Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Picard’s Romulan Housekeepers Explained By The Comics

Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Picard Countdown

The conquering Romulans of Star Trek have a reputation for being the deadliest warriors in the universe. So, fans were more than a little surprised when Star Trek: Picard revealed Jean-Luc Picard employs two friendly Romulans, Laris and Zhaban, on his vineyard in France.

Fans were doubly surprised when, the show's third episode put Picard in danger, causing Laris (Orla Brady) and Zhaban (Jamie McShane) to shift into full-on badass mode. Unleashing Romulan martial arts maneuvers and lethal blasts from hidden weapons, Picard’s housekeepers are prepared to kill – until reminding themselves they’re not those type of people anymore. But just who Laris and Zhaban were is revealed in the recently completed comic book miniseries Star Trek: Picard Countdown. Here, readers learn Laris and Zhaban are not only cunning warriors. They’re the type of warriors other Romulans are scared of.

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Their seemingly benign manner effectively hides this side of their personas – but a review of the comic series from Kirsten Beyer, Mike Johnson, and Angel Hernandez reveals just how dangerous these two are, and why Picard trusts both of them with his life.

Who Are Laris and Zhaban?

Star Trek: Picard Countdown takes place almost 15 years before Star Trek: Picard begins. During this period, the Romulan supernova introduced in the rebooted Star Trek film franchise is threatening the Romulan empire, motivating Picard to lead a massive evacuation effort. Part of this evacuation involves building an entirely new fleet of ships designed by Picard’s former Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge. But Picard personally aids in the Romulan relocation by beaming down to Yuyat Beta, a Romulan agricultural colony, and speaking with the Romulans’ governor about relocating their people.

Picard finds the colony has a vineyard much like the one at his chateau, but is horrified to discover the vineyard is being harvested by the planet’s native population, whom the Romulans have enslaved. Furious to learn the Romulans have no intention of evacuating their slaves, Picard confronts the governor who imprisons him for his defiance. But Picard finds unlikely allies in the vineyard’s overseers, Laris and Zhaban, who help the natives mount a revolution and rescue both Picard and his first officer Raffi Musiker.

The two reveal themselves to be members of the Romulan secret police, known as the Tal Shiar. Trained as assassins and spies for the Romulan Empire, Laris and Zhaban claim they were assigned to keep an eye on Yuyat Beta and its governor, plotting to take over Picard’s ship the Verity. Many Romulans fear that Starfleet’s gestures of goodwill are simply a mask to cover their true goal of conquest, and seek to undermine their efforts. But Laris and Zhaban surprise Picard when they reveal they have fallen in love during their assignment, breaking the rules of the Tal Shiar. Moreover, they sympathize with the native population they were overseeing. Discovering the natives were not the primitive people the Romulans saw them as, Laris and Zhaban decide to protect them by allying with Picard.

The former Tal Shiar agents pretend to have apprehended Picard and Musiker, overwhelming the guards and contacting his ship. But when Picard shows his gratitude by beaming his Romulan friends on board, their Tal Shiar superiors hail the ship to reveal the truth: Laris and Zhaban (identified as agents Noctis and Avem) were assigned to take over the Verity all along. Realizing his place is truly with an officer as dedicated to protecting Romulans as he is, Zhaban returns control of the ship to Picard. After learning that both Laris and Zhaban must go into hiding for their betrayal, Picard offers them a home at his vineyard on Earth.

A Classic 'Gene Roddenberry' Ending

Surprisingly, Star Trek Picard: Countdown ends on a hopeful note, with Picard reassuring everyone that “the future is bright.” Those who have seen the Star Trek: Picard series know that Picard’s optimism will soon be challenged by the destruction of multiple Romulan worlds, a mysterious uprising of synthetic androids on Mars, and Picard’s own disillusionment with Starfleet. Nevertheless, the comic does showcase a very “Gene Roddenberry” trait of Star Trek storytelling: the tendency of enemies to become allies.

Picard’s faith in Laris and Zhaban is amply rewarded as the two Romulans prove themselves to be loyal friends over the next fourteen years (growing into the closest thing Jean-Luc has to family in his self-appointed exile). Moreover, the former Tal Shiar operatives display remarkable gratitude toward Picard which seems to go beyond their own sanctuary. Later episodes of Star Trek: Picard will hopefully show just what Picard did to earn such reverence from his Romulan friends, for those who choose not to seek out the full story in the comics. Of course, simply leaving the Tal Shiar doesn’t mean that Laris and Zhaban have become any less dangerous. Romulan secret agents may mellow with age, but they never really lose their edge.


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