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Star Trek Pic - Season 1 - Episode 05

Star Trek Pic - 1x05 - Stardust City Rag

Originally Aired: 2020-2-19

The La Sirena crew begin an unpredictable and lively expedition on Freecloud to search for Bruce Maddox. When they learn Maddox has found himself in a precarious situation, a familiar face offers her assistance.

My Rating - 8

Fan Rating Average - 1.08

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- Hwang's data file described him in feet and pounds (English Imperial Units) rather than the more commonly used (and much more appropriate) metric system units used most commonly on Star Trek.


Remarkable Scenes
- Icheb getting butchered. Whoa.
- The chilling "Where's your cortical node, buddy?" remark refers to the fact that Icheb doesn't actually have one because he donated it to Seven of Nine to save her life in the very touching episode Voy: Imperfection.
- Raffi: "Rios, you seriously really need to sell this. You can't do your brooding existentialist space man routine."
- Raffi's son rejecting her.
- 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."
- Seven taking her revenge.
- Picard meeting with Maddox, discussing Dahj and Soji.
- Agnes murdering Maddox.

My Review
Hey guys, remember Icheb? That adorable ex-Borg who Seven of Nine thought of as a son? After Voyager made it home, it turns out he became a Starfleet officer! Isn't that sweet? He put on a red uniform and... oh shit.

The horrific demise of Icheb is not the kind of closure for a previous character many of us expected from this show, but it is appreciated nonetheless. One of many loose ends left by TNG, DS9, and Voyager tied up now for better or worse. We even got an update on what Quark is up to, apparently running a bar on Freecloud, or at least franchising the brand out. Plus the line about Quark being "especially satisfied" with Rios' fictional alter ego's handling of his "trouble with the Breen" implies that Quark was either personally recruited by Raffi to participate in the scam in this episode, or at least that Raffi felt Quark was a reputable enough businessman in this community—such as it is—to forge his name to an endorsement to make it sound credible.

Of course the most notable closure we got in this episode is for Seven of Nine, who we learn has joined a group called the Fenris Rangers, a group that sounds very similar to the Maquis in the sense that both were outlaws trying to keep order as they defined it in a place where law and order had broken down to a degree. It would've been nice to hear if Seven's experience with so many ex-Maquis on Voyager played a role in her radicalization of sorts. A particularly sad omission was we got no mention of her previous relationship with Chakotay which is an omission almost as conspicuous as the continued extremely unfortunate lack of discussion about sentient holograms—Voyager's doctor in particular—and how that relates to the ban on AI.

Indeed, Seven becoming a vigilante is second only to Icheb's unceremonious demise in terms of the most depressing things about this show so far. Seven and Icheb come to the Federation with Voyager brimming with potential, but it is squandered in a tragic and empty way. Depressing outcomes such as this driven by the Federation being demoralized and divided is exactly what Picard is trying reverse in his somewhat loopy quest to save a far flung android. You can see how committed Picard remains to restoring the upstanding and merciful Federation from 15 years ago when he insists that Seven not take her revenge. Seven's decision to let Picard think he had convinced her was quite touching, but yet another tragedy of the story is Seven was actually right to take her revenge. Not because of the principle of an eye for an eye, but because as Seven had noted, Bjayzl operated in a lawless place. If Seven didn't take her out, she was just going to keep butchering more ex-Borg. Maybe Seven could've taken her prisoner or something, but it seems likely that the Fenris Rangers lacked the resources to run a maximum security prison. Besides, Bjayzl seemed like the sort of person who could organize a sophisticated jailbreak if need be.

Another tragic element of the story was the revelation that Raffi's drug-induced bouts of paranoia described in her first scenes were far from just a bit of dark humor as the early scenes implied, but in fact turned out to be a full-blown drug addiction that drove her son to cutting her off, regarding her as a toxic family member. Raffi trots out a slate of cliched stock phrases commonly offered up by struggling addicts about having gotten clean and about having changed and having become a better person. Anyone who knows a drug addict knows how difficult it is to trust such statements, so Hwang rejecting her is an entirely reasonable if perhaps wrong choice in this instance. It is likely Raffi truly did get clean since hitching a ride on the La Sirena and it is likely her wacky conspiracy theory will turn out to be correct as well. But even so, Hwang has no reason to believe any of that until Raffi produces extraordinary evidence for her extraordinary claims.

Speaking of Hwang, the fact that he was at a fertility clinic was a very interesting detail. It's been strongly implied in many previous Star Trek series that interspecies breeding—while possible—is often quite difficult to achieve at times, so adding more texture to that long established fact is appreciated. One detail that we seriously could've done without though was the cheesy holographic advertising scene when they arrived at Freecloud. If it had happened when they were on the surface in the streets or something maybe that would've been less objectionable, but the idea of fully interactive holograms appearing inside of people's ships in orbit raises lots of difficult to resolve questions, most alarmingly related to security. So once you enter orbit of Freecloud, people can just project holograms into your ship which can gather information via interaction or perhaps listen to conversations? Sounds like a good way to spy on people or steal their data!

Of course another shocking development was finally catching up with Bruce Maddox only to see him murdered by Agnes shortly thereafter. She wishes she didn't know what she knows. She wishes "they" hadn't shown her what "they" showed her. Whatever it was she learned caused her to become ideologically opposed to Bruce Maddox's quest to carry on Dr. Soong's legacy of building ever more sophisticated and human-like androids despite having previously been a full partner with him in that endeavor in more ways than one. Hopefully we find out what terrible secrets she learned soon and hopefully it makes her shocking murder of her lover at least somewhat sympathetic somehow.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Alex on 2020-02-24 at 12:58pm:
    This was the episode that made me rethink whether I really want and need to further watch this series. And the decision is rather not in favour of the series.

