By Ani Bundel
There has never been more Star Trek in the world than at this moment. Even in the 1990s, when the first revival happened with The Next Generation, and it spun off into Deep Space Nine and then Voyager, there was never this much. The sheer amount of series, streaming and in development, was unimaginable to fans once upon a time, not so long ago. When asked by an audience member about the sheer volume of new content, Alex Kurtzman said they were in the business of quality, not quantity.
STAR TREK UNIVERSE panel
The New York Comic Con Empire Stage folded them all into one mega panel on the Empire Stage on Saturday afternoon. The room was packed to the gills with fans, ready to talk Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Prodigy, and Star Trek: Picard.
Discovery Season 5
The first panel started with the series that began the new generation of shows, Star Trek Discovery. Actors Anthony Rapp, Wilson Cruz, and, in a surprise appearance, Sonequa Martin-Green (zooming from the set) joined Kurtzman, Rod Roddenberry, and Michelle Paradise to discuss Season 5.
After an exclusive glimpse at Season 5, the panel discussed Captain Reynar, played by Callum Keith Rennie, plus L’ak and Moll, played by Elias Toufexis and Eve Harlow, a pair of Bonnie & Clyde characters. Rapp and Cruz described Reynar as the cranky counterpart to Green’s Burnham. They also discuss how the show changes tone every season and how it’s always a quest that they come together to solve. Asked about Burnham and Book’s relationship, Green says the conflict between duty and romance, that line between personal and professional, is fascinating to play.
Before the first segment of the Star Trek Universe panel wrapped up, a few audience questions were allowed, including a request for Star Trek: The Musical, and Kurtzman did not say no. Do with that what you will.
Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 Part 2
Prodigy had its original premiere at NYCC 2021, and Season 1 part 2 brought the cast back to celebrate the show’s release during the Star Trek universe panel. Kurtzman and Roddenberry stayed on stage to greet the group, including actors Kate Mulgrew, Brett Gray, and Jameela Jamil, plus series writer Ben Hibon and creators Dan and Kevin Hageman. (Actor Ella Purnell, who was initially scheduled to appear, didn’t make it.)
When asked how she felt about Prodigy being out in the world, Mulgrew said it was amazing, more than Voyager, and she thought her career would never top that and playing the first female starship captain. But Prodigy is vital for a different and perhaps a better reason. It’s Star Trek’s first time targeting the generation of children who are the most impressionable and agree the most with its belief in the good of humanity. She also complimented the Hagermans, calling Prodigy “genius” and thanking them for creating this.
Jamil and Grey grew up as Trek fans; Jamil said she’d been a fan since she was four. She said she couldn’t say yes fast enough and that this was the best thing she’d ever done, period. Also, when asked if Prodigy could cross over with anything, the way Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and Star Trek: Lower Decks will be doing next year, she begged to be part of Picard Season 3, as TNG was her Star Trek growing up.
Asked about the addition of the Borg to Prodigy, Hibon admits it’s not an easy marriage since the Borg is such a complex villain to comprehend. But he thinks the challenge is why it works for the show. It’s working, too. Roddenberry admits his son watched Prodigy and was confused by the concept of a “mid-season break” and demanded his father produce more immediately. Though he couldn’t, the wait will be worth it. Ronny Cox will be reprising his role as Edward Jellico from TNG, now Admiral Jellico, and Billy Campbell will be back as Outrageous Okana.
Prodigy returns with the second half of Season 1 on October 27.
Picard Season 3, aka TNG Season 9
But the highlight of the Star Trek universe panel, and the reason the room was packed, was the TNG reunion. Kurtzman and Roddenberry greeted Picard showrunner Terry Matalas and the crew of The New Generation: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden, Brent Spiner, Marina Sirtis, and Michael Dorn. The standing ovation was tearful as the cast greeted their fans.
The trailer for the final series of Picard/TNG revealed the villains for this round. Matalas confirmed that Amanda Plummer would play “Vadic,” a classic Trek villain with solid, relatable reasons to want vengeance. As for Daniel Davis returning as Professor Moriarty, fans will just have to wait to learn more. And for those who guessed that Spiner would be back as Lore since Data is dead, good job.
When asked to talk about his role as Lore, Spiner said he’d signed so many NDAs he had no idea what he could and couldn’t tell us, while Sirtis quipped she’d signed so many, she felt like one of Trump’s mistresses. (The audience ate it up.) The audience ate up everything, to be honest, giving each actor a massive round of applause when asked about the characters. Of all of them, the biggest came for Worf. Dorn admitted he had to be convinced to change some of the things about his character and went on a journey to find his way to the Worf we’ll meet now.
Sirtis might have spilled some details, but Frakes took her mic away. All he’d admit was that Roddenberry would not love the sheer amount of angsty conflict between Riker and Picard. Burton was braver, telling the audience that when they meet Geordi LaForge, he’ll be married with two grown daughters, one played by Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut and the other by his own daughter, Mica Burton.
Roddenberry said that this reunion was an immense privilege for him as he grew up on the TNG lot, and it was his Star Trek, and how they always felt like a family. Sirtis credited Rodenberry the elder’s casting skills for that and called TNG the last of Gene’s children, the last group he spearheaded assembling.
When asked whether it was possible to satisfy everyone, Kurtzman reminded the crowd Stewart initially refused to do Picard if it was TNG redux. It wasn’t until he worked with Frakes and Sirtis that he first saw that a reunion could work if done right. But to get here, the first two seasons had to be a gradual evolution to get to the point naturally, so they’d earned this reunion. Kurtzman also said there was no way they could have accomplished this had they done a TNG movie because two-three hours could never have gotten the characters to the satisfying conclusion the final episodes do.
As for the audience Q&A portion, other than Sirtis’ request the show reclaim Karl Urban from The Boys, the part worth noting was when the inevitable question came up of whether there will be more. Spiner pointed out they weren’t dead, so who knows? (He’s available to headline his own show, CBS!) Stewart, meanwhile, raised the specter of a movie. Frakes seemed dubious until Stewart pointed out that Star Trek is the rock that holds the Paramount+ mountain up. From the sounds of the audience, the crowd’s enthusiasm, and the love in the room, it seems the man who plays Jean-Luc Picard is still the savviest captain of any ship.
Picard Season 3 (aka TNG Season 9) premieres on February 16, 2023.