Picard Season 3 Returns To One Of The Most Popular Star Trek Movies Ever

This post contains spoilers for "Star Trek: Picard" episode 6.

As one of the latter-most series in the "Star Trek" chronology, "Star Trek: Picard" often delivers fans the gift of retrospect. When the show isn't taking a critical look back at some of Jean-Luc Picard's (Patrick Stewart) leadership decisions, it's basking in the glow of nostalgia with a full "Star Trek: The Next Generation" reunion and references to various "Trek" shows of the past. This week was no different: a trip to Daystrom Station brought back a vicious tribble, Professor Moriarty (Daniel Davis), and a new Data (Brent Spiner), while Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) brought back a relic from Captain Kirk's days: the HMS Bounty.

"Trek" fans might remember the Bounty from "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home," the fourth installment in the "Trek" film series and the second directed by Leonard Nimoy. "The Voyage Home" is one of the more successful "Trek" films; it won over fans, made back five times its reported production budget at the box office, and was even nominated for four Oscars. Often referenced as "the one about saving the whales," the film also featured a unique and distinctive aircraft that the Enterprise crew temporarily called home: the stolen Klingon bird-of-prey that McCoy (DeForest Kelley) renamed the H.M.S. Bounty.

The Bounty actually first appeared in "Star Trek III: The Search For Spock," when Kirk (William Shatner) commandeered it while on a mission to rescue his Vulcan second-in-command and best buddy (Nimoy). In the opening scenes of "The Voyage Home," though, we see that the crew has painted the vessel's new name on its side. The Bounty was never seen again after "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home," until it suddenly made its triumphant — and stealthy — return in this week's episode of "Star Trek: Picard."

The HMS Bounty returns

Although this week's episode is titled "The Bounty," it's not immediately clear that the Klingon bird-of-prey is going to be integral to the action. The plot picks up with Vadic (Amanda Plummer) on the hunt for Picard's crew, while a reunited team including Worf (Michael Dorn) and Raffi (Michelle Hurd) attempts to get to the bottom of the Changelings' new plan, which includes getting up to something dastardly on Frontier Day. Some of the crew heads to Daystrom Station to figure out what weapon the Changelings have stolen, but their mission isn't exactly as under-the-radar as they'd hoped it would be. Vadic's goons soon take aim at the Titan, putting Picard in a pickle. "Short of being invisible, we can't come back, not until they're unable to track us," Sidney La Forge (Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut) points out, and suddenly, Picard has an idea.

That's where Geordi comes in: Picard's crew visits him at the Fleet Museum, where he apparently works among the legendary decommissioned spacecraft of years past. It's a setting that allows for some nice walks down memory lane, as when Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) tells Jack Crusher (Ed Speleers) about the U.S.S. Voyager, the ship she called home, where she was "reborn." The conversation takes a surprising turn, though, when Seven tells Jack about the history of the Bounty. "Ah, right, the whole whale thing," Jack replies. It turns out, the Fleet Museum pulled the Bounty from the bottom of the San Francisco Bay after the events of "The Voyage Home."

This nostalgic reference is actually central to the plot

"The story goes they had a hell of a time finding it," Seven says knowingly, adding, "It disappeared." A-ha! No wonder Picard suddenly has time to talk to his old pal Geordi; the Bounty could be the key to keeping the Titan safe. While the two are busy trying to hash out their differences, the Titan suddenly gets a cloaking device upgrade. Geordi accuses Picard of stealing the cloaking tech from the Bounty — which he endearingly calls "my bird-of-prey" — but it's actually proactive Sidney and Jack who co-opted the Bounty's cloaking device to help their ship go dark.

While this is apparently a treaty violation that Picard says Starfleet can 'put on his tab,' the Bounty ends up helping the crew stay stealth long enough to get to the bottom of the Changeling mystery. In the end, the familiar ship is just a drop in the bucket of the episode's nostalgia, but at least it's a more clever and less extraneous reference than some of the other callbacks. "Star Trek: The Next Generation" fans have spent years hoping to see what Geordi's up to these days, and while "Star Trek: Picard" sometimes misses the mark with its character re-introductions, it does right by the engineer by tying him to the legacy of the franchises' most important and beloved ships.

"Star Trek: Picard" streams new episodes on Paramount+ each Thursday.