NYCC 2023: Takeaways from the Star Trek Universe

Highlights from the Star Trek panel

Last week’s Star Trek panel at New York Comic Con was quite sparse in terms of speakers, in stark contrast to 2022’s star-studded session. With SAG-AFTRA still on strike, only executive producer Alex Kurtzman and Lower Decks creator Mike McMahan were listed as panelists. Fans were treated to a surprise appearance by Kid Cudi, who was present to discuss his “Boldly Be” collaboration with Star Trek, as well as an early screening of the Lower Decks episode “Caves.”

While getting to see a Lower Decks episode with a room full of laughing and cheering fans was fun, one got the sense that the session was attempting to fill the time left empty by the lack of actors.

Below are a few takeaways from the panel:

Star Trek: Prodigy is back thanks to the fans

Alex Kurtzman at NYCC 2023, with moderator Josh Horowitz

The panel opened with Kurtzman addressing the elephant in the room: Star Trek: Prodigy is back! Thanks to dedicated fans’ efforts to save the show, Prodigy found a new home at Netflix, where the second season will air.

Star Trek: Prodigy is back because you guys brought it back,” he said, then added that Star Trek has always belonged to two entities: Gene Roddenberry and the fans. “So from the bottom of my heart, because we love Star Trek: Prodigy so much, and Dan and Kevin Hageman, and Kate [Mulgrew] and the entire cast and crew, I just want to be able to thank you. Thank you so much for what you did, it was incredible, truly.”

Kid Cudi “Boldy Be” collaboration launches

Alex Kurtzman and Kid Cudi at NYCC 2023, with moderator Josh Horowitz

Musician, fashion designer, and Trek fan Scott Mescudi, known as Kid Cudi, came onstage as a surprise guest, joining Kurtzman on stage after a video previewing the Star Trek x Kid Cudi “Boldly Be” collaboration, which includes a Star Trek-themed song, Fortnight game tie-in, and streetwear line.

“I’ve been a Trek fan since I was a kid,” Cudi said. “My dad kind of got me hooked, and you know, when this opportunity came, it was like ‘wow, this is a full circle moment,’ you know, to be able to do something and to possibly be able to make a song dedicated to my father, and to just be involved in this universe, was just like a dream come true.” Cudi also spoke of being a lifelong fan of space and science fiction.

As for why Cudi was the right artist to collaborate with, Kurtzman said, “You are watching an artist who is both of his time and ahead of his time… He’s always been talking about a lot of the issues that Star Trek represents, which is reaching for something brighter, finding the best in yourself, the idea that our better angels will endure.”

The streetwear collection debuted at NYCC in a special capsule display booth, the Fortnight gaming experience is now live, and the song, “Heaven’s Galaxy,” inspired by Cudi’s Star Trek fandom, is available on streaming platforms.

Lower Decks was originally going to wait until the end of the season to promote the crew.

Alex Kurtzman and Mike McMahan at NYCC 2023, with moderator Josh Horowitz

Fans present at the panel were treated to an early screening of the Lower Decks episode 408, “Caves,” and the energy was palpable. After, Mike McMahan came onstage.

“What we did, watching an episode with you all, I’ve never gotten to do,” McMahan said, visibly excited about having been able to see a live fan reaction to the show.

He then went on to discuss how the original plan for Lower Decks had been to promote the crew at the end of Season 4.

“We weren’t originally going to promote them this soon,” he said. “When we started talking about season 4, I was like, ‘Let’s end the season with them getting promoted. I have a bunch of fun ideas.’ And then it was like, if I already have fun ideas, and it is hard to write a show, why don’t we just do it at the beginning of the season and not delay it? So doing it at the end of the first episode, it opened up all these storytelling opportunities.”

As for the question of whether Lower Decks can still be Lower Decks if the crew gets promoted, McMahan said, “They’re Lieutenant Junior Grade. The word ‘junior’ is in their title. Lower Decks is all based on being in your 20s and early 30s. You’re getting your first jobs. You’re meeting your best friends you didn’t know you were going to meet. You’re still yourself and you’re learning about yourself at the same time and having the responsibilities… All this season is examining what it’s like when you are still lower decks but you are moving forward and what are the challenges that creates and what comedy does that create and what crazy sci fi adventures come from that?”

Lower Decks was created to be a comfort watch and respectful of the legacy series

After talking about how special Trek fandom is, and the communities and found families that are often built around it, McMahan discussed the deliberately comforting nature of the show.

