Patrick Stewart Thought He Was Going To Be Fired From Star Trek: TNG Pilot

People still debate who is the best Trek captain between William Shatner’s Kirk and Sir Patrick Stewart’s Picard, but the Star Trek: The Next Generation actor now says that when he started out he didn’t know what he was doing and thought he would be fired. Find out more below

 

Stewart: I thought I would be fired from TNG

At San Diego Comic Con, Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Patrick Stewart talked about how the thing he remembered most from his time on the series was the fun he had on the set with the cast, but he also offered this bit of self-reflection:

I can remember shooting the pilot and not knowing what I was doing. I didn’t know how to walk. I didn’t know how to wear my spacesuit, or anything. I didn’t know what was going on. I am amazed they didn’t fire.


Patrick Stewart gets his footing in Star Trek: TNG pilot "Encounter at Farpoint" – says didn’t know what he was doing

Stewart’s concerns may have had some merit as Star Trek: TNG creator and executive producer Gene Roddenberry took a lot of convincing (from producers Bob Justman and Rick Berman) to hire Patrick Stewart in the first place. But even though he didn’t feel confident in the pilot, they stuck with Stewart and the rest is history. Of course seven years later when Berman and Paramount were shooting the pilot for Star Trek: Voyager, a series they saw as a replacement for TNG, they did end up having to replace the captain. The first choice Geneviève Bujold could not handle the rigors of series television, so she was replaced by Kate Mulgrew for the role of Capt. Janeway.

Stewart also offered this assessment of the 2009 Star Trek movie from JJ Abrams:

It was terrific. I enjoyed it immensely. I took my grandchildren and we all had a great afternoon.

Watch the video interview with Stewart where he talks more about Dorothy of Oz at Collider.

newest oldest
Commodore Mike of the Terran Empire

Sir Patrick is a class Act. I am glad they stuck with him. Who knows what would have happned for TNG had he been fired. Same is true for Voyager. What would it have been if they did not get Mulgre to come in as Capt.

Sebastian S.

Judging from the awkward, wildly uneven quality of the first two seasons, I’d say pretty much everyone involved didn’t know what they were doing!

Don’t be too hard on yourself, Sir Patrick… ;-)

factchecker

I had heard at one time that William Campbell (aka Koloth / Trelane) was a top Roddenberry choice for “Julian” Picard. Not sure if that would have been the best fit….but it would’ve been cool to see Trelane return as a Q or enemy of the Q however.

He’s too modest. Everything Picard ever was, can be found right there in that script for “Encounter at Farpoint”. Patrick Stewart clearly had time to read between the lines, so when he stepped in front of the camera, he completely nailed it.

If they had fired him, it would’ve been because the character wasn’t working… They just would’ve bottled it and gone for a younger lead. Luckily Riker inherited much of the traits of a James T. Kirk type, leaving a place open for a wiser, cooler head to be in charge.

Harry Ballz

5. ‘leaving a place open for a wiser, cooler head to be in charge’

Yes, I suppose a bald head WOULD be cooler, wouldn’t it?

Anyway wasn’t letting Patrick Stewart go, one of the options by the end of Season Three? Turn Picard into a Borg and lose him from the cast, apart from in the second part. Or maybe that’s speculation on my part. If he had wanted out, I’m sure he could’ve exercised an option to go.

6. “Yes, I suppose a bald head WOULD be cooler, wouldn’t it?”

Well, Roddenberry originally wanted Data to be bubblegum pink… so I guess they could’ve tested Picard out with some “million dollar hair”. :)

Vultan

I remember there being a rumor that Picard might be killed in “The Best of Both Worlds,” supposedly because Stewart’s contract was up for renewal around that time and he wasn’t sure he wanted to stay with the show.

Glad he stayed.

Commodore Mike of the Terran Empire

Would have been interesting to have Picard stayed Borg for maybe several Eps and have Locutus be the main bad guy for say half a season and Riker try and save Picard while at the same time try and save the Federation.

Chain of Command

Patrick Stewart does not age. LOL Seriously, if anything, he looks more in shape now than he did in 1987.

Picard was a great character. Equally on par with Kirk, Spock and McCoy. He had a statesmen like quality and could be just as heroic as his predecessor.

I don’t even compare him and William Shatner because their respective characters and shows were so much different from each other.

Bob Tompkins

Has everyone seen the Genevieve Bujold clips from Voyager [part of the Voyager Season 1 package and various video sites on the Internet]? She was utterly horrible… I cringe when I think of how bad it would have been had she stayed on. On the other hand, Sir Patrick’s work on the NextGen pilot was professional even though he was clearly not in his element…

Boozba

I heard somewhere that Patrick Bauchau (The Pretender,Panic Room,The Cell) was a front runner for the role of Jean-Luc Picard.

OLLEY OLLEY OLLEY

But every actor has to find their way into the role.
Avery Brooks also had a hard time to “get” Sisko and IMHO he was the greatest Captain of Trek.

Damian

Patrick Stewart was a great choice. He is definitely a great actor. I always thought it was amusing they had a British man play a French man, but it worked well. I never had any doubt Picard was French in the series. I also always thought it was a good idea making Picard a huge Shakespeare fan, so they were able to tap into Stewart’s strengths as a Shakespearean actor.

I never really compared Captain Kirk and Picard. They were both portrayed as great captains, but they were both very different people. They were both great characters for different reasons.

Vultan

A bit off-topic here, but does anyone know what was meant with the title “The Best of Both Worlds”? It’s an old expression of course, but what “worlds” were they referencing in the episode? Humanity and… what? The Borg? Hmm… I don’t know what’s “best” about them (besides those stylish black outfits). Maybe… Riker and Picard…?

Any ideas?

Magic_Al

^7,9, I believe all the main actors had six-year contracts from the start. Stewart says his was six years in Shatner’s The Captains interview. The rumor he might leave after season 3 was probably floated as buzz for the cliffhanger. Since Denise Crosby and Gates McFadden had been released from their contracts previously, it was credible that people could leave.

@16

I presume it was because Locutus represented the “best” of both what the Borg and the Federation had to offer, hence the huge threat he represented.

MJ

“It was terrific. I enjoyed it immensely. I took my grandchildren and we all had a great afternoon.”

This is the definition of class! (William Shatner, please take notes here)

EM

Picard was my favourite captain, for sure. And Mr. Stewart is, indeed, a class act. I have nothing but respect for him and his acting abilities.

Vultan

#18

Ah, good point. I was assuming they meant “best” in a moral sense, not in a knowledge and strength sort of way. But yeah, now the title works [for me].

William

I assumed it referred to Rikers situation. Picard dies so Riker gets promotef AND gets to stay on the terprise

William

I assumed it referred to Rikers situation. Picard dies so Riker gets promotef AND gets to stay on the en
terprise

#3: “I had heard at one time that William Campbell (aka Koloth / Trelane) was a top Roddenberry choice for “Julian” Picard.”

Nope. William Campbell was in the running for the Cmdr. Riker role.

Canon Schmanon

Love that photo of Patrick looking like Igor. But who in the world could know what they were doing on the first episode of a TV series? Other than Firefly, which was freakishly relaxed and full of chemistry from episode one, very few series ever start very strong. It used to be they were given the time to mature.

These days, TNG probably wouldn’t have made it. The first two seasons were very awkward. But Patrick almost always stood above it all, even when the writers were failing him.

I wonder who they would have hired if they HAD fired him? Has anybody heard about that? Who else was being considered for Picard?

@25
If my old memory serves me properly then these were in the running for Picard at the same time as Sir P.

Mitch Ryan
Roy Thinnes
Yaphet Kotto
Patrick Bauchau

I also remember hearing that James Almos was considered at one point.

Locke for President

@16 Riker wanted his own command, yet he wanted to stay on the Enterprise because he liked the people and the job. Then Picard is painfully removed by the Borg, and Riker is thrust into the role of Captain. So now he is captain and also on the Enterprise, so he has the best of both worlds. However, there is irony in this with the title, because this WAS NOT what Riker had in mind. He realizes that getting the best of both worlds is sometimes not what you expect it to be. Picard being turned into a Borg is what most of us remember from those two episodes, but really they were more about Riker. You’ve got Riker being offered his own command, then to see the ship he would have been commanding destroyed at Wolf 359. You’ve got Shelby nipping at his ankles, antagonizing him for playing it safe. She’s the kind of officer that he used to be, and now is not. You’ve got Riker’s captain and friend being abducted and being turned into something evil (and even calls him Number One!). You’ve got Riker deciding to try to kill both Picard, and later attempt to destroy the ship to save Earth. And the linchpin is the scene where Guinan comes into the captain’s ready room and sits in Picard empty chair. It’s an awkward moment for Riker, and also the audience (seeing that empty chair associated with a loved one who has died is something I… Read more »

E. Clayton Rowe

RE: William Campbell

There was a spin-off novel that portrayed Trelayne as an immature Q, which I was always hoping would make it to the screen, large or small. Campbell himself was probably too obviously American, even in Klingon make-up, or at the very least without enough Shakespearean gravitas.

Sir Patrick’s sf chops were limited, I think, to a small role in The Space Vampires. Nobody ever plays it, not even in the recent vampire craze, though I recall the novel on which it was based as being an excellent precursor to Ridley Scott’s Alien series.

Danpaine

I think Yaphet Kotto would have made a great captain. That dude is one excellent actor.

Nothing against Patrick Stewart, of course. It just took me (and many others) two seasons to warm up to him.

@26, Ooh, I could definitely see Edward James Olmos as Captain “Perez,” perhaps, not Picard. But the uniform would have been a tragic mistake on him. In fact, I kinda think the uniform style from Galactica might have been a better choice (or a mix of the Galactica and TWOK uniforms perhaps). Those tight-fitting Spandex Bill Theiss creations were, IMNSHO, a disaster. The jumpsuits from Enterprise had more credibility, and even the tunics from TOS evoked a small sense of current military styling (ever see the uniforms sailors wear on an aircraft carrier?). EJO would have looked silly in the early TNG outfits.

At least they didn’t make Sir Patrick wear the male “skort.” That would have torpedoed his career immediately, as well as the series.

JamfoFL

@28

Actually, Sir Patrick played the role of Gurney Halleck in David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation of Dune. So he DID have some sci-fi chops prior to Trek… albeit in a completely different type of role.

Planet Pandro

30. I liked the uniforms they abandoned in favor of the DS9 uniforms from Generations. It was the TNG style/colors, but as a Movie-era jacket (that fastened across the front, had rank stripes on the sleeves etc)

Shannon Nutt

@17 – While Denise was released from her contract, Gates was actually fired from the show – they wanted an older doctor more like McCoy…thank goodness they brought her back.

“We are not here to have fun!!!” – Those of you who haven’t seen Stewart’s interview in THE CAPTAINS really need to see it!

Ralph F

Still am perplexed that NBC has never done a TREK stars SNL collection. Shatner’s appearance on the show was, of course, the stuff of pop history (“Get a life, you people”) but Stewart’s episode was genius in every skit he was in. The man is hilarious. (Also seek out his appearance on “Extras”; “and all of the women are naked, you see, because all their clothes have fallen off”).

jas_montreal

LOL

ah patrick… you did just fine. LOL.

Cygnus-X1

16. Vultan – July 28, 2011
27. Locke for President – July 29, 2011

“The Best of Both Worlds” might also be a reference to Riker, but I think it was meant as dark twist on the standard usage of that phrase as a reference to Picard having the best of both worlds—the strength, order and technological advancement of the Borg, while retaining his human individuality, to wit, “I am Locutus of Borg.”

In a sense, you’re right; Riker does get “both” worlds of sorts by Picard’s abduction—a captaincy of his own and the Enterprise. But the two worlds that Picard gets—the human and the Borg—are, I think it’s fair to say, much more dramatic, suggesting the title. Though the title could have been a double meaning (no pun intended) which also applied to Riker.

Katie G.

Re: #26. Mark Lynch

It’s possible that they were but all I found when I was searching right now was this:

Patrick Stewart, who has a background of theatre at the Royal Shakespeare Company, was initially considered for the role of Data; he has said that he would not have been interested in taking a supporting role “to sit around”.

Roddenberry did not want to cast Stewart as Picard, however; he envisioned an actor who was “masculine, virile, and had a lot of hair”. Roddenberry’s first choice was Stephen Macht,

http://memory-alpha.org/wiki/Stephen_Macht

and it took “weeks of discussion” with Robert H. Justman, Rick Berman, and the casting director to convince him that “Stewart was the one they had been looking for to sit in the captain’s chair”; Roddenberry agreed after auditioning every other candidate for the role.

Stewart himself was uncertain why the producers would cast “a middle-aged bald English Shakespearean actor” as captain of the Enterprise. He had his toupee delivered from London to meet with Paramount executives but Roddenberry ordered Stewart to remove the “awful looking” hairpiece. His stentorian voice impressed the executives, who immediately approved the casting.”

(From Wikipedia).

Stephen Macht ended up starring in an ep of DS9. Check out the link.

ktg

Danpaine

#34 – Ralph F.

That Extras scene was HILARIOUS.

He really is a very funny guy.

Jack

37. He had a toupee? Hindsight is everything, but I honestly don’t think the show would have lasted past season one or two without him. The captain was really oddly written in the first season — I think the story I heard was that fans told Roddenberry for years that the it makes no sense for the captain to leave the ship in risky situations (as if it were real) — and he had nothing whatsoever to do, other than flirt with Beverly Crusher and worry about how lousy he is with kids. I still wish they’d cast a strong black actor (or actress) as Riker. And that they’d had same-sex couples casually holding hands in the hallways or, later, ten-forward (like, hindsight again, the saucer separation scene where parents are quickly ferrying their kids to the saucer section [where they probably should have been all along]… they could have had two males or two females [heck, a vulcan and an ethnic gal/guy] carrying their kid [they could have been neighbours, friends, relatives, whatever… let the audience guess). I’d like for the actors in this next one — mains and extras — to be more representative of, well, the whole planet and not just North America… and to show a lot more aliens in the fleet as well. Have we ever seen Indian or North American, Australian Aboriginal actors in Trek? Heck, and more women too (I still think Dr. Prurie and Helmsman McKenna could have been written as “she”,… Read more »

Katie G.

32. I preferred that synthesis of the TNG/TWOK uniforms too. They switched them to the DS9 ones, before Playmates had time to stop production on the Generations figures.

FlyingWok

@27 Locke for President

That was an excellent analysis of BoBW. I think the element of Picard’s assimilation really seems to make it look like it was about Picard’s story, but you bring up a great observation that all of the major story beats centered around Riker.

We never got a glimpse into Picard’s perspective, or his suffering as Locutus — that came the episode after in “Family”.

I think that’s one of the key but subtle reasons why BoBW is so successful and popular, not only did it have a great action story with a menacing enemy, but it also had a really strong character focus on Riker (who was always a little bit in the shadow of Picard and Data) and his personal struggles on multiple fronts. Riker, and Jonathan Frakes’ performance, anchored the main adventure plot.

I haven’t seen all of TNG but sometimes I wish Riker had more chances to really shine.

T'Cal

You have been very terribly hard on yourself.

Mike

#24: “Nope. William Campbell was in the running for the Cmdr. Riker role.”

Actually, it was actor Billy Campbell, who playe Okona in ‘The Outrageous Okona” who was in the running, not William.

Vultan

I want to thank you guys for the different interpretations of the title “The Best of Both Worlds.” Very interesting comments to my question.

I’m still not sure what the title was specifically referring to, but the things said about Riker by #27 have me leaning in that direction.

Anyway, whatever the meaning, it’s still a great episode!

ML31

Rodedenberry’s desire to NOT cast Stewart is just more evidence to show that ST was a HUGE mistake for him. Stewart was the best actor to ever appear in any Trek incarnation by far. When a TNG episode sucked (and most of them did) it was only Stewart’s charisma and talent that made the show even watchable.

CmdrR

Whether it was years of Shakespearian training, or a one-size-too-small lycra unitard riding up his thespian nethers, we’re certainly glad Sir Patrick had the right moves for Trek!!

Danpaine

#40 – Katie G.

I DID love that. Thanks!

Vultan

#46

Not sure I’m following you…
It was a mistake for Roddenberry to be involved in Trek… even though he was the guy who created the original premise…?

Pierre

@31
@28

Sir P. also played a small role in the scifi Lifeforce in 1985. One of the scenes is also a bit reminiscent (or the other way around) of the S3 ep. Sarek where he yells a lot.