Star Trek: Picard review – Season 1, Episode 5: Stardust City Rag

Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for Stardust City Rag, as well as for the rest of Star Trek: Picard Season 1. There may also be spoilers for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

First of all, before anything else, I just want to say how much I love this episode’s title! Stardust City Rag is just such a fun episode name, quite possibly one of my all-time favourite episode names in all of Star Trek. It just has such a fun sound, which was reflected in parts of this episode’s tone. Jonathan Frakes (who played Commander William Riker in Star Trek: The Next Generation and had directed several episodes of Star Trek: Discovery) returned for his second and final stint as director this season, and I really enjoyed what he brought to the table. In fact I’d say this was definitely the better of his two episodes this season.

In case you missed them, by the way, I have episode reviews for the rest of this season which you can find here: Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4.

There was a dichotomy in Stardust City Rag between two very different tones that both played into the same story. There was the fun, somewhat campy tone present in some of the nightclub sequences, with Picard and his crew dressing up in over-the-top costumes, and then there was the deathly serious tone that followed Seven of Nine, Raffi, and finally at the end, Dr Jurati.

Stardust City Rag ended with a huge moment for Dr Jurati.

Stardust City Rag also gave us our first confirmed theory – if you look back at my theory posts, you’ll see that after Episode 3, The End is the Beginning, I called out Dr Jurati for her possible betrayal. And in this episode we got to see that theory bear fruit, though not quite in the manner I had expected. To have her exposed as a double-agent and betray Picard’s trust at only the halfway mark through the season was also a surprise – after what she did and the fact that La Sirena’s EMH witnessed it, she won’t be able to maintain her cover. What will happen to her next is an open question, and she notably did not feature in any of the clips shown in the trailer for next week’s episode.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves! The Dr Jurati revelation was only one of several huge story points that Stardust City Rag had to offer. And more so than any episode so far, I feel that this episode advanced the plot in a major way. From the scenes glimpsed in last week’s trailer, I wasn’t sure I would like Stardust City Rag, despite its fun name. The silly game of dress-up and the nightclub setting made it look like we were in for a kind of “Picard meets Ocean’s Eleven” jokey heist story, and honestly I was kind of uninspired by that concept.

“You son of a bitch, I’m in.”
From last week’s teaser trailer, I was worried that Stardust City Rag would turn into this episode of Rick and Morty!

While there was certainly that element to the episode, it was hardly all Stardust City Rag had going on; the “heist” portion of the story took up perhaps a third of the runtime. And that’s definitely a positive, in my opinion. I think if the whole episode had been dedicated to that, with Picard putting on an accent and the characters all dressed up, I think we could have ended up with a bit of a farce, and that’s really what I was concerned about heading in.

Stardust City Rag begins, as every episode aside from the premiere has, with a flashback sequence. This time, we’re on a planet called Vergessen – German or Dutch for “forgotten” – thirteen years before the events of the series. This places it around one year after the attack on Mars and Picard’s resignation, and three years before the supernova. The sweeping aerial shot of Vergessen shows what looks to be a largely uninhabited planet, with The Seven Domes occupying what appears to be a river delta or area of marshland. The sequence looks to be conveying that Vergessen is, as its name implies, forgotten about and hidden – somewhere out of the way, perfect for illegal activities.

And then we get what is probably the most graphic sequence to date in Star Trek: Picard – and arguably in the whole franchise. A young man in a torn Starfleet uniform is being hacked apart. Returning fans will recognise him as Icheb from Star Trek: Voyager – he was one of several young Borg who were taken on board by Capt. Janeway toward the end of Voyager’s stay in the Delta Quadrant. The implant by his eye – an inverted L-shape – was instantly recognisable, despite it having been removed. An unidentified woman pulls out Icheb’s eye, looking for his cortical implant. And the hacked-apart bodies of others, presumably drones, hang around the facility. After the brutal butchering, Seven of Nine arrives and kills the scientists, but it’s too late to save Icheb, and she is forced to put him out of his misery by shooting him – leaving her clearly devastated.

