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 another enjoyable outing with Admiral Picard and the crew of La Sirena this week. Though I feel that the limitations of a 21st Century setting are beginning to bite on one side of the story, there was plenty to enjoy in Watcher – and the episode has gifted us a few new theory ideas to boot!
This week we have two theories that I’m calling “semi-confirmed.” In those cases I got the broad outlines right, but I was quite a long way off in terms of the way they panned out. And we also have one theory that I’m choosing to retire.
Semi-confirmed theory #1:
Guinan will be aware of changes to the timeline.
I had no idea that we’d be meeting a younger version of Guinan during Picard Season 2. After Picard sat down with Guinan in the season premiere and then she didn’t return, I began to wonder if we’d seen all we were going to see from her – but it seems that her younger self has a role to play!
I had initially speculated that Guinan would be aware of the timeline shifting, as she had demonstrated this ability during the events of The Next Generation Season 3 episode Yesterday’s Enterprise. I wondered if we might meet Guinan in the Confederation timeline, and even whether she might be the instigator of Picard’s journey back to the 21st Century.
As it turned out, Guinan was aware of a change to the timeline, but only after meeting with Picard in the 21st Century. I can’t take full credit for predicting this, but there was enough of a conversation about El-Aurians and the way they understand time for me to feel that it wasn’t a million miles away from my original theory! Hence I’m calling this one “semi-confirmed!”
Semi-confirmed theory #2:
Laris will join Picard’s mission back in time.
I had predicted – or should that be “hoped” – that we’d see Laris again before the end of the season, and speculated that she could be revived somehow in the Confederation timeline, perhaps thanks to Q’s abilities. I was not expecting Laris – or at least someone using her appearance – to turn out to be the titular Watcher, though!
Perhaps it might be more accurate at this point to suggest that Picard has joined whatever mission Laris is on, rather than the other way around! Guinan seemed to suggest that the name Jean-Luc Picard was familiar to her, and that could mean that Laris knows who Picard is. She may even have been placed in the 21st Century in anticipation of this very meeting.
I guess we’ll have to see what’s going on when we get to the next episode, but for now I’m happy to call this one “semi-confirmed” as well.
There will be a crossover with Star Trek: Discovery.
This theory came about thanks to the just plain stupid decision from Paramount Global to have Discovery Season 4 and Picard Season 2 overlap one another by three weeks. I wondered if that might mean some kind of crossover event could be on the agenda – and with time travel being a big part of Picard, it seemed at least plausible.
However, it now seems that the reason for the nonsensical scheduling is nothing more than the random illogical spasms from Paramount Global, a corporation that seems to have no clue how to run a major franchise or a streaming platform. Given that Strange New Worlds now seems certain to be denied to international fans because Paramount+ still isn’t available, the scheduling decision seems infinitely worse in retrospect.
Delaying Picard Season 2 by three or four weeks and Strange New Worlds by an extra couple of weeks on top of that would’ve provided the corporation with more time to get Paramount+ ready for the next phase of its international rollout – and might’ve meant that more Star Trek fans could enjoy Strange New Worlds. But alas, Paramount Global seems to be run by utterly incompetent morons.
So those theories were semi-confirmed and retired.
Next let’s jump into the main theory list, beginning with those theories that are brand-new or saw movement in this week’s episode.
The Borg Queen will assimilate people from the 21st Century.
As I wrote in my review of Watcher, I’m loving the dynamic between Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen at the moment! We saw in one of the pre-season trailers a couple of people who seemed to be in the early stages of Borg assimilation, and I wonder if those people could be 21st Century humans who stumble upon La Sirena’s crash site. Dr Jurati may even unleash the Borg Queen on them in order to protect the ship and avoid too much damage to the timeline.
This could be tied in with another theory we’ll look at in a moment – that Dr Jurati herself may be on the verge of assimilation following her encounter with the Borg Queen. If Dr Jurati is compromised, the Borg Queen may be able to command her – or even use her to perform the assimilations herself!
Who is the Watcher?
This is an easy one: the Watcher is Laris, right? Well, not necessarily! The Watcher has certainly assumed Laris’ form, but that may be an illusion or something done for Picard’s benefit. We don’t know for certain right now that Laris and the Watcher are 100% the same character – but we will almost certainly learn more in the next episode!
Watcher Candidate #1:
A younger version of Laris.
Perhaps the obvious answer really is the right one: the Watcher is simply Laris as she appeared in the 21st Century. That doesn’t solve every question, nor does it rule out all of the other entries on this list. In fact, it arguably raises just as many questions as it answers! How could Laris live so long, was she able to travel through time, and what is her connection to Picard – and those are just three off the top of my head.
Regardless, one possibility is that the Watcher is simply Laris.
Watcher Candidate #2:
A member of the Q Continuum.
Given Q’s role in the story, one possibility has to be that the Watcher is a member of the Q Continuum. Perhaps they’re aware of the important role that Picard will play in the future and are watching over his family, or perhaps their objective is to meet Picard himself, knowing that he would journey to this moment in the past. If there’s some kind of internal conflict between different Q factions – as we saw in the Voyager episode The Q and the Grey – perhaps the Watcher is another Q who is trying to stop the Q we know from doing too much harm.
There are many different ways for this theory to pan out!
Watcher Candidate #3:
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 #4:
A Temporal Agent from the Temporal Wars.
Is it possible that the Watcher is a Temporal Agent, someone whose intention is to prevent anyone meddling with the timeline? If so, this story could connect with the ban on time travel that was established in Discovery Season 3 but not elaborated on. It still wouldn’t explain why the Watcher looks like Laris – but again, perhaps she has taken a particular interest in Picard or the Picard family for some reason?
