Ten of my gaming pet peeves

A couple of years ago, I put together two lists of things I really dislike about modern video games – but somehow I’ve managed to find even more! Although there’s lots to enjoy when it comes to the hobby of gaming, there are still plenty of annoyances and dislikes that can detract from even the most pleasant of gaming experiences. So today, I thought it could be a bit of fun to take a look at ten of them!

Several of these points could (and perhaps one day will) be full articles or essays all on their own. Big corporations in the video games industry all too often try to get away with egregiously wrong and even malicious business practices – and we should all do our best to call out misbehaviour. While today’s list is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, there are major issues with the way big corporations in the gaming realm behave… as indeed there are with billion-dollar corporations in every other industry, too.

Gaming is great fun… but it has its annoyances!

That being said, this is supposed to be a bit of fun. And as always, I like to caveat any piece like this by saying that everything we’re going to be talking about is nothing more than one person’s subjective take on the topic! If you disagree with everything I have to say, if you like, enjoy, or don’t care about these issues, or if I miss something that seems like an obvious inclusion to you, please just keep in mind that all of this is just the opinion of one single person! There’s always room for differences of opinion; as gamers we all have different preferences and tolerance levels.

If you’d like to check out my earlier lists of gaming annoyances, you can find the first one by clicking or tapping here, and the follow-up by clicking or tapping here. In some ways, this list is “part three,” so if you like what you see, you might also enjoy those older lists as well!

With all of that out of the way, let’s jump into the list – which is in no particular order.

Number 1:
Motion blur and film grain.

Film grain and motion blur options in Ghostwire Tokyo.

Whenever I boot up a new game, I jump straight into the options menu and disable both motion blur and film grain – settings that are almost always inexplicably enabled by default. Film grain is nothing more than a crappy Snapchat filter; something twelve-year-olds love to play with to make their photos look “retro.” It adds nothing to a game and actively detracts from the graphical fidelity of modern titles.

Motion blur is in the same category. Why would anyone want this motion sickness-inducing setting enabled? It smears and smudges even the best-looking titles for basically no reason at all. Maybe on particularly underpowered systems these settings might hide some graphical jankiness, but on new consoles and even moderately good PCs, they’re unnecessary. They make games look significantly worse – and I can’t understand why anyone would choose to play a title with them enabled.

Number 2:
In-game currencies that have deliberately awkward exchange rates.

Show-Bucks bundles in Fall Guys.

In-game currencies are already pretty shady; a psychological manipulation to trick players into spending more real money. But what’s far worse is when in-game currencies are deliberately awkward with their exchange rates. For example, if most items on the storefront cost 200 in-game dollars, but I can only buy in-game dollars in bundles of 250 or 500. If I buy 250 in-game dollars I’ll have a few left over that I can’t spend, and if I buy 500 then I’ll have spent more than I need to.

This is something publishers do deliberately. They know that if you have 50 in-game dollars left over there’ll be a temptation to buy even more to make up the difference, and they know players will be forced to over-spend on currencies that they have no need for. Some of these verge on being scams – but all of them are annoying.

Number 3:
Fully-priced games with microtransactions.

The in-game shop in Diablo IV.

If a game is free – like Fortnite or Fall Guys – then microtransactions feel a lot more reasonable. Offering a game for free to fund it through in-game purchases is a viable business model, and while it needs to be monitored to make sure the in-game prices aren’t unreasonable, it can be an acceptable way for a game to make money. But if a game costs me £65 up-front, there’s no way it should include microtransactions.

We need to differentiate expansion packs from microtransactions, because DLC that massively expands a game and adds new missions and the like is usually acceptable. But if I’ve paid full price for a game, I shouldn’t find an in-game shop offering me new costumes, weapon upgrades, and things like that. Some titles absolutely take the piss with this, too, even including microtransactions in single-player campaigns, or having so many individual items for sale that the true cost of the game – including purchasing all in-game items – can run into four or even five figures.

Number 4:
Patches as big as (or bigger than) the actual game.

No patch should ever need to be this large.

This one kills me because of my slow internet! And it’s come to the fore recently as a number of big releases have been buggy and broken at launch. Jedi: Survivor, for example, has had patches that were as big as the game’s original 120GB download size – meaning a single patch would take me more than a day to download. Surely it must be possible to patch or fix individual files without requiring players to download the entire game all over again – in some cases more than once.

I’m not a developer or technical expert, and I concede that I don’t know enough about this topic on a technical level to be able to say with certainty that it’s something that should never happen. But as a player, I know how damnably annoying it is to press “play” only to be told I need to wait hours and hours for a massive, unwieldy patch. Especially if that patch, when fully downloaded, doesn’t appear to have actually done anything!

Number 5:
Broken PC ports.

This is supposed to be Joel from The Last Of Us Part 1.

As I said when I took a longer look at this topic, I had hoped that broken PC ports were becoming a thing of the past. Not so, however! A number of recent releases – including massive AAA titles – have landed on PC in broken or even outright unplayable states, plagued by issues that are not present on PlayStation or Xbox.

PC is a massive platform, one that shouldn’t be neglected in this way. At the very least, publishers should have the decency to delay a PC port if it’s clearly lagging behind the console versions – but given the resources that many of the games industry’s biggest corporations have at their disposal, I don’t see why we should accept even that. Develop your game properly and don’t try to launch it before it’s ready! I’m not willing to pay for the “privilege” of doing the job of a QA tester.

Number 6:
Recent price hikes.

It must be some kind of visual metaphor…

Inflation and a cost-of-living crisis are really punching all of us in the face right now – so the last thing we need are price hikes from massive corporations. Sony really pissed me off last year when they bragged to their investors about record profits before turning around literally a matter of weeks later and announcing that the price of PlayStation 5 consoles was going to go up. This is unprecedented, as the cost of consoles usually falls as a console generation progresses.

But Sony is far from the only culprit. Nintendo, Xbox, Activision Blizzard, TakeTwo, Electronic Arts and practically every major corporation in the games industry have jacked up their prices over the last few years, raising the basic price of a new game – and that’s before we look at DLC, special editions, and the like. These companies are making record-breaking profits, and yet they use the excuse of “inflation” to rip us off even more. Profiteering wankers.

Number 7:
The “release now, fix later” business model is still here.

The player character falling through the map in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.

I had hoped that some recent catastrophic game launches would have been the death knell for the “release now, fix later” business model – but alas. Cyberpunk 2077 failed so hard that it got pulled from sale and tanked the share price of CD Projekt Red… but even so, this appalling way of making and launching games has persisted. Just in the first half of 2023 we’ve had titles like Hogwarts Legacy, Redfall, Jedi: Survivor, Forspoken, and The Lord of the Rings: Gollum that arrived broken, buggy, and unplayable.

With every disaster that causes trouble for a corporation, I cross my fingers and hope that lessons will be learned. But it seems as if the “release now, fix later” approach is here to stay. Or at least it will be as long as players keep putting up with it – and even defending it in some cases.

Number 8:
Day-one DLC/paywalled day-one content.

An example of a “digital deluxe edition” and its paywalled content.

It irks me no end when content that was clearly developed at the same time as the “base version” of a game is paywalled off and sold separately for an additional fee. The most egregious example of this that comes to mind is Mass Effect 3′s From Ashes DLC, which was launched alongside the game. This DLC included a character and missions that were completely integrated into the game – yet had been carved out to be sold separately.

This practice continues, unfortunately, and many modern titles release with content paywalled off, even if that content was developed right along with the rest of the game. Sometimes these things are designed to be sold as part of a “special edition,” but that doesn’t excuse it either. Even if all we’re talking about are character skins and cosmetic content, it still feels like those things should be included in the price – especially in single-player titles. Some of this content can be massively overpriced, too, with packs of two or three character skins often retailing for £10 or more.

Number 9:
Platform-exclusive content and missions.

Spider-Man was a PlayStation-only character in Marvel’s Avengers.

Some titles are released with content locked to a single platform. Hogwarts Legacy and Marvel’s Avengers are two examples that come to mind – and in both cases, missions and characters that should have been part of the main game were unavailable to players on PC and Xbox thanks to deals with Sony. While I can understand the incentive to do this… it’s a pretty shit way of making money for a publisher, and a pretty scummy way for a platform to try to attract sales.

Again, this leaves games incomplete, and players who’ve paid full price end up getting a worse experience or an experience with less to do depending on their platform of choice. That’s unfair – and it’s something that shouldn’t be happening.

Number 10:

Cartman from South Park said it best:
“You know what you get for pre-ordering a game? A big dick in your mouth.”

Pre-ordering made sense – when games were sold in brick-and-mortar shops on cartridges or discs. You wanted to guarantee your copy of the latest big release, and one way to make sure you’d get the game before it sold out was to pre-order it. But that doesn’t apply any more; not only are more and more games being sold digitally, but even if you’re a console player who wants to get a game on disc, there isn’t the same danger of scarcity that there once was.

With so many games being released broken – or else failing to live up to expectations – pre-ordering in 2023 is nothing short of stupidity, and any player who still does it is an idiot. It actively harms the industry and other players by letting corporations get away with more misbehaviour and nonsense. If we could all be patient and wait a day or two for reviews, fewer games would be able to be launched in unplayable states. Games companies bank on a significant number of players pre-ordering and not cancelling or refunding if things go wrong. It’s free money for them – and utterly unnecessary in an age of digital downloads.

So that’s it!

A PlayStation 5 console.

We’ve gone through ten of my pet peeves when it comes to gaming. I hope this was a bit of fun – and not something to get too upset over!

The gaming landscape has changed massively since I first started playing. Among the earliest titles I can remember trying my hand at are Antarctic Adventure and the Commodore 64 title International Soccer, and the first home console I was able to get was a Super Nintendo. Gaming has grown massively since those days, and the kinds of games that can be created with modern technology, game engines, and artificial intelligence can be truly breathtaking.

But it isn’t all good, and we’ve talked about a few things today that I find irritating or annoying. The continued push from publishers to release games too early and promise patches and fixes is particularly disappointing, and too many publishers and corporations take their greed to unnecessary extremes. But that’s the way the games industry is… and as cathartic as it was to get it off my chest, I don’t see those things disappearing any time soon!

All titles mentioned above are the copyright of their respective developer, studio, and/or publisher. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

The Harry Potter TV series won’t succeed. Here’s why.

This article touches on the sensitive subject of transphobia and may be uncomfortable for some readers.

Forgive me the indulgence, but before we get started I really have to claim a victory! In the second half of the 2010s, with the Fantastic Beasts films faltering and Harry Potter’s audience ageing out of the fandom and drifting away, I began to feel it was a sure thing that the stories would be rebooted for a Game of Thrones-inspired big-budget television series. I said so here on the website all the way back in 2019 – so I get to say “I called it!” in response to the announcement of a Harry Potter TV series.

Only a few months ago, in the run-up to the underwhelming Hogwarts Legacy (a game that seems to have dropped off the face of the earth) I also said that I hoped I would never again be compelled to comment on Harry Potter, as I feel I can no longer support the series or its creator. But the announcement of a re-telling of the stories on HBO Max was an opportunity not only to take a victory lap for my correct prediction, but also to consider why it actually feels like a pretty terrible idea – and a bad business decision.

A replica of the Hogwarts Express.

For the most part, this isn’t going to go the way you think. The release of Hogwarts Legacy proved pretty conclusively that a significant portion of the Harry Potter fanbase doesn’t give a shit about transphobia and will cling to their nostalgia and still support the franchise. So this won’t be me claiming that Rowling’s descent down a far-right slope is going to be the deciding factor in why audiences won’t show up for the new show. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Ironically, those two factors – nostalgia and “anti-woke” politics – have already set the stage for the TV series’ undoing. The very things that Rowling and HBO are banking on are going to be the reasons why Harry Potter will fail in this new iteration. And don’t get me wrong… I’m thrilled about that. This show deserves to fail. It’s just bitterly ironic that it will fail in this particular way.

Harry Potter author JK Rowling.

So let’s take a step back. It’s been a few short years since the final Harry Potter film was released, and when we’re talking about reboots, that means one thing: it’s too soon to do this. The Harry Potter films that were released from the 2000s to the early 2010s are, for those still inclined to support the franchise, still perfectly watchable, with decent visual effects, acting performances, and everything else. Rebooting the series now won’t actually add anything of substance.

The series will be live-action, just like the films, and if it has a snowball’s chance in hell of successfully plucking the right nostalgic chords for long-term fans, it will have to re-use a very similar aesthetic. Many elements created for the films – like the sets used for Hogwarts castle, for example – have become inseparable from Harry Potter. Trying to shake things up, even just a little, won’t work and will be offputting for fans.

Concept art for the game Hogwarts Legacy showing the titular Hogwarts castle.

Harry Potter is also a growing, connected franchise. Theme park attractions, video games, and more all rely heavily on the designs created for the films back in the early 2000s. The television series will be forced to recycle these designs, stifling any chance at creativity that its team might’ve had.

But if a new television show will have to retain the look, feel, sound, etc. of the films… how can it differentiate itself? And if it can’t do that, what’s the point? How can this project convince either long-term fans or newcomers to show up for what will be a very similar re-telling of a story that was only told a few short years ago? That’s the first hurdle for the series to overcome – and it’s already a massive one.

Behind the scenes during production of the first Harry Potter film.
Image Credit: IMDB

This speaks to a broader question: who, exactly, is this series being made for? From my admittedly limited engagement with the hard-core Potter fandom, I can’t think of anyone who’s been advocating for a project like this or asking for it to be created. Harry Potter fans, by and large, have been content with the books, films, video games, theme park attraction, and other spin-off media. There just isn’t any kind of grassroots movement asking Rowling, Warner Bros., or HBO to reboot it at this point in time.

So if the show isn’t being made “for the fans,” who are the folks that Warner Bros. and HBO hope will show up? The series isn’t being marketed at children, in spite of the source material, so it doesn’t seem as if this is being planned as a typical kids’ show or child-friendly adaptation. If anything, it feels like it’s being pitched at an adult audience; younger members of Gen X and millennials who remember the original films and the Harry Potter craze of the early 2000s. People who will be in their 20s, 30s, and 40s.

A crowd of Harry Potter fans at a convention.
Image Credit: 9News via YouTube

Already, this new Harry Potter TV series feels incredibly cynical and calculated. As the “streaming wars” continue to rage, corporations are desperately scrounging around for intellectual properties to turn into “the next Game of Thrones” and give a boost to their failing, unprofitable platforms. The decision to reboot Harry Potter can absolutely be seen through that lens – a cheap, creatively bankrupt decision taken by business executives who are out of their depth.

But there’s more to it than that. As JK Rowling has seen her reputation collapse, this is her latest scheme to try to recapture some of the magic and attention that she hasn’t seen in over a decade. It’s an attempt by Rowling – a cynical, sociopathic attempt – to whitewash her image after the toxicity of the last few years. Rowling will undoubtedly try to shoehorn in gay characters, LGB themes, and more black and ethnic minority characters into the story to attempt to rehabilitate her reputation and the reputation of Harry Potter – as well as to deliberately and maliciously conceal the fact that none of those characters or themes were ever present in the original work.

Richard Harris as Dumbledore in a promotional photo.

But that’s the second hurdle that will trip up the Harry Potter series. As Rowling has progressed with her transphobia, she’s found herself attracting more and more support from the “anti-woke” brigade – a loose affiliation of far-right internet trolls, paleoconservative reactionaries, and religious nutters. These people have become Rowling’s biggest fans in recent years – but how do you think they’re going to react when they see an openly gay Professor Dumbledore or the race-bending of a major character like Hermione Granger?

If you said “they’ll hate it and whine about it,” you get a sticker! Because that’s exactly what’s going to happen. Rowling has lost much of the progressive audience that once turned up for Harry Potter in droves, and this audience has been slowly but surely replaced by the “anti-wokers.” In the run-up to the release of Hogwarts Legacy, I saw many of these people promising to buy the game for no other reason than to support Rowling and her transphobic positions. They are going to detest what they will decry as the unnecessary insertion of “woke” into the Harry Potter television series.

How well do you think a recast Hermione Granger will land with JK Rowling’s new “anti-woke” fans?
Image Credit: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

So if this show fails on the nostalgic front and will also fail to connect with Rowling’s new “anti-woke” audience, who’s left? Sure, some die-hard Potter fans will turn up, as they will for anything that has the franchise’s label slapped on it. But are there enough of those people any more, in 2023, for a series with a sky-high budget to bank on?

There’s a casual television audience, people who tune in to see shows that are on the major networks if they’ve gotten a significant marketing push. But HBO Max isn’t a big network – it’s very much a second-tier streaming platform, and one with limited name recognition outside of the United States. So how are people who don’t even know what HBO Max is going to be persuaded to tune in?


HBO Max doesn’t even exist here in the UK – the Harry Potter series’ native land. At least some of the cast will be British, and if the show is to recycle sets and filming locations, at least some scenes and sequences will be shot here. But how are British fans of Harry Potter meant to tune in? It’s one thing for fans to decide whether they want to watch the show or not – but it’s quite another for a big-budget production to be broadcast exclusively on a platform that isn’t available in 99% of the world.

I’ve talked about this before with the Star Trek franchise, when parent company Paramount likewise made the truly awful decision to broadcast some of its shows in the United States and nowhere else. Taking this “America First” approach harms a series immeasurably – and it harms it in the United States, too. The internet is one massive, worldwide audience – and if the vast majority of that audience is cut off and unable to join in with the hype for a show, the conversation dies down. Hashtags don’t trend, posts get fewer likes, ads don’t get seen, and the bubble deflates.

The Harry Potter series will stream on HBO Max.

It remains to be seen how Warner Bros. and HBO will resolve that particular situation – but it won’t be easy. There are no plans to launch HBO Max here in the UK, for example, and fans won’t stand for being cut off from their favourite franchise… assuming they still consider Harry Potter to be among their favourites.

It’s worth looking at the reception of other big-budget television productions to see what may lie in store for the new Harry Potter series. The main example that springs to mind is Amazon Prime’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Despite getting solid critical reviews – including from yours truly, I should say – The Rings of Power hasn’t hit the highs that Amazon was surely hoping to see.

The negative response to The Rings of Power in some quarters feels like a bellwether for this kind of reboot or reimagining.

By some estimates, only about a third of viewers who watched the premiere episode of The Rings of Power made it to the end of Season 1, which is an absolutely huge drop-off for a series of this type. There was a lot of attention given to that show for years before its first season arrived – and the Harry Potter series will be in a similar boat.

Both The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter were huge fantasy properties in the 2000s thanks to their cinematic adaptations – and both are now being rebooted in a completely different entertainment landscape. Many of the criticisms of The Rings of Power at least made mention of things like the race or body type of certain actors, and other criticisms from hard-core fans focused on their nostalgic feelings for the earlier adaptations and a sense that there was “no need” to revisit them. These points will also apply to the Harry Potter series.

JK Rowling with Rupert Grint, Daniel Radcliffe, and Emma Watson circa 2001.
Image Credit: IMDB

If I were an actor, director, or other entertainment industry professional, I wouldn’t touch Harry Potter with a barge pole. The fact that JK Rowling is a transphobe is almost incidental to that at this point; it feels like a catastrophic career move from which many folks will struggle to recover. At best, the new adaptation will be received well by die-hard Potter fanatics… but only with the caveat that “the films were better.” At worst, it’ll be cancelled before it gets anywhere near its purported tenth season, and its legacy of failure will taint all who jumped aboard.

Harry Potter had its moment in the 2000s, but as we’ve seen from the failure of attempted sequels and revivals, the public at large has lost interest in the “Wizarding World.” The Fantastic Beasts films failed to recapture the magic for Warner Bros., and while Hogwarts Legacy sold pretty well, it was an overhyped, pretty average game that didn’t make a lasting impression on the video games industry as a whole.

Diagon Alley is looking empty…

The toxicity that has swirled around JK Rowling and Harry Potter in recent years isn’t dying down or going away, meaning any Harry Potter project that goes ahead right now will be controversial. Controversy can be a selling point – to an extent – as an audience will sometimes turn up for no other reason than to see what’s causing all the fuss and bother. But will that be enough to overcome the massive hurdles in the path of this new Harry Potter series? I doubt it.

There’s no pathway to success for a television show like this right now. On its best day, the new Harry Potter series will still be overshadowed by the films, but on its worst it’ll be hounded by “anti-woke” whiners, overly nostalgic Potter fanatics, and bloody-minded folks who love to see big corporations and franchises fail. And, of course, it’ll be completely ignored by people like me who don’t want to see Harry Potter succeed as long as Rowling continues to spew her bile.

I doubt that anyone involved in the entertainment industry reads what I write here on the website, but just in case: take my advice and stay as far away from this ticking time bomb as possible. It won’t end well.

The Harry Potter television series may premiere on HBO Max in the next few years. Or not, if we’re lucky. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

The real tragedy of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum

The Lord of the Rings: Gollum has become the latest game in 2023 to be launched in a buggy, broken state. Some outlets have gone so far as to call it “the worst game of the year,” and in a year where titles like Hogwarts Legacy, Jedi: Survivor, Redfall, and The Last Of Us Part 1 have been sharted out in unfinished states by major publishers, there’s a lot of competition for that title!

I want to try to treat The Lord of the Rings: Gollum as fairly as possible. Developer and publisher Daedalic Entertainment isn’t one of the games industry’s biggest corporations, with relatively few titles having been developed across its fifteen-year history – and even fewer that I’d heard of. A company with around 100 employees made Gollum, whereas corporations like Activision Blizzard or Microsoft have far more resources at their disposal when it comes to game development.

A promotional screenshot of the game.

As much as I detest the “release now, fix later” business model that too many games corporations have adopted over the past couple of console generations, smaller studios working on passion projects have always been in somewhat of a different category. I’m far more willing to be sympathetic to an independent game developer than I am to one of the industry’s major publishers, simply because the realities of game development and working to a deadline or with a limited budget can go some way to explaining why a game may be released in a worse-than-expected state.

With Gollum having already suffered several lengthy delays, and with Daedalic Entertainment being a relatively small studio, I could forgive a degree of jankiness. That being said, I could forgive quite a bit more jankiness if Gollum had been more appropriately-priced, say around the £30 mark instead of greedily pushing for £50. And of course, a “special edition” will set you back an extra £10.

Gollum in an out-of-bounds area.

Some adverts and marketing material for Gollum have tried to paint the game as the kind of expansive adventure title that you’d get from a major publisher, and combined with the high price, I fear that unrealistic expectations were set. Even if the game had been released in a fully-complete, bug-free state, I daresay a lot of folks would still have found Gollum’s core gameplay and story to be underwhelming.

To me, there are two lessons from Gollum that the games industry – and smaller studios in particular – need to pay attention to. The first, of course, is that the accursed “release now, fix later” business model never works. No matter how good your game could have been, if you try to launch it before it’s ready, you’re going to have a bad time! The second lesson is that games need to be targeted, marketed, and priced appropriately. Gollum isn’t a AAA action-adventure that could go toe-to-toe with the likes of Shadow of Mordor or the earlier Lord of the Rings movie tie-in games. So why present it as that kind of experience? Marketing the game like that was only ever going to lead to disappointment.

Gollum was never meant to be comparable to the likes of Shadow of Mordor.

I don’t know what may have transpired behind the scenes at Daedalic Entertainment that led to Gollum’s disappointing release. I don’t think it’s an unfair assumption, though, that the game had a difficult and troubled development – perhaps with a degree of “feature creep” as the original vision for a small-scale title comparable to Daedalic’s past offerings may have been expanded. Either way, delays clearly added to the game’s cost, and eventually Daedalic decided that they couldn’t wait any longer and needed to push the game out. The result was Gollum’s troubled launch.

On a personal note, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is one of the titles I’d been looking forward to in 2023. Not simply because a return to the world of Middle-earth is always welcome in the gaming realm, but because it seemed like something genuinely different. A game in which the protagonist is an anti-hero or even a contemptible villain was already enough to pique my curiosity, but there was also the kind of gameplay that Gollum seemed to be promising: puzzle-heavy, stealthy, and with a degree of platforming.

Gollum can get stuck in the environment due to a bug.

For me, the real tragedy of Gollum’s release isn’t just that a game I was looking forward to was pushed out too early in a broken, unfinished state. It isn’t even that Gollum is unlikely to ever be completely fixed and brought up to the level that it should be able to reach. No, the real tragedy of this whole situation is that it will almost certainly dissuade other developers – and especially other publishers – from taking risks like this in future.

However you look at it, the decision to create a stealth-puzzle-platformer based on a character like Gollum was a huge risk. This is the kind of game that just doesn’t get made any more, with the games industry retreating to the safest, most overtrodden ground for the most part. Fewer studios are willing to take on risky projects like Gollum, with publishers doubling-down on well-known franchises, popular genres, and looking for any kind of online experience that can generate “recurring revenue streams.”

Making a game like this was already a risk.

With the undeniable failure of Gollum – a failure that seems impossible to overcome, even if Daedalic continues to work on the game for years to come like Hello Games has done with No Man’s Sky – there’s a real danger that the lesson the games industry as a whole will take from this mess will be to continue its retreat from any project that falls outside of the mainstream. Gollum was always going to be a game with limited appeal; a niche product at best. It was also a game that felt innovative in both its premise and the kind of gameplay that it offered – and I truly fear that fewer games that meet those kinds of descriptors will be greenlit in future.

The games industry is already dominated by a handful of genres, most of which haven’t offered much by way of genuine innovation in years. Corporations are quick to chase the next “big” trend, with a focus on whatever looks likely to rake in the largest amount of cash possible. What was appealing about a game like Gollum, at least to me, was that it was a title that didn’t seem to care about those things; it knew what it wanted to be, what kind of gameplay it wanted to employ and what kind of story it aimed to tell, and wasn’t about chasing trends. The games industry needs more of that – because that’s where innovation almost always comes from.

Gollum with a baby bird in a promotional screenshot.

Even on a good day, Gollum was never going to be a genre-busting epic. If it had launched in a better state, I daresay I’d have had fun with it for the twelve or so hours that it would’ve lasted, then I’d have put it down and moved on. But the games industry needs these kind of experiences. It needs the diversity that smaller games bring. And it needs at least some of those titles to exist outside of the self-published, independent space. Gollum could have been precisely the kind of “double-A” release that used to exist in between the big franchises and the small independent titles. Once upon a time, there were a fair few games in that category.

My fear is that the spectacular failure of Gollum, which has been one of the main gaming news headlines over the past week or so, will have a chilling effect that will extend far beyond Daedalic Entertainment. Projects that aim to create a game that might be a bit more of a niche product, outside of the mainstream and perhaps not in one of the biggest genres, will become suspect. Smaller-scale games in that “double-A” space will be less likely to be backed. And innovative, potentially-interesting stories and ideas will be passed over in favour of projects that feel “safer” to publishers.

I hope that I’m wrong, and that smaller studios won’t be impacted by Gollum’s very public failure. But I really do fear for the repercussions that this debacle could have on an industry that needs titles like Gollum. Not every game is going to be Call of Duty or Fortnite, and especially for players who long for single-player experiences, games like Gollum that offer something a little different will continue to appeal. Let’s just hope that this broken, borderline-unplayable mess doesn’t ruin that for everyone else.

The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is out now for PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series S/X. The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is the copyright of Daedalic Entertainment. The Lord of the Rings and Middle-earth are the copyright of the Tolkien Estate. Some images and promotional art used above are courtesy of Daedalic Entertainment. Images of bugs and glitches via Digital Foundry on YouTube. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Film review: The Super Mario Bros. Movie

The first part of this review is free from major spoilers. The end of the spoiler-free section is clearly marked.

Let’s-a go!

It’s time to review The Super Mario Bros. Movie, which has finally made its way to on-demand streaming after wrapping up its exclusive theatrical run. And straight away I can tell you this: I had an absolute blast with Mario, Peach, Luigi, and the rest of the Nintendo gang! The Super Mario Bros. Movie is definitely one of the best non-Disney animated films that I’ve seen in a long time, and it absolutely has to be a contender for the title of best animated picture of the year.

The film puts a twist on the typical story of the Super Mario series, but brings all of the familiar faces that fans of Nintendo’s games would expect. There are so many references, callbacks, and cameos that it’s impossible to count, and speaking as someone who’s followed Nintendo’s games for more than thirty years, I appreciated every single one of them!

