Why Sir Patrick Stewart leapt at the chance to reunite with former Star Trek actors in the final season of Star Trek: Picard

Space: the final frontier. 

These are the opening iconic words that so many of us associate with long-running sci-fi series Star Trek and its mission to seek out new life and new civilisations.

But now the show is boldly going where it's never fully gone in the streaming age with a full-on reunion of the beloved Star Trek: The Next Generation cast in the third and potentially final series of Prime Video's Star Trek: Picard.

The Next Generation was hugely popular during its seven year run that started in 1987 and saw the characters also heading to the big screen for four outings, concluding with 2002's much-derided Star Trek: Nemesis.

Now some 36 years after the likes of Picard, Geordi, Data, Worf, Riker and Dr Crusher first graced our screens, many of them are reunited in the last season of Star Trek: Picard. It sees Sir Patrick Stewart's Picard facing new challenges, a universal conspiracy and problems of a more intimate (and unfortunately at this stage, somewhat spoilery) nature.

Details of season three have been kept largely under wraps besides the reunion of the classic characters, with the intention of offering up surprises along with the thrills.

Speaking to Newshub with fellow actors Jonathan Frakes (who plays Commander Riker) and Gates McFadden (Dr Beverly Crusher), Stewart, who's now 82, said it was an honour to reunite.

"It's rare that actors get the opportunity to do this. Yes, there are sequels and then more sequels, but that gap... 25 years is a long time. We were encouraged to let all of the changes in our own lives impact the changes that might have happened to [our characters]," Stewart said.

Sir Patrick Stewart
Sir Patrick Stewart is back for one last voyage as Picard. Photo credit: Prime Video

"I loved it. It was as if we had just finished work on Friday night and come back to work the following Monday," Frakes laughed.

"It was so much fun. I mean, we're friends in real life, so we see each other. But to put on space suits and be on camera, it was really something, I loved it," McFadden said.

To hear McFadden say she loved the latest season will come as a relief to many who know their Trek lore. She was replaced in season two of Star Trek: The Next Generation amid ructions with then co-executive producer Maurice Hurley who didn't like the actor or the character.

Hurley only lasted one season and Dr Crusher and McFadden returned in season three a year later. It's an experience that's stuck with her, but she said Star Trek: Picard had a wholly different vibe behind the scenes.

"There was also a different tone in the production and the writers' room as far as I was concerned. I felt they were extremely open to my input and there was a great back and forth. You know, you don't always get what you want, which you suggest, of course, but the fact that you're listened to was really nice," she said. 

Gates McFadden looking pensive
Gates McFadden had a rough experience in the early days of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Photo credit: Prime Video

While many will get a thrill from the story, Stewart knows most will get a dopamine kick from having their favourites back on screen.

"It is, in a sense, a reunion, which initially was not the plan, but it became significantly more and more important that the team were reassembled even if this happened at simply different times. The coming together of season three has been just an absolute delight."

Frakes, who directed numerous episodes of this season and the previous season of Star Trek: Picard, believes this latest is more "cinematic" than ever, and drew from director JJ Abrams' take on the show, with lens flare and emphasis on the FX.

Gates McFadden, Sir Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes
Gates McFadden, Sir Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes reunited. Photo credit: Prime Video

"This visual element that we had, we relied on story, acting, relationships. Nothing wrong with that. But the audiences, I think, are hungrier for a more filmic look."

But it's the relationships that are meant to sustain the latest season of the show, as evidenced by actor Jeri Ryan's returning former cyborg Seven of Nine partnering up with newcomer USS Titan Captain Liam Shaw, played by actor Todd Stashwick.

Stashwick told Newshub taking the role was "the time of my life".

Todd Stashwick joins Star Trek: Picard as Captain Liam Shaw.
Todd Stashwick joins Star Trek: Picard as Captain Liam Shaw. Photo credit: Instagram

"This is such a wonderful job to have and then to have a job as singular as this experience, and getting to work with just tremendous people and seeing them - they're all at the top of their game. You know, we've watched and enjoyed them for years and then to see them taking their roles even to the next level, that was an absolute delight. And this role they wrote for me was just a meal."

Ryan told Newshub the reunion led to an incomparable time on set that meant it never once felt like work.

"I have known all of these guys for years, and so it's all my friends coming in to play and hang out. I've worked with several of the Next Generation cast as directors, LeVar (Burton) and Frakesy (Jonathan Frakes), and so to work with them as actors was really fun and they were hard to keep a straight face sometimes, but it was really fun. And we've had such a great time working together and Todd is so good, he's such a brilliant addition."

For fans of Star Trek: Picard - and potentially Star Trek altogether - there are just 10 episodes left, but it seems as if its star is now having second thoughts about this spinoff not stopping after three seasons.

Showrunner Terry Matalas had laid out that it would be the end, saying: "What better way to end the journey than to look back at the beginning, and bring some Next Gen friends? The storyline has a strong sense of conclusion."

But now Stewart and Frakes are not so sure, and are coy when broached about the subject, with the Picard actor staying silent and only his second-in-command daring to speak up.

"Is it going to end? Yeah, that's the question... that question remains." Frakes says laughing.

Star Trek: Picard is able to be streamed via Amazon's Prime Video. The first two episodes of season three launched on Friday, February 17.