Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1 and the trailers for Season 2. Spoilers are also present for the following: Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Discovery Season 2.
Star Trek’s internal timeline gets a little inconsistent when it comes to the late 20th and early 21st Centuries. If we take a “canon purist” approach, we have to say that the Star Trek timeline diverged from our own around the 1960s, with events like Khan ruling a large portion of the world taking place in the ’80s or early ’90s, before the Eugenics Wars saw him defeated. Obviously that doesn’t line up with stories like Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, the Voyager two-part episode Future’s End, or even Enterprise’s Carpenter Street, all of which depicted the modern world unchanged by those events.
The Third World War is a part of Star Trek’s internal timeline that was first introduced in The Next Generation’s premiere episode, Encounter at Farpoint. Episodes of The Original Series had talked about the Eugenics Wars and other conflicts on Earth, but Gene Roddenberry had been keen to avoid mention of World War III during the show’s run in the 1960s. Some episodes, such as Season 2’s The Doomsday Machine, actively went out of their way to say that such a conflict had never happened on Earth – an apparent contradiction to what would come later.
It was the film First Contact that elaborated on some of the ideas first posited in Encounter at Farpoint and thus gave us a better look at Earth in this era. Though we knew that nuclear attacks were part of the conflict, it was First Contact that first showed that some of these attacks had impacted North America, and that the conflict was fought between the United States and her allies on one side and the so-called “Eastern Coalition” on the other. Some of these moments would be shown or explored further in Enterprise’s fourth season, and most recently World War III has appeared in Discovery’s second season.
Although the Third World War has been an integral part of Star Trek’s fictional history for more than thirty years, that’s about the extent of what we know. There was a major conflict which occurred in the first half of the 21st Century, it killed hundreds of millions, there was a limited exchange of nuclear weapons (i.e. the planet wasn’t completely destroyed), and it took Earth a generation to recover – with more than a little help from the Vulcans. But this article isn’t just a history of the conflict within Star Trek’s timeline – because something in the promotional material for Star Trek: Picard Season 2 could suggest a return to this era.
When I took a look at the second Star Trek: Picard Season 2 trailer a couple of weeks ago I also looked at a newly-released poster which appears to show a modern-day city – probably Los Angeles in the United States. If the poster is supposed to represent Los Angeles circa 2021, well the timeline starts to line up for a possible World War III story.
In the real world, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of technological advancements made in wartime. The First World War saw the invention of tanks and the further development of aircraft. The Second World War gave us computers, rockets, and splitting the atom. Even recent conflicts like the Iraq and Afghanistan wars saw incredible developments in medical technology. Taking inspiration from the real world, Star Trek’s World War III is similarly an incredibly important event. The Third World War led directly to the development of warp drive in the 2060s, and thus to first contact with the Vulcans and to humanity becoming an interstellar species. The Federation would not exist without it – at least, not in a form we would recognise.
And that’s at the heart of this theory. In order for everything we know of in Star Trek’s internal history to have come to pass, World War III needed to happen. It was a devastating conflict that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of millions of people, but what emerged from the wreckage was United Earth and ultimately the Federation.
In the first teaser trailer, we heard Picard say in voiceover that “time can turn even our most impulsive, ill-considered actions into history.” He also spoke in a regretful way about “what could have been” and tells us that time does not offer “second chances.” In the second trailer, Q told Picard that he had come to “the very end of the road not taken.” We also saw what appeared to be significant changes to the timeline for Picard, Raffi, Rios, and Seven of Nine, as well as possible changes for Soji as well.
It seemed from the first teaser as though Picard was talking about events in his own past – that teaser also featured prominently a model of the USS Stargazer, from which I derived a few other theories! Picard is someone who we know cares about history a great deal and has studied it in depth, but nothing from the first teaser gave me the impression that he was talking about anything outside of his own personal experience. Whatever he was lamenting or regretting seemed to be within his own past – not an event from centuries earlier to which he had no significant emotional connection.
Although Picard did spend several days in the 21st Century, shortly after the end of World War III, he doesn’t exactly have a strong tie to the war or even to that time period, certainly not enough to have any motivation to change or undo events in that era. Picard is as far removed from the events of World War III in the 24th Century as we are from the events of the early 1700s – and I can’t imagine anyone nowadays would feel strongly about the Jacobite Rising or the War of the Spanish Succession. Those events – and many others – are just too far in the past to be something we care about, even if the impact is still felt today in some respects.
So I’m not suggesting that Picard would deliberately seek to prevent World War III – even if he found himself able to do so, somehow. But the second trailer showed off some pretty significant changes to the timeline, and combined with a poster that appears to be teasing a contemporary setting, the possibility of a World War III storyline has come up.
It seems like the story of Picard Season 2 will deal with some kind of alternate timeline – that’s what I infer from Q’s “road not taken” line, as well as the changes to characters like Seven of Nine and Rios. Picard was also heard in voiceover promising his new crew that they can “save the future,” which seems to add to this idea of something going wrong in the past causing things to change.
When we deal with alternate history and alternate timelines, practically every story hinges on a so-called “point of divergence.” This is the moment at which the real timeline and the alternate one separated. In alternate history novels, popular points of divergence include the American Civil War, with a Confederate victory being a common one, as well as World War II, with an Axis victory being similarly used. In Star Trek, a point of divergence between the Prime Timeline – the one which runs from Enterprise to Picard and beyond – could be World War III. What would the timeline look like if it didn’t happen, or happened in a different way?
It could be that the poster is teeing this up. In the background, behind the skyscrapers in the centre of the city, is a glow. That glow could be a sunrise or sunset – it looks like the right colour. But it could also be something far more sinister – the afterglow of a nuclear bomb, perhaps? Maybe that’s a stretch! But it would definitely tie into this World War III theme.
There are still two big questions, even if we assume that this theory is true and that the point of divergence has something to do with World War III. Firstly, what happened to cause the divergence in the first place? In Star Trek, these things don’t just happen naturally! Every change in the timeline that we know of had a cause – the intervention of some nefarious time-traveller. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, why are Picard and the crew of La Sirena seemingly immune to these changes in the timeline? Q’s intervention is a possible explanation for the second point, perhaps, presenting Picard with another time-mystery to solve. But I’m not convinced that’s how the story will go.
All of this leads to an interesting moral conundrum for Picard. If we’re right and, somehow, World War III was prevented and that’s the reason for changes to the timeline, it could fall to Picard and the crew of La Sirena to trigger the worst war in history in order to restore the timeline. How’s that for a horrible decision?! Imagine being told that you had the power to prevent the First World War, and all of the misery and death that resulted from it, but that doing so would make the world worse. Instead, you have to actively choose to cause this horrible conflict in order to preserve the timeline and “save” the future. That could be Picard’s choice in Season 2 if this theory is correct.
Aside from the poster with its seemingly-modern city and some dialogue about time and changing the past, there’s no real evidence for this theory yet! Much of what we saw in the second trailer – which is the only time we’ve seen Picard and the others – may very well suggest that any changes to the timeline take place closer to the 24th Century than the 21st. But it’s interesting to consider the possibilities, especially in light of the Season 2 poster.
To summarise, then, here’s the theory in a couple of sentences: for an as-yet unknown reason, the timeline was changed to prevent World War III. This had major consequences for humanity and the Federation, and the only way to restore the timeline and save the future is to ensure World War III happens – and this is what Picard and the crew of La Sirena will have to do.
It would be quite a dark story if Season 2 goes down this road – or anywhere close to it. But it would be very interesting to see the crew wrangling with these big moral questions and issues. It could lead to quite a lot of drama! Q’s inclusion in the season would make sense, not as the cause of changes to the timeline, but as the figure who steps in to guide Picard in his understanding of those changes. It would also explain the poster, which came completely out of left-field!
Having had two teasers already, with the latest dropping only a couple of weeks ago, it may be some time before we hear anything more out of Star Trek: Picard Season 2. So all we have to go on right now is the poster and the first couple of teaser trailers! It’s not a lot, and there are certainly many different ways to interpret things. In this theory I’ve focused on how the poster could be depicting the 21st Century, but that may not be the case. Changes to the timeline could have caused the 24th Century to become less technological, and the poster could instead depict Los Angeles in the year 2399!
I’m very much looking forward to Picard Season 2, and I’m still hopeful that we’ll eventually see spin-offs and other Star Trek projects set in the same era. If and when we get any more news or another poster or trailer, check back as I’m sure I’ll have more to say!
Star Trek: Picard Season 2 will be broadcast on Paramount+ in the United States (and on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and elsewhere) in 2022. 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.
I wasn’t expecting to see anything much from Picard Season 2 for a while. With production rumbling on for the next few months, I had perhaps thought we might get to see something later in the year when either Lower Decks Season 2 or Discovery Season 4 are being broadcast, so it was a nice surprise to get a trailer this early! Season 2 is still probably ten to twelve months away from being broadcast, but this was a nice little tease to get fans in the mood.
In addition to the trailer a new poster was also revealed, and both are interesting and worth talking about. We’ll start with the poster, then move on to the trailer.
Using a similar basic concept to the first teaser poster for Season 1, the new poster uses the environment to form a Starfleet delta emblem. In this case, as you can see above, several roads or highways cross over to form the familiar logo. The city depicted in the poster appears to be Los Angeles – based on the straight concrete-sided river, the mountains in the background, and the downtown skyscrapers surrounded by a sprawl of shorter buildings. I could be wrong, but I’m going to say it’s Los Angeles.
The obvious thing to say is that there are cars on the roads. Though we have seen wheeled vehicles in Star Trek’s 24th Century – Picard drove a dune buggy in Nemesis, for example – Earth in the 24th Century has never been depicted in this manner. The cars look modern, the city looks modern, and I think everything we can see in the poster connects to themes from both the earlier teaser and the new trailer: time travel and changing the past.
The first teaser trailer, the one from First Contact Day, had Picard telling us in a voiceover that “the true final frontier is time.” That trailer had a lot of different imagery connected to Picard’s past, including the USS Stargazer, but one thing I couldn’t quite figure out was the book Paradise Lost. I speculated that the series might be connected in some way to a literal reading of the title – something Picard did or didn’t do in the past caused the future to be worse. That theme seems to be present in the new trailer.
We’re reintroduced to Q in the new trailer, and he uses a very interesting phrase – arguably the most prominent in the whole thing: “welcome to the end of the road not taken.” Combined with what Picard said in the first teaser about wishing to have done things differently in the past, I think we can start to see the building blocks of the Season 2 narrative.
Q’s arrival seems to happen after whatever event damages the timeline. In the trailer, Picard was already in a different outfit with a different Starfleet badge, and it seems as though Laris is missing – could she be a casualty of shifting timelines? Regardless, it was only at this point that Q appeared, seemingly for the first time, and this ties into comments from both Sir Patrick Stewart and John de Lancie that Q will play a role in the storyline of the season but isn’t the cause of these events.
So this isn’t going to be an All Good Things redux, where Q sets Picard a puzzle. If anything, I interpreted Q’s arrival as a friend or even an ally showing up to help – perhaps we’ll see more of a Q-Picard alliance develop over the course of the season. Q certainly seemed happy to see Picard again – though the feeling was clearly not mutual. So maybe, at the very least, that’s how Q sees himself: a friend, a helper, and an ally.
We saw Seven of Nine toward the end of the trailer, and she was featured more prominently than any of the main cast from Season 1. In Seven’s scene, I think we get even more evidence of this shifting or changed timeline, as Seven seems to wake up in an unfamiliar place – without her Borg implant. It’s possible, of course, that her implants had been removed, but as we saw with poor Icheb in Season 1, that’s a painful and often fatal process.
So the logical conclusion for Seven missing her implants is because she was never assimilated by the Borg in this timeline. But why? And what else has been changed? When we talk about alternate history – which is a fascinating genre in itself – almost every story hinges on a so-called “point of divergence.” This is the moment at which the fictional or alternate timeline separated from our own. Star Trek contains examples of this: the Kelvin timeline being the most prominent example, with a point of divergence on the day of Captain Kirk’s birth.
If all we saw was Seven missing her implants, we could say that the point of divergence might be in the 2350s – either she didn’t travel to the Delta Quadrant aboard the USS Raven with her family, or that whole voyage never happened. But there’s so much imagery in the trailer and poster that seems to hint at something more than that.
The 21st Century vehicles on the poster could suggest that Picard and the crew will visit our time period during the course of the series – which may or may not be a good thing, but that’s a whole other article! But their presence could also suggest that whatever event or series of events changed the timeline began in the modern day, with ripples flitting along the timeline, changing all manner of things in their wake.
Picard and Raffi were seen in uniform in the trailer, albeit very briefly. Picard appeared to be giving a speech or making a statement to Starfleet Command, and I wonder in what context he was making that address. I initially thought Picard was wearing his Season 1 flashback uniform in that scene – the one we saw prominently at the start of the episode The End Is The Beginning. But on closer inspection, both he and Raffi are in different uniforms – not the flashback ones, nor the 2399 ones that Riker and Commodore Oh wore. Also, Picard was wearing a 2399-style combadge, not the First Contact–Voyager one that he wore with his Admiral’s uniform in Season 1. So the plot thickens!
It’s possible that this scene is taking place at modern Starfleet, and that there has simply been a tweak to the uniforms since the events of Season 1. Starfleet does love arbitrary uniform changes, after all, and what we saw Picard and others wearing wasn’t so radically different that it couldn’t have been a dress variant, for example. But given everything else going on with Q, Seven of Nine, and potential changes or damage to the timeline, I can’t help but think that this is connected to that.
Perhaps what we’re seeing is an alternate timeline in which Picard and Raffi didn’t resign from Starfleet, and thus in which the Coppelius synths were not saved? That would tie in with Season 1. But at the same time, I’m not sure that’s the route the show is going to follow. There are questions about the Starfleet delta – the silver badges we see Picard and Rios wear are oversized and have a cross or sword shaped indent, which reminds me more than a little of the Mirror Universe. I don’t think we’re going to see a Mirror Universe story, but the symbolism is interesting. What does it mean?
In voiceover, we hear Picard speaking – presumably to the crew of La Sirena – telling them that “we can save the future” and promising to get them home safely. Whatever is going on, the crew of La Sirena are seemingly immune to changes in the timeline – we see Rios react with shock upon discovering his new badge, and Seven similarly stunned by her missing implant. Picard’s voiceover could imply that La Sirena and the crew are themselves stuck in the past – otherwise why use the word “future?”
To me, the big question is this: is Picard the one responsible for disrupting the timeline? If Q isn’t to blame, and Picard and La Sirena appear to be unaffected and right in the middle of this mysterious event, could we learn that Picard is to blame? The first teaser trailer saw him express almost regret at being unable to change the past – desperately wishing that he’d done something differently. Perhaps he found a way to do it, and thus he triggered the changes to the timeline that we see in the new trailer.
That would be an interesting way for the story to go, and it would play on themes we saw early in Season 1 of Picard being a flawed hero; someone who’s only human and who has limits. The return of Q is interesting – perhaps Q will facilitate Picard’s changes to the timeline, but I suspect he’s going to be helpful in fixing things. The use of the phrase “the road not taken” suggests that this is a timeline that could have come to pass had Picard taken different actions at some point in his past. Combined with the previous teaser, I wonder again if this is referring to his time in command of the USS Stargazer?
Though we didn’t see the rest of the cast prominently in the trailer, some of what we glimpsed was interesting. Soji appeared to be all dressed up in a fancy outfit, and the expression on her face reminded me of Sutra. Perhaps she’s putting on an act or trying to deceive someone – something akin to the “heist” in Season 1’s Stardust City Rag, for example. But it could also indicate a darker direction for Soji’s character – or even the return of Sutra.
Raffi and Elnor were glimpsed briefly, seemingly running away from someone or something. The neon lights in the background of their scene could suggest they’re on the planet Freecloud, but I wouldn’t bank on that. I have no idea what Dr Jurati was doing as we only saw a close-up of her face, but something about her outfit suggested to me that she could be in prison. She did murder Dr Maddox in Season 1, after all! We also got a glimpse of Laris, who appeared to be staring in surprise or alarm at something behind the camera. Given that Picard was looking for her unsuccessfully at the beginning of the trailer, I wonder if she’s been killed off, or perhaps even removed from the timeline.
The scene at Starfleet Command, where Picard appeared to be giving a speech, featured the flags of several known factions: the Klingons, Vulcans, Bajorans, and Ferengi were the ones I recognised, along with flags representing the Federation, Starfleet Command, and Starfleet Academy. I don’t think we can infer too much from that – the flags may mean these factions are Federation members or allies, but it could simply mean that they’re present at this event, which could be a diplomatic meeting akin to something we’d see at the G7 or United Nations.
I’m unsure about the other voice heard only in voiceover, the feminine voice saying that “time has been broken.” It sounded a little like Commodore Oh, but I don’t think she would be working with Picard in any timeline! The voice sounds familiar, though… but I can’t place it, nor figure out if it’s someone connected with a past iteration of Star Trek or not. It’s likely that this is a new character, in my opinion.
The absence of Guinan was noteworthy, as we know she will be making an appearance at some point in Season 2. In The Next Generation episode Yesterday’s Enterprise, Guinan showed a unique awareness of changes to the timeline, and considering Season 2 seems to be all about that kind of thing, bringing her back makes a lot of sense. She also has a history with Q that could be explored in more detail given his return.
And with that, I think we’ve come to the end of my analysis and guesswork! It was great fun to see a glimpse of Season 2, which now has a good three months’ worth of filming and production work under its belt. Despite events out here in the real world, production seems to be moving along well, and I have no doubt at the moment that Picard Season 2 will hit its scheduled release next year. I would guesstimate that it will premiere sometime after Discovery’s fourth season and before Strange New Worlds’ first season, so I think within ten to twelve months we’ll be sitting down to watch the first episode of Season 2.
It was wonderful to see John de Lancie back as Q, and to see him tangle with Picard once again. A trailer can only do so much with a runtime of around one minute, but there seemed to be a heavy emphasis on classic characters: Picard obviously, but also Q and Seven of Nine. This came at the expense of the new characters we met in Season 1 who we only got to see very briefly. Hopefully future marketing material can show off those characters a little more.
The mysteries of Season 2 deepen. What’s the connection to the present day? If the city from the poster is Los Angeles, what connection does that have to Picard and Starfleet? As far as I know he’s never been to the city, and no major Starfleet or Federation organisation is based there. The only Star Trek story to have spent any time in Los Angeles was the Voyager two-parter Future’s End, which was before Seven of Nine came aboard the ship. In that episode, the city of Los Angeles was said to have been destroyed by an earthquake in the mid-21st Century.
