Six Star Trek “hot takes”

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the following Star Trek productions: Picard Seasons 1-2, Discovery Season 3, Strange New Worlds, the Kelvin timeline films, Deep Space Nine, and The Next Generation.

Today I thought we could have a bit of fun! There are many so-called “hot takes” about the Star Trek franchise flitting about online, and I thought it could be a change of pace to share a few of my own. These are – based on my limited engagement with the wider Star Trek fan community, at least – opinions that aren’t widely held or especially popular. I’ll do my best to explain why I feel the way I do about each of the six subjects we’re going to consider below.

More than ever, I ask you to keep in mind that all of this is subjective, not objective! I’m not saying that these opinions are factual and unquestionable; this is just my singular perspective on a handful of very complex topics. As with everything in media, there are going to be a range of views, and while I’ll try to justify my opinions below, I know that a lot of people can and do disagree. And that’s okay! There’s room in the Star Trek fan community for respectful disagreement about all manner of things.

With all of that out of the way, this is your last chance to jump ship if you aren’t interested in some potentially controversial Star Trek opinions!

“Hot Take” #1:
Star Trek: Picard transformed Seven of Nine into an enjoyable character for the first time.

Seven of Nine in Picard Season 2.

Star Trek: Picard hasn’t been perfect across its first two seasons, but one thing that it absolutely got right is Seven of Nine’s characterisation. Seven was an unexpected character for the series to introduce – she’d never interacted with Jean-Luc Picard on screen before, and the pair hadn’t even the barest bones of a relationship to build on. In that sense, I was surprised (and maybe a little concerned) when it was made clear that she’d be featured in a big way in the first season.

Perhaps I should explain myself before we go any further. Seven of Nine was introduced midway through Voyager’s run in the two-part episode Scorpion. At first she seemed to be a character with a lot of potential, and I enjoyed what she brought to the table in early Season 4 episodes such as Scientific Method and The Raven. But Seven very quickly became repetitive. Week after week she’d learn some lesson in “how to be more human” from the Doctor or Captain Janeway, but she’d seem to forget all about it and revert to her semi-Borg self by the next episode. This was exacerbated by the fact that Voyager’s latter seasons seemed to include a lot of Seven-heavy episodes and stories, making her a prominent character.

Publicity photo of Seven of Nine during Voyager’s run.

That’s how episodic television works, and I get that. Most other Star Trek characters up to that point in the franchise’s history also “reset” in between episodes, and we could talk at length about how characters like Miles O’Brien could go through some horrible trauma one week only to be happily playing darts at Quark’s a few days later as if it never happened. But with Seven of Nine, a combination of her prominence and storylines that often revolved around learning and taking to heart some aspect of what it means to be human and exist outside of the Borg Collective meant that her week-to-week resets and lack of significant growth really began to grate. Toward the end of Season 7, Seven was given an arc of sorts that threw her into a relationship with Chakotay – but I’m hardly the only person who feels that didn’t work particularly well!

So by the time Voyager ended, I was burnt out on Seven of Nine. Out of all the main characters from Voyager, she was perhaps the one I was least interested to see picked up for a second bite of the cherry – but I was wrong about that. Where Seven had been static and repetitive in Voyager, Picard gave her that development I’d been longing to see, and it was incredibly cathartic! Even though Seven’s post-Voyager life hadn’t been smooth, it had been human, and seeing her experience genuine emotions like anger, betrayal, and later through her relationship with Raffi, love, was something I didn’t know I wanted. Having seen it now, though, there’s no way I’d want to lose this element of Picard.

Seven with Admiral Picard.

The death of Icheb, which was shown in one of Picard Season 1’s most gory sequences, became a key part of Seven’s character arc. His loss devastated her – and the idea that Seven of Nine could be devastated was already a colossal leap for her character. That it spurred her on to one of the most human of desires – revenge – is even more significant for her. And this growth continued across the rest of Season 1, with Seven coming face-to-face with the Borg and even becoming a leader (of sorts) for the liberated ex-Borg on the Artifact.

Even though Season 2 was a mixed bag (at best) with some lacklustre storylines, Seven of Nine shone once again. Her relationship with Raffi added a whole new dimension to her character, and after seeing her experiencing anger and negative emotions in Season 1, Season 2 gave her a chance at love. Season 2 also saw Seven revelling in a new experience, having hopped across to a new timeline and found herself in a body that had never been assimilated. That set her on an arc to accepting herself for who she is – including her Borg past.

Seven without her trademark Borg implants.

Seven’s journey has been beautiful to see, but also cathartic. To me, her journey in Picard feels like it’s righted a twenty-year wrong, finally giving Seven of Nine genuine development and an arc that stuck. While I’m sure fans can and will debate individual plot points (like Icheb’s death or Seven’s off-screen involvement with the Fenris Rangers), taken as a whole I’ve really enjoyed what Picard did with what had been one of my least-favourite characters of The Next Generation era.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for more from Seven of Nine – and if you’d told me in 2000-2001 that I’d write those words I wouldn’t have believed you!

“Hot Take” #2:
I don’t like The Inner Light.

Picard/Kamin in The Inner Light.

Often held up as an example of The Next Generation at its best, I’ve never enjoyed The Inner Light. It’s an episode I usually skip over without a second thought when re-watching The Next Generation, but I put myself through the chore of viewing it recently; it’s part of what inspired me to put together this list!

The Inner Light steps away from the exciting adventures of the Enterprise-D to show us a pre-warp civilisation living on a random alien backwater planet, and while exploring strange new worlds is part of the gig, the way this episode in particular does that is just not interesting or enjoyable in the slightest. It’s certainly “different” – and I will concede that point. Star Trek has never been shy about experimenting, after all! But this particular experiment didn’t work, which is probably why we haven’t really seen another episode quite like it.

Picard with the Kataan probe.

I don’t like to say that something “doesn’t feel like Star Trek,” not least because that vague and unhelpful phrase has become associated with a subgroup of so-called fans who use it to attack everything the franchise has done since 2009. But to me, The Inner Light feels about as far away from what I want and hope to see from an episode of Star Trek as it’s possible to get.

By spending practically its entire runtime in the past, with Picard taking on the role of an alien blacksmith in a pre-warp society, The Inner Light abandons not only the entire crew of the Enterprise-D, but also many of the fundamental adventurous elements that are what makes Star Trek, well… feel like Star Trek. Its deliberately slow pace doubles-down on this sensation, and The Inner Light seems to drag as a result, coming across as boring.

Picard/Kamin playing the flute.

I’m not particularly bothered by the way the Kataan probe operates – that seems technobabbley enough to get a pass. But after Picard has been hit by the probe and the majority of the episode is then spent on Kataan with Kamin and his family… I’m just not interested. Sir Patrick Stewart is a great actor, and what happened to the Kataan people is both tragic and a timely reminder of our own burgeoning environmental catastrophe (something that we haven’t even tried to fix more than a quarter of a century later). But despite all of the elements being in place, the story just doesn’t grab me like I feel it should. At the end of the day, I can’t find a way to give a shit about Kataan, nor about Kamin or anyone else.

There are many episodes of Star Trek with races and characters who only appear once, and yet very few of them manage to evoke that same “I just don’t care” reaction. Just within Season 5 of The Next Generation we have characters like Hugh the Borg and Nicholas Locarno, or aliens like the Children of Tama and the Ux-Mal, all of which manage to hook me in and get me invested in their storylines. I’d generally consider The Next Generation’s fifth season to be one of its best, with many of my favourite episodes. But The Inner Light isn’t one of them.

Picard/Kamin overlooking the village of Ressik.

There are points to The Inner Light that did work. The Ressikan flute theme, for example, is a beautiful piece of music, and Picard’s flute-playing ability (which he learned during the events of The Inner Light) would become a minor recurring element for his character going forward, notably appearing in episodes like Lessons. And the underlying premise of a probe that transmits a message in this way could have worked; it feels quite Star Trek-y in and of itself.

But for me, The Inner Light just isn’t fun to watch. It’s boring, uninspiring, and I can’t find a way to get invested in the story of Kataan and its people – despite good performances from Sir Patrick Stewart and the other actors present.

“Hot Take” #3:
Modern Trek needs to pick a single era (and timeline) and stick to it.

Admiral Vance and Captain Burnham in the 32nd Century.

Star Trek, perhaps more so than any other major entertainment franchise, is convoluted. As Trekkies, we love that! The fact that modern Star Trek can explore different timelines, different eras, and broadcast different shows that are entirely separate from one another makes for a diverse and interesting presentation. It also means that we can simultaneously step back in time to before Captain Kirk’s five-year mission while also seeing what came next for Captain Picard twenty-five years after the events of Nemesis.

But try to look at Star Trek from the point of view of a newcomer. Every single one of the five shows currently in production is set in a different time period and location, and just figuring out where to start with Star Trek – or where to go next for someone who’s enjoyed watching one of the new shows – is the subject of essays, articles, and lists. It’s beginning to remind me of Star Wars’ old Expanded Universe – a combination of games, books, comics, and so on that had become so convoluted and dense after decades in production that it felt offputting.

Cadet Elnor in the 25th Century.

In order for Star Trek to successfully convert viewers of one of its new iterations into fans of the franchise, it needs to simplify its current output. A fan of Strange New Worlds might think that their next port of call should be Picard or Lower Decks – but they’d be completely lost because those shows are set more than a century later.

The lack of a single, unified setting also prevents crossover stories – and these aren’t just fun fan-service for Trekkies like us! Crossovers link up separate Star Trek outings, bringing fans of one show into close contact with another. Just as The Next Generation did with Deep Space Nine (and DS9 did with Voyager), modern Star Trek should make the effort to link up its current shows. There are links between Discovery and Strange New Worlds – but any crossover potential has evaporated due to Discovery shooting forward into the far future.

Beckett Mariner and Jennifer the Andorian in the late 24th Century.

This also applies to alternate realities, most significantly the Kelvin timeline which is supposedly being brought back for a fourth film. The Kelvin films served a purpose in the late 2000s and early 2010s, but as I’ve argued in the past, is it really a good idea to bring back that setting – as well as its presentation of characters who have recently been recast for Strange New Worlds – with everything else that Star Trek has going on?

In 2009, it was possible for new fans to jump from the Kelvin films to other iterations of Star Trek and keep up with what’s going on. But we’ve had more than 100 new episodes of Star Trek since then across several different eras, some including recast versions of characters who appeared in the Kelvin timeline films. I’m not so sure that a new Kelvin timeline film serves its intended purpose any more.

Captain Pike in the 23rd Century.

I wouldn’t want to see any of the shows currently in production shut down before their time. We’ve only just got started with Strange New Worlds, for instance, and I’m hopeful that that series will run for at least five seasons (to complete Captain Pike’s five-year mission!) But as the current crop of shows wind down, the producers at Paramount need to consider their next moves very carefully. Where should Star Trek go from here, and where should its focus be?

Discovery’s 32nd Century is certainly a contender, and setting the stage for new adventures years after the stories we know provides a soft reboot for the franchise while also opening up new storytelling possibilities. But it would also be great to see Star Trek return to the late 24th or early 25th Centuries of the Picard era, picking up story threads from The Next Generation era – Star Trek’s real “golden age” in the 1990s. Setting all (or almost all) of its films, shows, miniseries, and one-shot stories in a single, unified timeline has many advantages, and would be to the franchise’s overall benefit.

Stay tuned, because I have a longer article about this in the pipeline!

“Hot Take” #4:
Far Beyond The Stars is an unenjoyable episode, albeit one with a very important message.

Benny Russell in Far Beyond The Stars.

This is my way of saying that “I don’t like Far Beyond The Stars” while still giving credit to the moral story at its core. Star Trek has always been a franchise that’s brought moral fables to screen, and Far Beyond The Stars does this in a very intense – and almost brutal – way, shining a light on America’s racist past and present.

But as I’ve already discussed with The Inner Light above, the way in which this story is presented doesn’t really work for me. I find Benny Russell’s story sympathetic… but because what’s happening is so far removed from the events of Deep Space Nine, it’s difficult to turn that investment over the course of a single episode into anything substantial. The “it was all a dream or a vision” explanation also hammers this home; whatever was happening to Captain Sisko was taking place outside of the real world – perhaps inside his head, perhaps as a vision from the Prophets – and thus it doesn’t feel like it matters – in the context of the show – in the same way as other, similar stories.

Julius and Benny.

Far Beyond The Stars is comparable to The Inner Light insofar as it steps out of the Star Trek franchise’s fictional future. In this case, the story returns to our real world a few short years in the past. While there are occasional flashes of Star Trek’s signature optimism, the darker tone of the story combines with its real-world setting to feel different; separate from not only the events of Star Trek, but its entire universe.

“But that’s the whole point!” fans of Far Beyond The Stars are itching to tell me. And I agree! Far Beyond The Stars knows what it’s trying to be and knows the kind of story it wants to tell and goes for it, 100%. I’d even say that it achieves what it set out to. But that doesn’t make it a fun watch, an entertaining story, or an episode I’m keen to revisit. As with The Inner Light, I almost always skip over Far Beyond The Stars when I’m watching Deep Space Nine.

The unnamed preacher.

Perhaps if I were an American, more of Far Beyond The Stars’ real-world elements would hit closer to home. But when I first saw the episode in the late ’90s here in the UK, I confess that at least parts of it went way over my head. That’s perhaps my own bias showing – but the whole point of this exercise is to discuss parts of the Star Trek franchise beginning with my own biases and opinions!

Having re-watched Far Beyond The Stars after spending time living in both the United States and South Africa – two societies which continue to wrangle with legacies of structural and systemic racial discrimination – I definitely felt its hard-hitting message a lot more. In fact, Far Beyond The Stars could be a great episode to use as a starting point for a broader conversation about race and structural racism. But having a moral message – especially a very on-the-nose one – doesn’t always make for the most interesting or enjoyable story.

Sisko sees himself reflected as Benny Russell at the end of the episode.

I don’t find Far Beyond The Stars to be “uncomfortable” to watch. The racial aspects of its story have purpose, and even with the progress that America has made since the turn of the millennium, many of the racial issues that Far Beyond The Stars highlights are just as relevant today as they were twenty-five years ago. But I guess what I’d say about the episode is that it doesn’t deliver what I personally find interesting and enjoyable about an episode of Star Trek.

Taken as a one-off, I can put up with Far Beyond The Stars. It didn’t become a major recurring thing in Deep Space Nine, and while Captain Sisko would recall the events on more than one occasion, it didn’t come to dominate the latter part of Deep Space Nine’s run in any way. So in that sense, I’m content to set Far Beyond The Stars to one side, acknowledging what it brought to the table in terms of allegory and morality while being content to rewatch it infrequently.

“Hot Take” #5:
Canon matters – up to a point.

The original USS Enterprise.

There seems to be a black-and-white, either/or debate in the Star Trek fan community when it comes to the franchise’s internal canon. Some folks are adamant that the tiniest minutia of canon must be “respected” at all costs, criticising things like the redesign of uniforms or even the recasting of characters because it doesn’t fit precisely with what came before. Then there are others who say that “it’s all just a story,” and that canon can be entirely ignored if a new writer has an idea for a story. I don’t fall into either camp!

Canon matters because internal consistency matters. Internal consistency is – for me, at least – an absolutely essential part of the pathway to suspension of disbelief. If I’m to believe that transporters and warp cores exist, the way they work and the way they’re presented on screen has to be basically consistent from one Star Trek story to the next.

The USS Discovery at warp.

The same applies to characters. If a character has a background as an assassin and that’s a central part of their characterisation in one story, the next episode can’t arbitrarily change that and make them into a marine biologist because the plot demands it. Characters need to feel like real people, and the world they inhabit needs to operate by its established rules.

Luckily for Star Trek’s writers, there is a lot of flexibility in those rules! Most of the specifics of how individual pieces of technology work have never been delved into in any detail, and there’s a lot we don’t know about even the most basic of things within the Star Trek universe. So new writers find themselves with considerable leeway if they want to make a change or do something differently for the sake of a story.

A combadge from an alternate timeline.

But there is a limit to that – or at least there ought to be. And the Star Trek franchise has tripped up by introducing new elements that seem to tread on the toes of what has already been established, even if they don’t technically overwrite anything. Spock’s family is a case in point. The Final Frontier gave Spock a half-brother who had never been mentioned, and then Discovery came along and gave him an adopted sister as well. Neither of these additions overwrote what we know of Spock’s family history… but they definitely came close.

On the other side of things, I’m quite okay with Star Trek making changes and updates to its visual style. The redesign of the USS Enterprise that debuted in Discovery and has been expanded upon for Strange New Worlds is a great example of one way that the franchise has modernised its look without really “damaging” established canon. All that’s required to get around the apparent visual changes – for anyone who feels it’s necessary – is to say that the Enterprise must’ve undergone some kind of retrofit in between Pike’s command and Kirk’s.

Sarek and Michael Burnham in Discovery’s premiere.

Where canon matters to me is in terms of characterisation and story. If we’ve established, for example, that the Vulcans and Romulans are related to one another, then future stories must remain consistent with that; there can be no “Romulan origin story” that tries to say that they evolved separately, for example. Likewise for characters. We all love a good character arc – but if a character’s personality and background are established, changing those fundamentals in an arbitrary manner should be off the table.

So to the canon purists, my message is going to be “loosen up a little!” And to the canon ignorers, what I’d say is “internal consistency matters.”

“Hot Take” #6:
The Kelvin films got a lot right – and could be textbook examples of how to reboot a franchise.

Spock, Kirk, and Dr McCoy in Star Trek Beyond.

Even today, more than a decade after 2009’s Star Trek kicked off the Kelvin timeline, I still have Trekkie friends who have refused to watch them. Other fans who showed up at the cinema were unimpressed with what they saw, and the Kelvin films can feel like a controversial part of the Star Trek franchise sometimes. For my two cents, though, although the Kelvin films were imperfect and certainly different to what had come before, they managed to get a lot of things right. I’d even say that Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness could be used as textbook case studies in how to reboot a franchise successfully!

Modern Star Trek – from Discovery to Picard and beyond – would simply not exist without the Kelvin films. When Enterprise was cancelled in 2005, it really did feel as though the Star Trek franchise itself had died and wouldn’t be returning. Even as someone who hadn’t been a regular viewer of Enterprise, that still stung! But if there had been doubts over the Star Trek brand and its ability to reach out to new audiences and bring in huge numbers of viewers, 2009’s Star Trek shattered them.

Transwarp beaming.

Into Darkness eclipsed even the massively high numbers of its predecessor and remains the cinematic franchise’s high-water mark in terms of audience figures and profitability, so it’s not exactly shocking to learn that Paramount hopes to return to the Kelvin cast for a fourth outing next year! These films took what had been a complicated franchise with a reputation for being geeky and nerdy and skimmed off a lot of the fluff. What resulted was a trio of decent sci-fi action films that may just have saved the franchise’s reputation.

The Kelvin films also gave Star Trek a visual overhaul, modernising the franchise’s aesthetic and visual style while still retaining all of the core elements that longstanding fans expected. Transporters were still there – but they looked sleeker and prettier. Warp drive was still present – but a new visual effect was created. Many of these aesthetic elements have remained part of the franchise ever since, appearing in the various productions that we’ve seen since Star Trek returned to the small screen in 2017.

The USS Enterprise.

By establishing an alternate reality, the Kelvin films found scope to take familiar characters to very different places. We got to see how Kirk and Spock met for the first time at Starfleet Academy – a premise that Gene Roddenberry had considered all the way back during The Original Series’ run – but with a twist. Star Trek reintroduced us to classic characters, but put its own spin on them, providing a satisfactory in-universe explanation for why so many things were different.

But at the same time, the inclusion of Leonard Nimoy’s Spock from the prime timeline anchored the Kelvin films, providing a link to what had come before. This reboot wasn’t about erasing anything; it was an expansion of Star Trek into a new timeline, one that had basically unlimited potential to tell some very different stories. The trio of films took advantage of that, and while I would argue that there’s no pressing need to revisit the Kelvin timeline right now, I absolutely do appreciate what they did for Star Trek.

Two Spocks.

As a reboot, the Kelvin films succeeded in their ambition. They reinvented Star Trek just enough for mainstream audiences to discover the franchise – many for the first time. Some of those folks stuck around and have become big Trekkies all off the back of what the Kelvin films did. They updated Star Trek without overwriting anything, and they set the stage for further expansion and growth. By every measure, the Kelvin films were successful.

That isn’t to say they’re my favourite part of the franchise! But as a fan who wants Star Trek to stick around and continue to be successful, projects like the Kelvin films are essential.

So that’s it!

Were those takes as hot as a supernova?

I hope that this was a bit of fun rather than anything to get too seriously upset about. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions about the episodes, films, characters, and storylines that Star Trek creates, and whether I’m thrilled about something, hated it, or have mixed feelings, I will always try to explain myself and provide reasons for why I feel the way that I do. But at the end of the day, all of this is just the subjective opinion of one person!

We’re very lucky to have so much Star Trek content coming our way in the next few years. It seems like the franchise will make it to its sixtieth anniversary in 2026 with new films and episodes still being produced, and there can’t be many entertainment franchises that could make such a claim to longevity!

There are definitely points on the list above that I could expand upon, and I’m sure I could think of a few more “hot takes” if I tried! So stay tuned for more Star Trek content to come here on the website as we move into the summer season.

The Star Trek franchise – including all properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

To recast or not to recast?

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for The Book of Boba Fett. Minor spoilers are also present for Solo: A Star Wars Story and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

President of Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy recently made a statement that has drawn a lot of attention. In an interview with magazine Vanity Fair, Kennedy stated that one of the lessons that the Disney-owned studio learned from the lukewarm response to Solo: A Star Wars Story in 2018 was that recasting classic characters isn’t possible. In her words, “it does seem so abundantly clear that we can’t do that.”

This has kicked off a discussion online, not least among fans of the Star Wars franchise and Solo in particular. Today I want to add my two cents to the conversation and use the debate around Kennedy and Solo to talk about recasting characters in a general sense, as well as touch on some alternatives that studios have turned to in recent years.

Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy.

First of all, I encourage you to read the full piece in Vanity Fair so you’re aware of what was said and its context. Online debate often centres around a single phrase, soundbite, or fragment of a sentence, and it isn’t always clear how someone’s words were intended. In this case, for example, Kennedy seems to have been talking about the need for Star Wars to move on – something I’ve talked about at length here on the website – and expand beyond the confines of the “Skywalker Saga” and the handful of familiar characters who made up those stories.

I absolutely agree with that sentiment! The Star Wars galaxy is such a vast and exciting setting, one with thousands of years of history, an uncertain future, thousands of planets, trillions of inhabitants, and so much potential! So far, the Star Wars franchise has doubled-down on showing us the same handful of characters and the same tiny sliver of that setting over and over again, and I for one am starting to get sick of it! Star Wars can be more than Luke Skywalker – if it’s willing to put in the effort.

Canto Bight, one of many interesting locales in the Star Wars galaxy.

So in that sense, I agree with Kathleen Kennedy! But taken as a starting point for a discussion about recasting characters, I couldn’t disagree more.

It’s profoundly ironic that Kennedy made this statement during the build-up to the broadcast of Obi-Wan Kenobi… a series that centres around a character who was recast from the original Star Wars films! The Star Wars prequel trilogy recast a number of characters – and recast characters were even ham-fistedly edited into the so-called “special editions” of the original films, with the original voice of Boba Fett being re-dubbed, the original Emperor Palpatine being overwritten in The Empire Strikes Back, and most notoriously, the Force ghost of Anakin Skywalker being changed in Return of the Jedi.

Disney and Lucasfilm panicked in the late 2010s. The divisive reaction to The Last Jedi and underwhelming numbers for Solo: A Star Wars Story saw the Star Wars franchise refocused to bring back a lot more of what corporate leadership hopes will pass for nostalgia. This accounts for the existence of shows like The Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi, as well as certain narrative decisions in The Rise of Skywalker. It isn’t the first time that corporate cowardice has got in the way of entertainment, and it likely won’t be the last.

The Book of Boba Fett is an example of Star Wars recycling characters.

I’d argue that the wrong lesson has been learned from Solo if Disney and Lucasfilm believe that the biggest takeaway is that they should never try to recast characters. Alden Ehrenreich’s performance was far from the worst thing about that film, and if audiences and Star Wars fans felt that he “didn’t feel” like Han Solo, the blame needs to be placed with the way the script was written and the way the story was told. Solo was a fairly clumsy overplaying of the nostalgia card in my view; a film with an interesting premise that was hampered by shoehorning in characters from the original trilogy and that made the same mistake with Han Solo as the prequel trilogy had with Anakin Skywalker: overexplaining his backstory.

But all of that is incidental. Even if we accept the premise that Solo was a failure and that the performance of its lead was a significant factor – neither of which I’m fully on board with, but I’ll grant for the sake of argument – is the right response really to say that no classic characters should ever be recast again? That seems like a horrible overreaction!

Alden Ehrenreich in Solo: A Star Wars Story.

The Star Wars franchise has done some very interesting things with digital de-ageing and CGI character creation. The way Luke Skywalker was brought to screen in The Book of Boba Fett as an entirely CGI character was technologically stunning, and at first I thought I was watching a lookalike. The technology needed to create CGI characters and perfectly replicate the face – and even voice – of real actors is already here, and while Disney may be a pioneer of the technology, they’re far from the only ones to be using it. We’ve recently seen digital de-ageing make an appearance over in the Star Trek franchise, for example.

I’ve had an article in the pipeline for well over a year that I really ought to get around to finishing one of these days! It’s all about CGI characters in film and television, because I’m convinced that we’re not far away from a film or TV series bringing back to life a dead actor to play a leading role. I can already picture a snooty director who insists that the lead role in their film could only ever belong to someone like Lawrence Olivier or Orson Welles and decides to digitally recreate them rather than cast someone else!

A CGI recreation of Mark Hamill was used to bring Luke Skywalker into The Book of Boba Fett.

That’s connected, in a way, to what we’re talking about here. Some actors and performers are so iconic that I can absolutely see a time – perhaps very soon – when a film or TV series will use a CGI lead mingling with real actors. A digital creation with a fake face and fake voice that are indistinguishable from the real thing. And as that technology improves and becomes more accessible, it may even become possible for amateurs to do something similar. Imagine a Star Trek fan-film where a fully-realistic CGI Captain Picard is the lead. We’re edging closer to that kind of reality!

But is Sir Patrick Stewart inseparable from Captain Picard? Is Mark Hamill the only possible Luke Skywalker? Or are these roles – and many others across the realm of entertainment – more than just one actor? Look at Shakespeare as an example: how many actors have taken on the role of Hamlet, Prospero, or Richard III? And even in cinema, how many different performances have there been of characters like Count Dracula or Ebenezer Scrooge?

Is Christopher Lee the only possible Dracula in all of cinema?

If the argument is that certain characters can only ever be portrayed by one person, doesn’t that limit them and restrict them to a single possible interpretation? There have been very different takes on iconic characters over the years, and while audiences may have a preference for one or another, that doesn’t mean that only one interpretation is valid. Taking a character and giving them to a new actor expands the potential of that character.

In the Star Trek franchise we’ve seen the main characters from The Original Series recast for the Kelvin films, and while I know of some Trekkies who absolutely hated that idea, as time has passed since the 2009 reboot, more of those folks have come around. 2009’s Star Trek did a lot of things right as a reboot of the franchise, and a big part of its success was down to the way those classic characters were reinterpreted.

Star Trek hasn’t been shy about recasting characters!

Some Star Trek characters have been recast multiple times – by my count, Strange New Worlds features the fourth actor to play Captain Pike and the third to play Spock. Early reactions to Strange New Worlds have been incredibly positive – and the series has even drawn praise from some fans who hadn’t enjoyed anything else that modern Star Trek has had to offer. Recasting Pike, Spock, and other classic characters has clearly not harmed Strange New Worlds.

And the same could be true for Star Wars. Maybe Solo wasn’t the best film the franchise has put out, but that shouldn’t mean that experimenting with different takes on classic characters should be entirely shut down. There’s scope for new actors to take on the roles of Luke, Leia, and others – just as there was for Ewan McGregor to become Obi-Wan Kenobi or Alden Ehrenreich to become Han Solo. Arbitrarily deciding that recasting can never work off the back of a single underwhelming film is an unnecessary overreaction – especially considering that recasting has already worked in Star Wars, with an upcoming series standing as testament to that fact.

Obi-Wan Kenobi was recast in 1999 – and the recast character was so popular that he’s about to get his own spin-off series.

At the same time, there’s a place for digital character creation, recreated characters, and CGI characters, and I fully expect to see a lot more of that type of thing in the years ahead. For my two cents, digital de-ageing and CGI characters probably work best as side-characters rather than main protagonists – and I think Star Wars has got away with using them in that context so far. It will be a new challenge to see a film or TV series where the leading role is taken over by a CGI character.

So in conclusion, I’m glad that Kathleen Kennedy is finally willing to consider expanding the Star Wars franchise beyond the tiny fragment of its wonderful and vast setting that we’ve seen so far. That part is the good news! However, I don’t agree that there’s no place for recasting characters in a general sense. New actors have the potential to bring a new interpretation to the role, and if you look across at other films, franchises, and TV shows, it’s abundantly clear that recasting can and does work.

All properties and franchises discussed above are the copyright of their respective studio, distributor, corporation, etc. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Picard Season 2 theory – what happened to Q?

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 2. Spoilers are also present for Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: The Next Generation.

As the dust settles on Season 2 of Star Trek: Picard, there are still questions that remain. Season 3 may build on some of what Season 2 brought to the table – the strange anomaly, most notably – but other narrative elements will fade into the background and won’t be revisited. For me, one of the unexplained elements that I found intriguing as the season wore on concerns Q. Specifically, what was it that caused this once-immortal superbeing to be reaching the end of his life? What caused Q to die?

For the sake of the story that Picard Season 2 aimed to tell, finding a cause for Q’s death was not strictly necessary. The point of Q’s story and Picard’s relationship with him wasn’t to figure out what was happening, find a cure, or reverse it, but to come to accept it and for Q to find forgiveness and redemption at the end of his life. In that sense, there wasn’t really a narrative problem with the idea of Q dying – but as Trekkies and as fans who’ve followed Q’s journey over the span of more than three decades, it definitely feels like there’s a missing piece of the puzzle. Even if Q’s death was inevitable, explaining why it was happening in the first place would have felt satisfying.

I’m such a Q fan that I have this Mego action figure of him!

We’ll probably have to address this in more detail when I get around to writing a proper retrospective-review of Season 2 as a whole, but one aspect of Q’s death that I feel wasn’t handled well is how nonchalant Picard seemed to be about it. Despite all the trouble he’s caused, the story here was about Picard finding a way to forgive Q and embrace the friendship he had been offering for decades. Wouldn’t someone like Picard have wanted to find out why his friend was dying? And wouldn’t someone like Picard want to do everything in his power to prevent it?

Even if we drop the “friendship” angle, Q is a unique life-form from Starfleet’s perspective. As a being who had been considered to be functionally immortal – or as close to it as the Federation has ever encountered, at least – learning more about the Q as a race and what could possibly harm them seems like an opportunity that a Starfleet Admiral shouldn’t have passed up. Even if it wasn’t possible to find a way to save Q’s life, I would have expected Picard to offer to try. And even if Q was unwilling to share too much information about his condition, his people, and the state of the Q Continuum, I would have expected Picard to have at least asked – and to have not immediately taken “no” for an answer.

Wouldn’t Picard have wanted to understand why Q was dying – and perhaps have offered to help save him?

Perhaps a longer season (or a season that was better-paced and didn’t waste time reaching its conclusion) could have dedicated more time to Q and included some of those questions. In Farewell, the Season 2 finale, Picard seemed to very quickly acknowledge that Q was dying, accept that fact at face-value, and made no effort to follow up on it or ask questions about it. While I understand why it happened that way in terms of the story, it leaves Q’s death feeling like it’s missing something critical – something that could’ve furthered our understanding of both Q himself and the Q Continuum as a whole.

So today, that’s what we’re going to talk about. We’re going to consider a handful of possibilities for why Q might’ve died at the end of Picard Season 2 and look at the pros and cons of each from both an in-universe and production-side perspective. It goes without saying that all of this is speculative and purely subjective; Q’s cause of death is highly unlikely to be explained on screen in the near future, and if you don’t like my ideas or I miss out something you do like, remember that this is all just the opinion of one person!

With all of that out of the way, let’s begin.

Theory #1:
Q was being punished by the Q Continuum.

Q after having been made mortal. And nude.

In The Next Generation Season 3 episode Deja Q, we saw Q come face-to-face with mortality for the first time. In that story, Q had his powers taken away by the Q Continuum – or whatever passes for the leadership of the Q – and found himself a mortal human. This seems to establish the principle that the Q Continuum has the power – in both a legal and physical sense – to strip individual Q of their immortality.

Though somewhat contradicted by the events of the Voyager episode Death Wish – in which it was strongly suggested that a member of the Q Continuum dying is something its leaders sought to prevent at any cost – Deja Q at least gives us something to work with. It was the first episode that established that certain members of the Q Continuum could inflict this kind of punishment on others, and while the specific nature of the Q Continuum and its power structure (if such a thing exists) is suitably vague, we at least have a starting point of sorts!

Another member of the Q Continuum – someone with the ability to make Q mortal.

Based on what we know about Q himself, and specifically his role in causing the death of a fellow Q, sparking a Q Civil War, and creating the first “baby” Q in thousands of years, perhaps we can piece together that the Continuum were not happy with Q’s behaviour and actions. Could it be possible that, after what Q did in episodes like The Q and the Grey, the leadership of the Continuum turned on him?

