‘Star Trek: Picard’ Season 3 Showrunner Confirms Details About The Season Villains

The fourth episode of Star Trek: Picard’s third season had a few big moments, and showrunner Terry Matalas has been following up to add some insight.

Changelings from the hand to the bucket

One of the creepiest moments in episode 4 featured the villain Vadic cutting off her own hand to communicate with a new character who appears to be her superior. Her hand transformed and was used to communicate with what was credited as “The Face.” It had already been revealed that Changelings were part of the plot driving the season, with Changeling characters appearing on the Titan and on M’Talas Prime with Worf and Raffi.

The episode 4 scene with Vadic appeared to confirm that she, too, is a Changeling, but some fans thought maybe that wasn’t the case and this was just some kind of weird function of her hand, or maybe just her hand was a Changeling. Terry Matalas made it clear in a tweet that Vadic is indeed a changeling…

He confirmed Vadic’s gang are also changelings. We have yet to see any of them remove their masks, and there are theories out there they could be a new kind of Jem’Hadar or maybe even Breen (mask-wearing aliens who aligned with the Founders during the Dominion War). As for who she was communicating with, the jury is still out on if “The Face” is another changeling or something else.

They’re all Changelings

A few fans (and TrekMovie’s review) picked up on another aspect of episode 4 regarding Changelings, specifically why the one that took over as Ensign Foster on the USS Titan had a bucket that was an exact replica of Odo’s, even though that was presumably of Cardassian or Bajaron design. In this case, Matalas didn’t have a specific answer but (jokingly) promised that there would be a comic miniseries that will explain this Changeling’s backstory and bucket.

Why Changelings and not “Conspiracy” bugs

A popular theory that started even before the season began was that the main villains were going to follow up the story from the TNG season 1 episode “Conspiracy”

In an interview with Collider, Matalas explained why he preferred going with the shapeshifters:

They were the perfect villain because they can look like any anybody, and there’s an episode around the midpoint where it is absolutely critical, where you’re not sure if the person sitting across from you is a changeling or not, and the only way that you can know is to have an emotional catharsis with that person. It gives you such incredible drama. And it wouldn’t have worked… I do like the conspiracy bugs, I did consider for a hot minute, the conspiracy bugs. The issue with the conspiracy bugs is they kill their host. So that would mean anyone that you saw with a bug in them was dead, and you wouldn’t be able to do the paranoia thriller that you wanted to do if it was somebody you loved, that meant they were dead. So there [were] about three storylines I couldn’t do without killing legacy characters.

Keep your eye out for more Changelings

Changeling history on The Ready Room

The new episode of the official Star Trek aftershow features a segment all about the history of Changelings on DS9…

The third and final season of Picard premiered on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023, exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S., and Latin America, and on February 17 Paramount+ in Europe and elsewhere, with new episodes of the 10-episode-long season available to stream weekly. It also debuted on Friday, Feb. 17 internationally on Amazon Prime Video in more than 200 countries and territories. In Canada, it airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave.

Keep up with news about the Star Trek Universe at TrekMovie.com

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My money is on the Pah-wraiths. Maybe reincarnated Dukat? Imagine! Would be epic. Its probably not though hehe

My thoughts as well. Pah-wraiths indwelling Changelings??

Where are people getting this idea from

The hand was a cool effect and used to show the viewers that she (or they?) is/are a changeling. But it doesn’t make sense inside the Star Trek Universe. Why does she/they need to seperate from each other to communicate when they share their thoughts anyway? Just some minor nitpicking…

Read the twitter thread. Matalas basically responds to that question with “why indeed…”

Maybe it’s a changling with dissociative identity disorder, sort of like a Jekyll and Hyde thing- the Jekyll persona is one, the Hyde one is the part which got cut off- making it look like a “communication” but rather being a more literal visualization of DID.

Hi, I have DID. I was trying not to admit that but here I am. 😮‍💨 It’s a fair comparison but at the same time I just hope not.

Hi, I have a couple friends with DID and I just wanted to say I hope you are able to manage and receive the therapy you need to have a comfortable/enjoyable life. Only reason I proposed DID as a possible thing for this show is, in a weird way, I feel like raising mainstream pop culture awareness of it would help get more eyes on things to help my friends and others with DID.

All that said- if it turns out to be something kind of DID-ish I hope they handle it well and researched it well. If not… I just hope no one in the show even utters the out dated term, “Multiple Personality Disorder.”