If time itself has been “broken,” who is responsible? Is it a natural phenomenon? And why are the crew of La Sirena immune? Did Q or Guinan have something to do with the changes to the timeline? And what did Q mean by “the road not taken?” I have a lot of questions… but can only guess as to the answers right now!
Star Trek: Picard Season 2 will be broadcast on Paramount+ in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video internationally in 2022. Season 1 is available to stream now. 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.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3, as well as the teaser trailers for Star Trek: Picard Season 2 and Star Trek: Discovery Season 4. Further spoilers may be present for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.
During Season 1 of Star Trek: Picard last year, I kept holding out hope that the show would make a serious attempt to connect or cross over – somehow – with Discovery, its sister show. Aside from a couple of throwaway lines, however, that didn’t happen. We have since seen Discovery pick up a major faction that had been present in Picard, though, so clearly there’s some intention over at ViacomCBS to link up the two shows. Hopefully this will continue into their next seasons – and that’s what today’s theory is all about!
Discovery Season 4 will premiere months before Picard Season 2, and while I’m hopeful it will be able to include some kind of cameo or crossover like Season 3 did, where I’m going to focus much of my attention this time is on Picard Season 2, so we’ll be shooting past Discovery Season 4 for the most part. In short, there was a line in the Picard Season 2 teaser which stood out to me, and it could be interpreted as setting up some kind of crossover. At the beginning of the short teaser, we hear Picard say in voiceover that “the true final frontier is time.”
Beginning with Season 3, Discovery shot forward into the future, with Seasons 3 and 4 taking place almost 800 years after the events of Picard Season 1. That should preclude any major character crossovers… but not if time travel is somehow involved. By the 32nd Century, Admiral Vance and Starfleet believe time travel has been completely outlawed and that no way to travel through time exists. But at the dawn of the 25th Century, the Federation (and other factions) are just beginning to dip their toes in this untapped “final frontier.”
Picard himself has travelled through time on several occasions, both to the future and to the past. And while much of what we saw in the Season 2 teaser suggests that Picard and/or his new crew will travel backwards in time, if time travel is involved, all bets are off. The future and the past blend together in many time travel stories, and it’s possible – at least in my opinion – that Picard and his new crew could find themselves in Discovery’s 32nd Century at some point during their adventures.
Another point we could argue is in favour of this theory is the re-emergence of Q. Because of Q’s nature as a trickster, and an incredibly powerful being, practically anything is possible. In the Voyager Season 2 episode Death Wish, for example, a member of the Q Continuum was able to send the USS Voyager back in time to the moment of the big bang – 13 billion years in the past. The 32nd Century is nothing compared to that!
I’ve spoken before on a number of occasions about the need for Star Trek as a whole to get some threads of consistency going between the shows currently in production. There is a link between Strange New Worlds and Discovery, of course, but Picard and Discovery are almost entirely disconnected right now. Bringing the two crews together – even just for a one-off special episode – would be absolutely fantastic and a great way to celebrate all things Star Trek.
If Picard Season 2 is going to focus on travelling backwards through time instead of forwards, perhaps looking to preserve the future by righting wrongs in the past, that still doesn’t necessarily preclude the appearance of Discovery and her crew. Before Burnham, Saru, and the rest of the crew headed into the 32nd Century they were, of course, present in the 23rd, and although we’d be seeing these characters as they were in the past – and thus the storyline could become complicated – it would be possible, at least in theory, for Picard and his new crew to meet up with someone from Discovery if they visited the 23rd Century.
Given the complicated nature of the Control AI storyline in Season 2, anyone from Discovery having been aware of meeting someone from the Picard era could open up a plot hole, so it would have to be handled carefully. Perhaps Picard or someone from La Sirena is able to blend in and disguise themselves as a member of Starfleet in the 23rd Century, for example, allowing them to interact with the likes of Saru or Michael Burnham without the latter being aware of their true origins. That kind of crossover would be a lot of fun, and I think everyone involved would enjoy it!
One image that was prevalent in the Picard Season 2 teaser was the USS Stargazer – Picard’s first command. He first sat in the captain’s chair in the 2330s – about 75 years after the events of Discovery Seasons 1-2. That’s quite a long time, but considering the extended lifespans we know are present in Star Trek, it’s not so long that characters from Discovery couldn’t still be alive. Spock, obviously, is still alive in this era. And Dr McCoy was present at the launch of the Enterprise-D, despite being 137 years old. This opens up the possibility to see “aged up” versions of characters from the 23rd Century that we met in Discovery, such as Ash Tyler, L’Rell, or Saru’s sister Siranna.
Even just a short cameo from someone like that would be an amazing way to tie the shows together. Ash Tyler could have risen through the ranks to become a senior officer in Starfleet Intelligence by this era, and he could be someone Picard speaks with upon assuming command of the Stargazer, just as one idea off the top of my head. The introduction of Q and time travel into Picard Season 2 has opened up the possibility of such crossovers in a way that I hadn’t previously considered possible.
There is one other possibility, and it’s an inversion of a theory I had in the months before Discovery Season 3 premiered. Back then I theorised that something would go wrong with Burnham and Discovery’s jump into the future, leading them to arrive not in the 32nd Century but at the dawn of the 25th, leading to a crossover with Picard. That didn’t happen, of course, but right now there exists the possibility of this happening in reverse – for Picard and La Sirena to find themselves in the 32nd Century.
Maybe I’m in the minority, and both casual fans and Trekkies love to see the various Star Trek shows and films split up along the timeline – and in parallel universes! But I really do believe that consistency and stability are the hallmarks of a successful franchise, and if Star Trek wants to build on recent successes, picking a single time period to focus on for a majority of its shows and films makes a lot of sense. It makes following the franchise as a whole easier, and it makes it simpler for casual viewers to hop from one series to another without needing to read whole encyclopaedia articles about Star Trek lore to understand who’s where and what’s what. Perhaps bringing Picard into the 32nd Century could be a way to cut down on the franchise’s ongoing time periods.
This would be bittersweet, in my opinion. While it would be great for Star Trek to replicate its ’90s heyday by picking an era and sticking with it, taking Picard out of the 25th Century would make future character returns significantly more difficult. It was great fun to see the likes of Data, Riker, Troi, and Seven of Nine again, and I think one thing a lot of Trekkies are hoping for is that Season 2 of Picard will reintroduce more characters from The Next Generation era. Shooting the show forward by more than eight centuries would make that much more difficult.
We’d also miss out on finding out more about the state of the galaxy as the 25th Century dawns. We spent some time with the Romulans in Season 1, but we know next to nothing of the Klingon Empire, the Cardassians, the Bajorans, and so many others. In my opinion, if Star Trek is going to pick one era to be the main focus for upcoming projects, I’d rather it was the 25th Century than the 32nd. Jumping forward in time by a generation instead of centuries is what the Star Wars sequel trilogy tried to do, allowing for the return of classic characters alongside new ones. That’s one reason why I wondered if Discovery was going to end up in this time period too!
At the end of the day, time travel in Star Trek allows for many different possibilities. Even if Picard just visits the 23rd or 32nd Centuries briefly, during a single episode, the potential for using this technobabble as an excuse for a major crossover exists. If Season 2 is going to have a major focus on time travel, it would almost be a wasted opportunity if the show didn’t include some kind of crossover with Discovery!
The inclusion of Q almost certainly means that some wacky shenanigans are afoot in Picard Season 2. Whether he’s responsible for Picard travelling through time or not, he certainly has the potential to be a disruptive influence, and I could absolutely see Q sending La Sirena spiralling into the path of the USS Discovery – either the refitted 32nd Century version or the older 23rd Century variant! Heck, this could even be how the Short Treks episode Calypso gets resolved… though maybe that’s too much to hope for!
So that’s my theory. A rather disjointed and vague theory, I grant you, but a theory nevertheless. Somehow, the time travel storyline in Picard Season 2 will lead to a crossover with Discovery. Regardless of whether it happens or not, I’m really looking forward to Picard Season 2. It’s been over a year since Season 1 wrapped up, and despite the ending of the first season not quite hitting the highs of its premiere episode, I cannot wait to find out what will come next for Picard and the crew of La Sirena.
Star Trek: Picard Season 1 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and on Netflix in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Star Trek: Picard Season 2 is currently targeting a 2022 broadcast, and Discovery Season 4 is scheduled to premiere before the end of 2021. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard, Discovery, and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1, the teaser for Season 2, and for the following: Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Voyager.
Star Trek’s First Contact Day event a few days ago provided a lot of information and teases for upcoming projects in the franchise! Yesterday I took a look at one element from the Discovery Season 4 teaser, and today it’s Picard’s turn to go under the microscope! I wrote up my thoughts on the entire First Contact Day event, by the way, and if you missed that article you can find it by clicking or tapping here.
Both Discovery Season 4 and Lower Decks Season 2 are well into production – in fact, we now know that Lower Decks will be broadcast beginning on the 12th of August! Both shows were able to compile teaser trailers that incorporated a number of different scenes, probably from multiple episodes, and thus we had quite a lot to pick through for each! Picard Season 2, however, only entered production at the end of February, so naturally there wasn’t much to show.
Instead what we saw was a stylised teaser, which I assume was deliberately filmed for First Contact Day. It seemed to include a shot of Château Picard – the Picard family vineyard – that was part of Season 1; a recycled shot to set up the rest of the teaser. The rest of the teaser comprised a shot of Picard’s study/office at the vineyard, with the camera lingering over a handful of items in the empty room.
The item most confusing to me at the moment is the book Paradise Lost! It’s an epic poem that I once had to read at school, written in the 1600s. And it’s all about Satan and God. Given what Picard is heard to say in voiceover about travelling through time and not knowing what might have been had different actions been taken, perhaps the meaning of Paradise Lost is less to do with the content of the poem than a literal reading of the title – something Picard did or didn’t do in the past changed the present, making things worse. That could be his “paradise lost.” This is frustrating!
But Paradise Lost is not what we’re talking about today. In the teaser, Picard spoke of time as “the true final frontier,” and combined with the teaser focusing both on clocks and a backwards-running hourglass, time travel seems to be on the agenda! That’s before we get to Q, who is returning to tangle with Picard once more. Q is quite capable of time travel, as we’ve seen numerous times. Sir Patrick Stewart seemed to at least hint that Q isn’t responsible for whatever happens to Picard, but he’s clearly involved to some degree.
In addition to all of the time-related imagery, one thing from the trailer really leapt out at me: a model of the USS Stargazer. It’s the Stargazer that we’re going to talk about today, as the teaser seemed to at least hint at the possibility of revisiting this chapter of Picard’s life – something I predicted Season 2 might do a few weeks ago!
So let’s consider a few possibilities for how the USS Stargazer could be included in Season 2 of Picard. We’ve already heard the ship mentioned in Season 1; Dr Benayoun referenced Picard’s time aboard the ship in the episode Maps and Legends. Perhaps that was a hint at things to come in Season 2, and perhaps Dr Benayoun himself will make a return. We’ll have to wait and see what happens when the season airs next year!
My usual caveat applies: I have no “insider information.” I’m not claiming any of the things on this list will definitely happen in Season 2. This is just speculation and guesswork; a bit of fun and a chance to spend a bit more time talking and theorising about Star Trek. That’s all! So with that out of the way, let’s take a look at my six USS Stargazer theories.
Number 1: Picard’s “death” and a redux of The Next Generation Season 6 episode Tapestry.
When I think of Q, Picard, and time travel, one of the first episodes that comes to mind is Tapestry. Given that Picard has faced death in Season 1, perhaps the stage is set for some kind of redux of this episode, or at least a story which uses a similar premise. In Tapestry, Picard was given a chance by Q to go back to his past and make changes in his life, choosing to use the wisdom of age to be more cautious and less impulsive. At first it seemed to save his life, but the changes made his life far worse and unliveable.
What wasn’t clear in Tapestry is whether Q and Picard were truly travelling through time or whether it was an elaborate illusion. I choose to think it was the former; Q had the power to do all of those things, after all! So maybe he will give Picard a chance to do so again.
At this stage we don’t know why Picard wants or needs to travel through time. It may be connected to the Zhat Vash, Coppelius, the super-synths from the season finale, or something else that happened last season. It may be connected to something from The Next Generation. Or it may simply be a new storyline written for the show as happened in Season 1. But if he did want to go back in time to change the past, perhaps he would enlist the help of Q, setting up a story similar to Tapestry.
If Picard were to go back in time to his Stargazer days, there are a lot of things he could potentially do differently, and thus a lot of different ways that the story could go. You’d think that, after what happened in Tapestry, Picard would have learned his lesson about changing the past. But if Q showed him a very different, far better future, perhaps he could be convinced to make such a change.
This might connect to the “paradise lost” concept that I touched on at the beginning. Perhaps Q is able to convince Picard that his best option, or the only option, to get a particular outcome in the future is to change the past?
Number 2: The Cardassian Border Wars.
Though only mentioned briefly in The Next Generation, Picard was in command of the USS Stargazer during the Cardassian Border Wars. Not to be confused with Deep Space Nine’s Dominion War, this conflict took place in the mid-24th Century, prior to the events of The Next Generation. Picard made reference to one encounter in which a Cardassian ship fired on the Stargazer while the shields were down, causing him to have to flee!
One of the interesting things about choosing the Stargazer for part of Season 2’s setting as opposed to the Enterprise-D is that we know relatively little of Picard’s exploits while in command of the ship. Picard was in command of the Stargazer for around twenty years (from the 2330s to the 2350s) yet we only got brief hints at what he did in all that time. That makes it a relatively blank slate as far as the writers and producers of Season 2 are concerned.
We do know, however, that Picard and the Stargazer saw action during the Cardassian Border Wars, and perhaps this could be a way for Star Trek to revisit the faction we got to know so well in Deep Space Nine. As one of the few known events during Picard’s time in command of that vessel, it’s at least possible that we’ll see it mentioned!
The Next Generation Season 4 episode The Wounded saw Picard work with the Cardassians, so it doesn’t seem as though he harbours any lingering feelings toward them; certainly not like the trauma he carries after his experiences with the Borg. So I don’t think that revisiting the Cardassian Border Wars would lead to the kind of powerful moment that we saw when Picard visited the Artifact in Season 1. But there could be something from those days that Picard has to confront, or perhaps he’s been hiding or repressing his feelings about the Cardassians since then?
The advantage to bringing the Cardassian Border Wars into play, at least from my point of view, would be that it would allow the series to revisit some of the events seen in Deep Space Nine and Voyager. Picard may not have much connection to those events, but other characters do. Seven of Nine, for example, served with and was once in a relationship with Chakotay, and his Maquis friends were killed by the Cardassians. Perhaps some kind of story related to Cardassia and the Cardassian Border Wars is on the cards.
Number 3: Assuming command in the 2330s.
One of the things that Picard inadvertently changed during the events of Tapestry was that he never assumed command of the USS Stargazer. All we know of this event is that, following the death of the ship’s captain, Picard boldly assumed command. Doing so was a risk, one that the less cautious young Picard was willing and able to take. Following this event, he was appointed as the ship’s permanent commander and (presumably) promoted to the rank of captain.
The death of a ship’s captain is a significant moment, one that we haven’t seen often within Star Trek. Presumably the Stargazer’s captain was killed violently or during some kind of disaster or emergency; if he’d simply died of natural causes Picard’s tale of assuming command would be far less grand! So whatever happened, I think it’s fair to say it came at a difficult moment for the ship and crew.
This event may turn out to have some connection to Q or to something from Season 1 of the show. We could learn, for example, that the Zhat Vash or the super-synths were responsible for the attack on the Stargazer, and thus for Picard’s ascent to the captain’s chair. It may then be the Zhat Vash who want to go back in time to undo something, changing events so that Picard wouldn’t be in a position to help Soji and the Coppelius synths.
Maybe that’s a stretch and a reach, but the idea of undoing a mistake and trying to alter the future seems to be a theme of the season, according to the teaser. Picard himself was heard in voiceover saying that time never offers second chances – so perhaps the person or faction hoping to change the past is not Picard and his new crew, but some other nefarious faction. Picard and the crew of La Sirena may even be travelling back in time to preserve the timeline, not change it.
When it comes to factions we know of within Picard that could be interested in changing the past, the Zhat Vash have to be right up at the top. They’re fanatics, and after their recent defeat both at Coppelius and with the repeal of the ban on synthetic life they may try to travel back in time to exact their revenge. Going back to prevent Picard ever becoming a captain, changing his career and stopping him interfering in their plans, may be what they have in mind. One of the neat things about revisiting this era would potentially be a return of the red Starfleet uniforms!
Number 4: The Battle of Maxia.
At the opposite end of Picard’s time in command was the Battle of Maxia. At this battle, in which Picard faced a Ferengi ship, he devised the “Picard Manoeuvre” – a tactic that allowed his ship to appear to be in two places at once, and which was later taught at Starfleet Academy. In the aftermath of this battle, however, the Stargazer was lost. Presumed to have been destroyed, the ship was actually salvaged by the Ferengi.
The “Picard Manoeuvre” was referenced in Season 1, during the episode Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2. As with the earlier reference to the USS Stargazer, perhaps this was setting up something that will become important in Season 2, or at least reminding us of its existence! These little crumbs could form a trail for us to follow, perhaps informing us of planned events in Season 2. Or I could be reading too much into individual lines, as I always seem to be!
The Battle, the ninth episode of The Next Generation, explored the Battle of Maxia in more detail. It’s probably the one event involving the USS Stargazer that has been most closely examined on screen. That could mean it’s a good place for Season 2 to go, as it’s something we’re at least a little familiar with. Or it could mean that, as Picard has already confronted his actions at the battle and their consequences, there isn’t much left to explore.
In any case, it remains a possibility. Returning to the Battle of Maxia could see the return of the Ferengi in some capacity, though their involvement was not known at the time. As above, it could be a chance either for Picard to correct a mistake, or for someone nefarious to attempt to change the past – his past – by changing the outcome of the battle.
Number 5: The death of Jack Crusher.
Jack Crusher – husband to Beverly and father to Wesley – died while serving under Picard’s command aboard the USS Stargazer. It was at least implied that Picard bears a degree of responsibility for his death, or at least feels responsible for what happened. Perhaps that’s simply because of how he is as a commanding officer – but could there be more to it than that?
