A complete guide to what 'Star Trek' to watch before 'Star Trek: Picard'

We've seen tantalizing clues of what to expect from "Star Trek: Picard," the new CBS All Access series starring Patrick Stewart as the iconic Star Trek Captain Jean-Luc Picard, but it's more than likely been some time since you last sat down and binged all seven seasons of "The Next Generation" or "Voyager." And let's face facts, you probably haven't rewatched "Star Trek: Nemesis" for ages

So while it's not necessary to give up 10.8 days without so much as a bathroom break, we've compiled a more manageable, must-watch guide to essential episodes that will aid the enjoyment and raise your appreciation of "Star Trek: Picard." 

So ready your away team and set phasers to flashback. Here's our essential Trek viewing guide for "Star Trek: Picard!"

Video: Patrick Stewart and Isa Briones Talk Trek with Space.com!
 'Star Trek: Picard' Couture: Jean-Luc's 15 Best TNG Outfits 

The Measure of a Man

Commander Bruce Maddox, a Starfleet cyberneticist once tried to have Data disassembled in attempt to replicate him. (Image credit: CBS)

Series: "Star Trek: The Next Generation"

Episode: "The Measure of a Man" (S02, E09)

Premise: When transfer orders demand Data's reassignment for study and disassembly Cpt. Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) must prove Lt. Cmdr. Data (Brent Spiner) is legally a sentient lifeform with rights and freedoms under Federation law. 

Relevance: This was one of the few episodes that dealt with the issue that not everyone is comfortable with artificial lifeforms. In fact, a cyberneticist called Cmdr. Bruce Maddox (Brian Brophy) was the sole member of a Starfleet special admissions panel to oppose Data's admission to Starfleet Academy, on the basis that Data was not a sentient being.


Lore was a fourth generation Soong android and Data was a fifth, but unlike Data, Lore picked up a flutter somewhere along the way. (Image credit: CBS)

Series: "Star Trek: The Next Generation"

Episode: "Datalore" (S01, E13)

Premise: The USS Enterprise visits Omicron Theta, the planet where Data was discovered by the USS Tripoli in 2338 when it responded to a distress call from the colony following its destruction by the Crystalline Entity. Once there, they find his brother, Lore, and discover his true nature.

Relevance: This is Lore's (played Brent Spiner, who appears in "Picard") first appearance, which may turn out to be a significant plot point in "Picard," also we get to learn a little about Dr. Noonian Soong (also played Brent Spiner), the creator of both Data and Lore. 

 The Offspring 

Data creates a new sentient lifeform that he names Lal and treats as his daughter (Image credit: CBS)

Series: "Star Trek: The Next Generation"

Episode: "The Offspring" (S03, E16)

Premise: Data builds a new android, which he names Lal and views as his daughter. However, the seriousness of this seemingly innocent act quickly attracts the attention of Starfleet, who wants to separate the child from Data and the Enterprise for study and analysis.

Relevance: Another of the few episodes, along with "The Measure of a Man" that dealt with the issues facing artificial life. This episode is also an excellent example of the growing relationship between Picard and Data. Sadly however, Lal suffers a total system failure as a result of a fault in her positronic brain

 The Best of Both Worlds” parts 1 & 2 

The Borg wanted to use Picard as an intermediary for the human race to facilitate the assimilation of Earth with the fewest number of casualties. (Image credit: CBS)

Series: "Star Trek: The Next Generation"

Episode: "The Best of Both Worlds" parts 1 & 2 (S03, E26 & S04, E01)

Premise: Generally considered the best episode of "The Next Generation" after "All Good Things." The Borg begins their invasion of Federation space and along the way capture and assimilate Picard. In doing so, he becomes part of the collective – but is unusually given a name, Locutus – and the Borg has access to all of the Captain’s knowledge and experience. 

Relevance: We know the Borg play a significant part in "Picard," as we’ve seen that Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco) returns as does Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) plus we’ve seen a Borg cube in the trailer. 


Our very first look at the tranquil setting of the Picard vineyard in La Barre, France. (Image credit: CBS)

Series: "Star Trek: The Next Generation"

Episode: "Family" (S04, E02)

Premise: Following almost directly on from "The Best of Both Worlds," Picard takes some well-deserved leave and visits his family at the Picard vineyard in La Barre, France, near the French/Swiss border as part of his recovery from his assimilation by the Borg. 

Relevance: Another of the very best "The Next Generation" episodes, we see for the very first time the Picard vineyard, which we know features heavily in the new show. We also meet for the first time his brother Robert (Jeremy Kemp), his wife Marie (Samantha Eggar) and his nephew René (David Birkin). 

