Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for the first nine episodes of Star Trek: Picard, and there may also be spoilers for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.
If you’ve read my review of Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1, you’ll know it’s my least-favourite episode of Star Trek: Picard’s first season. The season as a whole has been fantastic, and I’m really hoping that the finale will manage to salvage things because it would be such a shame if the overall story ended up spoilt by a bad ending. In any case, despite not enjoying the episode it did nevertheless bring up a couple of new theories, and debunk several others.
I re-read my review before penning this article, just in case I was too harsh or wanted to amend any of my more stinging criticisms of Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1, but honestly at this point I stand by it. Every season of every Star Trek show has had bad episodes here and there, and I suppose it was an inevitability that Star Trek: Picard would too. The main problem, just to reiterate, is that Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 didn’t behave like the ninth part of a ten-episode story. By introducing new characters and storylines, as well as shaking up existing stories and leaving many points unresolved, there was simply too much to do and as a result, many potentially interesting story points were blitzed through in two minutes instead of being properly developed. I wrote that the episode felt like the halfway mark of the story rather than the beginning of the end, and if it had been episode 5 or 6 I’m sure I would’ve enjoyed it more. Star Trek: Picard does have a second season currently on order – though when that will be able to be produced is unclear right now with the coronavirus pandemic putting a halt to work across the entertainment industry – but as far as I’m aware, at least based on everything we were told in the run-up to this season, Season 1 was a self-contained story. I don’t think we can count Et in Arcadia Ego as the midway point of a two-season story simply because that was never the plan. It seems, one way or another, that the story arc of this season, with Commodore Oh, the vision on Aia, the Zhat Vash, and the synths on Coppelius will be concluded on Friday and that Season 2 will be another story. But perhaps that’s just a theory that can be proven wrong!
Speaking of Season 2, this won’t be my last Star Trek: Picard theories post. While I fully expect the main story to be concluded, I have no doubt that the show will leave Picard and his new crew on the precipice of their next adventure – so join me in a week or so as we speculate about what that might be.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing these theories over the last few weeks, and I hope to begin a series of Star Trek: Discovery theories when Season 3 premieres later this year. If Lower Decks provides suitable material for theory-crafting, I’m sure I’ll do the same there too. Once again, please remember to take everything with a grain of salt and not to get overly-attached! These theories are just for fun, after all.
Let’s begin with the theories that Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 debunked.
Debunked theory #1: Some of the male synths will resemble Data.
Assuming we got to see all of the synths on Coppelius this week, there were none built in Data’s image. Brent Spiner actually has a new role as Dr Soong, the son of Data’s creator, so it doesn’t seem like we’ll be seeing him back in makeup as a descendent of Data living on Coppelius.
Debunked theory #2: The synths on Coppelius were killed when Maddox’s lab was destroyed.
This would have led to a fairly bleak outcome for the story of Star Trek: Picard’s first season, as it would’ve left Soji as perhaps the last of her kind. However, we now know that there are plenty of synths living on Coppelius, despite Maddox’s claim in Stardust City Rag that his lab had been destroyed. I really really hope this gets explained, because we need to know what prompted Maddox to travel to the incredibly dangerous Freecloud and to meet with Bjayzl – to whom he owed money – while in a desperate state. Was Maddox expelled from Coppelius by the synths? That could be one explanation.
If it ends up ignored, I’m afraid that it isn’t just the case of a throwaway line in one episode. Locating Maddox was a large part of the first half of the season, with Raffi tracking him down and Picard organising the trip to Freecloud specifically to find him. Maddox said very clearly that the reason he’d gone there was because his lab had been destroyed – he had nowhere else to turn, so he went to see Bjayzl. One of the synths said this week that they only had one spacecraft on Coppelius – the one Jana used when she met Rios – so that further complicates matters. If these things end up being untrue then we need to know why given Maddox’s important role in the plot. I’ve been flagging this up for several weeks because I’m concerned it could open a significant plot hole.
So those two theories were debunked in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1. A couple of others are looking incredibly unlikely, but I don’t think we can call them officially debunked just yet, so I’ll leave them in place for now. We got two confirmed theories as well, so let’s look at those briefly before we get into the main list.
