Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1 and the trailers and teasers for Season 2. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Original Series Season 1, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine Season 3, Voyager Seasons 2, 3, and 7, and First Contact.
It seems an age ago that we were eagerly anticipating Season 1 of Star Trek: Picard. In those sunlit, rosy days before the pandemic hit, this website was brand-new, and I spent a lot of time in December 2019 and January 2020 looking ahead and wondering what we’d see when the Star Trek franchise finally returned to the 24th Century – after an eighteen-year wait!
With Season 2 of Picard now only days away, I thought it could be fun to revisit a concept from the early days of the website: a list of episodes that I think could make for interesting background viewing, potentially informing story points and characterisations in the new season of Picard. In the run-up to Season 1 I focused on episodes of The Next Generation that strongly featured Captain Picard himself, as well as a few stories about the Romulans, and a few more stories which could’ve potentially led to big changes in the two decades following the events of Endgame and Nemesis.
This time, we have a little bit more information to go on! Season 2 will tell a story that involves (to a greater or lesser degree) the following elements: the Borg Queen, Guinan, Q, time travel, and, of course, Admiral Picard himself. On this occasion, then, I thought it could be fun to pull out twelve stories from Star Trek’s past that might just be useful background viewing for Season 2 of Picard. It goes without saying that Season 1 is mandatory viewing, so I’m not putting any of those episodes on this list! You should really watch, or re-watch, all ten before the season kicks off!
My usual caveats apply, as they always do! Firstly, everything listed below is entirely subjective. If I miss out an episode that you think is incredibly important, or you hate all of my picks, that’s okay! We all have different opinions about Star Trek, and there’s no need to fight about it. Secondly, I don’t claim to have any “insider information.” I’m basing my theories and guesses about Season 2 on publicly released material, such as trailers and interviews. And finally, the episodes are not ranked; they’re merely listed below in the order in which they were originally broadcast.
With all of that out of the way, let’s jump into the list!
Tomorrow is Yesterday
The Original Series Season 1 (1967)
Though The City on the Edge of Forever is perhaps the best-known of The Original Series’ time travel stories, Tomorrow is Yesterday preceded it by several months. It was the first episode of the Star Trek franchise where time travel played a major role in the story, and it was also the first in which the crew paid a visit to the modern day. Tomorrow is Yesterday established what went on to become a mainstay in terms of the franchise’s time travel story tropes: being sent back in time by accident!
Aside from being a fun episode in its own right and well worth a watch, Tomorrow is Yesterday is also the episode which introduced the Star Trek franchise to something that appears to be making a return in Picard Season 2: the slingshot method of travelling through time, referred to in this episode as the “light-speed breakaway factor.”
Almost every Star Trek series has included the occasional time travel story, and we can look to episodes like Tomorrow is Yesterday for creating that premise. Visiting the modern world would go on to be significant later in The Original Series, in Star Trek IV, and on several other significant occasions in the franchise. For me, some of these stories can feel rather dated, but I think Tomorrow is Yesterday largely avoids that trap!
As we get ready for Picard Season 2 and the franchise’s latest foray into time travel, stepping back to see where it all began during the first season of The Original Series is no bad thing. Tomorrow is Yesterday has a fairly straightforward premise that should be easy enough to follow even for fans who aren’t as familiar with The Original Series, and is well worth a watch on its own merits.
Encounter at Farpoint
The Next Generation Season 1 (1987)
In the first teaser trailer for Picard Season 2, we heard Q’s voice proclaiming that “the trial never ends.” Encounter at Farpoint is the episode in which Captain Picard first encountered Q, and the episode in which the referenced “trial” began. Q accused humanity (and by extension, the Federation) of being a “dangerous, savage, child-race” who are unfit to travel the stars. Picard and his crew defended themselves against the accusation.
