Five of my favourite Starfleet uniforms

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3 and the teaser for Season 4, Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 and the teaser for Season 2, and Star Trek: Picard Season 1. Minor spoilers are also present for other iterations of the franchise.

This is going to be a controversial list! Practically every Trekkie I know has their own take on which Starfleet uniforms are the best – and why! Even if we can agree on some of our favourite episodes and films, the aesthetic of Star Trek has always been a world unto itself. Some of the best uniform designs may not feature in the best stories, and likewise some of the best individual episodes and films may not have their casts in the best uniforms, so the two aren’t necessarily connected – though a truly bad costume can, in some cases, detract from an otherwise-decent story.

There have been a wide variety of uniforms used across Star Trek’s 55-year history. Most designs incorporate at least some elements of the original – the costumes designed for The Original Series by William Ware Theiss in the mid-1960s. Gene Roddenberry’s brief for the uniforms was that they were to be “simple, utilitarian, and naval” in style, reflecting his vision of the future and of Starfleet. The very first uniforms, seen in The Cage, Charlie X, and a couple of other early Season 1 episodes, arguably best fit the “naval” aspect of the brief, with toned-down colours and a slightly thicker rolled collar. It was only partway through Season 1 that the typical uniform in its three bright primary colours was rolled out.

Captain Pike in The Cage, sporting the first ever Starfleet uniform.

Colour is a hugely important factor when discussing Starfleet uniforms. Since The Next Generation went off the air, most Star Trek projects have tried to move away from big bold blocks of colour, opting for smaller coloured patches or other ways to express differences in division and rank. Partly this is an attempt to make the uniforms look “modern,” but also I think there’s a feeling among at least some folks that the brightly-coloured shirts and tops of The Original Series in particular, but also The Next Generation, look rather childish or even camp, detracting from the serious messages present in many Star Trek stories.

That said, even the attempts to design sleeker, “cooler” Star Trek uniforms have almost universally resulted in garments that aren’t exactly serious by today’s standards! Recent attempts like the Discovery uniforms are still very sci-fi; hardly the kind of thing you’d see someone wear out on the street – unless they were on their way to a Star Trek convention. I guess what I’m trying to say is that trying to design a “cool Star Trek uniform” may simply be an impossible task!

The cast of Discovery Season 1 in their all-blue uniforms.

So I’m all in favour of embracing the campiness – at least to a degree. Once you get lost in Star Trek, things like uniform colours don’t take you out of it, or at least they don’t for me. I’m not really a fan of attempts to make uniforms that look too much like things that we already have in the real world. There obviously has to be a line between something plausible and something completely outlandish, but in sci-fi that line can be further away than some folks seem to think!

Several generations of Starfleet uniform have become truly iconic; instantly recognisable emblems of the franchise that hardly anyone with even a passing knowledge of popular culture could fail to identify. This has been helped by internet memes, with Captain Picard, Commander Riker, Captain Kirk, Captain Janeway, and even Voyager’s Doctor all re-entering popular culture years after their respective series went off the air.

Captain Picard’s facepalm is a popular meme – and reminds people about The Next Generation and the uniforms the crew wore.

We also need to give some of the new variants time. A uniform – or any aesthetic element of a series or film – doesn’t become an icon overnight, so the 32nd Century uniforms we saw in the Discovery Season 4 teaser, the uniforms in Picard Season 1, and whatever the Strange New Worlds crew end up wearing need time to grow on us! Some Trekkies have already taken to some of the new styles, which is great, but for a lot of folks it takes time to even get used to a whole new look – let alone learn to love it!

As I always say, this whole list is entirely subjective! If you hate all of these uniforms and love others, that’s 100% okay. As with practically every aspect of Star Trek, it’s a big galaxy and there’s room for fans with different tastes and preferences. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s take a look at five of my favourite Starfleet uniforms!

Number 1: The Motion Picture – Admiral’s variant

Kirk wearing his admiral’s uniform – perhaps the only decent one in the whole film!

I can understand why fans were unimpressed with The Motion Picture uniforms on the whole. They represent an attempt – the first real attempt – for Star Trek to try something new and step away from the bold primary colours of The Original Series, but ended up being understated at best, bland and forgettable at worst. The dull colours, t-shirt design, and lack of any distinctive features all meant that these uniforms only ever saw one outing.

But there was an exception! Kirk’s uniform as an Admiral, which he wore for the first part of the film prior to taking command of the Enterprise, is undoubtedly one of my favourites. It’s understated, for sure, but I love the smooth lines between its grey and white sections, the high angled collar, and how the gold Starfleet insignia stands out without being too flashy or over-the-top.

A lot of the criticism of The Motion Picture’s uniforms is absolutely fair. But there’s something about Kirk’s variant that I absolutely adore. I’d suggest that it’s the most “uniform-looking” costume in the whole film, and with its shoulder epaulets and wrist braiding, it’s a unique blend of The Original Series and future, more military-inspired uniforms – some of which we’ll look at further down the list.

Number 2: The Next Generation – Season 3-7 variant

The cast of The Next Generation in Season 4.

I’m not calling today’s list my “all-time” top uniforms, but if I were putting Starfleet uniforms in a ranked list these uniforms would have to be near the top. Excluding variants like the acting ensign uniform Wesley Crusher wore, Troi’s “casual” outfits, and Picard’s jacket, the standard uniforms that were introduced beginning in Season 3 of The Next Generation hit all the right notes for me.

These uniforms have a high collar, which gives them a more “serious” feel than the previous crew-neck style. They retain the large blocks of colour across most of the top, yet the colours are ever so slightly toned down when compared to the bright colours of The Original Series, which I’d argue makes them appear a bit more serious and less camp. With the collars and pants being black, the coloured blocks on the top are striking and draw the most attention, and it’s easy to tell at a bare glance which officer represents which division.

It was a surprise when The Next Generation swapped the red and gold colours over – The Original Series had used gold for command and red for security/engineering. But there’s no denying it works well, and Picard and his crew honestly look fantastic in these uniforms.

Number 3: First Contact and Deep Space Nine Seasons 5-7

Data, Worf, Geordi, Riker, and Picard in Nemesis.

Though reportedly “uncomfortable” for some of the actors, I really like these uniforms. Until Star Trek: Picard premiered last January, they were also the most up-to-date uniforms in Star Trek’s internal timeline – at least if you exclude far future variants! These uniforms shrank the division colours down, retaining only a coloured undershirt poking up through the collar, with the rest being black and grey.

To me, this design says “new Star Trek” – even though the uniforms haven’t been new for almost 25 years! When the franchise was off the air, and even after it returned with prequels, these uniforms still represented the furthest forward Star Trek’s timeline had got, and I guess it’s for that reason I have more of an affinity to them. They’re modern-looking, swapping out big blocks of colour for greys and blacks that are more toned-down, and I guess the intention was to give them a more military style.

First Contact and Insurrection are two of my favourite films, and the latter seasons of Deep Space Nine – where these uniforms were also worn – saw the Dominion War story arc play out, which happens to be my favourite part of that series. I have very positive associations, then, between these uniforms and the narratives they were present in!

Number 4: The Wrath of Khan uniforms – a.k.a. the “monster maroon”

Kirk and Spock showing the “monster maroon” jacket in its open and closed positions in a publicity photo for The Undiscovered Country.

Speaking as we were of uniforms with a very military style, the uniforms which debuted in The Wrath of Khan were a total change from those present in The Motion Picture three years earlier. They incorporated elements of military dress uniforms, with a wide double-breasted jacket, high collar, epaulets, rank insignia, and a belt around the jacket.

In Star Trek’s internal timeline, these are the longest-serving uniforms (that we know of!) having been in service for around 75 years. I don’t personally think that they work well without the high collared undershirt, so my preference is for the Wrath of Khan variant, not those seen in The Next Generation. But the fact that they were in service for a long time is neat – and a way for The Next Generation to connect itself visually to the films of The Original Series era!

If The Original Series uniforms were campy and bright, these military-inspired ones were the complete opposite. Designed to be serious and focused while still retaining some colour, I think they look amazing. Having so many different elements could’ve made for a complicated look, but the simple use of one predominant colour helps settle things down.

Number 5: Star Trek: Picard – 2399 variant

Acting Captain Riker showing off the command variant of the 2399 uniforms.

Star Trek: Picard showed off two new uniform styles – one for flashback scenes and one for Starfleet in 2399. I would have preferred the flashback uniforms were replaced with the First Contact uniforms as they didn’t look great and were ultimately unnecessary, but the 2399 uniforms – which we saw Commodore Oh, Rizzo, and later Acting Captain Riker wear – were fantastic.

What I like most about these uniforms is that, after almost twenty years, colour was back in a big way! Enterprise had blue boiler suits, Discovery mostly showed off an all-blue look, and while neither of those uniforms are bad, I was keen to see something visually different – something more “Star Trek.” Picard delivered.

These uniforms are, in some respects, similar to the Voyager and early Deep Space Nine uniforms in that they’re mostly black with a coloured shoulder area and collar. But the lack of a prominent undershirt and the Starfleet delta detailing on the coloured sections makes them look far superior to those older uniforms! I hope we’ll get to see more characters wearing these uniforms going forward.

So that’s it! Five of my personal favourite Starfleet uniforms.

Boimler and Riker on the bridge of the USS Titan wearing First Contact-era uniforms.

Aesthetic, colour, and costume style are very much subject to personal taste, and I know there can be a range of opinions on all of these things. Despite that, with the exception of Kirk’s uniform from The Motion Picture, I think a lot of Trekkies would put at least one or two of these uniforms on their own lists of favourites!

There really aren’t many Starfleet uniforms that I passionately dislike. Most serve a purpose, and it’s usually at least understandable what the intention behind the design was. Enterprise’s boiler suits, for example, were clearly inspired by modern-day naval, submarine, and astronaut uniforms, and were designed to be a bridge between more typical Starfleet uniforms and 21st Century attire.

I didn’t put the Kelvin uniforms on the list this time. But they are pretty neat!

Voyager and Enterprise kept consistent uniforms during their entire runs, but every other Starfleet crew has had at least one change of uniform. Changing things up keeps the aesthetic of Star Trek interesting, and while I can understand why some folks lament changes of this nature, without radical departures from “normal” uniforms we wouldn’t have got to see some of the best and most visually interesting ones. I like that the Star Trek franchise is bold enough to continue to shake things up.

The teaser trailer for Discovery’s impending fourth season showed off another new uniform – a more colourful variant of the 32nd Century uniform that we saw worn by Admiral Vance and others. Though we really only had a few seconds of footage, I liked what I saw and I think these new ones have the potential to join a future list of this nature!

Regardless of what your favourites might be, and whether or not any of them made this list, I hope it was a bit of fun. I’ll never miss a chance to talk about Star Trek!

The Star Trek franchise – including all titles on the list above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. All Star Trek shows and films mentioned above may be streamed on Paramount+ in the United States, and on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom. Availability may vary by region. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Picard + Star Trek: The Next Generation crossover theory: Lore

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and for other iterations of the franchise.

Season 1 of Star Trek: Picard expanded our knowledge and understanding of the Star Trek galaxy in the 24th Century. As the lore of Star Trek grows (pun intended!) one thing I find fun is seeing how any new information we get can be made to fit with past iterations of the franchise, and in the case of Picard, I think I’ve hit on a theory that is plausible based on some new facts that we learned last year.

I previously touched on this theory as part of my essay on Commodore Oh a few months ago, but I thought it warranted being expanded and given its own article – so that when it’s finally confirmed on screen I can say “I told you so!” Or not. In short, this theory connects Data’s brother Lore to the Zhat Vash, the faction introduced in Star Trek: Picard.

Lore in Datalore.

Before we go any further and get into the weeds, let’s recap. Lore was introduced in The Next Generation Season 1 episode Datalore, and would return in Brothers in Season 4, as well as the Season 6 finale Descent, and Descent, Part II which opened Season 7. He was, in effect, Data’s “evil twin,” and would go on to cause havoc for Data and the crew of the Enterprise-D. We would also learn that Lore was responsible for luring a spacefaring lifeform called the Crystalline Entity to his homeworld, killing most of the citizens of the colony.

Next we have the Zhat Vash, who were introduced in Star Trek: Picard. An ancient, secretive Romulan sect, the Zhat Vash were on an anti-synthetic crusade. They believed that the development of artificial life would lead to all life in the galaxy being exterminated, and sought to wipe out synthetics wherever they found them. As part of their plan to prevent the Federation developing synths, a Romulan agent named Oh infiltrated Starfleet shortly after the discovery of Data in 2338.

Commodore Oh infiltrated Starfleet.

This theory begins with something that The Next Generation never really explained: Lore being evil. Apparently this is a flaw in at least some Soong-type androids, as we’d also see Sutra exhibiting many similar traits to Lore in the two-part finale of Picard Season 1. But is there more to it than a simple mistake, as Dr Soong believed?

Though the Zhat Vash despise synthetic life, as part of their crusade to exterminate synths from the galaxy they seem to have learned a great deal about them – including how to reprogram them. In Picard Season 1, we learned that rogue synths had attacked Mars, destroying Admiral Picard’s fleet. It was the intervention of the Zhat Vash, hacking into the synths and reprogramming them, that caused this attack. If the Zhat Vash possessed the ability to do this in the 2380s, it’s at least possible that they were able to do something similar to Lore in the 2330s.

The Zhat Vash were able to reprogram Federation synths, leading to the attack on Mars.

Lore was activated months (or possibly years) before Data, and lived with his creator on the Omicron Theta colony. Dr Soong’s reputation seems to have been known within the Federation, and his work doesn’t appear to have been classified or somehow kept secret. The Zhat Vash seem to have been able to infiltrate the Federation with relative ease, having two spies inside Starfleet that we know of, and even if a Zhat Vash operative in this era were not an especially high-ranking officer, given the openness of Dr Soong’s work and the dedication the Zhat Vash have to their cause, I think we can reasonably suggest that they would have come to know what he was doing, and thus of the existence of Lore.

As I suggested in my last crossover theory, it stands to reason that the Zhat Vash will have been deeply alarmed about the Federation and their synthetic research. In the mid-23rd Century, two Federation AIs went rogue: Control (as seen in Discovery Season 2) and the M-5 multitronic unit (as seen in The Original Series second season episode The Ultimate Computer). Although it seems to be androids that were the main focus of Zhat Vash attention, as Laris made clear, the Romulans fear all kinds of AI – so these events would certainly have upset them enough to keep an eye on Starfleet and the Federation.

A fleet of ships under Control’s command went rogue and attacked the USS Enterprise and the USS Discovery.

That makes it even more likely, in my opinion, that the Zhat Vash would have found out about Dr Soong and Lore on Omicron Theta. If they were following Dr Soong’s work on positronic brains, they may have been working on ways to shut down his research or reprogram Lore. As mentioned, none of this appears to have been classified, and while Dr Soong kept his work private, it may have been possible for the Zhat Vash to infiltrate Omicron Theta and gain access to his research.

Their main goal was to prevent the rise of synthetic life. A single android was bad enough, but what they feared most was a civilisation of them. But Dr Soong didn’t have a civilisation – he had one single operational android. From the Zhat Vash’s perspective in the 2330s, if they could force Lore to be shut down – and ideally kill Dr Soong at the same time – the Federation would be unable to replicate the work and would thus be unable to build more.

Lore in Descent, Part II.

At some point following his activation, Lore began to exhibit “emotional instability” to the point that he upset and worried the colonists on Omicron Theta. This doesn’t appear to have happened from the moment of his activation, though, which lends credence to the idea that he was reprogrammed – perhaps rather crudely in an attempt to force Dr Soong to take him offline.

However, before Dr Soong could take action to shut him down, Lore contacted the Crystalline Entity, which arrived and wiped out the Omicron Theta colony. If Lore had been reprogrammed, was this something he chose to do of his own volition? It seems a very specific action to take if he wanted to kill the colonists – he was more than capable of physically overpowering and outwitting them if he wanted to kill them.

The Crystalline Entity “feeding,” as seen in Silicon Avatar.

The destruction of Omicron Theta can be seen as a classic Romulan move. By using the Crystalline Entity, not only was Lore assumed destroyed, but so were Dr Soong, his assistants, and all of his research, setting back synthetic research in the Federation by decades. Of course we know that Dr Soong and Lore both escaped – but that clearly wasn’t part of the Zhat Vash’s plan! Perhaps they underestimated Lore.

Most importantly, though, having the Crystalline Entity wipe out Omicron Theta absolved the Romulans of any direct involvement, as well as potentially destroyed any evidence that they had ever been there. It reminds me in many ways of the false flag operation that they ran on Mars; the synths were reprogrammed and forced to go rogue, an event which so thoroughly shocked the Federation that the Zhat Vash were able to persuade them to shut down all synthetic research.

Laris first told Admiral Picard – and us as the audience – about the existence of the Zhat Vash.

With Lore being the only extant android, a “clean” attack on the colony, wiping out the entire site and all of its inhabitants, would work very well from the Zhat Vash’s perspective. Openly attacking Omicron Theta would surely have started a conflict with the Federation, and if that could be avoided through this kind of cloak-and-dagger operation, well that seems exactly like something they would seek to do.

So that’s the extent of the theory, and any Zhat Vash involvement afterwards appears to have ignored Lore. Perhaps they figured that the existence of Data showed that the Federation would not stop until they were forced to, or at least that it was no longer possible to stop Federation AI research by killing one android. This would explain why they didn’t take any aggressive action against Data during The Next Generation era, and could also explain why Dr Soong went into hiding after the Omicron Theta attack – he may have been hiding from the Zhat Vash.

Data in Star Trek: Generations. The Zhat Vash appear to have been either unable or unwilling to attack him.

This theory fits with Lore’s appearances in The Next Generation and doesn’t step on the toes of anything as far as I can see. It provides backstory to why Lore acted the way he did, and explains his motivations for doing so in a different way. It also elevates Lore from simply being an “evil twin” trope into more of a tragic character – we will never know what Lore could have been were he not interfered with.

Crucially, this theory fits with what we learned of the Zhat Vash in Picard Season 1, both in terms of their goals and their methods. It seems at least possible that the Zhat Vash are responsible for the attack on Omicron Theta and for reprogramming Lore, turning him into the malevolent adversary that Data and the crew of the Enterprise-D had to deal with.

Commodore Oh.

This could have even been the first mission of a young Zhat Vash operative named Oh. Maybe she was the one sent to Omicron Theta to deal with Dr Soong, and this entire situation is her doing.

So that’s it. That’s my theory! I doubt it will ever be confirmed, but you never know! It seems plausible to me, at least. I hope this was a bit of fun and an excuse to jump back into the Star Trek galaxy. As always, please remember not to take this theory, or any other fan theory, too seriously. Theory-crafting is supposed to be enjoyable, and the last thing we need right now is something else to argue about!

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

Star Trek: Picard Season 1 – one year later

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1. There are also minor spoilers for Star Trek: Lower Decks and Star Trek: Discovery.

Time certainly flies, doesn’t it? It was one year ago today that Star Trek: Picard Season 1 debuted in the United States (and a day later in the rest of the world). It’s not unfair to say that I was incredibly excited about this series, which would take the Star Trek timeline forward in a significant way for the first time in eighteen years. Though I tried hard to keep my hype and expectations in check, there was no getting around how much I was looking forward to Star Trek: Picard.

As we hit the first anniversary, I thought it could be a good moment to look back on my remembrances (ha! get it?) of the show as well as what the first season achieved, what it did well, and where it came up short.

The opening title card.

If you were a regular reader a year ago, you’ll recall from my reviews that the season started very strongly. In fact, I named Remembrance (the season premiere) the best Star Trek episode of 2020 – a year which, for all its problems, saw 33 episodes across three shows. I rank Remembrance very highly among modern Star Trek episodes, and I’d even compare it favourably to Deep Space Nine’s Emissary, perhaps placing them joint-first as the best Star Trek premieres.

The finale, on the other hand, let the season down somewhat. Carefully-established mysteries that the show had slowly build up over the preceding eight episodes felt rushed through in a two-part conclusion that dumped new characters, a new location, a new faction, and whole new storylines into play right at the very end. The season also ended with a plot hole unexplained – why Dr Maddox travelled to Freecloud – and the disappearance of main character Narek, whose storyline was dropped halfway through the second part of the finale.

So despite enjoying Picard overall, as I look back a year later at Season 1, I’m afraid I have to say that it was a mixed bag.

Jean-Luc Picard.

From the moment Star Trek: Picard was announced it shot to the top of my list of shows I was excited for. I may have talked about this in the run-up to the season, but I remember feeling distinctly underwhelmed when Enterprise was announced in 1999. I wasn’t particularly interested in a Star Trek prequel, and while the show had heart and told some exciting stories, there was a sense really since Voyager ended and Nemesis had been in cinemas that Star Trek wasn’t moving forward.

Enterprise, the Kelvin reboot films, Discovery, and even Short Treks all told stories in the 22nd or 23rd Centuries, and though those stories were enjoyable and fun, there was a lot left behind in the 24th Century that was never explored. What would become of the characters we knew, of the Federation, of Starfleet, and all the other factions, races, and planets? The 24th Century had been Star Trek’s biggest era – with 517 episodes of television and four films starring three crews and a huge supporting cast of secondary and recurring characters.

Moving the timeline forward beyond Nemesis was something I really wanted to see from Star Trek.

The 24th Century was also “my” Star Trek era. The Next Generation was the first Star Trek series I watched, and it was literally my way into being a Trekkie. I have a great fondness for the shows of that era, and I consider it to be not only the time when Star Trek was at its most successful in terms of viewership (and finances) but also the closest the franchise has to a “Golden Age.” So to see that era abandoned for prequels and mid-quels wasn’t exactly disappointing, but it wasn’t something I was wild about.

So for eighteen years (Nemesis was released in 2002) Star Trek hadn’t moved forward in terms of the timeline. And even when Discovery launched and established itself with Short Treks and a spin-off, there was still no plan to revisit the 24th Century. Picard came along like a breath of fresh air, and I was incredibly excited, hyped up, and interested in what the series would bring. That was my mindset going into the premiere and each of the subsequent nine episodes.

The opening shot of the season.

Picard was not Season 8 of The Next Generation – and I didn’t want it to be. I was very keen that the new cast be given an opportunity to establish themselves within the franchise and become fan favourites for a new generation of Trekkies. What I hoped for was that, in thirty years’ time, people would be clamouring for a Dr Jurati series or Star Trek: Elnor with the same vigour I have for Picard. And I think, in that sense, we’ve begun to see at least the beginnings of that.

A lot of television shows don’t really settle in until Season 2, which is where the overused term “growing the beard” comes from. I’ve used that expression myself a few times, but in the aftermath of Discovery’s recent outing it seems to be the only phrase that critics are using to describe the show and it’s honestly put me off! But we’re off topic. There was perhaps a degree of leniency on my part going into Season 1 of Picard; a willingness to let some minor issues slide in order to see the show continue to build and grow. And as underwhelming as the Season 1 finale was, I’m hopeful that Season 2 can build on the foundation that has been laid.

The crew of La Sirena at the end of Season 1.

Though there was the mystery of Dr Maddox’s location, the Romulans’ scheme, and later the beacon to contact the super-synths, what Season 1 really was, when you boil it down, was a team-up story. Picard, over the course of ten episodes, put together a new crew and gave them a reason to work together. Establishing each member of the crew, giving them a side-quest of their own, and binding them together to follow Picard was the primary accomplishment of the season.

I’ve used the analogy of the Mass Effect video game series once in relation to Star Trek: Picard already – when it comes to the basic existence of the super-synths and their beacon. But there is a second point of comparison that is interesting to me, and may be to you if you’ve played those games. In Mass Effect 2, much of the game is comprised of Commander Shepard recruiting a crew. Each member of the crew needs to be brought on board, then later a side-mission is given in which players can earn their loyalty. Picard Season 1 played out similarly.

Elnor in Season 1. Recruiting him for the mission took up one episode.

Raffi wanted to go to Freecloud to reunite with her son. Dr Jurati had a secret plot to kill Dr Maddox. Elnor had to resolve his lingering emotional issues with Picard. Rios had to put together the pieces of what happened aboard the USS Ibn Majid. Seven of Nine wanted revenge for Icheb. Each of the main characters – at least those on the mission to save Soji – had to be recruited and then have their side-quest resolved before the story could reach its conclusion. This isn’t just a story from Mass Effect 2, it’s something many team-up stories do.

As I mentioned when considering some preliminary ideas for Season 2, finding a way to keep this crew together will be something that the next chapter of this story needs to address. Because they came together to do a single task – rescue Soji – and then continued to help the synths on Coppelius and prevent the arrival of the super-synths, they’re done. Their mission is complete, and Season 2 will have to find a believable reason for keeping them together. But that is a challenge for next time!

The super-synths were called off at the last moment.

Each character we met was interesting, and none felt unoriginal or bland in the way some secondary characters can in a story which primarily focuses on one person. We’ll deal with Picard himself in a moment, but for now: Elnor was a lonely member of an all-female sect, and also had abandonment issues after Picard’s disappearance. Rios pretended to be the roguish “Han Solo” type, but had serious post-traumatic stress following his former captain’s murder-suicide while aboard the USS Ibn Majid. Raffi was a flawed genius whose drug problem had dominated her life and cost her her most important relationships. Dr Jurati had been brainwashed into murdering someone she loved. Narek was the spy with a heart of gold – but instead of being a cliché he turned that trope on its head by sticking to his mission to the end. Dahj and Soji were different from one another – androids unaware of their synthetic nature. One was drawn to Picard, the other deeply suspicious of him.

Then we had the reintroduction of several legacy characters. Dr Maddox, who we met in The Next Generation, had continued his research after his meeting with Data, and eventually was able to develop his own line of androids. Seven of Nine had helped Icheb become a Starfleet officer, but lost him when she was betrayed by Bjayzl. Riker and Troi, who had married in Nemesis, had a family – but their son had died. Hugh was perhaps the most successful of all the legacy characters, the ex-Borg who had taken full advantage of his own liberation to assist hundreds or possibly thousands of other ex-Borg on the Artifact.

Hugh the Borg returned.

There was tragedy and drama aplenty in each of the characters we met, but none of it felt forced or contrived in the way some drama shows can. This wasn’t a soap opera, it was hard-hitting. Picard Season 1 may not have followed the traditional episodic Star Trek formula, but it had a distinctly Star Trek tone – it used its sci-fi setting to examine real world issues. It did so in a tense, dramatic, and exciting way, and expanded on themes from The Next Generation and elsewhere in the franchise, looking at basic rights such as the right to life.

The attack on Mars can be analogous to many different recent and historical events, but the reaction to it is certainly reminiscent of the western world’s post-9/11 outlook. The aftermath of a tragedy allowed a nefarious faction to push through a prohibition on certain groups of people. Islam was not “banned” after 9/11, but as recently as 2016 Donald Trump talked of a “ban on people from Muslim countries” – these restrictions were in place for much of his term as President.

The attack on Mars was a significant event in the years before Season 1 of Picard is set.

The theme of the season was in realising that we mustn’t judge whole groups of people by the actions of a few. This could apply just as much to the supporters and voters of Donald Trump in 2021 as it did to Muslims and others. The fanatics who attacked the United States Capitol a couple of weeks ago are no more representative of the 70+ million Trump voters as ISIS or al-Qaeda are of Islam. That is the message of this synthetic ban storyline: not to be so quick to judgement, and not to allow those with a pre-existing agenda to force the issue.

The Zhat Vash quietly infiltrated Starfleet, and slowly began poisoning the minds of Starfleet officers and Federation civilians. We have the literal expression of this metaphor via the mind-meld – this represents how those with an agenda are using propaganda and “fake news” to unduly influence the discourse. These themes are buried in the narrative, but they are there – and open to interpretation. This is how I see some of these storylines having real-world comparisons, but it may not be how you or someone else sees it. Fiction is always subjective, and that’s okay. If you disagree, that’s great!

Commodore Oh.

As I’ve said before, a story doesn’t just have merit because it can be seen through a real-world lens. In some cases, pushing too far in that direction can lead to a narrative being less enjoyable. So Picard balanced out some of these contemporary metaphors with a truly engaging and mysterious Star Trek story.

We saw these events from Picard’s point of view, and he’s such a great character for telling this story because he didn’t know exactly what happened and why, just as much as we as the audience didn’t know. So when the synths attacked Mars, his life, his career, and his whole world fell apart. We meet him at the beginning of the season premiere as someone who’s fallen into a major depression. Dahj would be the catalyst for bringing him out of that – but it wasn’t until the mysteries and conspiracies had been unravelled and brought to light that he could truly move on.

Picard in the Season 1 premiere.

We went on that journey with Picard. We began together, not knowing what had happened on Mars, not understanding why, and then along comes Dahj. She was equally mysterious: who was she, why was she seeking out Picard, who were the assassins that were trying to hurt her? And as we learned more about both of these elements of the story, this chapter of Picard’s life – and the lives of those around him – came into focus.

My criticisms of the season finale generally don’t stem from the fact that any of the narrative decisions were bad, but rather that I wanted to see more. We rushed through Sutra’s story, Dr Soong’s story, and the end of Narek’s story. We don’t know anything about the super-synths, and precious little about the civilisation on Coppelius. There was scope to know more if the season had been structured differently and perhaps extended by an episode or two, and that’s really where I felt things came unstuck.

Coppelius Station was the setting for the two-part finale.

From an aesthetic point of view, Picard blended The Next Generation-era elements with a style firmly centred in modern-day sci-fi. The design of La Sirena reflects this – it was clearly not a Starfleet ship. Inside and out, La Sirena has touches of Star Trek, but stands apart and very much does its own thing. Beginning with the redesign of the USS Enterprise in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and carrying all the way through to Discovery, we’ve seen starship interiors with certain visual elements – angled corridors and hallways, grey or blue pastel carpeting, panels with distinctive lines, the warp core as a glowing column, and so forth. La Sirena has some hints at some of these, but is much closer to ships seen in The Expanse, for example, and other modern sci-fi properties in other ways.

Within the Star Trek fandom, starship designs and uniforms are both subjective things with a range of opinions on which are best. And before anyone rushes to judgement to say La Sirena looks bad or they dislike the mermaid-combadges, I’d say that we need to give the show time for its aesthetic to grow on us. There have only been ten episodes of Picard compared with 176 of The Next Generation, and those episodes are only a year old. Obviously nothing in Picard will feel as “iconic” yet – but as time goes by and we spend more time in this era that may happen.

La Sirena.

I adored the design of La Sirena. It felt like a runabout mixed with a hot-rod, and I think that shows to some extent the personality of Captain Rios. This is his ship, and he’s put his personal stamp on it – as we saw in a very funny (and incredibly well-acted and well-filmed) sequence with five different Rios-holograms. After the blue boiler suits of Enterprise were followed up with another all-blue look in Discovery I was also glad to see more colour back in the two new Starfleet uniform designs which debuted in Picard. The one in the “current” time (that we saw people like Riker and Commodore Oh wearing) was my favourite of the two when compared to the design seen in flashbacks, but both were neat.

The only aesthetic problem I felt Season 1 had was its outdoor filming locations and their lack of variety. We visited locations on Earth which were supposedly in France, Japan, and North America, as well as half a dozen planets, and each looked exactly like southern California. Because Picard had ten episodes and almost all of them had some outdoor filming this was amplified far more than it had been in the likes of The Next Generation, which would see fewer outdoor shoots with more episodes in between them. But as the season progressed, the fact that each planet Picard visited was a barely-disguised location within a few miles of Los Angeles detracted from the look.

The surface of California… I mean Aia.

Some locations, like the planet of Aia, were beautifully created in CGI, but then ruined when scenes on the surface not only didn’t match the CGI creation of the planet (the colour and tone are way different). What made no sense to me about the Aia scenes in particular is with so little time spent there, why not use a sound stage? Rig up a planet that looks genuinely different instead of using an outdoor filming location. We only saw two or three scenes set on Aia, all around the beacon, and I honestly just thought it was a wasted opportunity. Vashti, Nepenthe, and Coppelius all felt very samey because of the decision to shoot outdoors in the same area, and that’s just a shame to me. I would love to see some more variety in Season 2 – either by travelling to shoot on location further afield, or by using indoor sound stages that can be made to look different each time.

So we come to the man himself: Jean-Luc Picard. I mentioned earlier that he was depressed, and the way this part of his story was conveyed was heartbreaking and wonderful. I recently wrote an article looking at the characterisation of Luke Skywalker in the 2017 film The Last Jedi, because he was also depressed in that story. It was one that some Star Wars fans hated, but it resonated with me. Picard’s story in Season 1 resonated with me too, for many of the same or similar reasons as I explained in that essay.

Jean-Luc Picard.

Depression and mental health are not easy subjects to convey in fiction, and Picard itself had a scene in the episode The End Is The Beginning which unfortunately painted a pretty stereotypical picture of mental health. But Picard’s story was much better, and very well done overall. It showed that anyone – no matter how heroic they have been in the past – can fall victim to depression. Picard lost his fleet, he lost his role in Starfleet, and instead of saying “no, the right thing to do is to help so I’m going to fight on,” he collapsed. He hit a problem that he couldn’t solve, suffered a humiliating defeat, and gave up. He spent years in quiet retirement – which was more like a self-imposed exile – because of how he felt.

That is powerful in itself, as it shows how anyone – even heroes that we want to put on a pedestal – can fall victim to depression. The same was true of Luke Skywalker. But what came next is equally important – Dahj gave Picard a reason to believe in something again. Not only was there a mystery to figure out, which can be tantalising in itself, but Picard was the only one capable and willing to help Soji – so he stepped up. Where he had fallen into the lowest point of his life, he found a reason to believe and that set him on the path to recovery. I find that a powerful and inspiring story.

Dahj inspired Picard and gave him a cause to believe in.

There were two cathartic moments for me in Season 1 that I didn’t know I needed to see. The first was with Seven of Nine. During the latter part of Voyager’s run, Seven was my least-favourite character. She was annoying, arrogant, and worst of all, after learning some “lesson in how to be human” from Captain Janeway or the Doctor, she’d seemingly reset and forget it ever happened by the next episode, requiring her to “learn” the same lesson in being human many times over. She was repetitive and boring. But in Picard she had finally moved past her Borg years and embraced her humanity and emotions – even though she lost Icheb, seeing her get so genuinely angry and react in such a human way was something wonderful to see – and was performed beautifully by Jeri Ryan.

The second cathartic moment came from Data. His death in Nemesis wasn’t something I was happy about, but within the story of that film I remember feeling at the time that it worked. However, looking back I can see how, for example, seeing Picard and the rest of the crew laughing and moving on at the end of the film was perhaps not the right way to end the story. Data didn’t get to say goodbye to anyone – his sacrifice happened in a brief moment, and after saving Picard he was just gone.

Data’s consciousness remained in the digital afterlife until Picard shut it down.

Picard carried that regret with him in a far more significant way than the closing moments of Nemesis hinted at. Riker and Troi did too, and we got to see both of them express that. Picard poured his heart out to Data when he was in the digital afterlife, and the scene between the two of them was something incredible. It was something I as a fan needed to see, to put Data to rest properly after all these years.

In a sense, Picard and Data’s story is an inversion of the story Kirk and Spock went through in The Search For Spock and The Voyage Home. After Spock’s death, Kirk would stop at nothing to find a way to bring his friend back to life – even stealing the Enterprise. While Picard set out on his journey to save Data’s “daughter” from harm, what he ended up doing was bringing a final end to Data’s life. There was no way to save Data, nor to transfer whatever remained of him into a new body. The only thing Picard could to for his friend was finally allow him his mortality, and permit him to die. As Kirk might’ve said, that sounds like a “no-win scenario.” But as Kirk never really had to learn – at least until the moment of his own death – those scenarios exist every day. It might sound cool to say “I don’t believe in no-win scenarios” and push to save everyone all the time, but that isn’t possible. It’s a fantasy – and Picard confronted the genuine reality of death in a way Kirk never had to.

Picard shut down the remaining part of Data permanently.

Data had desperately yearned to be more human. From his first appearance in Encounter at Farpoint when he struggled with whistling through to the introduction of his emotion chip in Generations and beyond, all Data wanted was to feel less like an android and more like a human. Mortality is one of humanity’s defining characteristics – especially when compared to machines and synthetic life. By shutting down Data’s remaining neurons and consciousness, Picard gave him perhaps the greatest gift he could give – and Data achieved his goal of getting as close to humanity as possible.

As I look back on Season 1 of Picard, I can see that it had some flaws and some issues. But none of them were catastrophic, and even though there was one episode that I described at the time as a “misfire and a dud,” the season as a whole was great. It started off with what is perhaps the best premiere of any Star Trek series, and though the ending was imperfect we got some amazing story-driven dramatic Star Trek.

Dr Jurati beams the crew of La Sirena aboard.

Perhaps Season 1’s legacy will be defined by what comes next. Not only by future seasons of Picard, but by other shows and films set in or around this time period, expanding the Star Trek franchise and pushing it to new places. The Next Generation served as a launchpad for two other series and four films, and perhaps Picard has similarly laid a foundation upon which more Star Trek will be built. That’s my hope, at any rate.

Even if that doesn’t happen, though, Season 1 was an entertaining ride – with a few bumps in the road as mentioned. We got to learn a lot more about some of Star Trek’s factions – the Romulans in particular, but also the Borg – and meet some genuinely interesting new characters. Despite some leftover story threads from Season 1, Season 2 is potentially wide open to tell some new and interesting stories when it’s finally ready to be broadcast. I can’t wait for that!

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 Picard 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.

Star Trek: Picard + Star Trek: Discovery crossover theory: Control and the Romulans

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the most recent seasons of Star Trek: Picard and Star Trek: Discovery. There may be further spoilers for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

While Star Trek: Picard Season 1 was ongoing earlier in the year, I postulated a number of theories about what was going on in the show. One theory that I had related to Control – the rogue artificial intelligence from Star Trek: Discovery Season 2. Specifically, I speculated that the Zhat Vash’s hatred and fear of synthetic life may have stemmed from a run-in with Control, or that the Romulans may have been trying to compete with Starfleet in a mid-23rd Century AI arms race. It seemed possible that Control could have attacked Romulan ships or settlements in the time between its takeover of Section 31 and its defeat by the USS Discovery, or that if the Romulans developed their own AI that it would have similarly gotten out of control and attacked them.

This theory came back with a vengeance after Picard reused a couple of CGI sequences from Discovery in the latter part of the season, particularly as those sequences depicted Control attacking – and ultimately destroying – all organic life in the galaxy. While Picard and Discovery had thematic similarities in their most recent seasons, insofar as both stories looked at the creation of synthetic life and how that synthetic life could go rogue, there was no broader crossover. The Zhat Vash were not motivated by either their own rogue AI from the mid-23rd Century or by an attack from Control.

This CGI sequence of a planet being destroyed was created for Discovery… and recycled in Picard.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to drop the idea of there being any connection between the Zhat Vash in Picard and Control in Discovery. My theory started with the idea that Control could have been the reason for the Zhat Vash… but what if it’s the other way around? What if the Zhat Vash are responsible for Control going rogue?

There was no explanation given for why Control decided to lash out and attack its creators. It wanted to acquire the data from the planetoid-sized lifeform known as the Sphere, believing that data would help it achieve true sentience. But that isn’t a reason to go on to commit genocide; something inside Control made it want to kill. Remember that Dr Gabrielle Burnham – Michael’s mother – arrived in a future timeline where no sentient organic life existed in the known galaxy; Control had wiped it all out. Why did it want to do that?

Dr Gabrielle Burnham.

We could try to argue that Control’s murderous rage is somehow a result of Starfleet denying it access to the Sphere data. But Starfleet and the USS Discovery only came to possess the data because of the time-travelling interventions of Dr Burnham; we don’t know how Control came to acquire it in the “original,” pre-intervention timeline. There are a couple of possibilities. The first is that when the Sphere died, it broadcast its data as far and wide as possible and that’s how Control acquired it. It’s also possible that Starfleet received the transmission and Control gained access to it from there. However, neither of these scenarios involve Starfleet actively trying to prevent Control accessing the data, meaning that it wasn’t Starfleet who started the fight with Control.

So if Control had no reason on the surface to attack its organic creators, why did it do so? It could simply be a programming error; Control was programmed to prevent war, and perhaps that got twisted around so that it decided the only way to prevent the Milky Way’s organic civilisations from fighting was to exterminate all of them. This kind of basic AI programming mistake is one that’s not uncommon in science fiction, and arguably something we need to consider out here in the real world as we develop our own AIs!

Control assimilated Captain Leland and went on a murderous rampage.

So that’s one possibility. But here’s where the Zhat Vash could come in: what if they are responsible for corrupting Control’s programming? We saw in Picard that the Zhat Vash know enough about synthetic life to hack into Federation synths and change their programming. That’s what they did on Mars, causing F8 and the other synths to go rogue and destroy Admiral Picard’s rescue armada. If they had that capability in the 24th Century, it isn’t much of a stretch to think they could have been capable of something similar in the 23rd Century too.

We also know that the Zhat Vash are “far older” than the Tal Shiar. Let’s look at what we know for sure to try to pin down a rough estimate of how old they could be. The Romulans split from the Vulcans somewhere around the 4th Century AD, and by that time were capable of interstellar flight. By the 2150s the Romulans were involved in covert operations on Vulcan, trying to start a war between Vulcans and Andorians. While it was never stated outright in Enterprise that the Romulan operatives we saw were working for the Tal Shiar, it’s not an unreasonable assumption. The Zhat Vash sent Commodore Oh to infiltrate the Federation sometime around the discovery of Data, which took place in the year 2338. When Raffi asked La Sirena’s Emergency Navigational Hologram about the octonary star system, he described the Romulan star charts that depicted it as “ancient,” which seems to suggest they’re more than a century old at least. It was the discovery of Aia, the planet in the octonary star system, and the beacon that resided there that led to the creation of the Zhat Vash.

Raffi and the ENH discuss the octonary star system.

Put all of that together and we can assume with reasonable confidence that the Zhat Vash existed by the mid-23rd Century. We also know, thanks to what we saw in Enterprise and Deep Space Nine, that Romulan intelligence was far better than Starfleet’s – they knew a lot more about the Federation than the Federation did about them.

There’s a question of just how secret Control was. Section 31 was much more out in the open in Discovery than it was by the time of Deep Space Nine, but even so it seems logical to assume that Control would be a top-secret project within an already-secretive organisation. Still, when most Starfleet flag officers used Control regularly, word of its existence would get out and it was generally known within Starfleet that an AI existed. Thus any Zhat Vash or Tal Shiar operative would have come to know about Control.

Section 31 HQ was heavily-guarded, but perhaps not impenetrable for a Zhat Vash spy.

Okay, so let’s slow down. Even if we’re confident that the Zhat Vash existed by Discovery’s era, and had commenced their anti-synthetic crusade, and even if they had operatives within Starfleet who would have made them aware of the existence of Control, that doesn’t mean they could just walk up to Control’s data servers and start messing around. Right? I mean, Control was based at Section 31 headquarters, which as we saw in the show was incredibly well-protected. And we saw no evidence of such an operative. Did we?

How about Admiral Patar, the Vulcan Starfleet admiral who was killed by Control at Section 31 headquarters? We know that Commodore Oh spent decades embedded within Starfleet, waiting to make her move at just the right moment. We also know she was able to attain a very high rank, and it’s only one short step from being a commodore to being an admiral. It’s at least possible. Admiral Patar had the means to access Control. She spent time at Section 31 headquarters right around the time Control went rogue. She was a Vulcan, and thus was biologically indistinguishable from a Romulan – meaning she could have been an undercover Romulan operative. Enterprise depicted Romulans undercover on Vulcan a century earlier, meaning that they had infiltrated Vulcan by that time and were able to do so with relative ease. The pieces fall into place for Admiral Patar to be a Romulan operative – or to have been replaced by one – even if the evidence is only circumstantial. Even if it wasn’t Patar, there may well have been other Vulcans working at Section 31 headquarters, any one of whom could have been a Romulan spy.

Admiral Patar on the USS Discovery’s viewscreen.