Vadic could be a whole link in and of itself.

Maybe they’re Yuuzhan Vong!

Since Star Wars is done with them, Star Trek can do wonders with them!

I can’t be the only one who thought that when we saw The Face.

I always knew that Thrawn was secretly an Andorian.

It is a type of encryption by chageling’s tissue.

All right, now that we’ve established Vadic and her masked crew are changelings, I want to see everyone’s bucket…

Hey, that’s like asking to see someone’s underwear. Not cool.

Now I want to see a Lower Decks scene that shows a changeling bucket auction. “Next we have the Boreth crystal encrusted temporal bucket! See your future as you sleep! It can be yours for only 10 bars of gold pressed latinum!”

Funny, my first impression from the top photo was ‘Vadic is holding the Dark Saber.” Then on the heels of that, ‘Whoops, wrong franchise.’ It’s a good time to be a sci-fi fan…

Well, since Vadic is using Yuuzhan Vong biotechnology to communicate, why couldn’t she find the Dark Saber? 😉

Terry either has forgotten or just didn’t do his Trek research properly but he is wrong about the conspiracy aliens. As Admiral Quinn survived being possessed by one of them.

Everyone survived until phasered to death in that episode. Otherwise dead people aren’t known to conspire too much.

On the other hand, the people being mind-controlled in “Conspiracy” had numerous tells, not the least of which was their feeding habits. No one needed to conduct blood tests to see who was who.

They also said very specifically in the episode that the parasite could not be removed without killing the patient. So yes, it is possible for a host to survive, but it’s not as simple as “they all survive” or “they all die.”

I took it as he survived because the Queen inside Remmick was killed.

That very well could be the case, too. I haven’t watched that one in a few years. For all the applause it gets, it’s really not a good episode, just a good idea.

I did rewatch Conspiracy before the season began.

The critical point was that they were a kind of hive-mind creature. The individual parasites were completely dependent on the Queen.

It was the precursor idea for the Borg. It was reportedly abandoned due to the cost of the special effects, but the fact that the episode was blocked from broadcast in certain markets due to its (for the time) excessive graphic violence.

The original story by Sabaroff (IMMUNITY SYNDROME) didn’t have aliens, it was 7 days in may within STarfleet, but of course that didn’t survive 80s-era GR. They had something very similar scripted for phase II as well that I’ve always wanted to read in full, though I think that one did have aliens pulling strings at end.

That’s a shame. Sounds like it had some real potential!

It’s been a long time since I watched “Conspiracy“, but I don’t remember the bugs killing their hosts.

Picard: Can you remove it?
Crusher: Not without killing the patient.

I did just look up the episode script:

PICARD: Never mind the details. Can you remove it?
CRUSHER [OC]: I don’t think so.


CRUSHER: Not without killing the patient. Captain.

But later in the same script they find out that killing the queen, kills all the bugs and they release without further harm to their victims.

What’s not clear is the maximum range that the smaller parasites must stay within in relation to their queen. Tracking down the queen isn’t straightforward either, unless one of the smaller parasites leads you right to the host – which is what happened in the TNG episode.

All of which would seem to similar to hunts for Borg queens in previous episodes across several shows.

We are now in a storyline looking for the mastermind leader, but it’s not likely to be the queen of a hive mind.

I remembered admiral Quinn surviving

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. They’re not the villains of this story. To harp on it now just feels like an excuse to pick on Matalas for not remembering the minute detail of a larger detail of a 35 year old episode that was pretty terrible to begin with.

Actually I know many fans that loved the episode Conspiracy so to each their own.

Yep, it’s one of the strongest of season 1’s episodes. Theirs a reason fans have been clamouring for a follow up all these years – because it’s good.

Yes, to each their own. It’s one of the stronger S1 episodes, but it’s still very bad. It’s an interesting idea, but poorly executed, with woefully lame dialogue and inexplicable plot holes, bad acting, pathetic stuntwork, and effects that were barely good enough for the day. It’s also worse than most of the Trek we’ve gotten since 2009.

Somehow, it’s tricked people into thinking its good simply because it’s not as bad as the rest of the season. Probably because it is, at its core, a good concept.

For every miss (Vulcan badly played, some dialog, the phaser beam that C R A W L S across frame), there are still a lot of hits. The mood of the thing is still very effective — it’s one of the only TNG eps I ever bother to rewatch. I wish they could have done an arc, not that it was a thing back then.

