'Star Trek: Picard': Why does Trek endure? TNG's Marina Sirtis and Brent Spiner explain

We have so many more fandoms to choose from today than back in 1987, when "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (TNG) first premiered on television. Yet something is keeping the franchise going a generation later, because some of its actors will reunite in "Picard," which premieres today (Jan. 23).

During the red carpet premiere of the new CBS All Access show, two of those "TNG" actors said the new series remains loyal to the spirit of the older show, which ran until 1994. And it appears to be working for the fans, because a Season 2 of "Picard" is already in the works.

"I think [fans] can expect something that's 'Star Trek' — but it's not 'TNG,'" said Marina Sirtis, who most recently played the half-human, half-Betazoid counselor Deanna Troi in the movie "Star Trek: Nemesis" in 2002.

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Sirtis called differences between "Picard," "TNG" and the original 1960s series necessary, adding that the changes allowed the creative team behind each franchise to plot stories relevant to the audiences of different eras.

"['Picard'] is a little darker, but I think because of the times we're living in," Sirtis said. "'Star Trek' was always a reflection of the times. In the '60s, they dealt with the issues that were happening in the 60s. ['TNG'] did a little morality play every now and then, and I think — because the times are so different now — we needed something that actually reflects what's happening in the world."

Sirtis dialed down the spoilers in her interview, giving only one hint: that the fans would likely enjoy what became of the romantic relationship between Troi and Cmdr. William Riker (played by Jonathan Frakes), which began in 'TNG'. She declined to say whether she would appear in Season 2 of "Picard."

"I'd have to kill you if I told you, so I can't say anything," she joked. "They guard everything like the nuclear codes. Actually, probably better than the nuclear codes right now, but we won't get political."

Brent Spiner, who is also revisiting his 'TNG' role as the android robot Data, also was coy about whether he would make a Season 2 appearance, saying he had "no official word on that." But in his red carpet interview, he expressed a delight in appearing in Season 1, because to him, "Star Trek" remains "the great American epic."

"I think [there are] some really good stories," he said of "Picard." He also cited "some really wonderful young new actors … they're terrific and to a person, they're wonderful. And then, of course, a little bit of me, and Jonathan [Frakes], and Marina [Sirtis], and some of the old folks."

Even though it's been nearly two decades since the last time the "old folks" were together on screen, Sirtis added that she had no trouble embodying the persona of Troi. "She's just 20 years older," Sirtis mused. "I'm 20 years older. She's so in my DNA now that I just open my mouth — and it's her."

Editor's note: Space.com contributor Scott Snowden contributed to this story with video interviews.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace