The latest episode of TrekMovie’s All Access Star Trek podcast features the first part of an extended interview with Star Trek: Picard season 3 showrunner Terry Matalas. In addition to discussing his long history with Star Trek—going back to his early fandom and beginning his Hollywood career working on Star Trek: Voyager and Enterprise,—Matalas offered a lot of insights into what it took to convince the powers that be to change things up a bit for the third and final season of Star Trek: Picard by bringing back the main cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Carefully avoiding any major spoilers, Matalas offered some key context to what has already been revealed along with adding some more depth to our understanding of what we can expect. Below are some of the highlights of the podcast discussion.
TNG’s Undiscovered Country… not Wrath of Khan
Matalas is a lifelong Star Trek fan and a particular fan of the Star Trek feature films. As he explained his vision for season of Star Trek: Picard, he drew a parallel with the final TOS-era movie:
I had always felt like the Next Generation characters never got their due finale. Nemesis didn’t feel like the end. I was always hoping they were going to get their own Undiscovered Country where we got to see them in a high-stakes adventure. Each one of those characters plays a major part and ties up arcs that go back 30 years.
During the San Diego Comic-Con panel, executive producer Alex Kurtzman drew a parallel to another classic Star Trek film when describing season 3’s villain. Matalas added some nuance to the comparison to Wrath of Khan during the podcast:
I think what Alex was referring to is the spirit of a somewhat larger-than-life antagonist who you just want to watch… I would say the other aspect is there are space battles and so I think the spirit of Wrath of Khan of what Alex was talking about was trying to outsmart your opponent, which is definitely plays a part. But no, we’re not we’re not promising Wrath of Khan. It’s very different in that way. It actually ties into some storylines in some mythology from previous Star Trek incarnations.
While there are movie parallels and comparisons to season 3 of Picard as a sort of final TNG movie, Matalas acknowledged that the focus was to make the season work for television. To illustrate this point, he brought up a recent comment from The Boys showrunner Eric Kripke:
[Kripke] said “Stop describing your season as a season-long movie” and he’s absolutely right… You can’t just take a two-hour script and just spread it out. He’s talking about momentum. You have to have to design it for television. They have to be ten chapters. So “movie” is not quite really the right word when we say [season three] is the last Next Gen movie. It is, it is the spirit of that, but really it’s a 10-hour miniseries that has the highest cinematic value of a feature film. I would say the last two hours are a movie. [laughs]… they are quite big.
It’s all about the TNG characters… starting with Beverly
Picking up on the idea of a miniseries, Matalas talked about how even if it is serialized, the episodes can and should still have their own identity. The showrunner also explained how the structure allows for in-depth character stories for the TNG crew:
I think what happens in the streaming world and sometimes in serialization is, that they all kind of start to blend together… So, in the case of season 3 there is an episode identity… A lot of these characters, when you’re serialized, you get to go deeper into them. There’s a relationship story in season 3 with Riker and Troi that is not something you would not be able to do had the show just been episodic. They’re put into a situation where they you really get to the core of what makes them great.
He noted how this allowed for more character development than seen in the four TNG feature films. For example, it appears Gates McFadden’s Dr. Crusher plays a key role in season 3:
I would say certainly Beverly Crusher takes a back seat in those Star Trek films. And the pitch for season 3 was always the first person you see is Beverly Crusher… in an unexpected way, because it’s been 25 years and no one’s really the same person after that amount of time. But it was just a great jumping-off point… I always felt that [Beverly] was a giant portion of his life, his best friend Jack Crusher. I always loved that mythology and those relationships. And so if you’re going to do the final story of Captain Picard it feels like that would play a big part.
Patrick Stewart has said there is some “tension” between some of the TNG characters. Matalas offered a bit more about how making a show for a modern audience means you will see some conflicts you didn’t see with the crew back during the TNG series:
You will see conflict with some of these characters. And to me, that’s just great drama. There is a moment where Riker and Picard have a very strong disagreement about tactically what to do in a specific situation. And I love it. I love seeing the later part of a chapter where Riker was a protégé of Picard. What happens if those roles are switched in a way that Riker has to make a call that Picard does not agree with? I want to see those conversations.
Legacy characters almost included Naomi Wildman
Matalas has previously said that we’ll see more legacy characters, and during the podcast, he explained how these kinds of moments are all part of crafting the season as a whole:
We mapped it. I think the key is: we know the moves, now what are some of the chapters that we desperately want to tell. Like there are little things. There’s a Next Gen character that I desperately wanted to bring back. But I did not want to do anything that wasn’t organic. So there’s so much discussion. You just can’t move forward on your first script until you know exactly how the series finale is going to end…
He also offered an example of how sometimes the plan changes, revealing a character who almost made it into the season:
This is not a spoiler because it doesn’t happen–but Naomi Wildman. There was a moment where there’s a specific thing that’s happening, what if they had to turn to a grown-up Naomi Wildman and it was a very, very intense three weeks in the room because it was a great story. And had you had 13 episodes, you were going to do this one, and it was going to be great if you could produce it because it was rather expensive. And so that’s hard.
Not forgetting the remaining Picard characters… including Laris
Bringing in the main cast of The Next Generation meant the series had to say goodbye to a number of the characters introduced in the first season of Picard, but not all. Matalas talked a little bit about Seven (Jeri Ryan) and Raffi (Michelle Hurd) in season 3:
Seven of Nine, her arc is one of my favorite things. Raffi has a really unexpected, terrific arc. We kind of reinvented her a little bit because in Picard, she’s sort of wanders it in her place in the world in those first few seasons. And season 3, we pick her up in a pretty great place. And she has many scenes with one particular legacy character that are—You just want it to be its own show. It’s so good.
He also confirmed that Laris (Orla Brady) will appear as well:
You will see Laris in season three… She is not a huge part of the season, but Orla Brady is wonderful. In fact, my favorite Orla scene is this one scene in the first episode of season three.
Most importantly, the showrunner says the final season remains true to the core of the series, with a focus on telling the story of Sir Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard:
This season starts very personal. But even if this was the last Star Trek: The Next Generation movie, it would have started exactly this way. So it starts personal, but that’s not to say there aren’t very high personal and–I don’t want to say galactic–but galactic stakes. There’s still a high-stakes aspect to this. So, it’s not This Is Us in space. It starts as personal for Picard as it could possibly ever be.
A new ship… but didn’t forget about Enterprise
Ships are always major characters in Star Trek, and season 3 of Picard will be no different. In the past Matalas has made no secret that season 3 is set on a new Starfleet ship, which uses the season 2 USS Stargazer sets. Recently there has been a lot of discussion about season 3 featuring featuring a USS Enterprise, possibly even different Enterprises. During the podcast discussion, Matalas didn’t offer spoilers but drew an important distinction:
We spend the most time on one ship this season that is not the Enterprise. That does not mean you won’t get your Enterprise fixes that you’re looking for. But [the main setting] is a ship that’s a bit of an underdog. It is not the Stargazer. It’s lit a bit differently. The Stargazer had a gloss to it and was lit up. This is a little bit more in the spirit of a of a movie. I wouldn’t say darker, but it has just it has a different feel to it than season two.
Listen to part 1 of our interview
Here is the full part 1 of our extended interview with Terry Matalas. The second part will be released on Friday on the latest episode of our All Access Star Trek podcast. [Interview starts at 19:13.]
Find more Star Trek: Picard at TrekMovie.com.