Picard Star Ed Speleers Was Given Star Trek Homework (Nemesis Was Not Included)

It must be intimidating for any actor to enter the fold of "Star Trek." In addition to the risk of being pigeonholed (Brent Spiner has spoken at length about that phenomenon), there is a lot to know beforehand. Given the franchise's vast history, and the hundreds of hours of drama it has already produced, it seems that some homework might be required just to have some context of whatever scene you might be acting in. 

The former aspect was a bugaboo for Ed Speleers, the actor cast as Jack Crusher in the third season of "Star Trek: Picard." Jack Crusher wasn't some mere ensign written to sit at a starship's helm and read lines about diverting power from life support to the shields or whatever. Jack Crusher was the son of Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) and Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), two of the main characters of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." Additionally, the character's brain had been altered by a mysterious, inherited gene, giving him psychic superpowers. It would be revealed at the end of the series that it was a Borg gene. The gene would transform Jack briefly into a puppet of the season's true villain, a Borg Queen that Picard once knew. [Musical sting]

All of that was based on events of past "Star Trek" episodes. The Borg plot hearkens back to "The Best of Both Worlds" and the 1996 movie "Star Trek: First Contact." The brain gene is a reference to "All Good Things..." The mythology is dense. 

In the most recent issue of SFX Magazine, Speleers talked about what specific "Star Trek" homework he was given to fill in his character's backstory. No, it seems the 2002 film "Star Trek: Nemesis" was not included. 

Giving up acting

Speleers was frustrated by his casting of Jack. He said to SFX that his difficulties finding a handle on the character brought nothing but stress and had him questioning his craft altogether. He said that he was: 

"... almost being in tears because I couldn't quite find my way in with the part. [...] I was just incredibly frustrated. I nearly gave up. I think I had a big, melodramatic hissy fit moment where I was like, right, that's it, I'm giving up acting and giving up all of it!"

It was then that showrunner Terry Matalas gave Speleers a great deal of "Star Trek" homework to put him on track. Matalas compiled a list of pertinent "Star Trek" episodes and movies that would be vital to the construction of Jack. The e-mail, according to SFX, was called "Star Trek University." Speleers did not show the list to his interviewers, sadly, so Trekkies cannot peruse it, stroking their chins, quietly judging Matalas' choices. Speleers said:

"It was an extensive list of Star Trek episodes all the way up from TNG, then films going all the way back to 'The Wrath Of Khan' all the way through to 'First Contact.' They obviously left out 'Nemesis.' Don't look at that."

Stuart Baird's 2002 film "Star Trek: Nemesis" is one of the less beloved movies in the long-running "Star Trek" series, having made less money than any of the others, even accounting for inflation. Speleers was clearly goofing on the film's bad reputation. Whether or not Matalas actually warned the actor away from "Nemesis" much remain academic. 

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It seems that Star Trek University made Speleers something of an expert, if not a Trekkie, as he said: 

"I can't say I'm a 'Star Trek' aficionado, but I feel now, having been put through my paces by Terry and everybody else — and also just being embraced by that cast and crew — I'm hook, line, and sinker a fully-fledged member of the 'Star Trek' fandom."

Since Speleers didn't say which episodes he was asked to watch, it might be a fun exercise to posit which episodes and movies would be best for explaining a character like Jack Crusher. 

"Next Generation" episodes that depict the romance/relationship between Jean-Luc Picard and Dr. Crusher will be key. "The Naked Now," "Allegiance," "Violations," "Attached," and "All Good Things..." all relate either to Dr. Crusher's late husband Jack (after which the new Jack Crusher is named) or the will-they-or-won't-they romantic moments between the captain and the doctor. "All Good Things..." also sets up Picard's Irumodic Syndrome, the brain drift that Jack inherited. 

Picard's background with the Borg is vital, of course, and watching "The Best of Both Worlds" was likely important, as was the 1996 film "Star Trek: First Contact," as Speleers said. As for tone, the third season of "Picard" is clearly yet another "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" retread, so that would be a good piece of homework to communicate a general vibe. "Khan" would also establish the Constitution-class starship that Jack said he was a fan of.

As for the Changelings pursuing Jack, Speleers might not need to know about them, nor the massive war they fought on "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine." It's possible that there was no actual DS9 on Speleers' syllabus. If he's interested, though, I could recommend some good ones.