Once they had access to Control’s systems and specifications, the Zhat Vash could have figured out how to mess with Control’s programming and turn it hostile. Perhaps they only intended for it to attack the Federation, forcing them to shut it down permanently. Or perhaps they hoped it would cause wider chaos so they could force the kind of galactic ban on synthetic life that we saw in Picard. So the question of what they had to gain by such a move is obvious; it’s the same basic goal as they had for staging the attack on Mars.

If the Zhat Vash introduced a glitch in Control’s programming that would turn it murderous, they obviously didn’t intend for Control to go on and wipe out everything. That wasn’t the goal; that’s what they were trying to prevent. However, as I wrote earlier, it’s possible for even well-intentioned AI to get out of control or to act in a way its creators and programmers couldn’t anticipate. Perhaps that’s what happened with Control, and by the time it had assimilated Captain Leland, killed off most of Section 31’s leadership, and got a fleet at its command, there was no way for the Zhat Vash to stop it. If their sole operative had been killed when Control wiped out Section 31’s headquarters, the Zhat Vash may not have even been aware that the mission was not going to plan until it was too late.

Control commandeered a small armada of Section 31 vessels.

So that’s my crossover theory for Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard – the Zhat Vash hacked or reprogrammed Control, and that’s what made it go rogue. There’s enough circumstantial evidence for this theory to be possible, and it would explain why Control went from being a useful tool for Starfleet to a menace capable of wiping out all sentient life in the galaxy. However, there’s no concrete proof. All we really have are two shows with similar themes, and a bunch of unrelated pieces that could be made to fit together – but also may not fit at all!

As I always say: it’s just a fan theory. Unless we get some confirmation on screen in future – which seems unlikely given both Picard and Discovery are almost certainly moving on to new stories in their upcoming seasons – we have to consider it as unconfirmed at best. I consider it plausible (obviously, or I wouldn’t have written an article about it!) but it may prove to be a complete miss… just like many of my other Star Trek: Picard theories!

This post was edited 31.03.21 to replace header image. Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard are available to stream now on CBS All Access in the United States. Discovery is available internationally on Netflix; Picard is available internationally on Amazon Prime Video. The Star Trek franchise – including all 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.

Unsolved mysteries from Star Trek: Picard Season 1

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the entirety of Star Trek: Picard Season 1. There are further spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery (including the Season 3 trailers) and for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

It’s been a little over six months since Season 1 of Star Trek: Picard came to an end. The series set up a number of mysteries, and while many of them were completely resolved by the first season finale, some weren’t. Some of these may be addressed in future – in fact, that’s something I’d really like to see – but assuming the series follows a similar pattern to Star Trek: Discovery, Picard and his new crew will likely warp away to a different adventure next time. That may mean that we never learn the truth behind these mysterious unresolved story threads.

Many television series nowadays set up mysteries or unanswered questions early on that become important later, and I don’t mean to come across as impatiently banging on the table demanding we get answers to everything now! Part of the fun of watching a series like Star Trek: Picard – at least for me – is the theorising and speculating, trying to figure out the puzzles that the producers and writers have created.

Jean-Luc Picard will return in Season 2!

One small caveat: it’s possible that some of these points have been addressed in non-canon sources (like comic books) but I’m not counting that. Star Trek, unlike Star Wars, has always drawn a clear line between official canon and unofficial sources. Occasionally we will see points from unofficial material make its way into Star Trek, but unless we see these points resolved on screen, the potential exists for the writers of Season 2 – or indeed of any future Star Trek production – to overwrite anything published in a novel, comic, video game, etc.

With that out of the way, let’s dive into the list!

Number 1: Who are Laris and Zhaban, and what is the nature of their relationship with Picard?

Laris and Zhaban.

The first few episodes of Season 1 introduced us to Laris and Zhaban – Picard’s assistants at his vineyard in France. Laris and Zhaban are Romulans, and not just any Romulans but former Tal Shiar operatives. I assumed, before we learned what happened to Picard’s planned rescue armada, that he had won their loyalty by saving them (or their families) from the Romulan supernova. But now we know that Picard only evacuated a minuscule number of Romulans, most of whom wound up on the planet Vashti. Those refugees detest Picard for abandoning them – even though the decision was taken by the Federation rather than him personally.

So the question remains: why are Laris and Zhaban so loyal to Picard that they’d give up everything to become housemaids and winemakers on Earth? Even if he saved their lives during the evacuation, very shortly afterwards he gave up on helping their people and their cause. Not only do they seem 100% fine with that, but they appear to have made no effort to help either, despite being operatives of the Tal Shiar.

A related point would be why didn’t Laris and Zhaban accompany Picard when he left the vineyard to go back into space? Picard seems to convince them to stay behind by telling them he needs them to attend to the grape harvest – but if you stop to think about it, this doesn’t make much sense. If they’re staying with him out of sheer stubborn loyalty – for some as-yet-unidentified reason – why would they allow him to head off on a dangerous mission unaccompanied?

Laris with Picard.

And finally, now that Picard seems to have a ship and loyal crew, what will happen to Laris and Zhaban back on Earth? Are they just going to remain behind as custodians of the vineyard while Picard is away? That’s certainly a possibility, but it still raises the question of why he has such steadfast loyalty from them.

Laris and Zhaban filled a story role in Season 1, not only by introducing Picard (and us as the audience) to the idea of the Zhat Vash’s existence, but also by being representations of Picard’s home and safe harbour that he has to leave behind as he goes on his adventure. They serve the same role as some of the Hobbiton Hobbits in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings novels in that regard. As a story point and character archetype that’s fine, but in the Star Trek galaxy, given everything we learned about Picard and the Romulans, some explanation would be nice!

Number 2: What happened to Soji’s Trill friend after Maps and Legends?

Dr Kunamadéstifee with Soji.

Maps and Legends (the second episode of Season 1) introduced us to a Trill character: Dr Kunamadéstifee. The two sequences in which she featured appeared to have a lot of horror film-style foreshadowing, leading to a theory I held onto for almost the whole of the season that she was going to meet an unpleasant fate. However, after Maps and Legends the character was abruptly dropped with no explanation.

From a production point of view, it would have been beneficial to keep this character around. Soji had precious little interaction with anyone aside from Narek for much of the season, and a character like Dr Kunamadéstifee could have been a friend she could speak to, if only occasionally. Star Trek has always had guest stars who make a single appearance then don’t return, and from that point of view this isn’t odd or out of the ordinary. But it would still be nice to learn what became of Dr Kunamadéstifee – one way or the other!

Number 3: Why was Dr Bruce Maddox on Freecloud?

This is a huge point, because right now it represents a gaping hole in the story of the first season. I’ve talked about this before, but just to recap: the storyline of the first half of the season was about locating Bruce Maddox, who had been missing since the ban on synthetic life. Maddox was eventually tracked to Freecloud, and the only reason he’d travelled to the dangerous planet was because his lab had “been destroyed by the Tal Shiar.”

Obviously he can’t have been referring to his lab on Coppelius – Picard was literally sat in that room at one point, and it didn’t look destroyed to me! But even assuming Maddox had built a second lab away from Coppelius, why did he not simply return there if the new facility had been attacked? Why did he go to Freecloud instead? Dr Soong and the other synths would have welcomed him with open arms, yet he chose to go to a dangerous place and visit a woman he owed a lot of money to.

Freecloud was a very dangerous place for Maddox to visit.

Bjayzl may not have killed him or successfully sold him to the Tal Shiar, but she contributed to his death by weakening him significantly. Travelling to Freecloud – and to Bjayzl’s club in particular – appears to be an act of desperation or of last resort, yet Maddox clearly had other options.

Right now, the only reason Maddox was on Freecloud is to enable other aspects of the storyline to make sense, and to get Picard and other characters into position. Without Maddox, Picard would have had to find a different way to track down Soji, so he’s important to the plot. Unfortunately, the lack of explanation to this point leaves a pretty wide plot hole, and because finding Maddox was the main focus of the first half of the season, it’s one I can’t overlook. It needs a satisfactory expanation.

Number 4: What will happen to the ex-Borg and the Artifact?

The Artifact’s final resting place on Coppelius.

At the climax of the Artifact’s storyline, Seven of Nine and Elnor attempted to lead a rebellion of ex-Borg against the Romulans. However, Rizzo and the Zhat Vash were prepared and ended up killing a lot of xBs. Not all of them were killed, though, and while we don’t know how many survived, there clearly were survivors after the Artifact arrived at Coppelius. A Borg cube can easily have tens of thousands of drones aboard, and while it was suggested that Rizzo killed the majority of them, we don’t really know how many could have survived. It could easily be hundreds – or possibly more.

Seven of Nine appeared to take on a leadership role for the xBs, filling a void left by Hugh’s death. Many xBs seemed confused or traumatised by their experiences – and they will need someone to help them get through that. At the end of the Season 1 finale, though, both Seven of Nine and Elnor had rejoined Picard aboard La Sirena, and the ship then warped away to an unknown destination. Without Seven of Nine, what will happen to the ex-Borg?

Seven of Nine went to a lot of trouble to help the xBs… then appears to have ditched them.

The Artifact itself is likely to come under Starfleet control, at least in my opinion. Its wreckage on Coppelius is largely intact, and presumably the Federation will want to study as much Borg technology as it can get its hands on. It’s possible that something has happened in the galaxy in the two decades that we didn’t see that may have resolved or ended the Borg threat, but that was never mentioned on screen so I assume Starfleet would be very keen to get its hands on a mostly-intact Borg cube – even if it had been picked at by Romulans and may be several years out-of-date!

The ex-Borg are another matter, though. There appeared to be a wide range of races, including many non-Federation species. Some may wish to return home, but in the case of species like the Hirogen, that may not be possible. The Federation may offer them all refugee status and help them reacclimate to life outside the Borg Collective, but it still seems very strange to me that Seven of Nine has just seemingly abandoned the survivors. It’s possible that the final scenes of Season 1 took place many months later, in which case this may have been handled off-screen. Still, it would be nice to get a proper resolution, even if it’s just a couple of lines of dialogue.

Number 5: What will Starfleet do about Aia?

The Zhat Vash by the beacon on Aia.

Somewhere beyond Romulan space – and out of reach of Starfleet – lies Aia, a planet at the centre of eight stars. The stars were deliberately moved and aligned to strongly indicate Aia’s location, and at some point in the past – perhaps centuries ago – the Romulans stumbled upon it. On Aia there’s a beacon left behind by a powerful synthetic race (I nicknamed them the “Mass Effect Reapers”) and it tells synthetics to contact them. The Romulans would interpret this information as something apocalyptic, and the Zhat Vash came to believe that any synthetic life would ultimately lead to the extinction of all sentient organic life in the galaxy.

The beacon was more complicated than that, and instead contained an instruction for synths, telling them to contact the “Mass Effect Reapers” if they need help or are being persecuted by organics. Given the immense power that the “Mass Effect Reapers” appear to possess, surely Starfleet can’t risk leaving the beacon on Aia for anyone to find.

The planet Aia.

The beacon already caused massive problems – the attack on Mars and the Romulan attempt to attack Coppelius being just two examples, and there may be countless others. Leaving it alone will not only perpetuate the Zhat Vash’s conspiracy theory, but will also be dangerous. What if someone else encounters the beacon and contacts the “Mass Effect Reapers”?

I have a theory that – somehow – the Romulans have “cloaked” the octonary star system and Aia, otherwise surely with 24th Century scanning technology and telescopes the Federation would have noticed it. So it may not be as easy as just travelling there and shutting it down. Attempting to do so could even lead to war with the Romulans. However, I think it’s a risk the Federation will have to take; leaving the beacon alone is simply not an option.

Number 6: Who are the super-synths that I nicknamed the “Mass Effect Reapers”?

Who are these guys?

The “Mass Effect Reapers” – nicknamed for their similarities to a faction from a video game series – are a total unknown quantity. There are many possibilities for who they are and what their motivations are, but we only caught the barest of glimpses of them in the Season 1 finale, and in the aftermath of Picard’s “death,” no one mentioned them. Surely, however, they’re an existential threat to Starfleet – and indeed the whole galaxy – on a scale comparable to the Borg. Heck, they could actually be the Borg.

I have a theory that the “Mass Effect Reapers” may be the cause of the Burn – a galactic catastrophe seen in the trailers for Star Trek: Discovery Season 3. If that’s the case, perhaps Discovery will explain this faction’s backstory in more detail. If they reside in an area of space far beyond the Milky Way galaxy it could have taken them centuries to travel here, meaning the timelines match up for Discovery’s far-future setting.

Soji used a beacon to contact the “Mass Effect Reapers.”

Theories aside, we know next to nothing about this faction. They were powerful enough to move stars and to create a sustainable eight-star octonary system. They also appear to have altruistic motivations when it comes to synthetic life, offering to help synths in their struggle against organic oppressors. But is that genuine? Or when they arrive would they simply harvest or assimilate whoever they found? We simply don’t know, but it feels like something that could easily be a trap.

Soji was talked into closing the beacon – but whoever the “Mass Effect Reapers” are, they’re now aware of the existence of the Federation, the Romulans, and the Coppelius synths. If I were Starfleet, I’d immediately work on a plan to contact them and try to open a dialogue. Explaining what happened, and that the Coppelius synths are safe, may be the only way to avert a conflict.

Number 7: Why was Dr Soong planning to transfer his mind to a synthetic body?

Dr Altan Inigo Soong.

When Picard and the crew of La Sirena arrived on Coppelius they met Dr Soong – the son of Data’s creator. Dr Soong was working on a synthetic body for himself, but had been unable to perfect the mind-transfer that he would have needed to accomplish that goal. He ended up donating the body – nicknamed the “golem” – to Picard, but what consequences (if any) will there be for that?

Sadly we didn’t get to spend a lot of time with Dr Soong, but I felt it was at least hinted at in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 that he needed a synthetic body. Perhaps he, like Picard, is dying? The finale had a lot of story to get through and rather skipped over that point, so we don’t really know why Dr Soong wanted to become a synth. Was it a desire for immortality? Was it because of illness? Was it because all of his friends were synths and he felt left out? We simply don’t know.

With Brent Spiner set to reprise the role in Season 2, I’d say we have a decent chance of finding out.

Number 8: What became of Narek?

We have no idea what happened to Narek after this moment.

Narek’s story came to an abrupt end partway through Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2. After convincing Raffi and Rios to go along with his plan to attack the synths’ beacon, Narek was wrestled to the ground by a group of synths during the botched attack. After that he was never seen or referenced again.

Apparently there’s a deleted or unfilmed scene from the episode which was to depict Narek being taken into custody by the Federation. While it isn’t canon, it remains the most likely outcome. However, there are other possibilities. Narek could have been retrieved by the Romulans during their mission to Coppelius, being transported aboard a Romulan ship during the standoff. He could have been held by the synths, who have cause to hate him for unleashing the Zhat Vash upon them. He could have recanted his Zhat Vash ideology and left aboard La Sirena with Picard – though I consider this one unlikely.

There are many reasons why Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2 was a mixed episode and a somewhat stumbling finale. The lack of any resolution to the story of a major character is just one of them. Though unconfirmed at this stage, I doubt Narek will return as a major character in Season 2, so unless we get some dialogue or a cameo confirming his fate, the deleted/unfilmed scene may be all we have to go on.

Number 9: Are the synths safe on Coppelius?

The Federation and Romulan fleets over Coppelius.

The timely arrival of Riker’s Starfleet armada is the only reason Coppelius wasn’t obliterated from orbit by a massive Romulan attack fleet. Soji may have listened to Picard and shut down the beacon, but Commodore Oh and the Zhat Vash are fanatics and zealots, and the idea that they would have simply stood down having witnessed that and having heard Picard’s speech doesn’t make a lot of sense.

With that in mind, what’s to stop them returning at any point in the future to finish the job and destroy this colony of synths? Unless Starfleet plans to permanently base an entire fleet in the system, and perhaps build a Starbase there too, it seems like the synths can never be safe if they remain on Coppelius. Evacuating them to a new home would seem to be the safest option.

Number 10: Who knows that Picard is now a synth?

Picard in his new body.

Obviously Dr Soong, Dr Jurati, and Soji know that Picard is now a synth. The rest of La Sirena’s crew must know too, as will Seven of Nine. At the very end of Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2 Picard basically admitted it out loud in front of all of them. But does anyone else know? What about Riker and Troi? They played big roles in Season 1, but Riker left Coppelius before Picard’s “death” so he may not be aware of what transpired.

There are potential ramifications for Picard’s death-and-rebirth. From Starfleet’s perspective, is he the same Jean-Luc Picard as before? To his friends he may seem the same, but to those prejudiced against synths after a long prohibition on synthetic life, will they treat him the same? Picard may reunite with other people from his past in Season 2 – someone like Dr Crusher or Guinan. I wonder how they will react if they learn what happened.

So that’s it. Ten unresolved mysteries from Star Trek: Picard Season 1. Some of these I fully expect future seasons to tackle, but others feel in danger of being abandoned as Picard and the crew move on to new adventures.

Overall, Season 1 of Star Trek: Picard did a good job of resolving the mysteries and storylines that it set up. But there are some that fell by the wayside and didn’t get a proper conclusion. If the plan is to continue these stories and make more of them in future seasons then I’m all for it, because that sounds fantastic. But if we aren’t going to see these storylines and characters return, doing something to bring proper closure is something I really hope the producers and writers try to do.

Star Trek: Picard is available to stream now on CBS All Access in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and other countries and territories. 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.

Has Star Trek: Picard’s first season finale set up the plot of Discovery’s third season?

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Discovery, and the trailer for Discovery’s upcoming third season.

Ever since we first caught a glimpse of Star Trek: Discovery’s third season setting, I’ve been wondering what’s going on. According to everything we know at this stage, Burnham and the ship will successfully complete a 930-year time jump into the far future. That future looks pretty bleak, and perhaps could even be described as post-apocalyptic. If it’s true that Discovery plans to tell a story set in an era where the Federation is defeated or in decline, figuring out how that happened – and reversing it – is surely going to be the overarching story.

For now we’re going to have to set aside reservations about how a post-apocalyptic or otherwise bleak setting will work with Star Trek from a storytelling point of view. Instead, let’s look at things from an in-universe perspective and try to figure out what may be going on. I have already covered this theory back in March when I was wrapping up my Star Trek: Picard theories, so if you’re a regular reader it may be familiar to you.

In short, here’s how the theory goes: the race of super-synths from Star Trek: Picard are the cause of Discovery’s post-apocalyptic setting. Let’s break it down, look at why it could be a possibility, and explore it in more detail.

This shot of a planet being destroyed by powerful synthetic life-forms was used in both Discovery Season 2 and Picard Season 1.

So although I said this would be an in-universe explanation of the theory, there is one production-side reason we need to look at too. One thing that modern Star Trek shows lack is a relationship to each other. Discovery did a pretty good job of tying itself to The Original Series, and both Picard and Lower Decks have connected themselves to The Next Generation, but there’s essentially nothing beyond a couple of throwaway lines linking Picard to Discovery right now. That would have been unthinkable during the 1990s, where The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager all shared characters, settings, locations, factions, and themes.

Modern Star Trek is hampered by its shows being split up along the timeline, and this makes it harder for new fans to transition smoothly from one series to another. There are no threads of consistency running between the different series, and while they are semi-independent productions they are all being produced by one overall team of people under the Star Trek Universe umbrella.

If we were to learn at some point in Discovery’s third season that the events depicted in Picard were directly related to the Federation’s decline or defeat, suddenly there would be a reason for Discovery fans who missed Picard to go back and watch it, and for Picard fans who haven’t seen Discovery to jump over and watch that show too. There would be the strong feeling that both shows genuinely take place in the same universe and the same timeline, which right now is lacking. This would help the Star Trek brand stay cohesive, and be a frame of reference for casual viewers, all while allowing both shows to provide each other a boost.

The Federation official from the Discovery Season 3 trailer.

So that’s on the production side of things. But I promised you an in-universe look! First let’s very briefly recap, in case you forgot the events of the final few episodes of Picard. While investigating Soji’s origins, Picard and the crew of La Sirena came to realise that there are a race of synthetic life-forms – created by Bruce Maddox – living on a planet called Coppelius. The Romulan faction known as the Zhat Vash were searching for the synths too, because they believe that the synths will trigger an apocalyptic event. This apocalypse was revealed to them by a beacon left behind by an ancient race on a world they called Aia, and when we got a clearer look at the message the beacon contained, it was less a warning to organics than a message to the synths themselves, offering aid. A faction of super-synths that I nicknamed the “Mass Effect Reapers” exist somewhere beyond the galaxy, and they have promised aid to any synthetic race that calls on them. Sutra and Soji planned to contact them, and to open a portal that would have allowed the “Mass Effect Reapers” to travel to the Milky Way galaxy. They successfully built the beacon, but at the last second Picard convinced Soji to shut it down, closing the portal and preventing the arrival of the “Mass Effect Reapers”.

Did I miss anything? I hope not! I nicknamed this faction the “Mass Effect Reapers” because they have noteworthy similarities to another race of super-synths in the Mass Effect series of video games.

I think that the most important thing to note is that in the finale, Soji and Sutra were successful in opening the portal. Thus, the “Mass Effect Reapers” are aware of the existence of a race of synths in the Milky Way galaxy, and also of the existence of the Federation. While Picard was able to convince Soji to stand down and close the portal, questions remain.

Soji working on the beacon in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2.

Now that the “Mass Effect Reapers” know of the existence of the Romulans, Federation, and synths, will they be content to go back to sitting still, waiting for another race of synths to contact them? Or did Sutra and Soji set into motion a chain of events that can no longer be stopped? Closing the portal may have prevented the imminent arrival of the “Mass Effect Reapers”, but it’s totally unclear what they will choose to do next.

The “Mass Effect Reapers” were presented as hyper-intelligent, arguably far beyond the Federation and Romulans in terms of technology, and thus their motivations and actions can be difficult to predict. This may be an oversimplification, but at the moment Soji closed the portal and shut down the beacon, she didn’t seem to communicate to the “Mass Effect Reapers” why she was doing so. From their point of view, a portal was opened – through which they could see a race of synths threatened by an imposing fleet of starships – then before they could take action the portal was closed. If I were the “Mass Effect Reapers”, I’d want to know why. And if I were paranoid, I might be thinking that the synths who tried to contact me were under attack and that the beacon had been forcibly shut down.

If the “Mass Effect Reapers” followed this line of thinking, and their motivation is still to provide help to any synthetic race that asks for it, the logical next step would be for them to set off to the Milky Way as fast as they can. Depending on how far away they are – and the show never really explained that – it could take years, decades, or even centuries for them to travel, even if their technology is more advanced than anything we’ve ever seen in Star Trek. That’s assuming they set off immediately – there may have been a debate or discussion about what to do that could have lasted years or longer.

This is basically all we saw of the “Mass Effect Reapers” in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2.

In any case, it’s not inconceivable that this extra-galactic threat could take centuries to arrive. I like to assume that Picard and/or Starfleet will travel to Aia and disable or destroy the beacon to prevent not only the Romulans from using it, but from other synths finding it in future. Even shutting down the beacon on Aia may be too late, though, because of the events of Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2.

The “Mass Effect Reapers” are perhaps the only faction other than the Borg who could be capable of waging a successful war against the Federation. Even if all of the powers of the Alpha and Beta quadrants were to band together, it still might not be enough against the superior technology of these super-synths, and we could certainly expect any such conflict to be long and catastrophically costly. Even if the Federation survived it would be seriously weakened. Furthermore, a large-scale attack on the Federation would result in far-flung colonies being cut off, and any news or information might be hard to come by.

This is where the trailer for Discovery’s third season comes in. We see a setting best described as bleak, as Burnham and the crew arrive in a part of the galaxy that seems far away from Earth. The Federation seems to be in decline, Starfleet is described as a “ghost”, and we’re left wondering what happened to cause all of this. We’ve seen the Federation in the far future before, both in Voyager and Enterprise, and certainly 100-200 years before Discovery’s far future setting, the Federation and Starfleet seemed to be doing pretty well, even furthering their mission of exploration to include time as well as space. Reconciling that image of the future with Discovery’s setting is something Season 3 will need to do.

The crew of the USS Relativity in the 29th Century – around 300 years before Discovery’s third season is supposedly set.

As a faction we know essentially nothing about – not even their name – the “Mass Effect Reapers” are ripe for exploring in more detail. Discovery could do so in such a way that doesn’t interfere with anything Picard set up, providing not only the next part of the story, but also some background. We could learn about their leadership, motivations, and level of technology in much more detail. And it would still be a practically blank slate for Discovery’s team to use to set up the third season’s bleak and dark setting.

The question of the “Mass Effect Reapers” motivation comes into play again. There are two broad possibilities for their actions in Picard – either they were genuine in their offer to help synthetic races, or the beacon on Aia was part of an elaborate trap. Neither option bodes well for the Federation, assuming that the “Mass Effect Reapers” are now aware of their existence. If it was a trap, and the “Mass Effect Reapers” were waiting to be contacted by synths simply because that would mean advanced civilisations are present, they may now have a new target. If it wasn’t a trap and their desire to help was genuine, they may be motivated by concern for the Coppelius synths or even anger at the Federation and Romulans for intruding before communication could be established. While it’s hard to say what this faction could be planning or thinking based on such a small amount of information, these possibilities seem reasonable, and if they decided they wanted to attack or investigate, the events of Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2 could have set that in motion.

Because Picard Season 1 wrapped up in the immediate aftermath of the standoff over Coppelius and the closing of the beacon, we don’t know what happened next. However, I consider two things to be somewhere between possible and likely: the synths on Coppelius would be relocated (in order to keep them safe from the Romulans), and Starfleet would make some attempt to contact the “Mass Effect Reapers” to explain what happened.

The Romulan and Federation fleets engage in a standoff over Coppelius in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2.

Relocating the synths feels like a necessity. Commodore Oh may not have wanted to risk war with the Federation when staring down a massive armada, but there’s no indication that she changed her mind on the necessity of exterminating synthetic life. From her perspective, Soji and Sutra building the beacon was a culmination of her worst fears, and although Soji may have been convinced to stand down, again from Oh’s point of view what’s to stop her changing her mind? Or one of the other synths building a new beacon? Leaving the synths on Coppelius would be very dangerous for them, unless Starfleet plans to permanently base a fleet in the system, so the easiest option for everyone would be to relocate them to a safer place.

However, in the context of our theory, this could be problematic. Suppose it takes the “Mass Effect Reapers” a long time to arrive in the Milky Way galaxy, and they don’t manage to travel to Coppelius for several centuries. What do they find when they arrive? No synths, but several massive interstellar civilisations and empires of organic beings. Put the two things together and it’s not unreasonable to assume that the organics wiped out the synths – especially if the last thing the “Mass Effect Reapers” saw before the portal closed was two massive fleets approaching the planet. They may take the missing synths as proof of an attack and go on the rampage.

Even if Starfleet were able to contact the “Mass Effect Reapers”, there’s no guarantee a successful dialogue could be opened. Setting aside other theories like the “Mass Effect Reapers” actually being the Borg, a race of super-synths that considers themselves light-years ahead of organic beings in every respect may look at humans the way humans look at ants or bacteria, and consider any attempt at communication unworthy of their time. That’s assuming Starfleet could find a way to make contact without opening another portal – it may simply not be possible, though I expect the Federation would want to try.

The “Mass Effect Reapers” make their way to the portal in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2.

Taken together, all of these different factors make at least a plausible argument for Discovery taking this story beat and expanding it for the basis of its third season. It could certainly be done in such a way that wasn’t confusing and didn’t make Picard essential viewing to understand what was happening – just like Discovery did with Pike, Vina, and the Talosians in Season 2. The Cage certainly provided extra details and informed what was going on, but viewers didn’t miss anything important for not having seen it. I’m sure the same could be done here, especially if the attack by or war against the “Mass Effect Reapers” was already over. It would exist simply as backstory; an encouragement to hop over and watch Picard without making doing so a necessity.

While this theory remains a possibility, at least in my opinion, it’s hardly a certainty and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn Discovery is going in a wholly different direction. Many of my theories during Picard Season 1 didn’t pan out, and this may simply be another that falls by the wayside! Nevertheless, it’s fun to craft theories and speculate, and at the end of the day that’s all this is: a bit of fun, and a chance to spend more time thinking about Star Trek. So please take everything I’ve said today with a healthy pinch of salt.

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 other countries. Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 will air beginning on the 15th of October on CBS All Access in the United States and Netflix in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The Star Trek franchise – including all series and films discussed 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.

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.

How does Commodore Oh affect other Star Trek stories?

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the first season of Star Trek: Picard, as well as for Star Trek: Discovery and other iterations of the franchise.

The revelation in Star Trek: Picard that the Romulans had managed to plant an operative in Starfleet was an interesting one, especially because that operative – Commodore Oh – had managed to attain such a high rank. She’d been working in Starfleet since at least the time of The Next Generation and probably even before then, with the Zhat Vash deciding to make a move against the Federation from the moment they learned of the existence of Data.

There had been androids, artificial intelligences, and other forms of synthetic life present in the galaxy prior to Data, and it’s conceivable that the Zhat Vash may have taken action against those as and when they could. But Data represented a step forward in the development of synthetic life, and definitely would have been considered a threat.

There are two possibilities for how the presence of Commodore Oh could be interpreted. She may have chosen to remain deep undercover and stick rigidly to her mission, even if that came at a cost to the Romulan Empire. Alternatively, however, she may have used her position as a spy within the Federation’s ranks to relay information to the Romulans at certain points. This could have been dangerous to her mission, increasing her chances of being caught. The way Commodore Oh and the Zhat Vash were presented for the most part in Star Trek: Picard were as zealots, meaning they seem like the kind of organisation who would be willing to sacrifice the lives of their own people if it advanced their ultimate objective. Indeed, we saw this with their actions on Mars.

Commodore Oh was a major antagonist in Star Trek: Picard Season 1.

Let’s look at the timeline first of all. As early as the 22nd Century, Starfleet had encountered what could arguably be considered examples of artificial intelligence. In the Enterprise episode Dead Stop, for example, the ship encounters a fully-automated space station which seems to act of its own volition. There was also a certain Dr Soong in Enterprise’s fourth season, and while he initially worked with genetically enhanced humans, he indicated he would begin research into synthetics.

By the 23rd Century, Starfleet had developed its own AI. Control, as seen in Season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery, would ultimately go rogue and kill a number of Section 31 operatives as well as commandeer a fleet of ships. There was also Richard Daystrom, who build an AI capable of controlling a starship in The Original Series episode The Ultimate Computer, as well as several different androids, automatons, and AIs seen in that series.

By this point in time, the Romulans were aware of the existence of the Federation and thus might’ve known about some of these developments. The key ones, in my opinion, which may be relevant to the Zhat Vash would be Control and the M-5 computer, both of which went rogue and may have fed into their fears about synthetic life.

Dr Richard Daystrom, namesake of the Daystrom Institute, invented one of Starfleet’s first sentient machines.

We should also note that there are different types of synthetic life. For some reason, the Zhat Vash seem exclusively focused on preventing the rise of androids as opposed to other forms of AI. That’s despite the fact that many of the dangers present when considering out-of-control AI – including the ability to receive the message on Aia – are common to other kinds of artificial life too. Or at least would be in theory. To use Control as an example, if it became aware of Aia and the message there, given how aggressively it pursued Burnham and the USS Discovery it seems certain that it would have taken the same action as Sutra and tried to contact the “Mass Effect Reapers” (the race of super-synths introduced in the finale of Star Trek: Picard). So why the Zhat Vash are okay with some types of AI and not others, and why holograms seem to be exempt, for example, hasn’t really been covered in detail in the series so far.

However, assuming that the Zhat Vash learned of some of these events they would surely have been concerned – at the very least about the possibility of further development and the creation of android bodies for these AI systems to inhabit.

After the mid-23rd Century, we have no real information on synthetic life until Lore was known to be active on Omicron Theta in the late 2320s or 2330s. Within Star Trek: Picard itself – notably the episode Broken Pieces – the crew of La Sirena assume that Commodore Oh first infiltrated Starfleet after Lore’s brother Data was discovered and activated in 2338 – and by implication, that was the time the Zhat Vash became convinced that Starfleet and the Federation were a threat due to their involvement with synthetic life. However, I think we can reasonably assume that the Romulans, and by extension the Zhat Vash, would have at least become aware of the Federation’s other ties to and encounters with artificial life – even if they didn’t learn about these events until afterwards.

Picard and the crew of La Sirena pieced together a basic timeline for Commodore Oh’s infiltration of Starfleet.

The decision to send an operative in undercover is not one that can be done on a whim – it needs careful planning. If Commodore Oh did infiltrate Starfleet beginning in the 2330s, the Zhat Vash would have needed months or years before she joined up to make preparations. Obviously killing Data wasn’t the objective, or she would have been able to do so any almost any point. Nor was her goal to stop someone like Bruce Maddox working on synthetic life, as he seems to have been free to do so for decades right up until the ban.

I would suspect that Commodore Oh may have worked behind the scenes to slow research into synthetics, perhaps trying to delay or sabotage work being done. While we don’t have a lot of evidence to go on for this, the fact that Bruce Maddox was considered by Data to be incapable of preserving his memories in the episode The Measure of a Man could, in retrospect, be seen less as proof of Maddox jumping the gun and trying to work on Data before he was ready, and perhaps as evidence that his work was being hampered without his knowledge by the Zhat Vash’s spy.

This is what I mean by the question “how does Commodore Oh affect other Star Trek stories?” There are several which we can look back on in the aftermath of Star Trek: Picard and wonder how the presence of Commodore Oh affected things.

Let’s start with the Federation’s two biggest forays into the artificial intelligence realm in the 23rd Century – the Control AI and the M-5 computer. Obviously these events took place long before Commodore Oh was embedded within Starfleet, but they may have laid the groundwork for her mission.

The Control AI went rogue in the 2250s.

Both Control and the M-5 computer went rogue. Their creators – Section 31 and Dr Richard Daystrom – lost control of them, and they began to act on their own, taking aggressive action against organic life. While the Federation will have wanted to cover up what happened – as indeed we see them do at the end of Discovery’s second season – the Romulans are known to be aggressive in their espionage operations, knowing far more about the Federation than vice versa. It would not be an unfair assumption that the Romulans would have come to know what happened in one or both of these cases, and thus it may have been around the mid-23rd Century that the Zhat Vash began preparing to infiltrate the Federation.

Thinking about these two stories from the point of view of the Zhat Vash – who, according to everything we know from Star Trek: Picard will have existed at the time – the events are very concerning. The Federation is barely a century old, with humanity only becoming warp-capable less than a hundred years before that. In a comparatively short span of time, humanity has developed intelligent machines that they went on to lose control over. Humanity must appear, to the Zhat Vash, to be incredibly dangerous, pushing further into unexplored space than any other faction had done, and building an inter-species alliance that even brought an end to the Vulcan-Andorian conflict. For Romulans, who like stability and predictability, the Federation had disrupted a state of affairs that had existed for centuries in the local region of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants. Would it only be a matter of time before they spotted the octonary star system where Aia is located? That had to be a source of concern.

The next major event would be the activation of Lore and Data, and it’s suggested in Star Trek: Picard that it was Data’s discovery by Starfleet in the late 2330s that prompted the Zhat Vash to send Commodore Oh in undercover. Again if we try to look at this event from their perspective, the Federation’s AI research had now gone beyond shipboard computers and had culminated in the creation of a humanoid android – and it’s this type of synthetic life in particular which seems to concern the Zhat Vash. If Control and the M-5 computer were worrying and had caused them to begin planning, the knowledge that Data existed and had been accepted to Starfleet Academy would have been panic-inducing to the paranoid Zhat Vash.

Lore was active in the mid-late 2330s.

We should consider the Crystalline Entity’s attack on Omicron Theta and examine it through this new lens. Lore, Data’s brother, was responsible for leading the Entity to Omicron Theta, where it wiped out all life on the planet. But was Lore solely responsible? Star Trek: Picard showed us that the Zhat Vash had the ability to hack into synthetics, and that when they did, the synths could be reprogrammed to turn on their creators. The synths on Mars may have been somewhat basic compared to Data and Lore, but the underlying technology is the same, and it’s at least possible that the Zhat Vash hacked into Lore. This could explain not only the attack by the Crystalline Entity, but Lore’s selfish and evil persona.

Sticking with the Crystalline Entity, it may have simply been a convenient way to destroy the colony while having no fingerprints of Romulan involvement. Omicron Theta was a human colony, so if the Romulans were to simply destroy it from orbit with starships, that could lead to war with the Federation. Yet it makes perfect sense that they would see Dr Soong as his work as a threat and want to take every possible step to stop him.

Next we have Dr Maddox and his work with synthetics. We know that, despite Maddox’s objections, Data was allowed to enrol in Starfleet Academy. Around this time, which was roughly the same time of Commodore Oh’s infiltration, Maddox began working on synthetic life. There are two possibilities for why it took Maddox such a long time (fifteen years, give or take, from Data’s admittance to Starfleet Academy to the events of the episode The Measure of a Man) to make much progress with his work. One is that Maddox is simply not as skilled as Dr Soong was, which is what the episode implies. The other possibility has to be that part of Commodore Oh’s mission was to hamper any synthetic research going on within the Federation, and that she, somehow, undermined his work and slowed it down.

Maddox’s research, which we now know grew to include a whole department consisting of a number of scientists and researchers, may also be the reason why the Zhat Vash chose not to simply kill Data. At the time her mission began, Data was the only known extant android, so killing him would have made sense for the Zhat Vash. It would have been difficult to get at him within Starfleet, but they did have an operative. However, the realisation that the Federation would, sooner or later, be able to recreate the work, coupled with Data being confined within Starfleet and thus unable to strike out on his own and potentially discover Aia, may have focused the mission on stopping synthetic research, slowing it down, and gathering as much information on it as possible. As a Starfleet Officer, Commodore Oh would be well-placed to do those things.

Dr Bruce Maddox was the Federation’s leading synthetics researcher for decades.

The fact that it took Maddox a further twenty years to develop F8 and the other androids present on Mars could be taken as evidence of the Zhat Vash trying to undermine his work. How they could have done this is unclear, and they may have simply got lucky with Maddox not being better at his job. One question that has bugged me in the context of Star Trek’s sensors and replicators was this: how hard could it really have been to recreate Data using what they already knew about him? This was never really addressed on screen, but perhaps we can take the fact that the Federation was unable to do so as further evidence of their work on synthetics being slowed and undermined from within.

One faction I think we can safely assume would have fed into the Zhat Vash’s paranoia about AI would be the Borg. In the 2350s, many scientists in the Federation were working on the assumption that the Borg were a myth, or at least were so distant as to not be a threat. This was during the Romulans’ 50+ years of isolation, so we don’t know whether or not they had any more evidence about the Borg than the Federation. But there are two points of note: Star Trek: Picard established that, as far as anyone knew, the Borg had only ever assimilated one Romulan vessel. But in contrast to that, the region of space controlled by the Borg was vast, and they had vessels in the Beta Quadrant (where the Romulan Empire is largely based) during the 2370s.

Starfleet’s official first encounter with the Borg, as depicted in Q Who from The Next Generation’s second season, may have gone unnoticed by the Romulans, but the Borg invasion a year later, as seen in The Best of Both Worlds certainly will not. 39 Federation starships were destroyed, and an enemy ship made it to within a stone’s throw of Earth itself. If the Romulans had remained in blissful ignorance of the Borg up to this point, they will have known by the late 2360s that they existed – if for no other reason than Commodere Oh herself relaying that information.

When the Federation encountered the Borg the Romulans would have soon come to know about it.

The reason for the Romulans’ interest in the Borg in Star Trek: Picard must surely be twofold. On the one hand, selling the disassembled components is incredibly lucrative, and with the region’s sole supply the Romulans were in firm control of this market. Secondly, however, their fear of synthetic life must have been a major reason for studying the Borg so intently. For all we know, the “Mass Effect Reapers” were meant to be the Borg. But even if that isn’t true – and the Romulans don’t seem to know either way – the Borg, with their half-synthetic bodies and single-minded focus on assimilation, must have been a major cause for concern among the Zhat Vash. This can have only been exacerbated when two ex-Borg returned from the Delta Quadrant aboard the USS Voyager – Seven of Nine and Icheb.

Icheb would later be killed – butchered for his Borg components by an unnamed doctor at a facility run by Bjayzl. But who arranged for this? And why is there such a huge demand for Borg technology in the first place? I had theorised during the first season of Star Trek: Picard that the Romulans may be keeping a majority of components for themselves, but even if that isn’t true they have been studying Borg technology extensively. Icheb’s death seems to take place around the time that the Artifact came under Romulan control, so it’s at least possible that Bjayzl’s buyer was the Zhat Vash – that they were interested in learning about the galaxy’s preeminent synthetic race.

Icheb was murdered so his Borg components could be harvested.

Finally, we have B4. We know from Star Trek: Nemesis that the Romulans acquired B4 and placed his disassembled body in such a location that the Enterprise-E would be the closest ship available to respond to Shinzon. How did they know so much about Federation ship movements? Is it at least possible that Commodore Oh was relaying information to the Romulans at key moments like this? The possibility cannot be discounted – and this could even explain why, in Star Trek: First Contact, the Enterprise-E is assigned to the Neutral Zone. Perhaps someone in Starfleet had an inkling that a Romulan spy was in their midst.

Sticking with this theme of Commodore Oh being more of a general spy than simply a Zhat Vash agent, there are a number of Federation-Romulan encounters that she may have been involved in. Or, conversely, we can take the failure of certain Romulan plots as evidence that she was deliberately not involving herself!

For example, Sela’s attempt to interfere in the Klingon Civil War in Redemption ended in total failure – thanks in no small part to Data. A large Federation fleet deployed a sensor net to detect cloaked Romulan ships, thus preventing Romulan aid to the Duras faction. This was a major move on the part of the Romulans, and would have shifted the balance of power in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants had it succeeded. The Federation-Klingon alliance would have evaporated, and the Federation would be facing a Klingon-Romulan alliance alone. Sela’s second plan, to conquer Vulcan in the episode Unification, similarly failed, though this was due to the actions of Data, Picard, and Spock on Romulus and may not have been something Commodore Oh could have done much about – except perhaps warn the Romulans that they were coming.

We can further see this lack of involvement in Face of the Enemy, where Counsellor Troi impersonates a Tal Shiar operative and aids in the successful defection of a senior Romulan government official. A Federation defector to the Romulans is also successful in his efforts to return to the Federation in the same episode.

There is also In The Pale Moonlight from Deep Space Nine. In this story, Sisko essentially lies, cheats, and covers up murders to drag the Romulans into the Dominion War – a war that they had no need to participate in. At the end of the episode Sisko deletes the log in which he’d detailed his actions, and with his disappearance into the realm of the Prophets, only Garak remained as someone who knew everything that happened. But the trail of evidence existed, and could have been pieced together by a Romulan operative within the Federation. Sisko may have deleted his log, but as we’ve seen in other Star Trek stories, deleting data isn’t a straightforward process, and as we saw in The Undiscovered Country, it’s possible for logs to be downloaded and transmitted via subspace, even to foreign powers. Kirk’s own captain’s log was used against him in his trial in that film.

A Romulan senator was assassinated as part of a scheme to drag them into the Dominion War.

However, we could take the Romulans’ successes in episodes like Message in a Bottle – where they are able to commandeer a brand-new prototype Starfleet vessel – as evidence that someone within the Federation was feeding information to them.

So where does all of this leave us when it comes to Commodore Oh?

I feel positively certain that the Zhat Vash would have come to know about what happened with the Control AI, not least because it decimated Section 31. Whether they would have come to know about the M-5 computer is unclear, but even if they didn’t, the Federation’s research into AI would have been troubling to the Zhat Vash at least by the mid-23rd Century.

A major candidate for their interference is Lore and the attack on the Omicron Theta colony. This fits with how the Romulans and Zhat Vash operate, it fits with them knowing how to hack positronic brains, and if there was only one successful android builder (Dr Soong) and two extant androids (Data and Lore), the best course of action from the Zhat Vash perspective may have been to exterminate the colony and prevent that knowledge spreading.

