NYCC 2019: Star Trek Universe Panel Recap

Today at Madison Square Garden, New York Comic Con went offsite to deliver a Star Trek Universe panel, centering on CBS All Access's Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard. Hosted by CBS This Morning's Vladimir Duthiers, the panel kicked off at 1 p.m. ET, and also featured a look at the animated Star Trek: Lower Decks. You can check out the livestream via Syfy Wire above, and read below for the highlights as they happen. Panelists included Michelle Paradise, Heather Kadin, Alex Kurtzman, Sonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones, Mary Wiseman, Anthony Rapp, Wilson Cruz, and David Ajala for Discovery, followed by representatives from the other series.

Duthiers opened the panel by asking what went into the decision to head so far into the future.

"The beauty of the promsie of what we did at the end of last season is that if we don't deliver you something that is completely surprising, then I think we have failed," Kurtzman said. "Canon existed. We're not rewriting canon, we're not changing it, there's not timeline adjustments, and the events of canon have absolutely affected what happens in the future."

Before moving on to talk with Martin-Green, she introduced a clip from the upcoming third season.

Duthiers asked Martin-Green after the fact about her character's arc over the first two seasons.

"I'm so grateful to the writers becuase I feel that everything is handled with such courage and respect and also gentleness. I love the idea of being able to change as rapidly as I've been changing. There's been a pendulum swing...because it was just a matter of everything rushing out after it's been capped down for so long."

She says that the journey of discovery helps the audience to be able to relate to the show's characters as they are on a journey to become who they need to be.

Paradise says that they feel like every episode needs to "feel like a mini-movie" and that from both the character and production value standpoint, they have to live up to fan expectations.

"I think what's been nice about this show in general is you didn't have to know canon to come into the show," Kadin said. "I think becuase our cast is magnetic, you can just come in. You don't need to know what came before. You want to be with those people and experience what they're experiencing and you as the audience will experience the newness as something they're experiencing for the first time."

"We're talking almost a thousand years in the future; it couldn't possibly look like how it looked before they jump," Kurtzman said. "We look around and we see a lot of disappointment and a lot of confusion and a lot of disconnection....Trek is the ultimate beacon of hope, so if you go into a future that doesn't look like quite what you expected it to be, Trek is the anchor that brings you back to hope."

He added that in that sense, the show is hoping to have something to say about the world as it is now, reflected in the future seen onscreen.

Ajala says that fans will meet his character in the premiere, and that his interactions with Martin-Green are "unorthodox and surprising."

"As you guys are going to be watching and exploring the new world, you'll also be seeing it through Book's eyes and Burnham's eyes," he said.

He said that he was always aware of Trek, but didn't understand what his role would be. Once they explained it, he said he took the job based on "pure ego," because it would "hurt me" to see someone else playing the role.

Cruz and said that his character finally realized what he needed all along.

"I think what he's discovered is this presents an opportunity for him to create the life that he's always deserved," Cruz said. "This trip into the future is a clean slate for him, for this relationship, and to create the kind of person that he feels he should have always been and to live up to his potential."

Duthiers said that he feels like Rapp's character is the most giving on the show.

"I think that's true. You've got to be worthy of it, but if you're worthy of it, yeah, loyalty forever," Rapp said.

"I think that Stamets is a little toughter to please than I am but I think he's teaching me something about making sure you have certain standards or boundaries....One of the things I think is so special about what the writers brought into season three is that...they're allowing everyone to reckon with, and to imagine on a personal level what it's like to leave everything behind and what that might do to people, to have to say goodbye to everything but also to say hello to this new thing."

"We are going to start operating without a roadmap in a very real way," Wiseman said. "It's not a time to wilt or to step back; it's a time for her to step forward."

She added that fans are going to see why people have gravitated toward her despite her low rank and stature.

"There an aptitude and there's real strength there, and I think you're going to see that happen this season even more," she said.

