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Patrick Stewart insisted on changes for 'Star Trek: Picard'

Patrick Stewart returns as Jean-Luc Picard, the iconic character he played for seven seasons on Star Trek: The Next Generation, in Star Trek: Picard. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Patrick Stewart returns as Jean-Luc Picard, the iconic character he played for seven seasons on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," in "Star Trek: Picard." File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Star Trek: The Next Generation viewers are going to see a different Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) in Star Trek: Picard.

For one thing, Picard will not be wearing his Enterprise uniform much on the new CBS All Access show, which premieres Thursday.

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"I wasn't in costume because I only appear very briefly in my uniform," Picard said. "I didn't want to wear a uniform in this because I felt it very important that we put a lot of distance between Next Generation and what we are seeking to do here."

It has been more than 25 years since Next Generation went off the air in 1994 and almost 18 since the film Star Trek: Nemesis.

The former Starship Enterprise captain is a retired admiral in Picard.

"Picard's life has changed," Stewart said. "He's troubled, disturbed, lonely and with feelings of strange, unnatural guilt."

Picard lives on a French vineyard. Instead of boldly going where no one has gone before in the galaxy, Picard chooses comfort with a canine companion, which was also Stewart's idea.

"To just see him with a dog seemed to me to write a lot of things that didn't have to be said," Stewart said. "The presence of the dog alone means that he's looking for some form of comfort, which he cannot find anywhere else, but he finds it in the dog."

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Stewart chose the pit bull because he is an advocate and fosters the breed in real life.

"It had to be a pit bull because I'm passionate about these dogs," Stewart said. "They are abused and treated appallingly all over the world. I'm now campaigning in the U.K. for the laws to be changed and for them to be allowed into the country."

The French dialogue that opens the series also was Stewart's idea.

"The first thing I wanted to do was to be seen yelling loudly in French," Stewart said. "I'm living in France, and I'm on a vineyard and growing grapes. I have French people working with me."

Stewart felt justified exerting creative control over Star Trek: Picard since he played the role for seven years on television and in four movies. He has felt inextricable from Picard since early in The Next Generation.

"Halfway through Season 3 of Next Generation, I no longer knew where Jean-Luc started and Patrick Stewart left off," Stewart said. "We became melded, and he has never left me. He has always been there, and it's a relationship that I am happy to continue with."

Alex Kurtzman, Akiva Goldsman and Heather Kadin executive produce Star Trek: Picard. The showrunner is Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon. Stewart often defers to their input.

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"I had never been in a writers' room before," Stewart said. "I mostly kept my mouth shut because I felt I could not compete with this level of input that I was getting from my fellow producers and writers."

Catching up with Picard on his French vineyard only serves as the introduction to Star Trek: Picard. The show quickly delves into science fiction, but the star did not wish to spoil the plot.

Coming nearly 18 years after his last appearance as Picard, Stewart felt Star Trek: Picard had an opportunity to reflect the world via science fiction allegory.

"As I look all around, there has never been a more important moment when entertainment and show business can address some of the issues that are potentially damaging our world today," Picard said. "It's mostly changing in ways that are not good for the world, ranging from Brexit to global warming."

Star Trek is set hundreds of years in the future, so presumably the climate crisis has been curbed. The status of the United Kingdom is not specified in Star Trek, but Stewart is only suggesting that futuristic and intergalactic allegories can reflect 21st century issues.

"I'm not saying we are turning Star Trek into a political show, not remotely," Stewart said. "What we are making is entertainment, but that it should reflect perhaps in a subtle and gentle way the world that we are living in. That is what Star Trek has always done, and I think it's important."

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Star Trek: Picard premieres Thursday on CBS All Access with new episodes streaming every week.

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