LONDON – Sir Patrick Stewart said returning to “Star Trek” was irresistible as he led a new generation of cast members down the red carpet for the premiere of a series devoted to his much-loved character Jean-Luc Picard.
The 79-year-old British actor had repeatedly refused efforts to lure him back as the starship captain Picard.
But the writers of its latest chapter, “Star Trek: Picard”, helped change his mind to the delight of science fiction fans and his character is due back on screens later this month after a two-decade break.
“I came back because it was irresistible,” Stewart said on the red carpet on Wednesday ahead of a screening at a cinema in London’s Leicester Square.
“I was intrigued and that intrigue grew into something very exciting which is why I’m back.”
But he warned fans that this was a new era for “Star Trek”.
“Everything’s different. Everything. He’s hardly the same man,” he said of Picard.
There was also a question mark over whether the iconic colorful uniforms of the Starship Enterprise crew would return after Stewart said he told writers: “Don’t put me in a uniform.”
The new 10-part series picks up Picard’s life 20 years after the character last appeared in the film set in the 24th century.
A trailer showed a retired Picard living a quiet life running a family vineyard when Dahj, played by Isa Briones, comes to him asking for help and he puts together a crew to return to space.
Quizzed on the red carpet, Briones said that the Star Trek experience had been “crazy”.
“When you first sign on you really don’t know what you’re getting into,” she said.
For co-creator and executive producer Alex Kurtzman, the return of Picard brings a message of hope, reminding viewers of what a great leader can be.
“I think in this moment when so many people are looking and seeing so much division in the world, to be reminded that a great leader can come forward, and bring us back together I think that’s what it’s all about,” he said.
Stewart’s history with Picard dates back to 1987 when he played the character in the TV series “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, as well as in four feature films, the last of which was released in 2002.
Star Trek: Picard will launch on Jan. 24 with new episodes available weekly in the United States on CBS Corp’s CBS.N CBS All Access streaming service and in the UK and 200 other markets on Amazon.com Inc’s (AMZN.O) Prime Video.
CBS All Access has already confirmed that a second season will follow.