Sir Patrick Stewart will once again suit up as the beloved cerebral leader Jean-Luc Picard in the upcoming spinoff series Star Trek: Picard, premiering Thursday, Jan. 23 on CBS All Access. The upcoming series will feature a changed Picard — one who has retired from Starfleet to run his family's French vineyard, the Chateau Picard, after leading a massive rescue mission that ended in disaster. Set two decades after the events of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the series will explore Picard's psychological state in the wake of that game-changing event.
This new Picard seems a bit melancholy compared to the more optimistic captain from Star Trek: TNG, who was defined by his curious mind and sound heart. In that show's series finale, he found himself in the unique position of appearing in three different timelines spread across the past, present, and future thanks to a temporal anomaly that tore away at the fabric of time and space. The dramatic two-parter wrapped with Picard being transported back to the beginning of his adventures on the Enterprise-E after fixing the anomaly, but not without consequence: He retained the memories of those alternate timelines.
However, Picard wasn't greatly affected by that in the 2002 motion picture Star Trek: Nemesis, which marked the last time we saw him on screen. The film featured Picard facing off against his clone, Shinzon (Tom Hardy), who tried to overthrow the Romulan government after the Romulans backed out on their plan to replace Picard with him. Shinzon was eventually defeated in a major space battle that culminated with Data (Brent Spiner) sacrificing himself in order to save the Enterprise crew. It was a tough loss for Picard but likely not the reasoning for his lifestyle overhaul in Star Trek: Picard. After all, B-4 humming the lyrics to the classic song "Blue Skies" — which Data sang at Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Deanna's (Marina Sirtis) wedding — left Picard grateful that his friend's legacy would live on in the prototype android.
Executive producer Alex Kurtzman revealed that the "dissolution of the Romulan Empire" will play a role in the series, and all signs point to Romulus's demise, which was depicted in 2009's Star Trek starring Chris Pine, as the catalyst for Picard's change of scenery in this upcoming iteration.
The catastrophe was explored in greater depth in Star Trek: Countdown, the four-part comic series that takes place eight years after Nemesis and serves as a prequel to the 2009 film, which Kurtzman also produced. It follows Nero's (Eric Bana) efforts to save his home planet of Romulus from being engulfed by a supernova. At this point in time, Data had been revived in B-4's body and now served as captain of the Enterprise while Picard acted as the Federation ambassador to Vulcan. Nero and Spock's efforts to prevent the destruction of Romulus ultimately failed, and Spock's use of red matter to shrink the supernova resulted in him being transported to the past — leading straight into the events of the blockbuster film.
A teaser for the series confirmed that Picard was ranked Admiral during the mysterious event that sent him into retirement, which conflicts with Countdown's portrayal of him as an ambassador and negates that specific tie-in. However, that doesn't rule out the destruction of Romulus as a key event in Picard's later years.
However, it looks like another event could have also influenced the Picard we will see in the forthcoming spin-off. The Star Trek: Short Trek "Children of Mars," which is currently streaming on CBS All Access and serves as a prequel to Star Trek: Picard, detailed a horrific attack by rogue "synths" on Mars with more than 3,000 believed to have been killed. In a news brief, Picard was seen referring to the incident as "devastating." A calamitous event like that would have an adverse effect on anyone, including a seasoned Starfleet official like Picard and may have also played a part in his eventual departure from the organization.
We know very little about the plot of this series so far, but what's clear is that this show will explore uncharted territory with the iconic figure.
Star Trek: Picard premieres Thursday, Jan. 23 on CBS All Access.
(Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of CBS Corporation.)