Star Trek has a healthy range of expanded universe media, with the Star Trek novel series being possibly the longest-running tie-in book series in all of television. From classic stories that slot neatly into the ongoing narrative to entire new crews and worlds, the novels have vastly expanded the depth of their parent shows.
That brings us to Star Trek: Picard, which premieres its second season on Paramount+ on March 3. The tie-in novels are important for this show; by the time it beings, a considerable amount of time has transpired between the events of the 2002 film Star Trek: Nemesis. Though the show features a lot of flashbacks to events that happened in the interim, with only 10 episodes per season it’s difficult to truly get a rounded picture of the experiences Picard and his crew had during those times of turmoil for the Federation.
That’s where the Star Trek: Picard novels come in. Currently standing at three books, they serve as prequels to season 1, fleshing out the new characters and adding context to events we heard about on the show. Just what happened when the Romulan relief mission failed? How did Raffi’s Starfleet career really end? How did Rios acquire La Sirena?
As the countdown to season 2 gets underway, let’s take a look at what else the Picard universe can offer, starting with the man himself…
Una McCormack’s 2020 novel The Last Best Hope extensively deals with the events immediately surrounding Jean-Luc Picard leaving Starfleet and the initial efforts to relieve Romulus following the news that their star will go nova. Picard is the central character in the novel. At the same time, there are appearances from Geordi La Forge and Beverly Crusher from The Next Generation era as well as Raffi Musiker and Agnes Jurati, who are introduced in Picard.
Fleshing out Picard’s decision to leave Starfleet, the novel covers events between 2381 and 2385 when he is promoted to admiral and given command of the mission to save as many Romulans as possible, the most incredible relief effort in history. Picard was the first choice for the task. Still, not everyone within Starfleet or the Federation is interested in saving the Romulans, and the admiral is constantly challenged by those who wish to either scale back the mission or cancel it altogether.
The task is deemed too politically sensitive for the Enterprise. Picard willingly surrenders his command of the flagship to take on the Romulan mission. Instead, he takes command of the USS Verity, an Odyssey-class cruiser. Worf is promoted to captain of the Enterprise at Picard’s recommendation, and Jean-Luc never again sets foot on the ship.
Picard chooses Raffi Musiker as his new first officer and is assigned Lieutenant Koli Johan, a Bajoran specialist whom he admires for her communication skills and empathy. All agree that the refugee program must be dealt with sensitively, which becomes near impossible. When the initial facilities are not deemed adequate, Picard risks the wrath of both the Federation and Romulan Empire by settling refugees in Federation space.
There are successes on the mission, including settling Romulans on the world of Vashti, where Picard makes a connection with a young Elnor. Yet events on Nimbus III are a disaster. As seen in Star Trek V, the planet is located in the Neutral Zone, and armed Tal Shiar forces demand that the Federation withdraw. Picard has no choice but to obey; dozens of Romulan refugees are massacred, which leads to Lieutenant Koli Johan’s resignation and much bad feeling.
Picard throws himself into the mission anew and visits Vejuro, one of the most populated worlds outside the Romulan system, which allows him to experience Romulan culture and politics first hand. Picard is eventually recalled to Earth to deal with the fallout from the synth attack on the Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards. He believes the attack was caused by the androids somehow gaining sentience and rebelling.
The attack on Mars’ fleet yards is devastating to the Federation. Outer worlds, riled up by politicians exploiting their xenophobia, openly discuss leaving the alliance. The Federation decides to end the Romulan relief mission, condemning millions to death, all to keep their own alliance stable.
Picard is shocked at the failure of the overall mission, the loss of life accepted by the Federation, and the failure of the values he held so dearly. He resigns from Starfleet and returns to Labarre, where we find him at the beginning of Star Trek: Picard.