Patrick Stewart Was Very Picky About His Star Trek: First Contact Role

Of all the feature films based on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "Star Trek: First Contact" is my favorite (it even takes the top spot as my favorite "Trek" film). "First Contact" focuses on the trauma Captain Jean-Luc Picard suffered when he was assimilated into the Borg, and how the Enterprise's quest to stop the Borg from rewriting history unveils a deep-seated rage within the normally calm Picard. Not only does this film feature what may be Patrick Stewart's finest performance as Picard, but it follows in the footsteps of the most revered "Trek" film, "The Wrath of Khan" — and flips the dynamic. And a large part of that has to do with Stewart requesting a major change to the original script.

Last year, "First Contact" screenwriter Ron Moore conducted a pair of interviews with SyFy Wire and the Hollywood Reporter, respectively. During both interviews, Moore revealed that the original script featured two characters in very different roles, and that he and co-writer Brannon Braga decided to shift those roles due to Stewart's request.

The Real Number One

The original draft of "First Contact" had Picard traveling to the mid-21st century version of Earth in order to make sure scientist Zefram Cochrane successfully invented the warp drive — which led to first contact with the Vulcan race and the creation of Starfleet — while his first officer Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes, pulling double duty as star and director) led a battle to take back the Enterprise from Borg invaders. Moore told SyFy Wire that Stewart requested that Picard and Riker's roles be reversed.

"We did at least a draft or two of that version, and I know Patrick wanted to be on the ship. Patrick had really liked doing the ['TNG' episode] 'Starship Mine,' where he was alone on the Enterprise-D and running around. And I think he overtly referenced that in a way like, 'I would really like to be the one on the ship fighting the Borg, instead of down on the surface.' And Rick Berman relayed that to us and I think Brannon and I just immediately went: 'Yeah, actually that that's better. That makes more sense.'" 

The end result makes for a far stronger movie, as Picard struggles with taking back the Enterprise and his anger at the Borg — resulting in the infamous "The line must be drawn here!" speech. It also beats the draft that had the Enterprise crew traveling to the Renaissance era (Stewart refused to wear tights, according to Moore).

Conflicts with the Captain

Stewart's requests even saw Moore and Braga briefly booted off of "First Contact." Per Moore's interview with the Hollywood Reporter: 

"There was a point where Patrick wanted some rewrites of his scenes, and he pressed Rick to bring on his own writer to do that ... Rick did it, and Brannon and I were not happy. I wasn't particularly aggrieved about it, but then, that didn't work out."

Eventually the other writer departed, leaving Moore and Braga to re-board the film. Stewart even called them to his trailer and said he hoped they could all move on from the kerfuffle — not entirely an apology, but it was enough for Moore and Braga to move on. In an era where "creative differences" rear their ugly head, leading to writers and directors departing big blockbusters, it's nice to see one of these conflicts resolved. Considering the less-than-warm reception to "Star Trek: Insurrection" and "Star Trek: Nemesis", it looks like Stewart could have used their input on the screenplays.