Personally, I see it as a strong idea that they failed executing. In the reverse, you have an episode like Genesis: a bad idea executed well.

I sometimes think those two ideas, mashed together, could have been interesting. A late-series episode where Picard and Data return to find everyone acting strangely, only to discover the parasites, and they have to develop a way to remove them without harming the crew. As the parasites realize what they’re trying to do, they turn on them.

For starters, I also never liked the idea that the parasites wanted to take over the federation. Felt more like a Marvel comic than Star Trek at the time, when Trek had never done anything like that, really (oddly enough it’s the kind of idea that those who hate modern Trek usually pick on).

Instead, I wondered, what if the parasites were just that: just mindless organisms acting on instinct… they had no intention of taking anything over, they just needed host bodies to survive. So the crew continues operating, but perhaps the parasites sap them of their personalities, turning them into emotionless puppets. But not sinister ones, only becoming a threat when Picard/Data try to remove them.

Idk, the original idea as-is always seemed only vaguely interesting to me at best. Again, better than anything else in Season 1, though.

The ‘mindless organism’ aspect you mention kinda reminds me of the Trek novel PRIME DIRECTIVE, where you find out there wasn’t a traditional baddie basis for the triggering of a planetwide nuke war, but just a mindless critter-mass — one that may, if I remember correctly, date back to around the time of the big bang — that goes around the universe seeding nuke destruction so that it has some radioactive cotton candy to feast on afterward.

Up till that point, PD was very near to being my favorite Trek novel, right up there with THE FINAL REFLECTION and THE WOUNDED SKY, but the ending really kind of tainted the thing, so now I only read the book in sections and always skip the resolution.

Back on TNG s1 for a moment, I still think that there’s something in SYMBIOSIS that could have been distinctly memorable if it had been handled with greater sophistication. As it stands, it does have the nice stinger/downer ending, but very little preceding that amounts to much. I tried watching FARPOINT recently, first time in decades, and had a hard time staying awake, so I can’t say time or a higher-rez image has made me feel any gentler about it.

Yes, you heard AP— the episode is “very bad”. Art isn’t subjective and your opinion is wrong. Please correct yourself. /s

Everyone is allowed their own opinion, and mine is that no matter how much people might like it, it’s very bad. I’ve been shouted down multiple times for defending Picard S2 as “not complete garbage…” but please feel free to be sarcastic! Spice of life and all that.


I never read a lot of Trek novels, but that sounds much like what I was talking about. Kind of like the episode The Loss, where the creatures are just acting on instinct.

I agree about Symbiosis, too. A strong concept- there’s something there that’s compelling, but let down by typical Season 1 nonsense. Poor script, bad acting, etc. Home Soil is another that had has a vaguely interesting concept that, with a better script, could have been a good episode.

Again though, I don’t hold the writers responsible for bad scripts, particularly back then. In addition to the crunch of churning out 26 stories a year, there’s the studio mandates, network limitations, and of course, Gene Roddenberry.

HOME SOIL is I believe credited to Sabaroff, the same guy who originated CONSPIRACY and gets sole credit on TOS IMMUNITY SYNDROME (tho I’ll bet credits to navy beans that Gene Coon rewrote a hunk o it.) I guess he had a serious science background.

I often wonder if TNG s1 would have produced higher quality fare if they had run out of time to rewrite the stories into the ground … sometimes I figure the reason s3 — probably the only season that I think in large part works — succeeds as well as it does is because they didn’t have the time to rewrite everything.

They also didn’t have Gene Roddenberry, and DID have Michael Piller, who became showrunner that year. I think that is the biggest difference.

On a gut level, I agree with you. But then I remember how Piller alienated Melinda Snodgrass, who was arguably the best writer on staff carried over from s2. For all the enormous good he did over the next several years, his utter gutting of THE HIGH GROUND — which I believe might have had the potential to be on the level of Q WHO or ERRAND OF MERCY — and THE ENSIGNS OF COMMAND seems unforgivable.

I know I’d have never gotten into pitch at TNG without his instituting that open-submission policy … I had tried all sorts of things trying to get stuff read there during s1, even (in obvious desperation) mailing material to the home address of a story editor, which is a form of cheating I still have a hard time believing I could delude myself into thinking was acceptable behavior. I don’t think I even heard about the open-submission policy till reading about it in CINEFANTASTIQUE, so I didn’t start sending stuff till late summer 1990 and didn’t get an invitation to pitch till November, on my third spec script.