Icheb gets his eye brutally torn out.

There was always a sense, I felt, that with television storytelling increasingly following a route trailblazed by series like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, Star Trek: Picard was going to kill off characters sooner or later. The brutality with which Icheb was treated, and the fact that we really didn’t get to spend any time with him before seeing his demise, was genuinely shocking and unexpected, though.

The way the sequence was shot also did a good job of disguising that Icheb had in fact been recast for his role in Star Trek: Picard. I felt he was instantly recognisable – credit to the makeup and prosthetics teams, no doubt – and it was only after the credits rolled that I realised it was a different actor.

This sequence set up was was, at least in part, an episode about Seven of Nine. My relationship with Seven’s character has been somewhat complicated. In her initial appearances on Star Trek: Voyager, she absolutely did what the producers of that show had wanted, and shook up what was in danger of becoming a stale formula. Her background as an ex-Borg gave a different dimension to her character than any we’d seen until that point, and she played a very different role in the show than Kes had. I’d argue that Kes, sadly, never really got her character fully explored and developed, especially as toward the end of her tenure as a series regular she’d started to develop her mental abilities. And I think it would have been very interesting to see how Voyager would have handled her as she rapidly aged – Ocampans had a very short lifetime of only around nine years. But we’re getting off topic. I felt that too many of Seven of Nine’s episodes – of which there were more than a fair number in the second half of Voyager – followed almost exactly the same formula. She’d learn some lesson or other about “what it means to be human”, overcoming her Borg-inspired nature to accomplish something for the crew, but then by the next episode she’d seem to forget it all and be back to her usual Borg self, only to learn another, very similar, lesson in humanity. It just felt like, having gone to all the trouble to swap out Kes for Seven of Nine, Voyager’s showrunners and writers didn’t really know what to do with her aside from that formula. And it got annoying and repetitive at times.

Fortunately, Seven of Nine has finally regained a lot more of her humanity, and been able to hold onto it. Even in the flashback at the beginning of the episode – which takes place around eight years after the end of Voyager – she’s much more expressive and emotional than I think we ever really saw her in that series. And it makes a lot of sense! She’s had a lot more time to work through her assimilation and de-assimiliation experiences, and build up her memories and personality than she had when we were familiar with her. For me, seeing Seven of Nine like this, finally embracing her humanity instead of constantly forgetting about it, was cathartic. It scratched an itch that I’d had since Voyager was on the air back in the late 1990s and early 2000s to really see some character development and to see her break out of her Borg past. It’s just a shame it had to come at the expense of Icheb! That’s not to criticise that story point – I think it makes a lot of sense for Seven of Nine’s story to see her lose Icheb, and honestly, I don’t think anyone really expected his character to be returning in a big way in Star Trek in future, so he fits the bill for someone to kill off. But as a fan, it’s always heartbreaking to see a known face killed off!

Seven of Nine in Picard’s study.

The action then jumps to the present day, or rather, two weeks before the present day. We’re on Freecloud, in a place called Stardust City, and the owner of a nightclub gets word that Bruce Maddox is here. She initially wants him killed, but changes her mind and meets with him. Maddox looks dishevelled with his messy hair and unkempt beard; a far cry from the Starfleet officer returning fans will remember. Again it’s worth noting that Maddox has been recast just like Icheb was, and for most people that wouldn’t even really notice, but having recently re-watched Maddox’s original appearance in The Measure of a Man in The Next Generation (you can see a write-up of that episode by clicking or tapping here) I did notice and while I wouldn’t say it took me out of it, it was a brief adjustment to get used to the new actor, because unlike Icheb in the flashback mentioned above, Maddox gets a lot of screen time.

