Back in college, I saw Star Trek: The Voyage Home with my friend John. It was 1986, and I still had a full head of thick, wavy black hair.
John was still alive.
This edition of the Star Trek movie franchise told the story of how Kirk, Spock and the rest of the gang time-travelled back to the 1980s to bring two humpback whales to the future. One of the more iconic scenes included Kirk and Spock riding a city bus. One of the passengers, a mohawked punk dressed in leather, sat near them with a loud heavy metal tune blaring from his boombox–much to the annoyance of all the other passengers, including Kirk. Spock did a Vulcan grip on the punk, the music stopped, and everyone clapped.
Fast-forward 35 years later. Star Trek Picard is in its 2nd season. It is currently my favorite Star Trek show. Picard and his team go back in time, in this case, to 2024. Musiker and Seven of Nine–yes, the same Seven of Nine from Star Trek Voyager–are riding a city bus. A middle-aged punk is sitting on the bus, blaring the same song.
And yes, it’s the same actor from Star Trek The Voyage Home: Kirk R. Thatcher.
Of course, I know this is blatant appeal to my nostalgia. Star Trek Picard is full of it, built on it. Characters from the past Star Trek installments pop up all the time: Riker, Troi, Data, the Borg Queen, and more. I don’t mind, mainly because the show isn’t making fun of its past. And also, the show doesn’t rely solely upon sentimentality; the plots of the current season hold up on their own. The reminiscence is just an accessory.
In my opinion, using nostalgia can be an effective tool in storytelling. In recent years, I’ve found it in novels like Ready Player One. It’s being used on the screen, too: Ghostbusters Afterlife, Jurrasic World Dominion, Boba Fett, and The Mandalorian.
Seeing the punk character on the bus the Star Trek Picard scene made me smile. It was a reminder of a fun time I had with John when he was young, before he unexpectedly passed away a few years ago at the young age of 50.
I don’t mind having my nostalgia being appealed to as long as it’s a mix of old and new.