‘Picard’ Season 3 Showrunner Terry Matalas Breaks Down Episode 2 [Exclusive]
Feb 24, 2023
In the second episode of Star Trek: Picard, Picard (Patrick Stewart) learns the truth about who Jack Crusher’s (Ed Speleers) father is in a beautiful and soul-stirring moment with Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden), which builds onto the increasingly high stakes of the scenario that most of the cast of The Next Generation finds themselves in. But paternity isn’t the only revelation made in “Disengage,” Captain Shaw (Todd Stashwick) and the crew of the U.S.S. Titan also learn who they’re being pursued by, while the audience learns that Raffi’s (Michelle Hurd) handler is Worf (Michael Dorn).
Ahead of the premiere of Season 3, Collider had the opportunity to speak with showrunner Terry Matalas about Episode 2, “Disengage,” and he dished on how they arrived at the big revelation that Picard and Beverly had a son together, how they decided to keep Picard in the dark about his birth, the parallel between the revelation and Riker’s experience with fatherhood, and whether or not Raffi and Worf are actually part of Section 31.
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COLLIDER: So Episode 2 starts with another really fantastic song, which I had to Shazam it because I was like, “I know the song. I’ve heard the song before. What is it?” So how did it arrive at that as the song to anchor this episode?
TERRY MATALAS: We wanted a song that captured the spirit of Jack Crusher, which was… He’s a little rock and roll. He is living outside of the borders of where Starfleet has a jurisdiction. He certainly is not playing by the rules, as demonstrated in that teaser. He’s got a little bit of who his father used to be. If you look back to who Picard was when he was younger, brash and impulsive, or gets stabbed in the heart by Nausicaans. So he has that, yet he’s also a caring, thoughtful person like his mother who’s trying to help these people down on the planet beat this plague. That song was really designed to capture the spirit of who he was right away while we meet him.
It’s a fun contrast to Picard, as well, because Picard is so classical music, and then you have this fantastic rock and roll moment. I really like what we’ve seen of Jack Crusher on these first two episodes, and not to cross the IP streams, but he’s got a Han Solo-ish, rogue-ish charm about him that you instantly just want to be like, “This is my new favorite character.”
MATALAS: He’s got a little Captain Kirk in him too.
Image via Paramount+
He does have a lot. What was it? The “Every father of daughters across the galaxy…” line?
MATALAS: Yeah, fathers and daughters everywhere.
Yes! I was like, “Okay, Kirk.” But what went into the inception of this character? Because it does feel like a fever dream for fans of Picard and Beverly’s relationship. So how early on did you know this is what I’m doing, this is Picard’s legacy?
MATALAS: Well, it started with the question for the final season, “What’s the last unexplored relationship in Picard’s life?” He already had a relationship with a daughter, kind of with Soji. It felt like the last story should probably be a son. It didn’t feel like a mirror universe was going to work, although I certainly went down that path. It was actually a discussion with Patrick [Stewart] where I was trying to ease into the question of, “What if it was Beverly Crusher?” And then he asked it before I did. Once he asked the question, I said, “It was a great idea.”
But even though that’s a tantalizing notion, you then have to do the work of, “All right. Well, how does that make sense? Why would Picard not know about it?” You didn’t want it to be Admiral Kirk who was aware of his son. I think that story has been told, and it just wouldn’t feel right here. So then you had to have Beverly Crusher have really legitimate reasons for keeping this away.
So we went into a deep dive into Beverly and who she was, and we found it kind of started to make sense the more we talked about it, and the more we talked about it with Gates [McFadden]. Gates brought her own motherhood into it. And then as we brought Gates and Patrick together, and we talked about it, we were able to craft, I think, reasoning in the storyline that made sense.
Image via Paramount+
It definitely makes sense. I feel like if audiences didn’t figure out who he was at the end of Episode 1, they figure it out pretty quickly within the first couple of minutes of Episode 2. I really like the fact that Riker sees it right away. I’m curious to know what is it that Riker sees in him that’s like, “Yes, I know exactly who your father is? There’s no question.”
MATALAS: I think he sees the brash young man that Picard can be. I think there’s a look too. I think if you look at Beverly and you look at Picard, there’s certainly a bit of a hybrid happening here. I just thought that would be really fun. I didn’t ever want to dance around it. Right away, the second he says, “I’m her son,” I wanted them to be like, “They know. They both know what’s up.” And the idea that Riker pokes him a little bit. It’s like, “There’s just something about him.” And to play the denial, for Picard, that is. It just can’t be true. It just can’t be true. So that he has that admission by the end is really satisfying.
Jumping ahead to that moment on the bridge when Riker brings Beverly out. It’s such a powerful moment and I love that there is no dialogue, which is definitely a choice, and one that works so well because Gates and Patrick are just both such phenomenal actors. You get a whole storyline in just a few looks. What went into the decision that it was going to be this very powerful, silent moment where they figured out what they need to say?
MATALAS: I was lucky enough to do it before on another show, for another big moment between two characters in a show. I did 12 Monkeys. It was a key moment that happened with two characters. I remember the network in the studio at the time, they were telling me, “There’s no way that can work. There’s no way you can convey basically an entire conversation of dialogue with looks.”
I thought with the right music cue and the right looks, and the right everything, I really felt like it could work. And it did. So it was the same thing here where we knew the only thing that would convince him, that would pull him out of his denial, was to look Beverly in the eyes, and for her to confirm it. But there really is no great version of that conversation. Do you really need to hear, “Is he my son?” “Yes, he is, Jean-Luc.” It’s not great.
But, there’s something absolutely beautiful about these two characters who haven’t seen each other in decades, and she’s been absent the entire episode. At the most intense moment, Riker brings her on the bridge, and they lock eyes, and he knows. It felt to me that it could work. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get it past Patrick, but he went for it. He never doubted that it could work, and so we did it.
You feel it all just watching it. I also really appreciate the fact that [in Episode 1] see that Riker and Deanna’s relationship is a little strained. I’ve always found that realism and relationships in television comes across so much better because a lot of people are like, “Oh, as soon as the story ends, everybody lives happily ever after and nothing bad ever happened and nobody had any complicated emotions about things.” So I really enjoyed that realism that is brought to their relationship. I was curious, what went into the decision that this was going to be this little bit of friction between them? I really like that it’s like they need to get back out there and have adventures again and not just be stuck at home.
MATALAS: [It] was a reflection of what was going on with Picard. Picard finds a son, Riker lost his son. What would it be like for Riker to watch Picard, not necessarily reject his son, but certainly not go out of his way to connect to him? Then that sort of culminates in this friction between the two of them in the third episode.
And then when we went deeper, we started to ask ourselves, what does it mean for Deanna and Will? That is the hardest thing any human could go through. It was losing a child… It’s almost impossible for couples to remain together after that. Then we started to ask ourselves, what would that mean for Deanna who could feel everyone’s grief, and how would they try and solve that? We look back at Season 1, and it was almost as if they were overcompensating for their grief. So we wondered if that’s what was going on there.
They’re so wonderful, both Marina [Sirtis] and Jonathan, that we wanted to take a moment, understand who they are, get them back to how we fell in love with them to begin with, and then see them joke in the same way that Marina and Jonathan do, and fall in love with them all over again.
Image via Paramount+
Shifting gears to the main antagonist of the season, it’s so great to see Amanda Plummer in this with her father having been in The Undiscovered Country. It’s always good to see the Star Trek family keep it in the family. What went into the casting process for that? Was it that you always knew Amanda wanted to be in the role, you always wanted her for the role? What was the story for that?
MATALAS: I don’t know other than I said out loud, “It’s Amanda Plummer, Captain Vadic.” I think maybe there [were] a couple other names, but I have always just been the biggest Amanda Plummer fan, forever. I think I had recently seen her on Ratched, or I forget what I had seen her. She was the only one we went out to. We never just really truly investigated anybody else.
I half expected her to say no, and here we are. What was unique about it is we shot the first five episodes without Amanda, and then we brought her in because she’s mostly on the view screen. So we brought [her] in and block shot her stuff. So we didn’t really know if Vadic was going to work until halfway into the season.
We gathered all around on the Strike Bridge. I had been having many conversations, and she was lovely and enthusiastic, and loved the role. We were talking about everything from her smoking on the bridge and the Strike. She just loved just about everything we were doing to her wardrobe, to her hairstyle. She was intimately involved in all that creation. I remember the moment she came out on to set and sat down in her chair and started speaking the monologue. We were all holding our breath because we didn’t know what Vadic was going to sound like.
