The following post contains spoilers for the “Star Trek: Picard” episode “Stardust City Rag.”
From a writing viewpoint, there’s no denying that ill-fated Icheb, an ex-Borg drone from the Star Trek franchise, was undeserving of his admittedly gruesome end in the first season of Picard, but considering the actor who plays him attacked and attempted to downplay Star Trek: Discovery actor Anthony Rapp after he went public about being assaulted by Kevin Spacey and has tweeted derogatory remarks towards women–perhaps it’s no surprise that he met his maker. Still, the character of Icheb deserved a better sendoff and a decent human being to portray him. Considering that the character was recast for his sole appearance in Picard, it wouldn’t have been a stretch to see his new actor, Casey King, carry the character forward in the franchise, but alas, the powers that be–and Picard‘s writers–decided otherwise.
Picard featured the return of several legacy characters from across the Star Trek universe, from the titular former captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise himself, to the liberated Borg, Seven of Nine. Jeri Ryan’s reprisal of her famous character from Voyager was one of Picard’s most hyped aspects, behind the return of Sir Patrick Stewart’s honorable and delightful Jean Luc Picard and guest appearances from Enterprise crew Data, William Riker, and Deanna Troi. Seven of Nine joined the Voyager crew in the show’s fourth season, and several storylines featured her struggle to overcome the trauma she endured from her assimilation into Borg Collective. Seven wasn’t alone in her journey to reclaim her humanity. The show’s sixth season saw the addition of Icheb, a child and former Borg who becomes a valuable member of Voyager’s crew and a surrogate son to Seven, who tutors the boy and helps him overcome his own trauma and personal demons after his family willingly gives him to the Collective.
Over the series, Icheb grows from a lost and lonely soul to a confident and strategic young man with aspirations to join Starfleet. His future seemed bright following Voyager’s return to Earth from the Delta Quadrant. He’d faithfully serve Starfleet for the next decade, achieving the rank of Lieutenant and becoming a science officer onboard the U.S.S. Coleman. While it was exciting to see another Voyager character appear in Picard‘s first season, Icheb’s return was all too brief, tragic, and horrifically violent. In a flashback from the episode “Stardust City Rag,” Seven attempts to rescue Icheb as his Borg components are dissected and harvested from his body (cruelly without the aid of anesthetics), but she arrives to find him mortally wounded and in excruciating pain. He pleads with her to end his suffering, and while holding him in a final embrace, Seven tearfully shoots him point-blank with her phaser, whispering, “I’m so sorry…my child.”
It was a moment so egregious and unfair that I almost considered quitting the show right then and there, but come on…it’s Star Trek, and I was eager to see how Picard’s journey would unfold and how Seven would cope with the loss of one of her family. But Seven’s loss felt like my loss, and sure, Icheb wasn’t a central character in Voyager, but he was important to the crew nevertheless. While his journey on the show could have been a carbon copy of Seven’s storylines, he stood on his own and became a memorable character. He was stoic and funny, intelligent and driven, and despite his initial loneliness and resentment, he bravely faced the trauma of being given up by his family to cybernetic monsters who stripped him of any semblance of humanity and individuality.
Star Trek‘s children have always been hit or miss, but Icheb wasn’t annoying or tacky, and I never found myself rolling my eyes whenever an episode would focus on him, unlike my reactions to the early Wesley-centric episodes from The Next Generation. Icheb underwent character development that felt natural and relatable, and he didn’t deserve his brutal death, which was surprisingly dark for a Star Trek series.
I wasn’t surprised that a character audiences knew and loved would die in Picard, but I wasn’t expecting that character to be Icheb or that his death would be so graphic and quick. When done right, death heightens the stakes in a story and opens the door to explore the emotions of grief and loss, and with Seven’s supposed expanded role for Picard’s upcoming second season, I’m sure the series will explore those feelings within her as she comes to terms with Icheb’s torture and death. I know that the moment was supposed to be unexpected and tragic, but to reintroduce a familiar character only to kill them off brutally within minutes felt wrong. The Star Trek universe is a dangerous one, and not every character gets the benefit of a hero’s death. Maybe if the show spent more time with Icheb and explored his current career and relationship with Seven, his death would have had the emotional impact the series was striving for. Instead, his demise felt unnecessary and tacked on, and it surprisingly changed my attitude towards Picard from initial curiosity and hope to one of rage and disgust.
As fans, we don’t necessarily get our way when it comes to a character’s development and story, and that’s okay. These are stories being told by people with their own vision and goals, and we’re just along for the ride. Still, I couldn’t help but feel the franchise let Icheb down. He deserved better, and his death was one of the moments I had the most trouble overlooking in Picard‘s freshman season.