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NYCC 2019: 5 Takeaways from the ‘Star Trek’ Universe Panel

Fellow Star Trek fans* rejoice for 2020 is going to be a fantastic year for the Universe! The Workprint was able to attend the double Star Trek Universe panel at New York Comic-Con this past weekend. *(I ain’t sticking with the traditional labels here.)

The panel, which was attended by producers Michelle Paradise, Heather Kadin, and Alex Kurtzman, was divided in two, with the first including the cast of DiscoverySonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones, Mary Wiseman, Anthony Rapp, Wilson Cruz, and a new cast member – David Ajala.

The second portion of the panel, for the new show Picard, introduced us to the cast, comprising of Sir Patrick Stewart, Isa Briones, Santiago Cabrera, Michelle Hurd, Allison Pill, Harry Treadway, and Evan Evagora. The panel also included producers Kurtzman and Paradise, along with Emily Culpepper, Michael Chabon, Kirsten Beyer and Akiva Goldsman in the discussion.

Both panels were very informative and contained new trailer footage for each show. (Which you can find at the bottom of the article along with the link to the recorded panel itself.)

In the meantime, though, I’m here to present to you with my 5 takeaways from the panel (after putting myself back together from the tearing excitement my inner geek went through during this weekend.)

1) The creators genuinely care about canon and continuity.

According to both Paradise and Kurtzman, the production team was very focused on not messing with the show’s timeline and keeping it in canon (relatively) to the rest of the Star Trek Universe (STU). “Canon is wildly important to us. We’re not trying to mess with canon. We’re not changing it. There’s no timeline adjustments, and the events of canon have absolutely informed everything that has happened in the future, but the future is not at all what they expected when they get to the other side,” Kurtzman assured the crowd.

Even though the showrunners stated that continuity is an important aspect of their production, they still want to bring in new and interesting concepts to Season 3 of Discovery, especially considering that the crew is now almost a thousand years into the future

Paradise iterated the importance of being “married to canon” but also stated that they wanted to take everything we’d expect about the STU, such as the Federation, and “put it in a blender” in order to continue developing the characters and the plot further, especially considering the unprecedented predicament the crew has found themselves within the timeline.

The concept of continuity also played an important part of the Picard discussion, which leads me to my second takeaway from the panel that…

2) The Picard series has been well thought out, with the 20-year gap since Nemesis filled in.

This is fantastic news, as this is probably the most anxious I’ve been as a fan in regards to a series being rebooted, or rather resurrected in this case.  See, in the world of Sci-Fi, especially Star Trek, Captain Jean-Luc Picard is a very important character; and sometimes stating less about an important pop cultural character is a lot better than stating more about their lives.  (See Solo: A Star Wars Story as an example.)

However, the Picard production team seemed intent on not wanting to fall into that trap, as the series will focus on a new story for the beloved captain turned retired admiral, while still showing respect to the already established history of the character.

Akiva Goldsman, one of the producers, discussed that they all kept the 20-year gap since Nemesis in mind and that there “will be hints” at that with a “natural evolution” of the characters presented within the show.

“Our big concern was that we did not want it, and especially Patrick did not want it, to be a TNG reunion show,” Heather Kadin stated “…and we only brought people back only if their story really mattered to the story we were telling.” She continued to talk about how the characters in the show will have “pivotal emotional stories” within the 10-episode story structure.

This is much appreciated on my end, from a writing perspective, because it shows that the production cares about having a solid story that will contain meaningful moments for characters that will drive the premise of the story and the course of their development within the overall universe.

3) The characters’ identities and relationships with each other will be challenged.

With both shows, the audience is going to find the crews in situations that they have not faced before.  That means that they will face conditions that are going to challenge their values and perspectives in their world.  These decisions and interactions that the characters make are going to be predicated on their past experiences and could fundamentally alter the way they interact with other crew members in those situations, or even for the rest of the story.