Trek is something you put on to share with other people that love this, but it’s also what you put on when you’re at your lowest, and you need something that’s comforting,” he said. “We’re trying to do that with Lower Decks too.”

While Lower Decks is a comedy, McMahan talked about the special care taken to keep the humor respectful of legacy Star Trek.

“When we have characters from other Star Trek show up, that’s always a huge deal because if they’re going to be on screen, there’s such a gravitational pull of emotion and attention that we have to be honoring them,” he said. “But we also have to be building and respecting what they created before. And it’s in a comedy environment that we can never punch down. I never want to make fun of these performers. I love their work, and you want them to be able to be a part of the fun. You don’t want them to be like Superintendent Chalmers showing up and being like, ‘What’s all this fun in Star Trek!’ Because they are fun too.”

Big things are coming for Lower Decks

“The last couple of episodes for this season are a big swing, and I am really proud of them and I cannot wait for you to see them,” McMahan said. “We held them off [from the press] because I don’t even want a breath of what happens in them to get out. And it just feels like the ultimate Star Trek, the ultimate Lower Decks.”

McMahan also mentioned that he was in the process of finishing the writing process for Season 5, and, in response to a fan question, indicated that there were plans to visit more home worlds (like Orion in Season 4).

“I love in Lower Decks going to monocultures and making them less monocultural and getting to see more,” he said. I loved doing that on Orion as well… I love how Tendi isn’t like other how other Orions had been depicted. And we do a lot more on Orion in season 5, actually. So, I love being on Orion. Ferenginar was a real Deep Space Nine thing, we were honoring Deep Space Nine. They’d done a good job, but I really wanted to see sort of what the initial steps of Rom and Leeta’s leadership was. And I love Chase Masterson. That was kind of the impetus. Getting the work of Chase was why we went to Ferenginar. But yes, I would love to very carefully—if the planet is one you didn’t think we were going to dive into, those are the ones I want to go to.”

Star Trek: Discovery’s fifth season has been completed

After the deep-dive on Lower Decks, Kurtzman gave a quick update on the status of each of the Star Treks.

“We have finished [Star Trek: Discovery‘s fifth and final season]; it will be airing early next year,” Kurtzman said. It’s an incredibly, I think, satisfying ending to a show that is so near and dear to my heart. Sonequa Martin-Green gave the performance of her life. I think you guys… you’re gonna love it.”

Strange New Worlds is in the works despite strike challenges

“Season 3 was just about to start before the strikes, so we are now back on our feet, and everything’s kind of getting resettled, schedules are shifting around, but it’s definitely in the works, and we cannot wait,” Kurtzman said.

Starfleet Academy will be a different kind of Star Trek show

“We’re back in the writers room,” Kurtzman said. “We’re officially going to start shooting next year. The amazing Noga Landau and I are running it. For all the Nancy Drew fans out there, she’s incredible, and it’s been… first of all, it’s the greatest writing staff. We had so much joy just getting each other through the strike, saying connected through it, but then coming back into the room and working was so wonderful. We just came back this week, as a matter of fact. One of our writers is in fact Tawny Newsome, which is really exciting.”

“She loves it!” McMahan interjected.

“What I’m so excited about with Starfleet Academy is that… it’s really important that every show really has its own distinct identity,” Kurtzman said. “Otherwise, what’s the difference between one and the other? And I think people… fans have been waiting almost 60 years to go inside the chocolate factory and see what it’s like in there. And when you’re in Starfleet Academy, you’re not yet on a ship proper, and so you get to make mistakes, and you get to learn who you are and figure all that out.”

Michelle Yeoh essentially made the Section 31 film happen

Regarding the Section 31 film, he said, “So we are back on our feet after the strike with Section 31. It is happening. Michelle [Yeoh] is just the most extraordinary person on every level. She had one of one of the most unbelievable years that anybody could ever have in the history of ever, and she had a million opportunities to hit the jackpot on it and do other things. And what she did with all of the power she had accrued is make sure that Section 31 was moving forward.”

Mary Fan
Mary Fan
Mary Fan is a Jersey City-based author of sci-fi/fantasy. Her books include Stronger than a Bronze Dragon, the Starswept Trilogy, the Jane Colt Trilogy, the Flynn Nightsider series, and the Fated Stars series. She is also the co-editor of the Brave New Girls sci-fi anthologies about girls in STEM.

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