Star Trek: Picard - Episode 5 "Stardust City Rag" Recap

Via:  Dig  •  7 months ago  •  19 comments

By:   Keith Phipps

Star Trek: Picard - Episode 5 "Stardust City Rag" Recap

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Star Trek: Picard Recap: What Happens on Freecloud Stays on Freecloud

It’s not fair to say that   Star Trek: Picard   has settled into a formula over the course of its first four episodes, but the early entries do tend to feature the same elements: a little bit from Picard’s past, a little bit of Picard putting the team together, and a little bit of Soji and her predicament on the Artifact. “Stardust City Rag” breaks this pattern, focusing on a visit to the planet Freecloud and its implications for each member of the   La Sirena   crew before ending with a shocking twist. It’s dominated by special guest star Jeri Ryan, who reprises her   Star Trek: Voyager   character, Seven of Nine. Seven has changed a lot over the years, but she’s still recognizable as the ex-Borg struggling to make peace with her mechanical past and her origins, and future, as a human being. And, we discover before episode’s end, so is Captain Picard. It’s more than innate goodness that sends them out on quixotic quests to right wrongs.

If anything, Seven now seems to be overcompensating. Now a member of a vigilante group, the Fenris Rangers, she has dedicated her life to rescuing those in need, as if she is overwhelmed by the feelings of compassion she once couldn’t experience. Obviously, a lot has happened in the years since   Voyager   returned from the Delta Quadrant, and this episode leaves a lot of blanks unfilled. But it doesn’t really have to. Ryan, always a terrific actor even in the days when her character didn’t sit well with every viewer (or cast member) of   Voyager , conveys both Seven’s world-weariness and the depth of her commitment without laying out reams of exposition (though we get a few more details later). Even the way she tosses back bourbon says a lot about what she’s seen and done since her last appearance.

We’ve seen some lawless places and pleasure planets on   Star Trek , but we’ve never seen anything quite like Freecloud, where seemingly anything can be had for a price. It makes Risa look like Branson, Missouri, and its absolute commitment to letting money rule everything could make a Ferengi blush. The pop-up ads start before visitors even land, and the surface is a holographic assault of come-ons and neon-lit attractions. It’s a dangerous place filled with shady characters. It also looks kind of fun for those willing to take a chance on vacationing there. Games! Costumes! Bars stocked with liquor in every shade of the rainbow!

Much mentioned since the first episode of   Picard , the reality of Freecloud doesn’t disappoint as the crew of   La Sirena   visits in search of Bruce Maddox, but their attempt turns into a rescue mission when they discover that the ruthless crime lord Bjayzl (Necar Zadegan) has him and has already made a deal to hand him over to the Tal Shiar. The only solution: an elaborate, heistlike scheme involving deception, fake identities, and disguises. It’s a plan whose lighthearted elements contrast starkly with a bad guy whose ruthlessness is established in an upsetting opening scene.

For some reason, CBS All Access wants both   Star Trek: Discovery   and   Star Trek: Picard   to be rated TV-MA. Sometimes, the ratings-lifted elements, which are mostly limited to language, feel shoehorned in, like Tully’s dropping an out-of-nowhere F-bomb on   Discovery . The   Saw -level bit of grisly violence that opens “Stardust City Rag,” however, feels different, both in its intensity and its necessity. The torture scene, in which one of Bjayzl’s sadistic goon scientists cuts open Icheb — a Borg rescued by   Voyager   who became a recurring character in that series’ later seasons — is shocking, but it also establishes Bjayzl’s cruelty while making us see Icheb as Seven of Nine sees him: as a person, not a machine that can be cracked open and used for scrap parts. “I’m so sorry,” she says, “my child,” and her loss hits all the harder because we’ve just witnessed what Bjayzl has put Icheb through.

It’s quite a leap from that scene to dressing Rios up like a ’70s pimp to play the part of a ’facer (short for “interfacer”), a go-between negotiator who acts as a neutral party for Freecloud’s dirty business. Written by Kirsten Beyer and directed, as was the   previous installment , by Jonathan Frakes, “Stardust City Rag” has a lot of fun flashing back and forth between the scheme in action and Raffi’s careful preparations, in which she tells everyone to be especially careful around Mr. Vup, a hulking Beta Annari, a race of “sentient reptiloids” gifted with the ability to sniff out lies — and other personal details. (Fortunately, there’s a way to short-circuit this ability: delayed-release hard drugs.) Encouraged to put aside his “broody, existentialist spaceman routine,” Rios plays the part well.

