Why Patrick Stewart Turned Down Classic 'Star Trek' Arc

Patrick Stewart - Getty - H 2020
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Even for Patrick Stewart, resistance is futile. 

As the actor revisits the role of Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: Picard, he's also looking back on one of the good captain’s most memorable moments: becoming a Borg — a choice Stewart tells The Hollywood Reporter required some convincing on his part. 

“I originally said ‘no’ to doing it,’ Stewart recalls, with “it” being an event that would define the character for nearly 30 years. 

In 1990's “The Best of Both Worlds,” the season three finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Enterprise is forced to engage the Borg — a race of cybernetic beings hell-bent on assimilating life into their hive-mind collective. On their invasion of Earth, the Borg decided they would need a representative — a voice — to oversee humanity’s assimilation. That voice: Picard, aka Locutus of Borg. The first half of the two-part episode concluded with Picard becoming the very enemy he’s fighting, and uttering the villainous race’s “Resistance Is Futile” catchphrase. 

Locutus and Picard’s traumatic experience with the Borg would haunt Picard in subsequent episodes of TNG, and be key to the plot of the 1996 feature film, Star Trek: First Contact. It’s hard to imagine Star Trek being without one of its greatest storylines, but easy to understand why at the time Stewart wasn’t completely sold on it. 

“I remember questioning whether that storyline was a good one to follow,” Stewart explains. “I wasn’t sure that it was.” He was sure, however, of how uncomfortable the makeup process was in getting into character and putting on all the Borg appliances. But as the story came together, Stewart began to appreciate the Borg figurehead. “The best part about [playing] Locutus was that I have something to reference, the drama Picard had to endure, the makeup process for me, which was extremely unpleasant and painful and unsettling. No experience is wasted.” 

Another experience the actor would be grateful for was when he directed TNG’s season six Western-inspired episode, “A Fistful of Datas,” where Stewart again encountered some, um, “resistance.” 

“I was abused by all my fellow directors who thought they should have been directing it. [They said] ‘What does this Englishman know about making a Western?!”

Despite that initial teasing, shooting the episode proved to be another high point for the actor thanks to Picard. 

“We shot a whole day on the backlot of Warner Bros., on their Western town [set]. And I actually got to ride on the camera crane on one shot […] during a face-off between the two [gunslingers]. It was one of the greatest days of my life.”

Star Trek: Picard premieres Thursday on CBS All Access.