Jones said that his character is going to explore living without fear, and that "whatever you're afraid of might be not real; it might be made up. We just need to cut those ganglia up and move on."

He said that there's no clear answer yet whether Saru or Burnham will end up taking over as Captain of the Discovery.

"The relationship between Burnham and Saru to has been quite an evolution," he said. "We're kind of a chosen brother and sister....When you meet us in season one, we're competitive and argumentative then we become mistrusting and foregiveness happens and then in season two we become so close."

Martin-Green said that "duty called for us to go to the future," and that the impact of that move reverberated through the rest of the season.

"What these writers do is show that fight for personal identity and the fitht for collective ideantity," she said. "You've seen all these different revolutions in each person and those aren't revolutions we've seen in other iterations" because Discovery is explicitly about "the ugly truths of fighting for a utopian culture, and what it means to be a part of it, and what that duty does to you."

She said that the crew will have to grapple with how that's going to affect how they see themselves and how they are going to navigate it.

Next, on Short Treks, Kurtzman said that they heard fans as to how beloved Spock, Pike, and the rest were. The first of them has dropped today, and they play a clip from it, written by Picard showrunner Michael Chabon.

Kurtzman said, after a fan shouted to give Pike his own show, that he loves the idea.

The first audience question (officially) was whether the over-arching storyline will continue into the third season.

"We have a serialized story that will take us from beginning to end," but there will still be some stand-alones, according to Paradise.

Asked whether they would return to the 23rd century in the future, Kurtzman said that he doens't have plans on Discovery to do so, but "I think that obviously there's many shows that are in the works now and they will be in different timelines, so anythign is possible. We take canon very very seriously and are not looking to negate anything that happened and the amazing work of many writers over the last 50 years."

Wiseman admitted that her characters are homesick for their timeline, but "our true homes are on Discovery and the people we work with on Discovery." She said that they will nevertheless grapple with their losses this season.

"A lot of us have kids, too, so that's been a big factor" in trying to balance entertainment and aspirational storytelling, Kadin said, adding that the serialized story speaks to audiences slightly differently than previous formats for Trek.

"We're all up here talking about those character moments," she added, "That's the stuff that lands."

Another fan talked about the show's importance to TV history and popular culture, then asked how it feels as writers and actors to be part of that legacy.

"They're teaching Star Trek in history classes," Rapp said.

"It feels enormous and giant and a huge honor and right now, especially in 2019, feels vital and deeply meaningful," Kurtzman said.

"To be a part of a cast that looks like this and having writers who look like they do, who are bringing a diverse life experience and using that experience to tell these stories specifically" is what appeals to Cruz. "I think Alex touched on this a bit earlier -- that we're living in a moment where it's so easy to dismiss someone because they think differently than you do....And I think what we're finding this season is that we're not so different...and the sooner we connec to that, the sooner we can come together an solve some of these problems."

A fan asked whether Captain Nog might be made canon because of the recent passing of Aron Eisenberg.

"We saw that petition and obviously we would love to honor Aaron in any way possible, so we will look for any opportunity," promised Kurtzman.

The next question was about how Calypso ties in to the future, and Kurtzman said that they may explore that.

Next up was Picard, with a panel composed of Hannelle Culpepper, Kristen Beyer, Heather Kadin, Akiva Goldsman, Chabon, Kurtzman, Sir Patrick Stewart, Isa Briones, Santiago Cabrera, Michelle Hurd, Alison Pill, Harry Treadway, and Evan Evagora.

Goldsman said that the show "very quickly went form job to opportunity," but that the biggest goal was not to screw it up.

They cut to Stewart, who introduced a second trailer.

According to Kurtzman, the idea for the series originally became a Short Trek episode, but they tried to get a meeting set up anyway. He said that Stewart walked into the room very dead-set against a return. A few days later, though, he requested a four-page document for him to look over. Instead, Chabon wrote something that was 35 pages long. When they next saw Stewart walked into the room smiling and they knew it was going to happen.

