Patrick Stewart has paid tribute to his colleague, friend, and “very first actor role model,” David Warner. Warner died on July 24, 2022, at the age of 80 after having been sick for more than a year. Warner was best recognized for “The Omen,” “Time After Time,” “Time Bandits,” “TRON,” “A Christmas Carol,” and “Titanic,” as well as for his trio of “Star Trek” roles: Ambassador St. John Talbot in “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier,” the Klingon chancellor Gorkon in “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” and in the video game “Star Trek: Klingon Academy,” and as the Cardassian Gul Madred in “The Next Generation” episodes “Chain of Command” and “Chain of Command, Part II.”
It was in the “Chain of Command” two-parter that Warner’s merciless Madred tortured Stewart’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Their scenes were extraordinarily intense and powerful, as Madred stripped Picard of his clothes and his dignity, and nearly convinced Picard to acknowledge that there were five lights in front of him when there were, in fact, only four.
David Warner & Patrick Stewart Were Both Members of the Royal Shakespeare Company
On August 1, 2022, a week after Warner’s death, the British newspaper The Guardian published an article written by Stewart. In it, he shared memories of the late actor and praised his talents as an actor.
“David Warner was my very first actor role model,” Stewart wrote. “I saw him in 1965 at the Aldwych, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s London home, playing Hamlet in a production directed by Peter Hall. I had never seen the play in performance but I knew the script very well and had learned some of the speeches for auditions. I had never conceived or imagined a performance like David’s. He was so human, so sensitive, yet impetuous. Even when speaking the speeches I knew by heart I felt he was improvising them, simply responding to his feelings and circumstances. I was dazzled as the production also included Brewster Mason and Tony Church.
“That night I never even fantasised, for a moment, that one day I might be part of the same company,” Stewart’s article continued. “That was a dream beyond my current status. But, six months later I was in the Conference Hall rehearsal room at Stratford as the First Player, facing David Warner saying: ‘We’ll have a speech straight: come give us a taste of your quality; come, a passionate speech.’ I confess that it actually felt like a fantasy, from which any moment I would awake. I was being asked to give a Shakespeare speech to David Warner? Yes, forget about Hamlet, he didn’t matter. DW was the one I was compelled to impress. Somehow, I finished the speech, Tony Church as Polonius said something, then in silence David walked towards me, put his arm around my shoulders and said: ‘Tis well.’ He had a beautiful smile on his face, and I was in bliss.
“I never forgot that day and after the production entered the repertoire, at that moment, every night, David would respond in subtly different ways to what I had done,” Stewart concluded. “The learning I was absorbing then has kept me going for decades. David was also always friendly and companionable – and modest, when one day he turned up on the set of ‘Star Trek’ to play a starring guest role. He will always be in my heart. I loved him.”
Stewart & Warner Shared the Screen in the Powerful ‘TNG’ Episodes ‘Chain of Command I & II’
Warner, in a 2011 interview with StarTrek.com, the official “Star Trek” site, recounted his experience on “Chain of Command.” He noted that he knew nothing at all about “Star Trek” or the alien species of character he was portraying, a Cardassian. “I took over on three days’ notice,” he said. “It was another makeup job. It was with Pat Stewart, who’s an old colleague. It was great to be a part of that. I thought, ‘Oh, I’ve done two of the others, the old classic ones, and here I am in “The Next Generation.” I’ll go for it.’ So I wasn’t aware of it, of the Cardassians. I didn’t know their history at all, except of course, that they weren’t very nice.”
Most “Star Trek” fans consider the “Chain of Command” two-parter to be among the show’s best episodes. However, at the time, Warner admitted in that 2011 interview that he had no inkling that he, Stewart, and the production were creating a piece of quality television.
“I couldn’t,” he said. “I was not surprised that it became so well regarded. As I said, I took over the role on three days’ notice. I couldn’t learn the show in that time. There was too much technobabble and dialogue that doesn’t come naturally to me. So they wrote everything up for me. I don’t mind people knowing this. Every line I said, I actually was reading it over Patrick’s shoulder or they put it down there for me to do it.” Cue cards? “Cue cards, yes,” he replied. “So, after I finished it, I thought it worked, which obviously it did. But, no, I didn’t think “I’m in the middle of making a classic episode.” I got the makeup on, read the lines, and hoped for the best. And it turned out to be a classic episode. Isn’t that nice?”