Confirmed theory #1: Seven of Nine and Elnor took the Artifact to Coppelius.
The visual effect of the Artifact exiting the transwarp network was beautiful. It was a stunning work of CGI that the above image doesn’t do justice to. Unfortunately, as a story point I felt it was unearned and I didn’t like it.
Seven of Nine said that she could see La Sirena in the transwarp network when connected to the Artifact, and based on that she decided to fly the ship there with the surviving xBs. However, we didn’t really see any of that on screen, and the Artifact’s arrival seemed to come from nowhere during La Sirena’s battle with Narek. As something that had the potential to be incredibly exciting, I felt that this was a total waste of the Artifact’s surprise potential, despite the cool visual effect.
Confirmed theory #2: Romulan minds have a very particular reaction to the relic on Aia.
Okay so technically it’s organic minds, rather than specifically Romulan minds, that react so badly to the vision from Aia, but I was at least halfway right when I said that someone else experiencing the vision would have a different and less intense reaction. Sutra was able to make sense of the vision, recognising that it was one designed to be shown to synthetic minds, not organic ones.
She deciphered the vision as an appeal to synthetic races from another synthetic race, telling them to get in touch when they were ready so that the organic races who created them – and persecuted or enslaved them – could be destroyed. I’ve termed this faction the “Mass Effect Reapers”, since they play a very similar role to the antagonists in that video game series.
The Romulans didn’t fundamentally misinterpret the vision – it does seem as though an unknown faction will show up when certain conditions are met in order to exterminate life. However, they misunderstood what those conditions were – the synths need to ask for help. By being so aggressive against synths, the Romulans have arguably created a self-fulfilling prophecy where their own persecution of synths has pushed Sutra and the others on Coppelius to the point of summoning the “Mass Effect Reapers”. At least, I think that’s what the now-confused story is trying to say.
So those were the confirmed theories. Now let’s take a look at a couple of new theories, as well as those returning from past weeks.
Number 1: Sutra will succeed in triggering the arrival of the “Mass Effect Reapers”.
As of the end of this week’s episode, Sutra planned to use the information she gleamed from the vision to contact the “Mass Effect Reapers” and use their help to defeat the Romulans. Surely the conclusion of the story of this season can’t end up being “we just won’t pull the trigger and we’ll stay hidden from this powerful race”. That’s exactly what the Zhat Vash have been trying to do, and it would be quite depressing if it turns out that the villains have actually been right all along. So somehow, Picard and his crew will have to confront this new threat.
The simplest way to do that would be for Sutra to succeed in summoning the “Mass Effect Reapers”, calling on their aid to defend Coppelius from Commodore Oh’s armada. However, when the dust settles on that climactic battle, what will happen to Picard and the rest of the organics? I think here we see a possible way for Picard to come into his own. As an experienced diplomat, Picard could broker a peace with the “Mass Effect Reapers”, allowing for synthetic life in the galaxy to exist and prosper, ensuring synths would have equal rights, and so on. Rather than taking the action-sci fi approach of “kill all the bad guys and blow everything up”, this would be a quieter, calmer ending, akin to something like Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and would demonstrate that Picard – and the Federation as a whole – were able to truly embrace the idea of very different types of life.
Number 2A: Picard and the crew of La Sirena will travel forward in time to link up with Burnham and the USS Discovery.
Number 2B: Burnham and the USS Discovery will end up in 2399.
These twin theories really stem from the idea that it makes a certain kind of sense for Star Trek to bring together its fractured timeline.
When the Star Trek franchise was arguably at its most successful in the 1990s, the three shows which were in production at that time were all set in the same time period. With the exceptions of the two films featuring the cast of The Original Series, every Star Trek project after 1987 and until Enterprise premiered in 2001 was set in the mid-late 24th Century. As such, there were multiple opportunities for crossovers of themes, factions, and even characters. 1990s Star Trek was, in that respect, similar to the current Marvel shared universe which they use in their incredibly successful films. Star Trek today is much more fractured, with potentially four different time periods and one parallel universe all being used as the settings for different shows and films. When it comes to keeping the franchise together – as well as giving fans and casual viewers an incentive to jump from one series to another – bringing things together just makes sense.
