Star Trek: Picard Season 3 theories – week 3

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-3. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Wrath of Khan, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Discovery.

I had a great time with Seventeen Seconds this week – in fact, I’d say it’s almost certainly the best episode of Picard since the Season 2 premiere last year. It was also an episode that shook up our theory list in a pretty big way, with a major revelation that seems to have uncovered the real “big bad” of the narrative.

But we’re only three episodes into a ten-episode season… so it’s all still to play for! I’m sure we haven’t seen all of the twists and turns yet, and that there’s much more to be revealed.

Worf in this week’s episode.

I hope you’ll read my review of Seventeen Seconds if you haven’t already, as I go into a lot more detail about what was a fantastic episode. I found a few nitpicks, as I always do, and I offered my thoughts on some potentially controversial story points, too! You can find my review by clicking or tapping here.

This week we have two confirmations, two theory retirements, and one debunking. There are also a few theories that are barely hanging in there! As always, we’ll look at the theories that are departing the list first.

Debunked theory:
Jack Crusher was conceived during the events of Star Trek: Insurrection.

Picard on the Ba’ku planet in Insurrection.

Based on Jack’s apparent age, Dr Crusher’s absence, and the metaphasic radiation at the centre of Insurrection’s story, I suggested that Jack may have been conceived during or shortly after the events of that film. However, we learned in Seventeen Seconds that Jack was actually conceived sometime after Nemesis, shortly before Picard and his remaining crew left the Enterprise-E. As stated in earlier episodes, this is about twenty years before the events of Picard Season 3, meaning Jack Crusher is supposedly in his early twenties.

Actor Ed Speleers, who plays Jack, is in his mid-thirties… and without wishing to be unkind, I don’t think he readily passes for a twenty-year-old. In addition, I’d suggest that Jack’s backstory of criminality and confidence trickery also better suits a character at least slightly older. But this is Jack’s true origin, so I guess we’ll just have to accept it!

Retired theory #1:
The super-synths from Season 1 are involved.

A device designed by the super-synths to open a portal to their realm.

I feel bad about having to let this one go, but it now seems all but certain that Star Trek won’t be revisiting the super-synths from Season 1: the so-called “alliance of synthetic life” that left behind a beacon and potentially threatened all life in the galaxy.

I proposed a theory shortly after the end of Season 2 that could have tied together all three seasons of the show. In short, I posited that the super-synths created the mysterious anomaly seen in Season 2 as some kind of weapon, and that they’d return as the “big bad” in Season 3. Vadic could have been one of their pawns or devotees, someone obsessed with ensuring their arrival in the galaxy.

But all of that is for the birds now, as the story is clearly going in a different direction by bringing back the Founders.

Retired theory #2:
Captain Vadic and her crew are hosts for the parasite-aliens first encountered in the episode Conspiracy.

The only sign that an individual was playing host to a parasite-alien was this spike at the back of the neck.

This idea was pretty wild, and I was surprised to see that I wasn’t the only one who’d been talking about it! As above, now that we’ve seen the Founders, it seems clear that Picard Season 3 is going in a very different direction – and considering the origins of this particular theory, I suspect that may be for the best!

The parasite-aliens from the episode Conspiracy sprang to mind when we heard Dr Crusher talking about how Picard should “trust no one” in pre-season trailers, and the idea that they might have returned was, in some ways at least, a potentially interesting one. But with Conspiracy being a more-or-less forgotten part of The Next Generation’s first season, one whose story was never revisited and had no influence over the rest of the show, I daresay it would have been a hard sell to bring this particular storyline back. Maybe it’s something better saved for a show like Lower Decks!

Confirmed theory #1:
Vadic has an ally within Starfleet.

Vadic’s spy aboard the Titan.

Though it’s still possible that Vadic has additional spies or allies within Starfleet – either aboard the Titan or elsewhere – we got confirmation this week that she has at least one ally embedded aboard the Titan.

I stand by what I said in my review, though: it would have been more impactful had we met this character before it was revealed that they were a changeling infiltrator!