The task Q set for Picard was to unravel the mystery of Farpoint Station, which he and the crew of the Enterprise-D were en route to. However, figuring out the puzzle wasn’t the end of the trial, and even after bringing the Farpoint saga to a successful conclusion, Q departed in ambiguous fashion, hinting that he would return. He did, of course, on a number of occasions!
Encounter at Farpoint was the premiere of The Next Generation and established the characters of Picard and Q (as well as many other familiar faces). As we approach Picard Season 2, it’s worth going back to see where it all began. This was the first big puzzle that Q tasked Picard with solving, and seeing how Q operates and what the point of it all is, from his perspective, is well worth taking into consideration.
This is also the beginning of “the trial.” We don’t know to what extent the idea of Picard – and humanity – being on trial will feature in Picard Season 2, but if Q has returned to set up a new mystery there could be a connection – and there could be consequences if Picard and the crew of La Sirena can’t figure it out. Q has toyed with Picard on a number of occasions; Encounter at Farpoint was the first.
The Next Generation Season 2 (1989)
Q Who is the episode that introduced us to the Borg – and it’s a pretty scary one by Star Trek’s standards! Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D have never faced a villain like this, and the Borg represent an existential threat. Q made good on his promise to show Picard that there are dangers in the galaxy that he couldn’t even imagine… and eighteen members of the Enterprise-D’s crew paid the ultimate price.
In a way, Q Who shows Q at his most aggressive, devious, and villainous. By throwing the Enterprise-D into the path of the Borg, he proved his point to Picard about the Federation’s unpreparedness in the most painful way possible. But I don’t believe that’s all there is to the story.
I have a theory about Q Who that you can find by clicking or tapping here. To briefly summarise: Star Trek has made a mess of the history of Borg-Federation contact, and it seems likely that the Borg were already aware of humanity and Earth long before the events of this episode. They may have already been preparing for an attack or assimilation attempt, and Q hoped to prevent that by giving the Federation advance warning.
My theory goes into much more detail! But suffice to say the complicated history of contact between humanity and the Borg makes it seem plausible, at least to me, and shows off an aspect to Q’s character that I think could come into play in Picard Season 2. Q Who also establishes the existence of history between Q and Guinan – something that may come up in Picard Season 2 given that both characters are returning.
The Next Generation Season 3 (1990)
Though it’s a fantastic episode in its own right, Yesterday’s Enterprise is on this list for one reason: Guinan. When a rift in the space-time continuum sends the Enterprise-C forward through time, decades’ worth of history are changed, leaving the Federation in a very bleak timeline in which it’s fighting a losing war against the Klingons.
Aboard the warship Enterprise-D, Captain Picard and the rest of the crew are completely oblivious to the change; this version of the characters have only ever known the war timeline. But Guinan alone realises that something has gone wrong, and argues with Captain Picard about how to set things right.
Despite a recent controversy, Whoopi Goldberg will be reprising the role of Guinan in Picard Season 2, bringing the character back for the first time since Generations in 1994. Given that we know Season 2 also features a radically changed timeline, not dissimilar to the one seen in Yesterday’s Enterprise, perhaps Guinan will be aware of the change.
Guinan could be the one to talk to Picard about the possible point of divergence, as we know she’d visited Earth in the 19th Century. She may also be one of the only people other than the crew of La Sirena to be aware that something has changed. Guinan also has a history with Q, as we saw in the episode Q Who – so that could also come into play!
Time’s Arrow Parts I-II
The Next Generation Seasons 5-6 (1992)
Guinan also plays a key role in the two-part episode Time’s Arrow. Thanks to time travel, this is the episode where she and Captain Picard actually have their first meeting, and although the nature of their relationship is still shrouded in mystery, we get a little bit more information about how they came to meet in the first place.
Guinan’s fascination with Earth appears to date back to at least the 19th Century, as she visited undercover during that time period. We know from the most recent Picard Season 2 trailer that Guinan appears to be running a bar on Earth at the dawn of the 25th Century, giving her an association with Earth and humanity that stretches back over five hundred years.
