Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: Discovery, Voyager, First Contact, and The Next Generation.
I had fun with Penance. It didn’t have the same charm that The Star Gazer had a week earlier – which had brought back so many different design elements from The Next Generation era that I was in heaven! – but it was a very interesting episode nevertheless. I admired the ties to Deep Space Nine in particular, as that’s a part of the franchise that we don’t see referenced very often, and I also enjoyed exploring the Confederation timeline – a riff on the Mirror Universe that managed to avoid many of the storytelling traps that such a setting has presented in the past.
In terms of the theory list, this week we have three solid debunkings, one more that feels almost certainly debunked, and one confirmation. There are several other theories that are barely hanging on, but with the story at such an early stage – and many things unexplained or only having the barest bones of an explanation – I’m choosing to keep those on the list at least for now.
As always, we’ll start with the debunkings before we jump into the main theory list.
Debunked theory #1:
The captive Borg Queen is the same one from First Contact.
Jumping over to the Confederation timeline meant that this theory was looking less likely, and so it proved. There are still open questions about the nature of the Borg Queen – such as whether every Borg Queen is essentially the same individual – but in terms of this theory, I consider it to be debunked.
I had originally posited that the Federation may have saved and even reactivated the remains of the Borg Queen that Picard and Data defeated at the climax of First Contact, and that individual could be the same one that Picard and the crew of La Sirena met. But we can now strike it off the list!
Debunked theory #2:
In the Confederation timeline, Picard is not a synth.
It wasn’t clear, as of the end of The Star Gazer, whether Picard would keep his synth body when he hopped over to the Confederation timeline. It seemed reasonable to assume that he might not – the circumstances in which he became a synth were unique, and if Dr Culber was correct in Discovery Season 4, the mind-transfer process was difficult to recreate. Thus I speculated that Picard might be human – and could even be suffering from Irumodic Syndrome.
If Picard lost his synth body, not much would change necessarily – but it could have added an extra dimension to the mission. If Picard knew that he didn’t have long left to live, fixing the timeline could have taken on a very personal angle; a timer that was running out for Picard. As it turned out, Q explained that Picard did in fact acquire a synthetic body in the Confederation timeline thanks to a battle against Gul Dukat.
Debunked theory #3:
The Confederation is an isolationist power.
When we saw what looked like a shield grid protecting Earth in the pre-season trailers, I wondered if we’d see an isolationist Earth rather than an all-conquering empire. This would be very similar to how Earth has appeared in Discovery’s 32nd Century, and there could have been interesting allegories about certain nativist and isolationist political movements in the real world.
As it turned out, the Confederation has set out to conquer the galaxy – and seems to be doing a pretty good job of it! They’ve managed to beat the Borg – somehow – and subjugate races like the Cardassians and Klingons despite possessing technology comparable to the Federation of the prime timeline. The Confederation is still xenophobic and human-centric, but it isn’t the isolationist Earth that I had speculated about.
Almost certainly debunked theory:
Elnor will be assimilated.
When we saw in the pre-season trailers an injured Elnor and a very upset Raffi bathed in the eerie green light that we so often associate with the Borg, I put two and two together and speculated that we could see Elnor attacked by the Borg Queen. It seemed plausible to suggest that he was in the early stages of assimilation – but the closing seconds of Penance have changed my mind!
Elnor was shot by one of the Magistrate’s goons when they beamed aboard La Sirena, and I think what we’re about to see is that the clip from the trailers was taken from the next episode with Elnor being treated for that phaser or disruptor injury. I certainly hope he’ll be okay!
So those theories have been debunked (probably)!
We also have one confirmed theory, so let’s briefly look at that before we get into the main list.
The Borg Queen will be necessary for time travel.
Before the season got going I speculated that the Borg Queen could be used as a kind of time machine, and we got confirmation of that in Penance. Dr Jurati believes that the Borg Queen will be able to make the necessary calculations to send La Sirena back to the 21st Century, something that the ship and crew would be unable to do without her, apparently.
I had initially speculated that the Borg Queen may possess some unique technology that allowed her to travel through time, something that could have accounted for her appearance in First Contact, but it seems that the real reason is somewhat simpler! Still, we can count this theory as officially confirmed – our first confirmation of the season!
So that theory was confirmed.
