By Lisa Richwine
SAN DIEGO, July 20 (Reuters) - The upcoming "Star Trek" series about Jean-Luc Picard will reunite the beloved starship commander with android officer Data and other characters from the long-running space franchise, the cast revealed to fans at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday.
British actor Patrick Stewart, who is returning to the role of Picard that he played from 1987 to 1994 in the TV series "Star Trek: The Next Generation" as well as four feature films, unveiled a trailer for the new series in front of 6,500 fans who packed a convention hall.
The footage from "Star Trek: Picard" included surprise appearances by Data (Brent Spiner) from "Next Generation" and Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) from "Star Trek: Voyager." Both actors joined Stewart on stage and drew loud applause and cheers.
Stewart, 79, had repeatedly refused efforts to lure him back as Picard. Discussions with writers of the new series changed his mind, Stewart said.
"I knew something very unusual was going to happen and I wanted to be a part of it," Stewart said. "I'm very, very happy to be here."
"Picard," set to be released next year, will be available in the United States on CBS Corp's CBS All Access streaming service and in 200 other markets on Amazon.com Inc's Prime Video.
The new series will pick up Picard's life 20 years after the character last appeared on screen. The trailer showed a retired Picard living a quiet life running a family vineyard until he meets a young woman in danger and puts together a new crew to return to space.
"What the hell are you doing out here, Picard? Saving the galaxy?" Seven of Nine asks.
Other returning stars from "Next Generation" include Jonathan Del Arco (Hugh), Jonathan Frakes (Riker) and Marina Sirtis (Troi).
Executive producer Alex Kurtzman said the new series shows Picard at a time when he is questioning some of his life choices but still "standing up for what matters."
"Age has not changed his resolve. It's just changed his circumstances," Kurtzman said. "Picard has to soul search, and to soul search you need a dark night of the soul to come out lighter and brighter."
Producers also announced they plan to release six new "Short Treks" episodes of 10 to 15 minutes each. One will be a teaser for the "Picard" series. They also are at work on a "Star Trek" podcast and animated series "Lower Decks." (Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Will Dunham)