The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Captain Picard looks to trekking a new path

London, Dec. 18 (Reuters): After almost 16 years at the helm of the Starship Enterprise, Captain Jean-Luc Picard is ready to boldly go elsewhere.

“I’m sure this is our final curtain,” said British actor Patrick Stewart after he flew into London for the European premiere of Star Trek Nemesis, the 10th film in one of cinema’s most successful franchises.

Stewart, who spent 27 years treading the boards as a classical Shakespearean actor before taking on one of the most famous roles in science fiction, wants the timing to be right.

“All of us are very sensitive about not wanting to outstay our welcome,” the 62-year-old actor told reporters gathered to meet the stars at a giant new interactive Star Trek theme park being launched in London’s Hyde Park.

Reflecting on the role that made him instantly recognisable around the planet to legions of devoted fans, Stewart said: “When the party comes to a close, it is best to leave before you are the last guest.”

“I think the events of this film are very appropriate as a sort of closure for Next Generation,” he said.

Despite the movie’s initially disappointing box office figures in the US, he feels that he would be quitting the iconic role on a high. “I think we have made a terrifically good film,” he said.

But Star Trek fans who may be suffering withdrawal symptoms need not panic quite yet.

Stewart said: “My feeling is that there is no reason why the franchise of Star Trek should not go on indefinitely. It is just that certain of us will fade out and move on.”

Through five television series and 10 movies, Star Trek has certainly showed extraordinary staying power on a par with the Star Wars epics and the James Bond sagas.

The TV show is currently shown in more than 100 countries, the movies have grossed more than $1 billion at the box office and there are more than 70 million Star Trek books in print.

Stewart admitted that the attention at times was oppressive and the dangers of typecasting all too real. But he has come to terms with the fame. “For many people, I will be nothing else but Jean-Luc Picard,” he said.

But he insisted: “I don’t feel it is a millstone. It has been in some modest ways a handicap but those handicaps are so outweighed by the benefits. I am tremendously proud. The series is an iconic series.”

“I went through a period when I was resentful. I felt the role was taking over my life. People would call me Captain. But all that is past. I am very relaxed about it now.”

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