The trailer for the third season of Star Trek: Discovery seemed to hint at a post-apocalyptic setting, and while we have seen in Star Trek: Picard that the Federation and Starfleet still exist and are thriving, there could be a way to explain things. The USS Discovery could, for example, emerge in a remote sector of the galaxy where the Federation no longer hold jurisdiction. Or the arrival of the “Mass Effect Reapers” could have triggered the collapse of the Federation in that region.
Secondly, something may happen at the end of Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2 which sends Picard and his crew forward in time, meeting up with the USS Discovery in their future timeline.
While both options have points in their favour as well as noteworthy downsides, to keep the franchise together and expand its appeal as a “shared universe” it could be worthwhile to bring the shows into the same time period.
Number 3: Sutra is descended from Lore, not Data.
As I stated in my review, I flat-out do not like Sutra. Both from an aesthetic point of view (don’t get me started on that awful makeup again) and, sadly, the quality of the performance, Sutra is by far the least-convincing antagonist in the series as well as the least-interesting character, despite having potential. Not to mention that her 11th hour introduction has left practically no time for any meaningful exploration or development of her character.
However, setting aside my dislike of the character and her role in the story, there is one theory regarding Sutra’s origin that I have been kicking around. While we know that Maddox claimed that all of the synths on Coppelius were cloned from neurons that came from Data, there’s no evidence to support that claim right now. Data was blown to smithereens at the end of Star Trek: Nemesis, when he triggered an explosion aboard the Romulan vessel that had been commanded by Shinzon. While it’s possible that some tiny fragments survived from which Maddox was able to work, it’s also possible that Data left behind no remains.
If the latter is true, or if his remains were unrecoverable or unusable, it raises the question of how the synths came into being. One possibility is that Lore, Data’s evil twin introduced in the first season of The Next Generation, is the progenitor of some of the synths – and that could explain Sutra’s devious nature.
Hopefully Soji turns out to be a descendent of Data, because in the last couple of episodes her dynamic with Picard has used that to great effect, and a key element of their relationship would be lost if she turned out to be a clone of Lore, B4, or some other synth.
Number 4: The Artifact – or the Borg Sphere it seems to contain – will get back into space.
The Artifact’s arrival at Coppelius was a great visual effect, but as a story point I didn’t like it when I saw it this week. However, one point of interest came as the Artifact was exiting the transwarp network – it appears to have a Borg Sphere docked. We saw in First Contact that Cubes can have Spheres on board, and it seems like the Artifact has one too. Given that the Artifact itself has crashed – and seemed to be in a bad way – I wonder if Seven of Nine, Elnor, and the xBs will use the Sphere to return to space – perhaps joining in the fight over Coppelius that we assume is coming.
The other possibility is that the Artifact itself can be repaired and relaunched into space, but if that happens I feel it could be kind of hollow – what exactly would be the point of crashing it one week to get it flying again the next, especially given how little screen time the Artifact got this week?
If that were to happen, I feel that the better storytelling choice would’ve been to skip the Artifact this week and have the cool emerging-from-transwarp scene next week, midway through the battle and helping to turn the tide against the Romulans.
Number 5: The “Mass Effect Reapers” will turn out to be the Borg.
In the vision Sutra was able to decipher, the faction offering help to synthetics wasn’t named. Given that the Borg have played a role in this season, I wonder if they may take this opportunity to show up. Rather than being a message which set out to help synthetics, what if the Aia vision was a trap laid by the Borg to assimilate them? When they’re contacted, they know that a highly-advanced synthetic race exists – and the Borg love to assimilate advanced races and absorb their technology into the collective. So they travel through the transwarp network that we’ve just seen La Sirena and the Artifact use, but instead of providing help to the synths, they assimilate them. And not only that, they may also assimilate the species that built the synths in the first place, adding both technologically-advanced races to their collective.
Of all the races we know of in Star Trek, the Borg are one of the few who would conceivably be able to accomplish something as massive as moving stars – something whoever left the message on Aia was able to do. The drawback to this theory is that it doesn’t fit with the Borg’s normal modus operandi – they usually just show up and conquer their target, without going to the trouble of leaving messages and traps. But it’s not entirely impossible!
Number 6: Picard and the crew of La Sirena will travel to Aia.
