Star Trek: Picard review – Season 2, Episode 8: Mercy

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Next Generation, First Contact, and Voyager.

Picard Season 2 certainly has enjoyed its episode-ending mini-cliffhangers! I think we’ve had one in every episode now, and last week’s outing, Monsters, ended with Picard and Guinan being apprehended by the FBI. This led to an episode that felt like the season’s second detour in a row, one which dedicated a lot of its runtime to a new character, his background, and a run-in with Vulcans decades in the past.

Agent Wells may yet have a larger role to play, but with only two episodes remaining in the season, it feels like there’s a heck of a lot of story to get through. Mercy made some progress to that end, but it also got bogged down in places, and I feel like the writers aren’t always aware of the time constraints that a ten-episode season has placed on them. The last thing I want, as the season reaches what should be its climax, is for there to be a repeat of the Season 1 situation. At least in that regard we can say that most of the characters and storylines are now in play… but some feel a long way from being wrapped up.

Picard in Mercy.

I didn’t dislike Mercy, though, all things considered. Unlike in Monsters, where the time spent with a comatose Picard felt padded at best, there was purpose to (most) of the story threads weaved in this week’s outing. And if you’ve been keeping up with my reviews this season, you’ll know that I’ve been saying for several episodes now that I wanted Picard to refocus its energies around the Borg Queen story: well, wish granted! Mercy spent much more time on what I consider to be the season’s more interesting story – and one that feels closer to Star Trek’s high-tech 25th Century.

One question I have that feels unexplained right now is how Dr Adam Soong finds himself with such resources at his disposal. As the episode drew to a close he spoke on the phone with someone identified as a “general,” and was able to hire a private military company to assist in the Borg Queen’s mission to capture La Sirena (something I’d been predicting she’d do for a couple of weeks!) But where has Dr Soong found the ability to do something like that?

Where did Dr Soong get the resources and connections to hire a private military company?

When we met Dr Soong in Fly Me To The Moon, he had been expelled from the scientific community, his licenses had been revoked, and he seemed to have lost everything. He still has a fancy house, so clearly he’s someone of financial means, but that shouldn’t allow him to just call up a general and buy mercenaries, no questions asked. I should’ve posed this question a couple of weeks ago when we encountered Dr Soong at the astronauts’ gala – how had he managed to buy his way onto the board of the Europa Mission when he’d been kicked out of the scientific community for his illegal and unethical research?

I doubt it’s a question that Picard has an answer for, and it’s a contrivance that we’ll probably just have to overlook. Still, given the way Dr Soong appeared during his encounter with the board and the consequences he suffered as a result of his work, it feels odd – and more than a little convenient for the sake of the story – that he’s someone with the resources and connections to be of use to both Q and the Borg Queen.

Dr Adam Soong.

One neat inclusion on this side of the story seems to explain why the people from the Confederation timeline that we saw in Penance venerate and celebrate Dr Soong so long after his death. The planetary shield that was keeping Confederation Earth on “life-support” seems to be one of Dr Soong’s most significant inventions – and we saw a smaller-scale version of this technology a couple of episodes ago. Drones that Dr Soong controlled put up a kind of shield to protect Kore from the sun – and it seems like he upscaled that technology to protect Earth from an “ecological collapse.”

The Borg Queen was able to very effectively manipulate Dr Soong, using his desire to have a legacy to leverage him to work for her. She must have something planned, though, because remember in the Confederation timeline the Borg had been wiped out. Establishing that timeline is categorically not in the Borg Queen’s interest – and indeed preventing it from happening is why she agreed to assist Picard in the first place. So Dr Soong is clearly in a lot of danger!

The Borg Queen continues to assimilate Dr Jurati.

Sticking with the Soongs, I’m really hoping that Kore has some unknown role yet to play, because right now she feels like fluff; an extraneous character who’s just here to give Isa Briones something to do in Soji’s absence. Kore may exist solely to inform aspects of Dr Soong’s character, but spending time with a fairly one-dimensional character like that doesn’t add a great deal to the story of the season overall. Her story this week continued to be incredibly repetitive, paralleling Soji and Dahj’s stories in Season 1. Kore pressed her father about her artificial origins – a genetic experiment, in this case, as opposed to being a synth – in a way that was very reminiscent of Soji learning her own backstory in the Season 1 episode The Impossible Box.

Even if characters like Kore and Agent Wells have roles to play in the next couple of episodes, I’d still argue that we probably spent too much time focusing on them this week. These are brand-new characters (albeit that one is played by a main cast member) and we just don’t have the same investment in their stories as we do in those of Picard, Raffi, Seven, Rios, and Dr Jurati. There was scope, perhaps, to cut down some of these sequences and spend more time with the main characters.

Kore Soong.

Having dedicated a lot of words to the presentation of Rios in my previous couple of reviews, I’ll try to avoid being too repetitive here. Suffice to say that Rios’ regression shows no sign of letting up, and the romantic sub-plot he’s now in with Teresa actually amplifies the sad decline in his characterisation compared with where he was at the beginning of the season. As with Kore being created to give Isa Briones something to do, I feel like the writers have invented these moments for Rios out of nowhere, dragging him backwards in terms of what could’ve been a satisfying character arc while simultaneously leaving him pretty disconnected from the rest of the story.

Think about this: when was the last time Rios said two words to Picard? Aside from a very brief conversation with Raffi when the gang infiltrated the astronauts’ gala, when was the last time he spoke to her, either? Or to anyone other than Teresa, come to that? Rios got one significant moment this week, as he identified a problem with La Sirena’s transporter that has a bearing on the stories involving Raffi, Seven, and the Borg Queen. But that moment wasn’t necessarily a “Rios” moment; it could’ve been anyone who discovered the Borg code in the system.

Rios working on La Sirena’s transporter.

As speculated in my last theory post, I wonder if Rios is being set up for an heroic death sometime before the end of the season. Skip this paragraph if you’re concerned about Season 3 spoilers, but after Paramount announced that the main cast of The Next Generation would be coming on board for Picard Season 3 in a big way, it’s not at all clear what that means for the current crop of characters. With Elnor already gone and Soji sidelined, killing off Rios and perhaps the Borg Queen in Dr Jurati’s body would only leave Seven of Nine and Raffi heading into Season 3, and that feels like it could be a more manageable number of characters for another ten-episode outing.

In short, Rios may be drawing the short straw here. His story of being detained and deported was a timely one that shone a light on America’s problem with immigration and the way migrants are handled, and as a Hispanic man, Rios clearly fit the bill for that story from the writers’ point of view. But when that story ended, Rios felt listless. Cut loose by the series and serving a pretty minor role in terms of the main story, his side-story with Teresa could be an attempt to give emotional weight to Rios’ potential death. By showing us his love for Teresa – and thus presumably her reaction to his death – Picard may be trying to score some added emotional points when the moment finally comes.

Rios with Teresa aboard La Sirena.

We learned some really interesting details about the Borg in an understated way thanks to Seven of Nine and Dr Jurati. Mercy may go on to be an important episode that future Borg stories can call back to, and as a Trekkie I’m always fascinated by the minutia of how things like Borg assimilation actually work! In the case of a normal Borg drone, they’re able to assimilate someone by forcing nanoprobes into their body. The nanoprobes bring with them the metals and materials needed to self-replicate, and it sounds as if this process has been honed by the Borg over a long period of time. The process relies on high-quality materials that the Borg must produce or refine somehow.

Without any nanoprobes of her own, or with a very limited number, the Borg Queen inhabiting Dr Jurati’s body must acquire the raw materials to construct more – and this is where the idea of taking lithium from batteries came into play in one of the series’ most disturbing sequences to date! The striking visual presentation of Dr Jurati with the wrecked cars drew on things like zombie fiction in a really tense and horrifying way.

This was an incredibly shocking way to see Dr Jurati, and it felt like it was inspired by zombie films.

I love everything about this side of the story. The concept that the Borg Queen needs to acquire resources, the way in which she’s going about it, the fact that the 21st Century doesn’t really provide her with what she needs… all of this works so incredibly well. In addition to exploring more about Borg technology and Borg assimilation, which would be fascinating in its own right, the story that’s unfolding is engrossing and exciting.

After several episodes in which this side of the story felt like an afterthought, giving it a proper moment in the spotlight felt cathartic. This is the kind of storytelling I’ve been wanting ever since Season 2 took us on this mission back in time, and while it’s come pretty late in the game and in an episode that had those other less interesting elements, I’m glad we finally got to see more from the Borg Queen.

Newly-created Borg nanoprobes.

Seven of Nine was at her best on this side of the story, showing off an emotional and vulnerable reaction to being face-to-face, once again, with the Borg. Her confrontation with the partially-assimilated Dr Jurati clearly brought back bad memories, and led to a minor conflict with Raffi – understandably so, perhaps, but I’m glad it was resolved and didn’t descend into a major relationship drama!

One of the best things that Picard has done has been to give Seven of Nine some much-needed character development, and seeing her reacting like this – in a very human, emotional way – is further evidence of that wonderful arc. I said when Seven was reintroduced in Season 1 that she’d become one of my least-favourite Voyager characters toward the end of that show’s run, and the reason for that was how boring and repetitive she was (combined, perhaps, with the fact that she was overused by the show’s writers). Seven would learn some lesson in “how to be human” one week, then forget it all by the next episode, leaving her feeling static and undeveloped. Picard has completely reworked her character in a way that feels natural; that she’s made genuine and lasting progress since the events of Voyager, now twenty-five years in her past.

Seven of Nine in Mercy.

This progression of Seven’s arc has been shown in a new light by bringing her back into conflict with the Borg. The decision to remove her Borg implants for Season 2 – including, as she noted this week, internal implants that aren’t seen – has added to this new, more human presentation. Coming face-to-face with the Borg again is already proving to be traumatic for her, bringing up awful memories that she can’t escape.

We saw this in Season 1 with Picard himself, particularly in the episode The Impossible Box when he boarded the Artifact. But rather than feeling like a redux of that story, Seven’s feels unique. The way she reacts, as someone who had been assimilated at a much younger age and who remained a member of the Borg Collective for much longer, is completely different to the very visceral reaction that Picard had. Jeri Ryan and Michelle Hurd played off one another perfectly during these sequences, processing Seven’s trauma while also trying to stay focused on the task at hand.

Raffi and Seven of Nine tracked Dr Jurati to a car park.

Speaking of trauma, Seven isn’t the only one dealing with it. Raffi is also coming to terms with Elnor’s death, and while she had been hoping that restoring the timeline might save his life, I think we got another significant hint here that that isn’t going to happen. In a flashback sequence we saw how Raffi had persuaded Elnor to remain at Starfleet Academy instead of returning to Vashti, “manipulating” him, to use her and Seven’s words. This is making her feel even more responsible for Elnor’s death.

Coming to terms with trauma can require someone to confront unpleasant truths about themselves, and while I wouldn’t say what Raffi did with Elnor was excessive or horribly manipulative, she recoginises that the way she reacted to him – and the way she treats others in her life, including Seven – can come across that way. Her desire to get the right outcome for herself can be overriding, and she knows just what to say to people to get them to do what she wants. I’m not sure what the series plans to do with this revelation, but if Raffi sticks around going into Season 3, perhaps it’ll be something she consciously tries to work on.

Raffi with Elnor in the flashback.

We got confirmation of a theory that emerged as far back as Penance: there’s something wrong with Q. Q believes that he’s dying, as evidenced by his declining powers, and although he seemed somewhat accepting of it at first, he’s clearly rattled and unsure of what’s happening to him. We have no indication right now of what might’ve caused Q’s declining health – nor how far Picard may be involved. After several episodes in which this has been teased, going all the way back to the second episode of the season, I really hope we get a proper and thorough explanation for why Q is dying (or for whatever else might be happening to him) before the story concludes.

One line from Q was particularly interesting: he told Guinan that: “the trap is immaterial; it’s the escape that counts.” To me, that feels like it embodies Q’s entire philosophy, at least insofar as his dealings with Picard are concerned. He sets puzzles not for their own sake, but to see how Picard will react and respond. He judges those reactions, as we saw throughout The Next Generation, but he also possesses a curiosity – he genuinely doesn’t know what Picard will do, and he wants to see it for himself. In that sense, Q is almost, in his own very twisted way, studying Picard and humanity.

Guinan and Q talked in the FBI office.

There were other interesting snippets from Q’s conversation with Guinan. The idea of a “temporal horizon” being part of how members of the Q Continuum perceive the universe is a neat concept, helping to visualise for us as the audience something that’s fundamentally difficult to grasp. Q experiences time in some kind of linear fashion, even though he’s able to travel to different eras at will. His own personal past is still in the past, and he has a future – except that his future is now something he cannot see or perceive. It’s a complex thing to wrap one’s head around, and I’m not entirely sure I’ve fully understood it nor successfully communicated my interpretation of it! But suffice to say that I think we have a better understanding of the Q Continuum after Mercy.

