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 a good time with Assimilation this week, an episode that took Picard and the crew of La Sirena to their third new setting of the season so far. There were some interesting new elements added to the story, and at this relatively early stage it feels very open; I’m not sure where we’re going to end up!
In terms of the theory list we have one confirmation and no debunkings – but there are several theories that feel increasingly unlikely as time goes by! We’ll look at the confirmed theory first before we jump into the main list.
There will be a reference to Gabriel Bell or Sanctuary Districts.
When it was revealed that Picard and the crew of La Sirena were going to end up in the year 2024, I speculated that there might be some kind of connection to the Deep Space Nine episode Past Tense, which was also set in the same year. In Assimilation we got references to Sanctuary Districts and UHC cards, both of which were introduced in Past Tense.
In some ways, the dystopian presentation of Earth in Past Tense feels uncomfortably close to reality. The growth of homelessness – particularly in California, where Season 2 of Picard is set – has created encampments of homeless people that don’t look too far removed from Past Tense’s Sanctuary Districts, and it doesn’t seem implausible to think that a political leader might emerge who has policies of “rounding up” homeless people and pushing them away, out of sight. Picard had to acknowledge this somehow, given the setting, and we may get more references – or even a larger connection – in the episodes ahead.
So that theory was confirmed.
Now let’s jump into the main list, beginning with theories that are brand-new or that saw movement in Assimilation.
Who is the Watcher?
I have a few different ideas about who the mysterious “Watcher” could be. Given their connection to the Borg Queen, I think Picard and the crew need to tread very carefully indeed when it comes to this character; they could prove to be dangerous or even a villain.
Watcher Candidate #1:
A member of the Q Continuum.
There are multiple members of the Q Continuum, and not all of them are as belligerent as the Q we’ve come to know and love! Given that this Watcher appears to be someone aware of changes to the timeline, perhaps we’ll learn that they’re a member of the Q Continuum, possibly even someone who is trying to prevent Q from doing… whatever it is that Q may or may not be doing.
Watcher Candidate #2:
The Prophets – noncorporeal aliens who live inside the Bajoran Wormhole – exist outside of linear time. They’ve demonstrated an ability to travel through time, emerging centuries in the past. Given that Sisko also visited the year 2024, could a Prophet have followed him to keep an eye on him? Maybe the Watcher isn’t watching Earth or the timeline, but is instead keeping tabs on Sisko – the Emissary.
Watcher Candidate #3:
A Temporal Agent from the Temporal Wars.
This could potentially set up a tie-in with Discovery or even Enterprise. One of the most likely candidates, perhaps, would be a Temporal Agent from the time of the Temporal Wars. These individuals worked to protect the timeline and prevent anyone from using time travel to make unauthorised or damaging changes.
Watcher Candidate #4:
Considering who it was that told Picard about the Watcher’s existence, some kind of Borg connection cannot be ruled out! Despite having spent a lot of time with the Borg over the past thirty years, there’s still a lot we don’t know about them – for example, do they send scouts to planets they hope to assimilate to watch over them? That could be the Watcher’s purpose, and considering we already know that the Borg are capable of time travel, it seems possible that the Watcher is one of theirs!
Watcher Candidate #5:
A Romulan or Vulcan.
I can’t figure out whether the character shown above is a Romulan – perhaps a Zhat Vash – or a Vulcan. However, if either faction is present on Earth in the 21st Century, perhaps one of their number could be the Watcher.
The Watcher will be aware of Sisko and the USS Defiant in this time period.
I’m not expecting to see Sisko or anyone else from Past Tense appear in person! But maybe when Picard and the crew inevitably meet the Watcher, they will make reference to or acknowledge that the USS Defiant has also passed this way. It would be a fun little connection to Past Tense, and just because we’ve seen references to things like UHC cards and Sanctuary Districts, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for another line or two of dialogue to tie Picard to Deep Space Nine!
Seven of Nine will choose to remain in 2024.
For the first time in her life, Seven of Nine is feeling a sense of freedom. Not only is she free from her Borg implants, changing the way she looks, but she’s also unencumbered by her Borg past. No one she meets in 2024 will be aware of the Borg, and she’s clearly enjoying the way that makes her feel.
In The Star Gazer, Seven spoke to Picard about feeling judged by the ship’s crew – and in a broader sense, by practically everyone in the 25th Century. Her Borg past is a hurdle for her; she feels the weight of unspoken criticisms and judgements made against her. Her Borg implants are the biggest physical manifestation of this, but the fact that most people she meets in the 25th Century know who she is and where she came from is a burden – one she no longer feels in 2024.
