The latest episode of TrekMovie’s All Access Star Trek podcast features part two of our extended interview with Star Trek: Picard season 3 showrunner Terry Matalas. Topics ranged from season 2 time travel, to interacting with fans on Twitter, and beyond. And as he did in part one, the executive producer offered insights and context to the upcoming season featuring the return of the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Still avoiding any big spoilers, Matalas revealed much about his approach to the season, the characters, the tone and more. He also offered some thoughts on what he would like to do with Star Trek next.
A reflective Jean-Luc Picard… and some family fun
Picking up on some of the discussion in part one of the interview about how season three will be personal for Jean-Luc Picard, Matalas followed up on comments from San Diego Comic-Con about how the character has evolved through the first two seasons, helping set up the third:
He is different… I don’t think you could have done this season without doing a version of seasons 1 and 2… So this Picard—now that he’s gone through seasons 1 and 2—is probably a bit closer to where we left off in Next Generation, but older and wiser and sort of in the latter years of his life. Looking back and trying to understand how to look forward and look for those things that are legacy, that are family, and the most important aspects of your life that aren’t related to your job, essentially. But at the same time, you’re going to see him do the job again, which is cool.
This concept of family has been brought up in other interviews, and Matalas elaborated a bit, but also set up how it may not be what some fans are expecting:
It is the story of a family coming together. This is a tough thing to do. in the respect that I remember watching The Force Awakens and I found it really jarring that they weren’t all hanging out still… I was like, “Wait, Luke Skywalker is on an island and Han and Leia had a divorce and their son is a Sith and even R2D2 is miserable and depressed and sleeping.” And it took a bit to get my mind around at all. That’s not what’s happening here, but I think the hard part for some fans will be “Hey, the thing that I thought my head was that the Next Gen cast gets together for Thanksgiving every year.” That doesn’t happen and hasn’t happened–and why and how and is that a good story? So your preconceptions over the last 20 years of novels and rewatching the series might send you in an expectation that’s not quite where we go here. That’s not to say you won’t get those feelings again, certainly by the end, but there’s going to be some surprises as to what they’ve been up to.
And like any good family, there can be some good-natured kidding around. Matalas has made it clear season 3 is influenced by the TNG series and both the TOS and TNG movie era, he explained how this will extend to include some of the same kind of humor:
You’re going feel that [humor]… and that comes from the characters. For instance, Riker is a blast this season. And the season kicks off with Picard and Riker in a big way, in a kind of Butch and Sundance way. And that was something I felt was missing [in the first two seasons of Picard]. But when you have Frakes, who’s hilarious, you want to write towards his voice. And they’re at a place in their life now, where Riker can be looser. He’s not first officer to Picard anymore. Now he’s an old friend his own captainship in his past. So the humor and the sarcasm sort of comes naturally. And then Riker and Worf haven’t seen each other in a bit… Worf, he’s a little a little bit different when you meet him. And you have Riker as the voice of the audience going, “What is this?” And then they’re back and forth. And it’s really fun… [But] it’s not schtick. It all comes from character. There’s one particular new character that’s a smartass that appears to be going to be a fan favorite from anyone who’s seen it.
About Spiner’s mystery character
Another member of the Next Generation family who is returning in season 3 is Brent Spiner; however, his role is a bit of a mystery. The only clue came from executive producer Alex Kurtzman, who said at Comic-Con that Spiner plays a “new old” character. Matalas offered a bit more insight into why Spiner’s mystery character was the only one who didn’t get a special poster at Comic-Con:
Brent’s character is specifically tied into the plot and the mythology in ways that if you were to show a poster, you would have a thousand more questions. And I think you want to earn it. But he plays a new old character that you have seen and never seen before. it’s, we think, a great way to do this that honors what has come before yet treads new ground.
He also explained that the team feels Spiner’s character is best revealed within the show itself:
The answers to your questions are better told in the context of the story than to say, “And now everybody, here is a link to who this character is.” That plays out. And for those who have seen the season, they’re like, “I’m really glad I learned it this way and not the other way.”… If you see him now and got a name, there’s too many questions tied to “Okay, so who is that now?” Whereas, even as its unfolding and you’re introduced to this character, you’re not quite sure. And then as you learn more about this character, you understand that the answer is not so clear for a bit.
Frakes’ best work
Star Trek: Picard breaks up the work for directors into two-episode blocks, and as Matalas talked about the five directors for season three he discussed how impressed he was with a certain TNG veteran:
The first two are Doug Aarniokoski, who is the producing director on the show, who is fantastic. I will say there is a pretty remarkable—the next block of episodes is directed by Jonathan Frakes and I think it’s the best thing he’s ever done. Everyone who sees one of those episodes is absolutely in tears by the end. The next block is Dan Liu. And then Deborah Kampmeier has another two-hour block, who is an extraordinary visionary director. And then I close it out. I do the last two-hour movie.
Filming wrapped up earlier this year on season 3 and Matalas has been busy with post-production, giving an update that work is almost complete:
We’re right at the end. It’s visual effects and sound, which is a really satisfying place to be because the end of this is quite big. And it’s the kind of thing I’ve always wanted to do. Getting to see these visual effects and getting to say I want a little bit more of this or a little bit more of that is really satisfying. And musically, I’m working with Stephen Barton, who was my composer for 12 Monkeys… Hearing that music makes it feel like the Star Trek movie I’ve always wanted to see and hear.
