Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 – The Story So Far

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3 and the trailers and teasers for Season 4.

As we welcome the month of November, Star Trek: Discovery’s fourth season is now only a couple of weeks away! With the season fast approaching I thought it would be a good idea to recap, as succinctly as possible, the story so far. Michael Burnham and the rest of the crew have been on a wild ride that’s seen them face off against militant Klingons, a Mirror Universe impostor, a rogue AI, Section 31, and a journey into a future that none of them expected to find.

If you haven’t re-watched Discovery since Season 3 ended just after New Year, I hope this recap of the story so far will be helpful going into Season 4. If for some reason you haven’t seen Discovery yet, well this recap might help you get acclimated with the show and some of the characters – but there’s still a couple of weeks to watch the show’s forty-two episodes… so you’d better get on with it!

Season 4 is imminent!

As I’ve said previously, the show’s first season didn’t get off to a great start story-wise. As things settled down, though, Discovery told a creditable story over the course of the season, one which hit a lot of the right notes in terms of “feeling like Star Trek.” But Season 2 was leaps and bounds ahead of where Season 1 had been, with noteworthy improvements in writing and characterisation to tell a truly exciting and engaging story.

Season 3 was a risk in some respects, but in others it was clearly designed to answer criticisms from some quarters about the show’s place in Star Trek’s broader canon. Shooting the ship and crew almost a thousand years into the future meant abandoning the 23rd Century – and everything else familiar about Star Trek’s galaxy. However, this decision opened up Discovery to brand-new storytelling ideas, and gave the writers and producers far more creative freedom. The show was pioneering new ground instead of trying to walk an occasionally awkward line between the franchise’s established history and bringing new ideas to the table.

Captain Burnham in a promo image for Season 4.

There were some great successes in Season 3. For the first time we got standalone episodes – or at least semi-standalone episodes in which the main story of the season took a back seat. We also got spotlight moments for more of the ship’s secondary characters, some of whom had barely had more than a line or two of dialogue despite being fixtures on the bridge. Though I have criticised the Burn storyline – which was the most significant aspect of the season’s story – for having a number of issues, overall Season 3 was a success.

Discovery has been “the Michael Burnham show” since its premiere episode – for better and for worse. The first three seasons can thus be viewed as Burnham’s ascent to the captain’s chair, and the rocky road she took to get there. Though there has been development of other characters – Saru, Tilly, and Mirror Georgiou stand out in particular – the show’s focus has often been on Burnham.

So let’s head back to the beginning and run through all three seasons as briefly as possible! I’ll try to hit all of the most important and relevant points as we go to get you ready for Season 4.

Season 1

Michael Burnham at the beginning of Season 1.

Season 1 began with Michael Burnham serving as first officer to Captain Georgiou of the USS Shenzhou. Saru was also a member of the crew, as was helm officer Detmer. After being called to a region of space near the Klingon border, the Shenzhou encountered a new Klingon leader who had a plan to unify all of the Klingon Great Houses by going to war with the Federation. In a moment we’ll charitably call “confusion” (as opposed to other, harsher terms we could use) Michael Burnham attempted to stage a mutiny against Captain Georgiou and fire the first shot at a large Klingon fleet.

After the arrival of Admiral Anderson and Starfleet reinforcements, a battle broke out between the Federation and Klingons – the opening engagement of a year-long war. Georgiou and Burnham led an away mission to attempt to capture the Klingon leader, T’Kuvma, but the mission ended with both Georgiou and T’Kuvma dead and war assured between the two sides.

Season 1 began with Georgiou killed and a Federation-Klingon war breaking out.

The Klingon war led to Starfleet accelerating work on the Spore Drive – a new method of traversing the galaxy that relies on a kind of fungus. The Spore Drive was installed aboard two ships – Discovery and the USS Glenn. Engineer Paul Stamets was in charge of the Spore Drive aboard Discovery under the command of Captain Gabriel Lorca, but the technology wasn’t effective at first.

The crew of the USS Glenn discovered that a tardigrade – a space-dwelling lifeform – could be used to navigate the mycelial network and might be the key to making the Spore Drive operational. However, the crew were killed when the tardigrade got loose, and the ship was destroyed to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. Initial experiments using the tardigrade were promising, despite the dangers it posed, but when it became clear how painful the process was for the creature, Stamets merged his DNA with the tardigrade’s so the creature could go free. Stamets thus became Discovery’s navigator and the Spore Drive became fully functional.

A space-dwelling lifeform proved key to making the Spore Drive work.

At the same time, Michael Burnham – now a prisoner following her mutiny – had been brought aboard the USS Discovery by Captain Lorca. She was assigned a cabin with Cadet Sylvia Tilly, and employed as a “mission specialist.” Lorca suggested to Burnham that this could be a way to atone for her role in the outbreak of the war, and she played a role in helping get the Spore Drive operational.

Captain Lorca was captured by the Klingons, but was able to escape thanks to the assistance of Ash Tyler – a fellow Starfleet prisoner. Tyler joined the crew of Discovery as Lorca’s new security officer – despite clearly suffering from post-traumatic stress as a result of his abuse and torture by the Klingons.

A war with the Klingons was the focus of large parts of Season 1.

The USS Discovery was sent to the planet Pahvo, where a crystalline transmitter was located. The transmitter could be used, Starfleet believed, to detect cloaked Klingon ships. When the mission went wrong and the native energy-based Pahvans summoned the Klingons to their planet, Captain Lorca disobeyed orders to implement a new plan. Outwardly his plan was to use multiple Spore Drive jumps to unlock the secrets behind the Klingons’ cloaking device – but in reality his plan was to use the Spore Drive to return to the Mirror Universe.

Captain Lorca was later revealed to be a native of the Mirror Universe, having crossed over inadvertently to the Prime Universe. While in the Mirror Universe the crew of the USS Discovery had to try to fit in as soldiers of the Terran Empire. Burnham and Lorca travelled to the capital ship of Empress Georgiou, where Lorca attempted to rally his forces and stage a coup.

Mirror Lorca returned home and attempted to stage a coup.

Lorca was killed during his coup attempt, but Empress Georgiou’s reign was over anyway; other plotters were already eyeing her throne. In a moment of unthinking impulse, Michael Burnham chose to save Georgiou’s life and transported her to Discovery. After investigating how Lorca was able to use the Spore Drive to jump between universes, the crew were able to reverse the process and return home – only to discover that the Klingons had reached the edge of victory in their absence.

A mad plan cooked up by Empress Georgiou and Admiral Cornwell saw a bomb transported to the Klingon homeworld, one which would have devastated the planet if it had been set off. Leading a second, pro-Starfleet values mutiny, Burnham rallied the crew of Discovery against the bomb plot and instead saw the super-weapon turned over to L’Rell – who went on to become the new Klingon Chancellor and ended the war.

Season 2

The crew of the USS Discovery at the end of Season 1.

After the war ended, Burnham and the crew received medals for their roles. Burnham was also reinstated at the rank of commander. Following a computer failure aboard the USS Enterprise, Captain Pike was assigned to the USS Discovery and given temporary command of the ship for his mission to chase down an ambiguous entity known as the Red Angel. The Red Angel had been generating anomalies known as Red Bursts at locations across the galaxy.

The Enterprise’s science officer – and Michael Burnham’s adoptive brother – Spock, had gone missing at the same time. The Red Angel was revealed to be a time traveller – someone with the ability to travel into the past and far into the future. A mysterious figure from Spock’s youth – and who had once intervened to save his life – was revealed as the Red Angel and thus connected to Spock’s disappearance.

Where is Spock?

Meanwhile on the Klingon homeworld, Ash Tyler – whose true identity as a Klingon had been discovered – was able to leave the planet with his “son” thanks to the help of Section 31. The son of Voq and Klingon Chancellor L’Rell was taken away to the Klingon monastery on Boreth to be raised with the monks, and Tyler rejoined Section 31 – which counted ex-Empress Georgiou among its new recruits. Captain Leland tried to maintain the peace aboard a state-of-the-art Section 31 vessel.

Section 31 had come to rely heavily on an artificial intelligence named Control during the Klingon war, and it had become routine for Starfleet admirals to run all of their mission data through Control. Unbeknownst to any of them, Control had aspirations of its own, seeking to become fully sentient and to wipe out its creators. Somehow it discovered the existence of an entity known as the Sphere – a planetoid-sized lifeform that had spent more than 100,000 years studying the galaxy and accumulating vast swathes of data on all of its inhabitants.

The USS Discovery (left) and the Sphere.

By merging its programming with the Sphere data, Control would be able to become fully sentient, and it set out to acquire the Sphere data. Thanks to the time-traveling involvement of the Red Angel, the USS Discovery came to possess the Sphere data, and thus became a target for Control.

After Michael Burnham was able to rescue Spock from Section 31, she took him to Talos IV where the Talosians were able to help “unscramble” his brain, leading to Spock explaining as much as he could about the Red Angel, its origins, and its connection to him. The Red Angel was revealed to be a human.

The Talosians were able to help Spock.

The USS Discovery became a fugitive after rescuing Burnham and Spock from Talos IV; hunted by Control, and thus by Section 31 and all of Starfleet. Control was able to kill off many Section 31 leaders and operatives, and used nanites to “assimilate” or possess the body of Captain Leland – but thankfully left Ash Tyler and Georgiou alone!

The crew of Discovery studied scans of the Red Angel following a mission to Saru’s home planet (in which they rescued his people from subservience to the Ba’ul, a second sentient race present on the planet). Saru underwent a transformation to his “evolved” form, losing much of his fearfulness in the process. Scans of the Red Angel revealed that the time traveller was, to everyone’s surprise, Michael Burnham.

Michael Burnham was believed to be the Red Angel.

After a side-story involving native beings in the mycelial network and Tilly, Dr Culber – who had been killed by Tyler/Voq – was able to be rescued from the mycelial network and brought back to life. Meanwhile a plan to lure the Red Angel and trap her ended up proving that Burnham wasn’t the Red Angel – her long-lost mother was.

Dr Gabrielle Burnham had been using the Red Angel suit to interfere in the timeline after getting trapped in the 32nd Century. She arrived there by accident only to find all sentient life in the galaxy gone thanks to Control, which had acquired the Sphere Data and evolved itself. She began taking action to thwart Control, including giving the Sphere data to Discovery to keep safe. She was later pulled back to the 32nd Century; her presence there ultimately determined the ship’s destination at the end of the season.

Dr Gabrielle Burnham explained why she – as the Red Angel – was interfering with the timeline.

Control was hot on Discovery’s heels, and using Captain Leland attempted to gain access to the Sphere data. Pike and the crew realised the data couldn’t be destroyed – it was protecting itself – so they made a plan to send the data into the far future, securing a time crystal from the Klingon monastery on Boreth in order to build a new Red Angel suit. During the mission to Boreth, Captain Pike made a great sacrifice to acquire the crystal – cementing a future for himself of devastating disability.

While preparing for a last stand against Control and a fleet of Section 31 ships under its command, the crew of Discovery raced to build a second Red Angel suit. After Control arrived and a battle raged, Michael Burnham used the completed suit to travel back in time and set the Red Bursts – making the whole story somewhat circular – before leading the USS Discovery (now under Saru’s command) into the future. Captain Pike and Spock remained behind in the 23rd Century.

Season 3

On the bridge of the Enterprise, Captain Pike, Spock, and the crew watched the USS Discovery disappear.

Arriving 930 years later, Michael Burnham was initially alone and crash-landed on the planet Hima. There she met Cleveland Booker who told her about the Burn: a galaxy-wide catastrophe in which many starships were destroyed. The Federation had also disappeared – at least from the local region of space – and though Book initially appeared antagonistic and out for himself, he eventually agreed to help Burnham and took her to a Federation outpost.

There was no sign of Discovery, however, and it was a full year later before the ship emerged from the time-wormhole. After a rough landing on a planet named the Colony, Acting Captain Saru and the crew came into conflict with Zareh, a courier working for a faction called the Emerald Chain. Thanks to the timely arrival of Book and Burnham, Discovery was rescued and proceeded to Earth using the Spore Drive.

After a year in the future with Book, Michael Burnham was able to find Discovery again.

In the 125 years since the Burn, however, many changes had taken place. Earth was just one of many planets to have quit the Federation, retreating to an armed isolationist stance that even saw the planet unwilling to communicate with human colonies inside the Sol system. Searching for a Starfleet Admiral named Senna Tal seemed fruitless at first, but Tal’s Trill symbiont had been transferred to a human named Adira.

After helping the people of Earth reconnect with their fellow humans on Titan, Discovery visited the Trill homeworld to help Adira – and to learn the location of Federation HQ, which was no longer on Earth. Burnham and the crew were able to help the Trill, who had been suffering from a shortage of suitable candidates for their symbionts, and also helped Adira in the process. Discovery was then able to travel to Federation HQ – a cloaked space station that housed the remnants of both the Federation government and Starfleet.

The USS Discovery docked at Federation HQ.

Having peaked at around 350 members, by the time of Discovery’s arrival the Federation was down to a mere 38 remaining worlds, some of which were out of contact due to the Burn’s lingering effects and damage to subspace communications. The ship undertook a short mission to recover some seeds from the USS Tikhov – a Starfleet seed vault – in order to provide medical care. Nhan, a Barzan officer, remained behind on the Tikhov.