When that failed, and when Dr Maddox had begun his own work on synthetic life, building up a team of scientists, eradicating the problem was clearly far less practical. Killing Data would have only set back the Federation’s research in a small way, and it may have been decided that the best course of action was to work from within to slow them down.

Commodore Oh aboard her ship – finally exposed as a spy.

Commodore Oh doesn’t seem to have actively interfered on behalf of the Romulans at key points where having an embedded operative could have been massively useful to the Romulan Empire. To me, the Federation’s successes against the Romulans in these stories implies that Commodore Oh was laser-focused on her own mission, and felt that stepping outside of her mission parameters, even to save Romulan lives in the short-term, was too great a risk.

Finally, when Dr Maddox was ultimately successful in creating synthetic life on a larger scale, and the rollout of F8 and the other androids went ahead, Commodore Oh felt that the time had come to act. Destroying a fleet intended to help the Romulans was simply unavoidable, because that’s where the synths were. Mars may not have been her first choice of target, but it was the only available target, and with synthetic life research and development accelerating, the time had come to act.

That’s how I see the timeline, and when taking a step back and looking at Star Trek as a whole, I don’t feel that the creation and retroactive inclusion of the Zhat Vash and Commodore Oh causes any major plot holes. Sometimes inserting characters and factions can have this effect, but in this case, I think we can find a way for episodes of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager to play out in such a way that is consistent. The Zhat Vash and Commodore Oh were depicted as zealots, and it would make sense that someone with that kind of single-mindedness would be 100% okay with allowing her own government’s plans to fail and to see Romulans die in order to remain on mission. The Zhat Vash were playing an incredibly long game – Commodore Oh was embedded in Starfleet for over half a century, and even by the standards of long-lived Romulans, that’s a very long time.

While Commodore Oh’s plan succeeded, in the long run the development of synthetic life couldn’t be prevented, and it will be up to future Star Trek stories to show what implications, if any, that may have for the Romulans, the Federation, and the synths themselves.

So this was a different type of article, a deeper dive into a single story point and how it can be seen to effect – or not effect – other stories in the franchise.

I liked the Zhat Vash overall, though the inconsistent way they were referred to throughout Star Trek: Picard’s first season wasn’t great, and I question their almost-immediate decision to withdraw in the finale. They brought a whole new dimension to the Romulans, and one aspect of that is that we can look back at other stories in the franchise and think about how the Zhat Vash may have been involved. As someone who loves Star Trek, this kind of theory-crafting is a lot of fun. I consider the ideas outlined above to be at least plausible, but remember to take all of these fan theories with a grain of salt!

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 and all other episodes, films, and series 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.

Star Trek: Picard theories – week 10

Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard’s entire first season, as well as for Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, the trailers for Season 3, and other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

The two parts of Et in Arcadia Ego brought the story of Star Trek: Picard’s first season to a close this week. There are still some significant story points left on the table, however, and overall I feel that the season didn’t end as strongly as it began. You can read my full thoughts in my review by clicking or tapping here.

Theorising about Star Trek: Picard has been a lot of fun, and in a future post, I’ll be looking back at some of my debunked theories from earlier in the season in a kind of “what if” theory roundup. I hope you’ll stay tuned for that when it drops at some point in the next few weeks. Otherwise, unless we have definitive news regarding Star Trek: Picard Season 2, this may be my last post about the show for a while. I had been semi-expecting to see a release date for Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, as I felt it would have been to the benefit of ViacomCBS to take advantage of Star Trek: Picard’s success and the hype surrounding it to plug its sister show. As of the writing of this article, however, the only thing they’ve said is that it’s “coming soon”.

As usual for my theory posts, I’ll begin by looking at the confirmed and debunked theories from Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2, before moving on to look at one surviving theory.

We’ll start with confirmed theories this time, as there aren’t many!

Confirmed theory #1: The synths succeeded in triggering the arrival of the “Mass Effect Reapers”.

The “Mass Effect Reapers” almost showed up.

While this didn’t go down quite like I’d expected, technically the synths did still contact the “Mass Effect Reapers” – the synthetic race who left behind the relic on Aia and who the Zhat Vash believe will trigger armageddon. Unfortunately, we didn’t really get to learn much at all about this race – not even their name, which is why I’m stuck calling them the “Mass Effect Reapers”.

After Sutra was deactivated, Soji continued to work on the synths’ beacon and was able to open a portal to wherever the “Mass Effect Reapers” reside. However, after a rousing speech from Picard, and seeing him lay down his life for her people, she closed the portal before they could come through. While the Zhat Vash are convinced that their arrival would have meant the end of organic life in the galaxy, what would have actually happened isn’t clear – and may never be explained again.

I get the sense that the writers and creators of Star Trek see these quasi-antagonists as a one-time-use thing, and while I did have a theory as to how they could tie into the franchise in a bigger way, it seems dead at this juncture. What seems more likely is that the “Mass Effect Reapers” are the equivalent of a monster-of-the-week, and like many alien races seen in just one single Star Trek story, won’t be heard from again despite the potential for repercussions.

Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2 left many unanswered questions about this faction – including the basics like who they are, how old they are, and what their precise motivations are. Other big questions include: will they be back? Will Sutra – whose status is unknown as of the end of the season – want to call for them again if she wakes up? Can they be reasoned with, and is Starfleet planning to try to contact them again? Were the Zhat Vash right in their interpretation, or did they get it wrong? In short, there’s a lot we still don’t know about this potentially interesting faction!

Confirmed theory #2: Riker did return to duty.

Acting Captain William T. Riker!

Just a short one when compared to some of my more in-depth theories, but when Riker had said in Nepenthe that he hadn’t fully retired and was still on “active reserve” in Starfleet, that seemed to be a major hint that we’d see him back in uniform sooner or later. While I did say I was 50-50 on whether it would be this season or next, Riker came back at the head of a massive Starfleet armada in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2.

Unfortunately, his appearance in the episode was spoilt by his name being shown in the opening titles, and I’d already worked out that we were likely to see a Starfleet fleet with Riker at its head well before the episode reached that climax. While that did spoilt things to a degree, it was nevertheless great to see him back in uniform. And as a secondary point, rumbling away in the background this season had been tensions with Starfleet and the Federation. We speculated for weeks that there may have been a much broader conspiracy within Starfleet to collaborate with the Zhat Vash, so when Starfleet did to the right thing at the end, and were proven to still be the “good guys”, that was a great moment, and Riker was there in the middle of it.

His appearance did feel a little rushed, because almost as soon as he’d arrived he was already warping out of the system accompanying the Romulan fleet. It would have been nice if we’d got more time with him – but that’s true of many characters and storylines across the two-part finale.

So those theories were confirmed. Next, let’s go through the list of debunked theories, and I think we’re going to have to do this in two parts. There are a few theories that were completely debunked by the end of the season, and obviously we’ll look at those. But there are some theories that are in this weird kind of grey area – unconfirmed, but unlikely. If Star Trek: Picard moves on with Season 2 and tells a new story, it seems certain that we won’t revisit the locations, factions, and characters of Season 1 in any depth. And to me, that seems the most likely scenario. Star Trek: Discovery told two different stories across its two seasons, with a third story coming in Season 3. While there was some crossover from Season 1 to Season 2, the overarching narrative of Season 1 ended and a new story began in Season 2, and I expect Star Trek: Picard to go down the same path. It’s for that reason that I think we can consider almost all of these theories as dead – not so much because they were debunked on screen, but because the story has moved on and won’t be revisiting these points next year.

Debunked theory #1: The Artifact (or the Borg Sphere it seemed to contain) will launch into space.

The circular area on the Artifact could’ve contained a Borg Sphere.

It’s not actually clear, as of the end of the season, what’s going on with the Artifact and the surviving ex-Borg. Elnor stayed aboard the Artifact with Hugh and later with Seven of Nine to aid them, considering their cause worthy of his allegiance. However, the final scene of the season was La Sirena jumping to warp, and both Elnor and Seven of Nine – who, don’t forget, had been the xBs’ de facto leader – were present on the small ship.

I had theorised that the Artifact, which seemed to have a circular portal on one of its sides that could have contained a Borg Sphere, would have been repaired by the xBs and re-launched into orbit over Coppelius to aid in the fight against the Romulans. However, this didn’t happen, and while we did see that the Artifact’s weapons systems were at least partly operational, it didn’t seem as though anyone on the ground used them against the Romulan fleet either.

I hope we’ll learn more in Season 2 about what happened to the xBs and the Artifact – now that it’s on a planet under Federation jurisdiction, perhaps Starfleet will be able to repair it or scavenge its components. I’m not sure how canonical this is, but I think I remember reading in an old reference book or one of the Star Trek encyclopaedias that a Borg Cube was something like 10km long on every side, so it’s a massive vessel for someone to have to deal with. Perhaps the synths could salvage it?

Debunked theory #2: Picard and La Sirena will travel to Aia – the planet where the beacon is located.

The relic on Aia.

Aia was a world we glimpsed only for a short time in a flashback sequence. Presumably hidden somewhere in or beyond Romulan space, and thus not accessible to Starfleet by normal means, the beacon left here by the “Mass Effect Reapers” is what triggered the whole plot of the season.

As of the end of the season, however, the beacon remains active. It’s clearly dangerous – not only to the Romulans, but to everyone. If another synthetic being were to encounter it and figure out how to contact the “Mass Effect Reapers”, they could do so easily. I had speculated that, in the aftermath of whatever happened in the finale, Picard and co. would travel to Aia to deactivate the beacon, preventing it from doing any more harm.

Debunked theory #3: Narek is going to go rogue.

Narek aboard the Artifact.

Narek was abandoned by the story of Star Trek: Picard midway through the finale, during the crew’s stupid and badly-written attempt to destroy the synths’ beacon. What became of him after that is unknown. Possibilities include that he was recovered by the Romulans and left aboard their fleet, that he remained in captivity with the synths, that he was able to sneak away in the confusion surrounding Picard’s “death”, or even that he did leave the Zhat Vash and joined La Sirena’s crew off screen.

However, one thing that he didn’t do in the story was go rogue. Almost since we first met Narek and saw his relationship with Soji unfold, I’d been speculating that the time would come where Narek would find a reason to abandon the Zhat Vash. Perhaps it could’ve been out of love for or loyalty to Soji, or it simply could’ve been that the revelation of the synths not posing a threat meant he had no reason to oppose them. Either way, the switching-sides never came, and as of the last time we saw him, Narek was still fully subscribed to the Zhat Vash ideology.

Narek may not have been everyone’s favourite character, and I think a part of that comes from the fact that he didn’t really have anyone to interact with besides Soji and Rizzo for almost the entire season. But as a main character, and as someone we spent a significant amount of time with, I would have liked to see his story reach an actual conclusion, regardless of what form that may have taken. I don’t expect Narek to return for Season 2 at this stage, but as far as I’m aware no casting announcements have yet been made – so watch this space.

Debunked theory #4: Picard’s conversation with Admiral Clancy may have tipped off the Romulans.

Admiral Clancy.

At the time Picard and Admiral Clancy spoke in the episode Broken Pieces, he and the crew were still unaware of the extent of Commodore Oh’s role in the conspiracy. It wasn’t until Rios and Raffi had pieced together that she gave the order to kill two synths while Rios was serving in Starfleet several years previously that they could reasonably come to the conclusion that she was behind the attack on Mars and was a Romulan spy. So based on that, I wondered if Picard’s conversation with Admiral Clancy may have had consequences for the Starfleet squadron at Deep Space 12 – they could have been ambushed, attacked, hacked into, or had their security information compromised by the well-placed Commodore Oh. However, it seems that Oh had already left by that point to head up the Romulan fleet and nothing bad happened as a result of Picard and Clancy speaking.

Debunked theory #5: Section 31 will be involved.

A Section 31 badge from Star Trek: Discovery.

Over the course of the season, I had several ideas for how Section 31 – the secretive branch of Starfleet Intelligence responsible for off-the-books operations – could be involved with the story. Each of those possibilities came and went as the season rolled on, and my final guess for Section 31’s involvement – that they would show up to take ownership of the Artifact – was no different.

The reason I’d been so sure of Section 31 showing up this season was that they’ve recently been so important within Star Trek. Both in Star Trek: Discovery’s second season last year and then with a new spin-off show in production, I felt sure that the creators would want to tie the faction in somehow. It would have made sense from a production point of view, making Section 31 a consistent thread between Discovery, Picard, and the new show.

Debunked theory #6: The crew will travel forward in time to link up with Star Trek: Discovery.

At the end of Discovery’s second season, the ship travelled forward in time.

This was one of two theories I had regarding Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard crossing over or linking up. There was no story evidence for it, only that from a production point of view, keeping all the extant Star Trek shows in one time period makes a certain kind of sense. While we could still see the USS Discovery ending up in 2399, that didn’t happen in the season finale either and it seems like both shows will continue on their own separate paths – at least for now.

One of the things I was somewhat surprised at in Star Trek: Picard’s first season is how few references to Discovery there were. Aside from literally a couple of throwaway lines I can’t think of any – and certainly nothing significant. Given both series are in production side-by-side, carrying the flag for the Star Trek franchise, I would have expected some kind of recognition of that.

So those theories were debunked outright, and now we can take a look at a few theories that I’m calling “dead”. These theories, as previously mentioned, weren’t explicitly debunked on screen, but instead were abandoned. As the story of Star Trek: Picard will move on in Season 2, I doubt very much that there’s any chance for any of these to be revisited.

Dead theory #1: Sutra is descended from Lore, not Data.

Lore was Data’s evil twin.

While we saw Data in the digital afterlife in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2, Lore wasn’t even mentioned. And given that he hadn’t been for the entirety of the season, any storyline involving him at the last minute would have been somewhat out of left-field, especially for new fans and those who haven’t seen The Next Generation in a long time.

Nevertheless, I had speculated that Sutra might be a descendent of Lore and not Data, simply based on her evil nature and the fact that she slipped very easily into that role. Data would not have behaved the way Sutra did, and if the synths were all cloned from his neurons, that doesn’t seem to make sense – on the surface, at least. We still don’t really know how the synth-building process works.

Sutra was my least-favourite character in the season, and though I’m pleased in a way that I didn’t have to sit through too much of her in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2, it’s not clear at all where she came from or what will happen to her next. Will she remain deactivated forever? If she does wake up, will she still be interested in contacting the “Mass Effect Reapers”? And if so, what’s to stop her from building a new beacon and doing so? I doubt any of these points will be addressed any time soon, and given that Sutra is unlikely to return imminently, I don’t think we will learn anything about her potential origin either.

Dead theory #2: The “Mass Effect Reapers” are the Borg.

A Borg Cube in The Next Generation.

Though the synths did succeed in building their beacon and opening a portal to the realm where this synthetic race are based, we didn’t learn anything at all about them this season. That raises a number of issues in itself – are they still a threat? Will Starfleet try to contact them and make peace? Are they planning to come to the Milky Way now they know we exist? Etc. But because this faction are so ambiguous and technologically-advanced, one theory I had postulated was that they could simply be the Borg.

It makes a certain kind of sense. The Borg are Star Trek’s most advanced species in technological terms, and are conceivably capable of moving stars. They also like to assimilate races that are technologically powerful – even ignoring races like the Kazon that they feel would detract from the “perfection” they aim to create. While we’ve only ever seen them as a kind of rolling assimilation machine, they may have left traps at locations in the galaxy, telling synths to contact them. Under the guise of helping the synths, the Borg would then show up at a location where they know a technologically-advanced race exists, and would assimilate both the synths and those who made them.

The brief glimpse we saw of the “Mass Effect Reapers” in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2 did not, in my opinion at least, conclusively rule out a Borg connection. However, with the story moving on, we may not meet this faction again.

Dead theory #3: Commodore Oh is a synth.

Commodore Oh.

When we saw Sutra perform a mind-meld in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1, this somewhat outlandish theory that I’d been kicking around for a couple of weeks suddenly went up a gear. If synths could mind-meld, it removed a potential hurdle from this theory – the fact that we’d seen Commodore Oh mind-meld with Dr Jurati – and provided what could be seen as some kind of hint or foreshadowing.

We’d also seen with Soji and Dahj that synths can be programmed to be unaware of their true nature, and can appear to be fully biological. So I speculated that it was possible for Commodore Oh to not even be aware that she’s a synth, and be barrelling toward unleashing armageddon through actions she believed were designed to prevent it. It would have been a neat story in some ways, but would have required a lot of on-screen explanation.

Dead theory #4: Borg technology was used in the creation of the Coppelius synths.

Ex-Borg on the Artifact.

Star Trek: Picard established that there is a large galactic market for Borg components. I theorised that Dr Maddox, Dr Soong, and their team used some or all of this Borg technology in their work on synthetics. It could have explained the huge jump from androids like F8 to androids like Sutra. F8 was active at the time of the attack on Mars, 14 years before the main plot of the series, and Sutra was active a mere five years later, when Rios met her sister Jana. Yet there’s a huge gulf between what the two synths were capable of. F8 was incredibly basic, much more so than Data had been in his earliest appearances. And Sutra was, from what we saw of her, very similar to a human. The fact that they made this leap in around five years – and that they made it having lost colleagues like Dr Jurati and without access to the Federation’s resources after the ban – seemed to stretch credulity. While we know for sure that the synth-building process relied on Data’s neurons, it’s at least possible that other technology was involved.

Dead theory #5: The faceless “father” figure from Soji’s dream isn’t Bruce Maddox, and may be Dr Soong or even a synth.

The faceless figure.

It seems as though this figure, glimpsed in Soji’s dream, won’t be revisited and was simply included for shock value. And a shocking sight it was when we saw him in The Impossible Box. It does make a certain kind of sense for Dr Soong or Dr Maddox to try to conceal their identity and prevent anyone from using Soji to track them down, so I guess that’s the answer – at least for now.

Dead theory #6: Soji and Dahj’s necklaces were created deliberately to communicate with or signal to someone.

Soji wearing her necklace.

I disliked the necklaces as a prop from their introduction in Remembrance. If they’d just been a part of Soji and Dahj’s costumes I’d have ignored them, but because the necklaces were supposedly a symbol for how Maddox created them, and were supposed to be kind of unusual or even flashy by 24th Century standards, I felt they were visually weak and uninteresting.

The necklaces also posed somewhat of an interesting question: if creating synths is illegal, why would Maddox give both Soji and Dahj a very obvious symbol of their synthetic nature to wear? Surely there are only downsides to doing so, like attracting unwanted attention. I even theorised that the necklaces could be what led the Zhat Vash to first notice Soji and Dahj. One answer to this question would be that there is someone out in the galaxy that Maddox was either trying to signal or communicate with, and the necklaces were a sign that person would recognise.

Dead theory #7: Something Maddox did or didn’t do led to the synths on Mars being hacked.

F8’s eyes during the hack.

When Maddox passed away without discussing the attack on Mars, this theory did start to look less and less likely. But with confirmation that the synths were indeed hacked by the Zhat Vash and did not act of their own volition, it hadn’t gone away entirely. Maddox was a senior figure in the Federation’s synthetic research at that time, meaning the hack took place on his watch. It was at least possible, especially considering that he fled and continued his work, that he was at least partly responsible. Perhaps something in the way he built or programmed the synths made them easier to hack, or perhaps there was a flaw he ignored. Regardless, with Maddox dead, the ban overturned, and the synth storyline seemingly over, I doubt we’ll ever know.

Dead theory #8: Picard’s illness is Irumodic Syndrome.

Picard “died”.

When Dr Benayoun brought Picard the news of his illness in Maps and Legends, its name was never mentioned. There were hints at it being Irumodic Syndrome for returning fans, but no confirmation. Given that Picard has since died and been resurrected, I doubt it will be discussed in Season 2, but you never know.

So those theories are dead and I doubt we’ll see any debunking, confirmation, or indeed any movement on them at all in Season 2.

I do have one remaining theory, and it pertains to Star Trek: Discovery’s upcoming third season. So let’s take a look at that before we wrap things up.

Discovery Season 3 theory: The “Mass Effect Reapers” are the cause of Star Trek: Discovery’s post-apocalyptic setting.

Michael Burnham in the trailer for Discovery’s third season.

We saw in the trailers for Discovery’s third season that the Federation seems to be in decline. It may even have fragmented altogether by this time. We also saw a level of technology that is arguably not as advanced as it could or should be in this time period. Star Trek has occasionally set episodes in the far future. In the 29th and 30th Centuries, we know that the Federation would operate time-ships and would routinely explore time as well as space, and would teach basic temporal mechanics in school. Episodes of both Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise showed us glimpses of this future, but it doesn’t gel with what came out of the Season 3 trailer for Discovery.

If there has been some kind of apocalyptic event, could we have seen the beginnings of that in Star Trek: Picard? The question of the “Mass Effect Reapers” is still very much an open one, as I noted above. They may not have arrived at Coppelius thanks to Picard and Soji’s efforts, but they weren’t defeated, they still exist somewhere out in space, and now, crucially, they’re aware of the existence of the Federation and the Romulans. It’s at least somewhat plausible that they would decide to show up anyway – after all, they don’t necessarily know why the portal was closed. If their intention to help synths was genuine and not an elaborate trap, they may arrive out of concern for the Coppelius synths. And if their intention was to attack and conquer advanced races, they may now have a new target.

Somehow, Star Trek: Discovery will have to explain its setting and how things came to be so bleak – if indeed they are bleak. I do have an article where I discuss why a post-apocalyptic setting may not be right for Star Trek: you can find it by clicking or tapping here. But the “Mass Effect Reapers” remain in play as one possible explanation, at least in my opinion.

So that’s it. That was the only theory that survived the season, and it doesn’t even pertain to Season 2 of Star Trek: Picard!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my theories as the season went on, and that you didn’t get too upset if your favourites didn’t pan out. The whole point of this, for me anyway, was to spend a bit more time in the Star Trek universe, and to get lost in the world it created. While it has been great fun to speculate and theorise, it was always going to be the case that most theories didn’t come to pass – and that’s the case for any fan theory, no matter how plausible or well-constructed. We saw from The Last Jedi over in the Star Wars franchise how fans can become too attached to certain ideas, and how that can ruin the enjoyment of a film. I’m pleased to say that none of my theories in any way spoilt my enjoyment of Star Trek: Picard. If they had, these posts would have ceased!

I’m really excited to see what Season 2 brings, and to spend more time with Picard, Raffi, Rios, Dr Jurati, Elnor, Soji, and perhaps even Seven of Nine if she sticks around. While current events have disrupted production, I’d still hope to get some news and perhaps even a trailer by the end of the year, and the second season should release some time in 2021, though probably later in the year than this season did.

Until next time!

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 other countries and territories. 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.

Star Trek: Picard review – Season 1, Episode 10: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2, and for the entirety of Star Trek: Picard Season 1. There may also be spoilers for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

I’m in two minds about Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2. On the one hand, the entire second half of the episode was incredibly emotional, with hit after hit after hit that left me in tears. But on the other hand, much of the first half of the episode followed on directly from Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 and was a waste of space.

I think overall, I stand by what I said in my review last week: that many of the story points in this two-part season finale were rushed and underdeveloped. Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2 had, at points, the same issue of blitzing through potentially interesting story beats, and the disappointing thing isn’t that any of the storylines were bad, it’s that they had potential to be so much more than they were. Despite the second half of the episode going a long way toward redeeming the entire two-part finale, I think when the dust settles and I’m thinking more clearly and less emotionally, the overall picture will be, at best, mixed. There just wasn’t enough time remaining for many of these points to be fully explored, and realistically that meant that either some story threads needed to be cut entirely, or the season needed another couple of episodes to explore them fully.

Where the second half of Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2 succeeded was that it slowed down, and the rushed pacing, the jumping between storylines, and the obviously-cut down scenes did largely abate. This gave way for a more emotional story to develop and play out over several slower, touching sequences, which brilliantly played on elements of the story that had been spread out over the preceding nine episodes – beginning right back in the first episode of the season, and indeed the first sequence of the first episode.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2 begins right where Part 1 left off last week, where Sutra let Narek escape and locked Picard up. Narek travels to the Artifact’s crash site and manages to sneak aboard, passing Seven of Nine, Elnor, and a handful of xBs who seem to be working on repairing the crashed vessel. The establishing shot of the Artifact was actually really pretty, and the closest the planet of Coppelius or Ghoulion IV came to not looking like California for the whole episode.

This shot of the Artifact was great.

Narek is searching for something on the Artifact when Rizzo appears from nowhere and surprises him. I’ve mentioned several times that Rizzo has grown on me as a character in her appearances over the course of the season. Her transformation from an uninteresting and one-dimensional villain into an actual fleshed-out character has been great to see, and it’s hard to imagine the story of Star Trek: Picard’s first season without Peyton List’s occasionally over-the-top performance. Seeing Rizzo and Narek reunited showed us that they were real people underneath it all, and given it was almost sure to be Narek’s last meeting with his sister, their hug was strangely touching. After being attacked by the xBs at the end of Broken Pieces, I’d assumed Rizzo had beamed over to one of the Romulan ships near the Artifact, but it seems that she remained aboard during its short-lived mission to Coppelius and survived the crash-landing. I hadn’t expected that – partly because it wasn’t communicated clearly, it must be said – so it was a surprise to see her. But we did get to see a brief moment of vulnerability and emotion from Rizzo – in that moment, she was genuinely relieved, happy, and even slightly overwhelmed to see Narek, and that moment played out perfectly.

The next scene has to be one of my least-favourites. Not for its dialogue, which was a conversation between Picard and Soji as he tries to convince her to try things his way instead of following Sutra, but for the editing. The best moments with Picard, both in this series and in his previous Star Trek appearances, have been a combination of what he said and his presence while saying it. With this scene cutting away from Picard and Soji in large part, with what should’ve been one of his trademark speeches heard only in voiceover, something significant was missing that made the words he said far less impactful to us as the audience. We needed to see Picard as well as hear him for his speech to have its full effect. And back to what I said at the beginning, this feels like a consequence of both parts of the finale having just too much to cram in to two episodes. Before the opening titles, the episode needed to show this conversation, as well as convey – through Dr Jurati seeing it firsthand – the construction of the beacon that Sutra planned to use to contact the “Mass Effect Reapers”. Instead of there being enough time for both scenes, they ended up smashed together, with the voices of Picard and Soji on top of Dr Jurati silently watching the beacon. For me it simply didn’t work, and both scenes were the worse for being amalgamated.

The opening titles once again ruined the surprise appearance of a character. For the third time this season, an actor’s name was included which telegraphed the arrival of a character whose appearance was supposed to be unexpected: this time it was Jonathan Frakes, who reprised his role as Riker. What was the point of that? In all three cases where this has happened – Seven of Nine in Stardust City Rag, Dr Soong in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1, and Riker this time – the appearance of the character was treated in the episode as a surprise. Everything from the camera work to the music built up the suspense of who we were about to meet – yet the opening titles had already spoilt it. Riker’s appearance at the head of Starfleet’s armada was supposed to be something that would make the audience go “wow!”, but instead it was telegraphed ahead of time, so the arrival of his fleet and then seeing him in person when he hailed the Romulans had lost the crucial element of surprise. I just do not understand this decision. How hard would it have been to credit Jonathan Frakes at the end and leave Riker’s appearance a genuine surprise? It was poor, and it detracted from what should’ve been one of the episode’s more powerful moments. It was still nice to see Riker on screen and back in uniform – we’ll deal with that scene in more detail later – but it was such a shame that it wasn’t the surprise it should’ve been.

This shouldn’t have happened.

After the opening titles we see why Narek went to the Artifact – among the many things the Romulans didn’t have time to evacuate were a set of bombs, and he plans to use them to destroy the orchid-ships before the Romulan fleet arrives. This is a pretty tense scene in contrast to his reunion with Rizzo, as we see that there’s still tension between them and they’re of unequal status – despite being very shaken by recent events, Rizzo is still the superior officer. She really doesn’t have a choice in letting Narek go, as there are two jobs to do – destroying the orchids and activating the Artifact’s weapons – and two of them. Narek called himself a “Zhat Vash washout”, and clearly his history with the secretive organisation is complicated. We’d seen a couple of hints at that in earlier episodes, but nothing as major as what we got here. Unfortunately, as with many points across the two-part finale, it was left undeveloped. Narek has had multiple appearances across Star Trek: Picard’s first season for this aspect of his background to be explored, and given that we’re less likely to see him return for Season 2 than anyone else at this point, I would have thought that if the series wanted to properly explore his Zhat Vash background that this would’ve been the last opportunity. As it is, we got a couple of throwaway lines about Narek and Rizzo’s family: their parents, apparently, died as a result of working for the Zhat Vash, but again, how or why is not explained in any detail. Narek and Rizzo part for what would be the final time.

Out of all of Star Trek: Picard’s villains, the dynamic between Rizzo and Narek was by far the most interesting. As brother and sister there’s always going to be an element of sibling rivalry to what they’re trying to do, and Rizzo made clear in every scene together where the power lay in that dynamic. They played off each other well, with Rizzo pushing Narek to the brink of mutiny at times. But throughout it all, his commitment to the cause never wavered, and was stronger than both his fear of and disdain for Rizzo, as well as his clear feelings for Soji.

Technology in Star Trek has always been flexible to suit the needs of the story, and I appreciate that’s something that has happened going back to The Original Series. Even with that caveat, I didn’t like like the magical do-anything macguffin that’s used in the next scene by Raffi and Rios to fix La Sirena’s engine. It strayed too far into the realm of magic for me, especially with its “just believe it will work” spiel. While we’ve seen similar things in Star Trek before, and perhaps in some contexts it could’ve worked, it just felt forced at this moment; a way to send Raffi and Rios on a mission to La Sirena so they could be there for other story elements to unfold, but done in such a way that they didn’t need to spend more than thirty seconds fixing the engine – which they went back to do.

In fact, at several points in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2 did I get this feeling that the story was being forced down a particular path. Scenes would be included not because they fit the natural flow of the story, but because they either looked “cool” from a visual standpoint, or because they moved characters around to get them to be in the right place for other things to happen. In this example, Raffi and Rios had to leave Coppelius Station – under the guise of fixing La Sirena, they were moved out of the way so Picard could be apprehended, and placed in the right location for Narek to find them later, so they could plan their (stupid) attack on the synths’ beacon. It all felt just a little too much like it was driven by a room full of writers, and not a natural way for the characters to go. We’d also see the attack I mentioned be done in a very stupid way to get the plot to a specific climax, as well as the campfire scene with Narek which will come later as other examples of characters being forced into specific situations which didn’t really make sense in the context of the episode. It was constructed in such a way as to allow the plot to unfold, and unfortunately we’re supposed to just brush off some of the contrivances to make it happen.

Rios with the magical macguffin.

While we’re talking about contrivances, I can’t wait any longer to talk about Star Trek: Picard Season 1’s big plot hole. I’ve been flagging this up for several weeks as a potential issue, and unfortunately it was left unresolved at the end of the season. So a plot hole is what it’s become: why was Maddox on Freecloud? Finding Bruce Maddox was the driving force behind the first half of the season’s story, and when Picard finally encountered him on Freecloud, he made it very clear that the reason he was there, and had put himself in danger by contacting Bjayzl, was because his lab had been destroyed by the Tal Shiar. With nowhere else to go and no one to turn to, he went to see Bjayzl as a last resort – and ended up paying for it with his life. Yet Maddox’s lab clearly wasn’t destroyed. He wasn’t kicked out by Dr Soong and the synths, who continued to speak very highly of him. If he’d set up a lab elsewhere that had been destroyed, he could’ve returned to Coppelius. And as it sits right now, there’s no reason for Maddox going to Freecloud other than “because plot”. And that’s a mistake – Maddox was such an important figure, especially in those early episodes, that the reason he put himself in danger should have been given a proper explanation. It’s disappointing that the story and the season have ended with this gaping hole left unexplained.

After Raffi and Rios have used the magical macguffin, we get a scene with Dr Jurati and Dr Soong. At the end of last week’s episode, Dr Jurati had promised to aid the synths – but this was clearly a ploy to avoid being locked up and to be able to help Picard. I liked the dynamic between Soong and Jurati – he clearly hates her for killing Maddox, yet he needs her help. And his barely-contained loathing breaks the surface in the way he talks to her, as Brent Spiner delivers the lines in a style not dissimilar to how he portrayed Lore in The Next Generation. Again, though, as with too many points in the finale, this didn’t really have time to properly develop, and this scene between them, and one brief moment last week, is all the time they had alone together. Both Brent Spiner and Alison Pill delivered amazing performances with the limited material they had – I especially liked Dr Jurati’s “I’m not their mother, asshole” line – but I would have liked to have seen more of this relationship. There was the potential for it to go from bad to worse, then for the two of them to form a hate-filled unlikely alliance, before finally coming to terms with what happened. Dr Jurati had been essentially brainwashed by Commodore Oh, and they had both lost someone they cared about in Maddox – I would have liked to see that explored some more, especially because the on screen presence and chemistry the two actors had was definitely one of the finale’s high points.

Back at La Sirena, Narek has arrived and is trying to get the attention of Raffi and Rios by throwing rocks. He shows off his grenade collection and insists on meeting with them. At the meeting, Elnor arrives – we’d seen him following Narek as he left the Artifact. Speaking as we had been of two characters who loathe one another, Elnor and Narek feel that even more strongly. Elnor’s anger at Hugh’s death was on full display, but everyone had to stow their feelings as they discussed the synth problem. Narek is still in Zhat Vash mode, seeking out allies for his mission to blow up the synths’ ships. Staying with the theme of parts of the story being rushed, Raffi and Rios’ decision to believe him almost straightaway wasn’t great. While it was nice to see Narek finally interacting with someone other than Soji or Rizzo – the only two characters we’d seen him spend any significant time with – it came too late in the story to really have much impact, and like other points in the finale, was rushed. Narek really didn’t have to do much at all to convince the others that the synths – who they’d just met and were on friendly terms with – were a galaxy-ending threat, and they didn’t consider any other possibilities for why they couldn’t contact Picard at Coppelius Station other than Narek’s reasoning that the synths were jamming their commuications. It’s just another part of the finale where more time was needed – time to allow the three non-Zhat Vash characters to come around to Narek’s way of thinking. As it is, it felt like an instant turnaround – 180 degrees from trying to save the synths to trying to blow up their ships and beacon.

Narek finally gets a chance to talk to other characters.

At the beginning of Stardust City Rag, we got a fairly brutal scene where Icheb has his eye torn out. The graphic sequence was shown in full, and it was grotesque but at the same time it was something that as the audience, we couldn’t look away from. In the next scene in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2, Dr Jurati takes the eye out of Saga, the deceased synth from last week, in order to use it to unlock a door and spring Picard from his captivity. But we didn’t get to see the eye removal, as the camera instead cut to Dr Jurati’s face for the majority of the scene. And unfortunately, this didn’t look great. Alison Pill undoubtedly gave it her best shot, trying to look both disgusted and like someone who was trying to figure out how to disconnect sensitive electronics, but it would’ve been better to either see the entire process or to jump-cut from her starting the procedure to having the eye successfully removed. As a story point I did like using the eye, and I liked the eyeball prop when we saw her use it later, but the removal itself was just a bit of a waste in my opinion.

The campfire scene where Rios, Raffi, and Elnor sit and listen to Narek’s Zhat Vash stories wasn’t great. In principle it was good to have them together, but by this point in the story, we as the audience are familiar with the Zhat Vash prophecy. And ghost stories around the campfire is just such a cliché that the scene felt so forced. And it didn’t make sense in context. The ship had been fixed – why sit around outside it? And with such urgency to get to Coppelius Station to destroy the beacon, couldn’t they have talked en route? Or flown La Sirena closer to the synths’ compound? It was just so obvious that the director or creators of the show had decided that a campfire scene would look cool that they shoehorned it in, even though doing so made little sense.

The campfire story itself was fine, but as I said there wasn’t much in there that we as the audience didn’t already know. In an episode with so much story left to conclude, and thus where every minute matters, a lot of this campfire scene was really just wasted time. Conversely to that, the next scene with Commodore Oh – which barely even qualifies as a “scene” because of how short it was – had been very obviously and badly edited down to just a few seconds, and simply fell flat in the moment. Who was she supposed to be talking to when she said “At last, our great work is nearly at an end”? There was no one else present in the scene, she was just standing on the bridge of her ship in her evil villain cloak doing an evil villain pose spouting a generic evil villain line. Given how tightly it was cut, there was almost certainly more to this scene that didn’t make it into the final episode, but this line simply did not work on its own.

The visual effect of the Romulan fleet at warp was good, however, and I did enjoy seeing that. The design of the new style of Romulan vessel was great, and I could see it being a natural evolution of the Romulan Warbirds from The Next Generation and the advanced warship used by Shinzon in Nemesis, and the fact that some elements of those designs made it into the new Romulan ships was good and shows that the show’s creators were paying attention to past iterations of Star Trek. However, one thing I didn’t like – and this also applies to the Federation fleet that we see later in the episode – was that all of the ships were identical. Past fleets that we’ve seen, while arguably smaller in scale, were almost always comprised of multiple classes of ships, and the fact that the animators and CGI artists had essentially copied-and-pasted the ships meant that the large fleet was less visually impressive that it could’ve been. It was good to see the number of Romulan ships en route, though.

Narek is back in the next scene, a mere few seconds later, showing off the bombs he retrieved from the Artifact. While the episode hasn’t communicated this very well, it seems that a significant amount of time has passed. When Narek arrived it was daylight outside La Sirena, but then the campfire scene seemed to take place after sunset. Yet this scene is in daylight again – and as I said before, considering the urgency of the mission to stop the synths bringing about the end of the galaxy, which everyone seems to agree on, they don’t seem to be moving very fast toward that goal as they’re still talking aboard La Sirena.

I did like the creative way that they were able to sneak the bombs into Coppelius Station; that was a fun story beat, especially when Rios seemed to be playing with the ball in front of the synths. There was a second where it felt like he might kick it too hard and it would explode! The scene a few episodes ago where Rios had been kicking a ball around on La Sirena also paid off here. And if I’m not mistaken, at least one of the synths on guard duty looked like F8 – the synth from the flashbacks to Mars that we saw earlier in the season. However, the next part of this is yet another example of a plot contrivance – the guards let Raffi, Elnor, and Rios into their compound with Narek, but then seem to leave them alone to do their own thing instead of following them or taking Narek back into custody. It would’ve been better to skip the part about hiding the bombs in the football and have them sneak in another way, or leave the compound unguarded altogether (who are they guarding it from, after all?)

I’ve already mentioned that the eyeball was a neat prop, and the way Dr Jurati figured out how to use it to access Picard’s room and spring him from custody was great. Picard is clearly suffering here from the unnamed brain condition that we saw the first real indication of last week. And while I liked that this had been set up way back in the second episode of the season, it was really only in the two parts of the finale that Picard goes from experiencing no symptoms to full-on dead in a matter of hours or a couple of days. And while we have no frame of reference for how futuristic diseases might run their course, as a story point I feel this would’ve worked better if we’d seen a couple of other instances of his health starting to fail in previous episodes. I know we’ve seen him snap and seem to be quicker to anger at a couple of points, and that we saw his PTSD-breakdown when he first arrived aboard the Artifact, but for the most part Picard has seemed in good health for his age – until the finale, when his condition seemed to rapidly accelerate from nowhere.

Rios with the bomb-ball.

Dr Soong learns, in the next scene, that it was Sutra and not Narek who killed Saga, and is visually shocked and heartbroken at the revelation. I’m glad that Dr Soong turned out to be someone who was on Picard’s side in the end. Brent Spiner can portray villains wonderfully, as he did with Lore and another Dr Soong in Star Trek: Enterprise, but as a fan, seeing his new character at odds with Picard wouldn’t have been my preference, given that it’s been so long since we saw the two actors together in Star Trek.

The guards of Coppelius Station seem to have just allowed Raffi, Rios, Elnor, and Narek free rein inside the compound, and they’re planning their attack on the beacon when Dr Soong intervenes. For a moment they thought they’d been caught, but Dr Soong plans to help take down the beacon having learned of Sutra’s betrayal.

Picard and Dr Jurati made it back to La Sirena – though how the two groups managed not to cross paths or spot each other isn’t clear. I mean, there can only be one direct route to the ship after all. But that is a minor nitpick compared to others in the episode. This scene, between Picard and Dr Jurati, was very powerful, and the first point in the episode where I really started to feel things turn around. I loved Picard’s line that “fear is an incompetent teacher”, and their plan – to launch La Sirena into space and make a last stand against the Romulans as a way to show Soji and Sutra that not all organics are evil is a good move – perhaps their only possible plan under the circumstances short of using La Sirena’s weapons to destroy the beacon. They’re banking their hopes on Starfleet having received Picard’s message and already being en route, because at best they’ll be able to stall the Romulans for a few minutes. This is basically a suicide mission, and they both know it. The genius of putting these two characters together, as opposed to say, having Picard teamed up with Rios or Elnor, is that they both have nothing to lose. Picard’s at death’s door, and Dr Jurati is facing a lengthy spell in prison, so of all the characters who could try to make a last stand, it makes sense for them more so than any others – except perhaps Raffi.

The Romulan fleet is only seven minutes away, so Picard launches La Sirena and shakily leads the ship into orbit, with Dr Jurati along for the ride. The action then cuts to Coppelius Station, where the rest of the crew are planning to attack the beacon.

Attacking the beacon makes sense in the story, but the way it was executed was so bad, and the plan was clearly designed to fail. They storm in and make a huge fuss, then Dr Soong uses another macguffin to deactivate Sutra, but because the other synths are still all-in on using the beacon and summoning the “Mass Effect Reapers”, the rest of the crew scramble around, punching and kicking before being wrestled to the ground. Dr Soong, having deactivated Sutra with his magic wand, doesn’t do anything. He stands motionless in the background while Rios makes a desperate throw to get the bomb into position, but Soji catches it and throws it away.

So many things wrong here, but the overall problem is this – the fight was clearly written in such a way that the “heroes” lose. And that was painfully obvious in the way it was carried out on screen. But let’s break down some individual failings. Why did Dr Soong not show the assembled synths the video of Sutra killing Saga? That single piece of evidence would have swayed most of them to his side. Why did he not use his magic wand on Soji after disabling Sutra? Why did the crew launch a full-frontal attack against a force of massively superior synths instead of sneaking around or causing a distraction? Why try to fight the synths at all? And finally, probably my biggest complaint about the synth storyline in the finale as a whole: what was the point of Sutra?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing that we should’ve seen more of Sutra this episode. The awful makeup and hammy performance meant I wanted to see as little of her as possible – in that sense I got my wish – but for an antagonist who’d played such a large role last week, and who did have, as I pointed out, a motive that was at least partly understandable, she was just completely sidelined by a story that raced through far too many points and left her completely undeveloped. Sutra had the potential to be interesting, at least in theory. Her presence turned the synths from damsels in distress needing to be saved to antagonists needing to be dissuaded or defeated, and that concept, if executed better, could have been interesting. Unfortunately, as I’ve already said, it would’ve needed several more episodes to work effectively – and a better performance from the central synth villain.

Given that Star Trek: Picard has been at least as much Soji’s story as Picard’s, I feel it would have been better on the whole to ditch Sutra and simply have Soji and Dr Soong be the principle drivers behind contacting the “Mass Effect Reapers”. It would have cut an extraneous character, allowed more time for some of the others to be explored, and we wouldn’t have had to sit through that awful performance last week. Soji did need someone to guide her turnaround last week, to allow her to convincingly side with the synths. But I don’t think that needed to be Sutra, and with a few tweaks here and there the story could’ve arrived at the same place without her – and it would have been better for it, especially considering she did nothing whatsoever this week.

Soji working on the beacon.

The next scene with Dr Jurati and Picard was hit-and-miss for me. The jumps in tone from deadly serious suicide mission to cracking dumb jokes just didn’t work, and while Dr Jurati has occasionally provided moments of comic relief throughout the season, this was not the moment for humour and it just ended up detracting from what could’ve been a much more powerful scene. I did like, however, that La Sirena was not flying smoothly in the exterior shots we saw, indicating that Picard is still getting back into the swing of things. We have seen him pilot spacecraft before – shuttlecraft most often, but also the Enterprise-D itself in the episode Booby Trap from the third season of The Next Generation – so we know he’s at least basically capable and should understand the principles involved.

