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Renée Picard explained: Star Trek just fixed a canon problem, 28 years later

In Star Trek: Picard, the history of space exploration — and Jean-Luc’s lineage — is finally starting to make sense.

In Star Trek: Nemesis, when Jean-Luc Picard’s clone Shinzon (Tom Hardy) asked him if the Picard family had “always been explorers,” Jean-Luc dodged the question by saying, “I was the first Picard to leave our solar system.” But now, in Picard Season 2, we’ve discovered an unexpected branch of Jean-Luc’s family tree that finally addresses one very old gap in the Trek timeline. Spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 2, Episode 5, “Fly Me to the Moon.”

Tallinn (Orla Brady) and Jean-Luc (Patrick Stewart) discuss Renée Picard (Penelope Mitchell), a 21st-century astronaut. CBS/Paramount

Who is Renée Picard?

As revealed in the Picard episode “Fly Me to the Moon,” Renée Picard (Penelope Mitchell) is Jean-Luc Picard’s ancestor, a French astronaut born in 1996 who’s slated to fly on a spaceflight called the Europa Mission aboard a ship dubbed Shango. Presumably, the mission is (or was) designed to explore Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter. However, Jean-Luc later reveals that the only historical information about the mission available indicates a big moment on a different Jovian moon; Io.

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“All that’s known about Renée is that she discovered a microorganism on Io that she believed was sentient,” Picard tells his time-traveling crew. He also says that Renée “convinced the mission commander to bring it back to Earth.”

Within the context of the episode, we have to assume that Picard is getting this from half-remembered history from his futuristic vantagepoint. He mentions that the history of the 21st century is incomplete, which checks out with previous Star Trek canon. In the TOS episode “Space Seed” Spock implied that pretty much everything post-1990s was spotty, saying “Records of that period are fragmentary.”

Family history appears spotty too, since Jean-Luc seems only vaguely aware of this Renée Picard and her exact relationship to him.

Renée Picard trains for the Europa Mission.CBS/Paramount

How does Renée impact the Star Trek timeline?

Although Jean-Luc and the crew of the La Sirena are assuming that Renée is supposed to be on this mission, like in many classic Star Trek time travel stories we don’t actually know what she’s “supposed” to do to preserve the “correct” timeline. Is she a space exploration hero? Or did she make a mistake? The line about a possibly sentient microorganism sounds a bit ominous, but we also know that Earth doesn’t make first contact with sentient aliens until 2063, when they meet the Vulcans.

The fuzziness of Renée’s role in the divergent timelines isn’t resolved in Episode 5, and could be the source of massive twists in the episodes to come. Even Rios (Santiago Cabrera) is confused. “You’re saying this great aunt of yours is single-handedly responsible for preventing our future from becoming a xenophobic tyranny. How?”

Jean-Luc and Tallinn (Orla Brady) assume that because Q (John de Lancie) is trying to convince Renée not to go on the mission, then clearly she’s supposed to go. But, at this point in this episode, historical records of the time period are incomplete.

Troi (Marina Sirtis) and Picard (Patrick Stewart) go through his family album.CBS/Paramount

Picard’s ancestors as canonical space explorers

For some Trekkies, the existence of Renée Picard might seem like a massive retcon, and Jean-Luc only having vague knowledge of her is odd. However, although Jean-Luc made Shinzon think he was a big-time family game-changer, in Star Trek Generations Jean-Luc told Troi (Marina Sirtis) about how his parents always told him about the “family line.” This included, “The Picard who fought at Trafalgar. The Picard who won the Nobel Prize for chemistry. The Picards who settled the first Martian colony.”

This means that in 1994, Trek canon established that more than one Picard settled the first Martian colony. Within the Star Trek timeline, we don’t actually know if the first Martian colony happens pre-First Contact (2063) or after. Either way, the existence of Renée Picard seems to connect to that small detail. Generations told us that the Picard family was involved in “early” space travel, and now we have our first link to that time period.

Whether Renée’s mission in Picard Season 2 is a success is still in question. But, in the larger Star Trek timeline, the mere existence of Renée fixes a gap in the Trek canon that’s existed for 28 years. Jean-Luc Picard does come from a family of space explorers. He said it in Generations, and now, in Picard Season 2, we’re seeing what that means.

Star Trek: Picard Season 2 airs new episodes on Thursdays on Paramount+.

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