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Star Trek Picard Season 1 Episode #05 – Stardust City Rag Review

4 min read
While this was not my favorite episode of the series it’s one that felt right to have, and a kind of perfect mid-point of series episode.
© CBS All Access

A light exploration of what happens when Starfleet retreats.

What They Say:
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.

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As Picard hits the middle episode of the run we have an episode that feels the most “old school” from the 80s/90s era run of the franchise. Not that there’s anything bad about that but it definitely has a different flavor to it and some of the structure of it just keeps it from working as smoothly as it should, or as smoothly as the first four episodes did. The arrival on Freecloud was always going to be a bit problematic since the general sense of “oh, here’s Star Trek’s Canto Bight” stuff but it there’s always been some element of that across all of the series. Mostly, it’s that it plays out more like a caper than a mission that keeps it from really firing on all cylinders even as it delivers some solid material.

First, just to get it out of the way, it’s zero surprise that Raffi ends up departing the ship for good and then is back by the end of the episode. The only curiosity was as to what she was really seeking there – friends, family, or a lover. That it’s her son that had basically written her off years ago because of her substance abuse and the engaging in conspiracy theories over the synth attack gives it a little color. Michelle Hurd sells it as best as she can by giving Raffi some real emotion to it but the whole thing is such a drop-in that I don’t expect it to be referenced much for the rest of the season and instead be a pickup element in the second season. It does give her more of a complex background and explains her issues with not just Picard but the Federation itself but that doesn’t really help in how it’s presented here.

With the rest of the episodes, it’s your basic attempt at a heist. Upon learning that Maddox is being held by a group known as Bjayzl, which is also the name of the individual at the head of it, and that they’re trying to essentially sell him to the Tal Shiar, the gang comes up with costumes and new identities in order to provide Bjayzl something better. That something better is Seven of Nine, who has been trying to get Bjayzl for years as she as a Fenris Ranger has a real issue with her. That issue being that thirteen years prior, Bjayzl took the closest thing to family that Seven of Nine had in Icheb (recast) and gutted him for parts. Bjayzl’s one of those types whose organization goes after ex-Borgs for parts and those that were taken over young have the best and most parts. So someone like Seven of Nine from the Delta Quadrant is a huge get.

The gimmicks are cute enough in brief as you get Rios going for pimp-dashing while Picard plays a French scoundrel with an overdone accent. Agnes sticks to the ship while Elnor just quietly plays along because he’s no good at any of this even though his childhood made it seem like he’d be ideal for it. The whole thing isn’t convoluted in how it unfolds but rather predictable, which is its main problem. There is a good bit of fun to it because everyone gets to do a little scenery-chewing and we even get our first DS9 reference as they layered Rios’ backstory with an event involving Quark. So, stupid as it is, that made me happy. There are some moral grey areas that are played with as expected as well, no surprise when you have the very moral Picard and present Seven of Nine as the leader of a group of vigilantes protecting people where the law has failed them. The whole piece with Starfleet backing away after events with the synths really does speak to bigger things and the nods to conspiracies that filter into the episode here and there on top of past episodes make it believable enough.

In Summary:
While this was not my favorite episode of the series it’s one that felt right to have, and a kind of perfect mid-point of series episode. After the more novel-like approach of the first episode episodes as prologue, going into a couple of side stories with semi-standalone material to advance various pieces gets things going. I’m expecting we’ll get some interesting material as the group heads to the Artifact next and things shake up more from there and it’ll get us on the path for the more serious kind of episodes as we barrel forth toward the end of this ten-episode first season. Looking at it big picture, it’s a serviceable episode that attempts to add a little fun into things and touches on some classic Picard-isms, what with his love in the past on the Enterprise for the holodeck and roleplay. It’s an easy nod to be forgiven if it didn’t work for you.

Grade: B

Streamed By: CBS All Access

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