The second season of Star Trek: Picard features Jean-Luc Picard and his team traveling back in time from an alternate future to 2024 Los Angeles. The latest episode, “Watcher,” has spawned a lot of questions about how the show is handling the history of Trek’s past, and co-showrunner Terry Matalas is doing his best to try to guide fans along. Obviously SPOILERS ahead if you haven’t been keeping up with the season.
Time travel… and why Guinan didn’t recognize Picard
In “Watcher,” Jean-Luc Picard visited a younger Guinan in 2024. He revealed to her that they would become close friends in the future, but Guinan did not appear to recognize Picard and at no time did either one mention meeting before. This has many fans wondering about the two-part Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Time’s Arrow,” when Picard and other members of the USS Enterprise-D crew went back in time and encountered an even younger version of Guinan in 1893 San Francisco.
In the second part of that episode, Picard revealed everything about who he was to Guinan. The reason their 1893 meeting wasn’t mentioned in “Watcher” is because those events didn’t happen due to the change in the timeline. Terry Matalas explained to Inverse that “This Guinan wouldn’t remember Picard because in this alternate timeline, the TNG episode ‘Time’s Arrow’ never happened.”
Matalas has confirmed with TrekMovie that the way they are treating time travel is that even though they arrived before Q’s divergence in time, they are not in the Prime timeline; they are still in the altered “Confederation” timeline. This logic flows to other future instances of time travel, like Sisko going back to 2024 San Francisco (DS9 “Past Tense”) and Kirk going back in time to save the whales (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home). Matalas explained this in our article about bringing back the Punk from Voyage Home, saying “Star Trek IV wouldn’t have happened in this alternate timeline.”
Star Trek has dealt with time travel in a number of different ways, but according to Matalas, they are following the same rules when changes in the past rewrite the timeline, like in “City on the Edge of Forever,” or Star Trek: First Contact. The unique situation here is that we have a time traveler encountering someone who he has encountered before in a previous instance of time travel. So even though Picard himself can remember the events of “Time’s Arrow,” he knows that this timeline’s General Picard of the CSS World Razer never went back in time to meet Guinan.
What happened with the Eugenics Wars?
One pivotal time in Star Trek history is the Eugenics Wars, which gave rise to the Augments and the franchise’s most famous villain, Khan Noonien Singh. Khan was first encountered in the Star Trek season one episode “Space Seed,” where he was discovered in a sleeper ship launched in the late 20th century. At the time it was said Khan was exiled after he ruled one-quarter of the Earth from 1992 to 1996.
Of course, the 1990s came and went and there were no Eugenics Wars and no group of genetically enhanced supermen and superwomen vying for power over the globe. Nor was there the launch of the SS Botany Bay, or even the technology to launch a ship capable of putting people into extended hibernation for an interstellar voyage. This does create a bit of a conundrum of how one should treat this bit of history, and even in the alternate timeline, there is no clear reason why any future instances of time travel would have changed the events of the 1990s in such a profound way.
When asked this question on Twitter this weekend, Matalas explained that how to treat the Eugenics Wars was a big debate, but it was decided to sort of punt on the issue, explaining that maybe records became less clear after World War III (which itself is supposed to kick in the early 21st century). Matalas’ co-showrunner Akiva Goldsman also chimed in to back up the “endless” part of this writers’ room discussion.
— Akiva Goldsman (@AkivaGoldsman) March 26, 2022
Of course, there are some details to deal with, like how the 1982 film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan reinforced the 1990s timeline, but Matalas got practical, explaining that no one could have anticipated the franchise outliving these future dates.
Maybe because in 1967 they didn’t anticipate the show still going for another 6 decades. https://t.co/P6THdEpWV8
— Terry Matalas (@TerryMatalas) March 26, 2022
There were a series of (non-canon) novels by Greg Cox that reimagined the 1990s where the Eugenics Wars were happening behind the scenes, but it appears the Picard team decided it’s best to just fudge with the numbers a bit so the Eugenics Wars didn’t happen in the 1990s, so they don’t need to be addressed in the 2024 seen on the show.
And there is a possible way out of this canon conundrum, as suggested by Prodigy executive producer Aaron Waltke: Perhaps the exact timing of the Eugenics Wars was changed during the Temporal Cold War from Star Trek: Enterprise.
There’s also the ripples of the Temporal Cold War shifting the Prime Timeline in Enterprise — at least until the Temporal Accords put an end to that wibbly wobbliness.
— Aaron J. Waltke (@GoodAaron) March 26, 2022
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