‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ Solves Mystery Of World’s Biggest Art Heist

The latest episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds may have fans buzzing about the implications to real-world (and Star Trek) history, but it also included a nod to art history, specifically a famous art heist—and offered up a solution to a decades-old mystery.

Pelia’s Vermeer

One of the early scenes in “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” featured Lt. La’an Noonien-Singh doing a security check on what new engineer Pelia was bringing on board the Enterprise. She had quite a collection of antiques, including a unique painting which the ancient Lanthanite claimed was a “fake,” even though the Louvre kept calling to have it returned. After traveling back in time, La’an spotted the same stolen painting in Pelia’s Vermont “Archeology Department” shop in the 21st century.

Pelia and her painting in “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow”

The specific painting is a famous one, an oil on canvas by Dutch master Johannes Vermeer titled The Concert. It is considered a masterpiece of the Dutch Golden Age and a particularly exquisite example of Vermeer’s celebrated attention to detail. Vermeer’s unique style was the subject of the 2013 documentary Tim’s Vermeer. The creation of the painting was featured in the 2003 dramatic film Girl with a Pearl Earring (based on the novel of the same name) about Vermeer.

Vermeer’s The Concert

As indicated in the Star Trek episode, Vermeer’s The Concert was indeed stolen; in fact, it’s considered to be the most valuable stolen object in the world, valued at $250 million in 2015. Despite mentions of the famed Louvre Museum in Paris, this specific painting was one of thirteen objects of art stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990, and was the highest-valued item stolen.

The Gardner Museum Theft remains an open case with the local police and the FBI, with a $10 million reward for information that leads to the recovery of the art. In 2021, it was the subject of the Netflix docuseries This Is a Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist.

So, it’s case closed. Vermeer’s painting is in a little shop in Vermont, and eventually, it will end up on the USS Enterprise in the 23rd century. It’s unclear if the producers of Star Trek are implying that Pelia was involved in the heist or if she acquired the painting in the following decades. It’s possible that the painting was recovered and then displayed at the Louvre before coming into her possession.

La’an points out the stolen painting in Pelia’s shop in “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow.”

Star Trek didn’t have the first pop culture appearance of this painting. Besides the novel and feature film mentioned above, The Concert and the Gardner Heist have been featured on a number of TV shows and books, including The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Blindspot, The Blacklist, Monk, The Venture Bros., Shameless, and The Simpsons.

From The Simpsons season 21 “American History X-cellent”

Keep up with news about the Star Trek Universe at TrekMovie.com

Notify me of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

They couldn’t have thrown in a Gardner Museum reference? Star Trek needs to show New England some more love.

The Gardner Museum might not exist anymore. World War III and all that.

Speaking as someone that grew up in Connecticut, I approve of this message! :)

In the tradition of how the famous stolen Goya turns up in the villain’s lair in the first Bond film DR. NO.

So this officer is just allowed to load all her crap on each Starship she’s temporarily assigned to?

In her case, she probably just wants to keep all the evidence close to home. ;)

Did you miss the scene where the security officer was inspecting all her stuff and then turned her into the Captain? Obviously that is not the norm, hence the attention it got from command.

the security officer made Pelia captain?!?!


Being a spelling jerk. “… the security officer inspecting all her stuff and then turned her into the Captain” made me think the security officer turned her INTO the captain, not in to the Captain. Sorry. Jokes suck online.

Surely, you’re kidding?
I’m not, and don’t call me Shirley….

Lol now I see! :-))

I caught your joke and found it very punny.

Yes. Did you think the fire pit in Pikes cabin was standard issue?

Captain’s privilege. Same unwritten law as for consumption of Romulan Ale.

Yep, captain’s privilege. It’s off topic a bit, but Picard’s condescending lectures about ‘profit’ always seems to be spoken from privilege, and are delivered around yes men, aliens, or people who have no reason to know better. Ensign Skippy, who’s spent twenty years scraping muck out of the impulse engines might have a different point of view.

oh be quiet

Well, Spock did own a Chagall painting in Star Trek VI, and he kept it on board the Enterprise.

