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Jean-Luc Picard's entire timeline explained

From Jonathan Archer to Philippa Georgiou, Star Trek captains are the heroes who hold their crews together as they explore strange new worlds and boldly go where no man has gone before. But while the sci-fi franchise has seen some impressive leaders like Benjamin Sisko and Christopher Pike, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) stands head and shoulders above the rest.

Introducing himself to fans as the captain of a newer, more advanced version of the iconic Enterprise in 1987's "Encounter at Farpoint" — the first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation — Picard went on lead his crew into danger and glory for seven seasons and four major motion pictures. Compared to his predecessor, James T. Kirk of the original series, Picard was less of a ladies' man and nowhere near as trigger-happy. But that didn't mean he shied from adventure. In his time aboard the Enterprise, Picard struck bargains with interstellar gods, waged war on cyborg collectives, and altered the courses of alien empires forever. He made Earl Grey tea famous, he didn't like kids, and he regularly quoted the all-important Prime Directive (usually right before breaking it).

But if you haven't seen The Next Generation (TNG) and want to know more about the man, or if you just need a refresher on your Star Trek history, then read on as we explain Jean-Luc Picard's entire timeline.

Picard's life before he was a Starfleet officer

A lot of what we know about Jean-Luc Picard's childhood comes from "Family," an episode early in the fourth season of Star Trek: TNG in which Jean-Luc — traumatized from his time assimilated into the Borg Collective — returns to his childhood home in France. 

In this episode, we learn that Jean-Luc and his older brother Robert were raised in France, and they helped their father take care of the family's vineyards. However, it didn't take long for Jean-Luc to figure out that his path led to the stars, and he soon gained a reputation as an overachiever, becoming a sports champion as well as valedictorian of his high school. Against his father's wishes, Jean-Luc left for Starfleet Academy as soon as the opportunity arose, though it took him two attempts before his application was accepted. 

In the sixth season's "Tapestry," we learn the event at Starfleet Academy that left the deepest mark on him wasn't very fun. After getting into a brawl with a group of Nausicaans over a game of dom-jot (like pool, but with sci-fi sound effects), Picard was stabbed through the heart. He survived the injury, but he was left with an artificial organ in his heart's place.

Picard's commands before the Enterprise

We don't know a lot of details about Picard's post-Academy life before he got command of his own ship. From the second season episode "The Measure of a Man," we learn that at one point, he served on the USS Reliant, but we know few details about his time there. We know a bit more about his first command aboard the USS Stargazer. He started there as a bridge officer, but he made his way up the ranks the old-fashioned way — being the highest ranked officer left alive in the middle of a battle. 

Jean-Luc commanded the Stargazer for two decades, until he and the surviving crew were forced to abandon the vessel after a battle with a Ferengi ship (though the Stargazer would be recovered years later in the season one episode "The Battle"). Among some of the more relevant events in Starfleet history, the Stargazer saw action in the Federation's wars with Cardassia, and the ship's final battle led to the "Picard Maneuver" being coined for the unorthodox move Jean-Luc made to destroy the enemy vessel.

More personally relevant to Picard was his friendship with Jack Crusher aboard the Stargazer. Jack was the late husband of Beverly Crusher and father to Wesley, both of whom wind up serving aboard the Enterprise. It's Picard who, while commanding the Stargazer, sent Jack Crusher on an away mission that led to his death.

Jean-Luc Picard, captain of the Enterprise

There are some dark years between the loss of the Stargazer and Picard's command of the Enterprise. It seems clear Picard enjoyed command over at least one other ship in that time span, but we don't know its name or if it was his only post before "Encounter at Farpoint."

Regardless, when we meet Picard in the TNG series premiere, he's already taken command of his famous ship. His orders send him to Deneb IV, "beyond which lies the great, unexplored mass of the galaxy." On the way there, the Enterprise has its first fateful meeting with the trickster, god-like alien Q.

With a few short breaks here and there, Picard remains in command of the Enterprise-D until its destruction in 1994's Star Trek: Generations (which, by the way, is one of the worst Star Trek movies). He and his stalwart crew get to explore quite a bit of that "great, unexplored mass," and along the way, they encounter aliens both benevolent and hostile, including the fan-favorite Borg. Some of the more memorable Picard-focused episodes include "Darmok" when the captain struggles to communicate with a race that speaks in metaphors, "The Inner Light" when a mysterious satellite telepathically causes Picard to live an entire lifetime in a matter of minutes, and the two-part "Chain of Command" when Picard is captured by the Cardassians and subjected to horrific torture. 

His connection to the Borg

In the season two episode "Q-Who?", the deceitful Q uses his powers to send the Enterprise deep into unexplored parts of the galaxy where they encounter the Borg for the first time. The Borg act as a single collective mind and rebuff all attempts at communication in favor of seeking to overpower the Enterprise. Q eventually sends the ship back to Federation space, but before the episode ends, Guinan implies the Borg are sure to return. 

