Six Star Trek “hot takes”

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the following Star Trek productions: Picard Seasons 1-2, Discovery Season 3, Strange New Worlds, the Kelvin timeline films, Deep Space Nine, and The Next Generation.

Today I thought we could have a bit of fun! There are many so-called “hot takes” about the Star Trek franchise flitting about online, and I thought it could be a change of pace to share a few of my own. These are – based on my limited engagement with the wider Star Trek fan community, at least – opinions that aren’t widely held or especially popular. I’ll do my best to explain why I feel the way I do about each of the six subjects we’re going to consider below.

More than ever, I ask you to keep in mind that all of this is subjective, not objective! I’m not saying that these opinions are factual and unquestionable; this is just my singular perspective on a handful of very complex topics. As with everything in media, there are going to be a range of views, and while I’ll try to justify my opinions below, I know that a lot of people can and do disagree. And that’s okay! There’s room in the Star Trek fan community for respectful disagreement about all manner of things.

With all of that out of the way, this is your last chance to jump ship if you aren’t interested in some potentially controversial Star Trek opinions!

“Hot Take” #1:
Star Trek: Picard transformed Seven of Nine into an enjoyable character for the first time.

Seven of Nine in Picard Season 2.

Star Trek: Picard hasn’t been perfect across its first two seasons, but one thing that it absolutely got right is Seven of Nine’s characterisation. Seven was an unexpected character for the series to introduce – she’d never interacted with Jean-Luc Picard on screen before, and the pair hadn’t even the barest bones of a relationship to build on. In that sense, I was surprised (and maybe a little concerned) when it was made clear that she’d be featured in a big way in the first season.

Perhaps I should explain myself before we go any further. Seven of Nine was introduced midway through Voyager’s run in the two-part episode Scorpion. At first she seemed to be a character with a lot of potential, and I enjoyed what she brought to the table in early Season 4 episodes such as Scientific Method and The Raven. But Seven very quickly became repetitive. Week after week she’d learn some lesson in “how to be more human” from the Doctor or Captain Janeway, but she’d seem to forget all about it and revert to her semi-Borg self by the next episode. This was exacerbated by the fact that Voyager’s latter seasons seemed to include a lot of Seven-heavy episodes and stories, making her a prominent character.

Publicity photo of Seven of Nine during Voyager’s run.

That’s how episodic television works, and I get that. Most other Star Trek characters up to that point in the franchise’s history also “reset” in between episodes, and we could talk at length about how characters like Miles O’Brien could go through some horrible trauma one week only to be happily playing darts at Quark’s a few days later as if it never happened. But with Seven of Nine, a combination of her prominence and storylines that often revolved around learning and taking to heart some aspect of what it means to be human and exist outside of the Borg Collective meant that her week-to-week resets and lack of significant growth really began to grate. Toward the end of Season 7, Seven was given an arc of sorts that threw her into a relationship with Chakotay – but I’m hardly the only person who feels that didn’t work particularly well!

So by the time Voyager ended, I was burnt out on Seven of Nine. Out of all the main characters from Voyager, she was perhaps the one I was least interested to see picked up for a second bite of the cherry – but I was wrong about that. Where Seven had been static and repetitive in Voyager, Picard gave her that development I’d been longing to see, and it was incredibly cathartic! Even though Seven’s post-Voyager life hadn’t been smooth, it had been human, and seeing her experience genuine emotions like anger, betrayal, and later through her relationship with Raffi, love, was something I didn’t know I wanted. Having seen it now, though, there’s no way I’d want to lose this element of Picard.

Seven with Admiral Picard.

The death of Icheb, which was shown in one of Picard Season 1’s most gory sequences, became a key part of Seven’s character arc. His loss devastated her – and the idea that Seven of Nine could be devastated was already a colossal leap for her character. That it spurred her on to one of the most human of desires – revenge – is even more significant for her. And this growth continued across the rest of Season 1, with Seven coming face-to-face with the Borg and even becoming a leader (of sorts) for the liberated ex-Borg on the Artifact.

Even though Season 2 was a mixed bag (at best) with some lacklustre storylines, Seven of Nine shone once again. Her relationship with Raffi added a whole new dimension to her character, and after seeing her experiencing anger and negative emotions in Season 1, Season 2 gave her a chance at love. Season 2 also saw Seven revelling in a new experience, having hopped across to a new timeline and found herself in a body that had never been assimilated. That set her on an arc to accepting herself for who she is – including her Borg past.

Seven without her trademark Borg implants.

Seven’s journey has been beautiful to see, but also cathartic. To me, her journey in Picard feels like it’s righted a twenty-year wrong, finally giving Seven of Nine genuine development and an arc that stuck. While I’m sure fans can and will debate individual plot points (like Icheb’s death or Seven’s off-screen involvement with the Fenris Rangers), taken as a whole I’ve really enjoyed what Picard did with what had been one of my least-favourite characters of The Next Generation era.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for more from Seven of Nine – and if you’d told me in 2000-2001 that I’d write those words I wouldn’t have believed you!

“Hot Take” #2:
I don’t like The Inner Light.

Picard/Kamin in The Inner Light.

Often held up as an example of The Next Generation at its best, I’ve never enjoyed The Inner Light. It’s an episode I usually skip over without a second thought when re-watching The Next Generation, but I put myself through the chore of viewing it recently; it’s part of what inspired me to put together this list!

The Inner Light steps away from the exciting adventures of the Enterprise-D to show us a pre-warp civilisation living on a random alien backwater planet, and while exploring strange new worlds is part of the gig, the way this episode in particular does that is just not interesting or enjoyable in the slightest. It’s certainly “different” – and I will concede that point. Star Trek has never been shy about experimenting, after all! But this particular experiment didn’t work, which is probably why we haven’t really seen another episode quite like it.

Picard with the Kataan probe.

I don’t like to say that something “doesn’t feel like Star Trek,” not least because that vague and unhelpful phrase has become associated with a subgroup of so-called fans who use it to attack everything the franchise has done since 2009. But to me, The Inner Light feels about as far away from what I want and hope to see from an episode of Star Trek as it’s possible to get.

By spending practically its entire runtime in the past, with Picard taking on the role of an alien blacksmith in a pre-warp society, The Inner Light abandons not only the entire crew of the Enterprise-D, but also many of the fundamental adventurous elements that are what makes Star Trek, well… feel like Star Trek. Its deliberately slow pace doubles-down on this sensation, and The Inner Light seems to drag as a result, coming across as boring.

Picard/Kamin playing the flute.

I’m not particularly bothered by the way the Kataan probe operates – that seems technobabbley enough to get a pass. But after Picard has been hit by the probe and the majority of the episode is then spent on Kataan with Kamin and his family… I’m just not interested. Sir Patrick Stewart is a great actor, and what happened to the Kataan people is both tragic and a timely reminder of our own burgeoning environmental catastrophe (something that we haven’t even tried to fix more than a quarter of a century later). But despite all of the elements being in place, the story just doesn’t grab me like I feel it should. At the end of the day, I can’t find a way to give a shit about Kataan, nor about Kamin or anyone else.

There are many episodes of Star Trek with races and characters who only appear once, and yet very few of them manage to evoke that same “I just don’t care” reaction. Just within Season 5 of The Next Generation we have characters like Hugh the Borg and Nicholas Locarno, or aliens like the Children of Tama and the Ux-Mal, all of which manage to hook me in and get me invested in their storylines. I’d generally consider The Next Generation’s fifth season to be one of its best, with many of my favourite episodes. But The Inner Light isn’t one of them.

Picard/Kamin overlooking the village of Ressik.

There are points to The Inner Light that did work. The Ressikan flute theme, for example, is a beautiful piece of music, and Picard’s flute-playing ability (which he learned during the events of The Inner Light) would become a minor recurring element for his character going forward, notably appearing in episodes like Lessons. And the underlying premise of a probe that transmits a message in this way could have worked; it feels quite Star Trek-y in and of itself.

But for me, The Inner Light just isn’t fun to watch. It’s boring, uninspiring, and I can’t find a way to get invested in the story of Kataan and its people – despite good performances from Sir Patrick Stewart and the other actors present.

“Hot Take” #3:
Modern Trek needs to pick a single era (and timeline) and stick to it.

Admiral Vance and Captain Burnham in the 32nd Century.

Star Trek, perhaps more so than any other major entertainment franchise, is convoluted. As Trekkies, we love that! The fact that modern Star Trek can explore different timelines, different eras, and broadcast different shows that are entirely separate from one another makes for a diverse and interesting presentation. It also means that we can simultaneously step back in time to before Captain Kirk’s five-year mission while also seeing what came next for Captain Picard twenty-five years after the events of Nemesis.

But try to look at Star Trek from the point of view of a newcomer. Every single one of the five shows currently in production is set in a different time period and location, and just figuring out where to start with Star Trek – or where to go next for someone who’s enjoyed watching one of the new shows – is the subject of essays, articles, and lists. It’s beginning to remind me of Star Wars’ old Expanded Universe – a combination of games, books, comics, and so on that had become so convoluted and dense after decades in production that it felt offputting.

Cadet Elnor in the 25th Century.

In order for Star Trek to successfully convert viewers of one of its new iterations into fans of the franchise, it needs to simplify its current output. A fan of Strange New Worlds might think that their next port of call should be Picard or Lower Decks – but they’d be completely lost because those shows are set more than a century later.

The lack of a single, unified setting also prevents crossover stories – and these aren’t just fun fan-service for Trekkies like us! Crossovers link up separate Star Trek outings, bringing fans of one show into close contact with another. Just as The Next Generation did with Deep Space Nine (and DS9 did with Voyager), modern Star Trek should make the effort to link up its current shows. There are links between Discovery and Strange New Worlds – but any crossover potential has evaporated due to Discovery shooting forward into the far future.

Beckett Mariner and Jennifer the Andorian in the late 24th Century.

This also applies to alternate realities, most significantly the Kelvin timeline which is supposedly being brought back for a fourth film. The Kelvin films served a purpose in the late 2000s and early 2010s, but as I’ve argued in the past, is it really a good idea to bring back that setting – as well as its presentation of characters who have recently been recast for Strange New Worlds – with everything else that Star Trek has going on?

In 2009, it was possible for new fans to jump from the Kelvin films to other iterations of Star Trek and keep up with what’s going on. But we’ve had more than 100 new episodes of Star Trek since then across several different eras, some including recast versions of characters who appeared in the Kelvin timeline films. I’m not so sure that a new Kelvin timeline film serves its intended purpose any more.

Captain Pike in the 23rd Century.

I wouldn’t want to see any of the shows currently in production shut down before their time. We’ve only just got started with Strange New Worlds, for instance, and I’m hopeful that that series will run for at least five seasons (to complete Captain Pike’s five-year mission!) But as the current crop of shows wind down, the producers at Paramount need to consider their next moves very carefully. Where should Star Trek go from here, and where should its focus be?

Discovery’s 32nd Century is certainly a contender, and setting the stage for new adventures years after the stories we know provides a soft reboot for the franchise while also opening up new storytelling possibilities. But it would also be great to see Star Trek return to the late 24th or early 25th Centuries of the Picard era, picking up story threads from The Next Generation era – Star Trek’s real “golden age” in the 1990s. Setting all (or almost all) of its films, shows, miniseries, and one-shot stories in a single, unified timeline has many advantages, and would be to the franchise’s overall benefit.

Stay tuned, because I have a longer article about this in the pipeline!

“Hot Take” #4:
Far Beyond The Stars is an unenjoyable episode, albeit one with a very important message.

Benny Russell in Far Beyond The Stars.

This is my way of saying that “I don’t like Far Beyond The Stars” while still giving credit to the moral story at its core. Star Trek has always been a franchise that’s brought moral fables to screen, and Far Beyond The Stars does this in a very intense – and almost brutal – way, shining a light on America’s racist past and present.

But as I’ve already discussed with The Inner Light above, the way in which this story is presented doesn’t really work for me. I find Benny Russell’s story sympathetic… but because what’s happening is so far removed from the events of Deep Space Nine, it’s difficult to turn that investment over the course of a single episode into anything substantial. The “it was all a dream or a vision” explanation also hammers this home; whatever was happening to Captain Sisko was taking place outside of the real world – perhaps inside his head, perhaps as a vision from the Prophets – and thus it doesn’t feel like it matters – in the context of the show – in the same way as other, similar stories.

Julius and Benny.

Far Beyond The Stars is comparable to The Inner Light insofar as it steps out of the Star Trek franchise’s fictional future. In this case, the story returns to our real world a few short years in the past. While there are occasional flashes of Star Trek’s signature optimism, the darker tone of the story combines with its real-world setting to feel different; separate from not only the events of Star Trek, but its entire universe.

“But that’s the whole point!” fans of Far Beyond The Stars are itching to tell me. And I agree! Far Beyond The Stars knows what it’s trying to be and knows the kind of story it wants to tell and goes for it, 100%. I’d even say that it achieves what it set out to. But that doesn’t make it a fun watch, an entertaining story, or an episode I’m keen to revisit. As with The Inner Light, I almost always skip over Far Beyond The Stars when I’m watching Deep Space Nine.

The unnamed preacher.

Perhaps if I were an American, more of Far Beyond The Stars’ real-world elements would hit closer to home. But when I first saw the episode in the late ’90s here in the UK, I confess that at least parts of it went way over my head. That’s perhaps my own bias showing – but the whole point of this exercise is to discuss parts of the Star Trek franchise beginning with my own biases and opinions!

Having re-watched Far Beyond The Stars after spending time living in both the United States and South Africa – two societies which continue to wrangle with legacies of structural and systemic racial discrimination – I definitely felt its hard-hitting message a lot more. In fact, Far Beyond The Stars could be a great episode to use as a starting point for a broader conversation about race and structural racism. But having a moral message – especially a very on-the-nose one – doesn’t always make for the most interesting or enjoyable story.

Sisko sees himself reflected as Benny Russell at the end of the episode.

I don’t find Far Beyond The Stars to be “uncomfortable” to watch. The racial aspects of its story have purpose, and even with the progress that America has made since the turn of the millennium, many of the racial issues that Far Beyond The Stars highlights are just as relevant today as they were twenty-five years ago. But I guess what I’d say about the episode is that it doesn’t deliver what I personally find interesting and enjoyable about an episode of Star Trek.

Taken as a one-off, I can put up with Far Beyond The Stars. It didn’t become a major recurring thing in Deep Space Nine, and while Captain Sisko would recall the events on more than one occasion, it didn’t come to dominate the latter part of Deep Space Nine’s run in any way. So in that sense, I’m content to set Far Beyond The Stars to one side, acknowledging what it brought to the table in terms of allegory and morality while being content to rewatch it infrequently.

“Hot Take” #5:
Canon matters – up to a point.

The original USS Enterprise.

There seems to be a black-and-white, either/or debate in the Star Trek fan community when it comes to the franchise’s internal canon. Some folks are adamant that the tiniest minutia of canon must be “respected” at all costs, criticising things like the redesign of uniforms or even the recasting of characters because it doesn’t fit precisely with what came before. Then there are others who say that “it’s all just a story,” and that canon can be entirely ignored if a new writer has an idea for a story. I don’t fall into either camp!

Canon matters because internal consistency matters. Internal consistency is – for me, at least – an absolutely essential part of the pathway to suspension of disbelief. If I’m to believe that transporters and warp cores exist, the way they work and the way they’re presented on screen has to be basically consistent from one Star Trek story to the next.

The USS Discovery at warp.

The same applies to characters. If a character has a background as an assassin and that’s a central part of their characterisation in one story, the next episode can’t arbitrarily change that and make them into a marine biologist because the plot demands it. Characters need to feel like real people, and the world they inhabit needs to operate by its established rules.

Luckily for Star Trek’s writers, there is a lot of flexibility in those rules! Most of the specifics of how individual pieces of technology work have never been delved into in any detail, and there’s a lot we don’t know about even the most basic of things within the Star Trek universe. So new writers find themselves with considerable leeway if they want to make a change or do something differently for the sake of a story.

A combadge from an alternate timeline.

But there is a limit to that – or at least there ought to be. And the Star Trek franchise has tripped up by introducing new elements that seem to tread on the toes of what has already been established, even if they don’t technically overwrite anything. Spock’s family is a case in point. The Final Frontier gave Spock a half-brother who had never been mentioned, and then Discovery came along and gave him an adopted sister as well. Neither of these additions overwrote what we know of Spock’s family history… but they definitely came close.

On the other side of things, I’m quite okay with Star Trek making changes and updates to its visual style. The redesign of the USS Enterprise that debuted in Discovery and has been expanded upon for Strange New Worlds is a great example of one way that the franchise has modernised its look without really “damaging” established canon. All that’s required to get around the apparent visual changes – for anyone who feels it’s necessary – is to say that the Enterprise must’ve undergone some kind of retrofit in between Pike’s command and Kirk’s.

Sarek and Michael Burnham in Discovery’s premiere.

Where canon matters to me is in terms of characterisation and story. If we’ve established, for example, that the Vulcans and Romulans are related to one another, then future stories must remain consistent with that; there can be no “Romulan origin story” that tries to say that they evolved separately, for example. Likewise for characters. We all love a good character arc – but if a character’s personality and background are established, changing those fundamentals in an arbitrary manner should be off the table.

So to the canon purists, my message is going to be “loosen up a little!” And to the canon ignorers, what I’d say is “internal consistency matters.”

“Hot Take” #6:
The Kelvin films got a lot right – and could be textbook examples of how to reboot a franchise.

Spock, Kirk, and Dr McCoy in Star Trek Beyond.

Even today, more than a decade after 2009’s Star Trek kicked off the Kelvin timeline, I still have Trekkie friends who have refused to watch them. Other fans who showed up at the cinema were unimpressed with what they saw, and the Kelvin films can feel like a controversial part of the Star Trek franchise sometimes. For my two cents, though, although the Kelvin films were imperfect and certainly different to what had come before, they managed to get a lot of things right. I’d even say that Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness could be used as textbook case studies in how to reboot a franchise successfully!

Modern Star Trek – from Discovery to Picard and beyond – would simply not exist without the Kelvin films. When Enterprise was cancelled in 2005, it really did feel as though the Star Trek franchise itself had died and wouldn’t be returning. Even as someone who hadn’t been a regular viewer of Enterprise, that still stung! But if there had been doubts over the Star Trek brand and its ability to reach out to new audiences and bring in huge numbers of viewers, 2009’s Star Trek shattered them.

Transwarp beaming.

Into Darkness eclipsed even the massively high numbers of its predecessor and remains the cinematic franchise’s high-water mark in terms of audience figures and profitability, so it’s not exactly shocking to learn that Paramount hopes to return to the Kelvin cast for a fourth outing next year! These films took what had been a complicated franchise with a reputation for being geeky and nerdy and skimmed off a lot of the fluff. What resulted was a trio of decent sci-fi action films that may just have saved the franchise’s reputation.

The Kelvin films also gave Star Trek a visual overhaul, modernising the franchise’s aesthetic and visual style while still retaining all of the core elements that longstanding fans expected. Transporters were still there – but they looked sleeker and prettier. Warp drive was still present – but a new visual effect was created. Many of these aesthetic elements have remained part of the franchise ever since, appearing in the various productions that we’ve seen since Star Trek returned to the small screen in 2017.

The USS Enterprise.

By establishing an alternate reality, the Kelvin films found scope to take familiar characters to very different places. We got to see how Kirk and Spock met for the first time at Starfleet Academy – a premise that Gene Roddenberry had considered all the way back during The Original Series’ run – but with a twist. Star Trek reintroduced us to classic characters, but put its own spin on them, providing a satisfactory in-universe explanation for why so many things were different.

But at the same time, the inclusion of Leonard Nimoy’s Spock from the prime timeline anchored the Kelvin films, providing a link to what had come before. This reboot wasn’t about erasing anything; it was an expansion of Star Trek into a new timeline, one that had basically unlimited potential to tell some very different stories. The trio of films took advantage of that, and while I would argue that there’s no pressing need to revisit the Kelvin timeline right now, I absolutely do appreciate what they did for Star Trek.

Two Spocks.

As a reboot, the Kelvin films succeeded in their ambition. They reinvented Star Trek just enough for mainstream audiences to discover the franchise – many for the first time. Some of those folks stuck around and have become big Trekkies all off the back of what the Kelvin films did. They updated Star Trek without overwriting anything, and they set the stage for further expansion and growth. By every measure, the Kelvin films were successful.

That isn’t to say they’re my favourite part of the franchise! But as a fan who wants Star Trek to stick around and continue to be successful, projects like the Kelvin films are essential.

So that’s it!

Were those takes as hot as a supernova?

I hope that this was a bit of fun rather than anything to get too seriously upset about. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions about the episodes, films, characters, and storylines that Star Trek creates, and whether I’m thrilled about something, hated it, or have mixed feelings, I will always try to explain myself and provide reasons for why I feel the way that I do. But at the end of the day, all of this is just the subjective opinion of one person!

We’re very lucky to have so much Star Trek content coming our way in the next few years. It seems like the franchise will make it to its sixtieth anniversary in 2026 with new films and episodes still being produced, and there can’t be many entertainment franchises that could make such a claim to longevity!

There are definitely points on the list above that I could expand upon, and I’m sure I could think of a few more “hot takes” if I tried! So stay tuned for more Star Trek content to come here on the website as we move into the summer season.

The Star Trek franchise – including all 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 3 – thoughts on the casting situation

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2 and casting/character announcements for Season 3. Spoilers are also present for Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 and Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-2.

Star Trek: Picard’s second season wrapped up a couple of days ago, and even as the dust settles on the show’s latest outing we’re already beginning to see Season 3 take shape. Filming on Picard Season 3 has been underway for months; Seasons 2 and 3 entered production back-to-back, so we have a good chance of seeing it in the early part of 2023 as things currently stand.

Today I wanted to take a peek behind the curtain and talk about some production-side announcements that are related to Season 3 – in particular, which characters might not be included in the new season. This is serious spoiler territory for Season 3, so if you don’t want to know who may or may not be reprising their roles (and you ignored the giant warning at the top of the article), this is your last chance to avoid Season 3 spoilers!

The USS Stargazer in Farewell.

The only way I can describe what I’ve learned about Season 3 is that the Picard cast has been massacred. At time of writing, we have confirmations (or as-good-as confirmations) that Orla Brady, Isa Briones, Santiago Cabrera, Evan Evagora, and Alison Pill won’t be returning for Season 3. That means Laris, Soji/Kore/Sutra, Rios, Elnor, and Dr Jurati/the Borg Queen won’t be included in any meaningful way in the new season.

These departures make way for the returning main cast members from The Next Generation (minus Wil Wheaton and Denise Crosby), who will be reprising their roles as Riker, Troi, Worf, Dr Crusher, La Forge, and a currently-unknown character in the case of Data actor Brent Spiner. As nice as it will be to welcome them back to Star Trek, I can’t help but feel that this decision is the wrong one – or at the very least that the Picard cast departures have been handled particularly poorly.

The cast of The Next Generation in Season 2.

In Farewell, the Season 2 finale, Captain Rios and Dr Jurati got goodbyes… of a sort. Rios’ goodbye felt permanent as he chose to remain in the 21st Century after falling for Teresa; the Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid had less of a “goodbye” and more of a “see you later,” but I guess in the context of her season-long arc we can at least call it an ending. But Elnor, Laris, and Soji didn’t even get the most basic of goodbyes.

Soji was Season 1’s second main character along with Picard himself. She was both the driving force behind the plot of the first six episodes and a major character in her own right, and her story of learning the truth of her synthetic origin and coming to terms with that was something that Star Trek had never really tackled before. More significantly, Soji led Picard to her people’s homeworld: Coppelius.

Soji in Season 1.

The discovery of the Coppelius synths led to the unravelling of the Zhat Vash plot, as well as uncovered the role of Commodore Oh as a spy within Starfleet. It provided Starfleet with an explanation for the attack on Mars a decade earlier and for the cover-up aboard the USS Ibn Majid. It transformed Starfleet from a semi-antagonist with an inward-looking, almost xenophobic edge back into a faction worthy of support. It’s a landmark moment in the history of this post-Nemesis era.

Soji was instrumental in all of that, as well as in contacting and then not contacting the unnamed faction of super-synths. We spent a lot of time with her across Season 1, and I’d point to some of her scenes with Kestra in Nepenthe and her role in The Impossible Box as being two of the big highlights. Unfortunately, Soji was completely sidelined in Season 2, not taking part in the mission back in time or the stand-off with the Borg in any way… but there was still scope to bring her back.

Soji was sidelined for all of Season 2.

Elnor’s absence – if indeed it is confirmed; at this point it’s only been mentioned by actor Evan Evagora on social media – feels utterly inexcusable to me. After Elnor had been killed in the Season 2 episode Assimilation, his death served as a major motivating factor for Raffi’s character arc, and coming to terms with her guilt and remorse were key components of her storyline. This culminated in a beautiful sequence in the episode Hide and Seek in which Raffi was able to speak to a holographic recreation of Elnor and come to terms with what had happened – accepting his death and letting go of at least some of the guilt that had been plaguing her.

This story was already muddled – and I would argue that its beautifully emotional conclusion was severely undermined – by the decision to resurrect Elnor in the Season 2 finale just one episode later. As much as I wanted to see Elnor’s story continue – as I feel he’s a character with huge potential – his death and Raffi’s acceptance of it seemed to be permanent, and undermining what had been one of Hide and Seek’s best moments wasn’t something that the season needed in its final minutes.

Holo-Elnor in Season 2.

But now to learn that Elnor isn’t coming back after all… I just don’t get it. For the sake of two minutes of screen time in the season finale and a look of relief on Raffi’s face, why not just leave Elnor dead if he has no role in Season 3? That would’ve at least given Raffi’s main narrative arc in Season 2 some significance. Most of the impact of what Raffi went through had been blunted by Elnor’s survival, and while we could certainly argue that she learned something from the experience, it smacks of the whole “it was all just a dream” story trope that resets everything back to the way it was.

Given that there seems to be no role for Elnor in Season 3, he may as well have stayed dead. At least his death would’ve mattered, spurring on Raffi to learn a lesson and grow as a person – growth that could stick around and continue to provide inspiration to her in whatever story comes next. Having him survive only to be shuffled off-screen anyway, presumably assigned to a different starship, just feels completely hollow and meaningless.

It seems as though there’s no place for Cadet Elnor in Season 3.

Although Laris hadn’t been a major character, her romantic interest in Picard was one of the main factors involved in kicking off the plot. As it turned out, Q wanted Picard to process grief and trauma that he’d carried since childhood – something that seems to have prevented him from forming longlasting relationships. In that sense, Laris was an incredibly important character for the series – and the closing moments of the Season 2 finale implied that she and Picard will indeed be striking up a new romantic relationship.

But if we aren’t going to see that relationship unfold on screen, if it’s just going to be relegated to that one scene at the end of Season 2, it again raises some pretty big questions. It’s beginning to feel that the decision to bring back The Next Generation characters in Season 3 has already undermined some significant story beats from Season 2, cutting them off at the knees and preventing the next – and final – chapter of the story from developing them further and taking them to their natural conclusions.

Picard with Laris at the beginning of Season 2.

When Star Trek: Picard was first announced, I didn’t want it to be The Next Generation Season 8. That’s a neat idea – but it wasn’t what this series was. I wanted to see some of these new characters grow on me and be given the opportunity to become fan-favourites for the next generation (pun intended) of Star Trek fans.

If the Star Trek franchise is to survive in the long-term, it can’t simply copy what Star Wars is doing and rely on cheap overloads of nostalgia. It has to continue to grow and develop, and new characters have to be given equal standing alongside legacy characters. In thirty-five years’ time, it’s my genuine hope that fans will be just as excited for Star Trek: Elnor as we have been for Star Trek: Picard… but in order for that to happen, we need to be spending more time with these characters. Having them cut entirely from the final season of the show – several of them without any kind of goodbye or send-off – doesn’t just sting because we won’t get to enjoy more adventures with them or see what comes next, but it could seriously damage Star Trek’s long-term prospects.

The Star Trek: Picard main cast. Only two are confirmed to be part of Season 3.

When The Next Generation characters have come back, what’s next? We’ve already had Voyager characters come back in Picard and in Prodigy, so that only leaves Deep Space Nine of the 24th Century shows. If future projects recycle characters from Deep Space Nine and Enterprise, there’ll be nobody left! Star Trek has to expand – to build on the legacy of the shows and characters that came before. What it mustn’t do is keep trying to bring back those characters and relive those past successes.

The Next Generation and the other shows of that era are in the past – and while there’s definitely potential to revisit characters like Jean-Luc Picard, it’s worth remembering that Star Trek is more than just a handful of familiar faces. Since at least 1987, when The Original Series passed the torch to The Next Generation in the first place, that’s a lesson that the Star Trek franchise has done well to take to heart. The Star Trek galaxy is vast, populated with billions or perhaps trillions of individuals across thousands of planets, and it’s ripe for exploration! Narrowing the franchise’s focus to a handful of characters from older shows is not what Star Trek is about – and it never has been.

Captain Rios at the beginning of Season 2.

Until now, I’ve felt that modern Star Trek has struck a pretty good balance between the old and the new. Discovery introduced us to brand-new characters, but tied its main protagonist to Spock and Sarek, before reintroducing Captain Pike. Picard focused on Picard himself, of course, but instead of sending him off on an adventure with his old crew, it brought some genuinely interesting new characters on board. Unfortunately, we’re now learning that several of them won’t stick around… and I find that to be quite disappointing.

I suppose the good news is that these characters still exist, and if Picard serves as a jumping-off point for potential new spin-off series, miniseries, or films set in the early 25th Century, it may be possible to revisit some of them. But I’m not going to hold my breath for that, at least not in the short-term. There are other Star Trek projects in the works, but with characters like Elnor having received precious little development across two seasons of Picard, it’s my suspicion that he’ll simply drop off the face of the galaxy never to be revisited.

Dr Jurati got a significant arc in Season 2… but won’t return for Season 3.

That’s all there is to say for now, I guess. Decisions have already been made and the new season – which will supposedly be Picard’s last – is already well underway in terms of production, so it’s clearly far too late to change any of that now. Star Trek’s past is, of course, filled with one-off characters; guest stars who appeared in an episode or two before disappearing forever. And there have been main cast members who were shuffled off their respective shows in unceremonious ways. None of it is new – but that doesn’t make it any less disappointing.

I was genuinely looking forward to spending more time with the likes of Elnor, Soji, Laris, and potentially the Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid. Had you asked me shortly after the Season 2 premiere I’d have said that a Captain Rios spin-off has real potential, too. The return of The Next Generation crew isn’t bad… but I wish that their returns didn’t have to come at the expense of some wonderful characters that we’ve only just begun to get to know.

I remain hopeful for a fun season and an exciting adventure with these returning characters… but I confess that I’m quite disappointed to learn that so many Picard cast members had to be culled to make it happen.

Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and around the world. Season 3 is currently in production and may be targeting a 2023 broadcast. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard, The Next Generation, 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 review – Season 2, Episode 10: Farewell

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2 and casting announcements for Season 3. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Next GenerationFirst Contact, and Voyager.

So here we are! Although it seems like only yesterday that we were settling in for The Star Gazer after a two-year wait for Picard Season 2, it’s time to bid “farewell” to Admiral Picard and the (remaining) crew of La Sirena. At least the wait for Season 3 – which has already begun filming – shouldn’t be quite as long!

Season 2 took a meandering and frustrating route to reach this end point, and while Farewell had some real emotional highlights and moments of excitement, I can’t shake the feeling that the lessons of Season 1 weren’t heeded. Just as happened last time around, there were a lot of underdeveloped moments, stories that needed longer in the spotlight, and narrative threads that missed the mark not because they were bad, but because the season wasted time getting here. While I can happily say that I enjoyed Farewell, it wasn’t as good as it might’ve been.

Admiral Picard on the bridge of the USS Stargazer.

Most of the story complaints that I have really aren’t Farewell’s fault on its own. They’re actually the consequence of a slow, muddled season that dedicated too much time in earlier episodes to what ultimately ended up as extraneous fluff. The episode Watcher, for example, spent a huge amount of time tracking down Rios and Tallinn – and those sequences could have been massively shortened to move the story along at a more reasonable pace. That would’ve allowed last week’s episode, Hide and Seek, to have fully wrapped up the Europa Mission and Renée stories – stories that Farewell had to blitz through to get Picard and the crew to meet Q and get back to the 25th Century.

Farewell felt like a busy episode from the first moment, and considering how much story was left to cram in, I think that’s to be expected. I will give credit where it’s due and say that the director and editors did a good job; the best they could with the material they had, I suspect. Although several storylines were undeniably rushed as the season raced toward its end, the cinematography and production values remained high.

The USS Excelsior.

Perhaps you might think this is unfair criticism, but it feels to me as though Picard Season 2 blew most of its budget – in terms of both set-building and CGI – on The Star Gazer and the second half of Farewell. That’s where we got back to the new sets that had been built for the USS Stargazer and that’s where we saw a return of the outstanding animation work seen in the season premiere. The Federation fleet that faced down the Borg – and later the strange anomaly – looked absolutely fantastic, and seeing a big, beautiful Federation fleet in action will be something that I never tire of.

I’m sure that we’ll be seeing the new USS Stargazer back in action in Season 3 (and maybe even a spin-off series one day), so that’s definitely something to look forward to. I talked about this in my review of the premiere, but the design of the Stargazer inside and out felt like the perfect natural evolution of the aesthetic and design philosophy of The Next Generation era shows and films. Seeing more of that ship would be a request of mine – and it’s my hope that Picard will serve as a springboard for more adventures in the early 25th Century.

The Borg vessel and the Federation fleet stop the anomaly.

So let’s start with the shortest and least-interesting of the storylines in Farewell. Kore Soong was a non-entity this season. Her presence served only to provide Dr Adam Soong with some degree of motivation – motivation which at first had me thinking he might be a complex and nuanced character, but that quickly fell away. She didn’t do much of consequence, she was flat and uninteresting, and aside from being a supporting character to prop up the very one-dimensional Adam Soong, her presence seems to have been Picard’s producers throwing a bone to Isa Briones, whose main character of Soji hasn’t been present all season long (and didn’t even show up in the little epilogue when the characters got together in Guinan’s bar).

Kore choosing to hack into and delete her dad’s files was something and nothing. It makes sense – I guess – but it doesn’t feel like it accomplished anything for the story other than finding something for Kore to do after walking out on her home and her life. She doesn’t seem to feel conflicted in any way about that decision, even though she appears to have spent her entire life living with her father in that carefully-shielded house.

Kore’s story also came to an end.