It emerges that Maddox’s lab has been destroyed – raided by the Tal Shiar. He’s in debt to the nightclub owner, and she drugs him, hoping to sell him to the Tal Shiar to recoup the money she spend on him. It’s worth noting here that the Zhat Vash are never mentioned in this episode. I noted last time that I suspect Picard’s decision not to tell his crew – especially Elnor – about the Zhat Vash might become an issue. And given Maddox’s work in the realm of synthetics it seems at least possible he would have known about the faction. But no one from Maddox to Picard to the nightclub owner ever mentions the faction. While I understand they’re meant to be secretive, having a named antagonist and being consistent with that does help casual viewers in particular to follow everything that’s going on.

It’s at this point that I’d like to look in more detail at Maddox’s role in the story thus far from the production side, because I really think it’s been nothing less than a stroke of genius. Maddox fills two roles – he’s a signal to returning fans from The Next Generation era that this is one continuous story in the Star Trek galaxy, while at the same time being the kind of character that his presence in that one episode from 1989 is in no way something a new fan would need to know about. If we compare him to Dr Benayoun – the character from Maps and Legends who delivers to Picard the news of his illness – their roles are identical. Maddox, to the uninitiated new fan, is just a character from Picard’s past like Dr Benayoun, and seeing their interactions in the past isn’t necessary to know that. For returning fans, he’s someone we may remember from TNG and that ties the two shows together. Using a character like Bruce Maddox was completely unexpected, but it works so well. And I love it.

Bruce Maddox with Bjayzl in her club on Freecloud.

After the credits roll, La Sirena is in orbit of Freecloud. Picard is in his holo-study, looking at a video about the planet they’re visiting. Freecloud is presented as a neutral place, probably not under any jurisdiction other than its own. It’s the kind of place we’ve seen in Star Wars – a somewhat shady-feeling place where various transactions, legal and illegal, can take place without the intervention of the Federation or anyone else. The economy of the 24th Century has always been a little ambiguous, but Freecloud is a symbol of unchecked capitalism – seemingly anything can be bought and sold here, much like the Dark Web of today.

Seven of Nine joins Picard in his study, and it turns out she works for the Fenris Rangers – they were mentioned last time, and seem to be a kind of vigilante group, trying to maintain order in some of these fringe systems. It was pure coincidence that Seven of Nine met Picard when she did – or at least so it would seem. A very, very lucky coincidence, if that really is the case! They share a drink, and this is where we get Seven’s lines from the trailer about Picard “saving the galaxy”. She is definitely much more human than returning fans will remember from Voyager, and as I said already, I really appreciated that.

While Picard and Seven chat, we get some exposition from Raffi and Rios – no doubt meant to fill in new fans and those who don’t remember much about Picard or Seven because of how long it’s been! It was interesting to note that they both mention Picard’s status as a former Borg, especially given where they will have to head if they want to meet Soji in future episodes. Seven of Nine agrees to be dropped off on Freecloud, but asks Picard what he plans to do and he tells her, in a roundabout way, that he’s trying to help Soji. Intrigued, she stays to listen.

Raffi and Rios discuss Picard and Seven’s history with the Borg.

At first, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the change in colour and presentation of Seven of Nine’s Borg implants, most notably her eyepiece. I felt that it looked “wrong”, and not like it had done in Voyager. But the more of her I saw in this episode, the more I think it’s designed to look like the metal has been worn down over the years. Whereas it had been shinier in the past, by now she’s been out of the collective for a long time and the metal has seen a lot of wear and tear, giving it a duller, less polished appearance.

Dr Jurati is in her cabin, watching a holo of herself and Maddox from presumably before the ban on synthetics. They share a kiss at the end, and Jurati is emotional at looking back on this part of her life, which I think sets up nicely what is to come later. It was a very brief scene, but one which was important to their stories. We did get to see a little of Maddox’s post-TNG personality, too. I’d say that the scene showed him as a kind of stereotypical scientist, with an idiosyncrasy around the replicator. Maddox in The Measure of a Man had seemed, I would argue, much more confident than the version of the character we see here, though granted it is twenty-plus years later in this holo-recording. But for all intents and purposes, comparing Maddox’s role in The Next Generation to Star Trek: Picard is kind of irrelevant. As mentioned above, he could be subbed out for a new character and the story would be identical, so his characterisation here doesn’t matter – whether he’s the same as the Maddox we remember or not, his role is less that of a character and more a plot device.

