A Star Trek Icon Admits Gene Roddenberry Never Wanted Him There

Star Trek icon Patrick Stewart has said that franchise creator Gene Roddenberry was adamantly opposed to him being cast as Picard.

By Nathan Kamal | Published

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Star Trek fans often ask a question that has no true answer, but will likely never stop being asked: who is the best captain? There are purists who will always stick with William Shatner’s Kirk, as the original. There are those that admire Kate Mulgrew’s steely Janeway for her fortitude and determination. There are the Sisko fans, who have chosen Avery Brooks correctly, and the sizable contingent that regard Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard as the single finest commanding officer that Star Trek has yet produced. However, according to Patrick Stewart himself, one person absolutely did not want him in the role: Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. 

gene roddenberry
Gene Roddenberry

According to multiple interviews that Patrick Stewart has given about Star Trek over the decades, Gene Roddenberry not only did not want him cast as Picard in The Next Generation but was vehemently opposed to it. Stewart has said that Roddenberry so disliked the thought of him in the role that he supposedly issued a letter to the other producers developing The Next Generation that if he so much as heard the name “Patrick Stewart” in a meeting, he would kick them out. That is a whole lot of dislike for the man who is generally regarded as being the finest actor to ever perform in the entire Star Trek franchise. 

At this point, it is difficult to say exactly what Gene Roddenberry found so abhorrent about Patrick Stewart’s presence in Star Trek. Apparently, Patrick Stewart’s only audition for the man himself lasted a brief six minutes and it was “perfectly clear” that he was not wanted there. Stewart thinks that his presence as a bald, middle-aged Englishman was a big part of it, which makes sense. Gene Roddenberry envisioned the original captain of the Enterprise, Kirk, as a young, aggressive man who was unafraid to get his hands dirty and had a tempestuous sense of adventure. It is fair to say that Patrick Stewart does not give off those vibes, now, then, or ever.

Star Trek

It actually makes sense that The Next Generation would create a character who was not a mirror image of Kirk for its revival, but it has generally been reported that Gene Roddenberry was highly resistant to any changes to the themes of Star Trek as he saw them. When the franchise was revived by Paramount for a new television series (largely based on the continued success of the theatrical films, which indicated a potential audience), Roddenberry initially did not want to be involved. However, he apparently could not bear that other people were working on his beloved Star Trek and came on board to rewrite scripts to his liking and insist that there be no interpersonal conflict in his utopian future. 

To be fair, Patrick Stewart is very clear and grateful that ultimately Gene Roddenberry acquiesced to whatever behind-the-scenes pressure there was to cast the actor. He does say that Gene Roddenberry would sometimes come to the production of The Next Generation episodes and have a look on his face that Stewart describes as “what the hell is this guy doing?” However, he has also said that he was grateful for Gene Roddenberry defending his famous lack of hair by answering a reporter who asked “Surely they would have cured baldness by the 24th century” by responding “In the 24th century, they wouldn’t care.” In the positive sense, that is Gene Roddenberry’s vision of Star Trek in a nutshell. 

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Many of Patrick Stewart’s co-stars from The Next Generation have credited him with cultivating an atmosphere of professionalism (unsurprising from an actor used to the rigor and pressures of constant stage performance) that hugely boosted the quality of the show. It is generally considered that Star Trek as a whole was elevated by the dignity of Patrick Stewart’s portrayal of the introverted, stern, complex character of Jean-Luc Picard. The actor has now been playing Picard for decades, with the role being rivaled only by the X-Men’s Professor Charles Xavier in being associated with him. It is odd to ponder what Gene Roddenberry found so objectionable about one of the most esteemed Shakespearian actors of a generation being part of his Star Trek, but we can only be grateful he got outvoted.