Time’s Arrow is an interesting story that mostly focuses on Data, who was of course a huge part of the story of Picard Season 1. It seems as though Brent Spiner will be playing a new role in Season 2 – perhaps another ancestor of the Soong family – so getting a bit of extra data on Data could be worthwhile, too!
One thing I’m personally curious about in Picard Season 2 is if we’ll get any further backstory on the Picard-Guinan relationship. Although Time’s Arrow depicts their first meeting from Guinan’s perspective, we’ve still never learned how they came to meet in the 24th Century from Picard’s point of view. All we know is that it likely happened prior to his assuming command of the Enterprise-D. I don’t know if Picard Season 2 will expand on that in any way… but it would be interesting!
The Next Generation Season 6 (1993)
Tapestry is a really interesting episode that deals with the dynamic between Q and Picard, and specifically looks at the nuances present in their relationship. Picard has always viewed Q as an adversary, but I’ve argued in the past that Q doesn’t see himself that way. He views Picard as a friend, and himself as a guide or even an ally – and the way Tapestry unfolds kind of shows why that is.
When Picard is injured on an away mission, he finds himself close to death. At that moment, he encounters Q – who claims he’s already dead. Q gives Picard a chance to avert his death by changing a key event in his past – getting stabbed shortly after graduating from Starfleet Academy – but doing so sets Picard’s life and career on a completely different path.
The important thing here is how Q views the whole affair. We can entertain debates on whether or not Q actually sent Picard back in time or whether it was all an elaborate illusion, but that’s entirely beside the point. Q genuinely believed that he was helping – that by showing Picard an alternate life, he gave him an appreciation for the life he had actually led, even if that meant it was about to end.
I firmly believe that there’s more going on with Q in Season 2 than meets the eye. It’s possible that he didn’t change the timeline at all, and is merely responsible for shielding Picard and the crew of La Sirena from it. It’s also possible that he did change it as part of an elaborate puzzle, one which he hopes and expects that Picard will be able to solve. Speaking of which…
All Good Things…
The Next Generation Season 7 (1994)
All Good Things is the best example of this aspect of the dynamic between Picard and Q, and could – in theory – be a template for the events of Picard Season 2. In All Good Things, the Q Continuum sets a puzzle for Picard – an eruption of “anti-time.” Thanks to the time-travelling interventions of Q, Picard is able to hop between three different periods of his own past to solve the mystery.
The solution to the anti-time eruption required Picard to challenge his own way of thinking, specifically his linear perception of cause-and-effect. Being able to recognise that events in the future had a causal link to events in the past greatly impressed Q, who seemed to suggest that it was the first step on a path that could one day see humanity evolve into beings comparable to the Q themselves.
All Good Things was also Picard’s last dalliance with Q prior to the events of Picard Season 2. As far as we know at this stage, Q hasn’t been to see Picard in the approximately twenty-five years since the events of All Good Things – but that could change as we get into the new season. It’s possible, at least in my opinion, that Q might’ve been interested to see Picard at his lowest ebb, possibly showing up to see if he could provoke him into action. But we’ll save a detailed explanation of that for my next theory post!
It’s possible that the trailers and teasers for Season 2 have already revealed the nature of Q’s involvement in the story: that he is directly responsible for changing the timeline, he did so on purpose, and he will be the main villain of the season. But I would argue that the “villain” monicker does not fit with Q’s past characterisation, and thus I suspect that there’s much more going on than meets the eye. All Good Things is both a piece of evidence in favour of that argument, as well as a potential blueprint for how a time travel puzzle set by Q could unfold.
Past Tense, Parts I-II
Deep Space Nine Season 3 (1995)
We know, thanks to a voiceover in the most recent trailer, that at least some of the events of Picard Season 2 take place in the year 2024. But Picard Season 2 isn’t the first Star Trek production to visit that specific year! In Deep Space Nine’s third season, Commander Sisko and the crew of the USS Defiant found themselves accidentally sent back in time to the exact same year.