However, I was more than happy to forget all about Kore’s wasted storylines because of the totally unexpected arrival of Wesley Crusher. Tying the Travelers into the same organisation that Tallinn and Gary Seven worked for was a masterstroke; I was totally blindsided by something that I genuinely did not anticipate. Having seen more than 800 Star Trek stories over the span of more than thirty years, the fact that the franchise can still pull off genuinely shocking moments like that – moments that also tie into over fifty-six years’ worth of lore – is amazing. Moments like that are why I love Star Trek, and they can go a long way to redeeming even the most mediocre of stories and flattest of characters.

I had been feeling frustrated that, six episodes on from her introduction, Tallinn appeared to have died without her storyline going into any detail at all about the mysterious organisation she worked for. Going all the way back to Season 2 of The Original Series, there had been questions about this faction and what their objectives might be; I felt disappointed that we weren’t going to get any further explanation. But to my delight, the totally unexpected arrival of Wesley Crusher provided at least a partial answer – and tied together The Original Series, his own role in The Next Generation, and the events of this season in absolutely wonderful fashion.

Wesley Crusher made an unexpected but thoroughly welcome return to Star Trek.

As a moment of pure fan-service, I can totally understand why Farewell didn’t spend more time with Welsey and Kore – as much as I’d have loved it. It would’ve been wonderful to see Wesley reunite with Picard, but in an episode that was very busy I can understand why it didn’t happen. And I don’t interpret this moment as setting up a major new spin-off following Wesley, Kore, and other Travelers and Supervisors – again, as fun as that might be for fans! It was simply a cute cameo; a way to both include a classic character from The Next Generation while also providing closure of a sort to Kore’s story.

There are many questions that I have about what might happen next for Wesley and Kore – as well as why he chose to reach out to her. I assume that the Supervisors and Travelers pick individuals who are both brilliant and somewhat out-of-place – Kore won’t be missed if she vanishes from Earth in 2024 in the way that someone else might, for example. But I guess we should save the speculation for a future theory article!

Wesley and Kore.

Captain Rios’ story has been a disappointment all season long, and the explanation why is simple: we caught a glimpse of him in the season premiere living his best life, but the series stripped that away from him and regressed him back to his Season 1 presentation. If Rios had been not the captain of the USS Stargazer but even just its first officer, at least some of that would’ve abated. But because we’d seen him as a Starfleet captain, the way he seemed to forget about his ship and those under his command had been really grating on me since Penance. The conclusion to his story this time, which saw him written out of the series, just capped off that disappointment.

If it hadn’t been for seeing him in command of the USS Stargazer, I think I could’ve let slide much of what Rios went through – although I would still have some questions. The culmination of his arc this time feels less like a natural decision for either him or Teresa to make and more like one driven by a writers’ room desperate to get rid of main cast members in anticipation of the return of The Next Generation characters in Season 3. Along with Dr Jurati, Rios drew the short straw.

Rios’ story was disappointing this season.

I said in my review of The Star Gazer that I’d be happy to see a spin-off following Captain Rios’ adventures, and had he stuck to the new characterisation that we saw back then, I would’ve absolutely been down for that. Unfortunately Rios’ departure now means that can’t happen – but after seeing the way he regressed as a character this season, I was already less keen on spending more time with him and less confident that he could carry a new series.

As with other narrative threads in Farewell, Rios’ departure was rushed. The episode dedicated less than two minutes of its runtime to Rios saying his goodbyes, and whatever decisions or discussions he’d had with Teresa appear to have happened entirely off-screen. Did Rios, for example, offer to take Teresa and Ricardo to the 25th Century? Did he consider the consequences of staying – both for the timeline and for himself? I mean… World War III is literally right around the corner (in Star Trek, not in the real world… I hope), and the first three-quarters of the 21st Century is arguably one of the worst and most difficult parts of Earth’s entire history in the Star Trek timeline. I know that Rios stayed “because he was in love,” but even so… couldn’t he have thought of something else? Maybe he skipped history class.

Rios chose to stay with Teresa and Ricardo.

As the culmination of a season-long arc, one that took Rios away from much of the rest of the action and that marks his final end as a Star Trek character, the send-off Rios got was poor. So much more could have been made of this moment – but at the same time, with Rios having been so disconnected from almost everyone else all season long, it’s perversely fitting that his goodbye was brief and to the point. Despite what he said in an earlier episode about viewing Picard as a “father figure,” and the words they shared as he prepared to remain behind, I never felt that Rios and Picard were especially close. They were acquaintances; business colleagues. Work friends but not real friends.

One of the things that I wanted from Picard, going all the way back to the show’s initial announcement, was to meet some new characters and spend time with them. Obviously in a series with a clear protagonist there’s going to be a limit on the number of characters that can be included and how much detail their story arcs can receive, but there was so much potential in someone like Rios. It was never mentioned in a big way, but Rios is only one of a handful of Hispanic characters to have appeared in a big way in Star Trek, and the first major Hispanic character to be given the rank of captain and to command a starship. There was so much scope to do more with Captain Rios, and I guess I’m just disappointed that a character with potential – perhaps even spin-off potential – was sidelined, regressed, and kind of wasted in this mad rush to bring back The Next Generation characters in Season 3.

So long, Captain Rios…

Another character who fell victim to this need to trim the main cast was Dr Jurati, but in her case at least she seems to have had more of a substantial arc this season. Although I would be remiss not to point out that in both seasons of the show Dr Jurati ended up causing massive, catastrophic problems for Picard! She didn’t do so on purpose, of course, but it’s interesting to see that the writers chose to follow up her murder of Bruce Maddox by transforming her into the new Borg Queen!

It was obvious, of course, by the time Picard and the crew returned to the bridge of the USS Stargazer that Dr Jurati would be the face behind the mask, and so it proved. I was a little surprised that Farewell seemed to treat this as some kind of big revelation; I can’t imagine that even the most casual and uninterested of viewers wouldn’t have been able to put two and two together long before Picard set up Dr Jurati’s unmasking.

The Borg Queen unmasked.

As above, Dr Jurati was a character with potential. She was also someone who felt closer to Picard in terms of friendship than Captain Rios, and there was certainly scope to see her continue in her un-assimilated role in future stories. Unlike with Rios, though, there’s definitely a substantial season-long arc for Dr Jurati that worked well enough. She felt lonely and isolated, never being able to hold down a relationship or partnership, and through a strange marriage with the Borg Queen ended up with hundreds, thousands, or perhaps even millions of friends. She also got the chance to become partially synthetic – which I have to assume she would approve of based on what we saw of her last time.

Since we’re dealing with the Borg, the reason for their appearance at the beginning of the season was paid off. The sudden appearance of an unexplained anomaly that threatened the quadrant meant that the Borg wished to team up with the Federation to save lives, and generally I liked this angle and I think there’s potential in it. My initial thought was that it could be connected to the Season 1 super-synths, but again that’ll be something to discuss in a future theory article.

What is this strange anomaly? And crucially… will we revisit it next time?

My concern on this side of the story stems from the fact that we know that Alison Pill, who plays Dr Jurati and the new Borg Queen, doesn’t seem to be returning for Season 3. If the Borg chose to remain at the anomaly as a “guardian at the gate,” as Borg-Jurati put it, that seems to imply we won’t have anything to do with her next time around – and thus we may not be revisiting this anomaly. I certainly hope that won’t be the case, because if we don’t get back here it will seriously jeopardise this season’s entire story by making it feel meaningless. Thirty seconds of screen time for a weird anomaly that one character believed could be damaging doesn’t really justify an entire season wandering in the past, nor the loss of two (or three) major characters.

The question of what the Borg wanted loomed large over the entire season, even while Picard and the crew scrambled to save the future from their base in 2024. Now that we have an answer to that question – they wanted help to stop the anomaly from harming the Alpha Quadrant – we need to go deeper. There needs to be some greater story arc that can tie into the closing moments of Season 2, even if it isn’t the main storyline of Season 3.

The Borg vessel and the strange anomaly.

One thing that Farewell didn’t have time to explain was the relationship between the Jurati-led Borg and the Borg Collective that we’ve seen elsewhere in Star Trek. Is the Jurati-Borg faction separate from the Borg or did they somehow replace the rest of the Collective? Are there now two distinct Borg Collectives? It seems like there must be – because everyone involved seems to believe that the prime timeline has been restored, and that couldn’t have happened if the Jurati-Queen took over the entire Borg Collective. Events like the Battle of Wolf 359 and the attempted assimilation of Earth in First Contact wouldn’t have happened – or would have been changed entirely – if the Jurati-Queen was leading the whole Collective. But this is something that should’ve been given more of an explanation – and it’s indicative of the fact that Farewell was overstuffed with story threads.

The season also ended without detailing in any way how the Confederation were able to defeat the Borg using 25th Century technology. While this may not have been important for wrapping up the stories that were in play, it was a pretty big point earlier in the season. There was the potential for something that the Confederation had developed to come into play, even at this late stage, and although I’d pretty much given up on learning anything more about the Confederation several weeks ago, the way the season ended now leaves the entire Confederation timeline feeling like one massive contrivance.

The Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid.

The Confederation timeline existed as a spur for other storylines, and if we had never seen it and only heard about it in passing, maybe that would be fine. But for those of us invested in the Star Trek universe, creating an entirely new setting, populating it with characters, and telling us that those characters did something as monumental as defeating the Borg, only to leave all of the hows and wherefores unexplained is disappointing. With no return to the Confederation timeline on the agenda – and the question of whether it still exists in any form in serious doubt – it feels like it served the story but in an unrealistic way.

Presumably Adam Soong had to survive because with Kore taking off with Wesley and the Travelers, there needs to be some way for his family line to continue in order to reach Data’s creator and the other Soongs we’ve met. Villains don’t need to be killed off in order for their defeats to feel satisfying, and seeing Adam Soong realise that he’d been beaten was a well-done sequence overall. I also appreciated the Khan reference – and the date-stamp.

Is this merely an Easter egg… or could it be a tease of something yet to come?

Star Trek’s internal timeline can feel inconsistent if you go all the way back to The Original Series and watch episodes that reference events in the late 20th or early 21st Centuries. I’ve always assumed that Star Trek and the real world diverged sometime around the 1960s, and the reference to “Project Khan” being in 1996 ties in with what we know from Space Seed and The Wrath of Khan about legendary villain Khan’s origins. I’m glad that Star Trek isn’t trying to overwrite any of this – and it makes me wonder if there may yet be a reprieve for the proposed Ceti Alpha V miniseries! At the very least, Adam Soong looking up “Project Khan” seems to imply that he’ll be returning to his work on genetic engineering – tying in with the appearance of another Dr Soong in Enterprise.

As a character who we’ve only just started getting to know and who has great potential, I’m glad that Elnor survived the season and I look forward to his continued participation in Picard – and hopefully in future Star Trek productions as well. However… his survival renders one of the best and most emotional moments from last week completely impotent, and I’m left wondering why Hide and Seek even bothered to include it.

Elnor’s survival makes one of last week’s biggest emotional moments entirely irrelevant.

One of the things driving Raffi all season has been Elnor’s death – and after speaking with a holographic recreation last week in one of the season’s best and most powerful emotional sequences, she seemed ready to come to terms with it and let go of the guilt she’d been feeling. That was one of the highlights of last week’s episode, and a significant moment that seemed to signal that the shocking decision to kill off Elnor in Assimilation would indeed be permanent.

However, that moment now feels like wasted time, even more so considering that several of the storylines present in Farewell could’ve used a few extra minutes. Had holo-Elnor’s role been cut from Hide and Seek, replaced with literally anyone else to fill the “combat hologram” role, the wasted moment with Raffi and the now-gratuitous sequences that seemed to be bidding goodbye to the character could’ve been reallocated to other, more pressing stories. Seeing how Raffi dealt with Elnor’s death earlier in the season isn’t undermined by his survival – but the scene in which she came to terms with it absolutely is. As deeply emotional as that moment was, it now feels like a total waste.

Raffi was relieved to see Elnor again.

Perhaps this is my dislike of the 21st Century storylines showing, but I never really felt all that invested in Renée and the Europa Mission. For the supposedly-most important event in the show that our characters had to protect, the Europa Mission and Renée herself had been absent for several episodes as the season’s story continued its slow plod to this rushed conclusion. I wasn’t mad that the rocket launch was raced past to allow Farewell to get to other storylines… but it wasn’t exactly a spectacular ending for what has been the driving force in the story of the season since the third episode.

There were some moments of tension as Adam Soong’s drones appeared to be in danger of blowing up Seven, Rios, and Raffi, and again when he’d managed to successfully infiltrate the Europa Mission launch. I stand by what I said a couple of weeks ago, by the way: that Adam Soong having been kicked out of the scientific community should be a pretty serious barrier to his involvement in something like the Europa Mission… but his status and finances are something that, once again, Picard Season 2 didn’t find time to go into any detail on.

How Adam Soong was able to buy his way into Europa Mission HQ wasn’t really explained.

This part of Farewell secured Renée’s mission – one which seems to have been beneficial for Earth itself and set humanity on a path that would eventually lead to first contact and the creation of the Federation. It was also an opportunity to kill off Tallinn – her death being the “price” for Renée’s survival rounds out her arc in a reasonable way.

I didn’t understand why Q believes that Tallinn always dies at this stage in “every” timeline; it seems to me that the only threat to Renée came about because of Q’s interference, and thus had Q not intervened there’d be no reason for Adam Soong or the Borg Queen to go after her or try to prevent the Europa Mission at all. So I guess I don’t get that line – it was included, perhaps, to make Tallinn’s sacrifice feel more justifiable, but it raises as many questions as it answers (if not more!)

Why does Tallinn die in “every” timeline?

This sets up a discussion about the nature of Q’s intervention. Although establishing a Jurati-Borg seems to have prevented some kind of cataclysm in the 25th Century, that isn’t why Q did it – at least, not based on what he told Picard in Farewell. This was all about Picard learning to come to terms with his past and his loss and because Q considered him a friend and a favourite.

But there are some pretty notable problems with this setup – and with Picard’s ultimate reaction to it. People died as a result of Q’s actions, and whether directly or indirectly he’s responsible for that. Q was able to wave away Tallinn’s death and resurrect Elnor – so from the point of view of main characters I guess he gets somewhat of a pass. But what about the dozen or more assimilated semi-Borg who died last week? They were human beings; people whose lives were cut short as a direct result of Q’s intervention. Picard was clearly willing to forgive Q for this extended Tapestry redux – but even if we assume that there are no timeline consequences from the loss of those individuals… they’re still people who died and who won’t be resurrected as a result of what Q did. The morality of it bugs me.

Q’s actions cost lives – and Picard seems okay with it.

So we’ve come to the purpose of the entire story: Q wanted to teach Picard to overcome the traumatic moment in his own past. He wanted Picard to learn to embrace the person that he is; to choose to become that person. That’s a familiar theme that we’ve seen from Q in the past, most notably in the episode Tapestry. In that story, Q gave Picard the opportunity to change mistakes in his past – but he did so in order to demonstrate to him that the mistakes are what made him the person he is. It’s not exactly the same story, because in this instance Picard had to embrace a dark and traumatic event that was beyond his control, and recognise that he can’t always save everybody. But it’s close – and I like that. It means that at least thematically, Q stayed true to his characterisation.

In terms of the wider lore of Star Trek, including the role of the Q Continuum in potential future productions, I wish we’d learned why Q was dying. Although Q wasn’t a main character for most of the season, his impending death spurred him on and served as the main motivation for why he was intervening in Picard’s life at this moment – and for that to end without being explained, and without Picard so much as offering to help, feels a bit hollow.

Q’s final snap.

However, on the flip side there’s something very relatable – and dare I say very human – about not knowing what’s happening and finding no explanation for it. Speaking as someone with health conditions, I can relate to what Q has been going through. Knowing that things will only get worse, losing abilities that you’d once taken for granted, and being acutely aware that – as Picard once put it – “there are fewer days ahead than there are behind,” these are all very understandable feelings, and the idea that Q took inspiration from his own failing health to use his remaining time to help someone who he has always considered to be a friend… there’s something sweet about that.

From an in-universe point of view, Q has always been a wildcard. The schemes and puzzles that he concocts can seem incredibly random, but they usually have a point. Riker was given the powers of the Q as a test, Picard was given just enough information to solve the Farpoint mystery, Q helped Picard move through three different time periods to solve the anti-time eruption, and so on. In this case, the point Q wanted to make was served by the actions that he took… but in a very disconnected way. While we eventually got to Q’s point – that Picard needed to let go of his trauma, embrace who he is, and learn to love – it took a very long time through a very jumbled sequence of events. And unlike in stories such as Tapestry, Q’s actions this time had a significant impact on other people.

Q did it all for Picard.

Whatever we may think of the new Jurati-Borg Queen hybrid, would that have been a destiny that Dr Jurati would have chosen for herself? Was it where she needed to end up, or could she have led a perfectly happy life as a 25th Century human? Q stripped that choice from her, and Picard seems content to roll with it. While Renée did ultimately make it onto her spacecraft, Q screwed with her mental health in a major way, sabotaging her therapy and doing what he could to undermine her. Q’s actions directly led to Tallinn’s death, as well as the deaths of a dozen or more humans that had been partially-assimilated. Q also stranded Rios in the 21st Century – and again, while Rios was happy enough to make that choice, he could have also lived a happy life in the 25th Century had Q not interfered.

In short, other Q stories across Star Trek haven’t been so destructive. If there was a bigger purpose – such as the Jurati-Borg stopping some galactic catastrophe – and that was Q’s main objective, perhaps we could overlook it. The scale would be tipped in such a way that, to quote Spock, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” But Q did it all for Picard’s sake – so the needs of the many were, in Q’s view, outweighed by the needs of the one.

Picard with Q.

Maybe that makes sense to Q, but is Picard okay with it? He seems to be fine with learning that Q did all of this, made all of these changes for his sake and his alone – and I’m not sure I buy it. Maybe Q is right – maybe Tallinn always dies in every conceivable timeline. But does Dr Jurati always become a Borg? Does Rios always quit Starfleet to live through World War III? Do all of those paramilitary people die in 2024? Q might be fine with changing people’s lives, but I’m struggling to accept that Picard would be, especially if he knows that Q was doing it all for his sake.

It also raises another question: was there really no other way for Picard to process his trauma? Did it truly require establishing the Confederation timeline, killing all those people, and spending all that time stranded in the 21st Century? Couldn’t Q have just… got Picard into therapy? Or given him those dreams of his mother in the 25th Century?

Picard prepares to embrace Q.

These points may seem nitpicky, but this is the foundation of the story. Everything Picard and the others have been through over the past ten episodes hinges on this explanation. Q set all of this up because Picard couldn’t let go of a trauma he’s been carrying since childhood, and Q felt that trauma was holding him back and preventing him from learning to love and being happy. And because of that, Q decided that the best way to get through to Picard and get him to work through his mental health issues was by changing centuries’ worth of history and forcing Picard to travel back in time.

In a way, it’s a very “Q” thing. But at the same time, where past Q stories have felt at least vaguely connected to the goals he had, this one requires more than a few leaps to get from point A to point B. Maybe you can suspend your disbelief, get lost in this presentation of Q, and happily accept this explanation. For me… I’m struggling a little.

Q’s plot feels quite convoluted this time around.

However, that isn’t to detract from a wonderfully emotional sequence between Q and Picard. Recognising what Q had done and understanding why he did it, Picard found himself willing to embrace the friendship that Q had been offering him for decades. Picard was able to set aside the animosity he had for Q – allowing Q to spend what appear to be his final moments with a friend. As Picard said, he won’t die alone.

Does that make the whole story worthwhile? It was definitely a beautiful sequence, and after clashes, conflicts, and an ongoing “trial,” it was nice to see Picard and Q reconcile as Q reached the end of his life. Themes of love, of letting go, and of acceptance were weaved through these moments, and while we didn’t get an explanation for everything – including why Q is dying and what may have become of other members of his species – it was satisfying enough as we bid what seems to be a final farewell to a character who was first introduced in the very first episode of The Next Generation.

Picard meets with Q for the final time.

Q giving what remained of his life force or energy to send Picard home was likewise a sweet moment; a final act of kindness that, while it arguably doesn’t redeem Q for everything he’s done, went some way to making his final moments positive, and showed that he has perhaps learned a thing or two from Picard along the way. I did enjoy Q’s line that Picard was his “favourite,” along with the implication that, of all the many beings that Q must’ve met over his many years of life, Picard was someone special to him – special enough to spend his final moments with.

I wonder if in a future Star Trek story – perhaps even in Season 3 – we’ll learn what became of Q and why he was dying. As I said above, for the purposes of this story the exact reason (which would likely have been technobabble) doesn’t matter in a narrative sense, but as Trekkies, I think we have a curiosity about the world of Star Trek and a desire to know these things! I would certainly be interested to know why, after seeming to have been alive for billions of years, Q suddenly found himself dying.

An emotional farewell.

That only leaves us with Seven of Nine to talk about – and her field commission as a Starfleet captain that she seemed to receive during the Borg mission. Seven has been one of my favourite characters in both seasons of Picard; the growth and development that she’s received has completely changed my opinion of someone who was once my least-favourite character from Voyager. After seeing how she’d become much more human, how she’d come to terms with the loss of Icheb (something I’m surprised wasn’t mentioned to Raffi as part of the Elnor story, I must say), this season she got to reconcile her history with both the Borg and Starfleet.

Consider where Seven was at the beginning of the season. Like Michael Burnham in Discovery’s premiere episode, Seven wanted to shoot first the moment the Borg emerged. The idea of listening to anything they might have to say was unfathomable to her. Yet by the season finale, after what she went through with Dr Jurati, she was willing not only to listen, but to follow the Borg’s lead. She put her trust in the Borg, overcoming decades’ worth of hostility that she’d been holding onto.

Seven of Nine in the captain’s chair.

Could we see more from Seven in future? The idea of her and Raffi having their own adventures – either within Starfleet or outside of it – is an enticing one, but I guess we’ll have to see what Season 3 has in store for them first. With potentially three departures from the main cast, there’s room for Seven of Nine to stay on board, particularly if the story of Season 3 continues to involve the Borg. At the same time, though, unlike the new characters who won’t be returning, Seven’s arc across both seasons of the show leaves her in a pretty good place. If this is going to be her swansong, she ends the series in a strong position.

Having had a run-in with Q in the Voyager Season 7 episode Q2, it was a shame that Farewell didn’t see Seven and Q say so much as a single word to each other, and again this is the consequence of a season finale that was left with a lot of work to do to wrap everything up. It wasn’t essential, but it would’ve been nice to at least acknowledge that they’d met each other before racing ahead with the rest of the plot.

Seven of Nine and Raffi.

So that was Farewell. It was the best episode since the season premiere, but that’s damning with faint praise. We’ll have to take a broader look at Season 2 as a whole in the days or weeks ahead, because I have to say that, despite an outstanding premiere and a solid final half-episode, this meandering stroll through the 21st Century was far from my favourite season of Star Trek.

Taken on its own merits, though, Farewell tied together as many of the narrative threads as it could. There weren’t huge gaping holes left behind, but a number of story beats weren’t as well-developed as they could’ve been, and the slow, plodding pace of much of the rest of the season meant that we arrived at this point with the season finale having to do a lot of heavy lifting to get across the finish line. Farwell did what it could in the confines of its runtime, but realistically, much of the damage had already been done and there was a limit on how much a single episode could do to redeem an underwhelming season.

The USS Stargazer.

There were some genuinely heartwarming moments along the way. Wesley Crusher’s surprise appearance (which thankfully wasn’t spoiled in advance) may actually be the highlight for me, and I enjoyed seeing Seven of Nine step up to work with the Borg after returning to the 25th Century as well. Picard and Q’s reconciliation feels incredibly sweet – but it isn’t a storyline free from questions. As the season’s main driving force, it ended in a way that left some points feeling unexplained or underdeveloped, and despite the emotional highs, that taints things a little for me.

Where Picard Season 1 was generally a fun ride that was spoiled by an underwhelming ending, Season 2 has been an underwhelming and occasionally frustrating story that somehow managed to pull out a passable ending. Farewell didn’t hit the same high notes as The Star Gazer had ten weeks ago, but by the time Picard and the crew were back home, it came close. If the second half of the episode had been given more time and was stretched out over forty-five minutes instead of twenty-five, perhaps we’d be able to consider it a bit more favourably.

So that’s it for now. I won’t be publishing any reviews or theories for Strange New Worlds over the next few weeks, because unfortunately the series is “officially” unavailable here in the UK. But stay tuned for more Star Trek content here on the website, including the conclusion of my Picard Season 2 theories, some initial thoughts about Season 3, and eventually a proper retrospective-review of Season 2 as a whole. Until next time!

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.

Star Trek: Picard review – Season 2, Episode 9: Hide and Seek

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 GenerationFirst Contact, and Voyager.

This review deals with the sensitive topics of mental health and suicide and may be uncomfortable for some readers.

If I’ve done my counting right, then I believe Hide and Seek is Jean-Luc Picard’s 200th Star Trek appearance. It gets a little fuzzy when we look at two-part episodes that are occasionally considered as feature-length outings, but if we go in broadcast order then I’m pretty sure that the character of Jean-Luc Picard has now appeared in 200 Star Trek productions (including four films). So that’s pretty neat!

Hide and Seek was an exciting episode that focused on the Borg side of the story in a big way. But it was also an episode that fell into the trap of some pretty clichéd storytelling, something that definitely detracted from some of the impact that the story had. There were some emotional highlights – including some wonderful performances from Alison Pill, Michelle Hurd, and Jeri Ryan – but overall, I’m left feeling that the season has taken a slow and meandering route to reach this point, and that more time could’ve been spent on some of these interesting storylines and powerful moments had some of the extraneous fluff been cut out from earlier episodes.

It was a dark and stormy night…

For the first time this season, I wasn’t wild about some of the cinematography in Hide and Seek. Parts of the episode were coloured with a dark blue hue – something not uncommon on television to indicate darkness – but I found that it gave those sequences a washed-out look. Though we aren’t anywhere close to the failures of something like The Long Night in Game of Thrones’ eighth season, the colour palette did not flatter the scenes set at Château Picard, and the episode suffered for this creative choice.

Hide and Seek doubled-down on exploring the trauma that Picard faced in his youth, and it was revealed that the memory he’s been repressing was his mother’s suicide and discovering her body. As in Monsters a couple of weeks ago, though, I’m struggling to see how this story connects with what’s happening in the rest of the season, and why the series has decided that this hitherto unknown chapter of Picard’s life warranted so much time dedicated to it.

Hide and Seek delved once again into Picard’s youth.

In a general sense, I’m not averse to the idea of taking an established character and fleshing them out, giving more detail to their background and history. And as stated earlier in the season, I can’t recall anything from Picard’s past Star Trek appearances that would’ve explicitly ruled out something like this happening to him in his youth. However, when dealing with a character who’s made as many appearances as Picard, these kinds of stories have to serve some greater purpose – and right now, this story of Picard’s youth and his mother’s death doesn’t appear to do that.

As I asked in my review of Monsters: what aspect of Picard’s character, personality, temperament, or personal philosophy does this revelation explain? How do we as the audience feel that we understand Picard any better in light of this season spending a significant chunk of its runtime on this story? We know more about Picard’s past in a factual sense – but the facts that have been brought to light don’t inform his characterisation in any way, neither here in Picard nor in The Next Generation. There’s no “aha!” moment where the way Picard has behaved, or his stance on life, suddenly seems to click.

It doesn’t feel like this moment informs Picard’s character in any significant way.

If the story itself had been handled differently, perhaps in a season with fewer other things going on, I think I could forgive it. But during two out of the season’s ten episodes now, a significant amount of time has been taken away from other, more interesting and engaging stories to flesh out an aspect of Picard’s backstory that feels unnecessary.

A character like Picard, who has made so many Star Trek appearances, has unexplored moments in his past that a story like this could’ve told. We could’ve learned, for example, that a similar trauma stems from his time in command of the USS Stargazer – the death of Jack Crusher springs to mind as an unexplained event that would be both traumatic and ripe for a deep dive. But this story shone a light on a part of Picard’s past that none of us could’ve anticipated – and when there are events in his past that feel like they could’ve been more interesting, I guess I’m left wondering what might’ve been.

Other events in Picard’s past could’ve taken us on a similar journey.

Picard’s story also had a very “20th Century” feel to it, and as I’ve said on more than one occasion, that doesn’t feel very Star Trek-y. We know from The Next Generation that Picard had an upbringing on a vineyard and that his family weren’t in favour of him joining Starfleet, so in that sense none of it is contradictory. But from the point of view of someone sitting down to watch Star Trek and not some other contemporary drama series, it’s a tad disappointing when the series spends so much time either in the modern-day or in a setting that feels also very much like the modern-day.

And again we come to the mental health side of the story. I was deeply disappointed with what we saw in Monsters, and while nothing in Hide and Seek sank to that level, Yvette’s mental health condition was again underdeveloped and fell into the trap of stereotyping. Continuing our theme of feeling like a story from contemporary times, not three centuries in the future, we saw no attempt made to use the technology of the early 24th Century to help Yvette. Did her husband do anything to help her? Locking away someone with mental health issues “for their own safety” is the kind of thing that the Victorians did – and although Picard seemed to get to a place in Monsters where he could understand the burden his father carried and forgive him, the way Maurice treated Yvette raises some seriously disturbing questions.

Maurice Picard.

As someone who is disabled and who has diagnosed mental health conditions, one of the things that I’ve always found inspirational about Star Trek’s future is this idea that many of the ailments people today have to live with will one day be curable. Medical technology that’s akin to magic has been present in the Star Trek franchise since the beginning, and while mental health hasn’t often been depicted in a particularly sympathetic way (look at episodes like Whom Gods Destroy or Statistical Probabilities, for example) I’ve always liked the concept Star Trek proposes: that one day, cures for many health issues – including mental health conditions – will be discovered.

Hide and Seek chose to ignore that, and if it had done so for a better reason, I might be able to overlook it, or at least reduce my negative feelings toward it. But because the story of Yvette’s suicide and its impact on Picard feels so disconnected from everything else going on this season, it just hammers home for me that many of the narrative decisions on this side of the story were, at best, odd. At worst I’d call the whole thing pretty poor.

Yvette Picard’s suicide.

One final note on this aspect of Hide and Seek: for the first time, I felt Star Trek: Picard fall into a storytelling trap that has tripped up sister show Discovery on multiple occasions. Picard and Tallinn were on an incredibly dangerous, time-sensitive mission, with half-assimilated Borg shooting at them, yet Picard allowed himself to become distracted by this event in his past. Being thrown into the room where something bad once happened is, of course, a trigger for post-traumatic stress, and I get that. But even with that understanding and that caveat, I found myself wanting to shout at the episode in frustration that there isn’t time for this right now!

This is something that Discovery does far too often – characters bringing their own personal issues to the fore in a way that clearly interferes with the missions at hand. Picard had never had this issue – not even in Monsters when Picard’s trauma was one of the main storylines – but because of the circumstances of the Borg attack on La Sirena this time, it really did feel that Picard didn’t have the time for such indulgent reminiscing. It’s only through sheer luck that he and Tallinn survived.

Picard allowed himself to become distracted in the middle of a very dangerous situation.

Despite being a relatively long episode at almost fifty minutes, there were a few points, especially as Hide and Seek drew to a close, where I felt some important scenes may have been left on the cutting-room floor. For example, how did Rios know exactly where to transport to save Picard and Tallinn? And how did Picard know that Seven and Raffi had let La Sirena escape when he reunited with them? These questions could’ve been answered, and while they may not feel hugely substantial in terms of the way things turned out, the fact that we didn’t see everything as it unfolded left the final part of the episode feeling rather cut-down and perhaps a little contrived.

I’m glad that Dr Jurati was able to not only wrestle some control back from the Borg Queen, but also talk her down from the most extreme version of her plan. This was Hide and Seek’s emotional high point, and Alison Pill put in an outstanding performance. It was nice to welcome back Annie Wersching as the Borg Queen, too.

Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen.

However, I’m left feeling that this sequence was shorter than it could’ve been, and more importantly that key characters were missing. This is the emotional crux of Dr Jurati’s story this season, and the end of the 21st Century side of the Borg’s story, at least. In a series called Star Trek: Picard, shouldn’t Picard himself have been present? He only showed up after this had happened, seemingly already aware of what had transpired even though we never saw him find out on screen.

After what Picard went through with the Borg from The Next Generation through to First Contact and Season 1 of Picard, there was scope for his inclusion here to wrap up his inner conflict with the Borg; to take the argument he expressed in The Star Gazer about wanting to hear out what the Borg had to say and going one step further. Picard could, in this moment, have come to forgive the Borg Queen and arrive at a place where he’d be willing to give her the opportunity to chart a new path and do things differently.

This sequence was undeniably well done. But it feels like Picard should’ve been involved.

In order for that to have happened, though, this episode – and realistically, much of the season leading up to it – would have needed to be structured very differently. This could even have become the “lesson” that Q had been pushing Picard to learn; that forgiving one’s greatest adversaries and giving them a chance to change is worth doing. Is that something Q might want to teach Picard? I don’t know, but it could’ve worked.

Instead it fell to Raffi, Seven of Nine, and Dr Jurati to strike a deal with the Borg Queen – and while this sequence was emotional and well-constructed, as it ended and the deal was honoured, I felt that, if I were in their shoes, I wouldn’t be convinced that the Borg Queen would stick to her commitments. She basically promised, over the span of a few short minutes, that she’d entirely change her philosophy and worldview, and would build a Borg Collective based on an entirely different guiding principle. Because we’ve seen the Borg on a number of previous occasions, I think this moment needed more to be convincing.

Can we feel certain that the Borg Queen will stick to the agreement she made?

Think back to episodes in Voyager such as Scorpion and Dark Frontier. We saw the Borg’s duplicity and deceitfulness on full display in those stories, and we saw how Captain Janeway and others were absolutely correct not to trust the Borg to uphold their end of whatever deal had been struck. Although Dr Jurati felt that she had extracted a solid commitment from the Borg Queen, and I could quite see Raffi being willing to go along with it in exchange for saving Seven’s life, looking in from the outside I have a lot of reservations that Hide and Seek simply didn’t do enough to placate.

The Borg Queen got what she wanted – and everything we know about her from all of her past appearances tells us that she’s the kind of single-minded, domineering character who would say and do whatever was necessary to get the right outcome. Dr Jurati was standing in her way; appearing to concede to her proposal and saving the life of one single individual would be a negligible price to pay – from the Queen’s perspective – if it meant gaining control of La Sirena and the possibility of reuniting with the Borg Collective in the Delta Quadrant.

The Borg Queen ended up getting what she wanted – control of La Sirena.

