Stardate: January 2020 sees the return of Jean-Luc Picard, after an absence from our screens of more than 17 years. Last seen in action in Star Trek: Nemesis, Picard will be boldly going online in his own streaming series, showing us the character at the end of the 24th Century. The internet has already gone wild over the teasers and trailers which have been released so far, showing us a man very different from the one we’re used to seeing in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
In the Star Trek universe’s timeline, it will have been 20 years since Picard faced off against an evil clone of himself (played by a young Tom Hardy), and all of the promotional material for Star Trek: Picard so far has left fans trying to piece together exactly what’s happened in the meantime. As far as we can tell, Picard has retired from Starfleet, and returned to the family home in La Barre, France, to run the winery producing bottles of Chateau Picard. It also seems as though there was a terrible tragedy of some kind, which led to him resigning his commission and pursuing a far more sedate, isolated lifestyle.
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There’s been all manner of speculation as to what manner of calamity could be so severe for Picard to turn his back on his career, and we’ll no doubt get to hear more about this when the series starts next year. However, as we’re unlikely to actually get to see much of this for ourselves (no doubt partly due to budgetary reasons, partly due to it slowing down the narrative if you show rather than just tell), Star Trek: Picard – Countdown is tasked with actually giving us the backstory. While it presumably won’t be essential to know all this detail for the casual viewers, fans really do love having all these sorts of gaps filled, so this is a lovely bonus.
It isn’t the first time that the comics have carried out this sort of role, as IDW’s Star Trek: Countdown four-part mini-series showed us what led up to the events of the creation of the Kelvin timeline in 2009’s Star Trek reboot. That story gave us Captain Data and Ambassador Picard helping carry out the ultimately doomed attempt to prevent the destruction of Romulus, and leading to the apparent death of Spock and the Romulan Nero. As the events which involve the Hobus supernova take place in 2387, and Star Trek: Picard – Countdown covers 2385 to 2386 (by which time Picard – an Admiral, rather than an Ambassador – appears to have retired), it’ll be interesting to see whether they try to square that particular circle, and make it all tie up.
An interesting point to note here is that the storyline for 2009’s Star Trek: Countdown was penned by the movie’s writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the latter of whom is now in the role of Executive Producer on Star Trek: Picard. Presumably, 10 years ago it would have all seemed like a pipe dream for Kurtzman – or anyone, in fact – to be able to tell further stories featuring Jean-Luc Picard, so he could pretty much do whatever he liked with telling the backstory in comic form, and not worry about having to make it link up with any possible future continuity. Well, funny how these things turn out, as Kurtzman’s in the position of trying to either stick to what he storylined for the comic, or contradict it to tell a brand new story for TV instead.
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It seems as though Star Trek: Picard – Countdown is in safe hands, as the writers – Kirsten Beyer and Mike Johnson – have not only produced other Star Trek comics for IDW, but Beyer is Supervising Producer on Star Trek: Picard, and Johnson co-scripted the 2009 Star Trek: Countdown, so he has form when it comes to doing comic tie-in prequels. Here, we get a tantalising glimpse into how things have moved on since Star Trek: Nemesis, with a cameo from one of The Next Generation’s characters which isn’t just here as fan service, but is actually an integral part of the mission in which Admiral Picard finds himself (no pun intended) engaged.
It’s perhaps no great surprise that the Romulans are a key part of this tale, given how much they’ve been featured in the trailers for Star Trek: Picard, as well as what the cast and crew have revealed in interviews and publicity material. Picard is on a mercy mission, which is also a race against time, as the Hobus supernova is due to happen soon. This first issue starts to show us where things stand politically between the Federation and the Romulan Empire, and we’ll no doubt get to learn more as things progress. Thankfully, Beyer and Johnson haven’t played all their cards from the off, so there’s still enough mystery remaining to keep you suitably intrigued, and have you coming back for the next issue.
Star Trek: Picard – Countdown #1 is out on 27th November from IDW Publishing, and is available digitally and from comic shops.