Star Trek: Picard Season 3 theories – week 5

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-3. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Wrath of KhanThe Next GenerationDeep Space NineVoyager, and Discovery.

We’re a bit late with this week’s theory update – but the latest episode of Picard isn’t out for another couple of hours at least… so I think we got away with it! Barely!

I enjoyed Imposters, and felt that it was a great episode – one of the best that the season has had to offer so far. It was fantastic to welcome back Michelle Forbes as Ro Laren – albeit for the final time! And as the conspiracy angle really ramps up, it feels as though the story could potentially go in some very different directions. And that’s great news for our theory list!

A glimpse behind the scenes!

There are several big changes to the theory list this week – including one “zombie” theory that is coming back from the dead! We’ve also got a couple of confirmations and one debunking to get through.

And as always, that’s where we’ll start.

Confirmed theory #1:
There are changeling infiltrators aboard other vessels.

Two rogue changeling infiltrators.

This one felt obvious as the conspiracy seemed to be growing, but it was still possible that there were only one or two changelings out in the wild! The Deep Space Nine duology Homefront and Paradise Lost saw a changeling infiltrator explain to Captain Sisko that there were only four well-placed changelings… and we saw in other stories that the changelings were less about numbers and far more interested in replacing well-positioned individuals.

This time, however, we learned that there are rogue changelings throughout Starfleet to such an extent that Ro Laren described the entire organisation as being “compromised.” There were at least four changelings aboard the Intrepid – perhaps more – and I think that speaks to there being dozens, hundreds, or perhaps even thousands of changelings spread throughout Starfleet across many ships. Even the admiralty could be compromised.

Confirmed theory #2:
An unannounced character returned!

Ro Laren in Imposters.

I felt it was a solid possibility that we’d get a surprise character inclusion, especially as the crew of the Enterprise-D made a return, and so it proved in Imposters. Ro Laren, who hadn’t been seen since The Next Generation Season 7 episode Preemptive Strike, made a triumphant return to Star Trek – and to Starfleet, too!

Ro’s return isn’t the end of this theory, though, and you can expect to see it remaining on the list. There are dozens of other characters from The Next Generation era that I’d love to welcome back to Star Trek – and in a story with such a strong Deep Space Nine component, characters from that series seem like an especially good fit.

Confirmed theory #3:
Ro Laren was the “prodigal crewman.”

Picard and Ro in The Next Generation.

This was a late addendum to the theory list, as Paramount chooses not to make all of its marketing material available to viewers and fans outside of the United States. Fuck you, Paramount. You useless, “America First” dicks.

Suffice to say that Ro Laren was on my list – along with a dozen others! But she seemed to fit the bill as a “prodigal” crewman with a strong connection to Picard, so I’m claiming this one as a win!

Debunked theory:
All of the other “prodigal crewmen.”

It wasn’t Elnor…

Although I put Ro Laren on my list, she wasn’t the only character I thought seemed plausible to fill that role. I suggested characters like Sela, Thomas Riker, and Lore… and even the possibility that Picard would end up creating a brand-new character to fill this role, as has happened on more than one occasion in the series so far.

There were several characters who felt genuinely plausible – not least those played by actors who we know (or are heavily rumoured) to be involved this season. There were cases to be made for a handful of characters… and cases that I tried hard to make for a few others to round out the list!

So those theories were confirmed and debunked this week.

Now let’s jump into the main theory list, beginning with theories that are brand-new or that saw significant movement as a result of the events of Imposters.

Theory #1:
Vadic is not a changeling.

Vadic’s changeling-hand.

The inverse of this theory was originally on my list, and I called it debunked last week. But I seem to be in a minority of one in interpreting Vadic as not being a changeling, with other outlets seeming to see her changeling appendage and conversation with Floaty McFloatface as confirmation of her own changeling status.

I would like to put forward several points to support this theory!

  • First of all, Vadic’s eccentric demeanour is unlike anything we’ve seen from changelings so far in Star Trek.
  • Secondly, Vadic’s facial scars would be something that wouldn’t happen to a changeling. If they did happen, they’re something we’d expect a changeling would be able to conceal.
  • Thirdly, Vadic hasn’t been seen speaking the clicking language of her crew or the Intrepid changelings.
  • Fourth, if Vadic was a changeling, why would she need to physically cut Floaty McFloatface off her body to have a conversation? They could simply communicate via linking.
  • Fifth, Vadic seems genuinely frightened of Floaty McFloatface.

Theory #2:
Jack Crusher’s hallucinations are connected to the Borg.

Jack is troubled by hallucinations.

At this point, it seems like Jack’s hallucinatory experiences must be connected to the changelings and their conspiracy. But I would like to suggest an alternative explanation: they’re from the Borg, and the feminine voice Jack has been hearing is the Borg Queen’s voice.

There have been multiple references this season to Picard’s assimilation at the hands of the Borg, and so far there isn’t an apparent connection between these references and the changelings’ conspiracy. But why keep bringing it up if it won’t be important? I feel all but certain that there is some kind of greater Borg connection to be revealed – and Jack’s hallucinations could be the key.

Theory #2-A:
Jack Crusher has Borg nanoprobes in his body.

Borg nanoprobes in Season 2.

If I’m right, and Jack’s hallucinations are connected to the Borg, one possible explanation could see Jack having Borg nanites in his system. There are plenty of technobabble ways this could have happened – perhaps they were present from the moment of his conception; dormant nanoprobes from Picard’s body. Or maybe Jack and Beverly used Borg technology aboard their ship, or during one of their medical missions.

We wouldn’t usually associate the colour red with the Borg – and that could count against this theory. Then again, if Jack’s eyes glowed green and his visions were of green tentacles and a green door, perhaps the Borg connection would be too unsubtle!

Theory #3:
The Borg are involved.

Borg drones in First Contact.

