Star Trek: Picard: Stardust City Rag
February 20, 2020 3:39 AM - Season 1, Episode 5 - Subscribe

Unnecessary surgery is unpleasantly performed on an unexpected face from the past. Later, at a wretched hive of scum and villainy on Freecloud, Picard, Seven, Raffi, and Agnes each find someone they've been looking for, albeit with mixed results.

Background from Memory Alpha:

- Casey King plays Icheb in this episode. Manu Intiraymi originated the role on Star Trek: Voyager.

- John Ales plays Bruce Maddox in this episode. Brian Brophy originated the role in TNG: "The Measure of a Man" (though the character was mentioned in two susbequent TNG episodes).

- Among the signage in the establishing shot of the Freecloud city is a reference to Mr. Mot, the barber on the Enterprise-D in TNG. The name Quark also appears on a sign, and Quark himself is referenced in dialogue.

- Tranya first appeared in one of the earliest TOS episodes, "The Corbomite Maneuver".

- The Beta Annari species has similarities in name and makeup with the Annari from VOY.

- As Icheb is harvested for Borg parts, the operator wonders where his cortical node is. Icheb donated this crucial implant to Seven in VOY: "Imperfection", who was at the verge of dying due to a malfunction of her own cortical node. This episode confirms that Icheb managed to survive without this implant, despite medical concerns by the Doctor.


Poster's Log:
Well, lots of developments here, but perhaps the standout moment IMO was Picard and Seven's conversation just before Seven beams off Rios's ship (which is apparently named La Sirena, by the way). The FF Voyager rewatch reminded me of Jeri Ryan's acting chops, and they're on display here; in that moment, she sells the trauma-survivor thing efficiently and affectingly, and throughout the episode I kept thinking, "Yup, this seems about how Seven would be after this many years," right down to the Fenris Rangers thing.

Picard in Stereotypical French Villain mode was awesome—and very in-character. Let's not forget that Picard is no stranger to adopting out-of-character voices and personae.

When Dr. Jurati and Maddox were alone, I leaned over to Mrs. OfBrazil and said "And now she kills him," although until her line about wishing she didn't know what she knows, I wasn't sure yet whether Oh reprogrammed her subconsciously a la Reggie Jackson in Naked Gun, or what. This seems to be a good way to go with that, though—I'm feeling some early hints of cosmic horror, which the Borg of old had too, in my view.

I'd wager that Bjayzl is Betazoid except that the script not only didn't mention it, but gave her a flunky with Betazoid-like abilities in the person of Mr. Vup, the "sentient reptiloid"—which, um…this show keeps using that word, "sentient," but I do not think it means that they think it means.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
"Vergessen"—the planet Icheb is killed on—is German for "to forget."
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (131 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Picard's french villain disguise is my new favourite thing.

Poor Icheb. Poor Seven. Glad she got some payback. I hope to the high fucking heavens that CBS has the good sense to make a spin-off series for Seven of Nine: Space Justice.

Maddox only ever really needed to point them towards the cube, so his work is done I guess. Curse you Dr. Tweevil and your sudden but inevitable betrayal.
posted by mrjohnmuller at 5:29 AM on February 20 [14 favorites]


Those first few minutes were very unexpected, and super gruesome. Felt like I was suddenly watching the wrong show. Is Frakes trying to land a gig directing the next installment of the Saw franchise?

Wonderful to see Jeri Ryan again, and agreed mrjohnmuller, the woman can act! Hope we see more of her and Stewart sharing scenes.

I really hope Chabon can stick the landing. There needs to be one hell of secret driving this
plot.
posted by Frayed Knot at 8:32 AM on February 20 [7 favorites]


Holy shit they tortured Icheb to death! Good lord. No wonder Seven is so angry.

I loved the way Jeri Ryan was able to bring some Delta Quadrant Seven inflections to her performance while showing her growth over the past 20 years.

It really does seem like the collapse of the Romulan Star Empire has really fucked things up... and that the Federation is involved in some realpolitik in taking advantage of the situation. Looks like the "let them die" contingent is in ascendence.
posted by Automocar at 12:09 PM on February 20 [4 favorites]


Yeah, the torture eyeball extraction opener was not expected. Gotta love how they give Picard a campy eyepatch later to balance it out though. Is that all we get of Seven/Annika? That does seem like the perfect setup for her own series, with her struggle to fully reclaim herself from the Borg as she blasts wrongdoers. And of course Picard changes his will to ensure she gets funds for a new ship.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:11 PM on February 20


I can't believe I missed a Quark reference...replay! I have to wonder what the value is of Borg parts? Who uses them? Then I postulate the feminine aspects of Data's daughters, came from the one woman in on the experiment, who then, black widow style, destroys her mate. I don't remember what the strange sub-dermal blood vessels mean on the face of the dead Bruce Maddox. I love these characters, and the many ties that bind them into the action.
posted by Oyéah at 2:23 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


Wow. Yikes. No.

Giving us Icheb just to kill him? Seven turning bitter and extra-grimdark and murdery? Jesus. Twisting the knife in Raffi a bit more?

Just... no. Ugh.
posted by KTamas at 2:33 PM on February 20 [6 favorites]


Raffi also got shamed for her snakeweed vaping when all the personalized ad holograms popped up. Poor Space Legolas didn't have a profile for the algorithm.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:33 PM on February 20 [9 favorites]


How are they twisting the knife in Raffi more? She’s a drug addict. My father is an alcoholic and believe me when I say that scene was extremely relatable.
posted by Automocar at 3:42 PM on February 20 [8 favorites]


Yeah, I think this is the last episode of this show that I'm going to watch. I was willing to give the show a lot of leeway because I love Star Trek and Patrick Stewart and Michael Chabon... but this feels like too far of a departure for me. I don't want grimdark Star Trek. I don't want torture porn/revenge porn Star Trek. I don't want which "crew" member is going to betray someone next Star Trek.
posted by overglow at 3:46 PM on February 20 [3 favorites]


It’s really interesting to see the reaction this episode is getting, because I too don’t want “grimdark” Star Trek and yet I unreservedly love this show. To me PIC so far is the successor to DS9: willing to show that outside of the Federation and Starfleet, things aren’t as rosy, and willing to ask hard questions about Trek’s sacred tenets. Seven is basically Kira Nerys.
posted by Automocar at 3:53 PM on February 20 [16 favorites]


I loved the scenes set in The Citadel Wards Freecloud with crime boss Aria T'Loak Bjayzl and her Krogan reptilian henchman! Nice to see a place other than the standard Fed/Klingon/Vulcan planets.

But really, that was the most Mass Effect thing I've seen since Mass Effect. I kept waiting for Wrex to bust in and blast the place.
posted by Justinian at 4:16 PM on February 20 [8 favorites]


I believe one reason they probably killed Icheb like that is because his original (main) actor is... not somebody they wish to be associated with any longer.

FWIW put me in the camp of people who unreservedly love this so far!
posted by Justinian at 4:20 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


I believe one reason they probably killed Icheb like that is because his original (main) actor is... not somebody they wish to be associated with any longer.

Uh...why? Can't see anything on the googles.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:44 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


He said some... rather unhinged things about Anthony Rapp when the Kevin Spacey stuff came out, for one.
posted by Automocar at 4:48 PM on February 20 [2 favorites]


He said some... rather unhinged things about Anthony Rapp when the Kevin Spacey stuff came out, for one.

Oh. Oh no.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:53 PM on February 20 [3 favorites]


TNG had some fucked up stuff, it's just that everyone not in uniform was wearing floral drape jumpsuits and only got one episode so it was hard to take seriously.

Fucking O'Brian had a fake life sentence implanted in his mind. Poor bastard never got a break.

The difference in this series is that no one wears florals, people don't easily get over shit and the implications of things like collapsing space empires are taken more seriously.
posted by emjaybee at 6:32 PM on February 20 [16 favorites]


But really, that was the most Mass Effect thing I've seen since Mass Effect. I kept waiting for Wrex to bust in and blast the place.

Have you played the Citadel DLC in the third game? Right before things go to hell in the sushi place, Shepard promises to get Joker a drink with two umbrellas.

And as for the general suitability of the episode, I don't know, folks, I think that we may be recalling Trek differently. Yes, there's some ickier moments in here than we're necessarily used to from previous iterations, but we already know that things are different in streaming land, especially with the f-bombs here and in DSC. (And that needle has been moving for a while; we just did a recap of an Enterprise episode elsewhere on the purple in which someone gets a hole blown clean through them.) For that matter, the VOY episode "Timeless" has the EMH extracting something from Seven's ocular implant in an alternate future; there's no gore, but that's mostly because she's frozen solid, along with most of the crew. And seeing what Jurati does to Maddox is not the most fun moment of Trek to watch, but I think that people were speculating in "The End is the Beginning" about the time that she spent with Admiral Coolshades Oh. Maybe it is some sort of cosmic horror, something that makes all the trouble with the Borg and the Dominion look like a squabble over a bar tab. I'm still willing to trust the show to justify it.

