“I’d been turning down ‘Star Trek’ spin-offs almost from the day after we finished filming ‘Nemesis,’ the last ‘Next Generation’ film, because I felt that I had said everything I had to say as Jean-Luc Picard,” admits Patrick Stewart about his resistance to reviving one of his best known roles. But the creative team behind the new CBS All Access series coaxed the erstwhile Starfleet captain out of retirement. Watch our exclusive video interview with Stewart above [SPOILERS INCLUDED FOR SEASON ONE].
“I would have been a fool to have said no because what they were proposing was so close to the only kind of ‘Star Trek’ series that I would possibly be interested in,” Stewart explains. Specifically, it was a series that radically departed from the format of “The Next Generation,” much the way Stewart bid farewell to his “X-Men” character Charles Xavier in the unconventional superhero film “Logan.”
“Immediately the script of episode one shows us a very different Jean-Luc Picard,” says Stewart. In the years since the 2002 film “Nemesis,” Picard has become disillusioned; he resigned from Starfleet after they left Romulan citizens at the mercy of a supernova. Starfleet also banned synthetic life, which Picard especially resented after his friend Data (Brent Spiner), an android, sacrificed himself to save Picard.
Picard has a complex relationship with synthetic beings. In addition to his love for Data, he was assimilated by the Borg, a trauma he still lives with. But while the Borg have long been fearsome villains in the “Star Trek” universe, Picard views their victims with empathy, and he is undeterred in his mission to rescue another synthetic lifeform, Soji (played by Isa Briones), from those that would destroy her and anyone else like her. “Fundamental to all of Jean-Luc’s philosophies are those ideas that we all have a right to live and exist and be who and what we are,” says Stewart. “It’s part of the prime directive.”
Eventually the season’s themes come to a head in the season finale, when Picard sacrifices his own life to save Soji, but is resurrected in a new synthetic body. “The writers had been a little bit undercover about that aspect of how series one was going to end,” Stewart recalls. “I learned it from reading the script, and when I saw that Picard collapsed and died when he was on that alien planet, I thought, ‘Oh my lord, I’m being written out of the show?” Instead, Picard lives on with an “artificial life inside me, but not a subservient, cruel one like the Borg.”
Stewart adds, “We shall see. We don’t know how Picard is going to live with this new condition that has become part of his life.” The show was renewed for a second season, and though the coronavirus pandemic has put most Hollywood productions on hold, writing for the next batch of episodes is underway, and the actor teases that we can look forward to “startling events” in season two. “We’re not going to be covering the same ground, and it’s going to be extraordinary … I’m looking forward to it very much.”
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