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.
No Win Scenario has certainly shaken up the theory list! Although I’d argue it wasn’t quite as enjoyable an episode as Seventeen Seconds had been last week, there were still plenty of fun and exciting moments. The first chapter of Season 3 has now drawn to a close, but in terms of mysteries, the story is just getting started!
If you missed it, I hope you’ll go back and check out my review of No Win Scenario, as I go into detail about different elements of the episode. Some worked exceptionally well, one sequence in particular was incredibly emotional and cathartic, and some others… well, let’s just say there were a few moments that weren’t as enjoyable as the rest! You can find my review by clicking or tapping here.
There are some big changes this week for the theory list! We have four debunkings, one semi-confirmation, and two confirmations, as well as a couple of brand-new theories that are joining the party!
As always, we begin with confirmations and debunkings.
Confirmed theory #1:
Vadic has an additional reason for chasing Jack and the Titan.
I felt certain that “money” couldn’t possibly be Vadic’s sole motive for chasing Jack Crusher, and while we still don’t know the details, we at least got confirmation this week that there’s more going on here. Vadic is doing the bidding of a changeling for some reason, and the changeling has a particular interest in Jack.
I’m glad that there’s more to Vadic than something as bland and uninspired as looking for a big paycheck. There’s potential now to explore her character a lot more, really flesh out what’s going on and what her connection to the rogue changelings could be, and provide a satisfying end to the mysteries that have been set up so far.
Confirmed theory #2:
Captain Shaw lost someone to the Borg.
Or rather, several someones. Captain Shaw saw the crew of the USS Constance – many of whom will have been friends and colleagues – killed during the Battle of Wolf-359 almost forty years prior to the events of Picard Season 3. This explains his characterisation in the show thus far, and particularly the prejudice he’s shown toward Seven of Nine and Picard.
His anger toward ex-Borg is certainly misdirected, especially insofar as Seven is concerned, and I don’t think we can simply give Shaw a pass because of what he went through. The trauma clearly played a huge role in shaping who he is, though, and while it doesn’t justify his treatment of Picard and Seven, at least now we know he isn’t just being a jerk for no reason at all.
As I said in my review, though: I’m not exactly blown away by this revelation, and it feels very familiar to anyone who’s seen Deep Space Nine.
Jack has a connection to Vadic.
I’m calling this one “semi-confirmed,” because while I didn’t get the details exactly right, there is still a connection of some kind between Jack and Vadic, as noted above. Vadic’s changeling boss is directing her to pursue and capture Jack – for reasons that are still unclear – so there’s more to this chase than simply trying to cash in on a bounty.
At the moment, Vadic is mostly off to one side in her own little narrative box, and has only been able to interact with the crew of the Titan via viewscreen a couple of episodes ago. I hope that there will be time in the episodes ahead to have more interaction between Vadic and Jack in particular.
Debunked theory #1:
The changelings are hiding in the nebula.
When the Titan’s science officer flagged up “organic” elements present in the nebula, I wondered if that could indicate that at least some of the changelings are nearby. We saw in Deep Space Nine that the changelings’ homeworld was hidden inside a nebula, so it seemed like a reasonable assumption that the rogue changelings might also use a nebula to keep their base out of sight.
However, it didn’t pan out – and I think it would have felt like quite the contrivance if the Titan had stumbled on the changelings’ hideout seemingly by accident!
Debunked theory #2:
The changelings are the nebula.
For the same reason given above, it didn’t seem impossible to think that the changelings could have actually formed the nebula themselves. We saw in Deep Space Nine that changelings are able to exist in a gaseous state, and appearing as a random, unwelcoming phenomenon on the outskirts of a minor star system could have been a great hiding place!
The story that we got, however, was truly excellent, and one that managed to recapture that occasionally elusive sense of “Star Trek.” Seeing the spacefaring life-forms being born was an incredibly sweet moment, and far better than if the nebula had turned out to be a group of linked changelings!
Debunked theory #3:
Riker is a changeling.