In short, this concept was an interesting one. The idea of Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen “merging,” rather than Dr Jurati losing her entire personality, is a clever twist on the way the story could’ve gone, and one that had been set up well in Mercy last week. The broader idea of a Dr Jurati-Borg Queen hybrid potentially taking the Borg Collective in a different and perhaps less aggressive direction is likewise a fascinating concept. But neither of these ideas, great as they are, feel complete. It’s true that there’s one more episode of the season remaining – but as the Borg Queen has now warped away in what felt like a pretty conclusive departure, and with a lot of other storylines still in play, it doesn’t seem as though Picard will be able to revisit these ideas right now.

There was potential in the idea of Dr Jurati pacifying the Borg Queen and lending her unique perspective to the Collective. There was potential in the idea of the Borg Queen listening to such a proposal and giving it some degree of consideration. And there was potential in the idea of a negotiated peace (of a sort) at the end of an episode that had these moments of battling and violence. But I don’t feel that Hide and Seek – and Season 2 as a whole – left enough time to really do justice to any of them, at least not as things currently stand.

A powerful moment as Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen discussed the fate of the Borg Collective… but it needed more.

Negotiations with the Borg Queen could’ve been an entire episode in itself – and I’d certainly be up for a story with that kind of diplomatic focus. We’ve seen Star Trek – and Jean-Luc Picard himself – do those kinds of stories exceptionally well, and it could’ve been an interesting coda to the Borg story that has been running this season. Maybe the season finale will bring more of that, but taken on its own, Hide and Seek had some clever concepts and lofty ambitions – but ultimately failed to fully deliver on them.

That isn’t to detract from some wonderfully evocative performances, though. Alison Pill deserves so much credit for the way she inhabited two very different roles in Hide and Seek, and in particular the way she managed to capture the mannerisms, style, and essence of Annie Wersching’s Borg Queen. That kind of acting challenge – playing a different character in someone else’s body – is a Star Trek trope going all the way back to The Original Series, and some actors are better at it than others! Alison Pill really managed to be convincing as the partially-assimilated Borg Queen, and the moment where she donned the iconic outfit was a special effects home run to boot.

The new Borg Queen looks down at her old body.

As mentioned, the idea of a Borg Queen-Jurati hybrid (Borgati? Jurorg?) is an interesting one, and everyone involved did their best to sell it. To me, the fact that this “negotiation” sequence was too short doesn’t negate those wonderful performances. However, the scene immediately afterward, in which Seven of Nine and Raffi agree to honour their deal felt just a little odd. One of Star Trek’s biggest ever villains just kind of… stood around on the bridge of La Sirena, and the way the ship was then turned over to her felt not only rushed, but also rather anticlimactic.

Dr Soong, who had seemed so interesting when we first met him in Fly Me To The Moon, had already lost all pretence of nuance or complexity prior to the events of Hide and Seek. Although the suitably over-the-top performance from Brent Spiner was absolutely delicious to watch – as his villainous performances always have been – I don’t really understand Dr Soong’s inclusion on this side of the story.

Dr Adam Soong.

Q wanted to shut down the Europa Mission to create the Confederation timeline, but to the Borg Queen that outcome isn’t a good one – it’s what she allied herself with Picard and came to the 21st Century to prevent. Despite the fairly weak protestation that the Borg are now “aware” of the danger the Confederation may pose, I don’t buy that she’d remain allied to Dr Soong – especially not after gaining access to several dozen goons that she partially assimilated.

I guess in that sense the Borg Queen acted out-of-character, not by allying herself to Dr Soong but by maintaining her end of the deal even after he’d served his purpose. Perhaps we could argue that it ties in with the merging of Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen; that the Queen’s personality was already showing signs of being altered. But why should the Borg Queen care about Dr Soong? And if Dr Jurati’s influence is present to excuse that contrivance… shouldn’t she be even more inclined to break their deal and stop him?

Dr Soong ultimately escaped to fight another day.

Despite a performance from Brent Spiner that I will unashamedly admit to having thoroughly enjoyed, I don’t find Dr Soong a particularly interesting villain, and when the story has to contort itself into knots to pull out contrived ways to keep him relevant and engaged, it just falls flat for me. Dr Soong may have been an interesting ally for Q, but the way in which he was included this week, and the way in which the Borg Queen stuck to her agreement with him, stretches credulity to breaking-point for me.

Jeri Ryan had some wonderfully emotional and insightful moments as Seven of Nine this week. We got to learn more of Seven’s post-Voyager history, including that she attempted to join Starfleet, but had her application denied. Seven ascribes this to her Borg past, but it raises the interesting question of why Starfleet permitted Icheb to join (as we saw in Season 1), but not her.

We got some interesting information about Seven of Nine’s life during the years in between Voyager and Picard.

Seven’s story this season has now come full-circle, and she’s regained her Borg implants and appearance thanks to the deal Raffi and Dr Jurati struck with the Borg Queen. It’s sad for Seven, who had been enjoying her newfound appearance, to be forced back to the way she had previously been. However, after what she’s been through over the past few episodes, perhaps Seven has reached a place where she can accept herself, despite what she sees as imperfections. There’s a metaphor there, perhaps, albeit one that’s buried quite deeply in the story.

I felt that there was the potential for this new presentation of Seven of Nine to have carried forward, and although it’s perhaps early days to be thinking about spin-offs and future Star Trek projects, one centred around Raffi and Seven of Nine would certainly find supporters! But if Seven of Nine isn’t going to be a huge part of the series in future – and spoiler alert for Season 3 if you missed the announcement, but with the main cast of The Next Generation set to reprise their roles next time around, there may not be as much of a place for her – then her story this season has a cyclical feel to it; she returns to where she began, albeit having been changed somewhat by the experience.

Has Seven’s story come full-circle?

Raffi got two very powerful emotional moments this week, and Michelle Hurd gave her best performance of the season to bring them to screen wonderfully. Dealing with the fatally-wounded Seven of Nine was the latter of the two, and I really felt the pain that she went through in that moment. But the more powerful moment had come a few minutes earlier as Raffi came face-to-face with the “ghost” of Elnor.

It wasn’t exactly made clear how the holographic version of Elnor worked, nor how it came to have the memories of his last moments, and that was something that could’ve been technobabbled a bit better. Again, we’re feeling the constraints of an episode – and a season – that has to make cuts and creative choices in order to fit into a limited timeslot. However, setting that minor gripe aside, the conversation between the two of them was one of the episode’s emotional highlights.

Raffi was able to get closure for Elnor’s death.

Both Michelle Hurd and Evan Evagora excelled as holo-Elnor provided Raffi with the closure and forgiveness that she needed, and the moment was sad but beautiful. Elnor’s death has been one of the things driving Raffi this season, and it felt for a time as if it was something that could be reversed. Raffi now seems ready to accept Elnor’s passing, however, and I think that’s a signal to us as the audience that Elnor’s death is indeed going to be permanent.

On this point – if indeed it comes to pass – I’m not so sure that Picard got it right. Spoiler alert again for Season 3, but as a point of practicality given the return of the main characters from The Next Generation, I can understand why the show is doing everything it can to shuffle its current crop of main characters out of the way. But as I said when that decision was announced, that in itself is something I have mixed feelings about, and Elnor in particular is a character that I feel we never really got the chance to know very well. Aside from his spotlight episode in Season 1 – Absolute Candor – Elnor’s impact on the story of both seasons has been, at best, limited. The decision to enrol him in Starfleet Academy and to give him a new parental figure in Raffi worked well, especially in light of the beautiful scene where Raffi comforted him at the end of Season 1. But there’s so much potential in a young character like Elnor – the first Romulan in Starfleet. If the Star Trek franchise is to survive long-term, characters like him need to stick around.

Is this the end of the road for Elnor?

Despite my great dislike of Rios’ story this season, and the way in which he has regressed as a character from the season premiere, his role in Hide and Seek was largely inoffensive. For the first time I felt that Picard genuinely cared about Rios – he told Tallinn to turn off the transporter to prevent Rios from returning to the battle after he was injured. If I was being cruel I might say that moment felt unearned given the lack of interaction between Rios and Picard for practically the entire season, but we know Picard as a character well enough to know that he does truly care about those under his command.

The Rios-Teresa romance progressed, getting him to a place where he was one transporter beam (or transporter puff) away from saying “I love you” to her. I had wondered, prior to Hide and Seek, if Rios was being groomed for an heroic death. That still could happen in the season finale, but the developing romance with Teresa, combined with Seven’s return to her Borg status, now has me wondering if Rios will choose to stay in 2024 if and when the moment comes to go home. Teresa seemed to be pushing him in that direction this week.

Rios told Teresa he had to go and save the future.

Having talked about everyone present in Hide and Seek, we now turn to one significant absence: Q. Q has been the season’s driving force, seemingly setting up the Confederation timeline and thus also the trip to the 21st Century. But as the story reaches what should be its endgame, Q was once again absent. There’s now just one episode left not only to put a stop to the next phase of Q’s plan, but also to explain what drove him to do all of this in the first place.

As mentioned, it might’ve been possible for Q to be included here – to say that one of his plans or part of his plan was to see how Picard would react to the merging of the Borg Queen with one of his friends. Though a story about mercy, forgiveness, and a willingness to move beyond animosity wouldn’t be as grand in scale as something like learning to perceive time in a non-linear way – as happened in All Good Things at the end of The Next Generation – in another way it’s kind of in line with what Q tried to show Picard in the episode Tapestry. In that story, Q showed Picard an alternate life that he might’ve led, and guided Picard through events in his past that led him to become the person he is. In this story, Q might’ve been showing Picard, in a similar way, that he can grow and learn to let go of the anger, hate, and fear he has toward the Borg and the Borg Queen.

All of this might’ve been part of Q’s grand plan.

But that doesn’t seem to be what this story is trying to say. With Q entirely absent from Hide and Seek, there isn’t much time left to wrap up his story and provide a satisfactory explanation not only for Q’s behaviour, but in a broader sense for the entire story of the season. Why Q did whatever he did, and what his goals and objectives are, are still concealed by the plot – and if they aren’t given a proper moment in the spotlight next week the entire season could fall apart.

As much as I enjoyed a tense story about a battle against modern-day semi-Borg, and as great as those emotional moments were with Raffi, Elnor, Seven, and Dr Jurati, Hide and Seek feels like it has a gaping hole due to the absence of Q. With Q’s henchman Dr Soong still at large and also needing to be stopped, and the Europa Mission still to save, the season finale has been left with a lot of work to do and a lot of story to wrap up – and that’s before we even consider getting Picard, Seven, Rios, and Raffi back to the 25th Century.

The eerie green glow of Borg transporter beams.

Hide and Seek raises a lot of questions – not least of which has to be what will become of the Borg if the new Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid makes good on her promise to effectively restructure the entire Collective and implement a wholly new guiding philosophy. If such a change to the Borg were to happen in the 21st or 22nd Centuries, that could be transformative for the entire prime timeline. Guinan’s people may never have been attacked, Picard may never have been assimilated, the events of The Best of Both Worlds and First Contact may be erased, Captain Janeway’s run-ins with the Borg may have been averted or turned out completely differently, Seven of Nine may never have been assimilated… heck, even Captain Sisko would be affected, with his wife never dying at the Battle of Wolf 359. If Picard and the crew set out to preserve the timeline, then changing more the three centuries’ worth of Borg history means that they very definitely failed!

Setting those implications to one side for now, I think we’ll have to return to Hide and Seek when the season is over and reassess how some of these story points are ultimately borne out. There’s potential for some of them to become better in light of a successful finale – and likewise there’s the potential for some of them to seem disappointing if the season doesn’t wrap up in a neat way.

La Sirena takes flight.

So that was Hide and Seek. A complicated episode, all things considered, with some significant weaknesses and flaws, but one that managed to be exciting and action-packed with a focus on the Borg that I did appreciate.

The Star Trek franchise continues to try some very different ideas, but not all of them stick the landing. The mental health side of storytelling, not just in Hide and Seek, nor even just in Picard Season 2, but in a much broader sense across the franchise, remains an area of concern and disappointment. Star Trek can do mental health stories well, but the producers have to allow enough time to really do justice to big and complex topics. For me at least, Hide and Seek didn’t succeed at that.

I’m anxiously awaiting the season finale. Having seemingly concluded one of its big storylines – at least the part set in the 21st Century – Picard has left itself with two villains to defeat, a mission to save, a cryptic message about “two Renées” to explain, a return to the 25th Century to facilitate, potentially two love stories to bring closure to, and finding a way to connect the events of the past eight episodes to what we saw in the season premiere. There’s a lot of work to do… and I really hope that the season finale will be up to the task.

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.

My biggest wish for Star Trek: Discovery Season 5

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4.

With Picard Season 2 ongoing, Strange New Worlds Season 1 hot on its heels, and Prodigy and Lower Decks still to come this year, it might seem premature to be thinking about Discovery Season 5 already! But as I was writing up the final part of my Season 4 theory list, it got me thinking. Season 4 wasn’t bad, all things considered. It had some storylines that disappointed or underwhelmed, but there are some genuinely outstanding episodes in the mix as well – and it ended on a very emotional and exciting high note.

It’s never too early to look ahead, and before production gets fully underway on Discovery’s next outing, I wanted to share my thoughts and opinions about where the show could go from here, and what I’d like to see next. That’s what this article will be about – but stay tuned for a more in-depth look at Season 4 and some of its story elements in the weeks and months ahead.

The USS Mitchell in the Season 4 finale.

For me, the single biggest wish I have for Discovery Season 5 is that it steps away from the “apocalyptic, galaxy-ending threat” story archetype that has been used in different ways across all four seasons of the show so far. We’ve gone through the Klingon war in Season 1, Control and the Red Angel in Season 2, the Burn and the Emerald Chain in Season 3, and finally the DMA and Unknown Species 10-C in Season 4. It’s time to give Captain Burnham and the crew a break, and for the series to try using a genuinely different formula instead of slapping a new coat of paint on the old one.

Just because a story is smaller in scale doesn’t make it any less emotional, exciting, tense, or dramatic, and I think that’s a lesson some of Discovery’s writers and producers could do with taking to heart. How we as the audience respond to a work of fiction is guided not by how massive the monster is or how big the explosions are going to be, but by how the characters we’re rooting for react. Their emotions become our emotions, their investment in the world around them becomes our investment, and so on. A story about a group of people working in an office, friends going on a road trip, or star-crossed lovers from rival families aren’t smaller, less exciting, and worse because they don’t have the backdrop of a world-ending disaster spurring them on. And conversely, some of the worst and least-exciting films and TV shows I’ve ever seen went over-the-top with the size and scale of the disaster the characters were facing.

The Burn was the driving force for much of Season 3.

Past iterations of Star Trek used these kinds of apocalyptic stories pretty sparingly, when you look back on it. It’s only Deep Space Nine’s Dominion War arc, which lasted for three seasons, that comes close to being as long and drawn-out an affair, and even within the framework of the Dominion War, DS9 found ways to tell very different and fun one-off stories. Things like the Borg incursions that Captain Picard and his crew had to deal with were either two-parters or one-off films, and they work well in that format.

Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D still found other ways to be entertaining, and many of The Next Generation’s standalone episodes have gone on to be considered iconic, even those that had a far smaller focus than blockbuster outings like The Best of Both Worlds. This doesn’t mean ditching the season-long story arcs or returning to an episodic format, because I think Discovery has done some interesting and neat things with its serialised stories. But it does mean choosing season-long storylines and narrative arcs that are different in a fundamental way to what the show has tried already.

The DMA was the big threat in Season 4.

Practically any format can become bland and unexciting when overused, no matter how much fun it might’ve been in its original incarnation or at its best moments. It’s a challenge to keep any television series feeling fresh as it enters its fifth season and races toward its sixty-fifth episode, and there are many examples of shows that ran out of steam somewhere along the way. Heck, I have an entire list of television shows that either ran too long or wore out their concepts, and I can think of many more that I could’ve included.

Even Star Trek has hit the wall in the past, running out of energy and failing to keep audiences engaged. By the time Enterprise was willing to try new things in its third and fourth seasons, for example, the franchise was already in such a steep decline that cancellation was inevitable. To Paramount’s credit, lessons have been learned from what happened in 2005 in terms of the way the franchise as a whole operates. Different series are telling stories in their own ways, appealing to broader audiences, and Star Trek as a whole feels varied and diverse. But Discovery on its own doesn’t… and it’s right on the verge of becoming repetitive.

The USS Discovery in Season 4.

I was far from the only commentator to make the point prior to Season 4 that another “galactic threat” storyline felt samey, coming off the back of three similar narrative frameworks, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one to say that re-using that format a fifth time will be a bridge too far. Making use of the newly-established 32nd Century in different ways, and telling a story that may be smaller in scale but that’s just as impactful, emotional, and entertaining, will be the key challenges that I’d like the writers to tackle in Season 5.

The theme of rebuilding in the aftermath of a disaster was something we only saw Season 4 tackle in the briefest and barest of ways right at the beginning of the season, but this could be a concept that the show puts to much better use next time around. Discovery could follow Captain Burnham as she and the crew jump to different worlds, delivering dilithium, solving problems, flying the flag for the Federation… and most importantly, bringing hope to a galaxy that’s been through a lot.

The flag of the Federation…

This is what I’d hoped Season 4 would do, to be honest. The idea of restoring the Federation from the incredibly weakened state it was in when we encountered it is far too important and interesting to be relegated to something that happens off-screen, and I felt even before Season 4 had aired a single episode that this concept offered so much scope for emotional, exciting, and varied storytelling. Discovery could hop to different planets, combining the inclusion of new and visually different alien races (like Season 4’s “butterfly” aliens) with the reintroduction of classic races.

Catching up with some of the factions we remember from past iterations of Star Trek is also something I’ve been wanting Discovery to do for two seasons now. We’ve caught glimpses of races like the Ferengi and Andorians, and heard others mentioned in dialogue and log recordings, but we haven’t actually spent a lot of time with practically any of them. Finding out what became of fan-favourites not only in the years after the Burn, but in the centuries before that event took place, is something that I think a lot of Trekkies would be interested in.

We caught glimpses of familiar races… but Discovery didn’t find time to explore most of them in any detail.

If the 32nd Century is going to be a major setting for the franchise going forward, this kind of world-building is important. Just like how The Next Generation laid the groundwork for Deep Space Nine through its introduction of the Cardassians and Bajorans, so too could Discovery introduce us to planets, races, and technologies that future spin-offs and Star Trek projects could expand upon.

Part of that world-building can be done in a serialised story that looks at how the Federation can be rebuilt in the aftermath of the disasters it has already faced; introducing another new disaster to avert or recover from is simply not needed at this point. From the point of view of the characters, throwing them into another extreme situation would also be problematic, and would take the storytelling close to soap-opera levels.

Owosekun, Saru, and Detmer.

Discovery has, to its credit, attempted to show how some of the events that its characters have gone through have impacted their mental health. Some of these stories have been underdeveloped – Detmer’s in Season 3 and Dr Culber’s in Season 4 being the most egregious examples. But even with this kind of attempted mental health focus, there’s a limit on what we could expect characters to go through and still be alright when they come out the other end.

To be fair, that’s a line that the Star Trek franchise has crossed in the past with characters like Miles O’Brien, for example, who seemed to survive a lot of traumatic events only to be back to normal the next week! But as shows like Picard have demonstrated with characters like Seven of Nine and Jean-Luc Picard himself, it can be incredibly cathartic to revisit some of these characters and give them meaningful, lasting development. But we’re drifting off-topic!

Captain Burnham in Season 4.

Star Trek’s galaxy is vast, and as we saw in Season 4 with the inclusion of races like the Abronians and Unknown Species 10-C, even in the 32nd Century there’s still a heck of a lot that Starfleet doesn’t know about it. There’s scope for Captain Burnham and the crew to get back to exploring for its own sake, as well as using their Spore Drive to reach parts of the galaxy that it would be difficult for the Federation to do otherwise. There’s the potential for the crew to bring hope to far-flung Federation outposts after the Burn, the Emerald Chain, and the DMA have had such a devastating impact… and it’s worthwhile telling stories like that.

Even if Season 5 doesn’t do much of that rebuilding or exploring, I’m still hopeful that whatever stories it chooses to tell won’t feel repetitive and won’t recycle the same basic story framework that we’ve seen throughout the show’s entire run to date. Discovery could do so much to expand our understanding of the Star Trek galaxy; even more so in a 32nd Century setting that is wholly unconstrained by prior canon. Shooting this far forwards in time was a great way for the show’s writers and producers to give themselves new opportunities to play in the vast sandbox that we call the Star Trek galaxy – so now would be a great time to take advantage of that.

As I look ahead to Season 5, I feel hopeful and optimistic. Season 4 had some problems, but generally it was an improvement over Season 3 and it ended in truly spectacular fashion. There’s potential for what comes next to build on that, and if the series can avoid retreading too much old ground, Season 5 could be Discovery’s best outing yet.

Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4 are available to stream now on Paramount+ where the platform is available and via a patchwork of video-on-demand and pay-to-view streaming platforms in the rest of the world. The series is also available on DVD and Blu-ray. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery 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: Discovery theories – Season 4 finale

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

Discovery’s fourth season concluded just over a month ago, but for some reason I’d forgotten to wrap up my theory list! I blame the oversight on the excitement of Picard’s second season overlapping Discovery for the final few episodes… and, perhaps, the issues surrounding Strange New Worlds’ international broadcast. Regardless, we’re here now! So let’s get on with it, shall we?

In my review, I said that Coming Home was probably the high point of the season, and while the episode wasn’t perfect, it was a great way to bring an occasionally frustrating season to a close! Some of the complaints and criticisms that I made were more to do with Season 4 as a whole rather than Coming Home itself, and while we’ll touch on some of those points today, please stay tuned because I hope to write up my full thoughts on the entirety of Season 4 in the weeks ahead.

Coming Home was an explosive end to the season.

The theory list had grown quite long across Season 4, peaking in week 11 where I had 36 different theories in play – with varying levels of plausibility! By the time we got to the season finale that number had dipped somewhat, and there were 23 theories on the list going into Coming Home. I’ll be recapping each of them on this occasion, as well as three production-side theories that were also in play.

Keep an eye out for several of them to return in the run-up to Season 5, because a few theories that weren’t outright debunked (or even touched on at all for much of Season 4) still feel plausible and interesting to me!

For now, let’s start with the sole theory that was confirmed in the season finale. We’ll then look at the debunkings, the production-side theories, and the few that remain on the table going into Season 5.

Confirmed theory:
Book and Burnham got back together.

Burnham and Book embrace near the end of the episode.

This theory was one that I was desperately hoping would make it to screen! In short, the “Burnham relationship drama” angle that Season 4 pursued from shortly after the halfway point was one of the weakest narrative elements, one which felt gratuitous and overdone. I understand where it came from, and how it aimed to show how grief was leading Book down a dark path. But after everything Captain Burnham went through with Ash Tyler, seeing her settled and happy with Book was fantastic – and I greatly disliked how Discovery ripped that away.

The relationship drama storyline also trod on the toes of other potentially interesting stories. Discovery has always been the Michael Burnham show, and expecting that to change in Season 4 was unrealistic, perhaps. But even so, episodes like All In and Rubicon sidelined other stories and other characters to allow more time to be spent on Book and Burnham and the way they were feeling. For me, it was just too much – and one consequence of that was that some potentially-interesting story arcs, like Dr Culber’s mental health struggles, didn’t get as much development as they deserved.

When Book and Burnham reconciled at the end of Coming Home it really felt great – and I hope that their relationship will remain rock-solid for the remainder of the series’ run!

So that theory was confirmed.

Next, let’s run through the theories that were debunked as of the end of Coming Home.

Debunked theory #1:
Unknown Species 10-C is responsible for the galaxy’s dilithium supply running out.

Dilithium aboard the USS Discovery in Season 3.

This is the first of several theories that were connected to the events of Season 3. For whatever reason, though, Discovery’s focus shifted far away from the Burn in Season 4, with only a few mentions of the phenomenon and its consequences. The state of the galaxy in the aftermath of the Burn served as a backdrop to the events of the season, but in many ways the story could’ve unfolded in exactly the same way if the Burn had never happened or if we’d never come to know about it!

In short, I speculated that Unknown Species 10-C may have been mining the galaxy for dilithium in a similar way to how they used the DMA to mine for boronite. If so, perhaps they could have been behind the still-unexplained loss of dilithium supplies in the years leading up to the Burn. As it is, there was no connection – or at least, no connection was apparent as of the end of the season.

Debunked theory #2:
The Guardian of Forever will make an appearance.

The Guardian of Forever in The Animated Series.

The Guardian of Forever potentially opened up a completely different story trajectory for Burnham – and for Book and Tarka in particular. The events of Terra Firma in Season 3 seem to confirm that the Guardian can be a portal not only to travel through time but also to cross between universes. With Tarka hoping to cross over to a different parallel universe, the Guardian of Forever seemed like a plausible way for him to do so – potentially allowing everyone to get what they wanted.

As it is, Tarka’s story ended in an unspectacular fashion, and unfortunately I consider his storyline to be a bit of a waste. A fun, exciting, and nuanced character was set up earlier in the season, only to turn into a fairly flaccid and one-dimensional villain as the story reached its end. The Guardian of Forever was never mentioned, and Tarka presumably died when Book’s ship exploded.

Debunked theory #3:
Unknown Species 10-C is connected to a faction from Star Trek’s past.

A member of Unknown Species 10-C.

I clung on to my shrinking list of Unknown Species 10-C candidates for the longest time, but I was finally forced to give up on the idea of the mysterious race turning out to be someone familiar a couple of weeks before the season finale! However, even if Unknown Species 10-C were new to Star Trek, I theorised – with very little to back it up, I should say – that there could be some kind of connection to another faction from the franchise’s past.

It couldn’t be the Federation, nor almost any organic race, but it seemed possible to me that there could be a connection to someone like the Borg. If Unknown Species 10-C had been the victim of an attack by someone like the Borg, that could’ve explained their desire to hide away from the rest of the galaxy.

As it is, no connection was forthcoming. I fully expect Unknown Species 10-C to be a minor part of Season 5 (at best), so I doubt we’ll learn much more about them any time soon.

Debunked theory #4:
A major character will be killed.

A Starfleet coffin, draped with the flag of the Federation, as seen in Deep Space Nine.

Before the season began I took a look at the main characters and speculated about who may or may not be on the chopping block! As television storytelling has changed and evolved, particularly in the wake of shows with “disposable” casts like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, audience expectations have changed as well. I suggested several times throughout the season that Discovery giving its main characters some pretty heavy plot armour in the face of incredibly challenging missions and dangerous circumstances wasn’t a great look – and I kept this theory in play right up until the season’s final moments.

The fake-out over Book’s death wasn’t a problem, and I don’t want to single it out for criticism just because it was the final example of this phenomenon; I felt it worked well in Coming Home. But looking back at the season overall, there were multiple opportunities to kill off characters in meaningful and impactful ways, but Discovery’s writers chose not to. Even minor characters like Dr Pollard and Commander Bryce seem to have survived the season, and while Tarka was killed, as a villain his death doesn’t count in the same way.

A well-timed character death can do so much for a story, and I feel like Discovery dropped the ball on this one during Season 4.

Debunked theory #5:
Admiral Vance’s holo-message about Earth and Ni’Var was fake or has been tampered with.

Admiral Vance in Coming Home.

Although Coming Home absolutely stuck the landing and made the sequences at Federation HQ feel incredibly tense and emotional, I didn’t like the whole “Earth is in danger” story cliché that had been introduced in The Galactic Barrier. That trope isn’t just one that’s overused in stories like these, but it’s one that can fall flat and fail in its effort to ramp up the drama, tension, and excitement.

In short, we know in a story about Earth being in danger that Captain Burnham is going to find a way to save the day. If it were literally any other planet – Ni’Var, Qo’noS, Bajor, or wherever – there’d be a real sense of danger that Discovery could’ve repeated the shock of Kwejian’s destruction at the beginning of the season and blown up another planet! But because it was Earth, that never felt like a realistic prospect, and that potentially robbed the story of much of its drama.

I had speculated that someone might’ve faked the message about Earth being in danger, partly because I was hoping it wasn’t true and partly because I was wondering if there might be more going on at Federation HQ. But it turned out that the message was accurate, leading to the scenes at Federation HQ in Coming Home.

Debunked theories #6 & 7:
Unknown Species 10-C built the Galactic Barrier, and
Someone else built the Galactic Barrier to keep Unknown Species 10-C out.

The USS Discovery at the Galactic Barrier.

As we headed into the season finale, the Galactic Barrier was definitely fading out of sight, and as a result this theory was already feeling less likely. However, after much had been made of the Barrier earlier in the season, with an entire episode dedicated to crossing it, I wondered if we might learn more about this unusual phenomenon!

The Galactic Barrier had been introduced right at the beginning of The Original Series and had been mentioned on several occasions throughout Star Trek’s history. It served an interesting storytelling purpose, but we didn’t really learn much about it – including how it works or why it exists! There was scope to tie the Barrier’s existence to Unknown Species 10-C; their incredible engineering skills suggested that they could be responsible for its construction. Alternatively, I theorised that someone else might’ve constructed it in the past to prevent Unknown Species 10-C from attacking. Neither theory panned out, and it seems very unlikely we’ll revisit the Galactic Barrier next season, so I don’t expect this one to be picked up any time soon.

It would be interesting to learn more about the Galactic Barrier and where it came from, though.

Debunked theory #8:
There will be a character crossover from a past iteration of Star Trek.

Geordi and Scotty in Relics.

I’ve been sticking to my guns on this theory since well before Season 3, and a couple of years ago I even proposed a shortlist of characters who could still be alive in the 32nd Century. Thanks to technobabble, though, practically anyone from Star Trek could be included if the writers wanted to bring them on board.

There was also the possibility of Captain Burnham unearthing a hologram, recording, or log left behind by a long-gone character who might be familiar to us as the audience. While this would be less of a “crossover” in the same way, it could still be exceptionally fun.

Unfortunately, it didn’t happen this season. I haven’t given up, though, so you can expect to see this one on my Season 5 theory list!

Debunked theory #9:
Book will find Kyheem and Leto inside the hyperfield.

Book with Leto and Kyheem in the season premiere.

One of my first thoughts about the DMA, long before it had a name and before the season had even aired, was that it could be related somehow to the Nexus from Star Trek: Generations. Then later, when we learned that the DMA had wormhole and transporter capabilities, sending material back to its point of origin, it seemed possible that maybe not everyone on Kwejian was as dead as we first assumed.

Just like Captain Picard was able to encounter Captain Kirk inside the Nexus, I wondered if Book might reach the hyperfield only to discover that Leto, Kyheem, and others from Kwejian had survived the destruction of their planet. It didn’t happen in the end, and in a way that’s a good thing because it would’ve undermined the powerful moment Book had when he spoke to Unknown Species 10-C and took them to task for their destruction.

Debunked theory #10:
Season 4 will connect with the Short Treks episode Calypso.

Craft and Zora dancing in Calypso.

Is Calypso destined to remain forever out of reach? After Seasons 3 and 4 both seemed to move toward a potential tie-in with the Short Treks outlier, once again the story came to an end with no connection in sight. While things like Zora’s development definitely tie in with the events of Calypso, other things, like the retrofit the ship went through in Season 3, have actually moved us away from the events of that short episode.

This is a tough one. I strongly suspect that Calypso was created at a time when Season 2 had a different ending – perhaps even as a kind of “epilogue” in the event of the whole series being cancelled. Its story of the ship being abandoned for a thousand years and an AI developing sentience from the ship’s computer feel quite far-removed from the stories told in Seasons 3 and 4, and realistically, unless a multi-episode arc can be written to bring Discovery and Calypso together, it may be destined to remain unresolved.

Debunked theory #11:
We haven’t seen the last of the Abronians.

Abronian stasis pods.

It’s a bit of a surprise to me that the Abronians – a race rescued from cryo-sleep by Captain Burnham, Tilly, and Dr Gabrielle Burnham in the episode Choose To Live – didn’t return later in the season. There were several different ways that they could’ve been included, even if they didn’t tie in with the main Unknown Species 10-C story.

Discovery doesn’t usually like to do wholly standalone side-stories like this, so all season long I was half-expecting to see the Abronians make a reappearance! Perhaps we’d learn that their homeworld had been destroyed by the DMA, or maybe they could’ve arrived to assist the Federation in an hour of need. Their massive planetoid-sized ship could’ve been incredibly useful during the evacuation of Earth and Ni’Var, for instance.

Debunked theory #12:
Tarka will create his own DMA.

Stamets, Tarka, and Saru with the DMA model.

If Tarka had been unable to find the DMA’s power source inside the hyperfield, I wondered if he’d resort to building his own DMA. We saw as far back as The Examples that he understood the basic principles involved and had been able to build a scale model. I speculated that maybe he would go on to build his own version.

This theory originally began when Tarka was on my list of suspects for creating the original DMA. That didn’t pan out, of course, but even going into the season finale it still seemed possible that he might try to build his own version of it.

Debunked theory #13:
Kayalise is the Kelvin universe.

The USS Kelvin, namesake of the Kelvin timeline.

In the weeks ahead I’d like to take a look at Ruon Tarka’s story in a bit more detail, as I feel that it started very strongly but went off the rails toward the end. For now, suffice to say that it’s disappointing that we didn’t learn more about Kayalise – the alternate universe that Tarka hoped to travel to.

I speculated that Kayalise could be the Kelvin timeline – it’s one of the only other parallel universes that we know of in Star Trek, it stands to reason that the Burn didn’t happen there, and Discovery had already dropped a Kelvin-timeline reference in Season 3. It could’ve been interesting to follow Tarka across the divide between universes… but it didn’t happen.

Debunked theory #14:
Oros is alive – and we’ll see him soon!

Oros.

Oros was a fun and interesting character, and it’s such a shame we only got to see him for a few flashback sequences in a single episode. There was scope to follow more of his story, and if Tarka’s storyline had ended in a more satisfying manner, a meet-up could’ve been on the cards.

I speculated that Tarka would successfully use his interdimensional transporter, or that a compromise could be found to allow him passage to Kayalise, and that he’d be able to reunite with his long-lost friend.

Overall, Oros’ inclusion in the story was an odd one. I feel that we were teased unnecessarily by the show keeping his name hidden for several episodes, and that encouraged speculation that this character might’ve been someone we’re already familiar with. For the heavily-teased character to make a single appearance and then never return was strange – and a bit of a let-down.

Debunked theory #15:
The interdimensional transporter works!

Tarka with the interdimensional transporter.

Though it was left somewhat ambiguous as Book’s ship met an explosive end, it seems pretty clear to me that the interdimensional transporter won’t be making a return to Star Trek anytime soon! Tarka held onto hope for the longest time that not only would his own model work, but that Oros’ original interdimensional transporter had as well.

