29 Years Later, One Heartbreaking Star Trek Movie Gets A Huge Payoff
One of the most bittersweet moments in all of Trek suddenly matters a lot more.
In 1994, Star Trek Generations was released in theaters. Though it was the seventh Star Trek movie overall, it was the first movie for The Next Generation crew, and thus holds a special place in many people’s hearts. And while it may not be every fan’s favorite Trek movie, one specific scene at the end of that film did set up a hugely pivotal moment in Picard Season 3.
If you view Picard Season 3 as the final TNG movie (as showrunner Terry Matalas and producer Alex Kurtzman do) then this one specific callback makes a lot of sense. Unexpectedly, perhaps the sweetest thing from Generations has become a hugely heroic moment almost three decades later. Here’s why.
Spoilers ahead for Picard Season 3, Episode 8, “Surrender.”
In “Surrender,” Data is finally able to defeat his evil brother Lore within a shared mindscape. While Data accomplishes this with some classic Sherlock Holmes tricks, one specific memory has more power over Lore than any of the others. Turns out, the pièce de résistance of Data’s mind battle against Lore is his love for ... wait for it ... his cat!
That’s right, the final nail in the coffin that defeats Lore is Data’s love for Spot, his orange cat from Star Trek: The Next Generation, who first appeared in “Data’s Day,” and then sporadically throughout the rest of the series, sometimes as a slightly different looking cat. For Spot’s appearance in Picard, the cat more, or less, looks like the orange tabby Spot from the TNG movies, specifically Generations and briefly, Nemesis.
In Generations, Data experiences his first true emotional catharsis at the end of the film, when, after believing that Spot has died in the saucer section crash of the Enterprise, he discovers the cat safe and sound. Data crying android tears at the end of Generations might seem sappy to some, but in 1994 this moment brought down the house. (This moment gets a lot of play in deep-cut Trek memes, too.) But, rather than just play to the sentimentality of Trekkies who loved the ‘90s, the role of Spot in Picard Season 3 actually matters to the story.
Without powerful memories, Data can’t overpower Lore, and so, the literal power of love is what Data need to really have a positive positronic takeover. When Spot appears, Data says that his cat “taught me to love.” Data put so much of his love and goodness into his cat and tells Lore confidently: “He is the best of me ... the last of me.”
For longtime fans of Star Trek, an android’s love of his organic cat becoming the secret weapon that defeats a parallel evil AI feels like par for the very big-hearted Trekkie course. And yet, regardless of how sappy this might seem, this moment was brilliantly set up by the ending of Generations. There, we saw Data in the wreckage of the Enterprise, frantically searching with Troi for his cat. And when he finds his cat is alive, Data’s experience of love is more complete than ever.
The totality of Data’s memories and good-heartedness ultimately create a tsunami of goodness that Lore can’t defeat. “Surrender” is Data’s “I’m all the Jedi” moment, and Lore is Palpatine. But, the difference is, all Star Trek needed was a cute cat instead of a lightsaber. Data’s cat winning the day in Picard Season 3 is the ultimate Star Trek moment: Evil can be defeated, but perhaps not with phasers or photon torpedoes. Sometimes all you need is your cat.