We've known since last August that Patrick Stewart and his portrayal of Star Trek: The Next Generation's Jean-Luc Picard were coming back to TV, but details on the exact nature of the show, which is still untitled, have been kept under wraps. Now, though, Alex Kurtzman, the executive producer and showrunner of Star Trek: Discovery who's helping to develop this new entry in the Trek canon, has finally given us a hint of what the series will focus on. And, surprisingly, it looks like it will deal, at least in part, with something that happened in the 2009 Star Trek film that established the Kelvin timeline. According to Kurtzman:
Picard's life was radically altered by the dissolution of the Romulan Empire.
If it's been a while since you've seen the Star Trek film that recast all our favorite characters from The Original Series, you might only remember that the movie radically changed things by actually destroying Spock's home world of Vulcan. While that did, indeed, happen, it took place in the newly established Kelvin timeline, while the destruction of Romulus in the Prime timeline is kinda what led to us getting the Kelvin timeline at all.
At one point in Star Trek, young Spock (who's been put in charge of the Enterprise by Captain Pike) maroons young Kirk on a planet after he tries to mutiny. While Kirk is stranded, he runs into old ambassador Spock who tells him that he and the film's main villain, Nero, are from 129 years in the future. In his time, a supernova was threatening to destroy the galaxy, but ambassador Spock was able to use red matter to create a black hole, which sucked in the exploding star.
Unfortunately, his actions were too late for Romulus, which got taken out by the star, and the black hole he created ended up pulling his ship and Nero's Romulan mining ship back in time. The disturbance created by them getting thrown back in time is what created the Kelvin timeline and all the Star Trek films that have come since then.
So, now that we've got the background of this event down, the question is why the destruction of Romulus and the dissolution of the Romulan Empire have impacted Picard so much and for so many years. As Alex Kurtzman told The Hollywood Reporter, these events didn't just sadden Picard or make him wish for a future that would never come, they "radically altered" the man, and that's pretty deep stuff.
During his time as a Starfleet captain, Jean-Luc Picard had many run-ins with the Romulans, and most of those weren't entirely friendly. The Romulans are related to Vulcans, but broke off from that society and became xenophobic conquerers who treated most other species with suspicion and/or disdain. They also went on to control some of the galaxy and oppose the Federation throughout Picard's time as captain.
In fact, the last time we saw Picard on screen, in 2002's Star Trek: Nemesis, he was trying to broker a peace treaty between the Romulans and the Federation, and was faced with a rebel Romulan leader who was actually cloned from Picard's own DNA in the hopes that they could plant a spy in the Federation. So, yeah, Picard and the Romulans got issues.
It kind of sounds like Picard has spent his time since the fall of the Romulan empire mourning the peace he was never quite able to facilitate. And, while I can certainly understand how having one major unfinished goal in a long and distinguished career can certainly affect someone, this doesn't really explain why Picard was so changed by the Romulan empire dissolving.
Alex Kurtzman has given some some good food for thought when it comes to the upcoming Picard-centered Star Trek series, but, obviously, there's still a lot more to find out. We don't know yet when the show will air, but when it's finally ready for our eager eyeballs it will come to CBS All Access.
Be sure to stay tuned to CinemaBlend for more details about the show as they become available, but, in the meantime, check out our 2019 midseason premiere guide so you can keep up with everything that's coming to the small screen in the next few weeks.