Despite the official shelving of Paramount Pictures’ Star Trek 4, the franchise is still going strong with a second season of Star Trek: Discovery coming soon to CBS All Access as well as Lower Decks, the upcoming half-hour animated comedy from Mike McMahan (Rick and Morty); the shortform entry Short Treks; a Discovery spinoff starring Michelle Yeoh and Starfleet Academy, a younger-skewing offering from Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage (The O.C.). Joining them will be a series featuring an older Jean-Luc Picard, with Patrick Stewart returning to reprise the role! The project has been in development for some time, but any details beyond that have been practically nonexistent, until franchise writer & producer Alex Kurtzman recently unveiled some key details about the new series, beginning with where we meet Picard when everything kicks off. In an interview with THR, Kurtzman revealed that “Picard’s life was radically altered by the dissolution of the Romulan Empire,” referencing the cataclysmic event depicted in J.J. Abrams’ 2009 film Star Trek—written by Kurtzman and former producing partner Roberto Orci— in which Prime Spock failed to save the Romulan homeworld from a supernova which resulted in the empire’s rapid decline, most likely altering the balance of power in the galaxy.
The Romulans were originally Vulcans who rejected their commitment to reason, logic and complete suppression of emotions and left their society thousands of years ago and founded a separate civilization on the planets Romulus and Remus, subjugating the native Remans. The newly christened Romulans went on to establish a formidable star empire—variously said to be larger than the Klingon Empire, but smaller than the Federation—in opposition to the Federation for all of Picard’s career with Starfleet, despite one of his goals as captain of the Enterprise being peace between them. The planet’s destruction and subsequent ruination of its empire is said to “have extra resonance for Picard,” who has a long and complicated relationship with the conquerors involving thwarting a Romulan secret takeover of Vulcan during the course of Star Trek: The Next Generation and facing off with a younger clone of himself (played by Tom Hardy) created by the Romulans in 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis; the last feature film released prior to Abrams’ alternate timeline reboot.
This upcoming series will be the first onscreen Trek story set in the aftermath Romulus’ destruction, and it was this event and this setting that were integral in Kurtzman getting Stewart to return. According to Kurtzman, the veteran actor said he would reprise the role only if he could “defy what people are used to seeing with Trek.” Bringing Stewart back as Picard has been on Kurtzman’s wishlist for over a year now, ever since he was first asked to build out CBS All Access’ Trek universe, made all the more important seeing as how he’s always considered Picard the greatest Trek captain despite penning two films focusing on Captain Kirk. Even with rumors circulating that Stewart was uninterested in revisiting the character, after seven seasons on Star Trek: The Next Generation and four feature films, Kurtzman contacted Stewart’s agent and asked for a meeting.
The response Kurtzman received was not one he was expecting:
“To our amazement and delight, the agent called back and said he was curious to know what we had in mind.”
Kurtzman, then-Star Trek: Discovery producer Akiva Goldsman and writer Kirsten Beyer, met with Stewart to pitch their vision for what the return of Picard would entail, stating:
“What we tried to convey in that meeting was how desperately we loved him and the character and how much we wanted to see what happened to Picard. [Patrick] threw down an amazing gauntlet and said, ‘If we do this, I want it to be so different, I want it to be both what people remember but also not what they’re expecting at all, otherwise why do it?’
Stewart then asked the team-which, at this point, had also added novelist and screenwriter Michael Chabon-to prepare a three-page document outlining their ideas for the proposed series that ended up becoming 34 pages! Kurtzman goes on to say:
“[There was] no way to shorten it. We were going on all in and he was going to read it or not read it, love it or hate it. It was our best attempt at trying to get him to say yes. He walked into the room [in Los Angeles during Oscars weekend] and he had a huge smile on his face and said, ‘This is wonderful.’ What he understood at that point … was that he was with people who desperately wanted to collaborate with him, that we weren’t trying to exploit him. He knew if he was going to go back to Picard, it needed to be for the greatest reason ever.”
Both Kurtzman and Stewart seem to be all-in on not only just bringing a beloved character back for fans, but to tell a real story with real depth and development that will serve as more than a popularity grab or cash-in. Another huge draw for the show is the possibility that members of Picard’s old Enterprise crew showing up in some capacity, to which Kurtzman would only say:
“Anything could happen”
The currently untitled Picard series is still in the early stages of development, but expect some more casting and plot information to come out over the next few months.