Picard Season 3 Calls Back to Star Trek: The Motion Picture in One Unexpected Way

Deltans have popped up several times since we first met Ilia in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but Picard gives us a unique update on the elusive race.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture Poster
Photo: Paramount Pictures

This Star Trek: Picard article contains spoilers.

Only two episodes in, it’s clear that season three of Star Trek: Picard has a lot more on its mind than just bringing back the crew from The Next Generation. Already, we’ve seen callbacks to not only Deep Space Nine and Enterprise but to the movies starring The Original Series cast, including the boatswain’s whistle from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and a surprise twist very reminiscent of The Wrath of Khan.

So it’s no surprise that the series would give some love to the first movie in the franchise. Released in 1979, after the success of Star Wars convinced studio execs that Gene Rodenberry’s long in gestation TOS follow-up should be a movie instead of the TV series Star Trek: Phase II, Star Trek: The Motion Picture remains a controversial entry in the franchise. For some, it’s a pure distillation of what the series did best, humanist exploration and a celebration of the wonder of discovery. For others, it’s “the motionless picture,” a plodding and indulgent embrace of the series’ worst impulses.

Whatever your thoughts on the movie, most agree that it had some memorable imagery, and not just the oh-so-comfy space pajamas worn by the Enterprise crew. The movie featured
Persis Khambatta as Ilia, a Deltan Starfleet officer who becomes the vessel of the V’Ger probe. With her bald head and shifting mannerisms, from warm and open to cold and machine-like, Ilia/V’Ger was a standout from the film.

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So strong is the shadow cast by Ilia that when Lt. T’Veen was spied on the bridge of the new USS Titan in Star Trek: Picard, her bald head immediately brought to mind the Deltans, despite her clearly Vulcan features. T’Veen’s actor Stephanie Czajkowski told Cinemablend that the similarity is no accident. In fact, Czajkowski envisioned her science officer as a Vulcan who also had a Deltan lineage.

Starting from the position that a bald Vulcan would be interesting, Czajkowski wondered, “What happens if she has a little Deltan in her? What does that do in terms of scientific acuity?” Where logic drives Vulcans, Deltans embrace sensuality (which is why they swear a vow of celibacy when joining Starfleet, to avoid distracting others). The combination makes T’Veen an interesting character. “[I]f you throw a little Deltan spice [into a Vulcan], their senses are really on high alert all the way through,” explained Czajkowski. “But also, they can process information so much faster than a human can. So I think, for all of those reasons, she was very, very, much wanted.”

As far as showrunner Terry Matalas, the unique backstory Czajkowski formed for her character totally works. Says Czajkowski, “I was like, ‘Hey, I have a feeling when this comes out and people see this head it’s going to be striking. What’s the story? I think it’s this, are you cool with that?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, dude, yeah, I’m fine.’ So we said she’s a quarter Deltan. Her grandma’s Deltan.”

T’Veen isn’t the first Deltan (or partial Deltan) we’ve seen since 1979. Members of the race have served as crewmen on Federation ships in several of the movies, and season two of Picard began with Soji and Jurarti meeting with Deltans. But they’ve been largely underutilized, perhaps because planned storylines for Ilia’s character in Star Trek: Phase II were given to Deanna Troi, with Betazoids taking the place of Deltans.

But if indeed Picard season 3 isn’t the final frontier for these characters, maybe we’ll get to see more of T’Veen and her Deltan relations in the future. The series is airing now on Paramount+.