Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Discovery Makes a Surprising Picard Connection

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, Episode 7, "Unification III," now streaming on CBS All Access.

Throughout its run, Star Trek: Discovery has fervently embraced the series that have come before it. The show set its first two seasons during The OriginalSeries era, even bringing in their own versions of Spock and Captain Pike. The most recent episode even created an epilogue to an episode of The Next Generation, and there have been passing Easter eggs that reference Deep Space Nine and Voyager. And now, fans can also add Star Trek: Picardto the list of things Discovery has referenced.

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In "Unification III," the U.S.S. Discovery travels to the planet Ni'Var, home of the newly-reunified Vulcans and Romulans. The crew is seeking research from a project on alternate forms of transport that the planet conducted prior to the catastrophe known as "The Burn" and them pulling out of the Federation. As a Hail Mary, Michael Burnham invokes the Vulcan ceremony of "T'Kal-in-ket," which puts her in front of a tribunal for a philosophical debate over whether she deserves the research.

As part of the ceremony, the invoker (in this case Michael) is granted a "shalankhkai," or advocate, to assist them. In this case, her advocate turned out to be Michael's long-lost mother, Gabrielle Burnham. But perhaps what's more interesting is who Gabrielle is representing. She comes to the "T'Kal-in-ket" not as Michael's mother, but as a member of the Qowat Milat, a Romulan group introduced in the first season of Picard.

Making its debut in the fourth episode of Star Trek: Picard, the Qowat Milat is an order of Romulan warrior nuns. They practice the "Way of Absolute Candor," preaching a lack of filter between thought and speech above all. That, of course, made them natural enemies of other Romulan sects like the Zhat Vash and Tal Shiar, who prided secrecy. Though working as a largely independent party, a Qowat Milat member can bind themselves to what she feels is a lost cause, which is the main reason why Gabrielle shows up for the "T'Kal-in-ket."

The Qowat Milat also back up their words with swords. Jean-Luc Picard once called the Qowat Milat "the most skilled single-combat fighters that I have ever seen." Though not allowed a member, the highly-trained character Elnor proved that in Picard's first season, carving his way through swaths of enemies after beseeching them to "choose to live."

Picard utilized the Qowat Milat in the early 2380s, as he represented the Federation in an attempt to rescue the Romulans. With an impending supernova soon to swallow their planet whole, then-Admiral Picard helped lead an effort to relocate the species to new worlds before it was too late. One example fans see is on the planet of Vashti, where a Qowat Milat group helped take care of over 250,000 refugees. Years later, Picard traveled to Vashti to seek their assistance, after Starfleet abandoned them.

Evidently, it seems the Qowat Milat served another important role in Romulan history, particularly with the Vulcan reunification. Speaking bluntly and honestly allowed them to be adequate intermediaries between the two peoples, helping to facilitate healthy discourse and lead everyone to the same table. The existence of the Qowat Milat across centuries -- and two Star Trek series -- shows the lasting power of the group, and how they will be continuing to slash their way to the truth for episodes to come.

Streaming on CBS All Access,Star Trek: Discovery stars Sonequa Martin-Green as Commander Michael Burnham, Doug Jones as Commander Saru, Anthony Rapp as Lt. Commander Paul Stamets, Mary Wiseman as Ensign Sylvia Tilly, Wilson Cruz as Dr. Hugh Culber, David Ajala as Cleveland "Book" Booker, Blu del Barrio as Adira, Ian Alexander as Gray, Tig Notaro as Chief Engineer Reno and Michelle Yeoh as Philippa Georgiou. New episodes of Season 3 air on Thursdays.