Of the main cast of The Next Generation, only Dr Crusher’s fate was left unconfirmed in Season 1. We saw Riker and Troi of course, and Data we know has died. Zhaban also confirmed that Geordi La Forge and Worf are still alive, so that only leaves Dr Crusher. In at least one future timeline, she and Picard had married – we saw no evidence for or against this idea in Season 1, so perhaps it could be explored in Season 2.
In the teaser, Picard spoke about how we often wish we’d acted differently during a crisis, and perhaps one thing he wishes he had been able to change was whatever led to Jack Crusher’s death. We could also learn that the Zhat Vash, super-synths, or some other faction or entity from Season 1 is involved in the events that led to him being killed, forming a kind of circular story going back to Picard’s past.
If Dr Crusher were to be involved in Season 2, she would undoubtedly have something to say about the possibility of revisiting the moment of Jack’s death! Maybe she would try to talk Picard out of it, saying that changing an event more than fifty years in the past would have huge ramifications for them both. Or maybe she’d be in favour of going back in time to prevent it from happening if his death set in motion a series of events that led to horrible consequences at the dawn of the 25th Century.
It’s also possible that Jack Crusher’s death may simply be the backdrop for the story – an event connected to something else in the series, but not something Picard hopes to undo.
Number 6: Anti-time and All Good Things…
In the finale of The Next Generation, Q set Picard a puzzle to solve that required him to think outside the box. In short, events in the future were – somehow – having a causal effect on events in the past. Figuring that out, and learning for the first time that time is not necessarily linear and moving only in one direction was what Picard learned.
As above with Tapestry, when I think of Q and time travel, I also think of All Good Things. The teaser made reference to “the trial,” and I believe even used a line spoken by Q in All Good Things as it drew to a close. Q told Picard in that episode that his and humanity’s trial in the eyes of the Q was ongoing, so perhaps the return of Q will mean revisiting some of these concepts.
Something that will be potentially interesting to explore are Q’s views on mortality. In the Voyager Season 2 episode Death Wish, Q helped a fellow member of the Q Continuum to die, but has never had to confront mortality himself. In many ways, Q seemed to regard Picard as something akin to a friend, and watching him age and confront death might be something that would interest and bemuse him.
In the panel that immediately followed the teaser, Sir Patrick Stewart appeared to refer to Q appearing in only a single episode, so perhaps his influence over the season won’t be as significant as we’re assuming. It was also implied that Q is not the cause of whatever the main event of the season is. However, if Picard needed to travel back in time for some reason – such as to prevent something catastrophic from happening in the present – he may voluntarily call upon Q. After all, how many other methods of time travel is Picard aware of?
All we can say for sure at this stage is that Q is involved somehow. But given the teaser’s focus on time travel, maybe his involvement will be in sending Picard and his new crew back in time, perhaps to the time he served aboard the Stargazer.
So that’s it. Six theories about Picard Season 2 and the USS Stargazer!
At this stage, with the second season perhaps as much as a year away from being broadcast, we have very little to go on. As mentioned, the teaser didn’t include a single character or completed scene or sequence, so I’m reading an awful lot into a few lines of voiceover and the imagery presented! We don’t even know for sure that the USS Stargazer will be included in any form, let alone visited through time travel!
Despite that, however, it’s great fun to speculate and theorise about what might be happening. The series is currently in production, with filming ongoing at time of writing, and while we’re unlikely to see another teaser or trailer any time soon, I’ll be keeping an eye out for any tiny tidbits of news that may come our way!
Discovery has shot forward into the 32nd Century; the far future. As such, it’s less easy for that show to bring back characters, themes, and storylines from Star Trek’s past – though that didn’t stop me making a few guesses about what may be going on in Season 4! But Picard is only set twenty years on from the events of the 24th Century Star Trek shows, and as such we could potentially see the inclusion of all manner of characters and other story elements – as indeed we saw happen in Season 1.
Regardless, I’m excited to see where Picard Season 2 takes the story next. The return of Q promises to be great fun, and while the season is a way off yet, I think it’s okay to make a few tentative guesses about what may be going on!
Star Trek: Picard Season 1 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and other regions where the platform is available. It may be streamed on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and other countries and territories. Star Trek: Picard Season 2 is scheduled to premiere on Paramount+ and/or Amazon Prime Video next year. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
A significant portion of Season 1 was occupied by recruiting the crew, but after they came together basically to do one job – find Soji – and accomplished that objective, the big thing that Season 2 needs to do is find a truly convincing reason for keeping the crew together. Rios seemingly worked as a commercial pilot, and the others have lives of their own too. Now that Soji is safe and the super-synths have been called off, what exactly is preventing everyone from drifting back to their old lives?
Right now, I see that as perhaps the biggest challenge and point of interest. What will bind this disparate crew together after their mission is complete? Unlike a Starfleet crew they don’t have a new mission or new orders, and they aren’t just going to fly around aimlessly in La Sirena looking for adventure. So finding a convincing reason for keeping them together – or reuniting them if they’ve already separated as of the beginning of the season – will be key.
As I said last time, it’s very early in the process to be considering what may or may not be included in the upcoming season. At time of writing filming hasn’t even commenced; Picard is filmed in California, and while production is in theory able to resume it’s a slow process. There have been suggestions that February may be the goal for filming to begin – but it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve been given a timeframe that didn’t pan out, so watch this space. I’m not claiming any “insider information,” nor saying that anything on my list is certain to happen. This is guesswork at best – educated guesswork in some places, perhaps, but nothing more.
With those big caveats out of the way, let’s jump into the list.
Number 1: A Galaxy-class ship.
Season 1 showed us a beautiful CGI rendition of the Galaxy-class Enterprise-D. But this ship was only seen in Picard’s dream and didn’t make a real appearance – despite the Federation fleet in the season finale presenting a good opportunity to do so. One lesson I hope the team behind Picard has learned is that the two fleets we saw during the standoff over Coppelius looked less impressive for being comprised of only a single starship design each – and bringing more ships into the show would be something great to see.
Obviously Picard himself has connections with several different classes of ship: the Sovereign-class from his time aboard the Enterprise-E, the Constellation-class from the Stargazer, and we even saw him on a Deep Space Nine Danube-class runabout once. But no ship design is more greatly associated with Picard than the Galaxy-class, and while the Enterprise-D is gone, there were others, including those which served in the Dominion War.
In an alternate timeline seen in the Voyager fourth season episode Timeless, Galaxy-class ships were still in use in the 2390s, which is close to the time in which Picard is set. An updated Galaxy-class Enterprise-D was also seen in The Next Generation’s finale All Good Things in sequences set in the 2390s.
In addition, Excelsior-class ships from the late 23rd Century were shown to be in use for decades, and the Galaxy-class ship seems like such a versatile vessel that it would make sense to see them still in use. La Sirena will clearly continue to be the home for Picard and his new crew, and I’m not suggesting they be given their own Galaxy-class ship somehow! But it would be wonderful to see Picard’s reaction to a real-life Galaxy-class ship, triggering memories of his time aboard the Enterprise-D.
Number 2: Confirmation of Narek’s fate.
The two-part Season 1 finale had some issues. From my point of view, the biggest problem was that the final two episodes had far too much story to cram into a relatively short span of time; new characters, new antagonists, new storylines, and a whole new civilisation were all introduced right at the end of the season.
One of the consequences of this was the abandonment of some previously-important storylines. Narek, who was a major character across the rest of the first season, was symbolic of this, as his character was simply dumped without any explanation or resolution midway through the finale.
I know that Narek wasn’t everyone’s favourite character in Season 1, but I found him genuinely interesting. He looked certain to play out a relatively common trope in thriller stories: the spy with a heart of gold who abandons his mission after falling in love with his target… but to my surprise – and great enjoyment – he didn’t go down that route and remained loyal to the Zhat Vash crusade.
There are several possibilities for what happened to Narek after his attempt to destroy Soji and Sutra’s beacon. He could have been recovered by the Romulans, he could have been handed over to the Federation, he could have remained a prisoner of the synths on Coppelius, or he could even have renounced his wicked ways and joined Picard’s crew. The latter may seem less likely, but as we didn’t see or hear anything about Narek after the beacon attack it would be great if Season 2 could give us the rest of the story – even if it’s just by way of a line or two of dialogue.
Number 3: Riker and Troi.
Though I believe Riker actor Jonathan Frakes will be returning to Picard in the director’s chair, we don’t yet know whether Riker and/or Troi will return in Season 2. However, I would argue that their post-The Next Generation storylines have more to give, and I would love to see them both back.
One thing I was very keen on in the run-up to Season 1 is for the show to avoid being The Next Generation Season 8, and by only including a few classic characters in a few episodes, I would say the show accomplished that goal. But there is still a lot of interest from fans about the fates of many characters we knew and loved in past iterations of Star Trek, and the already-established Troi-Riker family could be a stepping stone for telling some of those stories too.
It would also be interesting to see whether the events of Season 1 have brought either Riker, Troi, or both back to Starfleet on a permanent basis. Riker described himself as “acting captain” in the Season 1 finale, so perhaps he will return to his family home on Nepenthe. But maybe not!
If Season 2 is to feature Starfleet more significantly than Season 1 did, we will need at least one Starfleet character to be portrayed on screen. Someone Picard knew and can work with would be a good bet, as he could call on them to help out, cashing in favours. However, I did also like the way Raffi used her Starfleet contacts in Season 1, as well as the introduction of Admiral Clancy.
Number 4: Revisiting an event from Picard’s past – such as the Stargazer or the Borg.
Season 1 saw Picard confront his past with the Borg as he boarded the Artifact. But there’s scope to further explore his history with the Borg, especially if the faction were to come back in a major way. Nothing we saw in Season 1 suggested that the Borg threat has gone away, and the super-synths we met in the finale could possibly have a connection to Star Trek’s iconic cybernetic villains.
The inclusion of Seven of Nine and the ex-Borg could also contribute to a Borg story. Perhaps the ex-Borg would work together with Picard to use knowledge or technology from the Artifact to defeat another Borg threat. The Borg would also be a reason for Picard’s new crew staying together instead of going their separate ways.
Alternatively we could revisit an event from Picard’s past that The Next Generation hinted at but didn’t explore in detail. We know Picard commanded the USS Stargazer and that Jack Crusher – husband to Beverly and father to Wesley – was killed. But the specifics of that event have never been shown on screen.
The inclusion of Dr Benayoun in Season 1 connected to Picard’s time aboard the Stargazer, and a storyline looking back at this time could bring back this character. It would also be a way for Dr Crusher and even Wesley to be included – perhaps something that happened around the time of Jack Crusher’s death is going to be relevant to a new event or storyline.
Number 5: Development of Seven of Nine and Raffi’s relationship.
The Season 1 finale showed Raffi and Seven of Nine had become close, and the possibility for the two to enter a relationship would be something really interesting for Season 2 to look at in more detail. We know that Seven of Nine and Chakotay had a relationship toward the end of Voyager, and that Raffi has a son from a previous relationship. But this could be a great opportunity for some more LGBT+ representation – in this case, perhaps, bisexuality.
Both characters saw significant development in Season 1 – Raffi by finding her son and Seven of Nine by avenging Icheb. Seeing Seven of Nine finally break out of the repetitive, emotionally stifled character she was in Voyager was genuinely cathartic, and giving her even more opportunities to show off her humanity and emotional side would be fantastic.
Both characters have experienced the loss of either a child or child figure, and that could strengthen their bond. They’re different people, and having gone through very different life experiences have responded differently to loss – Seven by becoming obsessed with revenge, and Raffi by falling into addiction.
They could help each other overcome these issues. Seven of Nine could help Raffi through recovery from her drug and alcohol addictions, and Raffi in turn could help Seven move on from the loss of Icheb and the murder of Bjayzl. There’s a lot of scope for very interesting and emotional stories in this pair of characters.
Number 6: Foreshadowing of the Romulan-Vulcan reunification seen in Discovery Season 3.
Discovery’s third season confirmed that Vulcans and Romulans had managed to set their differences aside – for the most part – and come back together. Though Discovery said this happened “centuries” after Spock’s first visit to Romulus, perhaps we could see some movement in that direction in Picard.
The attack on Mars and its aftermath has arguably left Federation-Romulan relations – and by extension, relations between the Vulcans and Romulans – at an all-time low. However, the unmasking of the Zhat Vash and their role in the attack may have led ordinary Romulans to look upon the Federation less harshly, and if there have been reforms to Romulan society – as was hinted at by the use of the name “Romulan Free State” instead of “Romulan Star Empire” – maybe the beginnings of reunification have already been seen.
Picard had a heavy focus on the Romulans in Season 1, and at least one Romulan character – Elnor – will return in Season 2. Thus the show is the perfect vehicle to show the path forward, bridging the gap between the secretive Romulan Empire of The Next Generation’s era and the reunified Ni’Var of Discovery’s 32nd Century.
The return of a character such as Tuvok could also be a part of this; seeing Elnor working closely with a Vulcan could set up his character for a future role in the reunification process, for example. With Seven of Nine already confirmed to be coming back, bringing one of her Voyager colleagues on board would be great to see.
Number 7: Spend more time with Starfleet.
Season 1 made good on its promise of taking Picard away from Starfleet. While two members of the new crew are ex-Starfleet officers – as well as Picard himself – they operate outside of the organisation. I wouldn’t want to see that change; Picard has done what no other Star Trek show ever really did by focusing entirely on a non-Starfleet crew and that’s been fantastic. But there is scope to see more of Starfleet at the beginning of the 25th Century.
After Season 1 saw Picard and his crew largely working against Starfleet, from him being denied access to a Starfleet ship to Raffi and Rios breaking all the rules to gain access to the Artifact, it would be great to see some cooperation. The Season 1 finale gave us a taste of that with Riker and his armada, but there are more ways Picard and La Sirena could work with Starfleet while still remaining separate.
Alternatively – or perhaps additionally – we could see more of the story of Season 2 unfold from Starfleet’s point of view. Admiral Clancy was our major Starfleet character in Season 1 and she could certainly return. But this could also be how another legacy character is introduced, and Picard could work alongside them for some reason.
Having at least one major character being a Starfleet officer, and depicting events within Starfleet, would be something I think I’d like to see Season 2 do, provided it could balance that with keeping La Sirena on the outside. Starfleet and the Federation have always been a huge part of Star Trek, and while it was great to see that they’re still the “good guys,” spending more time with them next season would be fantastic.
Number 8: Consequences for Dr Jurati.
Though she did so under the influence of a mind-meld, Dr Jurati still murdered Dr Maddox in Season 1. Star Trek has done some great courtroom drama stories over the years, and I think it would be really interesting to see Dr Jurati arrested and even stand trial. Would the mind-meld be a suitable defence in the eyes of the law? We’ve never seen such a case in Star Trek.
This is another storyline that the finale rushed and ultimately failed to do justice to. At the beginning of Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 Dr Jurati is still expecting to turn herself in and be arrested for murder, as Picard insisted she would be. However, by the end of Part 2 she seems free to remain aboard La Sirena and has even formed a relationship with Rios.
The question of Dr Jurati’s culpability is potentially interesting. Despite still being under the influence of the mind-meld she refused to try to harm Soji, pushing through Commodore Oh’s brainwashing. If she could stop herself from harming Soji, how did she harm Dr Maddox – someone with whom she was intimate?
Even if the legal side of things is only briefly addressed, such as a line of dialogue telling us that the charges were dropped, Dr Jurati may suffer psychological effects from what she did. She murdered someone she was very close to, and threatened to sabotage Picard’s mission. Even if he and the others have forgiven her, will she be able to so easily forgive herself? She has already attempted suicide once, and this is an angle the show could look at in more detail as well.
Number 9: The return of Dr Soong.
Even if Season 2 takes Picard away from Coppelius for the most part, it would be great to catch up with Dr Soong – a character who felt underdeveloped in the Season 1 finale. We never learned why Dr Soong wanted to transfer his mind to a synthetic body, nor what the consequences are for him of giving that body to Picard.
I picked up a hint or two in Season 1 that Dr Soong may be sick or dying, so perhaps donating the synthetic body he planned to use to Picard has condemned him to death. Alternatively, however, he may simply be able to build a new one now that he understands the mind-transfer process.
A story on Coppelius could also show us what impact the loss of Data’s neurons may have on Dr Soong. Without them, is he able to build new synths, or build another golem for himself? The finale left these questions unanswered, and while I don’t expect Season 2 to spend all of its time tying up loose ends, it would be nice to see some of these points addressed.
Dr Soong is of course played by Data actor Brent Spiner, and welcoming him back to Star Trek was wonderful in Season 1. It would be great if a role could be found for him in Season 2, even if it was only for a single episode.
Number 10: Guinan.
This is a total cheat since we already have confirmation that Guinan is coming back, but I wanted to include it anyway. Sir Patrick Stewart invited Guinan actress Whoopi Goldberg to join the show for its second season months ago, so it seems like Guinan will have a significant role in the season. Whether she’ll be a recurring character or make an appearance in a single episode isn’t known at this stage, but she will certainly be back.
Picard and Guinan’s relationship was touched on in The Next Generation, but never fully explained. There’s certainly scope to learn more about how they came together, why their relationship goes “beyond friendship, beyond family,” as well as what the impact of Picard’s reclusion had on Guinan. What has Guinan been doing since we last saw her? We simply don’t know – so it will be interesting to find out!
Number 11: Foreshadowing the dilithium shortage seen in Discovery Season 3.
This is the second “foreshadowing Discovery” entry on this list, and I don’t expect (or want) Picard Season 2 to spend all of its runtime doing that. However, this is another way that we could potentially see a connection to the events of Picard’s sister show.
For some unknown reason, by the 28th or 29th Centuries dilithium supplies in the galaxy were beginning to run low. This is what prompted Starfleet to begin seeking out new sources of the important fuel, ultimately culminating in the Burn, as well as the people of Ni’Var withdrawing from the Federation believing their alternative propulsion experiments caused the Burn.
Though the dilithium shortage depicted in Discovery’s recent season is centuries away, the beginnings of it could be seen in Picard… somehow. Perhaps dilithium supplies were already beginning to run low but the Federation was keeping it quiet, or perhaps they discovered a major cache of dilithium similar to the Verubin Nebula’s planet some time in this era which kept them going for centuries.
Even a single line of dialogue noting that a starship is on a mission to seek out new sources of dilithium would be a subtle nod to fans of Discovery, and a minor way in which the two shows could be connected.
Number 12: A broader look at the galaxy as the 25th Century dawns.
