The second issue of IDW’s prequel comic, Star Trek: Picard Countdown, is upon us. When we last left Jean-Luc Picard, he was imprisoned by Governor Shiana for threatening to halt the Romulan evacuation from the colony of Yuyat Beta. Picard discovered that a native population of five million Yuyati also lived on the Romulan colony and that the Romulans intended to leave them to die to the impending supernova. Now, the temporary alliance with the Romulans has been threatened and the entire mission is in jeopardy.
We open on two Romulans on Yuyat Beta, Zhaban and Laris. The same two Romulans seen in Picard’s vineyard at the beginning of the first issue of the series. Laris says they are going to risk everything for a human, eerily echoing their comments last issue that Picard eventually risked everything for them.
We then cut to Picard and Governor Shiana at an awkward dinner. Picard and Shiana go back and forth trading insults and debating the morality of the situation. Picard viewing the Yuyati as sentient beings, and Shiana viewing them as simple natives. As Picard leaves, fed up with Shiana, an explosion rocks the dinner party. The Romulans believe the attack is from Starfleet, but in reality, it is a rescue attempt by the Yuyati.
As Picard makes his escape, he rescues his imprisoned first officer, Raffi Musiker. When Raffi asks what’s going on, Picard replies “The stalemate is over”. Picard, Musiker, and the Yuyati make a daring escape and eventually find themselves on the outskirts of the colony. This is where Picard meets Romulans Zhaban and Laris for the first time. They are escorted to a sacred place to the Yuyati, a cave where the waterfalls flow upside-down. Yet another parallel in this story Star Trek Insurrection, in which Picard puts his career on the line to help a native race who inhabit a fantastical world.
The Tal Shiar
Zhaban and Laris then reveal themselves as members of the secretive Romulan intelligence agency, the Tal Shiar. They reveal that they allowed the Yuyati revolt to happen, and want to help Picard and Musiker. The Tal Shiar has been featured throughout Star Trek and is infamous for their plots and deceptions. Deanna Troi posed as a member of the Tal Shiar in The Next Generation episode “Face of the Enemy”, and Captain Sisko attempted to trick the vice-chairman of the Tal Shiar in the Deep Space Nine episode “In the Pale Moonlight”.
We learn that on their first assignment, Zhaban and Laris were sent to Yuyat Beta to monitor the fragile peace. However, they fell in love and defected on behalf of the natives and to prevent a plot by the Romulans to sabotage Picard’s mission and gain control of his ship. Picard and Musiker are wary of Zhaban and Laris’ claims, but eventually decide to trust them, seeing no other alternative.
Governor Shiana then contacts Lieutenant Newton onboard the Verity, requesting evacuation after the native attack. Most importantly, however, she claims that Picard and Musiker are dead. Lieutenant Newton offers to help and beams Shiana and her men aboard. Newton is skeptical of Shiana’s claim that Picard and Musiker were killed, sending a team down to investigate their disappearance.
Newton allows Shiana to use the captain’s ready room to contact the Romulan senate. However, Shiana’s story is all a ruse. Athus, Major-Domus to Shiana, enters a command override and seizes control of the Verity, locking out Newton. After realizing that the command override was successful, Shiana says that she and Athus will have to “thank our benefactors, if we ever get to meet.”
Who these mysterious benefactors are can only be left to speculation. They must be someone that is highly familiar with Federation vessels if they were able to retrieve a code that could control an entire ship so quickly. Perhaps a Tal Shiar mole is operating within Starfleet, or someone from Starfleet has defected to aid the Romulans. The Romulans were never known to have many allies throughout Star Trek. To show that they are now working with someone that shares their interest in undermining the Federation is highly suspicious.
Shiana believes Starfleet’s goal from the beginning was to undermine the Romulan Empire, under the guise of the evacuation. Now, with Verity under the clutches of Shiana, Picard and Musiker are stranded on Yuyat Beta with no hope of escape.
What comes next?
While this plot-heavy issue was not as groundbreaking as the first, it did provide crucial set up for next month’s finale. With Picard’s ship commandeered and the fate of five million souls on the line, the stakes are higher than ever. However, it is hard to imagine how just one short issue will explain Picard’s exile from Starfleet. From the trailers for Star Trek: Picard, we know this mission’s conclusion will somehow change Picard forever.
Perhaps the supernova will erupt early and Picard will have to choose the fate of his crew over the fate of the Yuyati. Or perhaps when Picard presumably regains control over the Verity, Starfleet will be apathetic to the fate of the Yuyati, disheartening him from his career. Or perhaps we won’t find out the full story until Star Trek: Picard premiers next month.
How Picard will regain control of the Verity and save the native Yuyati can only be answered in the final issue of Countdown, hitting store shelves January 15, 2020.
For a review of Star Trek: Picard – Countdown Issue #1, you can read here, or watch here. The 3rd and final issue will release on January 15th, ahead of the Star Trek: Picard series which debuts on January 23rd.