by Will Salmon
It’s been 18 years since we last saw Jean-Luc Picard. The brave, bold, and fiercely intellectual Captain of the USS Enterprise was first brought to life by the great Patrick Stewart in 1988. He starred in seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation and four feature films, bowing out with 2002’s poorly-received Star Trek: Nemesis.
In the years following Stewart went on to become an A-list movie star, while Trek moved on without him. But no longer! This week sees him return to the role that made his name with the launch of Star Trek: Picard on Amazon Prime Video.
The show focuses on Picard in his later life, but where did we last leave him and what has he been up to in the meantime? Quite a lot, as it turns out. This is what we’ve been able to piece together about his life in the intervening years…
Star Trek: Nemesis plot recap
Star Trek: Picard is set 20 years after the events of Nemesis. For all that film’s failings, it did leave things at an apt point. Noble Klingon Worf has left the Enterprise. First Officer Riker has finally accepted a command of his own, and married Deanna Troi, with the happy couple heading off to a new assignment aboard the USS Titan. Most importantly, the ship’s beloved android Data is dead…
Yes, that’s right. At the end of Nemesis, Data made the ultimate sacrifice to save Picard’s life, destroying himself and taking Picard clone Shinzon’s starship with him. It was a melancholy end to the character, though one that still left a loophole for Brent Spiner to potentially return… Data’s memory engrams were handily backed up and stored in B-4 – another, less advanced android.
The suggestion here was that B-4 would retain Data’s experiences – or perhaps even become him – but the trailers for Star Trek: Picard suggest that this hasn’t happened. Instead, Data’s appearance in the new show seems restricted to dream sequences.
How does Short Treks lead into Picard?
After Nemesis, things get a little bit sketchy, though the recent, canonical comic, Star Trek: Picard – Countdown and the Short Treks episode, Children Of Mars give us some tantalising nuggets of information.
We know that after Nemesis, the Romulans enter a new era of peace talks with the Federation, Jean-Luc already had a long history of dealing with them, so it’s safe to assume that he would be at the forefront of these negotiations.
But then something unexpected happens – the Romulans reveal that their sun will soon go supernova, an event that will destroy their world (as seen in JJ Abrams 2009 Star Trek film, which starts in 2387 before leaping back in time and into another universe).
Now an Admiral, Picard leaves the Enterprise and its mission of exploration behind, taking charge of the USS Verity, the ship that will lead the evacuation mission to help the Romulans relocate safely. A vital part of his crew is first officer, Raffi Musiker (played by Michelle Hurd in the new show). Musiker is an expert on the Romulans who doesn’t show too much deference to Picard, casually referring to him as “JL” rather than “Admiral Picard”.
Sometime before this (but after his promotion to Admiral), a “rogue Synth” attack on Mars kills 3000 people. We don’t yet know who these Synths are, though a safe guess is that they share a common ancestry with Data and B-4, given their pale golden skin. It’s an event, along with the devastating Dominion War shown in Deep Space 9 and the destruction of Romulus, that leads to the Federation changing – and not for the better.
From what Stewart has said in the press for Picard, it has become more isolationist in nature than in its liberal Next Gen heyday. Picard steps down and goes into retirement, returning to Earth and his vineyard in France.
What happens in the last episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation?
That’s all we know, for now, but some other clues as to what the future holds may come in the final episode of The Next Generation, from 1994. In All Good Things…, Picard begins to flash forwards and backwards in time. In the future scenes (set around the year 2395), we meet a Jean-Luc who has resigned from Starfleet to work his vineyard (sound familiar?).
His long-teased relationship with Beverly came to fruition – but ended in divorce. Meanwhile, he’s struggling with having developed Irumodic Syndrome, a degenerative neurological disease that will likely be the thing that eventually kills him.
Now, all of this is explicitly stated as being just one possible future. The events may or may not happen – for one thing, Data is still very much alive in that potential timeline. But given that the new series is all about Picard facing old age, we wouldn’t be too surprised if it develops the idea of him struggling with an incurable illness. It would add an extra layer of pathos to the character and give Stewart more to play with.
We’ll find out, one way or another, in the coming weeks…