The second season of Star Trek: Picard kicked off with a bang today with “The Star Gazer.” The new season reset the series characters, reintroduced some old characters, and set up some the season arc. To help guide us through it all, TrekMovie had an exclusive email exchange with executive producer and co-showrunner Terry Matalas, who also co-wrote the episode. While Matalas is new to Picard for season two, he got his start in the industry working on Star Trek: Voyager as a production assistant, and got his first story writing credits on Star Trek: Enterprise. He is a genuine fan, which shines through in our discussion.
[NOTE: SPOILERS AHEAD]
“The Star Gazer” jumps forward around two years, did you want that time gap to sort of reset all the characters and the world, and move past the fallout from season one?
In many ways, season two of Picard is about characters on the precipice of choice or change. Some in their personal relationships, others in their professional lives, but Picard, most especially, finds himself trapped in the question: “What’s next?” He’s wrestling with–or better yet, ignoring–the puzzle-pieces of his past that are stopping him from embracing his future. Of course, the re-appearance of Q is going to force him to look inward and get to the bottom of some of these issues. One of the unexplored relationships in Picard’s life is his mother. So we are going to learn a lot more about what she meant to him.
The episode felt quite a bit different than season one with a lighter tone, and faster pace. Would you say this is indicative of season two as a whole?
I’m answering these questions as we’re literally just days away from the completion of season three, the gigantic high-stakes finale, so I have the benefit of some future perspective here… I think the tremendous thing about the three-part story of Picard is that each chapter, each season, feels incredibly distinct. Visually, tonally, narratively, thematically. They’re each deeply emotional pieces of character-driven sci-fi, but they’re also exploring very different things, asking different questions. I think Season 2 is similar to Season 1 as it deconstructs Picard in ways we’ve never explored before. So, for all the genre popcorn, there’s also a lot of psychology and–dare I say–romance.
Season one kicked off by setting up some of Picard’s regrets, which became his arc for the season, particularly with some closure on Data. This episode set up a different regret, one of his inability to build a lasting relationship. Should we see that as the season’s big character arc for him, and maybe for Seven and others too? With all the alternate timelines and Borg, is season two really about love?
I think it’s very much about what Star Trek has always been about–the horizon. Only, this season, it’s not the horizon of cosmic discovery or galactic politics, it’s about what’s next for us as people. Not as humanity, but as humans. What do we want in our careers, our relationships? How do we reconcile the dueling voices inside our heads, the push-pull within all of us that tells us to either stay or leave, fight or flight, love or let go? Q isn’t a plot character. He’s a character character. He’s the figure you introduce when your heroes need to face their truest selves. And that’s what Picard and his crew are forced to do this season–run the gauntlet, face themselves and decide who and what they want to become.
It was a bit of a surprise that episode one not only had de Lancie return as Q, but Whoopi as Guinan. Did you guys want to make a big bang by using the big guns in episode one, or was that just organic to the story?
It was very organic. In an episode in which Q is going to launch Picard into this strange future, it only felt right that Jean-Luc needed some perspective on his past. Who he is now, how he needs to change, why he’s so rife with indecision? And while Q provides the push, only Guinan can call Picard out on his own bullshit. She has the freedom to real-talk him in a way that even his closest crewmates never could. Guinan very much sets the emotional stakes for Picard in this first episode–she lays out the roadmap and Q places him on the path to an important, life-altering choice.
In addition to Q and Guinan, the episode had lots of little nods and touches to Trek canon. Obviously, yourself, Dave Blass, and many others are fans plus you have some vets in the art department. So how are you balancing the calls to nostalgia with the needs of the story?
I’ll admit, some of it–well, much of it–is just cheeky, nerdy fun. It’s also about honoring the world and the history and the legacy of Trek. It’s made such a huge difference in the lives of everybody who works on this series. Every little detail is a love letter and every easter egg is a thank you.
There has been a lot of talk about the updated Starfleet aesthetic, production design, and uniforms. Can you talk about the approach you are taking?