We’ve just looked at one possible way in which the Borg could be brought into the story – via Jack Crusher. But there are plenty of other ways to connect the story to the Borg. Firstly, we have the mysterious weapon or technology stolen from Daystrom Station. This could easily be Borg tech, as we know that Starfleet has been heavily involved in researching the Borg, even deploying Borg-derived technology aboard some of their newest starships. Secondly, there could be a changeling-Borg alliance of some kind, as both factions have a vested interest in stopping the Federation.

Again, this comes back to the heavy-handed insertion of Borg stories, particularly about Picard and his assimilation. Why should a story about rogue changelings keep coming back to Locutus and the Battle of Wolf-359 if there isn’t going to be some kind of bigger connection to be made?

Theory #4:
Jack Crusher has changeling DNA… somehow.

Is this Jack’s DNA?

Jack’s story this week delved a little deeper into his hallucinatory experiences, but what was perhaps even more interesting is that we saw two physical changes in him, too. Firstly, Jack’s eyes glowed red for a split second, and secondly, Jack seemed to have a moment of incredible physical strength and fighting prowess.

Jack clearly has no idea what’s going on or why any of this is happening to him. And the question of how Jack might’ve come to have a combination of human and changeling DNA is an open one! Perhaps something happened to him while on one of his medical missions. Regardless, if I’m right then maybe the strand of DNA shown off in the closing credits will be Jack’s.

Theory #5:
Professor Moriarty is the “sophisticated AI” at Daystrom Station.

Professor Moriarty.

Based on the glimpses that we caught of Moriarty in pre-season trailers and images of Daystrom Station seen in Imposters, it seems likely that we’ll encounter Moriarty in the upcoming episode. Access to Daystrom Station is said to be controlled by a “sophisticated AI,” and that description could also apply to Moriarty himself!

Put two and two together and I think we can make the case that Moriarty is the AI, and that somehow he came to be employed as the guardian of Daystrom Station. Whether he’s in that capacity voluntarily… well, I think that’s still to be revealed!

Theory #6:
Daystrom Station is operated by Section 31… and ex-Terran Empress Georgiou will be found there.

Is this just a silly idea?

This one is definitely “out there,” at least in terms of its second part! But I think it would make for a fascinating story if it were to unfold. During Discovery’s third season, Georgiou entered the Guardian of Forever’s portal, being sent to an unknown destination and time period. What if she emerged in the late 24th Century and resumed her work with Section 31? Or perhaps Section 31 didn’t know what to do with Georgiou and placed her in some kind of stasis… aboard Daystrom Station.

Despite the two shows running alongside one another for two full seasons apiece, there hasn’t been a single solid connection between Discovery and Picard… and time’s running out to make one. The shock return of Georgiou could not only be a wonderful crossover, but could prove that there’s still a pathway to dragging the Section 31 series out of development hell.

Theory #7:
At least one more unannounced character will make an appearance!

My money’s on Morn…

It was fantastic to see Ro Laren make a return to Star Trek in Imposters. But will she be the only unannounced character to appear? I’m not so sure!

There were surprises in both of Picard’s first two seasons, so I’m not convinced that we won’t see at least one more character making a return. There have been rumours, theories, and guesses from Trekkies for months as to who may or may not be included… and all I can really say is that Ro’s surprise return has increased the likelihood of this happening.

With the changelings involved in a big way, characters from Deep Space Nine would be perfect to include – but practically anyone from The Next Generation era could show up.

Theory #8:
At least one main character will be killed.

Spock’s funeral in The Wrath of Khan.

The death of Ro Laren has shaken Picard and the crew… but it’s also shaken up this theory! The fundamental question is this: is Ro’s death a harbinger of things to come? Or is it simply a narrative device used to show how high the stakes are? I think there’s a solid case to make that Picard and the crew are in danger.

Television storytelling has changed a lot since The Next Generation premiered, and even main characters can no longer consider themselves to be safe if they wind up in dangerous situations! It would be a challenge to kill off a legacy character in a way that would be satisfying and would feel right – but it would be incredibly bold, and if such a story beat stuck the landing it could pay off a character arc that’s been running for well over three decades.

I made a list of who I thought could be in danger before the season began, and you can find it by clicking or tapping here.

So those theories are new or saw significant movement this week.

Next, as always, I’ll recap all of the other theories that are currently in play. Despite not seeing much attention in Imposters, all of these theories remain on the table as we head into the second half of the season.

Theory #9:
Vadic is a veteran of the Battle of Wolf-359.

The Battle of Wolf-359.

One thing that has confused me about the story so far is that there have been multiple Borg references, and specifically references to the events of The Best of Both Worlds. These references have come in a story about changelings and Dr Crusher’s son – a story that doesn’t have a readily apparent Borg angle.

One way in which this circle could be squared, and these references made to feel meaningful, is if Vadic was herself a veteran of the Battle of Wolf-359. This would give her an immediate connection not only to Picard, Riker, and the crew of the Enterprise-D, but also to Captain Shaw. We could learn, perhaps, that Vadic had been a low-level Starfleet officer or crewman, and that she’d left Starfleet after being traumatised by the events of the battle. She could even turn out to be one of the other survivors of the USS Constance – meaning she’d once served alongside Shaw.

Theory #10:
The rogue changelings are responsible for the mysterious anomaly seen in Season 2.

The anomaly in the Season 2 finale.

It didn’t escape my notice that the events of Season 2 were referenced – albeit incredibly briefly – by Captain Shaw in No Win Scenario. That being said, this theory still feels like somewhat of a long-shot just based on how Picard seems to have moved on from what happened last year.

In short, what I’m suggesting is that the mysterious anomaly that was a big part of the story of Season 2 will turn out to be a weapon of some kind deployed by the rogue changelings, either as part of or as a precursor to their plan to attack Starfleet and the Federation. This would explain Dr Jurati’s comment that the anomaly seemed to be artificial in nature – and it would tie up a massive loose end from last season.

