'Star Trek: Picard' producers explain how they've avoided fan service

Tom Butler
Senior Editor

The executive producers of Star Trek: Picard say they took great care trying to avoid being ‘in fan service’ when deciding which returning Star Trek cast members could – and should – return for the new series.

With seven series and four feature films featuring the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation (and beyond), to draw on, the show had a wealth of beloved characters from which to draw from, but they said all decisions had to be driven by story.

“The truth is we are all [Star Trek] fans,” explains executive producer Akiva Goldsman.

“And so each of us has full on file of the things we imagined could be in the show. And the way we sorted... the filter was: what does the story need? And it is the story of a man and his wounds, his longings, his chances at the redemption, and as such we had this amazing treasure trove to choose from.”

Jonathan Frakes as Commander William T. Riker, Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi in the STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION episode, "The Hunted." Season 3, episode 11. Original air date, January 8, 1990. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

Confirmed cast members that have been announced for Star Trek: Picard so far include Sir Patrick Stewart (obviously), Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine (Voyager), Brent Spiner (Data), Jonathan Frakes (William Riker), Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troi), and Jonathan Del Arco (Hugh). They’ll be joined in S2 by Whoopi Goldberg reprising her role as Guinan. 

This leaves many of the classic TNG cast – including LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden and Wil Wheaton – all MIA for now.

Read more: Patrick Stewart shares his conditions for returning as Picard

“We tried to be very judicious,” adds Goldsman. “We tried not to - and we are fans - we tried not to be in fan service, we tried to be loving and respectful of what was available to us, and what the story asked for. And when those two things collided, as they do on a few occasions in season one, it brought us endless delight. And hopefully it will bring you endless delight too.”

Pictured: Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine of the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: PICARD. (Photo Cr: James Dimmock/CBS ©2019 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

On the other side of the Star Trek coin lies the show’s huge roster of villains and alien races. Again, deciding who the antagonists of Picard would be proved to be another story-driven decision.

The Romulans, initially presented as distant relatives of the Vulcans, and a race who once were at war with Earth, take centre stage in Picard. The show deals with the fallout of the destruction of their home planet of Romulus during the events of the 2009 JJ Abrams Star Trek film.

Read more: Picard won’t captain the ship in new Star Trek series

“The little bit of canon that we had established during that period – the Romulan supernova – was a great place to start [choosing the show’s antagonist],” explains supervising producer Kristen Beyer.

“The Romulans are a founding alien race of Star Trek,” adds executive producer Michael Chabon.

Pictured: Harry Treadaway as the Romulan Narek of STAR TREK: PICARD. (Photo Cr: James Dimmock/CBS ©2019 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

“They were there from very early in the history of The Original Series, and they made many, many appearances over multiple series over the years, and they’ve never received the treatment that, by contrast, the Klingons have received.”

“We looked at what was already known about the Romulans: that they have cloaking devices, that they have a fearsome secret police, and so those ideas of secrecy and cloaking and what seemed to be telling us that interested them. And then we thought: what kind of society produces these kinds of values? And what might it actually be like to be a Romulan?”

Pictured: Sir Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard of the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: PICARD. (Photo Cr: James Dimmock/CBS ©2019 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Watch the full interview above to see more about how making Picard compared to The Next Generation and Voyager for Patrick Stewart and Jeri Ryan.

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Star Trek: Picard launches on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, 24 January.