Star Trek: Picard Showrunner Akiva Goldsman Shares The Origin Of Season 2's Nerdiest Reference

This post contains plot details about the second episode of "Star Trek: Picard" season 2.

"Star Trek" has a long memory. So do its fans. And so do the people making it.

With nearly 60 years worth of stories, characters, and canon, the "Trek" franchise is a buffet of goodness to draw upon, to reference, to reinvent, and to revisit. "Star Trek: Picard," which is currently streaming its second season on Paramount+, is very much a show about looking back on a life long-lived, so it's appropriate that it would reach back into "Star Trek" history for one of the most amusing canonical references in recent memory. 

Due to reasons yet to be fully explained (the god-like alien Q and the ever-threatening Borg are somehow involved), the new season finds Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his companions thrust into an alternate reality, one in which the Federation as we know it never existed and Starfleet became a xenophobic, war-mongering military force hellbent on conquering the galaxy. 

So, what does a noble semi-retired starship captain do to save the day? Concoct a plan to go back in time to fix things, of course. But how does one go back in time without some kind of time machine immediately at the ready? Fly a ship at warp speed and slingshot around the sun and use the resulting forces to create a time warp, of course. 

'We went back to the original series'

Does that sound a bit like nonsense? You bet. Classic Trek-nobabble. But it's not without precedent. This exact maneuver was pulled off by O.G. "Trek" hero Captain James T. Kirk, not once, but twice – first in the original series episode "Tomorrow is Yesterday," and later in the movie "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home." And just when a "Star Trek" fan is prepared to take note of this, Picard himself literally says it out loud to his astonished comrades. If Kirk could pull it off twice, surely they can do it!

It's a hilarious moment, a scene where "Picard" directly reaches into the past, suggesting that yes, a young Picard probably took entire courses about the life and adventures of Captain Kirk in his Starfleet Academy days. So I asked showrunner Akiva Goldsman about it.

To hear Goldsman describe it, the "Star Trek: Picard" writing staff was just trying to find a way to get the crew back in time and the solution came about naturally. After all, if you put a bunch of "Trek" nerds in a room together, this is probably the kind of thing you talk about by default anyway. As Goldsman told me over Zoom:

"Well, we were trying to figure out how to get back in time. We were in an alternate timeline that doesn't have time travel. They don't have access to much. So how has time travel worked in 'Star Trek' when you just have access to a ship? We went back to the original series. We all love the loop-de-loop around the sun. And it's very interesting because we police for that stuff in that we really only do it if it's dispositive in terms of plot, but super-delightful in terms of the veteran audience. So somebody who doesn't know 'Star Trek' would think you're just saying a name, and somebody who does know 'Star Trek' is super-happy about it. And that's when we try to do it. We don't let plot stand on it, but when it can be an Easter egg in the purest sense. And that one seemed just too low-hanging fruit to let sit on the vine."

"Star Trek: Picard" has been a blast so far (I've seen the first three episodes), and the new season's blend of "The Voyage Home"-style time travel hijinks and "Mirror, Mirror" alternate universe terror is a terrific blend of familiar territory and new ideas. And if that writer's room is going to whip out Kirk's old slingshot maneuver ... well, then I can't wait to see what other surprises are waiting in the wings.