I still have a Google alert set up to bring me daily news about Patrick Stewart’s return to Star Trek, and what I’ve been reading recently is that he will be playing a very different Jean-Luc Picard. The reports are that this will be a much more introspective, psychological series than Next Gen, and that Picard is going to have changed. That made me wonder, how much can characters change before deviating too far from the original? If they go too far and change Picard too much, fans will react badly. On the other hand, many well-established characters have evolved and changed throughout their history: think Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot; but perhaps the most obvious example is James Bond. Bond as played by Roger Moore and, say, Daniel Craig are completely different, but both are essentially 007, and both contribute to the character’s legacy.
The question then is, can it be the same case with Picard? Is the character capable of withstanding similar changes? The obvious difference is, he will still be played by the same actor, Patrick Stewart, so there might not be as much scope for modification that there might be were they to get a new actor. Then again, I daresay fans, including myself, wouldn’t stand Captain Picard being played by anyone other than Sir Patrick. Of course, it’s logical that he will have changed over time, but go too far and they risk ruining the Picard fans love and admire.
As long as he gets in the occasional ”Make it so” and drinks his Earl Grey Tea hot, though, I don’t think they can go too wrong. Like James Bond and indeed any long running character, the Picard character has a set of iconography which helps to define him; a set of attributes writers and directors include whenever a character appears, and which viewers come to expect. Thus Bond is expected to drink his martini ”shaken, not stirred”, wear expensive suits and introduce himself like this. I have little doubt these attributes will reappear when Picard returns; the question is, how much room is there for the producers to play with everything else?