The Borg re-emerge in the two-parter "Best of Both Worlds" (which are some of the best TNG episodes), when they kidnap Picard and assimilate him into their collective. Picard is eventually rescued, and it proves the Borg's Achilles' heel as his connection to the collective allows Data to command the invaders to sleep. But as early as the following episode, "Family," it's clear Picard is severely traumatized by the experience.

This wouldn't be Picard's last encounter with the Borg, however. In "I, Borg," the Enterprise crew rescues a Borg calling himself Hugh who's somehow capable of independent thought. They meet him again in the two-part "Descent" as the leader of a group of liberated Borg resisting the control of Data's twin brother, Lore. And finally, Picard would be forced to confront the Borg and his overwhelming need for vengeance against them in 1996's Star Trek: First Contact, when the aliens attempt to assimilate the Federation by going back in time before the Federation's founding. 

The captain and his Tin Man

One of the most interesting relationships on Star Trek: The Next Generation is the kinship that develops between Picard and the android Data. By the end of the series and the subsequent films, it's clear Picard holds the android close to his heart. He sees Data as, at the very least, a close friend. However, at times their connection doesn't seem all that different than that between a father and a son. 

Picard reveals part of his fascination with, and admiration for, Data in the second season episode "The Measure of a Man." Data attempts to resign his commission so that an insistent Starfleet scientist can't run experiments on him which will wipe out his memory. The scientist argues Data, as a machine, doesn't have the right to resign his commission, and Picard assumes the difficult task of proving that Data is a sentient being with the right to make his own choices and not be subjected to anyone else's ownership. Picard famously tells the presiding judge, "Your Honor, Starfleet was founded to seek out new life." Then, pointing to Data, he says, "Well, there it sits." 

Data is tragically forced to sacrifice himself at the end of the final TNG film, 2002's Star Trek: Nemesis, though it's hinted he could return in a new form.

That time he got involved with Klingons

In season four's "Reunion" and later in the two-parter "Redemption," Picard helps alter the course of the Klingon Empire as the "arbiter of succession." Picard is appointed as arbiter by the dying Klingon chancellor, K'mpec, who insists tensions in the empire are at the point that no Klingon can be trusted with the task. As arbiter, Picard's job is to weigh the worth of the two challengers, Gowron and Duras. By the end of "Reunion," K'mpec is dead, and no new chancellor has been officially announced. Things get even more complicated when Worf, claiming vengeance for the murder of his mate K'Ehleyr at Duras' hands, transports over to Duras' ship and kills him. 

The rite is finally completed in "Redemption," when Picard finally announces Gowron as the rightful chancellor. But then, two Klingon sisters from the House of Duras, B'Etor and Lursa, appear with a boy named Toral who they claim is the son of Duras, so should be considered a challenger in the rite. Picard later confirms Toral is the son of Duras, but that he is too young and inexperienced to be considered chancellor. The decision pushes the Klingon Empire into open civil war. Eventually, the House of Duras' conspiracy with the Romulans is exposed, and Gowron resides over a reunited empire. As an added benefit, Worf and his house are redeemed in the eyes of his people.

Picard and the legacy of Spock

In spite of their respective series being separated by two decades, Jean-Luc Picard proves to be an important figure in the life of Spock. 

The first time Picard significantly touches Spock's life is in the third season's "Sarek." Spock himself doesn't appear but his father, Sarek — who appears in both the original series and many of the original crew's movies as an important Federation diplomat — boards the Enterprise to negotiate a trade deal with the Legarans. Unfortunately, it soon becomes clear that Sarek suffers from a rare degenerative disorder called Bendii Syndrome that causes his emotions to run wild. So that Sarek can maintain enough control to continue with the negotiations, Picard agrees to a mind meld which transfers Sarek's mental chaos to him temporarily. 

In the two-part "Unification," Picard comes face-to-face with Spock himself. He's sent to Romulus to find Spock because Starfleet fears the Vulcan may have defected to their rivals. Instead, Picard learns Spock is involved in secret negotiations with the hopes of bringing the Vulcan and Romulan people back together. By the end of the two-parter, Sarek finally succumbs to Bendii, and "Unification" ends with a compassionate and tender gesture on Picard's part. He allows Spock to mind meld with him, so that Spock may connect with the parts of his father that Picard experienced in the earlier episode. 

The TNG finale shows Picard a possible future

Of all the Star Trek series of the past six decades, none can boast as inventive or satisfying a finale as "All Good Things...", the final episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Q is causing Picard to jump both backwards and forwards in time, so that the story takes place in the present, during the events of TNG's first episode "Encounter at Farpoint," and decades in the future when Picard is suffering the degenerative mental disease Irumodic Syndrome. Picard's trips to the future are particularly difficult. With future versions of Beverly Crusher, Data, and Geordi La Forge all aware of his condition, it makes it that much more challenging to convince anyone in that time that he actually is experiencing what he says he's experiencing. 

After one of his trips to the future, Picard visits Beverly Crusher in sick bay, and she doesn't have good news for him. We learn that while Dr. Crusher can't definitively diagnose Irumodic Syndrome, she does find markers in his brain which could point to it developing later on. None of the movies hinted towards the illness beginning to emerge, but with a much older Jean-Luc appearing in Star Trek: Picard, it's possible the syndrome may finally rear its ugly head.

