Explaining Star Trek: Picard episode one - Romulan supernova, Maddox and all
Note: Contains MAJOR spoilers for Star Trek: Picard episode one
It's been 18 years since we last saw Jean-Luc Picard on screen (in the 2002 movie Star Trek: Nemesis), and even longer as part of our weekly TV schedule. But the legendary Star Fleet Captain is back with a bang in the first instalment of the new series of Star Trek: Picard, 'Remembrance'.
The premiere is an action-packed reintroduction to the character and the world of the Federation, but if it's your first taste of the vast Trek universe – or even if it isn't – you might have found yourself left with a number of questions. Whether you've seen The Next Generation or not, there's a lot to catch up on in the first episode of Picard, which is set 20 years after the events of Nemesis.
Let's take a look at the most important questions you might have after watching the Picard premiere ahead of episode two – both the ones we have answers to, and the ones we've yet to resolve…
What happened during the events of the Romulan Supernova?
Non-Trekkies are probably wondering what the Romulan Supernova is and whether it appears in any other Star Trek shows. This is the devastating event that destroys the Romulan homeworld, killing millions, and the subject of Picard's media interview at the beginning of the episode.
This isn't something we see happen in The Next Generation, or any other Star Trek series. In fact, it wasn't even part of Trek history at all until JJ Abrams came along with his 2009 Star Trek reboot, starring Chris Pine as James T Kirk.
In this movie it's revealed that the Romulan homeworld has been destroyed by its sun going supernova – an event the Federation failed to stop – and a small group of survivors travel back in time to try and prevent the catastrophe. In doing so they retcon Star Trek history, creating a separate, alternative Star Trek timeline (called the Kelvin timeline), in which the events of the movie, and its two sequels, play out.
While the Romulan Supernova acts more as a catalyst for the events of 2009's Star Trek reboot than anything else, it's obviously going to be key to the story in Star Trek:Picard.
In the premiere, we learn that Picard attempted to lead a rescue mission to save the Romulans, but after the rescue armada was destroyed (we'll get to that in just a moment) the Federation left their former enemies to a tragic fate. This is something Picard obviously feels (very strongly) was the wrong decision, and ultimately led to his retirement – where we find him at the beginning of the episode.
What are synthetics and why did a group of them destroy the rescue armada?
The reason the Federation ultimately called off the rescue mission is because the armada was destroyed by a group of rogue synthetics. But what are synthetics?
The term is pretty common in sci-fi these days and anyone who's seen Humans, Westworld or Altered Carbon can tell you what it means. But in the world of Star Trek, 'synthetics' is still a relatively new term for what were originally called androids.
Data, a key character in The Next Generation and a close friend of Picard's, who appears in his dreams in the premiere, was an android; a synthetic life form with artificial intelligence. But it's unclear at this time whether the language has simply moved on or if the term synthetics covers more than just androids. Dahj is clearly more than your standard android...
As for why a group of rogue synthetics destroys the rescue armada, we're unlikely to find this out until later in the show, as it's obviously a key plot point. However, there have been numerous Star Trek episodes over the years dealing with artificial life demanding the same rights as organics, so could it maybe linked to their fight for equality?
Who is B-4?
B-4 will be familiar to The Next Generation fans but, if you haven't seen the show, you might be wondering who's the android in the drawer at the Daystrom Institute who looks like Data but isn't… Here's a quick recap.
B-4 is Data's brother. Or, more accurately, he was one of the prototypes Data's creator, Doctor Noonian Soong, made before creating Data. Except B-4 wasn't given a positronic brain as sophisticated as Data's so he's nowhere near as intelligent or capable.
B-4 appeared in Star Trek: Nemesis where he was unwittingly used in a ploy to try and capture Picard. But before that, in an attempt to help B-4 to evolve as he had over the course of The Next Generation, Data copied all of his memories into B-4 in the hopes that this would help him to expand beyond his programming. It didn't work and shortly after, Data dies sacrificing himself to save Picard.
The end of Nemesis implies that Data's memories do start to take hold in B-4, but in Remembrance, we discover that this isn't the case. "Ultimately, B-4 wasn't much like Data at all," says Dr Agnes Jurati. "In fact, no other synth has been."
Who is Bruce Maddox?
While at the Daystrom Institute, Jurati mentions Bruce Maddox, who recruited her out of Starfleet and worked with her to try and recreate an android as impressive as Data. She goes on to reveal that after the ban on synthetics, Maddox disappeared.
In case you don't remember, Bruce Maddox is actually a minor character in The Next Generation. He appears in season two's 'The Measure of a Man' and is a cybernetics expert who wants to use Data to create a race of intelligent androids.
However, Data refuses to participate in the experiment, which would effectively kill him, leading to a trial to defend his rights as an individual. Maddox doesn't see Data as a living being and therefore doesn't think of disassembling him as murder, but thanks to Picard, Data wins the right to decide for himself.
After the trial, Maddox is pleasantly surprised to find that Data harbours him no ill will, and the pair stay in touch. Although he never appears in another Star Trek episode, Maddox is referenced numerous times throughout the show.
What are they rebuilding at the Romulan reclamation site?
The end of the premiere sees us aboard a Romulan reclamation site along with Dahj's sister Soji, and an unknown Romulan who attempts to befriend her. Although both characters will clearly be key to the on-going story in Picard, what's more interesting is that after their meeting, the camera zooms about to show that the Romulan reclamation site is, in fact, a Borg cube.
For those of you going, 'Huh?' The Borg are one of the most dangerous alien races in Star Trek and have featured in numerous series and countless episodes over the years. They travel through space, assimilating everything in their path, including other aliens and technology, in their attempt to achieve perfection.
Thanks to the Borg's cold-hearted assimilation and their lack of mercy towards other races, Borg cubes have become a symbol of terror across the universe, and Picard himself has come into contact with them on more than one occasion. Suffice to say, it was a pretty shocking way to end the first episode of Picard, but certainly one that will have fans coming back for more.
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