By Fleet Capt. Dave Mason
LAS VEGAS — Thousands of fans cheered as Patrick Stewart made a surprise appearance and announced he’s returning as Jean-Luc Picard.
Rumors have circulated that the “Next Generation” star was interested in returning to “Star Trek,” and that was confirmed Aug. 4 at Creation Entertainment’s Official Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas.
The unexpected announcement came as Alex Kurtzman, co-creator and executive producer of “Star Trek: Discovery,” came on the Rio All-Suites Hotel stage and said the “Trek” universe was expanding. But Kurtzman added he didn’t feel entirely qualified to discuss the new show.
“What I would like to do is bring out a good friend to talk about the next one,” Kurtzman said.
That was when Sir Patrick Stewart, who needed no further introduction, came out in a white T-shirt and jeans.
Fans rose to their feet, cheered and hurriedly snapped photos.
Stewart explained he would play Picard again in a new CBS All-Access series set 20 years after the “Next Generation” movies. That led to tons of more cheers, whistles and joyful expressions of surprise by fans.
Stewart, who’s also one of the executive producers, told fans no scripts have been written, but the series and story possibilities are being discussed.
“I have to tell you he (Picard) may not — and I stress the word ‘may’ — he may not be a captain anymore,” Stewart said.
“He may be a very different individual, someone who has been changed by his experience,” Stewart said. He noted nearly 20 years have passed since “Star Trek: Nemesis” (2002), the final feature film featuring the cast of “The Next Generation.”
Stewart said the new series will be very different from “TNG,” but would be produced with the same passion.
He explained he previously wasn’t interested in playing Picard again because he felt typecast after “The Next Generation.”
“I remembered meeting with a filmmaker whose movie I very much wanted to be in, to play a supporting role,” Stewart said. “He said, ‘You’re a good actor. I very much like your work, but why would I want Jean-Luc Picard in my movie?’
“One has mixed feelings about anecdotes like that,” Stewart said. “I was determined that was the past. It was over. It would be a voyage that I would never undertake again.”
When Stewart was approached earlier this year about playing Picard again, he knew he would have to decline. In fact, he spent 20 minutes during a meeting with four other people explaining why he wouldn’t reprise the popular character for a CBS All-Access series.
Then something happened, Stewart said.
He watched “Next Generation” episodes, including some he hadn’t seen. “Gradually it became clearer and clearer to me about the power of that show.”
And he thought about what “Star Trek” has meant to fans.
“I have never grown tired of people who stopped me in the streets or a restaurant and said, ‘Your show changed my life,'” Stewart said.
He said his favorite comment came in a letter from a Las Vegas police detective, who wrote the cruelty of criminals left him feeling dismayed about the world.
“But when I feel like that, I go to my video shelf and take down ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation,’ and I know we are going to have a future,” the detective wrote.
Stewart said the line was central to his decision to return as Picard.
In addition to Stewart, Kurtzman, “Rod” Roddenberry and Trevor Roth are among the new series’ executive producers.
By Fleet Capt. Dave Mason