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“Stardust City Rag”
Holy hell, that was dark.
The fifth episode of Star Trek: Picard, entitled “Stardust City Rag,” was much anticipated after we saw the return of Jeri Ryan’s Seven of Nine at the end of last week’s episode. The teaser for this week’s episode looked like it might be a fun one.
Looks can be deceiving.
In the very first scene, Icheb, a former Borg rescued by the U.S.S. Voyager, is brutally dissected by an unknown doctor looking for his cortical implant. Then, out of nowhere, Seven of Nine appears, killing first the medical staff and then, mercifully, Icheb, whom she considered kin.
We move onto Bruce Maddox’s poisoning and near death, Seven’s apparently complicated relationship with Jean-Luc Picard, Raffi bailing to see her estranged son in a space Planned Parenthood, Seven capping a warlord (warlady?) in a bar and, eventually, one of the most brutal murders we’ve ever seen on Star Trek.
Whew. You ready?
Well, that was quite the lovers’ quarrel…
Not only do we learn that Maddox and Dr. Agnes Jurarti were a “thing,” we find out Jurarti is also the undercover bad guy, too.
That seems like a lot to take in.
After Maddox is poisoned and, apparently, beaten by Bjayzl’s gang — let’s be honest, I thought the writers dared to kill him in the first scene and was furious — he is recovered by Picard and crew on Freecloud and transported to their ship, where he recovers from his numerous injuries in sick bay. He’s joined by apparent-lover Jurarti who, after listening to him speak of the beauty of Dahj and Soji, flips some kind of switch on his life support system, forcing him to die a horrific death as she apologizes, wishing Maddox knew what she did.
One of two things could be possible here to explain her compromisation. Either Jurarti has learned the Zhat Vash’s “secret so profound and terrible just learning it can break a person’s mind,” or — and this comes from a lot of conjecture — that shot from a future episode we’ve seen of Commodore Oh mind-melding with Jurarti is actually a flashback and my next thing makes a lot of sense.
There’s a great Synth conspiracy, Charlie Brown
Just before he died, Maddox recounted to Jurarti the reason he created Dahj and Soji — the Synth uprising on Mars was not as it seems. There’s a great conspiracy in the galaxy around the Synths and it involves not only the AI-hating Romulans, but the Federation, too.
The twin Androids were sent to both sides — Dahj to the Federation and Soji to the Romulan Artifact — to learn the truth.
It’s not a coincidence, either, that Raffi’s conspiracy-theorist past gets brought up by her son in the same episode, either. Things are not as they seem.
Think back to the first episode, when we see our first shot of Mars basically being destroyed by Synths. Picard is playing a casual game of chess with Lt. Cmdr. Data, a harmless Android. Things go south, however, when the red planet’s surface becomes littered with explosions and Data suddenly has an evil look in his eye.
It’s one of Picard’s dreams, which seems to explain the sudden turn in events and lack of sense it makes. But, perhaps, was it the Picard writers’ first bit of foreshadowing?
Seven is pissed off and ruthless
Look, Seven has always been a badass. But, wow, when the network TV rules are eliminated, it reaches a whole new level.
First, she downs two bourbons like iced tea (which is not for the faint-of-heart, I’m sure we all know.) Then, she walks into a bar and grabs a known outlaw — the one responsible for Icheb’s torture and death — by the throat in a room filled with her own people, threatens her life and just leaves without a scratch.
AND THEN, after returning to the ship with Picard, asks to borrow two phaser rifles so she can return to her vigilante group, the Fenris Rangers. Does she actually do that? No, of course not.
Instead, she transports back down to the bar to have her revenge. There, Seven kills Bjayzl’s entire security staff, clears the bar and, after shooting the shit a bit, just straight up vaporizes Bjayzl herself. A secondary security force arrives, forcing Seven to dual-wield two blaster rifles in retaliation before she is either captured or killed.
I had thought — dare I say, hoped — Seven would be back for the the remainder of the season and beyond as Picard’s main sidekick. But that role appears to be taken now.
So Jaffi’s reunion with her son didn’t go great.
When learned her descent into madness that led her to vape and drink in a hut on a desolate planet in the middle of nowhere began with the same conspiracy Maddox had — something to do with the Conclave of Eight. It tore her away from her family to the extent she’s forced to hunt down her own kid just for the slightest chance she’ll get to meet her granddaughter.
Jaffi gets the message quickly, however, that she isn’t welcome and departs. With the action of the rest of episode, quite honestly, I kind of forgot about her entire storyline.
It’s not until Picard and the gang are back on the ship — presumably at the same time Jurarti is killing Maddox — that we learn where she went.
Personally, I hope Jaffi is a permanent character in this series. She’s a mix of the weirdness of Data, the violence of Worf, the analysis of Geordi the familiarity of Dr. Crusher and the loyalty of Riker we know so well from The Next Generation. In short, Jaffi is Picard’s perfect, yet darker, first officer that this new venture deserves.
Fan service of the week
While deciphering the puzzle of extracting Maddox from Bjayzl’s heavy security and there seem to be no viable solutions, the writers gave us the gift of a simple word often uttered by Picard during his cabinet meetings on the Enterprise in TNG…
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been rewatching a lot of TNG lately. I think I got a little chill from that line.