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In Star Trek: Picard, Patrick Stewart ditches Starfleet. But why?

The trailer for the new Picard show poses an intriguing question about The Next Generation's captain.

He was one of the greatest starship captains the galaxy has ever known, a shining beacon of intelligence, tolerance and empathy who made baldness look badass. So why did Jean-Luc Picard leave Starfleet?

That's the question posed by the new trailer for Star Trek: Picard, a show that picks up the good captain's adventures years after we last saw Patrick Stewart take command of the USS Enterprise. It's been exactly 25 years since Star Trek: The Next Generation ended, and nearly two decades since the last Star Trek movie with the TNG crew. The trailer, which landed Thursday, suggests Picard's career culminated in his leadership of a huge armada of starships. But then he quit.

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Star Trek: Picard is the second new Trek show to launch on streaming service CBS All Access, following Star Trek: Discovery. (Disclosure: CBS is the parent company of CNET). The show, which is expected to debut before the end of 2019, will explore why Picard abandoned the Enterprise and why he might be tempted to return.

Before the show arrives, here are some possible reasons Captain Picard would choose to hand over the conn permanently...

  • He watched All Good Things. The time-traveling finale of The Next Generation jumped from the first episode of the show to an imagined future where a mightily bearded Picard ran a vineyard. Maybe it gave him an idea for a range of Chateau Picard wines ranging from Make It Sav to Pinot Engagio.
  • Speaking of All Good Things, the TNG finale showed a future where Picard and Dr. Crusher had been married. Maybe that's the future he wanted. Ol' Jean-Luc might not be as much of a hound dog as Captain Kirk, but he could be quite the romantic when he set his mind to it.
  • He realized what he missed. Sure, the Enterprise crew felt like a family. But we know from a previous visit to the Picard family vineyard that Jean-Luc had set aside emotional attachment in his dedication to Starfleet. Perhaps he set out to make up for lost time.

How about a cheeky red (shirt)?

  • The Borg returned. As we saw in the hugely entertaining First Contact, Picard has never quite shaken off his experiences at the hands of the implacable Borg. Perhaps that'll figure in the backstory of Star Trek: Picard? 
  • He watched Avengers: Endgame and thought, "Hey, this Thanos guy may be onto something." Not the killing billions of people, obviously -- the rural retirement. We'd love to think somewhere on that vineyard there's a scarecrow draped with a burgundy uniform. 
  • What would make Jean-Luc Picard give up the captain's chair?

  • He read the novel Candide. Picard has apparently retired to a winery, and the 1759 French satire by Voltaire follows a man who becomes gradually disillusioned until he concludes the only worthwhile thing to do is to cultivate a garden. Michael Chabon -- a writer on the new Trek show -- references Candide in one of his novels. And Picard is, after all, French.
  • He got sick of dunking on Worf.
  • He saw something terrible. Picard has always led by example, spreading rationality and understanding everywhere he went. But bad things happen -- conspiracies and invasions and wibbly-wobbly space anomalies -- seemingly on a weekly basis. Perhaps there's some cross-timeline fall-out from the destruction of Romulus in J.J. Abrams' 2009 Star Trek reboot. Or maybe the famously steadfast captain simply got tired of being on the front lines of all that danger. 
  • He wanted to avoid Generations. Having seen the shabby death meted out to William Shatner's Captain Kirk, maybe Picard wanted to bow out before someone could write him an underwhelming death scene.
  • He heard that Chief O'Brien called Benjamin Sisko the best captain in Starfleet in a Deep Space Nine episode. That's got to sting.
  • He wanted to be more of a stepfather to Wesley Crusher. But then he saw The Big Bang Theory and changed his mind. 
  • He realized his whole career was a holodeck simulation. Or maybe the vineyard is a holodeck fake. Holograms... you just never know.
  • He was fired. Ageism could still be a thing in the far future. Or maybe the insurance bill arrived for that time the Enterprise blew up.
  • He remembered that warp drive, Starfleet's principal mode of transportation, was damaging space. This was established in the TNG season 7 episode Force of Nature, but never addressed again. After all, if you knew you were catastrophically harming your environment, you'd do something about it, right?
  • He went off on a sold-out tour of the galaxy playing that weird flute-thing. With his friend Magneto. And they shared wacky pictures of the whole thing on Subspace Instagram.
  • He was blinded by too much lens flare.
  • He face-palmed so hard it tore a hole in subspace.

Originally published May 23.