Remember when Jim Kirk boosted a Klingon Bird-of-Prey and then crashed it into the San Francisco Bay? Since 1986’s Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, nothing in Star Trek canon has ever revealed what happened to this ship — the ship that saved Spock from the Genesis planet, traveled back in time, and saved the whales. But now, in Picard Season 3, the episode “The Bounty,” answers the question we maybe never thought to ask — what did Starfleet do with that old Klingon ship after it sunk? Spoilers ahead.
About half the action of Picard Season 3, Episode 6, takes place at a new location called the Fleet Museum. Located in orbit of the planet Athan Prime, we’ve never actually been here in Trek canon before, despite the fact that Seven of Nine says, “I’ve been here before.” We’re told that this is the final resting place for “every legendary starship,” which makes the Fleet Museum like a huge Easter egg basket full of all the coolest spaceships ever. Picard Season 3 has been dishing out a lot of nostalgia this season, but the Fleet Museum is basically a bag of candy. Nearly every “hero” ship from Trek canon is featured, and in most cases, even name-checked. This includes the USS Defiant, to Voyager to the USS Enterprise-A, the last of which boldly took the TOS gang through their final three movies.
This brings us to the HMS Bounty, a Klingon Bird-of-Prey stolen by Kirk in The Search For Spock, after he, Scotty, and Chekov blew up their first Enterprise. The Klingons didn’t name this ship “the Bounty,” of course. That name came from Bones, who decided to give the ship a name that referenced Mutiny on the Bounty, the 1932 novel by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall, based on a true story of a real nautical mutiny in 1789.
Many a meme will remind fans that this Klingon ship was originally captained by Commander Kruge, played by Christopher Lloyd one year before he played Doc Brown in Back to the Future. So, when the crew took this ship back in time, to 1986 in The Voyage Home, it felt right.
Not that the Bounty is a time machine. It’s not. But in Trek canon, you can turn any warp-capable ship into a time machine, if you figure out how to slingshot around a star just right. But, what makes the Bounty special in Picard Season 3, isn’t that it was involved with “the whole whale thing,” as Jack says. The reason the Bounty is more than just an Easter egg is that it has a cloaking device. Because of several treaties, the Federation rarely has cloaking tech in Trek canon, but after Kirk stole this ship from the Klingons, suddenly our heroes had an active cloaking device.
This brings us to the fun part of “The Bounty.” In this episode, we learn from Seven that Starfleet had a hard time finding the ship after it sunk in San Francisco Bay, specifically because the cloaking device got reactivated on accident. This quick joke conjures up all kinds of slapstick images of 23rd-century divers trying to find an invisible Klingon ship underwater. It’s unclear if we’ll ever get to see this moment on screen, but the fact that something this silly happened after the hijinks of The Voyage Home fits with the tone of that film perfectly.
In the present tense of Picard, the crew of the Titan doesn’t steal the Bounty again. That would be too on-the-nose. But, Sidney La Forge and Jack Crusher do rip off its cloaking device and install it on the Titan. This too, is a Captain Kirk move. In the TOS episode “The Enterprise Incident,” Kirk disguised himself as a Romulan, stole one of their cloaking devices, and had Scotty plug it into the classic Enterprise. So, when Geordi helps Sidney and Jack stabilize the cloaking device in “The Bounty,” the episode brings everything back to a time before The Next Generation, again.
The overall tone of Picard Season 3 is earnest and the stakes are high, recalling the moods of Trek films like The Wrath of Khan and The Undiscovered Country. But with this callback to the Bounty and “the one with the whales,” Picard just proved Star Trek still knows how to have fun.
Star Trek: Picard Season 3 streams new episodes on Thursdays on Paramount+.