For the new episode of Star Trek: Picard (“Watcher“), the producers decided to take a deep dive into franchise lore by (briefly) bringing back an immediately recognizable character from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. TrekMovie spoke exclusively to showrunner Terry Matalas and actor Kirk Thatcher about the return of The Punk on The Bus.
Bus Punk on Picard
In the scene immediately following the credits, Seven and Raffi are riding a bus in 2024 Los Angeles and there is a punk listening to a loud boombox, singing along to punk rock. This particularly annoys Seven, who asks him to shut it off. After thinking about it and grasping his neck, he agrees and apologizes.
Franchise fans probably remember a very similar scene in the 1986 film The Voyage Home, when Kirk and Spock have to deal with a punk on the bus who wouldn’t shut off his music until Spock did it for him after a neck pinch. And it is the same exact punk, played by Kirk Thatcher. You can watch the original scene below.
Bringing back the Punk
Speaking to TrekMovie, executive producer and co-showrunner Terry Matalas revealed the whole thing was his idea:
Matalas: It was one of the first things I had pitched actually. We loved the idea that maybe this guy migrated from San Francisco to Los Angeles at some point. Now technically, Star Trek IV wouldn’t have happened in this alternate timeline, but maybe SOME part of him remembers his encounter with Spock in the Prime Timeline. And it made me chuckle that he’d go up against Seven of Nine. I reached out to Kirk right away, who was absolutely game to return.
As for Kirk, he tells TrekMovie he had actually been expecting this:
Thatcher: I texted Terry back and I said, “What took so long?” And we had a laugh. I met with him and I said I’d love to do it, and that was pretty much it. I was happy. I love that role. It’s probably the most famous thing I’m known for. So, it was great.
According to Matalas, the whole process of recreating the character, including the look, was simple:
Matalas: It was one of the easiest things to come together actually. Kirk is a wonderful working director — have you seen his work with the Muppets?! So, making sure he was available was probably the biggest stress. But Kirk had a great take on what our Punk would look like now. It’s perfect.
As noted by Matalas, Thatcher mainly works behind the scenes in Hollywood as a writer, producer and director, mostly working with puppets. In fact, he was an associate producer on Star Trek IV, which is how he got the job as the Punk. He still works a voice actor, and he says for Picard, it was easy getting back into character, plus this time he got to add a little something too:
Thatcher: It was just really about chewing gum and bopping along to a song that was playing in my head. At least this time, I kind of knew what the song was. I was very appreciative of the silliness of the role and how iconic it was. So yeah, it was just kind of a big giggle fest. Everyone had fun. And it was fun to play him again, just sort of that angry guy. But this time, of course, I backed down from flipping them off. So that was the interesting turn. And I actually got a line, which I did not, originally. It was just an ad-lib. I was like, “Sorry, I just liked that song,” which seemed kind of funny on two different levels.
Kirk also revealed that he had a sort of reunion on set with the director:
Thatcher: Shooting the scene was great. We were on an actual bus driving down the street in the north of Los Angeles. And Jeri [Ryan] was there, and the great part was Lea Thompson, directing, who I’ve met professionally over the years three or four times starting back on Howard the Duck, and we had mutual friends. So it was a fun little reunion to see her and find out she was directing me. And it was great. It was fun. The crew was there and lots of pictures were taken. I got a picture with the number of people and the cast was great.
I STILL Hate You!
For Star Trek IV, Thatcher had composed and sang the song “I Hate You.” Matalas was delighted with Thatcher’s idea for the follow-up:
Matalas: We had to decide what he’d be playing on his beyond-dated boom box. Kirk pitched “What if it’s I STILL HATE YOU?” and sent me the lyrics. And I laughed harder than I probably should have. It’s maybe my favorite gag from Season 2.
If you listen closely in Picard you can notice the update, and Thatcher offered some more insights into the new song:
Thatcher: It was funny, the original version I wrote really quickly. This time I kind of had a model to base it on… So the lyrics are essentially the same kind of rhythm song and music. And the lyrics are: “35 years later and nothing much has changed. Those in charge of living large, the rest are all deranged. I still hate you. Can’t wait to eviscerate you”… And so on, and so forth. And I don’t think you hear it, but it does end with the opposite of “Peace, live long, and prosper.” It’s “Make war, die young, and fail.” So again, very nihilistic.