Past Tense is an interesting story, as it will mark the first time that any episode of Star Trek set in “the future” at the time it was broadcast will be reached, and I’m sure I won’t be alone in doing a full write-up of its story when we hit the end of August 2024! We could talk for hours about how its depressing presentation of the 2020s seemed a long way from reality once upon a time, but with the growth of homelessness and other economic issues, today’s society feels far too close for comfort to the world of the Bell Riots.
I’m not sure how much of Deep Space Nine’s presentation of a fictionalised 2024 will make it into Picard Season 2. It’s possible that the new series will entirely ignore this two-part episode… but I think we should keep an eye open for references or callbacks to some of the characters, events, or even things like brands and products.
Regardless, this will be the first time that two very different Star Trek productions have travelled back in time to the same year, and it might be interesting and informative to take a look at Past Tense to see how Deep Space Nine told us that the year would unfold. It seems as though Picard Season 2 will be set, in part, in California – which is also where Past Tense was set, so that’s another point of connection. I’m not expecting a huge crossover with this one single Deep Space Nine story, but there could easily be references made to it.
Voyager Season 2 (1996)
Captain Picard wasn’t the only Starfleet officer to tangle with Q. After making a sole appearance in Deep Space Nine, Q hopped over to the Delta Quadrant, where he had several run-ins with Captain Janeway during Voyager’s journey home. Q presented a bit of a puzzle for Voyager; his abilities mean that he could have sent the ship and crew back to Earth with a snap of his fingers. But if we can look beyond that narrative hurdle, Q’s appearances in Voyager added a lot to his characterisation.
In Death Wish, we got our best look to date at the Q Continuum itself. Depicted in a manner that humans could comprehend, the Continuum resembled a rather dilapidated roadside house in the middle of the desert. For the first time, we got to see more members of the Q Continuum as well, and got a glimpse of how Q himself is a bit of a radical by the standards of his people.
The idea that the Q Continuum is not an entirely stable, homogeneous place is an interesting one, and was explored in more detail in the episode The Q and the Grey. But Death Wish also presented a very complex moral question – in the longstanding tradition of Star Trek! This episode can be a difficult watch for some folks because of its discussion of suicide, and it’s absolutely fine to skip it if that subject hits too close to home. If the debate around suicide and end-of-life care is something you’re interested in, though, this is a uniquely “Star Trek” attempt to tackle it.
Q emerges from this story as a reformer – or even a radical – by the standards of his people. We also know, thanks to a line in All Good Things, that he was responsible for assisting Picard when the Continuum set the anti-time puzzle. It’s stories like this that make me think that there’s a goodness in Q; that he isn’t just a trickster or a pure villain.
Future’s End, Parts I-II
Voyager Season 3 (1996)
The two-part time travel story Future’s End sees Captain Janeway and the crew of the USS Voyager sent back in time to Earth, circa 1996. It’s another story set in the California area, and I think it’s an interesting episode – albeit one that I feel has become very dated by Star Trek standards!
If Picard Season 2 sticks with things like the Borg and the slingshot method, it seems that the kind of time travel depicted in Future’s End won’t be a factor. But there are still interesting points to consider, such as the Temporal Prime Directive and how Starfleet in the future would come to police the timeline, watching out for changes.
There aren’t a great many Star Trek episodes that visit the modern day, and as I’ve already explained I feel that a modern setting can make such stories feel very out-of-date very quickly. Future’s End definitely falls into this trap; its depiction of Southern California has a very ’90s flavour. But it’s a bit of fun, and dare I say almost a guilty pleasure!
I’m including Future’s End here for its modern day time travel story and its focus on California, both of which are elements that we know will be part of Picard Season 2. As with Past Tense, I don’t expect to see a huge tie-in between the new season and the events of this episode, but there may be smaller callbacks and references to some of the characters and events it depicted.
