RED ALERTThis roundtable interview contains spoilers for the entirety of Star Trek: Picard season 3, including the season finale, “The Last Generation,” available for streaming on Paramount+ now.

In the wake of the big finale of Picard, The Beat couldn’t resist the opportunity to take part in a roundtable discussion with season 3 showrunner Terry Matalas alongside several other outlets. Read on to find out what he had to say, including which characters almost made it into the finale, what went into that post-credits scene, and what rank Harry Kim would have held had he made an appearance!

This roundtable has been edited for length and clarity.

What’s your biggest hope moving forward?

Terry Matalas: My current biggest hope is that everyone enjoys this. That we sent the Next Gen characters off in a really good way and that everybody likes this next generation of characters. These last two hours were really, really hard to make. It’s a giant movie on a television scale, and it almost killed me. So I just want everybody to really like this.

Having said that, gosh, I would love to do more. I would love to see Seven and Raffi and Jack and Sidney and the crew continue on. And I’d love to see more of Riker and Geordi and Worf and Beverly and the rest of the TNG gang continue on, too, in the 25th Century. So, we’ll see. I think it’ll be up to the fans to be loud if that’s a thing they would like to see.

But there’s a lot of great Star Trek out there right now. Strange New Worlds, and Starfleet Academy is coming. Section 31. So it would have to be something that would really be wanted by the fans to happen.

Terry Matalas, Alex Kurtzman, Patrick Stewart, and Gates McFadden.
L to R: Terry Matalas, Alex Kurtzman, Patrick Stewart, and Gates McFadden. Taken at the TCA Paramount+ “Star Trek: Picard” Panel at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on January 09, 2023 in Pasadena, California. Photo by Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for Paramount+

How did you come up with the “stars have always been in my favor” line?

Matalas: I didn’t, [writer] Cindy Appel did. And it was tough. We sat in a room and were like, “Guys, we’re never gonna beat ‘All Good Things.’ But let’s try, what’s a great line?” and Cindy got the closest with that line that we could get.

I knew I was going to end in that shot and stay in the shot for the credits. And so it needed to be something. But no, that was all Cindy, that line.

Was the poker scene leading up to that final line improv’d, or was that scripted?

Matalas: That’s a great question. They’re maniacs, that cast. Anytime you call “cut,” they’re singing, they’re dancing, they’re joking, they’re doing all the things that they tell you to do. And this isn’t a movie set, where you have the time built-in to let them do that… It’s television. It’s like, “We gotta go.”

Except for this scene. I let them improvise for forty-five minutes. And I rolled the camera and I just kept the cameras going and I let them play poker. Because I wanted the audience to know what it was really like to hang out with the actors. To really feel the jokes and the genuine smiles, the real camaraderie of what it’s like with these actors.

They’re really like that, in real life. And so I think on the Blu-Ray, we’ll see an extended version of that scene. But those jokes, those smiles are all real. And I wanted the audience to feel that for a few minutes before we said “goodbye.” So that’s what you’re seeing there. 

At what point in the creative process did the theme of “names” become so important and how did this theme affect the development of the season?

Matalas: “Names mean almost everything,” you mean? That was really a nod to nepotism. Because we knew we were flashing forward to the fact that Jack Crusher was going to be accelerated through Starfleet. You have to call it what it is, so that started that.

But it was also about the importance of the name “Enterprise,” and what that particular legacy was. For not only the Federation and Starfleet but for the fans. And in a lot of ways, that was the last character missing from the season. It was the final character added to the ensemble, when we brought back the Enterprise-D, and the final character given to the rest of… to Seven of Nine, truly. That was super important for us, for Seven and Raffi to be at the forefront of the Enterprise legacy. So it meant quite a few things.

As far as the season goes, that’s such a good question. I have to sit back and meditate on that for quite a bit. Because it does ask a lot of questions about family. I am glad that Jack never took the name “Picard” in the end, that he keeps his mother’s name. 

Now that we can talk about the entire season, what are the moments that are high points or accomplishments for you? And looking at it from a critical eye, are there any things in this season that you look back on and wish you could have done differently?

Matalas: The highlight moments are probably the friends found on the way. It’s quite a thing to go from being a Star Trek fan, and these are people who I watched on my television screen, to… now I’m on text threads with Jonathan Frakes and Brent Spiner and LeVar Burton, and they’re just my friends. It’s weird. Like, I don’t even think of Frakes anymore as Riker. It’s somebody I call and gossip with. So that’s weird and remarkable.

As far as accomplishments go, one of the of things that I always wanted to do since I was a kid was to be part of a scoring session with a big large orchestra on a big sci-fi operatic piece. And being able to do that with my friend Stephen Barton was a real highlight. To be in a room with some of the finest musicians in the world, specifically in this finale, doing Jerry Goldsmith’s theme at the end there over the poker game with some of the people who did that theme with Jerry. Some of the string section and brass people played with Jerry on some of the movie scores. That brings chills. That was really something to me.