Everybody’s Star Trek is different. Everybody comes to Trek through a different series, a favorite film, a beloved character, a certain ideology. So, between myself and Akiva and Michael Chabon and the many writers and designers, we mostly tried to build a version of Trek that covered the common ground of what made us Trekkies in the first place. For me, I’m very much a Kirk movie-era and TNG fan, so I wanted to highlight certain throwback choices in the uniforms. Even the ship nacelles! And especially in season three, you’ll find nods to the more nautical, cat and mouse submarine-movie elements of those early Trek films, as well. It was really important to me that we include Mike and Denise Okuda – the return of LCARS – Doug Drexler and John Eaves. All folks I used to work with back when I was a PA on Voyager! It was exciting to bring back that aesthetic. When I first met with our production designer Dave Blass, it was a high priority for me – and he was 100% on board! He had all the original tech manuals and has been a Trek fan for years. I knew we’d be in good hands.
A point of clarification. Is Rios’ USS Stargazer an entirely new ship, or a refit of Picard’s original Stargazer? As both were said in the episode.
Like the TMP Enterprise, it’s a massively updated refit. I like to think of it as the story of the broom: If one day you replace the handle, and another day the brush, is it still the same broom? We thought of it as a vessel endlessly repaired and upgraded, brought in-line with current-future tech, so that somewhere underneath all the lights and polish are the bones of Picard’s original ship. Does it make sense? I don’t know. But I sure like the spirit of it.
We hardly got a chance to see her before Picard blew her up. Seems like a waste of new sets, so should we assume more Stargazer in the rest of the season, or maybe the next season? You do like posting pictures of a Starfleet ship on Twitter, after all.
I could totally tell you if we’ll see the Stargazer again later in the season, but that would be a massive spoiler, now wouldn’t it?
Can you give us an update on production on season 3?
We’ve very nearly completed production—by the time this runs, we’ll be days away from the finish line—and while I can’t say much, I will say: I think it’s shaping up to be an extraordinary season of television. It’s incredibly different from the two seasons before it and features quite possibly, one of the all-time great Star Trek villain performances we’ve seen to-date. But I don’t want to oversell it in the early stages! There’s miles yet to go. But I think—I hope—we’re concluding Picard’s story in the best, most appropriate, most satisfying way. I can’t wait for fans to see what we have in store.
For more on the new season, check out our interviews with Akiva Goldsman, John de Lancie, Patrick Stewart, Jeri Ryan and Michelle Hurd, and Evan Evagora, Isa Briones, and Santiago Cabrera.
New episodes of Star Trek: Picard premiere on Thursdays on Paramount+ in the U.S. and on Fridays where Paramount+ is available around the world. In Canada, it airs on CTV Sci-Fi Channel on streams on Crave on Thursdays. Picard is also available on Fridays on Amazon Prime Video around the world.
Find more stories on the Star Trek Universe.
I’m rewatching the first episode as I type this but I have to say I am totally on board! They already had every strong fanboy element you want in a Star Trek show or movie, but I think Matalas is going to give us all the bells and whistles of a big adventure but also a more intimate Picard story which was promised in season one but not quite delivered on IMO. Fine, but could’ve been stronger.
And I’m so happy people like the Okudas and Doug Drexler are back. I didn’t have a problem with how season one looked at all and thought it fit in to the previous shows fine. But it’s clear this season they are bending over backwards to gel with the 90s shows/films like Lower Decks and Prodigy are lovingly doing. Just seeing a sovereign class ship in the first episode brought a huge smile to my face.
I think after the fans moaned about the look of the Kelvin films and then later Discovery, they have been trying to get back to the aesthetic look of the franchise that was around for 28 seasons and ten films because that’s what the Prime universe is to most fans.It’s funny how you had JJ Abrams and Bryan Fuller who wanted Star Trek to look more in their own image and we now have people like Mike McMahan, the Hageman Brothers and Matalas who are painstakingly trying to make their shows look as much as the old shows/films because that’s what made them fans of it in the first place. And it’s paying off IMO. We can deny it all day long, but fans love nostalgia and Hollywood seem to recognize that more than ever these days. It’s why Star Trek is still around at all.
Anyway looking forward to the season. And please push for a Stargazer spin-off show with Rios, Seven, Raffi and the rest of the gang Mr. Matalas!