Despite bringing back a few legacy characters – not all of whom survived – and spending a lot of time with the Romulans, Season 1 didn’t paint a very broad picture of the state of the galaxy. We know that the Federation is doing well, despite the attack on Mars and the effects of the Dominion War years earlier. But what of other factions? And is all well in Starfleet?
There are so many races and factions that Season 2 could look at that I don’t know where to begin. But rather than a repetition of Season 1, with its relatively narrow focus on one faction and a handful of events, it would be great if Season 2 could expand the map and look at a few different places and peoples – even if that means doing so in less detail.
Right now, Picard is the only Star Trek production set in this post-Nemesis era. I wouldn’t be surprised if more shows, miniseries, and films were announced, but for the foreseeable future we only have Picard to show us the galaxy and what’s been going on in the years since Nemesis. Obviously the attack on Mars was a significant event, but there must be other things that happened in that twenty-year span.
As I mentioned in my last piece, a personal favourite story arc of mine is Deep Space Nine’s Dominion War, so I would be fascinated to learn anything about Bajor, Cardassia, DS9, the Gamma Quadrant, or the Dominion. But given Picard’s lack of connection to those events (except for a link to Bajor via Ro Laren) perhaps that isn’t on the agenda this time. Still, anything we could get to look at the bigger picture of the galaxy would be wonderful.
Number 13: Looking at current events.
One thing Picard Season 1 did very well was show how Picard’s mental health was suffering as a result of his rejection by Starfleet. I think a lot of people who’ve been through almost a year of lockdowns and isolation could watch the Season 1 premiere, Remembrance, and empathise much more with the isolated, lonely Admiral Picard than they could when it was first broadcast.
Star Trek has never shied away from using its sci-fi setting to tackle real-world issues, and the biggest right now is of course the pandemic and its associated effects. Season 2 may have had a complete draft written before the pandemic hit – production was meant to take place last year, after all – but there has been plenty of time to change things up and include contemporary themes. Not every series has to use the pandemic as inspiration, and in many ways people come to sci-fi and fantasy to escape the real world – something that’s arguably even more necessary right now – so maybe this won’t happen.
Number 14: The return of Laris and Zhaban.
Laris and Zhaban – Picard’s Romulan assistants – served a fairly typical adventure story role in Season 1. They were the safe reminders of home that Picard had to leave behind when setting off on his quest; a role filled by the residents of Hobbiton in The Lord of the Rings, for example.
But they were also more than that. The decision to make them Romulans did serve a purpose – without them, Picard would never have learned of the Zhat Vash, for example. But given Picard’s complicated history with the Romulans after abandoning his efforts to help them evacuate their homeworld, the question of why these two ex-Tal Shiar operatives were so steadfastly loyal to him raised its head.
Maybe this is simply a minor plot contrivance, but I don’t want to just overlook it and say it’s fine. What did Picard do to win their trust and loyalty so strongly that they’d follow him to isolation on Earth? And why did they choose not to follow him into space when he set out to help Soji? It wasn’t to attend to the grape harvest, surely.
Some further development of these two characters would be welcome, and while I know they did feature in a novel, most folks don’t read those and it arguably isn’t canon – Star Trek, unlike Star Wars, has always drawn a line between what happens on screen and what happens in apocryphal works. So their backstory in relation to Picard is still, in my opinion at least, an open question that Season 2 could address.
Number 15: The Artifact will come under Federation control.
Though parts of it have been picked over by the Romulans for decades, the opportunity to study a largely-intact Borg vessel does not present itself every day. Unless the Borg have somehow been defeated off-screen between the events of Nemesis and Picard – which I very much doubt given their popularity among fans – the Federation will surely want to avail itself of this opportunity.
The Artifact crash-landed on Coppelius at the end of Season 1, but with the planet designated a Federation protectorate they now have access to the wreck. Who knows what Federation scientists could learn about the Borg if not constrained by the Romulans. The Artifact may not play a big role in Season 2, but I would argue it is incredibly important to the Federation. That may even be the cynical reason why they chose to send a fleet to defend Coppelius.
Number 16: The appearance of Section 31.
If you followed my reviews and theories during Season 1, you may remember that I thought of numerous ways that Section 31 could’ve been included. This stemmed from the production side of Star Trek: Section 31 had recently been a major part of Discovery, and there’s an upcoming Section 31 series in development. For those reasons, Section 31 seemed like a way that all three Star Trek projects could’ve had a familiar theme.
It didn’t happen in Season 1, of course, and with Discovery completely ignoring Section 31 in its third season perhaps you could argue that it’s less important this time around. But I don’t necessarily agree. The Section 31 series is still coming, with pre-production having already begun and Michelle Yeoh’s departure from Discovery setting the stage.
In addition, Discovery introduced us to the enigmatic Kovich in Season 3, played by famed director David Cronenberg. If you followed my Discovery theories, you’ll know I’ve posited the idea that he is an operative of Section 31 – or maybe even its leader in the 32nd Century.
As a result, Section 31 remains one way that many of the ongoing Star Trek projects can find common ground, despite being split up along the timeline. It would remind fans of each series that they’re watching one part of a greater whole, and connecting the Star Trek franchise together will hopefully help fans of one show jump over to others that are currently in production. I know of many people who have either watched Discovery or Picard – but not both. Finding more ways to connect the shows and bring the franchise together will be important to Star Trek’s future – and vital to its ongoing success.
Number 17: Fallout from Picard’s newfound synthetic status.
There had been a widespread ban on synthetic life for over a decade as a result of the attack on Mars. Though we learned in Season 1’s closing moments that the ban has been rescinded, the attack, its aftermath, and the ban may have lingering effects on non-synthetics. Will Picard face discrimination and hate as a result of his synthetic nature?
Perhaps, given the reaction in some areas of the fandom to Picard becoming a synth and the whole death-and-rebirth narrative, Season 2 will seek to downplay Picard’s status. But it would be interesting to explore the ramifications. We’ve talked about Riker, Troi, and Guinan possibly being major characters in the story – how will they react to Picard being synthetic? Can Troi read synthetic minds? Would Guinan feel he’s no longer the same person given her sensitivity to such things?
There are real-world analogies that anti-synthetic discrimination could be used to show. Star Trek has, on many occasions in the past, looked at the complex issues of race relations in the United States, and in the wake of the events of 2020 and ongoing efforts to ensure racial justice and equality, this could be something the synthetic storyline highlights.
There are also interesting legal and ethical questions that the show could address. Most significantly: is Picard the same person as he was, or is he legally and morally a distinct person now that he has a synthetic body? Will Starfleet, for example, consider him to be the same retired Admiral, or will he no longer have those privileges?
Number 18: Making peace with the super-synths.
Although she stood down and turned off the synths’ beacon on Coppelius, Soji did nevertheless contact the super-synths (the villains I nicknamed the “Mass Effect Reapers” for their similarity to that video game faction). There may yet be consequences for having done so, because the super-synths might not simply return to dark space to wait for another faction to contact them – they may already be en route to the Milky Way galaxy.
Even if the super-synths themselves don’t initiate a conflict, from Starfleet’s point of view it makes sense to reach out and tell them what happened. By explaining Starfleet’s position – that they value synthetic life and will not seek to harm the Coppelius synths – perhaps a conflict could be avoided. Making the attempt seems like something Starfleet would do, at least.
There’s a lot of potential to make the super-synths more than a plot device and one-dimensional incomprehensible villain. They could, as previously suggested, connect to the Borg. They could also be expanded upon as we learn more about them, their name, their motivations, and so on. We know precious little about the super-synths right now, and it would be great to learn more. Was their offer to help the synths genuine – or was it a trap?
Soji, as the instigator of contact with the super-synths, could be just the person to help pacify them if they turn out to be on the warpath. That could be why she needs Picard and the crew of La Sirena: to seek out the super-synths and prevent a war.
Number 19: Shutting down the beacon on Aia.
Now that the Zhat Vash have been exposed, we don’t really know what will become of their anti-synthetic crusade. The decision to have Commodore Oh withdraw so quickly in the Season 1 finale is not one I particularly liked; the Zhat Vash were presented as zealots who would stop at nothing to achieve their goal of wiping out synthetic life, and despite Soji closing the portal, from Oh’s point of view she could just open another one.
However, criticisms aside, it makes sense that Starfleet – or at least Picard – would want to find the octonary star system and shut down the beacon on Aia. Not only would this prevent the Zhat Vash from continuing to use it, but it would also avoid the possibility of other synths accidentally finding it and using it to contact the super-synths.
This should be a priority for Starfleet, at least in my opinion! Though we may not see it for ourselves, this could be something communicated in a line or two of dialogue, just noting that the beacon has been shut down.
Alternatively it could be a major storyline, with Picard and La Sirena setting out to find Aia and continue their fight against the Zhat Vash. I’m not sure if this would be the right way to go – it feels like an epilogue to Season 1 rather than the main event for Season 2. But it could make for an interesting episode!
Number 20: The return of Dr Crusher (or another major character from The Next Generation era).
Dr Crusher was the only major character from The Next Generation who wasn’t confirmed to be alive in Season 1. We saw Troi and Riker, of course, and thanks to Zhaban we heard about Worf and La Forge too. But despite how close Picard and Dr Crusher were – they had even married in an alternate timeline – no mention was made of her.
The question of what became of their relationship is an open one. In the aftermath of Picard’s resignation and retirement, did Dr Crusher visit him? Were they married, or romantically involved? If so, could the wedding of Troi and Riker (that we saw in Nemesis) have been the prompt for them to revisit their relationship?
Picard was clearly single in Season 1, so if he and Dr Crusher had been romantically involved it’s clearly something that has already ended. But his new lease on life – thanks to a new body and overcoming his depression – could mean he wants to renew things or at least contact her.
Alternatively we could learn that Dr Crusher has died, or that she and Picard never got together. They could even have had a major falling-out and may not have spoken in over a decade. Such a storyline could see them coming back together, moving on from whatever caused the fight.
So that’s it. I didn’t plan to write this at first, but writing up some preliminary guesses for Discovery Season 4 was so much fun that I wanted to do the same thing for Picard Season 2 as well!
Picard Season 2 will – fingers crossed – begin filming some time soon. I wouldn’t bet on seeing it on our screens in 2021, though, just because of how much time post-production will take. So it may be a while before we see Picard, Raffi, Elnor, Rios, Dr Jurati, and Seven of Nine! But that doesn’t mean speculating and guessing about what may be coming is any less enjoyable.
These are not even theories – I want to call them guesses rather than anything else. So please, please don’t get carried away thinking that any of these are destined to happen. We all need to remember to take such theories and predictions with a pinch of salt at the best of times, and guesswork this far out when we know less than nothing about the upcoming season is almost silly! So as fun as this was to put together, let’s all try not to get too excited about anything listed above.
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 titles 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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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?
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.
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?
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?
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?
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 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”?
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.
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?
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?
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 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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”.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for the first seven episodes of Star Trek: Picard. There may also be spoilers for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise, including the second season of Star Trek: Discovery.
Nepenthe was a quieter, more emotional story than last week’s The Impossible Box, but it nevertheless gave us an absolute ton of theory-crafting material to work with! Writing this series of articles has been great fun during Star Trek: Picard’s first season – much more so than I would have expected when I first wrote my original theory post after the premiere episode.
One of the best things about Star Trek: Picard is how unexpected much of it has been. Even now, as we gear up for the final three episodes, I still have no idea where the writers will take us. The end of this journey looks set to be amazing, though, so without further ado let’s see if we can predict it!
There was one confirmed theory from last time, and for the first time, no theories were outright debunked. A number of them remain unlikely, of course, but despite some major plot developments, I don’t believe there was anything sufficiently conclusive to rule any of them out. Let’s start with the confirmed theory, then launch into the full list.
Confirmed theory: Hugh died.
When I wrote this down after the end of The Impossible Box, I said that Hugh or Elnor – or possibly both – could die as a result of their aiding Picard and Soji. And sadly for poor Hugh, I was half-right.
Jonathan Del Arco returned to the role he had played twice in The Next Generation and did an outstanding job as the liberated ex-Borg. Seeing him killed off was brutal, by far the most impactful and emotional of the three legacy characters that the series has thus far done away with.
Rizzo initially spares Hugh’s life – she felt constrained by the treaty between the Romulans and the Federation, and Hugh’s status as a Federation citizen gave him protection. However, when Hugh made clear that he and Elnor planned to overthrow the Romulans who controlled the Artifact, Rizzo was no longer bound by the treaty and killed him while battling Elnor. It remains to be seen what Elnor will do now that he’s called in Seven of Nine and the Fenris Rangers. It would have been nice to see some on-screen interaction between Hugh and Seven – and we still might, in flashback form – but I’m confident that by the end of the season he will have been avenged!
So that was the only confirmed theory. Now let’s look at the full list, beginning with those theories that Nepenthe advanced, as well as brand-new ones inspired by that episode.
Number 1: Riker will return to active duty.
While talking with Picard on the fishing dock shortly before he and Soji left Nepenthe, Riker made the comment that he’s still on “active reserve” in Starfleet. While his rank isn’t known – he could be a Captain as we saw in Nemesis, or an Admiral as we saw in the finale of The Next Generation – what is clear is that he hasn’t fully and formally retired or resigned in the way Picard had.
I’m not sure whether to consider this a theory for this season, or whether to officially name it as my first Star Trek: Picard Season 2 theory, but sooner or later I do feel that Riker is going to be back in uniform doing something to help Picard. The show’s creators have been meticulous in the way Star Trek: Picard has been planned out – not one line of dialogue or random flash of imagery on screen has been wasted. This line feels like another hint of something to come.
Number 2: There is a machine civilisation on Soji’s homeworld.
When Picard finally manages to convince Soji to tell him what she told Narek, there’s some discussion around the table as to what the implications are. When Kestra found out what planet Soji is believed to be from, she refers to it as her “homeworld”. There is of course an individual nature to the term, as we’ve seen people throughout the Star Trek franchise discuss their planets of origin. But there’s also a second dimension to the concept of a “homeworld” in that a species or a civilisation can also be described as having one.
Riker and Troi also brought up the possibility that there may be other synthetic life forms living there in that same sequence, and in addition we know that Rizzo and Narek’s mission was to find Soji’s homeworld to go there and destroy the lab and “all” of the other synthetics living there. If Rizzo and Narek believe that there are more, I think we need to give credence to the possibility that there are hundreds, thousands, or perhaps even millions of synths living there.
It may have taken years for Bruce Maddox to make one android, but when he had created his first fully-operational synth, he could have used that synth to help him make more, and then those could have made even more – increasing the population of synths exponentially. While we may have expected to see a few more androids based on what Narek and Rizzo had said, I feel like now we need to consider the possibility that there could be an entire civilisation – and if they’re anything like Soji and Dahj they may not be aware of their true nature.
There has always been a genocidal element to Rizzo in particular, as she talks about wiping out all synths, but could the broader purpose of the Commodore Oh-Zhat Vash conspiracy be the genocide of this synthetic civilisation?
Number 3: The Control AI from Star Trek: Discovery is involved.
While I had felt ever since the announcement of Star Trek: Picard that the creators would want to tie the new show to the other Star Trek project currently in production, the Control AI being involved had, until Nepenthe, felt like a bit of an “out there” theory. I had mentioned it for the last few weeks, since Absolute Candor aired, as one possible solution to my broader theory of the Romulans’ fear of AI being tied to something that went wrong in their own past.
However, in Nepenthe we got our best evidence yet for the involvement of Control – and that’s why this theory finally warrants its own full ranking on this list.
When Dr Jurati is first recruited into the Commodore Oh-Zhat Vash conspiracy, she’s shown a vision of an apocalyptic future in a mind-meld with the Vulcan officer. At least two of the brief images shown on screen were lifted directly from Star Trek: Discovery’s second season – when Michael Burnham and Spock received a similar vision from the Red Angel.
In my review of Nepenthe, I conceded the point that there could be production reasons for this, and noted that previous iterations of Star Trek have reused, for example, the same sequence of a Klingon ship being destroyed on several occasions. However, the big difference is that reused models and effects in Star Trek’s past were all physical things that had to be built, painted, blown up, etc – and all of that costs a lot of money. By contrast, CGI is relatively inexpensive nowadays, and if the desire was to put together a jumble of incredibly short images showing this kind of apocalypse, they could have very easily and inexpensively made two new images to replace those lifted from Discovery – or simply not included them at all.
Thematically, Star Trek: Picard and Star Trek: Discovery’s second season have touched on very similar issues as it pertains to rogue/out-of-control AI. And that makes a lot of sense – it’s a timely and interesting topic as we in the modern day rely increasingly on technology. But I think there’s more to it than just similar themes. I don’t know exactly how Control will fit into Star Trek: Picard’s story yet, but it looks increasingly likely that it will.
Perhaps the Romulans were involved in AI research and development at the same time as Section 31 built Control; a kind of mid-23rd Century AI arms race. We know Control went rogue, so perhaps the Romulan AI did too. Perhaps it was hacked by Control, or it’s even possible that the Romulans were directly attacked by Control as it tried to locate the USS Discovery.
Number 4: The Romulans experimented with synthetic life in the past, with disastrous consequences.
We looked at one possibility for this above, as the Control storyline from Discovery’s second season may have just come into play. But there are other possibilities when it comes to the Romulans’ past that could have led them down the path of hatred and fear of synthetic life.
4 A: The Romulans are responsible for the creation of the Borg.
Even considering the Zhat Vash’s dislike of synthetic life, Rizzo treated the xBs with utter contempt in Nepenthe, and Hugh has said that they’re the “most hated people in the galaxy”. That’s despite the fact that they are not permitted to leave the Artifact – so most of that hatred must be coming from the Romulans, who control it.
The biggest indications that lead to this theory are that the Romulans seem to know a lot about the Borg – how to de-assimilate large numbers of people, how to capture a cube intact, and what to do with their components once they’re removed. There’s also the fact that the timeline can be made to fit with established Romulan and Borg histories, and the production-side fact that Discovery abandoned its own potential Borg origin story with the Control AI mentioned above.
4 B: There’s an inherent flaw in synthetic life – or a problem with the way organics treat synthetics – that will always lead to rebellion.
If the answers to why the synths went rogue on Mars, why the Zhat Vash hate synths, and what happened to the Romulans in the past boils down to some version of “because that’s what AIs always do”, I think that could be quite a let-down and an unsatisfactory answer. However, it is clearly the belief of the Zhat Vash that the images shown in the mind-meld represent a genuine threat, and if they had experimented with synthetic life in the past, only to face a rebellion, they may have come to the conclusion that all synths eventually rebel.
