PAST IMPERFECT
SFX|February 2022
AKIVA GOLDSMAN AND TERRY MATALAS, EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS AND CO-SHOWRUNNERS OF SEASON TWO OF STAR TREK: PICARD, TALK TIME TRAVEL AND WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS…
DARREN SCOTT

WHEN SFX catches up with the cast and crew of Star Trek: Picard, production has resumed on the final two episodes of season three. Announced at 2021’s Star Trek Day, filming took place consecutively with season two.

Akiva Goldsman says there was always a plan for three seasons, but with “an opportunity for us to have spectacularly failed after one, and that would have been one and done.” As for more? “God knows what the future will bring.” But for the moment, Goldsman and fellow executive producer and co-showrunner Terry Matalas are still very much entrenched in the final throes of season three as season two finally beams down.

“My inner fanboy is kind of on fire with the stuff that I’ve been able to do,” Matalas grins. “There’s a lot of things that I can’t talk about yet that I’m just bursting at the seams to talk about. There’s been a lot of absolutely legendary moments that have happened in the last year with no press yet.

“There are starship designs and things for the next two seasons that I’m really excited about…” He references Star Trek design veterans Jon Eaves and Doug Drexler joining forces with production designer Dave Blass to “take another look at starship nacelles”. He smiles: “It’s exciting.”

As with so much of Star Trek, it comes from a place of love – and specifically that the showrunners are lifelong fans. “A lot of what we were doing was making the show that 12-year-old us would have been just delighted by. It was, in large part, a kind of dice roll that there were enough folks like us out there that would also like it,” Goldsman laughs when asked about the response to Picard’s first season.

“We didn’t know if it would land and if folks would enjoy it. If not… well, you know, we had given him a new body, thanks for playing.” On that note: with Jean-Luc Picard now reborn in a synthetic “golem” body, fans need not worry that it changes the character they know and love.

“No, it really doesn’t,” Goldsman says. “It really was about rebirth and renewal. It’s not about Super Picard, he has no powers, there’s no enhancement that comes with being a synthetic, it’s a virtually non-material event. Moving forward, it really was about closure, solving some ghosts of Next Gen past and starting fresh. So no ‘faster than a speeding bullet’ or super powers.”

FRIENDS REUNITED

Someone who does very much have powers, however, is the almost omnipotent super-being Q, once more played by John de Lancie and back to wreak havoc with the life of “Mon capitaine”. And he’s not the only returning character from The Next Generation lined up to cross Picard’s path. However, it’s never a “greatest hits” model when it comes to bringing characters back.

“In season one, we really didn’t plan on having Jonathan [Frakes, as Riker],” Goldsman reveals. “We were building a story. And then we have this moment where we needed a best friend, and that evolved into quite a beautiful moment where the story requires Jonathan to come back as an actor. He’s always with us as a director. So, season one: rebirth and renewal. Season two then became an exploration of the heart.

“When you’re telling stories of folks who are in the last chapter of their life, the storytelling is different than if you’re writing about folks in their 20s, 30s, 40s, which is what we all typically do. What was kind of wonderful is, what remains unexpressed at the end of a life? And how do you manage some connectedness to those issues without being glib?

“Because you’re not 20 and you’re having your character resolution in your arc, it’s not the origin of anything,” he continues. “So we looked into what remained outstanding for Jean-Luc Picard, because we’re historians… how could we not be when it comes to the character? We discovered that looking inward and looking backward became the direction we wanted to take.

“So from our palette, we chose colours that allowed us to do that, and so you have two things that are canonically interesting. One is Q and his ability to manoeuvre us through time and space and this very interesting relationship that he has with Picard, one that one might say has always been left unresolved.”

“He’s the first relationship on Star Trek: The Next Generation, really, that Picard had,” Matalas adds. “It was about how you tell a story about Q that’s unexpected, and not the same Loki-esque shenanigans that we are used to. How does it have real dramatic weight? And that was our jumping-off point.

“You will definitely see a side of Q you’ve never seen before. There’s some things going on with Q that are definitely surprising, considering the kind of being he is. And how that would reflect on Jean-Luc Picard and what’s going on with his life at the moment. The first two episodes are a pretty wild ride,” he reveals.

“And you have Guinan,” Goldsman says, “who I won’t talk about much, but enough to say that no one has ever been more aware of divergences in time than she has. So as we start to talk about time and we start to talk about that which is the past, both objectively and internally, those two characters were these great gifts to us. So we keep trying to let the story pull in the folks that it wants.”

“I can’t talk too much about Guinan,” Matalas adds, “but you might see a certain hat again…”

Guinan’s not the only mysterious and seemingly eternal woman in Picard’s life; there’s also the return of the Borg Queen.

“I’m a very big fan of the Borg, and there was a time travel element to the season,” Matalas explains. “One of the components was that the Borg have quite a bit of experience with time travel… This particular Borg Queen is unlike one we’ve seen in canon before. So a lot is going on with this Borg Queen that is very different. There’s lots of interesting Borg storytelling coming up. She’s definitely not Alice Krige’s Borg Queen. This Borg Queen has a very different history to her.”

The number of returning characters is racking up between the first two seasons – so it would be remiss of SFX to not at least enquire about the chances of seeing more familiar faces in future…

Goldman grins. “I’m not going to give you any more spoilers, but I am going to say that by the time these three years are done, those that you know are coming will not be the last.”

With a Star Trek legacy spanning 55 Earth years, while taking in thousands of years into the future, is the weight of canon a pressure on making a show like Picard?

“Not so much in season two,” Matalas offers. “Definitely in season three, there are some game-changing Star Trek Universe ideas. Season two, as epic in scope as it is, is an intimate story.”

Details for season three are firmly under wraps, but Matalas gives a little hint at what could be in store. “There are a few nods to the Kirk movies,” he reveals. “I grew up with the original series and the Kirk movies. That’s my Star Trek. So you’ll see a few of those things kind of tie some Star Trek together. And I think Akiva has constructed a really fascinating and heartbreaking psychological exploration of Picard that no one is expecting.”

Goldsman laughs. “I have no words for you about season three except to say you should watch it.”

In the meantime, fans have 10 new episodes of Picard to look forward to when season two launches in March. What would Goldsman and Matalas consider to be at the heart of the “difficult second album”?

“It’s a time-travel story and all good time travel tales are emotional at their core, and speak to something that’s happening with your main character,” Matalas explains.

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