One word that Q used almost passed by unnoticed: “redeem.” Does Q believe that what he’s doing right now is some kind of redemption for himself? If so, is the “penance” he told Picard about earlier in the season part of some kind of punishment he’s inflicting not upon Picard, but upon himself? How would showing Picard a warped, broken timeline redeem Q? And, come to that, what is he seeking redemption from? There are a lot of unanswered questions!

What could Q be seeking redemption from?

As Q showed Guinan the extent of his failing powers, it raised a question that I’d been contemplating since before the season aired (and that has been part of my theory list). Is Q truly responsible for breaking the timeline in the first place? Picard assumed so when Q first reappeared, but as he seems to be losing his powers, it seems plausible to suggest that making such a dramatic change is no longer something that Q is capable of.

In addition to all of that, we have the question of cause-and-effect. When Q emerged at the end of The Star Gazer, the damage to the timeline had already been done. Yet recent episodes have shown us Q running around in the 21st Century seemingly trying to enact the change to the timeline that Picard hopes to prevent. In The Star Gazer and Penance, Q seemed to be in full possession of his powers, even changing his appearance. But if those events happened after what we’re seeing now, from Q’s perspective, does that mean he got better? Or did he somehow break the timeline, travel back in time to continue to observe Picard, and then start to lose his powers? My head hurts!

Are we seeing Q before or after the events of The Star Gazer?

Picard and Guinan’s interrogation by Agent Wells was interesting, but as stated above I think it ran a little too long and took us on a bit of a detour. If Agent Wells comes back and has a significant moment later in the season, maybe that will be excusable; just one part of an evolving and developing story. But if this is to be his sole appearance, it’s certainly an odd choice for the season to have dedicated so much time to his character and backstory. The entire “apprehended by the FBI” story thread could’ve been cut out, with Picard and possibly Guinan joining the hunt for Dr Jurati instead. We’ll have to wait and see what comes next before passing judgement.

One storyline that the FBI interrogation successfully wrapped up was Rios’ missing combadge. This had fallen by the wayside in recent episodes, and after the point of divergence in the timeline was revealed to be the Europa Mission, its potential importance slipped away. It came back this week in an interesting way, but ultimately this was little more than a bluff and a tease – not only from Agent Wells to Picard, but from the show’s writers to us as the audience! The combadge could’ve ended up as a “butterfly,” with its unknown impact rippling along the timeline. As it is, Agent Wells gave it back to Picard and it can once again disappear from the plot.

Agent Wells interrogating Picard.

The Vulcan sub-plot was interesting, and certainly served to give motivation to Agent Wells as he pursued Picard, Guinan, and all things alien. It also led to a moment with Picard that one again highlighted his calm, diplomatic style, and that’s something I’ll never tire of seeing! However, if there was supposed to be a connection with the Enterprise episode Carbon Creek, which saw Vulcans on Earth in the 1950s, it wasn’t particularly well-established by the short flashback sequence that we got.

More could’ve been done to show what the Vulcans were doing on Earth, or even to establish that young Agent Wells was in the town of Carbon Creek, for instance. That would’ve been a fun easter egg to long-time fans. As it is, the connection is more implicit than explicit – which is fine, I guess! But in a story about time travel that hasn’t had many opportunities to connect to the wider franchise (aside from a few references to The Voyage Home and Past Tense) this kind of feels like a missed opportunity to make a solid connection.

A pair of Vulcans on Earth sometime in the 1960s-1970s.

Storylines in which the hero is apprehended by the authorities while on a time-sensitive mission can be irritating for me. I can find myself feeling frustrated and wanting to shout at the show or film to “just get on with it!” But to Mercy’s credit, that didn’t really happen this time around. The episode was entertaining, and even though the FBI interrogation sequences weren’t the highlight, they were well-paced and inoffensive enough. My hope now is that there’ll be some bigger point to all of it – something to tie together Picard, the Borg Queen, Q, and the rest of the characters and storylines currently in play.

So that was Mercy. We got some significant development of key storylines, but those developments have come pretty late in the season – and there’s still a lot of work to do if we’re to see everything neatly wrapped up in just two weeks’ time. I’m hopeful that Picard has an ace up its sleeve – possibly even a season-ending cliffhanger – that will make the detours and side-stories feel worthwhile rather than like fluff.

What I will say in praise of Mercy – and of the show’s writing as a whole – is that the end of the season feels far from formulaic. I can’t tell what’s going to happen next, nor what the ultimate destination of this story is. Several characters feel in imminent danger – Q, Rios, Dr Jurati, Dr Soong, and even Seven of Nine and Raffi. But what will come next for any of them is still up in the air. The only thing we know for certain right now is that the Borg Queen plans to make a move on La Sirena. Rios is aware of that, but with Picard and the others stuck half a world away, will they be able to get there in time? I have no idea… and after more than thirty years as a fan, I love that Star Trek can still take me on a rollercoaster ride that goes in wildly unpredictable directions!

Star Trek: Picard Season 2 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, Scandinavia, Latin America, and Australia, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and the rest of the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties mentioned 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.

Twelve Star Trek episodes to watch before Picard Season 2 arrives!

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1 and the trailers and teasers for Season 2. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Original Series Season 1, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine Season 3, Voyager Seasons 2, 3, and 7, and First Contact.

It seems an age ago that we were eagerly anticipating Season 1 of Star Trek: Picard. In those sunlit, rosy days before the pandemic hit, this website was brand-new, and I spent a lot of time in December 2019 and January 2020 looking ahead and wondering what we’d see when the Star Trek franchise finally returned to the 24th Century – after an eighteen-year wait!

With Season 2 of Picard now only days away, I thought it could be fun to revisit a concept from the early days of the website: a list of episodes that I think could make for interesting background viewing, potentially informing story points and characterisations in the new season of Picard. In the run-up to Season 1 I focused on episodes of The Next Generation that strongly featured Captain Picard himself, as well as a few stories about the Romulans, and a few more stories which could’ve potentially led to big changes in the two decades following the events of Endgame and Nemesis.

We’ll soon be on another adventure with Jean-Luc Picard!

This time, we have a little bit more information to go on! Season 2 will tell a story that involves (to a greater or lesser degree) the following elements: the Borg Queen, Guinan, Q, time travel, and, of course, Admiral Picard himself. On this occasion, then, I thought it could be fun to pull out twelve stories from Star Trek’s past that might just be useful background viewing for Season 2 of Picard. It goes without saying that Season 1 is mandatory viewing, so I’m not putting any of those episodes on this list! You should really watch, or re-watch, all ten before the season kicks off!

My usual caveats apply, as they always do! Firstly, everything listed below is entirely subjective. If I miss out an episode that you think is incredibly important, or you hate all of my picks, that’s okay! We all have different opinions about Star Trek, and there’s no need to fight about it. Secondly, I don’t claim to have any “insider information.” I’m basing my theories and guesses about Season 2 on publicly released material, such as trailers and interviews. And finally, the episodes are not ranked; they’re merely listed below in the order in which they were originally broadcast.

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

Number 1:
Tomorrow is Yesterday
The Original Series Season 1 (1967)

I’m pretty sure this violates the Temporal Prime Directive…

Though The City on the Edge of Forever is perhaps the best-known of The Original Series’ time travel stories, Tomorrow is Yesterday preceded it by several months. It was the first episode of the Star Trek franchise where time travel played a major role in the story, and it was also the first in which the crew paid a visit to the modern day. Tomorrow is Yesterday established what went on to become a mainstay in terms of the franchise’s time travel story tropes: being sent back in time by accident!

Aside from being a fun episode in its own right and well worth a watch, Tomorrow is Yesterday is also the episode which introduced the Star Trek franchise to something that appears to be making a return in Picard Season 2: the slingshot method of travelling through time, referred to in this episode as the “light-speed breakaway factor.”

The USS Enterprise using the “light-speed breakaway factor” to travel through time.

Almost every Star Trek series has included the occasional time travel story, and we can look to episodes like Tomorrow is Yesterday for creating that premise. Visiting the modern world would go on to be significant later in The Original Series, in Star Trek IV, and on several other significant occasions in the franchise. For me, some of these stories can feel rather dated, but I think Tomorrow is Yesterday largely avoids that trap!

As we get ready for Picard Season 2 and the franchise’s latest foray into time travel, stepping back to see where it all began during the first season of The Original Series is no bad thing. Tomorrow is Yesterday has a fairly straightforward premise that should be easy enough to follow even for fans who aren’t as familiar with The Original Series, and is well worth a watch on its own merits.

Number 2:
Encounter at Farpoint
The Next Generation Season 1 (1987)

Judge Q.

In the first teaser trailer for Picard Season 2, we heard Q’s voice proclaiming that “the trial never ends.” Encounter at Farpoint is the episode in which Captain Picard first encountered Q, and the episode in which the referenced “trial” began. Q accused humanity (and by extension, the Federation) of being a “dangerous, savage, child-race” who are unfit to travel the stars. Picard and his crew defended themselves against the accusation.

The task Q set for Picard was to unravel the mystery of Farpoint Station, which he and the crew of the Enterprise-D were en route to. However, figuring out the puzzle wasn’t the end of the trial, and even after bringing the Farpoint saga to a successful conclusion, Q departed in ambiguous fashion, hinting that he would return. He did, of course, on a number of occasions!

Worf, Picard, and La Forge on the bridge of the Enterprise-D.

Encounter at Farpoint was the premiere of The Next Generation and established the characters of Picard and Q (as well as many other familiar faces). As we approach Picard Season 2, it’s worth going back to see where it all began. This was the first big puzzle that Q tasked Picard with solving, and seeing how Q operates and what the point of it all is, from his perspective, is well worth taking into consideration.

This is also the beginning of “the trial.” We don’t know to what extent the idea of Picard – and humanity – being on trial will feature in Picard Season 2, but if Q has returned to set up a new mystery there could be a connection – and there could be consequences if Picard and the crew of La Sirena can’t figure it out. Q has toyed with Picard on a number of occasions; Encounter at Farpoint was the first.

Number 3:
Q Who
The Next Generation Season 2 (1989)

Q threw Picard and the Enterprise-D into danger.

Q Who is the episode that introduced us to the Borg – and it’s a pretty scary one by Star Trek’s standards! Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D have never faced a villain like this, and the Borg represent an existential threat. Q made good on his promise to show Picard that there are dangers in the galaxy that he couldn’t even imagine… and eighteen members of the Enterprise-D’s crew paid the ultimate price.

In a way, Q Who shows Q at his most aggressive, devious, and villainous. By throwing the Enterprise-D into the path of the Borg, he proved his point to Picard about the Federation’s unpreparedness in the most painful way possible. But I don’t believe that’s all there is to the story.

The first Borg seen in Star Trek.

I have a theory about Q Who that you can find by clicking or tapping here. To briefly summarise: Star Trek has made a mess of the history of Borg-Federation contact, and it seems likely that the Borg were already aware of humanity and Earth long before the events of this episode. They may have already been preparing for an attack or assimilation attempt, and Q hoped to prevent that by giving the Federation advance warning.

My theory goes into much more detail! But suffice to say the complicated history of contact between humanity and the Borg makes it seem plausible, at least to me, and shows off an aspect to Q’s character that I think could come into play in Picard Season 2. Q Who also establishes the existence of history between Q and Guinan – something that may come up in Picard Season 2 given that both characters are returning.

Number 4:
Yesterday’s Enterprise
The Next Generation Season 3 (1990)

The Enterprise-C.

Though it’s a fantastic episode in its own right, Yesterday’s Enterprise is on this list for one reason: Guinan. When a rift in the space-time continuum sends the Enterprise-C forward through time, decades’ worth of history are changed, leaving the Federation in a very bleak timeline in which it’s fighting a losing war against the Klingons.

Aboard the warship Enterprise-D, Captain Picard and the rest of the crew are completely oblivious to the change; this version of the characters have only ever known the war timeline. But Guinan alone realises that something has gone wrong, and argues with Captain Picard about how to set things right.

Guinan presents her case to Captain Picard.

Despite a recent controversy, Whoopi Goldberg will be reprising the role of Guinan in Picard Season 2, bringing the character back for the first time since Generations in 1994. Given that we know Season 2 also features a radically changed timeline, not dissimilar to the one seen in Yesterday’s Enterprise, perhaps Guinan will be aware of the change.

Guinan could be the one to talk to Picard about the possible point of divergence, as we know she’d visited Earth in the 19th Century. She may also be one of the only people other than the crew of La Sirena to be aware that something has changed. Guinan also has a history with Q, as we saw in the episode Q Who – so that could also come into play!

Number 5:
Time’s Arrow Parts I-II
The Next Generation Seasons 5-6 (1992)

R.I.P. Data…

Guinan also plays a key role in the two-part episode Time’s Arrow. Thanks to time travel, this is the episode where she and Captain Picard actually have their first meeting, and although the nature of their relationship is still shrouded in mystery, we get a little bit more information about how they came to meet in the first place.

Guinan’s fascination with Earth appears to date back to at least the 19th Century, as she visited undercover during that time period. We know from the most recent Picard Season 2 trailer that Guinan appears to be running a bar on Earth at the dawn of the 25th Century, giving her an association with Earth and humanity that stretches back over five hundred years.

