7 Questions with... Sir Patrick Stewart and Jeri Ryan on Star Trek Picard: ‘If we ever needed a hero, it’s now’

The iconic stars of Star Trek: Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager unite in the highly anticipated Star Trek: Picard – but how do they really feel about returning to Starfleet, skin-tight outfits and the ‘Make It So’ memes.

By Alex Fletcher Published: 29 January 2020 - 3.34pm
Amazon Prime Video Patrick Stewart and Jeri Ryan at the UK premiere of Star Trek Picard

It’s been nearly 20 years since Sir Patrick Stewart and Jeri Ryan last strapped on their skin-tight Star Trek uniforms as Captain Jean Luc Picard and Seven of Nine.

But the passing decades haven’t dampened the passion and love of the Star Trek universe for their iconic Next Generation and Voyager characters. If anything, the passage of time has only added to their mystique, bringing a healthy slap of nostalgia into the mix.

Star Trek: Picard launched in the UK on Amazon Prime Video and episode one gave us some answers as to what happened to Captain Picard after we last saw him back in 2002 in Star Trek: Nemesis.

We’ll have to wait a little longer – new episodes are released every Friday - to find out what’s happened in the intervening years for former Borg drone Seven of Nine.

BT TV caught up with Sir Patrick and Jeri after the UK premiere to find out how they really felt about returning to Trek and what the show means to them in 2020.

1.    It’s been a long while since we last saw Captain Picard – what has changed?

Sir Patrick Stewart returns as Jean Luc Picard on Amazon Prime Video Amazon Prime Video

Stewart: We’re living and working in a different world. Picard’s world is so different. He is no longer working for Starfleet. And the Federation has also been undergoing changes. There are conflicting bodies in the Federation and Starfleet seems to have some subterranean plans for how it’s fleet should be used. And Picard has walked away from it all.

He is living on his chateau, growing grapes and living with two wonderful people who care for him and his dog. He is discontented, angry and guilty. He feels guilty he failed. He feels he failed Starfleet and the Federation. And he failed his great friend and colleague Data as well. He believes that Data shouldn’t have died, when it ought to have been him.

2.       What is the first moment like between Picard and Seven of Nine?

Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine Amazon Prime Video

Jeri: Initially I wouldn’t say there was any affinity. Seven has become pretty jaded over the years. She’s seen a lot of bad stuff. She’s very hardened compared to what we saw 20 years ago. The universe has gone to hell in a handbasket and she very much holds the Federation responsible for that. Initially she sees Picard as part of that, so she’s some distance away from viewing Picard with idol worship or as some sort of hero. Which I think makes it more interesting.

3.       The first episode looked stunning – where was it filmed?

Patrick Stewart filming Picard in Santa Barbara, California Amazon Prime Video

Stewart: It is extraordinarily convincing as France, but it’s half an hour away from Santa Barbara. The chateau, the building itself was brought from France, stone-by-stone. Not for us, Amazon are not that generous to give us our own chateau. But it was brought over and rebuilt, which is why it’s so convincing. 

I have actually made a New Year’s resolution with my wife. She is going to concentrate on Italian because she is doing a lot of research into paintings and medieval and renaissance culture. And I’m going to do the same for French.

I’m ashamed that I've reached this great age without really ever commanding a second language. It embarrasses me. I know it’s true, I should have started long ago.

4.       How does the scale of this compare to when you worked on Next Generation and Voyager?

The new cast of Star Trek: Picard aboard a new ship Amazon Prime Video

Jeri: It was vastly different. These sets - epic doesn’t begin to cover it. You step onto the Borg Cube and you are walking onto a Borg Cube. The actually physical sets and costumes and physical effects before anything is done digitally are extraordinary. 

Stewart: The entire ship that we are eventually travelling in is there.

Jeri: It’s all there. You go upstairs, you go downstairs. It’s there. It’s really incredible.

5.       How difficult was it stepping back into these characters after such a long break?

Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes reunited as Picard and Number One in Picard Amazon Prime Video

Stewart: The man never left me. Never left inside me. We overlapped so strongly in the things that we believed in and the things and the way we saw leadership. I didn’t find it remotely challenging. What I did find challenging was when Brent [Spiner] and Jonathan [Frakes] were there, who are both very funny guys, and they teased me quite a lot. Other than that, it was somewhat exhausting but a very stimulating experience.

Jeri: We’re really lucky to have played characters that people want to see more of in 20 years time. It’s a very unusual gift.

6.       Sir Patrick – how do you feel about Picard becoming such a hit with memes and gifs?

Sir Patrick Stewart and the new cast on the red carpet for the launch of Picard Amazon Prime Video

Stewart: His appearances on social and media the success he seems to be having are nothing to do with me. They’re all the work of other people. But I love the ‘Make it So’ Christmas song.

It’s flattering I suppose, to have a character you play become so popular. You must have done something right.

7.      The political subtext of Star Trek feels more important than ever in 2020. Would you agree?

Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine Amazon Prime Video

Patrick: I do certainly.

Jeri: If we were ever in need of a hero, it’s now.

Patrick: It was seriously suggested to me that I should apply for US citizenship and run for the Senate. Serious proposal.

I have for many, many years over here been a member of the Labour Party… a somewhat doubting one presently.

I committed my first act of civil disobedience in 1945. When a policeman told me to go away. I was with my father who was a regimental sergeant major in the parachute regiment. And he was in uniform.

I had a placard that said ‘Vote for Mr Palin’ who was our MP after the war. I was singing, ‘Vote, Vote, Vote for Mr Palin!’ and the policeman came over and said, ‘Bugger off!’ Because policeman could talk to you like that in the working class neighbourhood I grew up in. And I said, ‘No’. And he said, ‘you’ll do as I say!’ And I said, ‘that’s my dad over there’. And my dad was a very impressive man in his uniform. So the policeman just said, ‘you watch yourself’. That was me as a five-year-old and that’s a pocket history of my political affiliation.

Star Trek: Picard is on Amazon Prime Video now. New episodes, every Friday.

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