Star Trek Just Gave Fans The Best Character Return Ever

Who was expecting that?

By Michileen Martin | Published

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When it comes to popular media — particularly when it comes to stuff that falls under the “geek” heading — we seem to be living in a time at least partly defined by the nostalgic and often unexpected returns of actors to old, beloved roles. Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield reprised their roles as Spider-Man. Michael Keaton will once again be playing Batman. Mark Hamill returned to play an aged Luke Skywalker in the sequel trilogy and as his younger self in both The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett. Star Trek is no exception. Patrick Stewart has returned to the role of Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: Picard and in the episode that streamed today on Paramount+ — “Watcher” — Gene Roddenberry’s enduring franchise gave us the absolute last Star Trek character return anyone ever expected. Kirk R. Thatcher appears in the episode in the famously inconsiderate role of “Punk on Bus.”

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Kirk R. Thatcher in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

Don’t know who we mean? We’re pretty sure you do. In 1986’s Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, the heroes are forced to time travel to the 20th century to save the Earth of the future. Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) have to use San Francisco’s public transportation system in their quest, which is where they encounter an orange-haired, leather-clad punk rocker who is blasting a stereotypical apocalyptic punk rock song on a boom box and refuses to turn it down. In one of the funniest and most memorable moments in the film, Spock uses his Vulcan nerve pinch on the punk rocker, knocking him out. His face lands on top of his boom box, turning off the music. The uncharacteristically violent solution from Spock inspires a round of applauds from the rest of the bus passengers.

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Kirk R. Thatcher in Star Trek: Picard, “Watcher”

Fast forward to 2024, when once again the heroes of Star Trek have to travel back in time, though this time it’s not just to save Earth, but the timeline itself. Seven (Jeri Ryan) and Raffi (Michelle Hurd) are, like the OG crew members, forced to use the bus. In the back of the bus is a still orange haired, still leather clad, but bearded Kirk R. Thatcher enjoying a slightly different song (pretty much the same one with barely different lyrics). Just as Kirk did 38 years before, Seven yells at the punk to stop “that noise.” While clearly still not the most considerate guy, Thatcher’s “Punk on Bus” proves that — like Seven and other Borg — he can adapt and evolve. Seven’s demand brings back the memory of Spock’s assault, and he reaches up and feels his neck. This time, there’s no need for violence; the punk rocker says, “Yeah, okay, fine!” and turns off the boom box. Apparently still worried he might feel Seven’s wrath, he adds, “I just like that song. Okay, I’m sorry. Sorry. Apologies.”

This actually isn’t the first time Kirk R. Thatcher — who was an associate producer on Star Trek and wrote the song (“I Hate You”) you hear playing over his boom box — has reprised the role. He made a cameo, this time as “Punk on Street” in 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming. Though for the Marvel flick he was absent of any leather or orange hair dye.