Given that we’ve also seen the Q Continuum strip powers – and immortality – away from at least two other Qs, this kind of punishment by the Continuum has to be a pretty high probability for explaining what happened to Q. Regardless of what reasons the Continuum may have had, as far as we know they’re the only ones powerful enough to force a Q to become mortal.

Theory #2:
The entire Q Continuum has been attacked.

The Q Continuum as it appeared in Voyager.

This was a theory that I hatched during Season 2 – so it may be familiar to you if you followed along with my weekly theory posts! In short, it seemed possible to me that one explanation for Q’s condition could be related to the Q Continuum itself. If the Continuum had been attacked by some outside force, maybe that could explain what was happening to Q – and it could also explain a cryptic line in Discovery Season 4. Admiral Vance explained to Captain Burnham that the 32nd Century Federation has had no contact with the Q Continuum in over 600 years – and while the events of Picard Season 2 took place approximately 780 years before that conversation, perhaps the two are linked somehow.

One line from Guinan in Picard Season 2 is also of interest here. Guinan described a “cold war” between her people and the Q Continuum in the past, a conflict that was eventually resolved. But based on what we know of the two races, a “cold war” doesn’t seem plausible, does it? The Q are immortal and god-like, and while the El-Aurians certainly have abilities of their own, they’re very much a race of mortals – a race who were conquered by the Borg. So any conflict between the Q and the El-Aurians should’ve been a one-sided rout. That is, unless the El-Aurians knew of some kind of weakness inherent in the Q.

Did the El-Aurians discover some kind of weakness in the Q Continuum?

Some kind of weak point in the Q Continuum would seem to be the only possible explanation for how the El-Aurians could pose any semblance of a threat. That weakness (whatever it may be) could be something that another faction discovered, and instead of negotiating as the El-Aurians had, they might’ve gone on the attack. Or after the El-Aurians were assimilated by the Borg, the Q Continuum’s weakness could’ve become known to them – which could mean that the Borg are responsible for attacking and defeating the Q.

So there are possibilities here – some of which are more plausible than others, admittedly – based on what we know! It isn’t clear whether the powers of an individual Q are tied in any way to the Q Continuum – but it’s possible that they are. If so, perhaps a weakness in the Continuum weakens every surviving Q, and the defeat or destruction of the Continuum would reduce the power of any Q who remained. It seems a possibility to me – even though it was never stated on screen.

Theory #3:
The Q Continuum was destabilised after its Civil War.

“Colonel Q” led one of the factions during the Q Civil War.

Voyager established that the Q Continuum devolved into civil war in the late 24th Century, with two opposing factions. The war came to an end with the birth of a new Q – the first such child in thousands of years. However, as Captain Janeway suggested toward the end of the episode: it doesn’t seem like having a baby would solve the underlying tensions within the Q Continuum.

While the causes of the war and its details were, in Q’s words: “beyond the understanding of humans,” it stands to reason that not only were the underlying issues not fully resolved, but that the fact that the Q Continuum was at war with itself in the first place would be hugely destabilising. After what seems to have been millennia of peace and quiet the Q Continuum was shattered by civil conflict, and as we know from out here in the real world, the consequences of wars – even brief ones – can be incredibly devastating and long-lasting.

Q was injured during the conflict.

Even if war never resumed between the two factions, there was still a lot of cleaning up to be done, rebuilding to achieve, and the need for reconciliation between one-time enemies. We don’t know for sure what kind of resources the Q Continuum might need to sustain itself, but it’s possible these were reduced or exhausted by the war, too. In the conflict’s aftermath, it’s even possible that two distinct Q Continuums were created.

Taking the Q Civil War as a starting point, we could argue that a general destabilisation of the Q Contniuum itself may have occurred. In the aftermath of the Civil War, perhaps the Q Continuum even collapsed, and individual members of the Q were left to fend for themselves. Without the support and resources of a united and undamaged Continuum, perhaps individual Q began to lose their powers and their immortality.

Theory #4:
Death by natural causes.

Did Q simply reach the end of his natural lifespan?

This seems to be what Picard Season 2 at least implied was happening to Q. Q gave no explanation for his impending death, seeming not to know why it was happening, and the explanation could simply be that Q reached the end of his natural life. To us, members of the Q Continuum may seem immortal, but it’s possible that they have a natural lifespan – even if it’s imperceptible to humans because it’s measured in millions or billions of years.

Q, despite appearances, may be one of the oldest members of the Q Continuum, and could thus be the first – or the first in many years – to reach such a ripe old age. He may not know what’s happening to him because death is incredibly rare in the Q Continuum, and a death by natural causes or old age simply hasn’t happened in a very long time.

Perhaps Q is the first of his race to reach this point.

We also don’t know how long Q has been flitting about the galaxy – nor how long it has been for Q in between visits to Picard. From Picard’s point of view, he last saw Q approximately 30 years ago (during the events of All Good Things at the end of The Next Generation). But has it only been 30 years for Q?

A being that can travel through time could have spent millions or billions of years away from Picard before reuniting with him. Q could have travelled back in time to the Big Bang and done other things for 13.8 billion years… then gone back to the Big Bang again and spent another 13.8 billion years killing time and doing his own thing before finally returning to Picard. In short, Q may be far, far older than we assume, and it might’ve been a lot longer in between visits than the 30 years of linear time that Picard experienced. All of these could explain why Q was coming to the end of his life.

Bonus Theory:
Q didn’t really die or was saved at the last moment.

Q’s final snap.

If there’s no body, is anyone in film or TV really dead? Star Wars uses this trope to an excessive degree! But maybe it’s true in Star Trek, too. After Q’s final “snap” that sent Picard and the crew of La Sirena back to the 25th Century, we don’t know what became of Q. Did his body dissipate into energy? Was he vaporised? Did his empty corpse collapse in a French vineyard while Rios and Teresa looked on?

Though it would completely undermine the powerful and deeply emotional sequence at the end of Season 2, maybe the real end to this story has yet to be written. Somehow – perhaps through the intervention of another member of the Q Continuum – Q actually survived, or was reborn immediately after sacrificing himself.

Q in what he described as “the afterlife.”

This… would not be my choice. As much fun as Q can be, establishing his death – and making it a huge part of the story of Picard Season 2 – was incredibly important and felt final. To undo that in any way would devastate the entire narrative arc of Picard Season 2. Given that most of the rest of that season’s storylines were weak, taking away one of the most powerful and most emotional moments would leave very little left.

There is scope for Q to return. His time-traveling nature could see him pop up in other stories as long as they took place prior to the events of Picard Season 2 from his perspective. His cameo in Lower Decks Season 1 is a case in point. But to bring back Q in a big way and claim that he somehow survived… I can’t see it working. It would take away so much of what made Picard Season 2 matter. With Picard seemingly ending after Season 3 as well, there’s less of an argument for including Q in a big way in future stories. He’s primarily a Picard-centric character, so if Picard is killed off or his departure from Star Trek is made permanent, there’s less of a reason to bring back this individual Q. Other members of the Continuum, sure. But this Q should probably remain dead.

So that’s it!

Picard and Q embrace.

Picard Season 2 didn’t explain what happened to Q. In terms of the way the story unfolded, it was ultimately “unnecessary” in order to get Picard and Q to come together and for Q to send Picard home to the 25th Century. The reason for Q’s declining health could have been built into the story, giving him additional motivation and focus, but again that didn’t have to happen based on the way the story was written. Finally, Q’s decline meant two things for the story: firstly, he wasn’t unbeatable any more, potentially giving Picard and the others a chance to stop him. And secondly, it meant that Q’s final act of the season – and final moment as a Star Trek character – was one of self-sacrifice, giving up his life to get Picard and his friends home.

Whether all of that worked just as well without an underlying cause is debatable. And I definitely believe that there was room within the story of the season to explain why Q was dying – and perhaps even to tie that into some other part of the franchise – even if such an explanation wasn’t entirely necessary for the story. The season’s story may not have been hanging from this one narrative thread, but even so it might have been worth it. It would certainly have been satisfying for returning fans from The Next Generation era.

Q as he appeared in Lower Decks.

I don’t think anything we saw on screen during Season 2 of Picard actively rules out any of the theories above – although I’d certainly entertain the argument that Q might’ve mentioned something incredibly major such as the Borg assimilation of the entire Q Continuum! But with Star Trek seemingly setting Q aside for the foreseeable future, it falls to us as Trekkies to speculate and propose answers to one of Season 2’s biggest unexplained story points.

I hope this was a bit of fun – or at least interesting. Personally I’d have liked the writers of Picard Season 2 to have come up with some explanation for Q’s death that felt conclusive. Although the Q Continuum and its denizens are difficult for humans to understand, that doesn’t mean there’s total free rein to throw Q into all kinds of different stories and just use “it’s a mystery” or “you’d never get it” as excuses to cover up the fact that no real answer to the question was created in the first place! So while the cause of Q’s death may not have been critical for the story that Picard Season 2 aimed to tell, not even attempting to make up some semblance of an explanation for it definitely leaves me feeling like something was missing as the story came to an end.

In a better and more enjoyable season of Star Trek, maybe I could see past that and revel in the story that was told rather than picking at threads and asking “why wasn’t this included?” But because Picard Season 2 was, at best, a mixed bag with episodes of inconsistent quality… the fact that it ended leaving behind something that feels like it could’ve been significant feels all the worse. But that’s a discussion for another time.

Star Trek: Picard Season 2 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, Scandinavia, Latin America, and Australia, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and the rest of the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Starfield: Why game delays are a good thing

If you missed the announcement, Bethesda Game Studios’ upcoming sci-fi role-playing game Starfield has been delayed. Originally planned for a November 2022 release, that has slipped back to “the first half of 2023,” which potentially means that the game is a year or more away. With Starfield having shown off a cinematic teaser and some concept art but no real gameplay yet, perhaps the delay was not entirely unexpected! Regardless, some folks are upset by this move, with some PlayStation super-fans even hailing it as a “failure” for Xbox. Obviously that isn’t the case, so today we’re going to use Starfield as an example of why delays really are a good thing.

First up, it’s never fun when a game I’m looking forward to receives a delay. I don’t think anyone is trying to pretend that a delay to a highly-anticipated title – particularly a lengthy delay of six months or more – is something that fans and players are thrilled about or want to see. Instead, I’d describe delays as “understandable.” Particularly in light of a number of recent titles that have been disappointing due to feeling like they weren’t ready to go on launch day, I think more and more players are coming around to that point of view.

Concept art for Starfield.

Increasingly, these kinds of announcements are treated with maturity and understanding by players – and you need only look to some of the comments and responses to Bethesda’s announcement about Starfield as a case in point. Yes, there are some folks who are angry or unhappy – toxicity exists within the gaming community, who knew? And there are the aforementioned PlayStation ultra-fans who are taking a victory lap. But many responses were positive, saying something along the lines of “if it needs more time, that’s okay.”

Failing to delay a game when extra development time is clearly required never ends well. A game’s reputation is largely set within a few hours of its release, and attempting to change the narrative once “it’s bad” or “it’s full of bugs and glitches” has become the overwhelming impression is nigh-on impossible. For every No Man’s Sky that manages to pull off some kind of rehabilitation, there are dozens of titles such as Anthem, Aliens: Colonial Marines, or Warcraft III: Reforged. It’s much better to launch a decent game out of the gate than to try to fix a broken mess after players are already upset.

Concept art for Starfield.

One game has done more than any other in recent years to soften attitudes in favour of delays and to remind players just how badly it’s possible to screw up a premature launch: Cyberpunk 2077. Despite receiving a significant delay earlier in 2020, Cyberpunk’s launch in December of that year was so catastrophically bad that the game ended up being forcibly removed from the PlayStation store, found itself widely criticised by players, and it even saw CD Projekt Red’s share price take a tumble from which it has yet to fully recover.

Starfield exists in a similar space to Cyberpunk 2077 – both are role-playing games, both include science-fiction elements, both are open-world titles, and so on – so many of the players anticipating Starfield have been burned already just eighteen months ago by a game that was released far too soon. Those players, perhaps more than any others, are inclined to understand the reasons behind this decision. And even folks who didn’t personally get caught up in the Cyberpunk 2077 mess are at least aware of what happened.

Cyberpunk 2077 needed a delay or two of its own.

In 2022, with so many games having been released too soon, the attitude from players in general has shifted. Where delays may once have been met with a louder backlash from those who felt disappointed, reactions today are more mature and understanding. That’s not to say toxic or aggressive individuals don’t exist or that there won’t be any criticism of such a move, but rather that the scale of backlash that delays receive is now less significant than it used to be.

At the end of the day, even the most aggressive critics of delays are still likely to buy a game that they’re excited for when it’s ready. It would take some serious self-harming spite to say “because you didn’t release the game in 2022 I’m never going to play it ever!” so from Bethesda and parent company Microsoft’s point of view, the longer-term damage is limited. That isn’t true for every company, though.

Bethesda is owned by Microsoft.

Delays have a disproportionate impact on smaller companies and independent developers, because a delay in those cases can potentially mean that there won’t be enough money to fund their project. If a developer only has enough money in the bank to keep the lights on and the computers powered up for a certain number of weeks, then there’s naturally going to be a hard limit on how far they can push back a release – and the income it brings. In those cases, more leniency can be required when assessing a game.

But when we’re dealing with Starfield, Bethesda, and Microsoft, that’s a non-issue! Backed up by one of the biggest corporations on the planet, Bethesda doesn’t need to worry about running out of cash, and from Microsoft’s point of view it’s infinitely better to ensure that Starfield gets all the time that it needs to be ready for prime-time. This is Bethesda’s first big title for Microsoft, their first new IP in years, and a game that has a lot riding on it for the success of Microsoft’s Xbox brand and Xbox Game Pass. Getting it right is so much more important than rigid adherence to arbitrary deadlines, so if release windows need to shift then from a business perspective that’s what makes the most sense.

Starfield is likely to be a big title for bringing in new Game Pass subscribers.

There are instances where release dates are announced that seem, even at the time, to be unrealistic. Bethesda’s 11th of November 2022 release date for Starfield, for instance, came eleven years to the day after another of their titles: Skyrim. In addition to getting the game out in time for the Christmas rush, there was also clearly something poetic or symmetrical about such a release date that was appealing to Bethesda. But they recognised that the release date wasn’t practical and changed it – good for them!

As consumers in this marketplace, I think we have a responsibility not only to call out and criticise companies when they get it wrong, but to at least acknowledge when a correct decision has been made. As I always say, I have no “insider information” – so I don’t know what condition the current version of Starfield may or may not be in – but if the developers, testers, and management at Bethesda have recognised that the game isn’t far enough along to be in with a realistic chance of hitting its release date, then the smart move is to announce a delay as early as possible. That seems to be what they’ve done, and I commend them for it.

Concept art for Starfield.

In an industry and a marketplace that is too demanding of its employees sometimes, delays can be incredibly welcome respite. I’ve talked before about “crunch” – a practice that I have some personal experience with having once worked in the games industry – and that’s another reason why delays can be a positive thing. Maybe Bethesda could have crunched the teams working on Starfield hard enough to get some semblance of a playable title ready in time to hit its planned release date – but if doing so would have come at the expense of those developers and their health, then I wouldn’t want to get Starfield this year.

Crunch is a bigger subject that we’ll need to talk about at length on another occasion, but if a delay like this one helps to minimise the stress and difficulty of working under such conditions, then suffice to say we have one more reason to be supportive.

I’m looking forward to Starfield, despite some missteps by Bethesda in recent years. If this delay means that the game will be significantly more polished, free from as many bugs and glitches as possible, then I’m all for it. If this delay means that developers and staff at Bethesda aren’t pushed too hard and overworked this year, then I’m all for it. And if this delay means that Starfield will be an all-around more enjoyable experience, then I’m all for it. Though there will be critics and a vocal minority of toxic “fans,” more and more players are coming around to this way of thinking. Delay Starfield if necessary, and if it isn’t ready for the first half of 2023 then delay it again! All that really matters is that the game is in the best possible shape when it finally arrives, and if that means waiting a little longer, that’s fine by me.

Starfield has been delayed and is now due for release sometime in the first half of 2023. Starfield is the copyright of Bethesda Softworks, Bethesda Game Studios, and the Microsoft Corporation. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Looking ahead to Avatar: The Way of Water

It’s been a while since we talked about Avatar. Actually, scratch that. It’s been a while since anybody talked about Avatar and its upcoming sequels, with the sci-fi blockbuster having largely dropped out of our collective cultural conversation in the decade since its release. But with the first of four planned sequels due for release in just a few months’ time, James Cameron’s sci-fi series is kicking off its marketing campaign.

In addition to the film’s official title being revealed, we also got the first teaser trailer. Having caught a glimpse of Pandora and the Na’vi, I thought it could be interesting to look ahead and preview what the film may be when it finally hits cinemas later this year.

James Cameron, director of Avatar: The Way of Water.

I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Avatar. I didn’t hate it or even particularly dislike it, but it was the kind of blockbuster that I just haven’t felt a desperately pressing need to revisit. While its story and characters weren’t bad by any means, nothing Avatar did managed to succeed at creating a world that I can’t get enough of. Avatar was fine – but unlike something like Star Trek or Star Wars, the first film didn’t inspire a huge fan community nor create the sense of scale or the feeling that there’s a great deal more to its world that we desperately need to see.

I re-watched Avatar about eighteen months ago, and I’ve probably seen the film four or five times over the past decade. But could I tell you its plot in any detail or recite some of my favourite lines? How about picking my favourite character(s)… or even remembering the names of the main ones? Aside from the moon of Pandora, is there anywhere else in Avatar’s fictional universe that I’d want to explore? The answer to all of the above is “no,” as you may have guessed.

Official logo for Avatar: The Way of Water.

So that’s the position I’m in as we look ahead to Avatar: The Way of Water (which my brain keeps calling The Shape of Water like that other film from a couple of years ago). But although I might be cruel enough to call some aspects of Avatar “forgettable,” there are reasons for positivity. For one, the science fiction realm always has space for new and expanding franchises, and while I doubt any will ever topple Star Wars or Star Trek, there’s definitely scope to add the likes of Avatar into the mix.

Like its predecessor, Avatar: The Way of Water has a colossal budget, and we will undoubtedly be in for a film whose design, aesthetic, and visual style will be beautiful and immersive. With CGI and other special effects having improved dramatically over the past decade, some of the “video gamey” feel of the first film – with its slightly too smooth and shiny textures – should have been mitigated. While The Way of Water will still be so heavily reliant on CGI as to be basically fully-animated for long sequences, CGI animation in 2022 can look a heck of a lot better than it did in 2009.

A Na’vi taking a swim.

To my surprise, I must admit, the teaser trailer for The Way of Water racked up well over ten million views on YouTube in the 48 hours after it was published there, with several million additional views across other social media platforms. For a time, the teaser trailer was the #1 trending video on YouTube, so there’s clearly still interest in Avatar from the general public – even if most folks haven’t rewatched the first film in a long time!

The teaser trailer itself was a stylised affair, heavy on the soundtrack, that showed off a few interesting-looking locations but that revealed practically nothing by way of narrative or plot. At this stage that could be okay; it’s a tease to renew interest in a franchise that has been dormant for more than a decade. But I wonder if there was enough substance in the 90-second teaser to really kick off a marketing campaign that will need to rebuild interest in the world of Avatar between now and the holiday season.

Sully.

There were a few moments in the teaser trailer that looked genuinely interesting. At one point we saw what appeared to be Na’vi and humans working together, or at the very least Na’vi being shown around a human facility that seemed to be under construction. Whether that means that humanity’s presence on Pandora is growing is not clear. We also saw Na’vi carrying human weapons and wearing what appeared to be body armour; again this could suggest some kind of team-up between at least one human faction and Sully’s Na’vi tribe.

We also got our first look at the much-vaunted underwater motion capture technology, something that has apparently been developed by James Cameron and his team for the new film. The technology wasn’t ready a decade ago, but having worked on it over the past few years, The Way of Water is now leaning on it as a selling-point.

Are humans and Na’vi cooperating?

There have been great underwater sequences in films before, and the very brief clip shown off in the teaser trailer isn’t a lot to go on. I think we’ll have to reserve judgement on how well the underwater motion capture stuff works – as well as how “groundbreaking” or original it makes the finished picture look – until we’ve seen a lot more footage. I don’t want to jump the gun and say it was underwhelming based on a few seconds’ worth of video that was compressed for YouTube!

It’s no bad thing to experiment and try new techniques; that’s the only way that cinema – or any medium, come to that – can ever grow and develop. Whether the gruelling process of underwater motion capture will catch on and become something we see other titles pick up in future is anyone’s guess at this stage. I would say, though, that behind-the-scenes photos and interviews seem to suggest that this particular filmmaking process is hard work!

Underwater motion capture for Avatar: The Way of Water.

James Cameron put a lot of energy into Avatar. A whole Na’vi language was constructed by linguistics experts, and while that isn’t something entirely unique for a sci-fi property (hello, Klingon) it does show how seriously Cameron and others took the project. Seeing Avatar expand beyond its original film and begin to take advantage of some of that hard work is something I’d like to see happen, and there’s always going to be room for more high-quality sci-fi.

Expanding on the story of Avatar – which was left somewhat open-ended back in 2009 – could be fun, and I hope that the story will go in a different and perhaps unexpected direction. The original film took flak for its perceived unoriginality, so this first sequel could be an opportunity to break away from that.

Though I’m not going to rush out and be the first in line for Avatar: The Way of Water on release day, I’m hopeful that it’ll be a decent sci-fi title when it’s ready. As the first of four sequels to the original film, this could be a franchise that we’ll discuss a lot in the years ahead.

Avatar: The Way of Water is scheduled to be released on the 16th of December 2022. The Avatar series – including The Way of Water – is the copyright of 20th Century Studios and/or The Walt Disney Company. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Picard theories – Season 2 finale

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2 and casting information for Season 3. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: DiscoveryEnterprise, VoyagerFirst Contact, and The Next Generation.

After a plodding and occasionally frustrating season, Star Trek: Picard wrapped up this week. Going into the season finale we still had more than twenty theories on the table – though some were definitely beginning to feel unlikely! This week we’re going to conclude my Season 2 theory list and take a look at how some of those remaining theories landed.

Across the season as a whole, I had some theory successes – as well as more than a few misses! But as I always say, all of this is just for fun – so the theories that ended up being completely wrong are totally fine by me! It was enjoyable to spend the extra time thinking about where the story of Picard Season 2 could be headed, and even when I was wide of the mark it was still a great excuse to dive deeply into the Star Trek galaxy.

So without any further ado, let’s start wrapping up the theory list. We’ll begin with the theories that were confirmed, then take a look at the ones that were debunked. There are also a couple of theories that may survive going into Season 3, so stay tuned in the days and weeks ahead for a preliminary Season 3 theory list!

Confirmed theory #1:
A character from The Next Generation made an appearance.

Wesley Crusher!

Wesley Crusher’s return was one of the high points of the season finale for me! After a thirty-year absence from the role, Wil Wheaton stepped back into the shoes of Wesley Crusher and showed us a glimpse of his life as a Traveler. The fact that this was kept secret and not spoiled ahead of time made it one of the biggest surprise moments in the finale – and while I had been speculating that at least one character from The Next Generation would appear all season long, I would’ve never guessed that it would be Wesley!

With the rest of The Next Generation crew reuniting next season, it’s incredibly sweet that we got this moment with Wesley before Picard wrapped up. It would’ve been amazing to see him reunite with Picard himself, of course, but just seeing Wesley back in action, knowing that he’s living an amazing life and that he still exists in the Star Trek timeline was absolutely fantastic.

Wesley’s appearance also tied together the Travelers from The Next Generation with the Watchers and Supervisors from The Original Series – and connected in a big way with Tallinn’s role this season. It was an incredibly creative way to bring these storylines together and to connect with over fifty years’ worth of Star Trek’s history. All in all, one of the season finale’s best moments.

Confirmed theory #2:
Seven of Nine was given a Starfleet commission.

Captain Seven!

Maybe it would be fairer to call this one “semi-confirmed,” as Seven’s commission from Admiral Picard in Farewell seemed very much like a brevet; a less-than-official or impermanent role that came about as a result of the unique circumstances of working with the Borg. But regardless, I had speculated that Seven would join Starfleet before the end of the season, and technically that happened!

It was a fun moment to see Seven assume command of the USS Stargazer, but moreover I was impressed with the way her season-long arc took her from a place where she hated the Borg (and the Borg side of herself) and was advocating for shooting first and asking questions later all the way to placing her trust in the Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid. Seven’s growth got her to a place where her trust and her actions allowed her to play a definitive role in saving the entire quadrant from the mysterious anomaly.

Confirmed theory #3:
The Borg’s request for help from the Federation turned out to be genuine.

This is the disaster that the Borg wanted to prevent.

It was implied in The Star Gazer at the beginning of the season that the Borg’s message may have been a ruse; a deception that was intended to be the pretext for a new Borg invasion of the Federation. However, just because some of our characters believed that to be true didn’t mean it was true, and I wondered whether the story might end up saying that the Borg were genuinely asking for the Federation’s help.

That turned out to be correct – in a roundabout way, of course. The Borg weren’t fleeing from some unknown assailant, as I had speculated, nor were they crippled following the events of Voyager’s finale. Their intention was to help – to join with the Federation and use their technology to prevent the attack on the Alpha Quadrant by whoever sent the mysterious anomaly.

Confirmed theory #4:
The masked, hooded Borg was not the “real” Borg Queen.

The Borg Queen, unmasked.

I daresay this one had been increasingly obvious for at least half of the season, and especially after the way Hide and Seek had ended a week earlier, it seemed all but certain that the Borg Queen on the bridge of the Stargazer would turn out to be the Dr Jurati hybrid as opposed to the original Borg Queen. This turned out to be true – although why Farewell attempted to treat this as a big, shocking revelation is something I’m not sure of!

Ever since we first saw the masked Borg Queen at the beginning of the season I felt sure we’d find out who was behind the mask. Along with Dr Jurati, earlier in the season I’d suggested Admiral Janeway, Soji, and Renée Picard as possible candidates.

Confirmed theory #5:
Elnor was restored to life in the 25th Century.

Cadet Elnor aboard the USS Excelsior.

I’m afraid that I don’t like the way that Elnor’s story was handled as the season wrapped up. On the one hand, I’m pleased that a character like Elnor – who has a lot of potential as someone young and from a unique background – hasn’t been permanently killed off. However, his survival undermines Raffi’s season-long arc of coming to terms with guilt and grief, as well as renders one of the best and most emotional moments in Hide and Seek entirely impotent.

Regardless of all that, I had been speculating that Elnor would be saved ever since he was killed, and as I said last time, I wasn’t prepared to drop the theory with only one week remaining in the season. I’m glad I didn’t – because it turns out I was right and this is another one I can place in the “win” column for Season 2!

Confirmed theory #6:
Rios chose to remain in the 21st Century with Teresa and Ricardo.

Rios chose to stay behind.

This was another disappointing storyline, unfortunately. As I’d been saying all season long, the way Rios regressed as a character from his presentation as a Starfleet captain at the beginning of the season was ridiculously poor, and his choice to stay in the 21st Century really just capped off what has been a truly disappointing season for him.

Rios spent most of his time in Season 2 disconnected from all of the other main characters, spending his time only with Ricardo and Teresa, so even his goodbye with the other characters didn’t hit as hard as it could’ve. As I said last time, I never really felt that Rios and Picard were anything more than acquaintances; work friends, not real friends. Also, I guess Rios must’ve not been paying attention in history classes at Starfleet Academy, because World War III is about to break out, followed by the post-atomic horror. He’s about to live through the worst fifty years in all of human history in the Star Trek timeline. So… good job, idiot.

Confirmed theory #7:
Q shielded Picard and the crew from the changes to the timeline.

Oh, Q.

The season finale finally saw us get an explanation from Q as to what he’d done and why. As part of a plan to help Picard overcome trauma and grief from his childhood and his mother’s death, Q set a very elaborate plan into motion, changing the past and ensuring that Picard and the crew of La Sirena were the only ones unaffected.

As we saw in the finale, Q’s powers could be used to send people’s consciousnesses through time or even across the divide between different realities, meaning that must’ve been what he did in the first place to set up this puzzle. It had seemed all but certain that this was the case, but until we heard from Q himself and gave him the chance to explain what had happened I wasn’t ready to call it confirmed.

So those theories were confirmed.

We have one theory that I’m calling “semi-confirmed,” but we won’t be sure about its status until we start to learn more about Season 3.

Semi-confirmed theory:
The season will end on a cliffhanger.

The mysterious anomaly.

What’s going on with the anomaly? We didn’t get any kind of explanation for what it was, where it came from, or who might be responsible for attempting to destroy the entire Alpha Quadrant… so I think that this is setting up at least part of next season’s story. If that’s correct, then this theory that I’d been running all season long will, in a roundabout way, turn out to be correct!

However, if the anomaly isn’t revisited next time, we’ll have to call this one debunked. At the moment it feels like we’ll have to come back to the anomaly in some way, just based on its mysterious and unexplained nature, but then again the Season 1 super-synths (and other Season 1 plot threads) didn’t come back into play in any way during Season 2… so I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Regardless, I’m calling it “semi-confirmed” for now.

So that theory was semi-confirmed.

Now we’ll go through the theories that were debunked by Farewell and definitely won’t be returning for Season 3!

Debunked theory #1:
Some or all of the main characters from The Next Generation will rescue Picard from 2024.

The main cast of The Next Generation in Season 5.

I had wondered if, with Picard stranded in the 21st Century, some or all of the main characters from The Next Generation would show up to rescue him. Given that Q’s powers seemed to be in decline, and with few other options for getting back to the 25th Century, it seemed like a plausible idea, one that could’ve potentially set the stage for Season 3. It would’ve also tied in thematically with what we saw at the end of Season 1, where Acting Captain Riker arrived at the last minute to save the day.

However, it didn’t happen. Q was able to use the last of his energy to get Picard home, and the only character from The Next Generation to appear was the aforementioned Wesley Crusher.

Debunked theory #2:
The “two Renées” comment refers to Picard’s nephew.

René Picard – not to be confused with Renée Picard.

Though it would’ve been somewhat of a bolt from the blue, I was wondering if the Borg Queen’s cryptic comment in Hide and Seek about there being “two Renées” might’ve been referring to Picard’s nephew. In the prime timeline, René Picard was the son of Jean-Luc’s brother Robert. The two were killed in a fire at the vineyard during the events of Star Trek: Generations, and I wondered if the Borg Queen may have been referring to that moment as it was another significant one for Picard and his family.

As it turned out, “two Renées” were required to complete the mission. With Dr Adam Soong on the prowl, Tallinn disguised herself as Renée and allowed Dr Soong to kill her in order for the real Renée to board the Europa Mission spacecraft, setting up her significant discovery and the role she would ultimately play in creating the brighter future that we’ve come to know in Star Trek.

Debunked theory #3:
An alternate reality is about to be created.

“An alternate reality?”

With the Dr Jurati-Borg Queen hybrid departing Earth in the 21st Century, and a cryptic message about “two Renées” to consider, I wondered if the end of the season might’ve seen some kind of permanent divergence in the timeline. One timeline may have been the familiar one, but the other could’ve been completely different either because of a very different Borg Collective or even because of the actions of Dr Adam Soong.

That didn’t happen, however, and it seems as though the prime timeline has been restored without the Confederation timeline – or indeed any other alternate reality – coming into existence. That keeps things nice and simple, at least!

Debunked theory #4:
The loose ends from Season 1 will be tied up.

What happened to Narek?

I’m disappointed that Picard Season 2 did basically nothing at all to wrap up any of the loose ends from Season 1 – and there were quite a few. A rushed finale last time around left significant chunks of story still on the table, and there were some pretty sizeable unanswered questions remaining. Even just a few lines of dialogue would’ve been something, but we didn’t get that.

It’s possible that Season 3 may bring back a faction like the super-synths, in which case we may learn more about them or see other connections to events from Season 1, so I’m not entirely giving up on this one. But explanations for what happened to Narek, what became of the surviving ex-Borg, the fate of the beacon on Aia, and so on could’ve been addressed this time. It’s a shame that there wasn’t time to do so.

Debunked theory #5:
Picard and the crew will “borrow” Renée’s Europa Mission spacecraft to get home.

The Europa Mission launch.

With La Sirena having been surrendered to the Borg Queen, the question of how Picard and the surviving crew might make it home came up. I wondered if part of the reason for making Renée an astronaut with access to a spacecraft might be so that Picard and the others could use it to return to their own time period. Comments earlier in the season about how records of the Europa Mission had been lost could’ve also fed into this theory.

As above, it was ultimately Q who saved the day, sending Picard and the crew home using what remained of his power. I wasn’t especially fond of the Renée and Europa Mission storylines, so this could’ve been a way to make them feel more directly relevant to the plot.

Debunked theory #6:
Q is not responsible for changing the timeline.

Q’s final snap.

This is a theory that I put together before the season had even aired a single episode! In short, I felt that making Q the direct antagonist of the season would go against his established characterisation, and that there didn’t seem to be a plausible reason why Q might want to punish Picard in such extreme fashion. It also seemed odd that pre-season marketing had essentially revealed one of the season’s biggest narrative points months in advance, so I wondered if there might be more going on than we had been led to believe.

Whatever we might think of Q’s reasoning, it turned out that he was responsible for changing the timeline after all – something that had been seeming increasingly likely as the season wore on. The resolution to this story was undeniably rushed, and I would question the idea of putting so many lives at risk – as well as getting people killed and transforming the destinies of others – but ultimately this is how Q decided to help Picard learn to let go of his trauma and grief and choose to become the person he has been. In a sense, there were echoes of Tapestry – a Season 6 episode of The Next Generation – in the way this came about, making it feel in line with other Q stories at least to a degree.