Kirk was even able to reconstruct most of the original band to record the song, which included Mark Magnini (guitar) and Aron Glascock (drums), who worked in the sound department on Star Trek IV, with Mark’s son rounding out the band.
Picard loves the ’80s
For Terry, bringing back the Punk was another way he has been celebrating his love for the franchise, especially for TOS movies:
Matalas: This was just a fun wink—a way to bring a little of that 1986 nostalgia to a new thing. I personally probably would’ve done a lot more of these had they let me! Voyage Home had such an incredible tone. It’s broad but it still holds up. It would’ve been fun to lean into that more with Picard and the gang. I love our Punk and his dedication to being a menace to public transportation in Southern California. I want to see him again. Maybe in another 10 years in San Diego?
As for Kirk, the experience was a bit full circle:
Thatcher: It was just great to be asked to do it. I mean that that role has been such a big part of my life and the fans have been so supportive of it and turned it into memes and all. It was great to revisit it 35 years later and still have enough hair to get some semblance of a mohawk with a lot more hair on my face. It was just a blast and another little notch in the belt of fun gigs I’ve had over the years.
Kirk also shared the Punk’s “love” today on social media, remaining in character of course.
"Guess who's back? Back again! Punk on Bus. Tell a friend!"
LLAP – Live Long And Punk!!#Picard #picardseason2#punkonthebus#dejavu #startrek #cameo #istillhateyou #LLAP #livelongandpunkrock pic.twitter.com/uzpl9OM7Ra
— Kirk R Thatcher – Monsters, Muppets, Tiki 🐸🐷😂 (@KirkThatcher) March 24, 2022
More to come
Every Friday, the TrekMovie.com All Access Star Trek Podcast covers the latest news in the Star Trek Universe and discusses the latest episode. The podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Stitcher and is part of the TrekMovie Podcast Network.
New episodes of Star Trek: Picard premiere on Thursdays on Paramount+ in the U.S. and on Fridays where Paramount+ is available around the world. In Canada, it airs on CTV Sci-Fi Channel on streams on Crave on Thursdays. Picard is also available on Fridays on Amazon Prime Video around the world.
Keep up with all the Star Trek: Picard news and analysis.
This was one of my favorite scenes in the episode!
That says a lot about the episode, sadly
Your response says an awful lot about you! Go elsewhere, pls and ty!
I loved this Awesome.
As soon I heard the music I was excited. I love everything star trek. I love that there is so much now. And S2 of Picard is awesome.
Now THIS IS Star Trek! Picard season 2 writers are on point with everything Star Trek, not just TNG references. That cameo was EPIC!! Not to forget Sulu’s warp factor shout outs from the previous episode. Cheers 🥂
The absolute best thing about this season is that it’s moving! Each episode moves the story forward, stuff happens, and I feel like we’re getting somewhere, with each episode bringing us closer to a finish line. The characters are fun, the story engaging, and i’m eager to watch each new episode.
No, the season isn’t perfect. But it’s probably the best season of Trek in decades, going all the way back to Deep Space Nine Season 7.
Star Trek references?
This was a really fun gag. Didn’t realize they went so far as to hire the original actor for it (and do an update to the lyrics too)! Lol, very well done.
Yeah, the funny thing is I thought “is that the same guy? nahh, doesn’t look anything like what he looks like now!” (he had appeared in Spider-Man: Homecoming a few years ago).
I should have checked the credits!
I don’t get why this couldn’t be the same universe. as long as it’s before the big split, the federation still exists, kirk still goes back in time, whales still get rescued, big probe still goes away.
now, after “the split” the time displacement ripples would affect it, but not before
Yeah, I have the same question.
Because future Kirk no longer exists to go back in time. Right now, the future that exists is the future of the Confederation. Presumably, that’s also why Guinan doesn’t remember Picard from Time’s Arrow.
It’s confusing as heck, because would it be a different 2024, even before the divergence, if Kirk hadn’t gone back or if Time’s Arrow hadn’t happened etc etc?
But the Guinan not *immediately* knowing Picard stuff is starting to make sense to me. It also explains, maybe, why she’s so down on humanity here (ex. Data did mention that they serve on a starship in the future, maybe that gave her hope during especially bleak times on Earth in that timeline — but here she doesn’t have that).
