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'Picard' showrunner Terry Matalas on Crusher's intro, '12 Monkeys' reunion & wooing Frakes back on camera
Writer/showrunner Terry Matalas reveals all about the Picard Season 3 premiere, "The Next Generation."
For fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation who have been watching Star Trek: Picard hoping that more of the former's cast would be in the latter series, Season 3 is your dream come true. As revealed in the season premiere episode, "The Next Generation," showrunner/writer Terry Matalas has teased maximum USS Enterprise, NCC-1701-D nirvana by having Admiral Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) reunite with Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Crusher (Gates McFadden), with Worf (Michael Dorn), Troi (Marina Sirtis), LaForge (LeVar Burton) and some iteration of Data (Brent Spiner) to come.
For SYFY WIRE, showrunner and episode writer Matalas connected with us to reveal how he was able to make many of the big moments and reveals within "The Next Generation" come to fruition.
Let's start from the top with the decision to have Crusher, who is a woman of a certain age, saving herself. That was a scene that felt a long time coming.
It literally was one of the first images I had in my head where the first thing you see in the season was Beverly Crusher popping into frame as alarms are going off, grabbing a phaser and having to defend her ship. It just seemed like the most unexpected way to meet her. And she just looks damn cool doing it. Gates is very excited to be able to do some of that.
For fans of the first two seasons of Picard, you include a warm and intimate conversation between Picard and Laris (Orla Brady) who are together now. She generously tells him to go follow the distress call. Why did you include that?
It was sort of our last moment to honor what had come before in Season 1 and 2, and close out the last arc of of those first two seasons. We never really got see Laris and Picard together, or in that sort of intimate moment. There was something kind of wonderful about her hearing about his past calling to him, and supporting it, knowing that that's where he needed to be. And to finish out her story in a really beautiful way,
How did you sow the seeds with Jonathan Frakes to come back as Riker for more than a cameo?
That came about because in Season 2, Frakes was directing, and we really got to know each other. We've just loved each other. We'd hang out, talk and make each other laugh. I knew I wanted to bring Riker back. I had pulled away from Season 2 to work on Season 3 at that time, as it was super early. But the thing I said to Jonathan is, "Listen, I want Riker all the way through Season 3." He's like, "You want me to act?!" I'm like, "Yes, I want you to act." He was surprised.
Jonathan is so light and fun in this series. How did you pitch this version of Riker?
What we did was bring a little bit more Frakes into Riker. It was always there, but we allowed ourselves to relax with it a little bit more. They have such chemistry, Frakes and Stewart. I wanted to see Butch and Sundance flying across the galaxy on this mission together. I sure hoped that I would be able to pull it off, and we did. He was so game. Frakes is phenomenal. When you watch certainly the first four [episodes], he's never been better. Those are some really beautiful, intimate spaces in the season that are really unexpected. I hope people will enjoy it as much as we did.
When Picard and Riker gaze upon the USS Titan Neo-Constitution Class, that whole sequence gives off strong Star Trek: The Movie vibes. Is it a direct homage?
Well, I am always drawn to a starship in Star Trek and and that nautical Starfleet feeling certainly that Nick Meyer loved is very much in my DNA. Something I said from the get-go was, "I want a leaving space dock sequence. I want to feel the sense of wonder of setting out to see." The music was something that I brought in longtime collaborator/composer, Stephan Barton (12 Monkeys). We asked ourselves, "If Jerry Goldsmith and James Horner were still alive, what would they be doing?" As well as honoring a host of other composers who came before. We were really feeling like, "How do we make the most cinematic Star Trek experience and bring back some of that sense of wonder and nautical feeling?" I'm thrilled that we got to do it.
Let's talk about the original character Captain Shaw (Todd Stashwick), who is one of the few Starfleet characters who can claim the rudest introduction with regards to Picard and Riker. He's such a surprise in terms of busting the fealty norms.
Well, that was the idea. Todd was a regular on 12 Monkeys, and I had a lot of my 12 Monkeys writing staff that I brought on for Season 3. We knew we wanted this charismatic blocking character and right away I said, "Stashwick!" Right from the beginning, we just wrote for Todd as it's the kind of thing we know he does best. He's extraordinary. I've become a fan of Captain Shaw. [Laughs.]
Kudos to you and your writers for creating a new threat with that portal weapon that is horrifying to watch in action.
You'll definitely see more of that weapon as the season goes, the portal weapon. It has a very specific ability, as you'll see by Episode 3, that they are not prepared for. And that's just having great writers in the room saying, "What if?"
Last but not least is the reveal of Crusher's son, who I'm certainly wondering if he's Picard's unknown son?
That was the kickoff idea of the season, which was, "What's the last unexplored relationship in Picard's life?" It would be a child, but at the same time, how would that make sense? And why would we have not known about it? You'll see in the first four episodes, that story. Getting Patrick to say yes to it, we're extraordinarily lucky to be able to tell the story and to find Ed Speleers to play him. He's fantastic.
Star Trek: Picard Season 3 drops new episodes every Thursday on Paramount+.