Confirmed theory #2:
Vadic is not the real “big bad” of the Season.

We now know who else is involved!

We don’t currently know the specifics of Vadic’s relationship with the changelings. Is she a Founder herself, for instance, or does she merely work for them as a “sub-contractor?” There’s clearly more to be revealed about Vadic, but Seventeen Seconds confirmed what I had suspected: that she isn’t the only villain Picard and the crew will have to deal with.

We learned in Seventeen Seconds of the existence of a rogue faction of Founders; a schism in the Great Link has occurred, with followers of Odo’s peaceful path on one side, and a seemingly more aggressive, violent group of changelings on the other. What their specific goals may be, beyond chaos and revenge, is yet to be revealed – but we now know that Vadic isn’t working alone, and that she is either part of or working for this faction. I’m terming them the “rogue changelings” for now – but that may change if they’re given a proper on-screen name.

So those theories have been retired, debunked, or confirmed!

Now we’ll jump into the main theory list, beginning with theories that are either new or saw significant movement this week.

Theory #1:
Lore and/or Professor Moriarty were stolen from Daystrom Station.

Lore will be appearing soon!

I don’t think it’s been confirmed that the Daystrom Institute and Daystrom Station are one and the same, but it’s certainly implied that they’re two parts of the same organisation. The Daystrom Institute, where Dr Jurati worked prior to the events of Season 1, is involved in the development of computer technology within the Federation, and was where Dr Bruce Maddox wanted to disassemble and study Data. We saw in Season 1 that B-4 (an early Data prototype) had been disassembled and was being stored at the Daystrom Institute… and when I heard that “something” had been stolen from there, my thoughts immediately turned to Lore.

Both Lore and Professor Moriarty had been deactivated when we last saw them, and the question of how either will fit into the story of this season is still an open one. I also can’t be sure what Vadic and/or the rogue changelings would want with Lore and/or Moriarty – but given how we saw that synths could be reprogrammed in Season 1, perhaps that could be part of it? Either way, these malevolent artificial life-forms could be dangerous if they allied themselves to the rogue changelings.

Theory #2:
Vadic is a changeling.

Vadic in Seventeen Seconds.

The events of Seventeen Seconds did not confirm this – but it seems like a very likely outcome right now! While Vadic and her crew could be bounty hunters, as they claimed to be, merely working with the rogue changelings, there’s also a distinct possibility that she is herself a changeling.

When Jack Crusher told us in earlier episodes that the people chasing him looked like Klingons one moment, then Starfleet personnel the next, it seemed at least possible that they were shape-shifters – and now we know that one of Vadic’s spies aboard the Titan is a changeling it would make a lot of sense that she and at least some of the members of her crew are too. Not confirmed, but I feel like we’re potentially edging toward some kind of confirmation on this one!

Theory #3:
A few other Vadic origin ideas.

The bridge of the Shrike.

So we’ve ruled out Vadic and her crew playing host to the parasite-aliens from Conspiracy, but as above, her identity has not yet been confirmed. If she isn’t a Founder, there are still a few possible explanations that would tie her into Star Trek’s past. I put together a longer list before the season aired, and here are the possibilities that I consider to still be in play:

  • A former member of Picard’s crew, perhaps someone who was injured or left for dead while serving under his command,
  • An ex-Borg, either someone who was assimilated while serving on Picard’s crew or perhaps someone from the Artifact in Season 1,
  • An augment, potentially tied to Season 2’s Adam Soong or even Khan himself,
  • A Romulan or ally of the Romulans, with a potential tie to Sela,
  • A member of Insurrection’s Son’a.

Theory #4:
Riker is a changeling.

Is this the real Riker?

To be more specific, I’m not saying that Riker has been a changeling the entire time, but that he has been since partway through episode 2, when he beamed aboard the Titan from the Eleos. Let’s break down the evidence in favour of this theory!