In real life, the Russian warship Moskva, which the Ukrainians sank last year, supposedly carried a piece of the True Cross, so I guess a “ship’s reliquary” can be a thing in real life. (It’s not an example of “the good guys,” of course, but should they decide to do an Indiana Jones VI set in the present day…)

Maybe as in the beginning of Picard Season 1 she has it all stored in some transporter device.

Quantum Storage

Wow I had never heard about this at all. This is very interesting. Thanks Anthony! :)

And Pelia sounds like a worse trouble maker than Quark and probably has just as much contraband as Mariner does. ;D

“I will neither lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do.”

Seriously, does Starfleet Academy, or Starfleet writ large, not have an honor code?

Pelia stealing priceless paintings. Spock stealing the Enterprise. Picard lying to Shaw.

This is ridiculous and needs to stop. Now.

I don’t know what you’re quoting, but its a stupid oath that leaves no room for nuance. Picard was practically retired, and he would have faced consequences for that if the Borg hadn’t escalated things. Spock was acting honorably, if not legally, when he stole the Enterprise, although he probably should have faced some kind of consequence. In Pelia’s case, she explained that the statute of limitations had expired. It would be a little petty of Starfleet to continue punishing her for something that she did over a century before the organization was even formed anyway.

And Star Trek characters have been breaking the rules ever since TOS anyway.

Temarc is quoting West Point’s cadet honor code.

The quote doesn’t appear to officially be tied to Trek. It’s a military oath recited by cadets at West Point, but not that we’ve seen on screen at Starfleet.

That said, it’s clear that Starfleet has an honor code, and stealing starships (at least) is not something that is smiled upon officially. The end of Star Trek IV: TVH puts the crew of the Enterprise on trial, and there is specific mention of the theft of the ship (which happens at the beginning of ST: III). The charges are dropped, except for Kirk disobeying Starfleet orders. That leads to his demotion, but this is actually kind of a reward/inside joke since he really didn’t want to be an admiral tied to a desk anyway. But it is important to note that they saved Earth…

All that to say, Starfleet certainly has a code, but the most of the specifics haven’t been laid out, and there’s obviously grey areas. But I agree that stealing priceless paintings (if Pelia actually did) and Spock stealing the Enterprise are not necessarily up to the expectations of Starfleet officers.

There are gray areas with everything, of course. But you don’t get to invoke them three times a year, and they certainly don’t cover stealing Vermeer paintings because “me likee.” This is why those fools trying to vandalize paintings to make a political statement ought to be prosecuted fully.

I’m quoting the US Air Force Academy honor code (I believe it’s the same at other service academies). There are plenty of civilian institutions of higher learning with an honor code as well, such as Princeton University.

At any rate, to address your specific points:

1. On Picard, there was no “practically” about it; he was officially retired, but he was acting in a semi-official capacity (rather like Adm. Satee in “The Drumhead”). Riker was active duty.

2. Spock absolutely was not acting honorably. He was, Oliver North-like, creating his own foreign policy. Military officers are supposed to defer to *civilian* leadership (to say nothing of the DoD brass) when making major foreign policy decisions; that’s the whole point of living in a democracy, or even a stable political system of any kind. “Good intentions” at the grassroots level are irrelevant. Last week’s Prigozhin Mutiny in Russia ought to drive that point home.

Seriously, do you think some LCDR commanding a US Navy vessel in the Black Sea ought to invoke self-appointed “good intentions” and start attacking Russian warships in the Black Sea, thereby risking a nuclear war? We have command, control, communications, and intelligence (C3I) structures for a reason, you know.

In Star Trek, a great example was how Picard did NOT get to go off willy-nilly and set up tachyon nets along the Neutral Zone in “Redemption”; he specifically reported to Adm. Shanti in the situation, and the latter sought the approval of the Federation Council. Yes, sometimes officers might pick up new intelligence and have to act before getting their superiors’ approval, as Kirk did in “Balance of Terror” (“in my opinion, no choice…”), or Picard did in “The Defector,” and that’s realistic in the context of space travel, where you frankly shouldn’t have *any* real-time communications. But none of that applies to Spock. Adm. April was fully informed of all the facts Spock had.