Star Trek: First Contact
First Contact introduced us to the Borg Queen for the first time, and went into a lot more detail about Picard’s assimilation experience. The Borg Queen was presented as the embodiment of the Borg rather than their leader, and she became a fearsome adversary for Picard and Data over the course of the story.
Season 1 of Picard saw the retired Admiral face his lingering Borg assimilation trauma when he beamed aboard the Artifact in the episode The Impossible Box, but Season 2 will see him come face to face with a Borg Queen for the first time in twenty-five years. For someone who’s clearly suffering from some form of post-traumatic stress, we don’t know what effect that could have.
Picard was violently anti-Borg in First Contact, and we saw hints of that in Picard Season 1 as well. His conversation with Dr Jurati and Elnor in The Impossible Box, as well as the way he responded to some of the xB’s in later episodes, was in line with his attitude to the Borg in First Contact – and I wonder how encountering a Borg Queen will make him feel!
Many Trekkies hold up First Contact as one of the absolute best Star Trek films, and it’s hard to disagree. As an action-packed work of sci-fi with some truly scary elements thanks to the way the Borg are depicted, it’s an exciting ride from start to finish. It also goes into a little more detail about World War III – an event in the history of the Star Trek timeline that could play a role in Picard Season 2. Check out my full World War III theory by clicking or tapping here!
Voyager Season 7 (2001)
Almost five years after First Contact depicted the Borg’s biggest attack on Earth to date, Endgame brought back the Borg Queen in a significant way. The interventions of a time-travelling Admiral Janeway from the future saw the USS Voyager make it home to Earth, and in the process dealt a significant blow to the Borg Collective.
Even though it’s been more than twenty years since Endgame, we don’t actually know what became of the Borg in the aftermath of Admiral Janeway’s attack. I’ve always assumed that the Borg Collective was large enough, clever enough, and adaptable enough to survive the neurolytic pathogen that she introduced into the Borg Queen… but because the Star Trek franchise has yet to return to the Borg post-Endgame, we can’t be certain of that.
Even Season 1 of Picard, which depicted the disabled Borg Cube known as the Artifact, didn’t settle the issue. So it’s an open question at this juncture whether the Collective survived, whether it was significantly damaged by Admiral Janeway’s pathogen, or whether it was able to easily shake off the attack. It seems as though no major Borg activity occurred in Federation space in the twenty-plus years after Endgame, though.
Endgame makes this list because of the Borg Queen’s role in Picard Season 2, and I think it could be very useful background viewing, possibly even setting up a story about the Queen herself or the state of the Borg Collective at the dawn of the 25th Century. On a vaguely related note, I took a deeper look at Admiral Janway’s actions in Endgame, and you can find that article by clicking or tapping here.
So that’s it!
Those are twelve episodes (alright, eleven episodes and a film) that I think might make for useful or interesting viewing prior to Picard Season 2! I think we’ve hit most of the key subjects – at least, those that we’re aware of at this early stage – and got a good mix of stories focusing on Captain Picard, Q, Guinan, time travel, and the Borg Queen.
At the end of the day, though, Star Trek’s past didn’t prove all that important to unravelling the events of Picard Season 1 – nor to recent storylines in Discovery, either. So it’s quite likely, in my view, that Picard Season 2 will bring plenty of brand-new characters and story elements into play. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth going back to these stories and others, but my suspicion at this stage is that the new story won’t rely excessively on what came before.
When Picard Season 2 arrives at the end of next week, I hope you’ll stay tuned for individual episode reviews, theories, and more. Despite the somewhat underwhelming end to Season 1, Picard Season 2 has been one of my most-anticipated shows for almost two years, and I can’t wait to jump in and have another adventure with Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of La Sirena.
Star Trek: Picard Season 2 will premiere on Paramount+ in the United States on the 3rd of March 2022, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and elsewhere 24 hours later. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.