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The Rick And Morty Easter Egg You Likely Missed In Picard

Few television shows have cemented themselves in today's cultural zeitgeist with the same firmness as "Rick and Morty." From the minds of "Community" creator Dan Harmon and his creative partner Justin Roiland, the outlandish animated show about the adventures of a mad scientist and his grandson quickly became an adult animation (and sci-fi) mainstay, shocking and delighting audiences as the pair hop between universes and become embroiled in hijinks, catastrophe, and inappropriate interludes. 

But, for all its inventiveness, "Rick and Morty" is forever indebted to the science fiction entertainment of the past, which the show both draws on and mocks with a combination of nostalgia and ferocious parody. While the basic premise of "Rick and Morty" draws large inspiration from "Back to the Future" and the iconic British series "Doctor Who" (both feature an experienced adventurer taking on a younger, more naïve protégé), the Adult Swim show owes a debt to "Star Trek" as well. For example, in the Season 2 episode "Look Who's Purging Now," Rick and Morty (both voiced by Justin Roiland) visit a planet on the eve of an event known as "The Festival," in which laws are suspended, and the townspeople engage in a night of riotous bloodlust. While the episode pokes fun at the "Purge" movies, it more closely resembles the "Star Trek: The Original Series" episode "The Return of the Archons," in which Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and his crew also find a planet celebrating an event called "The Festival." Of course, the "Rick and Morty" version takes the premise way too far, with darkly hilarious results.

It seems that the current creators of one "Star Trek" franchise show have possibly noticed the parody "Rick and Morty" has leveled at the veteran sci-fi TV franchise and are tipping their hat in response. In a recent Season 2 episode of "Picard," a sly Easter egg references the madcap animated series.

Even in an alternate version of 2024, Rick and Morty exists

Season 2 of "Picard" takes its titular Admiral Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his new crew back in time to the year 2024 with the mission of averting a change in the timeline that has caused Earth's future to mutate into an intergalactic fascist empire rather than the quasi-utopian society "Star Trek" fans know and love. In Episode 3, "Assimilation," after crash-landing on present-day Earth, Captain Chris Rios (Santiago Cabrera) suffers an accident while transporting from the vessel. Injured, he is brought to a free clinic, where he meets Doctor Teresa Ramirez (Sol Rodriguez) and her young son, Ricardo (Steve Gutierrez). Rios attempts to charm Ricardo, who has found the captain's communicator badge and refuses to give it back without a bribe. He is interrupted by Teresa, who tells her kid that if he doesn't get back to his homework, he won't be allowed to watch "Rick and Morty" later. The line of dialogue is simple, but it confirms that even in this somehow altered version of "Star Trek" history, "Rick and Morty" exists.

It's a fun Easter egg, though it does introduce some puzzling questions. For instance, "Star Trek" the TV show obviously doesn't exist in the "Star Trek" version of the 2020s, so we can assume all the moments in "Rick and Morty" that parody the iconic, spacefaring franchise doesn't exist in that series, either. It's probably best not to go too deep down that rabbit hole and instead simply enjoy the reference for what it is: one of science fiction's greatest franchises giving a well-deserved nod to a beloved show it helped inspire.