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Inside the Star Trek: Picard prequel comic, on the vineyard with Jean-Luc
CBS All Access' Star Trek: Picard is one of the most hotly anticipated entries in the Star Trek universe in ages. The series will mark the return of Patrick Stewart's fabled starship captain Jean-Luc Picard, ending a 17-year absence since 2002's Star Trek: Nemesis.
Though the show, whose trailers first find Picard living in simple luxury on his vineyard, won't debut until January, IDW is whetting fans' appetites with a four-issue prequel series, which drops into orbit on November 27 — and SYFY WIRE has a first peek under the hood.
Written by Star Trek: Picard producer Kirsten Beyer and Titan Comics' Blade Runner 2019 co-author Mike Johnson, with art from Angel Hernandez, fans of this book will witness the events leading directly up to Star Trek: Picard.
The plotline grapples with the extreme crisis of conscience Admiral Jean-Luc Picard suffered while serving as the most decorated officer in Starfleet. One Romulan relocation mission suddenly changes his life forever and sets in motion the narrative for the new TV series by explaining why he chose to divorce himself from the peacekeeping armada that defined him for decades.
Johnson wrote IDW's Star Trek: Countdown, a prequel series setting up J.J. Abrams' Star Trek reboot in 2009, and previously collaborated with Hernandez on a Star Trek/Green Lantern crossover in 2015.
SYFY WIRE spoke with Johnson about the extreme secrecy surrounding this tie-in series, capturing Jean-Luc's particular posture and vocabulary, and keeping up with the complex Star Trek canon. After the chat, enjoy our 4-page preview of Star Trek: Picard - Countdown #1 in the gallery below.
The secrecy around this IDW Picard comic project is pretty heavy. Why all the intense security?
Yeah, even more so than in 2009, when we were doing the Countdown prequel to the first J.J. Abrams movie. I think it's because they're really putting an emphasis on the surprise, and it's such a big thing, the return of Jean-Luc Picard and the return of Patrick Stewart to the role. And everyone is speculating about where he's at and what he's doing.
They just want to preserve that element of surprise, and that extends to any ancillary materials, like the comics and the novels. We're really lucky that we get to do a prequel comic, and I think the original Countdown is the reason why. That was very successful, and it alleviated some fears that a prequel comic would just spoil things.
Can you take us on a quick tour of the plot?
This story takes place a fair number of years before the events of the Picard show. We couldn't do something that happens right before the show without actually spoiling stuff. As people know from the trailers, Picard is retired and on his vineyard and this story takes place after The Next Generation, but before he's retired from Starfleet.
I can't spoil too much of the plot because I want people to read it fresh. We start to lay in some of the backgrounds for why he ultimately decides to leave Starfleet. He's an admiral, we see his new ship, we might see a familiar face or two and we see what he's been doing since the end of Nemesis.
We're going to be meeting a couple of characters for the first time in the comic that will appear in the show. These are new characters and there are actually brief glimpses of them in the trailers.
Kirsten Beyer is the co-writer on this comic and supervising producer of the Star Trek: Picard TV series. How did that collaboration evolve?
Kirsten — who is also on the staff of Star Trek: Discovery — and I have been writing the comics together for Discovery. And because we're inside the bubble, and there's that level of trust, it was decided that she and I would write the Picard story together.
This Picard story in the comic is actually one that was a possibility for showing some of these events in the show as flashbacks. It didn't work out that way but we thought the comic is the perfect place to do it. Kirsten is really driving the story and I'm writing all the scripts.
What's the trick in capturing Picard's particular speech patterns, vocabulary, and mannerisms?
It's honestly having been a fan and having watched so much of him and the character growing up. Being a fan matters; all the love you have for something and all the hours you pour into it. Even if you don't go on to write the character, it's still inside of you and you can hear their voice. It's a matter of taking a step back and listening to the voice inside.
I think we can all hear Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc. There's a certain kind of rhythm to the way Picard talks and the way he emphasizes a particular word in a sentence. And I went back and re-watched a bunch of Picard episodes to get a fresh listen.
I hope people enjoy meeting Picard again after a long time in this first new Picard story that we've had. I hope that they recognize him as the character we all love and [it] gets them excited for what's going to happen in the show.
How do you keep track of the entire Star Trek universe with its web of intersecting characters, storylines, timelines, and canonical details?
We have a little bit of a brain trust now with me, Kirsten, and the Star Trek novelist Dayton Ward, and we're all keeping track of everything going on. We have a good group and we keep each other up to date on what's going on. There's not a whole lot of cooks in the kitchen, it's a pretty lean and mean operation.
And the same thing extends to IDW. They've had the license for so long and they've established that measure of trust with CBS. IDW is a smaller publisher and the benefits of that are that communications are really clear, people get along, and it's a small team all dedicated to the same goal. It's just a joy to work and play in the Star Trek world.
How does Angel Hernandez's art set the tone and mood for your and Kirsten's storyline?
I've been lucky enough to work with Angel on a few projects. He's done a lot of our Discovery comics. He and I did a Star Trek/Green Lantern crossover. To draw Star Trek, you need to be able to do likenesses and be able to do technology and you have to be fast and good. When you're working with a studio licensor, you need to be able to take notes and turn them around quickly and he's got all of that, he's the whole package. This had to be done on a very quick schedule so we could get it out before the show premieres and he aced it.
He's been amazing. I think he really brings an ability to not just do cool alien environments and spaceships, but also really precise emotional beats and portraits within the comic. We're just really lucky to have him.
Was Sir Patrick Stewart involved in this prequel project in any way?
No, I wish! I could have called him up every day and gotten his feedback. Sadly, no. He was busy as we were coming up with it. But I do look forward to his Twitter review!