Star Trek: Picard has not been shy about mixing in a hard modern edge with its Star Trek: The Next Generation nostalgia. That's meant some controversial approaches to Star Trek lore, which includes more foul language, drug/alcohol use, and brutal violence than most longtime Star Trek fans are used to. In Star Trek: Picard episode 5, "Stardust City Rag", brutality undercuts the kitschy costume caper premise - including a horrific death for one of Star Trek's pivotal characters from the Next Generation era: Bruce Maddox (John Ales).
Warning! Star Trek: Picard Episode 5 "Stardust City Rag" SPOILERS Follow!
The entire storyline of "Stardust City Rag" sees Picard's new crew teaming up with former Borg drone and Star Trek: Voyager crew member, Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), for a dangerous mission. The group hopes to infiltrate the casino planet of Freecloud, in order to rescue Bruce Maddox from the clutches of "Bjayzl" (Necar Zadegan), a black market dealer specializing in cybernetic or android parts. Despite Seven of Nine using the mission to settle a grudge with Bjayzl (her former friend and lover), Picard's team makes it out of Freecloud with Maddox in tow. However, it turns out that the true danger to Bruce Maddox was being in Picard's company.
Once aboard La Sirena, the injured Maddox was taken to Sick Bay and left in the care of Dr. Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill). Picard is never aware that Jurati and Maddox weren't just colleagues at the Daystrom Institute, they were also lovers. However, it's revealed that Agnes was indeed turned traitor by the Romulan anti-tech group Zhat Vash - specifically Commodore Oh (Tamlyn Tomita), the high-ranking Starfleet leader is also a Zhat Vash agent. After witnessing Maddox confirm the location of Commander's Data's only surviving "daughter" (and "perfected" synthetic being) Soji Asha (Isa Briones), Jurati uses time alone with Maddox in Sick Bay to give the groundbreaking scientist a fatal dose of something that results in his agonizing death.
While the explanation of why Jurati kills Maddox isn't explicitly given, the larger breadcrumbs surrounding Picard's story offer a pretty good hint. Soji and her now-dead sister Dahj are being hunted by Zhat Vash because the cult-like organization believes it is their fate to become weapons of unspeakable devastation and destruction - possibly destroyers of all organic life. Jurati hints that Commodore Oh has shown her some kind of proof about the danger Soji and Dahj present to the universe - it was enough incentive to make Jurati (one of the biggest experts on synthetic life in the galaxy) to abandon both her life's work, and personal connection to Maddox, for some kind of greater good in killing him.
If you're wondering "Who is Bruce Maddox?" you're probably not alone. Maddox first appeared in Star Trek: TNG as the Starfleet scientist in robotics that first stood against Data joining Starfleet, and later tried to legally deem Data as property, instead of a being a sentient being. Picard eventually beat Maddox in that debate, but Data showed compassion to Maddox, and struck up a lifelong friendship with the doctor, helping to provide data on his evolution as a synthetic being. Picard reveals that Maddox eventually made the breakthrough of creating a process to put an android's positronic brain into a flesh-and-blood body. That process resulted in Dahj, Soji, and an entire colony of "Perfected" synthetics popping up - but Maddox may have also created the sort of nightmare we saw in Star Trek: Discovery's evil A.I., Control.
Facing that kind of conviction, will Jean-Luc Picard still be able to justify his intended rescue?
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