Seven of Nine and Rizzo fight aboard the Artifact as Rizzo has tried to bring the Cube’s weapons online. She’s targeting La Sirena, which does raise the stakes somewhat, and the fight itself was decently exciting. There was never any real doubt as to who the victor would be, however, and Rizzo finally gets her comeuppance for killing Hugh as Seven of Nine sends her falling to her death with a well-placed kick. The two traded barbs during the fight, and we really saw Rizzo in a way that I talked about a couple of weeks ago: as a racist. That aspect of the Zhat Vash and Romulans – that their actions are a veiled analogy for hating another group of people because they’re different – is something the show found a balance between hinting at and overplaying, and I think, taken as a whole, the balance was probably about right.

The visual effects and CGI in the episode were great, as we’ve already discussed, and the sight of the orchid ships launching to meet the Romulans, and overtaking La Sirena, was visually impressive. I still feel that the way the orchids operated last week was pretty dumb, but this time they don’t seem to be dragging intact ships to the planet’s surface; what exactly they’re doing in the fight other than getting shot at and serving as a huge distraction isn’t really clear.

The magical macguffin is back; Rios and Raffi apparently left it aboard La Sirena. Dr Jurati figures out that it can be used to produce holographic duplicates of the ship, which they can use to distract the Romulan fleet. Again, I really didn’t like this tool, and the fact that it seems to be magical and can be used for anything one’s heart desires was not great, even by the standards of Star Trek technobabble. While in principle what Dr Jurati hoped to do was a good idea, and I did like the name-check of the Picard manouvre from The Next Generation, the macguffin spoilt it really. And I felt that the moment where it created holo-duplicates of Dr Jurati’s face was a rare miss in the episode’s visuals.

However, Picard’s conversation with Soji, in which he explains that he’s basically laying down his own life to defend the synths was incredible and very powerful – the first of those emotional hits I mentioned at the beginning of the review. There’s something about a noble last stand that always gets to me, and this was a great example of it! It was an absolute desperation play, as Picard hopes against hope that Starfleet will arrive in time. If Starfleet didn’t get there, the “Mass Effect Reapers” would be the synths’ only hope of survival.

Picard speaks to Soji and asks her to reconsider.

The shot of La Sirena standing alone against the Romulan fleet was incredibly powerful too – part of that last stand feeling that I mentioned. The next part of the story has hits and misses, though. And I know this is kind of a nitpick, but what were the other synths and Dr Soong doing while Soji was activating the beacon? Did no one try to stop her or at least question what she was doing – especially given that they all heard what Picard had to say – nor try to contact the Romulans and reason with them? Several of the next few scenes played out as if Soji were the only one there, yet there were a dozen or more synths plus all of the other main characters.

Soji succeeds in activating the beacon just as the Romulans finish dealing with Picard and Dr Jurati’s last stand. The timely arrival of Starfleet – led, as the opening credits made clear, by Riker – prevented them from attacking the planet, and the two fleets enter a tense standoff. It was great to see Riker back in uniform again, and the last-minute arrival of the fleet saved Picard as well as the synths. However, as with the Romulan fleet earlier, all of the ships were the same type and I do feel that the copy-and-paste look detracted somewhat from the otherwise-impressive sight of so many Starfleet vessels – which, I believe, are based on a design from the Star Trek Online video game (but I could be mistaken in that). Until we’d seen his name in the credits, I wasn’t sure if we’d see Riker back in action this season. I was pleased that we did, and it definitely felt good to see Starfleet as the good guys again, after Picard had been forced to work around their obstinance for the majority of the season.

Captain Riker, back in uniform.

Though this moment had been telegraphed ahead of time and sadly was robbed of some of its impact as a result, the musical score as the ships emerged from warp, coupled with Riker’s appearance a few moments later, did still feel good – just not as good as if it had been a genuine surprise.

We got to see a better look at the command variant of the new Starfleet uniforms – which still have that Starfleet logo pattern in the coloured section – and again, as I said at the start of the season I do like the new uniforms. Especially compared to Star Trek: Discovery’s all-blue look I think they look great, and the combadges complement the look nicely.

Commodore Oh, throughout her appearances this season, hasn’t seemed like someone who would listen to reason. The Zhat Vash have been presented as the most committed of all Romulans to the anti-synthetic cause; both she and the organisation are zealots. And zealots seldom back down, even when facing significant opposition. Picard uses what is basically his dying breath to talk Soji down from summoning the “Mass Effect Reapers”, who hadn’t yet emerged through the aperture created by the beacon. This speech was really the climax of the episode, and the emotional hit of the words Picard spoke, combined with knowing he was suffering greatly as he spoke them, matched the high points other episodes of the season hit. It was the kind of speech Picard could’ve given at any time in The Next Generation as he focused on the rights of all life to exist, and for the need to demonstrate that the synths aren’t what the Zhat Vash feared them to be.

Commodore Oh decides to withdraw.

It was enough to sway Soji, who closes the aperture before the “Mass Effect Reapers” could come through or even send a message. Their mechanical tentacles did look menacing, but that’s all we go to see of them. Faced with Soji having stood down and Riker staring her down with a large fleet, Commodore Oh withdraws, and this is something which I feel was out of character. Are we supposed to believe Picard’s speech swayed her? Or simply seeing Soji stand down one time would be enough to override years of Zhat Vash indoctrination? Even if it was good enough for Oh, did everyone on the fleet agree? From her point of view, what is there to prevent the synths rebuilding the beacon in twenty years – or twenty minutes? While Picard’s climactic speech was beautiful, Commodore Oh’s decision to withdraw, like so many other points in the finale, felt rushed. And no sooner had he arrived than Riker, too, was gone – warping out of the system accompanying Oh’s fleet. Couldn’t they have left a ship or two behind? Considering what came next, Riker’s presence would have been incredibly emotional.

Picard bids Riker a solemn “adieu”, before succumbing to the effects of his condition – perhaps combined with whatever medication he was given earlier by Dr Jurati.

Picard’s death – or rather, his “death” – in this moment was the emotional climax of the story, after the plot had reached its own zenith a moment earlier. And it was a very powerful sequence. Soji transports Picard and Dr Jurati to the synths’ location, and Picard dies, surrounded by his crew and knowing that he did right by Soji and her people. His final act was one of sacrifice – making a last stand to defend the synths, righting a wrong from fourteen years ago where he had been unable to prevent the ban or aid the Romulans. The emotion on the faces of the characters – especially Raffi, as Michelle Hurd put in her best performance of the season – was heart-wrenching to witness. Surrounded by his friends, and with a few last words to (most) of them, he passes away, killed by the nameless condition that we assume to be Irumodic Syndrome.

Picard succumbs to his condition.

Of all the characters we’ve met across the season, Rios and Seven of Nine arguably had the least connection to Picard on a personal level. Aside from a few scenes when they first met, I can’t recall a significant moment with Rios and Picard together. While there’s always sadness when someone passes away, especially under such circumstances, putting Seven of Nine and Rios together wouldn’t have been my first choice in the immediate aftermath, simply because they didn’t have the connection that, say, Raffi or Soji had with Picard. Nevertheless, the scene between them was touching, and they both spoke highly of the fallen Admiral. I liked the idea of sharing a bad drink because it was all they had access to, and it emphasised that they’re both a long way from home and that this is, for the moment at least, the end of the journey.

The real heartbreaking scene was when Elnor broke down and was comforted by Raffi. Elnor, who had been so strong and powerful, was weak and vulnerable having regained and then lost his surrogate father figure, and Raffi, who was devastated too, trying to comfort him was just incredibly emotional. Both actors put in amazing performances here, and as sad as this scene was, I loved it.

Raffi and Elnor grieve for Picard.

When Picard awoke, for a moment I was half-expecting to see Q! That was never going to happen, of course – it would be a complete bolt from the blue for anyone who hadn’t seen The Next Generation, for one thing – but it would have bookended Picard’s story in the Star Trek franchise if this had been his final appearance and he was to stay dead, tying into themes from Encounter at Farpoint. Instead, Picard finds himself sat opposite Data. And I know there will be criticism of Data’s appearance given Brent Spiner’s age, but a combination of lighting, makeup, and what I assume are digital effects made him look decent here, and I didn’t find the way he looked offputting, especially when compared to the way the gold synths had looked last week.

At no point was I convinced that Picard would stay dead, but that in itself didn’t rob any of the scenes surrounding his death of any of their drama or emotion. As a story point, though, killing a character in such a dramatic and emotional way only to immediately revive them can end up feeling like a bit of an anticlimax, and there was an element of that here I’m afraid. Not in the moment, and not in Picard’s scene with Data in the digital afterlife, but certainly after his revival there was part of me left thinking “well, what was all that for?” In a sense, restoring Data’s mortality and finally providing him with the closest thing to humanity that he could get, Picard did have a reason to travel to the digital afterlife. No one could have known that Data was trapped in a kind of purgatory, nor that saving parts of his mind from the information transferred to B4 would mean that some essence or facet of his personality would be forever entombed in this realm. That action – saving Data and finally laying him to rest – gives Picard a reason for this temporary death, and as a story it was, overall, a success.

Data takes on the role of what I guess you’d say was a god or grim reaper figure from classical literature, explaining to Picard that he’s in the afterlife and that he died. This was another incredibly emotional scene, as Picard got to express twenty years’ worth of sadness and regret to his long-lost friend. Maybe I’m seeing what I want to see, but I seemed to get hints at Data’s study in the set design, notably the room he occupied in All Good Things, the finale of The Next Generation, in which he was still alive and working as a professor. In fact, while we’re talking about set design, I felt that this room was one of Star Trek: Picard’s best and most evocative. I’ve written before that the outdoor filming scenes, supposedly taking place in France, in Japan, and on several alien worlds, all looked suspiciously like California, and that has been a let-down at points. But the interior sets have been fantastic. I love the way La Sirena looks – inside and out, in that case! – and the Troi-Riker cabin was everything it needed to be. The Artifact is something I really haven’t written about as often as I should’ve, because the subtle updates to the Borg vessel have been fantastic. I loved the shifting walls that were present at times, and the way that, despite being claimed by Romulans and some area being declared “safe”, it was still definitely a Borg vessel. Bjayzl’s club on Freecloud was maybe a tad cliché, but it still did a great job feeling like a futuristic, alien club. The nunnery on Vashti was incredibly reminiscent of something from Japan, and I loved that style when it appeared in Absolute Candor. And finally, Coppelius Station and the Daystrom Institute both conveyed the look of being futuristic in a similar but not identical way to locations in previous iterations of Star Trek.

Data in the digital afterlife.

In this case, the room was clearly artificial, but in a way that conveyed a sense of limbo or purgatory. By the furniture and decor being greyed out, there was the sense that, like in a computer when a file or programme is inaccessible, things weren’t quite right. And the fact that the only colour came from the two figures of Picard and Data, our focus as the audience was drawn to them and all attention focused on them – in the same way as you might expect if seeing a very minimalist stage production.

Part of the criticism of Star Trek: Nemesis at the time it was released surrounded how Data’s death was handled in the story. Aside from the criticisms of the story beat itself, the main ones were that he didn’t really get a chance for any goodbyes, and that in a relatively short space of time, Picard and the crew were laughing and joking on the way to their next adventures. We saw earlier in the season – indeed, from the very beginning – that Data’s loss weighed heavily on Picard, and that his friends Riker and Troi remembered him fondly and held his legacy dear, but in this moment, the second criticism was addressed, as Data got to say goodbye properly. Partly this was to Picard, but partly it was to the audience – to us. In a way, this righted what some fans had considered an eighteen-year wrong.

The conversation they had about dying was interesting – and it did, in a way, capture that elusive sense of “Star Trek-ness” that Star Trek: Picard has been so keen to restore to the franchise in the aftermath of Discovery and the JJverse films. Both of those, despite what some have argued, had moments where they “felt like Star Trek”, but not every moment. For all my criticisms of the plot and various scenes in Star Trek: Picard’s finale, it did always feel like Star Trek – and this scene with Data, talking about life and death, was just one part of that, but it was a particularly powerful part.

Picard walks out of the room into a bright white light, and awakens in a new synthetic body, donated by Dr Soong. I wish we’d seen more of Dr Soong and learned why he built himself a synthetic body. There seemed to be hints last week that he was sick or possibly dying, but these were vague and underdeveloped – like many points in the finale – so we don’t really know the stakes or what kind of sacrifice Dr Soong may have made. Did he condemn himself to death by giving Picard the “golem”, or will he just build another one next week now he knows how to do the mind-transfer?

Picard is reborn in a new synthetic body.

Soji, Dr Soong, and Dr Jurati explain to Picard a number of caveats – his new body is the same as his old one, he won’t have any enhanced strength, speed, brainpower, or anything that would change him in any way. He’ll be identical to how he was, just without the terminal brain condition. And it was around here that the sense of “well what was the point of all that?” kicked in. The Data storyline was great, and I loved that Picard got to say goodbye, that we as the audience got to say goodbye to Data, and that Picard got to do his friend a final favour of letting him die properly. But for Picard’s own character, the death-and-rebirth story didn’t really do much of anything. He’s back to how he was before he died a few minutes later, and all of the emotion from his goodbye to Riker to the reaction of all of the characters was, in retrospect, at least slightly wasted.

We get a touching sequence as Picard fulfils his promise, unplugging Data and letting him finally die. Data prepares his room in the digital afterlife, and lies down to await the inevitable. Picard appears to him in his old uniform – whether Data was imagining him or dreaming isn’t clear, but it is clear that his final thoughts were of his friend. Getting a proper goodbye with Data wasn’t even something I knew that I wanted – but now that I’ve seen it, I can see how it was missing from Nemesis and that it really was something cathartic and beautiful to see. Picard’s speech, the music, the change in lighting in the digital afterlife, and finally Data fading away were all amazing to see, and it was another deeply emotional moment. Picard may have come back to life, but Data won’t – he can’t. This marks the final goodbye to a character we first met in 1987, and who we spent a lot of time with.

The crew reassembles aboard La Sirena – and they’ve had to find extra chairs for the bridge. Seven of Nine seems to have joined the crew, though whether that’s temporary isn’t clear at this stage. They set off to destinations unknown, and we learn that the ban on synthetic life has been overturned. The season ends with Picard giving the order to “engage!”, and La Sirena jumps to warp. The familiar Star Trek music sting kicked in at this moment, making the final scene of the episode another stirring and emotional moment.

The assembled crew of La Sirena – ready for Season 2!

Taken as a whole, the episode was certainly mixed. There were high points which equalled or even went beyond the heights reached by other episodes of the season – even Remembrance right at the beginning. And there were some beautiful, deeply emotional moments which still pack a punch on a third, fourth, and fifth viewing. But there were some mistakes and disappointments too, and too much undeveloped story that was left behind as La Sirena warps off to a new destination and – presumably – a new story in Season 2.

There are key points left hanging as of the end of the episode. The first is: what happened to Narek? He obviously wasn’t present aboard La Sirena at the end, but he’d been a major character who we’d spent a lot of time with and he just seems to have been abandoned by the story about halfway through the episode. It’s not clear if he returned to Romulus, remained in captivity with the synths, was handed over to Starfleet, or even if he joined La Sirena but just didn’t sit with the others on the bridge. I don’t expect to see him return for Season 2 at this point, but just ditching him with no goodbye and no end to his story was just a bit strange.

Obviously I’ve already mentioned the Bruce Maddox plot hole that was left unresolved, but that’s a major annoyance so it’s worth bringing up again. There’s also Dr Jurati – she did still murder someone, so why is she free to go with Picard? Was her conviction expunged? Is she a fugitive? Will this come back to haunt her in future? It would have been nice to see some resolution to that point – unless, of course, it’s something planned for next season, in which case I’m content to wait.

Next are the “Mass Effect Reapers”. The Zhat Vash were right, in a roundabout way. The relic on Aia does tell of a race of synthetic monsters from far beyond the stars. That race are out there – is Starfleet going to try to contact them and make peace? Will the synths from Coppelius contact them and tell them not to hurt anyone? Are the “Mass Effect Reapers” content to just go back to waiting for someone else to contact them, or are they now aware of Starfleet, the Romulans, and the Milky Way galaxy’s various species? What steps will everyone have to take in case they return? What’s to stop another synthetic race from contacting them, or even the Coppelius synths changing their minds and asking for their help after all? Building a beacon didn’t look too hard or time-consuming. And what of the relic on Aia? Is it still active? Will it be shut down? Are the Zhat Vash still hell-bent on killing other synths, even if they leave Coppelius alone?

The “Mass Effect Reapers” are still out there.

Finally, we have Dr Soong and the synths. They’re under Federation protection now, but what will happen to them? Will they stay on Coppelius? Will they continue to make more copies of themselves? Without Data’s neurons, can they make more synths? And without Dr Maddox and Dr Jurati, can Dr Soong continue to work? What’s to stop the Romulans coming back next week and nuking their settlement from orbit? Are they protected in any way? Will they have to leave Coppelius and settle somewhere safer? I didn’t expect every single one of these points to be addressed, but some hint and what’s to come next for the synths would’ve been nice given how they were such a large part of the finale and the story of the season overall.

If I had been tasked with salvaging the story of the finale, the first thing I’d have done would have been to get at least one more episode for the season – perhaps two. Then I’d have interspersed some of the storylines present on Coppelius with the other active stories much earlier in the season, allowing more time for the development of characters like Dr Soong, Sutra, and even Saga. Beginning with perhaps episode six or seven – roughly the halfway point of a twelve-episode extended season – I’d have introduced the audience to Coppelius and everyone resident there. I’d have done more to build up the stakes by exploring the “Mass Effect Reapers” in more detail, too. A name for the faction would have been good, but also a basic motivation as well as some indication of their level of technology. Finally, I’d have spent more time on the climactic stand-off between Commodore Oh’s fleet and Riker’s Starfleet armada, and tried to find a convincing way to end the Zhat Vash threat, like having other Romulans mutiny against Oh when the synths deactivated the beacon. I think that by spending some more time with some of the characters, and by introducing them earlier, the finale would have been more enjoyable. But there’s no salvaging that awful gold makeup. That would have to go!

I guess what I’d say about the two parts of Et in Arcadia Ego is this: it did provide a satisfactory conclusion to many parts of the story of Star Trek: Picard’s first season, but it left a lot on the table and it was rushed, poorly paced, and incomplete. When I think about the season as a whole, Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 is by far the worst episode, and while Part 2 went some way to rectifying that, and did manage to pull out a passable end to the story, it wasn’t an especially great episode either, with some definite low points to counteract the emotional highs.

Star Trek: Picard Season 1 stumbled across the finish line, scraping together the bare bones of a conclusion, but leaving a lot of unanswered questions and at least one gaping plot hole. That doesn’t mean that Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2 was a failure; it did manage to elicit some powerful feelings and bring together some of the dangling story threads. But I don’t think we can call it a rousing success either, and a story that started out incredibly strongly ten weeks ago has finished with a weaker and less enjoyable pair of episodes than I would’ve wanted.

All that being said, I’m satisfied with the season as a whole. My gripes about specific points in both parts of the finale don’t detract from what has been, overall, a wonderful story and a great return to the Star Trek universe as the 25th Century is about to begin. I hope that Star Trek: Picard can now serve as a jumping-off point for other Star Trek shows set in and around the same era, moving the franchise forward into the future – where it should always have been trying to go.

Stay tuned for the conclusion to my Star Trek: Picard theories for Season 1, as well as later in the year when I hope to do a retrospective look at the season. When some time has passed and the dust has settled, it should be a good to go back and take a second look. Rewatching earlier episodes while keeping in mind some of the story elements from the finale should be an interesting experience, and I will undoubtedly see more hints and foreshadowing that I missed when I first saw them.

Now that Star Trek: Picard has concluded, don’t think that the blog is going away! There will be lots more to come as I have numerous articles in the pipeline. I half-expected to see a release date for Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 announced, but despite all the hype around Star Trek: Picard, ViacomCBS have chosen not to take advantage of this opportunity to plug Discovery. Even if the release date isn’t for a couple of months, putting it out there now would have been a great move. Regardless, whenever it airs, I hope you’ll come back to see me review and break down those episodes too.

See you next time!

All ten episodes of Star Trek: Picard’s first season are available to stream now on CBS All Access in the United States, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and other countries and territories. 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.

You can find my reviews for the rest of Star Trek: Picard Season 1 here: Episode 1: Remembrance, Episode 2: Maps and Legends, Episode 3: The End is the Beginning, Episode 4: Absolute Candor, Episode 5: Stardust City Rag, Episode 6: The Impossible Box, Episode 7: Nepenthe, Episode 8: Broken Pieces, Episode 9: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1.

Star Trek: Picard theories – week 9

Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for the first nine episodes of Star Trek: Picard, and there may also be spoilers for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

If you’ve read my review of Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1, you’ll know it’s my least-favourite episode of Star Trek: Picard’s first season. The season as a whole has been fantastic, and I’m really hoping that the finale will manage to salvage things because it would be such a shame if the overall story ended up spoilt by a bad ending. In any case, despite not enjoying the episode it did nevertheless bring up a couple of new theories, and debunk several others.

I re-read my review before penning this article, just in case I was too harsh or wanted to amend any of my more stinging criticisms of Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1, but honestly at this point I stand by it. Every season of every Star Trek show has had bad episodes here and there, and I suppose it was an inevitability that Star Trek: Picard would too. The main problem, just to reiterate, is that Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 didn’t behave like the ninth part of a ten-episode story. By introducing new characters and storylines, as well as shaking up existing stories and leaving many points unresolved, there was simply too much to do and as a result, many potentially interesting story points were blitzed through in two minutes instead of being properly developed. I wrote that the episode felt like the halfway mark of the story rather than the beginning of the end, and if it had been episode 5 or 6 I’m sure I would’ve enjoyed it more. Star Trek: Picard does have a second season currently on order – though when that will be able to be produced is unclear right now with the coronavirus pandemic putting a halt to work across the entertainment industry – but as far as I’m aware, at least based on everything we were told in the run-up to this season, Season 1 was a self-contained story. I don’t think we can count Et in Arcadia Ego as the midway point of a two-season story simply because that was never the plan. It seems, one way or another, that the story arc of this season, with Commodore Oh, the vision on Aia, the Zhat Vash, and the synths on Coppelius will be concluded on Friday and that Season 2 will be another story. But perhaps that’s just a theory that can be proven wrong!

Speaking of Season 2, this won’t be my last Star Trek: Picard theories post. While I fully expect the main story to be concluded, I have no doubt that the show will leave Picard and his new crew on the precipice of their next adventure – so join me in a week or so as we speculate about what that might be.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing these theories over the last few weeks, and I hope to begin a series of Star Trek: Discovery theories when Season 3 premieres later this year. If Lower Decks provides suitable material for theory-crafting, I’m sure I’ll do the same there too. Once again, please remember to take everything with a grain of salt and not to get overly-attached! These theories are just for fun, after all.

Let’s begin with the theories that Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 debunked.

Debunked theory #1: Some of the male synths will resemble Data.

Brent Spiner did have a role this week, but not as a synth.

Assuming we got to see all of the synths on Coppelius this week, there were none built in Data’s image. Brent Spiner actually has a new role as Dr Soong, the son of Data’s creator, so it doesn’t seem like we’ll be seeing him back in makeup as a descendent of Data living on Coppelius.

Debunked theory #2: The synths on Coppelius were killed when Maddox’s lab was destroyed.

Maddox had nowhere else to turn after his lab was destroyed – and going to see Bjayzl was a huge risk.

This would have led to a fairly bleak outcome for the story of Star Trek: Picard’s first season, as it would’ve left Soji as perhaps the last of her kind. However, we now know that there are plenty of synths living on Coppelius, despite Maddox’s claim in Stardust City Rag that his lab had been destroyed. I really really hope this gets explained, because we need to know what prompted Maddox to travel to the incredibly dangerous Freecloud and to meet with Bjayzl – to whom he owed money – while in a desperate state. Was Maddox expelled from Coppelius by the synths? That could be one explanation.

If it ends up ignored, I’m afraid that it isn’t just the case of a throwaway line in one episode. Locating Maddox was a large part of the first half of the season, with Raffi tracking him down and Picard organising the trip to Freecloud specifically to find him. Maddox said very clearly that the reason he’d gone there was because his lab had been destroyed – he had nowhere else to turn, so he went to see Bjayzl. One of the synths said this week that they only had one spacecraft on Coppelius – the one Jana used when she met Rios – so that further complicates matters. If these things end up being untrue then we need to know why given Maddox’s important role in the plot. I’ve been flagging this up for several weeks because I’m concerned it could open a significant plot hole.

So those two theories were debunked in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1. A couple of others are looking incredibly unlikely, but I don’t think we can call them officially debunked just yet, so I’ll leave them in place for now. We got two confirmed theories as well, so let’s look at those briefly before we get into the main list.

Confirmed theory #1: Seven of Nine and Elnor took the Artifact to Coppelius.

The Artifact emerges from transwarp.

The visual effect of the Artifact exiting the transwarp network was beautiful. It was a stunning work of CGI that the above image doesn’t do justice to. Unfortunately, as a story point I felt it was unearned and I didn’t like it.

Seven of Nine said that she could see La Sirena in the transwarp network when connected to the Artifact, and based on that she decided to fly the ship there with the surviving xBs. However, we didn’t really see any of that on screen, and the Artifact’s arrival seemed to come from nowhere during La Sirena’s battle with Narek. As something that had the potential to be incredibly exciting, I felt that this was a total waste of the Artifact’s surprise potential, despite the cool visual effect.

Confirmed theory #2: Romulan minds have a very particular reaction to the relic on Aia.

Part of the vision from Aia.

Okay so technically it’s organic minds, rather than specifically Romulan minds, that react so badly to the vision from Aia, but I was at least halfway right when I said that someone else experiencing the vision would have a different and less intense reaction. Sutra was able to make sense of the vision, recognising that it was one designed to be shown to synthetic minds, not organic ones.

She deciphered the vision as an appeal to synthetic races from another synthetic race, telling them to get in touch when they were ready so that the organic races who created them – and persecuted or enslaved them – could be destroyed. I’ve termed this faction the “Mass Effect Reapers”, since they play a very similar role to the antagonists in that video game series.

The Romulans didn’t fundamentally misinterpret the vision – it does seem as though an unknown faction will show up when certain conditions are met in order to exterminate life. However, they misunderstood what those conditions were – the synths need to ask for help. By being so aggressive against synths, the Romulans have arguably created a self-fulfilling prophecy where their own persecution of synths has pushed Sutra and the others on Coppelius to the point of summoning the “Mass Effect Reapers”. At least, I think that’s what the now-confused story is trying to say.

So those were the confirmed theories. Now let’s take a look at a couple of new theories, as well as those returning from past weeks.

Number 1: Sutra will succeed in triggering the arrival of the “Mass Effect Reapers”.

Sutra is Soji’s evil twin.

As of the end of this week’s episode, Sutra planned to use the information she gleamed from the vision to contact the “Mass Effect Reapers” and use their help to defeat the Romulans. Surely the conclusion of the story of this season can’t end up being “we just won’t pull the trigger and we’ll stay hidden from this powerful race”. That’s exactly what the Zhat Vash have been trying to do, and it would be quite depressing if it turns out that the villains have actually been right all along. So somehow, Picard and his crew will have to confront this new threat.

The simplest way to do that would be for Sutra to succeed in summoning the “Mass Effect Reapers”, calling on their aid to defend Coppelius from Commodore Oh’s armada. However, when the dust settles on that climactic battle, what will happen to Picard and the rest of the organics? I think here we see a possible way for Picard to come into his own. As an experienced diplomat, Picard could broker a peace with the “Mass Effect Reapers”, allowing for synthetic life in the galaxy to exist and prosper, ensuring synths would have equal rights, and so on. Rather than taking the action-sci fi approach of “kill all the bad guys and blow everything up”, this would be a quieter, calmer ending, akin to something like Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and would demonstrate that Picard – and the Federation as a whole – were able to truly embrace the idea of very different types of life.

Number 2A: Picard and the crew of La Sirena will travel forward in time to link up with Burnham and the USS Discovery.
Number 2B: Burnham and the USS Discovery will end up in 2399.

Burnham in the trailer for Discovery’s third season.

These twin theories really stem from the idea that it makes a certain kind of sense for Star Trek to bring together its fractured timeline.

When the Star Trek franchise was arguably at its most successful in the 1990s, the three shows which were in production at that time were all set in the same time period. With the exceptions of the two films featuring the cast of The Original Series, every Star Trek project after 1987 and until Enterprise premiered in 2001 was set in the mid-late 24th Century. As such, there were multiple opportunities for crossovers of themes, factions, and even characters. 1990s Star Trek was, in that respect, similar to the current Marvel shared universe which they use in their incredibly successful films. Star Trek today is much more fractured, with potentially four different time periods and one parallel universe all being used as the settings for different shows and films. When it comes to keeping the franchise together – as well as giving fans and casual viewers an incentive to jump from one series to another – bringing things together just makes sense.

The trailer for the third season of Star Trek: Discovery seemed to hint at a post-apocalyptic setting, and while we have seen in Star Trek: Picard that the Federation and Starfleet still exist and are thriving, there could be a way to explain things. The USS Discovery could, for example, emerge in a remote sector of the galaxy where the Federation no longer hold jurisdiction. Or the arrival of the “Mass Effect Reapers” could have triggered the collapse of the Federation in that region.

Secondly, something may happen at the end of Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2 which sends Picard and his crew forward in time, meeting up with the USS Discovery in their future timeline.

While both options have points in their favour as well as noteworthy downsides, to keep the franchise together and expand its appeal as a “shared universe” it could be worthwhile to bring the shows into the same time period.

Number 3: Sutra is descended from Lore, not Data.

Lore was Data’s evil twin.

As I stated in my review, I flat-out do not like Sutra. Both from an aesthetic point of view (don’t get me started on that awful makeup again) and, sadly, the quality of the performance, Sutra is by far the least-convincing antagonist in the series as well as the least-interesting character, despite having potential. Not to mention that her 11th hour introduction has left practically no time for any meaningful exploration or development of her character.

However, setting aside my dislike of the character and her role in the story, there is one theory regarding Sutra’s origin that I have been kicking around. While we know that Maddox claimed that all of the synths on Coppelius were cloned from neurons that came from Data, there’s no evidence to support that claim right now. Data was blown to smithereens at the end of Star Trek: Nemesis, when he triggered an explosion aboard the Romulan vessel that had been commanded by Shinzon. While it’s possible that some tiny fragments survived from which Maddox was able to work, it’s also possible that Data left behind no remains.

If the latter is true, or if his remains were unrecoverable or unusable, it raises the question of how the synths came into being. One possibility is that Lore, Data’s evil twin introduced in the first season of The Next Generation, is the progenitor of some of the synths – and that could explain Sutra’s devious nature.

Hopefully Soji turns out to be a descendent of Data, because in the last couple of episodes her dynamic with Picard has used that to great effect, and a key element of their relationship would be lost if she turned out to be a clone of Lore, B4, or some other synth.

Number 4: The Artifact – or the Borg Sphere it seems to contain – will get back into space.

The circular region on the Artifact (partially obscured by the hill in front) could contain a Borg Sphere.

The Artifact’s arrival at Coppelius was a great visual effect, but as a story point I didn’t like it when I saw it this week. However, one point of interest came as the Artifact was exiting the transwarp network – it appears to have a Borg Sphere docked. We saw in First Contact that Cubes can have Spheres on board, and it seems like the Artifact has one too. Given that the Artifact itself has crashed – and seemed to be in a bad way – I wonder if Seven of Nine, Elnor, and the xBs will use the Sphere to return to space – perhaps joining in the fight over Coppelius that we assume is coming.

The other possibility is that the Artifact itself can be repaired and relaunched into space, but if that happens I feel it could be kind of hollow – what exactly would be the point of crashing it one week to get it flying again the next, especially given how little screen time the Artifact got this week?

If that were to happen, I feel that the better storytelling choice would’ve been to skip the Artifact this week and have the cool emerging-from-transwarp scene next week, midway through the battle and helping to turn the tide against the Romulans.

Number 5: The “Mass Effect Reapers” will turn out to be the Borg.

The Borg made their Star Trek debut in 1989’s Q Who.

In the vision Sutra was able to decipher, the faction offering help to synthetics wasn’t named. Given that the Borg have played a role in this season, I wonder if they may take this opportunity to show up. Rather than being a message which set out to help synthetics, what if the Aia vision was a trap laid by the Borg to assimilate them? When they’re contacted, they know that a highly-advanced synthetic race exists – and the Borg love to assimilate advanced races and absorb their technology into the collective. So they travel through the transwarp network that we’ve just seen La Sirena and the Artifact use, but instead of providing help to the synths, they assimilate them. And not only that, they may also assimilate the species that built the synths in the first place, adding both technologically-advanced races to their collective.

Of all the races we know of in Star Trek, the Borg are one of the few who would conceivably be able to accomplish something as massive as moving stars – something whoever left the message on Aia was able to do. The drawback to this theory is that it doesn’t fit with the Borg’s normal modus operandi – they usually just show up and conquer their target, without going to the trouble of leaving messages and traps. But it’s not entirely impossible!

Number 6: Picard and the crew of La Sirena will travel to Aia.

The Zhat Vash with the relic on Aia.

Last week, I said that the reason for Picard and the crew to travel to Aia would be for them to see the vision for themselves. Now that we know what the vision contains, there’s not really any reason for this. However, it’s still possible that they may travel to Aia.

It could be that the “Mass Effect Reapers” will arrive there if Sutra is able to contact them, or if the battle is won and the Romulans and the Reapers are defeated, Picard and the crew may wish to travel there to deactivate the relic and prevent it from being used again.

Number 7: Narek is going to go rogue.

If Narek does turn on the Zhat Vash, it’ll be for Soji.

I’m still not sure, even at this late stage, how genuine Narek is when he talks to Soji. We saw how much it hurt him to leave her to die on the Artifact, but we also saw how determined he was to catch up to her afterwards. Whether Narek has seen the vision on Aia or not, he seems to be fully subscribed to the Zhat Vash ideology of preventing synthetic life reaching the threshold, and no matter what his personal feelings may have been, he did try to help them complete that mission.

However, if it is ultimately proven that, for whatever reason, synthetic life does not pose the threat the Zhat Vash assume it does, Narek will have no reason to hurt Soji or the other synths. He may even be a valuable ally, providing Picard and the crew with information about the Zhat Vash and their plans.

In short, I don’t see Narek turning on his allies unless he’s sure that synths don’t pose a threat. Sutra seems intent on proving that they are a threat, so we’ll have to see what happens. But with so much time spent on the Narek-Soji relationship through the first three-quarters of the season, there will have to be some kind of resolution to his story arc.

Number 8: Commodore Oh is a synth.

Commodore Oh in her silly sunglasses.

When I first came up with this theory a couple of weeks ago, the one big issue staring me in the face was that Commodore Oh was able to mind-meld. Telepathic powers have only ever been seen in organics in Star Trek, and that was definitely a factor making this theory less likely.

However, with the revelation last week that Sutra is capable of mind-melding despite obviously being a synth, we can now get rid of that obstacle. Does it make the theory likely? I don’t know, but it’s at least technically possible in a way it arguably wasn’t a few days ago.

There would be some delicious irony in the revelation that Commodore Oh, who has worked so hard against synthetic life, is a synth herself – especially if, like Soji, she’s unaware of her true nature. The possibility of an undercover synth working to trigger the arrival of her cohorts would make a certain kind of sense, but it would have to be handled well to avoid feeling like a deus ex machina.

So those are the theories that are new or were advanced somehow in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1. Now, as always, let’s look at the remaining theories from previous weeks that weren’t confirmed, debunked, or advanced.

Number 9: Picard’s conversation with Admiral Clancy may have tipped off Commodore Oh and the Romulans.

Admiral Clancy had promised to dispatch a fleet to Deep Space 12 to defend the synths on Coppelius from the Romulans. However, her conversation with Picard took place before Picard and the crew had pieced everything together about Commodore Oh – and as a result, it’s at least possible that she became aware of Starfleet’s plans and will be expecting the arrival of their fleet.

Number 10: Star Trek: Discovery’s post-apocalyptic setting is related to the arrival of the “Mass Effect Reapers”.

I hinted at this above, but one possible explanation for the seemingly bleak future glimpsed in the trailers for Discovery’s third season is that, somehow, the vision from Aia comes true and the “Mass Effect Reapers” arrive and cause widespread devastation.

The downside to this, and why it seems less likely, is that Discovery claims to be taking place roughly 800 years in the future from Star Trek: Picard’s time, so even if something major happens, it seems unlikely that the Federation would still be picking up the pieces after so much time had passed! However, as I suggested above, if Burnham and co. arrive in 2399 instead of the 32nd/33rd Century, it could all fit together.

Number 11: Borg technology was used in the creation of the Coppelius synths.

One aspect of Star Trek: Picard’s story that is still unexplained is what was going on with the Borg components? Icheb was murdered so his Borg technology could be extracted, and the de-assimilation taking place on a large scale aboard the Artifact was very profitable for the Romulans – but who was buying these parts?

I had speculated that Maddox and his team might be the primary buyers, using that technology to advance their understanding of synthetics and develop better synths. It would be one way to explain the jump between F8, who was incredibly basic, computer-like, and inhuman, and synths like Jana and Sutra, who were active only a few years later.

Number 12: Riker will return to active duty.

In Nepenthe, Riker stated that he hasn’t officially retired from Starfleet and is instead on “active reserve”. Given that, and his location being close-ish to Deep Space 12 and thus to Picard, I wonder if Riker could be called on to join – or even lead – the fleet headed for Coppelius. If not, we can call this our first Star Trek: Picard Season 2 theory!

Number 13: The father figure from Soji’s dream isn’t Maddox – it could be a synth or it could be Dr Soong.

Maddox claimed to have built Soji and Dahj, and on Coppelius his room was preserved and both Dr Soong and the synths spoke highly of him. However, the father figure from Soji’s dream had no face, and while that may simply have been for shock value and for Maddox to keep himself safe if Soji were ever found out, it’s at least possible that there’s another explanation. There seemed to be the briefest of hints that Soji recognised Dr Soong in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 – and he is wearing a not dissimilar outfit to the father figure in her dreams.

Number 14: Picard’s illness is Irumodic Syndrome

Despite Picard discussing his diagnosis with the crew this week, the name of the condition was not mentioned. Barring a last-minute appearance from Dr Benayoun, the condition Picard is suffering from may not be named this season – but this theory will remain in play for Season 2.

Number 15: Soji and Dahj’s necklaces were a deliberate symbol to communicate with someone.

Clandestine communication through the use of signs and symbols goes back to ancient times, and I wonder if Maddox and Dr Soong employed it when choosing Soji and Dahj’s necklaces. I felt the necklaces themselves were not strong props from a visual standpoint (I said so way back in my review of Remembrance) but considering that they’re supposedly a visual symbol of a banned method of building synths, I wonder if Maddox’s intention was to indicate to someone in the synth field that Soji and Dahj were his work. If not, the necklaces are a heck of a risk. They may even have been what brought Soji and Dahj to the attention of the Zhat Vash – how they figured out Soji and Dahj were synths is something which is currently unknown.

Number 16: Section 31 will be involved.

All of my Section 31 theories over the course of this season have come and gone, but I have thought up a new one! With a new series based on Section 31 in development, and considering their role in Discovery’s second season, I felt sure that they’d crop up somehow this season. The only way I can think of that happening right now is almost right at the end of the season – perhaps even an epilogue – in which they take possession of the Artifact and its valuable Borg technology.

Number 17: Something Maddox did or didn’t do meant that the synths on Mars could be hacked.

We learned a couple of weeks ago that the Zhat Vash, presumably led by Commodore Oh, were responsible for the attack on Mars. They did that by hacking the synths on Mars, turning them against the Federation and then forcing them to commit suicide when their work was done. But how the Zhat Vash were able to perform this task is unknown – and I wonder if something Maddox did or didn’t do meant that it was possible.

So that’s it. Those are the remaining theories as we head into the finale! It’s patently obvious that they can’t all be right, and we may even see none of them pan out by the time the episode – and the season – is complete. However, it’s always fun to speculate, and there are several theories which, if they aren’t outright debunked, will form the basis for my Star Trek: Picard Season 2 theory list! As and when we get information, images, and trailers for the second season I hope to update that list, so stay tuned for that.

After being so hyped and excited for this series for well over a year, it’s bittersweet that it’s almost over! With only one exception, I’ve had a great time with every episode of this season – and even within the episode that I didn’t like there were still enjoyable moments.

Next week, or rather, sometime after I watch the episode on Friday, I’ll do my usual review post for Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2. Then after that, I’ll wrap up this season’s theories and do my Season 2 theories – assuming I have any. After that I’ll take a break from Star Trek: Picard content, but at some point before the end of the year, when I’ve had a chance to re-watch the whole season in full, I plan to do a retrospective of the entire season discussing various highs and lows. I’m half-expecting to learn that Star Trek: Discovery’s third season is going to be released in April or May, but with all of the issues stemming from coronavirus I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see it delayed to later in the year. But when it’s on the air I’ll be doing the reviews and probably theories too. What I’m saying is I hope you stick around after Star Trek: Picard goes off the air, because the blog isn’t going away!

The first nine episodes of Star Trek: Picard are available to stream now on CBS All Access in the United States, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and other countries and territories. 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.

Star Trek: Picard review – Season 1, Episode 9: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1

Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 and the preceding eight episodes of Star Trek: Picard Season 1. There may also be spoilers for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

So I suppose I should just come right out and say it: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 is my least-favourite episode of Star Trek: Picard so far. We’ve had some great episodes this season which really hooked me in, took me on a rollercoaster journey, and got me feeling happy, nervous, excited, nostalgic, tense, and emotional. This week I really didn’t get any of that for the bulk of the episode. There were a handful of good moments sprinkled throughout, but the pacing of the episode as a whole felt off – it seemed to rush from point to point with no time permitted for any story thread to properly develop or be explored.

For an episode that was supposed to be the first part of the culmination of the entire season, it ended up falling flat on its face. And that is pretty disappointing. Every Star Trek series – and every season of every series – has had duds: episodes which misfired, told bad stories, or for various reasons failed to hit the mark. The problem that Star Trek shows have today is that when the whole season is one continuous story, a dud episode can have ramifications for the entire season instead of being a one-off rotten egg. I hope that Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2 next week manages to pull things back – and there is precedent for that, as Star Trek: Discovery’s second season episode Perpetual Infinity pulled off a great recovery from The Red Angel a week prior, which is my personal pick for Discovery’s worst episode.

The Artifact emerges from transwarp.

Aside from the pacing and rushed feel to the story, my second main point of criticism is the aesthetic of parts of the episode. I’ve mentioned before that every location in Star Trek: Picard so far has been a barely-disguised California, and Soji’s homeworld – variously called Coppelius and Ghoulion IV – was another example. I come back to what I said last week about the use of indoor sound stages: with special effects and CGI being so good nowadays, a lot more can be done with that format than in previous decades. If it’s a choice between seeing five planets that all look the same because they were all filmed within fifty miles of Los Angeles, and seeing different-looking planets that were perhaps smaller in scale because they were filmed on sound stages I’ll always prefer the latter.

The second visual aspect that I felt simply did not work was the makeup used for most of the synths. The yellowish-gold tinted skin the actors were sporting didn’t make them look like Data-type androids; they looked like humans wearing cheap and bad makeup. It was something that would’ve felt at home in The Original Series, and if I’d seen those characters in an episode from the 1960s I’d have dismissed the amateurish look as a product of the limitations of the time. But Star Trek: Picard’s aesthetic has been so good until now overall that I legitimately wonder how they managed to make the synths look so bad. Was it because they were largely filmed outdoors in natural sunlight? Because earlier looks at Data in Picard’s dreams or F8 and the other synths in flashbacks to Mars looked far better. Whatever it was, the makeup ended up being a huge distraction, because every time Evil Soji or any other synth was on screen it was all I could look at. I actually had to rewind the episode a few times because I’d missed some line of dialogue or other.