Theory #11:
The rogue changelings are planning attacks on the Klingon Empire and the Romulans.

A joint Federation-Klingon task force during the Dominion War.
Image Credit: JTVFX on YouTube

It wasn’t only the Federation that opposed the Founders during the Dominion War. The Klingons, Romulans, and later a Cardassian resistance movement all played significant roles in preventing the Dominion from conquering the Alpha Quadrant – so it stands to reason that the rogue changelings would be looking to get revenge on these powers, too.

Despite having had two full seasons of Picard already – one of which had a major Romulan theme – we still don’t know much about the state of the galaxy in political terms. Are the Federation, Romulans, and Klingons on friendly terms in this era, or has the Dominion War alliance of necessity fallen apart? After the Zhat Vash plot was exposed, what happened to Federation-Romulan relations? All of these things would be interesting to explore, and the rogue changelings’ plot could lead to such a storyline. For now, though, suffice to say I suspect that the Federation may not be the only target that the rogue changelings have in mind!

Theory #12:
The rogue changelings may also be targeting the Bajorans and Cardassians.

Legate Damar led a Cardassian resistance movement against the Dominion.

These two factions played smaller roles during the Dominion War in some respects, with the Cardassians serving as Dominion allies (and members of the Dominion), and Bajor signing an official non-aggression pact with the Dominion. However, both the Bajorans and Cardassians later opposed the Dominion, and the Prophets – who are strongly aligned with Bajor – arguably turned the tide of the entire war.

If the rogue changelings are on the move, I would suspect that the Federation, Romulans, and Klingons would be their main targets as it was these powers who played the biggest and most obvious roles in the conflict. But Bajor and Cardassia may not be safe.

Again, we don’t know enough about the geopolitics of this era! Bajor may have joined the Federation, and even Cardassia could be under Federation protection. If so, that changes the dynamic.

Theory #13:
The rogue changelings are planning to cripple Starfleet.

The Enterprise-F and other Federation starships as seen in a pre-season trailer.

The precise number of ships that Starfleet has has always been a tad vague, adaptable to different stories. But I think we can safely assume that there are several hundred ships in Starfleet at any one time. Many of these, though, will be science vessels, ships of exploration, or even transport ships. The number of tactical vessels and combat-ready front-line ships is going to be a lot smaller.

With that in mind, a coordinated strike against these ships could cripple the Federation’s ability to defend itself. We already know that the rogue changeling aboard the Titan had a bomb that they used to severely damage the ship – if other rogue changeling operatives are similarly equipped, they could potentially take out Starfleet’s best and most powerful vessels in one fell swoop.

Theory #14:
Vadic backstory ideas.

We still don’t know who Vadic is.

If I’m correct and Vadic isn’t a changeling, then I have some other possible origins in play for the season’s only named villain. I wrote a list months ago, after Vadic first made her debut in pre-season marketing material, and suggested several ways that Vadic could be connected to Star Trek’s past. We looked at one such idea above – that Vadic may be a veteran of Wolf-359 and an ex-Starfleet officer or crewman, but there are a handful of others.

  • A former member of Picard’s crew, perhaps someone who was injured or left for dead while serving under his command,
  • An ex-Borg, either someone who was assimilated while serving on Picard’s crew or perhaps someone from the Artifact in Season 1,
  • An augment, potentially tied to Season 2’s Adam Soong or even Khan himself,
  • A Romulan or ally of the Romulans, with a potential tie to Sela.

Theory #15:
Vadic has put together a “rogues’ gallery” of Star Trek villains.

Vadic with two members of her crew.

I’m close to retiring this theory, to tell the truth, but until we’ve spent a bit more time with Vadic and the masked crew of the Shrike, there’s still a slim chance that it could pan out.

When we first saw Moriarty and Lore in pre-season trailers, I wondered whether they might be members of Vadic’s crew. If so, I theorised that they may just be the tip of the iceberg, and that Vadic may have allies from across The Next Generation era – particularly people who hated Picard and could conceivably want to seek revenge against him. I suggested characters like Sela, Toral, Commodore Oh, and even Thomas Riker as possible candidates.

You can see the full list by clicking or tapping here.

Theory #16:
Vadic’s crew are Jem’Hadar.

A Jem’Hadar warrior as seen in Deep Space Nine.

Another theory that may not pan out! If Vadic is a Founder, she may have brought Jem’Hadar with her, or perhaps the rogue changelings were breeding their own Jem’Hadar. The clicking language spoken by both Vadic’s crew and the changelings aboard the Intrepid could count against this theory – or be a point in its favour!

It stands to reason that, if a group of rogue changelings are making moves against the Federation, that at least some Jem’Hadar could be involved as well. I’d actually quite like to see what an updated Jem’Hadar design could look like in 2023!

Theory #17:
Captain Shaw will be killed.

Shaw in Imposters.

Now that Shaw has had his explosive moment with Picard, revealing his involvement at the Battle of Wolf-359, the end could be near for the “dipshit from Chicago.” We’ve already seen how the Titan having multiple captains on board complicates the story, and if there is to be any kind of “Seven of Nine show” as a spin-off, it makes sense that Shaw might need to be removed from the captain’s chair in order to make that happen.

There’s still a lot of potential in Shaw, and he certainly could have more to contribute to the story. However, there are other potential reasons why killing him off could be on the agenda! If the writers want the impact of killing a major character, but don’t want the controversy of killing off a legacy character, then Captain Shaw could be on the chopping block. His death could raise the stakes significantly as the story has passed its halfway point.

Theory #18:
Someone on Picard’s crew will turn out to be an imposter.

Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D in a promo photo for Season 5 of The Next Generation.

I think we can safely say that Picard, Riker, the Crushers, Captain Shaw, and Seven of Nine aren’t changelings. But that still leaves several major characters who could potentially have been replaced!