It’s interesting that even the actor playing Guinan had questions about Time’s Arrow (she grew up watching TNG).
“It’s confusing as heck, because would it be a different 2024, even before the divergence, if Kirk hadn’t gone back or if Time’s Arrow hadn’t happened etc etc?” Yeah, but luckily in these instances the differences shouldn’t be major enough to make a difference here. The fate of some whales and whether Devidians drained a few more people in the 1800s would probably make minimal difference to 2024 LA. Of course if it really is supposed to negate most of the time travel we’ve seen across the years, I’m sure we could think of some bigger problems.
“Because future Kirk no longer exists to go back in time. Right now, the future that exists is the future of the Confederation. Presumably, that’s also why Guinan doesn’t remember Picard from Time’s Arrow.”
That doesn’t seem right to me. As Aztek Dummy points out, what’s taking place in these episodes is *before* the event that effs everything up. If Picard & co. are successful in preventing the event, history doesn’t change — it stays the same, and Picard and his crew have a future to return to. In the so-called Kelvin timeline, everything that happened before Nero’s incursion — Archer, the Xindi — is still canon. Doesn’t that apply here as well?
Kirk came from after the change though. Think of it this way. Right now, if Picard were to travel back to the future, he would still end up in the Confederation timeline. Right now, that is the future.
This is the big problem. With the Kelvinverse, the people running it said, it’s divergent timeline, everything before it is the same. This is different. Q didn’t create a new timeline, he altered it. There is no branch. So basically, with the Kelvinverse, you have one past, but two futures. That’s divergence. So if Kirk prime goes back to save the whales, Kirk Kelvin could technically also show upl. You theoretically could have two Kirks from two different futures, but one past. (I know.. I know…). In this case, Q went back and changed the past, so everything is different and our displaced crew has to “fix it”. If it were like the Kelvinverse, they’d just need to find a way to get back to their future, not an alternate one. For this scene, the punk rocker may not have encountered Kirk and Spock in Q’s altered timeline, doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist in this timeline and couldn’t happen to be on the bus with Seven and Raffia. Ultimately, it’s an in-joke and easy to go with, even as an independent event. Just enjoy it.
Interesting, thank you.
On a related note: It was a unique set of circumstances that made it possible for Kirk and his crew to save Earth from the whale probe: They were off-world when the probe arrived, Spock had just been re-educated and therefore knew the probe’s call was “the songs sung by whales,” and they had a ship with a cloaking device that made their subterfuge in 1986 possible. This set of circumstances is not likely to exist in the Kelvin timeline, but it doesn’t seem likely that anything about Nero’s incursion would keep the whale probe from showing up. I hope Spock Prime told them, “You guys had better haul ass back to the twentieth century and pick up some humpback whales if you know what’s good for you.”
Time travel always works the way it needs to work for the story to work, and when it would seem to directly conflict with other similar circumstances from previous episodes, series, or films,, forgiving fans get to rub discerning fans’ noses in Star Trek never having consistent time travel rules.
People are forgetting that in the future, the Confederation has a hand in destroying alien life. Entirely possible they wiped out the probe aliens, and destroyed Dividia II
I honestly think that Matalas got that wrong.
Well… either that or he just dropped a spoiler (namely that the divergence in the timeline had already occurred before that episode and not three days from it as they are presuming in the episode…)
One of many, great moments in this show. Picard season 2 is definitely firing on all thrusters.
The guy wasn’t recognizable. But the situation was. When I recognized the situation I just groaned. Mainly because I’m no fan of TVH in any way and found that movie to easily be the very worst of all Trek movies ever. Including the KU.
But I will say I’m pleased that it was acknowledged that due to the time shift there would be no time traveling Kirk. (one good thing about the new time line at least!) And that the moment was just a conceit.
Ha! I actually thought of you hating TVH when I saw the scene, ML, you’ve said it so many times. Thank you, Trekmovie! Connection is nice when done well.
You, hating a Trek movie about saving the environment? Say it ain’t so!
No, they could have had the same message without swinging a sledge hammer and it would have been more effective. I’m not liking the movie because there were a lot more problems with it that had nothing to do with the lame whale portion. A lot more. But you go ahead and make your baseless assumptions.
