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Earlier this year, Star Trek fans were treated to a long-hoped-for return when Jean-Luc Picard returned to space for a new mission. Star Trek: Picard wrapped up its much-anticipated and much-discussed first season a few months ago, and while we may have to wait a little while for Season 2, we've already been promised more adventures for Picard and his new crew after a paradigm-shifting season finale back in March. Thursday, during the Star Trek Universe panel hosted by Comic-Con@Home, the cast reminisced about their first season together, making old characters new again, and giving Sir Patrick Stewart a catchy new nickname.
Picard himself, Sir Patrick Stewart, was joined in the Picard roundtable portion of the panel by co-stars Alison Pill (Dr. Agnes Jurati), Isa Briones (Dahj/Soji), Evan Evagora (Elnor), Michelle Hurd (Raffi Musiker), Santiago Cabrera (Cristobal Rios), Brent Spiner (Data/Dr. Soong), Jonathan Del Arco (Hugh), Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troi), Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine), and Jonathan Frakes (who returned as William Riker and also directed part of Season 1). Moderator Dominic Patten kicked things off by asking Stewart, now that he has a little distance on making Season 1, what his experience of making the show feels like now.
"It was, at first, very challenging, because thanks to our brilliant team of writers we're living in a very different world, very complex world, profoundly troubled world, which might just be appropritate to the times that we're living in as well," Stewart said. "For me, however, it was a case of 'I'm sorry, what's your name? You are who, and you're playing what?' We had a brand new team. So, for me, a lot of the first half of the first season was literally about getting to know the people that I was working with."
Pill, who went from brand-new member of the Star Trek franchise to vital part of Picard's new crew over the course of the first season, credited Stewart — affectionally nicknamed "SPS" (Sir Patrick Stewart) by the younger members of the Picard cast — with drawing her into the show in the first place, but noted that showrunner Michael Chabon's approach to the storytelling was also a major part of the appeal.
"The whole idea of both appreciating Star Trek and trying to take into a new direction — you know, it's streaming, we get to use the F-word — that combination was very exciting to me, of sort of amplifying the things that worked and taking it in directions at the same time," she said.
In discussing the actual filming process for the first season, new cast member Isa Briones — who was tasked with playing not just one, or two, but three roles over the course of Season 1 — recalled the challenge of acting against herself, while several of her castmates commended her on her "impressive" feat.
"I think the fact that I had so much of the beginning filming process to just lock in Soji and who she was was amazing, because then Sutra came later and I already knew who Soji was," Broines said. "I was losing my mind a bit. I looked a little crazy just turning my head and talking to myself. But it was very cool, and coming from theater as well, I think I thought it was going to be more different than it was."
The first season of Picard was, of course, also filled with callbacks to past Trek episodes. Fan favorite lead characters like Seven of Nine, William Riker, and Deanna Troi were back, as was Picard's vineyard and, thanks to his Starfleet archive, numerous Easter eggs from the Next Generation era. The return of Picard's story also meant the return of the Borg, and for the purposes of this series that meant the return of Hugh (Del Arco), a former drone within the Borg who's all grown up and leading the Borg Reclamation Project. Though Del Arco was used to fan love for his old Next Generation character, he wasn't quite as prepared for the level of affection the more mature version of Hugh received.
"It surprised me that there was that much love for the character, even though I knew it organically because I've been at conventions for so many years," Del Arco said. "I was honestly surprised at the amount of love I got, and excitement, and how the fans really craved to know how that adolescent character had evolved into a man. That was surprising to me. It was very gratifying."
At the moment, though a second season is in the works, we don't yet know when we'll get a return to Star Trek: Picard. The cast didn't mention Season 2 and its story at all during the panel, in part because the ongoing pandemic has put many things on hold. Speaking about his experience making the first season, though, Stewart noted with the benefit of hindsight that his choice to trust a new group of writers with his beloved character has paid off.
"I made the right decision, and it was entirely due to the people that I met, my first couple of meetings, who were our producer/writing team," he said. "I sat for more than two hours listening to them talk about their plans, and how they wanted not just to revive Next Generation, but to illustrate the years that had passed, and that the world was changed. And that's what excited me. And then, the daily excitment was working with you guys, and discovering this extraordinary range of talents that had been assembled. Because there is such diversity in our ensemble that for probably the first five episodes, I was just awash with the deep, profound satisfaction of working with you all.
"But, [Picard] was also not the same man. He was a disappointed, sad, guilty, angry, possibly dangerous individual, so that was what absorbed me. As the season wore on, I began to feel, as I had begun to feel with Next Generation, that the character was actually inside me anyway."
Click here for SYFY WIRE's full coverage of Comic-Con@Home 2020.