Rizzo, when interrogating Hugh, said that letting Soji escape had doomed “a trillion souls” across the galaxy. It’s unclear why she believes this, but it seems that the answer may lie in the past. Ramdha, the Romulan xB who interacted with Soji, is an expert in history and folklore, and she claimed to recognise Soji as a figure from Romulan folklore. Rizzo and Narek picked up on that and seem to take Ramdha’s words as the truth. Star Trek has never really been interested in something as fantastical or magical as prophecy, but there could be a time travel element involved.
Number 5: Picard’s decision to tell everyone their enemy is the Tal Shiar, and not the Zhat Vash, will become a problem.
Nepenthe saw the return of the name “Zhat Vash” for the first time since Picard left Earth. We talked last time about how, from a narrative point of view, the overlapping terms “Tal Shiar” and “Zhat Vash” could be confusing, especially for casual viewers, but from an in-universe point of view I have been wondering how this revelation could affect Picard and his new crew.
Elnor seemed to me the most likely person among La Sirena’s crew to be aware of the existence of the Zhat Vash. Rizzo confirmed in Nepenthe that the Zhat Vash and Elnor’s Qowat Milat are aware of each other, but Elnor didn’t react at all to learning who he was fighting. It’s possible, however, that he may be upset with Picard if and when he learns Picard knew about the Zhat Vash’s involvement and just didn’t tell him.
There is a key difference between the Tal Shiar and Zhat Vash which I think does reframe the fight somewhat. The Tal Shiar are a known quantity in the sense that most of the characters know they exist and some, like Raffi for example, may have techniques for handling them and their technology. The Zhat Vash are at the core of the conspiracy, however, and their goals are clearly different to those of the Tal Shiar. While the Tal Shiar, as a secret police and intelligence agency, have a fairly broad remit over Romulans and in their dealings with the Federation and others, the Zhat Vash are kind of like a Romulan Section 31 insofar as they’re a black ops/off-the-books operation. Being prepared for a fight with the Tal Shiar is one thing, but the Zhat Vash are a trickier and more devious opponent, and I fear that Picard’s decision not to share what he knows of them with his new crew could come back to bite them when they finally come up against them – perhaps as early as the next episode.
Number 6: Narek is going to go rogue.
After learning what he wanted to know from Soji, Narek tried to kill her. He alerted the Artifact’s guards to her, and were it not for Picard and Hugh’s intervention, they would have succeeded in cornering and probably killing her. And in Nepenthe, Narek jumps aboard a one-person starship to follow La Sirena to Soji’s location.
So why, despite all of this, do I still feel like he will turn on his allies?
It’s a cliché, but the answer comes down to this: love. Harming Soji broke Narek’s heart in The Impossible Box, and we spent several episodes watching him get closer and closer to her – at one point even confessing his love for her. He shared his true name with her in the meditation room, something Romulans only do for those they love.
Soji’s escape has given Narek a second chance, and crucially, it’s also given him time to process his feelings for her after his intense work on the Artifact. As Picard and his crew begin to unravel the Commodore Oh-Zhat Vash conspiracy, it’s possible that they will learn a way to prevent whatever apocalypse Narek believes Soji may trigger – and in that instant he will have no reason to fight them any more. He may even prove a valuable ally, helping Picard and Soji stop the Zhat Vash.
He will have to pick up La Sirena’s trail again first, though.
Number 7: Commodore Oh is a synth.
There would be a delicious irony in learning that one of the main instigators of the crusade against synthetic life is, in fact, a synth herself. But that’s just something that would be an interesting story point – there’s no evidence for it, right?
Well, one of the key things that we know about Soji and Dahj is that they not only believe themselves to be human, but they appear fully human on scans. There’s no reason why there couldn’t be an anatomically Vulcan synth too; if they can be made to seem human they can be made to seem Vulcan. Commodore Oh knows a lot about synths and is a key member of the conspiracy – but what if she’s there to undermine it from within, or worse, to trigger the apocalyptic event that the Zhat Vash prophecy/history has them so terrified of?
This kind of double-double-cross would be amazing if done right, and would be one explanation for how Star Trek: Picard can get from a place where synths are banned and Soji is in danger to repealing the ban – by exposing it all as a hoax and a conspiracy designed to trigger the very thing it was supposed to prevent.
Number 8: With Maddox’s lab having already been destroyed, could the other synths already be dead?
At the beginning of Stardust City Rag, in a sequence taking place two weeks before the main story of the episode, Maddox travels to Bjayzl’s club on Freecloud. He’s a broken and desperate man, and he tells her that the “Tal Shiar” destroyed his lab. It certainly seems as though enough time had passed between the destruction of the lab and The Impossible Box and Nepenthe for Rizzo and Narek aboard the Artifact to have learnt about it – yet their desperate pursuing of Soji would suggest that, if they are aware of it, they still need to kill her.
I mentioned the prospect of a machine civilisation above, a result of Maddox’s synths essentially building more copies and new versions of themselves resulting in exponential growth on Soji’s homeworld. It’s possible, however, that all of those synths are dead as a result of the attack.
I really, really hope that somehow the attack on his lab is properly explained. Because if it isn’t, it does open a significant plot hole in Star Trek: Picard. With the show having been so well-constructed thus far, I’d hate to see its story sullied by something like this.
Number 9: The Romulans and/or the Borg have encountered another Soji-type android in the past.
This stemmed from Ramdha recognising Soji. She referred to her as Seb-Cheneb, the name of a figure from Romulan folklore meaning “the destroyer”. This person was connected to a day called Ganmadan, which means “the annihilation”. But all of these events, if they are real and not mythical, have to have occurred in the past for Ramdha to know about them and connect Soji to them.
Dahj and Soji have been described as appearing so identical that they’re “more than twins”, and if their design were rolled out on a wider scale for other synthetics, it’s possible that the Romulans or the Borg may have encountered a Soji-type android in the past. However, given that the Artifact has been disabled for well over a decade, and that Ramdha seemed to be referencing events in the distant past as an historian or anthropologist, the only way to make this fit with the established timeline of the series would be some kind of time travel.
In Nepenthe, when Soji talks to Picard, Riker, Troi, and Kestra about her homeworld, Troi seems to indicate that there may well be other synths living there. Indeed, the main motivation for Picard and Soji to travel there from this point onward in the series is to save the lives of other synths who are now the target of the Zhat Vash. It’s at least plausible that some of the other synths on Soji’s homeworld share her appearance, even if none of them had ever met a Romulan or a Borg.
Number 10: Dr Jurati stuck around after killing Maddox because her mission was incomplete.
We now know that part of Dr Jurati’s mission was to be a homing beacon, allowing the Zhat Vash – and presumably Commodore Oh as well – to track Picard’s whereabouts while he was off on his jaunt to find Maddox and Soji. And that part of her mission was not complete – when Soji escaped, it was only through Dr Jurati that the Commodore Oh-Zhat Vash conspiracy had any hope of tracking her down to kill her.
However, this may not have been her only objective. We didn’t see everything Commodore Oh told her, though that may be revealed in future episodes, but it’s possible, and I’d even wager that it’s likely that killing Soji was something she was supposed to do if necessary. Narek and Rizzo were supposed to have killed Soji, but Commodore Oh knew that Picard was hoping to track her down so it makes sense that she would have used Dr Jurati as a contingency plan. After dispensing with Maddox, she was to remain undercover and, if necessary, kill Soji.
Dr Jurati couldn’t cope with what she’d done to Maddox and that her presence was putting her new friends in danger. Overwhelmed by guilt, and in a moment of absolute desperation with what she felt were no other options, she tried to take her own life. There will be consequences for her, assuming she survives. One of which is surely that her crime will be exposed. It will be up to Picard and the others what to do with her, because despite her suicide attempt I’m not convinced that she has abandoned her beliefs about synthetic life.
Number 11: Starfleet and the Zhat Vash are working together.
While we didn’t get absolute confirmation of this theory this week, there were some more hints at it. The biggest one for me was that we saw more of Commodore Oh in her conversation with Dr Jurati, and we now know she is capable of mind-melding, making her much more likely to be a Vulcan than a Romulan. The Romulans and Vulcans are essentially the same race, and thus in theory there’s no reason why a Romulan couldn’t perform a mind-meld, but we’ve never seen it happen before, so I feel this is a strong hint that Commodore Oh is a Vulcan and not a Romulan agent.
Assuming that she is a Vulcan, and is thus a career Starfleet officer who worked her way up to become head of Starfleet security on Earth, it seems unlikely that she’d be the only Starfleet officer involved in the conspiracy. All we know for sure is that Admiral Clancy, the commander-in-chief of Starfleet, is not involved. But almost anyone else could be, especially given that all Commodore Oh seems to need to do to recruit someone is mind-meld with them. She could have thousands of officers on her side by now.
Riker suggested Picard call Starfleet for help in Nepenthe, and while this seems on the surface like a good idea given that Picard is in well over his head, all it did for me was highlight that Picard cannot actually trust Starfleet – or rather that he doesn’t know who within Starfleet he could trust. Admiral Clancy, despite the angry way she turned down his request to be reenlisted, may be his best option, but even then, contacting her and sharing any information would almost certainly tip off Commodore Oh.
So those are all of the theories that were either new or saw movement in Nepenthe this week. As I’ve done for the past few weeks, I’ll include my remaining theories here as well – that way it keeps everything together. So let’s briefly recap the remaining theories that Nepenthe didn’t debunk or confirm.
Number 12: The Romulans are keeping the ex-Borg on the Artifact for a reason.
12 A: The Romulans are studying the xBs.
This is perhaps the most likely explanation. The Romulans have a powerful asset in the Artifact, and one reason it’s so valuable are the components harvested from xBs. By keeping all the xBs in one place the Romulans can better study them and learn about how they behave and, perhaps, how more of their valuable tech can be extracted.
12 B: The Romulans are trying to keep the xBs safe.
Based on what happened to Icheb in Stardust City Rag, the galaxy is not a safe place for xBs to roam around. It may simply be a kind of altruism on the Romulans’ part – keeping them locked up “for their own good”.
12 C: The Romulans want to keep their involvement with the Borg’s creation a secret.
If the Romulans, as mentioned above, created an AI in the past that eventually evolved into what we know of today as the Borg, they would naturally want to keep that little detail under wraps! By carefully controlling what Borg technology is released, and restricting who can study the xBs and for what reason, they can keep their dirty little secret – if indeed that is their secret.
12 D: The Romulans are trying to control the trade in Borg technology and components.
Ex-Borg are rare in Star Trek – with Hugh and Icheb dead, we only know of Seven of Nine and Picard as xBs not on board the Artifact. By keeping them all in one place, and extracting as many of their components and as much technology as possible over a long period of time, the Romulans absolutely dominate the trade in Borg parts. Whether this trade is a huge money-earner, or whether almost all of the parts are actually kept by the Zhat Vash for study, doesn’t really matter. As long as the Romulans control the supply of components, they’re in charge.
Number 13: Borg technology was used to create Soji and Dahj. The trade in Borg components may have one main buyer – and that buyer could be Maddox and his team.
There’s a huge jump between F8, the android seen in flashbacks in earlier episodes, who was much less lifelike than Data had been, and Soji and Dahj, despite the fact that Soji and Dahj were activated only seven years after we saw F8 and the other Mars androids. Such a massive technological leap seems implausible, but one way it could have happened would be if Borg technology were used.
If this is the case, it may be that the galactic trade in Borg parts that the Romulans dominate only had one major buyer – Maddox and his team. The other possibility is that the Zhat Vash were keeping most of the components for study and to research synthetic life.
Number 14: The “father” from Soji’s dream is someone other than Bruce Maddox.
Simply because of how the faceless figure appeared on screen, I suggested that it may not be Dr Maddox as would seem logical. Instead it may be someone else – another member of his team, perhaps, or even another synth that Maddox had built earlier than Soji and Dahj. There is shock value in the faceless man, and it’s possible that inclusion was primarily for that reason, but from an in-universe point of view it could be someone looking to conceal their identity and involvement in Soji’s creation.
Number 15: Picard is suffering from Irumodic Syndrome.
Despite several references and hints at Picard’s illness this week by both Troi and Riker, no one has yet come out and used the name “Irumodic Syndrome”, which was first mentioned in All Good Things – the finale of The Next Generation. However, it has been strongly hinted at that this is the terminal condition Picard is suffering from. This may be another theory that will have to wait until Season 2 (or possibly even Season 3 or beyond) for final confirmation.
Number 16: Soji and Dahj’s necklaces were a deliberate sign from Maddox (and/or other members of his team) to signal someone or to communicate with someone.
Subtle signals have been used for clandestine communication throughout history, and when considering Soji and Dahj’s necklaces, I have to say that this would make a certain kind of sense. By deliberately giving the girls necklaces that – to someone who had studied synthetic life – were a clear hint at their true nature, Maddox may have inadvertently painted a bulls-eye on them. It may even be how the Zhat Vash or Commodore Oh became aware of Soji and Dahj in the first place. Given the apparent danger, there must be a good reason for giving them this symbol – and it could be that the intention was to communicate with other synthetic researchers.
Number 17: The Trill doctor from Maps and Legends is going to get assimilated.
Now that Soji has left the Artifact, this one does seem less and less likely. There was just so much horror film-style foreshadowing in Maps and Legends that it felt a foregone conclusion that this character would meet an unpleasant end. However, with Elnor still aboard and trouble brewing for the xBs, it’s possible Picard and Soji may end up going back to the Artifact. It’s also possible that this character could be killed or assimilated as a result of Elnor calling in the Fenris Rangers to aid him and the xBs.
Number 18: There is some kind of Section 31 involvement.
If my theory about the Control AI pans out, this would mean that there is a Section 31 connection to Star Trek: Picard. With the new series based around the shadowy organisation having entered production, I really do feel that the creators of Star Trek would want to have some kind of reference to them in this show too.
18 A: Chris Rios worked for Section 31 aboard the USS Ibn Majid.
Part of Rios’ backstory involves his time as first officer of the USS Ibn Majid. Whatever went wrong there caused him to leave Starfleet, and as the ship was said to be “erased” from Starfleet’s records, we have to consider the possibility of Section 31 involvement.
18 B: Section 31 is responsible for the attack on Mars.
Section 31 and the Zhat Vash are not natural allies, but they may have found a common goal. The Zhat Vash wanted to stop Starfleet working on synthetic life, and Section 31 may have conceivably wanted to prevent the Federation fracturing over the decision to aid the Romulans. Hacking the synths and using them to attack Mars serves a double purpose, one which benefited Section 31. They are also the kind of ruthless organisation to happily sacrifice tens of thousands of lives in the name of their idea of the “greater good”.
Number 19: The synths who attacked Mars were hacked.
This theory has seemed increasingly likely as the series raced through its first few episodes and we got flashbacks to the attack on Mars. Raffi was convinced of this as far back as the immediate aftermath, and as Picard has told us, she has a unique talent for spotting hidden connections. F8’s eyes in the flashback sequences and his co-workers using the term “compromised” to describe him add to this. There’s also the attack itself – it was a coordinated strike which required all the synths to work together simultaneously. With their knowledge of the Federation’s defences and armed with powerful ships they could have continued their attack or chosen a different target, like Earth, if the aim was to harm the Federation or do more damage. Instead they destroyed a shipyard being used to build the Romulan rescue armada, then simply killed themselves. Could that be the hackers covering their tracks?
The Zhat Vash and Section 31 remain the most likely culprits.
Number 20: Rios’ former captain, who was killed while commanding the USS Ibn Majid, is a character from a previous iteration of Star Trek.
The death of Rios’ former captain is a major moment in his backstory. We know he respected that person as an “heroic” figure, and that his death contributed to Rios becoming the isolated and self-reliant figure that we know today. It’s at least possible that we’ll learn the identity of this captain – and it could be someone from a past Star Trek series. The only clues we have are that the person is: an officer who could have become a captain, heroic, male, and dead. We can rule out La Forge and Worf, as Zhaban mentioned their names and thus confirmed they’re still alive. We can rule out people like Bashir and Tom Paris, who both had no desire to become a captain, and O’Brien, who was not an officer and thus not eligible. When considering main characters, that leaves us with Chakotay and Harry Kim, both from Voyager, and I also suggested Edward Jellico from The Next Generation’s two-part episode Chain of Command.
Number 21: Bruce Maddox inadvertently caused the synths to attack Mars.
Unfortunately Maddox was killed before he could really say very much at all about his work or convey any information he may have had. He did suggest to Picard that there was a conspiracy behind the ban, and that finding out more about it was Soji and Dahj’s mission. However, as the head of the Federation’s synthetic research at the time of the attack on Mars, it’s possible that something Maddox did or didn’t do led to the synths either being more easily hacked or directly led to them going rogue.
So that’s it. There are now twenty-one theories kicking around as we approach the final three episodes of Season 1. I fully expect most to be debunked, and there are a couple that may not pay off until next season even if they are true. However, theory-crafting has been a lot of fun and even though these posts are getting a tad unwieldy at this point, there’s a lot to contemplate!
I’m looking forward, as always, to Friday!
The first seven 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 and all other Star Trek 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for the first five episodes of Star Trek: Picard, as well as for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.
Stardust City Rag was a great episode – definitely my favourite of the two episodes directed by Star Trek legend Jonathan Frakes this season – though I was surprised not to see Riker and Troi appear, as we saw them in the trailers before the series premiered and I had assumed that they might appear in the episodes he directed. Regardless, I had a great time with Stardust City Rag, and several new theories have emerged as a result of what we saw on screen in that episode.
There’s also one debunked theory from last time, as well as – for the first time – a theory that was confirmed on screen! Let’s look at those two first, then take a look at the new and returning theories for what may happen as we head into the second half of the season.
Debunked theory: Seven of Nine is working for Section 31.
Last week, I speculated that Seven of Nine could be working for the covert branch of Starfleet Intelligence known as Section 31. This was because of the way in which she saved Picard and the crew of La Sirena when they were under attack – her small ship was incredibly powerful, and seemed to come from nowhere.
Whether she’d been following and tracking La Sirena, and how long for, she seemed to know that it was Picard on board, addressing him by name when she beamed aboard. It seemed too coincidental, so I wondered if Seven of Nine might have a motive for following Picard and his new crew.
There’s a new Star Trek series in the works based around Section 31, so I feel certain that the organisation will feature in some form in Star Trek: Picard. But as Seven of Nine works for the Fenris Rangers, it doesn’t seem like this is the way the show’s creators will bring in Section 31. I also got the impression that this is the last time we’ll see Seven of Nine in the show – at least in any major capacity. So we can consider this one debunked.
