Star Trek Guide

Star Trek Generations: Picard's Family Death Was Patrick Stewart's Idea

The death of Captain Jean-Luc Picard's family in Star Trek Generations was an idea that came from Patrick Stewart himself, and the devastating full extent of Picard's loss was something the actor pushed for during preproduction. Released in 1994, Star Trek Generations is best remembered for the cast ofStar Trek: The Next Generation making the leap to the big screen and for Picard meeting his counterpart from Star Trek: The Original Series, Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner). But often lost in the hoopla surrounding Kirk's death at the end of the film is that Picard suffers a tragic, personal loss when he learns that his family back home in France was killed in a fire.

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Picard's older brother Robert (Jeremy Kemp), his wife Marie (Samantha Eggar), and their son Rene (David Birkin) were introduced in the TNG season 4 episode, "Family", which filled in crucial aspects of Jean-Luc's backstory. Robert Picard represented the life that Jean-Luc, who dreamed of adventure far beyond their father's life of owning a vineyard in La Barre, France, literally ran away from. In turn, Robert, a staunch traditionalist, resented his overachieving little brother who turned his back on their family's traditions. After Jean-Luc's humanity was restored following his assimilation into Locutus of Borg in "The Best of Both Worlds", the Captain of the Enterprise returned home to reconnect with his family. It was a difficult process (including a brawl in the mud that was years in the making) that nonetheless resulted in the catharsis both brothers needed after a lifetime of mutual resentment.

In the oral history of TNG, The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years by Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross, Star Trek Generations' filmmakers candidly revealed the process that led to Picard's family being killed offscreen - and that Patrick Stewart himself insisted on Robert, Marie, and Rene's gruesome death in a house fire. As the star of the film, Stewart had a great deal of creative sway. Along with William Shatner, Stewart was hands-on in the development of Star Trek Generations and, especially, Picard's story arc. Aware that the Captains teaming up was the focal point of the film, Stewart wanted Picard to have his own problem to cope with as well. As Stewart explained, "One of the things I found most pleasing about [Generations] was a B story for Picard which is very private, intense, and emotional... which runs parallel to the main action story." Killing off Picard's family on Earth was the idea the writers floated. Stewart not only took a shine to it, but he also wanted to take the death of the Picards even further than the writers' original plans.

Star Trek Generations' co-writer Ronald D. Moore explained, "We wrote that... Robert walked out of his vineyard one morning and had a heart attack." Moore felt that this would hammer home Jean-Luc's own mortality since Generations dealt with death, primarily Kirk's and the Enterprise-D's. "Patrick felt that he was missing the element of continuation of the family line, the tradition." The actor felt that Jean-Luc's older brother dying wasn't significant enough and that to really make Picard's loss heartwrenching, Robert's entire family should die as well, which would rob the Captain of the assurance that the Picard family lineage would continue despite himself not having children.

Moore and his co-writer, Brannon Braga, liked Stewart's notion of killing all of the Picards in France, especially since it would give Jean-Luc something to find that the Captain secretly longed for when he enters the Nexus. But it was Stewart himself who decided on how the Picards must die. Moore recalls, "It was Patrick who was the one who said, 'And it should be a tragic, horrible death... This one better really hit him between the eyes. You know, burn him to death." 

Patrick Stewart's startling decree would have a long-term impact on Picard beyond the emotional scenes he shared with Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) in Star Trek Generations. The death of the Picards and the fate of family vineyard in France was followed up on decades later in Star Trek: Picard, serving as the natural starting point for where Trekkers found Jean-Luc decades later after he retired from Starfleet. In Star Trek: Picard, Jean-Luc came full-circle after Patrick Stewart ordered the Captain's family's horrific deaths in Star Trek Generations and Picard once again escaped the vineyard and returned to outer space for more adventures.