Guinan and Picard in the 19th Century.

Time’s Arrow is an interesting story that mostly focuses on Data, who was of course a huge part of the story of Picard Season 1. It seems as though Brent Spiner will be playing a new role in Season 2 – perhaps another ancestor of the Soong family – so getting a bit of extra data on Data could be worthwhile, too!

One thing I’m personally curious about in Picard Season 2 is if we’ll get any further backstory on the Picard-Guinan relationship. Although Time’s Arrow depicts their first meeting from Guinan’s perspective, we’ve still never learned how they came to meet in the 24th Century from Picard’s point of view. All we know is that it likely happened prior to his assuming command of the Enterprise-D. I don’t know if Picard Season 2 will expand on that in any way… but it would be interesting!

Number 6:
Tapestry
The Next Generation Season 6 (1993)

Q and Picard.

Tapestry is a really interesting episode that deals with the dynamic between Q and Picard, and specifically looks at the nuances present in their relationship. Picard has always viewed Q as an adversary, but I’ve argued in the past that Q doesn’t see himself that way. He views Picard as a friend, and himself as a guide or even an ally – and the way Tapestry unfolds kind of shows why that is.

When Picard is injured on an away mission, he finds himself close to death. At that moment, he encounters Q – who claims he’s already dead. Q gives Picard a chance to avert his death by changing a key event in his past – getting stabbed shortly after graduating from Starfleet Academy – but doing so sets Picard’s life and career on a completely different path.

Lieutenant Picard in an alternate 24th Century.

The important thing here is how Q views the whole affair. We can entertain debates on whether or not Q actually sent Picard back in time or whether it was all an elaborate illusion, but that’s entirely beside the point. Q genuinely believed that he was helping – that by showing Picard an alternate life, he gave him an appreciation for the life he had actually led, even if that meant it was about to end.

I firmly believe that there’s more going on with Q in Season 2 than meets the eye. It’s possible that he didn’t change the timeline at all, and is merely responsible for shielding Picard and the crew of La Sirena from it. It’s also possible that he did change it as part of an elaborate puzzle, one which he hopes and expects that Picard will be able to solve. Speaking of which…

Number 7:
All Good Things…
The Next Generation Season 7 (1994)

Q and Picard in the distant past.

All Good Things is the best example of this aspect of the dynamic between Picard and Q, and could – in theory – be a template for the events of Picard Season 2. In All Good Things, the Q Continuum sets a puzzle for Picard – an eruption of “anti-time.” Thanks to the time-travelling interventions of Q, Picard is able to hop between three different periods of his own past to solve the mystery.

The solution to the anti-time eruption required Picard to challenge his own way of thinking, specifically his linear perception of cause-and-effect. Being able to recognise that events in the future had a causal link to events in the past greatly impressed Q, who seemed to suggest that it was the first step on a path that could one day see humanity evolve into beings comparable to the Q themselves.

Q in his judge’s robes.

All Good Things was also Picard’s last dalliance with Q prior to the events of Picard Season 2. As far as we know at this stage, Q hasn’t been to see Picard in the approximately twenty-five years since the events of All Good Things – but that could change as we get into the new season. It’s possible, at least in my opinion, that Q might’ve been interested to see Picard at his lowest ebb, possibly showing up to see if he could provoke him into action. But we’ll save a detailed explanation of that for my next theory post!

It’s possible that the trailers and teasers for Season 2 have already revealed the nature of Q’s involvement in the story: that he is directly responsible for changing the timeline, he did so on purpose, and he will be the main villain of the season. But I would argue that the “villain” monicker does not fit with Q’s past characterisation, and thus I suspect that there’s much more going on than meets the eye. All Good Things is both a piece of evidence in favour of that argument, as well as a potential blueprint for how a time travel puzzle set by Q could unfold.

Number 8:
Past Tense, Parts I-II
Deep Space Nine Season 3 (1995)

Dr Bashir and Commander Sisko.

We know, thanks to a voiceover in the most recent trailer, that at least some of the events of Picard Season 2 take place in the year 2024. But Picard Season 2 isn’t the first Star Trek production to visit that specific year! In Deep Space Nine’s third season, Commander Sisko and the crew of the USS Defiant found themselves accidentally sent back in time to the exact same year.

Past Tense is an interesting story, as it will mark the first time that any episode of Star Trek set in “the future” at the time it was broadcast will be reached, and I’m sure I won’t be alone in doing a full write-up of its story when we hit the end of August 2024! We could talk for hours about how its depressing presentation of the 2020s seemed a long way from reality once upon a time, but with the growth of homelessness and other economic issues, today’s society feels far too close for comfort to the world of the Bell Riots.

The USS Defiant in orbit over Earth.

I’m not sure how much of Deep Space Nine’s presentation of a fictionalised 2024 will make it into Picard Season 2. It’s possible that the new series will entirely ignore this two-part episode… but I think we should keep an eye open for references or callbacks to some of the characters, events, or even things like brands and products.

Regardless, this will be the first time that two very different Star Trek productions have travelled back in time to the same year, and it might be interesting and informative to take a look at Past Tense to see how Deep Space Nine told us that the year would unfold. It seems as though Picard Season 2 will be set, in part, in California – which is also where Past Tense was set, so that’s another point of connection. I’m not expecting a huge crossover with this one single Deep Space Nine story, but there could easily be references made to it.

Number 9:
Death Wish
Voyager Season 2 (1996)

Two Qs?!

Captain Picard wasn’t the only Starfleet officer to tangle with Q. After making a sole appearance in Deep Space Nine, Q hopped over to the Delta Quadrant, where he had several run-ins with Captain Janeway during Voyager’s journey home. Q presented a bit of a puzzle for Voyager; his abilities mean that he could have sent the ship and crew back to Earth with a snap of his fingers. But if we can look beyond that narrative hurdle, Q’s appearances in Voyager added a lot to his characterisation.

In Death Wish, we got our best look to date at the Q Continuum itself. Depicted in a manner that humans could comprehend, the Continuum resembled a rather dilapidated roadside house in the middle of the desert. For the first time, we got to see more members of the Q Continuum as well, and got a glimpse of how Q himself is a bit of a radical by the standards of his people.

Captain Janeway and Tuvok visit the Q Continuum.

The idea that the Q Continuum is not an entirely stable, homogeneous place is an interesting one, and was explored in more detail in the episode The Q and the Grey. But Death Wish also presented a very complex moral question – in the longstanding tradition of Star Trek! This episode can be a difficult watch for some folks because of its discussion of suicide, and it’s absolutely fine to skip it if that subject hits too close to home. If the debate around suicide and end-of-life care is something you’re interested in, though, this is a uniquely “Star Trek” attempt to tackle it.

Q emerges from this story as a reformer – or even a radical – by the standards of his people. We also know, thanks to a line in All Good Things, that he was responsible for assisting Picard when the Continuum set the anti-time puzzle. It’s stories like this that make me think that there’s a goodness in Q; that he isn’t just a trickster or a pure villain.

Number 10:
Future’s End, Parts I-II
Voyager Season 3 (1996)

Chakotay, Janeway, Tuvok, and Paris on Earth.

The two-part time travel story Future’s End sees Captain Janeway and the crew of the USS Voyager sent back in time to Earth, circa 1996. It’s another story set in the California area, and I think it’s an interesting episode – albeit one that I feel has become very dated by Star Trek standards!

If Picard Season 2 sticks with things like the Borg and the slingshot method, it seems that the kind of time travel depicted in Future’s End won’t be a factor. But there are still interesting points to consider, such as the Temporal Prime Directive and how Starfleet in the future would come to police the timeline, watching out for changes.

It’s Los Angeles – where Picard and the crew of La Sirena appear to be headed!

There aren’t a great many Star Trek episodes that visit the modern day, and as I’ve already explained I feel that a modern setting can make such stories feel very out-of-date very quickly. Future’s End definitely falls into this trap; its depiction of Southern California has a very ’90s flavour. But it’s a bit of fun, and dare I say almost a guilty pleasure!

I’m including Future’s End here for its modern day time travel story and its focus on California, both of which are elements that we know will be part of Picard Season 2. As with Past Tense, I don’t expect to see a huge tie-in between the new season and the events of this episode, but there may be smaller callbacks and references to some of the characters and events it depicted.

Number 11:
Star Trek: First Contact
Film (1996)

The Borg Queen.

First Contact introduced us to the Borg Queen for the first time, and went into a lot more detail about Picard’s assimilation experience. The Borg Queen was presented as the embodiment of the Borg rather than their leader, and she became a fearsome adversary for Picard and Data over the course of the story.

Season 1 of Picard saw the retired Admiral face his lingering Borg assimilation trauma when he beamed aboard the Artifact in the episode The Impossible Box, but Season 2 will see him come face to face with a Borg Queen for the first time in twenty-five years. For someone who’s clearly suffering from some form of post-traumatic stress, we don’t know what effect that could have.

Data and Picard lead the battle against the Borg.

Picard was violently anti-Borg in First Contact, and we saw hints of that in Picard Season 1 as well. His conversation with Dr Jurati and Elnor in The Impossible Box, as well as the way he responded to some of the xB’s in later episodes, was in line with his attitude to the Borg in First Contact – and I wonder how encountering a Borg Queen will make him feel!

Many Trekkies hold up First Contact as one of the absolute best Star Trek films, and it’s hard to disagree. As an action-packed work of sci-fi with some truly scary elements thanks to the way the Borg are depicted, it’s an exciting ride from start to finish. It also goes into a little more detail about World War III – an event in the history of the Star Trek timeline that could play a role in Picard Season 2. Check out my full World War III theory by clicking or tapping here!

Number 12:
Endgame
Voyager Season 7 (2001)

Some of Voyager’s crew in an alternate 25th Century future.

Almost five years after First Contact depicted the Borg’s biggest attack on Earth to date, Endgame brought back the Borg Queen in a significant way. The interventions of a time-travelling Admiral Janeway from the future saw the USS Voyager make it home to Earth, and in the process dealt a significant blow to the Borg Collective.

Even though it’s been more than twenty years since Endgame, we don’t actually know what became of the Borg in the aftermath of Admiral Janeway’s attack. I’ve always assumed that the Borg Collective was large enough, clever enough, and adaptable enough to survive the neurolytic pathogen that she introduced into the Borg Queen… but because the Star Trek franchise has yet to return to the Borg post-Endgame, we can’t be certain of that.

Admiral Janeway and the Borg Queen.

Even Season 1 of Picard, which depicted the disabled Borg Cube known as the Artifact, didn’t settle the issue. So it’s an open question at this juncture whether the Collective survived, whether it was significantly damaged by Admiral Janeway’s pathogen, or whether it was able to easily shake off the attack. It seems as though no major Borg activity occurred in Federation space in the twenty-plus years after Endgame, though.

Endgame makes this list because of the Borg Queen’s role in Picard Season 2, and I think it could be very useful background viewing, possibly even setting up a story about the Queen herself or the state of the Borg Collective at the dawn of the 25th Century. On a vaguely related note, I took a deeper look at Admiral Janway’s actions in Endgame, and you can find that article by clicking or tapping here.

So that’s it!

Admiral Picard is coming back in just a few days’ time!

Those are twelve episodes (alright, eleven episodes and a film) that I think might make for useful or interesting viewing prior to Picard Season 2! I think we’ve hit most of the key subjects – at least, those that we’re aware of at this early stage – and got a good mix of stories focusing on Captain Picard, Q, Guinan, time travel, and the Borg Queen.

At the end of the day, though, Star Trek’s past didn’t prove all that important to unravelling the events of Picard Season 1 – nor to recent storylines in Discovery, either. So it’s quite likely, in my view, that Picard Season 2 will bring plenty of brand-new characters and story elements into play. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth going back to these stories and others, but my suspicion at this stage is that the new story won’t rely excessively on what came before.

When Picard Season 2 arrives at the end of next week, I hope you’ll stay tuned for individual episode reviews, theories, and more. Despite the somewhat underwhelming end to Season 1, Picard Season 2 has been one of my most-anticipated shows for almost two years, and I can’t wait to jump in and have another adventure with Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of La Sirena.

Star Trek: Picard Season 2 will premiere on Paramount+ in the United States on the 3rd of March 2022, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and elsewhere 24 hours later. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties mentioned 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 Season 2 theory: He didn’t do it!

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1 and the trailers and teasers for Season 2. Spoilers are also present for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Star Trek: The Next Generation.

What’s the one thing that we know for certain right now about the plot of Star Trek: Picard Season 2? We know that Q interfered with the timeline, “breaking reality” in the process, and causing Admiral Picard and the crew of La Sirena to have to undertake a dangerous new mission to the past. But what if everything isn’t as it seems – what if Q isn’t the one responsible for the damage to the timeline? Or if he is responsible, what if he has an understandable – and possibly even altruistic – motive? Those are the two parts of the theory that we’re going to consider today!

