By Kelas Lloyd
With the longest consecutive run of at least one episode of Star Trek a week, from August 12th, 2021 until July 7th, 2022, and the most Trek shows ever in production and airing, it’s a good time to be a Star Trek fan. All five shows – Discovery, Picard, Lower Decks, Prodigy, and Strange New Worlds – have new seasons coming up. Paramount Plus came to San Diego Comic Con to give us an update to tide us over until August 25th, when episodes resume.
Star Trek: Picard ended with most of the crew back in their timeline, with the exception of Christóbal Rios (Santiago Cabrara) and the certain news that he, Agnes Jurati (Allison Pill), and Elnor (Evan Evagoria) would not be returning to the show. There’s speculation that Laris (Orla Brady) and Soji/Kore/Dahj (Isa Brones) will not return either. It paired that with the announcement of several characters and actors from the Next Generation showing up in Picard season three, but what does that mean for the newer characters we’ve come to know and love? What happens with the altered Borg when their new Borg Queen isn’t coming back?
The panel at San Diego Comic-con this week answered nearly none of these questions except that Seven is a Captain, exploring her identity as a person and as a person in Starfleet. They said she has “a certain first officer,” with the implication being that that’s Raffi, but nothing specific was shown regarding Raffi other than her brief appearance in the season three trailer.
Picard, according to Alex Kurtzman, needed to earn the return of the crew from The Next Generation, and not just as cameos. While Raffi and Seven will be returning in the third and final season of Picard, the focus will be on bringing us up to speed with the old crew, where they are and who they’ve become. There will be a powerful female villain, and Brent Spiner will return in a new/old role which makes me in particular wonder if they’re finding a way to bring back Lore.
Season three will be, in the panel’s words, the final Next Generation movie. It’s meant to be a love letter to TNG, and it’s clear both Patrick Stewart and Gates McFadden are happy with the result, and are confident we’ll be happy as well. It’s been a long journey for Patrick Stewart, and he seems at peace with this chapter in his life ending, bidding Hall H goodbye for, in his words, possibly the last time.
Lower Decks ended on Captain Freeman being arrested, blamed for an explosion caused by the Pakled (and tangentially the Romulans.) We can expect the crew of the Cerritos to rally behind her and try to get her free, but how? Are the writers aware that the Pakled are seen as an analogue for the mentally disabled? Mike Mahan said in Wil Weaton’s Ready Room that he was proud of how Lower Decks never punched down at Star Trek, but the disabled are being punched down at; will that change? Will the Cerritos have to deal with Acting Captain Ransom? What’s going to come of Mariner and Jennifer, when Mariner’s distracted by her mom being locked up? Why and how is an Andorian named Jennifer?
It seems our four Lower Decks crew are going to follow the age-old tradition of stealing their starship, though it’s unclear if this is related to rescuing Captain Freeman. What’s clear is that they’re about to engage in all sorts of antics as they try to clear her name and get her back, and what’s also clear (and heavily anticipated,) is that the Cerritos will be traveling to Deep Space 9.
Head writer Mike Mahan said that not only will we see the station, we’re going inside in a final farewell to it and meeting at least one person onboard. Speculation immediately started as to who that might be, and a question later on had Kurtzman trying to talk about Deep Space Nine “without revealing anything” so there might be hope for more regarding this deeply beloved and often overlooked Star Trek show.
In more concrete news, the cast is very excited about their casual earth outfits… and their upcoming crossover episode with Strange New Worlds in SNW season 2.
Speaking of the newest entry in the Star Trek universe, Strange New Worlds was well-represented. Christopher Pike has come back from the future to show his past self what happens when he tries to avoid the disability he chose to accept previously, and we saw a welcome return of the traditional Romulans as well as a new James T. Kirk. It’s fitting that Star Trek brought back the Romulans in this day and age; their facist civilization highlighted the risks and importance of standing up to fascists (Alidar Jarok,) and showed that evil can have a charming, affable face (Tomalak.) The show wants to ask the question of if there’s a way to save the future and keep the current timeline, the one where Pike does not become disabled. Disabled people would like to know why Star Trek hasn’t stopped and thought about how technology has changed since Pike’s first appearance in the 1960s and why the show keeps equating disability with death and ruin. But there are two more lingering questions: will beloved security chief La’an be returning in season 2 after announcing she was leaving for mental health treatment in the second-to last episode, and how will the crew of the Enterprise save Una from trial and imprisonment?
The Strange New Worlds panel had no answers to basically anything. We did find out that Spock will deal more with his dyslexia, that La’an may deal with Khan’s legacy (so now we know for sure she’s coming back,) that Uhura will carry Hemmer’s mentorship with her, and that several episodes are out there on level with episode 8 of season one, the fairytale episode, but there were few other specifics to be gleaned which seems odd when we know filming has wrapped.
One thing that stood out to me from the question and answer session was that Kurtzman feels it’s Trek’s duty to show and represent disability. He genuinely seemed excited to do more with it, but there was no consideration about the types of stories they’re telling when they don’t have disabled writers or consultants working on the shows. There are more shows coming, there’s more disability representation coming, but without the input of disabled people it may still continue to fall short of actually telling our stories or really representing us.
We’re in an exciting era for Star Trek content, with fantastic casts and crews continuing to push forward what Star Trek means and does. Here’s looking forward to the next seasons of all five current shows and what’s to come.
Star Trek: Lower Decks season 3 will begin to air its ten episodes on Paramount+ on August 25th.
Miss any of The Beat’s earlier SDCC ’22 Coverage? Find it all here!