It may feel ironic that an A+ science fiction show created by an atheist can feel like a religious experience, but those are exactly the vibes that Star Trek gives off in some fans' opinions. It's true that the media property dives deep into the exploration of the cosmos and worlds. However, Patrick Stewart still has a thoughtful take on the fans that adhere to religions.
The 83-year-old actor recently spent some time chatting about Star Trek with NPR and briefly touched on the spiritual connection that the interviewer felt resonated within the series in all forms. With that, the journalist dove into the sort of religious reverence fans have given the IP over the years. Stewart was asked if he picked up on that as well and confirmed it's something that he's noticed throughout his long tenure in the franchise. From there, he discussed why he believes he and his co-stars were, in a sense, "minsters":
To hear that someone's mental health was saved or improved by watching an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (which can be streamed with a Paramount+ subscription) is truly powerful. With that, I guess we should be grateful that the previous series or upcoming Trek shows are loaded with people like Patrick Stewart who understand what it means and work their hardest to be compassionate and deliver their best work.
It's not too surprising to hear many Trek fans would use the franchise as a guiding principle in their lives, much like they would a religion. Gene Roddenberry crafted the series with a humanist perspective and created an idealized human society that thrived on equality, reason and integrity. Despite The Next Generation's more WTF moments, it encapsulates that mindset perhaps the most out of any other show.
One would think that having this revered status would put much more pressure on Patrick Stewart and The Next Generation crew, especially when they all reunited for Star Trek: Picard Season 3. Stewart, of course, didn't dwell on that during his interview. It seems he simply appreciates that through his role as Picard, he's viewed as a moral compass of sorts, despite just being an ordinary person like many of us:
It's that love of acting that's arguably helped Patrick Stewart's Picard become one of Star Trek's best characters. Granted, Picard's beginning in TNG was a little rough, and it took him time to develop into a beloved and integral part of Trek lore. Stewart even admitted he wasn't a fan of his performance as Picard in early seasons but, obviously, he made adjustments and helped shape Jean-Luc into a layered individual.
At this point, it's unknown whether or not Patrick Stewart will return to the franchise. Fans have petitioned for a Picard follow-up codenamed Star Trek: Legacy and, while Terry Matalas had a promising update and assured fans Paramount+ hears them, there's no word on it actually happening. For now, we can only sit back and wait (and possibly pray) that Stewart and the rest of the TNG crew have another adventure on the way and are able to deliver more of that positive for fans -- whether they're religious or not.
The Next Generation is currently available to stream on Paramount+. It's a great series and among the best sci-fi available on streaming.