Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers for the episodes listed below.
Last time, I covered a few episodes and films that I thought might be important to watch in the run up to Star Trek: Picard premiering. I had a few more episodes from the Star Trek canon that I was tempted to include, but for one reason or another it felt like the stories they told wouldn’t be likely to be relevant to the new show. Mostly this was because we were dealing with a somewhat obscure plot point, or a story which was only tackled in a single episode then never referenced again.
There’s a huge number of episodes and films in the Star Trek back catalogue, and figuring out which ones may have some relationship with the upcoming Star Trek: Picard is a bit of a guessing game!
Regardless, I had fun putting together the previous list, so here’s a few more episodes from previous iterations of Star Trek which probably won’t matter when it comes to Star Trek: Picard, but are still enjoyable and worth a watch.
Number 1: Balance of Terror (Star Trek: The Original Series, 1966)
We know that Star Trek: Picard is going to touch on the Romulans in some form. Picard was supposedly involved with helping them evacuate in preparation for the supernova which ultimately destroyed their homeworld, and the series is set to feature the first ever Romulan main cast member, so why not take a look at the Romulans’ first ever appearance?
The Romulans, at least in early Star Trek, were based loosely on the Roman Empire. Their name is derived from Romulus, the legendary figure said to have founded the city of Rome – and for whom that city and its empire were named. Their military and civilian structure – an Empire and Senate, and with military ranks like Centurion – were all named for the Roman Empire. Though arguably the Romulans were also an analogue for America’s Cold War adversaries, particularly with the concept of a “Neutral Zone” being similar to the kind of demilitarized zones which existed in the world at that time – particularly in Korea and Eastern Europe.
Balance of Terror gives us a fair amount of background to the Romulans – they’d fought a war against Earth, and until the events of the episode, no human had seen a Romulan in person. The episode deals with their potential links to the Vulcans, after the crew of the Enterprise are able to hack into the Romulans’ ship and see them for the first time. Overall, an interesting introduction to what would become one of the franchise’s most significant factions. Mark Lenard – who would later become better known for his role as Sarek – makes his first Star Trek appearance here, as the unnamed Romulan Commander.
Number 2: Regeneration (Star Trek: Enterprise, 2003)
Regeneration has a pretty silly premise from an in-universe point of view, but nevertheless churned out a solidly entertaining episode. Conceived as a way to bring the Borg into Star Trek: Enterprise at a time when it needed a boost, the idea is that the Borg who travelled back in time during the events of First Contact crash-landed in the Arctic, and were discovered during the events of Enterprise some 90+ years later.
Setting aside the notion that Picard and his crew would surely have scanned for and recovered or destroyed any Borg technology on Earth to prevent contaminating the timeline, this episode works surprisingly well as a standalone piece. The Borg – who are set to feature in some form in Picard – have always been a formidable adversary, even for the 24th Century Federation, so to see the impact even a small number of drones would have on a 22nd Century crew was interesting. The Borg had become stale across their multiple appearances in Voyager, and Regeneration aimed to bring back their fear factor. In that respect, it did largely succeed.
Though it’s arguably a nitpick given the messy state of Star Trek canon overall, this episode does retcon Starfleet’s first encounter with the Borg – Regeneration takes place over two centuries before the Borg’s first appearance in TNG. And that does raise questions, like why Starfleet seemed to keep no records of the encounter. However, as a standalone episode it’s one of Enterprise’s better offerings, and if you’re not interested in or can ignore the canon issues, it’s well worth a watch.
Number 3: Minefield (Star Trek: Enterprise, 2002)
As with Regeneration above, this episode serves as Starfleet’s first introduction to the Romulans in canon – placing the events of Enterprise prior to the Earth-Romulan war mentioned in Balance of Terror. Indeed, the war was supposedly a story element under consideration for a fifth season of Enterprise which was ultimately never produced.
In Minefield, the crew of Enterprise are continuing their mission of exploration when they encounter a planet that the Romulans claim to have annexed. They have placed a minefield in orbit, and Lt. Reed – Enterprise’s weapons/tactical officer – ends up pinned to the outer hull of the ship while attempting to defuse a mine.
The episode plays on Balance of Terror in terms of the claustrophobic ship-versus-ship atmosphere – itself lifted from war films featuring submarines. Unfortunately, as with Regeneration it does throw up some retcons/canon issues, such as the use of Romulan cloaking devices, which were supposedly new technology in Balance of Terror. My own head-canon to get around this – and similar issues raised by Discovery – is simply that there are different types of cloaking devices, and when one has been “cracked” it’s rendered useless. So if the Federation could render older styles of cloak inoperative, they could still be caught off-guard by a new type. That’s just my own personal take on it. But we’ve strayed off-topic.
Minefield is really a character piece, focusing primarily on Reed, who had been a fairly one-dimensional character in Enterprise thus far. He’s given more of a chance to shine here, and Star Trek has always been good at giving characters their own episodes in most of its iterations. As with Balance of Terror, it’s on this list for its Romulan connection.