Now let’s get into the main theory list, beginning with theories that are new or saw significant movement in Penance.
Laris will join the mission back in time.
This theory is officially on very thin ice! Laris is dead in the Confederation timeline, killed by General Picard’s forces some years previously. Every other main character (except Soji, who we’ll come to in a moment) awoke in the Confederation timeline in the bodies of their counterparts; if Laris has no Confederation timeline counterpart, presumably she is dead or else can’t exist in this timeline.
It’s certainly possible that Laris will become a driving force for Picard, spurring him on to find a way to restore the timeline. If he reconsiders his position on love, he could want to return to her, or his adventure could give him a new appreciation for her. But Orla Brady, who plays Laris, had been promoted to a main cast member at the beginning of the season, and I’m pretty sure we saw at least one clip of her in one of the pre-season trailers that we didn’t see in The Star Gazer. How could she come back? Well, isn’t it obvious? Q’s magic! Q could bring her back, allowing her to join the mission.
Picard and the crew will have to prevent Donald Trump’s re-election.
So if you’re new here, you’re probably thinking that I’ve officially lost my marbles. I totally have, by the way, but that’s incidental. When I write up my theories, I like to include some real left-field ones if I think of them. It’s fun, and while this theory would certainly be something completely different, Picard as a whole has been a different kind of Star Trek show. So why not court controversy and bring a real-life political figure into the story?
Q explained to Picard that one of the differences in the Confederation timeline is that Earth failed at preventing climate change, instead finding ways to paper over the cracks. Donald Trump’s energy policies were very pro-fossil fuels during his tenure, and he’s a known climate change “sceptic.” Secondly we have the date that Picard and the crew will travel to: 2024. That’s the date of the next United States presidential election – an election in which Donald Trump is rumoured to be a candidate.
So could it be that the point of divergence that started the Confederation timeline and ruined the entire Star Trek galaxy is… Donald Trump’s election as president?
Soji will appear in the Confederation timeline – but she’ll look very different.
Where’s Soji? She wasn’t aboard the Stargazer or Excelsior when they confronted the Borg, and she wasn’t seen at all in Penance. But if synth-building techniques are good enough to create a golem for Picard, then the same process could have been used to create the Confederation timeline version of Soji, right?
Synths look a lot more basic in the Confederation timeline, with Harvey appearing to be much closer to the prime timeline’s F8 than even someone like Data, so it’s possible that if Soji does exist, she looks quite different. She could even look similar to Sutra – her “evil twin” from the Season 1 finale. If that’s the case, though, I hope the makeup is done better this time! I don’t think I could take a whole season of the awful gold makeup from Season 1…
The mission back in time won’t last all season.
If Picard and the crew make it back to 2024 in the next episode, that still leaves a lot of the season remaining for them to repair the damage to the timeline. Perhaps this is as much a wish as a theory – time travel stories that visit the modern day have never been my favourites in Star Trek – but I wonder if there could be something truly unexpected coming afterwards.
With Q involved in the story, he could send Picard and the crew to another alternate timeline or parallel universe, for example. Or after the timeline is repaired, we could see Picard and the crew engage in a battle against the Borg – we still don’t know what was going on with the new Borg Queen and the Legion ship from The Star Gazer. In short, there are many different ways that the season could go after a jaunt to the past.
I’d also point out that, aside from a few clips from the 21st Century, the first two episodes of the season seem to have included most of the clips from pre-season trailers and teasers, which could mean that the latter part of the season is hiding something big!
The Q Continuum has been attacked.
What’s wrong with Q? That was a question Picard asked that went unanswered in Penance, but there’s clearly something different about Q this time. Though at times he has the same impish charm that we remember from his earlier appearances in the franchise, at other moments he seemed incredibly angry – even hitting Picard at one point.
Perhaps there’s something going on in the Q Continuum – the Continuum could have come under attack, for example, and Q could be one of the few survivors. If something that Picard did or didn’t do is partly to blame, that could explain Q’s antagonistic behaviour.
Though the Q Continuum and the Q species seem god-like from our perspective, it’s not impossible to think that someone found a weakness to exploit. Could it be the Borg, perhaps? Q’s anger could stem from the fact that Picard didn’t do enough to stop them.
Q is approaching the end of his life.