First up, let’s acknowledge some production-side reasons why this theory may pan out in some form, then we’ll jump into in-universe explanations after. Ever since Star Trek returned to the small screen in 2017 – and also during the Kelvin films and even, to an extent, in the latter part of Enterprise’s run – the writers of the franchise have been very keen to bring mysterious elements into Star Trek. The whole reason I got into writing up lists of theories was because there’s been just so much to speculate about in practically all of the franchise’s modern incarnations!

Oh look, it’s brand-new character “John Harrison.”

In Discovery Season 1, there was the hidden identity of Captain Lorca. In Season 2, the Red Angel’s identity (and Spock’s connection to it) formed a huge part of the narrative. In Season 3, there was the Burn. In Season 4 we have the ongoing mysteries of the Dark Matter Anomaly, Unknown Species 10-C, and more. And in Picard Season 1 we had the mystery of Dahj and Soji, Bruce Maddox going missing, Coppelius, the Zhat Vash’s admonition and crusade, and the super-synths.

In all of these cases, everything was not as it seemed. In the run-up to Picard Season 1, Soji’s very existence was kept secret, with Isa Briones claiming to only play the character of Dahj. The show played its cards close to its chest for practically the entire season, keeping secrets about the nature of the Artifact, the Romulans’ plans, the super-synths, and more. The show has precedent when it comes to telling stories that go to unexpected places – and I see no reason at all to think that Season 2 will be any different in that regard.

Dahj in Season 1 of Picard.

The trailers and teasers that we’ve seen so far have been careful not to telegraph too much of the story. I suspect we’ve seen glimpses of scenes from the first two or three episodes at the very most, so the true nature of the story – and Q’s role in it – is still very much in play right now. No trailer or marketing campaign should spoil the finished product, and in some cases trailers can be cut and edited in very specific ways to conceal or outright lie about certain elements of a story. It wouldn’t be the first time that this has happened, not by a long shot!

There was also a remark from Sir Patrick Stewart almost a year ago, when Q’s return to the franchise was first announced. At last year’s First Contact Day digital event, Admiral Picard himself seemed to suggest that, while Q was certainly involved with whatever was going on, he wasn’t necessarily wholly responsible for it. That distinction may be key to this theory!

Sir Patrick Stewart at 2021’s First Contact Day digital event.

So let’s leave the real world behind and jump into the Star Trek galaxy. There is, in my view, evidence to suggest that Q wouldn’t do something that so drastically damaged the entire timeline. Ever since his first appearance in Encounter at Farpoint, Q has been viewed by Picard as an adversary – but I would argue very strongly that that isn’t how Q sees himself. By pushing and provoking Picard, Q has arguably sought to expand Picard’s understanding of the universe far beyond what he might’ve otherwise been capable of. In Q’s mind, the ends justify the means – so all of the meddling and provocation was worth it to get Picard (and humanity) ready for whatever the Q Continuum has in store next.

It’s even possible to read some of Q’s more belligerent actions – like placing the Enterprise-D in the vicinity of a Borg vessel – with the benefit of this additional context. In my earlier theory titled Q the saviour, this is exactly the point I tried to make. Q deliberately chose to introduce Starfleet to the Borg because he knew that the Borg were already planning to target the Federation, and he hoped that his intervention would show the Federation how dangerous the Borg threat really was.

In light of the mess that the Star Trek franchise has made of Borg-Federation contact, I think that theory absolutely holds water, but check out the full article because I get into it in way more detail!

Q introduced Picard and Starfleet to the Borg.

Whether you buy into my theory in full or not, I think we can agree at the very least that this is how Q sees himself. He doesn’t see himself as an enemy, provoking Picard out of boredom or malice. He sees himself as a friend, and may even feel that Picard is ungrateful for not reciprocating those feelings of friendship.

Q accused humanity of being a “dangerous, savage, child-race,” and it’s on these charges that Picard and all of humankind are on trial, and have been since Encounter at Farpoint. But at every stage, Q has seemed smugly satisfied when the puzzles he lays out for Picard (and others) are solved. He seems to see potential in humanity – perhaps even the potential to one day know as much about the universe as the Q Continuum themselves.

Q in his judge’s robes.

In episodes like All Good Things, Q even claims to have helped Picard solve a particularly difficult puzzle. By learning to see time itself not as totally linear, but in a new and different way, Picard was able to solve the anti-time puzzle. Likewise in Tapestry, Q gave Picard a chance to see what his life might’ve been like had it taken a different path. That definitely sounds familiar to his line in the Season 2 trailers about “the road not taken!”

In Tapestry, though, Q wasn’t some nefarious villain. He was making a point to Picard – in his own tricksterish way – about the course of his life, and how being a risk-taker was an inherent part of his personality. He didn’t abandon Picard to the new timeline that he’d created, instead giving him an opportunity to fix his mistake.

Q and Picard in Tapestry.

Q has, on occasion, seemed impressed with Picard and his ability to solve the puzzles he created for him. Even when Picard had to grovel to Q in Q Who and admit that the Federation wasn’t ready to encounter the Borg, and that the encounter was frightening, Q seemed satisfied that he’d made his point. In Encounter at Farpoint and in All Good Things in particular, Q even seemed pleased that Picard had been able to think through a complex situation and find a solution. He helped – but in a limited way – and in an almost-parental way seemed kind of proud of Picard.

Those feelings, of course, are not reciprocated, and Q has definitely caused death and destruction. Eighteen members of the Enterprise-D’s crew were lost in that first encounter with the Borg, for example, and Q didn’t restore them to life afterwards. However, on other occasions he did undo harm, and even death, caused to humans – such as by un-freezing Tasha Yar in Encounter at Farpoint.

Tasha Yar being un-frozen by Q in Encounter at Farpoint.

Q being the out-and-out villain of Picard Season 2 would, I would argue, represent a fundamental shift in his characterisation. It would take Q from being a trickster and an annoyance into something much more sinister, and while it’s certainly possible that he could have a darker side that we aren’t familiar with, it would be a major change that would require a good deal of explanation. Why, after having seemingly sensed potential in Picard and humankind, would Q try to do something so extreme?

Furthermore, from a narrative perspective Q doesn’t make a good villain. His god-like powers basically mean that Picard and his crew could never win, and Q’s amorality and lack of fair play mean that he would always be in a position to dominate and frustrate Picard if he ever came close to defeating him. This is a problem all overpowered characters in fiction can have, and it applies to Q in Star Trek just as much as it does elsewhere. Given what we know of Q and his abilities, it doesn’t even seem plausible that the Federation could find a technobabble explanation for limiting his powers, either.

Q has god-like powers.

So there are two questions remaining: did Q meddle with the timeline at all? And if not, who did?

There’s a case to be made that Q did still interfere with the timeline, and that all of this is another one of his puzzles for Picard to solve. That’s certainly one possibility, and it wouldn’t be completely out-of-character for Q to behave in this way. Perhaps he saw Picard getting back on his feet after years in seclusion and decided the time was right for another phase of the “trial.” Maybe we’ll learn that Q has visited Picard during his self-imposed isolation, too.

But there’s also another case we can make: Q didn’t have anything whatsoever to do with the event that disrupted the timeline. The extent of his involvement may be shielding Picard and the crew of La Sirena from its effects, allowing them to travel back in time to undo whatever happened. There are many culprits we could point to if Q isn’t to blame: the super-synths from Season 1, the Borg, the Terran Empire, a faction from Discovery’s Temporal War, etc.

The super-synths’ mechanical tentacles in the Season 1 finale.

Q may thus have an altruistic motive for reappearing in Picard’s life. If some external force or faction is responsible for the damage to the timeline, Q might believe that it’s up to him to “save” Picard and humanity. By returning to his old friend, he might do what we know he’s done on multiple occasions already: give him the tools to understand and fix the problem, but without giving him all of the answers right away.

To me, that is Q’s modus operandi. He sets up a problem – or allows Picard to encounter a problem independently – and provides minimal help. In Encounter at Farpoint, Q could’ve just been up front about the nature of Farpoint Station, but instead he forced Picard to solve the puzzle himself. In Q Who he could’ve simply told Picard about the Borg and their destructive power, but instead he made sure Picard encountered them first-hand. In All Good Things he could’ve explained the nature of the anti-time eruption, but instead he watched as Picard figured it out for himself. On each of these occasions (and more) Q provided minimal help and assistance – but the help and assistance he did provide ultimately proved key to resolving the situation favourably.

Q in All Good Things.

If Q wanted to, he could wipe humanity out of existence with a mere thought. If he wanted to kill or seriously harm Picard, he has infinite ways of doing so and unlimited opportunities to do so. He could go back in time and prevent Picard’s birth or turn him into Murf from Star Trek: Prodigy, or a million other ridiculous and sinister things. Sending Picard on a mission back in time, thus giving him a chance to undo whatever damage has been done, is not the way for Q to “win” in any sense of the word.

So it’s safe to say that I believe there’s more going on with Q than meets the eye! His involvement with the event that damages the timeline, and his reasons for getting involved in the first place, may seem suspicious right now – but we’re seeing small glimpses through the eyes of Picard, and thus with Picard’s own biases attached. Considering all of the other things that Q has done, and the many other ways he’s challenged and provoked Picard over the years, my suspicion right now is that there’s something else going on that the trailers and teasers have been careful not to reveal.

Q as he will appear in Season 2 of Picard.

To summarise this theory, then: Q either isn’t responsible for damaging the timeline at all, or he’s doing so for the purposes of testing or challenging Picard. What we’ve seen so far doesn’t depict a serious attempt on Q’s part to harm Picard or even permanently disrupt the Federation or the prime timeline; there’s something more going on that we haven’t yet seen – something that will, perhaps, unfold slowly over ten episodes!

I’m genuinely excited to see Q make a return to Star Trek. His appearance in Lower Decks Season 1 was relatively minor, so it will be neat to have him back in a substantial way – whatever form that ultimately takes and whatever his impact on the season’s narrative. He’s a more complex character than some viewers give him credit for, and as I’ve said before I don’t think it’s fair to call Q a “villain” – at least not in any of his appearances thus far. Perhaps Picard Season 2 will change that, showing us a darker and more sinister presentation of the character. But maybe we’ll get a continuation of this complex presentation, and the return of a truly interesting dynamic between Q and Picard.

Stay tuned when Picard Season 2 kicks off in March, because if there’s any development of this theory I’m sure I’ll have something to say about it!

You can also check out my other big Q theory by clicking or tapping here.

Star Trek: Picard Season 2 will stream on Paramount+ in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and around the world beginning on the 3rd of March 2022. The Star Trek franchise – including all characters and properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Picard Season 2 – thoughts on the new trailer

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1 and all of the trailers and teasers for Season 2. Minor spoilers are also present for Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Generations, and Star Trek Into Darkness.

Hot on the heels of a slew of announcements and updates about current and upcoming Star Trek shows a few days ago, a new trailer for Season 2 of Star Trek: Picard debuted on social media! The show’s release date has been pushed back slightly from February to early March, something that seemed inevitable when it was hastily announced that Discovery Season 4 was taking a six-week hiatus. Even with the delay, Picard Season 2 is now less than six weeks away, though, so it’s time for ViacomCBS to start the marketing push and, for us as Trekkies, it’s time to start getting hyped for the return of Admiral Picard and the crew of La Sirena!

If you’re a regular reader, you might remember that I was less than impressed with the last trailer for Picard Season 2 when it was shown off at the Star Trek Day live broadcast back in September. The upcoming season of Picard seems to be combining two of my least-favourite Star Trek story tropes: time travel to the modern day and a setting that’s at least superficially reminiscent of the Mirror Universe. Those elements were still front-and-centre in the new trailer, but I felt that this time they were presented in a more mysterious and exciting way.

Less than six weeks to go!

Sir Patrick Stewart had invited Whoopi Goldberg to reprise her role of Guinan during an appearance on The View a couple of years ago, but we’d seen and heard nothing of Guinan since. I wasn’t alone in speculating that perhaps the story of Season 2 may have gone in a different direction, or that Guinan might’ve been included in Season 3 instead of in Season 2. That was an incorrect assumption, though! Guinan made an appearance in the new trailer, working in her familiar role as a bartender – this time at a bar called “10” on Forward Avenue.

Picard entering Guinan’s bar.

It was truly wonderful to welcome back Whoopi Goldberg to the role of Guinan. We haven’t seen her since Star Trek: Generations was in cinemas in 1994, and I’m hopeful that she’ll make a significant impact on the story this season. “Significant” doesn’t mean she has to appear in a lot of episodes or scenes, but rather that the scenes she does have with Admiral Picard will be meaningful. She was a dominant presence in the trailer, but the shots we saw of her all seemed to be taken from one sequence.

Guinan is back!

So let’s briefly step back and consider what we learned in the past couple of trailers. Something – possibly Q, but possibly not Q – has changed or damaged the timeline, leading to the rise of a “totalitarian state” which has replaced the Federation. Picard and the crew of La Sirena seem to be the only ones aware of the change – but I reckon this is where Guinan will come in. If you remember The Next Generation Season 3 episode Yesterday’s Enterprise, Guinan was the only member of the crew of the Enterprise-D who realised that the timeline had been changed. As an El-Aurian, her perceptiveness of such things was heightened compared to humans, so she may be one of the few people that Picard can turn to for help (other than Q and the crew of La Sirena) after the timelines shift.

