The Picard Season 3 Finale's Most Unexpected Cameo Is A Double Tribute

This article contains spoilers for the finale of "Star Trek: Picard." 

The third season of "Star Trek: Picard" has brought back plenty of characters and concepts from previous entries in the "Star Trek" franchise, including the original series, "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," "Star Trek: Voyager," and, of course, "Star Trek: The Next Generation." It's been a veritable feast of nostalgia, but one cameo in the series finale felt truly poignant and honored both a beloved character and the men who played him. The episode opens with the newly relaunched Enterprise-D headed toward Earth in an attempt to stop Picard's son Jack Crusher (Ed Speelers) and the Borg from assimilating all of the young people of Earth and taking control of the planet. They already control Starfleet, and things are looking pretty grim. That's when a familiar voice plays over comms and we hear the President of the United Federation of Planets warning people away from Earth. 

The President is played by none other than Walter Koenig, who played ship navigator Pavel Chekov on the original "Star Trek" series back in the 1960s and then again in the films. Pavel would be long dead by the time of "Picard," but his son is not, and the writers used it as an opportunity to pay tribute to a "Star Trek" alum taken from us far too soon.  

Love for Anton

The warning message is brief and pretty grim, as Koenig's voice breaks while he reveals how bad things have gotten on Earth. It's not so much a distress signal as a warning to turn around, and it's heartbreaking:

"This is Anton Chekov, President of the United Federation of Planets, broadcasting on all emergency channels. Do not approach Earth. Signal of unknown origin has turned our young against us. They have been assimilated by the Borg. Our fleet has been compromised, and as we speak, our planetary defenses are falling. Sol (?) Station is defending Earth as best it can, but we're almost out of time. We have not been able to find a way to stop this Borg signal and unassimilate our young. But I know that if my father were here, he'd remind us all that hope is never lost. There are always possibilities. Until then, I implore you, save yourselves. Farewell."

Anton is apparently the son of Pavel Chekov, a Starfleet hero who served on the Enterprise with James T. Kirk and Spock, and his name has special significance. The character of Pavel Chekov was played by actor Anton Yelchin in the Kelvinverse "Star Trek" films starting with 2009's "Star Trek." Yelchin was killed in a tragic accident in 2016 at the age of 27, and naming Chekov's son (and President of the Federation!) after Anton is a sweet tribute. 

The Chekov family legacy

Though more casual viewers might remember Chekov primarily for his Russian accent and habit of switching his "v's" and "w's", he was an important part of the crew and played a major role in both the original television series and films. The last time fans saw Chekov was in "Star Trek: Generations," as a guest aboard the Enterprise-B right before Kirk appeared to die. There wasn't much of an update on what he did thereafter, though it's easy to imagine that he continued to work for Starfleet in some capacity and retired as a hero. He would be over 120 years old at the time of "Picard," but his son Anton could be within the right age range for Koenig, age 86, to voice. 

It's a lovely tribute to one of the unsung heroes of the first generation of the "Star Trek" franchise. Spock and Kirk get all of the glory, but it's nice for Chekov, who helped Kirk survive the Botany Bay incident, endured torture at the hands of Khan, and used his skills to help stop a full-on war between the Klingons and the Federation, to finally get his due.

All of "Star Trek: Picard" season 3 is now streaming on Paramount+.