A simpler explanation could be that Q, like Picard, is coming to the end of his life. From Picard’s perspective it’s been 20+ years since he last saw Q, but Q could have lived thousands or even millions of years before choosing to re-visit his “old friend.” Maybe the Q are not entirely timeless and immortal, and perhaps Q is aware that he’s coming to the end of his life. Or if there’s something wrong with the Q Continuum, Q could be dying as a result.
This would potentially open up the Q-Picard relationship, giving the two a chance to discuss what it means to come to the end of one’s life. Picard could even help Q as he faces this new and unsettling turn of events.
Q is angry with Picard for “giving up.”
Over the course of The Next Generation, Q took a particular interest in Picard. More so than anyone else, Q seemed to see potential in Picard as a representative of the human race, someone who potentially showed him what humanity could be… with a little prompting and guidance. Q seemed fascinated by that idea, so seeing Picard’s fall from grace may have shocked him and left him feeling disappointed and bitter.
Picard spent more than a decade away from galactic affairs, retiring to his vineyard and seemingly just waiting around to die. Someone like Q might take that personally; he might feel that Picard was not living up to the potential he had. Perhaps Picard’s absence had some kind of unknown consequence, something that harmed Q or the Q Continuum. In any case, Q’s animosity to Picard seems to be personal – could disappointment at Picard’s attitude in the years prior to Season 1 be the cause?
The Borg ship from The Star Gazer crossed over from the Confederation timeline.
As far as we know at this stage, the Confederation timeline replaced the prime timeline thanks to someone or something changing the past. But timelines and parallel universes often go hand-in-hand in Star Trek, and after we learned about the Borg’s defeat in the Confederation timeline, I wonder if their ship from the season premiere might have found a way to punch through or cross over into the prime timeline.
If the Borg were facing defeat, as their message seemed to suggest, perhaps that could explain why. Also, the anomaly that the ship emerged from was not a typical transwarp conduit; we’d seen transwarp corridors as recently as Season 1. Finally, the Borg Queen of the Confederation timeline was aware of Picard and the history of the prime timeline – perhaps the Confederation timeline Borg knew of the prime timeline and this was a last-ditch effort to survive.
The Borg are fighting a war – and they’re losing.
Possibly connected to the theory above, one explanation for the Borg’s message and appearance in The Star Gazer is that in the prime timeline the Collective has found itself on the losing side of a war. Penance told us that the Confederation had been able to defeat the Borg using technology that Dr Jurati believed was roughly equivalent to the Federation’s in the prime timeline – so clearly it’s possible to fight and beat the Borg.
Could mentions of Gul Dukat or Martok in Penance be hints at something to come later in the story? Both characters were major players during Deep Space Nine’s Dominion War arc; maybe the Cardassians and/or the Dominion have been aggressively attacking the Borg in the late 24th Century. The other big culprit is the Confederation – assuming that it’s possible for the two timelines to mix!
The masked, hooded figure from The Star Gazer is not the real Borg Queen.
The Borg Queen – the hooded figure who materialised on the bridge of the Stargazer – was absolutely terrifying, evoking feelings for me that the Star Trek franchise hasn’t hit in decades. The way this character was presented, with her shrouded face, flowing robes, monochromatic aesthetic, and blend of humanoid and decidedly non-humanoid mechanical features was simultaneously riveting and frightening!
This character was presented as the Borg Queen in the episode, and the Borg have no reason that we know of to lie about that. But at the same time, she was very different not only from how we’ve seen the Borg Queen in past iterations of Star Trek, but she also looked very different to clips we’ve seen in trailers and teasers for Season 2. Could it be that this character will be revealed to be somebody else?
The masked, hooded Borg is Admiral Janeway.
This theory could apply whether the Borg on the Stargazer is the Queen or not! Admiral Janeway was assimilated by the Borg Queen as part of her plan to introduce a neurolytic pathogen into the Collective, and appeared to have been killed when the Borg Queen’s complex exploded. But is there a way she could have survived?
Her assimilation could have been a turning point for the Borg. She did untold damage to the Collective, but also potentially gifted them knowledge and information about future events and technologies that were decades ahead of their time. Just like the Borg once chose Captain Picard to become Locutus – their “spokesperson” or representative – perhaps they might have chosen Admiral Janeway to fill a similar role during this latest incursion. Admiral Janeway could even have been incorporated as part of the Borg Queen.