In the next scene, on the bridge of La Sirena, we get another example of the lighter, comic tone that was present in parts of the episode, as each crew member (except for Elnor, for some reason) gets their own holo-pop-up advertisement as they dock at Freecloud. This was a little bit of fun, and it seemed to give us the name of La Sirena’s ship class – apparently she’s a Kaplan F17 Speed Freighter. And although he was almost entirely in the background, it was one of Elnor’s three opportunities to have a line in Stardust City Rag. If I could criticise the episode in one way, it would be that, after all the fuss and trouble Picard and the crew went to last week to recruit Elnor, this week he was absolutely wasted and contributed nothing to the story or to the various storylines that played out.

After closing their little pop-up ads, the crew learn that Maddox is a prisoner, and that the nightclub owner is looking for someone to represent them in a deal with the Tal Shiar. Seven of Nine knows about the nightclub owner – her name is Bjayzl – and explains that, among other things, she “butchers ex-Borg for parts”. As we’ve seen with Soji’s work on the Artifact, there is apparently a roaring galactic trade in Borg components. Precisely why that is – and who the buyers might be – is unclear. I wonder if the parts may all be going to the same buyer, but we’ll save the theory-crafting for my theory post (keep an eye out for that in the next few days!)

Raffi discovers Maddox is being held by Bjayzl – and is about to be sold to the Tal Shiar/Zhat Vash.

Seven of Nine offers to be bait in a trap to rescue Maddox – offering herself up for “sale” to Bjayzl to get the crew close enough to spring him out. Because of what had happened with Icheb earlier, this was clearly a ploy on her part to get close to Bjayzl.

We’re then treated to a very pretty shot of La Sirena arriving at Stardust City, and I’m in love with the CGI work here. There was a real sense of a living, breathing, fast-paced gambling city – a futuristic Las Vegas. Yet at the same time, I was getting the impression that Stardust City was playing on Star Wars’s Coruscant and even Mass Effect’s Citadel in terms of presentation – there was a somewhat claustrophobic feel to its mass of neon-signed buildings and streets. I thought I saw another Ferengi Alliance emblem on first viewing, but when I went back and re-watched it I couldn’t spot it. There were a couple of nice references, though: Mot’s Hair Emporium refers to Mot, the Enterprise-D’s Bolian barber, whose name Picard once borrowed when dealing with mercenaries! And of course, Quark’s Bar can only refer to the Ferengi we all remember from Deep Space Nine! There was also a dancing girl seen as La Sirena flew in, and I have a feeling this is lifted from a previous iteration of Star Trek… I’m just not sure which one.

This next sequence cuts between the crew arriving in Stardust City and preparing for their roles back on La Sirena. This is the dressing-up part of the story that featured prominently in last week’s teaser trailer. Rios is taking point, offering Seven of Nine for sale, and he has to really convince Bjayzl’s “reptiloid”, who can apparently smell lying because of his enhanced senses. Picard and Rios get the best costumes, dressing very flamboyantly as apparently is custom on Freecloud. More so than on the bridge, Elnor was completely wasted here, and may as well not have been included. In fact, this episode could have taken place before the mission to Vashti and Elnor’s presence or lack of presence would have not mattered in the slightest. There was scope, too, for him to do something – even just as comic relief. His lack of understanding of the dressing up side of the mission was at least somewhat amusing, if a little “Vulcan” in the way it came across, but it was really just wasted and I would have liked to have seen more of Elnor both here in the preparation phase as well as down in the nightclub.

