This Star Trek: Picard article contains spoilers.
The 21st Rule of Acquisition teaches us “Never place friendship above profit.” By that measure, no one has proven to be less Ferengi than Terry Matalas. The Star Trek: Picard showrunner has always made a point of including his friends in his series, even if only in fun cameos. Take season two of Picard, which saw Impractical Joker Brian Quinn drop by as a dog walker in Guinan’s bar, or the addition of 12 Monkeys star Todd Stashwick to the Picard cast as USS Titan Captain Liam Shaw (Matalas co-created the Syfy series). It’s clear the showrunner likes inside jokes, even if the audience doesn’t always get it.
That tendency is on full display in the latest episode of Picard season 3, “Disengage.” While investigating the terrorist attack from the last episode, Raffi’s now-unofficial Starfleet intelligence mission leads her to a Ferengi criminal called Sneed. Like the best Ferengi, Sneed knows that war is good for business (Rule of Acquisition #34), so he operates as a black market arms dealer who can get you the weapon you need… for the right price.
The Federation has blamed a small-time Romulan criminal for the attack but Raffi isn’t buying the official story and immediately smells a cover-up. Her handler, who we learn is actually Worf (!), tells her to ignore her instinct but instead she ignores his instructions. Sneed has been pegged as the guy who sold the terrorist the experimental weapon that destroyed the Starfleet facility and Raffi wants to know who the true buyer was.
Fans paying close attention might recognize Sneed as Aaron Stanford, an actor with a long history in nerd media. Stanford broke out playing evil mutant John Allerdyce aka Pyro alongside Patrick Stewart in 2003’s X2: X-Men United. Since then, he’s been seen in a number of geeky franchises, including the gnarly Alexandre Aja remake of The Hills Have Eyes, the assassin series Nikita, and, most notably, playing James Cole on 12 Monkeys. The man certainly has been busy, fulfilling Rule of Acquisition #95, “Expand or Die.”
To be sure, it was a risky move to take on a role first played by the great Bruce Willis in a beloved Terry Gilliam movie, but it has certainly paid off (“The riskier the road, the greater the profit,” Rule of Acquisition #62).
Equally risky is playing a Ferengi, one of the more complex races in the Star Trek universe. Initially introduced in the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Ferengi were planned to be the series’ big enemy race, as the Klingons had entered a peace treaty with the Federation. But their introduction in the season one episode “The Last Outpost” failed to establish them as a threat, their laser whips and annoying money-grubbing falling short of the Klingon’s grandeur (see also Voyager baddies the Kazon).
However, when Armin Shimerman took on the role of bartender Quark in Deep Space Nine, the Ferengi finally found their place. Thanks to savvy performances by Shimerman — as well as Max Grodénchik as brother Rom, Aron Eisenberg as nephew Nog, and Jeffery Combs as antagonist Brunt (FCA!) — the Ferengi became one of the more interesting and complex races in the Star Trek universe, a group with a moral code that was certainly present, even if it clashed with Federation values.
Unfortunately, this is the end of the road for Stanford’s Sneed, who gets his head chopped off by Worf in his debut episode, but what a good run it was. Perhaps Sneed has a twin brother for Stanford to play on another Matalas show down the line?
Star Trek: Picard season 3 streams Thursdays on Paramount+.