I found the makeup used for the synths (Sutra pictured) to be of poor quality and a significant distraction.

I wish we’d seen something, either this week or last week, to make it obvious that Seven of Nine and Elnor were on their way, because the Artifact arriving at Coppelius mere moments after La Sirena was a story beat that I felt didn’t work in the moment. Ironically, after last week’s scenes on the Artifact being some of my least-favourite, I greatly enjoyed seeing Picard and the crew return there this week – albeit that the sequence was far too short. I wanted to spend more time there as Picard learned of Hugh’s death – which actually didn’t even appear on screen – and mourned him. But even in what I suppose was my favourite sequence there were issues – the length, as I mentioned, is one. But what was up with the ex-Borg calling Picard by his Borg designation of “Locutus”, which is the second time that’s happened now, only for Picard to basically ignore it and get back to what he was doing?

Elnor learned of Picard’s illness off screen too, which would have been another scene I’d have wanted to see – one which could have added some genuine emotion to an episode which was largely devoid of it. Some more time spent on Hugh’s death would’ve been nice too; Picard mentioned it in a single line of dialogue but Soji didn’t even acknowledge his sacrifice, despite their friendship and despite his death being a direct consequence of aiding her escape.

When we learned last week of the “Mass Effect Reapers” hiding out somewhere beyond the galaxy, waiting to show up and destroy all life, it seemed for sure that the climax of the story couldn’t simply involve hiding from that and avoiding pulling the trigger – somehow, Picard and co. would have to confront the wider threat. And we saw in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 the way in which that trigger will be pulled: Soji’s evil twin, Sutra.

Villains can be hard to get right. Rizzo, for example, took a while to hit her stride after coming across as a fairly one-dimensional character in her earlier appearances. The story has since fleshed her out a little more, providing her with background and motivation, as well as even the smallest shred of pity for what she’s been through. Sutra has very little of that, and unfortunately Isa Briones, who had done an admirable job portraying Soji and Dahj, didn’t really manage to pull off a convincing performance as an antagonist. Sutra’s motivations are understandable, sure – she wants to save her people from what seems to be an existential threat. But overall, the way she was portrayed strayed way too far into the kind of “I’m evil and I love it” attitude that felt so awkward and inauthentic about Rizzo in her earlier appearances.

I called this phenomenon the “24th Century Heinz Doofenshmirtz” – and I get that that’s a niche reference, so let me explain. In the cartoon show Phineas and Ferb, Heinz Doofenshmirtz is a wannabe evil scientist. He builds machines usually designed to get petty revenge on his brother or other people he feels wronged him, and he’s tied his entire identity to being evil for the sake of being evil. That’s what Rizzo felt like, and that’s what Sutra feels like now – she hasn’t bothered to consider any other options, she went straight into arbitrary arrests and plotting genocide. Perhaps she’s meant to be a parallel for Rizzo and Commodore Oh, but both of those characters feel far more complex. And I’m afraid the point must be reiterated: both of those characters were acted better.

This is basically Sutra.

The premise for her actions is understandable, though – just as Rizzo, Narek, and Commodore Oh being motivated by their interpretation of the vision is understandable too. As a story point, I’m not really criticising Sutra’s basic motivation and desire to protect her people from harm. And the way it has been established that both Starfleet as an organisation and Picard as an individual are people she and the synths might find difficult to trust was well-established over the course of the prior eight episodes.

Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 has tried to pull off a last-minute plot twist with Sutra. Instead of the synths needing to be rescued from Romulan aggression, Sutra’s plan is to summon the “Mass Effect Reapers” and become the aggressor herself. But if the story of Star Trek: Picard has wanted to say that the ban on synths was wrong, and that even Starfleet and the Federation need to be more accepting of different kinds of life besides their own, what message does it send when the Romulans, who have been the season’s antagonists the whole way, are actually right?

The entire premise of the Romulans’ desire to exterminate synthetic life is that if they don’t, the synths will trigger this apocalyptic event – the arrival of the “Mass Effect Reapers” – and kill everyone in the galaxy. That’s a powerful motivation, and covers all manner of sins because, as the episode itself tried to address, there’s a calculus involved even when dealing with matters of life and death. If one’s intention is to save a trillion lives, it can be easy to justify ending 90,000. This is what the Romulans did on Mars. Star Trek: Picard – and Picard himself within the show – are trying to present this kind of ends-justify-the-means thinking as abhorrent, but that message has become incredibly confused thanks to the insertion of the character of Sutra and the revelation that she plans to do exactly what the Romulans fear that synths will do.

In yet another example of the episode racing from point to point, the name of this faction Sutra is planning to summon is not even mentioned. I’m calling them the “Mass Effect Reapers”, because, as I mentioned last time, they serve a very similar purpose to the antagonists in that video game series. But who are they? There’s only one episode left not only to find out who they are and what motivates them, but also to defeat them.

One visual element that I loved were the “orchids” – some kind of planetary defence system which resembles giant flowers. It wasn’t clear whether they were crewed ships or just automated, but they looked absolutely stunning and the CGI work to bring them to life was fantastic. However, as a concept I’m not sure they really make sense. Firstly, they seem to be single-use things, which seems like waste of time and resources. Secondly, and most importantly, they don’t actually serve a useful purpose when it comes to defence – in fact, they achieve quite the opposite. By capturing ships and dragging them – intact – to the surface of the planet, all the orchids manage to do is bring any enemies directly to the planet’s surface. If the ambition is to disable an attacking ship that plans to strike from orbit then that could be useful in the short-term, but all it really does is shift the problem for the synths to one they have to deal with on the ground. In the case of the Artifact, for example, it was dragged out of orbit and crashed on the planet’s surface – but if it were a fully-operational Borg cube the synths would then have to deal with tens of thousands of drones literally on their planet. Not to mention that no synths showed up at the crash sites of either La Sirena or the Artifact to apprehend their crews.

This would be a very bad outcome in the event of an invasion, yet it’s what the orchids are designed to do.

If the aim was to demonstrate that the Coppelius synths are basically unprotected, then why not leave them unarmed? Picard and his crew were going to land or beam down anyway, and it would’ve been possible within the story to get everyone to the planet’s surface without the use of a kind of planetary defence system that really doesn’t achieve what it should. At best it moves the problem from space to the ground, and at worst it could actually aid the synths’ enemies in a potential invasion event. In short: cool visuals, but an illogical concept.

I’m okay with the idea of Dr Soong – Data’s creator from The Next Generation – having a son, and that character following in his father’s footsteps to work on building synths. It might not have been my first choice of storyline, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. However, not for the first time, the presence of the actor’s name in the credits telegraphed the arrival of the character before we knew he would be appearing on screen. This happened in Absolute Candor, when Jeri Ryan’s name showed up in the credits, despite her character only appearing in the final thirty seconds of the episode. Spoilers are commonplace online, and because in the UK we get Star Trek: Picard 24 hours after its US premiere I have learned to be careful where I go online on Thursdays and Friday mornings! But for a show to spoil itself in its own opening titles is just plain silly – what would be wrong with crediting Brent Spiner in the end credits and making his inclusion in the episode and the reveal of his new character a genuine surprise? This has happened twice now, and it’s just not nice to know someone is coming before they show up on screen.

There’s also the question of the payoff to Soji’s dream – is Dr Soong supposed to be the figure in her dreams? There was the tiniest flicker of a hint at that: Dr Soong is wearing a similar outfit to the faceless figure Soji has dreamed about, and Soji seemed to do a double-take on seeing him, almost as if she recognised something about him. Yet neither of those things were acknowledged.

I did like, however, that Dr Soong is not a synth. When we’d heard of the existence of other synths I speculated that maybe some would share Data’s appearance in the way that some shared Soji’s appearance, but I’m glad to have gotten a human character instead. It was unexpected and interesting – and hopefully the plot thread of Dr Soong transferring himself into a synthetic body will be explored further.

Unfortunately, like all of the various competing stories in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1, this was barely touched on and needed much more development. In a way, this encapsulates the problem with introducing a whole new civilisation and cast of characters in the final two episodes. There simply isn’t enough time remaining for Dr Soong and Sutra and the other synths to all have their own stories that are as detailed and interesting as those stories we’ve already seen playing out for the past eight episodes. Given how rushed this episode felt, and how it tried to cram so much into a 45-minute runtime, some elements – like Dr Soong’s desire to become a synth – could’ve been dropped to give more screen time to other, more important story beats.

And I think we’ve come to the crux of my complaints about Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1. The episode introduced several new major characters, a new antagonist, a new location, new obstacles for Picard and his crew to overcome. Yet it’s supposed to be the first part of the finale, and finales are meant to bring everything that’s already happened to a head and begin to wrap up the story. It’s simply too late now to open up whole new plotlines and for dumping whole news sets of characters onto the audience. The only story thread that feels somewhat concluded is Picard’s redemption in the eyes of Elnor – and that had arguably already happened in The Impossible Box.

Elnor and Picard are reunited… briefly.

The story of Star Trek: Picard has been, at points, meandering. The diversions to Vashti and Nepenthe in particular were close to standalone stories, taking Picard on a personal journey through parts of his past. And they were good stories, giving Picard the chance to redeem himself with Elnor, a character he’d been a kind of substitute father to, and to draw on the advice of two of his former crew: Riker and Troi. And of course for us as the audience to see those characters return was a nostalgic treat. Yet the revelations in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 that Sutra actually wants to fulfil the Romulans’ prophecy and bring about the end of days, and that Dr Soong is hoping to transfer himself to a new body make those episodes feel, in retrospect, like wasted time. If there was all this important plot to get through before the season ended, we should have been spending our time here, having Picard and his crew arrive on Coppelius earlier to allow more time for these “main” story beats to be properly and fully explored.

As it is, Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 feels like an episode that should mark the halfway point in the story and in the season. Sutra needs time to explore the vision in more detail, figure out who to contact and how to contact them, rally her people to her newfound cause, demonstrate to the audience precisely what the implications of summoning the “Mass Effect Reapers” will be, who that faction even is, work out a plan, and above all, develop as a character and let us get to know her. Dr Soong needs more screen time too – he needs to explain what this vaguely-hinted-at illness is that means he needs a new body, show how and why he’s failed at successfully building it so far despite being surrounded by hyper-intelligent synths, demonstrate what Dr Jurati can do to help that means he needs her support, and show us as the audience whether he’s a “good guy” or a “bad guy” because right now he’s ambiguous. Ambiguity in characters is fine, and it’s even good in some cases as it ramps up the tension and mystery. But when a character’s motivations and goals are unclear simply because they haven’t had sufficient time in the story for us to know anything about them, well that just isn’t very interesting. Worse, it can be frustrating.

Instead of taking its time, Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 tried to cram everything I listed above into about thirty minutes of screen time. I’d absolutely argue, based on what we saw this week, that there’s several episodes’ worth of story there, and that’s what I mean when I say the episode felt so poorly-paced and rushed.

It’s unclear whether Dr Soong will turn out to be an ally or an enemy.

There were several other moments that could have been spread out across multiple episodes. Picard and his crew trekking from La Sirena to the Artifact and then to Coppelius Station, for example. Instead we got a single drone shot of them walking and that was it. For an older man hiking over rough terrain, initially several kilometres away from where he needed to go, Picard isn’t exactly going to be speedy and we could have had several scenes with ample time for character development both on the way to the Artifact and on the way from the Artifact to Coppelius Station. There was certainly scope for more time spent with Seven of Nine, Elnor, and the xBs. It’s totally unclear what will happen to them now – are they marooned on Coppelius? Can the Artifact be repaired again and get back into space? What are their objectives? Is Seven of Nine their leader? Are the xBs even thinking for themselves? Have they got over their assimilation experiences? How many survived? So many unanswered questions, and given how much time we spent on the Artifact in earlier episodes, to just try to brush it all away and move on to this new story about Sutra, Dr Soong, and the attempts to trigger armaggeddon and/or fight the Romulans leaves a lot of things unresolved.

There’s also a point of consistency, and it connects to something I wrote in my review of The Impossible Box. When Narek finally got Soji to explore her memories, she provided two clues to the location of her homeworld: electrical storms and two red moons. We saw the red moons in the episode, but where was the storm? Narek and Rizzo took it to mean that the planet had “constant” storms, and even Kestra used this information to ask Capt. Crandall to find the planet’s location in Nepenthe. I felt that two clues did not provide much information to go on when locating a planet, especially as lots of locations can have occasional lightning storms rather than suffer from them continuously, but for one of the two established features of Coppelius to be ignored entirely – and for that point, which had been important in earlier episodes, to not even be given lip service just adds to the sense that there was too much to cram into Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1. Otherwise the show’s creators are being inconsistent – setting up story points that work in one episode but are ignored in others. Another example of this is from Stardust City Rag where Maddox said his lab had been destroyed. Picard was literally sat in Maddox’s room this week, and it didn’t look destroyed to me. Is that going to be explained properly, or are we just going to have to live with the fact that these inconsistencies exist and only served to drive the plot and get the characters to the right place at the right time for other story beats to unfold?

Picard’s illness was something that the story had set up way back in Maps and Legends that I’d been waiting to see some development on. We finally got that this week, as Picard suffered a blackout. His scene explaining to the crew that he had been diagnosed was one of the few emotional moments in the episode, and in particular I was moved by the reactions of Dr Jurati and Raffi. The “I love you” moment with Raffi later in the episode was both awkwardly funny and touching – and the pay-off to a relationship that had been built up and explored over multiple episodes. That scene was probably my favourite; a diamond in the rough.

Commodore Oh on the bridge of her ship.

Other points I liked were: seeing Commodore Oh on the bridge of her ship at the end of the episode, the Artifact emerging from transwarp, seeing Picard and the crew all together on the bridge of La Sirena, Picard’s speech about his illness, Raffi calling Narek Soji’s “asshole Romulan ex”, the synthetic cat and butterflies, and the costumes the crew of La Sirena wore after leaving the ship. None of these moments, however, could redeem a bad episode.

So I know this hasn’t been a typical review. I usually like to spend more time on each episode and break down more of the scenes in detail than I have here, but honestly I just want to see the back of Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1, and going back and re-watching it several times in order to pull out a few more points just doesn’t hold much appeal to me right now. I’m looking forward to the finale with nervous anticipation. I’m hopeful that the story can be concluded in a satisfactory manner, and that the currently-unresolved plot points will be wrapped up. Just because Part 1 didn’t hit the mark, that doesn’t mean Part 2 will necessarily be a disappointment as well, and I remain hopeful that I’ll enjoy next week’s outing a lot more.

Remember to stay tuned for the theory post in the next few days, as I check a few more off the list!

The first nine episodes of Star Trek: Picard’s first season are available to stream now on CBS All Access in the United States, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and other countries and territories. 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.

Links to my other episode reviews from Star Trek: Picard Season 1: Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4, Episode 5, Episode 6, Episode 7, Episode 8.

Star Trek: Picard theories – week 8

Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for the first eight episodes of Star Trek: Picard, as well as for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise including Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 and the trailers for Season 3.

Broken Pieces saw several theories from previous weeks blown out of the water – finally! As Star Trek: Picard begins to draw the story of its first season to a conclusion, that was to be expected. As fun as it has been writing up these theories every week, I love that the show has been surprising and taken its story to some genuinely unpredictable places.

This is something I’d like to write about in more detail in the future, but getting overly-attached to one’s own theories (or other people’s theories found online) is not a good thing. Theory-crafting is a bit of fun, something to get the old grey matter working and to spend a little more time with the franchises we love. If you’ve been following along with these posts over the last few weeks, I hope you’ve taken these theories with a healthy pinch of salt too, because it was always the case that almost all of them would end up debunked – especially the more outlandish ones!

We have at least eight debunked theories, so as always, let’s start with those.

Debunked theory #1: There’s a Starfleet-Zhat Vash conspiracy.

Admiral Clancy, head of Starfleet.

This was a great example of a double-bluff in my opinion. From the first time we met her, Commodore Oh’s Vulcan persona was difficult to read. It seemed unlikely that the Romulans, clever though they are, would have been able to plant an operative at such a high rank in Starfleet – but we didn’t know that they’d been playing a really long game, one that went right back to the activation of Data even prior to the events of The Next Generation.

Commodore Oh is not the Vulcan co-conspirator I had assumed, and is in fact a Zhat Vash operative – a senior one, too, judging by the role she played in the Zhat Vash initiation ritual we saw in Broken Pieces. This changes the dynamic of the series from one where Picard could have conceivably faced off against half of Starfleet to one where Starfleet itself gets to retain its status as being one of the “good guys”. Commodore Oh may have been able to corrupt parts of Starfleet from within, and her ability to seemingly recruit new people to her cause with a simple mind-meld, as she did with Dr Jurati, may mean there are some compromised officers, but we know for a fact that Admiral Clancy is not among them, and that Starfleet itself did not aid the Zhat Vash.

The Zhat Vash engineered a situation where the Federation’s only option would be to shut down research into synthetic life. It’s true that the Federation took the bait, but in the aftermath of a massive attack that killed over 90,000 people and has seemingly rendered an entire planet uninhabitable and unusable, it’s an understandable reaction even if some of our main characters criticise the Federation and Starfleet for it.

Debunked theory #2: The captain of the USS Ibn Majid was a character from a past Star Trek show.

A new character, Capt. Alnzo Vandermeer, was in command of the Ibn Majid.

This was a complete stab-in-the-dark, but I had speculated that Chris Rios’ deceased captain would turn out to be a character we’d met before. Instead we got a new character, Captain Alonzo Vandermeer. I doubt we’ll learn much more about Capt. Vandermeer in the current season now that the story of his death – and how it ties to the overall plot of the show – has been uncovered.

Debunked theory #3: The USS Ibn Majid was a Section 31 ship/Rios used to work for Section 31.

A graphic representing the USS Ibn Majid was seen on Rios’ belongings.

A few weeks ago, I had several possibilities for how Section 31 could potentially fit into the plot of Star Trek: Picard, but now I don’t have any!

When Rios told Picard that the USS Ibn Majid had been “erased” from Starfleet’s records, only one organisation sprang to mind as having the ability and willingness to do so: Section 31. Given that the captain mentioned above died under unknown but clearly dramatic circumstances, it was not unreasonable to theorise that the Ibn Majid could’ve been involved in the kind of off-the-books operations that Section 31 were known for. However, all indications are that this was not the case. Rios did not work for Section 31, and the Ibn Majid appears to have been a normal Starfleet ship in regular service with the fleet. The cover-up was a result of Commodore Oh attempting to keep the synthetics from Soji’s homeworld a secret.

Debunked theory #4: Section 31 (or anyone other than the Zhat Vash) were behind the attack on Mars.

A Section 31 badge from Star Trek: Discovery.

When I first formulated this theory after Children of Mars and Remembrance, I speculated that several factions could’ve been responsible. A couple of candidates were the Borg and the Dominion: the Borg because their technology may have been involved, and the Dominion because an attack designed to sow discord between Alpha Quadrant powers was something they’ve done before. However, the two main culprits I had were Section 31 and the Zhat Vash.

We now know that the Zhat Vash were responsible, presumably with Commodore Oh leading the charge. There were a couple of good reasons to suspect Section 31, though. Firstly, with Section 31 having prominently featured in Star Trek: Discovery and with a new series based on the organisation in the works, their presence in Star Trek: Picard would be something to tie all the shows together, and be a frame of reference for new and casual viewers. Secondly, from an in-universe point of view, Section 31 have always been militantly pro-Federation and willing to do anything to achieve their goals. In Deep Space Nine they were willing to commit genocide, killing the Founders of the Dominion with a virus. In Discovery they were operating outside of normal Starfleet jurisdiction, even building an artificial intelligence. It seemed at least plausible that Section 31 would have opposed Picard’s plan to help the Romulans, as they had long been an enemy and the rescue mission could’ve led to some members seceding from the Federation. They would have had no qualms whatsoever about sabotaging those efforts, even if that meant killing Federation citizens.

Debunked theory #5: The Romulans’ fear of synthetic life is caused by their own past experiments with synths/AI going horribly wrong.

It was Laris who first told Picard about the Romulans fearing AI.

I speculated that the Romulans had once created their own AI or synths, and that something went wrong, causing the Romulans to fear and hate synths. There were a couple of ways this could have manifested: firstly is that the Romulans had simply arrived at the conclusion that there’s a flaw in all synthetic life which means rebellion is inevitable. We have seen rogue AI in Star Trek before, in episodes like The Ultimate Computer, Discovery’s second season arc, and even in a way in Star Trek: Insurrection where Data himself goes rogue.

The second possibility had been that the Romulans had somehow been involved in the creation of the Borg. We got a few hints at how the Romulans viewed the Borg, particularly in the way the xBs were treated and prohibited from leaving the Artifact. But mostly why I felt this was at least possible is because Star Trek: Discovery’s second season, with the Control AI mentioned previously, seemed to be moving toward a Borg origin story. When that aspect of the story didn’t materialise I was surprised, and when we seemed to be seeing Romulans and the Borg in Star Trek: Picard, I wondered if the creators of Star Trek had chosen to go with a different Borg origin story while Discovery’s second season was in production.

However, we now know that the Zhat Vash believe that when a certain threshold is reached in the development of synthetic life, a hitherto unseen race or faction arrives and destroys not only the synths but those who created them. It’s not the synths themselves that they fear – it’s who will follow.

Debunked theory #5A: The Romulans were keeping the ex-Borg on the Artifact for a reason connected to their own past synthetic experiments.

Ex-Borg aboard the Artifact.

If the Romulans created the Borg, they would have wanted to keep that a secret, and prohibiting xBs from leaving might’ve helped them keep that secret safe. They may also have been studying the xBs, trying to see how synthetic technology has evolved since they abandoned their own experiments. However, with the Romulans so easily abandoning the Artifact and murdering the xBs, it seems as though they really didn’t care about them or about anything they could learn from studying their technology, and were simply harvesting their components to sell.

Debunked theory #6: Picard’s decision to tell everyone their enemy is the Tal Shiar (and not the Zhat Vash) will come back to haunt him.

Everyone now knows about the Zhat Vash.

Star Trek: Picard has been great in almost every way, but one area where I felt there was an issue that stretched across several episodes was in the naming of the faction of the series’ main antagonists. We knew as early as Maps and Legends that the Zhat Vash were responsible for Dahj’s murder, and were a secretive Romulan faction hidden within the Tal Shiar. Yet most of the characters for much of the series insisted on referring to the faction as the Tal Shiar.

In a way there is an understandable in-universe reason why: Picard may not have fully believed in their existence, and many other characters may not have known about them at all. But from a storytelling point of view, having a named antagonist and being consistent with that, especially when dealing with made-up terms like Zhat Vash and Tal Shiar, can be a great help to casual and new viewers. One reason why people end up switching off a show is because it’s hard to follow, and Star Trek: Picard has been inconsistent and potentially confusing because of the way it’s dealt with its antagonists.

I speculated that there might be a story reason for why this was – perhaps a character like Elnor would react negatively upon learning of the involvement of the Zhat Vash, or perhaps being unprepared for an encounter with them would cost a character his or her life. However, none of this materialised and the characters now seem to know who they’re dealing with.

Debunked theory #7: The Control AI from Discovery’s second season is why the Romulans fear synthetic life.

This reused shot from Discovery’s second season – along with at least one other – got me thinking that Control would make an appearance somehow.

Despite getting very excited about this last week, when a few CGI sequences from Discovery’s second season were incorporated into Dr Jurati’s mind-meld, it seems as though this was simply a production decision – saving money by recycling those brief shots of exploding planets. I had noted in my theory post last week that this was a possibility, and it certainly isn’t the first time we’ve seen recycled shots in a Star Trek show. One particular sequence of a Klingon bird-of-prey exploding must’ve been used at least half a dozen times across various Star Trek productions!

Given that Discovery and Picard are in production simultaneously, we haven’t really seen very much crossover between the two shows; certainly far less than I might’ve expected. Thematically, the current season of Star Trek: Picard and Discovery’s second season both look at artificial intelligence and the prospect for it going awry, but in terms of actual plot elements like factions, locations, or even characters, there’s been almost nothing that’s crossed over. We’ve had a few minor references, but those were little more than easter eggs. I do think that finding a way to tie the shows together is a good idea for Star Trek as a whole, especially as the Star Trek timeline and broader universe is pretty convoluted. There’s Picard, at the dawn of the 25th Century; Lower Decks, which is taking place 15 years or so prior; Discovery, which may be in the 32nd or 33rd Century; the Section 31 show and possibly a Captain Pike/USS Enterprise show which would be in the 23rd Century; and another alternate reality film which would be in a parallel 23rd Century. It makes for a pretty complicated franchise, and if all of these projects do go ahead – which some of them admittedly may not – having crossover points will be important to helping viewers know what’s going on and to tying the disparate shows together.

However, it seems pretty clear that Discovery’s Control AI is not going to be the way to do that, at least not at this juncture.

Debunked theory #8: The Trill doctor from Maps and Legends will end up assimilated.

The Trill doctor with Soji in Maps and Legends.

While this could still happen somehow, I suppose, with Seven of Nine and Elnor in control of the Artifact and almost all of the ex-Borg and Borg who had been in stasis dead, it seems incredibly unlikely.

In Maps and Legends, Soji befriended a young Trill doctor. While the two of them were getting ready to head into a more dangerous part of the Artifact, there seemed to be a great deal of horror film-style foreshadowing that this character may not survive. However, given that we haven’t seen her since and that the story has moved on in leaps and bounds over the intervening six episodes, I’d be surprised if we even saw her again and I’m officially striking this theory off my list.

So those theories were debunked. We did also get some confirmed theories, so let’s look at those next.

Confirmed theories #1 and #2: There’s a machine civilisation on Soji’s homeworld and there are other synths that are identical to Soji.

Soji and Dahj aren’t the only synths who look like this.

While it may seem a bit of a stretch to call the four synths we know existed (Soji, Dahj, Jana, and Beautiful Flower) a “civilisation”, there was a key word Rios used during his encounter with the latter two synths nine years before the events of the series. Beautiful Flower and Jana were described as “emissaries”, and Captain Vandermeer contacted Starfleet to officially mark first contact with these new synthetic beings.

Only a larger group would sent emissaries, and Starfleet would surely only consider marking an official first contact with a species that had a larger population than just a handful of individuals. Regardless of how many individuals there may be – and it could be in the millions after nine years of continued building of new synths – I think we can consider the fact that there is a machine civilisation there. Or at least there was nine years before the events of the show,

We also got confirmation of the existence of other Soji-type androids (a term I’d been using for synths who share Soji and Dahj’s appearance). At least one other existed: Jana, who Rios met aboard the USS Ibn Majid. While we didn’t see a Soji-type android in the flash of images from either the mind-meld or the relic on Aia, given that Data’s face was present it’s at least possible that Soji’s face was shown there too, which would explain how Ramdha recognised her. It’s also possible that Ramdha had another encounter with a Soji-type android that we’ll see in another flashback, or that someone else who had been assimilated by the Borg had encountered one, and that that information was conveyed to Ramdha during her assimilation.

The existence of Jana may very well mean that there are dozens, hundreds, or perhaps even more synths who are identical to Soji and Dahj. Maddox clearly favoured that design when building them, paying homage to his friend Data, and while he may have used other designs too, I would not be at all surprised to see a veritable army of Soji-type androids when La Sirena reaches her homeworld.

Confirmed theory #3: The next part of Dr Jurati’s mission was to kill Soji.

Dr Jurati murdered Maddox and had been ordered to kill Soji too.

When meeting with Soji in La Sirena’s sickbay, Dr Jurati confirmed that she had been tasked with killing Soji if she came into contact with her. However, seeing the realisation of her life’s work seems to have broken the spell that Commodore Oh put on her with the mind-meld, and she didn’t go through with it.

Confirmed theory #4: The synths who attacked Mars were hacked.

F8, shortly before being hacked.

While we don’t know exactly how the Zhat Vash were able to pull off the attack on Mars, we can confirm finally that the synths did not act of their own volition. They were being controlled or directed by someone else, and it’s likely that Commodore Oh had a major role to play.

This confirms a theory that I’d had going way back to Remembrance at the beginning of the season; it was actually one of my first theories. The fact that no explanation had been found for the attack, even some fourteen years later, seemed to indicate we were dealing with some kind of outside influence. When we got flashbacks involving the android F8, seeing how he went from his usual robotic self to hacking the Martian defence net in an instant, as well as the particular focus on his eyes as he seemed to be downloading new orders or information, strongly suggested he was not acting independently.

The fact that the attack had to be coordinated, and that it was a very deliberate strike against a chosen target, both added to this. If the synths had been overcome by a powerful urge to kill or rebel, attacking the humans in their vicinity would have made more sense. And given their ability to take down planetary defences, and the powerful ships under their command, why didn’t they attack Earth? That would’ve been a crippling blow to the Federation, far more so than simply destroying a shipyard. Finally, the synths’ suicide after their attack meant it would not have been possible to study them to learn what happened – further evidence that they were hacked.

All of these factors built up over several episodes – really beginning with Star Trek: Picard’s prologue, the Short Treks episode Children of Mars. I loved the way it was done, and the fact that we’ve had to wait till now for confirmation that the Zhat Vash were behind it was excellent and really kept me guessing.

So those theories were confirmed in the episode Broken Pieces. I know these posts have gotten a little complicated and unwieldy, but hopefully now that we’ve done some major pruning the main list can be less complicated as we head into the two-part finale! Let’s look at the remaining theories, as well as a handful of new ones that came out of this week’s episode.

Number 1: With confirmation that there are other female synths who look like Soji, at least some male synths built by Maddox will resemble Data.

Data, as seen in Picard’s dreams.

Broken Pieces confirmed a theory I’d had for several weeks: that there are other synths who look like Soji and Dahj. Nine years prior to the events of the series, Rios encountered such a synth – named Jana – while serving aboard the USS Ibn Majid. That synth was killed, but her face was something Rios never forgot.

But Jana was not alone. Rios described her companion, named Beautiful Flower, as being male. Given that we know Bruce Maddox was responsible for building at least some of these synths, and that he was drawing on Data as his inspiration (Soji and Dahj were modelled on a painting Data painted over thirty years previously) I think we’re about to meet a male synth who looks like an older Data.

When I first saw Brent Spiner reprising his role as Data in the trailers for Star Trek: Picard, without wanting to be too rude I felt he’d definitely aged out of the role of the non-ageing android. Fortunately, in the series itself the way Data was presented in Picard’s dreams did look significantly better than in the trailers, so giving him a bigger role – albeit as a new character and not as Data himself – is at least a possibility. Knowing what we know about Maddox, and how the theme of Data’s sacrifice and legacy has been portrayed in the series so far, I feel that it’s at least a possibility. We know Brent Spiner has been involved in the series, so it isn’t completely outlandish.

Number 2A: Romulan minds have a very particular reaction to the vision in the relic on Aia.

A synthetic life-form, seen in the Zhat Vash’s vision.

Soji was told that all of the ex-Borg who were “disordered” – i.e. insane – were Romulans. This was back in The End is the Beginning, when she first met Ramdha. We now know that Ramdha’s intense reaction to the vision from the relic on Aia is at least a contributing factor to the xBs’ insanity, but it’s interesting that no other species reacted as intensely as the Romulans did. As Raffi noticed last week, many of them were obsessively drawing the octonary symbol – a clue which led her to figure out the meeting place of the Conclave of Eight and the Zhat Vash – and as far as we know, only Romulans have experienced the vision contained on the relic there.

My theory is that there’s something very particular to Romulans – perhaps to do with their telepathic skills or paranoid nature – which causes them to have such an extreme reaction. Of the Zhat Vash initiates who took part in the ritual seen in Broken Pieces, only Rizzo and Ramdha came out alive – and I’d argue both had their minds “broken”, albeit that the brokenness manifested in radically different ways. If this is the case, other species may be able to experience the vision without being driven insane – and the vision may not even mean what the Zhat Vash have interpreted it to mean.

Number 2B: Picard and his crew will travel to Aia to experience the vision for themselves – and will have a different, less intense reaction.

Zhat Vash initiates with the relic on Aia.

If it’s the case that Romulans are especially badly affected by the relic on Aia, Picard and his crew may find that they react differently when exposed to the vision. Either before or after defending Soji’s homeworld, it makes sense that someone like Picard would want to see Aia and the relic for himself – he’s an explorer at heart, and given all the trouble this relic has caused and the potential ramifications of a synthetic apocalypse, wanting to see what triggered that makes sense.

I don’t know yet whether Picard and his crew will go to Aia, but it seems like a reasonable guess. If he does see the vision for himself, he and the other humans on the crew may find that it makes more sense, or even that it doesn’t show what the Zhat Vash believe it to show. Either way, the relic on Aia is at the centre of this whole conspiracy, and I would expect Picard would want to see it for himself.

Number 3: Picard spoke to Admiral Clancy too soon – potentially tipping off Commodore Oh.

Admiral Clancy appeared (by hologram) in Broken Pieces.

When Picard spoke with Admiral Clancy, relatively early in Broken Pieces, it was before Raffi and Rios had put together what happened with the USS Ibn Majid and who gave the order to kill the synths. And just as importantly, it was before Dr Jurati woke up and confessed to Picard what Commodore Oh made her see in the mind-meld.

At the time Picard and Clancy spoke, no one knew of Commodore Oh’s role as a spy, nor of her role in the Zhat Vash – as far as Clancy was concerned, she was a Vulcan and head of Starfleet Security. Given her senior position, it makes sense that she would come to know of the dispatching of a fleet to Deep Space 12, especially given that station’s proximity to the Vayt Sector – where Soji’s homeworld is located.

Commodore Oh would certainly be on the lookout for anything suspicious. She knows Picard is out there trying to help Soji, and she must know by now that Soji was able to escape the Artifact. Putting two and two together will not be difficult, and Starfleet’s forces may find that the Romulans are two steps ahead of them thanks to Commodore Oh’s spying. Furthermore, given that La Sirena entered the transwarp network immediately after the conversation in which everyone pieced together the timeline of events – including Commodore Oh’s involvement – it may not be possible for Picard to warn Starfleet that she is a spy.

Number 4: The post-apocalyptic 32nd/33rd Century seen in Discovery’s third season is related to the vision the Zhat Vash experienced.

Michael Burnham in the trailer for Discovery’s third season.

This is less of a theory for Star Trek: Picard and more related to Discovery’s impending third season, but I wonder if there will be some connection between the seemingly post-apocalyptic future seen in the trailers and the storyline of this season.

It seems a bit of a stretch to think that something which happened at the very end of the 24th Century could in any major way still be causing problems a full 800 years later, but it’s possible that we’re seeing the seeds of what happened in the years prior to the arrival of Burnham and the USS Discovery. It could very well be the case that the Zhat Vash are correct in their interpretation of the vision contained in the relic on Aia, and that the creation of sentient synthetic life does cause some kind of apocalyptic invasion or event, in which case this may occur at some undetermined future point between the end of Star Trek: Picard and the beginning of Discovery’s newest season.

Number 5: Seven of Nine and Elnor will fly the Artifact to Soji’s homeworld.

Elnor and Seven of Nine now control the Artifact.

I fully admit that I didn’t really enjoy this week’s scenes with Seven of Nine and Elnor aboard the Artifact, but one way to make up for that would be to give them a great reason for staying behind. What could be more exciting – not to mention visually stunning – than a fully-repaired Artifact, crewed by the surviving ex-Borg, warping in at the last moment during a battle between Starfleet and the Romulans to save Soji’s homeworld? The thought of seeing a Borg cube used for good and to see our heroes fighting alongside the powerful vessel would be something unique in Star Trek and genuinely interesting.

There will have to be some way for Elnor, at the very least, to rejoin Picard and La Sirena before the season is over. I’m disappointed with how underused Elnor has been, and if the season ends with him and Seven on an overblown side-quest I think that will be quite unsatisfying, regardless of what happens with the xBs or what potential stories are set up for future seasons or Star Trek productions.

Number 6: Narek is going to go rogue.

Narek was devastated at having to kill Soji.

Narek has several potential reasons for going rogue. He obviously cares deeply for Soji and has developed feelings for her; it was only because he believes wholeheartedly in the stakes of the Zhat Vash’s mission – averting an apocalypse that would end all life in the galaxy – that he was able to go through with trying to kill her. Secondly, Rizzo in particular, despite being his sister, is aggressive and condescending to him, treating him incredibly badly and like a subordinate. He clearly has no real love for her.

If the Zhat Vash are proven to be wrong about synthetic life being a danger – which surely, somehow, they will be – Narek will have no reason to continue his crusade. If he learnt that Soji no longer posed a threat, given how he feels for her he may switch sides – and if he does, he could bring valuable information to Picard and his crew about the Zhat Vash’s plans.

Number 7: Borg technology was used to create Soji and Dahj, and Maddox was the main buyer of Borg components from the Artifact.

Butchered Borg bodies.

Star Trek: Picard has gone out of its way to explain that there is a huge market for Borg technology and harvested Borg components. Icheb was murdered so that his implants could be extracted, and the technology taken from the xBs when they’re de-assimilated is sold by the Romulans.

It’s possible that lots of factions and organisations might want a piece of Borg tech – for study, research, or defensive purposes, among other reasons. But given that the main story has been deeply connected with the development of synthetic life, I can’t help but feel that Maddox may have been buying up these pieces to use in his research and construction of the synths on Soji’s homeworld.

There’s also the point that F8, the android seen in the flashbacks to the events on Mars, was incredibly basic, even compared to Data in his earliest appearances. By contrast, Soji and Dahj are so human that they fooled all sensors and scanners and were able to work undercover for around three years – they even believed themselves to be human. Rios encountered a Soji-type android – Jana – nine years before the events of the show, which means in the five years since F8 was active on Mars, Maddox not only managed to improve on that basic model, but create something so lifelike that they were able to be artistic and emotional and even outperform Data in many respects. How did he accomplish this? Cloning Data’s neurons is one explanation – but surely that would just result in a clone of Data. To surpass Data, better technology would be needed – and no faction in Star Trek has more advanced technology than the Borg.

Finally, Soji seems to have knowledge of some Borg technology herself. Not only was she assisting in the de-assimilation of drones aboard the Artifcact, she had innate knowledge of the location of parts of the Borg transwarp network, as well as how to allow La Sirena to safely navigate it.

So those are the theories either new from Broken Pieces or that the episode advanced. Now, as always, let’s look at the remaining theories from previous weeks that haven’t been confirmed or debunked.

Number 8: Riker will return to active duty.

Admiral Riker as seen in The Next Generation’s finale.

Admiral Clancy will send a fleet to Deep Space 12 to assist Picard in his mission to defend Soji’s homeworld. Even though Riker’s name never came up, I wonder if he’ll be leading it? He is in the vicinity, after all!

When Riker was with Picard in Nepenthe he mentioned that he was still on “active reserve” in Starfleet – something which seemed to be a major hint that we’ll see him back in uniform sooner or later. However, this could be setting up something that won’t pay off until next season, so if we don’t see it happen in the finale, we can consider it our first Star Trek: Picard Season 2 theory!

Number 9: Commodore Oh is a synth.

Commodore Oh.

Commodore Oh has played a very long game to get the Zhat Vash so close to victory. Her work seems to have commenced years before the events of The Next Generation, as she established herself as a figure in Starfleet Security, eventually becoming its senior officer by the time of the current season. She was instrumental in the attack on Mars, the murder of Dahj, and the mission to interrogate Soji – and those are just the events we’re aware of.

It’s possible, however, that she’s actually a double-agent, someone who is working to bring about the very apocalypse she claims to want to prevent along with the Zhat Vash. It seems as though a trigger is needed in order for the apocalyptic event – which seems to involve the arrival of an unknown faction – to occur. Could Commodore Oh be a synth, perhaps part of this unknown faction, conspiring to push synthetic life in the galaxy to this threshold and beyond? Maybe this is too much of a stretch, but there would be something greatly ironic in learning that the Commodore – who has been on an anti-synthetic crusade – is herself a synth, especially if she is unaware of it!

Number 10: The synths on Soji’s homeworld are already dead – killed when Maddox’s lab was destroyed.

Maddox explaining the destruction of his lab to Bjayzl.

At the beginning of Stardust City Rag, it’s established that the only reason Maddox travelled to Freecloud was because his lab had been destroyed. Given that Bjayzl is clearly dangerous, and he would have known that, it really was an act of desperation and a destination of last resort for him. I can’t see any other explanation for Maddox being there, so I’m assuming the story he told her about the destruction of his lab was true – if not, it opens a sizeable plot hole.

But if Maddox’s lab had been destroyed, it raises several questions. First is where Maddox’s lab actually was. Everyone from Picard and Riker to Rizzo and Narek seem to have been assuming that his lab, where Soji was created, is the synthetics’ homeworld. But if that’s the case, and it’s already been destroyed, why did Rizzo and Narek need to keep interrogating Soji to learn the location of a planet their colleagues had already visited and destroyed?

While I don’t consider this theory very likely, one possible outcome that squares this circle is that the Zhat Vash had indeed destroyed Maddox’s lab and killed the synths who were living there, and that Picard and his crew will find nothing but wreckage when they finally arrive. This would be a pretty bleak direction for the story, because even if Picard manages to exact revenge upon the Romulans they would still have essentially “won”.

Number 11: The father figure from Soji’s dream isn’t Maddox – and could be a synth.

Soji’s faceless father.

In order for there to be a large number of synths on Soji’s homeworld – assuming they are still alive – it would mean more than just one person would need to be there to build them. Once Maddox had built his first fully-functional synth, there’s no reason why that synth couldn’t have built more, and why those synths couldn’t have built yet more copies of themselves.

This could explain why the faceless figure in Soji’s dream is faceless – rather than being Maddox, her “father” is actually another synth – one that Maddox had built earlier. I guess this would make Maddox her grandfather!

To connect this to another theory, I wonder if this figure will be a Data lookalike.

Number 12: Picard’s illness is Irumodic Syndrome.

Dr Benayoun brought Picard bad news.

In Maps and Legends, Picard’s doctor brought him the bad news that he’s suffering from a terminal illness – albeit one in the early stages. There were several hints in this conversation that the disease is Irumodic Syndrom, which was first mentioned in the finale of The Next Generation. Riker and Troi both hinted at Picard’s illness in Nepenthe, but it has not yet been referred to by name.

Number 13: Soji and Dahj’s necklaces were a deliberate symbol from Maddox to signal or communicate with someone.

Dahj’s necklace. Soji has an identical one.

It’s possible that this will never be explained, but the choice for Maddox to give Soji and Dahj necklaces that hinted at their synthetic nature is strange. It could be a case of showing off, but it may also be how the Zhat Vash first came to suspect Soji and Dahj. If Maddox were using the symbol on purpose to communicate with someone or signal someone it would make more sense as to why he took that risk.

Number 14: Section 31 are involved… somehow.

Ash Tyler was a Section 31 operative in Discovery.

I haven’t entirely given up on the idea of Section 31 involvement, for the reasons outlined above. I still feel that bringing the organisation into play – somehow – would make a lot of sense from a production point of view, as there are other Star Trek projects currently in production that have Section 31 involvement.

However, with my three main Section 31 theories having been debunked (those were the USS Ibn Majid being a Section 31 ship and Rios having been a Section 31 operative, Seven of Nine working for Section 31, and Section 31 having been behind the attack on Mars) I’m really not sure at this stage how the show could bring the faction into play.

Furthermore, with Star Trek: Picard now headed into its finale, any Section 31 involvement would have to be relatively minor, as a major revelation at the last minute could end up feeling like a deus ex machina.

One possibility could be a kind of epilogue, perhaps with Section 31 taking control of the Artifact now that the Romulans seem to have abandoned it. But that’s a complete guess.

Number 15: Something Maddox did or didn’t do made it possible for the synths to be hacked and Mars to be attacked.

Picard with Maddox aboard La Sirena.

While we now know that the synths who attacked Mars did not act on their own and were hacked or otherwise controlled by the Zhat Vash, the question remains as to how they came to be so easily controlled. It’s possible that there was some kind of flaw in the way F8 and the other Mars synths were build or programmed that made them more susceptible to this kind of hack, and that could explain why Maddox left Earth determined to continue his work.