The USS Discovery then underwent a retrofit, one which kept the familiar interior look of the ship but which upgraded many of its systems to 32nd Century standards, including detached nacelles and programmable matter. The crew were permitted to remain together under Captain Saru’s command, but Discovery was seconded to Federation HQ as a “rapid response vessel” thanks to its Spore Drive.

Admiral Vance was the head of Starfleet in the 32nd Century.

Michael Burnham and Georgiou undertook an off-the-books mission to rescue Book, who had been captured by the Emerald Chain. The upshot of Book’s rescue was the discovery of a Starfleet black box, and the data inside proved that the Burn did not happen everywhere simultaneously, as had been theorised. Instead it had a point of origin – but without more information it wasn’t possible to pinpoint it.

SB-19 was a project run by Ni’Var – the renamed planet Vulcan following reunification between Vulcans and Romulans – in the years before the Burn. Ni’Var had come to believe that SB-19 was responsible for the Burn and were unwilling to share any details about the project, even though Burnham asked them to share it to help pinpoint the Burn’s source. Eventually, however, the reappearance of Dr Gabrielle Burnham, who was now a member of the Qowat Milat, an order of armed Romulan nuns, showed Burnham the way to get the information and recommit herself to Starfleet following a year away from the ship.

A holographic depiction of SB-19.

After acquiring the SB-19 data, Discovery undertook a mission to Book’s home planet of Kwejian. Threatened by the Emerald Chain and its leader, Osyraa, Book’s brother attempted to turn him over to the faction in exchange for protecting the harvest and thus Kwejian’s food supply. Piloting Book’s ship, Lieutenant Detmer was able to damage the Emerald Chain flagship while the crew of Discovery found a way to protect Kwejian’s food supply without the need to rely on the Emerald Chain.

Mirror Georgiou had fallen ill, and a mysterious Federation figure named Kovich knew why – travelling through time and travelling across from a parallel universe leads to a painful and fatal condition which he believed to be incurable. The USS Discovery undertook a mission to a planet near the Gamma Quadrant to help Georgiou, and she was able to travel to a parallel universe very similar to the Mirror Universe.

Burnham and Georgiou travelled to this planet to seek help for her illness.

While in the Mirror Universe, Georgiou attempted to make changes. Having spent time with Burnham and the Federation she had become more compassionate and less quick to violence than before, and though she ultimately failed to bring about major reforms to the Terran Empire, she was deemed “worthy” of a second chance by the entity which sent her there – an entity which subsequently revealed itself to be the Guardian of Forever.

Georgiou was able to use the Guardian’s portal to leave the 32nd Century and thus save her life – but she had to say goodbye to Saru, Burnham, and the rest of the crew. Her destination isn’t clear – but if the Section 31 series gets off the ground in future we may just find out! Don’t hold your breath for that, though… it’s feeling less and less likely as time goes by!

The Guardian of Forever sent Georgiou to an unknown destination in order to save her life.

With the data from the black boxes and SB-19, Burnham and the crew were able to triangulate the source of the Burn: the Verubin Nebula. Inside the nebula was a crashed Kelpien starship, the KSF Khi’eth, and a life-form was detected on board despite the dangerous radiation from the nebula. Discovery made another jump to the nebula, and Captain Saru left Ensign Tilly in charge while he went to save the lost Kelpien.

The Emerald Chain took advantage of this situation to capture the USS Discovery, wanting to keep the Spore Drive technology for themselves. Leader Osyraa then set course for Federation HQ, keeping Discovery’s crew hostage while she tried to force the Federation into an alliance. Admiral Vance called her bluff, and Osyraa attempted to escape. In the meantime, though, Michael Burnham had jettisoned poor Stamets off the ship, and without him to control the Spore Drive Discovery was forced to rely on warp.

Stamets was ejected into space – but don’t worry, he’s okay!

Following a battle with the Emerald Chain both in space and aboard Discovery, Book was able to kill Osyraa’s lieutenant Zareh and Burnham was able to kill Osyraa herself, while Tilly and other members of the bridge crew regained control of the ship. Book’s empathic abilities allowed him to use the Spore Drive, transporting Discovery back to the Verubin Nebula just in time to save Saru, Culber, Adira, Gray, and Su’Kal – the Kelpien who was accidentally responsible for the Burn all those years ago.

Su’Kal had developed a telepathic link with dilithium thanks to the Verubin Nebula’s radiation and because the Khi’eth had crashed on a planet composed largely of the valuable fuel. When Su’Kal’s mother died while he was still a child, a telepathic shockwave that Su’Kal accidentally unleashed led to the Burn. By taking him away from the Verubin Nebula, any prospect of a repeat of the Burn was nullified.

Saru was able to rescue Su’Kal and prevent a reoccurrence of the Burn.

A short epilogue to the season showed us that Trill had rejoined the Federation and that the Federation was hoping to use the dilithium in the Verubin Nebula to bring hope back to the galaxy. Ni’Var was considering rejoining too, and Saru took a leave of absence to go to Kaminar with Su’Kal. In his absence, Burnham had been promoted and assumed command of Discovery.

And that’s the story so far!

We now know that Captain Burnham and the crew will have to contend with a gravitational anomaly in Season 4; an uncharted, never-before-seen phenomenon that appears to be threatening the Federation and all of known space. How that will play out isn’t clear at all right now, but we don’t have to wait too much longer to find out!

The USS Discovery in the Season 4 trailer.

I hope that this recap of the story so far has been useful. I didn’t include everything – this article would have been far too long if I’d tried to include every character moment and side-story. But I think I hit the most important story beats from all three seasons. I’d encourage you to check out other story recaps from other places to make sure you’re getting a full picture, though! Or you could just go back and re-watch Discovery… two episodes per day will get you pretty close, and then binge-watch the final few!

Going back to the stories of earlier seasons was a bit of fun, and it’s helped get me back into a Star Trek mood in time for Season 4, which will be upon us before you know it! I’m currently not writing up reviews of Prodigy episodes, as you may have noticed – the series is unavailable here in the UK and I see no point in covering a show that ViacomCBS doesn’t see fit to make available to Trekkies internationally. However, I will cover Discovery’s fourth season in depth, including weekly episode reviews and theory posts, as well as other occasional articles on topics of interest while the season is ongoing. So I hope you’ll stay tuned for all of that here on the website in the weeks ahead.

Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and on Netflix internationally. Season 4 will begin on the 18th of November in the United States and the 19th of November internationally. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Some great Steam Summer Sale deals for PC gamers!

Important: The Steam Summer Sale has now ended. Prices listed below will no longer be accurate. Check back in December for my next Steam Winter Sale list.

It’s that time of year again! For the next fortnight, PC gaming powerhouse Steam is running its annual summer sale, meaning there are some pretty great deals to be had for PC gamers. For the last few major Steam sales I’ve put together a list of a few titles that I think look like excellent value while they’re discounted, and this time is no different!

As I always say, events like the Steam Summer Sale go a long way to making PC gaming good value for money when compared to consoles. PC gaming can be pricey to get started with – especially at the moment thanks to major component shortages – but sales like this go a long way to making up for it, and over the lifespan of a PC or a single console generation, it’s quite possible to see how a PC player is able to save money compared to a console gamer!

The creation of Xbox Game Pass works counter to that, of course! And if you’re new to gaming and want to get started with a library of titles for relatively little money up front, a Game Pass subscription with either a pre-owned Xbox One or an Xbox Series S is honestly hard to beat.

But we’re not here for Game Pass on this occasion! Let’s take a look at twenty games currently on offer in the Steam Summer Sale.

Important: All prices and discounts were correct in the UK at time of writing. Prices and discounts may vary by region and are subject to change at any time. The Steam Summer Sale runs from today (24.06.2021) for two weeks (08.07.2021) after which prices listed below will no longer be accurate. Crazy Uncle Dennis and this article are not endorsed by or affiliated with Steam or Valve.

Number 1: Jade Empire: Special Edition
75% discount, £3.74

If you’ve been playing Mass Effect: Legendary Edition and are craving another BioWare roleplaying game, you could do a lot worse than the overlooked Jade Empire. Released as an Xbox exclusive in 2005, the Chinese-inspired title made its way to Steam a few years ago. Most gamers are aware of the likes of Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect, but Jade Empire never quite made it to the same level.

Its graphics are certainly less shiny than modern titles, but if you can look beyond that you’ll find solid gameplay that’s easily comparable to other BioWare titles.

Number 2: Fall Guys
40% discount, £9.59

I’m not sure how long Fall Guys will remain available on Steam following a buyout by Epic Games, so if you want to get this fun obstacle course-battle royale title, now might be a good time. Fall Guys had a moment last summer before an issue with cheating and the rise of Among Us saw it slip progressively further down the rankings. But developers Mediatonic have continued to work on the game, fixing the cheating problem and releasing a number of free updates.

In mid-2021 Fall Guys is in a much better place. With Switch and Xbox releases still hopefully coming soon, the game is set for a second bite of the cherry and may see renewed interest from players. Cross-play is now enabled between PC and PlayStation at least, so getting into a game is easier than ever.

Number 3: Evil Genius 2
25% discount, £25.64

I took a look at Evil Genius 2 when it was first released earlier in the year, and it’s a lot of fun! If you’ve ever wanted to live out your Bond villain/Dr Evil fantasies, this is about as close as you can get while staying on the right side of the law! Building a secret base for your evil empire while also managing the casino used as a “front” is challenging, but if you get hooked it’s easy to sink hours into Evil Genius 2.

I’d happily recommend Evil Genius 2 to any strategy enthusiast or fan of spy thrillers. The cute, cartoony aesthetic adds to the experience as well.

Number 4: Snowrunner
20% discount, £20.79

The sequel to Mudrunner, Snowrunner is all about driving big vehicles – trucks, four-wheel drives, etc. – through difficult terrain. There really isn’t anything quite like it, and it’s a different kind of driving challenge when compared to titles like American Truck Simulator, but with a similar focus on the simulation aspect of driving.

I think Snowrunner would be absolutely cracking to play with a proper sim setup – wheel, pedals, and gearstick. But even just using a control pad it’s a lot of fun.

Number 5: Control: Ultimate Edition
60% discount, £13.99

I think I picked up Control in the last Steam sale, and just recently got around to playing through it. Control is weird, and I mean that as a compliment! I think the best way to describe it would be a psychological thriller mixed with an action game. There aren’t many true horror aspects, but there’s a lot of Lovecraftian weirdness that gives many parts of the game a creepy vibe.

Players take control of Jesse as she explores the Federal Bureau of Control – a mysterious government organisation headquartered in a very unique building! I had fun with Control, but I would caveat that I did encounter some issues with performance – poor frame-rate in particular.

Number 6: Banished
66% discount, £5.09

A mainstay of Crazy Uncle Dennis lists, Banished is an amazing city-builder. Not only must you construct buildings, but you’re also in charge of managing the citizens of your town. Ensuring that they have enough food, medicine, firewood, and other supplies is deceptively tricky, and this is a game that’s hard to master.

Banished was made by a single person. I say that every time I bring up the game, because I find it astonishing. Even if Banished had been produced by a whole studio I’d have enjoyed it, but knowing it was all programmed by a single person completely blows my mind.

Number 7: Saint’s Row 2
75% discount, £2.49

Saint’s Row 2 to me represents the pinnacle of the series, before this Grand Theft Auto-clone completely veered into the outlandish and wacky storylines that would dominate its third and especially fourth entries. If you’re bored of Grand Theft Auto V, and with a sixth entry in the series nowhere to be found, for less than the price of a coffee you could play through a game that’s as close as you can get to that experience.

Comparisons to other games aside, Saint’s Row 2 offers a ton of player customisation, even having different voices for the player character. The open world is fun to mess around in, and though the story is hardly unique it’s more than deep enough to be an enjoyable way to waste a couple of dozen hours.

Number 8: Pac-Man (Arcade Game Series)
50% discount, £1.39

Can you even call yourself “a gamer” if you don’t own at least one copy of 1980 arcade classic Pac-Man? This is one of the best-known video games of all time, and it’s quite literally a piece of gaming history. There have been many versions released over the last forty years, including some that take the basic Pac-Man concept and really mix it up. This version stays true to the 1980 original.

Gamers of a certain age have a fondness for Pac-Man, but there are a lot of younger players who’ve never tried their hand at the original. For anyone in that situation, I’d recommend giving it a shot. You’ll be experiencing a piece of video game history in the process!

Number 9: Yooka-Laylee
80% discount, £6.99

Yooka-Laylee was criticised upon release… for being a 3D platformer in the style of classics of the genre like Banjo-Kazooie. I genuinely do not understand what people were talking about if they meant that as a negative point. Yooka-Laylee was literally designed from the ground up as a spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie and those types of games!

Maybe it isn’t the world’s greatest ever 3D platformer, but it’s solid, cute, and a lot of fun, and if you liked those games in their heyday on the Nintendo 64, give it a shot. If you know what you’re getting into and you aren’t asking for a life-changing experience – as some critics seemed to be – you’ll have a whale of a time.

Number 10: Death Stranding
60% discount, £21.99

From famed Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima, Death Stranding is a game that a lot of people didn’t know what to make of when it originally launched on PlayStation 4. Is it an action game? A horror game? A walking simulator? Death Stranding is a mixture of different genres and different styles of gameplay. There’s a lot of walking and exploration, and in some respects it’s a slower game as a result.

