Who Played Captain Picard: Despite the fact that Patrick Stewart’s portrayal of Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation is legendary, the job was nearly given to another actor. TNG premiered in 1987 and was the second major series in the Star Trek franchise. It was also the last program produced by Gene Roddenberry before his death in 1991, making it the final show he created before his death. Star Trek: The Next Generation was a huge hit at the time and lasted for seven seasons, ending in 1994. Star Trek: Nemesis was released in 2002, and the actors would go on to reprise their roles in four more feature-length films — and they would almost certainly have appeared in even more if the picture had been received better.
Despite the fact that Star Trek: The Next Generation ended more than 25 years ago, the show continues to have a loyal fanbase, due in little part to the performances of the actors. In particular, Stewart, a Shakespearean-trained actor, gave a depth to his role that stood in stark contrast to William Shatner’s Captain Kirk in Star Trek: The Original Series, who was ham-fisted and over-the-top in his performance. As a result of Captain Picard’s continuing popularity, CBS Television (previously Paramount Television) brought the character back to life for the sequel series Star Trek: Picard, which is filled with nostalgia and centers on the former Captain’s life after he retires from Starfleet.
An armchair in Patrick Stewart’s Brooklyn living room is flanked on one side by a tiny table, which has a black three-ring binder on its surface. Whenever the 79-year-old actor talks of his childhood in the North of England, he leans in and clasps his hands together. When a topic such as Brexit or Donald Trump irritates him, he will get up and pace around the room. Meanwhile, he keeps touching the binder — tapping it, thumbing through it, waving it about — and it becomes more frustrating.
The screenplay for Stewart’s one-man stage version of “A Christmas Carol,” which he started performing three decades ago, about the same time he was cast in the role of Capt. Jean-Luc Picard in “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” is included inside the book. In early December, Stewart will reprise his role as Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol,” which he will play for the first time in 16 years. Stewart will represent more than 30 roles in the production. The show will run for just two nights in a venue on 54th Street with 99 seats.
“Doing something like this is simply foolish,” Stewart says, leaning forward in a midcentury lounge chair and clutching the binder in one hand as if it were Exhibit A in the case. “It’s just crazy. I could have found other things to do that were not as time-consuming as this one if I had looked. However, I selected it. Sixteen years have passed, and the world has changed significantly since I last performed this task. “F—, this is a little different.”
Yes, it most certainly is. Stewart thinks that this makes the work more relevant than ever before. As a “profoundly furious assault” on a culture that regards disadvantaged individuals as subhuman, he describes “A Christmas Carol” as “a Christmas Carol.” “Forget about Tiny Tim and all of that,” he adds emphatically. “It’s a political text,” says the author.
As a result, it should come as no surprise that Stewart has returned to the narrative towards the conclusion of the second decade of this so far dismal century after a lengthy hiatus. His motivations — to challenge himself, to speak out against injustice, and to provide himself with the sense of calm in stressful times that acting has provided him since he was a grammar-school boy in England — are the same ones that drove him to return to the role that made him one of the most beloved actors alive: Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation.