Star Trek: Picard The Watcher - ICE As Villains & A Punk Rock Return
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Star Trek: Picard The Watcher – ICE As Villains And A Punk Rock Return

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BY March 25, 2022

In the latest episode of Star Trek: Picard a landmark franchise return happens. In an early scene in the episode, two characters are riding a bus while some familiar punk rock music plays. Kirk Thatcher, who played the punk rock kid neck-pinched by Spock in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, reprises his role in Picard. As the song blares “I Still hate you,” Jeri Ryan’s Seven of Nine asks him to cut the noise. With a quick grasp of his neck, he complies. Of course, in this episode of Star Trek: Picard, titled “The Watcher,” the villains of the episode are ICE, meaning those found in the real-world. Yes, the US Department of Homeland Security, specifically Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. Star Trek has always been about real-world politics, yet this could be the most direct critique from the franchise yet.

Before we get into spoilers, it’s clear to me at least, why Paramount brought in 12 Monkeys showrunner Terry Matalas (who, in turn, brought in writers from that series). The appearance of Kirk Thatcher’s punk is not the only person in the past Jean-Luc (and fans) will recognize. The 12 Monkeys series is known both for its strict time-travel rules and the way the winding, twisting narrative forms a perfect loop. This is a lot more complex a mission than just popping back to the 1980s to rescue some whales. Things are getting complicated, especially as the titular Watcher finally meets up with Picard (and is another recognizable Star Trek face.)

Still, the real villains of this episode are ICE, and what may seem like dystopic fiction tropes is actually a fairly accurate representation of modern US immigration policy.

Spoilers to follow.

How the Watcher Ties into Star Trek: Picard and ICE as the Villains

Picard and Young Guinan Image by Trae Patton via Paramount+

Thanks to a very narratively convenient instance of the transporter in Rios’ ship working, Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard is sent to the coordinates Allison Pill’s Jurati took from the mind of Annie Wersching’s Borg Queen. These coordinates bring him to an addres: 10 Forward Avenue. A delighted Picard goes to reunite with Guinan for the first time, played as younger by Ito Aghayere. (Fun fact: This is the second actor to play young Guinan, after Isis J. Jones in the TNG episode “Rascals.” Jones also played young Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act, released that same year.)

However, unlike the wise and patient Guinan Jean-Luc is familiar with, this younger version is burnt-out and disgusted with humanity. In part, she is disgusted with the xenophobia still prevalent in Picard’s past and our present and near-future. At the end of the last episode, Santiago Cabrera’s Cris Rios was detained by ICE. In this episode, he’s locked up and brutalized by a particularly sadistic ICE officer. Throughout the episode characters speak of ICE’s penchant for making people disappear. They are deported out of the US with no paper trail nor any legal representation. (This is, unfortunately, not all that far from how ICE really treats the human beings in their care.)

Next week, we’re sure to see a big jailbreak. But in “The Watcher,” the villains of Star Trek: Picard are not the Borg nor Q but ICE and, to a lesser extent, the police. In fact, Picard himself does what Star Trek often does when talking about how closed-minded and repugnant present-day America can be in the eyes of a Federation officer. Picard, like many Star Trek captains before him, tries to appeal to Guinan about the capability for redemption in the human species.

A Punk Rock Legend Returns to Star Trek, And Other Familiar Faces

Star Trek: Picard The Watcher ICE villains punk rock return Image by Trae Patton via Paramount+

In “The Watcher,” Guinan is not the only Star Trek legend to return in Picard. Kirk Thatcher reprises his role as “punk rock guy on a bus with a boombox” listening to a very familiar song. While not the same punk rock jam as in Star Trek IV, it is very similar and the singer assures the listener that he still hates “you.” Yet, when he was admonished by Seven of Nine, he appears to have learned his lesson about community spaces and loud music. (Though you have to respect his commitment to the boombox life in the age of streaming and digital music.) Also, last time genre fans saw Thatcher with a boombox was not in Star Trek but in Spider-Man: Homecoming standing next to the “Do a flip!” guy.

There are two big reveals in this episode. First, the Watcher it seems is Laris, the Romulan housekeeper and potential romantic interest introduced in the first season of Star Trek: Picard. Her ears are rounded, like a humans, so it may not be that this person is the same one that Picard knows. It could also mean that Laris was never actually a Romulan refugee but rather someone on Earth meant to protect the destiny of someone important. That someone appears to be the blond woman at the end of the episode, being watched over not by Laris but by John De Lancie’s Q.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Sidebar:

This unidentified woman is reading a Dixon Hill novel, of TNG holodeck fame. It’s the second time in the episode that character was mentioned. The novel, titled The Pallid Son is by Tracy Torme – a TNG writer who left the series in the second season over creative differences. Also, the title may be a reference to Tom Noonan’s villain The Pallid Man from 12 Monkeys who dressed very much like the figure on the book’s cover.

More importantly, however, is that Q appears to try to do some of his sci-fi magic on her, and it doesn’t work. Is Q stuck in the past and powerless? If so, that’s a very interesting wrinkle and another suggestion that the two major antagonists – him and the Borg Queen – may have to work together with our heroes to fix time and get back home.

Star Trek: Picard debuts new episodes Thursdays on Paramount+.

Q snaps his fingers Image by Trae Patton via Paramount+

What did you think of “The Watcher” episode of Star Trek: Picard and do you agree that ICE were the real villains in this this episode? Did you recognize the punk rock guy from Star Trek IV? Also, what other 12 Monkeys easter eggs did you series addicts find? Share your thoughts, theories, and reactions in the comments below.

Featured image by Trae Patton via Paramount+

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Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book of superhero short stories, Tales of Adventure & Fantasy: Book One is available as an ebook or paperback from Amazon.

   

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