There was scope, had the season ended in a different way, for the interdimensional transporter to be useful for Captain Burnham, too. If Unknown Species 10-C were native to a different dimension, for example, that could’ve been a way to tie the two halves of the story together. In a season that was all about diplomacy, compromise, and finding a middle ground, Captain Burnham could’ve traded with Tarka for the technology, and that’s just one example.

As it is, it seems like we’ll never know whether the interdimensional transporter even worked at all.

Debunked theory #16:
Michael Burnham won’t remain in command of the USS Discovery.

Captain Burnham with the President of United Earth at the end of Coming Home.

In short, I speculated that Discovery’s trend of having a different captain for every season might continue, and that the season could end with Captain Burnham either leaving Starfleet to be with Book, or accepting a new role within the organisation. To be clear, because I know there’s a lot of debate any time Captain Burnham is mentioned: I wasn’t in favour of this theory necessarily. I just thought it was a possibility, and a potentially interesting one at that!

In the end, the season drew to a close with Captain Burnham still in command, ready to tackle the next mission as the Federation continues to rebuild. And that was a great way for things to end!

So those theories were debunked!

There are a handful of theories that were connected to events in Season 3 that I also kept on the list this time, and none of those were really touched on at all. In addition, there are a couple of theories that I introduced in Season 4 that I still consider plausible for future seasons or stories. We’ll take a look at those briefly now.

Theory #1:
Saru will assume command of the USS Voyager-J.

Captain Saru.

The captaincy of the USS Voyager-J – seemingly the Federation’s new flagship – was discussed as the season drew to a close. President Rillak, who had determined Captain Burnham to be unsuitable for the role in the season premiere, changed her mind after the mission to Unknown Species 10-C’s hyperfield.

I had suggested that Saru embodies many of the qualities that President Rillak was looking for in a captain for the Voyager-J, and that he might assume command of the ship at the end of the season. There’s also the question of how Saru, who holds the rank of captain, will fit in with the command structure aboard the USS Discovery going forward; his presence as Captain Burnham’s XO this season was implied to be temporary.

Whether Saru has a major role to play in Season 5 or not, I’m keeping this one on the list at least for now.

Theory #2:
Who is Dr Kovich, and what is his role within the Federation hierarchy?

Dr Kovich.

I’m beginning to feel that Dr Kovich is seen by the show’s writers as a bit of a joke; a character who we’ve been teased with, but whose interesting-sounding lines and suggestions never go anywhere. The most egregious example of this has to be his line in The Galactic Barrier, where he spoke of having “more important things” to do than accompany the USS Discovery. What were those important things? The show never bothered to tell us.

Going all the way back to his first appearance in Season 3, Dr Kovich has been intriguing. Is he a Section 31 operative? The Federation Vice-President? Admiral Vance’s boss? We don’t know, and while Dr Kovich has occupied several different roles this season – counsellor, Starfleet Academy instructor, diplomat, etc. – we still don’t know who he is or what he’s all about.

I’d like to hope we’ll learn more about him in Season 5!

Theories #3 & 4:
We’ll learn more about the ban on time travel, and
Has the Federation violated the ban on time travel?

La Sirena prepares to use the sun to travel back in time in Star Trek: Picard.

The ban on time travel was introduced in Season 3, and there were narrative reasons for its inclusion. However, as I’ve said ever since we first learned about it: such a ban would be incredibly difficult to implement and enforce. I’d love to know more about how it works, how it’s enforced, and who’s responsible for preventing basically anyone with a starship from doing something like the “slingshot method.”

I also think it’s possible that the Federation itself (or perhaps an organisation like Section 31) has chosen to ignore the ban when it suited them, and again I’d be curious to learn if someone like President Rillak or Dr Kovich had greenlit some kind of time travel escapade.

Theory #5:
The USS Discovery will have to defend the Verubin Nebula.

The dilithium planet at the heart of the Verubin Nebula.

The Verubin Nebula is the galaxy’s only major source of dilithium (at least, as of the end of Season 3). With the Federation in control of this incredibly valuable resource, it stands to reason that other, more aggressive powers might seek to take it from them. Even if the Federation is willing to share its bounty with everyone, factions such as the Borg Collective, the Dominion, or the Klingon Empire may not be satisfied and may want to control the Verubin Nebula for themselves.

I speculated prior to Season 4 that the USS Discovery may be called into action to defend the Verubin Nebula from such an attack – and even though it didn’t happen this time, it’s still a possibility for Season 5!

Theory #6:
Some areas of the galaxy, such as the Delta Quadrant, avoided the worst effects of the Burn.

Stamets with a map of the galaxy.

The Burn was mentioned in Season 4, but never came to the fore in a major way. We still don’t know how far its impact reached, and what effects the Burn had on far-flung parts of the galaxy far away from the Verubin Nebula.

I speculated that some regions of the galaxy may have avoided the worst of the Burn, and maybe some areas didn’t even feel it at all. It could be very interesting to learn that a faction such as the Borg – who were mentioned in Discovery for the first time near the end of Season 4 – were unaffected. They might’ve been able to spend the last hundred years building up their forces for a major invasion!

Check out a full write-up of this theory by clicking or tapping here.

So those theories may return!

Finally, we had three production-side theories on the list as the season finale approached, and I’d like to take a look at those before we wrap things up.

Production-side theory #1:
The season will end on a cliffhanger.

This one is officially debunked! As the finale got closer and closer with seemingly a lot of different narrative threads still in play, I wondered if the season might’ve ended on a cliffhanger, with the story to be resumed in Season 5. It didn’t happen, though, and while not every storyline was brought to the perfect ending from my point of view, all of the main narrative threads were tied up by the time the credits rolled.

Star Trek has a history of season-ending cliffhangers, so this didn’t feel too far-fetched! Still, it will be nice to have a clean slate going into Season 5.

Production-side theory #2:
Tilly’s departure will be permanent.

Tilly’s departure.

This is still officially unconfirmed at time of writing. We don’t yet know whether Mary Wiseman will be returning in Season 5, and if she does return, whether she’ll be doing so as a main cast member or just making a cameo or guest appearance.

It was nice to have Tilly back for the scenes at Federation HQ in Coming Home, and I’m glad we got to spend a little more time with her. However, to me her decision in All Is Possible felt permanent, and taking up a new role at Starfleet Academy feels like a good fit for her. Undoing that development, and unravelling that interesting and fitting character arc, wouldn’t be my preference.

There’s also the possibility that the rumoured Starfleet Academy series could bring back Tilly in a major role. Either way, we’ll have to wait and see!

Production-side theory #3:
There will be a crossover of some kind with Picard Season 2.

Admiral Picard.

As you’ll know by now if you’ve watched both shows, no crossover between Picard and Discovery was forthcoming. This theory arose because Picard Season 2 and Discovery Season 4 overlapped one another by three weeks – something that I genuinely cannot explain. Paramount Global consistently makes these random, illogical decisions, and while it was fun to speculate about what a Picard-Discovery crossover could look like… now that the dust has settled I genuinely do not understand why it had to happen this way. Is it something to do with the fiscal year?

Given that Paramount+ remains unavailable in most of the world, and that Strange New Worlds’ premiere is now imminent, the scheduling makes even less sense. Delaying Picard’s second season by a measly three weeks would’ve bought a little more time for Paramount+ to be ready. Three weeks may not have made all the difference, but combine it with a short delay to Strange New Worlds and maybe it would’ve been possible for more Trekkies to watch the new series together.

I’m not disappointed that a crossover didn’t happen – though that could’ve been a lot of fun. But I am disappointed in Paramount and the inept way they’re handling the Star Trek franchise.

So that’s it!

A happy ending!

Thank you for sticking with me through Star Trek: Discovery Season 4. As the season wore on I did get some things right with my theories, even if some of my bigger ones – like the identity of Unknown Species 10-C – were wide of the mark.

Discovery Season 4 began in a truly awful corporate mess, with Paramount paying money out of its own pocket to try to take the show away from fans outside of the United States. Even in regions where Paramount+ was available, they originally planned to deny viewers access to Discovery Season 4. While I’m glad that the corporation recognised the backlash from fans and backtracked on those plans, it’s something I haven’t forgotten. With Strange New Worlds now in the same position, it’s clear to me that Paramount Global has learned nothing.

Federation HQ in orbit of Earth; the final shot of the season.

In the weeks ahead I’ll definitely write up a longer retrospective of the season. For now, suffice to say that it was a mixed bag, with some decent episodes and some that dragged. The main storyline – that of the DMA and Unknown Species 10-C – seemed to take a long time to reach its conclusion, feeling padded in places. However, the season finale brought things to a close in a very emotional, entertaining, and enjoyable way. Whatever I may have thought about parts of the ride, the destination in this case was worth the wait.

One final note. I write up these theories for fun! I like Star Trek and I like writing, so writing about Star Trek is an enjoyable endeavour for me. For some folks, though, fan theories can become problematic. It’s always worth trying to keep in mind that any fan theory, no matter how enjoyable and plausible it may seem, isn’t worth getting upset over. Most of the theories I come up with never make it to screen, and usually what unfolds on screen is better! If I ever found that theorising and speculating about Star Trek (or any other franchise) was beginning to harm my enjoyment, I’d stop – and I’d encourage anyone in that position to do the same.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, Scandinavia, Latin America, and Australia. The show is available on Pluto TV in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and other parts of Western Europe. Individual episodes or the full season can be purchased on iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play, and possibly other platforms in the UK, parts of Europe, and select other countries. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery 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 review – Season 2, Episode 7: Monsters

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 GenerationVoyagerFirst Contact, and Discovery.

I found Monsters to be a frustrating experience – with the odd moment of sheer brilliance. While the story edged along in incremental steps, overall this side-mission inside Picard’s mind seemed to drag just a little too long. That being said, when the amateur Freudian psychoanalysis let up, we got some interesting moments with Seven of Nine and Raffi as they hunted for Dr Jurati, and from Picard and Guinan as the episode drew to a close.

Despite having mixed feelings about the season overall – particularly its time travel story – some of the promotional images released for Monsters looked intriguing, so after a couple of weeks where I’d been uninterested to the point of near-apathy in Picard, this time around I managed to work up some excitement and interest for the latest outing. To summarise, I guess I’d say that Monsters didn’t deliver what I’d hoped for, and the show’s 21st Century setting continues to be a drag, but there were some genuinely insightful and interesting moments, especially as the episode neared its end.

The final few minutes of the episode were the best.

As last week’s episode drew to a close, I felt that there was potential in a story that explored some of Picard’s psyche, and that seemed to be borne out by a couple of the promotional images released before the episode aired. These pictures showed Picard sitting aboard a 24th Century vessel, meeting with a new character who was wearing what looked like a new Starfleet uniform variant. Based on those pictures and that setup, I was hopeful that a season which has been content to stay in the modern-day for the most part might actually show us a little more of Star Trek’s future – the part that I find a thousand times more interesting, exciting, and inspiring.

Unfortunately we didn’t really get any of that – at least, not in the way I had hoped. We returned to the château of Picard’s childhood, and spent a lot of time running around in the dungeons while monsters from low-budget horror films chased after Picard, his mother, and later Tallinn. I think the problem with this story is more fundamental than just its B-movie horror aesthetic, though. If a decision is made to psychoanalyse a character in this fashion, diving deeply into their subconscious mind and buried memories, by the time we reach the end we should feel like we learned something – anything, really – that could inform and educate us about why the character behaves a certain way or has a particular personality trait. We came to the end of this coma-dream with Picard awakening… and I don’t feel like I understand him any better than I did before watching this entire drawn-out storyline.

Tallinn was attacked by one of the B-movie monsters.

We’ve spent a lot of time with Picard over the past thirty-five years, and in that time we’ve seen him go through many significant and traumatic events. There are more things from his past that we’ve only heard about in passing; lines of dialogue in The Next Generation that informed a story or gave us a tidbit of information about the man and his personal history. This episode, and the framework it used, could have explored any of those. Just off the top of my head, we could’ve seen Picard wrangle with the death of Jack Crusher – husband of Beverly Crusher – during his time in command of the Stargazer. We could’ve seen him dealing with the trauma of Tasha Yar’s death, or the loss of his family in a fire at the château that we heard about in Generations.

Instead, Monsters chose to introduce a wholly new backstory element to Picard’s character, giving him a moment in his youth in which he was traumatised by being trapped in the passageways below his family’s château, as well as his mother’s mental health condition. I can deal with the fact that this seems to clash with depictions of Picard’s mother in The Next Generation; the two shows are very different, and while there’s definitely a major difference in tone, there’s nothing that stands out to me as being wholly contradictory. But what I find difficult to get on board with is the fact that this entire sequence feels meaningless to the story overall – we didn’t learn anything significant about Picard, nor did we unlock anything that might be key to understanding the story of the season.

A faded memory from Picard’s youth.

I don’t recall it ever being mentioned prior to Monsters that Picard had a fear of confined spaces. I can recall many occasions in the past where we’d seen him in the Jeffries’ tubes, for example, and that never seemed to bother him. If it had been mentioned even an episode or two ago we could’ve at least said that Season 2 was trying to set it up, but even that didn’t happen, so I find it being brought up here particularly odd. Not only that, but this supposed claustrophobia didn’t even feature in a big way in the story at all – there was no moment where Picard was in a confined space either in reality, in his mind, nor in his memories. The dungeon was certainly a frightening place, but young Picard seemed to be trapped in a pretty large room.

Obviously trauma and the development of phobias is a more complicated thing than that, and I get that. But even so, this attempt to depict Picard’s supposed trauma feels weak. More importantly, though, it doesn’t seem to have accomplished much of anything, certainly not enough to justify producing an entire episode dedicated to it.

Picard and Tallinn inside his subconscious mind.

Star Trek: Picard promised to show us the beloved character in his later years, going on new adventures with a new crew but still fundamentally the same man we remembered from his debut thirty-five years ago. There was scope in a story about memory and digging into someone’s trauma and psyche to draw on something from Star Trek’s past – either something that was underdeveloped during The Next Generation era or something merely referenced – to flesh out some unknown or unseen part of Picard’s character. This episode took that open goal and missed it by a country mile by telling a disconnected and just plain odd story that feels functionally and narratively irrelevant. A ten-episode series can’t afford to waste time – something Picard learned to its cost in Season 1 – so Monsters feels not only like a disappointment, but an episode that could potentially be a weight around the neck of the entire season.

When I deconstructed the failings of Et in Arcadia Ego (the two-part Season 1 finale) a few weeks ago, I concluded by saying that I hoped the lessons of that rushed pair of episodes had been learned. Whole storylines ran out of road, characters disappeared, new factions came and went in the blink of an eye, and narrative threads that could’ve been weaved together had there been more time ended the season just dangling, unresolved. With three episodes remaining in Season 2 to resolve this new story, I feel a sense of anxiety. The past three episodes essentially revolved around the astronauts’ party and its aftermath, without much input from Q or significant progression of the season’s main story arcs. There isn’t a lot of time to get back on track – especially if we get any more short episodes like the half-hour Two of One last week.

We’ve spent a significant chunk of the season’s runtime dealing with Picard’s comatose mind.

To return to the dungeon and the monsters, when this storyline kicked off with young Picard and his mother, it seemed like it had potential. As someone with mental heath issues myself, I briefly felt some of what I’ve experienced being reflected in the depiction of Yvette Picard. There was scope to expand upon this – and perhaps a future episode will tell us more about her nameless condition. Unfortunately, though, what we got in Monsters may have began in a relatable way – so much so that, for a brief moment, it felt uncomfortably close to my own personal experience – but it quickly descended into pantomime and farce.

Mental health conditions are not easy to depict in fiction. It takes time, it needs a nuanced portrayal, and it requires a creative team who all understand the condition in question and what the purpose of its depiction is. Yvette’s condition wasn’t shown for its own sake, and wasn’t even trying to be a sensitive or sympathetic depiction of whatever unnamed condition she suffered from. It existed purely to attempt to inform us as the audience about the trauma Picard himself feels from those events, and that already relegates it to a kind of secondary status that perhaps was always going to prevent a nuanced or at least decent attempt to portray it.

Yvette Picard’s mental health condition was basically a backdrop for other parts of the story.

The Star Trek franchise hasn’t always dealt with mental health particularly well. I noted as recently as Season 1 of Picard how the franchise can lean into unhelpful one-dimensional stereotypes, and Yvette feels barely a step ahead of that. The decision to include hallucinatory elements was potentially an interesting one – but to then turn around and make those hallucinations B-movie horror monsters rendered any impact it could’ve had utterly meaningless.

I’ve tried to be an advocate for better depictions of mental health in fiction, but more than once I’ve found myself exasperatedly saying that if a story can’t get it right – or at least make an effort to do better with the way mental health is depicted – then maybe it’s preferable to leave it alone. If there isn’t time in a series like Picard – which understandably has its focuses elsewhere – to show Yvette’s mental health condition in more detail and more sympathetically, then maybe this angle shouldn’t be included. With a few rewrites, the story could get to the same place while skipping over a pretty uninspired and occasionally problematic one-dimensional depiction of an unnamed but somewhat stereotypical “mental illness.” Otherwise it feels like the series is paying lip service to an important subject; touching on it in the most basic and meaningless of ways.

The nature of Yvette’s condition wasn’t revealed or explained.

So what was this story trying to say? That Picard’s desire to explore strange, new worlds is connected to trauma related to his mother? That seems incredibly clichéd and basic, even by the generally poor standards of mental health stories that we’ve just been talking about. I want to believe that this story has more to give; some twist or turn that will pull out a passable ending to a narrative thread that will otherwise be disappointing in the extreme. I’ve jumped the gun before with these kinds of things and been too quick to criticise, so I guess we need to wait and see what comes next. On its own merits, though, this part of Monsters – the part that took up the majority of the episode’s runtime – was poor.

There was a glimpse of something better (or at least something different) at the close of the episode. Picard visited Guinan’s bar to try to “summon” Q (or another member of the Q Continuum, this wasn’t 100% clear). I liked that we got callbacks to past iterations of Star Trek; Guinan’s “claw” pose that we saw in Q Who made a comeback, for example. And this part of the story filled in a blank from all the way back in The Next Generation’s second season, potentially explaining the animosity between Guinan and Q, or at least the El-Aurians and the Q Continuum.

We learned a little about the relationship between the El-Aurians and the Q Continuum this week.

This is the kind of thing I’d hoped Picard Season 2 would do more of. Season 1 had a fairly narrow focus on the Romulans and synths, and while we got a deeper dive into one aspect of Romulan culture in particular, there was a lot more that the last season could’ve done to connect its narrative threads to Star Trek’s broader canon. Because of how it quickly stepped out of the prime timeline and then shot back in time, Season 2 hasn’t really had much of an opportunity to do this, and when elements from Star Trek’s past have been introduced they haven’t really been explored or fleshed out in a substantial way; take Tallinn and the mysterious organisation she works for as a case in point. So I greatly appreciated the Guinan-Q connection here.

Picard and Guinan being apprehended may yet have a deeper significance to the story – if the “FBI Agent” isn’t who he claims to be, for example. Stay tuned for my theory post for more on that! But if it really is the FBI and 21st Century Earth authorities, I’m actually kind of glad that the story went down this road! Picard and the crew, despite their best intentions, have made a lot of noise since arriving in the 21st Century – so it makes perfect sense that, in the highly-surveilled world of 2024, the authorities would be attempting to track them.

Agent Wells, FBI.

We got several cute moments this week with Seven of Nine and Raffi. Their relationship, which had been teased at the end of Season 1, hadn’t developed as much as I’d hoped or expected this season, and with Seven being sidelined for the entirety of last week’s outing, I’m glad that the show’s writers haven’t entirely forgotten about this angle. We caught snippets of their conversation aboard La Sirena that suggested that their relationship is built on solid foundations, even if they don’t always have time to acknowledge it to each other, and I think in a busy episode with a lot of storylines on the go, I can accept such moments of exposition.

What I would say, though, is that we’re really feeling the impact of modern Star Trek’s shorter seasons, and I noticed that in particular with Seven and Raffi this week. After they returned to La Sirena, tracking down Dr Jurati, figuring out how the Borg code got into the ship’s computers, and coming up with a plan to counteract it and figure out what happened could’ve been an entire episode in itself during The Next Generation and Voyager eras. As it is, we got a couple of lines of dialogue and a cut-down sequence. That isn’t bad, but it’s definitely something that could’ve been expanded upon.

Raffi and Seven of Nine discovered that Dr Jurati has been assimilated.

Rios now officially irks me. His regression from the Starfleet captain we were reintroduced to in The Star Gazer to the Han Solo-inspired rogue that we met at the beginning of Season 1 had been bugging me all season long, but now it feels like there isn’t time to do anything about it. If we hadn’t seen Rios in such a different – and arguably better – state in The Star Gazer, I guess I’d just roll with his storyline. But because we’d got a glimpse of Rios at his best and seen what he can be, this Season 1 presentation feels wrong. The fact that he doesn’t seem to care at all about the ship and crew he left behind (on the brink of self-destruction and death, no less) is the icing on a particularly unpleasant cake.

One of Rios’ lines this week also felt unearned. He referred to Picard as a “father figure” that he had been seeking, but I just don’t feel that from Rios in any way. I can’t actually remember a significant moment that the two characters have shared in either season of the show, aside perhaps from Picard’s remark all the way back in Season 1 that Rios kept his ship to Starfleet standards. They’ve just been on different narrative trajectories, and while they seem quite happy to work together, I’ve never felt that Rios saw Picard that way.

Rios told Teresa how he feels about Picard.

“Show don’t tell” is the advice that creative writing teachers often give their students; show the audience how a character feels, what they’re thinking, etc. through their actions and behaviour, don’t just try to dump clumsy lines of expository dialogue and assume that’s good enough. And that’s basically the Rios situation. I’d seen nothing from him to make me feel he saw Picard as a father figure, so this line of dialogue didn’t land in the way it should’ve.

One of Rios’ lines this week was pitch-perfect, though, and continues a season-long trend of making references to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. When Teresa was figuring out the truth about who Rios is, we got a riff on the lines spoken by Dr Gillian Taylor and Captain Kirk in that film when Rios told her that he’s from Chile, but works in outer space. It was an incredibly neat reference, and I genuinely wasn’t expecting to see The Voyage Home called back to in so many different and unexpected ways this season.

Rios probably got the episode’s best line while speaking to Teresa.

Was Rios right to tell Teresa the truth? And then, having done so, was taking her and Ricardo to La Sirena a good idea? Part of me feels that Rios will bring Teresa and Ricardo to the 25th Century with him – as Kirk did with Gillian Taylor – so stay tuned for my theory update for my thoughts on that! Regardless of whether it was a smart idea, the moment where Teresa materialised on La Sirena’s transporter pad was pitch-perfect, and Sol Rodriguez captured that moment wonderfully.

Dr Jurati was only glimpsed this week, but the Borg Queen’s influence is clearly growing. The “endorphin rush” concept is an interesting one, with the Borg Queen needing to trigger endorphins in order to speed up or help the assimilation process. I certainly hope we learn more about how this works, as well as what exactly the Borg Queen is doing. Is this, as Seven seemed to think, the “birth” of a new Borg Queen? If so, that presumably tees up Dr Jurati (or rather, her assimilated body) for being the masked Borg Queen seen in The Star Gazer at the beginning of the season! There’s also the possibility on this side of the story to learn more about the Borg and how Borg Queens work in a general sense.

Will Dr Jurati become the new Borg Queen?

I would’ve liked Monsters to spend more time on this side of the story. With the bulk of the story dealing with the coma-dream that Picard was experiencing, it feels as if the episode had its focus in the wrong place. Whatever’s happening with Q is clearly still important – but the potential for a Borg Queen to be loose in the 21st Century and growing in power should bring everything to a screeching halt. Picard and the crew need to tackle this problem, and they need to do so urgently! But as far as we know based on what we saw on screen this week, Seven of Nine and Raffi haven’t even told Rios or Picard what they’ve learned about Dr Jurati.

As I suggested in my last theory post, there’s all sorts of ways that this story could go. A Q-Picard truce or even a temporary alliance is one possibility, with a weakened Q working with Picard to prevent the assimilation of Earth. But it feels like the season is running out of road to tell all of the stories that have been set up. We didn’t get any advancement this week of Kore or Dr Soong’s stories, for example, and Q himself – despite being mentioned – was also absent. If we’re to see this Borg Queen story play out in anywhere close to as much depth as it deserves, a change in focus is urgently needed.

Picard in Monsters.

So I guess that was Monsters. It was an episode that dragged in places, one that feels like an unnecessary sojourn in a short season that really doesn’t have time for such indulgences. Yes, it’s possible that the story of Picard’s youthful trauma will come back later in the season in a way connected with Q. But even assuming that will be the case, Monsters feels like a gratuitous and self-indulgent look at this part of Picard’s backstory and psyche that simply ran too long.

I’m reminded in a way of Nepenthe and, to a lesser extent, Absolute Candor from Season 1. These two episodes advanced the main story of Season 1 in increments, but given the way the story ran out of road by the time we got to Et in Arcadia Ego, they feel somewhat like wasted time in retrospect. Monsters feels like it could end up the same way – but unlike the two Season 1 outings mentioned, it wasn’t a strong or particularly enjoyable episode in its own right. If we look back on the season later and feel that more time was needed to allow things like the Borg Queen story, Q’s story, or Kore and Dr Soong’s stories to play out, Monsters will feel like the standout example of what should’ve been cut.

There were interesting ideas here, and if the same framework or story concept had been used in a different way, I think we could’ve been looking at the episode in more of a positive light. But the barebones and clichéd depiction of Yvette’s mental health condition, the uninspired “haunted castle” and B-movie monsters, and the more interesting storylines being sidelined makes it one of the season’s most disappointing outings so far.

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.

17.04.22
Additional thought:

It only occurred to me as I was re-reading this review, but one thing to say about Monsters – and the season overall by extension – is that the season’s main characters, as well as important secondary characters all feel disconnected from one another. They don’t seem to be communicating at all, with Rios taking Teresa and Ricardo to La Sirena seemingly without consulting Picard or anyone else, and Raffi and Seven of Nine chasing Dr Jurati also without a word to Picard or Rios. This is in addition to Q doing his own thing away from everyone else, and Kore and Dr Soong off on their own, too. There are occasional bridges between these groups of characters; meetings or pairings in which they get together. But for the most part, everyone feels like they’re in their own little narrative box, taking part in their own story that’s disconnected from everything else. This is a very odd way to structure a season of television in a show like Star Trek: Picard.

Star Trek: Picard review – Season 2, Episode 5: Fly Me To The Moon

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 GenerationVoyagerFirst Contact, and Discovery.

Fly Me To The Moon was an interesting episode, one which introduced several new characters and story elements. I didn’t see most of its various twists coming until they landed – and being genuinely surprised by a story is always something I appreciate. Jonathan Frakes returned to Picard to direct for the first time since Season 1, and I noted more than a few similarities to Stardust City Rag – one of two episodes that he directed last time around.

However, Fly Me To The Moon wasn’t an outstanding episode for me personally. It piled a couple of frustrating story tropes on top of one another, compounding a modern-day setting that’s already beginning to stretch my patience with a stealthy infiltration mission that felt rather like something lifted from a video game. These stories weren’t badly-executed by any means, but the foundations upon which they were built just aren’t my favourites, and from a personal point of view I felt that the episode suffered as a result of that.

Dr Jurati undercover.

There had been quite a lot of buildup to the story of Rios being arrested and deported from the United States; a timely examination of a real-world phenomenon that’s happening right now. But three episodes of buildup fizzled out rather quickly in Fly Me To The Moon, with Rios’ rescue and the liberation of a handful of migrants being treated as a relatively minor part of the story. We got a satisfactory conclusion to Rios’ capture after his run-in with Teresa, but it wasn’t a particularly long or engaging one.

It’s always worth saying that we’re nowhere near the end of the season yet, and there’s still time to return to Teresa’s clinic and take another look at this aspect of the story. With Rios’ combadge still missing, I think they’ll have to take action to retrieve it somehow. So I’m trying to avoid passing judgement too quickly. What I’ll say for now is that if we don’t pick up this story thread later, it gets a grade C: a basic pass. If we take another look at the way migrants are being handled – and specifically, what’s so dangerous about a Sanctuary District on the border – then maybe that grade can be bumped up a notch or two.

Rios with Pedro, a fellow deportee.

Sticking with Rios, I’ve had an unsettling feeling about him that’s been building for several episodes. I touched on this last time, but I wanted to dedicate a little more time to it here. In short, Rios has regressed as a character in a pretty significant way. He hasn’t regressed since last season, but since his role in the Season 2 premiere: The Star Gazer.

That episode saw Rios after he returned to Starfleet and accepted a brand-new command. He had a crew to be responsible for, a galaxy to explore, and he seemed to have taken to heart the lessons he learned on his adventure with Admiral Picard in Season 1 – particularly Picard’s act of sacrifice and the words he spoke during the climactic standoff over Coppelius. It was genuinely wonderful to see Rios in that role – and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Trekkies asking for a Captain Rios spin-off show in future!

It feels like Captain Rios has regressed somewhat since The Star Gazer.

But after Rios found himself in the Confederation timeline, he seemed to forget all about that. He mentioned his command last week, but only in this weirdly aggressive rant to a prison guard. He doesn’t seem to care – or even remember – his crew, the officers under his command and for whom he is responsible. Instead he seems back in his “Star Trek does Han Solo” mode; the renegade with a heart of gold. That characterisation suited Rios in Season 1 – knowing that there was a good soul inside someone who had a hard time showing it and a hard time processing grief and loss was key to his character back then. But we’ve seen so much change for Rios in just that one episode at the start of the season that the way he’s been acting for the last few episodes feels like a major regression.

And it’s a complicated situation to resolve right now. Clearly the writers are pushing Raffi down the “grief and loss” road this time around, with Seven of Nine in a supporting role. In addition, if Rios were to suddenly start showing an emotional response to the loss of the crew of the Stargazer, not only would it seem a bit late in the game, but it would also feel like a retread of what he went through in Season 1. I feel like Rios has been written into a somewhat of a corner, and I’m not sure I see an easy way out for him as things currently sit. I’m sure he’d be glad to get his ship and crew back, if such a thing is even possible, but he hasn’t done anything to show that to us as the audience. I’m just not feeling much coming from Rios right now.

I’d like to see more from Rios to convince me he’s a Starfleet captain.

If I may make a bold suggestion, it seems to me that Rios has been included in the story in large part because, as a Hispanic man, it really hammers home the point the writers have been trying to make about immigration in the United States. But because Rios had already seen such an amazing turnaround by the time of The Star Gazer, at this point in the season I’m left wondering if maybe we might’ve had a more enjoyable time overall if Elnor had been the one to survive and it was Rios sitting in La Sirena’s morgue.

That’s not because I dislike Rios. I think he can be a fun character, and there’s something about his roguish charm that makes him feel different in Star Trek; a character archetype we don’t often see. But having undergone that development and become a captain, dragging him backwards feels wrong. If there needed to be cuts to the cast of Season 2 for whatever reason, bringing Elnor along could’ve been more interesting. We’d have got a lot more of the “fish-out-of-water” comedy with Elnor, for example, and there’d have been scope to develop his character a lot more. With a little creative writing, the story of loss for Raffi could still have been included.

Raffi briefly thought that she saw Elnor among the migrants.

But enough about the story we aren’t watching!

One thing that felt quite odd in Fly Me To The Moon was the inclusion of three actors playing brand-new characters and not the characters we’re familiar with. Brent Spiner’s role as a new member of the Soong family had been teased in pre-season marketing material and was expected, and of course we’d seen the Watcher (in Laris’ form) last week. Isa Briones also returned this week – but not as Soji.

When a new character played by a familiar actor is introduced, I think most fans just shrug it off and continue with the story. Star Trek has done this so many times going all the way back to weird “body swap” stories in The Original Series, so it’s not like it’s a problem or anything like that. But it was very strange to have three brand-new characters in a single episode all played by familiar faces. One or possibly even two might’ve gotten a pass, but to have three felt gratuitous and ultimately detracted from the way Fly Me To The Moon landed.

Isa Briones was one of three regulars to be playing a different character in Fly Me To The Moon.

I’m glad that Picard’s writers haven’t just forgotten about Soji, considering how she was such a major part of the story of Season 1. And it was nice to welcome back Isa Briones for a much larger role than she had in the premiere. But all things considered, this new character of Kore felt odd in an episode that was already dealing with the return of Brent Spiner as another Dr Soong and Orla Brady as the Watcher/Laris.

That being said, there was something interesting about Kore’s character, and the life-limiting genetic condition that she was suffering from managed to walk a fine line between feeling realistic enough to elicit sympathy but at the same time feeling very “Star Trek.” Particularly after Q’s medicine wore off and she suffered a flare-up, I felt that this unnamed condition had a very sci-fi feel, and I appreciated that.

Kore’s illness had a definite sci-fi feel.

I can relate to Kore. As someone whose poor health means I spend more and more time at home, I can empathise with the way she feels about being trapped and isolated, and like she’s missing out on everything from everyday things like swimming to special events like parties and gatherings. It’s an interesting angle for the series, and I hope we get to spend a little more time with Kore. Seeing what her life is like in isolation is interesting to me – and more than a little timely after the couple of years we’ve all just been through!

People with severe allergies might also find the presentation of Kore and her health condition to be relatable. I’m not in that category, but I’ve known people with allergies so severe that what others might consider to be everyday events – such as eating out at a restaurant – become impossible, and I felt at least some influence there in the way Kore came across on screen.

I found the presentation of Kore to be very relatable.

Although I generally enjoyed this story point, it does feel as though the writers of Picard took Kore’s health condition to somewhat of an extreme, and the real reason for that is to give motivation to the new character of Dr Soong. Brent Spiner did well to put across such a conflicted character in just a single episode – I really felt that Dr Soong was buckling under the weight of an impossibly difficult situation. The only caveat there is that maybe the situation with Kore was overreaching – trying to be an eleven out of ten when a nine would’ve been perfectly sufficient for the sake of the story!

How many Dr Soongs has Brent Spiner played now? I’ve honestly lost count! I think at this point we’ve seen practically all of Data’s ancestors on screen in one way or another! But that’s okay, and tying the events of Season 2 to a familiar face is something that I think many fans will appreciate. While I don’t think there can really be very many blanks left to be filled in for the Soong family at this point, possibilities exist to connect Adam Soong’s story to that of Dr Arik Soong – a character who appeared in Enterprise.

Dr Adam Soong.