But not, it must be said, as well as Picard sells the part of a one-eyed, beret-wearing, “appropriately sineestaaaiiirr”-looking bounty hunter seeking to outbid the Tal Shiar for Maddox, a bit of role-playing that allows Patrick Stewart to trot out a French accent yet again. In an attempt to secure Maddox, he submits an offer he knows Bjayzl and Mr. Vup can’t refuse: Seven of Nine, who’s more human than ever in behavior but still filled with Borg parts. It’s a rarity Bjayzl yearns to possess because, as Picard puts it, she “won’t see many more [ dramatic pause to whip off hood ] LIKE HERRRR!”

But it’s Picard who’s in for the real surprise when it becomes obvious that Bjayzl and Seven share a history, one that involves Seven trusting Bjayzl as Seven worked to rescue those abandoned by the Federation when it suspended its Romulan rescue operation. Then Bjayzl betrayed that trust, turning on Seven to acquire Borg technology. They were clearly close. Bjayzl even calls Seven by the birth name she never uses, Annika. And Seven knows that calling herself “the one that got away” while reminding Bjayzl of the fortune she took from her will hurt. It won’t hurt, however, as much as Icheb’s death. What could?

In the end, Picard’s team successfully executes Raffi’s plan, but “Stardust City Rag” has anything but a happy ending. For one, Raffi seeks out her son Gabriel and his pregnant Vulcan wife, only to have her attempts at a reunion rebuffed. Her years of addiction and absence have put a distance between them. And though her substance abuse seems to be behind her (at least for the moment), her belief in a conspiracy at the heart of the Federation remains unshaken, pretty much killing any chance she has at reconciling with Gabriel and getting to know her grandchild. Later, after saying farewell to Picard, Seven returns to Freecloud to exact the revenge on Bjayzl that Picard had seemingly talked her out of seeking. “Picard still thinks there’s a place in the galaxy for mercy. I didn’t want to disillusion him,” she tells Bjayzl, lines that neatly sum up both characters.

But Maddox meets the unhappiest end, and for unexpected reasons. Left to recover in the   La Sirena   sick bay after learning of Dahj’s death (and confirming Soji’s existence and location), he’s killed by Jurati, of all people. Sweet, idealistic, Jurati — his former co-worker and lover — who has spent much of the episode anxiously manning the transporter, tearfully kills him after he reminds her of her role in creating Dahj and Soji. “I wish you knew what I know. I wish they hadn’t shown me,” she tells him as he gasps for breath. At least she apologizes before he dies, but this is quite the turn for Jurati, who, up to now, has been   Picard ’s most endearing character. Where does she go from here? Where does the show?   Picard   has ended on suspenseful notes before but nothing quite like this.

Code 47s

• How good is Jeri Ryan in this episode? She’s playing a different sort of Seven of Nine than she played on   Voyager , but the performance feels like a natural extension of the earlier Seven, one who’s done a lot of living in the gap years and doubled down on her efforts to honor the best parts of humanity. She may not be in any future episodes of this series (or she might; CBS has kept spoilers pretty tight), but if   Star Trek   is fishing around for more spinoff ideas, focusing on Seven and the Fenris Rangers would be a good choice.

• Also, how good are Ryan and Patrick Stewart together? They never cross paths during their respective   Star Trek   series, but they’ve got terrific chemistry and shared experiences that allow them to get down to the heart of the matter without a lot of small talk, particularly that final exchange touching on the lasting trauma of their time with the Borg.

• This episode piles one David Bowie reference on top of another. Freecloud takes its name from the “Space Oddity” B-side “Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud.” “Stardust City” takes its name from … well, if you’re interested in Bowie references, you probably know that one already.

• In retrospect, we never see what happens between the time Commodore Oh approaches Jurati and she volunteers herself as part of Picard’s crew. What does she see? And who are the “they” that show it to her?

• The line “Mr. Quark of Ferenginar was especially satisfied with your handling of his trouble with the Breen” offers a tantalizing peek at what a   Deep Space Nine   character might be up to. Does this phrasing suggest Quark is back on his home planet and dealing with the Breen there? Are they somehow still a   Deep Space Nine   menace? Could Rios’s cover story have retconned him into a past encounter? Who knows.

• John Ales plays Maddox, subbing in for the original actor, Brian Brophy. Similarly, Casey King plays Icheb, a role originated by Manu Intiraymi.

• Those Freecloud pop-up ads play a lot like the internet as envisioned by   Ralph Breaks the Internet . Only maybe even less pleasant.

From CBS All Access


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1  seeder  Dig    7 months ago

Wow! This was the most engaging episode for me so far. 

Icheb! Nooooooo! Oh, man... the feels. Right off the bat, too.

Quark was mentioned by the bad guys. Figures.


