.

In sickbay, Jurati and Maddox have a somewhat sweet reunion… at first.  He’s saddened that she never got to meet Dahj, because she and her sister are so “perfectly imperfect.”  He tells Agnes that her contributions were essential to his success and she mutters, “One more thing I have to atone for.” Obviously distressed and conflicted, Jurati changes the settings on the biobed.  The EMH pops up again, asking the nature of her psychiatric emergency, just as Maddox’s organs begin to fail.  She deactivates the EMH.  As Maddox tries to plead with her, she says, “I wish you knew what I know.  I wish I didn’t know what I know.  I wish they hadn’t shown me.  I’m so sorry.”  And she watches, crying, as Bruce Maddox dies.

  1 comment for “Picard Recap: “Stardust City Rag” (Season 1, Episode 5)

  1. I loved this episode! I acknowledge that the bookend death scenes on either end of the episode may be very unsettling for many; like trading profanity for gore. I do hope future episodes find the balance to allow maximum viewership. While it does not pose a problem for me, I know many people like to watch Trek with their littles. I watched the premiere of Encounter at Farpoint with my dad when I was six years old. I can’t imagine many six year olds will watch this episode.

    That being said, I am *here* for queer Seven. Twenty-three years of head canon confirmed. Yes! While not explicitly stating the case, the implication and innuendo draws a nearly inescapable conclusion: Bjayzl entered into an intimate relationship with Seven and betrayed her in the worst way possible. I pondered the three takes on revenge: hotly emotional, from Seven. Outward indifference and pragmatism from Rios, and staunch moral opposition from Picard. Ultimately, Rios shows His sympathy by setting Seven up for a surprise attack.

    “What is the nature of your psychiatric emergency?” will remain in my mind for a long time. Jurati is headed down a long road of hurt, probably a one way trip.

    Sorry for the long comment. One last thought: the conversation between Seven and Picard regarding their ex-B life, followed by quoting the Voyager fanfare equals instant waterworks. This Trek hits hard. Excited and nervous for what comes next.

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