Co-signed on that call for a spinoff. I’d be shocked if that’s not the intent.
As for a Star Gazer ‘spinoff’, how could that be accomplished if that sequence was just a figment of someone’s imagination (as seems likely)?
I don’t think that’s the case at all. Everything we saw in the first episode was real. It was simply wiped away after the fleet was destroyed for some reason. But Matalas already said we’ll be seeing it again this season and next.
When and where did Matalas say that about Stargazer? Because, in this article, when Anthony P. asked him about it he was evasive: “I could totally tell you if we’ll see the Stargazer again later in the season, but that would be a massive spoiler, now wouldn’t it?”.
He’s just being playful. He’s telling us we will see Stargazer again this season.
And he’s been teasing the ship for season 3 for months now. We knew we were getting a new ship next season already, many were shocked it was in this season as well. I guess that COULD be a different ship (even another Enterprise) but I doubt it. I think the Stargazer will be the ‘hero’ ship both seasons.
But we may not see it again this season until the finale with the altered timeline and time travel stuff being the biggest part of the season,
Pretty damn obvious we’ll be seeing the Stargazer again, and (likely) a spinoff planned.
These are BRAND NEW sets built, not simple redressing. You think they spent a ton of money building new sets, only to destroy them 5 minutes into the first episode…? Add to that the dozens of new uniforms for both the main cast members as well as extras…
Star Trek: Stargazer is an almost certain bet. I’ll bet my 100 Bars of Gold-Pressed Latinum on it.
I see a lot of people online are suggesting it could be another Discovery Enterprise situation and they built a new set not just for this show, but yes, with the intention of spinning it off to its own series. Who knows, but I hope it is history repeating itself. ;)
“Who’s that trip-trapping over my bridge?” — A34
Don’t want nostalgia (that’s for old folks). But I do like that Matalas and McMahon recognize what worked well in the past and are incorporating them into the new productions. We need fresh new adventures, not retreads, as Tiger 2 seems to advocate. The creative story-telling tradition of Roddenberry, Ellison, Fontana and many others is what drew people to Trek in the first place and will continue to do so.
Yeah, I’m not into Nostalgia myself. I’m 47 and Nostalgia feels gross…just play it straight and it felt to me like they were. It wasn’t presented in a schmaltzy way.
Yeah I agree completely, I want NEW characters and adventures more than anything. It’s the reason why I was so excited about Discovery going to the 32nd century. I was more excited about that show than I was with Picard at the time.
But we can’t deny nostalgia is a huge part of the franchise. Always has been. And notice anytime something goes wrong, that’s sort of their go-to place. I believe it’s exactly why we got Pike and Spock in Discovery in season 2. And to be more honest, it usually seems to work (especially in that case). No matter how you feel about the new shows, the one thing most fans seem to gravitate to is when old characters show up. They seem to have done a fairly good job of how they treated them and make fans want to see more of them. So it works, it’s the reason we even have Strange New Worlds coming. But I prefer to see Trek go forward because it does gives us new adventures and usually with new characters.
And shows like Picard, Lower Decks and Prodigy seem all set up to foster nostalgia more. They all are doing their own things for sure, but they do try to project a lot of member berries, episodically LDS, which I don’t mind at all if it’s done well. Jury is still out on SNW, but I wouldn’t be too shocked of course.
I could not agree with you more.
I was telling my wife that Tiger2 is going to be VERY happy after watching this episode. “If I’m happy he’s going to be over the moon!”
Your observations are spot on and for someone like Matalas, he’s like a kid in a candy store (or a toy store with permission from mom and dad to buy whatever he wants).
This was the post TNG era we were hoping to see last season and they provided us with plenty of eye candy along the way.
I personally would love to see a flashback with Seven and Chakotay. She is now where he once was and now that he’s missing one can only imagine the impact that may have had on her. Not necessarily as a romantic interest but as one of several mentors she had on Voyager. His relationship with her ultimately led to Janeway’s altering of the timeline and that kind of has to weigh on you.
LOL Denny C, it’s funny how well you know me!