Last week, I said that the reason for Picard and the crew to travel to Aia would be for them to see the vision for themselves. Now that we know what the vision contains, there’s not really any reason for this. However, it’s still possible that they may travel to Aia.
It could be that the “Mass Effect Reapers” will arrive there if Sutra is able to contact them, or if the battle is won and the Romulans and the Reapers are defeated, Picard and the crew may wish to travel there to deactivate the relic and prevent it from being used again.
Number 7: Narek is going to go rogue.
I’m still not sure, even at this late stage, how genuine Narek is when he talks to Soji. We saw how much it hurt him to leave her to die on the Artifact, but we also saw how determined he was to catch up to her afterwards. Whether Narek has seen the vision on Aia or not, he seems to be fully subscribed to the Zhat Vash ideology of preventing synthetic life reaching the threshold, and no matter what his personal feelings may have been, he did try to help them complete that mission.
However, if it is ultimately proven that, for whatever reason, synthetic life does not pose the threat the Zhat Vash assume it does, Narek will have no reason to hurt Soji or the other synths. He may even be a valuable ally, providing Picard and the crew with information about the Zhat Vash and their plans.
In short, I don’t see Narek turning on his allies unless he’s sure that synths don’t pose a threat. Sutra seems intent on proving that they are a threat, so we’ll have to see what happens. But with so much time spent on the Narek-Soji relationship through the first three-quarters of the season, there will have to be some kind of resolution to his story arc.
Number 8: Commodore Oh is a synth.
When I first came up with this theory a couple of weeks ago, the one big issue staring me in the face was that Commodore Oh was able to mind-meld. Telepathic powers have only ever been seen in organics in Star Trek, and that was definitely a factor making this theory less likely.
However, with the revelation last week that Sutra is capable of mind-melding despite obviously being a synth, we can now get rid of that obstacle. Does it make the theory likely? I don’t know, but it’s at least technically possible in a way it arguably wasn’t a few days ago.
There would be some delicious irony in the revelation that Commodore Oh, who has worked so hard against synthetic life, is a synth herself – especially if, like Soji, she’s unaware of her true nature. The possibility of an undercover synth working to trigger the arrival of her cohorts would make a certain kind of sense, but it would have to be handled well to avoid feeling like a deus ex machina.
So those are the theories that are new or were advanced somehow in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1. Now, as always, let’s look at the remaining theories from previous weeks that weren’t confirmed, debunked, or advanced.
Number 9: Picard’s conversation with Admiral Clancy may have tipped off Commodore Oh and the Romulans.
Admiral Clancy had promised to dispatch a fleet to Deep Space 12 to defend the synths on Coppelius from the Romulans. However, her conversation with Picard took place before Picard and the crew had pieced everything together about Commodore Oh – and as a result, it’s at least possible that she became aware of Starfleet’s plans and will be expecting the arrival of their fleet.
Number 10: Star Trek: Discovery’s post-apocalyptic setting is related to the arrival of the “Mass Effect Reapers”.
I hinted at this above, but one possible explanation for the seemingly bleak future glimpsed in the trailers for Discovery’s third season is that, somehow, the vision from Aia comes true and the “Mass Effect Reapers” arrive and cause widespread devastation.
The downside to this, and why it seems less likely, is that Discovery claims to be taking place roughly 800 years in the future from Star Trek: Picard’s time, so even if something major happens, it seems unlikely that the Federation would still be picking up the pieces after so much time had passed! However, as I suggested above, if Burnham and co. arrive in 2399 instead of the 32nd/33rd Century, it could all fit together.
Number 11: Borg technology was used in the creation of the Coppelius synths.
One aspect of Star Trek: Picard’s story that is still unexplained is what was going on with the Borg components? Icheb was murdered so his Borg technology could be extracted, and the de-assimilation taking place on a large scale aboard the Artifact was very profitable for the Romulans – but who was buying these parts?
I had speculated that Maddox and his team might be the primary buyers, using that technology to advance their understanding of synthetics and develop better synths. It would be one way to explain the jump between F8, who was incredibly basic, computer-like, and inhuman, and synths like Jana and Sutra, who were active only a few years later.
Number 12: Riker will return to active duty.