Confirmed theory: Dr Jurati is a double-agent of some kind.
When Dr Jurati first joined the crew at the end of The End is the Beginning, Raffi seemed shocked at her inclusion – Picard had never mentioned her, and Raffi hadn’t been able to subject her to a security check, “not even the most basic!” That line set up this theory for me, and it didn’t take as long as I might’ve expected for it to pay off.
Dr Jurati had opportunities to hurt Picard if that had been her goal. In Stardust City Rag she got her best shot – when Picard and the rest of La Sirena’s crew were on Freecloud to spring Maddox from custody, she was left behind to operate the transporter. She could have simply chosen not to – trapping Picard and his small team on Freecloud up against a small army of Bjayzl’s security personnel. So her goal doesn’t seem to be killing Picard or getting him killed – if it was that simple she could have shot him with the Romulan weapon when she had it at the vineyard, clobbered him in his sleep on board La Sirena, or used her technical expertise when he visited her at Daystrom to turn a deactivated synth on him. No, her mission was to target Bruce Maddox.
She did so ruthlessly – altering the settings on his bio-bed in La Sirena’s sickbay, triggering multiple organ failure that took place almost instantaneously, and causing him what looked like a rather painful death. Doing so has completely emotionally crippled her; there was no one around for her to put on an act for, so her reaction to killing someone she had worked for, admired, cared for, and may have been romantically involved with was heart-wrenching for her.
The question that remains is why? What was so dangerous about Maddox that she couldn’t leave him alive, even signing on with the Zhat Vash-Commodore Oh conspiracy in order to kill him? What is the horrible secret that she knows? And why does she feel that her invaluable contribution to the creation of Soji and Dahj is something she needs to “atone for”?
So those are the debunked and confirmed theories as of the end of Stardust City Rag. Now let’s take a look at some new theories, as well as returning theories that this week’s episode advanced.
Number 1: The Romulans experimented with AI and synthetics in the past – with horrible consequences.
What caused Dr Jurati to murder Bruce Maddox? It has to be something truly awful – likely something she was told by Commodore Oh and the Zhat Vash. Laris told us in Maps and Legends that the Zhat Vash keep a secret “so profound and terrible, just learning it can break a person’s mind”. Overly dramatic, perhaps – as we’ve seen Romulans can be – but if the Romulans had, at some point in their history, experimented with synthetic life and AI, that could be the secret that the Zhat Vash are keeping.
In a sense, the Zhat Vash have already won. The attack on Mars led to a “galactic treaty” which banned synthetic life, shutting down all research into synthetics. Dr Jurati claimed to still be working in a “theoretical” capacity, but after what she did I think we have to consider that claim to be at least somewhat suspect.
Bruce Maddox said that his lab was destroyed by the Tal Shiar – we’ll get on to the complicated relationship between the two factions soon. For some reason, according to Laris at least, Romulans in general do not work with or research synthetic life – but why? One possible explanation lies in the past – they worked with synthetics and something went horribly wrong.
1 A: The Romulans’ hatred and fear of synthetic life is related to the Control AI from Star Trek: Discovery.
I mentioned in my review of Stardust City Rag that I saw some glimpse or echo of this storyline when Dr Jurari was watching Maddox die. And from a production point of view, I have no doubt that finding some way to tie Discovery and Picard together is something that the overall creative team behind Star Trek at the moment would love to do. This could be one way of doing that.
In thematic terms we’re there already. Both Picard and Discovery’s second season have touched on fears of out-of-control murderous AIs, and I’m sure that was not just a coincidence. If I’ve noticed it – amateur that I am – others will have too. There is a lot to say about the concept of artificial intelligence, especially as we, in the modern world, seem to be barrelling toward creating AIs without fully understanding the consequences. I explored this theme in a bit more depth in my essay titled The Borg – space zombies, and looked in particular at how it can make the Borg a truly frightening villain by playing on our own present-day fears. Scientists like Stephen Hawking have spoken out in the past about the dangers of human and super-human AIs, and it’s a theme both Discovery and Picard have used to great effect.
But could there be more to it than a thematic similarity? It’s possible that the Control AI from Discovery is a direct cause of the Romulans’ fears. This could be because they worked on their own AI around the same time – competing against the Federation in a mid-23rd Century AI arms race. Control went rogue, so perhaps the Romulan AI did too. Or it could be that Control actually attacked and “assimilated” Romulans, as we saw it do to Capt. Leland. There was a span of time before its defeat at the hands of the USS Discovery and the USS Enterprise where Control was in command of an armada of Section 31 ships, and could have crossed over into Romulan space – we just didn’t see any of that on screen.
1 B: The Romulans’ AI experiments directly led to the creation of the Borg.
The question of how and why the Romulans were able to capture the Artifact while keeping it intact is interesting – do they know more about the Borg than they let on? If they do, could it be because they are responsible for the Borg’s creation?
What kind of secret could, even metaphorically, “break a person’s mind”? I can’t think of many, but one that could might be the knowledge that your ancestors created the galaxy’s deadliest threat. I’ve written before that the Control AI storyline mentioned above seemed like it was designed to be a Borg origin story – but for some reason that aspect of it was cut out, leaving behind all of the pieces of the puzzle. There is a production-side reason that might account for it – while Discovery Season 2 was already in production, the creators of Picard came up with their own Borg origin story. Well, you can’t have two origins for the Borg, so a choice had to be made. And higher-ups at ViacomCBS and Secret Hideout picked the Zhat Vash and Picard rather than Control and Discovery. It’s a long-shot, perhaps even verging into conspiracy theory territory, but it makes sense.
The in-universe timeline for how this could work would fit, too. The Romulans left Vulcan around the 3rd or 4th Century AD – so they were capable of interstellar flight by that time. The Borg were known to be in control of “a handful” of systems in the Delta Quadrant around a millennium later according to the Voyager episode Dragon’s Teeth. So there is time for the Romulans to have messed up their AI research, accidentally created the Borg, and for the Borg to have left or been cast out, establishing themselves on the far side of the galaxy.
It could also explain something else – why the Romulans are dissecting all the Borg they can get their hands on and examining their components, despite seemingly being fearful of synthetic life.
1 C: There’s an inherent flaw in all synthetic life – or in the way organics treat synthetic life – that will always lead to rebellion.
The Mass Effect trilogy of video games gave us a great example of this concept. The villain in that story was a race of synthetic beings called the Reapers. They would emerge in the galaxy every time a technological civilisation emerged to “harvest” them; preserving the DNA and essence of organic life in a synthetic form. Their reasoning for doing so was that eventually all organics will create synthetics – and those synthetics will always rise up and destroy them.
The question of why the synths attacked Mars is still very much open. It’s possible that it was the opening act in what was intended to be a synthetic rebellion – synths all over the Federation rising up and overthrowing their organic masters. We don’t know at this stage how many synths there were active in the Federation, but there may have been more than just those on Mars. Voyager touched on this theme in the two-part episode Flesh and Blood, which sees holograms rise up against their Hirogen hunters. And the premise of an AI rebellion is one that’s common across science fiction – often with no better explanation than “because that’s what AIs do”.
One thing that was really interesting when I re-watched The Measure of a Man from the second season of The Next Generation was how that episode tackled the idea of synthetic life being subjected to slavery. Guinan sat down with Picard and put that point to him, and it changed the whole way he approached the idea of Data having rights – if he didn’t, it would be the first step to creating a slave underclass within the Federation. Could the idea of a synth rebellion be akin to slaves rebelling against their masters? And crucially, is that what the synths were trying to do when they attacked Mars?
From the Romulans’ perspective, is a synth rebellion something that happened to them in their past? And could that explain the Zhat Vash’s militancy when dealing with synthetic life? I’ve noted before that they seem to fear synthetics as much as hate them, treating them almost with disgust at times. I wonder if that fear is borne from a rebellion in Romulus’ past, and if the series is going to end up saying that all synthetic life will ultimately rebel – if we try to treat them like slaves.
Number 2: The galactic trade in Borg components has only one buyer – and it’s related somehow to synthetics.
There seems to be a roaring trade in the galaxy in Borg components, going back at least thirteen years to the time of Icheb’s murder. But would so many factions and individuals be interested in deactivated Borg technology? You could make the case that Starfleet, as well as perhaps other large military powers, would want to know all they could about the Borg, in preparation for a future conflict. But the Borg parts from the Artifact are over a decade old, so they aren’t up-to-date and may not be as useful as they first appear.
Furthermore, the USS Voyager brought back a ton of information on the Borg when she returned from the Delta Quadrant, including maps of Borg space and future technology like armour designed specifically to defend against them, so there may be less imperative than we’d think to gain access to a Borg drone’s eyepiece or a handful of nanobots. And that’s not even accounting for the danger in holding onto such technology.
It’s possible then that there’s one primary buyer of all of these components – one faction that is collecting as many components and as much information as possible about the Borg.
The Zhat Vash could very well be that faction – looking for weapons to use in their anti-synthetic crusade, as well as anything that would give the Romulans in general an edge over the Federation and others.
It’s also possible that synthetic life – and thus the creation of Soji and Dahj – was only made possible because of this exploitation of Borg technology. Thus it could be someone like Bruce Maddox who was buying up these components – though if that is the case he may have been unaware of where they were coming from, especially when considering Icheb.
Number 3: Bruce Maddox inadvertently caused the attack on Mars.
With no mention of this before Maddox’s death, you could make the case that this theory looks less likely this week than it did last week. But there was definitely something in the way Maddox spoke to Picard toward the end of Stardust City Rag that at least hinted at this.
I think we can firmly rule out the idea that he was deliberately involved in the attack and the conspiracy – not least because Dr Jurati, who seems to be connected to Commodore Oh and thus to the Zhat Vash, murdered him. If they’d been working together, that wouldn’t make a lot of sense. And from Maddox’s perspective, as someone who has always advocated for more synthetic research and development, why he’d want to be involved in an attack that led to the ban also makes no sense.
However, it’s possible that something he did or didn’t do led to the attack – perhaps a flaw in the androids’ programming, or a backdoor that led to them being easily hacked. Maddox – like Raffi – seemed certain of a Starfleet conspiracy when he spoke with Picard, and he sent Soji and Dahj out into the galaxy specifically to find out more about what happened – could that be because he feels guilty? Not just for the lives lost on Mars, but for the prohibition of synthetic life and the forced shutdown of surviving synths?
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, the synths were described as suffering a “fatal code error” – as Maddox was the senior scientist in the Federation, could this have been his error?
Number 4: The synths who attacked Mars were hacked.
While we didn’t really get any new evidence for the hack itself this time, the trade in Borg components got me thinking about another possible culprit – if indeed we are looking at a hack of sorts.
For the last few weeks, the two biggest culprits behind the attack on Mars – and thus, hacking the synths – have been Section 31 and the Zhat Vash. Section 31 will, I’m certain, at least be mentioned before the series ends given everything going on on the production side of Star Trek, and the Zhat Vash have been set up as the show’s main antagonists.
But in my first theory post I also suggested that the Borg could be responsible for the hack – even though this doesn’t fit with their normal modus operandi. I dropped that aspect of the theory as we learned more about the Zhat Vash and their potential conspiracy with Starfleet Intelligence, but as we have learnt a little more in Stardust City Rag regarding the galactic trade in Borg components, I wonder if there could be a Borg dimension to the attack on Mars.
In short, if Bruce Maddox had used Borg components or Borg technology harvested from the Artifact or from ex-Borg in his work on the synths, it could be possible that they somehow had a dormant link to the Borg Collective – a link which could have been inadvertently activated, leading to the events on Mars.
It’s also possible that the same Borg technology was the backdoor that led someone else – like the Zhat Vash – to be able to easily hack the Mars synths.
Other pieces of evidence we’ve collected for the idea of a hack in previous episodes are: the Commodore Oh conspiracy, Raffi’s comments, 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.
Number 5: Picard’s decision to tell everyone that their enemy is the Tal Shiar – and not the Zhat Vash – will come back to haunt him.
Elnor is the most likely to be affected by the revelation that his and Picard’s opponents are the Zhat Vash. As a Romulan, and as someone who has spent his life with the secretive Qowat Milat order, he is the most likely to be aware of the Zhat Vash – and may know how to deal with them. But since Elnor was basically ignored in Stardust City Rag, we didn’t get any advancement on this angle this week.
What we did see, however, is Bruce Maddox and Bjayzl both discussing the Tal Shiar. Neither of them seemed to know about the Zhat Vash – not even Maddox, who has worked in the synthetic research field for decades. If there were a super-secret Romulan faction going around disrupting synthetic research, it’s at least plausible someone in his position would have heard of them. The fact that he doesn’t seem to know who the Zhat Vash are – especially since we can infer that they’re the ones who destroyed his lab – is remarkable.
For the crew of La Sirena, learning that Maddox is to be sold to the Tal Shiar fits with what Picard had told them – but it isn’t the full story. And I’m certain that the Zhat Vash will come back into play soon. Picard’s decision to frame the mission as one where he and the crew are opposing the Tal Shiar, without going into more detail about at least the possibility that the Zhat Vash exist, may come back to bite them.
Number 6: Rizzo and Narek have no reason to keep Soji alive any more.
Bruce Maddox’s lab was destroyed by the Tal Shiar. This happened around two weeks before the events of Stardust City Rag. We didn’t get any new scenes with Narek, Soji, or Rizzo this week, but last time Rizzo said she’d only give Narek a week to learn from Soji where she originated – so the Zhat Vash could travel there and destroy the lab, as well as any other synths they might find there.
Depending on how one interprets the timeline of the series, the destruction of Maddox’s lab may have taken place around the time we saw Rizzo and Narek have that conversation. Even if it happened a week earlier, there’s no guarantee that word of the successful destruction of the lab would have reached Narek and Rizzo so quickly.
Basically, now that Maddox’s lab has been destroyed, what purpose does Soji serve to Rizzo and Narek? The sole purpose of interrogating her gently, without causing her to “activate”, was to learn where she came from. With the lab already destroyed, Soji could be in much greater danger from Rizzo – she may well serve no useful purpose any more, meaning the agents can move into the final phase of their mission and simply kill her.
Number 7: Starfleet is conspiring with the Zhat Vash.
Commodore Oh hasn’t cropped up for several episodes now, but her influence was clearly felt this week, as Dr Jurati killed her former friend. I think we can be almost 100% certain that Dr Jurati isn’t a Romulan agent – she’s a deeply troubled and conflicted person, doing what she believed was right based on the horrible secret she knows. But we know that Commodore Oh and the Zhat Vash are working together – but whether Oh is a Romulan agent or a Vulcan co-conspirator still isn’t clear.
Raffi absolutely believes that there is a Starfleet conspiracy, though. And her unwillingness to let go of that damaged and perhaps even permanently ruined her relationship with her son. Picard told us that Raffi had a unique talent for finding connections – so the fact that she sees a connection between the Romulans and Starfleet is significant.
We also have to consider the purpose of Bruce Maddox’s murder. Was it simply to stop him building more synthetics? If so, it’s probably a vain effort. He’s already invented the technology and process, and that will be documented somewhere, meaning that even though Maddox himself is dead, someone else could continue his work just as he continued Dr Soong’s work. However, it was clearly a Zhat Vash-inspired move. If Maddox had been flouting the ban on creating new synths, the Federation would have arrested him, put him on trial, and imprisoned him. They wouldn’t have sent an undercover agent to assassinate him. Thus, Dr Jurati’s actions lend more credence to the notion that there’s a collaboration between some elements within Starfleet and the Zhat Vash. However, if Commodore Oh is in fact a Romulan agent, Dr Jurati could conceivably be the only Federation citizen involved; a victim of manipulation by the Romulans rather than one part of a wider conspiracy.
So those are all of the updated theoriesafter Stardust City Rag. In order to keep everything in one place, I’ll now briefly recap the other active theories I have for Star Trek: Picard that weren’t touched on in this week’s outing.
Number 8: There is some kind of Section 31 involvement.
This stems from the fact that Section 31 has featured prominently in Star Trek: Discovery and is set to be the subject of a new Star Trek series. Involving Section 31 in Star Trek: Picard’s story could drum up support for the new series, as well as serve as a useful point of reference for casual fans as they switch between shows.
8 A: Chris Rios used to work for Section 31.
Rios served as the first officer aboard the USS Ibn Majid. After his captain was killed (we’ll look at that in just a moment) Rios left Starfleet – but not before the Ibn Majid was “erased” from Starfleet’s records. This is definitely something a covert organisation like Section 31 would do in order to cover their tracks.
8 B: Section 31 hacked the synths and attacked Mars.
I mentioned this in my theory above, but just to recap: it looks at least plausible that the synthetics who attacked Mars were hacked and didn’t act of their own volition. Section 31 are militant in their pro-Federation outlook, and if they believed helping the Romulans was a bad idea – as they conceivably might – they could have conducted the attack as a way to stop Picard’s rescue armada.
Number 9: Chris Rios’ captain on the Ibn Majid is a character we’ve met before in another Star Trek series.
I don’t really have any evidence for this aside from a gut feeling! But Rios described his former captain as “heroic”, and there are several male Starfleet officers who could fit the bill. We can rule out people like Riker, Worf, and La Forge – they were mentioned by Zhaban in Maps and Legends so we know they are still alive. I picked Harry Kim and Chakotay as possible candidates from the past, but there are other side characters like Edward Jellico from The Next Generation who are in the running. Given that Star Trek: Picard showed with Icheb and Maddox that the writers aren’t afraid of killing off legacy characters, this theory remains in the running.
Number 10: The Trill doctor from Maps and Legends is going to get assimilated.
With no scenes taking place on the Artifact this week, we didn’t see this theory move forward in any way. And I have to admit that, as we get further and further out from the one episode in which she appeared, the likelihood of this theory panning out decreases. But there was so much horror film-esque foreshadowing that I’d be really surprised if this didn’t happen!
Number 11: Soji and Dahj’s necklaces were a deliberate symbol from Bruce Maddox to signal or communicate with someone.
Soji and Dahj’s necklaces are an interesting idea. The symbol they depict is meant to represent a particular method of creating synthetics. Yet giving them a necklace with that symbol given the ban on synthetic life is a very odd choice on Maddox’s part – anyone in the know would recognise it and it would draw unwanted attention. For all we know, it may be how Starfleet and the Zhat Vash first became aware of Soji and Dahj. So why did he do it? My theory is that it was deliberate – an attempt to signal or communicate with someone, likely another researcher or creator of synths.
