Note: this article was written by a TrekMovie contributor who does not have access to advanced screeners and has only seen the first two episodes of Star Trek: Picard Season 3.
Recently 100% Certified Fresh, season 3 of Star Trek: Picard has reignited interest in the show after seasons 1 and 2 barely made it out of spacedock. Even with only two episodes aired, fan theories are running wild—from conspiracies about Jack Crusher’s real lineage to Captain Shaw’s mysterious past to Vadic’s potential puppet master(s). More on the first two another time, but for now, we’re going to focus on who fans think the “big bad” of season 3 could be. We scoured the far reaches of the Internet to analyze the best (and worst) Picard season 3 fan theories. This analysis may contain potential spoilers.
“To be or not to be” the villain
Even before appearing in episode two, Amanda Plummer’s Vadic and her bird-mask-wearing soldiers had fans wondering who she is and where she comes from. After seeing her in episode two claiming to be a “bounty hunter,” we are starting to get the first hints. With the mention of an unknown weapon on board the Shrike, Vadic’s story is almost certainly connected to Raffi’s investigation into stolen tech from Daystrom. The first two episodes also have hints that Vadic is connected to a larger network that extends into Starfleet, evidenced by her having inside knowledge about Picard and Shaw. Beverly did warn Picard to “trust no one, including Starfleet.”
Many questions still remain about the season 3 villain, like why Vadic wants Jack Crusher, son of Beverly Crusher and Jean-Luc Picard, and why she wants him alive. Is she working alone or is she working for someone else? What’s the story behind her powerful and pointy ship, the Shrike? If Vadic is working for someone else, who could that be and why?
Let’s look at a handful of fan theory suspects (including some of our own), keeping in mind the new clue from today’s preview of episode three about how Raffi and Worf “uncover a nefarious plot from a vengeful enemy Starfleet has long since forgotten,” indicating the true nature of the villains is something from Star Trek’s past.
The primary suspects
There are a lot of theories running around,;we have narrowed the list down a bit to focus on a handful that keeping coming up, with two particular ones top of mind.
“Each time, they had different faces.” In episode one, Jack Crusher told Picard and Riker that he and his mother were being hunted by people with different faces. Was that line meant to be taken literally? Could the Changelings from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine be back? Showrunner Terry Matalas has stated “the fallout of the Dominion War is important in the plot.” Hmm. That seems to be a big clue and puts the “changing faces” along with Jack’s comment about different groups hunting the Eleos—including Fenris Rangers, Klingons, and Starfleet Officers—into a different context. Also, in the first episode, Riker noted the residue left by the soldiers Beverly vaporized was unusual. These clues have many people pointing figures at the Changelings.
The Dominion War wrapped up in the Deep Space Nine series finale with the Dominion’s Founders surrendering and Odo (a Changeling himself) leaving the station to join the Great Link, curing the other Changelings of the morphogenic virus manufactured by Section 31 to eradicate them. The defeat and insidious attack by Section 31 could have instilled resentment in some Founders, and perhaps there are some wanting to seek revenge on the Federation and Starfleet even decades later. With Odo himself part of the Great Link, it’s unlikely he would be part of any such plot, but perhaps there is a breakaway faction of Changelings that are not part of the Great Link, and perhaps they are still dealing with the after-effects of the Section 31 virus, which could explain Vadic’s scars and her soldier’s masks.
Extending this line of thought, there is another Changeling with a certain disdain for solids. What if Laas (from the DS9 episode “Chimera”) found the rest of “The Hundred” and created a new Great Link like he wanted to do? Could they be the Changelings behind a new attack?
One could describe Vadic’s network as a conspiracy, and if you are looking for a conspiracy, why not look to “Conspiracy,” arguably one of the few bright spots (“The Big Goodbye”) in an otherwise shaky (“Code of Honor” oof) first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The episode showed there was a race of parasitic creatures infecting key members of Starfleet, and it went all the way to the top until it was discovered by Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D. The episode ended with Commander Remmick (host to the parasite mother creature) attempting to send a message into deep space to the parasite homeworld, and the crew determined it was indeed transmitted before he died—and it was a homing beacon. This is just the kind of low-hanging fruit ripe for a follow-up that would intrigue someone like superfan Matalas. There is also a passing similarity between the design of the original parasites and Vadic’s ship, The Shrike. And Beverly’s warning to Picard sounds ominously close to Captain Keel’s warning to Picard: “Don’t trust anyone.” Both warnings specifically noted that Starfleet itself could not be trusted, making this the other big fan theory.
