The series Star Trek: The Next Generation ended in 1994, but Sir Patrick Stewart as the cerebral and decisive Captain Jean-Luc Picard maintained his hold over fans’ loyalty ever since, second only to the group that starred in the original show of the 1960s.
After the show went off the air, the British actor enjoyed a great deal of career success that had nothing to do with Star Trek, from continuing his stage work in major productions of The Tempest and Hamlet to playing Professor Charles Xavier in the X-Men film series.
But now fans may feel they’ve been hit by phasers set to “stun.” Stewart said in a statement released in August 2018 that it is “an unexpected but delightful surprise to find myself excited and invigorated to be returning to Jean-Luc Picard and to explore new dimensions within him. Seeking out new life for him, when I thought that life was over.”
The announcement was made at the Las Vegas Star Trek convention. It’s not intended to be a reboot of Star Trek: The Next Generation but seems to be telling the story of Picard’s life after serving as captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise.
The series will be coming to CBS All Access, though not many details have been released.
Stewart, 78 years old, said in his statement: “During these past years, it has been humbling to hear many stories about how The Next Generation brought people comfort, saw them through difficult periods in their lives or how the example of Jean-Luc inspired so many to follow in his footsteps, pursuing science, exploration and leadership,” Stewart said of the years since he made his final appearance as Picard in 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis. “I feel I’m ready to return to him for the same reason – to research and experience what comforting and reforming light he might shine on these often very dark times. I look forward to working with our brilliant creative team as we endeavor to bring a fresh, unexpected and pertinent story to life once more.”
On the live panel discussing the show at the Las Vegas convention, Stewart said, “It may not be the Jean-Luc you know and love. He may be a man who has been changed by his experiences…it will be, I promise you, something different…but it will come with the same love for the universe and our fans we had before.”
NASA Q&A With the Stars of STAR TREK BEYOND
Speculation is that CBS All Access will emphasize Star Trek as its core entertainment. According to a story on i09, “CBS executives have confirmed there are other potential Star Trek shows being considered for CBS All Access. The plan looks to be all Star Trek, all the time.”
In an interview, executive vice president of original content Julie McNamara said, “We’re looking at limited series for some Trek shows, and we are looking at ongoing series for some other Trek shows. We’ve obviously announced the one that’s coming next with Sir Patrick Stewart, but we have more in development there.”
From the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, it was clear that the show was reeling in new fans. Stewart was a hit as Captain Picard, as was Brent Spiner as Data, Jonathan Frakes as Commander William T. Riker, Michael Dorn as Worf, Marina Sirtis as Deanna Troi, LeVar Burton as Geordi La Forge, and more. The series ran for seven seasons.
Captain Picard, a native of France (with a difficult relationship with his adult brother), found comfort in Shakespeare and enjoyed archaeology during his rare moments of free time. He had a longstanding attraction to the ship’s physician, Dr. Beverly Crusher, and lingering trauma from being abducted by the enemy species, the Borg.
Alex Kurtzman will oversee CBS’s new Star Wars series. “With overwhelming joy, it’s a privilege to welcome Sir Patrick Stewart back to the ‘Star Trek’ fold,” Kurtzman said. “For over 20 years, fans have hoped for the return of Captain Jean-Luc Picard and that day is finally here. We can’t wait to forge new ground, surprise people, and honor generations both new and old.”
In related news, Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 is set to launch in early 2019.
Nancy Bilyeau, a former staff editor at Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, and InStyle, has written a trilogy of historical thrillers for Touchstone Books. For more information, go to www.nancybilyeau.com.