Star Trek: Picard Season 3 Resurrects A Long-Settled Trek Storyline – But What Comes Next?

This article discusses major spoilers for the latest episode of "Star Trek: Picard."

Going into season 3 of "Star Trek: Picard," every Trekkie knew to expect a "The Next Generation" reunion that has been decades in the making, and so far the first few episodes have fully delivered on that promise. But episode 3, titled "Seventeen Seconds" (you can read /Film's recap by Witney Seibold here), may have just reshuffled the deck of cards completely. The biggest plot twist of this young season, as it turns out, has connections to a very different "Trek" series altogether: "Deep Space Nine." The ramifications of this development will undoubtedly reverberate throughout the rest of the season.

In the waning moments of episode 3, the season's dual storylines finally come together in one jaw-dropping reveal. Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), William Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden), and her son Jack (Ed Speelers) have mostly only felt loosely connected thus far to the B-plot involving Raffi (Michelle Hurd) and the long-awaited return of Worf (Michael Dorn), but all that changes in decisive fashion. While our main group of heroes fend off attacks by both Amanda Plummer's villainous Vadic and a saboteur stowed away on board the Titan, Worf and Raffi interrogate a suspect in the terrorist attack on a Starfleet building. As Raffi demands answers, the alarmingly deteriorating condition of their captive clues Worf into what's really going on. And in one shocking line of dialogue, suddenly everything falls into place: "Tell me ... how long have you been away from the Great Link?"

Longtime fans know that this refers to the biggest and baddest villains of "Deep Space Nine," the race of despotic shapeshifters who look at "solids" with nothing but disdain. The Changelings are back and they've, well, changed the game.

Dealin' with the Dominion

Of all the potential material for "Star Trek: Picard" to cover in its third and final season, the aftermath of the galaxy-wide Dominion War may prove to be its single most potent storyline yet. The latter seasons of "Deep Space Nine" introduced many fan-favorite additions to "Trek" lore, starting with the existence of the show's sole Changeling and resident space cop Odo (the late René Auberjonois). After carefully establishing the lovable character's deep sense of loneliness and abandonment as the only shapeshifter known in the quadrant, the series depicts how Starfleet eventually comes into contact with the rest of Odo's people ... and they're soon revealed to wield much darker ambitions than our law-abiding hero. Now, decades after the devastating resolution to the debilitating war, it seems "Picard" is eager to pull at all the loose threads and uncover a much bigger conspiracy at work.

This choice is significant for several reasons. For starters, fans have long wondered whether "Trek" would ever decide to address the messy conclusion of the Dominion War and the inevitable changes to the status quo of the galaxy in its wake. With entire planets decimated, Starfleet's resources exhausted, and our main heroes forever changed by the conflict, it'd almost feel like a waste to never see the franchise expand on any of it. Thankfully, "Picard" now seems to be up to that challenge. Secondly, this also gives fans the chance to enjoy a version of the grand "Deep Space Nine" reunion that otherwise doesn't appear likely. While we may not ever get a "Picard"-like spin-off catching up on all our favorite characters like Captain Benjamin Sisko, Kira Nerys, Quark, and all the rest, at least "Picard" can pay homage to their legacy by revisiting the Dominion War and its aftereffects.

Changeling on board

After two prior seasons that struggled to deliver on a suitable endgame, season 3 of "Picard" now seems like it'll revolve around the reemergence of an incredibly dangerous "schism" of Changelings. "Deep Space Nine" fully established the almost existential-level threat posed by these shapeshifters, from commanding legions of armies of other aliens recruited to their conquering cause to the ability to infiltrate the highest levels of enemy organizations, posing as anyone or anything at any time — human or alien or even objects alike. Given decades of nursing grudges after their defeat at the hands of the Federation at the end of "Deep Space Nine," there's no telling how a rogue faction of Changelings may completely upend the ongoing story of "Picard."

Though René Auberjonois' passing robs "Picard" of the ultimate franchise crossover with "Deep Space Nine," Worf obliquely references this "man of honor" when he tells Raffi about his contact within the Great Link (the Changelings' collective neural network when in their natural liquid state), informing him of the splinter cell of Changelings who now pose a grave threat. Having appeared in both "The Next Generation" and "Deep Space Nine," the inclusion of Worf in "Picard" now feels less like fan-service and more of necessary connective tissue tying both shows together in light of this new (well, old) danger.

The episode ends with the Changeling on board the Titan nearly killing Jack, successfully sabotaging the ship, and leaving Picard, Riker, Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), and the rest in an incredibly precarious life-or-death situation in a faraway nebula — with Vadic's fearsome ship lurking around every hidden corner. The stakes have never been higher and we should be in for even more thrilling episodes to come.

"Star Trek: Picard" premieres new episodes on Paramount+ every Thursday.