The masked, hooded Borg is Soji.
Soji represents a different kind of synthetic life, and may be of interest to the Borg as a result. If the Borg are aware of what transpired in Season 1 on Coppelius, one possible reason for their re-emergence could be to target the synths. The Borg seek “perfection” through the synthesis of organic and synthetic parts; if Coppelius synths like Soji have something that the Borg want, perhaps we’ll learn that they assimilated her to get it.
The anomaly from which the Borg vessel emerged was not a standard transwarp corridor, and was specifically noted to emit some kind of temporal radiation. Thus the Borg vessel could be from a future date after Soji has already been assimilated. We could even learn that the super-synths from the Season 1 finale are actually the Borg; that could be how they first became aware of Soji and the Coppelius synths.
The Borg are aware that Picard is now a synth – and his synthetic status is part of the reason why they waited until now to make contact.
Continuing in the same vein, the timing of the new Borg incursion is interesting, especially considering that they asked for Picard by name. Are they aware of his newfound synthetic status? And if so, could Picard’s transition to a new synthetic body be the reason why the Borg chose to launch their attack?
The Borg seek “perfection” through a synthesis of organic and synthetic components, and while Picard’s new synthetic body is a far cry from the Borg drones we’ve seen, the idea of an organic mind in a synthetic body isn’t a million miles away from that same basic idea. Although Picard’s body was said to be comparable in practically every way to his original one, synthetics can have enhanced abilities that allow them to easily overpower humans – and, as we’ve seen with Data on more than one occasion, they can outmatch individual Borg drones as well.
Perhaps the Borg want to re-assimilate Picard now that he’s synthetic. If the Collective is still reeling from the damage inflicted upon it by Admiral Janeway or if they’re on the losing side of a war, perhaps they hope to use fully-synthetic bodies like Picard’s to replace damaged or destroyed drones, or as cannon fodder on the front lines. There are many reasons why the Borg might be interested in synthetic technology, and that could explain their re-emergence.
Even if the Borg don’t plan to assimilate Picard or the Coppelius synths, the timing of their appearance is certainly interesting and there could be a connection.
Q is not responsible for changing the timeline.
This theory is definitely feeling less and less likely… but as of Penance, the role Q has actually played in what happened is still not certain. The events of the past couple of episodes can certainly be interpreted as Q being the one who deliberately and willingly changed the timeline, and that’s certainly the assumption that Picard has made. However, Q himself didn’t admit responsibility, and while he certainly knows a lot about the Confederation timeline, there may be more going on than we’re currently assuming.
Given the more angry, aggressive presentation of Q that we saw in Penance, what would his goal or objective be if he changed the timeline? It doesn’t seem as though he’s setting up a puzzle for Picard to solve, and if he wanted to punish him for some perceived slight or wrongdoing, would this be how he’d do it? I can think of a million-and-one creative ways that a being with Q’s powers could punish or torture someone, and changing the timeline in a way that could be fixed, while also ensuring Picard could find his friends, doesn’t seem like the best option from Q’s point of view.
Someone like Q doesn’t make for a good villain from a storytelling perspective, either. Q’s powers would essentially mean that he could undo any victory that Picard could hope to win – he could fling them forwards in time if they approached the 2020s, for example, ensuring they would never be able to undo whatever changes had been made. Or Q could snap his fingers and leave the crew isolated on a desert island with no way to escape. In short, Picard was able to solve Q’s previous puzzles because Q allowed him to – or wanted him to. If Q really wants to change the timeline to punish Picard, there’s less than nothing Picard could do to stop him.
I have a longer article that goes into more detail about this theory that I wrote before the season premiere, and you can find it by clicking or tapping here.
Q shielded Picard and the crew from changes to the timeline.
One way in which Q could be involved would be to have protected Picard – and his new crew – from changes to the timeline. There are many reasons why he might do this, and it could apply regardless of whether Q changed the timeline himself or not. If the entire timeline has been changed going back centuries, there has to be a reason why Picard and the crew of La Sirena are seemingly the only ones unaffected – and one explanation for that could be “Q’s magic.”