I wondered about this last week, based mostly on random pieces of evidence that had been scattered across the trailers and the first couple of episodes. In short, I wondered if Riker may have been replaced by a changeling while beaming back to the Titan from the Eleos. We caught a glimpse of Riker seemingly imprisoned in an earlier trailer, and since we know there’s a bigger conspiracy in the offing, it seemed possible that the changelings might seek to replace a starship captain.
However, Riker’s story in No Win Scenario clearly disproves this idea! Riker was dejected for much of the episode, and spent a long time trying to find the right words to leave behind in the event that the Titan didn’t make it.
Debunked theory #4:
Vadic is a changeling.
Vadic has a changeling appendage – but I think it’s pretty clear now that she isn’t a changeling herself. This shakes things up in more ways than one, as the relationship between Vadic and the rogue changelings’ conspiracy isn’t cut and dry; there may be conflicting ideas and motivations here.
Still, when we knew that the changelings were involved – and that Vadic was in contact with a changeling spy embedded aboard the Titan – it seemed like a reasonable assumption that she could’ve been a changeling herself!
So those theories have been debunked or confirmed.
Now it’s time for the main event: the theory list! We’ll start with new theories and theories that saw movement as a result of events in No Win Scenario.
Vadic is a veteran of the Battle of Wolf-359.
One thing that has confused me about the story so far is that there have been multiple Borg references, and specifically references to the events of The Best of Both Worlds. These references have come in a story about changelings and Dr Crusher’s son – a story that doesn’t have a readily apparent Borg angle.
One way in which this circle could be squared, and these references made to feel meaningful, is if Vadic was herself a veteran of the Battle of Wolf-359. This would give her an immediate connection not only to Picard, Riker, and the crew of the Enterprise-D, but also to Captain Shaw. We could learn, perhaps, that Vadic had been a low-level Starfleet officer or crewman, and that she’d left Starfleet after being traumatised by the events of the battle. She could even turn out to be one of the other survivors of the USS Constance – meaning she’d once served alongside Shaw.
Jack Crusher has changeling DNA… somehow.
Why do the changelings want Jack so badly? Why does Jack have strange visions of blood-red vines and an opening door? And why do we prominently see what appears to be a strand of DNA in the closing credits? If I’m right, then Jack will – somehow – have a combination of human and changeling DNA. How this happened… well, he and Dr Crusher have spent years on the front lines delivering medical supplies and taking risks. Perhaps something that happened to them on their travels brought Jack into contact with a changeling.
I don’t think that Jack knows what’s going on, and if such a connection were revealed, it would probably be as much of a surprise to him as it will be to us as the audience!
Having established Jack as the son of Dr Crusher and Picard, it would be difficult to say that he is a changeling; an imposter. But maybe that’s the direction the story will go. I suspect it may be subtler than that, though, and just like Vadic has a changeling hand, Jack may have some kind of changeling DNA without actually being a changeling himself.
The rogue changelings are responsible for the mysterious anomaly seen in Season 2.
It didn’t escape my notice that the events of Season 2 were referenced – albeit incredibly briefly – by Captain Shaw in No Win Scenario. That being said, this theory still feels like somewhat of a long-shot just based on how Picard seems to have moved on from what happened last year.
In short, what I’m suggesting is that the mysterious anomaly that was a big part of the story of Season 2 will turn out to be a weapon of some kind deployed by the rogue changelings, either as part of or as a precursor to their plan to attack Starfleet and the Federation. This would explain Dr Jurati’s comment that the anomaly seemed to be artificial in nature – and it would tie up a massive loose end from last season.
The rogue changelings are planning attacks on the Klingon Empire and the Romulans.
It wasn’t only the Federation that opposed the Founders during the Dominion War. The Klingons, Romulans, and later a Cardassian resistance movement all played significant roles in preventing the Dominion from conquering the Alpha Quadrant – so it stands to reason that the rogue changelings would be looking to get revenge on these powers, too.
Despite having had two full seasons of Picard already – one of which had a major Romulan theme – we still don’t know much about the state of the galaxy in political terms. Are the Federation, Romulans, and Klingons on friendly terms in this era, or has the Dominion War alliance of necessity fallen apart? After the Zhat Vash plot was exposed, what happened to Federation-Romulan relations? All of these things would be interesting to explore, and the rogue changelings’ plot could lead to such a storyline. For now, though, suffice to say I suspect that the Federation may not be the only target that the rogue changelings have in mind!
