How Todd Stashwick's Love Of Jaws Inspired Star Trek: Picard's Captain Shaw

Spoilers for "Star Trek: Picard" follow.

"Star Trek: Picard" season 3 has promised to be a grand finale for the "Next Generation" cast. Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) has finally reunited his whole bridge crew from Enterprise-D — also appearing are Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) from "Star Trek: Voyager" and the Changelings, the antagonists of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine."

Despite running headfirst down nostalgia lane, the final season has some new characters too. One is Liam Shaw (Todd Stashwick), captain of the USS Titan-A. Shaw is no fan of Picard or Seven because he has a grudge against the Borg. Why? He was at the Battle of Wolf 359, depicted in the classic "Next Generation" episode, "The Best of Both Worlds." A Borg Cube, led by tactical info gleaned from the assimilated Picard (aka Locutus), decimated the Starfleet forces. Shaw was part of the engineering crew on the USS Constance and one of the few Starfleet officers to survive that battle.

Trekkies might think the inspiration for Shaw's backstory was Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks), the lead of "Deep Space Nine." Sisko survived Wolf 359 but lost his wife Jennifer (Felecia M. Bell). The "DS9" pilot, "Emissary," is about Sisko finally coming to terms with what happened, spurred by a face-to-face meeting with Picard.

However, Stashwick confirmed in an interview with Collider that the real inspiration was "Jaws." The name of his character is a tribute to Robert Shaw, who played Quint in "Jaws." Like Shaw with the Borg, Quint had a traumatic past with sharks and this pushed him into becoming a 20th-century Captain Ahab.

Anyway, we delivered the bomb

In "Jaws," Quint, Brody (Roy Scheider), and Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) are enjoying some late-night downtime in their hunt for the shark. Sitting around the dinner table on Quint's boat the Orca, they start swapping stories about scars. When Hooper notices a removed tattoo on Quint's arm, the old fisherman reveals it's from the Navy ship he served on: the USS Indianapolis.

True to history, Indianapolis delivered parts of the bomb that would level Hiroshima before it was sunk by a Japanese submarine. The surviving crew was left stranded in the ocean for four days and five nights, suffering what's been called "the deadliest shark attack in history."

Quint's recounting of this might be my favorite ever scene in a film — it's certainly my favorite monologue. Robert Shaw delivers the lines like a man who's seen every image he describes in his nightmares, every night, for 30 years. He sometimes flashes a smirk or a chuckle but you can tell how uneasy he is. After he recounts how he and his surviving friends were rescued, he declares, "I'll never put on a life jacket again," and you understand why.

Shaw, not only an actor but a playwright and novelist too, even wrote the monologue himself. (There is some disagreement about this, but "Jaws" screenwriter Carl Gottlieb backs up Shaw as the author in his behind-the-scenes book, "The Jaws Log.") He performed the scene over two days: the first he was drunk, and the second he was sober. Footage from both days is in the final film.

Remembering Wolf 359

In "Picard," Shaw's big moment, which he discussed with /Film, begins on the Titan's holodeck. Picard and Jack Crusher (Ed Speelers) are enjoying some belated father-son bonding time. Shaw interjects, asking if Jack has heard about Wolf 359, and calls it "the first time [Picard and I] met."

This has the same visual language as the "Jaws" scene. Most of the time, the camera is focused on Shaw, but there are occasional cuts to reaction shots from Picard and Jack, much like there are to Brody and Hooper in "Jaws." There are no flashbacks, but in a major difference from the Indianapolis monologue, we hear sounds from Shaw's memories. Shaw self-deprecatingly calls his younger self, "Some dips*** from Chicago" — saying he's from Indianapolis would've been tipping the hat too far — and then reveals it's survivor's guilt that is haunting him. He was one of only ten crew members who got to board the escape pod.

Unlike Quint, Shaw is directing his words at one of his scene partners. Picard doesn't argue back and quietly leaves the Holodeck. This underlines another similarity between Shaw and Quint — their hate is understandable but irrational. Picard literally wasn't himself at Wolf 359, he was as much the Borg's victim as the 11,000 people killed in battle.

Meanwhile, sharks are just animals driven by nothing but base instincts. Quint, however, makes them sound like demons, "The thing about a shark is he's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes. When he comes at ya, he doesn't even seem to be livin'... 'til he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white." Quint couldn't let go of his hate and it killed him. It remains to be seen how Shaw's story will end.

New episodes of "Star Trek: Picard" stream Thursdays on Paramount+.