As far as other things that I wish we could have done better. Looking at some of the criticisms across the board, I would say it’s a decisively un-romantic season. There was no real room for romance, whether that is Picard and Crusher, Seven and Raffi, Jack and Sidney had a moment of flirtation. Even Riker and Troi mostly deal with the tragedy of a couple losing their child. 

I wish I had fought for more time for a few extra scenes with those characters. I think that the fans would have all wanted more romance throughout. We stuck with the high stakes of it all… it felt like that was where we needed to stay; there wasn’t really a lot of time to talk about feelings and for people to kiss. But in retrospect, I think that would have been satisfying for fans.

But that’s why we ask for more Star Trek, you know. And those characters aren’t going away. And we certainly leave all those characters in a place where we can do that. So that’s probably my biggest regret.

My other one would be, there were characters I really wanted to see again. In the original finale script – look, it was a giant movie that we’re building on a television schedule, right? The fact that we saw what we saw, it’s miraculous that we pulled it off. It nearly killed us all. 

But, there was a scene with Soji and Data that we could not afford to do, to bring back another actor. There was a scene where they found Ro Laren in the dungeons of the Intrepid with Tuvok, and that she had survived. We weren’t able to pull off… Harry Kim appeared at one point. We wanted Janeway to be part of Seven’s promotion.

These are things, they’re all in the script. And then your line producer says, “Are you out of your fucking mind? You can’t afford these things. You are not Avengers: Endgame.” So those are my regrets. But I’m very happy with what we were able to pull off.

The character of Captain Shaw died in episode 9. What led to the decision to kill him?

Matalas: He was always going to die. It was always his arc. I mean, he’s named “Shaw” after Robert Shaw in Jaws. He was going to get eaten by the shark; he was going to get killed by the Borg. That was always a very, very simple story. It was part of his fate.

I think what happened, that we never could have anticipated, was how beloved he became by the fans. And that’s a testament to some wonderful writers we have, and Todd Stashwick and how charming he is. I’ve always known that, from his performance on 12 Monkeys. We tailor-made this role for him. There was never anybody else for this role but Stashwick.

But having said that, we knew from minute one there is a way for Shaw to return, in the most wonderful way, that’s not a cop-out. If we ever were to come back. I mean, it’s awesome. Awesome.

Jonathan Frakes as Riker, Sir Patrick Stewart as Picard, Brent Spiner as Data, LeVar Burton as Geordi, Michael Dorn as Worf and Gates McFadden as Beverly Crusher in Star Trek: Picard on Paramount+.
The D Crew. Photo Cr: Sarah Coulter/Paramount+. © 2023 CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

What was it like going on and directing on the Enterprise-D bridge?

Matalas: Terrifying. We only had two days, we were still gluing pieces of the carpet back onto the ship – and we had a lot to do on that ship. And it was early on in the schedule. So as a director, I had to really make sure I knew what I was doing. And they were the most emotional, pivotal moments in the piece. In some cases, not entirely sure how I was going to pull certain moments off, but they worked. So terrifying, and then wonderful in post-process, with great relief to see that they worked.

What rank was Harry Kim in your final draft?

Matalas: He was Captain, actually. I talked to Garrett Wang about this and he was very disappointed. He was Captain, and that’s all I can say about it. Again, it’s time; it’s money. We also didn’t want to step on Star Trek: Prodigy’s toes. 

You don’t want to be greedy. But we’re talking about Frontier Day, right? Truly, if you had another twenty minutes, you’d see everybody who’s in Starfleet in the 25th Century. You’d want to see what everybody’s up to. But that was that.

What went into the decision to bring Q back?

Matalas: It was an idea I had all the way back when we filming John de Lancie’s last scene in Picard season 2. I knew we were going to tell this story, and I went up to John and said, “I’ve got this idea for a post-credits scene where he’s back.” And he was like, “Yes.”

John and I are dear friends, and so we continued to talk about it whenever we’d hang out. And we only had twenty minutes to shoot the scene. So we literally got him in, got him in that amazing outfit. Came in – I mean, he’s phenomenal on his worst day. And we just banged it out.

I get chills. I love that scene so much. It’s one of my favorite scenes in the finale.

Did you shoot it during season 2?

Matalas: No, we shot it during the same scene in which Picard tells Jack he’s Borg. We wrapped Patrick Stewart and quickly changed the lighting scheme so it’s warm. That’s why it’s still kind of foggy. And we were like, “Go, go, go,” because we had no time.

And how cool does he look in that costume?

The entirety of Picard is available for streaming on Paramount+ now.

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