I’d tentatively put Death Stranding in a category alongside titles like Beyond: Two Souls and others by Quantic Dream. It’s interactive, and there’s a story to follow. And there is third-person action gameplay. But it’s very hard to pin it down and say what it actually is. The visuals are gorgeous, though!

Number 11: Lego City Undercover
75% discount, £6.24

Originally released as a Wii U exclusive, Lego City Undercover eventually made its way to PC. Unlike other Lego games, which adapt an existing entertainment product, it’s an original story featuring a police officer on the hunt for a vicious criminal. Weirdly for a Lego game there are some Grand Theft Auto-esque open world elements, and the story is surprisingly fun.

Lego games have always had a sense of humour, and while you won’t find anything extreme or offensive – this is a kids’ game, after all – it’s still got some real laugh-out-loud moments. I had fun with it when I was one of seven lucky people who owned a Wii U, and developer Traveller’s Tales did a good job adapting the game for PC.

Number 12: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
60% discount, £13.99

I had a lot of fun playing through Jedi: Fallen Order last summer. After the disappointment of The Rise of Skywalker I needed something to rehabilitate the Star Wars brand, and Jedi: Fallen Order delivered. As I wrote at the time, I genuinely felt like I was having my own adventure in a galaxy far, far away.

The game has a strong story with great characters and succeeded at getting me truly invested in what happened to protagonist Cal Kestis and the friends he made over the course of his journey. Coupled with great visuals and fun lightsaber-swinging gameplay, Jedi: Fallen Order was a great time all around. Not only that, but it proved once again that linear, single-player games are still viable as a concept for big publishers.

Number 13: Hades
30% discount, £13.64

Hades isn’t my usual kind of game. But having heard nothing but praise for the indie title I decided to give it a shot, and I can see why people are raving about it! Hades is a difficult rogue-like dungeon-crawler, one that gives players a degree of choice over how to set up their character before proceeding through the randomly-generated levels and tackling monsters inspired by Ancient Greek legends.

It’s a game where failure and defeat are inevitable, yet not one that punishes failing. Though dying in a game never feels great, Hades has found a way to take the sting out of defeat. It’s strangely compelling, and I found myself continuing to play long after the point where I’d have put other games down.

Number 14: Serious Sam 4
50% discount, £15.49

I played the first Serious Sam back in the early 2000s, and I found it to be an incredibly funny send-up of the first-person shooter genre at the time. Though I’m yet to play the latest instalment, which spent years in development hell before being released late last year, everything I’ve heard so far is good and I can’t wait to jump in and give it a go.

Serious Sam 4 feels like a blast of nostalgia; a throwback to when games were less about story and more about shooting as many monsters as humanly possible.

Number 15: Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition
33% discount, £10.04

In early 2020 I really got stuck into Age of Empires II, replaying one of my most-played games of the early 2000s. Microsoft put a lot of work into Definitive Edition, bringing in a new graphics engine and continuing to add to and adjust the game even now, more than eighteen months after its launch. It really is the ultimate way to play Age of Empires II.

Age of Empires II is a real-time strategy game with a medieval setting, and Definitive Edition has introduced new gameplay modes, new factions, and a bustling online multiplayer scene for when you’re done practicing against the AI. It’s a time-sink, and it’s easy to lose dozens of hours here!

Number 16: No Man’s Sky
50% discount, £19.99

No Man’s Sky will forever be defined by the criticism it received at launch for failing to live up to the lofty expectations developer Hello Games set. And that’s absolutely fair enough; the “release now, fix later” business model deserves all of the hate it gets. But in the five years since, No Man’s Sky has received a number of free updates and expansions, and has grown to be the game that was promised.

A rare success story for a game that deserved all of the criticism it got, it’s actually easy to recommend the game in its current state. It’s the space exploration and adventure game that folks thought they were signing up for five years ago. It’s a shame things went down the way that they did; had No Man’s Sky been released today, it would be celebrated.

Number 17: Far Cry 5
85% discount, £7.49

Stepping away from tropical islands and murderous dictators, Far Cry 5 saw the first-person open world series head to the United States. The game is undeniably politically charged, looking at political extremism in the American heartland, but it retains that Far Cry over-the-top action and is fun to play through.

If you can’t wait for Far Cry 6, which is due for release in October, it could be worth re-playing Far Cry 5 – or playing it for the first time if you missed out when it was new.

Number 18: Forza Horizon 4
50% discount, £27.49

If you don’t have Game Pass, Forza Horizon 4 is still good value at half price. I signed up for Game Pass specifically to play this game, and it’s been well worth it! It’s a really fun, semi-arcade racer set in an open world based on my native Britain, and there are a ton of different cars and different ways to race. I’m 100% there for all of it!

The Forza Horizon series is a half-step between arcade racers and “serious” racing sims, and if you want a game that’s designed to play just as well with a control pad as a racing wheel, this could be it.

Number 19: Terminator: Resistance
40% discount, £20.99

Terminator: Resistance flew under the radar when it launched in 2019, and a lot of folks missed out on this fun first-person shooter. Set in the world of the Terminator franchise, Resistance succeeds where several recent films failed and actually told a fun, engaging story. It’s not exactly a full-blown “AAA” game, but it’s plenty of fun nevertheless.

If you missed this one a couple of years ago, give it a shot. Any fan of the Terminator franchise ought to at least try it, and if you like first-person shooters with a slight horror vibe, you’ll have a great time.

Number 20: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
75% discount, £3.24

For me, Morrowind still represents the high-water mark of the entire Elder Scrolls series. It has more to do than Oblivion or Skyrim at practically every level: more NPCs to engage with, more factions to join, more quests, more types of magic, and even more weapon types to master. Some people are put off by its lack of voice acting and text-based interface, but to me that just adds to the experience.

Morrowind is outstanding. It’s one of the best and deepest role-playing experiences ever made, and with a few select graphical mods it looks visually stunning almost twenty years on from its original release. If you haven’t played it yet, but you loved Skyrim, you’re missing out! With The Elder Scrolls VI still years away, why not step back and play – or replay – Morrowind while you wait?

So that’s it!

If you were to buy all of the titles on the list above, you’d have spent £250.30, which I reckon is pretty good going for twenty games! I tried to get a nice mix of new and older titles, as well as perhaps one or two less well-known games that you might want to try for the first time. In addition to sales like this one offering pretty significant savings, another of the advantages of PC gaming is that the end of a console generation no longer means leaving games behind. Sure, consoles offer a degree of backwards compatibility, but for my money you can’t beat having everything in one place like you can on a PC.

So all that’s left to say is I hope you found this interesting, and perhaps found a game or two to consider picking up! There’s two weeks to get your purchases in before the sale ends, but if you miss out or you can’t participate on this occasion don’t despair! There will almost certainly be a Holiday Sale in the days leading up to Christmas, and I’ll be sure to cover that here on the website too.

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

Mass Effect: Legendary Edition – what’s the best ending?

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the Mass Effect trilogy – including Mass Effect: Legendary Edition – and its ending.

Like it or hate it (and my god do some people hate it) Mass Effect: Legendary Edition retains the three-and-a-half possible endings present in the Mass Effect 3 Extended Edition DLC from 2012. In this article I’m not going to spend too much time critiquing the ending of the games from a narrative perspective, but rather try to answer a question I haven’t really seen many fans asking: which is the “best” ending? And no, this isn’t a guide as to how to achieve a specific ending or outcome; it’s a consideration of the pros and cons of the various ending options.

Just to recap if it’s been a while since you played Mass Effect 3, Commander Shepard and their crew spend much of the game putting together fleets and forces to defeat the Reapers. The key to victory in the Reaper War seems to be the Crucible – an ancient superweapon that the races of the galaxy come together to build across the game. After an intense battle in space and on Earth, the Crucible docks at the Citadel, ready to be armed and fired, bringing the war to an end.

How should Commander Shepard bring about an end to the Reaper War?

After arriving at the control room for the Crucible, Shepard is able to interact with the Catalyst – an artificial intelligence in control of the Reapers. The Catalyst tells Shepard that the reason for all of this death and destruction is to “preserve” organic life by harvesting it; otherwise organic life would inevitably be exterminated by synthetic life. The Catalyst then presents Shepard with three very different ways to use the Crucible, and it’s these three options we’re going to look at in a bit more detail today.

I’m going to exclude the option to not use the Crucible. Continuing to fight a doomed conventional war when the superweapon was available seems like a bad option, and players who go down this route ultimately learn that the Reapers were successful in their harvest of humanity and everyone else – duh, right? So that option is clearly not a good one in terms of outcome, though I guess you could argue that there’s a certain satisfaction in saying “I choose not to choose” and continuing to fight.

It’s possible to “fight back” against the Catalyst – but doing so dooms every race in the galaxy.

Assuming players have accrued enough war assets and done as much as possible to get ready for the final confrontation, the Catalyst will present Shepard with three options for using the Crucible: destroy the Reapers, control the Reapers, or fuse all organic and synthetic life together by rewriting everyone’s DNA. These options are substantially different from one another, and while many players have a gut reaction as to which is the “right” decision, each has points in its favour as well as major drawbacks.

Let’s begin with the most popular choice by far: using the Crucible to destroy the Reapers. I can’t remember where or when I read this, I think it must’ve been circa 2012-13 when Mass Effect 3 was new, but a survey was conducted asking players which ending they chose, and “destroy” received almost 75% of the votes. That’s what I’m basing my claim that it’s the “most popular” ending on, at any rate!

The “destroy” ending may be the most popular with fans and players.

The biggest point in favour of this ending is that, if you have a high enough war score, it’s at least implied that Shepard might’ve survived. In a very brief scene lasting only a few seconds, amidst the ruins of what could be either the Citadel or London, a figure wearing burnt armour with an N7 dog tag sharply inhales right before the credits roll. Though Shepard’s survival has never been officially confirmed, many players – myself included! – subscribe to the notion that this figure simply must be Shepard. If there is to be a continuation of their story in Mass Effect 4, this is the only way it could happen based on what we see on screen.

Though on some level we all want our hero to survive, in many ways Shepard’s survival could be argued not to fit with the tone of the story. Both with the Citadel DLC (which is now incorporated into Legendary Edition) and with the sequence immediately prior to the assault on the Citadel beam, Shepard said their goodbyes to their friends and crewmates. There was a finality to Shepard’s story; the person who saved the galaxy. Having them survive might feel great, but it doesn’t necessarily make a fitting end to their story. Some narratives are destined to end with the death of the protagonist, and I’d argue that the Mass Effect trilogy probably fits that mould.

This moment appears to show Shepard surviving.

Setting aside their possible survival, the “destroy” ending best represents Shepard achieving what they set out to do. Destroying the Reapers has been Shepard’s mission since they first learned of their existence in the first game, and though there were hints at possibly being able to co-opt or control the Reapers, especially during later missions in Mass Effect 3, Shepard and their allies had argued against this at every opportunity. Destroying the Reapers, or defeating them militarily, appeared to be the only option; Shepard’s only goal.

But the “destroy” ending comes at a price, especially for players who’ve managed to navigate the tricky path across all three games to achieving peace between the geth and quarians or who have befriended EDI. Using the Crucible to destroy the Reapers also results in the destruction of other synthetic life forms, including EDI and the geth. This makes the price paid for destroying the Reapers very high indeed, as it’s possible to befriend the geth and EDI – and of course Legion was a big part of Mass Effect 2 in particular.

The “destroy” ending condemns Legion’s entire race to death.

I really like Legion, both as a squadmate and as a character. Doing the mission Rannoch: Geth Fighter Squadrons also lets Shepard find out a great deal about the geth’s initial war against the quarians, and to say that they were wronged would be an understatement! Destroying EDI could be argued to be a sacrifice worth making; she is, after all, a single individual. But destroying every geth, especially if peace has been achieved and the geth have begun to adopt individual personalities, is tantamount to genocide.

So is exterminating the Reapers. Though in that case it’s arguably “kill or be killed,” the Reapers are nevertheless a sentient race, one far older than any other in the galaxy and with motivations and goals that humanity simply does not understand. The Reapers’ ruthless and relentless war may condemn them to death, especially since diplomacy and negotiation are not options, but the decision to wipe out the entire race, even for the sake of survival, should not be taken lightly. The Catalyst doesn’t give Shepard an option of talking the Reapers down, though.

The Reapers need to be stopped or defeated, but eradicating all of them is ethically problematic!

So Shepard has the option to go ahead with their plan and destroy the Reapers, perhaps on the understanding that the loss of the geth and EDI is a price worth paying for the survival of humans, turians, asari, and all the other galactic races. This is an extreme example of the calculus of war – sacrificing some so that others can survive. But despite Shepard’s initial goal of destroying the Reapers being in sight, the Catalyst offers alternatives – alternatives that Shepard (and us as players) are right to consider.

Throughout Mass Effect 3, a frequently-heard line from many characters is that nobody is sure precisely what the Crucible will do when activated. It’s only Shepard who learns what options are available, and although their intention was to defeat the Reapers, if a better option is available then it makes sense for Shepard to take advantage of that – especially considering the drawbacks of using the Crucible to destroy the Reapers.

Liara is one of many characters who tells Shepard that she isn’t sure what the Crucible will do when activated.