With that in mind, could Seven choose to remain behind when Picard and the crew of La Sirena are ready to leave? Even if she’s ultimately talked out of it (or even forced out of it), I wonder if she’ll try to stay in the past.
Rios’ lost combadge is the divergence in time.
This theory, were it to bear out, would set up a kind of temporal paradox. Rios would only have travelled to the past from the Confederation timeline because he’d already been present in the past and lost his combadge – there’s no clear beginning or end point to such a story, and personally I find time-loop paradoxes to be somewhat irksome in science fiction.
But regardless, the possibility exists right now! Rios’ combadge is abandoned at Teresa’s clinic, and what will happen to it next is unclear. If it were to be seized by the authorities, Rios might get lucky and the combadge could be ignored. But if he’s unlucky and people start poking around and figuring out how it works… that could set the stage for a divergence in the timeline.
Elnor will be saved when the crew returns to the 25th Century.
The decision to kill off Elnor so early in the season certainly succeeded as a shocking story point… but I’m not so sure he’ll stay dead. Is Raffi’s belief that restoring the timeline will save his life something that the series has carefully set up so it can be paid off later? Or was it simply part of her reaction to his death; the bargaining stage of the grieving process? I’m not sure!
Elnor is a character who had potential – the first Romulan to be a main character on a Star Trek series (or the second, after Narek) and the first Romulan to enlist in Starfleet. If the Star Trek franchise were to stick around, I could happily follow his adventures as a Starfleet officer over the course of several years, giving him an arc somewhat comparable to someone like Tilly in Discovery, growing into his new role.
But Elnor is also a character who was underused in Season 1, and the decision to make him a Starfleet cadet at the beginning of Season 2 was only the beginning of a new arc for him. His death didn’t hit as hard as it could’ve because we don’t know Elnor very well – and I wonder if that could be a reason to bring him back later in the season.
Dr Jurati will unleash the Borg Queen.
I had theorised before the season began that Dr Jurati would somehow unleash the Borg Queen, based on clips we saw of her in a couple of the pre-season trailers. This week we saw one of the clips of the Borg Queen on the loose, and rather than attack anyone she simply strapped herself in to La Sirena, so a connection in that scene can be ruled out! But there’s more to the relationship between Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen, and we saw a lot of movement in that direction this week.
As we learned in Season 1, Dr Jurati isn’t just a cyberneticist by profession – synthetic life is her passion. For her, the Borg are less frightening than fascinating, and she’d love to learn more about them. That gives her a natural sympathy to synthetic life, and that sympathy could extend to the Borg Queen. If a situation developed where the two of them were alone aboard La Sirena, I could see the Borg Queen talking Dr Jurati into aiding her.
In addition, this week we saw Dr Jurati plug herself into the Borg Queen. This meeting of the minds was not a one-way street, and the Borg Queen has learned a lot from Dr Jurati – including, perhaps, something that she could use to manipulate or even blackmail her into aiding her escape.
Dr Jurati will be assimilated.
Plugging oneself into not only a Borg but the literal Borg Queen, embodiment and/or leader of the Collective… that seems like an all-around bad idea. Yes, there were mitigating circumstances – the need to acquire the location of the Watcher – but even so, this dangerous assignment feels like it has huge potential to backfire.
As established, the connection allowed the Borg Queen access to Dr Jurati’s body while they were connected, and if even one single Borg nanoprobe survived inside the Queen and was able to enter her body, it seems plausible to think that Dr Jurati could soon find herself in the early stages of assimilation.
Teresa will find out the truth about Rios.
Teresa – the doctor at the clinic who treated Rios – is a fun new character for the series. In the vein of characters from past time travel stories, like Dr Gillian Taylor from Star Trek IV or Rain Robinson from Future’s End, I wonder if she’ll learn the true nature of Rios’ time-travelling origins.
This could be an interesting angle, and it would potentially set up Teresa for being a bigger force in the story, at least in the parts in the 21st Century. As a native of Los Angeles in this era, she could provide a lot of help and support to Picard and the crew as they seek out the Watcher and try to prevent the timeline from being damaged – but she seems like the sort of person who’d want to know the truth before getting involved.
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 also from the Borg Queen that Picard and the crew met in the Confederation timeline. Could this character actually be someone else – perhaps someone that the Borg have assimilated?
