Jean-Luc Picard is Back!

Engage Star Trek

Patrick Stewart has officially announced the return of the ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ captain.

The crowd was not expecting this. Thousands of Trekkies (or Trekkers, depending on your personal belief system) gathered in the Leonard Nimoy Theater at the annual Star Trek Las Vegas convention held by Creation Entertainment. William Shatner had just left the stage, having delivered his usual round of self-deprecating Q&As, but we were urged to remain in our seats. I had heard earlier that Alex Kurtzman was going to follow the marquee event with a special announcement but had assumed it would just involve information regarding the second season of Star Trek: Discovery or the home release date for the first (that news would come later the next day).

Kurtzman said, “I figured that this was probably the day to announce to you what our next Star Trek series is going to be. If that’s okay with you guys.” A healthy applause spilled forth from the audience, but then he continued, “But I actually don’t feel entirely qualified to be the one to do it. So what I would like to do is bring out a good friend to talk about the next one.” Behind him, a re-creation of the Enterprise-D’s bridge doors opened and Patrick Stewart walked out onto the stage. The room erupted.

Stewart was sporting a large grin. He appeared a touch overwhelmed by the reception, even though he surely knew the place was going to lose its mind upon his appearance. He stood in front of the moderator’s desk, leaning against it. Someone screamed from the way back of the theater, “We love you!” Stewart put his hand to his chest and replied, “And it is returned. Thank you.”

The audience was desperately trying to connect Kurtzman’s introduction to Stewart’s appearance. Does this mean what we think it means? Is Patrick Stewart coming back to Star Trek? That can’t be. In the past, he’s been polite to those types of questions but has always denied his interest in another cup of Earl Grey tea.

He told us that he had spent a lot of time recently watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, including episodes he had never seen before. There was a wry smile, laughter rippled throughout. The actor knew his audience and devilishly enjoyed his time upon the stage.

Stewart began to lay the groundwork for what brought him back to Las Vegas:

“The power of that show, the success of that show, the benefits that it gave, I have never ever grown tired of hearing from people who stop me in a street or in a restaurant — well, I don’t like being interrupted while I’m eating, but who say to me that your show changed my life. Without ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation,’ I might not be here.”

As was the case for every actor who took that stage this past weekend, Stewart is in awe of the power this franchise has on those who get swept up in it. Star Trek is the future as it should be. Gene Roddenberry’s 50-year-old vision of an all-inclusive society fighting to explore the final frontier offers a tremendous amount of hope to its viewers. They turn to the series and see a purpose for carrying on. The present may be awash in the darkness, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. That’s not some silly prattle, that’s genuine aspiration. Believe in Trek, believe in humanity.

Stewart explained how that notion lies at the center of his big announcement:

“Jean-Luc Picard… is back!”

I’ve never heard a crowd as loud. I honestly felt the room move. Some stranger behind me fell upon my shoulders in exaltation. The reaction was absurd and beautiful. Several people around me were crying, and the response to witnessing such affection brought water to my own eyes. For most of this audience, Jean-Luc Picard was their captain. Kirk was first, but Picard rekindled the dwindling flame of the series.

We have not seen Picard since Star Trek: Nemesis. Sixteen years have passed, and the taste of that film has only soured more and more over time. That crew had only a couple of solid cinematic moments, but their true home was on television. The prospect of seeing Jean-Luc Picard’s story continue and given the chance to properly send off these characters is more than a little stimulating.

However, Stewart warned the excited auditorium that the Picard in this new iteration may look and act a little different from the captain we remember. He might not even be a captain:

“He may not, and I stress may not, be a captain anymore. He may not be the Jean-Luc that you recognize and know so well. It may be a very different individual. Someone who has been changed by his experiences. Twenty years will have passed, which is more or less exactly the time between the very last movie – ‘Nemesis’ – and today.”

He urged us not to worry. What he and the writers have in store for Picard will live up to his history:

It will be, I promise you, I guarantee it, something very, very different. It will come to you with the same passion, and determination, and love of the material and love of our followers and our fans, exactly as we had it before.

This new Star Trek show is still in the very early stages of development. We do not know if it will be an ongoing series or have a limited run. Deadline is reporting that several Star Trek: Discovery team members will be jumping ship for the Picard spinoff. James Duff (Discovery Executive Producer), Akiva Goldsman (Discovery producer/writer), and Kirsten Beyer (Discovery writer/novelist) are all tapped for the creative board. As is Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon, who also wrote one of the Star Trek: Short Treks installments to be released in December.

Yeah, but how will the new series tie into the season seven finale, “All Good Things?”

The fanatics’ minds race. This is a lot of enthusiasm to take in at once, and the news dominated the rest of the Star Trek Las Vegas convention. For those that have not already subscribed to CBS All Access’ new streaming platform, Jean-Luc Picard goes a long way in grabbing those dollars.

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Trekkie, Not Trekker. Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects, co-host of the In The Mouth of Dorkness Podcast.