The rest of it was great; anyone who's watched all of VOY, or anything else that Jeri Ryan has been in, already knew that she had the chops. (BTW, if you do the current "event" in Star Trek Online that has Seven and Michael Burnham in it, one of the rewards is a pair of dual-wield rifles.) Speaking of possible Mass Effect references, there's an organization in the second game called the Corsairs that Jacob Taylor belonged to before he joined Cerberus; although they were a part of the Earth Alliance, they had a certain amount of plausible deniability that made them not terribly unlike the Fenris Rangers. Of course, I also dug the additional Bowie reference. Elnor not getting a targeted ad was perfect. And I'm glad that Manu Intiryami got shut out; he's been a little shitlord in social media for a while.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:35 PM on February 20 [9 favorites]


Screw that Section 31 show. Give me Star Trek: Rangers (aka Leverage in Space) with Seven as the mastermind. Okay, not Leverage literally translated in space but I'd love to see a show about a crew on a ship who go around helping people who had no one else to turn to.
posted by Constance Mirabella at 6:52 PM on February 20 [11 favorites]


I spent a longgg time clinging to 90sTrek. But, I've decided that it's time to accept that it's never coming back. The TV industry has changed. The world has changed.

I can hate every new Trek offering for what it isn't – or I can try to find things to appreciate about what it is. Sometimes I succeed; sometimes I don't.

I'm mostly digging this show so far. I thought that this episode was a little goofy (pimp costumes? really?), and melodramatic (the soap-opera plot with Raffi's son). But the previous episodes were good enough for me to keep watching anyway.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 7:03 PM on February 20 [4 favorites]


Oh, speaking about the scene with Raffi and her son: certain aspects of that exchange were quite familiar to me.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:06 PM on February 20 [3 favorites]


This show reminds me a lot of the few "undercover" episodes in TNG, only not completely laughable.

I wouldn't go quite so far as calling this grimdark, maybe not-iStore Trek. Like, maybe Akihabara back in the day compared to an Apple store these days.

Trek Noir?

7's own spinoff could be a Western in the tradition of Firefly.
posted by porpoise at 7:24 PM on February 20 [2 favorites]


7's own spinoff could be a Western in the tradition of Firefly.

Maybe do it Kurosawa-inflected, call it Seven: Samurai.
posted by Maecenas at 7:29 PM on February 20 [35 favorites]


I don't want torture porn/revenge porn Star Trek.

There are no lights?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:33 PM on February 20 [13 favorites]


Riker’s Beard : TNG :: Seven’s beachy waves : Picard
posted by roger ackroyd at 7:49 PM on February 20 [7 favorites]


Are you seriously comparing the first 5 minutes of this episode with "Chain of Command?" If you think those are anything close to the same thing, I honestly don't know what to say.
posted by Frayed Knot at 7:51 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


That was a lot more Shadowrun than I ever expected to see in a Star Trek episode.

This was still awfully bleak. I'm not particularly fond of "everybody gives heartfelt speeches convincing Seven not to commit murder in the name of revenge, she pretends to go along with them to humor Picard and then goes back and commits murder anyways". That is a deeply un-Star Trek plot beat, to me. I know Seven acknowledges in the episode that she thinks its good for Picard to be out there being Picard-like and doing his thing, but she herself is all "no room for mercy" and the show itself remains frustratingly opaque about whether it really thinks Picard or Seven is correct. It's one thing to say "Oh, the galaxy needs Picard" but when you then give Picard the treatment of a bumbling old man who everybody just humors due to his past accomplishments, and you give Punisher-of-Nine the badass shooting-her-way-out scene, well....it's like they say, there are no anti-war war movies.

I dunno. It's hard to judge because we haven't seen the whole thing yet; I don't know if we're looking at the beginning of a character arc for a Seven who will show up a bunch more, or if we're looking at a backdoor western spinoff for Jeri Ryan (The Magnificent Seven of Nine, obviously) or if that's all we're going to see of her. And I don't know if Picard's ideals will finally get their due at the end of the day. But it feels like this show is pushing closer to full-on grimdark - in terms of philosophy, moreso than style or gore level or whatever - with each episode, and I'd like to see it come back a bit.
posted by mstokes650 at 7:57 PM on February 20 [12 favorites]


Frakes has eminently poor taste and this episode was one long demonstration.
posted by sixswitch at 8:33 PM on February 20


There’s a difference between depicting torture and making torture porn. For me, the opening sequence of this episode crossed that line in a way that I found very surprising, offputting, and disappointing. Not to mention just plain gross.
posted by overglow at 8:49 PM on February 20 [6 favorites]


Are you seriously comparing the first 5 minutes of this episode with "Chain of Command?"

...I’m comparing makeovers
posted by roger ackroyd at 8:49 PM on February 20


Are you seriously comparing the first 5 minutes of this episode with "Chain of Command?"

Comparing? Yes. Seriously? No.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:57 PM on February 20


thread unread...

Space... Vegas? Space... Darkweb?

(more to come)
posted by mwhybark at 9:08 PM on February 20


Seven is basically Kira Nerys.

YES.

So. Coming firmly down on the side of punch all Nazis- kill all Mengeles- Magneto was right- this episode was tailor made for me. When Picard was talking down Seven I was LIVID, me and mother had to pause while I argued that Seven was right- and when she went back with a phaser set on MAXIMUM GORE I was very happy. (Don't @ me, read the paradox of tolerance) And yes- the torture porn at the beginning was a little over the top, I actually cried a little. Mom didn't recognize the character at first but when I went "ICHEB NO" she got it. Dad... asked me who Icheb was. So despite him having watched VOY all the way through several times we had to pause and explain that to him and... now I'm worried about dad's cognitive delays all over again.

Anyways the moment with Rafi and her son was also very realistic. God I'm loving this depiction of a future not dystopia or Utopia but striving for one while attempting not to fall into the other- And yet- I can see Picard's point! If the Federation was still here- Bjayzl should have been arrested and tried and locked up in supermax for the rest of her days for crimes against sentients but- Picard is forgetting- the federation isn't here. It's like earlier when he invokes the right of law and Seven goes "what law" and he has to concede the point. And yet in a world where people debate how bad kids in cages really is... I think they needed to show Icheb getting tortured to death or else you'd get people debating whether Bjayzl was so bad like people try to take Iron Man's side in Civil War. (ooh the poor billionaire is clearly the good guy- putting people on lists is clearly good because the actor that plays him is handsome, what a woobie! Yeah I'm bitter. Fuck Billionaires. Fuck Nazis. Fuck Trump.) I think this show is a brilliant allegory for today and the writer's are KILLING IT. I also love that Jurati is not a good guy because oh she's so sweet and white and blond she's an innocent of COURSE SHE'S A BAD GUY AREN'T YOU PAYING ATTENTION!
Yeah nope. Also CheesesOfBrazil my mom was just like you- she pegged it earlier then you did- when she was biting her lip while Picard was talking to Maddox she was like "Oh she's gonna kill him"
God bless you mom.

The whole point of Star Trek is to show how WE can be better today. The federation was ALWAYS an allegory. God you take Ryan out of the catsuit and give her writers that aren't misogynists like fucking Berman- she's the best of them.

There's a reason that (post Roddenberry) TNG and DS9 was the best trek. Showing us our ideals and then the limits of them, how you can't be a saint outside of paradise and how sometimes balancing the greater good with you ideals meant some sacrifices- and yet nobility was always a goal.

I was liking this but not 100% on board- and this episode has me on board. You can clearly see Chabon in this in all the best ways. I'm just gonna have to hope we don't have many more old faces at this point- it's confusing dad.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 9:10 PM on February 20 [18 favorites]


I believe one reason they probably killed Icheb like that is because his original (main) actor is... not somebody they wish to be associated with any longer.

If they didn't want to associate with him, hiring him is a funny way to do it.
posted by StarkRoads at 9:25 PM on February 20


Except that, per more than one comment here, they did not hire the original actor to play the part. And I agree with the Seven/Kira comparison.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:32 PM on February 20 [4 favorites]


Exactly, the Icheb they killed off was a different actor than the one that played him in Voyager.
posted by Justinian at 9:36 PM on February 20 [6 favorites]


um

well, yes, I will get back to you, for reasons that are presumably transparent to folks here familiar with my posting history. Goodness.
posted by mwhybark at 9:38 PM on February 20


Good God, CoB. If they pull this again next week you are neded, I assure you.
posted by mwhybark at 9:42 PM on February 20


This was still awfully bleak. I'm not particularly fond of "everybody gives heartfelt speeches convincing Seven not to commit murder in the name of revenge, she pretends to go along with them to humor Picard and then goes back and commits murder anyways". That is a deeply un-Star Trek plot beat, to me.

So what I like about that beat is it instantly darkens all of TNG, for me.

Someone once described TNG to me as “Federation Propaganda”, and maybe it’s the dark times we live in, but I can’t unsee it. Like Picard really is noble and true and does the right thing but I actually think they’re doing something really savvy in showing that actually cool speeches do not always change hearts. And moreover, doing it off-ship, out of Picard’s sight. It makes you question- what if this has been happening all along to all the planets Picard thought he was saving? What if the speeches never mattered? What if he has been good and true but never quite as influential as he thought he was because the Great Man theory of history is wrong? What if they always waited for him to leave and then went back to murdering each other?
posted by corb at 10:16 PM on February 20 [40 favorites]


Exactly, the Icheb they killed off was a different actor than the one that played him in Voyager.

