Now that Star Trek: Picard has hit the halfway point of its first season, one mystery has risen above the rest. Was there a conspiracy to make the Synths revolt on Mars, and if so, who was behind it? Who could benefit from a near galaxy-wide ban on synthetic lifeforms?
In episode 5, "Stardust City Rag," new threads of this mystery point to at least one shadowy organization behind the scenes, and some fans think we know exactly who the secret players might be — the super clandestine Starfleet spy group, Section 31. But if there is a cover-up going on, what is being hidden could be bigger than everyone assumes. Picard spoilers and speculation ahead.
In episode 5 of Picard, two different characters, in two different contexts, say the attack on Mars and the ban on Synths was "not what it seems." Raffi has already told Jean-Luc she thinks there's a cover-up, and right before he died, Bruce Maddox said he created Soji and Dahj to uncover "the truth" about the ban. Maddox also claimed the Federation was involved in it, too.
This could only refer to Section 31. On Reddit and elsewhere, fans argue the super-secret sect of Starfleet could be behind the attack on Mars. Derp4077 suggests Section 31 "saw the possible destruction of the Federation's longest-standing rival and it took it."
We know from Discovery that Section 31 was heavily involved in statecraft. In the Season 2 episode "Point of Light," we see Mirror Georgiou on the Klingon homeworld with the expressed purpose of keeping L'Rell in power, mostly because it's good for the politics of the Federation. In Deep Space Nine, we saw Section 31 try to manipulate various governments to help the Federation win the Dominion War. Even during Into Darkness, Section 31 manufactured terrorist attacks on Earth, and even created a fake identity for Khan to push the Federation into a war with the Klingons.
In other words, the idea that Section 31 could be behind a conspiracy to get rid of Romulans and ban A.I. at the same time isn't crazy. In fact, in the Season 2 finale of Discovery, Section 31 is nearly destroyed by a self-aware A.I. called Control. By the end of that episode, Section 31 is thought to have restructured, which presumably results in the more underhanded version of the organization we saw in Deep Space Nine.
Discovery Season 2 takes place more than a century before Picard, and the last time we heard from Section 31, chronologically speaking, was in the DS9 era. Are Section 31 even around any more, and what's their motivation for this?
Section 31 and Starfleet Intelligence are not the same thing, even though they both have spies. In Picard, the head of Starfleet Intelligence is Commodore Oh, who ominously met with Dr. Jurati in episode 3. It's also fairly clear that Raffi herself used to work for Starfleet Intelligence, and saw corruption 14 years prior to the start of Picard.
There's already plenty of corruption happening at the public-facing Starfleet Intelligence, which you don't need Section 31 to be pulling the strings. Assuming Commodore Oh is actually conspiring with the Romulans, and is not a secret double-agent "good guy," she's a decent cipher for Section 31.
But from a narrative point of view, this is disappointingly simplistic. Will the big reveal of Picard just be that the Federation has become so corrupt that they killed innocent people on Mars just to screw over the Romulans? And if so — as Jean-Luc points out to Raffi — why would the Romulans help them? Section 31 or no Section 31, the Federation wouldn't need Romulan help to screw the Romulans.
Perhaps instead of "who," we should instead be looking for a reason "why." For one thing, Jurati's heel turn in episode 5 could have a lot of implications that are bigger than space politics. If Jurati is a secret Synth, made aware of a larger conspiracy involving other secret Synths, then suddenly you have a reason for a cover-up.
Okay. Let's say somebody in the Federation did conspire to create the attack on Mars, and they asked the Romulans to help them do it. Why? Here's the batshit crazy theory.
At some point — maybe — thousands of people within the Federation and the Romulan Empire were replaced with Androids. What if, somehow, without anyone knowing, a whole populace of Sythns became so indistinguishable from humans (or Romulans!) that a ton of people were all Synths and totally didn't know it. We already know that the Zhat Vash (the group controlling the Tal Shiar) hates A.I., but we don't know why. So, maybe they hate it because, at some point in the past, a ton of Romulans was replaced by Androids, and it messed up the "purity" of the Romulan race.
If something similar happened in the Federation, then both the Tal Shiar and Starfleet (or Section 31) would have good reason to get Synthetic research banned.
Narek and his sister are pretty convinced that there are a bunch of Synths out there. What if the big reveal is that this "nest" is everywhere? If Picard reveals a conspiracy to conceal the fact that secret Androids were living among humans and Romulans on a massive scale, then the series will literally change everything we know about the Trek canon. (And really be a lot like Blade Runner)
This isn't to say the story of Picard will go in this direction at all. Right now, this is, as Spock once said, simply a supposition that just happens to fit the facts. But if the season finale reveals several major characters were Sythns in disguise all along, it could allow this series to actually boldly take the franchise where it has never gone before.
Picard airs Thursdays on CBS All Access.