The first of the two other options presented – assuming players have a high enough war score – is to control the Reapers. This was the Illusive Man’s goal, though he was indoctrinated and thus unable to take advantage of the Reapers as he hoped. By choosing the “control” ending, Shepard will replace the Catalyst as the force in command of the Reapers – sacrificing their own body in the process. Shepard is thus able to make the Reapers leave, ending the war without further loss of life.

On the surface that seems like a reasonable option – it would save the lives of EDI and the geth while ending the war. But I have concerns! The Reapers, despite being coordinated by the Catalyst, appear to be sentient beings. Seizing control of them may be possible, but how long would Shepard remain in control? Is their personality forceful enough to permanently overcome the likes of Harbinger? By taking control of the Reapers and directing them to leave the galaxy, the Reapers aren’t defeated or destroyed and will continue to exist – meaning the threat hasn’t gone away.

Shepard has the option to take control of the Reapers, but will that be a good long-term solution?

Even if Shepard were able to remain in control of the Reapers in the short term, we’re potentially talking about an indefinite amount of time, at which point all bets are off. Perhaps Harbinger or other Reapers are able to change Shepard’s mind, convincing them that a new harvest is necessary after all. Perhaps Shepard goes crazy after millennia of isolation from their own people, or loses control of the Reapers. There appear to be too many variables and unknowns to make this feel like a safe and permanent end to the Reaper threat.

So that brings us to option number 3: synthesis. Shepard is given the option to add their energy to the Crucible, forcibly changing all organic and synthetic DNA at a molecular level, creating a galaxy full of organic-synthetic hybrids. All races, whether krogan, salarian, human, or geth would be altered, presumably being augmented with a combination of synthetic and organic components.

Is the “synthesis” ending the right choice, or even a choice Shepard has the right to make?

The Catalyst seems to present this outcome as not only the best option, but as something inevitable; an end goal it has been trying to reach. By fusing organic and synthetic life together, it argues, both will benefit and come to fully understand and appreciate each other. This is obviously a monumental decision for Shepard, with a lot of information – and opinion – being thrown at them mere moments before the decision has to be made.

My issue with the “synthesis” ending is that it shouldn’t be Shepard’s decision alone. A decision of this magnitude, even if it’s “correct” according to some, can’t be made for every sentient being in the galaxy by one individual; doing so is a grotesque over-reach of power, something no leader should ever be able to do. Not only that, but Shepard only hears a single opinion on this subject – the opinion of the Catalyst. Even if the Catalyst has been studying the idea of organic-synthetic synthesis for millions of years, can Shepard really trust it?

Is “synthesis” really the best outcome? The Catalyst argues it is…

We’re dealing with the force behind the Reapers. All of the death and destruction that Shepard has seen, from Sovereign’s rise and the war against the Collectors through to the Reaper invasion itself is all caused by the Catalyst; an artificial intelligence which, according to its creators, the Leviathans, betrayed them and rebelled. Even if the Catalyst is 100% sincere in its belief that synthesis is the best possible outcome for everyone, can Shepard trust its judgement?

This is a being which decided that the best way to “save” organic civilisations is mass murder, co-opting and indoctrinating the few survivors into working for its purposes and goals. Its judgement has to be questionable at best; perhaps it’s simply a very sophisticated computer with a programming error! The fact that the quarian-geth conflict can be peacefully resolved, and that EDI is accepted by members of the Normandy’s crew suggest that peace between organics and synthetics is not as impossible as the Catalyst believes, and rather than simply accepting its judgement and view of the galaxy, surely it’s worth Shepard considering the possibility that the Catalyst is wrong. Machines, even very clever ones, can malfunction, and perhaps the Catalyst is experiencing something like that.

“Synthesis” comes along as an option right at the last moment, and hasn’t really been explained or built up across the trilogy.

If Shepard does accept the Catalyst’s version of events, and accepts that synthesis is the best – and perhaps only – way to prevent future conflict, it means fundamental change for every sentient being in the galaxy. The consequences of this decision are almost unfathomable; it’s very difficult to wrap one’s head around the scale of the change Shepard is being asked to make. The positives – assuming the Catalyst can be trusted – are monumental: an end to conflict and war, unlimited knowledge, and perhaps even immortality are all on the table.

The game seems like it wants to present “synthesis” as the best ending, the one with the most upsides. But even if we take the Catalyst at its word and trust EDI’s epilogue seeming to show the galaxy on course for a new golden age, the question remains: was this Shepard’s decision to make? By changing everyone at a fundamental level, is that not similar to the Reapers’ own goals of harvesting organics and forcing survivors to become synthetic? In the short epilogue scene, everyone involved seems to just go along with what’s happened, perhaps suggesting their ways of thinking and even personalities have been altered. Is this truly a win, then, or just a galaxy-wide case of indoctrination?

“Synthesis” would allow synthetics like EDI to fully understand organics – according to the Catalyst – and prevent future wars.

I’m not sure that there is a “best” ending to the game! Despite the justifiable criticisms of Mass Effect 3′s ending in 2012, the options on the table are varied and nuanced, with each presenting pros and cons. On my first playthrough of Mass Effect 3 I chose the “destroy” ending, because it seemed in keeping with what Shepard had been fighting for. But it comes at a high price, and the options to control the Reapers or go for synthesis both hold appeal, especially because it means saving the geth and EDI.

To answer the question I posed at the beginning: I don’t know. Each ending has points in its favour and each has drawbacks. “Control” seems to offer the greatest potential for something to go wrong, “destroy” means killing friends and allies, as well as condemning two races to extinction, and “synthesis” not only means Shepard deciding something monumental for everyone in the galaxy, but is also questionable at best because of who advocates for it, and the fact that it only appears as an option right at the very end of the game.

Which ending should you choose? I don’t know!

I don’t blame anyone who has a difficult time deciding which option to choose! The fact that there are three complex choices may not be to every player’s taste, especially considering the myriad choices and options available across the trilogy, but the fact that each ending represents a radically different vision of the future of the galaxy is, at the very least, interesting.

One of the great things about a series like Mass Effect is replayability. It’s possible, then, for different versions of Commander Shepard to make different choices, choices which best fit their personality and the way that individual would handle this moment. Shepards who weren’t able to make peace between the geth and quarians might have no qualms about destroying the Reapers and other synthetics, whereas those who were very attached to Legion and his people may desperately look for another option – and that’s just one example. So maybe the true answer to the question I asked at the beginning is: “whichever one you think is best.”

Was that a cop-out? Maybe! But I stand by it. I have a hard time making this choice – it’s by far the most difficult in the entire trio of games, even though the short epilogue that follows is anticlimactic at best. The fact that the writers of the Mass Effect series succeeded at getting players so invested in the world they created that the choices posed at the very end feel like they matter is testament to how amazing these stories are. Because of how different the endings are, though, it does raise an interesting question: which one will BioWare choose as “canon” when they come to make Mass Effect 4?

Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is out now for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X. The Mass Effect series – including all titles and properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Electronic Arts and BioWare. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Some great Steam Holiday Sale deals for PC gamers

Important: The Steam Holiday Sale has now ended. Prices below will no longer be accurate.
Check back in June-July for the Summer Sale, and December for the next Winter/Holiday Sale deals.

Spoiler Warning: There are minor spoilers ahead for some of the games on this list.

The Steam Holiday Sale runs from today (22nd December) through to the 5th of January. Prices and discounts listed below are for the UK versions only and may vary by region. Prices and discounts were correct at time of writing but may be subject to change.

Steam treats PC gamers to big sales twice a year, in addition to the many smaller sales that seem to run almost all the time. As I’ve said before, these sales go a long way to making PC gaming competitive from a price standpoint, even though the initial expense of buying a gaming PC is higher than buying a console.

That’s especially the case in 2020, as the launch of new consoles has meant that getting a gaming PC of comparable spec has become pricey! However, if you do spend the money on a PlayStation 5-beater – or even if you don’t – there are some fantastic deals on great games this holiday season. Let’s look at a few.

Number 1: Halo: The Master Chief Collection (2019)
40% discount, £17.99

If you don’t already have Halo: The Master Chief Collection on Xbox or Game Pass, it’s well worth picking it up on Steam. The first six games in the Halo series – i.e. every title except for Halo 5 – are included in the package, and have been updated over the last few years to meet current-gen specifications.

Halo had, until last year, been exclusive to Xbox consoles, so many PC gamers haven’t had the opportunity to try out these great first-person shooters. There is an online multiplayer mode, but for me the enjoyment of the Halo series has always been its single-player campaigns. It could be a long wait for Halo Infinite, so why not replay the rest of the series in the meantime?

Number 2: Fall Guys (2020)
20% discount, £12.79

Though a 20% discount isn’t huge – and I was half-expecting something larger – for less than £13 Fall Guys is fantastic. It’s my second most-played game of the year, behind only Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and it’s a ton of fun. I logged back in for the first time in a few weeks to check out the most recent update, which has brought a lot of Christmas- and winter-themed costumes and events.

Fall Guys, if you’re totally unfamiliar, is an online “battle royale” game in which players run obstacle courses. The courses are based on classic television game shows like Total Wipeout and Gladiators, and it’s an absolute blast.

Number 3: Ryse: Son of Rome (2013)
70% discount, £2.39

Ryse: Son of Rome was one of the few Xbox One launch titles back in 2013, which was when I first played it. It was arguably not worth the £45-50 I paid for it back then, not least because it isn’t very long at around 6-7 hours, but it did a wonderful job of showing off what we could expect from what were then the next generation of consoles in terms of visuals. Ryse: Son of Rome’s graphics hold up remarkably well today, and the PC port of the game is decent.

It’s a single-player hack-and-slash game set in the Roman Empire, and for history buffs or fans of anything to do with Rome it’s well worth a play for less than the price of a pint!

Number 4: Hotshot Racing (2020)
50% discount, £7.99

I picked up Hotshot Racing when it was released in September, and even for its £16 original price I thought it was well worth it. This isn’t a hardcore racing sim that needs a racing wheel, it’s purely an arcade racer.

What first drew me to Hotshot Racing was its retro aesthetic which mimics titles from the mid-1990s. But there’s far more to this fun, fast-paced racer than just its visual style, and I’ve had a lot of fun with it.

Number 5: The Deus Ex Collection (2000-2016)
88% discount, £7.79

If you’re desperate to play Cyberpunk 2077 but have been put off by the bugs and the backlash (or if you just don’t have a good enough PC to run the game very well) then the Deus Ex series is an interesting alternative. The four games in the series are far more linear than the open-world Cyberpunk 2077, but many elements cross over between the two titles, such as first-person action, augmenting your human character, and a dystopian future setting.

The two most recent titles in the series – Human Revolution and Mankind Divided – made my list of ten games to play instead of Cyberpunk 2077 a couple of weeks ago.

Number 6: Plague Inc: Evolved (2016)
60% discount, £4.79

Depending on your sense of humour this could either be timely or incredibly offensive! Plague Inc: Evolved is an expanded port of a game that was originally released on Android and iOS in 2012 and sees players take on the role of a disease looking to wipe out humankind. In that sense it’s a unique experience as there’s nothing else quite like it on the market!

Plague Inc: Evolved is a lot of fun, and offers a number different ways to play as well as different upgrade paths for your chosen pathogen. Obviously the current pandemic makes it a somewhat controversial choice, but it is undeniably an entertaining little strategy game.

Number 7: Star Wars: Squadrons (2020)
40% discount, £20.99

Since I wrote up my first impressions of Star Wars: Squadrons back in October I’ve continued to play the game. It’s been an incredibly enjoyable experience, slipping into the role of a fighter pilot in a galaxy far, far away. I know some folks are put off by the “realistic simulator” style of play and the mandatory first-person viewpoint, but if you can look beyond those limitations and are willing to invest a few hours into learning the way it works, under the surface is a fun game.

I haven’t played much multiplayer; as you may know I’m not really an online multiplayer fan. But if you like that, and you want a different Star Wars experience to enjoy with friends, this could well be the game for you.

Number 8: Control (Ultimate Edition) (2020)
50% discount, £17.49

Big caveat here: I have yet to play Control for myself. It’s been on my radar for a while, though, and I may even write up my playthrough as part of my Let’s Play series here on the website. The game is a single-player action-adventure title with a strong narrative, focusing on Jesse as she has to figure out a supernatural event.

Control and publisher 505 Games have rightly received criticism for the way they handled the rollout of the Ultimate Edition – refusing players a free upgrade despite the game being only a few months old. If you can look past the controversy, however, Control has received great reviews and I’m excited to try it for myself.

Number 9: Skully (2020)
50% discount, £12.49

It’s unusual for me to spend so much money on an indie title, but Skully is an absolutely delightful 3D platformer in which you get to play as a disembodied skull. That premise alone sold it for me, and I was not disappointed when I sat down to play the game in the autumn. I have an article about Skully in the pipeline, but as with so many writing projects here on the website I haven’t bashed it into shape yet!

Despite the game’s protagonist being a literal skull, there’s more to it than just rolling around – though the physics used for the rolling sections is exquisite! Skully can take on different golem-style bodies, and even though a game based on a skull might seem spooky, there’s a magical fantasy theme rather than anything grotesque or horrifying. I thought it was great value when it was full price, but with a 50% discount it’s absolutely worth picking up this underrated gem.