“Borg Queen” Candidate #1:
As suggested above, it’s possible that Dr Jurati’s connection to the Borg Queen in Assimilation has set the stage for her possible assimilation into the Borg Collective. If so, perhaps the Borg Queen will take over her body as her own is incomplete. This could set the stage for Dr Jurati becoming the Borg Queen who beams aboard the Stargazer.
“Borg Queen” Candidate #2:
The time-travelling Admiral Janeway from Endgame.
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.
“Borg Queen” Candidate #3:
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.
Guinan will be aware of changes to the timeline.
This theory is on its last legs, and if we don’t get back to the Confederation timeline next week I think I’ll set it aside. But for now, with some kind of return to the Confederation timeline still an outside possibility, I had theorised that Guinan has a unique ability to sense when the timeline has been changed or damaged. We saw this in The Next Generation Season 3 episode Yesterday’s Enterprise, and I had wondered if we might see it again here.
It’s possible that Guinan’s role in the season was always going to be fairly small; she may just have appeared in the premiere, or maybe she’ll return to bookend the season if Picard and the crew make it home. But in a story that has this kind of focus, I really did wonder if what we saw in Yesterday’s Enterprise might’ve come back into play.
Soji will appear in the Confederation timeline – but she’ll look very different.
This is the other theory that’s officially on its last legs! If we don’t get back to the Confederation timeline, we’ll have to remove this from the list. However, I think it’s possible that, if Soji existed in the Confederation timeline, she wouldn’t look the same as she does in the prime timeline. That’s based on how synths like Harvey appeared, as well as the generally different aesthetic present in that setting.
Unless someone stashed a deactivated or disassembled Soji aboard La Sirena, though, it seems like we’re not going to find out any time soon. Soji has been absent for two episodes now, and I’m really not sure what’s going on there. The season premiere set her up in a role that took her far away from Picard and the rest of the crew; it’s possible that she may not reappear until they return to the 25th Century, and even then, she may not have a huge role to play.
Laris will join the mission back in time.
Picard and the crew arrived in 2024 without Laris, who was dead in the Confederation timeline. I think it’s possible that Picard could ask Q to bring her back, though, so I’m not totally convinced that we’ve seen the last of Laris just yet.
As above, though, this theory is on thin ice.
So those theories are new or saw movement this week.
Next, I’ll recap all of the other theories that I currently have in play. I find it helps to keep the theory list intact and all in one place, even if this week we didn’t see a lot of movement for many of the extant theories!
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?
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 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.
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 going to be the end of the series 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 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
There will be some kind of crossover with Star Trek: Discovery.
My original formulation of this theory looked at the very strange scheduling of Discovery Season 4 and Picard Season 2 – the shows overlapped by three weeks. This didn’t make any sense – and still doesn’t – but it now seems that the reason for it was the usual inexplicable nonsense from Paramount Global.
Regardless, it would still be neat to get some kind of crossover or tie-in with Discovery this season. There are already smaller thematic connections, such as the theme of grief, which was a big part of Discovery Season 4 and has now become part of Picard Season 2. But I’m thinking bigger – some kind of character crossover, an explicit use of a piece of technology first introduced in Discovery, or some kind of explanation or development of a plot point from that show.
Modern Star Trek hasn’t been great at tying together the shows that are currently in production, and Picard Season 1 essentially ignored Discovery altogether. Season 2 could make that right.
The Confederation is run by augmented humans.
Another theory that may not go anywhere now we’ve left the Confederation timeline, but I wonder if we’ll learn more as Brent Spiner’s new character is introduced. In short, the Soong family had a long association with genetic engineering – so I wonder if one of the points of divergence leading to the creation of the Confederation timeline could be the introduction of genetically augmented humans. “Super-men” like Khan were given enhanced strength and intelligence – but also enhanced ambitions. Khan set out to conquer the planet… could the Confederation timeline be one in which someone like him succeeded?
I’d have expected to see some evidence for this theory in Penance if it were true, but because we’re yet to meet the Watcher, Brent Spiner’s new character, or really learn anything about the divergence in time, I think it remains a possibility.
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.
Q is not responsible for changing the timeline.
This theory is definitely feeling less and less likely… but as of Assimilation, 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.
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 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.
As mentioned above with Soji, 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.
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 mission back in time won’t last all season.
There’s still a lot of the season remaining for Picard and the crew to figure out what happened and 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!
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 have travelled 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?
So that’s it!
That’s the theory list as we head into episode 4. There are a lot of interesting things going on, and a lot of different ways they could play out! I’m hoping that the exciting start to the season will continue, and that the episodes that lie ahead will debunk a lot of my theories – making room on the list for plenty of new ones!
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.