6:00am PT by Phil Pirrello
How 'Picard' Reshapes the 'Star Trek' Galaxy
[This story contains spoilers for the series premiere of Star Trek: Picard]
Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) is reporting for duty once again.
Thursday’s premiere for Star Trek: Picard raises considerable questions about the state of the galaxy and the retired admiral’s life since the events of 2002’s film Star Trek: Nemesis. Why did he retire? How has the Federation changed? What were the larger ramifications of Romulus being destroyed in 2009’s Star Trek? And how is Dahj (Isa Briones) connected to Data (Brent Spiner)?
The mystery surrounding these questions seem to be load-bearing columns for the overarching story for CBS All Access’ new series — and this is the first Star Trek series to have a plot like this driving its narrative (much to the delight of Picard’s holodeck alter ego, Detective Dixon Hill). Picard plot points reach back to events across various incarnations of Star Trek, both on the small and big screens.
Twenty years have passed for Jean-Luc Picard since he was last in command of the Enterprise — and almost as long has passed for audiences since we last saw him in action. Long story less long: That’s a significant amount of Trek canon to sort through. But rest easy, because we’ve done it for you — here’s everything you need to know following the Picard premiere.
J.J. Abrams 2009 Star Trek Is Sort of a Picard Prequel
Star Trek rebooted the adventures of Kirk and Spock by employing an alternate reality/timeline that branched off that of the original Spock’s and his efforts to help thwart the annihilation of the Romulan race.
In that 2009 film, Spock Prime (Leonard Nimoy) tried to help evacuate the Romulan homeworld before a supernova destroyed it. Sadly, Spock was too late and the planet was wiped out — instantly turning one of the Federation’s worst enemies into a race of refugees in need of help. It was Jean-Luc Picard who compelled Starfleet and the Federation to assist them, despite their reluctance to aid an adversary. That aid and the aftermath of it have haunted Picard and tarnished his career. Why? Because shortly after Picard stepped down from the Enterprise’s center seat to command the warp-capable transports ferrying the Romulans to their new temporary home on Mars, a rogue group of Synthetics attacked the rescue armada, their human handlers, and left Mars in flames.
That incident, coupled with Starfleet taking a very isolationist/nationalist approach to its borders — despite such conduct being counter to all the organization stood for — led to Picard resigning his commission and retiring to run the family vineyard in France.
Now’s the part where you’re asking “Wait — what’s a Synthetic?” We’ll get to that in a bit, but, spoiler, it has something to do with Picard’s old friend, Lt. Cmdr. Data (Brent Spiner).
How Star Trek: Nemesis and Data Shape the Story …
Picard’s elevator pitch could be “think Blade Runner 2049 by way of Star Trek — with Captain Picard in the Agent K role.”
But instead of Replicants, Picard and the series must deal with Synthetics — which seems to be a relatively new term in Trek lore, seemingly coming into play in the years immediately before the show starts. Synthetics are androids, like Data, and the Federation banned them after the incident on Mars (which gives off some Roy Batty in Blade Runner vibes), lead by a small group of Synths that looked a lot like proto-Datas. (And much different, aesthetic-wise, than Data’s own attempt to create android life — in the form of a daughter — in the classic Next Generation season three episode “The Offspring.”)
Data was unique, however — there was nothing and no one like him in all of Starfleet. Minus his evil twin brother, Lore, and B-4 — an inferior, almost child-like copy of Data introduced in 2002’s Nemesis. In the final movie starring The Next Generation cast, B-4 is used in an elaborate plot by the villainous Shinzon, a Reman clone of Picard (played by Tom Hardy), to lure the captain into Romulan space so they can shoot at and crash their respective ships. During this incursion, Data sacrificed himself in a literal blaze of glory to save his shipmates. Data tried to download his memories and experiences into B-4 but, as the Picard premiere tells us, those efforts proved unsuccessful. Most of Data’s memory was lost, and B-4 was disassembled and placed in a storage drawer at the prestigious Daystrom Institute, home to Starfleet’s work on androids and making advancements in Synthetic life. (Though those efforts were justifiably suspended after the Mars uprising, since the androids behind that violence were created at Daystrom).
Since Data was, at the time of his death, the only synthetic of his type in Starfleet, the existence of other androids modeled after him — and their use as a labor force — raises some compelling questions we hope Star Trek: Picard answers by the end of the first season. Why was Data used as a mold of sorts to create other androids after his death? And how can even more advanced synthetics — a perfect mix of organic and mecha, based on Data’s positronic elements — exist if every piece of Data died with him?
To discover these answers, Picard seems to be on the path to his version of The Search for Spock — albeit, now, the search for Data.
In Spock, Admiral Kirk’s mission to save the Vulcan friend and colleague he thought he lost ended with Kirk getting his best pal back (because science fiction). Here’s hoping Picard and Data have a similar happy reunion in store.
The Borg are Back?
In the 2001 series finale of Star Trek: Voyager, Capt. Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) destroyed The Borg, the alien race that shares a collective consciousness and a desire to assimilate other cultures. In the final moments of the Picard premiere, we glimpse a Borg ship. For now, it’s unclear how it survived — did this ship somehow exist separated from the Borg Collective, therefore it wasn’t killed by Janeway’s virus?
Also, the last shot of the premiere indicates that Romulans and other human personnel are working in some capacity aboard the cube, which appears to still be home to inactive Borg drones. (Not exactly the best or safest place to make your office, but, you do you, Romulans). With the Romulans, it is unwise to take why and how they do things at face value. There has to be some ulterior, sinister motive — so what is it? Given the race's ties to Synthetics and their attack on the survivors of Romulus, could the Romulans be using the resources of the cube to help their efforts in finding a way to make sense of — and, worse, respond to — that attack?
And what is Seven of Nine's (Jeri Ryan) role in all this? While not seen in the first episode, the former Borg drone and member of Voyager's crew is poised to be a significant player in the first season. Is she a member of Starfleet? Is she working on the Borg cube with another former drone, Hugh? Is she aligned with the Romulan workforce in some capacity? Nineteen years have passed since we last saw Seven, and it seems that she has evolved in her understanding and reclamation to humanity. It's unlikely she would be working for the Borg or the Romulans, but she's definitely a key figure in whatever they have planned that Picard will no doubt cross paths with. Since the two have never before shared a scene together, we can't wait to see what their dynamic brings to the plot.