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Preparing for Star Trek: Picard — What You Need to Read and Watch

Star Trek: Picard will premiere on January 23, and it’s already been renewed for a 10-episode Season 2, promising a healthy viewer payoff for investing in this first season. Not that Star Trek fans needed that nudge to get them excited about the upcoming series. The buzz on the internet has been almost completely positive (there’s always a few curmudgeons), and it looks like the show is on track to hit a nice balance of nostalgia and new content. CBS All Access may have finally found the bait that’ll reel in the subscriber hold outs.

So with that in mind and less than two weeks to go before the show begins, you might be thinking about what steps you ought to be taking to refresh yourself on the past, and wondering what content might be out there to prepare you for the future. My friend, you have come to the right place. In this article, we’ll talk about some of the key episodes and movies that ought to be considered for rewatching, and review the pre-show multi-media campaign that has been setting the stage for the series.

Trailers and Preview Clips

Up until December, there was just the original teaser trailer from last summer, and two trailers released during comic convention panels. That was plenty, really, but now here in the last month, they’ve gone a little crazy, with a new teaser every week practically:

I’m not going to try to break down everything that is seen in these trailers. There are plenty of YouTube videos out there to do just that, and even a few supercuts with multiple trailers spliced into one to eliminate all of the overlap.  We’ll talk about bits and pieces of the trailers as we go through the rest of the pre-show multimedia campaign here.

Star Trek Picard - Overhead view of Picard and Dr. Jurati pulling open a drawer with a disassembled Data-like android
Instant nostalgia–some assembly required.

Key Episodes to Rewatch

There are many guides out there to bring you up to speed on the character Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) himself, like the ones on StarTrek.com, io9 and a handful of Reddit posts, just to name a few. Beyond Picard though, there are several other returning characters that you would do well to focus on in your rewatch efforts. So far, we know of the following returning characters:

Data (Brent Spiner) – Of course, we associate Brent Spiner with Data, but we could also be seeing one of his “brothers,” Lore or B-4. Along those lines, a few of the rewatch candidates here would include “Descent” (the final Lore episode), “The Measure of a Man” (where Picard defends Data in a Starfleet trial to determine if he is property or an autonomous being with rights), and “All Good Things…” (the final ST:TNG episode). The movie Star Trek: Nemesis should also be considered mandatory viewing, as this is B-4’s introduction and where Data sacrifices himself to save Picard.

Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) – This is the one that has everyone excited, especially given the amount of ass she appears to be kicking in the preview clips. Seven was not introduced until Season 4 of ST:VOY, so no need to start your rewatch before that. Syfy has a Seven of Nine “Binge Guide” that’s as good a place to start as any, but at the very least, the final episode of ST:VOY, “Endgame,” should definitely make your list.

Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco) – This one was a surprise to everyone. With now three formerly assimilated humans in this series, there can be little doubt that the Borg will play a role in here somewhere. Hugh only appears in two episodes of ST:TNG, “I, Borg” and “Descent.” So your homework assignments is pretty straight forward here.

William T. Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) – In the preview trailers, Picard visits the now married, and likely retired, couple at their home. And they have kids, yay! (Well, at least one.) That said, they are not listed as cast regulars and are likely to only play a role in one or two episodes. Jonathan Frakes is reported to be directing the latter half of this season’s episodes. No special episodes to catch up on here beyond those already on the slate for Picard and Data.

Star Trek Picard - Covers of Countdown comic issues #1-#3

Star Trek: Picard – Countdown (comic)

Countdown is a three issue limited series from IDW comics. Issues #1 and #2 are already out. Issue #3 was originally planned to be released on January 15, but was delayed to rework the ending. The new release date of January 29 now places it a week after the series premiere, unfortunately. If you’re inclined to seek it out for yourself, I’d always encourage you to go buy a physical copy of these comics and support your local comic book store, like Time Warp Comics that I go to in Boulder, Colorado.