With changelings on the move, basically anyone could have been replaced, and it won’t always be easy to tell. It seems possible that someone like Geordi, Troi, or perhaps even Raffi could be replaced by changeling infiltrators before they link up with Picard and the crew of the Titan, and it may not be possible to know who to trust.

With one changeling infiltrator storyline having already played out, though, it will have to be handled carefully so as not to feel repetitive! Still, I can’t help but wonder if a changeling imposter may be a big revelation in a future episode.

Theory #19:
Not all of Raffi’s messages were from Worf.

Could someone have hacked Raffi’s comms?

As the changeling infiltration story deepens, I think it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that someone involved in the conspiracy – Vadic, perhaps – was sending messages to Raffi claiming to be her handler. These messages may have been false leads, irrelevant information, or other attempts to throw her off the trail. If so, it worked – Raffi wasn’t able to stop the attack on the Federation facility in time.

Narratively speaking, there was a good reason to keep Worf hidden until the end of Disengage: it made his last-second appearance all the more dramatic. But could there be another reason why Raffi’s messages came through in text form, read aloud by a disembodied digital voice? I wonder.

Theory #20:
The absences of characters from Seasons 1 and 2 will be explained.

Could we learn what Dr Borgati is up to?

I was pleasantly surprised to see Laris was included in the season premiere, and while she won’t have a big role in the story of the season, it was great that the story didn’t just dump her as it raced ahead. Due to her importance to the story of Season 2, Laris was perhaps the character who I felt it was most important to include in some way, and I’m glad we got to see her.

But there are still several characters from Seasons 1 and 2 who haven’t been mentioned. Elnor and Soji could easily be name-dropped; a line or two of dialogue could clear up where they are, what they’re doing, and why they can’t join Picard on his current mission. The Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid is a bit more complicated; her self-appointed role as “guardian” of the mysterious anomaly makes it a bit harder to just wave away her disappearance.

I hope we’ll get something that will acknowledge these characters’ absences. All were important in the first two seasons of the show, and simply abandoning them without any kind of goodbye was disappointing at the end of Season 2. If Season 3 could do something to rectify that, I’d appreciate it!

Theory #21:
Several members of La Sirena’s crew have joined Captain Vadic.

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

Although we’ve had it confirmed that most of the actors from Seasons 1 and 2 won’t be reprising their roles this time around, when I first saw the masked crew of the Shrike I couldn’t help but wonder… could some of these people be Picard’s friends? Could that explain why Dr Crusher warned Picard to “trust no one” and simultaneously explain their absences?

It would be a stunning revelation indeed if, when the masks are inevitably removed, Picard and the crew find themselves confronting the likes of Soji and Elnor. Maybe this one is a no-hoper because of what we’ve been told by the actors involved… but you never know!

Theory #22:
Picard and his crew will reactivate Lore and Professor Moriarty.


Although it seemed at first as though Lore and Professor Moriarty might be on Captain Vadic’s team, the final trailer for Season 3 was cut together in such a way as to suggest that it might be Picard and his crew that are responsible for re-awakening them. I have an idea as to why that might be the case (and we’ll take a look at that in a moment), but for now let’s just say that it seems possible that the story will go down this road.

Last time we saw both Lore and Professor Moriarty, neither posed a threat. Lore had been fully shut down, and Moriarty had been trapped in a holographic storage module, believing himself to be free to explore the galaxy. How either of them could come back is an open question – but they are coming back in some form!

Theory #23:
Picard and his crew need to find synthetic allies/crewmates.

Professor Moriarty.

This theory seems to have moved significantly now that we know the changelings are involved! In brief, I’d suggested that Picard and the crew might be unable to trust organics, and that could explain why they may turn to artificial life forms like Lore and Professor Moriarty to aid them. With the inclusion of the Founders in the story, that possibility feels as if it could’ve just moved one step closer.

If it’s hard or even impossible to detect a changeling infiltrator, then synthetic life-forms may be the only ones that Picard can be certain are who they say they are. That could explain why Picard and the crew might re-activate these one-time enemies. It does raise a pertinent question, though: if Picard needs help from artificial life-forms, why not ask Soji and the Coppelius synths for help?

It does seem like one heck of a coincidence that Lore and Professor Moriarty – both of whom are synthetic – are involved in this story!

Theory #24:
Vadic will be killed by her own portal-weapon.

The USS Titan and one of the portals.

This idea is a pretty simple one: as often happens to villains in stories like these, Captain Vadic will end up being killed by her own powerful weapon. We saw the portal-weapon used against the Titan in Seventeen Seconds, and I can absolutely see a pathway to Picard and the crew capturing it or gaining control of it, and turning it against Vadic.

There can be something poetic about an evil villain being destroyed by their own weapon, so I can’t help but feel that Vadic may meet her end by being spliced through one of her own portals!

Theory #25:
Odo will make an appearance – somehow.

Odo in Deep Space Nine.

I don’t know how I feel about this one. It was sweet to see Worf make reference to Odo in Seventeen Seconds – though the connection could have been clearer, especially for more casual viewers – but I’m not convinced that we need to see Odo for ourselves. The reason for that is simple: the only way we could see Odo is either by re-casting the character or recreating him through some kind of CGI process.

Star Trek has successfully re-cast many characters over the years, so I don’t really take exception to that. But the death of actor René Auberjonois is still recent and fresh in our minds, so bringing Odo back without him just feels… uncomfortable. Although Odo is well-suited to a story in which the changelings are back, I think I’d rather he didn’t appear in person on this occasion. But I wanted to acknowledge that it’s at least a plausible development for the story.

Theory #26:
Lore and/or Professor Moriarty were stolen from Daystrom Station.

The Titan at Daystrom Station as seen in an episode trailer.

