Star Trek: Picard's Chateau Has a Tragic History
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for "Remembrance," the series premiere of Star Trek: Picard, streaming now on CBS All Access.
In the premiere episode of Star Trek: Picard, the former captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise lives alone on his family’s ancestral vineyard, 14 years after resigning from Starfleet amidst controversy. The chateau is conspicuously uninhabited, save for two Romulans caretakers and his dog, Number One.
For those new to Star Trek or Jean-Luc Picard, it may seem like an unusually lonely way for a wizened explorer and diplomat held in such high regard to be spending his golden years. However, Jean-Luc’s home life and the history of Chateau Picard is one of the most tragic aspects of the character, and his self-imposed exile there holds a deep significance.Click the button below to start this article in quick view. Start now
The chateau wasn’t always so empty. Picard is the last of a long line of vintners that have been making wine in La Barre, France for centuries. Early on during Star Trek: The Next Generation, Picard mentioned he grew up in France on a vineyard but hesitated to delve further into his family history or personal life with his crew.
Picard's past would remain unexplored until the aftermath of the legendary TNG two-parter “The Best of Both Worlds.” In those classic episodes, Picard is captured and assimilated into the Borg collective. The hive-minded race of cyborgs turned him into Locutus and used his knowledge of Starfleet to attack the Federation in what became the historic Battle of Wolf 359. While his crew was eventually able to rescue him, Picard’s identity was completely suppressed by his Borg programming in an ordeal that fundamentally changed him
Shortly after that, Picard was granted some shore leave and given time to recover in the episode “Family," where he returns home for the first time in 20 years. When Picard shows up at the chateau with both his physical and emotional baggage, it becomes apparent why he left in the first place. At first, he is warmly met by a boy who Jean-Luc correctly deduces is his nephew, René. Upon reaching the house, he is greeted by Marie, his sister-in-law. She says that she and Jean-Luc’s older brother, Robert are happy to have him, but their awkwardness indicates that to be a half-truth.
It’s clear that Marie is downplaying tension between the brothers, and Jean-Luc offers to stay in town if he’s imposing. Marie dismisses the notion, reminding Jean-Luc that Chateau Picard is still his home as well. That sentiment is not shared by Robert, who Jean-Luc finds attending his crops. Robert is cold, referring to his brother as “Captain.” He allows Jean-Luc to stay, inviting him to dinner, but brushes him off to get back to work.
The rift becomes greater over dinner where Robert shows his disdain for technological conveniences, much like their father. Robert does things the old ways and looks down on Jean-Luc for using devices like replicators. Things get worse when Jean-Luc learns his nephew has an interest in starships, just as he did. Picard tries his best not to speak out of line, but when René leaves the room Robert begins to yell at Jean-Luc. Robert accuses him of encouraging the boy to go into space, something he adamantly opposed. Jean-Luc, in turn, accuses Robert of being close-minded.
Their hostility culminates in a drunken argument where the brothers share their jealousy over the other’s life. Robert is angry at Jean-Luc for being exceptional at everything, getting away with breaking all the rules and rushing off to have adventures in space, leaving him stuck with the vineyard. Jean-Luc resents Robert for falling in love and having children and accuses Robert of being a bully. Robert agrees he was a bully, even admitting that he sometimes enjoyed it.
The two break out into a heated fistfight, pummeling each other drunkenly until the two wind up laying in the mud, laughing at their childishness. The brothers needed the release, and it allowed Jean-Luc to let his guard down enough to tell his brother about the horrors he endured. Jean-Luc breaks down, sobbing as he berates himself for not doing more to resist the Borg, for not being good enough or strong enough to fight back. He admits his overwhelming guilt over the deaths he unwillingly caused.
All the while, Robert listened quietly. When Jean-Luc was finished, he remarks that Jean-Luc is human after all. He tells his little brother that the Battle of Wolf 359 will be with him for a long time, and Jean-Luc must learn to live with it. The two brothers return home and spend the night drinking and singing. Jean-Luc leaves the chateau the next day to return to the Enterprise, departing on better terms with his brother than before, with his nephew vowing he’ll be leaving for his own starship one day.
Sadly, this was never to pass. The next time we hear of Picard’s family is in the movie Generations. Jean-Luc sits at his desk and listens to an audio message from Marie. A terrible accident occurred resulting in a fire that ravaged the chateau and killed both Robert and René. In a single moment, his entire family is lost and that was the last mention of the chateau until now.
In the time between Nemesis and Picard, Jean-Luc has the chateau repaired, but there are no Picards left to run the vineyard until his resignation from Starfleet. The fact that this is where he chooses to hide from the world is very telling of his state of mind. Chateau Picard is where Jean-Luc returns to when he is vulnerable and wounded.
This is why he shares his home with the two Romulans who work the vineyard and a dog he calls “Number One”, his nickname for former first mate, Will Riker. They are living reminders of his failed attempt to save the Romulans and his lingering attachment to Starfleet. His trauma from the Mars incident is so severe he’s been on the chateau for years, unable to move on from the past. He likely would have died there, never confronting his demons, had Dahj not rushed into his life.
When he leaves the chateau to help her, it holds the same significance as it did when he left his brother all those years ago. Though he was shaken to his core, Picard has now found the strength to move forward and begin to recover. His journey may take him across the stars and into certain danger, but this first step was likely the hardest.
Star Trek: Picard stars Patrick Stewart, Alison Pill, Michelle Hurd, Evan Evagora, Isa Briones, Santiago Cabrera and Harry Treadaway. New episodes of the series premiere every Thursday on CBS All Access.
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