Picard Season 3 Just Changed Enterprise and Star Trek: TNG Movie History
Star Trek: Picard has a few things to say about the history of the Enterprise-D and Enterprise-E in The Next Generation movies.
This Star Trek: Picard article contains spoilers.
“My god, Bones. What have I done?”
When Kirk asks that question at the end of The Search for Spock, it carries incredible weight. He’s chosen to destroy the USS Enterprise, the ship he commanded for years on not just the three seasons of The Original Series and the animated series, but also three feature films. The same could not be said of the destruction of the Enterprise-D in Star Trek: Generations. Sure, it had an even longer run, with seven seasons of The Next Generation in service.
But the crashing of the saucer in Generations had much less impact. Like the rather lackluster death of Kirk in that same movie, the crashing of the D seemed less like a monumental sacrifice and more like a closing of one era and setting up another — at the expense of poor Deanna Troi. The TV life of the TNG crew had ended and the movie life had begun, along with a fancier, flashier ship to carry them.
Of course, it didn’t work out that way, and after a few false starts, the TNG crew is back on television with Picard season three. And by the end of the season’s penultimate episode, “Vox,” the Enterprise-D is back with them, too. No sooner do we see the Enterprise-F, under the command of Admiral Shelby, than Geordi reveals his project in hangar 12: the Enterprise-D, restored from the saucer left on Veridian III in Generations.
You might be tempted to ask what happened to the fancy Enterprise-E, introduced in First Contact. After all, that movie served as a sequel to the Locutus story in “Best of Both Worlds,” and Picard season three has turned out to be a sequel to both those Next Generation episodes as well as First Contact. Shouldn’t they use the E for the sake of coherence?
We get a little hint of the E’s fate during the reveal of the restored D in “Vox,” when Geordi suggests that Worf had something to do with its destruction. This falls in line with some of the post-TNG novels, especially the 2020 book The Last Best Hope by Una McCormack. Published in connection with Picard, The Last Best Hope sees Worf take command of the Enterprise-E after Picard earns the rank of Admiral. A promo released ahead of Picard season 3 also teased that Worf’s time as Captain of the Enterprise-E came to an abrupt end after “the incident above Kriilar Prime,” which we’ve never heard of before and isn’t mentioned on the show. But is this incident what the Next Generation crew is referring to when they look at Worf in “Vox?” Was the Enterprise-E destroyed on Kriilar Prime? We just don’t know for sure at the moment.
Then again, the comic book series Star Trek: Countdown, which tied into the 2009 J.J. Abrams reboot, has Data (well, B4 with Data’s memories) become the new Captain of Enterprise-E. That storyline was picked up by the video game Star Trek: Online, where Captain Data was in command when the E was destroyed by the Undine/Species 8472.
How can these both be true? And what does that have to do with Worf? Well, it’s important to remember that, unlike Star Wars, secondary material in Star Trek is never considered canon. While books, comics, and games can build off one another — as with the universe spinning out of the current IDW Star Trek comics where Worf is the rogue captain of the Defiant — only the TV shows and movies are actually canon, and thus other things can be contradicted. So while the shot at Worf in Picard does relate to The Last Best Hope timeline (after all, that was a book published under Star Trek: Picard branding), other comics and books might have different explanations for the fate of the E.
Of course, TV and movies can add new wrinkles to one another, which is what we see in the latest episode of Picard. Since 1994, there’s been no reason to believe that the Enterprise-D would come back. But with the explanation that the Prime Directive demands that Starfleet remove the saucer remains, and with Geordi’s position as curator of the Fleet Museum, we can accept that the D is back in action.
By building on previous stories — and not feeling restricted by non-canonical works — Star Trek has done what it’s always done — turn (starship) death into a fighting chance to live.
Star Trek: Picard season 3 streams Thursdays on Paramount+.