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 Search for Spock, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Discovery, and Prodigy.
Phew! Surrender has finally killed off a whole bunch of theories as we gear up for the final two episodes of Star Trek: Picard. There are still twists and turns to come, of that I’m certain, but this week marks the definitive end for a whole host of theories – several of which have been running for all or almost all of the season!
Quite a few of the debunked or retiring theories were to do with Vadic – and as she died this week, so do they. Vadic’s death was unspectacular, at least in my opinion, and also it feels premature. Vadic died without telling us much of anything, aside from her tortured backstory, and several of these theories still feel like they could have been plausible had we spent more time with the season’s only named villainous character.
But you can check out my review for my thoughts on Vadic, Surrender in a more general sense, and my unease at the concept of killing the only named villain in the eighth episode of a ten-episode season. You can find my review of Surrender by clicking or tapping here.
This week we have one confirmation, one semi-confirmation, a whopping five debunkings, and two theories that – while not debunked outright by the events of Surrender – I’m choosing to retire from the list. They now seem completely implausible based on the direction taken by the story. As always, we’ll take a look at all of these first!
The rogue changelings are keeping their most important prisoners alive.
I have to say that it never seemed to be a realistic prospect that Riker would simply have been murdered after being kidnapped by Vadic – not before he could rejoin the crew and participate in the TNG reunion that pre-season marketing heavily pushed! But the fact that Riker and Troi were being kept alive by Vadic’s crew may also bode well for Tuvok – and possibly for other characters, too.
We saw in earlier episodes that the rogue changelings were killing at least some of the individuals that they replaced – but with all the talk of blood and DNA, it seemed at least plausible that they might keep some of their more important targets alive. Hopefully that includes Tuvok!
Worf and Raffi saved Riker and Troi.
I had also included Tuvok in this theory last week, so we can only call it “semi” confirmed! But as expected, Worf and Raffi successfully tracked down Riker after his capture and were able to free him – along with Deanna Troi – from captivity aboard the Shrike.
Raffi played less of a role in this story in some ways, but she got her explosive action sequence after boarding the Titan.
Debunked theory #1:
Picard and the crew will commandeer the Shrike.
There were multiple narrative routes to Picard and the crew of the Titan stealing the Shrike – a powerful warship that could have proved useful in the fight that may lie ahead! I wondered if Vadic may have been trapped in the holodeck, for example, or if Picard would use her takeover of the Titan to covertly slip his forces aboard her vessel somehow.
Regardless, this idea was shot down in flames – literally! The Titan blew up the Shrike shortly after Vadic’s death, and although it might’ve made sense to try to capture the vessel instead, its destruction is kind of symbolic of the story of the past eight episodes being brought to a close ahead of the finale.
Debunked theory #2:
Vadic and/or the rogue changelings got to Lore before Picard.
For me – speaking as someone who has admittedly never been the biggest fan of Lore – the return of Data’s “brother” fell rather flat. His lack of connection to the main story made the sequences in which he appeared feel like little more than padding; an unnecessary bump in the road as a relatively thin story was stretched to breaking point.
One way in which I felt Lore could have made a more positive contribution to the plot is if he’d been connected to Vadic and the rogue changelings somehow. With Vadic’s people having boarded Daystrom Station at least once – to steal the portal-weapon and Picard’s body – it seemed plausible to think that they might’ve somehow tampered with Lore, reprogramming him to be on their side. But it didn’t pan out that way!
Debunked theory #3:
Vadic is the female changeling from Deep Space Nine.
While I wouldn’t say I was ever “sold” on this theory, it seemed like a possibility for a while. The female changeling who directed the Dominion’s war effort in Deep Space Nine was one of only a handful of changeling characters that we met, and as of the end of the Dominion War she was in Federation custody.
The story of Season 3 has touched on Deep Space Nine in more ways than one – but the female changeling hasn’t been so much as mentioned all season long. It would have felt like a bolt from the blue if this connection had been made at such a late stage… but it could have been interesting if it had been handled well.
Debunked theory #4:
Deanna Troi is a changeling.
In a story involving a changeling-led conspiracy, I think it’s all too easy to become “paranoid” and to see changelings behind the face of practically every character! That being said, Troi’s first appearance in the season – outside of minor cameos – came aboard the Shrike… a vessel crewed by changelings.
It didn’t seem like much of a leap to think that she may have been replaced, and that this imposter was designed to trick Riker into betraying Picard or revealing the location of the Titan.
Debunked theory #5:
Vadic will be killed by her own portal-weapon.
In the first part of the season, Vadic’s portal-weapon was a big plot point. In fact, Vadic’s theft of the powerful device was basically the only thing we knew about her for several episodes! In stories like these, it’s not an uncommon trope for the villain to be killed by their own weapon; hoisted by their own petard.
After Vadic jettisoned the portal-weapon before taking the Shrike into the nebula a few weeks ago, I felt sure she’d pick it back up. It seemed like too powerful a weapon to just abandon. But the portal-weapon disappeared from the plot – and Vadic’s ultimate end was entirely unrelated to it.
Retired theory #1:
Not all of Raffi’s messages were from Worf.
This theory hasn’t been debunked – but with two episodes left and a conspiracy to defeat, it feels all but certain that the story is going in a completely different direction. In short, I had suggested that there was a reason why Raffi’s messages from her handler came in the form of text and a disembodied digital voice, and that perhaps Vadic or other rogue changelings hacked into her messages and relayed her false information.
Raffi’s relatively minor role over the past few episodes, and the story leaving behind the criminal underworld, had already made this one feel increasingly unlikely. I’m choosing to pull it from the list at this point, since it doesn’t seem like a story beat that will be revisited.
Retired theory #2:
Vadic has assembled a “rogues’ gallery” of Star Trek villains.
This theory had been barely hanging on for several weeks – but I was still wondering if other characters from past iterations of Star Trek might’ve been allied with the rogue changelings and included in their conspiracy. The fact that the crew of the Shrike were all wearing strange masks led me to wonder whether there might be familiar faces hidden behind the masks – but the Shrike was destroyed this week, and its crew were all killed.
As a concept, the idea of Picard having to face an alliance of all of his most powerful adversaries from across The Next Generation was a fascinating one – and while we won’t see it in this series now, perhaps it’s an idea that could be revisited one day. It would make a fun 60th Anniversary special, for example, if a combined crew from across The Next Generation era had to face down a rogues’ gallery of villains!
So those theories were confirmed, debunked, or have been retired!
Now we’ll move into the main theory list, beginning with theories that are brand-new or that saw significant movement in the episode Surrender.
Troi will use her “pain removal” skill on Jack.
While Riker and Troi were imprisoned, their conversation turned to something that Troi had done to Riker: she used her Betazoid abilities to “enter” his mind and remove the pain he felt at his son’s death. She did so with the best of intentions – but as always, these things have unintended consequences!
But why bring up this episode in their past? We didn’t see any of this happen, after all, and Surrender seemed to linger over this idea. Could it be that this sequence has established Troi’s pain removal skill for a reason? If so, who might need something removed from their mind? Jack Crusher, who has been struggling with hallucinatory experiences, seems like the most likely candidate!
The rogue changelings didn’t want Jean-Luc Picard… they wanted Locutus.
Did Picard’s old body just get blown to smithereens when the Shrike was destroyed? Regardless, it seems as if the rogue changelings took part of Picard’s brain – the part that may have been affected by Irumodic Syndrome. But why would they want that? My theory is that they were harvesting not something organic, but rather a Borg device that was left over from Picard’s assimilation experience.
We saw in Season 2 that Starfleet has used Borg tech in its latest generation of starships – and how the Borg were able to take advantage of that. Maybe the rogue changelings’ plot involves using parts from Locutus in order to commandeer, hack into, or damage Starfleet vessels. They didn’t need Jean-Luc Picard’s body… they needed Locutus.
The rogue changelings are planning to hack into the entire connected Federation fleet.
Connected to the idea above, perhaps part of the rogue changelings’ plans for Frontier Day involve hacking into Starfleet. We learned earlier in the season that all of the ships in the fleet can communicate with one another – so perhaps the rogue changelings want to take advantage of this. They could instruct the ships to fire on one another, perhaps.
I would say that it’s kind of frustrating at such a late stage to not know what exactly the rogue changelings are planning! This feels like a plausible idea based on what we’ve seen on screen so far, though.
Jack’s eyes, combat skills, and hallucinations are connected to the Borg.
If Picard’s Irumodic Syndrome may have been misdiagnosed, then perhaps the same has happened to Jack. If Picard’s brain was actually affected by Borg implants, perhaps Jack somehow inherited these Borg changes from Picard. If so, his skills, eyes, and hallucinations may all be connected to the Borg.
Red isn’t a colour we typically associate with the Borg – but if Jack’s eyes glowed green, perhaps that would be too much of a giveaway! In past Star Trek stories, characters who had previously been assimilated have been shown to “hear” Borg voices, or the voice of the Borg Queen, so that could also connect with this theory.
Jack has Borg nanoprobes in his body.
If Jack has a Borg brain (or a Borg brain implant) then it stands to reason that he also has Borg nanites in his system. Given the connection to Picard, it seems likely that he would have inherited these from Picard at the moment of conception, but I suppose it’s also possible that he picked them up somewhere along his travels.
These latent nanoprobes may be the key to his hallucinations – explaining how Jack can hear a voice that isn’t his own.
Jack’s “ancient” voice is the Borg Queen.
At the end of Surrender, Deanna Troi explained that Jack is hearing an “ancient” voice that is not his own, and that this voice is tied to the darkness swirling around him. In earlier episodes, a voice that Jack could hear had a feminine quality to it, so my thoughts have immediately turned to the Borg Queen. If, as suggested, Jack has Borg nanites in his system that he inherited from Picard, maybe he’s hearing the voice of the Borg Queen.
Presumably, if this theory were to pan out, we’d be talking about the original Queen, not the Dr Jurati hybrid that was created in Season 2. There are certainly other ancient evils that I can think of in Star Trek, but none are as connected to Picard – and possibly to Jack – as the Borg Queen. This connection could also pay off the multiple Borg mentions earlier in the season.
The Borg are involved.
There have been multiple references to the Borg this season – and to Picard’s assimilation experience in particular. We’ve just looked at a couple of possible ways in which the Borg could be brought into the story, but there are others. I suspect that, if there is to be a Borg connection, it will involve Borg technology rather than the Collective itself – especially with only a couple of episodes remaining.
However, we can’t rule out some kind of alliance between the rogue changelings and the Borg. Floaty McFloatface may have been the Borg’s “representative,” for example, directing the rogue changelings to carry out the Collective’s orders.
Jack Crusher has changeling DNA… somehow.
Whatever is going on with Jack is implied to also be tied to Picard, so would this mean that Picard also has changeling DNA? That’s something to think over! But for now, suffice to say that Vadic knew a lot about Jack, including the specific details of one of his hallucinatory experiences. How could she possibly know that – unless it’s something that she and/or other changelings have experienced?
I don’t believe that Jack is a changeling – and at this late stage, the story couldn’t get away with going down that route. However, it seems possible that Jack has somehow got a small amount of changeling DNA in his system – explaining why the rogue changelings have been so interested in him, and how they’ve come to know so much about him.
Jack is a “sleeper agent.”
Jack may or may not have Borg nanites or changeling DNA… but either way, perhaps he’s a “sleeper agent.” He could be either a Dominion sleeper agent or a Federation one, who has been programmed or brainwashed – perhaps while away from Beverly attending school – and designed to be “activated” at a later time.
Jack’s birth came after the end of the Dominion War, so he wasn’t – as I had originally guessed – programmed to participate in that conflict. But this kind of deep cover intelligence asset is something that Section 31 might use, as well as other factions.
Floaty McFloatface will be back.
Argh, I hate this one. But it seems at least possible that Floaty McFloatface – who appeared to be Vadic’s boss – may not be as dead as we think. We didn’t see Floaty McFloatface in Surrender, and while Vadic seemed to have both of her hands when she died, it’s possible that this unnamed character may have survived, or may have never been a true part of Vadic to begin with.
I don’t like this idea because bringing a character back in this kind of fake-out way is usually not very satisfying. But another part of me wants to know who Floaty McFloatface was and what they hoped to achieve – things I can hardly believe that we still don’t know at this late stage in the story!
Floaty McFloatface isn’t a changeling.
If we haven’t seen the last of Floaty McFloatface, perhaps we’ll learn who they really are – and I suspect that they may not be a changeling, or at least not a Founder. The way in which Floaty spoke to Vadic, and specifically the way in which he talked about her “kind,” seemed to imply that they may not be the same race.
Vadic also appeared to fear Floaty McFloatface, which could suggest a power imbalance. If Floaty was a representative of the Borg, for example, Vadic may have feared their power. Vadic’s death throws this theory into doubt, but I don’t think we should strike it from the list just yet.
Captain Shaw will be killed.
I’m tempted to strike this one off the list, to tell you the truth! But I’ve held onto this theory for the whole season, and with two episodes left it still seems possible – despite the fact that Captain Shaw has survived two major injuries so far. I maintain that Shaw feels superfluous – decisions appear to be taken on board his ship without his input, and that doesn’t really pass muster as a narrative point. But at the same time, opportunities to kill him off have come and gone.
It would have been far more impactful for Vadic to have killed Shaw in Surrender than to have killed the relatively minor character of T’Veen, for example. If the writers want the impact of killing a major character but don’t want the controversy of killing a legacy character, Shaw and Raffi are the only real choices. With two episodes left – in which Picard and the crew must confront the remaining changelings – Shaw could still be in danger, even if the impact of his possible death would be lesser at this point in the story.
Someone on the crew will turn out to be a changeling imposter.
At this point in the story, it seems as if we should be able to rule out all of The Next Generation characters as changeling imposters. But part of me still feels suspicious – there may yet be a twist in someone’s story that we’re not supposed to see coming!