Got it, missed that while they were pulling the character's eye out by the optic nerve and slicing it off.
posted by StarkRoads at 10:49 PM on February 20 [3 favorites]


Relatedly, did they re-cast Maddox for any particular reason? That one was real real obvious.
posted by StarkRoads at 10:53 PM on February 20


From what I understand Brian Brophy no longer acts but teaches at CIT
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 11:03 PM on February 20


> what the strange sub-dermal blood vessels mean on the face of the dead Bruce Maddox.

It visually kinda looks like a warfarin overdose - internal bleeding everywhere from too much blood thinner. When they start stabilizing him, the computer voice says it's increasing his clotting factors in response to internal bleeding. So she turned the dial on his clotting factors to like negative infinity and all his blood vessels became sieves is how she killed him is my guess.

I wouldn't expect the medical stuff to really be real enough but probably she could be found out because it doesn't look like how you'd expect him to die.
posted by floam at 12:19 AM on February 21 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't expect the medical stuff to really be real enough but probably she could be found out because it doesn't look like how you'd expect him to die.


And the EMH materialized long enough to see that something was wrong, so unless she can wipe his memory (and presumably that of the sickbay equipment) there's a record of things not going as they should have been going.

This episode had a lot of DSC-esque doubling going on--two people murdered by "doctors" (and at opposite ends of the episode), Seven's and Raffi's literal and figurative loss of their sons, Seven and Jurati both killing someone they had once cared for, etc.

I was glad that I'm not spoiler-averse, because that opening was well into Stuff I Don't Watch territory.
posted by thomas j wise at 2:39 AM on February 21 [3 favorites]


I think we're going to find out she simply wiped the EMH's memory or EMH's aren't allowed to persist anything anymore. VOY established that back on Earth nobody would let an EMH run for a long time and it's easy to wipe them when they need to on Voyager.

Jurati crying watching the videos and her intense anxiety really has me wondering what the hell it was that was shown to her. Maybe Maddox really needed to die?
posted by floam at 3:33 AM on February 21 [3 favorites]


The real question is, how long has Jurati been an agent/compromised? Since her meeting with Oh or before that?
posted by emjaybee at 3:47 AM on February 21 [1 favorite]


mstokes650: you give Punisher-of-Nine the badass shooting-her-way-out scene, well....it's like they say, there are no anti-war war movies.

Homo neanderthalensis: Don't @ me, read the paradox of tolerance

I think I'm pretty much with H. neanderthalensis here; on first glance, Seven's Tarantinoesque moment feels very much like it was included strictly for the purposes of badassery/marketing, and I do confess that a part of me squirmed a little there on first watch, perhaps the part of me that still feels burned by JJ Trek and its empty destructiveness.

… But taken in context, and factoring in her backstory in this episode and throughout VOY, it in no way strikes me as out of character for her, nor, for the most part, for this franchise. Bjayzl is basically the Vidiians except motivated by profit rather than saving their species, and had the Vidiians had Bjayzl's motivation, I'm sure VOY (and DS9 and maybe even TNG) would've had our heroes blasting the Bjayzus out of them too. (I just love Bjayzl's name.) I mean, what's scarier to audiences these days: Borg/zombie-style assimilation or cruelly-unfettered capitalism?
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:45 AM on February 21 [7 favorites]


I loved every second of this. At first it was a tight, fun exercise of the heist caper trope. Then it took an intense, unexpected dramatic turn that both (somewhat) furthered the plot and really developed character.

Jeri Ryan is a exceptional actress -- she brought so much to this. I'd thought she'd be a regular character; she needs to be.

I keep finding Dr. Jurati charming and I much prefer her as a conflicted secret antagonist than a full-on malicious double-agent. The show could get a lot of dramatic mileage out half-convincing the audience she might be doing the right thing. In contrast, Oh seems (so far) to be a cliche villian.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:49 AM on February 21 [3 favorites]


It makes you question- what if this has been happening all along to all the planets Picard thought he was saving? What if the speeches never mattered? What if he has been good and true but never quite as influential as he thought he was because the Great Man theory of history is wrong? What if they always waited for him to leave and then went back to murdering each other?

This idea can be extended back to TOS, which had quite a few episodes in which Kirk & Co. rode into town, casually changed an entire civilization, gave them a nice pep talk, and then warped off into the sunset. Were they followed by some Federation team that tried to ensure that the world didn't descend into chaos, something even worse, or just reboot Landru and go back to the way things were? Who knows?
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:52 AM on February 21 [6 favorites]


whenever i heard bjayzl I thought they said vejazzle
posted by lalochezia at 5:29 AM on February 21 [26 favorites]


So, two unrelated things:

I get the comments about how uncomfortable/gross/over the top the opening torture death was, but... that was the point. We needed to feel why Seven was so crazy with grief and revenge, especially for people that don't know who Icheb is.

Regarding the "darkening" of TNG: I distinctly remember the episode "The Hunted" where a planet had created super soldiers who then returned to exact revenge, and at the end of the episode, when the super soldiers were storming the building and the prime minister or whatever was pleading with Picard to help them, he goes "nah, gotta get back to space" and BEAMS THE FUCK OUT.

So yeah. TNG? Had its dark moments.
posted by Automocar at 6:43 AM on February 21 [12 favorites]


(I also couldn’t make out the made up word so I also mentally substituted “vajazzle”!)
posted by Burhanistan at 7:00 AM on February 21 [5 favorites]


I've heard folks from a few corners (not necessarily here) say that "we need TNG-style Trek right now"--i.e., that we need a truly hopeful future to inspire us, something we can strive for.

Maybe. I can see the argument for that. But personally, that's not what I need. Nor do I need straight-up grimdark. What I need, emotionally, in the year 2020, is fiction that shows how people can continue caring for one another and fighting to keep the light alive even in the midst of all the gathering gloom and hopelessness. Seven said something about her Ranger life, something to the effect of "it's not heroic or noble, it's just incredibly difficult and frustrating, but the alternative is giving up, which is unacceptable." That's the fuckin hero I need right now.
posted by sugar and confetti at 7:02 AM on February 21 [35 favorites]


it's a heckin good show
posted by sugar and confetti at 7:04 AM on February 21 [3 favorites]


"That's the fuckin hero I need right now."

I mean, yeah, sometimes asplodin' someone is the right call. I would have preferred less mustache-twirling and more "I'm running a business here, and human trafficking for harvesting Borg implants is very profitable" because that's a villain appropriate for our times along with, you know, nazis.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:17 AM on February 21 [5 favorites]


I get the comments about how uncomfortable/gross/over the top the opening torture death was, but... that was the point. We needed to feel why Seven was so crazy with grief and revenge, especially for people that don't know who Icheb is.

The original fridging in Green Lantern #54 felt shocking also.
posted by StarkRoads at 7:56 AM on February 21 [3 favorites]


This is not even remotely that. They're setting up a larger narrative about the relative worth of individuals via their organic/non-organic status, and Hugh even mentioned on the cube that ex-B's are treated like commodities. This wasn't a misogynistic shock for shocks sake, (and to kill off a girlfriend so they could introduce another love interest because comics) This was to show the horror that happens when you treat people like things. Which is something people have trouble facing these days.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 8:01 AM on February 21 [5 favorites]


This episode had a lot of DSC-esque doubling going on--two people murdered by "doctors" (and at opposite ends of the episode), Seven's and Raffi's literal and figurative loss of their sons, Seven and Jurati both killing someone they had once cared for, etc.

Maddox and the entertainment robot hologram both being killed by a very reluctant Jurati.
posted by polytope subirb enby-of-piano-dice at 8:07 AM on February 21 [2 favorites]


Were they followed by some Federation team that tried to ensure that the world didn't descend into chaos, something even worse, or just reboot Landru and go back to the way things were? Who knows?

TOS was actually rather good about that. In a lot of instances, including the Landru episode, the denouement of the show would include Kirk talking about a Federation team beaming down and having a quick chat with the team leader. In the Landru episode, the team leader cheerfully reported the previously mind controlled people getting into shouting matches and brawls as they learned how to to resolve their problems without Landru's control.
posted by Fukiyama at 8:09 AM on February 21 [1 favorite]


Wait a minute hold up- something just occurred to me. Icheb was in starfleet. Icheb was in uniform when he was butchered- where was his captain- where was his crew- why wasn't there an inquiry or an inquest or anything? This should have been all over the infonet 13 years ago... unless...
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 8:40 AM on February 21 [11 favorites]


Ms. LF and I both saw Jurati’s turn coming a couple of episodes ago (it was kind of obvious when there was no explanation or follow-up to the visit from Oh), but I’m very interested to know what Commodore Oh told her. One the last things she said to Maddox was “one more thing I have to atone for,” so whatever she was told, it’s some seriously bad stuff (true or not) and has her scared completely shitless. That’s a believable antagonist.

