Seven of Nine, Picard, and the rest of the crew of the La Sirena (Rios’ starship) go to Free Cloud to rescue Maddox.
“The Stardust City Rag” is focused entirely on Picard and his wayward crew. Episode five moves at a much quicker pace than the rest of the first season of Star Trek: Picard. Many of the questions that the first couple of episodes posed are answered, yet there are even more mysteries established in this portion of the storyline. There are a couple of suspenseful and surprising moments in this episode, and there are lots of Easter Eggs for me to point out.
The most surprising Easter Egg is Icheb, the former Borg drone teenager who was rescued by the USS Voyager. He, along with two other ex-drone children, was raised primarily by Seven of Nine. After arriving at the Alpha Quadrant, Icheb joined Starfleet. He became a Lieutenant serving as a science officer on the USS Coleman. Icheb was born in the Delta quadrant in the Brunali homeworld before a Borg cube assimilated him as a young child. A flashback “The Stardust City Rag” shows the Lieutenant had died in Seven of Nine’s arms after a criminal named Bjayzl took the Lieutenant apart to harvest his Borg implants.
Another Easter Egg is that Seven of Nine is called Annika by Bjayzl, which was her name before she was assimilated. We first learned this detail on Star Trek: Voyager. In this episode, Seven of Nine is a Fenris Ranger who helps powerless people. Her benevolence was inspired by Captain Janeway and the crew of the USS Voyager while the ship was isolated in the Delta Quadrant. They helped anybody who was in hopeless situations like Seven, Icheb, Neelix, Kes, and many others.
The music from Star Trek: Voyager playing before Seven of Nine transports back to Free Cloud is my favorite reference in this episode. The updated Transporter room is super cool, but I’m not sure if this counts as an Easter Egg. The final Easter Egg is embedded in the end scene when Dr. Bruce Maddox reclines onto a typical Medical Bay examination table.
I do have a couple of issues with this episode of Star Trek: Picard. While I think it is satisfying to learn the reason why Rafaella “Raffi” Musiker wanted a ride to Free Cloud, the rationale provided, that she is trying to reconnect with her long lost son Gabriel, comes out of nowhere. An elaborate backstory compounds this random explanation. Raffi emotionally and physically abandoned her young son while on her quest to figure out the Mars attack conspiracy after she was fired from Starfleet.
I have not read the Star Trek: Picard novel, but I have read all three of the follow up comic book issues, and nothing was ever mentioned about Raffi having a son or a family. Jean Luc Picard would have said something about Raffi’s son Gabriel or a divorce in earlier episodes. Such a significant backstory would have been better set up by clues in previous episodes. Raffi seems to have a lot of information about her son, but there is not even one scene of her referencing that she has a son or researching Free Cloud in any episode leading up to this one.
When Gabriel rejects Raffi, she abandons her plan to stay with him and returns to the La Sirena. Wouldn’t a mother be more determined to stay with her son after taking such a long journey to find him?
My other minor quip is with the ridiculous French accent Picard puts on when he is undercover as a broker. I cannot believe anybody would buy him having that accent. Jean Luc Picard is so well known in the Star Trek world he still gets interviewed for Federation news, so I am shocked that nobody recognizes him on Free Cloud.
One of my favorite scenes is when Rios and Picard disguise themselves to go down to Free Cloud. Elnor is upset that he doesn’t get to pretend to be somebody else. He was raised by warrior nuns who never lie. So when the Romulan tries to pretend to be somebody else, it’s comical.
The other engaging Elnor moment in “The Stardust City Rag” needs some setup. Bjayzl has captured Bruce Maddox and plans to sell him to the Tal Shiar, but Picard needs to track him down to find Soji. Rios and Picard are posing as brokers who are going to trade Maddox for Seven. But Picard doesn’t know Seven already knows Bjayzl, so when the criminal reveals she knows her real named Annika, all pretenses drop. Elnor asks the retired admiral if they are still pretending. Picard has a great comeback about how they are all finally being honest.
My friends in the Trekkie fandom thought that Jurati was working with the Zhat Vash since Commodore Oh came to visit her at the Daystrom Institute. I had always believed that Dr. Agnes Jurati just wanted to help Picard because he is a hero, and she wants to see an android, but I was proven wrong.
Agnes has minor panic attacks throughout the episode. I thought it was because she was nervous about rescuing her boyfriend. Early in the story, Jurati watches a video showing her kissing Maddox, so I thought the big reveal would be that they are lovers. But then the scientist turns off all the medical devices that were keeping Maddox alive. Agnes starts to have a panic attack and reveals to the dying Maddox that she has to kill him because she has seen something that made her change her mind about Synths, but not before Maddox tells Picard some of the answers he has been searching for. The scientist informs the retired Admiral of Soji’s name and reveals that he sent her to the Borg Cube. Maddox programmed Soji and Dahj to go out to find the truth about the Zhat Vash and the Federation’s involvement in the destruction of Synths.
I was curious about what La Sirena meant in English, so I looked it up. La Sirena translates into “The Siren.” In other words, a ship that can seduce you into danger.
I wonder what the Zhat Vash showed Dr. Agnes Jurati that causes her to kill her lover? Is there something evil or wrong about Soji? What will happen when Picard gets in Jurati’s way? Next episode will Elnor get a more significant role in the mission? How will Picard and the rest of the crew sneak into the Borg cube? We will find out the answers next Thursday.