With a snap of his fingers, Q can change the fabric of reality. We’re expecting to see John C. Lancie’s villain prominently in Season 2 of Star Trek: Picard in early 2022. But before that happens, the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery Season 4, “The Examples,” just gave the Q Continuum a big shout-out, and in doing so may have teased a forthcoming plot development from Picard Season 2.
Here’s how that reference to the Q Continuum in Discover fits into the Star Trek timeline, plus, the details on those other space gods that were mentioned, too. Spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Season 4, Episode 5, “The Examples.”
For Discovery Season 4, the biggest revelation in “The Examples” comes fairly early. The super destructive DMA (Dark Matter Anomaly) is not a naturally occurring spatial phenomenon. Instead, it looks like this sucker was manufactured. So if the DMA was made by someone, the question is, who?
Early in the episode, Admiral Vance (Oded Fehr) ticks off some options; mostly folks in the Star Trek canon who possess the technology (or borderline magic) to manufacture a roving black hole that crushes worlds. Starfleet knows this isn’t the kind of thing the Emerald Chain could have cooked up. It’s got to be some of the space god-level Star Trek alien species like...
The Metrons — Vance mentions “the Metrons.” These were the god-like aliens who staged a fight between Captain Kirk and the lizard-like Gorn Captain in the classic episode “Arena.” Interestingly, the episode “Arena” takes place in 2267, and at the end of the episode, the Metrons told Kirk that in “several thousand years,” the Federation might be worthy of an “agreement.”
At the end of the episode, Kirk says “Maybe in a thousand years or so, we'll be able to prove it,” meaning that humanity and the Federation would be able to prove that they weren’t “savage.” Discovery seasons 3 and 4 take place in 3189, 922 years (almost a thousand!) after the events of “Arena.”
The Nacene — Vance also refers to “the Nacene.” These are a group of aliens more commonly called “the Caretakers.” In the very first episode of Voyager (called “Caretaker”) the ship is whisked halfway across the galaxy by the Caretaker. Because the biggest encounters Starfleet had with the Nacene involved things moving across great distances instantaneously it makes sense that they’d been on the list of people who could have created the DMA.
The Iconian Empire — Before he starts talking about the Q Continuum, Vance mentions “The Iconian Empire.” This long-dead organization originates with the TNG episode “Contagion,” in which the Enterprise discovers an “Iconian Gateway,” which basically allows people to move across planets by simply walking through a door. Another Iconian Gateway appeared in a DS9 Season 4 Episode 22, but beyond that, the Iconians haven’t really appeared in onscreen canon, because their civilization has been extinct for hundreds of thousands of years before Star Trek gets going.
However, star charts in the first season of Discovery seem to indicate that in the 2250s, Starfleet considered certain areas of space under Iconian influence. Additionally, in the ongoing MMOG Star Trek Online, the Iconians are major antagonists and are revealed to be very active in the 24th and 25th centuries. Because Vance seems to be thinking of the Iconians as viable candidates as creators of the DMA, this could low-key imply that the Iconian backstory of Star Trek Online might be pseudo-canon.
What about the Q Continuum?
So, the most interesting detail Vance drops in this list is easily this statement: “The Q Continuum were considered...but there’s been no contact for 600 years.”
This is an interesting figure. Vance didn’t say “since the Burn,” or “in a century,” he said it’s been 600 years since the Federation heard from anyone in the Q Continuum. First introduced in the very first TNG episode ever, “Encounter at Farpoint,” the Q are a race of all-powerful space gods, and yes, they’re all named “Q.” The most famous member of the Q was played by John de Lancie, who appeared in numerous episodes of The Next Generation, Voyager, and one episode of Deep Space Nine. More recently, Q has cameoed on Lower Decks and is set for a big comeback in Picard Season 2. But, thanks to this throwaway line in Discovery, we now know something about the future of the Q, from the perspective of the Picard timeframe.
Picard Season 1 took place in 2399, meaning, time travel aside, the present-tense of the series will be the years beyond 2399. So at some point, Picard will leave the 24th century for the 25th century. Discovery’s Season 3 and 4 take place in the 32nd century, which puts Picard and Discovery about 789 years apart.
That means one century after the events of Picard, (roughly 600 years before Discovery Season 4) the Q Continuum, for some reason, will stop checking in on humanity. Star Trek canon has now created an interesting limit on how much Q can appear in canon post-Picard. If the Q don’t make contact starting in the year 2500 or so, that leaves a lot of wiggle room for them to appear for an entire century after the events of Picard. Now, that sounds like a long time, but in Star Trek, it’s really not. The amount of time separating the timeframe of Picard and this Q Continuum cut-off date is about the amount of time separating The Original Series from The Next Generation.
So, here’s the leap: Did Discovery just intentionally tease something big that will happen with the Q in Picard Season 2? Could the events of Picard Season 2 directly lead to the Q Continuum cutting off all contact with the galaxy as we know it? Because Picard Season 2 comes out in just a few months (Febuary 2022) it feels like this mention of the Q might have been more than an Easter egg. Discovery has relied on the canon of Picard twice this season — once for Gray’s new body, and again, for the return of the Qowat Milat. But now, it’s possible the reverse is happening. In a small way, Discovery might be teasing something on Picard for a change.
Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 is streaming now on Paramount+.