Also, the icy delivery when Seven said “the only thing worse would be giving up” as she stared at Picard was amazing. I am continually impressed with how Picard is being made to face the consequences of his withdrawal from the fight. (If you’re going to occupy the Great Man role, and have so many actually depend upon you, you damn well better not decide ‘nah, not gonna do it after all’....my dude, they believed in you and trusted you.) Another parallel there: Raffi’s estranged relationship with her son (so on-point and painfully real) is because of withdrawal/hiding due to fear (facilitated by addiction).

I continue to be delighted that a show run by one of our great living novelists, featuring one (or more) of our great living actors, is living up to its promise. I have seen few TV shows as well-written and performed as this one.
posted by LooseFilter at 8:45 AM on February 21 [15 favorites]


My guess is the Big Secret is something like the Reapers from Mass Effect, or the Anti-Spirals from Gurren Lagann. It's some extragalactic threat that will ignore organic life, but if synthetic life ever arises they will swoop in and sterilize everything.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 9:15 AM on February 21 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I just hope like hell that they manage to make it pay off. Don't get me wrong, I like DSC, but it's clear there were some stumbles in the writer's room between the seasons and maybe we should just sorta forget about the first season? (i.e. I think I like the characters more than the plot, necessarily.) But Picard has me champing at the bit waiting for the next episode to see how the story is coming along.

The only thing that has me annoyed is I kinda sorta want to watch Nemesis again to remind myself of some of the prime movers in PIC because it's been 18 years and I don't think I ever _ever_ watched it a second time.
posted by Kyol at 9:29 AM on February 21 [4 favorites]


Not sure that you'd get that much out of Nemesis, since the only thing that really connects with PIC is Data's death. It's a light redress of The Wrath of Khan with Picard's clone standing in for Khan and some Romulan superweapon standing in for the Genesis Project. Generally, Tom Hardy, Ron Perlman, and Dina Meyer all seem criminally underused.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:47 AM on February 21 [3 favorites]


Did anyone else think that bujazzer woman was Deanna Troi for a moment? Before they remembered how old Marina Sirtis is now? I did. </bad with faces>
posted by floam at 12:24 PM on February 21 [24 favorites]


I've been re-watching TNG and it took me a bit to figure out it wasn't Troi.
posted by fimbulvetr at 12:29 PM on February 21


I thought it was Zoya the Destroya from GLOW.
posted by rikschell at 12:42 PM on February 21 [8 favorites]


Yeah, I just hope like hell that they manage to make it pay off. Don't get me wrong, I like DSC, but it's clear there were some stumbles in the writer's room between the seasons and maybe we should just sorta forget about the first season?

Stumbles is awfully generous. They were playing hot potato with producers and showrunners for the majority of it's run so far and they didn't even really have the core conceit or approach hammered out before they started shooting. Really, given all the behind-the-scenes junk, we should've gotten a much worse show than even the biggest DISCO haters got.
posted by GoblinHoney at 12:50 PM on February 21 [2 favorites]


Picard has taken a while to win me over -- and I still think there were some stumbles at the beginning -- but with this episode and the last one, it has done so.

If this is the show that is going to take a hard look at the shallow, naive idealism of TNG, which irritated me while the show was airing and has grown even less charming with each passing year, and take a stand on the side that systemic problems are in fact difficult, thorny monsters that take years or generations of hard, unrewarding work to fix, and that if a good-intentioned crew of interlopers thinks that they have solved it with an hour of work minus time for commercial breaks and they need never return then they are deluding themselves, then I am HERE FOR IT.
posted by kyrademon at 2:35 PM on February 21 [5 favorites]


Also, the icy delivery when Seven said “the only thing worse would be giving up” as she stared at Picard was amazing. I am continually impressed with how Picard is being made to face the consequences of his withdrawal from the fight.

In an episode full of awesomeness that's cemented this as a must-watch show for me, that line made me wince in sympathy, she had him bang to rights.

So that's Raffi, Elnor, the Romulans on Vashti and now Seven who've all torn a strip off him - all rightly - for turning his back on his promises when he lost his rank and basically sat nursing his wounded pride in his cushy villa while out in the galaxy people without his name and resources had to sacrifice an awful lot to try and stay alive. Plus the shellacking he got from Admiral Clancy for having the gall to turn up and near demand a ship and crew a couple of days after insulting Starfleet in that car crash of an interview (ok, ulterior motives, but she absolutely had a point)

So Picard is having to eat a *lot* of humble pie as he finds out that fine words and speeches are all well and good when you have the might of the federation's resources behind you (and a heavily armed cruiser with a few hundred crew following your orders) but alone out in the parts the Federation has abandoned it's not quite so easy - and he pulls it off magnificently. Basically he has to beg for their help, and is finding out just how hard it is to hold onto your principles when the stakes are so personal, yet he's still trying.

I also thought that exchange between Picard and Seven before she left was amazing.
"When they brought you back from the collective, do you honestly feel you regained your humanity?"
"Yes"
"All of it?"
(whispered) "No"

Superb stuff, and I really, really hope we see more of Ryan, her and Stewart show what superb actors can do with good material.

And Seven going down to murder the woman responsible for her adopted son's torture and death - and many other ex-drones - was *absolutely* in character. Janeway had to rein in Seven's impulse for a 'direct' solution on multiple occasions, and a need for order was something she definitely kept from the Collective. She's been out trying to help in the power vacuum left by the collapse of the Empire and the Federation's withdrawal in the former Neutral zone for years with few resources and little backup and Ryan definitely sells that the cost to her soul has been high. And perhaps, doing it away from Picard's idealistic eyes is a little bit of shame at what she has to do...

But it wasn't all grimdark - come on, Stewart in an eyepatch playing a french villain. OMG. For those of us who wondered what his early screentest was like, where they wanted Jean-Luc Picard to actually have a French accent - now we know!

source: Graham Norton interview
posted by Absolutely No You-Know-What at 2:56 PM on February 21 [18 favorites]


This wasn't a misogynistic shock for shocks sake

Dahj got more properly fridged. This iteration isn't misogynistic but it's otherwise the same hacky cliche.
posted by StarkRoads at 2:57 PM on February 21


Wait a minute hold up- something just occurred to me. Icheb was in starfleet. Icheb was in uniform when he was butchered- where was his captain- where was his crew- why wasn't there an inquiry or an inquest or anything? This should have been all over the infonet 13 years ago... unless...

Icheb was on leave, outside Federation space, helping Seven. Even assuming there was an inquiry, what could/would they have done about it when Starfleet appears to have withdrawn into isolation inside Federation space.
posted by Absolutely No You-Know-What at 3:04 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]


I think this was the best episode so far, but not because it was wildly better than previous episodes (which I have enjoyed) but because each episode is building neatly on the previous ones, in terms of plot and - more impressively - character development. The scene with Raffi and her son was incredible and makes me understand her so much more. Watching Jurati go from "I can't punch a hologram" to standing by while her lover dies in front of her. Seeing Jeri Ryan show us an evolved Seven, but also - in moments - revert to old Seven, on the mention of the name Annika.

Honestly, though, the best scene was the final Picard/Seven scene. "Did you get your humanity back?" "Yes." "All of it?" "No." I knew as soon as I saw the first trailer that bringing Seven in was a perfect choice, given Picard's history with the Borg. This scene was the concentrated version of their experiences, boiled down to its essence. And then she talks about working on it every single day, steps onto the transporter, the Voyager theme plays and... I'm in tears.

And then Seven goes and kills Vejazzle (yes, that's how I heard it too) and you can see her struggle in front of our eyes - she can give Picard hope, but she's still out there doing the work. And some days her humanity is lost to her. Compare to Picard, who effectively ran away from the fight, stayed on the vineyard and remained untouchable and comfortable - while someone like Seven is still trying to help people, even after witnessing the worst of humanity.

Maybe we've seen the last of Seven in this season. That would be a pity, but also she's served her thematic purpose and we've got an update on one of the great Star Trek characters.

I am surprised we haven't seen the two other TNG characters we've been promised in the trailer at this point of the season, though. The back half is going to be pretty full as it is.
posted by crossoverman at 3:06 PM on February 21 [9 favorites]


So what I like about that beat is it instantly darkens all of TNG, for me.

I totally agree with you that it does this, and that's exactly what I don't like about it. It's one of the underlying premises of Star Trek, something baked in and completely foundational (along with the idea that humans hundreds of years from now will be better than 20th-21st century humans); the idea that Great Speeches can Change Minds. Not always, not every single time - sometimes the big speech fails even in TNG - but giving the speech is never something that just doesn't matter at all. Even DS9 for all its relative darkness has its fair share of Passionate Speeches, be it Sisko to the Prophets or whoever. But TNG, especially; I mean, it's right there in the first episode: Picard gives an impassioned speech and Q, as a result of said speech, does not wipe out humanity.

Now look at this show, and the people in it, and the vision of humanity we have been presented with, and tell me Q doesn't just wipe out humanity. The humans in this show aren't notably better than 21st century humans and the Big Speeches don't do anything, so we're apparently one John De Lancie cameo away from a well-deserved extinction.

Like I said: It's very bleak, and very not Star Trek-y. It's a good show but the more I think about it the more I think it is actually less of a Star Trek show than Discovery is. (Though Disco partly excuses itself through overall worldview-incoherence, I admit.)
posted by mstokes650 at 4:15 PM on February 21 [6 favorites]


What do y’all think are the likely outcomes of Seven killing Bjayzl? Will the criminal enterprise that she runs meaningfully change or will one of her lieutenants step into her shoes and continue things pretty much as before? Will the lives of any ex-Borgs or synth beings be improved?

