Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard’s entire first season, as well as for Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, the trailers for Season 3, and other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.
The two parts of Et in Arcadia Ego brought the story of Star Trek: Picard’s first season to a close this week. There are still some significant story points left on the table, however, and overall I feel that the season didn’t end as strongly as it began. You can read my full thoughts in my review by clicking or tapping here.
Theorising about Star Trek: Picard has been a lot of fun, and in a future post, I’ll be looking back at some of my debunked theories from earlier in the season in a kind of “what if” theory roundup. I hope you’ll stay tuned for that when it drops at some point in the next few weeks. Otherwise, unless we have definitive news regarding Star Trek: Picard Season 2, this may be my last post about the show for a while. I had been semi-expecting to see a release date for Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, as I felt it would have been to the benefit of ViacomCBS to take advantage of Star Trek: Picard’s success and the hype surrounding it to plug its sister show. As of the writing of this article, however, the only thing they’ve said is that it’s “coming soon”.
As usual for my theory posts, I’ll begin by looking at the confirmed and debunked theories from Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2, before moving on to look at one surviving theory.
We’ll start with confirmed theories this time, as there aren’t many!
Confirmed theory #1: The synths succeeded in triggering the arrival of the “Mass Effect Reapers”.
While this didn’t go down quite like I’d expected, technically the synths did still contact the “Mass Effect Reapers” – the synthetic race who left behind the relic on Aia and who the Zhat Vash believe will trigger armageddon. Unfortunately, we didn’t really get to learn much at all about this race – not even their name, which is why I’m stuck calling them the “Mass Effect Reapers”.
After Sutra was deactivated, Soji continued to work on the synths’ beacon and was able to open a portal to wherever the “Mass Effect Reapers” reside. However, after a rousing speech from Picard, and seeing him lay down his life for her people, she closed the portal before they could come through. While the Zhat Vash are convinced that their arrival would have meant the end of organic life in the galaxy, what would have actually happened isn’t clear – and may never be explained again.
I get the sense that the writers and creators of Star Trek see these quasi-antagonists as a one-time-use thing, and while I did have a theory as to how they could tie into the franchise in a bigger way, it seems dead at this juncture. What seems more likely is that the “Mass Effect Reapers” are the equivalent of a monster-of-the-week, and like many alien races seen in just one single Star Trek story, won’t be heard from again despite the potential for repercussions.
Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2 left many unanswered questions about this faction – including the basics like who they are, how old they are, and what their precise motivations are. Other big questions include: will they be back? Will Sutra – whose status is unknown as of the end of the season – want to call for them again if she wakes up? Can they be reasoned with, and is Starfleet planning to try to contact them again? Were the Zhat Vash right in their interpretation, or did they get it wrong? In short, there’s a lot we still don’t know about this potentially interesting faction!
Confirmed theory #2: Riker did return to duty.
Just a short one when compared to some of my more in-depth theories, but when Riker had said in Nepenthe that he hadn’t fully retired and was still on “active reserve” in Starfleet, that seemed to be a major hint that we’d see him back in uniform sooner or later. While I did say I was 50-50 on whether it would be this season or next, Riker came back at the head of a massive Starfleet armada in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2.
Unfortunately, his appearance in the episode was spoilt by his name being shown in the opening titles, and I’d already worked out that we were likely to see a Starfleet fleet with Riker at its head well before the episode reached that climax. While that did spoilt things to a degree, it was nevertheless great to see him back in uniform. And as a secondary point, rumbling away in the background this season had been tensions with Starfleet and the Federation. We speculated for weeks that there may have been a much broader conspiracy within Starfleet to collaborate with the Zhat Vash, so when Starfleet did to the right thing at the end, and were proven to still be the “good guys”, that was a great moment, and Riker was there in the middle of it.
His appearance did feel a little rushed, because almost as soon as he’d arrived he was already warping out of the system accompanying the Romulan fleet. It would have been nice if we’d got more time with him – but that’s true of many characters and storylines across the two-part finale.