Number 12: Picard’s terminal illness is Iruomodic Syndrome.
Picard is dying – that was one of the biggest revelations from the second episode of the season. Dr Benayoun – who brought him the bad news – described the collection of diseases as “syndromes”, and Picard says he knew this was a possibility. Both of these are references to the finale of The Next Generation, All Good Things, in which Picard jumps to a future timeline in which he’s suffering from a condition called Irumodic Syndrome. I suspect we’ll get confirmation of this before the season is over.
Number 13: There are other Soji and Dahj lookalikes out there. The Romulans – or the Borg – have already encountered at least one.
This stems from Ramdha claiming to recognise and know Soji in The End is the Beginning. She refers to Soji as Seb-Cheneb – a Romulan term for “the destroyer”, someone who is connected to a day called Ganmadan, which means “the annihilation”. Narek tells Rizzo that he too believes Soji to be Seb-Cheneb.
Ramdha’s character is concerned with history and folklore, so she may have encountered a Soji-type android when conducting her research. It’s also possible that she knows about Soji because she was assimilated by the Borg – and the Borg had previously encountered a Soji-type android and communicated that information to Ramdha while she was connected to the Collective.
Maddox himself only mentioned Soji and Dahj, and didn’t say he’d created any others, which may mean this one is less likely. But as we don’t know how or why Ramdha could have possibly known about Soji, nor why she and Narek believe her to be Seb-Cheneb, a figure from Romulan folklore, it remains a possibility. Could time travel be involved somehow?
Number 14: Narek is going to go rogue.
The story of a spy who falls for his target and turns on his allies to protect her isn’t new, it’s something we’ve seen before in the spy-fiction genre that has inspired the Narek-Rizzo-Soji storyline. But we’re getting hints that something like this may pan out, as Narek confessed his love for Soji and Rizzo scolded him for it.
Narek is quite taken with Soji, and with Rizzo clearly being aggressive toward him, I wonder if Soji might do something to save his life, winning his loyalty. Or whether he may simply fall for her and be inspired to turn on his allies to save her when she’s threatened.
So that’s it. Those are my current theories as we hit the halfway point! It was great to see a theory confirmed as Star Trek: Picard now begins the task of unravelling its expertly-established mysteries and story threads. I can’t wait to learn more and start crossing more theories of the list as we move into the second half of Season 1.
The first five 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.
Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for the first four episodes of Star Trek: Picard, as well as for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise, including Star Trek: Discovery Season 2.
Jonathan Frakes delivered a great episode with this week’s Absolute Candor, and as I mentioned in my review of the episode, it was the first time I felt that we were starting to turn the page from setting up mysteries and questions to exploring and beginning to unravel them. Picard has his whole crew assembled now, and we’ve finally met every main character. Absolute Candor also gave me several new theories for where the story could go next – as well as debunking two that I’d written about in previous weeks.
I’m absolutely okay when a theory turns out to not be true! Some people get overly attached to fan theories, but at the end of the day it’s the showrunners, writers, and creators who determine where a story will go. Theory-crafting is a bit of fun, allowing us to spend more time in a fictional world that we enjoy while we wait for the real story to unfold in the next instalment.
Let’s start by taking a look at the two debunked theories after Absolute Candor.
Debunked theory #1: Picard put together a new fleet after the attack on Mars to help the Romulans.
Based on the steadfast loyalty Picard has from Laris and Zhaban – the two Romulan assistants he has at the vineyard – I extrapolated that he’d done something between the rogue synths’ attack and the supernova to help the Romulans, even if it was wholly without Starfleet’s support.
There’s a gap of around four years between the destruction of the majority of his fleet on Mars and the supernova, and I speculated that Picard could have taken action in that time to put together a fleet and save as many lives as possible – winning the loyalty of Laris and Zhaban along the way. It would have also tied into the line from the first trailer about Picard having commanded “the greatest rescue armada in history”. While he did technically command the very large armada, the majority of it was destroyed before it was ever used, and far from saving 900 million Romulan lives – the goal stated in Remembrance – we only know of 250,000 Romulans who Picard and Raffi evacuated to Vashti. There may have been others taken to other destinations, but it’s a far cry short of what was intended.
I theorised that Picard could have used his contacts with factions like the Klingon Empire, Tamarians, Bajorans, or others we know he had worked with in The Next Generation – calling in all of his favours to put together a new armada.
In Absolute Candor, it’s revealed that after Picard’s resignation, he simply gave up on the rescue effort. “Because you could not save everyone, you chose to save no one” – those were the words of the Qowat Milat nun, and Picard confirms it. He never returned to Vashti after the synths’ attack, and it seems most Romulans – at least those on Vashti – regard him with contempt, both as the face of Starfleet who betrayed them and on a personal level for failing to uphold his promises.
Debunked theory #2: Soji and Dahj are human augments and not androids.
This one was always a real long-shot, so I’m not at all surprised to see it collapse! I had theorised that Soji and Dahj might not be synthetics after all, mostly because they appear to be fully human. It isn’t just a case of their outward appearance – which obviously looks very different to Data or F8 and the other synths from Mars – but that they appear fully human on scans and sensors.
Soji in particular is allowed to access the Artifact – a restricted and heavily fortified derelict Borg cube under Romulan military jurisdiction. Given what we know about the Romulans, they must have pretty good sensors and scanners, and if Soji did not register as anything other than human, they’d have been immediately alerted to her real nature.
There was also a line in The End is the Beginning that caused me to bring this theory back last week. As Picard and the others are interrogating a captured Zhat Vash attacker, he says that Soji and Dahj are “not what you think” they are. Because everyone was, at that point, absolutely convinced that Soji and Dahj were androids constructed by Bruce Maddox, what did that line mean? I interpreted it as meaning that they may not actually be synths at all.
However, in Absolute Candor we saw Rizzo and Narek interacting on board the Artifact. Rizzo refers to Soji as Narek’s “robot girlfriend”, confirming that the Zhat Vash know that she’s synthetic. There are still questions about the exact nature of Soji and Dahj – particularly how they have been able to survive unnoticed and undetected for three years, as well as whether they may be some kind of organic-synthetic hybrid – but the idea that they’re wholly non-synthetic can be firmly debunked at this stage.
So those are the debunked theories. And not for the first time, there are several new ones to replace them! Absolute Candor gave me several new ideas, as well as advancing a few others.
Number 1: Picard’s decision to tell everyone that their opponents are the Tal Shiar – and not the Zhat Vash – will come back to haunt them.
In Maps and Legends, Laris told Picard about the Zhat Vash for the first time. And Commodore Oh also used the name in that episode, feeling that Picard was getting too close to finding out about the faction. Yet in Absolute Candor, Picard tells his new crew that they’re facing off against the Tal Shiar. And crucially, he also tells this to Elnor when recruiting him for the mission.
There are suspected to be links between the Tal Shiar and the Zhat Vash. Laris described the Tal Shiar as a “mask” that the Zhat Vash wears – but Zhaban is also implied to have been a Tal Shiar operative, and he was unconvinced that they’re real, so it’s clearly not the case that the two factions are one and the same.
When it comes to Elnor in particular, knowing who his enemy is could be incredibly important – and the Qowat Milat seem likely to know something about the Zhat Vash, and may even have techniques for dealing with them. Knowing who Picard’s enemy is may have even been a factor in agreeing to join the cause – the Qowat Milat and Tal Shiar are said to be enemies. Would Elnor have joined the crew if he knew they were taking on the Zhat Vash?
Most importantly, will it come back to haunt Picard that he wasn’t up front with everyone? Does he simply not fully believe in the Zhat Vash’s existence, as they are such a secretive faction? He has, after all, only heard about them from one person – with the only other Romulan present dismissing them as a myth. Regardless of the reason, I wonder how Elnor will react if and when he learns about the Zhat Vash.
Number 2: Narek is going to go rogue.
Last time, I speculated that Narek will end up turning on the Zhat Vash out of love for, or loyalty to, Soji. The two have been getting close since we met them at the end of Remembrance, though Narek does have an agenda.
In The End is the Beginning, he told Soji that he was falling in love with her, and shortly thereafter was rebuked by Rizzo, his superior, for getting too close. She explicitly warned him not to fall in love with her. Two references to that in a single episode seemed like foreshadowing something to me!
We saw this theme developed a little during Absolute Candor. Narek tracks Soji to the medical bay where Ramdha, the Romulan who accused her of being “the destroyer”, is in stasis or undergoing treatment. They then share a drink, in which Soji seems to hint very clearly that she’s developing feelings for him. And he takes her to a deserted part of the cube where they play and share a kiss – before he pushes her too hard for information and she storms off in a huff!
Narek was also less than keen to divulge the small amount of information he’s gleamed from Soji so far when Rizzo visited him later; she had to half-choke him to get him to confess Soji could be “the destroyer”. As she threatens she will give him one week to get the rest of the information the Zhat Vash want, he looks genuinely worried.
It’s a trope we’ve seen before, especially in spy fiction which this side of Star Trek: Picard’s story is clearly borrowing from; an agent falling for his target and renouncing his loyalty to save her. And I feel that there are hints at that already in the Narek-Soji-Rizzo storyline. It could be an elaborate misdirect, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Number 3: Dr Jurati isn’t who she appears to be, and may be a double-agent.
In what was almost the final scene in The End is the Beginning, Raffi seems incredulous at Dr Jurati’s inclusion on the mission to Freecloud – saying that she hasn’t run any kind of security check on her. Because of her knowledge of synthetics, Picard considers her important to the mission – and I’m sure that on a personal level he values her company, as she’s the only person on the mission other than himself who’s genuinely invested in finding Maddox and Soji.
But what are her motivations for doing so? And should Picard trust her? I have to admit that Raffi’s line has me seeing Dr Jurati in a whole new light. And where I thought I saw an academic who was genuinely excited at the prospect of seeing her theoretical work brought to life, what we may instead be seeing is someone who has manipulated the situation to ingratiate herself with Picard. Her arrival at the vineyard mere moments after the attempted assassination of Picard, as well as her ability to use a Romulan weapon, were examples I cited in evidence for this last time, as was her insistence on signing up.
Absolute Candor, it’s fair to say, was not a Jurati-centric episode. But the one significant scene she featured in could lend some credence to this theory, depending on interpretation. During a conversation with Capt. Rios on the bridge of La Sirena, she appears bored by space travel, despite it being implied it’s either her first time in space or at least not something she does on a regular basis. Her chat with him, while it could be perceived as social awkwardness, might also be seen as probing him for information – in a deliberately disarming manner.
She also shows a keen interest in the Qowat Milat – again with the same semi-childish wonder that Alison Pill portrays so well. But again I’m left questioning her motivation for prying so much into everything going on. Is it genuine academic curiosity from someone who seldom gets to see the stars? Maybe. Is she tapping Picard and the others for information because she’s a double-agent?
If Starfleet wanted to get a spy into Picard’s group, they have all the facts they need to do so, and with Dr Jurati being Earth’s most senior researcher into synthetics, it would make sense that Picard would reach out to her – of all people – in the aftermath of what happened with Dahj.
There’s another possibility, which is that she’s being manipulated from behind the scenes, or spied on herself. Her conversation with Commodore Oh was almost entirely off-screen – could she have been threatened or manipulated in that conversation? We know she told Oh everything about Picard’s plan to track down Maddox – was that under duress or was it an operative being debriefed by her superior? Time will tell!
Number 4: There are other Soji and Dahj lookalikes out there – and the Romulans – or the Borg – have encountered at least one already.
Why did Ramdha say she recognised Soji? Was it simply confusion due to her damaged psychological state; a hangover from her assimilation? That’s possible – Hugh and others on the Artifact would certainly seem to think so. Soji isn’t convinced, though, and neither is Narek. In fact, he uses the phrase “Seb-Cheneb” – “the destroyer” – to refer to Soji, which was the accusation Ramdha levelled against her too.
That can’t be a coincidence. In Absolute Candor, Ramdha (in a holo-recording from before her assimilation) said that Seb-Cheneb was related to a day called “Ganmadan” – or “the annihilation”. The only way this day could be in the future is if we’re dealing with premonitions and time travel, but maybe it’s a reference to something in the past.
The only way Ramdha could recognise Soji is if she’d seen her before – or someone who looks identical. Picard said that Soji and Dahj are “more than twins”; they should be absolutely indistinguishable in appearance. So if the Romulans encountered a Soji-type android in the past, or if the Borg did, that could explain Ramdha’s reaction. If the Borg had encountered a Soji-type android, their knowledge of her appearance could have been conveyed to Ramdha while she was linked to the hive mind. And if the Romulans met such an android, it could be something Ramdha was familiar with through her academic work. Ramdha may have even shared a spot on the transport ship she was on with a Soji-type android – Soji knew a lot about the ship and its crew, after all, and that information has to have come from somewhere.
Narek and Rizzo know Soji’s true nature, and Narek at least is convinced that Soji is this Seb-Cheneb figure. Given that their plan is to find out from Soji the location of her creator’s base of operations or place of origin in order to go to that place and destroy other androids, the Zhat Vash seem to believe that Soji and Dahj aren’t the only two out there. So there could be more – and they could have been flitting about the galaxy for a number of years.
Number 5: Section 31 is involved with the story… somehow.
I have several Section 31 theories kicking around, so I thought I’d roll them all into one. With the organisation having featured very heavily in Discovery’s second season, and with a new Star Trek series in production based around Section 31, it would make a lot of sense from a production point of view to include them in some way in Picard too. It would be a consistent thread running through the modern-day Star Trek shows that would tie things together and give casual viewers at least a basic point of reference.
There are several ways Section 31 could crop up, in my opinion, and we’ll look at them in turn.
5 A: Section 31 hacked the synthetics and attacked Mars.
There wasn’t any new evidence regarding the Mars hack this time, but to summarise from my previous theory posts, I consider Section 31 one of two likely culprits for the atrocity, along with the Zhat Vash. They have the means, the technical ability, and the callousness to pull it off. And in addition, if any faction within the Federation would be opposed to helping the Romulans, given the history of warfare and distrust between them and the Federation, it’s Section 31. They consider themselves above such things as law and ideology, and would do anything in order to advance their cause – even killing Federation citizens.
5 B: Capt. Rios worked for Section 31 when he was aboard the Ibn Majid.
Again, no new evidence for this this week. Last time, Capt. Rios told us about his past service as the executive officer aboard the Ibn Majid. Aside from his captain being killed (which we’ll look at in a moment), the standout bit of information from this is that the ship was erased from Starfleet records. That isn’t something we’d expect to see – but it absolutely fits with Section 31’s modus operandi.
5 C: Seven of Nine is working for Section 31.
Seven of Nine had an incredibly powerful – if small – ship in Absolute Candor. It was able to disable the attacking bird-of-prey despite that ship being a lot larger and more powerful, and come to the aid of La Sirena, which on paper looked like a bigger and more powerful spacecraft.
In addition, she was able to track La Sirena while remaining hidden, and may have been tracking Picard since his earliest encounters with Dahj in Remembrance. One organisation that we know would be able to pull off a covert track-and-protect mission like that would be Section 31. Though why they’d want to protect Picard is unclear – and it wouldn’t make sense if they’re to be an antagonist.
However, Section 31 were always interested in technology and in unique individuals. As a human ex-Borg who spent a long time as part of the Collective, and who journeyed through the Delta Quadrant, Section 31 may well have wanted to have a chat with Seven of Nine after Voyager got back to Earth. Perhaps they recruited her.
Before the end of the season, with the Section 31 series on the horizon perhaps for early next year, I think we will at least hear some mention of the organisation, even if it isn’t in any of the ways listed above.
Number 6 A: The Romulans experimented with synthetics and/or AI in the past – with disastrous consequences.
Why do the Romulans fear synthetics and AI? And why do the Zhat Vash hate them with a burning passion? We saw the synths go rogue and attack Mars beginning with the Short Treks episode Children of Mars, so the idea of rogue AI is definitely a theme running through the series – one which plays on our own fears in the modern day.
The Zhat Vash have already won, essentially. A “galactic treaty” now prohibits the development of synthetic life, and while holograms seem to be exempt from that (for some reason), the Zhat Vash should be celebrating. Perhaps they see themselves as enforcers of the ban, or perhaps Starfleet turned to them when they believed Maddox was still alive and flouting the ban by continuing his work.
But the reason for their quasi-religious zeal, and for their crusade, is unknown. It doesn’t feel like altruism; like they’re trying to save the galaxy from something. It seems to be driven by a primal fear – they’re terrified of what could happen if synthetic life became commonplace. Why that is is the key question. In the past, did the Romulans try to develop some kind of synthetic that went rogue?
6 B: Could the Romulans’ experiments with synthetics and AI have been related to or stemming from the Federation’s work with Control – the AI in Discovery?
Tying Picard to Discovery is something that I’m sure the creators want to do. It’s hard, given the 150-year time gap between the two series, but one possible way to do it would be to make the Romulans’ hatred and fear of AI be related in some way to the AI storyline from Discovery’s second season.
To briefly recap, Section 31 built an AI called Control in the mid-23rd Century, and after the Klingon war ended, Starfleet began to rely heavily on Control. The increased use led Control to develop an aggressive personality, and in its quest to become fully sentient it tried to gain access to data from an ancient lifeform that was stored in Discovery’s computer. If it had been able to do so, it would have chosen to wipe out all organic life in the galaxy, resulting in a bleak, lifeless future which Michael Burnham, Spock, and Burnham’s mother saw. The only way to prevent Control gaining this information was for Burnham and Discovery to travel into the future.
It seems logical to think that, if Starfleet were working on an AI at that time, other factions may have been doing so as well, leading to a kind of AI arms race in the mid-23rd Century. Starfleet’s AI went rogue, so perhaps the Romulans’ did too, if they’d been developing one at the same time. Or perhaps Control attacked Romulan ships and colonies in the same way it attacked Starfleet, and this is what led the Romulans to adopt their anti-synthetic position.
As Picard and Discovery were in production almost at the same moment, it would make sense to think we might see some story element cross over, and this could be one such possibility. We haven’t really seen any significant Discovery references thus far, at least not that I’ve noticed. Could they be saving it for a big reveal that Control is part of why the Romulans and Zhat Vash hate synthetics?