I’ve followed Mario for quite some time…

But this isn’t just fan service that only the hardest of hardcore Nintendo lovers can enjoy. The film is accessible to newcomers, too, with a pretty barebones, easy-to-follow story that doesn’t get bogged down. In fact, the story progresses from chapter to chapter with a real light-footedness, with no scene or sequence lingering too long. For kids, and especially for a generation raised on short-form videos and TikToks, I suspect the timing and pacing of the film will be pitch-perfect!

For me… well, I could’ve entertained a story that was at least slightly denser, one that didn’t hop so readily from point to point. There were some moments that felt unearned, perhaps, as Mario seemed to very easily and readily accept his fate in the Mushroom Kingdom, and friendships that appeared to form very quickly. But this is a film for kids – and with a story with such strength and heart, picking on any of these things feels gratuitous and unnecessary.

Mario and Luigi.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie accomplished the difficult task of taking elements from the games and making them into something truly worthy of a place on the big screen. The music of the Mario series was reimagined in a style I can only describe as “epic,” with the familiar tunes from the video game series transformed into an heroic score. Visually, the film leaned heavily into the aesthetic of the games – but used its budget to make Mario, Peach, and the Mushroom Kingdom look better than ever.

There had been some criticism of the decision to cast Chris Pratt as Mario, but I felt he did a perfectly creditable job in the role. Mario has never needed to be voiced this extensively before, so bringing in an experienced actor – while not necessarily everyone’s first choice – was the right call. The rest of the voice cast likewise put in excellent performances, and their characters came to life as a result.

Mario was voiced by Chris Pratt – pictured here at the film’s premiere.
Image Credit: IMDB

There were a couple of sequences in the first few minutes of the film that I felt might be too scary for very young children – and it’s worth being aware of this if you have very young kids or children who are especially sensitive. These sequences didn’t linger for very long nor have much of an impact on the story overall, but I suspect they may have gone a little too far for at least some children in the audience.

Overall, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is an absolute blast, and one I highly recommend. If you don’t mind spoilers for the admittedly rather formulaic and predictable story, stick around, because we’re going to talk about a few story details up next.

This is the end of the spoiler-free portion of the review! Expect spoilers for The Super Mario Bros. Movie from here on out!

Up first, let’s talk about how The Super Mario Bros. Movie puts a twist on the typical “save the princess” trope. Peach is presented as someone familiar with the world of the Mushroom Kingdom, and thus she has the upper hand over Mario, the newcomer. Through a pretty quick montage, Mario is the one who has to learn the ropes; Peach already knows how the power-ups work and how battles in this universe are fought.

But that means Mario needs someone to save; a reason to set out on this adventure and face off against Bowser. Luigi, who’s the easily-frightened younger brother, is perfect for this role. Mario sets out on a quest not to save a random princess – but to save his brother. It’s a perfectly-executed twist on what is a pretty tired and outdated formula, and it works perfectly.

Princess Peach is so much more than just a damsel in distress this time!

The karting sequence was perhaps my favourite in the entire film! I’ve been a Mario fan for years, sure, but Mario Kart is definitely one of my all-time favourite series. The way it was incorporated into the film was hilarious, and it was a surprisingly tense sequence as Bowser’s troops dropped in uninvited. Many of the items from the Mario Kart games were present – banana skins, shells, bullet bills, and even the dreaded blue shell! It was a fantastic sequence, and Rainbow Road has never looked better or more beautiful!

Although the designs of many of the vehicles were based on the Mario Kart games, there’s potential for a future Mario Kart release to take advantage of some of the new designs created for the film. In fact, the time to cash in on that is now, so Nintendo really ought to consider updating Mario Kart 8 Deluxe with things like Toad’s off-road kart and the Koopas’ combat vehicles. It would even be possible to include one or two of the prominently-featured characters from the film as new characters for the game.

The kart sequence was fantastic!

The world of the Mushroom Kingdom was brought to life through some excellent animation work, and Illumination is to be commended. The cartoony aesthetic of the Mario games was familiar on the big screen – but it looked better than ever. Peach’s castle, first seen in the iconic Super Mario 64, looked fantastic, and the bright, happily-lit Mushroom Kingdom stood in stark contrast to the “dark lands” and Bowser’s castle.

It’s also fair to say that these classic Nintendo characters have literally never looked better, too! There was previously-unseen detail not only in the main characters, but in every minor background character, too. Whether we were looking at Dry Bones, Shy Guys, Toads, Koopa Troopas, Kongs, or anyone else, the animation was fabulous and consistent. There wasn’t a single moment where I felt that the animation work was sub-par or out-of-place.

It’s Dry Bones!

To return to the film’s story, one thing I admired was a willingness on the part of Nintendo – a company that hasn’t always shown itself to have a sense of humour about its properties – to recognise the inherent silliness in Bowser’s scheme. Bowser wanted to force Peach to marry him, yet the specifics of how he possibly expected that to work had never been elaborated upon until now. Of course it makes sense that Peach would reject him – and the way in which this was played, with a nod and wink to the audience, was great.

I don’t think it had ever been canonically established where Mario and Luigi hailed from, nor how Peach and the others came to exist in the Mushroom Kingdom. So The Super Mario Bros. Movie had free rein to decide on its characters’ origin stories. Now, I could be wrong about this, as I’m no expert on the minutiae of Nintendo lore, but I’ve always assumed that Mario was Italian – not Italian-American. The decision to give him an Italian-American origin, and in the New York borough of Brooklyn, no less, feels like an oblique homage to 1993’s Super Mario Bros. – the live-action film that did so much to dissuade Nintendo from ever again taking its brands and franchises to the cinema!

The main characters at the end of the film.

So let’s wrap things up. Who is this film for? While I’d say that Nintendo fans and players will absolutely get more out of The Super Mario Bros. Movie than those unfamiliar with its source material, the easy-to-follow story and fairly basic characters should make it accessible to almost anyone – including the youngest kids. There’s a lot to enjoy here!

That being said, there are a handful of faults that keep The Super Mario Bros. Movie from being the greatest kids’ film I’ve ever seen. Some of its plot points – like the friendship between Mario and Toad, or Peach’s plan to defeat Bowser – were raced past incredibly quickly in a film that didn’t spend more than a couple of minutes on any scene or sequence. I could have happily spent a bit longer watching some of these things play out.

All in all, though, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is one of the better animated releases of recent years. It was a treat to see Mario and the gang taking part in a new kind of adventure, and while I have to hold up my hands and say that 1993’s Super Mario Bros. is one of those “so bad it’s good” films that I consider somewhat of a guilty pleasure, this new animated outing surpasses it in practically every way. If you’re looking for a fun way to spend an hour-and-a-half, and especially if you’ve spent some time with Nintendo and Mario already, it’s very easy to recommend The Super Mario Bros. Movie.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is available to stream now and will be released on DVD and Blu-ray later in the year. The Super Mario Bros. Movie is the copyright of Nintendo and Illumination. This review contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Rebalancing Mario Kart

If you’ve spent a reasonable amount of time playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe online, chances are you’ve been in races where practically everyone uses the same combination of driver and kart. Usually this ends up being Waluigi – Luigi’s “evil twin” – for reasons that will become clear in a moment. I’d been wanting to talk about this phenomenon for a while, but the recent release of Wave 4 of the Booster Course Pass brought some changes to the game that make it even more timely.

In short, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is unbalanced. The way the game is set up means that each driver and each kart component have their own individual stats, and when there are differences between these elements, that almost always means that there’s one golden combination that ends up being, by as close to objective standards as possible, “the best.” There’s a reason why more than 90% of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe world records all use the same character and build!

Prior to Wave 4, many time trial world records used this combination of Waluigi, roller tyres, Biddybuggy/Buggybud, and paper glider.

Nintendo has made an incredibly late attempt to rebalance this, with Wave 4 of the Booster Course Pass giving a bit of a boost to other characters and kart components, but the only real result of that will be that the best possible combination will change – possibly from Waluigi to Rosalina, in this case. In a few weeks’ time, online races will be full of Rosalinas instead of Waluigis… until the next time Nintendo tries to rework things.

For most players, I guess that this doesn’t really matter. At my low level, online multiplayer lobbies are still pretty varied, and in single-player mode I can just pick whatever combo I like the look of or feel like trying out. But I think the balancing issue in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe speaks to a bigger issue with the game, and while I would absolutely argue that trying to fix it now, almost a full decade after the original release of Mario Kart 8, is far too late and honestly just plain dumb, there are definitely lessons for Nintendo to learn as the franchise moves forward.

Pink Gold peach and Paris Promenade on a promo image for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

It’s disappointing that there hasn’t been a Mario Kart 9, and that the next entry in this long-running series is now almost certain not to be released until Nintendo launches a new console. I held out hope for a while that a new game might’ve launched last year to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Super Mario Kart – but alas, it didn’t happen! As we look ahead, though, I have no doubt that Nintendo would want to create a new game for their new console – and with the Switch’s 6th birthday fast approaching, that could be within a year or two!

So when we think about Mario Kart 9, there are definitely lessons to learn from Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. The first is that racing online has become a huge part of the experience for many folks – even casual players like myself. Online gaming has grown a lot since the Wii U’s release back in 2012, and for many players it’s a core part of the Mario Kart experience now. A new game has to be created with that in mind – even though I hope it will retain robust single-player and local multiplayer modes, too!

It’s hard to believe that Mario Kart 8 is almost a decade old and was first released on the Wii U!

But most importantly for what we’re talking about today, I think that the idea of individual character and kart stats has got to go. This isn’t a “hard-core” racing simulation – it’s a casual, fun game with a brightly-coloured cartoon aesthetic aimed at players of all ages. We don’t need stats to tinker with like we might in a game of Forza Motorsport or Project CARS; Mario Kart simply isn’t that type of racer.

The fact that most players online and practically every time-trialler end up picking the exact same racer and kart every time kind of detracts from the experience. It makes races feel less unique and less… well, fun. Although characters having weight classes has been a part of Mario Kart going all the way back to its first title more than 30 years ago, if having these stats means that some characters just aren’t viable choices… maybe it’s better to scrap them altogether.

Mario Kart doesn’t need complex stats calculations. This isn’t Forza Motorsport!

In short, if every character and every kart behaved the same way, the differences between them would be purely cosmetic, and players would have a lot more fun picking the character they liked best or the kart they thought looked the most fun instead of being forced to choose from a very narrow range of options. I mean, if you don’t like Waluigi, it can’t be all that enjoyable to feel like you have no choice but to pick him every time you race online. Can it?

Even if Nintendo completely shakes up the way stats work for each kart and character, if differences remain there will always end up being better and worse options; it’s unavoidable. If the goal here is to give players more choices, and to make the character and kart options matter, then really the only way to achieve that is to drop the stats idea altogether and have every character behave the same way.

A trio of Mario Kart Tour characters – some of whom may be added to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe one day!

I don’t think that this would make races any less entertaining. Far from it, I think it would open up higher-level competitions to look completely different, and the same for time trials and world records, too. Sure, it might not “make sense” that a huge kart with monster truck wheels driven by a tall, husky character would be just as fast as a sleek racecar piloted by a tiny driver… but this is Mario Kart. You’ve got sentient tortoises and literal babies racing against ghosts and a plumber’s evil twin across tracks made from clouds or mushroom-trampolines. We’re way, way past “realism!”

So that’s my proposal in a nutshell: dump the stats. Obviously this can’t happen in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – nor should it, as that would completely change a long-running game and probably invalidate a bunch of world records that people worked hard to achieve. But when it comes to Mario Kart 9, I think it would be a great way to rebalance the game and to bring diversity back to racers and karts. If such a move were combined with a great variety of racetracks that offered a range of obstacles and shortcuts, as well as plenty of items for players to blast each other with in competitive races, there’d still be lots of ways to have fun.

Racing around one of the newly-added DLC racetracks.

At the end of the day, when practically everyone online ends up picking the same racer and kart combo anyway, at least doing things the way I’ve suggested would mean people could pick the cosmetic/aesthetic options that they liked best instead of being forced to use a particular character whether they like them or not. For online racing, and especially at higher levels, it seems like a good idea to me, anyway!

As to the changes Nintendo introduced in the Booster Course Pass… I’m on the fence. I can understand the intention behind making this kind of change, as it’s basically a scaled-back version of my own proposal. But in an established game that’s been out in some form for almost a decade… these kinds of changes can upset players, and I can understand that. It’s better to work on this while the game is still in development, and that’s why I’ve suggested that Nintendo should look at how this issue arose. Tackling the root cause – stats – will mean it should be able to be avoided by the time the next game in the series is ready!

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is out now for Nintendo Switch. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, the Booster Course Pass, and the Super Mario series are the copyright of Nintendo. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Somehow Rey returned…

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the Star Wars sequel trilogy.

One of the most disappointing things about the Star Wars sequel trilogy was that it didn’t actually advance the overall story of the saga in a meaningful way. Think about where it began and ended: a Dark Side, authoritarian power had been defeated in battle, but the war was still to be won. Palpatine had been killed. The galactic government had been destroyed and democracy would have to be restored. One young Jedi survived and hoped to rebuild the Jedi Order. Questions that we had all the way back in the ’80s about what would come next after Return of the Jedi weren’t answered; they were given a new lick of paint and asked again.

All of which is to say that there’s a lot of potential in a story set after the sequel trilogy and the “final” defeat of Palpatine. Seeing what will come next for the Star Wars galaxy as it takes steps toward a restoration of democracy and a recreation of the Jedi Order – in some form, at least – is something I’ve been genuinely interested in seeing since I first watched Return of the Jedi all those years ago.

Rey is coming back to Star Wars… and soon.

I confess that I’m surprised to see Disney and Lucasfilm creating a “sequel sequel” so soon after The Rise of Skywalker. The trilogy proved divisive overall, and regardless of which part fans consider to be the worst, the general consensus is that these films weren’t as strong or enjoyable as they could and should have been. Returning to the sequels’ principal character is, therefore, a bold move.

I felt that there was a ton of potential in Rey as a character. The idea of a Force diad – light rising to meet the darkness – was an interesting one that the sequels, sadly, didn’t do justice to. However, as a young, inspirational character that others could look to for leadership, Rey had a lot going for her. Far from being just a “female Luke Skywalker,” as some dismissively suggested, there were nuances in Rey’s characterisation that took her to different thematic places – at least in the first two parts of the sequel trilogy.

Rey at the end of the sequel trilogy.

Although we’ve caught a glimpse of Luke Skywalker and his attempt to rebuild the Jedi Order, those sequences in both the sequel films and the Disney+ spin-off shows are impacted by the knowledge of the tragedy that will ultimately befall Luke and his new generation of Jedi. He tried his best, but ultimately all Luke could do was pass the torch to Rey – and the task of creating a new and improved Light Side order now falls to her.

That idea holds genuine appeal, as does seeing the galaxy recovering from decades of oppression and civil war. There’s the possibility of telling an inspiring and uplifting story all about finding hope in dark times, and rebuilding from a fascistic dystopia. These are things that have real-world parallels that could prove incredibly timely!

A massive fleet of Star Destroyers.

Is Rey the right character to take the lead in such a story, though? After a disappointingly regressive and arguably quite bland arc across the sequel trilogy, Rey ended in a pretty uninteresting place. As the granddaughter of Emperor Palpatine, Rey’s story seems to continue Star Wars’ disappointing trend of seeing the Force as a kind of metaphor for aristocracy; that those who are entrusted with power must derive that power from their bloodline, instead of discovering it on their own.

There’s also the question of whether the Jedi Order deserves to be reconstructed. In The Last Jedi, Luke was acutely aware of the failures of the old Jedi Order – and that’s also one of the key themes of the prequel trilogy: that the Order had grown complacent and arrogant to such an extent that its members couldn’t fathom the idea of somebody like Palpatine operating right under their noses. This is Star Wars, though, and the Jedi are an unshakable part of the franchise, so surely the name won’t be dropped!

The failure of the Jedi Order is one of the themes of the prequel trilogy – and The Last Jedi.

The Rise of Skywalker ended in such a way as to tee up future stories, just as Return of the Jedi had done four decades earlier. The question on my mind, though, is this: is it too soon? It took more than thirty years for Return of the Jedi to get a sequel, and with the disappointment of the sequels still fresh in the minds of many fans, I’m struggling to see how this new film could hope to find success.

At best, a new story featuring Rey will prove to be divisive, continuing the divisions in the Star Wars fan community that have persisted for the past few years at least. Doubling-down on a character that many fans were unimpressed with at best is admirable in some ways… but it doesn’t strike me as being a particularly smart business or storytelling decision. The simple fact is that Rey’s presence in the story is a challenge; a hurdle that the new film will have to overcome.

Rey using her Force powers.

Again, this is something that the passage of time would almost certainly damp down. Look at the reputation the prequel trilogy has today: it’s held in high regard by many fans, especially younger ones, and while there are still grumpy old holdouts like myself who remain unimpressed… the prequels on the whole have gone through somewhat of a renaissance. As fans who watched and loved those films as kids have grown up and continued to participate in the Star Wars fan community, the prequels have been – to an extent – rehabilitated.

The same is true of Return of the Jedi. Though never as controversial as the prequels, when I first encountered Star Wars in the early ’90s, Return of the Jedi was considered its weakest part by far. And it’s easy to see why: “from a certain point of view” is patent nonsense, Luke and Leia being retconned to be brother and sister was just silly, and the Ewoks were an army of teddy bears who defeated the Empire and ruined Palpatine’s carefully-laid plan! Yet you just don’t hear those criticisms any more outside of a small subset of Star Wars fans; Return of the Jedi has been rehabilitated by the passage of time.

Are you old enough to remember when everyone hated the Ewoks?

In time, many of the most divisive and heavily-criticised aspects of the sequel trilogy will be absorbed into Star Wars’ broader canon. We’ve already seen moves in shows like The Mandalorian and films like Rogue One to flesh out story points and new additions like cloning or hyperspace tracking, and as Star Wars continues to expand – both on the screen and beyond, with books, comics, games, and so on – Rey’s status as the grandchild of Palpatine and other controversial (and silly) elements of the sequels will likewise become more broadly accepted.

But this process takes time.

With the sequel trilogy still fresh in the minds of most fans, and with the general consensus being that either The Last Jedi or The Rise of Skywalker are among the worst films in the entire franchise, building a new story atop that so soon feels like it’s asking for trouble. Return to Rey by all means – expanding her story might go some way to making up for its deficiencies in the sequel trilogy. But not yet. It’s too soon.

The “final” demise of Palpatine.

There’s also the point that I’ve made before a dozen times or more: Star Wars has only ever told one real story. Despite existing for more than 45 years, with nine mainline films, two major spin-offs, several live-action TV shows, animated series, books, games, and more… Star Wars has still only told one real story: the “Palpatine saga,” focusing on the rise, fall, rise again, and fall again of Emperor Palpatine. A new story focusing on Rey wouldn’t do the one thing that I’ve been calling on Star Wars to do for years: move on.

The Star Wars galaxy is one of the finest fictional settings ever created, in my view. It has millions of inhabited planets, thousands of alien races, space magic and sci-fi technology, dozens of named factions, and tens of thousands of years of galactic history. But every mainline Star Wars project has been denied access to the vast majority of this sandbox, being forced to return to the same time period, the same planets, the same factions, and even the same handful of characters and families time and again. Surely it’s time to knock it off now and try something genuinely new and different. Because of her involvement in the sequels, and because she’s been retconned to be a member of Palpatine’s family, Rey can’t achieve that objective on two counts.

Rey in The Force Awakens.

Can we have any confidence that Lucasfilm has learned the lessons of the sequel trilogy? Not only was the decision to split up the writing and directing of the trilogy a catastrophic mistake, but allowing someone like J.J. Abrams to essentially re-tell large parts of the original trilogy with a different coat of paint was poor. With Star Wars so intent on doubling-down on the only story it’s ever told, and a lack of boldness in the Disney boardroom seemingly refusing to consider other options, there’s a very real danger that a new sequel will repeat many of the mistakes that the franchise has made in recent years.

Several recent Star Wars projects have been little more than fan-servicey mess, with the utterly illogical or regressive inclusions of characters for no reason other than to compensate for a weak story. Some of these – like Obi-Wan Kenobi – actually ended up damaging the original films and the characters they included. So I feel more than a little concerned that a sequel featuring Rey – and thus continuing, in some form, the “Skywalker saga” – will do the same.

Rey in The Last Jedi.

So I guess that’s where I’m at when it comes to this “sequel sequel.” My main message isn’t “never do this, it’s a terrible idea,” but rather “now isn’t the right time.” As the dust settles on the sequels, and upcoming projects – both on screen and off – incorporate that story into the broader landscape of Star Wars, passions will surely settle. As younger fans who first came to Star Wars with the sequels grow up and come of age, the fan community as a whole will shift to becoming more supportive of those films. When that’s happened – say in fifteen to twenty years time – then it might finally be the right time to return to Rey. But not yet.

If I was in charge of planning the next steps for Star Wars over at Disney and Lucasfilm, I wouldn’t have given the green light to this project. My focus would be on diversifying Star Wars – stepping back in time to the days of the Old Republic, taking a look at new characters, and shining a spotlight on the denizens of the galaxy who aren’t blessed with space magic! Rey will undoubtedly have her moment to return to Star Wars… but for me, it feels incredibly premature to even be considering bringing her back now.

The Star Wars sequel trilogy (The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and The Rise of Skywalker) is available to stream now on Disney+. The films are also available on DVD and Blu-ray. The Star Wars franchise – including all titles discussed above – is the copyright of Lucasfilm and The Walt Disney Company. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

The state of PC ports

The dreaded “release now, fix later” model that has been adopted by corporations across the games industry has shown up constantly in 2023. Although a number of console titles have been affected, by far the worst impact has been felt on PC. As PC is my primary gaming platform these days, this is something that hits me personally. Today, I wanted to talk a little about the absolute state of many recent PC releases.

Jedi: Survivor, Redfall, Forspoken, Hogwarts Legacy, and The Last Of Us Part 1 should have all been among the biggest PC releases in the first half of 2023. I was genuinely looking forward to several of these games myself. But all of them, despite being massive games with huge budgets backed up by major corporate publishers, have been released in broken, unfinished, and in some cases borderline unplayable states.

It’s Joel from The Last Of Us… apparently.

As a rule, I don’t pre-order games. I’ve been burned in the past, and as someone who doesn’t have money to piss away, pre-ordering just doesn’t feel like a good idea any more. But many folks still do, lured in by pre-order exclusive bonuses and the like, and many of these folks – as well as those who picked up titles shortly after launch – have been left severely disappointed in the first half of 2023.

I had hoped, particularly after the Cyberpunk 2077 debacle a couple of years back, that the games industry was beginning to learn its lesson. Just because it’s technically feasible to launch a title in an unfinished state and patch it out later, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea; the damage done by a rocky launch can be difficult to overcome – if not outright impossible. For every success story like No Man’s Sky, there are dozens of titles like Anthem, Aliens: Colonial Marines, or Assassin’s Creed Unity that are too far gone to be salvageable. And even titles that manage to continue development, like Cyberpunk 2077, are forever tainted by the way they launched.

A hollow character model in Redfall.

Who knows how many more sales Cyberpunk 2077 might’ve made had it been released six months later? The damage that game did to CD Projekt Red has set back the company immeasurably, damaging its share price and tanking its reputation with players. It’s an expensive lesson in how not to release a video game… so why have none of the other corporations in the games industry taken notice?

I didn’t buy Jedi: Survivor this month, even though I’d gone out of my way to save up for it and allocate money for it in my budget. Why? The reason is simple: I read the reviews, saw breakdowns of the PC port of the game, and decided to put my wallet away and wait. Electronic Arts lost what should have been a guaranteed sale because I’m not willing to buy an unfinished product. And make no mistake, that’s what Jedi: Survivor and all the other games listed above are: unfinished.

Cal falls through the map in Jedi: Survivor.

Unlike making a game for a console, developing for PC can be a challenge. Take it from someone who built their own PC last year: there are a huge number of different internal components from CPUs to GPUs, RAM to solid-state drives, and beyond. Ensuring perfectly smooth compatibility across an almost infinite range of potential PCs isn’t as easy as getting a game to run on an Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5, which don’t have this issue of varied internal components. And I get that, I really do.

But that isn’t a good enough excuse. I’d actually rather that a corporation delayed the PC port of a game than release it in a broken state, and I won’t be alone in saying so. It isn’t ideal to break up a title’s release by platform, and it’s something to be avoided if at all possible, but under some circumstances it can be forgiven – especially where smaller, independent studios are concerned.

Characters clipping through each other in Hogwarts Legacy.

I used to work in the games industry, and I know or knew dozens of developers at both small and large companies. Developers are great, passionate people who put a lot of energy and love into their work. Developers working on franchises like Star Wars, for instance, are almost always passionate fans who want to bring their story to life as best they can. These bad releases are not a reflection on developers – nor should anyone try to harrass or attack developers because of these broken games.

The fault here lies with games publishers: corporations like Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Sony, and Warner Bros. Games. They’re the ones who hold the cards, and developers are forced to work to often unreasonable timelines. Even intense periods of “crunch” are often not enough to salvage a project in time, and a premature launch is almost always forced on a developer by a publisher. That’s undoubtedly what happened in each of these cases.

The fault lies with corporations like EA.

Crappy PC ports used to be fairly commonplace, but as the platform has grown and become more lucrative, that games industry stereotype seemed to be fading away. 2023 has brought it right back, and I’m now in a position where every PC game release is treated with scepticism. As players and fans, we shouldn’t be in the position of assuming a PC release will automatically be buggy, laggy, and an overall worse experience – yet here we are.

I’m not prepared to accept this as being “just” one of the downsides of PC gaming, either. Corporations need to make sure they’re allocating enough time and energy to their PC ports as they are for consoles – and if they can’t guarantee that a game will be in a playable state, the only option is to delay it. Ideally a game would be delayed on every platform, but in some cases it might be okay to go ahead with a console release and merely delay the PC port.

Promo art for Jedi: Survivor.

As consumers in this marketplace, all we can do is refuse to participate. It’s on us to tell corporations that we aren’t willing to pay their inflated prices to do the job of their quality assurance team, and that releasing games before they’re finished and before they’re basically playable is not acceptable.

One of the disappointing trends that I’ve seen, not just with PC games in 2023 but with a whole host of “release now, fix later” titles, is players and fans covering for and continuing to support these faceless, greedy corporations. Too many people seem willing to make excuses on behalf of big publishers, essentially doing the job of a marketing team for the. Some games, like Jedi: Survivor, have even received positive reviews on platforms like Steam and Metacritic, even as the reviewer admits that the game is in a poor state and playing it isn’t a great experience. Why say that? What benefit is there?

A couple of examples of positive Steam reviews for Jedi: Survivor.

I’m also deeply disappointed in some professional outlets. Practically all of the titles above received positive reviews from professional critics, reviews which in some cases glossed over or outright ignored bugs, glitches, and other issues with the titles in question. There’s a stinking rot at the core of the relationships between some games corporations and certain media outlets – and while I would never accuse anyone of writing a paid-for review, there are clearly incentives given and threats made to keep review scores higher than they deserve to be in some cases.

I also don’t buy the excuse of “pandemic-related disruption,” not any more. That might’ve worked three years ago, but as the World Heath Organisation downgrades covid and society gets back on track across the globe, it’s beginning to stretch credulity to blame any and all problems on the pandemic. That’s a cheap excuse by corporations who don’t want us to know the truth: they’re greedily publishing unfinished games to grab as much cash as possible for as little work and investment as possible. That’s always been the case, but it’s been turned up to eleven in recent years.

At the end of the day, this is all about money.

Unfortunately, I don’t see this trend disappearing any time soon. For me, all PC releases are now suspect, and I will be checking out multiple reviews and tech breakdowns of the latest titles before I even consider parting with my money. I would advise all PC players to take the same approach – and to not shy away from calling out games corporations that misbehave. No other industry could get away with this – not in entertainment nor in any other sector. We wouldn’t take this kind of behaviour from other corporations and companies – so why should we be forced to put up with it with our games?

It is infinitely better to delay a game, continue to work on the issues it may have, and only release it when it’s ready. This is a lesson that the games industry really ought to have learned by now – but I guess we’ll have to do whatever we can to hammer the point home. Why should we accept low-quality, broken, unfinished games with promises of fixes and patches to come? We shouldn’t – and this awful trend of crappy PC ports has to stop.