So those theories were confirmed. Next, let’s go through the list of debunked theories, and I think we’re going to have to do this in two parts. There are a few theories that were completely debunked by the end of the season, and obviously we’ll look at those. But there are some theories that are in this weird kind of grey area – unconfirmed, but unlikely. If Star Trek: Picard moves on with Season 2 and tells a new story, it seems certain that we won’t revisit the locations, factions, and characters of Season 1 in any depth. And to me, that seems the most likely scenario. Star Trek: Discovery told two different stories across its two seasons, with a third story coming in Season 3. While there was some crossover from Season 1 to Season 2, the overarching narrative of Season 1 ended and a new story began in Season 2, and I expect Star Trek: Picard to go down the same path. It’s for that reason that I think we can consider almost all of these theories as dead – not so much because they were debunked on screen, but because the story has moved on and won’t be revisiting these points next year.
Debunked theory #1: The Artifact (or the Borg Sphere it seemed to contain) will launch into space.
It’s not actually clear, as of the end of the season, what’s going on with the Artifact and the surviving ex-Borg. Elnor stayed aboard the Artifact with Hugh and later with Seven of Nine to aid them, considering their cause worthy of his allegiance. However, the final scene of the season was La Sirena jumping to warp, and both Elnor and Seven of Nine – who, don’t forget, had been the xBs’ de facto leader – were present on the small ship.
I had theorised that the Artifact, which seemed to have a circular portal on one of its sides that could have contained a Borg Sphere, would have been repaired by the xBs and re-launched into orbit over Coppelius to aid in the fight against the Romulans. However, this didn’t happen, and while we did see that the Artifact’s weapons systems were at least partly operational, it didn’t seem as though anyone on the ground used them against the Romulan fleet either.
I hope we’ll learn more in Season 2 about what happened to the xBs and the Artifact – now that it’s on a planet under Federation jurisdiction, perhaps Starfleet will be able to repair it or scavenge its components. I’m not sure how canonical this is, but I think I remember reading in an old reference book or one of the Star Trek encyclopaedias that a Borg Cube was something like 10km long on every side, so it’s a massive vessel for someone to have to deal with. Perhaps the synths could salvage it?
Debunked theory #2: Picard and La Sirena will travel to Aia – the planet where the beacon is located.
Aia was a world we glimpsed only for a short time in a flashback sequence. Presumably hidden somewhere in or beyond Romulan space, and thus not accessible to Starfleet by normal means, the beacon left here by the “Mass Effect Reapers” is what triggered the whole plot of the season.
As of the end of the season, however, the beacon remains active. It’s clearly dangerous – not only to the Romulans, but to everyone. If another synthetic being were to encounter it and figure out how to contact the “Mass Effect Reapers”, they could do so easily. I had speculated that, in the aftermath of whatever happened in the finale, Picard and co. would travel to Aia to deactivate the beacon, preventing it from doing any more harm.
Debunked theory #3: Narek is going to go rogue.
Narek was abandoned by the story of Star Trek: Picard midway through the finale, during the crew’s stupid and badly-written attempt to destroy the synths’ beacon. What became of him after that is unknown. Possibilities include that he was recovered by the Romulans and left aboard their fleet, that he remained in captivity with the synths, that he was able to sneak away in the confusion surrounding Picard’s “death”, or even that he did leave the Zhat Vash and joined La Sirena’s crew off screen.
However, one thing that he didn’t do in the story was go rogue. Almost since we first met Narek and saw his relationship with Soji unfold, I’d been speculating that the time would come where Narek would find a reason to abandon the Zhat Vash. Perhaps it could’ve been out of love for or loyalty to Soji, or it simply could’ve been that the revelation of the synths not posing a threat meant he had no reason to oppose them. Either way, the switching-sides never came, and as of the last time we saw him, Narek was still fully subscribed to the Zhat Vash ideology.
Narek may not have been everyone’s favourite character, and I think a part of that comes from the fact that he didn’t really have anyone to interact with besides Soji and Rizzo for almost the entire season. But as a main character, and as someone we spent a significant amount of time with, I would have liked to see his story reach an actual conclusion, regardless of what form that may have taken. I don’t expect Narek to return for Season 2 at this stage, but as far as I’m aware no casting announcements have yet been made – so watch this space.
