The Portal Weapon In Star Trek: Picard Season 3 Is A Wild New Addition To The Universe

In the first episode of the new season of "Star Trek: Picard," Raffi (Michelle Hurd), while working for a mysterious, faceless contact within Starfleet, is attempting to locate dangerous stolen technology that can be used as a massively destructive weapon. Raffi catches wind of where the weapon will be used but arrives moments too late to stop it. She watches in horror as the Starfleet recruitment building — the entire massive structure — is sucked into a mysterious portal that is instantaneously formed below it. An exit portal then appears about a mile up and a few miles over, and the building crashes to the ground, crushing its own next-door neighbors. 

The practical implications for portal technology will, of course, be immediately evident to anyone who has ever played the 2007 video game "Portal." That game was predicated on making magical doorways through which the player would pass in order to surmount increasingly complex physics and maze puzzles. If one could form an entrance portal in front of them, and then an exit portal on a platform above, one could easily traverse the world. 

Generally speaking, the relationship "Star Trek" has with technology is very positive. Starships allow people to travel the cosmos, replicators have essentially ended hunger, and transporters allow people to visit alien worlds. But often, when new technologies are introduced into "Star Trek," ethical concerns are immediately raised. What, for instance, is a building-size portal-maker really for besides transporting entire buildings a mile into the air and then dropping them? Characters speak often about how certain machines could handily be weaponized. 

A portal gun is weaponized spectacularly and will boggle the average Trekkie's mind.

The Shrike

Later in the series, a mysterious villain named Vadic (Amanda Plummer) who pilots a talon-like ship called the Shrike will reveal that she has been controlling the portal weapon, and will happily demonstrate how functional it can serve in ship-to-ship combat. When her prey attempts to flee, for instance, she can project a portal in front of it, redirecting them directly in front of her ship again. If she's fast enough on the draw, she can open a portal in front of a photon torpedo, forcing it directly back at her attacker. The uses of the portal weapon are limited, it seems, only by the imagination and ruthlessness of its wielder. 

To idly postulate, one could open a portal right next to a sun's cornea, position its exit next to a ship, or even a planet, and blast either with unbelievable solar energy. One could open a portal in front of a ship, and arrange its exit immediately behind, allowing a ship to rear-end itself. One could fire a ship's phasers or photon torpedoes into a portal, and arrange its exit inside a ship, or even inside a deep basement somewhere, essentially committing acts of terrorism from space. The building-dropping maneuver is plenty creatively destructive as is. 

Because of these weaponized uses, it's clear why portal technology has been banned and hidden away from Starfleet at large. Yes, the portal tech could make rescue and transportation that much swifter, perhaps being used to evacuate thousands of people at once from dangerous situations. It would also give researchers a chance to, say, scan dangerous spatial phenomena from a safe distance. Just open a portal and scan away. But until a portal cannot be used as a weapon, then perhaps wait to use it.

The ramifications of technology

While weapons and ships' armaments are regularly discussed on "Star Trek," a starship's ability to overpower another in combat is rarely the point of the franchise. It's going to be extremely uncommon for a "Star Trek" story — at least outside of feature films — to end with a show of battlefield might. As such, every new piece of tech is often examined for its ethical boundaries before being installed in a starship. Could one use the Enterprise computers to create sentient holographic geniuses whenever a situation called for an expert? Perhaps, but isn't now deleting that program considered murder? "Star Trek" typically steps forward tentatively. Portal-making tech is cool and all, but, well, Vadic is showing why ships don't have it. 

This may be why "Star Trek: Discovery" still possesses one fundamentally frustrating element. The USS Discovery has discovered that the entire galaxy is populated by an unthinkably vast network of microscopic interdimensional spores. By tying the ship's engines into this network, the Discovery can essentially pass through an alternate dimension and reappear anywhere in the galaxy. Zip, pop, they're there. 

Not only does this remove the trekking part from "Star Trek," but the implications of such technology are staggering. Borders would become meaningless if ships could simply be anywhere on a whim. Space would no longer be vast, trade would be instantaneous, and combat would vanish. Why destroy other ships if you can teleport away? Or teleport to their homeworld, drop a bomb, and flee before being detected? "Discovery," sadly, never wrestles with its own teleportation technology, using it as a narrative excuse to not write scenes on board the ship. 

The portal tech in "Picard" is seen as horrendous and devastating. It's cool, but it's also terrifying.