I don’t think it’s been confirmed that the Daystrom Institute and Daystrom Station are one and the same, but it’s certainly implied that they’re two parts of the same organisation. The Daystrom Institute, where Dr Jurati worked prior to the events of Season 1, is involved in the development of computer technology within the Federation, and was where Dr Bruce Maddox wanted to disassemble and study Data. We saw in Season 1 that B-4 (an early Data prototype) had been disassembled and was being stored at the Daystrom Institute… and when I heard that “something” had been stolen from there, my thoughts immediately turned to Lore.

Both Lore and Professor Moriarty had been deactivated when we last saw them, and the question of how either will fit into the story of this season is still an open one. I also can’t be sure what Vadic and/or the rogue changelings would want with Lore and/or Moriarty – but given how we saw that synths could be reprogrammed in Season 1, perhaps that could be part of it? Either way, these malevolent artificial life-forms could be dangerous if they allied themselves to the rogue changelings.

Theory #27:
A spin-off series will be announced.

Alex Kurtzman is currently in charge of Star Trek over at Paramount.
Image Credit:

Sad news came out from Paramount shortly after the episode Seventeen Seconds aired: Star Trek: Discovery has been cancelled and will end after its upcoming fifth season. This moment would have been a good time to announce a new Star Trek project; something to replace Discovery in the line-up. But it didn’t happen.

With Picard also ending, and no confirmation as yet of new seasons beyond what has already been announced for any of the other shows, Star Trek’s future beyond 2024 feels as if it’s hanging in the balance.

I’d already said that this was as much a hope as a theory; I’d love Paramount to announce a new Star Trek series of any kind, but a 25th Century project that would potentially tie in with Picard would be at the top of my list. There are options: a series focusing on Seven of Nine, a revived Section 31 show, or the Starfleet Academy series that has been the subject of many rumours. But so far, nothing has been announced. With all eyes on the Star Trek franchise right now, making such an announcement before Picard comes to an end would be good timing… so watch this space, I guess!

So that’s it!

Dr Crusher performed an autopsy on a dead changeling this week…

As we enter the second half of the season, we sure do have a long and unwieldy list of theories! But that’s okay: there’s plenty of time left to see them all debunked as the story goes in a wildly unpredictable direction! I was thrilled to see Ro Laren come back this week… and sad to see her meet her end. But her death has really communicated the scale of the danger Picard and the crew are facing – and that could mean that not all of them will make it to the end of the season alive and unharmed.

As a final note: I always like to end these theory lists by saying that I do this just for fun. I enjoy writing, I enjoy Star Trek, and spending more time in this world is an escape and an enjoyable distraction for me. But for some folks, fan theories can become frustrating or unenjoyable, especially if they get very attached to a plausible-sounding theory that ultimately doesn’t pan out. I have no “insider information” and I’m not trying to claim that anything suggested above can, will, or must be part of Picard Season 3. I fully expect many of these theories to be debunked and for the season to go in wildly unpredictable directions!

Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-3 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and other countries and territories where the service is available, and on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and around the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties discussed above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Picard bonus Season 3 theory: The “Prodigal Crewman”

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-3, including the trailers, teasers, and marketing material for upcoming episodes. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Discovery.

For some utterly inexplicable reason, Paramount doesn’t make all of its marketing material available to viewers outside of the United States. Trailers, teasers, clips, posters, and even Paramount’s own press website are geo-blocked, meaning fans and viewers who aren’t American can’t access them – at least, not officially. This is just another example of Paramount’s stupid, dangerous, and obviously damaging “America First” fetish that we’ve talked about here on the website on more than one occasion in the last few years.

But we’ll have to give Paramount another stern talking-to, clearly.

Fuck you too, Paramount.

Because I don’t have access to that, I missed something potentially huge about the upcoming fifth episode of Star Trek: Picard Season 3 that was revealed in the episode’s official press release. Here’s the full blurb so you can read it for yourself:

“Caught by Starfleet and facing court martial, paranoia grows as Picard struggles to uncover whether a prodigal crewman from his past has returned as an ally – or an enemy hellbent on destroying them all.”

One part of this in particular jumped out at me: the “prodigal crewman.” Who could this character be? And more importantly: might it be someone we’ve met before; a returning legacy character?

There are quite a lot of characters who could potentially return!

I would have included this as part of my theory list if I’d spotted it in time! I don’t like going back to posts I’ve already published and adding whole paragraphs and chunks of text, so instead of doing that, I’ve decided to write this one up as a standalone theory.

The use of the word “prodigal” is very interesting here, as it could absolutely be argued to imply that we’re dealing with a character we’ve already met. A “prodigal” son or daughter is someone who returns home, so I think we’ve got a case – albeit not a watertight one – to make in favour of this character being someone we’ve already met. And you better believe that I have a few ideas for who they could be!

Prodigal Crewman #1:
Tasha Yar

Tasha Yar at her post.

Denise Crosby, who originated the role of Tasha Yar in The Next Generation’s first season, has been heavily rumoured to be involved with Picard Season 3 for months, and it’s primarily for that reason that she’s in contention here. Yar was, of course, famously killed off toward the end of The Next Generation Season 1, but that didn’t stop Crosby from making occasional returns to Star Trek – either as Tasha Yar herself or as her half-Romulan daughter Sela.

Perhaps part of what Picard will have to figure out is whether Tasha Yar survived her injuries at the hands of Armus, or whether this version of Tasha Yar might be the mother of Sela – someone detained and imprisoned for years by the Romulans. Such a storyline could even cross over with a potential Section 31 series; Tasha’s survival may have been hushed up by the shadowy black-ops organisation.

Tasha Yar was killed off early in The Next Generation’s run.

Most fans of The Next Generation would instantly assume that Tasha Yar couldn’t possibly be real – because we know that she died a long time ago. That would potentially set up a kind of double-bluff, where the show leans into the idea that Tasha Yar is a changeling… only to perhaps rip that away at the last moment and say that she’s actually for real.