The pitch experience wound up a bust for me (though a part of me thinks that if Piller hadn’t been called out of the meeting to deal with GR over REDEMPTION, causing me to get shunted to Jeri Taylor, that ‘all of history might have been changed’), but my main takeaway — to embrace journalism while also trying to get back into making my own zero-budget films — was the wrong one …

I should have finished and submitted a spec to DS9 a couple years later, because I had a crackerjack notion of exploring the bounceback of Starfleet on Bajoran culture … namely, that you’d have a small group of techno-zealots who are so all about high frontier/bold going that they get themselves exiled from Bajor for being heretics, and they carve out an existence on a comet (probably the one on the opening credits … that, coupled with an odd random thought about Dianetics, is probably what gave me the idea), a la some hard sci-fi from Larry Niven I had once read. I thought it could be an interesting look at contamination (like root beer, if you look ahead a few years) as well as a commentary on the way Trek infects fans with a worldview. C’est la vie, I guess.

The bucket was not an exact replica of Odo’s. It was similar, but not an exact recreation. We get to see both in the episode.

Obviously, using Odo’s bucket was just meant as an in-joke for fans. Nothing more to read into it.

It’s also just one of those things that doesn’t need scrutiny. They regenerate in a container, does it matter that it looks similar to Odo’s? No.

Scrutiny, no. A chuckle of recognition and then move on.

Exactly! I used to love being a fan in the days when little stuff like this was FUN. Coming up with little justifications in your head because at the end of the day, nitpicks didn’t matter… they were exciting when you spotted one, not a reason to hate something, or a barrier to enjoyment.

It’s STILL fun for me!

The bucket thing was probably just the changeling dude finding the data Starfleet had on Odo, and asking the replicator to make that same(ish) bucket. Easy done.

I figure they need the bucket when they have to retain the same form repeatedly. Without the bucket it might take them longer to regenerate where they can hold a fixed form. That completely explains why Odo would want to retain his shape, and in this case why Fauxster did the same. He couldn’t afford long regeneration times…

I like that!
Since Odo no longer used the bucket eventually, he must’ve spent more time as uncontained goo, in addition to the time he spent trying different forms.

Good for him though! Before that, it seems like he’s almost *always* on duty while humanoid.

ETA: Or maybe he discovered that wasn’t as “restful” and either replicated a new bucket or a new flowerpot.

I said pah wraiths were involved a few weeks ago, I still think that is the case….time for the emissary to re-emerge…

The best deterrent for Shiffffttteeerrrsss is a good Bajoran mob.

I wonder when we’ll find out the head villain is that goo that killed Tasha in skin of evil.

He was gonna let it go until Mariner prank called him.

Personally I’m doubting him there about Vadic and her gang but before anyone is like but his word is law, 1. I’m gonna wait and see. 2. He could be lying.

Their thing about not harming other Founders could have been thrown out by them in universe already. That’s not why I’m doubting it. I’m doubting it because if this is a group that wanted to stay the same as before they lost the war, then them doing all of their own dirty work seems unlikely but possible, I will admit. And I’m making a big assumption there with that. On the other hand, that means that any more Vorta and Jem’Hadar aren’t being hurt by their bs.

I know there’s a tendency to doubt network folk because they so often flat-out lie, guys like Matalas and James Gunn for example, seem fairly straight forward, and I would tend to believe them.

If he is to be believed, it sounds like these Changelings have changed a lot since DS9, and if that’s the case I would guess it’s due to their having not been a part of the Great Link for so long.

Okay you can believe him, I’ll just still wait and see.

When I wrote this comment, their reasoning for being anti-Federation isn’t known. Nor is how long that they’ve been away from the rest. Wanting things to stay the same is a reasonable guess but I’ll just have to wait and see. Maybe more Vorta and Jem’Hadar aren’t being hurt by their bs because Odo and the ones loyal to him blocked them from making and/or taking any.

What’s up with the ever-changing Changelings? On Discovery in the 31st century they’re shapeshifting sand and on Picard they’re pasty beige flesh mixed with blood. Changelings are usually an orange or pewter liquid.

Considering they are not solid, and can change states — we have seen them become fog and even fire — there’s no reason they can’t alter that. Preferring more goo at one time, meat-like slime another, then sand, assuming we need an explanation.

Best guess for Discovery? Alternate timeline / universe: Prime, Kelvin, Discovery.

