This post contains spoilers for Star Trek: Picard, episode 4 “Watcher.”
With all the trouble Admiral Picard and his crew have found themselves in since going back in time to 2024, they needed someone to guide them. Luckily for Picard, he was able to find one of his dearest friends. Only, she wasn’t exactly the Guinan he’d known for so many years, and she didn’t recognize him. In fact, she was more than a little adversarial. Viewers of Star Trek: The Next Generation saw this as a problem because when Guinan was living in 1893, she recognized Captain Jean-Luc Picard when he found her on the TNG episode “Time’s Arrow.” So why wouldn’t she recognized him 100+ years later?
But, according to showrunner Terry Matalas who spoke with Inverse, Guinan’s failure to recognize Picard wasn’t a plot hole. Instead, thanks to Q, the previous timeline where the El-Aurian knew the captain has disappeared. When Picard and his crew left the 25th century, life as they knew it had changed. The Federation had been erased, and in its place was a xenophobic regime that ruled with an iron fist. Guinan and Picard didn’t have a friendship in that timeline.
Star Trek: Picard showrunner says no previous relationship exists with Guinan and Picard in new timeline
As difficult as it is to hear, the Guinan that Picard met up with in 2024, played wonderfully by Ito Aghayere, had no reason to recognize the admiral. To her, he was just some old man who talked strangely and believed she was supposed to know what he was talking about. And because of this alternate reality, “Time’s Arrow” never happened so she hadn’t known Picard back in 1893 nor had she known him aboard the Enterprise.
"“This Guinan wouldn’t remember Picard because in this alternate timeline, the TNG episode “Time’s Arrow” never happened. Because there was no Federation, those events did not play out the same. No previous relationship exists. However, she still was likely traveling to Earth and, as we know, she hung around a bit. So this Guinan is different. But she, of course, can sense something is off. She’s going through a kind of time-sickness thanks to Q’s meddling with the timeline.”"
In the new reality back in the 25th century, Picard isn’t the man who upheld the Prime Directive and fought for the rights of people on different planets. In fact, everything he did for the Federation and Starfleet didn’t actually happen. And Guinan never got to know him as her friend and never shared her wisdom with him which was a bit of a shock to Star Trek viewers who love this friendship. At least, though, he was able to convince the 2024 Guinan to help him find the Watcher which means they’re one step closer to resetting the timeline and reuniting Picard with Guinan in the correct reality.