Star Trek: Picard Season 1 Episode 5 Recap and Review: Stardust City Rag
A spoiler-filled recap and review of Stardust City Rag, Star Trek: Picard S1E5, starring Patrick Stewart
(Spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard S1E5 and the franchise prior to it)
This week's episode of Star Trek: Picard, Stardust City Rag, begins once again with a flashback. This time, it's to a year after the Mars attack. This flashback takes place on a planet called Vergessen (which, incidentally, means 'to forget' in German) and though it starts with a peaceful little piano melody, goes on to feature the show's most gruesome sequence yet. An ex-Borg (Icheb from Star Trek: Voyager) is being dissected while alive and fully conscious, and his parts, harvested. Seven of Nine comes to rescue him but she's too late. All she can do is give him a merciful death. We then cut to a much more recent flashback — two weeks ago on the titular Stardust City on Freecloud, where we meet the person responsible for what happened to Icheb, Bjayzl. She's a black-marketeer who deals with everything from Borg parts to people. Bruce Maddox, it turns out, has borrowed from her to start up his secret synth research facility. He comes to Stardust City to tell Bjayzl that the Tal Shiar has completely destroyed this facility. She drugs him and decides to sell him to the Tal Shiar.
In the present, Picard and the crew of La Sirena (we finally hear the name spoken) arrive on Freecloud, which is a very Las Vegas-like place. Before they do, Seven has a chat with Picard to find out what he's up to. From the flashback, we know she has it in for Bjayzl, so when she finds out they're headed for Freecloud, she tells them they can drop her there. We find out that Seven is part of the Fenris Rangers that Rios mentions in the previous episode, a sort of vigilante group that patrols the systems in the Neutral Zone that were abandoned by the Federation after the Mars attack. While those two are talking, Raffi and Rios discuss them and remind us that Picard himself is ex-Borg (something I admit I'd forgotten too when I called Seven of Nine the second famous ex-Borg last week). Dr Jurati, meanwhile, is tearfully looking at an old holo of Bruce Maddox, whom she appears to have been in a relationship with, aside from being a colleague. The scene is ominous and foretells what's to come shortly.
When they get to Freecloud, they're all beset with popup holos — except, for some reason, Elnor (he spells this out for us too, so I'm guessing it must be significant). Raffi finds out that Maddox is being held by Bjayzl. When she hears this, Seven proposes that they offer to trade her for Maddox. She tells them Bjayzl is always on the lookout for Borg parts, and she is quite a prize in that regard, having most of her old hardware intact. They roll with that plan.
Rios and Picard go undercover — the former as a flamboyant 'facer', a middle-man, and the latter as a French pirate who owns Seven — to make the deal with Bjayzl. We get a little comic relief with Rios pretending to be a facer and having a meeting with a Beta Annari (a race that can "smell a lie and what you've had for breakfast"). After Mr Vup, the Beta Annari, clears them, Bjayzl arrives to see the prize for herself, and she recognises Seven. She even calls Seven by her original name, Annika, revealing that the two knew each other personally aside from that flashback we saw. Bjayzl apparently held Seven prisoner at one point but the latter escaped. Seven also tells Picard that it was from her that Bjayzl found out about Icheb.
Seven drops the pretence of helping Picard and reveals her intention to avenge Icheb. But she asks Picard to take Maddox and the others and leave first. Rios, however, tells her that if she kills Bjayzl she will put a bounty on all of them. So, they take Maddox and head back to La Sirena. Picard offers Seven a ride to wherever she needs to go but she tells him that she has a ride on the way and transports back down, after borrowing a couple of phasers. Before she leaves, she asks Picard if he honestly feels he regained his humanity after he was brought back from the Borg collective. He answers in the affirmative. But when she asks, "All of it?" he says no, which is interesting. One tends to forget that Picard is anything but human. When Seven returns to Freecloud, she kills Bejayzl as she always meant to do. Her fate after this is left unresolved.
On La Sirena, Jurati is tending to Maddox, who is quite beaten up, in the sick bay. Picard tells Maddox that Dahj found him and was then killed. Maddox says he knew as much when the Tal Shiar came and blew up his lab. He mentions her "embedded AI mom" who would have activated her in grave danger. So that's the mom both sisters have been talking to. Maddox also reveals the existence of Soji and tells Picard that he sent her to the "Artifact", the reclaimed Borg cube. He says he wanted Dahj and Soji to uncover the truth behind the synth ban. Maddox thinks it's not just the Romulans or the Tal Shiar, but the Federation is involved also.
While this conversation is going on, the camera holds focus on Jurati for the most part, looking very conflicted. And soon enough, she tells Picard Maddox needs to rest, and then kills Maddox. Before doing this, she tells Maddox she wishes she wasn't shown the things she was. So, it would seem Commodore Oh has shown her whatever it is the Zhat Vash believes will come to pass with the synths. Some doomsday like scenario, as foretold by the Romulan myth about the Destroyer.
While all this is going on in Star Trek: Picard S1E5, Raffi beams down to Freecloud where she goes to meet her son, who is having a child at a Fertility centre there with his Romulan wife. Raffi tells him she's now clean and wants to be part of his life, but he isn't willing to mend fences and sends her packing. And so, Raffi quietly comes back to La Sirena and hides away. Rios and Picard realise she's back but she's not talking to them just yet. Picard is visibly glad to have her back and says as much to the door she's shut behind.
The crew will next head to the Artifact to find Soji. Jurati will likely claim Maddox died of his injuries (although the emergency medical hologram did witness her withholding treatment). Whether Picard finds out what really happens before she gets up to more trouble remains to be seen. We're at the halfway point and things should quickly be coming to a head on Star Trek: Picard.
(Star Trek: Picard Season 1 is currently streaming in India on Amazon Prime Video on a weekly episodic basis)