This list contains spoilers for both Star Trek: Picard and The Last Best Hope.
If you’ve been watching Star Trek: Picard each week, you’ve begun to realize how much happened to Jean-Luc Picard (not to mention the rest of the Trek universe) in the years between the Star Trek: Nemesis film and the beginning of the new series. The biggest incident is the death of the Romulan sun, which devastated the entire Romulan empire despite the Federation’s best efforts to help.
To what degree the Federation attempted to aid the Romulans—and why those efforts were ultimately put aside—is explored in Una McCormack’s new novel, The Last Best Hope. Set during the years 2381-2385, at least 14 years before the beginning of Picard, the book serves as a prequel to the TV series. It introduces several of the show’s key players and expands upon the overall backstory of the show, including the destruction of the Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards of Mars and the subsequent ban on synthetic life forms. Below are 10 of the book’s most interesting revelations, some of which have already been referenced by the show, some of which may not become relevant until future episodes and some of which are just fun to know, especially if you’re a long-time fan.
1. Picard was the Federation’s first choice to lead the Romulan humanitarian effort.
After an introduction framing the novel as Picard’s memories of what came before, the book digs into the day when he gets called from the Enterprise-E for an emergency briefing on the imminent collapse of the Romulan sun. The Federation leadership presents the situation, and Picard realizes the offer they’re making to him—and how he has no choice but to take it.
2. The Romulans’ infamous secrecy kept them from seeking enough help in time.
We get to go in-depth on this in The Last Best Hope, especially with the character of Nokim Vritet, a Romulan scientist whose efforts to investigate his own data are blocked at nearly every turn by the Tal Shiar secret police. (In general, The Last Best Hope is filled with interesting glimpses into Romulan culture and customs, including a traditional meal where “one of the forks turned out to contain a concealed fish knife. Another spoon had serrated edges that were sharp enough to draw blood from the unwary.”)
3. Picard picked Raffi Musikar personally as his XO, and Raffi ultimately sacrificed her relationships with her husband and son to work for Picard.
We meet Raffi’s now-adult son Gabriel in Picard Episode 5, “Stardust City Rag,” but the book tracks her incredibly difficult decision to answer Picard’s request for help and leave her family behind—which, as the years pass, means the end of her family.
4. Bajor’s history with the Federation was crucial in trying to work with the Romulans.
For those who fondly remember Deep Space Nine, Bajor is referenced a lot as an example of what to do and what not to do when trying to extend aid to a civilization in need. (There’s even a Bajoran officer who joins Picard’s crew to help with the rescue effort.)
5. Worf succeeded Picard as captain of the Enterprise-E.
This happened at Picard’s recommendation, despite the fact that Worf (if you remember the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Change of Heart”) has a disciplinary black mark on his record that it was believed would always keep him out of the captain’s chair. Starfleet, however, decides that having Worf helm the fleet’s flagship would be good for “optics.”
6. Geordi La Forge led the efforts at Utopia Planitia to build ships for the refugees.
When Picard left the Enterprise, his chief engineer ended up following him, taking charge of the seemingly impossible task to build enough ships to rescue nearly a billion Romulan lives. Geordi, by chance, was not on Mars when the synths rose up, leaving him with massive survivor’s guilt as well as grief over the failure of the project. (But on the plus side, maybe this means a LeVar Burton cameo is possible in Season 2 of the show? It would also be wonderful to see Michael Dorn back on screen again.)
7. The creation of synthetic workers was a direct response to the Romulan relief effort.
It’s not Geordi but Commander Estella Mackenzie, another Starfleet engineer, who comes up with the idea to use bio-neural circuits to create the workforce needed to build ships at the rate necessary. Instrumental to that effort is the Daystrom Institute and Bruce Maddox’s own work in robotics.
8. Bruce Maddox may be partially responsible for the Mars attacks.
At this point in the TV series, the mystery of what caused the synthetic workers to revolt is unknown. But the final chapters of the book seem to indicate that during the time of their development, Maddox never gave up on trying to create real artificial life (a quest he seems to have completed before the events of Picard begin). That overlap between his work and the Mars synthetic workers might have led to the death of thousands.
9. Bruce Maddox and Agnes Jurati’s relationship was chaste for a lot longer than expected.
While teacher and student took a very long time to start their relationship, Agnes’ love of baked goods was one of the first things Maddox noticed about her. This ties into Agnes’ treasured video of Maddox making her chocolate chip cookies.
10. The Federation effort to help the Romulans was unpopular from the beginning.
In classic Trek tradition, The Last Best Hope draws upon current events to give its stories a topical relevance. Sections of the book focus on the political climate of the Federation, especially the rise of politician Olivia Quest, who opposes helping the Romulan people in danger of losing their planets. “Maybe we should be considering whether Romulan space is better for Romulans,” she’s quoted as saying at one point—not too dissimilar from when governments turn away refugees today.
The Last Best Hope is available in bookstores now. New episodes of Star Trek: Picard premiere weekly on CBS All Access in the United States.