Brent Spiner was unexpectedly one of the standouts in Fly Me To The Moon. Coming hot on the heels of his portrayal of Altan Inigo Soong in Season 1, I felt that the hairstyling (including a beard) and makeup used in Season 2 went a long way to making him look at least superficially different, and the performance really succeeded at capturing the notion that Dr Adam Soong is a good person who’s being forced to do increasingly questionable things out of desperation.

If Adam Soong is hailed in the Confederation timeline as some kind of hero, we’re still yet to find out why that is. And it’s possible that whatever he’s trying to do will ultimately lead to something serious, possibly even evil. I noted in Kore’s reaction as her medication wore off a kind of dark greyish tinge to her veins; could we be looking at nanotechnology, perhaps? If so, could Dr Soong have some kind of involvement with the Borg? With Q around, anything is possible – so stay tuned for my updated theories!

A monument to Adam Soong in the Confederation timeline.

Speaking of the Borg, the situation with the Borg Queen aboard La Sirena took a turn that I genuinely wasn’t expecting. The interplay between Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen had been one of the most fascinating parts of the season’s story, and it came to a head in Fly Me To The Moon. If I were to make one criticism I’d say that maybe this was a little premature; I could’ve happily watched Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen continue to talk around each other and build up this antipathy and fascination for a lot longer!

It was an incredibly well-done story, though. After being pushed, prodded, and manipulated by the Borg Queen for the past three episodes, Dr Jurati finally took a stand. When faced with a choice between preserving the timeline and saving her way home, Dr Jurati chose to kill the Borg Queen. Doing so saved the life of a hapless 21st Century police officer (who felt, sorry to say, like a bit of a stereotype), but came at the expense of the Borg Queen’s physical form, at least.

The death of the Borg Queen.

The final moments of the episode showed us one final twist in this tale – the Borg Queen inserted some kind of assimilation tubules into Dr Jurati in her dying moments. Having seemingly recovered her ability to assimilate – at least partially – Dr Jurati is now haunted by an apparition of the Borg Queen that only she can see. We’ll have to save this for my next theory post, but I wonder if there’s a possibility that this is some kind of psychological symptom rather than the actual Borg Queen!

There was some stellar cinematography during the scenes set aboard La Sirena. Though not quite on par with the dramatic arrival of the Borg and the masked Queen in the season premiere, I still got a real creepy, horror movie vibe from Jonathan Frakes’ directing and camera work. The dimly-lit sets, parts of which were tinged with the green light we so often associate with the Borg, amplified this sensation. The entire story, from the Borg Queen’s fake phonecall all the way through to Dr Jurati hunting her with a shotgun was pitch-perfect in that regard.

Dr Jurati versus the Borg Queen!

There was a definite influence from sci-fi-horror films like Alien, The Thing, and others on this side of the story. A darkened La Sirena felt incredibly claustrophobic, particularly in the scenes featuring the hapless police officer. Captain Rios’ ship made a wonderful stand-in for Alien’s Nostromo, something I particularly felt as Dr Jurati came aboard wielding a shotgun!

Unfortunately it felt as if this sequence existed in a separate story. With the exception of a few seconds after Rios, Raffi, and Seven materialised aboard La Sirena, which led to the revelation that the Borg Queen was dead, the characters essentially ignored this huge moment for Dr Jurati as they raced ahead to planning their heist on the astronauts’ gala. Maybe we can argue that this is another way in which Picard and co. are overlooking Dr Jurati or failing to care for her as much as they ought to, but in the context of the episode itself it ended up feeling as if something was missing from the story.

Dr Jurati being assimilated.

Fly Me To The Moon was the shortest episode of the season by far, clocking in at barely forty minutes when you exclude the credits and title sequences, so there was definitely scope to expand on what happened to Dr Jurati in some way. Picard literally did not even acknowledge what had happened to her, and again this can be argued to be part of what the Borg Queen was saying to her about her loneliness, but honestly I don’t feel it landed that way.

Just a couple of episodes ago, in Assimilation, we saw how Picard does genuinely care for Dr Jurati. He was the one who okayed her mission to link up with the Borg Queen, but he also showed real concern at the dangers, and there were incredibly sweet and tender moments between the two of them as Dr Jurati subconsciously shared her feelings for Picard, and later as Picard covered her with a blanket and then positioned himself defensively in between Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen. So in short, I don’t buy that Picard arrived back at La Sirena, saw what had happened, but chose to disregard it entirely. Maybe a scene was scripted and not filmed for some reason, or maybe something was left on the cutting room floor – but one way or another, this felt like a significant omission.

Picard and Tallinn after ariving aboard La Sirena.

Before we get to the gala we have to consider Q’s condition. We’ll get deeper into speculative territory in my theory update, but it definitely seems as though Q may be approaching the end of his life – somehow. It had long been the assumption that members of the Q Continuum are immortal (or so long-lived as to be effectively immortal) and I’d point to the Voyager episode Death Wish in particular as an example of this, as well as The Next Generation first season episode Hide and Q.

So that has changed – or a change has somehow been inflicted upon Q. How or why that is we don’t know – but I suspect it has to be connected in some way to Picard, otherwise why would Q choose to spend what could be akin to his final moments by inflicting one last puzzle upon him? Perhaps something has happened to destabilise the Q Continuum, such as an attack or invasion, and that could be to blame. One way or another, though, it seems like Picard is setting up a story in which Q may not survive.

What could be happening to Q?

John de Lancie and Brent Spiner played off one another expertly, and I got a hint – just a glimpse, at this stage – that Q may be more desperate than he’s letting on. This would connect to the slap a couple of episodes back (no, not the one at the Oscars!) as evidence that Q is losing control, no longer able to fully contain his emotions. He put on a brave face for the sake of manipulating Dr Soong, but I got the sense that if Dr Soong had resisted in any way, Q wouldn’t have known what to do. Without his powers – or with his powers being less reliable – he’s more vulnerable and exposed than we’ve seen him since he was temporarily stripped of them in The Next Generation Season 3 episode Deja Q.

Before we move on from Q, one final “easter egg!” In movies and on TV, most phone numbers use the prefix 555, which is set aside for use in the industry. Q’s “business card” didn’t… so out of curiosity (and not really expecting anything) I called the number. Try it if you can!

We learned a little more about the Watcher this week, including their name. It was interesting to tie the Watcher to the events of The Original Series episode Assignment: Earth, and that’s something I really wasn’t expecting. As an interesting aside, Assignment: Earth was created as a backdoor pilot for a prospective spin-off series that would’ve focused on Gary Seven!

The Watcher – a.k.a. Tallinn.

Though we learned part of the Watcher’s story, there’s still a lot that Fly Me To The Moon didn’t explain that will surely come out later in the season. The most obvious question is how the Watcher relates to Laris, and why the two characters look identical. Is it possible that this Tallinn is actually Laris? If so, what would that mean for Laris and Picard, and why would Tallinn be assigned to watch over Picard in the future? I sense a time-loop paradox coming!

There’s also the question of the organisation that Tallinn and Gary Seven worked for, and what their goals and ambitions are. Assignment: Earth seemed to suggest that these technologically powerful aliens were benevolent – but they seem to be aware of time travel, divergences in time, and other such things. How they could connect to the events of the season is unclear right now, but quite interesting!

Gary Seven in Assignment: Earth.

It’s been a while since I last watched Assignment: Earth, and I confess it’s not a particular favourite of mine. It’s not like I hate it or anything, but I wouldn’t usually pick it out to watch – as evidenced by the fact that it’s been several years since I last saw it! But I think it’ll be worth going back and taking another look, not so much to give context to Fly Me To The Moon, but in case it’s referenced again in a future episode this season.

Orla Brady got to show off a different set of skills as Tallinn compared to her role as Laris, and she did a fine job of convincing me that Tallinn was powerful and had a lot of knowledge of things that both Picard and the audience do not. It’s difficult to fully judge this character without seeing where things go from here; now that the initial shock of her appearance has worn off, we need to be patient while the next phase of the Picard-Tallinn-Laris story unravels.

Picard and Tallinn watch Renée’s therapy session.

Up next, we come to the gala itself. This is also incomplete, as we’re waiting to see what will happen next week, but for now here are my initial thoughts. I don’t like this setup, this kind of “sneaking into a high society party in disguise” trope. It’s been done before in different ways, some more successful than others, but generally speaking it’s a story setup that can fall victim to feeling contrived and forced, and there were definitely unpleasant notes of that for me.

The buildup to the party aboard La Sirena and at the Château was another sequence that could’ve been expanded upon; it felt as though Picard and the crew put together a plan very quickly before rushing into executing it. I could’ve spent another couple of minutes watching them talk about the plan for the gala and how it was supposed to work.

The episode seemed to rush headfirst into this moment.

Finally, the idea that the crew can’t all just beam in made sense and was well thought-out, but this was then immediately undermined by the idea that one of them could sneak in and “hack the mainframe” so that the others could join later. If Tallinn had the ability to add one person to the guest list and create an entire fake ID for them, why couldn’t that be repeated? It’s a nitpick for sure, but these things sometimes bug me in stories like this!

That said, once the action shifted over to the gala itself it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. Alison Pill did well to convey Dr Jurati’s lack of confidence and how she feels conflicted and perhaps even traumatised by recent events, and this led to a truly unexpected twist to round off the story.

Dr Jurati at the end of the episode.

It seems certain that Picard and the crew will make it to the gala within the first few minutes of the next episode, continuing a strange trend this season of these mini-cliffhangers that don’t get substantial payoffs. The end of Penance, for example, led into a short, underwhelming sequence of the crew of La Sirena easily overpowering the Magistrate and Confederation forces, and just this week we got a fairly short and nondescript ending to the aforementioned Rios storyline. The cliffhanger at the end of The Star Gazer worked well to tease the Confederation timeline – but some of these other ones haven’t blown me away. Maybe next week’s episode will, though!

So that was Fly Me To The Moon. Renée Picard and her mission are intriguing, but we didn’t find out a great deal about her on this occasion. Renée herself was a relatively minor part of an episode that had a lot of pots on the stove, so it won’t be until subsequent episodes that we learn what role she may (or may not) ultimately play in this divergence in time.

Renée at the gala.

For me, no episode so far has come close to recreating the incredible highs offered by The Star Gazer as the season kicked off. Fly Me To The Moon had some interesting elements in the mix, and I’m certainly curious to learn more about the conflicted and anxious Renée Picard, but they came in a framework that didn’t always excite or enthrall me. As I said last week, the limitations of a modern-day setting are definitely beginning to bite, and as interested as I am to see more from Q, to learn more about Dr Soong, and to see the Europa Mission, I’m also quite keen for Picard and the crew to find out exactly what’s happened so they can start thinking about getting back to their own time period!

You’ve probably noticed that I’m a few days late with this week’s review. The truth is that I didn’t even get around to watching Fly Me To The Moon for several days; I’ve been on a bit of a downer in general, made a lot worse (at least insofar as my enjoyment of Star Trek is concerned) by the international broadcast mess engulfing Strange New Worlds. So it took a lot of effort – more than usual – to push through that to get this review done. Sorry for the delay, and I hope things will begin to get back to normal in the days ahead!

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.

Strange New Worlds: I just can’t get excited…

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Seasons 1-2, Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, and for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

I’ve had a hard time lately knowing what to say about Strange New Worlds. When the series was officially announced just under two years ago, I had high hopes and it rocketed to the top of the list of TV shows that I was most excited to see. Even as 2022 approached, this was the mindset that I had. After the phenomenal portrayals of Captain Pike, Spock, and Number One in Discovery Season 2, I was among the fans who wrote to Paramount Global (then known as ViacomCBS) about getting a Captain Pike spin-off series, and Strange New Worlds’ very existence is the result of a powerful fan campaign that brought together Trekkies from all across the world. I’ve been proud of the small role I played in that.

But as the show’s premiere approaches, Paramount Global has completely screwed up. It became apparent late last year, when Prodigy Season 1 and then Discovery Season 4 were denied international broadcasts, that Strange New Worlds would follow suit, and I said as much back in November when the Discovery debacle was unfolding. And now, with barely five weeks to go before Strange New Worlds makes its debut in the United States, there’s been radio silence from Paramount Global about an international broadcast.

It’s time to talk about Paramount Global again.

Let’s get one thing straight right now: this lack of information and refusal to engage with fans and audiences isn’t merely something that might hurt Strange New Worlds’ chances in the future. Paramount Global’s blinkered “America First” policy is hurting the show right now. For every fan whose question is left unanswered, anxiety and apathy about the series grow. Instead of Trekkies and viewers all around the world being able to chatter excitedly on social media and in fan clubs, the discussion is suppressed. Everyone remembers the Discovery Season 4 clusterfuck and how damaging that was to both Star Trek as a brand and the Star Trek fan community – and people are being cautious, talking less about Strange New Worlds for fear of stoking arguments.

Because we live in a globalised world, it’s no longer possible for big entertainment companies or streaming platforms to region-lock their content. Doing so is incredibly stupid, harming the prospects of a series and practically guaranteeing it won’t live up to its potential. How many more viewers might Lower Decks have picked up if it had been broadcast internationally in its first season? We will never know – the chance to get untold numbers of new eyes on the Star Trek franchise for the first time in years was wasted.

A representation of how we’re all connected in a globalised world.

When a show is cut off and its audience segregated geographically – as seems all but certain to happen with Strange New Worlds – that has a knock-on impact that the out-of-touch and out-of-date leaders at Paramount Global seem totally unaware of. With the Star Trek fanbase being large and international, millions of people will miss out on Strange New Worlds – and as a result, they won’t talk about the series on social media. Hashtags won’t trend, posts about the series will reach far fewer people, and even within the United States, Strange New Worlds will suffer as its social media hype bubble deflates – or never inflates to begin win.

This is the real harm of this stupid, blinkered “America First” approach. By refusing to engage with fans, we’re left to assume that the reason for that is because the news is bad. As a result, millions of Trekkies aren’t talking about Strange New Worlds, just as they didn’t talk about Lower Decks or Prodigy. In the absolutely critical few weeks before the series premieres, when hype should be growing and excitement reaching fever-pitch… it just isn’t.

Paramount Global is refusing to engage with fans from outside of the United States.

Why should we, as Trekkies outside of the United States, bother to engage with Paramount Global on Strange New Worlds – or on any other Star Trek property, come to that? If we’re constantly treated as second-class, even in regions where Paramount+ is available, what’s the point in continuing to support the series or the franchise? I’m left in the position of actively willing Strange New Worlds to underperform at the very least. Maybe then, Paramount Global would begin to understand.

I’m all for supporting actors, writers, directors, and other creative folks. But they’ve already been paid for the work they did on Strange New Worlds, and moreover a second season has already been confirmed and entered production. So to the folks who say that they’ll pay to use a VPN to subscribe to the American version of Paramount+, or who plan to wait diligently for the service to be rolled out internationally, I have to ask: how are fans supposed to protest? How are we supposed to share our anger and frustration with Star Trek’s corporate overlords if not by voting with our feet and our wallets?

Season 2 is already underway.

This article began life as a breakdown of the Strange New Worlds trailer that was released a couple of weeks ago. But as I started writing, I soon realised that I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t sit here and happily ignore the corporate bullshit and the incredibly poor way that Paramount Global has treated its biggest fans and biggest supporters. I couldn’t just pay lip service to the problems with a line or a paragraph and then get chatting about Pike’s beard or the Enterprise at warp. I’ve lost my excitement for this series.

A few weeks ago I managed to get a print of the Strange New Worlds poster. It’s framed alongside my Picard Season 2 poster, and it overlooks my workspace where I sit to write these columns and articles. But even that was stupidly difficult, because Paramount Global didn’t make the poster available for purchase in the UK. I had to get a custom print of it ordered from a print shop. Just another way that Paramount Global is content to damage its own marketing, cutting off its biggest fans because of where we happen to live.

The poster in landscape form with the addition of the show’s logo.

Considering the position we’re currently in, the scheduling of Discovery Season 4, Picard Season 2, and even Prodigy feels incredibly weird and inept; another example of Paramount Global fucking things up. Why did Discovery Season 4 and Picard Season 2 overlap by three weeks? And why is Strange New Worlds scheduled to overlap with Picard as well? Delaying both projects by literally just a few weeks might’ve given Paramount+ more time to get ready for an international launch. We’ve been promised the service by the end of June and Strange New Worlds premieres in early May… if Paramount+ is still on schedule, can’t Strange New Worlds be delayed by five or six weeks so that more fans can watch it together? Where would be the harm in that from Paramount Global’s perspective?

On top of all that, as Season 1’s marketing campaign was just getting started we had a really stupidly-timed Season 2 announcement: the casting of a new actor to play James T. Kirk. I didn’t like the fan reaction in some quarters, with a lot of folks being incredibly critical and some of that criticism spilling over into hurtful remarks directed toward the actor – my firm belief is that we need to give Paul Wesley a chance to show us what he can do, and we need to be patient to learn more about the storyline (or storylines) that Kirk may be involved with. But I have to admit, I understand where the backlash came from… and it’s yet another indication of how poorly Paramount Global has handled this new series.

I was disappointed that some Trekkies attacked actor Paul Wesley… but this premature announcement was a stupid own-goal from Paramount Global.

There was no need to announce Kirk’s role this early. There had been a single leaked on-set photo showing actor Paul Wesley as an unnamed character, and there was no reason whatsoever for Paramount Global to comment on it. They could have said something like “that’s a secret for now, but stay tuned for Season 1!” and left it at that. Some fans would’ve speculated, some had already guessed that the character was James T. Kirk before the official announcement was made. But confirming it just made things worse, and turned an already depressed and underwhelming conversation around the new series positively toxic for a few days.

One way or another, I’m going to watch Strange New Worlds – and you can interpret that however you’d like! But what I won’t do is talk about the series here on the website or on social media. If Paramount Global doesn’t make it available here, why should people like me comment on the series or give it publicity? In my own small way, I plan to have a communications blackout – shutting down a portion of the conversation around the series and directing attention away from Paramount Global. I’d love to see others get on board and do the same thing – a full-fledged blackout would be symbolic of the fanbase coming together to tell a greedy American corporation that its behaviour is not acceptable. If you’ve ever watched Star Trek, that shouldn’t feel out of place at all!

A Strange New Worlds blackout would be unfortunate, but I would argue it’s necessary.

But it’s unlikely to happen, sadly. A lot of fan websites and social media groups work hand-in-glove with Paramount Global and wouldn’t want to risk losing their access or their freebies that the corporation provides them. So we’re in a difficult, unpleasant situation once again, with echoes of the Discovery Season 4 mess all over again. And I don’t know how to navigate it, I really don’t. I feel like I want to stick to my principles and do whatever I can, in whatever small way, to stick the boot into Paramount Global. I also feel that someone needs to make a stand on behalf of fans around the world who can’t access the series because we’ve been so callously cut off.

But I can also understand the argument that we should be supporting a series that was originally brought about thanks to a fan campaign – a campaign I participated in. And, of course, I’m aware that I’m such a small outlet that on my own I can’t make much difference.

Fans have been waiting for the next chapter of Captain Pike’s story for almost three years.

Maybe Paramount Global will surprise me with Paramount+ in time for the show’s premiere. Or maybe they’ll do the right thing and delay it if Paramount+ won’t be ready… but I’m not holding my breath. Right now it feels like we’re on course for a repeat of the Discovery mess, and the only thing I can do in this situation is refuse to cover the series at all. That isn’t the stance I wanted to take. I wanted to be spending this time talking with you about the minute details that I noticed in the trailer, or speculating about what role Kirk might play. But I can’t. And if Strange New Worlds doesn’t get broadcast here or in other parts of the world in a few weeks’ time, don’t expect to see any reviews, theories, or discussion here on the website.

I’m tired, and I feel like I can’t keep doing this. Star Trek is supposed to be fun; an escape from the realities of life. As someone who’s disabled and has mental health struggles, I need the positivity and fun that a show like Star Trek can bring. I’m not cut out for this kind of constant negativity, shouting and screaming at Paramount Global to get its fucking act together. It’s depressing and disappointing that we’re here again.

This is where I’d usually tell you where to watch Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and tell you that it’s 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 review – Season 2, Episode 4: Watcher

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 GenerationVoyagerFirst Contact, and Discovery.

For me, Picard Season 2 had been coasting on the incredible high that the season premiere delivered. Now that we’ve hit the fourth episode of the season – almost halfway through – I felt the quality dip ever so slightly, dropping down from an incredibly strong start. That’s not to say I didn’t have an enjoyable time with Watcher it’s week, but rather that Picard Season 2 has begun to settle into its time travel story.

As I said a few months ago when looking at one of the pre-season trailers, stories involving time travel to the modern day have never been my favourites in Star Trek. In addition to the omnipresent problem of crafting a time travel narrative that makes sense and doesn’t rely on paradoxes or other contrivances, I really just feel that a big part of what makes Star Trek so appealing – its optimistic, high-tech future – is missing. Watcher gave us glimpses of that thanks to the scenes set aboard La Sirena, but the bulk of the story took Picard, Raffi, Seven, and Rios to contemporary Los Angeles. It told an interesting story – one that, as a mid-season episode, we’ll have to reserve judgement on aspects of until we know how storylines unfold – but one that was constrained by that setting, at least for me.

An establishing shot of modern-day Los Angeles.

For the first time this season I felt that Picard was in a rush. There were a couple of significant moments early in Watcher that seemed to be raced past in a flash, despite the fact that we’d realistically expect them to take longer. The first was Seven, Raffi, and a nurse from Teresa’s clinic being able to identify Rios from an incredibly vague description, and the second came a few moments later when Picard and Dr Jurati figured out that they only had three days to avert a change to the timeline.

In both cases, a longer episode (or a longer season) could’ve spent just a little more time to help these points unfold naturally. The idea that the nurse would’ve been able to figure out that Seven and Raffi were talking about Rios from the description of a “scruffy” man is ridiculous considering the clinic’s clientele. And when it came to Dr Jurati and Picard, the concept of subconsciously drawing on a particular number was interesting – but the rushed pacing meant it felt poorly-executed and underdeveloped. I certainly had a hard time buying that they’d been able to hit on the solution to that particular puzzle within literally a minute of exploring it. In the days of The Next Generation, when seasons were longer, that could’ve been almost an entire episode!

Seven of Nine and Raffi visited Terea’s clinic… briefly.

There’s another thing I’m struggling to follow on this side of the story, too: why is the Borg Queen suddenly being so evasive and unhelpful? She agreed to help Picard travel back to the 21st Century in order to repair the timeline – a timeline which saw the Borg wiped out in a way that I sincerely hope we find out more details about. She needs the timeline to be repaired as much as they do; their motivations are the same even if this is merely an alliance of convenience. Yet after crash-landing in the 21st Century – and, if Picard and Dr Jurati are correct, with merely three days to spare in order to prevent the divergence in time – the Borg Queen suddenly stopped being helpful and even tried to hide the Watcher’s location and the date of the divergence. Why?

At the moment it seems to be that the answer is “because plot,” and that’s just not very satisfying. If she had told Picard and Dr Jurati where, when, and how to meet the mysterious Watcher, half the plot of Watcher could’ve been skipped. It isn’t that the narrative in question was bad or unenjoyable, it’s just that it feels so very flimsy. A single question about one character’s behaviour or motivation is enough to send the whole house of cards tumbling down – and as someone who’s invested in the story of Picard and the world of Star Trek, I prefer to see stories with rock-solid foundations!

The Borg Queen in Watcher.

Leaving one person alone with the Borg Queen – especially Dr Jurati after her experience last week – seems like a very bad idea! I’m certain that this is setting up something that will be paid off later; their evolving relationship seems to stand as testament to that. In fact, the dynamic between Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen is rapidly becoming one of my favourite parts of the entire season – the way they tease one another, talk around and over each other, and betray each other’s trust is absolutely riveting to watch.

Alison Pill has brought a lot to the character of Dr Jurati, managing to successfully balance a character who has a definite comedic edge and light-heartedness with some incredibly deep and complex storylines. We saw in Season 1 how Dr Jurati was the brainwashed sleeper agent; an embedded spy who used her closeness to Picard to kill her friend and sometime lover Dr Maddox. That almost led her to suicide in one of Season 1’s most painfully raw sequences.

Dr Jurati in Watcher.

This time around, Dr Jurati is staring down one of the biggest villains in all of Star Trek: the Borg Queen. She’s allowing the Borg Queen to get inside her head – literally and figuratively – and while this week we saw that she still has the capacity to lie, hide things from the Borg Queen, and use her skills to her advantage, there’s a very real sense that the mask is slipping. With the two of them alone – potentially for days or longer – the Borg Queen could continue to push Dr Jurati and find an angle to successfully manipulate her.

Perhaps we’ll have to save this for my next theory post, but I wonder if there could be a catalyst for setting off this conflict. So far, in the time that’s passed since La Sirena arrived in the 21st Century, no one from that era has noticed the crash site… but could it be possible that someone is already on the way? We saw in one of the pre-season trailers a pair of characters who seemed to be in the early stages of assimilation; if someone noticed La Sirena’s crash landing, could police or military forces be en route? If so, perhaps Dr Jurati will have to team up with the Borg Queen to keep La Sirena out of their hands.

Who’s this chap that we glimpsed in a pre-season trailer?

Perhaps part of the reason why the scenes set aboard La Sirena felt so fun was because they were the only scenes in which Star Trek’s futuristic technology was centre-stage. As mentioned, time travel to the modern day may be a typical Star Trek story setup going all the way back to the first season of The Original Series… but these kinds of stories seldom end up as my favourites, personally speaking. Taken as a one-off episode or a two-part story, back in the days of longer seasons, I generally found the setup to be inoffensive enough, but as we’re settling into the 21st Century now, with everyone except Dr Jurati now firmly embedded on that side of the story, I’m getting the sense that the limitations of that setting are beginning to bite.

The “fish-out-of-water” side of sending 25th Century characters back in time was on full display as Seven of Nine and Raffi attempted to track down Rios, and that was certainly fun for a while. Their sequences in the stolen police car started off feeling exciting, particularly as Seven had to figure out how to drive a vehicle that she’s inherently unfamiliar with, but overall I felt that it probably ran a little too long. Once the basic concept had been shown off – that Seven of Nine is driving a stolen police car – there wasn’t really much more for that sequence to say; both metaphorically and literally, it didn’t go anywhere.

Grand Theft Auto: Star Trek edition.

For a crew who were warned about “butterflies” and the need to be incredibly careful about preserving the past, they certainly seem to be making a scene in 2024! Beaming Seven and Raffi out of the police car in broad daylight when they could be seen by at least one police officer feels like an incredibly risky move. I guess this side of the story is also considering the impact of Raffi’s grief about Elnor and how that could be impairing her judgement; it felt like we came close to a more detailed look at that concept but didn’t quite get there this week. Maybe it’ll be something that builds up over a few episodes before being talked about more openly and coming to a resolution.

For the first time since Elnor’s death, I got a sense that it could be more permanent than I’d initially thought. Raffi’s single-minded insistence that restoring the timeline will save him, and her unwillingness to even contemplate the possibility that it won’t, feels like a storyline that could end with her having to confront the reality that Elnor is really gone. Star Trek loves using technobabble to save the day – and that could still happen, don’t get me wrong – but if we consider Elnor less as a character in his own right and as more of a motivating factor in Raffi’s arc this season, he could well be permanently dead.

Raffi is convinced that Elnor can be saved.

Speaking of characters who seem to have been written out of the show – at least in the immediate term – where is Soji? I’m genuinely surprised that we’ve now had three episodes (out of a ten-episode season, remember) where she hasn’t appeared, and that comes after a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it role in the season premiere that didn’t actually have a significant impact on the story. Are we going to see Soji at all this season, or will she perhaps cameo in the season finale to bookend things?

Considering Soji’s incredibly central role to the events of Season 1, it seems more than a little odd that Season 2 has gone in this direction. I felt that there was scope to see Soji in the Confederation timeline, and perhaps we will if we ever revisit that setting, but so far her absence has been noticeable. The fact that none of the other characters have so much as mentioned her by name hammers this home, too. Depending on how long the mission to 2024 lasts, there’s still time for Soji to have an impact on the story later on… but that prospect feels like it’s shrinking the longer the season remains in this time period.

We haven’t seen Soji since the season premiere.

But enough about who wasn’t included this week! There was a returning character that I would never have expected to see in a million years: the punk on the bus! This character made an incredibly unexpected yet welcome return from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and actor Kirk Thatcher reprised his role from that film. I honestly couldn’t stop smiling at seeing him again; this nod and wink to longstanding Trekkies was absolutely appreciated!

This is something that Picard has done really well even going back to Season 1. Bringing back characters and including little references and nods to the history of the franchise goes a long way to making the series feel connected to the rest of Star Trek. I would have never expected to see the punk on the bus from Star Trek IV make a return in Picard – and that’s what made it so special. I was grinning from ear to ear after this wonderful and unexpected scene, even more so because he seems to have learned a valuable lesson after his run-in with Kirk and Spock in 1986!

The best character surprise in all of modern Star Trek!

There are some things in Star Trek (and film and TV in a general sense) that I’ve never felt needed explaining. Why do characters look different in different iterations of the franchise, for example? The fact that certain characters have been recast – as Guinan was in Watcher or as the entire cast of The Original Series were for the Kelvin films – has honestly never been something that bothered me, and as a viewer I think a degree of leeway has to be offered when suspending our disbelief in these circumstances. It was possible to digitally de-age John de Lancie for his initial appearance as Q – and that moment was absolutely fantastic. But to digitally re-create a younger Whoopi Goldberg for Watcher would’ve either meant Guinan’s role in the story needed to be cut down, or it would’ve been phenomenally expensive to have a CGI character in all of these scenes.

In light of the way the Star Wars franchise has handled the return of some of its classic characters (too many, if you ask me) I can already anticipate that there will be some Trekkies who want to see Star Trek do the same; to use CGI and digital techniques more gratuitously in some of these circumstances. Personally, I don’t think it’s something that’s necessary – and as long as the newly-cast actor bears a passing resemblance to the original character, I’m more than happy to continue to suspend my disbelief! It’s worth remembering that Star Trek isn’t backed up by Disney-level money; some of the technologies that Star Wars can afford to use are very expensive, and I’d rather see the Star Trek franchise use its money more wisely rather than rely on digital gimmicks.

Guinan’s new look.

Speaking of things that are unnecessary: did we really need Watcher to explain why Picard has a British accent despite being from France? After 35 years and close to 200 appearances, are we not just happy to accept that that’s the way Picard talks? Again, it’s something that honestly never bothered me and I hadn’t even thought about – except in a very tongue-in-cheek way, perhaps.

In this case, it was partially an explanation for why Château Picard is abandoned in the 21st Century, and I appreciate that the writers didn’t just leave that unexplained. I just feel like there was an unnecessary attempt to tie in an aspect of Picard’s past with the way Sir Patrick Stewart speaks, and I’ve just never felt that it was a contradiction in the character of Admiral Picard in the first place, let alone one that needed to be given an in-universe explanation. Characters like Geordi La Forge or Hoshi Sato also don’t speak with the accents we might typically expect to hear in contemporary times from people born where they supposedly were, and again it’s never felt like a contradiction or something that begged an explanation.

Picard and Dr Jurati at the abandoned Château.

On Rios’ side of the story we got perhaps the smallest tease that we haven’t seen the last of Teresa. I inferred from her parting words to Rios that we might see her again. I didn’t really like the way that Rios told his life story to the prison guard; I didn’t see what the point was, other than presumably setting up some kind of contradiction or problem that might be referenced later on. It just felt unnecessary for him to tell the story of the Stargazer, Picard, and the 24th Century in this kind of strangely angry way. I get that Rios was feeling angry after seeing the injustices of 2024, but this doesn’t seem like a natural way for him to react.

I’d like to see something from Rios going forward to at least acknowledge the Stargazer; ever since being transplanted into the Confederation timeline he seems to have basically ignored or forgotten what happened. He’s the captain, and the crew under his command should be one of his top priorities, so to have not even so much as mentioned any of them for several episodes feels a little odd – and it’s beginning to erode Rios’ standing as a Starfleet captain. Even just a line or two of dialogue to say that he hopes restoring the timeline will mean they’ll be okay would do so much to alleviate this.

Rios on a bus.

The way Rios must be feeling about the crew of the Stargazer could also set up a connection between him and Raffi. The two characters have hardly said two words to each other for several episodes, yet the weight of responsibility and the sense of grief and loss that both must be feeling could be a way for them to connect. It seems, though, that Seven of Nine and Raffi are dealing with that particular storyline.

The story about illegal immigration and police brutality that Rios is involved in is a timely one, though, and one absolutely worth telling. There was some incredibly evocative cinematography from director Lea Thompson on this side of the story, with shots of Rios framed through the wires of the cage detaining him that really hit hard. As a non-American I fear some of the nuances of this story are lost on me, but many of the themes it touches on can apply here in the UK as well, unfortunately.

A caged Captain Rios.

It took me a moment to figure out why Guinan wasn’t familiar with Picard when he arrived at her bar. In-universe, Picard remembers the events of the episode Time’s Arrow, in which he met Guinan for the first time in the 19th Century. But because the timeline has been damaged, the 24th Century as we know it didn’t happen, which presumably means that the Confederation timeline version of Picard didn’t travel back to the 19th Century and never met Guinan. Time travel stories can be complicated, huh?

I enjoyed what Ito Aghayere brought to the role of Guinan. She played the character with a kind of world-weariness that I think a lot of us can relate to after a difficult few years. I didn’t expect that Picard Season 2 would spend much more time with Guinan after her short role in the season premiere – but I should’ve known from the fact that they made an entire new set for the bar that we weren’t only going to see it make a single appearance!

Ito Aghayere as Guinan in Watcher.

Having introduced Picard to the Watcher, setting up the next episode and presumably the next phase of the story, I’m not sure how much more time we’ll spend with Guinan. I hope this hasn’t been her sole appearance in this time period, though, as I feel there’s scope to spend more time with her and explore a little more of her past and her relationship with Picard. In Time’s Arrow we saw their first meeting from her point of view (although the shifting timeline has erased that, at least for now), but we’ve still never learned how they came to meet in the 24th Century, nor exactly why they struck up such a close bond. There’s scope to delve into that in more detail – if there’s time!

Because of the rushed ending to Season 1 and how that left a sour note, I’m conscious that the season is limited to just ten episodes – and while there have been interesting elements that I feel could be explored in more detail, overall I’d rather we got to the end of the story in a way that felt conclusive. If that means that some of these points of lesser importance don’t make it to screen, I’m okay with that.

Picard and Guinan.

One question I have about the Guinan story is this: if Time’s Arrow didn’t happen in this timeline, and Picard’s plan is to erase the Confederation timeline by preventing it from ever happening… will Guinan remember any of this? Or when the timeline is reset will she forget this meeting, and perhaps even this version of Earth? El-Aurians have a particular sensitivity to time, something Picard referred to in this episode as Af-Kelt, or time sickness, so maybe she’ll somehow be aware of two distinct encounters? I’m not sure… and it’s the kind of incredibly minor point that only Trekkies like us would get bogged down in!

