Picard Review: “Stardust City Rag,” “The Impossible Box,” “Nepenthe,” “Broken Pieces”

Picard and the members of his Questing Party encounter old friends, new dangers, a seedy tavern, and the truth that ties several events together.

In a development that will surprise no one, the Romulans planned the attack on Mars!

But how far does the conspiracy reach? And what were their motives?

Titles: “Stardust City Rag,” “The Impossible Box,” “Nepenthe,” and “Broken Pieces”

Cast and Crew

Directed by Jonathan Frakes, Maja Vrvilo, Doug Aarniokoski
Written by Kirsten Beyer, Nick Zayas, Samantha Humphrey, and Michael Chabon

Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard
Isa Briones as Soji
Alison Pill as Dr. Agnes Jurati
Evan Evagora as Elnor the Brave and Mystical
Michelle Hurd as Raffi Musiker
Santiago Cabrera as Cristóbal Rios
Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine
Harry Treadaway as Narek
Jonathan Del Arco as Hugh
Jonathan Frakes as Will Riker
Marina Sirtis as Deanna Troi
Lulu Wilson as Kestra
Tamlyn Tomita as Commodore Oh
John Ales as Dr. Bruce Maddox
Necar Zadegan as Bjayzl
Peyton List as Lieutenant Narissa Rizzo
Dominic Burgess as Mr. Vup
Sir Not Appearing in the Series as Mr. Vdown
Barbara Eve Harris as Emmy (with seems a little like wishful thinking here)
Sumalee Montano as Soji’s Mother
Derek Webster as Romulan Guard
Marti Matulis as XB Worker
Ella Gross as Young Soji
Rebecca Wisocky as Ramdha
Ann Magnuson as Clancy
Mason Gooding as Gabriel Hwang
Landry Allbright as Chop Doc
Kay Bess as Voice of La Sirena Computer
Ayushi Chhabra as Pel
Casey Childs as Nightbox Piano Player
Casey King as Icheb
Sam Marra as Bartender
Jane Hae Kim, Kendra Munger as Tal Shiar

Premise

Picard’s quest puts him in contact with old friends and new dangers, before he finally learns the truth behind the Attack on Mars and related nefarious events. Of course, the antagonists have placed a powerful double-agent in Starfleet itself– and one on Picard’s crew.

High Point

Soji’s discovery of her own past makes for some interesting and unsettling viewing, a little reminiscent of Westworld and Blade Runner, to use the most immediately accessible examples. Her struggle also reflects on certain questions hanging over Jean-Luc, Seven, and civilization. Once we have been assimilated, do we ever fully recover our humanity?

The ship features some interesting bridge tech.

Low Point

There is literally no way Elnor should still be alive.

The crew’s disguises look stupid, though I suppose they knew that.

They’ve still never properly addressed why holo-synthetic beings get a pass.

The Scores:

Originality: 1/6 In addition to the elf/hero with a thousand lives and the Rogue Pilot with a Heart of Gold, we have the super-powered child-woman, a Dangerous Outpost filled with Seedy Characters, and Romulans! Thousands of ’em! And yet, most of our heroes survive.

As a bonus, I couldn’t help but think that Battlestar Galactica could be in the distant past to which Broken Pieces refers. A friend, however, joins many people online in linking Picard‘s story arc to Mass Effect. I don’t play it, so I don’t know how close it comes.

It hardly matters. The overall problem remains the same. Picard is competently made, but it feels, too often, like borrowed furniture.

Effects: 5/6 The effects generally work well. Some of the space shots, especially involving the Borg Cube, look too much like CGI.

Acting: 5/6 Santiago Cabrera gets an interesting back-story. His multiple performances are amusing, but he’s no Tatiana Maslaney.

Fourteen-year-old Lulu Wilson holds her own—and more– with veteran actors.

Story: 5/6 “Nepenthe” makes the reunion of Picard with members of his old crew work as a story, rather than fan service.

Production: 6/6

Emotional Response: 4/6 Much of the show feels like a ride from point A to point B. However, it delivers some strong moments. The death of a certain character was very well-handled, as were some of the revelations in .

Overall: 5/6

In total, Picard, Episodes 5-8 receive 31/42

Lingering Questions

1. We know that systems with more than one star are fairly common. Eight stars does seem unlikely—but is it actually less likely than someone dragging eight stars and placing them together?
Does anyone have any expertise in this area? Or, alternatively, just a strong opinion?

2. Seven gets referred to as “Ninety-nine or Eleven.” Does this sort of joke enhance the show for you, or take you out of its reality?

3. Picard recalls his early years in Starfleet, looking out on the loneliness of space while working night shift on the Reliant. Why does a starship with a sizable crew have a clearly delineated night shift?

4. Who else caught the references to Quark? He’s either relocated or opened up franchises.

5. Medusan masturbation techniques? Really?

6. The final two episodes, running the next two weeks, are Part One and Two of “Et in Arcadia Ego.” This Latin phrase that means, “I too am in Arcadia,” or “I have lived in Arcadia.” If the former, it is supposed to be spoken by Death. If the latter, by the deceased. It appears in a painting from the early 1600s by Guercino, and two paintings by Nicolas Poussin later in that same century. It has found its way into numerous works of art and literature, and become entangled with various conspiracy hypotheses, with Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln (most infamously) claiming the phrase is an anagram for I Tego arcana dei (“Begone, I contain the secrets of God”), and by others as Arcam Dei Tango (“I dance the tango with have touched the tomb of God”).

Does this allusion bode well or ill for the final two episodes?

3 replies on “Picard Review: “Stardust City Rag,” “The Impossible Box,” “Nepenthe,” “Broken Pieces””

  1. Why does a starship with a sizable crew have a clearly delineated night shift? And night for who? Even on our one measly planet my “Night” is 12 hours off from some of my friend’s “night”.

  2. zocalo says:

    Tradition? It’s Starfleet, so we can probably assume that some nautical practices would survive and be inherited, even if they are pointless for all practical purposes. There’s already a lot of this in all sorts of (semi-)ceremonial rites in today’s life, so why wouldn’t we expect similar in a few hundred years time? It would probably make sense to have local ship’s time (synched with Starfleet HQ, perhaps?) and base a dirurnal cycle of that so that routines can be maintained.

    With that in place all the traditions and ancient nomenclature would kind of just fit into place, even if they don’t *quite* mean the same thing. Assuming that’s the case, then “standing watch” might have just meant he was the most crew member present, but since he didn’t “have the conn” his standing order might have been to summon a more senior officer if anything out of the ordinary happened.

    • JD DeLuzio says:

      Keeping “night” and “day” is intrinsic to how human bodies work. But, given the crew complement of a starship, why would they have one “standing watch” shift? It would make more sense to have two or three shifts, each on their own version of “day” and “night.”

      Actually, that approach might partially explain the Star Trek convention of large numbers of people apparently doing nothing on board. I’m now imagining some alternate crew of the Enterprise running the adventures we don’t see. And yes, I know, they had only one captain, but that could be funny. Imagine the jealousy of Captain Shlubb, whose crew always seems to get the boring missions while Kirk’s crew sleeps.

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