The parasites would for sure qualify as an “enemy Starfleet has long since forgotten.” It’s unclear how the parasites would tie into the Dominion War, but perhaps the show could do a bit of retcon to make a connection like season 2 did by connecting the Travellers with Gary Seven. It’s plausible that the parasites made their way back to the Alpha Quadrant and have been secretly infiltrating Starfleet once again. Like the time Changelings appeared on Earth, anyone and everyone could be compromised. From now on, I’m going to start checking everyone’s necks for gills. Although maybe they learned their lesson and figured out a way to mask their telltale gills. One other fun connection to this episode is that the late Walter Keel is the one who introduced the late Jack Crusher to Beverly Howard.
Here are a few that don’t get mentioned as much but are worth considering…
This may be a corollary to the Changelings, but if there is any group that has reasons for being angry at Starfleet, it would be Cardassians, specifically the military who controlled the Cardassian Union and chose to side with the Founders in the Dominion War, which followed the earlier Federation-Cardassian War. With over 800 million Cardassians killed, it’s safe to say that the Dominion War had a more devastating impact on Cardassia than it did on the Founders themselves. So perhaps there is a faction of angry Cardassians out there who are seeking revenge on the Federation and Starfleet. This may not be mutually exclusive with the Changeling theory as there could be a coalition of former enemies from the Dominion War working together, maybe even with the Breen too. The only real evidence in Picard pointing to the “Cardies” is Vadic’s pointy ship itself, with the Shrike possibly being an evolution of the Cardassian aesthetic. Also, the new season 3 credits feature a LCARS scan of the Shrike with details written in Cardassian language.
While we wait for a potential Tryla Scott cameo, let’s talk about a group that got named-dropped a few times in the first two episodes—The Borg. Yes, I know, they’ve been done to death but there’s a theory that the Borg are back yet again. While Terry Matalas did shut down the possibility of a Jurati Borg vs Borg showdown, he didn’t say that there would be no Borg in Season 3. Could someone be controlling the xB’s? Or maybe the Jurati Borg or another Borg faction has evolved to assimilating without obvious implants. That would make it easy to covertly assimilate anyone. Vadic’s scars could be from early trials or removed Borg implants. Bear in mind that following Janeway’s virus attack on the Borg over two decades ago, the collective has had a rough time. They may have changed tactics to a more covert form of attack. Perhaps this other faction of the Borg is what is on the other side of the gateway that opened up at the end of Picard season 2, with Queen Jurati left to guard against their incursion.
Sneed, the Ferengi who brokered the deal for the stolen portal weapon, name-dropped the black badge-wearing secret organization in the last episode and we know that they were a huge part of Discovery, but there’s another wild theory that suggests Section 31 could be the big bad for Picard. They were certainly involved in the Dominion War, and in the DS9 documentary, “What We Left Behind,” former showrunner Ira Steven Behr led a writers’ room to break the story of a hypothetical season 8. In it, Dr. Julian Bashir is described as “an example of a character who has lost his way,” and “is now in charge of Section 31.” Could a Bashir-led Section 31 be pulling the strings in an end-justifying-the-means situation? Matalas has also said that there are several unannounced cameos in season 3. Could we see the return of a “lost his way” Dr. Bashir?
Okay, file this under the tinfoil hat theory, but hear me out. The Bynars, a cybernetically enhanced race, have worked with the Federation and Starfleet, but their binary logic did once lead them to commandeer the USS Enterprise-D for their own needs. Bynars have now been mentioned three times in two recent shows: Mariner from Lower Decks once had the Bynars on her conspiracy board (hello!), and she said that she had once dated “bad Bynars” in “We’ll Always Have Tom Paris.” Now in the second episode of this season of Picard (“Disengage”), we learn that young Jack Crusher is accused of “terrorism” on Bynar III. Could this be their revenge? 1 or 0?