Matalas expects work to be completed this fall but says decisions on a release are not up to him. He doesn’t know when Paramount is planning to release it but he expects “they’re heading towards 2023.”
Indulging his inner fanboy
Matalas has previously revealed that in addition to the Next Generation cast, season 3 will include some other legacy characters. He revealed to the TrekMovie podcasters how in some cases, it took some convincing:
There were three specifically that I really would like to see these characters again, that are outside of the legacy cast. And that was really satisfying. And sometimes you get a big dose of them. Sometimes you get just a tiny dose, but enough to be like, “Oh, I’m really glad I got to see that one more time.” There was one character I wanted to bring back that if you are a Next Gen fan you are infinitely aware of, but when it came to the powers that be they were like, “What?… Explain this to us? Why are we going to spend money to get this character and fly them in?” I’m like, “You just got to trust me.”… If you know you know, and if you don’t, you’ll be like, “Oh, that’s intriguing.” But if you know who that character is, you’re going to be like, “Okay, we’re deep diving into some Next Gen here.”
The executive producer acknowledges that there may be some parts of season 3 that just play for TNG fans:
There aspects of season 3, where if you don’t know certain parts of Next Gen, yeah, that scene is not going to be for you. We always try and give context, but I didn’t really want to dumb it down. There were moments like “That one’s for the fans.” And if you’re confused, you’re welcome to Google that character later and you’ll enjoy many episodes of greatness you can go back and watch.
Lifelong Trek fan, Matalas revealed that sometimes he would have to keep his inner fanboy in check to get the job done. Like when he was on the set directing the final two episodes:
The fanboy part really goes away quick when terror takes over. Like there was a couple of legendary moments, like unbelievable moments, that you really don’t have the time. You take about three seconds and like, “Wow, if I could tell my 10 year-old self where I am right now.” I’ve got to get up and I need to go tell Picard and Worf and Riker to do a thing. I never thought I would be the person to do that or worthy of that or deserving of that in any way. But that goes away just because you have a limited amount of time. You got 12 hours on that set to do way too much because season three is very, very ambitious because of how we wanted it to be a movie. So we were doing more in a day than we would on any other season of the show. Which meant you are running and quick to the punch of like, “We’ve got to do this, this and this and go!.. So you don’t really have a lot of time. I am the most fanboy in the cuts when the music is all there. And then I’m not seeing the choices I could have made on the day. I’m not seeing LeVar, Michael, Brent, or any–I’m literally seeing the cast of Next Gen, those characters. And that’s the fanboy part.
Matalas is active on Twitter, often engaging with fans, including critics of the series. He explains that it is all part of his own fandom:
It’s really hard, but yeah I do take it to heart because I am those guys. There is a part of me that absolutely sympathizes with things like that, but I get it. When you love something… it’s always indicative of hate comes from love in some way. So if you can look past the really angry stuff, it stems from “I love a thing and I feel heartbroken by it.” And that’s legit. And I feel those things too about aspects of many franchises.
Hoping fans want more of the next ‘Next Generation’
Something mentioned recently by LeVar Burton is how season 3 will be about the “next Next Generation.” Matalas talked more about this idea and how the season could set up another show:
If you were going to do the last Next Generation movie… because that’s where we started, you’d want to pass the torch, right? They were called “The Next Generation,” and now we’re at the end of their generation. So a thing you would want to see is the next next generation of that world. And what does that mean? And how do they look at these people?… If you’re if you set up the next next generation, you want the feeling that this is going to go on that and this can continue. And that’s also the case with the legacy characters. By the end of this, there are things you’re going to say, “Gosh, I really want to watch this legacy character.” I like an ending that promises more… It definitely could be a passing of the torch for more. And if it happens, I will be there in a minute.
At Comic-Con, Alex Kurtzman teased how there are a couple of Star Trek shows currently in development. Matalas clarified that this does not currently include a Picard spin-off, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been discussed:
There’s always discussions happening, but there’s not currently, at least to my knowledge, [active development for] the next chapter of this world. But that does not mean that there are also not discussions. The Universe and Alex has a really hard job of looking at everything and looking at the success of Strange New Worlds and charting out the future. I think the people who can make anything happen are the Star Trek fans. That’s been the case since The Original Series. So if there is something in this season that “I want blank,” it’s going to be the fans that are going to make that happen. I can tell you that there are some brilliant other Star Trek things in the works that aren’t this that I can’t wait to watch, but they’re different than this.
And Matalas hopes that like the ways fans called for more with Captain Pike’s USS Enterprise after season 2 of Discovery, there will be a similar call for a continuation with characters and elements from season three of Picard:
I hope. You never know what people are going to want. I hope and think, yes [fans will want a Picard spin-off]. But again, it’s sort of the life of a show where some things you think will work, work. And then some things don’t. If I’m a betting man, I think so. And then, it’s sort of up to the television gods to decide from there.
Listen to part 2 of our interview
Here is the full second part of our podcast interview with Matalas [starts at 19:34]. And if you missed part one, Listen to it here.
Find more Star Trek: Picard at TrekMovie.com.