6:30am PT by Phil Pirrello
The Challenge for 'Star Trek: Picard' Season 2
[This story contains spoilers for Star Trek: Picard's season one finale, "Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2."]
Star Trek: Picard producers Michael Chabon and Akiva Goldsman were among the few who saw the end of Jean-Luc Picard's life coming.
The plan to bring Patrick Stewart's iconic Star Trek: The Next Generation captain back to the small screen for the first time since 1994 was always intended to boldly go where the season one finale took it — with Picard's sacrifice and resurrection. How exactly to use the show's first season to get there was less than clear, but the chance to resolve Picard's arc this way was worth the complex creative journey.
"We didn't decide to do this to the character from a place of we didn't want to have future seasons or anything like that," Chabon tells The Hollywood Reporter in a post-mortem discussion about the first season's conclusion. "From the original plan for the show, even though our original outline changed significantly to what you eventually saw, the plan — and Sir Patrick's plan from the beginning — was ‘let's tell more stories with Picard.'"
In January, Picard executive producer Alex Kurtzman told THR that none of their original pitch doc for the first season made it to the shooting of the final project. That story document — written by Chabon, Kurtzman and Goldsman — also didn't feature Data (Brent Spiner), a character whose death in 2002's Star Trek: Nemesis would eventually end up playing a vital role in Picard's post-Captain-of-the-Enterprise life. As the story was evolving, what stayed constant — other than the titular character — was embracing the narrative's potential to unfold in a very Peak TV, binge-friendly way.
"You really have to ‘bingewatch' the whole thing in ten episodes," Chabon says. "And it's a tricky thing because of the whole episodic versus serialized way we watch things, and how especially Star Trek audiences are sort of trained [to expect] more of that episodic, mission-of-the-week structure. And that's not what this show is."
"This was one of the great organizing ideas of the season, the final sitdown between Picard and Data," Goldsman adds. "This idea of how Picard could face and take off the anchors of his own guilt surrounding the loss of his friend [...] was part of what we were driving to from the beginning."
To get there, the thematic tentpole the writers used early on was the dream Picard has about Data, where they are back on the Enterprise-D at Ten-Forward. "As things changed about the series and the season as it evolved," Goldsman explains, "this dream and Picard's fate never changed."
What did change were plans for how and when events would unfold in the early episodes of the season. For instance, the original plan was for Picard to assemble his new crew aboard the La Sirena vessel by the end of episode two. (In the final season, Picard doesn't venture back into space until the end of episode three.) But budget and story needs allowed the writers to expand upon that critical plot development and treat the first three episodes as though they were akin to the three-act structure of a feature film. From there, certain character details began to come into focus, especially in regards to teaming Picard with Star Trek: Voyager's Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan).
"The idea of bringing Seven back, and seeing her Borg past interact with Picard's, it was just too rich to pass up," Chabon says. Seven is a character both Chabon and Goldsman wish they could have spent more time with, especially upon seeing Seven hold Raffi's hand — a beat Ryan and Michelle Hurd improvised on the shooting day. While the scene is brief, the season did subtly set up the two characters' developing relationship.
"If you sit down and rewatch, you'd see a hint or two here or there throughout the season of [Seven and Raffi] just getting to know each other," Chabon says. "The first hint of it is in the first full episode Seven appears in, on Freecloud. As Raffi is putting handcuffs on Seven, there's a moment between them — a physical gesture — and in that moment I think is where you start to feel some kind of connection."
Chabon instantly connected with the responsibility of writing what is the season's most emotional scene: Picard and Data's farewell (which you can read more about here).
"That was a big challenge for me," Chabon says. "Writing it as a long scene, and knowing it was going to be an important scene — it was just Patrick and Brent — I really wanted it to be great for them."
Chabon's other main concern was to avoid the scene feeling like they were milking it for melodrama or "too much pathos," as is often the case in lesser hands when two characters of this status meet.
Another memorable reunion of classic Trek characters happened for Goldsman, when Picard sees Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and his wife, Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) again — the first time all three actors have appeared in Trek together since Nemesis. "When Jonathan and Marina landed on set," Goldsman recalls, "it was sort one of those moments where you felt lucky to be part of it."
Both Chabon and Goldsman are currently at work shaping the story for Star Trek: Picard's upcoming second season, which finds Picard, his new body and his new crew set to explore the Final Frontier once again in ways that Chabon promises will honor that which the first season started: Telling Star Trek in familiar but new and emotionally-challenging ways.
"And that's the challenge," Chabon says. "First, it's got to be good, right? It has to be focused on Picard but have room for all the other characters. It's never going to be just a show about the crew of a starship that's part of Starfleet and everyone's wearing uniforms and they're flying around, encountering alien life and weird planets. Those are the challenges we face going into season two, and I'm so excited about the story we've come up with."