For example, in Discovery, Ensign Sylvia Tilly, played by the wonderful Mary Wiseman, is a character that has shown considerable growth within the show so far, and is probably a character that will be tested by the challenges that the Discovery crew will face in their precarious situation.

Wiseman mentioned that Tilly will have to make “big decisions,” that we’ll be seeing her “stepping into her own power,” and that “we’ll see why she gravitated towards people and why they gravitate towards her.”

This can also be seen with the inclusion of David Ajala as a new character, Cleveland “Book” Booker – a trader and pilot, whom Michael Burnham is going to use as a guide to explore the new future that she is propelled into.

In terms of the Picard series, there is a time gap that the story will take place in and, naturally, the Picard relationship with everyone and everything (Federation included) will be different.

One of the most intriguing points that came up during the Picard portion of the STU panel was from actor, Michelle Hurd (playing the character of Raffi Musiker), who stated that she “has a history” with Picard, as well as another “strong bond with another character” in the show.

Personally, I’m excited to see what Hurd meant by that comment, and regardless of what it ends up being, her character’s relationship with Picard will certainly have an effect on the Captain as he is navigating his way back from retirement into the final frontier of humankind.

4) Data may return as a character in Picard.

Okay! So this sounds like big news, but it was briefly hinted at twice in the trailers, including the new one, as well as what Picard cast member Allison Pill stated during the panel.

The trailer that came out a while ago had shown the (robo)body part remains of Data (famously played by Brent Spiner) in storage post-Nemesis, but the newly released footage in the current trailer shows Data appearing in a dream-like state to Picard, presumably as an omen indicating that something will happen in Picard’s future.

The biggest hint, however, came from Allison Pill, where she briefly described her character, Dr. Agnes Jurati, as a robotics expert on the show. This led to thunderous applause from the audience as Pill grinned and did not say more about her character and what may possibly arise within the show.

5) Star Trek will continue to be a commentary on current socio-political and environmental issues.

This is the essence of what Star Trek is as a story and its role within the larger genre of Science Fiction.

One of the most prevalent misconceptions about Star Trek is that humanity is living in a Utopic state and period of time and that we all dream of achieving a Type 1 civilization.  This is incorrect, as Star Trek, like most Science Fiction and Fantasy, is really a commentary on the issues that humans face within their current lives, which can range from social problems to environmental dangers, to politics.

All the issues that we face today are heavily discussed in sci-fi, especially Star Trek, and are the driving force of what speculative fiction tries to achieve.

“We often talk about how Trek is a mirror that holds itself up to the world as it is, and we look around and we see a lot of disillusionment and a lot of confusion and a lot of disconnection. Many of the things we long for, hope, and understanding, compassion, and empathy, those things seem to be waning more and more, and Trek is the ultimate beacon of hope,” said Kurtzman.  “So, if you go into a future that doesn’t quite look like what you imagined it to be, Trek is always the anchor to bring you back to what’s possible, and to who we are at our best. We are looking to have something to say about the world as it is now reflected in the future that we present.”

Star Trek is one of those works of art that is known for addressing difficult notions that exist in society and providing philosophical, sociological, etc. lessons as a response to those issues.  To know that the cast and crew of both Discovery and Picard are in tune with how speculative fiction works is truly an assurance that the continuation of Trek into the future will be reflective of the values that the previous shows were built upon.

Anyways, Trek fans, those are the five important takeaways that I picked up on while attending the Star Trek Universe panel!

You can watch the new season three Star Trek Discovery trailer here, while also watching the highly anticipated (and extremely nerdgasmic) trailer to Star Trek: Picard here.

Also, if you’re a huge Star Trek geek like I am, I highly recommend watching the full STU Panel at NY Comic Con here, for it’s truly worth it!

Let us know what you think about the new trailers, about the panel, this article, or any of your thoughts about the Star Trek Universe in the comments below or through our social media accounts @theworkprint and @jadkaado!

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