As happened with Picard himself in Season 1, particularly at the beginning of the story, I can anticipate that some viewers will be put off by the disconnect between the previous presentation of Guinan as someone calm and ethereal with this new presentation of someone ready to give up on humanity. But just like with Picard, the point of this new presentation isn’t about where Guinan starts, but where she ends up. Even within the story of Watcher, Guinan already proved willing to listen to Picard, to help him when she learned who he was, and perhaps as a result we’ve begun to see that spark that we saw in Picard when Dahj helped set him on a new path last time. Even if Guinan makes no further appearances in the story, we’ve still seen in microcosm that narrative of someone who’d lost hope finding a glimmer of it.

Has Picard helped Guinan find a glimmer of hope?

I didn’t anticipate that the Watcher would be someone we knew. In fact I was a little taken aback by some of the online speculation in the days leading up to the episode’s broadcast about possibly Guinan being the Watcher, or maybe Soji, or perhaps someone from The Next Generation. People came up with some clever suggestions, but I felt sure that the Watcher would turn out to be a brand-new character. The fact that it was Laris caught me off-guard… and still leaves a lot of unanswered questions!

Some of these we’ll go into a little more detail on in my upcoming theory post, but in brief here’s what I’m wondering about: is this really Laris? By which I mean, is this character simply a younger version of the character that Picard will come to know as Laris in the late 24th Century? If not, is the Watcher simply assuming a form that Picard is familiar with – perhaps someone he loves? If it is Laris, that still doesn’t answer who she is and what she’s been doing with Picard all this time! Many of the suggestions I made last week – such as the Watcher being a member of the Q Continuum, a Prophet, or some kind of temporal agent – are all still in play based on where the episode ended.

The titular Watcher!

It was lovely to get a genuine surprise to close out a mysterious episode. Even though I’d seen speculation in the days before Watcher premiered, no one (at least that I’d seen, at any rate) had even suggested Laris might be the titular Watcher. Her inclusion at the end of the episode – seemingly in human form, no less – came as quite a surprise! The entire episode built up to this moment in a very clever way, and it was more than enough to feel like it ended on a high note.

So that was Watcher. It was a fine episode, a solid mid-season offering that moved several key storylines along but didn’t resolve any of them. There’s really only one drawback to Picard Season 2 right now, and for me that’s its modern-day setting. I’m sure there were reasons for this choice of setting – one of which, dare I suggest, may have been to keep costs down – but as I’ve tried to explain, such stories aren’t as enjoyable for me when I’m sitting down to watch Star Trek. I find myself wondering how long Picard and the crew are going to spend in 2024, perhaps even hoping that they’ll move on by the end of the next episode so we can get back to the 25th Century.

All that being said, I had a good time this week and I’m curious to see how the story will unfold. I’m about ready to see Rios reunited with Raffi and Seven of Nine, and I’m definitely curious to see more from Guinan and learn who the Watcher is and what they know! That’s not to mention Q… what’s going on with his powers? Stay tuned, because in the days ahead I’ll update my theory list, and I have a few ideas!

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.

Star Trek: Discovery review – Season 4, Episode 13: Coming Home

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4.

I cried a lot while watching Coming Home. It was an incredibly emotional episode, one that hit all of the notes that it was aiming for and brought the season to a close in style. We can say definitively that Season 4 ended on a high, having saved the best for last. In fact, Coming Home might just be the best episode of the entire season!

From almost the first minute, the emotional punches started coming – and they didn’t let up until the epilogue. Captain Burnham and the entire crew went on a rollercoaster ride as they battled to stop Tarka, to get Unknown Species 10-C to listen, and to save Earth and Ni’Var from destruction. The episode was well-paced, with plenty of energy to keep things exciting but without ever feeling rushed. And there were some wonderful visual effects and animation work as we finally got an unobscured look at Unknown Species 10-C.

A group of Unknown Species 10-C.

I had a wonderful time with Coming Home, and thinking about Season 4 as a whole, the finale is one of the strongest offerings. That contrasts with Season 3, where the end of the Burn’s story felt like a non-sequitur, if not an outright letdown. In that respect, it’s nice to see that Discovery has grown, adapted, and perhaps even taken on board some of the feedback received about the Burn and Season 3 in general. The creative team can be pleased, I think, that they did a better job this time around.

All that being said, there are some issues that are raised by Coming Home. The episode itself was great, and even some of the storylines that I’d been less invested in were paid off in emotional style. But thinking about the episode as the concluding chapter of a thirteen-episode season, I do have some complaints about absences, about characters who weren’t well-used, and about specific storylines that didn’t get the kind of payoff I’d been hoping for. While these points don’t detract from a wonderful and emotional episode in Coming Home, they do count against Season 4 as a whole.

Dr Hirai was a character with potential who felt sadly underused this season.

In the weeks ahead I’d like to do a retrospective of the season, and when I do I’ll go into more detail about some of these complaints. But with Coming Home being the season finale, I’d be remiss not to mention them here. This was the last chance for Discovery to do something significant with some of these narrative points – especially when considering that Season 5 will almost certainly go in a different direction.

Ruon Tarka’s abrupt turnaround from an understandable and even sympathetic character to a bold-faced villain was not handled particularly well, and while Coming Home went some way toward reversing that and bringing back some of the nuance that had made him such an interesting character in the first place, it came too late. Tarka’s story – much like Tarka himself in his final moments – ran out of road, and ended in an unspectacular and unsatisfying fashion, with no real payoff to his quest to reach Oros and Kayalise.

Tarka met his end in an unsatisfying way.

The scenes between Tarka and Book were beautifully constructed, and the raw emotion that both David Ajala and Shawn Doyle brought to screen is undeniable. The performances were fantastic, and Coming Home found enough time to show off these moments despite having plenty of other narrative beats to get through.

Despite that, however, the damage to Tarka’s characterisation had already been done. The complex and nuanced character that we met in The Examples, half a season ago, had been developed slowly over several episodes. His desire to use the power source at the heart of the DMA was explained through a series of flashbacks that introduced us to his long-lost friend Oros… and it feels like none of that really went anywhere. There were the ongoing themes of grief and loss that have been running since Season 3, and I guess we could argue that Tarka represents a different kind of reaction to those things than other characters. But even then, this side of the story doesn’t feel particularly strong.

Tarka with the interdimensional transporter shortly before his death.

It was nice to see that, in his final moments, Tarka seemed to come around to Book’s way of thinking. As he stood on the wrecked bridge of Book’s ship, awaiting the inevitable, he’d taken several steps back toward being the complex character that we believed him to be in his earlier appearances, and I do appreciate that. It wasn’t that there wasn’t time to pay off Tarka’s well-established story. It’s just that Discovery chose not to.

This was a story that, at the end of the day, didn’t need Tarka. It didn’t need a villain to be outsmarted and killed in the final act; all the pieces were in place for a story of first contact with Unknown Species 10-C that was tense, interesting, and engaging without him. There was more than enough drama and excitement in that premise to make Tarka’s addition unnecessary; fluff to pad out a season-long story that I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling had been padded out far more than it should’ve been.

Tarka was ultimately the villain of the season… but he didn’t need to be.

Season 4 could have been structured differently, with the Tarka and Unknown Species 10-C stories going in different directions. If one story had concluded around the time of the mid-season break, the second half of the season could’ve followed another related but separate story… and when both sides of the story were overstretched by running for as many episodes as they did, perhaps that would’ve been preferable.

But that’s less about Coming Home than it is about the structure of the season as a whole! Despite my waning interest in the Book and Tarka story, Coming Home pulled out a complex and emotional ending for both characters. It wasn’t the way I would’ve necessarily hoped for nor chosen, but once the decision had been made to kill off Tarka in this way and to have the fake-out over Book’s death, Discovery executed it about as well as possible.

Tarka and Book caught in an explosion.

Going into the finale there were genuine concerns for Book and Reno’s survival. While a fifth season has been confirmed, neither character was guaranteed to appear in it, and there was a real possibility that one or both could’ve died as Tarka tried to execute an increasingly desperate (and, sadly, an increasingly nonsensical) plan. When it came to the moment of Book’s apparent death, it thus felt like he was really gone; there was no part of me saying “this is all just a fake-out.” And again, this was one of many emotional punches that Coming Home set up and delivered perfectly.

Book’s survival was also kept hidden by the story – we weren’t immediately shown him alive with Unknown Species 10-C – which kept things going as other storylines played out. As a fake-out, I think it worked pretty well. It made Book’s return in a pillar of light feel genuinely wonderful, and took Captain Burnham on a rollercoaster that allowed Sonequa Martin-Green to really show off her emotional range. Both as a story point and on the technical side of things, it worked well for Coming Home.

Book was saved by Unknown Species 10-C.

But, as I’ve found myself saying numerous times as the season has worn on, it means that Discovery has yet again given all of its characters some pretty serious plot armour. In an individual episode we can forgive that a near-death situation resulted in survival, or that an apparently-dead character like Book was safe all along. But when we consider the season overall, no one aside from Tarka was actually killed. Despite the incredibly dangerous situations that the crew found themselves in, and despite the overwhelming odds stacked against them by Unknown Species 10-C, the DMA, Tarka, and everything else they went through, they all survived.

Television storytelling has moved on since Star Trek’s early days – something that the very nature of Discovery is itself testament to. To run an entire season this way – with another “galaxy-ending” calamity for the crew to deal with, which they all survive – risks diminishing the threat felt in future stories. If we as the audience can feel confident that everyone will be fine, no matter what else is happening or how badly the ship seems to be blowing up, that robs the show of a significant portion of the excitement, tension, and drama that its storylines have done an otherwise good job at creating. Book’s fake-out “death” isn’t the problem in and of itself; it’s a symptom of a much bigger issue – the obvious lack of willingness on the part of Discovery’s writers to allow even the most minor of tertiary characters to be killed off. In 2022 that’s out-of-date, and it’s a storytelling mistake that will have to be addressed in future.

Book survived… and so did everyone else.

The whole “Earth is in danger” angle is a trope that I wish hadn’t been brought into the story this season. It’s such a played-out cliché, and it’s one which, as I noted a couple of episodes ago when it was introduced, risks making the end of the story feel formulaic. It was obvious two episodes back that Discovery wasn’t going to allow the destruction of Earth and Ni’Var in the final act of Season 4, so unfortunately I went into Coming Home with that expectation firmly embedded in my mind.

That doesn’t mean that the route to saving Earth was easy, and on the Federation HQ side of the story with Tilly and Admiral Vance there were some absolutely wonderful moments. The swooping arrival of the USS Mitchell – named for Discovery actor Kenneth Mitchell – hit all of the right notes for me, echoing moments like the Enterprise-E’s dramatic entrance during the Battle of Sector 001 in First Contact. In fact, all of the evacuation sequences worked well, and after her departure earlier in the season it was nice to welcome back Tilly – however briefly.

The USS Mitchell arrived to save the day!

I’d have liked to have seen something earlier in the season to perhaps set up some kind of dynamic between Vance and Tilly, and that would really be my only criticism. The two didn’t feel like they had natural chemistry; I was acutely aware of the difference in status between the head of Starfleet and a character who, until a few episodes ago, was a lowly ensign. The two performers did well to sell it, but had we seen Tilly offered her role at Starfleet Academy by Vance, not Kovich, back in All Is Possible, I think we would’ve had some kind of baseline for their relationship. This would’ve let us see how far they’d come to be able to sit together and share a drink as they awaited what seemed to be the inevitable.

That said, I liked the evacuation sequences. In fact, this part of Coming Home might actually be my favourite – surpassing the meeting with Unknown Species 10-C, and definitely beating out the conclusion to Tarka’s story. There’s something about a doomed, heroic “last stand” that always gets me no matter how it’s played, and for Vance and Tilly, they knew that they didn’t have any control over the DMA situation. They had to do their jobs knowing there was nothing they could do to prevent what was happening – they were relying entirely on Captain Burnham and the USS Discovery.

Admiral Vance led the evacuation efforts.

That setup led to a real unexpected highlight. I maintain it would still have worked were it not Earth in the firing line, but setting aside that particular narrative gripe, the scenes at Federation Headquarters were pitch-perfect. Seeing Federation HQ warp in to offer to help, even though Earth was not a member of the Federation, really epitomises what the Federation is all about. That is the spirit of Star Trek, in many ways: offering to help while asking nothing in return. The DMA placed Earth in danger, and Starfleet rode in to help without even having to think twice.

Admiral Vance and Tilly both came to embody that Federation spirit in these sequences, and they gave it their all to get as many people to safety as they possibly could. Choosing to remain behind to cover the escape of the final ships was just the perfect end for both of them – and something I could absolutely see both of them being willing to do. As they sat down, knowing they’d given their all, and shared a drink, I was absolutely blown away by this unexpected and wonderful addition to Coming Home.

Tilly and Admiral Vance sharing a drink.

We also got to spend a little more time with some of Tilly’s cadets from All Is Possible. After those characters fell somewhat flat in that story, it seems like at least some of them have grown into their roles as Starfleet cadets, which was nice to see. It wasn’t a huge part of this side of the story, but it was a neat way to include something that had been established earlier in the season.

There was, unfortunately, a gaping hole on this side of the story. It wasn’t really apparent until Coming Home was drawing to a close, and it didn’t detract from the way any of these incredibly emotional moments felt as they unfolded. But in retrospect I have to ask: where was Dr Kovich? Is he just a gag character now, someone whose lines tease stories that sound interesting but go nowhere? Because that’s what it feels like. After Dr Kovich’s line in The Galactic Barrier that he had “more important things” to do than make first contact with the species who built the DMA, I was hoping that Discovery would pay that off somehow… but it didn’t happen.

What happened to Dr Kovich?

We’ll deal more with the Dr Kovich situation when I take a look back at the season as a whole, but suffice to say that his absence from this part of the story was noticeable, and several threads that seemed to tease that he was working on something interesting with Lieutenant Commander Bryce ultimately just went nowhere. This isn’t a situation like the Picard Season 1 finale, either, where the meandering story of the season ran out of road and didn’t have enough time to pay off its stories… this was a conscious choice on the part of Discovery’s writers. They teased us with Dr Kovich all season long, feeding us little crumbs of information that seemed to set up something about his character… and then just dropped it, perhaps with a snide laugh behind their hands, in the finale.

As the episode wrapped up, it seemed as though Discovery had one last surprise up its sleeve. As the President of United Earth was about to arrive, I wondered if we might be about to see Dr Kovich when the doors wooshed open – if not, perhaps a character from a past iteration of the series. When it was revealed to be a new character I wasn’t disappointed; it seemed as if the point the series was making with the buildup to her reveal was that the President of the Federation, the President of United Earth, and the Captain of Discovery are all women, which I thought was a neat way to go.

I had no idea who this was at first!

But there was more to it that, as a non-American, I missed at first! The President of United Earth was played by Stacey Abrams, an American politician and writer who’s been quite politically active on the left wing of US politics. This casting choice is interesting – and perhaps a little provocative! There will be people on the conservative side of things who will feel upset, and Discovery knew this well in advance of casting this character. Doing so was a way for the series to really emphasise its progressive principles, which have been front-and-centre just as they’ve always been in Star Trek.

Star Trek is no stranger to cameos and stunt castings, before anyone jumps in to say that this one is somehow different because of who it is. The King of Jordan had a cameo in Voyager once upon a time, and there have been real-life astronauts, scientists, and other celebrities who’ve all joined in for guest-starring roles. Considering that Stacey Abrams is, as far as I’m aware anyway, a newbie to acting, I think she did a wonderful job!

The President and the President shake hands.

I adored this scene with the President of United Earth. Set aside the casting for a moment, because the content of the scene made a huge impact on me. Coming Home had already been a hugely emotional story, so seeing Earth rejoin the Federation after two seasons outside it was pitch-perfect. Stacey Abrams and Sonequa Martin-Green excelled in their moments together, and what resulted was an optimistic and emotional high to bring the episode – and the season – to a conclusion.

There are some interesting real-world parallels that the casting of someone like Stacey Abrams arguably hammers home. After the United States had pursued a nativist, isolationist policy for four years, the country is stepping away from that. United Earth rejoining the Federation could be viewed as symbolic of America’s return to the world stage. From a British perspective, it could be seen as a hope for the UK one day rejoining the European Union after the Brexit referendum. Star Trek has always used its sci-fi setting to look at real-world issues, and those are just a couple of possible ways we can interpret this emotional and uplifting end to the season.

Captain Burnham and the President of United Earth.

We’ve come all this way but we still haven’t talked about Unknown Species 10-C! The visual effects used to create one of the most “alien” races ever seen on screen in Star Trek were excellent, though I would caveat that by saying that the meeting place being a carbon copy of the ruin visited in Rosetta detracted a little from the way things looked. Recycling sets has been something that the Star Trek franchise has always done, but this moment was the crux of a season-long story, and I think more could’ve been done to give Unknown Species 10-C’s new home a new look, even if it was just in a minor way through changes and tweaks. It’s been a millennium since they lived on the planet seen in Rosetta, so if for no other reason than the passage of time we might’ve expected it to look slightly different.

That being said, I liked Unknown Species 10-C both in appearance and in concept. Star Trek has a long history of showing us alien races that look only slightly different to humans – and in some cases are completely identical! That’s never been a problem for me; I think it’s part of the suspension of disbelief that one has to have when stepping into the Star Trek galaxy. However, the rise of modern CGI and animation, combined with new technologies like Discovery’s AR wall, mean that some very different aliens can be created and can be blended with real actors. This blend was seamless in Coming Home – as it has been, with only a few exceptions, all season long.

A member of Unknown Species 10-C.

The story of bridging a communication divide is honestly one that I could’ve spent longer on. Much of the legwork had been done in Species Ten-C last week, so we got less of the minutiae that a “learning to understand one another” story can provide. But what we did get was interesting, and we got to see how Unknown Species 10-C didn’t mean to do anything wrong – their scans didn’t indicate that there were sentient life-forms in the areas that the DMA hit.

In that sense, we have a comparable situation to the Burn in Season 3. Unknown Species 10-C weren’t some horrible invading alien for Starfleet to heroically defeat; what happened was a genuine accident, one that they regret. That may not be enough for someone like Book, who lost his home, his family, and his entire race… but it’s a different ending, one that many other sci-fi franchises wouldn’t have even considered. Discovery pulled it off, and while the story leading up to it was imperfect and padded, it worked.

A representative of Unknown Species 10-C conveys their regret to the assembled crew and delegates.

However, Discovery has now run four seasons with some variation of the “major galactic threat” storyline, and I think that framework needs a break. Not every story has to be about the entire galaxy, Earth, and the whole Federation being in danger – there can be just as much drama, tension, excitement, and emotion from stories that are smaller in scale. Just because a story doesn’t threaten life as we know it doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter, and how we as the audience respond to a story begins with the way the characters we’re invested in respond to it. So consider this a plea to all of Discovery’s writers and producers: try something different in Season 5!

I enjoyed the performance from Chelah Horsdal as President Rillak. For practically the whole season I couldn’t tell if we were going to get a “bad Admiral” type of character turn; President Rillak certainly seemed to have a Machiavellian edge that could have made for a wonderfully complex antagonist. In Coming Home, though, we got to see the culmination of her diplomatic efforts and her leadership of the Federation, both through the way the DMA threat came to an end and through Earth rejoining the organisation – something that had been one of her major objectives.

President Rillak speaking with Unknown Species 10-C.

For what feels like the first time this season, Stamets had more than just a couple of lines. It was a shame that he couldn’t be present at the meeting with Unknown Species 10-C; I’d have rather seen him there with Dr Culber and Adira to stand alongside Captain Burnham than some of the secondary bridge characters, really. But it was still nice to see Stamets and his family coming together at the climax of the story, and how Dr Culber forfeited his own chance to go on the away mission to be with them.

Stamets and Culber formed Discovery’s emotional core in the first season and the third, with a disappointing foray into a relationship squabble in the second. But aside from a few smaller scenes, neither character really seemed to have all that much to do in Season 4. With Gray’s story brought to a conclusion early on, in the episode Choose To Live, the family dynamic changed, but Stamets missed practically all of that. In fact, his only scene with Gray all season that I can recall was when Gray left to return to Trill. In short, I was glad to welcome back Stamets in Coming Home, and thrilled to see him bonding again with Culber and Adira… but the reason why it felt so great is because I’m aware of how absent moments like that had been all season long.

Adira, Dr Culber, and Stamets.

I was not a big fan of the Burnham-versus-Book relationship drama angle that began in But To Connect earlier in the season. It didn’t work for me, and I felt that the focus on Burnham and Book’s emotions, particularly in episodes like All In and Rubicon, came at the expense of other characters and other story developments. It was cathartic, then, to see the two finally reconcile in Coming Home, and I’m glad that the season didn’t end with their relationship left in question.

Because of the timing of Book’s fake-out “death,” it could have ended there and still felt satisfactory; Captain Burnham would’ve known that Book loved her, and his actions in his final moments would’ve been trying to stop Tarka and prevent an escalation of the damage he’d already done. That could’ve worked – but I’m glad that Book lives to fight another day and that they got to have a proper sit-down together and a proper reunion on Unknown Species 10-C’s planet. After a storyline that shook things up too much for my taste, a proper resolution that has hopefully set the stage for a rock-solid relationship between them in Season 5 was the least bad outcome.

Captain Burnham and Book embrace.

I enjoyed the speeches both Captain Burnham and Book gave to Unknown Species 10-C, and it was great that they were able to find a way to connect with a species that could have been “too different” to bridge the divide. Book’s speech after his resurrection was remarkable, and the emotion packed into each and every word resonated. David Ajala has done a great job all season long conveying Book’s grief and sense of loss, and he brought everything to bear in this scene as he came face-to-face with the race who killed his family and destroyed his home. It was heart-wrenching to watch.

Captain Burnham’s speech was likewise packed with emotion, particularly as she was still reeling from the shock of Book’s apparent death. This was definitely one of Sonequa Martin-Green’s best moments of the season, as Captain Burnham finally made contact with the enigmatic race. She had to convince them that they needed to stand down – and with just moments remaining, she was able to do so.

Captain Burnham spoke to Unknown Species 10-C.

General Ndoye, who had been responsible for Tarka’s escape during the events of the previous episode, stepped up and admitted what she had done. She presented a strength of character that I wasn’t expecting given how she’d been roped into Tarka and Book’s conspiracy. The idea that the first contact mission was progressing but was sabotaged by people who were unwilling to wait was an angle that was potentially interesting – but it didn’t need to go to such extremes, perhaps.

Still, I liked General Ndoye. Phumzile Sitole played the character with a kind of hard-nosed pragmatism, and although General Ndoye was in the wrong from Captain Burnham’s point of view, it’s only because we as the audience could see what was happening that we realised that. Ndoye acted in what she believed to be Earth’s best interests based on the information she had available – she was never a villain nor an antagonist, and she remained in that complex space even while Tarka was being transformed into an out-and-out villain last week.

General Ndoye.

A few scattered thoughts before we wrap things up:

  • Coming Home contained the first mention of the Borg in Discovery… could that be setting up something to come in Season 5, or perhaps some kind of tie-in with Picard? I can’t help but wonder! Seeing Captain Burnham go toe-to-toe with the Borg would be delicious!
  • Dr Hirai felt sidelined once again, contributing relatively little to the story. This character feels like a waste of potential – someone interesting whose role on the mission made sense, but who was underused and who underwhelmed in the few appearances he made.
  • The destruction of Book’s ship feels like it could be symbolic… but I’m struggling to find the intended symbolism considering that Discovery will presumably bring him back in Season 5, and the show didn’t exactly go through a soft reboot at the end of the season.
  • Unknown Species 10-C definitely gave me a “sea monster” vibe.
  • It was so sweet that Saru and T’Rina finally got together!
A happy ending for T’Rina and Saru!
  • Shutting down the hyperfield, which Unknown Species 10-C had been running for a millennium, seemed a bit quick right at the end.
  • It would’ve been interesting to see Captain Burnham having to lead Discovery on a Voyager-esque mission back to Earth… but Unknown Species 10-C’s wormhole tech meant it never felt like a realistic prospect.
  • I will always love seeing Admiral Vance with his family!
  • The use of Grudge’s collar to escape the forcefield was a clever inclusion that felt like classic Star Trek technobabble.
  • I hope we’ll see Unknown Species 10-C again and they won’t just be forgotten about in future 32nd Century stories.
  • Will Federation HQ now remain permanently in orbit of Earth? Or will other planets want to have Federation facilities, given that Earth has been absent for more than a century? It could be interesting to explore such a conflict in Season 5.
Federation HQ in orbit over Earth.

There’s a lot more to say, quite honestly… but I feel this is already running long. It’s taken me a long time – longer than usual – to get my thoughts in order, and I find that a lot of what I want to say in a more critical way is more about the story or structure of the season as a whole rather than about Coming Home specifically. It was a great episode in its own right, it capped off the season in a beautiful, emotional way, and left me with a real sense of optimism as Discovery prepares for a fifth season. But despite a solid ending, Season 4 as a whole is much more of a mixed bag, and I’d like to talk about that more on another occasion.

Coming Home was the emotional high point of an occasionally frustrating season, but it’s an episode that means we can say that things ended on a positive note. I’m genuinely excited for Season 5 and to see where the show goes next… but I hope it’s not going to be another “the galaxy is in danger” storyline! After the Klingon war, Control, the Burn, and the DMA, we’ve had enough of those.

It took me a while to get this review together, partly because of how much of an emotional experience Coming Home was… and partly because I’m feeling a little burnt out after three weeks of two Star Trek episodes meaning I was writing two big reviews! I really wish Paramount Global would sort out its scheduling…

Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, Scandinavia, Latin America, and Australia. Individual episodes or the full season can be purchased on iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play, and possibly other platforms in the UK, parts of Europe, and select other countries. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery 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 review – Season 2, Episode 3: Assimilation

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, Voyager, First Contact, and Discovery.

Assimilation was an episode with a very eerie title! It seemed certain that something big was going to happen – and Assimilation delivered. It was an explosive episode, but one that’s difficult to judge conclusively until we’ve seen more. Will all of the story threads that it teased lead somewhere significant? If so, we have a solid episode in Assimilation that’s set up this next phase of the season.

For the third episode in a row, Picard has introduced us to a different and interesting setting. In The Star Gazer we got reacquainted with Starfleet after spending the entire first season operating outside of it. That was ripped away at the end, and last week Penance introduced us to the Confederation timeline – a fascist dystopia that somehow managed to replace the Federation. Now, in Assimilation, we meet the strange new world of 2024. Three of the main characters had to adapt, while Picard and Dr Jurati remained behind.

Los Angeles, 2024.

In context, it gives the opening trio of episodes kind of an odd feel; a churn of different settings and scenarios, each familiar enough to feel very much like Star Trek, yet different enough to make me curious to see more. In contrast to Season 1, which built up its story slowly over the course of several episodes, Season 2 has jumped to three different and distinct places in the span of just three episodes – and we’ll have to see if this faster pace keeps up for the duration of the season, or whether things will settle now that the crew have arrived in 2024.

The cliffhanger ending to last week’s episode felt like a lot of fun at the time; a tease to keep us on the edge of our seats for a week! But the relatively fast resolution to the Magistrate and his goons having beamed aboard La Sirena left me wanting more from that premise – Picard and the crew had defeated (and vaporised) them within basically three minutes of the episode starting. It just feels like more could’ve been made of this – or, alternatively, it could have been skipped as it didn’t really add much to this week’s story.

The Magistrate meets his end thanks to Raffi.

One big thing that we got from the moment at the end of last week, though, was the injury to Elnor. I have to confess that I didn’t see his death coming, despite the bad way he was in this time last week. Unlike Discovery, Picard hasn’t been afraid of killing off its characters! Season 1 left quite a body count behind, including Dahj, Icheb, Hugh, Dr Maddox, and Rizzo – but for some reason I really didn’t anticipate Elnor’s death. For that reason, perhaps, it hit me quite hard and definitely left me shocked.

Raffi is convinced that restoring the timeline will restore Elnor to life – although it should be noted that she has no proof of that. Cutting down a character in their prime, while they have unfinished business and a lot to live for, is a relatively new phenomenon on prime-time television, lifted from the likes of The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones which had pioneered the concept that I call the “disposable cast.” Some characters in those shows – and others – gave me similar feelings to Elnor: that they were gone too soon, that I would have liked to see them continue to grow and develop. I won’t drop spoilers for the aforementioned shows if you haven’t seen them, but if you have you’ll know the kinds of characters I’m thinking about.

R.I.P. Elnor.

Elnor is slightly different, though, to the likes of some of the main characters from other contemporary shows whose deaths his is trying to emulate. Elnor is young and he clearly had a lot of life in front of him, so some of that sadness lingers now that the initial shock has worn off. But Elnor is, to be blunt, less well-developed as a character at this point in Picard’s run. He joined the crew at basically the halfway point of Season 1, and really only had one episode in which he played a major role last season. He was there for the mission, and he had a wonderfully emotional scene in the season finale that set up the nature of his relationship with Raffi, but his death hits more like Tasha Yar’s in The Next Generation than one of the main characters from a show like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead. It was a shock, certainly, but despite the devastated reaction from Raffi, I wouldn’t say that Elnor leaves a gaping void in Picard that the show will struggle to fill.

Michelle Hurd put in an outstanding and complex performance this week, showing us a real and raw presentation of abject grief. For all I said about Elnor’s relative irrelevance to the show as a whole, he mattered a great deal to Raffi. His loss hits her like Icheb’s hit Seven in Season 1 – and I wonder if that will be a source of bonding between the two of them later in the season. Both lost surrogate son figures; of all the people that Raffi could turn to for understanding, support, and help, Seven is by far best-placed to offer that.

Michelle Hurd put in a riveting, emotional performance as Raffi this week.

It’s interesting to see Picard showing us this kind of presentation of grief, because that’s something that has been present in Discovery throughout its fourth season, which came to a close in very emotional style this week. Stay tuned for that review, by the way! Discovery took a look at themes of trauma and grief, and while it didn’t always pull it off perfectly or dedicate enough time to some of its characters, it was a significant part of the story of that series. Bringing grief into Picard gives the show a kind of thematic tie to Discovery that I wasn’t expecting, and it will be interesting to see if we get a different take on a similar concept here. Comparing how the two shows approach the subject will be interesting to see in the episodes that lie ahead.

I can’t tell at this stage if Raffi’s belief that Elnor can be resurrected is something that the series will pay off later in the season. Is she right about that? If so, the time-loop storyline will have a very Star Trek and sci-fi vibe to it. If not, will Raffi have to confront her grief and loss again when she returns to the 25th Century? I really can’t tell if this is an elaborate fake-out or if Picard has permanently killed off poor Elnor.

Elnor was introduced in Season 1.

We got a fairly common Star Trek trope to set up the next part of the story: the transporter malfunction! Seven and Raffi were able to successfully transport from wherever La Sirena crashed to Los Angeles, but Rios materialised two storeys up and had a hard (and very gory) landing on the pavement! This led, in turn, to another fairly common Star Trek time travel story: interacting with someone native to this era.

I wonder if Rios being separated from his combadge will be significant to the story. Could we learn, perhaps, that Rios’ badge is the point of divergence; if it fell into the wrong hands, could someone in 2024 use it to manipulate events to their advantage? That would result in the story being a kind of temporal paradox: Rios travelled back in time because Rios lost his combadge in the past – there’s no clear beginning or end point to such a loop. Paradoxes can be hard to get right – and they irk me, usually – so I kind of hope this isn’t the way that the story is going to go.

Rios’ lost combadge.

Still, Rios has a lot of work to do if he’s going to recover his badge! This side of the story felt quite politically charged, focusing on the issues of accessible, affordable healthcare and immigration, both of which are political hot potatoes in the United States. As a non-American, perhaps some of the nuances of that debate are lost on me, but I think the presentation of the clinic and later the police officers worked well; it succeeded at communicating the idea that this version of 2024 is rather dystopian, while simultaneously feeling uncomfortably close to reality. I’ve never seen a real-world immigration raid on a clinic, but I’ve seen enough news reports about police brutality in the United States to find this presentation believable.

The choice of 2024 may have some greater story significance that will be revealed as the season progresses, but in one significant way I think it’s already paying off. 2024 isn’t right now – it’s still two years away. Thus Picard is close enough to the present day that everyday objects look familiar, but it’s also just far enough into the future to say something like: there’s still time to avoid taking things to this extreme. In the case of the immigration raid and the overly-aggressive police, Picard is saying that yes, these things happen today, but we still have time to prevent this kind of thing from happening to a clinic in 2024. It’s simultaneously gritty realism but with that slight Star Trek edge of “things don’t have to turn out this way” that the franchise has always espoused.

The police raid on Teresa’s clinic.

As this side of the story continues, I think we’re going to see the immigration angle looked at in a bit more detail. Technically, Rios is “undocumented,” to use the contemporary term; he doesn’t have a 2024 US passport or work visa, so it seems like he’ll be in a bit of trouble with the authorities. What consequences that might have for the timeline are not clear, but it’s an interesting side-story that I hope Picard will have enough time to do justice to. A big topic like illegal immigration isn’t something that can be looked at for a few minutes in an episode or two; it needs proper development to avoid feeling tokenistic.

I enjoyed the new character of Teresa – the doctor at the clinic Rios visited. It can be difficult to set up a brand-new character if there’s limited screen time, but I felt that Teresa was believable; not overly virtuous as to feel like a one-dimensional paragon trope, and with enough complexity to feel like an authentic inhabitant of this version of Los Angeles. Sol Rodriguez did a great job bringing the character to life, and I hope we see more from Teresa next week.

Teresa with Rios’ combadge.

We also got our first connection to the Deep Space Nine episode Past Tense on this side of the story! The two-parter, which I put on my list of episodes that I thought could make good background viewing for Picard Season 2, also visited the year 2024. In that story, which is more than 25 years old now, Captain Sisko and the crew of the USS Defiant found themselves in California in the same year as Picard and the crew of La Sirena! There were two mentions of Sanctuary Districts that I caught in Assimilation – one on a sign behind Raffi shortly after she arrived in Los Angeles, and another at the clinic with Rios. There was also a mention of “UHC cards” as Rios and Teresa were being arrested.

These oblique references to Past Tense could be all there is; little easter eggs to get Trekkies like us excited! There could be more to come, though, with the inclusion of a character called “the Watcher” who’s seemingly aware of time travel. We don’t know who this character is yet, though I think we’ve glimpsed them in one of the trailers, but it stands to reason that if they’re aware of time travel they might also know about Sisko’s temporal whoopsie! But that’s a theory for next time.

