'Star Trek': See the Picard Pilot Director at Work in a Holodeck, Sort Of

In March, CBS All Access announced Hanelle Culpepper will direct the first two episodes of the upcoming Star Trek series featuring Patrick Stewart's return as Jean-Luc Picard (which is not titled Picard). Cameras won’t start rolling until mid-April, but casting is already underway. Before taking point on the Picard series, Culpepper directed the most recent episode of Star Trek: Discovery, “The Red Angel. In a behind-the-scenes photo on Instagram, Culpepper was working in the closest thing the modern world has to one of Star Trek’s holodecks. That is, she was using a virtual reality headset to preview the specs for a set before it was built. Star Trek fans will note the yellow lines on a black background behind Culpepper, the same that typically adorned The Next Generation-era holodecks.

“Countdown to my ep. of Star Trek: Discovery airing on CBS All Access on March 21st - here's how we explore the new sets before they're built -- via VR!!” Culpepper wrote. You can see the photo below.

By directing the Picard series pilot, Culpeper is the first woman to helm the launch of a new Star Trek series in the franchise’s 53-year history. “Hanelle is a gifted and dynamic filmmaker whose directorial choices are always deeply rooted in character,” Alex Kurtzman, Discovery’s co-creator, executive producer and showrunner said when the announcement was made. “I’ve been a fan of her work since she started with us on Discovery, and she’s the perfect person to re-introduce the beloved character of Picard to longtime fans and new viewers alike. We’re thrilled she’s joining our Trek family on this next adventure.”

Culpeper is working with producers and a writers’ room that share her love of Picard. Kurtzman told ComicBook.com at the TCA 2019 Winter Press Tour about that and about how the new show differs from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

“Everybody in that room loves Jean-Luc Picard very deeply, and obviously, the benefit that we have is that Jean-Luc Picard is in the room with us,” Kurtzman said. “And so, as we're breaking story, we're asking ourselves, ‘How do we live to the spirit, and to the character, and for the tone that Next Gen set, but also make it something very, very different in other ways?’ And Patrick was really clear with us from the beginning. He did not want to repeat what he had already done. And by the way, it's been 20 plus years, so he couldn't possibly be that same person anymore.

“And so, the question becomes, ‘What has happened to him in that period of time? Have there been occurrences that forced him to reckon with choices that he's made in his life? How do you hold on to being the person everybody loved when the circumstances around you may have changed so radically?’ And those are the big questions that we're asking.”

According to Stewart, the show will have a different storytelling style than The Next Generation.

“We’re hoping for more than one season,” Stewart said. “And with this first series, and this is one of the things that’s so interesting about the writers’ room, they are writing a 10-hour movie. In The Next Generation, it was a story, a different story, a different story, all with the same characters as many series are. But this time it is one story, from beginning to end. I hope that will lead people to...binge-watching, that it might lead to something like that because the idea of it being an unfolding narrative is really terrific.”

Are you excited to see the new Picard series? Let us know in the comments. The Picard series begins filming in California in April and will premiere in late 2019 on CBS All Access.

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