I think some of this probably can’t be answered yet. But I still wonder about our perceptions and how they might differ... like, do you think the show intended that moment to a bad-ass heroic moment or a morally grey, understandable but maybe not great response to a fucked up situation kind of moment?

Does the show have a coherent theory of justice? If so, what is it?

Is Bjayzl being presented as a villainous source of evil and the remedy simply to kill her and those like her? Or is there a presentation of anti-synth oppression as due to widespread attitudes, social institutions, and long standing power dynamics? I honestly don’t know the answer, like it feels like the show is maybe trying to do the second but falling into action genre tropes and maybe unintentionally doing the first—or at least I worry that it is based on responses like, “sometimes asplodin’ someone is the right call.”

I’m not saying violence is never justified as a response to oppression or fucked up systems but I do think it’s worth thinking about our individualized narratives of heroism and what those stories tend to reinforce (and also leave out). I’m a prison abolitionist and a believer in restorative justice and I think that dismantling the prison industrial complex requires dismantling our inherited stories about justice and punishment and revenge. I don’t see that happening in this episode (or really this show).
posted by overglow at 5:06 PM on February 21 [3 favorites]


Keep in mind that Freehold is, by design, in a region of space outside of any law. It's a "might makes right" haven for those who are criminals elsewhere and Bjasyl is a mass-murdering kidnapper and person trafficker who harvests valuable body parts from her victims while they're alive and unsedated (i.e., a torturer).

Additionally, Seven is a widely respected representative of the de facto socially sanctioned protector of the powerless in this region where there is no legal authority nor, as far as we know, any other institution that serves the same function. I don't see her as a vigilante.

That she acted partly or mostly out of revenge is problematic, however.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:43 PM on February 21 [3 favorites]


I do not think that Bjayzl would have let any of them live, after ripping her off. The revenge murder also let everyone off Bjayzl's hook, at least for a while, if she is even dead. Her security may have been good enough to present a hologram, at the last minute, and cloak her. You can buy anything in a place like Vegas, I mean Freehold.
posted by Oyéah at 7:12 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]


overglow, my read on this so far is that the show is gearing up to make the argument that Picard (and the Federation) giving in to fear has led to situations like the Fenris Rangers and Seven murdering someone.

The Federation has never been perfect, but it’s always tried. It needs to try again.
posted by Automocar at 7:15 PM on February 21 [4 favorites]


Mrs. Fedora was SHOCKED not to see Lady Gaga’s name in the credits for Bjayzl.

I will admit that I was not above cracking a joke during the bar scene about the McElroy brothers coming in from off-screen all “I THINK DOGS SHOULD BE ABLE TO VOTE”

Still unsure if I like this show, but I’m also sort of willing to accept that it just wouldn’t be Star Trek without a rocky first season
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:05 PM on February 21 [2 favorites]


I totally agree with you that it does this, and that's exactly what I don't like about it. It's one of the underlying premises of Star Trek, something baked in and completely foundational (along with the idea that humans hundreds of years from now will be better than 20th-21st century humans); the idea that Great Speeches can Change Minds. Not always, not every single time - sometimes the big speech fails even in TNG - but giving the speech is never something that just doesn't matter at all. Even DS9 for all its relative darkness has its fair share of Passionate Speeches, be it Sisko to the Prophets or whoever. But TNG, especially; I mean, it's right there in the first episode: Picard gives an impassioned speech and Q, as a result of said speech, does not wipe out humanity.

I have a somewhat different view of "Encounter at Farpoint" and that whole thing. Yes, it's definitely a Trek trope; it's even called the Patrick Stewart Speech. (Compare/contrast with the Kirk Summation; they're not quite the same thing.) And, yes, Picard does make it, and Q does not in fact wipe out humanity. But riddle me this: why did Q choose Picard to be the sole representative of humanity in the docket? Why didn't he pick Kirk, or, for that matter, Sisko? Imagine that he'd come up to Sisko when, not long after Wolf 359, he was working on Starfleet's first bona fide warship. Or when he first took command of Deep Space Nine and got Quark to stay by threatening to throw Nog--yes, the same one who eventually became Starfleet's first Ferengi officer, and a wounded war hero--in Bajoran jail. Or, even, the Sisko of "In the Pale Moonlight." Do you think that he'd have gotten the same impression of humanity?

See, DS9 was a lot more like the galaxy that we see in this show, and the speech that Sisko is known best for is the one he gave Admiral Nechayev in "The Maquis, Part II":
On Earth, there is no poverty, no crime, no war. You look out the window of Starfleet Headquarters and you see paradise. Well, it's easy to be a saint in paradise, but the Maquis do not live in paradise. Out there in the Demilitarized Zone, all the problems haven't been solved yet. Out there, there are no saints — just people. Angry, scared, determined people who are going to do whatever it takes to survive, whether it meets with Federation approval or not!
Quark also has a similar view of humanity, which he shares with Nog right before the latter loses his leg in battle:
Let me tell you something about Hew-mons, nephew. They're a wonderful, friendly people – as long as their bellies are full and their holosuites are working. But take away their creature comforts… deprive them of food, sleep, sonic showers… put their lives in jeopardy over an extended period of time… and those same friendly, intelligent, wonderful people will become as nasty and violent as the most bloodthirsty Klingon.
Roddenberry had a much more idealistic view of 24th-century humanity in the early seasons of TNG, which made the characters very difficult to write for; that's one of the reasons why my favorite early season episodes involved Worf, who wasn't burdened with the perfection of humanity (and who Roddenberry didn't seem to care that much about; his first draft of the TNG writers' bible only refers to him briefly as a "Klingon Marine"), and also why the show improved in later seasons, after Roddenberry was eased out. DS9 expanded on that, with not only a bitter, cynical leader, but also a second-in-command who had unapologetically been a terrorist. The rest of the cast mostly had skeletons in their own closets, with the possible exception of Jake, who was a kid (but would have his own troubling brush with war) and Jadzia (who made up for it by inheriting certain problems from her symbiont's past hosts). So, as with my comment above, my response to "well, this isn't Trek" is that that's only with a gross oversimplification of the franchise that's not very accurate. I think that Q not only carefully picked who'd he'd judge, but also when he would; he didn't pick Picard when he was a young hellrake who got stabbed in the heart by a Nausicaan in a bar fight, and he didn't pick him at this point in his life. (He did approach an elderly Picard in "All Good Things...", but given that that continuity included an alive Data and a still-existing Enterprise-D, that's an alternate future that will not come to pass.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:39 PM on February 21 [14 favorites]


Picard gives an impassioned speech and Q, as a result of said speech, does not wipe out humanity.

For me, the point of that storyline, and indeed multiple encounters with Q to me was not that Q thought all humans were worth saving, but that Picard was, as he showed a flicker of what humanity might one day become. It was Picard's choice to help the alien rather than kill it that bought them time. But then, Q was hardly a fair judge, given his own actions across multiple series.

Even in the TNG-verse, imagine if Q had been judging humanity on the actions of Admiral Dougherty in the Federation-sanctioned operation to forcibly relocate the people of Ba'ku so they could effectively strip mine their planet (Insurrection), or hell, the Dominion War.

This show is exploring what happens when the Federation has abandoned its own principles and withdrawn into isolation, looking out for themselves only. Something that Picard himself did, showing his hypocrisy for lecturing everyone else for failing to live up to to a standard he himself failed to when he retired. But yet, he is now trying to redeem himself and those around him in trying to save Data's 'daughter'.

We can speculate how much the Federation's fall from grace was due to Romulan infiltration and skullduggery, and how much was a reaction to events such as the Borg and the Dominion war and some hinted-at dark plot regarding androids, but the plotlines here are deliberately now taking place outside the Federation's reach, much as DS9 did in the Gamma quadrant. This show is very much more an heir of DS9 than TNG. TNG was flawed in that it often tried to present simple solutions to complex problems - once the great Captain Picard turned up and made a speech, suddenly everything was fixed. This show is far more nuanced, as DS9 (and to an extent) Voyager was, showing that decisions have long term consequences, and you can't always undo the damage of the past no matter how much you want to - but have to keep moving forward anyway. As Raffi showed so poignently with her attempt to reconnect with her son that she'd failed so badly.

Picard himself of course has a history with the Borg; in First Contact, we saw how he himself fell prey to wanting revenge on them while fooling himself that he had a higher purpose (poor Ensign Lynch), though was brought back by Lily and redeemed himself. He admits to Seven that he lost part of himself irretrievably to them.

We're only 5 episodes in. The character arcs have been absolutely fascinating so far, and I hope we'll see future redemption for starfleet and the Federation. Picard himself represents that struggle against our baser instincts, and may yet win out, though it does seem he's expecting this to be a one-way mission. A struggle to save one android in a galaxy that seems to largely fear and/or hate sentient artificial life. Seven got closure, though at a steep price. I hope we see more of the consequences of that choice.