Debunked theory #4: Picard’s conversation with Admiral Clancy may have tipped off the Romulans.
At the time Picard and Admiral Clancy spoke in the episode Broken Pieces, he and the crew were still unaware of the extent of Commodore Oh’s role in the conspiracy. It wasn’t until Rios and Raffi had pieced together that she gave the order to kill two synths while Rios was serving in Starfleet several years previously that they could reasonably come to the conclusion that she was behind the attack on Mars and was a Romulan spy. So based on that, I wondered if Picard’s conversation with Admiral Clancy may have had consequences for the Starfleet squadron at Deep Space 12 – they could have been ambushed, attacked, hacked into, or had their security information compromised by the well-placed Commodore Oh. However, it seems that Oh had already left by that point to head up the Romulan fleet and nothing bad happened as a result of Picard and Clancy speaking.
Debunked theory #5: Section 31 will be involved.
Over the course of the season, I had several ideas for how Section 31 – the secretive branch of Starfleet Intelligence responsible for off-the-books operations – could be involved with the story. Each of those possibilities came and went as the season rolled on, and my final guess for Section 31’s involvement – that they would show up to take ownership of the Artifact – was no different.
The reason I’d been so sure of Section 31 showing up this season was that they’ve recently been so important within Star Trek. Both in Star Trek: Discovery’s second season last year and then with a new spin-off show in production, I felt sure that the creators would want to tie the faction in somehow. It would have made sense from a production point of view, making Section 31 a consistent thread between Discovery, Picard, and the new show.
Debunked theory #6: The crew will travel forward in time to link up with Star Trek: Discovery.
This was one of two theories I had regarding Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard crossing over or linking up. There was no story evidence for it, only that from a production point of view, keeping all the extant Star Trek shows in one time period makes a certain kind of sense. While we could still see the USS Discovery ending up in 2399, that didn’t happen in the season finale either and it seems like both shows will continue on their own separate paths – at least for now.
One of the things I was somewhat surprised at in Star Trek: Picard’s first season is how few references to Discovery there were. Aside from literally a couple of throwaway lines I can’t think of any – and certainly nothing significant. Given both series are in production side-by-side, carrying the flag for the Star Trek franchise, I would have expected some kind of recognition of that.
So those theories were debunked outright, and now we can take a look at a few theories that I’m calling “dead”. These theories, as previously mentioned, weren’t explicitly debunked on screen, but instead were abandoned. As the story of Star Trek: Picard will move on in Season 2, I doubt very much that there’s any chance for any of these to be revisited.
Dead theory #1: Sutra is descended from Lore, not Data.
While we saw Data in the digital afterlife in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2, Lore wasn’t even mentioned. And given that he hadn’t been for the entirety of the season, any storyline involving him at the last minute would have been somewhat out of left-field, especially for new fans and those who haven’t seen The Next Generation in a long time.
Nevertheless, I had speculated that Sutra might be a descendent of Lore and not Data, simply based on her evil nature and the fact that she slipped very easily into that role. Data would not have behaved the way Sutra did, and if the synths were all cloned from his neurons, that doesn’t seem to make sense – on the surface, at least. We still don’t really know how the synth-building process works.
Sutra was my least-favourite character in the season, and though I’m pleased in a way that I didn’t have to sit through too much of her in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2, it’s not clear at all where she came from or what will happen to her next. Will she remain deactivated forever? If she does wake up, will she still be interested in contacting the “Mass Effect Reapers”? And if so, what’s to stop her from building a new beacon and doing so? I doubt any of these points will be addressed any time soon, and given that Sutra is unlikely to return imminently, I don’t think we will learn anything about her potential origin either.
Dead theory #2: The “Mass Effect Reapers” are the Borg.
