Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-3. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Wrath of Khan, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Discovery.
Toward the end of the episode Surrender, Deanna Troi told us something very interesting about Jack Crusher: there’s an “ancient and weak” voice that surrounds him, a voice that isn’t his own. This voice has also been described as a “darkness,” and something “evil.” Today, I want to consider a few possibilities for who and what this “ancient evil” could be.
There are, at least as I see it, two candidates that are more likely than any others – at least based on the narrative elements that have already come into play. I covered the Borg Queen in my most recent theory update, but it’s also worth considering the Founders themselves, and how an ancient changeling or changeling leader could be a likely possibility. Finally, we have to contend with the idea that the “ancient evil” will be a character or faction that we’ve never met before – as this is something that’s happened in these types of stories consistently in modern Star Trek!
I’ve heard several fan theories that seem completely implausible to me, and I’ll also cover a handful of the more popular ones and why I think they wouldn’t make sense or wouldn’t work narratively. If I try to shoot down a theory you’re personally invested in, I hope you won’t take that as some kind of attack! I’ll try to explain my reasons as gently as possible.
It also goes without saying that I have no “insider information!” I’m not trying to claim that any of the ideas we’re going to discuss today can, will, or must be part of Picard Season 3. It’s possible that I’ve completely misunderstood what Troi was saying, or that Jack’s hallucinatory red door will lead to something completely unexpected, unpredictable, or even a completely different kind of storyline altogether. All of this is also just the subjective opinion of one person.
With all of that out of the way, let’s get started!
“Ancient Evil” #1:
The Borg Queen.
As I explained in my recent theory update, the Borg Queen is the candidate I feel is most likely to be the “ancient evil.” The voice Jack has occasionally heard has a feminine quality, there have been multiple references to the Borg and to Picard’s assimilation experience, and the idea of Jack “inheriting” some kind of Borg nanites or Borg DNA from Picard would connect with themes of family, parentage, and inheritance that have been present in different ways all season long.
The Borg Queen hasn’t been explicitly mentioned, but right now, the myriad references to Locutus, the Battle of Wolf-359, and Picard’s connection to the Borg haven’t had any kind of narrative payoff. Bringing the Borg Queen into the story at this particularly late stage is a risk, but it’s also something that has been set up across the entire season – so it wouldn’t feel like a total bolt from the blue.
“Ancient Evil” #2:
The Season 1 super-synths.
Should we abandon all hope of the unnamed “alliance of synthetic life” from the end of Season 1 ever making a return to Star Trek? Well… probably! But of all the “ancient” factions we know of in Star Trek, few are older – and potentially more malevolent – than the super-synths that were introduced in Season 1.
Millions of years before the events of the story, this synthetic faction literally moved the stars in the Milky Way and created a beacon, promising to ride to the aid of any synthetic life-forms that needed their help. Whether that offer was genuine or an elaborate trap, well… I’m still not sure! But these super-synths may not have given up on their aim of returning to the Milky Way just because Picard convinced Soji to close the portal to their realm.
“Ancient Evil” #3:
The Female Changeling from Deep Space Nine.
The Female Changeling who led the Dominion’s war effort against the Federation alliance seemed to be one of the most senior Founders. With the changelings featuring heavily in this story, perhaps she is once again trying to lead the charge against the Federation, using Vadic and her evolved allies to get revenge.
Earlier in the season, Vadic cited revenge against Starfleet and the Federation as one of her motives – though she didn’t really elaborate on what that meant. Floaty McFloatface – the unnamed character who seems to have been Vadic’s boss – also mentioned vengeance, so could the changelings be seeking to avenge their defeat in the Dominion War? Vadic knew the details of Jack’s hallucinations, including the existence of the red door – how could she have possibly known that if the changelings aren’t involved?
“Ancient Evil” #4:
Locutus of Borg (or a clone of Locutus).
As above, Season 3 has made multiple references to Picard’s assimilation experience and time as Locutus. Could the rogue changelings have stolen Picard’s corpse as part of a plan to resurrect Locutus? Or could the Borg Collective itself have recreated or cloned Locutus based on Picard’s genetic material? Perhaps Floaty McFloatface is a representative of the Borg – and wants Jack Crusher to become the new Locutus.
The idea of Picard having to come face-to-face with Locutus would surely be his worst nightmare. Locutus would literally know Picard inside and out – and could be very difficult to outmanoeuvre and defeat as a result.
“Ancient Evil” #5:
Someone entirely new.
In earlier seasons – and in other modern Star Trek productions, too – the franchise’s past didn’t provide the answers to mysteries like this one! So it has to be considered plausible or even downright likely that a brand-new character or faction is the “ancient evil” that we’re looking for. This could come in the form of a new character from a familiar faction – a new Borg or changeling leader, perhaps. Or it could be an entirely new creation that doesn’t connect to Star Trek’s past at all.
There is a danger in this approach, and part of the reason why creations like the super-synths and Species 10-C didn’t excite fans as much as they could’ve is that, after a season-long tease, expectations have been raised! But at the same time, writers should feel free to create new elements to add to Star Trek instead of being constrained by what has come before. A new character or faction could absolutely stick the landing – if it was handled well.
So those are the candidates I consider to be most plausible.
Up next, we’ll take a look at a few others that I’ve heard suggested by fans on forums and on social media. For reasons that I’ll try to explain, none of these feel likely to me… so feel free to come back at the end of the season and laugh at how wrong I was if any of them prove to be the true “ancient evil!”
Not the “Ancient Evil” #1:
I don’t know who originated this idea, but it seems to have spread like wildfire in some quarters of the fan community! For my money, there’s no way the “ancient evil” could be the Pah-Wraiths, though – even though the faction is undoubtedly both ancient and evil! Firstly, despite references and connections to Deep Space Nine, there have been no mentions of Bajor, the wormhole, the Prophets, or the Pah-Wraiths all season long – so any last-second inclusion would be a complete deus ex machina.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the return of the Pah-Wraiths would hugely undermine the ending of Deep Space Nine, and Captain Sisko’s arc in particular. Sisko sacrificed his life to prevent the Pah-Wraiths from escaping their confinement in the Fire Caves, fulfilling his duty as the Emissary of the Prophets. For a new story to say that the Pah-Wraiths escaped anyway, a mere twenty-something years later, would seriously damage that story and undermine Sisko’s arc and characterisation. Finally, the Pah-Wraiths have no connection to Picard or to the Crusher family.
Not the “Ancient Evil” #2:
C’mon everyone… it isn’t Armus, okay? It just isn’t. Not only has Armus not been mentioned since Season 1 of The Next Generation, but the evil puddle of printer ink has no real connection to Picard, to the Crusher family, or to anyone else involved in Season 3. As a villain who only appeared once in what was, let’s be blunt here, not one of The Next Generation’s best stories, Armus would also be underwhelming in the extreme.
Had the story of Season 3 revisited the planet of Vagra II, or if Tasha Yar had been mentioned in the story somehow (aside from a minute cameo as part of Data’s memories) then maybe we could consider this theory more favourably. But Armus would also be a complete bolt from the blue – and one that I don’t believe could possibly be strong enough to carry the ending not only of Season 3, but of the entire series.
Not the “Ancient Evil” #3:
The Romulans/Zhat Vash.
Although it would be cyclical in a way if the end of Season 3 were to return to the Romulans in some form, I don’t believe that the story will go in this direction. There have been no Romulans included in the story all season long, and no mentions of the Zhat Vash or their conspiracy, either. The Romulans were also a faction that fought against the changelings during the Dominion War – and there probably isn’t enough time left to sufficiently explain how they might have been persuaded to switch sides.
Finally, although Elnor continues to exist in the Picard timeline, he hasn’t been part of the story of this season – despite opportunities to include him. Elnor is a Romulan, and if there was to be any kind of Romulan connection to the story, I’d have expected him to take part in it.
Not the “Ancient Evil” #4:
Q and/or the Q Continuum.
