From 1987 to 1994, Patrick Stewart led the crew of the Enterprise as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Under his command, the crew traveled across the galaxy on bold, new voyages where no one had gone before, and audiences were more than happy to join them on their adventures.
In a surprise announcement, the actor confirmed over the weekend that he is returning to the role that made him an international superstar in a brand new Star Trek series on CBS All-Access. Thus, we're taking a look back on Picard's history across the series' seven seasons, years that defined one of the most beloved characters in the entire franchise.
When Star Trek: The Next Generation first began in 1987, the humanist elements and social commentary that would become hallmarks for the series wouldn't become particularly evident until the reinvigorated franchise and new characters found their voice. Heading the new ensemble was Patrick Stewart's Jean-Luc Picard, named from a pair of Swiss twins that went on to become leading scientists in the 20th century. Originally envisioned by creator Gene Roddenberry as a virile Frenchman, the role went to Stewart who had first been approached to play Data. The new captain of the Enterprise was initially depicted as being more stern and intellectual than his original series counterpart Captain James T. Kirk.
As the series progressed, Picard's demeanor softened somewhat without compromising his more authoritarian role befitting his rank. More likely to negotiate a peaceful solution than resort to violence, Picard exemplified the more enlightened human race and its potential that Roddenberry had first conceived for the Federation. This intellectual and advanced outlook was directly challenged when Picard was abducted by the Borg in the Season 3 finale, "The Best of Both Worlds, Part I."
Assimilated into the Borg Collective, Picard would assume the persona of Locutus leading the cybernetic hive mind on a devastating invasion of Federation space. While the crew of the Enterprise would eventually recover their captain and rehabilitate him from his villainous transformation, the character and series would never be the same.
The two-part story marked a point where Star Trek became willing to take incredible risks with its characters with far-reaching consequence as opposed to the traditional episodic and contained stories largely seen previously. Jean-Luc Picard was imbued with a sense of loss and trauma that hadn't existed anywhere before in the sci-fi franchise it would serve as a foundational character touchstone across future depictions.
Immediately following his rescue, Picard would recuperate at his family vineyard in France in the fourth season episode, "Family." While there, the captain explored his complicated relationship with his brother, Robert, who had grown up resenting his brother for his accomplishments and leaving the family business. As the two brothers mend their relationship, Picard also addresses the deep feelings of guilt and helplessness he endured as part of the Borg Collective. No longer just the captain of the Enterprise, the episode would provide a deep look into Jean-Luc's background and truly make him human as he coped with tragedy.