Though the synths did succeed in building their beacon and opening a portal to the realm where this synthetic race are based, we didn’t learn anything at all about them this season. That raises a number of issues in itself – are they still a threat? Will Starfleet try to contact them and make peace? Are they planning to come to the Milky Way now they know we exist? Etc. But because this faction are so ambiguous and technologically-advanced, one theory I had postulated was that they could simply be the Borg.
It makes a certain kind of sense. The Borg are Star Trek’s most advanced species in technological terms, and are conceivably capable of moving stars. They also like to assimilate races that are technologically powerful – even ignoring races like the Kazon that they feel would detract from the “perfection” they aim to create. While we’ve only ever seen them as a kind of rolling assimilation machine, they may have left traps at locations in the galaxy, telling synths to contact them. Under the guise of helping the synths, the Borg would then show up at a location where they know a technologically-advanced race exists, and would assimilate both the synths and those who made them.
The brief glimpse we saw of the “Mass Effect Reapers” in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2 did not, in my opinion at least, conclusively rule out a Borg connection. However, with the story moving on, we may not meet this faction again.
Dead theory #3: Commodore Oh is a synth.
When we saw Sutra perform a mind-meld in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1, this somewhat outlandish theory that I’d been kicking around for a couple of weeks suddenly went up a gear. If synths could mind-meld, it removed a potential hurdle from this theory – the fact that we’d seen Commodore Oh mind-meld with Dr Jurati – and provided what could be seen as some kind of hint or foreshadowing.
We’d also seen with Soji and Dahj that synths can be programmed to be unaware of their true nature, and can appear to be fully biological. So I speculated that it was possible for Commodore Oh to not even be aware that she’s a synth, and be barrelling toward unleashing armageddon through actions she believed were designed to prevent it. It would have been a neat story in some ways, but would have required a lot of on-screen explanation.
Dead theory #4: Borg technology was used in the creation of the Coppelius synths.
Star Trek: Picard established that there is a large galactic market for Borg components. I theorised that Dr Maddox, Dr Soong, and their team used some or all of this Borg technology in their work on synthetics. It could have explained the huge jump from androids like F8 to androids like Sutra. F8 was active at the time of the attack on Mars, 14 years before the main plot of the series, and Sutra was active a mere five years later, when Rios met her sister Jana. Yet there’s a huge gulf between what the two synths were capable of. F8 was incredibly basic, much more so than Data had been in his earliest appearances. And Sutra was, from what we saw of her, very similar to a human. The fact that they made this leap in around five years – and that they made it having lost colleagues like Dr Jurati and without access to the Federation’s resources after the ban – seemed to stretch credulity. While we know for sure that the synth-building process relied on Data’s neurons, it’s at least possible that other technology was involved.
Dead theory #5: The faceless “father” figure from Soji’s dream isn’t Bruce Maddox, and may be Dr Soong or even a synth.
It seems as though this figure, glimpsed in Soji’s dream, won’t be revisited and was simply included for shock value. And a shocking sight it was when we saw him in The Impossible Box. It does make a certain kind of sense for Dr Soong or Dr Maddox to try to conceal their identity and prevent anyone from using Soji to track them down, so I guess that’s the answer – at least for now.
Dead theory #6: Soji and Dahj’s necklaces were created deliberately to communicate with or signal to someone.
I disliked the necklaces as a prop from their introduction in Remembrance. If they’d just been a part of Soji and Dahj’s costumes I’d have ignored them, but because the necklaces were supposedly a symbol for how Maddox created them, and were supposed to be kind of unusual or even flashy by 24th Century standards, I felt they were visually weak and uninteresting.
The necklaces also posed somewhat of an interesting question: if creating synths is illegal, why would Maddox give both Soji and Dahj a very obvious symbol of their synthetic nature to wear? Surely there are only downsides to doing so, like attracting unwanted attention. I even theorised that the necklaces could be what led the Zhat Vash to first notice Soji and Dahj. One answer to this question would be that there is someone out in the galaxy that Maddox was either trying to signal or communicate with, and the necklaces were a sign that person would recognise.
Dead theory #7: Something Maddox did or didn’t do led to the synths on Mars being hacked.