Firstly, we have the clip from the extended Season 3 trailer, in which Riker appears to be trapped or imprisoned somewhere. As seen in Deep Space Nine, the Founders would imprison people they replaced – such as Martok and Dr Bashir. Secondly, we know that the crew of the Shrike already have a changeling ally aboard the Titan. Third, the changeling Raffi and Worf confronted said that his people (or rather, his faction of rogue changelings) had plans to attack multiple planets in the Federation and beyond – implying a big conspiracy involving multiple people being replaced. And finally, we could make the case that Riker’s conflict with Picard was out-of-character for him – or at the very least, a convenient way to get the Admiral off the bridge so he could consolidate his power as the ship’s commander.

Theory #5:
Someone on Picard’s crew will turn out to be an imposter.

Picard and the crew on a promotional poster for Season 3.

Now that we know the changelings are involved, suspicion should fall on basically everyone! Aside from Picard himself, Jack Crusher, Beverly Crusher, and the wounded Captain Shaw, I think we should be suspicious of practically everybody! I already singled out Riker, and explained in brief several reasons why I think he’s a potential changeling candidate, but there are others, both on the crew of the Titan and beyond.

This would connect with the idea of not knowing who to trust, something Dr Crusher warned Picard about right at the start of the season. We already know that there’s at least one changeling aboard the Titan – but could there be more? Or could the changelings have abducted and replaced the likes of Troi or Geordi?

In Deep Space Nine episodes like Paradise Lost, we saw that the Federation was working on methods to identify changelings or even force them to reveal themselves. It would be interesting to see these make a return.

Theory #6:
Odo will make an appearance – somehow.

Odo in Deep Space Nine.

I don’t know how I feel about this one. It was sweet to see Worf make reference to Odo in Seventeen Seconds – though the connection could have been clearer, especially for more casual viewers – but I’m not convinced that we need to see Odo for ourselves. The reason for that is simple: the only way we could see Odo is either by re-casting the character or recreating him through some kind of CGI process.

Star Trek has successfully re-cast many characters over the years, so I don’t really take exception to that. But the death of actor René Auberjonois is still recent and fresh in our minds, so bringing Odo back without him just feels… uncomfortable. Although Odo is well-suited to a story in which the changelings are back, I think I’d rather he didn’t appear in person on this occasion. But I wanted to acknowledge that it’s at least a plausible development for the story.

Theory #7:
A spin-off series will be announced.

Alex Kurtzman is currently in charge of Star Trek over at Paramount.

My thoughts on this have shifted somewhat this week, and not because of anything that happened on-screen! Sad news came out from Paramount shortly after this week’s episode of Picard aired: Star Trek: Discovery has been cancelled and will end after its upcoming fifth season. This moment would have been a good time to announce a new Star Trek project; something to replace Discovery in the line-up. But it didn’t happen.

With Picard also ending, and no confirmation as yet of new seasons beyond what has already been announced for any of the other shows, Star Trek’s future beyond 2024 feels as if it’s hanging in the balance.

I already said that this was as much a hope as a theory; I’d love Paramount to announce a new Star Trek series of any kind, but a 25th Century project that would potentially tie in with Picard would be at the top of my list. There are options: a series focusing on Seven of Nine, a revived Section 31 show, or the Starfleet Academy series that has been the subject of many rumours. But so far, nothing has been announced. With all eyes on the Star Trek franchise, making such an announcement before Picard comes to an end would be good timing… so watch this space, I guess!

Theory #8:
Vadic will be killed by her own portal-weapon.

The USS Titan and one of the portals.

This idea is a pretty simple one: as often happens to villains in stories like these, Captain Vadic will end up being killed by her own powerful weapon. We saw the portal-weapon used against the Titan this week, and I can absolutely see a pathway to Picard and the crew capturing it or gaining control of it, and turning it against Vadic.

There can be something poetic about an evil villain being destroyed by their own weapon, so I can’t help but feel that Vadic may meet her end by being spliced through one of her own portals!

Theory #9:
Captain Shaw will be killed.

Captain Shaw was badly injured this week.

