- Episode 5 (of 10), 'Stardust City Rag'
- Written by Kirsten Beyer
- Directed by Jonathan Frakes
We're on the barren planet Vergessen, in a facility called The Seven Domes, and a man in a Starfleet uniform is being brutally operated on by an unknown party. His eye is removed, and we see that it's cybernetic – revealing that he was, at one time, assimilated by the Borg. It's clear from the flippant tone of the 'doctor' that this operation is being performed against the man's will. Suddenly, Seven of Nine appears. She kills everyone in the room, then weeps over the man on the table. "I'm so sorry, my child." she says as she mercy kills him.
It's 13 years later, the present day, and in Stardust City bar, a dishevelled Bruce Maddox sits in a booth. A woman approaches and he tells her that his facility was destroyed by the Tal Shiar, and that he doesn't know how he'll ever repay her loan. She offers him a drink and he accepts, choking and collapsing after taking a sip. Aboard the La Sirena, Seven of Nine and Picard meet in his holo-study and discuss his mission to find Soji. On the bridge, Raffi and Rios talk about Seven, noting that she used to be a Borg, and Dr. Jurati smiles as she watches a home video of her and Bruce Maddox baking cookies. Seems they were an item.
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Finally arriving at Freecloud, the crew of the La Sirena hatches a plan to extract Bruce Maddox from the clutches of Bjayzl, the woman who poisoned his drink – and the head of a powerful Stardust City crime syndicate. Seems Bjayzl is interested in Borg implants, especially if they're in a living body, and Seven agrees to pretend to be traded for Maddox. The crew beams down to the city in disguise, and Picard – wearing an eyepatch and sounding like Werner Herzog – presents Seven to Bjayzl, who recognises her. Elsewhere in Stardust City, Raffi locates her estranged son, Gabriel, who doesn't want her back in his life.
Back at the exchange, Seven suddenly grabs Bjayzl by the neck and tells Picard to take Maddox and go. It's revealed that Bjayzl was the one responsible for mutilating Seven's friend in the intro flashback, and many other former Borg, to harvest their parts. She's here to settle a score. Picard tells Seven there's no solace in revenge, and after a scuffle they all beam back to the La Sirena with Maddox. Seven says her goodbyes to Picard, but beams back to Stardust City and confronts Bjayzl. Despite Picard thinking there's a place for mercy in the galaxy, Seven disagrees and violently kills her old enemy.
In the sickbay of the La Sirena, Maddox is in bad shape. He tells Picard that Soji is aboard the Artifact – the Borg cube captured by the Romulans – and that he sent her and Dahj to find out the truth about an anti-synth conspiracy involving Starfleet. He says this is the same group that is now hunting Soji, and that they're hiding something about the ban on synths. Then, in the show's most shocking moment so far, Jurati cuts off Maddox's life support and kills him. "I wish you knew what I know." she says to him, her eyes filling with tears.
Verdict: Picard is really hitting its stride now, and we loved seeing the Blade Runner-esque Stardust City. Usually when we visit planets in Star Trek, it's clearly just a forest outside Los Angeles, or a cardboard set. But now with a modern TV budget, we're seeing the Trek universe as we never have before. This was a great caper episode, and we enjoyed the more light-hearted tone – at least until that grim ending.
- In this episode Seven of Nine is revealed to be a member of the Fenris Rangers, an independent group of peacekeepers trying to maintain law and order in the Neutral Zone – including, with increasing difficulty, the troubled planet Vashti, which we visited last week.
- Brian Brophy played Bruce Maddox in Next Generation episode The Measure of a Man, but sadly not in Picard. He's now played by jobbing TV actor John Ales, who recently appeared alongside Bryan Cranston in cancelled Amazon crime drama Sneaky Pete.
- Seven of Nine mentions the USS Voyager, a Federation starship that, while it was lost in the Delta Quadrant, liberated her from the Borg Collective. She returned to the Alpha Quadrant aboard Voyager and lived on Earth, before later joining the Fenris Rangers.
Star Trek: Picard is available to watch on CBS All Access every Thursday in the US, and every Friday on Amazon Prime Video internationally.
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