Number 4: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (Film, 1991)
Gene Roddenberry hated The Undiscovered Country when it was screened for him shortly before he passed away. He didn’t like the military elements, and felt that anti-Klingon “racism” was beneath humanity in the 23rd Century. Whether you agree with him or not – he could be unflinching in his positive vision for humanity – the resulting film was a return to form for Kirk’s crew after the flop that was The Final Frontier a couple of years previously.
For our purposes, as we gear up for Star Trek: Picard, the film shows the events which led to a lasting peace between the Klingons and Federation – as seen in The Next Generation and the other 24th Century series. The Romulans are involved as they aid in a plot to sabotage the peace conference. Ultimately, Kirk and his crew are able to save the day and stop the conspiracy – which even involved some members of Starfleet.
It’s a nice swansong for Kirk’s crew – this would be their final appearance on screen together (save for a photograph in Star Trek Beyond). Whether the Klingons and Federation are still at peace by the time of Star Trek: Picard isn’t clear, but if they are then this is where that peace was won. As a film which looks closely at some of the politics in the Federation and the relationship between two of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants’ biggest powers, it has an interesting place in the Star Trek timeline.
Number 5: In The Pale Moonlight (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, 1998)
I included this episode in the “honourable mentions” section of my previous list, but I wanted to expand on what I said there and give it a full entry. With the Dominion War going badly for the Klingon-Federation alliance, Sisko conspires with Garak to bring the Romulans into the conflict on their side – but in order to do so he has to lie and cheat.
Garak ultimately commits murder to cover their tracks, and the plot works! The Romulans declare war on the Cardassians and Dominion shortly thereafter. And for the remainder of Deep Space Nine they remain a key part of the alliance – though by the events of Nemesis which takes place a few years later, Romulan-Federation animosity is once again present.
This one’s a bit of a long shot, and I freely admit that. While it’s one of Deep Space Nine’s finest episodes in my opinion, especially as a character piece looking at Sisko, its events were never referenced again and there were no consequences for the lying and scheming. My pet theory is that prior to the events of Picard, the Romulans learn the truth of how they came to be roped into the Dominion War, and that this will negatively impact relations with the Federation. Whether that’s true or not remains to be seen, and it’s definitely a little “out there” as far as theories go. Even if none of that turns out to be true, the episode is fantastic and well worth a viewing in its own right. I’d be interested, though, to see the Federation get its comeuppance for the plot.
Number 6: Scorpion (Parts I & II) and The Gift (Star Trek: Voyager, 1997)
This trilogy of episodes introduces Seven of Nine to the Voyager cast. Seven will have a role to play in Picard, so seeing how she came to be separated from the Borg Collective would make for good background viewing.
Seven of Nine was introduced to shake up the Voyager cast and replace Kes – though at one time it was supposedly Harry Kim who would be sacrificed in order to include her. Personally I found Kes a more interesting character in many ways, particularly as she began to develop her telepathic and telekinetic powers in Season 3. Nevertheless the producers wanted to make a change, and Seven of Nine was that change. As the first Borg crew member on a Star Trek series she brought something new to the table. My criticism of her really stems from later seasons – in which many of her episodes were all about the same thing. She’d learn some lesson or other about “what it means to be human,” only to seemingly forget it all by the next episode and have to learn another, similar, lesson.
Regardless of character critique, however, Seven of Nine is going to be in Picard, and from her scenes in the trailers she looks set to be very different from when we saw her in Voyager.
Number 7: Encounter at Farpoint (Star Trek: The Next Generation, 1987)
With Picard about to return to our screens for the first time in almost two decades, maybe we should go back to where it all began. Encounter at Farpoint is the premiere of The Next Generation, and the episode in which Picard makes his debut.
Though we’ve been on many adventures with him since, Picard was – at least as of the end of Nemesis – fundamentally the same man, at the core, as we met in this episode. His style of captaincy was radically different from Kirk’s twenty years previously, and as a result the Kirk-versus-Picard debate has rumbled on in the fan community ever since! A more diplomatic and cautious style of command than we’d previously seen in Star Trek served him well, and was on full display here, even when beset by the dastardly Q.
Q wants to put Picard and his crew on trial to answer for humanity’s “crimes”. Picard refuses, and later impresses Q by solving the puzzle presented by the peculiar and slightly-too-perfect Farpoint Station.
Number 8: The Survivor (Star Trek: The Animated Series, 1973)
The Animated Series is weird. And for a long time, there was a debate as to whether the characters and events it depicted should even be considered part of the official Star Trek canon. The answer to that is yes, technically it is all canon – but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll revisit the parallel universe where magic is real any time soon.
The Survivor plays out much more like a “normal” episode of Star Trek than many of its other animated outings. A rogue shapeshifter forces the Enterprise into the Romulan Neutral Zone, and of course the Romulans take the opportunity to pounce.
The shapeshifter ends up saving the day by protecting the Enterprise from the Romulan vessels, and though he agrees to be taken into custody, it seems that his actions defending the ship will greatly aid his defence. The episode is notable for being the Romulans’ only major appearance in The Animated Series, and while nothing here is going to be essential, the episode does discuss briefly the terms both the Romulans and Federation agreed to regarding the Neutral Zone.
Number 9: Starship Mine (Star Trek: The Next Generation, 1993)
Starship Mine is definitely one of my favourite TNG episodes. The Enterprise-D needs to be cleansed of baryon particles – a process which is described as “routine”, but which employs a beam that is deadly to humans. A group of mercenaries try to steal trilithium resin – a toxic byproduct of warp drive which can be used as a weapon – while the ship is unoccupied.
Picard finds himself trapped aboard the ship with the mercenaries while the deadly sweep slowly makes its way through the ship, and the way he is forced to deal with them, while having none of his crew or any equipment, is impressive. It shows off a side to Picard – his MacGyver-like ingenuity – which we don’t see very often.
We also see a rare instance of Picard’s calm brutality – by deliberately making the stolen chemical more volative, he condemns the mercenaries to death even as they escape. This prevents the trilithium resin falling into the wrong hands, but was nevertheless a brutal decision.
Number 10: Chain of Command, Parts I & II (Star Trek: The Next Generation, 1992)
This one should’ve really been on my previous list, but never mind! In Chain of Command, Picard leads a secret mission to prevent the Cardassians developing a biological weapon, but it turns out to be a trap to lure him there, and he’s captured.
He’s subjected to torture by Gul Madred – a wonderfully villainous performance by David Warner – in an attempt to get him to reveal sensitive tactical information. Part of the torture is being told to say that he can see five lights where there were only four, and by the end, as he confesses to Troi when back aboard the Enterprise, he genuinely believed he could see five lights.
Picard’s strength, and his ability to survive impossible situations, is on full display here. Despite the horrible torture, he never breaks. Given that we’re about to jump into the unknown in Star Trek: Picard, he will need as much of that strength as he can muster.
Like last time, I couldn’t end the list without adding a few more episodes that I think are great – even if their relationship to Star Trek: Picard is likely to be tentative at best!
Final Mission (TNG, 1990) – Picard and Wesley crash on a desert moon and are forced to survive. Wesley’s last appearance in TNG as a main character.
Unimatrix Zero Parts I & II (VOY, 2000) – Seven of Nine is drawn into a world where Borg drones exhibit freedom and individuality – and helps them carry that over into the real world, resulting in a minor insurgency among rogue Borg.
The Enterprise Incident (TOS, 1968) – The Romulans’ second and last appearance in TOS sees Kirk try to steal a cloaking device.
Redemption Parts I & II (TNG, 1991) – The first major appearance of Sela, the half human-half Romulan Commander who would tussle with Picard on at least one more occasion.
Yesterday’s Enterprise (TNG, 1990) – The episode which sets up how Sela came to exist is an interesting time travel story in its own right, and shows how altering a single event can have major implications.
The Search Parts I & II (DS9, 1994) – After the Dominion had been introduced at the end of Season 2, the start of Season 3 of DS9 saw the arrival of the USS Defiant to aid in the fight against them. Noteworthy because it shows Romulan/Federation cooperation – which allowed the Defiant to have a cloaking device.
Eye of the Needle (VOY, 1995) – While trapped in the Delta Quadrant, Voyager finds a micro-wormhole to the Alpha Quadrant, but the only ship they are able to contact is Romulan. This episode has a final twist which is quite an emotional punch.
The Pegasus and These Are The Voyages… (TNG and ENT, 1994 and 2005) – Though it can be jarring to watch these two episodes back-to-back, they present an interesting story about cloaking technology and a treaty between the Federation and Romulans, as well as giving some backstory to Riker – who will feature in some form in Star Trek: Picard.
The Measure of a Man (TNG, 1989) – Picard must defend Data and prove to Starfleet that he is a sentient lifeform – if he can’t, they’ll dismantle Data to try to recreate him!
The First Duty (TNG, 1992) – Wesley is involved in an accident at the Academy which kills a cadet, and Picard suspects he and his friends are covering up the truth.
So that’s it.
A few more episodes which are less likely to be relevant to Star Trek: Picard, but might be! One of the reasons I started this blog was to share my love of Star Trek, and even though I like to talk about other sci fi franchises too, and even some real world things, Star Trek really is one of my personal favourites. Writing these lists has given me inspiration not only to write more, but to go back and rewatch some episodes that I haven’t seen in years. It really has been a lot of fun putting these together.
When it comes to Star Trek: Picard, it was actually a struggle to narrow down which episodes to recommend. Particularly when it comes to The Next Generation, Picard was such a huge presence on the show that there are lots of episodes which feature him and show off his character – and which contain plot points and backstory that could potentially be relevant going into the new show. It was hard to resist the temptation to just say “oh my gosh, just watch all of TNG!”
On a personal note, The Next Generation was my introduction to Star Trek. The first episodes of the whole franchise that I can solidly remember watching are The Royale and Who Watches The Watchers.To have Picard back is really amazing and something I would have never expected. I can’t wait for the series to kick off, and it’s a mere ten days away!
Live Long and Prosper!
The Star Trek franchise – including all films, series, and episodes listed above – is the copyright of Paramount Pictures and ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.