All titles discussed above are the copyright of their respective developer, studio, and/or publisher. Some screenshots and promo images courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Twenty of the best Star Trek episodes!

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the Star Trek franchise, including all episodes on this list. Spoilers are present for the following: Discovery Season 4, Picard Season 3, Prodigy Season 1, Strange New Worlds Season 1, and more.

So, I did a thing. A few days ago, I published a tongue-in-cheek list of what I consider to be some of the worst episodes in the Star Trek franchise. Since it went up, it’s been racking up clicks – almost immediately becoming the most-viewed piece on the website over the past few days. To balance out that list – and to claw back some of my standing as a Trekkie – I thought I shouldn’t wait any longer before writing the counterpoint!

As I said last time, I’m a huge Star Trek fan. Heck, I run a Star Trek-themed website – so obviously I like the franchise! But I’m not one of those fans who says that “everything Star Trek has ever done is perfect,” nor am I someone who wants to whitewash Star Trek and never mention the bad parts. Paramount has a marketing team to do that.

It’s the Enterprise-E!

So today, as a counterpoint to my last list, I’m going to pick twenty of my absolute favourite episodes. It should go without saying that this list is also entirely subjective, so if I exclude your favourite episode or you hate all of my picks… that’s okay! We’re all entitled to our preferences about which Star Trek stories we prefer, and there should be enough room within the Star Trek fan community for polite discussion and disagreement.

So without any further ado, let’s dive into the list!

Episode #1:
The Doomsday Machine
The Original Series Season 2

The wreck of the USS Constellation.

The Doomsday Machine is, in some respects, The Original Series in microcosm. It has everything that fans loved about the show: an exciting sci-fi premise, an incredible guest star, and a hard-hitting real-world comparison. It’s always stood out to me as one of The Original Series’ finest outings, masterfully building up tension as the unmanned weapon mindlessly carries out its directive.

The character of Commodore Decker, who was created for The Doomsday Machine, is one of the show’s most brilliant and tragic characters. His story has always been an absolutely riveting one for me – and the performance by guest star William Windom is phenomenal. The Doomsday Machine had a point to make about nuclear weapons out here in the real world, too – and coming at the height of the Cold War, less than six years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, it could hardly be more timely.

Episode #2:
Coming Home
Discovery Season 4

Captain Burnham on the bridge of the USS Discovery.

Discovery’s fourth season – like its predecessors – took a meandering and occasionally frustrating route to reach its final episode… but it was more than worth the wait! Coming Home is fantastic, and encapsulates everything that Star Trek is and always has been. There were incredibly tense and exciting moments as the Federation leapt to the defence of Earth, which was in serious danger, but those moments were coupled with the discovery of a very new and different alien race.

Seeking out new life has been at the heart of Star Trek since its inception. But, as many have pointed out over the years, Star Trek’s “new life” could often look and act very, well, human. Species 10-C, which we finally got to meet in this episode after a season-long buildup, have to be one of the most strikingly different aliens ever created for the franchise. Above all, though, Coming Home excels for its sense of optimism and hope. I’d challenge even the most ardent Discovery-avoider to give it a try.

Episode #3:
The Siege of AR-558
Deep Space Nine Season 7

Quark and Nog.

Few Star Trek episodes truly manage to capture the feel of being at war quite so dramatically and spectacularly as The Siege of AR-558. Director Winrich Kolbe drew on his own experiences in the Vietnam War to create a claustrophobic, frightening scenario in which Federation soldiers were fighting for their lives over a nameless lump of rock. The futility of war is on display in The Siege of AR-558 in a way that Star Trek has seldom touched upon.

Nog’s character arc is one of Deep Space Nine’s best, and this episode shows why. Nog went from petty thief to Starfleet hero over the course of seven seasons, and the life-changing injury he suffered in the battle on the planetoid AR-558 would be a defining moment for him. The Siege of AR-558 is an episode that challenges many of our assumptions and beliefs about the Federation, Starfleet, and the Dominion War – and it’s an absolutely incredible watch.

Episode #4:
First First Contact
Lower Decks Season 2

Shaxs in First First Contact.

First First Contact is Lower Decks at its very best. It’s a Star Trek story through-and-through, with a challenge befalling the crew of the Cerritos that’s of a scientific and engineering nature. It’s also the perfect example of how Star Trek can tell tense and exciting stories without the need for evil villains and big set-piece battles.

Lower Decks often operates with a two-story or even three-story structure, pairing up characters and setting them off on their own adventures. But First First Contact is a comparatively rare example of the entire crew working together and taking part in the same storyline – and it works incredibly well. There are moments of high drama, tension, and emotion as the Cerritos races to save a stricken Federation starship and an uncontacted planet – and a moment of engineering genius that would rival anything Scotty or Geordi could’ve come up with!

Episode #5:
The Next Generation Season 5

A plasma fire!

I consider Season 5 to probably be The Next Generation’s strongest overall outing, so Disaster really is the cream of the crop! This is an episode in which every main character gets to play a role in one large, connected story – but it’s a story that throws everyone far outside of their comfort zones and usual roles! The situations the characters find themselves in are tense, dramatic, and occasionally comical, because Disaster really is an episode that has it all!

The basic premise of the episode sees the Enterprise-D damaged, without power, and adrift. Troi is the senior officer on the bridge, being advised by Ro and O’Brien. Data and Riker rush to engineering to try to bring power back to the ship. Picard is stuck in a turbolift with three frightened children (his own personal hell). Worf must take care of civilians in Ten-Forward. And Dr Crusher and Geordi are trapped in a cargo bay. Everyone gets their moment in the spotlight, making Disaster a genuine ensemble piece.

Episode #6:
Vanishing Point
Enterprise Season 2

Hoshi on the transporter pad.

Although Vanishing Point’s ending is pretty cheap and uninspired, the episode itself is a truly interesting exploration of one of Star Trek’s best-known pieces of technology: the transporter. We’ve seen characters like Dr McCoy being averse to the transporter, and more transporter accidents than I can call to mind! But Vanishing Point steps back in time to when the technology was new and untested, and places Hoshi Sato at the centre of its story.

Ensign Sato was such a great point-of-view character, as her nervousness and anxiety at being out in space had already been well-established. Vanishing Point also took Hoshi outside of her usual role as communications officer, allowing her to take centre-stage in a different kind of story. Although the ending drags it down somewhat, Vanishing Point is nevertheless a ton of fun!

Episode #7:
A Quality of Mercy
Strange New Worlds Season 1

Christopher Pike as we’ve never seen him before!

Season 1 of Strange New Worlds is fantastic across the board, without so much as a single bad episode! It was difficult to pick just one for this list, but I’ve decided to go with A Quality of Mercy. This episode gets time travel just right, with Captain Pike dealing with himself from an alternate future timeline in which he avoided his devastating accident and disability. Time travel can be tricky to pull off, but A Quality of Mercy manages it.

The episode also returns to the classic story Balance of Terror, showing us an alternate outcome to the battle between Kirk and the Romulan Commander. This gives it the feel of a story “made for fans,” and Trekkies who’ve followed the franchise for a long time will surely find a lot to love here. At the core of it all is Captain Pike, a character who I find incredibly relatable. Knowing that one’s health is in decline and seeking to make a “deal with the devil” to find a solution… I’ve been there. And Anson Mount plays the whole thing – and the roles of two different Pikes – incredibly well.

Episode #8:
Equinox Parts I and II
Voyager Season 5-6

Captain Ransom.

Voyager’s fifth season ended in stunning fashion with the first part of Equinox. I was hanging on for months waiting for Part II, which brought the story to an explosive conclusion. After years lost in the Delta Quadrant, Captain Janeway and the crew finally encounter another Federation vessel – and another crew who understand what they’ve gone through. But all is not what it seems, as it turns out that the aliens attacking the small USS Equinox are actually in the right.

Equinox is a challenging episode, condemning Captain Ransom’s actions while also presenting him and (most of) his crew in a relatively sympathetic light. It’s an episode that hammers home how lucky Janeway and the crew of Voyager have been – comparatively speaking – and shows the extremes that people can be willing to go to in order to survive.

Episode #9:
The Star Gazer
Picard Season 2

Who’s this?

I debated for a long time whether I wanted to include The Star Gazer on this list. The story that it so brilliantly set up went off the rails pretty quickly in subsequent episodes, and Picard’s second season is, overall, a disappointment. But on its own, The Star Gazer is actually a pretty great episode, one that re-introduces one of Star Trek’s classic villains in a new and terrifying manner.

If the rest of Picard Season 2 had been anywhere near as good as The Star Gazer, it would be one of the best in the entire franchise! As it is, this episode almost feels like an alternate timeline, showing us what might have been! Regardless, though, it sets up a tantalising mystery, teases us with some serious development for some of the show’s supporting characters, and contains one of the best and most frightening clashes between Starfleet and the Borg that the Star Trek franchise has ever created.

Episode #10:
Homefront and Paradise Lost
Deep Space Nine Season 4

Benjamin and Jake Sisko.

Deep Space Nine had done things differently from its very first episode, and some fans weren’t wild about its darker tone. This shift away from the Federation and Starfleet being presented as an incorruptible and enlightened paradise was on full display in this pair of episodes. In between the discovery of the Dominion and the official outbreak of war, the Federation was terrified of changeling infiltrators. Feeling that politicians and bureaucrats weren’t up to the task, a renegade “badmiral” plots a coup.

Some early Star Trek stories could present the Federation as almost too perfect, and this continued into The Next Generation era. What Captain Sisko and Odo had to confront here was the idea that Starfleet officers could themselves fall prey to paranoia, corruption, and ego – and this very human reaction to the threat of infiltration felt quite relatable. Although we’re firmly on Sisko’s side, Homefront and Paradise Lost throw some moral ambiguity into the mix thanks to some complex writing and several outstanding guest stars.

Episode #11:
The Royale
The Next Generation Season 2

The away team gambling.

I confess that I have a soft spot for The Royale for one principal reason: it’s the earliest episode of Star Trek that I can remember watching! Although I’m sure I’d seen at least parts of other episodes prior to The Royale’s broadcast on terrestrial TV here in the UK in 1991, this is the first one I have rock-solid memories of, and it’s always carried special significance as a result. So that’s my own bias stated up front!

Bias aside, though, I think there’s a lot to enjoy in this episode. It’s the kind of story that no other sci-fi franchise would attempt, and it has an unusual and somewhat eerie feel. Imagine having to spend the rest of your life trapped in an alien recreation of a three-star hotel! That seems like a very specific kind of hell, putting a dark spin on what could’ve been a purely comical story. The idea of roaming to the farthest, unexplored reaches of space only to find an Earth hotel and a mystery is part of what made Star Trek stand out to me, and seeing Riker and the away team solve the puzzle is still an engaging watch more than three decades later!

Episode #12:
Through the Valley of Shadows
Discovery Season 2

The Klingon monastery on Boreth.

Through the Valley of Shadows reframes Captain Pike and the accident that left him disabled. The Menagerie, from the first season of The Original Series, showed us the aftermath of what happened to Pike, as well as introduced us to the character and his time in the captain’s chair. Through the Valley of Shadows took that idea to a completely new and different thematic place: Captain Pike had to choose this future for himself, making an unimaginable sacrifice in order to complete his mission and save untold numbers of lives.

We looked at one consequence of that above with the Strange New Worlds episode A Quality of Mercy. These two episodes make a fascinating pair, and the tragedy of Captain Pike takes on a whole new dimension in light of what we learn here. Pike has always been a character I find incredibly relatable, and Through the Valley of Shadows puts a distinctly “Star Trek” spin on the idea of seeing one’s own future – and knowing that illness, disability, and worsening health lie ahead.

Episode #13:
Court Martial
The Original Series Season 1

Captain Kirk with his lawyer.

Court Martial is Star Trek’s first foray into courtroom drama – a genre that the franchise would return to on multiple occasions! Captain Kirk is accused of murdering an officer under his command and attempting to cover it up, and the stakes are high! We know he couldn’t possibly be guilty, of course… but the evidence against him appears to be compelling.

Samuel T. Cogley – Kirk’s advocate – is a character I’d absolutely love modern Star Trek to revisit! Based on the “old country lawyer” character archetype, Cogley led Kirk’s defence in unorthodox fashion, and is one of the best parts of Court Martial. Along with The Conscience of the King and Charlie X, which also delve into Kirk’s backstory, Court Martial puts flesh on the bones of someone who was still a new character. Kirk’s integrity and honour are on display – and on trial.

Episode #14:
Dragon’s Teeth
Voyager Season 6

The USS Voyager prepares to land.

Dragon’s Teeth is an interesting episode, and one that tells us a little about the history of the Star Trek galaxy. It’s also a story that looks at the potential consequences of war and conquest, as well as how different reality can be from societal memory. The crew of Voyager re-awaken a group of aliens who have been in stasis since the 1400s, following a devastating war that culminated in the bombardment of their planet.

The Vaadwaur proved to be untrustworthy allies, however, and attempted to capture Voyager. The “underspace corridors” that were present in this episode weren’t revisited, even though they potentially offered a quicker way to traverse this region of space. The concept was fun, though, and reviving a long-dormant race was likewise an interesting and well-executed idea.

Episode #15:
The Andorian Incident
Enterprise Season 1


I have to hold up my hands and confess that I wasn’t a big supporter of Enterprise during its original run. I was disappointed in its choice of setting, believing that Star Trek should move forwards instead of looking back at its own fictional history. But episodes like The Andorian Incident show just how wrong I was to feel that way! The episode showcases the conflict between Andoria and Vulcan in the years prior to the founding of the Federation – and begins to set the stage for humanity to bridge the divide and bring them together.

At a Vulcan holy site on the planet P’Jem, a monastery has been attacked by Andorians. The Andorian leader claims the monastery is a front for a listening post. Jeffrey Combs returns to Star Trek after his roles in Deep Space Nine to play Andorian leader Shran, and the interplay between Shran and Captain Archer would be one of Enterprise’s best. All in all, a fascinating outing.

Episode #16:
Where Pleasant Fountains Lie
Lower Decks Season 2

Andy Billups, chief engineer of the USS Cerritos.

I adore Where Pleasant Fountains Lie. I think it has a potentially-interesting explanation for the abundance of human-looking aliens in the Star Trek galaxy (they’re all Earth colonies), but moreover it touches on a subject close to home for me: asexuality. I’m asexual, and while the Cerritos’ chief engineer Andy Billups isn’t explicitly stated to be asexual in the story, Where Pleasant Fountains Lie focuses in large part on his discomfort with having sex and desire to avoid it.

Star Trek has always used its sci-fi setting to shine a new light on the real world, and for me, this episode absolutely nailed it. When people ask me about asexuality, I now have a relatable story that I can point to, one that touches on many of the same feelings and experiences that I’ve personally had as an asexual individual. I wrote a longer piece about this episode’s asexuality analogy, and you can find it by clicking or tapping here if you’re interested to read more.

Episode #17:
Let Sleeping Borg Lie
Prodigy Season 1

What have the crew of the Protostar got themselves into this time?

Prodigy had a strong first season – though it’s been disappointingly let down by a lack of support from Paramount, especially in the merchandising department. There are several contenders for episodes to include on this list, but I’ve decided to go with Let Sleeping Borg Lie from the second half of the season.

The episode focuses on a derelict Borg vessel – tying into the story recently seen in Picard’s third season – and gives all of the main youngsters something to do. The episode moves key storylines along, as Prodigy is a surprisingly serialised affair, but it also takes the crew to a different environment. One of the advantages of animation over live-action is the ability to visit different ships and planets every week relatively inexpensively! There are strong themes of sacrifice and friendship that form the emotional core of the story, too.

Episode #18:
Birthright, Parts I & II
The Next Generation Season 6

The Enterprise-D at DS9.

This story is a fun crossover between The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, which wasn’t yet ten episodes into its first season. The main story focuses on Worf as he tracks down a hitherto unknown group of survivors of the Khitomer massacre – the event in which his birth parents were killed. The second part of the story in particular focuses on the Klingons and Klingon culture.

I adore a good crossover, and it’s a ton of fun to see Picard and Dr Crusher aboard DS9, as well as Data and Dr Bashir working together. This episode was designed to give Deep Space Nine a jump-start as its first season got underway, but it’s more than that. It’s a fantastic combination of characters and settings that expands Star Trek beyond a single series into a connected franchise.

Episode #19:
State of Flux
Voyager Season 1

Janeway, Chakotay, and Tuvok discuss the situation.

Voyager never managed to make good on its “one ship, two crews” idea, and State of Flux, coming midway through the first season, was one of the few episodes to really explore that concept. When the crew of Voyager come to suspect that someone is passing secret information to the Kazon, a trap is laid – and a member of Chakotay’s Maquis sect is the prime suspect.

This episode set up a recurring story that would come back in Season 2 and at the beginning of Season 3, giving Voyager at least some consistent themes across the first part of the crew’s journey home. It’s also an engaging mystery on its own merit, and a strong episode for Chakotay – a character who could feel under-used, especially toward the latter part of the show’s run.

Episode #20:
Civil Defense
Deep Space Nine Season 3

Kell, the former commanding officer of Terok Nor, appears on a screen.

Despite a station-threatening premise, Civil Defense is a remarkably fun episode! It takes the premise of occupying an alien space station to a completely different place than almost any other story in the series, as O’Brien accidentally triggers a computer programme designed to put down a rebellion by the Cardassian station’s former Bajoran workforce.

Civil Defense gives most of the show’s main characters – including Jake Sisko – something to do, putting together groups or pairs of characters who always work well together and provide a ton of entertainment. Quark and Odo help to keep things light – and so does Dukat, to an extent, when he arrives to offer his “assistance!” All in all, an exciting and surprisingly fun outing.

So that’s it!

The USS Enterprise in The Wrath of Khan.

We’ve taken a look at twenty fantastic Star Trek episodes from across the franchise, getting a great mix of modern and older episodes. Hopefully this will help me regain some of my lost standing as a Trekkie after my list a few days ago!

All jokes aside, though, there’s a ton of fun to be had with Star Trek. Put all twenty of these episodes together in a playlist and you’ve got a hugely entertaining Star Trek marathon that will take you from the very beginnings of the franchise in 1966 right the way through to the most recent seasons that have only just been broadcast. It was a blast to go back and revisit all of these wonderful episodes.

The Star Trek franchise – including all series, films, and episodes 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.

Ten of the worst Star Trek episodes!

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the episodes on this list.

Today I thought that we could have a little bit of (mostly) tongue-in-cheek fun at Star Trek’s expense! See, if a franchise has been running for more than five decades and has broadcast well over 800 episodes and 13 films… there’s bound to be a few crap ones in the mix. I’m not one of those Trekkies who says that “Star Trek is always flawless,” and if you’ve read some of my episode reviews here on the website, you’ll know that!

That being said, this list is intended to be taken in the spirit of light-hearted summertime fun. Even Star Trek at its worst is better than no Star Trek at all, and even in episodes and films that I generally didn’t enjoy, there are almost always fun and engaging elements. And it should go without saying that I’m a huge Star Trek fan – the franchise has too many enjoyable episodes and stories to count.

This is all just for fun!

A few caveats before we go any further: firstly, all of this is, of course, entirely subjective! I’m not trying to claim that these episodes should be considered awful by everyone, simply that I don’t personally enjoy them or find them particularly entertaining. Secondly, this article isn’t meant to be an attack on any actor, director, writer, or anyone else involved in the creative process. I’m an independent critic, so criticism is the name of the game – but it’s never okay to get personal! Finally, if you hate everything I have to say today – or I exclude an episode that you think seems patently obvious for a list like this – that’s totally okay! There should be enough maturity in the Star Trek fan community for a bit of polite disagreement and gentle poking of fun.

All that being said, if you don’t want to read critical (and occasionally downright scathing) opinions about Star Trek, now’s your last chance to nope out!

So without any further ado, let’s jump into the list – which is in no particular order!

Episode #1:
Shades of Gray
The Next Generation Season 2

Riker in sickbay.

A couple of years ago I jokingly said that Shades of Gray was the best, most underrated episode of The Next Generation – but that was just an April Fool’s Day gag here on the website! Star Trek’s first (and thankfully only) clip show is a bit of a mess, and a disappointing way to end The Next Generation’s otherwise strong second season. It was also the final appearance of Dr Pulaski – who didn’t get any kind of send-off before being dumped from the series.

Television production has changed a lot over the past thirty-five years, but in 1989, The Next Generation was obligated to produce 22 episodes on a fixed budget. A couple of episodes earlier in the season had been more expensive and taken longer to produce than expected – most notably Q Who, which introduced the Borg for the first time – so cuts had to be made. A clip show was a relatively inexpensive way to produce an episode, so Shades of Gray was born. It has to be one of the worst pieces of television in the entire franchise – and a comparatively weak premise/frame narrative couldn’t hold it together. Luckily, clip shows are now a thing of the past – so we’re not going to see another Star Trek episode like this!

Episode #2:
The Red Angel
Discovery Season 2

Michael Burnham.

For me, The Red Angel was a total misfire toward the end of Discovery’s second season. Season 2 had been an improvement on Season 1 – thanks in no small part to the inclusions of Captain Pike and Spock – but The Red Angel knocks it down a rung or two. In short, it suffers from two major problems: the mischaracterisation of Georgiou, who began behaving like her Prime Timeline counterpart out of the blue, and its convoluted time travel story.

Time travel is very difficult to get right in fiction, and The Red Angel presents one of the worst and most irritating time travel tropes: the paradox. It made no sense for the rest of the crew to let Burnham know what their plan was, as they were operating under the assumption that the titular Red Angel was Burnham from the future. It was just a disappointment all around – albeit one that led to better things in the remaining part of the season.

Episode #3:
These Are The Voyages…
Enterprise Season 4

Wait, I thought this was Enterprise

Enterprise’s finale, regrettably, has to be one of the weakest endings to a series in the franchise. And I think it’s this episode’s status as a finale that compounds the disappointment – though it wouldn’t have been a great offering on its own merit, admittedly. To make matters worse, These Are The Voyages was conceived as an attempt to really celebrate all things Star Trek and to bring together two different, disconnected parts of the franchise. It’s such a shame that it wasn’t a stronger story.

By 2004, Enterprise’s cancellation was clearly imminent. And to its credit, These Are The Voyages jumps forward in time to wrap up Enterprise’s story of Captain Archer and the crew and the role they played in the creation of the United Federation of Planets. But the decision to use a frame narrative set during The Next Generation, reducing all of Enterprise’s main stars to holograms, wasn’t great for a series finale. There were also issues with the visual presentation of The Next Generation sequences – issues that, for the most part, were unavoidable. Had the same concept been applied to a mid-season episode, it might’ve worked better.

Episode #4:
Lower Decks Season 1

The problematic moment.

My criticism of Envoys largely focuses on one sequence – but it’s a sequence so bad and so antithetical to everything that Star Trek stands for that I feel it warrants a place on this list. Where Lower Decks has succeeded is in finding ways to make the wacky goings-on in Starfleet comical. Where it failed, in my view, was in its early attempts to set up Ensign Mariner as Star Trek’s answer to Rick and Morty’s Rick Sanchez – something that’s on full display in the opening sequence of Envoys.

In this sequence, Mariner captures (or kidnaps) a sentient energy-based life form because she thinks it’ll be funny, and then forces the creature to grant her a wish. I know that this is a comedy series and the sequence is meant to be a gag – partly, at least, at Mariner’s expense. But I can’t forgive how selfish and inherently un-Starfleet she acts. Lower Decks has told some incredible stories across its first three seasons, but this sequence at the beginning of Envoys is not among them.

Episode #5:
Move Along Home
Deep Space Nine Season 1

The crew in Move Along Home.

I adore Deep Space Nine on the whole… but Move Along Home might just be its worst individual episode. The premise is utterly ridiculous, as Sisko, Kira, Dax, and Dr Bashir are transported into an alien board game. Star Trek has had lots of fun with similarly wacky story concepts over the years, but Move Along Home is poorly executed, and the rug-pull at the end – that there was never any real danger – just adds to the disappointment.

The set design used for parts of Move Along Home is pretty poor, leading to an underwhelming visual presentation. Star Trek in the ’90s often reused sets and props to save money, but in Move Along Home it just doesn’t feel as if much effort was put into the episode’s visual style. There’s a reason why the alien race featured in this episode, the Wadi, haven’t been revisited!

Episode #6:
Picard Season 2

One of the titular monsters.

We could’ve made up nine-tenths of this list with Picard Season 2 episodes, but if I had to pick one out of that thoroughly disappointing season that encapsulates its issues, it would have to be Monsters. This navel-gazing story abandoned most of the season’s semi-interesting plotlines, including Q, Picard’s ancestor Renée, and the Borg in order to stage a ridiculous coma-dream populated by the most uninspired and amateurish B-movie monsters that I’ve seen in the franchise this side of The Original Series.

Moreover, Monsters is a waste of time. It fails to move the story along at a reasonable pace, and that led to serious problems in the remaining part of the season. Despite learning a theoretically interesting fact about Jean-Luc Picard’s early life, the revelation isn’t as big as the story wishes it to be – and it does nothing to reframe Picard’s characterisation, personality, or outlook on life, nor show them in a new light.

Episode #7:
Infinite Regress
Voyager Season 5

Seven of Nine.

Seven of Nine was a fascinating addition to Voyager when she joined the crew – though I confess that I was sad at the time to lose Kes. But as I’ve said before here on the website, I never felt that the writers of Voyager did justice to Seven of Nine, and Infinite Regress is just one example among many of samey, repetitive, and just plain boring over-uses of this character.

Seven’s appearance in Infinite Regress is a riff on the same idea used in Season 4’s The Raven, to such an extent that I sometimes get the two stories muddled up. It was one of the first solid indications that Seven’s original premise was played out, and things only went downhill from here. Seven was thrust into the spotlight often across the back half of Voyager’s run – and that wasn’t always to the show’s benefit. There are some decent stories in the mix, sure, but there are also more than a few repetitive and uninspired ones. It wasn’t until Seven re-emerged in Picard that she was given the chance to develop and grow as a character – and I can’t tell you how cathartic that process has been to see!

Episode #8:
Spock’s Brain
The Original Series Season 3

Spock and Dr McCoy.

No list of bad Star Trek episodes would be complete without Spock’s Brain! Widely considered to be the worst that The Original Series has to offer, this ridiculous story was a pretty poor start to the show’s third and final season. The Original Series Season 3 was greenlit after a letter-writing campaign from fans, but television network NBC only agreed to renew the show in exchange for cuts to its budget. Episodes like Spock’s Brain were the result of trying to keep costs down.

There’s a certain charm to Spock’s Brain in some ways… but in a “so bad it’s good” kind of way rather than for anything the story does on its own merit! A combination of the utterly bonkers premise and some less-than-stellar special effects make this a no-brainer for this list – pun very much intended!

Episode #9:
Code of Honor
The Next Generation Season 1

A group of spectators on Ligon II.

Code of Honor is incredibly outdated and racist in its depiction of Africans – and it boggles my mind that it was ever made, let alone that it was made for The Next Generation as late as 1987! Surely someone must’ve realised, while the episode was in production, that a story about a black planetary leader (with a noticeable accent) kidnapping a white female crew member would be problematic.

Unlike other episodes on this list, it’s hard to find any redeeming features in Code of Honor, and it’s one that I have to say I can’t enjoy in any way. It was a mistake to make it and to bring it to screen – but it serves as a reminder that Star Trek, despite its lofty ambitions and attempts to depict a better, more enlightened future, can still get it wrong.

Episode #10:
Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1
Picard Season 1

Sutra, Soji’s “evil twin.”

After the preceding eight episodes had slowly built up an intriguing mystery, Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 derailed Picard’s first season. The episode tried to dump whole new factions, characters, and storylines into the season but didn’t have anywhere near enough time to do justice to any of them. The truly disappointing thing isn’t that these ideas were bad, but that the poorly-paced episode and season ran out of road, making the entire season feel worse in retrospect.

Some scenes in Et in Arcadia Ego are so short that they’re barely even clips, with characters seeming to speak to no one. Special effects weren’t great, either, with a copy-and-paste Romulan fleet comprised of identical starships. And that gold makeup used for the Coppelius synths is just awful. Despite a solid performance across the rest of the season as Soji, Isa Briones was unconvincing as the rogue synth leader Sutra, too. All in all, a misfire – and one that, sadly, damages the integrity of the entire ten-episode story.

So that’s it!

The USS Discovery.

