Ever since we heard that we’d be getting a new Star Trek series focusing on Patrick Stewart’s character of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, fans have been speculating about just what the series’ plot would entail. We knew it would take place some 20 years since we last saw the character in Star Trek: Nemesis, but that’s about it. But in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, series producer Alex Kurtzman droped the first hints at what he has in store for the former Captain of the Enterprise-D. Most significantly, Kurtzman said, “Picard’s life was radically altered by the dissolution of the Romulan Empire,†referring to an event that occurred in J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek film.This one sentence gave fans two strong clues about what is to come. First: The events of the 2009 film, which rebooted the franchise into an alternative timeline, won’t be negated. We will see how the destruction of one of the principal powers in the entire Star Trek canon will affect the universe we last properly visited in 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis. And second: Fans should prepare themselves for a very different Jean-Luc Picard than the one we’re used to. If the notion of what happened to Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi sent you into a tizzy, you might want to brace yourself.Here, we’re going to break down just why the Romulans are so important to Trek lore, and what the destruction of their Empire could mean for Star Trek as a whole, and for Picard himself, in this new series.

What This Means for Star Trek Canon

The Romulans first appeared in  Star Trek: The Original Series first season episode “Balance of Terror.” They were revealed to be a violent offshoot of Spock’s own Vulcan race, having departed Vulcan thousands of years before, during the time that the culture embraced logic and rejected emotionality. The Vulcans who left their home planet evolved into the Romulans, and although still brilliant, remained warlike and hostile. They developed the cloaking technology used prominently throughout various Trek series.They appeared only two more times over the course of the original series; the Klingons took their place as the main antagonists for the Enterprise crew, something that continued through to the original feature films. But when the Klingons and the Federation made peace during The Next Generation era, the Romulans once again emerged as Starfleet’s deadliest adversaries, and remained as such throughout the course of TNG‘s run.Despite a brief alliance with the Federation during the Dominion War on Deep Space Nine, the Romulans continued on as a threat to the Alpha Quadrant (the area of space where most of Trek takes place), and once again attempted to destroy the Federation in the last TNG-era movie,  Star Trek: Nemesis. Granted, more moderate elements of the Romulan race took control of the Empire thereafter, and we learn that tentative peace talks had begun by the end of that film. But the worst was yet to come for that proud species.The biggest change to the Romulans was seen in J.J. Abrams’ 2009 big screen reboot of Star Trek, where we learn that the Romulan homeworld was destroyed by a supernova, a tragedy that Leonard Nimoy’s Spock, who was living on Romulus trying to unite his own race with their offshoot cousins, failed to prevent. Although the rest of that film took place in an alternate timeline, in the “Prime Timeline,” a huge power in the galaxy had now been decimated, and fans have long wondered just what that means for the original Trek universe.The destruction of the Romulan homeworld would leave a huge power vacuum in the Alpha Quadrant. The Federation’s biggest antagonist since their earliest days is now crippled, and whatever survivors are left have no power base or ancestral home. Does this leave an opportunity for their bitter blood-rivals, the Klingons, to swoop in and bring them to their knees? And how would the benevolent Federation deal with millions of former enemies now needing their help to survive? And if the Klingons do indeed try to take over what’s left of the Romulan Empire, would that create a new conflict with the Federation? At the end of the day, the decimation of Romulus would fundamentally change everything we know about the Star Trek universe fans have followed for 50 years.

What This Means for Jean-Luc Picard

As for Jean-Luc Picard, the destruction of Romulus would have had a profound personal effect on him for sure. And not because he had so many run-ins with nasty Romulan commanders during the course of The Next Generation, or even because the Romulans once cloned him to create the younger, sadistic Shinzon (played by a young Tom Hardy in Nemesis), although those would be reasons enough for many.No, it’s because of his deep personal connection to one Ambassador Spock that the death of Romulus would change Picard. In the third and fifth seasons of TNG, Picard mind-melded with Spock’s father Sarek, and later, with Spock himself, in the two-part episode “Unification.” Because of this mind meld, He would have a deep understanding of who Spock was and what he wanted most in life, and towards the end of his days, Spock was working hard to unite the Vulcan race with their long lost Romulan cousins, living with an underground dissident movement on Romulus. In fact, as far as Picard knows, Spock died trying to save the Romulan homeworld.The destruction of Romulus would then have a profound effect on Picard, as he carries Spock’s thoughts and feelings inside of him. Because of this, he may be hellbent on saving what was left of the Romulan race, perhaps in order to reunite them with the Vulcans as he knew Spock would have wanted. Picard is a rational man to be certain, but when he sets his mind on something, he gets emotional (and becomes unstoppable). We doubt that aspect of his character has changed in his old age. In fact, he’s probably only become more inflexible.Picard is a man of honor and duty, and the character we came to love on Star Trek: The Next Generation would have felt duty bound to save what was left of the Romulan race. Given that Picard is roughly the same age as the actor who plays him, and Patrick Stewart is in his 80s now, we could see how he might want to spend his twilight years accomplishing one more significant thing for the betterment of the galaxy. And this could very well be it. And this mission could certainly carry multiple seasons of television.The new Picard series is set to debut on CBS All Access sometime in late 2019 or early 2020.

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