Cast members and creators for Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Prodigy, and Star Trek: Picard hinted at character growth against a backdrop of action
Audience members in the packed auditorium for the Star Trek Universe panel at New York Comic Con got three panels for the price of one. Cast members and creators behind three Paramount+ shows, Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Prodigy, and Star Trek: Picard, came on stage for thirty-minute panels to talk about their characters and the upcoming seasons (or, in the case of Prodigy, second half of a season) for their shows.
Constrained by studio rules and non-disclosure agreements, which were often joked about by the cast members of all three shows, the panelists were not able to reveal much. But that didn’t seem to matter to the rapt audience, most of whom, judging by the amount of cheers the Picard cast got, were Next Generation-era fans just happy to be in the same room as the actors who played their heroes.
Star Trek: Discovery
The current era of Star Trek kicked off with Discovery in 2017, and so it was fitting that the Discovery panel went first. Executive Producers Alex Kurtzman and Rod Roddenberry and actors Wilson Cruz (Hugh Culber) and Anthony Rapp (Paul Stamets) took to the stage while Sonequa Martin-Green (Michael Burnham) joined virtually (she’d been filming the upcoming season of Discovery until that morning and couldn’t fly to New York in time).
Cruz talked about how tonally, Discovery has shifted from season to season, and that the fifth season would carry on in that tradition, sending the crew on an adventure in which they must use their strengths to solve a mystery while discovering themselves.
Discovery has always placed great emphasis on its characters, and Martin-Green spoke of how the upcoming season would focus on who the characters are, and, more importantly, who they are together, in a more profound way than before. As for her character’s romance with Cleveland “Book” Booker?
“Oh, my,” she said. “It’s complicated!”
Martin-Green mentioned that Captain Burnham will deal with a conflict between duty and romance, a plot element that should be familiar to those who’ve watched the previous season.
Rapp talked about how Stamets will try to figure out a new path for scientific exploration, as science is his reason for being, and he’s always looking for his next passion.
Kurtzman spoke of how the most exciting thing about the show is getting to evolve the character of Captain Burnham over the course of the show.
When the time came for questions, one fan asked whether, because of Rapp’s background in musical theater and Star Trek’s long history of genre-bending, we might get a musical episode someday. All the creators could say to that was that nothing is impossible…
Star Trek: Prodigy
One of the newest entries into the Star Trek universe is the animated Prodigy, which follows a scrappy band of alien kids who discover a powerful Starfleet vessel and use it to escape their oppressive world. Voice actors Kate Mulgrew (Kathryn Janeway), Brett Gray (Dal R’El), and Jameela Jamil (Asencia) joined Kurtzman and Roddenberry, as well as Executive Producers Dan Hageman, Kevin Hagemen, and Ben Hibon.
Mulgrew spoke of how Star Trek has created a cross-generational conversation that we haven’t seen before, as children watch Prodigy, and their parents grew up on Voyager, and grandparents on the original series. As the first Star Trek show specifically for children, Prodigy is taking fandom someplace new and “very bloody exciting.” She also said that it’s been “thrilling to play” Janeway’s various incarnations, from the original captain to the holographic version introduced in the first half of Prodigy.
Gray, whose character, Dal, has no memory of his parents and is of an unknown species, hinted that while some new information would be revealed in the upcoming episodes, it will bring more questions than answers and is really only the beginning (he also said it was “epic”).
Jamil said that she was “over the moon” to have joined the Star Trek universe, and that the experience was the most fun she’d had.
“We made this with love,” she said, referring to the show.
Mulgrew also spoke about how it never ceases to amaze her how thrilling and satisfying it is to have new audiences discover Janeway. Asked how voicing the character differed from playing the live action version, she used the word “liberating” to describe the experience, as he could do things with her voice that she wouldn’t have been able to in person.
She also mentioned that Admiral Edward Jellico, previously Captain Jellico on Star Trek: The Next Generation, would be returning as a foil for Janeway.
And as the characters of Prodigy venture closer to Federation space, they may encounter “legendary” characters…
Star Trek: Picard
Last but certainly not least was the panel that, by the sound of the applause, most of the audience had truly been waiting for: the one and only Picard. The third and final season will see the return of the entire Next Generation cast – Patrick Stewart (Jean-Luc Picard), Jonathan Frakes (William Riker), LeVar Burton (Geordi La Forge), Gates McFaddon (Beverly Crusher), Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troi), Michael Dorn (Worf), and Brent Spiner (Lore… more on that in a moment). They were joined by Kurtzman, Roddenberry, and Executive Producer Terry Matalas.
Following the trailer, which shows the return of Data’s villainous brother/doppelganger Lore, Spiner said that “Lore is back in a complicated way.”
The trailer also revealed the return of the holo-villain Moriarty (played by Daniel Davis). Asked about that, Stewart said that Moriarty being back is “entertaining and threatening”, and hinted that while it’s hard to isolate guest actors and characters across such a long-running series, there was something special about Moriarty in particular.
A third antagonist shown in the trailer is Vadic (played by Amanda Plummer), who was teased as a classic Trek villain.
Dorn spoke of how Worf is on a journey, and has always been on a journey (in the trailer, Worf says that he is now a pacifist – an interesting twist for a Klingon). He also hinted that while the producers included some of his ideas about the character, they also convinced him to change a lot. And so while audiences will recognize a lot of Worf, there will also be much they don’t recognize, which he loves as an actor.
Sirtis was particularly coy when asked about her character, saying only that her storyline is wrapped up in what they weren’t allowed to speak about. She did, however, mention that there would be interesting and different material surrounding Riker and Troi.
Frakes hinted at a potential conflict between Picard and Riker, mentioning that Riker was always supportive of Picard, yet Gene Roddenberry, who famously hated conflict between the Next Generation characters, would have had a “difference of opinion” regarding Riker and Picard’s relationship. Reading between the lines, it sounded like we may be in for a clash of command styles / philosophies in the third season.
Burton joked that the third season righted what was wrong about his character, which was that La Forge was never in a healthy relationship in The Next Generation (or the subsequent films). In season three, Burton will be happily married with two daughters who have followed in the family tradition… one of whom is played by Burton’s own daughter (Mica Burton).
McFaddon said that Crusher has been off on an interstellar Doctors Without Borders type of mission, and that she’s being hunted… and that was all she could say. She also mentioned that she loves everything that her character will get to do in the upcoming season.
Most fans will be familiar with the story of how Stewart only agreed to return to Star Trek if something new would be done with his character, and it seems the same will be true for the entire Next Generation cast. Asked whether his expectations had been met, Stewart said that they had been “fulfilled way beyond anything I could have imagined.” His hope had been to create something original and was initially uneasy about a reunion, but he came around to the idea of bringing everyone back… and maybe bringing everyone together.
Kurtzman mentioned that in a way, the next season would be the last Next Generation movie, told over ten episodes.
Asked whether the show would involve passing the baton to the next generation, Matalas shouted, “Definitely!”