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

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

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

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

Picard in Mercy.

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Adam Soong.

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

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

The Borg Queen continues to assimilate Dr Jurati.

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

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

Kore Soong.

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

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

Rios working on La Sirena’s transporter.

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

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

Rios with Teresa aboard La Sirena.

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

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

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

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

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

Newly-created Borg nanoprobes.

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

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

Seven of Nine in Mercy.

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

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

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

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

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

Raffi with Elnor in the flashback.

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

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

Guinan and Q talked in the FBI office.

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

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

What could Q be seeking redemption from?

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

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

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

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

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

Agent Wells interrogating Picard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Star Trek: Picard Season 2 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, Scandinavia, Latin America, and Australia, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and the rest of the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judge Q.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q threw Picard and the Enterprise-D into danger.

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

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

The first Borg seen in Star Trek.

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

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

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

The Enterprise-C.

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

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

Guinan presents her case to Captain Picard.

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

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

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

R.I.P. Data…

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

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

Guinan and Picard in the 19th Century.

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

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

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

Q and Picard.

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

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

Lieutenant Picard in an alternate 24th Century.

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

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

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

Q and Picard in the distant past.

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

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

Q in his judge’s robes.

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

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

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

Dr Bashir and Commander Sisko.

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

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

The USS Defiant in orbit over Earth.

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

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

Number 9:
Death Wish
Voyager Season 2 (1996)

Two Qs?!

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

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

Captain Janeway and Tuvok visit the Q Continuum.

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

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

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

Chakotay, Janeway, Tuvok, and Paris on Earth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Borg Queen.

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

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

Data and Picard lead the battle against the Borg.

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

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

Number 12:
Endgame
Voyager Season 7 (2001)

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

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

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

Admiral Janeway and the Borg Queen.

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

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

So that’s it!

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

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

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

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

Star Trek: Picard Season 2 will premiere on Paramount+ in the United States on the 3rd of March 2022, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and elsewhere 24 hours later. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.