Star Trek: Picard is now four episodes into its first season. The show has already retconned what we thought we knew about Romulan culture. It also introduced a new threat in the form of the Zhat Vash, a secret organization behind the already secret Tal Shiar. The Zhat Vash is motivated by a deep-seated loathing of all artificial life. There's also a prophecy about a Destroyer that will bring about the Day of Annihilation, ending all life. The Romulans believe that Soji Asha, daughter of Data, is that Destroyer. But we've seen the threat of rogue artificial intelligence manifest in modern Star Trek already in the form of Control in Star Trek: Discovery's second season. Could Control be at the root of the Zhat Vash's grudge against AI?
If you missed the second season of Star Trek: Discovery, Control was an artificial intelligence developed by Section 31 to help the covert organization assess threats and formulate counter-strategies. Control gained a form of primitive sentience, enough that it wanted full autonomy. It slaughtered the Section 31 agents at the group's headquarters and began imitating them on video feeds to manipulate Section 31 and Starfleet. Control sought out the information about artificial intelligence that Discovery had gathered from an ancient alien sphere it had encountered during its travels. The information would give Control enough knowledge to achieve full sentience and autonomy.
But Section 31 was also working on the Daedalus Project, which focused on time travel. Gabrielle Burnham co-developed a time travel suit with her husband, Mike. She used the suit to escape a Klingon attack and arrived in a future where Control had gained sentience and wiped out all life in the galaxy. This is exactly what the Romulan prophecy suggests that the Destroyer will do.
As Dr. Jurati describes in Picard, Soji's existence is a miracle of cybernetics. How did Dr. Bruce Maddox pull it off after leaving the Daystrom Institute? Could he have learned of Control, recovered some of its programmings, and used it to develop new artificial lifeforms from Data's neurons? One of the astounding things about Soji is that she is a flesh-and-blood android. In Discovery, we saw Control use nanites to reanimate Captain Leland's body after killing him. Could some of that technology exist in Soji?
How does this tie in with the Zhat Vash and the Tal Shiar? We don't know how long the Tal Shiar has existed. They're first mentioned in Star Trek: The Next Generation, leaving unclear as to whether they existed in the era of Star Trek: The Original Series. Could the Zhat Vash, and subsequently the Tal Shiar, have been created in response to an encounter with Control?
The issue here is that, while we have no timeline for the Tal Shiar, the Zhat Vash are described as being "ancient." The definition of ancient is malleable, and we don't know how long Control existed before Discovery's second season (though the existence of Section 31 pre-dates the existence of the Federation, as revealed in Star Trek: Enterprise), but the implication is that the Zhat Vash is older than that. But time travel is a thing, as we saw in Discovery's second season, that could account for Control spawning the organization.
It's a loose theory and an unwieldy one. The producers behind Picard have said that, while it exists on the same timeline, it won't tie directly into the events of Star Trek: Discovery. But there are enough interesting possible connections here to make the theory worth considering.
New episodes of Star Trek: Picard become available to stream Thursdays on CBS All Access.
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