Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Picard Introduces the Most Badass Part of Romulan Culture

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 1, Episode 4 of Star Trek: Picard, "Absolute Candor," now streaming on CBS All Access.

With the destruction of Romulus and the Federation facing a tremendous influx of Romulan refugees, Star Trek: Picard has provided a more immersive look at the militaristic society's secretive culture as Jean-Luc Picard is haunted by Starfleet's abandonment of the refugees and adopting a more isolationist policy despite past promises for aid. Previous episodes of the new series had revealed the existence of the Zhat Vash, a brutal, clandestine extension of the Tal Shiar -- the Romulan secret police -- committed to the eradication of artificial intelligence and synthetic life.

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The latest episode of Picard introduces another new, previously unseen element of Romulan society: The Qowat Milat, an order of warrior nuns.

Prior to the Federation and Starfleet reneging its pledge to aid Romulan refugees, Picard had personally overseen relocation and rebuilding efforts on the distant planet of Vashti. One of the key organizations assisting Picard was an order of the Qowat Milat, which was led by a nun named Zani. It is revealed that members of the all-female organization are highly trained in Romulan martial arts and especially deadly with blades.

Interestingly, the monastic order is also in committed opposition to the Tal Shiar, suggesting layers of internal strife and intrigue within Romulan society that had never been seen. Given the prominent influence of the Tal Shiar with the Romulan Star Empire, this suggests that the Qowat Milat may have been social pariahs before the destruction of Romulus.

Vashti's Qowat Milat had taken in an orphaned boy named Elnor, and the young Romulan looked up to Picard as a surrogate father figure, enraptured by Picard reading him The Three Musketeers and teaching him how to fence. However, before Picard can continue his work on the planet, he is called away in response to the rogue synthetic attack on Mars -- with the Federation immediately cutting off Romulan aid following the devastating assault resulting in Picard's forced retirement from Starfleet. The admiral was unable to revisit the planet for the subsequent 14 years.

While en route with the newly assembled crew of La Sirena and operating outside of Starfleet's jurisdiction -- and permission -- Picard makes a detour to Vashti in a desperate effort to recruit a member of the Qowat Milat to assist him on his daring mission to locate Bruce Maddox and the android Soji, who may be Data's daughter. While Zani politely rebuffs Picard's request, she offers Elnor's services instead. Elnor has now grown to adulthood and has been trained by the Qowat Milat. Since he's male, he is denied full admission to the female order and stands as a sort of Romulan ronin -- a samurai without a master.

Similar to a Wookie life debt from Star Wars, a member of the Qowat Milat can pledge their services to an individual under certain conditions. The figure must listen to the requestor's story before deciding if it is a worthy enough cause to swear their life and fealty to. While Elnor is initially reticent to accept Picard's offer and is still vocally resentful of the admiral's abandonment of the planet and himself, he comes to Jean-Luc's aid and pledges himself to the mission, deeming it a lost cause and, thus, worthy of his life.

With its respective military titles and planets, much of Romulan culture seems most visibly influenced by Ancient Roman society. However, as Picard continues to add new layers to the formerly closed-off civilization, the latest introduced element of Romulan culture takes a clear cue from Japanese feudal society, with its own take on samurai, complete with lethal swordplay and codes of honor -- referred to internally as "absolute candor," in lieu of the samurai Bushido. And with Elnor now serving alongside his estranged father figure on La Sirena, the crew has just gained its very own stoic swordsman.

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.