Patrick Stewart has given some amazing performances during his time portraying Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the Star Trek universe. Arguably one of the most stunning and heartwrenching examples was in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “Chain of Command Part II.”
In that episode, Picard was captured by the Cardassians as they plotted an invasion of Federation space. Picard was handed over to a Cardassian interrogator named Gul Madred whose job was to get information out of him by any means necessary. Madred took the “by any means necessary” part of the assignment very seriously.
He employed several horrific methods of torture to try to break Picard, including stripping him naked and hanging him by his wrists. He also cut him, used a technological device to inflict severe pain, and refused to call him by his name. Madred also literally gaslighted him by showing him four lights and trying to convince him there were five. This led to one of the most iconic moments in the show when Picard powerfully declared “there are four lights,” before being escorted to safety.
Stewart was Actually Nude for Some of the Torture Scenes
The book Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, as quoted by Memory Alpha, revealed that in order to bring realism to the torture scenes where Picard was stripped down, Stewart decided to perform in the nude. Instead of using a body double, as so many actors do according to Yahoo Entertainment, Stewart decided that he would do the nude scenes himself, with one stipulation. He insisted that the set be closed to everyone who wasn’t working on the scene.
Apparently, the producers didn’t ask Stewart to do the scenes completely nude. He insisted on stripping down to make his performance more authentic.
Stewart approached the torture scenes in “Chain of Command” with a lot of care and gravity. He understood how difficult they would be to perform and for fans to watch. He also knew that the scenes would be all too real for people who had endured torture in real life. Stewart wanted to ensure that his performance was realistic, but also respectful of the pains endured by those who’d dealt with this kind of treatment.
Stewart Did Lots of Research Before Taking on the Scenes
According to StarTrek.com, Stewart reached out to Amnesty International, an organization that investigates human rights abuses all over the world. The organization often advocates for victims of torture, so the people involved are experts in the horrors people have suffered and the physical, mental, and emotional impacts.
Stewart talked to folks who worked at the organization and watched videos made by survivors of torture so he could better understand the repercussions of their experiences. The writers of the episode, Frank Abatermarco and Jeri Taylor, also consulted Amnesty International to ensure that they were creating the scenes with the respect they deserved.
Stewart has since become an advocate for Amnesty International as a voice for their campaign on violence against women.
It’s no surprise that an actor of Stewart’s caliber went to such lengths to ensure his performance was both realistic and respectful. All that dedication led to one of the most impactful scenes of the series.