How PICARD Fixes One Big Problem with STAR TREK ’09

Star Trek: Picard has been a hit with Trekkers, and fans everywhere have rejoiced at the return of Starfleet’s most prestigious Captain, once again played by Sir Patrick Stewart. And in only its first two episodes, Picard has actually made a previous Star Trek movie even better. Specifically, it made it so one character’s actions in J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek make a whole lot more sense given the new context that the Picard series has provided.

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Paramount Pictures

Star Trek ’09 is somewhat controversial among fans, because it forgoes the more intellectual tropes of most Star Trek series and movies in favor of big action. J.J. Abrams gave fans a big budget reinvention of the original characters, and it did not sit well with a lot of the fanbase. But when it was released, critics and many casual fans praised it as the shot in the arm the franchise so desperately needed at the time. But even those of us who loved it (and I count myself among them), always noted that Eric Bana’s main villain Nero was very one dimensional. Frankly, his motivation didn’t make much sense. Although Bana plays the character with mustache-twirling glee, it was still all pretty surface-level on the page.

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Paramount Pictures

In the film, Bana plays a Romulan Captain named Nero. He commands a huge mining vessel, and is off world when a supernova destroys his home planet of Romulus in the 24th Century. This all happens during the era of the Next Generation crew. On his home planet were his entire family, who were lost. He is thrust back over a century in time, and is now hellbent on revenge against Spock and the Federation, for “allowing his family to die.” He spends the next two decades waiting for the older Spock to return to the past, so he can destroy the planets Vulcan and Earth in front of him. All as an act of revenge for the Federation being responsible for what befell Romulus.

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Paramount Pictures

But in the context of the actual film, his anger makes no sense. Why would the Federation be responsible for a supernova, which is a natural occurrence? Well, Star Trek: Picard actually explains that. We learn in the series’ first episode that when it was revealed that a nearby star would explode and destroy Romulus, the people of that world asked their old enemies the Federation for help. They hoped Starfleet would help to relocate the 18 billion inhabitants of that planet out of the blast zone. The Federation agreed, and Admiral Picard commanded an enormous rescue fleet. A new fleet of ships was being constructed to help relocate some 900 million Romulans. But an attack from synthetic organisms on the fleet yards destroyed that new armada, and the plans to save the rest of the Romulan people was halted.

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Paramount Pictures

So now, when Nero says in the film that “your Federation stood by and did nothing,” he’s kind of right. It is certainly not proper reasoning for destroying two other planets, but it gives Nero far more justification for his rage. Even his anger against Spock makes more sense now. Even though we know the elder Leonard Nimoy version of Spock tried to help the Romulans with his red matter device, Nero could have seen him as a figure revered enough in the Federation to have at least attempted to convince them to do more. Spock’s hubris that he could save the Romulans with his scientific knowhow proved devastating.

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Paramount Pictures

Ever since Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the franchise has been chasing Khan-like villains. This due to Ricardo Montalban’s legendary performance, which gave the villain believable nuance and characterization. But the subsequent Trek features never lived up to Khan. Both Star Trek: Generations and Star Trek: Nemesis tried to have villains that were driven by a singular goal like Khan was, and they just didn’t work. The thing that made Khan so great was that even though we knew he was a bad dude, we at least partially understood his desire for revenge against James Kirk. Nero was another villain who didn’t have that, but it’s safe to say that he now he does.

Of course, this is the co-writer and co-creator of Star Trek: Picard kind of fixing his own mistake. Alex Kurtzman co-wrote both Star Trek ’09 and the new Picard series, and probably has heard over the past decade from fans that Nero’s motivations for revenge don’t make a lot of sense. So he saw Picard as a way of creating realistic motivation for him, and thereby fixing one of his previous movie’s biggest flaws.

Picard can’t fix Star Trek ‘09’s other big flaw involving Nero however, which is this: If Nero is sent back in time to a reality where his home planet of Romulus hasn’t been destroyed, why not use those 20 years to warn his people that their sun is due to wipe the planet out of existence? Instead, he just waits around for decades to enact his revenge scheme. Ultimately, it turns out that this was more of a flaw in the editing of that film than of the writing.

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Paramount Pictures

The deleted scenes for Star Trek ’09 actually do deal with this plot hole. In a cut sequence, we learn that the Narada, Nero’s ship, is captured by Klingon forces almost as soon as it is sent back in time, and after he destroys the USS Kelvin. He is held in a prison planet for over two decades, after which he escapes and regains his ship.

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Paramount Pictures

The escape from the Kligons part is mentioned by Lt. Uhura in the final film, but we never actually seen him get captured by them. So in the final cut, it seems like he just wasted 20-plus years waiting to get revenge, when in fact he was being held captive. Maybe he planned to save Romulus after his whole revenge on Starfleet plot?  But we’ll never know, because he died, so that plan never came to fruition. But by not addressing it in the final film, it’s kind of a dent on his character. And it’s one that only a longer cut of Star Trek ’09 can fix. Star Trek: Picard can’t do the heavy lifting on this one, no matter how much it’s improved Nero overall.

Featured Image: Paramount Pictures

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