Star Trek Guide

Picard’s Biggest Changes To Star Trek Continuity

The Star Trek continuity has been radically altered by Star Trek: Picard. Patrick Stewart's return to the Star Trek franchise has been a massive success, especially for the streaming service CBS All Access. The celebrated actor was initially reluctant to sign up, but was ultimately won over by the script and the overarching concept of an aging Picard on a final mission.

Star Trek: Picard is set in the year 2399, decades after the events of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and when it opens, Picard is a retired hermit who has essentially given up on life and Starfleet. A desperate cry for help draws him back into the fold, and over the course of the first season, Jean-Luc Picard discovered a secret Romulan conspiracy rooted in a warning from an ancient alien civilization. Along the way, he's forced to confront his inner demons, and gains a new lease on life - symbolized by the transferring of his consciousness into a new clone/golem body.

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The overall plot spans millennia, and it's both cosmic in scale and somehow deeply personal. As a result, it has a profound impact on Star Trek's continuity. Here are the biggest changes made by Star Trek: Picard in season 1 to the overall Star Trek canon.

Star Trek's Most Advanced Synthetic Race Existed Long Ago

Star Trek: Picard reveals that, over 200,000 years ago, a technologically-advanced race created synthetic life, with some theories suggesting they lived in the Beta Quadrant. Unfortunately conflict brewed between the organic beings and the synthetics, and the two became locked in a genocidal conflict. The synthetics triumphed, and they abandoned this plane of existence in order to exist on some sort of higher dimension. Demonstrating their power and technological might, the synthetics left behind a message for any future synths; they drew attention to this message by dragging eight suns into a stable orbit around one another, and placing a single world at the center of this cluster. This barren planet had only one object of note, a technological marvel called the Admonition, a psychic message designed to be received by synthetic beings and containing instructions how to reopen the portal and summon cosmic judgment upon organics.

The Star Trek franchise has never claimed space-faring civilizations were new; according to Star Trek: The Next Generation, a proto-humanoid civilization developed 4 billion years ago, and Star Trek: The Animated Series revealed the entire Milky Way galaxy had once been conquered by monstrous Slavers. Still, this previously-unknown synthetic race - who may be from the Beta Quadrant, as that's where the Romulans hail from - is probably the most advanced race in history, and their synthetic creations clearly have technology beyond even Starfleet's wildest nightmares.

The Romulan Zhat Vash

Unfortunately, centuries ago the Admonition was found by Romulan explorers. Although the message was intended for synthetics, organic minds were compatible enough to be driven insane by it; these Romulans feared the future development of synthetic life, and established a secret organization called the Zhat Vash in the wake of the message's discovery; they spent years working tirelessly to suppress synthetic research. Every generation of Zhat Vash members was exposed to the Admonition; many committed suicide, but the rest continued to shape the development of Romulan civilization, believing they were protecting their people, not destroying another.

The Zhat Vash infiltrated Starfleet, with one of their operatives - a half-Romulan/half-Vulcan named Oh - successfully becoming the commander of Starfleet Security. She resolved to manipulate Starfleet into ending synthetic experimentation, and took terrifying and drastic steps to achieve her goal.

The Romulan Supernova Has Been Reinterpreted

Star Trek continuity became a lot more complicated in 2009, when J.J. Abrams' Star Trek movie was released. That was intended as a relaunch of the entire franchise, with Abrams recasting iconic characters like Kirk and Spock. This was accomplished through accidental time travel, with travelers from the future rewriting history and creating an alternate timeline. The key figure was the Romulan Nero, who originated from the Prime Timeline, and was seeking revenge after his homeworld had been destroyed in a supernova. He blamed Starfleet for the tragedy, which was frankly odd and inexplicable.

Star Trek: Picard has neatly explained this. While the Romulan supernova appears to be a natural event, Starfleet's response to it was less than ideal. The United Federation of Planets initially agreed to launch the greatest refugee initiative in history, aiming to rescue as many Romulans as possible. Jean-Luc Picard left the Enterprise to become the champion and spokesman of the refugees, and he guaranteed them salvation and sanctuary. Sadly, he had failed to understand the political pressures building up inside the Federation, with several member planets considering the Romulans nothing but old enemies.

And then tragedy struck; a synthetic uprising at the Martian Shipyard destroyed the fleet of refugee vessels that Starfleet had been constructing. Ironically, the uprising was orchestrated by the Zhat Vash, who had prioritized their insane mission over the survival of their very race; they considered the expansion of synthetic labor to be too risky, and so they preferred destroying the shipyards to saving their people. Romulan infiltrators used the synthetic uprising as an opportunity to push for a ban on synthetic labor. Meanwhile, political pressure led Starfleet to abandon the Romulans to their fate. Jean-Luc Picard offered his resignation in protest, believing - in his hubris - this would force Starfleet to reconsider. They accepted his resignation, and for 14 years Picard hid himself from the world, grieving for broken promises and lost lives.

Data Is the First Of A Race Of Synthetic Beings

The Zhat Vash believed they had achieved their goal, ending the threat of synthetic life. But they had reckoned without Doctor Bruce Maddox, a scientist who had studied with Commander Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation, and who had discovered how to recreate Data's positronic consciousness from just a single neuron. Maddox hid himself on a planet he called Coppelius, and there used Data's neuron to establish an entire race of synthetic beings. These synthetics were unlike anything seen before, composed of organic matter rather than metal, although still capable of superhuman feats. Their minds were able to experience life in a way Data had longed for, and they were as emotional as any organic beings. There's a very real sense in which the entire synthetic civilization of Coppelius should be considered Data's children.

Data Had Survived Star Trek: Nemesis - But Died Again

Data had sacrificed himself years ago, but Star Trek: Picard revealed his consciousness was still alive - in a sense. Maddox had been able to use a single neuron to recreate Data's consciousness, and had stored it in a virtual environment all these long years. Jean-Luc Picard's mind was briefly stored in that same virtual reality while Maddox constructed a new body for him, and he was delighted at the opportunity to be reunited with his long-lost friend. To Picard's sorrow, Data had come to believe mortality is an intrinsic part of life, and he requested the Admiral switch off his systems and allow him to share in one last experience of life - by dying. This allowed Star Trek: Picard to give Data the emotional send-off he had previously been denied by his unsatisfying death scene in Star Trek: Nemesis.

Seven Of Nine Is Gay

Star Trek: Picard saw Jean-Luc ally with an unusual crew, including Jery Ryan's Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager. In a surprising twist, the season 1 finale included a scene implying Seven of Nine may actually be lesbian, and she'd begun a relationship with her fellow crew-member Raffi. Earlier episodes had hinted this when Seven confronted an old enemy, Bjayzl, a woman who had strangely intimate knowledge of Seven. The clear implication is that they were former lovers, and Bjayzl betrayed Seven of Nine in order to acquire Borg parts. It's possible Seven is bisexual rather than lesbian, given Star Trek: Voyager included a glimpse of a future timeline where she'd been in a relationship with Chakotay. Hopefully Star Trek: Picard season 2 will shine a little light on this.