In retrospect, clinging on to this theory for as long as I did may have been a mistake, and it could have arguably been debunked at an earlier stage.

Debunked theory #7:
Other candidates for changing the timeline.

The super-synths.

Earlier in the season I’d proposed a few other candidates who might’ve been responsible for changing the timeline if, in fact, Q had been innocent! Though there are many factions in Star Trek that could potentially possess time travel technology and might wish to mess with the Federation, based on what we knew about Picard I proposed three candidates: the Zhat Vash, the secretive Romulan sect who were the main antagonists in Season 1, the super-synths from the Season 1 finale, and the Borg. By the time we got to Farewell this week, only the Borg seemed even slightly plausible.

But with the revelation that Q was responsible for changing the timeline and setting everything up, none of that came to pass! It could’ve made for an interesting story in some respects, with Q being less an outright antagonist and more of a helpful force, guiding Picard to the conclusion of the mystery. But that would have been an entirely different story!

Debunked theory #8:
The Borg are fighting a war – and they’re losing.

The Borg ship in Farewell.

The Borg’s cry for help at the beginning of the season led to a lot of speculation! Why might the Borg be asking for help, and why from Picard specifically? One possibility seemed to be that the Borg may be on the losing side of a war. We’d seen this story play out in the Voyager episode Scorpion – in which Seven of Nine was first introduced – when the Borg bit off more than they could chew by trying to assimilate Species 8472! It seemed at least possible that something similar could have happened this time around.

As above, we learned that the Borg’s motive was significantly more altruistic. Led by the Dr Jurati hybrid, this version of the Collective aimed to prevent an anomaly from causing a destructive event that would’ve wiped out the Alpha Quadrant.

Debunked theory #9:
Kore Soong will team up with Picard and the crew of La Sirena.

Kore Soong.

Although the arrival of Wesley Crusher (one of the finale’s best moments) salvaged an ending for Kore, her storyline this season was one of the absolute worst and most meaningless. Kore was repetitive, and her story felt like a cheap recycling of the Soji and Dahj stories from Season 1. She mainly existed to prop up the otherwise entirely one-dimensional Dr Adam Soong, and while at first it seemed like her existence and mysterious health condition could’ve led to a nuanced and interesting antagonist, that went out the window pretty quickly.

One way to have potentially made something of Kore would’ve been to have her work with Picard and the others to stop her father. It didn’t happen, and that meant that there was literally no on-screen interaction between Isa Briones and the rest of the cast, which was a real shame.

Debunked theory #10:
The Q Continuum has been attacked.

Picard and Q.

While not technically “debunked” outright, Q’s apparent death means that revisiting the Q Continuum is incredibly unlikely in the near future. And as we learned in Discovery Season 4, there’s been no Federation-Q Continuum contact for hundreds of years as of the 32nd Century, so again it seems highly unlikely that spending any more time with other members of the Q Continuum is on the cards.

Earlier in the season it seemed plausible that the explanation for Q’s declining powers could be that the entire Q Continuum had come under attack. If something that Picard had done – or hadn’t done – was responsible, that could have explained both Q’s desire to change the timeline and the angrier, more aggressive presentation of the character.

It didn’t happen, though, and although Q himself seems to be gone, as far as we know the rest of the Continuum is okay!

Debunked theory #11:
Q is angry with Picard for “giving up.”

Grumpy Q.

This is again connected to the angrier presentation of Q that we saw in episodes like Penance. I wondered if Q’s motivation for putting Picard through a punishment might be because he was angry with the way Picard gave up and recused himself from galactic affairs in the decade leading up to Season 1. Because we know Q considered Picard as a friend and a favourite, seeing him depressed might’ve been something that angered Q.

Q saw potential in Picard in The Next Generation – including the potential for humanity to one day achieve a similar level of understanding as the Q themselves, so seeing Picard’s fall from grace could have been part of why Q was so upset.

Ultimately it didn’t turn out that way – and I think I’m glad that it didn’t. Though there are definitely issues with the story as it was written, this presentation of Q would have been much more antagonistic and vengeful.

Debunked theory #12:
The Borg are aware that Picard is now a synth – and his synthetic status is part of the reason why they waited until now to make contact.

Robo-Picard.

In short, I wondered if the reason for the Borg’s re-emergence at the beginning of the season might’ve been connected in some way to Picard becoming a synth at the end of Season 1. Because we know that the Borg seek “perfection” through the merging of organic and synthetic life, Picard’s new synthetic body might’ve been something that they desired to assimilate.

As above, the story of Season 2 was a standalone affair that didn’t connect to Season 1 in a major way. Aside from one mention by Q in the episode Penance and one by Rios in Assimilation, Picard’s synthetic status wasn’t brought up and had no bearing on the plot.

Debunked theory #13:
The Borg ship from The Star Gazer crossed over from the Confederation timeline.

The Borg vessel identified as “Legion.”

Because we didn’t know why the Borg were asking for help, I wondered if their vessel might’ve somehow found a way to punch through from the Confederation timeline to the prime timeline. This might’ve been able to happen if an alternate reality had been created, one in which the Confederation became dominant.

We now know the Borg vessel’s true origin: it was the flagship (or possibly the only ship) of the Borg faction led by the Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid, placing it firmly in the prime timeline.

Debunked theory #14:
Rios will bring Teresa and Ricardo to the 25th Century.

Teresa and Rios aboard La Sirena.

An inversion of what actually happened with Rios and Teresa, this story would’ve mimicked that of Kirk and Dr Gillian Taylor in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Dr Taylor accompanied Kirk and the others to the 23rd Century at the conclusion of their mission, and I wondered whether Rios might offer Teresa and Ricardo the same opportunity.

As noted above, Rios ultimately chose to stay in the 21st Century. Though we don’t know whether Q even had the power to send two extra people, it seems possible at least. But for whatever reason, Rios chose to remain behind.

Debunked theory #15:
Teresa and Ricardo are Rios’ ancestors.

That could’ve been awkward…

One way to potentially resolve the Rios-Teresa romance could’ve been to make Teresa and Ricardo his distant ancestors! This would’ve also tied in thematically with a season in which Picard met one of his own ancestors, and it could’ve provided some entertainment value, similar to comparable storylines in the likes of Back to the Future.

Debunked theory #16:
Rios will be killed and Picard will assume command of the new USS Stargazer.

Rios in the captain’s chair of the USS Stargazer.

As Rios’ storyline progressed and his relationship with Teresa deepened, I wondered if he might’ve ended up dead as a way to write him out of the show. Picard hasn’t pulled any punches when it comes to killing off characters, and with a need to free up space in the cast ahead of Season 3, Rios definitely seemed in danger after a story that cut him adrift from the rest of the crew.

Rios would ultimately end up staying in the 21st Century, and the captaincy of the Stargazer has fallen, in the short-term at least, to Seven of Nine. Whether she’ll still be in the chair when Season 3 arrives is anyone’s guess, though!

So those theories were debunked.

We have two theories that Farewell seems to have neither confirmed nor debunked, and those remain possibilities going into Season 3. It depends on what we see in terms of pre-release trailers and the like, but these two might just sneak back in next time. Watch this space!

Returning theory #1:
The Borg Collective was badly damaged in the Voyager episode Endgame and has been unable to recover.

Admiral Janeway and the Borg Queen.

It seemed to be suggested by Dr Jurati in the season premiere that the Borg have been in a weakened state, and I wondered if that might be because of the actions of a time-travelling Admiral Janeway in Voyager’s finale. Janeway introduced a virus into the Borg Queen that severely damaged her, her base of operations, and dozens of Borg vessels on the way to helping Voyager make it back to Earth. Those events have never been addressed on screen, and with the return of the Borg it seemed possible that we might be about to learn more.

It didn’t happen in Season 2, but with the Borg back – at least, one faction of Borg – maybe we’ll discover the extent of the damage to the Collective in Season 3. I’ve long assumed that the Borg were adaptable and clever enough to eventually recover from the damage inflicted upon them, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see!

Returning theory #2:
There will be a Borg civil war between a faction inspired by the Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid and the rest of the Collective.

The Dr Jurati-Borg Queen hybrid.

We don’t know exactly how the Dr Jurati-led Borg and the rest of the Collective have interacted in the four centuries since she left Earth. At one point it seemed to be implied that this faction would replace the Borg Collective, but doing so would effectively wipe out the entire prime timeline. So I have to assume that the Dr Jurati-led Borg are distinct and separate from the main Collective – but would the rest of the Borg be okay with that?

I had speculated that we might learn that the Jurati-Borg were fleeing from a civil war, one in which the regular Borg had somehow gained the upper hand. That could have accounted for their request for help from the Federation. However, that didn’t happen in Farewell… but I don’t think we can rule out the idea of these factions being at odds just yet.

So those theories may return in time for Season 3!

The USS Excelsior.

That concludes this season’s theory list. In addition to the pair of stragglers directly above, Farewell did actually inspire a couple of other Season 3 theory ideas, so perhaps in the days or weeks ahead I’ll put together a very preliminary Season 3 theory list. Watch this space for that!

Picard Season 2 wasn’t the best that modern Star Trek has had to offer. Its modern-day setting hampered it to a great degree, and while there were occasional flashes of brilliance, overall the story felt quite disjointed, with individuals or pairs of characters seemingly embroiled in their own distinct narratives for the most part, with only occasional link-ups between different storylines.

The USS Stargazer.

That being said, it was fun to speculate and theorise about the season while it was rumbling along. I had some interesting ideas along the way – some of which would’ve made for a radically different story! At the end of the day, this is all just for fun; a chance to spend more time in the Star Trek galaxy. And I had fun coming up with these theories and writing them down while the season was ongoing.

Season 3 already has some issues – and if you want to see me talk about some of my criticisms of the casting in particular, click or tap here for that. However, the return of The Next Generation characters is a tantalising idea, and I’m hopeful that Picard Season 3 – supposedly the show’s swansong – will be exciting, dramatic, and fun.

Over the weeks and months ahead, stay tuned. There’s plenty more Star Trek content to come here on the website, and when we get trailers or news about Season 3 I’ll do my best to take a look at it and give my thoughts. Until next time!

Star Trek: Picard Season 2 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, Scandinavia, Latin America, and Australia, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and the rest of the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Picard Season 3 – thoughts on the casting situation

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2 and casting/character announcements for Season 3. Spoilers are also present for Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 and Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-2.

Star Trek: Picard’s second season wrapped up a couple of days ago, and even as the dust settles on the show’s latest outing we’re already beginning to see Season 3 take shape. Filming on Picard Season 3 has been underway for months; Seasons 2 and 3 entered production back-to-back, so we have a good chance of seeing it in the early part of 2023 as things currently stand.

Today I wanted to take a peek behind the curtain and talk about some production-side announcements that are related to Season 3 – in particular, which characters might not be included in the new season. This is serious spoiler territory for Season 3, so if you don’t want to know who may or may not be reprising their roles (and you ignored the giant warning at the top of the article), this is your last chance to avoid Season 3 spoilers!

The USS Stargazer in Farewell.

The only way I can describe what I’ve learned about Season 3 is that the Picard cast has been massacred. At time of writing, we have confirmations (or as-good-as confirmations) that Orla Brady, Isa Briones, Santiago Cabrera, Evan Evagora, and Alison Pill won’t be returning for Season 3. That means Laris, Soji/Kore/Sutra, Rios, Elnor, and Dr Jurati/the Borg Queen won’t be included in any meaningful way in the new season.

These departures make way for the returning main cast members from The Next Generation (minus Wil Wheaton and Denise Crosby), who will be reprising their roles as Riker, Troi, Worf, Dr Crusher, La Forge, and a currently-unknown character in the case of Data actor Brent Spiner. As nice as it will be to welcome them back to Star Trek, I can’t help but feel that this decision is the wrong one – or at the very least that the Picard cast departures have been handled particularly poorly.

The cast of The Next Generation in Season 2.

In Farewell, the Season 2 finale, Captain Rios and Dr Jurati got goodbyes… of a sort. Rios’ goodbye felt permanent as he chose to remain in the 21st Century after falling for Teresa; the Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid had less of a “goodbye” and more of a “see you later,” but I guess in the context of her season-long arc we can at least call it an ending. But Elnor, Laris, and Soji didn’t even get the most basic of goodbyes.

Soji was Season 1’s second main character along with Picard himself. She was both the driving force behind the plot of the first six episodes and a major character in her own right, and her story of learning the truth of her synthetic origin and coming to terms with that was something that Star Trek had never really tackled before. More significantly, Soji led Picard to her people’s homeworld: Coppelius.

Soji in Season 1.

The discovery of the Coppelius synths led to the unravelling of the Zhat Vash plot, as well as uncovered the role of Commodore Oh as a spy within Starfleet. It provided Starfleet with an explanation for the attack on Mars a decade earlier and for the cover-up aboard the USS Ibn Majid. It transformed Starfleet from a semi-antagonist with an inward-looking, almost xenophobic edge back into a faction worthy of support. It’s a landmark moment in the history of this post-Nemesis era.

Soji was instrumental in all of that, as well as in contacting and then not contacting the unnamed faction of super-synths. We spent a lot of time with her across Season 1, and I’d point to some of her scenes with Kestra in Nepenthe and her role in The Impossible Box as being two of the big highlights. Unfortunately, Soji was completely sidelined in Season 2, not taking part in the mission back in time or the stand-off with the Borg in any way… but there was still scope to bring her back.

Soji was sidelined for all of Season 2.

Elnor’s absence – if indeed it is confirmed; at this point it’s only been mentioned by actor Evan Evagora on social media – feels utterly inexcusable to me. After Elnor had been killed in the Season 2 episode Assimilation, his death served as a major motivating factor for Raffi’s character arc, and coming to terms with her guilt and remorse were key components of her storyline. This culminated in a beautiful sequence in the episode Hide and Seek in which Raffi was able to speak to a holographic recreation of Elnor and come to terms with what had happened – accepting his death and letting go of at least some of the guilt that had been plaguing her.

This story was already muddled – and I would argue that its beautifully emotional conclusion was severely undermined – by the decision to resurrect Elnor in the Season 2 finale just one episode later. As much as I wanted to see Elnor’s story continue – as I feel he’s a character with huge potential – his death and Raffi’s acceptance of it seemed to be permanent, and undermining what had been one of Hide and Seek’s best moments wasn’t something that the season needed in its final minutes.

Holo-Elnor in Season 2.

But now to learn that Elnor isn’t coming back after all… I just don’t get it. For the sake of two minutes of screen time in the season finale and a look of relief on Raffi’s face, why not just leave Elnor dead if he has no role in Season 3? That would’ve at least given Raffi’s main narrative arc in Season 2 some significance. Most of the impact of what Raffi went through had been blunted by Elnor’s survival, and while we could certainly argue that she learned something from the experience, it smacks of the whole “it was all just a dream” story trope that resets everything back to the way it was.

Given that there seems to be no role for Elnor in Season 3, he may as well have stayed dead. At least his death would’ve mattered, spurring on Raffi to learn a lesson and grow as a person – growth that could stick around and continue to provide inspiration to her in whatever story comes next. Having him survive only to be shuffled off-screen anyway, presumably assigned to a different starship, just feels completely hollow and meaningless.

It seems as though there’s no place for Cadet Elnor in Season 3.

Although Laris hadn’t been a major character, her romantic interest in Picard was one of the main factors involved in kicking off the plot. As it turned out, Q wanted Picard to process grief and trauma that he’d carried since childhood – something that seems to have prevented him from forming longlasting relationships. In that sense, Laris was an incredibly important character for the series – and the closing moments of the Season 2 finale implied that she and Picard will indeed be striking up a new romantic relationship.

But if we aren’t going to see that relationship unfold on screen, if it’s just going to be relegated to that one scene at the end of Season 2, it again raises some pretty big questions. It’s beginning to feel that the decision to bring back The Next Generation characters in Season 3 has already undermined some significant story beats from Season 2, cutting them off at the knees and preventing the next – and final – chapter of the story from developing them further and taking them to their natural conclusions.

Picard with Laris at the beginning of Season 2.

When Star Trek: Picard was first announced, I didn’t want it to be The Next Generation Season 8. That’s a neat idea – but it wasn’t what this series was. I wanted to see some of these new characters grow on me and be given the opportunity to become fan-favourites for the next generation (pun intended) of Star Trek fans.

If the Star Trek franchise is to survive in the long-term, it can’t simply copy what Star Wars is doing and rely on cheap overloads of nostalgia. It has to continue to grow and develop, and new characters have to be given equal standing alongside legacy characters. In thirty-five years’ time, it’s my genuine hope that fans will be just as excited for Star Trek: Elnor as we have been for Star Trek: Picard… but in order for that to happen, we need to be spending more time with these characters. Having them cut entirely from the final season of the show – several of them without any kind of goodbye or send-off – doesn’t just sting because we won’t get to enjoy more adventures with them or see what comes next, but it could seriously damage Star Trek’s long-term prospects.

The Star Trek: Picard main cast. Only two are confirmed to be part of Season 3.

When The Next Generation characters have come back, what’s next? We’ve already had Voyager characters come back in Picard and in Prodigy, so that only leaves Deep Space Nine of the 24th Century shows. If future projects recycle characters from Deep Space Nine and Enterprise, there’ll be nobody left! Star Trek has to expand – to build on the legacy of the shows and characters that came before. What it mustn’t do is keep trying to bring back those characters and relive those past successes.

The Next Generation and the other shows of that era are in the past – and while there’s definitely potential to revisit characters like Jean-Luc Picard, it’s worth remembering that Star Trek is more than just a handful of familiar faces. Since at least 1987, when The Original Series passed the torch to The Next Generation in the first place, that’s a lesson that the Star Trek franchise has done well to take to heart. The Star Trek galaxy is vast, populated with billions or perhaps trillions of individuals across thousands of planets, and it’s ripe for exploration! Narrowing the franchise’s focus to a handful of characters from older shows is not what Star Trek is about – and it never has been.

Captain Rios at the beginning of Season 2.

Until now, I’ve felt that modern Star Trek has struck a pretty good balance between the old and the new. Discovery introduced us to brand-new characters, but tied its main protagonist to Spock and Sarek, before reintroducing Captain Pike. Picard focused on Picard himself, of course, but instead of sending him off on an adventure with his old crew, it brought some genuinely interesting new characters on board. Unfortunately, we’re now learning that several of them won’t stick around… and I find that to be quite disappointing.

I suppose the good news is that these characters still exist, and if Picard serves as a jumping-off point for potential new spin-off series, miniseries, or films set in the early 25th Century, it may be possible to revisit some of them. But I’m not going to hold my breath for that, at least not in the short-term. There are other Star Trek projects in the works, but with characters like Elnor having received precious little development across two seasons of Picard, it’s my suspicion that he’ll simply drop off the face of the galaxy never to be revisited.

Dr Jurati got a significant arc in Season 2… but won’t return for Season 3.

That’s all there is to say for now, I guess. Decisions have already been made and the new season – which will supposedly be Picard’s last – is already well underway in terms of production, so it’s clearly far too late to change any of that now. Star Trek’s past is, of course, filled with one-off characters; guest stars who appeared in an episode or two before disappearing forever. And there have been main cast members who were shuffled off their respective shows in unceremonious ways. None of it is new – but that doesn’t make it any less disappointing.

I was genuinely looking forward to spending more time with the likes of Elnor, Soji, Laris, and potentially the Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid. Had you asked me shortly after the Season 2 premiere I’d have said that a Captain Rios spin-off has real potential, too. The return of The Next Generation crew isn’t bad… but I wish that their returns didn’t have to come at the expense of some wonderful characters that we’ve only just begun to get to know.

I remain hopeful for a fun season and an exciting adventure with these returning characters… but I confess that I’m quite disappointed to learn that so many Picard cast members had to be culled to make it happen.

Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and around the world. Season 3 is currently in production and may be targeting a 2023 broadcast. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard, The Next Generation, and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Picard review – Season 2, Episode 10: Farewell

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2 and casting announcements for Season 3. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Next GenerationFirst Contact, and Voyager.

So here we are! Although it seems like only yesterday that we were settling in for The Star Gazer after a two-year wait for Picard Season 2, it’s time to bid “farewell” to Admiral Picard and the (remaining) crew of La Sirena. At least the wait for Season 3 – which has already begun filming – shouldn’t be quite as long!

Season 2 took a meandering and frustrating route to reach this end point, and while Farewell had some real emotional highlights and moments of excitement, I can’t shake the feeling that the lessons of Season 1 weren’t heeded. Just as happened last time around, there were a lot of underdeveloped moments, stories that needed longer in the spotlight, and narrative threads that missed the mark not because they were bad, but because the season wasted time getting here. While I can happily say that I enjoyed Farewell, it wasn’t as good as it might’ve been.

Admiral Picard on the bridge of the USS Stargazer.

Most of the story complaints that I have really aren’t Farewell’s fault on its own. They’re actually the consequence of a slow, muddled season that dedicated too much time in earlier episodes to what ultimately ended up as extraneous fluff. The episode Watcher, for example, spent a huge amount of time tracking down Rios and Tallinn – and those sequences could have been massively shortened to move the story along at a more reasonable pace. That would’ve allowed last week’s episode, Hide and Seek, to have fully wrapped up the Europa Mission and Renée stories – stories that Farewell had to blitz through to get Picard and the crew to meet Q and get back to the 25th Century.

Farewell felt like a busy episode from the first moment, and considering how much story was left to cram in, I think that’s to be expected. I will give credit where it’s due and say that the director and editors did a good job; the best they could with the material they had, I suspect. Although several storylines were undeniably rushed as the season raced toward its end, the cinematography and production values remained high.

The USS Excelsior.

Perhaps you might think this is unfair criticism, but it feels to me as though Picard Season 2 blew most of its budget – in terms of both set-building and CGI – on The Star Gazer and the second half of Farewell. That’s where we got back to the new sets that had been built for the USS Stargazer and that’s where we saw a return of the outstanding animation work seen in the season premiere. The Federation fleet that faced down the Borg – and later the strange anomaly – looked absolutely fantastic, and seeing a big, beautiful Federation fleet in action will be something that I never tire of.

I’m sure that we’ll be seeing the new USS Stargazer back in action in Season 3 (and maybe even a spin-off series one day), so that’s definitely something to look forward to. I talked about this in my review of the premiere, but the design of the Stargazer inside and out felt like the perfect natural evolution of the aesthetic and design philosophy of The Next Generation era shows and films. Seeing more of that ship would be a request of mine – and it’s my hope that Picard will serve as a springboard for more adventures in the early 25th Century.

The Borg vessel and the Federation fleet stop the anomaly.

So let’s start with the shortest and least-interesting of the storylines in Farewell. Kore Soong was a non-entity this season. Her presence served only to provide Dr Adam Soong with some degree of motivation – motivation which at first had me thinking he might be a complex and nuanced character, but that quickly fell away. She didn’t do much of consequence, she was flat and uninteresting, and aside from being a supporting character to prop up the very one-dimensional Adam Soong, her presence seems to have been Picard’s producers throwing a bone to Isa Briones, whose main character of Soji hasn’t been present all season long (and didn’t even show up in the little epilogue when the characters got together in Guinan’s bar).

Kore choosing to hack into and delete her dad’s files was something and nothing. It makes sense – I guess – but it doesn’t feel like it accomplished anything for the story other than finding something for Kore to do after walking out on her home and her life. She doesn’t seem to feel conflicted in any way about that decision, even though she appears to have spent her entire life living with her father in that carefully-shielded house.

Kore’s story also came to an end.

However, I was more than happy to forget all about Kore’s wasted storylines because of the totally unexpected arrival of Wesley Crusher. Tying the Travelers into the same organisation that Tallinn and Gary Seven worked for was a masterstroke; I was totally blindsided by something that I genuinely did not anticipate. Having seen more than 800 Star Trek stories over the span of more than thirty years, the fact that the franchise can still pull off genuinely shocking moments like that – moments that also tie into over fifty-six years’ worth of lore – is amazing. Moments like that are why I love Star Trek, and they can go a long way to redeeming even the most mediocre of stories and flattest of characters.

I had been feeling frustrated that, six episodes on from her introduction, Tallinn appeared to have died without her storyline going into any detail at all about the mysterious organisation she worked for. Going all the way back to Season 2 of The Original Series, there had been questions about this faction and what their objectives might be; I felt disappointed that we weren’t going to get any further explanation. But to my delight, the totally unexpected arrival of Wesley Crusher provided at least a partial answer – and tied together The Original Series, his own role in The Next Generation, and the events of this season in absolutely wonderful fashion.

Wesley Crusher made an unexpected but thoroughly welcome return to Star Trek.

As a moment of pure fan-service, I can totally understand why Farewell didn’t spend more time with Welsey and Kore – as much as I’d have loved it. It would’ve been wonderful to see Wesley reunite with Picard, but in an episode that was very busy I can understand why it didn’t happen. And I don’t interpret this moment as setting up a major new spin-off following Wesley, Kore, and other Travelers and Supervisors – again, as fun as that might be for fans! It was simply a cute cameo; a way to both include a classic character from The Next Generation while also providing closure of a sort to Kore’s story.

There are many questions that I have about what might happen next for Wesley and Kore – as well as why he chose to reach out to her. I assume that the Supervisors and Travelers pick individuals who are both brilliant and somewhat out-of-place – Kore won’t be missed if she vanishes from Earth in 2024 in the way that someone else might, for example. But I guess we should save the speculation for a future theory article!

Wesley and Kore.

Captain Rios’ story has been a disappointment all season long, and the explanation why is simple: we caught a glimpse of him in the season premiere living his best life, but the series stripped that away from him and regressed him back to his Season 1 presentation. If Rios had been not the captain of the USS Stargazer but even just its first officer, at least some of that would’ve abated. But because we’d seen him as a Starfleet captain, the way he seemed to forget about his ship and those under his command had been really grating on me since Penance. The conclusion to his story this time, which saw him written out of the series, just capped off that disappointment.

If it hadn’t been for seeing him in command of the USS Stargazer, I think I could’ve let slide much of what Rios went through – although I would still have some questions. The culmination of his arc this time feels less like a natural decision for either him or Teresa to make and more like one driven by a writers’ room desperate to get rid of main cast members in anticipation of the return of The Next Generation characters in Season 3. Along with Dr Jurati, Rios drew the short straw.

Rios’ story was disappointing this season.

I said in my review of The Star Gazer that I’d be happy to see a spin-off following Captain Rios’ adventures, and had he stuck to the new characterisation that we saw back then, I would’ve absolutely been down for that. Unfortunately Rios’ departure now means that can’t happen – but after seeing the way he regressed as a character this season, I was already less keen on spending more time with him and less confident that he could carry a new series.

As with other narrative threads in Farewell, Rios’ departure was rushed. The episode dedicated less than two minutes of its runtime to Rios saying his goodbyes, and whatever decisions or discussions he’d had with Teresa appear to have happened entirely off-screen. Did Rios, for example, offer to take Teresa and Ricardo to the 25th Century? Did he consider the consequences of staying – both for the timeline and for himself? I mean… World War III is literally right around the corner (in Star Trek, not in the real world… I hope), and the first three-quarters of the 21st Century is arguably one of the worst and most difficult parts of Earth’s entire history in the Star Trek timeline. I know that Rios stayed “because he was in love,” but even so… couldn’t he have thought of something else? Maybe he skipped history class.

Rios chose to stay with Teresa and Ricardo.

As the culmination of a season-long arc, one that took Rios away from much of the rest of the action and that marks his final end as a Star Trek character, the send-off Rios got was poor. So much more could have been made of this moment – but at the same time, with Rios having been so disconnected from almost everyone else all season long, it’s perversely fitting that his goodbye was brief and to the point. Despite what he said in an earlier episode about viewing Picard as a “father figure,” and the words they shared as he prepared to remain behind, I never felt that Rios and Picard were especially close. They were acquaintances; business colleagues. Work friends but not real friends.

One of the things that I wanted from Picard, going all the way back to the show’s initial announcement, was to meet some new characters and spend time with them. Obviously in a series with a clear protagonist there’s going to be a limit on the number of characters that can be included and how much detail their story arcs can receive, but there was so much potential in someone like Rios. It was never mentioned in a big way, but Rios is only one of a handful of Hispanic characters to have appeared in a big way in Star Trek, and the first major Hispanic character to be given the rank of captain and to command a starship. There was so much scope to do more with Captain Rios, and I guess I’m just disappointed that a character with potential – perhaps even spin-off potential – was sidelined, regressed, and kind of wasted in this mad rush to bring back The Next Generation characters in Season 3.

So long, Captain Rios…

Another character who fell victim to this need to trim the main cast was Dr Jurati, but in her case at least she seems to have had more of a substantial arc this season. Although I would be remiss not to point out that in both seasons of the show Dr Jurati ended up causing massive, catastrophic problems for Picard! She didn’t do so on purpose, of course, but it’s interesting to see that the writers chose to follow up her murder of Bruce Maddox by transforming her into the new Borg Queen!

It was obvious, of course, by the time Picard and the crew returned to the bridge of the USS Stargazer that Dr Jurati would be the face behind the mask, and so it proved. I was a little surprised that Farewell seemed to treat this as some kind of big revelation; I can’t imagine that even the most casual and uninterested of viewers wouldn’t have been able to put two and two together long before Picard set up Dr Jurati’s unmasking.

The Borg Queen unmasked.

As above, Dr Jurati was a character with potential. She was also someone who felt closer to Picard in terms of friendship than Captain Rios, and there was certainly scope to see her continue in her un-assimilated role in future stories. Unlike with Rios, though, there’s definitely a substantial season-long arc for Dr Jurati that worked well enough. She felt lonely and isolated, never being able to hold down a relationship or partnership, and through a strange marriage with the Borg Queen ended up with hundreds, thousands, or perhaps even millions of friends. She also got the chance to become partially synthetic – which I have to assume she would approve of based on what we saw of her last time.

Since we’re dealing with the Borg, the reason for their appearance at the beginning of the season was paid off. The sudden appearance of an unexplained anomaly that threatened the quadrant meant that the Borg wished to team up with the Federation to save lives, and generally I liked this angle and I think there’s potential in it. My initial thought was that it could be connected to the Season 1 super-synths, but again that’ll be something to discuss in a future theory article.

What is this strange anomaly? And crucially… will we revisit it next time?

My concern on this side of the story stems from the fact that we know that Alison Pill, who plays Dr Jurati and the new Borg Queen, doesn’t seem to be returning for Season 3. If the Borg chose to remain at the anomaly as a “guardian at the gate,” as Borg-Jurati put it, that seems to imply we won’t have anything to do with her next time around – and thus we may not be revisiting this anomaly. I certainly hope that won’t be the case, because if we don’t get back here it will seriously jeopardise this season’s entire story by making it feel meaningless. Thirty seconds of screen time for a weird anomaly that one character believed could be damaging doesn’t really justify an entire season wandering in the past, nor the loss of two (or three) major characters.

The question of what the Borg wanted loomed large over the entire season, even while Picard and the crew scrambled to save the future from their base in 2024. Now that we have an answer to that question – they wanted help to stop the anomaly from harming the Alpha Quadrant – we need to go deeper. There needs to be some greater story arc that can tie into the closing moments of Season 2, even if it isn’t the main storyline of Season 3.

The Borg vessel and the strange anomaly.

One thing that Farewell didn’t have time to explain was the relationship between the Jurati-led Borg and the Borg Collective that we’ve seen elsewhere in Star Trek. Is the Jurati-Borg faction separate from the Borg or did they somehow replace the rest of the Collective? Are there now two distinct Borg Collectives? It seems like there must be – because everyone involved seems to believe that the prime timeline has been restored, and that couldn’t have happened if the Jurati-Queen took over the entire Borg Collective. Events like the Battle of Wolf 359 and the attempted assimilation of Earth in First Contact wouldn’t have happened – or would have been changed entirely – if the Jurati-Queen was leading the whole Collective. But this is something that should’ve been given more of an explanation – and it’s indicative of the fact that Farewell was overstuffed with story threads.

The season also ended without detailing in any way how the Confederation were able to defeat the Borg using 25th Century technology. While this may not have been important for wrapping up the stories that were in play, it was a pretty big point earlier in the season. There was the potential for something that the Confederation had developed to come into play, even at this late stage, and although I’d pretty much given up on learning anything more about the Confederation several weeks ago, the way the season ended now leaves the entire Confederation timeline feeling like one massive contrivance.

The Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid.

The Confederation timeline existed as a spur for other storylines, and if we had never seen it and only heard about it in passing, maybe that would be fine. But for those of us invested in the Star Trek universe, creating an entirely new setting, populating it with characters, and telling us that those characters did something as monumental as defeating the Borg, only to leave all of the hows and wherefores unexplained is disappointing. With no return to the Confederation timeline on the agenda – and the question of whether it still exists in any form in serious doubt – it feels like it served the story but in an unrealistic way.

Presumably Adam Soong had to survive because with Kore taking off with Wesley and the Travelers, there needs to be some way for his family line to continue in order to reach Data’s creator and the other Soongs we’ve met. Villains don’t need to be killed off in order for their defeats to feel satisfying, and seeing Adam Soong realise that he’d been beaten was a well-done sequence overall. I also appreciated the Khan reference – and the date-stamp.

Is this merely an Easter egg… or could it be a tease of something yet to come?