I hope your favourite episode wasn’t on the list! But if it was, please try to keep in mind that we don’t all like the same things, and even as Trekkies there are going to be disagreements about which stories work and which don’t within the Star Trek franchise. This was meant to be a bit of fun, not something to be taken too seriously or to get worked up over!

Although there are a handful of Star Trek episodes that I generally don’t enjoy, every series, and practically every season of every series, has wonderful moments of action, adventure, sci-fi, and more. I’m a huge Star Trek fan – even if I don’t enjoy everything that the franchise has put out over the last fifty-six years!

Live long and prosper!

You’ll note that Prodigy and Strange New Worlds didn’t feature on the list above – and that’s because the first seasons of both shows were pretty darn good. I couldn’t pick a single episode from either show that I could genuinely say I disliked, and I think that’s testament to the quality of modern Star Trek. Picard’s third season was good, too, and though Discovery has made mistakes, Season 4 was a vast improvement and ended in spectacular fashion. So there are plenty of reasons to be positive as we look ahead to upcoming productions!

So I hope you enjoyed this look at a few of Star Trek’s less-than-great stories. I actually had fun revisiting some of these episodes, several of which I hadn’t watched in years. Although the stories themselves aren’t great, it’s still nice to go back and watch them sometimes!

The Star Trek franchise – including all series, films, and episodes 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.

Star Trek: Picard Season 3 theories – finale

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 KhanThe Search for SpockThe Next GenerationDeep Space NineVoyagerDiscovery, and Prodigy.

So this is it, then! This is the last theory update for Season 3, the last ever theory update for Star Trek: Picard in general, and the final part of a series of theory-crafting articles that I began writing when Picard’s first season kicked off in January 2020. Are you as emotional as I am?

There were two pretty big theory culls earlier in the season, so we arrived at the finale with only eleven theories that remained on the list. Of these, one counts as confirmed, but the rest were debunked – or simply ignored entirely. With no more Picard on the schedule, we’ll have to retire all of these theories.

The Enterprise-G.

If Star Trek returns to the 25th Century in the next couple of years – perhaps with a Picard spin-off that fans have been asking for – it’s possible, I suppose, that such a series might revisit characters, locations, and factions from Season 3. But I wouldn’t bet on it… and some of the things we were hoping to see resolved from Season 2 (and even Season 1) are all but certain to be abandoned now.

One of the disappointing things about Picard as a whole series is the abandonment of certain characters and storylines, particularly main characters and story points that appeared to be major. Although the way Season 3 was structured always meant that it was a remote possibility that any of that could be addressed in the final episode, there are still things I’d wanted to see resolved!

Riker, Picard, and Geordi bid farewell to the Enterprise-D.

But all of that is for the birds now! Our task today is to wrap up the remaining theories so we can draw a line under this series of articles. Although we netted some big theory wins this season, we’re finishing up with a whole lot of theories that didn’t pan out. I wouldn’t say I was overly attached to any of them – but several would’ve been fun had they come to pass.

As I always say, this has just been a bit of fun! Serialised storytelling has its drawbacks, but one thing I’ve enjoyed across all three seasons of Picard has been that the show has lent itself to this kind of theory-crafting and speculation.

Without any further ado, let’s jump into the list for one final time!

Confirmed theory:
At least one more unannounced character will appear.

An emergency transmission from a familiar voice!

I’m claiming this one as a win for both Q’s appearance in the epilogue and for Walter Koenig’s audio-only role as Anton Chekov! The son of Pavel Chekov, Anton was the Federation President whose message was heard as the crew of the Enterprise-D raced to Jupiter to confront the Borg. It’s fantastic to think that, more than fifty-five years after his first Star Trek appearance, Walter Koenig was able to return and play a role in the finale of Picard.

However, I was disappointed that we didn’t get to see anyone else. There were multiple mentions of Admiral Janeway in earlier episodes, and a perfect opportunity presented itself in the epilogue for Guinan to appear at her bar. A returning character could’ve also joined the crew of the Enterprise-G under Seven’s command, or we could’ve seen a familiar face battling the assimilated fleet over Earth. Picard did well with cameos and returning characters across Season 3 as a whole, though.

Debunked theory #1:
The absences of characters from Seasons 1 and 2 will be explained.

Elnor in a promo photo for Season 2.

I held out hope all season long that someone, somehow, in some way, might’ve explained why Elnor, Soji, and the Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid weren’t joining Picard’s mission or taking part in the story. However, none of these characters – who played major roles in Seasons 1 and 2 of the series – were so much as mentioned. The finale was the last chance for it to happen, but it didn’t.

In the future, when we dissect the troubled, disjointed production of Picard in more detail, I think we’ll have to talk about the waste of characters like Soji and Elnor – characters who absolutely could have been included here. Think how much more impactful it might’ve been to see Elnor as one of the assimilated youngsters, having spent three whole seasons with him, instead of the relative newcomers that we got in the story. There’s a lot more to say about this – but we’ll leave it for another time when we can discuss it in more detail.

Debunked theory #2:
The Borg and/or the rogue changelings are responsible for the mysterious anomaly seen in Season 2.

The anomaly at the end of Season 2.

Another abandoned idea that Season 3 didn’t revisit was the mysterious anomaly from Season 2. This storyline – like others from both Seasons 1 and 2 – is now orphaned, unlikely to be revisited. Though it was long past time for the mysterious anomaly to have been incorporated into the plot in a big way, I still felt there was a possibility that it might be mentioned. Someone might’ve explained that it was the Borg’s first attempt to attack the Federation, for example.

Getting more detail on the mysterious anomaly was one of my requests of Season 3, and it’s disappointing that this storyline was abandoned with no resolution. The anomaly kick-started the plot of Season 2, and it was one of the few potentially interesting narrative points from an otherwise disappointing season. Being left with no explanation for something so seismic is disappointing – and another piece of evidence for how poorly-managed Picard’s overall production has been.

Debunked theory #3:
Picard will donate his golem body to Jack.

Jack with Picard in the season finale.

I came up with this idea when Jack was first misdiagnosed with Irumodic Syndrome earlier in the season. Even though that diagnosis was later proven to be incorrect, the brain abnormality that Picard and Jack shared still had the potential to prove fatal – as it did for Picard in Season 1. With that in mind, I wondered if the only way Jack could be saved would be for him to be transferred into a golem body.

Picard could have made the ultimate sacrifice for his son, donating his golem to Jack as a final act of parental love. There had been speculation for years that the series would end with Picard’s death, but after the fake-out in Season 1 I felt it would have been hard to pull off killing Picard for a second time. This was one way it could have happened, though! However, the epilogue explained that Dr Crusher came up with a cure for the Borg modification, and that’s that.

Debunked theory #4:
At least one main character will be killed.

The main cast of The Next Generation Season 2.

As much as I’d been expecting this, in the end it turned out that the finale and Season 3 as a whole were a bit of a throwback! Television storytelling has gone through a significant evolution since The Next Generation premiered in 1987, and main characters should no longer be considered “safe” just because of their status. With a dangerous mission at hand – and the Borg involved – it seemed plausible to think that at least one of our heroes would be killed off.

Season 3 did find time to kill off Ro Laren and Captain Shaw, but none of the main characters from The Next Generation found themselves on the chopping block. In fact, the season actually resurrected the long-dead Data and even the Enterprise-D, meaning that by the time the credits rolled the death toll for main characters stood at -2!

Debunked theory #5:
The Jurati-Borg will ally with Picard and the Federation.

The Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid.

At the end of Season 2, Dr Jurati’s Borg faction asked for provisional membership of the Federation and promised to watch over the unexplained anomaly. With the Federation seemingly staring defeat in the face as a huge assimilated fleet attacked Earth, I wondered whether Dr Jurati’s Borg might show up to render assistance. The anomaly seemed to be relatively close to Earth, based on its Season 2 depiction, so it seemed possible that she might’ve been able to help.

We knew going into Season 3 that Alison Pill wouldn’t be reprising her role – so that always meant that this theory was unlikely, I guess. But even so, it feels incredibly wasteful to have abandoned that Borg faction and the mysterious anomaly, especially when they could have been incorporated into the story in some way. Even if they showed up too late, after Picard had already saved the day, it would’ve been a fun addition.

Debunked theory #6:
Deanna Troi will use her “pain removal” skill on Jack.

Troi in The Last Generation on the bridge of the Enterprise-D.

Earlier in the season, it had been established that Troi had the ability to “enter” someone’s mind and remove pain – a skill superficially similar to Sybok’s, I suppose. With Season 3 dedicating time to this revelation, I wondered whether it might come into play at a crucial moment later on, with Troi using this skill to aid Jack in some way. She might’ve been able to sever his connection to the Borg or even cure him of his Borg-induced brain abnormality.

None of that came to pass, however. In fact, Troi’s role in The Last Generation was one of the episode’s least impressive and most clichéd moments, as seemingly from nowhere, as if by magic, she was able to use her empathic ability to pinpoint the location of Riker and the rest of the away team. I’m not disappointed that this “pain removal” angle wasn’t included… but I am a tad disappointed in the way Troi was used in the finale.

Debunked theory #7:
Floaty McFloatface will be back.


Because of the truly abrupt way in which Vadic’s story ended, I wondered if we might get to learn a little more about Floaty McFloatface – the nameless character who may have been some kind of envoy or go-between for Vadic and the Borg Queen. Although Vadic had died and the Shrike had been destroyed, we hadn’t seen Floaty McFloatface killed – nor was it even clear what Floaty McFloatface was – so it seemed possible, at least, that we might’ve got some kind of resolution to this partial character.

The Last Generation barely mentioned the changelings at all, with a very brief appearance of a rogue changeling being detained in the epilogue being all we got. There was definitely more to say about this faction, including how they came to work with the Borg and what will happen to the surviving members of the conspiracy.

Debunked theory #8:
Floaty McFloatface isn’t a changeling.

Floaty McFloatface in its goo form.

As above, I speculated that Floaty McFloatface may not be a changeling itself, but might’ve been a Borg or some kind of representative of the Borg sent to Vadic by the Queen to keep an eye on her. Floaty McFloatface clearly had power over Vadic – both in a figurative and literal sense – and I’d have liked to know at least a little more about how all of that worked.

We’ll have to discuss Vadic in more detail on another occasion now that the season has ended, because there are some pretty big issues with the way her involvement in the story ultimately landed. But for now, suffice to say that this theory is debunked and we can assume that Floaty McFloatface either died with Vadic or died when the Shrike was destroyed a few moments later.

Debunked theory #9:
Odo will make an appearance – somehow.

Odo in Deep Space Nine.

Odo had been mentioned by Worf – albeit rather obliquely – earlier in the season, and with the changelings playing a significant role in the story that, in spite of Vadic’s death, was yet to be wrapped up, I felt it was at least possible that the show’s writers might’ve included Odo in some kind of epilogue sequence. It didn’t happen, though – and I’m actually really glad about that!

Season 3 didn’t lean into Deep Space Nine as heavily as I’d expected after the first two or three episodes, and all of the returning characters were from The Next Generation or Voyager. There was scope to do more with the Deep Space Nine and Dominion War angles, but I’m glad that Odo wasn’t digitally recreated or recast on this occasion.

Debunked theory #10:
Other old/classic starships will join the Enterprise-D to face off against the Borg.

The Enterprise-A.

As cool as it was to see the Enterprise-D standing alone against the Borg… imagine how much fun it could’ve been if the ship had been joined by other older vessels. We could’ve seen some of the ships from Geordi’s fleet museum, for example, with the Enterprise-D and Enterprise-A fighting alongside one another for the first time ever. Now that would have been spectacular!

I’m a sucker for the “desperate last stand” story trope no matter how it’s written, and The Last Generation did its thing pretty well. But it would have been amazing if Picard and the Enterprise-D could have been joined by even just one or two other classic/retired starships for this final fight. There must be other ships in Starfleet that weren’t upgraded in addition to those at the museum. Oh well!

So that’s it!

The “Death Star trench run!”

We’ve wrapped up our remaining Picard theories now that the season has come to an end. Although there were a lot of debunkings, across the season I did manage to make a few successful predictions! And above all, I had fun speculating about where the story might go. That was the point of all of this, really, and I’m glad to have been able to follow along with Picard from beginning to end, sharing my theories and speculation with you.

So what’s next? Although my theory lists and episode reviews are over, there’s still a lot to say about Picard’s third season and the series as a whole. When the dust has settled I’d like to re-watch all three seasons of the show in one hit to see how well it works (or doesn’t work) in that format. And I already have a few articles and essays that I’m tentatively sketching out in my head, talking about the third season, some of its narrative decisions, potential spin-off ideas, and much more. So although Picard has come to an end, I hope you’ll check back to see some of that!

All together on the bridge, safe and sound.

And of course there’s more Star Trek to come! Strange New Worlds Season 2 will premiere in June, and we have Discovery’s fifth and final season in early 2024 – plus Prodigy, Lower Decks, Starfleet Academy, and Section 31 to look forward to as well!

For now, though, I’ll end by saying that I hope you had fun following along with my theories this season – and across Seasons 1 and 2, too. I had a great time keeping the theory list up-to-date, coming up with ideas, and speculating about the story that Picard was telling. And who knows… if a certain Legacy pitch gets picked up by Paramount, maybe some of my theories will return in the future! Watch this space, and live long and prosper!

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.

Disney Star Wars: Five highlights

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the following Star Wars productions: Rogue One, The Book of Boba Fett, Jedi: Fallen Order, and The Rise of Skywalker.

Happy Star Wars Day! May the Fourth be with you… and all that.

Today is a day of celebration for Star Wars – and I like to try to say something positive about the franchise every Star Wars Day! So this year, I thought it could be fun to run through five of my favourite Star Wars experiences that have been released since Disney acquired Lucasfilm back in 2012.

I felt quite optimistic when I first heard this news more than a decade ago. I’d been disappointed, on the whole, by the Star Wars prequel trilogy, and with Disney promising a sequel that would take the story beyond Return of the Jedi, I truly felt that there was the potential for some exciting and engaging storytelling. It’s absolutely true that not every Disney project has hit the high notes that I’d been hoping for – but conversely, it’s not the case that Disney has added nothing of value to Star Wars, either. There have been some misfires and unexceptional stories… but there have been some fantastic ones too.


So on this illustrious day, let’s celebrate some of the successes that Disney has rolled out! I’m going beyond the films to include television shows, specials, video games, and more on this list, because Star Wars has always been a very diverse franchise. There are plenty of highlights worth celebrating that I didn’t get a chance to include this time… but who knows? Maybe they’ll make the cut next year!

As I always say: all of this is just the subjective opinion of one person, so if you disagree with my picks and hate everything I have to say… that’s totally fine! There’s plenty of room in the Star Wars fan community for polite disagreement.

Let’s jump into the list!

Highlight #1:
Jedi: Fallen Order (and Jedi: Survivor)

Cal Kestis.

Jedi: Survivor has had a very rough launch, especially on PC, and that has sadly detracted from what sounds like a sequel with a fun story. I haven’t gotten to play it for myself yet, but when the bugs are patched out and the game is more stable, it’s one I hope to pick up. I adored Jedi: Fallen Order, though, and I’ve played through it twice already!

Jedi: Fallen Order is one of the most interesting standalone Star Wars stories of the past decade, exploring a setting and time period that was relatively unknown, and telling a story all its own. I genuinely got roped in by some fantastic writing, and felt as if I was taking part in my very own Star Wars adventure with former Jedi Padawan Cal Kestis and the crew of the Stinger Mantis.

Promo artwork for Jedi: Survivor.

Jedi: Fallen Order also gave me one of my favourite experiences in any Star Wars game ever: piloting an AT-AT walker! This sequence might just be the best in the entire game; it was tense, perfectly-paced, and exciting, with the controls of the clunky machine feeling exactly as I’d expected when I first saw an AT-AT ambling across the battlefield on Hoth decades earlier!

After feeling disappointed by some of the narrative decisions taken elsewhere in the Star Wars franchise in the year or so before I played the game, it was somewhat of a cathartic experience to know that I hadn’t totally fallen out of love with Star Wars, and that the franchise can still tell the kinds of fun, exciting, and adventurous stories that I enjoy the most.

Highlight #2:
Rogue One

The Death Star under construction.

I adore Rogue One, which was Disney’s first attempt to create a spin-off from the main Star Wars saga. The film told the story of Jyn Erso and the birth of the Rebellion, including the theft of the original Death Star plans that set up the events of A New Hope. It was a fantastic action-packed romp with some great moments of characterisation. Not only that, but it was an incredibly bold move for the film to kill off practically all of its major characters.

Although Rogue One featured some (rather gratuitous) sequences involving Darth Vader, by and large it stood apart from other entries in the franchise by leaving the Force, the Jedi, and lightsabers behind. This is something I think Star Wars needs to try to do more of; there’s a whole galaxy out there away from the Jedi, the Sith, and other Force-wielders that’s crying out to be explored!

Stealing the Death Star plans.

At the time of its release in 2016, Rogue One truly felt like something dramatically different from Star Wars. After the disappointment of the prequels and the relatively safe ground of the copycat production that was The Force Awakens, here was a cinematic demonstration that Star Wars could push the boat out and try new and different things. Although it was still a prequel that was very closely tied into the original films, it was also a work that existed in its own narrative space and could be enjoyed on that basis. Again, this is something I’d love to see more of from Star Wars.

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen Rogue One! I’ve definitely seen it more times than all of the prequels and sequels, and it’s a film I’m happy to return to time and again. It got its own spin-off last year: Andor. I haven’t yet found time to check out that series, but I hope to in the weeks and months ahead.

Highlight #3:
Galaxy’s Edge and Rise of the Resistance

First Order Stormtroopers.

I dearly wish that I could visit Walt Disney World and experience Galaxy’s Edge and Rise of the Resistance for myself! Unfortunately I’m in poor health and can’t travel, so I’ll have to settle for enjoying this immersive experience from afar.

Galaxy’s Edge is a themed attraction at Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California, and it’s set on a brand-new planet in the Star Wars universe. The area includes a cantina, shops, and two rides: Smuggler’s Run and Rise of the Resistance. Smuggler’s Run is set aboard the Millennium Falcon, with riders able to take the controls of the famous vessel. But Rise of the Resistance is the showstopper: a trackless, immersive ride experience.

The official map of Galaxy’s Edge.

If, like me, you aren’t able to get to Disneyland right now – and with those prices, who is? – then you can find video tours of Galaxy’s Edge and even full videos of the rides on YouTube and other video platforms. It’s not the same, of course, as being able to ride for ourselves, but it’s the best a lot of us can hope for!

Although I’d say that Galaxy’s Edge is probably limited, in some ways, by its sequel-era setting, it looks to be an incredibly immersive experience, by far the best that Disney’s Imagineers have built for the parks in recent years. Being able to build a lightsaber, drink cocktails and blue milk in a cantina, or just soak up the atmosphere of a galaxy far, far away… it looks like a ton of fun! If you’ve been able to visit, I hope you know how jealous I am!

Highlight #4:
The Book of Boba Fett

Concept art of Boba Fett and his ship.

As I said in my review of The Book of Boba Fett: this is a series that I’d have expected to find pretty boring and disappointing! It was such a nostalgia overload, especially in the final couple of episodes, that it could feel like watching overgrown children playing with action figures rather than a scripted television series! But there was something about the fun, lighter tone and the smaller-scale story that made it thoroughly enjoyable for me.

It’s surprising to me that The Book of Boba Fett hasn’t been greenlit for a second season, and I wonder why that is. The overall consensus seems to be less positive, unfortunately, and perhaps that’s the reason. But for my money, The Book of Boba Fett was far more enjoyable than its cousin The Mandalorian.

Boba Fett and Fennec Shand.

Star Wars can take itself very seriously sometimes… and that can be okay. But The Book of Boba Fett didn’t fall into that trap, and the show’s lighter elements helped it to stand out. By telling a story mostly set on one planet, focusing on a small cadre of characters, and without much of an emphasis on the Force and the Jedi, The Book of Boba Fett also managed to feel like something a little different.

I was never particularly taken by Boba Fett as a character in the original films. He had an interesting visual style, but in his only real combat encounter he died pretty easily! The Book of Boba Fett took this bland, faceless character and truly fleshed him out, giving motivation, understanding, and even a sympathetic presentation to the galaxy’s most famous bounty hunter.

Highlight #5:
The Lego Star Wars specials

Palpatine is not amused!

At time of writing there have been three Lego Star Wars specials on Disney+: The Holiday Special, Terrifying Tales, and Summer Vacation. And all of them are fantastic! The Lego Star Wars specials are cute, funny homages to the Star Wars franchise, bringing in elements from across the prequels, sequels, and original films and putting a distinctly comedic, light-hearted spin on them.

Fans who want to take everything seriously might not enjoy what these specials have to offer, but everyone else should be able to find at least something to enjoy! I’d even go so far as to say that the Lego Star Wars specials can make some of the weaker elements of cinematic Star Wars seem better – or at least less bad!

Palpatine and Vader.

I can’t pick a favourite out of these three specials. Each one has so much going for it – and each one is also tailored to fit a certain theme or time of year. The fact that all three specials are so strong is testament to the quality of the writing, and to Disney’s commitment to this unexpectedly fun idea.

The fact that Disney was willing to commit a decent amount of money to non-canon comedy is fantastic, and shows that the corporation can do more with Star Wars than just make carbon copies of what came before. These specials were, once again, something genuinely different for the Star Wars franchise – and all three are well worth a watch if you can find them on Disney+.

So that’s it!

Poe’s X-Wing fighter.

We’ve celebrated Star Wars Day by looking at five recent highlights from the Disney era. There are plenty of others that I could’ve chosen to include, but I think we’ve managed to put together a pretty fun and diverse list.

I’m not fully caught up on all things Star Wars, having missed Andor and The Mandalorian’s third season. The franchise might be beginning to get a little unwieldy as it continues to expand… but I suppose for fans who are more into Star Wars than I am, that’s a good thing! There are several projects on the horizon that hold genuine appeal, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else Disney and Lucasfilm have in store.

So I suppose all that remains to be said is this: may the Force be with you! Happy Star Wars Day from Trekking with Dennis.

The Star Wars franchise – including all films, games, and other properties discussed above – is the copyright of Lucasfilm and The Walt Disney Company. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

C’mon Paramount, make Star Trek: Legacy!

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-3. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: Lower Decks, Discovery, Prodigy, and Starfleet Academy.

I’m adding my voice to the growing chorus asking Paramount to commission a brand-new Star Trek series!

It’s surprising to me that – not for the first time – this request appears to have caught Paramount off-guard. As happened with the “Captain Pike show” in the aftermath of Discovery’s second season, the corporation finds itself ill-prepared for the reaction from fans, and doesn’t appear to have made any moves to line up actors or a production team for the series tentatively titled Star Trek: Legacy.

Picard Season 3 was… well, a mixed bag, to be honest. But it ended in spectacular fashion, bringing the series to a close in style. The final episode also very clearly and deliberately set up a potential successor series; more than simply “leaving the door open,” The Last Generation went out of its way to actively set up at least one potential story that a new show could follow.

I hope you didn’t skip the post-credits scene…

Whether or not characters like Jack Crusher and Raffi Musiker return, though, in a broader sense I’m not ready to leave the early 25th Century behind. Even after three seasons, Picard has barely scratched the surface of this time period – and there’s so much potential here that abandoning it feels positively criminal! Although we have Lower Decks and Prodigy both in the late 24th Century, potentially able to pick up on storylines and characters from The Next Generation era, Picard’s finale marks the end of Star Trek’s live-action commitment to this time period.

As I’ve argued before, one of the mistakes that Paramount has made – in my subjective opinion, naturally – has been to underestimate fans’ love for The Next Generation and the other Star Trek shows of the 1990s. Sure, The Original Series got things started, but it was the ’80s and ’90s when the Star Trek franchise as a whole had its real heyday, and there are so many characters, factions, and incomplete storylines from this era that are crying out to be expanded upon.

Legacy could be set aboard the Enterprise-G.

Terry Matalas, who was the showrunner for Picard’s second and third seasons, has suggested that his Star Trek: Legacy concept would pick up right where The Last Generation ended, with Captain Seven, Raffi as her first officer, Jack Crusher, and some of the secondary characters that we were just starting to get to know aboard the newly rechristened Enterprise-G. If Paramount gets in quick, before the sets that had been built are mothballed and the actors have moved on, it could be relatively inexpensive to get production re-started.

I know, I know. There’s more to commissioning a brand-new series than just sets and actors, and there are 1,001 other things that will need to be organised. But that just means that time is of the essence, and that Paramount should seize the moment that has been presented right now. Fans are clamouring for Star Trek: Legacy with no less fervour than we were for Strange New Worlds back in 2019, and there’s a limited window of opportunity for the corporation to take advantage of that.

Legacy could take advantage of existing sets and other infrastructure.

It might even be worth reconsidering some of the productions that are currently lined up. If you asked 1,000 Star Trek fans whether they’d rather have Starfleet Academy as a Discovery spin-off or Legacy as a Picard spin-off… I bet you could predict which way that poll would go! As happened with Section 31 and Strange New Worlds… I fear that Paramount may have messed up its timing.

We’ve talked before about the Star Trek franchise becoming too busy and too complicated, and that there’s a need for Paramount to slim down and produce less content in the years ahead. Fewer shows that could potentially have at least slightly higher per-episode budgets instead of a glut of content would be my preference – and with the Picard time period being ripe for exploration, I’d absolutely urge Paramount to prioritise Star Trek: Legacy ahead of other projects… even those that may have already entered pre-production.

What about Starfleet Academy?

Picard, Lower Decks, and Prodigy have all demonstrated that actors from past iterations of Star Trek – both main cast members and guest stars – have been more than willing to reprise their roles, so there’s scope to bring on board a plethora of the 24th Century’s finest! Picard has told stories that expanded upon the lore and world of Star Trek in different ways, and there’s scope for Legacy to do something similar.

More significantly, perhaps, Legacy could ditch the fully-serialised approach that has been the hallmark of modern live-action Star Trek in favour of the model used by Strange New Worlds – a more episodic and varied style that is perfectly suited to the franchise. Although there’d have to be care taken to ensure two similar productions aren’t tripping over one another, my heart says that episodic Star Trek is where it’s at!

Raffi and Seven could come back!

Whatever the plan may be for Legacy, though, it’s a pitch that Paramount ought to give serious consideration to. Picard’s third season was well-received, both by fans and a wider audience, so it feels like the perfect launchpad for a new Star Trek series set in this time period. There’s a lot more to explore in the 25th Century, picking up themes, factions, characters, and even storylines that Picard didn’t get a chance to look at across its three-season run.

At time of writing, there’s a fan petition on change.org that’s rapidly approaching the 50,000 signatures mark. It’s already surpassed a similar petition that ultimately led to Strange New Worlds – so there’s clearly an appetite for this series, and it’s something that Paramount really needs to take seriously.

The petition at time of writing.

I don’t usually lend my support to this kind of thing, but with Star Trek making announcements that seem to take the franchise to different time periods, alternate timelines, and thematic places, I wanted to do what I can in my small corner of the internet to signal my support for Star Trek: Legacy – or another, similar project set in the Picard era.

The history of Star Trek is quite literally built on the strength of the fan community and fan-led campaigns. The Original Series was greenlit for a third season thanks to an extensive letter-writing campaign, fan support for The Original Series in syndication led to The Animated Series and later The Motion Picture, and fan campaigns also supported The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise. As recently as 2021, a fan campaign led to Discovery’s fourth season being broadcast outside of the United States. So when Trekkies come together, we have the power to influence the people in charge – and that’s what I hope will be the outcome this time!

Star Trek: Legacy feels like a pitch with a ton of potential. Fans are waiting – and the moment to act is now! I sincerely hope that Paramount is listening, and that conversations are happening behind closed doors that will eventually lead to an announcement. Stay tuned, watch this space, and take whatever opportunities are presented to advocate on behalf of this project!

If you want to sign the fan petition on change.org, you can find it by clicking or tapping here. (Leads to another website)

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.

Star Trek: Picard Episode Review – Season 3, Episode 10: The Last Generation

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 KhanThe Next GenerationDeep Space NineVoyager, and Discovery.

It only really hit me when I was sitting at my desk, creating the header image for this review: this is the final episode of Star Trek: Picard. This will be the last time I crop still frames, the last time I have to warn you about spoilers… the last time I review a brand-new episode of this series. There will be plenty of opportunities in the weeks, months, and years ahead to look back at Picard – and I have no doubt we’ll do just that. But for now, suffice to say that I already feel a swirling mass of emotions as the series comes to an end.