Star Trek has always reflected America (and the West as a whole) at the time it was made. Picard carries on that tradition, magnificently in my view. If it's a darker mirror, well, then so is our own time.
posted by Absolutely No You-Know-What at 10:30 PM on February 21 [20 favorites]


From the preview last week, I was all geared up for a fun, campy episode like TNG's holodeck episodes. And this episode absolutely was that, but the fun campiness was incongruously bookended by a deeply disturbing and explicit torture scene, and an indulgent revenge scene. Like others, I found the extreme gore way over the top. They could have communicated the same information, and amply motivated Seven’s vengeance, without going so wantonly all-in on the graphic ultraviolence and without giving us all nightmares.

Anyway, if I were writing the episode summaries for CBS, this one would be:

“Someone loses an eye. Then, it’s all fun and games!”
posted by Syllepsis at 10:42 PM on February 21 [15 favorites]


My favorite YouTuber just did a The story of TOS piece, and I just realized there are some interesting parallels.

After season two, NBC was very much considering giving Trek the the axe. A woman named Bjo Trimble organized fans to write letters and saved the show, albeit in a new time slot.

However, Roddenberry felt the new time slot was an insult and basically quit. Someone else ran the show for the third and final season.

No robo-vineyard or Romulan roommates, presumably, but it sure does remind me of Picard’s pre-show history...
posted by FallibleHuman at 1:08 AM on February 22 [1 favorite]


Michael Chabon responds to the criticisms of the opening scene of this episode.

This is exactly the read I had, and I’m glad that someone so thoughtful is at the helm of this show. It’s obvious they’re not throwing violence in just to do it.
posted by Automocar at 6:41 AM on February 22 [10 favorites]


Everything I loved about the last episode, I disliked here. The world building was shallow and pointless. The pacing felt off to me and I agree with Syllepsis' comments about shifts in tone. I did like the plot though, and the twists, so it's not all a loss.

Freecloud was so disappointing! Here we are in Space Macao but it boils down to just being a slightly seedy place confined to one bar / casino and one medical clinic, with a few 1980s-style animated ads for some other places. The costumes and characters they put Rios and Picard in were ridiculous. Which was explained, OK, and has some precendent in the holodeck episodes of shows past. Except Picard's accent was just really, really stupid. The only thing that worked about the whole setup was Elnor not understanding it and mocking it for us, the audience.

What I did like was Seven's character. I totally bought in to her going full on ranger vigilante. Imagine what a hard and horrible life she's had. For her to find meaning in a life bringing what she sees as justice to a chaotic part of the galaxy makes perfect sense to me.

But I didn't understand how she returned to Bjayzl to kill her. I thought up until that moment that Picard had done the standard "I'll talk you down and stop you from doing the thing". And she agreed. But then they say goodbye and Picard beams her right back to Bjayzl with two phaser rifles in her hands. What did he think was going to happen?

I also liked Jurati's turn. We've all been expecting it, but not like this. First the stakes so high; she's not just passing some information on to Starfleet Intelligence, she stone-cold murders her former lover / mentor. And then she does it for a reason that might actually make sense, or at least we're all waiting to find out. I assume we will within 10 minutes of the next episode. She can't keep secrets, and neither can Rios' hologram.

Did anyone feel anything in Raffi's story? They dumped it all so fast. She has a son! They're estranged! The son's having a baby! Here's the wife! He rejects her! The end. I think that could be a fantastic backstory if they'd just given it room to breathe. Instead it's sandwiched inbetween Rios pimpin' and Seven murderin'.
posted by Nelson at 7:48 AM on February 22 [2 favorites]


Seven was remarkably merciful. Her residual Borg implants and nanotech give her superhuman strength and speed; in the time before Bjayzl's backup security arrived, she could literally have torn her to pieces with her bare hands. Instead, she vaporised her with a phaser rifle, about as quick a death as you can get in Trek.

Although for what it's worth Trek series have for the most part been remarkably coy about showing what being shot with a phaser would do to you. Even set on 'kill', phasers either leave neat burns or cleanly vaporise the victim. My personal head-canon is that the gruesome death of Remmick in 'Conspiracy' - the goriest scene in the whole of TNG (video here) - is actually the one time we get an honest depiction of what really happens to someone hit by a lethal particle-beam weapon, which is what a phaser is.
posted by Major Clanger at 8:07 AM on February 22 [5 favorites]


“Someone loses an eye. Then, it’s all fun and games!”

"Until someone gets hurt."
posted by curious nu at 8:19 AM on February 22 [2 favorites]


YouTube just recommended this First Contact clip of Picard shooting up some Borg with a tommy gun in the holodeck. It’s kind of a funny contrast with how he talks down Seven from initially killing Byjazzle. Plus that rage scream while he’s shooting!
posted by Burhanistan at 8:44 AM on February 22 [5 favorites]


But then they say goodbye and Picard beams her right back to Bjayzl with two phaser rifles in her hands. What did he think was going to happen?

Just watched this scene again and Picard has plausible deniability. Maybe he knows Seven's going back to murder Bjayzl, maybe not. Seven's only on La Sirena for a couple of minutes. Picard offers her a ride somewhere, she says the Rangers have sent "a corsair" to pick her up. Picard says "ah, of course". It's not clear if he believes her or doesn't believe her but isn't going to make an issue out of it. Either way he gives her the guns, then they have the little talk about recovering their humanity, then he beams her down. As she's disappearing she raises her rifle.

The bizarre thing is he beams her down right back into the bar with Bjayzl. He had to know that was where she was going, right? (There's no sign of any sort of transporter programming, so it's not clear.) Also she manages to land conveniently near Bjayzl's two guards and shoots them within like one second of arriving. I imagine soldiers train for that kind of paratrooper-times-ten maneuver but it's still a pretty remarkable bit of swift murder.
posted by Nelson at 9:27 AM on February 22 [5 favorites]


I haven't rewatched the episode but didn't she conspicuously swipe the... beacon thingie... off the transporter console a bit earlier in the episode? I assume that was involved somehow. Don't ask me why, it's not Technology, it's Treknology™.
posted by Justinian at 12:23 PM on February 22 [8 favorites]


(It was a pattern enhancer, to let them bypass permission and beam through the planet’s/building’s security field, it was how they all got out. So Picard would have assumed that Seven couldn’t beam back down and kill Bjayzl, and Seven was the one who set her transporter destination, not Picard, IIRC.)
posted by LooseFilter at 12:46 PM on February 22 [10 favorites]


Anyway, if I were writing the episode summaries for CBS, this one would be:

“Someone loses an eye. Then, it’s all fun and games!”


Only if that first line was spoken while onscreen we see Picard avec eyepatch.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:57 PM on February 22 [5 favorites]


Did anyone feel anything in Raffi's story? They dumped it all so fast. She has a son! They're estranged! The son's having a baby! Here's the wife! He rejects her! The end. I think that could be a fantastic backstory if they'd just given it room to breathe. Instead it's sandwiched inbetween Rios pimpin' and Seven murderin'.

They wanted to do three different stories, so they kinda halfassed all of them. So one relies on twenty seconds of exploitative schlock as set up, and another other one just kinda appears and disappears in the middle of the episode.

The series as a whole would probably benefit from trimming a few elements instead of trying to do the sprawling interconnected skulduggiers GoT thing. Like how many conversations have we had between the two Romulan siblings where the sister is like:
"Hey. Are you doing the evil plan?"
And the brother is like:
"Yep, I sure am."
And the sister is like:
"Good."

And then they introduce the the Legolas kid over the course of an entire episode, and then, immediately proceed to give him nothing much to do.
posted by StarkRoads at 6:05 PM on February 22 [5 favorites]


Is the sibling creepiness a Romulan thing or...?
posted by Justinian at 6:30 PM on February 22


I think this show is a brilliant allegory for today and the writers are KILLING IT.

Right down to how Maddox was SCREWING HIS GODDAMN POSTDOC.

"We did it. Soong and I... oh and you. Your contribution was essential." (cue AGNES RAGE FACE)

She didn't get an authorship on the Nature paper, did she? That's why she kills him. Go Agnes.
posted by automatronic at 6:40 PM on February 22 [36 favorites]


she stone-cold murders her former lover

While also, sort of inexplicably, acting as the apparent chief medical officer on La Sirena (cf. blue coat). I mean unless everybody on the ship has unmonitored, unsurveilled access to sickbay.

The family beats on this episode were challenging for me. I’ll write about the one closest to me. As longtime Trek thread crewpersons will know, Trek here on FF has been a place where I have unexpectedly found myself writing at length about my identity as an adoptee and how adoptees are often centered as Other in genre. This was the first time that I have ever witnessed a genre-character adoptee being introduced to a show (not just Star Trek, but the first time in any show that I have watched) for the express purpose of torturing and killing the character, so that we may observe the adoptee’s intimates enact pain, rage, and revenge. It’s gross, and I do not approve.

Michael, my most unlikely namesake in Trek, has also been put through the wringer regarding her adoptive status, with she show going so far as to actually torture her in order to provoke her time-traveling mother to drop by. It’s really not cool, guys. I stopped writing about or posting in Discovery threads (mostly? I think?) after that episode.

