We have breaking news out of Las Vegas today, where in a surprise appearance, Star Trek franchise executive producer Alex Kurtzman arrived on stage — with Next Generation legend Patrick Stewart in tow.

To a standing ovation, Stewart confirmed months of rumors with an official announcement: “Jean-Luc Picard,” he said with a dramatic pause, “is back.”

The actor shared a bit of the backstory behind the recruiting to bring Stewart back to the Trek franchise, with a tale of an offer extended months ago which he planned to reject at the time.

Alex Kurtzman addresses the STLV audience to set the stage.

As weeks progressed, however, he found himself returning to the show which made him a global star, and has made the character of Jean-Luc Picard one loved by fans. “I have spent a lot of time recently watching Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Stewart said, “and it became clear to me that the power and benefits of that show continue to grow.”

Convinced to rejoin the Trek franchise nearly two decades after his formerly-final appearance in 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis, Stewart cautioned the audience that the Jean-Luc Picard may not be the same man we knew. “He may not be a captain anymore,” he said. “Twenty years has passed, which is nearly the length of time between Nemesis and today.”

Stewart’s TNG co-stars Jonathan Frakes and LeVar Burton watch from backstage.

As he left the stage following his 10-minute appearance in front of the convention crowd, he clarified that the series — which does not yet have an announced title — is still early in pre-production, and that no scripts have yet been written. “We’re still talking story,” said Stewart.

As the explosive news brought the convention audience to their feet in applause, Stewart was clearly moved by the response, and spoke to the efforts of the creative parties involved in developing the show to maintain the quality and legacy of The Next Generation: “It will be exactly as it was before.”

Stewart gets emotional as the Las Vegas audience explodes with applause and cheers.

As Stewart and Kurtzman spoke to the crowd in Las Vegas, Entertainment Weekly also published a story with additional statements from the pair on the upcoming show.

PATRICK STEWART:

“I will always be very proud to have been a part of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but when we wrapped that final movie in the spring of 2002, I truly felt my time with Star Trek had run its natural course,” Stewart said. “It is, therefore, an unexpected but delightful surprise to find myself excited and invigorated to be returning to Jean-Luc Picard and to explore new dimensions within him. Seeking out new life for him, when I thought that life was over.”

Stewart added that now, in particular, seems like a good time to bring back the character, who exemplified calm, moral, reasoned leadership. “During these past years, it has been humbling to hear many stories about how The Next Generation brought people comfort, saw them through difficult periods in their lives or how the example of Jean-Luc inspired so many to follow in his footsteps, pursuing science, exploration and leadership,” he said. “I feel I’m ready to return to him for the same reason – to research and experience what comforting and reforming light he might shine on these often very dark times. I look forward to working with our brilliant creative team as we endeavor to bring a fresh, unexpected and pertinent story to life once more.

ALEX KURTZMAN:

“With overwhelming joy, it’s a privilege to welcome Sir Patrick Stewart back to the Star Trek fold. For over 20 years, fans have hoped for the return of Captain Jean-Luc Picard and that day is finally here. We can’t wait to forge new ground, surprise people, and honor generations both new and old.”

Star Trek: Discovery writer and producer Ted Sullivan also shared on Twitter that the series launched from the mind of series writer and Trek novelist Kirsten Beyer:

The actor also posted this on Twitter as the Las Vegas convention announcement came to a close:

We’ll bring you all the latest news, details, and any other bit of information we learn on this Untitled Patrick Stewart Star Trek series as it breaks. In the meantime, tell us your thoughts about this massive announcement in the comments below!