Just because Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has ended doesn’t mean that we’re done with the Final Frontier anytime soon, as this star-packed Saturday morning Hall H panel at San Diego Comic-Con makes clear.
Producers and casts from Strange New Worlds, Star Trek: Picard, and the wonderful Star Trek: Lower Decks are forecast to make appearances to tell fans what’s to come in the future, further future, and even further future of Starfleet with both reveals and surprises promised by organizers. (Does this mean that we might get a teaser of the Next Generation cast in the third season of Picard? I can but hope, and trust me, I’m hoping pretty hard.)
Popverse will be liveblogging the entire panel for those who didn’t make it on the Away Team mission into Hall H itself, so bookmark the page and keep your eyes peeled for updates. For those who’d rather, there’s also the option to come back when the panel is over to catch up with everything at once.
As someone sitting here in a packed Hall H, let me tell you: space most definitely the final frontier as we're waiting for the Star Trek panel.
Back to the Future's Lea Thompson is moderating the Star Trek Universe panel! Great Scott!, etc.
Star Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Lower Decks, and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will be represented in this panel. There's a sizzle reel cutting together scenes from all of the Star Trek shows to date - including the 1970s animated show!
"This is so exciting for me," says Thompson, especially because she got to direct two episodes of Star Trek: Picard. The final season of Picard is upcoming, she says. Alex Kurtzman, Rod Roddenberry, Patrick Stewart, and Gates McFadden are now onstage to talk about the final season.
The reunion of the Next Generation crew in the final crew is a "historic moment of sci-fi history," says Thompson. How does season 3 begin? "Hmm, that was a long time ago," Stewart jokes.
Kurtzman says that bringing back the entire Next Generation crew was the first impulse of the people behind Picard, but Stewart asked that everyone hold off. "He said he have to earn it."
At the beginning of season 3, the Enterprise-D crew is in different places across the galaxy. "It's been 20-25 years," says McFadden. "Certainly, Crusher's been all around the universe."
McFadden says that it's great to return to "evolved characters," in the new season, as well as "this incredible man," meaning Stewart. Stewart says that, when expressing concern about how the reunion would go, Kurtzman said, "has nothing happened to you in the last 20 years? That's what we want from you; Picard is a different man [since Next Gen]."
We're going to get to see what the old crew look like! Sizzle reel time: It's Geordi! It's Seven of Nine! It's OLD WORF! Troi, Riker, Crusher, too.
"As long as you remain steadfast, you will never lose hope," says Picard in the voiceover from the teaser. Kurtzman says that Brent Spiner will also appear, as a "new old character."
The final season of Picard is, according to Kurtzman, approached as "the final Next Gen movie." Mentions Wrath of Khan as an inspiration, with the mind games between Kirk and Khan as the "Real North Star" for those writing the season. There is a singular villain for the season, but all they'll reveal is that "she is amazing."
Kurtzman says that the final season of Picard will let fans "feel very home again."
Has returning to Picard been personally fulfilling? "About three seasons into Next Generation, I realized I was beginning to experience Jean-Luc Picard to the degree where I didn't know where he ended and Patrick Stewart began." He says that he was "trusting [himself] to have Jean-Luc Picard inside" him. He said that he originally planned to turn Picard down, but Kurtzman gave a speech to him to change his mind; "I was sold, because the emphasis was, who is Picard?"
Rod Roddenberry, executive producer, talks about being a teenager when Next Generation was being made. "I took a lot of it for granted," he admits, but he became a fan. "I remember my father [Star Trek creator Gene] would bring home the videotapes of the episodes and I would watch them."
Thompson says that, in the teaser, Seven of Nine is back in a Starfleet uniform. Is there a spoiler in there? A lot of Seven's journey in season three of Picard is the tension between who Seven sees herself as, and what Starfleet expects of her.
"I love my job," Stewart says. "The stage is the safest place I can be." Says that, as he gets older, he finds himself able to take more risks, and calls Picard a big risk. Kurtzman says that Picard was a risk for those making the show in part because they didn't want to let Stewart down in particular. "All the writers took that very, very seriously every day."
