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SYFY WIRE had the chance to talk to Picard and Q themselves — Patrick Stewart and John de Lancie, respectively — about what it was like once again being scene partners as their Star Trek counterparts, particularly for an early confrontation that sparks the start of "Penance," the second season's second episode.
Be warned: There are mild spoilers ahead regarding the first two episodes of the new season.
The beginning of “Penance” — the second episode of Season 2 — has Picard trying to make sense of the alternative future he finds himself in, where Earth is a polluted, ultra-fascist place where Picard is a leader of the authoritarian and xenophobic (to put it mildly) Confederation. Although Q showed up at the very end of the first episode, it's here in episode two where he and Picard have an exchange that boils over into a physical confrontation between the two for the first time — Q slaps Picard!
“That slap was added at the last moment,” de Lancie reveals to SYFY WIRE. “And it just goes to show how willing everybody was to take ideas and to run with them, which makes for an environment where you feel supported and encouraged to go to areas and extremes that you wouldn't normally.”
Even before the slap, Picard is battling through several emotions — especially shock, anger, and confusion — as a result of having to deal with Q again. (The last time Picard and Q shared screen time was in the TNG series finale in 1994, "All Good Things...")
“He was very dismayed,” Stewart tells SYFY WIRE about Picard seeing Q again. “He always suspected that there was a hidden story about Q, and it's when he begins to see that what is hidden in that character begins to be released and opened up, that I think this relationship in Picard gets more and more interesting.”
“There’s a lot at stake for [Picard], and there’s a lot at stake for me,” de Lancie said about the aforementioned scene. “In a way, we are both talking about mortality from our different perspectives.”
For Picard — and for Stewart — the passage of time has changed everything, and those changes also impact the dynamic between Picard and his long-standing frenemy, who has been with the former Enterprise captain since his first mission, 1987's "Encounter at Farpoint".
“I think 32 years have passed since I last put on a uniform and answered to the name of Captain Picard,” Stewart said. “Much has happened. Not just for me, but in the world around us … and what the writers and directors said was the same thing has happened to Star Trek, given that the world of Starfleet and the people who exist and live around Starfleet has changed with time.”
Some things haven’t changed between the two actors, however, after all these decades.
“I have to say, I was a little nervous and trepidatious as to whether this is going to work,” de Lancie confessed. “But then we did the first scene, and [showrunner Terry Matalas] was there. And they yelled 'cut' and [Terry] went, ‘Yes! I can see the chemistry!’ So I figured well, we must be in the zone.”
New episodes of Star Trek: Picard air Thursdays on Paramount+.