The rogue changelings may also be targeting the Bajorans and Cardassians.
These two factions played smaller roles during the Dominion War in some respects, with the Cardassians serving as Dominion allies (and members of the Dominion), and Bajor signing an official non-aggression pact with the Dominion. However, both the Bajorans and Cardassians later opposed the Dominion, and the Prophets – who are strongly aligned with Bajor – arguably turned the tide of the entire war.
If the rogue changelings are on the move, I would suspect that the Federation, Romulans, and Klingons would be their main targets as it was these powers who played the biggest and most obvious roles in the conflict. But Bajor and Cardassia may not be safe.
Again, we don’t know enough about the geopolitics of this era! Bajor may have joined the Federation, and even Cardassia could be under Federation protection. If so, that changes the dynamic.
There are changeling infiltrators aboard dozens of Starfleet vessels.
No offence to Captain Shaw and Commander Seven… but the Titan isn’t exactly the most important ship in the fleet. Prior to Picard and Riker commandeering it for their off-the-books rescue mission, it was a minor exploratory vessel that doesn’t seem to have played a significant role in any major event, nor is it at the heart of the Federation’s defensive strategy.
Despite the ship’s relative unimportance, however, the rogue changelings still planted a spy aboard the Titan. If a ship like the Titan has an embedded changeling, it stands to reason that other ships do, too – perhaps a great many others. Their missions may be to sabotage the ships, either subtly, as we saw with the Titan, or more explosively…
The rogue changelings are planning to cripple Starfleet.
The precise number of ships that Starfleet has has always been a tad vague, adaptable to different stories. But I think we can safely assume that there are several hundred ships in Starfleet at any one time. Many of these, though, will be science vessels, ships of exploration, or even transport ships. The number of tactical vessels and combat-ready front-line ships is going to be a lot smaller.
With that in mind, a coordinated strike against these ships could cripple the Federation’s ability to defend itself. We already know that the rogue changeling aboard the Titan had a bomb that they used to severely damage the ship – if other rogue changeling operatives are similarly equipped, they could potentially take out Starfleet’s best and most powerful vessels in one fell swoop.
Vadic backstory ideas.
We’ve ruled out the idea that Vadic is a changeling, but I still have some other possible origins in play for the season’s only named villain. I wrote a list months ago, after Vadic first made her debut in pre-season marketing material, and suggested several ways that Vadic could be connected to Star Trek’s past. We looked at one such idea above – that Vadic may be a veteran of Wolf-359 and an ex-Starfleet officer or crewman, but there are a handful of others.
- 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.
Vadic has put together a “rogues’ gallery” of Star Trek villains.
I’m close to retiring this theory, to tell the truth, but until we’ve spent a bit more time with Vadic and the masked crew of the Shrike, there’s still a slim chance that it could pan out.
When we first saw Moriarty and Lore in pre-season trailers, I wondered whether they might be members of Vadic’s crew. If so, I theorised that they may just be the tip of the iceberg, and that Vadic may have allies from across The Next Generation era – particularly people who hated Picard and could conceivably want to seek revenge against him. I suggested characters like Sela, Toral, Commodore Oh, and even Thomas Riker as possible candidates.
You can see the full list by clicking or tapping here.
Vadic’s crew are Jem’Hadar.
Another theory that may not pan out! Now that we know Vadic is almost certainly not a changeling, the likelihood of this one seems to have dropped dramatically. In short, I speculated last time that if Vadic is a Founder, she may have brought Jem’Hadar with her, or perhaps even that the rogue changelings were breeding their own Jem’Hadar.
Given that there is a connection, though, and that Vadic has a changeling (or part of a changeling) aboard her vessel, we could still potentially see some Jem’Hadar warriors amongst her crew.
The Borg are involved.