I’d waited more than eighteen years for Remembrance – the premiere episode of Season 1. In all of that time, Star Trek had looked backwards. Prequels, spin-offs, and and alternate timeline had all told some fun stories and kept the franchise going, but my Star Trek era – the late 24th Century – had been sidelined. Picard was the show that brought it back, and that brought back Jean-Luc Picard and other incredible characters. I was so passionately excited when I sat down to watch Remembrance a little over three years ago… and it’s been a journey, to say the least!

The Last Generation got its own poster.

If you read my review of Võx last time, you can probably skip this one! I’m going to say more or less the same thing about The Last Generation as I did about Võx: this was a flawed episode, hamstrung by clichés, contrivances, and a badly-paced second half of the season… but I liked it anyway because of the deeply emotional storytelling that it managed to get right.

For a good hour or more after I’d first watched The Last Generation, I found myself sitting around wearing a big stupid grin – because despite the obvious flaws and issues with the episode that we’ll get into in a moment, by far my biggest takeaway was how it made me feel. That’s the success of The Last Generation – and, in a broader sense, of the final chapter of Picard’s third season as a whole. I didn’t expect to feel this way, and if you write out on paper the elements that were dumped into the story at this late stage, how they came together, how rushed much of it felt, and more, I’d have expected to come away from The Last Generation feeling disappointed. But… I don’t.

Showrunner/director Terry Matalas with the main cast.

And that’s in spite of The Last Generation being a deeply flawed outing from multiple angles. I’d go so far as to say that the episode doesn’t even feel like a finale or an ending… let alone a definitive one for a crew who should be ready to enter retirement. Think about where everyone ended up at the end of the story: Dr Crusher has been reinstated in Starfleet, Seven, Raffi, and Jack are about to head off on a new adventure, Riker and Troi appear ready to leave Nepenthe behind and find a new home, Data is just beginning to get used to his new body and newfound humanity, and the only characters who might be ready to return to their pre-Season 3 lives are Worf, Geordi, and Picard… though we didn’t see much of an indication of that in the episode itself.

And that’s before we get into the strange implications of the mid-credits scene.

You did stick around for the mid-credits scene, right? After the credits roll over the lingering overhead shot of Picard and the crew playing poker – a callback to All Good Things at the end of The Next Generation – we got one final scene. Go back and watch it if you haven’t! I’ll wait here.

You stuck around after this, right?

I guess we’ll start with what The Last Generation got wrong, as well as talk about the decisions that led to the story reaching this particular ending.

This was a rushed episode, one in which the main villain of the entire season was outsmarted and defeated in a matter of minutes. There were gripping moments of explosive action and tense drama along the way – but practically all of them would’ve benefitted from a few extra minutes. I stand by what I said last week: the decision to change track from the changelings to the Borg came too late, and there wasn’t enough time remaining to have the kind of climactic final battle that the writers wanted.

If this exact pacing problem hadn’t also afflicted Seasons 1 and 2 of Picard, it would still be deeply disappointing to see it here. But given the criticisms that both of the previous seasons of this series received for precisely this issue… quite frankly it’s unforgivable. This isn’t strictly a problem with The Last Generation, but rather with the pacing and structuring of the season as a whole. If showrunner Terry Matalas is to be trusted with a spin-off – as he and some fans are pushing hard for at the moment – then lessons have to be learned. Matalas helmed Seasons 2 and 3 of Picard, and both seasons came to a close in a mad rush, without enough time to fully explain everything.

The Enterprise-D in action.

As the dust settles, it isn’t even clear whether Vadic and her rogue changelings actually knew who they were working with, or the extent of the damage done to the Borg Collective. That side of the story evaporated with Vadic’s death a couple of weeks ago, and was barely touched in the epilogue after the Borg’s defeat. For a story that supposedly brought together two of Star Trek’s most powerful villainous factions – the Founders and the Borg – to come to an end without any on-screen interaction between them… again, it’s very odd. Something is missing here.

Realistically, if both the rogue changelings and the Borg were to be included, we needed this revelation to have come earlier. There would still have been secrets to keep – such as the inclusion of the Enterprise-D – but had the Borg reveal come sooner, and been explained better, other story elements that came to a head in The Last Generation would have flowed better and more naturally.

Behind-the-scenes on The Last Generation.

The Last Generation relies heavily on a story from two decades ago that wasn’t explained and only got the most oblique of references earlier in the season. In the Voyager finale, a time-travelling Admiral Janeway infected the Borg Collective with a “neurolytic pathogen,” devastating it. It was this event that the Borg Queen said was the cause of the decrepit state of the Collective – but for such an important story point, this needed far more explanation than it received.

Although the latter part of Picard’s third season has the feel of a production that was “made for fans,” it isn’t just hard-core Trekkies who watch the show. I have friends who aren’t immersed in the world of Star Trek who have enjoyed Picard for the sci-fi series it is on its own merit – and I suspect that a lot of more casual viewers, those who either don’t recall or didn’t watch Voyager, would have been left baffled by the Borg Queen and the Collective in general being in such a state. That this presentation of a different Borg Queen is now the third distinct version of the character to appear in Picard just adds to the confusion.

The Borg Queen.

Again, this isn’t a problem with The Last Generation on its own, nor even just of Season 3. Picard’s showrunner and writers chose to bring the Borg into focus in each of the show’s three seasons, offering different and contradictory presentations of the Collective and its leader each time. Given that the changeling storyline had worked so well for the first three-quarters of this season… perhaps a different ending could have been written, one that kept the Borg out of things. Or, alternatively, given that Seasons 2 and 3 went into production together with the same team at the helm, Season 2 could’ve been changed if this Borg ending to the series had already been decided upon.

Though we can argue it’s fitting, in a way, for Picard to be present at what appears to be the final demise of the Borg, given that he was present when the faction was introduced and was assimilated by them, the way this story unfolded doesn’t actually have that much to do with Picard. The Borg’s defeat came at the hands of Janeway, who was mentioned by name several times but didn’t even make a cameo all season long. Picard himself was just sort of… there. As has been the case more or less all season long, Picard – the show’s title character and main protagonist, lest we forget – was swept along by a narrative current that was almost entirely out of his control.

Picard in the Borg Queen’s chamber.

Because the reveal of the Borg’s involvement came so late in the story – partway into the ninth episode of a ten-episode season – Jack’s “defection” to the Collective already felt like it was built on shaky ground. There was the kernel of a good idea here, but again I feel the pacing issue causing a stumbling block. Jack’s powers manifested slowly earlier in the season, and in fact it wasn’t until several episodes in that we saw any indication that he was anything other than human at all. His decision to run away last week was blitzed through in a matter of seconds, and his reconciliation in The Last Generation was likewise rushed.

Reaching out to someone and using “love” to bring them back from a dark place is a bit of a cliché, but it’s hardly the worst that Season 3 has offered up. The way it was handled worked well enough in the moment – though I would argue that Dr Crusher, rather than Picard, would surely have been better-placed to try to convince Jack to stand down. Although we’ve seen a developing relationship between Picard and his son, the events of Season 3 have taken place over a few days at most, meaning the connection between Jack and Dr Crusher is going to be far stronger.

Picard and Jack embrace inside the Borg Collective.

Given the remarkably similar premise between Jack’s story here at the end of Season 3 and Dr Jurati’s toward the end of Season 2, it’s a shame that she and her Borg faction couldn’t appear. In fact, the whole end of Season 2, with the mysterious, unexplained anomaly attacking the Federation, has now passed its last chance to get any kind of resolution. At this late stage I wasn’t expecting that to happen – but it’s again indicative of Picard as a whole being a deeply troubled and poorly-managed production. Lessons need to be learned going forward so that future Star Trek projects don’t suffer similar shortcomings.

As I said last week when discussing the Borg, Jack’s story would feel stronger – and certainly more original – were it not basically a re-hashing of Dr Jurati’s story from last season. Dr Jurati felt lonely, isolated, and without friends – and found those things in the Borg. Jack felt lonely, isolated, and without friends… and also sought out those things from the Borg. Jack’s defection feels weaker, in some respects, because of the way it was set up, and the fact that it’s no longer an original idea further diminishes it.

Jack was able to break free of the Borg Collective thanks to Picard.

Several characters displayed skills in The Last Generation that are either perfectly aligned with things we’ve seen them do in the past, or that felt like natural evolutions based on the story the season has told. Dr Crusher manning the Enterprise-D’s weapons is a case in point: after two decades away from Starfleet, operating outside of the Federation under dangerous conditions, she knows her way around a phaser bank and torpedo launcher!

But Deanna Troi exhibited a telepathic skill that we’ve never seen her use before, being able to pinpoint Riker’s location as if by magic. There were opportunities earlier in the season to set this up, such as the conversation Troi and Riker had while imprisoned aboard the Shrike. As it is, this newfound ability felt like a magical solution to a story that had rather written itself into a corner – a cheap way to allow the Enterprise-D to swoop in and save everyone at the last second.

Deanna Troi on the bridge.

Unlike some of the other points I’ve raised, this one isn’t even a question of timing or pacing. It would’ve required an extra handful of lines of dialogue in an earlier episode, explaining that Troi had been honing her abilities or that when she used her “pain removal” skill on Riker she’d done so at a distance. That small amount of setup would’ve allowed this moment to flow far more naturally, and wouldn’t have led to me rolling my eyes quite so much!

A clever and well-executed misdirect can add a lot to a story, particularly if the stakes are high. But even with that caveat, I have to say that the excessive “foreshadowing” of the deaths of Riker and Picard in particular fell very flat for me in The Last Generation. The episode dedicated an inordinate amount of time to setting up that the away team wouldn’t be returning from the sojourn to the Borg Cube… only for everyone to survive. Stripping some of this out would’ve still allowed The Last Generation to keep the tension high, but would’ve blunted the impression that it was deliberately deceitful. Not only that, taking a few of these scenes away would’ve opened up other possibilities, such as spending a bit more time with the Borg Queen.

There was a lot of foreshadowing that wasn’t paid off.

There’s nothing wrong with an episode feeling like a throwback to an earlier style of storytelling – especially in a story with such a strong nostalgic component. But even with that in mind, the fact that all of the main characters survived the story was a bit of a surprise. Television storytelling has changed a lot since The Next Generation premiered in 1987, and main characters should no longer consider themselves to be safe just because of their status. To the episode’s credit, it genuinely felt like Picard, Riker, and Worf were all in danger during their mission… but nothing substantial came of that, and we even got a deus ex machina rescue right at the end.

Killing off a legacy character was always going to be controversial, and I’m sure that if someone hadn’t survived, there’d have been criticism from some quarters. But a well-timed character death can feel right, conveying how high the stakes are, paying off a character arc, or making an heroic sacrifice. Star Trek has done all of these things before in different ways, and I feel it would have strengthened not only The Last Generation but Season 3 as a whole if a well-written end could’ve come for one of our main characters.

Jack and Picard were both saved at the last second.

Part of the reason for that is that, for all the buildup, The Last Generation doesn’t really feel like an ending. It feels more like All Good Things than The Undiscovered Country, with a new chapter for some or even all of these characters seemingly ready to be written. I’m all for leaving the door ajar, with possibilities on the table… but this season was supposed to be the “final” outing for this crew. Only Picard seems ready to enter retirement – and even that feels questionable as he reunited with Dr Crusher to escort Jack to his first ever Starfleet posting.

All Good Things was clearly part of the inspiration for the epilogue at the end of the episode, particularly the poker sequence. But All Good Things was written and produced at a time when the cast and crew knew that Generations was literally days away from entering production. It didn’t need to be a definitive end… because it was never meant to be. Season 3 as a whole, and The Last Generation in particular, was billed as the final voyage of this crew. And yet it ended in such a way as to suggest that practically everyone has at least one more adventure yet to come.

Riker, Picard, and La Forge on the Enterprise-D.

The final fight against the Borg Queen brought with it a lot of tropes. The Enterprise-D blasted its way along the surface of the Queen’s oversized vessel almost like an X-Wing running the Death Star trench in Star Wars, and though this sequence was visually exciting – and technically perfect from an animation point of view – it was again something that was rushed. The buildup to this sequence was blitzed through, thanks in part to the decision to spend so much time setting up character deaths that ultimately didn’t come.

Starships and the way they operate have always been vague; adaptable to different kinds of stories. Given the size discrepancy between the Enterprise-D and the Borg Queen’s mega-cube, I don’t think it’s any kind of “problem” to see the Enterprise-D move as quickly as it does and with such fluidity – and this sequence felt like an updated, modernised version of the starship’s clashes with Borg vessels in episodes like Q Who and The Best of Both Worlds.

The “Death Star trench run!”

I think my biggest eye-roll in The Last Generation came as the Enterprise-D swooped down for a last-second rescue, literally appearing in the “sky” above the Borg Queen’s chamber. Both in terms of narrative and visual presentation, this was just such an overdone trope. Across the sci-fi genre and into action, adventure, and more… we’ve seen this kind of ending so many times.

Part of the reason why this moment fell so flat for me was, I suspect, because The Last Generation hadn’t made good on any of its foreshadowed character deaths. The rescue of the survivors might’ve been more impactful had one or two of these characters lost their lives along the way. But a combination of the trope itself, its previously-unseen telepathic “magic” setup, and the fact that it rescued all of the main characters from a supposedly impossible situation… it all came together to feel like a clichéd ending.

The Enterprise-D saves the day!

I stand by what I said last time: the presentation of the Borg Queen feels quite diminished in light of what we saw in Season 2. The idea of a decrepit, weakened Borg Queen was an interesting one – but not one that The Last Generation found much time to explore. She leaned very heavily into the “I’m evil for the sake of it” villain trope, far more so than earlier presentations of the Borg Queen, who seemed to have an overarching goal in mind for the Collective. However, I can forgive that trope in light of the collapse of the Borg Collective; the idea that she’d use the last of her power to seek revenge on Starfleet makes sense.

As Jack was liberated from the Collective, and particularly as the Enterprise-D came racing in to save the day, though, the characterisation of the Borg Queen fell apart. Another huge part of why this sequence felt so clichéd was the Borg Queen’s screams of “noooo!” as her plan unravelled. This is the kind of thing that you expect to see from the supervillains of children’s comic books, or the bad guys in a Saturday morning cartoon, as their evil scheme is defeated. Again, this whole sequence was so much less interesting than it could’ve been.

“Nooooooo!” screams the defeated villain.

But now we have to contend with a question that I asked last week: does any of that matter? The clichés, the overused tropes, the basic, formulaic story, the cookie-cutter plot, the poor pacing, the underused yet also played-out villain… none of it really feels like it gets in the way of a fantastic, thoroughly enjoyable romp with Picard and the crew.

Even though The Last Generation absolutely fails to feel like an ending in any sense of the word for basically any of its characters, it’s still a more enjoyable send-off and final mission than the crew of the Enterprise-D got in Nemesis. If this is to be their final outing (and I wouldn’t bet against Paramount considering some kind of Picard TV movie or even theatrical release, given the strong reception to Season 3) then we can finally say that this crew went out on a high.

All safe and sound on the bridge.

And it’s a high because of the emotional storytelling that manages to play the nostalgia card in a way that works. This was another “made for fans” outing, one that leaned heavily into The Next Generation, Voyager, and really all of Star Trek’s past. If you’d told me at the start that the season finale would be like this, I’d have been sceptical – fearing that it would come across as a nostalgia overload. And frankly that’s what The Last Generation is: an episode that sacrifices narrative integrity for the sake of nostalgia.

Maybe it’s the blinkers of nostalgia speaking, as The Next Generation was my way into the Star Trek fandom more than thirty years ago, but I can’t hold that against Picard. It worked for me – and if that’s because I’m a basic bitch, blinded by nostalgia to the obvious flaws and gaping holes of a mediocre story… then so be it! I’ll be a basic bitch all day long.

The Enterprise-D arrives at Earth.

There’s more to storytelling than canon, consistency, and even logic. These things all matter, don’t get me wrong – but in a story like The Last Generation, it’s just that they matter far less than how the episode makes us feel. And for me at least, though I recognise with a critical (some might say cynical or jaded) eye that the episode and its narrative have flaws, almost the entire time I was on the edge of my seat, truly going through all of the emotions with Picard, Riker, and the rest of the crew as their mission unfolded.

As happened last week, that’s my real takeaway from The Last Generation. The fact that I was roped in, entertained, and went through a rollercoaster of emotions with Jean-Luc Picard and the crew more than makes up for any logical inconsistencies or narrative missteps that the episode made.

Picard toward the end of the episode.

The idea that Picard, Riker, Worf, or anyone else might actually be killed – as was extensively foreshadowed and hinted at – was gripping, and more than a little upsetting. Death felt like it was stalking the members of the away team – and those on the bridge of the Enterprise-D or trying to remain in control of the Titan scarcely felt much safer, either. This feeling persisted for much of the episode, and though the way in which it ended was ultimately a little unsatisfying because of everyone surviving, in another way that’s very “Star Trek.” Heroes like Captain Kirk famously didn’t believe in no-win scenarios – and Picard managed to pull off the impossible task of saving everyone.

Animation brought these stories to life in spectacular form – and thinking back to the finale of Picard’s first season just three years ago, it’s amazing how far Paramount and Star Trek have come. The fleets and ships seen in The Last Generation were beautiful and diverse, and seeing Spacedock as Earth’s last line of defence against a massive, imposing armada was a truly stunning sight.

Spacedock and the assimilated fleet.

Both the Titan and Enterprise-D were beautiful, too, and both ships performed incredible feats as they battled their foes. Seeing the Titan in action, taking on the entire assembled fleet, was spectacular to see – and it found another narrative justification for the cloaking device that Jack and Sidney “borrowed” a few episodes ago!

Seven and Raffi hadn’t had as much to do this season as I’d hoped – but the moments they got in The Last Generation showed both characters at their best. Part of the reason fans are so hyped up for a potential spin-off is to see more from Seven of Nine, and The Last Generation added to and rounded out her arc across all three seasons of Picard by placing her, once again, in the captain’s chair. This time, we got to see her people skills – being able to inspire and protect the motley crew of survivors on the bridge was pitch-perfect.

This was a good episode for Seven of Nine.

Again, my only real criticism of this part of the story is that I could’ve happily spent more time with Seven of Nine and the crew of the Titan! As Picard and his crew worked to stop the Borg Queen, Seven and hers provided essential covering fire – and the way that this came across was outstanding. Seven, Raffi, and their assembled survivors felt in danger practically the entire time, especially as the Titan’s cloak was destroyed and its assimilated youngsters made their way back to the bridge.

As unsold as I’ve been on Data’s resurrection this season, the character dynamic between Data and Geordi has been cute – and this trend continued in The Last Generation. Geordi sat beside Data on the bridge of the Enterprise-D – as he had in The Next Generation’s first season – and they had some fun and exciting moments together.


Likewise Riker and Worf! These two characters had a great relationship during The Next Generation era, serving together and often taking part in away missions. It was a treat to see them teamed up once again, and the dynamic they had aboard the Borg vessel added a lot of comedy to what was an otherwise serious story. Jonathan Frakes and Michael Dorn have great chemistry and comedic timing together, and the moments of lightheartedness through what was a dangerous mission really elevated the sequences aboard the Borg vessel.

Picard’s act of sacrifice required him to “jack in” to the Borg Collective – voluntarily assimilating himself. As the culmination of Picard’s arc with the Borg, this was a fascinating idea. Picard had already come to terms with aspects of his Borg experience in First Contact and in Seasons 1 and 2 of this series, so it wasn’t totally original or new – and that might’ve improved it, perhaps. But making this sacrificial move was clever, and fits right in with themes that the entire series has touched upon in different ways.

Picard jacks in.

I’m glad that Tuvok survived his ordeal with the changelings – though I would’ve liked to have seen how he and others may have been rescued. Again, this is something a longer season might’ve been able to include. But his scene with Seven, in which she was promoted to captain, was a very sweet part of the epilogue.

I’m not sure how I feel about the return of Q. As I said last year after Q had been “killed” in Season 2, bringing him back to life – especially with the kind of hand-wavey explanation of “don’t think in such linear terms” – undermines one of the few remaining narrative points propping up the entirety of Picard’s disappointing second season. For the sake of such a brief cameo… I wouldn’t have included Q here, I think.

Q is back.

One cameo that I adored was Walter Koenig – who sadly only appeared in audio form – as Anton Chekov, the son (or grandson) of Pavel Chekov. I jokingly said a few weeks ago in one of my theory updates that Chekov would be an unlikely inclusion this season… but it turns out I’m rather prophetic!

The name Anton was presumably chosen in memory of Anton Yelchin, who portrayed the character of Chekov in the Kelvin timeline films. This was a sweet way to memorialize him. Bringing Walter Koenig in for a cameo really brings together all of Star Trek. This finale began last week with a callback to Enterprise, Koenig represents The Original Series, and we have main characters from across The Next Generation era. It really was a celebration of all things Trek!

Data and Geordi listening to President Chekov.

There’s more to say – but we’ll have to return to The Last Generation and Season 3 on another occasion.

This review took me a long time to finish, having started it on the day the episode premiered. I had an original draft ready by last weekend, but I wasn’t happy with it so I ended up deleting and re-writing large parts of it. Keeping up with Picard this season has been a struggle, and I think I’m ready for a bit of a break from these reviews! Thankfully, the Star Trek franchise seems to be better-paced this year, and there’s a break before Strange New Worlds Season 2 arrives in June.

I enjoyed The Last Generation – in spite of its shortcomings. It was a great way to end the season, and it potentially sets up a spin-off set in this same time period, which is something I truly hope can happen.

So long, Captain Picard!

So we come to the end of Season 3… and of Star Trek: Picard. In the weeks and months ahead we’ll return to The Last Generation and to Season 3, perhaps taking a deeper look at some of the individual characters, narrative points, and themes – and dissecting them! But for now, I’m about ready to put this review to bed and move on to other topics!

I’ll round up my theory list sometime soon, too. But for now, I hope you enjoyed following along with my Picard reviews this season. Season 3 was an improvement on Season 2, without a doubt, and for the most part I had a good time with it.

Stick around, because the website isn’t going anywhere! There’s Strange New Worlds to come this summer, the video game Star Trek: Resurgence, and Discovery’s final season in early 2024. In between I’ll be re-watching older films and episodes, crafting theories, previewing upcoming projects, and talking about other franchises, too. Thanks for bearing with me while I was writing this review, and I hope to see you soon!

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.

Star Trek: Section 31 – Second Time Lucky?

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3, Star Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Prodigy, and potentially minor spoilers for Star Trek: Section 31.

Second time lucky?

Paramount will certainly be hoping so, because this is the second time they’ve tried to get Star Trek: Section 31 off the ground! Originally envisioned as a television series, this latest announcement is something new for the Star Trek franchise: Section 31 will come directly to Paramount+ as a kind of “TV movie.” Reading between the lines, I think we can expect a lower budget than a full theatrical film, but perhaps a higher budget than would be afforded to a miniseries or a couple of episodes of a regular show.

If Section 31 proves to be a success with this format, I wouldn’t be surprised to see other Star Trek projects created in the same mould. As I said last year when discussing Short Treks, there’s a lot of potential in one-off stories – and with the sets having already been built for the likes of Picard and Strange New Worlds, there could also be a relatively low cost of entry, too.

The official announcement graphic.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves!

Off the back of Michelle Yeoh’s success at the Oscars and Golden Globes, her star has risen significantly. It’s a coup for Paramount to have won her back, there’s no two ways about it. Yeoh could have chosen to pursue other projects – she will have had no shortage of offers after Everything Everywhere All At Once took the world by storm – so it’s significant for both Paramount and the Star Trek franchise that she’s been convinced to come back.

With Michelle Yeoh at the helm, there’s potential for Section 31 to pick up a lot more interest and attention than it otherwise might’ve done – and that can only be a positive thing! We’ve talked before about how Star Trek needs to win over new viewers, and how the franchise needs to get new fans through the door. A project like Section 31 could be a gateway into Star Trek for legions of new viewers – at least some of whom will stick around. The potential for the franchise and the fandom to grow is significant – and growth is the only way to ensure that Star Trek will continue to be produced.

Paramount hopes this project will bring in a large audience…

Over the past couple of years I’ve talked about Section 31 a handful of times here on the website, and my overriding thought has been this: Paramount screwed this up. By announcing the project far too early, and at a time when fans were just about to get excited for the return of Captain Pike, Section 31 was dead on arrival. And it was such a shame, because by the time the groundwork had been properly laid for the project in Discovery’s third season, it was something I’d come around to.

This revival is, let’s be honest here, driven almost entirely by Michelle Yeoh’s success and Paramount’s wish to capitalise on it. I don’t think there’s much of a creative or artistic side to it – this is a commercial decision. As was the decision to dump the original Section 31 concept into development hell. In that case, Paramount saw the appetite for a Pike spin-off and prioritised that idea ahead of Section 31. This time, the board has seen the success Michelle Yeoh has had and has pulled out all the stops to bring her back to Star Trek.

Michelle Yeoh at the 2023 Golden Globe Awards.

But by the time Georgiou departed Discovery in the two-part episode Terra Firma, she’d undergone a significant shift in her characterisation – and was finally ready to take the lead in Section 31. If only Paramount had announced the project at that stage instead of two years earlier!

A TV movie feels like a good compromise for a franchise that’s in danger of burning out. With Starfleet Academy having just been announced as a new series, and growing calls for a Picard spin-off, I’m not sure that another series would’ve been the right call, especially with the Star Trek franchise continuing to have different eras and timelines on the go simultaneously. A TV movie could certainly lead to something more – either in the form of a sequel or a series – if it proves to be a huge hit. But for now at least, this feels like a surprisingly good call from a corporation that has made very few of those over the last few years.

Michelle Yeoh during production on Discovery’s first season/

The story that Section 31 will tell is going to be kept under wraps for a long time – and we might not see it until 2025 or even 2026. It’s my hope that Section 31 won’t feel like a re-hash of some of Star Trek’s recent “the whole galaxy is in danger!!!” stories that have been prevalent in Discovery, Picard, and even Prodigy in recent years. The writers need to find a way to take advantage of the secretive organisation to tell a different kind of story – a kind of black ops/spy thriller that might best be summed up as “Star Trek does James Bond.”

Besides Michelle Yeoh, there are other Discovery alumni who could potentially join the cast – though no announcements have been made at this stage. Shazad Latif, who played Ash Tyler in Discovery’s first and second seasons, is perhaps the most likely candidate, and I’d be interested to see what might’ve become of Tyler after his run-ins with Michael Burnham and the USS Discovery!

Could Section 31 bring back Ash Tyler?

There’s also the potential for Section 31 to cross over in some way with Strange New Worlds, with the TV movie potentially debuting the same year as that show’s third season. The end of Discovery’s second season certainly implied that Captain Pike was aware of Georgiou’s true identity, and bringing him into the story could make for the kind of team-up event that Star Trek really ought to consider doing more of. If Section 31 were to aim for a 2026 release, coinciding with the Star Trek franchise’s 60th anniversary, it could even be billed as an anniversary event.

There’s been far more of a positive reception to the announcement of Section 31 in 2023 than there was to its premature announcement more than four years ago, and that’s good news. The project feels much more solid this time around, and is almost certain to get off the ground and escape the gravitational pull of development hell. Partly that’s thanks to Michelle Yeoh’s newfound stature as an award winner – but it’s also, at least in part, thanks to the development of her character across Season 2 and especially Season 3 of Discovery. The more grounded, nuanced, and dare I say more human presentation of Georgiou toward the end of her tenure on Discovery is what has made her into the kind of antihero that fans can root for.

Star Trek will celebrate its sixtieth anniversary in 2026.

So I can now say I’m genuinely looking forward to Section 31… even though I have no idea when it will be set, who it might include, or what kind of story it will aim to tell! As a standalone Star Trek project it represents a genuinely different format that the franchise hasn’t really attempted before – albeit one that could, perhaps, lead to a more traditional series if it proves a runaway success.

There’s a lot more potential in Section 31 today than there was when its original announcement in early 2019 flopped and failed to get off the ground, and I think you can see that in the positive reaction both within the Star Trek fan community and outside of it. Michelle Yeoh brings a star power to Star Trek that’s unprecedented, at least in the franchise’s modern incarnation, and the effect of that should be to bring more eyes to Star Trek – and to Paramount Plus – than it’s seen in a long time. It may not be an exaggeration in the years ahead to say that Section 31 shored up Star Trek and set the stage for its future success.