A good rule in Star Trek (and fiction in general!) is that if you haven’t seen the corpse, a character may not be truly dead. But we did see Tasha’s body, we watched her die, and we even saw her friends attend her memorial service. It would be difficult, narratively speaking, to find a way around that… and I don’t think it’s something that can just be hand-waved away or ignored. So there’s a potential pitfall here, I fear.

Prodigal Crewman #2:
Sito Jaxa

Ensign Sito Jaxa.

Ensign Sito Jaxa made two appearances in The Next Generation. She debuted in the episode The First Duty, where, as a cadet at Starfleet Academy, she played a role in covering up the death of a colleague during an unsanctioned flying manoeuvre. Later she appeared in the episode Lower Decks, having been assigned to the Enterprise-D at Picard’s explicit request.

Ensign Sito was presumed to have died during a mission to aid a Cardassian spy – but her body was never recovered, so it’s possible, perhaps, that she wasn’t killed in action as we were led to believe.

Sito with Picard.

Sito definitely qualifies as a “prodigal” crewman, I think! But as a character who only made a couple of appearances, she may not be as recognisable to the audience. The story would also have to find a way to explain what happened to Sito after her disappearance in a satisfactory way, telling us how and why she disappeared and allowed her friends to assume the worst.

Even with those issues, though, I think Sito could make for a fascinating character to bring back. And as a relatively unknown character, there’s scope to tell a different kind of story unconstrained by too much prior canon.

Prodigal Crewman #3:
Dr Pulaski

Dr Kate Pulaski.

I gotta be honest: I don’t really think that Dr Pulaski is a strong contender here. But as you’ll know if you read my in-depth look at her character, I truly like Dr Pulaski, and she’s a character that I wish we’d gotten to spend more time with. Giving her an epilogue after all these years would be fantastic – even if it seems quite unlikely!

So that’s the truth of Dr Pulaski’s inclusion on this list. But I still think we can build a case for her return. First and foremost, Dr Pulaski never got a conclusive goodbye after Season 2 of The Next Generation. She simply disappeared when Dr Crusher returned at the beginning of Season 3, and while there was supposedly a mention of her over a tannoy in the background during the events of the Voyager series finale Endgame, implying that she may have worked at Starfleet Medical, I don’t think that really counts!

Dr Pulaski, ready for a trip to the holodeck!

It would be genuinely interesting to see some kind of on-screen interaction between Drs Crusher and Pulaski, as that’s something we never got during The Next Generation’s run. How would these two very different doctors react to one another, and would their styles completely clash? It could certainly be a bit of fun to see that!

Dr Pulaski also had a burgeoning friendship with Worf, and has a strained relationship with Riker as she had once been involved with his father. She’s also a character who knew Professor Moriarty, who we know is coming back soon; she was present during his creation on the holodeck. There are good reasons to want to see more of Dr Pulaski – even though I think her return on this occasion isn’t the most likely.

Prodigal Crewman #4:
Ro Laren

Ro betrayed Riker and Picard the last time we saw her.

The former Ensign Ro is someone who could be absolutely fascinating to bring back. Her defection to the Maquis at the end of The Next Generation was something that clearly stung Picard, so there’d immediately be a loss of trust between them. Ro is also a character who could tell us a great deal about relations between the Federation and the Cardassians, as well as the potential survival of some members of the Maquis.

One interesting idea that hasn’t been explored fully in Star Trek since the Dominion War is the idea that characters like Ro and even Michael Eddington were, in a roundabout way, right. They predicted Cardassian aggression years before it happened, and were willing to fight back at a time when the Federation was pursuing what amounted to a policy of appeasement; peace at any cost.

Picard with Ensign Ro at a Bajoran refugee camp.

If Ro were to return, we could see her take Picard to task for failing to recognise signs that the Cardassians would once again make offensive moves against the Federation – and hearing what Picard may have to say in defence of his actions in that era could be fascinating, particularly in light of what happened in the Dominion War.

We could also see Ro as the returning “prodigal” crewman, perhaps having suffered years of imprisonment at the hands of the Cardassians, and lamenting the loss of many of her Maquis friends. I’m sure Riker would have a thing or two to say to her, too, because the last time he saw her she was pointing a phaser at him!

Prodigal Crewman #5:

Lore as he appeared in The Next Generation.

Is Lore a “crewman” in the strict sense of the term? I’m not so sure… but he’s also the only character on this list that we know for a fact will be included in the season’s story! That alone should mean he’s in contention.

It seems to have been hinted in pre-season marketing material that Lore may have changed since we last encountered him, and that he may have become more of a friend/ally to Picard and the crew. If so, perhaps that will be what Picard figures out over the course of this upcoming episode.

Lore in the final Season 3 trailer.

Is it possible that Lore might have been “repurposed” to somehow resurrect Data? That could also give Picard a puzzle to figure out: is he dealing with the genuine resurrection of his dead friend, or is Lore once again trying to take everyone for a ride by posing as his brother? After a prominent sequence at the end of Season 1 in which Data was laid to rest, I’m not sure this is the route I’d want to see the story go down – but you never know.

I’m not really sold on Lore’s return, to tell the truth. The “evil twin” angle was a fun one on a couple of occasions during The Next Generation’s run, but with Data seemingly out of the picture, Lore’s return seems to be more to do with wanting to reunite actor Brent Spiner with his co-stars rather than for any narrative reason. And with Spiner having already appeared in both Seasons 1 and 2 of Picard… maybe that’s just not something that will turn out to have been necessary. Regardless, this feels like it could plausibly be the moment of Lore’s return.

Prodigal Crewman #6:

Season 2 promotional photo of Elnor.

I know, I know: actor Evan Evagora has stated that he isn’t coming back for Picard’s third season. However, we heard similar words from Orla Brady, who plays Laris, and she actually did appear in the season premiere. Perhaps Elnor could be back for a one-off appearance after all!

Would we call Elnor a “prodigal” crewman? And what reason might Picard have to suspect that he’s dangerous – other than the obvious changeling infiltration possibility? Also, what kind of role might Elnor have in prosecuting Picard at a potential court-martial? All of these questions would have to be answered if Elnor is indeed to return!