Kadin said that the inclusion of The Next Generation talent was a thoughtful one. "We did not want it to be a TNG reunion show," she said. "We only brought people back if their story really mattered to the story we were telling....I doin't think the fans would have appreciated that, either, and it was important to Patrick that if we're going to go to them and join a show that's called Picard that we give them something significant to do." She said that "each one of them has a pivotal, emotional story to tell in our ten episodes."

Briones's character will be a way in to Picard for those who aren't huge TNG fans, but they also know that Stewart's fans will be coming in droves.

"We wanted it to be a realtime follow-up to where we last saw Picard," Goldsman said, adding there are hints of things and some basic backstory in the show, but they know everything that has happened in those 20 years.

Duthiers asked what it meant to Hannelle to direct the first three episodes. She said that as a huge TNG fan, she wanted to make sure she honored Picard, and were authentic to where he is years later.

Chabon has been a fan since childhood, so it was a dream come true.

"I was working with Akiva on a totally unrelated film project and these guys had just started to plan the first round of Short Treks." He said that Goldsman had pulled him aside to do a short film based on Star Trek, which "came out of the blue like a magical lightning bolt."

"I've lived in these imaginative worlds since I was 10 years old, and I've never, from that first time I sat down with the babysitter who turned me onto Star Trek when I was 10...from that moment until the day Akiva proposed this to me, I never stopped livin gin those imaginative worlds. If you look through my books, almost every one of my novels has at least one hidden Star Trek reference. It's just deep, deep inside me and it comes very naturally for me to think in terms of Star Trek."

Briones said that "complicated is a good word" for her relationship with Picard, and that while the idea is for him to help her, the two help one another.

"My character is ex-Starfleet, and due to some traumatic events in his past, he's kind of stepped away from it, so he's very reticent to take on Picard when it's suggested to him," said Cabrera. "It's just a great group dynamic that goes in a lot of different directions."

He said that he thinks the fans will be surprised to learn how characters come together and the ways that relationships come out of it.

Hurd teased that her character has ties to both Rafi (Brioines) and Picard.

Pill said that her character will be tempted into an advanture the likes of which her character has never considered before, becuase what Picard is trying to do is something that's very personal to her.

Treadway and Evagoria are a "tag team" in the series who have a volatile relationship. They are Romulans, raised very differently.

The first fan question was how difficult it was to add a new ensemble to Picard's existing, rich ensemble.

"You have used the word that has been the most important to me since the April day in 1987," Steart said. "I looked on every aspect of Next Generation as being ensemble-based. That has been very much an indicator of where I was in my career that the ensembles that I've worked with, whether it was in the theater or film or television, have always been to me like another character. What the ensemble actually amounts to. I think when we first met and talked in those early discussions, it was my use of the word. Here I sit kind of in love with all the people on my left. That's where the ensemble aspect comes form and it's very important."

"Well, I turned X-Men down when I was first offered it because Star Trek had not long finished," Stewart said. "The worlds are quite different. In X-Men, the main thrust of storytelling is that there are a race of people who are treated as second class citizens and they should be taken care of and introduced into the real world. There are elements of that in The Next Generation and certainly in Picard, but I know I have to talk to the New York Times in a little while and this is what they will want to know, so I'll have to hold off."

A reporter asked whether he has any advice for SpaceX and others who are planning on traveling into space in real life.

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"This is a very difficult question for me, and I'm kind of reluctant to put my toe into it, but I think I am on record of saying that my unease about the space program and space exploration is that I believe so strongly that we have issues on our own planet that need so much attention and adjustment and endorsement that I think what might happen if we were to propel all of those energies, not to say the economics that go into the space program, to making this a world f equal opportunity and equality."

The portrayal of the Romulans has its basis in the 2009 movie, said Kurtzman, who added, "Star Trek is a mirror; it holds itself up to society and we're in the middle of a massive immigration conversation,a nd we are very proud to say we are diving headfirst into that and using Trek as a way of exploring that from all points of view."