I almost retired this theory this week, because Captain Shaw survived his injuries. With him off the bridge and out of the way in sickbay, that seems to have resolved the possible “clutter” problem that I talked about; I feared that it might be too complicated, narratively speaking, for the Titan to have an Admiral, a Commodore, and three captains all working together on the bridge.

But Captain Shaw is clearly seriously injured, and while he may have a contribution to make to the story – as we saw this week through his interaction with Jack – there’s still the possibility that he won’t survive to the end of the season. If some kind of “Captain Seven” spin-off series is even a remote possibility, killing off Captain Shaw is one way in which Seven could ascend to the captain’s chair.

Theory #10:
Captain Vadic has put together a “rogues’ gallery” of Star Trek villains.

Vadic with two masked members of her crew.

Another theory that feels as if it’s barely hanging in there! In short, I came up with this idea before the season aired, when we first learned of the involvement of Lore and Professor Moriarty. Having assumed they’d be on Vadic’s side – something I’m no longer sure of, by the way – I wondered if Vadic may have put together an entire team comprised of Picard’s enemies.

The revelation that the changelings are involved – and are the season’s main villainous faction – has massively reduced the likelihood of this theory, but until we can say with certainty who Vadic is, what her objectives are, and how she connects to the rogue changelings… the possibility exists, in my view at least, that some of her crew and allies will be characters we’ve met before; villains who are seeking revenge on Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D.

To see a list of who I thought could potentially be involved, click or tap here.

Theory #11:
The Founders are living in the nebula.

The nebula.

In Deep Space Nine, the Founders’ homeworld was inside a nebula. Obviously the Ryton system isn’t where the Founders lived, nor is it even in the Gamma Quadrant (as far as we know), but I can’t help but wonder whether this nebula could be concealing either a new homeworld for the Founders or a base of operations for this faction of rogue changelings.

Although it feels like a bit of a long-shot, this could explain why Vadic broke off her pursuit of the Titan after it was damaged. Driving the ship deep into the nebula, toward the changelings’ base, could have been her objective.

Theory #12:
The Founders are the nebula.


Why did Seventeen Seconds prominently feature the Titan’s science officer telling Captain Riker that there are “organic” elements to the nebula that she couldn’t identify? Obviously this is going to be part of the story somehow, but with changelings on the loose… is it too far-fetched to think that they could actually be a nebula?

In the Deep Space Nine episode Chimera, the changeling Laas was able to exist as a cloud of fog on DS9’s promenade, so existing in a gaseous form isn’t beyond the power of changelings. Why they’d seek to do so is, of course, an open question – but it feels like a possibility nevertheless.

Theory #13:
Captain Vadic’s crew are Jem’Hadar.

A Jem’Hadar warrior in Deep Space Nine.

If Captain Vadic is a changeling, then it stands to reason that her crew could be Jem’Hadar – the genetically-engineered Dominion warriors seen in Deep Space Nine. We don’t know how Jem’Hadar would react to a schism in the Great Link, but it seems plausible that either some Jem’Hadar would have followed the rogue changelings, or that the rogue changelings might have set up a new facility to create their own Jem’Hadar warriors.

With the crew of the Shrike being masked, I can’t help but feel that there’s a reason for that. Either we’re dealing with familiar characters or perhaps a race like the Jem’Hadar. Keeping their faces covered keeps the mystery going, anyway!

Theory #14:
Vadic has an unrevealed reason for chasing the Crushers and the Titan.

Captain Vadic in Seventeen Seconds.

If Vadic is a changeling, that could explain why she’s so interested in the Crushers, the Titan, and the Federation. But as above, we don’t have absolute confirmation on that as of yet, so I don’t think we can say with certainty that Vadic has an additional reason for hunting Jack Crusher beyond what she told us in the episode Disengage. I said at the time that I didn’t feel that “money” was a good enough motive for a character who seems to be so over-the-top… so I certainly hope that there will be more to Vadic than that!

The introduction of the changelings into the story – and the fact that Vadic has at least one changeling ally – has certainly shaken up this theory, and I think we can see light at the end of the tunnel! But as we didn’t get to spend a ton of time with Vadic this week, we still don’t know for sure what her motivation is.

