Star Trek: Picard - Why Jean-Luc Picard Quit Starfleet

It takes a lot to make Jean-Luc Picard abandon the captain's chair.


Star Trek: Picard returns to the life and career of Jean-Luc Picard for the first time since 2002's Star trek: Nemesis, with one major change: He has abandoned his service in Starfleet. That's a pretty big deal: Picard is a guy who spent his entire life forwarding the ideals of humanity's exploration of space as captain of the Enterprise. For Picard to leave behind the life of an explorer behind suggests something major must have happened.

In the first episode of Star Trek: Picard, "Remembrance," we get some sense of what happened to drive the legendary captain, and later admiral, from Starfleet service. More of what exactly happened comes up in a flashback during Episode 3, "The End is the Beginning," where we see exactly what happened on the day Picard resigned.

The situation started when the Romulan Star Empire learned a star in its territory was going to explode in a supernova, destroying Romulus and killing a whole bunch of Romulans. That's actually the setup for J.J. Abrams 2009 Star Trek movie, and while most of that movie takes place in an alternate timeline, the events that destroy Romulus are part of the prime Star Trek timeline where Star Trek: The Next Generation, its four sequel movies, and Star Trek: Picard take place.

With impending doom bearing down on them, the Romulans reached out to the Federation for help. The thing is, the Romulans and the Federation have been enemies for a long, long time. Throughout The Next Generation, there's an uneasy cease-fire between the two factions, but the Romulans always seem to be on the verge of war and they're constantly spying on everyone around them. In fact, Star Trek: Nemesis is all about how the Enterprise crew narrowly stops a Romulan leader from destroying Earth and starting a war with the Federation. So basically up to learning about the supernova, tensions between the Romulans and the Federation are relatively high.

So when the Romulans asked for help, there were a lot of people in the Federation who were reluctant to expend a bunch of resources and maybe risk a lot of lives in order to help their enemies. But the tenets of the Federation and Starfleet are all about respect for life and the duty to help others--so Picard managed to convince Starfleet to mount a rescue to save the Romulans, despite their history, because it was the right thing to do.

Starfleet built a giant rescue armada of ships at the Utopia Planitia shipyard orbiting Mars colony, and everything was going pretty well. Then tragedy struck--a group of rogue "synths," or robotic workers, attacked Mars. The colony was utterly destroyed, as was the rescue armada.

As a result, the Federation banned all synths, and Starfleet decides not to mount the rescue of Romulus. As Picard says, he believes that not helping the Romulans demonstrates the Federation and Starfleet turning its back on its duties and principles, and that caused him to resign.

In "The End is the Beginning," we see what actually drove Picard to resign: He was trying to use his departure to convince Starfleet to make another attempt at the rescue. Together with Raffi Musiker, who served as Jean-Luc's first officer on the USS Verity, Picard put together a new plan to save the Romulans. He threatened to resign if Starfleet didn't agree to it, and wound up retiring from Starfleet in a last-ditch attempt to make it happen. As a result, Raffi also lost her position in Starfleet.

We don't know much else about what happened after Picard's departure, although the Romulans who work in the Picard Chateau, Laris and Zhaban, make it clear that a lot of Romulans respect Picard for what he did. Unfortunately, Picard's decision took him out of Starfleet, and it's clear in the first episode of the show that he regrets the decision. We'll have to wait for future episodes to expand on Picard's backstory even more.

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