I have to say I don’t disagree. I don’t hate ST4, but it’s insanely overrated. Honestly, if I had to pick one TOS movie to excise from the list, it’d be a toss up between it and Final Frontier. I’d probably pick TVH mainly because it functions as the completion of the WoK/SfS saga, although Undiscovered Country would have worked for that it if had Saavik instead of Valeris.
I am aware I am in the minority on my opinion of TVH. I mean, at the time I was super jazzed to see it. I knew they were time traveling and I was still a big time travel fan then. They shot it near where I lived in SF and Monterey. I knew it was going to be more light hearted. Everything pointed to a fun time at the movies. And then… Ugh. That probe that went straight to talking to whales right off the bat it was just…. Dumb. Then we got characters not behaving like themselves and acting like the dumbest Star Fleet officers ever… I was embarrassed for Star Trek when I walked out of the theater. Truly. I have watched it about every 10 years to see if my perspective on it changes. There are other things I hated when I was younger that I appreciated better as I aged. But so far, this flick is just not one of them. TVH had zero positive moments. And none of the light hearted stuff landed at all. As bad as TFF was I prefer it as it at least has some good moments in it. And in a sense, I think in some ways Shatner may have a better sense of Trek than Nimoy does.
it was just as bit of fun after the drama of the other parts of the trilogy.
‘ That probe that went straight to talking to whales right off the bat ‘
because that was its primary mission.
‘Then we got characters not behaving like themselves and acting like the dumbest Star Fleet officers ever’
not the first time in the OS or other ‘trek’ involving going back to the 20th, 21st century.
It’s still overrated, IMHO. People hold it up like the pinnacle of Trek movies. While it was a fun tonal break from ST3, it doesn’t hold the test of time, at least for me. ST2 & 3 were way more meaningful in the long run, as was ST6. Final Frontier was a very flawed movie but overall I’d say it has about as many true “moments” as ST4. It just also suffered from budget problems, union sabotage, lack of executive support, and had the misfortune of being sandwiched between Indiana Jones and the first Batman. ST4 had maybe some pressure from Crocodile Dundee a month or so before, but much less in terms of competition from the same kind of audience.
Partly I think people put ST4 at a high status because it upholds the nonsensical “even-numbered Trek movies are better than odd ones.”
I know it was supposed to be lighter. I mentioned that already. And I was looking forward to that. Sadly nothing in it worked.
The point of the probe talking to the whales right off the bat set up the absurd main plot of the movie. Which didn’t help.
And when the crew time traveled before they knew where they were and didn’t act like complete buffoons.
kirk, spock and the others had never been to 1986 before so it was strange to them.
the probe was only interested restabilising contact with the planet’s highest form of intelligent life.
which were the whales.
They didn’t have to have been in 1986 before to know they were in a different time period and to act accordingly.
And the fact that the probe thought whales were the highest form of intelligence on Earth was ridiculous. How did whale songs travel though the vacuum of space? Why would a species as advanced as the probe makes be so callous towards the planet’s primary inhabitants? They were pretty much jerks if they were to just indiscriminately wipe humans off the fact of the Earth. That doesn’t seem very evolved to me. How about trying to find out what was going on?
I guess it fits the attempted comedic tone of the film but it reminded me of Douglas Adams’ So Long and Thanks for all the Fish. So it’s a gag that has been done before anyway. And done much better.
the probe realised that whales had been exterminated by mankind and responded in kind what they had done.
‘How did whale songs travel though the vacuum of space? ‘
the probe was approaching earth and checked for whale song when it arrived.
you missed the whole point that it was man’s foolishness in killing off all whales that set this in motion.
enlightened 23rd century folk like kirk and co were able to put things right.
This would’ve made a cool Super Bowl commercial to promote Picard.
Within the show, though, whew… kind of a bomb. The only question is how many megatons. ;-)
This character needs to get a Playmates Action Figure. Both versions!
Star Trek IV is my favorite TOS film and I was just happy and nostalgic and I’m having a blast this season. I got stupid excited hearing the punk song. Keep the trek coming P+. It’s an amazing ride.