Cadet Elnor at the end of Season 2.

However, it would be an unexpected and fun twist in the story. We could learn that Elnor has graduated from Starfleet Academy and is now a fully-fledged Starfleet officer, perhaps serving in the security division. He could even enable Picard and Riker to escape their potential arrest, proving that he’s on their side.

Elnor’s return could also lead to a reunion with Raffi, as the two clearly had a strong bond. It must’ve been difficult for Raffi to leave Elnor behind to go undercover – especially as he’s the closest thing to family she has left after alienating and estranging herself from her ex-husband, son, and daughter-in-law. Elnor’s story, perhaps more so than any other new character, is arguably the most unfinished – and finding a genuinely good reason for his last-second resurrection at the end of Season 2 should be a priority, too.

Prodigal Crewman #7:

Sela in The Next Generation.

We mentioned Sela above when talking about Tasha Yar, but could she turn out to be the “prodigal crewman” herself? Depending on the state of Romulan-Federation relations in this era, it’s possible, I suppose, that other Romulans might follow in Elnor’s footsteps and join Starfleet – or at least work alongside Starfleet in some capacity as allies.

Sela could also emerge not as a member of the crew, but in some other role, perhaps as a fellow prisoner if Picard and Riker are placed under arrest. She could return offering to break Picard out of jail, only for Picard to have to stop to consider whether she’s doing so to help – or because she has some other nefarious goal in mind.

Picard and Sela have crossed paths before…

This would allow Denise Crosby to return but without having to, for want of a better expression, dig up Tasha Yar. Given the adversarial nature of Sela’s relationship with Picard, it would make sense why he wouldn’t know whether or not to trust her – and why he’d need to figure out whether she’s an ally or an enemy.

I definitely think that there’s scope to bring back Sela in some form this season – though whether this would be the right way to do it is still an open question!

Prodigal Crewman #8:

Vadic in Seventeen Seconds.

This one is a bit “out there,” so bear with me! I’ve had a theory that has been running for as long as we’ve known Vadic would be a part of the season’s story in which I’ve suggested that she could be a former Starfleet officer – someone who once served under Picard’s command. The inclusion of multiple connections to the Battle of Wolf-359 – including most prominently Captain Shaw’s presence at the battle that was revealed in No Win Scenario – could also be a potential origin story for Vadic: she was a Starfleet officer or enlisted crewman present at the battle.

Perhaps Vadic will return in the upcoming episode, relatively unscathed after Riker’s asteroid attack, and will reveal herself as a former crewmate of Picard’s. She may offer some tantalising piece of information pertaining to the rogue changelings and their conspiracy that Picard will need to investigate – and determining whether Vadic’s offer is genuine or a trap could be a big part of the story.

Who is Vadic?

If Vadic truly is someone who served in Starfleet, I’m not sure if this is how that revelation might come. But it feels like a possibility, at least, and now that we’re relatively certain that Vadic isn’t actually a changeling herself, but is merely working for them in some capacity, the question of her origin is once again an open one.

It would be a shocking twist in the story if Vadic essentially “turned evil” because of something that Picard did or didn’t do. She might blame him for her injuries if she once served aboard the Stargazer or Enterprise-D, or she might hold Picard accountable for her assimilation if she was captured and assimilated by the Borg, for example. There are multiple ways to tie Vadic to Picard’s past – including as a “prodigal crewman.”

Prodigal Crewman #9:
Reg Barclay

Barclay with a medical tricorder.

Barclay would be a fun and interesting character to include in Season 3, and a potential story in which he plays a role could also see him interacting with Seven of Nine. Barclay was instrumental in helping the USS Voyager communicate with Starfleet while the ship was stranded in the Delta Quadrant, so a kind of reunion between him and Seven could be a ton of fun!

Although Barclay was arguably not Picard’s favourite officer during his tenure aboard the Enterprise-D, he was always an ally – so the question of why Picard might mistrust him is an open one. As an engineer, there’s also the question of what role Barclay might play during a potential arrest and court-martial – he clearly isn’t going to be a security officer or advocate.

Barclay in Star Trek: Voyager.

Again, Barclay could be someone who shows up, seemingly out of nowhere, offering Picard and Riker a potential way out. Determining whether that offer of assistance is genuine could be what the blurb of the episode is hinting at, and it could be fun to see Picard and Riker trying to “test” Barclay to see whether he’s the genuine article.

Barclay is another character that I think could make a welcome return to Star Trek, and could link up with Picard, Geordi, Seven, and others in Picard’s third season in different and fun ways. Whether this would be the right way to do it… I’m not 100% sure. But it’s at least a possibility!

Prodigal Crewman #10:
Miles O’Brien

O’Brien in The Next Generation.

Chief O’Brien is basically the only person on this list who meets the strictest definition of “crewman!” O’Brien was never a commissioned officer, instead holding the rank of chief petty officer – a non-commissioned rank that essentially makes him a senior crewman. Could that complicated work of semantic gymnastics be a hint at the return of Chief O’Brien?

I’d absolutely love to see Miles O’Brien come back. He’d certainly have a lot to say to Worf – the two worked together for years during the Dominion War. He’s also a character with a strong connection to Picard, having served aboard the Enterprise-D before transferring to DS9.

Chief O’Brien.

O’Brien is also a great character to include in a story all about the rogue changelings. As a kind of epilogue to Deep Space Nine seems to be unfolding, bringing back other characters from that series makes a lot of sense – and if it’s someone like O’Brien that Picard hasn’t seen for a long time, it would be understandable if trust is hard to come by at first. Worf could be the point of connection here, proving to Picard that O’Brien is on their side.

I doubt that the question of “crewman” versus “officer” will ultimately matter; that was just a bit of fun. It would be great to think that we might see Chief O’Brien again, though, and that he might have a role to play in a story that brings back the changelings and makes reference to the Dominion War – a war in which he played a major role.

