Star Trek: Picard’s Patrick Stewart breaks down season finale shocker (spoilers)
The day has finally arrived for the first season finale of Star Trek: Picard, CBS All Access’ sequel series to The Next Generation, and it delivered quite the shocker for fans and showrunner Michael Chabon, executive producer Akiva Goldsman and star Patrick Stewart have opened up to The Hollywood Reporter on their decision making.
Warning: Major Spoilers Lie Ahead for Star Trek: Picard‘s season one finale: “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2”
The episode sees the titular captain forced to take on a mission that ends in his sacrifice and subsequent resurrection, in which Chabon states the decision to kill the character came “fairly early on in the process” but that it was a challenge as they sought to find an emotional and thematically satisfying way to so for fans.
“We probably talked about 25 different ways to do it,” Chabon and Goldsman told THR. “It was the plan from early on, but in the beginning, you start out — it’s sort of like a tree, but you’re going backwards down the tree. As you make choices, you end up with fewer and fewer ones, and each choice leads to a fewer range of fewer possibilities. At some point, we probably talked about 25 different ways to end it and then we were down to like eight different ways and then six different ways. Then, landing on this way.”
The way Chabon speaks of was weaving the narrative threads leftover from 2002’s critically derided Star Trek: Nemesis, the last story featuring the Next Generation cast, which ended with Picard’s friend Data (Brent Spiner) sacrificing himself to save the crew. The season one finale sees Picard and Data allowed to have one last chat and goodbye as the former’s consciousness is uploaded into a quantum simulation, where what’s left of Data’s consciousness speaks with Picard and allows him to unburden himself of his guilt and give him the chance to confess his love for his friend. The decision to go back to the leftover Nemesis threads and confirm there was an emotional connection between the characters did not come easy, with Chabon finding one of the hardest parts came in pitching the idea to Star Trek producer Alex Kurtzman.
“There was a moment where we had a conversation, Akiva, (co-creator and writer) Kirsten Beyer and I, and we went to talk to Alex Kurtzman,” Chabon said. “We had this realization that if we want to put our money where our mouth has been all season — if we’re saying that since synthetic lifeforms are real and legitimate and they have their sentence, and they have the right to life and existence, if we’re going to be putting Picard out there, where he’s going to stand up and be willing to sacrifice his own life to prove that point? Then he needs to prove it with his life.”
Kurtzman would approve with the idea, with Chabon believing it helped cement the idea of Picard being the “living embodiment” of the season’s thematic principle, but that the toughest part of the finale actually proved to be getting the visual effects right on the fleet of space orchids from the Synths’ homeworld Coppelius that are used initially to intercept Picard and his crew aboard their ship and later stall over 200 Romulan warbirds on their way to destroying the planet.
“Yeah, that one was me,” Chabon said with a laugh. “In the conception of those [orchid ships], we tried to set up the kind of lives the androids of Coppelius Station would be living, and the things they would be doing. We set them up early on with the character of Soji (Isa Briones). There were references to orchids [in early episodes] with her character, and setting up that her father was a botanist working with orchids.”
Stewart also thoroughly agreed with the idea of tying in the leftover narrative from Nemesis, as he felt his story couldn’t be told without addressing his android best friend’s sacrifice in the series and was very excited to get the chance to reunite with Spiner.
“The content of this scene was so serious, and so important to the characters — and the affection and mutual respect — was so clear and so strong,” Stewart described. “Picard knew that this would probably be the last time that he was ever with [Data] and we — we had to address that,” Stewart says. “The guilt Picard felt over Data’s loss at the beginning of the season, that the two characters never had a proper goodbye, or resolution, in [Nemesis] … We took almost the entire day, not quite, as I recall, [to shoot the scene], but it was a very, very intense experience.”
Stewart described how the writer’s room was working on the finale “up to the evening before we shot it,” with the actor and producer offering “one or two little tweaks” to the scene involving the character’s fate and that he didn’t learn of the plan until late into production on the first season. The Emmy nominee noted he joked with his castmates during shooting that he believed he was going to be killed off, wondering “What did I do wrong?” but that shooting the scene on a redressed set of the study from the Chateau Picard vineyard felt right and was “the highlight of the season,” crediting Chabon, Spiner, and Goldsman for making it possible.
“I’ll tell you an anecdote I haven’t told anybody,” Stewart said to THR. “The following day, when I came to work again after we shot that scene, they were stripping that set down, and there was the chair that I had sat in. I went to ask if there was any possibility if I could buy that chair. Because it was in that chair where I was, in effect, saying goodbye to Data. It was also an incredibly comfortable chair (Laughs.), so, yes, we struck a deal that everyone was happy with and now it’s in my 200-year-old house in Oxfordshire.”
The star also mentioned an exciting reunion he had while in production on the season’s seventh episode, which already saw the returns of Marina Sirtis’ Deanna Troi and Jonathan Frakes’ Will Riker, which put him in a nostalgic mood as he was greeted with an off-camera surprise.
“One great afternoon, we had three visitors on the set,” Stewart recalls. “There was Jonathan, Marina and me — and Brent. And then, who else would turn up, but Michael Dorn [Warf] and LeVar Burton [Geordi La Forge] . It was an extraordinary reunion.”
Goldsman described that the most important part to him was ensuring audiences new that Picard’s body had died, even if there are plans to resurrect him in a new synthetic body, as it needed to feel like an emotional moment to resonate with audiences.
“Akiva always talked about how the challenge in the making of it was to really understand the fact that Picard has died,” Chabon said. “When Picard asks, “Am I dead?” And Data says ‘Yes,’ that’s the truth. So, making sure to sell that was a really valuable insight that I got from Akiva, he sort of provided that note to me as I was writing. And so that really helped me.”
When asked about what the future held for “Picard 2.0” and the next season of the acclaimed series, Chabon and Goldsman kept mum as not wanting to give too much away and keep fans on their toes for the ten-episode second chapter in the continuing story of Jean-Luc Picard.
“But we definitely don’t want to pretend like these events never happened,” Chabon says. “So, whatever the implications are going to be for Picard having this new body, and essentially a new brain structure, too — although his mind and his consciousness are the same — all of that is going to be part of [the character’s] way of thinking going forward.”
Star Trek: Picard will tell the next story of Picard’s life, taking place after Star Trek: Next Generation. Plot details are being kept under wraps, but Star Trek: Discovery creator Alex Kurtzman revealed in March that it will be “a very different show from Discovery.” He also mentioned that the series will be a “very thoughtful, psychological portrait in a lot of ways… Things have changed for [Picard] and changed him in some ways, and yet he is so deeply and fundamentally still Picard.”
The series will also see the return of Star Trek alums including Brent Spiner as Data, Jonathan Del Arco as Hugh the Borg, and Star Trek: Voyager‘s Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine along with Marina Sirtis as Commander Deanna Troi and Jonathan Frakes as Riker.
Picard will also be featuring Santiago Cabrera (Big Little Lies), Michelle Hurd (Blindspot), Evan Evagora (Fantasy Island), Alison Pill (The Newsroom), Harry Treadaway (Mr. Mercedes, Penny Dreadful), and Isa Briones (American Crime Story: Versace).
Star Trek: Discovery co-creator and executive producer Alex Kurtzman will oversee development on the new show, which is not a Star Trek: The Next Generation reboot but rather a continuation of Picard’s story. Michael Chabon will serve as showrunner.
Kurtzman will executive produce the new series alongside newly-appointed Star Trek: Discovery executive producer James Duff, former Discovery executive producer Akiva Goldsman (The Dark Tower), Michael Chabon (Spider-Man 2) and Star Trek: Voyager and Discovery writer Kirsten Beyer. Also executive producing are Heather Kadin of Secret Hideout and Roddenberry Entertainment President Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry, son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, and Roddenberry Entertainment COO Trevor Roth.