Guinan and Picard embrace.

I could be wrong about that, of course! There was just something about Guinan’s presence on Earth and the way Picard seemed to be seeking her out that makes me think we’re looking at something happening after the event that damaged the timeline. Guinan also repeated the words spoken by Picard in the first Season 2 teaser, referring to a “final frontier” that could mean time travel. Picard referred to time as “the true final frontier” in that teaser, and I wonder if he says that line after meeting with Guinan.

Picard seems to be seeking out Guinan for advice.

Speaking of time travel, it very much looks like La Sirena will be using the “slingshot method” to travel through time, as several shots in the trailer seemed to show the ship travelling very close to a star. Though this is a known method of time travel within the Star Trek universe, it’s one we haven’t seen used since Star Trek IV – all of the shows set in the 24th Century seemed to ignore this method, and time travel technology seemed to have not been developed until later on. This has always been a bit of a discrepancy within Star Trek’s internal canon, because The Original Series showed time travel several times, and depicted it as being something relatively easy to do with 23rd Century technology, yet by the 24th Century something seemed to have changed, making time travel far more difficult.

Did La Sirena travel back in time by slingshotting around the sun?

This could also have potential consequences for Discovery – a ban on time travel was introduced sometime prior to the 32nd Century following an event called the Temporal Wars. I don’t expect Picard Season 2 to tie into this in any major way, but it will certainly be interesting to see how the process of traveling through time is depicted in the show, considering the potential ramifications it could have elsewhere in the franchise. As I’ve already suggested, the Borg Queen may be connected to time travel technology as well, and may somehow facilitate La Sirena’s trip back in time.

This moment also seems to depict La Sirena’s slingshot manoeuvre.

I caught a very brief glimpse of a couple of guards or soldiers – possibly from the alternate timeline 25th Century – who seemed to be in the early stages of Borg assimilation. There could be more of a Borg aspect to the story of the season than has been teased thus far, and we could see, for example, the Borg Queen escape her confinement and go on an assimilation spree. If she isn’t the one responsible for assimilating the individuals shown, it raises the question of who is! Could other Borg be part of the story of the season? Is the trip back in time an attempt to prevent a Borg attack on the Federation at the dawn of the 25th Century? It’s also possible that the individuals shown are inhabitants of 21st Century Earth, and that they were assimilated in that time period. Or, of course, I’m wrong about the whole assimilation thing and these are just soldiers/guards!

Who’s this, and why does it look like he’s in the early stages of being assimilated?

Sticking with the Borg, we also got a slightly extended look at Elnor bathed in an eerie green light – something we associate with the Borg. I speculated last time that this scene could be taking place after Elnor has been attacked by the Borg Queen, and may be in the very early stages of assimilation. We didn’t see the consequences of his injury, but he appears to be in a great deal of pain.

We got a slightly extended look at Raffi and Elnor.

The Borg Queen appears to be on the loose at least once, in a shot of her with Dr Jurati. The two of them were crawling on the ground, and Dr Jurati appeared to be wielding some kind of blunt object to defend herself. This looked like it was taking place aboard La Sirena, as the ship’s engine could be seen in the background.

The Borg Queen and Dr Jurati.

Dr Jurati’s love of all things synthetic may come into play with the Borg Queen – something I theorised about last time. Could she be tricked, manipulated, or just talked into setting the Borg Queen free – or even helping her? After Dr Jurati’s brainwashing in Season 1 led her to commit murder, it would be quite the follow-up if in Season 2 she unleashed the Borg Queen on La Sirena’s crew! But this could account for the Borg Queen escaping, the potentially-assimilated humans on Earth, and even Elnor’s injury.

A close-up of the Borg Queen with La Sirena’s engine in the background.

Season 2 has certainly teased us with a Borg connection! I had some half-formed Borg theories that I planned to write up, but when we learned more about time travel in one of the earlier trailers I put them on the back burner because the main thrust of the story seemed to be going in a different direction. While it doesn’t seem like the entire season will be all about the Borg, their influence – and that of the Borg Queen in particular – may be significant. Using Dr Jurati’s connection and love for synthetics to tee up this story could be interesting – but it will certainly need to be handled delicately! Dr Jurati is already a character we as the audience may mistrust based on what happened in Season 1; having her be the driving force behind unleashing the Borg, even accidentally, could take her to a familiar thematic place, one that could prove to be very difficult to write her out of in future stories.

Is Dr Jurati going to form a connection with the captive Borg Queen?

Brent Spiner made an appearance in the trailer – and seemed to receive a strange glowing blue vial of something from Q. I’m going to posit that this character is not Altan Inigo Soong, the son of Data’s creator who we met in Season 1. Instead, I believe that this could be a brand-new character, perhaps another Soong ancestor who’s native to the 21st Century. We also glimpsed this character very briefly while Picard’s voiceover was talking about “moments upon which history turns” at the beginning of the trailer, and in that scene he might’ve had a facial scar.

Brent Spiner is back – but who is this character?

If it’s true that this character is a 21st Century native, it seems that he may be involved – somehow – in the event that changes the timeline. Past iterations of Star Trek, most notably Enterprise, told us a little more about the history of human augmentation and the Soong family’s involvement with it. If Picard is going to stick closely to past canon, perhaps this member of the Soong family is working on augments, and Q has provided him with something to assist in that work – perhaps even something derived from Borg technology.

A mysterious blue vial…

This could explain the “totalitarian state” that seems to have replaced the Federation by the 25th Century. If a dictatorship of human augments – like Khan – rose to power instead of United Earth, perhaps that government later evolved into the Mirror Universe-inspired fascistic replacement for the Federation that we saw in more detail in the previous trailer. We know from past iterations of Star Trek – including Star Trek Into Darkness a mere decade ago – that Khan would have established this kind of dictatorship had he remained in the 20th Century; perhaps this is the “single change” that the Borg Queen says is “vastly more dangerous than you realise!”

A second look at Brent Spiner’s character. Is he sporting a facial scar, or is that just a trick of the light?

At one point we caught a glimpse of a human boy, seemingly wearing modern clothing, encountering a Vulcan or Romulan. As far as we know, there shouldn’t be Vulcans on Earth in 2024 – so this could also, somehow, be connected to the changed timeline. Season 1 used mind-melds to spread brainwashing and visions of the Zhat Vash prophecy, most notably to Dr Jurati and Sutra, so there could be a connection there – somehow. This sequence, showing the boy walking alone through a wooded area in the dark, gave me Flight of the Navigator vibes for a moment!

The human boy walking through the woods…
…and the mysterious Vulcan or Romulan that he encounters.

A new character who seems to have glowing white or silver eyes was seen very briefly with Admiral Picard. As far as I can tell, this character is brand-new and doesn’t belong to any known Star Trek race or faction. This scene seemed to be taking place in the 21st Century (based on what’s in the background), but that doesn’t exactly provide us with much of a clue! I would say that Picard seemed not to be bothered by his presence; had he simply not noticed him, or is this a newfound friend?

Who’s this chap?

There was a shot of what looked like the interior of a 24th Century Starfleet ship suffering major damage. This could be one of the ships that La Sirena was seen engaging, but it could also be something from the past – perhaps even the USS Stargazer, as a model of that ship was shown off in the very first Season 2 teaser. Silly as it may sound, it was really neat to see the familiar Starfleet design of a hallway or room with angled walls. This design, which debuted with The Motion Picture, became synonymous with Starfleet ships throughout The Next Generation era, and it’s one of those little touches within Star Trek that makes the franchise feel like “home!”

A Starfleet vessel suffering major damage.

I could be wrong with this, but a shot of what I think might be a Starfleet officer being blown up at a console might’ve been filmed on one of the Discovery sets; it just looks like that from the set decoration on the left. The console looks 24th Century in its design, and in the background we could very briefly see an Okudagram that looked like it could represent a Miranda-class or possibly a Nebula-class vessel.

An officer at an exploding console…
…and the Okudagram behind them. Is that a Miranda-class or Nebula-class ship?

Something important was again reiterated in voiceover: whatever is happening to the timeline is connected in some way to a significant event in Picard’s own past. “A moment on which history turns” is how the trailer described this event – and my inclination at this stage is to say that it’s probably something brand-new to Star Trek rather than something we’ve seen or heard about before.

How does Picard fit into all of this?

There are moments in Picard’s past that we could look at as major historical events: assuming command of the USS Stargazer, defeating the Ferengi, encountering Q, his assimilation by the Borg, solving the anti-time puzzle, defeating the Borg in First Contact, defeating Shinzon, and preventing the super-synths’ arrival last season. But none of these moments, if changed, could lead to anything like what we see in the trailer. That’s why I think we must be dealing with something new.

What is the moment in Picard’s past that haunts him, and how will it play into a story about Q, time travel, and the Borg?

Sticking with this, Picard’s voiceover also said that this moment was something that “haunted” him for all of his life. It could be an event we’re familiar with from The Next Generation – like his assimilation – but it’s an odd choice of words if that’s the case. Maybe I’m overreaching, but I think the way that this was phrased implies that it’s something from deep in his past, perhaps his childhood but certainly long before he assumed command of the Enterprise-D.

Will an event from Picard’s life prior to The Next Generation prove to be connected to the season’s story?

It can be tricky, when dealing with a long-established character, to add brand-new backstory, particularly if it’s some hugely significant revelation about their past. If Picard Season 2 is going to go down this route, it’s definitely something that will have to be handled with care so it doesn’t come across as being too convenient or contrived for the sake of the new story.

Picard outside Guinan’s bar.

It was certainly neat to see several Federation (or “totalitarian state,” perhaps) starships in the trailer – but why were they firing at La Sirena? I couldn’t be absolutely sure, but one of the three ships in pursuit looked like a Nova-class ship, a design most famous for its inclusion in the Voyager two-parter Equinox. Described as a short-range science vessel in that story, this Nova-class (if indeed that’s what it is) seems to be more of a warship – or has at least been significantly upgraded!

What I believe to be a Nova-class ship seen from behind…
…and from the front, firing on La Sirena.

La Sirena has also been changed – perhaps by the shift in the timeline. Gone is the red “hot rod” livery that we saw in Season 1, replaced with a silver-grey metallic colour similar to other starships. We saw La Sirena engaged in at least one dogfight and pulling off some very acrobatic moves!

La Sirena seems to have gotten a new paint job!

There was a briefly-seen green light that illuminated La Sirena’s engine – I wonder if this could indicate that the ship has been fitted out with Borg technology, perhaps to facilitate the journey back in time. Green is, as mentioned, a colour strongly associated with the Borg, and green light in particular is a hallmark of Borg vessels and Borg technology.

La Sirena’s engine lit up in green.

After the timeline shifts, Picard seemed to find a painting of a different starship in his study, replacing the familiar Enterprise-D painting that we’d seen in his ready-room in The Next Generation – and in the first teaser for Season 2. This ship could be an alternate-timeline Enterprise, but it’s clearly a different design to the Galaxy-class, with a cut-out in its saucer section, different nacelles, and seemingly a lot more phaser banks!

Picard’s new painting.

It looked like this ship was engaged in a major battle, and this could be related to the interior shots of a ship under fire mentioned earlier. I think that the painting depicts the ship destroying one or more Borg vessels based on the size and colour of the debris seen around it, so perhaps this is the new timeline’s version of an event like the Battle of Wolf 359 or the Battle of Sector 001.

Is this a depiction of a Borg vessel?

We caught a glimpse of what seems to be 25th Century Earth in the trailer, protected by a shield grid that was not unlike the one seen in Discovery’s 32nd Century. Moments of symmetry between Picard and its sister show were rare in Season 1, and while I don’t think this really counts in a big way, it was still interesting to see the same basic idea being used in both shows – albeit in different contexts.

Earth with a shield grid in the Picard trailer…
…and the planet protected by another shield grid in Discovery Season 3.

We didn’t see much from Soji in the new trailer at all, and the clips we got of Raffi, Rios, and Elnor didn’t really seem to tell us much about the direction of any of these characters in the upcoming season. A few of the shots we got with each of them seemed to be extended or different angles of things we’d already seen in prior trailers: Seven of Nine at the wheel of a police car and waking up without her implants, Raffi and Elnor dealing with Elnor’s injury and again escaping through a marketplace while being fired upon, Dr Jurati interacting with the Borg Queen, and so on.

Rios and Seven (with Raffi in the background).

Keeping a tight lid on some of the season’s characters and mysteries is no bad thing, of course! This trailer was really here to showcase Guinan’s return, and thus it focused more on Guinan and Picard, with teases of the Borg Queen, Q, and Brent Spiner’s character. These clips perhaps came at the expense of seeing more from the new characters; Picard Season 2 will have to get that balance right and not give too much weight to returning characters from The Next Generation when it premieres in a few weeks’ time. As I said in 2020 in the run-up to Season 1: I’m not here for The Next Generation Season 8, and I want to give all of the new characters lots to do and a chance for each of them to become fan-favourites that we’re all excited to see return to the franchise thirty years down the line!

