Sir Patrick Stewart signed off as Jean-Luc Picard for the last time in 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis, but Amazon Prime Video’s Star Trek: Picard sees him reprising the famous role.
The 79-year-old actor has long expressed reservations about playing the Starfleet Captain again, but the Picard producers worked closely with him to allay his fears, collaborating closely on how the character had evolved in the 18 years since we last saw him.
Stewart told Yahoo he had specific conditions for returning as Picard having already played him across seven seasons of The Next Generation and four feature films, and he had strict ideas for the costume department.
“One of the things that was decided very early on, once I had committed to the series, was that we would investigate Picard’s back story, and find out what that back story had done to him,” Stewart said.
“I wanted to kick off with someone who was almost unrecognisable from the Picard that we’d seen before. And I also made a condition about not wearing a uniform as well, so he had to be out of Starfleet.”
“We find him in poor shape.”
The series opens with Picard living out his retirement on his French vineyard, having ignominiously left Starfleet and his life on the beloved Starship Enterprise behind.
Haunted by an event in his past, Picard has lost his taste for adventure while exiled from space exploration, and has grown weary of life.
“Picard and Patrick are joined now,” explains executive producer Akiva Goldsman. “There is no bright line between them and although they are different, there is a tremendous overlap.
“We spent a lot of time in collaboration with Patrick... well, first of all it was in persuasion and pursuit of Patrick, to try to convince him, oddly, [that] our outcome goal was the same as his: which was not to pretend that he would be standing back up on the bridge of the Enterprise.
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“But instead [he would be] a man facing the challenges of somebody older.”
A key part of Picard’s evolved character in the latest show is embodied by something that aligned very closely with Stewart’s own interests: Picard has found companionship in old age with a pit bull.
“[Patrick Stewart] is a massive advocate for pit bulls,” exec producer Alex Kurtzman says. “We ended up doing a casting call for pit bulls and ended up with a pit bull called Deniro.”
Stewart and his wife Sunny Ozell have fostered pit bulls together for four years, giving homes to neglected dogs while a charity searches for “forever home” placements.
“Given the emotional state of Picard, to see him with the dog who he talks to, would say so much about him,” adds Stewart, “so that one wouldn’t have to do anything else, but there’s a dog who follows him around everywhere he goes. Everyone liked that idea, but what I did insist on was that it should be a pit bull.”
“Because pit bulls fit so well into the Star Trek story: they’re wrongly regarded, they are abused, they are in fact some of the most patient, delightful and empathetic creatures you will ever meet.
“And they showed up with Deniro who’s terrifying, huge, with that big mouth and jaw, and... as they all are... he’s a sweetheart.”
Star Trek: Picard launches on Amazon Prime Video on 24 January. Watch a trailer below.