It might be difficult to pull this off now, especially after a touching reunion between the old friends at the end of Surrender. But when the changelings are involved… as I said earlier, it can be tempting to feel paranoid and see changelings hiding everywhere! Perhaps a changeling has been hiding in plain sight all along, pushing Picard and the crew to a specific place to benefit their overall conspiracy.
The rogue changelings are planning to cripple Starfleet.
Frontier Day is now just hours away… and we still don’t know what the rogue changelings are hoping to accomplish. Having replaced dozens or perhaps hundreds of well-placed Starfleet personnel, it seems plausible that they may be planning to destroy or disable a significant number of Federation starships. We’ve already seen on two separate occasions that rogue changeling operatives were equipped with bombs. Perhaps blowing up the fleet is their ambition.
A coordinated strike against dozens of ships could cripple the Federation’s ability to defend itself, especially if the rogue changelings pick their targets carefully and select the right ships! This could even be a backup plan of sorts – something that the rogue changelings will do if their main plan involving Jack Crusher can’t be carried out.
At least one main character will be killed.
As we approach the end of the story, there’s still at least one battle to come. I suspect that not everyone will make it to the end in one piece – and a well-timed character death could really seal the deal when it comes to raising the stakes and/or paying off a character arc. It would be shocking and tragic, of course, to have to bid farewell to someone we may have known for more than thirty years… but it’s a distinct possibility.
I’m a tad surprised at this point in the season that we haven’t seen more death. Ro Laren’s death was the most significant so far… but there’s still time! I wrote a list before the season premiere outlining who I thought could be in danger, and you can find it by clicking or tapping here.
At least one more unannounced character will make an appearance!
In addition to the characters we knew would be returning, there have been two big surprises: Tuvok and Ro Laren. But there’s still time for at least one more character from the past to make a welcome return to Star Trek. Admiral Janeway’s name has been mentioned more than once, and we know that Kate Mulgrew is still involved with Star Trek as she’s appeared in Prodigy, so she has to be a contender!
But there are a whole host of characters – major and minor – from The Next Generation era and beyond who could potentially appear. There isn’t time now for anyone to play a major role, but cameos are a distinct possibility. We saw in both Seasons 1 and 2 that the final episodes included surprises… so be on the lookout for familiar faces!
So those theories are new or moved significantly this week.
Now, as always, I’ll recap the remaining theories that are still in play. I find it helps to keep everything in one place!
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.
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.
Picard will donate his golem body to Jack.
The revelation that Jack has the terminal and incurable Irumodic syndrome was a surprising inclusion in The Bounty – and it tied into that episode’s theme of the relationship parents have with their children, and what kinds of things children inherit from their parents. Irumodic syndrome was the most obvious example of a “flaw” passed from parent to child.
But this story could have also set up the endgame – not only for Season 3, but for Jean-Luc Picard himself. In short, I’m suggesting that Picard will donate his golem to Jack, sacrificing himself to save his son’s life in one final act of parental love. This will come after the rogue changelings have been defeated – and will mark the definitive, conclusive end of both Star Trek: Picard and the show’s title character.
The rogue changelings are trying to reach the Nexus.
One of the easter eggs in The Bounty showed us a glimpse of Captain Kirk’s body – or a readout on a screen, at least. As far as we know, only two corpses were stored at Daystrom Station: Picard’s and Kirk’s. Aside from both being captains of the Enterprise, what else do these two characters have in common? They both used the Nexus to travel through time. Picard travelled only a few hours, but Kirk jumped forwards in time by decades.
The Nexus hasn’t been mentioned since Generations, and it would be a less well-known part of Star Trek to bring back in some ways. But the timelines could kind of sync up here: if it’s been 30+ years since the events of Generations, and the Nexus returns every 39.1 years, that could work! The Nexus could also be phenomenally useful for the rogue changelings – if they wanted to travel back in time to prevent the Dominion’s defeat, for example.
Irumodic syndrome is important to the rogue changelings.
As Picard noted in The Bounty, he “died” of Irumodic syndrome back in Season 1. Irumodic syndrome is a big link between Jack and Picard right now – and because these two characters are the ones who seem to have gotten most of the rogue changelings’ attention, that fact could be significant!
Perhaps Irumodic syndrome can be used by changelings to mask their presence, or maybe it can somehow cure the genetic disease that Section 31 created. Irumodic syndrome could also be an indication that an individual possesses changeling DNA – or some other attribute that’s important to changelings.
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!
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.
So that’s it!
It’s still all to play for as we approach the final pair of episodes, and there are still many different routes that the story could take. I desperately hope that whatever comes next will feel natural, and will feel connected in some way to the story elements that have already been introduced. The last thing Picard needs is yet another deus ex machina-type ending! In spite of my disappointment with Surrender and the premature death of Vadic, I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for an ending to the story that is, at the very least, narratively coherent.
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.