Star Trek: Picard has boldly gone where no Trek story has gone before: old age and (brief) retirement. But just as there is no keeping Jean-Luc Picard relaxing at the chateau, there’s also no keeping Patrick Stewart from returning to his first major franchise. Indeed, Jean-Luc and Star Trek brought Stewart to Hollywood, and reprising the character in 2020 has allowed both the performer and the Federation space captain to reflect on their legacies with new insight.
“I think the second movie, which was the one Jonathan Frakes directed, First Contact, I think was outstanding and the best of our four movies,” Stewart revealed.
First Contact was the fourth time a Star Trek actor directed one of the films—to much better success than William Shatner’s Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989), by the by—and was a shot of adrenaline to the franchise. While The Next Generation cast already took over the film series by sharing Star Trek: Generations (1994) with Shatner, First Contact allowed them to update the TNG aesthetic to something a little more cinematic while confronting major, lingering plot threads from the series: like the alien menace of the Borg and the scars they left on Jean-Luc.
First Contact was not the first time Frakes directed, however. He cut his teeth by directing eight episodes of The Next Generation, which has paved the way to a long career in television direction… which includes the first season of Star Trek: Picard and its possible future.
Said Stewart, “Some of the episodes Jonathan directed are also outstanding, and he is directing Star Trek: Picard, two episodes in the first season, and I think I can say with confidence he will direct in other seasons if and when they happen.”
The rest of the interview included Stewart reflecting again on how Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry took a personal dislike to Stewart and never wanted him cast as Picard or as the lead of the series in the first place.
“Gene would come down to the set, two or three times during the week, and he would sit in the director’s chair and he would watch what we were doing,” Stewart said. “And occasionally I would catch him looking at me, and I know, I know, that he was thinking, ‘What the hell is this guy doing in my show?’”
Stewart was not Roddenberry’s first choice, a fact the legendary TV producer made clear when they first met. But it apparently ran deeper than that, as Stewart now relayed.
“I’m told somewhere in the archives, in the cellar of Paramount, there is a memo that came from Gene to everyone on the production saying that he did not want to hear my name mentioned again.”
The reason why Roddenberry so initially loathed Stewart in the role is still discussed, although Stewart wisely surmises it had everything to do with his British theatrical background.
“The Los Angeles Times described me as ‘unknown Shakespearean actor Patrick Stewart,” he explained before adding, “if you didn’t go to the Royal Shakespeare Company or watch BBC2, you really had no idea who this person was.”
It’s safe Star Trek fans do now. And considering the enthusiasm around the Star Trek: Picard premiere episode, they want him to have everything to do with Trek’s future.