I was living in Northern Calif. (San Jose) when ST IV hit the theaters, and shortly after the release (as I recall), the Monterey Bay Aquarium had a terrific display of several costumes, props, and miniatures from the film. The big Klingon Bird of Prey (about 6 ft. wingspan, I believe?), a smaller BoP suspended underneath a forced-perspective miniature of the Golden Gate Bridge, two mechanical whales with remote joystick control boxes, a section of the full-size whale that Spock swam next to, and a few other things I’ve forgotten. It was wonderful seeing those artifacts from the production! I took many still photos, and my good friend Steve shot video of the exhibit. It was fun!
I’ve gotta say, even though I found this episode to be kind of a filler, the TVH reference on the bus brought a smile to my face. So is THIS leading to the connection Picard and Guinan have? Well played.
Serious question… How would that lead to the Picard Guinan connection?
Absolutely bonkers. Love it.
When I watched STP tonight, of course I knew it was playing on the scene from ST:IV.
I didn’t realize it was the same actor though – well played!
Love that it’s the same actor!
Fun, but a direct reference more in line with something like ‘Lower Decks’. But hey, folks are happy; whatever.
Here’s the thing though. Lower Decks opened a door that can’t be closed. It gave Trek permission to be fun without taking itself and its mythos too seriously. Everything that is wrong with the Star Wars universe was set right in the Trek universe by Lower Decks. Give Mike McMahan credit where credit is due: Lower Decks gave Trek its lightness of being back.
Comedy and lightness in Trek existed long before Lower Decks. Really, it’s about finding the right tone and whether a joke or a reference undercuts the drama or breaks the reality. That “door” can easily be closed. Writers have to consider this with every scene.
Did it, though? I thought they already had permission to do that well before Lower Decks. And I don’t see Lower Decks doing that anyway. What they do is perform fan service and attempt to disguise them as jokes. Season 1 of The Orville already poked fun at Star Trek with amusing gags that actually worked. I just wish LDX was as clever.
Kirk Thatcher is also a writer on season 13 of Mystery Science Theater. He’s a busy guy!
When I saw his name in the credits of MST3K I was delighted. My universes collide. All is right with the world.
TVH is my guilty pleasure so I liked this (though I have come to accept that the DC Mirror Universe Saga was the better sequel). How I wish TVH had launched into Harve Benett/Meyer Trek being TNG but you could see the writing was on the wall with Saavik being absent that they weren’t going for it anymore.
This is cool and I always loved the fact that the actors name is “Kirk”. Of course it takes another Kirk to annoy all those people.
My favorite thing about this scene is that in an era with smartphones and bluetooth headphones, this idiot is still annoying everybody on the bus with his boombox.
That is kind of the point though, the guy is basically still stuck in the 80s but he does feel something is off so he becomes more polite here.
When the scene happened I knew immediately it was going to be a callback to TVH. But it took me a sec to realize not only was it a callback, but it was the same guy! And now I find out it was also the same actor, just fantastic.
If Seven asked the guy to turn the music down and he said something like, “What are you going to do, pinch my neck or something?” (not that anyone is suggesting they should have had him say that), that would definitely have been a case of “gilding the lily.” Or, in cruder terms, the equivalent of the writers’ essentially saying, “See, this is the same guy from The Voyage Home. Get it? GET IT?” A well-done “easter egg” is one (like this one) that’s there for the appreciation of the longtime fans, and if non-longtime fans don’t get the connection, it was still a valued effort.
I did commentary for Trek 4 if I recall/. Fun stuff, and and insoiration to Trek 09.
No spoiler, just the photo-! Oooo, tough guess! :-)
Oh, man! Here I sit, waiting until the DVDs/Blurays come out to see the episodes. Dang!
To be honest, I liked it… but this kind of homage would work better if Modern Trek didn’t jump at every opportunity for fan service.. but this is better than almost everything else these shows have done when it comes to fan service / nostalgia.
‘ah, the giants…’
Good – if a tad preachy – episode. That scene was certainly one of the bright spots in what has been a great season so far!
Loved it but let’s be honest, there are no boom boxes in 2024. Should have made it a Bluetooth speaker. 😂
I think making it the same boombox just made the scene funnier.
Antique collector punk. Old turntables are actually in demand again.
That was GOLD!