The pop-up ad-type thing from the Red Bolian informs us that La Sirena is a Kaplan F17 Speed Freighter.

What the hell did sweet little Agnes learn from Zhat Vash spy Commodore Oh that would turn her into a killer?

Great episode!

1.1  Freefaller  replied to  Dig @1    7 months ago

Ack! It's not on till tonite here.  Gotta go before I see any spoilers

Split Personality
3  Split Personality    7 months ago

Watched it this morning on

Poor Seven, but she apparently will return?

Poor Raffi, but she continues on as crew...

Poor Bruce, does he continue on at all?

Bruce, apparently killed ( he's not quite dead yet ) by his lover Aggie who was apparently influenced by Commander Oh.

Poor Picard & Rios, can they trust Aggie?

Can we trust the EMH?

Great plot twists, all.

Best episode yet.

Perrie Halpern R.A.
3.1  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Split Personality @3    7 months ago

It was an amazing ep. It was so good to see Seven. 

And great plot twists which I will not talk about till everyone catches up. 

3.1.1  Ed-NavDoc  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @3.1    7 months ago

Personally, I was blown away by the ending with Agnes. I did not see that one coming!

Perrie Halpern R.A.
3.1.2  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Ed-NavDoc @3.1.1    7 months ago

Me too, Ed. But that is what makes the show great! 

3.2  seeder  Dig  replied to  Split Personality @3    7 months ago
Bruce, apparently killed ( he's not quite dead yet ) by his lover Aggie who was apparently influenced by Commander Oh.

Memory Alpha thinks he's dead, but who knows? I actually thought he was dead earlier on in the episode. I thought Bjayzj poisoned his Tranya, but apparently not.

I'm dying to know what this secret about Dahj and Soji is. What's this Destroyer stuff about? How could it make Agnes kill Maddox?

Best episode yet.

I thought so, too.

Poor Icheb, though. I would've liked to have had him in the show for a while. I had so much nostalgia for Voyager when Seven said his name and we learned it was him. It hit me like a brick, but then he was dead. Ugh.

4  sandy-2021492    7 months ago

That opening scene was almost too much for me.  I should have known it was Icheb as soon as the butcher couldn't find his cortical node.  He saved Seven's life, and the most merciful thing she could do for him was to end his suffering.

Agnes killing Bruce made my jaw drop.

A popup ad you punch in the nose.  This is a technology we need now.

Perrie Halpern R.A.
4.1  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  sandy-2021492 @4    7 months ago

I hate anything to do with eyes, so yeah that scene was a bit much for me. 

And I never saw it coming with Agnes. It was shocking but I think that is what makes the series great. 

4.1.1  sandy-2021492  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @4.1    7 months ago
I hate anything to do with eyes,


And I never saw it coming with Agnes.

Again, same.  TBH, I don't know how she expects to keep that under wraps, unless she can hack the ship's computer to prevent the EMH from reporting her actions.  Of course, she might be able to hack the computer, but I think Raffie would be onto her in a heartbeat.

Darn it.  I liked Agnes.

4.2  seeder  Dig  replied to  sandy-2021492 @4    7 months ago
That opening scene was almost too much for me.

It was a bit much. I was wondering what you would think of that, because you said something about gore on an earlier episode.

I should have known it was Icheb as soon as the butcher couldn't find his cortical node.

Oh, yeah. He didn't need it and gave it to Seven to save her life. I forgot about that.

Agnes killing Bruce made my jaw drop.

Now we know that she's just hitching a ride to kill Soji. She's basically a Zhat Vash agent now.

What could Oh have possibly shown her?  “I wish you knew what I know. I wish they hadn’t shown me.”  That's blowing my mind. She seemed way too sweet and timid for murder.

What could this secret be???? Is Soji going to travel back in time and found the Borg or something (become the first Borg queen)?

4.2.1  sandy-2021492  replied to  Dig @4.2    7 months ago

I've seen speculation in some Trek groups that the Romulans were the originators of the Borg, which would explain the hatred for synthetic life, or anything resembling it.  Perhaps it was an experience in mechanically-enhanced life that went horribly wrong.

But didn't the Borg start in the Delta Quadrant thousands of years ago?  I would assume those Romulans wouldn't have been warp-capable.

4.2.2  seeder  Dig  replied to  sandy-2021492 @4.2.1    7 months ago
But didn't the Borg start in the Delta Quadrant thousands of years ago?  I would assume those Romulans wouldn't have been warp-capable.

Yeah. I don't know. I'm just stabbing at the dark.

I need to go read some of that speculation you mentioned.