Star Trek’s internal timeline can feel inconsistent if you go all the way back to The Original Series and watch episodes that reference events in the late 20th or early 21st Centuries. I’ve always assumed that Star Trek and the real world diverged sometime around the 1960s, and the reference to “Project Khan” being in 1996 ties in with what we know from Space Seed and The Wrath of Khan about legendary villain Khan’s origins. I’m glad that Star Trek isn’t trying to overwrite any of this – and it makes me wonder if there may yet be a reprieve for the proposed Ceti Alpha V miniseries! At the very least, Adam Soong looking up “Project Khan” seems to imply that he’ll be returning to his work on genetic engineering – tying in with the appearance of another Dr Soong in Enterprise.

As a character who we’ve only just started getting to know and who has great potential, I’m glad that Elnor survived the season and I look forward to his continued participation in Picard – and hopefully in future Star Trek productions as well. However… his survival renders one of the best and most emotional moments from last week completely impotent, and I’m left wondering why Hide and Seek even bothered to include it.

Elnor’s survival makes one of last week’s biggest emotional moments entirely irrelevant.

One of the things driving Raffi all season has been Elnor’s death – and after speaking with a holographic recreation last week in one of the season’s best and most powerful emotional sequences, she seemed ready to come to terms with it and let go of the guilt she’d been feeling. That was one of the highlights of last week’s episode, and a significant moment that seemed to signal that the shocking decision to kill off Elnor in Assimilation would indeed be permanent.

However, that moment now feels like wasted time, even more so considering that several of the storylines present in Farewell could’ve used a few extra minutes. Had holo-Elnor’s role been cut from Hide and Seek, replaced with literally anyone else to fill the “combat hologram” role, the wasted moment with Raffi and the now-gratuitous sequences that seemed to be bidding goodbye to the character could’ve been reallocated to other, more pressing stories. Seeing how Raffi dealt with Elnor’s death earlier in the season isn’t undermined by his survival – but the scene in which she came to terms with it absolutely is. As deeply emotional as that moment was, it now feels like a total waste.

Raffi was relieved to see Elnor again.

Perhaps this is my dislike of the 21st Century storylines showing, but I never really felt all that invested in Renée and the Europa Mission. For the supposedly-most important event in the show that our characters had to protect, the Europa Mission and Renée herself had been absent for several episodes as the season’s story continued its slow plod to this rushed conclusion. I wasn’t mad that the rocket launch was raced past to allow Farewell to get to other storylines… but it wasn’t exactly a spectacular ending for what has been the driving force in the story of the season since the third episode.

There were some moments of tension as Adam Soong’s drones appeared to be in danger of blowing up Seven, Rios, and Raffi, and again when he’d managed to successfully infiltrate the Europa Mission launch. I stand by what I said a couple of weeks ago, by the way: that Adam Soong having been kicked out of the scientific community should be a pretty serious barrier to his involvement in something like the Europa Mission… but his status and finances are something that, once again, Picard Season 2 didn’t find time to go into any detail on.

How Adam Soong was able to buy his way into Europa Mission HQ wasn’t really explained.

This part of Farewell secured Renée’s mission – one which seems to have been beneficial for Earth itself and set humanity on a path that would eventually lead to first contact and the creation of the Federation. It was also an opportunity to kill off Tallinn – her death being the “price” for Renée’s survival rounds out her arc in a reasonable way.

I didn’t understand why Q believes that Tallinn always dies at this stage in “every” timeline; it seems to me that the only threat to Renée came about because of Q’s interference, and thus had Q not intervened there’d be no reason for Adam Soong or the Borg Queen to go after her or try to prevent the Europa Mission at all. So I guess I don’t get that line – it was included, perhaps, to make Tallinn’s sacrifice feel more justifiable, but it raises as many questions as it answers (if not more!)

Why does Tallinn die in “every” timeline?

This sets up a discussion about the nature of Q’s intervention. Although establishing a Jurati-Borg seems to have prevented some kind of cataclysm in the 25th Century, that isn’t why Q did it – at least, not based on what he told Picard in Farewell. This was all about Picard learning to come to terms with his past and his loss and because Q considered him a friend and a favourite.

But there are some pretty notable problems with this setup – and with Picard’s ultimate reaction to it. People died as a result of Q’s actions, and whether directly or indirectly he’s responsible for that. Q was able to wave away Tallinn’s death and resurrect Elnor – so from the point of view of main characters I guess he gets somewhat of a pass. But what about the dozen or more assimilated semi-Borg who died last week? They were human beings; people whose lives were cut short as a direct result of Q’s intervention. Picard was clearly willing to forgive Q for this extended Tapestry redux – but even if we assume that there are no timeline consequences from the loss of those individuals… they’re still people who died and who won’t be resurrected as a result of what Q did. The morality of it bugs me.

Q’s actions cost lives – and Picard seems okay with it.

So we’ve come to the purpose of the entire story: Q wanted to teach Picard to overcome the traumatic moment in his own past. He wanted Picard to learn to embrace the person that he is; to choose to become that person. That’s a familiar theme that we’ve seen from Q in the past, most notably in the episode Tapestry. In that story, Q gave Picard the opportunity to change mistakes in his past – but he did so in order to demonstrate to him that the mistakes are what made him the person he is. It’s not exactly the same story, because in this instance Picard had to embrace a dark and traumatic event that was beyond his control, and recognise that he can’t always save everybody. But it’s close – and I like that. It means that at least thematically, Q stayed true to his characterisation.

In terms of the wider lore of Star Trek, including the role of the Q Continuum in potential future productions, I wish we’d learned why Q was dying. Although Q wasn’t a main character for most of the season, his impending death spurred him on and served as the main motivation for why he was intervening in Picard’s life at this moment – and for that to end without being explained, and without Picard so much as offering to help, feels a bit hollow.

Q’s final snap.

However, on the flip side there’s something very relatable – and dare I say very human – about not knowing what’s happening and finding no explanation for it. Speaking as someone with health conditions, I can relate to what Q has been going through. Knowing that things will only get worse, losing abilities that you’d once taken for granted, and being acutely aware that – as Picard once put it – “there are fewer days ahead than there are behind,” these are all very understandable feelings, and the idea that Q took inspiration from his own failing health to use his remaining time to help someone who he has always considered to be a friend… there’s something sweet about that.

From an in-universe point of view, Q has always been a wildcard. The schemes and puzzles that he concocts can seem incredibly random, but they usually have a point. Riker was given the powers of the Q as a test, Picard was given just enough information to solve the Farpoint mystery, Q helped Picard move through three different time periods to solve the anti-time eruption, and so on. In this case, the point Q wanted to make was served by the actions that he took… but in a very disconnected way. While we eventually got to Q’s point – that Picard needed to let go of his trauma, embrace who he is, and learn to love – it took a very long time through a very jumbled sequence of events. And unlike in stories such as Tapestry, Q’s actions this time had a significant impact on other people.

Q did it all for Picard.

Whatever we may think of the new Jurati-Borg Queen hybrid, would that have been a destiny that Dr Jurati would have chosen for herself? Was it where she needed to end up, or could she have led a perfectly happy life as a 25th Century human? Q stripped that choice from her, and Picard seems content to roll with it. While Renée did ultimately make it onto her spacecraft, Q screwed with her mental health in a major way, sabotaging her therapy and doing what he could to undermine her. Q’s actions directly led to Tallinn’s death, as well as the deaths of a dozen or more humans that had been partially-assimilated. Q also stranded Rios in the 21st Century – and again, while Rios was happy enough to make that choice, he could have also lived a happy life in the 25th Century had Q not interfered.

In short, other Q stories across Star Trek haven’t been so destructive. If there was a bigger purpose – such as the Jurati-Borg stopping some galactic catastrophe – and that was Q’s main objective, perhaps we could overlook it. The scale would be tipped in such a way that, to quote Spock, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” But Q did it all for Picard’s sake – so the needs of the many were, in Q’s view, outweighed by the needs of the one.

Picard with Q.

Maybe that makes sense to Q, but is Picard okay with it? He seems to be fine with learning that Q did all of this, made all of these changes for his sake and his alone – and I’m not sure I buy it. Maybe Q is right – maybe Tallinn always dies in every conceivable timeline. But does Dr Jurati always become a Borg? Does Rios always quit Starfleet to live through World War III? Do all of those paramilitary people die in 2024? Q might be fine with changing people’s lives, but I’m struggling to accept that Picard would be, especially if he knows that Q was doing it all for his sake.

It also raises another question: was there really no other way for Picard to process his trauma? Did it truly require establishing the Confederation timeline, killing all those people, and spending all that time stranded in the 21st Century? Couldn’t Q have just… got Picard into therapy? Or given him those dreams of his mother in the 25th Century?

Picard prepares to embrace Q.

These points may seem nitpicky, but this is the foundation of the story. Everything Picard and the others have been through over the past ten episodes hinges on this explanation. Q set all of this up because Picard couldn’t let go of a trauma he’s been carrying since childhood, and Q felt that trauma was holding him back and preventing him from learning to love and being happy. And because of that, Q decided that the best way to get through to Picard and get him to work through his mental health issues was by changing centuries’ worth of history and forcing Picard to travel back in time.

In a way, it’s a very “Q” thing. But at the same time, where past Q stories have felt at least vaguely connected to the goals he had, this one requires more than a few leaps to get from point A to point B. Maybe you can suspend your disbelief, get lost in this presentation of Q, and happily accept this explanation. For me… I’m struggling a little.

Q’s plot feels quite convoluted this time around.

However, that isn’t to detract from a wonderfully emotional sequence between Q and Picard. Recognising what Q had done and understanding why he did it, Picard found himself willing to embrace the friendship that Q had been offering him for decades. Picard was able to set aside the animosity he had for Q – allowing Q to spend what appear to be his final moments with a friend. As Picard said, he won’t die alone.

Does that make the whole story worthwhile? It was definitely a beautiful sequence, and after clashes, conflicts, and an ongoing “trial,” it was nice to see Picard and Q reconcile as Q reached the end of his life. Themes of love, of letting go, and of acceptance were weaved through these moments, and while we didn’t get an explanation for everything – including why Q is dying and what may have become of other members of his species – it was satisfying enough as we bid what seems to be a final farewell to a character who was first introduced in the very first episode of The Next Generation.

Picard meets with Q for the final time.

Q giving what remained of his life force or energy to send Picard home was likewise a sweet moment; a final act of kindness that, while it arguably doesn’t redeem Q for everything he’s done, went some way to making his final moments positive, and showed that he has perhaps learned a thing or two from Picard along the way. I did enjoy Q’s line that Picard was his “favourite,” along with the implication that, of all the many beings that Q must’ve met over his many years of life, Picard was someone special to him – special enough to spend his final moments with.

I wonder if in a future Star Trek story – perhaps even in Season 3 – we’ll learn what became of Q and why he was dying. As I said above, for the purposes of this story the exact reason (which would likely have been technobabble) doesn’t matter in a narrative sense, but as Trekkies, I think we have a curiosity about the world of Star Trek and a desire to know these things! I would certainly be interested to know why, after seeming to have been alive for billions of years, Q suddenly found himself dying.

An emotional farewell.

That only leaves us with Seven of Nine to talk about – and her field commission as a Starfleet captain that she seemed to receive during the Borg mission. Seven has been one of my favourite characters in both seasons of Picard; the growth and development that she’s received has completely changed my opinion of someone who was once my least-favourite character from Voyager. After seeing how she’d become much more human, how she’d come to terms with the loss of Icheb (something I’m surprised wasn’t mentioned to Raffi as part of the Elnor story, I must say), this season she got to reconcile her history with both the Borg and Starfleet.

Consider where Seven was at the beginning of the season. Like Michael Burnham in Discovery’s premiere episode, Seven wanted to shoot first the moment the Borg emerged. The idea of listening to anything they might have to say was unfathomable to her. Yet by the season finale, after what she went through with Dr Jurati, she was willing not only to listen, but to follow the Borg’s lead. She put her trust in the Borg, overcoming decades’ worth of hostility that she’d been holding onto.

Seven of Nine in the captain’s chair.

Could we see more from Seven in future? The idea of her and Raffi having their own adventures – either within Starfleet or outside of it – is an enticing one, but I guess we’ll have to see what Season 3 has in store for them first. With potentially three departures from the main cast, there’s room for Seven of Nine to stay on board, particularly if the story of Season 3 continues to involve the Borg. At the same time, though, unlike the new characters who won’t be returning, Seven’s arc across both seasons of the show leaves her in a pretty good place. If this is going to be her swansong, she ends the series in a strong position.

Having had a run-in with Q in the Voyager Season 7 episode Q2, it was a shame that Farewell didn’t see Seven and Q say so much as a single word to each other, and again this is the consequence of a season finale that was left with a lot of work to do to wrap everything up. It wasn’t essential, but it would’ve been nice to at least acknowledge that they’d met each other before racing ahead with the rest of the plot.

Seven of Nine and Raffi.

So that was Farewell. It was the best episode since the season premiere, but that’s damning with faint praise. We’ll have to take a broader look at Season 2 as a whole in the days or weeks ahead, because I have to say that, despite an outstanding premiere and a solid final half-episode, this meandering stroll through the 21st Century was far from my favourite season of Star Trek.

Taken on its own merits, though, Farewell tied together as many of the narrative threads as it could. There weren’t huge gaping holes left behind, but a number of story beats weren’t as well-developed as they could’ve been, and the slow, plodding pace of much of the rest of the season meant that we arrived at this point with the season finale having to do a lot of heavy lifting to get across the finish line. Farwell did what it could in the confines of its runtime, but realistically, much of the damage had already been done and there was a limit on how much a single episode could do to redeem an underwhelming season.

The USS Stargazer.

There were some genuinely heartwarming moments along the way. Wesley Crusher’s surprise appearance (which thankfully wasn’t spoiled in advance) may actually be the highlight for me, and I enjoyed seeing Seven of Nine step up to work with the Borg after returning to the 25th Century as well. Picard and Q’s reconciliation feels incredibly sweet – but it isn’t a storyline free from questions. As the season’s main driving force, it ended in a way that left some points feeling unexplained or underdeveloped, and despite the emotional highs, that taints things a little for me.

Where Picard Season 1 was generally a fun ride that was spoiled by an underwhelming ending, Season 2 has been an underwhelming and occasionally frustrating story that somehow managed to pull out a passable ending. Farewell didn’t hit the same high notes as The Star Gazer had ten weeks ago, but by the time Picard and the crew were back home, it came close. If the second half of the episode had been given more time and was stretched out over forty-five minutes instead of twenty-five, perhaps we’d be able to consider it a bit more favourably.

So that’s it for now. I won’t be publishing any reviews or theories for Strange New Worlds over the next few weeks, because unfortunately the series is “officially” unavailable here in the UK. But stay tuned for more Star Trek content here on the website, including the conclusion of my Picard Season 2 theories, some initial thoughts about Season 3, and eventually a proper retrospective-review of Season 2 as a whole. Until next time!

Star Trek: Picard Season 2 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, Scandinavia, Latin America, and Australia, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and the rest of the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Ten great things about Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the entire Star Wars franchise, including the prequels, original trilogy, and sequels.

Happy Star Wars Day! Today is the 4th of May – or as they say in America, May the 4th. So May the 4th be with you! Today is a day for positivity in the Star Wars fan community, so I thought it could be fun to take a look at a few of my favourite things from The Last Jedi. It goes without saying that The Last Jedi was a divisive film among Star Wars fans. However, it was one I generally enjoyed. It wasn’t “perfect,” and I don’t think it hit all of the high notes that it was aiming for, but I found it to be enjoyable.

This article isn’t an attack on anyone else’s position or opinion! If you don’t like The Last Jedi or some of the things we’re going to discuss, that’s totally okay. Practically everything in cinema is subjective, not objective, and there’s a range of opinions on practically every film. Because today is about celebrating Star Wars, I wanted to pick out some of the things that I liked from the film and talk about why they worked well for me. If you want to see how critical I can be of Star Wars… check out my reviews of The Rise of Skywalker or The Mandalorian Season 2!

Yoda in The Last Jedi.

With all of that out of the way, a brief introduction is in order, I think! Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi was released theatrically in the UK on the 14th of December 2017 – but I didn’t see it until a few months later in the Spring of 2018. My health is poor, and things like trips to the cinema are no longer practical for me, unfortunately. By the time I got around to seeing the film I’d already heard the outcry from some in the Star Wars fandom, and I set my expectations pretty low for what seemed to be a divisive film. Suffice to say that I was pleasantly surprised to find a film that I enjoyed a lot more than I’d been expecting.

After The Force Awakens had played it very safe two years earlier, The Last Jedi attempted to take Star Wars in a very different direction. Rather than repeating what the original trilogy had done, the film took its characters to completely different thematic places, introduced new sub-plots, and potentially set up the sequel trilogy for a radically different ending. The Rise of Skywalker tried to undo some of the most significant points from The Last Jedi, which was a real shame, but taken on their own merit many of these points succeed. For me, The Last Jedi is the high-water mark of the sequel trilogy, and it’s a film that I firmly believe will be considered much more favourably in years to come. Just look at how a new generation of fans has come to celebrate the once-panned prequel trilogy; The Last Jedi’s best days may lie ahead.

So let’s get started on my list! I’ve picked ten things that I admire about The Last Jedi or feel that the film did well. They’re listed below in no particular order.

Number 1:
A subtle and unexpected Rogue One connection.

Jyn Erso in Rogue One.

How was the First Order able to track the Resistance’s fleet while they were in hyperspace? This was a story point that some fans who weren’t paying very close attention didn’t like – but it was actually something that had been set up a year earlier. Rogue One, which was released in 2016, saw Jyn Erso and a rag-tag crew steal the plans to the Death Star in the days immediately prior to A New Hope. Part of their mission saw them travel to the planet of Scarif, where the plans were kept at an Imperial facility.

While looking for the Death Star plans in amongst other Imperial data tapes, Jyn found a record of the Empire’s research into hyperspace tracking. The scene was very brief, with the data tape quickly being discarded in the rush to secure the Death Star plans – but it was a great moment of connection between two disparate parts of the Star Wars franchise!

Jyn and Cassian with the Death Star plans.

Considering that Rogue One and The Last Jedi were set decades apart, these moments of connection are incredibly helpful to bind modern Star Wars together. Far from being just a throwaway line, the scene in Rogue One established that hyperspace tracking technology was something being actively researched by the Empire – while the destruction of the Imperial facility on Scarif provides a convenient narrative excuse for why it wasn’t successfully rolled out during the era of the original films.

It can be an incredibly difficult task to thread the needle like this; to insert a story element in between the pieces of the story that we already know. But Rogue One and The Last Jedi did this perfectly. If only other story beats in the sequel trilogy had this much forethought and this much setup!

Number 2:
Rey is related to nobody.

Rey learned a harsh truth.

For two years leading up to The Last Jedi, speculation was rife in the Star Wars fan community about who Rey was. Many fans concocted elaborate theories suggesting that she was the daughter or granddaughter of Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Emperor Palpatine, and other Force-wielding characters. But when it was revealed in The Last Jedi that none of those things were true, it was a perfectly-executed twist.

Rey being “no one” isn’t just great because it’s a subversion or because it ignores some pretty mediocre fan theories – it works because it has something important to say. The Force can manifest in anyone, and just because that person comes from a humble background it doesn’t mean that they can’t be important. This is the story that the original Star Wars film tried to tell: Luke was the farm boy from an unimportant backwater world who went on to save the galaxy. That story was muddied by the decision to create a connection to Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back, and completely erased by the time talk of prophecy and “chosen ones” entered the equation.

Kylo explained to Rey that her parents were “no one.”

In that sense, Rey’s parents being no one important and no one familiar took Star Wars back to a narrative space that it hadn’t occupied since 1977. It established that its hero truly could be anybody, that destiny and ancestry don’t matter half as much as we might’ve thought. I found that message to be incredibly uplifting and inspiring, and the idea that anyone could be a hero or do great things without needing to be related to someone important is a message that resonated. In a franchise that has been so thoroughly dominated by a handful of individuals and a single family, it was a narrative worth including.

It also presented Rey in stark contrast to Kylo Ren. Both characters were defined by their family, but in different ways. Rey waited for her parents believing they’d come back for her, only to learn that they didn’t care about her at all – they sold her at the first opportunity. Kylo was both proud of his relationship to Darth Vader and ashamed of the role that his parents played in the Rebellion. Kylo came from Rebel royalty as the son of Han and Leia, but had succumbed to the temptation of the Dark Side and wanted to dominate the galaxy. In contrast, Rey came from nowhere and wanted to save it.

Rey using the Force at the film’s climax.

Rey’s struggle wasn’t to live up to some legacy from Luke or Obi-Wan, nor to rebel against a darker ancestor like Palpatine, but to chart her own path – a new path for herself, for the Resistance, for the Jedi, and for the Star Wars franchise. Rey represented the new against the old, the people against the aristocratic elite, and an unexpected journey for the protagonist of the latest chapter of the long-running saga.

I adored this about Rey. It took her on an unpredictable and open-ended journey, threw out of the window outdated notions of legacy and destiny, but at the same time it returned Star Wars to a familiar place; a place it hadn’t been since Darth Vader and Luke were retconned to be father and son. Had this aspect of Rey’s character been retained, I think the sequel trilogy as a whole could’ve been far more interesting.

Number 3:
Hyperspace ramming.

The aftermath of hyperspace ramming.

In the very first Star Wars film, Han Solo gave us a decent explanation for why travelling through hyperspace was so dangerous. “Without precise calculations,” he told Luke, “we could fly right through a star or bounce too close to a supernova.” Hyperspace, at least according to Han Solo, did not somehow transport ships to another dimension; they could still interact with the rest of the galaxy – with potentially deadly consequences!

This was elaborated on by the old Expanded Universe which explained that charting new hyperspace routes was incredibly dangerous for precisely the same reason: it’s very easy to crash into a star, a planet, or even another starship. So hyperspace ramming has always been possible in Star Wars – even if no one thought of it before Admiral Holdo!

Admiral Holdo.

Hyperspace ramming is the kind of desperate, last-ditch manoeuvre that no one would dare to try unless there weren’t any other options. Here in the real world, aircraft had been around for decades before anyone thought of inventing the kamikaze suicide attack, so I can absolutely believe that hyperspace ramming was either totally new in the Star Wars universe or hadn’t been attempted in hundreds or thousands of years. Nothing about it “broke” continuity, and as stated it was perfectly in line with what Han Solo had told us about travelling through hyperspace all the way back at the beginning of the franchise!

The criticisms of hyperspace ramming felt very nitpicky to me, and I think it’s something that came about because of how other aspects of the film landed for some fans. If hyperspace ramming had made its debut in The Mandalorian, for example, where most fans seem to have been having a good time, I think it would’ve generated a lot less anger!

Holdo accelerates her ship to hyperspeed.

I’m always a sucker for the “doomed last stand” concept in fiction, and the entire hyperspace ramming sequence was executed incredibly well. Admiral Holdo managed to be stoic and brave in the face of death, making the ultimate sacrifice to allow her friends to escape and to give the Resistance a fighting chance.

The cinematography and visual effects used to bring it to life were outstanding, too, and the hyperspace ramming sequence has to be one of the absolute best in all of Star Wars for me. The use of silence at the moment of impact was so incredibly poignant – in part because silence is used so sparingly across the franchise. The CGI animation used to bring to life the crash and its aftermath was likewise fantastic.

Number 4:
Kylo Ren seizes power.

Kylo Ren at the moment of his coup.

The Force Awakens seemed to be setting up Kylo Ren as the “new Darth Vader” – an evil but ultimately redeemable villain. The Last Jedi chose to avoid recycling that character trope and set Kylo on his own path, a path that would lead him to become the Supreme Leader of the First Order. By embracing the darkness within him and extinguishing the pull to the light that he’d been feeling, Kylo Ren cemented his position as the primary antagonist of the sequel trilogy.

After being bullied and belittled by Supreme Leader Snoke, Kylo’s hatred for his master had been building. Blamed unfairly for the loss of Starkiller Base and Rey’s escape, Kylo nursed a grudge against Snoke for practically the whole film, culminating in him killing him in one of the film’s most shocking sequences.

The death of Snoke.

Kylo killing Snoke was not an empty subversion, designed for shock value and nothing else. It was a masterstroke of writing, one that sought to take Star Wars and the film’s main characters to entirely different thematic places than either the prequels or original trilogy had. In the span of a few minutes it seemed that Rey had been able to get through to Kylo, convincing him to betray the First Order… but then that idea was pulled away as Kylo saw his chance to seize power.

Turning the idea of “reaching out” on its head, it was Kylo who asked Rey to join him, to rule the galaxy at his side. Rather than returning to the light, Kylo had taken a massive leap further into the dark – going so far, surely, as to never be able to come back. With Snoke out of the picture, only Kylo and Hux would remain as major antagonists going into the final act of the trilogy, so it seemed like the idea of “Darth Vader 2.0” was well and truly gone.

Rey and Kylo prepare to battle Snoke’s guards.

Again, this was a moment with a message. Part of that message was epitomised by Luke’s line: “this is not going to go the way you think!” and that’s kind of built into the film’s entire philosophy. But beyond that, the concept that someone like Kylo Ren could be irredeemable has merit. There are some people – some fascist leaders, which is what Kylo Ren is at this point – who go “full Dark Side.” There’s no way back for some people, and we shouldn’t want to see a redemption arc for people who have done unspeakably evil things.

It’s also connected to the point above about destiny and ancestry. Kylo came from Rebel royalty as the son of Han Solo and Leia, but instead of using that legacy and power in a positive way he became corrupted, trying to rule the galaxy instead of fighting for freedom. The lure of power can corrupt even the most well-meaning of individuals, and Kylo’s arrogance, elitism, and belief in his own special place led him down a dark path.

Number 5:
The presentation of Luke Skywalker.

Luke with the famous blue milk.

This is a point I’ve tackled before in a standalone essay, but I found what The Last Jedi did with Luke to be absolutely incredible. It was a powerful and relatable mental health story, one that showed how anyone – even heroes – can fall into melancholy and depression. Maybe that story isn’t what some viewers wanted, but I firmly believe it’s a story that was needed – and worth telling.

Not only that, but Luke’s story was a sympathetic and realistic portrayal of mental health; one of the better depictions of depression that I’ve seen in fiction in recent years. Having tried to rebuild the Jedi Order, Luke ultimately failed – and failed in such a catastrophic way that he got people killed. He allowed that failure to fester and turn into depression, ultimately secluding himself and merely waiting around to die, totally uninterested in the galaxy around him.

Luke’s failure and depression was a major focus of the story.

Anyone who’s suffered from depression – regardless of whether there was a cause – can relate to that. The idea of cutting oneself off from everything and everyone, of being unable to face the world outside a small bubble of safety – these are things that people suffering from mental health issues can recognise. And the fact that it happened to someone as powerful, virtuous, and heroic as Luke Skywalker has an incredibly powerful point to make: this is something that can happen to anyone.

As mental health issues – particularly in men – continue to be ignored and stigmatised, this is something that people need to see and hear. The depiction of one of the main protagonists in one of the biggest cinematic franchises around suffering from depression in a realistic and relatable way has done so much to raise awareness of the problem. To me, this is sci-fi at its best: using a fantasy setting to consider real-world issues.

Luke’s death at the end of the film.

As always in these kinds of stories, how Luke was feeling at the beginning is not as important as where he ended up, and the arc he goes through in The Last Jedi provides a genuine feeling of hope. Thanks to Rey’s intervention, Luke found a way to believe in a cause again, and found a way to become a symbol of hope for the entire galaxy. Luke being depressed at the beginning was incredibly important for people to see, but what was just as important is how he found a pathway out of it.

Depression isn’t something easily cured. Luke couldn’t just “snap out of it,” but he came to realise that, despite his failings, despite his flaws, and despite the way he’d been feeling, there was still something he could do to contribute. He could still be a Jedi – and thanks to his intervention, not the titular Last Jedi!

Number 6:
Recognising the massive failings of the old Jedi Order.

The Jedi Temple during the prequel era.

The prequel trilogy touched on the idea that the Jedi Order had grown arrogant and complacent over centuries of peace and after being unchallenged by the Sith and the Dark Side in a major way. But at the same time, characters like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, Qui-Gon Jinn, and Mace Windu were presented as the heroes – the paragons of virtue who we were rooting for. The Last Jedi takes a much more critical lens to its examination of the Jedi Order, particularly in the prequel era.

Luke explained to Rey that the hubris of the Jedi is what allowed Palpatine to rise to power in the first place, and that the Jedi Order failed not only at keeping the peace but at preserving the Republic itself. Though this wasn’t something that the film spent a huge amount of time on, I think it was an important acknowledgement to recognise that the Jedi Order – by the time of the prequel films, at least – was not the irreproachable organisation that some considered it to be.

Luke explained how the Jedi Order failed.

This is also something that could inform Star Wars’ future. We don’t know what will become of the Jedi in the aftermath of the sequel trilogy, but it seems to me that one of the lessons Rey learned from Luke is that simply trying to reconstruct the Jedi Order exactly as it was before the Empire is not only impossible, but undesirable as well. What comes next for the Light Side of the Force has to be different – it has to be better.

This potentially opens up the future of Star Wars to go in some very different storytelling directions. Rather than simply a return to the pre-Empire status quo, in which the era of the Galactic Civil War may end up looking like little more than a blip in the grand scale of galactic history, what happened to Luke and Rey could be a turning point for the Light Side of the Force, with a new organisation bound by different rules rising in the Jedi’s stead. Perhaps the name “Jedi” will survive (it’s an integral part of Star Wars, after all), but maybe what comes next will be significantly different from the prequel-era Jedi Order, setting the stage for some genuinely different and unpredictable stories in the years ahead.

Number 7:
Timely social commentary.

The casino on Canto Bight.

How often have we felt that, no matter what we do, the rich always manage to get richer while we stay poor? The Last Jedi took Finn and Rose to one of the meeting places of the galactic elite, showing us how the mega-rich of the galaxy gamble and play both sides in the conflict. To them, who wins the war isn’t important – because they know that either way, they’re going to come out on top.

This isn’t just about the arms dealers who were selling weapons to both sides – although that was a very in-your-face analogy – but really the entire gaggle of the super-rich that Finn and Rose encountered on Canto Bight. Just like the 1% here in the real world, the problems of the galaxy don’t affect them at all. It was, in a sense, a glimpse behind a curtain that we rarely get to see – and the fact that the people of Canto Bight were laughing, joking, gambling, and greedily stuffing their faces seemed to spit in the face of our heroes and their war effort.

Outside the casino.

This was a side of the Star Wars galaxy that we’d never really seen. We’d been introduced to bounty hunters in shady cantinas before, as well as seeing the corrupt decadence of Coruscant’s politicians in the prequels, but it makes sense that a society as complex as the Star Wars galaxy would have these kinds of places inhabited by these kinds of people. They’re the Wall Street gamblers, the bankers, the financiers who survived the Republic, the Empire, the New Republic, and the First Order all by owning and controlling the vast majority of the galaxy’s money.

One of the themes that I took from this side-story is that, in a sense, it doesn’t matter who wins or loses in the struggle for power. Either a new Republic or the First Order will eventually have to cut deals with these people; they’re the real powerbrokers in the galaxy. Their money can shift the tide of the war – it can literally see states rise or fall.

Rose and Finn at Canto Bight.

Perhaps Canto Bight hit too close to home for some folks, or perhaps this look behind the curtain was a little too bleak! But there was something powerful about it nonetheless, particularly in the aftermath of some turbulent political times here in the western world. As above, when sci-fi turns a spotlight on real-world issues, what results can be powerful storytelling if it’s done right.

From an in-universe point of view, Star Wars stories have generally focused on underdogs – scrappy groups of rebels fighting against the powers that be. Even the prequels didn’t explore much of this side of the galaxy – so it was something new, something interesting, and something that could be ripe for further exploration one day.

Number 8:
Porgs!

A small group of porgs.

The Last Jedi introduced us to porgs – beakless bird-like critters that inhabited Luke’s island on the isolated Jedi planet of Ahch-To. Porgs are adorable and they made an excellent addition to the Star Wars galaxy. Was their pretty sizeable appearance in the film purely a merchandising ploy that did nothing whatsoever to service the plot? Well, probably. But Star Wars has always been about the merch!

I had the porg variant of the film’s poster on display for a long time and I also bought a porg plushie, so I guess I’m a sucker for cute merchandise. Paul the porg is now a permanent fixture in my living room, and I have The Last Jedi to thank for that!

Number 9:
General Leia’s leadership.

General Leia speaking with Poe.

The film’s release was bittersweet due to the death of Carrie Fisher a year earlier, making her posthumous role in The Last Jedi all the more poignant. Having had limited screen time in The Force Awakens, which focused more on Han Solo, The Last Jedi became a strong film for Leia’s character, showing her leadership skills and expanding on her role in the aftermath of the events of the original films.

There was a clash between the “hot-headed” Poe Dameron and the cooler, calmer Leia and Holdo at the head of the Resistance. Unfortunately Leia was sidelined for part of that, but her return just in time to stop Poe from sabotaging a carefully-laid out plan was one of the film’s strongest moments – and one that showed Leia’s no-nonsense attitude!

Luke with Leia near the end of the film.

Leia also got a sweet moment with Luke shortly before his last stand against the First Order’s forces, and considering that the sequel trilogy didn’t have many moments where it put the original characters back together, this was all the more significant. Fans needed to see Luke and Leia back together one final time – it was certainly one of the things I wanted from the sequels.

Even in the original trilogy, Leia was no “damsel in distress.” She helped Luke and Han escape from the Death Star, saved Luke’s life on Cloud City, killed Jabba the Hutt, and led the mission to take down the second Death Star’s shield! Seeing her continuing the fight against evil – even when it meant standing against her own son – was incredibly powerful.

Number 10:
Taking Star Wars to new thematic places.

Kylo Ren in his mask.