Fan questions: How would an interaction between Picard and Professor X go? Stewart starts an answer about John De Lancie's Q, then makes a joke about never having learned the alphabet. "The same thing happened with Professor X that happened with Picard," he says, saying that the lines between himself and the character became blurred. "I was always happy to sacrfice Patrick to Jean-Luc Picard and Charles Xavier."
Q: Star Trek has done a good job of boosting the roles of its female characters in recent years - could people imagine a Beverly Crusher or Seven of Nine spin-off? McFadden says that the scripts for Picard season three are the best she thinks Crusher has ever gotten. "There's a lot of unresolved things between Crusher and Picard," she teases. "You really do feel that life has moved forward."
"We carve out new territory in Picard," Stewart says. "We are breaking boundaries all the time and reflecting life as it could be, and I think that is an admirable thing for a television show to do."
Kurtzman says anything is possible, with regards to potential spin-offs. "I can say that you can certainly expect to see more Star Trek shows with female leads," he teases, to applause.
Q: Any chance for an actual Next Generation feature film? Stewart is into the idea, calling it interesting and exciting. "I think that season 3 is that," Kurtzman says. "But, of course, if you guys love it...!"
Q: If he had to choose an actor to play a younger Picard, who would he choose? "I find it very difficult to answer that question," he says, because he sees himself as so close to the character. "Someone with the feelings and the spirit, particularly when he watches Picard and particularly season 3, because that's where the surprises and shocks really come."
Stewart thanks Comic-Con for supporting him through so many different projects. "It's a wonderful experience to be here," he says, and that he's very grateful to come back.
Thompson asks if Picard gets to sit in the Captain's chair in the final season of Picard. He dodges the questions by asking what chair they were referring to. "We do return to the original Enterprise for awhile," he says, "and I had completely forgotten that, in those days, we had carpet on the floor! So that's some of the advances that have been made."
Stewart and McFadden leave the stage, with McFadden joking that anyone who needs surgery should come and see her: "I have a lot of Crusher in me, so find me backstage."
Now we're talking Star Trek: Lower Decks with showrunner Mike McMahan, as well as cast members Dawnn Lewis, Tawny Newsome, Jack Quaid, and Noël Wells. (Kurtzman and Roddenberry are also still on stage.)
McMahan says that he's so excited to be at Comic-Con now that people have actually seen the show. Newsome says that it's "incredible" to be in Star Trek. "It's amazing, it's the only military I would ever join!"
Tawny Newsome is telling the crowd that she's mad that everyone doesn't record together anymore. "Just put an iPhone in the center of the room and let us spit in each other's faces! What's so wrong with that?"
Jack Quaid says he also has beef with McMahan because there's a scene in a script where his character is working in the valley at Boimler Family Raisins, and now he wants real, branded Boimler Family Raisins. "I'm so glad that you guys save your beef for Hall H," McMahan says.
Wells says that she's so excited to watch the final episodes, because there's so much in the finished shows that aren't in the scripts. "I'm just a voice, and to get to see what's built around it, it's amazing." McMahan says that the artists are working up to Wells' performance, that's why there's so much more in the finished episodes.
Lewis says that she's been watching Star Trek since the original series. "When I got the call to audition for the show, we were not told it was Star Trek. We weren't given the name, I was Captain McDuck." When she found out it was Star Trek, she called her brothers and they didn't believe her.
Lewis says that Nichelle Nichols inspired her, and when she got to meet her, she cried and couldn't speak. She's crying about how inspired she was by Nichols, and now she's crying about the opportunity to inspire others that same way; she's crying about how happy she is. The crowd is applauding, and it's genuinely touching.
Roddenberry asks when Mike McMahan will appear as a character in Lower Decks. He admits that he's going to show up as a background Vulcan in the new season.
It's time for a trailer for Lower Decks season 3.
The characters are hanging out in Sisko's restaurant on Earth, because this whole show is filled with amazing easter eggs. (Also, apparently they're visiting Deep Space Nine this season?!?)
Season three begins August 25.
