‘Picard’ Season 3 Showrunner Talks Easter Eggs in Episode 1 Breakdown

Feb 18, 2023

The third and final season of Star Trek: Picard boldly goes where the previous seasons did not by delivering the long-awaited reunion of most of The Next Generation cast. In Episode 1, Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) receives a dire message from Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) which leads him to team up with Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) on a rescue mission that sends them to the edges of Federation space. The phenomenal episode ties up a few loose ends that were introduced at the start of the series—and a few that date back to Star Trek: Nemesis—all the while laying the groundwork for the series’ titular character to face something he’s never faced before.

Ahead of the premiere of Season 3, Collider had the opportunity to speak with showrunner Terry Matalas about some of the most pivotal moments in the first episode, aptly titled “The Next Generation,” which he also penned the script for. In this spoiler-filled conversation, he discussed the Easter eggs in that opening tracking shot on Beverly’s ship, how the “I Don’t Want to Set the World On Fire” connects to themes later in the season, how Jonathan Frakes’ real-life personality played into Riker-Picard team-up, and Matalas also teased that the end credits are filled with Easter eggs for the rest of the season.

Image via Paramount+

COLLIDER: All right. So let’s start from the top of Episode 1, which features that fantastic tracking shot that feels like it is just filled with Easter eggs. How did you arrive at which Easter eggs to fit into this?

TERRY MATALAS: That all came from [David] Blass, our production designer, who just scoured [Star Trek: Next Generation] from everything from the masks, the drama masks, to the flowers, to the Jack Crusher, her husband’s, away team kit, to the blue Romulan ale that she was probably drinking before passing out.

Is there anything there, in terms of those Easter eggs, that audiences should be zeroing in on and thinking about as the season moves forward?

MATALAS: Not as far as the plot goes, but it certainly goes to show you that was her home that she’d been living in for a while.

I also really enjoyed the use of “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire” and then the payoff of that being part of the playlist that Picard had made. How did it arrive that that was going to be the track that really anchored the episode?

MATALAS: Well, it has more of a meaning as the season goes on. That’s pretty much all I can say, but I think once you watched the entire season, there’s more of a thematic resonance to that.

Interesting. And is the music that Picard is listening to back at the Château at all part of that same playlist or is that his own playlist?

MATALAS: That was the idea. That was the idea, that maybe there’s still a connection between these two, an unspoken connection after all these years.

Speaking of Easter eggs and the ephemera, and all of these tangible objects that people have touched, I really like those lived-in things. When we get to the Château, Picard is kind of going through spring cleaning, as they say, and looking at some of these objects that have importance to his history. I feel like the last two seasons have really focused on stuff connected to Picard’s past with his father and all of that stuff. Does this feel like a turning point then, with Season 3, focusing more on his legacy and that moving forward, that forward momentum?

MATALAS: Right, exactly. It’s as Laris says, “There comes a point where a man turns to his past to define him.” And he doesn’t want to do that. He wants to look to the future. He wants to look towards a legacy. Certainly, by the end of the episode, he meets that in an unexpected way.

Image via Paramount+

I feel like fans have been longing for that Picard-Riker team-up, that first big mission after [Star Trek: Nemesis]. What was that like for you getting to be the one to write that, that fun mission?

MATALAS: It’s the greatest thing ever. It was the greatest thing ever. So, I started working on Season 3 while they were shooting Season 2. They were about halfway through Season 2 when I began. Jonathan [Frakes] was in the production offices prepping episodes because he was directing. I had worked on the first two episodes, and then I had to move off. I went downstairs because I knew right away I wanted to do Butch and Sundance with Picard and Riker. And I said to him, I’m like, “I really want to do a lot of Riker next season.” And he is like, “Oh, that’s cool.” He’s thinking a few episodes. I’m like, “No, a lot of Riker.”

He started to get nervous, and he’s like, “But I’m not a very good actor.” That’s what he said. I said, “You’re an amazing actor, and I’m going to put you through the paces, but I really feel like it’s going to be the anchor for a lot of it.” We were off. It was really fun. You spend enough time with Jonathan on set and around people in general, and he’s just so likable. He’s so funny.

He’s always there with a joke. He walks into a room, and he lights it up. And I just felt like Riker needed a little bit more of Jonathan Frakes. And so that’s where I edged the character a little bit more towards, towards a little bit more Patrick and Jonathan, and I think it shined through.

It definitely does. They have such a great dynamic. I was really curious, were there any episodes from Next Generation that you went back to when you were writing those scenes to get that vibe for them?

MATALAS: No, not really. I mean, we watched every single one of them, but there was nothing specific that we were like, “We’ll call back to.” Because they are different at this point. There was a sense of, “Hey, they hadn’t done this in a while,” and that Riker was longing to do this again, that he had missed this. And so that became a dynamic that we were writing towards.

I was wondering, structure-wise, I really like what’s going on with Raffi, but she feels disconnected from this whole world that’s unraveling for Picard. Was there ever any thought to introduce that in Episode 2, or was it really pivotal to have it in Episode 1 to set the stage for where things go moving forward?

MATALAS: It is connected. I will say that. The audience just needs to have a little patience to see how exactly. It is all one unified story. Raffi is definitely on the same track Beverly was on, so stay tuned.

I really appreciated the Rachel Garrett Day connection. What was the decision for it to be Garrett that they were commemorating? Were there ever any other captains or past characters that you thought to have as The Red Lady?

MATALAS: I can’t remember. We knew we wanted it to be a statue, a red statue outside of Starfleet recruiting in this specific district, in that system. One of the writers suggested Rachel Garrett, and I was just like, “Slam dunk. Great.” Of course, it would be Rachel Garrett.

Image via Paramount+

It makes sense. I really appreciate the way that Seven has been paired off with a very complex, complicated captain that really puts her through her paces. It’s very fun to see, and such a smart story avenue to follow through for the rest of the season. How early on in Season 3’s planning did you arrive at that story for Seven?

MATALAS: Right away. Right away. We knew we wanted to see Seven in Starfleet for the first time, and to see how she might struggle, to see if she could fight against her instincts and follow orders, in the way that all good Starfleet characters tend to have to do it at times. And then right away, break the rules out of loyalty. They’re going to be in a bit of trouble for all of that.

So, it was part of the story right away. To have her reporting to a captain who certainly had a lack of respect in some ways, but in other ways, you have to realize he handpicked her. So what is that about? Which will be obviously answered later on.

Yes, I’m a big fan of Seven of Nine, so I love that she has a big role in this story.

MATALAS: You’re going to like the season. You’re going to like the rest.

Do you have a favorite sequence from Episode 1?

MATALAS: My favorite sequence is when they take the Titan on a space dock. It’s a sequence that I’ve always wanted to do and write, and that sense of wonder of leaving port with the music up, that nautical sense of tradition, I love. So I’m really grateful I got to do it. It was wonderful seeing it on the big screen at the Chinese Theater for the premiere. It was just magical.

I can only imagine. I really love the revamped end credits. They’re very cool. It just feels so Star Treky.

MATALAS: Filled with Easter eggs. Filled. For the season.

That’s exciting to know. I was going to say what was the theme for this? That answers the question. It’s Easter eggs. It’s filled with clues.

MATALAS: I wanted it to feel like you were back on a starship, sort of lean into the artistic beauty of the LCARS display that’s been in our DNA for the last 30 years. And listen to that Jerry Goldsmith theme from [Star Trek: First Contact]. Then at the same time, there are little clues that you can pick up after you’ve seen an episode. You can look back and be like, “Oh, that was that.” So that’s pretty exciting.

What can you tease for Episode 2 for folks who are just finishing up with Episode 1?

MATALAS: You’re certainly going to get to know the young gentleman at the end of that episode right away, and you’re going to meet the captain of that terrifying starship at the very end.

Episode 1 of Star Trek: Picard Season 3 is streaming now on Paramount+. While you wait for the next episode, check out our interview with Matalas from the junket below:

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