Rios on the bridge of La Sirena.

So we caught a glimpse of some of the upcoming season’s interesting moments – but we’re still a long way from figuring out what’s going on! Season 1 kept us guessing all the way to the finale, and I expect that Season 2 will follow a similar pattern, not showing us all of the story elements right away.

I have a few half-baked theories about the role Q might play in the upcoming season, the Borg Queen, and perhaps about Picard’s possible connection to all of this, so stay tuned. Between now and the season premiere some of them may get the full write-up treatment! For now, I think we’ve spent more than enough time talking about a trailer that was less than two minutes long! I enjoyed this trailer a lot more than the last one, and while I’m still not wild about a story where visiting the modern world is an important element, there’s nevertheless a lot to look forward to.

Q.

Right now I’m curious to see what roles the crew of La Sirena will have to play in all of this. Whatever changed the timeline left them untouched – and we don’t know why that may be. Are they the only ones who are aware of what happened? I have a lot of questions – but very few answers right now!

After the debacle around Discovery’s fourth season, it was good to see that (at this stage, anyway) an international broadcast on Amazon Prime Video is confirmed for Picard Season 2. Amazon’s social media channels have picked up the new trailer internationally, which is a good sign – but I’ll be at least a little worried until the premiere has officially arrived on Prime Video.

So I think that’s all I have to say about this one. It was an exciting, action-packed trailer that showed us just enough of the new season to jump-start the hype train. I hope that Picard Season 2 will deliver an engaging story when it debuts in a few weeks’ time.

Star Trek: Picard Season 2 will premiere on the 3rd of March 2022 on Paramount+ in the United States, and on the 4th of March on Amazon Prime Video in the rest of the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 – a wishlist

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3 and the trailers and teasers for Season 4. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Voyage Home, The Final Frontier, The Undiscovered Country, The Next Generation, First Contact, Voyager, Enterprise, and Picard.

Discovery’s fourth season is now less than a month away, so it’s time to look ahead. This time, though, I’m not going to be indulging in theory-crafting or even speculation… what we’re going to go through today are some of my wishes for the season. I did something similar last year in the run-up to Season 3, and if you want to see how my wishlist turned out you can find a follow-up piece I wrote after the season had aired by clicking or tapping here.

Season 3 did a reasonably good job at establishing the USS Discovery’s place in the 32nd Century, and though I have criticisms of several aspects of the Burn storyline, it was brought to a fairly conclusive end by the season finale. That should mean that the stage is set for a new story this time around, and on this occasion I’d like to lay out some of my personal preferences for Season 4 and how I’d like to see things unfold.

The USS Discovery in the Season 4 trailer.

The obvious caveat applies: I have no “insider information” and I’m not trying to claim that anything on the list below will be included in Season 4. This is merely a wishlist from a fan of Star Trek… nothing more. Everything I’m about to say is also entirely subjective! If I don’t include a point you want to see, or something I talk about sounds like something you’d hate, that’s okay. The Star Trek fandom is expansive enough for fans with all kinds of different points of view; we don’t need to fight, especially not about hypotheticals!

With all of that out of the way, let’s get into my Discovery Season 4 wishlist.

Number 1: A proper role for ex-Captain Saru that makes sense.

Saru in the Season 4 trailer.

One of the things I didn’t like about the short Season 3 epilogue at the end of That Hope Is You, Part 2 was that Saru was unceremoniously shuffled off Discovery. In order to make way for Burnham’s ascent to the captain’s chair, Captain Saru had to leave his position on the ship, and a way was found to make this plausible by giving him a deeply emotional connection to Su’Kal.

As a story point, I actually don’t fault any of that. Saru had been feeling alone and isolated with no other Kelpiens around in the 32nd Century, and his desire to help Su’Kal led to them forming a close bond. I can quite believe that he’d want to take a leave of absence to visit Kaminar and to spend more time with Su’Kal, helping him integrate into society as best he can after so long on his own.

Su’Kal and Saru in Season 3.

But unfortunately the rushed epilogue didn’t do justice to this story point, and quite frankly treated Saru with disrespect. Not since Dr Pulaski was dropped at the beginning of Season 3 of The Next Generation has a main character been handled so poorly, and I would have wanted – and expected – to see much more of a send-off for Saru. Not only had he been Discovery’s captain for all of Season 3, but he was a character we’d spent a lot of time with across Seasons 1 and 2 as well.

Season 4 will bring back Saru; he isn’t leaving the series as some folks had predicted, and I’m glad for that! But his role in Season 4 is unclear at best, and the biggest question I have is this: why does the USS Discovery need two captains on board?

Captain Saru was in command of the ship for a time.

In The Final Frontier and The Undiscovered Country, Kirk and Spock would serve on the same ship despite both holding the rank of captain, so it isn’t entirely without precedent in Starfleet for this situation to arise. In that case, though, Kirk had been demoted from the rank of Admiral, and in The Undiscovered Country in particular both officers held different positions: Kirk was in command of the Enterprise, Spock was in command of the overall mission to negotiate with the Klingons.

In short, I think the premiere of Season 4 (or whichever episode brings Saru back to the ship) needs to at least pay lip service to this point. Perhaps Saru could be given a title like “captain of the science department” in the same way as Scotty was “captain of engineering.” I wouldn’t want to see him demoted to the rank of commander – like poor Decker was in The Motion Picture! Presumably Captain Burnham has some degree of leeway when it comes to building her crew, so perhaps she’ll ask Saru to serve in a temporary role. Regardless, I hope Discovery doesn’t just ignore this point.

Number 2: Go into more detail about the ban on time travel.

The Enterprise-E approaching a temporal vortex.

The ban on time travel that was introduced in Season 3 was evidently intended to be a way for Discovery to avoid questions about how the Burn was able to happen, why Georgiou couldn’t simply return to her own time, and why the time-traveling Federation of the 29th and 30th Centuries that we’ve glimpsed in past Star Trek productions had ceased to exist. But the ban has created some storytelling issues in and of itself, and I would like Season 4 to at least try to address some of these.

Firstly, who enforces the ban? Admiral Vance seemed to imply that everyone in the galaxy – from the Emerald Chain to the Federation – simply goes along with it, but that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Yes, the Temporal War was certainly a bad thing. But as the war and its effects fade into memory, are we seriously supposed to believe that someone like Osyraa wouldn’t jump at the chance to use time travel to give herself and her faction an advantage? That’s to say nothing of factions like the Borg – are they signed up to the ban on time travel too?

Osyraa, head of the Emerald Chain in Season 3. She seems like someone who would use any weapon or technology at her disposal – regardless of any ban!

Even if the answer is “all pieces of time travel technology were destroyed,” that doesn’t really hold water either. It’s impossible to un-invent a powerful, weaponisable technology – as I said on several occasions during Season 3’s run! Even if everything were destroyed – something which seems like it would be impossible for every faction to prove – what’s to stop someone recreating it? The Emerald Chain had scientists like Aurellio at their disposal, and once the basic principles were understood it seems like rebuilding the technology would be a task within reach of anyone with the means and inclination.

Time travel was considered something so mundane in the 29th and 30th Centuries that its basic principles were taught in school across the Federation. Even if we discount early depictions of time travel (like the slingshot method seen in The Original Series), the fact that time travel is possible has been known to the Federation since the 22nd or 23rd Centuries at least, and even if we’re generous and say that time travel technology wasn’t “officially” invented until much later, the technology still existed for centuries prior to being banned.

The HMS Bounty was easily able to travel back in time by slingshotting around a star.

In today’s world, nuclear weapons are a comparable technology. If there were a worldwide ban on nuclear weapons, would we trust the likes of China or Russia to abide by it? Could we guarantee that every nuclear weapon was destroyed by our own governments, or might some covert hawkish faction seek to keep control of at least some of them as a contingency? In short, a ban on nuclear weapons is a noble ambition – but even in the aftermath of a nuclear war I can’t see it being workable. Even if such a ban were put in place, the weapons programmes of countries like North Korea prove that, with enough determination, anyone can recreate complex technology from scratch.

Perhaps there’s some kind of time travel arbiter that monitors the whole galaxy, and intervenes to prevent time travel from occurring. That would be one explanation. But it’s also possible that whatever this gravitational anomaly is is connected to time travel or the Temporal War – meaning Captain Burnham and the crew could be about to dive headfirst into a time travel story!

Number 3: Standalone episodes and smaller storylines to offset the main season-long arc.

The Season 3 two-parter Terra Firma was largely a standalone story.

Discovery used this formula to great effect in Season 3, which came after Seasons 1 and 2 had both leaned very heavily into serialised storytelling. I very much hope that Season 4 will continue in the same vein, because having smaller stories, character arcs, and fully standalone episodes added so much depth to the series.

We already know of one potential side-story: Adira and Gray, and in particular Gray’s quest to become corporeal again. That story has a lot of potential, and it’s actually one of the things I’m most looking forward to about Season 4. Hopefully there can be more side-stories like this, looking at other characters and taking some of our heroes to different and unexpected places.

Gray and Adira in Season 3.

Strange New Worlds has promised a return to a more episodic style of storytelling. I don’t expect that Discovery will go all-in on episodic television in the same way, not least because we already know that they have the mystery of the gravitational anomaly to solve. But I hope that, along the way, we get some detours and unconnected stories that take Captain Burnham and the ship to different places – literally and thematically.

This would be a great way for the series to show off characters who didn’t get as much to do last season, or who we haven’t spent much time with at all. Season 3 brought us an interesting story involving helm officer Keyla Detmer, and while that story wasn’t perfect it was great to spend time with a secondary character in far more detail than Discovery had ever done before. Which brings us to my next point…

Number 4: Make use of the show’s full cast – including secondary and recurring characters.

Some of the bridge crew at the end of Season 3.

As mentioned, Season 3 began this process. We got to spend more time away from Michael Burnham than Discovery had dared do in Seasons 1 or 2, and some of the episodes which placed Saru, Booker, and even Georgiou at their centre worked exceptionally well. I’d love Discovery to continue down this road, perhaps spending time with characters like Stamets – he didn’t get as much to do in Season 3 as some of the others.

With Georgiou departing for an unknown destination last year, there’s potentially space for another main cast member. We could see someone like Bryce, Rhys, or Nilsson promoted – or a character like Willa, Admiral Vance’s aide-de-camp from Season 3, join the crew. In some ways I’d like to see a new character, perhaps a 32nd Century Starfleet officer. Booker provides the crew with the viewpoint of a 32nd Century native, but he also has a different role as an outsider who isn’t a member of Starfleet. Bringing a new officer who’s native to this era aboard the ship could be an excellent move, one which could provide a lot of storytelling potential.

Detmer got her own storyline last season.

At the same time, giving more characters moments in the spotlight and their own arcs is something worth doing. We learned more about people like Owosekun, Detmer, and even Tilly in Season 3 than we ever had before, and continuing this trend by ensuring more characters get some degree of exploration is absolutely something I’d want to see.

In a season that will run for 13 episodes there’s obviously a limit; a ceiling on the number of characters and storylines that the series can fit. With that understood it obviously won’t be possible for everyone to get a fully-rounded character arc, their own storyline, and a spotlight episode putting them front-and-centre! But choosing some characters to give that amount of attention to is still important, and even those characters who don’t get a full story or their own episode this time can still have more to do than sit at their station and say “yes ma’am!”

Number 5: Bring back Nhan!

Could Nhan make a comeback?

Saru wasn’t the only character who left the USS Discovery and whose story feels incomplete. Nhan actress Rachael Ancheril was promoted to Discovery’s main cast at the beginning of Season 3 only to be shuffled off the show after only a few episodes. Nhan – the first Barzan main character in Star Trek’s history – was left behind to be the guardian of the USS Tikhov following a disaster that claimed the lives of the ship’s crew.

The Tikhov’s mission was an interesting one – it serves as a seed vault for the Federation, storing samples of plants from across the Federation and beyond. From the point of view of Nhan potentially reuniting with Burnham and the crew, though, the Tikhov was rotated between Federation member worlds, with representatives from each taking responsibility for the ship for a set period of time. Nhan seemed to suggest that she saw her mission as keeping the ship safe until the end of the Barzans’ tenure, after which it’s safe to assume the ship would be delivered to a new commander.

Nham hugs Burnham immediately before remaining behind on the USS Tikhov.

It wasn’t stated on screen how long each planet’s turn to look after the ship lasts, but that’s actually a good thing! It could be that each member world has to care for the ship for a year or two, or that it was almost the end of Barzan II’s tenure as guardians of the Tikhov – either of which could mean Nhan is almost done and could return to duty.

It was a shame that Nhan was dropped, and I don’t know if there were production-side reasons for the decision. It feels rather arbitrary, and while Nhan wouldn’t necessarily have had a huge role to play in the latter part of Season 3 she was a fun character and someone the show could and should bring back. The USS Discovery doesn’t have a permanent security or tactical officer – at least not among the main characters. Nhan could fill that role going forward, and it seems as if the ship could use a dedicated security officer based on all the scrapes that they get into!