With a surprisingly large portion of No Win Scenario taken up with telling stories about the Borg, perhaps the chances of a bigger Borg connection have just increased! After all, why should the narrative keep returning to the Borg if there isn’t something else going on to make such inclusions relevant?
Last week, I suggested two possibilities for Borg involvement. Firstly, the rogue changelings may have stolen Borg technology from Daystrom Station – tech that could even be from the Artifact. This technology may be part of how they plan to attack Starfleet. Secondly, it doesn’t seem entirely impossible for the rogue changelings to have allied themselves with the Borg – after all, both factions would have reasons for wanting to see the Federation and Starfleet weakened or defeated, and the Borg have shown a willingness to make alliances before.
Captain Shaw will be killed.
Now that Shaw has had his explosive moment with Picard, revealing his involvement at the Battle of Wolf-359, the end could be near for the “dipshit from Chicago.” We’ve already seen how the Titan having multiple captains on board complicates the story, and if there is to be any kind of “Seven of Nine show” as a spin-off, it makes sense that Shaw might need to be removed from the captain’s chair in order to make that happen.
There’s still a lot of potential in Shaw, and he certainly could have more to contribute to the story. However, there are other potential reasons why killing him off could be on the agenda! If the writers want the impact of killing a major character, but don’t want the controversy of killing off a legacy character, then Captain Shaw could be on the chopping block. His death could raise the stakes significantly as the story approaches its halfway point.
Someone on Picard’s crew will turn out to be an imposter.
So we’ve ruled out the likes of Riker and Vadic being changelings, and I think we can safely say that Picard, the Crushers, Captain Shaw, and Seven of Nine aren’t changelings either. But that still leaves several major characters who could potentially have been replaced! The title of the upcoming episode is Imposters, which could also be a hint!
With changelings on the move, basically anyone could have been replaced, and it won’t always be easy to tell. It seems possible that someone like Geordi, Troi, or perhaps even Raffi could be replaced by changeling infiltrators before they link up with Picard and the crew of the Titan, and it may not be possible to know who to trust.
With one changeling infiltrator storyline having already played out, though, it will have to be handled carefully so as not to feel repetitive! Still, I can’t help but wonder if a changeling imposter may be a big revelation in a future episode.
Not all of Raffi’s messages were from Worf.
As the changeling infiltration story deepens, I think it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that someone involved in the conspiracy – Vadic, perhaps – was sending messages to Raffi claiming to be her handler. These messages may have been false leads, irrelevant information, or other attempts to throw her off the trail. If so, it worked – Raffi wasn’t able to stop the attack on the Federation facility in time.
Narratively speaking, there was a good reason to keep Worf hidden until the end of Disengage: it made his last-second appearance all the more dramatic. But could there be another reason why Raffi’s messages came through in text form, read aloud by a disembodied digital voice? I wonder.
So those theories are new or moved significantly in No Win Scenario.
Now, in order to keep the theories all in one place, I’ll recap everything else that’s currently in play. These theories weren’t touched in this week’s episode.
The absences of characters from Seasons 1 and 2 will be explained.
I was pleasantly surprised to see Laris was included in the season premiere, 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!
There will be at least one unannounced character returning!
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 Generation, Deep 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!
Several members of La Sirena’s crew have joined Captain Vadic.
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!
At least one main character will be killed.
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.
Picard and his crew will reactivate Lore and Professor Moriarty.
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!
Picard and his crew need to find synthetic allies/crewmates.
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!
Vadic will be killed by her own portal-weapon.
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 in Seventeen Seconds, 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!
Odo will make an appearance – somehow.
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.
Lore and/or Professor Moriarty were stolen from Daystrom Station.
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.
A spin-off series will be announced.
Sad news came out from Paramount shortly after the episode Seventeen Seconds 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’d 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 right now, making such an announcement before Picard comes to an end would be good timing… so watch this space, I guess!
So that’s it!
Those are all of the theories that we have in play as we approach the midpoint of the season. There’s still a lot of time for the story to go in completely different directions, though, and even to introduce new characters and factions if it’s done right. We’ve started to see the beginnings of some mysteries being unravelled – but others, such as what may be causing Jack’s mysterious hallucinations, are just getting started!
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.