Patrick Stewart returns to iconic role in ‘Star Trek: Picard’

‘Star Trek: Picard’ – A character haunted by tragedy

Alison Pill and Patrick Stewart star in “Star Trek: Picard,” which begins streaming Thursday on CBS All Access.

Fans of “Star Trek: Next Generation” will find its beloved Admiral Jean-Luc Picard out of sorts and in an unfamiliar state in a series that begins streaming this week on CBS All Access.

“Star Trek: Picard,” which premieres Thursday, Jan. 23, picks up 20 years after the events of the 2002 feature “Star Trek: Nemesis” and finds the Enterprise commander played by Patrick Stewart retired to his vineyard in the Burgundy region of France, where he’s turning out fine wines and licking his wounds from two events that derailed his career and changed his life: the destruction of the planet Romulus and the death of ex-comrade Data (Brent Spiner).

Unshaven and looking rather unkempt in the opening episode, the aging Picard is confronted by his original decision to pull away from Starfleet and forced to grapple with whether to re-engage and head back to the stars.

“A young woman appears to him on a day of remembrance … about a very specific catastrophic event that is one of the key factors that changed the course of his life,” explains series creator Alex Kurtzman. “… And it turns out that she happens to be the key that unlocks a whole chest of secrets and mysteries. And once he has gotten a taste of that, he ends up making the decision to leave the vineyard and go out and get a ship again but not in a way you will expect, not in a way that is predictable. And we have a whole new crew this year of characters.”

Patrick Stewart stars in “Star Trek: Picard,” which begins streaming Thursday on CBS All Access.

In addition to Spiner, original 1987-94 series cast members Marina Sirtis and Jonathan Frakes (who also directs several episodes) make appearances in their respective roles of Troi and Riker, with Alison Pill (“Midnight in Paris”), Isa Briones (“Takers”), Santiago Cabrera (“Big Little Lies”), Michelle Hurd (“Blindspot”) and Harry Treadaway (“The Lone Ranger”) heading the regular cast.

And then, of course, there is Stewart, who had vowed to leave the character behind once and for all after “Nemesis.” But Kurtzman’s story treatment of a haunted Picard intrigued him and the Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actor signed on. He has an executive producer credit here.

“He said to us early on,” Kurtzman recalls, ” ‘I will never be the person who can (write) the story for you but I will be able to tell you very quickly if a line feels inauthentic.’ And we said, ‘Well since you are the pre-eminent expert in Jean-Luc Picard, that will be very helpful.’ ”

As for Pill, who plays scientist Dr. Agnes Jurati, the chance to work with Stewart in the “Trek” universe proved too enticing.

“I have wonderful videos of him just quoting some of his favorite Shakespeare,” the actress says. “I mean, he’ll do ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ he’ll do ‘Lear.’ He just has such an encyclopedic knowledge of Shakespeare, so in between takes we’ll just be getting amazing stories.

“And then also it’s so special having some of the legacy cast members like Brent … it’s just so joyful to see old friends, old colleagues come together in this new iteration of an older thing. So seeing that was really special, seeing Patrick’s comfort with them and joy in coming back to it was really special.”

George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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