Warning: Full spoilers for the Star Trek: Picard series finale follow.
The show’s final moments found Jean-Luc Picard and his former crewmates turned found family once more enjoying each other’s company around a poker table, even as new adventures were teased for the crew of the Enterprise-G.
I spoke to Picard Executive Producer/Showrunner Terry Matalas (who, for full disclosure’s sake, I should note I’ve known since we went to college together) about the events of the show’s finale, if the Next Gen crew were always all destined for a happy ending, bringing the Enterprise-D back, the possibility of getting a follow-up series picking up from that mid-credit scene and more.
A FOND FAREWELL
Things got decidedly dire in the show’s finale for Picard, Riker, and Worf, as Picard tried to save his son, Jack, from the clutches of the Borg Queen. But though it was looking bleak, they are saved by their friends on the Enterprise-D in the nick of time. As to whether that was set in stone from the start or if actually killing off one of these beloved characters was considered, Matalas said, “I never had that in me to kill anybody. But I certainly wanted everybody to think I might. And I wanted the characters to think they might not make it through.”
Matalas added, “They are having the conversations that they would have. ‘Thank you. It’s been an honor serving with you all’ and ‘Thank you, Will.’ That was an arc throughout the season, how much Riker put it on the line for Jean-Luc. If you didn’t feel like they could all die, those moments when the Enterprise comes and swoops in and rescues them don’t feel like a tremendous sense of relief. But no, I always knew it had to be them at the end around that poker table at the end. That felt like the right ending.”
In the final scene of the series – minus the mid-credit scene – that aforementioned poker game is preceded by Picard quoting William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar to his old friends. So how was it decided this would be his final big speech on the series? “Credit goes entirely to Patrick Stewart in that moment,” Matalas revealed.
“We actually wrote a different monologue for him. We wrote a speech about a captain. A story that exists in every species and every planet about a sailor who could never find a home, who had traveled every land and every sea, but never dropped an anchor. One day, there was a storm that rose up and destroyed the boat and his crew crashed upon this island and they were stuck. But they turned this island into a home where they made fire and sang songs and made merry and rolled dice. But they never returned to sea. And on his dying days, the captain realized that it was his crew, the whole time, that was truly his home and he was forever grateful,” with Matalas noting this original speech made it “a different kind of moment.”
“There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.” – William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar
Ultimately, Matalas explained, “Patrick loved the speech but didn’t really feel like he could give it justice in the way that we had intended, but he had always loved this particular Shakespearean tale, which had a different kind of connotation to it. At the end of the day, it’s not a bad thing to hear Patrick Stewart do Shakespeare one final time, so he did that speech. And we sort of retrofitted it into that moment by having Riker say ‘We are privileged to have ridden the tide with you.’”
ALL THAT EMOTION
Matalas’ real life background, going from longtime Star Trek fan to production assistant on Star Trek: Voyager to getting his first Story credits on two episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise to ultimately returning years later, with a lot more experience now under his belt, as Executive Producer and Showrunner on Picard beginning in Season 2, is well known to fans. Still, even having already been working alongside many of these actors before, did he allow himself a moment to take in the scope of the accomplishment of reuniting the entire Star Trek: The Next Generation cast in this manner during production?
Asked this question, Matalas replied, “Not until the editing room when it was scored. There’s too much terror [on set]. ‘Are we going to make our day? Did we get all the shots?’ Specifically on the Enterprise, we only have two days to shoot and we were still gluing pieces of carpet on even though we started construction for four months prior. We didn’t think we were going to pull it off. So it really wasn’t until I was putting it together with my editor, Drew Nichols, and my composers, Stephen Barton and Freddie Wiedmann that we were like, ‘Okay, yeah, we did it!’ Now I can go, ‘Holy s**t, this is what we did.’”
The return of the Enterprise-D at the end of Season 3’s ninth episode, as Geordi reveals he had been working to rebuild the ship – last seen in 1994’s Star Trek: Generations – was a hugely crowd pleasing and emotional moment for viewers, as we saw The Next Generation crew going on one final mission on the ship we’d first met them on back in 1987. For any detractors who felt this turn of events was going one step too far in terms of nostalgia, Matalas remarked, “I don’t know what they wanted. What did you want to see them hang out on? Just a different ship? I don’t know how to respond to somebody who doesn’t think at the end you should honor their beginning in that way. It was always a love letter to the show. Sure, you could put them on the USS Ticonderoga. Even on the Titan, we had just done seven episodes of that. I would say I’m sorry they didn’t like it but I would say the crowd did.”
Picard’s final season packed a lot in, but there are obviously limits to what can be done in ten episodes. When it came to whether he’d been able to include all he hoped for going in, Matalas said, “There’s a lot of things we wanted to do that we just didn’t have the time and money to do but we’re grateful that we got to pull this off. We wish we could have brought in more Deep Space Nine characters. We wish we could have brought in Kate Mulgrew. We wish we could have brought in Soji at the end. We initially had another scene with Ro Laren at the end. There’s lots of things where it all comes down to time and money.”
There was a very notable unannounced guest star in the finale though, even if they didn’t appear onscreen, as we heard the voice of the President of the United Federation of Planets, Anton Chekov – with the character voiced by Walter Koenig himself, playing the son of his own legendary character, Pavel Chekov.
Regarding this cameo, Matalas noted, “I wanted to have him on camera and it also came down to time and money. So it ended up being a kind of voiceover thing because we just weren’t able to get him in the studio and find the shooting time to do it. But that was important to me too – to honor the Original Series actors as well. And Anton was a nod, of course, to Anton Yelchin.”
Matalas has made it known he’d love to see more adventures for characters like Seven of Nine, Raffi Musiker, Sidney La Forge, and Jack Crusher. And the Picard finale set this up in a big way, first by making Seven the Captain of the Enterprise-G and then in its big mid-credit scene, in which Jack is approached by none other than Q (John de Lancie), much like his father once was.
But as to whether we’ll actually see a continuation of all this, Matalas could only say, “It’s up to the television gods, right? It’s up to the fans, if they want it. If they want it, they should be loud and ask for it. But right now, there’s nothing happening. There’s nothing in development for it.”
As for The Next Generation characters, we have a pretty good idea about the lives they are returning to, but I was curious about the newly returned Data. We see he’s meeting with Troi for sessions but how else is he keeping himself busy? Does he have a new role with Starfleet?
Said Matalas, “We have ideas, I don’t want to talk about it just in case something does happen. But we definitely have ideas about Data still being part of the final frontier in a lot of ways, yes.”