And yes, here we are again two years later once again ecstatic over what we got. I’m hoping this time we will all feel as satisfied by the end of the season as we are in the beginning (not counting fans who did love the first season finale of course).
I think what they tried to do in first season was fine and was game for whatever they wanted to do, as long as it was good. But I think just like what happened with Discovery in season one, they went back and took in all the complaints and injected a little more ‘Star Trek’ in season 2 for both that show and Picard. And fans simply wanted a stronger continuation of the TNG era. It doesn’t mean they have to see Riker, Worf and Troi standing on the Enterprise E bridge, but they just wanted more elements of the era as a whole and it looks like we are really getting that now. And we know a lot of the season will take place in the past anyway, so it was nice to show off as much of that now. I think that’s why LDS is so popular, it’s the show that is giving fans that now; but nothing beats a live version of that and played more straight.
I would LOVE to see more backstory with Seven and what happened between Endgame and Picard. I don’t think we’ll get it, but it would be nice. And it’s not ‘nostalgia’, it’s character development. Seven and Chakotay’s relationship did have a profound impact on the future since as you said it was a big reason why Janeway went back in time and changed it. And wow, I didn’t think about it until now, but we are seeing Janeway’s impact on that future right now with the Borg. She apparently did cripple them in a profound way, but still a pretty powerful species decades later.
7/chakotay came out of nowhere as a relationship and as a plot point to justify admiral janeway wanting to erase a timeline.
all of it was a mistake.
I was never bothered by their relationship but yeah Janeway went to extremes to save it lol.
And I don’t see it as a mistake because future Janeway did cripple the Borg in a serious way and probably saved millions of lives in the process. It may even be the reason the Borg wants ‘peace’ now with the Federation (I put it in quotes for a reason though ;)). It took 25 years, but at least they are coming around.
she took upon herself to erase a timeline and billions of people’s lives to get over the death of two crew members.
shows you how disinterested the writers were that they left out all of that between 7 and chakotay over 4 years.
Visually it seemed like a natural progression of the production from the TNG era, not a retcon that ignores the legacy of what came before. The uniforms, ships, sound effects, LCARS and the list goes on. He *gets* it and I suspect that had he been showrunner in season 1 there are elements which would never have been introduced.
We’re off to a good start. Let’s hope he can stick the landing.
Very excited for the rest of the season.
Oh, and they really need to stop installing waxed floors on starships. Not so great during battles.
“I like to think of it as the story of the broom: If one day you replace the handle, and another day the brush, is it still the same broom?”
The Ship of Theseus, lol.
Vision: Are you familiar with the thought experiment, “a broom”?
The Broom of Matalas.
The Ship of Theseus has been reframed many times – the original (the ship)…I’ve also heard it as an axe (if you replace the handle, then the head…) and also as a broom. It’s a handy way of thinking of and breaking down the idea of permanance.
[Thumbs up emoji goes here]
“Trigger’s Broom”, from Only Fools and Horses
Thanks for mentioning Plutarch’s Ship of Theseus. I was just about to do that myself until I saw your post.
I did, however, mention it, and Thomas Hobbes’ extension of it, at the Memory Alpha website to make the argument that all three claimants to be “the first ship to have warp drive installed” – namely, the Phoenix, the Bonaventure C1-21, and the Bonaventure 10281NCC – were all the same ship, but massively updated and refit, renamed, and re-registered over time; while the original parts were collected, reassembled, and exhibited as the Phoenix that Picard saw “hundreds of times in the Smithsonian” [https://memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Talk:Bonaventure_(10281NCC)].
I should mention that Picard himself, with his robotic body, is an example of the Ship of Theseus.
As are we all, when you think about it.
Yep, and that’s because our cells die and are replaced.
There was also a pretty decent YouTube video some time back comparing the TMP refit Enterprise to the Ship of Theseus.
Thanks for the referral to the video. I would say the TMP refit Enterprise is a Ship of Theseus, and as is the Stargazer (PIC: “The Star Gazer”) as Ships of Theseus.
Or the real (mock-up) Galileo shuttlecraft.