So that’s it. We finally saw the “theory massacre” that I’d been expecting for a couple of weeks, as several potentially interesting theories dropped like flies! We had some confirmations, too, but mostly what we got from Broken Pieces was a genuinely interesting setup – albeit not a wholly original one – for the finale. However, before we draw everything to a close, there is unfortunately one production-side theory that I want to put out there given everything going on in the world right now.

Production theory: Star Trek: Picard’s second season will be delayed by many months.

The current coronavirus pandemic has seriously disrupted production and release schedules across cinema, television, gaming, and all other forms of entertainment. This disruption looks set to continue for at least the next few weeks, pushing back almost everything currently being worked on. Even if things get back to normal relatively quickly, there will be knock-on effects throughout the industry which will take months to sort out, and Star Trek’s production schedules are just as susceptible to being affected as everyone else’s.

I’m hopeful that Star Trek: Picard’s second season will be able to film either later this year or early next year, but with Los Angeles and much of California currently quarantined (or “locked down”) as a result of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, it will take major rearranging to re-book filming locations, make sure actors and directors and production staff are going to be available for the new dates, hire the necessary equipment, etc. It will also be incredibly expensive to essentially reschedule the entire production, which must already be in the latter stages of planning. It’s possible, though I hope it doesn’t happen, that some upcoming Star Trek projects may be scrapped entirely as a result of costs going up across the board. Given the incredibly positive reaction to Star Trek: Picard, I doubt its second season will be cancelled outright, but I do expect significant delays.

It’s possible that Star Trek: Discovery’s third season and Lower Decks’ first season will also be delayed, either as a result of post-production and animation work not being able to take place on schedule, or simply because ViacomCBS decide not to release them too early to avoid long gaps between shows. Both Discovery and Lower Decks had been expected to premiere later this year – with Discovery possibly arriving soon after Picard’s first season has drawn to a close. While I think we’ll still get Discovery this year, it may be later than originally planned.

The first eight episodes of Star Trek: Picard are available to stream now on CBS All Access in the United States, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and other countries and territories. 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.

Star Trek: Picard review – Season 1, Episode 8: Broken Pieces

Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for Broken Pieces, as well as for the previous seven episodes of Star Trek: Picard. There may also be spoilers for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise, including Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 and the trailers for Season 3.

Not for the first time this season, I came out of an episode of Star Trek: Picard almost shellshocked. “Wow” was all I could think – Broken Pieces was another stunning episode, one which advanced the story, explained a lot of the background to the series and the motivations of its villains – and finally blew a lot of my theories out of the water!

We’ve hit the point in Star Trek: Picard’s ten-episode first season where the unravelling of the mysteries which had been beautifully set up in past episodes needed to step up a gear. With only two episodes left after Broken Pieces, we couldn’t really head into a two-part finale with too much backstory left unexplained. Now was the moment for Star Trek: Picard to explain how its various elements would come together – and the revelations packed a powerful punch.

In a flashback dated to fourteen years ago, we see Commodore Oh, Rizzo, Ramdha, and some other Romulans on a planet at the centre of eight stars. Oh explains what the planet represents – it was a beacon, a warning left behind by an ancient civilisation to warn others against creating synthetic life. Until this point, I had been working on the assumption that Commodore Oh was a Vulcan, someone working in league with the Zhat Vash rather than a Romulan. But here, we finally saw that theory disintegrate – Oh is a Romulan, and she’s been playing a very long game when it comes to her mission.

The Zhat Vash initiation ritual.

The Romulans stand in a circle, at the centre of which is a glowing green ring. The energy had an almost Borg-like tint to it, which could, I suppose, be a hint at some connection, but regardless it was an outstanding visual prop. Dealing with completely alien technology can be difficult – it can be hard to make something that’s simultaneously simple yet unusual in appearance, but this ring was unlike technology we’ve seen in Star Trek before – it seemed to float in place, giving the appearance of being a solid object while in fact being pure energy. As a relic of a long-lost race, it makes sense that it would be something different, and it succeeded here in the way it came across.

As I noted last time, however, the lack of diversity in filming locations has been notable in Star Trek: Picard, and the planet of Aia was another example. Filming outdoors instead of on sound stages has been the preferred option for Star Trek (and for television shows in general, it must be said) for a long time now, but if long-distance travel and multiple on-location shoots are prohibitively expensive, I feel like using indoor spaces with the technology available to filmmakers today can be a viable option. In the case of Star Trek: Picard, the fact that all of the planets visited are clearly California is magnified by the fact that it’s a shorter season than, say, The Next Generation had during its run. That means that, over the course of a handful of episodes, we’ve visited several locations on Earth, the planet of Vashti, the planet of Nepenthe, and now this Aia – seeing all in fairly quick succession hammers home the point that they were all filmed within a few miles of each other, relatively speaking. And yes, we’ve been spoilt by bigger-budget shows like Game of Thrones, which was able to pay for filming locations across Europe, but I’m not really advocating that. Look at an episode like The Siege of AR-558 from the seventh season of Deep Space Nine. The main setting, the planetoid AR-558, was filmed on indoor sound stages, with the episode not being the worse for it – it’s generally regarded as one of Deep Space Nine’s best.

I would hazard a guess that this is not the first time Commodore Oh has led new Zhat Vash recruits through this particular ritual. It seems like it was the initiation into the secretive organisation. Laris, way back in Maps and Legends, described the Zhat Vash as keeping a secret so dark and powerful that it can “break a person’s mind”. And the initiation ritual shows this happening. With the exception of Rizzo, all of the Zhat Vash initiates, including Ramdha, cannot handle the information – or perhaps the manner in which it is conveyed – and lose their minds. Several of them immediately commit suicide, and Ramdha collapses. Rizzo is shaken, but otherwise unaffected.

I hinted at it there, but I would wager that the Zhat Vash initiates weren’t driven insane by the actual facts of the case, but rather by the manner in which it was conveyed. Similar to the mind-meld last week, it was a confusing jumble of thrown-together imagery, seeming to show, among other things, the extermination of whole planets, and which culminated in the face of a synthetic life form, which seemed to merge into Data’s face! While we only saw it for a second, this white synth seems to be the figure the Zhat Vash are so frightened of: Seb-Cheneb, or “the destroyer”.

What I liked about this look, brief though our glimpse of it was this week, was how it managed to be both similar and different to robots we see today. The shiny white look has been common in robotics, even in robotic toys, for a few years at least, and there was something eerily familiar about that which I felt emphasised what has been the theme of Star Trek: Picard’s first season: the potential danger in AI.

Is this the face of Seb-Cheneb?

We also see the genius in making the Romulans the villains of this new series. If someone else had encountered this star system, with its eight planets and cryptic warnings of synthetic armageddon, they may have chosen to share it with others – to put the word out so that the civilisations of the galaxy could share the knowledge and decide what to do about it. This would be especially the case for civilisations allied or friendly with the Federation, or of course the Federation themselves. However, the Romulans are so secretive, so paranoid, and have been throughout their appearances in Star Trek, that their choice to keep the secret to themselves and work to stop synthetic development using underhand methods fits in perfectly with what we know of them.

In the present day, aboard the Artifact, we get a scene with Rizzo and Ramdha. Ramdha seems to have been an adopted family to Rizzo and Narek – the latter two now confirmed as “actual” brother and sister instead of in a metaphorical sense. This was potentially interesting, but given that Rizzo has left the Artifact now, and that she’s almost certainly going to be dead by the end of the season, the revelation that they were adopted family came too late to be of much interest – this is, after all, their first scene together aside from the flashback. In one of the few moments where I feel Star Trek: Picard could have benefited from a longer season, the relationship between Rizzo and Ramdha was sadly underdeveloped, and when considering the characterisation of the two of them – Ramdha having very little screen time, and Rizzo being fairly one-dimensional – finding out that they’re related didn’t really add anything. If they hadn’t been related – barring any developments in future episodes, at least – nothing in the storyline of either Broken Pieces or Star Trek: Picard as a whole would have been different. It would also have been potentially interesting to see Narek acknowledge his relationship to Ramdha, especially given Soji’s interaction with her being a key moment in his relationship with her.

We then learn that – at least in Rizzo’s opinion – Ramdha is responsible for the damage sustained to the Artifact. When she was assimilated, the information she’d received from the relic on Aia was absorbed by the cube and disseminated among its drones and computer systems. Something about the information, the way it was presented, or Ramdha’s intense reaction to it seems to have caused a kind of Borg allergic reaction, and the cube suffered the “submatrix collapse” that we heard about in prior episodes as a direct result. Again, this comes from Rizzo, who may not be a reliable source, but if she’s right it seems that Ramdha broke the Borg cube by her reaction to learning that secret.

Elnor comes under attack in Hugh’s office. In an edge-of-your-seat fight sequence he manages to hold his own for a time against an overwhelming number of Romulan guards, but eventually has to be rescued by the timely arrival of Seven of Nine – his distress call to the Fenris Rangers last week summoned her to the cube. We’ll come to what happens to the ex-Borg and other residents of the Artifact in a moment, but as a general point, I felt that, with Soji leaving the Artifact and Hugh dead, the Artifact storyline had kind of run its course. The main characters had escaped, and while there were consequences for Hugh (it’s been a week and I’m still sad about that!) it seems like there’s kind of no reason to hang around. Equally, Seven of Nine’s storyline, both in the context of Star Trek: Picard, and I’d argue in Star Trek as a whole, had drawn to a neat conclusion in Stardust City Rag. She got her revenge for Icheb’s murder, concluding her arc in the show, and she finally got to display her human side and to retain her humanity instead of losing it again with each new episode as we’d seen in Star Trek: Voyager. The stories this week on the Artifact, with the killing of most of the ex-Borg and those drones still in stasis, and with the return of Seven of Nine, almost feel like the beginning of a whole new show rather than wrapping up Star Trek: Picard’s loose ends. The story had moved on, away from the Artifact and in the direction of Soji’s new homeworld, and thus aside from the Ramdha/Rizzo storyline and saving Elnor – who we could argue should never have been left there by the writers in the first place – there’s no reason to linger here.

Elnor embraces Seven of Nine.

It’s hard to judge because the story hasn’t yet concluded and there may turn out to be great reasons for Seven of Nine’s return and keeping the Artifact in play, but I got the sense that this part of the story – especially in regards to Elnor – was playing out like Littlefinger’s story in the seventh season of Game of Thrones insofar as the writers had got him stuck in a place where they didn’t really know what to do with him or where to take him. Elnor has been Star Trek: Picard’s most underused character in my opinion. He’s been the butt of a few jokes and had a couple of decent choreographed fight sequences, but other than that he’s been practically ignored. Even his great moment of reconciliation with Picard, who tells Elnor in The Impossible Box that he doesn’t want to leave him behind again, lasted all of ten seconds and was immediately glossed over by other elements in the story. Perhaps it’s because Elnor was the character I was most interested in seeing before the show premiered, but I really feel that he’s been massively underutilised by the show thus far, and even his scenes with Seven of Nine this week felt like a footnote or a wholly different story rather than being connected to the main arc of the show.

We’re getting ahead of ourselves, though. After a touching hug between Elnor and Seven of Nine, the credits roll. Usually I don’t have much to say about the opening titles (which, yes, I always seem to end up calling the “credits”) other than the theme is pleasant and has definitely grown on me over the course of the season. But the last two episodes, at least in the versions I saw on Amazon here in the UK, seem to have missed cast members out. I’m not sure if this was deliberate or not, but it’s usually the case that the main cast are credited in the opening titles and it’s surprising to see someone excluded. It may be something unique to a version here, it may be that names were cut to allow others to fill the space, or there may be another reason. Either way I thought it was noteworthy. NB. When I went back to re-watch the episode while writing this review all the main cast appeared in the title sequence. It’s possible I missed it the first time around, or it may have been corrected/updated later – I initially watched the episode almost as soon as it was made available.

Soji and Picard have beamed aboard La Sirena (from the Troi-Riker cabin on Nepenthe that we saw last week) but Rios is immediately troubled by Soji – he seems to recognise her and becomes agitated, staring down Soji and ignoring Picard at first. Picard, taking Riker’s advice from last week, plans to contact Starfleet. Rios, clearly very unnerved by something about Soji, promises to set course for Deep Space 12 (a very subtle nod to the naming of the main station in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) but says after that Picard will be on his own.

In this scene, perhaps buoyed by his time with Riker and Troi and his success in rescuing Soji, we see Picard much more assertive and in command than we have thus far in the series. It’s like he’s regaining more of his lost confidence and sense of self with every episode, and in the context of what I said last time about the show’s examination of depression and mental health, that is a positive message. Far from being the bleak look at Picard’s character that some people seem to have assumed, Star Trek: Picard is really a story of hope, and how someone who’s become depressed can – at least in some circumstances – overcome that and find motivation again. The same basic premise is true of Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi, as he overcomes his depression and self-isolation to find a cause worth believing in. This could – and perhaps should, once Star Trek: Picard has concluded – be a whole essay in itself, because there are many similarities and I feel both stories share the same kind of positive message.

Raffi isn’t happy with Soji’s arrival either, given her paranoid nature and what happened with Dr Jurati last week. She tries to stop Soji coming aboard, lecturing Picard on not checking up on Dr Jurati. When Picard tries to exit the conversation and lead Soji away, Raffi points a phaser at them. The news that Dr Jurati had a tracking device doesn’t sway Picard, but the accusation that she killed Maddox does, and he and Raffi meet with La Sirena’s EMH in sickbay. He explains the situation, even that he was deactivated and that Maddox’s injuries would not have killed him if he’d continued to be properly treated, but this doesn’t change Picard’s mind at first.

Picard, Raffi, and the EMH discuss Dr Jurati.

What was great about this sequence was that it was Raffi – known conspiracy theorist and drug addict – who’s explaining what happened with Dr Jurati. Raffi’s character had been set up this way over basically the entire season, making Picard’s disbelief realistic. I’ve written before that, from Picard’s point of view, Dr Jurati was the only person on his new crew who was there because she wanted to be; she was the only one besides himself interested in finding and helping Soji. Rios was along for pay, and moments ago announced his intention to ditch Picard at Deep Space 12. Raffi made it very clear to Picard that she was on board purely to get to Freecloud and not for the sake of his mission, so Dr Jurati was Picard’s closest ally among his crew. The truth that she is in fact a “Tal Shiar agent” as Raffi puts it is too much to take in in this moment, and every aspect of that had been beautifully established. Taking away Picard’s only genuine ally is also an interesting story beat, and leaves Picard two possible directions from the point of view of the writers. He can suffer as a result of learning Dr Jurati had betrayed him and fall back into his depression, or he can use what happened to further cement his drive and motivation for Soji’s sake – he is now the only person he can rely on to help her get home and potentially avert genocide.

With growing confirmation that a machine civilisation is present on Soji’s homeworld and not just a handful of individual synths, genocide is precisely what we’re talking about. This is the ultimate purpose of the Zhat Vash conspiracy, and as someone who has studied history, the parallels are disturbing. The obvious historical analogy that springs to mind when examining the Romulans and Zhat Vash is Nazi Germany. We have a small cult (the Zhat Vash) who have a crusade against a species or race of sentient beings, and this small group is controlling the Romulan state and dragging them along. It also forces a reexamination of the Romulans’ treatment of the xBs – they were detaining them in a giant prison camp and, under the guise of “helping” them, performing experiments and harvesting their valuable components. Finally, as we’ll see in a moment, they committed mass murder of the xBs. Rizzo in particular had always had a genocidal streak to her character, but it was hard to tell if that was just a result of being a fairly one-dimensional villain. When considering her plans for the synthetics’ homeworld, however, if we continue our Nazi Germany analogy, this is Commodore Oh and Rizzo’s “final solution”. There are other historical genocides which one could look at for comparison – sadly there have been many throughout history – but let’s not get bogged down in historical analogy right now, as I believe the point has come across.

Admiral Clancy – the no-nonsense commander-in-chief of Starfleet – is back in the next scene, and I really love her character. Even when she was shutting Picard down in Maps and Legends when he was trying to get Starfleet on his side, she has an air of authority – exemplified by Ann Magnuson’s performance – that simply is what we’d expect from someone in such a senior position. While she had been dismissive of Picard’s earlier request, she’s clearly listened to everything he had to say and is now prepared to help. Despite what Picard and Rios had felt up until this point, Starfleet did not abandon its own values – it had been corrupted from within by a single individual. Commodore Oh, now revealed as a spy, had been the driving force behind Starfleet’s own anti-synthetic agenda, but Admiral Clancy is not prepared to see a whole race of sentient life forms wiped out, regardless of the galactic treaty that bans synthetic life. However, in this moment, Picard doesn’t know the truth about Commodore Oh. Could he and Clancy have inadvertently tipped her off? Sending a fleet to Deep Space 12 – the closest station to Soji’s homeworld – will surely raise eyebrows in Starfleet, and Commodore Oh is sufficiently well-connected that she would undoubtedly come to know about it. And as I have mentioned previously, her ability to recruit people into the conspiracy with a simple mind-meld means that there may be hundreds or even thousands of compromised Starfleet officers. By the way, how cool is it that Romulans – who are biologically the same race as Vulcans – can mind-meld now? I loved that, even though it completely threw me off last week!

Admiral Clancy appears via hologram.

Admiral Clancy commits to sending a group of ships to rendezvous with Picard at Deep Space 12, from where they will travel to Soji’s homeworld to warn and defend the synths from the impending Romulan attack. After everything we’ve seen over the course of the series about Starfleet seemingly succumbing to conspiracy, corruption, and losing its own values, it was amazing in this moment to see “old school” Starfleet back. Admiral Clancy and others may have forgotten for a time what Starfleet and the Federation represented – seeking out strange new worlds and new civilisations – but in this moment she found her way again. And as the head of Starfleet, from a thematic if not a literal point of view at least, the whole organisation has rediscovered its purpose too. I was reminded of Picard’s speech about Data in The Measure of a Man, which referenced Starfleet’s mandate to seek out new life: “there it sits”, he exclaimed, gesturing to Data. How Starfleet treated synthetic life in that episode – whether to deny Data his rights and create a race of synthetic slaves – is something Star Trek: Picard has examined in much more detail. In the view of Picard and Admiral Clancy, the synths on Soji’s homeworld have rights – the right to exist chief among them.

On the bridge of La Sirena, Raffi is talking to one of Rios’ holograms – but doesn’t realise it at first. He confirms that Rios did recognise Soji – but he thinks that her name is Jana. This would seem to confirm a theory going back several weeks that there are other Soji-type androids in existence: Rios has encountered one already. Taking advantage of the navigational hologram, Raffi asks him about the symbols she noticed the Borg drawing on the Artifact (we saw that last week when she was trying to hack the Artifact to break La Sirena free of its tractor beam). They speculate that it may be a star system containing eight stars – but none are known to exist and it would be incredibly unlikely to be a natural phenomenon. The “octonary”, as it is termed, is believed to have only been documented on some very old Romulan star charts – of course this is the system we saw in the flashback sequence at the beginning of the episode, where the planet Aia is located.

Raffi begins to put the pieces together. The Conclave of Eight – who she believed were responsible for the attack on Mars – refers to the meeting place. And as we know from the earlier scene with Ramdha (or rather, we can reasonably infer) the ex-Borg are drawing that symbol because it was the power of Ramdha’s insanity and singular focus on this one location that caused the Borg cube to become disabled. At the very least, one of the last things the xBs would have seen while assimilated was Ramdha’s experience of the place, and that’s why some of them have been obsessively drawing it. While it wasn’t clear in earlier episodes, Soji was told that all of the “disordered” or insane xBs were Romulan, so it may be that there’s something different about how Romulan minds process the information contained on Aia that leads to insanity. Given that other xBs that we saw seemed to be in a better state, perhaps that means that the vision on Aia is something Picard and his crew will be able to properly experience and process – but more on that in my next theory post!

Raffi shows the octonary symbol to the ENH.

Rizzo doesn’t take long to piece together that Elnor now has Seven of Nine as an ally. I liked seeing her work it out in that short scene; the fact that she’s switched-on and aware of everything going on reminds us, despite what we just witnessed in the flashbacks and with Ramdha, that Rizzo experienced the vision very differently. Her insanity, such as it is, manifets not in a loss of control, as we saw with some of the others as they went mad and killed themselves, but in a desire for greater control. She barks orders to her subordinates, has a disturbing, almost incestuous relationship with her biological brother Narek, and is single-minded in her devotion to the cause so much that she has become, as we already noted, genocidal. This is Rizzo at her most interesting. Last week, the notion that she was terrified of synthetic life added a second dimension to what had been a one-dimensional villain, and this week we see not only more of the reason for her fear, but we get to see that the vision she experienced “broke her mind” to quote Laris. It just didn’t break in the same way as other Zhat Vash initiates’ did. Any story needs a compelling villain, and while we have had Commodore Oh as a behind-the-scenes, low key villain, and Narek as an insidious will-he-won’t-he spy, the transformation of Rizzo from an “evil for the sake of being evil” 24th Century Heinz Doofenshmirtz to someone with a backstory, an understandable fear-driven motive, and the tiniest element of pity for what she went through, is fantastic for the overall story of the series. It elevates what could have been a fairly bland character and fleshes her out a lot more.

The Elnor and Seven of Nine scenes were, as I have already mentioned, not my favourite part of the episode, so I’ll probably gloss over those, but just to briefly recap they went to the queencell (where Hugh used the spatial trajector to help Picard and Soji escape) and seem to have essentially reactivated many of the Artifact’s Borg systems. The cube begins to regenerate itself – and the CGI shots of the cube undergoing regeneration were stunning. There were elements from Q Who, in The Next Generation’s second season, where the crew of the Enterprise-D first witness a cube regenerating, but obviously the effects are so much better in 2020 than they were in 1989 and we see the regeneration in much more detail. It also makes perfect sense that the Artifact could be so easily reactivated – after all, drones that were 90+ years old were able to be reactivated in the Enterprise episode Regeneration, and the Artifact has not been derelict for anywhere near as long.

The Artifact’s reactivation causes Rizzo to go nuclear – planning the extermination of the xBs and the Borg currently in stasis. There was yet another hint at the Nazi Germany analogy I mentioned earlier as Rizzo suggests gassing the Borg. Along with the other genocidal themes present in her character, the fact that her immediate suggestion was to gas them was tied to this and another shocking statement from this villain.

Picard and Soji share a meal aboard La Sirena, and Soji is clearly wrestling with her newfound status as a synth. We don’t know precisely how much time has passed since she first learned the truth in Nepenthe, but it can’t be more than a few days and it’s obviously a lot to process. She, unlike Raffi and several other characters in the last few episodes, calls Picard by his last name. I feel like this is setting up their relationship for some future development, getting her to a point by the end of the season where she’ll be able to join Raffi, Riker, Troi, and others and call him “Jean-Luc”.

Soji makes a big point about how Picard can’t know what it’s like to not know things about herself and to feel like pieces are missing. Picard agrees, but actually he can know at least part of what that must feel like because of his own experiences with the Borg. He lost his humanity for a time, though not in the same way as Soji has lost hers. When he tells her that her memories feel like “something that happened to someone else”, I go the impression that he was drawing on that experience as Locutus. The Battle of Wolf 359, in which Picard was instrumental in helping the Borg destroy a Federation fleet, was something he remembers but he remembers it through the prism of his assimilation and to him, I’d absolutely argue that those events feel like “something that happened to someone else” – kind of like a waking nightmare. He can empathise with Soji because of that.

Soji and Picard share a meal.

As Picard has reacquired his confidence and self-belief since meeting Dahj in Remembrance, we’ve seen more of what you could call “old” Picard coming back. The Picard who talks things out calmly and diplomatically, who uses words carefully to make the best of a situation and who knows just what the right thing to say is, even under difficult circumstances. And in this conversation with Soji we get another example of that, as he tries to reassure her that she does have a past and a legacy.

Their conversation then turns to Data in what was a very emotional scene. Picard talks a little about him, and about how he hopes that Data thought of him. Just as Kestra showed us last week that Riker and Troi had kept their friend’s memory alive throughout the last twenty years, so too has Picard. Data has had a huge influence over this season’s story despite not being present except in dreams, and that has been touching to see. Soji draws the conversation to a close by telling Picard that Data did love him – something he really needed to hear from her.

Speaking with La Sirena’s engineering hologram gives Raffi more clues about the octonary star system, and that it would be a great way for a civilisation to leave behind a warning to others – the unique nature of the star system would be like a beacon, drawing in spacefaring civilisations to see what it was about.

Raffi tries to get a drink in her quarters, simultaneously excited by the notion of unravelling a fourteen-year-old mystery and massively disturbed by its implications. However, she is prohibited from replicating alcohol and La Sirena’s hospitality hologram pops up. We learn that Rios scanned himself when he bought La Sirena, and that’s why the holograms all have his appearance – they also all have some of his memories and personality traits, though he has made some deletions to that information. The hospitality hologram suggests to Raffi that she check in on Rios as he may need company. In Rios’ quarters he goes through his Starfleet belongings – neatly stowed in a footlocker – and pulls out a picture of his former captain. I had speculated that the character may have been a legacy character from a past iteration of Star Trek – a wild guess, more than anything – but this wasn’t the case (though for a brief moment I thought it looked like Chakotay!) Rios also pulls out another picture – a drawing of himself and… a Soji-type android!

The revelation that Rios had encountered a Soji-type android was genuinely not something I was expecting. While his backstory had seemed interesting and I was keen to learn more, by this late stage in the season I was beginning to wonder if it was something that might not be explored until Season 2. However, learning that he’d met another synth just like her was fascinating – and makes me wonder how many more there are on Soji’s homeworld. There could potentially be millions – if each new synth that was created could build more copies of itself there’s no limit to that kind of exponential population growth.

Soji’s arrival brought up memories for Rios of his deceased captain.

Seven of Nine and Elnor continue their plans to retake the Artifact, planning to use the Borg in stasis as a mini-collective which Seven of Nine will direct from the queencell – giving them orders and directions to replace the hive mind of the Borg collective. I was a little concerned in this scene that we’d see a reversion of Seven’s character progress that I’d been so thrilled about in Stardust City Rag. To briefly recap, for those of you who didn’t read that review, when Voyager was on the air my opinion of Seven of Nine was not especially high. Having gone to all the trouble of replacing Kes at the end of Season 3, it seemed that the writers didn’t really know what to do with their new ex-Borg. There were a disproportionate number of Seven-centic episodes in the latter part of Voyager’s run, and many of them followed a similar formula: Seven learns a lesson about being human, overcoming her Borg nature. But by the next episode she’d forgotten it all and would have to learn another, often similar, lesson. This got kind of stale for me, so seeing her embracing her humanity – and retaining it – in Stardust City Rag was cathartic and just a fantastic thing to see. So when she was getting ready to plug herself back into the Borg – albeit not the main collective – I was concerned that the show was about to repeat Voyager’s mistakes.

This next sequence, in which Raffi tries to puzzle together what happened to Rios, is one of my favourite not just in the episode but in all of Rios and Raffi’s scenes in Star Trek: Picard so far. Using all five of La Sirena’s holograms, each of whom have a slightly different set of information from Rios himself as a result of the “self-scan”, she’s able to figure out what happened to his former captain – and how it connects to the Soji-type android.

Some Star Trek episodes in the past have given actors a chance to run around and play different characters or versions of the character. In the Voyager episode Renaissance Man, for example, The Doctor disguises himself as various members of the crew – played by their original actors. We also have examples from The Original Series like Mirror, Mirror, in which the cast play evil versions of themselves, or The Enemy Within in which William Shatner got to show off two sides to Kirk’s personality when they were manifested as separate beings. The duology of episodes The Naked Time and The Naked Now – from The Original Series and The Next Generation respectively – also let the cast run wild. Santiago Cabera was the only actor I was familiar with heading into Star Trek: Picard, and he was someone I was really excited to see brought into the franchise. He gave a great performance in a series called Salvation a couple of years ago, and when he was announced I felt he would be a great addition to the cast. The explanation of Rios’ backstory, and how his former captain killed two synths on Commodore Oh’s orders, was absolutely fascinating in itself as it ties Rios to the show’s story and, I’d argue, gives him a strong motivation to stay and help and to do whatever he can to prevent further harm coming to Soji’s people.

But in this sequence, what I loved most was Cabera playing all of these roles, using different accents, costumes, and hairstyles to give each hologram a different appearance. Each hologram has its own personality – a blend of parts of Rios’ own with the original underlying technology used in the holograms. The way this scene was acted – and it must have taken a huge amount of effort, editing, and incredibly skilled cinematography to bring five versions of Rios together – was outstanding. As well as being entertaining in parts and of course informative, it was a real joy to watch, and showed off exactly why the show’s creators hired the perfect actor for the part. Just as a final point – making the engineering hologram Scottish was a nice little nod back to The Original Series, and even though it probably wasn’t the best of Cabera’s five different accents, it was nice to see that.

La Sirena’s holograms.

Dr Jurati is finally awake, and the first thing she does is ask Picard if her suicide attempt/poisoning was successful. He replies that it was, and that they were no longer being tracked by Narek. In another example of Picard getting his confidence back, he calmly yet sternly tells her that upon their arrival at Deep Space 12 she will turn herself in. He doesn’t ask her if she’s responsible – despite earlier questioning whether she did it on purpose – he simply and flatly tells her that that is what she will do, giving her no choice in the matter. I saw echoes of another encounter Picard had with the Romulans, in The Next Generation episode Face of the Enemy, where he gives Federation defector DeSeve a similar calm yet stern dressing-down.

Picard asks her the million-dollar question: why did she do it? As the audience, we already know her basic motivation by this point – Commodore Oh showed her a vision, one taken from the relic on Aia, of what would happen if synthetic life were allowed to exist. But knowing that didn’t make watching the tense scene between the two of them any less thrilling, as Dr Jurati struggled against the brainwashing she’d suffered and attempted to justify her actions. We learn a little more about the Zhat Vash’s mission – they feel that humanity’s synthetic research – spearheaded by Maddox – has arrived at a threshold. Their fear is that, if Soji and her people are allowed to exist, the visions contained in the relic will come true – or rather that they will be repeated, as the Zhat Vash believe they are something that happened in the past, several hundred thousand years ago.

By this point, I was getting a nagging feeling that this storyline is beginning to feel familiar. We’ll hear Dr Jurati later in the episode say that the Zhat Vash believe that when a certain level of synthetic life is reached in the galaxy, “something shows up” and wipes out not only the synths but also those who created them. This is the fundamental premise behind a science fiction video game series that I’ve mentioned on the blog several times: Mass Effect. Played out over a trilogy of games from 2007 to 2012, the Mass Effect series follows a human commander as he tries to stop the coming of the Reapers – an extragalactic machine species who periodically show up and harvest all sentient life once they have reached a certain level of technological development. The reason the Reapers do this is because they, despite being synthetic themselves, believe that it is the nature of synthetic life to destroy organic life, and that by harvesting the DNA of technological races before that can happen they will be somehow preserved. Furthermore, an ancient race left behind beacons which showed the hero of the franchise a not dissimilar vision than the relic on Aia showed the Zhat Vash – kicking off the plot. I’m okay with similar themes in science fiction, and the plot of Star Trek: Picard and how it has been delicately written and carefully unravelled has been a significantly different experience than the plot of the Mass Effect games – but the overall motivation of the villains seems to be rather similar, as is the way the knowledge of what happened was communicated down the centuries, and I’m sure I won’t be the first person to notice this.

Promo screenshot for Mass Effect 2. The storyline of Star Trek: Picard has some notable similarities to the video game series.

Rios, in his quarters, has been hiding away and drinking, but he shows Raffi a picture of his old captain, Alonzo Vandermeer, and tells her how close they’d been. Rios thought of him as a father figure, which we had already some hints at when we first met him, but they go into a lot more detail here. Seeing Soji has brought up a lot of bad memories for Rios of Captain Vandermeer’s death, and he’s finding it hard to cope.

The scenes switch back-and-forth between this exchange in Rios’ quarters and a conversation between Soji and Dr Jurati. While both sets of characters are going through very different things, what’s happening is actually comparable. Soji is, simply by her presence, inspiring Dr Juarti to push through her brainwashing and overcome what she had been tasked with doing. Raffi is helping Rios overcome his past too, getting both psychologically damaged characters to a point where, later in the episode, they will be able to “snap out of it” and refocus on their joint mission to aid Soji’s people.

Rios goes into detail about what happened with Captain Vandermeer – and how his actions protected his ship – the USS Ibn Majid – from being destroyed by Starfleet. The reason it was covered up, seemingly by Commodore Oh, was to keep the secret of the synthetic civilisation. Captain Vandermeer killed the two synths – including one who resembled Soji – to save his crew, but couldn’t live with what he’d done and committed suicide shortly thereafter, in front of Rios.

Seeing Soji reawakens in Dr Jurati her love and appreciation for synthetic life – she’s incredibly curious about her, asking her questions about some of her most human-like qualities, such as whether she sleeps. Poor Soji must be getting tired of this after all of the questions Kestra was asking last week! But the Kestra comparison is a good one, because both she and Dr Jurati have a childlike wonder about Soji – Kestra of course is a child, but Dr Jurati is an academic, a researcher who never thought she’d ever see her research in practice, yet right before her eyes sits Soji.

After a scene in which we see Rizzo at her coldest, murdering ex-Borg and the Borg still in stasis by the thousand, we’re back aboard La Sirena. Soji and Raffi have worked their magic on Dr Jurati and Rios, and the crew assemble to discuss what they’ve learned and piece together the timeline, location of Soji’s homeworld, and try to come up with a plan. Each character, sitting around a table, tells the others what they know, in a neat scene that tied together a lot of Star Trek: Picard’s story points going right back to the first episode – and even its Short Treks prologue/prequel. By the time they’ve put all the pieces together – the Zhat Vash infiltration of Starfleet going back to Data’s activation before The Next Generation, the attack on Mars, the USS Ibn Majid making first contact with Soji’s people, the murder of Dahj, and finally arriving at the present day – the only thing left to do is to travel to Soji’s homeworld.

There were a couple of hints that not everyone under Rizzo’s command aboard the Artifact are okay with her rampage. She disarms one of her troops, snatching his gun in a scene that seemed to say “I’m worried you’re going to use that on me”. When she returns the broken weapon later in the episode, the young Romulan stares at it almost in disbelief at what it had been used for. I doubt this will come back into play, given that the Zhat Vash seem fully okay with exterminating the synths, but it was a nod to the fact that not all Romulans are signed up to their ideology. If we were to continue our Nazi Germany analogy, this soldier could be an example of those Germans who were not paid-up members of the Nazi party.

The briefing room of La Sirena, with its plain metal table, is very different from that of Enterprise-D and Enteprise-E!

I’m still somewhat confused by the Bruce Maddox storyline from Stardust City Rag, and I keep bringing it up because it threatens to become a plot hole. Maddox specifically told Bjayzl that his lab had been destroyed by the Tal Shiar. We can assume there was Zhat Vash involvement with that, but even if there wasn’t, the question remains where was Maddox undertaking his work? Riker theorised that it was on the planet we have now termed Soji’s homeworld; that he went there when the synth ban came into force and stayed there, working, ever since. But if that’s true, why did he go to Bjayzl, who he knew was dangerous as he owed her money? The synth civilisation, in everyone’s opinion, is expected to be thriving on Soji’s homeworld, but if Maddox’s lab was there and was destroyed, what happened to the other synths? And why did Rizzo and Narek waste their time continuing to mine Soji for that information if their colleagues had already visited and destroyed the lab? If Maddox left the planet to work elsewhere – the simplest explanation, I guess – why did he do that instead of continuing to live among his synthetic creations? Given that it seems as though he had a lot of input in the creation of Soji and Dahj, and the direction of their offworld missions, I doubt the synths forced him out. So why did he leave? And if he didn’t leave, how did the synths survive the attack? This one aspect of the story opens up a lot of questions that I hope have an answer and a satisfactory explanation.

Dr Jurati begins by apologising – not so much for Maddox’s death, though that is part of it – but for letting down her newfound crew and family. I mentioned last time that La Sirena’s crew were finally starting to come together instead of feeling like individuals all doing their own thing, and as they sit down to put everything together we see more of that. Partly the revelation about Dr Jurati shook them up, but in the aftermath they seem to have pulled together. It’s a shame that Elnor missed out on this scene, being stuck in his side-quest with Seven of Nine, because his input, as an outsider who doesn’t know a great deal about the issues being discussed or the history of it all could have been played in such a way as to be helpful for casual viewers or for those who are just getting into Star Trek for the first time.

Soji becomes angry with herself for falling for Narek’s ruse, because it’s clear that she has now exposed the location of her homeworld to the Zhat Vash. It also explains how Narek and Rizzo were content with Soji’s description of her homeworld, despite what seemed on the surface to be a very small amount of information: they already knew what sector of the galaxy they needed to look in after the USS Ibn Majid’s encounter with the synthetic emissaries.

There is an interesting dimension to Soji that is worth exploring. The “emissaries” that Rios met and that Captain Vandermeer killed were reported to Starfleet – and Rios says that Vandermeer must’ve known they were synthetic. In fact the only way the order to kill them makes sense is if Vandermeer knew and reported that to Commodore Oh. One of the things that has been unclear about Soji and Dahj so far is why they were programmed to believe themselves to be human. Only one other android in Star Trek has behaved that way – Juliana, the wife of Data’s creator, in The Next Generation seventh season episode Inheritance. The reason she believed herself to be human is that she was human – a human mind transplanted into an android body. But we’re getting off-topic. Why were Soji and Dahj programmed to be human? It’s a safe bet, based on what we learnt in Broken Pieces, that Maddox realised how dangerous the galaxy was for synths with people like Commodore Oh and the Zhat Vash after them. After their initial emissaries were killed, it makes sense that they’d try to keep their true nature hidden.

Soji storms off to the bridge, sets up a forcefield, and changes La Sirena’s course. As Rios points out, she took control of the ship very easily; her abilities and skills far exceed anything a human is capable of. The fear the Zhat Vash and others have is not exactly unfounded – Soji could kill them all without breaking a sweat. However, after a conversation with Picard he allows her to pilot the ship to part of the Borg transwarp network – a shortcut to her homeworld.

Picard, continuing his theme of regaining his confidence, sits in the captain’s chair in what I felt was the episode’s most iconic scene. Reclaiming his position as the captain – if only symbolically – was a big moment for him, considering how far from that role he seemed at the beginning of the series. A character journey from depression and isolation to being in charge is a great story, and one which I loved seeing Picard go through.

Picard takes a seat in the captain’s chair.

Rios is initally angry at Soji’s actions – he feels that flying into the transwarp network without careful preparation would put the ship at risk. Soji could have simply pressed ahead and ignored him, locking him out of his own ship, but instead she draws on her humanity and asks him – politely but firmly – to take her home.

As the Romulans abandon the Artifact, leaving it to Seven, Elnor, and the remaining xBs, Rizzo is cornered and attacked but manages to beam away – her comeuppance will have to wait. With the xBs in control of the Artifact, even though they’re few in number I would not be surprised at all to see Elnor and Seven in contact with Picard and La Sirena in the finale – perhaps the repaired cube warps in to save the day somehow during a climactic battle. Finally, the episode ends with La Sirena jumping into the transwarp network – with what appears to be Narek’s ship close behind!

There was so much to process in Broken Pieces that it’s taken me longer than usual to pull my thoughts together. Seeing the crew work together to fit the various pieces of the puzzle together was great – but I did miss seeing Elnor with Picard and the rest of the crew, because, as someone who suffered as a result of the attack on Mars, he has as much stake in this as anyone else.

It’s great to have a proper timeline assembled as we approach the finale. There are still questions to answer – like what exactly will happen if Picard and his crew are victorious and allow the synths to continue to live. The Zhat Vash seem to believe that synthetic life in and of itself will not be the doom of everyone in the galaxy; contrary to what I said last time, this is not a situation like Discovery’s second season where the Control AI was going to wipe everything out. Instead, what they seem to believe is that someone else, another race or faction, will show up once that threshold is crossed to bring about their destruction. So even if Picard and co. are successful, presumably they will have to deal with the implications of that.

I wonder if some aspect of this synthetic-inspired doom is going to tie into Discovery’s third season, due for release later this year. The trailers for that seemed to depict a kind of post-apocalyptic future: could the Zhat Vash visions and the relic from Aia be related to that? Stay tuned for more on that and others in my next theory post, which I hope to have up before the first part of the finale on Friday.

All that’s left to say is that I thoroughly enjoyed Broken Pieces. Some story elements were better than others – Elnor and Seven of Nine on the Artifact being my least-favourite, I’m afraid. However, I’m hopeful that, as with practically everything else this season, there will be a solid reason why we spent that time with them and that they will have a role to play in the finale in some way.

The first eight episodes of Star Trek: Picard are available to stream now on CBS All Access in the United States, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and other countries and territories. 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.

You can find my reviews for the rest of the first season of Star Trek: Picard by following these links: Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4, Episode 5, Episode 6, Episode 7.

Star Trek: Picard review – Season 1, Episode 7: Nepenthe

Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for Nepenthe, as well as for the first six episodes of Star Trek: Picard. There may also be spoilers for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise, including Star Trek: Discovery Season 2.

Hugh! Poor, poor Hugh. When I heard Jonathan Del Arco was returning for Star Trek: Picard, well before the show had premiered, my first reaction was “What? Really?” Of all of the characters in Star Trek’s history, I just felt that Hugh, who had only appeared in a couple of episodes of The Next Generation, wouldn’t have been my first choice when thinking about characters to bring back. But I was wrong – the way Hugh has developed as a character between The Next Generation and his appearances this season was incredible, and his death this week was genuinely heartbreaking.

Star Trek: Picard’s death toll, for legacy characters anyway, now stands at three – Bruce Maddox, Icheb, and now Hugh. In the aftermath of series like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones this was always a possibility – no main character on television should consider themselves “safe” any more. But of the three, Hugh’s death hit me the hardest.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves! Where last week’s episode, The Impossible Box, was an edge-of-your-seat wild ride, Nepenthe was a quieter affair, but intensely emotional. Simply processing everything that happened will take some time. Nepenthe didn’t merely advance the storyline of Star Trek: Picard, it took us on a detour that looked at Riker and Troi, and thus broadened our understanding of how the overall story of Star Trek has progressed since the events of Voyager and Nemesis. In that sense, it felt like an episode that was “made for fans” far more explicitly than anything else we’ve seen so far this season, even counting Seven of Nine’s appearance.

Counsellor Troi returns in Nepenthe for the first time since Star Trek: Nemesis in 2002.

If someone were to ask me why I’ve been so in love with Star Trek: Picard, I could give many reasons. But Nepenthe encapsulated them all perfectly. It brought back those nostalgic feelings, but it used characters and name-drops from the past in a way that made sense and tied in perfectly with the main plotline of the show. Unlike some other franchises we could mention, nothing in Nepenthe felt like fanservice, or overplayed the nostalgia card; Star Trek: Picard has been like a perfectly-cut jigsaw puzzle, with each piece of the story slotting neatly into place as the overall picture is now slowly coming together.

After the standard recap to bring us all up to speed, the episode kicks off with a flashback to just three weeks ago. We see more of the meeting between Dr Jurati and Commodore Oh from The End is the Beginning – and we see why it wasn’t shown in full in that episode. This is the moment Dr Jurati was recruited to join the Commodore Oh-Zhat Vash conspiracy, and I think we can now say with relative certainty that Commodore Oh is not a Romulan agent, but is in fact the Vulcan she has always claimed to be. While, in theory, there should be no reason Romulans can’t mild-meld, it’s never been shown on screen and that further adds to the evidence that Commodore Oh is a Vulcan. Whether her alliance with the Zhat Vash is new or not is unclear, but she is certainly fully signed up with their anti-synth crusade.

I had to go back and look at one part of this sequence several times before I could be sure, but at least part of what Commodore Oh showed Dr Jurati in her mind-meld is taken directly from Star Trek: Discovery’s second season. The two shows were always close from a thematic perspective, as both were looking at the possibility of rogue AIs and how they could be a danger, but this sequence seems to suggest that there’s more to it than thematic coincidence. In Discovery, the AI named Control was trying to acquire data stored in the USS Discovery’s computer which contained many millennia of information collected by an ancient lifeform, and if it had been successful it would have used its newfound power to wipe out all organic life in the galaxy. This seems to be the reason for the Romulans’ fear of synthetic life – that they will go rogue and start killing their creators. At least two of the shots of life in the galaxy being wiped out that Commodore Oh showed Dr Jurati in the mind-meld were identical to the vision Michael Burnham and Spock received.

