Discovery. Picard. Lower Decks. And that’s just the start of the topics covered at CBS’s wide-ranging 'Enter the Star Trek Universe' panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2019.
Though the return of some familiar faces on Picard was probably the highlight of the Hall H panel, fans learned so much more about these upcoming CBS All Access streaming shows. Characters, intentions, tones and much, much more. Things started with Discovery.
After the shocking finale earlier this year, executive producer Alex Kurtzman was quick to explain that despite the series now being set further in the future than any other Trek series ever (1000 years!), they are going to honour the canon. He said there will be things you recognise, things you don’t and while they’re shaking things up, they aren’t erasing anything. “Don’t worry,” he said. “It’s still Star Trek and it will always be Star Trek the way Gene Roddenberry wanted it.”
The season will introduce a new character named Book, played by Supergirl’s David Ajala. Ajala said the character is mischievous, he breaks the rules a little bit. And, they’ll get to that right from the start of the season. What that means, we aren’t sure, but Sonequa Martin-Green did say that at the start of the season they do not end up on the safe haven world of Terralysium like they planned. They’re somewhere else and, the fact that it’s a new planet no one knows anything about really allows them to explore the show’s title. It’s all about discovery. But “there are big problems on the other side of that wormhole”, Ajala added.
Beyond that though, while the first season introduced the Discovery crew as a family and season two solidified it, the cast and crew see season three is really about the fully functioning family unit of all your favourite characters. After all, they did choose to leave everything and everyone else behind. Now they only have each other. However, Kurtzman would not definitively say if the left-behind Spock, Pike and Number One would get their own spinoff show or who the new Captain of the Discovery is.
After Discovery the panel pivoted to Lower Decks, a half-hour animated show from Mike McMahan about a group of four ensigns on what he described as “a not important ship in Starfleet”. A ship, it was later revealed, would be called the USS Cerritos, a California class ship, a new class of starship made for the show. The main characters are Ensign Beckett Mariner (voiced by Tawny Newsome), Ensign Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid), Ensign Tendi (Noël Wells), and Ensign Rutherford (Eugene Cordero).
Beckett Mariner was described as someone who is very good at being in Starfleet but cares more about skateboarding than working, so she never gets promoted. Boimler is academic, but way too in his head and nervous. Tendi is a super enthusiastic medical officer who starts the show on her first day in Starfleet. And Rutherford was compared to Geordi La Forge... except that he can never get anything done or solved. Plus, he just had a cyborg eye put in, so he’s still dealing with it.
Those crewmembers are the main characters of the show, but another crew, the Bridge crew, doesn’t know that. Captain Carol Freeman (voiced by Dawnn Lewis), Commander Jack Ransom (Jerry O’Connell), Lieutenant Shaxs (Fred Tatasciore), and Doctor T’ Ana (Gillian Vigman), think they are the main characters of the show. But they’re not.
McMahan said the show won’t poke fun at Star Trek. It’s a part of Star Trek and will get its humour from its characters, much like The Simpsons. And while it certainly could be a good place for people who aren’t Star Trek fans to dive into the franchise, it will be filled with references to the show to delight invested fans.
Finally, the Picard portion of the panel. And yes, the trailer was the highlight.
But that was just the start of it. Sir Patrick Stewart took the Hall H stage to raucous applause and explained for years he was trepidatious about returning to this role but, after pushing the creators for a new way in, they came up with a story and take he really liked. Something that the creators found while exploring what Star Trek meant to them.
However, it had to be different. It had to be justified in its existence as part of Star Trek canon. And so the resulting show was described, many times, as “more lyrical, more grounded and more dramatic”. To achieve that showrunner Michael Chabon said that, in writing the show, he leans heavily on Stewart’s knowledge of the character. Not just for larger things but line by line too.
Producer Akiva Goldsman explained that fans expecting a sequel to The Next Generation should not think Picard is that exactly. It’s a bit of a hybrid, he said – slower, more gentle, more character-based. He called it “a new kind of Star Trek show made by people who love old Star Trek shows”.
Among those people were the other cast members on the panel. However, and very few could say anything about who their characters are. Alison Pill said her character was a researcher. Michelle Hurd said her character had a connection to Picard’s past. Santiago Cabrera is an ex-member of Starfleet who is reluctant to join Picard. Things like that.
Ultimately though, according to Kurtzman, Star Trek: Picard is going to show the return of a leader who feels like he’s right for now. A leader who has only changed in that he’s older, but not in what he believes in. Picard is soul searching but still fighting, just with less resources than he’s had in the past. So, to achieve his goals, he’ll have to dig deeper.
Again, Star Trek: Discovery season 3, Star Trek: Picard and Star Trek: Lower Decks all come to CBS All Access in the U.S. in 2020, with Discovery presumably returning to Netflix and Picard beaming over to Amazon Prime Video in the UK.
All images: CBS