Getting Patrick Stewart on board for Star Trek: Picard was no easy task for CBS. The actor was adamant that he would never return to the role of Jean-Luc Picard, unless the proposed storyline met a very high bar: it had to be as good as Logan, Stewart’s final stint in the X-Men universe.
“I had absolutely no intention of returning to Star Trek. I had resisted numerous invitations to bring it all back to life again,” Stewart told the audience at Destination Star Trek Birmingham over the weekend. He explained he attended a pitch meeting with CBS out of a sense of respect (and presumably Good British Manners): “I wanted — as politely and sensitively as possible — to tell them why I was going to turn the offer down. They listened to me talk for 20 minutes or more while I explained to them all the reasons behind my saying no.”
Still, he listened to producers Alex Kurtzman and Akiva Goldsman long enough to become a little curious, eventually reading over a 35-page spec script for the series. Stewart then agreed to a second meeting, during which he referenced his experience returning to the X-Men franchise. Logan saw Stewart’s Charles Xavier and Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine in a ruined world, where we learn a progressive illness caused Charles’ immense telekinetic powers accidentally killed all his mutant students. His loftiest ideals and greatest ambitions have failed utterly; he’s a ruined shell of what he used to be.
“Logan was nothing like any of the other X-Men movies that had come before. It was very, very different. The world had changed,” Stewart explained of his decision to return as Charles. “I challenged Alex Kurtzman and Akiva Goldsman to come up with ideas for a completely different world than the one that we had known 17 or 18 years earlier.”
It’s possible that Picard could move in a similar direction to Logan. The final episode of Next Generation, “All Good Things,” saw an older version of Jean-Luc back in France, living out his retirement in a winery. He suffers from a neurological disorder called irumodic syndrome, which causes confusion and delusion, causing old pals like Geordi and Dr. Crusher to doubt his claims about the time leaps he’s been experiencing.
We’ve already seen some clues that Picard may also suffer from this condition in the upcoming CBS series. In the trailer, he has a dream about Data, who died back in Nemesis. When he heads to Starfleet HQ, a receptionist says “it’s good to see you up and around again.” His sour response is similar to how “old Jean-Luc” reacts in the TNG finale.
Whether Picard sees the character in good health or not, he’ll probably have some somber reflections about his past, which the actor made light of at New York Comic Con last month. “As you will shortly discover, there’s nothing worse than revisiting ancient territory,” he said with a laugh.
Star Trek: Picard comes to CBS All Access on January 23.