Dr Jurati is ordered to operate the transporter while the others rescue Maddox – and it felt like this was setting her up to either deliberately trap them away from the ship or mess up somehow and cause a problem. In that sense, I think it was a nice little misdirect given that it got a certain amount of attention during this sequence. The crew are given a transport enhancer – a much smaller device than the tripods from the TNG-era – and we also learn from Seven of Nine that, after the supernova, the Neutral Zone “collapsed” – the border between the Federation and Romulan space is now much less stable, hence the issues on places like Vashti. She and the Fenris Rangers are self-appointed police officers trying to keep order, but Picard says she is playing at being both “judge and jury”, and calls her a “vigilante”.

Getting dressed up in Picard’s study in preparation to spring Maddox out of custody.

There was definitely a “heist movie” feel to this sequence. But it wasn’t as bad as I had feared it might be, and was actually amusing in parts and tense in others. Each of them (except Elnor, really) is given a role to play. Rios is the point man, Picard is the con man, Seven is the bait, Elnor is… muscle? I guess. And Dr Jurati, operating the transporter, is the getaway driver! Raffi won’t be participating, as Freecloud was her destination and she plans to attend to her own business while the heist occurs.

Again, the sequence is cut in a jumpy way, cutting back-and-forth between before and during the heist. After Rios has convinced the reptiloid to meet Picard and Seven, and Picard has “given him his payment”, we get a scene between Picard and Raffi, as he sends her off to do whatever she came to Freecloud for. I never really got the sense that this would be the last Picard, or us as the audience, would see of her. That’s not to criticise what was a well-constructed scene, it just didn’t feel like a permanent goodbye to a character we only met three episodes ago.

We follow Raffi as she arrives at a family planning clinic on Freecloud, and tracks down a young man. He was too young to really be a love interest for her (no offence to Michelle Hurd) and it turns out that he’s her son. Due to a combination of overworking during the supernova crisis and her drug issues, she had become estranged from him some time ago. Star Trek has always been good at using its science fiction setting to highlight real world issues, and we got a great example of that here. As America, and much of the western world, faces an opioid epidemic, there will be many families who have seen someone disappear into a void of drug addiction, and Raffi’s story mirrors that. Family breakup due to drug abuse is not something that’s often front and centre on our screens, yet it is a real problem for a lot of people in a lot of communities. The heartbreaking scene shows her son’s inability to forgive her – her attempt at getting clean and reconciling coming far too late, and her ramblings about the “conspiracy” to attack Mars seeming to indicate to him that she hadn’t really gotten over her problems anyway. Raffi is about to become a grandmother – her son and his Vulcan partner are having a baby, hence the family planning clinic. I doubt this will come back into play as a story beat, but it may be important for Raffi’s character going forward, and I suppose it could come back around next season in a bigger way. And we got a typical “Vulcan” haircut here for the first time in the series, I think. The Romulans used to style their hair similarly to Pel in this scene, but modern Romulans, like Narek, have abandoned that style. It was nice to see it back on a side character, as again this shows us a little of the Star Trek of old!

Standing apart – Raffi meets her son and his partner on Freecloud.

Raffi’s son – Gabriel – insists that she’s “just passing through”, and the couple depart, leaving Raffi clearly devastated. Back at the nightclub, Picard sees Maddox for the first time, and he is still alive, though clearly in somewhat of a bad state. The deal seems to be going as planned when Seven of Nine launches into a personal conversation with Bjayzl – alerting Picard and Rios to the fact that things may be about to go off the rails. Rios calls Dr Jurati on the ship, but her mental state has activated the EMH, who asks her about her “psychiatric emergency”. She confirms she still has a transporter lock, but that they haven’t activated the pattern enhancer. At this point, Dr Jurati’s state of mind could simply have been a result of nervousness about the important role she was assigned, but it definitely felt that there was something more – she was too anxious.

Seven of Nine disrupts the plan by grabbing Bjayzl, who orders her security people to stand down. Elnor, Rios, and Picard secure Maddox, and Seven is convinced to stand down and allow herself to be transported back to La Sirena with Maddox and the others – after being warned that if she harmed Bjayzl, it would put a target on Rios, Elnor, and Picard as well as on her. As I mentioned, this is the moment where I thought Dr Jurati could either turn on the crew or make a mistake, but the transport went smoothly and they were beamed back on board.

