Spoilers ahead for aspects of Star Trek: Picard episode 2: “Maps and Legends”.
One of the quirkiest mysteries at the start of Star Trek: Picard has suddenly been answered. If you’re confused about why Jean-Luc is living with a couple of Romulans at Château Picard, you’ll only get hints in the actual TV series itself. (Well, thus far.) Because the complete answer to this huge change in the status quo is elucidated in the final issue of the IDW comic book miniseries, Star Trek: Picard: Countdown.
Here’s how the third and final issue of the prequel comic reveals Laris and Zhaban’s fate and explains why they’re so loyal to Jean-Luc in Star Trek: Picard.
Speaking on The Ready Room after episode 1, “Remembrance,” Picard showrunner Michael Chabon pointed out that the narrative reason to include Laris and Zhaban was to create a “quick, visual shorthand…to let the viewer know there’s been a change.” But beyond just changing the context of Jean-Luc’s character in the new series, these two Romulans are people with a story that has not been told. Why would two former Tal Shiar secret agents end up as wine vintners on Earth?
As it turns out, they were wine vintners before they came to work for Jean-Luc’s family vineyard. And, that was part of their backstory during a mission for the Tal Shiar.
In the events of Picard: Countdown, the year is 2285, just prior to the Synth Revolt on Mars, and before the Romulan Supernova actually hits. At this point, Picard is hopeful that he can evacuate not just Romulus itself, but a ton of other planets in the Romulan Empire. To that end, the action of the comic series mostly takes place on the colony of Yuyat Beta, a Romulan-controlled planet that is also inhabited by 10,000 non-Romulan aliens, all of whom the Romulans are willing to let die. Obviously Picard isn’t cool with this and gains allies when he meets Laris and Zhaban, two exiled members of the Tal Shiar, growing wine with the native aliens of Yuyat Beta.
Except, it’s all a ruse. At the end of issue #3, we learn that even though Laris and Zhaban are exiled secret agents, they are still technically working for the Tal Shiar, and their mission is to capture Picard’s starship at that time, the USS Verity. And despite aiding Picard, Zhaban actually threatens to complete that original mission by hacking into the Verity and taking control of the vessel.
Except he doesn’t. Because Zhaban is so impressed with Picard’s desire to protect the non-Romulan aliens on the colony—the people Zhaban has been making wine with—that he goes against his Tal Shiar orders. Both Laris and Zhaban decide that indigenous aliens are Romulan citizens, too, and that the Tal Shiar and the Empire is betraying its principles by leaving them behind. By the end of the comic, they side with Picard, making them permanent exiles of the Romulan government, even before the supernova explodes.
The story concludes with Laris saying that Yuyat Beta has been their home “but now, we can never return.” And so Picard says, “I do know a secure location…you’re welcome to stay there as long as you wish… but tell me, are you still interested in wine-making?”
Episode 2 of Star Trek: Picard–“Maps and Legends”–Laris and Zhaban reveal extensive knowledge about Tal Shiar procedures and even an additional origin connected to a new cabal dubbed the Zhat Vash. So if you were confused by how Laris can be both good at making wine and be an excellent space-age detective, the IDW comic book series makes it pretty clear.
Star Trek: Picard: Countdown #3 is out now at comic book stores and digital retailers.
Star Trek: Picard airs new episodes on Thursdays on CBS All Access.
Ryan Britt is a longtime contributor to Tor.com and the author of the book Luke Skywalker Can’t Read and Other Geeky Truths (Plume 2015.) His other writing and criticism have been published in Inverse, SyFy Wire, Vulture, Den of Geek!, the New York Times, and StarTrek.com. He is an editor at Fatherly. Ryan lives with his wife and daughter in Portland, Maine.