We got our Q story – for better or for worse – in Season 2. While it would be thematically interesting in a way if the end of Jean-Luc Picard’s story were connected to the very first episode in which he appeared, the death of Q last year combined with the total absence of any discussion of Q and the Q Continuum this time make it feel very unlikely at this juncture.
There’s also the question of motivation – something that also tripped up Q’s story in Season 2! Why would Q, or another member of the Continuum, have allied with a faction of rogue changelings to attack Starfleet? If the Q wanted the Federation weakened or destroyed… all it would take is a snap of the fingers. Why go to all this trouble? And why would the Q Continuum hate Starfleet anyway? The Q Continuum is ancient… but is it evil? I don’t think so.
Not the “Ancient Evil” #5:
Genetic engineering and augmentation were discussed in Season 2, and there was even a reference to something called “Project Khan” at the end of the season. But not only is Khan dead, he has no connection to Picard and the Crushers. Although Season 2 has leaned heavily into the legacy of The Wrath of Khan in more ways than one… I just don’t see how the story bringing him back could possibly be made to work.
Star Trek Into Darkness was a riff on the Khan story, and it worked pretty well – at least in my view. But Khan is a character that we don’t really need to see more of… which is part of the reason why I was always sceptical about the Ceti Alpha V pitch! Bringing Khan and his augments into Picard wouldn’t work.
Not the “Ancient Evil” #6:
The Abronians, the Kelvan Empire, the Voth… and more!
There are a number of ancient races in Star Trek – and a number of villainous ones, too. But many of these made only a single appearance or a handful of appearances in stories that most viewers would struggle to recall decades later, and while some of them might nominally fulfil some of our criteria – such as by having a tangential connection to Jean-Luc Picard or Dr Crusher – the fact that they haven’t been so much as hinted at all season long should be enough to rule out all of them.
At this late stage in the season, and with the only named villain having already been killed off, it’s already a storytelling challenge to make whatever’s behind Jack’s red door and whomever has been directing the conspiracy not feel like a deus ex machina. If this character or faction is ultimately revealed to be something or someone that we’ve had no mention of through the entire story… I fear that would be too high a narrative hurdle to successfully clear.
So that’s it!
We’ve considered a few possibilities for who the “ancient evil” could be. This “ancient and weak” voice that Jack has heard seems to have somehow latched onto him – and is giving him superpowers. Deanna Troi (and everyone else involved in the story) seems to believe that this is directly tied to the rogue changelings and their plans to attack Frontier Day, so one way or another this “ancient evil” has been driving the story all season long.
The death of Vadic has, for me at least, thrown a cloud over this story. Even if the “ancient evil” is the Borg Queen, another Borg representative, or a changeling, it will still be difficult to pull off this storyline successfully and explain everything sufficiently with just two episodes left. I feel echoes of the Season 1 problem, in which the two-part finale dumped new characters, factions, and storylines into the plot but didn’t have anywhere near enough time to pay them off successfully. But we’ll have to wait to see if Season 3 will fare any better!
I hope that this was a bit of fun. I tried to consider some seemingly-plausible ideas for the “ancient evil,” as well as explain why I feel that some popular theories are unlikely. If you put me under duress and forced me to pick only one candidate, right now I’m inclined to say that the Borg Queen feels the most likely. There have been multiple Borg references this season, there’s a solid connection to Picard, there’s a narratively coherent way in which Jack could have inherited Borg DNA or nanites from Picard which would also tie in thematically to the ideas of parent-child relationships and inheritance, and the voice that Jack has periodically heard sounds feminine in tone. So that would be my guess – if I absolutely had to choose!
As a final note: I always like to end these theory lists by saying that I do this just for fun. I enjoy writing, I enjoy Star Trek, and spending more time in this world is an escape and an enjoyable distraction for me. But for some folks, fan theories can become frustrating or unenjoyable, especially if they get very attached to a plausible-sounding theory that ultimately doesn’t pan out. I have no “insider information” and I’m not trying to claim that anything suggested above can, will, or must be part of Picard Season 3. The story will almost certainly take an unpredictable path!
Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-3 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and other countries and territories where the service is available, and on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and around the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties discussed above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.