I love Chabon. I love Trek. I am not resigning my commission as a co-lead poster for this show, but it is on notice, and my in-thread posting will likely be minimal for a while.
posted by mwhybark at 7:34 PM on February 22 [3 favorites]


And here I am just happy that the episode is called Stardust City Rag, and featured one of my favorite Scott Joplin tunes: Solace, A Mexican Seranade.
posted by Billy Rubin at 8:12 PM on February 22 [2 favorites]


So where Picard solved problems with speeches; Kirk solved problems with kisses. Picard seems so frail in this series, and patronized by his former junior officers. Out of loyalty they will do this work. Security chief Oh is a troubling menace. Agnes now no longer puppy like, just well concealed and duped, by some reality presented artfully, leaving her with murderous guilt.
posted by Oyéah at 8:14 PM on February 22


If it turns out the Romulans of old had to put down an andriod rebellion and that's why the super seekrit tal shiar crossbones society of anti robot vacuum cleaners stalks the lands to this day I'm gonna at least hope their ancient founding member is named J'on K'onner or something
posted by some loser at 8:33 PM on February 22 [10 favorites]


Bil A'dahm'ma
posted by sugar and confetti at 8:35 PM on February 22 [7 favorites]


I think that could be a fantastic backstory if they'd just given it room to breathe. Instead it's sandwiched inbetween Rios pimpin' and Seven murderin'.

I felt the same way about Airiam in her episode in Discovery. It would have been great for us to learn like, one single fact about her prior to her big moment, but unfortunately the writers are forbidden from speaking to each other or only three characters are allowed to have any development or something and the audience had to get pumped full of reason to care about her in the first half to feel anything at all in the second half.

Like, it couldn't have hurt to I dunno, show a picture of Raffi and her son in her home, or make a reference to her home life in the "14 years earlier" flashback, anything that would make us think "Hey she used to have a family and now she lives alone, what's up with that?" Also big props to Raffi for complaining about Picard adding a side stop to have a guilt trip when that's exactly what her plan was too.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 8:49 PM on February 22 [7 favorites]


I haven't rewatched the episode but didn't she conspicuously swipe the... beacon thingie... off the transporter console a bit earlier in the episode?
It looked to me like Rios deliberately placed it there for her.
He knows she has to kill Bjayzl and that Grandad won't approve.
posted by fullerine at 1:44 AM on February 23 [4 favorites]


OK y'all are right; Rios does help Seven get back to Bjayzl. I watched it again. It's not even subtle; the camera edit very deliberately calls attention to it, but it happens fast and is unremarked. The moment Rios arrives back on La Sirena he walks over to the transporter console, does a bunch of quick and furious tapping at it, and ostentatiously leaves his pattern enhancer there. Then Seven strolls over and picks it up and taps on the console some more. The camera zooms in on the drop and the pickup, but there's no spoken clue. Picard's too busy talking to notice, or at least he behaves like he doesn't. The acting makes me think it's supposed to be ambiguous whether Picard knows what she's doing. (But two rifles? Come on, he's not dumb.) But Rios definitely created the opportunity for Seven. Swag.
posted by Nelson at 7:54 AM on February 23 [4 favorites]


I don’t understand what people want from TV these days. Maybe I never did. Riker’s estranged father showed up in one episode out of the blue. They used to invent family members for one episode and never talk about then again all the time.
posted by Automocar at 9:14 AM on February 23 [16 favorites]


Right, like Kirk's nephew who survives the flying parasites, and we never hear of him again either.
posted by zadcat at 9:30 AM on February 23 [4 favorites]


Raffi’s reunion with her son felt note-perfect. He’d been abandoned by her some time ago, in a mix of both some kind of addiction AND an obvious paranoia about secret societies and conspiracies. She shows up claiming to be clean, but it’s less than five minutes before she’s spouting the same paranoid (to him) bullshit. Of course he’s going to question her sobriety, too.

Is her grandchild half-Romulan or half-Vulcan?
posted by hanov3r at 10:40 AM on February 23 [3 favorites]


I’m pretty sure his wife had forehead ridges, which would make her Romulan.
posted by Automocar at 10:42 AM on February 23 [1 favorite]


Okay, I feel less silly now, as others were confused about whether Bjayzle was Troi. Seeing photos of the two side by side is quite something.
posted by fimbulvetr at 11:05 AM on February 23 [6 favorites]


how adoptees are often centered as Other in genre.

Michael [...] has also been put through the wringer regarding her adoptive status, with she show going so far as to actually torture her in order to provoke her time-traveling mother to drop by

Though it’s not exactly on-topic, I wanted to thank you, mwhybark, for sharing this, and to say—for whatever it’s worth from a random person—I’m very sorry that this has affected you so negatively. (It’s clear that you know these writers didn’t intend anything personally, but that’s kind of beside the point when something does affect you very personally.) Your sharing, though, has been very thought-provoking for me, and as I considered your point about the otherization of adoptees, I easily noticed the pattern that you mention, and it is pretty gross.

Maybe it’s just an easy (lazy?) way for a writer to create some kind of existential crisis, or sense of outsider-ness for a character, but I see now how alienating that common pattern in fiction is to actual people who are adoptees—perhaps especially if you don’t feel a lack, and have a loving family who gave you a sense of place and home and belonging that’s in no way inferior to anyone else’s. It’s a really shitty assumption, that anyone adopted must feel like they’re missing something, or missed out on something fundamental that other people maybe did not. And after all, plenty of people who grew up in their birth families feel alienated and/or unloved, so there’s no real need to lean on the ‘but they’re adopted’ trope.

Personally, I didn’t consider the implications of Icheb being adopted, and was really just upset that that was the outcome of his life, and all the work he and Seven did together (in VOY) for him to regain his personhood and build a life for himself beyond being a human sacrifice or part of the collective. FWIW, my read is that the writers chose to bring back his character specifically as part of two larger themes that are emerging in the show: as thoroughly discussed, that one’s choices don’t always end in happily-ever-after and the galaxy is a big and dangerous place no matter how great it is on a Federation starship; and what (to me) seems to be the larger theme, that of consciousness and individual autonomy and liberty—there definitely looks to be some connection they’re drawing between the already-well-explored Borg collective and the nature/sanctity of artificial life. So my thought when first watching was that Icheb’s character (and Seven’s, actually) returned because their specific life experiences as ex-drones help to define this theme, and connect with Picard personally (and thus bring both large themes together, narratively).

Anyway, I do hope this doesn’t ruin further enjoyment of the show for you, and thanks again for sharing that.
posted by LooseFilter at 12:27 PM on February 23 [4 favorites]


No problem, LooseFilter. Adoptees play a prominent role in fantastic literature, going all the way back to myth and religion. Think of Moses, for example. In modern genre fiction they become prominent essentially at the birth of the superhero with Superman and with Batman once he gets a detailed origin story, although you have to squint to see that Alfred is Batman’s adoptive father.

I first started noticing adoptees in Trek in particular on a relatively recent rewatch of TNG, where the show’s sine qua non Othered protagonist is Worf. He is, ta-daa, an adoptee. Since then I have been very interested in the way that all of genre uses the figure of the adoptee, and these Trek FF threads have been a primary place where I have thought out loud in writing about that. No real danger of me not continuing to do that!
posted by mwhybark at 12:44 PM on February 23 [3 favorites]


Oh, and here’s a stray thought that doesn’t tie directly to this episode, but I also suspect that there has been a rise in the use of adopted characters in pop culture generally over the past five years or so. This is Us a very popular Big Fat Family Drama on broadcast network TV, is in part centered on an adoptee of color who undergoes reunion in the show’s first season, for example. I suspect that this is due to the increasing normalization of reunion in American adoptee and family life, driven in part by the rise of DNA testing.

I don’t want to hijack this thread to be all about adoptee stuff, so I’ll refrain from chasing this further here.
posted by mwhybark at 12:49 PM on February 23 [2 favorites]


Okay, I feel less silly now, as others were confused about whether Bjayzle was Troi. Seeing photos of the two side by side is quite something.

She’s Deanna and Will Riker’s bad-girl daughter! (I kid)
posted by mwhybark at 12:52 PM on February 23 [2 favorites]


Automocar: I don’t understand what people want from TV these days. Maybe I never did. Riker’s estranged father showed up in one episode out of the blue. They used to invent family members for one episode and never talk about then again all the time.

How we tell stories on TV has changed rather dramatically (NPI) in the past thirty-three years. TNG was episodic. Picard is serialized. That kind of writing doesn't work here.
posted by tzikeh at 7:45 PM on February 23 [2 favorites]


Lots of people have said lots of great stuff, I just want to add that I did not miss the other plot of Soji, her Romulan lover/spy plus the incesty story - to the point that I’m not sure it has achieved anything to date and the show overall would probably be stronger without it (so Picard is searching for her without us seeing what or where she is until presumably the end of the season).

Also I would pay good money to have a Seven of Nine being a vigilante in space spin-off show. Jeri Ryan did a fantastic job of embodying her character but twenty years on.

