The conclusion to IDW’s Star Trek Picard: Countdown comic is finally upon us. Due to an unexpected delay, the comic was released after the premiere of Star Trek: Picard (Picard). However, this means that we now have greater insight into the events of the comic and how they tie into Picard.
When we last left Admiral Picard, he was stranded on Yuyat Beta with the Romulan Tal Shair defectors, Zhaban and Laris. All the while Shiana, the Governor of Yuyat Beta, has seized control of Picard’s ship, the U.S.S Verity, and has threatened to destroy the fragile peace between the Federation and the Romulans. Let’s warp in.
We begin the issue with a series of flashbacks from crucial moments in Jean-Luc’s life. Him as a Borg, him playing his flute from The Next Generation episode, “The Inner Light”, him imprisoned and tortured by the Cardassians, and him coming face to face with the Borg Queen. He remarks that “…nothing is ever as truly final as it seems”. The Borg imagery is particularly relevant, as we know the Borg will play a prominent role in the series. Picard’s past is coming back to haunt him.
The beginning of the end
We return to Yuyat Beta, where Picard and Raffi are turned in to the Romulan authorities by Zhaban and Laris. However, we soon find out that it is all an elaborate ruse. Just when the Romulan guards begin to get suspicious, Zhaban open fires on the guards, rendering them unconscious.
Picard then hails the Verity and finds Shiana at the other end of the comm. The two trade insults until Shiana is unexpectedly transported to the brig by Lieutenant Murcia. Thanking them for the efforts, Jean-Luc invites Zhaban and Laris to join him on the Verity to seek refuge from the dangers of Yuyat Beta.
Picard then confronts Shiana in the brig. Despite her capture, Shiana remains steadfast in her belief that the evacuation effort is in reality just a ploy from the Federation to dismantle the Romulan Empire. The Admiral refutes this claim, refusing to entertain the idea. Raffi then alerts him that a Romulan vessel has decloaked in front of the Verity. After hailing the Romulan ship, it is revealed that the ship belongs to the Tal Shiar.
Jean-Luc attempts to deescalate the situation by revealing that Zhaban and Laris, two Tal Shiar agents, are on board the Verity. However, the Romulans are already aware of their presence. Before Picard can confront Zhaban, Zhaban seizes control of the ship. Zhaban reveals that he gave the partial command code to Shiana. It was their plan all along to destroy Picard and the Verity.
Laris then cuts in and refuses to participate in Zhaban’s scheme, saying that her “…choice was made months ago”. Two more Romulan ships then decloak and hail the Verity. Commander Vinux, the commander of the new ships, is a familiar face to Picard. He is someone who has helped him in previous evacuation efforts and helps deescalate the tense standoff.
Zhaban then reveals to Picard his true intentions. He explains that with the coming of the supernova, the Tal Shiar became fearful and suspected that it was a Federation plot rather than “…a random act of nature”. He says that the attack on the Verity is “…just the first of many attacks on Federation vessels…to sabotage the evacuation and resettlement efforts”.
A change of heart
This is a loaded statement from Zhaban, knowing what we now know from Picard and the Short Trek, “Children of Mars”. We know that a group of rogue synths attacked Mars and the Utopia Planitia Shipyards, crippling the Romulan relocation fleet. We also know from the trailers and the premiere that the Romulans are experimenting with Borg technology and the creation of synthetic life forms. What if the attack on Mars was not an act of rogue behavior but in fact an engineered plot by the Romulans to destroy the resettlement fleet? An attack based on fear rather than fact, and one that would ultimately doom the Romulan people from salvation.
The native Yuyatans changed Zhaban’s conscience when he saw their plight. The Romulan government chose to ignore them and withhold saving them from the supernova. Zhaban then refuses to carry out his orders. He thanks Laris and Picard for opening his eyes to the reality of the situation. Zhaban acquiesces and returns control of the Verity back to Picard.
Sometime later, we see Picard and Raffi back on Yuyat Beta. They predict that the plot by the Romulans will most likely be the first of many they will face during the evacuation efforts. The two then encounter Zhaban and Laris, who explain to the Admiral that they must now go into hiding after betraying their own people. Picard takes pity on the two, and offers them sanctuary at his vineyard on Earth. This explains their presence on Jean-Luc’s vineyard in the premiere of Picard. It seems that fourteen years later, Zhaban and Laris are still on the run.
“I hope I didn’t wake you.”
We close out the issue with Picard contacting Commander Geordi La Forge on the Utopia Planitia Shipyards above Mars. He tells Geordi that they “…had a few minor complications…but the future is bright”. An ominous choice of words, considering we now know what happened to the relocation effort. Later that year in 2285, the rogue synths destroyed the resettlement fleet. Following that event, Picard resigned his commission after Starfleet discontinued their efforts to save the Romulan people.
The man we see at the end of the issue is perhaps the last time we see Picard as the optimistic man we know, before he becomes the man we see in the premiere episode. How Picard will return to his roots and restore his faith in humanity is most likely related to Dahj, Data’s “daughter”. She reignited Picard’s passion for justice in the premiere, so perhaps she and her twin sister will be the key to reclaiming Picard’s identity. How Zhaban and Laris will play into the story is also important, as it was possibly their former organization, the Tal Shiar, who orchestrated the attack on Mars.
Wrapping up Countdown
Countdown reintroduced us to Picard in a smart an elegant way. It highlighted Picard’s strength as a diplomat and negotiator, while also demonstrating his tenacity in tense and dangerous situations. It also showed us his commitment to protecting all life, no matter the cost. While the series did not detail the exact event that caused him to abandon Starfleet, it did set up the themes and problems that will inhabit the world of Picard. Defining the value of a life, whether it be Romulan or Synthetic, and the lengths one goes to protect it will be crucial to Jean-Luc’s story in this series.
The final issue of Countdown marks the end of a historic comic series for Star Trek. Countdown gave us our first canon appearance of Jean-Luc Picard, Geordi La Forge, and the future of the Star Trek universe post Star Trek: Nemesis in seventeen years. We were shown new uniforms, were given insight into the politics of the galaxy, a previously non-canon starship class was made canon, and we got to check in on our favorite characters. It was an exciting ride that launched us into the premiere of Star Trek: Picard.
Star Trek: Picard, Episode 2, airs Thursdays on CBS All Access in the United States, and CTV Sci-Fi in Canada. For a full guide on where you can watch Star Trek: Picard, click here.