 Unification parts 1 & 2 

Through Spock’s attempts to bring peace, Picard begins his close association with the people of Romulus. (Image credit: CBS)

Series: "Star Trek: The Next Generation"

Episode: "Unification" parts 1 & 2 (S05, E07 & S05, E08)

Premise: Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy) embarks on an unauthorized journey to Romulus. Fearing he has defected, the Federation sends Picard on a covert mission to determine why. On Romulus, Picard and Data meet with Spock, who claims to be trying to reunite the Romulans and Vulcans. Meanwhile however, powers within the Romulan government attempt to pervert Spock’s mission and portray it as an invasion of the Federation.

Relevance: Speculation that Romulans and Vulcans are related goes all the way back to "The Original Series," but the idea is explored in much more detail in "The Next Generation." But this excellent two-part episode gives us another insight into Romulan culture, which we know plays heavily in the new "Picard" show. 

 I Borg 

Three of five, or Hugh, is the first Borg we see separated from the collective, something that happens more in "Star Trek: Voyager." (Image credit: CBS)

Series: "Star Trek: The Next Generation"

Episode: "I Borg" (S05, E23)

Premise: The crew of the Enterprise find a crashed Borg shuttlecraft and a lone survivor. Taking him up the ship, he is separated from the collective and begins to discover he has an individual identity. He even picks a name for himself, Hugh. Picard is ordered to plant a virus that will spread through the hive mind and could wipe out the Federation’s most lethal enemy. Instead however, he repairs Hugh and returns him to the crash site where he is recovered by the Borg.  

Relevance: We know Hugh makes a return in "Picard" so this episode is definitely essential viewing. We also know that returning Hugh to the collective had a damaging effect on the single mind mentality of the Borg as we saw later in "Descent."

 Descent parts 1 & 2 

Data and Lore, both created by Dr. Noonian Soong, stand amongst Borg now separated from the collective. (Image credit: CBS)

Series: "Star Trek: The Next Generation"

Episode: "Descent" parts 1 & 2 (S06, E26 & S07, E01)

Premise: Data’s evil twin, Lore, stumbles upon the Borg ship that Hugh is on. His new sense of individuality has spread to everyone onboard and they’re in a state of disarray, not knowing how to function as a unit. Lore seizes this opportunity to rule them. The Enterprise is lured through a trans-warp conduit to an unnamed planet where they find Lore and his new Borg servants. However, not every Borg from Hugh’s ship has taken to Lore and an underground resistance movement exists. 

Relevance: Despite the Borg collective separating itself from Hugh’s ship, the damage done by giving him individuality was apparent. This is another important episode as it both concludes Hugh's origin story, but also sows the seeds of Borg evolution that we'd see more of in "Star Trek: Voyager."

 All Good Things parts 1 & 2 

How much of Picard's future that we saw in the series finale will also appear in the new show? (Image credit: CBS)

Series: "Star Trek: The Next Generation"

Episode: "All Good Things" parts 1 & 2 (S07, E25)

Premise: The mischievous entity Q (John de Lancie) sends Picard travelling to and from three very specific time periods, past, present and future to solve a chicken and egg-style riddle about the destruction of all life in the galaxy.

Relevance: We get to see what the future holds for Picard and the bridge crew of the Enterprise – but is it the real future, or just one crafted by Q as part of this new puzzle? We know Data doesn’t make it this far in the future because he was killed in the movie "Star Trek: Nemesis." We learn Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) died in this future and will Picard actually develop Irumodic syndrome in the new show..?

 Scorpion parts 1 & 2 

 Seven was assimilated when she was just six-years old. Once rescued by the USS Voyager, she became an invaluable member of the crew.   (Image credit: CBS)

Series: "Star Trek: Voyager"

Episode: "Scorpion" parts 1 & 2 (S03, E25 & S04, E01)

Premise: The USS Voyager flies through Borg space and encounters an alien race (designated by the Borg as species 8472) even more powerful than the Borg…and naturally determined to destroy all life in the galaxy. This leads Cpt. Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) to form an alliance with the Borg in order to survive and ultimately defeat them.

Relevance: This is the episode that first introduces us to the Borg drone Seven of Nine. Born Annika Hansen, she was the daughter of human exobiologists Magnus and Erin Hansen and assimilated by the Borg at the age of six. Seven was freed and joined the Voyager crew, ultimately returning to the Alpha Quadrant with them.

 Unimatrix Zero parts 1 & 2 

 Seven has a chance to speak freely to other beings that've been assimilated in a subconscious sanctuary called Unimatrix Zero.  (Image credit: CBS)

Series: "Star Trek: Voyager"

Episode: "Unimatrix Zero" parts 1 & 2 (S06, E26 & S07 E, 01) 

Premise: As Voyager approaches an alien outpost decimated by the Borg, Seven begins to dream vividly of an idyllic sanctuary, known as Unimatrix Zero, where Borg drones can gather subconsciously during their regeneration cycles. This represents a threat to the Borg collective in the Delta Quadrant that Janeway wants to exploit.

Relevance: This another example of how the Borg were evolving in "Star Trek" storylines, moving on from the mindless automatons we saw in "The Next Generation," they now included a queen and a place where Borg drones could gather and remember their lives before they were assimilated, Unimatrix Zero.

 Star Trek: Nemesis 

Despite the Romulan homeworld only playing a minor role in “Nemesis,” it was nice to see some of the architecture of the Imperial Senate structure.

(Image credit: CBS)

Movie: "Star Trek: Nemesis"

Premise: Supposedly the Romulans want to negotiate a peace treaty, so the Enterprise is sent to their homeworld, Romulus. However, a coup d'état on Romulus brings a new praetor, Shinzon, to power. However, he’s not a Romulan, but a genetic copy of Jean-Luc Picard and he now plots to destroy the Federation once and for all.

Relevance: Prior to "Picard," "Nemesis" was the very last installment of "The Next Generation" and we get a glimpse of the Romulan homeworld, Romulus, we see the marriage of Commander Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Deanna Troi plus the discovery of B-4 and the death of Data.  

 Children of Mars 

The "Short Trek" entitled "Children of Mars" shows the sneak attack on Mars by a rogue group of synthetics (Image credit: CBS)

Series: "Star Trek: Short Treks"

Episode: "Children of Mars" (S02, E06)

Premise: Two young children, whose parents are away working on Mars, clash spectacularly while at boarding school in San Francisco. The two girls are awaiting punishment when news of the attack on Mars breaks. In light of the devastation and the unknown fate of their parents, they put aside their differences in a touching moment of solidarity.

Relevance: This is the first glimpse we get to see of the sneak attack on Mars by a rogue group of synthetics in 2384. An event that we've learrned plays a key role in "Star Trek: Picard." 

Honorable mentions

The episode "The Defector" is the first of several in "The Next Generation" that show Romulan mentality and the secretive nature of their culture. A defector from the Romulan Empire claims to have vital information concerning a renewed Romulan offensive against the Federation and seeks asylum aboard the Enterprise, but Picard has suspicions over whether his claims are genuine. The defector, Setal, (James Sloyan) turns out to be Alidar Jarok, the commander responsible for the massacre at the Norkan outposts. 

The augments story arc in the vastly underrated series "Enterprise" should definitely get a mention as the talented Brent Spiner plays Arik Soong, the brilliant-but-bonkers father of Dr. Noonian Soong, the scientist who designed and built Data. This three episode-long plot brilliantly links Soong to Khan Noonien Singh (from the “TOS” episode “Space Seed” and the movie “The Wrath of Khan”) and the Eugenics Wars and shows how Arik Soong gave up trying to enhance humans and began instead for the first time to focus on artificial intelligence. 

Finally, we probably should mention the 2009 J.J. Abrams reboot "Star Trek" even though we’re not particularly big fans of his contributions to the "Star Trek" universe. This was the first time we heard about Romulus being destroyed by the supernova of 2387. Ambassador Spock used a MacGuffin red matter to create a black hole that would consume the star's energy. However, before he could complete his mission, the supernova reached Romulus, destroying the planet. Among those killed were the family of Nero, who swore revenge against Spock, Vulcan and the Federation for allowing his world to die. During their initial confrontation, both the ships of Spock and Nero were pulled into the newly created black hole, sending them back in time and resulting in the creation of the alternate reality, known as the Kelvin Timeline. Whether or not this is mentioned in detail in “Picard” remains to be seen.

Related: 'Star Trek: Discovery' and 'Picard': A Closer Look at Those New Trailers

The 10-episode "Star Trek: Picard" series will premiere on Jan. 23, 2020 on the paid subscription streaming service CBS All Access in the U.S., and in Canada on Bell Media's Space and OTT service Crave. New episodes will air each week.

CBS and Amazon Studios have announced that the new show will stream exclusively on Amazon Prime Video in more than 200 countries worldwide within 24 hours of its premiere on CBS All Access and Space in the US and Canada, respectively.

CBS All Access subscription is the home of "Star Trek: Picard," "Star Trek: Discovery" and a host of other original and archival CBS television shows. Subscriptions start at $5.99 a month. You can try CBS All Access for a week free here.

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Scott Snowden

When Scott's application to the NASA astronaut training program was turned down, he was naturally upset...as any 6-year-old boy would be. He chose instead to write as much as he possibly could about science, technology and space exploration. He graduated from The University of Coventry and received his training on Fleet Street in London. He still hopes to be the first journalist in space.