Until then, I hope you’ll stay tuned here on Trekking with Dennis! As and when we get more news about Section 31, details about the cast, teasers and trailers, and the like, I’ll do my best to discuss and analyse it all. And when Section 31 is ready, you can expect a full review, too!

Star Trek: Section 31 will premiere on Paramount Plus in the United States, United Kingdom, and other countries and territories where the platform is available at an unknown future date. Further international distribution has not been announced. The Star Trek franchise – including Section 31, Discovery, 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.

Star Trek: Picard Season 3 theories – week 9

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 KhanThe Search for SpockThe Next GenerationDeep Space NineVoyagerDiscovery, and Prodigy.

I had a tough old time figuring out what to say about Võx this week. It was simultaneously an incredibly emotional episode that hit all of the right nostalgic notes… and a flawed, trope-laden outing that literally had me rolling my eyes and even laughing out loud. But as Picard and the crew boarded the Enterprise-D and the dust settled… it’s also an episode that has completely decimated our theory list!

You can find my review of Võx by clicking or tapping here – and I hope you’ll check it out if you have time. I’ve shared my thoughts as best as I can… but I’ll be genuinely curious to see how the episode holds up in a year’s time when we’ve had time to process everything that happened this season, and to move on. Will those deeply nostalgic moments still cover up the episode’s flaws?

Jack aboard a shuttle in Võx.

This week we have five debunked theories, three further theories that I’m choosing to retire, and five fully confirmed theories. We also have three theories that I’m calling “semi” confirmed – and the reason for that status is the same in every case: something I’d proposed might be a changeling idea was actually a Borg idea. I got the basic outline more or less right – but called it a changeling plan not a Borg plan. But it’s my list so I’m still calling those “semi” confirmed!

I had a lot of fun last week theorising about what the “ancient evil” surrounding Jack might be – as well as knocking over a couple of popular fan theories that I’d spotted on social media. There’s no such bonus theory to come this week… and as we strike so many theories off of the list, we’ll be going into the finale with only a few remaining on the table!

As always, we’ll start with theories that were confirmed or debunked this week.

Debunked theory #1:
Jack has changeling/Founder DNA.

Jack in this week’s episode.

Until we saw the Borg hiding inside Jack’s mind this week, which began the process of unravelling the Borg’s involvement in the story, the “big bad” that Picard and the crew were facing appeared to be a group of rogue changelings. With their focus on Jack, and Vadic appearing to have some kind of personal interest in him or connection to him, it seemed a reasonable guess that Jack might have somehow got changeling DNA mixed in with his human DNA.

Võx debunked this idea, though, explaining that Jack’s condition is in fact the result of Borg biotechnology – something that he inherited from Picard at the moment of his conception.

Debunked theory #2:
The rogue changelings are attempting to reach the Nexus.

The Nexus.

This was a total wildcard, and I freely admit that! When we saw James T. Kirk’s body at Daystrom Station in the episode The Bounty, I wondered if that might’ve been a hint at the Nexus – the powerful energy ribbon seen in Star Trek Generations. The Nexus was a gateway to a paradise-like realm… but it also offered the opportunity to travel through time, something that Picard and Kirk both took advantage of.

With no other references to the Nexus or the events of Generations, it always felt like a bit of a long-shot. And if it had come so late in the season, it might’ve felt like a bolt from the blue! But the idea of the rogue changelings looking to use time travel to avenge or prevent their defeat in the Dominion War is an interesting one. Perhaps a future Star Trek story will consider an idea like this one day… or find another reason to return to the Nexus.

Debunked theory #3:
Jack has Borg nanoprobes in his system.

Borg nanites as seen in Season 2.

This was completely debunked by Dr Crusher in Võx, as she stated outright that scans of Jack had confirmed that he has no Borg nanites or technology in his system. This revelation makes the Borg even more frightening, in my view, as their biotechnology is clearly light-years ahead of anything the Federation has… and proved to be completely undetectable, too!

Although I wasn’t certain that there was a Borg connection to Jack, it felt like a solid possibility – especially as we headed into Võx. With that in mind, Borg nanoprobes seemed like a reasonable explanation – but it didn’t pan out that way!

Debunked theory #4:
Irumodic Syndrome is important to the rogue changelings.

Picard was first told about his susceptibility to Irumodic Syndrome in All Good Things…

The rogue changelings – who we now know were being controlled and/or directed by the Borg – couldn’t care less about Irumodic Syndrome. Picard and Jack don’t actually have the condition after all, it would seem! They wanted Picard’s old corpse and Jack because the anomaly in their brains was latent Borg biotechnology.

The Borg needed Jack to broadcast and amplify their signal, which they did during the Frontier Day event. Irumodic Syndrome was never part of their plan – it was a misdiagnosis by Starfleet doctors who didn’t understand what they were dealing with.

Debunked theory #5:
The rogue changelings are planning to cripple Starfleet.

The assembled fleet in orbit of Earth.

Although being assimilated and controlled by the Borg is a crippling blow to Starfleet, that isn’t really what I meant by this theory! In short, I suggested that the rogue changelings’ scheme involved destroying either key front-line ships within Starfleet or blowing up large numbers of ships indiscriminately. When we saw that some rogue changeling operatives had powerful explosives with them, that possibility seemed likely!

We now know, of course, that the plan was for the Borg to assimilate younger Starfleet officers and hack into the connected Federation fleet. It doesn’t seem like the Borg plan to destroy any of the ships under their control – though they did destroy a vessel that managed to escape!

Retired theory #1:
Someone on the crew is a changeling imposter.

Picard and the crew aboard the Enterprise-D.

Even though there’s one episode remaining in which I fully expect twists and turns, I’m choosing to belatedly strike this theory from the list. After the deeply emotional reunion at the end of Surrender, and Picard and the crew taking their posts aboard the Enterprise-D this week, I no longer feel that this kind of storyline would work. With less than an hour left to wrap up all of the storylines in play, adding something like this into the mix would also complicate the story unnecessarily.

As Võx has moved away from the rogue changelings to re-orient the story around the Borg, I suspect we won’t hear much more about them at all. There really ought to be something to wrap up that side of the story… but with the Borg planning a conquest of Earth, this theory now feels beyond the realm of possibility.

Retired theories #2 and #3:
The rogue changelings are also planning attacks on the Klingons, Romulans, Bajorans, and Cardassians.

A joint Federation-Klingon task force during the Dominion War.
Image Credit: JTVFX on YouTube

These two theories are also being retired now that we know the Borg are the ones directing this conspiracy. In short, I’d suggested that if the changelings were on the march, they might be seeking revenge for their defeat in the Dominion War. If so, it seemed logical to think that they might also be targeting other factions beyond the Federation who fought alongside them.

The Klingons and Romulans were the main ones, as they’d been part of the anti-Dominion alliance. But the Cardassians turned on their Dominion allies near the close of the war, and while officially neutral, Bajor clearly sided with the Federation, too. But now that we’ve seen the truth behind the conspiracy, this idea seems to be busted!

Semi-confirmed theory #1:
The rogue changelings didn’t want Jean-Luc Picard, they wanted Locutus.

Locutus of Borg.

The conspiracy necessitated the use of Jean-Luc Picard’s corpse… but not for any reason to do with Picard himself! Borg biotechnology that had been installed or generated inside of Picard’s brain while he was assimilated was key to the conspiracy, meaning that the rogue changelings really needed the body of Locutus.

It seems as if this DNA/brain modification isn’t something that all Borg receive, otherwise the conspiracy could’ve targetted someone like Seven of Nine – or simply used any other Borg drone or ex-Borg. So it really was Locutus who was the key to the success of this scheme.

Semi-confirmed theory #2:
Jack is a “sleeper agent.”

Jack in Võx.

The Borg clearly knew of Jack and his potential long before this conspiracy got started. They didn’t necessarily “plan” his conception – and it remains unclear whether any other child of Picard’s would have been similarly useful to them. But when the Borg learned that Picard had a child, they realised they could take advantage of his abilities.

In that sense, Jack is a “sleeper agent;” an asset that the Borg had within humanity unbeknownst to anyone in Starfleet – or even to Jack himself. Jack would never have voluntarily participated in the plot – though his decision to seek out the Borg Queen had the unintended consequence of the scheme succeeding – but the Borg Queen planned to use him for that purpose.

Semi-confirmed theory #3:
The Borg hacked into the connected Federation fleet.

The USS Titan.

Having a connected fleet that could operate as a single entity always felt like a dangerous idea – and so it proved! The Borg were able to tap into Starfleet’s connected armada and turn the entire fleet against the Federation – even destroying ships that broke formation and tried to escape. This had been set up by comments about the connected nature of newer Starfleet vessels earlier in the season.

The Borg are a fascinating warning about the dangers of out-of-control technology, and if we extend that metaphor to their takeover of the fleet, there are some very interesting real-world parallels as we continue to work on artificial intelligence out here in the real world!

Confirmed theory #1:
The “ancient evil” was the Borg Queen.

Well, look who it is!

I tackled this question in last week’s theory update, and expanded it in a standalone piece in which I considered a few other ideas – and debunked a few theories that I felt certain weren’t correct! It never seemed plausible to me that Species 8472, the Romulans, or the Pah-Wraiths could have been introduced into the story at such a late stage – not without any kind of hint or suggestion that they were implicated in the conspiracy. The Borg – and the Borg Queen specifically – seemed the most likely “ancient evil” to me, and so it proved!

There had been hints and teases all season long; a trail of breadcrumbs to follow that led to this revelation. While we can (and will) criticise the decision to bring the Borg into play for the third season in a row, the timing of this revelation coming so late in the season, and myriad other issues with this storyline, I can’t really find fault in the setup.

Confirmed theory #2:
Jack’s hallucinations, red eyes, and superpowers came from the Borg.

Jack’s glowing red eyes.

There was a bit of a misdirect here, as the colour red isn’t one we’d really associate with the Borg. Nor are Jack’s other abilities, come to that! But given that I was always suspicious of some kind of Borg involvement or connection to the events of the season – going all the way back to before the season premiere – it seemed plausible that what was happening to Jack was caused by the Borg.

The biotechnology deployed by the Borg is unlike anything we’ve ever seen them use – but that’s a pretty cool idea, and it shows once again just how much more advanced the Borg are when compared with the Federation. In addition to tapping into combat prowess he didn’t know he had – which may have come from assimilation victims, if you think about it – Jack also heard the voice of the Borg Queen and possessed the ability to “assimilate” other humanoids, albeit only briefly. The glowing eyes were just a symptom.

Confirmed theory #3:
Captain Shaw died.

Captain Shaw meets his end.

Poor Captain Shaw! After surviving far longer than I’d expected, he was finally killed off in Võx, with his death buying time for Picard and the others (sans Seven and Raffi, for some reason) to escape the Titan. Captain Shaw had been an interesting character in the first three or four episodes of the season, but had felt superfluous for a long time. I’d been expecting his death from the very first episode, initially wondering if he might be killed off to allow Picard, Riker, or Seven to sit in the captain’s chair.

At this late stage in the story, Shaw feels like the easiest main character to have killed. And while his death had an impact and showed the danger faced by Picard and everyone else in Starfleet… it came a bit late in the game for me. As a character who hadn’t had much to say or do for several episodes, Shaw’s death was perhaps less significant than it could’ve been. But regardless – I got this prediction right!

Confirmed theory #4:
Another unannounced character returned!

Admiral Shelby!

After Ro Laren and Tuvok had appeared earlier in the season (and of course Lore and Professor Moriarty, who had been teased in pre-season trailers, appeared too), we got to see Admiral Shelby this week. Shelby appeared in the classic episode The Best of Both Worlds, where she was one of Starfleet’s biggest experts on the Borg. In an episode in which the Borg returned, there was something fitting about bringing her back – as indeed there was at having her (apparently) killed by the Borg.

There were also name-drops of a couple of other characters, including a starship seemingly named after Dr Pulaski – the doctor who joined the crew of the Enterprise-D for one year. This one is going to be recycled back into the main theory list, though… because there’s still time for another surprise or two before the season is over!

Confirmed theory #5:
The Borg are involved.

Called it!

After the season premiere, in which there were a handful of Borg references, this theory was added to the list. And it turns out that those hints and teases actually were intended to jump-start the process of setting up the Borg to be the season’s main antagonist. We can argue that this reveal came too late in the story, and with only one episode left it might not be the most satisfying conflict, but at the end of the day it’s still pretty cool to have Picard and the crew facing off against the Borg once again!

As above, this is something I feel was pretty well-established by earlier episodes in the season, even as the main story seemed to focus on Vadic and the changelings. There are issues with the way this was done, particularly in terms of timing and pacing, and we’ll have to unpack all of that in the future. But for now we can call this one confirmed!

So those theories were confirmed, debunked, or have been retired.

Phew, that was a lot! There are still a few theories that remain in play, though – and Võx threw up a couple of new ideas, too. So let’s jump into the main theory list!

Theory #1:
The Jurati-Borg will ally with Picard.

The Dr Jurati-Borg Queen hybrid.

The events of Season 2 were briefly mentioned earlier in the season, but it’s worth remembering that the Jurati-Borg are still out there, potentially as provisional Federation members in relatively close proximity to Earth. Maybe they will ride to Starfleet’s aid and help protect Earth against their Borg brethren.

We still need to get closure on Dr Jurati’s story, which ended with a kind of “see you later” as she promised to watch over the mysterious anomaly at the end of Season 2. Perhaps the final episode of the series could bring her back – along with her Borg offshoot faction.

Theory #2:
Other old/classic starships will join the Enterprise-D to face off against the Borg.

The Enterprise-D departing the Fleet Museum.

One starship against the entire Federation fleet? The Enterprise-D will be obliterated in a furious storm of quantum torpedoes the moment it arrives at Earth. Galaxy-class ships aren’t especially manoeuvrable, either… so if Picard is going to take a stand and defeat the Borg, he’s going to need allies.

Perhaps there are other ships in the fleet that weren’t upgraded, or other mothballed vessels that could join the Enterprise-D. Ships with primarily older crews, or vessels whose transporters hadn’t been meddled with could all – in theory – join in. We’ve already seen some beautiful CGI recreations of ships like the USS Voyager and Enterprise-A… maybe they could join the party?

Theory #3:
At least one more unannounced character will make an appearance.

I don’t think we can rule out Morn…

We’ve already seen characters from The Next Generation and Voyager this season – but aside from Worf, there hasn’t been anyone from Deep Space Nine. Could that change? Someone like Miles O’Brien, for example, could make for a great inclusion in the story. We could also get another cameo or two from guest stars from that era – older Starfleet officers who may rush to the Federation’s defence and take a stand against the Borg with Picard.

There are many possibilities for how this could play out – and after the shocking appearance of Wesley Crusher last year, I’m not ruling anyone out as we head into the final episode of the season!

Theory #4:
At least one main character will be killed.

Rest in peace…

The demise of Captain Shaw has proved one thing: this is a dangerous, life-threatening situation! As I said before the season began, television storytelling has changed a lot since The Next Generation first aired, and main characters should no longer be considered to be “safe” simply because of their status.

As we approach what seems to be a climactic battle, practically everyone could be in danger! I’d posit that most of the officers who had been “assimilated” are still salvageable, though.

Theory #5:
The Borg and/or the rogue changelings are responsible for the mysterious anomaly seen in Season 2.

The anomaly.

With their plot now exposed and out in the open, could we finally learn that the mysterious anomaly from Season 2 was also a Borg/rogue changeling attack? Perhaps it was intended to be a precursor to their scheme, or the thwarting of their attack is what led them to develop this more underhanded plan.

I hope that the series won’t just end without explaining this anomaly… even though I fear that will be the case! It was an important point in the story of Season 2, and is actually one of the few elements from last time that might’ve worked. I’d like to know more about it at any rate – even if the Borg and rogue changelings had nothing to do with it.

Theory #6:
Picard will donate his golem body to Jack.

Picard with Jack.

Even if the Borg can be stopped and Jack can be recovered safely from the Borg Queen’s clutches, he still has a brain anomaly that is likely to prove fatal. Although Picard and Jack are not afflicted by Irumodic Syndrome, the Borg biotechnology in their brains is still an issue – and it “killed” Picard back in Season 1.

With that in mind, perhaps Jack could be saved the way Picard was – by being transferred into a golem body. Picard could step up and donate his golem to Jack, saving the life of his son in one final act of parental love.

Theory #7:
Deanna Troi will use her “pain removal” skill on Jack.

Deanna with Jack.

A couple of weeks ago we learned that Troi was able to “enter” Riker’s mind and remove from him the pain he felt at the death of their son. This skill feels like it could come in handy for removing something malicious from someone’s brain – and Jack is just the person who might need that kind of help!

Even if Troi can’t physically remove the Borg’s biotechnology, perhaps she will be able to use this skill to prevent the Borg from using Jack in this way again, or at least cover up the symptoms so Jack can live a normal life.

Theory #8:
Floaty McFloatface will be back.

Floaty McFloatface.

We haven’t seen Vadic’s boss for a couple of episodes now, and it’s plausible to think that her death means this unnamed character won’t be back. But if the finale is to explain the alliance/relationship between the Borg and the rogue changelings in any degree of detail, it’s at least possible that Floaty McFloatface could be part of that – either by having survived or via a flashback sequence.

I’d quite like to know how the Borg were able to either assimilate or ally with Vadic and her group, and there’s only one episode left for this to be explained!

Theory #9:
Floaty McFloatface isn’t a changeling.

Vadic with Floaty McFloatface.

It seems plausible, if not downright likely, that Floaty McFloatface is a Borg, perhaps a representative sent by the Queen to keep Vadic in line. However, Floaty McFloatface always appeared to have changeling-like qualities, and the exact nature of who and what they are hasn’t been fully explored.

As above, it’s possible we’ll get none of this, and that the season will end without going into detail on this half-baked character. But I hope we’ll get to know something about how the Borg and changelings came to work together, at the very least.

Theory #10:
The absences of characters from Seasons 1 and 2 will be explained – or at least mentioned.

Soji in Season 1.

Was Elnor aboard the USS Excelsior when it was destroyed? Because that was the ship he was assigned to in Season 2. Where are Soji and her friends from Coppelius? And is the Dr Jurati-Borg Queen hybrid still watching over the mysterious anomaly? These characters were all important in earlier chapters of the story, and while Laris briefly appeared in the season premiere, the others have yet to be so much as mentioned.

It would be a shame if the series were to end without at least mentioning some of these characters – even if they don’t appear in person. They were all important in Seasons 1 and 2, and while Picard seems to have given up on the idea of introducing brand-new characters, developing them, and giving them a chance to take the franchise forward… I’d still like to know why some of these folks couldn’t have joined Picard’s mission on this occasion.

Theory #11:
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.

So that’s it!

The Enterprise-D is en route to Earth…

As we head into the final episode of Star Trek: Picard, the theory list has been slimmed down! I’m sure that there will be twists, turns, and unpredictable moments as Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D battle the Borg for one last time. I have absolutely no idea how they’ll pull it off or turn this dire situation around… so I guess the only way we’ll find out will be to watch The Last Generation when it airs!

I’ll be trying very hard to avoid spoilers before I watch the episode – and I hope you’ll manage to do the same. The finale of Picard is bittersweet, and to think that this is the last time I’ll be writing theories about an upcoming episode of this show… it’s an emotional moment!

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.

Star Trek: Picard Episode Review – Season 3, Episode 9: Võx

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 KhanThe Next GenerationDeep Space NineVoyager, and Discovery.

First of all, before we say anything else: Võx might be the most important episode of the season to go into un-spoiled. If you’ve somehow stumbled upon this review before watching the episode – and you decided to ignore Captain Stiles issuing a “spoiler alert” above – this is your last chance to nope out before we get into major spoiler territory. I was lucky to have avoided spoilers before watching Võx, and the episode will be infinitely more enjoyable for you if you can do the same.

Võx is a hard one to review with any semblance of objectivity. It’s an episode “made for fans,” and it hit some absolutely incredible emotional notes, particularly in the closing few minutes. As someone who first came to Star Trek in the early ’90s by way of The Next Generation, and who found comfort in that show as a lonely adolescent, it’s hard to even find words to fully express how incredible some of these sequences were with Picard and his reunited crew.

You know me well enough by now to know that there’s a “but” coming, though.

The Enterprise-F.

But at the same time, Võx prioritised these emotional sequences of pure fan-service over narrative cohesion, and my overriding concern is that the story has reached this point too late in the game – leaving the final episode of the season, and the series, with too much work to do to pull out a successful ending. This problem plagued both Seasons 1 and 2 of Picard, and I can’t help but feel that lessons have not been learned from those stories.

There were logically inconsistent moments spread throughout Võx, moments that could have worked if more time and explanation had been dedicated to them, but that fell flat – or even felt downright laughable – because of how unoriginal, trope-laden, or just plain ridiculous they were. Some scenes and sequences that needed more time dedicated to them were blitzed through in minutes or even seconds, and while the incredible sequences with Picard and his old crew basically wipe away many of those criticisms – or at least they did in the moment – when trying to look at the story through another lens, they seriously challenge and even potentially undermine the entire affair.

Picard is back in the captain’s chair.

As I said last week, the eight-episode chase with Vadic has proven to be a complete and utter waste. Vadic was a bland, unoriginal, and boring villain who accomplished very little, and whose over-the-top performance didn’t come close to finding a narrative justification. That on its own was already problematic for the story of the season, but the revelation in Võx that the Borg have been directing this conspiracy now feels like it has come too late in the game.

There have been hints and teases at a Borg connection to the story all season long – and I’m glad that those received a narrative payoff, don’t get me wrong – but is there enough time now to do justice to this story? The preceding eight episodes – a full 80% of the season-long story – now feel like a preamble; the prologue to what will be a remarkably short main event.

Sidney La Borg.

Last week, I made a comparison to The Wrath of Khan, and said that Vadic’s death coming in the eighth part of a ten-part story is akin to Khan having been killed when there was still half an hour left in the film. Now we can add to that metaphor and say that this story compares to Khan having been killed while there was still half an hour left, and it was subsequently revealed that the Klingons had secretly been pulling his strings all along. Would such a revelation have made the film better? Or do stories work best when they have a clearly defined antagonist who fills the role for the duration?

There’s another point that’s been bugging me, and I’ve struggled with finding the right word for it. Picard Seasons 2 and 3 went into production back-to-back, with the same production and writing team involved in both stories. With that in mind, these two seasons feel remarkably jumbled and even contradictory – the story leaps from one version of the Borg and the Borg Queen to another, sees two structurally similar re-emergences of the Borg play out, and seems to completely ignore its own earlier chapters.

Guess who’s back?

This is something we’ll have to tackle in the future when we do some kind of retrospective look at Star Trek: Picard as a whole, but I feel echoes of the Star Wars sequel trilogy, at least in terms of the way in which production was handled. And no, I don’t mean that in any way as a compliment! Like the Star Wars sequels, Picard was cleaved into three parts. Like the Star Wars sequels, one production team took the helm for two of those parts. And like the Star Wars sequels, the decision to split up the story has led to some seriously questionable narrative decisions.

But that’s a conversation for another day!

Not for the first time in Star Trek: Picard, a genuinely interesting, exciting, and engaging storyline has been presented – but was let down by overused clichés, insufficient explanations, and unnecessary time constraints. The idea that the Borg would ally with (or take advantage of) a rogue group of changelings, combining their powers together to take on Starfleet, is a fascinating one – in theory. Likewise, the Borg having biotechnology far beyond the capabilities of the Federation, and insidiously using that to take over Starfleet, was an incredible shock, and a concept that fits right in with everything we know about both of these factions.

This explanation was clever.

But Võx was imperfect in its execution of these fascinating ideas, and Picard’s third season as a whole spent an awfully long time arriving at this point. With only one episode left, which on current form will be somewhere less than an hour long, is there enough time to fully explore this changeling-Borg team-up, undo the damage to the Federation, save Jack and the La Forge sisters, and protect Earth from the “assimilated” Federation fleet?

As the ninth part of a ten-episode story, Võx repeated the problem that Et in Arcadia Ego had in Season 1 by dumping all of this into the story at a very late stage. Surely there must’ve been ways to keep some secrets while revealing others earlier in the season – to move the story along at a more reasonable pace, reaching this point sooner, allowing for more time to do justice to some of these wonderfully creative ideas.

Did we reach this point in the story too late?

Let’s talk about some of these tropes and clichés, because they let down what could have been a far more entertaining episode – and I’m afraid that there really is no excuse for them other than uninspired writing.

Firstly we have Jack’s conversation with Deanna, his confrontation with Picard, and particularly his escape from the Titan. After so many teases of the “red door” that I’ve lost count, having Deanna run away from Jack without revealing what she saw – and without the episode letting us see what she could see – wasn’t the best or strongest way to start. If I were to nitpick, I’d also say that Deanna choosing not to tell Jack what she saw, and experiencing such fear, feels out-of-character for her. That she’d tell Jack’s parents what she knew without informing Jack himself is, in Jack’s own words, “unethical.”

This sequence wasn’t great – though I’m glad Troi finally got something to do!

Jack’s escape from the Titan was poorly-scripted, with practically every character aside from Jack himself behaving in profoundly odd ways. After their clash in Jack’s quarters, Picard simply stood around, not bothering to give chase, contact anyone on the Titan, order a lockdown… or do anything at all to prevent Jack from leaving. Perhaps Jack’s Borg-given superpowers would have made his escape inevitable, but Picard should have done something beyond standing there yelling his name.

I literally laughed out loud when Picard and Dr Crusher were stood at the window, haplessly watching Jack’s shuttle warp away – such was the absolute anticlimax of this sequence. And again, this is a consequence of season-long pacing: had some of the extraneous fluff been cut from the past couple of episodes, we could have had more of an involved sequence depicting Jack’s escape. One that might have felt a little less contrived.

I laughed out loud at this moment.

Technobabble in Star Trek can be used to cover all manner of sins – including weak story points! But even with the caveat that “technobabble solves everything,” the way in which the technology and universe of Star Trek behaves has to be basically internally consistent from one story to the next, and there can’t be too much hacking away at the foundations of how some of these computers, machines, and equipment have been known to operate for literally decades.

With that in mind, the idea that the Titan would be unable to locate Jack’s shuttle – which had departed a matter of seconds earlier with everyone watching – simply because he “deactivated its transponder” doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t gel with how sensors have always been shown to operate in practically every other Star Trek story, and while I will give credit for Võx re-using this idea later with Picard’s crew taking their shuttle using a similar loophole, for me, it was a bridge too far in terms of technobabble. I’ve written before that internal consistency is the bedrock of suspension of disbelief in any story, so when a new chapter makes changes on the fly to established technologies that are too big, the gulf between what we’ve seen before and what’s currently unfolding becomes too large to cross. That’s what happened at this moment in Võx. It was too great a contrivance for me – though in a stronger story, perhaps it’s something that would have felt less of an important point.

Suddenly being unable to scan for a shuttlecraft was a major contrivance.

I can understand Dr Crusher and Picard jumping the gun and rushing to talk to Jack before they were ready. They’re emotionally compromised by their ties to Jack and, in Picard’s case, an overwhelming sense of guilt for passing this genetic condition to his son. But the others – Deanna, Data, and Geordi in particular – should have been the level-headed ones here. We saw moments later that they had been able to learn a great deal about Jack’s condition, so if Picard could’ve gone into his conversation with Jack armed with some of that knowledge, it feels like Jack’s need to run away might have been avoided altogether.

Again, this is a contrivance – characters behaving in illogical ways to serve the plot. Such contrivances can pass by inoffensively, and they have in many other Star Trek stories, I daresay! But here, as I watched the discussion of Jack’s condition and the revelation of what’s happened to him, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this wasn’t particularly well-written.

The situation with Jack could (and should) have been handled better.

The firefight in which Captain Shaw lost his life also played out like a tired trope. Dozens of blasts of phaser fire from assimilated Starfleet crewmen evaporated into thin air the second Shaw was hit, and the convenient end of the battle allowed Seven and Raffi to rush to his side. There are many ways to script and film heroic deaths without falling back on such overdone clichés… and it was a bit of a disappointment that the firefight in the Titan’s hallway ended this way.