In Nepenthe, Riker stated that he hasn’t officially retired from Starfleet and is instead on “active reserve”. Given that, and his location being close-ish to Deep Space 12 and thus to Picard, I wonder if Riker could be called on to join – or even lead – the fleet headed for Coppelius. If not, we can call this our first Star Trek: Picard Season 2 theory!
Number 13: The father figure from Soji’s dream isn’t Maddox – it could be a synth or it could be Dr Soong.
Maddox claimed to have built Soji and Dahj, and on Coppelius his room was preserved and both Dr Soong and the synths spoke highly of him. However, the father figure from Soji’s dream had no face, and while that may simply have been for shock value and for Maddox to keep himself safe if Soji were ever found out, it’s at least possible that there’s another explanation. There seemed to be the briefest of hints that Soji recognised Dr Soong in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 – and he is wearing a not dissimilar outfit to the father figure in her dreams.
Number 14: Picard’s illness is Irumodic Syndrome
Despite Picard discussing his diagnosis with the crew this week, the name of the condition was not mentioned. Barring a last-minute appearance from Dr Benayoun, the condition Picard is suffering from may not be named this season – but this theory will remain in play for Season 2.
Number 15: Soji and Dahj’s necklaces were a deliberate symbol to communicate with someone.
Clandestine communication through the use of signs and symbols goes back to ancient times, and I wonder if Maddox and Dr Soong employed it when choosing Soji and Dahj’s necklaces. I felt the necklaces themselves were not strong props from a visual standpoint (I said so way back in my review of Remembrance) but considering that they’re supposedly a visual symbol of a banned method of building synths, I wonder if Maddox’s intention was to indicate to someone in the synth field that Soji and Dahj were his work. If not, the necklaces are a heck of a risk. They may even have been what brought Soji and Dahj to the attention of the Zhat Vash – how they figured out Soji and Dahj were synths is something which is currently unknown.
Number 16: Section 31 will be involved.
All of my Section 31 theories over the course of this season have come and gone, but I have thought up a new one! With a new series based on Section 31 in development, and considering their role in Discovery’s second season, I felt sure that they’d crop up somehow this season. The only way I can think of that happening right now is almost right at the end of the season – perhaps even an epilogue – in which they take possession of the Artifact and its valuable Borg technology.
Number 17: Something Maddox did or didn’t do meant that the synths on Mars could be hacked.
We learned a couple of weeks ago that the Zhat Vash, presumably led by Commodore Oh, were responsible for the attack on Mars. They did that by hacking the synths on Mars, turning them against the Federation and then forcing them to commit suicide when their work was done. But how the Zhat Vash were able to perform this task is unknown – and I wonder if something Maddox did or didn’t do meant that it was possible.
So that’s it. Those are the remaining theories as we head into the finale! It’s patently obvious that they can’t all be right, and we may even see none of them pan out by the time the episode – and the season – is complete. However, it’s always fun to speculate, and there are several theories which, if they aren’t outright debunked, will form the basis for my Star Trek: Picard Season 2 theory list! As and when we get information, images, and trailers for the second season I hope to update that list, so stay tuned for that.
After being so hyped and excited for this series for well over a year, it’s bittersweet that it’s almost over! With only one exception, I’ve had a great time with every episode of this season – and even within the episode that I didn’t like there were still enjoyable moments.
Next week, or rather, sometime after I watch the episode on Friday, I’ll do my usual review post for Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2. Then after that, I’ll wrap up this season’s theories and do my Season 2 theories – assuming I have any. After that I’ll take a break from Star Trek: Picard content, but at some point before the end of the year, when I’ve had a chance to re-watch the whole season in full, I plan to do a retrospective of the entire season discussing various highs and lows. I’m half-expecting to learn that Star Trek: Discovery’s third season is going to be released in April or May, but with all of the issues stemming from coronavirus I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see it delayed to later in the year. But when it’s on the air I’ll be doing the reviews and probably theories too. What I’m saying is I hope you stick around after Star Trek: Picard goes off the air, because the blog isn’t going away!
The first nine episodes of Star Trek: Picard are available to stream now on CBS All Access in the United States, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and other countries and territories. The Star Trek franchise – including Star Trek: Picard – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.