Number 10: Steep (2016)
80% discount, £5.19

It’s winter! Or at least it is here in the northern hemisphere, so snow and winter sports are on our minds. Steep is a fun winter sports title that lets you ski and snowboard in a large open world, as well as take on the extreme sports of paragliding and wingsuit flying.

Steep has a few DLC options available – which are similarly discounted – but one which stands out is Road to the Olympics, which added in extras related to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Even without any DLC though, the base game is great fun. It’s one of those sports games which is easy to get started with but difficult to really master.

Number 11: Black Mesa (2020)
50% discount, £7.49

The non-existence of Half-Life 3 has become a meme at this point, and although the VR-only title Half-Life Alyx may have offered a glimmer of hope that the series isn’t entirely on ice, there’s been no announcement of future titles at this stage. What we did get in March this year, though, was Black Mesa, a fan-made remake of the original Half-Life from 1998.

As you’d expect from a remake, Black Mesa incorporates everything that players loved about the original, but updates the visuals to bring it in line with more recent first-person action titles. If you missed the original Half-Life in the late 1990s or just want to relive that experience, Black Mesa comes highly recommended!

Number 12: Red Dead Redemption 2 (2019)
33% discount, £36.84

Another title which needs the “I haven’t played it yet” caveat, Red Dead Redemption 2 is widely hailed as a masterpiece. The Wild West-themed action title comes from Rockstar, best known for the Grand Theft Auto series, and promises to transport players back in time to the latter days of the American frontier.

I’ve been waiting and waiting for Red Dead Redemption 2 to go on sale, and while a 33% discount isn’t huge it’s certainly more than generous enough to make this fun title worth a try. The main campaign alone is said to be over 40 hours, with many players spending 60+ hours in Rockstar’s American west setting. I’m genuinely interested to try it for myself, and if reviews from professional and amateur critics alike are to be believed, it’ll be a fun time.

Number 13: Pillars of Eternity Collection (2015-18)
70% discount, £24.06

Obsidian Entertainment developed these two fantastically detailed old-school role-playing games, and to see both titles plus their DLC so heavily discounted is great. There is literally days’ or even weeks’ worth of gameplay and story to get stuck into here, and again if you’re craving a role-playing game to play given the recent release of Cyberpunk 2077 these two games could be a worthwhile – if wholly different – alternative option.

It’s hard to say too much about either game without spoiling the narrative – which is, of course, the primary focus of such titles. But they’re amazing, in-depth experiences and if you get stuck in you’ll find yourself playing for hours on end.

Number 14: Resident Evil 2 (2019)
60% discount, £13.99

The remake of Resident Evil 2 won many awards in 2019, and was many folks’ choice for game of the year. The horror title debuted in 1998, but was rebuilt from the ground up for this version. There are mutant monsters, zombies, and jump-scares galore in this gory, visceral horror title, and it is not for the faint of heart!

After the disappointment many felt at Resident Evil 3′s cut content and short runtime earlier in the year, Resident Evil 2 seems even better by comparison. It’s possible to pick up both remakes for a little over £25, though, and for the heavily discounted price, Resident Evil 3 doesn’t feel quite so bad. It’s like I always say – length doesn’t matter, as long as a game is priced accordingly!

Number 15: Vampyr (2018)
75% discount, £8.74

Set during the 1918-19 Spanish flu pandemic, Vampyr is another game you might consider timely given the state of the world today! It’s got a unique premise as far as vampire titles go – the player character is a doctor, a newly-turned vampire who must balance his bloodlust with his Hippocratic oath in a hauntingly beautiful rendition of interwar London.

The pandemic can be a touchy subject, and it’s totally understandable for folks to want to skip Vampyr for now. But give it a chance and you’ll find an enjoyable title, one that blends reality and the supernatural within a truly interesting historical setting. Though arguably a little short, it’s the kind of narrative-heavy game where you feel your choices genuinely matter in the world you’re inhabiting.

Number 16: FIFA 21 (2020)
63% discount, £25.89

Ah, the annual FIFA series. Not to every gamer’s taste, I admit, but if you like football and support a team in any of the major divisions around the world, there’s no other football title that offers as much. I’m surprised to see FIFA 21 so heavily discounted so soon after its October release, because there’s nothing wrong with it at all.

That being said, modern FIFA games are iterative rather than transformative with each new release, and players who’ve picked up any title in the series in the last few years won’t see a huge difference or improvement with FIFA 21. Personally, it isn’t a series I buy every iteration of every year, and having waited three or four years since I last picked up the latest entry, there was enough going on in FIFA 21 for me to have an enjoyable time with its single-player mode.

Number 17: Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King (2019)
60% discount, £9.51

With an original asking price of over £20, I felt that Aladdin and The Lion King was far too expensive for what it was when it was released last year. Despite Aladdin in particular being an outstanding platformer, I found it hard to justify the steep cost for two games which are now more than a quarter of a century old. With a reasonable discount, however, this two-game bundle feels more accessible and appropriately-priced.

I fondly remember both games from the SNES days, and though it’s the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis versions that were used for this collection, those nostalgic feelings are still present! If you’re in the market for a couple of cute but surprisingly difficult 2D platformers, Aladdin and The Lion King could be just what you need. It’s also well worth showing games like these to younger players, to let them experience a slice of gaming history.

Number 18: Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning (2020)
40% discount, £20.99

Though I adore Kingdoms of Amalur, this version must come with a caveat: despite claiming to be a remaster, it’s really little more than an upscaled version of the original title. Very little has been changed, and players (like myself) who expected more of a remake were left underwhelmed. So if you already own the original Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, there’s basically no reason to get this version.

If you missed Kingdoms of Amalur when it was new, or never owned it on PC, however, it’s definitely worthwhile picking it up. What you’ll find is a fantasy role-playing game that combines some of the best elements of franchises like the Elder Scrolls and Dragon Age series into one exciting title. There’s a unique and interesting story at the core of the game, too, and if it hooks you in you won’t want to put Kingdoms of Amalur down until you’ve unravelled all of its mysteries!

Number 19: Jurassic World Evolution (2018)
90% discount, £3.49

Jurassic World Evolution is the dinosaur park builder that every fan of the Jurassic Park/World series has always wanted. A blend of the dinosaur-themed series with the likes of “tycoon” games such as Rollercoaster Tycoon, it’s a surprisingly detailed yet incredibly fun experience. And with such a heavy discount, there’s no excuse not to give it a try!

As someone who returned to the theme park-building genre after a long absence, it took me a while to get to grips with the plethora of options and massively expanded nature of titles like Planet Coaster and Jurassic World Evolution. Better technology means these games can offer a lot more – and that means that there is a learning curve! But stick with the tutorial and you’ll learn all you need to step into John Hammond’s shoes and run your own dino park!

Number 20: Star Trek: Bridge Crew (2017)
60% discount, £8.39

When it comes to gaming lists, it’s hard to find Star Trek titles to include! The franchise has not always been well-served in the gaming realm, unfortunately. Star Trek: Bridge Crew was originally designed as a VR-only title, but an update not long after its release allowed for non-VR play too. It’s best enjoyed with friends, as each of you can take on the role of a character on the bridge of a Starfleet vessel.

I wrote up my first impressions of Star Trek: Bridge Crew a few months ago when I picked it up, and suffice to say the VR-oriented controls take some getting used to. But if you’ve ever wanted to take command of a Federation starship and have your own Star Trek adventures, this is one of the only modern titles that allows you to get anywhere close to that experience. And as I often find myself saying, it wouldn’t be a Crazy Uncle Dennis list without at least one Star Trek title!

So that’s it. Twenty recommendations from the Steam Holiday Sale. If you were to buy all of them I reckon you’d have spent £269.29. That doesn’t sound as impressive as some of my previous lists of Steam sales, but this time I tried to focus more on recent titles instead of going back to games of yesteryear! If you consider that it averages out to £13.47 per entry on this list (several of which are bundles) I think it’s pretty good considering we’re looking at mostly new titles! These sales give PC gaming an edge over consoles, and even as services like Game Pass begin to take off, there’s still a place for the Steam Holiday Sale!

Even though I’m not a huge fan of Epic Games these days, there’s a sale running over on the Epic Games Store too. In addition, Epic is giving out several free games this holiday season, and a £10/$10 voucher. Cyberpunk 2077 is available on the Epic Games Store, and even though it isn’t discounted right now, if you use your free voucher to buy it you can reduce the cost of 2020’s hottest mess!

So there’s some inspiration for you as you head over to Steam to check out the holiday sale. I hope this has been useful, and if your favourite title isn’t on sale this time, don’t panic! It might be included in the Steam Summer Sale next year!

Prices and discounts included in this article were correct in the UK at time of publication. The Steam Holiday Sale begins today (22nd December 2020) and runs until 6:00pm GMT on the 5th of January 2021. Prices and discounts are subject to change at any time, and may vary by region and currency.

All titles listed above are the copyright of their respective studio, developer, publisher, and/or corporation. Some promotional screenshots and artwork courtesy of press kits on IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Discovery theories – week 4

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3, Star Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Lower Decks, and other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

Forget Me Not was an interesting episode. It certainly wasn’t Discovery’s best offering, nor even the best of the season so far, but it had some enjoyable and entertaining moments. From a theory-crafting point of view, Forget Me Not didn’t offer up very many new possibilities. It did, however, debunk one theory and confirm another – so as always, that’s where we’ll begin.

Confirmed theory: There will be another tie-in with Calypso.

Saru and the Sphere data.

This is a strange one, as the theory has been confirmed yet can also remain in play! It’s certainly possible that, by the end of the season, we’ll have seen even more connections to the Short Treks episode Calypso, but even if we don’t we got a couple in Forget Me Not.

The smaller of the two was simply that Discovery’s computer recommended an old film as a way to help the crew bond. This ties in neatly with Zora’s love of classic cinema that we saw in Calypso.

By far the larger connection to Calypso was the moment which may have been the creation of Zora. The Sphere data – stored in Discovery’s main computer – appears to assert itself and either take control of or merge with the main computer, midway through a conversation with Captain Saru. We saw the familiar red-orange glow of the data on one of the ready-room wall panels, and then the computer’s usual bland, monotone voice was replaced with the smoother, more emotional tones of – I suspect – Zora.

So that theory was confirmed. There was one debunking, so let’s quickly recap that before jumping into the main list.

Debunked theory: We will meet Dax when Discovery heads to the Trill homeworld.

No, not Jadzia Dax!

In short, when it became apparent that Forget Me Not would involve travelling to the Trill homeworld, I speculated that we could meet Dax. Obviously Ezri Dax – the symbiont’s host as of the end of Deep Space Nine – would no longer be around, but symbionts can live for centuries so there was the possibility of meeting a new host.

It didn’t happen in Forget Me Not, however, and though I consider this the best possible opportunity for Dax to have appeared, we’ll look at one other option in just a moment.

I guess we could technically say that maybe we did meet Dax – the symbiont could in theory have been in any one of the 10+ Trill characters we saw in Forget Me Not. But that’s so unlikely that it’s hardly worth mentioning!

So that theory was debunked. Now let’s get into the main list, beginning with those few theories that are either new or which Forget Me Not advanced.

Number 1: Michael Burnham is leaving the series.

Bear with me on this one. I know Burnham has been Discovery’s protagonist since Season 1, and that the show continues to be constructed in such a way as to put her at the centre of every story. But something struck me when watching Forget Me Not, and it ties into a theme that’s been running since we learned Burnham spent a long time apart from the crew at the end of Far From Home.

She has lived a whole year away from Discovery; a year in which, by her own admission, she began to enjoy living life in a different and less-restricted way. Tilly, Georgiou, and Saru all picked up on this, noting Burnham’s enjoyment and appreciation for life outside Starfleet. Even though the 32nd Century is very different from what she would have hoped to find, that difference has given her a shot at a different way of life – and perhaps a new romantic partner.

Parting with Booker wasn’t easy for Burnham, and while I’m sure he will be back, we don’t know how far down that particular route they went over the course of a year of living and working closely together. Did they hook up? Remain just friends? Or are they in love? If they are, is Booker going to happily come aboard Discovery and perhaps even enlist in Starfleet to reunite with her? Or will he tempt Burnham back to a life of freedom; going where they can, when they can, and saving a few space-worms along the way?

Book and Burnham lived and worked closely together.

In Forget Me Not, Burnham missed the whole crew bonding storyline. When I reviewed the episode I felt this was a mistake – I still do, in fact – but it might instead be a carefully-crafted story point if it turns out to be another stepping-stone to Burnham’s end-of-season departure. Burnham, already feeling separated from the rest of the crew after her experiences in the 32nd Century, could be pushed to feel even more alone upon seeing how they’re all bonding, overcoming arguments, and growing closer. If she does, this could be another factor pushing her away from Discovery.

So the first question that arises is this: will Burnham leave Discovery but remain part of the show, perhaps being a character Captain Saru and the crew turn to often? Or will she and Booker ride off into the sunset together, never to be seen again? Either option is possible, and it’s hard to say. But I would guess that if she were to leave it would be her end as a major character. Future cameos may still be on the cards, but not a starring role.

And the final question: would this improve the series or hurt it? For my two cents, Discovery could survive without Burnham. It lost Lorca and then the very popular Captain Pike and is still going strong, so Saru and the crew would do fine. Whether it would be an improvement would depend on what the show does next and what stories it intends to tell.