    Let's see, so far ST:Pic has almost more violence on screen than *all* previous Star Trek *combined*. Or is it *really* more? (That's not counting Discovery, frankly I didn't finish even season 1 and I just... I don't count it.)

    We had the series start with some brutal killings right away, people melted with acid, people melting themselves with acid, rogue plastic people shooting real people through the neck in slow burning death, and now an ex-borg butchering with all the graphic detail. Maybe I'm too sensitive? Could be. I thought Star Trek always managed to be provocative and even shocking without resorting to just plain visuals of shock-value stuff. And close to the end we have another person turned into red mist. Even if she was built up as deserving to die (right after Picard argues otherwise... so... I don't agree either)

    And in the very end when we just rescued Bruce Maddox, after all that setup and introduction (well, his older self, of course we already were introduced to him 30 years ago), he's just killed. Right away. And it showed his agony in full HD for good 30 or 40 seconds. How his blood vessels collapsed, organs failing, eyes darkening, all that.

    Just have us wait for the character's reveal for 5 episodes now and then crunch him without any mercy.
    I didn't want that. Especially (!) when it happened *right after* Picard got his next lead, his next quest mark out of the professor.

    That also brings up a few questions - if the EMH is capable of "background processing" so to speak, as to response to individuals onboard being in some alarming condition - psychologically or physiologically (interestingly the former was made to seem more immediate?) - then... what about security? Was there not one alarm signal going off on the captain's board? That someone was dying right now in sickbay? When they come in, say, 30 minutes later, for some usual business, does Agnes tell them "oh he died because injuries", won't they have any sort of security recording? Or is she gonna erase the evidence?

    Bottom line, that was pretty frustrating. First the episode turned me away with the graphic butchery (I get it, things are bad, did I really need to see that much of it?), then it admittedly built some good tension and humor, then it made my stomach turn into a knot as I was watching Raffi's scene with her son (it was painfully good, in a sad way), and then it slapped me with the killing of Bruce Maddox as if he was a scripted NPC that Picard had to meet and talk to once in order to continue on the quest.

    Was I supposed to equate and resolve the maturation of the franchise with inevitably turning darker, more shocking? Well, it sounds more like GoT than ST. And I'd rather not.
  • From Mathalamus on 2020-02-24 at 10:31pm:
    I stopped watching picard after ichebs eye was torn out. apparently, i didn't miss out on a lot after that. sorry, but i cannot consider picard to be a good trek series. its just way too different from what i think star trek should aspire to.
  • From JD on 2020-02-25 at 10:00am:
    I thought this episode was bloody excellent.
    Icheb... ouch... but there needed to be something properly serious to make Severn go vigilante.

    Some people seem to be a bit unhappy about the Star Trek Universe being a bit of a bleak place... however, we've only really seen it before through the lens of Starfleet which is always going to be absolute best of the universe.

    What we're seeing in Picard is more akin to what we saw in Gambit or the bar we saw in Unification. Hey, even DS9 was a bit of a sketchy place and that was under Federation control!
  • From Alex on 2020-02-27 at 12:15pm:

    "Something properly serious to motivate Seven"

    A valid point in itself but his death would be equally serious regardless. Actually, the eye scene was for the audience *alone*. She wasn't even in the room when that happened.

    If he were to die on some hooks with wires injected into him or something, it would be cruel, it would be motivating, it wouldn't be as shock-value-y.

    And, in the end, the most painful part for her was not being able to save him, which could've been provided without us viewers seeing that sort of stuff.

    "First Contact" had plenty of people dying in similar circumstances, but it didn't become "Saw".

    The episode could've been both fun and gut-wrenching but for me personally that was lost behind "Picard" trying to GoT the franchise. It was already sad to watch Picard being a shadow of his former self, rejected, powerless, fumbling around somewhat, his housekeeper saying he's demented. Now it went into just being too graphic. :(
  • From Rick on 2020-03-25 at 3:08am:
    I agree completely with Alex. Gene is rolling over in his grave with what has been done to trek.
  • From Gary on 2020-03-28 at 4:55pm:
    First: Thanks so much for carrying on reviews, now of ST:Pic... I've always found your reviews thoughtful and balanced, and they add to my enjoyment of the episodes.

    Even when, sometimes, it's hard to enjoy the episodes. While I agree with some complaints that the ramped-up gore is pushing ST's envelope in ways that aren't welcome, I can hope they use it sparingly and get back to discussions of morality.

    Agnes' murder of Maddox did rely on some sadly-common ST tropes. On his death, surely Picard and the others would want to ask the expert - the EMH - about the details, NOT the roboticist. But in ST, scientists are all physicians and vice-versa. But I suspect that any of the former Starfleet personnel on the ship (3 of them!) would have more medical training than Agnes.

    In any event, in past situations they'd look at the "readouts", the data, not just listen to an amateur's description and move on. And finally: should a passenger (that's all she is) be able to disable the EMH during a medical emergency?
  • From Axel on 2024-03-12 at 1:34am:
    I'm glad you brought up the advertising holograms appearing in the ship. This scene is clearly supposed to be humorous. But IMO, it continues the Star Trek tradition of showing us technologies that may not be far in our future. Is what these holograms do much different than how modern social media advertising works? Our Insta, Facebook, and other feeds show us products based on our search histories and browsing trends. Marketing that is tailored to individuals based on data that many people would probably prefer to keep private, but have accepted that it no longer is. Our devices sync with other devices and share information about our profiles. Give AI and holographic technology some time, and I think this is exactly where things will go.

    Overall, this was one of the better episodes so far. I can't believe it's taken me this long to watch "Picard" but I'm very glad they used the format they did for this show, making it a continuous story rather than standalone episodes. It also makes me appreciate DS9, which did this long before it was the norm.

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