McMahan promises that, yes, the show is going into Deep Space Nine. "You might see some friendly faces in there. It's a really great episode, I can't wait for you guys to see it." (I, personally, am very very excited about this.)
Thompson just reminded everyone that Lower Decks is actually part of Star Trek canon, and asks how everyone keeps everything straight. Kurtzman says that showrunners get together every two months to update each other about what they're working on to make sure no-one is stepping on each others' shows. "It spoils everybody else's shows!" complains McMahan.
Rodenberry admits that he was unsure how a Star Trek comedy would work out, and credits McMahan and the cast with "doing it and nailing it."
"We had a classic Trek cliffhanger at the end of last season," Quaid says. "Yeah, it was rough," Newsome says. Season 3 starts with the crew looking for their mother. "It feels like a movie!" They're also talking about how much they love their Earth outfits. "I got a vest, y'all!" says Quaid. "It's a full-on Jake Sisko vest," agrees Newsome.
Quaid says that Boimler is one of his favorite roles he's ever had the chance to play, because he's actually grown across the series. "I'm actually proud of him!" he jokes. "He's got a vest!"
Lewis says that she gets tired after playing Captain Freeman, because she's always so high strung. McMahan promises more laidback Freeman in the future, but Lewis thinks that he's lying.
McMahan teases what's upcoming in season 3: epic episodes, heartfelt episodes, and more. "There was a little while when we didn't have any Star Trek, and that was a very bad time." On August 25, it'll be the start of a run of ten new episodes of Lower Decks, he says.
Fan question: Can we get Coneheads in Star Trek? (This asked by a cosplayer who's a Conehead Starfleet officer.) "Who owns the righs to the Coneheads?" asks Kurtzman. "I'll make it happen!" jokes Quaid.
Q: How do the savage Gorns in Strange New Worlds make sense with the Gorn wedding joked about in Lower Decks? "Please don't stereotype Gorns," jokes Newsome.
Before the Lower Decks portion of the panel ends, Dawnn Lewis thanks the crowd for embracing the show. "Last time we were here, we didn't have anything to show you guys, but you took this journey with us!" Quaid demands a "Lower Decks" chant, and the crowd happily obliges, and then they all leave the stage surprisingly quickly.
Now it's a recap of the first season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds for those who didn't watch. (You should, if that's you; it's really good.)
A lot of Strange New World people are here: showrunner Henry Alonso Meyers, as well as cast members Anson Mount Ethan Peck, Christina Chong, Celia Rose Gooding, and Paul Wesley are all coming on stage.
Jack Quaid and Tawny Newsome just crashed the panel, because... there's a Lower Decks/Strange New Worlds crossover episode in season 2 of Strange New Worlds?!?
We'll get to see a live action Newsome and Quaid in Strange New Worlds! We'll get to see cartoon versions of the Strange New Worlds cast! I am very excited about this.
Meyers said that it came about because the Strange New Worlds writing staff are really big fans of Lower Decks. It started as a joke that became real. "It sort of wrote itself."
Asked about fan reaction, Mount plays it cool: "You learn not to have expectations in this line of work. I did not expect this level of appreciation." Rodenberry says that Strange New Worlds happened because fans loved Mount's Pike in the second season of Discovery, so he wasn't as surprised as Mount.
Peck is saying that going from Discovery to Strange New Worlds was "a dream come true." Mount: "I remember saying to Alex Kurtzman, 'You guys are spending a lot of money on this bridge, it'd be a shame to waste it.'"
"We have so much fun at work together," says Mount. "When we worked together on Discovery, we were like, 'is this a thing? This feels like a thing," remembers Peck.
Gooding says that she's so excited to continue to play Uhura, saying that it's all thanks to the work of Nichelle Nichols. Also, she says that "we'll get more about musical Uhura if I have anything to do with it."
Christina Chong tells the crowd that it's Paul Wesley's birthday today, and now we're all singing Happy Birthday to him. "I hate you," Wesley says. Now that we've finished signing he tells the crowd that, backstage, he told Chong that the one thing he asked was that she didn't get people to sing happy birthday to him. Bad news, Paul. But he did get cake!
