'Star Trek: Picard' Guide: Movies & Episodes to Watch Before the CBS All Access Series

The upcoming CBS All Access series Star Trek: Picard is set further in the future of the science fiction galaxy than any previous Trek, following retired Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) to the far-flung future of 2399. But while the streaming Picard series takes place decades after the mid-24th century events of Star Trek: The Next Generation (set between 2364 and 2370), what has so far been revealed about the streaming series suggests the Starfleet captain's past adventures will have a huge impact on what's ahead.

From episodes to Star Trek movies, here's what to watch to prepare for Star Trek: Picard before its January 23, 2020 premiere date on CBS All Access.

Star Trek: Picard Watch Guide - The Bare Minimum

Patrick Stewart plays retired Admiral Jean-Luc Picard in the upcoming series "Star Trek: Picard." CBS All Access

Since Star Trek: Picard will be pulling together multiple disparate threads from Star Treks past, like the character Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix 01 (Jeri Ryan), the series is likely to provide plenty of background for the Star Trek dabbler. It's entirely possible Star Trek: Picard will be eminently watchable without any advanced knowledge of Star Trek specifics at all. But catching up on a handful of crucial episodes, and the best of The Next Generation movies, will provide the key context for understanding how several legacy Trek characters interrelate, and what exactly the Borg—a crucial component of Star Trek: Picard—mean to Jean-Luc.

Star Trek: First Contact

Michael Dorn as Worf in "Star Trek: First Contact." Paramount Pictures

The second Star Trek movie featuring the cast of The Next Generation, 1996's First Contact is still a gripping action movie in its own right. But it's also a great way to absorb a lot of Borg context that should be helpful when Picard premieres in 2020.

One of the greatest traumas in Captain Picard's Starfleet career is his own assimilation into the Borg, depicted in a two-part episode bridging the third and fourth seasons of The Next Generation. But while Picard's actual assimilation into the Borg is seen in the TV series, it's First Contact that best sums up the permanent consequences Picard suffers after temporarily joining the Borg Collective. While Picard's trauma and PTSD were addressed in multiple episodes of The Next Generation, First Contact provides a great overview of how Picard views the Borg and his struggle to maintain Federation principles in the face of the destruction they represent.

First Contact is also a great movie for Star Trek beginners since it time travels back to the origins of the entire Star Trek future, depicting not only the invention of the warp drives that make galactic exploration possible, but also the moment of humanity's first contact with the Vulcans in 2063, a relationship that would blossom into the United Federation of Planets.

Star Trek: The Next Generation
"I Borg" - Season 5, Episode 23

Hugh as he appears in TNG episode "I Borg." CBS Home Entertainment

Seven of Nine isn't the only Borg character returning for Star Trek: Picard. Hugh, a Borg drone who appeared in a handful of The Next Generation episodes, also has a role to play in the upcoming series.

That episode, "I Borg," opens in the uncharted Argolis Cluster, where the Enterprise is seeking out potential new worlds for Federation colonies. On one moon, the Enterprise discovers a crashed Borg starship with a single Borg drone survivor. The Borg exist in a collective hive mind, so this single Borg, who comes to be named Hugh, presents an opportunity to explore the possibility of Borg individuality. But while the Enterprise crew develops a surprising relationship with the Borg drone, Picard plans to use him as a Trojan horse, returning the drone to the Borg Collective with a computer virus that could wipe out all Borg. Eventually Picard is persuaded not to pursue this genocidal course, instead returning Hugh to the Collective in the hopes the Borg drone might expose the Borg to ideas other than forceful assimilation. Hugh would later appear in the Season 7 two-parter, "Descent."

Hugh actor Jonathan Del Arco will reprise the role in Star Trek: Picard. The first photo of Hugh in 2399 reveals that most of his Borg implants have been removed, suggesting he has been freed from the Collective once and for all.

Here's the new Borg Look ;)https://t.co/SFxt0SV2en

— Jonathan Del Arco (@JonathanDelArco) December 22, 2019

Star Trek: Voyager
"The Gift" - Season 4, Episode 7

Seven of Nine makes a rough transition in "The Gift." CBS Home Entertainment

Unlike Hugh, former Borg drone Seven of Nine and Picard haven't previously crossed paths (except in Star Trek novels), which may make her an unfamiliar character for those Trekkers who stuck to episodes of The Next Generation. Since Seven of Nine and her relationship to the Borg formed the backbone of later seasons of Star Trek: Voyager there's a lot of material out there for anyone hoping to grasp the full context of her return in Star Trek: Picard. But while several consequential two-parters depict major events in Seven of Nine's Borg and post-Borg life, when searching for the minimum effective dose you could do a lot worse than Season 4 episode "The Gift."

"The Gift" deals primarily with Seven of Nine's early adjustments to life as an individual and the surgical removal of her Borg implants, portraying her transition from the hive mind to life aboard a Starfleet starship. Trailers for Star Trek: Picard suggest former Borg, like Hugh, will be crucial to the plot of the streaming series, with a handful of shots revealing overcrowded Romulan prisons, full of former Borg drones. It appears a lot of people in 2399 are going through a similar transition.