Nhan watches the USS Discovery depart.

Nhan was also a character who provided a contrast to Michael Burnham. Where Burnham could go on emotional rollercoaster rides, Nhan was mostly stoic. And where Burnham had a loose interpretation of the rules and regulations, Nhan appeared steadfast in her dedication to Starfleet’s way of doing things.

As a character from an under-explored race, Nhan could do for the Barzans what Saru has done for the Kelpiens – showing us their history and culture in more detail. The Barzans only appeared a couple of times in Star Trek prior to Discovery, but there’s a chance for a connection with The Next Generation or to explain how they came to join the Federation – and perhaps why they chose to remain a Federation member even after the withdrawal of Earth and Ni’Var. Which brings us to the next point…

Number 6: Give us a broader look at the state of the galaxy in the 32nd Century.

A non-canon map of the galaxy.
Image Credit: Star Trek Star Charts (2002) via Memory Beta

Season 3 focused primarily on two factions: the rump Federation and the Emerald Chain. Earth, Ni’Var, and Kwejian also appeared, though the first two are ex-Federation members. We know that the Burn decimated “the galaxy” and saw many Federation members quit the organisation, but that was 125 years ago – a lot can have happened since.

Though we briefly saw Cardassians, Lurians, and a few other familiar races, we know nothing about many others. What became of the Klingon Empire? The Dominion? The Borg? Was the Burn truly galactic in scope, reaching all four quadrants in equally destructive fashion – or could some parts of the galaxy have escaped some or all of the Burn’s impact?

Are the Borg still around in the 32nd Century?

Admiral Vance told us that 38 member worlds remained in the Federation – with Earth and Ni’Var being two of the most prominent members to leave. But if the Federation had over 350 member worlds at its peak, more than 80% have quit the organisation – or been conquered, destroyed, or had some other fate befall them. Barzan II appears to remain a Federation member, as does Kaminar. It’s possible based on the Season 4 trailer that Ni’Var will rejoin the organisation – but what of the others? Who’s left in the Federation? Who quit? Who joined after the 24th Century that we might recall from past iterations of Star Trek?

Prior to the Burn, did the development of warp or transwarp speeds allow the Federation to travel further and settle other parts of the galaxy, perhaps? Could races like the Ocampa and Talaxians have joined the Federation in the Delta Quadrant, for example?

In short, the 32nd Century is a vast sandbox for the producers and writers to play in! So far we’ve only seen a tiny little corner of that sandbox – so I hope Season 4 can broaden the view and show us a bigger picture of the state of the galaxy and its factions.

Number 7: More Admiral Vance!

Admiral Vance in Season 3.

In Season 3, Admiral Vance embodied the very best of Starfleet’s values. Even though he was dealt a very bad hand in the aftermath of the Burn, he remained loyal not only to the Federation and Starfleet, but to the ideals the organisations have always stood for. Even when negotiating with Osyraa – a powerful adversary – Vance refused to compromise on his convictions.

The arrival of Rillak – a new character who will serve as the Federation’s president – could mean that Admiral Vance is sidelined. If Burnham is reporting directly to the President it seems like she’ll be going over Vance’s head, or at least around him. I guess I’m just concerned that Discovery doesn’t really have space for two “big boss” characters, and that Vance may lose out to Rillak in terms of stories and screen time.

President Rillak could occupy a very similar narrative role to Vance.

It’s possible that Rillak is being set up in a deliberately antagonistic way, and that the decision was taken to keep Vance as a more sympathetic character. I didn’t really like Rillak’s interaction with Captain Burnham in the recent Season 4 trailer, but at the same time what she had to say wasn’t too far removed from what Vance had to say at a couple of points in Season 3. He could take a tougher line with Burnham and Saru when he needed to without coming across as one of Star Trek’s typical “evil admirals!”

Actor Oded Fehr brings Vance to life and gives him a real gravitas, and there’s scope to learn more about who Vance is and what makes him tick. Vance told us he has a wife and child; perhaps we could meet them and see how he is when he’s off-duty in a more casual setting.

When Osyraa and the Emerald Chain were plotting their attack on Federation HQ in Season 3 I was genuinely worried for Admiral Vance! The Emerald Chain attack didn’t kill him off – fortunately – so he lives to fight another day! I know we’ll see him in some capacity in Season 4, but I hope he gets more to do than just chair a few meetings.

Number 8: Kill off a main character.

Who could it be?

Speaking of characters who felt at risk, Season 3 only saw the character of Ryn killed off. Ryn was a fun character for sure, and his death was very sad, but at several key moments where Discovery could have been a little bolder at swinging the proverbial axe, main characters appeared to be safe thanks to their plot armour.

The character I felt most embodied this side of Season 3 was Owosekun. In the season finale it seemed as though she was about to make the ultimate sacrifice – setting off a bomb in a low-oxygen environment – but the Sphere Data-powered DOT robots saved her life at the last minute. There were other characters in that group, including Tilly, Detmer, Bryce, and Rhys, who likewise could’ve been killed off in the season finale.

All of these characters survived last season’s finale.

I’m not arguing for any one specific character to be immediately killed off, and as I like all of the main characters for their own unique reasons any death would be a tragedy! But some stories work better or feel more impactful when the heroes lose a friend, and the Season 3 finale would have undeniably had a lot more emotional weight if someone hadn’t made it to the end.

So Season 4, here’s your challenge: kill off a main character! Let’s not repeat what happened to Nhan and Georgiou, being shuffled off the ship to some other destination. And let’s not set up a story where everyone is in danger only to have them all miraculously saved at the end. Instead let’s actually kill off a major character at the right point in the story. Doing so would raise the stakes dramatically and hammer home that whatever threat Captain Burnham and the crew are facing is genuinely deadly.

Number 9: A character crossover from a past iteration of Star Trek.

The Doctor from Voyager.

This isn’t the first time I’ve suggested this idea! But as Lower Decks has shown on several occasions, bringing back a character from Star Trek’s past can be a lot of fun – and emotional for longstanding Trekkies. Last season I suggested Voyager’s Doctor – or rather, a backup copy of him from the Season 4 episode Living Witness – as a potential character crossover, as the chances of him being alive in the 32nd Century seemed higher than most!

Given Star Trek’s technobabble, however, an excuse could be found to bring back practically anyone. Characters from Enterprise, Deep Space Nine, or even Picard could all appear in some form – through stasis or cryogenic suspension, in synthetic bodies, as holograms, trapped in transporter beams, frozen solid under the surface of an ice planet… and so on! With a little creativity, Discovery Season 4 could find a way to bring back pretty much anybody, and doing so would be absolutely wonderful.

Scotty appeared in Season 6 of The Next Generation thanks to sci-fi magic!

Aside from Voyager’s Doctor, I could suggest Enterprise’s Temporal Agent Daniels, Picard’s Soji or Deep Space Nine’s Dax symbiont as contenders for characters who could potentially have survived to the 32nd Century through “natural” means. Soji, as a character in a series running alongside Discovery, would be a fascinating choice – but at the same time I could understand if the producers don’t want to go down that route for fear of affecting or restricting future Picard stories.

If I were to fantasise I might suggest a character like Riker or Chekov. Even if they were only seen as holograms or in a recorded message I think including a “classic” character like that would mean so much to fans. We saw something comparable to this in Season 3’s Unification III, where a hologram of Spock was briefly shown. But to bring back actors like Jonathan Frakes or Walter Koenig to record even just a short message that Captain Burnham could discover would be amazing.

Number 10: Make some kind of reference to anything from Lower Decks!

Lower Decks Season 2 has just finished its run.

Lower Decks has now got two seasons under its belt, and although there were some teething problems at first caused by the lack of an international broadcast during Season 1, the show has definitely hit its stride. It would be absolutely amazing for Discovery Season 4 to so much as name-drop an event, character, or location from Lower Decks, even if it was just a throwaway line that had no bearing on the plot.

This isn’t just about fan service, either. At present, Star Trek’s shows are all split up, occupying different places and completely different time-frames. There will be a connection between Discovery and Strange New Worlds when the latter premieres next year, but there’s no chance for a significant crossover. Name-drops and references are the next best thing, and a way for the Star Trek franchise to remain connected.

Ensigns Tendi, Rutherford, Mariner, and Boimler.

Having wholly standalone shows doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. It’s certainly true that Lower Decks and Discovery are very different in terms of style, tone, and subject matter – but as two parts of a larger franchise it doesn’t hurt to find ways to connect them. For fans it’s a nice “Easter egg,” but for casual viewers these kinds of connections can be the deciding factor in choosing to check out another show!

As Star Trek fans, we need as many people engaged with as much of Star Trek as possible – it’s the only way the franchise will survive into the future. Having different shows that appeal to different audiences is a great idea in many ways; it casts a broad net and should, in theory, bring in many more viewers and subscribers. But the next step is converting fans of one series to fans of the franchise as a whole – and if there are connections between the shows, even small ones, that’ll encourage at least some viewers to try other Star Trek shows. So if Discovery Season 4 could acknowledge Lower Decks in some way, I think that would be fantastic.

Number 11: Continue the theme of rebuilding – but at a reasonable pace.

Ni’Var seems to have rejoined the Federation.

Season 3 introduced us to the galaxy a century after the Burn. This event devastated the Federation and known space, and clearly saw a major power shift with factions like the Emerald Chain gaining strength. The Burn as a storyline may be resolved, but the galaxy can’t simply be “reset” to how it used to be. An event so devastating will take a long time to recover from. Ni’Var rejoining the Federation is a great first step, but I hope Season 4 doesn’t try to rush these things.

With the gravitational anomaly seeming to be the main focus of Season 4’s story, rebuilding the Federation may take a back seat. However, I’d like to see at least some progress in this area, as it could be one of the major sources of hope and optimism in the story of the post-Burn galaxy. With the dilithium cache from the Verubin Nebula under their control, the Federation is finally in a position to rebuild what has been lost over the past century or more – and from a narrative point of view, bringing wayward planets and races together is a story worth telling.

Independent Earth in Season 3.

At the same time, the story needs to acknowledge the severity of the Burn and strike the right balance when it comes to optimistically putting the pieces back together. Trying to rush this – or worse, trying to pretend that it all happened off-screen – would lead to a truly unsatisfying and unrealistic narrative.

Season 4 can’t simply pretend that the Burn is over and done with and completely move on to new stories. Even though the Burn was clearly intended as the main story of a single season, its massive implications and effects can’t be confined to Season 3 of Discovery. Any other Star Trek stories set in the 32nd Century – and beyond – will need to acknowledge the lingering effects of the Burn, and something as significant as rebuilding the Federation and bringing hope back to worlds that had lost it can’t simply be done off-screen so Captain Burnham and the crew can race away to their next big adventure.

So that’s it. A few of my hopes and wishes for the imminent fourth season of Star Trek: Discovery.

Grudge in the Season 4 trailer!

I don’t think I’d have chosen to go for another “galaxy-ending” apocalyptic threat if I’d been in charge of planning the story of Discovery Season 4. After the Klingon war in Season 1, Control and the Red Angel in Season 2, and the Burn, the collapsed Federation, and the Emerald Chain in Season 3 I would have liked to have seen Captain Burnham and the crew catch a break! Not every season has to be about the imminent destruction of the universe; stories which are smaller in scale can be just as dramatic and just as impactful when done right.

Regardless, this is the direction Discovery seems intent on going, and I’m interested to see what the gravitational anomaly is all about. I’m hopeful that Season 4 can deliver some fun, exciting, dramatic, and interesting Star Trek stories with Captain Burnham in command, and I’m very much looking forward to the new season. Even if none of my wishes are meant to be, Season 4 will undoubtedly still have plenty to offer.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 will premiere on Paramount+ in the United States on the 18th of November 2021. An international broadcast will follow on Netflix on the 19th of November 2021. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 – Could time travel have helped avoid the Burn?

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3.

In the second part of this short series about the Burn we’re going to consider the possible impact of time travel. Last time, in case you missed it, we looked at how transporters and transwarp beaming could – potentially – have provided Starfleet and the Federation with a way to relieve the pressure of dwindling dilithium reserves in the years before the Burn. I also have a column looking at how well the Burn worked as a storyline, which you can find by clicking or tapping here.

As Season 3 began – and for much of its run – I speculated about the possible involvement of time travel either as part of the explanation for the Burn or as a way for Discovery to reset or even undo the catastrophic event at the storyline’s resolution. Here’s the short version of why: the Federation had access to time travel technology for hundreds of years, and by the 29th and 30th Centuries Starfleet routinely explored the timeline and even tried to patrol it and prevent any nefarious interference. Though there was a “temporal prime directive” in effect which prevented travellers from the future from changing the past, the precise way in which this worked is not clear.

The Department of Temporal Investigations is on the case!

Time travel has not been depicted consistently within Star Trek, and we do have to acknowledge that. Stories featuring the cast of The Original Series – including the film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home – seem to depict time travel as something that basically anyone with a warp-capable starship could accomplish (via the method of slingshotting around a star). However, by the time we get to stories set in the 24th Century, time travel appears to require specialist equipment and devices – which, at various points, the Federation may or may not have been in possession of.

