Star Trek’s Most Unjustly Victimized Character Traumatized Twice, Decades Apart

By Michileen Martin | Published

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Asked to put together the funniest moments in the franchise, most Trek fans would no doubt at least consider including Spock’s (Leonard Nimoy) assault on the inconsiderate punk rocker in 1986’s Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. What you may not know is that the same character–played by the same actor, Kirk R. Thatcher–returned 36 years later in real time (38 years later in the Trek timeline) to once again be traumatized by a Trek hero in a Season 2 episode of Star Trek: Picard.

The Scene

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In Star Trek IV, the heroic crew goes back in time to 20th century San Francisco in hopes of retrieving a humpback whale–the only creature that can answer a destructive alien probe, and one that is extinct by the 23rd century. As Kirk (William Shatner) and Spock are on their way to an aquarium where they hope to find one of the beasts, the former is annoyed by a punk rocker on the bus who not only refuses to turn his music down, but gives Kirk the finger and turns his music up. To resolve the situation, Spock gives the punk a Vulcan neck pinch, rendering him unconscious–his face plants into the boom box, turning off the music.

Fast Forward 38 Years

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Then we come to 2024 as portrayed in the Season 2 Star Trek: Picard episode “Watcher.” The later series’ heroes have traveled to 21st century San Francisco in order to–well honestly scientists at NASA are no doubt still trying to figure out what in Hulk’s name that season was about. Suffice to say, this time Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) and her partner Raffi (Michelle Hurd) are on a bus, and once again there is a punk rocker playing loud music–this time credited as “Mohawk Punk.

There’s no need for violence in this later scene precisely because the inconsiderate Earthling is still traumatized by Spock’s assault. When Seven angrily yells at him a line similar to what Kirk barked so many years ago in Star Trek IV, the punk–clearly shaken– says, “Yeah, okay, fine” and turns off the boom box. He adds, “I just like that song. Okay, I’m sorry. Sorry. Apologies.”

Funny… But A Little Weird

I know this falls squarely under the calm-down-its-just-a-movie department, but as funny as the earlier scene is in Star Trek IV–and as a guy who saw it when it was first released in theaters, I can assure you there was as much laughter in the theater as there were applauds on the bus–this scene has never not been weird to me.

These are Star Trek’s two most iconic heroes. Starfleet is all about the prime directive and non-interference and not corrupting the timeline and yadda yadda.

And they literally attack a dude in broad daylight on a public bus in the distant past because his music is too loud.

These Are Starfleet Officers?

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Don’t get me wrong! I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was in my thirties, so I endured a lot of hours on public transportation and harbored a lot of hate for people like “Punk on Bus” who had apparently never heard of headphones, who couldn’t have a phone conversation unless it was on speaker, or who just couldn’t speak unless they were speaking as loudly as humanly possible. So I get the Star Trek heroes’ frustration.

But these Star Trek heroes are sworn to–regardless of the consequences to themselves, even if that consequence is death–not interfere with other civilizations, but they can’t take a little loud music on a bus ride? I mean–it isn’t even like there’s a delay in Spock’s decision-making process. He gets up, knocks the dude out, and continues his conversation with Kirk.

What if he seriously hurt Punk on Bus? What if Punk on Bus was developing the cure for a deadly disease but–due to an extensive series of events that would not happen because he’s unconscious and misses his stop–he never gets to? What if a young child on the bus–destined to become a musical innovator–was inspired by Punk on Bus’s music, but Spock’s abrupt brutality convinces the child to stay away from music forever?

You don’t know. Time stuff. It’s weird.

Kirk Thatcher: Star Trek’s Punk Rock Whipping Boy

In both Picard and The Voyage Home, the punk rocker on the bus was played by the same guy–Kirk R. Thatcher.

Thatcher may not be the most famous guy in the world, but he’s had the privilege of wearing a lot of different hats. Along with being an actor, producer, and writer for Star Trek (he wrote James Doohan’s hilarious “Hello, computer” bit in The Voyage Home) he’s a director chiefly in children’s entertainment. He’s directed a ton of Muppets media, most recently helming 2021’s Muppets Haunted Mansion tv special.

He’s done voice work in video games like 2020’s Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond and he’ll be part of the cast of the upcoming Inside Out 2. If you happen to be both a Marvel fan and a Disney+ subscriber, you may recognize him as the monster hunter Jovan in Werewolf by Night.

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