Did you guys also catch the sound of the Rio’s ship cloaking – another nice/surprising callback to TOS movies. Damn good ep. I thought :)
So — just to be clear — the Punk on the Bus (an ordinary human) pseudo-remembers getting neck-pinched by Spock on a bus in an alternate timeline.
But Guinan (an El-Aurian so perceptive she could not only recognize an alternate timeline no one else noticed, but even identified that timeline’s Tasha Yar as someone who died before they were ever supposed met and *recalled specifics about her death*) does NOT psuedo-remember Jean-Luc Picard, who saved her life in an intense, multi-day, incredibly memorable encounter in the 1890s of that same alternate timeline?
That neck pinch was so traumatic, that every version of that punk throughout the multiverse pseudo-remembers it.
Spock and his neck-pinch is so powerful that it transcends all universes.
this was such a huuuuuuuge cringe inducing scene. there is homage and easter eggs and there is this garbage, does picard pay for good writers for the first 2 episodes every season and then bring in the JV and intermural squads for the rest of the season? we’ve been duped again
Well, we seem to have a stark contrast here. Either it’s brilliant, or something that needs to be scraped off the bottom of ones shoe.
I thought it was great, for my two cents worth.
I’m sort of in the middle. The idea was fine, but how it was done just left me cold for some reason. But that’s how I felt about the entire episode.
It is ironic that they name-dropped “Yesterday’s Enterprise” in episode two, because that episode actually has a Star Trek convention that justifies why Guinan and Picard would have still met in the 19th century and why Kirk & Spock would’ve still traveled to SF in the 80s: Tasha Yar traveled back in time from a parallel future and wound up being inserted into the Prime Timeline (and would give birth to Sela). It would also not change anything about young Guinan’s reintroduction in this episode if “Time’s Arrow” remained intact – it would actually strengthen it, because the entire point is to show how she has lost faith in humanity and seeing Picard from the future (again) would help restore her hope.
I loved it! I laughed my ass off when I saw it especially when he rubbed his neck.
Plot twist. The punk remembers a different timeline neck pinch because he is an El-Aurian too!
God I hope they change their minds and make 10 seasons of Picard.
I loved this, but ST4 is one of my favourites.
Wait a minute….Guinan doesn’t remember Picard from the 1800’s because in the altered timeline he never went back to that era. Yet, the punk on the bus remembers being neck-pinched by Spock in the 1980’s?
In the altered timeline Kirk and Spock would never have gone back to save the whales, right?
Both versions can’t be right.
The producers could use the Terminator movies to explain this. At the end of T2, John and Sarah Connor destroy Cyberdyne Systems and prevent Skynet ‘s existence, thereby preventing the war. So, in the future we have a different Kyle Reese who doesn’t have to go back in time and impregnate Sarah. Yet John still exists, which means the presence of the other Kyle from the erased timeline, in 1984, is still an historical fact. By the same token one could argue that Kirk and his crew could exist for a time in 1986, as an immoveable historical fact, despite the fact that the future they came from is eventually erased. In short, paradox.
Alternatively, the explanation could be simpler: the writers’ compulsion to litter their episodes with gratuitous, frequently eye roll-inducing easter eggs (and this one plays like a dopey Family Guy cutaway) trumps their responsibility to ensure that their stories make sense. Take your pick.
I would have even been happier with a recast if they were able to get Isis J. Jones to play the 2024 version of Guinan. They’ve already established what an EXTREMELY younger version of Guinan would look like, heck she’s played a younger Whoopi on two occasions (TNG, Sister Act). It just doesn’t make any sense why this isn’t the same Prime Timeline if the “event” that alters the timeline hasn’t even occurred. The same Guinan we meet in 2024 should have KNOWN Picard! OR!!! If El-Aurians really do control their aging to keep up appearances, why not show us an even OLDER Guinan than we’ve ever seen, played by Whoopi? There could very easily have been a cycle of appearing old enough to die, then coming back appearing younger to make new relationships once the people who knew you have passed on. Guinan clearly left Earth at some point after the 19th century to go back home, else she wouldn’t have been on the Lakul.
You all most certainly made the link between the Punk scene and Picard’s words to Guinan in this episode: “Humankind will change. You must be patient.” and “Change always comes later than we think it should.” Hence the punk’s more friendly reaction despite he has barely evolved as a person in 35 years.