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Star Trek Picard: The Last Best Hope

What I learned from the Star Trek Picard prequel novel.

By Saelanna Fri 27 Mar, 2020 9:39 PM
This article contains spoilers for both Star Trek: Picard and The Last Best Hope prequel novel.

If you’ve been watching “Star Trek: Picard” each week you will know that, at the beginning of the series, a lot had happened to Picard and the Alpha and Beta Quadrants since we last saw the character onscreen at the end of “Star Trek: Nemesis”. Some of what has happened, to Picard in particular, is covered in the prequel novel “The Last Best Hope” written by Una McCormack. This book sets out to explore to what degree the Federation attempted to aid the Romulans after scientists discovered that the imminent supernova was going to destroy the Romulan homeworld. It also goes some way towards explaining why those efforts were set aside, something that was being considered even before the Synths attacked Mars. The book is set during the years 2381-2385, at least 14 years before the beginning of “Picard” and, while novels are not considered to be canon, it does serve as an excellent prequel to the much-anticipated show. Here are some of the more interesting stories covered by the book that have only been touched upon in the show and in some cases not mentioned at all.

After an introduction which frames the story with Picard’s memories, the book really gets going on the day that Picard gets summoned to an emergency briefing on the imminent disaster. At this point in the narrative he is still the Captain of the Enterprise-E. It’s clear from the outset that Picard is the Federation’s first choice to lead the relief effort and it’s also clear to Picard that he has no choice but to take the Admiral’s chair that they’re holding out for him. Interestingly, on Picard’s recommendation, everyone’s favourite Klingon, Worf succeeds him as Captain of the Enterprise.

When Picard leaves the Enterprise to head the Federation’s relief effort, he recruits his former Chief Engineer, Geordi La Forge, to take charge of the mammoth task of building the fleet of ships required for the relief effort. In collaboration with the Martian engineer, Commander Estella Mackenzie, Geordi comes up with the idea of a synthetic workforce to supplement the workforce which, without the assistance of said Synths, would not be able to construct the number of ships required by the relief effort. Together they travel to the Daystrom Institute to meet with Bruce Maddox who is less than pleased to be instructed to give up his research into creating synthetic life in favour of constructing what he calls “toys”. More by luck than judgement, Geordi is not on Mars when the Synths attack; the novel goes into some detail covering his survivor’s guilt and grief over the failure of the project.

We get to read how, the now Admiral Picard meets Lieutenant Commander Raffi Musiker, who at the outset of the supernova crisis works for Starfleet Intelligence in the Office of Romulan Affairs. She was recruited by Picard to be his First Officer because he respects her no nonsense attitude and as she was seen to be “Starfleet’s foremost analyst on Romulan affairs”. The novel gives us a great deal of backstory on how Raffi taking the assignment with Picard led to the beginning of her estrangement from her husband and young son, Gabe (who we see as an adult in an episode of “Picard”).

The story also tells us about the beginning of the relationship between Maddox and a young Doctor Agnes Jurati, the latter being recruited from Starfleet where she was a qualified medical doctor before switching her focus to cybernetics and attending the Daystrom Institute to study under Maddox. It tells how their awkward professional relationship eventually blossoms into the romantic one we see in the series. We also learn about how Maddox’s obsession with creating a sentient synthetic life-form leads him on a downward spiral of increasingly erratic behaviour. This causes him to take his focus away from the production of the Synths and this, the novel speculates, is what made them vulnerable to the Zhat Vash and fake-Commodore Oh’s schemes to halt the Federation’s research into synthetic life.

The novel also covers the whole supernova story arc from the point of view of the Romulan people too. It soon becomes apparent that their predilection for secrecy has resulted in them waiting too long to ask for the Federation’s help. It also looks how the Romulan scientist responsible for discovering the imminent disaster was censored by the machinations of the Tal Shiar. It also provides some interesting insights into everyday Romulan customs and culture, something that hasn’t really been covered onscreen. We also read how Picard becomes friends with Zani, the leader of the Romulan warrior nuns known as the Qowat Milat, and how they helped with the relocation efforts as well as the beginning of his relationship with a young Elnor.

Can the novel be considered Star Trek canon? No, as with all Star Trek novels it falls under the non-canon umbrella. Take from it what you want but I found it added more back story and clarity to some of the TV show’s vaguer aspects. I can thoroughly recommend giving it a read.

What did you think of this article? What do you think of Star Trek Picard? Let us know!

EDITED BY Infinity
Sat 28 Mar, 2020 12:17 AM
Excellent summary! Fills in a good number of the narrative holes in Picard. Too bad they couldn't have dedicated all of the Short Treks to telling this story, to set Picard up for a better reception. Thank you Saelanna!
Sat 28 Mar, 2020 5:36 AM
Nice review Saelanna!