Jean-Luc loses his family and the Enterprise

When the TNG crew gets on the big screen for the first time in 1994's Star Trek: Generations, it sadly comes with the death of William Shatner's Captain Kirk. And unfortunately, Jean-Luc Picard suffers some much more personal losses both in the beginning and at the end of the game-changing film. 

Early in Generations, the Enterprise's empathic counselor Deanna Troi senses something is terribly wrong, and when she finds Captain Picard flipping through a photo album, Jean-Luc reveals he's just received news that his brother Robert and his family have been killed in a fire. We met Robert, his wife Marie, and their son René in the TNG fourth season episode "Family," when Picard visited them in the wake of his assimilation by the Borg. Without a wife or children of his own, the loss has Picard lamenting the likelihood that he'll be the last one in his family line.

By the end of the movie, Picard loses the Enterprise itself. The ship barely survives a battle with a Klingon Bird of Prey run by the villainous sisters Lursa and B'Etor. The crew evacuates to the ship's saucer section, which crashes on the surface of Veridian III. Thankfully, as Picard predicts, the Enterprise-D won't be the last ship to carry the name Enterprise

We last see Picard on the big screen in Nemesis

After Generations, Starfleet builds the Enterprise-E. Then the crew once again confronts the Borg in 1996's Star Trek: First Contact, and they stop a race of benevolent aliens from being forced from their home in 1998's Star Trek: Insurrection. The final big screen appearance of Jean-Luc Picard comes with 2002's Star Trek: Nemesis. The Enterprise is sent to Romulus to meet the Romulan Empire's new leader, who we soon learn has an unexpected connection to Picard. As it turns out, Praetor Shinzon (played by Tom Hardy) is a clone of Jean-Luc. The Romulans cloned the captain in hopes of one day replacing him with their own identical agent, but when one of the empire's many power shifts took place, the clone was sent to a labor colony with the enslaved people of Remus. 

Shinzon lures Picard to Romulus because the cloning process that created him is now killing him, and his only potential cure is a complete blood transfusion with Picard. Ultimately, Shinzon's plans to kill Picard and destroy the Federation are foiled, and the clone villain dies fighting his older counterpart. On top of all that, Nemesis includes huge shifts in Picard's life. For example, he loses Riker as his "number one." We learn early in the film that Riker is finally taking the captain's chair on the USS Titan, and his new wife, Deanna Troi, is coming with him. Picard means for Data to replace Riker as his first officer, but the android sacrifices himself to save his friends in the final battle.

His race to save the Romulans

In anticipation of Star Trek: Picard, IDW released the prequel mini-series Star Trek: Picard — Countdown. The story takes place six years after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis and 14 years before Picard.

Picard is an admiral commanding the USS VerityRomulus' star is close to going supernova, and the Romulan Empire abandons some of its usual paranoia and secrecy for Starfleet's help. Unfortunately, complications arise when Picard travels to the Romulan colony of Yuyat Beta. The Romulans there have enslaved the native population and neglected to tell Starfleet about the millions of slaves because, in the words of one of the colony's Romulan leaders, "Evacuating them would be as ridiculous as evacuating the rocks and trees." When Picard refuses to relocate the Romulans without the natives, the colony's leaders take him and his first officer prisoner. 

Countdown gives us a chance to see Raffi Musiker — the irreverent first officer who insists on referring to Picard as "JL" — in action as Picard's second-in-command during the Romulan evacuation. We also meet the Romulans Zhaban and Laris while they're still Tal Shiar agents and it's revealed exactly how they eventually come to work for and live with Picard. As far as TNG alumnus are concerned, in Countdown Riker and Troi are still on the Titan and Geordi La Forge is working at the Utopia Planitia Shipyards.

Jean-Luc returns in Star Trek: Picard

Years before the events of Star Trek: Picard, the titular hero convinces the Federation to help the Romulans evacuate their home star system because of an impending supernova. The Federation pulls out of the evacuation after a band of rogue synthetics attacks Mars, and Picard resigns from Starfleet in protest. Fourteen years later, we find Picard still mourning the loss of Data and utterly disillusioned with Starfleet and the Federation.

After a young woman named Daj (Isa Briones) approaches Picard for help, the former captain of the Enterprise finds himself back in the thick of things. He's embroiled in a conspiracy involving an ancient secret Romulan cabal and scientist Bruce Maddox — who tried and failed to get permission to use Data as a lab rat in TNG's "The Measure of a Man."

While he no longer has the Enterprise at his command, Picard blasts off into the void with a new band of friends who redefine the word "ragtag." There's Raffi (Michelle Hurd) and her friend Captain Rios (Santiago Cabrera), a former Starfleet officer. He also recruits cyberneticist Dr. Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill) and Elnor (Evan Evagora), a Romulan he met as a boy who is now an expert swordsman. They're not in his crew anymore, but we get the chance to see old friends like Data, Riker, Troi, and even Star Trek: Voyager's Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan).