There was a time when Star Trek’s utopian future was meant to show people had grown beyond conflict and profanity, but as the franchise has been reborn in the streaming age and more mature material has become common, the creatives behind it have come to accept that, well: the occasional f-bomb is only logical.
This week’s episode of Star Trek: Picard, “No Win Scenario,” saw none other than Admiral Picard himself drop a “fuck” in a heated conversation with his newly-discovered son, Jack Crusher (Ed Speleers). Recounting a joyride gone wrong in his youth with his best friend at Starfleet Academy — Jack Crusher, Beverly Crusher’s first husband, and the man Jack Jr. is named for — Jean-Luc casually describes a dangerous trip aboard a failing shuttle as taking “10 fucking gruelling hours.” And apparently, that expletive wasn’t in the script — it was ad-libbed by Patrick Stewart.
“That moment actually wasn’t scripted that way, Jonathan [Frakes, who directed the episode], Ed, and Patrick had created this incredibly intimate moment between a father and son, they were rehearsing and what they had crafted was so genuine and so intense, that came out in the moment,” Star Trek: Picard showrunner Terry Matalas told Collider in a new interview. “Patrick said it and felt it, and it was real, a couple of times.”
At first, Matalas, like many Trek fans, was taken aback by the expletive, especially coming from Picard. After all, for the most part, Star Trek has usually avoided cursing altogether, and only used mild profanity like “dipshit” and “arsehole” sparingly in the modern era. even more recently, has used it incredibly sparingly — mostly because whenever they do drop, Star Trek fans decry that swearing has no place in Gene Rodenberry’s utopian future. “At first, I said we should look for an alt, and everyone talked me out of it. Everyone said, ‘No, no, no, no, no,’” Matalas continued. “So then you start to go back and ask yourself, ‘Is Gene Roddenberry rolling over in his grave at this moment?’ ‘Are you going to get the backlash to the first time that word was used in season one, which did not go over well?’ And yes, probably.”
But ultimately Matalas conceded because the humanity of the moment between Picard and Jack was more important than any seeming impropriety of language. “Even though to this day, I am uncertain about it. The conclusion I came to is, yes, Star Trek is about hope and optimism and certainly cursing is not really in that vein,” Matalas concluded. “But it is also not just an exploration of the final frontier, but an exploration of humanity and the human heart, and that was such a human moment and real. It had to stay in. I stand by it, and the criticisms will be valid for anyone who doesn’t like it, and anyone who does are equally valid.”
Star Trek: Picard’s third season is streaming now on Paramount+.
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