What about Lore?
While Data’s emotional, imperfect brother Lore only appeared in 4 episodes of TNG, he made a lasting impression on fans, including showrunner Terry Matalas, who has brought him to Picard Season 3. When it was first revealed that Brent Spiner would be playing Lore in season 3, he was described as one of the villains of the season. When we last saw Lore, he was trying to destroy the Federation (ah-ha!) while leading a cult of Borg drones. When his plan was thwarted, he was disassembled and his emotion chip was removed. It’s been revealed that Lore’s disassembled body and mind are being held at Daystrom Station, the same place the portal tech was stolen from. Perhaps the theft was really a cover to break him out and he’s actually the big bad? It’s hard to believe Lore is anything but evil, given his past associations with baddies like the Crystalline Entity and the Borg. What is he really doing in season 3? It seems like he could be the one pulling the strings behind Vadic, or possibly they’re just working together due to shared goals.
Other possible associates
The big bads behind season 3 are not working alone, and we know that the season includes a number of other characters that could be part of the wider conspiracy. These are not mutually exclusive, and some are more likely to be working with different primary suspects.
The New York Comic Con trailer revealed that Moriarty is back, and he, too, was described as one of the villains for season 3. After being trapped in a fake reality by Jean-Luc Picard, it’s easy to see how he might have some resentment. Like Lore, he could also be connected to Daystrom. While likely not a major player, he could have a role in assisting Vadic, if only to get back at Picard.
Captain Liam Shaw might be one of the most polarizing captains since Edward Jellico. Sure, he’s a jerk to two of the most legendary officers of all time, but is he justified or a really bad guy? In a galaxy full of “Badmirals,” it seems too obvious that Shaw is a double agent and instead is more like Jellico than we think (a really good captain).
Could Jack Crusher himself be somehow involved? The self-described thief is also a serial liar and master manipulator. Could his involvement all be an elaborate ruse to get back at his father for not being in his life and/or whatever happened between him and Beverly 20 years ago? There does seem to be more to Jack than meets the eye, so it could go either way.
Secret agent on Titan?
Also known as Ensign Side-Eye (not really), he was in the corridor when Picard and Riker first boarded the Titan in episode 1 and he gave a suspicious-looking glance at the pair as they walked by. He appeared briefly again in the transporter room when Jack and Seven were pointing phasers at each other in episode 2, and the transporter room would be a key position for a member of the conspiracy. Both are blink-and-you-‘ll-miss-it moments, but he does appear to give an ominous look in the direction of our two heroes in the first episode. Like the guy eying the pair in Guinan’s bar, it does appear that Riker and Picard are being monitored. It could be nothing, but maybe security should check his quarters for gravity boots.
Not much is known about Raffi’s ex-husband Jae, but he was an associate of Sneed, so he could also be involved in the conspiracy. Did he know that Raffi would choose to meet with Sneed? Was he counting on Sneed to eliminate her, since he (and his son) clearly don’t want anything to do with her?
If you looked closely at Sneed’s rap sheet, of his many known associates (including Quark! and Morn!), the one name that jumped out as having a motive was Brunt. He was a devious character whose loyalty swayed back and forth like a solar sail on its way to Cardassia Prime. When we last saw him, he was escorted off of DS9 after trying to suck up to Grand Nagus Rom. Did Rom remove him from the Ferengi Commerce Authority, and has he been plotting his revenge ever since? He has many reasons to be angr,y so a Brunt appearance would make sense. Plus, we’d get to see Jeffrey Combs in Star Trek again!
What say you?
Do you have a prime suspect? Did our arguments sway you either way? Anyone we missed? Sound off in the comments below.
The third and final season of Picard premiered on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023, exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S., and Latin America, and on February 17 Paramount+ in Europe and elsewhere, with new episodes of the 10-episode-long season available to stream weekly. It also debuted on Friday, Feb. 17 internationally on Amazon Prime Video in more than 200 countries and territories. In Canada, it airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave.
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