This would be in line with how we’ve known Q to operate. Episodes like Tapestry and All Good Things saw him use his powers to place Picard in an alternate life while retaining his original memories, and to move between three different time periods. Such a power is something we know Q can use, and it would explain two key things: how Picard and the crew of La Sirena remained unaffected, and how Q is involved in the story.
Who is responsible for damaging the timeline, then?
If Q isn’t the one who changed the timeline, the obvious question that raises is “who did it?”
In theory, it could be any one of a number of different Star Trek factions. We’ve seen the Klingons having access to time travel in the early 25th Century, for example, in the Voyager episode Endgame, and various time travel stories and stories depicting powerful alien races could all theoretically yield suspects. But considering what we know about Star Trek: Picard specifically, in my view the main suspects are as follows:
- The Borg. The Borg could be one of the season’s main antagonists after their emergence in The Star Gazer, and we’ve seen in past iterations of Star Trek that they can travel through time.
- The Zhat Vash. While the Zhat Vash may not have been shown to possess time travel tech, they were the primary antagonist last season, and arguably were not defeated in the Season 1 finale.
- The super-synths. The super-synths from the Season 1 finale are a wildcard; we don’t know much about them except that they seem to be technologically powerful. Travelling back in time might be on their agenda – but erasing the prime timeline could result in the erasure of the Coppelius synths.
- The Romulan government or the Tal Shiar. With or without the support of the Zhat Vash, the Romulan government could have taken action against the Federation in response to the events of Season 1.
There are undoubtedly other Star Trek factions who could be implicated, and if we had a free choice we could suggest the likes of the Dominion or the Sphere-Builders. But I think those are far less likely when considering the elements Picard has brought on board.
Guinan will be aware of the shifting timelines.
In The Next Generation Season 3 episode Yesterday’s Enterprise, Guinan demonstrated a unique awareness of changes to the timeline. The Borg Queen seemed to have a similar ability in Penance, and I wonder if the Confederation timeline version of Guinan is aware that something is wrong. If so, perhaps she will seek out Picard before he travels back in time.
This was one of my pre-season theories, as it seemed to fit with what we know of Guinan. However, it’s possible that Guinan’s role in the season won’t be particularly big, and what we saw of her conversation with Picard in The Star Gazer could be all there is! If we don’t see her before Picard travels back in time, we can probably strike this theory from the list – but as of the end of Penance, it remains in play.
The Confederation is run by augmented humans.
We didn’t get confirmation of this in Penance, so perhaps this theory should be struck from the list. But it’s possible, at least in my view, that the Confederation timeline represents one in which human genetic engineering was never outlawed. Khan-like “supermen” may have come to dominate the human race, and we could learn that humans of this timeline – like General Picard – were genetically engineered.
The inclusion of a new character played by Brent Spiner – who may or may not be named Adam Soong – could be connected to this, as we know that the Soong family was involved in human augmentation in the prime timeline. Khan is perhaps Star Trek’s best-known augment, and he intended to govern in the kind of militaristic, dictatorial style that the Confederation has adopted.
If this theory were true I think I’d have expected to see more direct evidence of it in Penance… but with Picard and the crew still in the Confederation timeline, perhaps there’s still time to learn that augments are involved in its governance. That could even be the point of divergence that created this alternate timeline.
So those theories are new or saw movement this week.
Next, as always, I like to recap all of the other theories that are still in play. These theories didn’t move at all in Penance, but remain possibilities for later in the season.
There will be a connection between the augments and Strange New Worlds.
One of the few things we know about Strange New Worlds at this early stage is that there will be a character named La’an Noonien-Singh. This new character seems to be related in some way to the iconic villain Khan, and if Khan or Khan-inspired augments play some kind of a role in the Confederation’s power structure, perhaps that will set up a connection – or even a crossover – between Picard Season 2 and Strange New Worlds.
Dr Jurati will unleash the Borg Queen.
Sticking with the Borg Queen, we’ve seen several teases and clips that seem to show her on the loose. If this version of the Borg Queen was originally a captive – as the trailers have seemed to suggest – the question of how she was able to break free raises its head. It’s of course possible that she’s smart enough and powerful enough to break out of her confinement on her own, but she might also be able to convince someone to help her.