6 C: The Romulans’ AI/synthetic life experiments led to the creation of the Borg.
One thing I’ve been wondering since the end of Discovery’s second season is why Control didn’t end up being a Borg origin story. All of the pieces were there, and right up to about two-thirds of the way through the final episode it seemed like a strong possibility. Could the reason be that Picard’s creative team stepped in while Discovery was already in production with their own Borg origin pitch, forcing the show to change tack?
Again tied into the Zhat Vash’s hatred and fear of synthetics, could it be that the reason they’re so determined to quash all synthetic life is because their own synthetic experiments culminated in the creation of the Borg? It may explain why the Romulans were able to disable a Borg cube while keeping it largely intact, a feat not even the Federation could manage. It could also explain why “all of the disordered are Romulans” – because something about Romulan physiology is present in the Borg and thus they’re affected differently and more severely when disconnected from the hive mind.
Laris says that the Zhat Vash are “far older” than the Tal Shiar. We know that the Romulans achieved interstellar spaceflight in the early years AD in our calendar, as that’s when they left Vulcan. We also know that a millennium or so later, the Borg only controlled “a handful” of systems in the Delta Quadrant, at least according to an episode of Voyager. So it’s possible, if somewhat messy, to fit it all together. Given the Borg’s unflinching nature, however, it raises questions of how the Romulans avoided total assimilation – as well as how and why the Borg ended up in the Delta Quadrant instead of somewhere closer to Romulus.
So those are all of the theories that are either new or were developed further in Absolute Candor. As I did last time, and for the sake of keeping everything in one place, I’m going to briefly recap the remaining theories I had from previous episodes that Absolute Candor neither advanced nor debunked.
Number 7: Picard is terminally ill with Irumodic Syndrome.
This disease was first mentioned in the finale of The Next Generation, which sees Picard visiting an alternate future timeline. Dr Benayoun in Maps and Legends brought Picard the bad news that he’s dying, and referred to the collection of possible diseases as “syndromes”. In Absolute Candor, Picard made reference to his declining health, saying he “may never pass this way again” when discussing the diversion to Vashti.
Number 8: Soji and Dahj’s necklaces are a deliberate symbol from their creators – designed to communicate with other synths and/or synth builders.
Setting aside my complaints about the necklace as a prop, why would Bruce Maddox give Soji and Dahj a very obvious symbol of their true nature to wear? Surely anyone in the know would recognise it – including anti-synth factions like the Zhat Vash. It’s the equivalent of painting a big bulls-eye on both of them – unless it was a deliberate, planned action to communicate with other synthetics or synth creators. Maddox may have said “look out for someone with this necklace”, and that would make it easier for others to make contact with Soji and Dahj – perhaps even to download or upload new information to them.
Number 9: The Trill doctor from Maps and Legends is going to end up assimiliated.
There seemed to be a lot of foreshadowing of this in the only episode in which this Trill doctor has appeared so far, so I would not be surprised at all if she meets an unpleasant fate on board the Artifact.
Number 10: Bruce Maddox is somehow responsible for the attack on Mars.
If this is the case it’s certainly an accident, but I suspect that something Maddox did or didn’t do led to the synths being easily hacked or reprogrammed, the result of which was the attack on Mars. This could be why he fled – not to avoid recrimination but to try to continue his work, hoping to undo some of the damage or alleviate his guilt.
Number 11: Starfleet is conspiring with the Zhat Vash.
Raffi is convinced that this is true, and that the conspiracy dates back to at least the attack on Mars. She didn’t know the Zhat Vash existed then, so she assumed it may have been the Tal Shiar or a rogue faction. But Commodore Oh is definitely working with the Zhat Vash, and though it’s possible she’s a Romulan agent herself, my money is on her being a Vulcan collaborator. Perhaps she enlisted their support to destroy the fleet because she felt helping the Romulans was a mistake, and the Zhat Vash were happy to collaborate as it would lead to the treaty prohibiting synthetic life. Or it’s possible her involvement is more recent, and she’s working with the Zhat Vash as they have the necessary experience when it comes to hunting synths.
Number 12: The captain Rios served under on the Ibn Majid is a character we’re familiar with from a past iteration of Star Trek.
I gave a few names last time for who Rios’ captain might be. This character’s death is an important part of Rios’ story, as the death, and the brutal nature of it, scarred him and drove him away from Starfleet. The two main characters I think are contenders are Harry Kim and Chakotay, both from Voyager, simply because of Kim’s desire to become a captain and Chakotay’s command experience. There are other side characters it could be, but there are so many people we’ve met that meet the criteria – a male commanding officer – that there are too many to list!
Number 13: The synths were hacked.
We’ve got a decent amount of evidence pointing to this. There’s the Commodore Oh conspiracy, Raffi’s comments, F8’s eyes in the flashbacks, the work crew with F8 describing him as “compromised”, 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. I mentioned earlier that Section 31 could be responsible, but it could very well be the Zhat Vash, who have been set up thus far as Picard’s primary antagonists, at least in this season.
So that’s it. Those are my extant theories at this point, four episodes in. It will be funny to come back to this series of posts when the series has ended and we have all the answers – I bet I got far more theories and ideas wrong than I got right! Absolute Candor was the first episode which I felt began to unravel some of the mysteries, and finding out more about Picard’s background in between Nemesis and Remembrance was both interesting and heartbreaking.
The next episode, Stardust City Rag, will be the second directed by Jonathan Frakes, and it looks like we might finally catch up with Bruce Maddox. Will he be able to help?
The fourth episode of Star Trek: Picard, titled Absolute Candor, is available to watch now on CBS All Access in the United States, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and other countries and territories. All previous episodes from Season 1 are also available to watch. 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.
Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for the first three episodes of Star Trek: Picard as well as for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.
The End is the Beginning gave me several new theories – it was a fascinating episode in that respect. There are so many mysteries that Star Trek: Picard has set up that it’s hard not to analyse every little detail and get lost in theory-crafting!
So without further ado, let’s jump into the theories. You may remember some from my previous two posts, but others are new based on what we learned this week. There was only one theory that’s almost certainly debunked, so let’s look at that first.
Debunked theory: Sentient holograms (like The Doctor from Voyager) are outlawed as part of the ban on synthetic life.
This was one of my earliest theories, beginning almost as soon as we heard of the ban on synthetic life in Remembrance. My idea was that the term “synthetic” hadn’t really been used before in Star Trek to describe androids – it’s a much more broad term, perhaps covering other forms of artificial intelligence too. And aside from androids like Data, the only other sentient AIs we’ve seen in a major way in Star Trek have been holograms.
But in The End is the Beginning, Chris Rios has several holograms aboard his ship, La Sirena. They all share his appearance, which is a bit of fun in and of itself, but the interesting conversation he had was with his ENH, or Emergency Navigational Hologram. This hologram wasn’t just interactive, it was talking to Rios like a real person would. It was clearly far more than just a computerised tool with a human appearance – it was a full AI, as close to sentience as possible.
Based on this conversation, as well as the appearance of La Sirena’s EMH, I consider this theory debunked.
So that’s the only debunked theory from The End is the Beginning. Now let’s take a look at some new ones, as well as those from earlier which are still potentially in play!
Number 1: Dahj and Soji are human augments/genetically enhanced.
I dropped this theory last week after having proposed it in my first theory post, not because it had been in any way debunked; I just felt it was a real long-shot. But one phrase from The End is the Beginning prompted me to bring it back.
When Picard, Laris, and Zhaban are questioning their Romulan captive, shortly before he ends his own life he says “she’s not what you think she is” – referring to Dahj (and also to Soji). Well, Picard is 100% convinced at this point that Dahj and Soji are androids built by Bruce Maddox. But if they aren’t, because the Romulan assassins know what they’re looking for, what could Dahj and Soji be?
In Remembrance, Dahj wasn’t just able to fight well. She could tell that she and Picard were going to come under attack minutes before the attackers appeared. They weren’t in the area for her to see out of the corner of her eye – they beamed in. That’s bordering on a telepathic premonition, and I don’t believe we’ve yet seen an android in Star Trek capable of that. In the same episode Dahj was also able to leap several dozen feet during the fight on the rooftop – again not something we’ve seen Data or other androids do. And finally, on the Artifact in The End is the Beginning, Soji seems to have a telepathtic experience too – knowing the name of the ship Ramdha was on before she was assimilated.
Could these abilities point to Dahj and Soji being genetically augmented humans? I think at this stage, as unlikely as it may seem, we can’t rule it out. For me, the biggest piece of evidence pointing to this is that Dahj and Soji must appear to be fully human on all sensor scans – because if they didn’t, Starfleet or someone else would have realised a long time ago that they aren’t. And then there’s the absolutely huge difference when comparing androids like F8 with Dahj and Soji. F8 was not a sentient machine – not even close. He was several steps behind Data from even his earliest appearances in The Next Generation. Yet somehow, Maddox has apparently managed not only to recreate Data, but to create a better, more human version of Data that can fool all sensors and security scans, in a little over a decade – without the support of any government, or many of his colleagues like Dr Jurati. Seems a bit of a stretch, doesn’t it?
Number 2: Dr Jurati isn’t who she seems to be – and could be a double-agent.
Speaking of Dr Jurati, Alison Pill has been outstanding in the role so far in Star Trek: Picard. And were it not for one comment right at the end of The End is the Beginning this theory would not exist.
As Picard and his new crew prepare to warp off to Freecloud, Raffi seems incredulous at the inclusion of Dr Jurati. “You didn’t even ask me to run any kind of security check,” she exclaims, “not even the most basic!” Dr Jurati clearly has Picard’s trust – but Raffi is right, he doesn’t really know her and her desire to go on the mission is at least a little suspect.
What do we know about her? She’s a synthetics expert who has managed to retain her job despite the ban on synthetic life, conducting theoretical experiments while not actually being allowed to build anything. If her whole field of study had been effectively outlawed fourteen years ago, why would she still be working on it? What benefit does it bring the Federation or the Daystrom Institute to conduct “theoretical” research into synthetics?
When Commodore Oh visited Daystrom in The End is the Beginning, Dr Jurati looked surprised to see her – and a little intimidated. But their conversation wasn’t seen on-screen; instead Dr Jurati only tells Picard – and us as the audience – afterwards that she confessed everything. She also says something that I’ve only ever heard really good liars say: “I’m a bad liar.”
Next, she turns up at the château at almost the same moment as the Zhat Vash attackers. She picks up a discarded Zhat Vash weapon and uses it to kill the last remaining operative before he can harm Picard. Was that a genuine attempt to save his life, or a way of ingratiating herself with him? And how did she know how to use a Romulan disruptor? Are they just point-and-shoot weapons, or do you need to have some idea of what you’re doing in order to use one?
Finally, there’s the way she insists on joining Picard on the mission. She uses her credentials and experience with synthetics, but she also seems like she won’t take “no” for an answer at this point. Could all of these things be exactly what they seem – an academic who’s excited to have the chance to finally see a real synthetic after more than a decade in the wilderness? Possibly. But could she also be a sinister double-agent waiting to pounce?
Number 3: The synthetics were hacked.
The evidence for this one keeps stacking up. We saw F8 again, and got another close-up of his eyes as he seems to be receiving new orders or some kind of transmission. I couldn’t pause every single frame, but in some frames you can see words of what looks like computer code reflected in his eyes.
Raffi also adds to this theory when she talks to Picard in The End is the Beginning. While telling Picard about her evidence for a Starfleet-Romulan conspiracy, she says that the Romulans may have aided Starfleet or been aided by Starfleet to attack Mars and destroy the fleet. Picard scoffs at this and seems to dismiss it – why, after all, would the Romulans want to destroy a fleet built to help them? But I said right from the start that a rogue Romulan faction opposed to Federation help might just have done that – and the Zhat Vash fit the bill.
Other pieces of evidence we’ve collected along the way are: the suicide of F8 (and presumably the other synths as well), which prevented anyone from analysing them to discover what happened; the work crew on Mars describing F8 as “compromised”, a word which could absolutely describe a hack; the choice of target within the Sol system; the fact that the attack was clearly a coordinated effort and not random; and the fact that we can think of at least two factions who have the means and ruthlessness to do something like this.
They are of course the Zhat Vash, who have been set up as the antagonists in Star Trek: Picard, but also the Federation’s own Section 31.
Number 4: Chris Rios worked for Section 31.
Before he quit Starfleet prior to the events of the series, Chris Rios served as the XO – executive officer or first officer – of a Starfleet vessel named the Ibn Majid. This mission scarred him, as he saw his Captain – a man he had great respect for – brutally killed.
But he describes the Ibn Majid as having been “erased” by Starfleet after the events of this mission, and that doesn’t seem like something Starfleet would do. But it absolutely is something that Section 31 would do.
Section 31 is the secretive, black-ops division of Starfleet intelligence, who run off-the-books operations in a clandestine manner. With Section 31 having recently featured in Discovery and with a new series based on the organisation in the works, it seems like the creators of Star Trek would want to fit in some reference to it here in Star Trek: Picard. Having Section 31 be in Rios’ backstory would be a way to do that without it being a huge part of the plot, and his line about the Ibn Majid at least hints at something like this.
Number 5: The captain of the Ibn Majid was a character we’re familiar with.
While we’re talking about Rios’ former captain, one theory I have is that the deceased officer is someone we’re familiar with from a previous iteration of Star Trek. This would be less likely, perhaps, if Section 31 is involved, but if they aren’t and the ship he was on was just a regular Starfleet vessel, there are several candidates for who it could be – at least in my opinion! The only clue we have to this person’s identity is that they were a captain and they were male.
Chakotay – The former Maquis and first officer of Voyager had been a Starfleet officer before he resigned to fight alongside the Maquis. Ordinarily this would preclude him having a senior role, but his time on Voyager under Janeway’s command, and the experience he gained in the Delta Quadrant, may mean he could have rejoined Starfleet officially after Voyager’s return.
Edward Jellico – Seen in the TNG two-part episode Chain of Command, this hardball captain assumed command of the Enterprise-D when Picard undertook a secretive mission in Cardassian space. He clashed with Riker and others aboard the Enterprise, but ultimately managed to outmanoeuvre the Cardassians and win Picard’s freedom.
Capt. Bateson – Played by famous actor Kelsey Grammer in an episode of The Next Generation, Captain Bateson and his crew found themselves displaced in time from their 23rd Century origins to the mid-24th Century thanks to a temporal anomaly which also ensnared the Enterprise-D.
Harry Kim – Another officer on Voyager’s long trip through the Delta Quadrant, Harry Kim set his sights on command, and would often command Voyager’s night shift in the years before they returned to the Alpha Quadrant. In an alternate timeline he’d been promoted to Captain by the early 25th Century.
Solok – The Vulcan captain from the Deep Space Nine episode Take Me Out to the Holosuite was a decorated officer during the Dominion War, and a friendly rival of Benjamin Sisko.
There are others characters it could be, if indeed Rios’ captain is someone we’ve met before, but as there are literally hundreds of male Starfleet officers who either were captains or could have become captains, there are too many to list individually! I think this is at least a possibility. However, considering Rios’ former captain was killed it would be a shame to learn it was someone important from a previous Star Trek series as it would preclude us seeing them again in future.
Number 6: Narek is going to go rogue.
In The End is the Beginning, Narek confesses to Soji that he’s “falling in love” with her. Whether this is true or merely a part of his act to get close to her, he’s almost immediately scolded by Rizzo, his superior officer, and warned not to fall for Soji. Could this be some foreshadowing?
If he does develop feelings for Soji then it makes sense to think he’d want to protect her from the Zhat Vash. He knows what they plan to do to her – interrogate her, according to Commodore Oh – but given the Zhat Vash’s apparent hatred of Soji and Dhaj, as well as their fear of them, Soji is in serious danger. Could Narek go rogue, turning on his current friends and allies, in order to save Soji from harm? If he’s seen to be failing in his mission, could she do something to save him, winning his loyalty?
Harry Treadaway has turned in some solid performances thus far in Star Trek: Picard. But it’s interesting to note he’s the only starring cast member to be on the opposite side to Picard and his crew – could that be an indication that we’re going to see him switch sides? With the exception of Mirror Lorca, whose true nature was concealed until the last minute, Star Trek has never had a villain as a main character before. And other Zhat Vash and co-conspirators, like Rizzo and Commodore Oh, are merely guest stars. Not sure how relevant this is, but it adds to the sense that we could be seeing Narek join forces with Picard and company.
Number 7: Starfleet is conspiring with the Zhat Vash.
Commodore Oh is looking less and less likely to be a Romulan agent and more like a co-conspirator. Raffi believed that the attack on Mars was a coordinated effort between a corrupt high-ranking Starfleet officer and the Romulans – though at the time she was unaware of the Zhat Vash. Picard told us that Raffi has a unique talent for seeing connections between seemingly unrelated things so she could be right!
Even if Commodore Oh isn’t a Starfleet officer, if she is truly a Romulan operative, it raises the serious question of how the Romulans were able to replace or have one of their operatives promoted to head of Starfleet security. It seems practically impossible to do without outside help.
The question is, aside from the obvious anti-synthetic crusade, what is the ultimate purpose of this conspiracy for both the Zhat Vash and Starfleet? The Zhat Vash have already won – synthetic life is banned, and the Federation and all other parties to the “galactic treaty” will crack down on synthetic research and development, as well as presumably shut down any rogue operators like Maddox who have flouted the ban. So what is the ultimate endgame? This is completely unclear.
Those are all of the new and updated theories after The End is the Beginning. But there are a few more theories, ones which this week’s episode neither advanced nor debunked. If you want a full breakdown of these, check out my last couple of theory posts, but I’ll list them here briefly.
Number 8: Picard assembled a new rescue fleet to help the Romulans after his resignation.
This stems from the steadfast loyalty of Laris and Zhaban – as well as from the line in the first trailer which says that Picard “commanded the greatest rescue armada in history”. There were around four years in between the destruction of his fleet and the Romulan supernova – plenty of time for Picard to do something to contribute to the rescue effort.
Number 9: Bruce Maddox is responsible for the attack on Mars – but it was probably an accident.
In The End is the Beginning, immediately after the attack the synths were described as having a “fatal code error”. Maddox was one of the senior people in Starfleet’s synthetic research – could this be his fault? I don’t think we’ll find out until we either meet Maddox in person or learn what happened to him.
Number 10: The Trill doctor from Maps and Legends is going to wind up assimilated.
This one feels like a horror film cliché, but I have a feeling that the Trill doctor who Soji befriended in Maps and Legends isn’t long for this world!
Number 11: Soji and Dahj’s necklaces are a symbol from Maddox – or whoever created them – to communicate with other synthetics and creators or to deliver a message.