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Patrick Stewart's rocky start on Star Trek: The Next Generation: "We are not here to have fun"

Turns out, the experience of the English theater almost ruined Star Trek for Jean-Luc Picard

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 1
Image credit: Paramount

It’s no secret that the first couple of years of Star Trek: The Next Generation are a little… rough. That much is obvious from checking out almost any episode of the first two seasons — and the less said about episodes like “Justice” or “Skin of Evil,” the better, let’s be honest. What might be a little more surprising is the discovery that the cast of the show were feeling the pressure of living up to the show’s legacy at the time — and that their diverse backgrounds were part of the problem.

No less an authority than Patrick Stewart — Captain Jean Luc Picard himself! — has admitted that he found himself at odds with the rest of the Enterprise-D crew in the early days of the series, which he puts firmly at the feet of his experience working in English theater.

“I could be a severe bastard,” he writes in his new memoir Making It So, as excerpted at The Hollywood Reporter. “My experiences at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre had been intense and serious … On the TNG set, I grew angry with the conduct of my peers, and that’s when I called that meeting in which I lectured the cast for goofing off and responded to Denise Crosby’s, ‘We’ve got to have some fun sometimes, Patrick’ comment by saying, ‘We are not here, Denise, to have fun.’”

Perhaps fittingly, it was Picard’s Number One and android companion that came to Stewart’s rescue, he explains, saying that his “pompous declaration” — and the storming-off-set that followed it — was smoothed over by Jonathan Frakes and Brent Spiner: “[Spiner] and Jonathan acknowledged that yes, there was too much goofing around and that it needed to be dialed back. But they also made it clear how off-putting it was — and not a case study in good leadership — for me to try to resolve the matter by lecturing and scolding the cast. I had failed to read the room, imposing RSC behavior on people accustomed to the ways of episodic television — which was, after all, what we were shooting.”

Looking back, Stewart writes, “everyone, me included, finds this story hilarious.” But just remember: there was a point when even Jean Luc Picard believed that Star Trek wasn’t fun. (Just don’t tell Boimler or anyone from the USS Cerritos.)

Making It So: A Memoir is available now.

Hey, guess what? Star Trek is fun; just check out our Watch Order to see just how fun it can be, in fact.