Number 2: The Tal symbiont’s many former hosts, including one in a Picard-era Starfleet uniform, could mean the Dax symbiont is still alive.

Burnham and Adira meet the former hosts of the Tal symbiont.

As mentioned above, Dax did not appear in any form in Forget Me Not. However, we did see something that could hint at their survival into the 32nd Century, and that came in the sequence with the Tal symbiont. Aside from Gray, who only had the symbiont for a couple of years at most, there were five former hosts present. That in itself is not particularly remarkable; Dax had had nine hosts between the 21st and 24th Centuries. However, one of the hosts was dressed in a Picard-era Starfleet uniform, so this implies that the symbiont may be exceptionally long-lived.

Starfleet changes its uniforms fairly often. The maroon uniforms used in The Original Series films appear to have lasted the longest; from the latter part of the 23rd Century through to the mid-24th, a span of 60+ years. Even assuming that the Picard uniforms are in service for that long, this would mean the host we met in Forget Me Not was alive in the mid/late 25th Century. Given that there are four others, each would need a lifespan of approximately 200 years to make it to the 32nd Century. That may seem extreme, but some races in Star Trek are long-lived, such as the Vulcans. It’s also possible that the symbiont spent time living without a host in the Caves of Mak’ala, as we saw others doing.

I know it’s a stretch to get excited over what was really just an Easter egg – or perhaps reusing an old uniform instead of designing a new one! But this is the Star Trek fandom, and diving headfirst into theories based on tiny details is kind of our thing! I think it’s very possible that the Tal symbiont is 700+ years old, and if symbionts can live that long, it raises hopes that Dax may still be alive.

Forget Me Not was our best chance to meet Dax, as fitting him or her into that story would have made a lot of sense. However, Discovery is headed in the direction of Starfleet Headquarters, and Dax was, under different hosts, both a Federation diplomat and a Starfleet officer (twice). So it’s possible! There’s still a chance.

Number 3: Lieutenant Detmer is going to die.

Lieutenant Detmer.

I know that what we saw this week could be taken as proof that this theory is looking less and less likely. And that may very well prove to be the case; Detmer has a clean bill of physical health, after all. However, the recap of the story so far at the beginning of Forget Me Not once again showed Detmer being thrown from her seat and wounded, clutching at her implant.

Having just gone through a difficult emotional moment, I hope we see her continue her journey, perhaps taking counselling sessions with Dr Culber or learning to work out her emotions somehow. I certainly don’t want this storyline to just be dropped, as I fear may ultimately be the case! But it would be an interesting, potentially heartbreaking storyline for Detmer to go on this emotional rollercoaster and begin to heal, only for her injury or implant damage to reassert itself and for her to die.

One thing Discovery is yet to do this season is kill off a named character. Detmer isn’t a “major” character in the same way as some others, but she’s someone we’ve been with since the premiere, and with the show going to a lot of trouble to give her her first storyline, it wouldn’t be unprecedented for that story to end with her death. Ariam in Season 2 was similarly a background character who got her moment in the spotlight – then met an untimely end.

Number 4: The spore drive is going to become Starfleet’s new method of faster-than-light propulsion.

Black Alert!

Last time I speculated that we may see the spore drive rolled out to more Federation starships as part of a drive to rebuild and reunite the fractured alliance. With the loss of most of the galaxy’s dilithium – and the Federation seemingly unable to develop a reliable and easy-to-use alternative – the spore drive could be a suitable replacement. Not only would this make sense from an in-universe perspective, but it would finally find a role for Discovery’s most controversial piece of tech!

I didn’t enjoy the Tilly-Stamets argument in Forget Me Not, as the whole technobabble-based conflict felt very artificial. However, one line came out of that related to this theory: Tilly is working on alternative methods of accessing and navigating the mycelial network, meaning if Stamets were killed or injured the spore drive could still be used. At the moment, only Stamets can use it.

One big black mark against this theory was the ability to navigate the mycelial network. It requires a living navigator – first the tardigrade, then Stamets, but only after he dangerously augmented his DNA. However, if Tilly’s idea has merit then it would be far easier to roll out the spore drive to other ships, perhaps even the whole of Starfleet. Even if Tilly’s idea, which involved the use of dark matter, is ultimately fruitless, the idea of a non-human navigator has been teased. Perhaps that line of technobabble may yet prove important.

So those theories were new or saw movement in this week’s episode. I wanted to have a theory along the lines of “the Federation won’t immediately welcome Discovery when they arrive,” but that was already confirmed in the trailer for Die Trying. Now, as always, I’ll recap the remaining theories on my list so they’re all in one place. These theories are those which remain in play, but weren’t touched on this week. To read up on any of them in more detail, check out my earlier theory posts which you can find on my dedicated Star Trek: Discovery page.

Number 5: Discovery Season 3 is taking place in an alternate timeline, or a timeline that will be overwritten.

Earth has seceded from the Federation in the 32nd Century… as things stand right now, anyway.

Two theories in one, really. The first idea is that – due to time-wormhole shenanigans – Burnham and the crew have left the prime timeline behind and are instead in an alternate dimension. The main evidence for this is the supposed disappearance of Dr Gabrielle Burnham, who should have returned to Terralysium in this time period but appears to have not done so. They could even be in the Kelvin timeline, something which would make for a surprising tie-in with the reboot films!

Part II of this theory is that, due to the time-traveling intervention of someone nefarious, or perhaps even a time travel accident, the Burn occurred. From the point of view of the Federation, this is not the “true” timeline, which would be restored by Burnham and the crew, overwriting the current bleak setting and restoring the Federation – along with all of its dilithium.

The second part of this theory seems less likely and may be difficult to pull off, but both remain in play right now.

Number 6: A character from a past iteration of Star Trek – such as Voyager’s Doctor – will make an appearance.

The Doctor.

I’ve been kicking around this theory since well before Season 3 debuted last month! In short, there are a few characters with lifespans long enough to potentially set up a 32nd Century appearance, and it would be a fantastic way for Discovery to tie itself to the broader Star Trek franchise by including someone in that category. This concept worked well in Season 2 with Spock, Pike, and Number One, so why not here too?

Other than a backup copy of Voyager’s Doctor, other characters I suggested included Soji (or a synth who looks like her), Lore, Captain Sisko, and Enterprise’s Crewman Daniels – the latter of whom was a 30th/31st Century temporal agent. While these characters are among the few who could still be alive in this era, there’s no reason why literally any 23rd or 24th Century character couldn’t be included; perhaps they had been in stasis or travelled through time.

Number 7: Booker is a Coppelius synth.

Book has many abilities that some consider to be… unnatural.

The abilities Book had in That Hope Is You – including strange glowing spots which could be technological in origin – are still unexplained. Burnham may well know more about Book, having spent at least some time with him over the past year. But for us as the audience, Book is still a mystery. Thematically, his relationship with Grudge mirrors Data’s with Spot, which could be another hint. It’s possible Book is an enhanced human, or even an alien from a different race. But his abilities could be indicative of a synthetic origin, and if he is a synth, he could be part of a civilisation founded on Coppelius in the late 24th Century.

Number 8: Dr Gabrielle Burnham will make an appearance.

Dr Gabrielle Burnham.

Michael’s mother is the reason why she chose to set the late 32nd Century as her destination at the end of last season. As noted above, Dr Burnham’s absence is noteworthy, especially considering no one seems to have heard of her. However, there are possible explanations for this, including some very simple ones.

Dr Burnham could have sought out Starfleet, in which case we may meet her as early as this week! Or she could be conducting her own investigation into the Burn, have been captured by an alien faction, or met with an unpleasant fate. Regardless, I think we’ll find out – and there’s a high likelihood she’ll appear in person.

Number 9: The Federation’s response to the Burn – not the event itself – caused its collapse.

Burnham meets Mr Sahil – a Federation representative.

Captain Ndoye hinted at this, as did Book and Zareh in earlier episodes. Book said that the Federation couldn’t answer questions people had about what the Burn was or what caused it, and Captain Ndoye said that the citizens of Earth, fearing attack or invasion, essentially kicked the Federation out in the aftermath of the Burn.

This theory is close to being confirmed, but I want to hear the Federation’s side of the story first – something we’ll hopefully get in Die Trying or a future episode.

Number 10: The ban on time travel is being flouted – possibly by the Federation.

Crewman Daniels in Enterprise.

It’s impossible to un-invent a powerful, useful, weaponisable technology, no matter how hard you try. Considering how crappy the 32nd Century seems to be, are we convinced that nobody at all is using time travel to try to give themselves an advantage? Not the Dominion? Not the Borg? Not Section 31? Seems unlikely to me, though for production-side reasons of wanting to keep the timeline intact and to avoid overcomplicating the plot we might be told this is true!

Number 11: The Burn is a superweapon – perhaps one the Federation set off.

The Burn.

The cause of the Burn is not known right now, and there are multiple possibilities as I discussed when I took an in-depth look at the Burn before the season started. One possibility that stands out, however, is the Burn being the result of a superweapon. If the Federation were facing an existential threat – such as one caused by the Borg or the super-synths from Star Trek: Picard – they may have had no choice but to use such a weapon. The setting Burnham and the crew find themselves in may thus be the aftermath of a Pyrrhic victory, one in which the Federation defeated a powerful adversary but at an impossibly high cost.

Number 12: The Burn was caused by one of the Red Angel suits.

The Red Angel suits were very powerful.

There are two Red Angel suits known to exist – Michael Burnham’s and Dr Gabrielle Burnham’s. The suits are very powerful, and it isn’t a stretch to think they could be weaponised or cause some kind of accident. In an age where time travel has been prohibited, they could also be the only surviving examples of time-travel tech. If someone nefarious got their hands on a suit, they could travel back in time and attack the Federation by, oh I don’t know, destroying most of their dilithium. The name “Burn” may even be related to the name “Burnham” if this theory is correct.

Number 13: Someone stole Michael Burnham’s Red Angel suit.

Burnham’s Red Angel suit departs Hima.

After Burnham landed on Hima, she sent her suit back in time to set off the final Red Burst for Pike and Spock. Then she ordered the suit to self-destruct. It’s possible, as hinted above, that somehow this in itself caused the Burn. But it’s also possible that someone intercepted the Red Angel suit after it left Hima. The finale of Season 2 confirmed the presence of the final Red Burst, but that’s all we know. Since we didn’t see on screen the destruction of the suit, we can’t be sure that it was destroyed as Burnham planned.

Number 14: The Federation was in terminal decline long before the Burn.

Book, Burnham, and Mr Sahil with the Federation flag.

Why are there so few stars on the Federation flag? Does this represent systems and races that have seceded or left the Federation? And if that’s the case, why does the decades-old, pre-Burn flag (that Mr Sahil owned) represent those secessions? Perhaps the answer is that the Federation was already in decline. The Burn may have been the final straw – but not the only straw.

Number 15: The Orion Syndicate controls the Hima trading post – and may be a major regional or galactic power.

Tendi would not be happy that the Orions have reverted to their criminal stereotype!

The trading post Book and Burnham visited on Hima had a number of Orions present, including working as traders and guards. In addition, in Far From Home the courier Zareh suggested to one of his goons that he would sell “to the Orions.”

The Orion Syndicate has been part of Star Trek going back to The Original Series, and it makes sense in a chaotic, post-Burn environment that they would be able to operate more openly – and they may have even become a major power.

Number 16: Mirror Georgiou will travel back in time to the 23rd Century.

Mirror Georgiou in Far From Home.

Georgiou was not planning to travel to the 32nd Century, but was aboard Discovery when it left due to fighting Leland/Control. She has expressed her appreciation for the chaotic, “free” nature of the future, but there could be a reason for her to travel back in time. Not least because she’s supposed to be the main character in the upcoming Section 31 series which is meant to take place in the 23rd Century!

There could be a reason for Georgiou to travel back in time, but if she’s to work with Section 31, the main one I can think of would be to warn Starfleet about the Burn and give them time to prepare and/or prevent it.

Number 17: We haven’t seen the last of Zareh.

Zareh the courier.

Despite being quite content to kill all of Zareh’s goons, Saru balked at the idea of killing the man himself. Instead, he and Georgiou let him go, sending him out into the wilds of the Colony – despite being told by the locals that that’s a death sentence. However, we didn’t see Zareh die. And in stories like these, characters like Zareh tend to pop back up looking for revenge.

So that’s it. Those are the remaining active theories as we approach episode five.

Discovery remains unpredictable – which is something I really like! Theorising and speculating is a lot of fun, but at the same time it’s great when my theories don’t pan out and the show takes an unexpected turn, because who doesn’t like being surprised? Some theories are far more likely than others, of course, and the big mystery surrounds the cause of the Burn. I expect we’ll learn more when Burnham and the crew meet up with the remnants of Starfleet!

Please remember that no fan theory – no matter how convincing and appealing it may seem – is worth getting worked up or disappointed over. Discovery’s producers and writers are the ones who determine where the series will go, and as much fun as it is to craft theories and speculate, it’s even more fun to watch Discovery and find out what’s really going on.

I’m looking forward to Die Trying this week! Let’s see what will happen when Discovery makes it to Federation HQ.

Star Trek: Discovery is available to stream on CBS All Access in the United States, and on Netflix in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Some next-gen ports are receiving a well-earned backlash

Whenever a new console generation kicks off, it’s inevitable that there will be some games that are released on both new and old systems. This is perfectly understandable in many cases, as games which are new and have had a lot of time and effort put into their development want to get the widest audience possible. Many titles in this category go unnoticed, or at most some reviewers will point out that the game may not be fully-optimised for new hardware. But some other titles are the subject of pretty heavy criticism, and I can fully understand why.