Watcher Candidate #5:
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 #6:
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. Given that Laris knew about the Zhat Vash from her time as a Tal Shiar operative, could we perhaps learn that a mission to Earth’s past was one of her assignments?
Rios’ lost combadge is the divergence in time.
Despite visiting the clinic in Watcher, Seven of Nine and Raffi didn’t seem to locate Rios’ combadge, and after speaking briefly with one of the nurses they left empty-handed – and without taking further tricorder scans to locate it. As things stand right now, Rios’ combadge is lost in the 21st Century – and could pollute the timeline if it were to fall into the wrong hands.
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.
Dr Jurati will be assimilated.
I really enjoy the dynamic between Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen that has developed so far this season; it’s been one of the most unexpectedly interesting and riveting parts of the story for me. The Borg Queen is both impressed with Dr Jurati and annoyed with her for the way she’s been ignored, and as the two continue to talk over and around each other that unusual relationship has grown.
Dr Jurati plugged herself into the Borg Queen in Assimilation, and any kind of connection like that seems to carry a lot of risk. Furthermore, Dr Jurati is now alone with the Borg Queen following Picard’s departure, leaving her in a vulnerable position. If she were to unshackle the Borg Queen, even with the best of intentions, she could wind up assimilated.
The Borg Queen is plotting – this is an alliance of convenience for her at the very most, and she will seize any opportunity to come out ahead.
Dr Jurati will unleash the Borg Queen.
If Dr Jurati doesn’t wind up assimilated, she could still take action to unshackle the Borg Queen – intentionally or unintentionally. If, for example, someone were to discover the crash site of La Sirena, Dr Jurati may need to enlist the Borg Queen’s help to stop them – potentially leading to people being killed or assimilated.
Once the Borg Queen is on the loose, there’s no guarantee that she’ll willingly go back to her captive status, and she might try to escape. She’s impressed with Dr Jurati – but after the events of Watcher, I’m positive that she doesn’t trust her at all. If the chips are down and Dr Jurati is in trouble, only the Borg Queen is there to help – and unleashing her could lead to even worse problems!
The Borg Queen (possibly assisted by Dr Jurati) will steal La Sirena, stranding Picard in the past.
From the Borg Queen’s point of view, she isn’t in a good position. Allying herself with Picard and the crew of La Sirena was the only way to save the Collective – undoing the events of the Confederation timeline. But if Picard is successful, she’s still a prisoner, and presumably would be turned over to the Federation upon Picard’s return to be studied. That’s only a small improvement over Confederation captivity!
It stands to reason that the Borg Queen would take any opportunity to escape, and right now, La Sirena is her best bet. She’s already partly integrated with the ship’s systems, and if she’s able to make repairs she might be able to use the ship to escape, heading back to the 25th Century. Doing so would almost certainly mean stranding Picard and everyone else in the past – though if Dr Jurati is on board, willingly or unwillingly, she might be swept along for the ride!
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, Dr Jurati could be about to be assimilated by the Borg Queen. It’s also possible that the Borg Queen will be able to escape her confinement – possibly using Dr Jurati’s body. If any of these theories pan out, they could set the stage for Dr Jurati being the “Borg Queen” figure seen in The Star Gazer.
“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.
“Borg Queen” Candidate #4:
It’s just the Borg Queen!
Instead of some complicated time-loop involving different versions of Dr Jurati, or an unexpected callback to Voyager, maybe the solution to this “puzzle” is staring us right in the face: we’ve already met the Borg Queen. The version of the character introduced in Penance may be behind the mask, and all of this speculation may seem silly when we reach the end of the story!
Teresa will find out the truth about Rios.
We didn’t spend a lot of time with Teresa in Watcher, but it’s possible she’ll come back later in the story. With Rios’ combadge still missing, at the very least I’d expect him to tie up that loose end – even if the lost combadge has no real bearing on the rest of the story. Teresa’s clinic is where it was last seen, and she may know where it is or may be willing to help.
During the course of such a storyline, it seems at least possible that Teresa will learn that Rios is from the future. This would see her stand alongside characters like Voyager’s Rain Robinson and Dr Gillian Taylor from Star Trek IV, and it could be a fun twist for the character. As a native of 21st Century Los Angeles, Teresa could be a valuable asset to the team as they try to stop the timeline from being shattered.
Q is approaching the end of his life.
Did Q’s powers fail him at the end of Watcher? If so, could that be another indication that Q is perhaps coming to the end of his life? There’s clearly something different about Q; Picard told us as much in Penance. But why Q has become so seemingly angry, and why he’s choosing to direct that anger toward Picard, remains a mystery.
The assumption has always been that Q is timeless and immortal – but that may not be the case. Whether through natural or unnatural means, perhaps the reason for Q’s belligerence – and his inability to use his powers at key moments – is that he’s dying.
So those theories are new or saw movement this week.
Now, as always, I’ll recap all of the other theories that I currently have in play. None of these saw any significant development this week, but they remain possibilities, at least in my opinion!
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.
Elnor will be restored to life 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.
Soji exists 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.
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.
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 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!
Those are the theories that I currently have in play as the season edges closer to the halfway point. I’m enjoying what Picard Season 2 has to offer, but in truth I’m also quite ready for the story to move on from the 21st Century. There seems to be a lot going on in the 25th Century with the Borg, and I’m also quite interested to catch up with Soji, to learn more about the Confederation timeline, and see if there’ll be time to find out what became of Narek and the Coppelius synths! There’s a lot I’d like to see from Picard… but I’m content to go along for the ride.
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.