“But I think–I hope – we’re concluding Picard’s story in the best, most appropriate, most satisfying way”
For me personally this only would be possible if season 3 would include Data (or B-4 with Datas “Soul”), Riker, Worf, Geordie, Troi and Crusher in main roles. .. to see O’Brian and Wesley would be great to.
Shows like Picard risk being nothing more than reactions to fans fears of impermanence and death. At worst, they get the gang back together as if nothing ever changes, resulting in a hollow, no-stakes rehash of what was once great.
I think this show has avoided that so far. I think it should continue to do so.
So when you getting older and things are changing in your life you can’t be in relation to your original family or/and friends at the same time?
I had no idea he was from Newcastle.
Enterprise just has to be featured in Season 3. It seems to me almost 100% going to happen. Likely F, but possibly E, or both!
If they did that, this would just become a TNG rehash. It would be nice to see some of them return in supporting roles for an episode or two, like Riker and Troi did in Nepenthe, but we don’t need to get the whole TNG cast back together. Besides, Data’s story was perfectly wrapped up in Et in Arcadia Ego.
given the loss of utopia planitia it makes sense that some of the museum ships would be pressed into service. stargazer and excelsior
Both are new ships the stargazer is a Sagan class and the uss excelsior is a 25th century successor to the original ship
matalas’ quote: “Like the TMP Enterprise, it’s a massively updated refit.”
This season is starting off great!
Michael Chabon, while a Pulitzer price winner, was clearly a misfit for Picard. Luckily CBS recognized that and brought Matalas on time.
Chabon is working on his own show, an adaptation of his Pulitzer-prizewinning novel “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.” He said at the time that he would still keep his hand in on ”Picard,” but I don’t know if that turned out to be the case.
It’s sounds like a win-win exit solution was found for both Chabon and Paramount.
I think I saw Chabon’s name in the credits listed as an Executive Producer.
One thing I just adored about season one was some of the very poetic dialogue that the show had. I wonder how much of that was Chabon, because I hope that continues this season.
I knew nothing about Michael Chabon until he started writing for Star Trek and I don’t think anyone can question his passion for the franchise. I think that was always evident. But same time, he never ran a show before and quite frankly it showed. And while we’re all praising Matalas right now, we don’t know how its going to shake out either. I DO think he has better ideas for this season and certainly a lot more closer to a TNG vibe than season one, so that’s a big positive. But more importantly he’s also proven he knows how to run a TV show with good results. It doesn’t mean season 2 will be great, but I am more positive now that he’s in charge at least.
Michael Chabon has long been a literary hero of mine. He wrote both my favorite (“Absolute Candor”) and least favorite (“Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2,” ugh) episodes of the first season. He clearly loves the franchise, and as noted above at its best his dialogue is wonderfully poetic and literate. I hope he gives it another go.
He’s probably more suitable writing the show than running it though. That is the crazy thing about television, writers basically become the producers. I’m not saying he shouldn’t run any show, but something as big and complicated as Star Trek has become, it’s probably best to have someone with real experience first run it or been on the production a long time before they ran their own like we saw with the 90s shows.
Agreed. By “give it another go,” I was definitely referring to him writing another script, as opposed to showrunning (which he doesn’t have the time to do these days in any case).
Sounds more like the new Stargazer is a new-new ship.
If the Star Gazer is a major refit,
and the same ship, why did its registery number change? In TMP it remained 1701
It is a brand new Sagan class starship
Plus, the Franklin got a new registration after the UFP was formed, so sometimes it happens.
Franklin was a bit of an odd case- it was a Earth MACO starship prior to the foundation of the UFP. After Earth Starfleet was retooled as a Federation agency, Franklin was transferred to Starfleet.
Edison was originally a MACO who was transferred to Starfleet, but did they ever say that the Franklin was originally a MACO ship? I didn’t think MACO had ships.
Seeing the Stargazer and the new uniforms (much better than both S1 attempts, especially the ones from flashbacks… eesh) got me excited when the end credits rolled, but then I remembered I saw the trailers and we’ll be spending most of the season in the present time LA (probably in order to save on expensive sets?)