When it was announced that Grand Theft Auto V would be ported to the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, many fans were upset. This was a game initially developed for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and it’s going to be ported again? Grand Theft Auto V has been a juggernaut this console generation after getting its start in 2013, but after more than seven years fans are itching for a new entry in the series.

Grand Theft Auto V was originally released in 2013 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

In 2014, when Grand Theft Auto V was re-released on current-gen consoles, it was barely a year old. No one at the time begrudged Rockstar the chance to port the title to new hardware because there was an understanding that the game had been a big undertaking. As the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 era drew to a close, it made sense to bring some new titles to the new systems.

But that was six years ago, and in that time Rockstar has developed and published precisely one new game – Red Dead Redemption II. There are arguments to be heard that the pace of game development as a whole has slowed, and I don’t want to ignore the reality that developing an open-world game on the scale of Grand Theft Auto V is a colossal undertaking. But that doesn’t excuse what seems to many fans to be the company taking shortcuts.

Red Dead Redemption II is Rockstar’s only game in seven years.

What’s worse is that the time and effort spent on creating a next-gen port could arguably be better spent creating a new title. Even in a studio with the financial resources of Rockstar, porting existing games does take time, resources, and personnel away from other projects. So it’s not just a case of corner-cutting – fans feel that the company is wasting time.

Practically every current-gen title is going to be “forward-compatible” with new hardware anyway. What that means is that any Xbox One game should work on the Xbox Series X, and any PlayStation 4 game should work on PlayStation 5 by default – including titles like Grand Theft Auto V. So there’s no need to spend time and money reworking a seven-year-old game for new hardware; existing versions will work just fine.

Both next-gen consoles will be backwards-compatible with current games by default.

If the upgrades were going to be free, allowing players who own a current-gen copy of the game to experience the tweaks and changes on new hardware, I don’t think anyone would mind. In fact, players have praised companies like CD Projekt Red, whose 2015 title The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is receiving such a free upgrade. But Rockstar – and other companies too – plan to re-release their old games and get gamers to shell out more money for the next-gen version. It feels decidedly anti-consumer.

Even though I’m not a big online multiplayer person, I recognise the appeal that Grand Theft Auto V has as an online experience. But after seven years I feel that online experience has run its course, and most players will be ready for a new challenge. Those who want to stick with what they already have can either continue to play on Xbox One/PlayStation 4 or can even bring their existing copy of the game to the new consoles; there’s no need to buy it all over again.

Grand Theft Auto V is getting a next-gen re-release in 2021… eight years and two console generations later.

Another company that has been roundly criticised for its approach to next-gen is 505 Games, publisher of Control. This is a game I’ve been looking forward to playing, as it has great reviews, but it’s another example of next-gen upgrades being denied to existing fans. The only way to play Control will be to buy it again on the new consoles, and to many fans the small upgrade seems like a big expense.

The Last Of Us was similarly criticised at the beginning of the PlayStation 4 era for being re-released in a “remastered” state less than a year on from its PlayStation 3 debut. At the time I was genuinely shocked by the gall of developer Naughty Dog; how can a game less than a year old be remastered already? But The Last Of Us sold very well on PlayStation 4, cementing this business model in the minds of executives as one that works and will rake in cash for comparatively little effort.

The Last Of Us was re-released on PlayStation 4 mere months after its PlayStation 3 premiere.

At the end of the day, that’s what this is all about. Money. Re-releasing a game with a few minor upgrades and hardware-specific tweaks is relatively inexpensive and offers companies huge financial rewards. It should be no surprise to learn that a big company wants to make more money, and I get that we live in a society where profit and growth matter. It’s just that it feels so anti-consumer, and even big companies need to be aware of their reputations. It’s easy to dismiss criticism and backlash as coming from just a whiny minority of hardcore fans, but companies like Electronic Arts have found – to their great cost – just what can happen when they push players too far.

It’s only in the last console generation that the idea of cross-generation releases has been such a big deal anyway. In the days of the SNES and the Nintendo 64 the idea of a game from one system being ported wholesale to new hardware just didn’t exist. There were ports, but they tended to be things like Super Mario All-Stars, which was a compilation of several games instead of a single title, and offered players good value as a result.

There weren’t many ports in the SNES era, and those that did exist were bundles like Super Mario All-Stars.

But if you’d told me in 2005, when the Xbox 360 was launched, that the original Halo game was just going to be straight-up ported to the new system and that players would be expected to “just buy it again” I’d have been absolutely gobsmacked. What a nonsense idea that would have been even as recently as 2005! We’ve come to accept some of these things in the fifteen years since, but even by today’s standards, some of the proposals for next-gen re-releases are drawing well-earned backlash.

Though it wasn’t possible to predict the impact of the coronavirus pandemic even a few short months ago, the changing situation in the world should be something companies take note of. There’s a good chance that many folks are going to have less disposable income at least in the short-term, and being asked to re-purchase a seven-year-old game on a new console is definitely not something that should be considered under current circumstances. Even were it not for the pandemic, I think this practice would still be inappropriate and anti-consumer. But given where things currently sit, it’s even worse.

This is the kind of practice that can start big companies on a slippery slope to reputational damage and more widespread criticism, and I would advise them to tread carefully. Rockstar – or any other company engaged in a similar practice – could garner a lot of goodwill today by announcing that the next-gen version of whatever game they’re working on will be free to anyone who currently owns it. Or, on the flip side, they could continue to draw criticism and ire for their greed and lack of care.

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

Star Trek: Picard Season 1 theory roundup!

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the entirety of Star Trek: Picard Season 1, including its ending. There may also be spoilers for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

Star Trek: Picard’s first season wrapped up at the end of March – and it feels like forever ago, what with everything that’s happened in the world since! While the season was running, in addition to reviewing each of the episodes in turn I also concocted a number of different theories for what was going on in the show. Star Trek: Picard very carefully set up a number of mysteries, and even heading into the second half of the finale, it wasn’t clear exactly how they would be resolved.

I’d argue that the first season’s two-part finale wasn’t the show at its best, and it felt as though a season which started incredibly strongly ended up stumbling a little as it crossed the finish line. There were a number of reasons for this – which I covered at the time – but it boils down to some of the show’s mysteries not being fully explained, and some storylines being dropped or left unresolved. That and the truly awful gold makeup used for the synths on Coppelius!

Yikes.

If you’d like to read all of my theories from Star Trek: Picard Season 1, you can find them on my dedicated Star Trek: Picard page. Click or tap here to be taken there!

This time, what I’d like to do is take a look back at some of the theories I postulated while the season was running. I’ll explain why I thought they seemed viable – and why they ended up being total misses! In a way, part of the fun of theory-crafting and speculating is knowing that you won’t always get it right… and boy oh boy did I have some seriously wrong theories!

Number 1: Dahj and Soji aren’t synthetics, they’re genetically-engineered humans.

Soji in the episode Nepenthe.

This is a theory I first came up with right at the beginning of the series, almost from the very moment Picard begins to suspect that Dahj is synthetic. It seemed like it could’ve been a clever idea for a double-bluff – establishing Dahj and Soji as synths, only to rip that away and challenge both Picard’s and the audience’s expectations. However, it didn’t pan out that way, and looking back, this theory was kind of ridiculous!

Genetic enhancements, similar to those made on characters like Dr Bashir and Khan, could have given Dahj the incredible speed and strength that she possessed in Remembrance, so from that point of view it wasn’t wholly unthinkable. But looking back, while Star Trek: Picard did aim to be a show that kept us guessing and didn’t telegraph every aspect of its storyline, this kind of subversion of expectations would have been a step too far. We didn’t know anything about Dahj or Soji at the beginning of the series, and to take the one established fact about them and make it a lie or a misunderstanding would have been a storytelling mistake.

Dahj during her fight against Zhat Vash operatives in Remembrance.

There was also plenty of evidence that Dahj and Soji were synthetic: Picard’s meeting with Dr Jurati, Narek’s interest in Soji, and the strong connection Picard felt to Dahj (and later to Soji) because of his friendship with Data. All of that would have made no sense in the story if we’d ended up dealing with genetically-enhanced humans!

I brought this theory back after episode 3, The End is the Beginning, based on a line spoken by one of the Romulans who attempted to assassinate Picard: “she’s not what you think she is!” This of course referred to Soji, and it struck me that, as Picard and his comrades believed Soji to be a synth, perhaps the Romulan knew that she was not. However, as the story progressed it became abundantly clear that Soji and Dahj were the synthetics that the story established them to be, and that I was barking up the wrong tree with this one!

Number 2: Section 31 will make an appearance in the show.

A black Section 31 combadge from Star Trek: Discovery.

This theory was crafted not so much because of anything that directly happened in the plot of the show, but rather for production reasons. In short, the Star Trek timeline is seriously fractured, with shows being produced simultaneously occupying very different timeframes. When Discovery’s third season kicks off in a few weeks time, there will be four shows occupying four time periods. This complicates the franchise, and what that means is that some threads of continuity would be very helpful, especially for casual viewers.

Section 31 featured heavily in Discovery’s second season, and in addition, a spin-off based on the organisation is currently being worked on. It seemed logical that Star Trek: Picard might want to find some way of incorporating Section 31 if for no other reason than having one of those threads of continuity running through the franchise, tying things loosely together and being a frame of reference for casual viewers.

My first thought for a potential Section 31 appearance was that they could’ve been responsible for the attack on Mars and the destruction of Picard’s armada. I theorised they might have taken such aggressive action to prevent the Federation giving aid to the Romulans. This was extended to include Section 31 hacking the Mars synths as part of this plan.

F8’s eyes during a flashback sequence that depicted the hack.

I next had two potential Section 31 operatives pegged – Chris Rios and Seven of Nine. Rios because he worked aboard a Starfleet ship that was “erased” from the records, and Seven of Nine because it wasn’t clear who she worked for or why she was following Picard.

Finally, as these other theories fell by the wayside, I speculated that Section 31 may have arrived to take control of the Artifact after it was abandoned by the Romulans and later crashed on Coppelius. While I suppose you could argue that might yet happen, it didn’t happen in Season 1, and thus any real benefit of the organisation crossing over from a behind-the-scenes perspective was lost.

I maintain that this theory makes a lot of sense from a production perspective, and my final idea in particular – Section 31 taking control of the Artifact to study it – could have been accomplished without making any changes whatsoever to the season’s storyline. However, it didn’t happen!

Number 3: Soji’s Trill friend will end up getting assimilated or killed.

Soji with Dr Kunamadéstifee in Maps and Legends.

Episode 2, Maps and Legends, introduced a Trill doctor working aboard the Artifact along with Soji. She ultimately only appeared in one sequence, but that sequence seemed to contain a lot of horror film-style foreshadowing, and for weeks I was insistent that we’d see this character meet an unpleasant end! Aboard a Borg cube – even a disabled one – the most likely way that would manifest would’ve been her assimiliation.

After Soji helped Dr Kunamadéstifee with her uniform, the two stood together while they listened to a speech from one of the Artifact’s Romulan guards. He stated that the area they were about to enter was incredibly dangerous, and a nearby sign seemed to reinforce the possibility of assimilation by counting the days since it had last happened. This seemed as thought it could tie in with Soji working on de-assimilating Borg drones; was she about to see her friend end up on her operating table?

Dr Kunamadéstifee again.

It turned out, of course, that I was reading too much into one side character and one short sequence, because not only didn’t Dr Kunamadéstifee end up assimilated, she was never seen again after Maps and Legends, which was a shame because she seemed like a potentially interesting character. Soji spent much of her time from episodes 2-6 with Narek, and giving her someone else to interact with was a good idea. My theory was that their friendship may have built up a little more, leading to shock and sadness for Soji upon learning of Dr Kunamadéstifee’s fate.

I suppose in theory we could say that it’s unlikely that she survived the various disasters which befell the Artifact, from Narissa executing huge numbers of ex-Borg to the ship crashing on Coppelius, but nothing was ever seen on screen to even hint at her fate.

Number 4: Commodore Oh is a synthetic.

Commodore Oh in the episode Broken Pieces.

As with Soji and Dahj being human, this was kind of an “out there” theory! But the whole point of theory crafting is to make wild guesses sometimes, and there were a couple of reasons why I considered this a possibility. First of all, it would have been thoroughly unexpected and shocking. Many recent films, games, and television series have tried to pull off genuinely unexpected twists, and had this been true, it would have been one heck of a shock!

Secondly, the premise of Star Trek: Picard’s first season had been the cloak-and-dagger factions vying to thwart or create synthetic life. The Zhat Vash and the Tal Shiar were on one side, Maddox and his team on the other. There were rogue traders, Romulans, ex-Borg, and all sorts of shadowy figures involved – any one of whom could have not been what they seemed. The show crafted mysteries for us to examine. As we learned more about the Zhat Vash and their mission, I began to wonder if they could have been infiltrated by someone who wanted to stop them harming synths. This later evolved into wondering if they’d been infiltrated by someone who wanted to bring about the very disaster they sought to prevent.

Commodore Oh on the bridge of her ship.

