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.