A sign that mentions Sanctuary Districts.

I loved the design of the tricorder that was used in this episode. Dr Jurati, while she was scanning the Borg Queen, used a tricorder that looked like a darker, updated version of the ones seen in The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager, and while it was subtle and not shown off on screen for a huge amount of time, it looked great! The design work this season has really leaned into The Next Generation era aesthetic in a much stronger way than Season 1 did, probably in part in response to some of the criticisms that the first season received.

This is a bit of a tangent, but I think that – based on the first three episodes, at least – if Picard had started with a story like this one, using more of those familiar design elements, the show would have been better-received. There’d still be critics – some anti-Trek social media groups literally make money by hating on Star Trek these days – but for viewers who tuned into the first few episodes and decided that Picard Season 1 “didn’t feel like Star Trek,” I really believe that a lot of that could have been avoided. Season 2 is doing a much better job of balancing the classic look and feel of The Next Generation era with a more modern style of television storytelling, at least in some ways, than Season 1 did.

The Confederation timeline tricorder.

On the Borg Queen side of the story, I’m not sure we saw quite enough in the first part of the episode to really set up the idea that Picard had to make a choice between saving the Queen and saving Elnor. It seemed to be something that the story raced past, and as a whole I’d say that Picard’s response to what happened with Elnor was perhaps a little cold. We’ve seen in dozens of stories in The Next Generation that Picard is pragmatic; he can look beyond the emotions present in a difficult moment and focus on what needs to be done. But here, especially given the way his non-response to the loss of someone close to him contrasts so strongly with how Raffi was feeling, perhaps we should’ve seen something from Picard to indicate how he was feeling.

One thing that might be controversial in Assimilation is the way that Dr Jurati was able to connect herself to the Borg Queen. This isn’t something we’ve seen before, and while the Queen was unconscious during the connection, it feels like an incredibly dangerous thing to do. Plugging oneself into the Borg Queen in any way seems like it opens up the door for her to connect to you – potentially assimilating Dr Jurati.

Dr Jurati plugged herself into the Borg Queen.

If even one single Borg nanoprobe were to make its way down that cable, it could potentially replicate itself inside her body and assimilate her later on – and for all we know, that could be where the story is going to go in the weeks ahead! I didn’t dislike this idea, though. I felt it worked well as a story beat and gave Dr Jurati a dangerous mission of her own while the others went off to Los Angeles.

The interplay between Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen in this episode carried on a theme from last time and is one of the most interesting dynamics in the series at the moment. I hope we get to see more of their sparring, and as a cyberneticist Dr Jurati has a very strong interest in all things Borg. That’s also something that the series could draw on to make this connection between them – now a physical connection – even more deep and interesting.

What will happen next in this evolving relationship?

I had gone into Assimilation expecting the dynamic between Picard and the Borg Queen to be one of the most interesting, but aside from a few lines that they had, the focus on this side of the story was more on Dr Jurati. If we think back to Season 1, Picard had to confront his past with the Borg in a very traumatic way. We saw that in the episode The Impossible Box first and foremost, where he suffered flashbacks and a kind of breakdown after beaming aboard the Artifact, but also in Et in Arcadia Ego, where he confronted xBs after the Artifact had crash-landed. Being called “Locutus” was incredibly disturbing for him then, but he seems to have largely gotten over that as of Assimilation.

Perhaps we’re in a “new season, new story” situation; the series already showed us Picard dealing with his Borg past, so this time around we’re going to look at different characters and get a different angle on things. That’s fine, and I find the relationship between Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen truly an engaging and fascinating one. But it does feel a little odd, especially having recently re-watched Season 1, to see Picard rather unbothered by being face-to-face with the Borg Queen.

The episode didn’t spend a huge amount of time with Picard himself.

The Borg Queen is the embodiment of Picard’s worst nightmares; a reminder of the worst days of his life. She is, depending on how we consider her existence in different physical bodies, literally the person who inflicted the worst torture that he’d ever known. Being face-to-face with her feels like it should have more of an impact on Picard, and while I like the Dr Jurati angle and basically everything else in the story at this point, I can’t shake the feeling that there’s a hole here.

We’ll have to look at this in more detail in my next theory post, but I wonder if the Borg Queen might be up to something in the 21st Century. Dr Jurati told us that she was trying to communicate while unconscious; could she be trying to contact other Borg, either across the galaxy in this time period or in the 25th Century somehow? Could the Borg have been responsible for the change to the timeline in the first place?

The Borg Queen in Assimilation.

I’m not sure yet where Picard is going with the “Seven of Nine likes the way she looks” angle. That might be an oversimplification, but I like that the series isn’t just using her changed no-implant look as a visual hook for the trailers and pre-season marketing material. After a lifetime of being treated differently for her residual implants, as she commented to Picard when they reunited in The Star Gazer, Seven seems to be enjoying a sense of newfound freedom.

The little girl who saw her materialise treated her like a superhero, whereas Seven has perhaps feared being seen as a supervillain, and that moment kind of encapsulated the way she’s enjoying the “normal” reactions from people. Perhaps this could be argued to be a comment from the series about the way Voyager treated Jeri Ryan – putting her in tight “catsuits” to try to capitalise on her physical appearance. It’s subtle, but perhaps this is Star Trek’s way of recognising a mistake from the past.

This little girl made a big impression on Seven of Nine.

Assimilation was a fast-paced episode with some emotional punches and plenty of strong, enjoyable moments. Picard Season 2 is off to a great start! But after three big changes of scene across the first three episodes, we need to start settling in and allowing the story to unfold. In a way I hope we haven’t seen the last of the Confederation timeline, as the setting is ripe for exploration, but we probably saw enough last week that, combined with Elnor’s death, has given Picard and the crew motivation to fix the damage to the timeline.

I’m wondering where Soji is – she’s been absent now for two whole episodes. I’m also wondering just how long Picard and the crew will actually spend in 2024: it doesn’t seem like they could be there for the rest of the season, especially with the unresolved Borg threat in the prime timeline. There are some fun relationship dynamics developing between Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen, between Raffi and Seven, between Rios and Teresa, and the anger Raffi feels toward Picard.

At this relatively early stage we’ve already been treated to three strong episodes that have kick-started the season. I hope Picard Season 2 can keep up this high quality!

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.

Star Trek: Discovery theories – week 12

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: Picard Season 2, Voyager, Enterprise, and The Next Generation.

Species Ten-C was a good episode, and while there’s still a lot of story to get through if the season is going to wrap up everything by next week, we’re well on the way to stopping the DMA and saving Earth. This week saw the first major theory cull of the season, with a whopping nine debunked theories. As the season approaches its end, this was to be expected!

We’ve got a lot to get through this time as we whittle down the theory list going into the season finale, so let’s get started by looking at the theories that have been debunked.

Debunked theory #1:
Unknown Species 10-C is a faction from a past iteration of Star Trek.

A member of Unknown Species 10-C.

We’d been moving away from this theory for weeks, and it had been looking increasingly unlikely as Captain Burnham and the crew approached their base of operations. As I said when I first considered the theory, it always felt like there was a good chance that Discovery would go down this route; it happened in Season 2 with Control and the Red Angel, and in Season 3 with the Burn. Tarka’s friend Oros also being a new character was a strong indication that Discovery wants to do its own thing, adding to the lore of Star Trek and expanding the franchise instead of returning to elements and factions from the past.

Still, it was fun to consider the different factions that might’ve been involved! There were some genuinely plausible candidates for creating something on the scale of the DMA – the Borg, the Kelvan Empire, and Enterprise’s Sphere-Builders, to name just three – and I had fun putting together my long list earlier in the season. Thinking about where some of these factions could be by the 32nd Century was also interesting.

At the end of the day, I’m not surprised that Discovery went in this direction. What I would say, though, is that now Unknown Species 10-C has been created, I hope Discovery doesn’t just ignore them in Season 5. The story took a long and winding route to reach this point, and it would be a shame if all we ever see of Unknown Species 10-C comes in two episodes at the end of the current season.

Debunked theory #2:
Unknown Species 10-C is extinct.

A bone of Unknown Species 10-C.

This theory would have scrapped the “figuring out how to communicate” angle that was a big part of this week’s episode, and would have replaced it with Captain Burnham and the crew perhaps having to discover how to use some very alien technology to shut down the DMA. When we learned more about Unknown Species 10-C, like their planet having suffered a catastrophe, I felt it was plausible that they were no longer around, with the DMA being a kind of Doomsday Machine-inspired device. There could have been interesting allegories for things like climate change and pollution from such a storyline.

Ultimately, of course, Discovery showed us that Unknown Species 10-C is alive and well, living their best life on three planets inside of their hyperfield. As the season enters its final act, I hope we get to learn much more about this unique civilisation.

Debunked theory #3:
The bones from Rosetta don’t belong to Unknown Species 10-C.

The away team.

I speculated that the huge bones that the away team found in Rosetta may not actually be from Unknown Species 10-C themselves, and could be from domesticated animals or other creatures that lived on their homeworld. This would have potentially allowed for Unknown Species 10-C to surprise us with their appearance, possibly even being humanoid!

It didn’t turn out that way, though, and although the Unknown Species 10-C representative in Species Ten-C was partially obscured when they made contact with the USS Discovery, they seemed to be the right size and shape for the bones from Rosetta. Also, they used the pheromones that the away team discovered.

Debunked theory #4:
The hyperfield will be empty or abandoned.

The USS Discovery at the hyperfield.

This theory could have been connected to the one above, with Unknown Species 10-C being extinct. Or it could have stood on its own, with the hyperfield perhaps serving as a portal or wormhole to a different galaxy or even another dimension. Figuring out where Unknown Species 10-C had gone could have been part of such a story, and maybe Captain Burnham and the crew would have had to leap into the unknown in order to stop the DMA.

As it turned out, the hyperfield had three whole planets inside of it! There were presumably huge numbers of Unknown Species 10-C doing their thing, living their lives and making the hyperfield a thoroughly inhabited place!

Debunked theories #5-8:
Someone else made the DMA.

The DMA on Discovery’s viewscreen.

As of last week, I still had the Red Angel suits from Season 2, Oros, Dr Kovich, and President Rillak on my list of possible culprits, either being directly implicated with the DMA or at least being connected to it in some way. I think we can now strike all of them from the list!

Unknown Species 10-C have clearly never met a human, nor anyone else from within the Milky Way galaxy, as we saw from their inquisitiveness and their initial inability to recognise that the strange creatures they’d encountered were even sentient. If they’d discovered a Red Angel suit or met someone like President Rillak or Oros, Discovery’s initial first contact wouldn’t have unfolded in that way.

Finally, with Tarka now being set up as the villain of the season’s final act, there’s no way to add someone like Dr Kovich or President Rillak into the mix as well. Rillak, despite her Machiavellian qualities, now seems to be firmly established on this side of the story. I think there’s scope to spend more time with her, and perhaps even set up an antagonistic role for her in future, but it now seems certain that it won’t happen this season.

Debunked theory #9:
Captain Burnham will use the interdimensional transporter.

Burnham using a transporter in Season 1.

It’s still possible that Tarka will get his interdimensional transporter working – even if doing so comes at the expense of hurting Unknown Species 10-C. However, this theory was set up on the premise that Unknown Species 10-C may be from another dimension themselves, and that using Tarka’s device could be the only way to reach them. That is clearly not the case, so I think we can strike it from the list.

I’d like to see the Tarka-Oros storyline about their interdimensional transporter paid off before the season ends… somehow. It would feel a little hollow if all it turns out to be is a macguffin, something to motivate Tarka to pursue this increasingly unhinged plot to steal Unknown Species 10-C’s power-generating tech. But with only one episode remaining, there’s very little time left to do anything meaningful with this side of the story!

So those theories were debunked!

There are several other theories that are hanging by the thinnest of threads, but I’m going to leave them in place for now. Even if they don’t pan out this season, there’s still scope for some of them to be incorporated into Season 5.

We have a number of theories that are still firmly in play, though, so let’s jump into the list!

Theory #1:
Unknown Species 10-C is connected to a faction from Star Trek’s past.

The super-synths from Picard Season 1.

Although Unknown Species 10-C turned out to be brand-new to the franchise, there’s still scope for them to have some kind of connection with a faction from Star Trek’s past. Most organic factions are probably ruled out thanks to the way Unknown Species 10-C reacted; they’ve clearly never encountered humans, Kelpiens, or Vulcans before! But they could have met someone like the Borg, for example, or the super-synths from Picard Season 1.

This theory is definitely running out of road with only one episode remaining, and if the season finale has to deal with Tarka and the DMA, perhaps we won’t actually get to learn very much at all about Unknown Species 10-C. However, I think a connection remains a possibility – even if it’s a shrinking one!

Theory #2:
Unknown Species 10-C is responsible for the galaxy’s dilithium supply running out.

The KSF Khi’eth was one of many Federation ships scouting for dilithium as supplies dwindled.

It seems as though Unknown Species 10-C may not have been aware that the Milky Way is inhabited by sentient beings. If that’s the case, and they’ve somehow managed to be entirely unaware of everyone from the Andorians and Borg to the Xindi and Yridians, it’s possible that they’ve been exploiting the galaxy for resources for a very long time. Season 3 didn’t explain why dilithium was suddenly in short supply, so it could turn out that Unknown Species 10-C stripped away much of the galaxy’s supply in the years before the Burn.

Unknown Species 10-C could have even used a similar mining tool to the DMA to extract dilithium, sending it back to their hyperfield through wormholes. Again, time seems to be running out to explore this idea in much detail – but it would be a fun and interesting way to link the two 32nd Century seasons together!

Theory #3:
Book and Burnham will reconcile and get back together.

Burnham and Book earlier in the season.

Book is in serious danger right now! Trapped aboard his ship with Tarka in control, it’s possible that he won’t survive the season. However, if he does survive I’d very much like to see him and Burnham get back together. The whole “relationship drama” angle was not Season 4’s best narrative choice, and there were other ways to get the main story arcs to this point without disrupting Book and Burnham’s relationship.

However, as of Species Ten-C, Book appears to have moved much closer to Burnham’s position of making peaceful first contact. Partly, it has to be said, this is out of necessity: Tarka’s plan would seemingly destroy the hyperfield, the USS Discovery, Unknown Species 10-C, and would still leave Earth and Ni’Var in danger. But even before the consequences of Tarka’s plan became apparent, Book had moved back in this direction. In Rubicon, we saw how he was willing to pause his plan and wait for diplomacy, so there’s scope for him to fully come back into the fold and reconcile with Burnham.

Though I don’t believe female characters in any way need to have a male character in their life, after Burnham had been on a rollercoaster with Ash Tyler in Season 2, giving her a settled relationship worked very well. It was a shame Discovery went down this road in the first place, but all the pieces seem to be in place for a satisfactory conclusion.

Theory #4:
Oros is alive – and we’ll see him soon!

Oros.

The revelation that Tarka’s plan will actually end up killing everyone is a bit of a damp squib; an unnecessary twist that took the character from complex and understandable to out-and-out villain. However, because of the nuanced and interesting characterisation over the preceding few episodes, part of me is still rooting for some kind of reunion between Tarka and the long-lost Oros.

Perhaps Discovery will surprise us by showing Tarka’s plan succeed – he could activate his interdimensional transporter and disappear, leaving Captain Burnham to pick up the pieces. Or maybe a series that has talked big on middle grounds, compromises, and diplomacy will see Captain Burnham or President Rillak reach out to Tarka, offering him a different pathway to success.

Discovery teased us unnecessarily by keeping Oros’ identity a secret before showing us the character in quite a bit of depth. It would be a shame if Oros only exists in flashbacks; less a character than a narrative device to give Tarka’s quest a motivating factor.

Theory #5:
The interdimensional transporter works!

Oros and Tarka with the original interdimensional transporter.

Connected to the theory above, if Tarka is to succeed in his goal of reaching Kayalise then his interdimensional transporter needs to work! He’s convinced that it does, and that the one Oros built at the prison camp also worked. If the two are to have any hope of reuniting, this crucial (and power-hungry) piece of technology is essential.

In narrative terms, the interdimensional transporter is a macguffin right now. But it has huge potential – perhaps opening up future Discovery or 32nd Century stories involving visits to parallel universes. This could even be the way that the outlying story of Calypso is brought into the fold. In short, there are many good reasons to demonstrate its success!

Theory #6:
The Guardian of Forever will make an appearance.

The Guardian of Forever in Season 3.

Earlier in the season I’d been speculating that Captain Burnham could turn to the Guardian of Forever for help with the DMA. That didn’t happen (she seems to have entirely forgotten about the Guardian’s existence) but there is still a way to bring the Guardian back into the story in a way that makes sense.

In short, Season 3 saw the Guardian send Georgiou to an alternate reality, so it stands to reason it could do the same for Tarka. The Guardian of Forever is one of the few ways that could allow everyone to get what they want: the DMA could be moved away from Earth and inhabited worlds, Unknown Species 10-C could continue to mine boronite, and Tarka could use the Guardian to travel to Kayalise. There’s also a remote possibility that the Guardian could be used to send the USS Discovery back in time as part of a tie-in with Calypso, but at this late stage in the season I don’t think we’ll get that.

Theory #7:
A major character will be killed off.

A Federation funeral service.

This would’ve made more sense earlier in the season, with the death of a major character potentially setting up the danger of the DMA and Unknown Species 10-C, but even at this late stage it could still be impactful. Right now, Tarka has to be top of the list for not surviving the finale. Somehow, Captain Burnham will have to stop him, and one reliable way to do that would be for him to be killed! This happened in Season 1 with Lorca, in Season 2 with Control, and in Season 3 with Osyraa, so Discovery has precedent for killing its villains.

However, there are other possibilities. Lieutenant Commander Bryce is very high on the list following his emotional goodbye with Saru a couple of episodes ago, and had warranted his own entry on the theory list for the past couple of weeks! Then we have Book and Reno, who are trapped with Tarka aboard Book’s ship. One or both of them could be killed, either accidentally or intentionally, during Tarka’s quest to reach Kayalise.

Lieutenant Commander Bryce.

The departures of Gray and Tilly have the potential to shake up the cast as Discovery prepares for its fifth season, but both characters have just left the ship to do other things; they could return at any time and their friends know that they’re safe. A character death – if well-timed and pulled off with the right weight and emotion – can be incredibly impactful, not only to the characters they leave behind, but to us as the audience as well.

At points this season, I’ve felt that Discovery has given even its minor characters some pretty heavy plot armour. And if the aim was to communicate the stakes involved with the DMA and Unknown Species 10-C, a character death this late in the game would miss the mark. But there’s still time for a dramatic twist of this kind!

In ranked order of how likely I think they are to die in the season finale, we have the following characters: Tarka, Bryce, Reno, Tilly, and Booker.

So those theories saw movement this week.

We still have a number of theories left in play, with quite a few seeming increasingly unlikely to be included this season. However, it’s possible for the season to end with a cliffhanger, or for the final act of the season finale to set up something big for Season 5 that could include any of these story elements. I’ll recap the remaining theories here.

Theory #8:
We’ll learn more about who Dr Kovich is and what position he has within the Federation.

The enigmatic Dr Kovich.

I have four theories about Dr Kovich that came to the fore in The Galactic Barrier. In that episode, Dr Kovich claimed to have “more important things” to do than accompany the USS Discovery to Unknown Species 10-C’s hyperfield. This prompted a lot of speculation – but with the last two episodes having ignored him altogether, this could be one of those Discovery lines that sounds exciting and interesting… but ultimately has no payoff of any kind.

Regardless, here are my Kovich theories summarised:

Theory #8-A:
Dr Kovich works for Section 31.

Sloan, a 24th Century Section 31 leader.

Section 31 is the off-the-books, black ops division of Starfleet Intelligence. They run morally questionable operations and even attempted to commit genocide against the Founders of the Dominion in Deep Space Nine. I originally pegged Dr Kovich as a Section 31 leader back in Season 3 for his treatment of Georgiou. He also seems to have a very wide range of skills and a lot of power: appointing Starfleet Academy instructors, having access to classified intelligence, and acting as a therapist or psychiatrist are all things we’ve seen him do.

Theory #8-B:
Dr Kovich is Vice President of the Federation.

If there’s a President then there must be a Vice President!

We got confirmation a couple of episodes ago that President Rillak has an unnamed Vice President. This character was only mentioned briefly and their name wasn’t revealed, so it’s possible they’ll never be shown on screen and won’t matter to the story. However, it seems at least plausible that Dr Kovich is the Vice President; it could account for his powerful role within the Federation hierarchy and give him a reason to remain behind.

Theory #8-C:
Dr Kovich is a Q (or similar alien).

Q.

This would be a complete twist, but I wonder if the reason for Dr Kovich’s enigmatic nature is that he’s a member of the Q Continuum.  It could be revealed that Dr Kovich is from an alien race and has been observing the Federation while trying to offer limited help and guidance – not dissimilar to how Q operated. This could explain why he seems to offer fairly limited help, at times, or sets up other characters to make breakthroughs with a little prompting.

Theory #8-D:
Dr Kovich is preparing a weapon of last resort to strike Unknown Species 10-C.

The Burn as shown in Season 3.

One reason why Dr Kovich may have remained at Federation HQ (regardless of what his job title is) could be to prepare a backup plan in case the USS Discovery’s mission fails. This could take the form of some kind of “weapon of last resort” which could be far more powerful than Tarka’s isolytic weapon. It could also make use of time travel, or even be a weaponised form of the Burn.

Theory #9:
Admiral Vance’s holo-message about Earth and Ni’Var was fake or has been tampered with.

Captain Burnham listening to Admiral Vance’s message.

As I said in my review, this is the one part of The Galactic Barrier that I wasn’t wild about. Earth being in trouble is a cliché, and one which really makes the ending of the season feel like an inevitability – with Earth, Titan, Ni’Var, and the rest of the Sol and Vulcan systems in danger, it’s unfathomable that the DMA won’t be stopped in time. But I digress!

If there are other plans afoot at Federation HQ then it’s plausible to think that someone either faked or tampered with Admiral Vance’s holo-message, meaning that the information Captain Burnham and the crew received wasn’t correct. It could lead to an attempt at a dramatic finale, with Captain Burnham thinking she’s too late to have saved Earth… only to discover that Earth is fine because it was never in danger to begin with!

Theory #10:
The ban on time travel will be explained in more detail.

The USS Enterprise-E travelled through time in First Contact.

As mentioned above, there may be plans afoot within the Federation and Starfleet to strike Unknown Species 10-C, and a weaponised form of time travel could be a last-resort weapon that the Federation – and other galactic races – might consider using. If so, perhaps the ban on time travel that was introduced in Season 3 will be explained in more detail or expanded upon.

The ban made storytelling sense; it was a way to avoid questions about how the 32nd Century was so different to the far future glimpsed in past iterations of Star Trek, it prevented an easy fix to Georgiou’s health condition, and it prevented any of the main cast returning to the 23rd Century. But it also raised some issues for nitpicking Trekkies like us! The biggest one was how something like this could possibly be enforced; it isn’t possible to un-invent a powerful, weaponisable technology, and even if every single race in the galaxy agreed to the ban in theory, it seems like it would need an incredible level of oversight to enforce it. Finding out more about how the ban works is as much a hope as a theory in some respects, but I think it’s something Discovery should at least attempt to do!

Theory #11:
The Federation has flouted the ban on time travel (or is about to).

Book, Burnham, and Sahil with the flag of the Federation in Season 3.

As above, it may be possible that the Federation is about to make a move using time travel to attack Unknown Species 10-C. If so, we may be about to learn that it isn’t the first time that they have failed to abide by the rules set out in the ban on time travel.

It doesn’t seem likely that the DMA is directly related to time travel, as I had previously suggested. But if time travel is about to come into play, we could learn more about the ban and the Federation’s relationship to it.

Theory #12:
Unknown Species 10-C built the Galactic Barrier.

The USS Enterprise approaching the galactic barrier.

Given their technological capabilities, it doesn’t seem impossible that Unknown Species 10-C constructed the Galactic Barrier – perhaps as a way to shield themselves from the races of the Milky Way, or perhaps to keep anyone from exploring too far and discovering their location. There are many reasons why a technologically advanced race might want to build something on this scale – and we could even learn that the harvested boronite is being used to fuel the Galactic Barrier itself.

One possible explanation for why Unknown Species 10-C might want to build something like the Galactic Barrier is to keep the Milky Way’s inhabitants in… but it could also be a shield designed to keep someone else out. That raises a very frightening question: what could be so powerful that a barrier is needed around the entire galaxy? And what could be so dangerous that being locked inside a galaxy with the Borg would be preferable?

With Unknown Species 10-C seemingly being very secretive, I think the idea of them building it to shield themselves is more likely… but there are definitely a lot of ways this theory could go!

Theory #13:
Someone else built the Galactic Barrier to keep Unknown Species 10-C out.

The Galactic Barrier.

If the Galactic Barrier is an artificial construct, perhaps it was created by another race or faction as a shield against Unknown Species 10-C. It could be the case that Unknown Species 10-C has used DMA technology against the Milky Way in the distant past, and some other race or faction constructed the Galactic Barrier to keep them out. If Unknown Species 10-C are belligerent and interested in conquest, it might take something on a galactic scale to keep the Milky Way safe. A race like the Q could be responsible if that’s the case.

Obviously this theory and the one above can’t both be right! And it’s a distinct possibility that the Galactic Barrier element of the story was just a convenient macguffin to blind Starfleet to Unknown Species 10-C and prevent easy travel to their region of space, dragging out the story and prolonging attempts at communication so other narrative threads could play out.

If that’s the case, we may learn nothing about the Galactic Barrier in the season finale! However, I still think it’s interesting to consider the possibilities, and it could be fun to finally get some more detail on this lesser-known but significant aspect of the Star Trek galaxy.

Theory #14:
There will be a character crossover from a past iteration of Star Trek.

Star Trek has had some wonderful crossovers in the past.

There are many ways to bring back a character from a past iteration of the franchise and incorporate them into the story of Season 4 – and there would be many potential benefits to doing so! I had initially proposed a version of this theory in the run-up to Season 3 that centred on the Doctor from Voyager – but with some creative technobabble, practically anyone could be included, despite the leap forward in time.

Choose To Live showed us the Abronians in cryo-sleep, and Stormy Weather saw the crew of Discovery use the transporter buffer to survive – just like Scotty had done in The Next Generation Season 6 episode Relics. Could these be hints at something to come?

It would also be possible for Captain Burnham to discover the logs or a holographic recording of a long-dead character – and while this would be less of a “crossover,” it could still be a ton of fun and great fan-service!

Theory #15:
Book will find Kyheem and Leto inside the hyperfield.

Leto in Book’s dreams.

In Star Trek: Generations, Captain Picard encountered Captain Kirk inside the Nexus – despite Kirk being declared “dead” after the Enterprise-B encountered the energy ribbon almost eighty years earlier. Now that we know a little more about how the DMA operates, it seems at least faintly possible that, just like Captain Kirk, the inhabitants of Kwejian may not be as dead as they first appear.

This theory is, I freely admit, a bit of a long-shot. But the wormhole technology that we know the DMA uses seems to be capable of sending some of what it harvests or mines back to Unknown Species 10-C’s base of operations. Maybe that means that some of the people from Kwejian were transported there instead of being killed. Now that Book is inside the hyperfield, could a reunion of some kind be possible?

Theory #16:
Michael Burnham won’t remain captain of the USS Discovery.

Lorca was Discovery’s captain in Season 1.

It’s possible that Captain Burnham will have to go to extreme lengths to stop the DMA and/or Tarka, and while I doubt very much that she’ll be killed off, something major could happen in the season finale that sets the stage for her departure from the series.

The developing situation between Captain Burnham and Book could end up with her choosing to resign her commission or taking a new job within Starfleet. Her role as captain of Discovery forced her to choose her responsibility to the Federation over her relationship, and after she was almost forced to kill Book, it would be understandable if Captain Burnham never wanted to be put in that position ever again!

Pike commanded the ship in Season 2.

It wouldn’t be the first time Captain Burnham has been unsure of her place in Starfleet and what role she wants to have. We saw this in Season 3 as part of the background that set up her eventual ascent to the captaincy, and while it seems unlikely that it will come back into play in a big way, the situation with Book could be a catalyst for Captain Burnham wanting to have a simpler life either outside of Starfleet or, at the very least, out of the captain’s chair.

This would also continue a trend that Discovery has had across all four seasons thus far: the rotating captaincy of the ship. Each season has seen a new captain in command, and with Season 5 in the offing, it’s got to be at least possible that this trend will continue. I’m not really in favour of this, but it’s certainly interesting to consider. Because Captain Burnham has been the show’s protagonist since Season 1, it seems unlikely, and the overall arc of Discovery between Season 1 and Season 3 can be read as her redemption and ascent to the captaincy. But the show’s revolving door of captains may continue, and her conflict with Book and the difficult emotional situation it put her in could be the trigger to make this happen.

Theory #17:
Saru will be given the captaincy of the USS Voyager-J.

Captain Saru in command… of a shuttle!

Saru’s future was briefly discussed before he offered to serve as Captain Burnham’s first officer in the episode Anomaly. He has already been offered a command of his own, so Starfleet clearly values his command abilities and experience. President Rillak was seen to be assessing Captain Burnham’s suitability for the captaincy of the USS Voyager-J in Kobayashi Maru… and she mentioned having a shortlist of candidates. Could Saru be on her list?

Several of the qualities that President Rillak said she was looking for in a potential captain seem to apply to Saru. He’s more level-headed, less likely to put himself in a dangerous situation, and more inclined to think of the big picture. He has a weakness when it comes to Kaminar, as we saw toward the end of Season 3, but generally speaking he isn’t someone who lets his emotions get the better of him. His wisdom and calm demeanour could be valuable in the captain’s chair of the Federation flagship. This could also set the stage for his departure from the show, or possibly even for a new show following his adventures aboard his new ship.

Theory #18:
Season 4 will connect with the Short Treks episode Calypso.

The USS Discovery in Calypso.

Zora’s status as a member of the crew was confirmed in But To Connect, and this followed her developing emotions and sentience earlier in the season. Zora is now much closer to her presentation in Calypso, potentially bringing the story of the Short Treks episode one step closer.

With just one episode remaining and a lot of other storylines to get through, this one feels less and less likely – but it could be an interesting cliffhanger ending if the ship had to be sent back in time!

Theory #19:
Some areas of the galaxy – such as the Delta Quadrant – avoided the worst effects of the Burn.

Adira and Stamets with a map of the Milky Way galaxy.

In But To Connect, President Rillak told us that the diplomatic summit she convened would bring together races from “all four” quadrants. Assuming she was referring to the familiar Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta Quadrants that make up the Milky Way galaxy, this would count as our first mention of the Delta Quadrant in the 32nd Century. I didn’t spot any familiar Delta Quadrant races (or their emblems) amongst the assembled delegates, however!

I had previously speculated that the Burn may not have affected the entire galaxy equally, and that regions farthest away from the Verubin Nebula may have survived without much damage. I still think that this is a possibility – though whether Discovery will revisit the Burn in any depth, or visit the Delta Quadrant at all, remains unclear.

To see a full write-up of this theory, click or tap here.

Theory #20:
The crew will have to defend the Verubin Nebula.

The dilithium planet is vital to the Federation.

This one is definitely hanging by a thread right now, at least in terms of Season 4! The story continues to unfold in a very different direction, largely ignoring the main story beats from Season 3. But the dilithium shortage has been mentioned more than once, and as things stand right now, the Federation is in control of the galaxy’s only significant dilithium supply. The Verubin Nebula is almost certainly going to be a target for somebody – even if Unknown Species 10-C don’t care about it.

It begins to stretch credulity to think that all of the belligerent factions and races present in the galaxy would become aware of the Federation controlling this impossibly valuable resource and wouldn’t want to take it for themselves. And while it may not happen now until after the DMA storyline has run its course, I think sooner or later someone is going to want to steal the Verubin Nebula and its dilithium. Maybe it will be at the end of Season 4, maybe it will be in Season 5… who knows?

Theory #21:
Tarka will create his own DMA.

Tarka and Stamets Saru with their DMA model.

In The Examples, we saw Tarka – aided by Stamets – building a scale model of the DMA. Now that his plan to destroy it and seize its controller has failed, perhaps he’ll attempt to recreate the device using the knowledge he acquired. If so, he could inadvertently create a new DMA. Or, through time travel shenanigans, Tarka could turn out to be the creator of the original DMA!

If Tarka isn’t able to find a power source for his interdimensional transporter on the far side of the Galactic Barrier, he may feel he has no choice but to try and recreate the DMA’s original power source.

Theory #22:
We haven’t seen the last of the Abronians.

I currently have four ideas for different ways that the Abronians – the non-humanoid race that Captain Burnham, Tilly, and the Qowat Milat helped save from cryo-sleep in the episode Choose To Live – could play a further role in Season 4. Time is ticking away… but it’s still possible!

Theory #22-A:
The Abronians’ homeworld was destroyed by the DMA.

Captain Burnham believes this image depicts a “supernova.”

After arriving at the Abronians’ cryo-ship, Captain Burnham found a stone carving that seemed to depict the destruction of the Abronians’ homeworld. This carving was only shown on screen briefly, but it seemed to show the planet being damaged or destroyed in a large explosion. Burnham credited the planet’s destruction to a “supernova,” and the story then raced ahead.

We’re running out of time with this one – and it could be that Captain Burnham’s initial observation was correct. But this would be one way to connect this side-story to the season’s main narrative arc.

Theory #22-B:
The Abronians’ homeworld was on the other side of the DMA.

Abronian stasis pods.

One thing struck me as odd about the Abronians: the Federation was entirely unaware of them, despite the Abronian cryo-ship being relatively close to Federation space – such that Captain Burnham could reach it using Book’s ship in a short span of time. It’s possible that the Abronians had been asleep for millennia, unnoticed by the Federation and the wider galaxy for all that time. But it’s also at least possible that their cryo-ship is a newcomer to the area.

Having seen the destruction present on Unknown Species 10-C’s ex-homeworld, maybe the Abronians fell victim to the same devastating event if their original planet was in the same region of extragalactic space.

Theory #22-C:
The Abronians will return to help the Federation.

A deceased Abronian.

One of the themes of Discovery since Season 3 has been connection, including building connections between the Federation and other races and organisations. The Abronians were awoken from cryo-sleep thanks to the interventions of Captain Burnham and Tilly – at least in part – and they may seek to repay the Federation, or Captain Burnham personally, for that help.

We saw this play out last season with Ni’Var; in the season finale Ni’Var ships raced to the Federation’s aid as the Emerald Chain attacked. Perhaps the Abronians will likewise step up to help when the Federation needs allies.