I talked about this above when discussing Kylo and Rey in particular, but The Last Jedi did more than any film in the franchise before or since to try to take Star Wars to different thematic and narrative places. That’s incredibly important, because without changing with the times and adapting, Star Wars as a whole will remain stuck in place.

Star Wars hasn’t yet been able to successfully move on from the one story that has been told. Palpatine, Anakin, Luke, Leia, Kylo, Rey, and the other main characters have come to utterly dominate Star Wars in every cinematic and television adaptation so far, even appearing in the likes of The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett. The Last Jedi, as a sequel, obviously had to include many of those same characters, but the way it framed them was as close as Star Wars has got so far to going to different places.

Rey on Ahch-To.

If the franchise is to survive long-term, it will have to find a way to leave Luke, Leia, Anakin, and the others behind; to branch out into different eras with wholly different casts of characters to whom names like “Skywalker” or “Palpatine” mean nothing. There’s a limit to how many different ways the same few characters can save the galaxy over the span of a few short years, and by making massive decisions such as killing off Luke Skywalker, The Last Jedi tried to guide the franchise to a new destination.

The board at the Walt Disney Company is now pushing back hard against that, and we’ve seen the results not only in The Rise of Skywalker, but also through decisions to include characters like Luke Skywalker in The Mandalorian or to bring back Obi-Wan Kenobi for his own miniseries. Partly that’s corporate cowardice – Disney wants to retreat to what it sees as safe, comfortable ground. But that ground is getting overtrodden, and there’s a danger that Star Wars could get bogged down. The Last Jedi, for whatever faults you may think it has, tried to do something genuinely different – and trying new things is how a franchise grows and comes to learn what works.

“Broom boy” at the end of the film.

As the dust settles and the film’s divisiveness abates, I think we’ll start to see a reevaluation of this aspect of The Last Jedi in particular. It may not have succeeded at taking the sequel trilogy to a very different end point, but it stands as a piece of the franchise’s cinematic canon that wasn’t afraid to try different things with its characters and storylines. Perhaps, in time, fans will come to appreciate that – particularly if Star Wars continues to double-down on recycling characters and shining spotlights on increasingly irrelevant chapters of its only real story.

Killing off its main villain early in the story, setting his apprentice on a dark path instead of the path to redemption, tearing down the arrogance of the old Jedi Order, reflecting real-world issues like mental health and the gilded indifference of the super-rich… these are all things that Star Wars had never even considered. The Last Jedi tried them for the first time. Did it all work perfectly? Probably not. But in a franchise that is in serious danger of becoming stale and fixated on its own past, trying new things, exploring new themes, dealing with new character types, and making an effort to stay grounded and relatable are all deserving of praise in my view.

So that’s it!

Luke Skywalker standing against the First Order.

Those are ten things that I think are pretty great about The Last Jedi. Despite the controversy the film generated, there are signs that the Star Wars fan community is coming back together. Shows like The Mandalorian have gone a long way to bringing back into the fold fans who’d been ready to give up on modern Star Wars. And just like the prequels – which are being revisited by a new generation of fans who were kids when they were released – in a few years’ time I think we’ll see a similar reappraisal of The Last Jedi by newer and younger fans who first came to Star Wars during the sequel era.

Although The Rise of Skywalker did what it could to overwrite or ignore some of what I consider to be The Last Jedi’s highlights, I still find it an enjoyable experience to go back and re-watch it. In a way, it’s a time capsule of where the franchise was in 2017 – or a window into an alternate timeline where Star Wars continued on this trajectory instead of panicking and trying to course-correct.

As we celebrate Star Wars day, don’t forget The Last Jedi.

Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi is available to stream now on Disney+ and is also available on DVD and Blu-ray. The Star Wars franchise – including The Last Jedi and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of The Walt Disney Company and Lucasfilm. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Film review: Moonfall

This review is in two parts: a spoiler-free section and a section containing spoilers for the story. The end of the spoiler-free section is clearly marked.

Disaster movies are something of a guilty pleasure of mine, so I’d been looking forward to Moonfall since it was announced. I was hoping for some big, dumb blockbuster fun – and Moonfall delivered. This isn’t a film that’s going to win any of the big awards – at least, it doesn’t deserve to! But as an entertaining way to spend a couple of hours, I’d recommend it to fans of science-fiction, disaster films, and brainless summer blockbusters.

Director Roland Emmerich has an established track record in the disaster movie genre, having directed The Day After Tomorrow and 2012, both of which were big hits in the 2000s. Many of Emmerich’s hallmarks are present in Moonfall, including some very familiar character and story tropes. If you were turned off by the “flawed protagonist who loves his family” action-hero character that Emmerich seems to use in all of his films, maybe Moonfall won’t be right for you! But for my money, the film delivered what I wanted it to – and managed to pack an emotional punch even while suffering major contrivances, an utterly ridiculous plot, and dialogue that could be incredibly hammy.

Moonfall is the latest film from director Roland Emmerich.

All of the actors in Moonfall gave it their all, despite the film’s ridiculously over-the-top disaster storyline, and I’d single out the performances of Halle Berry, Eme Ikwuakor, and Charlie Plummer as being especially praiseworthy. I’d never seen John Bradley in anything outside of Game of Thrones (where he played Samwell Tarly), so I wasn’t sure at first how suitable I’d find him for a role in a title like Moonfall. But to my pleasant surprise I enjoyed Bradley’s performance a great deal, and I found him believable as conspiracy theorist KC Houseman.

There were some definite CGI misses in Moonfall, but none were terribly egregious. Water can be a difficult thing for CGI animators to do well, and given that the film had a lot of other CGI sequences that worked, I can excuse those that were wide of the mark. There wasn’t anything catastrophic; rather some sequences that depicted large volumes of water felt outdated – akin to something we might’ve expected to see ten years ago rather than from a blockbuster in 2022.

John Bradley in a promotional photo for Moonfall.

I had a good time with Moonfall, all things considered. It had a plot that was less science-fiction than pure fantasy, and that required any understanding of actual science and physics to go out of the window! But there’s room in the wide world of geeky entertainment for titles like this one, and not every story has to rely on real-world understandings of gravity and physics to tell a fun, exciting, and occasionally emotional story.

If you’ve never liked disaster films, Moonfall probably isn’t the picture to change your mind. And if you like your sci-fi heavier on the sci than the fi, Moonfall will probably be a frustrating experience. Heck, we could nitpick it to death if we wanted to! But if you can suspend your disbelief for a couple of hours – and if you want a film that doesn’t ask too much of you either intellectually or in terms of effort and engagement – Moonfall might just be a fun ride. I know it was for me!

Up next we’re going to talk about some of the story elements in more detail.

Spoiler Warning: This is the end of the spoiler-free section! Expect spoilers for Moonfall from here on out.

So let’s get something straight: Moonfall has a ridiculous plot. Even by the standards of other disaster films – like Volcano’s lava eruption in Los Angeles or the Mayan end of the world in 2012 – what Moonfall brings to the table with its “the moon is an ancient spaceship constructed by humans from another part of the galaxy” story… it’s just plain bonkers. A rogue AI comprised of millions of nano-machines sending the moon crashing into the Earth is likewise utterly silly, and Moonfall asks a lot to get its audience to suspend our disbelief!

But that doesn’t mean it’s one of those “so bad it’s good” films. There’s a lot to love about Moonfall in its own right, including a different take on some familiar concepts. The idea of rogue AI could’ve been explored in more detail if there’d been more time, but it’s a surprisingly timely narrative inclusion given that we may be on the cusp of unlocking that kind of technology right here in the real world. As documentaries such as the brilliant We Need To Talk About A.I. from a couple of years ago have shown, there are legitimate concerns surrounding artificial intelligence, concerns that Moonfall takes to an extreme – but not entirely unfathomable – conclusion.

Astronaut Brian Harper encountered an evil ancient AI.

Many story tropes and character archetypes that Roland Emmerich has used before are included in Moonfall, right down to the “new spouse of the hero’s ex who dies in the disaster.” For folks who’ve seen the likes of The Day After Tomorrow and 2012, characters like protagonist Brian Harper will feel very familiar – perhaps even a little samey. But Emmerich does a good enough job at establishing the stakes for the characters through their connections to their families and friends, adding an emotional imperative to the story that it would otherwise lack.

There are more than just echoes of past Emmerich films through some of these characters. The washed-up hero, the scientist everyone ignored, the gung-ho military leaders, the children of the main protagonists who are trying to get to safety… we’ve seen these people before in different incarnations in other titles. But to me, that was fine. The actors who brought these characters to life did a good job, and I can’t really fault any of the performances. Given that the story was silly – and I’m sure everyone involved could recognise that – there’s a level of professionalism and dedication that deserves to be respected.

Halle Berry as Jocinda Fowler in Moonfall.

As mentioned, some of the CGI sequences – those dealing with the flooding caused by the moon’s activities in particular – weren’t spectacular. It feels as though Moonfall’s creators poured the vast majority of its CGI budget into the “swarm” – the AI nanobots that were the cause of all the trouble. The swarm looked spectacular, giving me a hint of things like the Borg Collective from the Star Trek franchise without being too derivative.

The white dwarf star at the moon’s core was also an impressive CGI feat. Stars in sci-fi can be difficult to get right, and we’ve seen massive improvements in the way they’ve been depicted in the wake of titles like Interstellar. Moonfall managed to get this aspect right, and while the star wasn’t on screen for a huge amount of time, when it was it managed to look exceptional.

Some of the flooding sequences didn’t look great, despite outstanding CGI work elsewhere.

There were some unintentionally funny moments in Moonfall courtesy of some incredibly hammy dialogue, and especially in the first forty or fifty minutes or so of the film I found myself chuckling away at these. When you have legitimately good actors saying, with a straight face, lines like “I’ve uncovered what might be the most important discovery in human history!” or “everything we thought we knew about the nature of the universe has just gone out the window!” it’s hard not to crack a smile.

The forced conflict between NASA, the military, and the film’s protagonists is another Emmerich hallmark, with the authorities refusing to believe the truth, seemingly trying to cover it up, and then launching an overly-aggressive military response at the last minute. Pitting Halle Berry’s character of Jocinda Fowler against the head honchos of NASA and the military was certainly a cliché, especially when there were characters who openly told us that “just following orders” meant that they have blood on their hands, or that they “lied to the American people.” But I can let such things slide in a film that I don’t need to take too seriously.

The protagonists’ kids had to escape the disaster too.

I didn’t come to Moonfall looking for a nuanced or sympathetic presentation of dementia. But even so, the way that the film handled the character of KC Houseman’s mother was pretty poor. It fell into some really unnecessary stereotyping of dementia, showing Mrs Houseman going from lucid to amnesiac in a split-second. As I find myself saying sometimes: if there isn’t time in a film with other priorities to create a more realistic and nuanced presentation of an illness or health condition, it can be better to just skip it altogether. We didn’t gain anything by learning about Mrs Houseman’s failing health, nor did it do much to inform the character of KC. So overall, a bit of a disappointment that a blockbuster would lean so heavily on a pretty clichéd presentation of what is a complex and debilitating illness.

There was quite a bit of product placement in Moonfall – another clear sign of an Emmerich blockbuster. When compared with the likes of 2012, though, the product placement felt a lot more subtle. There were logos and car brands that were clearly being shown off, but for the most part it passed by inoffensively enough. I tend not to get too worked up over product placement if it isn’t too in-your-face.

Houseman, Harper, and Fowler inside the moon.

So that was Moonfall, really. A dumb, stupid blockbuster with a ridiculously silly plot, recycled character tropes, hammy dialogue, and naff special effects… that I thoroughly enjoyed for what it was. Moonfall was never going to be Oscar bait, and I think everyone involved with its production recognised from the start the kind of film they were creating. This was sci-fi that was heavy on the fi, and very light on the sci!

But Moonfall did what it set out to, and it was perfectly entertaining popcorn fare. It’s a film that doesn’t want you to think too deeply about the physics involved, nor the implications for the world left behind for the survivors. Moonfall exists for the two hours that you watch it, and then it’s over. Its characters got to their “happily ever after” moment, and that’s all it has to say. There’s no epilogue, no post-credits scene to tee up a sequel. It’s purely a one-and-done disaster film with sci-fi trappings.

I set my expectations appropriately and ended up having a good time with Moonfall. And I think that’s about all there is to say!

Moonfall is out now to stream for a fee on Amazon Video, Google Play, YouTube, Apple TV, and other streaming platforms. Moonfall will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on the 9th of May 2022. Moonfall is the copyright of Lionsgate Films and ACG International. This review contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Happy Birthday, Morrowind!

Depending on where you are in the world, today or tomorrow will mark the 20th anniversary of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. The open-world role-playing game was one of a few titles in the early 2000s that genuinely changed my relationship with gaming as a hobby – and kept me engaged when I might’ve otherwise began to drift away. To me, even twenty years later it still represents the high-water mark of the entire Elder Scrolls series, and I’d probably even go so far as to call it one of my favourite games ever.

It can be difficult to fully explain how revolutionary some games felt at the time, especially to younger folks who grew up playing games with many of the modern features and visual styles that still dominate the medium today. But in 2002, a game like Morrowind was genuinely groundbreaking; quite literally defining for the very first time what the term “open-world” could truly mean.

For players like myself who cut our teeth on the pretty basic, almost story-less 2D games of the 1980s on consoles like the Commodore 64 or NES, the technological leap to bring a world like Morrowind’s to life is staggering. Considering the iterative improvements that the last few console generations have offered, it’s something that we may never see again, at least not in such a radical form. Comparing a game like Morrowind to some of the earliest games I can remember playing must be akin to what people of my parents’ generation describe when going from black-and-white to colour TV!

One thing that felt incredibly revolutionary about Morrowind was how many completely different and unrelated stories were present. There was a main quest, and it was an interesting one, but instead of just random side-missions that involved collecting something or solving a single puzzle, there were entire questlines for different factions that were just as long and in-depth as anything the main quest had to offer. It was possible to entirely ignore the main quest in favour of pursuing other stories, and that made Morrowind feel like a true role-playing experience.

For the first time (at least the first time that I’d encountered), here was a game that gave me genuine freedom of choice to be whoever I wanted to be – within the confines of its fantasy setting. There were the usual classes – I could choose whether to be a sword-wielding warrior, a sneaky archer, a mage, and so on – but more than that, I could choose which stories I wanted to participate in… and choosing one faction over another would, at least in some cases, permanently close off the other faction to that character. That mechanic alone gave Morrowind a huge amount of replayability.

To this day there are quests in Morrowind that I haven’t completed – or even started! That stands as testament to just how overstuffed this game was, and as I’ve mentioned in the past, the amount of content in Morrowind eclipses both of its sequels: Oblivion and Skyrim. Morrowind offers more quests, more factions to join, more NPCs to interact with, more types of weapons to use, more styles of magic to use, and while its open world may be geographically smaller, it feels large and certainly more varied – at least in some respects – than either of its sequels.

I first played Morrowind on the original Xbox – the console I’d bought to replace the Dreamcast after that machine’s unceremonious exit from the early 2000s console war! But the PC version gave the game a whole new lease of life thanks to modding – and mods are still being created for the game 20 years later. There are mods that completely overhaul Morrowind’s graphics, meaning that it can look phenomenal on a modern-day PC, and there are so many different player-made quests, items, weapons, characters, and even wholly new locations that the game can feel like an entirely new experience even though it’s marking a milestone anniversary.

Although modding and mod communities had been around before Morrowind came along, it was one of the first games that I can recall to genuinely lean into and encourage the practice. The PC version of Morrowind shipped with a piece of software called The Elder Scrolls Construction Set as a free extra, and it contained everything players needed to get started with modding. I even had a play with the Construction Set when I got the PC version of Morrowind a few years after its release, and while I lack the technical skills to create anything substantial, I remember it being an interesting experience.

I followed a guide I found online and managed to create a companion for the main character, as well as added doors to a specific house so it could be accessed from any of the towns on the map! I also added a few items to the game, like an overpowered sword with a silly name. By this point, Morrowind and its mods were just good fun, and as I didn’t have a PC capable of running Oblivion when that was released a few years later, Morrowind mods were an acceptable stand-in!

Before Morrowind became overladen with mods, though, there were two incredible expansion packs released for the game. This was before the era of cut-content DLC or mini DLC packs that added nothing of substance, so both Tribunal and Bloodmoon were massive expansions that were almost like new games in their own ways. Both added new areas to explore, new factions, new characters, new items, and new questlines. While Tribunal was fantastic with its air of mystery, I personally enjoyed Bloodmoon even more. I like wintery environments, and the frozen island of Solstheim, far to the north of the main map, was exactly the kind of exciting environment that I’d been looking for.

So that’s it for today, really. I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the anniversary of one of my favourite role-playing games, to celebrate some of the things that made it great – and continue to make it a game that I’m happy to return to and to recommend to fans of the genre. Regular readers might’ve seen Morrowind on some of my “PC gaming deals” lists around Christmas or in the summertime, and when Morrowind goes on sale on Steam, for example, the game-of-the-year edition with both expansion packs can be less than the price of a coffee. It’s also on Game Pass following Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda – so there’s no excuse not to give it a try, at least!

In the twenty years since Morrowind was released, many other games have imitated its open-world layout, its factions, its branching questlines, and its diversity. Some newer games have bigger worlds, more characters, and so on… but Morrowind will always be a pioneer. It may not have got everything right, but it’s a landmark in the history of video games that showed us just how immersive and real a fantasy world could feel.

As one of the first games of its kind that I ever played, I have very fond memories of Morrowind. Often when I pick up a new open-world, fantasy, or role-playing title, I’ll find myself unconsciously comparing it to Morrowind, or noting that Morrowind was the first game where I encountered some gameplay mechanic or element for the first time. It really is an incredibly important game. So happy birthday, Morrowind! Here’s to twenty years!

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind is out now and can be purchased for PC or via Xbox Game Pass. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind is the copyright of Bethesda Game Studios and Microsoft. Some images above courtesy of UESP.net. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Picard theories – week 9

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2 and casting information for Season 3. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: DiscoveryEnterprise, VoyagerFirst Contact, and The Next Generation.

After taking a rather meandering route to get there, Hide and Seek wrapped up one of Picard Season 2’s main storylines – that of Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen in the 21st Century. I’m still fully expecting an epilogue or coda to that story, though, so perhaps it wasn’t quite as conclusive as it appeared to be.

With that in mind, the season finale has a lot of heavy lifting to do if we’re to see all of the main narrative elements from Season 2 brought to a satisfactory conclusion. Even to conclude a simple majority of the remaining storylines and arcs feels like a pretty big ask, and while I’m sure we’ll be in for a feature-length extended episode to round out the season, I’m at least a little anxious as I look ahead. The possibility exists, though, that Season 3 will pick up any loose ends left behind – so there’s hope in that regard.

Pew! Pew!

This week the theory list has been trimmed quite significantly! In addition to one theory that’s been confirmed (or at least “close enough” to count as confirmed), we have one that’s been outright debunked. Then there are six theories that I’m choosing to retire! While not entirely “debunked” by anything that we saw on screen in Hide and Seek, with just one episode remaining the season’s story has clearly gone in a different direction making those theories feel impossible at this juncture.

So let’s get started, shall we? As always, we’ll take a look at the theories leaving the list first of all.

Debunked theory:
Q and Picard will team up to stop the Borg Queen.

Q with Picard in Penance.

I have to confess that I rather liked this idea! Though I always caveat all of my theories by warning “don’t get too attached,” I was quite taken by the idea that something Q had started as a test or trial ended up going so far off the rails that he’d have no choice but to work with Picard in order to resolve it. In this case, I wondered whether the Borg Queen being on the loose on Earth in the 21st Century might’ve been so far outside of Q’s plans that, somehow, he and Picard would end up working together.

This theory felt like it could’ve brought together the main story threads: the Borg Queen assimilating Dr Jurati, Picard and the crew needing allies to defend La Sirena, and Q’s declining powers meaning that he couldn’t just snap his fingers and undo it all. There was scope, perhaps, for a more weak and vulnerable presentation of Q; for Picard and Q to need one another’s help equally. There was also the potential to show off Q’s knowledge of the Borg – and maybe even tie in some kind of Borg attack on the Q Continuum into the story to explain what’s happened to Q.

La Sirena’s crash site.

As it turned out, Q was entirely absent from Hide and Seek. Though his influence looms large over the season’s story, we haven’t actually spent that much time with him so far. His biggest role to date came in Penance – and that’s also the last time he had a run-in with Picard. We’ve seen Q deal with Dr Soong and Guinan in subsequent episodes, but I can’t be the only one longing to get Q and Picard back together – even if it isn’t for a team-up!

Of all the theories I’ve concocted about Season 2, this is probably the one I liked best. It seemed to be a genuinely good fit based on what we knew about the story at the end of Mercy, and had the season’s endgame been planned out differently, I think it could’ve worked really well. There’s still time for Q and Picard to reunite, and spend time together in a less-adversarial way… and it’s even possible, I suppose, that we could see Q return in Season 3. I’ve always felt that there’d be something poetic about Q bookending Picard’s story – he appeared in Encounter at Farpoint, so maybe he’ll appear in whichever episode marks Picard’s final end as a Star Trek character.

So that theory was debunked.

Next, we have six theories that I’m choosing to retire from the list. They now seem impossible based on where Hide and Seek ended.

Retired theory #1:
The USS Stargazer will make an appearance.

Picard on the bridge of the USS Stargazer in The Next Generation Season 1 episode The Battle.

For a long time – too long, perhaps – I’d been hanging onto the idea that the mission to the 21st Century wouldn’t be all that Season 2 had to offer, and with time travel on the agenda I wondered if we might visit other eras or other moments from Picard’s past. When a brand-new USS Stargazer debuted at the start of the season, that felt like it could’ve been a hint; why bring it up otherwise, right? It also seemed possible, as Picard wrangled with past traumas, that something from his time in command of the Stargazer might’ve come up. As I mentioned in my review of Hide and Seek, the death of Jack Crusher (husband to Beverly and father to Wesley) was one significant event that was mentioned in The Next Generation but never expanded upon. I always inferred that Picard felt responsible for Jack’s death; there was scope, perhaps, to learn why.

With one episode remaining, this now seems impossible – at least in Season 2. If we get back to a ship named Stargazer before the credits roll, it’ll surely be the new vessel that Captain Rios commanded in the season premiere!

Retired theory #2:
Seven of Nine will choose to remain in 2024.

Seven of Nine has been re-Borgified.

When Seven of Nine found herself in the Confederation timeline, she caught a glimpse of a life she’d never known and saw what it might’ve been like had she never been assimilated by the Borg. After arriving in 2024, it was clear that she was thoroughly enjoying the sense of freedom that not having any Borg implants gave her. I had speculated that, when faced with the prospect of returning to the prime timeline and her old body, Seven might choose not to.

That concept was shot down by Hide and Seek, as Seven was saved by the Borg Queen in a way that restored her implants. The technobabble side of how this worked and why she ended up looking exactly the same as before is something that the episode could’ve dedicated an extra couple of minutes to, but overall this side of the story worked well enough. Although the metaphor was perhaps buried a little deep, the idea of learning to accept oneself and one’s appearance is a good one. It’s also a story well-suited to the franchise, and one that was told in a very “Star Trek” way.

Retired theory #3:
Picard and the crew will have to trigger World War III to save the future.

World War III saw the use of nuclear weapons.

This is one of the longest-running theories on the list! I came up with it months ago, when the concept of time travel to the 21st Century was first teased in one of the pre-season trailers. Even as the Europa Mission and other elements came into play I clung onto it – perhaps for a little too long, in retrospect. There’s been no mention of World War III all season, aside from a couple of very oblique references to the “years leading up to first contact,” so it had felt ever more like a long-shot.

With the Borg Queen having warped away to parts unknown, and World War III not being in any way part of Q’s plan, it now seems certain that triggering the conflict won’t be part of how Picard and the crew restore the timeline.

I stand by what I said when I first posited this theory, though: it would have been one heck of a moral dilemma.

Retired theory #4:
Picard and/or the Federation will use information from the Confederation timeline to defeat the Borg.

The Magistrate – a senior Confederation official.

It seems increasingly likely that we’ll never learn how the Confederation was able to beat the Borg, nor what technological tricks or weapons they may have developed during their conquest of the Collective. I feel a pang of disappointment about that; it was perhaps the one thing from the Confederation timeline that I could’ve happily spent an episode exploring.

Now that the Borg Queen has taken La Sirena – complete with all of its Confederation technology and databanks – there’s no way for Picard and the crew to use anything that the Confederation developed to fight the Borg. And if, as Dr Jurati hopes, the Borg will be convinced to take a different path, there may not be a need to go to war with them in the first place. For those reasons I’m retiring this theory – but with the caveat that if the Borg somehow return as major antagonists in Season 3, I may reprise it!

Retired theory #5:
Dr Adam Soong will create the Borg.

Dr Adam Soong.

I thought an interesting twist on the Borg side of the story could’ve come either from Q or the Borg Queen working with Dr Adam Soong to create the Borg. Although Dr Soong seems to have assisted the Borg Queen by giving her access to resources and a squad of soldiers, the story ultimately went in a very different direction.

Knowing that one of Data’s ancestors had a role in creating the Borg – one of the biggest threats that the Federation has ever faced – could’ve been a story worth exploring, and had it been handled well there was the potential to inform not only Borg stories, but also the characterisations of Data, Soji, and the whole Soong family.

Retired theory #6:
The Federation created the Borg.

The first Borg drone ever seen in Star Trek.

As above, there’d be a delicious irony to learning that the Federation – and perhaps even Picard, inadvertently – had created their own worst nightmare in the Borg Collective. I even wondered if the story taking this route might’ve explained why Discovery Season 2 abruptly abandoned a story with the Control AI that could likewise have been a Borg origin story. However, it didn’t come to pass on this occasion.

The early history of the Borg could absolutely be worth exploring, and despite the fact that the Borg definitely began to feel stale and overused by the latter part of Voyager’s run, the faction still has more to contribute to Star Trek in the future – I’m certain of that. In addition to a story that could explore the Borg’s origins (regardless of whether or not there’s a Federation connection), I’ve also proposed a “Borg Invasion” concept for a Star Trek series, and I think something like that could work exceptionally well as a sci-fi-action-horror hybrid.

On this occasion, though, despite input from Dr Jurati to this incarnation of the Borg Queen, and despite this story taking place in the past, we didn’t get that elusive Borg origin story!

So those theories have been retired.

There was one confirmation this week – or at least a theory that I got “close enough” with that I’m going to call it confirmed. I can do that – it’s my list!

Confirmed theory:
The Borg Queen departed aboard La Sirena, leaving Picard and the crew in the past.

The Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid.

So the Borg Queen didn’t ultimately steal La Sirena as I’d proposed in my initial formulation of this theory! But I did correctly predict that the Borg Queen would successfully gain possession of the ship, and that she’d leave Picard and the rest of the crew stranded in 2024. We saw that play out in Hide and Seek thanks to the deal struck between Dr Jurati, the Borg Queen, Raffi, and Seven of Nine.

As I said in my review, I would’ve liked this sequence to have been expanded. I could’ve happily enjoyed an entire episode just on the negotiation, discussing and debating with the Borg Queen how changing her entire philosophy and guiding principles could be the solution she’s been missing. I would’ve also loved to see Picard himself included on this side of the story.

The Borg Queen took La Sirena and left Earth.

Despite those shortcomings, though, what we did get to see was outstanding, and everyone involved deserves a lot of credit for the way they handled this sequence. The concepts here are genuinely interesting, and the idea of a Borg Collective – or a Borg faction – that implements this new guiding principle could be worth exploring. If Picard picks up this story, I hope we get to see it for longer than just a single episode!

The way the Borg Queen departed raises a lot of questions, though. Setting aside the obvious ones like “will she actually keep her word,” we come to more immediate concerns for Picard and the crew. How will they make it home? Can they even make it home? Will someone need to rescue them? Read on, because I have a few ideas on that front…

So that theory was confirmed!

Now we’ll jump into the main theory list, beginning as always with theories that are either new or saw significant movement in Hide and Seek this week. Several of these theories are, I freely admit, looking less and less likely to pan out. But others feel quite plausible as we head into the season finale, and when the story is so unpredictable… who knows what could happen?

Theory #1:
There will be a Borg civil war between a faction inspired by the Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid and the rest of the Collective.

Could the Borg be fighting amongst themselves?

How do we connect the events that have just unfolded back to what we saw at the beginning of the season? In The Star Gazer, the Borg sent a message asking for Picard and the Federation to help them. If their message was genuine it suggests that the Borg who sent the message are in danger or under threat. One possibility is that the Borg are fighting a losing war against an external power – and that’s something we’ll consider momentarily. But another possibility, in light of what transpired this week, is that there’s a Borg civil war.

Dr Jurati (and the others) appear to have convinced the Borg Queen to entirely change her philosophy and guiding principles, and this could lead to the creation of a radically different Borg Collective. If the Jurati-Queen hybrid contacts the Borg Collective and tries to get them to join her, there’s a distinct possibility that some or all of them won’t. It might be possible to create a new Borg Collective, but even in the 21st or 22nd Centuries the existing Collective would be difficult to sway. Furthermore, the Borg Collective that already exists may see the Jurati-Queen hybrid as a threat, or may simply want to conquer and assimilate the faction. There are several routes to the same end point: a war between different factions of Borg.

The anomaly encountered in The Star Gazer was said to have some kind of “temporal” signature – so this could be a conflict that took place in the 21st or 22nd Century, almost directly after the Jurati-Queen left Earth.

Theory #2:
Some or all of the main characters from The Next Generation will rescue Picard from 2024.

Acting Captain Riker to the rescue?

How will Picard and the crew make it home? That’s one of the biggest questions I have as we go into the season finale! One way to get Picard and the others home safely would be for someone from The Next Generation – or possibly everyone – to show up at the last minute to rescue Picard. Perhaps Picard was able to leave a message or clue hidden somewhere for them to find, so they’d know where and when to pick him up.

With Season 3 bringing back The Next Generation characters, I’m half-expecting to see some or all of them included toward the end of the Season 2 finale to set up the next chapter of the story. This could be a fun and exciting way to do it. It would also be quite a symmetrical ending to the season, as Acting Captain Riker (and his copy-paste fleet) saved the day in the Season 1 finale, too!

Theory #3:
The “two Renées” comment refers to Picard’s nephew.

Could the Borg Queen be talking about this chap?

The character above is René Picard – not to be confused with Renée Picard! René was Picard’s nephew, the son of his brother Robert. In Generations, Picard learned that his brother and nephew had died in a fire at the vineyard, leaving him the sole surviving member of his family. Family became more important to Picard thereafter, and it seems like it was Robert and René’s deaths that led Picard to choose his family home for his self-imposed exile after the events of Children of Mars.

My theory is that the cryptic comment that the Jurati-Queen made about there being “two Renées” in Picard’s life actually refers not to Renée the astronaut somehow being cloned or copied or sent to an alternate reality, but simply to the existence of young René, Picard’s nephew, and the influence he had on his life.

Theory #4:
Rios will choose to stay with Teresa and Ricardo in 2024.

Rios with Teresa in Hide and Seek.

As Teresa and Rios have progressed their romance, I think that now opens up the very real possibility that Rios might choose to remain behind in 2024 when Picard’s mission is complete. Some people are willing to make big sacrifices for the people that they love, and if Rios truly loves Teresa, maybe he’d be willing to abandon the 25th Century to stay with her – helping to build that future from his position in the past.

In Hide and Seek, Rios seemed to be seconds away from saying “I love you” to Teresa, and for her part she was pushing him to stay with her. I haven’t been enjoying Rios’ story this season for the most part, and the “love story” angle is a bit of a cliché, unfortunately. But in light of the decision to bring back the main cast of The Next Generation in Season 3, we’ve already seen Picard make efforts to slim down its cast and shuffle off main characters like Elnor and Dr Jurati. Rios could be next – and if he survives the season finale, he may choose not to head back to the 25th Century.

Theory #5:
An alternate reality is about to be created.

“An alternate reality?”

With the Borg Collective potentially being pacified and a cryptic message about “two Renées,” I wonder if we might be on the cusp of a permanent divergence in the timeline. One path may lead to the Confederation timeline, the other to the prime timeline – and both may be able to coexist in much the same way as the prime timeline coexists with the Kelvin timeline.

As far as we know based on what Q told Picard in Penance, the Confederation timeline replaced the prime timeline. That seems to have come about by the sabotage or failure of the Europa Mission combined with Dr Soong’s inventions that saved the Earth from an ecological collapse – but is it possible that things aren’t what they seem? Could Q have lied, for example, about the Confederation timeline? Or could something that Picard and the crew are about to do end up creating another alternate reality?

If so, I hope it’ll be possible to revisit the Confederation timeline in future. Though it was very similar in many respects to the Mirror Universe, there were some differences. Having only spent a single episode in that setting, and with tantalising details like the Confederation’s defeat of the Borg remaining unexplained, there’s scope to go back and learn more about this very different timeline.

Theory #6:
The loose ends from Season 1 will be tied up.

Initiates of the Zhat Vash on the planet Aia.

With only one episode left in which to conclude all of Season 2’s storylines, it feels less and less likely that we’ll get closure on all of the points that Season 1’s rushed finale left on the table. However, there’s still a glimmer of hope that we might get some inclusions, even if just by way of a line or two of dialogue.

Here are the main unresolved points as I see them:

  • What will become of the synths on Coppelius, and will they have to be relocated for safety?
  • Did Starfleet attempt to visit Aia and shut down the beacon at the centre of the Zhat Vash’s prophecy? Leaving it out in the open seems dangerous.
  • Will Starfleet contact the super-synths and attempt to make peace or convince them that they pose no threat?
  • Why did Bruce Maddox go to Freecloud?
The Artifact’s crash site on Coppelius.
  • With the Zhat Vash plot exposed, what will become of their crusade against synthetic life?
  • Did Federation-Romulan relations suffer as a result of the Zhat Vash’s attack on Mars and attempted attack on Coppelius?
  • What happened to Narek after he was captured by the Coppelius synths?
  • Who controls the Artifact and what will happen to the surviving ex-Borg?

Theory #7:
Elnor will be restored to life when the crew make it back to the 25th Century.

Holo-Elnor in Hide and Seek.

After Raffi got a cathartic goodbye with holo-Elnor in Hide and Seek, I’m no longer convinced that this theory will pan out. If Elnor is alive again in the 25th Century, it would actually rob that emotional moment of much of its power. As above, with The Next Generation’s main characters returning in Season 3, it may turn out that Elnor was just another casualty of the need to make room for them.

However, as I said in my review of Hide and Seek, a big part of me hopes to see Elnor saved. Elnor’s story feels incomplete, and he’s a character that we never really had the chance to get to know all that well. Even in Season 1, his impact on the story was limited compared with other characters, and having just been given a new arc as a Starfleet cadet at the beginning of this season, there’s so much potential for him to develop into a wonderful Star Trek character. If the franchise is to survive in the longer-term it’ll need characters like Elnor to stick around.

Theory #8:
The season will end on a cliffhanger.

I first propsed this theory before Season 2 had even premiered based in large part on the fact that Seasons 2 and 3 entered production back-to-back. However, as the season has worn on with many different story threads still in play, it’s seemed even more plausible to think that we won’t see everything neatly tied up by the time the credits roll. That feeling has been amplified by the events of Hide and Seek.

While Hide and Seek concluded the Dr Jurati-Borg Queen story – at least the parts set in the 21st Century – there’s still a heck of a lot left on the table. Even assuming that the season finale will be a feature-length outing, we still have to get through all of the stuff with Q, including finding out why he set Picard this puzzle and what may or may not be killing him, Teresa and Rios’ romance, Picard and Laris’ unresolved romance, the Europa Mission, stopping Dr Soong, explaining the whole “two Renées” thing, tying in recent events to Picard’s past and trauma, and connecting everything to the season premiere.

That might be too much to ask from a single episode – so some or all of it may be left open for Season 3 to pick up next year.

Theory #9:
The masked, hooded figure from The Star Gazer is not the real Borg Queen.

The Borg Queen from the season premiere.

We can’t call this one “confirmed” just yet, but the assumption I’m sure a lot of folks have after the events of Mercy and Hide and Seek is that the masked, hooded Borg from the season premiere is, in fact, the Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid. Even if the season ends on a cliffhanger, I would expect that this point will be clarified; it could even be the final scene of the season!

I had previously proposed other “Borg Queen” candidates, but unless there’s going to be some colossal twist in the story’s final act I think we can probably rule them out. Earlier in the season I suggested Admiral Janeway (from the Voyager finale), Renée Picard, and Soji as possibilities for this role – along with Dr Jurati.

So we’ll have to see what comes next. If Picard finds himself back on the bridge of the Stargazer, will the Borg Queen remove her mask?

Theory #10:
Picard and the crew will “borrow” Renée’s Europa Mission spacecraft to get home.

Renée Picard.

Now that La Sirena is gone, Picard finds himself stranded – along with Seven, Raffi, and Rios – in 2024. It’s possible that Tallinn or Q could help them get home, but one way that they could do it independently would be to gain control of Renée Picard’s spacecraft. This could tie in with the “two Renées” comment that we’ve already discussed – perhaps with one version of Renée making it home and another being transported to the 25th Century.

Alternatively, this could tie into Picard’s comment earlier in the season that the details of Renée’s mission are lost to history. After making an important discovery, it seems that no one really knows what happened to Renée – so her disappearance from the 21st Century may not impact the history of the prime timeline at all.

If Picard and the crew could find a way to use Renée’s spacecraft to slingshot around the sun, just like they did with La Sirena earlier in the season, it could carry them home.

Theory #11:
The Borg’s request for help from the Federation is genuine.

The USS Stargazer’s communications officer first received the garbled transmission.

If the Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid stuck to her commitment and was successful at establishing a new Borg Collective, one with a fundamentally different guiding principle, then maybe that version of the Queen and Collective were genuinely asking for help. Whatever their problem may be, turning to Picard would make sense if the Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid was in control.

This could also explain things like the Borg Queen stunning the Stargazer’s crew rather than killing them; preventing them from interfering but doing so in a non-lethal way. It could also explain what she was trying to accomplish by hacking into the Stargazer’s systems.

The Borg Queen’s mechanical tentacles hacked into the USS Stargazer.

The Borg Queen also seemed to accept what was about to happen in her final moments, playing Non, je ne regrette rien and speaking with familiarity to Picard, telling him to “look up.” If the Borg Queen’s plan was to reach Picard at just the right moment – perhaps to set off this whole time travel saga in the first place – that could explain why.

It does raise the very alarming question of what could possibly have the Borg running scared, though! As mentioned above it could be another Borg faction – the original Collective versus the upstarts. But it could also be someone else… maybe the Season 1 super-synths?

Theory #12:
Q is not responsible for changing the timeline.

Q’s powers are failing.

Although Q was absent from Hide and Seek, we’ve seen enough from him earlier in the season to know that his powers are far more limited than we’ve ever seen before. That could mean that Q simply lacks the ability to make such a complete change to the timeline – even though he seems to have been scrambling around trying to do so.

This would certainly be a twist on the way we expect the remainder of the story to unfold! But with no explanation from Q so far as to why he might’ve wanted to change the entire timeline – save for an ambiguous comment to Guinan about “the escape” from traps being what matters – there’s definitely still scope to say that someone else intervened, and that Q was less involved that we’ve been led to believe all season long.

I have a longer article that goes into more detail about this theory that I wrote before the season premiere, and you can find it by clicking or tapping here.

Theory #13:
Q shielded Picard and the crew of La Sirena from changes to the timeline.

Q in Mercy.

Regardless of who changed the timeline and why, it seems clear that Q is responsible for ensuring that Picard and the crew of La Sirena were the only ones unaffected by the change. If his goal was to change the timeline to punish Picard that makes sense – but it also leaves open the possibility that Picard will be able to figure out what happened and prevent it. That could be Q’s goal.

I’m not quite ready to call this one “confirmed,” though. I think we need to spend more time with Q to understand what he’s done, what he hopes to achieve by it, and why.

Theory #14:
Who is responsible for damaging the timeline, then?

The Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid.

Though I had proposed a number of suspects earlier in the season who could’ve potentially been responsible for setting up this whole time travel saga, at this stage it feels like there’s only one remaining realistic candidate: the Dr Jurati-Borg Queen hybrid. This would set up a kind of temporal paradox, but it could be one that has an escape hatch.

If the timeline splits and an alternate reality is created, perhaps the Borg Queen from that reality could be responsible for the attack on the USS Stargazer and for setting into motion the events of the season. The only thing she’d have to rely on Q to do would be to ensure that Picard, Dr Jurati, and the others would be aware that things had changed.

Theory #15:
The Borg are fighting a war – and they’re losing.

Could the Borg be fighting a war against the super-synths?

As posited above, the creation of a Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid, and the plans she had for establishing a new kind of Borg, could’ve led to a conflict with the rest of the Collective. That would be one potential explanation for why the Borg vessel in The Star Gazer was supposedly seeking help. Alternatively, however, the Borg could be fighting a war against someone else.

One way to connect the two seasons of the series would be for the Borg to be fighting against one of the antagonists from Season 1. The Zhat Vash could, perhaps, have taken the Romulans’ anti-synthetic crusade and targetted the Borg. Or the Borg could be facing off against the super-synths from the Season 1 finale. There are other options within Star Trek’s broader canon, of course, but it starts getting pretty speculative at that point!

Theory #16:
Seven of Nine will join Starfleet.

Seven of Nine wearing a Starfleet uniform in the Voyager Season 7 episode Human Error.

Hide and Seek gave us some additional information about what happened to Seven of Nine in between Voyager and Picard. Apparently she applied to join Starfleet, but even with the backing of Captain Janeway, her application was denied. Seven believes that her Borg background is why the Federation rejected her, and that could explain some of her remarks in The Star Gazer about feeling uncomfortable and unwanted aboard a Starfleet vessel.

However, Hide and Seek also saw Raffi telling Seven that she would make an excellent Starfleet captain – so could that kind of role be in her future? If Seven survives the season (which it seems like she will after her brush with death this week), then maybe she’ll be permitted to join Starfleet at the second time of asking. She could even be assigned to serve under Admiral Picard’s command – potentially setting her up for a role next season. Or she could be given a ship of her own, perhaps with Raffi as a member of her crew. That could tee up an exciting spin-off series!

Theory #17:
The Borg Collective was badly damaged in the Voyager episode Endgame and has been unable to recover.

Admiral Janeway and the Borg Queen.

This theory is certainly looking less and less likely. Aside from a single ambiguous reference to the Borg potentially being in a weakened state all the way back at the start of the season, there hasn’t been any mention of or reference to the events of Endgame all season long. Although Endgame was an important episode, the fact that it hasn’t been brought up could mean that it would feel like a bit of a bolt from the blue if a major revelation connected to this episode were to appear in the season finale. All that being said, this theory has been there in the background all season long and I’m not ready to drop it with just one episode remaining. There’s still time for a connection – even if the connection is smaller than I initially imagined it could be!

Endgame, the final episode of Voyager, depicted a time-travelling Admiral Janeway introducing a neurolytic pathogen – a type of virus – into the Borg Queen, seriously damaging her, her base of operations, and several Borg vessels in the vicinity. Because the Borg hadn’t been seen since – until The Star Gazer, that is – we never got to learn just how deadly Admiral Janeway’s actions were.

Admiral Janeway and Reg Barclay with a holographic Borg drone in Endgame.

I’ve always assumed that the Borg Collective is vast enough, powerful enough, clever enough, and most importantly adaptable enough that Admiral Janeway’s actions weren’t going to strike a fatal blow. Whatever damage she had done seemed like something the Borg could eventually fix – and their existence 25 years later during the events of The Star Gazer seems to prove that. The Borg’s technology and weapons are still streets ahead of anything Starfleet has at its disposal… but even so, it’s still possible that the Borg are on their last legs facing defeat.

If that’s the case, maybe we’ll discover that it was Admiral Janeway who’s responsible – that her actions in Endgame are either wholly or partly to blame for the Borg’s weakened state. Dr Jurati seemed to know that the Borg Collective isn’t as strong as it once was, so that could be another clue pointing to this theory.

So those theories are new or saw movement this week.

There are still several other big theories in play that Hide and Seek didn’t debunk, confirm, or advance in any significant way. To keep the theory list intact and all in one place, we can take a look at those now.

Theory #18:
Kore Soong will team up with Picard and the crew of La Sirena.

Kore Soong.

I haven’t been thrilled with the depiction of Kore Soong so far. Her story feels like a bland repeat of Soji and Dahj’s from Season 1, and she appears to exist in Season 2 more for the purpose of informing us about Dr Adam Soong than to do anything meaningful in her own right. I’m hopeful that that will change, however!

Mercy saw Kore Soong take the antidote or cure for her genetic condition, granting her freedom from her father. She left Dr Soong’s house and struck out on her own for what seems to be the first time – and I wonder if she’ll either seek out Picard or if they’ll run into one another. Kore may know something about Dr Soong that could be useful to the crew of La Sirena… so watch this space. Her story may not be done yet.

Theory #19:
The Q Continuum has been attacked.

Captain Janeway, Tuvok, Quinn, and Q in the Q Continuum.

Following Guinan’s chat with Q in Mercy, this theory feels a little less plausible. However, as we still don’t know what’s going on with Q, I’m keeping it on the table for now. Earlier in the season I felt increasingly sure that whatever had caused Q to lose his powers was something that wasn’t just affecting him personally, and there’s definitely been evidence to that end across the season so far – and beyond.

In Mercy, Guinan reminded us that members of the Q Continuum can kill one another, and that seemed like a very deliberate line to include. Was it just there to avoid nitpicking Trekkies saying “but what about the Q civil war in Voyager?!” or is there a hint there about something else? I don’t believe that the El-Aurians would be to blame if the Q Continuum has been attacked, but with the Borg in the story, they could certainly be a suspect.

Guinan and Q in Mercy.

In earlier episodes we had talk of a “cold war” between the Q and El-Aurians, a conflict that you’d imagine would be fantastically one-sided unless the El-Aurians know of some kind of weakness that the Q have. Then we had Guinan’s failed attempt to summon a Q – not the Q, but any Q. Q suggested that he basically had to walk from wherever he was to the FBI office because Guinan summoned him – but why didn’t another Q respond to the summons? Picard also suggested, after awakening from his coma, that Q may be weaker and more vulnerable than he had previously considered. And going back to Discovery Season 4, the episode The Examples told us that the Federation hadn’t seen any members of the Q Continuum in over 600 years as of the 32nd Century.

All of the pieces of evidence above could suggest that something is happening to the Q Continuum as a whole rather than just to Q himself. If the El-Aurians discovered a weakness, and then were assimilated by the Borg, perhaps the Borg came into possession of a way to harm the Q – attacking them and wiping them out.

In any case, if something that Picard did or didn’t do is connected to those events, that could explain why Q is so angry and why he felt the need to punish Picard. It could even explain Q’s desire to radically alter the timeline.

Theory #20:
Q is angry with Picard for “giving up.”

Grumpy Q.

Over the course of The Next Generation, Q took a particular interest in Picard. More so than anyone else, Q seemed to see potential in Picard as a representative of the human race, someone who potentially showed him what humanity could be… with a little prompting and guidance. Q seemed fascinated by that idea, so seeing Picard’s fall from grace may have shocked him and left him feeling disappointed and bitter.

Picard spent more than a decade away from galactic affairs, retiring to his vineyard and seemingly just waiting around to die. Someone like Q might take that personally; he might feel that Picard was not living up to the potential he had. Perhaps Picard’s absence had some kind of unknown consequence, something that harmed Q or the Q Continuum. In any case, Q’s animosity to Picard seems to be personal – could disappointment at Picard’s attitude in the years prior to Season 1 be the cause?

Theory #21:
At least one character from The Next Generation will make an appearance.

Picard with Dr Crusher in The Next Generation.

In a way, this theory was knocked off-course by the announcement a few weeks ago that Season 3 will be featuring the main characters from The Next Generation in a big way. I had wondered if Season 2 might’ve returned to Nepenthe to see Riker and Troi, for example, but for weeks that has felt very unlikely!

However, there are still ways that one or even all of these characters could be included. Above I suggested that they could rescue Picard from 2024, and that’s one possibility. It’s also possible that the final act of the season finale will begin the process of setting up the story of Season 3, in which case the final moments of the episode could see some or all of these characters return. Although time is running out, I’m keeping this one on the list as we head into the finale!

Theory #22:
The Borg are aware that Picard is now a synth – and his synthetic status is part of the reason why they waited until now to make contact.

Picard awakened in a new synthetic body in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2.

The timing of the new Borg incursion is interesting, especially considering that they asked for Picard by name. Are they aware of his newfound synthetic status? And if so, could Picard’s transition to a new synthetic body be the reason why the Borg chose to launch their attack?

The Borg seek “perfection” through a synthesis of organic and synthetic components, and while Picard’s new synthetic body is a far cry from the Borg drones we’ve seen, the idea of an organic mind in a synthetic body isn’t a million miles away from that same basic idea. Although Picard’s body was said to be comparable in practically every way to his original one, synthetics can have enhanced abilities that allow them to easily overpower humans – and, as we’ve seen with Data on more than one occasion, they can outmatch individual Borg drones as well.

A Borg drone losing a fight against Data.

Perhaps the Borg want to re-assimilate Picard now that he’s synthetic. If the Collective is still reeling from the damage inflicted upon it by Admiral Janeway or if they’re on the losing side of a war, perhaps they hope to use fully-synthetic bodies like Picard’s to replace damaged or destroyed drones, or as cannon fodder on the front lines. There are many reasons why the Borg might be interested in synthetic technology, and that could explain their re-emergence.

Even if the Borg don’t plan to assimilate Picard or the Coppelius synths, the timing of their appearance is certainly interesting and there could be a connection.

Theory #23:
The Borg ship from The Star Gazer crossed over from the Confederation timeline.

The Borg vessel identified as “Legion.”

As far as we know at this stage, the Confederation timeline replaced the prime timeline thanks to the past being changed. But timelines and parallel universes often go hand-in-hand in Star Trek, and after we learned about the Borg’s defeat in the Confederation timeline, I wonder if their ship from the season premiere might have found a way to punch through or cross over into the prime timeline.

If the Borg were facing defeat, as their message seemed to suggest, perhaps that could explain why. Also, the anomaly that the ship emerged from was not a typical transwarp conduit; we’d seen transwarp corridors as recently as Season 1. Finally, the Borg Queen of the Confederation timeline was aware of Picard and the history of the prime timeline. If the masked Borg Queen turns out to be the Dr Jurati hybrid, she would have known about the prime timeline and may have considered it her best chance for survival.

Theory #24:
Rios will bring Teresa and Ricardo to the 25th Century.

Teresa and Rios at the clinic.

This is an inversion of the theory above about Rios potentially remaining in 2024. Rios has clearly abandoned the idea of making as little impact on the timeline as possible! Just like Kirk did for Dr Gillian Taylor in The Voyage Home, perhaps Rios will seek to bring Teresa and Ricardo forwards in time. Teresa may have her clinic to attend to – although its status is in doubt after it was raided by ICE earlier in the season – but she may want to leave the world of the 21st Century behind to head into a more optimistic future.

If Teresa and Rios continue to pursue a romantic relationship, and Rios begins to offer himself as a father figure to Ricardo, maybe the stage will be set for Teresa heading to the 25th Century. It wouldn’t be the weirdest or wildest possibility, especially not now that Teresa and Ricardo are both aware of Rios’ true identity and the existence of La Sirena.

Theory #25:
Teresa and Ricardo are Rios’ ancestors.

Teresa with Rios in Mercy.

This could be a heartbreaking end to Rios and Teresa’s burgeoning romance! In true Back to the Future style, perhaps Rios will learn that Teresa and Ricardo are his distant ancestors, bringing their relationship to a screeching half and preventing either of them from taking things further.

We’ve seen Star Trek deal with time travel on many occasions, including fixed moments in time and people too important to be changed or killed. And in a story in which Picard has already met a distant ancestor of his own – Renée – there could be a kind of poetic symmetry if Rios were to discover a connection to Teresa and Ricardo. If this pans out, I hope Rios and Teresa discover the truth before they… y’know!

Theory #26:
Rios will be killed and Picard will assume command of the new USS Stargazer.

Rios in the captain’s chair of the USS Stargazer.

One thing I can’t figure out at the moment is what sort of role the new cast will have in Season 3. If you somehow missed the cack-handed announcement, it’s been revealed that the main cast of The Next Generation (sans Wil Wheaton and Denise Crosby) will be reuniting in Season 3, and that they will have major roles to play. If that’s the case it seems all but certain that the main cast of Picard will be sidelined. We’ve already seen that happen this season with Elnor killed, Dr Jurati assimilated, and Soji missing in action, so that really only leaves Raffi, Seven, and Rios.

If the teases and hints about Season 3 that we’ve heard so far prove to be true, it seems as though Picard and the crew will need a ship… so could that ship be the new USS Stargazer?

New sets were built from scratch for the Stargazer, including a conference room, bridge, turbolift, and corridors, yet those sets were only used in a single episode at the start of the season. Even if the crew make it back to the 25th Century next time, that’s still a massive investment for relatively little screen time! So my theory is that the new sets will be used more extensively in Season 3 when Admiral Picard assumes command of the USS Stargazer. Why would there be a vacancy in the captain’s chair? Because Captain Rios is going to be one of the characters shuffled out of the way to make room for the returning crew of The Next Generation.

So that’s it!

Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen.

As we head into the season finale, a lot of questions remain unanswered. I won’t be upset if none of these theories pan out – but I could find myself saying that the season ended in disappointing fashion if questions about Q, Renée, the Europa Mission, and the Borg aren’t resolved satisfactorily. The only exception to that might be if the season ends on a cliffhanger, clearly establishing that Picard’s next outing will continue these storylines.

So it really is all to play for in the final episode of the season. The more I think about the events leading up to this point, the more convinced I am that some of the extraneous fluff should have been cut from several mid-season episodes. That would’ve allowed us to spend more time on things like the negotiation with the Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid, as well as potentially more time with Q and Picard to explain what Q did, why he did it, and how whatever’s happened to him is related to Picard. It’s possible that the season finale and/or Season 3 will do justice to all of the narrative threads that remain in play – but I’m certainly a little nervous as the season runs out of track.

Los Angeles at night, circa 2024.

Despite that, I’m trying to stay optimistic! The season finale will likely be a feature-length outing, and there are some potentially exciting and explosive storylines that remain in play. Stopping Dr Soong is one of the big ones, and that could certainly be a source of drama and conflict, but there’s more. Seeing Q and Picard back together and getting a proper explanation for what’s been going on with him would be one of my big requests – and I think we’ll get that, even if it means that other story points will have to wait.

I always like to end these theory lists by saying that I do this just for fun. I enjoy writing, I enjoy Star Trek, and spending more time in this world is an escape and an enjoyable distraction. But for some folks, fan theories can be frustrating or unenjoyable, especially if they get very attached to a plausible-sounding theory that ultimately doesn’t pan out. I have no “insider information” and I’m not trying to claim that anything suggested above can, will, or must be part of Picard Season 2. I fully expect many of these theories to be debunked and for the season to go in wildly unpredictable directions!

Star Trek: Picard Season 2 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, Scandinavia, Latin America, and Australia, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and the rest of the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Picard review – Season 2, Episode 9: Hide and Seek

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Next GenerationFirst Contact, and Voyager.

This review deals with the sensitive topics of mental health and suicide and may be uncomfortable for some readers.

If I’ve done my counting right, then I believe Hide and Seek is Jean-Luc Picard’s 200th Star Trek appearance. It gets a little fuzzy when we look at two-part episodes that are occasionally considered as feature-length outings, but if we go in broadcast order then I’m pretty sure that the character of Jean-Luc Picard has now appeared in 200 Star Trek productions (including four films). So that’s pretty neat!

Hide and Seek was an exciting episode that focused on the Borg side of the story in a big way. But it was also an episode that fell into the trap of some pretty clichéd storytelling, something that definitely detracted from some of the impact that the story had. There were some emotional highlights – including some wonderful performances from Alison Pill, Michelle Hurd, and Jeri Ryan – but overall, I’m left feeling that the season has taken a slow and meandering route to reach this point, and that more time could’ve been spent on some of these interesting storylines and powerful moments had some of the extraneous fluff been cut out from earlier episodes.

It was a dark and stormy night…

For the first time this season, I wasn’t wild about some of the cinematography in Hide and Seek. Parts of the episode were coloured with a dark blue hue – something not uncommon on television to indicate darkness – but I found that it gave those sequences a washed-out look. Though we aren’t anywhere close to the failures of something like The Long Night in Game of Thrones’ eighth season, the colour palette did not flatter the scenes set at Château Picard, and the episode suffered for this creative choice.

Hide and Seek doubled-down on exploring the trauma that Picard faced in his youth, and it was revealed that the memory he’s been repressing was his mother’s suicide and discovering her body. As in Monsters a couple of weeks ago, though, I’m struggling to see how this story connects with what’s happening in the rest of the season, and why the series has decided that this hitherto unknown chapter of Picard’s life warranted so much time dedicated to it.

Hide and Seek delved once again into Picard’s youth.

In a general sense, I’m not averse to the idea of taking an established character and fleshing them out, giving more detail to their background and history. And as stated earlier in the season, I can’t recall anything from Picard’s past Star Trek appearances that would’ve explicitly ruled out something like this happening to him in his youth. However, when dealing with a character who’s made as many appearances as Picard, these kinds of stories have to serve some greater purpose – and right now, this story of Picard’s youth and his mother’s death doesn’t appear to do that.

As I asked in my review of Monsters: what aspect of Picard’s character, personality, temperament, or personal philosophy does this revelation explain? How do we as the audience feel that we understand Picard any better in light of this season spending a significant chunk of its runtime on this story? We know more about Picard’s past in a factual sense – but the facts that have been brought to light don’t inform his characterisation in any way, neither here in Picard nor in The Next Generation. There’s no “aha!” moment where the way Picard has behaved, or his stance on life, suddenly seems to click.

It doesn’t feel like this moment informs Picard’s character in any significant way.

If the story itself had been handled differently, perhaps in a season with fewer other things going on, I think I could forgive it. But during two out of the season’s ten episodes now, a significant amount of time has been taken away from other, more interesting and engaging stories to flesh out an aspect of Picard’s backstory that feels unnecessary.

A character like Picard, who has made so many Star Trek appearances, has unexplored moments in his past that a story like this could’ve told. We could’ve learned, for example, that a similar trauma stems from his time in command of the USS Stargazer – the death of Jack Crusher springs to mind as an unexplained event that would be both traumatic and ripe for a deep dive. But this story shone a light on a part of Picard’s past that none of us could’ve anticipated – and when there are events in his past that feel like they could’ve been more interesting, I guess I’m left wondering what might’ve been.

Other events in Picard’s past could’ve taken us on a similar journey.

Picard’s story also had a very “20th Century” feel to it, and as I’ve said on more than one occasion, that doesn’t feel very Star Trek-y. We know from The Next Generation that Picard had an upbringing on a vineyard and that his family weren’t in favour of him joining Starfleet, so in that sense none of it is contradictory. But from the point of view of someone sitting down to watch Star Trek and not some other contemporary drama series, it’s a tad disappointing when the series spends so much time either in the modern-day or in a setting that feels also very much like the modern-day.

And again we come to the mental health side of the story. I was deeply disappointed with what we saw in Monsters, and while nothing in Hide and Seek sank to that level, Yvette’s mental health condition was again underdeveloped and fell into the trap of stereotyping. Continuing our theme of feeling like a story from contemporary times, not three centuries in the future, we saw no attempt made to use the technology of the early 24th Century to help Yvette. Did her husband do anything to help her? Locking away someone with mental health issues “for their own safety” is the kind of thing that the Victorians did – and although Picard seemed to get to a place in Monsters where he could understand the burden his father carried and forgive him, the way Maurice treated Yvette raises some seriously disturbing questions.

Maurice Picard.

As someone who is disabled and who has diagnosed mental health conditions, one of the things that I’ve always found inspirational about Star Trek’s future is this idea that many of the ailments people today have to live with will one day be curable. Medical technology that’s akin to magic has been present in the Star Trek franchise since the beginning, and while mental health hasn’t often been depicted in a particularly sympathetic way (look at episodes like Whom Gods Destroy or Statistical Probabilities, for example) I’ve always liked the concept Star Trek proposes: that one day, cures for many health issues – including mental health conditions – will be discovered.

Hide and Seek chose to ignore that, and if it had done so for a better reason, I might be able to overlook it, or at least reduce my negative feelings toward it. But because the story of Yvette’s suicide and its impact on Picard feels so disconnected from everything else going on this season, it just hammers home for me that many of the narrative decisions on this side of the story were, at best, odd. At worst I’d call the whole thing pretty poor.

Yvette Picard’s suicide.

One final note on this aspect of Hide and Seek: for the first time, I felt Star Trek: Picard fall into a storytelling trap that has tripped up sister show Discovery on multiple occasions. Picard and Tallinn were on an incredibly dangerous, time-sensitive mission, with half-assimilated Borg shooting at them, yet Picard allowed himself to become distracted by this event in his past. Being thrown into the room where something bad once happened is, of course, a trigger for post-traumatic stress, and I get that. But even with that understanding and that caveat, I found myself wanting to shout at the episode in frustration that there isn’t time for this right now!

This is something that Discovery does far too often – characters bringing their own personal issues to the fore in a way that clearly interferes with the missions at hand. Picard had never had this issue – not even in Monsters when Picard’s trauma was one of the main storylines – but because of the circumstances of the Borg attack on La Sirena this time, it really did feel that Picard didn’t have the time for such indulgent reminiscing. It’s only through sheer luck that he and Tallinn survived.

Picard allowed himself to become distracted in the middle of a very dangerous situation.

Despite being a relatively long episode at almost fifty minutes, there were a few points, especially as Hide and Seek drew to a close, where I felt some important scenes may have been left on the cutting-room floor. For example, how did Rios know exactly where to transport to save Picard and Tallinn? And how did Picard know that Seven and Raffi had let La Sirena escape when he reunited with them? These questions could’ve been answered, and while they may not feel hugely substantial in terms of the way things turned out, the fact that we didn’t see everything as it unfolded left the final part of the episode feeling rather cut-down and perhaps a little contrived.

I’m glad that Dr Jurati was able to not only wrestle some control back from the Borg Queen, but also talk her down from the most extreme version of her plan. This was Hide and Seek’s emotional high point, and Alison Pill put in an outstanding performance. It was nice to welcome back Annie Wersching as the Borg Queen, too.

Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen.

However, I’m left feeling that this sequence was shorter than it could’ve been, and more importantly that key characters were missing. This is the emotional crux of Dr Jurati’s story this season, and the end of the 21st Century side of the Borg’s story, at least. In a series called Star Trek: Picard, shouldn’t Picard himself have been present? He only showed up after this had happened, seemingly already aware of what had transpired even though we never saw him find out on screen.

After what Picard went through with the Borg from The Next Generation through to First Contact and Season 1 of Picard, there was scope for his inclusion here to wrap up his inner conflict with the Borg; to take the argument he expressed in The Star Gazer about wanting to hear out what the Borg had to say and going one step further. Picard could, in this moment, have come to forgive the Borg Queen and arrive at a place where he’d be willing to give her the opportunity to chart a new path and do things differently.

This sequence was undeniably well done. But it feels like Picard should’ve been involved.

In order for that to have happened, though, this episode – and realistically, much of the season leading up to it – would have needed to be structured very differently. This could even have become the “lesson” that Q had been pushing Picard to learn; that forgiving one’s greatest adversaries and giving them a chance to change is worth doing. Is that something Q might want to teach Picard? I don’t know, but it could’ve worked.

Instead it fell to Raffi, Seven of Nine, and Dr Jurati to strike a deal with the Borg Queen – and while this sequence was emotional and well-constructed, as it ended and the deal was honoured, I felt that, if I were in their shoes, I wouldn’t be convinced that the Borg Queen would stick to her commitments. She basically promised, over the span of a few short minutes, that she’d entirely change her philosophy and worldview, and would build a Borg Collective based on an entirely different guiding principle. Because we’ve seen the Borg on a number of previous occasions, I think this moment needed more to be convincing.

Can we feel certain that the Borg Queen will stick to the agreement she made?

Think back to episodes in Voyager such as Scorpion and Dark Frontier. We saw the Borg’s duplicity and deceitfulness on full display in those stories, and we saw how Captain Janeway and others were absolutely correct not to trust the Borg to uphold their end of whatever deal had been struck. Although Dr Jurati felt that she had extracted a solid commitment from the Borg Queen, and I could quite see Raffi being willing to go along with it in exchange for saving Seven’s life, looking in from the outside I have a lot of reservations that Hide and Seek simply didn’t do enough to placate.

The Borg Queen got what she wanted – and everything we know about her from all of her past appearances tells us that she’s the kind of single-minded, domineering character who would say and do whatever was necessary to get the right outcome. Dr Jurati was standing in her way; appearing to concede to her proposal and saving the life of one single individual would be a negligible price to pay – from the Queen’s perspective – if it meant gaining control of La Sirena and the possibility of reuniting with the Borg Collective in the Delta Quadrant.

The Borg Queen ended up getting what she wanted – control of La Sirena.

In short, this concept was an interesting one. The idea of Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen “merging,” rather than Dr Jurati losing her entire personality, is a clever twist on the way the story could’ve gone, and one that had been set up well in Mercy last week. The broader idea of a Dr Jurati-Borg Queen hybrid potentially taking the Borg Collective in a different and perhaps less aggressive direction is likewise a fascinating concept. But neither of these ideas, great as they are, feel complete. It’s true that there’s one more episode of the season remaining – but as the Borg Queen has now warped away in what felt like a pretty conclusive departure, and with a lot of other storylines still in play, it doesn’t seem as though Picard will be able to revisit these ideas right now.

There was potential in the idea of Dr Jurati pacifying the Borg Queen and lending her unique perspective to the Collective. There was potential in the idea of the Borg Queen listening to such a proposal and giving it some degree of consideration. And there was potential in the idea of a negotiated peace (of a sort) at the end of an episode that had these moments of battling and violence. But I don’t feel that Hide and Seek – and Season 2 as a whole – left enough time to really do justice to any of them, at least not as things currently stand.

A powerful moment as Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen discussed the fate of the Borg Collective… but it needed more.

Negotiations with the Borg Queen could’ve been an entire episode in itself – and I’d certainly be up for a story with that kind of diplomatic focus. We’ve seen Star Trek – and Jean-Luc Picard himself – do those kinds of stories exceptionally well, and it could’ve been an interesting coda to the Borg story that has been running this season. Maybe the season finale will bring more of that, but taken on its own, Hide and Seek had some clever concepts and lofty ambitions – but ultimately failed to fully deliver on them.

That isn’t to detract from some wonderfully evocative performances, though. Alison Pill deserves so much credit for the way she inhabited two very different roles in Hide and Seek, and in particular the way she managed to capture the mannerisms, style, and essence of Annie Wersching’s Borg Queen. That kind of acting challenge – playing a different character in someone else’s body – is a Star Trek trope going all the way back to The Original Series, and some actors are better at it than others! Alison Pill really managed to be convincing as the partially-assimilated Borg Queen, and the moment where she donned the iconic outfit was a special effects home run to boot.

The new Borg Queen looks down at her old body.

As mentioned, the idea of a Borg Queen-Jurati hybrid (Borgati? Jurorg?) is an interesting one, and everyone involved did their best to sell it. To me, the fact that this “negotiation” sequence was too short doesn’t negate those wonderful performances. However, the scene immediately afterward, in which Seven of Nine and Raffi agree to honour their deal felt just a little odd. One of Star Trek’s biggest ever villains just kind of… stood around on the bridge of La Sirena, and the way the ship was then turned over to her felt not only rushed, but also rather anticlimactic.

Dr Soong, who had seemed so interesting when we first met him in Fly Me To The Moon, had already lost all pretence of nuance or complexity prior to the events of Hide and Seek. Although the suitably over-the-top performance from Brent Spiner was absolutely delicious to watch – as his villainous performances always have been – I don’t really understand Dr Soong’s inclusion on this side of the story.

Dr Adam Soong.

Q wanted to shut down the Europa Mission to create the Confederation timeline, but to the Borg Queen that outcome isn’t a good one – it’s what she allied herself with Picard and came to the 21st Century to prevent. Despite the fairly weak protestation that the Borg are now “aware” of the danger the Confederation may pose, I don’t buy that she’d remain allied to Dr Soong – especially not after gaining access to several dozen goons that she partially assimilated.

I guess in that sense the Borg Queen acted out-of-character, not by allying herself to Dr Soong but by maintaining her end of the deal even after he’d served his purpose. Perhaps we could argue that it ties in with the merging of Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen; that the Queen’s personality was already showing signs of being altered. But why should the Borg Queen care about Dr Soong? And if Dr Jurati’s influence is present to excuse that contrivance… shouldn’t she be even more inclined to break their deal and stop him?

Dr Soong ultimately escaped to fight another day.

Despite a performance from Brent Spiner that I will unashamedly admit to having thoroughly enjoyed, I don’t find Dr Soong a particularly interesting villain, and when the story has to contort itself into knots to pull out contrived ways to keep him relevant and engaged, it just falls flat for me. Dr Soong may have been an interesting ally for Q, but the way in which he was included this week, and the way in which the Borg Queen stuck to her agreement with him, stretches credulity to breaking-point for me.

Jeri Ryan had some wonderfully emotional and insightful moments as Seven of Nine this week. We got to learn more of Seven’s post-Voyager history, including that she attempted to join Starfleet, but had her application denied. Seven ascribes this to her Borg past, but it raises the interesting question of why Starfleet permitted Icheb to join (as we saw in Season 1), but not her.

We got some interesting information about Seven of Nine’s life during the years in between Voyager and Picard.

Seven’s story this season has now come full-circle, and she’s regained her Borg implants and appearance thanks to the deal Raffi and Dr Jurati struck with the Borg Queen. It’s sad for Seven, who had been enjoying her newfound appearance, to be forced back to the way she had previously been. However, after what she’s been through over the past few episodes, perhaps Seven has reached a place where she can accept herself, despite what she sees as imperfections. There’s a metaphor there, perhaps, albeit one that’s buried quite deeply in the story.

I felt that there was the potential for this new presentation of Seven of Nine to have carried forward, and although it’s perhaps early days to be thinking about spin-offs and future Star Trek projects, one centred around Raffi and Seven of Nine would certainly find supporters! But if Seven of Nine isn’t going to be a huge part of the series in future – and spoiler alert for Season 3 if you missed the announcement, but with the main cast of The Next Generation set to reprise their roles next time around, there may not be as much of a place for her – then her story this season has a cyclical feel to it; she returns to where she began, albeit having been changed somewhat by the experience.

Has Seven’s story come full-circle?

Raffi got two very powerful emotional moments this week, and Michelle Hurd gave her best performance of the season to bring them to screen wonderfully. Dealing with the fatally-wounded Seven of Nine was the latter of the two, and I really felt the pain that she went through in that moment. But the more powerful moment had come a few minutes earlier as Raffi came face-to-face with the “ghost” of Elnor.

It wasn’t exactly made clear how the holographic version of Elnor worked, nor how it came to have the memories of his last moments, and that was something that could’ve been technobabbled a bit better. Again, we’re feeling the constraints of an episode – and a season – that has to make cuts and creative choices in order to fit into a limited timeslot. However, setting that minor gripe aside, the conversation between the two of them was one of the episode’s emotional highlights.

Raffi was able to get closure for Elnor’s death.

Both Michelle Hurd and Evan Evagora excelled as holo-Elnor provided Raffi with the closure and forgiveness that she needed, and the moment was sad but beautiful. Elnor’s death has been one of the things driving Raffi this season, and it felt for a time as if it was something that could be reversed. Raffi now seems ready to accept Elnor’s passing, however, and I think that’s a signal to us as the audience that Elnor’s death is indeed going to be permanent.

On this point – if indeed it comes to pass – I’m not so sure that Picard got it right. Spoiler alert again for Season 3, but as a point of practicality given the return of the main characters from The Next Generation, I can understand why the show is doing everything it can to shuffle its current crop of main characters out of the way. But as I said when that decision was announced, that in itself is something I have mixed feelings about, and Elnor in particular is a character that I feel we never really got the chance to know very well. Aside from his spotlight episode in Season 1 – Absolute Candor – Elnor’s impact on the story of both seasons has been, at best, limited. The decision to enrol him in Starfleet Academy and to give him a new parental figure in Raffi worked well, especially in light of the beautiful scene where Raffi comforted him at the end of Season 1. But there’s so much potential in a young character like Elnor – the first Romulan in Starfleet. If the Star Trek franchise is to survive long-term, characters like him need to stick around.

Is this the end of the road for Elnor?

Despite my great dislike of Rios’ story this season, and the way in which he has regressed as a character from the season premiere, his role in Hide and Seek was largely inoffensive. For the first time I felt that Picard genuinely cared about Rios – he told Tallinn to turn off the transporter to prevent Rios from returning to the battle after he was injured. If I was being cruel I might say that moment felt unearned given the lack of interaction between Rios and Picard for practically the entire season, but we know Picard as a character well enough to know that he does truly care about those under his command.

The Rios-Teresa romance progressed, getting him to a place where he was one transporter beam (or transporter puff) away from saying “I love you” to her. I had wondered, prior to Hide and Seek, if Rios was being groomed for an heroic death. That still could happen in the season finale, but the developing romance with Teresa, combined with Seven’s return to her Borg status, now has me wondering if Rios will choose to stay in 2024 if and when the moment comes to go home. Teresa seemed to be pushing him in that direction this week.

Rios told Teresa he had to go and save the future.

Having talked about everyone present in Hide and Seek, we now turn to one significant absence: Q. Q has been the season’s driving force, seemingly setting up the Confederation timeline and thus also the trip to the 21st Century. But as the story reaches what should be its endgame, Q was once again absent. There’s now just one episode left not only to put a stop to the next phase of Q’s plan, but also to explain what drove him to do all of this in the first place.

As mentioned, it might’ve been possible for Q to be included here – to say that one of his plans or part of his plan was to see how Picard would react to the merging of the Borg Queen with one of his friends. Though a story about mercy, forgiveness, and a willingness to move beyond animosity wouldn’t be as grand in scale as something like learning to perceive time in a non-linear way – as happened in All Good Things at the end of The Next Generation – in another way it’s kind of in line with what Q tried to show Picard in the episode Tapestry. In that story, Q showed Picard an alternate life that he might’ve led, and guided Picard through events in his past that led him to become the person he is. In this story, Q might’ve been showing Picard, in a similar way, that he can grow and learn to let go of the anger, hate, and fear he has toward the Borg and the Borg Queen.

All of this might’ve been part of Q’s grand plan.

But that doesn’t seem to be what this story is trying to say. With Q entirely absent from Hide and Seek, there isn’t much time left to wrap up his story and provide a satisfactory explanation not only for Q’s behaviour, but in a broader sense for the entire story of the season. Why Q did whatever he did, and what his goals and objectives are, are still concealed by the plot – and if they aren’t given a proper moment in the spotlight next week the entire season could fall apart.

As much as I enjoyed a tense story about a battle against modern-day semi-Borg, and as great as those emotional moments were with Raffi, Elnor, Seven, and Dr Jurati, Hide and Seek feels like it has a gaping hole due to the absence of Q. With Q’s henchman Dr Soong still at large and also needing to be stopped, and the Europa Mission still to save, the season finale has been left with a lot of work to do and a lot of story to wrap up – and that’s before we even consider getting Picard, Seven, Rios, and Raffi back to the 25th Century.

The eerie green glow of Borg transporter beams.

Hide and Seek raises a lot of questions – not least of which has to be what will become of the Borg if the new Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid makes good on her promise to effectively restructure the entire Collective and implement a wholly new guiding philosophy. If such a change to the Borg were to happen in the 21st or 22nd Centuries, that could be transformative for the entire prime timeline. Guinan’s people may never have been attacked, Picard may never have been assimilated, the events of The Best of Both Worlds and First Contact may be erased, Captain Janeway’s run-ins with the Borg may have been averted or turned out completely differently, Seven of Nine may never have been assimilated… heck, even Captain Sisko would be affected, with his wife never dying at the Battle of Wolf 359. If Picard and the crew set out to preserve the timeline, then changing more the three centuries’ worth of Borg history means that they very definitely failed!

Setting those implications to one side for now, I think we’ll have to return to Hide and Seek when the season is over and reassess how some of these story points are ultimately borne out. There’s potential for some of them to become better in light of a successful finale – and likewise there’s the potential for some of them to seem disappointing if the season doesn’t wrap up in a neat way.

La Sirena takes flight.

So that was Hide and Seek. A complicated episode, all things considered, with some significant weaknesses and flaws, but one that managed to be exciting and action-packed with a focus on the Borg that I did appreciate.

The Star Trek franchise continues to try some very different ideas, but not all of them stick the landing. The mental health side of storytelling, not just in Hide and Seek, nor even just in Picard Season 2, but in a much broader sense across the franchise, remains an area of concern and disappointment. Star Trek can do mental health stories well, but the producers have to allow enough time to really do justice to big and complex topics. For me at least, Hide and Seek didn’t succeed at that.

I’m anxiously awaiting the season finale. Having seemingly concluded one of its big storylines – at least the part set in the 21st Century – Picard has left itself with two villains to defeat, a mission to save, a cryptic message about “two Renées” to explain, a return to the 25th Century to facilitate, potentially two love stories to bring closure to, and finding a way to connect the events of the past eight episodes to what we saw in the season premiere. There’s a lot of work to do… and I really hope that the season finale will be up to the task.

Star Trek: Picard Season 2 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, Scandinavia, Latin America, and Australia, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and the rest of the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

The Obi-Wan Kenobi series: hopes, fears, and expectations

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the Star Wars franchise, including Obi-Wan Kenobi, The Book of Boba Fett, and recent films such as The Rise of Skywalker.

I’ve made no secret through my commentary here on the website that I’m not thrilled by many of the decisions and announcements that have come out of Disney and Lucasfilm lately. The Star Wars franchise as a whole feels stuck; bogged down by nostalgia and led by a team whose creativity is being stifled by a corporate board that is unwilling or unable to move on from successes that are now decades in the past. The divisiveness of the sequel trilogy will eventually abate, but for now the Star Wars franchise is intent on looking backwards.

This is why we have projects like Obi-Wan Kenobi in the first place. The very concept of the series is backwards-looking, and all it really offers, at a fundamental level, are more of the same nostalgia plays that tripped up projects like Solo: A Star Wars Story. As I said last time I took a look at the upcoming series – which is now less than a month away – if I were in charge over at Disney and Lucasfilm, a project like this would’ve never been greenlit!

Obi-Wan in a teaser for the upcoming series.

That isn’t all there is to say, of course. Another recent Star Wars project that I had relatively low expectations for was The Book of Boba Fett. Arbitrarily bringing back from the dead a relatively minor character and dedicating an entire spin-off project to him felt like it should’ve been the epitome of everything I’ve come to dislike about modern Star Wars. But as you’ll know if you read my review of the first season, I actually had a good time with The Book of Boba Fett. It was far from perfect, but it hid its imperfections in a story that was, for the most part anyway, just plain fun.

So as I look ahead to Obi-Wan Kenobi, there are reasons for optimism. Ewan McGregor’s performance as the titular Jedi Knight was one of the prequel trilogy’s highlights, and he did well to bring to life a younger version of the character we’d originally met in 1977. Though I’ve never been wild about the prequels – the first two parts in particular – McGregor inhabited the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi and showed us, at least in part through Kenobi’s eyes, the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker, as well as the hubris that led to the demise of the Jedi Order itself.

Hello there!

My biggest concern when it comes to Obi-Wan Kenobi is how it will find a story to tell that fits into the existing saga of Star Wars. The series has to be very carefully-crafted to be able to slot neatly into place like the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle. Unlike The Book of Boba Fett, which could’ve gone in all kinds of different directions as an epilogue to Boba’s story, Obi-Wan Kenobi has to show us a chapter of the Jedi Master’s life that falls in between the parts we already know. It has the very difficult task of being interesting, exciting, and dramatic without overwriting anything we already know, nor robbing any of the other stories of their impact.

Between what we saw in the prequels and the original films, we know the story of Obi-Wan’s life. I’d argue that we’ve seen the most interesting parts already: how he rose from being a padawan apprentice to a master in his own right, the role he played in the Clone Wars, and how the Empire rose around him. We’ve seen him take on Luke Skywalker as his apprentice, and then sacrifice his life in a duel with Darth Vader. What can Obi-Wan Kenobi add to this story that we don’t already know or can’t infer from the parts we’ve already seen? How can it give its protagonist an arc that takes him from where we left him at the end of Revenge of the Sith to where we picked up his story in A New Hope? And how can it make that story something worth watching without feeling either incredibly tacked-on or like a bolt from the blue?

“Old Ben” Kenobi in A New Hope.

Those are just some of the narrative challenges that the new series faces, and they’re by no means small ones! Obi-Wan Kenobi has to thread the needle; it can’t stray too far from what we already know, but it also has to find a way to chart its own path despite that limitation. I guess another of my worries is that the story the new series ultimately tries to tell will ignore some or all of those points and blaze a trail that will take Obi-Wan on an adventure that undermines his arc in either the prequels, original films, or both.

For the show’s writers, it must be sorely tempting to pit Obi-Wan and Darth Vader against one another – but doing so would utterly ruin one of the most powerful sequences in A New Hope. As much fun as it might be for the writers and creative team to stage another duel between the former master and apprentice, these classic characters need to be treated more carefully than that. Star Wars is already in a strange place thanks to things like Palpatine’s survival after Return of the Jedi; to throw Obi-Wan and Vader into a conflict against one another a decade before A New Hope would take away one of the few significant moments that remain unaltered from the original trilogy.

Obi-Wan Kenobi mustn’t undermine the meeting between Obi-Wan and Vader in A New Hope.

In their rush to recapture the magic of Star Wars, the franchise’s current executives and producers have actually erased a good deal of what made the original films as meaningful as they were. The story of Anakin’s redemption and return to the light in Return of the Jedi, for example, is hideously twisted and undermined by the subsequent revelations that Palpatine was able to survive, live for another thirty years, start a new Sith Empire, and even corrupt Anakin’s own grandson. Obi-Wan Kenobi simply can’t repeat this kind of mistake. If it does, Star Wars will have very little left.

Part of what made the duel between Obi-Wan and Vader aboard the Death Star so powerful is that it was their first meeting in many years. Even when watching the original film years before the prequels came out, it was obvious that the hate Vader had for Obi-Wan had been building for a long time. Add into the mix the backstory that the prequels gave us and the moment takes on a different and even greater significance. For Vader, this was his opportunity to get revenge on the man who left him badly injured and dependent on his hated suit. It became one of the most powerful sequences in the film – and in the entire saga.

The iconic lightsaber duel.

A few months ago I took a look at a similar project over in the Star Trek franchise: Ceti Alpha V is a proposed miniseries that would revisit iconic villain Khan. Having already seen the two most interesting parts of Khan’s story – his awakening in the 23rd Century and his battle against Kirk in The Wrath of Khan, I argued that such a project is ultimately not necessary. What would we learn about Khan from that miniseries that hasn’t already been explored either by Space Seed or The Wrath of Khan? It’s almost certainly the least-interesting part of his story, one that would not only be kind of a waste of time, but if given too much leeway, one that could undermine one of the high points of the entire Star Trek franchise.

And it’s hard not to look at Obi-Wan Kenobi with a similar degree of scepticism. Since we clearly aren’t just going to watch Obi-Wan sit around in his desert hut for six episodes, the question of what exactly he’s going to do comes to the fore. What makes this chapter of his life worthy of a six-episode miniseries, and how will it balance the need to be exciting and entertaining with the constraints of a very definite beginning and end point?

An Imperial Inquisitor seen in the teaser.

All that being said, Disney+ has a pretty good track record with its original productions. Obi-Wan Kenobi will likely have a per-episode budget that fans of other franchises could only dream of, so on the technical side of things we can almost certainly look forward to a polished production that looks great and makes creative use of CGI and other visual effects. Recent Star Wars projects have brought back more of the puppets and practical effects that defined the franchise’s look in its original incarnation, and that’s something I’ve enjoyed seeing. And in terms of special effects, things like the de-ageing and digital character creation that we’ve seen employed in The Book of Boba Fett and The Mandalorian are nothing short of technological marvels.

Famed composer John Williams is returning to the Star Wars franchise yet again to compose the show’s theme, which is another neat inclusion. Just like The Mandalorian, Obi-Wan Kenobi will make use of an AR wall (similar to the one used in recent Star Trek productions), which should also look fantastic. In addition to Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen is reprising his role as Darth Vader, and the inclusion of actors like Rupert Friend rounds out what seems to be an excellent cast. Director Deborah Chow has a good track record, too, with directing credits in series as diverse as Turn: Washington’s Spies, Fear the Walking Dead, and The Man in the High Castle. She also directed two episodes of The Mandalorian, so she’s not a newcomer to the franchise.

A company of Stormtroopers in the teaser.

All of those things give me hope! There’s potential in Obi-Wan Kenobi, and there’s no denying that Disney and Lucasfilm have put together a great team, backed them up with a significant budget, and given the project a shot at success. For me, the biggest potential pitfall remains the premise of the series itself, and the limited storytelling directions it could reasonably take.

I’m trying to rein in both my scepticism and excitement on different sides of the project, and I guess I’ll wrap this up by saying I’m cautiously optimistic. The success of The Book of Boba Fett earlier in the year, which was similarly a series I had reservations about, has perhaps led me to feel a little more hopeful than I otherwise might about Obi-Wan Kenobi’s prospects.

One final note: it’s worth saying that Obi-Wan Kenobi exists, like several other recent and upcoming sci-fi and fantasy projects, largely because fans were asking for it. Fans who grew up with the prequel trilogy, viewing those films as “their” Star Wars, have generally reacted very positively to news about Obi-Wan Kenobi, and I’m happy for them that Disney and Lucasfilm have been listening. I hope they get the series they’ve been looking for – and with any luck it’ll be something that I can enjoy too!

Obi-Wan Kenobi is scheduled to premiere on Disney+ on the 27th of May 2022. The Star Wars franchise – including Obi-Wan Kenobi and all other properties mentioned 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.

Paramount wants YOU to pirate Strange New Worlds

I held off writing this for a while, even as the prospect of Strange New Worlds getting an international broadcast slipped further and further away. I didn’t want to jump the gun and come across as being too aggressive or too critical of Paramount Global – the corporation that owns and mismanages Star Trek. But with only a week to go, it’s patently obvious that Paramount has no plans whatsoever to broadcast Strange New Worlds outside of the United States and the handful of other countries where Paramount+ is available.

At the time of the Discovery Season 4 mess last November, I felt hopeful that the backlash from fans might’ve prevented this. But I guess I should’ve known better – this isn’t the first time we’ve been in this situation, after all. Lower Decks Season 1 was the first casualty of the Paramount board’s ineptitude. That show’s lack of an international broadcast in the summer of 2020 hurt it immeasurably.

The lack of an international broadcast in Season 1 did serious harm to Lower Decks.

Then came Prodigy Season 1 in 2021, another series with real prospects to expand the Star Trek franchise far beyond its usual fanbase. That opportunity was squandered by Paramount’s decision to withhold the series from international broadcast. That decision was made so much worse by the fact that Prodigy is branded as a Nickelodeon co-production – and with Nickelodeon channels available in well over 100 countries, fans were rightly asking why they couldn’t watch the show along with their American friends.

Finally, only a few weeks after the Prodigy mess came the Discovery Season 4 calamity. Paramount literally paid Netflix money out of its own pocket to take the show away, preventing fans all across the world from watching it. They announced this “deal” with barely 48 hours’ notice, leading to a massive backlash from fans and even some of the actors and creative team. You’d think they’d have learned a thing or two from that mess, especially when it tanked their share price.

You’d think Paramount might’ve learned something from the mess surrounding Discovery Season 4…

But alas, it’s only April 2022 – less than six months later – and here we are again. Paramount has decided that it doesn’t want its international fans to pay for Strange New Worlds – it would rather we pirated the show instead. Fine by me.

It’s not like there weren’t options if Paramount wanted to make Strange New Worlds available to international viewers. Here in the UK, for example, Paramount Global owns the following: Channel 5 and its associated channels 5Select, 5Action, 5USA, 5Star, and the My5 catch-up service, Nickelodeon and its associated channels Nick Jr. and Nicktoons, Comedy Central, MTV and five MTV spin-offs, the Horror Channel, the Smithsonian Channel, CBS Drama, CBS Justice, and CBS Reality. Several of these are free-to-air, with the others being available on subscription via cable or satellite providers.

In addition, Paramount Global owns PlutoTV, the online television network where Discovery Season 4 was made available. And speaking of Discovery Season 4, Paramount was able to make deals with Amazon Video, Google Play, and even YouTube to allow viewers in some countries to pay to watch. In short, Paramount Global could have made Strange New Worlds available. They had every opportunity and numerous options for doing so.

Paramount owns PlutoTV, which broadcast Discovery Season 4 here in the UK.

On top of all that, the Star Trek franchise has been subjected to some truly pathetic scheduling decisions over the past few months, and these schedules now seem even worse in light of the lack of an international broadcast for Strange New Worlds. Compounding the decision to cut off international fans, Prodigy’s first season has been butchered, cleaved into small chunks of episodes that have made it harder than necessary for the show to gain any kind of traction.

But worse is the situation with Discovery, Picard, and Strange New Worlds. Why have these shows overlapped one another? Discovery and Picard ran concurrently for three weeks, and Picard’s season finale will be broadcast the same day as Strange New Worlds’ premiere. Why? If these three shows had been better-scheduled, split up by just a few weeks, then maybe there’d have been more time to get Paramount+ ready for the next phase of its international rollout. The UK and Europe have been promised Paramount+ by the end of Q2 – well that’s only a few weeks away, so if Picard Season 2 had been delayed by 4 weeks, and Strange New Worlds by another 3-4 weeks, maybe more fans would’ve been able to watch. How did this happen? And are the inept schedulers still making decisions? Seems like a firing offence to me.

Why wasn’t Picard Season 2 delayed?

By choosing not to take advantage of the global media empire that it literally owns, refusing to do deals with other corporations, and screwing up the scheduling of its own shows, Paramount has chosen to push fans toward piracy. Not only that, but the hurt and anger that has been generated by these decisions over the past couple of years will make it so much harder to convince fans to sign up for Paramount+ if the incompetently-managed service is ever ready to be rolled out.

Streaming platforms do not exist in a vacuum. The option fans have is not “pay for Paramount+ or don’t watch anything.” Piracy exists, and the only way that companies like Netflix and Disney have been able to make a success of the streaming model is by offering a good service at a low price. Paramount+ already fails the “good service” test – according to what I’m hearing from subscribers in the United States – so charging fans a higher price than Netflix, Amazon, or Disney for a worse product isn’t exactly going to incentivise folks to sign up.

Paramount+ is shit.

Despite that, when a film, television series, or video game is made available to watch, I’m firmly in the camp that says “pay for it.” I don’t want to be a pirate. From both a moral perspective and as a point of simple practicality, I believe that everyone from actors, writers, and directors to producers and executives should be paid for the work that they put into creating an entertainment product. But when a corporation takes that option away and piracy becomes the only way to access that content, then I’m all for it. In such cases as these, it is quite literally the only option.

That’s the position Paramount has placed fans in. They had options to broadcast Strange New Worlds on channels and networks that they owned from as far afield as Angola and Mozambique to the UK, Western Europe, and beyond… but they actively and willfully chose not to. They did so knowing that many fans wouldn’t wait for Paramount+… and if they didn’t realise that many of us would turn to piracy, then they’re even more incompetent and out of their depth than I thought.

The team in charge of Paramount+, apparently.

It’s become increasingly obvious that Paramount as a whole needs a good clear-out. 20th Century thinking is trying and failing to lead the corporation into the mid-21st Century, and executives and leaders clearly know nothing about a global media landscape that has been entirely transformed over the past couple of decades. Their attempt to launch their own streaming platform a decade too late in a massively competitive market was already a blunder all but certain to end in failure; the fact that Paramount+ is being handled so poorly is just hastening its demise. The anger and hurt caused to fans around the world – and not just fans of Star Trek, either, but fans of shows and franchises as diverse as Halo and iCarly – will be a weight around the corporation’s neck going forward. With inflation and other financial issues hitting hard in the short term, it’ll be ever more difficult to find subscribers for such a mediocre platform.

Paramount’s “America First” fetish would even make Donald Trump blush, and the corporation’s decision to gatekeep its own shows, segregating its audience geographically, is a colossal mistake. It’s one that Paramount+ may never recover from. And you know what? If a streaming platform with this level of ineptitude and mismanagement fails, it will deserve to fail. If a corporation with such a blinkered, short-sighted approach and an atrocious corporate attitude fails, it will deserve to fail too. My only concern as a fan of Star Trek is that Paramount+ may very well drag the Star Trek franchise down along with it.

Will Paramount+ drag Star Trek down the sewer?

The United States has been Paramount’s exclusive focus thus far, so much so that even when Paramount+ rolled out to countries like Australia, new episodes of shows like Prodigy weren’t broadcast there. Australian Trekkies who’d paid for Paramount+ were told that they’d have to wait for Discovery Season 4, and then Prodigy Season 1… so what exactly was the point of signing up? Did anyone at Paramount consider that question, or were they too fixated on America to care – or even notice?

I have tried my best to support Star Trek over the years. I signed up for Netflix in 2017 entirely because Discovery would be shown there, and I’ve likewise paid for Amazon Prime Video to watch Picard and Lower Decks. Over the span of more than thirty years I’ve bought Star Trek films and episodes on VHS, then the entire collection of every pre-2005 series on DVD, several on Blu-ray, and enough merchandise to sink a small boat. I’ve done my part to contribute financially to this franchise that I love… and even so, even with all the money I’ve already spent and all of the problems that I know Paramount+ has, I was ready to spend more. But Paramount saw fans like me offering up our cash and told us to fuck off.

Fans offered Paramount our cash… but they don’t want it.

The actors and the creative team who worked so hard to bring Strange New Worlds to life don’t deserve to find themselves in the middle of a stinking corporate mess, but in a way they’re caught in the crossfire. We should all be able to come together and celebrate the broadcast of a series that was only made possible because of Star Trek fans – many of whom are not American. But instead, we’re arguing about it. Strange New Worlds has become the latest in a line of own goals from Paramount, and there’s no way that the toxicity that they have created won’t spill over into criticisms of the show and everyone involved.

This mess could’ve been avoided. Paramount could have learned the lesson from just a few months ago, and spent the intervening time figuring out the best option for broadcasting Strange New Worlds in all of the different countries and territories around the globe. Instead they pissed away that time doing nothing of the sort, dragging the Star Trek fan community back to the same old arguments we had during the Discovery mess.

Paramount couldn’t possibly be doing more to encourage piracy of this new series.

Paramount has options to broadcast Strange New Worlds internationally, either on channels and platforms that it already owns or by agreeing licenses with other corporations. It has had more than enough time to figure out what to do, and should’ve been spurred into action by the clusterfuck surrounding Discovery Season 4. And failing all of that, Paramount has had weeks now in which to break the news to Trekkies; to tell us something and respond to the many questions that have been asked about the series. They’ve done none of that – and the explanation is simple. They don’t care about or respect any non-American fans or viewers.

So our recourse is piracy, as it always has been. When a corporation misbehaves like this, and treats its biggest fans and biggest supporters with such blatant disrespect, they haven’t just encouraged piracy, they deserve to have their shows pirated. They deserve the financial hit, the hit to viewing figures, and quite honestly, Strange New Worlds deserves to fail. Under this appalling team of corporate fuckwits, Star Trek as a whole will fail. And when we’re picking up the pieces in a few years’ time, asking where it all went wrong, we’ll be able to look back on these decisions and recognise that it was here that Paramount screwed up.

I constantly hope for better from Paramount – and I’m constantly let down. So I’m going to do what they clearly want me to do: I’m going to pirate Strange New Worlds. And you should too.

Piracy is probably against the rules where you live, so when you do pirate Strange New Worlds, do so carefully. Here’s where I’d usually tell you that the Star Trek franchise is someone’s copyright, but fuck it. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Windows 11… what’s the point?

About a month ago I built myself a brand-new PC. When I was making my plans and getting ready for the build, one of the choices I had was that of the operating system. With the exception of some very early lessons at school using a BBC Micro, and playing a few games on a Commodore 64 owned by a friend, I’ve always used Microsoft products. My first ever PC ran Windows 95, and I’ve used every version of Windows since, either for school, work, or at home. Although I’m not an expert by any means, I consider myself a pretty experienced Windows user!

Microsoft initially promised that Windows 10 would be the “final” version of their landmark operating system, with updates and tweaks but no replacement. This is what Apple has been doing for over twenty years with macOS (formerly known as OS X) so it seemed like something Microsoft could do as well. That promise lasted barely six years – less if we assume that Windows 11 must’ve been in development behind-the-scenes for a while – and before we go any further it’s worth acknowledging that. The broken promises surrounding Windows 10 will have quite understandably soured some people on Windows 11 before they even got started.

The first PC I owned ran a different version of Windows!

I found Windows 10 to be okay, but it had some issues. There were graphical bugs that only afflicted 4K screen resolutions, an unnecessarily complex set of menus and settings, lag on some Bluetooth devices, and more. I reported a few of these issues to Microsoft not long after upgrading to Windows 10… but they ignored all of them. If nothing else, I felt that upgrading to Windows 11 would at least simplify the experience, getting rid of the multiple settings menus and finally allowing me to display extra-large icons.

But alas, Windows 11 has to be the shoddiest “upgrade” I’ve ever come across. Windows 11 isn’t even akin to the upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1, and practically all of my complaints and criticisms about Windows 10 remain in the operating system. At time of writing, Microsoft charges £120 for the Home version and £220 for the Pro version of Windows 11 – and there is no way in hell that it’s worth the money. You’re better off sticking with Windows 10 in the short-term.

Windows 11… it has TikTok!

As 4K screen resolutions have become more common, you’d think that Microsoft would allow Windows users to take full advantage of a good-looking display. Heck, Microsoft sells its own Surface products with 4K screens – and yet for some reason, incredibly basic things like extra-large icons don’t work with a 4K screen resolution. This issue was reported to Microsoft as early as 2017 – a full five years ago. Throughout the lifetime of Windows 10 they did nothing to fix it, and I’d given up on ever being able to use extra-large icons on Windows 10. But you’ll forgive me for thinking that such a basic, simple thing could’ve been included when a brand-new operating system was released.

Control Panel and Settings menus are also a major area of complaint. As early as Windows 8, Microsoft saw fit to include not one but two settings menus: the classic Control Panel and a new Settings menu. These two menus often overlap, and it can be exceptionally frustrating to be spending ages looking for something only to realise you can’t do it from the Settings menu and you have to go back to Control Panel – or vice versa. How difficult would it be to roll both menus into one? This is now the fourth operating system in a row to have this problem, and I know I’m not the only one bothered by it.

The Control Panel still exists… and still clashes with the Settings menu.

To me, the examples above show just how little care and effort Microsoft put into the development of Windows 11. There are a handful of new features – like the ability to install certain apps from Android, for instance – but nowhere near enough to justify the cost, nor even enough to justify calling Windows 11 a wholly new OS. It’s Windows 10.1 – a basic shell with a few new shiny features slapped carelessly atop Windows 10.

And that isn’t actually the worst part of it. Some of the “features” that Windows 11 has introduced has made the day-to-day experience of using the operating system significantly worse. One of the most basic features that I’ve used for years in Windows is the ability to see my scheduled calendar events at a single click. Click the bottom-right of the screen to pop open an expanded calendar, then click on a day to see what events are on the agenda. Windows 11 has taken away this phenomenally useful feature, forcing me to open the full calendar app.

The Widgets menu.

This is part of a trend that you’ll notice with Windows 11 from the very beginning: every feature, every useful little app, every widget… they’re all designed to push users to sign up for Outlook and OneDrive accounts. Even if you have a full Microsoft account – and using Windows 11 without one is pretty difficult, as basic things like changing to dark mode aren’t available to you in that case – Outlook and OneDrive are basically required to make the most of many Windows 11 features.

