Now that we know Jean-Luc Picard is returning to Star Trek, it's worth revisiting where we last left the good captain. Following rumors of a return to the sci-fi franchise, Patrick Stewart stunned the crowd at the Star Trek Las Vegas Convention by announcing he will be putting his Starfleet uniform back on to tackle the iconic character he portrayed over seven seasons on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and in four followup feature films. Stewart will be playing an older version of Picard for a CBS All Access series; details at the moment are slim, but Stewart promised something radically different for the character, and suggested he's likely no longer in the captain's chair on the Enterprise.
This is a deliriously exciting development for a lot of reasons. The first, and most obvious, is that Picard is one of the franchise's most enduring, beloved characters, shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Captain Kirk and Spock, perhaps even more so for the generation of fans who grew up with The Next Generation in constant syndication. Stewart is one of the most beloved actors in the Star Trek franchise, and there's a visceral joy in the prospect of seeing him play Picard again that's impossible to deny. This will also presumably be the franchise's first visit to the Prime timeline that actually pushes past the events of Nemesis; the Chris Pine-starring films take place in an alternate reality known as the Kelvin timeline, and Star Trek: Discovery is a prequel to The Original Series.
But perhaps most of all, this feels like a time when we need Picard. In an era that has seen the rise of increasingly heated and bigoted rhetoric, bad faith debates, and blatant anti-intellectualism, the cerebral, empathetic Picard feels like a balm - a notion Stewart himself acknowledged. The best versions of Star Trek have always been loaded with social commentary, that optimistic belief that humanity will eventually better itself by overcoming its darker impulses and embracing egalitarianism and and benevolent exploration. No single character embodied those ideals more than Picard.
- This Page: Where Picard's Story Left Off
- Page 2: What Could Lie in Picard's Future
Where We Left Picard
Picard's last canonical appearance was in the 2002 film Star Trek: Nemesis. Nemesis suffered from waning interest in the franchise, a largely unimaginative plot, and a director who had an almost comedically hostile attitude toward the franchise in Stuart Baird (he infamously referred to Geordi LaForge actor LeVar Burton as "Laverne" on more than one occasion). The film was met with hostile reviews and failed at the box office, abruptly ending the story of the Next Generation crew.
Perhaps sensing the end was near, Nemesis did manage to wrap up several long running storylines for its core cast of characters. Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis) were finally married in a service officiated by Picard. Riker and Troi departed the Enterprise at the end of the film, as Riker took command of the USS Titan, leaving Picard without his longtime first officer. Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden), Picard's oldest friend and occasional love interest, departed the Enterprise to head Starfleet Medical on Earth. Lieutenant Commander Data (Brent Spiner) sacrificed himself to save Picard from his own evil clone, Shinzon (played by a very young Tom Hardy). At film's end, Picard's surrogate family had mostly left him behind, with only LaForge and Lieutenant Commander Worf (Michael Dorn) remaining on the Enterprise. Frankly, Picard and his crew deserved a much better ending than what Nemesis offered them.
While Nemesis was the last time we saw Picard onscreen, there are likely plenty of hints about Picard's future in the IDW comic book Star Trek: Countdown. Released in 2009, Countdown served as a bridge between the Next Generation era and J.J. Abrams' alternate universe films featuring Kirk and Spock. Set eight years after the events of Nemesis, the comic saw Picard as the Federation Ambassador to Vulcan, with a revived Data now in command of the Enterprise. Whether or not Countdown is canonical has long been up for debate, but it was plotted by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who wrote the first two Abrams films. Kurtzman oversees all of CBS All Access' Star Trek productions, and is said to be intimately involved in the development of the new Picard series.