Seven disrupts the plot to rescue Maddox – but it all works out in the end!

Seven told Picard about what happened to Icheb, and that Bjayzl only knew about him because they had once been on friendly terms – and Picard, true to the way we remember him, gently tries to dissuade her from seeking revenge. I liked this moment; the interaction between two familiar characters, yet two characters who hadn’t before been on screen together, was a great way that Star Trek: Picard tied together two of the TNG-era series. The dialogue, and the acting performances by Jeri Ryan and Sir Patrick Stewart were absolutely on point, and sold this complicated tale of hate and revenge perfectly. Picard has always been diplomatic, and we see here that, despite being away from the action for a long time, he’s lost none of his edge in that regard.

Bjayzl, for her part, was actually fairly one-dimensional as far as villains go. If we knew more about her motivations for wanting Borg parts, or at least who her buyer was, maybe she’d come across a bit better. As it stands, because we don’t understand exactly how or why this trade in Borg parts operates, she reminded me of the villain from the film Solo: A Star Wars Story whose name I had to look up (it’s Dryden Vos). Despite being portrayed very well by the actress, Bjayzl just fell a little flat for me, and I would have liked to have seen more of her past, her interactions with Seven of Nine, and as I said, why she became so interested in ex-Borg.

This ties into something that has come across a couple of times in Star Trek: Picard so far. A slightly longer series – perhaps twelve or fourteen episodes, like Star Trek: Discovery – would have allowed for more screen time for some of these characters, and thus a little more explanation and depth. When Game of Thrones cut its final two seasons down in length it started having similar issues, and I think the same thing has happened in a way here. I know we’re only halfway through, but there have been several points, like the Bjayzl storyline, that would have been nice to see a little more of.

After the crew are beamed away by Dr Jurati, there’s a reunion between her and Maddox on the transporter pad. Seven of Nine departs to rejoin the Fenris Rangers, but takes two of La Sirena’s phasers on her way out. Picard activates the transporter, but she returns to Bjayzl’s club – finally completing her revenge. Again, Bjayzl felt quite one-dimensional, and the scene played out like many we’ve seen before, where a villain reacts with fear when cornered. However, from a storytelling point of view she was really just a foil for Seven, and a way to show to us as the audience how much Seven has grown since Voyager. In that sense, it was a success, and as I mentioned earlier, finally getting to see Seven of Nine really embracing her human side, after all the lessons she received from Capt. Janeway and the Doctor (and others) was great. I wouldn’t have expected that she’d show up in Star Trek: Picard when the series was announced, but I’m glad that she did. Though the episode leaves things ambiguous as to whether or not Seven made it out of the club after Bjayzl was killed, I think we can be confident that she did. Hopefully this won’t be her final Star Trek appearance.

“Picard’s Eleven” are beamed aboard by Dr Jurati after a successful heist.

Maddox is being treated in La Sirena’s sickbay – the first time we’ve gotten to see this set. It was nicely designed space, somewhat of a cross between sickbays we’ve seen in the TNG and Discovery eras, with a lot of holo-screens and less reliance on physical panels. Maddox is in a bad way, but it seems like he’ll recover, and he talks to Picard about Dahj. We get final confirmation here that Maddox is responsible for their creation, and that he sent them on a mission to discover what really led to the ban on synthetics. Dahj went to Earth to poke around the Daystrom Institute, and Soji is on the Artifact – so there must be something linking those two locations. Could the Borg be somehow tied to what happened with the synths on Mars? Maddox mourns Dahj as if she were his own daughter – which, in a sense, she was. And crucially, he tells Picard where to find Soji, setting the stage for the second half of the season.

