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This week’s new episode of Star Trek: Picard made some Deep Space Nine fans very happy. And some Voyager fans, too, by bringing to life what is essentially Picard and Seven of Nine fan fiction.
“Stardust City Rag” is both a shot in the arm narratively for the series so far and a dramatic gut punch, thanks to the conflict between Picard and Seven and their shared pasts as former Borg. As the two iconic Trek characters plot to pull off an elaborate caper on the lawless, drunk-on-neon-holograms, vice-a-palooza Stardust City, the episode gives the characters their first real scenes together in Star Trek history. In doing so, we see how not quite fully recovered either is following their time as Borg. Moreover, we get several shout-outs to Deep Space Nine — one fan-favorite character in particular — and a tragic cameo from a friend of Seven’s from her Voyager days.
It is a generous Easter egg hunt this week; here are the highlights:
— Icheb (RIP) is all grown up, and in a Starfleet uniform, in the opening moments of the episode before Seven has to mercy kill the person she affectionately, tearfully, calls her son. It’s the first time we have seen Icheb onscreen since the Voyager 2001 series finale, “Endgame.” (“Stardust City” writer Kirsten Beyer is a fan of the character, having written him into her excellent 2009 Star Trek novel, Unworthy, where Icheb was a cadet at Starfleet Academy.)
— Bruce Maddox finally returns to Star Trek, though not played by the same actor originally cast in the part back in 1988’s Star Trek: The Next Generation season two episode “The Measure of a Man.” This is the first time we have seen Maddox onscreen in Trek since that episode. (Though Data addressed him in his log in the season four TNG episode “Data’s Day.”)
— On Freecloud, Bajazel offers Maddox a drink of Tranya. Fans will remember this is the drink featured in the final moments of The Original Series episode “The Corbomite Maneuver.”
— In addition to learning that Seven has spent the last 13 years as a member of a group of rangers in this lawless area of space, helping those who have no one left to help them, we also discover that the Romulan Neutral Zone has dissolved following the massacre on Mars.
— Raffi tells Rios that Seven “used to be a Borg” just like Picard. She is referencing, obviously, the season three Next Generation cliffhanger “The Best of Both Worlds” and Star Trek: First Contact, the latter of which was directed by this week’s helmer, Jonathan Frakes.
— Like Rouge City from A.I.: Artificial Intelligence and Blade Runner before it, Freecloud’s Stardust City is home to some building-sized holographic ads. But unlike those movies, this episode’s fancy ads are full of DS9 and TNG references, such as: “Mr. Mott’s Hair Emporium” (Picard’s blue-skinned, alien barber on the Enterprise-D) and “Quark’s Bar.” Also be on the lookout for a Dabo wheel and a dancing Orion slave girl. And the pop-up ads Rios, Raffi and Agnes encounter on their ship feel similar to those playing in the background of the bar in Star Trek V‘s Paradise City.
— Speaking of Quark — Picard confirms that Quark is not only still around, but he knows Rios! Our favorite Ferengi served as a reference for Rios prior to his caper on Stardust City, thanks to whatever Rios did for Quark involving the Breen. (We’d give several bars of gold-pressed latinum to see Quark reprise his role on this show.)
— That ol’ Trek tech standby of transporter pattern enhancers are employed once again here, albeit in a significantly more compact form than when we first saw them deployed in Next Generation‘s season five episode “Power Play.” Pattern enhancers would also be used on Star Treks Voyager and Discovery.
— In what is arguably the best dramatic scene of the season so far, Picard and Seven share a very vulnerable moment discussing their Borg pasts — and subsequent struggles with (still) reclaiming their humanity after being freed from the Collective. This is the first time we have seen Picard address his Borg past on this level since his famous “the line must be drawn here!” scene with Lily (Alfre Woodard) in First Contact.
New episodes of Star Trek: Picard stream every Thursday on CBS All Access.
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Warner Bros. Discovery