Star Trek Guide

Picard Makes Star Trek: The Animated Series Aliens Canon

Episode 7 ofStar Trek: Picard unexpectedly made the Kzinti, who are aliens from Star Trek: The Animated Series, canon. The CBS All-Access series starring Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard has been a galaxy-hopping adventure involving the Starfleet legend's mission to rescue Soji (Isa Briones), the synthetic daughter of the late Commander Data (Brent Spiner), from Romulans out to kill her. Though Jean-Luc has been relying on a new ragtag crew, Star Trek: Picard episode 7, "Nepenthe," featured a heartwarming reunion with his friends from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), and this involved a surprising shout-out to the Kzinti from Star Trek: TAS.

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Star Trek: The Animated Series, which aired on NBC from 1973-1974, was a continuation of Star Trek: The Original Series four years after the original show was canceled. TAS featured almost the entire cast of Star Trek providing the voices of their characters, including William Shatner as Captain Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock. Many of the episodes also served as sequels to classic TOS episodes like "The Trouble With Tribbles" and "Mudd's Women." However, Star Trek: TAS also introduced several new characters and aliens appearing as both crew members of the Enterprise and as villains, and this included the Kzinti.

The Kzinti are cat-like humanoid warriors; they are feared for being carnivores who detest eating vegetation, and they loath species who are vegetarians (like the Vulcans) or omnivores (like humans). The Kzinti were also not originally a part of Star Trek; science fiction author Larry Niven created the Kzinti in 1966 in a short story called "The Warriors" that was part of his Known Space anthology. Star Trek writer D.C. Fontana later suggested Niven's creation to Gene Roddenberry as a good fit for Trek and Niven agreed; he even adapted his short story "The Soft Weapon" into the Star Trek: TAS episode "The Slaver Weapon." In all, the Kzinti appeared in two episodes of Star Trek: TAS and were mentioned in a third.

However, Star Trek: Picard is the first time the Kzinti have been mentioned by name since TAS. In "Nepenthe," Riker tells Picard that his new home is equipped with shields because they occasionally have problems with the Kzinti. Riker didn't elaborate on what their issue with the Kzinti is, but since the carnivorous cat-aliens would have no desire for the fresh vegetables the Troi-Rikers grow in their garden, the Kzinti might be after the bunnicorns that their family eats with their pizza.

The Kzinti have not appeared in a live-action Star Trek series or movie, but their homeworld Kzin is part of star charts that have appeared in TNG, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. There is a  "cat dancer" - a female cat humanoid who appears in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier - who has jokingly been referred to as a Kzinti, but that has never been officially confirmed. Had Star Trek: Enterprise not been canceled after season 4, it's believed that showrunner Manny Cotto would have finally debuted the Kzinti in live-action in season 5, which could have referenced the four wars the Kzinti fought with humans 200 years before the Enterprise encountered them in TAS.

Whether or not Star Trek: The Animated Series is considered part of official canon seems to depend on whom you ask. Gene Roddenberry had TAS removed from canon in the late 1980s, but over the many Star Trek spinoff series, several writers have integrated various mentions of aliens and concepts that came from TAS. In fact, the holodeck, which became a staple of every Star Trek series starting with TNG, was introduced in TAS, as was James T. Kirk's middle name being Tiberius, which was confirmed in Star Trek VI. But thanks to Star Trek: Picard, Trekkers now know that the Kzinti are alive and well at the dawn of the 25th century, and the fearsome cat people may one day get their live-action Star Trek debut.

Star Trek: Picardstreams Thursdays on CBS All-Access and Fridays internationally on Amazon Prime Video.