The inclusion of some familiar faces from Star Trek: The Next Generation was a highlight from the first season of Star Trek: Picard. But it turns out that like the star himself, it took some convincing, as well as some logistics, to get a couple of the TNG stars back.
Spiner didn’t want to play Data, but had another idea
Brent Spiner appeared in a number of episodes of Picard, including the opening scene, reprising his role of Data the android. Over the years since his last appearance as the character in Star Trek: Nemesis, the actor has said he wasn’t interested in returning to the role and didn’t think it would work out. During Saturday’s GalaxyCon virtual Q&A with Spiner and his TNG co-star Marina Sirtis, the actor recalled how he tried to negotiate a different role when he was first told by Patrick Stewart about the interest in his return:
I had no intention of being in the show, obviously. Patrick had said that the season will have to do with Data. So, I was trying to come up with stuff. I wanted to be on the show, but I didn’t want to play Data. I pitched an idea to Patrick about playing a different character. He took it back to the powers that be and they got back to him and said, “Well that is really interesting, but we don’t think we are going to go that way.” And I was like, “Okay, no big deal.”
In almost a parallel process as Sir Patrick himself, it took the effort of the creative team behind the show to convince Spiner to come on board. The actor told the virtual panel audience:
My manager got a phone call saying the guys who are putting the show together would like to meet. I said, “Fine,” and went down and had a meeting. They were hugely impressive guys to meet. Alex [Kurtzman] and Akiva [Goldsman] and Michael Chabon, these are incredible writers. It is an incredible pedigree. Michael Chabon has won a Pulitzer.
As for getting into character, Spiner said it came easily:
It took longer for me to get made up than it did to get into character…It was really like riding a bike. I know that is a cliché, but it really was. It just came back [snaps fingers] instantly.
Of course in the end, not only did Spiner play Data on the show, but he also was able to play another role, one not requiring hours of makeup: Alton Inigo Soong.
Sirtis didn’t have the time and didn’t want to get back into uniform
Marina Sirtis appeared midway through the first season of Star Trek: Picard, reprising her TNG character of Deanna Troi. The episode “Nepenthe” found Troi retired from Starfleet, and living with her husband (Jonathan Frakes’ William Riker, also retired) and their daughter Kestra (LuLu Wilson). During Saturday’s GalaxyCon panel, Sirtis revealed she had to say no when first offered a part in Picard:
When I did hear about it, I actually had to turn it down because I was doing a play in London. The dates clashed. But, the wonderful people over there at Picard basically fixed it so that we shot out of sequence. I shot my stuff with Jonathan [Frakes] in the middle of a different episode. Everything is streaming now, so they can do that kind of stuff. It’s not like when we were shooting on actual film and shot a month in advance before the show was on the air, it was a very different time. So, it worked out and I am very happy it worked out.
As for reprising the role, Sirtis also said it came back easily, with just one concern:
It was like putting on a pair of comfy slippers, wasn’t it?… I was a little worried about the accent, but then since it had changed so much over the seven years of TNG, they didn’t think it mattered.
The actress was also very happy with the response she got for her work in Picard:
Oh my god! It was like I cured cancer, everybody loved it so much! [laughs] I have never got so many lovely compliments as I did on Picard. It’s lovely. So, was I a hack before and got good? [laughs] Because I am not sure why.
Like Spiner, the Marina had praise for the Picard writers (and the budget):
Why was it so special? It was on the page! When the writing is good. I am not saying anything bad about my TNG, but we were working under the pressure of getting the show out every seven working. Every seven working days we did a show. We were getting rewrites upon rewrites. We were getting rewrites after we shot the scene sometimes. The pressure on the writers on an episodic show that is doing twenty-six episodes a season is very different to ten episodes that you can spend time on. And you have got a lot of money. [The budgets] were ten times what we had. I say it with pride: our cast made a silk purse out of many a cow’s ear on TNG.
The actress did reveal there was an issue that might have kept her from returning for Picard:
The blessing was that I didn’t have to wear a spacesuit. I don’t know that I would have done it if I had to wear a spacesuit, I have to be honest. Let’s just put it this way. I wouldn’t look as good in my spacesuit as I did back then, because I am about 15 pounds heavier than I was back that. [laughs] So, that was great that I didn’t have to pour myself into a spacesuit…
There was a bit of irony in that comment, as earlier in the Q&A, Sirtis pointed to when Troi started wearing a standard Starfleet uniform in the sixth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation [starting with “Chain of Command, Part I”] as a “big shift” in terms of her character, adding “If you have cleavage in Hollywood, you can’t have a brain. So, when I lost all of that, my brain matter came flooding back.” While happy she transitioned to a standard uniform, Sirtis laughingly lamented on how she didn’t get a customized costume for her, saying “they gave me one of the extra’s [uniforms].”
More TNG stars headed to Picard
In addition to Sirtis, Spiner, and Frakes, the first season of Picard also featured Jonathan Del Arco reprising his TNG guest role as Hugh of Borg. Star Trek: Voyager’s Jeri Ryan also appeared in a number of episodes as Seven of Nine, and earlier this week the actress said she will be back for season two, which could start shooting in the fall.
Patrick Stewart has recently said he hopes that more of his TNG co-stars will appear in Picard. It has already been confirmed that Whoopi Goldberg will be reprising her TNG role of Guinan in the second season of Picard. And last month LeVar Burton confirmed he had spoken to Picard producers about reprising his TNG role of Geordi La Forge. Burton also said he expects all the stars of TNG to eventually make their way to Picard.
More GalaxyCon TNG to come
GalaxyCon split their original planned virtual Star Trek: The Next Generation event into two, with Jonathan Frakes (William T. Riker) moving to Saturday, June 13th. He will be joined by co-stars Gates McFadden (Dr. Beverly Crusher) and Denise Crosby (Tasha Yar). The livestream Q&A starts at 2 pm ET, followed by one-on-one chats. Tickets for the live stream are $5.00, but you can get a ticket for free using the promo code LIVEFREE. You can also purchase autographs, one-0n-one video chats, and personalized video recordings each of the TNG stars. To purchase tickets to the Q&A and more go to growtix.com.
Keep up with all the Star Trek: Picard news, reviews, and analysis at TrekMovie.com.