Dahj and Soji were both unaware of their true synthetic natures, which built on past iterations of Star Trek that showed synths can be programmed to not realise they’re synths. Commodore Oh could have genuinely believed in the Zhat Vash cause – but been programmed to “activate” at the opportune moment. We later learned that the Zhat Vash feared the arrival of a faction of super-synths that I dubbed the “Mass Effect Reapers” (because they were very similar to that video game faction) and I incorporated that into this theory, suggesting that Commodore Oh may be working for the “Mass Effect Reapers” to try and bring about their arrival.

Of course it was a complete bust! Commodore Oh was a Zhat Vash operative to the core, and as far as we know, wholly organic in nature! I still think she’s a fascinating character, and I wrote an article a few months back looking at her place in the Star Trek timeline. You can find it by clicking or tapping here.

Number 5: Picard telling everyone that their enemies are the Tal Shiar – and not the Zhat Vash – will have consequences.

A Zhat Vash operative.

One thing that Star Trek: Picard didn’t do particularly well, in my opinion, was staying consistent in how it referred to its antagonists. In Remembrance, the faction who attacked Picard and Dahj weren’t named, but in Maps and Legends we learned of the existence of the Zhat Vash – an ancient, shadowy organisation which operated within, yet were distinct from, the Tal Shiar.

Yet for several episodes, Picard and others kept referring to their adversaries as the Tal Shiar. In-universe, there’s a certain kind of logic to this. Picard may not have believed fully in the Zhat Vash’s existence, having only heard about them from one source, or he may have felt trying to explain the difference would have been too time consuming and/or made him seem too conspiratorial. However, with practically everything else in the show being done deliberately to achieve certain story payoffs, I wondered whether Picard’s decision not to be up front with his crew might have had repercussions.

Colonel Lovok (or rather, a changeling impersonating him) was a Tal Shiar operative seen in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Elnor was the one character who I felt seemed most likely to be affected by the revelation that it was the Zhat Vash, not the Tal Shiar, that he was up against. As a member of the Qowat Milat, Elnor was opposed to the Tal Shiar. But the Qowat Milat’s relationship with the Zhat Vash was unclear; even if they were enemies, the Qowat Milat may have had particular techniques for dealing with them. And at the very least, Elnor and his faction seemed likely to know of their existence.

However, Elnor learned in Nepenthe that he was facing off against the Zhat Vash, not the Tal Shiar, and the revelation seemed to have no impact on him whatsoever. The rest of La Sirena’s crew were equally nonplussed, and there were no consequences at all for the confused terminology – at least, not from an in-universe point of view. I think that, unfortunately, the decision to complicate the terminology around the show’s antagonists may have made it harder to follow for casual viewers. When dealing with made-up names like “Tal Shiar” and “Zhat Vash”, remaining consistent is important for the audience to be able to follow what’s going on.

Number 6: There’s a Starfleet-Zhat Vash conspiracy.

Admiral Clancy, the commander-in-chief of Starfleet.

In Maps and Legends, we were introduced to Commodore Oh for the first time. It was a great shock to see a high-ranking Starfleet officer involved in Dahj’s murder, and at the time it wasn’t at all clear whether Commodore Oh was a Romulan infiltrator or a Vulcan co-conspirator. If she was a Starfleet officer working with the Zhat Vash, it stood to reason that others in Starfleet were as well – perhaps even senior admirals.

Furthermore, when we learned how Commodore Oh recruited Dr Jurati into the conspiracy – all it took was a brief mind-meld – it seemed plausible that she may have used the same technique on others. Commodore Oh had been embedded in Starfleet for more than sixty years, and in that time there’s no telling how many people she may have interacted with.

Lieutenant Rizzo arrives to meet Commodore Oh.

However, it turned out not to be the case. Admiral Clancy, the head of Starfleet Command, wasn’t compromised, nor were any of the other Starfleet officers and leaders seen or referenced in Season 1. As far as we know – and this could change if future Star Trek projects decide to look at this aspect more deeply – only Commodore Oh and Rizzo were involved within Starfleet, and they were both Zhat Vash operatives.

This is one theory that I’m definitely pleased didn’t pan out. Making Starfleet itself the “bad guys”, even if there were a reason for it, wouldn’t have felt great in a Star Trek series, and would have been a far darker path for the show to have taken. Seeing Riker show up in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2 at the head of a Starfleet armada was a beautiful moment (though sadly one that had been telegraphed ahead of time) in large part because it proved that Starfleet and the Federation were still on the right side. The plot to kill the synths and attack Mars was purely a Zhat Vash creation.

Number 7: The Control AI, from Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, is involved.

A re-used image from Star Trek: Discovery.

Although I initially considered it to be a bit out of left field, the episode Nepenthe really kicked this theory into high gear! My first thought had been that perhaps the reason why the Zhat Vash were so frightened of synthetic life was because they had some involvement with Control, the rogue artificial intelligence from Star Trek: Discovery’s second season. I was convinced – wrongly – that the producers behind the overall Star Trek franchise would have wanted to build a major connection between Discovery and Picard for some of the reasons already discussed, and bringing Control in seemed like a viable option for accomplishing this.

In the episode Nepenthe, we finally got to see how Dr Jurati came to be recruited into the conspiracy – she was shown a vision by Commodore Oh, one that seemed to warn of something apocalyptic. Contained within this vision were a couple of visuals that were made for Star Trek: Discovery – more specifically, they were used to show a vision Michael Burnham and Spock had of the Control AI.

The Control AI commandeered Captain Leland’s body in Star Trek: Discovery.

At the time, I noted that there could be production-side reasons to re-use visual effects, as it was less time-consuming and cheaper than making wholly new CGI. However, for a couple of weeks I really did think that we were going to find some connection between Control and the Zhat Vash; perhaps the Romulans and Federation had been competing in some kind of mid-23rd Century AI arms race, or perhaps while Control was on the loose it had attacked Romulan ships or planets.

In a thematic sense, Star Trek: Picard’s first season and Discovery’s second season share some significant points. Both consider the potential for rogue or out-of-control artificial life, and both look at the consequences of continuing to develop AI – something that we arguably should be concerned about today! But there was no deeper crossover beyond basic themes, and the shows remain almost entirely separate from one another. The re-used visuals are what completely threw me for this one!

Number 8: The synths on Coppelius are already dead.

A crowd of clearly not dead synths in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2.

Star Trek: Picard’s first season had, unfortunately, one rather large plot hole. The driving force for much of the first half of the season was locating and rescuing Bruce Maddox, the Federation cyberneticist who built Soji, Dahj, and many of the other synths. Maddox was on a planet called Freecloud, a place he travelled to when he seemed to have nowhere else to turn. He ended up returning to the dangerous Bjayzl, someone he owed a lot of money to, and was captured. The reason he put himself in such grave danger was because his lab had been destroyed by the Tal Shiar, or so he claimed.

But in the two-part finale, Picard and the crew travelled to Coppelius and saw for themselves that Maddox’s lab hadn’t been destroyed, and the Tal Shiar or the Zhat Vash had never been there. This feels like a pretty major issue, because the question of why Maddox was on Freecloud now has no satisfactory answer. The reason seems to be “because plot”, and that’s never a good thing.

Bruce Maddox only went to Bjayzl because his lab had been destroyed.

However, before the finale I was still trying to square that particular circle. One of the possibilities I came up with was that Maddox was right – his lab had already been destroyed, which could mean that the synths he’d built were already dead. It would have made Narek’s mission kind of a waste of time, as his colleagues had already killed off the synths, not to mention being a rather bleak way to end the season, but it would have fit together with what had already been established.

I don’t think I’d have enjoyed this storyline, which would have left Soji as perhaps the sole survivor of her race. It would have been very dark, and would have felt like a victory for the show’s antagonists. But at the time, I was scrambling around looking for ways to make the story of the first half of the season – culminating in Maddox’s statement to Bjayzl about his lab being destroyed – fit with the second half of the season and the revelation of the existence of more synths.

Number 9: The captain of the USS Ibn Majid is a character from a past Star Trek show.

Harry Kim could’ve been a starship captain in this time period.

This was a pretty simple theory by my standards. When we learned that Rios had served aboard a ship called the USS Ibn Majid, which was destroyed and covered up, I began to wonder who might’ve been in command of the vessel. Rios was clearly very attached to his former captain, and I wasn’t sure if we might’ve seen – in flashback form – this character make an appearance.

From Rios’ initial comments about the character – that they were dead, male, and “heroic” – I put together a shortlist based on possible characters from past Star Trek shows who could conceivably have been starship captains in that era. I ruled out those who seemed to have no desire to sit in the captain’s chair, like Dr Bashir or Tom Paris, and obviously ruled out those who wouldn’t be eligible like Chief O’Brien. Finally, Zhaban had mentioned that La Forge and Worf were still alive, so they were out too. That left a handful of characters, including Chakotay and Harry Kim, both from Voyager. I also suggested Edward Jellico from The Next Generation two-parter Chain of Command, Solok from the Deep Space Nine episode Take Me Out to the Holosuite, and Captain Bateson from The Next Generation Season 5 episode Cause and Effect.

Solok, the Vulcan captain of the USS T’Kumbra.

There were other possibilities – most of which were minor characters who made only one or two appearances in Star Trek – and there were many male officers who could, in theory, have made the cut. I liked this idea simply for the sake of continuity, as having the Ibn Majid’s captain be someone we already knew seemed like an interesting concept.

With Bruce Maddox, Hugh, and Icheb all killed off in Star Trek: Picard’s first season, it was clear that the producers has no qualms about getting rid of legacy characters! That fact also contributed to making this theory plausible. Past iterations of Star Trek has been reluctant to kill off main characters, but Star Trek: Picard did so several times. However, none of this came to pass, and instead a new character – Captain Alonso Vandermeer – was created for the show, and was only seen briefly in a photograph.

Number 10: Narek will go rogue.

Narek in Broken Pieces after trying to kill Soji.

Narek was a unique character, not only in Star Trek: Picard but in the whole franchise. Never before had an out-and-out villain been a main character, with their name in the opening titles. Narek was also an interesting and nuanced character in a season where – most of the time – the villains could feel flat and one-dimensional. I’m still disappointed that his storyline was unceremoniously dumped midway through the season finale; we didn’t even learn what became of him after Picard’s “death”.

But that’s somewhat beside the point. From as early as the third episode, I began speculating that somehow, Narek would be convinced to abandon his mission and join with Soji and Picard. His clear feelings for Soji seemed to offer a route for him to make this happen, but even if the show didn’t go for the “spy falls in love with his target” trope, there were other ways it could’ve happened. Narek seemed like a reasonable man; if it were demonstrated to him that the synths were not a threat, it seemed at least plausible that he might’ve switched sides.

Narek’s final appearance.

However, as of the last time we saw him – before he just dropped of the face of the series with no conclusion to his story – he was still 100% committed to the Zhat Vash cause. In fact, he never wavered. His attempt to kill Soji may have caused him great distress, but that didn’t stop him going ahead with his mission; he didn’t even hesitate.

I actually like that Narek was unpredictable, and as a whole I like that the show set up what looked to be a familiar trope – the spy with a heart of gold who switches sides for the girl he loves – only to say that actually, Narek was still committed to his cause and his mission. However, it’s a shame that this never really got a proper payoff, as Narek disappeared. His character arc feels incomplete, and as I’m fairly confident he won’t be returning for the show’s second season, we may never learn what happened to him after the events on Coppelius.

So that’s it. A handful of my theories for Star Trek: Picard Season 1 that never came to pass! I did manage to successfully predict a handful of (more obvious) plot points across the first season, so my theories didn’t all fail as hard as those listed above. The important thing, though, was that I had fun doing this. Thinking about the series and writing up the theories was really enjoyable at the time, and it’s something I hope to do with Discovery later in the year – at least, provided it has suitable theory-crafting material to work with!

Jean-Luc Picard will return for Season 2!

The important thing when considering fan theories is to remember that they’re just guesses and speculation. The showrunners, writers, and producers are the ones who craft the story, and they’re the ones who get the final say on how it’s going to pan out. Getting overly attached to any one theory – no matter how much we like it or how plausible it seems – really just means we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment. I could point to many projects in recent years which have suffered as a result of this, but all I really want to say is that, for those of you who followed my theories during Star Trek: Picard Season 1, I hope that I didn’t cause you any disappointment or frustration when I was wrong. At the end of the day, this is supposed to be fun and an excuse to spend more time in the Star Trek galaxy. Let’s all try to take fan theories with an extra-large pinch of salt!

Star Trek: Lower Decks is currently airing its first season – the second of three Star Trek projects in 2020. For all the problems that this year has thrown at us, having three different Star Trek shows to enjoy has been a blessing. If you missed it, I’ve reviewed the first episode of Lower Decks and I’ll soon be taking a look at episode 2, which will be available to watch (at least for viewers in the US and Canada) later today. And as mentioned I’ll be looking at Discovery when that airs in October. There’s no word on when exactly we can expect to see Season 2 of Star Trek: Picard. It has an optimistic release date of 2021, but given that California is still largely locked down and filming has yet to begin, I wouldn’t be surprised if that slips back. Regardless, whenever we get it I’ll be taking a look at the episodes and probably crafting a bunch more theories!

Star Trek: Picard Season 1 is available to stream now on CBS All Access in the United States, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The Star Trek franchise – including Star Trek: Picard – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.