Suddenly writers and producers were clutching onto each other, hugging each other, high-fiving each other, and we just knew… And congratulating each other. We knew the season was going to work. It was an incredible moment. We’re like, we won. We just won everything with Amanda Plummer. It was so good.
Oh, I love it. She’s so terrifying.
MATALAS: One other thing I will say is that, she never did any take the same way. You could have chosen any one of those takes and put it in, and it would’ve been gold.
Oh, wow. She’s so terrifying. I also love how terrifying her ship is. I’m not the most knowledgeable on every single Star Trek ship, so I feel like we haven’t seen a ship like this before, but I’m curious about the concept of the ship and the design aspect of it. What went into that?
MATALAS: Well, all I can tell you is I drove that poor art department insane. I think we probably looked at 600, or something, ships by the time we were done. It was tough because I wanted it to be so iconic, on par with the Klingon Bird-of-Prey, or some of these other ships, that when you see the Titan, if you ever had a Titan model, you would have to have a Strike model to chase it. So that meant incorporating different kinds of elements. It wanted to be scary, but aerodynamic and cool, and it wanted its own sound, and things like that.
So we spent so much time on it. Dave Blass would come into my office with stacks of drawings, of paintings, and things that people spent hours on. And I would just be, “No, no, no. Okay, I like a little of this.” So it was terrible for them, but I feel like we ended up in a really great place. I love it.
Image via Paramount+
Its sound is really cool. Is that a sound that was already somewhere in the sound files for Star Trek, or something that was developed using something completely weird?
MATALAS: No, it’s a little bit of this thing called the blaster beam. It’s a metal instrument used a little bit during Star Trek: The Motion Picture. It’s a little bit of just cool sound design that we came up with. It wanted to have its own iconic sound to it when it appeared.
I really love what a badass introduction that Worf has. It’s great to see him back on screen again, kicking ass and taking names. How did you arrive at the decision to have him be the handler for Raffi, and that plot line start to develop with those two?
MATALAS: We love the idea of… Ooh, I can’t talk about this yet. We love the idea of Worf being a part of Starfleet Intelligence, chasing down some old leads out there, almost like a contractor working for Starfleet, almost like a samurai. It was really unexpected that he would be the person on the other end of that text message. And so that when he showed up and had that, “I told you not to engage, I warned you not to engage,” or whatever it is he says, it would be really, really surprising and satisfying.
It was a great reveal. As a fan of Worf, I was very happy with that. I also liked that Sneed mentioned Section 31, which of course, Star Trek fans love the concept of this.
MATALAS: There’s a Sneed Easter egg. I can give you a Sneed Easter egg too.
Please do, please do.
MATALAS: The Sneed is played by Aaron Stanford, brilliant actor who is the lead in my show, 12 Monkeys. In the show, 12 Monkeys, the method of time travel is called splintering. So when he says, “I named the drug Splinter,” it’s a 12 Monkeys reference.
That’s a good Easter egg because I know 12 Monkeys fans are so excited to get to see more of a world that you’re working in.
MATALAS: Yeah. They’ll be into that.
Image via Paramount+
Circling back to Section 31, is that just a reference to something in the Star Trek world, or is that maybe something in terms of what Worf and Raffi are up to?
MATALAS: I think Sneed is certainly referencing the more nefarious aspect of Starfleet intelligence, which does play a part in the season. He’s definitely poking.
I really like the character of Shaw, Captain Shaw, because he’s such a love-to-hate and hate-to-love character. I like that he seems really unmovable, but he’s also willing to roll with the punches. And obviously, at this point in the storyline, he’s really just focused on trying to keep his crew alive, but what can you tease about his character?
MATALAS: I think Shaw has a very distinct point of view about these legacy characters coming on to a Starship, throwing their weight around, breaking the rules. I think he has a long history of the Starfleet, and sure they may be legends of exploration, but in his mind, they’ve also been given some freedoms that he probably feels are unjust. So stay tuned. You’ll hear more of his story, and will come to understand him, and maybe even sympathize.
And then for my last question, what can you tease for Episode 3?
MATALAS: Let’s see. Episode 3 is a nail-biter. The Titan is an underdog. They are woefully unprepared for the power of the Strike, and Picard is woefully unprepared for the emotions of this new discovery, and how that will make him feel.
The first two episodes 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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