Or we May have Just Seen präsent Day fotage from a Couple of Episoden…
Picard…. Or a Variant of Picard ist the villian of season 3 … ;)
Why did we need to catch up on every major character’s story and where they are now? Just show us a few bits and let us connect the dots. The episode didn’t feel organic in this respect. And opening and closing the season 2 premiere episode with the same action scene was a bit of a cheap way to fill the story like they didn’t have enough material,. And Guinan’s a chatty Cathy now. She no longer has the mystique she once had. I also miss the days when ship models were used for sfx. Everything looked rich back then with light reflecting off the hull, ect. Today’s cgi is so dark it’s hard to distinguish anything at all. Were we looking at a Borg ship? Overall the episode was not bad but not great. Viewers’ attention span today is more limited and production is driven by ratings more than ever, so I see why the writing and dialogue is not as sophisticated as it once was in TNG era. Like almost anything scientific or technical just happens if by magic. No need to explain any of it. We’ve got a full two seasons to go, but to me it does feel like the golden age of Trek is behind us.
Amazing. Everything you said is wrong – to quote another franchise where the fans desperately clutch to their fuzzy memories and get upset when things are new – forgetting that if they looked at the old stuff through the same lens it wouldn’t hold up very well.
Only point I think I agree on here is the CGI is a bit of a let down in the sense that it’s hard to really see as much as we should hope. It seems overdone maybe at times. Hit and miss. There were some shots I thought were great and others that suddenly gave off a clearly video gamey look.
But it’s a good episode/start overall and think you’d appreciate it more with rewatches. At least I have anyway. Even the CGI looks better after you’ve seen it a few more times.
The darkness has nothing todo With the CGI. Of course you can make it Look Like as bright and clear as the old Models.
“Like the TMP Enterprise, it’s a massively updated refit. I like to think of it as the story of the broom: If one day you replace the handle, and another day the brush, is it still the same broom? We thought of it as a vessel endlessly repaired and upgraded, brought in-line with current-future tech, so that somewhere underneath all the lights and polish are the bones of Picard’s original ship. Does it make sense? I don’t know. But I sure like the spirit of it.”
Just say it’s a new ship, mate. Don’t try and make a comparison with TMP.
I like the idea that the Stargazer NCC-82893 is a massively updated refit of the NCC-2893. In the real world, we do that with old ships, old airplanes, old houses, and old cars. The U.S. Air Force’s fleet of B-52H Stratofortress bombers is an example.
Hard to make any solid judgements after just one episode, and Season 1 also started out solidly, but this feels like proper Star Trek to me, and I haven’t felt that way fully before about any NuTrek. It’s the type of Trek family can watch together, without having to worry about F-bombs or Hostel levels of gore/torture (I’m still furious Patrick Stewart allowed that scene in S1).
Younger kids (and adults for that matter) now more than ever need some optimism in their lives again, and it’s good to know they too can enjoy Trek’s messages and humanity without being shut out by adult content, just as we the older fans did in TOS and TNG. My message to the show runners is please don’t be tempted to throw in F-bombs or gore just to ‘edge’ things up or try to be all things to all people or attract the GoT type audiences etc. Let Trek stand alone as it always has as its own thing, classier without needing to resort to modern crass sensationalism.
You’ve started Season 2 superbly, and appear to have achieved the impossible where so many have failed, and recaptured the spirit of Star Trek at last. Bravo, BRAVO and thank you! :)
On my third rewatch of the episode, I just noticed a cool little nod to The Undiscovered Country!
Scene with Sulu sending a message to Enterprise: “We stand ready to assist you. Captain Sulu. U.S.S. Excelsior”
Scene with Raffi talking to Stargazer: “This is Commander Musiker. Excelsior is standing by ready to assist.”
Don’t tell me that’s a coincidence! ;)
A strong start inevitably leading to multiple episodes in what’s essentially modern day which is unfortunate. Unless the writers can avoid the tired tropes of “ain’t it weird here in the 21st century” story telling, I’m afraid we’re watching Star Trek for car chases and all the action set pieces available on every other show on tv right now but with the occasional insertion of some trek dialog.
I hope they’d not spend more than two episodes in the past. Otherwise it’s not going to really an improvement.
I Hope the 21st is Just the beginning of a crazy time crash…