It is time to boldly go. Once more. With an old friend.

CBS has officially announced that Patrick Stewart will reprise his role as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in an upcoming Star Trek series coming to CBS All Access. Plot details remain unknown, but that doesn’t matter – this the kind of news that can fill our souls for weeks and months ahead. One of the greatest characters in science fiction history is coming back for one last journey through the cosmos. Engage.

The Return of Jean-Luc Picard

After months of rumors, the news was announced by Stewart himself at a Star Trek fan convention in Last Vegas. The series will be executive produced by Alex Kurtzman, the current showrunner on CBS All Access’ Star Trek: Discovery. Kurtzman issued this statement:

With overwhelming joy, it’s a privilege to welcome Sir Patrick Stewart back to the Star Trek fold. For over 20 years, fans have hoped for the return of Captain Jean-Luc Picard and that day is finally here. We can’t wait to forge new ground, surprise people, and honor generations both new and old.

Stewart played the noble, stern, and ultimately warm-hearted Picard on seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation, which ran from 1987 through 1994. He reprised the role in four films featuring the Next Generation cast, but you’d be hard-pressed to find any Trek fan who thinks 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis is a worthy send-off for a character as beloved as Picard.

In his own statement, Stewart acknowledged that he never thought he’d suit up as Picard again. But our modern times are too dark, he says, and fans’ love for Picard too important, to keep him retired. Star Trek fans should grab a tissue before they read this one:

I will always be very proud to have been a part of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but when we wrapped that final movie in the spring of 2002, I truly felt my time with Star Trek had run its natural course. It is, therefore, an unexpected but delightful surprise to find myself excited and invigorated to be returning to Jean-Luc Picard and to explore new dimensions within him. Seeking out new life for him, when I thought that life was over.

During these past years, it has been humbling to hear many stories about how The Next Generation brought people comfort, saw them through difficult periods in their lives or how the example of Jean-Luc inspired so many to follow in his footsteps, pursuing science, exploration and leadership. I feel I’m ready to return to him for the same reason — to research and experience what comforting and reforming light he might shine on these often very dark times. I look forward to working with our brilliant creative team as we endeavor to bring a fresh, unexpected and pertinent story to life once more.

A lot remains unknown about this series. Will it be an ongoing series or a miniseries? Will Kurtzman serve as showrunner as well? What kind of man has Picard become in the years since we last saw him – will he be calling shots as a Starfleet bigwig or will he fulfill the destiny foretold in the legendary Next Generation season finale, which featured flashforward sequences with him running a farm and attempting to live the retired life?

We shall see.

Why This is Such Exciting News For Star Trek Fans

There are three reasons why the return of Jean-Luc Picard is thrilling news for Star Trek aficionados. Let’s start with the most obvious: the character is quite possibly the most beloved Captain in the franchise’s history and he’d give Spock a run for his money in the most popular character of them all contest. Picard wasn’t as adventurous as Kirk or as emotionally fascinating as Sisko, but he was calm, measured, precise, and artistic, a diplomat who preferred words to phaser blasts and commanded his crew with firm hand. He radiated dignity and quiet strength and his crew rewarded him with loyalty.

The second reason is that this series will finally move the Star Trek series into the future. The Next Generation jumped forward nearly a century beyond the original Star Trek series, establishing a pocket of time that also housed Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. But when those series wrapped, the franchise jumped back in time with the prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise. And the still-young Star Trek: Discovery is also a prequel, set between Enterprise and the original series. As a fan, it’s been annoying to watch Trek tread water, revisiting familiar territory and refusing to boldly go beyond the Next Generation timeline. We will finally see what the future of Star Trek looks like, and a brilliant character will be our guide.

And that brings us to the third reason. The personal one. I want to borrow one of Mr. Stewart’s quotes once more: “…it has been humbling to hear many stories about how The Next Generation brought people comfort, saw them through difficult periods in their lives or how the example of Jean-Luc inspired so many to follow in his footsteps, pursuing science, exploration and leadership.”

While I did not pursue science or exploration, I can’t help but feel like Stewart is speaking to me and countless other fans here. I grew up without a father, raised by a single mother who busted her ass to keep her children healthy and happy. And yet, every boy craves a father and I did what any young man would do: I searched for a replacement father in pop culture. I searched for one in movies and books and television, latching on to some and discarding others. But through it all, Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise remained the example I followed, my mental image of the man I could never be, but could aspire to be. He wasn’t perfect (what father is?), but his flaws only further illuminated his humanity and his strengths as a leader and a thinker. I feel like Picard helped teach me empathy. He helped teach me to talk rather fight, to think before I act, and to treat others with respect, because that respect will come back and bolster you when you need it. I still have a lot of work to do.

I still live in the shadow of Picard and I still ask myself what he would do in a given situation. It’s clear that Patrick Stewart himself knows this and knows that we could use his guidance once more. I couldn’t be more thrilled to take one last voyage with the great fictional hero of my life.

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