Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Why Picard Quit Starfleet Explained

Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Picard.

The premiere episode of Star Trek: Picard vividly illustrated why Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) quit Starfleet with a furious condemnation of the galactic agency by the (former) Admiral himself. Set in 2399, 20 years after Star Trek: Nemesis, the new CBS All-Access series finds the legendary Starfleet hero at a new stage in his life, his journeys through the galaxy behind him.

But in Star Trek: Picard, the retired Admiral is not at rest or satisfied with his exit from his decades of service to the United Federation of Planets. Rather, the former Captain of the Enterprise is nursing his damaged pride and his extreme disappointment in Starfleet's failure to live up to their own ideals. Granted, some of Picard's bitterness revolves around his wounded pride, but it goes much deeper: the great commander who saved the galaxy countless times no longer recognizes Starfleet as the bastion of integrity and shining example to the Alpha Quadrant that it once was.

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Picard turned his back on Starfleet because the Federation withdrew from its commitment to the Romulans; when the star Romulus orbited around went supernova — an event introduced in J.J. Abrams 2009 Star Trek that helped create the films' alternate Kelvin timeline — Picard spearheaded a historic rescue effort to save the Romulan people. But in 2385, a group of rogue androids attacked the Utopia Planitia Shipyards on Mars and destroyed the rescue fleet, killing tens of thousands. Reacting to that tragedy and capitulating to internal political pressure, the Federation turned its back on its commitment to save the Romulans. Incensed, Picard quit Starfleet in protest and retired to his family's vineyard in Le Barre, France, where he has nursed his disappointment and mourned his dead friend, Commander Data (Brent Spiner), for the past 14 years.

In Star Trek: Picard's pilot episode, "Remembrance," the Admiral agreed to give an interview to commemorate the anniversary of the Romulan supernova; however, the interviewer's true intention was to goad Picard to break his silence about Starfleet. Jean-Luc took the bait, lost his statesmanlike composure, and unleashed his true feelings, giving the scathing, truthful reason why he left Starfleet: "Because it was no longer Starfleet!" Picard raged. The man who has a legitimate claim as the greatest Captain of the Enterprise passionately gave the reason he lost his faith in Starfleet: "Starfleet had slunk from its duties... the decision to abandon those people we had sworn to save was not just dishonorable, it was downright criminal!" In Picard's mind, Starfleet and the Federation gave up on its moral responsibilities and Jean-Luc refused to be "a spectator" so he quit.

Picard also shared his opinion that the Federation banning synthetic lifeforms after the Mars tragedy was "a mistake." With Picard's discovery that Dahj (Isa Briones) is a synthetic android who is Data's "daughter," the Federation's ban of artificial lifeforms cuts especially deep since Picard himself helped secure Data's individual rights in the classic TNG episode "Measure of a Man." The Admiral realizes that if Data had lived, he may have been stripped of those rights and forcibly deactivated. Star Trek: Picard is poised to continue the exploration of the meaning of artificial lifeforms in Star Trek. But the Federation abandoning the Romulans was the straw that broke the camel's back. After all, Picard spent his life embodying and carrying out the Federation's highest ideals and bringing them to the furthest reaches of the Alpha Quadrant. To Jean-Luc, the Federation turning their backs on 900-million Romulans in their time of need — regardless of the fact that Romulus is the Federation's oldest enemy — is an unforgivable act of moral cowardice.

While Picard's inviolate grasp of right and wrong is a big reason why he's so beloved by Trekkers, his controversial interview is bound to ruffle Starfleet's feathers, especially when Jean-Luc wants to embark on a new mission to discover the truth behind Dahj and Data's legacy. Picard may be in the moral right about why he quit Starfleet but in Star Trek: Picard, the ex-Admiral will find going on outer space adventures will be far more difficult without the flag of the Federation flying behind his back.

Star Trek: Picard streams Thursdays on CBS All-Access and Fridays internationally on Amazon Prime Video.


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