Picard exits the sickbay, leaving Maddox alone with Dr Jurati. As they reminisce, it’s clear something is wrong. The way the music slowly changes was perfect here, building up Dr Jurati’s sinister intentions. Picard speaks to Rios about travelling to the Artifact, and also we get confirmation that Raffi is back on board – though she’s not coming out of her cabin after what happened with her son. Maddox tells Dr Jurati that her work with him was essential to Soji and Dahj’s creation, describing them as the product of his work, Dr Soong’s, and hers.

Jurati says that it’s “one more thing to atone for”, as she does something to the bio-bed, setting in motion Maddox’s death. La Sirena’s EMH tries to intervene but Jurati deactivates it, and tells Maddox that she knows too much about – presumably – the consequences of creating synthetic life. It seems as though she’s killing him because of what he represents: someone who can create these synths, and there’s something too dangerous about that. In that sense, she is fully subscribed to the Zhat Vash/Commodore Oh ideology about how synthetic life is inherently bad. And I got a hint – just a glimpse, really – that maybe this is related to what we saw in Star Trek: Discovery’s second season last year. That story dealt with a rogue AI that planned to wipe out all organic life in the galaxy – could this be what the Zhat Vash conspiracy is trying to prevent? Some existential threat caused by synthetics? It’s hard to justify Dr Jurati’s actions otherwise.

The way this moment was staged and shot was perfect, showing Dr Jurati alone with Maddox in the middle of the frame.

Maddox dies, and Dr Jurati is genuinely devastated by what she’s done. If this was her mission – to find and kill Maddox – then she’s succeeded, but her cover is surely blown now, as La Sirena’s EMH witnessed what she did. What will happen to her after this is now up in the air, but she clearly cannot be relied on or trusted by the rest of the crew again. Alison Pill’s performance as a conflicted person, yet ultimately able to perform her task despite her personal emotional attachment to Maddox, was pitch-perfect. She’s been phenomenal in the role of Dr Jurati this season so far, and I hope we get to see more of her – perhaps even giving Jurati a chance at redemption.

So that was Stardust City Rag, probably my second-favourite episode of the season behind Remembrance. There was so much going on, and everyone except Elnor was involved in a big way. We got a resolution to Raffi’s side-quest, and I think now she will be fully on board with what happens next, now that she no longer has that distraction. Devastating as it was for her to be unable to reconcile with her son, I think some of that energy that she has for getting to the truth of what happened on Mars can now be fully unleashed.

Dr Jurati is much more in question – will she be put in the brig, turned over to some authority, or dealt with somehow by Picard and Rios? Murder is a serious crime, and though there probably is no death penalty, it would be enough to see her imprisoned in the Federation, and she and Maddox were Federation citizens. I really want to know why she did it – what is this huge secret that she knows about synthetics? Is she allied with Commodore Oh? Surely she must be… but how? And why?

After all the work to find him, Maddox dies – murdered by Dr Jurati.

Picard now has a destination to find Soji – but getting on board the Artifact surely won’t be an easy task. Rios is up for it though, and at the end of the episode in his conversation with Picard, there was a hint at least that he’s starting to believe in the cause too.

The storyline has moved on in a huge way. With Maddox out of the picture, and Dr Jurati having committed a heinous crime, it’s now up to Picard, Raffi, Elnor, and Rios to save Soji. Only Picard is truly invested in this goal, but the others may be starting to come around.

It was a shame that Elnor was underused in Stardust City Rag. I would have liked to have seen him do something – anything, really – after the time and effort made to recruit him last week. But with limited runtime there’s only room for so many characters, and the main thrust of this episode was about Seven of Nine.

What could have been an uninteresting episode from my point of view has turned into one of the best so far, and I really enjoyed the shifting tones and multiple storylines presented in Stardust City Rag. It was a rollercoaster ride, and when the credits finally rolled, all I could think of is that I wanted more! It’s going to be an arduous wait for next week’s episode – The Impossible Box.

Stardust City Rag, and the rest of Season 1 of Star Trek: Picard can be streamed now on CBS All Access in the United States, and on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and in other countries and territories. Star Trek: Picard – and the rest of the Star Trek franchise – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.