As much as Star Trek promises to boldly go where no one has gone before, the franchise has never been afraid to look back at its past. We’ve seen that in appearances by Janice Rand and Khan Noonien Singh in the movies, cameos from most of the original crew in The Next Generation, and even in reimagined characters in the J.J. Abrams movies, Discovery, and Strange New Worlds. So it isn’t much of a surprise that Star Trek: Picard would bring back the rest of Jean-Luc Picard’s team for the third and final season of the beloved Captain’s adventures. But it is surprising to see how showrunner Terry Matalas intends the series to go back even further than the follow-up series that introduced Picard and the Enterprise-D.
Breaking down the series’ latest trailer with Trek Movie, Matalas discussed the importance of the boatswain whistle that opens the teaser. While a boatswain whistle was usually heard when Kirk arrived on the Enterprise bridge in the original series, Matalas sees another important signifier with the whistle. “I very much prefer Starfleet to feel like the Navy,” he admitted. “And certainly, The Original Series and a lot of what Nick Meyer did feels like that the most.”
While longtime Trekkers will certainly agree with Matalas’s assessment of the portrayal of Starfleet during the Kirk days, they’ll also know that there was a marked difference between the Naval aspects under series creator Gene Roddenberry and the movies helmed by Nicholas Meyer. In Roddenberry’s imagination, Starfleet was focused on benevolent exploration and scientific discovery. But when Meyer took over with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and continued to influence the franchise through his second directorial entry Star Trek: VI: The Undiscovered Country, he emphasized the military aspects. While Meyer’s approach may have led to some of the most popular Trek movies, it also pushed Roddenberry to the sidelines.
For his part, Matalas doesn’t seem interested in relitigating the Roddenberry/Meyer debate. Rather he likes the sense of “pomp and circumstance” provided by accoutrements such as the boatswain’s whistle. “It’s just getting a feel of what I think Starfleet should feel like,” Matalas explained. “It’s the military. It’s serious. There are protocols. And that sort of permeates throughout the season.” For some viewers, the military feel on display in the trailer invited a connection between Picard and Star Trek VI. Namely, viewers wondered if the boatswain whistle used on the USS Titan might be the same used on the Enterprise in Star Trek VI.
On that point, Matalas was less specific. “I felt like those whistles are usually traditional and are passed down from ship to ship to ship,” he said. “So we thought that might be the case here. I suppose it could be the same one or just an older, hundreds-year-old model.”
Whatever the origins of the whistle, it’s clear that Matalas intends season three of Picard to celebrate the history of Starfleet, not just the Next Generation era. Whether that pleases Roddenberry purists or Meyer fans remains to be seen.