Captain Shaw’s death was certainly dramatic, and I felt a pang of emotion in the moment thanks in part to an evocative performance from Jeri Ryan and an excellent musical score. But at the same time, Shaw feels like the lowest of low-hanging fruit to kill off, especially at this late stage in the story. The writers clearly wanted to get the impact of killing off a major character – but didn’t want to risk killing off a legacy character, at least not until everyone had taken their places on board the Enterprise-D.

Captain Shaw died this week.

Shaw served two purposes earlier in the season. He got in the way of Picard and Riker as they tried to jump-start their rescue mission, and his big blow-up with Picard about Locutus and Wolf-359 was the most significant reference to the Borg prior to the events of Võx. But since his emotional outburst, which came all the way back in the episode No Win Scenario half a season ago, Shaw has felt completely listless and unnecessary to the story. He’s been sidelined and kept out of the decision-making on his own ship, showing none of the backbone that he seemed to have in the season premiere.

Worse, Shaw’s continued mistreatment and deadnaming of Seven of Nine passed several opportunities for a resolution – and while there was a sweetness, in a way, to his seeming acceptance of her with his dying breath, it wasn’t the best way for this storyline to have progressed. In some ways, we can argue that Shaw actually regressed as a character after the events of No Win Scenario and Surrender in particular.

Captain Shaw used Seven’s real name with his last breath.

So by the time we arrived at Shaw’s end this week, two things struck me. Firstly, Shaw’s irrelevance to the story for the past few episodes, and the uninspired resolution to his conflict with Seven of Nine, come together to mean that his death could’ve come sooner – and that the story of the season as a whole might’ve been better for it.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Shaw’s death had an impact, demonstrating the high stakes and danger that the crew are now facing. But it wasn’t as impactful as it could’ve been, and killing off someone who is still very much a secondary character is less significant at this juncture than killing off someone more major.

The choice to kill off Captain Shaw – rather than another character – feels like the writers taking the safest route.

The decision for Raffi and Seven to remain aboard the Titan also feels narratively incoherent. Again, the writers and director/showrunner Terry Matalas clearly (and pretty desperately, it seems) wanted the reunion scene on the bridge of the Enterprise-D to consist of only characters from The Next Generation – which is why Seven and Raffi didn’t escape with the others. But the way in which they ended up abandoned aboard the Titan was poor; there was seemingly no reason why they couldn’t have boarded the shuttle with Picard and the others.

Maybe having Raffi and Seven staying on the Titan will lead to something significant next time – and I certainly hope that will be the case, or this will feel even more wasteful than it already does. But even assuming that hope comes to pass, there were better and more natural ways that they could have been trapped or forced to remain behind. Again, I feel the consequences of a season that padded out key storylines over the past few episodes and arrived at this stage with a lot to cram into a forty-five-minute runtime. A couple of extra minutes with Raffi and Seven in the aftermath of Shaw’s demise could have logically explained why they couldn’t board the shuttle, and would have gone a long way to strengthening this sequence.

Seven and Raffi are stuck on the Titan.

One line of technobabble leapt out at me in Võx, and it’s one that I fear could become problematic. One of the key narrative conceits of the episode is the Borg’s newfound ability to transmit their programming through biological means, specifically through a DNA sequence that afflicts the frontal cortex of the brain. I actually thought that this was a really neat idea, one that magnifies the threat that the Borg pose and simultaneously reinforces the idea that the Borg are still light-years ahead of the Federation in technological terms.

It was also a clever idea, especially in a story whose protagonists are older, to have this newfound Borg ability only impact younger members of the crew. That’s something that gives a reason for Picard and his old crew to work together – though it’s a justification for bringing back these characters that comes after they’ve already reunited! But when the story has dealt with themes of family, of parent-child relations, and of inheritance, it’s something that fits.

The Borg have modified Picard’s and Jack’s DNA.

However, there’s a real-world comparison that really bugs me in the way this was explained and brought to screen. I will caveat this by saying that I’m sure this story point wasn’t intended to be taken this way… but there are uncomfortable comparisons that exist nonetheless. In some anti-transgender circles, one line of attack that is particularly deployed against younger trans people is that “their brains aren’t developed enough” to make a decision about their gender identities. Specifically, this attack centres on the development of the frontal cortex and the age at which it supposedly stops developing – something that, of course, varies from person to person.

Although this idea is based on real-world science, I can’t help but feel that its inclusion in Võx may not have been the best idea given the situation out here in the real world. There are already a lot of anti-trans organisations here in the UK that are trying to contort science to support their views, and something like this is unhelpful at best. At worst, it risks adding fuel to the fire. I have no doubt that the writers and creative team didn’t intend for this line of technobabble to be taken so seriously, let alone be used as some kind of anti-trans metaphor. But that interpretation is present and it isn’t a total leap.

Worf and Geordi explaining the DNA modifications.

Võx has all of these imperfections and flaws, and key narrative points rely on tropes and clichés that have been done to death – and done far better in other stories, come to that. It’s worth pointing these out because the issues with the episode aren’t merely a consequence of narrative decisions taken earlier in the season, nor are they problems necessarily with the story of the season as a whole. These moments take what could have been a better episode and drag it down a rung or two, and while there are criticisms of the overall season, how long it took to reach this point, and the apparent irrelevance of much of what came before, it’s worth also noting that Võx is an imperfect offering even when taken on its own.

The question now is this: does any of that matter? All of these criticisms of Võx itself and of the occasionally ambling story… can they be overlooked, or even eradicated, by considering the strengths of the episode, and the nostalgia overload presented? See, the rational part of my mind is screaming “no!” because throwing up the nostalgia card, bringing back the Enterprise-D and the Borg Queen… it all feels so cheap. But the rational part of me is being completely drowned out by another voice, the voice of emotion. And that part of me adores practically everything we got to see this week, and is totally willing to overlook all of the contrivances and flaws that were present along the way.

The big reveal.

I’ve stated several times that I didn’t want Star Trek: Picard to try to be The Next Generation Season 8 or Nemesis 2. I wanted it to do its own thing, stand on its own two feet, drive Star Trek forward in new and different ways, and introduce some fantastic new characters who just might become fan-favourites for a new generation of fans. We’ll have to assess whether and to what extent the series as a whole accomplished any of those objectives after the dust has settled on this final outing.

But as much as I wanted to see more of the new characters, and to get Picard to a place where it could reasonably become a launchpad for other live-action Star Trek projects set in this era… again, a big part of me is on board with this TNG reunion. I genuinely didn’t expect that, especially after the disappointment I felt last year when the news emerged that most of the new characters were being jettisoned. We can argue about whether this was the right way to do it, whether this story is strong enough to move beyond those contrivances, and whether individual storylines and character arcs have worked as well as intended. But at the end of the day, seeing Picard and the crew reunited aboard the Enterprise-D, and getting that flyby of the ship itself… all of the criticisms that I had of Võx and of Season 3 seemed to melt away in the moment.

The crew arrives on the bridge.

Storytelling isn’t just canon, consistency, and logical outcomes. It isn’t just about the strength or weakness of individual storylines, whether a plot point is original or clichéd, or whether lines of technobabble stick the landing. Those points all matter, don’t get me wrong. But they aren’t the only factors.

Where Võx succeeded for me was in its emotional storytelling. It got so much right on this front, and not just the reunion of classic characters that I remember with fondness from my formative years. This was an episode that plucked all of the right emotional chords – even when it wasn’t getting every element perfect or making total sense. And this is a combination of elements: it’s cinematography and camera work, it’s the musical score, it’s visual effects, it’s acting performances, and of course, it’s the script itself. While there are undeniable flaws in Võx, the episode’s ability to pull at the heartstrings and create incredibly powerful emotional moments is its true success.

According to executive producers, this is the original dedication plaque from the set of The Next Generation.

The episode was densely packed with callbacks and references too numerous to list. The inclusion of the USS Pulaski – presumably named for Dr Kate Pulaski – was incredibly sweet, and I appreciated that the story hadn’t entirely forgotten her contributions to Star Trek. The return of Elizabeth Dennehy as Admiral Shelby was also pitch-perfect – Shelby was the up-and-coming young officer who helped Riker and co. battle the Borg in The Best of Both Worlds. As the Borg make their return, Shelby feels like a wonderfully fitting inclusion.

The speech Admiral Shelby gave brought a tear to my eye, and I’ll unashamedly admit that. As she sat on the bridge of the Enterprise-F, Shelby spoke of the NX-01 Enterprise and its original mission of exploration, laying the foundations for what would become Starfleet and the Federation. Enterprise hasn’t always been fully appreciated by Trekkies – myself included at the time of its original broadcast, regrettably – so to build this Frontier Day event on the back of Enterprise was incredibly sweet. Moments like this tie Star Trek together, especially as Enterprise premiered after The Next Generation.

Admiral Shelby’s speech was fantastic.

Shelby’s apparent death was also incredibly dramatic, being gunned down by her partially-assimilated crew as chaos was breaking out across the fleet. Although I think it’s important to concede, given the direction taken by the story and what we knew of the conspiracy by this late stage, that Shelby felt like a goner the moment she appeared on the viewscreen, her death was still dramatic, well-portrayed, and demonstrated clearly the extent of the Borg’s conquest of Starfleet.

Shelby and the captain of the USS Excelsior (which briefly appeared in Season 2) also stand as exemplars of thousands or perhaps tens of thousands of Starfleet officers who suffered similar fates during Frontier Day. The Borg-led scheme has been successful thus far, and the result is the decapitation and perhaps even the decimation of Starfleet as a whole. It wasn’t possible to show the unfolding chaos aboard multiple vessels in the fleet, so Shelby’s shock at what was rapidly transpiring around her, and her quick execution, stand in as the most brutal of examples.

The (apparent) demise of Admiral Shelby.

The Borg make a great metaphor for our collective fears of out-of-control computers, artificial intelligence, and the “technological singularity” that some have argued may lie in our future. This is something that I discuss in far greater detail in my essay The Borg: Space Zombies, which you can find by clicking or tapping here. What we saw in Võx feels – as it should do – like a modern-day adaptation of this same basic concept.

When the Borg Collective was first conceived in the ’80s, there was a technological revolution underway as computers and digitisation were transforming many aspects of life. This was the world of my childhood, and I remember arguing with my parents about getting a computer in the house – something they adamantly refused to do for a long time! But we’re drifting off-topic. The Borg at that time represented “technology gone wrong,” or what could happen to a race of technophiles if they took things to an unreasonable extreme.

The newly-assimilated Ensign Esmar.

In Võx, we see an evolution of this idea, complete with modern-day influences. The Borg in Võx “hack” into both Starfleet and into human beings – using a combination of biology and technology to do harm. The connected, linked fleet represents our globalised communications infrastructure, and the ease with which it was hacked and turned against our heroes is a warning against an overreliance on technology and artificial intelligence. Picard and his crew are forced to turn to the Enterprise-D – because it’s outdated, disconnected, and therefore perfectly-placed to save the day!

I’ve always found the Borg to be fascinating, and this Battlestar Galactica-inspired idea of using a “dumb” ship to combat the connected, “smart” ships feels like it fits perfectly with what we know of the Collective. As with the Borg’s biotechnology, this feels like a natural evolution of the Borg’s story – and of the Federation’s ongoing war against them.

Some kind of Borg transmitter… or something.

A Borg Cube was beautifully created in CGI, and the visual of it hidden in a nebula or cloud was spectacular, too. The new vessel seemed to have more illumination on the outside when compared to Borg ships seen in past iterations of Star Trek – but I actually quite liked the way it looked. Again, though, there are issues here: Jack figuring out where to go and how to get there is a moment that needed a bit more time, and I could’ve happily spent a scene or two with Jack en route to the Borg, perhaps seeing him struggling with his decision or seeing the Borg side of his mind working to suppress his human side.

Then there’s the interior of the Borg vessel. This was… not great. There were a couple of alcoves that looked decent, but overall I felt that the set design and construction could’ve been better. Looking back to scenes aboard the Artifact in Season 1 and there really is no comparison. If we aren’t going to spend too much time aboard this ship, then I guess it will pass inoffensively enough. But as the climax of a storyline for Jack Crusher that has been running all season long… I was underwhelmed with the small and unimpressive interior of the Borg Cube.

I wasn’t blown away by the set design here.

And this is another example of how the jumbled, muddled production of Star Trek: Picard as a whole series trips up Võx. Had we not seen the Artifact in Season 1, and the spectacularly frightening Borg vessel at the beginning of Season 2, this return to a Borg environment would have been far more impactful – and I could have probably overlooked the deficiencies in the presentation of the Borg ship.

The Borg Queen, played this time by a body double and archive voice recordings, was likewise a bit of a let-down. At the beginning of Season 2, we got a truly shocking and terrifying presentation of a new Borg Queen: hooded, wearing a robe, wielding mechanical tentacles, and able to take over an entire starship completely on her own. The way the Borg Queen came across in that episode was stunning, and because Võx comes barely a year later, this reversion to an older presentation just feels lesser in comparison.

This older presentation of the Borg Queen feels less interesting and intimidating than the version we saw in Season 2.

Tragic news broke in January of this year that Annie Wersching, who played the Borg Queen last season, had passed away. Given that she had been unwell during filming, we can’t say for sure whether she’d have been able to continue to work as production got underway for Season 3. But if the Borg Queen is going to be featured here – for the second season in a row – it would have made sense to retain the same actor if at all possible, surely? Again, given the circumstances we can’t say for sure one way or another – but it feels like something that should have happened if it had been possible.

And again, I feel the consequence of a muddled, mixed-up production here. Having the Borg as Picard’s final, ultimate “big bad” makes a lot of sense, as they’re a faction closely associated with Picard himself and The Next Generation, but also as they’re so powerful and threatening. But having had two Borg stories in previous seasons – one of which was written and produced by the same team that created Season 3 – I just feel that the Borg should have either been saved to be the final villain this time, or else the way in which they were used in Seasons 1 and/or 2 should have been all we got. After all, the changeling idea seemed to be working well all throughout the season – and seeing Picard and the crew face off against a genuinely different threat, one we’d never seen them tackle before, was also a fun idea. One that has been if not overwritten then at least brought to a screeching halt.

The Borg Queen as presented in Võx feels less impactful in the aftermath of the way the Borg appeared in Season 2. And in Season 1.

So we come – as Picard and the crew did – to the Enterprise-D.

This was an exceptionally well-kept secret, and that’s why I said at the beginning that Võx is an episode to watch without spoilers if at all possible. I’m pretty attuned to what’s going on at Paramount, and I keep an eye on the production side of Star Trek as much as possible so that I can follow significant developments and share my thoughts here on the website. But even I was blindsided by the reconstruction of the Enterprise-D’s bridge that we got to see in Võx.

There had been hints and even teases from some folks on the production side of Picard’s third season that we might get to see “more than one” USS Enterprise this season, but after we’d seen the Enterprise-F in trailers and the Enterprise-A at Geordi’s museum, I figured that would be that. The Titan has made a great hero ship this season, feeling smaller and less powerful than vessels like the Enterprise, Intrepid, or the Shrike – but having a plucky attitude and ability to punch above its weight that reminded me of the comparably-sized USS Voyager.

The USS Titan at warp.

But the Enterprise-D is special to me, and seeing it recreated here – inside and out – was beautiful, and it was undoubtedly the highlight of Võx. The emotional impact these ships can have can’t really be overstated, and pairing a beautiful starship, wonderfully rendered with CGI, with a stirring musical score – it hits me just as hard in 2023 as it did when I watched The Next Generation back in the ’90s. Seeing the Enterprise-E swooping in to save the day at the Battle of Sector 001, watching Kirk lay his eyes on the refit Enterprise for the first time in The Motion Picture, and of course getting so many beautiful sequences with the Enterprise-D across The Next Generation’s run… this moment in Võx equalled the very best of them.

Picard and the crew arriving on the bridge was also an incredible moment. I didn’t know how much of the ship might’ve been rebuilt for Picard – especially with just two episodes in which it would feature. So I wasn’t sure if we were going to get a kind of AR wall/greenscreen mashup as the crew made their way to the ship aboard their shuttle. To my delight, the entire bridge set has been recreated – and it looks absolutely stunning.

The recreated bridge of the Enterprise-D.
Image Credit: Paramount/Dave Blass

I hope in future the producers and creative team will tell the tale of how they came to recreate the bridge in such detail, because I’d love to hear more about it. A couple of photos have been shown off on social media, but there’s obviously a lot more to say! For my two cents, though, it looks absolutely fantastic – a recreation down to seemingly the last detail, recapturing perfectly the look and feel of the Enterprise-D from The Next Generation.

This is a starship that I’d long ago fallen head-over-heels for, and the Galaxy-class remains one of my all-time favourite Star Trek starship designs. We’d seen a CGI model as far back as Enterprise’s finale, and an up-to-date version in the Season 1 premiere of Picard, but the time dedicated to the flypast in Võx was something special. Seeing the Enterprise-D powering up and departing the Fleet Museum was also something new – though we’d seen similar sequences with other vessels, this is the first time we’d gotten to see it with a Galaxy-class ship.

She’s a beauty!

From Scotty’s love for the Enterprise in The Original Series through to Captain Shaw’s “fanboy” moment with Geordi just a couple of weeks ago, we’ve seen the respect and adoration that Starfleet officers have for their ships. Starships are, in many ways, an additional character in their respective shows – so to see Picard and the crew treating the Enterprise-D as they might an old friend was an incredibly powerful and sweet moment.

This was a starship that was with them through many adventures, a vessel that was their home for seven years, and this reunion feels just as powerful as any interactions between the reassembled crewmates. It actually surpasses some of those moments for me, especially given the weakness of the Data’s resurrection storyline that we’ve discussed over the past few weeks. The restoration of the Enterprise-D is by far the better and more coherent of Season 3’s unexpected resurrections!

Rebuilding the iconic bridge console.

Oh, and I absolutely agree with Picard: starships need carpets! This line was a cute little nod and wink to fans who’ve commented on the lack of carpets aboard vessels in modern iterations of Star Trek – something that has been a minor point of contention in some quarters of the fan community. Beyond mere attention to detail, this is an indication that the writers and producers are fans themselves, or at least are aware of the things that fans pick up on and discuss. Having Picard himself comment on the carpet was cute, but it also shows how the writers and producers are at least trying to keep the fan community on side.

There are absolutely nitpicks and contrivances on this side of the story. Was no one at the Fleet Museum assimilated? How did the shuttle get from Earth to the Fleet Museum so quickly? Will it be possible to operate a Galaxy-class starship with just seven people when it took a crew of roughly 1,000 in The Next Generation? How can one ship – disconnected though it may be – stand a chance against a fleet of newer and more powerful vessels? Why did Geordi install an automatic torpedo launcher on the ship – was he expecting an event like this?

The Enterprise-D departs the Fleet Museum.

These are the structural weaknesses of Võx, and it remains to be seen how and even if they’ll be resolved. As above, several of these points could have been addressed had the season as a whole been better-paced, arriving at this point either an episode or two earlier, or with more explanation and exposition having been dropped in previous chapters of the story. As I said about Seasons 1 and 2 in various ways, the flaw doesn’t lie with the story beats themselves, which are fascinating, but rather with the way in which they were executed.

Even a few days after first sitting down to watch Võx, the emotional side of the story goes a long way to making up for its flaws – but it’s not clear to me whether that will always be the case! If we go back to Picard Season 3 in a few years’ time, will the return to the Enterprise-D still be enough to redeem Võx for all of its contrivances and narrative inconsistencies? Perhaps that’s another conversation we’ll need to have one day!

Picard orders everyone to their posts.

As you can tell by now, I’m conflicted about Võx.

On the one hand, it’s an episode of overplayed tropes and boring clichés, let down by a muddled, incoherent story that didn’t have enough time to properly explain key points. It takes the safest path, killing off the least-important secondary character and finding an incredibly contrived way to ensure that only the characters from The Next Generation would make it to the bridge of the Enterprise-D.

The episode is also hamstrung by what came before it: not only the eight episodes of Season 3, plagued by an over-acted villain who now feels like an utter waste of time, but also by Seasons 1 and 2 and the storylines they introduced. The presentation of the Borg, Borg Queen, and Borg Cube in Võx are very much the lesser versions of those same creations that we saw in earlier seasons – and had those stories not taken place, Võx would be in a much stronger position.

The Enterprise-D prepares for departure.

But despite all of its flaws, I can’t hate or even particularly dislike Võx. The emotional storytelling was fantastic, and maybe this is just the blinkers of pure nostalgia, but I felt that the problems and inconsistencies in the episode melted away in light of the incredible, beautiful sequences with Picard and his old crew – and especially their reunion with the Enterprise-D itself and its wonderfully reconstructed bridge.

It isn’t enough to just throw legacy characters into a story and rebuild sets, and if Võx had presented these elements in a worse way, I think I’d have found it too much, or I’d be saying that the nostalgia card doesn’t cover up any and all storytelling sins. But when watching the episode itself, a combination of clever direction and creative writing, beautiful visuals and a wonderful musical score, and some outstanding and evocative acting performances made the whole thing work. This nostalgia-heavy, deeply emotional story feels like one that was perfectly made for Trekkies like you and me.

Picard and the crew in a promotional photo.

There’s a lot of work for the season finale to do, and I’m really not sure how things will shake out when all’s said and done. I also think we might return to Võx in the years ahead and consider it a little less favourably – particularly if the series ends in unspectacular fashion next time. I’ve tried to treat the episode as fairly as I could, and having sat with it for a few days… the emotional side of the story still really sticks with me, and remains my biggest takeaway from Võx.

I genuinely don’t know what to expect from the finale. There are so many possibilities for where the story could go! Although this feels like an existential threat to the Federation, surely it must be possible for Picard and the crew to save the day, right? But one old starship against an entire connected, Borgified fleet? That’s a tough task right there!

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.

Star Trek: Picard bonus Season 3 theory: The “Ancient Evil”

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 KhanThe Next GenerationDeep Space NineVoyager, and Discovery.

Toward the end of the episode Surrender, Deanna Troi told us something very interesting about Jack Crusher: there’s an “ancient and weak” voice that surrounds him, a voice that isn’t his own. This voice has also been described as a “darkness,” and something “evil.” Today, I want to consider a few possibilities for who and what this “ancient evil” could be.

There are, at least as I see it, two candidates that are more likely than any others – at least based on the narrative elements that have already come into play. I covered the Borg Queen in my most recent theory update, but it’s also worth considering the Founders themselves, and how an ancient changeling or changeling leader could be a likely possibility. Finally, we have to contend with the idea that the “ancient evil” will be a character or faction that we’ve never met before – as this is something that’s happened in these types of stories consistently in modern Star Trek!

Let’s try to peek through the keyhole of Jack’s red door…

I’ve heard several fan theories that seem completely implausible to me, and I’ll also cover a handful of the more popular ones and why I think they wouldn’t make sense or wouldn’t work narratively. If I try to shoot down a theory you’re personally invested in, I hope you won’t take that as some kind of attack! I’ll try to explain my reasons as gently as possible.

It also goes without saying that I have no “insider information!” I’m not trying to claim that any of the ideas we’re going to discuss today can, will, or must be part of Picard Season 3. It’s possible that I’ve completely misunderstood what Troi was saying, or that Jack’s hallucinatory red door will lead to something completely unexpected, unpredictable, or even a completely different kind of storyline altogether. All of this is also just the subjective opinion of one person.

With all of that out of the way, let’s get started!

“Ancient Evil” #1:
The Borg Queen.

The Borg Queen in First Contact.

As I explained in my recent theory update, the Borg Queen is the candidate I feel is most likely to be the “ancient evil.” The voice Jack has occasionally heard has a feminine quality, there have been multiple references to the Borg and to Picard’s assimilation experience, and the idea of Jack “inheriting” some kind of Borg nanites or Borg DNA from Picard would connect with themes of family, parentage, and inheritance that have been present in different ways all season long.

The Borg Queen hasn’t been explicitly mentioned, but right now, the myriad references to Locutus, the Battle of Wolf-359, and Picard’s connection to the Borg haven’t had any kind of narrative payoff. Bringing the Borg Queen into the story at this particularly late stage is a risk, but it’s also something that has been set up across the entire season – so it wouldn’t feel like a total bolt from the blue.

“Ancient Evil” #2:
The Season 1 super-synths.

The super-synths’ mechanical tentacles.

Should we abandon all hope of the unnamed “alliance of synthetic life” from the end of Season 1 ever making a return to Star Trek? Well… probably! But of all the “ancient” factions we know of in Star Trek, few are older – and potentially more malevolent – than the super-synths that were introduced in Season 1.

Millions of years before the events of the story, this synthetic faction literally moved the stars in the Milky Way and created a beacon, promising to ride to the aid of any synthetic life-forms that needed their help. Whether that offer was genuine or an elaborate trap, well… I’m still not sure! But these super-synths may not have given up on their aim of returning to the Milky Way just because Picard convinced Soji to close the portal to their realm.

“Ancient Evil” #3:
The Female Changeling from Deep Space Nine.

The Female Changeling.

The Female Changeling who led the Dominion’s war effort against the Federation alliance seemed to be one of the most senior Founders. With the changelings featuring heavily in this story, perhaps she is once again trying to lead the charge against the Federation, using Vadic and her evolved allies to get revenge.

Earlier in the season, Vadic cited revenge against Starfleet and the Federation as one of her motives – though she didn’t really elaborate on what that meant. Floaty McFloatface – the unnamed character who seems to have been Vadic’s boss – also mentioned vengeance, so could the changelings be seeking to avenge their defeat in the Dominion War? Vadic knew the details of Jack’s hallucinations, including the existence of the red door – how could she have possibly known that if the changelings aren’t involved?

“Ancient Evil” #4:
Locutus of Borg (or a clone of Locutus).

Picard was assimilated by the Borg.

As above, Season 3 has made multiple references to Picard’s assimilation experience and time as Locutus. Could the rogue changelings have stolen Picard’s corpse as part of a plan to resurrect Locutus? Or could the Borg Collective itself have recreated or cloned Locutus based on Picard’s genetic material? Perhaps Floaty McFloatface is a representative of the Borg – and wants Jack Crusher to become the new Locutus.

The idea of Picard having to come face-to-face with Locutus would surely be his worst nightmare. Locutus would literally know Picard inside and out – and could be very difficult to outmanoeuvre and defeat as a result.

“Ancient Evil” #5:
Someone entirely new.

Who could it be?

In earlier seasons – and in other modern Star Trek productions, too – the franchise’s past didn’t provide the answers to mysteries like this one! So it has to be considered plausible or even downright likely that a brand-new character or faction is the “ancient evil” that we’re looking for. This could come in the form of a new character from a familiar faction – a new Borg or changeling leader, perhaps. Or it could be an entirely new creation that doesn’t connect to Star Trek’s past at all.

There is a danger in this approach, and part of the reason why creations like the super-synths and Species 10-C didn’t excite fans as much as they could’ve is that, after a season-long tease, expectations have been raised! But at the same time, writers should feel free to create new elements to add to Star Trek instead of being constrained by what has come before. A new character or faction could absolutely stick the landing – if it was handled well.

So those are the candidates I consider to be most plausible.

Up next, we’ll take a look at a few others that I’ve heard suggested by fans on forums and on social media. For reasons that I’ll try to explain, none of these feel likely to me… so feel free to come back at the end of the season and laugh at how wrong I was if any of them prove to be the true “ancient evil!”

Not the “Ancient Evil” #1:
The Pah-Wraiths.

Jake Sisko possessed by a Pah-Wraith.

I don’t know who originated this idea, but it seems to have spread like wildfire in some quarters of the fan community! For my money, there’s no way the “ancient evil” could be the Pah-Wraiths, though – even though the faction is undoubtedly both ancient and evil! Firstly, despite references and connections to Deep Space Nine, there have been no mentions of Bajor, the wormhole, the Prophets, or the Pah-Wraiths all season long – so any last-second inclusion would be a complete deus ex machina.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the return of the Pah-Wraiths would hugely undermine the ending of Deep Space Nine, and Captain Sisko’s arc in particular. Sisko sacrificed his life to prevent the Pah-Wraiths from escaping their confinement in the Fire Caves, fulfilling his duty as the Emissary of the Prophets. For a new story to say that the Pah-Wraiths escaped anyway, a mere twenty-something years later, would seriously damage that story and undermine Sisko’s arc and characterisation. Finally, the Pah-Wraiths have no connection to Picard or to the Crusher family.

Not the “Ancient Evil” #2:

Armus in Skin of Evil.