This image, and at least one other, were recycled from the visions shown to Michael Burnham and Spock in the second season of Star Trek: Discovery.

Could this simply be a case of reusing shots to save money? After all, in the past Star Trek has shown the same Klingon ship blowing up on half a dozen occasions or more, and numerous models were reused over and over again from the era of The Original Series films through The Next Generation and its spin-offs. Given that the two clips I could identify in the mind-meld were less than a second long, I suppose we shouldn’t discount the possibility entirely. However, I’m not convinced that this is the reason. CGI nowadays requires far less effort and financial investment than many practical effects – like exploding starships – did in the past. For the sake of a couple of seconds’ worth of footage it would have been relatively inexpensive and not particularly time-consuming to make something altogether new if that was the aim. So I’m getting the sense that there’s a connection between Discovery’s Control AI and the Romulans in Star Trek: Picard – as I have been saying for several weeks in my Star Trek: Picard theories series! While I will save further speculation about what this could mean for my next theory post, I wanted to acknowledge it here too.

Mind-melds have been inconsistent in the way they’re presented in Star Trek. This one was more in line with the confusing jumble of images that Spock showed to Alternate Reality Kirk in 2009’s Star Trek film, rather than the calmer, slower-paced mind-melds that we’ve seen in The Original Series and The Next Generation. Obviously we didn’t get the full effect that Dr Jurati did, because the horrors she was shown caused her to vomit up her lunch. It was enough to immediately convince her, without any further persuasion needed from Commodore Oh, to sign up with the conspiracy and do anything – even kill her former friend and love interest and betray Picard.

Dr Jurati is given a tracking device, which she has to eat – and yes that is “eat” not “swallow”, which was interesting! The action then jumps to the present day, where La Sirena is caught in a tractor beam that the Artifact has deployed. Raffi and Rios are scrambling around on the bridge trying to break free. While Raffi attempts to break La Sirena free, she hacks into the Artifact’s computer and seems to see some drawings – possibly those drawn by Ramdha or another xB. Whether these will come into play or not is unclear, but the drawings, which were a pattern of circles repeated over and over, were at least visually interesting. So many aspects of Star Trek: Picard have been brilliantly set up by the creators and writers that almost everything we see or hear on screen has the potential to turn into a story point!

Dr Jurati is clearly terrified, trying to get Raffi and Rios to tell the Romulans that they “just want to go home” as it’s not really La Sirena that the Romulans are after. The others dismiss her semi-hysterical shouting, and then we get the beginning of Hugh’s punishment for the crime of aiding Picard. I didn’t expect Hugh to turn on his friend, and he never did, but there was always the possibility, as he didn’t know that Soji was synthetic, that learning her true nature might’ve shifted something for him. However, he stands by his promise to protect Soji and Picard, even as Rizzo executes one of the xBs. Even knowing the stakes he refuses to tell her – putting his loyalty to Picard ahead of his feelings for the room full of xBs, who Rizzo orders executed when he refuses to tell her where they went.

An xB is executed on Rizzo’s orders.

Rizzo also confirms that the operation to track and extract information from Soji has been ongoing for several years and has involved a number of different people, which is a neat thing to know I suppose.

This was definitely an emotional scene, and as I mentioned already, Jonathan Del Arco gives an amazing performance as Hugh sees people he has worked so hard to help cruelly and coldly murdered in front of him. His reaction to their deaths was raw and heartbreaking.

Peyton List, who plays Rizzo, was also on good form. Some of her earlier performances in the series have been a tad one-dimensional in parts. Rizzo as a character is, like Michelle Yeoh’s Terran Empress from Star Trek: Discovery, someone who is basically evil for the sake of being evil – or at least, that’s how I characterised her before this scene in Nepenthe. We finally get to see Rizzo’s motivation here – helpfully informed by the earlier mind-meld sequence. Far from being evil, she’s terrified. Synthetic life frightens her, and she genuinely fears that, were Soji allowed to live, all sentient life in the galaxy – “a trillion souls” as she puts it – would be wiped out. How it is that the Zhat Vash have come to know this – or rather, believe this – is not yet clear, but again I think the Control AI from Discovery surely has a role to play somehow. This second dimension changes what has been a rather flat villain and we are finally a big step closer to understanding why the Zhat Vash are so militant in their anti-synthetic crusade – and why, despite his feelings for her, Narek felt he had no choice when it came to killing Soji.

Speaking of Narek, he boards a one-person spacecraft in the Artifact’s hangar bay and departs the cube. La Sirena is no longer caught in a tractor beam – though Rios and Raffi realise it is undoubtedly a trap. We get a great scene as La Sirena skims along the Artifact’s hull at close range, showing off the incredible level of detail that has gone into the CGI work on both vessels. Elnor, who seems to have struck up a bond with Hugh since we last saw him, opts to remain behind to help the xBs after seeing them executed, and La Sirena warps off toward Nepenthe with Narek close behind.

For the first time since the show premiered, the main cast actually felt like a crew in this moment. And I know it seems silly as they’re all split up, but leaving Elnor behind was emotional for Rios, Raffi, and Dr Jurati – they clearly think they will never see him again. Whether they’re right or not doesn’t matter right now, because in that moment there was a sense of camaraderie; a bond between La Sirena’s crewmates. This is definitely something that Star Trek: Picard has lacked when compared to other shows. Even Deep Space Nine and Voyager, which both had different interpretations of a “divided” crew, had a sense of fellowship – and finally, seven episodes in, we saw some of that here. It was a nice throwback to the way crews have been in other Star Trek shows, and I really hope we see more of that going forward as Soji joins the crew and they’re all – hopefully – reunited with Elnor in a future episode.

“Adios, kid.” Rios and the crew of La Sirena agree to leave Elnor behind.

If you’ve been here before and read my other reviews, you’ll know I like to nitpick. And even in an episode as good as Nepenthe, there are still small things to pick at. After the credits roll, we’re with Picard and Soji as they materialise on Nepenthe – a few minutes’ walk from Troi and Riker’s house. That was some luck with the spatial trajector! I know it’s possible to get exact transport coordinates, but did Picard tell Hugh exactly where on the planet to send them? Did he know, by heart, the rough location of Riker’s house? Anyway, after they materialise they’re set upon by a girl brandishing a bow and arrow. Picard makes reference to his artificial heart – as seen in the episode Tapestry from the fifth season of The Next Generation – and it’s clear he recognises the girl. He calls her Kestra – which was the name of Deanna Troi’s sister from the seventh season of The Next Generation, specifically the episode Dark Page. It was nice to get a couple of little references in quick succession like that – and as always, neither of them got in the way of the flow of the story. Star Trek: Picard has handled its links to the franchise extraordinarily well.

While walking with Kestra to her home, Picard drops two huge bombshells on Soji. The first is that her father is Data, which means she’s an android. And the second is that Dahj has died. Soji, unsure really of what’s happened or who to trust, doesn’t really react. In this moment she doesn’t have space to process what she’s feeling, so grieving for Dahj will have to come later. Whereas Dahj seemed to have, as part of her programming, a desire to find Picard and an inherent feeling of safety in his presence, this seems to be absent in Soji for the duration of the episode. While she will, later, start to warm up to him and come around to the idea of trusting him, that feeling of safety and a desire to turn to Picard for protection does not seem to have been programmed into her in the way it was with Dahj. If I were to speculate as to why, I’d say it was probably because Dahj’s assignment was on Earth, whereas Soji’s was on the Artifact. It makes sense for Dahj to run to Picard as he was someone Maddox knew he could trust and was a stone’s throw away. On the Artifact, running to Picard would be difficult if not impossible, and Soji may have had someone else programmed into her as part of her activation, or she may have simply been programmed to defend herself. It’s also possible that, as Picard and Hugh intervened, Soji is not fully activated in the way Dahj was.

Picard was clearly expecting a different reaction from Soji. Even though he only knew Dahj for a short time, she trusted him implicitly, turned to him for help, and even saved his life. Because Soji and Dahj look identical – “more than twins”, as the show puts it – I wonder if he’s expecting her to behave in an identical manner too. When she doesn’t, it almost seems as if he doesn’t know what to do or what to say; she isn’t what he expected, and he may even feel disappointed by that, underneath the frustration of constantly messing things up.

Kestra leads Picard and Soji to her home on Nepenthe.

The cabin was an absolutely lovely set, and must have been a fun location to film on for the actors. It’s rustic in its appearance, but it’s what I’d call “21st Century rustic” in that this is clearly not a log cabin from the 1800s! It makes sense as the home of a couple who know their way around technology but want the appearance of something from an earlier time, and as we’ll see that is basically exactly what the cabin is. Of all the sets used so far in Star Trek: Picard, including the vineyard, this is the one which feels most like a modern-day building, though. I liked that, because I could see how that kind of design could still be popular or could make a comeback, but I can also see that being a point of criticism for some, as it is definitely different from any other 24th Century buildings we’ve seen in earlier Star Trek shows.

While we’re dealing with the aesthetic, though, Star Trek: Picard has definitely fallen into the trap that The Next Generation and its contemporaries also fell into in that every planet visited is clearly California! We had Picard’s home in France, the town on Vashti, and now Nepenthe. While they are all different in some respects, they’re not so different that you’d be tricked into thinking they weren’t all filmed within fifty miles of each other. In a way, I think we’ve probably been spoilt by big-budget shows like Game of Thrones, which famously had filming locations right across Europe from Croatia to Northern Ireland and Iceland. Expecting something on that level was unrealistic, and to the credit of the showrunners the locations mentioned do all have a different tone – it’s just that they are all very definitely filmed in California.

The music in Star Trek: Picard has generally been great, but the music played as Picard reunites with Troi was a cut above and absolutely outstanding. Much of the emotion in any scene is tied to the music, even if we as the audience don’t realise it. And as Kestra delivers Picard and Soji to her mother we get a beautiful piece that ebbs and flows with the emotions of the characters.

Troi, as an empath, can tell that Picard is in trouble – which is of course why he came to them in the first place. However, it’s her next moment after they embrace that really got me. We know, as of Maps and Legends, that Picard is dying. And Troi wordlessly touches his face and conveys, with just a bare look, that she knows his health is beginning to fail. He tries to reassure her that he’s fine, but of course we know better.

The next scene is the one we’ve all been waiting for since we first saw Riker in the second Star Trek: Picard trailer last year: the reunion between the Captain and his Number One. Jonathan Frakes’ performance in this scene reflects perfectly what the audience has been feeling for this whole journey: the excitement and pure joy of seeing an old friend again. That’s what nostalgia is, in a way. We’re just as happy to be reunited with Picard after all this time as Riker is in this moment. The last time we saw Riker and Picard, at the end of Star Trek: Nemesis, they were parting ways as Riker was moving on to take command of his own ship. A lot has happened since then as Troi and Riker seem settled in their home and with a teenage daughter to boot.

A hug eighteen years in the making. Picard and Riker are reunited.

Riker’s home is not as rustic as it seems. Upon learning that Picard is in trouble and hiding out, he barks orders at the cabin’s computer: “shields up!” being my favourite, a classic Riker line from The Next Generation, delivered in exactly the way we’d remember from that show. There was also a neat little name-drop of the Kzinti – a feline-like species that featured in an episode of The Animated Series back in the 1970s! That might actually be my favourite one-line reference so far in the whole series; tying Star Trek: Picard to Captain Kirk’s lesser-known adventures.

The young actress playing Kestra does a great job in this scene as she brings a hunted “bunnicorn” to Riker to prepare for dinner. It’s clear that, having grown up in a rural setting, Kestra is much more comfortable with hunting and skinning than many would be in the 24th Century – or even in the 21st! Sometimes younger performers, especially those cast for smaller roles, can end up coming across inauthentic in their delivery of lines and the way they inhabit their roles, but none of that was the case here. She did a great job and was convincing as the daughter of Riker and Troi.

Soji takes a shower – outside, of course, to add to the feeling of a rustic cabin-in-the-woods – and Kestra pesters her with questions, all of which related to things Data enjoyed or could do: playing the violin, reading Sherlock Holmes, and finally her physical abilities like running and jumping – which we sad Dahj do in Remembrance – and being able to bend steel. Soji has just done this, when she ripped a hole in the floor of the meditation room to escape, but we also saw Data do so on several occasions, notably in Star Trek: Nemesis and in The Measure of a Man, the second-season episode of The Next Generation which introduced Bruce Maddox. Kestra is immediately accepting of Soji. Not that the others weren’t, of course, but she takes to Soji as a friend whereas Picard sees himself as more of a guardian. Soji needed that, I feel, after everything she’s been through.

The questions Kestra asked about whether she has, among other things, saliva, were reminiscent of the observations Dr Bashir made of Data in The Next Generation episode Birthright, a two-parter from the sixth season. Both Bashir and Kestra were interested less in the extraordinary things an android could do – like calculate unimaginably huge numbers in an instant – and more in the ways that their creators had tried to make them ordinary. Data could breathe and had a pulse, and Soji has normal body fluids like saliva. Whether intentional or not, and I have to assume it was given how much care and attention has gone into Star Trek: Picard at this point, I loved this little callback to Data and The Next Generation.

Kestra’s parents have clearly told her so much about Data, and again as a long-time fan I think that’s something I wanted to see even if I would never have realised it. To know that Data, who died in Nemesis almost twenty years ago, is still remembered by his friends is a great feeling – and as someone who had longed to be human, this most human of legacies is something I think he would have approved of. As Kestra keeps up her questions and discussion of Data, Soji says that, until she heard the word “android” used, she was still hoping that she might be human after all. This is a lot to take in for her, as in the last few hours her whole life has been exposed as a lie and everything has come crashing down: her boyfriend, her job, her family, and her whole identity. Now she’s stuck on a planet she doesn’t know with people she’s never met, and she feels horribly unsettled not just with them but in her own skin – or whatever the android equivalent of skin is.

Kestra leans down to talk to Soji.

It was a nice touch to see the term “android” back in Nepenthe, after previous episodes of Star Trek: Picard had almost entirely used the terms “synth” or “synthetic” when discussing artificial life. I still feel, despite the presence of holograms on La Sirena, that there must be a reason for that. The vision Commodore Oh showed Dr Jurati, and the idea of rogue AIs destroying sentient life which motivates her and the Zhat Vash, are not exclusive problems caused by Soji-type androids. As we saw with Control in Star Trek: Discovery, any kind of AI is potentially susceptible.

An emotional Deanna leads Picard to her son’s bedroom, and we learn that not everything worked out for the Troi-Riker family after we last saw them. Their son, and Kestra’s older brother, died a few years previously. As is not uncommon with grieving parents, Riker and Troi have kept his bedroom as he left it, and as it’s presumably the only other available room, this is where she offers Picard a rest. We got a nice photo of Picard – in his post-Nemesis uniform – holding Thad as a baby, and Deanna gives Picard a very unconvincing “we’re fine!” when discussing him. It’s clearly still incredibly painful for her – whether she feels the loss even more as someone who has empathic traits isn’t clear, but as an episode dealing with the loss of a child and looking at how families and parents respond to that, Nepenthe was right up there with many other Star Trek episodes throughout the years that have tackled complex emotional topics.

One thing that is clear, though, as Picard and Troi continue this conversation, is that she is uncomfortable with their presence. Not because she didn’t want to see him – she clearly does – but because of the danger their visit poses. Having lost her son, she cannot bear the idea of her daughter being in any kind of danger. Nepenthe can be a stopover for Picard and Soji, then, but any hope of a permanent shelter or even a longer stay is dashed – and Picard knows that. He probably knew it before they ever arrived, but if he had hope of staying beyond a few days it’s gone without Riker or Troi having to come out and say so.

La Sirena is up next, and the trio still aboard have realised that they’re being pursued. Narek is clearly an expert pilot, and has managed to get his ship to sit in a kind of “blind spot”, almost unnoticeable to Rios. They discuss how to throw him off their tail, and Rios performs a new manoeuvre of dropping out of warp very suddenly so that Narek will “overshoot” La Sirena without realising. Star Trek’s warp drive has always been a bit of a mess in canon, so this being a new tactic is fine. I think it’s not original in that it’s something other sci fi franchises have used in the past, but as a narrative device it worked well here, I felt.

Dr Jurati then pipes up asking Raffi and Rios if they really want to go to Nepenthe or if they can instead pack up and go back to Earth. We know, as the audience, that she’s getting cold feet about her mission, frightened of what might happen if she ended up face-to-face with Soji. But Rios and Raffi don’t know what’s going on – or how it is that they’re being tracked – so Raffi assumes she’s just frightened and takes her off the bridge. Dr Jurati made reference to a gormagander in this scene, which was a space-dwelling life-form seen in Short Treks and Star Trek: Discovery, continuing the theme of the episode tying itself into other stories in the franchise!

La Sirena in space – what a cool shot!

Riker is cooking dinner on Nepenthe when Picard walks up. He’s reluctant to tell him too much about Soji or what happened, but Riker is able to figure out much of it from Soji’s behaviour. Picard has been a man alone in his mission so far. Dr Jurati, the only person on La Sirena who we thought was on his side is actually working for the enemy, and the others are just along for the ride or for pay. Even Elnor, who had signed on for Picard’s hopeless cause, has chosen to stay on the Artifact where he feels he’s more needed. So in this moment, when he had a genuine friend offering to help, it seems strange that Picard chose not to. Of course part of it has to do with what happened to Riker’s son and the presence of Kestra and Troi – he doesn’t want to endanger them any further. But telling Riker the full truth – something he failed to do for Hugh, the only other trustworthy face he’s seen since he left Earth – was an option.

Seeing Soji immediately pick up on Thad and Kestra’s made-up language was great, and we’ve seen her in previous episodes speak Romulan and the language of the xB called “nameless”, so we know it’s a skill she possesses. What I absolutely did not like in this sequence, or rather, what I felt had not been set up at all and failed to work, was Soji’s awkward Data-esque head tilting motion. That was a Data trademark from his earliest appearances in The Next Generation, but we’ve never seen Soji behave in such an artificial way. Whatever techniques Bruce Maddox and his team used to create her, they had improved upon the formula used by Data’s creator Dr Soong, meaning we shouldn’t see her do something that looked so odd and artificial. It was clearly put in as a story point, one which Riker immediately picked up on, and I know as a single second of screen time it doesn’t seem worth commenting on, but of all the Soji moments in Nepenthe, I felt it was by far the weakest, and its inclusion was not a good decision given that it had never been set up. There were plenty of other ways for Riker to pick up on Soji’s true nature, or of course, as mentioned above, Picard could have explained the situation.

Riker gives Picard a piece of his mind – calling him out for trying to carry everything himself and not let anyone help, calling it “classic Picard arrogance”. This wasn’t an attack, it was the “absolute candor” of an old friend. (See what I did there?)

In the tomato garden, Troi offers Soji a home-grown tomato. For someone who’s only ever had replicated food, she can sense the difference right away. There’s a message here too, I think, for us as the audience. We live in a world where food is increasingly processed, and more often than not something that comes in a packet from a supermarket. Many of us in the modern world are out of touch with food production and where our food comes from, and there is a uniqueness to something grown at home that I think we can all relate to.

Soji’s awkward head tilt.

Troi uses the example of the tomato to explain to Soji why “real” isn’t always better. Soji says that she is not real – like replicated food as they had just been discussing. But it turns out that the illness that killed Thad was something that could have been cured using a positronic matrix – i.e. an android brain. Unfortunately, due to the ban on synthetic life, no such matrix was available to synthesise a cure, and Thad died as a result. While an interesting metaphor, and something Soji desperately needed to hear, this also adds a personal dimension to the synth ban. Not only has it gotten Dahj killed, but we now know that the ban directly resulted in the death of Troi and Riker’s son. I’d absolutely argue that this raises the stakes even higher in Picard’s coming battle against the Zhat Vash and their allies in Starfleet.

Soji finally opens up, telling Troi a little about what happened with Narek and how he betrayed her trust. Narek has really done a number on Soji. In addition to everything she’s gone through and learnt in the last few hours, she finds it impossible to really trust anyone, and that’s all thanks to Narek’s manipulations. I wrote last time that the Narek-Soji storyline can be seen as analogous to gaslighting, and again I feel we see part of that here. Having been lied to, having had her head messed with and dissected by Narek, Soji is finding it incredibly hard to trust anyone, even Picard.

Their conversation is interrupted by Picard and Riker, however, and Soji storms off after Picard tries the old “reverse psychology” technique. He should have left the counselling to, well, the counsellor, because he really just managed to make things worse. Troi gives him a second dressing-down for the way he acted, and he starts to realise in this moment what’s going on and why Soji hasn’t behaved the same way that Dahj did. He will have to earn her trust, despite going out of his way to save her.

Elnor and Hugh are racing around the Artifact with a mission – they plan to return to the “queen cell” that they used to help Picard and Soji escape, and use the “immense power” it contains to seize control of the Artifact. Unfortunately they run into Rizzo, who has been tracking them. We finally, for the first time since Picard left Earth, get a mention of the Zhat Vash and confirmation that Rizzo is indeed a Zhat Vash operative. That aspect of the show had all but disappeared as Picard and everyone else insisted on referring to their adversaries as the Tal Shiar. As I said last time, this does make a kind of sense from an in-universe point of view, but I think it could be offputting for casual viewers in particular, as following the ins and outs of various Romulan factions is not easy, and the last thing viewers want when watching a show is to not understand the basics like who’s who and what’s going on.

Interestingly, Elnor doesn’t really seem to react to this revelation, though it is clear that the Zhat Vash and Qowat Milat know of each others’ existence. I had speculated that Elnor, having been told by Picard that he was facing off against the Tal Shiar, might have reacted badly to the involvement of the Zhat Vash. He still might, if he learns that Picard knew and didn’t tell him, but in this moment he doesn’t even react at all, he simply continues the fight. After dispatching a couple of Rizzo’s guards, the two engage in a hand-to-hand battle, but Rizzo uses a hidden blade to kill Hugh. In his dying moments, Hugh tells Elnor to find an xB and use them to activate whatever is in the “queen cell” – presumably something which will allow them to work together and overthrow their Romulan guards. Rizzo beams away before Elnor can avenge Hugh’s death, but I’m sure she’ll get her comeuppance sooner or later.

Raffi and Dr Jurati are sharing cake in the back of La Sirena. One thing I liked, both with the replicator in this scene and with transporters in various episodes since the show premiered, is that the materialisation process for both replicators and the transporter is significantly faster than it had been in The Next Generation and shows of that era. The faster pace, which allows both people and goods to appear almost instantaneously, feels like a natural progression of those similar technologies, and I appreciated that. Dr Jurati breaks down on being told she’s a good person – she’s been wrestling with her feelings and emotions since she killed Maddox. In that moment she was able to do the deed, but it’s broken her and, if she survives, her usefulness as an operative to the Commodore Oh-Zhat Vash conspiracy is surely at an end. If she did plan to stick around and kill Soji, I just don’t see her being able to go through with it.

Replicating chocolate milk has gotten a lot faster since The Next Generation!

As Dr Jurati vomits up her cake – the second time in this episode that poor Alison Pill has had to throw up on screen – Raffi escorts her to sickbay. Rios informs them that Narek is still on their tail, which I’m sure could only make Dr Jurati feel worse at this point, as it’s her presence that allows him to track La Sirena.

Dinner is finally served at the Troi-Riker cabin. After Picard has been unable to contact Rios aboard La Sirena, Kestra mentions a Capt. Crandall who has a ship, and again we got a couple of name-drops, this time of the Klingon homeworld, Qo’nos, most recently seen in Star Trek: Discovery, and Tyken’s Rift, which refers to the episode Night Terrors from the fourth season of The Next Generation. Picard and Soji did leave Nepenthe at the end of the episode, but I wonder if this Capt. Crandall will come back into play in future, as Star Trek: Picard has hardly wasted a second of runtime in any of its episodes on dead ends.

Picard uses himself, or rather, his physical state, to try to persuade Soji to trust him, remembering his encounter with Dahj and getting Soji to use her newly-activated skills to assess him to determine whether he’s telling the truth.

During the conversation, Picard confesses to Soji and the others his true reason for helping her. Partly it’s a desire to help Data, to repay Data’s sacrifice by helping what Picard considers to be his offspring. But the other element to his willingness to help is that Dahj essentially snapped him out of a fourteen-year-long depression, giving him motivation and a cause again, which is clearly something he never felt he’d get. I’ve written before about how Picard has been depressed in Star Trek: Picard. The first two episodes in particular looked at that side of him and his life since Nemesis, but it’s in this moment that Picard acknowledges it for himself. It can be hard for someone dealing with depression to even realise what’s happening, and acknowledging that privately to oneself is incredibly difficult to do because it means acknowledging what society still considers to be a weakness. Picard has been depressed, and if anyone says “but the Picard I remember never would be depressed!” then I have two things to say. First is that they should go and watch The Measure of a Man from the second season of The Next Generationa review of which can be found here – and watch how Picard acts when he seems like he’s going to lose the case. Watch him in the scene with Guinan in Ten-Forward and compare it to how he was acting in the premiere of Star Trek: Picard. Also look at his emotional, angry reaction to the Borg in First Contact and compare that to his fear and hatred in last week’s episode. This is the man we’ve known. The second thing I’d say is that anyone believing that certain people, even fictional characters, could “never” fall into depression needs to get some fucking empathy because that can happen to anyone, at any time, for any reason or for no reason. Anyone who’s lived a life has had ups and downs; Picard’s “down” was intense and long-lasting, and just because someone has been lucky in life never to suffer like that, or see someone close to them suffer, well that doesn’t mean it can’t happen or that it doesn’t happen to others. This moronic criticism plagued Luke Skywalker’s characterisation in The Last Jedi a couple of years ago too. It was as stupid, insensitive, and ignorant about mental health then as it is now. Rant over.

Picard acknowledges for the first time how bad he’d been feeling. And though he doesn’t say it, his gratitude to Dahj for snapping him out of it and giving him something worth believing in again is a powerful motivator when it comes to helping Soji.

Picard convinces Soji to trust him – at least a little.

This was a deeply personal speech, but delivered in the calm Picard style that we remember from The Next Generation. He doesn’t raise his voice, he doesn’t try to be sarcastic or pushy or aggressive, or anything else. He gently makes his case to her, and after everything she’s been through, Soji relents and shares with Picard and the others the information she gave Narek. Last week I nitpicked this information, saying that in an area the size of the explored galaxy, a planetary body with two red moons and a lightning storm is hardly conclusive. There are other issues, too, such as the fact that nothing in her dream indicated that lightning storms were a constant presence on that world, nor that whatever caused the moons to appear red from the surface would be noticeable from space. I also said, however, that none of this would matter for the sake of the story! And in moments, Kestra has texted this Capt. Crandall and found the location of the planet – an unnamed world in the Vayt Sector.

So much to unpack here, but let’s start with Picard saying “thoughts?” to Troi and Riker. For a brief moment, we weren’t at a cabin in the wilds of Nepenthe, but on the Enterprise-D in the briefing room. That moment, as Picard asked the two for their opinions and they replied in turn could have been transposed to that setting and it would have slotted perfectly into place. I loved it as a nostalgia trip.

Next, though it wasn’t necessarily approached this way in the episode, how do we feel about young Kestra having a literally under-the-table text conversation with Capt. Crandall, who Riker describes as “unstable”? In another episode of Star Trek, perhaps that concept could be explored more. As we live in a world where almost all young people over the age of nine or ten have an internet-enabled device, what they use that technology for and who they communicate with is an issue that parents, schools, and governments will have to face.

Armed with the location of Soji’s homeworld – or at least, a good candidate for it – there’s a renewed optimism to Picard’s mission, and hope that he and Soji might be able to get there in time – though what exactly they will find there isn’t known. Troi and Riker, when they discussed Maddox around the table, seemed to imply that Soji and Dahj may not be the only synthetics living there – could there be a machine civilisation on this world for Picard to make first contact with? And how does this tie into what we already know from Stardust City Rag about Maddox’s lab having been destroyed by the Tal Shiar?

Texting under the table – helpful in this instance, but possibly troubling.

Rios takes Dr Jurati to the sickbay area of La Sirena. We get a better look at this area than last time. La Sirena is a small ship, but still larger than the Runabouts seen in Deep Space Nine or Voyager’s Delta Flyer. The rear area of the ship seems to double as a sickbay with a couple of beds and also a meeting/conference area with a table. Rios suspects they’re being tracked by Narek, which is how he keeps finding them. But he’s mistaken in his choice of who to trust – he feels that Raffi, after her time on Freecloud, may be spying on them or being tracked herself. This had been set up perfectly last week – not the suspicion of Raffi itself, but that Rios, when left with only two people on board, would turn to Dr Jurati having shared an intimate moment with her last time. He’s known Raffi longer, but he also knows she has a drug issue. He hasn’t known Dr Jurati very long at all, but they have shared a very close moment – possibly the first time in a long time that the lonely starship captain had been with anyone. His suspicion of Raffi only makes Dr Jurati feel still worse, and she comes right out and admits that she’s the one being tracked, but in that same moment Raffi calls Rios to the bridge to deal with Narek. There’s a look between Rios and Jurati that could be interpreted as him understanding what she said – or at least planting a seed for that understanding next week. In the moment, however, he has to deal with Narek and runs to the bridge.

Overwhelmed, unable to cope, and now having probably blown her cover and ruined her relationship with the only person on La Sirena she could have conceivably turned to for help, Dr Jurati uses the replicator to synthesise poison, which she uses a hypospray to inject herself with. Alison Pill was phenomenal here, no exaggeration. Without saying a word, the expressions on her face, the shaky way she raises and lowers the hypospray before finally taking the plunge and using it was riveting and disturbing to watch. Even though Star Trek: Picard is science fiction and her suicide method was a hypospray, there was something gritty, realistic, and outright disturbing to watching her try to take her own life. Suicide can be hard to portray on screen, often being overly dramatic and stylised, or worse, the “noble” suicide where a character kills himself or herself for the greater good. This scene was neither of those things. Dr Jurati made the attempt on her own life because she couldn’t live with the double guilt of what she’d done to her former friend, and that she was putting her new friends in danger. She was at the end of her rope, and felt that she had nowhere to turn to and no other option – it was an act of desperation. And it was portrayed as such. The camerawork stayed on her face and upper body throughout the scene, starting with her dash to the replicator and ending with her collapsing on the floor.

I don’t think this is the end for her – La Sirena’s EMH will make sure of that – but her crime will now surely be exposed, and it will be up to Picard, Soji, and the others what to do with a murderer and a spy.

Taking the poison does appear to have the side-effect of neutralising the tracking device, at least temporarily. Aboard his ship, Narek watches a single light blink out on his map, and is unable to find it again. For someone who had seemed to be wavering, Narek feels, in this wordless scene, like he’s once again found his faith in the Zhat Vash cause. Whether that will hold up if he meets Soji again is not clear, though.

Dr Jurati tries to take her own life.

On La Sirena’s bridge, Rios is clearly still suspicious of Raffi, but the EMH’s call notifies him that Dr Jurati is in a coma and they both seem to drop that conversation as he runs to be by her side in sickbay. Raffi remains alone on the bridge, seeming to dismiss his short investigation with an eye-roll. The action then jumps back to the Artifact, where Elnor is now alone and hiding out from Rizzo’s security forces. He spots a Fenris Rangers badge/chip and activates it – the call will bring Seven of Nine and her vigilante group to the Artifact. Elnor just has to lay low until they get there, then he can – presumably – use Seven of Nine to do whatever it was that Hugh wanted to do with the “queen cell”. In another scene with no dialogue, I really got the impression of Elnor being a man alone, trapped against impossible odds. He’s way out of his depth as a man with a sword on a Borg cube – and he knows it.

It’s time for goodbyes on Nepenthe, and we get a scene glimpsed in the trailers as Riker and Picard sit down on a wooden dock. They talk, one-on-one, about the mission, about Picard jumping back into galactic affairs, and again Picard’s “condition” – i.e. his terminal illness – is again referenced. Picard always valued Riker’s advice, and had always insisted on being given his unfiltered opinion, and just as in The Next Generation, Riker obliges here.

There was a strange kind of Americana vibe to two older men sat on a fishing dock that I feel served the scene well given their conversation. The staging, in that sense, was fantastic, even if it wouldn’t have been something we’d necessarily say was “Star Trek-y” just reading about it. Seeing the full scene unfold, however, was a different experience, and just like how in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, seeing Kirk, Spock, and McCoy camping in the wilderness was a great scene, so too was this one. The “thank you” Picard gave to Riker – not just for letting him stay but really for everything they did together – was beautiful, but tinged with emotion knowing that Picard thinks he may never get another chance to say it.

I get the sense that Riker would have signed up in a heartbeat – but Picard can’t and won’t ask him to leave his family. He has obligations on Nepenthe, and Picard is content to head off to Soji’s homeworld with the new crew he has put together.

We already knew Picard, Riker, and Troi have a great connection. And that was on full display in Nepenthe, no doubt. What really surprised me, however, was the bond between Soji and Kestra. They got together like kids whose parents are friends often do – how many of us remember something like that from our own childhoods? But the bond they forged was genuine, and when Kestra says she will miss her, she really means it. Partly, I’m sure, that’s because she lives in a quiet, rural area, and Soji represents someone new and something altogether different and exciting. But largely it is because the two young women got along really well together – Soji may have made her first genuine friend on the show thus far. The hug between them as Soji and Picard prepared to depart was no less emotional than Picard’s was with Riker and Troi.

As La Sirena enters transporter range, Picard and Soji are beamed aboard, leaving the Troi-Riker family behind. I can’t tell right now whether it’s the last we’ll see of them in the series, or whether we might get Riker steaming back in to save the day if something goes wrong. We’ll have to see as the final episodes unfold.

Riker and Picard on the dock.

So that was Nepenthe. As I said at the beginning, a quieter episode in some respects, but an intensely emotional one. The theme of nostalgia was once again perfectly played and never overused, with enough screen time given to all of La Sirena’s crew to balance out the scenes with Riker and Troi. Unless the show’s creators have a surprise in mind for later episodes, which they just might, I think we’ve seen all of the legacy characters that we knew would be in the show now.

After The Impossible Box, I sat back in my seat and felt this amazing sensation that you might experience after an intense rollercoaster at a theme park. When the credits rolled on Nepenthe, I almost cried, such was the intensity of emotion than ran through almost every scene. Some of them hit particularly hard – as some of you may know if you’re regulars, my own mental health is somewhat complicated, and my history with some of the issues raised in the episode brought feelings and memories to the fore.

Overall I loved Nepenthe. Seeing Riker and Troi was a treat after so long, and finally Picard and La Sirena now have their final destination in mind. Elnor may need help first, though.

Nepenthe is available to stream now, along with the first six episodes of Star Trek: Picard, on CBS All Access in the United States, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and other countries and territories. 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.

You can find all of my reviews for the first season of Star Trek: Picard by following these links: Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4, Episode 5, Episode 6.

Star Trek: Picard theories – week 6

Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for the first six episodes of Star Trek: Picard, as well as for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

The Impossible Box brought a lot to the table in terms of theory-crafting. With only four episodes left in the first season of Star Trek: Picard, the show still has a lot of mysteries left to unravel.

If you’d like to see my review of the episode, you can find it by clicking or tapping here. There were no confirmed theories this week, unlike last week, but there was one theory that The Impossible Box debunked, so let’s look at that first.

Debunked theory: Narek and Rizzo had no reason to keep Soji alive, because Bruce Maddox’s lab had already been found and destroyed.

Narek continued to work on extracting the location of Soji’s homeworld – despite Bruce Maddox’s lab already having been destroyed.

I remain hopeful that Narek and Rizzo have a good reason for keeping Soji alive until after she gave them the information they’d been seeking about her planet of origin, because if they don’t it threatens to open a plot hole in Star Trek: Picard. If you read my review, you’ll know that I nitpicked the information Soji gave them, but just to recap: a planet with electrical storms and two red moons is not a lot to go on in an area the size of the explored galaxy and, setting aside reasons of plot convenience, should not be enough to narrow down the location. Ignoring that for now, though, Bruce Maddox told Bjayzl in Stardust City Rag that his lab had been destroyed “by the Tal Shiar.”

We’ll come to the whole Zhat Vash/Tal Shiar issue in a moment – as well as look at the need for a series to be consistent in its primary antagonist – but even if the Tal Shiar destroyed Maddox’s lab with absolutely no involvement from Rizzo, Narek, and the Zhat Vash, they would still have come to know about it. The destruction of the lab happened a minimum of two weeks before Stardust City Rag, and even though The Impossible Box seems to happen pretty much immediately after that, and certainly within a matter of days, there’s still time for that news to have reached Rizzo and Narek by now, even if they didn’t know in earlier episodes.

However, they proceeded with their mission in The Impossible Box, and ony after Narek had got as much information from Soji as he felt he needed did they try to kill her. Hopefully there will be an explanation as to why, if Maddox’s lab had already been destroyed, Narek and Rizzo continued to work on extracting its location from Soji. But I guess it could be kind of funny if they rush back to their headquarters with the information from Soji, only to be told that the lab had already been destroyed and they wasted their time…

So that’s the only debunked theory from this week’s episode. Now let’s look at some new theories, as well as returning theories from previous weeks that The Impossible Box may have advanced further.

Number 1: Elnor or Hugh (or maybe both) are going to be killed.

Hugh and Elnor are left alone to face the Artifact’s guards after aiding in Picard and Soji’s escape.

Star Trek: Picard has already shown us, with Icheb and Bruce Maddox, that killing off legacy characters is not something it’s frightened of. Picard had precisely two friends on the Artifact: Elnor and Hugh. Neither of them hesitated when it came to helping him escape with Soji, despite Hugh not really knowing what was happening. The Borg Reclamation Project itself could be endangered by this, but I’m more concerned for Elnor and Hugh.

With Elnor being a trained assassin you might expect he’d be fine, and of the two I think he’s more likely to survive given his starring role, the fact he had an entire episode dedicated to his recruitment, and that we’ve barely spent any time with him. However, right before he left, Elnor got his moment of reconciliation with Picard, as the latter told him he didn’t want to leave him behind again. In a sense, you could argue that this moment concluded Elnor and Picard’s story arc that had been set up in Absolute Candor, and thus Elnor may be in more danger than we suspect.

Elnor’s strength lies in his assassin training, yet as one man up against potentially thousands of armed guards he may be overwhelmed. And as someone whose weapon of choice is a sword, Elnor could be at risk from high-tech weapons deployed against him. We don’t even know if he owns a disruptor or other type of ranged weapon.

Hugh may be in danger too. He aided in Picard and Soji’s escape, and remained behind to conceal their destination. Narek and Rizzo just spent several episodes carefully extracting location information from Soji – only to immediately turn and try to kill her when she told them what they wanted to know. If Hugh spills the beans his usefulness to Narek and Rizzo will arguably be at an end – he surely won’t be allowed to continue his work with the ex-Borg after what he did for Picard. Could he end up murdered as a result of his actions?

Number 2: The Romulans once experimented with AI and synthetic life – with horrible consequences.

Dr Jurati must’ve had a good reason for killing Bruce Maddox.

There are a few possibilities for how this theory could pan out, as far as I’m concerned, but only one saw any development this week. Just to recap, the horrible secret that caused Dr Jurati to murder Bruce Maddox is almost certainly the same as the secret the Zhat Vash keep – the one which can “break a person’s mind”. My theory is that the Romulan fear and hatred of synths – which the Zhat Vash exemplify – is caused by their own experimentation with AI and synths in the past going horribly wrong. There are a few ways this could pan out, so let’s look at them in turn.

2 A: The Romulans’ fear and hatred of synths and AIs is related to the Control storyline from the second season of Star Trek: Discovery.

The AI named Control attacked and “assimilated” Capt. Leland in Star Trek: Discovery.

There was a moment in Stardust City Rag last week, when Dr Jurati killed Maddox, that made me feel this was looking at least possible. To very briefly recap, Section 31 built an AI called Control that Starfleet relied heavily on. Control wanted to become fully sentient by stealing data from a millennia-old lifeform that was stored in Discovery’s computer, and assimilated and murdered many Section 31 operatives and Starfleet officers in its quest. My theory is that the Romulans were either in an AI arms race with the Federation at this time, and their AI went rogue as Starfleet’s did, or that Control itself attacked the Romulans.

2 B: There’s an inherent flaw in all synthetic life – or the way organics treat synthetic life – that will always lead to rebellion.

Lore was Data’s “evil twin”, and an example of how synthetic life can go badly wrong.

The answer to the question of why the synths attacked Mars could simply be “because all synths eventually turn on organics”. While this would, I feel, not be a very satisfying conclusion from a story perspective, it could conceivably be the Romulans’ firm belief, especially if synths they created many years ago turned on them.

2 C: The Romulans’ AI experiments led to the creation of the Borg.

Picard suffered horrible flashbacks to his time as Locutus in The Impossible Box.

To recap from last time, I feel that this explanation covers a few different bases. Firstly, it is by far the best explanation I can think of for the secret that can “break a person’s mind”. What could be more mind-breaking than learning your ancestors accidentally created the galaxy’s greatest threat? Preventing another Borg-esque unstoppable machine species would also be a great reason for murder. And finally, from a production point of view it could explain why Discovery dropped what looked to be their own Borg origin story with the Control storyline mentioned above.

The timeline can be made to fit, too. The Romulans left Vulcan and broke away from that race sometime around the 3rd or 4th Century AD in our calendar. By the 14th Century, according to Star Trek: Voyager, the Borg controlled a handful of systems in the Delta Quadrant. So there was time for the Romulans to leave, settle a new homeworld, have their AI go rogue and either be cast out or leave, and for that AI to find a new world to settle in the Delta Quadrant and begin its expansion as the Borg.

Where I felt we saw some hints at this in The Impossible Box were in the de-assimilation scenes. Hugh shows Picard the work that the Borg Reclamation Project has been undertaking, and Picard makes the comment that, of all people, he would never have expected the Romulans to undertake something like de-assimilation, and certainly not on such a large scale. It’s the “especially the Romulans” comment that got me the most – why include that in there? They’re an advanced species, and we know de-assimilation is possible, so why couldn’t they do it? It feels like a hint; a little clue dropped by the writers that will come back into play later.

Could it be the case that the Romulans are experts at de-assimilation because they know more about the Borg than they let on? And if they do know more about the Borg, is that because they created them?

De-assimilating Picard wasn’t easy, but Dr Crusher, Data, and the rest of the Enterprise-D crew were able to accomplish it. Seven of Nine took much longer to reclaim her humanity after being assimilated as a child, but again the actual de-assimilation process was achievable. But clearly no one has ever been able to de-assimilate hundreds of Borg at a time, yet the Romulans not only know how to do so but are willing to put in the time. They’re harvesting the components – allegedly to sell them – but they’re clearly also engaged in a very detailed study of the Artifact and the xBs. Are they checking up on their old creation? And why are the xBs not allowed to leave? Let’s look at that one next.

Number 3: Ex-Borg aren’t allowed to leave the Artifact for a very good reason.

The Artifact is home to a number of ex-Borg.

Aside from Hugh, who has special status as director of the Borg Reclamation Project, none of the xBs are allowed to leave the Artifact. This may seem unreasonable, but it isn’t a big surprise considering it’s under Romulan jurisdiction.

If, however, the Romulans and the Borg have a deeper and older connection that we ever suspected, there could be another reason why the Romulans won’t let the xBs go after they have been de-assimilated.

3 A: The xBs are being studied by the Romulans.

This ties into another theory, that the majority of Borg components harvested by the Romulans are in fact going to the Zhat Vash. Even if that’s not the case, however, the xBs could simply be kept on the Artifact so that the Romulans can study them further.

If the Romulans were somehow involved in the creation of the Borg, they may have a vested interest in learning how de-assimilated Borg behave. And even if they weren’t involved, they may be studying them for some other reason.

