Star Trek Guide

Star Trek Theory: Picard Retcons The Original Movie's Villain

Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Picard season 1, episode 9.

The revelation in Star Trek: Picard episode 9 that a federation of synthetics exists beyond the galaxy could retcon V'Ger, the villain of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The cliffhanger of Star Trek: Picard episode 9, "Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1", involves Soji (Isa Briones) agreeing with her older sister Sutra that they need to call upon this ancient race of androids to help them destroy the invading Romulan fleet, as well as the rest of organic life in the galaxy. But this mysterious alliance of synthetics could also explain the long-standing mystery of the origin of V'Ger.

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V'Ger was a great threat to Earth in 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture. A sentient mechanical entity that emitted a vast, destructive cloud of luminous energy, V'Ger traveled from beyond the galaxy en route to Earth seeking its Creator. Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner) took command of the U.S.S. Enterprise to intercept V'Ger; when Spock (Leonard Nimoy) mind-melded with the entity, he partly discovered its origins as a space probe that was found and rebuilt by a mysterious planet inhabited by machines. The Enterprise crew then traveled to the heart of V'Ger and discovered it was actually Voyager 6, a probe launched by NASA in the 20th century that disappeared when it left the galaxy. Captain Will Decker (Stephen Colliins), along with a replicant of his love Lt. Ilia (Persis Khambatta), agreed to 'merge' with V'Ger, to give the entity a human perspective that would complete its programming and give it the answers it sought. Suitably evolved into a higher form of existence, V'Ger exploded and vanished, leaving the Enterprise intact.

After that first contact with the Enterprise in the 2270s, V'Ger never returned and was never heard from again but over 120 years later, Star Trek: Picard episode 9 offers a new context that could explain where V'Ger came from. Hundreds of years ago, the Romulans discovered an octonary star system with a planet called Aia, the Grief World at its center. On Aia, the founders of what would become the anti-synthetics cabal called the Zhat Vash discovered a warning they called the Admonition, which told of a war between organics and the synthetics they created over 200,000 years ago. However, Sutra learned the Zhat Vash were wrong to believe the Admonition was meant to warn organics and that it was actually left by the synthetics for future androids to heed about their creators. And the androids who won the war millennia ago left our galaxy and founded a vast federation of synthetics who are waiting to be summoned by Soji and the rest of her synthetic family who were built from the positronic neuron of the late Commander Data (Brent Spiner).

Before his death, Gene Roddenberry speculated that V'Ger could have been rebuilt by the Borg but, since that was never set in canon, could Star Trek: Picard's synthetics federation (which is now canon) lead to a retcon of Star Trek: The Motion Picture? It's possible that Picard's ancient synthetics were the machines that found Voyager 6 and rebuilt it into VGer, which then returned to Earth seeking answers to its origins and existence.

The first Star Trek movie even offers a further parallel to Star Trek: Picard: Ilia was killed by V'Ger and replaced by a synthetic version of the bald Deltan that acted as its interface with the Enterprise's crew. The synthetic Ilia was a perfect physical copy (lacking emotions and humanity) in the same way Soji appears genuinely human, though she's programmed with a full range of human emotions. In a way, V'Ger's Ilia is a forerunner to Data, Soji, and all of Star Trek: Picard's synthetics.

It's worth noting that Star Trek: The Motion Picture's V'Ger was a rehash of concepts from the TOS episode "The Changeling", where the Enterprise met Nomad, a space probe that was reprogrammed by a mysterious race and returned to our galaxy sentient and powerful. If V'Ger was indeed rebuilt by Star Trek: Picard's extra-galactic synthetics federation, then it's possible that retcon could explain the origins of Nomad and other machines in TOS like the planet-killer in "The Doomsday Machine" as well.