How does Chong feel about being related to Khan? "Obviously, La'an is very different," she says, although they're both good leaders, very tactical, and good fighters. But, she teases, maybe we'll get to see. a version of the character that takes more after Khan in the new season.
Mount talks about the episodic nature of the show. "My taste as a viewer has always been serialized, but we knew earlier in conversations that this needed to be planet of the week kind of thing, but... that allows us to play with the mood in the way it's presented," he says. "We took some big swings in season one, but we're going for the fences in season two."
Kurtzman says that the choice of the Gorn as season villains came while planning the show originally. "I don't think it's the only time you'll ever see the Gorn. The lore of them, and the way it's presented, I think we'll see a lot of them."
Gooding says that the Hemmer character was essential to who Uhura is; she's talking about Nichelle Nichols being pursuaded to stay on Star Trek in the 1960s by Dr. Martin Luther King, and the ways in which that real life event was mirrored by the mentorship of Hemmer in the first season. "He was such a mentor and friend, and father figure," she says. Losing the character broke her heart, she continues, but teases that Hemmer's influence and memory will influence Uhura's actions going forward.
Peck is wearing a shirt that says "My Species Initiated First Contact and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt," I should note.
Talking about the final episode of the first season, Myers says that writers had been planning what they called "The Ghost of Pikemas Trek" for some time, where a classic original series episode would be remade featuring the Strange New Worlds characters. Balance of Terror was chosen simply because Myers really loves the episode.
Wesley talks about getting William Shatner's approval, and says that it was "such a classy move." "His support means everything, I mean, truly," he says. What should fans expect from Kirk in season 2? "I'm looking forward to viewers seeing a different side of Kirk. He's a much younger Kirk, he hasn't developed into the Kirk that people know." He's more fun, much lighter, he says.
Mount is talking about shooting in front of an AR wall - similar to the way that Disney+'s Mandalorian is filmed, in a real time virtual environment. "It gives a size to the show that could never have happened before." Kurtzman says that the show feels huge, in part because of this virtual work that exists ahead of time. "You can point the camera in any direction at any time, and it costs the same."
Are there teases that can be offered for season 2? "If you thought episode 8 was a bit out there, in season 2, there's an episode that tops that," says Gooding. "We do some things that Star Trek has never done before," teases Myers.
Fan question time: who was responsible for Captain Pike's growing quiff? "I will relate that question to my hair, and he will get back to me," Mount jokes, before crediting the hair department. "The hair memes have been fantastic," he adds, laughing. "I don't know what else to [say]."
Q: Will there be an explanation of Dr. M'Benga's position on the ship, as he wasn't the ship's doctor during the original series? Myers says that they're trying to deepen the mythology of the series, but he plans on keeping the character around for some time.
Q: A high school teacher asks if Spock's dyslexia (established in Discovery) will be explored more in the future, or any other learning difficulties? "Star Trek uniquely gets to carry those kinds of conversations as a form of empowerment," says Kurtzman. "If you can't see it, you can't be it, right?"
Q: Will Star Trek feature a deaf character? Kurtzman says that's a great idea, and one that will be factored into the next two shows currently being developed.
Q: Will the images from the James Webb telescope impact the way Star Trek imagines space? "We don't have to keep making space," Rodenberry says. "We can use these images."
Q: Not Strange New Worlds related, but could there be a return to Deep Space Nine? Kurtzman says that he doesn't want to spoil anything, but acknowledges that Sisko is a "critical, critical figure" to Star Trek. Conversations have been had, but the central issue is wanting to tell a new story, and not just repeat what had come before.
Q: How was it to play the fantasy episode? Gooding says that she loved to wear the different costumes, as well as playing a fairy tale evil queen. "It was fantastic, I hope we get to do something like that again, this is my formal ask."
We're at the time to wrap things up, and Thompson is talking about the importance of the franchise to champion diversity, inclusion, and hope, and thanking the cast, crew, and even the fans here in this room for making that happen.
And, with one last yell of "Live long and prosper," it's all over! Thanks for reading along, everyone.