February 22, 2020
With episode 5, “Stardust City Rag,” Star Trek: Picard has managed to completely redeem itself and is now officially the best show on TV. The episode was written by Kirsten Beyer and directed by Jonathan Frakes.
For the first time in the history of Star Trek: Picard, there was an episode with a clear story. Sure, it has no themes, no goal and no point, but it does have a plot with a beginning, a middle and an end, and that is something that should impress us in 2020.
What really impressed me the most is that the episode doesn’t quickly jump around between a bunch of different locations in order to pretend like action is taking place.
The episode begins with a brutal torture scene, where a guy is strapped to a table and getting his eyeball ripped out.
Sure, Star Trek never had gore in it before, but who cares? This is new Star Trek, which is all about explosions, fight scenes, the f-word, people yelling at each other, people crying, and everything else apparently associated with a dark dystopian realm.
And I don’t know about you, but when I was watching Star Trek as a kid, I always thought “why isn’t this show more like the Saw franchise?”
And yes, that is Icheb from Voyager, because one of the invigorating things this show is doing, apparently, is pulling characters out of the old shows and pulling their eyes out.
7 of 9 rushes in and kills everyone. And then tries to save the guy who just had his eyeball cut out, but I guess he can’t live without his eyeball for some reason, so she has to mercy kill him.
She uses a phaser to mercy kill him while she has her arm around him, which I’m pretty sure would kill her too, because it’s a directed energy weapon and the charge would transmit via skin-to-skin contact, but whatever. Focus on just how emotional it is to see two characters that you loved on a different show 20 years ago being really sad together in a new sad world made horrible by Donald Trump.
The torture scene is a flashback, because we needed to know what 7 of 9 has been doing since she left Voyager. And apparently, she’s been acting like the space Punisher, doing a brutal vigilante crusade against galactic crime because the Federation has stopped enforcing the law in their own space. For some reason. I guess because they’re evil now, so they just don’t care about laws. So vigilantes are the new law.
We then go to “Free Cloud,” which is apparently the name of a planet in Star Trek. There’s a midget playing piano amidst lens flaring.
Bruce Maddox is there (it’s a different actor than the Bruce Maddox in The Next Generation), and he’s meeting with a sexy woman with a hooked nose. She’s a stripper or a space brothel mama san or something.
But Necar Zadegan isn’t Jewish. Oh no. She’s Persian. And we are reminded that we should go to war with Iran because the refugees from such a war would be sultry sexpots.
There is also a reptoid man.
The Persian space stripper is evil, however.
Maddox says he doesn’t know how he’s going to repay her loan, because again, money is a thing now. Don’t think too much about that.
He tells her that he was thwarted by the Tal Shiar, AKA the Romulan Illuminati. The evil space stripper drugs him because, whatever.
Back on the spaceship that I forget the name of, 7 of 9 is berating JL. Because the other title of this show is “Old Man Travels Around Getting Berated by Empowered Women,” and it is based on the adventures of Joe Biden.
She explains that her vigilante group stores their money in the crooked banks of Free Cloud. Because let me remind you: money is a thing in Star Trek now. Because it would be really hard to write a story about a dark and dystopian hell-future where everyone is miserable, people are getting their eyeballs pulled out and there are hook-nosed Islamic space strippers without money.
Without money, how would you ever show how unequal everything is? How would you know of the oppression?
JL tries to push back timidly against the abuse, saying that her vigilante group is taking the law into their own hands, and she says there is no law, and he agrees. She explains to him that she is a hero and he accepts this.
7 of 9 agrees to help JL in his quest to rescue the hapa android.
There is then a pointless scene with the pilot or the captain or whatever he is – his name is “Rios” – talking to the black woman about nothing. I guess they needed to inform the audience of new people that they think are watching this show that JL was briefly a Borg, and decided to take a whole stupid scene to do it. This episode was a lot tighter, and I stood up and clapped at the end when they made it through the entire episode without showing anything on the Borg cube – but it was still New Trek.
We then see the blonde woman in her room watching one of these ubiquitous holographic screens, and we find out that she was in a love affair with Maddox.
When they get into Free Cloud’s orbit, they start getting spammed with holographic ads, because… because I guess this ship’s computer doesn’t have a firewall, which kind of makes you wonder why it goes into space battles at all when apparently anyone can access the ship’s computer, and the ship’s pilot isn’t even worried about that fact.
Apparently the adware can also read their minds, because it advertises things to each of them that are relevant to their interests.
The blonde lady, who is a robots expert, gets assaulted by the hologram advertising a robotics shop.
You might be thinking “oh, the adware must have accessed the computer’s database and found the files for crew members.”
But no. It is advertising drugs to the drug-addicted black woman Raffi. And I don’t think she would have put her drug addiction on file.
So the adware is for sure reading their minds, which you’d think would at least be worth a mention by one of the members of the crew. But no.
Raffi then hacks the mainframe or some shit, and says she’s found Maddox.
Maddox is being sold to the Tal Shiar, and the blonde suggests simply paying more for him. But Raffi says it would be too much money. I don’t know why they wouldn’t just print the money in the replicator.
Raffi says “we’re shit outta luck, JL.” But 7 of 9 has a plan to trade herself for Maddox because the space stripper wants her, because she wants to rip out her Borg parts. I don’t know why Borg parts can’t just be made in a replicator, but hey – who the hell knows? Best not to think about it.