Theory #22-D:
The Abronians’ moon-ship may be useful in a later story.

“That’s no moon…”

The cryo-ship used by the Abronians was huge, and appeared to have the mass of a planetoid or small moon. With Earth and Ni’Var now under threat and an evacuation necessary, perhaps the Federation will ask the Abronians to borrow their moon-ship. This could even be what Dr Kovich was planning to do and why he couldn’t join Discovery on the mission through the Galactic Barrier.

The moon-ship was fully operational thanks to the new dilithium that J’Vini “procured,” so it could be commandeered by Starfleet for the purposes of an evacuation. That would be one way to pay off what is, at the moment, a side-story.

Theory #23:
Kayalise is the Kelvin universe.

The titular USS Kelvin.

Oros didn’t make clear, in the flashback sequences we saw, exactly what Kayalise would be like. He only believed that it would be better than the prime universe, and talked about it in mythological, almost religious terms. That could mean something significant, or it could simply be Oros being poetic!

Tarka had previously suggested that the universe he hopes to escape to is one where the Burn didn’t happen and the Emerald Chain never rose to power. Because of the unique circumstances of the Burn, it seems at least possible that it didn’t occur in the Kelvin timeline – the one established by 2009’s Star Trek. We’ve already had at least one Kelvin reference in Discovery’s 32nd Century, confirming that the universe was known to exist and was reachable. With a fourth Kelvin film in early production, it’s possible that Kayalise is actually the Kelvin universe!

So that’s the main theory list!

We now have three production-side theories in play, so we’ll look at those too before we wrap things up.

Production-side theory #1:
There will be some kind of crossover with Star Trek: Picard Season 2.

Picard Season 2 is running alongside Discovery.

This theory has arisen in large part because of the very odd scheduling of Picard Season 2 and Discovery Season 4, which will run alongside each other for three episodes. I wonder if that’s because some kind of crossover is on the agenda. With time travel playing a significant role in the story of Picard Season 2, it seems at least plausible to think that some kind of connection is possible!

This could be a complete over-reach, and the ultimate “explanation” for the weird scheduling may turn out to be nothing more than the random illogical spasms of the ineptly-managed Paramount+ and parent company Paramount Global. That would not surprise me in the slightest! But I really do find the scheduling odd.

Admiral Picard.

The shorter seasons of today’s Star Trek shows means that there really isn’t any need for such a pile-up this spring. Discovery has thirteen episodes, Picard and Strange New Worlds have ten apiece – and even with Lower Decks and Prodigy still to come, there are more than enough weeks in 2022 for the entire Star Trek franchise to be evenly spread out. Why have four out of ten weeks with two episodes from two different shows, then a gap of several weeks later in the year where no new Star Trek is broadcast? It makes no sense – especially not on a streaming platform.

Finally, with the constipated international rollout of Paramount+ showing no signs of speeding up, it’s looking increasingly likely that Strange New Worlds will be broadcast in the United States weeks or months ahead of its international premiere. If both Picard Season 2 and Strange New Worlds were delayed by as little as 5 or 6 weeks, this might be able to be avoided – assuming the rollout of Paramount+ “by the end of Q2” happens as planned.

In short, it’s all very strange – but one possible explanation for the weird scheduling could be that there’s a crossover event planned sometime in the next three weeks!

Production-side theory #2:
Tilly’s departure will be permanent.

Tilly’s departure feels permanent.

Mary Wiseman confirmed in an interview with Wil Wheaton on The Ready Room (Discovery’s social media aftershow) that Tilly will be seen again before the end of Season 4, and we glimpsed her in the trailer for the second half of the season as well. But that doesn’t mean she will return as a main character on the show going forward, and her departure in All Is Possible felt permanent. Despite that, I’ve seen quite a lot of folks online who don’t believe that Tilly is actually leaving the series – so I wanted to put it out there officially and say that, in my opinion anyway, she is.

Maybe those people know something that I don’t! As I always say, I don’t have any “insider information;” all of this is just speculation on my part. However, I feel that the manner of Tilly’s departure, the fact that she got that emotional sequence with Captain Burnham, a montage showing her leaving the ship, Adira seeming to take over several of her roles, and her departure feeling like the culmination of her arc going back to the latter part of Season 3 all come together to strongly indicate that she won’t be back as a major character. She may yet have a significant role to play in a future Season 4 episode, as has been suggested, but unless Discovery’s writers are really playing with our emotions I believe we’ve seen Tilly’s end as a main character on the show. She may come back in a future Starfleet Academy series, though… so watch this space!

Production-side theory #3:
Season 4 will end on a cliffhanger!

Star Trek has a long, well-established tradition of season-ending cliffhangers! There have been some truly shocking ones in the past, including The Best of Both Worlds in The Next GenerationDeep Space Nine’Call To ArmsEquinox in Voyager… and many more! With the story of Unknown Species 10-C and the DMA slowly being unpicked, it could be the case that we’ll get a clean resolution – like we did at the end of Season 3. But it’s also possible, in my opinion, that Season 4 will end in similar fashion to Season 2 – on a major cliffhanger!

That could be because the Unknown Species 10-C story didn’t conclude, or a war with the mysterious faction is about to break out. But the Season 4 finale could also set up the beginnings of Season 5’s story, just like how the final moments of Season 1 saw Captain Pike’s Enterprise link up with the USS Discovery.

So that’s it!

The USS Discovery and Book’s ship in Species Ten-C.

We still have a long list of theories as we head into the season finale. Obviously most of them won’t pan out – there isn’t time in a single episode to pay off even half of those still on the list! But they all seem possible or plausible to me, and with a fifth season of Discovery having been confirmed, maybe we’ll see some of them return in 2023 when I start putting together my Season 5 theories!

I always like to end these theory lists by saying that I do this just for fun. I enjoy writing, I enjoy Star Trek, and spending more time in this world is an escape and an enjoyable distraction. But for some folks, fan theories can be frustrating or unenjoyable, especially if they get very attached to a plausible-sounding theory that ultimately doesn’t pan out. I have no “insider information” and I’m not trying to claim that anything suggested above can, will, or must be part of Discovery Season 4. I fully expect many of these theories to be debunked and for the season to go in wildly unpredictable directions!

Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, Scandinavia, Latin America, and Australia. The show is on Pluto TV in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and other parts of Western Europe at 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Individual episodes or the full season can be purchased on iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play, and possibly other platforms in the UK, parts of Europe, and select other countries. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery 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 review – Season 2, Episode 2: Penance

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, Nemesis, and Voyager.

After such an incredibly strong start to Season 2 last week, there was almost nowhere left for Penance to go in terms of action and excitement! But the season continues in strong form with another excellent episode, one with a very different tone to its immediate predecessor.

After the explosive end to last week’s episode, Picard and the crew of the Stargazer found themselves transported – as if by magic – to a strange, twisted reality, one in which the human-centric Confederation reigns. But the surprising thing they learned (which had essentially been explained already in the trailers and teasers) is that this isn’t some alternate reality or parallel universe, but rather the prime universe after something or someone had changed the past.

Seven, Elnor, Raffi, and Picard reunited in the Confederation timeline.

The Confederation definitely strayed into Mirror Universe territory with its militaristic aesthetic, demagoguery, and clear love of violence, but I actually found it more interesting to watch as a viewer than practically any story set in the Mirror Universe. There’s one key reason for that, I think: practically all of the characters we spent time with in Penance were from the original timeline, meaning that the actors were playing their familiar, more complex and nuanced roles.

One of my primary complaints about the Mirror Universe in practically all of its appearances, from The Original Series right through to Discovery, is that it feels like hammy, over-the-top pantomime. It’s a setting that’s written in such a way that it tricks even great actors like Sonequa Martin-Green into putting in incredibly poor, one-dimensional performances as their Mirror Universe counterparts, and I think if we’d had to spend a lot of time with Confederation Picard or Confederation Rios, we could’ve been in a similar position in Penance.

Sticking with our established characters – and not their alternate counterparts – was good for Penance.

Luckily that didn’t happen, so what we got is a genuinely interesting setting – it’s the Mirror Universe but also not the Mirror Universe at the same time. Q even used the familiar expression “through a mirror, darkly” (a riff on a similarly-titled Enterprise episode!) to describe the Confederation timeline, and similar themes of presenting our characters with a dark, twisted version of reality are present here, just as they are in the Mirror Universe.

In this case, though, it’s arguable that Picard and the crew might feel worse about how things have turned out. In the Mirror Universe, we’re dealing with similar-looking but very different people; dark counterparts to our familiar characters. But the Confederation timeline aims to say that Picard – our familiar Picard – would have behaved this way if he’d been born and raised here. Picard is confronted not with a doppelgänger, but with an alternate version of himself.

A recording of the Confederation timeline version of Picard.

This isn’t the first time we’ve been here with Picard, if you think about it! In Nemesis, Picard had to deal with a clone of himself, and at one point in the film he came to the realisation that, if he had led the life that Shinzon had, he’d have turned out exactly the same way. Here, in the Confederation timeline, Picard must deal with the fact that this version of himself has been such an all-conquering general, subjugating alien races and bringing a xenophobic, human-centric ideology to the galaxy.

Speaking of “all-conquering,” something I’d be very interested to learn more about is the Confederation’s conquest of the Borg. Dr Jurati specifically stated in Penance that the Confederation’s technology is comparable to the Federation’s in the prime timeline, and we saw just last week how completely overpowering the Borg were when facing the Federation. So how did General Picard beat the Borg? And having destroyed literally the entire Borg Collective, why does the Confederation seem to be having such a problem keeping the planet Vulcan under control?

Rios watches the Battle of Vulcan from La Sirena.

It’s possible that this will be explored in more detail in the episodes ahead, and there could be a connection here between the Borg of the Confederation timeline and the Borg in the prime timeline that we saw in The Star Gazer, perhaps. I’d certainly be interested to see a conversation between the captive Borg Queen and Picard on this subject; if she is the sole survivor of her entire people, she would certainly have a thing or two to say to him!

It’s also possible, of course, that the Confederation’s conquest of the Borg won’t be referenced again – and personally, I think that would be a bit of a disappointment. Maybe Picard’s trip back in time – which seems to be coming in the next episode, despite the cliffhanger ending this week – will wipe out the Confederation timeline, and what we saw of it in Penance will be all we ever see. But as I’ve said before, as Trekkies who feel a connection to the Star Trek galaxy, we always want to dig deeper and learn more about this wonderful setting. To brush aside something as potentially huge as the Borg being defeated would be a shame.

Picard comes face to face with the Borg Queen.

Like The Star Gazer before it, Penance revelled in the lore and history of Star Trek. We got our first major references to Deep Space Nine since live-action Star Trek returned to the small screen thanks to mentions of Gul Dukat (also known in this timeline as “Skull Dukat!”) and General Martok; two of General Picard’s defeated adversaries. There was also a reference to one General Sisko, which was awesome! As a big fan of Deep Space Nine, it’s wonderful to see modern Star Trek make reference to it.

I doubt that we’ll see anyone from Deep Space Nine on screen this season, but the callbacks were definitely appreciated. Aside from Sarek, though, the conquests Q showed to Picard weren’t really characters or villains that I’d have associated very strongly with Picard himself. There was scope to reference someone like Dathon, the Tamarian captain from the episode Darmok, who has a stronger association with Picard than the likes of Gul Dukat or General Martok – characters we never saw him meet on screen. That’s not to be critical, though – I adored the Deep Space Nine references and for something relatively minor that most viewers won’t have thought twice about, it was a great way to include a couple of references to this part of Star Trek!

Confederation Picard was quite the collector of skulls, apparently!

Was it a little bit of a contrivance that the characters were all able to find each other so soon after their arrival in this new timeline? And if we get really nitpicky about it, shouldn’t they have considered the possibility that someone else might’ve found themselves transported there too? Captain Rios didn’t seem to even consider looking for any of his officers or crew from the Stargazer, for example. It didn’t cross my mind during my first time watching Penance, but as I was going through it for a second time it gave me a moment’s pause.

That being said, I liked very much that the characters were all split up after their arrival in the Confederation timeline. Although we can call it somewhat of a contrivance that they were able to contact one another and get back together within a single episode, the fact that they all found themselves in different places, occupying very different roles, was something that Penance pulled off very well considering that it all had to be done in the runtime of a single episode.

Elnor, shortly after his arrival in the Confederation timeline.

Around the 23-minute mark, when Elnor has been cornered by Confederation security forces, there was a very odd visual moment where one brief shot looked very different – and of significantly lower quality – to the others. It hardly ruined the episode, but it was noticeable even on a first viewing that this one shot of Elnor didn’t look right. It seemed as if it was using a green screen and the shot had been spliced into the episode at the last minute.

Other than that, though, the visuals, CGI, and other special effects in Penance were outstanding. The battle Rios found himself engaged in over Vulcan was one of the most fast-paced that the Star Trek franchise has ever shown, and it had almost a Star Wars starfighter feel, as other ships of La Sirena’s class fought against Vulcan ships that drew on designs from Enterprise for their visual inspiration.

La Sirena and other Confederation ships battling Vulcans.

So let’s talk about Q: what could be going on with him? Picard seemed to think that there was something wrong; the implication being that Q, like Picard, is coming to the end of his life, perhaps? I’m not sure if this is the route the story will go, though, and I have a couple of theories that I’ll expand on in my next theory post. It was definitely a change to see a more aggressive, less jovial characterisation of Q, though. For all the puzzles and tricks Q has laid for Picard in the past, he never treated any of them in the same way as he did here. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that Q was angry.

Could the root of this anger be a sense of disappointment that Q feels in Picard? When Season 1 kicked off, Picard had been in self-imposed isolation on his vineyard for more than a decade, having chosen to resign from Starfleet and cease participating in Federation and galactic affairs. As someone Q had taken a very strong personal interest in, could Q have taken that decision personally? Could he have felt that Picard was failing to live up to the potential that Q initially believed him to have? If so, perhaps that might explain Q’s attitude in Penance.

Why is Q so grumpy?

When I put together a list of episodes that I felt could be good background viewing for Picard Season 2, I deliberately included stories like Q Who, Tapestry, and All Good Things. These episodes I feel encapsulate the Q-Picard relationship; the adversarial but not villainous nature of Q, the way Q sees himself as a guide, the way Q has even tried, in his own twisted way, to help Picard. All of these things feel quite far removed from the way Q appeared in Penance, but as we almost certainly haven’t seen the last of him this season, I’m sure we’ll learn more about Q’s role and motivations.

We don’t even know for certain at this stage that it was Q who damaged the timeline. At most, I think we can say with reasonable certainty that Q used his powers to ensure that Picard and the rest of the crew were aware of the change that transpired, but the question of his guilt – or the extent of his complicity in these strange events – is still open.

Q and Picard at Château Picard.

Just like Sir Patrick Stewart makes it feel as if The Next Generation never ended, John de Lancie stepped back into the role of Q seamlessly. Yes, there’s a noticeable change in the way Q was characterised in Penance, but the performance was outstanding and hit all of the right notes for bringing back the Q that we remember. I’m thrilled to have Q back, and right now I’m genuinely curious to see where this new timeline and history-changing event go!

Dr Jurati provided some darkly comedic moments in Penance, and was strangely relatable. We’ve seen her anxious babbling before in Season 1; in a similar vein to characters like Discovery’s Tilly she has a tendency to overshare or not know when to stop talking! Those moments with Seven and the Magistrate were funny, but where I found Dr Jurati at her most relatable were her moments of vulnerability. The Borg Queen rounded on her, sensing how she feels like an outsider no matter what timeline she’s in – and I think that’s something a lot of people can relate to.

Dr Jurati provided both comic and relatable moments this week.

Feeling like an outsider, feeling like your “friends” aren’t really your friends, and so-called imposter syndrome are all things that any of us can feel at different points in our lives, but speaking as someone who is neurodivergent, I think it hits home in a different way. It seems like Penance is setting up a story about manipulation using Dr Jurati’s natural insecurities as a base, and we could see a very interesting allegory play out in future episodes, taking this complex dynamic between Dr Jurati and the Borg Queen to different thematic places.

Notable by her absence was Soji. If this Confederation timeline only has basic F8-type synths (as we saw with Harvey at Picard’s vineyard, for example) then it’s not inconceivable to think that Soji may not exist at all. However, if Q’s statement to Picard about him being given a synthetic body in this timeline is correct – and we have no reason to think he’s lying about that, necessarily – then obviously the synth-creating process had reached the same level, and thus Soji may exist!

Harvey the synth.

With Picard and the crew being prevented from going back in time in the closing seconds of Penance, I wonder if next week we’ll see Soji make an appearance. Otherwise she seems set to miss the entire adventure – and that would be a shame. Soji was a huge part of Season 1, but noticeably didn’t appear in a big way in any of the pre-season trailers and teasers. I wonder if that’s because she’s going to take on a different appearance, or whether there’s something even bigger going on with her that we don’t know at this stage. Time will tell!

Where The Star Gazer had deliberately embraced many different 24th Century Star Trek design elements, Penance was striking out in its own direction, trying something new. There was a definite “Mirror Universe” feel to some of it, but even then the Confederation felt distinct. The scenes with Raffi and Elnor definitely honed in on a very specific kind of dystopia – the police state – that we haven’t really explored in the Mirror Universe before, and it felt shocking and frightening as a result. The way that the sequence with Elnor immediately preceding his arrest was filmed was incredibly claustrophobic, and did an excellent job at communicating just how different this new timeline is.

Elnor and Raffi.

Penance leaned into the “fish out of water” angle with most of its characters, too. Seven’s husband – the Magistrate – seemed to catch on very quickly that something wasn’t right, and kept her and everyone else under suspicion the entire time. Having him watching over her shoulder, and getting too close for comfort to Dr Jurati, Picard, and everyone else was successful at keeping the tension high, and Jon Jon Briones – father of Isa Briones, who plays Soji – put in a riveting performance as a villain. He was perfect for the role, and when he materialised on La Sirena at the end of the episode, it felt like the culmination of a wonderful performance that managed to be menacing and disconcerting but without ever falling into the Mirror Universe trap of hammy over-acting.

As a cat lover, Spot-73 was incredibly cute! Actor and comedian Patton Oswalt brought a lot of life to the cute animated critter, and although we didn’t get a lot of time with Spot-73, those moments were cute, funny, and also set up the apparent loneliness and isolation felt by this timeline’s version of Dr Jurati – something that, as noted, the Borg Queen was able to hone in on.

Tell me I’m not the only one who wants a Spot-73!

Does Laris’ apparent death in this timeline mean she won’t accompany Picard back in time? I had thought we might see more from her this season! It was clearly a moment that affected Picard greatly, and really hammered home just how different – and evil – this timeline’s version of the character is. Laris’ death also gives Picard an added motivation; he now has someone to save, and someone to get back to if he can save the future. Establishing their closeness last week was paid off in a very different and unexpected way here.

Overall, I had a great time with Penance. I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to compare it directly with The Star Gazer; the two episodes are doing entirely different things, and both achieve the feelings and objectives that they were clearly aiming for. Purely subjectively, because of things like the design of the USS Stargazer and the excitement of the Borg’s return, I would probably say I had more fun last week – but Penance was an interesting exploration of a very different timeline, and also managed to include a lot of Star Trek references!

The Magistrate at the end of Penance.

I have so many questions – and the story feels very unpredictable right now. Two episodes in and we’ve seen most of the scenes from the trailers already, with the exception of some of the 21st Century clips. The pre-season marketing did a great job of teasing just enough about the story to get fans interested and excited, but without spoiling big reveals like the Federation fleet, the USS Stargazer, and other key story elements.

There’s a lot to look forward to as Picard Season 2 finds its feet! Will Elnor survive his injury? What will the Magistrate do next? I can hardly wait to find out!

Sorry for the delay in getting to this review! With two episodes of Star Trek premiering within hours of each other (on Fridays in the UK, remember) writing two big reviews is a lot. This weekend I was also building my new computer, something that cut into my writing time quite a bit too. But it’s here now – and stay tuned for my weekly theory updates, too!

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.

Star Trek: Discovery review – Season 4, Episode 12: Species Ten-C

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4.

Species Ten-C wasn’t just a good episode in its own right, with plenty of excitement and tension that showed how Star Trek can do a heck of a lot without resorting to violence and battles, but it was one that made the episode immediately preceding it significantly better in retrospect. I wrote last week that the one saving grace to an otherwise frustrating experience in Rosetta could be if the hydrocarbons discovered by Captain Burnham and the away team were put to good use – and that happened in a big way this time.

On the other side of the story, I finally felt what I believe the writers have been aiming for for weeks with the Book and Tarka storyline: that Captain Burnham was right, diplomatic initiatives should be given a chance, and that Book has fallen victim to Tarka’s manipulations. While this has the unfortunate effect of relegating Tarka from a complex character with an equally understandable motivation into the out-and-out villain of the season’s final couple of episodes, it clarifies what had been until now a very fuzzy and occasionally frustrating story.

The Book and Tarka storyline was expanded upon in a big way this week.

If I were to be critical of Species Ten-C, what I’d say is that it probably took too long for the season to reach this point. Several advances in the DMA/Unknown Species 10-C storyline were sprinkled in at or near the end of unrelated or tangentially-related episodes, with the Federation often running into problems or delays that took too long to surmount, and the result of that is that it took a long time to arrive at the hyperfield.

The story of finding a way to bridge the communication divide could have been a longer one, and it was handled in a genuinely interesting way – but with only half an episode dedicated to it here and just one final episode of the season remaining, it’s an interesting concept that may not be explored in as much detail as it could have been.

Species Ten-C saw the crew making first contact.

This story of learning how to communicate with someone far more alien than usual, and doing so while under threat thanks to the DMA, is not one that required a B-plot villain. While Tarka was interesting in his earlier appearances and his motivations were laid out in a clearly understandable way, the narrative just doesn’t require this additional element in order to be exciting.

Discovery has a tendency, as I’ve pointed out on a number of previous occasions, to try to inject double the tension and three times the drama when it just isn’t necessary, and if I were to make one comment about the series as a whole it’s that the writers need to have more confidence in their stories. Dropping the Tarka angle, or reworking it to make him less of an antagonist in this final chapter, would allow the main story of learning to communicate with Unknown Species 10-C to stand on its own – and as it’s already sufficiently tense, interesting, and engaging, Tarka’s villainy just isn’t necessary.

Tarka in Species Ten-C.

Not for the first time, Discovery has set up a character who feels well-rounded and complex, with motivations that seem understandable, only to turn them into a pretty standard villain later on. I wouldn’t have even called Tarka “morally ambiguous;” his weapon plan made a lot of sense when it was first proposed, and I even suggested that a show which has had themes of seeking a “middle ground” could have figured out a way to keep Tarka on board, building his weapon as a back-up plan while attempting to make first contact. But as with Captain Lorca in Season 1, much of Tarka’s nuance now feels lost; brushed aside because the writers determined that the season needs a villain.

There were other ways to formulate this story that either skipped over Tarka altogether or that kept him in that complex space. We may yet learn that his interdimensional transporter will be important, in which case he may have served a narrative function, but if the ending of the story is going to be Tarka’s defeat or death, with a reunion with Oros not being able to happen, then I think I’ll have to go back and re-evaluate his role in the season overall. This story already had the complexities of Unknown Species 10-C and the DMA; I’m not sure it needed a second antagonist, especially not one who seems to have come at the expense of an interesting and complex character.

Tarka with Oros earlier in the season.

We’ve also got to talk about the new character of Dr Hirai. In short, he needs to do something truly outstanding and unique next week – otherwise his inclusion in the season will have proven to be a complete and utter waste of a great actor. I like the concept of the character; a linguistics and communications expert seems perfect for this kind of mission. But in his two earlier appearances this season he did nothing whatsoever, and his accomplishments this week were relatively minor. It didn’t feel like bringing Dr Hirai along was in any way important to the success of the mission, with Captain Burnham, Zora, Saru, and even characters like Detmer, Nilsson and the very minor Lieutenant Christopher all contributing at least as much – if not more – to the story as he did.

He was ultimately sidelined by President Rillak, who chose Saru and Burnham over him for their linguistics and first contact expertise, confirming his relegation to a bit-part role at best. In light of what happened last week with Rosetta, I’m willing to wait and see if Dr Hirai will yet make a significant contribution – but with only one episode left in which to do so, he needs to do something big pretty quickly or we’ll unfortunately have to consider his inclusion in the story a bit of a let-down.

Dr Hirai doesn’t have long left to make an impact on the story.

There is one concept underlying the way Unknown Species 10-C reacted to Discovery’s arrival – and the conversation it prompted between Captain Burnham and the others – that I didn’t like. As humans, we’re able to recognise signs of intelligence in other species, even though we’re far more advanced and intelligent than they are. We can recognise the complex social structures present in ant colonies, for example, or how crows and some great apes are learning to use tools. Even though these creatures are far lower on the intelligence scale than we are, we’re able to determine quite easily that animals – even small and lowly ones – can exhibit signs of complex understanding and intelligence.

With that in mind, the idea that Unknown Species 10-C would see a starship arriving at warp speed, using a warp core and a spore drive, built from clearly artificial alloys, and somehow not understand that the creatures aboard it are sentient makes no sense. This species is supposedly much farther advanced than even the 32nd Century Federation, and even though they exist outside of the galaxy they must have the ability to scan and detect the existence of other sentient species, even if they choose not to interact with them. It’s conceivable that they might be selfish and not care about any other species besides themselves – but the idea that they would be unaware or incapable of determining intelligence in this situation is one that I can’t buy as a believable story point.

The USS Discovery approaches the hyperfield.

It seemed at first as though Species Ten-C was going to centre on this aspect of first contact, and I was certainly a little disappointed at first. But thankfully this didn’t last too long, with Unknown Species 10-C eventually getting the message and realising that the life-forms aboard the warp-capable starship are actually intelligent. Took them long enough!

I know that probably sounds like a nitpick – and it is, in a way. It’s just that, despite all of the talk of Unknown Species 10-C being very alien and having a very different culture, some things should be universally obvious – like if someone is capable of building a starship that can travel faster than the speed of light, use metal alloys that don’t exist in nature, and fly right up to your base to initiate contact, it’s probably a safe bet to assume that they possess some degree of intelligence. That should apply no matter who you are! And as pointed out above, humans are capable of recognising the signs of intelligence in the natural world. As a narrative beat, I get that it was in there to make the initial meeting feel very tense, but it’s kind of illogical if you think about it!

A representative of Unknown Species 10-C.

We didn’t get a clear look at Unknown Species 10-C, as their representative was partially obscured by a cloud of swirling gas. Nevertheless, the visual effects on this side of the story were mostly high-quality, and Unknown Species 10-C themselves at least seem like they’ll be visually interesting if we ever get a better look at them. I actually got a slight “Mass Effect Leviathan” vibe from what we glimpsed of Unknown Species 10-C. The design of the hyperfield was likewise interesting; it appeared much more solid than I had been expecting based on the holographic projections seen in previous episodes. Seeing it go from solid-metallic looking to swirling like fluid was also a very cool visual effect that Discovery executed well.

The only visual that I felt was a bit of a miss was Unknown Species 10-C’s shuttle pod/diplomatic chamber. When it arrived in Discovery’s shuttlebay it looked rather bland and low-quality, like a video game where a texture hasn’t loaded properly. It was clearly designed to look similar to the hyperfield, but I guess trying to blend that with a real set and real actors was difficult. It didn’t look awful, but it was noticeably lower quality when compared to the rest of the visual effects and animation work present in Species Ten-C.

This visual effect felt rather weak.

The idea of Unknown Species 10-C recreating part of Discovery as an environment for the crew works as a story point – I can quite understand why they’d choose to do something like that. But I confess that I rolled my eyes a little when I saw Captain Burnham and the others stepping onto the bridge set. It was understandable in the context of the story, but it didn’t make for a particularly impressive or interesting sequence when shown on screen. In fact, it almost makes Species Ten-C feel like a “bottle” episode – a Star Trek trope going all the way back to The Original Series where episodes would be set entirely aboard the ship.

As mentioned above when discussing Dr Hirai, President Rillak chose to bring both Captain Burnham and Saru when boarding Unknown Species 10-C’s diplomatic shuttle. And aside from totally sidelining Dr Hirai, this also left the command structure of Discovery and the rest of the mission uncertain. Rhys had the ship’s conn, as we’d see on the bridge near the episode’s climax, but who was in charge of the remaining delegates and the rest of the diplomatic mission? And how far did Rhys’ authority extend? Would he, for example, have been authorised to fire upon Unknown Species 10-C if time began to run out for Earth? Taking both the captain and first officer on this mission – when other experts were available – is a bit of an odd choice, and while of course as the audience we want to see our familiar characters leading the charge, it again makes the addition of some of these other delegates and experts feel like a bit of a waste.

The interior of Unknown Species 10-C’s pod.

A longer episode – or a story which had arrived at the hyperfield earlier in the season – could have spent longer on the whole first contact thing, and I really think that would have been worth doing. I’m actually getting a bit of a familiar feeling the more I think about Species Ten-C: it reminds me of the finale of Picard Season 1 in the sense that the season dawdled a lot to get to this point, and it feels like there’s a lot of important story points left to get through with very little time remaining. As a result, some aren’t being given as much attention or screen time as they probably should receive. We aren’t at the same level as Et in Arcadia Ego – at least, not yet. But suffice to say that Season 4 as a whole has left its final episode with a lot of work to do to wrap up all of the major stories in a satisfying way.

There were a few very close-up shots of characters’ faces that made the cinematography in Species Ten-C feel a bit odd. Close-ups can work and can be dramatic, but their use here felt rather gratuitous, with the episode both beginning and ending with them in a way that made it feel like the director was throwing everything at the wall in an attempt to make things seem even more dramatic. As I’ve said on several occasions this season when discussing certain narrative choices, Discovery is already a series that brings plenty of drama to the table – trying to take it from a ten to an eleven can sometimes fall flat, and a few of these extreme close-ups definitely strayed very close to the line.

Was there any need for so many close-up shots?

Book saw some significant character development this week after several episodes in which he felt very static. Although Tarka’s motivation for continuing to pursue the DMA’s power source feels pretty well-established by this point in the story, I’ve been finding it increasingly difficult to reconcile Book’s presence on this side of the story in the aftermath of the failure of the isolytic weapon back in Rubicon. We hadn’t seen or heard enough from Book since that dramatic event to signal that he’s still on board with the next phase of Tarka’s plan – and this week he actually seems to have moved much closer to Burnham’s position.

Book’s cause is noble: he wants to stop the DMA from hurting anyone else in the way it destroyed his home and hurt him. And seen in that context, his decision to get on board with Tarka’s weapon plan was understandable. In Rubicon, Book indicated he would be willing to stand down for a short time to give diplomacy a chance to play out, and in the aftermath of the failure of the weapon, it wasn’t clear at all why he continued to follow Tarka. I’m still not exactly sure how he arrived at this point – was he motivated by fear of repercussions for the use of the weapon? Did he still believe it would be possible to destroy it after Tarka failed once? If so, is he now no longer willing to let Captain Burnham try for a diplomatic solution first?

Book in Species Ten-C.

These points were glossed over in Species Ten-C, but we finally got some movement from Book, arguably bringing him back into the fold as one of the “good guys.” It emerged that Tarka’s plan would destroy the DMA, destroy Earth, and destroy the hyperfield containing Unknown Species 10-C and the USS Discovery – so Book didn’t really have a choice! Again, this is Discovery pushing the story to extremes, and it feels as though Book coming back to the light is more of a necessity than a choice at this point. Still, it worked, and for the first time in several episodes I felt like I could relate to Book as a fully-rounded character again, not just a plot device caught up in the narrative wake of other characters with more volition.

There’s even a message in Book’s story, if we look a little deeper. The idea that grief can lead someone to a very dark place was already something we’d seen explored a little with Book earlier in the season, but now we can add into the mix themes of manipulation, of being lied to, and of getting involved with someone untrustworthy. It was initially grief that saw Book teaming up with Tarka, but he also had the noble objective of wanting to prevent others from having to experience that same level of grief. Unfortunately for Book, he relied on someone who turned out to be unworthy of his trust – and that’s how he ended up in this particular predicament.

Grief led Book down a dark path.

Reno saw her best scenes of the entire season on this side of the story, too. We’ll have to try to excuse the lousy “kidnapping” plot last week, because as weak and difficult to explain as that may have been, it ended up going somewhere significant. It didn’t necessarily have to be Reno as the one to reach out to Book – basically anyone on board the ship could’ve done so – but it was interesting to see her in this situation. Her words managed to reach him in a way that even Captain Burnham hadn’t been able to, and the sequences between the two of them worked exceptionally well.

Reno has often been used as a light-hearted character, bringing moments of deadpan comic relief that could lead to brighter moments in otherwise dark stories. This time, her role harkened back to her introduction in Season 2 – which was also referenced this week – when we first encountered her trapped aboard a crashed starship. A more serious performance from a comedic character carried a surprising amount of weight, and perhaps it’s because we know how Reno usually behaves and speaks that her words to Book meant a lot.

This was Reno’s best episode of the season.

For at least the past three episodes, Discovery seems to have been building up to a conclusion which is going to say something like: “if only Tarka and Book had told Captain Burnham what they were doing! It should have been possible for everyone to get what they want through diplomacy and communication!” and I don’t think that’s changed. It isn’t exactly formulaic, and there are still big questions about what Unknown Species 10-C will do and how Captain Burnham will respond to try to cool things down in the time that remains. But one way or another, the story’s going to get to that place.

As we approach the end of the season, feeling like we know roughly where the story is going to go was to be expected, I guess! And on its own merits, Species Ten-C was a good episode, one of the better offerings from Season 4 for certain. Whether it has moved things along far enough for the season finale to wrap up all of the remaining narrative threads is an open question, one we’ll have to wait until next week to get an answer for.

Book’s ship escaped the USS Discovery and entered the hyperfield.

Although I had some nitpicks within the story, overall I had a good time this week. Species Ten-C told a very “Star Trek” story, with perhaps some inspiration from the film Arrival in there too! Meeting a brand-new alien race and learning how to communicate is something truly interesting, and my biggest complaint is that I would have liked to have seen more of it – for the season to have reached this point a couple of episodes ago so we could have spent longer with Captain Burnham, Saru, President Rillak, and Dr Hirai as they worked on figuring out how to use a complex arrangement of lights and pheromones to communicate. It was nice to see some significant movement from Book, too, after several uninteresting or flat episodes on that side of the story.

Did Season 4 need to turn Tarka into a villain? I think that could be a question for a longer essay once the season has wrapped up! I could certainly entertain the argument that the Unknown Species 10-C story – one of misunde