Theory #15:
Picard and his crew will reactivate Lore and Professor Moriarty.

Lore is coming back…

Although it seemed at first as though Lore and Professor Moriarty might be on Captain Vadic’s team, the final trailer for Season 3 was cut together in such a way as to suggest that it might be Picard and his crew that are responsible for re-awakening them. I have an idea as to why that might be the case (and we’ll take a look at that in a moment), but for now let’s just say that it seems possible that the story will go down this road.

Last time we saw both Lore and Professor Moriarty, neither posed a threat. Lore had been fully shut down, and Moriarty had been trapped in a holographic storage module, believing himself to be free to explore the galaxy. How either of them could come back is an open question – but they are coming back in some form!

Theory #16:
Picard and his crew need to find synthetic allies/crewmates.

Professor Moriarty.

This theory seems to have moved significantly now that we know the changelings are involved! In brief, I’d suggested that Picard and the crew might be unable to trust organics, and that could explain why they may turn to artificial life forms like Lore and Professor Moriarty to aid them. With the inclusion of the Founders in the story, that possibility feels as if it could’ve just moved one step closer.

If it’s hard or even impossible to detect a changeling infiltrator, then synthetic life-forms may be the only ones that Picard can be certain are who they say they are. That could explain why Picard and the crew might re-activate these one-time enemies. It does raise a pertinent question, though: if Picard needs help from artificial life-forms, why not ask Soji and the Coppelius synths for help?

It does seem like one heck of a coincidence that Lore and Professor Moriarty – both of whom are synthetic – are involved in this story!

Theory #17:
The Borg are involved.

An incredulous-looking Borg…

I came close to retiring this theory for the same kinds of reasons I gave for removing the super-synths from the theory list, but for now I think I’m going to hang onto the idea that there may be some kind of Borg involvement. We’re only three episodes in, after all, and the details of the rogue changelings’ plan is still totally unclear.

A couple of ways the Borg could be involved have already come to mind. Firstly, the rogue changelings may have stolen Borg technology from Daystrom Station. Secondly, the rogue changelings’ plan could involve an alliance with the Borg – both groups have reason to want to attack the Federation, after all.

Even if we don’t get a major appearance by the Borg this season, their influence may still be felt.

So those theories are new or saw movement this week.

As always, in order to keep the theory list intact and all in one place I’m going to recap the remaining theories that we have in play. These theories didn’t move one way or the other in Seventeen Seconds.

Theory #18:
Not all of Raffi’s messages were from Worf.

Was Raffi always talking to Worf?

There was a good narrative reason to keep Worf hidden until the end of Disengage: it made his last-minute appearance to save Raffi all the more dramatic. But could there be another reason why his messages came through in the form of text with a disembodied digital voice?

Raffi wasn’t able to prevent the attack on the Federation facility, having spent a long time chasing leads in the underworld. But could someone – perhaps one of the rogue changelings – have been feeding her false information to throw her off? This could tie into the idea of not being able to trust anyone in Starfleet that Dr Crusher warned us about – perhaps this conspiracy runs very deep indeed!

Theory #19:
Jack Crusher is connected to Vadic… somehow.

Jack in Disengage.

I originally proposed this theory a couple of weeks ago, speculating that if Picard isn’t Jack’s father, someone on Vadic’s crew might be – or he might be a relative of hers. That didn’t pan out, but there still exists the possibility of a connection between the two. It would explain Vadic’s single-mindedness in chasing him down over a period of weeks or months.

This could be as simple as Jack having stolen from Vadic… but I wonder if such a connection may go deeper. Jack has clearly done bad, criminal things over the course of his life… could his criminal behaviour have brought him alongside, or into conflict with, someone like Vadic? Perhaps he’s responsible for killing someone she cared about – or not saving someone in time.

Theory #20:
Captain Shaw lost someone to the Borg.

The Battle of Sector 001.

Vadic alluded to Captain Shaw’s psychological profile in Disengage, and seemed to suggest that he may have been unwell at some point in his career. This could tie into Shaw’s anti-Borg attitude, which he has mistakenly directed at Seven of Nine and Picard.