Dr Jurati is the cyberneticist that we met in Season 1, and she has a real love for all things synthetic. She seems to know a lot about the Borg, including the status of the Collective, and as we saw in Season 1 her fascination and sympathy for synthetic life is a very powerful motivating factor for her – so much so that she was able to break out of her Zhat Vash brainwashing and didn’t harm Soji. Given all of that, perhaps the Borg Queen is going to be able to convince Dr Jurati to let her guard down or even loosen her restraints.
There will be a reference to Gabriel Bell or Sanctuary Districts.
According to the trailers, Picard Season 2 will be paying a visit to the year 2024… but it isn’t the first Star Trek production to visit that specific year! If Picard Season 2 wanted to visit “the modern day,” why not pick 2022 – or 2021 or 2023? 2024 feels like it could hold some kind of significance, and though there have been a couple of other references to events in the 2020s, the Deep Space Nine third season two-part episode Past Tense has already taken us to 2024.
The biggest event that we know of took place in California – the Bell Riots. I don’t necessarily expect to see the Bell Riots depicted all over again, but we could get some kind of reference to Gabriel Bell – the man who led the riots. There could also be mentions of “Sanctuary Districts,” which were areas built to house homeless people that became overcrowded prisons. Given that Picard Season 2 is going to visit the California area, some kind of reference seems plausible.
Considering the current problem with homelessness in some American cities – including in California – it could be an interesting point of social commentary to revisit some of the themes tackled by Past Tense. That episode’s depiction of the 2020s feels a little too close for comfort to the state of the real world, in some respects!
There will be some kind of crossover with Star Trek: Discovery.
One thing that I find a little odd right now is the scheduling of Picard and Discovery. For three weeks, the two shows will be broadcast on the same day, which doesn’t make a lot of sense when you consider that 1) they’re shows with relatively short seasons, and 2) Paramount+ is a streaming platform. Does that mean there’s a glimmer of hope for some kind of larger-scale crossover than either show has attempted so far?
I suspect I’ll be proven wrong on this one, and that it’s simply due to the inexplicable nonsense that we’ve come to expect from Paramount+ and parent company Paramount Global. Someone has evidently decided that “Thursday is Star Trek day,” and that’s inflexible no matter what. That still doesn’t explain why Picard Season 2 couldn’t be delayed by a measly three weeks, though – especially with the constipated international rollout of Paramount+ potentially meaning that Strange New Worlds will premiere in the USA weeks or months before Paramount+ arrives in Europe. But we’re off topic!
In short, one possible explanation for the odd scheduling could be because the two shows are planning some kind of crossover event; if so, I’d love to see it! And with time travel on the agenda, anything is possible, right? At the very least, I hope that Picard Season 2 will put in more of an effort to connect with Discovery than happened in Season 1.
Picard and the crew will have to actively trigger World War III to save the future.
Although the Bell Riots are the main event of 2024 that we know about in Star Trek’s internal timeline, the 21st Century was arguably dominated by another event: World War III. The war may have kicked off as early as 2026 (as suggested in The Original Series) and concluded by the mid-2050s as seen in First Contact. The “post-atomic horror” that followed was the backdrop for Q’s trial in Encounter at Farpoint.
World War III is integral to Star Trek because without it, it’s hard to see how warp drive would’ve developed and how humanity would’ve made peaceful first contact with the Vulcans. Just like the end of the Second World War brought about major technological and societal changes that ultimately made the world a better place, Star Trek’s World War III is integral to the events that led to the founding of the Federation. If it were prevented, the timeline would change dramatically.
So my theory is that the point of divergence is the outbreak of World War III – meaning that it will fall to Picard to trigger one of the worst wars in human history in order to save the future. Talk about a moral dilemma! You can find a full write-up of this theory by clicking or tapping here.
Romulans are spying on Earth in the 21st Century… and could be time-travelling Zhat Vash.
In the third trailer, a young boy wearing what seemed to be 21st Century clothing was seen encountering a Romulan or Vulcan. If the Zhat Vash are involved in the new season’s story somehow, perhaps this individual is a Zhat Vash operative. This could confirm that the Zhat Vash were able to travel through time, or send a message back in time to their 21st Century counterparts. The Romulans had achieved interstellar flight centuries earlier, so travelling to Earth to spy or place operatives seems plausible for them.
