During the final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Patrick Stewart hosted Saturday Night Live. In his opening monologue, Stewart describes himself as an “encyclopedia of Star Trek facts and trivia.” He proceeds to spend four minutes reciting incorrect trivia: Spock is Dr. Spock, DeForest Kelley is Forest DeKelley. The monologue presumes the audience knows enough to realize he has his information wrong.
In 1986, William Shatner famously told fans, “Get a life!” during his SNL appearance. By contrast, Stewart’s 1994 monologue identifies him as one of these fans. We are left to wonder why, then, his information is incorrect. Without access to IMDB and streaming, a casual viewer in 1994 might get facts wrong. Perhaps Stewart’s enthusiasm is sincere, if exaggerated. Or perhaps his self-identification as a fan is merely a publicity stunt to cast him in a better light than Shatner.
Thirty years later, Stewart’s SNL monologue has additional meaning. At first the outsider, a Shakespearean actor hired for Star Trek’s attempted second wind, Stewart has now been deeply involved with the franchise for more than thirty years. After ten television seasons, four feature films, and voice work on several video games, he is among Star Trek’s most venerable (and oldest) actors. Although his SNL trivia was focused on the original series, today anyone who identifies as an “encyclopedia of Star Trek” would recite facts about TNG, Picard, and Stewart himself.
Stewart had a chance to demonstrate his TNG knowledge in a 2020 sketch for Jimmy Kimmel Live! The sketch featured a trivia game, in which “Pat” competed against mega-fan Pete Buttgieg. “Pat” won the game. Coinciding with the release of the first season of Picard, the appearance frames him as Star Trek personified: a nerd who knows all the trivia, as well as the star of his own Trek series. “Patrick Stewart is Star Trek” is a frequent, if contentious, proclamation on social media. While he is not, for many reasons, his late-night television appearances show thirty years’ evolution in his persona of Star Trek fan.