Not all of "The Gift" will prove helpful when watching Picard—the episode also follows the series exit of the character Kes (Jennifer Lien)—but what it reveals about Seven of Nine and the Borg should provide invaluable context for the upcoming series.

Star Trek: Picard Watch Guide - A Deeper Dive

While two episodes and a movie are enough to provide crucial background for both Picard, the Borg and two important returning characters, there's so much more Star Trek with important information about Picard's future and the state of the galaxy in 2399.

Star Trek Nemesis

The plot of "Star Trek Nemesis" may not matter much, but it's the most recent depiction of "The Next Generation" crew on the timeline. Paramount Pictures

The final Next Generation movie, Star Trek Nemesis, may be one of the more important watches before the premiere of Picard, but it's likely to feel more like homework than exploration: Nemesis isn't a very good movie. Nevertheless, Nemesis takes place in 2379, making it the closest depiction of The Next Generation characters to the events of the Picard era.

After a prologue on the planet Romulus, Nemesis opens at the wedding reception of William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), who are both returning in Star Trek: Picard. Nemesis also depicts the death of the android Data (Brent Spiner), who also returns in Picard, though trailers for the series suggest his presence is more a guiding vision than literal (he may also be a hologram).

With the Romulans looking like major players in the Star Trek: Picard future, Nemesis will also prove useful for its insights into Romulan politics, primarily involving a clone of Picard (it's a long story), even if the specifics aren't likely to matter much to the plot of Picard, since the planet Romulus suffers a far more consequential fate a few years later.

Star Trek (2009)

The Star Trek reboot movie directed by J.J. Abrams is set in a universe parallel to that of Star Trek: Picard, but its split from the main Star Trek timeline is likely to have major repercussions in the upcoming series. While set in the 2250s, the movie's villain hails from 2387, when an exploding supernova destroys the Romulan homeworld, Romulus, despite the best efforts of the Federation. While the 2009 Star Trek movie precedes from these events into a parallel timeline, Picard will instead follow from the aftermath of that destruction. Rather than crippling the Romulan Star Empire, trailers for Picard suggest the Romulans may be more dangerous than ever.

Star Trek: The Next Generation
"The Best of Both Worlds" - Season 3, Episode 26 and Season 4, Episode 1

Picard's assimilation into the Borg has haunted the Starfleet captain for years. CBS Home Entertainment

It's hard to fully understand Captain Picard without "The Best of Both Worlds" Part 1 and Part 2. Opening—as so many Star Trek episodes do—on the Enterprise crew responding to a distress call, "The Best of Both Worlds" soon unfolds into a deadly confrontation between Starfleet and the Borg, with Earth itself at stake. In the first episode of the two-parter, Picard is kidnapped by the Borg after confronting a Borg cube that's been assimilating Federation colonies. It ends on one of the most famous cliffhangers in TV history, as Riker orders the Enterprise to fire on the Borg cube, now lead by an assimilated Picard, who confronts his former shipmates with a new name: "Locutus of Borg." While the crew eventually rescue Picard, remove the Borg implants and prevent the destruction of Earth, Jean-Luc will never be the same.

Star Trek: The Next Generation
"Family" - Season 4, Episode 2

Jean-Luc Picard's pugnacious and bitter brother (Jeremy Kemp) helps draw the Starfleet captain out of his shell after his experience as Locutus. CBS Home Entertainment

While a much quieter affair than the explosive season opener, "Family" is another episode that's crucial to understanding Picard, following the traumatized captain home to Earth as he deals with the shock of assimilation and Locutus of Borg's role in the destruction of an entire fleet of Federation starships. "Family" introduces us to Picard's French roots, as he returns to the family vineyard to process his pain and mud wrestle with his older brother.

Star Trek: Picard Watch Guide - Additional Viewing

With three movies and five episodes under your belt, you're more than ready for Star Trek: Picard, but the rich Star Trek universe always rewards further exploration.

For a better understanding of the Romulan's combination of statecraft, duplicity, espionage and Vulcan-esque tactical logic, check out Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Season 7, Episode 16, "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges," which tracks the interplay between the Romulan Tal Shiar spy network and Starfleet's equally shady Section 31.

Watch the two-part Next Generation finale "All Good Things..." (Season 7, Episodes 25 and 26), for an alternate future depiction of a retired Picard sitting in the captain's chair for one last mission—a remarkably similar set-up to the upcoming streaming series.

Early signs of Borg vulnerabilities and Seven of Nine's origin story are depicted in Star Trek: Voyager two-parter, "Scorpion," (Season 3, Episode 26 and Season 4, Episode 1).

For more insight into Data's humanity, and some likely thematic connections to a mysterious Picard character named Dahj (Isa Briones), check out TNG Season 2, Episode 9 "The Measure of a Man."

"She's the end of all," one character says of Dahj in the trailer. "She's the destroyer!" CBS All Access

Voyager Season 5, Episode 2, "Drone," introduces a powerful Borg lifeform who names himself "One," not only exploring Borg individuality, but also asserting Starfleet values, most importantly the duty to defend all life, even that which may one day represent a threat, like Dahj in the upcoming series.

With nearly a month until the premiere of Star Trek: Picard there's still plenty of time for a Trek crash course, even for those unfamiliar with the series. Picard premieres January 23, 2020 on the CBS All Access streaming service.