Star Trek references in Big Bang Theory that I didn’t know about (and how it applies to writing)

I never thought I’d become a ‘Trekkie’.

I’m a Star Wars fan through and through, but after binge-watching The Big Bang Theory (BBT) for the thousandth time, I was curious about the many references that were made to the franchise.

Not ‘getting’ the jokes, hat-tips or guest appearances never took away from my enjoyment of The Big Bang Theory, but one evening after Star Trek: The Next Generation was recommended to me by good ol’ Netflix, I clicked the ‘watch’ button and settled down to see what all the hype was about.

I expected to get bored during the first episode and switch it off, satisfied that I had given it a go.

The next thing I know, I’ve watched all of Next Gen and have even gotten through season 1 of Star Trek: Picard.

And, just as I expected, my knowledge of the show has increased my enjoyment in watching The Big Bang Theory. I now share in the chuckles much more than I used to.

Star Trek hat-tips that surprised me

There are plenty of really obvious references throughout the series. The gang speak Klingon, watch the show, dress up as the characters, drink Romulan ale,not to mention the many guest star appearances including semi-regular appearances by Will Wheaton.

And then there are more subtle hat-tips that I had no idea about, one of which was accidental. Here are two of my favourite:

3D chess

I love this! Especially since the BBT never references the connection (that I know of), making it an inside joke between us folk who are ‘in the know’ and the scriptwriters. It’s so beautiful in its subtly, and now I find myself thinking about Star Trek when watching the BBT characters playing it, and vice versa.

Sheldon Cooper’s mannerisms

The tilt of the head, the way his eyes move when he is trying to figure out a social cue, are all seemingly a hat-tip to Mr Data. In fact, when I was watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, I couldn’t believe how much inspiration Jim Parsons (who played Sheldon Cooper) took from the character.

Yet, what’s even more surprising is that Jim Parsons has allegedly never even seen the show. The only way I can explain how crazy the accidental hat-tip is is to recommend you compare and contrast yourself.

I don’t know if he was coached by someone who had seen the show, or if it genuinely is the freakiest accident I’ve ever witnessed, but it is the ultimate hat-tip!

Using hat-tips in your writing

Whether you’re writing a novel, short story, screenplay or something else, it’s understandable if you’re worried about adding hat-tips to your writing; after all, no one wants to be accused of the P-word (Plagiarism).

Yet, if you’re building something that you love, it makes sense that other things that you love will consciously or unconsciously flow into it, right? And as you can see from the two examples above, doing it in the right way can really enhance your story.

My advice for consciously adding in references:

  1. Ask yourself why you’re doing it. What value is it adding to your story? If it’s giving it more depth, then go for it. But if it feels like a shallow attempt at popularising your story, I’d recommend trying to find a more natural approach.
  2. And if you really want to include specific hat-tips, then practice. The great thing about writing is that anything can be rewritten. Incorporate some hat-tips into your plot and then come back to them when your story has grown. Rework the ones that don’t quite fit. Think about different angles or scenes where it might work better. Keep playing until your happy. Writing is supposed to be fun, after all.
  3. Ask someone unbiased to read it and give their opinion. There must be someone who shares your love of whatever it is you’re tipping your hat to. Ask them to read it and then ask whether they noticed the hat-tip. If they did, what did they think? Did it make them want to roll their eyes? Or did it cause a small smile to rise? It’s the latter response you’re after. Keep rewriting until you achieve that.
  4. Remember that subtly is key. Just like Big Bang Theory, the best hat-tips aren’t just the ones you have to be ‘in the know’ to get. Anyone out of the loop shouldn’t feel jolted out of the story by an obscure sentence they don’t get.

Have you added any hat-tips to your writing? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

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Published by Rebekah

I'm a twenty-something cat loving, book reading, coffee drinking, food eating, normal gal who is trying to write a novel.

2 thoughts on “Star Trek references in Big Bang Theory that I didn’t know about (and how it applies to writing)

  1. I love Big Bang Theory and Star Trek! They’re such good shows 🙂

    I really like the questions you ask, as well. Because I’m writing Fantasy I haven’t really had the opportunity, but I really like the questions you’ve posed. If I ever do have the opportunity to do a hat-tip, I’ll definitely keep them in mind!

    1. Aren’t they just the best!!!
      That’s an interesting point about not using hat-tips in fantasy writing – let me know if you ever do slot one in 🙂

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