Star Trek: Picard 1.05 Stardust City Rag
As Star Trek: Picard reaches its season one midpoint, we are starting to see some real momentum. While I have appreciated the show's ability to deliver rich, complex world building and unravel the mysteries within slowly and steadily, I am sure that there will be some who feel the pace could pick up. Fortunately, Stardust City Rag was an episode packed with character moments while propelling the story forward. In the space on one 42 minute episode, Picard had found Bruce Maddox, learned the location of Soji and given a complete and compelling story arc for Seven of Nine. And not a whiff of the Borg Cube romantic shenanigans between Soji and Narek in sight.
Yes, Seven of Nine is back and she wasn't the only legacy of Star Trek: Voyager to make an impact on the series. Icheb, one of the rescued Borg children from the Delta Quadrant made an appearance in the most brutal, shocking way possible. Like Seven, his journey in the final two seasons of Star Trek: Voyager was about reclaiming his identity and finding a place among the crew. Unlike Seven, Icheb even found his way inspired by his crew mates and joining Starfleet. Which makes his fate all the more tragic.
Harvested for his Borg parts, alive and without anesthetic, was surely one of the nastiest deaths in Star Trek history. The flashback sequence, revealing the attempted rescue by Seven and compassionate death at her hands, gave Jeri Ryan's former Borg a compelling back story. From a former member of the Voyager crew to Fenric Ranger, she has taken an interesting route , one that gives her depth and soul - arguably something her drone-like personality on Star Trek: Voyager was often denied (though Ryan arguably shone above her cast members). This episode saw her shoot her 'son' in a mercy killing, confront the deep betrayal of her former friend / lover Bjayzl (Necar Zadegan), reminiscence on the struggle to reclaim humanity from fellow former Borg Picard and then exact her revenge in a kick ass final sequence, guns blazing. Ryan exuded sass and confidence, delivering a version of Seven of Nine very different to what we saw on Star Trek: Voyager. The stronger american accent might get a little getting used to, but this was a great encore performance from Ryan and I hope this isn't the last we seen of her.
It was also great to see the crew working together; Rios in his big hat, Picard a ruthless French business man with an eye patch and the wide-eyed wonder of Elnor who experienced what it was like to pretend to be someone else for the first time. The scenes on the Freecloud were a lot of fun. Deals, subterfuge, a giant lizard man that could smell your lies and your breakfast and Zadegan doing sexy, ruthless villain well. All culminating in Seven revealing her true mission and a daring rescue of Maddox. This was the most ridiculous Star Trek: Picard has been and I lapped up every minute of it.
Of course, Seven wasn't the only one to face her demons as Raffi tracked down her son Gabriel (Mason Gooding) and tried to deal with the fallout of her betrayal of her family. Drugs, conspiracy theories and a banishment from Starfleet it seems took an even greater toll on her; loosing her husband and son and the reunion was packed with bitterness and unspoken rage that boiled beneath the surface. I really felt for both of them - Gabriel for realising those conspiracy theories are still eating away at the mother he lost and Raffi for getting a brief glimpse at the family she has lost, including her unborn grandchild. At the same time, I'm glad she found her way back to The La Sirena. Michelle Hurd really is one of the stand out performers on Star Trek: Picard and I am glad she's going to be sticking around for the rest of the Admiral's journey.
And finally we have Agnes Jurati. I've loved Alison Pill's eager performance from the first episode and she makes a nice contrast to Raffi and Rios's embittered former Starfleet officers. Which makes her betrayal all the more shocking. There was obvious something was up the moment that Maddox began telling Picard that Starfleet were involved in the same conspiracy as the Romulans. Killing Maddox really turns things on its head. I suspect we'll see more of her meeting with Commadore Oh from The End is the Beginning in the upcoming weeks. Pill flipped from endearingly innocent to silent ruthlessness and anger well, proving there's plenty more to her performance than being the nice, intelligent member of the crew. Oh, and how wonderful was the EMH's line "What is the nature of the Psychiatric emergency?"
Without the sub plot on the Artifact to drag the episode's pacing down, Stardust City Rag proved to be the most entertaining, compelling episode yet. It's clear there was a lot of fun to be had in and behind the scenes and it was terrific to see Seven of Nine back, as bad ass as ever. With Picard now aware of Soji's location, I'm hoping we'll see even more momentum as the season progresses.