Of all the scenes we’ve glimpsed so far from Season 2, the one with the young boy and the Romulan or Vulcan is the one that I’m least sure about! It doesn’t seem to fit naturally into a story about the Borg, Q, and time travel… but this is one theory that could make sense, and would connect to the theory above about Q not being to blame.
The Vulcans are on Earth in the early 21st Century… as stated in Discovery Season 4.
Another theory about the unnamed Romulan or Vulcan is tied into the Discovery Season 4 episode The Galactic Barrier. This could easily be a complete overreaction to a throwaway line, but at the beginning of the episode, the enigmatic Federation leader Dr Kovich stated that Vulcans were on Earth for decades prior to official first contact taking place.
This one line could be a reference to Carbon Creek, an episode of Enterprise that saw Vulcans crash-land on Earth in the 1950s. But the timing seems odd given the scene glimpsed in the Picard Season 2 trailers! If the character seen above is a Vulcan, perhaps there will be a connection of some kind between Discovery and Picard.
At least one character from The Next Generation will make an appearance.
With the return of Guinan and Q, as well as Voyager’s Seven of Nine, there are already a lot of returning characters in Picard Season 2! But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for a well-placed cameo or two, or even an episode like Season 1’s Nepenthe that steps away from the main story to revisit classic characters. We could even have a bit of fun with some alternate timeline versions of them!
There are so many characters from Star Trek’s past that I would love to spend more time with; listing them all here would be impossible! But if Picard is to end with Season 3, as some outlets have been reporting, it would be fantastic if the crew of The Next Generation could reunite one last time.
I have a list of possible character crossovers that I wrote back in 2020, before we got to see any teasers or trailers, and you can find it by clicking or tapping here.
The Federation is responsible for creating the Borg.
This is a total wildcard, but I’m just throwing it out there!
The Borg Queen – and the Borg in general – appear to have a fascination with humanity and with Picard. Could it be that the explanation for that is that the Federation and/or humanity are somehow responsible for their creation? With time travel on the agenda, it’s not impossible to imagine a scenario in which the progenitor of the Borg – perhaps even the Queen herself – is able to travel back in time, founding the Collective.
The idea that the Federation is responsible for creating its own worst nightmare could be an interesting one if executed well, as could the cyclical nature of such a story. It would have to be handled in just the right way to avoid treading on the toes of previous Borg stories, but it feels like a lot of the pieces exist for this theory to seem plausible. The return of the Borg, the inclusion of Q, and even the talk of Picard and humanity needing to pay a “penance” could all be connected.
Discovery Season 2 ran a story with the Control AI that could have also been a Borg origin story. Was it known as early as 2018-19 that Picard wanted to tell a story like this, and if so, could that explain why the Control storyline ended the way it did? I have a write-up of Discovery’s abandoned Borg origin story that you can find by clicking or tapping here.
The USS Stargazer will make an appearance.
Okay, technically the USS Stargazer has already appeared, but not in the way I expected! Captain Rios is (or was) in command of a new USS Stargazer, and not only that but he had a model of the original vessel in his conference room! So that’s it. Theory confirmed, everybody can move on to the next one!
Just kidding. The inclusion of a brand-new USS Stargazer brings the ship and its legacy back to the fore. Picard himself commented in The Star Gazer that the original vessel was his first command, and as far back as Season 1 we had a reference to his time in command through the character of Dr Benayoun. All of these things could be leading to some bigger role for the original USS Stargazer – and with a story that seems to include time travel and a strong focus on Picard’s own personal history, a flashback or even a visit to the ship could be on the agenda!
By restoring the timeline, Picard – and everyone aboard the Stargazer – will die.
As far as we know based on what’s been teased and shown off in various clips and trailers, a big part of the storyline this season will be undoing whatever damage was done in the 21st Century and restoring the true timeline. But if that happens, and the timeline is fully restored, that means that Picard, Captain Rios, Dr Jurati, and Seven of Nine will be on board the USS Stargazer when it self-destructs. Raffi and Elnor will be aboard the USS Excelsior in the same moment – and their ship could be destroyed as well.
If this story turns into a two-season arc, perhaps the final episode of Season 3 – which is rumoured to be the end of the show entirely – will see Picard and the crew restore the timeline, only to spend their final seconds aboard the Stargazer before it’s destroyed. This would be a bittersweet ending – to say the least!