As for the Changelings on Picard, i think there’s more to it than a visual upgrade.

Except it’s not. No matter how much the fanboys want DSC to be. It’s prime.

Seriously, can’t believe people are still trying to suggest that Discovery is an alternate timeline. Of course, maybe if they yell about it enough, the powers that be will make it so, because they are so easily bullied by fans…

Seriously, I can’t believe people are still trying to suggest that Discovery is not an alternate timeline.
If it does not walk like a duck, and it does not talk like a duck, it is not a duck.
I don’t think ‘the powers that be’ are claiming that anymore; there is no longer a business need for it. Paramount/CBS/Viacom/whatever is all one big happy family now. They have embraced the multiverse.

Prime and prime! What is prime!

Was the one on Discovery called a Changeling of a shapeshifter?

I’m guessing the mastermind behind all this is that guy who pulled out all the isolinear chips and played with them. He’s pure evil.

Engineer Shimoda?! It all makes sense, now!

That’s the guy!

“These are control chips!”

I loved her hair. :)

I have a theory that works for the bucket. The bucket was shown on a PADD as an example of what a changeling (Odo) used to regenerate. So the founder would have come onboard without one, gone to his replicator and replicated whatever the federation had in its records for that…would have been the same one shown as the example on the PADD.

One Changeling Regeneration Bucket, please. Wait you don’t log these requests do you?

The hand thing is something different, but Matalas knows his Star Trek and his writing in this episode gives me confidence that it will fit in very nicely with established lore. He just killed it with little details like the Holodeck having independent power, or the way he absolutely eviscerated the season 2 finale making fun of the “weird s**t on the (new) Stargazer.”

Haven’t had confidence in a Star Trek show like this since…since….since DS9, to be honest.

Eviscerate? He was part of it. All they did was address that there are other Borg out there, the ones that killed almost everyone at Wolf 359.

The changeling just stole the garbage can out of Lt. Mura’s quarters. Lol.

I forget – did they give a definitive origin for the bucket? Could it have been what he was found in? If not, maybe it’s a habit Changelings picked up from Odo in the Great Link?

I’m explaining away the idea of Changelings using guns as just what rebels would do if they want to be different (especially if it’s to defy Odo who never carried a weapon) and also not let on their true nature.

Could Vadic be more than one Changeling? Could she be a composite of multiple Changelings in a mini link, hence cutting off her hand?

LOL, that’s what I just replied to another commentor before I saw this.

Heh. Great minds.

Vadic’s hand is Redjac. I’ve just got a feeling about this…

It’s so cool Vadic is a changeling. This character is really interesting and we still don’t have a clue why they are so focused on Jack specifically. Everything about this season is shaping up in fantastic form and this season is probably the best Trek since DS9 or at least VOY for me.

I’m kinda curious to what y’all think of the new Changeling liquid state VFX. To me it looks like liquid flesh (with red and white bits) and therefore I don’t really like it. The whole point of the Changelings for me is the fact they are NOT flesh, so them looking like flesh is kinda weird. I prefered the gel-like effect. I get that they want/need to update the DS9 effects (mostly because they can), but I would’ve made a different choise.

This is not me bitching about Picard. This is just a little thing to me, but I’m curious about what you guys think.

I agree with you. I miss the goo days of the DS9 ones.

Seconded! :)

Disagree. I think the new VFX are astounding, and I prefer them. The goo in DS9 was barely fine for the day, the result of a low budget for CGI.

That said, Matalas has implied on Twitter that changes to the Changelings may be story-related.

You misread my post. It was not about the quality of the effect, it was about the look of the goo substance.

Yep My money is on Dukat, that monster in the dish looked very familiar. The changlins are being held hostage by the pah wraiths. This is how The Emmissary will be reintroduced

Good point about the bugs. Changelings do make more sense if you don’t want to go around killing everybody.

Also, it’s seeming more likely that these Changelings might be others that were sent out into the galaxy like Odo.

My theory that the nebula was the formation of the Pah-Wraith Wormhole similar to the novel that creates a second wormhole near DS9. But alas, it was a jellyfish egg.

Why does she smoke, then? Dramatic effect?

I was thinking that Vadic’s henchmen were the Jem’Hadar but them being Breen makes more sense due to the way they talk. I would assume if they were changelings as well, they would be able to speak and none of them have shape shifted. I think the face is a Pah-Wraith. Maybe they eliminated the Prophets.