When Maddox passed away without discussing the attack on Mars, this theory did start to look less and less likely. But with confirmation that the synths were indeed hacked by the Zhat Vash and did not act of their own volition, it hadn’t gone away entirely. Maddox was a senior figure in the Federation’s synthetic research at that time, meaning the hack took place on his watch. It was at least possible, especially considering that he fled and continued his work, that he was at least partly responsible. Perhaps something in the way he built or programmed the synths made them easier to hack, or perhaps there was a flaw he ignored. Regardless, with Maddox dead, the ban overturned, and the synth storyline seemingly over, I doubt we’ll ever know.
Dead theory #8: Picard’s illness is Irumodic Syndrome.
When Dr Benayoun brought Picard the news of his illness in Maps and Legends, its name was never mentioned. There were hints at it being Irumodic Syndrome for returning fans, but no confirmation. Given that Picard has since died and been resurrected, I doubt it will be discussed in Season 2, but you never know.
So those theories are dead and I doubt we’ll see any debunking, confirmation, or indeed any movement on them at all in Season 2.
I do have one remaining theory, and it pertains to Star Trek: Discovery’s upcoming third season. So let’s take a look at that before we wrap things up.
Discovery Season 3 theory: The “Mass Effect Reapers” are the cause of Star Trek: Discovery’s post-apocalyptic setting.
We saw in the trailers for Discovery’s third season that the Federation seems to be in decline. It may even have fragmented altogether by this time. We also saw a level of technology that is arguably not as advanced as it could or should be in this time period. Star Trek has occasionally set episodes in the far future. In the 29th and 30th Centuries, we know that the Federation would operate time-ships and would routinely explore time as well as space, and would teach basic temporal mechanics in school. Episodes of both Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise showed us glimpses of this future, but it doesn’t gel with what came out of the Season 3 trailer for Discovery.
If there has been some kind of apocalyptic event, could we have seen the beginnings of that in Star Trek: Picard? The question of the “Mass Effect Reapers” is still very much an open one, as I noted above. They may not have arrived at Coppelius thanks to Picard and Soji’s efforts, but they weren’t defeated, they still exist somewhere out in space, and now, crucially, they’re aware of the existence of the Federation and the Romulans. It’s at least somewhat plausible that they would decide to show up anyway – after all, they don’t necessarily know why the portal was closed. If their intention to help synths was genuine and not an elaborate trap, they may arrive out of concern for the Coppelius synths. And if their intention was to attack and conquer advanced races, they may now have a new target.
Somehow, Star Trek: Discovery will have to explain its setting and how things came to be so bleak – if indeed they are bleak. I do have an article where I discuss why a post-apocalyptic setting may not be right for Star Trek: you can find it by clicking or tapping here. But the “Mass Effect Reapers” remain in play as one possible explanation, at least in my opinion.
So that’s it. That was the only theory that survived the season, and it doesn’t even pertain to Season 2 of Star Trek: Picard!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my theories as the season went on, and that you didn’t get too upset if your favourites didn’t pan out. The whole point of this, for me anyway, was to spend a bit more time in the Star Trek universe, and to get lost in the world it created. While it has been great fun to speculate and theorise, it was always going to be the case that most theories didn’t come to pass – and that’s the case for any fan theory, no matter how plausible or well-constructed. We saw from The Last Jedi over in the Star Wars franchise how fans can become too attached to certain ideas, and how that can ruin the enjoyment of a film. I’m pleased to say that none of my theories in any way spoilt my enjoyment of Star Trek: Picard. If they had, these posts would have ceased!
I’m really excited to see what Season 2 brings, and to spend more time with Picard, Raffi, Rios, Dr Jurati, Elnor, Soji, and perhaps even Seven of Nine if she sticks around. While current events have disrupted production, I’d still hope to get some news and perhaps even a trailer by the end of the year, and the second season should release some time in 2021, though probably later in the year than this season did.
Until next time!
Star Trek: Picard Season 1 is available to stream now on CBS All Access in the United States, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and other countries and territories. The Star Trek franchise – including Star Trek: Picard – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.