Dramatic license for the sake of a good story is a thing, but it only goes so far. I’m so sick and tired of this “I’m too cool for rules” attitude in NuTrek, from Michael Burnham onwards. I don’t know whether the writers think we’re too stupid to notice, or whether the early-21st century attitude of “mah feelings trump all” is a thing.

3. If Pelia’s theft happened 200 years before “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow,” yes, presumably some kind of statute of limitations would apply to the original theft. If she lied about it on an ongoing basis, however, the lying in and of itself likely constitutes a crime de novo. And no decent manager worth her salt is going to trust an employee who openly boasts about thievery, regardless of when it happened.

4. TOS used this trope exactly twice: in “The Menagerie” and “Amok Time.” In “The Menagerie,” much of it was an illusion. I suspect that the Talosians subtly influenced Cdre. Mendez’ decision as to whether to punish Spock for his actions. In “Amok Time” (and its progeny, TSFS/TVH) Kirk survived only because of a very high-level patron: T’Pau, an eminence grise of Federation politics, intervened on his behalf and essentially gave him a get-out-of-jail free card. In both cases, the officers in question acted for the highest moral reasons AND were fully cognizant of the consequences. It was a very serious moment. It was not “ho, hum, another day at the office.” In NuTrek, this has now happened at least three times over the course of about a year of television (Burnham/Space Hitler, Spock, and now Pelia). That’s to say nothing of Mariner, who seems to do it every day, although I don’t consider her canon. It is also becoming unrealistic that an Opportunity to Save Earth or the Galaxy emerges every single damn time this happens.

Carol Kane appears to be Johnny-One-Note with her schtick (I frankly hadn’t watched much of her before, but it looks like she’s playing the same character she did in TAXI; maybe that really WAS Pelia), and it’s all too over the top. The only thing I can really think of is that the painting really was a reproduction, or who knows, maybe the entire Louvre was destroyed on that attack on Paris we saw in the SNW pilot, and they let it slide because at least some art got saved.

I agree with you strongly about only having to do the rule break thing sparingly (spread across years, even decades, not merely weeks) … it is one of the things that unraveled Bond for me as well. Having him go rogue once in the 20th century films in LICENCE TO KILL was fine, but in the Craig era, it was practically his default setting.

It’s like anything really … you can use a zoom lens occasionally to very good effect (there is zoom shot in the last episode of MAISEL that was executed so perfectly I burst out laughing), but using them like a six year old renders the effect absurd and unwatchable (ditto and double-ditto for lens flares, and the childish way JJ practically undermined the idea of cinematic grammar with his neutronium-level heavy-handedness in this regard.)

I think the overall dumbness in the writing of these current shows is most clearly revealed in how if anything new is introduced in the universe, it absolutely gets paid off down the line. It’s like nothing happens on-camera unless it can be a hinge or gimmick that can be later seen as foreshadowing or setup. In smart hands, this is just lean and efficient plotting, but in leaden hands, it makes nearly everything predictable, because you file it away in your mind as soon as it comes up, knowing it is going to come back in some ridiculous way later. I find the current shows are nearly at their best when doing scenes that are about nothing, the character moments. Even those are often cringe-worthy (stopping for banter when you’re stealing a starship is a real head-scratcher), but at least there’s something to relate to, and it shows that not everything should be about the big payoff later.

I should also point out that in “Amok Time,” the stakes were a lot lower. The Enterprise was late for a diplomatic mission, a presidential inauguration on some post-conflict world. Three other Federation ships were attending, IIRC. Missing the inauguration may not have been nothing, but unlike in “The Broken Circle,” it was unlikely to spark a bloody interplanetary war. Although the character of Sarek hadn’t been introduced yet, presumably he, like T’Pau, intervened in the situation. And the Federation ambassador to the post-conflict world presumably explained that the Enterprise was absent because a crewmember’s life was at stake.

Oh, and another thing. Yes, TNG, as usual, handled all this better than NuTrek. In “The First Duty,” Wesley grappled with this very issue of both committing an underlying crime and then lying about it. Only Wesley upheld the honor code, and even he suffered real consequences of having to repeat a year at the academy. And frankly, that led him to choosing a life outside of Starfleet.