C’mon everyone… it isn’t Armus, okay? It just isn’t. Not only has Armus not been mentioned since Season 1 of The Next Generation, but the evil puddle of printer ink has no real connection to Picard, to the Crusher family, or to anyone else involved in Season 3. As a villain who only appeared once in what was, let’s be blunt here, not one of The Next Generation’s best stories, Armus would also be underwhelming in the extreme.

Had the story of Season 3 revisited the planet of Vagra II, or if Tasha Yar had been mentioned in the story somehow (aside from a minute cameo as part of Data’s memories) then maybe we could consider this theory more favourably. But Armus would also be a complete bolt from the blue – and one that I don’t believe could possibly be strong enough to carry the ending not only of Season 3, but of the entire series.

Not the “Ancient Evil” #3:
The Romulans/Zhat Vash.

Zhat Vash initiates as seen in Season 1.

Although it would be cyclical in a way if the end of Season 3 were to return to the Romulans in some form, I don’t believe that the story will go in this direction. There have been no Romulans included in the story all season long, and no mentions of the Zhat Vash or their conspiracy, either. The Romulans were also a faction that fought against the changelings during the Dominion War – and there probably isn’t enough time left to sufficiently explain how they might have been persuaded to switch sides.

Finally, although Elnor continues to exist in the Picard timeline, he hasn’t been part of the story of this season – despite opportunities to include him. Elnor is a Romulan, and if there was to be any kind of Romulan connection to the story, I’d have expected him to take part in it.

Not the “Ancient Evil” #4:
Q and/or the Q Continuum.

Q as he appeared in Season 2.

We got our Q story – for better or for worse – in Season 2. While it would be thematically interesting in a way if the end of Jean-Luc Picard’s story were connected to the very first episode in which he appeared, the death of Q last year combined with the total absence of any discussion of Q and the Q Continuum this time make it feel very unlikely at this juncture.

There’s also the question of motivation – something that also tripped up Q’s story in Season 2! Why would Q, or another member of the Continuum, have allied with a faction of rogue changelings to attack Starfleet? If the Q wanted the Federation weakened or destroyed… all it would take is a snap of the fingers. Why go to all this trouble? And why would the Q Continuum hate Starfleet anyway? The Q Continuum is ancient… but is it evil? I don’t think so.

Not the “Ancient Evil” #5:

Khan as he appeared in Space Seed.

Genetic engineering and augmentation were discussed in Season 2, and there was even a reference to something called “Project Khan” at the end of the season. But not only is Khan dead, he has no connection to Picard and the Crushers. Although Season 2 has leaned heavily into the legacy of The Wrath of Khan in more ways than one… I just don’t see how the story bringing him back could possibly be made to work.

Star Trek Into Darkness was a riff on the Khan story, and it worked pretty well – at least in my view. But Khan is a character that we don’t really need to see more of… which is part of the reason why I was always sceptical about the Ceti Alpha V pitch! Bringing Khan and his augments into Picard wouldn’t work.

Not the “Ancient Evil” #6:
The Abronians, the Kelvan Empire, the Voth… and more!

Hanar, a representative of the Kelvan Empire.

There are a number of ancient races in Star Trek – and a number of villainous ones, too. But many of these made only a single appearance or a handful of appearances in stories that most viewers would struggle to recall decades later, and while some of them might nominally fulfil some of our criteria – such as by having a tangential connection to Jean-Luc Picard or Dr Crusher – the fact that they haven’t been so much as hinted at all season long should be enough to rule out all of them.

At this late stage in the season, and with the only named villain having already been killed off, it’s already a storytelling challenge to make whatever’s behind Jack’s red door and whomever has been directing the conspiracy not feel like a deus ex machina. If this character or faction is ultimately revealed to be something or someone that we’ve had no mention of through the entire story… I fear that would be too high a narrative hurdle to successfully clear.

So that’s it!

The Shrike’s destruction in Surrender.

We’ve considered a few possibilities for who the “ancient evil” could be. This “ancient and weak” voice that Jack has heard seems to have somehow latched onto him – and is giving him superpowers. Deanna Troi (and everyone else involved in the story) seems to believe that this is directly tied to the rogue changelings and their plans to attack Frontier Day, so one way or another this “ancient evil” has been driving the story all season long.

The death of Vadic has, for me at least, thrown a cloud over this story. Even if the “ancient evil” is the Borg Queen, another Borg representative, or a changeling, it will still be difficult to pull off this storyline successfully and explain everything sufficiently with just two episodes left. I feel echoes of the Season 1 problem, in which the two-part finale dumped new characters, factions, and storylines into the plot but didn’t have anywhere near enough time to pay them off successfully. But we’ll have to wait to see if Season 3 will fare any better!

Jack will explore this “ancient evil” alongside Deanna Troi.

I hope that this was a bit of fun. I tried to consider some seemingly-plausible ideas for the “ancient evil,” as well as explain why I feel that some popular theories are unlikely. If you put me under duress and forced me to pick only one candidate, right now I’m inclined to say that the Borg Queen feels the most likely. There have been multiple Borg references this season, there’s a solid connection to Picard, there’s a narratively coherent way in which Jack could have inherited Borg DNA or nanites from Picard which would also tie in thematically to the ideas of parent-child relationships and inheritance, and the voice that Jack has periodically heard sounds feminine in tone. So that would be my guess – if I absolutely had to choose!

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. The story will almost certainly take an unpredictable path!

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.

Star Trek: Picard Season 3 theories – week 8

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 KhanThe Search for SpockThe Next GenerationDeep Space NineVoyager, 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.

Vaporising a dead changeling.

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!

Confirmed theory:
The rogue changelings are keeping their most important prisoners alive.

Riker and Troi in a prison cell aboard the Shrike.

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!

Semi-confirmed theory:
Worf and Raffi saved Riker and Troi.

A hug for a job well done!

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.

The destruction of 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.

Lore in Surrender.

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.

Vadic shifting between forms.

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.

Oh no she isn’t!

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.

Vadic was ejected into space.

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.

The encrypted communications panel aboard La Sirena.

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.

Vadic in Surrender.

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.

Theory #1:
Troi will use her “pain removal” skill on Jack.

Troi and 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!

Theory #2:
The rogue changelings didn’t want Jean-Luc Picard… they wanted Locutus.

Picard comes face-to-face with Locutus in Season 1.

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.

Theory #3:
The rogue changelings are planning to hack into the entire connected Federation fleet.

A Starfleet armada as seen in Season 2.

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.

Theory #4:
Jack’s eyes, combat skills, and hallucinations are connected to the Borg.

Jack’s eyes.

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.

Theory #4-A:
Jack has Borg nanoprobes in his body.

Borg nanoprobes.

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.

Theory #5:
Jack’s “ancient” voice is the Borg Queen.

The original 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.

Theory #6:
The Borg are involved.

A Borg cube in The Next Generation.

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.

Theory #7:
Jack Crusher has changeling DNA… somehow.

A strand of DNA from the closing credits.

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.

Theory #8:
Jack is a “sleeper agent.”

Jack holding a thermal detonator.

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.

Theory #9:
Floaty McFloatface will be back.

Floaty McFloatface with Vadic.

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!

Theory #10:
Floaty McFloatface isn’t a changeling.

Who (and what) is Floaty McFloatface?

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.

Theory #11:
Captain Shaw will be killed.

He’s lasted longer than I expected…

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.

Theory #12:
Someone on the crew will turn out to be a changeling imposter.

Picard and the crew in The Next Generation Season 5.

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.

Theory #13:
The rogue changelings are planning to cripple Starfleet.

Federation vessels seen in a pre-season trailer.

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.

Theory #14:
At least one main character will be killed.

Spock’s funeral at the end of The Wrath of Khan.

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.

Theory #15:
At least one more unannounced character will make an appearance!

Could it be Julian Bashir or Ezri Dax?

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!

Theory #16:
The rogue changelings are planning attacks on the Klingon Empire and the Romulans.

A joint Federation-Klingon task force during the Dominion War.
Image Credit: JTVFX on YouTube

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!

Theory #17:
The rogue changelings may also be targeting the Bajorans and Cardassians.

Gul Dukat with Weyoun in Deep Space Nine.

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.

Theory #18:
The rogue changelings are responsible for the mysterious anomaly seen in Season 2.

The anomaly in the Season 2 finale.

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.

Theory #19:
Picard will donate his golem body to Jack.

Picard in his golem body at the end of Season 1.

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.

Theory #20:
The rogue changelings are trying to reach the Nexus.

Dr Soran excitedly awaits 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.

Theory #21:
Irumodic syndrome is important to the rogue changelings.

Irumodic syndrome “killed” Picard… briefly.

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.

Theory #22:
The absences of characters from Seasons 1 and 2 will be explained.

Elnor with his fellow cadets in Season 2.

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!

Theory #23:
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.

So that’s it!

Vadic’s disappointing demise.

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.

Star Trek: Picard Episode Review – Season 3, Episode 8: Surrender

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 KhanThe Next GenerationDeep Space NineVoyager, and Discovery.

After last week’s admittedly tense and exciting offering took the main storyline of Season 3 to a pretty bland and unoriginal place, I was hopeful that Surrender could steady the ship ahead of the final pair of episodes. What we got this week was, instead, a bit of a misfire.

Parts of Surrender seemed to get stuck in the mud; bogged down, trying to stretch out a story that was too thin instead of moving it along at a more reasonable pace. Yet by the time the credits rolled, I felt that a massive part of the season’s ongoing story had been rushed to an unceremonious – and actually quite disappointing – ending.

The Titan in this week’s episode.

After teases, brief demonstrations of power, and an acting performance that, to be blunt, was too over-the-top for my taste, Vadic has been killed off. And she died having accomplished… well, remarkably little. The scheme in which she was involved is still playing out, but narratively speaking, Vadic didn’t actually do much of anything except get in Picard’s way and slow down the story.

I’ve said several times as the season has ambled along that we needed to see more of Vadic: to get to know her, where she’s come from, where she hopes to go, and what her plans are for Jack. The reveal of her backstory in Dominion seemed to finally – albeit belatedly – get the ball rolling on that front, but Vadic died this week without telling us anything more. We know that she was a victim of a Section 31 experiment, and that she deliberately took on the appearance of her torturer. But this week, she just… died. And that appears to be all there is to see.

Surrender killed off Vadic prematurely.

Picard is now left with no main villain, no secondary villain, no villain’s starship… but still a conspiracy to defeat. The only possible outcome at this point is a deus ex machina: some kind of Vadic fake-out, Floaty McFloatface’s unexpected re-emergence, or another adversary who will feel like a bolt from the blue. This is the Season 1 problem from a different angle: the final two episodes are going to have to dump a whole lot of exposition, at least one new character, and possibly even an entire new faction all at the last moment in order to have the most basic building blocks of a narrative to work with.

It was always unclear when Vadic and her nameless, faceless goons seized control of the Titan how they would extricate themselves from the situation in one piece – and how Picard and the crew would likewise save themselves. But even as Vadic was blown out into space I was thinking to myself, “okay, she’s a changeling so maybe she can survive the cold.” Then, as Vadic’s body shattered into pieces I was still thinking “well okay, she’s in pieces, but she’s a changeling… maybe she can reconstitute herself… or Floaty McFloatface can do something to pull them out of this situation.” I even wondered if Floaty McFloatface might’ve been left aboard the practically-deserted Shrike. It was only when the Shrike was destroyed that the realisation finally hit me: this is it. They’ve really taken the story down this route.


Showrunner Terry Matalas has desperately latched onto the legacy of The Wrath of Khan with Picard’s third season. But can you imagine what The Wrath of Khan would’ve been like if Khan had been killed half an hour before the end of the film – and Kirk and the crew had to rush off to defeat… who, exactly? An unnamed augment ally of Khan’s that we’ve never met? Another villain from The Original Series who hadn’t been mentioned in any way prior to that point? Such a horrible anticlimax would have probably ruined the film.

There’s room for an epilogue in a good story – as we see in The Wrath of Khan itself with Spock’s death and funeral. But there’s a reason why the defeat of the biggest villain in any story should come at the climax of the plot. This is one of the absolute basic, most fundamental rules of storytelling. And I can’t shake the feeling that, whatever may come next, Picard has got it wrong.

The moment of Vadic’s demise.

I said last week that the reveal of Vadic’s history had begun to put her characterisation into some kind of context. But with her death this week, none of that matters. Vadic still feels like a bland, one-dimensional villain stereotype; Khan without any of the interesting bits. A villain needs more than just a vaguely sympathetic backstory – they need a motive, and many of the best ones also have a connection to the hero. Picard and Vadic barely said more than a few words to each other all season long, and her interest in him seems more “business” than anything personal.

The CGI work used for Vadic’s ejection into space and ultimate shattering end wasn’t spectacular, either, so I can’t even say that this storyline was strangely conceived but at least pretty to look at. As Vadic was blown out into space things seemed to be working, but as soon as the “camera” cut to her icy body, visual quality took a dive. It wasn’t the worst CGI moment I’ve seen in modern Star Trek, but it’s noteworthy that this was supposed to be one of the big climactic moments of the season – and it could’ve looked better.

Welcome to the Uncanny Valley…

Other visual effects work in Surrender was on point, though, and it was really just this moment that didn’t look as good as it should have. Regrettably, this was the most important one to get right – and more should have been done in post-production to shore up what was supposed to be the climactic death of the season’s biggest villain.

This could’ve looked better.

Will we get to find out what Vadic actually wanted? What did she hope to “use” Jack and Picard’s corpse to achieve? These are pertinent questions, and in any other television series I’d say that there are still two episodes remaining, and that we should “trust the process.” After all, the writers and producers wouldn’t just dump entire characters and storylines with no explanation. Right?

But this is Star Trek: Picard – a series with a two-season legacy of doing precisely that. What happened to Narek? What happened to the Zhat Vash, to their beacon on Aia, to the super-synths, to the synths on Coppelius? What was the deal with the devastating anomaly that erupted, and where did Dr Jurati, Soji, and Elnor disappear to? This show has consistently dumped characters and storylines that were half-baked as it rushed off to do other things; Picard feels like the television equivalent of ADHD.

I suspect we’ve seen and heard the last of Vadic.

So I have very little confidence, now that Vadic, Floaty McFloatface, all the goons, and even the Shrike itself are gone that they’ll get so much as a cursory mention next time. Whatever Vadic’s plans may have been for Jack, it seems that they died with her. Although the changelings’ attack on Starfleet and Frontier Day will continue that aspect of the storyline, Vadic and her attempt to capture Jack not only kicked off the entire season, but it’s a plotline that has been running for eight episodes now. For that storyline to end so abruptly, without getting any kind of narrative payoff, is a profoundly strange decision.

Villains die all the time without getting what they want. But we don’t even know what Vadic wanted, what she hoped to use Jack to achieve… and unless I’m being even stupider than usual, I don’t see how it’s something we’re supposed to be able to infer from the scattered pieces of an incomplete puzzle that she leaves behind. Sure, Jack’s powers could be useful to a villain or a changeling, and I can see how Vadic might perceive them that way. But there’s one heck of a leap from “this skill could be useful” to the obsessive chase that Vadic performed – at Floaty McFloatface’s behest, no less. We don’t even know what Floaty McFloatface was, what their objectives may have been, and how all of this was supposed to come together to aid in the conspiracy – a conspiracy that feels already comprehensive and successful enough without whatever additional boost it could have gained from Jack.

Vadic on the bridge earlier in the episode.

All of this leaves Vadic as the one thing she should have never been allowed to become: boring. She’s a bland, uninspired, unoriginal, and just plain boring villain that tried to compensate for it all with a hammy, over-the-top performance. This over-acting could have been justified – had Vadic been more interesting and done… well, anything at all of consequence. But she died as she lived.

For all the flair, for all the ham, and for all the chewing of the scenery, Vadic ultimately did very little. Her two encounters with Picard and the Titan both ended in defeat, and the one possible redeeming quality that she could have had – competence – is also gone, shattered into frozen shards just like her corpse.

Not for the first time in Picard, I find myself saying this: what a waste.

This eight-episode arc has come to an unspectacular end.

It’s hard to see how the next two episodes won’t end up feeling like a complete bolt from the blue; a deus ex machina ending. If Picard was a more episodic series, or one based around multi-episode arcs, perhaps that would be okay. But Season 3 aimed to tell a single story split into ten parts. We’ve defeated the villain at part eight – without explaining who she was, what she hoped to achieve, or really anything about her beyond a tortured past. Where else can the story go from here?

I will caveat everything I’ve just said with two points. Firstly, it can be hard to judge one part of an ongoing story until everything comes into focus. It’s possible, however unlikely it may feel in the moment, that we’ll look back on Surrender much more kindly when the season ends; that something in the upcoming episodes will completely reframe all of this.

Secondly, although my expectations and hopes have been shot to pieces by two seasons of Picard that were difficult at best, I still want to hold out hope for a positive outcome. I don’t make these criticisms out of spite or malice.

The destruction of the Shrike.

Even the better parts of Surrender ask us to overlook things or set logic aside in order for storylines to unfold, and so it was with Riker and Troi. Finally, eight episodes into the promised TNG reunion, Deanna Troi got more than a cameo appearance and had the opportunity to make an impact on the story. That’s fantastic – and while it came too late in the game for my preference, I’m happy that we finally got to see her and spend time with her this week.

I would contend, though, that it’s quite the contrivance for Vadic and the changelings to have put Troi and Riker in the same cell. Their prison wasn’t exactly wanting for empty cells, and having two imprisoned characters sharing their innermost feelings… it’s just a bit of a trope. We’ve seen this before with different characters in more stories than I care to count, and it just didn’t feel especially original.

Riker and Troi shared a cell.

That being said, my only real criticism of this side of the story is that I could have happily spent longer with Riker and Troi. In earlier episodes, the death of Riker’s son had been a big part of his more cautious approach to the captaincy of the Titan, and caused a big fight with Picard. The scenes in which he and Troi talked it out seemed to pass by quite quickly – indicative, perhaps, of Surrender rushing around trying to tie up loose ends ahead of a major change in focus in the next two episodes.

Riker and Troi also seemed to drop into the story a point that could have been explosive – Troi “entered” Riker’s mind to remove some aspect of his emotional pain. Did Troi, who is empathic but not telepathic, learn this skill from Sybok? We’ve never seen her do anything like this before, yet it was raced past as almost a throwaway line in Surrender. You’d have thought Riker might’ve been a bit more angry about such a manipulation – but again, the story didn’t spend very long at all dealing with this idea.

Riker and Troi had a difficult conversation.

I wonder if this notion of Troi “taking” something out of someone’s mind may have been set up in Surrender so that it can come into play in the next couple of episodes. We’ll save the speculation for my theory update, but it could be that Troi may use this ability again to help Jack – or even Picard.

In terms of both emotion and entertainment value, the scenes between Troi and Riker were among the best that Surrender had to offer, and although parts of their conversation felt curtailed by an episode that spent most of its time and focus elsewhere, what we did get to see was good enough to make Deanna Troi’s return to Picard a successful and enjoyable one.

Riker and Troi appear to have reconciled.

Worf’s rescue mission also added a lot to this story – though to nitpick still further, there are a few points that weren’t clear. When did Worf install the stolen cloaking device aboard a shuttlecraft? Why are Worf and Raffi no longer using La Sirena – and have we now seen the last of that ship? After tripping the alarms, how did the away team escape? And when did they find time to lower the Shrike’s shields and deactivate its weapons systems?

Again, this part of the story felt cut down – and when other parts of both Dominion and Surrender seemed to be deliberately slowing things down and padding out a relatively thin story… I could have happily traded some of the scenes with Picard, Jack, and Geordi for a bit more of Worf, Raffi, Riker, and Troi aboard the Shrike.

When was the cloak installed aboard this shuttle?

Worf’s reunion with Troi was cute, though – and I think I detected a nod and a wink at the failed romantic plotline that the two engaged in near the end of The Next Generation’s run. Riker’s reaction to it was Surrender’s moment of comedy gold, and Jonathan Frakes’ comedic timing is as on point as ever!

Since we’re talking about Worf, there is something that’s been bugging me since he returned to Star Trek, and the reunion with Troi kind of shot it back into focus. All season long, Worf hasn’t mentioned his marriage and widowhood. In Deep Space Nine, Worf’s relationship with Jadzia Dax, and his response to her death, was a huge part of his character arc – and to be honest, it went a long way to making Worf into a more relatable character. Worf hasn’t so much as mentioned Jadzia… and even though time has passed and Worf has taken on a more calm and ethereal personality, it wouldn’t have gone amiss if he’d said something about her. As Worf was reunited with Troi, and seemed to be flattering her, harkening back to those episodes in The Next Generation’s seventh season… I felt this absence all the more.

Riker and Troi embrace Worf.

Raffi hasn’t had much to do over the past few episodes really, and that unfortunate theme continued this week. Whatever work she was doing aboard the Shrike when Worf, Troi, and Riker reunited with her seemed to be little more than set dressing; a backdrop for the others to have their conversation in front of. Raffi’s first meeting with Deanna was neat, as both women acknowledged one another and continued to work, but that was all.

Aboard the Titan, Raffi got a well-choreographed sequence of explosive action, and I won’t deny that it looked fantastic – a great performance by Michelle Hurd to pull off some fast moves. But aside from the questionable idea of stabbing changelings to death, when they’re entirely comprised of a nondescript liquid, I just feel like we’ve skipped about a dozen steps. Raffi has clearly been working and training with Worf to hone her skills – but almost all of this has evidently happened off-screen. It’s not bad per se, but it’s another indicator in my view of the fact that Picard still hasn’t found enough time to spend with all of its characters.

Raffi aboard the Titan.

I’ve had a lot to say about Data since his resurrection a couple of weeks ago, and I won’t repeat it all this time. You can go back to earlier reviews to see more details about why I think it’s hard to justify. But I will say that I’m glad that Picard didn’t completely ignore Data’s earlier death in Surrender, and was able to give a passing acknowledgement to the events of the Season 1 finale and Picard’s experience with Data in the digital afterlife. This moment – which was only a couple of lines, really – could certainly have been expanded, but given that the writers have ignored so many other story beats from both Picard’s earlier seasons and from other iterations of Star Trek, I want to give credit where it’s due and say that I appreciate the effort here.

As someone who’s never been much of a fan of Lore, I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder going into Season 3. And in Surrender, we got to see Data and Lore clash for what appears to be the final time. For me, this sequence was an unnecessary stumbling block; a sequence of pure padding that added nothing to either the episode or the season itself. Given the issues with Vadic that we talked about above – and the fact that, to be blunt, we could easily have spent more time with at least half a dozen other characters – this easily-resolved Data-versus-Lore idea is something I wouldn’t have opted to include at all.

I wouldn’t have bothered with Lore.

Similar to Vadic, Lore was relatively easy to defeat and accomplished very little from a narrative point of view. And as with Data, Lore is a character who I didn’t feel needed a resurrection and minor epilogue. His defeat in The Next Generation two-part episode Descent could have been left alone, and for my money, we’d already seen enough of Lore. Bringing him back could have served more of a purpose – he could have been connected, in some way, to the conspiracy, as he’d been present at Daystrom Station during the rogue changelings’ raid, just as one example.

If the decision had been taken to resurrect Data – a decision that I’ve already outlined my fundamental disagreement with – then perhaps in such a busy story, Lore should have been left behind. This aspect of Surrender brought a few sweet moments as Data looked back over some of his treasured memories… but a nostalgia overload on its own is not a justification for such a convoluted story.

This sub-plot felt like padding.

I will hold up my hands and confess that Data’s memories, all of which were represented by props and objects from The Next Generation, was one of Surrender’s most emotional moments. Although this storyline wouldn’t have been one I’d have chosen, Brent Spiner played it exceptionally well, and the sequence hit many of the right emotional notes. As someone who first came to Star Trek in the early 1990s by way of The Next Generation, this walk down memory lane – figuratively speaking – was incredibly sweet for me.

Seeing Spot, Data’s cat from The Next Generation, was perhaps the highlight of this sequence. As a cat owner myself, I always appreciate seeing cats in stories like this, and Data’s line about Spot teaching him how to love was beautiful – and it brought a tear to my eye.

Best moment in the episode.

Perhaps the reason why I found the Data-Lore clash so unsatisfying was that it never really felt that Data was in danger. Even as Geordi and Picard watched the “map” of the golem’s brain being taken over by Lore, Data’s importance to the story meant that defeat here never felt like a realistic prospect. As Data surrendered his memories to Lore, it seemed obvious what he was doing – by taking on Data’s memories, Lore became Data. And so it proved.

As a result, this sequence – and particularly the parts with Picard and the others staring blankly at computer screens – didn’t feel tense and exciting, it felt frustrating. It was padding, and it got in the way of what could have been a more interesting story with Vadic and Jack on the bridge. In spite of the emotional highlights that Data’s reminiscences provided, this entire sub-plot feels like one that could have been skipped.

Picard, Geordi, and the others spent a long time in Surrender just staring at this screen.

Criticisms like this next one can feel like nitpicking, and I suspect that, had the main thrust of the narrative been stronger, we wouldn’t be talking about it. With that caveat in mind, however, two major changes were made this week, and they seem to have come unnaturally at the whim of the plot. The ease with which changelings could be killed is the first one – Vadic and her henchman last week took multiple phaser blasts and shrugged them off, but this week, Raffi and Worf were literally killing changelings left, right, and centre. A single stab wound seemed to take down most of them – and a single phaser blast was enough to vaporise them.

Then there’s the number of people involved; both the changelings and the crew of the Titan seemed to grow in numbers from nowhere. Last week, Jack and Sidney ran through deserted hallways, but in Surrender, there seemed to be dozens of Starfleet personnel still aboard – despite Ro moving most of the ship’s complement to the Intrepid a couple of weeks ago. Vadic’s crew’s numbers also seemed to fluctuate – and apparently she took all but one of them with her to the Titan.

The effort and energy required to kill a changeling seem to shift depending on the desires and whims of the writing team.

These points, in a stronger story, might’ve passed unnoticed – or ended up as nothing more than bullet points right at the end of a review in a kind of “huh, that’s a bit silly if you think about it” way. But because they seem to contribute to a bit of a muddled storyline – one that ended in unexceptional fashion – the sense of disappointment in some of these things is inflated.

Any story has to have a degree of flexibility – and I get that. But one of the foundations of suspension of disbelief, at least for me, is that a story must be basically internally consistent. The number of Vadic’s goons and Titan redshirts, and the damage a phaser hit does to a changeling were all far too inconsistent, serving the whims of the writers in a way that ended up feeling unsatisfying.

Does stabbing a changeling to death make sense? A big part of me says “no.”

The way Vadic spoke to and about Jack in earlier episodes didn’t get any kind of payoff this week, even as the two of them came face to face for the first – and last – time. That was a disappointment, and for all the hot air that was blown on the bridge during their standoff, I don’t feel that their chat moved this plotline in any significant way. We’d already seen Jack’s hallucinatory experiences, and while Vadic hinted at the fact that she knew what he was seeing and, most significantly, what it could mean, she died before she could explain herself.

The fake-out with the grenade was clever, and the prop used for the explosive that Jack was holding was a neat one. We got to see other characters use these explosives in earlier episodes, but even if we hadn’t, I think it was pretty clear what Jack was meant to be holding. This aspect of Picard’s plan actually worked – and it’s the only moment since Vadic and her goons boarded the Titan that actually feels like it was planned. That it relied entirely on Geordi’s work with Data is… well, troublesome! But if we set that aside, I liked that Jack went to the bridge with a clear plan.

Jack with the fake grenade.

Because part of Jack’s plan required him to literally stall and delay Vadic while the Data-Lore clash was going on, some of these scenes on the bridge dragged. Vadic danced around her knowledge of Jack without actually revealing anything significant, and all of that contributed to the sense that Surrender wasn’t an especially well-paced episode. What was intended to be tension ended up feeling more like frustration.

I’m in two minds about the way in which Vadic was killed. On the one hand, it feels like a clever plan – overriding the emergency hatch and blowing her out into space. On the other… the way it was executed came across as unintentionally humourous rather than exciting and action-packed. Seven of Nine – who has had remarkably little to say and do all season long – got the Air Force One hero quip, but that kind of fell flat for me. Again, a bit of an unoriginal idea, and one that has been parodied to death. Because Seven hadn’t said more than two words to Vadic the whole time, it also felt unearned.