In short, Captain Shaw seems old enough to have been serving in Starfleet during at least one of the Borg incursions of the 24th Century, and he may have lost someone – a spouse or close relative, perhaps – during one of those battles. That could explain both Vadic’s comment and his barely-disguised antipathy toward Picard and Seven.

Theory #21:
At least one main character will be killed.

Spock’s funeral in The Wrath of Khan.

It feels like a solid possibility that at least one main character won’t make it to the end of the season. Television storytelling has changed a lot since The Next Generation premiered, and even main characters can no longer consider themselves to be safe if they wind up in dangerous situations!

It would be a challenge to kill off a legacy character in a way that would be satisfying and would feel right – but it would be incredibly bold, and if such a story beat stuck the landing, it could succeed at either setting up the story or paying off a season-long character arc.

I made a list of who I thought could be in danger before the season began, and you can find it by clicking or tapping here.

Theory #22:
Several members of La Sirena’s crew have joined Captain Vadic.

The crew of La Sirena at the end of Season 1.

Although we’ve had it confirmed that most of the actors from Seasons 1 and 2 won’t be reprising their roles this time around, when I first saw the masked crew of the Shrike I couldn’t help but wonder… could some of these people be Picard’s friends? Could that explain why Dr Crusher warned Picard to “trust no one” and simultaneously explain their absences?

It would be a stunning revelation indeed if, when the masks are inevitably removed, Picard and the crew find themselves confronting the likes of Soji and Elnor. Maybe this one is a no-hoper because of what we’ve been told by the actors involved… but you never know!

Theory #23:
There will be at least one unannounced character returning!

Could it be Kira Nerys?

There have been theories and guesses from Trekkies for basically a whole year about which other characters from The Next Generation era could appear in Season 3. I don’t claim to know who might be included – but it feels like a pretty solid guess to say that someone from The Next GenerationDeep Space Nine, and/or Voyager will put in an appearance.

This could be a simple cameo, or an appearance similar to those seen in episodes like Encounter at Farpoint and Caretaker. Or there could be a real hidden surprise, with a character basically joining Picard’s mission. We didn’t really know the extent of Seven of Nine’s involvement in Season 1 until it happened, nor the extent of Brent Spiner’s roles in Seasons 1 and 2… so there’s at least the possibility of some kind of big surprise!

Theory #24:
The absences of characters from Seasons 1 and 2 will be explained.

The new Borg Queen/Dr Jurati hybrid at the end of Season 2.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Laris was included in The Next Generation, and while she won’t have a big role in the story of the season, it was great that the story didn’t just dump her as it raced ahead. Due to her importance to the story of Season 2, Laris was perhaps the character who I felt it was most important to include in some way, and I’m glad we got to see her.

But there are still several characters from Seasons 1 and 2 who haven’t been mentioned. Elnor and Soji could easily be name-dropped; a line or two of dialogue could clear up where they are, what they’re doing, and why they can’t join Picard on his current mission. The Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid is a bit more complicated; her self-appointed role as “guardian” of the mysterious anomaly makes it a bit harder to just wave away her disappearance.

I hope we’ll get something that will acknowledge these characters’ absences. All were important in the first two seasons of the show, and simply abandoning them without any kind of goodbye was disappointing at the end of Season 2. If Season 3 could do something to rectify that, I’d appreciate it!

So that’s it!

The USS Titan falls into the nebula’s gravity well…

That’s the state of the theory list as we head into the fourth episode of the season, which will air later this week. It’s still all to play for, and we’ve netted several theory wins already! There are still plenty of unrevealed story beats to come, I’m certain of that, and some of my theories are only barely hanging on. But we’ll have to wait and see what the next episode has in store for us!

As a final note: 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 for me. But for some folks, fan theories can become 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 3. I fully expect many of these theories to be debunked and for the season to go in wildly unpredictable directions!

Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-3 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and other countries and territories where the service is available, and on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and around the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties discussed 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.