1987 Was Lit: J. Dianne Dotson on Sir Patrick Stewart

At this moment in time, we live in what feels like a Holodeck simulation from Star Trek: The Next Generation. I keep hoping someone lets us exit. But one thing helping while we are in quarantine is a man who is currently reading sonnets every day, a man that changed my life: Sir Patrick Stewart.

At far too young an age, I had watched Mr. Stewart in John Boorman’s luscious Excalibur and David Lynch’s trancelike Dune. The chills I got when I saw Stewart as Leondegrance raise his sword in fealty for young King Arthur in Excalibur… to this day the scene floods me with awe. Such command of voice, of physicality. Who was this man?

And then later, as Gurney Halleck in Dune, Stewart dominated every scene he was in. His voice, his striking features, and his considerable skill as a Shakespearean actor helped elevate the film.

Fast forward to the year 1987. That was a happy year for me, one of the best in my life. I was thirteen, and in the green East Tennessee summer of my youth, I watched the emerald leaves sway, sun-glinted, as I listened to Crowded House sing, “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” I’ve thought about this song a lot during the pandemic. It’s possibly my most favorite song of all time. I couldn’t know then what would come to pass in 2020. But the song’s message lingered with me.

At that point in time, many of us believed Star Trek as a series was dead. The original series actors were starring in movies. It seemed that having Trek on the small screen was a dream lost to history. But 1987 proved us all wrong.

For in 1987, Star Trek returned in the form of Star Trek: The Next Generation. And hey: I knew this man, Captain Jean-Luc Picard, I knew him from film! And I thought, how did Trek get this guy? How grand is that? And what a very different captain he was from William Shatner’s iconic Captain Kirk, whose work I had also enjoyed! The cerebral, methodic Captain Picard, with his melodious voice and measured command given life by Sir Patrick Stewart, turned out to be the perfect person to step on board a new Enterprise, and boldly go where no one had gone before. I quickly ensconced myself in front of the TV and fell in love with the show, and admired Mr. Stewart even more. He became MY captain.

And here we are in 2020, and again, we thought we might never see The Next Generation crew on the small screen again. But we were granted Star Trek: Picard, with Stewart returning in the role that has now defined so much of his on-screen career. As it happened, the pandemic unfolded right during the show’s airing. So Picard became a weekly ritual for my family, and me, just as The Next Generation had been for me in my youth.

For many, Sir Patrick Stewart entered the cultural zeitgeist in 1987. He has been a prominent actor on stage and screen for several decades. In all his roles, Mr. Stewart has always projected serenity and quiet power, his tone resonant, his expressions flickering between chiseled or animated with wry humor. As Captain Picard, he instilled confidence in his capabilities as a believable leader, who knew when to draw upon his team, and when to go it alone. In real life, Mr. Stewart exudes a vibrant soul, and we are fortunate that he likes to share his gifts with us.

In wondrous fashion, Stewart recognized our need for comfort in a time of isolation, and so he began reading a sonnet per day. And this is why I admire Sir Patrick Stewart so much: he knows we will listen to his every fluid, meticulous word. So he’s giving us all a gift, his voice, reading to us. Sir Patrick Stewart is telling us all, don’t dream it’s over. Let us boldly go forward into the future, and we will dream of a better one, and we will make it so.


J. Dianne Dotson is the science fiction and fantasy author of The Questrison Saga. She is also a science writer. Web: jdiannedotson.com

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