The first issue starts out with a framing story in the year 2386, but quickly switches to the events of 2385 for the remainder of the series (thus far). To put that into perspective, ST:TNG covered 2364-2370, ST:DS9 covered 2369-2375, ST:VOY covered 2371-2378, and Star Trek: Nemesis was set in 2379. Star Trek: Picard is rumored to be set 20 years after that in 2399, or 14 years after the events here in the comic.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for the comic; skip down to the next section if you want to read it for yourself.

That framing story opens on the vineyards at “Chateau Picard,” where a pair of Romulans, Laris and Zhaban, have come to begin a new life, working for the man who “risked everything” for them. The action transitions to one year prior, with a cameo by none other than Commander Geordi La Forge, supervising operations at the Utopia Planitia Shipyards in orbit around Mars. (Will and Deanna are mentioned to still be on active duty on board the starship Titan.)

A looming supernova threatens the planets in the Romulan Empire, and the Federation is racing against the clock to build a massive fleet of “relocation ships” to assist their former adversaries. Admiral Picard is on location aboard the starship Verity, having already evacuated and resettled several Romulan worlds. He’s diverted to a previously hidden colony world of Yuyat Beta to rescue 10,000 Romulans colonists. Upon arrival, he and his first officer, Commander Musiker, find out that there is a native population of 4-5 million that the Romulans “gifted” with the benefits of their civilization in exchange for their labor. When Picard insists that the natives also be evacuated and refuses to favor the Romulans over the “primitives,” the governor of the colony imprisons Picard and Musiker.

The natives attack the governor’s palace and free the Starfleet officers to come with them. They are taken back to an underground cavern where they meet Laris and Zhaban. They explain that they are agents of the Tal Shiar, working against the governor to save the natives, and that her ultimate plan is to take control of both Picard and his ship. At the end of Issue #2, the governor and her major-domus beam aboard the Verity under the pretense that Picard was killed in the attack and they need to get their people off-world immediately. Using a “protocol” provided by an unknown “benefactor,” they take over the ship at the end of Issue #2.

Star Trek Picard - Two girls hold hands
Kima and Lil comfort each other.

Star Trek: Short Treks – “Children of Mars” (video)

Short Treks is exactly what the title would lead you to expect. It’s an anthology series of short, stand-alone Star Trek episodes that run anywhere from 8 to 18 minutes long. Thus far, all of the episodes of Season 1 and Season 2 have been related to Star Trek: Discovery. However, the final episode of Season 2, just released on January 9, is a precursor to the Star Trek: Picard series.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for the episode; skip down to the next section if you want to watch it for yourself.

The episode follows a day in the life of two schoolchildren, Kima (alien) and Lil (human). Both have parents working at the Utopia Planitia shipyard on Mars. Lil is angry that her dad is not going to make it back home to Earth because things are so busy on Mars, so she takes out her frustration on her classmate Kima. As the day progresses, their little feud escalates, getting more and more physical, and ending in an actual hallway fistfight that is broken up by teachers.

As the two sit in the lobby awaiting transport back planet-side, there is an emergency alert on the television screens. The screen shows a stock photo of Admiral Picard. The ticker above the news report reads “Rogue Synths Attack Mars: 3000 Estimated Dead” and the ticker below it reads “’Devastating’: Admiral Picard Reacts to Mars Attack.” We cut to scenes of unidentified spacecraft strafing the shipyards and a panned out shot of Mars with multiple large explosions going off across the planet’s surface. The two classmates stand and watch the screens in stunned silence, slowly reaching out to hold each other’s hands for comfort.

While we don’t know the year this short is set in, we probably do know the day. Banners in the school’s lobby proclaim “Happy First Contact Day,” which we know to be April 5th. Interestingly, Captain Janeway remembered this as a holiday that kids got off from school in the episode “Homestead.” So maybe this is merely happening around that holiday, not on the actual date itself. Then again, a holiday like that would make an excellent target date for a terrorist attack against the Federation.

Star Trek Picard - Cover for The Last Best Hope Cover

Star Trek: Picard – The Last Best Hope (novel)

This one won’t help you prepare for the series, since its release date of February 11 should place it right between Episodes 3 and 4. However, the publisher’s page for the novel still describes it as “leading into the new CBS series,” and at the Star Trek Las Vegas convention the novel was described as a prequel. So perhaps this too was intended to be released before the series but was delayed for some reason. Comments made at that convention imply that the backstory presented in the comics will be further fleshed out in the novel. The author, Una McCormack, lives in Cambridge, England, and has already written eight other Star Trek novels, as well as three Doctor Who novels.

And that’s about all we know about the novel at this time.

Star Trek Picard - Countdown Issue #1
Geordi La Forge from the Countdown comic.

Putting It All Together

Warning: More spoilers here; skip down to the next section if you don’t want to know.

Part of the backstory being established for Star Trek: Picard is that he retired from Starfleet in 2386 (as presented at SDCC). This is, of course, the year of the comic’s framing story, set on Earth at his vineyards. In the trailers, a female voiceover says “15 years ago, you commanded the greatest rescue armada in history.” So, in Issue #3 or soon thereafter, perhaps in the novel, he will return from Romulan space to command the rescue fleet that Geordi is building at Mars.

We don’t know what year “Children of Mars” was set, but Picard is still being referred to as an admiral, so that places it before 2386. Given that, we could even possibly see an older Kima and Lil in the Picard series. Lil’s father tells her “there’s a lot going on here” at the shipyards, so naturally the first thought is that this is a reference to the “rescue armada” Commander La Forge is building in 2385. There’s even been some worry that this might mean that Geordi is going to turn out to have died in the attacks.

However, the attack could have been earlier than 2385. In the comic, Picard states that the rescue effort had been underway for four years now. Perhaps the building of the fleet is being rushed because there was a huge setback early in the effort due to the attack. Implying that the strike was really intended as a blow against the Romulans, crippling the Federation’s attempt to come to their aide.

In the trailers though, Picard says “I was haunted by my past” as he is shown sitting in what might be the Ten Forward lounge, with Mars under attack visible in the viewports behind him. That scene and a scene of the attacking ships strafing the shipyards are nearly identical to what has now been seen in “Children of Mars.” While the scene of him sitting in the lounge looks to be a dream sequence, he is presumably back in the Sol system at the time of the attack, if he was being quoted for the HNN news ticker. Could something he does in Issue #3 somehow trigger the “rogue synth” attack on Mars, such that he holds himself responsible?

Star Trek has always used sci-fi settings to tell stories about modern political issues, and Star Trek: Picard seems to be picking up that mantle. The comic includes hints at issues over colonialism and slavery. There could also be a future Romulan refugee crisis, analogous to the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe.

The death toll of 3000 in “Children of Mars” almost certainly seems to be intended to mirror the death toll from the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This might be an indicator that Picard will take on post-9/11 ethics and xenophobia, only substituting a fear/hatred of “synths” for Muslims. Certainly the indicators here follow the pattern of our real-world attack, as the girls put aside their petty squabbles to unite and comfort each other. Just as the 9/11 attacks brought out the best of America for that brief shining moment in their immediate aftermath.

Conclusion

Star Trek: Picard is the first series since Voyager to move the storyline into the future, instead of going back into the past. The show looks like it will be a good mix of nostalgia and growth, hopefully having learned from recent successes, such as Twin Peaks and Cobra Kai. We’ve got old bad guys and new bad guys, old crew and new crew. This will be the first series to give us a solid look at civilian life in the Federation. Just as we are transitioning into a new decade, this series will bring Star Trek into a new century. These are exciting times for Star Trek fans.

Here at 25YL, we’ve previously covered Star Trek: Discovery, and I’ll be providing weekly coverage of Star Trek: Picard. Look for additional articles covering some of those key rewatch episodes as well in the next few weeks.  Let me know in the comments below what your favorite theories are about what we have in store, or just what you’re excited to see from the new series.

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Written by Brien Allen

Brien Allen is the last of the original crazy people who responded to this nutjob on Facebook wanting to start an online blog prior to Twin Peaks S3. Some of his other favorite shows have been Vr.5, Buffy, Lost, Stargate: Universe, The OA, and Counterpart. He's an OG BBSer, Trekkie, Blue Blaze Irregular, and former semi-professional improviser. He is also a staunch defender of putting two spaces after a period, but has been told to shut up and color.

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