3 B: The Romulans want to keep the xBs safe.

The galactic trade in Borg components has some nefarious people involved who have no qualms whatsoever about killing xBs in order to harvest their remaining components. We saw Icheb brutally killed for this very reason, so perhaps the Romulans fear that a similar fate could befall the xBs if they let them go.

3 C: The Romulans want to keep their involvement in the Borg’s creation secret.

Assuming for a moment that the Romulans were involved in the creation of the Borg, it makes sense that they would want to prevent further study of the collective and their technology, lest their involvement become known. Thus far in Star Trek, at least as far as we’ve seen on screen, very few de-assimilated Borg and very little Borg technology has found its way to the Federation and other factions. Not only is it difficult, but in engagements with the Borg until this point, the Federation had to destroy the ships they encountered and were not able to keep them intact.

Seven of Nine’s parents, Magnus and Erin Hansen, did study the Borg for over a year and must have collected a lot of information on them at that time, but the Romulans may not be aware of this. They may be trying to keep a very old secret and prevent the galaxy from learning about the Borg’s true origin.

3 D: The Romulans want to control the trade in Borg components.

With so few ex-Borg in the galaxy, the Artifact is the only place to scavenge Borg parts that we know of. Seven of Nine and Picard may be the only two ex-Borg not on board it. Whoever controls the Artifact essentially controls the entire Borg component market, and the Romulans are in full control right now.

Keeping the xBs in one place means that they can continue to be worked on and even experimented on as the Romulans try to harvest more and more of their technology. The more components they can remove, the more money they can make if there’s a big market – and assuming that they aren’t keeping the pieces for themselves.

Number 4: The galactic trade in Borg components has only one buyer – and it’s connected to synthetic research.

Bjayzl, pictured here with Bruce Maddox, was a major dealer in Borg components.

Last time I speculated that Bruce Maddox may have used Borg components in his work on synthetics, including those on Mars and Soji and Dahj. If that’s the case, he and his team may have been the main buyer in the Borg components market.

The other possibility is that the Zhat Vash are buying up all the Borg parts they can for study – or, as mentioned above – to conceal some big secret relating to the Romulans’ history with the Borg.

Hugh made little mention of what happens to the scavenged components in The Impossible Box; his focus has been on helping the de-assimilated Borg, not on who buys their removed pieces. However, someone clearly is buying up this technology, and while it could be a free market in which many factions are buying pieces in an effort to learn more about the Borg, there may be one primary buyer who is collecting as many components as possible.

In a sense, the ex-Borg are a side-effect of the Romulans’ scavenging efforts. Their main focus is on studying and selling their components and technology, and the de-assimilated individuals are just a consequence of that work being undertaken. Far from being “hated”, as Hugh said, I feel like the xBs are just forgotten because their de-assimilation was never the main objective. The Romulans realised that the process of removing their components meant they were no longer Borg drones, but they don’t really care what happens to them afterwards – the sole focus is on the technology and, perhaps, how much money can be made.

Number 5: Dr Jurati is sticking around because the next part of her mission is to kill Soji.

Dr Jurati could have fled if she wanted her involvement in Maddox’s death to remain a secret, yet she’s still aboard Ls Sirena.

Following Bruce Maddox’s death at the hands of Dr Jurati, I felt certain she’d either get caught or have to leave La Sirena. After all, the ship’s EMH knows what she did, so surely the next time it’s activated it will spill the beans. While they were docked at Freecloud, and armed with her new knowledge of how to use the transporter, she could have jumped ship and disappeared after killing Maddox and no one would have known where she’d gone.

Given the incredible risk to herself of staying aboard La Sirena, she must have a plan. It’s possible, given her knowledge of synthetics, that she could reprogram the EMH or erase its memories of the Maddox incident if she had enough time to do so, but even if she does, sooner or later someone will figure out what happened. So why is she sitting in the middle of the danger zone?

The answer could be simple: her mission is incomplete. Commodore Oh and the Zhat Vash told her something, probably the “mind-breaking” secret that the Zhat Vash keep, in order to persuade her to join their cause. Maddox being dead is only part of the mission, however, and now that Narek and Rizzo have been unable to kill Soji, Dr Jurati is the conspiracy’s best bet to do so. She may be able to feed information to Commodore Oh and the Zhat Vash regarding La Sirena’s destination, but she may be under orders to go along for the ride and take out Soji when she has the opportunity.

If the secret she’s keeping was worth killing her former friend and romantic partner, as well as betraying her life’s work, it is certainly worth killing for again.

Number 6: Picard’s decision to tell everyone that their opponents are the Tal Shiar and not the Zhat Vash will come back to haunt him.

Elnor, seen here aboard La Sirena in The Impossible Box, is most likely to be affected by learning about the Zhat Vash.

Given that Elnor is now essentially alone, trapped on board the Artifact staring down Romulan guards and Zhat Vash operatives Rizzo and Narek, he’s sure to learn the truth of who is really pursuing Picard. How this revelation will affect him – if indeed it makes any difference – is unclear right now, but of everyone involved I think Elnor is most likely to have been aware of the Zhat Vash and may even have different techniques for battling them.

Regardless of what happens to Elnor, I think Picard’s decision to frame the mission’s antagonists as the Tal Shiar may come back to haunt him. He’s left out a key piece of information, and by not telling his new crew everything, there could be unintended consequences. Why he chose not to explain everything is unclear. He may simply not believe in the Zhat Vash, given their semi-mythical status, or he may feel it was too much ground to cover when explaining the mission parameters to everyone.

From a production point of view, however, I feel like this aspect of the Star Trek: Picard story hasn’t been handled particularly well. A story needs consistency. That applies to factions in the Star Trek galaxy as a whole, but consistency is even more important when dealing with the show’s primary antagonist. Maps and Legends went to great lengths to set up the Zhat Vash as Star Trek: Picard’s “bad guys”, yet their name hasn’t been mentioned once in the last three episodes – everyone from Maddox to Soji to Picard has been referring to them as the Tal Shiar.

While there may be logical in-universe reasons for it given the Zhat Vash’s supposedly secret nature, it makes for a confusing and inconsistent story, especially for casual viewers and newcomers. There is a lot to keep track of in a franchise over fifty years old, and as what is essentially a sequel series to The Next Generation, there was already a lot of baggage for fans who might not have seen any episodes since the 1990s or who are wholly new to Star Trek and watching for the first time. Inconsistency leads to confusion, and nothing puts off viewers like feeling they don’t know who’s who and what’s happening. If the plan was to always use the Tal Shiar, then the whole Zhat Vash angle should never have been included in Maps and Legends, but if the Zhat Vash are supposed to be the show’s main villains then the naming needed to be consistent and the main characters needed to know who they’re up against.

Hopefully we’ll get some explanation of all of this before the end of the series, but I don’t think the confusing status of the Zhat Vash and Tal Shiar is doing Star Trek: Picard any favours right now.

Number 7: The “father” from Soji’s dream isn’t Bruce Maddox.

Soji’s faceless “father”, as seen in her dreams.

Maddox claimed credit for Soji and Dahj’s creation in Stardust City Rag. And that made sense; it fitted with what Picard, Dr Jurati, and us as the audience expected. Shortly before he was murdered, Maddox cited three people who were essential to Soji and Dahj’s creation: Dr Soong, who created Data and Lore in The Next Generation; himself obviously; and Dr Jurati. There was no mention of anyone else being involved, and though he may have had an assistant or even a team of assistants, that should be the end of the matter.

Except it isn’t. In Soji’s dream, she couldn’t see the face of her “father” as it had been digitally erased or otherwise concealed from her. From an in-universe point of view I can see why Maddox may have wanted to conceal his face from her, in order perhaps to protect himself, but why show the audience that?

There is shock value in the faceless figure, and that could explain it. Seeing a faceless blob where we expected to see a human was a creepy and unsettling image when it appeared in The Impossible Box. But there could be another explanation – there’s someone else involved with Maddox’s work, and the show wants to keep that person a secret for now.

The figure did resemble Bruce Maddox, and if it ultimately turns out to be him it would make perfect sense and be a valid story point. But it conceivably could be someone else.

Number 8: Narek is going to go rogue.

The decision to kill Soji broke Narek’s heart.

This one should be debunked given that Narek tried to kill Soji, but there was a hint, even in that sequence, that his loyalty to the Zhat Vash cause is wavering. As he locks Soji in the meditation chamber with the radiation weapon, he’s clearly heartbroken, even starting to cry as he tries to reconcile his feelings for her with the mission he knows he must complete. Rizzo, his superior, warned him multiple times against falling for his “robot girlfriend”, which I think further foreshadows this possibility.

Soji’s survival gives Narek a second chance, and while she will not be so quick to trust him again, he may prove invaluable to Picard’s cause thanks to his knowledge of the conspiracy and Zhat Vash operations.

If I had to speculate, I’d say that Narek’s redemption may begin by saving Elnor and/or Hugh from Rizzo, and escaping with them to La Sirena – before moving on to rendezvous with Picard on Nepenthe.

So those are the theories that The Impossible Box set up or advanced. Now, as always, let’s take a look at the remaining theories that haven’t been debunked, but that saw no movement this week. This helps keep everything in one place.

Number 9: Other Soji-type androids exist – and the Romulans or the Borg have encountered at least one.

Ramdha tried to kill Soji upon recognising her.

This stems from Ramdha claiming to recognise Soji in The End is the Beginning. She has a violent reaction to her, and from that point on Narek and Rizzo believe Soji to be a figure called Seb-Cheneb from Romulan folklore. It’s possible that, through her historical research, Ramdha encountered a Soji-type android, or that the Borg did and communicated that knowledge to her when she was assimilated.

Number 10: Picard’s terminal illness is Irumodic Syndrome.

Dr Benayoun brought Picard the news of his as-yet-unnamed illness.

Dr Benayoun, a former colleague of Picard’s from his time in command of the USS Stargazer, brought him the bad news that a condition in his brain is terminal. While Irumodic Syndrome – the disease Picard had been diagnosed with in The Next Generation’s finale – was not mentioned by name, it was strongly hinted at in this conversation.

Number 11: Soji and Dahj’s necklaces were a deliberate symbol designed to signal to someone or communicate with someone.

Dahj’s necklace. Soji wears an identical one.

The question of why Bruce Maddox would give Soji and Dahj necklaces to wear, which they have clearly been programmed to be very attached to and prominently display above their clothing, when the symbol on the necklaces represents a method of illegal synth-building is a strange one. It may even be the cause of Soji and Dahj being noticed by Starfleet and the Zhat Vash, and thus Dahj’s death. However, it’s possible that Maddox was using this as a method of signalling or communicating with other androids and creators – that would make the risk of displaying a symbol like that much more worthwhile.

Number 12: The Trill doctor from Maps and Legends is going to be assimilated.

Soji with her Trill friend.

The further out we get from Maps and Legends and this character’s sole appearance, the less likely this seems. And with Soji now having left the Artifact, some of the shock value of her seeing her friend assimilated or killed is gone. However, nothing has happened to really disprove this theory, and given the Artifact may be about to see big changes as a result of Hugh and Picard’s actions in The Impossible Box, it can’t be fully ruled out.

Number 13: Section 31 will be involved somehow.

The black badge of Section 31, as seen in Star Trek: Discovery.

With the new Section 31 series officially in production – now due for release in 2021 – and the shadowy organisation’s heavy involvement in Star Trek: Discovery’s second season just last year, I feel sure that they will crop up somehow before the end of the season.

13 A: Chris Rios’ worked for Section 31 while on the Ibn Majid.

The question of what happened to the USS Ibn Majid, and Rios’ former commanding officer, is an important aspect of his backstory as it made him the somewhat cynical, isolated, and self-reliant person we see in the current series. Given that the Ibn Majid was “erased” from Starfleet’s records, they seem to have been involved in the kind of off-the-books black ops missions that we know Section 31 often ran.

13 B: Section 31 is responsible for the attack on Mars.

Regardless of how the attack on Mars was conducted – my money is on the synths being hacked which we’ll look at in a moment – one possible culprit is Section 31. As a militantly pro-Federation group, they may have seen aiding the Romulans as a mistake, especially given that it caused great tensions between Federation member worlds, and as a faction with essentially no morals, they would have no qualms about killing 90,000 people or more to achieve their preferred outcome.

Number 14: The rogue synths who attacked Mars were hacked.

F8, one of the rogue synths, seemed to be processing computer code before he took down the Martian defence grid.

Earlier episodes of Star Trek: Picard included several flashbacks to this attack, and we have a fair amount of evidence for this theory. It ties neatly in with the idea that Borg technology may have been used in creating synths, too, as that tech may have been a “backdoor” for hackers. We also have: the Commodore Oh conspiracy, Raffi’s conspiracy theories, F8’s eyes in the flashback sequences, the work crew with F8 describing him as “compromised”, the fact that all of the synths went rogue simultaneously, and the very particular way the attack was carried out. It was a deliberate strike against a well-chosen target, and rather than continue the carnage after Mars and the fleet were destroyed, the synths simply killed themselves.

There are three possible culprits as I see it: the Zhat Vash, Section 31, and the Borg.

Number 15: Chris Rios’ former captain is a character we’ve met in a previous iteration of Star Trek.

Harry Kim and Chakotay from Star Trek: Voyager – could one of them have been in command of the USS Ibn Majid?

I mentioned Chris Rios’ service on the USS Ibn Majid above, and one major aspect of that is the death of his former captain. We know the character is male, and that they were a “heroic” figure to Rios, but no more than that at this stage. I suggested it could be Harry Kim – who we knew wanted to be a captain and had been promoted in the alternate reality glimpsed in Voyager’s finale. I also suggested Chakotay, also from Voyager, and Edward Jellico from The Next Generation two-part episode Chain of Command. There are numerous other possibilities, however. It’s possible, with a second season of Star Trek: Picard already in production, that we won’t find out anything about it this season.

Number 16: Starfleet and the Zhat Vash are working together.

Commodore Oh is deeply involved with the Zhat Vash.

Commodore Oh: is she a Romulan agent or a Vulcan co-conspirator? At this stage we simply don’t know. If she is a Vulcan, given her senior position in Starfleet it can be assumed she isn’t the sole officer involved. We already know she has recruited Dr Jurati to the cause, and while Admiral Clancy, the overall head of Starfleet, doesn’t seem to be involved, it’s conceivable that many officers are. Raffi certainly believes this – and was talking about a Starfleet-Romulan conspiracy as far back as the attack on Mars fourteen years ago.

Number 17: Bruce Maddox inadvertently caused the synths to attack Mars.

The stingray ships commandeered by the rogue synths attacking Mars.

It’s possible that something Maddox did or didn’t do while the head of the Federation’s synthetic development team meant that the synths were more easily hacked, or that his work on the synths contained a flaw or error that led to them going rogue. Given that he made no mention of this before his death you could argue it seems less likely, but it cannot be ruled out.

So that’s it. Those are all of my extant Star Trek: Picard theories as of the end of The Impossible Box. Seventeen theories are a heck of a lot to be kicking around at this point, but since most of them are likely way off base that’s okay! I can’t wait to find out the real answers as we inch closer to the end of the first season.

Roll on Nepenthe on Friday!

The first six episodes of Star Trek: Picard can be streamed now on CBS All Access in the United States, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and other countries and territories. 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.

Star Trek: Picard review – Season 1, Episode 6: The Impossible Box

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for The Impossible Box – the sixth episode of Star Trek: Picard – as well as for the rest of Season 1. There may also be spoilers for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

After last week’s bombshell ending, I really had no idea what to expect from The Impossible Box. One great thing about online streaming when compared to broadcast television is that episodes can be adjusted in length to suit the story – they aren’t constrained by a set runtime to fill a slot. And The Impossible Box was the longest episode of Star Trek: Picard to date, clocking in at almost 55 minutes – ten minutes longer than any other episode we’ve had so far this season.

It certainly made full use of its extended runtime! The Impossible Box was an edge-of-your-seat ride almost the whole way, and the tension ramped up to an amazing climax as Picard finally met Soji. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Soji with Picard in The Impossible Box.

The Impossible Box gave me that same feeling of “wow, what have I just watched” that I got during Remembrance at the beginning of the season. It was everything I’m looking for in an episode of Star Trek in 2020 – visually beautiful, tense, dramatic, exciting, and seasoned with little throwbacks to the past that complemented the plot without being overwhelming. I know I’ve said this before, but Star Wars really should sit up and pay attention to how Star Trek: Picard – and, to a lesser extent, Star Trek: Discovery – have used the theme of nostalgia, because it’s been pitch-perfect.

After a recap, The Impossible Box opens with a young Soji, carrying the stuffed animal we’ve seen in her room on board the Artifact. She’s had a nightmare and she’s looking for her father on a stormy night. This is, of course, a dream sequence, and Soji awakens from it abruptly. After Narek had essentially accused her of lying about her background and whereabouts in Absolute Candor a couple of weeks ago, I was surprised that the two of them are still intimate. Something about the way Narek presents himself clearly causes her to let her guard down – he’s either very well-trained in the art of android seduction, or he got lucky with Soji. He presses her about the dream – finding out what she was dreaming about is clearly important to him as part of his mission.

For me, the Narek and Soji storyline has been interesting. But it does feel, in this moment, as if it’s run its course. We’ve seen the same basic scene play out several times now, and while a one-week break definitely helped (Narek and Soji were absent from last week’s episode) the formula is close to overdone by this point. Breaking this cycle – as will happen from this point on – is going to be to the benefit of the series because there was definitely a danger of it becoming repetitive and thus less interesting. I’m glad, then, that this episode breaks up Narek and Soji and they’ll be able to go their separate ways, at least for the time being.

The action jumps to more or less where Stardust City Rag left off last week. Dr Jurati and Picard are discussing Maddox. The crew are aware that he’s died, but Dr Jurati has – at least so far – managed to keep her involvement secret. Given that La Sirena’s EMH caught her in the act, I’m sure she won’t be able to maintain her cover for long, though. Perhaps they’re saving that revelation for later because Dr Jurati still has something to do for the story, or perhaps it was simply to keep the already-long runtime in check, but either way it was a surprise to see her not only not get caught but brazenly talking about Maddox and lying about his death. Dr Jurati is clearly better as a spy or undercover operative than I previously gave her credit for. It seemed for a moment that Elnor might have caught on to what was going on, but he didn’t, at least not in this moment.

Elnor listens to Picard and Dr Jurati talk about the Borg.

I’m glad to see Elnor back in this scene. After all the trouble Picard went to to recruit him in Absolute Candor, he was almost entirely wasted last week. He’s such an interesting character – as well as being good comic relief at times – that it was a shame to see him underused, and I had hoped we’d see more from him.

It’s in this sequence that we get a glimpse at the kind of fearful anger that Picard demonstrated in Star Trek: First Contact – as well as to a lesser extent in the episode I, Borg from the fifth season of The Next Generation. The latter episode introduced Hugh – who we saw briefly with Soji in The End is the Beginning. Picard’s assimilation experience, while a long time ago by now, still haunts him, and colours his feelings toward the Borg in this moment. As he said in First Contact, he wants to kill them all – and not just to put assimilated people out of their misery.

Dr Jurati seemed to push him here – whether it was accidental or on purpose isn’t clear. But what is clear is that people who study synthetics know a lot about the Borg – could this tie into my theory from last week that there’s Borg technology involved in the creation of synthetics? Again something we’ll have to look at in my next theory post, so stay tuned for that.

Clearly disturbed by their destination, Picard retires to his study. After regaining his resolve, he asks the computer for information on the Artifact, treaties, and the Borg. We’re then treated to some great camera/effects work as Picard scrolls through a few images of his past engagements with them. There was a still from the Battle of Sector 001 from First Contact in which the Enterprise-E could be glimpsed, a picture of the Romulan Senate that may be new or may have been from Deep Space Nine or Nemesis (I’m not sure on that one), an unnamed Borg drone which may have been from Voyager or First Contact, Hugh as he appeared in The Next Generation, then again as he appears in the current series, a shot of Paris which is where the Federation has its main government offices, a couple of shots of ex-Borg being de-assimilated, and finally the picture Picard didn’t want to see: himself as Locutus. The image lines up perfectly, shot from behind the holo-screen, it’s as if Picard were again Locutus of Borg – a reflection, no doubt, of how he feels as he’s forced to confront his most feared adversary – and his own memories – once again.

Picard is still haunted by his memories of being transformed into Locutus.

We then get the opening credits, and I have to say that the Star Trek: Picard theme is really growing on me. Aside from Enterprise, every Star Trek series has had an instrumental, orchestral opening. What we know of today as The Next Generation’s theme was actually written for The Motion Picture almost a decade earlier, but it’s now firmly associated with the series not the film. The Picard theme has, at the very end, a callback to that theme, and I think because we associate that piece of music very strongly with Picard himself, it works really well. It’s definitely a halfway house, somewhere between the theme used for Discovery, which I’d argue is quite toned-down and minimalist by Star Trek standards, and the theme from The Next Generation. Music is incredibly subjective – even more so in some regards than film or television – but I’d rank the Picard theme somewhere in the top half of my list of favourite Star Trek themes. It’s definitely one I’d like to come back to and I could see myself listening to it just as a piece of music.

One of the downsides presented by a shorter series is that character interaction and development can feel rushed. And while Dr Jurati and Capt. Rios had spent some time together by now, their on-screen interactions had been limited; I think there’d only been one scene so far with just the two of them. So when, after the credits, they hook up it seemed to come a bit out of left-field. It does make sense in-universe, given what Dr Jurati is going through in particular, but I’m not sure it was set up especially well as a story point. However, I can understand Dr Jurati looking around for distraction and comfort – and also, if we put our cynical hats on for a moment, a potential ally. Remember that, as far as we know, she’s the only one on La Sirena who knows this horrible Zhat Vash/Commodore Oh secret, one worth murdering for. Seeking an ally in the midst of all that seems at least plausible. Her decision to remain on board La Sirena means she’s in incredible danger of getting caught. The next time someone uses the EMH she could conceivably be found out. So there must be a reason why she’d stay aboard – perhaps to kill Soji? We’ll explore that in more depth in my next theory post.

Seeing Capt. Rios practising with a football (soccer ball if you’re out in the USA) was a nice little character moment, though. He’s someone who spends a lot of time on his ship – aside from the mission on Freecloud he hasn’t left La Sirena at all – so it makes sense he’d want things to do to fill his time. Kicking around a football is exercise and it’s also something to do during the long hours warping between systems! The fact that he was playing alone, instead of with one of his holograms or with a crewmate, also shows us that he’s a pretty self-reliant person. Football is a team sport, yet Rios is content to kick the ball around on his own. There’s an individualism to doing that, and Rios has been an isolated figure since leaving Starfleet.

La Sirena, seen from the front.

Rizzo pays a visit to Narek back on the Artifact, and they discuss Soji’s dream. Rizzo seems uninterested, feeling Narek has not made sufficient progress. Narek uses a Romulan toy – similar to a rubix cube – as an analogy. This is the titular “impossible box”, and he says that he’s carefully manipulating each piece in order to unlock the prize inside – referring, of course, to his interactions with Soji.

The question of why Soji dreams was interestingly addressed. Narek speculates that it’s part of her programming trying to reconcile the two different aspects of her personality – her true synthetic nature and her programmed belief in being human. Narek intends to use Soji’s subconscious and dreams to get her to reveal where she came from – which is still the objective of their mission. Given what we learned last week about Bruce Maddox’s lab being destroyed, this was a bit of a surprise. It’s obviously possible that Maddox had more than one lab, but given the ban on synths and the fact that he was clearly out of options when he went to see Bjayzl, I’m not sure that makes a lot of sense. Basically the fact that we know Maddox’s lab has already been destroyed threatens to open a plot hole: Narek and Rizzo are trying to get Soji to tell them where she came from so they can go there and destroy the lab used to create her, and any other synthetics they might find there. But if Maddox’s lab is already gone, what’s the point of their mission, exactly?

Picard and the crew of La Sirena are discussing how they could blag their way aboard the Artifact. There is a treaty in place which means that the Borg Reclamation Project – the de-assimilation of Borg spearheaded by Hugh – is neutral and not fully under Romulan jurisdiction, even though the cube itself is. Dr Jurati suggests using her credentials as a synthetic researcher, but all of the plans have an undoing in that Picard is instantly recognisable to the Romulans – and, he believes, also to the Borg. Picard is clearly struggling with the idea of being back on a Borg vessel – despite the fact that the cube has been disabled for well over a decade, he believes that the ship or the ex-Borg will recognise him, compromising the mission.

Raffi ends up saving the day – and we learn her last name, Musiker, in the process. This had been widely reported in pre-release material, but as far as I remember at least, it was the first on-screen use of her surname. She contacts a friend at Starfleet – a captain, judging from the rank pips on her uniform – and manages to talk her way into getting Picard diplomatic credentials to visit the Artifact. This was a fun scene as Raffi talks her way around this Starfleet captain, but we see that she’s slipped back into her snakeleaf and alcohol addictions in the aftermath of her disastrous meeting with her son last week. I’m sure getting Raffi clean is going to be a feature in later episodes – but showing how addicts can relapse ties into the theme of Raffi’s story. We saw her paranoid, we saw her manage to get clean enough to try to reunite with her son, and now we’ve seen her undo that and slip back. It will be a familiar story to anyone who’s known an addict; the pattern of breaking the habit and slipping back into it is all too common. We’ve seen Star Trek look at the theme of addiction in the past – notably in Enterprise with T’Pol – and given the current opiod crisis in the United States and elsewhere, it’s a timely issue to look at. I hope Raffi’s story will have a happy ending.

Raffi is back on the snakeleaf.

Soji tells Narek about her dream, and Narek still tries to push for more details. He suggests she call her mother – we know, thanks to Maddox last week, that the “mother” is in fact part of her AI subroutines, and not a real person. Narek then drops a bombshell on her – every single call she has with her mother lasts the exact same length of time – seventy seconds. He offers to show her the logs, but really what he’s doing is attacking her sense of self. He’s trying to undermine her self-belief so that he can start extracting information from her.

After a short scene with Rios putting a drunk and drugged-up Raffi to bed, in which we see a more caring, kind side to La Sirena’s captain than we have thus far, we’re back on board the Artifact where Soji contacts her “mother”. During the call, we seem to see a bug or glitch in the “mother”, and then Soji collapses. Clearly this part of her programming – calling her “mother” – is designed to put her to sleep.

La Sirena then arrives at the Artifact and we get confirmation that Raffi’s friend was able to get Picard the diplomatic credentials needed. How she managed to pull that off given Picard’s bust-up with the head of Starfleet wasn’t shown on screen! But evidently the captain was able to issue Picard a one-day permit to access the Artifact. However, the catch is that the permit is valid only for Picard himself – no one else is allowed to go. I loved this setup, because it provides a perfectly valid reason for why Picard couldn’t have anyone else with him – forcing him to face his return to a Borg cube alone. In First Contact and in later Borg stories in The Next Generation, Picard could always count on his crew to help him get through a Borg encounter. This time, however, he has to head into the heart of a Borg vessel on his own – and it’s clearly a frightening prospect.

I didn’t like, however, Picard’s treatment of Elnor in this scene – and indeed at several other points since Elnor pledged himself to Picard’s cause. He seems to snap at him and treat him like a servant, dishing out orders as though he were an upstart ensign. Given their history, and that Picard had seemed to want to make amends, I just feel that the way he treats him isn’t appropriate. Elnor didn’t have to join the mission, after all. He could have stayed on Vashti, and despite that he seems to get little by way of thanks.

Soji awakens in her room on the Artifact and realises she has once again fallen asleep while talking to her mother. She starts rummaging through her possessions, scanning them all in turn only for the scanner to tell her each one in the same age: 37 months. This ties into what Dr Jurati said about Dahj’s background being faked before the three-year mark, and with what Narek said about Soji studying the Romulan language “some time before May 12, 2396.” 37 months is three years and one month, which gives us an approximation of how long Soji has been active. Devastated, Soji scans her necklace too – her most prized possession – and it too is only 37 months old. This scene was the culmination of Soji’s story since we first met her at the end of Remembrance. She tears apart her room, desperately looking for anything in her possession that might disprove what she now thinks about herself – that her life has somehow been faked.

“Probable age: 37 months.”

She’s also a victim of Narek – his manipulations and gaslighting led her to this point. I’m not sure if the gaslighting aspect of the Narek-Soji relationship was intentional – Narek is, after all, revealing the truth to Soji in a way, as opposed to tricking her into believing outright lies – but I certainly picked up on that aspect of the relationship, and it can definitely be interpreted that way. The term gaslighting, if you are unfamiliar with it, comes from the 1944 film Gaslight, and means a person is manipulating someone else – often, but not always, a romantic partner – into questioning reality and ultimately believing themselves to be losing their mind. Narek and Soji have this aspect to their relationship, and especially in the days of online relationships, gaslighting has become increasingly common.

Picard beams aboard the Artifact, alone and in an unoccupied section. The trauma of being back on board a Borg cube is overwhelming for him at first, and he starts to think he can see and hear the Borg, including the Borg Queen. We get an updated shot of Picard as Locutus – albeit very briefly – and something about the combination of the whole Picard-Borg sequence, the music, and the digital effects used on this new look at Locutus was incredibly creepy. By the time Hugh arrives to save the day, the short sequence has us feeling almost as unsettled as Picard.

If Soji’s storyline at this point is an analogy for gaslighting in relationships, then in this moment, Picard’s is analogous to post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD victims can suffer flashbacks when exposed to sensory triggers – which is why some war veterans, for example, greatly dislike fireworks. In Picard’s case, the sights, sounds, smells, and overall sensation of being back at the scene of his worst moment – his assimilation, where he lost part of his humanity and was forced to do horrible things – was too much. He suffers auditory and visual hallucinations, flashing back to those moments where he was under Borg control. Some PTSD sufferers will tell you that they never really “got over it” – even years or decades later, they can still suffer this kind of a reaction. Picard had been away from the Borg since the events of First Contact, living quietly at the vineyard for fourteen years. But his Borg experiences still traumatise him, and we see in this moment the result of that.

Hugh and Picard share a touching reunion, and seeing an old friend seems to snap Picard out of the flashbacks. They catch up as they stroll through parts of the cube, and when Picard enquires about Soji, Hugh reveals he’s aware of Narek – the “Romulan spy”. In Soji’s quarters she’s called Narek – turning to him for comfort and reassurance as she has no one else to share her feelings with. He pretends to comfort her, and offers her a Romulan meditation technique to unlock her dreams and memories – suggesting disingenuously that she may have been hypnotised or had false memories implanted in her. Again this ties into the theme of gaslighting in relationships; manipulators like Narek want their victims to have no one else to turn to for help and support, allowing them to sink their claws in further.

On their way to find Soji, Hugh takes Picard on a detour through one of the Artifact’s de-assimilation areas. Unlike the medical facility where we saw Soji at work on unconscious Borg, the ex-Borg here are very much awake. Many are voiceless, still processing what’s happened to them, but they are having some of their implants and technology removed. Picard is shocked that de-assimilation can take place on this scale – and crucially expresses even greater surprise that it’s the Romulans who have managed to accomplish it. Again, spoilers for my next theory post, but this does tie into one of my theories regarding the Romulans and the Borg.

Aboard La Sirena, Raffi has awoken from her blackout and is recovering with Rios. He shares with her the news that Soji is still alive – but they both wonder why that is. “What does the Tal Shiar need from a synth?” asks Raffi. And it is a good question – but we already know that Rizzo wants to find out where Soji came from so the Zhat Vash can travel there and destroy any other synths and synth research that may be ongoing. Again, though, this ties into what I said earlier about Maddox’s lab already being destroyed – could there be more to it than that?

Picard, alone aboard the Artifact, deals with his past trauma.

Narek takes Soji to the meditation room, and on the wooden floor, a twisted path is mapped out. Soji must close her eyes and walk the path to uncover the meaning behind her dreams. This is the moment Narek has been building toward – an unactivated Soji who trusts him completely and is willing to tell him everything she sees and learns.

While Rizzo watches on from a hidden room, Narek guides Soji through the walking meditation. He’s pushing her not to wake up, not to open her eyes, no matter what she sees or thinks she sees from her dream. This is the culmination of everything he’s been working toward, but Narek is clearly nervous. Part of that is of course to do with his mission – he doesn’t want to fail. But part of it is clearly do with how he feels about Soji; he’s never quite been able to reconcile the part of himself that cares for her with the part of himself loyal to the cause. Soji has changed his attitude to synths, in much the same way that spending time with Data changed Maddox’s view on the subject in The Next Generation episode The Measure of a Man. Despite what he’s doing – and will continue to do – Narek is conflicted.

Narek guides her through the dream that we saw in the beginning of the episode, up to the moment Soji’s father shouting at her snaps her out of it. He pushes her to continue, to look beyond what she can see in the room. Picard and Hugh are alerted to Soji being “missing”; Hugh suspects that someone – i.e. Narek – has managed to conceal her from his scans. They visit her room, seeing the mess she made while scanning. Picard could – and probably should – have explained to Hugh who she is. It wouldn’t have taken very long at all to say “she’s Data’s daughter”, and Hugh was Data’s friend too, so if anything he’d be even more motivated to help. It’s possible, however, that owing to the ban on synthetic life, Picard isn’t sure who he can trust with Soji’s secret – and he hasn’t seen Hugh in a long time.

As Soji pushes through the moment her dream should end, we get two pretty shocking scenes in quick succession. First is that Soji’s “father” has no face – or rather, his face has been digitally erased in her memory such that she cannot remember or describe it. This is clearly something done by Maddox to keep himself safe – but the figure in the dream may not have actually been Maddox. Next, Soji sees a wooden doll on her father’s workbench, only partly assembled, with her own face. This is the secret that the dream was keeping – she is aware of her synthetic nature somehow.

Soji’s faceless dad. It could be Bruce Maddox – but maybe it’s someone else? Hard to tell.

Rizzo and Narek don’t care, of course; they already know Soji is a synth. What they’ve been looking for is what Soji sees next – she looks up through the skylight in her dream and sees two red moons.

If I were to nitpick – and you know I must – this isn’t a lot of information to go on. Narek ends the meditation at this point, and Rizzo calls someone to ask them to find a planet with “constant electrical storms and two red moons”. Firstly, how many planets and other celestial bodies (moons, dwarf planets, and asteroids can have their own moons) must fall into that category? Even if we were to limit it to M-class worlds – and again, Soji provided Narek so little information that that cannot be assumed – there could be dozens or even hundreds of possibilities. Secondly, nothing in Soji’s dream suggested that storms are a “constant” presence on this planet. Most places on Earth suffer occasional lightning storms, and the fact that one was occurring in Soji’s dream does not mean they are a permanent fixture on that planet. Thirdly, many factors could cause the moons to appear reddish in hue from the surface of a planet that aren’t present in space. On Earth we get the “blood moon” phenomenon, a result of the lunar eclipse. In short, Soji gave Narek and Rizzo a clue – but only one single clue. While it could somewhat narrow down their search, they could still easily have lots of planets to visit, spread out across vast distances. The information Soji gave them is not conclusive and, in an area the size of the explored galaxy, surely won’t be able to pinpoint one single location. I mean it will be able to, because plot, but logically it shouldn’t be able to.

Narek abandons Soji, leaving her in the meditation chamber with his “impossible box” toy from earlier – which he has rigged to be a weapon. The box opens, releasing a cloud of red vapour – Narek describes it as “radiation”. Soji begins to choke as she tries to escape, but the radiation has the unintended consequence of causing her to activate – we now know this means her self-defence subroutines are activating – and she smashes a hole in the floor to escape the chamber.

Narek sheds a tear – he did really care for Soji. And he really had to force himself to conclude his mission, as doing so broke his heart. However, he did it – he tried to kill her. His failure in that regard is not because of anything he deliberately did to help her escape – his actions triggered her self-defence activation.

After escaping the meditation room, Picard and Hugh can detect Soji on their scanner again and race to meet her. Narek has alerted the Artifact’s Romulan guards – so it’s a race between them to get to Soji first. She breaks through the ceiling of a chamber and Picard and Hugh are there. Picard implores her to trust him, even showing her Dahj’s necklace. Having nowhere else to turn, and realising the Romulans are not safe to be around, Soji really has no choice. The three of them escape – Hugh using his knowledge of the Borg cube’s layout to lead them to a room called the “queen cell”. Here we got a nice little throwback to the Voyager episode Prime Factors from its first season. The species in that episode, the Sikarians, are mentioned, as is their “spatial trajector” technology – which they had refused to share with Voyager’s crew. The Borg have evidently expanded at least as far as Sikarian space, incorporating the spatial trajector into their vessels thereafter. Hugh is familiar with this technology and knows how to operate it, and Picard seems familiar with the queen’s chamber despite never having been in one. Here we get a look at how the Borg’s hive mind works, and how knowledge, information, and even memories and sensations can be copied and distributed to the entire collective. The Impossible Box has looked at how subconscious works with the Soji and Narek storyline, but here we see how the Borg also make use of the subconscious. Picard instantly recognised the room – that information was stored somewhere deep in his memory from his assimilation. I found that aspect to be interesting; I wonder what other Borg secrets Picard, Seven of Nine, Hugh, and other xBs could be hiding without even realising it?

The Borg cube’s spatial trajector.

Raffi and Rios are following what’s going on aboard La Sirena, and Soji uses her now-advanced hearing to let the others know that more guards are en route. Before the guards can harm her, however, Elnor intervenes – he apparently beamed aboard while no one was looking. Picard finally shows Elnor some gratitude – despite first berating him for beaming over. There was a touching moment between them as Picard says he doesn’t want to leave Elnor behind again, but with more guards on the way he has no choice, and he and Soji escape through the spatial trajector to a place called Nepenthe – which is also the name of next week’s episode. Hugh and Elnor remain behind to shut down the trajector and conceal where it sent them. Elnor should be fine thanks to his skills, but Hugh may be in serious danger from Rizzo and Narek. Has he just compromised the entire Borg Reclamation Project?

So that was The Impossible Box. As I said, I loved the episode – despite my little nitpicks. The way it approached complicated topics like abusive relationships and PTSD was classic Star Trek, using its science fiction setting to tackle real-world topics. Seeing Hugh back again, getting the chance to reunite with Picard, was also great to see. And finally Soji and Picard are together – but without the rest of the crew, I wonder what will happen to them on Nepenthe.

There were some great little callbacks to previous iterations of Star Trek: Soji had a “Flotter” lunchbox or container in her room, which is a reference to the childrens’ character who debuted on Voyager; Rios mentioned “slips of latinum”, which was of course a callback to Ferengi currency that was prominent in Deep Space Nine; we again saw the blue drink that must be Romulan Ale; and as mentioned above, there was the reference to the Sikarians and their spatial trajector. None of these points overwhelmed the episode. Even Hugh’s inclusion was well done, and crucially made sense from a story point of view. The episode flowed naturally, and we’re one giant step closer to getting to the bottom of some of Star Trek: Picard’s mysteries.

I was on the edge of my seat with The Impossible Box, and after the episode drew to a close, fifty-five minutes seemed to have flown by. The editing and the music contributed massively to this, taking what was already an amazing story up a notch or two.

Picard and Soji managed to escape, but their escape came at the cost of Hugh, Elnor, and the rest of La Sirena’s crew. Yes they have a rendezvous point, but first they need to get Elnor back – and perhaps rescue Hugh as well – before they can even think about travelling there.

It seems like next week we’ll get to see Troi and Riker, and I absolutely cannot wait for that reunion. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed for Elnor, Hugh, and the others, because Star Trek: Picard has learned a lesson from shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead in that it isn’t afraid to kill off characters. With practically the whole crew in danger, I’m genuinely not sure at this point if they’ll all make it out alive.

The Impossible Box – along with the rest of the first season of Star Trek: Picard – is available to stream now on CBS All Access in the United States, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and other countries and territories. 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.

Star Trek: Picard review – Season 1, Episode 5: Stardust City Rag

Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for Stardust City Rag, as well as for the rest of Star Trek: Picard Season 1. There may also be spoilers for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

First of all, before anything else, I just want to say how much I love this episode’s title! Stardust City Rag is just such a fun episode name, quite possibly one of my all-time favourite episode names in all of Star Trek. It just has such a fun sound, which was reflected in parts of this episode’s tone. Jonathan Frakes (who played Commander William Riker in Star Trek: The Next Generation and had directed several episodes of Star Trek: Discovery) returned for his second and final stint as director this season, and I really enjoyed what he brought to the table. In fact I’d say this was definitely the better of his two episodes this season.

In case you missed them, by the way, I have episode reviews for the rest of this season which you can find here: Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4.

There was a dichotomy in Stardust City Rag between two very different tones that both played into the same story. There was the fun, somewhat campy tone present in some of the nightclub sequences, with Picard and his crew dressing up in over-the-top costumes, and then there was the deathly serious tone that followed Seven of Nine, Raffi, and finally at the end, Dr Jurati.

Stardust City Rag ended with a huge moment for Dr Jurati.

Stardust City Rag also gave us our first confirmed theory – if you look back at my theory posts, you’ll see that after Episode 3, The End is the Beginning, I called out Dr Jurati for her possible betrayal. And in this episode we got to see that theory bear fruit, though not quite in the manner I had expected. To have her exposed as a double-agent and betray Picard’s trust at only the halfway mark through the season was also a surprise – after what she did and the fact that La Sirena’s EMH witnessed it, she won’t be able to maintain her cover. What will happen to her next is an open question, and she notably did not feature in any of the clips shown in the trailer for next week’s episode.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves! The Dr Jurati revelation was only one of several huge story points that Stardust City Rag had to offer. And more so than any episode so far, I feel that this episode advanced the plot in a major way. From the scenes glimpsed in last week’s trailer, I wasn’t sure I would like Stardust City Rag, despite its fun name. The silly game of dress-up and the nightclub setting made it look like we were in for a kind of “Picard meets Ocean’s Eleven” jokey heist story, and honestly I was kind of uninspired by that concept.

“You son of a bitch, I’m in.”
From last week’s teaser trailer, I was worried that Stardust City Rag would turn into this episode of Rick and Morty!

While there was certainly that element to the episode, it was hardly all Stardust City Rag had going on; the “heist” portion of the story took up perhaps a third of the runtime. And that’s definitely a positive, in my opinion. I think if the whole episode had been dedicated to that, with Picard putting on an accent and the characters all dressed up, I think we could have ended up with a bit of a farce, and that’s really what I was concerned about heading in.

Stardust City Rag begins, as every episode aside from the premiere has, with a flashback sequence. This time, we’re on a planet called Vergessen – German or Dutch for “forgotten” – thirteen years before the events of the series. This places it around one year after the attack on Mars and Picard’s resignation, and three years before the supernova. The sweeping aerial shot of Vergessen shows what looks to be a largely uninhabited planet, with The Seven Domes occupying what appears to be a river delta or area of marshland. The sequence looks to be conveying that Vergessen is, as its name implies, forgotten about and hidden – somewhere out of the way, perfect for illegal activities.

And then we get what is probably the most graphic sequence to date in Star Trek: Picard – and arguably in the whole franchise. A young man in a torn Starfleet uniform is being hacked apart. Returning fans will recognise him as Icheb from Star Trek: Voyager – he was one of several young Borg who were taken on board by Capt. Janeway toward the end of Voyager’s stay in the Delta Quadrant. The implant by his eye – an inverted L-shape – was instantly recognisable, despite it having been removed. An unidentified woman pulls out Icheb’s eye, looking for his cortical implant. And the hacked-apart bodies of others, presumably drones, hang around the facility. After the brutal butchering, Seven of Nine arrives and kills the scientists, but it’s too late to save Icheb, and she is forced to put him out of his misery by shooting him – leaving her clearly devastated.

Icheb gets his eye brutally torn out.

There was always a sense, I felt, that with television storytelling increasingly following a route trailblazed by series like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, Star Trek: Picard was going to kill off characters sooner or later. The brutality with which Icheb was treated, and the fact that we really didn’t get to spend any time with him before seeing his demise, was genuinely shocking and unexpected, though.

The way the sequence was shot also did a good job of disguising that Icheb had in fact been recast for his role in Star Trek: Picard. I felt he was instantly recognisable –