Even if we’re incredibly conservative with how we interpret time travel stories within Star Trek, it still seems highly likely that by the 25th Century or thereabouts, Starfleet had the technology to routinely and safely travel through time – which is more than 600 years before the Burn. Much of what we know about Starfleet’s time travel missions suggests that their primary interests would be in travelling backwards through time to get a first-hand look at historical events, as well as to prevent factions like the Sphere Builders or the Borg from changing the past to suit their own goals and purposes. But there’s nothing to say that Starfleet wasn’t at least peeking ahead at the future timeline.

The Enterprise-E was able to modify its deflector dish to travel back to the 24th Century in First Contact.

I’d argue that not doing so would be a major risk and even a dereliction of duty. With Starfleet involved in a Temporal Cold War and/or the Temporal Wars, other factions were almost certainly using time travel technology to jump forwards and backwards through time to try to score an advantage. Heck, Discovery’s second season finale is an example of this: Captain Pike, Saru, Burnham, and the crew decide that sending the USS Discovery forward in time – removing it from the 23rd Century – was the safest way to keep this vital ship and its important data out of the hands of their enemy. If 23rd Century Starfleet was doing that, I see nothing to suggest that 29th and 30th Century Starfleet wasn’t doing that too.

We can’t argue that travelling forwards in time is any more difficult than travelling backwards. Again, Discovery Season 2 is a case in point. The Red Angel project in the mid-23rd Century created two time travel suits that were capable of moving forwards in time, and at various points in Star Trek’s broader canon we’ve seen ships like the USS Defiant and the Enterprise-E manage to successfully return to the 24th Century after jaunts to the past.

HMS Bounty – Kirk’s stolen Klingon Bird-of-Prey – was able to travel to the 20th Century and back again.

Everything we know about time travel in Star Trek tells us that the Federation had the capability to travel forwards in time, and a combination of their role in the temporal conflicts of the 29th and 30th Centuries as well as their previously-established desire to protect and preserve the “true” timeline gives them the motivation – and moral requirement – to do so as well.

So why didn’t anyone warn the Federation about the Burn?

The answer, at least according to Discovery Season 3, is the ban on time travel. But I’m not convinced that this works as a satisfying and believable reason on its own. Even if Starfleet were willing to abide by the ban on time travel and the temporal prime directive, would everyone have felt that way? If a Starfleet timeship encountered the post-Burn galaxy, would they not have felt an obligation to warn their colleagues in their native era?

The USS Relativity – a Starfleet timeship from the 29th Century.

Even if Starfleet had been willing to sacrifice countless lives and leave the galaxy in a horrible state to uphold certain ideals and principles, the Burn is bigger than just the Federation. Other factions in the Temporal Wars, had they become aware of the Burn, would likely have tried to warn their colleagues of what was to come. Even organisations within the Federation, like Section 31, seem like they’d have been unwilling to abide by a ban on time travel, let alone refuse to share knowledge of an impending disaster.

We don’t know for certain that this didn’t happen. Section 31 may not exist by this time, and if they do still exist they may indeed have tried to warn the Federation about the Burn. Other factions with access to time travel technology may have also warned their past selves too. Heck, this could be a plot point in Season 4; perhaps one faction was better-prepared than everyone else and is now ready to conquer the galaxy.

A black Section 31 combadge. Did the secretive organisation try to warn the Federation about the Burn – or prevent it entirely?

However, there is a significant counter-point that we need to consider: until Saru, Burnham, and Dr Culber travelled to the Verubin Nebula and met Su’Kal, no one knew what caused the Burn. Even if Starfleet had been warned centuries ahead of time, without the crucial knowledge of what the Burn was, who caused it, and so on, simply knowing that it was going to happen would not have been enough to prevent it. And perhaps that’s the key here. Even if Starfleet had travelled forward in time, in this exact version of the timeline, all they would’ve seen is a galaxy devastated by an event that no one knew anything about.

As I said last time, the way the Burn occurred was a combination of unlikely, unpredictable circumstances centred around a single, relatively obscure starship and one Kelpien child. When looking at a galaxy-wide event that appeared to happen everywhere simultaneously, even the most dedicated timeship crew would’ve struggled to put the pieces together. Michael Burnham and the crew of the USS Discovery were able to do so only with the Federation’s help; and it seems highly unlikely that Admiral Vance would’ve agreed to help the crew of a 29th or 30th Century timeship in the way he agreed to help Saru and Burnham. Remember what Vance said when he debriefed Burnham and Saru: their mere presence in the 32nd Century was “by definition, a crime.”

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

Thus we can argue that Admiral Vance would have been unwilling to help a Federation timeship prevent the Burn, and would not have shared the vital information relating to SB-19 which ultimately allowed Burnham to pinpoint its source.

Likewise, if Section 31, the Emerald Chain, or some other faction operating in the 32nd Century wanted to travel back in time to prevent the Burn, the same issue of not knowing how, why, and where it happened arises. Without this information, realistically it seems impossible for the Burn to have been avoided. Only after Burnham’s investigation, culminating in the discovery of the KSF Khi’eth and Su’Kal, could anyone realistically use time travel to prevent the Burn or warn their counterparts in the past. And from our point of view as the audience, we’ve only just arrived at that chapter of the story!

When the Burn was first teased in the trailers for Discovery’s third season in 2019 and 2020, I wondered what role – if any – time travel might’ve played in the story. There were possible hints at a time travel-related cause for the Burn, perhaps even connected to one of the Red Angel suits from Season 2. There was also the Temporal Cold War from Enterprise. However, as a story point one thing about connecting time travel to the Burn seemed like it would be impossible to resolve as the season rolled on.

Crewman Daniels worked with Captain Archer in the 22nd Century to prevent a time-war in the far future.

In short, if the Burn had been revealed to have been caused by the nefarious actions of a time traveller – or as the result of a time travel/Red Angel suit accident – then logically, from Starfleet’s perspective, the only solution to the Burn would be to undo it; to travel back in time and prevent it from happening. In the first couple of episodes of the season, as we found our feet, perhaps such a storyline could’ve worked. But as we got to know people like Booker, Admiral Vance, the leaders of Earth, Ni’Var, Trill, and many others across the 32nd Century, removing most of them from existence by resetting the timeline would have felt completely wrong.

Undoing the Burn would’ve completely changed the 31st and 32nd Centuries, with knock-on effects for all of those characters – and countless more. Even if the crew of Discovery were immune to such changes, the consequences for everyone else would be vast. As I mentioned when discussing Admiral Janeway’s decision to take a similar action in the finale of Star Trek: Voyager, wiping untold numbers of people from existence altogether seems like the worst possible use of time travel – a war crime. The Temporal Accords that Admiral Vance mentioned and which the Federation strives to protect seem specifically designed to prevent anyone from doing this kind of thing.

Admiral Janeway wiped out more than a quarter of a century’s worth of history – and countless people.

So we get into the weeds of philosophy with this one! The Burn happened, and until we learned exactly how and why toward the end of the season, it was possible that time travel could’ve played a role in it. But even if it had, and the Burn was entirely the fault of the misuse or weaponisation of time travel, more than 120 years had passed since. In those 120 years, billions of people lived out complete lifetimes. They made friends, had relationships, had children, and above all they shaped the galaxy in the 31st and 32nd Centuries. Some nebulous, unprovable concept of how it might’ve been “different” and thus better was already a moot point by the year 3188, because going back in time and changing the past would remove untold billions of people from existence, and utterly change the lives of everyone else.

There’s also no guarantee that preventing the Burn would’ve made the galaxy in 3188 a better place. The Burn destroyed countless starships, but if it hadn’t the galaxy’s dilithium shortage would’ve continued and even accelerated, potentially leaving whole fleets of ships – and possibly planetary power grids – with no fuel at all. Though we get into pure speculation at this point, perhaps the Burn destroyed an invasion fleet that the Borg, the Dominion, or some other villainous group had put together, and if it hadn’t occurred the Federation would’ve been conquered.

Was the Burn the worst thing that could’ve happened – or might there be something worse?

This is the fundamental problem with making changes to the timeline and with time travel in general – it isn’t possible to predict every consequence! Star Trek even has a story all about that: the Voyager two-part episode Year of Hell, in which the villainous Annorax is in control of a time travel-based weapon, but after inadvertently removing his wife from existence becomes obsessed with making changes to the timeline left, right, and centre to undo his mistake.

In short, whether the Federation, Section 31, or some other faction were involved, they wouldn’t be able to predict what consequences would befall the galaxy if the Burn never happened. It isn’t possible to take into account every individual and thus every variable – as the story of Su’Kal kind of demonstrates. One Kelpien child on one crashed starship caused all of this damage and devastation. Who’s to say that undoing that event wouldn’t have led to something worse, some other catastrophe caused by a different individual?

Su’Kal was ultimately revealed to be the cause of the Burn.

As a contemporary analogy, imagine going back in time and preventing the rise of Napoleon and thus the Napoleonic wars. Or going back in time to prevent the eruption of Krakatoa. Those events caused widespread death and misery, and our morality says that we should try to minimise suffering and death wherever we can. But could you reasonably predict the consequences? If Napoleon didn’t rise to power in France, would someone else – someone worse – have done so? If Krakatoa didn’t erupt in 1883, would the pressure building up under the crust be released somewhere else at a different time – perhaps somewhere more highly-populated? These are just two examples, yet each one brings with it huge potential ramifications.

To conclude, time travel seemingly presents a way for the Burn to have been avoided – if we don’t dig too deeply. But scratch the surface and it becomes apparent that there are serious barriers. Starfleet’s steadfast commitment to its principles wouldn’t have allowed Admiral Vance – or anyone else in his role – to share information with time travellers from the past. Even if someone from the past had travelled to the 32nd Century, without the very specific information on the KSF Khi’eth that Michael Burnham and the crew of the USS Discovery assembled, warning Starfleet that the Burn was coming would have made little difference. Perhaps some ships could’ve been saved if the Federation were forewarned of the exact timing of the event, but that’s about all. With the destruction of the Red Angel suits, it appears that no time travel technology exists in the 32nd Century, preventing anyone – Section 31, the Emerald Chain, etc. – going back in time to prevent the Burn. Even if someone wanted to, the lack of information would once again be a hurdle even if we ignore the huge moral implications – and the implications for Discovery as a series effectively wiping out an entire season’s worth of story!

The cause of the Burn was only uncovered by the crew of the USS Discovery more than 120 years after it happened.

I can understand why the writers of Discovery Season 3 brought in all of the stuff about the Temporal Accords and the ban on time travel. I wish it had been elaborated on – and I also wish that Star Trek had been more consistent in its depiction of time travel on the whole, because there are definitely holes we can pick in the concept quite easily. As things sit, it feels like the writers basically said “time travel was banned, so get over it” and then moved on to the rest of the story. If you don’t look too hard, that’s okay. But we’re Trekkies – we like to dive deeply into all things Star Trek!

The ban on time travel is just one part of why Starfleet couldn’t really have used the technology to avoid the Burn, though. And the Burn’s ultimate origin as something accidental connected to a child who wasn’t even born before the KSF Khi’eth entered the Verubin Nebula provides a reasonable explanation. Without knowing the Burn’s origin, all Starfleet could’ve done was shut down as many ships as possible and try to rebuild after the Burn – and that would likely not have been good enough for worlds like Ni’Var. The Federation would still have fractured and the rest of the galaxy would still be in a mess.

As for going back in time and undoing the Burn now that Starfleet knows its origin, that seems off the table. Maybe a faction like Section 31 would contemplate it, but even then I think there are solid reasons to hesitate. The morality of wiping out an entire timeline and most of the people in it is the biggest consideration, but purely on a practical level there’s no guarantee that undoing the Burn wouldn’t lead to something else – something worse. For us as viewers, the Burn is something new. But from the point of view of characters like Admiral Vance and Kovich, this is an historical event more than a century in the past; it occurred before practically everyone alive in the Federation in 3188 was even born. Undoing it would be like one of us wanting to undo something that happened in the 19th Century. Can we think of valid, sympathetic reasons to want to undo certain historical events? Of course. But can we also understand why changing the past can have catastrophic unforeseen consequences? Absolutely. And that, in a nutshell, is why I think the Burn couldn’t and wouldn’t have been avoided via time travel.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, and on Netflix in the UK and around the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Picard + Star Trek: Discovery crossover theory – “the true final frontier”

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.”

Picard Season 2 seems to have a time travel focus.

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.

Could Picard Season 2 visit the 32nd Century?

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.

Maybe Admiral Picard will meet Captain Burnham!

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!

Visiting the 23rd Century could allow Picard and the crew of La Sirena to meet up with Michael Burnham, Saru, and the crew of Discovery before they headed to the future.

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.

Ash Tyler could conceivably still be alive in the early 24th Century.

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.

If La Sirena travels through time, a crossover could be on the cards!

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!

In 2019 I wondered if Saru and the crew of Discovery might end up in the 25th Century!

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.