The season will end on a cliffhanger.
Because Seasons 2 and 3 went into production back-to-back, that made me wonder if they might form one continuous story – or if the final act of Season 2 might set up the story for Season 3. Star Trek has a long history of season-ending cliffhangers, such as The Best of Both Worlds in The Next Generation, Equinox in Voyager, and Such Sweet Sorrow in Discovery, to give just three examples.
Something in The Star Gazer could be relevant, though. If the story we’re going to see is all about restoring the correct timeline and undoing whatever damage has been done, then assuming Picard and co. succeed in their objective… won’t that place them back on the bridge of the Stargazer just as it’s about to self-destruct? If that’s the case, maybe it won’t happen this season and will instead be the finale of Season 3, with Season 2 ending on a cliffhanger at the story’s halfway mark.
The Borg Collective was badly damaged in the Voyager episode Endgame and has been unable to recover.
In The Star Gazer, it seemed as if the Borg Collective was reaching out, asking the Federation – and Picard specifically – for help. If so, the question is why? Was it just a shallow ploy to launch another attack on Starfleet? Or is there at least a degree of truth to the Borg’s request?
Endgame, the final episode of Voyager, depicted a time-travelling Admiral Janeway introducing a neurolytic pathogen – a type of virus – into the Borg Queen, seriously damaging her, her base of operations, and several Borg vessels in the vicinity. Because the Borg hadn’t been seen since – until The Star Gazer, that is – we never got to learn just how deadly Admiral Janeway’s actions were.
I’ve always assumed that the Borg Collective is vast enough, powerful enough, clever enough, and most importantly adaptable enough that Admiral Janeway’s actions weren’t going to strike a fatal blow. Whatever damage she had done seemed like something the Borg could eventually fix – and their existence 25 years later during the events of The Star Gazer seems to prove that. The Borg’s technology and weapons are still streets ahead of anything Starfleet has at its disposal… but even so, it’s still possible that the Borg are on their last legs facing defeat.
If that’s the case, maybe we’ll discover that it was Admiral Janeway who’s responsible – that her actions in Endgame are either wholly or partly to blame for the Borg’s weakened state. Dr Jurati seemed to know that the Borg Collective isn’t as strong as it once was, so that could be another clue pointing to this theory.
The loose ends from Season 1 will be tied up.
The Star Gazer already crossed off two things from the list of Season 1 leftovers! Dr Jurati’s legal status was clarified, as was her relationship with Captain Rios. There are still a number of points that I’d like to see addressed before the season ends, though, as Season 1 unfortunately left quite a lot of story on the table thanks to a rushed and underwhelming finale.
Here are the main ones:
- What will become of the synths on Coppelius, and will they have to be relocated for safety?
- Did Starfleet attempt to visit Aia and shut down the beacon at the centre of the Zhat Vash’s prophecy? Leaving it out in the open seems dangerous.
- Will Starfleet contact the super-synths and attempt to make peace or convince them that they pose no threat?
- Why did Bruce Maddox go to Freecloud?
- With the Zhat Vash plot exposed, what will become of their crusade against synthetic life?
- Did Federation-Romulan relations suffer as a result of the Zhat Vash’s attack on Mars and attempted attack on Coppelius?
- What happened to Narek after he was captured by the Coppelius synths?
- Who controls the Artifact and what will happen to the surviving ex-Borg?
So that’s it!
We have a lot of theories in play at this early stage, but there’s plenty of time for more to develop over the next few episodes. It seems as though Picard and the crew of La Sirena will soon begin their mission to the year 2024, and we could soon learn more about what exactly happened in that year that set humanity and Earth on a very different, very dark path.
I always like to end these theory lists by saying that I do this just for fun. I enjoy writing, I enjoy Star Trek, and spending more time in this world is an escape and an enjoyable distraction. But for some folks, fan theories can be frustrating or unenjoyable, especially if they get very attached to a plausible-sounding theory that ultimately doesn’t pan out. I have no “insider information” and I’m not trying to claim that anything suggested above can, will, or must be part of Picard Season 2. I fully expect many of these theories to be debunked and for the season to go in wildly unpredictable directions!
Star Trek: Picard Season 2 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, Scandinavia, Latin America, and Australia, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and the rest of the world. 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.