Perrie Halpern R.A.
4.2.3  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Dig @4.2.2    7 months ago

From this video, they make a good case that the Borg are not that old. So then the only question is how they got into the Delta quad, and I think we can point to Q for that answer. 

4.2.4  seeder  Dig  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @4.2.3    7 months ago

Oh, boy. Look what I just found.

Star Trek Theory: Romulans' Big Picard Secret Is That They Created The Borg

That Screenrant site is super ad-heavy and loads in a hanky way (for me at least) so I'll post a portion here:

A major clue that the Romulans could've created the Borg many centuries ago comes from a prophecy spoken by a Romulan scholar called Ramdha. According to Romulan legend, the "Day of Annihilation" will come when "all the shackled demons break their chains" and are led by a "Destroyer" called Seb-Cheneb. Although not explicit, there are several Borg clues within this Romulan myth. Firstly, Ramdha recognizes Data's daughter, Soji, as Seb Cheneb and reveals that the Destroyer is one of two sisters. The pixmit card Ramdha holds during this scene depicts two girls, one in black and one in white. If Soji is the Destroyer, it would naturally follow that Dahj could represent the Creator.

By "shackled demons," it's hard not to imagine Ramdha is referring to the disconnected Borg. With the returns of Seven of Nine and Hugh, Star Trek: Picard is diving deep into what happens when a Borg is separated from the Collective, and the Romulan Reclaimation Project is taking place on an entire Cube of inactive Borg drones. Since Soji is an android, she could be programmed to reawaken and control any Borg disconnected from the hive mind, and perhaps even the connected ones too.

It's unclear why Soji, or even the Borg, would seek to destroy all life, since this isn't the villains' prime directive. Perhaps, however, the word "annihilation" was mistranslated, and should actually read "assimilation." If so, the Romulan prophecy is warning of a day when the Borg rise up at Soji's command and assimilate all life, everywhere. Of course, the very fact that an ancient Romulan myth would predict destruction at the hands of the Borg hints at a deeper connection between the two species.

...and then later on, there's this...

Although any further details would be purely speculative, it fits with the established canon and timeline that the ancient Romulans could've started experimenting with artificial life forms, accidentally created the Borg and realized the terror their experiments had given rise to. Finding their new cyborgs couldn't be controlled, the Romulans might've subsequently launched their fledgling creation into the Delta Quadrant (where the Borg are first discovered) and established the Zhat Vash to ensure the secret remained covered, both from Romulans and from other species. Centuries later, after those early Borg experiments had developed and spread across the galaxy, the Romulans and Borg have now come into contact again, spelling disaster for all.

There's more to read in the article. Give it a try if the way Screenrant loads is less annoying for you than for me, or just suffer through it like I did. :)

It's all pretty darn interesting, but I don't see how Dahj could be the Creator (flipside of the Destroyer Soji) when she's already dead.

Perrie Halpern R.A.
4.2.5  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Dig @4.2.4    7 months ago

Great info. Thanks for sharing that! 

4.2.6  seeder  Dig  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @4.2.5    7 months ago
Finding their new cyborgs couldn't be controlled, the Romulans might've subsequently launched their fledgling creation into the Delta Quadrant (where the Borg are first discovered) and established the Zhat Vash to ensure the secret remained covered, both from Romulans and from other species.

I know it's just speculation at the moment, and it is a fun plot possibility, but I'm not sure if this particular explanation for how the Borg got to the Delta Quadrant can hold much water.

If the Romulans were able to contain their dangerous new creation well enough to launch it off on a long, deep space journey in an attempt to get rid of it, then why didn't they just fly the vessel into a star or something and destroy it?

A better explanation might be that the original Borg AI understood that it was threatened with destruction and decided on its own to flee. 

An explanation for why they had to go so far away, deep into the Delta Quadrant, could be that they kept encountering other species along the way that they also perceived as threats. It would make sense to keep going farther and farther away, as opposed to turning around and going back toward the Romulans and other previously encountered dangers.

It would have been a pretty low speed journey at the time, but they had to be assimilating various individuals along the way, increasing their knowledge and technical ability as they went. They might have attained warp capability long before anyone back in the Alpha Quadrant did, otherwise a journey so far into the Delta Quadrant would have taken many thousands of years.

I suppose they could have just stumbled across an Iconian gateway, though. That would have gotten them there lickety split. :)

Or maybe they discovered the transwarp corridors and used them initially to go deeper into the Delta Quadrant, instead of the other way around.

4.2.8  seeder  Dig  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @4.2.5    7 months ago

Or like you said earlier, Q could have played a role in getting them there as well.

Split Personality
4.2.9  Split Personality  replied to  Dig @4.2.4    7 months ago

That makes complete sense


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