I also thought the eyeball torture scene was gruesome and was initially put off but I appreciate the other viewpoints shared here about it, and Chabon’s own response (which also seemed clear that it probably wasn’t his first inclination either).
posted by liquorice at 1:50 AM on February 24 [1 favorite]


How we tell stories on TV has changed rather dramatically (NPI) in the past thirty-three years. TNG was episodic. Picard is serialized. That kind of writing doesn't work here.

And that's fair, but that's also not what this show is doing. It's episode five! We've barely had any time with these characters. And Raffi not telling anyone her reasons for wanting to go to Freecloud rang very true to me. She's ashamed of her addiction, of what it did to her son, and their relationship. Of course she's not going to tell anyone. She's going to keep it to herself, which is exactly what she did. The only person on the ship she may still trust in some way is Rios, and we don't really know anything about what kind of relationship they have.
posted by Automocar at 6:52 AM on February 24 [3 favorites]


Speaking of Raffi's addiction.. is that just over now? We haven't seen her vaping the snakeleaf since the first episode we met her. When everyone gets an ad from Freecloud hers is from Feely's Venom Garden, who asks "hey lady wanna get snakebit?" She looks exasperated and swipes it away. No big deal, it's all a comic scene. Later she tells her son "I'm clean.. I feel good". So I guess that's it?

On one hand; good for her! Maybe snakeleaf isn't that big a deal, sort of like space marijuana and not space heroin. Also maybe Starfleet medicine means handling drug addiction is as simple as a hypospray. OTOH what an unrealistic portrayal of the reality of addiction today; even for less addictive drugs like marijuana. And weird for no one to say anything about her choosing to get clean, or the process of it. Not even a scene of her alone leaving the snakeleaf plant behind on Earth.

I've been steeling myself for some Very Special Scenes with JL where he talks her into wanting to kick snakeleaf. I've feared sappy and annoying writing, so I'm glad to be spared that. OTOH it's yet more rushed character development for Raffi and I'm annoyed about that too.

I'm definitely caremad about this show.
posted by Nelson at 7:33 AM on February 24 [1 favorite]


I’m a prison abolitionist and a believer in restorative justice and I think that dismantling the prison industrial complex requires dismantling our inherited stories about justice and punishment and revenge.

So, I was talking to someone about why I like Star Trek, but don't feel it's a good moral exemplar for humanity, and I think this is actually a piece of it; like, it tells us that in the future people will have 'evolved past' a lot of the common behaviors that cause so much suffering and pain. But it never actually shows the process of how we get there. How do humans evolve? Any ideas at all? Not necessarily that it has to be 'we dismantle our stories', but like: that's a viable option. People say "oh the wars were so terrible" but humanity has always had terrible wars and it doesn't seem to change their basic functions much. Right now in these times I really want to see how we're going to actually break the cycles, or at least one half-assed idea about how. And Star Trek is just not showing it to us.
posted by corb at 8:12 AM on February 24 [7 favorites]


When everyone gets an ad from Freecloud hers is from Feely's Venom Garden, who asks "hey lady wanna get snakebit?" She looks exasperated and swipes it away. No big deal, it's all a comic scene. Later she tells her son "I'm clean.. I feel good". So I guess that's it?

This is the second instance of an in-narrative dramatic problem being literally handwaved away in the show. One may read this as the writer’s room calling out for help. Unless they’re just accidents.
posted by mwhybark at 9:26 AM on February 24 [3 favorites]


Speaking of Raffi's addiction.. is that just over now? We haven't seen her vaping the snakeleaf since the first episode we met her. When everyone gets an ad from Freecloud hers is from Feely's Venom Garden, who asks "hey lady wanna get snakebit?" She looks exasperated and swipes it away. No big deal, it's all a comic scene. Later she tells her son "I'm clean.. I feel good". So I guess that's it?

I assumed her problems are about to reappear having never gone away at all. She's put her energy in not using that stuff because she's selected it as the one thing to blame for her problems with her son and convinced herself if she can show him she's fixed this one thing everything will be okay. She swipes that ad away at the point she believes that effort is about to pay off. She tells him she's clean and she feels good because she's decided that is what needs to be true to get him back, and she genuinely thinks she's done it.

Except the past doesn't disappear because she says she's okay now, and anyway the thing she'd decided was the one problem wasn't anything like the whole problem. And now her reconciliation has come crashing down I think we'll see she hasn't dealt with it, she's dodged it for a while by believing everything would be okay if it went away. Now she's lost that hope, I'm guessing it's still right there having never gone anywhere.
posted by SometimeNextMonth at 3:07 PM on February 24 [8 favorites]


I haven't read the thread yet (I tried but there's just too much of it for me) but I need to share that there's a character named Vajayzl. And also she looks so much like Troi that can't be an accident. Must be pretty fucked up for a betazoid to torture people like that.
I loved how much the internet reminded me of the internet in Futurama and the nightclub reminded me of the nightclubs in Futurama. I loved that we got an old fashioned dress up away mission where they talk about how crazy the outfits are.
Also is this the first time we've seen Picard crack a silly joke? He was really hamming it up down there and I loved it. I love 2019 Picard. I love the idea of Space Rangers. Speaking of Futurama I also noticed that Raffi has Mom's big bouffant hearts hairdo. Good for her for not letting her son bully her.
posted by bleep at 11:27 PM on February 24 [2 favorites]


Star Trek: Picard's Showrunner Defends Its Moral Darkness: 'Shadow Defines Light'

Chabon answers questions and particular concerns about this episode on his Instagram. An excerpt:
“If nothing can ever truly test the Federation, if nothing can rock its perfection, then it’s just a magical land. It’s Lothlorien, in its enchanted bubble, untouchable by the Shadow. And, also, profoundly *inhuman*. To me it’s the humanity of the Federation—which means among many admirable things, its imperfection, its vulnerability and the constant need to defend it from our own worst natures—that makes it truly inspiring.”
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:48 PM on February 25 [11 favorites]


Can I get amen on calling RomuLothorien last eps, yo! ROMULEGOLAS CONFIRMT GET HYPE
posted by mwhybark at 12:16 AM on February 26


I am so sad/worried that Michael Chabon isn't showrunning season 2.
posted by Automocar at 7:02 AM on February 26


I am so sad/worried that Michael Chabon isn't showrunning season 2.

To (possibly) assuage that worry somewhat - he isn't showrunning season 2 because he's moving over to showrun a Kavalier and Clay television adaption, which (a) is pretty exciting by itself, and (b) means there wasn't any kind of Discovery-style creative difference driving the departure. He's staying involved in Season 2, just at a (much) further remove.
posted by cjelli at 7:11 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]


Oh, I know. But I've liked pretty much every single creative decisions so far and I can see his fingerprints all over them. I guess we'll see.
posted by Automocar at 7:12 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the torture eyeball extraction opener was not expected.

This is also how First Contact movie starts, with Picard dreaming of his borg-ification process where the drill bit goes into his still human eyeball. So it was both a visual callback but I think it was also saying, this (or similar) is what may have happened to Icheb when he was borgified, ie when he lost his 'humanity', and the same thing is happening to him as he loses his life. It establishes a parallel about the dehumanising qualities of both the process and those carrying out the process.
posted by biffa at 7:32 AM on February 26 [13 favorites]


Elnor is an orphan too, for the record.
posted by gryftir at 1:59 AM on February 27 [1 favorite]


he's moving over to showrun a Kavalier and Clay television adaption

/sits bolt upright
/tries not to get too excited
/fails
posted by mwhybark at 4:14 PM on February 27


Maecenas' "Seven: Samurai" wins the thread for me. I snickered out loud.

I also loved the "the only thing worse would be giving up." Ryan really delivered the line and Picard just had to take the hit. I think I come don on the side of he genuinely didn't think she was going back to kill Vajazzle, it was pretty obvious to me that Rios palmed the magic teleporter thingy and handed it off to Seven without Picard noticing, though I guess it's equally likely he noticed and decided not to push the matter. Interesting to me that Rios is happy to come down on the side of revenge in defiance of Picard's expressed preference, even if we also know Rios is impressed by Picard's rep. Added depth to that character, not sure where they'll go with it.

I was also totally waiting for Jurati to kill Maddox, interesting to see how conflicted she was. It does actually make me care more about the Romulans' rationale for their fear. But where do we go now? Surely Raffi the paranoid is going to either check the EMH or notice it's been wiped after the death of their patient. If it takes them too long to figure things out I will be very disappointed in the show.
posted by Wretch729 at 6:44 PM on February 27


I just kinda feel like Furiousa after finding out that there's no Green Place anymore.
posted by ckape at 5:45 AM on February 28


I certainly get Michael Chabon's explanation for why they did the torture scene for me but it didn't work. I felt my own disgust at what I was seeing, not Seven's emotional state. The focus IMHO should have been on Seven having to pull the trigger, but all I could think about was the eye socket.
posted by mark k at 9:39 PM on March 2 [2 favorites]


> Give me Star Trek: Rangers (aka Leverage in Space) with Seven as the mastermind.

I noticed some connections to Leverage here. They talked about a walking lie detector, then flashed back to how they'd prepped him to smell like he was telling the truth - that flashback prep was a really common motif in Leverage. Jonathan Frakes directed around a dozen episodes of it, and Jeri Ryan played a role for a few episodes.
posted by Pronoiac at 1:00 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]


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