Want to see a slideshow of photos on the Photos widget? Tough luck, you need OneDrive for that. Want to check your schedule on the calendar without having to open the full app? Screw you, sign up for Outlook. This is Microsoft’s approach. To the corporation, it isn’t good enough that you’ve bought the OS; in order to use many of its most basic features they want to fully rope you into every Microsoft account, ecosystem, and most importantly, every possible subscription.

Windows 11 offers a lot of apps… but to take advantage of them you’ll need subscriptions and accounts.

Atop that there are some unnecessary cosmetic changes and menu changes that have again made doing everyday tasks complicated. Right-clicking now brings up a new, smaller menu, one which has replaced basic options like “Copy” and “Paste” with stupid little icons. In order to access really basic options that have been part of Windows for decades – like “Print,” for example – you need to right-click, then click to open a second options menu. Unnecessary menus hidden inside of menus seems to be one of the hallmarks of this underwhelming operating system.

Installing Windows 11 was not a smooth experience, either. Despite not actually being much more complex than Windows 10 in many respects – an OS that can run on most computers made in the last 15 years – Windows 11 has one of the biggest barriers to entry of any Microsoft release to date. By requiring a Trusted Platform Module (or TPM) Windows 11 is effectively off-limits to any PC more than four or five years old. Even pretty expensive PCs with good-quality components don’t comply with this requirement.

This is the screen that greeted me when I first tried to set up Windows 11.

One of the strangest bugs I’ve encountered so far is in the Event Viewer. While tracking down a particularly annoying problem that came about when I built my new PC, I noticed that the Event Viewer is completely flooded with the same message over and over and over again. At time of writing, my PC – which is less than two months old – has more than 20,000 instances of the same “DistributedCOM” warning. Microsoft’s official advice? That’s fine – it’s supposed to look like that!

Microsoft currently plans to end support for Windows 10 – a widely-adopted OS in light of the corporation’s promises that it would be the “final” Windows version – in late 2025, which is only three-and-a-half years away at time of writing! This cynical attempt to pressure users to upgrade is just disgraceful; previous versions of Windows lasted far longer after their successor systems were released. Support for Windows 7, for example, only ended two years ago, and Windows 8 and 8.1 are still supported at time of writing.

Windows 11 reminds me of Windows ME.

So that, in my experience so far, is Windows 11. It’s as if a team of some of the best software experts in the world sat down to create an operating system designed from the ground up with the sole objective of pissing me off – and they succeeded beyond their wildest expectations.

Windows 11 will be my operating system from this point forward – but only by default. Just like when I had Windows ME, Windows Vista, and Windows 8 and 8.1, I’ll begrudgingly tolerate it. But as soon as there’s a better OS available, I’ll take it. Windows 11 is, in my view, comparable to those failed experiments from Microsoft; the best thing I can say about it is that it may prove to be an incremental step on the way to something better.

We can but hope, right?

Windows 11 is available to purchase now. Windows 11, Windows, and all other properties mentioned above are the copyright of Microsoft Corporation. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

My biggest wish for Star Trek: Discovery Season 5

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4.

With Picard Season 2 ongoing, Strange New Worlds Season 1 hot on its heels, and Prodigy and Lower Decks still to come this year, it might seem premature to be thinking about Discovery Season 5 already! But as I was writing up the final part of my Season 4 theory list, it got me thinking. Season 4 wasn’t bad, all things considered. It had some storylines that disappointed or underwhelmed, but there are some genuinely outstanding episodes in the mix as well – and it ended on a very emotional and exciting high note.

It’s never too early to look ahead, and before production gets fully underway on Discovery’s next outing, I wanted to share my thoughts and opinions about where the show could go from here, and what I’d like to see next. That’s what this article will be about – but stay tuned for a more in-depth look at Season 4 and some of its story elements in the weeks and months ahead.

The USS Mitchell in the Season 4 finale.

For me, the single biggest wish I have for Discovery Season 5 is that it steps away from the “apocalyptic, galaxy-ending threat” story archetype that has been used in different ways across all four seasons of the show so far. We’ve gone through the Klingon war in Season 1, Control and the Red Angel in Season 2, the Burn and the Emerald Chain in Season 3, and finally the DMA and Unknown Species 10-C in Season 4. It’s time to give Captain Burnham and the crew a break, and for the series to try using a genuinely different formula instead of slapping a new coat of paint on the old one.

Just because a story is smaller in scale doesn’t make it any less emotional, exciting, tense, or dramatic, and I think that’s a lesson some of Discovery’s writers and producers could do with taking to heart. How we as the audience respond to a work of fiction is guided not by how massive the monster is or how big the explosions are going to be, but by how the characters we’re rooting for react. Their emotions become our emotions, their investment in the world around them becomes our investment, and so on. A story about a group of people working in an office, friends going on a road trip, or star-crossed lovers from rival families aren’t smaller, less exciting, and worse because they don’t have the backdrop of a world-ending disaster spurring them on. And conversely, some of the worst and least-exciting films and TV shows I’ve ever seen went over-the-top with the size and scale of the disaster the characters were facing.

The Burn was the driving force for much of Season 3.

Past iterations of Star Trek used these kinds of apocalyptic stories pretty sparingly, when you look back on it. It’s only Deep Space Nine’s Dominion War arc, which lasted for three seasons, that comes close to being as long and drawn-out an affair, and even within the framework of the Dominion War, DS9 found ways to tell very different and fun one-off stories. Things like the Borg incursions that Captain Picard and his crew had to deal with were either two-parters or one-off films, and they work well in that format.

Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D still found other ways to be entertaining, and many of The Next Generation’s standalone episodes have gone on to be considered iconic, even those that had a far smaller focus than blockbuster outings like The Best of Both Worlds. This doesn’t mean ditching the season-long story arcs or returning to an episodic format, because I think Discovery has done some interesting and neat things with its serialised stories. But it does mean choosing season-long storylines and narrative arcs that are different in a fundamental way to what the show has tried already.

The DMA was the big threat in Season 4.

Practically any format can become bland and unexciting when overused, no matter how much fun it might’ve been in its original incarnation or at its best moments. It’s a challenge to keep any television series feeling fresh as it enters its fifth season and races toward its sixty-fifth episode, and there are many examples of shows that ran out of steam somewhere along the way. Heck, I have an entire list of television shows that either ran too long or wore out their concepts, and I can think of many more that I could’ve included.

Even Star Trek has hit the wall in the past, running out of energy and failing to keep audiences engaged. By the time Enterprise was willing to try new things in its third and fourth seasons, for example, the franchise was already in such a steep decline that cancellation was inevitable. To Paramount’s credit, lessons have been learned from what happened in 2005 in terms of the way the franchise as a whole operates. Different series are telling stories in their own ways, appealing to broader audiences, and Star Trek as a whole feels varied and diverse. But Discovery on its own doesn’t… and it’s right on the verge of becoming repetitive.

The USS Discovery in Season 4.

I was far from the only commentator to make the point prior to Season 4 that another “galactic threat” storyline felt samey, coming off the back of three similar narrative frameworks, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one to say that re-using that format a fifth time will be a bridge too far. Making use of the newly-established 32nd Century in different ways, and telling a story that may be smaller in scale but that’s just as impactful, emotional, and entertaining, will be the key challenges that I’d like the writers to tackle in Season 5.

The theme of rebuilding in the aftermath of a disaster was something we only saw Season 4 tackle in the briefest and barest of ways right at the beginning of the season, but this could be a concept that the show puts to much better use next time around. Discovery could follow Captain Burnham as she and the crew jump to different worlds, delivering dilithium, solving problems, flying the flag for the Federation… and most importantly, bringing hope to a galaxy that’s been through a lot.

The flag of the Federation…

This is what I’d hoped Season 4 would do, to be honest. The idea of restoring the Federation from the incredibly weakened state it was in when we encountered it is far too important and interesting to be relegated to something that happens off-screen, and I felt even before Season 4 had aired a single episode that this concept offered so much scope for emotional, exciting, and varied storytelling. Discovery could hop to different planets, combining the inclusion of new and visually different alien races (like Season 4’s “butterfly” aliens) with the reintroduction of classic races.

Catching up with some of the factions we remember from past iterations of Star Trek is also something I’ve been wanting Discovery to do for two seasons now. We’ve caught glimpses of races like the Ferengi and Andorians, and heard others mentioned in dialogue and log recordings, but we haven’t actually spent a lot of time with practically any of them. Finding out what became of fan-favourites not only in the years after the Burn, but in the centuries before that event took place, is something that I think a lot of Trekkies would be interested in.

We caught glimpses of familiar races… but Discovery didn’t find time to explore most of them in any detail.

If the 32nd Century is going to be a major setting for the franchise going forward, this kind of world-building is important. Just like how The Next Generation laid the groundwork for Deep Space Nine through its introduction of the Cardassians and Bajorans, so too could Discovery introduce us to planets, races, and technologies that future spin-offs and Star Trek projects could expand upon.

Part of that world-building can be done in a serialised story that looks at how the Federation can be rebuilt in the aftermath of the disasters it has already faced; introducing another new disaster to avert or recover from is simply not needed at this point. From the point of view of the characters, throwing them into another extreme situation would also be problematic, and would take the storytelling close to soap-opera levels.

Owosekun, Saru, and Detmer.

Discovery has, to its credit, attempted to show how some of the events that its characters have gone through have impacted their mental health. Some of these stories have been underdeveloped – Detmer’s in Season 3 and Dr Culber’s in Season 4 being the most egregious examples. But even with this kind of attempted mental health focus, there’s a limit on what we could expect characters to go through and still be alright when they come out the other end.

To be fair, that’s a line that the Star Trek franchise has crossed in the past with characters like Miles O’Brien, for example, who seemed to survive a lot of traumatic events only to be back to normal the next week! But as shows like Picard have demonstrated with characters like Seven of Nine and Jean-Luc Picard himself, it can be incredibly cathartic to revisit some of these characters and give them meaningful, lasting development. But we’re drifting off-topic!

Captain Burnham in Season 4.

Star Trek’s galaxy is vast, and as we saw in Season 4 with the inclusion of races like the Abronians and Unknown Species 10-C, even in the 32nd Century there’s still a heck of a lot that Starfleet doesn’t know about it. There’s scope for Captain Burnham and the crew to get back to exploring for its own sake, as well as using their Spore Drive to reach parts of the galaxy that it would be difficult for the Federation to do otherwise. There’s the potential for the crew to bring hope to far-flung Federation outposts after the Burn, the Emerald Chain, and the DMA have had such a devastating impact… and it’s worthwhile telling stories like that.

Even if Season 5 doesn’t do much of that rebuilding or exploring, I’m still hopeful that whatever stories it chooses to tell won’t feel repetitive and won’t recycle the same basic story framework that we’ve seen throughout the show’s entire run to date. Discovery could do so much to expand our understanding of the Star Trek galaxy; even more so in a 32nd Century setting that is wholly unconstrained by prior canon. Shooting this far forwards in time was a great way for the show’s writers and producers to give themselves new opportunities to play in the vast sandbox that we call the Star Trek galaxy – so now would be a great time to take advantage of that.

As I look ahead to Season 5, I feel hopeful and optimistic. Season 4 had some problems, but generally it was an improvement over Season 3 and it ended in truly spectacular fashion. There’s potential for what comes next to build on that, and if the series can avoid retreading too much old ground, Season 5 could be Discovery’s best outing yet.

Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4 are available to stream now on Paramount+ where the platform is available and via a patchwork of video-on-demand and pay-to-view streaming platforms in the rest of the world. The series is also available on DVD and Blu-ray. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Picard theories – week 8

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2 and casting information for Season 3. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: DiscoveryEnterprise, VoyagerFirst Contact, and The Next Generation.

Mercy was an interesting episode, one that finally spent a bit more time advancing what I personally consider to be the more exciting part of the season’s story. Some of my big theories are rapidly running out of road, and this week three have been debunked outright. We got a couple of confirmations as well, so this week the theory list will shrink!

With only two episodes of the season remaining, there isn’t a lot of time for everything to be neatly wrapped up so that the story can move on in time for Season 3. I know I’m not the only one wondering about a possible cliffhanger ending!

So let’s take a look at the theories that were confirmed and debunked in Mercy, before moving on to the main theory list.

Debunked theory #1:
Agent Wells is a Starfleet officer or temporal agent.

Picard being interrogated by Agent Wells.

I wondered if we might learn that Agent Wells, the FBI Agent who apprehended Guinan and Picard, wasn’t who he seemed to be. We’ve seen Starfleet operating as a kind of temporal police in previous iterations of the franchise, and there was also the faction from Enterprise that employed Crewman Daniels.

This theory was given additional energy by the fact that the actor portraying Agent Wells, Jay Karnes, had appeared in the Voyager Season 4 episode Relativity, where he played a 29th Century Starfleet officer.

However, it turned out that that was just a coincidence! Agent Wells was a 21st Century native, albeit one who’d had an encounter with Vulcans in his youth.

Debunked theory #2:
Romulans are spying on Earth… and could be time-travelling Zhat Vash.

Young Agent Wells encounters the Vulcans.

When we caught a glimpse of young Agent Wells interacting with Vulcans in one of the pre-season trailers, I wondered if they might actually be Romulans, and possibly members of the secretive Zhat Vash organisation. If the Zhat Vash had a major role to play in the story – which it now seems like they don’t – perhaps that could’ve lined up.

However, with Season 2 seemingly leaving behind practically all of the main story threads from Season 1, that wasn’t the case.

Debunked theory #3:
The mission back in time won’t last all season.

Los Angeles, 2024.

This one has been as much a wish as a theory, because time travel episodes that visit the modern-day have never been my favourites in Star Trek. I wondered whether we might see Picard and the crew find a way back to the 25th Century sooner, but with only two episodes remaining it’s now not plausible. Even if the next episode sees them make it home, they’ll still have spent the majority of Season 2 in 2024.

So those theories were debunked!

There’s one two-part theory that I’m choosing to retire at this stage, too. Although it hasn’t been firmly “debunked,” the events of Mercy now seem to have taken the story in a different direction.

Retired theory #1:
The Confederation is run by augmented humans.

Dr Soong’s legacy.

The question of why the Confederation seemed to celebrate Dr Adam Soong centuries after his death was an open one… until Mercy. The Borg Queen told Dr Soong that his invention – seemingly a scaled-up version of the drones that protected Kore from sunlight – would save the Earth from ecological collapse in that timeline. That explains his legacy and why he’s so famous in the Confederation.

This seems to rule out another possibility for his fame: that he created human augments. There were two parts to this theory, really. The first came from Dr Soong himself; that his work was focused on genetics. The second came from his family legacy – Dr Arik Soong, presumably a descendant of his, had worked on creating human augments in the 22nd Century.

Although the Borg Queen is hardly what you’d call a “reliable source,” I don’t believe that there’s room now, at this late stage, for there to be the kind of augment connection that I’d been theorising about.

Retired theory #2:
There will be a connection between the augments and Strange New Worlds.

La’an Noonien-Singh.

Inextricably tied to the theory above was a possible Strange New Worlds connection. In short, the character of La’an Noonien-Singh seems to be related to iconic villain – and famous augmented human – Khan Noonien Singh. If Picard Season 2 has no connection to genetic engineering and the creation of augments, though, this theory won’t pan out.

So those theories have been retired.

We have a couple of confirmations this week, so we’ll take a look at those next.

Confirmed theory #1:
Vulcans are on Earth… as hinted at by Discovery Season 4.

A Vulcan expedition to Earth.

In the Discovery Season 4 episode The Galactic Barrier, a seemingly-innocuous line from the enigmatic Dr Kovich stood out to me. He noted that the Vulcans had been present on Earth for “decades” prior to official first contact taking place in 2063. That line kick-started this theory… though to be fair, the pre-season trailers had already revealed a character who could only really be a Vulcan or Romulan!

As noted above, we finally got to see this flashback sequence for ourselves. Young Agent Wells encountered a Vulcan expedition to Earth sometime in the 1960s or 1970s (based on Wells’ age in Mercy) and that’s that. Though Picard and Discovery really ought to do more to connect with one another, I do like that this line that we heard in an episode a couple of months ago seems to tie in to the events we saw unfold on screen this week.

Confirmed theory #2:
Q is dying.

Q in Mercy.

After wondering for weeks what might be going on with Q, he seemed to finally confirm to Guinan that he’s approaching the end of his life. There’s still scope, in my view, for this to be expanded upon – or even changed entirely – but for now it’s safe to say that Q certainly believes that he’s dying.

The language used in Mercy to communicate this was excellent, and gave us an interesting glimpse into how members of Q’s species view time and the universe. Q spoke of a “temporal horizon,” and how it had grown dark and unknowable. Combined with his failing powers, the stage seems to be set for Q’s life coming to an end.

So those theories were confirmed!

Now we’re going to jump into the main theory list, beginning with those theories that are either new or that saw movement in Mercy.

Theory #1:
The Borg’s request for help from the Federation is genuine.

Dr Jurati decoded the Borg message.

If Dr Jurati is going to be fully assimilated and potentially incorporated into a new incarnation of the Borg Queen, could her stewardship of the Borg Collective mean that their desire for help from Picard and the Federation – that we saw in The Star Gazer at the beginning of the season – is actually for real? It’s possible, of course, that the Borg’s message was a plain and simple trap, but there are elements from the Borg Queen’s appearance on the Stargazer’s bridge that we still can’t explain.

Setting aside her identity for a moment, regardless of whether there’s Dr Jurati or someone else underneath the mask, the Borg Queen’s actions were not what we’d expect. Why did she stun the Stargazer’s crew instead of killing them – and why did the episode draw attention to that fact and make sure it registered with us as the audience? What were her goals on “assimilating” the ship? She claimed she needed “power” – but to what end?

What did the Borg Queen want?

The Borg Queen also seemed to accept what was about to happen in her final moments, playing Non, je ne regrette rien and speaking with familiarity to Picard, telling him to “look up.” What was that all about?

In short, I’m positing that the Borg’s plea for help was genuine – but that raises a very interesting and alarming question in and of itself. What could be so deadly and so terrifying that it has the Borg Queen running in fear? And what does all of this have to do with Q and Picard?

Theory #2:
Kore Soong will team up with Picard and the crew of La Sirena.

Kore Soong.

I haven’t been thrilled with the depiction of Kore Soong so far. Her story feels like a bland repeat of Soji and Dahj’s from Season 1, and she appears to exist in Season 2 more for the purpose of informing us about Dr Adam Soong than to do anything meaningful in her own right. I’m hopeful that that will change, however!

Mercy saw Kore Soong take the antidote or cure for her genetic condition, granting her freedom from her father. She left Dr Soong’s house and struck out on her own for what seems to be the first time – and I wonder if she’ll either seek out Picard or if they’ll run into one another. Kore may know something about Dr Soong that could be useful to the crew of La Sirena… so watch this space. Her story may not be done yet.

Theory #3:
The Q Continuum has been attacked.

Captain Janeway, Tuvok, Quinn, and Q in the Q Continuum.

Following Guinan’s chat with Q in Mercy, this theory feels a little less plausible. However, as we still don’t know what’s going on with Q, I’m keeping it on the table for now. Last week I was increasingly sure that whatever had caused Q to lose his powers was something that wasn’t just affecting him personally, but the entire Q Continuum, and there’s definitely been evidence to that end across the season so far – and beyond.

In Mercy, Guinan reminded us that members of the Q Continuum can kill one another, and that seemed like a very deliberate line to include. Was it just there to avoid nitpicking Trekkies saying “but what about the Q civil war in Voyager?!” or is there a hint there about something else? I don’t believe that the El-Aurians would be to blame if the Q Continuum has been attacked, but with the Borg in the story, they could certainly be a suspect.

Guinan and Q.

In earlier episodes we had talk of a “cold war” between the Q and El-Aurians, a conflict that you’d imagine would be fantastically one-sided unless the El-Aurians know of some kind of weakness that the Q have. Then we had Guinan’s failed attempt to summon a Q – not the Q, but any Q. Q suggested that he basically had to walk from wherever he was to the FBI office because Guinan summoned him – but why didn’t another Q respond to the summons? Picard also suggested, after awakening from his coma, that Q may be weaker and more vulnerable than he had previously considered. And going back to Discovery Season 4, the episode The Examples told us that the Federation hadn’t seen any members of the Q Continuum in over 600 years as of the 32nd Century.

All of the pieces of evidence above could suggest that something is happening to the Q Continuum as a whole rather than just to Q himself. If the El-Aurians discovered a weakness, and then were assimilated by the Borg, perhaps the Borg came into possession of a way to harm the Q – attacking them and wiping them out.

In any case, if something that Picard did or didn’t do is connected to those events, that could explain why Q is so angry and why he felt the need to punish Picard. It could even explain Q’s desire to radically alter the timeline.

Theory #4:
Q and Picard will have to work together to stop the rogue Borg Queen.

Yummy batteries.

Whatever Q’s plan was for changing the timeline in the 21st Century, unleashing a rogue Borg Queen upon humanity or setting one loose in the Alpha Quadrant was categorically not on the agenda! I think that’s a fairly safe assumption, and while Q has messed around with humanity and the Borg before – such as in the episode Q Who – it’s never been his goal to see humanity assimilated.

With his full powers at his disposal, presumably it would be relatively easy for Q to stop the Borg Queen who’s now in possession of Dr Jurati’s body, but without them, Q may need to work with Picard to ensure that the Borg Queen is stopped. Although the Borg Queen seems to weirdly have the same goal as Q – to stop the Europa Mission – their objectives beyond that don’t align in the slightest.

Could Q team up with Picard?

If the Borg Queen were to interfere in Q’s plans, or if Q were to learn of the threat to Picard, perhaps he will voluntarily involve himself, make a truce with Picard, and work with him to stop the Borg Queen. Alternatively, Picard could realise that his options are limited and try to reach out to Q to ask for help, setting aside his pride and his anger at his old adversary.

Q’s knowledge, even without his powers, could be invaluable to Picard and the crew of La Sirena. He clearly knows a lot more about the Borg than anyone else, and he may know how best to counteract the Borg Queen’s coming attack. If the Borg have attacked the Q Continuum, as theorised above, maybe Q will even have a personal reason to get involved.

Theory #5:
The Borg Queen/Dr Jurati will steal La Sirena, stranding Picard in the past.

La Sirena’s crash site in France.

I was tempted to slap this one on my “confirmed” list, because I successfully predicted that stealing La Sirena would be the Borg Queen’s plan going all the way back to Watcher earlier in the season! However, she hasn’t actually enacted her plan yet, so let’s hang fire for now. At least I can say I got the idea right even if the Borg Queen’s plan is defeated!

However, the Borg Queen has a formidable army on her side thanks to Dr Soong’s (highly convenient) military connections. Despite being banned from the scientific establishment, Dr Soong apparently continues to have a lot of sway over the right people, and as a result he’s been able to hire a private military company – one that the Borg Queen promptly began to assimilate.

New Borg drones.

Whether she plans to head to the Delta Quadrant to link up with the Borg Collective in this era or whether she plans to head to the 25th Century, stealing La Sirena is the Queen’s best move. Picard and the crew will struggle to defend the ship, especially considering that the Borg Queen had a lot of time while alone to install rogue code in the computer that both Seven of Nine and Rios have struggled to purge. With only Rios, Teresa, and Ricardo there right now, the ship is also largely undefended.

Even if Picard and the others make it in time, they’ll still be outnumbered and outgunned. The Borg Queen and her forces could easily take possession of the ship and fly away, stranding Picard (and anyone else who survives the confrontation) in the 21st Century.

Theory #6:
Picard and the crew of La Sirena will “borrow” Renée’s Europa Mission spacecraft to get back to the 25th Century.

Renée in training for the Europa Mission.

If La Sirena is stolen by the Borg Queen – or otherwise damaged and rendered unusable – Picard and the rest of the crew will need to find another way to get back to the 25th Century. Could they hitch a ride on Renée’s Europa Mission spacecraft?

Earlier in the season, Picard seemed to imply that no one really knows what happened to Renée and the Europa Mission ship after she discovered signs of life in the outer solar system, so does that mean it would be possible for her ship to simply disappear without corrupting the timeline? Perhaps the reason why history has no record of what happened to Renée after the Europa Mission isn’t because of World War III and the loss of that information, but because she and the ship simply disappeared while in space.

There’s nothing that we know of to suggest that the slingshot manoeuvre can’t be performed by a ship like Renée’s, and the fact that she’s an astronaut at all with her own spacecraft could open up a vital doorway for Picard and the crew if they suddenly find themselves in need of a new way home.

Theory #7:
The masked, hooded figure from The Star Gazer is not the real Borg Queen.

The Borg Queen?

The Borg Queen – the hooded figure who materialised on the bridge of the Stargazer – was absolutely terrifying, evoking feelings for me that the Star Trek franchise hasn’t hit in decades. The way this character was presented, with her shrouded face, flowing robes, monochromatic aesthetic, and blend of humanoid and decidedly non-humanoid mechanical features was simultaneously riveting and frightening!

This character was presented as the Borg Queen in the episode, and the Borg have no reason that we know of to lie about that. But at the same time, she was very different not only from how we’ve seen the Borg Queen in past iterations of Star Trek, but also from the Borg Queen that Picard and the crew met in the Confederation timeline. Could this character actually be someone else – perhaps someone that the Borg have assimilated?

Since Two of One, the story seems to be setting up Dr Jurati for this role. The Borg Queen has almost completely taken over her body as of the end of Mercy… but some part of her still remains. Could there be another possible candidate?

“Borg Queen” Candidate #1:
Dr Jurati.

Dr Jurati and the hallucinatory Borg Queen.

The Borg Queen has well and truly sunk her tentacles into Dr Jurati, taking over her body and creating new nanoprobes. If the Borg Queen’s plan to steal La Sirena succeeds, that could easily set the stage for the events of The Star Gazer to unfold. With no obvious way to un-assimilate her, Dr Jurati has to be the number one Borg Queen candidate right now.

“Borg Queen” Candidate #2:
Renée Picard.

Renée at the gala.

Renée could be the Borg Queen if she’s assimilated. Perhaps she will be attacked and assimilated during the course of the Europa Mission, or maybe the Queen will try to get to her to gain possession over the Europa Mission’s spacecraft. If La Sirena is damaged and unusable, the Europa Mission vehicle could be the best option for the Queen to get into space in this time period. Renée being the masked, hooded Borg could explain why the Borg were asking for Picard by name, and why Non, je ne regrette rien played shortly before the Stargazer’s self-destruction.

“Borg Queen” Candidate #3:
The time-travelling Admiral Janeway from Endgame.

Admiral Janeway and the Borg Queen.

Admiral Janeway was assimilated by the Borg Queen as part of her plan to introduce a neurolytic pathogen into the Collective, and appeared to have been killed when the Borg Queen’s complex exploded. But is there a way she could have survived?

Her assimilation could have been a turning point for the Borg. She did untold damage to the Collective, but also potentially gifted them knowledge and information about future events and technologies that were decades ahead of their time. Just like the Borg once chose Captain Picard to become Locutus – their “spokesperson” or representative – perhaps they might have chosen Admiral Janeway to fill a similar role during this latest incursion. Admiral Janeway could even have been incorporated as part of the Borg Queen.

“Borg Queen” Candidate #4:
Soji.

Soji in The Star Gazer.

The Borg seek “perfection” through the synthesis of organic and synthetic parts; if Coppelius synths like Soji have something that the Borg want, perhaps we’ll learn that they assimilated her to get it. The anomaly from which the Borg vessel emerged was not a standard transwarp corridor, and was specifically noted to emit some kind of temporal radiation. Thus the Borg vessel could be from a future date after Soji has already been assimilated. We could even learn that the super-synths from the Season 1 finale are actually the Borg; that could be how they first became aware of Soji and the Coppelius synths.

Theory #8:
Q is not responsible for changing the timeline.

Q’s powers no longer work…

With Q’s powers seemingly all but gone, the question of what happened to the timeline has to be considered. I’ve been running some form of this theory all season long, and with no explanation from Q as to why he wanted to change the timeline being forthcoming, it’s still on the table right now.

Yes, it’s possible that parts of Q’s conversation with Guinan in Mercy could count against this theory, particularly the parts where Q talked about the “escape” from the traps he set being what he’s interested in. But I really do believe that there’s more going on here than meets the eye. Add into the mix Q’s inability to use his powers, and I think the stage could be set for a big surprise before the season wraps up.

I have a longer article that goes into more detail about this theory that I wrote before the season premiere, and you can find it by clicking or tapping here.

Theory #9:
Q shielded Picard and the crew of La Sirena from changes to the timeline.

A very young-looking Q!

Regardless of who changed the timeline and why, it seems clear that Q is responsible for ensuring that Picard and the crew of La Sirena were the only ones unaffected by the change. If his goal was to change the timeline to punish Picard that makes sense – but it also leaves open the possibility that Picard will be able to figure out what happened and prevent it. That could be Q’s goal.

I’m not quite ready to call this one “confirmed,” though. I think we need to spend more time with Q to understand what he’s done, what he hopes to achieve by it, and why.

Theory #10:
Who is responsible for damaging the timeline, then?

Dr Adam Soong in Mercy.

For much of the season I’ve been proposing a few different candidates who could be responsible for changing the timeline. However, as we’re getting closer to the end of the story I’m actually going to strike most of them from that list.

The Zhat Vash and the Romulans both seemed plausible earlier in the season, partly because we still don’t know what happened after Season 1 to either the Zhat Vash or with relations between the Romulan government and the Federation, but also partly because there was still that unexplained Romulan or Vulcan figure from the trailers. With no Romulan involvement anywhere else in the season, and no mention of the Zhat Vash at all since Season 1, I’m striking those from the list. The Season 1 super-synths are also gone from the list because they likewise haven’t been mentioned all season long.

That only leaves us with the Borg, and with the Borg Queen manipulating Dr Soong into helping her, he could set in motion a chain of events that leads to the failure of the Europa Mission and the creation of the Confederation timeline. That is, unless someone can stop them in time…

Theory #11:
Picard and the crew will have to actively trigger World War III to save the future.

World War III soldiers as glimpsed in Discovery Season 2.

This one is now on its last legs! Since well before Season 2 aired, I’d been proposing that one of the points of divergence in the timeline – and thus the event that Picard needs to preserve – could be World War III. In Star Trek’s timeline, World War III began in the late 2020s and ran through to the mid-2050s, with first contact with the Vulcans taking place a few years after it ended. It’s an incredibly important event in the history of humanity, and without it Star Trek’s entire future is in doubt.

It’s still possible that Dr Adam Soong’s story could connect with the outbreak of war, and Picard may have to commit to the war starting by ensuring that Dr Soong – or one of his inventions – is in the right place at the right time. However, with the story having focused on the Europa Mission, Renée Picard, and now this Borg Queen confrontation, there isn’t much time left for a World War III connection.

You can find a full write-up of this theory from prior to the season premiere by clicking or tapping here.

Theory #12:
Picard and/or the Federation will use information from the Confederation timeline to defeat the Borg.

A battle over the planet Vulcan in the Confederation timeline.

If Picard and the crew manage to make a stand aboard La Sirena, information contained within the Confederation starship’s computers could help them defeat the Borg. Somehow the Confederation was able to beat the Borg in their timeline, and if Picard and the others could understand how that happened, perhaps they will be able to form an effective defence against the Borg Queen’s attack.

Alternatively, I originally pitched this theory as a way to explain how the Federation could potentially stop the Borg incursion that began during the events of the season premiere. If Picard and the crew manage to survive and make it back to the 25th Century, they may bring with them crucial tactical information from the Confederation timeline that will help the Federation stop the Borg.

The very first Borg drone seen in Star Trek.

This would be a great way to include what has been one of the season’s most interesting and least-explained narrative elements: how the Confederation, which supposedly had technology comparable to the 25th Century Federation, was able to do something as massive as defeating the entire Borg Collective.

There are a couple of ways that Picard and the crew could potentially use information about the Borg that may be stored in La Sirena’s computer banks, so let’s wait and see if anything comes of it!

Theory #13:
Dr Adam Soong will create the Borg.

Dr Adam Soong.

Although Dr Soong’s research seems to be mainly on the genetic side of things, such as the creation of Kore and possible human cloning, his alliance with the Borg Queen could lead to him becoming instrumental in creating the Borg Collective. The Borg already exist as of the 21st Century, but as we seem to be seeing the Borg Queen creating a new Collective on Earth, there are open-ended possibilities for how this story could go.

With time travel on the agenda, it’s possible to imagine a situation in which Dr Soong and the Borg Queen are thrown backwards in time, perhaps emerging millennia in the past. Dr Soong could thus become one of the progenitors of the Borg Collective.

Theory #14:
The Federation is responsible for creating the Borg.

A rather incredulous-looking Borg seen in The Next Generation.

This is a total wildcard, but I’m just throwing it out there!

The Borg Queen – and the Borg in general – appear to have a fascination with humanity and with Picard. Could it be that the explanation for that is that the Federation and/or humanity are somehow responsible for their creation? As mentioned above, with time travel on the cards, anything seems possible.

Nanites used by the Control AI.

As above, this could be the end result of the alliance between Dr Soong and the Borg Queen. The Borg could therefore be a human creation, the offspring of one of Data’s ancestors. Could that link be the key to defeating them? Maybe that preserved knowledge and the veneration of Dr Soong is how the Confederation was able to defeat the Borg in their timeline!

Discovery Season 2 ran a story with the Control AI that could have also been a Borg origin story. Was it known as early as 2018-19 that Picard wanted to tell a story like this, and if so, could that explain why the Control storyline ended the way it did? I have a write-up of Discovery’s abandoned Borg origin story that you can find by clicking or tapping here.

Theory #15:
The season will end on a cliffhanger.