Prodigal Crewman #11:
Wesley Crusher

Wesley after his field commission.

Another character who would arguably fit the definition of “prodigal” is Wesley Crusher, who has been off with the Travelers for a number of years. We saw at the end of Season 2 that Wesley has settled into that role, so the question of why he might choose to make himself known to Picard at this time is unclear.

However, as the blurb hints, it could be possible that a changeling is impersonating Wesley to try to catch Picard and Dr Crusher off-guard. This imposter could be trying to get to Jack through Dr Crusher, using the image of Wesley to worm their way into the Crushers’ trust.

Wesley with Kore Soong at the end of Season 2.

Having seen Wesley at the end of last season, though, and seemingly in a pretty conclusive scene, I’m not certain that he’ll be back again so soon. There are good reasons to do it, both narratively speaking and for the fun of including another legacy character, but there are also some pretty solid counterpoints, too.

Still, Wesley would certainly fit the definition, and would be an interesting character to include. His inclusion could set up a kind of double-bluff, where we’re led to believe there’s a high likelihood of his being a changeling, only for the story to prove at the last moment that he actually is Wesley Crusher. I think a lot of fans would like to see a reunion between Wesley and Beverly – and it could be fun to see Wesley meeting his half-sibling for the first time, too!

Prodigal Crewman #12:
Thomas Riker

Thomas Riker.

Thomas Riker – a transporter-created clone of William Riker – would be an interesting character to bring back. Last we saw him, Thomas was being arrested by the Cardassians, having exposed a secret fleet that the Obsidian Order was building. This took place in the years prior to the Dominion War – so what became of him after his arrest was never seen on screen.

If Thomas survived the war, he may have been returned to the Federation, or perhaps liberated from a Cardassian prison camp during the course of the conflict. If so, perhaps he was able to rejoin Starfleet at some point.

Could this be Thomas Riker? Or did Thomas somehow replace the real Riker?

The presence of Thomas Riker could tie into the theme of an “imposter” without going down the obvious route of having another changeling hiding out in Starfleet. It could fall to Picard to figure out whether he’s sitting with the original Riker or his clone – and as the two men are indistinguishable by scans and sensors, it might only be Picard’s insight into his former number one that could find out the truth.

This could also potentially explain why we saw a clip in one of the pre-season trailers that seemed to show Riker trapped or imprisoned. If Thomas is involved, could he be working with Vadic? He was actually one of the characters I suggested could be part of her team when I put together a list back in November. You can find the full list by clicking or tapping here.

Bonus Prodigal Crewman:
Someone entirely new.

Will it be someone we’ve never met?

In Season 1, the super-synths and Zhat Vash were entirely new creations. In Season 2, Star Trek’s past likewise didn’t factor into either the mysterious anomaly or Picard’s own backstory. There have been moments in both seasons where characters from the past could have been included: multiple admirals and senior Starfleet personnel could have been replaced by the likes of Admiral Janeway, for instance, or Dr Benayoun in Season 1 could have been subbed out for someone like Dr Pulaski or Dr Bashir.

So there are good reasons to think that, once again, Picard will create an entirely new character to fill this space. Such a character could be said to have served under Picard’s command aboard the Enterprise-D, the Enterprise-E, the Stargazer, or during the Romulan rescue mission, and they could be tailor-made to fill a particular role in this new narrative.

In Season 1, the new character of Dr Benayoun was created.

I’d suggest that this reference to a “prodigal crewman” hasn’t exactly been a massive part of the marketing or promotional material for either the season as a whole or even for this episode – so if it turns out not to be relevant, I don’t think we can really accuse Paramount of getting our hopes up too much! On several occasions in recent seasons of Star Trek, there arguably have been teases that hinted at potential returning characters or factions that ultimately didn’t pan out. We could point to Tarka’s friend and Unknown Species 10-C in Discovery Season 4, the Burn in Discovery Season 3, and the super-synths in Picard Season 1 as examples of this… but this reference to a “prodigal crewman” feels minor in comparison.

In short, what I’m trying to say is this: don’t be surprised if this character turns out to be someone brand-new. Although we’ve had fun (I hope) speculating wildly about possible returning characters, a brand-new creation is at least as likely – if not more so – than anyone on this list!

So that’s it!

The Titan will rendezvous with another Starfleet vessel…

We’ve considered twelve possible characters who could be the “prodigal crewman” mentioned in the blurb for Imposters, the upcoming fifth episode of Picard Season 3. Will we look back at this list in a few days’ time and think how brilliant and insightful it was? Or will we instead think how silly it was to speculate about a bunch of characters who clearly had no role to play? Only time will tell! But even if I’m completely wrong on this, it was a bit of fun to speculate about who may or may not be coming back.

I’d be hard-pressed to pick a favourite on the list above. For production-side reasons, characters played by actors who we know to be involved in the season – like Thomas Riker or Lore – feel plausible, as do characters like Sela and Tasha Yar as Denise Crosby has been heavily rumoured to be playing a role this time. But Star Trek has kept some wonderful surprises – Wesley Crusher’s role at the end of Season 2 hadn’t been leaked or even hinted at, making it a great inclusion in the episode Farewell. What I’m saying is that a complete shock shouldn’t be entirely disregarded; it’s possible, at least, that a truly unexpected character could be about to make a return.

As a final note: I always like to end these theory posts by saying that I do this just for fun. I enjoy writing, I enjoy Star Trek, and spending more time in this world is an escape and an enjoyable distraction for me. But for some folks, fan theories can become frustrating or unenjoyable, especially if they get very attached to a plausible-sounding theory that ultimately doesn’t pan out. I have no “insider information” and I’m not trying to claim that anything suggested above can, will, or must be part of Picard Season 3.

Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-3 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and other countries and territories where the service is available, and on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and around the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties discussed above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.