To be a little fair about it, SNW is just playing it for laughs and to show Pelia operates a bit differently than your average Starfleet officer. I get it bothers you and others but some things are just done for lighthearted sake. It’s the same issue with Mariner. She probably would’ve been drummed out of Starfleet years ago, but it’s a comedy so you give it more leeway.

And her issue didn’t involve someone being killed over it and then trying to cover it up like Wesley’s.

But man, it’s funny, I think Anthony posted this as just a fun little historical trivia and yet people find a way to argue and feel offended just the same over it.

One reason I find this particularly galling is that Paramount zealously guards its IP — and I have no doubt that the writer’s room would back up the boardroom on this point, lecturing everyone about how important IP is and equating IP infringement with theft. As the ongoing WGA strike illustrates, the writers feel their work product is undervalued.

And yet, steal a Johannes Vermeer painting, and they’re like “welp, no biggie, har, har, har!!!”

Where’s the proof that Pelia stole the paintings WHILE a Starfleet officer?

As for Spock stealing the Enterprise and getting away with it: if you’ve had a problem with Starfleet officers’ codes of conduct as far back as 1966’s “The Menagerie,” then maybe “Star Trek” is not the best fit for your science fiction needs.

Doesn’t matter. She’s continued to harbor them while she was.


You might need to sit down before I tell you that Starfleet isn’t real.

But Santa is, right?

Until they can prove he doesn’t exist, then he does. Just like the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.

Naw, really? :)

And this insight impacts what I wrote about believability just how? The institutions are supposed to act realistically enough to allow us that they *could* exist. (Star Trek is supposed to be science fiction, not fantasy.)

Key word being “FICTION”….

Lower Decks is much worse though in this area.

This all started with Trek III.

Actually, it started with

”The Menagerie”
Mr. Spock
the Enterprise
to save
Capt. Pike
a life of agony
. [Cut me some slack, I’m a bit tipsy and discovered the spoiler function]

As I note above, the Talosians, with their powers of illusion, were subtly influencing the top brass when deciding Spock’s fate. We openly saw this at the court-martial, where Mendez was an illusion. Most likely they were capable of influencing real Mendez’ decisions. For all we know, they may have subtly influenced *Spock’s* decisions.

Starfleet clearly does not hold officers responsible when they act under alien influence, since they lack agency. (Spock doesn’t get punished for attempted murder when he was possessed by Sargon, Data/O’Brien/Troi don’t get punished for attempted murder in “Power Play,” Data doesn’t get punished in “Brothers,” etc.) I suspect they never could *really* sort out who acted out of genuine free will in “The Menagerie,” and, combining that with sympathy for Pike, decided to let the whole episode slide.

Prosecuting Troi, O’Brien, and Data for getting <bleeping> possessed? Wow… you clearly don’t like the characters or the plots… why DO you watch “Star Trek?”

So I realize I missed your point with the Troi/O’Brien/Data thing, so you get an apology for that.

TNG is a lot funnier after about three shots…

… of mescaline, bullets or cordrazine?

Apparently you missed the Badmiral (Bad Admiral) trope. They teach a class on it, and stealing starships at the Academy.

…and increasingly gets criticized every time it’s used.

There are tropes you get to invoke SPARINGLY for the sake of a good story — I’ve no qualms with that. They become a crutch when used every day.

The destruction of the Enterprise has become a trope. It was shocking in The Search for Spock. Much, much less so every time since…but it has become a writer’s crutch, too.

…wholeheartedly agree with this.

For all the chatter about Trek predicting the future, it seems to be The Simpsons that gets the crystal ball gazing right…..

Well, I learned a lot. What a creepy story. I’ve already decided who did it. :-)

As far as the Starfleet code of honor…fortune favors the bold. The great captains have always chosen the morally correct path over the ivy tower ethics of the prime directive and whatnot. The universe is vast and complicated, as are the members of the Federation. Better to save an entire planet than an alternate timeline, even if it comes at a soul crushing cost.

Ah. But what will we do in a few years if the painting is actually found? Suddenly Star Trek’s history will be incompatible with our own. Surely Akiva Goldsman will step in with an in-universe explaination to keep Roddenberry’s vision alive.