Free Cloud is I guess cool looking, but is directly ripped off of Blade Runner 2049 or Altered Carbon.
Rios is dressed up like a pimp and goes in first.
There is some sloppy and completely unnecessary non-linear storytelling here, where they show the crew on the planet and then go back and show them getting ready to go to the planet. No idea why. I guess it’s just “throw some of this shit in there” like everything else in this fantastic show.
Oh but it is the best episode yet, let me get back to the positives…
Rios in his pimp costume goes to meet the reptoid, and apparently he has fake references and he is pretending like he is going to broker the deal with the Romulans. Because apparently whenever you do a deal with the Romulans, you hire a random guy in a pimp outfit.
Then he springs the idea of trading Maddox for 7 of 9, at which point a gun is pulled.
It’s a good thing that Raffi gave him a cocktail of benzodiazepines (actually), because otherwise the reptoid would smell his lies.
Then JL shows up with 7 of 9 in handcuffs and he’s dressed up like a pirate. And he’s speaking with a French accent because I guess a British accent would trigger the reptile man to know it was a trick. That, or the entitled Jewish writers just wanted to insert silly nonsense because they thought people would think it was funny. It’s sort of like they were trying to reference the holodeck adventure episodes in TNG, but moving that silly tone to a serious situation defeats the purpose of such a reference.
It is certainly hard to believe that these people are dressed as pimps and pirates and acting stupid and goofy in order to try to fool a galactic criminal gang. But I did believe it.
I don’t understand why JL was there at all. Seems like sending an 80-year-old man into this situation is a bit irresponsible.
The b-plot is then shown and it is so interesting. Raffi hunts down her son who she abandoned and he’s half-Chinese.
There is a classic New Trek emotional scene, where she apologizes to him for not being a good mother, and he rejects her. Because family life in the future will completely degenerate between the years 2379 and 2399.
It’s really interesting and creative to have a drug addict mother come back and try to meet with her estranged son.
He has a pregnant wife, but he tells his mom to leave.
And she cries, because whatever. It’s just like Discovery, everyone crying all the time. The future is a shitty soap opera where no one has any emotional continence.
Then the b-plot is over.
And the rest of the gang is meeting with Al Jihadi Space Titties.
7 of 9 knows her because I guess it was her lab in the opening flashback where Icheb was having his eye pulled out. Also it’s vaguely implied here that they were lesbians together.
They’re involved in some back and forth and then 7 of 9 slips out of her handcuffs and grabs the evil space stripper’s throat.
Every scene this woman is in, they make a point to do a precise profile shot to show the beak.
Maddox has been brought in, and is still drugged but bleeding from his cheeks for some reason. I guess while he was passed out, someone decided to cut his cheeks.
Then uhhh… the Space Stripper says 7 of 9 tricked them, but actually it doesn’t matter that she tricked them because they’re still going to get Maddox anyway.
JL says it’s bad to do revenge missions, and then 7 of 9 explains her need for revenge.
Rios then explains if she kills the stripper, everyone in the room will have a bounty on their head, including JL.
They all beam back up to the ship.
JL, who’s spent the entire episode lecturing her on the evils of vigilantism, gives 7 of 9 two guns when she says she needs them for her vigilantism.
Then in a weird bit of dialogue, she asks him if after he left the borg collective he regained his humanity, and he says “yes.”
And she says “all of it?” and he answers “no.” Edgy. Dumb, of course. He was only a borg for 4 days.
Probably would have been cooler if he wasn’t still inexplicably wearing a pirate costume.
Then she beams down to the strip club, and everyone – including the midget – beams out.
But the woman she came to kill is still there. Because she didn’t beam out. Even though the midget pianist beamed out. For some reason.
So, she tells her she didn’t want to break the hope of JL, the stupid old man that still thinks there’s good in the galaxy. Then she kills her as well as a bunch of other people.
Then in the weirdest scene yet, the blonde – whose name is Agnes, by the way, I just got that – is in the room with her former lover Maddox, who is for some reason seriously injured (though no injury to him was ever shown). He is in a bed talking to JL, and tells him where the hapa android subject of his quest is – the Borg cube.
He says he sent her there to find the truth about the lies upon lies, and he doesn’t know who is involved in this conspiracy or what it is, but thinks the Federation (Section 31, I assume, because this is all going to be tied back to Discovery as a way to try to justify the existence of that show) is working with the Romulans to do something. No new information is revealed. Although this was new information for JL, the show’s protagonist. We’ve known it since the end of the first episode.
Agnes listens ominously.
She then tells JL to leave.
Then she deactivates whatever treatment Maddox is undergoing for whatever wounds he suffered.
And she says “I wish you knew what I knew… I wish I didn’t know what I know. I wish they hadn’t shown me,” as his face fills up with veins.
Then when he dies, she starts crying.
There’s a whole lot of killing and crying in this show.
You have to wonder why it is that if she knew this super compelling information, she didn’t just tell him the information, instead of killing him. She’s working for Tal Shiar, or Section 31, or the Borg, or some possibly even stupider thing – if you can think of something stupider, that’s what it’ll be.
And that’s the end.
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